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Posted at 2:05 PM ET, 12/29/2010

The odd GOP compulsion to punish Democrats retroactively

By Jonathan Bernstein

My favorite in this genre, the all-time classic, is the 22nd Amendment, which Republicans passed to punish FDR by prohibiting Ike, Reagan, and W. from serving a third term. (Okay, granted, the only one who realistically had a shot of a third term has been Clinton, but still...)

The newest? Punishing Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid by legislatively prohibiting future lame-duck sessions of Congress. Never mind that it's a silly idea; as Matt Yglesias correctly tweeted, "They realize hypothetical future Democratic majority could un-ban them, right?"  Not that they would need to do that, anyway.  The proposed prohibition, from Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kansas -- or as she calls herself, "Rep. Lynn Jenkins, CPA") has a loophole a mile wide, since, as reported by Dave Weigel, it allows lame-duck sessions in cases of an undefined "national emergency." 

Of course, Congress can call anything it wants a national emergency.  For that matter, the recent lame duck, which was needed to prevent a government shutdown when a continuing resolution funding government agencies expired, certainly could be thought of as responding to a relatively real emergency. 

Odds are it's just a very well-timed press release -- hey, members of the House!  It's a great week to announce that you're going to introduce wacko bills! -- and the bill will promptly be forgotten, as most bills are after they're introduced.   The truth is, anyway, that lame duck sessions of Congress are usually relatively minor, and while I suppose I can see a case for getting rid of them now that we have airplanes and all, I also don't really think there's much if any real injustice in having them.  I will, however, point out that Weigel was entirely correct about right-wing scaremongering about the lame duck session.

Jonathan Bernstein writes about American politics, political institutions and democracy at A Plain Blog About Politics, and you can follow him on Twitter here.

By Jonathan Bernstein  | December 29, 2010; 2:05 PM ET
Categories:  House GOPers  
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Comments

Republicans can't face the 2012 election. The candidate they hire, I mean nominate will run against Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. Say, why don't Republicans run Sharron Angle for President?

Posted by: shrink2 | December 29, 2010 2:34 PM | Report abuse

IIRC, it was the lame deck Republican congress that impeached Clinton.

They really have no room to squawk.

Posted by: suekzoo1 | December 29, 2010 2:37 PM | Report abuse

"Okay, granted, the only one who realistically had a shot of a third term has been Clinton, but still..."

Were you alive in the 80s? Reagan enjoyed a 53% approval rating his last year in office. There was a 3rd term movement that wanted Reagan to have a 3rd term. Both he and Clinton (at 65%) could have easily gotten 3rd terms. Add high approvals to the power of incumbency, and a 3rd term for either, had they run, would have been a virtual lock.

That being said, the country has survived over two centuries without curtailing lame duck sessions.

Unless I'm missing something, what a load of carp.

I don't know who will run in 2012, but unless Obama faces a credible primary challenger, they had better plan on losing.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | December 29, 2010 2:43 PM | Report abuse

Kevin,

It would have certainly been interesting had Clinton ran for a third term. It's very possible that in a campaign context, people would have wound up punishing him for the Monica scandal...or not.

Reagan might have been popular enough, but (like DDE) his health/age made another run highly unlikely, at least in my opinion.

I'd assume that there still would have been a high hurdle for a third term, even without the 22nd amendment. Not quite a taboo, but Reagan wasn't all that popular, and was less so when the decision would have been made. There was in fact talk of 22nd amendment repeal in the 80s, but it folded quickly when he was unpopular in 1987.

Posted by: Jonathan Bernstein | December 29, 2010 2:50 PM | Report abuse

Gabriel Iglesias on the 2004 election:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EpR_KmN9fQA&feature=related

Posted by: wiccan | December 29, 2010 3:10 PM | Report abuse

Sorry I forgot to segue again. The reason the Republicans are trying to punish Democrats retroactively, is that they have no hope of punishing them in 2012. Republicans are trying to keep the focus on their great lower House victory of 2010.

Posted by: shrink2 | December 29, 2010 3:11 PM | Report abuse

I'd assume that there still would have been a high hurdle for a third term, even without the 22nd amendment. Not quite a taboo, but Reagan wasn't all that popular, and was less so when the decision would have been made. There was in fact talk of 22nd amendment repeal in the 80s, but it folded quickly when he was unpopular in 1987.

Posted by: Jonathan Bernstein | December 29, 2010 2:50 PM
.....................

Of course we have no way of ever knowing if President Reagan would have won a third term, but I think the evidence that is available to us, would tend to indicate that he probably would have been reelected.

