GOP TO TARGET LAME-DUCK SESSIONS?…. Before this year, congressional Republicans didn’t seem to have much of a problem with lame-duck sessions. You’ll recall, for example, that after 1998 midterms, in which Democrats did surprisingly well, GOP leaders quickly rushed through the presidential impeachment process against Bill Clinton before the new Congress could be sworn in.*
But that was then. Now, at least some Republicans prefer a different approach.
Little-noticed over the holiday week: Rep. Lynn Jenkins tweeting this promise: “I will re-introduce the End the Lame Duck Act to prevent power grabs as we’ve seen at the end of this session.”
Jenkins linked to a story by David Farenthold explaining that the 20th amendment was supposed to end lame duck sessions by truncating the life of expired Congresses to January, when they had been returning until March. It didn’t end lame duck sessions; it just made them not worth doing in the era before airplanes. And then it got easier to travel to and from Washington and the lame ducks became ways for the exiting Congresses to get work done.
Jenkins’ complaint is wrong on multiple levels. Not only are lame-duck sessions legally permissible — her understanding of the 20th Amendment is pretty silly — but there were no “power grabs” this month. Democrats successfully passed some important legislation, but they did so with bipartisan support on all of the major initiatives.
I think what seems to confuse much of the right is the length of a lawmaker’s term. Voters elect their House representatives to two-year terms — these representatives get sworn in the January after their election, and serve through January two years later. Critics of lame-duck sessions seem to think voters elected lawmakers to a 24-month term, but only the first 22 months count. The 23rd and 24th should be a work-free period, unless in the event of a national emergency.
Why should duly-elected lawmakers work on legislation for 22 months and then take two months off? Well, it’s not quite clear why, but Jenkins and the 20 cosponsors of her “End the Lame Duck Act” seem to feel strongly about it.
What’s especially odd about this is the timing of the push — Republicans will be the new House majority, and presumably they have a lot they intend to do. Why would GOP lawmakers restrict their own ability to govern for the final two months of their term?
* Postscript: To clarify, this has nothing to do with partisanship. I don’t care which party is in control; lame-duck lawmaking need not be restricted. My beef with Clinton’s impeachment has nothing to do with the lame-duck sessions legitimacy and everything to do with a ridiculous impeachment crusade without cause.