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ROBB AUSTIN'S TURN

Lame Duck Sessions Are Anything But Lame

October 3, 2010

There’s little wonder that the voters are disgusted with their elected members of Congress.

The nation watched in aghast as Congress returned to Washington from its summer vacation, and remained in session for just two weeks, before it decided it had done enough (which was basically nothing), and promptly voted to adjourn, and return home to campaign fulltime.

The truth is Congress did not take up a single piece of legislation, and left town without passing a budget for the current fiscal year. In typical fashion, Democrats blamed Republicans, and Republicans blamed Democrats.

Not only did Congress not pass a budget to run the government in the 2011 fiscal year, it also left behind important work on taxes, putting off a decision until after the election, on what the tax obligation will be for every American, next year.

Instead, in the early morning hours, Congress passed a stopgap measure to fund the running of the government through November 30, and quickly voted to go home. The public has every right to ask one simple question, “Why do we pay these guys”?

The budget and tax issues will be taken up in a “lame duck” session of Congress sometime in November. This is fraught with legislative danger, which will go largely unreported by the mainstream press, and unnoticed by the general public. The dirty little secret on Capitol Hill is that voters never win in a “lame duck” session of Congress.

There is a freewheeling attitude among Members during this type of session, and they are typically ruled by lobbyists and special interests. There will be no fewer than 100 “lame duck” members of Congress who will have a vote during this session, and all of these individuals will have little or no incentive to vote according to the will of the people back home.

In many cases, defeated incumbent Members will be antagonistic toward the voters who just ousted them, and they may turn a deft ear to their wishes altogether. Paid lobbyists, however, will have their ear, and in many cases, their vote, as Members scramble to pay off campaign debts, and to line jobs and positions in the Obama administration, or in the Washington private sector.

At issue will be billions of dollars in appropriation bills to run the government, and dozens of across the board tax hikes that will automatically take effect when the 2003 Bush tax cuts expire on December 31, 2010, unless Congress acts to extend them.

These tax increases will be raised on everyone, and they include tax hikes on income tax rates, capital gains taxes, and investment dividend tax rates, the heritance tax, and tax increases in a host of other areas.

Should Republicans win control of the House of Representatives, as expected; a new Speaker of the House will be elected, along with Republican committee chairmen, but this won’t happen until the new Congress is sworn into office in mid-January.

You can count on Washington lobbyists and special interests being well aware of this phenomenon, and they are now burning the midnight oil; deciding on their strategies on how best to control what happens legislatively during the “lame duck” session after the election.

They are targeting ‘lame duck” members to vote their way on array of spending bills, and because these sessions are notorious for being “every member for him/herself” affairs, the old adage “buyer beware”, certainly applies to voters, when Congress returns after the election.

It is the norm, not the exception, that members’ votes are freely traded between members and lobbyists, without political restraint, or media oversight, during “a “lame duck” session of Congress.

It will be a time for voters to hold their breath, cross their fingers, and hold onto their wallets, with hopes that the economic and legislative damage from this process will kept to a minimum.