Capitol Correspondence - 01.13.20

Congress Shortens Calendar for 2020 Elections, Complicating Policy, Budget Processes

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Congress is operating on a shorter calendar this year because of the election, with primary debate dates and shorter sessions bumping against key policy priorities. We recommend our readers look at this Politico Data Point chart, which lays out Congressional and election calendar calendars side by side, to understand how constrained policymaker’s time will be in Washington, DC. Note that the May 22nd funding deadline flagged in the chart also includes the Money Follows the Person (MFP) program, an ANCOR priority. This underscores a point we made previously about the importance of our members engaging in in-district activities this year to ensure that disability issues remain on Congress’ radar.

We are already hearing about policy repercussions from the shorter Congressional calendar. Negotiations for fiscal year (FY) 2021 might be largely concentrated in the “lame-duck” period of Congress, as reported by Politico Pro:

“The presidential and congressional campaigns could sap political will and punt passage of full-year funding bills until after the 2020 election, even though Congress has rarely been so prepared for appropriations success as this year.

Congressional leaders and the White House have already locked in overall government spending levels for fiscal 2021, which begins on Oct. 1, setting the table for a dozen spending bills that would flow from those topline numbers. The House and Senate are also coming off a colossal, $1.4 trillion compromise for this fiscal year that offered bipartisan solutions to some of the thorniest problems, like how to pay for President Donald Trump’s border wall and immigration enforcement — though that fight could return.

It all should make for a conducive environment to pass appropriations bills before the Sept. 30 deadline, if it weren’t for a hugely consequential presidential election this November and key congressional races that could shift the makeup of Congress. Lawmakers are now warning that any dreams of a speedy appropriations process will likely take a backseat to politics, if history is any indication. That would throw Congress back in the same cycle of stopgap spending bills that ate up months in 2019.


House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey said her committee will try to finish its work by June. […]

House Budget Chairman John Yarmuth said he’s hoping for a smooth fiscal 2021 process given that the overall spending totals are baked and the massive compromise struck just before Christmas is in place.

But he warned that any possible sticking points might have a better chance of resolution after Nov. 3. Congress often returns for lame-duck sessions after an election to wrap up business too contentious to resolve earlier.”