End the Lame-Duck Sessions

It's time to reform Congress.


It was a moment of inadvertent public honesty. An open C-SPAN microphone caught the often-beleaguered Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), lamenting the impotence of this congressional lame-duck session.

"It's all rigged," Bennet griped Monday. "The whole conversation is rigged. The fact that we don't get to a discussion before the break about what we're going to do in the lame duck is just rigged."

A Bennet aide later explained that, yes, Washington is "broken" and that "we can't move forward on major issues facing our country because of a broken system that is rigged to prevent progress."

We should be so lucky. I join with all Americans who dream of a day when Washington is broken enough to see a Congress rigged to prevent any more "progress." But the trouble with lame-duck sessions happens to be the opposite. It is one thing to be abused by democracy and quite another to be abused by a bunch of rejected, disgruntled and disconnected politicians.

This is a long-standing grievance, of course. Way back in 1932 (I just learned on the Internet), Congress passed the 20th Amendment. Yale law professor Bruce Ackerman recently pointed out that at the time, Time magazine claimed it would "eliminate the legislative influence of Senators & Representatives whose constituencies have already repudiated them."

And lame-duck sessions happen to induce two destructive political habits: avoidance and action.

Avoidance. Remember the endlessly discussed "bipartisan deficit commission"? Practically speaking, it will probably amount to little. Politically speaking, it rigged the election to allow candidates from both parties (Bennet included) to defer their answers on one of the most serious issues of the day. Hey, they were eagerly awaiting the commission's recommendations on the issue, which would arrive, not surprisingly, during the lame-duck session.

But action is far worse.

You could argue that Congress has a responsibility to deal with impending issues—unemployment benefits extensions or tax hikes, for instance. But should "repudiated" officials be involved in making long-lasting decisions for all of us?

Remember that the Department of Homeland Security was created in 2002, when a lame-duck Congress relied on post-9/11 jitters to create the largest government bureaucracy in American history. A lame-duck Congress impeached the president in 1998.

This year, the lame-duck session will likely take up the DREAM Act, which would institute a major change in immigration policy, and a new nuclear arms treaty with an erstwhile democracy in Russia. The Senate already passed the so-called Food Safety Modernization Act.

Pollsters tell us that an increasingly cynical electorate, which viewed government as overreaching, was responsible for the dramatic political reversal in November.

So does it make any sense to allow rejected senators—such as Robert Bennett, Blanche Lincoln and Arlen Specter—to help kill earmark reform in the Senate this week, seeing as none of them will experience the consequences of voting to preserve a corrupted process?

Congress has the choice to convene or not—the latter being a true victory for progress.

But if Washington is "broken," it is by those who abuse power in the name of moving forward. And the lame-duck Congress is just another example.

David Harsanyi is a columnist at The Denver Post and the author of Nanny State. Visit his website at www.DavidHarsanyi.com.


NEXT: George Will on Puritanical Progressives

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. The picture from Howard the Duck is quite telling seeing as how that is one of the worst movies ever made.

  2. That woman is going to fuck a duck!

  3. Wabbit Session!

  4. The food safety bill may get blocked because of the senate adding taxes to the Senate-originated bill. The House bill was passed in a previous session, so it doesn’t count as the same bill. Oops.

    1. …Tom Harkin D Iowa, a cosponsor of the bill who authored its language, did not immediately return requests for comment…

      just another “smarter than the rest
      of the room” senator looking for more income streams to fund our “going for broke” gub’ment.

  5. “I join with all Americans who dream of a day when Washington is broken enough to see a Congress rigged to prevent any more ‘progress.'”

    Harsanyi, you fucking right-wing Zionist asshole, go peddle this anti-government drivel in Israel, your favorite state.

    1. Dohoho! Trollan’ hard today, I see.

      1. Impotent nerd rage is not trolling.

        1. It does raise your strength to 10 and give you give you 50% to damage resistance, though.

          1. But then everything freezes and you have to reboot to a save before your health got so low, anyway.

  6. My God Leah Thompson had a smoking body back in the day.

    1. If I could find a way to electronically remove Tom Cruise from All the Right Moves, I think I could watch it over and over again in a self-abusive loop.

      1. Yeah. Someone needs to do that. She was just perfect when she made that movie. Small and thin but still with lots of curves in the right places.

  7. But should “repudiated” officials be involved in making long-lasting decisions for all of us?

    Well, if they can ever get the campaign finance reform laws structured the way they want them, there will never be a ‘repudiated’ politician ever again.

  8. Great article and great idea. Why not send the losers of elections home after they lose? Common sense, what a concept.

    1. Indeed. In the private sector they change the root passwords and lock on the executive washroom before they tell you you’re fired.

    2. Why not send the losers of elections home after they lose?

      Unless they die in office, every politician will eventually be a loser.

      So it’s in the interest of current members of Congress to allow for this little window for revenge, because someday they’ll want it as well.

  9. Aren’t lame duck sessions sort of against the principles of liberal democracy. Having been potentially voted out, they no longer necessarily have the consent of the governed. Short of an emergency and a presidential order, lame duck sessions seem inappropriate.

    1. None of them have my consent.

      1. Your consent was implied by having an American citizenship. Hell, if implied consent works for the TSA, why not for everything else?

    2. Didn’t they move the changeover between congresses forward a couple months sometime in the past to limit the amount of lameness? They should do that again, and possible move the election back a few weeks as well. And put it on a Saturday already.

      1. But then people with jobs wouldn’t have as much trouble scheduling time to vote… and we all know how people with jobs vote. We don’t want THAT.

      2. They shoot horses when they come up lame!

  10. David…..excellent article….very much straight to the point. The ineffectiveness currently present in the United States Senate is just the tip of the ice berg. This ‘ineffectiveness’ is everywhere….it is in school systems, corporate jobs. It has to be eliminated, but unfortunately it has slowly leeched it’s way into the infrastructure of this country. Hence all the problems the US currently faces. All hard work done nowadays is ignored by ‘management’. People are given their pink slips if they outperform their job duties or take extreme pride in their work. That only leads to frustration. The truly talented and hardworkers just don’t care anymore. Why should they , they are in a system that rewards corruption and just flat out being lazy. Instead of working with someone who comes up with a great idea, ‘management’ looks to undermine the person that came up with it or just steal it. Too many egos and way too much ‘BS’. It’s too bad the ‘Lame Duck’ syndrome is now the backbone of this nation

  11. Congress could take office the second Tuesday of November and at most 2-5% of the elections would still be up in the air. Special rules could be in place until all outcomes are decided (or the end of he year.) Travel isn’t an issue like it used to be when we came up with that dates we have now.

  12. David would love for Congress to grind to a screeching halt.

    He gets to keep his beloved War on Terror?, the Overlords of Counterfeiting at the Fed can continue to bailout their buddies and print cash right out of their collective asses (Oh, sure! Let’s politicize it instead. Right, like it’s not already!), and all the while David will continue to pretend he’s not Randy Barnett’s lover/doppelganger by writing these meaningless diatribes, which amounts to getting paid to engage in auto-erotic asphyxiation.

    Go write for Horowitz…

  13. ne thing to be abused by democracy and quite another to b

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.