Politics & Policy

The Fired Congress

In December, more than a dozen senators will come back to Washington and decide how much more tax money to take from Americans, without being accountable to any of them.

Some companies have a policy that once someone is fired, they aren’t allowed back on the premises out of fear they might do further damage to the company. It’s too bad Congress doesn’t have the same policy. Because before they’re replaced in January, all of the Democrats who are put out of a job in November will be able to come back and rob the nation blind.

More than a dozen senators will come back to Washington and decide how much more tax money to take from Americans, without being accountable to any of them. Higher taxes, cap-and-trade, amnesty, and card check will be top-priority items for the Fired Congress, otherwise known as the lame-duck Congress. They’re also likely to roll unfinished appropriations bills into a massive, pork-stuffed omnibus to snag every last possible earmark on their way out of Washington.

This must not happen. The only acceptable outcome of the lame-duck session is a continuing resolution to keep government operating at current levels of spending and taxation, as I pushed the Senate to do in 2006 after Republicans lost the majority to the Democrats. No last-minute earmarks, no add-ons, no tax increases, and no big deficit spending.

By simply passing a continuing resolution that kept the government funded at current levels until February 2007, Republicans stopped more than 10,000 earmarks from being enacted and prevented big spenders in Congress from wasting billions of dollars on pork-barrel projects. Then, 2007 became the year without earmarks, because when that temporary continuing resolution expired in February, Congress extended it for the rest of the year. We should adopt the same approach during the 2010 lame-duck session.

To stop a wasteful omnibus and instead secure a continuing resolution, Republicans must hold together. Fortunately, the GOP may have a few reinforcements on the way. Three new senators will take office immediately following the midterms — one each from Delaware, Illinois, and West Virginia, where special elections are being held to replace temporarily appointed senators. And the Republicans running in these races are eager to help.

Illinois Republican Senate candidate Mark Kirk has promised that if he wins, “I will become the 42nd Republican senator, with the opportunity to put the brakes on any lame-duck overreach.”

Delaware Republican candidate Christine O’Donnell has made it part of her pitch, too. “Who do you want serving in that lame-duck session?” she has said. “Someone who’s going to promote that very liberal agenda that can’t even get enough Democratic support, or someone who is going to push back against the establishment?”

West Virginia’s Republican Senate candidate, John Raese, who is up in the polls, has stated unequivocally that he would oppose the Democrats’ lame-duck agenda. He has said, “It is completely inappropriate for House and Senate Democrats, who would be in cahoots with President Obama, to take up any legislation that would significantly affect the country after an election that will considerably alter the political landscape of Congress. Any attempt to do so would be a slap in the face to all Americans who voted for a change from the liberal status quo.”

More candidates should go on the record with such statements. There’s a whole month of campaigning left before the midterms, and voters can extract promises from their elected officials not to let the Fired Congress pass major legislation. This is a reasonable request that even the Democrats should be able to support. Colorado Republican Senate candidate Ken Buck has called on Democratic senator Michael Bennet to promise to oppose any tax hikes Harry Reid may try to ram through during the lame-duck session. All Senate Democrats up for election this year should be asked to do the same.

Getting more elected officials to speak out against a spendthrift lame-duck session can help deter the Democratic leadership from cramming it with votes. It’s been reported that Democrats are considering as many as 20 pieces of legislation to bring up for a vote. After failing to get the New START Treaty (an agreement that hurts America’s missile-defense systems) ratified, to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and to pass legislation to give amnesty to illegal aliens, Democrats see opportunity after the elections, when a number of their members won’t have anything to lose.

Democrats are also hoping that the pressure of a Christmas deadline will get some Republicans to break their way. White House senior adviser David Axelrod recently said he thinks Republicans will “blink” and help Democrats raise taxes as the end-of-the year deadline approaches. Republicans must not cave.

Democrats are playing political games and Americans are going to fire them for it in November. When the Democrats come back in December to box up their personal belongings, Republicans must make sure that’s all they take with them.

— Jim DeMint is a U.S. senator from South Carolina.

Jim DeMint is the chairman of the Conservative Partnership Institute.

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