Political InQueery: Where Do We Go from Here?
The 2010 midterm elections are over. Well, for the most part. It may be a while before all of the ballots are sorted out in the Alaska Senate race, and there's a recount in North Carolina for a House seat, making nine as yet undecided races in that legislative body. And while Washington, DC may be getting prepared to do the staffer's office shuffle, there is still a lame duck session or two for Congress, a host of court cases coming to the Supreme Court, from which new Justice Kagan will frequently have to recuse herself, and some unfinished business on the Don't Ask Don't Tell front, otherwise known as the Clinton legacy that won't go away. I mean, the other unforgettable legacy of his.
Among the near-future issues that may arise:
- This week, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who has said on numerous occasions that he supports repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell, brought up the issue again, saying that he'd like the 111th Congress to push through the repeal. That would be this lame duck Congress. Four separate bills in both houses of this Congress—sister bills H.B. 1286, S. 3065, and H.B. 5136 and S. 3454*—had language to repeal the 1993 law. General Petraeus, head of the forces in the Afghanistan War, has also said he supports repeal. With Nancy Pelosi's springtime promises to ditch the gay military ban and push through passage of ENDA, and the Log Cabin Republicans seeking to void the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling that the law can stay in effect for now, it may indeed come up again before January, when the 112th Congress begins.
- Bush-era tax cuts are set to expire on January 1, 2011, unless the 111th votes to extend them. Although many of the tax cuts are for the wealthiest Americans, several of them do affect other classes of people, including the standard deduction for married couples, the child tax credit, and the baseline percentages for Federal income tax rates. I can't see these getting ignored, as both political parties swear up and down that they care deeply about the nation's economic recovery. And everyone on the Hill can get behind a tax cut.
- Ratification of the START II treaty. This arms reduction treaty with Russia, signed by both heads of state last April, extends the START I treaty that expired last December, and again, there is virtually no political resistance to it.
- Child Nutrition Reauthorization is up again after its latest 5-year period. This is the school breakfast and lunch program. This program has received some pushback in recent years, and it made its way through Congress more slowly than anticipated this year. Even the First Lady wrote an opinion piece to help shore up support for the program.
- Immigration reform, renewable energy standards, revising off-shore drilling regulations, and adding "gender identity or expression" to the Local Law Enforcement Hates Crimes Prevention Act. But hey, we can all get behind tax cuts, right?
Issues that will probably not get taken up in the 61 days of the lame duck Congress:
A final note, since I'm writing about lame duck sessions. Newt Gingrich has been circulating a petition of sorts for people to send to their congressional representatives to "cancel" the lame duck session, or otherwise not vote in any new legislation. But as Slate.com reminds us, Mr. Gingrich himself called together a lame duck session when he was Speaker of the House, in 1998, specifically to vote on articles of impeachment for the President. So I call disingenuous on him.
*The latter two were part of the National Defense Authorization Act, the source of continued Defense Department funding.
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