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Preview of a Hectic Lame Duck Session in Congress

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November 13, 2012

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Preview of a Hectic Lame Duck Session in Congress

With Election Day come and gone, lawmakers are finally returning to Washington to close out the last weeks of the 112th Congress. The lame duck session, the period between the end of the election season and the beginning of the first session of the new Congress in January, can often be little more than a procedural formality—a time for an incoming Administration or new congressional majority to run out the clock until they can officially take power and begin pushing a new legislative agenda. However, with many matters unresolved and a looming deadline attached to critical fiscal policy issues that threaten to throw the economy back into a tailspin, the last six weeks of the 112th Congress may prove to be the most crucial.

Sequestration is one of those pending issues that will have a major impact on CTE. If Congress does not act by January 2, there will be an automatic, across-the-board cut of 8.2 percent to most federal discretionary programs. This means that the Perkins stands to lose approximately $92 million in July 2013 alone! Congress and the Obama Administration must work during the lame duck session to find a balanced approach to prevent these arbitrary cuts from happening. Additionally, the sequestration problem will likely be tied in with a partisan fight over taxes. A package of tax cuts, instituted during the Bush Administration, is set to expire at the end of the year. President Obama has said that he would like to see tax rates increase for those with higher incomes, while House Republicans have pushed to extend tax cuts for everyone. Both sides have indicated that sequestration and the tax issue could be part of a “grand bargain” in which both sides would agree to a compromise that might include increased tax revenues and targeted spending cuts.

There is also a possibility that Congress will address FY 2013 Perkins funding in the coming weeks. Before adjourning for the election, Congress passed a Continuing Resolution (CR) that has effectively put Perkins funding on autopilot at current levels until March. They will have come to an agreement on the continuation of funding for the remaining six months of the fiscal year before the current CR expires—an issue that may come up during the lame duck.

While reauthorization efforts for major education and workforce development programs like WIA, Perkins and ESEA will have to wait until the 113th Congress, the unfinished 2012 Farm Bill is expected to be part of the legislative agenda in the lame duck. The Senate has already passed their version of the bill, but the full House has yet to approve the measure that was agreed to by the House Agriculture Committee in July.

As all these issues unfold over the next few weeks, ACTE will keep you updated on implications for CTE – stay tuned for all the latest news!

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