The perfect storm is forming on the horizon and Congress is in its path. Three major challenges will face it in the coming weeks:
• Finding a bipartisan agreement on gun safety legislation in the wake of the latest tragedy and the growing national #NeverAgain student movement for a solution.
• Delivering a solution to the Dreamers that can pass the House and the Senate and be enacted.
• Passing a bipartisan Omnibus Appropriations bill with the “right” number of riders that limits the amount of political damage to each side.
Elected members of Congress are focusing on Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students and those who were murdered in Parkland, Florida. The president is attempting to take hold of the legislative reins, taking on the NRA – including restrictions on select gun ownership until the age of 21, efforts opposed by many Republicans – while at the same time offering solutions like arming school officials and eliminating them as gun-free zones that are anathema to Democrats and would not pass Congress. Republicans in the House are unlikely to support the reforms proposed by the president that limit access, focusing instead on failures in the background check system and the mental health system. Democrats will seize legislative opportunities to push for safety legislation and drive this message through the year.
Meanwhile, the Dreamers have not stopped their demand for a solution from Congress and the administration. And though the Supreme Court has refused to take up the Appellate Court decision to expedite the Trump administration’s decision on DACA, removing the immediate threat of March 6th, the need for a legislative fix and resulting certainty remains an immediate priority for millions of Dreamers.
This brings us to March 23, and the Omnibus Appropriations bill currently being negotiated between the parties in the House, the Senate and the White House. It appears the process is moving as smoothly as expected, now that Congress has passed a bill to lift the funding limits on domestic and defense spending caps. The challenge, as always, will be on finding the right mix of ideological policy riders and the horse trading that takes place as the parties finalize the agreement. It will need to garner Democratic support in the House and Senate to be successfully enacted over the concerns on fiscal hawks in each chamber.
What we are witnessing now is the not-so-calm before the storm. Decisions will be made soon enough on how Congress will proceed that will have an impact not only on the omnibus, but also on the major issues of the day and the messages driving each party through the 2018 mid-terms.