Let us reflect on what Congress has done, where things stand now, and what we can expect in the future.
As the countdown to the last day of 2018 winds down, so do the final days of the 115th session of Congress. To a certain extent, the current federal legislative body achieved some notable milestones, so let us reflect on what Congress has done, where things stand now, and what we can expect in the future.
Any senators or representative can probably point to work or progress achieved over the past two years. But for many outsiders, and especially for GFOA members who are primarily focused on state and local fiscal matters, two major events stand out.
The first is the (somewhat surprisingly) failed effort to repeal and replace the Obama Administration's Affordable Care Act (ACA). The drama over this issue played out in the early days of the 115th, as Republican leadership tried to use the momentum of having a unified government (with the same political party controlling the executive and legislative branches) for the first time in several years. Many thought the easiest task to take on was health-care reform, since that was the focus of many Republican campaigns leading up to the 2016 elections. There were signs of trouble early on, but the final blow was dealt in an early morning vote when the late Senator John McCain (R-AZ) voted no on the Republican bill that would have attempted to rewrite health policy in this country.
The second event is one many will not soon forget, especially since we are still trying to navigate implementation --the first rewrite of the federal tax code in more than three decades. At this time last year, Capitol Hill was fully engulfed in the tax reform debate. All members on the Democratic side and most rank-and-file members on the Republican side were essentially shut out of the drafting process. After the unsuccessful effort to pass a health-care bill, Republican leadership recognized that the best chance to pass tax reform was to hold all cards as close as possible until the very last minute. When the dust finally settled, a cap on the state and local tax (SALT) deduction, the elimination of advance refunding bonds, and the elimination of tax credit bonds were among the casualties for state and local governments.
Since then, there have been few (if any) major legislative achievements because much of Congress's energy and effort went into campaigns in the months leading up to the midterm elections...