The First 100 Days

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The 115th Congress convened January 3 and Donald Trump will be sworn into office late next week as the 45th President, two events that signal the end of federal gridlock and guarantee to bring changes to federal policymaking. Here’s a look at the much-heralded first 100 days, a time of intense legislative and executive activity: 

  • Confirmations: In addition to its lawmaking role, the Senate will be busy conducting hearings and floor debates on scores of nominees for executive-branch jobs that require Senate confirmation. Several nominees have already proven to be controversial, making it hard to predict when the Senate will complete the process that takes up considerable floor time.
  • Affordable Care Act Repeal: A budget resolution introduced in the U.S. Senate on the first day of the session started the process for repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The resolution, which both the House and Senate are expected to approve quickly, directs four congressional committees to craft legislation by January 27 to repeal many of the major components of the ACA. That legislation will be taken to the floors of the House and Senate in a measure called the Budget Reconciliation bill, which requires only a majority vote rather than the usual 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster in the Senate. Congress and the White House have not yet worked out details on what provisions they would create to replace a repealed ACA, and some Republican Senators are expressing concern about proceeding with repeal votes before a replacement plan is prepared.
  • Tax Reform: Federal tax reform is expected to begin in earnest in early February. Most observers presume the bill will seek to lower individual and corporate tax rates, increase the standard deduction, and repeal the federal estate tax, among other things. The tax outline offered by Speaker Ryan is considered the best indicator of what the legislation will contain. That plan offers support for charitable giving incentives, but an unclear position from President-elect Trump keeps preserving the charitable deduction high on most nonprofits’ policy agendas.
  • Spending: Before adjourning for 2016, Congress passed a short-term Continuing Resolution (CR) that funds the federal government through April 28. The new Congress must pass a spending bill by that date, presumably one that runs through the end of the 2017 fiscal year (September 30, 2017). It is unclear, however, whether wholesale cuts are contemplated in April, or whether those will be put off until the next fiscal year.
  • Debt Ceiling: Congress and the Administration ostensibly have only until March 15 to address whether to increase the debt limit, which was extended through the budget deal brokered in October 2015. The Treasury Department, however, can use accounting tools to avoid defaulting on the government’s obligations until mid-summer of 2017. The bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget is a good resource on this issue.

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