Fresh off their massive midterm victory, Republicans in the lame-duck Congress are blocking President Obama on everything from spending bills to a nuclear arms treaty with Russia. Several commentators say the time has come to scrap the lame-duck Congress tradition altogether, and leave significant new legislation to newly elected lawmakers who will get to work in January. Is that the answer?
Defeated incumbents have no business passing laws: This lame-duck Congress should be the last, says Betsy McCaughey at The Wall Street Journal. Incumbents who lost their reelection bids "were fired by the voters" — they no longer have the "moral authority to continue governing." Lame-duck sessions were necessary "before jet planes," when it took some newly elected representatives months to reach Washington, but they're no longer justified.
"This lame duck session should be the last"
There is nothing illegitimate about a lame-duck Congress: Members of Congress are elected to serve a set term, says Jamelle Bouie at The American Prospect, and it includes the seven weeks following Election Day. The midterms didn't "invalidate the democratic mandate" of the current Congress, so the lame ducks have every right to stay home, or "pursue a full agenda" — it's up to them. Pushing big legislation might be "a little awkward" at this point, but it's not undemocratic.
"Are lame-duck sessions undemocratic?"
Lame-duck sessions should be for emergencies only: "If terrorists attack after Election Day," a lame-duck Congress must handle the emergency, says Bruce Ackerman at The Washington Post. But these sessions shouldn't be routine. The 20th Amendment to the Constitution, ratified in 1933, sought to curtail the influence of defeated incumbents by slashing the life-span of the outgoing Congress from 17 weeks to seven. The principles behind that amendment "have been forgotten" — it's time to revive them.
"Is the lame-duck Congress constitutional?"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- 13 Urban Outfitters controversies
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- The science of sex: 4 harsh truths about dating and mating
- Why gay people of color are still losing
- Russia is stealthily threatening America with nuclear war
- 10 things you need to know today: September 16, 2014
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- What political elites don't understand about Scotland's push for independence
- Can we lead spiritually fulfilling lives without religion?
- Is 'feminism' just another word for 'liberalism'?
Subscribe to the Week