Lame Duck Session: A Solution for the Democratic Agenda

With Congress heading out to recess for a month in August, and with many lawmakers consumed by tough races to keep their jobs between now and November, there's not much time left for Democrats to pass big agenda items like energy reform. Consequently, Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund sees a robust lame-duck session in the future, with Democrats passing some big agenda items after the people have spoken, when lawmakers are no longer defending their seats (and, in some cases, have already lost them):

The rush to recess gives Democrats little time to pass any major laws. That's why there have been signs in recent weeks that party leaders are planning an ambitious, lame-duck session to muscle through bills in December they don't want to defend before November. Retiring or defeated members of Congress would then be able to vote for sweeping legislation without any fear of voter retaliation.

"I've got lots of things I want to do" in a lame duck, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D., W. Va.) told reporters in mid June. North Dakota's Kent Conrad, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, wants a lame-duck session to act on the recommendations of President Obama's deficit commission, which is due to report on Dec. 1. "It could be a huge deal," he told Roll Call last month. "We could get the country on a sound long-term fiscal path." By which he undoubtedly means new taxes in exchange for extending some, but not all, of the Bush-era tax reductions that will expire at the end of the year.

In the House, Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva, co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told reporters last month that for bills like "card check"--the measure to curb secret-ballot union elections--"the lame duck would be the last chance, quite honestly, for the foreseeable future."

The idea that Democrats will try to pass the Employee Free Choice Act (ironically known as "card check," since a final version may or may not include the "card check" provision if necessary compromises are made) is possibly far fetched. There have been zero signs of movement on that bill since 2009, to labor's chagrin. Aside from energy, the other big agenda item is education, and that's expected to pass with some Republican support, in whatever form it takes.

But it's an appealing strategy for immigration and other sundry items on the Democratic wish list. Read the full column at