Before predicting the long-term effects of the 2016 Presidential Election, it is worth spending time on issues to be addressed before the end of President Obama’s term. The next two and a half months will be critical as the 114th Congress addresses important issues before turning over the reins.
In the upcoming weeks, Congress will be faced with a decision regarding the current continuing resolution funding the government, which expires on December 9, 2016. Back on September 26, 2016, President Obama signed the continuing resolution to keep the federal government running through the election. However, at the expiration of this resolution, Congress must decide whether to pass another short‑term resolution or pass legislation to carry the government through fiscal year 2017. While a long-term solution would provide federal employees and businesses with more security, it is likely that the 114th Congress will only be able to pass a short-term resolution and leave a long‑term solution for the 115th Congress. The continuing resolution process does allow for the possibility of riders to block funding for certain programs – such as EPA regulations and overtime changes. In this writer’s view, when push comes to shove, Republicans in Congress likely will not succeed in defunding Obama Administration initiatives.
Internationally, the 114th Congress is in the position to push through the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal. The TPP is a trade deal between 12 Trans-Pacific countries aiming to strengthen their economic ties, cut tariffs, and encourage trade between the countries. During the election season, all the major party candidates spoke against the TPP and argued that it would harm American workers, despite President Obama’s strong support for the TPP. Based on President-elect Trump’s transition road map, he is likely to drop out of the TPP. Thus, pro-trade Republicans and Democrats in the 114th Congress are incentivized to ratify the TPP prior to the change in administration. We project that Congress will decline to ratify the TPP in this short session.
In recent months, the House and Senate have been working together to pass a comprehensive energy bill. The Senate passed the Energy Policy and Modernization Act of 2015 (S. 2012) while the House passed a similar bill, the North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act of 2015 (H.R. 8). Specifically, the House bill includes natural resource and energy research and development provisions that are not included in the Senate bill. If the House and Senate can agree on and pass a reconciled bill, this would be the first comprehensive energy bill to pass Congress since 2007. In an effort to be seen as accomplishing something, it is likely that a reconciled bill will pass and be signed by President Obama before the end of the term.
It is unlikely that the 114th Congress will succeed in doing much more. Specifically, it probably won’t finish working on defense bills, approving judicial nominations, or creating financial reform. On January 3, 2017, the 115th Congress will begin, still under the leadership of Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell. On January 6, 2017, it meets in a Joint Session to count the electoral votes of the 2016 Presidential Election, and a new chapter in American government will begin.