For the second year in a row, major Congressional business was done after an election. In terms of results, much was accomplished. However, that doesn’t mean the outcomes will be positive or the process clean.
The first of many issues was the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy that Democrats had apparently forgotten about until now. I’ve always thought that this should be a decision made by Commanders not Congressmen. Nevertheless, the court of public opinion was moving away from DADT and the courts were in the final stages of tossing it out anyway. So in a way, repealing it now is better for the military to adjust to it.
Staying on foreign policy, the START Russian nuclear arms treaty was ratified today. The only problem I and many others had was the language that allocated America’s missile defense program in terms of “offensive” weapons rather than a defensive policy. Sen. John McCain’s amendment failed on eliminating the language. Overall this treaty was rushed when it didn’t need to be. The Senate could have finished work on it in the next session when all the Senator’s concerns would have a thorough hearing. But when has Harry Reid ever run that kind of chamber?
The 9/11 first responders bill drew contention along emotion lines. I share in the sympathy for those brave volunteers who dug through the rubble of the World Trade Center for months. I do also understand the concerns of some GOP Senators that opposed the large price tag and seemingly unlimited span of the program. I would have vote for it anyway, but after Republican objections, the outcome was undeniably better.
Then we come to what could be the largest blight on the 111th Congress. They failed to pass and the President failed to sign, a budget. Usually budget battles happen when opposite parties hold power and fail to reach an agreement. In this case the Democrats, who control the levers of power, just saw it as unnecessary to even attempt. Instead, Harry Reid attempted to foist a 1.1 trillion dollar spending bill on the American people’s credit card. Even with Republican pork barrel earmarks included, the bill was scrapped after the key Senators got an earful from back home.
Finally, not to be forgotten was the ever-important tax deal. I was one of those on the right that thought is was a good deal for America. I see the concern that President Obama would be weaker, however having the GOP walk away and force everyone’s tax rate up, even for a short time, would have been irresponsible. I would frame it as the GOP wins an election and tax rates don’t go up, case closed.
Overall, I question the very existence of lame-duck sessions. Senators and Congressman who were defeated have no right to legislate anymore, hence their failure to get sent back. I realize the occasional necessity of emergency business after an election, but to do major policy proposals with defeated legislators voting on it is a sign of disrespect to the American voter and the American style of governance. The lame-duck session has become a tool for avoiding political payback at the polls and should be ended.