On December 24, 2009, the Senate gathered for a 7 am vote on Christmas Eve, and unless you’re really in love with the idea of a high-stakes sleep away camp, the idea of being potentially stuck at work overnight on the day before Christmas probably doesn’t appeal to you. Unfortunately, that may be a reality for Congress and its staff this December.
To keen observers of DC, these huge legislative battles at a deadline are nothing new, even around holidays. Congress rang in 2013 with a desperate Senate vote on the so-called ‘Fiscal Cliff’ two hours into the New Year. Recent legislation means that we appear likely to face December deadlines for more legislation needed to keep the federal government funded and open. Other action will be needed to ensure that the government has the authority to borrow money in order to make payments on the National Debt. Without an agreement on those bills earlier in the month, most of DC may be spending the winter holidays talking about amendments and cloture votes, rather than egg nog and holiday cheer.
This current Congress (the 115th) will be returning in January 2018, but in the holiday periods that immediately follow elections, the departing Congress may engage in some ‘Christmas tree legislating’, where dozens of unrelated ideas get tacked onto “must pass” bills, much like ornaments on a Christmas tree. We’re less likely to see that this year, but it’s helpful to remember for the December 2018 season.
If you want to learn more about the Congressional schedule, you can view the House calendar here: https://www.majorityleader.gov/2017-calendar/ and the Senate calendar here: https://www.senate.gov/legislative/2017_schedule.htm