Congress’ long to-do list may make it more productive

David Gura Dec 8, 2014
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Congress’ long to-do list may make it more productive

David Gura Dec 8, 2014
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On Capitol Hill, a lame-duck session is underway. There are just a few weeks left until the 113th Congress is over, and the 114th Congress begins and ushers in a Republican majority in both the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. Before then, lawmakers have to figure out how to fund the government, and they have to deal with both a defense bill and tax breaks that are set to expire.

According to the Pew Research Center, lame-duck sessions “are shouldering more of the legislative workload than they used to.” Sarah Binder, a political science professor at George Washington University, argues they have become more important in this era of stopgap spending bills. “They provide that final deadline,” she says. “An action-forcing deadline.”

Pew says productivity may increase as a congress winds down. But Linda Fowler, a government professor at Dartmouth College, says there are consequences to leaving; for example, budgeting to the last minute. “A government can’t plan when it doesn’t know how much money it has to spend,” she notes.

Mark Peterson, a public policy professor at UCLA, says this lame-duck session is going to seem especially productive.

“The congress during the regular session came close to doing nothing,” he says. “So, the proportionality of actually getting work done is going to look more impressive in the post-election period.”

That is thanks in part to how much time lawmakers spent on recess this year, campaigning to stay in Congress. 

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