October 4, 2010 | Commentary on Health Care
You’ve heard of a “Do-Nothing Congress.” This is more the “Do-Nothing-Good Congress.”
Congress usually passes a budget and appropriations bills before the beginning of every new fiscal year on October 1. This year was different.
Congress never passed a budget. It didn’t complete any appropriations bills. It didn’t extend any tax cuts. It didn’t reform entitlement programs or reform the tax code.
Oh, members spent time crippling healthcare and Wall Street with “reform” bills, yet they never spent time reforming the federal government. No wonder incumbents are expected to pay a high price on Election Day.
Congress did pass a continuing resolution to allow the federal government to run until December 3. This allows lawmakers to return after the election and inflict a bit more damage before a new Congress is sworn in. There will be many angry politicians who lost elections. The lame-duck period will let them get revenge with increased taxes, more spending and measures to weaken national defense.
The Senate rejected an effort by Sen. Jim DeMint (R.-S.C.) to change the expiration date of the continuing resolution into next year. This would have eliminated possibility of a lame-duck session and would have prevented the New START Treaty. It also would have stripped consideration of the President’s Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform to propose tax increases from lame-duck members.
The continuing resolution included a provision to add $624 million for nuclear modernization. According to Congressional Quarterly, this was a priority for Senators Jon Kyl (R.-Ariz.) and Lamar Alexander (R.-Tenn.). Kyl has always been a strong supporter of nuclear deterrence.
The New START Treaty between the U.S. and Russia is purported to reduce nuclear weapons. The President has signed it. All that has to happen before it has the force of law is for the Senate to ratify it with a two-thirds vote. Conservatives are worried about a secret-side agreement that ends American missile defense.
The only way for this treaty to pass in the Senate in a manner that would truly protect missile defense would be to add a reservation during Senate consideration regarding missile defense or to amend the treaty. Expect a real national-security fight in the lame-duck session.
Ethics On Hold
Remember when Nancy Pelosi said, while still speaker-elect in 2006, that she would lead “the most honest, most open, and most ethical Congress in history”? If Pelosi does, she’s surely trying to forget.
The House of Representatives never completed work on the ethics cases of Representatives Charlie Rangel (D.-N.Y.) and Maxine Waters (D.-Calif.). The trials of these two members, who are embroiled in ethics controversies, have been postponed until after the elections. No point dealing with multiple ethics scandals before voters head for the polls, is there?
No Tax Cuts for You
The House and Senate avoided any votes on tax cuts before they left town. Last week many House Democrats pleaded with leadership to allow a vote on tax cuts so that they could save their jobs. But the Democratic leadership was so worried that an extension of all of the tax cuts might pass that they refused to schedule a vote.
Democratic leaders in both chambers blocked any opportunities for conservatives to offer amendments to extend tax cuts into next year and the Democrats ran out the clock. They backed away from even offering tax cuts for those making under $250,000 because they feared that a full extension of all 2001 and 2003 tax cuts would be added to the plan. A fear of tax cuts for all led them to opt (for now) for tax cuts for none.
Republicans urged members to vote against the adjournment resolution as a protest vote against the House and Senate leaving town without retaining tax cuts for all Americans. The House voted 210-209 to adjourn, with 39 Democrats joining the Republicans in opposing the resolution. The Senate vote on the adjournment resolution was not close.
Obamacare Repeal Effort
Reps. Steve King (R.-Iowa) has legislation to repeal Obamacare now. 173 House members have signed a Discharge Petition (#11) to force the House to consider King’s bill. Rasmussen reports that 57% of likely voters favor repeal. Hopefully, more Democrats join Gene Taylor (D.-Miss.) and repeal Obamacare in the lame-duck session.
Brian Darling, is director of U.S. Senate Relations at The Heritage Foundation.
First appeared in Human Events