• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • Morning Bell: The Threats of a Lame Duck Congress

    The lame-duck session begins today, with retiring and defeated Members of Congress coming back to Washington to make their last legislative decisions. Because of the lack of accountability to voters, the lame-duck period brings heightened scrutiny.

    Congress has 16 working days scheduled between now and the end of the year, though it could add more. Here are some of the contentious issues likely to be debated—and perhaps even decided—during that time.

    The “fiscal cliff.” Thanks to legislation previously put in place, a series of federal spending cuts and tax increases is scheduled to go into effect automatically at the beginning of the year. This is widely referred to as a “fiscal cliff”—and the economy is headed right off the cliff. The tax increases, which have been dubbed “Taxmageddon,” would hit middle-class families with an average tax hike of more than $4,100 in the year 2013 alone. It is the largest tax increase ever to hit America, at nearly $500 billion in one year. The effects would be devastating to the economy, as it would hit job-creating small businesses. With the economy in the state it has been, American businesses and individuals cannot stand a tax increase.

    Defense cuts. Liberals in Congress set up a plan called “sequestration” that has held the U.S. military hostage to their desire to raise taxes. The original plan was to convince other congressmen to cave to tax increases, thus preventing the cuts to defense. Now those cuts are scheduled to take effect in January, and they would deeply harm our military readiness. During the presidential foreign policy debate, President Obama declared that sequestration “will not happen.” Yet he has already factored these cuts into his fiscal planning for the future—a telling sign. Heritage has suggestions that would fix the sequestration problem without raising taxes.

    The debt ceiling. Sound familiar? Yes, the federal government is once more approaching its debt limit—and lawmakers will likely try to raise the limit again. Heritage maintains that the U.S. has no business raising the debt ceiling without getting spending under control.

    Disaster funding. Damage from Hurricane Sandy will continue the debate over who should fund disaster recovery efforts. The resources of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are stretched thin after years of record-setting numbers of disaster declarations. The agency has been forced to respond to disasters on the scale of one every one-and-a-half days.

    Law of the Sea Treaty or other United Nations treaties. Senator John Kerry (D-MA) had expressed the intention of bringing the Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST) up for a lame-duck vote. But a group of conservative Senators pledged before the election that they would “oppose efforts to consider a treaty during” the lame-duck session. As a rule, the United Nations treaties would give up pieces of American sovereignty in return for little to no benefits to America. LOST in particular would require the U.S. to hand over royalties from oil and gas development and create a massive international bureaucracy that Americans would be forced to fund.

    Cybersecurity. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has said he wanted to bring cybersecurity legislation back to the Senate floor during lame duck. As Heritage’s David Inserra explains, Reid’s approach “believes that government-set standards and regulations will make the private sector improve its security. They argue that any defense, however flawed or costly, is better than nothing.” At the same time, President Obama has drafted an executive order to put much of the failed legislation into effect. Neither of these would effectively help the nation’s cybersecurity—“There is no way that regulations will be able to keep up with the rapidly changing threat, since it takes major regulations from two to three years to be written.”

    Our sister organization, Heritage Action for America, has a newly redesigned website including its blog, The Forge. Check out The Forge and the blog series on Lame Duck Threats, including the subsidy-laden farm bill.

    Quick Hits:

    • President Obama has a series of meetings this week to talk about the “fiscal cliff.” He kicks off today by meeting with the heads of major unions. Tomorrow it’s business leaders.
    • The LA Times reports that we can expect new directions from President Obama on foreign policy—that he essentially put off until after the election.
    • The rumor mill has Senator John Kerry (D-MA) at the top of the list for Secretary of Defense in President Obama’s second term, and Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice being rumored as Secretary of State.
    • The “Union of Concerned Scientists predicts 18 percent of coal-fired power [units] will close down rather than upgrade pollution equipment,” reports the Washington Guardian.
    • What can we expect in Obama’s second term on the issue of education? Heritage’s Lindsey Burke breaks it down.
    Posted in Ongoing Priorities [slideshow_deploy]

    38 Responses to Morning Bell: The Threats of a Lame Duck Congress

    1. Albert Maslar says:

      It might be safer for the country to bypass the lame-duck Congressional sessions and just do nothing during the interim awaiting the installation of the 113th Congress. Doing nothing may be a quantum leap better than the damage these exiting members can do…albertmaslar2@hotmail.com

      • Andrea says:

        There are some analysts that say if congress does nothing for the the next little while (oh say about a year). . .the economy would eventually fix itself. . .so maybe you are correct Albert maybe they should do nothing.

