a photo of a duck

Flickr photo by D H Wright

Taken literally, the term “lame duck” refers to an injured duck that is unable to keep up with its flock.

On Tuesday, November 13, the month-long “lame duck” session of the 112th Congress will begin – and we’ll get a hint of whether the next session will be as plagued as the current session with partisan obstructionism.

If you have members of Congress who were voted out on Election Day or are retiring, the next few weeks is their last chance to make their mark. These lawmakers are the lame ducks.

In Congress, lame ducks will be indeed be left to fend for themselves as their “flock” of reelected peers prepares to join the newly elected  (or “freshman”) members in January, when the 113th Congress is sworn in.

Lame duck lawmakers are notoriously unpredictable. They no longer need to worry about raising money for reelection, so they are more free to stand up to corporate lobbyists and other moneyed interests.

However, because they’re not seeking reelection, they’re also less accountable to their constituents. Worse, they’re vulnerable to offers of cushy jobs at lobbying firms, where former lawmakers all-too-often receive six-figure salaries in exchange for doing Corporate America’s bidding and perpetuate Washington’s “revolving door” problem.

The upcoming lame duck session (scheduled to last from November 13 until December 14) is fraught with opportunities and threats:

In these few short weeks, here’s some of the progress Public Citizen will be fighting for:

  • Against a backdrop of many politicians who favor resolving the federal budget dispute by imposing crippling austerity measures, we’ll be fighting for a tiny (0.03 percent) tax on Wall Street’s risky, high-speed speculation. The Wall Street Trading and Speculators Tax Act (H.R. 3313, S. 1787), which has growing support in both the House and Senate, would help stabilize the financial system and raise more than $350 billion over 10 years. We’ll also be calling for an end to taxpayer subsidies for fossil fuel corporations.
  • And Public Citizen will lay the groundwork for a big push in the next Congress for reforms to fight the corporate money inundating our elections. Top priorities include restoring accountability and transparency with the DISCLOSE Act and Shareholder Protection Act, an executive order requiring government contractors to disclose their political spending, and continuing to grow support for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

There are also a number of threats we’ll be fending off:

  • Any attempt to cut or weaken Medicare. This popular, successful program provides universal healthcare for seniors. If anything, the qualifying age for Medicare should be lowered so that everyone can benefit from this single-payer system, not raised.
  • The Independent Regulatory Agency Analysis Act (S. 3468), which would give Wall Street-friendly members of any White House administration the power to impede independent regulators like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
  • An attempt to undermine patients’ rights by letting the medical industry go virtually unpunished when patients are harmed or killed by the industry’s negligence or recklessness.

Public Citizen’s issue experts will be monitoring these issues closely, and I, along with the rest of our online team, will let you know about opportunities to take action in order to maximize progress during the lame duck session – and to fend off attempts to betray the public interest for the sake of corporate greed.

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  • Thomas Joy

    In addition to the issues mentioned already, I think we should be pushing for changes in lobbying, because of the corrupting affect it has on our elected officials and it should have criminal penalites that have a big bite in them, in order for them to be taken seriously.

    I also think that the entitlements, Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid, should not be touched because of so called budgetary concerns. Taxpayers have been paying in to these programs most of their lives so they will be available to them in retirement and other circumstances that may occur in life. I don’t mind if the programs are streamlined by weeding out corruption, using electronic records, etc.. but not because repubublican’s want to dismantle these programs just to give the wealthy a bigger tax break. If they need money to balance the budget, then they should consider cutting the oversized military budget. I think it’s ridiculous that taxpayer’s have to sacrifice so much of the things the public needs like education, jobs, infrastructure, clean energy, etc. just to have a military budget larger than 13 of world’s biggest country’s.

    • Roscoe P. Coltrain

      You are exactly RIGHT!!!

    • Humans Are Fail

      Lobbying should be outlawed, period. It is corrupt through and through and it’s pretty much too far gone to fix. Or barring that, at least there should be two new laws – “no one who has ever held any kind of political office can ever be a lobbyist” AND “no lobbyist can ever hold political office”. They need to be completely separated

    • Louise

    • Nancy

      I believe it is important that we STOP calling Medicare and Social Security entitlements. They are really insurance that we have been paying into all of our lives. In fact, as a senior citizen using Medicare I am still paying my premium every single month as it is withheld from my Social Security check.

      Thank you Public Citizen for all you do on the behalf of the 99%!

  • Martin Stark

    I agree with the things you support, but things you are trying to prevent, I basically oppose. First on that list is lowering the age for Medicare. You’re out of your mind. The age should be raised immediately to 69 or even 70. The direction of the country towards socialized medicine is completely wrong. Anything that increases the role of gov’t in my life more that it is, I’m opposed to.

    • Better we should engage in perpetual war, killing brown people around the world than support out people?

    • cb

      you prefer the overwhelmingly crushing role of insurance companies in your life to the ‘govmint’ which is you?

