Don't allow bad policy in lame duck
By: Congressman Paul Gosar
June 17, 2016
Published in the Washington Examiner
Back in 1932, Will Rogers famously described the lame duck period in Congress to the New York Times: “It’s like where some fellows worked for you and their work wasn’t satisfactory and you let ’em out, but after you fired ’em, you let 'em stay long enough so they could burn your house down.” Nothing has changed and the American public should be extremely leery of a lame duck following the elections this November.
Congress has a long and storied history of cramming through bad policy during the lame duck period while outgoing lawmakers are still around to vote and before newly-elected lawmakers assume office. These periods are often characterized by arm-twisting and backroom deals.
In the past, the lame duck has been utilized by leadership on both sides of the aisle to wrangle votes for widely unpopular bills in exchange for favors ranging from paying off campaign debts to help in future races.
Since 1935, there have been 20 lame duck sessions. From 1956-1968 there were no lame duck sessions at all. The most egregious lame duck session in modern times occurred in 1980 following the defeat of then President Jimmy Carter and a Democrat Congress. Other periods of time have varied greatly both in terms of days and substantive legislation considered.
During the 2010 lame duck, more pieces of substantive legislation were forced through in the month of December, before Republicans assumed control of the House, than during the eight months prior. Such abuse is a complete affront to our constitutional republic.
Among the legislation pushed through that year was the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” new ratification of the controversial nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia, and the extension of unemployment insurance. All of these bills were forced through right before Christmas and before the new Congress was sworn-in on January 5th.
Conservatives rightly fear that elected officials who will not be returning to office — and thus are no longer accountable to the American people — will support controversial bills that could have a lasting impact long after they say goodbye to Capitol Hill.
There’s been speculation, for example, that the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a massive multi-national trade agreement, could be voted on during this year's lame duck.
No controversial or substantive legislation should be considered during the upcoming lame duck period. The congressional calendar allows plenty of time for members of Congress to debate, discuss, negotiate and vote on the critical issues facing this country prior to the post-election period.
Last month, more than 75 conservative organizations sent a letter raising similar concerns and requesting that there be no “lame duck” session at the end of the year. However, this shouldn’t be a Democrat v. Republican issue — both parties are guilty of using the lame duck period to push through unpopular pet projects that voters have expressly opposed. I call on Republican leadership not to allow any controversial or important policy items to be voted on during the lame duck and to get the substantive work of the American people done before the November elections.