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The lame duck looms


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The lame duck looms


As Congress heads home for August, Republicans and conservative activists have a new rallying cry to energize voters: Fear the Lame Duck!

With dark warnings, GOP members of Congress and right-wing media figures are suggesting that the Democratic majority could use a post-election session of Congress to jam through tax increases, cap and trade, immigration reform and legislation making it easier for unions to organize workers.

The campaign began with a John Fund column in the Wall Street Journal, was picked up by the heavily trafficked Internet gateway The Drudge Report early last month and gained steam when columnist Charles Krauthammer sounded the alarm not long after.

Now the GOP is rallying around the perceived threat of a lame-duck session.

“As long as Washington Democrats in the Senate and the White House continue to float the possibility of enacting portions of their job-killing agenda — like a national energy tax, ‘card check’ or other tax hikes — in a ‘sour grapes’ lame-duck session, House Republicans will continue to press the speaker and every House Democrat to rule it out,” said Michael Steel, spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner. “The will of the American people should be respected.”

The logic behind the lame-duck concerns is straightforward enough: that soon-to-retire and recently defeated members of both parties would be politically liberated to vote for such controversial measures because they don’t have to worry about facing voters again.

But stoking worries about that scenario also serves a strategic purpose: It motivates conservatives by reinforcing fears about the ambitions of an allegedly reckless and nefarious Democratic Congress — providing yet another reason for the grass roots to engage in the campaign — and could generate enough controversy to pre-empt Democrats from considering a lame-duck session between Election Day and the swearing in of the new Congress.

The political reality, however, is that even in a lame-duck session, Democrats would be hard-pressed to come up with a 60-vote majority in the Senate on the sort of hot-button bills now being used to galvanize conservative constituencies.

While some senators headed for the exits may be more inclined to support a lightning-rod issue such as cap and trade, there are still a host of moderate Democrats who will be on the ballot in 2012 and aren’t going to have any more appetite to take a difficult vote on such legislation in December than they were during the regular session.snip
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