Lame ducks

LAME DUCKS…. Depending on how the rest of the year’s schedule comes together, it’s possible that there will be a lame-duck legislative session on Capitol Hill after the midterm elections. Republicans are starting to throw a fit about the possibility.

Their nightmare scenario: A weakened Democratic majority might make one final stab at forcing through massive spending bills, passing a wildly controversial cap-and-trade package and generally enshrining a liberal agenda — after it has lost elections nationwide.

Indeed, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), in a statement to POLITICO, called on Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) to “guarantee — right now — that they will not bring members back for a ‘sour grapes’ session after the election.”

Boehner added, “People have a right to know that Congress will respect their will, whatever it is.”

There are a couple of angles to consider here. First, for Boehner to talk about Congress respecting the will of voters seems oddly amusing. In 2008, Democratic candidates had a massive electoral victory — Barack Obama’s 52.8% of the popular vote was the highest of any candidate in either party in 20 years, and congressional Democrats won the biggest majority either party has seen in a generation. The result was the first modern example of an entire political party — John Boehner’s political party — declaring that elections don’t have consequences, and that Congress need not respect voters’ will.

Second, if Boehner wants to talk about abusing lame-duck legislative sessions, we can have that conversation. In 1998, most voters were unimpressed, to put it mildly, with the Republican crusade against Bill Clinton. In the midterms, Americans sent a pretty clear message — in a historical rarity, the party that controlled the White House gained congressional seats in the sixth year of a presidency. It was a stinging rebuke of the GOP and its excesses.

House Republicans responded by impeaching the president anyway — relying on a lame-duck session to ram impeachment through the chamber quickly, before newly-elected lawmakers could take office.

Did Boehner say at the time that Congress should respect voters’ will, “whatever it is”? Was he worried about it looking like “a ‘sour grapes’ session”? No, he voted instead to impeach the president in the lame-duck session.

In other words, spare America the lecture, Boehner.