By David Morgan
WASHINGTON With a bitter election campaign finally over, the U.S. Congress will reconvene this week to try to set aside its partisan differences long enough to keep the government from closing.As President-elect Donald Trump shapes his administration, Republicans are expected to move away from initial plans for compromise funding legislation and opt instead for a short-term measure to keep the government running into next year, when they will have control of Congress and the White House. Washington has been operating since Oct. 1 under a temporary "continuing resolution" on the budget. It expires on Dec. 9. Lawmakers will be trying to approve a new one before then.Mired in partisan gridlock, Congress in recent years has seldom completed the entire federal budget process, falling back frequently on stop-gap measures that last a few months.
During their "lame-duck" session starting this week, lawmakers will have little time to draft another continuing resolution to cover funding U.S. agencies and military operations. Congress is tentatively set to adjourn by Dec. 17 and has an additional break over the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday.A new Congress will meet in January, with the 100-seat Senate more closely split than before last week's elections. Neither party will have the 60 votes needed to move legislation easily through the chamber.The voters last Tuesday also preserved the Republican majority in the House of Representatives, though it is slightly smaller, giving the Democrats more power to block the Republicans.
Legislation to streamline federal regulations for new drugs could come up during the lame duck session. So could funding for cancer research, precision medicine and treatments for opioid addiction, said congressional aides.Some conservative House Republicans want a budget measure that will expire in March, which would coincide with needed action on the federal debt limit, according to House aides.
Others have talked about a continuing resolution that would run until sometime February, giving the new president and Congress enough time to determine their priorities for more comprehensive funding legislation for the remainder of the federal fiscal year, which ends on Sept. 30.Before the election shifted the political center of gravity in favor of Republicans, Republican leaders had talked about crafting funding legislation through negotiations with Democrats and President Barack Obama and approving it before Christmas. (Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and James Dalgleish)
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