Democrats are considering cramming as many as 20 pieces of legislation into the lame-duck session they plan to hold after the Nov. 2 election.
The array of bills competing for floor time shows the sense of urgency among Democratic lawmakers to act before the start of the 112th Congress, when Republicans are expected to control more seats in the Senate and House.
But, given the slow pace of the Senate, it also all but guarantees that Democrats will be hard-pressed to pass even a small part of their lame-duck agenda.
The highest-profile item for November and December is the tax cuts of 2001 and 2003, passed under President George W. Bush, which expire at year’s end.
Democrats have promised they will not allow tax rates to rise for families making less than $250,000 a year.
Democratic leaders have also prioritized the defense authorization bill, which includes a repeal of the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that bans gays from serving openly in the military.
On many of these bills, Democrats in the Senate are going to have to win some Republican support due to the threat of a filibuster, which Democrats are again threatening to change next year. On the extension of the Bush tax cuts, Republicans are promising to block any tax increase, so a compromise of some sort with have to be worked out or all Americans will see tax hikes.
You may have heard in recent days that the poverty rate in the United States jumped as a result of the recent recession. No doubt this will be used to justify more increases in spending, though Washington hasn’t needed a recession to increase spending on anti-poverty programs.
This chart from the Heritage Foundation shows spending for the individual programs and how much they have increased over the last 10 years. Note that while spending for welfare programs is at a record high, it has been a record levels since the “compassionate conservative” presidency of George W. Bush.
Despite all of this spending, the poverty rate has not only not changed, it has gone up, and since the passage of Great Society programs, which include Medicare and Medicaid, the trillions of dollars spent in the War on Poverty have been as effective as government crusades against some social ill, such as the War on Drugs, has been…a failure.
With just under 100 days until one of the largest tax hikes in American history, Democrats are holding off on extending any of the Bush tax cuts until a lame duck session after the mid-term election:
Only nine days ago Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had told reporters that the Senate would vote before lawmakers head home at the end of this month for a last-minute campaign push, but that now looks extremely unlikely.
“I don’t know if it’s possible timing-wise now,” said Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., told reporters before the meeting. “Given the amount of time that we have and where the votes are I’m not sure we can get it completed because the Republicans will filibuster one thing and you won’t have enough votes for the other, so you wind up not getting 60 votes. And where does that leave you?”
But it’s not merely a timing issue – it’s also a political one. Some Democrats prefer to delay the vote until the lame-duck session because Republicans have already started to accuse them of trying to raise taxes in the middle of a recession.
In addition to facing opposition from members of his own party who are embroiled in re-election battles, Reid also faces dissent from at least five Senate Democrats who agree with Republican plans to extend all the tax cuts – even for the wealthy – for at least a year or two as the economy recovers.
One of those Democrats – Senate Budget Committee chairman Kent Conrad, D-ND – told reporters that Senate action on the tax cuts can wait until later this year.
“It’s not imperative in the sense that anybody’s tax rate is going to change,” said Conrad.
As I noted on Tuesday, 60% of economists support extension of all of the Bush tax cuts. To drive the point home comes a letter from the National Taxpayers Union signed by 313 economists expressing concern that if Democrats and President Barack Obama if fail to do the right thing that they will kill jobs:
Failing to extend the reduced tax rates implemented in 2001 and 2003 would constitute a profound and damaging “anti-stimulus” that would harm our prospects for expansion in the near future. The 10 percent bracket would disappear, and the three middle tax brackets would rise by three percentage points, heaping heavier burdens on the working class and wealthy alike. The top marginal income tax rate would rise from 35 percent to 39.6 percent, leading to higher tax bills not just for wealthy individuals but for many small businesses that file their taxes through the individual income tax system. Capital gains and dividend taxes would rise from top rates of 15 percent each to 20 percent and 39.6 percent, respectively, penalizing entrepreneurship and potentially leading to a harmful sell-off of assets in December of this year. Americans would also see the return of the now-defunct estate tax at a top rate of 55 percent, jeopardizing the ability of family businesses to remain intact as they pass to the next generation.
The House of Representatives isn’t supposed to adjourn for the fall until October 2nd, but it looks like they may dip out of Washington as early as the end of this week, giving members extra time to head home and campaign before what is expected to be a disasterous mid-term election for Democrats.
However, there is no sign that Congress will vote on extending any of the Bush tax cuts, even for the middle class, before heading home. And some Democrats, such as Sen. Dianne Feinstein, don’t want to take that vote before the election:
While Democratic leaders ponder whether to vote on extending the Bush-era tax cuts before the November midterm elections, California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein said Tuesday that she thinks it would be a terrible idea.
“I don’t know who takes a tax vote in their right mind just before an election,” Feinstein told The Daily Caller. “But that’s just me.”
When asked when she thought Democratic Senate leadership would call for a vote, Feinstein said she did not know but guessed it would occur during the lame-duck session after the midterms.
“We have toward the end of the year to do it so I would assume it’s after the election,” she said.
