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Counting Votes for the Lame Duck Session

Democrats have punted, at least for now, on voting on the Bush tax cuts. Rather than forcing moderate Democratic members to OK a tax increase for wealthy Americans, leadership will call a vote during the lame-duck session. After the Nov. 2 election, they also need to take up a reauthorization of federally extended unemployment benefits.

Thus, Democratic leadership is stockpiling legislation for the two-month period between the election (when they will know how many seats they lost) and the new year (when a new Congress convenes).

But changes to the Congressional make-up might throw a kink in that plan, the Wall Street Journal notices:

At least three Senate victors could be seated immediately after the November elections, raising the possibility that Democrats could see their majority cut for the end of the year as Congress deals with several key pieces of legislation.

Lawmakers are typically seated in January. But deaths, a resignation and a series of Democrats taking jobs in the Obama administration forced six states to fill Senate vacancies through appointment since 2008, including those created by the president and vice president.

Terms for three of those appointed senators—from Illinois, West Virginia and Delaware—expire after elections Nov. 2.

State laws require replacements to be seated immediately, and Republicans are seen as having a shot at winning in Illinois and West Virginia. The GOP candidate in Delaware, tea-party-backed Christine O’Donnell, is trailing Democratic nominee Chris Coons by double digits in recent polls.

In Colorado, where the election is considered a toss-up, Republicans also intend to push for a speedy appointment.

That means Democrats might need to find not one but four cross-over votes to pass any legislation over a Republican filibuster in the lame-duck session — and that means the chances of passing the tax increase on the two percent decreases.

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