The activities of Congress this week may be overshadowed by coverage and talk of the inauguration, but that's not to say Congress won't be considering some significant legislation.
Senate Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have been ironing out differences on how the Senate should "reform" its filibuster rules. Changes under consideration include a requirement that the minority party muster 41 votes to stall a bill or nominee, as opposed to the current requirement that the majority have 60 votes to end a filibuster. Reid will also "insist on reducing delays to motions to begin debate on new business and motions to send legislation to conference talks with the House."
To enact the reforms, Reid is considering what is known as the nuclear option, which would allow Reid to change the rules with a simple majority vote. Reid has given himself ample opportunity, extending the first "legislative day" to two weeks, so that he can use the nuclear option should he and McConnell not reach an agreement.
To be clear, many of the reforms being discussed will undermine the rights of the minority - both on the right and the left - and empower the establishment status quo in Washington.
The House will also vote this week on what is being characterized as a three-month extension of the debt ceiling with a requirement that both chambers pass a budget or else go without pay.
What we need now is not a series of baby steps, but "a grand vision and a full national discussion about solving our spending and debt challenges."
Heritage's Alison Acosta Fraser explains:
In a far less ambitious plan, the House majority announced today that it would pass a small, temporary increase in the debt limit to give the Senate time to produce a budget resolution-which presumably would contain true spending reforms-by April 15. They also promised, according to some reports, that this year's House budget resolution would balance the budget in 10 years. But the details are important. If they deliver, this would be a significant improvement over last year's Ryan budget, which did not balance until 2037. But even this will not guarantee that spending cuts and entitlement reforms will actually see the light of day.
That last sentence is particularly important to understand. Even with this temporary debt limit extension, there is not yet a guarantee that Congress will actually cut spending three months from now.
As always, it's imperative that we hold Congress accountable. Congress must cut spending. They must get to work on reforming entitlements and cutting discretionary spending. Most importantly, they must put us on a path to balance the budget over a period of ten years with the next debt limit increase.