December deadlines: Things are a little different around Capitol Hill before the Christmas cutoff

Every December seemingly has a deadline on Capitol Hill.

To impeach the President.

To fund the government.

To avoid the fiscal cliff.

To raise the debt ceiling.

To approve a payroll tax cut.

To pass tax reform.

To allow drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

To pass Obamacare.

To undo Obamacare.

But things are a little different around Capitol Hill this December.


There’s no single, sweeping issue that is consuming Congress. Sure, there are lots of things to do. In fact, big things — which we’ll outline shortly. But the feeling this Christmas at the Capitol is different. No government shutdown is looming (talk to us about that in January and February). And while Congress has faced concrete deadlines before, there is no absolute, drop-dead date to complete anything.

Except there is a cutoff point. It’s the same as every other year: December 25th.

Lawmakers have three weeks to handle lots of things.

But it’s unclear if they’ll crank through them. And that’s why there’s the potential for Congress to linger in Washington and maybe — just maybe — still slam into the December 25th deadline.

Let’s start with impeachment.

No, the House is not going to impeach President Biden before Christmas. You might remember that December is kind of "impeachment month" on Capitol Hill. The House impeached President Clinton on Dec. 19, 1998, for obstructing justice and lying after his affair with Monica Lewinsky. The House impeached former President Trump — the first time — on Dec. 18, 2019, for abusing his power and obstructing justice as it pertained to Ukraine.

Notice a pattern?

While those votes were actual resolutions to impeach the President, House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., is just pushing a plan to formalize an impeachment inquiry. FOX is told the goal is to pass the impeachment probe resolution next week.


House Republicans have nibbled around the edges of impeachment for months. But the House never adopted a measure officially authorizing impeachment.

"Now we're being stonewalled by the White House because they're preventing at least two to three DOJ witnesses from coming forward," said Johnson on FOX. "So a formal impeachment inquiry vote on the floor will allow us to take it to the next necessary step. And I think it's something we have to do at this juncture."

Plus, Johnson needs to notch a political and legislative win.

Johnson hasn’t had much to crow about since he first clasped the Speaker’s gavel in October. He quickly passed a bill to boost Israel in its fight against Hamas. But since then, Johnson has presided over a House majority that encountered multiple stumbles in efforts to pass their own spending bills. The highlight of Johnson’s short tenure may have been the expulsion of former Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y. — which Johnson and other GOP leaders opposed.

But impeachment could boost the GOP — especially as Congress stares at the possibility of dual government shutdowns over the winter.

"If it goes to the floor, we're going to pass it. There's no question," said House Majority Whip Tom Emmer, R-Minn., about an impeachment inquiry vote.

It’s about the math.

Republicans can only lose three votes on their side and prevail and still open an impeachment investigation. For months, moderates resisted an impeachment vote. Former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., initiated an impeachment inquiry — without an official vote — because he never had the votes. Moreover, McCarthy needed to do something to move the needle on his side of the aisle when GOP spending bills began stalling on the floor and conservatives grew restless over his debt ceiling pact with President Biden.

But votes to potentially launch an impeachment inquiry began to fall into place over the past few weeks. House Republicans believe things changed over Thanksgiving — after lawmakers were marooned in Washington for nearly 11 consecutive weeks since late summer.

"They met people in Walmart and people on Main Street, and they're like, ‘What in the world did the Bidens do to receive millions and millions of dollars from our enemies around the world? And did they not pay taxes on it?’ So they heard from their constituents," said House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer, R-Ky.

Democrats accuse Republicans of a political diversion ahead of an election year.


"This is all part of a phony effort by extreme MAGA Republicans to distract the American people because they have no track record of accomplishment," said House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y.

But impeachment isn’t what is most vexing to many on Capitol Hill this December.

Major issues loom over passing the annual defense policy bill. But it faces a dispute over declassifying some information related to Unidentified Aeriel Phenomena (UAPs). Renewing the foreign surveillance counter-terrorism program known as "FISA." And then there is the big one: President Biden’s international aid package for Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan. The status of that bill is much harder to read because there’s no hard deadline — except Christmas. And the end of the year. And then when the focus pivots in January to averting a government shutdown.

To some, it would be hard to see Congress leaving town before the holiday without addressing Israel and Ukraine. Republicans insist that Democrats attach a robust border security plan to the package. However, Republicans aren’t even in agreement on what those border provisions might look like. But, if the plan blows up, Republicans hope to blame Democrats who are getting hammered politically for not tackling the border.

White House Budget Director Shalanda Young sent an urgent letter to lawmakers Monday, saying Congress was about to "kneecap" Ukraine by not passing the aid.

Talks over the border went sideways in recent days, perhaps scuttling the supplemental spending plan.

And if Congress doesn’t pass the international aid bill?

"You can bet Vladimir Putin is watching. Hamas is watching. Iran, President Xi, North Korea, all of our adversaries. They’re watching closely," said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. "If Congress fails to defend democracy in its hour of need because of border policies inspired by Donald Trump or Stephen Miller, the judgment of history will be harsh indeed."

But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., lashed his colleagues across the aisle.

"Democrats appear to be hell-bent on exhausting every half-baked idea before they get serious about actually fixing our border," said McConnell. "Senate Republicans know that national security begins with border security. And we’ve made it crystal clear that in order to pass the Senate, any measure we take up in the coming days must include serious policy changes designed to get the Biden Administration’s border crisis under control."

So it’s unclear if the fight over the border and the international aid package could keep Congress here close to Christmas this year — entering the special legislative pantheon of five-alarm fires which have screwed up other holiday seasons on Capitol Hill.

But things are a little different around the Capitol this December.

And even if Congress abandons Washington without finishing everything, no one will be celebrating.