    • Anna

      Martin, Why the demonizing of everything socialist, as if we don’t already have many of our services delivered that way? Public education, police and fire protection, transportation, social security benefits and much more are already socialized services. Medicare for those over 65 is another example of a socialized service we’ve had since 1965 that most seniors love. Many liberals still lament that Medicare for All was there for the taking during the 2009 health care reform discussions. If it were that easy, the President would have acted on it. But it wasn’t that easy. Why? The health insurance goons axed it.They aren’t going to allow their cash cow of 31 cents on every premium dollar to be slaughtered without a multimillion dollar fight. How EVER would their stockholders continue to gamble on Wall St without our premium dollars? How EVER would their CEO’s continue to rake in such exorbitant salaries and stock options? If we had Medicare for All they’d be ‘history’! So they’ll keep up this ruse for as long as they can get away with it….’til the American people finally see they’re being ripped off and demand single-payer, not for profit Medicare for All. Alternatively, now that the ACA has been enacted, Medicare for All could ‘evolve’ into being. When the health insurance cartels can’t make enough off of us anymore due to the ACA’s ‘new rules’, perhaps they’ll finally get out of the health insurance business. It won’t happen overnight. But either way, it WILL happen…and you can help it along by supporting Medicare for All. Oh, and it’ll save us $400 billion a year while covering everyone. Don’t you think it’s about time? I do.

    • Wayne

      Knee jerk reaction like that of Martin Stark gives us candidates like Sharon Angle, Backmann, Palin, Robme, West, etc.

  • Ken Hughes

    To expect the “Weeping Tan man” and failure personified Mitch to act any different is, I’m afraid an illusion and a forlorn hope. The efforts should be to electing a progressive congress at mid term and then we’ll have a slim chance of success in moving towards a progressive future for America and Americans. However, we should not stop trying or give up hope. This election was a moderate start to the place we need to be if future generations are to have a chance for a future.

  • Frances in California

    We need to start NOW to abolish the Electoral College, so that in 50 to 100 years, we’ll be able to form true Coalition governments that TRULY represent us; I, of course, will be long gone but that’s no excuse not to start . . .

  • Mitzi Duxbury PhD

    Thank you Public Citizen for all you do for us. Keep up the great work! Peace.

  • Allan Richardson

    Martin Stark does not understand the basics of insurance risk management, and he has an irrational, pathological fear of anything labeled “government.” Would he object to a “socialized” fire department protecting his home, rather than a “voluntary contract” firefighting company?

    The fact is that DESPITE being restricted to persons age 65 or over, Medicare has one tenth the overhead as the 30 percent GOAL that Obamacare has set for private insurance companies to come DOWN TO. If the age is raised, not only will persons now eligible (full disclosure: I will turn 65 at the end of June 2013, and my wife 2 years later) be denied protection already planned for, but the RISK POOL will be that much more likely to need medical care.

    It would be better actuarially to allow persons of any age to sign up for an increased payroll tax in exchange for being enrolled in Medicare (along with their dependents, for a few dollars more — sorry, Clint), thus including younger and healthier people in the risk pool. Unless you own stock in a private company such as Aetna or Humana, you can see that this is best for the COUNTRY. Maybe, like firefighting, crimefighting, and organ donation, medical care should not be a commodity for sale at all. Preventive care and optional surgery (tummy tucks, etc.) over and above what doctors decide is necessary are fine, but LIFE SAVING should be a human right, not for sale.

    Besides, the old private firefighting system meant (1) the buildings with the most prevention in place were more likely to “buy” insurance, but (2) fires in uninsured buildings grew to become too big for crews to fight by the time they reached insured buildings. The same logic applies to potential epidemic diseases: the least healthy and most exposed people do not have insurance, and the “bugs” will be resistant to treatment by the time an insured person catches them.

    And even the Bible supports government action for the common good: the Pharaoh put Joseph in charge of a “FEMA” office to tax the bumper crops, stockpile the grain, and sell it at cost to starving people when the famine hit. I wonder how many farmers grumbled about the tax, especially since Joseph was not a “natural born” Egyptian?

    • David in Ohio

      Very well written, logical, concise, and very matter of fact as to how life saving should be a standard of medical treatment. I could not agree with you more. The fact is; the only people this type of thinking will hurt, is insurance companies…and you can bet your bottom dollar they are opposed to socialized medicine completely! But look around at the countries who have socialized medicine, it is working, and quite beautifully to be honest .

    • Maureen Driscoll

      Well said Allan.

      I would like to note that if Public Citizen would put more effort into getting Congress to give us that amendment to the US Constitution to unequivocally state that inalienable rights belong to human beings only, and that money is not a form of protected free speech under the First Amendment and can be regulated in political campaigns, their “Top priorities include restoring accountability and transparency with the DISCLOSE Act and Shareholder Protection Act, an executive order requiring government contractors to disclose their political spending” become moot.

  • The filibuster rule must not be allowed to continue. The Senate will have a opportunity at the beginning of the next session to stop with a 51 vote majority this abuse of democracy.TF

  • David in Ohio

    I think we should try to get all in Congress, to be placed on the same retirement system the rest of us are on. If they depended on Social Security, they would make damn sure it never failed. They have this private retirement plan which was never suppose to be….it is plainly stated that those who lead should not be above those they govern . Also they should be subject to the same medical conditions we as citizens face, not some high end totally free medical care they enjoy now. Thanks Public Citizen, for the good work, and allowing us to have a voice in all things!

