Conventional wisdom says the lame-duck session of Congress will not produce any legislation of consequence. Regardless, speakers and activists at an Americans for Prosperity-organized protest outside the U.S. Capitol railed Monday against the prospect of the outgoing Democratic Congress trying to pass anything.
“It’s about trust but verify,” Dallas Woodhouse, the North Carolina state director of AFP, told TWI sister site The American Independent when asked whether or not Congress would achieve anything during the lame-duck session. He added that AFP wanted Congress to pass a “clean, continuing” resolution to fund the government until the new Congress could make decisions, and to extend the Bush tax cuts.
On whether to pass unemployment insurance that expires at the end of the month, he said if the measure passed with the tax cuts, it would not be a “major issue,” but had problems with its continual extension. “Is unemployment insurance, insurance? Or is it welfare?” he asked.
Others in Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group founded in 2004 by billionaire David Koch but closely associated with the Tea Party, were convinced that Congress might pass bigger legislation. “Now Congress must respect the will of the people and refrain from passing any new legislation that supports or funds the Left’s global warming agenda, the bailout for union pensions, or funding for the Obama/Pelosi health care takeover,” said AFP President Tim Phillips in a press release preceding today’s rally.
“How egregious it would be to increase taxes,” said Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), chair of the Tea Party Caucus and the headline speaker for the protest. “In the 6th District of Minnesota, they could take out $1.2 billion out of my district to spend more … they spend more than that before their morning coffee!” Ostensibly commenting on the expiration of the Bush tax cuts slated for the end of the year, she said, “The largest tax increase in history could cost 2,000 jobs in my district.”
Bachmann could hardly leave the rally as so many fans mobbed her. “Join my Facebook page!” she said, trying to leave.
Several other members of Congress stepped out of their nearby offices to speak. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) and several newly elected congressmen staying at the L’Enfant Plaza Hotel for new member orientation also spoke.
“The repeal of welfare reform was in Obamacare,” claimed Gohmert.
The event drew fewer than 300 people, even though AFP provided buses from North Carolina, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia. “We needed to send a message to be a watchdog,” said Fay Kist, a retired teacher who traveled by bus from Virginia Beach. When asked about her specific concerns for the lame-duck session, her response, over AFP-provided Domino’s Pizza, was immediate: “Earmarks, I never liked earmarks.”
After the rally, AFP steered many attendees to the office of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has opposed a moratorium on earmarks proposed by congressional conservatives. But just after 2 p.m., at the start of the lame-duck session, he changed his position in his opening speech on the Senate floor.
“This is no small thing. Old habits are not easy to break, but sometimes they must be,” he said. “There is simply no doubt that the abuse of this practice has caused Americans to view it as a symbol of the waste and out of control spending that every Republican in Washington is determined to fight.”
Luke Johnson reports for The American Independent.