Lame Duck Hysteria


Charles Krauthammer writes today about the latest fever dream making the rounds among conservatives: the possibility that even after taking a drubbing in the midterm elections, Democrats will use their existing majority for one last hurrah in a lame duck session during December:

Assuming the elections go as currently projected, Obama’s follow-on reforms are dead. Except for the fact that a lame-duck session, freezing in place the lopsided Democratic majorities of November 2008, would be populated by dozens of Democratic members who had lost reelection (in addition to those retiring). They could then vote for anything — including measures they today shun as the midterms approach and their seats are threatened — because they would have nothing to lose. They would be unemployed. And playing along with Obama might even brighten the prospects for, say, an ambassadorship to a sunny Caribbean isle.

….Card check, which effectively abolishes the secret ballot in the workplace, is the fondest wish of a union movement to which Obama is highly beholden. Major tax hikes, possibly including a value-added tax, will undoubtedly be included in the recommendations of the president’s debt commission, which conveniently reports by Dec. 1. And carbon taxes would be the newest version of the cap-and-trade legislation that has repeatedly failed to pass the current Congress — but enough dead men walking in a lame-duck session might switch and vote to put it over the top.

I’m just stonkered here. Don’t get me wrong: I’d be cheering from the sidelines if I thought Democrats could do any of this stuff. But the last time I looked, legislation still has to be passed by both the House and the Senate. And the Senate has only 59 Democrats, many of whom aren’t reliable votes in any kind of session, lame duck or otherwise. So as long as Republicans stick together — and they will — and continue to filibuster everything — and they will — nothing of any consequence will pass.

This could be different if Democrats had passed a budget resolution this year and included reconciliation instructions in it. In theory, they’d then be able to pass spending-related measures with only 51 votes. But they didn’t do that, so they can’t. They need 60. And they don’t have it.

So here’s my question: who’s crazy here? All the conservatives yammering on about this? Or me? Am I missing something here? Are last year’s reconciliation instructions still valid until the end of the congressional session? Help me out, Stan Collender. What’s going on?