Even though I am a life long progressive democrat, I feel that The Gipper would have crushed Dukakis. After all, his VP did just that.

Posted by: Liam-still | December 29, 2010 3:28 PM | Report abuse

I doubt that there would be the hue and cry about the lame duck if the recent election hadn't been such a massive repudiation of the Democrats.

I completely understand the anger of the American voters. Some of the stuff that got done was helped along by people who had lost or who had retired rather than face the wrath of the voters. I just don't see it as wrong to want to curtail the range of motion of soon to be unemployed legislators at all. We cannot, for example, hold that moron Voinovich responsible for his choices at the ballot box because he's not running again.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | December 29, 2010 3:29 PM | Report abuse

So what. The Republicans did not change their ways, after the voters thoroughly repudiated them, in 2008. Hue And Cry Me A River, Mr. Crocodile.

Posted by: Liam-still | December 29, 2010 3:36 PM | Report abuse

This one's for you shrink-

I don't recall any republicans calling for lame duck reform the last time they were the lame duck Congress. Bunch of hypocrites.

Posted by: ashotinthedark | December 29, 2010 4:04 PM | Report abuse

"I doubt that there would be the hue and cry about the lame duck..."

Where is this hue and cry coming from anyway? Most Americans supported ratifying START, ending DADT, and the tax compromise. Liberal agenda indeed.

Posted by: ashotinthedark | December 29, 2010 4:07 PM | Report abuse

Greg,

Are you claiming the idea itself is silly or that it is pointless since a future Congress could simply reverse itself? If the idea has merit, then it would seem that a Constitutional Amendment should accomplish that.

My personal favorite would be to require a lame duck Congress a 2/3 quorum and a 2/3 vote to do anything. That would address the national emergency concern while preventing the shennigans that this Democrat led lame duck Congress tried to get away with, namely -- attempting to push through the very things that the voters repudicated them for in the first place.

Acting as they did was repugnant to the very idea of governance by the consent of the governed. It may well take a lot longer than two years for the voters to forget the middle finger extended them by this "august" body. In any event it shouldn't be allowed to happen.

Posted by: Novitas | December 29, 2010 4:09 PM | Report abuse

"...if President Reagan would have won a third term...would have been reelected...The Gipper would have crushed Dukakis."

Dementia is underrated. This man knew how to confabulate.

I'll bet the conservatives still think he was not demented as President. It started the day he left office. Had he had a third term, it would have started the day after that.


Posted by: shrink2 | December 29, 2010 4:09 PM | Report abuse

I doubt that there would be the hue and cry about the lame duck..."

Where is this hue and cry coming from anyway? Most Americans supported ratifying START, ending DADT, and the tax compromise. Liberal agenda indeed.

Posted by: ashotinthedark | December 29, 2010 4:07 PM
................

Didn't Mitch McConnell strike a deal to renew the Bush Tax cuts, during the lame duck session, and didn't most of the Republican Senators vote for it, during that same lame duck session.

Hue and cry my arse! The Rabid Right, as always, want to have it both ways. They support the lame duck session vote to renew the Bush Tax Cuts for The Oligarchs, but how dare the Democrats conduct a lame duck session!

Right Wing Cognitive Dissonance On Parade.

Posted by: Liam-still | December 29, 2010 4:13 PM | Report abuse

"I feel that The Gipper would have crushed Dukakis"

If you google Dukakis the first image is of him in that tank. What a blunder.

It's hilarious that you seem to expect politicians to do something other than meet their short term goals. GOP causing a problem in the senate? Filibuster reform! Dems get a couple of wins during the lame duck? End them!

You're criticizing politicians for being who they are.

Posted by: NoVAHockey | December 29, 2010 4:17 PM | Report abuse

"...if President Reagan would have won a third term...would have been reelected...The Gipper would have crushed Dukakis."

Dementia is underrated. This man knew how to confabulate.

I'll bet the conservatives still think he was not demented as President. It started the day he left office. Had he had a third term, it would have started the day after that.


Posted by: shrink2 | December 29, 2010 4:09 PM
..............................

I doubt if he would have run for a third term. We were just discussing the hypothetical possibility, if he had run, could he have won.

I think Nancy would not have let him run again. She knew that he was no longer capable of doing the job. Keep in mind, that it was Nancy who called Donald Regan, and told him he was out, and also Nancy who brought in Howard Baker.

Posted by: Liam-still | December 29, 2010 4:19 PM | Report abuse

Sure, I get it, I just wanted to remind everyone in his cult how far gone he was in his second term.

