Opinion

Legislative Lowdown: The calm before the spending storm

Lame-duck spending

Many wonder what’s going to happen after the elections in a lame-duck Congress. After the elections, there will be members who are free from the wrath of voters. Many worry that, free from the constraints of a pending election, Congress will embark on a lame-duck spending binge.

If Mitt Romney wins the presidency and Republicans gain control of the Senate, there may be a motivation to clear the agenda for Romney in 2013. One would think that a defeated Barack Obama wouldn’t be very helpful, unless Congress sent him legislation that increased some spending. Under this scenario, it is likely that not much good would get done in the lame-duck period.

If President Obama wins a second term and the Senate remains in Democratic hands, expect a very active Congress to compromise on a number of issues. The 2001 and 2003 tax cuts would not get wholly reauthorized. Congress would try to clear its agenda of pending spending bills. This scenario would prove very dangerous for the taxpayer.

Regardless of who wins the 2012 presidential election, conservatives need to keep a very close eye on Congress in a lame duck.

Brian Darling is Senior Fellow for Government Studies at The Heritage Foundation (heritage.org).