House Republicans are going forward with plans to introduce a resolution on Tuesday to prohibit the House of Representatives from assembling during the two-month period following the November elections.
A GOP leadership aide confirmed to the Huffington Post that the resolution, authored by Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) for the purposes of preventing Democrats from passing legislative items during the lame-duck session, would be introduced before the House passes additional Medicaid and teacher funding. The aide argued that comments on Sunday by Carol Browner, the White House's top energy and environmental adviser, suggesting that energy legislation could be considered during the so-called lame duck period, proved that the resolution was pertinent.
And yet, Price's resolution appears likely to produce nothing more than Kabuki theater -- which that Democrats aren't necessarily averse to enjoying. For starters, the procedural process by which the issue will play out appears pre-ordained. Because he is introducing a privileged resolution, Democrats can't table Price's gambit from the get-go. Rather, the chair is going to rule that it is "out of order." Price will appeal the ruling, after which members will vote on the chair's ruling (not the resolution itself).
The issue, at that point, will be resolved. The majority will side with the chair. The political drama around the lame-duck session will, undoubtedly, remain.
But even then it's not entirely clear what Price's resolution accomplishes. Certainly, it's a procedural maneuver that will please the conservative base. Freedom Works, the moneyed organization behind the Tea Party movement, has been pushing Price's resolution on its website. And former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has been touting the need to shut Congress down after the elections.
But the notion that the House should take a two-month, taxpayer-paid break invites obvious political ridicule. One aide deemed it the "Republican Winter Vacation Act."
"Washington Republicans wrecked the economy and haven't lifted a finger to help us fix it," said Doug Thornell a top aide to Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.). "Now, the GOP wants to vote for a two-month long taxpayer-funded vacation because they believe the challenges middle class families face today should be ignored. This is the type of work ethic and arrogance that got us into this mess in the first place."
While Browner hinted that a vote on energy legislation may take place between the election and the seating of the new Congress, even that "option" is complicated by a host of factors that don'tjustify the GOP's fear of a lame-duck Congress. For starters, Democrats couldn't get 60 votes in the Senate for a comprehensive bill even when they had that many members caucusing. It's hard to imagine the votes would suddenly materialize after the election.
More important is the fact that in certain Senate elections to replace appointed incumbents (see: Roland Burris or Ted Kaufman) state law dictates that the winner is seated immediately instead of on January 3, 2011. While Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) may end up moving to the political center after the elections, it's difficult to imagine either one voting for cap-and-trade (in its original form) or the Employee Free Choice Act.