How Lame Is the Lame Duck?

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Dec. 20 2010 9:32 AM

How Lame Is the Lame Duck?

UPDATE: I missed this comment from Mickey Kaus, which is far more interesting and combat-worthy than the original source for this post:

Have I mentioned that Slate 's Dave Weigel was  wrong , hideously and revealingly and embarrassingly wrong, when he predicted Dems would not use the lame duck to try to jam through controversial legislation? ("This just isn't going to happen.") He was wrong ! So wrong ... It's because he has sources! ...
David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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Mickey's premise is wrong. He says I predicted Democrats "would not use the lame duck to try to jam through controversial legislation." More from my original post: "a lame-duck session is on the calendar and likely to be bland" and "the lame-duck session's agenda was likely to be noncontroversial and would probably handle whatever routine business that the blundering 111 th Congress couldn't finish in September." Well, it wasn't bland, but it did actually deal with business that had majority support but wasn't dealt with in September -- not Democratic priorities that had died before September. None of the legislation that Mickey and conservatives were warning about made it to the lame duck. What was Mickey warning about? Let's go back to a friendly argument we had on Twitter on August 8 :

On immig. reform are LOTS of GOPs who might defect in lame duck--Kyl, McCain & Graham included. So Dems might easily get 60

... Lame duck fuss isn't just GOP base-rousing. If U oppose immig. amnesty U worry abt lame duck--it's amnesty's last chance.

Mickey was talking about comprehensive reform, which was not brought up in the lame duck.

You found no "evidence" because as you admit you ignored immigration. And my anti "card check" source worries--sez not mirage

Card check wasn't brought up in the lame duck.

What did make it to the lame duck? A tax cut compromise that 75 percent of voters support , the DREAM Act that 54 percent of voters support (it's complicated, and Mickey has done a good job explaining why), DADT repeal that 70-80 percent of voters support , the START Treaty , which 73 percent of voters support. The DREAM Act was the most divisive issue the Senate dealt with, but it's still largely popular, and it's not something Republicans or Kaus were sounding the alarm about in August. The lame duck panic was very specifically about Democrats ramming through card check, cap and trade, and tax increases, with some panic-ers worrying about amnesty, and none of this happened. My sources who said Democrats weren't going to try amnesty turned out to be more prescient than Kaus's source who was worried about card check. His original point, though, was that reporters shouldn't trust politicians when they deny what they're saying to their interest groups. Even if the Democrats crumpled this time, that's a better rule to follow than the rule I followed in August.

Original post...

P.J. Gladnick thinks he has a "gotcha" here.

It's the season of good cheer and if you want a really good belly laugh then check out David Weigel's August prediction in Slate that the Democrats in the lame duck session of Congress would NOT attempt to ram through legislation in the final days as their term winds down. Here is Weigel proving he is something less than another Nostradamus with his August assertion that the conservative suspicion at the time that Congress would attempt such a maneuver was really nothing but silly political paranoia.
Obviously I love admitting that I'm wrong, but I'm not here, and I'm not sure Gladnick actually read my article. When Newt Gingrich and other conservatives demanded that there be no lame duck session, it was because they expected Congress to ram through a few specific, massive, unpopular bills, with the votes of retiring members who no longer had to face votes. I'll quote Tim Cameron, spokesman for Gingrich's American Solutions, from August: Gingrich was worried about "the clear indications Democrats have given that they would be willing to use the lame-duck session to pass bills that they cannot defend in an election: cap and trade, card check, tax increases, etc."
 
Cap and trade, card check, and tax increases. Remind me which one of those has passed or is going to pass in the lame duck? Or look at the list of Democratic priorities FreedomWorks put in an anti-lame duck peitition .
  1. Pass the cap and trade energy tax hike
  2. Slap American taxpayers with another "Stimulus" bailout
  3. Pile on more tax hikes to fund their socialist agenda
  4. Allow the death tax to come back at 55%
None of that happened. I was told in August that the lame duck would "probably handle whatever routine business that the blundering 111 th Congress couldn't finish in September," and that was a little off -- Congress was left so much unfinished business in September, like the tax cut extensions, that the work is a little more than "routine,". But Congress is only handling issues with supermajority public support, like Don't Ask Don't Tell , food safety, and START. The only immigration-related bill it dealt with was DREAM, which died as expected, and was definitely weakened by Tea Party opposition. (Mickey Kaus has a good rundown on why it died.) And the irony is that a cancelled lame duck would have results in a temporary tax increase at the start of 2011, before Republicans could hash out their own bill. That was a showdown a lot of conservatives wanted, but it was rarely implied in the "just don't show up, or Reid will pass card check" pledges.

 

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.