The Agenda for the Rest of the Year
December 18, 2017
This week, Congress will start to wrap up its first legislative year and work to accomplish some of its major objectives. This year has been a productive one, but we are racing to the finish line to accomplish two of our most important priorities – funding the government and tax reform.
Each fiscal year, it is imperative that Congress funds our government agencies to meet the needs of the American taxpayer and that they remain open for business. Congress, with the power of the purse, is responsible for appropriating money for federal agencies so that they can serve the American people. And with each fiscal year, the demands and functions of federal agencies change. Unfortunately, the Senate has failed to pass full funding legislation on time for another year – in fact, the last time all twelve appropriations measures were passed by both chambers and signed into law by the fiscal year deadline of September 30th was in 1996.
This year, the House accomplished passing all twelve appropriations measures through the Appropriations Committee in a timely manner. Unfortunately, a comprehensive spending package was not brought up for a vote, and Congress resorted to kicking the proverbial can down the road – by passing another continuing resolution. By passing a continuing resolution, we are functioning and relying on funding levels set by the previous fiscal year. And each time we reached a funding deadline, it has been a race to reach an agreement on what kind of spending deal should be done. Once again, Congress finds itself scrambling to pass a funding measure that will keep the government open, supply our military and defense forces and continue helping our neighbors in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico who have been devastated by hurricane disasters.
Another item on the 2017 agenda for Congress has been the passage of tax reform. Earlier this year, Congress passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (H.R. 1), which was the comprehensive tax legislation to reform our nation’s tax code, making individual filing easier and corporate taxes less burdensome. It passed in both the House and the Senate, and a bicameral conference committee worked on a final product to be passed in the House and Senate this week, and sent to the President’s desk. Should the President sign the bill, we will have accomplished the first major overhaul of the tax code since 1986.
There is a lot of work to be done. It is imperative that Congress passes the appropriations measures for Fiscal Year 2018 by the next funding deadline. Entering the New Year under the previous year’s standards will be detrimental and costly to the federal government. Even worse would be a government shutdown. Congress can close out this year with a lot to be proud of – we should end 2017 on a positive note.