Republicans seek to handcuff Democrats in lame-duck session with resolution

Republicans seek to handcuff Democrats in lame-duck session with resolution

The House will vote next week on a Republican measure that would prevent Democratic leaders from passing controversial policy initiatives during a lame-duck session of Congress this year.

Republican Study Committee (RSC) Chairman Rep. Tom Price (Ga.) introduced the privileged resolution last Thursday in response to reports that Democratic leaders told their base that they could move big-ticket legislation after the November elections and before the new Congress convenes in January.

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Price explained his resolution says that a lame-duck session should not occur unless there were to be a national emergency.

“When [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid [D-Nev.] and Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi [D-Calif.] began talking about telling their folks not to worry about 'card check' [legislation], not to worry about the national energy tax, not to worry about a continued increased spending, that they had a plan to do this in a lame-duck session after the election, we began thinking and talking about what options we had, and this was one of them,” Price told The Hill in an interview on Friday.

Because Price's measure is a privileged resolution, House Democratic leaders cannot block it from receiving a vote.

Both Republicans and Democrats have moved significant bills in lame-duck sessions during the last decade.

Reid has scheduled the Senate to be in session on Nov. 15, nearly two weeks after the mid-term elections. The House has not yet released its lame-duck schedule.

Political insiders predict major GOP gains in the fall, which would make it politically difficult for Democrats to move the hot-button items.

Reid suggested at a conference of liberal bloggers last week that Democrats could pass major policy reforms that have stagnated thus far — such as immigration reform — in the short window between Nov. 2 and Jan. 3, 2011, when the new Congress will be sworn in.

A key House Democratic leader recently shot down the notion that his party would move controversial measures after the election.

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.) on Friday called the idea “nonsense" during an interview.

“This whole effort to whip up hysteria as if there’s some secret plan to do stuff in the lame-duck session is just nonsense. This is a scare tactic at its very worst, they are trying to spread the notion that there’s a plan to do major legislation in a lame duck session — there isn’t. There just isn’t,” Van Hollen said on a conference call with reporters.

Saying he hadn’t read Price’s entire resolution, Van Hollen refrained from taking a position on the measure set for a vote on Tuesday, shortly after the House votes on a $26.1 billion bill on education and Medicaid funding. 

Some Democrats are concerned the White House will push for long-stalled trade deals in the lame-duck session.

President Obama last month that said he would submit three controversial trade agreements to Congress “as soon as possible.” The trade deals he wants Congress to pass are with South Korea, Panama and Colombia. Most Republicans back the trade pacts.

Other bills that could come up in the lame-duck session include appropriations, extending some or all of President George W. Bush's tax cuts and food safety. However, Democratic leaders could finish work on these bills in September and early October.