Week of January 5 - Out of the Gate, New Congress Hits the Ground Running
Monday, January 12, 2015
Policy Briefing Week of January 5
Out of the Gate, New Congress Hits the Ground Running
This first week of the 114th Congress saw a flurry of activity, a marked contrast from the waning weeks of the last Congress. The new Congress, which officially began when new Members took their oaths of office, boasts the largest Republican majority in the House in nearly 90 years. Under the leadership of newly re-elected Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), House Republicans have a 247 to 188 seat advantage over their Democratic counterparts. The Senate, now in Republican hands for the first time in eight years, will be lead by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who has a 54 to 46 seat advantage. Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) assumed the role of Senate Minority Leader, while Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) will continue to serve as House Minority Leader.
With the pomp and circumstance out of the way, Members of Congress wasted no time introducing new legislation. Beyond the “big ticket” items such as Obamacare reform, immigration, and the Keystone XL Pipeline, a couple of small business bills were introduced. H.R. 253 would create a $10,000 tax-exempt small business savings account for purchase of equipment, facilities, marketing, training, incorporation, and accounting fees and S. 115, would require the Small Business Administration to collect data from businesses that received SBA loans or training on their operational status and the number of full-time and part-time employees it employs.
One of the first big tests of the Republican-controlled Congress will be to approve funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Congress delayed approving funding for the entire year in response to President Obama’s executive action on immigration in December. Republican leaders will spend this week deciding how to balance their opposition to the President’s immigration changes with the need to approve funding before it expires in February.
With respect to the jockeying for Committee assignments, both House and the Senate leadership are in the process of finalizing their rosters. However, the leaders for the Small Business Committees have been set: Reps. Steve Chabot (R-OH) and Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) will serve as Chair and Ranking Member, respectively, of the House Committee, while Sens. David Vitter (R-LA) and Ben Cardin (D-MD), respectively, will fill those roles is the Senate.