lame duck session
The Dems are jumping around and engaging in a bit of back-slapping as they declare the 111th Congress a "do something" Congress. The key third word is "to" or "for". I vote for "to", as in they’ve done something to all of us we aren’t going to like or already don’t like (*cough* health care *cough*).
So while they dance around the maypole…
President Obama led his party Wednesday in celebrating the repeal of "Don’t ask, don’t tell," one of the several accomplishments to come during the unusually busy lame-duck session. The Senate is set to ratify the New START Treaty on Wednesday afternoon, and passed a defense authorization bill by unanimous consent in the Senate on Wednesday morning. Also up for possible passage Wednesday is legislation to fund healthcare for 9/11 first responders.
"We’ve had a very, very productive few weeks after this election. We took responsibility to do the things that needed to be done," Hoyer told liberal talker Bill Press on his radio show.
… I have only two questions to ask of this supposed wonderful Congress after the mid-terms.
nyone who remembers the recent passage of ObamaCare remembers the size of the bill – over 2,000 pages – and the fact that almost no one knew what was included in its pages. Nancy Pelosi infamously said, “we’ll have to pass the bill to find out what’s in the bill”.
There was very little if any debate on the bill and it ended up being rammed through Congress under the reconciliation process. We’re still finding out all of the little poison nuggets in that mess of a law.
Then November shows up and the American pubic spanks the Democrats for doing business the way they did, taking away 63 seats and a majority in the House in a bloodbath of an election. Quit spending like drunken sailors and focus on jobs and the economy the people said.
And the Democrats learned what? Nary a freakin’ thing. They’ve never passed a budget for government this year in Congress – one of its main functions – but instead have passed a series of continuing resolutions to keep it funded. That last continuing resolution is about to run out and – back up to their old tricks — Congressional Democrats have advanced a 2,000 page, 1.1 trillion dollar omnibus spending bill that is designed to fund government (and lard out the pork) through 2011.
Instead of bringing up a straight spending bill that funds government at its current levels (or, here’s an idea, maybe 2008 levels so they could show the American people they’re serious about cutting spending? Nah.), we get 1.1 trillion in pork, payoffs and profligacy.
Same old Democrats doing the same old thing as though November never happened.
And they’re not alone:
Despite strong opposition from Thune and Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), several Senate Republicans are considering voting for the bill.
“That’s my intention,” said retiring Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah) when asked if he would support the package.
Bennett said earmarks in the bill might give some of his GOP colleagues reason to hesitate but wouldn’t affect his vote.
“It will be tough for some, but not for me,” he said.
GOP Sens. Kit Bond (Mo.), George Voinovich (Ohio) and Susan Collins (Maine) also told The Hill on Tuesday they would consider voting for the omnibus but want to review it before making a final decision.
And there you have it. If Bennett wonders why he’s soon to be unemployed, it couldn’t be more plainly obvious than his remarks about this. And as for the other “usual suspects”, apparently they don’t much care about the November message either (and if you happen to have one of those people as your Senator, you might want to remind them of that message).
This is the “business as usual” nonsense that has to stop and stop now. This Congress has all but abrogated its budget responsibilities for the entire year and now, on the eve of a government shutdown and the end of their session, they decide to act. But not with a continuing resolution to keep essential government services funded until the new Congress can meet to take up the budget, but with a 2,000 page pork laden, 1.1 trillion debt-fueled monstrosity that will be allowed little debate and passed without most knowing what the hell they’re voting for. On that principle alone, I’d vote “no”. “No” until I can read and consider the bill, debate it, amend it and do what is supposed to be done before passing legislation.
There are a few things that have leaked out concerning what is in the bill:
The 1,924-page bill includes funding to implement the sweeping healthcare reform bill Congress passed earlier this year as well as additional funds for Internal Revenue Service agents, according to a senior GOP aide familiar with the legislation.
Obviously that doesn’t cost “1.1 trillion”, so there’s an awful lot more (I wonder if the IRS agents mentioned are those whose job it will be to enforce health insurance compliance through the tax system?).
