National Journal has a roundup of the biggest issues that Congress might address in the lame-duck session between November 13 and Christmas, including “cybersecurity, a farm bill, wind-energy tax credits, and trade with Russia,” not to mention the Fiscal Cliff.
The “doc fix”: “Congress has to deal with its annual (or more recently, semiannual) Medicare headache during the lame duck: preventing a nearly 30 percent automatic pay cut to Medicare doctors. Both parties agree that the 1997 formula used to set physicians’ reimbursement for treating Medicare patients is flawed. It was originally intended to restrain health costs—if spending for a given year exceeded the ceiling, doctors’ reimbursement was to be reduced—but Congress regularly overrides the cut in pay. The perennial problem is finding the billions of dollars needed to offset the cost of delaying a pay cut for even a few months.”
The farm bill: “Despite passing one bill out of the Senate and another through the House Agriculture Committee, Congress has yet to finalize legislation reauthorizing agricultural and nutrition programs. The 2008 farm bill expired on Sept. 30, but Congress has not gone into full-blown panic mode—yet. Why not? Many provisions, such as crop insurance and the food-stamp program, do not need new legislation to continue. But the longer Congress goes without passing something—be it some sort of stopgap measure or a new five-year bill—the more problems will arise.”
Wind energy tax credits: “After simmering for the better part of this year, the battle over the wind-energy production tax credit will reach a fevered pitch during the lame-duck session. But supporters and detractors of the policy, which will expire at year’s end unless both chambers vote to renew it, acknowledge that the tax credit’s fate hinges less on its own particular merit and more on how successful lawmakers are at striking a deal to extend a wide range of tax extenders.”