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It's obviously the latest orchestrated Republican talking point -- unless we're to believe that these memes spring forth spontaneously, like Athena from the head of Zeus.  In recent days, Boehner, Dick Armey, John Fund, Dana Rohrabacher, talk radio, and the right-wing noise machine in general, are all up in arms, decrying the possibility that the Democrats will defy the will of the people and resort to a lame-duck session to push through their radical socialist agenda.

Obviously the Republicans are doing what they do best -- "working the refs" to intimidate Democrats from using a legitimate legislative tool to pass their (watered down) agenda.

This is particularly outrageous given the reason that such a lame duck session would be necessary.  The Republicans, particularly in the Senate, have used every parliamentary trick to delay and frustrate the Democrats, given an overwhelming majority just 18 months ago, from accomplishing many of the things the American people sent them to do.  

What I fear is that the Republican strategy will work and the Democrats, with their usual spinelessness, will unilaterally concede their power, forebearing to use a tool the Republicans would have no hesitation in using were the tables turned.  Further discussion below.

Here are just a few examples of this latest pernicious Republican talking point:  Boehner, John Fund (WSJ), Dick Armey (via Freedom Works), Dana Rohrabacher.

It doesn't take a very long memory to see a previous example of this approach; remember the Republican "nuclear option" talk designed to prevent use of reconciliation to pass healthcare?  That almost succeeded; I've been critical of Obama's approach to the healthcare fight in many respects, but reports are that he overrode advisors like Rahm Emmanuel to insist that reconciliation be used to pass comprehensive legislation, rather than a much scaled-back version.

I don't think it's a foregone conclusion that the Democrats will lose either the House or the Senate, but even if they don't, I think it's a given that Democratic margins in each chamber will significantly decline.  (E.g., maybe 54 seats in the Senate and 225 in the House.)  Given that the Republicans have succeeded in frustrating a significant portion of the core Democratic agenda while the Dems have had large majorities, it stands to reason that it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to accomplish much with much smaller margins, even if we do hold on to one or both chambers.  So by all means, if there's a way push through an energy bill, or immigration reform, or more jobs stimulating measures, or even EFCA, during a lame duck session, the Democrats should do it.  

Not that this would be that easy -- if they haven't been able to pass these items by now, what will change that makes it possible to pass them in a lame duck session?  I don't know, perhaps some blue dogs who lost their races will vote with their party rather than voting defensively in an effort to hold on to their seats.  Conversely perhaps if they do hold on they will feel more empowered to vote in favor of the Democratic agenda; perhaps some retiring Republicans in the Senate would even agree to vote for cloture -- who knows?

The point is, the Republicans evidently view this as a real threat (one they're trying to head off).  We shouldn't play into their hands and forgo our ability to get these things done.  Again, reconciliation is an instructive example:  think if Conrad had gone with his initial instinct and prevented healthcare from being added to reconciliation instruction --we would have no healthcare bill.  In fact, given that the Republicans telegraphed their "just say no" strategy even before the first session of Congress started, the Democrats were crazy not to include (and Obama was crazy not to insist that they include) all the main items on the agenda in the reconciliation instrucions (witin the limits of the rules, of course).  As I understand the Senate rules, this could at least have included a strong cap and trade program, and perhaps further economic stimulus (spending measures that stimulate the economy actually provide budgetary benefits).

That's water under the bridge now, but let's not compound the mistake by renouncing our ability and right to use a lame duck session.

Why do I title this diary "Republican Outrage"?  Because of the almost unbelievable hypocrisy and cynicism underlying their cries of faux shock and dismay.  Remember, the reason the Republicans are advancing to support the "no lame duck" meme is that the Democrats, having been repudiated at the polls (they assume), would be defying the will of the people and in fact striking at core principles of our democratic system, were they to enact an agenda rejected by the American people.

But that's just what the Republicans have been doing ever since January 2009!  Remember, Bush and the Republicans had microscopic approval ratings.  Democrats were overwhelmingly elected.  A large majority of the American public supported Obama's agenda.  Elections have consequences, and all that.  Well, not so much when you're a Republican.  The Republicans were quite honest in explicitly stating that their strategy was to keep Obama from accomplishing anything.  The Democrats, and Obama, played into their hands for far too long, treating them as legitimate partners who were dealing in good faith.  They weren't, and unfortunately the Democrats appear to be paying the price.  (In a just world, the voters would punish the Republicans, not the Democrats, but due to an unfortunate combination of lame reporting from the mainstream media, the right-wing noise machine's overwhelming volume, and the tendency of low-information voters to blame the party in power no matter what the cause, they won't; we'll pay the price.  For a very interesting take on the latter tendency, see this essay by Digby.)

