Feehery: Lame duck leaders

Greg Nash

According to Wikipedia, “The phrase ‘lame duck’ was coined in the 18th century at the London Stock Exchange, to refer to a stockbroker who defaulted on his debts.”

The term is better known now to describe a politician or a group of politicians whose time in office is coming to a pre-determined close.

We are in a lame duck session of Congress now, but soon we will have a new session of Congress, led by a lame duck Speaker, and a new executive branch, led by a lame duck president.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has let her colleagues know that this is her last run as Speaker. Joe Biden hasn’t quite made it official yet, but pretty much nobody believes that he will run for reelection.

As far as I can tell, this is unprecedented in modern American history.

It makes sense for the Democrats to try to get as much as they can now in this lame duck session of Congress, because it is hard to see how they can anything more done once Joe Biden is sworn into office.

Not only will Pelosi be a lame duck in the next Congress, she will be dealing with the slimmest Democratic majority in more than a hundred years.

And many in her majority simply don’t buy into the traditional parameters of established political practice. They want revolution, not evolution. They want socialism, not free-market capitalism. They want to smash the patriarchy. They are not the go-along to get-along crowd.

Pelosi is not, by her nature, a bipartisan negotiator. She has no relationship with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). She hasn’t spoken to the president in over a year. She strongly dislikes her Republican colleagues, and she lets her disdain drip into her public comments.

In her last tenure as Speaker, during the waning days of the Bush administration, she would get in the habit of voting against deals that she negotiated as a way to show faith with the angry wing of her progressive majority. She might try to pull the same stunts in her last two years as Speaker, but she has to carry the water for Mr. Biden, and so it’s not clear how that is going to work.

Speaking of Mr. Biden, he is trying hard to make everybody happy as he fills his Cabinet and his administration. But he will never be able to achieve that unachievable balance.

He has to make sure that he is making history by picking a diverse Cabinet. There is no shame in that. Every president, including the last one, did their best in picking a staff that better reflects the rich diversity of America.

But Biden’s problems come not with complexion, but rather with ambition. When confronting the reality of a lame duck presidency, we can predict that the knives will be coming out pretty early. It should be kind of fun to watch, especially if you are a Republican.

We don’t know how the two Senate races are going to go in Georgia. They are both toss-ups.

But the best-case scenario for the Democrats is that they get to a 50-50 tie and they have the new vice president on call to break any tie. The worst-case scenario for them is that Mitch McConnell stays on as majority leader.

Either way, the lame duck president is going to have a helluva time getting anything done, without strong bipartisan support.

McConnell has been around a long time, and he has ample experience being both, as he has put it, the offensive and defensive coordinator.

McConnell is a smart enough politician to understand that being a lame duck leader is a really bad way to start a new term. He will be the only one who will have the strength to deliver for the American people. Pelosi and Biden? Not so much.

Feehery is a partner at EFB Advocacy and blogs at www.thefeeherytheory.com. He served as spokesman to former Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), as communications director to former Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) when he was majority whip and as a speechwriter to former House Minority Leader Bob Michel (R-Ill.).

Tags Dennis Hastert Joe Biden Lame duck lame-duck session Lame-duck speaker Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi senate control

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