Government often grows during lame duck sessions. Past Congresses passed gas tax hikes, bloated spending packages, Congressional pay increases, free-standing debt limit hikes, and industry bailouts. This is due to the unaccountable nature of lame duck sessions—elected officials are more susceptible to the demands of special interests when they face no future elections.

Despite predictions that December will bring "the lamest lame-duck session in a long time," this year's is shaping up to be more of the same. Here are three threats that loom when Congress returns to Washington following the election:

Overall spending levels: Now is a critical time for Congress to live up to its promise to rein in federal spending. Two items of concern include a must-pass continuing resolution and a possible omnibus appropriations bill, which members will likely use to hide pet projects and other spending increases. Congress should follow the agreement it made in the Ryan-Murray budget deal and adhere to a discretionary spending level of $1.014 trillion in 2015—already $19 billion higher than it was supposed to be under the sequester levels. We hear a disappointing number of calls from both parties to renege on these spending agreements.


Tax extenders legislation: This package of expired tax incentives is another place where lame duck legislators hide handouts for their politically-connected friends. Carve outs such as the wind production tax credit (PTC) pick winners and losers and restrict Americans’ access to affordable and reliable energy. The Senate fast-tracked a business-as-usual package that extended a number of these handouts for green energy industries earlier his year. On the House side, outgoing Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp has smartly taken a slow and deliberate approach to tax extenders that his colleagues should follow.

Internet sales tax: A longtime ban on Internet access taxes is expiring in December, and many senators view this as an opportunity to attach a misguided Internet sales tax measure. Tax increases like the so-called Marketplace Fairness Act would bring a host of constitutional and economic problems. During lame duck session, Congress should pass legislation that extends the ban on Internet access taxes without attaching an Internet sales tax to the measure.

Congress should break from the past this year and try to limit the harm. Having mastered the art of “doing nothing,” maintaining the status quo would be the least-worst course of action when members return to Washington following the elections. Lawmakers should resist voting on some kind of grand bargain that raises taxes and spending—decisions that should be left to after January when they can be held more accountable. Over 2.5 million AFP activists in all 50 states, and they will be watching to see how their lawmakers act during lame duck session.

Hanson is national issue campaign manager for Americans for Prosperity, a conservative political advocacy organization.