Welcome to the 113th Congress

The 113th Congress will be sworn in today, and John Boehner is expected to retain his speakership despite displeasure with his handling of the fiscal cliff voiced by some of the more conservative members of the House Republican Caucus.

After putting off a vote on disaster assistance for states affected by Hurricane Sandy, House Leadership agreed to take up the disaster aid and complete work on a larger package by the end of January.

Upcoming Controversies:

Despite the resolution of the fiscal cliff this week, there are three more relatively major budget and tax issues approaching almost immediately: the debt ceiling, sequestration, and the expiring appropriations continuing resolution. And this is all before the Congress engages in annual budget negotiations and the very real potential for reconciliation and further tax and spending reforms later this year.

Debt Limit, TBD:
Talk of the debt limit debate began even before the fiscal cliff compromise was in sight, and many unhappy with the final deal see this as an opportunity to secure additional spending cuts or reforms to entitlement programs. A default could lead to severe budget problems if the US was again downgraded leading to higher interest payments on the nation’s debts. Earlier this week the Treasury Secretary told congress that the country had hit the limit on its borrowing. The department can and will take “extraordinary” measures it has used in the past to prevent a default. However, the major changes to tax and spending policies in the fiscal cliff deal complicate estimates. Once the measures are exhausted, the nation will default on its debt without congressional intervention.

Delayed Sequestration, March 1, 2013:
Congress postponed the fight over sequestration for two month. On March 1, The administration will be required to implement what amounts to $85 billion in cuts to defense and nondefense spending.

Expiring Appropriation Continuing Resolution, March 27, 2013:
Government shutdown fights are no fun. But that’s exactly what the country could be facing again in March. The legislation that funds the government is set to expire on March 27. The nation hasn’t passed a federal budget on time in years. Instead, Congress has passed a series of short-term budget fixes, known as continuing resolutions.

Down the Road:
Larger budget and tax reform issues continue to loom as ratings agencies warned that Congress’s work remains unfinished. Republicans are expected to continue to push for entitlement reforms and tax overhaul, while Democrats are expected to highlight choices between government programs and services and tax breaks for specific industries.

Should be an interesting Congress. Let me know if you have any questions.