In the election of 1800, the country thoroughly repudiated the Federalist Party. President John Adams was defeated in his reelection campaign by Thomas Jefferson and the Democrat-Republicans gained majorities in the House and Senate.
The Federalists had clearly lost the support of the people. Yet, in a “lame duck” congressional session, which is when the outgoing Congress returns to Washington before the newly elected Congress takes over in, the Federalists enacted the Judiciary Act of 1801. The Act nearly doubled the number of federal judgeships, which President Adams filled with his Federalist allies. These appointments were an explicit, and ultimately futile, action to hamstring the newly elected President and Congress (the Jeffersonians simply repealed the Act with the Judiciary Act of 1802).
With this action, the Federalists made the ultimate mistake in a governmental system that derives its authority from the consent of the governed. Instead of heeding the will of the people, John Adams and the Federalists decided to thwart it. In the process, they set their party on a course toward extinction. The Federalists never regained power, eventually disappearing by the 1820s.
Are the Democrats about to make the same mistake the Federalists made?
Democratic leaders today have been sending clear signals that they are willing to use the lame duck session of Congress to pass the most unpopular and destructive parts of their agenda. Like the Federalists’ actions in 1801, any attempt by the outgoing Congress to pass legislation they were unwilling to defend in an election would be an attempt to thwart the will of the people.
As destructive as the Democratic Congress and President Obama have been in the past 18 months, it is worth remembering that things could have been a lot worse if not for the vocal and consistent activism of the American people opposing the Democrats’ radical agenda.
The Orwellian named Employee Free Choice Act, which would strip workers of the right to a secret ballot when deciding when to join a union, is not yet law.
The job killing energy tax – or cap and trade – passed the House but remains hung up in the Senate.
The Democrats have also not been able to pass an amnesty bill for illegal immigrants.
And let’s not forget that President Obama’s ‘Deficit Commission’ is expected to recommend tax increases, possibly in the form of a value added tax (VAT), that could raise the cost of everything Americans buy. Conveniently, the Commission will not report its findings until after the November 2nd elections, just in time for a lame duck Congressional session.
The Lame Duck Congress Will Be Dramatically Different Than the 2011 Congress
As my colleague Randy Evans has noted, there are already six Democrats and six Republicans retiring from the Senate this year. Two more (one Democrat and one Republican) were defeated in their primary elections and will not return. Meanwhile, in the House, there are 17 Democrats and 20 Republicans retiring and three more have been defeated in their primaries.
So, even without considering the results of this coming election, we already know that 14 senators and 40 members of the House currently in office will not be there in the new Congress.
And let’s be perfectly clear, all the recent generic congressional ballot polls show Republicans with a clear lead. Democrats are expected to suffer substantial losses due to the radicalism of their job killing agenda and the failure of their party to lead.
Power from Consent of the Governed, Not In Spite of the Governed
The Left is vividly aware that they are likely to lose the House of Representatives and, at best, have a much smaller majority in the Senate in January. So there is panic setting in about all the Left-wing goals that have yet to be accomplished.
Democrats know that their members facing tough elections this year can’t vote for these enormously unpopular, left-wing bills if they want to get reelected. But they also know that significant losses this November are all but certain, and they will never be able to advance their agenda under a realigned House and Senate.
So more and more Democratic leaders are raising the specter of passing the unfinished items on the Left’s wish list during in a lame duck session of Congress.
At a recent conference with left wing bloggers, Senate Majority leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) assured the audience about the Left’s unfinished priorities, saying “We’re going to have to have a lame duck session, so we’re not giving up.”
Speaking about card check legislation, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) recently stated “A lot of things can happen in a lame duck session, too.”
The most shameless statement came from Sen. John Kerry: “I have to tell you, [cap and trade] is not dead…if it is after the election, it may well be that some members are free and liberated and feeling that they can take a risk or do something.”
Consider the implications of what Kerry is saying here.
The Declaration of Independence states that governments “[derive] their just powers from the consent of the governed.” That means that elected representatives should feel the most empowered with the support of the American people.
But the model for Sen. Kerry and the Democrats is precisely the opposite: their members feel empowered to enact their agenda when they do not have to answer to the people.
It is hard to think of an attitude more fundamentally at odds with the spirit of our democratic republic than the idea that an elected representative should feel “liberated” to pass bills the American people do not support once he or she is freed from the burden of having to face the voters.
How to Defeat a Machine
In my new book, To Save America, I make the case that the modern left can only be understood as a secular-socialist machine. The Democratic Congress’ plans to pass unpopular bills during the lame duck Congress after being thoroughly repudiated by the American people at the ballot box is just further evidence of that machine mentality on the Left. The American people do not have to stand for this.
Fortunately, in To Save America, I also point out that the way to defeat a powerful machine is simple (though by no means easy): insist on the truth.
The No Lame Duck Pledge
We need to get every elected representative on the record about whether they support or oppose a lame duck session after the election.
The Democrats have already proven with the healthcare bill that they are willing to use cheap tricks to thwart the will of the people. They ignored the town hall meetings and the clear signal the voters of Massachusetts sent by electing Scott Brown and passed the healthcare bill anyway.
Given this track record and the statements from Sen. Kerry and other Democratic leaders hinting they are willing to pass radical and unpopular bills in the lame duck session, the American people have the right to know where their elected representatives stand.
At American Solutions, we have developed the No Lame Duck Pledge:
I, undersigned Member of the 111th Congress, pledge to the citizens of the State of _____________ I will not participate in a Lame Duck session of Congress. I believe reconvening the Congress after the November 2nd election and prior to the seating of the new 112th Congress, smacks of the worst kind of political corruption. Attempting to pass unpopular legislation subverts the will of the American people and is an abusive power grab.
You can visit AmericanSolutions.com for tools on how to reach out to your congressman and organize your friends and neighbors to insist they take the pledge.
Some congressmen and senators may insist that a lame duck session is necessary to complete work on a budget. But this is a lie.
First of all, it was Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid’s decision to avoid crafting a budget this year. They did it precisely so they would not have to answer for tax hikes or big pork projects to the American people. To claim that their abdication of responsibility requires us to accept a lame duck session is the height of irresponsibility and dishonesty.
Second, Congress does not even need to pass a budget to avoid a lame duck session. They only need to pass a clean, pork-free continuing budget resolution through March that will fund the government at current levels. That will leave it up to the new Congress—one that reflects the will of the American people—to develop a new budget based on the mandate given to them by the “consent of the governed.”
More importantly, it would remove the excuse for a lame duck session of Congress, during which the Democratic machine would no doubt try to pass the unfinished items on their agenda despite the clearly expressed wishes of the American people.
Visit AmericanSolutions.com today to find out what you can do to convince your Congressman and Senators to take the No Lame Duck Pledge.
P.S. Last week, I gave a major national security address on the dangers of radical Islamism and how we need to rethink our efforts in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere within that context. You can watch highlights and the full speech here.
Newt’s Quick Links:
• In his piece posted at Renewing American Leadership, Congressman Steve King explores the flawed logic Democrats are employing to justify amnesty for illegal immigrants using Christian teaching. You can read the piece here.
• We have posted photos from the To Save America book tour. Visit GingrichProductions.com.
• Read reviews and watch the trailer for Nine Days that Changed the World, hosted by Callista and me, at GingrichProductions.com.
• Israel Ortega from The Heritage Foundation writes for The Americano about how despite the irrefutable economic indicators President Obama and the Democrats in Congress want us to believe that their policies are working. Click here.
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