Beware the Zombie Congress
Lachlan Markay /
With a whopping 92 members of Congress retiring or defeated in November’s elections, the new lame duck session will feature a host of members who no longer have to answer to their constituents.
That makes the lame duck session, during which Congress will consider a host of controversial measures including legislation to avert the “fiscal cliff,” a tenuous situation.
Heritage’s James Carafano has dubbed the lame duck “The Zombie Congress” – legislators ousted but still in Washington can sway major pieces of legislation without fear of democratic recourse.
In the vein of his neologism, Heritage has released a new video on the Zombie Congress, which can be viewed above.
“No matter which political party comes out on top tomorrow,” Carafano wrote the day before the election, “Washington will turn into Zombie-land within weeks.”
The living Congress left a lot undone — for example, a budget that never got passed, and an agreement on how to avoid the Fiscal Cliff and Taxmageddon. And then there are treaties — several of them — that could be ratified if the Senate hung around long enough and enough arms got twisted.
The key for lawmakers looking to survive in lame-duck Zombie-land is simple: Don’t panic! Instead, do as little as possible and wait calmly until the walking dead stagger from the Capitol and the new Congress convenes.
From a national security perspective, there is precious little this Congress can do to protect us from real enemies. Harry Reid’s cybersecurity bill would create as many problems as it tries to solve. Better to wait, and get it right.
There is no real urgency to ratify even a single treaty. Indeed, 37 senators have already signed a letter pledging to oppose the ratification of any treaties during lame duck. Why go into that blind alley?
Nor is lame duck a good time to fix the automatic cuts slated to hit the Pentagon, the intelligence community and Homeland Security. The short-term damage is already done. Officials have already begun shutting off or scaling back programs and activities in anticipation of the cuts. Some defense contractors have already started letting people go. Rushing to fix the wrong-headed cuts in lame duck won’t fix much, but it could mean running headlong into some really bad trade-offs, like tax increases.
The best course of action is nonaction. Let the nightmare of this Congress pass and the new, living Congress tackle these problems through the regular order of business. That would make for bad cinema, but much better governance.