After the Speaker of the House John Boehner announced his resignation, Congress acted last week to avert a government shutdown. The legislation, called the Continuing Appropriations Act, 2016, extended spending on federal government operations until December 11, 2015 (spending on both defense and non-defense discretionary programs were reduced by .21 percent from fiscal year 2015 levels). The bill also included extensions of the moratorium on Internet taxation, authorization of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, and authorization for child nutrition programs until December 11, 2015. An extension of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) was not included in the bill. Congress passed a separate extension authorizing the Federal Aviation Administration for six months until March 31, 2016.
Going forward many action items remain on the Congressional agenda. Here is a quick rundown of some deadlines:
- Reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank – expired June 30, 2015
- Reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund – expired September 30, 2015
- Reauthorization of federal transportation programs – expires October 29, 2015
- Extension of the federal government’s borrowing authority – debt limit hits November 5, 2015
- Federal government spending – expires December 11, 2015
- Extension of expired tax provisions – expired December 31, 2014
House Republican Leadership Elections
The House Republican Caucus was thrown into turmoil when the Speaker of the House John Boehner announced his resignation on September 25, 2015. (He is scheduled to officially step down on October 30, 2015.) There is now a scramble to fill his spot and the other potential vacancies in the House Republican leadership hierarchy. As it stands now, there are three declared candidates for the Speaker of the House: current Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA, 23rd), Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-UT, 3rd) Chairman of the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee, and Representative Daniel Webster (R-FL, 10th). The Republican caucus is scheduled to vote on a nominee for Speaker on October 8, 2015.
Should Majority Leader McCarthy ascend into the Speaker position (as is widely expected), there will be heated races for open positions for House Majority Leader and House Majority Whip. These elections are scheduled to take place sometime after the formal floor vote for the new Speaker on October 29, 2015. As it stands now, there are two declared candidates for the House Majority Leader position: current Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA, 1st) and Representative Tom Price (R-GA, 6th), Chairman of the House Budget Committee. There are four declared candidates for the House Majority Whip position: Representative Patrick McHenry (R-NC, 10th), Representative Pete Sessions (R-TX, 32nd), Chairman of the House Rules Committee, notable mixed martial arts fighter Representative Markwayne Mullin (R-OK, 2nd), and Representative Dennis Ross (R-FL, 15th).
Women’s Pension Protection Act
On September 30 2015, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, introduced the Women’s Pension Protection Act of 2015 (S. 2110). 12 of the 14 Democratic women in the Senate are currently listed as co-sponsors of the bill. The WPPA extends the spousal consent protections to additional types of distributions from defined contribution plans, including loans or a distribution for a home purchase. In addition, the bill would expand the ERISA minimum participation standards to long-term part-time workers (defined as the completion of at least 500 hours of service for three consecutive years). The bill would also require retirement plan service providers to provide a link to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in any offer for the sale of a retirement financial product or service.