Is The Lame Duck Justifiable?

by Jonathan Chait | December 22, 2010

I strongly approve of the ends of the lame duck Congress, but as a small-d democrat, I don't approve of the means. Why should Congress have a period of time to act in which many members enjoy zero accountability before their constituents? The arrangement is ripe for abuse.

On the other hand, the manic productivity of the lame duck session appears to be a response to another anti-democratic mechanism, the filibuster. Mitch McConnell's block-everything, grind-down-the-clock method created a pent-up demand among moderate and even mainstream Republicans who waned to govern. So now they have a few frantic weeks to do a lot of things they wanted to do all along, but refrained out of partisan loyalty.

Meanwhile, despite my reservations about the procedure, I'm taking a lot of satisfaction from the outcome. This bit from President Obama's signing speech of DADT repeal was pretty moving:

I want to speak directly to the gay men and women currently serving in our military.  For a long time your service has demanded a particular kind of sacrifice.  You’ve been asked to carry the added burden of secrecy and isolation.  And all the while, you’ve put your lives on the line for the freedoms and privileges of citizenship that are not fully granted to you.  
You’re not the first to have carried this burden, for while today marks the end of a particular struggle that has lasted almost two decades, this is a moment more than two centuries in the making.
There will never be a full accounting of the heroism demonstrated by gay Americans in service to this country; their service has been obscured in history.  It’s been lost to prejudices that have waned in our own lifetimes.  But at every turn, every crossroads in our past, we know gay Americans fought just as hard, gave just as much to protect this nation and the ideals for which it stands.
There can be little doubt there were gay soldiers who fought for American independence, who consecrated the ground at Gettysburg, who manned the trenches along the Western Front, who stormed the beaches of Iwo Jima.  Their names are etched into the walls of our memorials.  Their headstones dot the grounds at Arlington.
And so, as the first generation to serve openly in our Armed Forces, you will stand for all those who came before you, and you will serve as role models to all who come after.

Source URL: http://www.newrepublic.com//blog/jonathan-chait/80365/the-lame-duck-justifiable