TSS Second Session Outlook 1/9/2018

The Second Session of the 115th Congress began on January 3, 2018 with the Senate’s return to Washington, and the House of Representatives returning for business on January 8.

The first year of President Donald Trump’s administration, along with undivided Republican control of Congress, produced a handful of legislative and regulatory accomplishments, many of which the GOP promised during the 2016 election and at the start of the 115th Congress. Several campaign pledges of President Trump, such as transportation and infrastructure investment and building a border wall, along with the repeal and replace of the Affordable Care Act, remain unaddressed.

At the start of 2017, Congress repealed dozens of regulations written by the Obama administration through the Congressional Review Act. President Trump further promoted deregulation by issuing an executive order stating that two regulations must be eliminated for each new regulation an agency or federal department puts forward.

Early in his presidency, President Trump appointed Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, made dozens of appointments and nominations for federal judgeships, withdrew the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership, and began the renegotiation process for the North American Free Trade Agreement. The GOP and the President rounded out the year with a legislative victory by passing their sweeping tax reform package in December.

In 2018, Republican leaders will look to build on the momentum gained at the end of 2017. If anything, the tax reform package now signed into law proved that Republicans could still come together and pass significant legislation. The landscape has changed, however, and the Republican margin in the Senate has slimmed. Democrat Doug Jones (D-AL) won a shocking victory in the Alabama Senate special election in December, narrowing the Republican majority in the upper chamber from 52-48 to 51-49. Along with the smaller majority, party leaders will have to discuss the number of seats allocated to each party on committees. The narrowed majority in the Senate may require Vice President Mike Pence to cast more tie-breaking votes; he cast six such votes in 2017. The House of Representatives, meanwhile, still has a solid Republican majority with 239 Republicans and 193 Democrats, with 3 seats currently vacant.

Lawmakers have a full plate at the start of 2018. Congress must pass a government funding bill by January 19, as leaders continue to negotiate an increase in the fiscal year 2018 defense and non-defense spending. Other time-sensitive priorities include healthcare legislation on reinsurance and cost-sharing reductions, CHIP, immigration legislation addressing DACA, and a hurricane disaster relief package.

Soon the GOP will plan their legislative agenda for the year at their annual retreat on January 31. The Democrats’ retreat date has not yet been announced. Last weekend, President Trump hosted his cabinet, several GOP leaders, and other key Members of Congress at Camp David to discuss the 2018 legislative agenda.

President Trump will give his first-ever State of the Union Address on January 30, and is expected to tout his first-year administrative accomplishments and lay out his policy agenda for the year ahead of the important midterm elections.

The report provided in the link below is an analysis of the policy issues likely addressed by Congress and the administration in the coming months. Additionally, we have included an outlook on the midterm elections and information on departing members of Congress and how they affect leadership positions within the party and on committees.

TSS Second Session Outlook