As Congress heads into August recess, conservative pundits and GOP leaders are ginning up “a new rallying cry to energize voters: fear the lame duck!” “Playing to voter passions,” they are pitching the idea that, after losses in the November election, a “weakened Democratic majority might make one final stab” at “enshrining a liberal agenda” in a lame duck session of Congress. House Republican Study Committee Chairman Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) capitalized on these “dark warnings” last week by introducing a resolution “calling on Congress not to hold a lame duck session after Election Day.”
Now, former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich is contributing his heft to this GOP effort. In a Human Events op-ed yesterday, Gingrich promoted his new “No Lame Duck Pledge,” his petition to prevent Democrats from pushing an “unpopular and destructive” agenda and “thwart[ing] the will of the people”:
We need to get every elected representative on the record about whether they support or oppose a lame duck session after the election.
The Democrats have already proven with the healthcare bill that they are willing to use cheap tricks to thwart the will of the people. They ignored the town hall meetings and the clear signal the voters of Massachusetts sent by electing Scott Brown and passed the healthcare bill anyway.[…]
At American Solutions, we have developed the No Lame Duck Pledge:
I, undersigned Member of the 111th Congress, pledge to the citizens of the State of _____________ I will not participate in a Lame Duck session of Congress. I believe reconvening the Congress after the November 2nd election and prior to the seating of the new 112th Congress, smacks of the worst kind of political corruption. Attempting to pass unpopular legislation subverts the will of the American people and is an abusive power grab.
While Gingrich now claims that the lame duck is “at odds with the spirit of our democratic republic,” his own history undermines his feigned indignation. As Speaker of the House from 1995 to 1999, Gingrich led the charge to impeach President Clinton during the 1998 lame duck session following Republican election losses “attributed to their inquisition of the president.” Gingrich helped push through impeachment despite “the will of the people,” as a series of polls showed a consistent lack of public support for the entire impeachment effort.
While Gingrich and conservative pundits like Charles Krauthammer may claim that Democrats will “vote for anything” including card check, a value-added tax, and climate change legislation in a lame duck session, Mother Jones’s Kevin Drum points out that it would be impossible for Democrats to do so:
I’m just stonkered here. Don’t get me wrong: I’d be cheering from the sidelines if I thought Democrats could do any of this stuff. But the last time I looked, legislation still has to be passed by both the House and the Senate. And the Senate has only 59 Democrats, many of whom aren’t reliable votes in any kind of session, lame duck or otherwise. So as long as Republicans stick together — and they will — and continue to filibuster everything — and they will — nothing of any consequence will pass.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) reaffirmed that “Democrats aren’t interested in pushing through major bills” during the House lame duck session, insisting that “there’s no secret or overt plan to do something like that.”