December 18, 2010

A 1933 Washington Post headline: "Present Lame Duck Session Will Be Last."

David A. Fahrenthoid explains the 20th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:
The trouble with lame-duck sessions began in 1801, when the outgoing Federalists used their last days in power to help appoint a bunch of judges. It flared up again in 1922, when President Warren Harding and the lame-duck Republicans tried to ram through unpopular legislation after their defeats.

Opponents said this was un-democratic: These sessions seemed to violate the ever-popular Washington rule that "elections have consequences." Finally, Congress passed - and the states ratified - the 20th Amendment.

Historians say lawmakers thought they were ending lame-duck Congresses forever.

"This amendment will free Congress of the dead hand of the so-called 'lame duck,' " Rep. Wilburn Cartwright (D-Okla.) said as it was debated in 1932.
But Congress follows the letter of the law, and the amendment only changed the date of the end of congressional terms. It's a lot earlier than it was under the original Constitution, but it's still far enough from the elections to give a modern Congress plenty of time to work its will on the American people who may have just decisively rejected them.

With a devastating electoral loss behind them and a 13% approval rating, Congress flouts the intent of the framers and ratifiers of the 20th Amendment.


Penny said...

""Present Lame Duck Session Will Be Last.""


Much as I like you, your quaking is driving me nuts.

"she said, ever so politly"

Dave said...

Is this History of Law, or is most law historical in nature?

CrankyProfessor said...

We're up against modern travel again - the 18th Century date made sense in a world of horse and sail, the 1930s amendment made sense in a world of trains (really, they didn't use to fly the Speaker back and forth to California).

Erik said...

Solution: no legislation passes for one week following an election, after which any new members are immediately seated and the new term begins.

traditionalguy said...

The current date is pushing it. The Dems can barely finish finding just enough re-counted extra ballots that quick.

DaveW said...

The problem with that is the people elected presumably have to travel and get a place to live near the capitol.

What they should do is just pass a rule saying only emergency legislation can be passed during a lame duck session. There's no reason for people that have been thrown out of office to be voting on non-emergency items, especially those that are controversial, and especially things like the omnibus spending bill that directly impacts issues at the center of the election. We can muddle through with a continuing resolution.

traditionalguy said...

No matter where we move the goal posts, the pols will game the system. I love that phrase, "If you're not cheating, you're not trying". Let's just pray that Obama doesn't decide to try a Chavez on us and suspend all government powers except his own because of a Crisis. That sneaky con-man will be Trying something. The Approaching End of the World by CO2 Poisoning from the Outer Atmosphere would be a first rate Crisis. The Big Lie method still works.

McGehee said...

Here's my proposal: The new session begins when it begins. The old session ends the Friday before the election. If there's an emergency that actually requires Congress to reconvene during those two months, every U.S. citizen will be issued a cyanide capsule because obviously the universe is about to end.

PETER V. BELLA said...

Hopefully this will be the last lame congress.

Pogo said...

For the Democrats, the Constitution is most honored in the breach.

Now leftist Columbia University has taken property belonging to someone else, and the government can now force you to buy a commercial product (health insurance), proving the document is dead.

Conservatives 4 Better Dental Hygiene said...

The Republicans must create more devastating recessions to run on!

We are already planning the 2025 recession. Once that one goes into action, the Democrat party will be no more!!!

Conservatives 4 Better Dental Hygiene said...

The trick is to make sure it's a recession deep enough to last longer than two years, while keeping unemployment above 10%.

If it doesn't last longer than two years than all will be for naught.

tim maguire said...

As I understand the British system, when the party in power loses its governing coalition, the Prime Minister moves out of 10 Downing Street that day. The new Prime Minister moves in the next morning.

We should do something like that. In today's world, there is no excuse for a long post-election session where legislators who have definitively, objectively lost the confidence of the voting public still wield power. The losers should be out the moment someone else is certified the winner.

New "Hussein" Ham said...

Solution? Where's the problem exactly?

Nothing passes this Congress that is not authorized by the Republican Party because Republicans control enough seats in the United States Senate to stop legislation from passing.

So, it's not as if Democrats have the power to pass any law they want.

The only laws that will be passed are laws that are being forced upon us by Republicans.

Dream Act Amnesty? If it passes, it will only pass because Republicans in the Senate support amnesty for law-breaking illegal aliens. If any Republicans support that, they should be removed from power by Tea Party activists in the next available electoral cycle.

