The current and thankfully soon to end "lame duck" session of Congress should have been the "dead duck" session. The idea of numerous defeated members of Congress and a soon to be minority party in the House of Representatives, pushing through legislation which by definition often does not command the support of the voters, is an affront to the democratic process. Somehow, either by ending the current session of Congress after the elections in November or starting the new one that reflects the newly elected membership soon after the election, this spectacle should be avoided in the future.
What we have seen is a rush to pass legislation on the Democrat agenda which, in the new Congress, would not have the same prospects for success. This is, in some cases, the result of the Democrat leadership delaying bringing the legislation to the floor of both houses while they looked for votes, but faced now with diminished prospects after January 4, they seek to bring these important pieces of legislation up without allowing the necessary time for analysis, debate or amendments.
A prime example of this was the Omnibus Spending bill which represented the $1.1 trillion dollar portion of the annual budget that doesn't include the entitlements, ( Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid). The 1,900 page bill was brought to the floor by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and included 8 billion dollars in "pork" projects, some of which bordered on the absurd. The bill was written by Democrat staff members and few, if any, of the members of the House or Senate had a chance to read it.
Thankfully, this typically bloated Democrat big government spending bill was denied a vote by Republicans, (some of whom had a similar history of irresponsibility) who actually got the message of the November mid-term elections. A far different spending bill will be crafted in the new Congress after January.
Reid also tried to push through his "Dream Act" which promises citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants who graduate from high school, attend two years of college or join the military. There are good arguments to be made for encouraging young immigrants to pursue education or take advantage of the discipline and training that military service provides, especially since there is no prospect of these millions of individuals ever being deported. However, there are other important implications to this bill that Reid would have not allowed time to assess or debate.
Concern from those not in the "illegal immigrant friendly" camp was that this was just the first step in a broader "amnesty" effort which ignored the basic issue of border enforcement. Additionally, the implication of millions of new citizens whose parents, siblings and other relatives are illegals and thus might be eligible for legalized status under current or subsequently liberalized “family reunification” regulations could be a an enormous unintended (depending on political motive) consequence and should be considered. The consideration of this bill was defeated and faces an uncertain future if reintroduced in the new congress.
The revocation of the 17 year policy of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” which denied military service to openly homosexual applicants was passed by a narrow margin made possible by the votes of several liberal leaning Republicans. The bill would not have passed in the more conservative Congress elected in November. While the current policy would in all likelihood have been eventually overturned by the federal courts, the full implications of a change of this magnitude were never fully discussed, despite efforts led by Senator John McCain (R-AZ). Proponet’s arguments were mostly broadly based and ideological in nature. Now the reality of implementation must be considered after, and not before the change is imposed, typical of a rush to judgment legislative process.
Fortunately the other items on the late session and last minute “progressive” legislative agenda succumbed to the reality of the current political climate in the U.S. which is decidedly center-right. Thus the union friendly “card check” bill that would have done away with secret ballot membership procedures; the inflation happy Cap and Trade bill which would have made everything associated with energy consumption more expensive, and so called “comprehensive” immigration reform which emphasizes “paths to citizenship” without addressing strict border enforcement first, have all been left on the progressive wish list.
President Obama should get credit for compromising on the extension of the ten year old tax structure that the far Left would have sacrificed over their class warfare zeal to punish the wealthy, and thus caused significant tax increases for everyone in January. However, this should have been done much earlier in the existing congressional session and would have been, had it not been for Harry Reid’s miscalculation about it’s eventual success.
The New START strategic arms reduction treaty with Russia, should, and probably will, pass in the “lame duck” session but again, important treaties deserve full analysis and debate. Republican concerns should get a full hearing and the newly elected congress should be allowed to participate.
The term “lame duck” is not without serious meaning and the reality it implies demands serious change.