Wicker: Congress Reconvenes With Lengthy To-Do List

‘Lame-Duck’ Session Should Focus on Legislative Agreement

November 17, 2014

Unfinished business is likely to control the agenda of the last few weeks of the 113th Congress, which has entered a work period commonly known as “lame duck.”  The session – which runs between Election Day and the beginning of the next Congress – is expected to cover a number of pressing priorities, from funding the government to fighting terrorism.  

I am hopeful that the final weeks of the year will pave the way for Republicans and Democrats to work together on real solutions.  For too long, persistent gridlock and dysfunction under Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) have prevented Washington from addressing the challenges that mean most to Americans.  The public is ready for substantive legislative action and bipartisan agreement.  Here are a few items ripe for consideration: 

  • National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).  As the nation’s major defense bill, NDAA has garnered strong bipartisan support for the past 52 years.  The legislation provides a blueprint for America’s defense and national security interests, ensuring that our troops have the resources they need.  Despite being passed by the House of Representatives and Senate Armed Services Committee in May, it has yet to come before the full chamber for a vote.  As a committee member, I sponsored several key provisions to protect and enhance Mississippi’s military installations and defense capabilities. 
  • The fight against ISIS.  Keeping America’s armed forces prepared is critical as dangerous groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) seek to advance a campaign of terror in the Middle East.  In September, Congress gave the Obama Administration temporary authorization to train and equip moderate Syrian forces to fight ISIS.  Although suitable as a first step toward building international support, the President’s plan was inadequate as an overall strategy.  Congress, which is responsible for authorizing military action, deserves the opportunity to have a full and robust debate about the Administration’s future objectives.
  • Keeping the government open.  In the absence of a budget agreement, Congress has used continuing resolutions to fund the government on a temporary basis.  On December 11, the current funding is set to expire, prompting Congress to pass additional legislation or risk a government shutdown.  One option is to approve an omnibus spending bill, which would fund the government until the end of the 2015 fiscal year. 

I am encouraged by Sen. Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) commitment to return the Senate to regular order when he becomes majority leader next year.  Appropriations bills should go through the committee process, and lawmakers should be allowed to offer, debate, and vote on amendments openly. 

Looking ahead, I am optimistic about the renewed focus that a Republican majority in Congress can bring to job creation and growth.  One area for common ground is trade, which both the White House and many Republicans support as an avenue for stimulating the economy.

We saw firsthand how Mississippi workers benefit from trade when Nissan began production of its 2015 Murano vehicle in Canton earlier this month.  The auto plant is now a global hub for exports, connecting Mississippi to more than 100 markets and giving us a major jobs win at home.  More than 1,000 new jobs were added to support the Murano’s production. 

Regardless of the legislation that comes before the “lame-duck” Congress, Americans are looking to Washington for a commitment that it will put their priorities first.  Lawmakers have an opportunity to change the tone and rebuild confidence – replacing the partisan tactics of the past with long-overdue leadership.