Over at Hot Air, Ed Morrissey notes that Congress has not passed budgets for the next fiscal year, which begins in October. Democrats are blaming Republicans, which as Morrissey says, is ridiculous considering all they need is a simple majority to move a budget through Congress:
The Constitution of most of our states (and of the United States) assert that all power is inherent in the people; that they may exercise it by themselves; that it is their right and duty to be at all times armed and that they are entitled to freedom of person, freedom of religion, freedom of property, and freedom of press.” - Thomas Jefferson
Today is Constitution Day, a day set aside by Congress, a body that largely ignores our nation’s founding document. What were once viewed to be basic natural rights, the concepts of life, liberty and property are subject to the will of the mob for the benefit of the “common good.”
This isn’t something that happened when Barack Obama or when Democrats took office, it has been going on for some time (more on that in a second). Not only are Democrats and Republicans to blame, but “We the People” also deserve a share of the blame,
While testifying before the House Judiciary Committee in 2008, Bob Barr warned, “Every administration that comes in takes the powers that it inherits from its predecessor as a floor, not a ceiling.” During his campaign for the presidency, Barack Obama promised to reign in the power of the executive, including some of the expansions claimed by his predecessor. However, we seen a further erosion of esstential liberties and limitations placed on our government by the Constitution.
As both chambers of Congress come back in session after the summer break, taxes are taking center stage on two different fronts. The Obama Administration is pushing a tax hike on oil and gas companies that would have devastating affects on the economy:
President Obama’s proposed tax increases on oil and gas companies would cause over 154,000 workers to lose their jobs, according to a new report by Louisiana State University economist Dr. Joseph Mason.
The report also finds that Obama’s proposal would reduce economic output by $341 billion and create over $68 billion in lost wages nationwide.
“Though politicians think they are selectively targeting ‘Big Oil’ with these energy tax proposals, they would actually devastate thousands of small American businesses nationwide as well as the workers who depend on them,” Mason said in prepared remarks. “With at least 150,000 U.S. jobs at stake — in fields ranging from healthcare to real estate — it’s clear that the cost of repealing Section 199 and dual capacity far outweigh the potential benefit of increased government revenues that may be derived from the proposal.”
The president has targeted the oil industry since the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico at the end of April, first with the off-shore drilling moratorium and now with new taxes. Louisiana is dependent on off-shore drilling and is adversely impacted by the administration’s populism.
The Democrats are going to lose, but the Republicans aren’t going to win.
There’s been a feud going on inside the Republican Party since 2007 and the issue of fiscal responsibility is finally center stage for most Americans. This is unlike the feud of 1994, that so many in the Republican establishment hope it is. The 1994 feud was lost by the fiscal Conservatives and gave a rebirth to Neocons and RINO’s for 12 years.
Now, in 2010, the leaderless Tea Party movement has the attention of political pundits everywhere. Democrats don’t understand the grassroots movement and the Republican establishment is afraid of it because of what it represents: political accountability. As Jason noted, we now have five Tea Party candidates who have secured GOP nominations for U.S. Senate.
As Jim DeMint says
These candidates are leaders in their own right.
What I’m interested in is turning this country away from its fiscal cliff — and for the first time since Reagan, I think that we have a chance for real action, not just political posturing.
And Dick Armey
[L]et us be clear about one thing: The tea party movement is not seeking a junior partnership with the Republican Party, but a hostile takeover of it.
When Republicans retake the Senate majority they may have to deal with the Tea Party and the fact that they don’t really have a majority. I, myself, want to see a RINO and a Tea Party Senator arguing on the floor. People need to see the duopoly for what it is, and infighting in the Republican Party will show that.
I’ll leave you with my prediction for the November election:
Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) is pushing back against a theme Democrats are using in the mid-term elections by reminding voters that George W. Bush has been out of office for almost two years and Democrats have had control of Congress for almost four years:
It’s been four years since President George W. Bush could be held responsible for the nation’s economy, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) said Monday evening.
DeMint dismissed a key part of Democrats’ midterm messaging — warning voters against a return to Bush-era policies — reasoning that Democrats have been controlling U.S. economic policies during the past four years in which they’ve controlled Congress.
“The president [Obama] keeps saying he inherited this, but the fact is that it’s been four years since President Bush had anything to do with economic policy,” DeMint said during an appearance on WVOC radio in South Carolina.
The South Carolina conservative sought to rebut an argument advanced by Democrats from President Obama on down in recent months: Returning Republicans to power in Congress would mean a return to some of the policies voters found less popular during the Bush administration.
“The policies that crashed the economy, that undercut the middle class, that mortgaged our future, do we really want to go back to that, or do we keep moving our country forward?” Obama said Monday at a Democratic fundraiser, part of a sustained effort to hammer away at Bush.
The latest weekly generic congressional ballot from Gallup shows Republicans maintaining their lead over Democrats as well as holding a 16 point advantage in voter enthusiasm.
Here is a look at voter enthusiasm: