Is a Lame-Duck Strategy Shaping Up?
John Fund at the Wall Street Journal says it is in an opinion piece.
A lame-duck session—that’s when Congress gets together after an election but before the start of the new term. Members of Congress and senators who have been voted out still get to vote on policies, and their incentives are quite a bit different. Unconstrained by having to answer to voters again, they might do things they otherwise wouldn’t. Vote for big piles of pork barrel spending. Vote for bills they support but their constituents do not…
Democratic House members are so worried about the fall elections they’re leaving Washington [for the customary August recess] on July 30, a full week earlier than normal—and they won’t return until mid-September. . . . The rush to recess gives Democrats little time to pass any major laws. That’s why there have been signs in recent weeks that party leaders are planning an ambitious, lame-duck session to muscle through bills in December they don’t want to defend before November. Retiring or defeated members of Congress would then be able to vote for sweeping legislation without any fear of voter retaliation.
What does Fund see on the docket should there be a lame-duck session?
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad may want a vote on the recommendations of the president’s deficit commission. Fund interprets this to mean tax hikes.
“Card check” legislation is another. This is a change to labor law allowing employees to show their desire for union representation by signing authorization forms, or “cards,” rather than in a vote with a secret ballot. We haven’t heard much about it recently—it was a bigger issue in the last Congress—but card check bills in the current Congress, titled the “Employee Free Choice Act,” include H.R. 1409 and S. 560.
Then there might be ratification of the “New START” nuclear treaty between Russia and the United States. More information, and confirmation of the lame-duck possibilities, are in this blog post from folks on the peacenik side.
“Then there is pork,” says Fund. Chances are good that Congress won’t complete the annual appropriations process on time, returning after the election to finish up. That’s time for the lame-ducks to raid the treasury and send pork home to favored interests (and potential employers). We’ve kept tabs on spending earmarks (Link currently shows FY 2010 earmarks. Watch that space for the earmark requests for the coming FY 2011 year.)
Then there might be climate change legislation. We’ve written about cap and trade a few times. Leading bills include H.R. 2998 and H.R. 2454, both called the “American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009.”
So … will all this stuff actually happen? Chances are that Fund is using the lame-duck speculation to goose (yuk yuk) his generally conservative readership, and that the Democratic leadership in the House and Senate aren’t thinking that far ahead yet.
But it all depends on you. If the election does go against Democrats, and their leadership doesn’t think you’ll hold it against the party over the long haul, they might go ahead and do what they want. If they feel like you’ll find a way to hold them to account, they’re likely to be a little more cautious. (If you want these things to pass, of course, you don’t care when they get done!) The message, as always, is: stay aware and involved.