Lame-Duck Session Churns Out Surprising Successes

This year's lame-duck session of Congress has been anything but lame.

ByABC News
December 20, 2010, 1:26 PM

Dec. 21, 2010— -- This year's lame-duck session of Congress has been anything but lame.

In the past week alone, lawmakers have passed a tax cut compromise bill to avert the biggest tax hike in history and a repeal of the military's controversial "don't Ask, don't Tell policy" on gays serving openly in the military. And its not over yet.

In the coming days Congress could pass a $6 billion measure to help 9/11 first responders and a sweeping food safety bill. The Senate could also ratify the START nuclear treaty with Russia, deemed President Obama's top foreign policy priority for the year-end session.

Ultimately, whether or not START is ratified, analysts believe we may witness the most productive lame-duck session in the history of Congress. At a time when Congress is full of departing lawmakers with one foot out the door – due to retirement or midterm defeat – the recent flurry of activity on Capitol Hill has left Democrats flexing their muscles and Republicans crying foul.

For much of December, it looked like the lame duck would limp to an early end. In fact, the House initially had a target adjournment date of December 3. Over in the Senate, Republicans vowed to oppose all measures until Congress had resolved the issues of taxes and government funding.

"We're simply saying that what the results of the election say to us is that we ought to keep tax rates where they are, freeze spending, fund the government, and go home," the Senate's number-three Republican, Lamar Alexander, (R-Tenn.) said at the start of the month.

The GOP did succeed in getting Democrats to agree to an extension of all the Bush tax cuts and abandon a mammoth $1.1 trillion omnibus spending plan in favor of a short-term funding measure, but Democrats led by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) emerged victorious on other efforts such as repeal of the Pentagon's "don't ask, don't tell" policy towards gays, and the food safety bill.

"Sen. Reid has made it very clear throughout this Congress that he is laser-focused on the challenges facing struggling families and is not afraid to work long hours to address them. The lame duck has been no different," a Reid spokesman told ABC News. "Because of his leadership, we cut taxes for middle-class families, repealed 'don't ask, don't tell,' and passed a bill to make sure that the food we eat is safe. While this session has been filled with Republican obstructionism, we're proud of what we have been able to accomplish for the country and we hope that the Republicans will work with us a little more next year."