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Federal Legislative Update

Congress is on recess for the Thanksgiving holiday returning next week for a month-long sprint to address several legislative priorities and two must-pass bills. Last week, TFG published a Special Report on the lame-duck session and results from the 2022 midterm elections.

The two must-pass legislative items are the fiscal year (FY) 2023 government spending package and the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The federal government is currently funded through December 16 and Congress has yet to settle on topline spending numbers. Additionally, the White House requested $37.7 billion in funding for Ukraine, $10 billion for Covid relief, and funding for hurricane and other natural disaster relief. Regarding NDAA, the House Armed Services Committee Chair and Ranking member predict a final version of the bill could be ready for a vote by the first week in December.

When lawmakers return to Washington, the Senate will vote on the Respect for Marriage Act (HR 8404) to codify the right to same-sex marriage. The bill cleared a critical procedural hurdle securing 60 votes to proceed to a vote, garnering support from 50 Democrats and 12 Republicans. This bill is among the highest priority items for Congress to address before the new members are seated in January, and it marks a significant nexus of bipartisan agreement in a sharply divided legislature.

Two priorities not receiving lame-duck consideration are permitting reform and the debt limit.

Next week, the House Republican Conference will decide rules for the 118th Congress, including a vote on the lower chamber’s stance on earmarks – known in the House as community project funding - that will be of interest to public agencies across the country. A vote to end the practice of earmarking in the House will be close as the Freedom Caucus has called for a permanent ban.

Republicans took control of the House with a slim majority and selected Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to serve as Speaker of the House when the next Congress convenes on January 3. McCarthy faced a challenge from House Freedom Caucus Chairman Andy Biggs (R-AZ) and won comfortably with a vote of 188-31. On Thursday, current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced that she would not seek a leadership role for Democrats in the 118th Congress. The decision comes after she led House Democrats for nearly 20 years. House Democrats will hold caucus elections on November 30 and December 1. They will usher in new leaders in the top three positions, Representatives Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) as Minority Leader, Katherine Clark (D-MA) as Minority Whip, and Pete Aguilar (D-CA) as Caucus Chair. 

In the Senate, Democrats retain the majority in the 118th Congress. Senate Republicans held leadership elections on Wednesday. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) won a secret ballot vote over challenger Rick Scott (R-FL) on a 37-10-1 vote. Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R- SD) and Senate Conference Chair John Barrasso (R-WY) won third and final terms in their current roles. Montana Republican Senator Steve Daines replaces Senator Rick Scott to oversee the party’s efforts to win control of the Senate in 2024. Senate Democrats will vote on leadership on December 8, with Senator Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to continue to lead the party.

Both parties and chambers will select committee leaders for the 118th Congress, as retirements will cause most of the expected changes amongst committee leadership. Seven Senate committee leaders are retiring; six are Republicans, while both lead Senate appropriators are retiring. Seven House leaders won’t return on the House side, including Oversight Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and House Administration Ranking member Rodney Davis (R-IL), who lost their primaries. Votes on Congressional committee leadership positions will formally occur at the beginning of the new Congress.