This points to a bigger issue.  Our system of government (not to mention the Senate rules) is based on a certain level of good faith.  It more or less worked during most of the twentieth century because both parties, for the most part, dealt in good faith with each other.  I was a political science major in the '70s, and a common theme in our studies was how the parties worked together, even when they disagreed on issues.  Just think of Reagan and Tip O'Neill working together on social security amendments, or the Tax Reform Act of 1986.  

Such cooperation is inconceivable these days.  The Republicans are simply not dealing in good faith, and given the current makeup of the party and the external pressures on them (e.g. Rush Limbaugh), are probably not capable of dealing in good faith.  See Bennett's recent primary demise.

I have long been an advocate of preserving the filibuster because I think it is generally beneficial to enable the minority to prevent the majority from steamrolling them.  One always has to be aware of the "shoe's on the other foot" argument.  But this presupposes principled restraint in invoking the filibuster.  Press reports and even Senators routinely talk about the "60-vote requirement in the Senate," but that's not true.  In general, the Senate should be a majority rule body.  Filibusters should be invoked in only rare instances, for fundamental issues, not routinely used just to gum up the works for routine, noncontroversial business, and not even to prevent the majority from enacting its legislation.  Again, elections have consequences.  The Democrats realize that -- in fact, they kowtowed to Bush even when they were in a majority.  The Republicans don't.  Thus, the filibuster has degenerated into a one-sided bludgeon.  The Republicans will use it routinely, the Democrats can be intimidated not to use it.  (Remember the gang of 14 matter, that preserved the Democrats' right to use the filibuster as long as they never actually used it.)

So yes, the time has come.  If we do preserve our majority in the Senate, by all means, do away with the filibuster.  Don't tinker around the edges, don't change it to 57, don't say it can only be used on the vote for final passage -- just get rid of it.  It asymmetrically benefits the Republicans, and will for the foreseeable future.

On the other hand, if we lose the Senate, if the Democrats have any balls left at all, the Republicans shouldn't be able to get a single thing through.  The only way to deter them is to play the same game.  Unilateral disarmament has never been a successful strategy, as far as I can tell.

Which, in a roundabout way, brings me back to the original topic.  By all means, the Democrats should use a lame duck session to pass every piece of controversial legislation they can.  The Republicans have forfeited any possible right they have to complain about thwarting the will of the voters, and they have amply demonstrated that there is little or no political price to pay even if that were the case.

Originally posted to RenMin on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 09:11 AM PDT.


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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (17+ / 0-)

    "[W]e shall see the reign of witches pass over . . . and the people, recovering their true spirit, restore their government to its true principles." Jefferson

    by RenMin on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 09:11:24 AM PDT

  •  Make it so! (9+ / 0-)

    "...use a lame duck session to ram through their legislative priorities, to the extent possible."

    Screw the R's. I've seen more than enough. Let them scream and whine. Maybe we'll get lucky and Rush will self-combust on the air like the Hindenburg.

    "Ridicule may lawfully be employed where reason has no hope of success." -7.75/-6.05

    by QuestionAuthority on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 09:16:04 AM PDT

  •  Bah (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Why do we expect anything to get done in a lame duck session when it could not be done in the past two years?  Especially when you're talking about people who lost re-election.

    One should no more deplore homosexuality than left-handedness. ~Towards a Quaker View of Sex, 1964 (Proud left-handed queer here!)

    by AUBoy2007 on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 09:17:16 AM PDT

  •  GOP impeached Clinton in a Lame Duck Session! (14+ / 0-)

    They impeached a sitting president with 70% approval right after they got shellacked in the mid-term elections, where the historical trends are that the party out of the white house ALWAYS makes gains.

    They are last to talk about doing anything in a lame duck session.

    Proud to share my name with Howard Dean

    by DeanNC on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 09:20:18 AM PDT

    •  Excellent Point (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Major Tom, whaddaya

      As my diary says, they have forfeited all right to make any sort of argument based on good faith or the will of the public.  This is yet another, and excellent, example.

      "[W]e shall see the reign of witches pass over . . . and the people, recovering their true spirit, restore their government to its true principles." Jefferson

      by RenMin on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 09:25:17 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  1998 Mid-term WAS a referendum on impeachment (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Major Tom, RenMin, Trotskyrepublican

      The voters spoke and overwhelmingly backed Democratic candidates, thereby reducing the GOP majority gained in 1994. Then in a fit of pique, the GOP Congress, knowing that the Senate would NOT remove WJC from office, decided to impeach him anyway.

  •  It's time the Democrats, Libs, Progressives start (4+ / 0-)

    framing the word "Conservative" as the dirty profane word it is.  Republican = Conservative = Vote against Unemployed Americans!!

  •  best way to avoid lame duck congress (6+ / 0-)

    elect democrats.
    retire republicans.
    Reinforce the mandate of 2006 and 2008 that the Serious People have pretended never existed.

    and THEN...

    GOVERN for the people.

    Actually, this is a pretty good roadmap for a permanent Democratic Majority.
    Suck on it, Rove!

