To put it lightly, Capitol Hill is still reeling from the mid-term elections. In a history-making turn of events, Republicans swept the House of Representatives and took more seats than Republicans won in the 1994 takeover of Congress. There are still a few races that are undeclared or are being contested, but it looks as though Republicans will have taken more than 60 seats in the House by the final count. The Democrats maintained control of the Senate, but Republicans did gain several seats.
Immediately after the “Republican tsunami,” a term used by the media in the aftermath of the elections, the mood on the Hill changed dramatically. Word on the street is that there are upwards of 2,000 Democratic staffers now trying to find jobs, and prospective Republican staffers are sending in hundreds of resumes to new offices. Walk into any of the dozens of affected Democratic offices, and you’ll see moving boxes scattered all over the place.
Republicans held a transition meeting this week to discuss priorities for the upcoming Congress, and Democrats have also been trying to navigate how much they can get done in the “lame duck” session before the new Congress officially begins in January. Nancy Pelosi (D-California) drew fire from many critics when she threw a party on the Hill to celebrate the “accomplishments” of the 111th Congress — at a time when grief counselors are available for Democratic staffers who just lost their jobs. Other Democrats, such as Rep. Jason Altmire (D-Pennsylvania), a moderate “blue dog” Democrat who won his re-election race, have taken to the airwaves to discuss how the Democratic Party needs to learn the lessons posed to it by the election results.
In the meantime, with the “lame duck” session quickly approaching when Congress reconvenes for legislative business on November 15, the talk around town has been all about spending and taxes. There is a sense of frustration among remaining Democrats that, even if they try to push legislation forward, it will be difficult to get anything done before January.
There were rumors that Democrats in the Senate would push to pass the DOD Authorization bill with the amendment to repeal the 1993 law prohibiting homosexuals from serving openly in the military. It was thought that the bill would re-emerge in the “lame duck” session, and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates repeated his call this week for a repeal of the law. However, word on the street now is that Democrats are too nervous to push the issue.
Congressional Quarterly is now reporting that the DOD Authorization bill will be stripped of the controversial amendments that Democrats tacked on back in September, namely the repeal of the 1993 law and the amendment to allow abortions to be performed on domestic and overseas military installations. Concerned Women for America (CWA) will monitor any actions taken on the legislation and make sure that elected officials know that Americans want to see a DOD Authorization bill that gives our troops the resources they need, not one that includes a mix of liberal social items.
As of right now, the federal government is only funded through December 2, 2010, so Congress must take action when it reconvenes the week of November 15. There was talk that a continuing resolution would be passed, but now CWA is hearing that Congress will pass a “mini-omnibus” bill and write out specific spending legislation. Naturally, there are fears that Democrats will use the “lame duck” session to shove their final spending “wish list” through before they officially relinquish the majority in the House.
Amidst the changing budget and spending rumors, the CWA Legislation Department is regularly meeting with staffers in the House of Representatives to discuss concerns about the expiration of the Bush tax credits. The pro-family tax credits, including child and adoption tax credits, are set to expire on December 31, 2010. CWA staff is urging congressional offices to vote to extend the tax credits, as they greatly benefit families with children and adoptive parents who wish to provide loving homes for children. As well, CWA staff is communicating concerns about the estate tax, also known as the “death tax” — if the House does not move to lower the estate tax, then it will kick up to 55 percent after December 31, 2010.
If, however, Congress does not take action during the “lame duck” session, there is talk that they might pass a “retroactive” spending bill. Different offices are expressing to CWA their frustration and confusion about what will happen with the budget and tax issues, but many maintain that the Bush tax cuts will indeed be extended.
CWA staff will continue to meet with House and Senate offices about the importance of pro-family tax issues. Our goal is to communicate to them that, even though things in Washington are a bit scattered after the elections, American families continue to struggle and need to have the ability to steward their own finances instead of watching the government continue to spend their money recklessly.
Project 535 Lobby Days:
For future lobby days, the schedule is as follows:
November: No lobby day
December: No lobby day (Merry Christmas!)
Monday, January 24, 2010: Lobby day (scheduled for Monday to line up with March for Life)