DADT? Do Republicans support allowing the gays kicked out of the Catholic Church to find a new home in the military? Where there is a fresh supply of young hot American kids yesterday were illegal (since they were 17 yesterday!) forced to shower together? If not, then DADT will remain the law. If Republicans in the Senate allow that law to be repealed while at the same time not repealing ObamaCare, then the Tea Party has a nice list of Republicans who should be kicked out of the party.

Votes have consequences.

Republicans had better fucking remember that.

We're watching every. single. one. of. you.

You will be primaried. Your donations will be matched. You will face independents in the election - even if we don't win primaries. You will face write-in candidates just like Murkowski did it.

We will remove you from power. Your life of ease will be over. We will make your future political life miserable.

Conservatives 4 Better Dental Hygiene said...

I wish Godspeed to my fellow Republicans. Extracting demands from the American voter by holding the economy hostage to our ideals is a worthy endeavor! Much success awaits us.

As Doctor Pogo has instructed, we shall screw the poor with abandon! They are beneath us! Amputate the liberals, and excise strange ethnic groups and the indigent from the body politic. Eradicate them all! Much suffering will be induced in the patient, but he is infected by a foreign body, after all! Bleed the patient! Bleed him, I tell you!!

More leeches are needed.

rick said...


Conservatives 4 Better Dental Hygiene said...

This rick guy is a real genius.

Links are new to him (as are a change of clothes every now and then). Give him time.

You could use a makeover yourself. The boring, all-lowercase common name is just not flashy enough to catch the attention of a Breitbart or a Limbaugh!

AllenS said...

Shitmo. Is that you? Looks like this thread might be dead.

Conservatives 4 Better Dental Hygiene said...

If you want to compete with this guy, you'd better become a bit less staid.

Impeccable taste, that Limbaugh.

Haven't you heard, we conservatives are all about flash and glam now! This is not your father's conservatism, it's conservatism version 1.2. Boogie down, mighty warrior rick! Shake that thang!

Conservatives 4 Better Dental Hygiene said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Conservatives 4 Better Dental Hygiene said...

If there are is any expert in mortuary science, it's Allen!

Allen, come alive already! Conservatism is all about revolution now!

You make John Boehner want to cry.

Lucien said...

Maybe Justice Breyer will discern the values symbolized by the words of the 20th Amendment and the consequences that lame duck sessions have on those values and decide that they are unconstitutional.

D'you think there's any chance of it?

rick said...

Never too early in the AM for Ritmo to kill a thread.

Conservatives 4 Better Dental Hygiene said...

Don't despair, rick! I've only purged it of the bad, phony conservatives like yourself! Quite an improvement.

So for an invigorating reminder of the more ostentatious and, uh, authentic side of our glorious conservative heritage, I'd post a description of our Dear Leader's acute interest in decor:

There are few media personalities who bash the "elite" more frequently than conservative hate-monger Rush Limbaugh. Yet the decoration of his Park Avenue apartment, which was recently put on the market for $13.95 million, would seem to contradict the venom he regularly spews at wealthy liberals.

Limbaugh's Fifth Avenue penthouse apartment sets a remarkable standard for tackiness. As a consequence, we have chosen to show these images in full color to prove that ridiculous amounts of money can't buy taste or elegance.

Limbaugh's master bedroom would have made Louis XV proud ...

Gold leaf, flowing drapery, a ceiling mural with playful birds. It's not a stretch to conclude that Rush sees himself as royalty. Nonetheless, he was naked in this room.

Now that we have successfully burned that thought into your cerebral cortex, let's move on to the master bath ...

One can only hope that his neighbors didn't have a clear view.

Next up, the guest room ...

I can only presume that Rush liked to dress up as the Skipper for brief interludes with Percocet and Gilligan.

The study ...

Note: All the books are the same height.

The living room ...

Finally, we wrap our tour in the dining room ...

And, there she is ... You didn't think you'd get out before seeing a replica of Winged Victory, did you?

Taking into account the proliferation of gold leaf, nature and mythological themed ceiling murals, fake art, billowing drapery, and ostentatious fabric patterns, it can be argued that Rush was attempting to recreate his own poorly reproduced version of Versailles. How, then, would you categorize the mishmash of interior design styles?

