The 111th Congress finally came to an end on Wednesday, as lawmakers pushed through a 9/11 health aid bill and a major arms reduction treaty, as the Lame Duck Congress was anything but lame in the last two weeks.
“We didn’t get everything we wanted,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
“But always remember, legislating is the art of compromise.”
And there were a number of bipartisan deals cut in the Lame Duck, most notably the tax deal that prevented an array of tax increases at the end of the year, and the GOP support for several major White House initiatives.
“We’ve had a long, tough Congress,” said Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA), one of many liberals who was not pleased with the tax deal.
He will now be moving back into the minority, as Republicans will take charge in the House in less than two weeks when the 112th Congress convenes on January 5.
“John Boehner is so prepared to become Speaker,” said Rep. Michael Turner (R-OH), whose district is next door to Boehner’s in Dayton, Ohio.
“There’s a lot of anticipation as to what’s going to happen as this Congress changes hands,” Turner added.
The end of this Congress left a little bad taste in the mouths of Republicans, who seemed to have all the momentum after their big victories in the November elections.
But in this last week, Democrats snatched some victories from the jaws of legislative defeat, winning final approval of the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, a major food safety bill, the 9/11 first responders bill and the New START arms treaty with Russia.
“I think it’s fair to say this is the most productive post-election session we’ve had in decades,” said President Obama in a year-end news conference.
Not only was it a productive Lame Duck Session, but Democrats can certainly make the argument that this Congress approved more major legislation than most Congresses of the past.
The Democrats can tick off health care reform, Wall Street reform, the economic stimulus, an auto bailout, credit card reforms and all of the items listed above from the Lame Duck – which certainly puts them above almost any other Congress I’ve covered in terms of output.
Obviously – a lot of people reading this blog might not like what has become law – but that’s not really the point. The point is that Democrats did churn out a lot of big legislation in this Congress.
Now we will see if the 112th can do the same, or if gridlock and partisan sniping is more likely.
“I’m about burned out on talking about the Lame Duck,” said Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA), who is one of many Republicans looking forward to the battles of the next Congress, like moving on repeal of the health reform law.
“I’m excited about what we can do and what needs to be done,” said Gingrey. “I think you’re going to see a lot of hearings on many provisions of that law.”
The dynamic changes on January 3 when newly-elected lawmakers in the 112th Congress get the keys to their offices, their blackberries and more, as Republicans take over the House and cut into the majority of Democrats in the Senate.
The new session begins on January 5 at High Noon.