Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) resigned at the end of October, but not before clearing the plate of several must-pass measures as another debt and spending crisis loomed – a parting gift to Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI). Ryan, former Ways & Means Committee Chairman and 2012 Vice Presidential candidate, was elected as the 54th Speaker after a reluctant and at times contentious run. He takes the reins this month with no threats of a government shutdown until after the 2016 elections thanks to his predecessor.
Budget Agreement reached, debt crisis averted: As one of his last acts as Speaker, Boehner successfully negotiated a two-year budget deal that averted a potentially catastrophic default and reversed the mandatory spending cuts, known as sequester, put in place by a 2011 agreement. The deal, which passed the Senate and was signed by the President, extends the debt limit through mid-March 2017 and increases government spending by $80 billion over the next two years.

The $80 billion in additional spending is divided equally between defense and domestic programs and is offset by savings from changes to the Social Security disability insurance fund and Medicare payments to doctors and other health care providers. New revenue will be raised by auctioning off portions of the government-owned broadcast spectrum, selling oil from the Strategic Oil Reserve, and by cracking down on audits of large business partnerships.

Ex-Im Reauthorization: A bloc of moderate House Republicans joined with their Democratic colleagues to revive the Export-Import Bank, which was shut down earlier this year. The legislation, passed by the House on a bipartisan vote, would extend Ex-Im’s charter through 2019. The bill would also lower Ex-Im’s lending cap from $140 billion to $135 billion and raise the percentage of the agency’s operations that must go toward supporting small businesses from 20 percent to 25 percent. The bill now heads to the Senate, where its outcome is unclear. Although a bipartisan majority of Senators support reauthorization, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), an Ex-Im opponent, has stated that he will not bring up a stand-alone bill that he opposes. That leaves another alternative. 

Transportation Spending: The highway bill currently under consideration in Congress is now seen as the best vehicle for Ex-Im reauthorization. Early this month, the House approved a six-year transportation package providing $325 billion in funding for roads and bridges. The legislation also includes a four-year Ex-Im reauthorization. The Senate passed a similar bill this summer.  Supporters of extending Ex-Im and the Highway Trust Fund are hopeful that the House and Senate versions can be merged and passed before Thanksgiving.

Tax Extenders: Unfortunately, none of the legislation approved this fall provides a pathway for extending the more than 50 tax provisions that expired at the end of last year, which include increased Sec. 179 expensing, 50 percent bonus depreciation, and the R&D tax credit. Keep the pressure on your members of Congress to approve at least a two-year renewal of the tax extenders before the end of the year.