Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Lame Duck Congress

Traditionally a lame duck session (defined by the US Senate as  a session where the Senate "reconvenes in an even-numbered year following the November general elections to consider various items of business") does dribs and drabs that were left over from the preceding two years.   This one is special for two reasons.  First, the configuration of the new congress will be considerably different.  Second, the former majority in the House and the remaining much smaller majority in the Senate was to get their imprint on a number of issues before they are forced out.   Here are a five thoughts on this one.

#1 -  The defeat of the Omnibus Spending Bill was wonderful!  There was so much pork in this measure that it was embarrassing.  Democrats loaded the thing up with earmarks (although some republicans did too) to the point that the dems put in about twice the value of earmarks as the GOP.  Some argue that earmarks are a) only a small part of the budget and b) necessary.   They need to be stopped.  The ability of members to aid their own districts and their buddies just adds to the imperial congress.

#2 - The tax bill, while expensive, was generally good.  As I argued in an earlier post, there are some things in the tax bill that I disagree with and it costs a lot of money but I think it was the right thing to do as an interim measure.  Let's hope both the GOP and the dems work hard to come up with revision of the code which broadens the base but lowers rates (similar to TRA in 1986).

#3 - Don't Ask Don't Tell can wait - The policy was an ill-conceived idea when it was first introduced and passed into law.  I do not have a military background but it seems to me that a person's sexuality should not be an issue in whether they become a soldier.  Overt activity with other soldiers should be limited simply for good management reasons.

#4 - So can the Dream Act and Start - The Dream Act vote was a political ploy.  In my mind illegal aliens who serve in the military or are brought here by their parents and attend high school should have a shot at college.   But that is an issue that needs to be explored.  The Start Treaty could certainly wait until the new congress.     I am not convinced by the opponents who say this is unilateral disarmament but I think the thing should be vetted a bit more.

#5 - The Ernest and Julio Rule - Gallo Wines used to have a slogan - we will sell no wine before its time.   One of my legislative rules is the Gallo rule - legislators will do nothing until they have to.  The record of this congress partially denies that rule.  A good part of the congress, which some have called very productive, was simply the exercise of raw political power.  Part of the reason the American people rose up in such numbers was they perceived that congress had over-reached.   But the rest of the congress was mired in partisan wrangling of huge proportions.  That should not argue that they should rush through a bunch of stuff at the end of the session.

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