The 115th Congress has just a few weeks of life left before a likely adjournment in mid-December. But this lame-duck period could potentially be among the most significant policy-wise in recent history. A quick list of what to watch:
Government funding/shutdown funding bill
It all depends on Trump. Funding for many, but not all, government agencies is due to run out after Dec. 7. The president has threatened a shutdown if he does not see enough funding for a border wall. Currently, sources in both parties on the Hill feel a shutdown is unlikely. That hope largely rests on Trump (and Republicans) accepting a very broad definition of a “wall” to include things that are not physical barriers but other solutions like technological security fixtures.
The current extension on this program, which covers 5 million homes and businesses, runs out Friday. No new flood policies could be issued if the program, which is millions of dollars in debt, isn’t extended. It is not clear how or if this will be resolved in time.
Sources in both parties tell the PBS NewsHour that they are close to a deal. The last sticking point is not, as it was last year, SNAP, the program formerly known as food stamps. Negotiators seem ready to pass a bill without major SNAP changes. The last hang up? The rules and funding for fighting wildfires.
Criminal justice reform
Watch this closely. Senate Republicans believe they have a shot at reaching a deal that would include a reduction of mandatory minimum sentences in the case of drug felons, among other changes . Its future in the House is not clear, but it has a chance.
On Wednesday, all senators will receive a classified briefing on the U.S. role in supporting Saudi Arabia’s fight in Yemen, as well as the kingdom’s role in the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. This comes as some notable Republicans, including Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, are preparing legislation in an effort to punish the Saudis or, in the case of Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, stop the U.S. from having any role in Yemen.
House leadership elections
Both parties will hold behind-the-scenes votes this week on different leadership roles. For House Democrats, that means all of their top spots, including who they’d like to be speaker. Minority Leader. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is expected to easily get the majority of the Democrats she needs to move forward with her bid for speaker. It is not clear if she will pick up the 218 votes she will ultimately need come January, when the term officially begins. House Republicans, meanwhile, will decide on their ranking members on committees. One race to watch: the Appropriations Committee, where four top contenders are vying for the ranking member post.
Other things to watch
Both chambers hope to reach a deal on rewriting Congress’ rules on sexual harassment, which remain antiquated and unchanged despite a year of #MeToo conversations. And Republicans will attempt another, much smaller, tax cut bill. This one would fix some issues with the larger tax bill passed earlier this year, and continue temporary tax breaks that are routinely extended.