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House Republicans Seek Privileged Motion to Shut Down Congress for Two Months

Republicans in Congress are eyeing up a two-month paid vacation on taxpayers' dime. (photo: Mrs. eNil via Flickr)

House Republicans have decided to offer a privileged motion tomorrow in the emergency session called to pass the state fiscal aid bill, which would basically end this session of Congress by the end of September.

The House will vote next week on a Republican measure that would prevent Democratic leaders from passing controversial policy initiatives during a lame-duck session of Congress this year.

Republican Study Committee (RSC) Chairman Rep. Tom Price (Ga.) introduced the privileged resolution last Thursday in response to reports that Democratic leaders told their base that they could move big-ticket legislation after the November elections and before the new Congress convenes in January.

Price explained his resolution says that a lame-duck session should not occur unless there were to be a national emergency.

“When [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid [D-Nev.] and Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi [D-Calif.] began talking about telling their folks not to worry about ‘card check’ [legislation], not to worry about the national energy tax, not to worry about a continued increased spending, that they had a plan to do this in a lame-duck session after the election, we began thinking and talking about what options we had, and this was one of them,” Price told The Hill in an interview on Friday.

If the House Democratic leadership had any guts, they would tack an amendment on — or even a motion to recommit the privileged resolution – saying that, if Congress doesn’t come into session in November or December, members would forfeit their salary and health benefits for those final two months of the year. That is 1/6 of the calendar, and surely fiscal conservatives would welcome the opportunity to replenish the Treasury with unnecessary funds for members of Congress who want to vote to end their term early.

We probably won’t see that. However, it strikes me that this kind of privileged resolution could serve progressive ends as well. No lame duck session probably means no corporate-written trade deals with South Korea and Colombia. And it would mean that the deficit commission’s recommendations would not get taken up. What’s not to like? [cont’d.]

What’s more likely, however, is that this effort will not succeed. The chair will rule the motion out of order, and Democrats will most likely side with the chair and prevail on the ruling. But progressives should probably think twice about the political implications here. One other thing that Sam Stein mentions that I hadn’t fully realized was that the balance of power in the Senate could change in that lame duck session:

More important is the fact that in certain Senate elections to replace appointed incumbents (see: Roland Burris or Ted Kaufman) state law dictates that the winner is seated immediately instead of on January 3, 2011. While Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) may end up moving to the political center after the elections, it’s difficult to imagine either one voting for cap-and-trade (in its original form) or the Employee Free Choice Act.

While Chris Coons and Alexi Giannoulias could end up winning those races, Republicans could have at least one more Senator for the lame duck. Which means that only things like trade deals or deficit commission recommendations would have a shot at passing. And nobody on the progressive side should relish that possibility.

CommunityThe Bullpen

House Republicans Seek Privileged Motion to Shut Down Congress for Two Months

House Republicans have decided to offer a privileged motion tomorrow in the emergency session called to pass the state fiscal aid bill, which would basically end this session of Congress by the end of September.

The House will vote next week on a Republican measure that would prevent Democratic leaders from passing controversial policy initiatives during a lame-duck session of Congress this year.

Republican Study Committee (RSC) Chairman Rep. Tom Price (Ga.) introduced the privileged resolution last Thursday in response to reports that Democratic leaders told their base that they could move big-ticket legislation after the November elections and before the new Congress convenes in January.

Price explained his resolution says that a lame-duck session should not occur unless there were to be a national emergency.

“When [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid [D-Nev.] and Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi [D-Calif.] began talking about telling their folks not to worry about ‘card check’ [legislation], not to worry about the national energy tax, not to worry about a continued increased spending, that they had a plan to do this in a lame-duck session after the election, we began thinking and talking about what options we had, and this was one of them,” Price told The Hill in an interview on Friday.

If the House Democratic leadership had any guts, they would tack an amendment on – or even a motion to recommit the privileged resolution – saying that, if Congress doesn’t come into session in November or December, members would forfeit their salary and health benefits for those final two months of the year. That is 1/6 of the calendar, and surely fiscal conservatives would welcome the opportunity to replenish the Treasury with unnecessary funds for members of Congress who want to vote to end their term early.

We probably won’t see that. However, it strikes me that this kind of privileged resolution could serve progressive ends as well. No lame duck session probably means no corporate-written trade deals with South Korea and Colombia. And it would mean that the deficit commission’s recommendations would not get taken up. What’s not to like?

What’s more likely, however, is that this effort will not succeed. The chair will rule the motion out of order, and Democrats will most likely side with the chair and prevail on the ruling. But progressives should probably think twice about the political implications here. One other thing that Sam Stein mentions that I hadn’t fully realized was that the balance of power in the Senate could change in that lame duck session:

More important is the fact that in certain Senate elections to replace appointed incumbents (see: Roland Burris or Ted Kaufman) state law dictates that the winner is seated immediately instead of on January 3, 2011. While Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) may end up moving to the political center after the elections, it’s difficult to imagine either one voting for cap-and-trade (in its original form) or the Employee Free Choice Act.

While Chris Coons and Alexi Giannoulias could end up winning those races, Republicans could have at least one more Senator for the lame duck. Which means that only things like trade deals or deficit commission recommendations would have a shot at passing. And nobody on the progressive side should relish that possibility.

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David Dayen

David Dayen