As Christmas draws nigh, things are slowly winding down in the Senate. There are, however, some indications of what will be on the agenda next year. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is planning on advancing legislation to extend jobless benefits for over a million Americans. Democrats had hoped this would be in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013, but it was not. Similarly, Senator Patty Murray, who led the Democrats in negotiating the bill, has said she hopes to pass legislation restoring some retirement benefits to veterans.
A bipartisan group of Senators is looking to impose new sanctions on Iran in the New Year. This puts the Democratic members of this coalition at odds with the President, who is opposed. This also puts the Republicans in a tricky situation since the law gives approval for the Administration’s deal with Iran, which many Republicans have opposed.
Following the Democrats’ use of the nuclear option to eliminate the filibuster on most Judicial and Executive Branch nominees, many predicting the relations between the parties would further erode. There have been a number of incidents to confirm this assessment. Another one suggesting frosty relations occurred in the Senate Finance Committee. A number of tax breaks have been written into law over the past few decades, but they have not been made permanent and are due to expire at the year’s end. The Finance Committee Democrats sought to approve legislation to extend them; this was a show for the public, since the House has already departed. The Committee’s Republicans stopped the extension on the grounds that it was useless.