Amid fears of losing Congress, Dems look for lame-duck wins on child tax credits, same-sex marriage. US quietly pushes for Ukraine-Russia talks.
Fearing losing Congress, Dems look for lame-duck wins on child tax credits, same-sex marriage
Most projections for tomorrow’s elections aren’t very sunny from the Democrats’ point of view. Republicans are widely expected to win the House, and control of the Senate is a toss-up. In some of the tighter races, final results may not be available for days. However, even if the Democrats have to hand over the reins in January, they still have a few weeks of legislating to do before year’s end. Here are some things to watch for.
Must-pass funding bill
Back in September, Congress passed a continuing resolution to keep the government fully-funded until mid-December. When Congress comes back into session, they’ll only have a few weeks to hammer out an agreement to head off a federal government shutdown just before Christmas. The last time around, there was a considerable amount of drama over a proposal from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) to streamline energy production permits, including oil drilling and coal mining. Manchin himself is a coal baron and would have profited handsomely. However, Republicans blocked his proposal in retaliation for Manchin’s support of Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act. It’s possible this provision will come up again, either as part of new budget negotiations, or as a standalone bill.
Possible train strike
In mid-September, marathon talks with the White House, the Secretary of Labor and the Department of Transportation narrowly averted a major railroad strike. Numerous unions had been in contract negotiations for years with the major rail companies. The companies were offering workers a hefty raise, but refused to budge on workers’ concerns about working conditions and paid time off. The White House finally brokered a deal to head off a major supply chain disruption (which would cost the US economy about $2 billion a day).
However, all this did was keep a lid on things until after the midterms. The individual unions still needed ratify the terms of the deal. Two unions have already rejected the deal and others are likely to do the same. This is setting the scene for another showdown, this time right before the holidays. If the unions call another strike, Congress has the power to put an end to the strike by forcing workers to accept the terms of the deal. Sharp political divisions arose among Democrats and Republicans on the issue back in September before a deal was announced. It’ll be worth watching what happens if the issue re-emerges after elections are over.
Child tax credits
For just a few months in 2021, an expanded child tax credit lifted millions of American children out of poverty. The program expanded eligibility to families who normally didn’t earn enough income to qualify, and also doled out half the yearly tax credit in monthly payments rather than a single lump sum. When the program ended in January 2022, millions of children slipped right back under the poverty line, just as inflation was heating up and grocery and gas prices skyrocketed.
Now, Democrats are looking to revive a permanent expanded child tax credit in the lame-duck session. If they can get the votes, it’s possible this could be part of that must-pass government spending bill.
Although LGBT rights have been a cultural flashpoint between Democrats and Republicans this year, same-sex marriage surprisingly has at least some bipartisan support, even in the contentious Senate. When the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade this summer, the court’s opinions seemed to leave the door open for walking back other rights whose basis is the 14th Amendment. One of these is the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision which required all states to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.
Over the summer, the Democrats crafted legislation to codify a right to same-sex marriage to allay fears the Supreme Court could repeal it in a future decision. They chose not to move ahead before the August recess because they didn’t want the legislation to be front and center before the midterms. After the election, they’ll be looking to bring it up again.
US quietly pushes for Ukraine-Russia talks
Confidential sources have told the Washington Post that the Biden White House has been pushing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to soften his public stance on refusing peace negotiations with Putin. However, the sources say it isn’t Biden intention to actually push Zelensky and Putin to resolve the conflict. It’s more of a public relations move to combat Ukraine fatigue among Ukraine’s Western allies in Europe, Africa and South America which have suffered the worst economic damage due to sanctions on Russia and blockades of food commodities.
In response to these reports, one of Zelensky’s aides stated that Ukraine had never refused to talk with Moscow, but that they would not speak with Putin. Instead, the aide said “We will talk with the next leader of Russia“.
Biden may also be hoping to temper opposition within the US to continual aide and weapons packages to Ukraine. Last month, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said that he would not “write a blank check to Ukraine” if becomes Speaker of the House in January, as seems likely.
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