So here we are again, faced with a debt-fueled, pork laden 1.1 trillion dollar last spending fling by Democrats and you have 4 Republican Senators thinking about supporting this nonsense in contravention of the will of the people. For those like Bennett, Bond and Voinovich (both of the latter I believe are retiring) there’s probably nothing that can be done to punish them or change their mind. That’s the problem with the lame duck session of a Congress. And it is, as I’ve pointed out before, a major problem. There is no accountability mechanism for those who’ve been defeated or are retiring so they can do pretty much what they wish. This is their last fling and they’re going to go out as they’ve always been – earmark addicts and debt spending fanatics who really don’t give a rip about what Americans have said they want.
Collins, of course, is always ready to side with those who spend like fools and have gotten us in the shape we’re in. And unfortunately Maine GOP voters have yet to ensure Collins understands their new priorities. She’s not up for re-election again until 2014. With that cushion and no apparent pressure from her constituency, she appears to feel free to proceed as usual. However, we can’t afford “as usual” anymore.
Many think that stopping this bill and insisting that it be a clean, clear continuing resolution to fund government is a priority. I’d be one of those. But the GOP worries that if it does so, and government gets shut down right before the holidays, they’ll be blamed and suffer for it as they did when Newt Gingrich and Bill Clinton went toe-to-toe one year over spending and shutting down government.
I’m not so sure, given the current conditions, that Democrats would enjoy the same wide-spread support now that they did then. Not given the midterms, not given the message very forcefully sent by the electorate and certainly not given this deficit building monstrosity of a bill being considered.
You know, I got to thinking about the fact that many of those who will be deciding on legislation in the lame duck session of Congress were summarily kicked out of their seats by voters on Nov. 2nd. While it may not be “the law”, I suggest that the voters who ousted these Representatives and Senators do not consider the person currently occupying the seat in the lame duck Congress to represent them. After all, that’s why they voted in the majority to get rid of them.
So why are they then allowed to retain their seats until some future arbitrary date? How can they, as soon to be ex-members voted out by their constituents, represent anyone? Now I understand that some are retiring that that’s a bit different. But leaving defeated members in their seats is an invitation to mischief. For instance, Bob Bennett, a Republican Senator who was defeated in the primary is in the Senate today saying he’d probably vote for the DREAM act if it comes to the floor as a stand alone bill. It is precisely that sort of prior voting that has Bennett seeking employment on K Street.
Orin Hatch, on the other hand, has a date with the voters in 2012 and, after previously supporting it, is running from the DREAM act as hard as he can. He’s still accountable to them. Bennett is accountable to no one.
As you can tell, I’m not a big fan of lame duck Congressional sessions. And I think my reason is valid. Nothing says seating a new Congress has to be put off until the following year (and if there is anything, it can be changed). I think the decision of the voters should be final and quickly implemented.
It would save us all this drama and nonsense going on now. It would quickly allow the new majority to begin working on its priorities. And it would get the dead-wood ex-Congresspersons to hell out of DC or at least off to a different part of it.
A lame duck Congress just has too much of an ability to do precisely what this one is attempting – pass party priorities that are not popular with the voters but for those who’ve been voted out of office, carry no penalty for supporting them. It’s a can’t lose for ideologues such as Pelosi and Reid who can push their agenda and count on certain votes that perhaps weren’t necessarily votes they could count on before.
It makes no sense to me. But then there are a lot of things about government that make no sense.
Kill the lame duck.
Here you have a lame duck Congress dominated by Democrats and a president who admits his party was “shellacked” in the midterm elections with a chance to partially redeem themselves and focus on the people’s priority – jobs and the economy – and what do they do?
Or to put it another way, they’ve chosen to double down and push their political agenda vs. heeding the message sent by American voters on November 2nd and pushing that aside to give jobs and the economy the priority.
Pure arrogance. But an indication of the fact that the administration has absolutely no real intention of “triangulating” anything or “pivoting” in any direction. The supposed “pragmatic” president shows his true ideologue colors.
