Our Lame Duck Congress
Last week Congress convened to see how much damage they could do in the short time many of them have left in the Democratic-ruled body. They’ll be in session for a week, take a break over Thanksgiving and then return to Washington until Christmas, or until they’ve all had enough of the issues.
Also last week, close to 100 newly elected senators and representatives hit Washington, D.C. for the first time. That’s the largest number of newly elected members to Congress in a long time, and the majority are Republicans.
A number of the existing members of Congress need to get out and look for a job, thanks to the common sense of America’s voters in the recent election. But, for the moment, they have an important job between now and the first of the year.
One of their tasks is to deal with the extension of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts. If that doesn’t happen, we’ll all get a tax hike. The Democrats don’t want to extend tax cuts for anyone earning more $250,000 a year, while Republicans want to extend the cuts for all. I sure hope the Republicans win – it doesn’t take many livestock to reach $250,000. Some Democrats want to raise the limit to $1 million.
Congress also has around 12 appropriation bills to pass – they did pass a stopgap measure the last day they were in session to temporarily fund government operations, but remember, they never did pass a budget – the first time that’s happened since the 1974 Budget Act. Before the election the House of Representatives passed two of the bills, while the Senate has yet to pass a single one. As I understand it, both chambers must pass an identical version of each appropriations bill, which the President must sign before it becomes law.
There really is a lot to do in a short time, and it is kind of a mess, but maybe doing nothing is best for the moment. Right now the federal government borrows 42 cents of every dollar it spends.
Of the new members coming into Congress, over one-third are Tea Partiers and five are farmers or involved in agriculture, which is a good start when talking about budgets and appropriations.
The Republicans have also pledged to not fund earmarks – or the “pork dollars” that go to legislators’ home states and usually end up costing many dollars. Earmarks are the opposite of “not in my back yard,” or NIMBY. We all want them, but don’t want any other state to receive them. Under our current fiscal conditions we all need to bite the bullet.
Also, remember the House passed cap and trade legislation last summer, but it didn’t pass in the Senate, so it can still get dangerous in the lame duck session..
Senator Pelosi will no longer be the Majority Leader in the House, but Harry Reid is still in charge of the Senate. Either way, both of them, and the President, will have to change their ways of doing business. Remember, in two years we get to vote again.