Cruz leading charge to kill congressional lame duck

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Ted Cruz is leading a conservative effort to end any chance of a lame-duck congressional session at the end of the year. 

Cruz, a freshman senator from Texas running for president, and right-leaning groups see huge dangers in having a session after the November elections, which they think could be used to move legislation backed by President Obama or even to confirm his Supreme Court nominee. 

{mosads}Indeed, business groups disappointed with the glacial pace in Congress this year see the lame duck as virtually the only chance of moving some of their most prized bills, including legislation implementing the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. 

“Passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership is the No. 1 fear of grassroots conservatives and Tea Party voters with regard to a lame-duck session,” said a senior GOP aide familiar with the movement.

“I’m guessing K Street will want a massive lame-duck session unless Hillary Clinton wins the White House. They know they better get what they can while Barack Obama, Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell are in charge,” the aide said, referring to D.C.’s lobbying community.

“They’ll get more than they would under President Donald Trump or President Ted Cruz,” the aide added. 

Movement conservative leaders who have worked with Cruz say they’ll be collaborating with him to quash talk of a lame-duck session before it has a chance to gain momentum.

Cruz hasn’t voted in the Senate since Feb. 10, but he hasn’t missed much — GOP leaders have shelved most of the controversial items until after the elections.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told The Washington Post in December that the TPP shouldn’t come up before the elections, but didn’t go so far as to rule out a vote in 2016.

Conservative leaders are circulating a letter urging Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and McConnell to swear off the prospect of a legislative session in the window between Election Day and the start of a new Congress.

“By promising now that there will be no lame duck session of Congress (except, of course, in the case of an unforeseen sudden emergency requiring immediate federal action) the Republican-led Congress can take an important first step in restoring the American people’s trust in their government,” the groups wrote in a letter organized by the Conservative Action Project.

The lead signers were Edwin Meese III, who served as attorney general under former President Ronald Reagan, and Becky Norton Dunlop, a former Reagan adviser and chairwoman of the Conservative Action Project.

The group had collected more than 70 signatures as of Wednesday afternoon, according to a person familiar with the effort. 

Other early signers are Kenneth Blackwell, chairman of Constitutional Congress Inc.; David Bozell, president of ForAmerica; Brent Bozell, founder and president of the Media Research Center; and T. Kenneth Cribb, Jr., a former Reagan adviser.

What’s notable about the pressure campaign is that it’s happening nearly seven months before Election Day.

Cruz is likely to have strong support from House conservatives, who gave him enough political muscle to stand up GOP leaders in 2013 when the government shut down in the midst of an effort to stop the implementation of ObamaCare.

The Huffington Post reported that conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus have discussed different strategies for killing a lame-duck session, perhaps by voting en bloc against procedural motions.

Grassroots conservatives say they’re mobilizing early to get ahead of the powerful business groups that want the TPP, the largest trade deal in U.S. history, passed before Obama leaves office. 

Conservatives also fear that a massive omnibus spending bill might move after the election.

“There’s a great concern, generally, that there will be major spending efforts contrary to conservative principles being pushed through by Republican leaders in alliance with Democrats,” said Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch.

Members of the U.S. Coalition for TPP, which includes some of the biggest multi-national companies and manufacturers in the country, see the lame duck as their best chance for getting the massive trade bill through Congress, something that is likely to be an uphill fight.

“The NAM is strongly supportive of moving forward the TPP. We certainly would like to see it move forward this year. We joined with many of our sister associations to expand the leadership of the existing coalition,” said Linda Dempsey, vice president of international economic affairs at the National Association of Manufacturers.

The other leaders of the TPP coalition include the Business Roundtable, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Farm Bureau.

The trade deal faces strong political headwinds. The four leading Republican and Democratic candidates for president — Cruz, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders — all oppose it. 

If the TPP does not pass by the new year, it could take another three years to renegotiate the pact and move it through Congress again.

“If we don’t get it done this year, and it increasingly looks like our only shot is the lame duck, we’re probably not going to be in a good place to help American industry, which wants to export to those 11 countries,” an official at one of the business groups said of the agreement.

The official said conservatives are trying to stir up opposition to a lame duck based on vague fears.

“They’ll say we know mischief will happen without saying what the mischief is,” the official said.

Another trade association official said the big push for passage of the TPP will likely come after the election.

“We’re talking to the administration and we’re talking to [Capitol Hill]. We want them together to find that best timing and a lot of that frankly looks like the lame duck,” the official said.

Conservative strategists say they need to mobilize now to counteract these plans.  

“It’s certainly something we’ve been talking about for a while. What is the universe of things that might come up during a lame duck? It’s not anything good. We’re getting people to think that far in advance,” said Dan Holler, spokesman for Heritage Action for America, a conservative advocacy group.

“The business community is certainly thinking in those terms, and I’m sure members of Democratic and Republican leadership are as well. It’s important that conservatives understand what’s looming.”

But not all conservative leaders agree the lame-duck session needs to be stopped. Grover Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform, said a late session could help clear the decks before a new Republican president takes office.

Or it could allow congressional Republicans to negotiate a better deal on something than they would likely get from a Democratic president-elect.

Norquist said opposition to the TPP “is not a consensus position in the modern conservative movement.”

Tags Barack Obama Bernie Sanders Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Mitch McConnell Paul Ryan Ted Cruz
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