November 15, 2010

Busy Little Lame Ducks

Congress is a lame duck.  According to Phrase Finder, that means "A person or thing that isn't properly able to function, especially one that was previously proficient."  Pretty self explanatory.  For Congress that means they aren't supposed to accomplish anything over the remainder of their session.  But this Congress isn't like that.  At all.  In fact they are busy little lame ducks.

From The Hill;
Congress’s lame-duck session begins Monday — along with Rep. Charlie Rangel’s (D-N.Y.) ethics trial.
The biggest item on the legislative agenda: whether to renew the George W. Bush-era tax cuts. President Obama has signaled he’s open to talks on Republican wishes for an across-the-board extension, while Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has said she’s against extending tax cuts for the wealthiest individuals.
And the government needs to be funded either through spending bills or another continuing resolution. The current CR runs out Dec. 3.
There could also be action on: extending federal unemployment benefits, as the program expires Nov. 30; stopping a scheduled 23 percent cut to Medicare's payments to doctors, which is set for Dec. 1; passing the annual defense authorization bill which — for now — includes a repeal of the military's "Don't ask, don't tell" policy; and ratifying the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with Russia.
There could also be a vote on the DREAM Act, a scaled-back immigration bill. Lawmakers have until year's end to fix the alternative minimum tax, or AMT.
Lame ducks are supposed to accomplish little - hence the name 'lame duck'.  But by focusing on what President Obama has called policy (a.k.a. progressive agenda items), the Congress has left a lot of important work undone.  Like a 2011 budget.  Like the majority of the items listed above.  Democrats have other reasons for focusing on the outstanding items.  Having been handed a major Congressional defeat, there's policy reasons to actually do some real work before being run out of town.
-Charlie Rangel; do Democrats really want him to undergo a fair trial?  They'd better give him that slap on the writs right away, before they lose the chance to make a mole hill out of the mountain.
-The Continuing Resolution is essentially a funding bill because the Democratic Congress, afraid of a worse electoral beat-down, neglected to pass a new budget for next year.  Better pretend they have the cash for what they cowardly neglected to commit to last month.
-It's also a good time to not reduce Medicaid funding to help pay for Obamacare.  Just because it was promised as a way to make Obamacare solvent, doesn't mean Democrats should actually do it.
-Repealing "Don't Ask, don't Tell", that's very important.  At least to keep the GLAD people off of President Obama's back through 2012.
-The DREAM Act? Is any sort of Immigration Reform something best left to a lame duck Congress?
These busy little lame ducks seem to be trying to get one last liberal kick at the legislative can.  Sorry for the mixed metaphors. It truly seems as though they expect to be locked out even more after 2012.  It's as though this is their last chance to get things as liberal as possible before they lose any chance to do so.  Which brings up another interesting question; If they are so convinced now is the time for compromise, why are they trying so hard to do things before the need to compromise takes effect?  Maybe they don't really care about compromise after all.

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