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Fate of Lame Duck Retirement Package Remains Hazy

Will the 115th Congress act on a broad tax and retirement savings package before adjourning? It looks like we’ll have to wait a little longer to find out.

Following the memorial events following the death of President George H.W. Bush, lawmakers approved a two-week funding extension on Dec. 6 to prevent the government from shutting down. Congress previously faced a Dec. 7 deadline to approve funding legislation for fiscal year 2019, but that deadline how now been extended to Dec. 21. To date, Congress has approved only 5 out of 12 FY 2019 spending bills, leaving more than eight agencies with only temporary funding.

One of the biggest sticking points is President Trump’s insistence that Congress provide a down payment of $5 billion to fund a proposed border wall with Mexico, while Senate Democrats have proposed $1.6 billion. The temporary extension now gives Congress and President Trump until just before Christmas to resolve the dispute, but at the moment, neither side appears to be willing to budge.

Democratic congressional leaders are scheduled to meet with President Trump on Tuesday, Dec. 11.

So how does this relate to the tax and retirement savings package (H.R. 88, the Retirement, Savings, and Other Tax Relief Act of 2018 and the Taxpayer First Act of 2018) unveiled Nov. 26 by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX)?

A catch-all government funding bill is viewed as the “last train leaving the station” for this Congress, so any significant legislation will likely need to catch a ride on this must-pass bill. Otherwise, the legislation will have to be reintroduced and considered in the next Congress. That scenario is looking increasingly more likely for H.R. 88, given the dwindling amount of time left in the legislative calendar.

Moreover, the House has not yet approved the nearly 300-page tax and retirement legislative package. It was anticipated the House would do so on Friday, Nov. 30, but House Republican leaders delayed a vote after realizing they may not have had enough votes to approve it because many of their members had already left Washington for the weekend.

Meanwhile, the House and Senate Democratic leadership have shown no appetite for supporting the broader tax and retirement reform package, preferring instead to wait until next year when Democrats take control of the House.

It is possible that congressional leaders could insert the widely supported retirement savings provisions in the funding bill and remove the tax provisions that Democrats oppose, but that seems to be a long shot.