It’s sad to contemplate, but there is a not-likely-but-real possibility that, in the wake of a large-scale defeat in the November midterms, the Democrats might try to use the constitutionally mandated “lame duck” session of Congress that comes between the elections and the inauguration of the new Congress to ram through legislation they couldn’t pass before the elections. Charles Krauthammer explains:
[Retiring and defeated members] could then vote for anything — including measures they today shun as the midterms approach and their seats are threatened — because they would have nothing to lose. They would be unemployed. And playing along with Obama might even brighten the prospects for, say, an ambassadorship to a sunny Caribbean isle.
As John Fund reports in the Wall Street Journal, Sens. Jay Rockefeller, Kent Conrad and Tom Harkin are already looking forward to what they might get passed in a lame-duck session. Among the major items being considered are card check, budget-balancing through major tax hikes, and climate-change legislation involving heavy carbon taxes and regulation.
Card check, which effectively abolishes the secret ballot in the workplace, is the fondest wish of a union movement to which Obama is highly beholden. Major tax hikes, possibly including a value-added tax, will undoubtedly be included in the recommendations of the president’s debt commission, which conveniently reports by Dec. 1. And carbon taxes would be the newest version of the cap-and-trade legislation that has repeatedly failed to pass the current Congress — but enough dead men walking in a lame-duck session might switch and vote to put it over the top.
It’s a target-rich environment. The only thing holding the Democrats back would be shame, a Washington commodity in chronically short supply. To pass in a lame-duck session major legislation so unpopular that Democrats had no chance of passing it in regular session — after major Democratic losses signifying a withdrawal of the mandate implicitly granted in 2008 — would be an egregious violation of elementary democratic norms.
Charles doesn’t think even the Democrats are that dishonorable, but I’m not so sure. When in the minority from 2003-2006, the Democrats regularly and shamelessly put the electoral interests of their party ahead of the national interest during the war in Iraq, so much so that they reminded me of their Copperhead ancestors of the 1860s.
Then, having taken control of both Congress and the White House in January, 2009, they rammed through ObamaCare in the face of massive public opposition while freezing the opposition out of the process and making use of dishonest parliamentary maneuvers. While the public wanted them to pay attention to jobs and the ailing economy, the Democrats instead went on a spending binge with a pork-laden stimulus package (that only stimulated the debt) and budgets that bore no relation to fiscal reality or the will of the people. They’ve only recently shelved the latest version of their economy-killing and unpopular cap-and-trade bill – perhaps to rise like a zombie in the lame duck session? And, as Krauthammer points out, that isn’t all that’s on their progressive wish list.
Like all good progressive statists, the dominant wing of the Democratic Party believes government elites know better than the people what’s good for the people and that we “just don’t understand.” They need us to vote them into office but, once there, they have no further need to listen to us. (Remember the resentment they showed at the town-hall meetings in the summer of 2009 –or more recently?) And because they see themselves as an elite that knows better than everyone else what the nation needs, it’s not hard for me to imagine a good number of them acting out of pique at having their mandate withdrawn in November and thinking “Fine, we’ll show you!”
The prospect of a legislative finger flipped at the public in a lame-duck session reminds me of nothing so much as a line from Moby Dick – or the best of the Star Trek movies:
“To the last, I grapple with thee; From Hell’s heart, I stab at thee; For hate’s sake, I spit my last breath at thee”
If that happens, the Republicans should go into total-filibuster mode, blocking everything except the most routine legislation. In the short window of a lame-duck session, they can probably hold the line.
After which the Democrats, like Khan, can enter a well-deserved exile.
UPDATE: I knew it, I just knew it!
(Crossposted at Public Secrets)