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Progress Waddles Forward: Risks and Opportunities in the Lame Duck Session

a photo of a duck
Flickr photo by D H Wright

Taken literally, the term “lame duck” refers to an injured duck that is unable to keep up with its flock.

On Tuesday, November 13, the month-long “lame duck” session of the 112th Congress will begin – and we’ll get a hint of whether the next session will be as plagued as the current session with partisan obstructionism.

If you have members of Congress who were voted out on Election Day or are retiring, the next few weeks is their last chance to make their mark. These lawmakers are the lame ducks.

In Congress, lame ducks will be indeed be left to fend for themselves as their “flock” of reelected peers prepares to join the newly elected  (or “freshman”) members in January, when the 113th Congress is sworn in.

Lame duck lawmakers are notoriously unpredictable. They no longer need to worry about raising money for reelection, so they are more free to stand up to corporate lobbyists and other moneyed interests.

However, because they’re not seeking reelection, they’re also less accountable to their constituents. Worse, they’re vulnerable to offers of cushy jobs at lobbying firms, where former lawmakers all-too-often receive six-figure salaries in exchange for doing Corporate America’s bidding and perpetuate Washington’s “revolving door” problem.

The upcoming lame duck session (scheduled to last from November 13 until December 14) is fraught with opportunities and threats:

In these few short weeks, here’s some of the progress Public Citizen will be fighting for:

  • Against a backdrop of many politicians who favor resolving the federal budget dispute by imposing crippling austerity measures, we’ll be fighting for a tiny (0.03 percent) tax on Wall Street’s risky, high-speed speculation. The Wall Street Trading and Speculators Tax Act (H.R. 3313, S. 1787), which has growing support in both the House and Senate, would help stabilize the financial system and raise more than $350 billion over 10 years. We’ll also be calling for an end to taxpayer subsidies for fossil fuel corporations.
  • And Public Citizen will lay the groundwork for a big push in the next Congress for reforms to fight the corporate money inundating our elections. Top priorities include restoring accountability and transparency with the DISCLOSE Act and Shareholder Protection Act, an executive order requiring government contractors to disclose their political spending, and continuing to grow support for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

There are also a number of threats we’ll be fending off:

  • Any attempt to cut or weaken Medicare. This popular, successful program provides universal healthcare for seniors. If anything, the qualifying age for Medicare should be lowered so that everyone can benefit from this single-payer system, not raised.
  • The Independent Regulatory Agency Analysis Act (S. 3468), which would give Wall Street-friendly members of any White House administration the power to impede independent regulators like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
  • An attempt to undermine patients’ rights by letting the medical industry go virtually unpunished when patients are harmed or killed by the industry’s negligence or recklessness.

Public Citizen’s issue experts will be monitoring these issues closely, and I, along with the rest of our online team, will let you know about opportunities to take action in order to maximize progress during the lame duck session – and to fend off attempts to betray the public interest for the sake of corporate greed.

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