Congress only has a couple of legislative days left in this calendar year. The House has already left town. There have been few achievements as political bickering prevailed. Congress passed only one regular appropriation bill, failed to adopt a budget so far, (although this is still possible) and failed to move on important issues such as tax reform. A series of missteps, miscalculations and scandals from the Administration occupied a great deal of Congressional attention. An impasse over the implementation of Affordable Care Act resulted in a partial government shutdown of 16 days. There is enough blame and finger pointing to go around for all those involved.
Looking forward to next year, the most important business in Congress will involve the fiscal affairs of the government. The government will run out of money to spend on January 15, 2014. However, unlike October, a shutdown is not likely. There has been an agreement increasing the budget by almost $70 billion. A capitulation of sorts by Republicans who are scared of another government shutdown. It appears business as usual in Washington for short term spending for longer-term budget gimmicks. Gasp. However, Republicans have no need to fight over funding health care; they are winning the political issue hands down for the time being and do not have the legislative power to make any substantive changes. Health care will be a major issue in the 2014 election.
There are substantive and political issues in the budget agreement, such as tax reform, sequestration, extension of unemployment insurance and other significant issues that divide the two major political parties. Move on, I guess, nothing to see here.
In addition to funding the government though the end of its fiscal year, the federal debt ceiling will be hit sometime in the second week of February. Raising the borrowing authority of the government is a big deal but the process is probably not going to be as confrontational as in October. It is not clear how much of an increase will be agreed upon and for how long. Unless changed by any budget reset, the sequester will eventually continue to squeeze and limit discretionary spending in an un-artful way, but is a squeeze.