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Tell The Lame Duck Congress to Vote for Middle Class Tax Cuts

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Americans who don't want to see tax cuts for the middle-class held hostage to the wealthy still have time to make themselves heard. Democrats, Republicans, Independents, and Tea Partiers alike must let their elected officials know that last week's electoral outcome was not a referendum on the extension of tax cuts for the wealthy, and that we want our representatives in the Senate and the House to make this the most un-lame duck session in American history.

With Congress reconvening on November 15th, we have little time left to urge Democrats of the 111th Congress to bring the vote on middle class tax cuts to the floor while they still hold the majority in both the House and the Senate. We should also put pressure on the departing Republicans punished by conservatives in their party for reaching across the aisle. They know they have little time left to see that their names resonate through history, and that they no longer have anything to lose by voting with Democrats. But they still require us to supply the resolve to push a vote for the middle class through Congress by year's end.

Forget that The New Republic's Norman Ornstein believes that lame-duck lawmakers show "no discernible differences" in their voting patterns despite knowing their departure is imminent. It's a point Ornstein makes without supplying hard statistics -- which means we need not take his inference as fact or weighted expectation. Ornstein is, however, the harbinger of optimism in reporting that "a number" of lame duck sessions of Congress were "quite productive," singling out the lame duck sessions after the 1974, 1982, and 1994 mid-term elections.

We can disregard the 1974 session, considering it followed the singular event of Watergate, a crisis bearing no resemblance to the present political climate. But the lame duck sessions following voter dissatisfaction with Ronald Reagan's (1982) and Bill Clinton's (1994) first two years in office are remarkably similar to the situation we face today. After the 1982 election, a Congress nearly as divided as today's passed various appropriations bills that had previously stalled during the pre-election year. The Congressional elections of 1994 brought Democrats devastating losses nearly as great as our own, but they also had the liberating effect of swaying enough previously reluctant representatives in the House to the side of the Senate to give President Clinton his much desired General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.

Needless to say, in both the 1982 and 1994 lame duck sessions, Congress was swayed in their final votes by persuasive salesmen-in-chiefs. Whether or not Obama can close the deal in the fashion of Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, or even as he closed on the 2008 election, depends on how supportive we are of the President.

The Democrats who most need our buttressing opinions are those remaining in the House of Representatives and facing two years of gridlock. They're already rehearsing their concession bids to Republicans for negotiating bills they hope will keep their constituents and pet programs above legislative high water. We have to let these ongoing Democratic senators and representatives know that we're there for them as long as they're there for us. Forget Gertrude Stein: there is a there there, and we are there until January 2011. But once the 112th Congress convenes in January, there will be obliterated for the middle class.

We have no choice but to call and email our representatives today to let them know in no uncertain terms that this is their last chance to make a truly historic stand against the rise of an American oligarchy. Regardless of the many cultural differences between Democrats, Republicans, Independents, and Tea Partiers, the middle class comprises the majority in each party. Our one common ground is agreeing that tax cuts for those earning $250,000 and below, while letting the Bush tax cuts expire for earners of $500,000 and above, is imperative for Congress to eliminate the spiraling deficit that threatens America's standing as a superpower.

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