Get Ready for a Mud-Slinging, Do-Nothing 112th Congress
The term “lame duck” is used to describe a person or body that has lost power. In politics you get the moniker when you’ve either lost the last election or can’t run again. But the 111th Congress has been anything but a Lame Duck. In fact, it has been exactly the opposite. If it is a duck at all, it’s on steroids — it’s a Super Duck. This Congress has accomplished more in the last two weeks than it has in the last year.
The list is impressive. Before going on break, this Congress extended the Bush tax cuts, extended unemployment benefits, cut the payroll tax and the estate tax, got rid of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” approved the START nuclear arsenal treaty with Russia, and finally passed a 9/11 First Responders Health and Compensation bill.
It will go down as one of the most productive two weeks in Washington history.
[SIGNUP]And there are good reasons for it. The 112th Congress that will be sworn in next month is packed with fiscal conservatives who will ban together to block most new spending initiatives; every bill will now be scrutinized like never before. Also, Congress will be split with Democrats in control of the Senate and Republicans in control of the House, so few bills will make it past that tug of war to the White House. Many bills that do make it through will be vetoed by President Obama. And all of this will be happening under the storm swell of the 2012 elections. The Republicans have already made it clear that one of their goals is to make certain Barack Obama is a one-term president.
In the new political climate that will start when the 112th Congress is sworn in, very little will get done. The goal of both Democrats and Republican will be to make each other look as bad as possible headed into the presidential elections. New Speaker of the House John Boehner will vilify the President and vice versa. It is not going to be pretty.
And that explains the flurry of activity over the past two weeks. It also may be what we can expect from here on out: a modern political cycle where campaigning for the next election starts with the swearing in and ends with the elections every two years. That leaves two months every two years when things can actually get done without political repercussions.
In other words, the legislative potency we have seen in the past two weeks may not be an anomaly, but our new reality. We will experience 22 months of insanity, with a brief respite of sanity.
If that is the case, we may need to retire the term “Lame Duck Congress” in favor of a new term. I like “Super Duck.”