    The Republican Party will never die until there is a new political home for racists.

    by kamarvt on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 09:56:38 AM PDT

  •  We have more than 425 seats in the House? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I think it's a given that Democratic margins in each chamber will significantly decline.  (E.g., maybe 54 seats in the Senate and 425 in the House.)

    •  I mean, a reduced margin of 425?! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I don't know the number the poster meant, but if we had the margin of 425 in the House (out of 435), we wouldn't be worrying at all.


      I do not belong to an organized political party -- I'm a Democrat. [Will Rogers]

      by Ed Drone on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 10:28:37 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Sorry, meant 225 (0+ / 0-)


      "[W]e shall see the reign of witches pass over . . . and the people, recovering their true spirit, restore their government to its true principles." Jefferson

      by RenMin on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 12:21:32 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  gop will immediately change filibuster rules (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Major Tom, RenMin, Trotskyrepublican

    as soon as they are able to.

    We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope. -- Martin Luther King Jr.

    by mydailydrunk on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 10:48:09 AM PDT

    •  Naw (0+ / 0-)

      Only the party in power ever wants to get rid of the filibuster. It's always the minority party that wants to keep it.  And the majority party needs the minority party in order to get rid of it.

      So basically, it won't go away until such a time that the minority party backs getting rid of it, as well.

    •  That's the other point I omitted to make (0+ / 0-)

      Thanks.  Anyone who thinks the Republican party as currently constituted would have any compunction whatsoever about eliminating the filibuster through a simple majority vote, once in the majority, is dreaming.  So there's no point in trying to preserve it for the time when we're in the minority -- they're not nearly as fastidious as we are and wouldn't be fazed at all by any outcry the Dems make.  

      This just emphasizes my point: the filibuster serves the Republicans' purposes; the Dems, not so much.  So we might as well get rid of it.  

      "[W]e shall see the reign of witches pass over . . . and the people, recovering their true spirit, restore their government to its true principles." Jefferson

      by RenMin on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 12:32:33 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  RenMin (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    You have definitely given us a very realistic and frank assessment of where the Democratic Party stands right now, as well as what it should do during the lame duck session. I sure hope people take note.

    Thus, as you suggest, if nothing of significant import gets done during the lame duck session, the party will suffer even more down the road.

    •  Thanks (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Major Tom

      What's stupid about the conservadems is, even if they're operating strictly on the basis of self-preservation, they're doing the wrong thing.  As I mentioned in my diary, the low information independents are more likely to be swayed by the fact that nothing is getting done, than by the substance of what actually gets done.  That's the only way you can rationalize someone who could vote for Clinton in one election and Bush in the next, for example.  

      So the way to preserve congressional jobs is to preserve and encourage US jobs, not buying into the sky is falling rhetoric about debt and deficits.  But they never seem to learn.

      "[W]e shall see the reign of witches pass over . . . and the people, recovering their true spirit, restore their government to its true principles." Jefferson

      by RenMin on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 12:28:46 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  RenMin (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I believe it's all about political perception: Is one perceived as a strong leader or a weak leader? And this is particularly true in times of national crisis. For proof, just look back at Jimmy Carter and his perceived failure of strong leadership and what it got him.

        As for the present times, it's really too bad - because we had it all - that is, all except a driving force called courageous leadership. That is exactly why what is accomplished (or not accomplished) during the lame duck session of Congress will greatly determine the political direction of the next two years; and you have clearly pointed that out to us in your diary. Again, many thanks.

        •  You and I see eye to eye on this point (0+ / 0-)

          We had an opportunity to remake the political landscape almost comparable to what Roosevelt faced in 1932.  Fortunately, he made the most of his opportunity.  Obama didn't.

          "[W]e shall see the reign of witches pass over . . . and the people, recovering their true spirit, restore their government to its true principles." Jefferson

          by RenMin on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 02:18:43 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  There should be a choice on the poll that reads: (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    trevzb, Major Tom, Trotskyrepublican

    "Who says there will be a lame duck session"?

    A lot can happen in 4 months. At this time, it is a little premature to accept defeat no matter what polls might show.

    I find such talk disturbing and counter-productive. And self-defeating.

    "Loyalty to petrified opinion never yet broke a chain or freed a human soul." Twain

    by Gentle Giant on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 11:07:51 AM PDT

    •  The Lame Duck Session (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Gentle Giant, RenMin

      There's always a lame duck session. It merely means the time after the election until the new Congress is sworn in.

      •  Oh, thanks for the enlightenment, Major Tom. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Major Tom, RenMin

        I was thinking it referred to the change in balance of power if the Repubs succeeded in taking control of one or both houses- that the Dems would take advantage of their ill-fated majority before handing over the reins.

        I appreciate your assistance with overcoming my ignorance of the term.

        "Loyalty to petrified opinion never yet broke a chain or freed a human soul." Twain

        by Gentle Giant on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 01:17:37 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

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