Ambitious Congressional Agenda Confronts Obstacles, Delays

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The calendar for the ambitious legislative agenda that congressional leaders announced earlier this month is already slipping due to opposition, overload, and disagreements over policy solutions. The stated goal of repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act in March is looking unlikely as lawmakers in the majorities of the Senate and House disagree on many substantive points, leading to a proliferation of bills rather than consensus on one package. Comprehensive tax reform remains a high priority, but a late-July deadline now appears to have given way to promises of action “this year.” One factor in the delays is opposition by Senate Democrats to President Trump’s cabinet and other nominees, opposition which has led to many late-night sessions and prevented action on legislation. Further, the House and Senate won’t take up tax legislation until the healthcare reform bill is concluded due to arcane budget rules that permit certain legislation to go to the Senate floor without needing 60 votes to overcome a filibuster. Certain agenda items remain tied to the calendar. The deal in 2015 to put off action on the federal borrowing limit expires in mid-March and the continuing resolution that funds the federal government expires April 28. While some priorities may fail to materialize, the primary questions remain when and in what form legislation will be enacted.

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