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
- How U.S. special forces are preparing for the worst-case scenario in North Korea
- Here's the schedule very successful people follow every day
- I hate Ayn Rand — but here's why my fellow conservatives love her
- The 11 worst fast food restaurants in America
- The best online movies to watch this weekend
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- The danger of the Democrats' lack of desperation
- The biggest lesson Obama failed to learn from Bush
- Hey, Paul Ryan's new poverty plan isn't completely terrible!
- The secret to Gabrielle Hamilton's amazing grilled cheese sandwiches
Subscribe to the Week