I don't know why I piss in the wind, it is like telling Scientology members about L Ron Hubbard's problem with schizophrenia.

Posted by: shrink2 | December 29, 2010 4:28 PM | Report abuse

Novitas will change his/her tune in 3..2..1. when the GOP does something great like repeal the 21st Amenedment.

What is a "repudication", anyway? Is that similar to a "refudication"? Glad to see you've been following Palin's twitter feeds...

Posted by: ChuckinDenton | December 29, 2010 4:29 PM | Report abuse

Are we suppose to punish the democrats BEFORE they do something?

.

Posted by: RainForestRising | December 29, 2010 4:36 PM | Report abuse

You know, Plato is despised as an elitist, he hated democracy, he idealized eugenics and then you see this kind of thing and you just have to wonder...

"...the voters repudicated them for in the first place..."

Posted by: shrink2 | December 29, 2010 4:37 PM | Report abuse

Novitas - My copy of the constitution has Representatives elected for two years, not 22 months, and Senators elected for 6 years, not 70 months.

BB

Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | December 29, 2010 6:24 PM | Report abuse

This is Total Republican Stupidity Season with a vengeance,. but who notices?

The Boehmer Rules, intended to hamstring Democratic initiatives apply ONLY to the House, and will primarily apply to all REPUBLICAN legislative initiatives, since the dems will be in a watch and wait mode until the republican broadaxe and chainsaw fight is over. Every REPUBLICAN legislative initiative is subject to REPUBLICAN objections when some t-Rep gets a wild hair or decides he needs to establish creds among the Tea back home. Occasionally some smart a...d Dem will object to a Republican bill on Boehner Rules grounds, which will be absolutely hilarious.

Meanwhile, the fiscal part of Boehners new millennium add up to, "It shall be illegal to find a way to reduce the deficit" since even when some proposal would actually reduce the deficit, it has to therefor be matched by revenue adjustments.

And it is just beyond belief that John actually got the gavel at all because there is good ole Michelle firing up her own caucus, to what other end is hard to see. Perhaps this is just a quick period of the real powers sizing each other up before making their move. Perhaps, if we are really lucky, The R's will have a palace coup about every three months as the factions cut each other up.

Because even if the R's can keep discipline and public peace, they still really have NO program EXCEPT We Are Agin' Whatever the Democrats Want!!!

Note that that didn't really work all that well for Newt, and he had a better economy to ignore at his peril.

Posted by: ceflynline | December 29, 2010 6:28 PM | Report abuse

"Reagan might have been popular enough, but (like DDE) his health/age made another run highly unlikely, at least in my opinion. Posted by: Jonathan Bernstein "

Reagan's biggest hurdle would have been Iran/Contra. He was able to limp out of office with 53% popularity because he could hide behind his obvious senility. As a candidate he would be defending himself against charges of conspiracy to commit treason. There would have been virtually nothing else heard from the democrats, and they had LOTS of material to make their point. GHWB had to run on the odd platform of I was in on the entire administration except where it was illegal, immoral, or fattening.

Posted by: ceflynline | December 29, 2010 7:16 PM | Report abuse

"If you google Dukakis the first image is of him in that tank. What a blunder. Posted by: NoVAHockey"

It is strange how one's memory misses. My memory of the incident was of him in a 113 from the Mass national Guard at Ft. Devens, same as John Wayne going to address the hasty Pudding Club.

Still, checking the pictures referenced, he IS in the Track Commander's hatch on an Abrams, properly equipped. OF COURSE the helmet looks goofy, it ALWAYS looks goofy because it has noise canceling headphones and an integral mike system, since otherwise he can't talk to the driver or the gunner, and they can't talk to him.

I keep trying to find references to his service in Korea, because I remember from somewhere that he served in an Armored unit and would have been well aware of proper track vehicle procedure. The thumbs up, by the way, was probably indicating that he was Ok with the bouncing and bruising you get standing in a hatch like that.

Posted by: ceflynline | December 29, 2010 7:47 PM | Report abuse

Isn't it funny (or maybe "it isn't funny") how the same people who hoot about a fictitious cult of messianic personality around Obama continue to cultivate a real one around Reagan?

I remember Reagan's first debate with Mondale. He was stunningly loopy, very clearly having trouble tracking, i was ghastly. And this was only near the end of his FIRST term. Close to the end of the second he had trouble recognizing people he's known for 40 years.

Run again? You guys and your myths.

But hey he sure was an *optimistic* feller, wasn't he.

Posted by: caothien9 | December 30, 2010 6:53 AM | Report abuse

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