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5 Legislative Hurdles for New House GOP

Boehner has more Republicans in the 114th, but still may need help from Democrats on some of the stickier votes coming this year. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Boehner has more Republicans in the 114th, but still may need help from Democrats on some of the stickier votes coming this year. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

John A. Boehner’s first test in the 114th Congress comes Tuesday, when he could face as many as 20 defections to his speakership.  

He’s ultimately expected to win a third term as the House’s top Republican, but the level of opposition could be an early indicator of how difficult a time he’ll have corralling the necessary number of votes for a whole host of sticky legislative items — from extending the debt limit sometime midyear to giving President Barack Obama ground rules for negotiating a new trade agreement. Here are five deadlines both chambers of Congress must meet in 2015, with a special look at how House Republicans are expected to navigate the challenges.  

Feb. 28: Department of Homeland Security funding expires.  A short-term extension of Homeland Security funding was a condition for many House Republicans to vote “yes” last year for the “cromnibus.” Leadership contended it would buy the conference some time to find leverage to force Obama’s hand on his immigration executive orders. It’s currently unclear whether the House GOP has a plan to extract concessions in exchange for legislation to float the DHS coffers through the rest of the fiscal year — or, short of accomplishing that goal, if members are prepared to see the critical agency shut down on the first of March.  

March 31: “Doc Fix” patch up for renewal. 
Last year , Republican leaders were so short on support for legislation to avert a pay hike for physicians that they struck a deal with Democrats to pass a 12-month extension by voice vote when no one was on the chamber floor to object. The maneuver did the trick, but left many Republicans fuming, and Boehner is unlikely to get away with something like that again. This time, he and his top lieutenants will have to find the votes to pass a short- or long-term patch, possibly having to appeal to the minority party for help.  

May 31: The Highway Trust Fund becomes insolvent.  The account that pays for critical improvements to the nation’s infrastructure, bridges and roads is due to run out of money by the end of May. House lawmakers had hoped last year to build consensus around a long-term surface transportation authorization measure, but ultimately had to settle for a short-term extension of the trust fund. The existing extension’s looming expiration date sets up another intraparty fight between Republicans who think the federal government ought to invest in transportation and infrastructure improvements and those who believe that should be left to the states.  

June 30: The Export-Import Bank charter expires.  Before language to arm Syrian rebels overtook the debate on passing a stopgap continuing resolution before the midterm elections, the million-dollar question was whether a fight over the Ex-Im Bank’s existence could sink the measure. House Democrats wanted funding for the institution to be tied to must-pass legislation, while House Republicans wanted to kill the program entirely — or, at minimum, strip it of policy rider status to be dealt with on its own, sometime in the first session of the 114th Congress. Anti-Ex-Im Bank Republicans agreed to the latter compromise, and now they have a chance to let the charter lapse without risking a government shutdown or something equally catastrophic. They also have an important ally on their side: Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., has said he does not support Ex-Im Bank re-authorization.  

Sept. 30: The Federal Aviation Administration’s funding ends. Funding for the whole government is set to expire at the end of September, the very same day funding for the FAA is also due to lapse. As with the Highway Trust Fund and surface transportation programs, lawmakers must secure support for an extension of the FAA and federal aviation initiatives by then, even if it’s only a short-term fix. Fights could erupt within the House GOP over funding for small and rural airports — and inside both parties over daily limits on long distance flights coming into Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, which sits in closest proximity to the Capitol out of all the area airports.  

Correction 3:30 p.m. An earlier version of this post misstated Kevin McCarthy’s leadership title.  


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