Thursday, January 6, 2011

Lame Duck, Better than No Duck at All

A surprisingly productive 'Lame Duck' session of Congress has come to an end. It's been called the most productive Lame Duck session ever, though I can't speak to that myself. But it's without a doubt the most productive this Congress has been over the last year. That is the sad part. After a year of near absolute stone walling on even the most vanilla bills and nominations, it's astonishing how fast things can be passed under threat of being forced to work over the holidays. Democrats certainly have their issues, but I must say that the way the GOP crumbles like overcooked ginger snaps every Christmas is both pathetic and endlessly amusing. So much for integrity and sticking by your values.

"I will not compromise!" (Generic GOP Senator)

"We will stay and work through the holidays till we get this settled!" (Dem Majority Leader)

"Hey, look at the time! Let's ink this deal!" (Generic GOP Senator)

To add to the fun, there are a number of GOP Congresspersons really ticked off at how well they were played this Holiday season. This includes the ever amusing and often nonsensical Representatives Steve King (R-Iowa) and Michele Bachmann (R- Min). Seeing as they are deeply offended by pretty much anything that doesn't originate from their own spokesman, I generally ignore them both. A shame voters in their states failed to do the same. The general sentiment is that Democrats didn't play fair by actually trying to legislate after the mid-terms. How dare they continue to work till closing time! The GOP has this weird idea that Congressional work should stop the instant the elections are certified. I'm sure they wouldn't feel that way if the November results were reversed, but hypocrisy is a respected tradition for Republicans, so no surprise there. Democrats do it as well, but rarely with the same style and commitement. What is interesting is that at least one Republican House member, Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kansas), has 'tweeted' her intention to re-introduce a motion to dismantle the Lame Duck altogether. In other words Congress would adjourn for the elections and not reconvene till January, thus giving us two months without a functioning Congress. Sorry, I meant to say sitting Congress. It hasn't really functioned consistently for several years now.

Talk about 'taking my ball and going home'! It's these stupid things that have wasted way too much political time lately. Ideas that are pointless and only matter to specific people or parties at this specific moment in time. I might, I stress might, understand if the Dems had rushed through a bunch of controversial bills in December over the unified opposition of Republicans, but they didn't. Remember the Dems only really controlled the House. The Senate, while having a Dem majority, has that wonderful filibuster rule that allows the minority to pretty much prevent anything they don't like from even being discussed. This has been invoked at least 136 times during the now ended session of Congress. More than doubling its use from any previous session. But the real kicker is that these bills that passed were only controversial politically. Polls showed Americans firmly behind them all and even most Republicans would admit that they supported them in principle. But they blocked them out of pure political calculation.

- Tax Cut Bill to extend the current tax rates for a further 2 years. Passed with 37 Republican votes. Not surprising considering it was made up heavily of pro-Republican tax provisions, many of which will grow the deficit significantly over the next few years. Typical of Republican 'fiscal responsibility'.

- 'New START' Treaty to renew the US-Russian nuclear inspection and arms reduction agreement. Passed with 13 Republican votes.

- 9/11 First Responder bill to provide healthcare assistance to those who developed serious illnesses as a direct result of their weeks and months breathing in toxic dust at the ground zero World Trade Center site. Incidentally this bill was fully paid for yet seemed to have been nearly killed by Republican obstruction till a last surge, led by Jon Stewart of the Daily Show among others, shamed Congress into action. In the end it garnered Yes votes from ALL Republican Senators.

- Bill to Repeal 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell', which had been fought tooth and nail despite as much as 70% public support and the support of the President, Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Passed with 8 Republican votes.

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