Until the newly-elected members of Congress settle in on Capitol Hill in January, we’re stuck in what’s known as a “lame duck” session of Congress. It’s an interesting period of time. On one hand, members that have not been re-elected have less political clout and may choose to take little or no action for the remainder of their term. On the other hand, these members have the freedom of not having to face the consequences of their actions, which may result in last-minute action and voting. The current Congress still has a lot on their plate over the next few months, from the Bush-era tax cuts that are set to expire on December 31st to the loom of automatic budget cuts effective January 1st. This is also known as the budget sequestration. This possible year-end situation of tax and budget cuts has been coined the “fiscal cliff,” as it would result in a massive double-punch to the economy.
President Obama has met with Congressional leaders to figure out ways to avoid this situation. But given the rest of the 2012 Congressional calendar, this leaves lawmakers only about five weeks to come up with a solution to the fiscal cliff set to take effect in the new year.
While the economy is the first order of business for the lame duck Congress, it certainly isn’t the only item on the agenda. The Farm Bill expired in September and many farmers are struggling without supplemental payments. If this Congress doesn’t act, the effects could include a drastic increase in the price of milk from dairy farmers. The Senate has already passed their version of a bill, but it is still waiting for the House to act.
Representative Collin Peterson (D-MN) on the House Agriculture Committee is urging the House to vote to pass a five-year Farm Bill. The measure already passed the House Agriculture Committee back in July and Peterson suggests voting before the Thanksgiving break, giving the House enough time to work out differences with the Senate bill. Although not ideal, a one-year extension of the Farm Bill is also a possibility during the lame duck session.
With major threats to our economy facing us, I urge the lame duck Congress to look beyond party lines and see the bigger picture. While these may be the last few months for some members of Congress, I urge them to think about the decisions they make. These decisions have the power to steer our economy and our environment in a positive direction heading into the new year.