Lame Duck or Active Duck

In politics, the “lame duck” Congress refers to the period of time where the Congress is in session after their successors have been elected.  According to Wikipedia (so it must be true),  “The phrase ‘lame duck’ was coined in the eighteenth century at the London Stock Exchange, to refer to a stockbroker who defaulted on his debts…It was transferred to politicians in the nineteenth century, the first recorded use is in the Congressional Globe (then the official record of the United States Congress) of January 14, 1863: “In no event … could [the Court of Claims] be justly obnoxious to the charge of being a receptacle of ‘lame ducks’ or broken down politicians.”

Last week, we wrote about the issues that remain for the 115th Congress to consider during the lame duck session before the new Congress begins on January 3rd.  In one short week, there has already been a considerable amount of new developments on items of interest to local Goodwill® organizations and the people they serve, including:

  • The federal Fiscal Year 2019 (FY19) budget: Congress needs to continue to pass funding for several other areas in order to avoid a government shutdown on December 21st, and remarks from President Trump imply that a government shutdown is a strong possibility unless Congress includes funding for a border wall. A number of federal agencies that oversee programs implemented by local Goodwills have already received FY19 funding, including the Department of Defense, the Department of Education, the Department of Labor, and the Department of Health and Human Services. These agencies would not be subject to the partial shutdown.
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): Many local Goodwill organizations are involved in SNAP employment and training programs. SNAP is part of the FARM bill which was passed by the House and Senate after months of negotiation. We’re pleased to see that the final bill encourages more collaboration between the workforce system, agencies overseeing SNAP and private employers (including nonprofits).  Innovative pilot programs will continue to be funded as well.
  • Tax Policy: The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act could have negative implications for nonprofits. Before adjourning, Congress is considering language to make some fixes to the tax bill, including a repeal of an Unrelated Business Income Tax on nonprofits (UBIT).  Click here for more information and to take action.  On the flip side, the bill unfortunately contains language that may weaken enforcement of the Johnson Amendment (a provision that requires nonprofits to remain nonpartisan).
  • Criminal Justice Reform: After receiving pressure from President Trump among others, Senate Leader McConnell will allow for a vote on a long-stalled criminal justice reform bill.  The bill is slightly different from an earlier version passed by the House.  Speaker Ryan says the House stands ready to pass the Senate bill as soon as it clears. The bill make sweeping changes to federal prison laws, expanding programs designed to discourage recidivism and limit juvenile solitary confinement. Goodwill is supports the bill’s reauthorization of the Second Chance Act including grant programs for drug treatment, vocational training, mentoring and other reentry and recidivism reduction initiatives.
  • Juvenile Justice: Congress passed a juvenile justice reform bill which has been in the works since 2017. The bipartisan legislation provides state and local leaders greater flexibility to meet the needs of delinquent youth; helps youth avoid the juvenile justice system by improving support for prevention services; and focuses on evidence-based strategies with proven track records.

For a “lame duck” Congress, this Congress has been fairly active.  Goodwill continues to stand ready to work with Congress on these remaining issues and to work with their successors in the next Congress.