    2. Juan Martinez says:

      Maybe we need a faster transition after the election. It reminds me of all the presidential pardons Clinton granted the night before he left the white house. Although, I guess he knew 4 years earlier that he would be leaving office regardless. Maybe we need to elect better legislators, so we can trust them to do the right thing all of the time?

    3. Major Dave says:

      anti-war Kerry as Sec of Def, what a slap in the face… might as well bring in Hanoi Jane as Sec of the Army too

    4. Tami King says:

      we need to defund the unions.. they are raping america and have long since over served their purpose

    5. actresponsibly says:

      The tax increases and sequestration should be allowed. Also, do not raise the debt limit. Let the citizens enjoy the Obama economy.

    6. Len says:

      I don’t respond to get approval but to say it like it is, the only problem is people and organizations like yours have your heads in the sand. The reality is that we lost the election, and the once sweet culture we once had, is gone and there is no chance in this world that it will ever return. Get over it. All of this positive rhetoric will do no more than it did before the election. Nada. Short of a calamity there is the inevitable forward movement of a hedonistic society that will steamroll us pell mell into hell. After 78 years of being silent on the subject, I’m old enough to know when I’ve had enough. I give up. They’ve won and now I’m a minority, and you are too. You are inured to it as is anyone that finds themselves too close to the trees.

      • Patriot says:

        Its a good thing you do not seek approval. Sure the world and the US are changing. But I, and others, may not feel it is change for the better. This administration is bent on weakening the US through military cuts and economic chaos. Might I suggest that you get you "stuff" together and get on the path forged by this great nation? Or do you feel it is better to live on your knees than to die on your feet?

      • sdfultz says:

        The election is lost, I'm not sure what sweet culture ever existed. America has always been a Nation of struggle, struggle to get there, struggle to stay there. Every Nation that has ever went to hell has been revived, some only to perpetuate a hell on earth. Why would you worry about the Nation going to hell if the bibles says that all of this will pass.

    7. John Kerry running Defense? It reminds of the hoards of Ghengis Khan. Susan Rice LIED on 5 different shows. Rather than dismissal in embarrassment, she is rewarded (payed off) with Sec State? I would like to see a count and break down of Obama's executive orders. Seems if he doen't get his way it is ordered anyway. The House has been powerless to stop him.

    8. Lloyd Scallan says:

      Does anyone think that THIS administration, under Obama, really cares if it's a "lame duck" Congress? Since when has Obama gave a damn about Congress? Don't we not get it yet? Obama is now offically this nation's first dictator. He does anything he wants because the Democrats and the media back his every move by hiding the truth. Wake up to the fact that we are being controled by a group that makes the old USSR look like America did before Obama.

      • Lou says:

        The Pres is a fraudulent one and everything was left to be published until after the election as the fraud in the election would not hit the media. Wake up everyone and see what this Adm and the Dems are doing to America. We think we cannot do anything as we are just one voice. We don't know the attorneys who can go into these states and expose the fraud but there are some as the Kochs, man from Las Vegas. Mr Perry from Texas not our Gov., w/money who can do this. Don't continue to let the vice and deceit continue to ruin our Country. The sex scandal is just to detract from the real issues. Please someone stand up and help.

    9. Dr. Henry Sinopoli says:

      Wake-up Heritage…Rush, Hannity & the other 'True Americans' are not convincing anyone…You can write all the reports & papers you want or believe are needed. The people who vote for Obama, don't read and don't care to learn. The women are worried about not having contraception, the young people are so indoctrinated with progressive education they think the founding fathers is a rock group. The 10 Commandments are now the 10 suggestions…no Core Values except, WIIFM, what's in it for me society…It's not a lame-duck Congress…it's a lame-duck society…

      • PaulE says:

        Sadly, you have stated the reality of the situation quite well doctor. The value proposition for much of society is now unfortunately based on WIIFM as opposed to what it is best for the country and its citizens long term.

