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Policy Corner: Lame Ducks and Low Expectations

Along with watching Thanksgiving Day bowl games and parades, the sport of choice for many in the U.S. this time of year is politics. Pundits, analysts and insiders toss around the term “lame duck” as frequently as quarterbacks throw the football. Let’s look at the phrase and its implications as the 111th Congress lumbers toward the end of regulation play.

Lame ducks are lawmakers who were not re-elected in November, holding office only until their successors are sworn in January 3. Sessions of Congress held after mid-term elections in even-numbered years are known as lame duck sessions. Members concerned with vacating their offices may be tempted to put forth minimal effort. Lame duck sessions are considered so problematic that only 11 states allow them for their state legislatures.

Most concerning are lame duck sessions following elections in which one party loses control of one or both houses of Congress, as happened Nov. 2 when Republicans regained the House. One fear is that embittered members, facing involuntary retirement, will sabotage good legislation or turn bad bills into worse laws. more


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