Thus far, the lame duck session has been...sort of lame.
Congress has been out of session for Thanksgiving this week, and the previous week, the first of session after the midterm elections, was consumed largely with new-member orientation activities and leadership elections.
As a result, not much has gotten done.
Congress will return on Monday, and the legislative calendar looks a lot like it did before the midterm elections. Here's what's happened since then:
- The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act advanced in the Senate, clearing two procedural hurdles in the week before Thanksgiving. The Senate will be able to vote on the bill itself when Congress returns next week. This bill appears poised to pass before the end of the year.
- The Paycheck Fairness Act stalled in the Senate on a procedural vote. A bill introduced by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, it attacks gender-based paycheck inequity by inserting more specific language into previous employment-rights legislation. For instance, it specifies that employers are on the hook for punitive (in addition to compensatory) damages. It also creates grants for organizations to train women and girls in negotiating tactics. Every Republican voted against it except Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who didn't vote.
- The House cleared the Telework Improvements Act, sending it to President Obama's desk. The bill makes it easier for federal employees to work from outside their offices, requiring the heads of executive agencies to establish policies and guidelines for telecommuting.
That leaves a lot of meat on the legislative bone, despite the House naming a post office and congratulating Joe Paterno on his 400th win. Momentous as those may have been, big agenda items have yet to be dealt with.
It's questionable how long Democratic leaders will be able to keep everyone around. Some of these guys lost their seats, after all. And if the Senate passes something, the House will have to vote on it. There has been, I'm told, talk of the House adjourning temporarily and coming back to DC for any votes to send bills to President Obama's desk, should the Senate pass something.