    10. loves this country says:

      does anyone else see what Obama is doing? by putting John Kerry as Sec. of Defense, they know that a lot of military personnel will get out and there won't be anyone left to join. it's Obama's way of depleting the military without "firing" them. he lothes the military.

    11. Denise Plock says:

      With the fiscal cliff getting ever closer and Obamacare knocking on our back doors with an avalanche of taxes to come. Our government continues to create policies that are not well thought through & how they will really effect Americans. The sad thing is the story of how many Americans are unemployed or underemployed and are forced into some kind of welfare program costing the federal and state governments more money we don't have. My question is simple why do our polictians continue to create policies that clearly distroy job growth. The lame duck is alive and at some point Americans should get hungry and eat the duck. I hope it won't be long. Why? Because my house is living what those in Washington are not and seem to care less. Common sense please !!!

    12. sam says:

      Regulation is an effort to replace knowledge with power.

    13. Clearhead says:

      It's not as if we haven't been through this before — consider our situation with England back in the 1700's. To all who embrace 'giveupism' and 'quitterism' we say, "THIS IS AMERICA !!" Stand up and man up !!
      "…..If you falter in times of trouble, how little is your faith….."

    14. charles labounty says:

      Current media coverage of Benghazi explains everything —-
      We know the CIA Director had a girlfriend, we know of an e-mail cat fight, we know one of the women has a twin …..
      BUT WE Don't know why 4 AMERICANS WERE ALLOWED TO BE MURDERED IN LIBYA !!!!!!!!!!!

      How tragic and telling is this as to the future of our Country.

      • sdfultz says:

        They were attacked, just like soldiers in the field, just like people in America, Blame the attackers, not the victims!

    15. KC - NM says:

      Consider the real math behind the country – this is what the liberals and media do not want you to know – __1. Our current government spend rate is $3.7 trillion/year (burn rate).__2. We take in with all tax revenues about $2.5 trillion/year.__3. If we raise all taxes on EVERYONE (including corporations) by 20% our tax revenues would increase to $3.0 trillion per year.__4. If at the same time we cut EVERY government item by 20% our spend rate decreases to $2.96 __trillion/year.__5. This would provide a surplus of $.04 trillion/year to pay down the debt.__6. At $.04trillion /year it will take 400 years to pay off the debt totally or 150 years to get back to the level __of debt when Obama took office ($10trillion) ____These are pretty sobering numbers. The rhetoric out of Washington is not even close to solving the problem. Looking at this from a business 101 view — the only possible solution I can see is cutting all expenses by 20% and raising revenue by 30%.

      • PaulE says:

        Lets see now. If we raise the corporate tax, which is really a tax paid by us consumers, to a level even higher than it is today, which is already the highest in the industrialized world, how will this make our corporations and all the millions of people employed by those same corporations more competitive in the global economy that we live in?

        Also, to use the Obama rate of over-spending as a baseline assumes that somehow we can't function, as a country, without spending far less than we do today. That's simply not the case. Prior to Obama, our annual deficit was approximately $435 billion. Today we are running annual budget deficits of nearly a trillion dollars and in some years more than a trillion dollars. That's the equivalent of over-spending a "stimulus package" each and every year as far as the eye can see. We can certainly scale back more than 20 percent in several areas of government. Just a thought.

      • wally mattson says:

        I agree with some of your analysis. The most important item you left out is getting the economy going again and not just in turtle speed but in rabbit speed. Obama doesn't know anything about economics and I equate him to B. O'Rielly. Obama is taking the country down the road to serfdom with his passed policies on energy where he thinks that green energies will solve the countries problems and save the earth. His policy of increasing existing energies so the green energies can compete will destroy the US as we know it and will turn us into Greece. His energy secretary admitted that a cost of $8 or more a gallon of gasoline was the goal. Think about what that means to the economy. For every $1 per gallon increase in fuel takes $193 billion out of the economy for other expenditures. That means that the $2 per gallon higher prices during Obama's term was equivalent to $386 billion for 2 years and if the price keeps increasing to $8 per gallon will amount to $1.5 trillion per year that is lost to other expenditures and progress.

