Monday, October 15, 2012

Why the Lame Duck Session Will be Kind-Of Lame - And Why You Should Still Pay Attention

Avoiding the fiscal cliff.  Medicare reimbursement for physicians.  Our nation's entire agriculture policy. Afghanistan. This is the short list of the issues Congress needs to address in one way or another between November 13th and December 31st.  Yes, they have to solve the entire nation of Afghanistan, or at least the nearly 17% cut in military spending that will happen on January 1st if Congress doesn't act.  In fact, here's the longer version of the lame duck agenda:
  • Sequestration
  • Welfare reform
  • Medicare reimbursement
  • Defense spending
  • Iran
  • Tax cuts
  • Farm Bill
  • Post Office
  • Russia
  • Violence Against Women

Being able to address all this seems, at a minimum, unlikely, given that Congress has not been so successful at getting things done this session.  Only about 2% of the 10,000 bills introduced so far have become law.  Now, let me be clear that this back of the envelope analysis does not include bills that were incorporated into other bills or otherwise moved through the process.  OK, so let's imagine that 5 times as many bills really passed.  That's about 10%.  Still, ummm, less than stellar.

That said, I have to say that I've never been a fan of measuring Congressional success by the percentage of bills passed, even though I just did it.  Anyone who's read my musings for a while knows that I've always held hard and fast to the idea that Congress is designed to be completely and totally inefficient.  In fact, in the eyes of the founding fathers, 10% or even 2% might be too much. 

Given that fact, I'm expecting a whole bunch of punting to be happening in the next few months, and I don't mean football (although it will probably happen there as well).  Advocates must still be on the alert and engaged -- after all, we can't be sure which issues will gain traction.  We also can't know which issues will wind up in traction.  Just don't expect everything, or even most things, to be finally settled by December 31st.

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