With wreckage of the super committee squarely in their rearview mirror, lawmakers returning to the House on Monday will face a packed agenda with little time to get everything done.
Add to the chamber’s already busy schedule of GOP jobs and regulatory reform measures the thorny issues of a payroll tax extension, unemployment insurance and the “doc fix” to cover the shortfall in Medicare payments to providers — all of which were supposed to be dealt with by the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction — and you have a very busy few weeks ahead.
The plan for tackling all of the issues is very much a work in progress: According to a leadership aide, decisions on when to move those items and how to deal with long-term spending needs won’t be made “until leaders have a chance to talk to their Members once they get back.”
But that means that, at least in the House, work on the difficult, high-profile issues such as unemployment will be delayed until next week while Republicans finish up the bulk of their jobs agenda.
A GOP leadership aide described the regulatory reform work over the next two weeks as part of Republicans’ “top 10 list” of changes they wanted to pass this year, including elimination of public financing for presidential elections and conventions and several broad regulatory reform and flexibility bills.
Republicans also insist they will get their work done.
“On doc fix ... my prediction is we will address the proposed cliff in the [formula for Medicare payments]. And yes, I have recently met with some of our physician Members in the House and look forward to coming up with a long-term fix. But again, that would be work we still have to do,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said earlier this month.
Cantor seems intent on passing the payroll tax cut and providing an extension to unemployment insurance, although it is unclear whether these measures will be fully offset.
Several aides said that while conservatives will likely object to not having everything paid for, leaders remain confident they can move the legislation. “We’ll be able to sell it to our Members,” one aide predicted.
One thing that’s not likely to come up before the end of the year is changes to the sequester that was put in place as part of the debt deal that created the super committee.
According to numerous GOP aides, while pressure is growing to remove the sequester’s $600 billion in defense cuts, that’s likely not in the cards for December.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.