Lame-Duck Session Winds Down With Little to Show

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Lawmakers may yet be back next month, but for now the meager results show why lame-duck sessions often do not work. And why some historians and scholars of Congress, not to mention some of the most prominent lawmakers over history, think that calling such sessions lame is overly generous....

“Lame-duck sessions are poor excuses for sloppy, secretive legislation,” John B. Oakes wrote in an Op-Ed in The New York Times after the 1982 session. “The latest was not only unnecessary but degrading and dangerous.”

In recent years, Congressional leaders have often held postelection sessions hoping to wrap up unfinished business.

“Somehow there is this thought that when you come back after an election that politics is over with and everybody is just going to tackle the issues,” said Donald K. Ritchie of the Senate Historical Office. “But the politics are the same, and people are now counting heads as to whether I’ll do better or worse in the next Congress. So it’s often not a very productive period.”

Mr. Ritchie added, “Whatever problems they have during the regular session, they are compounded during a lame-duck session.”

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