"THE WEEKLY WRAP" with Diane W. Collins

The Lame Duck Session Gets Down to Business

December 19, 2010

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(Note: No video this week)


Weekly Wrap with Diane W Collins

The Weekly Wrap: December 19th

Tax Cuts Extension Package Passes

Welcome to The Weekly Wrap. I'm Diane Collins. The lame duck session of the 111th Congress is being named "one of the most productive" in history. Well, I guess if you leave it all to the end of the year there might be a number of things one would need to accomplish. And, finally they're getting down to business.


The Tax Cuts Extension Package or more formally the Reid-McConnell Amendment 4753 to HR 4853 passed the Senate on December 15th with the final vote being 81 to 19. It is what it was intended to be... a compromise. Everybody gets something, no one is happy with everything.


Conservatives were disappointed in the failure of the Coburn Amendment which would have "paid for" the 13 month extension of unemployment benefits included in the package by reducing $158B in wasteful and duplicate government spending. Sen. Coburn was a member of the National Debt Commission co-chaired by Alan Simpson (R) and Erskine Bowles (D) which recently completed its report. One can only imagine that those sitting on the Commission developed a strong sense of the dire circumstances our deficit presents. In describing his amendment to the tax package, Sen. Coburn warned us, "The world is watching," reminding Americans other countries may not continue to purchase our debt instruments if we continue to spend while not even attempting to reduce wasteful and duplicative programs from the federal budget. The Coburn Amendment required a two-thirds majority vote to override the rule not to amend but failed 47 to 52 and was not brought to the floor. Sen. Jim DeMint offered an amendment that would have eliminated the estate tax and made the tax cuts permanent. Also subject to two thirds, the amendment failed to reach the floor, 37 to 63.


Moderates said amending the tax package would have squelched the deal leaving it to the 112th Congress to begin negotiations all over again. They claimed re-negotiating would have taken months. Guess we'll never know, but "the bird in the hand" philosophy was espoused by President Reagan... so it can't be all bad. The strong vote in the Senate sent a message to the House. Rumors flew stating the package would pass in its original form regardless of the Left's push for the Pomeroy Amendment, an attempt to increase the estate tax. The House passed the Tax Cuts Extension Package on December 16th without amendment. The President signed it into law December 17th.


In the meantime, the drama continued in the Senate where on December 14th Harry Reid had introduced an omnibus measure that would add $1.1T to the national deficit (bypassing a measure passed by the House on December 8th). In both pieces of legislation it was clear the Left wanted to ensure spending levels were set before they lost control of the House... Reid pushed too far. The pork laden omnibus measure brought Sen. John McCain to the floor. The outcry of conservatives caused Sen. Reid to remove it from consideration. With federal government funds running out midnight, December 18th, another quick-fix measure was passed keeping the government operating through Tuesday, December 21st. Sens. Reid and McConnell are working on another "continuing resolution" a short term measure anticipated to fund the government through March. However, today on the Senate floor, Sen. Reid stated no agreement had been reached. The Republicans want the ability to limit spending during the 112th Congress which will begin in January.


On December 18th, The Dream Act as passed by the House was introduced in the Senate but could not get past cloture and failed being brought to the floor, once again. The stand-alone version for the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," legislation, however, did come to the floor and was passed 65 to 31. It goes to the President for his signature.


This week, the lame-duck session of the 111th Congress will continue to debate the START Treaty. Sen. McCain and Sen Risch offered amendments to the treaty that failed. McCain's amendment dealt with missile defense; the Risch Amendment, inclusion of "tactical weapons." A review of both should give Conservatives pause with regard to the protection provided Americans vis-a-vis the START Treaty negotiated under Obama. In fact, President Obama constantly reminds me of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and the appeasement foreign policy he embraced... sorry, it is the historian in me.


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