Time to dump the lame duck?

Once we finally put this seemingly endless presidential election in our rear view mirrors, many of you will likely be ready to pour a stiff drink, turn off the news for a while escape the madness for the holidays. But don’t act too hastily because there may still be more business to take care of. If Congress holds to the same pattern they’ve maintained since 1998, they will convene for a lame duck session where some pressing business could up for consideration. But should they? A number of members will be on the way out, either because they’ve lost their reelection bid or they’re on the way to retirement. No longer having to worry about answering to the voters for their actions, are they the ones who should decide such matters? A number of conservatives (and, surprisingly, some Democrats) think it’s time for the lame duck to be kicked out of the pond. (The Hill)

Conservative lawmakers and advocacy groups are fighting to prevent a lame-duck session after the elections, arguing that members of Congress who have been booted from office shouldn’t be responsible for major policy decisions.

Opponents of a post-election session are primarily wary of lawmakers passing another catchall omnibus government spending package that would likely include a slew of policy riders.

“It’s the least accountable time for Congress,” Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, told The Hill. “We let people who have either quit or been fired or retired vote on spending billions and billions of taxpayer dollars after their period of accountability has ended.”

“This is something that is supposed to be Republican orthodoxy. That the least accountable government is the worst government,” he said.

Personally, I think the arguments in favor of skipping the lame duck session are obvious. Congress has had all year to get their work done and if they couldn’t complete it in a timely fashion due to partisan gridlock there is little reason to expect that they would have any better luck faithfully executing their duties simply because the pressure of the Christmas break looms over their heads. Further, as noted at The Hill, a certain number of them may fall short of the faithful score under these conditions. Without the weight their next election on their shoulders, the ones who have lost or are retiring may suddenly feel a bit of “freedom” from those they were elected to represent and head off in a different direction. Aside from a very short continuing resolution on the budget if one is needed, there is little on their plate which couldn’t wait for the new members to be sworn in.

But I won’t deny every argument in the other direction. At least in theory, the members of Congress are elected to serve, and their term runs until January. If they’re on the clock they’re supposed to be working, so I’ll at least grant that argument to supporters of the lame duck. But we should also remember that they have constituent services to take care of back home which could productively occupy their time. And besides… any time Congress is doing nothing they are frequently benefiting the nation more than when they’re actually voting.