The lame duck session of Congress is back in business as legislators return from the Thanksgiving holidays. Taxes, spending bills, and a host of other issues sit waiting to be addressed, but what's actually getting done? As the nation braces for a potentially massive tax increase at the beginning of the year, it's time for Congress to stop the rhetoric and get to work.
Tops on the list of unresolved legislation are the tax increases that will go into effect if Congress does not renew the Bush tax cut legislation passed nearly ten years ago (2001 and 2003). As reported by FoxNews.com, "The cuts apply to rates on wage income as well as to dividends and capital gains. A failure to act would mean big tax increases for people at every income level."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has suggested that the Senate hold two votes: one on the Democratic plan confining the tax cut extension to the middle class, the other on Republican leader Mitch McConnell's plan to extend the cuts to everyone. If both are defeated, as anticipated, then the real negotiations begin.
"There will be bipartisan support in the lame duck to extend all the tax cuts for two or three years, and I think that vote will be had before the end of the year," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., on Sunday. "And if the president doesn't support that, I think he's running a risk of making the economy weaker."
Of course, Barack Obama still wants to push a jobs-killing tax increase on the top income bracket... those people who 1) already pay most of the taxes, and 2) create the jobs in this country. Does Obama really think that taking more money out of the private sector and funneling it to government programs is the answer? Of course he does. My question to Obama, "How's that stimulus bill working out for you so far?"
In addition to hammering legislation to stop the tax increases, Congress must also act on a "continuing resolution" to keep the government functioning. As noted in a story on FoxNews.com, the current funding for the federal government runs out on December 4. "Without a formal appropriation signed into law, the federal government cannot legally continue to operate." Look for a deal to be reached and not the drama of a government shutdown. Republicans will flex their new-found mucle regarding spending cuts and the size of government, but their real power comes in January.
On the issue of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, The Washington Times reports that Sen. Lindsey Graham said the Senate "likely doesn't have enough Republican votes during Congress' lame-duck session to lift the ban on gays serving openly in the military."
Mr. Graham's long-standing position has been that Congress should wait until the release of a Pentagon study on how lifting such a ban would affect the military and that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and other Democrats pushed for the repeal before the November elections to appeal to their base.
U.S. military officials are expected Tuesday on Capitol Hill to discuss the findings of the study, followed by scheduled hearings Thursday and Friday.
Harry Reid has pressed for immigration legislation in the lame duck Congress. That will go nowhere. In addition, as noted in The Washington Times, Obama has claimed that "ratification of a new arms control treaty with Russia is so pressing that it must be dealt with by the lame-duck Senate." Considering that the Congress only has a short time, and the issue of the tax increases and the government funding must be addressed, don't expect any action on an arms control treaty.
Obama is still trying to raise taxes on the top income bracket. His reasoning? Obama says that America cannot "afford to borrow an additional $700 billion from other countries to make all the Bush tax cuts permanent, even for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans." However, as noted by Reihan Salam at National Review Online:
The president is characterizing his stance as evidence of his commitment to fiscal restraint. But strikingly, he failed to note that the middle-income tax cuts will cost $3 trillion over the same ten-year period that he's using to yield $700 billion as the cost of the high-income rate reductions. One assumes that the $3 trillion will also have to be borrowed from other countries.
Of course, the "cost" never takes into account the fact that cutting taxes stimulates the economy and brings in more revenue.
Congress needs to get to work and prevent massive tax increases from going into effect. Maybe then, in the new Congress, we can address that fact that taxes are too high on businesses and individuals and that the rates need to come down. That's a real stimulus! All we are talking about right now is preventing a tax increase, and Democrats, who are still blind to what happened on Election Day, are fighting it.