      • Sonie says:

        Succession is another possibility. There are many petitions from many states. Move to a state that most clearly shares your views, and shore up locally!
        Folks, the government under BO will not stop spending until America is down the toilet. He's already said he would drive over the cliff, and I say let everything stand with Congress doing nothing. It's all publicity to create reactions just like bailing out the banks. They have made their beds, let them lay in them!!

      • sdfultz says:

        I love mathematical truths!

    16. Kat Oliver says:

      Every person who has voted for Obama, no matter their reason, has chosen not to be American. Many are arguing the validity of the Constitution. Most cannot even debate the issues with any intelligence and certainly without knowledge of how the free market works or understanding of history. We are amidst a remedial society. The ideas of freedom and liberty are lost on these people.

      • sdfultz says:

        Who are you to determine who is American and who is not, because of the way they voted?
        That's a very arrogant position to take! It apparently blinds you to the freedom Americans have to choose as they please. You would take that freedom and force them to vote as you say, Very Hitlerite!!

    17. Bobbie says:

      If democrats were respectful to their position, they would abide by the law, a budget and restrictions where democrats dereliction and lameness wouldn't exist in congress.

      How is the only idea democrats and the President have of taxing the rich, balanced? The more balanced approach would be taxes reduced to everyone (immediate economic growth and government revenue) hold people accountable to their dutiful and personal responsibilities and when mistakes are made within the choices of peoples' own don't look to the rich to bail them out, hold them accountable so they can learn not to make the same mistake again and some day they may take the opportunity to make it rich, themselves! I just don't get why America is paying government to accommodate the irresponsible choices of others including government's own, whose choices effect the economy to the point the government thinks they should have the peoples' right to control peoples' independent wealth and take over independence altogether from even those who aren't wealthy?

      This is America where people choose to live in control of their own. Why has government become so defiant of the peoples' constitution that government is suppose to protect but conduct their governance by misinterpretation? Especially in front of people who chose to come here to get away from 3rd world leadership who might have an inkling of the slightest idea of the personal power freedom holds? Sure could've used positive, strong, proper influence to build self esteem. People seeking "change" from 3rd world leadership and this is how the American government rewards them? Get your label and limited potential at the door? Shameful!!

    18. Blair Franconia, NH says:

      The lame duck Senate's going to pass all the UN treaties that Obama signed.

    19. Bob Marshall says:

      Those who voted for Obama voted for a socialist type of government. Compare the 2008 and 2012 exit polls. Obama ,like any good Shepard knew his sheep and how they would vote. If the GOP hadn't trashed the Tea Party and Ron Paul supporters and worked with them on issues vital to our freedom and liberty, maybe Romney would have won. We will never know. Obama, George Soros and Cass Sunstein called for a new more "progressive living" constitution. It was pointed out in one of whistleblowers publications that Obama ignored the Constitution sixteen times. We have a president who follows Marxist ideas, a congress who has no courage, a Supreme Court who bases laws not on weather it is constitutional or not but what their personal interpretation of those laws. Then, we have the department of Injustice. G.Edward Griffin: " If America is to remain free, its citizens must become far more politically educated than they are at present."

      • roland says:

        " If America is to remain free, its citizens must become far more politically educated than they are at present."

        Yes. So we need to cut spending – especially the department of education.

    20. Brian says:

      It is simple. The USFG came out of bankruptcy in 2008. All the profits of seventy years of accrued assets have to be stolen to bankrupt America all over again.It Is That Simple! Additionally since 1983 $105 trillion has been stolen from Social Security. Read the CAFR's

    21. ckirkland says:

      Goodby to the America some of us in our 70's & 80's and up, grew up with. How sad that freedoms are taken from us daily and yet the" Kool aid " drinkers seem to care less. They care less about our military, our basic values, and pride in being American and only interested in "someone else has more and I want it" that's what this President has preached for 4 years. He is not responsible for anything as noted by 4 dead (murdered) Americans is Libya. It leaves a whole in my heart to see this America under this present govt.

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.

    ×