Lame-duck sessions are the Devil's playhouseIf there is one thing Tennessee has right and the federal government has completely wrong, it is the idea that legislators need to spend the overwhelming majority of their year in the capital. When aligned together in one place for too long, legislators may conduct a great deal of the public business behind closed doors and out of the reach of scrutiny by the constituents they are serving. Indeed, when a legislative body is inclined to meet in session to conduct regular business after an election of Representatives has taken place to fill seats in the next session, that body has entirely too much business and its calendar ought to be trimmed down to size.
Such is the case with the United States Congress. There is nothing on the legislative calendar that has been dealt with since the election that is absolutely necessary to the maintenance of sound public business-in other words, there has been no good reason for Congress to meet during this "lame duck" session other than for members to collect a paycheck. If the sponsored legislation has not been completely useless, it has all been composed of matters that could just as well wait for the next Congress-and nothing overly pressing.
"But David, shouldn't we squeeze as much time in as we can and as much legislation as we can since the Democrats are going to take control?"
There has been an election, and in that election the people at-large chose to elect a Democratic Congress. Obviously I do not approve of that choice, and my district overwhelmingly voted for and elected a Republican. However, the next Congress deserves the opportunity for a fresh start-let the policies and politics that take place now be credited or blamed on the folks who have been duly elected by the people to create those policies and engage in those politics.
These lame-duck sessions have become common practice no matter which party is in power. In 1994, the Democrats held one and it was the session where GATT passed both houses out of conference committee. A lot of folks point out that GATT would have been even more likely to pass with the GOP in control the following spring. While true in theory, the fact was that anti-globalist sentiment was running very high in this country in the wake of the 1994 General Election-the new Congress would have been under a great deal of pressure to heavily modify the flawed trade treaty-or nix it altogether.
Lame-duck Congressional sessions are the epitome of idle laziness and a breeding ground of shady and underhanded business-the Party in control of the session is of little consequence. Unless there is a bona fide national emegency requiring the President to convene Congress, both Houses of Congress should adjourn sine die if a national General Election is about to occur. After that election, Congress should reconvene only when the Clerk of the House calls the first session of the new Congress to order to swear in the members and elect the Speaker of the House.
Labels: Federal politics