November 15 2010

How Bad Will the Lame-Duck Session Be?

Charlotte Hays

The dreaded lame-duck session of the 111th Congress is upon us.

We've all worried about what the Congress-with its defeated Democrats who have nothing to lose, the very same people who made "deeming" (deeming a bill that's too controversial to pass to have passed, without taking a vote) a household word-will  do.  In "Are They Spineless," E. J. Dionne of the Washington Post and Brookings counsels more of the same recklessness that made the Democrats pariahs.

The lame-duck session has potential for disaster. There is at least one truly awful bill before the Congress-the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would create a lot of litigation and very little fairness-and some important other possible votes: Are the Bush tax cuts to be extended for everyone, or for all but those who create jobs? The Republicans may have to hold off on across the board tax cuts until January, causing all our taxes to have a momentary bump (momentary, assuming they can extend the cuts in the regular session).  A good piece in the Washington Examiner indicates that the actions of the lame-duck session may be more blessedly limited than we expected.

A brief appearance by Rep. Marcy Katpur, Democrat from Ohio, also left me feeling that the Democrats might be more careful than anticipated. Katpur said something to the effect that the Democrats need to find out what went wrong. (Marcy, hon, I'm in the phone book-Hays, with no "e"-and I can tell you what went wrong-like millions of other Americans.) Katpur is also leading a fight to delay electing new leadership, in the obvious hope that a groundswell against Nancy Pelosi, who instead of resigning is seeking the post of minority leader, will develop. She has a novel idea:

"In view of this historic washout, it's most important to come back and to allow the members to share their experiences," Kaptur said. Leaders jockeying for positions have been calling to solicit votes, rather than listen to members, "accommodate what has happened and allow members to hear from one another," Kaptur said.

This is in stark contrast to those who refused to listen to concerned voters who flocked to town hall meetings in the summer of 2009, begging to be heard on matters such as the health care bill. Don't listen to E. J.; listen to the voters. If Democrats do listen, the session won't be as bad as many have feared. But you never know.

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