From Human Events…
The Legacy of the Lame Duck
By John Hayward
Pundits are winding down the year by fighting over the legacy of the lame-duck session of Congress. President Obama lauded it as a “season of progress,” which is a strong argument for never having another one. I wonder how much the next Congress will deliberately put off until the next “season of progress,” when they can push agendas as if they were selling parachutes on a crashing airplane.
Hearing any liberal talk about “progress” makes my wallet clench painfully. “Progress” is the inevitable growth of the State in their lexicon, while returning any measure of liberty to the people is “regressive.” In that spirit, I would submit that the legacy of the lame-duck session is that it taught Obama how to find that reverse gear on the American bus, a gear he previously insisted did not exist.
The big legislative achievements fueling the Obama “comeback” narrative are an arms deal, and the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, both of which are fairly neutral concerning the growth of the State. (Perhaps DADT repeal will create some new positions for military lawyers, depending on how things go.) The great Obama defeats on tax and spending policy tower far above both. Even the 9/11 First Responders relief bill, passed with great fanfare yesterday, is more of a win for the Republicans.
On tax policy, Obama was dragged into a deal that maintained tax rates for all income brackets, despite immense liberal pressure – and a clear longing on the President’s part – to soak the rich. This was a huge defeat for the Left, and they know it. By the time Obama signed the bill, liberals were arguing over who should run against Joe Biden in the 2012 primaries.
The pricey unemployment extensions included in the tax deal were an expansion of the State, to be sure, and should have been paid for with cuts in other spending, according to the Democrats’ long forgotten “Pay-Go” promises. The Democrats still controlled both houses of Congress in this session, so there was no way that was going to happen. The payoffs written into the Senate version of the tax deal were also troubling. The new Republicans in Congress have promised better for next year. We must hold them to that promise. What they won in the “Bush tax cut” showdown has more long-term significance than what they conceded. I’d grade their performance a solid B-plus.
The defeat of the omnibus spending package was an amazing victory, and the GOP influence on the 9/11 bill even more so. In both cases, media frenzy and ticking-clock pressure were resisted by an outnumbered Republican caucus, imposing fiscal discipline in the face of desperate demands to abandon all restraint. That’s a far more impressive achievement than Obama peeling off a few clubby Beltway Republicans to pass his START treaty, and give Russia the permanent tactical nuclear advantage he promised them.
At the very least, Washington dropped into neutral during the lame-duck session, and some very serious Republican leaders are promising to ring in the New Year with the rusty screech of that reverse gear, which hasn’t been used in decades. Not a bad legacy for what America should make her final lame-duck congress, if she has any common sense.