Some House conservatives want no lame-duck session

Source: Nick Juliano, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, September 13, 2012

With lawmakers aiming to spend most of their time before November on the campaign trail, Congress is expected to have a full plate for a post-election session in November and December. But some House conservatives say it would be inappropriate to convene as lame ducks before the 113th Congress — and, they hope, a new president — comes to town next year.

“I don’t think anyone in this room right here would like to come back for a lame-duck session,” Rep. Jeff Landry (R-La.) said yesterday at a “Conversations with Conservatives” event on Capitol Hill, where he was joined by about a half-dozen colleagues.

The end of this year brings a confluence of policy changes lawmakers and lobbyists have referred to collectively as the “fiscal cliff” — with the expiration of George W. Bush-era tax cuts for individuals, forced spending cuts known as sequestration and the end of dozens of temporary business tax breaks set to take effect.

The wind industry has been lobbying intensively for an extension of the production tax credit, without which it says half its jobs will be lost next year. And an array of other energy sectors, from home efficiency contractors to appliance makers to alternative fuel producers, also are counting on a continuation of tax credits prized by their respective industries.

Landry and his conservative colleagues ultimately will not decide whether Congress comes back to town after the election — that will be up to House and Senate leadership — but their voices carry sway among Republicans, and their votes could determine what changes make it into law during a lame-duck session.

Some Democrats, such as Virginia Rep. Jim Moran, speculated that Republicans would not convene a lame-duck session if GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney wins in November, because he would be more likely to back their policy preferences.

Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho), who appeared with Landry at yesterday’s event, said he would not support a lame-duck session no matter who was elected, because convening for just a few weeks would not give lawmakers the time to fully consider the bills they would be asked to vote on. However, Labrador said he would not support extending the production tax credit and other temporary tax provisions, whenever they come up.

“I know there would be a little bit of uncertainty, which nobody likes, for a couple of weeks, but I think that it’s something we can tackle in January because I think these are all debates we need to have,” Labrador said.

Both Labrador and Landry are freshmen. Senior lawmakers who have been busy crafting a potential lame-duck agenda said the idea of doing nothing for the two months after the election would have disastrous consequences.

“I don’t know how you just walk away and say, ‘We’ll do it in January.’ That’s a great concept, I guess, but in reality, you’re affecting people’s lives,” said Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio), who chairs a Ways and Means subcommittee with jurisdiction over the temporary tax measures, the Subcommittee on Select Revenue Measures.

“Doing retroactive tax policy should be the last resort, not the first resort. … I just think it’s playing Russian roulette.”