    • Humans Are Fail

      Agreed – if they had to live like the rest of us, they’d make sure it got fixed up PDQ! But for that to happen, they would actually have to approve/agree to give up those luxuries – hahaha, good luck with that!

  • Valentine Azbelle

    I support all of the above endeavors except one – the tax on stock trading. In fact I vehemently oppose it! It looks like the people who came up with the idea don’t know how the stock market really functions. It says that the idea is to stop the automated trading to prevent flash crashes. Well, that won’t work. The big trading entities are required to trade by law. Hence they will keep trading just like they did before, and most of that trading is done by computers. The flash crashes have very little to do with automated trading though – they happen when traders’ stops are being taken out by a plunging stock and then PEOPLE (not computers) who see the downward momentum in the stock jump in with shorts and make it plunge even lower and faster. What the tax would do is make it less attractive to retail traders to enter the stock market. Therefore there will be fewer trading entities and less liquidity. The spreads will become wider and, if the stock goes down, it will go down only faster.

    Liquidity is what makes the stock market work. Without it you get bubbles, which result in crashes. A tax would be fine if it taxed the profit (which is already taxed actually). But this bill wants to tax the amount traded! The Apple stock is at around $550 right now. So if one were to trade 100 shares of Apple (the minimum allowed amount of shares for direct trading) he/she would be liable for $16 right off the bet! And if the Apple stock goes down instead of up and the person prudently puts in the stop somewhere below the entry price, the transaction turns a loss instead of profit, and the person still owes $16 on top of the loss. Like I said, this will turn away individual traders and smaller trading entities, hinder the liquidity and result in wider swings and faster crashes.

    • Humans Are Fail

      If they can afford to be throwing money at the market, a piddly little $16 is not even going to phase them…

  • Phillip Ferrell

    I just wanna say that I like that Allan Richardson dude.

  • LP Coe

    The “Fiscal Cliff” is not as bad an option as we are being told by the corporate banking economists. If the wealthy aren’t willing to help, then let the BUSH Tax Cuts expire already. They were supposed to expire three years ago. Those of us who remain in the “middle class” can afford to pay more taxes also, and we’ll finally get the rich to chip in with income and estate taxes again. Plus we’ll get the military cut and we’ll be well on the way to better fiscal responsibility. After the “Cliff” maybe congress will be able to talk about necessary tweeks. Don’t give in just to avoid the “Cliff”.

  • William McClellan

    High on out to-do list: let Congress instruct the FCC to conduct a thorough public review of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. It is this act the opened the door to the massive conglomeration of ownership of disparate media outlets under larger and larger corporations. Everywhere in the Act it describes citizens as “consumers.” News is a considered a product. Everywhere the Fairness Doctrine is turned on its head. Review the Act with an eye to modification or repeal. If repealed, perhaps it need not be replaced. Repealing (or modifying) would imply trust-busting among media corporations and the return of real news accessible to regular citizens.

  • Deborah Crosset

    Social Security is not part of the budget. It is a separate entity funded by American workers through a separate wage tax and, as such, has no place in budget discussions.
    Members of Congress have this strange idea that the money they are playing politics with is theirs. It is not. It belongs to the American people–the ones who pay their taxes–to be used for the good of all the American people. Not the corporations, not the groups that subsidized their elections for favors in return, and not for loopholes so the 1% can avoid paying their fair share while they enjoy the privileges of being an American citizen. Senators and Representatives are there to promote the general welfare, provide for the common defense, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity. If they don’t understand this and won’t work for the good of the whole American public, they should not be there.
    If Congress tries to make cuts in Medicare and Medicaid, I think that equal cuts should be made in the medical plan that they have made for them- selves, since it is also a Federally funded medical plan. And the same with any cuts to benefits for all military personnel, including VA care and pensions.
    It’s time that the perspective of Congress changes so they–and everyone else–can see the real reason they are there:to be representatives of the American public and to work for us, not pretend they are in their own little playground and play king of the mountain.

  • Ce

    What are the chances that the Lame Duck Congress can be persuaded to halt the use of drones which are killing so many civilians, including children, in Pakistan & Afghanistan? Cele

  • Deetje Boler

    Thank our lucky stars (and Ralph Nader, of course) for Public Citizen!

  • DHFabian

    Every year (for decades!) brings the “urgent call” for “entitlement reform.” We’ve already reformed general assistance welfare right out of existence. Then we reformed AFDC right out of existence.With the Clinton reforms, Social Security for the disabled was deeply cut. Most poverty relief has been wiped out, and that money was simply redistributed upward. For years, taxpayers have effectively been covering the costs of moving their own jobs out of the country, small towns have been dumped into the ditch, and we’re back to the days of teachers needing to pay for supplies for their own classrooms. When we hear the calls for “entitlement reform” to “balance the budget,” we know it merely means more upward wealth redistribution.

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