Ambitions for moving legislation in the post-election session are waning, leaving as the two main remaining pieces of business the annual DoD authorization bill and a budget measure to continue funding agencies beyond the expiration of the current temporary funding December 9. The former will create or extend numerous special pay and other personnel rules for hard-to-fill positions at DoD, and also could boost the buyout maximum there from $25,000 to $40,000. The budget measure is expected to last only through March, when the new Congress and the new administration will have an opportunity to attach policy riders that the Obama administration might block. Such “must-pass” bills often become vehicles for enacting plans that otherwise would not be considered on their own as time runs out—what is commonly called on Capitol Hill the “last train out.” One such proposed rider might be to soften the especially high increase scheduled in Medicare Part B premiums for certain enrollees in that program, including most of those retired under the CSRS system. However, late in a lame-duck session bills also sometimes are taken up and passed individually on short notice—in some cases, even if they haven’t cleared the committee stage. That typically is not done with complex issues, such as postal reform—which recently was rumored to have a last-ditch chance—nor controversial ones, such as limits on employee appeal rights. Congress is scheduled to stay in session until December 16 but could adjourn earlier.
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