Update: House Republicans delayed their vote for the next Speaker of the House, after would-be candidate Kevin McCarthy dropped out.
At the end of October, Representative John Boehner (R, Ohio) steps down as Speaker of the House, ending 30 years in public office. House Republicans are expected to name their nomination for his successor on Thursday.
While his departure has set off a scramble in Congress to claim the nation's third-highest political spot, there's plenty that Boehner can and should do with his remaining political capital to help out business owners, and the economy. And considering that this may well be the end of his political career, he may be more willing to push for things that are seemingly unpopular within his party.
Congress has dallied on basic measures that could have an immediate, positive impact on the economy. Among others, there's rebuilding or repairing aging infrastructure, supporting businesses with needed financing, and allowing the government to borrow to meet its debt obligations.
Boehner has already shown some political will by heading off a government shutdown earlier this month. Here's a look at three things Boehner could focus on that would have an immediate impact on the economy.
1. Raise the debt limit.
In early November, Congress reaches the limit on its ability to borrow, and repay debt obligations worth $18 trillion. Skirmishes with the debt limit have led to economic uncertainty and damage in the past. In 2013, when the U.S. breached the debt limit briefly due to partisan politicking, it roiled world markets, and shaved an estimated 0.3 percent from fourth quarter GDP that year. In 2011, similar squabbles led to credit agencies downgrading the nation's debt from its triple A status for the first time 70 years.
2. Refuel the Highway Trust Fund
At the end of October, the Highway Trust Fund becomes insolvent, lacking the funding it needs to continue projects that repair and build the nation's federal, state, and local highways, bridges, tunnels and mass transit programs. While the Senate approved a stop-gap measure in July that moved $8 billion from Treasury to the fund, it needs a long-term fix. The trust fund is paid for with receipts from the federal fuel tax, and with gas prices at low levels, an increase in the tax might be part of a more extended program. Some states are already raising their fuel taxes to pay for infrastructure projects.
3. Reauthorize the Export-Import Bank.
The 81-year-old government-run financial institution, known as the Ex-Im Bank, provides much-needed to support to exporters through guaranteed loans and credit insurance, and by its own reckoning, it has returned $7 billion to the U.S. Treasury over the last 20 years. Yet the agency, which has a sunset charter and must be renewed periodically, has been shuttered since the end of June. And ripple effects have already been felt, with some large companies opting to move hundreds of jobs overseas where markets are more supportive. Some congressional Republicans say the bank is an emblem of crony capitalism and is just a pork give-away to large businesses. But the Ex-Im bank says it helps thousand of small business owners. That includes entrepreneurs who supply large companies, such as General Electric, which reportedly plans to move 500 jobs to France, Hungary and China, in the absence of credit support from the Ex-Im Bank. Boehner has supported the Ex-Im bank in the past.