washington post 7/22/10
Beware The Lame Duck
a lame-duck session, freezing in place the lopsided Democratic majorities of November 2008, will be populated by dozens of Democratic members who have lost reelection (in addition to those retiring). They could then vote for anything — including measures they today shun as the midterms approach and their seats are threatened — because they would have nothing to lose.
They would be unemployed. And playing along with Obama might even brighten the prospects for, say, an ambassadorship to a sunny Caribbean isle.
. Among the major items being considered are card check, budget-balancing through major tax hikes, and climate-change legislation involving heavy carbon taxes and regulation.
Card check, which effectively abolishes the secret ballot in the workplace, is the fondest wish of a union movement to which Obama is highly beholden.
Major tax hikes, possibly including a value-added tax, will undoubtedly be included in the recommendations of the president’s debt commission, which conveniently reports by Dec. 1.
And carbon taxes would be the newest version of the cap-and-trade legislation that has repeatedly failed to pass the current Congress — but enough dead men walking in a lame-duck session might switch and vote to put it over the top.
It’s a target-rich environment. The only thing holding the Democrats back would be shame, a Washington commodity in chronically short supply.
To pass in a lame-duck session major legislation so unpopular that Democrats had no chance of passing it in regular session — after major Democratic losses signifying a withdrawal of the mandate implicitly granted in 2008 — would be an egregious violation of elementary democratic norms.
Perhaps shame will constrain the Democrats. But that is not to be counted on. It didn’t stop them from pushing through a health-care reform the public didn’t want by means of “reconciliation” maneuvers and without a single Republican vote in either chamber — something unprecedented in American history for a reform of such scope and magnitude.
How then to prevent a runaway lame-duck Congress? Bring the issue up now — applying the check-and-balance of the people’s will. Every current member should be publicly asked: In the event you lose in November — a remote and deeply deplorable eventuality, but still not inconceivable — do you pledge to adhere to the will of the electorate and, in any lame-duck session of Congress, refuse to approve anything but the most routine legislation required to keep the government functioning?
The Democrats could, of course, make the pledge today and break it tomorrow. Call me naive, but I can’t believe anyone would be that dishonorable.
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