It appears that Congressional Democrats are finally at the “acceptance” stage of the grieving process over their upcoming losses in Congress. And the reality of those losses is propelling some to look at the lame duck session of Congress as the last opportunity to pass some of their and their clientel’s most desired legislation.
In the House, Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva, co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told reporters last month that for bills like "card check"—the measure to curb secret-ballot union elections—"the lame duck would be the last chance, quite honestly, for the foreseeable future."
And you can count on them pulling out all the stops to do so. The same goes for the Senate:
Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, chair of the Senate committee overseeing labor issues, told the Bill Press radio show in June that "to those who think [card check] is dead, I say think again." He told Mr. Press "we’re still trying to maneuver" a way to pass some parts of the bill before the next Congress is sworn in.
Of course they are – the handwriting on the wall is in seemingly permanent marker. What they’re doing, frankly, isn’t surprising or unusual. But it could be very damaging. John Fund quotes Jay Rockefeller as saying, “I’ve got lots of things I want to get done”. The lame duck also said:
"It could be a huge deal," he told Roll Call last month. "We could get the country on a sound long-term fiscal path."
Which Fund opines, undoubtedly means new taxes in exchange for extending some (but not all) of the Bush tax cuts.
But wait there’s more. Fund lists a few probable lame duck priorities for the Democrats:
Senate ratification of the New Start nuclear treaty, a federally mandated universal voter registration system to override state laws, and a budget resolution to lock in increased agency spending.
Then there is pork. A Senate aide told me that "some of the biggest porkers on both sides of the aisle are leaving office this year, and a lame-duck session would be their last hurrah for spending." Likely suspects include key members of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Congress’s "favor factory," such as Pennsylvania Democrat Arlen Specter and Utah Republican Bob Bennett.
President Obama failed to mention climate change legislation during his recent, Oval Office speech on the Gulf oil spill was that he wants to pass a modest energy bill this summer, then add carbon taxes or regulations in a conference committee with the House, most likely during a lame-duck session.
That’s a very ambitious and, frankly costly and destructive lame duck legislative agenda.
Whether or not they can get all those balls in the air remains to be seen. Blue Dog Democrats, who face the toughest races of all, may not be as easily gulled into supporting any of these items given the fallout from health care reform.
But that probably won’t stop Pelosi and Reid – of Obama – from pushing the agenda since they have to be aware this is likely their last chance to do so. And they proved with health care that they’ll throw anyone under the bus to get what they want.
To include the American people.