Throughout the year, we’ve asked leaders on K Street and Capitol Hill about their outlook for the 118th Congress. Expectations have remained low — not entirely surprising for a divided government.
The year is over, but this Congress is only just hitting its halfway point with the whole of 2024 to go. We’d like to highlight from our final surveys of the year what K Street leaders and senior Hill staffers expect — and don’t expect — from a Congress so far mired in extraordinary dysfunction and intraparty fights.
While there’s little to boast about legislatively this year, 2024 is a crucial election year with control of the House, Senate and White House all up for grabs. That means it’s unlikely Congress will do much next year beyond funding the government. But we’ll see.
Impeachment: House Republicans voted on Dec. 13 to open an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden. A final impeachment decision could come early next year. But the Canvass community has consistently warned that’s a risky move for Republicans. At least 65% of Hill staffers and 72% of K-Streeters said it could hurt Republicans in the 2024 election.
Ukraine and border funding: Ukraine and the U.S.-Mexico border have little in common, but they’re now intertwined in a tenuous legislative battle. Republicans have grown increasingly hostile to the idea of sending more money to Ukraine and insist any negotiations must include restrictive border policy measures.
Still, 78% of top Hill aides say Congress will eventually pass funding for border security. And 64% of congressional staffers say lawmakers will approve additional aid for Ukraine.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer already scrapped the chamber’s holiday recess plans while negotiators continue to try to find an agreement. But a deal is unlikely before the end of the year. And then the real hiccup will be at the GOP-run House.
Bank CEO clawback pay: The bank failures earlier this year prompted a flurry of legislative proposals. That included the Senate Banking Committee’s RECOUP Act, introduced by Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.). The bill would strengthen the power of financial regulators to claw back the pay of bank executives when their financial institutions fail.
When asked about the bill’s prospects in this Congress in June, 61% of senior Hill staffers and 55% of K Street said they don’t think the proposal will become law.
The RECOUP Act cleared the Senate banking panel on a nearly unanimous vote in June. The Senate could vote on it next year, but the GOP-controlled House isn’t in a hurry to take it up. Still, retiring House Financial Services Committee Chair Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) has made clear he’s open to dealmaking in 2024.
Cannabis banking: Measures to allow financial institutions to extend their services to legal cannabis businesses remain in limbo. There’s plenty of bipartisan interest in cannabis banking legislation, but most K Street leaders (61%) and senior Hill staffers (55%) believe it is unlikely the 118th Congress will pass the SAFER Banking Act.
The bill cleared the Senate Banking Committee in September with bipartisan support, a major victory for the cannabis industry and the financial sector. But it’s still likely to face some roadblocks. It hasn’t passed the Senate yet, for one. Getting a vote in the House isn’t a sure thing under the ultra-conservative Speaker Mike Johnson, either.
Artificial intelligence: Most Hill staffers (63%) believe it’s important for Congress to pass legislation to curb the risks of AI. And several lawmakers, including Schumer, have called for urgent action to mitigate cyber and AI-driven meddling in the 2024 elections.
Despite the urgency, just 21% of K Street respondents think this Congress will act on AI. This is somewhat surprising because congressional leadership has prioritized learning more about AI this year, and lawmakers have introduced a long list of bills in 2023 to regulate the technology.
An executive order Biden signed in October setting new rules for AI and privacy guidelines for federal agencies could provide a blueprint for Congress.
– Donna Baeck