For most of us, a new year means new goals: Start exercising again, eat better, grow your savings account. Congress is no exception (though some of its actual achievements may be a bit different.) Here’s a list of five goals lawmakers would like to achieve in 2014.
1.) Reach an agreement on raising the debt-ceiling before the next deadline. That task will come quickly; the next deadline falls on Feb. 7.
2.) Revive movement towards immigration reform. Whatever happened to all the talk about passing an immigration reform bill? It is still a priority for both Democrats and Republicans, but one fraught with challenges, and it’s unlikely that in an election year a bill on such an important and complex issue will be passed.
3.) Reinstate unemployment benefits? Senate Democrats, and a few Republicans too, are looking to quickly extend unemployment benefits upon their return to Washington later this month. Long-term unemployment benefits were allowed to expire as part of the bipartisan budget deal reached at the end of 2013. Senators Jack Reed and Dean Heller, a Democrat from Rhode Island and a Republican from Nevada, have drafted a bill that would provide a three-month extension of these benefits, and a procedural vote to advance this bill is scheduled in the Senate for the first day back from recess. The temporary fix would buy time for Democrats and Republicans to reach some type of comprehensive agreement on the issue — a difficult task on an issue that the Democrats will likely make a rallying cry for 2014.
4.) For Democrats: Keep a majority in the Senate. Complicating the tasks for lawmakers in Washington and raising the stakes for those on the ballot, the midterm elections will loom large over the Capitol this year. For Democrats, the goal is to hang onto their majority in the Senate, where the split is currently 55-45 (including two Independent senators who caucus with the Dems.) Historically, midterm elections tend to favor the party not in the White House, and there are several Democratic senators from red states up for re-election this year, along with an additional group of red states where Democratic senators who would have been up for re-election this year decided to retire, leaving some open races in demographically unfavorable territory.
5.) For Republicans: Take back the majority in the Senate. The GOP’s goal is of course to capitalize on said challenges for Democrats, and take back the majority. But Republicans face their own challenges too: The wave of retirements hit both sides of the aisle this year, a handful of longtime senators face primary challenges in their states, and in several states with open races, crowded primary fields promise lots of intra-party battling for a good part of the year.
Senators Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) and Charles Schumer (D-New York) will discuss Congress’s agenda in the new year this Sunday on “This Week.”