Point/Counterpoint: Little done by lame-duck Congress will show respect for midterm voters' decisions
From the column: "Many Democrats are clamoring to pass substantial bills while they still hold the House of Representatives before the GOP takes over the lower chamber next year. ... Fortunately, due to the wisdom of our Founding Fathers, who ensured the Senate would “cool” legislation like a saucer cools hot tea, it is unlikely any of these half-baked bills will end up on President Joe Biden’s desk."
Now that the Thanksgiving recess is over, the 117th Congress will reopen for business with just a few weeks before the 118th Congress will be sworn in.
Although the 117th Congress has a lot on its plate, such as a pending rail strike and a government funding bill that needs to be passed to avert a government shutdown, it would behoove the current Congress to respect the will of the voters (as recently demonstrated in the midterm election) by doing as little as possible before the 118th Congress convenes on Jan. 3.
Historically , this has been the norm. Over the past century, both parties have refrained from passing major legislation during the few weeks after congressional elections, colloquially known as the “lame-duck session.”
However, this year’s lame-duck session could buck this historical trend, as many Democrats are clamoring to pass substantial bills while they still hold the House of Representatives before the GOP takes over the lower chamber next year.
For instance, as House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland recently told his congressional colleagues, “Whether it’s strengthening our economy, improving our immigration system, protecting our national security, or safeguarding democracy around the world, we have important work ahead of us in December.”
Hoyer added, “We must take full advantage of the coming weeks to deliver results for the people.”
So, what exactly is the outgoing Democratic-controlled Congress looking to do over the next few weeks?
For starters, it seeks to pass yet another massive omnibus spending bill to keep the government operational before the federal government runs out of money on Dec. 16. While end-of-year mega-spending bills have become the norm in recent years, it would be best for Congress to pass a short-term resolution that would keep the government funded through the holidays before the next Congress can attempt to rein in the out-of-control spending that has become standard procedure for far too long.
The current lame-duck Congress is also toying with hiking the debt ceiling (again) because our current debt ceiling of $31.4 trillion is about to lapse. As of this writing, the U.S. national debt has ballooned to an unsustainable $31.3 trillion.
Make no mistake, both parties are guilty of kicking the can down the road regarding raising the debt ceiling. However, congressional Republicans have pledged to tackle the coming debt crisis, and should have the opportunity to do so as soon as taking control of the House. In other words, the 117th Congress should not pass a massive debt-ceiling increase that will only enable more profligate spending in coming months.
Aside from the big fiscal bills, the 117th Congress is also considering passing several controversial bills that would be dead on arrival when the 118th Congress convenes. This laundry list of legislation includes $40 billion more for Ukraine, $9 billion more for COVID-19, a bill that would enshrine same-sex marriage, a bill to revise the Electoral Count Act, a bill to revive the expanded child tax credit, a bill to resuscitate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, and, perhaps most consequentially, a bill that would ban assault weapons.
Interestingly, as many midterm exit polls show, these issues are far from the list of priorities that voters want Congress to address in the months and years ahead.
Yet, with their control of the House of Representatives about to expire, it sure seems like congressional Democrats are not interested in heeding the voters’ desires when it comes to their lame-duck agenda.
Fortunately, due to the wisdom of our Founding Fathers, who ensured the Senate would “cool” legislation like a saucer cools hot tea, it is unlikely any of these half-baked bills will end up on President Joe Biden’s desk before the end of the year.
So, although congressional Democrats would like to end the 117th Congress with a mighty legislative roar, they seem far more likely to go out with a muted whimper.
Chris Talgo is senior editor at The Heartland Institute (heartland.org), a conservative and libertarian public policy think tank headquartered in Arlington Heights, Illinois.