Want to know more about lame-duck sessions?
Norm Ornstein's got you covered:
Lame duck sessions are commonplace, with 17 having been held from 1940 through 2008—or one after every two elections. To be sure, some were pro forma and accomplished little; others were targeted on a single issue or action. But a number were quite productive—and that includes lame duck sessions after the 1974 and 1982 elections, before swollen groups of Democrats were sworn in to compete with Republican presidents Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan, and after the 1994 elections, before Republicans took their first majority in the House in 40 years and simultaneously took back the Senate.
The lame-duck session of the Ninety-Third Congress, after the Watergate election, approved the nomination of Nelson Rockefeller to be vice president, gave the president broad trade-negotiating authority, passed a continuing resolution to substitute for several appropriations bills that had not passed, established federal energy research and development policy, and enacted, over the vetoes of President Ford, a vocational rehabilitation bill and amendments to the Freedom of Information Act. The lame duck after the 1982 election was acrimonious and partisan, but Congress managed to pass a number of delayed appropriations bills, an increase in the gasoline tax, and a pay raise for itself. The post-1994 election lame duck was focused on one thing, passage of a major trade bill to implement the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), done on a bipartisan basis. And we can add the lame-duck session after the 1998 elections, when House Republicans reconvened to impeach President Clinton.
The looming lame-duck session will be among the most interesting of the 17 since 1940. It is remotely possible that an energy bill could limp across the lame-duck finish line, but the odds of it including any serious carbon cap are slim to none. The same goes for a tough version of card-check or any grandiose big government spending plans. The START treaty, despite the endorsements of luminaries like George Shultz and Henry Kissinger and the strong support of Richard Lugar, remains captive to the noisy opposition of the bedrock right; if the 67 votes are there for it, it will be because Democrats and Republicans struck a deal that brought broad, bipartisan support. Like the majority of previous lame ducks, spending bills will be high on the agenda, but even higher will be the Bush tax cuts—without any action in the session, they will all expire before the new Congress convenes, including cuts for rich and non-rich alike, while also returning the estate tax to its draconian pre-2001 levels, a $1 million exemption with a 55 percent top rate. This is where to look for fireworks: The battle over the tax cuts could provide the most fascinating example of high-stakes endgame negotiations in memory. The rest of the lame duck? Not revolutionary, not conspiratorial, not anti-democratic—just more of the same, like its many predecessors.
Photo credit: Radius Image/Alamy
Posted by: Mimikatz | September 20, 2010 11:23 AM | Report abuse