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Congress braces for partisan challenges to advance mandatory legislation

Congress braces for partisan challenges to advance mandatory legislation

Lawmakers face a number of challenges in overcoming partisan differences and reaching agreements on legislation to pass as members of Congress settle into their new committee assignments.

Both parties will struggle to advance their agendas over the next two years, with Republicans holding a slim majority in the House and Democrats holding an even slimmer majority in the Senate. As a result, lawmakers are bracing for potentially lengthy negotiations as they try to get their bills through Congress.


This process is already starting to develop. House Republicans passed the Born Alive Abortion Survivors Act last week, seeking to implement medical protections for fetuses who survive abortions. The bill passed the House on a 220-210 vote, with only one Democrat joining Republicans in supporting the measure.

However, some Republicans criticized the passage of the bill as a waste of time. They argued that it would never pass the Democratic-controlled Senate.

“It will never pass the Senate. It will never make it to the president’s desk to be signed into law,” Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) told reporters in early January.

“If you want to make a difference and reduce the number of abortions with a Democrat-controlled Senate, the No. 1 issue we should be working on is access to birth control,” he said.

Meanwhile, President Joe Biden has also vowed to veto much of the Republican agenda, particularly proposals to defund the IRS and abolish the federal tax agency.

But these kinds of messenger bills, legislation that is largely used as a token vote rather than changing government policy, could become the new norm in the embattled Congress, some strategists say.

“For a lot of these guys, their primary role is just to boost messaging accounts and then use them to attack the other side in the next election,” Liz Mair, a Republican strategist, told the Washington Examiner.

“They’re interested in driving and doing things that allow them to better attack the other side. I think that’s true for both Democrats and Republicans,” he said.

This is likely to become an issue for legislation that must be passed by Congress to keep the government running, such as the debate over whether to raise the debt ceiling to avoid a default of the country’s loans.

The United States hit its debt limit on Thursday, starting a countdown to the Treasury defaulting on a bill and raising fears of a default.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the department will take “extraordinary measures” to prevent the United States from defaulting on its obligations, but that the Treasury will only have a few months before those measures run out.

However, party leaders seem hesitant to commit despite threats of default. Democrats have refused to add spending cuts to debt limit legislation in recent years, and the White House said earlier this week that there would be no negotiations.

“The reality of the situation is that if we stop ourselves, the ramifications for many Americans will be so great. I don’t think anyone wants to deal with that,” Mair said. “As much as it seems great that both parties are involved in what I think is generally a great deal of dealing with this, the fact of the matter is that it has really terrible consequences for the electorate.”

Aside from the Democrats’ hesitations, intra-party divisions among Republicans may also be responsible for stalling progress on the legislation.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) only has a nine-vote majority in the lower house. That gives him little margin for error when it comes to party defectors on a GOP bill. This struggle already came into play during the House leadership election when it took 15 rounds of voting to elect McCarthy as speaker, a victory that required several concessions to win the support of some far-right members.

“If you look at the early results of the new majority in the House, everything that has happened suggests that it will be very, very difficult for McCarthy to come up with some kind of plan that will satisfy the Freedom Caucus and also keep the federal government working.” , said Brad Bannon, a Democratic strategist, in an interview with the Washington Examiner.

McCarthy will face particular challenges over the next two years as he tries to balance keeping the federal government afloat while appeasing far-right members of his party.

According to Bannon, some lawmakers, like Reps. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) and Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), who both voted against McCarthy’s presidency, can use this balancing act in their advantage.

“I think they want to show their power [and] it may send a message, but it’s a message that will hurt them in 2024 … and take out the Republican House majority,” he said. “I think they want to show their power and the influence they have against McCarthy. But if they succeed in doing that, it will backfire on them.”


There are a few ways for Congress to navigate their differences to pass the legislation that needs to be passed. To pass the annual spending bill in previous years, the parties have introduced omnibus bills that include unrelated measures in order to change votes on the legislation as a whole.

“I think there are opportunities for bipartisanship in this particular political setup, but I think where you’re going to see them is on extraordinarily odd issues,” Mair said.

“For example, things in financial services or things that are topics that very few people talk about on a daily basis,” he added. “But, you know, I’d be surprised if that was a headline.”

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