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Congressional year end: Work up to Christmas Eve to finish work?

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A 2014 fiscal year budget hasn't passed. The goal of a grand bargain to readjust the future budget trajectory to curtail projected out year debt has long since been given up by this Congress. It has been bruised by a shutdown, the fight over Obamacare and by going to the brink of a first ever default by the United States on its debt obligations.

On Monday the Washington Post blogged that Congressional negotiators reached a small deal on the budget. Can it pass before legislators go home for Christmas?

According to a U.S. News report, military leaders urged Congress to complete action on a defense bill before adjourning for the holidays. Without passage of the bill there will be no combat pay, or re-enlistment bonuses to keep more of those with valuable experience on active duty.

Republicans in the Senate are still smarting over the Democrats passing the nuclear option, changing the rules on votes on Presidential nominees. No more filibusters, nominees can now be approved by a simple majority in the Senate.

The Congressional calendar shows the Senate ending the year's work on December 20. The House plans to wrap up sooner with a final meeting for this first session of the 113th Congress on Friday, December 13. Representatives are not scheduled to be back to work until 6:30 pm on Tuesday, January 7, 2014.

A report by the Boston Globe dubs the first session of the 113th Congress as one of the least productive Congressional years in history, with little more than routine types of legislation passed. Substantive legislation such as tax reform, gun control measures and making immigration policy more sensible has languished in partisan divide. Agreement on renewing the farm bill has been stuck, largely over a fight about food stamps.

There has been recent progress. The New York Times reported that House and Senate negotiators reached a compromise agreement on the defense bill on Monday. Passage would continue combat pay and re-enlistment bonuses. The agreement includes a compromise on protections for sexual assault victims in the military.

The fight to get many of President Obama’s judicial and executive branch nominees through the appointment process by the end of the year, as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev, has vowed, is making action on other issues difficult.

Although a majority vote is all that is now needed for approval of nominees , Republicans still have ways to slow the process and are expected to use every tactic at their disposal.

The Senate may need to change its calendar and remain in session until Christmas Eve.

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