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Congress Passes Continuing Resolution, Heads Home Until November

by | Feb 25, 2015

Congress adjourned Sept. 18 for an eight-week break, but not before passing a stopgap spending bill along with an authorization to arm and train Syrian rebels to fight the Islamic State. Both the House and Senate leave much work to do when they return following the November midterm elections. The continuing resolution (H.J. Res. 124) […]

Congress adjourned Sept. 18 for an eight-week break, but not before passing a stopgap spending bill along with an authorization to arm and train Syrian rebels to fight the Islamic State. Both the House and Senate leave much work to do when they return following the November midterm elections. The continuing resolution (H.J. Res. 124) will fund government programs and services at current levels until Dec. 11, 2014. After the Nov. 4 elections, the length of the so-called lame-duck session will depend on which party controls the Senate. If Republicans take control of the Senate, there won’t be much incentive for them to take up major legislation until next year. If Democrats can retain the majority and maintain the current status quo, there may be a busier, and longer, lame-duck session with possible action by the end of the year on fixing the way Medicare pays physicians under the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula. Each year, the SGR formula calls for deep cuts in Medicare physician pay rates that are routinely canceled by Congress with a temporary patch known as the “doc fix.” The most recent patch will expire March 31, and most experts and government agencies, including the Congressional Budget Office, assume Congress will pass another patch this year that will maintain current payment levels. There was bipartisan, bicameral support for a permanent fix earlier this year, but lawmakers couldn’t agree on how to offset the cost. President Barack Obama signed the current doc fix law April 1. For Republicans, the Affordable Care Act will continue to be a target for legislative action, but sources said not to expect a full-on repeal vote in the House. In 2014, 33 of the 100 seats in the Senate are being contested in regular elections whose winners will serve six-year terms from Jan. 3, 2015, to Jan. 3, 2021. There will also be elections to fill three midterm vacancies. In the House, all 435 seats are up for grabs, with 218 seats needed for a majority. Elections will be held Nov. 4.

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