By Michael O'Brien - 07/28/10 01:10 AM EDT
The head of House Democrats’ campaign committee tried Tuesday to tamp down speculation that the party would try to push through major legislation during a lame-duck session of Congress this fall.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), the assistant to the Speaker and
chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC),
said “no one should think there’s some secret plan for after the
election on big issues.”
But Democrats will face a lot of unfinished business when they
return to Washington after November’s elections — likely with a smaller
majority or even possibly having been relegated to the minority for the
112th Congress. They have yet to tackle immigration reform, climate
change and so-called card-check legislation on union organizing, a bill
that’s strongly opposed by Republicans.
Another major issue: the George W. Bush-era tax cuts set to expire
at year’s end. Because of the political difficulty of tackling tax
rates, it seems likely the issue will be taken up only after voters
have weighed in at the ballot box.
GOP leaders and conservative activists have increasingly warned that
Democrats, who seem likely to lose seats in both the House and Senate,
could use the year-end session to ram through big-ticket legislative
items that probably wouldn’t pass once the new Congress is seated in
Led by House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), Republicans on
Tuesday called on voters to pressure rank-and-file Democrats to swear
off doing just that.
Boehner asked Democratic members’ constituents to use town hall
meetings and other opportunities during the August recess to confront
them on their post-election legislative plans.
“We should all be calling on the Democrats to pledge that they
won’t do this,” the minority leader said at his weekly press
availability. “I encourage you to echo this at home, especially if you
share a media market with a Democrat. Put them on record.”
Republicans’ concerns draw on vague language by Democratic leaders
as to whether they’ll use a lame-duck session to push through remaining
priorities, many of which have stalled because of deficit worries in
their own ranks as well as because of GOP opposition.
“We’re going to have to have a lame-duck session, so we’re not
giving up,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said at the
weekend Netroots Nation conference of liberal bloggers, in reference to
Democrats’ unfinished priorities. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)
has said the need for such a session depends on how much work lawmakers
get done before the elections.
Bill Samuel, the legislative director for the AFL-CIO, said that
the union had no specific agenda — from card-check to jobs bills — in
mind for lawmakers for any such session, but that it would press
lawmakers to work actively through the period.
“Assuming we’re still facing a jobs crisis, and other critical
economic concerns that need to be addressed, we will be pressing
Congress to use the time that they’re in session to make progress,” he
said. “America can’t afford to have Congress meet for six weeks and
leave these problems unaddressed.”
Van Hollen suggested such a session was unnecessary because Democrats had already accomplished a lot this year.
“I don’t expect to see a lot of major legislation [in] the lame-duck
session,” he said. “As you well know, we’ve passed an awful lot of
legislation in the House and the Senate, and much of it has reached the
Van Hollen’s statements are consistent with those of Vice President
Joe Biden, who recently said “the heavy lifting is over,” referencing
the Obama administration’s legislative agenda in this Congress.
Samuel interpreted the Maryland Democrat’s remarks more as a way to
tamp down Republican criticism than a warning to supporters to lower
“My assumption is that he’s sort of responding to fear-mongering by Republicans,” Samuel said.