Congress Pushes to the Finish, Pushes Off Some Key Issues

December 18, 2009 Bookmark and Share

Congress rushed to get home this week, ultimately leaving a number of major issues undone and tough choices for the new legislative session next year.

Surprising many, the House adjourned Wednesday without addressing the estate tax, which is set to expire completely in 2010 and return at higher rates in 2011. NAWG and other agricultural groups have been working to pressure Congress to undertake estate tax reform that instills predictability into the system and takes into account the unique circumstances of family farming operations.

Addressing the nation’s debt limit could also roll into next year. The House passed a bill Wednesday to raise the $12.1 trillion limit by $290 billion, but Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Friday afternoon the Senate might not consider the issue until early January, which would force the Treasury Department to use creative accounting to keep the U.S. solvent.

An omnibus appropriations bill was signed by President Barack Obama this week, finalizing all but one spending bill – the defense measure. The House passed a defense bill by a 395-34 vote on Wednesday before going out of session, and the Senate invoked cloture to end debate on Friday, setting up a vote for Saturday, the day the current continuing resolution expires.

Since it is the final legislative vehicle that must move this year, the bill contains a number of non-defense items, including an extension of surface transportation law that expired Sept. 30; $400 million for food stamp administrative costs; extensions of unemployment and health care benefits for the unemployed; and parts of the Patriot Act.

The legislative issue that’s held up much of the rest of the agenda, particularly in the Senate – health care reform – may or may not be completed before the end of the year, with votes now looking likely on Christmas Eve, a nearly unprecedented event.

An audio update from NAWG’s government affairs staffers Mark Gaede and Cori Wittman looking forward to key issues that NAWG is anticipating in 2010 is available at