Conservative Republicans are calling for a busy lame-duck session of Congress between now and Jan. 3, when Democrats will retake the majority in—and control of—the House.
“Republicans still have an opportunity to do what we said,” Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, former chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, said in a statement provided to The Daily Signal.
“We should fund the border security wall, pass a farm bill that requires able-bodied adults to work if they receive welfare, and keep working to hold the FBI and [Justice Department] accountable for their misconduct during and after the 2016 election,” Jordan said.
Funding for the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies runs out Dec. 7, and Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., told The Daily Signal in a phone interview Thursday that he would like to see the Republican Congress do what it can to balance the budget before Democrats take over the House in the 116th Congress after the first of the year.
“I would like to see my conference actually pass my resolution to balance the budget,” Biggs said.
“We’ve got seven portions of the budget, seven bills you are going to see wrapped into one,” which will probably come out around Dec. 7, he said.
“I’m just so tired of us saying that we really care about balancing the budget, but we are not going to be able to touch that for two years,” Biggs said.
The Arizona lawmaker said he thinks House Republicans should work overtime to protect the gains they have made from attacks once House Democrats take back power.
Congress needs to be willing to come here and work next week, through Thanksgiving. I think we need to work the last two weeks in December or three weeks, or whatever they are going to do, to try to get out super-early.
I think we need to do all of that and to be working to get this stuff done, especially if you believe like I do … that Democrats, first of all, their agenda is going to be to try to eviscerate anything that we were able to accomplish with regard to regulatory reform, economic bills, legislation that we got through, like the tax cuts.
Biggs said other lame-duck priorities should be border wall legislation and funding that does not include amnesty for illegal immigrants.
“My bill I introduced in either late July or early August is actually a pretty clean ‘build the wall’ with funding in it, and I think that needs to happen,” he said. “What you are going to see, I am afraid, is an effort to kind of give a nod to building the wall. What I am hearing is, they want to use the entire Goodlatte framework for that.”
An immigration bill offered by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., provides a smaller amount of amnesty, 1.23 million green cards for illegal immigrants over the next 15 years, while House Speaker Paul Ryan’s bill provides 2.12 million more green cards to illegal immigrants through amnesty, according to a report from the Center for Immigration Studies. Goodlatte and Ryan, R-Wis., both chose not to run for re-election and will step down in January.
Biggs said amnesty still isn’t the way to go.
“If that’s the case, then what you end up having is amnesty traded for a wall, which is a fool’s bargain, actually,” Biggs said.
Heritage Action for America, the lobbying affiliate of The Heritage Foundation, says Congress should include funding for President Donald Trump’s border wall in must-pass legislation to keep the government open.
“There is a laundry list of legislative items conservatives hope to influence [in the lame-duck session], including strengthening work requirements for food stamp recipients in the farm bill and making the individual tax cuts permanent in a potential tax-extenders package,” Wesley Coopersmith, policy director of Heritage Action for America, told The Daily Signal in an email.
“I think the top priority in the minds of many members of Congress and Republican leadership is to secure funding for President Trump’s border wall and internal enforcement policies,” he said. “Lame duck could be the last chance for the president to fulfill his campaign promises on border security.”
As the December 7 spending deadline is rapidly approaching, Congress should fully fund the border wall and enhance internal enforcement of U.S. immigration laws.
— Heritage Action (@Heritage_Action) November 14, 2018
In a recent blog post, Heritage Action encouraged conservatives in Congress to oppose any Department of Homeland Security funding bill that does not include funding for a border wall and internal enforcement.
It is also calling for Congress to pass other items, such as legislation from Rep. Adrian Smith, R-Neb., that would bolster work requirements for able-bodied adults in exchange for welfare benefits through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, a program that gives temporary financial aid to low-income families.
“There has never been a better time to reform our welfare system and see more families experience prosperity,” Smith said in a statement provided to The Daily Signal.
“My JOBS for Success Act would refocus the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program on the truly needy and ensure states are taking all possible steps to assist them in finding employment,” he said. “This is the perfect time to build on the success of tax reform and deregulation to help more families become self-sufficient.”
While the Conservative Action Project’s to-do list for the lame-duck 115th Congress also calls for border wall funding and opposes providing amnesty to illegal immigrants, it also calls for confirming judges to fill the more than 100 judicial vacancies on the federal courts.
“We urge the Republican majority to confirm these judges before closing out the session in December,” the Conservative Action Project said in an email.
While most lame-duck sessions have not been seen as constructive, Democrats’ lame-duck session of 2010 before Republicans assumed the majority in 2011 was hailed as “the most productive of the 15 held since WWII.”
During that lame-duck session, Democrats repealed the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy regarding homosexuals in the military, allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the U.S. armed forces; ratified the New START nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia; and passed a tax cut compromise that extended former President George W. Bush’s tax cuts.
Biggs says he thinks Republicans’ 2018 lame-duck session has the potential to be as productive as that of the Democrats in 2010.
“I think it does. I have written an op-ed about it. Every chance I get I talk about it publicly, I talk to my colleagues about it,” the Arizona lawmaker said.
“If we lay in the fetal position because we are bummed and because we lost, instead of getting out there and trying to really advance this, we will really, really squander that last opportunity we have for a couple years, and it really is frustrating as heck to me,” he said.