Don’t Get Used to a Productive Congress

Dec 22, 2010 9:01am

ABC News’ Amy Walter reports:
Not everybody in Congress is happy with what’s shaping up to be the most substantive lame duck session in recent history. GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham (SC) blasted his fellow Republicans in a Fox News radio interview yesterday. “When it’s all going to be said and done, Harry Reid has eaten our lunch,” said Graham. “This has been a capitulation in two weeks of dramatic proportions of policies that wouldn’t have passed the new Congress.”

So, is Graham right? Would some of the more high profile and controversial legislation – like 'don’t ask, don’t tell' repeal and the New START Treaty – have made it in the "new" Congress? Or does the fact that the legislation passed with bi-partisan support presage a more bi-partisan – even functional Congress in 2011?

Don’t bet on it.

Lame Duck Key To 'Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell' The bill repealing the military’s 17-year old policy on gay service members passed 65-31. Voting yes were five Senators who aren’t returning in 2011, Democrats Evan Bayh, Ind., Blanche Lincoln, Ark., Russ Feingold, Wisc., and Arlen Specter, Penn., as well as Republican George Voinovich of Ohio. Conservative Republicans are replacing although Sen. – elect Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania has said he’d vote to support the repeal. Take those four votes out, add a likely “no” vote from Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who missed the vote to attend a family holiday party back home, and you are at 61-32. But, there were also three Republicans who missed the vote, retiring Sens. Jim Bunning, Kent., and Judd Gregg, New Hamp., and conservative Sen. Orin Hatch, Utah. Conservative Republicans – Rand Paul of Kentucky and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, are replacing Bunning and Gregg and Hatch is likely to face a challenge from his right in a 2012 GOP primary. If at least two these Republicans voted no, DADT would have failed.

Parliamentary Procedure Doesn’t Equal Bi-Partisan Success
As they say in sports, Democrats had excellent clock management during this lame duck. Getting the tax deal done quickly (even as there was much consternation among the Democratic caucus) and pulling the omnibus spending bill once the earmark issue threatened to derail it, gave Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., the time he needed to get to the other issues like New START, 'don’t ask, don’t tell' and even the 9/11 First Responders bill.

But, notes ABC’s Matt Jaffe the action of the last two weeks says more about Democrats rush to beat the clock than it does about the willingness for Democrats and Republicans to work together in 2011. The lame duck flurry, writes Jaffe, is “a sign of approaching gridlock, rather than bipartisanship."

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