The U.S. general elections are coming up fast. On Nov. 6, you’ll have the opportunity to help choose who should take office in the White House and in Congress.
You should also be aware of possible scenarios in Congress that may take place just before and after the elections that will have a far-reaching impact on you and your friends, family and neighbors.
Before the elections
No one knows for sure what will happen when Congress convenes for a short time in September and October before recessing until after the elections, but here’s the most likely scenario, based on what I’ve heard during recent visits to Washington, D.C:
Congress will pass, and the president will sign, a continuing resolution to fund the government until April 2013. Unless Congress passes a continuing resolution before Sept. 30, our country will default on its payments for programs such as highway maintenance, education, Medicare and almost every other government expenditure. Congress wants a short-term fix until the next Congress is sworn into office in January. They don’t want to see national and international markets experience another meltdown, and they certainly don’t want to face U.S. voters in October and explain they couldn’t agree on paying bills.
After the elections
When Congress first reconvenes after the elections, during the lame duck session—when some in attendance will not be in the 2013 Congress—there are three possible scenarios:
Scenario 1: Congress will resolve significant questions such as: Should tax bracket changes be made? Should taxes on income be revised? Should payroll taxes be raised? What should we do when Bush-era tax cuts expire on Jan. 1? Can entitlement reform be resolved for Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security or, at the very least, extended? Can a permanent payment system for physicians who care for elderly, commonly referred to as “doc-fix,” be put in place? Should defense funding be raised to previous levels or increased? This scenario is the least likely to happen.
Scenario 2: Based on the outcome of the elections, some major issues will be solved in the short-term. Defense and sequestration cuts will be funded for a short term, such as three to six months. Bush-era tax cuts will be extended for a short term. A short-term doc-fix will pass. The losing party in the elections will have to concede to several demands before any measure will pass.
Scenario 3: The elections will change or solidify the party in control of the House, Senate and White House. Bitterness on the part of the party that loses and ideals of what can happen in the future by the party that wins will make agreement on issues extremely unlikely. No major issues will be resolved. Bills may be introduced, but will go nowhere. This failure to act to avoid going off a fiscal cliff has been called the “let ’er rip” scenario.
Each of us has a major responsibility to cast ballots for the men and women who we believe will do the best job in representing our ideas, values and long-term goals. It can be a very frustrating process, but we are fortunate to have a system that allows us to elect our leaders. Take an active part in our nation’s future by casting your vote this year. Many men and women are serving and have served our country so that we have this freedom.
By Jeff Stingley
Director of Public Affairs