We'd argue that the combined migraine-inducing effect most closely resembles Rococo, as in French Rococo. As in the period that most immediately preceded The Revolution.

Conclusion: Rush Limbaugh loves France.

Very inspiring, no?

Be flashy, rick! This false solemnity is really unconservative of you.

sane_voter said...

Call or email your Senators and ask them to vote NO on the DREAM act amnesty. If this passes in the lame duck it will be a travesty.

contact info for all senators is at

Pogo said...

And I should be fair; it is clearly not only Democrats or leftists decimating property rights, but all statists, as there are plenty among the Republicans.

Conservatives 4 Better Dental Hygiene said...

...statists...leftists...(insert other word here)...statists...leftists...(insert other word here)...

The anatomy of a comment by Doctor Pogo. Notice how little its incredibly generic structure ever varies.

Very out of line with the new conservatism. Try being colorful, like Buckley's yellow teeth.

And stop kidding yourself about the "fair" part. When it comes to killing off America's infection of leftist tyranny, there is no such thing as "fair". Fight them and destroy them!

And bleed them with leeches!

Your rhetoric has become quite anemic, Dr. Pogo. Conservatism needs a jolt in the arm of B12.

rick said...

Ever go to a holiday party, looking forward to evening of enlightening conversation, only to have some loud mouth drunk show up and monopolize the entire event with meaningless drivel?

Merry Christmas, Ritmo

azmountaintroll said...

In an attempt to get this thread back on topic:

"The problem with that is the people elected presumably have to travel and get a place to live near the capitol."

Screw 'em. If it's too important to wait until January, they can sleep on cots.

Conservatives 4 Better Dental Hygiene said...

Oh rickie. You were just imagining the part about the party. The drunk was you while you were sitting on your favorite park bench.

Did flying pink elephants show up as well?

I have a feeling your idea of "enlightening" revolves around a discussion of recent price reductions at the Home Depot.

Merry War on Christmas to you, too, rickie!

What a downer! Cheer up and stop forcing a grumpy frown out of the side of your mouth that isn't pretending to wish me some holiday cheer.

You will feel better for it!

Pogo said...

Another good reason for a Constitutional Convention.

Conservatives 4 Better Dental Hygiene said...

Another good reason for a Constitutional Convention.

As long as the document is written on fancy stationery, I will get my fellow country-club conservatives to sign on!

Which faction will you bring, Pogo?

Paco Wové said...

Poor MUL. Now all we can do is look on with pity and dread.

Pogo said...

Indeed. How the mediocre have fallen.

From Inwood said...

David A. FAHRENTHOID is the world's foremost expert on climate science!

Shall we refer to this as "The Long Parliament"?

Shall we refer to this as the Lame Dodo Session?

Conservatives 4 Better Dental Hygiene said...

Are you mourning the thread along with the others, Paco?

You should know that the long-term cryogenic preservation of a more colorful conservatism is a worthier cause! If we miss that goal, the mourning will be incredible.

And as an avatar of a self-vivisectionist who blathers on ungrammatically about (being?) an "immortal processed", I think you're just the guy for the job, ole' chap!

Conservatives 4 Better Dental Hygiene said...

Wow Pogo. I think that's the most creative thing you've said, well... ever.

rick said...

Ritmo I have been reading political commentary for 35 years. I never read so many words that say so little as I have reading what you type out on your keyboard.

It has been said that ugly people know they are ugly, but stupid people think they are are brilliant.

rick said...

Ritmo....Have you noticed that when your keyboard gatling gun is deployed, the audience disappears?

It's like the benediction in a church service.....everyone scatters.

edutcher said...

"Congress flouts the intent of the framers and ratifiers of the 20th Amendment."

Not to mention the will of the people.

PS I guess Ritmo got tired of being called Big Gov't Trickling Down His Leg.

Conservatives 4 Better Dental Hygiene said...

I have been reading political commentary for 35 years.

I'm dying to know which authors, rick. Lemme guess: Limbaugh? McLaughlin? Who, precisely? Which of your favorite loudmouth pundits is "serious" enough to get you to use the verb "read" in reference to their work?

The personal shit is beyond stupid, and getting ever more desperate. It's just a way for you numbnutses to try to get under my skin, as you know I value intelligence (at least in others) more than the lot of you do.

If you really valued intelligence, you would value reason. But just throw the meaningless platitude out there and pretend it somehow has anything to do with me. Making this about me is your aim, isn't it?