This should be something the GOP captures and preserves in amber for 2012. This is precisely the worst thing Democrats could do, but apparently they simply can’t help themselves. And that shouldn’t surprise anyone. Harry Reid still presides over the Senate and what comes to the floor there and House Democrats just reelected the liberal leadership that cost them over 60 seats in the midterms.
But hey, it’s their party, their strategy and their arrogance.
The GOP’s job is to record and remind in 2012.
If you want to know why we get stuck with bad law, the conduct of the 111th Congress might provide the perfect case study on the subject. On the surface you’d think, with Democratic majorities in both chambers and a Democratic president, that it would work like a well-oiled machine.
But that’s not been the case. While Democrats have consistently tried to blame the problems of Congress on Republicans, most Americans understand that the GOP comes in for only a small part of the blame. Most of the problems with its lack of accomplishment fall directly in the lap of Democratic infighting and disagreement.
Even when Democrats had filibuster proof margins in both chambers, they only passed a portion of their agenda. Part of it is because they spent so much time and political capital on the health care reform abomination. That sort of sucked the air out of everything else. And, the election of Scott Brown to the Senate finally put Democrats there in a position that required they finally consider the opposition when crafting their legislation – a distasteful but necessary added requirement (they’d much rather fight among themselves and blame the Republicans who had absolutely no power to stop anything prior to Brown’s election).
After wasting most of two years, the Democratic leadership is faced with two realities – the probability that they’ll lose their House majority in the upcoming elections (as well as some seats in the Senate) and only a lame duck session remaining to pass legislation they deem critical to their agenda. That leaves them with about 6 weeks to jam pending legislation through the Congressional process (at the end of the session, any legislation not acted upon is in effect “killed” and must be introduced again in the next Congress). In the Senate that means these Democratic priorities:
Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) wants the Senate to consider a package of tax-relief extensions he has been working on all year.
Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, is intent on passing a renewable electricity standard.
Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, says his cybersecurity bill should also come up for a vote, while Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, has called for ratification of the New START arms-control treaty with Russia.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) says he intends to hold Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to a promise to schedule a vote on legislation that would bar the Environmental Protection Agency from taking action to curb carbon gas emissions for two years.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), the vice chairman of the Senate Democratic Conference, told reporters Friday that leaders would also bring up a bill to address Chinese currency manipulation.
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, hopes Congress will pass food-safety legislation Reid tried to bring to the floor last week. Democratic leaders pulled the bill even though they could have had enough votes to stop a Republican filibuster.
And, of course there’s the Defense Appropriations bill to which Reid has added the contentious DREAM act and the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, assuring quick passage won’t happen. None of the legislation listed is “minor”. All deserve extensive review and debate. Neither of those things will happen as the Senate leadership tries every parliamentary trick in the book to limit both and push the legislation through before the end of the lame duck session. The House is no better and actually would add to the legislative backlog in the Senate if it does manage to pass its education bill.
Also remember that this Congress, for the first time in anyone’s memory, will not be passing a budget, but has punted that responsibility (or shirked it if you prefer) to the next Congress. They have cobbled together and passed a CR (continuing resolution) which will keep government functioning and spending that 7 million dollars a minute it has become so used to spending.
This Congress has been, in my estimation, one of the worst in history. Not because they didn’t pass megatons of legislation – I’m actually fine with fewer laws and less intrusion. Instead its about what they did pass and how they passed it. Additionally its about what they didn’t do (they’re responsible to present a budget but didn’t because of political consideration – that’s shirking your duty where I come from) and what they’re about to do (try to cram mountains of legislation through in a 6 week funnel which will most likely be ill considered, undebated, costly and poor in quality – although if ObamaCare is any indication, not lacking in quantity.
This isn’t how it is supposed to work. It is, however, all the reason you need to change the leadership and majority party. I remember Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi charging that George Bush was “incompetent”. Their leadership of the 111th Congress has redefined the word.