Washington Outlook for 2015

on January 23, 2015 at 11:00 AM

President Obama Delivers State Of The Union Address

Happy New Year, and welcome to the 114th Congress!

As Congress returns this month to a changed political landscape with the Republican Party now in control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate, ML Strategies is pleased to continue our tradition of offering an Outlook for the new Congress. In addition to the Congressional legislative agenda, we also discuss the Obama Administration’s regulatory plans.


Legislative Agenda

The new political dynamics of the 114th Congress will present some challenges over the next two years, as well as areas of opportunity for bipartisan cooperation on Capitol Hill and with the Obama Administration. The legislative agenda, in particular, will largely be influenced by a series of milestone dates that started with the swearing-in of the new Congress on January 6th and is continuing with a series of political party retreats. The joint House and Senate Republican retreat was held January 15th through the 16th, while Senate Democrats held a retreat January 14th through the 15th. A House Democratic retreat will be held January 28th through the 30th, and a House Progressive Caucus retreat will be held February 6th through the 7th. These retreats give the Republican and Democratic leadership of the House and Senate the opportunity to hear from their members about their goals and vision for the 114th Congress, and allow the leadership to start working to build consensus around policy priorities.

Following on President Obama’s delivery of the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress, his Fiscal Year 2016 Budget Request will be released on February 2nd, providing additional insight into the Obama Administration’s goals for the coming year.

Much of the legislative agenda for the coming year will be driven by the need to address issues that have expired or have expiring dates looming on the 2015 calendar, including:

  • Tax Extenders package (approximately 60 tax provisions expired on December 31, 2014);
  • Department of Homeland Security FY 2015 Appropriations (current funding expires on February 27, 2015);
  • Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) or “Doc Fix” (current extension expires March 31, 2015);
  • Highway Trust Fund (the current funding extension expires on May 31, 2015);
  • USA Patriot Act (three provisions expire on June 1, 2015);
  • Export-Import Bank authorization (current authorization expires on June 30, 2015);
  • Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization (the current authorization expires on September 30, 2015);
  • Children’s Health Insurance Program (funding expires on September 30, 2015);
  • Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act (covers federal child nutrition programs and expires on September 30, 2015); and
  • Internet Tax Moratorium (expires September 30, 2015).

Other measures that are time-sensitive include:

  • FY 2016 Budget Resolution (which has a non-binding deadline of April 15);
  • Debt Ceiling (the debt ceiling was last addressed in February 2014, when Congress suspended it until March 15, 2015 – although the Treasury Department can likely use certain measures to extend the ceiling through August 2015);
  • FY 2016 Appropriations (the next fiscal year begins on October 1, 2015); and
  • National Defense Authorization Act (this would be the 54th consecutive annual authorization).

In addition to these legislative measures, two high-profile nomination battles will take place this year for Attorney General and Secretary of Defense, serving as proxies for Republican oversight of President Obama’s executive order on immigration and defense strategy, respectively.

Although the Republicans now maintain majorities in both chambers of Congress, it is clear that Republican leadership will, in some cases, have to rely on Democratic votes to achieve some of their legislative goals since they will likely lose some of their more conservative members on issues like the budget, tax reform, the highway bill, etc.

In the Senate, where 60 votes are needed to end debate on legislation and move to a vote, Republicans will need six Democrats to join their 54-seat majority. In the House of Representatives, bills are passed with a majority vote, which the Republicans will most times secure with their expanded caucus.

Further, with Republicans seeking to pass some measures this Congress that are sure to have the support of their base but also to exact a presidential veto, the GOP will have to rely even more on Democratic votes if they hope to secure the support of two-thirds of all Members of the House or Senate required to override a presidential veto.

Regulatory Agenda

Many of the most visible recent efforts on new regulations stem from implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank), while the Administration continues to use more long-standing laws such as the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act for implementation of its environmental agenda.

The Executive Branch agencies will continue to pursue an aggressive agenda throughout the year, with some specific regulatory items discussed throughout this report. The regulatory agendas for more than 60 Cabinet, Executive, and independent agencies are included in the Unified Agenda, which is published twice a year — in the spring and fall.

Congressional Republicans will seek to limit the Administration’s regulatory agenda, and to repeal or revise regulations already in place, either via the appropriations process or other measures. This is discussed in greater detail in the Regulatory Reform section of this Outlook.


We have also included, in the Appendix, the House and Senate calendars for 2015 and the new congressional committee assignments.

Contact information for all of ML Strategies’ team members is provided at the end of this publication. We would encourage any questions you may have about specific issues covered here, or any other legislative or agency-level opportunities in which you are interested.

You can access the entire report here.