Entries in Lame-Duck Session (6)


Poll: Americans Applaud Lame Duck; Will Quacking Continue?

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Americans overwhelmingly welcomed the flurry of lawmaking between the lame-duck Congress and President Obama last month -- but they're hedging their bets on whether the duck keeps quacking.

In the latest ABC News/Yahoo! News poll, 77 percent say it was good for Obama and Congress to agree to lame-duck legislation on tax cuts, unemployment benefits, gays in the military, the START treaty and aid to 9/11 responders.  That percentage includes majorities across the spectrum -- 91 percent of Democrats, 79 percent of independents and 62 percent of Republicans.

Yet, despite what the lame-duck session achieved, Americans divide evenly on the chances that Obama and the Republicans in Congress will work together on important issues in the year ahead.  Forty-eight percent are optimistic about it -- just 14 percent "strongly" so -- but about just as many, 46 percent, are pessimistic about the prospects for political cooperation.

Optimism peaks among Democrats -- 60 percent see cooperation ahead.  That drops to 46 percent of independents and four in 10 Republicans in this poll, produced for ABC and Yahoo! News by Langer Research Associates.

The survey was conducted before the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 18 others in Tucson, Arizona.  Further polling will indicate whether that event and its aftermath impact public views of the prospects for political cooperation. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


DeMint Wants Treaty Read, But Missed Hearings

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Frustrated with Sen. Jim DeMint’s support for a move to require an oral reading of the START nuclear disarmament treaty with Russia -- a move that could take as long as 12-15 hours in these waning lame-duck days -- an Obama administration official notes that DeMint only attended five of the 12 Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings on START, nor was he present for the final vote to order the treaty reported on the 16th.

DeMint attended the May 18 and 19, June 15 and 24, and July 14 Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings, plus the Committee markup session on Sept. 16. 

Tweeted Jim Manley, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.: “# of hours to read START on Sen. floor = 12-15, # of comm. hearings DeMint missed on START = 7. No wonder he needs to have it read to him.”

DeMint spokesman Wesley Denton says that his boss supports the reading of the full treaty precisely as a way to delay the vote.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio 


Plenty of Work Left for Lame-Duck Senate Before Holiday Break

Photo Courtesy - Reid[dot]Senate[dot]gov(WASHINGTON) -- After the the vote on final passage of the tax bill, the next big-ticket item for lawmakers to tackle will be the new START treaty with Russia.

“We’re going to move as soon as we can to the START treaty,” Majority Leader Harry Reid said Tuesday.

Debate on the nuclear pact could begin as soon as Wednesday morning. A slew of Republicans led by Sen. Jon Kyl have argued that there is not enough time left to consider the treaty before the next Congress, but now Democrats are set to move forward with it, a move that will please President Obama who has called it his top foreign policy priority for the lame-duck session.

Democrats will need 67 votes to ratify the pact, but they would not have decided to move forward with it if they were not confident that they have the votes to pass it, according to a senior Democratic aide. To date, only a handful of Republicans including Sen. Dick Lugar of Indiana and Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine have announced their support for the treaty. 

If the Senate does begin debate on the pact on Wednesday, that would mean lawmakers will have to simultaneously figure out a way to fund the government before the latest continuing resolution runs out on Saturday. Senate Democrats, led by Appropriations panel chairman Daniel Inouye, have filed a $1.1-trillion, 2,000-page omnibus bill that includes numerous earmarks.

The expected decision to dual-track the START treaty and the funding bill is a last-ditch effort by Reid to speed up the Senate’s pace on two key issues as Christmas inches ever closer. In addition to those two matters, Reid has also said he wants to act on the stand-alone "don’t ask, don’t tell" repeal and the DREAM Act immigration measure, even if it ends up throwing a wrench into lawmakers’ holiday plans.

“We are going to complete our work no matter how long it takes in this Congress,” Reid said. “We have to do the work of the American people.” 

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


A Week Away From Government Shutdown, Senate Set to Take Up Omnibus

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- For all the talk about taxes lately, the Senate’s only must-do issue in the lame-duck session is extending government funding into next year, a fight that appears set to take place late next week.

