Just How Lame Will This Lame Duck Be?

The GOP has named the 22 members of its transition team and it’s ready to get to work. Don’t expect the work for these lawmakers to include any actual law-making, though. Not till January, anyway.

I-35
Three years after the I-35 bridge collapse in Minneapolis killed 13 people, Congress still isn't treating infrastructure investment as an urgent matter. Photo: ##http://www.aolnews.com/article/across-us-infrastructure-is-crumbling/19260420##AP##

The lame duck session, which begins Monday, has a long agenda. On the list of have-to’s:

  • Coming to some agreement about extending the Bush tax cuts, which expire December 31.
  • Passing a continuing resolution, basically a way of not actually passing a budget but avoiding a government shutdown.
  • Fixing the Medicare physician payments, which are set to drop at the end of the year.
  • Extending unemployment benefits, which are also due to expire (though Republicans are insisting on spending cuts before they’ll approve this, so it could be downgraded from a “have-to” to a “really-should”).

Don’t see the President’s $50 billion infrastructure down payment on there? Don’t expect to. And that continuing resolution means that Congress can get out of passing the FY 2011 appropriations bill for Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies. The bill passed in the House over the summer and was sent to the Senate. In general, no real spending measures will likely get voted on right now.

Aside from finding some stalling mechanism to deal with the four items above, neither party has the stomach for big policy debates right now. The Democrats are demoralized and just want to get out of there as quickly as possible. The Republicans would rather have these fights after January 3, when they have 60 more people on their side of the aisle.

Besides, they’re going to be busy. In addition to saving two million people’s unemployment benefits (a “maybe” for the GOP) and saving tax cuts for the richest two percent (a definite “yes” for the GOP), the House is also holding new member orientations, and the parties will hold leadership elections.

So items like infrastructure and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell have fallen off the agenda. Will the Senate take up the nuclear treaty with Russia? That would be nice, wouldn’t it? To reduce the likelihood of nuclear annihilation and whatnot? Republicans are delaying that too.

  • Brandi

    As much as I wish otherwise it seems as if the transportation bill may be DOA. It is a shame because the transportation bill could really be a jobs bill as well. It might be one of the few jobs bills that could muster bipartisan support. I really don’t think there is any excuse not to pass the FY 2011 budget in the lame duck as the FY started on Oct 1. We can expect to see no leadership from Obama as he doesn’t like to stick his neck out too much.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

And So Begins the Long Slog to the Lame Duck

|
The push for a long-term transportation bill is slowly giving way to the reality of an utter lack of consensus around a funding mechanism. The chair of the Senate Finance Committee, which is charged with finding that consensus, indicated today that the job just isn’t possible right now. The Hill reports that Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) […]

Clock Ticks on a Popular Way to Pay for Infrastructure

|
A few weeks ago, when a new ferry was inaugurated in Puget Sound, Washington Governor Chris Gregoire smashed a bottle of champagne and declared, “God bless this boat.” It had been three years since the leaky electric boats that had ferried passengers between Coupeville, Whidbey Island, and Port Townsend were retired three years ago. The new […]

Experts See No New Transportation Bill Before Election

|
Last May, Streetsblog ran an article with the headline “Experts Agree: Six-Year Transportation Bill Won’t Pass This Year.” A lot has happened since then, but we’re still right where we started, butting up against a deadline with more than enough gridlock to give even optimistic experts pause. Here’s where we stand: The current extension of […]

Transpo Bill Update: Congress Tees Up Two More Months of the Same

|
Can anything spur Congress to overhaul a federal transportation policy that lets states run amok building highway expansions while the rest of our infrastructure goes to seed? Don’t hold your breath — the cycle of extending the status quo transportation bill is starting all over again. Last Monday, the Obama Administration began warning state departments of transportation that […]