This year’s lame duck Congress has been described as the most productive since World War II, with the passage of a tax cuts deal, a repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, ratification of the new START treaty, and the passage of a bill to provide health care to 9/11 first responders.
But despite the Democrats’ legislative victories, and even some bipartisan support, many top Republicans this week have been offering up the lame duck session itself as the latest sacrifice on the “Party of No” altar…Sen. Lindsey Graham (SC) attacked his fellow Republicans for the Democrats’ legislative wins: “Harry Reid has eaten our lunch. This has been a capitulation in two weeks of dramatic proportions of policies that wouldn’t have passed in the new Congress.” He added: “The lame duck session was meant to basically transition from one Congress to the next, not take every special interest item the liberals want and pass it in two weeks.”
Sen. Jim DeMint (SC) tweeted his displeasure over the START Treaty: “Passing a major arms agreement in lame duck is outrageous. Dems trying to jam through a liberal agenda before conservatives come to town.”
Sen. Lamar Alexander (TN) is one of the few Republicans who agreed to ratify the START treaty. But, in a speech on the Senate floor, he said that though START is incredibly important, “the majority’s decision to jam through other matters during this lame duck session has poisoned the well, driven away Republican votes, and jeopardized ratification of this important treaty.”
Sen. Orrin Hatch (UT) said in a START press conference with other Senate Republicans that “denying the bipartisan group of the newly elected senators the right to vote on this treaty, while granting more power to those who won’t be here in January, is in my opinion morally wrong.” It’s because they’re “jamming” the treaty through, Hatch said, that “I have to withdraw my support for something I would like to support if we were really able to go through it.”
In the same press conference, Sen. John Thune (SD) agreed: “It really does appear that the Administration wanted a treaty so badly that they agreed to a bad treaty. And I think the reason they’re trying to rush it through here at the end of the year, here in a lame-duck session, when most Americans aren’t paying attention, is because they know all the concessions our side made in order to get this.”
Sen. Tom Coburn (OK) took biggest issue with the 9/11 first responders bill, which he originally suggested he might try to block: “This is a bill that’s been drawn up and forced through Congress at the end of the year on a basis to solve a problem that we didn’t have time to solve and we didn’t get done.”
Sen. Jon Kyl (AZ) hearkened back to an even darker time in Senate history — when the health care bill was passed: “I remember just a year ago when we were here on this Senate floor debating the health care bill, and one of the primary criticisms of it was the way it was done.” Kyl said that now he is “concerned about the precedent that we’re setting here in the Senate, taking a lame-duck session to jam so many things through.”
And, of course, no Republican outrage would be complete without the Tea Partying-est members of Congress. Rep. Louie Gohmert (TX) talked about START on the House floor, calling it “so inappropriate” for the treaty to be passed during the lame duck. “People who have been voted out of office because the majority in their state did not want them representing them anymore and they’re down there cutting a deal with the Russians. The election should have consequences.”
Rep. Steve King (IA) concurred. “This lame duck session has been full of all kinds of issues that I think didn’t have any business being in the lame duck session,” he said, adding: “The people in America have spoken up and said, we want to change course.”
Rep. Michele Bachmann (MN) told Fox News host Greta Van Susteren that the lame duck is “awful.” She listed all of the legislation that is being passed, and said: “In other words, a whole year’s worth of work after the voters already spoke at the polls.” For her part, Van Susteren shot back: “Well that’s because you all didn’t do it before the election.”
Bachmann also added that “in my opinion it’s also unconstitutional. The 20th amendment passed in 1933 was meant to eliminate all future lame duck sessions. Congress didn’t want to see happen what’s happening now.”
Bachmann is, of course, incorrect about the 20th Amendment. It didn’t abolish the lame duck session, but rather cut it in half to reduce the political standstill between two sessions of Congress.
Here’s the video. Check out the 4:50 mark for the stuff about the lame duck: