What is a lame duck session?
A “lame duck” session happens in the time period after an election, when Congress is still in session, but before the new Congressmembers have been sworn in. Following this November’s midterm elections, the 117th Congress is officially in a lame duck session through the end of the year, with next year’s class set to begin on January 3 of next year.
Oftentimes, a lame duck Congress will try to push forward a flurry of legislation they don’t think the new Congress will prioritize or that needs to be done before the new year. So far, this session has been dominated by negotiations around a government spending package. Congress is poised to pass a short term continuing resolution to last until December 23, but must pass a longer term funding bill to avoid a government shutdown.
What’s at stake in this lame duck?
With the congressional session drawing to a close at the end of the year, the pressure is on to push through critical legislation for working families.
With the election results in, Democrats are poised to lose their trifecta (majorities in the House, Senate, and presidency) in the next legislative session. In the near year, Democrats will retain narrow control of the Senate with a 50-49 majority over Republicans. On the House side, Republicans managed to gain a 222-213 advantage over the Dems.
With a slim majority in both houses, Democrats were able to pass transformative legislation like the American Rescue Plan, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and Inflation Reduction Act, but did not get all of their priorities for our communities over the finish line. At every turn, vocal critics on the right and some stubborn holdouts within their own party kept pieces like funding for child care and protections for immigrants from passing. And some critical supports, like the expanded child tax credits and earned income tax credits that were passed in the ARP, have expired.
While Democrats fared better than many expected in the midterms, without a trifecta it will be harder still to deliver for our people in 2023. Now—as in the next ten days!—is the time to make a final push for meaningful legislation for working families.
What should be prioritized in these last weeks?
There’s a ton at stake in the coming weeks as the clock ticks on the Democrats’ trifecta. Grassroots organizations, families, and workers far and wide want Dems to know that it’s time to deliver for our people, and are pushing for meaningful action in a number of areas:
The Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit: The expanded CTC outlined in the American Rescue Plan (ARPA) cut child poverty by half, and the expanded EITC provided necessary relief to millions more. While those expansions expired, the burdens on families and workers did not. Corporations who have made record profits while we suffered from record inflation are poised to receive a hearty holiday gift from Congress as Republicans push to extend Trump-era tax breaks for big business. Congress should give a leg up to families struggling to make ends meet and help them build for their futures by prioritizing people over corporations and passing an enhanced Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit.
Child Care: The American Rescue Plan (ARPA) provided temporary relief to a child care sector on the verge of collapse. However, decades of chronic underinvestment mean this temporary relief has simply not been enough, evidenced by the $48 billion funding cliff states face. And the child care workers who provide the essential care and education all of our children deserve are being paid poverty wages. To help us build the 21st century child care system our families need, Congress must pass a comprehensive and inclusive year-end spending bill with significant increases for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) and Head Start program.
Housing: Rent is one of the biggest ticket items most Americans have to worry about each month and CNBC has declared the possibility of owning a home to be a “distant dream” for most Americans. As emergency rental assistance from the American Rescue Plan ended, housing insecurity has been on the rise. It’s imperative that Congress act now to address the housing crisis. In the near-term this means enacting a final Fiscal Year 2023 spending bill that prioritizes low-income renters and includes the highest level of funding possible.
Protecting Immigrants: Immigrants are woven into the fabric of our communities—as our classmates, colleagues, neighbors, and friends. Not to mention almost 3 out of every 4 undocumented immigrants perform essential work, from caring for elderly Americans and children to putting food on our tables. It is critical to enact permanent protections for Dreamers and as many people as we can, as we work to ultimately transform our immigration system so that everyone is treated fairly and with dignity. We also urge Congress to increase funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Emergency Food and Shelter Program to meet the pressing humanitarian needs of asylum seekers arriving in the United States.
There are also pressing needs to bolster and protect healthcare coverage, voting rights, and reproductive rights that are at risk as MAGA Republicans seek to keep their rich friends’ pockets full and undermine our freedoms.
How Do We Do It?
Passing a robust omnibus spending bill is the best way to get these critical progressive priorities over the finish line in these final weeks of the 117th Congress. Omnibus bills combine several measures into one, allowing a single piece of legislation to cover a range of topics and priorities.
The spending legislation that’s top of mind for Democrats and Republicans alike is one such omnibus bill, and presents a final opportunity for this Congress to throw down for working families.
Everyone can help push for these priorities by making a call, sending an email, or posting on social media to their legislator.
Together, we can make this lame duck count and deliver for our communities.