The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is now in conference committee. As a refresher, a conference committee is a temporary committee of both House and Senate members, Republican and Democrat, that will work out the differences between the House and Senate bills to produce a final unified bill to be voted on by both chambers. The conference committee is meeting in-person this Wednesday (December 13) to begin negotiations. That bill will be put to an up or down vote in both the Senate and House. No amendments can be made on the floor. This vote is expected sometime the week of December 18th but no date has been set at the time of this writing. We are hearing that the details of the bill will be pre-negotiated by House and Senate Republicans prior to the actual meeting of the bipartisan conference committee. See this explainer from USA Today for more information.
Why did it go to a conference committee?
A conference committee is the normal process when passing legislation, but we were hearing that the House had scheduled a vote this past Monday to accept the Senate bill as written. However, the Senate parliamentarian and legislative counsel ruled on Monday morning that the Senate-passed bill was not able to be implemented into law. During the furious last minute negotiations and handwritten additions, some technical mistakes were made in the final bill. These mistakes will be remedied in the conference committee. Click here to learn more from Politico.
On to the budget...
This week the House introduced a stopgap continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government funded through December 22, 2018. The deadline for a government shutdown is December 8th. The short term CR also allows states running out of funding for their Children's Health Insurance Programs (CHIP) to receive certain unused funding from national allocations to ensure their programs are funded through the end of this month.
Congressional leaders are seeking to reach agreement within the next two weeks on raising current caps on defense and non-defense discretionary spending so that a final FY 2018 omnibus appropriations measure can later be enacted. Leaders also need the additional time to address a number of other year-end issues, including long-term CHIP funding and the next installment of disaster funding to respond to this year's hurricanes.
Conservative Republicans oppose increased non-defense spending and are pushing for a year-end measure later this month that pairs a full Defense appropriations bill at increased spending levels with a CR for the rest of the government. Democrats, who want equal increases in defense and non-defense spending caps as well as a legislative solution to ensure that immigrant "Dreamer" children can remain in the nation, have not yet announced their position on this CR. Top congressional leaders are scheduled to meet with the president on Thursday regarding year-end legislative business.
Looking forward to 2018
All signs are pointing toward "welfare reform" in early 2018. This means that Medicaid will again be in the crosshairs. In fact, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) outlined his plans in a radio interview on Wednesday. Click here to read more from The Washington Post.
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