GOP faces daunting deadlines in 2017

Victoria Sarno Jordan

Republicans and President-elect Donald Trump will face a slew of tough legislative deadlines next year. 

It will be an abrupt change from 2016, when lawmakers faced few make-or-break dates except for avoiding a government shutdown. 

One informal deadline for the GOP Congress is April 30, which would be Trump’s 100th full day in office, not including Inauguration Day.

{mosads}GOP lawmakers are eager to move as many top policy priorities for Trump as possible in his first 100 days, including repealing ObamaCare on his first day as president.

Tax reform and an infrastructure investment bill are two other possible priorities for the new administration.

The Senate will also be kept busy voting to confirm dozens of nominees to Trump’s administration.

Beyond that informal deadline, Congress faces a number of specific deadlines that will require action.

The first big one comes on March 16, when the current debt-limit deal expires.

It’s the first time Congress will have to raise the $20 trillion debt ceiling since the 2015 budget deal brokered by then-Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and President Obama. That agreement suspended the debt limit for more than a year.

The Treasury Department will likely use “extraordinary measures” to push the deadline for raising the ceiling until at least midsummer. 

It will be the first time since before the Tea Party movement that Republicans will deal with a debt-ceiling vote while they control both chambers of Congress and the White House.

As a result, the responsibility will fall on their shoulders to raise the ceiling.

Conservative Republicans repeatedly pushed the Obama White House to agree to spending cuts in exchange for raising the debt ceiling.

This time, they’ll have to negotiate with Trump. And Democrats will have little incentive to offer any help.

Congress also faces an April 28 deadline to fund the government after it approved legislation last week to prevent a government shutdown.

The negotiations over a spending package could consume valuable time and political capital when Republicans will be eager to move as many conservative policy initiatives as possible before the 100-day mark.

Two other issues could play into the spending fight.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who’s up for reelection in 2018 in a state that voted overwhelmingly for Trump, is sure to reprise his push for extending health benefits for coal miners that held up this month’s stopgap measure.

New York lawmakers are also pushing for additional funds to reimburse New York City for the costs of securing Trump Tower.

Republicans face an April 15 deadline for passing a budget.

The congressional budget law directs that Congress agree to a concurrent budget resolution by mid-April.

Republicans are indicating they’ll pass two budgets this year: one right out of the gate in January as a vehicle for repealing the healthcare law, and another to focus on tax reform. In order to use the legislative procedure known as reconciliation, which can’t be filibustered in the Senate, Congress must pass a budget resolution first. 

GOP leaders are aiming to conduct votes to undo ObamaCare during the opening days of the new Congress in January.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch ­McConnell (R-Ky.) said at a press conference this week that the budget resolution to address tax reform would move forward in the spring, which would coincide with the April 15 statutory deadline. 

On Sept. 30, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) funding ends.

The program provides states with funding to expand healthcare coverage to uninsured children ineligible for Medicaid. Efforts to renew the program may end up being part of discussions to replace the healthcare law.

Alternatively, CHIP funding could be tucked into a government spending bill for the new fiscal year that will start Oct. 1. 

A law passed by Congress in 2012 to reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program also is poised to expire after five years on Sept. 30.

The flood insurance program remains mired in debt, despite the law’s reforms.

Critics say premiums are too low and don’t adequately reflect risk to properties in coastal and flood-prone areas. They argue the problems were compounded after Congress approved a measure in 2014 to delay increases in flood insurance rates.

Conservative groups argue that taxpayers shouldn’t be responsible for funding flood coverage for people who live in areas with high flood risk. Yet the fight over flood insurance often falls along regional lines, with lawmakers representing coastal areas calling for lower premiums to cut down costs for their constituents. 

Authority for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) authorization will also expire on Sept. 30.

Lawmakers on the House and Senate committees overseeing the nation’s transportation programs fell short this year when they tried to advance a long-term reauthorization. They’re hoping to make it happen in the new Congress before the current extension expires at the end of September.

The main sticking point was a provision pushed by House Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) to transfer air traffic control operations from the FAA to a not-for-profit corporation. 

That was left out of this year’s stopgap measure but will likely come up again in a fight likely to be the main focus of lawmakers handling transportation policy in 2017. 

At the end of the year, a provision of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, known as Section 702, will expire.

It allows intelligence agencies to collect data on foreigners outside of the U.S., though the National Security Agency has acknowledged that it has collected information on Americans.

The House has twice passed bipartisan legislation prohibiting agencies from using information collected under Section 702 for data about American citizens, but it never became law.

Democratic Sens. Ron Wyden (Ore.) and Jeff Merkley (Ore.) have called on agencies to provide Congress and the public with estimates of how many Americans are monitored under surveillance programs, but opponents warn doing so could jeopardize intelligence methods.

Tags Boehner Donald Trump Jeff Merkley Joe Manchin John Boehner Ron Wyden
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