Senators are up against a clear deadline: the latest continuing resolution to keep the government running ends at 12:01a.m. on Sunday, Dec. 19. Either Congress acts before then or there is a federal shutdown.

The House has already acted. On Wednesday, the lower chamber of Congress passed a new continuing resolution worth $1.1 trillion to fund the government through the end of the 2011 fiscal year. The House bill contains a two-year freeze on federal civilian worker pay, resolves revenue discrepancies with the Senate’s food safety bill, includes a provision that bans the transfer of terrorism suspects from the Guantanamo Bay prison to the US, provides $513 billion overall for the Pentagon and freezes discretionary spending at 2010 levels.

But the Senate next week is likely to amend the bill into a $1.1 trillion omnibus measure crafted by Sen. Daniel Inouye, chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee. The bill will reportedly provide around $20 billion more than the House one.

Whatever happens, it will have to happen fast. The Senate is set to have its first procedural vote on the tax bill Monday, so it is likely that the chamber will not take up the omnibus until Wednesday at the earliest. That would mean that both the Senate and the House would have to pass it by the end of Saturday if lawmakers are to avert a government shutdown.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Mitch McConnell Lays Out Legislative Priorities; Talks Bipartisanship

Photo Courtesy - The White House/ Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- Fresh out of his meeting with President Obama, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky told ABC News he sees at least two areas where Republicans and Democrats can work together as the 111th Congress expires.

"One thing I think we all agreed on at the White House was that we ought to do first things first and what the American people want to know is are my taxes going up and how are you going to fund the government," McConnell told ABC News.

When it comes to bipartisan cooperation during the lame duck session, the stakes are high and get higher as final adjournment creeps closer. Emergency unemployment insurance expired Tuesday night.  Friday, funding for the federal government runs out and, in a little over a month, the Bush tax cuts will expire.

Republicans support extending Bush-era tax cuts for all Americans, while the president and Democrats, citing the burden on the deficit of across-the-board tax cuts, say that extension should not apply to the wealthy.

McConnell signaled a willingness to compromise on how long to extend the tax cuts but drew a red line on the issue of extending them for everybody, regardless of income level.

"One hundred percent of Senate Republicans and several Senate Democrats believe we should not be raising taxes on anybody in the middle of a recession," McConnell said.  "We can discuss how long this existing extension of tax policy should be."

The dialogue between Republicans and Democrats will continue in January when congressional leaders join the president at Camp David.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Obama Risks Democratic Revolt in Lame-Duck Session

Photo Courtesy - Sean Gallup/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In a lame-duck session that will be anything but lame, the ties that bind the Democratic Party will be tested anew.

The week's big focus will be on the bipartisan summit to be held Tuesday at the White House -- a key indicator of how the president plans to govern under the new reality imposed by voters in the midterm elections.

But it's President Obama's relationship with his own party in its waning weeks of total control of Washington that still will determine a range of policy outcomes.  Moves to the right in the coming weeks will be viewed with skepticism on the left, as Democrats still must guard against a revolt inside their ranks in their final weeks in control of the House.

Before a new House majority takes power, Congress convenes for a final burst of legislating with a crowded agenda that includes expiring tax cuts and unemployment benefits, a push to repeal the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, and attempted ratification of a key nuclear weapons treaty with Russia.

In the middle lands the report of the president's deficit commission, the recommendations of which appear likely to provide a stark choice for a president who's seeking new footing.

The co-chairmen's initial recommendations were denounced by those on both sides of the aisle.  Particular vitriol emanated by leading Democrats, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pronouncing the draft proposal "simply unacceptable."

The president has stayed mostly mum so far on the commission report.  While he'll come under pressure to embrace its broad principles, Democrats will balk if he's seen as backing cuts to favored programs such as Social Security.

"Simply unacceptable" is also an apt summation of many leading Democrats' stance toward the likeliest emerging compromises on the expiring Bush tax cuts.

Top House Democrats continue to insist that the tax cuts for upper-income earners be allowed to expire.  Republicans and some moderate Democrats want all the tax cuts extended.  Obama has vowed repeatedly to allow them to lapse for couples making more than $250,000 a year.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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