It’s the most dangerous time of an election year on Capitol Hill. It’s neither rabbit season nor duck season. It’s lame duck season, which means that crazy things may (and probably will) transpire between now and the first session of the new Congress in January.
With a huge spending bill to pass before a government shutdown on December 9th, we will see as much fluff squeezed into it as possible. That’s the problem with lame duck legislation. Many of the people voting on it have no accountability to the voters. On their way out the door, they can do what’s best for them, their cronies, or even their future lobby bosses.
The lame duck session also gives the major parties an out so they don’t have to address controversial items before an election. The punted impeachment of IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, while not directly attached to the lame duck session, is an example of something that would have happened if this weren’t an election year.
All business should be taken care of before the election. Voters will have a chance of holding Congress accountable with their votes. Important decisions won’t be made by people who won’t even be around in a couple of months. Doing so will help to reduce instances of real or perceived corruption such as the infamous reindeer farmer who swung the vote for a trillion dollar “cromnibus” in 2014.
Should Congress do anything during lame duck sessions? Of course. They should be prepared to handle emergencies. This doesn’t require a pre-established session; unlike the Great Depression and WWII, we should be able to pull Congress together quickly in case of emergency. What they should be doing during lame duck sessions is preparation. Transition of a new Congress is relatively smooth today, but it can be improved. Moreover, the time can be used by politicians who will be part of the next Congress to work towards future legislation that’s voted on during the first session of the next Congress. This will allow Congress to work more efficiently by reducing the learning curve and preparation time.
All of this can be done through Constitutional Amendment, though such a drastic measure hasn’t been necessary since the ratification of the 20th Amendment. Instead, internal rules can be put into place and agreed upon by both chambers and both parties. The rules could be changed in the future, of course, so it wouldn’t be as powerful as an Amendment, but it’s better than nothing. Perhaps if we ever hold a Convention of States, we could include such an Amendment, though it’s unlikely something so small would even hit the radar.
There are bigger issues to address, but we can’t continue to let the smaller issues slide as a result. Lame duck sessions can be easily resolved. We simply need enough people to stand up and say they don’t want the most corrupt seasons of every election year to continue to harm the nation.