On Wednesday, January 5, 2011, the 112th Congress officially convened when the U.S. House of Representatives was gaveled to order by the new Speaker John Boehner (R-OH). At the same time, on the other side of the Capitol, Vice President Joe Biden administered the oath of office to 13 new members of the United States Senate.
This Congress is dramatically different politically from the previous one.
- The House of Representatives is controlled by the GOP by a margin of 242 Republicans to 193 Democrats.
- The Senate has a majority of 53 members caucusing with the Democrats and 47 Republicans.
This division of power in the new Congress will make it more difficult to pass major legislation over the next two years. However, Democrats and Republicans – and the Senate, House and White House – may be able to reach consensus or compromise on a limited number of less controversial issues, just as they did during the closing days of the lame-duck session in December.
Vote to Repeal Health Care Law
The House will vote to repeal the new health care law on Wednesday, January 12, making good on a Republican mid-term campaign promise to challenge President Barack Obama’s signature legislative accomplishment. The repeal effort is likely to pass the House, but is not expected to be approved by the Democratic-controlled Senate.
We also expect efforts will be made in 2011 to modify, repeal or simply not fund specific portions of the health care law. Some of these efforts could be successful. One likely area of change would be the 1099 reporting requirement employers will be confronted with in filing their 2011 taxes.
Other HR-Related Issues
Two other HR-related issues that may be debated in the 112th Congress are immigration and tax reform.
On immigration, a Republican-controlled House may pass a security-focused bill that includes changes to federal employment verification requirements for employers. Although the Democratic-controlled Senate will likely be more inclined to push a comprehensive approach to immigration reform, it's likely that only an enforcement-only bill will make it through both chambers.
On tax reform, SHRM remains steadfast in its pursuit of a permanent extension of Section 127 employer-provided educational assistance.
Be sure to review SHRM’s assessment on what’s in store for the HR community during the 112th Congress by clicking on “Post-Election Outlook: What’s Next > HR Policy Issues for 2011.”