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A Busy Congressional Agenda Starts November 15

October 26, 2010

Shortly after the mid-term elections, Members of Congress will return to Washington to try to wrap up the legislative business for the year.  The new Congress elected on November 2 doesn’t take office until January 2011, so this final session of the 111th Congress is traditionally called the “lame duck” session.

The Democrats, who will still control both chambers of Congress at least in the lame duck, have said that top of the agenda for the lame duck session will be approving legislation to fund the federal government and deciding which of the expiring Bush era tax cuts should be renewed, and securing Senate ratification of the New START treaty that reduces the number of deployed nuclear weapons in the United States and Russia. Yet how much gets done in the session will depend in part on the results of the November 2 elections, on how long members of Congress are prepared to stay in Washington, and on what you do with FCNL to urge members of Congress to act.

What Happens in November: Right now, Democrats control both chambers of Congress. If Republicans take over control over one or both chambers of Congress, then Republican lawmakers have signaled they would be inclined to wait to act on all but the most pressing Congressional priorities until 2011 when they will have more control over the agenda. Of course, if Republicans win more seats in the Congress or take over one chamber, then Democrats may try to get a lot done in the lame duck because they will have less votes in the new Congress that is seated in January 2011.

The tight November and December schedule: The Congressional leadership has already signaled that both the House and the Senate will return to Washington the week of November 15 . They will be in town that week but then are expected to go back home the next week for Thanksgiving. Then the House and the Senate will return on November 29 for a week or possibly longer. How long members stay in town will depend on how possible it will be for both parties to work together to get some legislation passed.

You can help influence the lame duck legislative agenda: Much of what happens in the lame duck session will happen behind closed doors. Yet we at FCNL will be working to persuade Congress to act on several pieces of legislation, including

Scheduling a time-limited vote on the New START treaty. Our senior lobbyist David Culp says that if the two parties can agree to schedule a vote, there are the 67 votes needed to ratify the treaty. Yet any senator could hold up the process but delaying the vote or requiring an extended debate on the issue.

Funding the Cobell Settlement: The injustice has gone on for too long. The Senate needs to act.

Approving S. Con. Res. 71 to Prevent Genocide and Mass Atrocities: My colleague Bridget Moix says that a unanimous consent resolution to approve this simple resolution could happen in the lame duck.  Bridget will also be working to prevent cuts in proven programs to improve U.S. capacities to peacefully prevent deadly conflict.

Stopping the Endless War. Congresswoman Barbara Lee has introduced legislation to repeal the 2001 Authorization of the Use of Force that has been used to authorize military interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq, drone attacks on Pakistan and Yemen, torture, illegal detention, and much more.

We at FCNL also hope that members of Congress may approve the DREAM Act and that they may take at least some modest steps to improve our nation’s efforts to address greenhouse gas pollution. Although we’re not optimistic about these actions, we at FCNL look forward to working with all of you in the next few weeks on this legislative agenda.

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