Lame Duck Runs Afoul
The United States House and Senate kicked off the ‘lame duck’ session this week – that time between the election and the swearing-in of the new Congress. Historically, because outgoing Members are no longer accountable to their constituents and elections are as far off as possible, this is a time rife with mischief-making! With Republicans taking the majority in the House, Democrats are trying to push through their leftover agenda items hoping that Republicans are more likely to fold to get home to their families for the holidays.
We wrote about the Democrats’ plans for the lame duck session in September and not much has changed. The first item on their agenda was moving forward the Respect for Marriage Act (H.R. 8404). Although the bill has already passed the House, the lack of religious protections caused the Senate to fail to invoke cloture (60 votes needed). Now, the sponsors have added language to grant religious institutions an exemption, but it still leaves individuals employed elsewhere vulnerable. Independent business owners such as bakers, photographers, florists, and the like would have to provide services for same-sex and other ceremonies they have religious or moral objections to or face lawsuits. Even adoption and foster agencies would be forced to place children with same-sex couples regardless of the biological parents’ wishes.
The Senate took a cloture vote on H.R. 8404 on Wednesday which allowed the bill to move forward to an eventual floor vote. The measure passed by a 62-37 vote. Senator Lee and nine other Senators plan to offer an amendment that will prevent the federal government from denying any tax status, benefit or licensure from those with religious objections to same-sex marriage. While this makes the bill marginally better, it does not fix the bill and is unlikely to even be voted on by the Senate. Eagle Forum sent a letter to the Senate warning them of the consequences of this bill and informing them that we will score against its passage. You also have a chance to contact your Senators regarding this issue by visiting our website here.
Another looming issue that both the House and Senate will have to consider is extending government funding before the current continuing resolution (CR) expires on December 16th. While passing a CR at the previous funding level is not ideal, it’s the best option to keep Democrats from creating a new budget that funds their leftist priorities while they still have the majority. We expect them to try to attach such things to the bill. Policies like open borders, abortion rights, same-sex marriage, marijuana legalization, and more are likely to be considered by Senator Schumer and Speaker Pelosi. Eagle Forum has also sent a letter asking the House and Senate to ONLY vote for a clean CR with nothing new attached to the bill.
At the same time, House and Senate Republicans were holding their own elections for leadership positions. With the GOP slated to take the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) will have to vacate her office and hand it the gavel over to the newly elected Republican Speaker. With Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) serving as Minority Leader over the last couple of years, it made sense that he would run for the Speakership. Although challenged by strong conservative Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Rep. McCarthy won the Republican nomination by a vote of 188-31. He now must secure 218 votes in January to officially hold the title of “Speaker.” Other nominees include Reps. Steve Scalise (R-LA) for Majority Leader, Tom Emmer (R-IN) for Majority Whip, and Elise Stefanik (R-NY) for Conference Chair. There is some talk that another, more conservative Representative will attempt to challenge Rep. McCarthy before the final vote for Speaker.
In the Senate, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has served in leadership roles for decades. As Majority Leader the last time Republicans controlled the Senate, Sen. McConnell refused to put bills on the floor unless they had the votes to pass. This stalled the conservative agenda, denied Senators the ability to offer amendments, and highlighted his flaws in negotiations. Many of his policy stances have been questionable; notably on the recent legislation to raise the debt ceiling. Many have called for him to be replaced and Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) has stepped up to the plate. Sen. Scott has criticized Sen. McConnell for keeping the status quo and withholding plans to move forward if they were to retain a majority in the Senate. However, Sen. McConnell is sure that he has the votes to remain in his seat.
While next year’s agenda is still unclear in the House and the Senate, we are focused on the legislation that is hastily being offered in this lame duck session. We will keep you informed of the bills that are moving forward and encourage you to make your voice heard. Make sure you are signed up for our emails and alerts so that you can stay on top of the issues.