Conservatives 4 Better Dental Hygiene said...

Have you noticed... the audience

Which part? The part that has no argument?

You're not all of a piece - much as you'd hate to admit it. Stop with this communistic blurring of lines and totalitarian pronouncements on behalf of everyone. You're individuals, rick, with individual freedoms and individual personalities. At least, those of you who actually have individual personalities.

It's those few who redeem this shop, regardless of how they react to me. They are my reasons, rick!

Not you.

Conservatives 4 Better Dental Hygiene said...

And Gatling gun keyboard? That's a good one. I'll give credit.

I just never realized that you were as open to debate as you claim. I never realized that the people worshiped and paid homage to here were as open to debate as you seem to indicate. I never realized that they have any restraint on their own Gatling guns.

But I guess that's just my low intelligence talking. I'm sure you've got examples that show otherwise.

rick said...

The party's over.....again. But I repeat myself....again.

Conservatives 4 Better Dental Hygiene said...

Try a new thought, rick. It wouldn't kill you.

But more boring Althouse threads await! You'll see I've left them untouched.

You're welcome.

Bender said...

It is time to move election day to the first Tuesday in December, rather than November.

Bill said...

"David A. Fahrentho_i_d explains ..."

The guy's name is Fahrentho_l_d.

traditionalguy said...

And a Merry Christmas to you Conservatives for Better Mental Health. Laughter is good medicine. You should apply to be on a Health Care Panel. You could get the old guys laughing back into good health.

Conservatives 4 Better Dental Hygiene said...

I always know I can count on my old buddy TradGuy to take things for what they are - with a grain of salt, humor and generosity - and keep his eye on the human side of life. A Merry Christmas to you too, big guy!

orbicularioculi said...

Bush Tax cuts extended, Omnibus Pork Butt derailed, Dream Act Nightmare ended - Lame Duck Session QUACK QUACK QUACK!

Bruce Hayden said...

If the DREAM Act or the massive omnibus spending bill so laden with pork had passed, I would be a lot more upset than I am about this topic.

This was a sea-change election, where the current Congress was massively repudiated. The Democrats almost had the votes in the outgoing members of Congress for one last gasp of reckless legislating. But the Tea Party and Republican activists scared the old bulls (and I guess then you would call Murkowski an "old cow"?) on the Republican side in the Senate into line, and combined with a small number of Democrats facing a similar challenge in the near future, and this was thankfully side tracked.

On a lower level, a pilot plan for providing technical expertise to district courts for patent cases passed yesterday, without the training that the House version had had. Good bill, but could have been better. And patent "reform" has been pushed into the next Congress. This is another statist bill supported by the biggest tech corporations, and opposed by most everyone else who knows much about it. The more that a company has moved work off-shore, the more they seem to want this bill. Unfortunately, the incoming Republican leaders in that area like it, but Sen. Leahey has indicated that he is tired of pushing it. We shall see.

MadisonMan said...

People I elect serve for four years. They didn't start the day after they won election. They don't end the day after they finally lose.

The present circumstances might be blog-worthy for people who have an axe to grind against some of the legislation being passed, but as noted, there are plenty of votes necessary to hold things up in the Senate if needed. As problems go, this is an exceedingly minor one.

Beldar said...

An elegant and interesting post, Professor Althouse, thank you.

These constitutional and statutory timetables can go for decades as part of the nearly invisible skeleton of government, without anyone -- except the very small handful of individuals who actually implement them -- paying them much attention. But we certainly saw in Bush v. Gore how consequential they may turn out to be.

WV: "danno," perhaps to celebrate the fact that this lame duck session won't include passage of the Akaka bill! Book 'em!

AST said...

Congress members should be sworn in one week after the election results are certified, but Congress should not be in session until Jan. 3 or the first monday thereafter. If there is an emergency, it should be attended only by those elected and sworn in as stated. Who determines whether this is an emergency? The President or President elect, but only for the purpose of declaring war and whatever Prof. Althouse deems is an emergency.

former law student said...

With a devastating electoral loss behind them and a 13% approval rating, Congress flouts the intent of the framers and ratifiers of the 20th Amendment.

The Republicans felt free to thwart the will of the people as expressed by the clean electoral sweep in Nov 2008 -- did Ann chastise the GOP then for their recalcitrance?