The Lameness of the Duck


I think the only reasonable way to play the American politics game is “by the rules as written.” That’s why it made sense for the Republican minority to spend so much of the 111th Congress exploiting the possibilities for obstruction in an unprecedented way, and that’s why it made sense for the Democratic majority to use the “lame duck” session to pass a bunch of good bills.

But one should also reflect on the quality of the rules. As I’ve argued many, many, many times having all these tools of obstruction at the hands of the minority is a bad idea. And having the extended “lame duck” period also seems like a bad idea. The lengthy presidential transition period is problematic, but it’s a bit difficult to know how to avoid it given the other parameters of our system. With congress, by contrast, I don’t see any logistical barrier to the new congress going into session within days of the election. I think it’s important that we not say “no business can transpire in November or December” but that doesn’t mean the old congress needs to handle it.