United States President Barak Obama late last week signed the final piece of legislation approved by the Democratic-controlled 111th Congress. Now a complete analysis of its eventful lame duck session can be made. The session produced mixed results.
In a major victory for conservatives, income tax cuts were extended by the lame-duck Congress for all. Payroll taxes were also cut 1% for one year, although only for employees, not for employers. As part of the compromise with Obama, unemployment compensation was extended and not offset with spending cuts.
Congress approved the settlement of the Pigford class-action lawsuit, which was based upon alleged discrimination against black farmers, for billions of dollars, despite serious allegations of fraudulent claims that were not investigated.
In another major conservative victory, the massive omnibus spending bill the Obama Administration had proposed was defeated by the lame-duck Congress. Spending was continued at the lower 2010 levels temporarily, which allows the new Republican Congressional majority to pass a less fiscally irresponsible budget. One significant feature of the bill that was killed was funding to initiate Obama’s federalization of health insurance.
In another defeat for Obama, the lame-duck Congress barred funds to try terrorists imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay naval base in the U.S. It also approved aid for the September 11 rescue workers. Conservatives, led by Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), paired down the bill by billions of dollars by rejecting excessive legal fees so that the all of the $2 billion it approved will go to the workers. A liberal immigration bill was defeated in the lame-duck session. It would not only have allowed the children of illegal immigrants to become citizens if they served in the military, but even if they attended college.
Liberals scored two major victories by allowing gays to serve openly in the military and ratifying the START Treaty with Russia. The strategic nuclear treaty was ratified by the Senate only after Obama promised the requisite funds to renew the aging American nuclear force. The Senate also approved a resolution reiterating the U.S. intent to maintain missile defense, notwithstanding the treaty’s preamble, which Russia considers a legal prohibition of American missile defense.
In short, despite some major liberal victories in the Congressional lame duck session, conservatives extended income tax cuts for all, put themselves in a better position to cut this year’s budget, killed a liberal immigration measure and won support for a renewal of the American nuclear force and continuing missile defense. Considering that the lame-duck Congress was controlled by liberal Democrats and that the President is also a liberal Democrat, it is significant that conservatives achieved any victories. The session suggests that the new Republican majority Congress will be able to win even more.