Mark Kirk, the lame-duck killer

Posted on August 17, 2010 by Marc Thiessen

Last week, House Republicans took a united stand against the Democrats' plans to push through the most unpopular elements of their agenda in a lame-duck session after Election Day. Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) introduced a resolution barring Congress from convening between November and January, except in case of a national emergency. Every Republican save one supported the ban.

House Republicans have no power to stop a lame duck session. But thanks to the filibuster, Senate Republicans do. To have what Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) calls "one of the most significant lame-duck sessions in the history of the United States," Senate Democrats need at least one Republican vote -- which means that if all GOP senators stick together, the lame duck is a dead duck.

They have done so in the past, with 41 Republicans taking a united stand on issues ranging from judicial nominees to financial reform to health care. Common sense dictates they would do the same when it comes to a lame-duck session. After all, the GOP is expected to gain seats on Election Day -- so Senate Republicans would be in a much a stronger position to address any issue that would be considered in a lame-duck session when reinforcements arrive in January.

But Republican leader Mitch McConnell has been strangely silent. His whip, Sen. Jon Kyl, has suggested voting on the new START treaty in a lame-duck session. And one of McConnell's closest confidants, Sen. Judd Gregg (Lame Duck-N.H.), who is retiring, has called for the Senate to vote on the recommendations of President Obama's bipartisan deficit commission (on which he sits), whose report is due on Dec. 1 and may include both entitlement cuts and tax increases. Controversial measures like these should not be enacted with the votes of defeated or retiring politicians -- especially right after an election in which Americans are expected to register a vote of "no confidence" in the current Congress.

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