The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

By William Douglas, McClatchy Washington Bureau (MCT)

WASHINGTON — Jim DeMint likes his zombies on television or in the movies, not roaming the halls of Congress.

DeMint, a former Republican senator from South Carolina who now heads the conservative Heritage Foundation, is among those worried about House and Senate members who were defeated in Tuesday’s elections or are retiring from office voting on critical budgetary and national security matters when Congress returns for a lame-duck session next week.

“These zombie politicians were just rejected by voters and they shouldn’t have one last chance to fleece taxpayers on behalf of special interests,” DeMint said in an email interview with McClatchy.

DeMint and other conservatives worry that defeated or retiring lawmakers — “zombies,” in the words of columnist George Will, who coined the term — are the politically walking dead with nothing to lose. Instead of being beholden to voters, they could go rogue and actually vote their conscience.

“With no electorate to appease, the newly politically ‘deceased’ members have no incentive to restrain their baser urges to feast upon the hard-earned tax dollars of the living,” DeMint added in a column for The Daily Signal, a Heritage Foundation online publication.

Jenny Beth Martin, president and co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, said she’d prefer to see the entire 113th Congress, losers and incumbent winners, become zombies and roam the countryside until the 114th Congress is sworn in in January.

Besides, lawmakers were gone most of the summer and fall, Martin said — why rush back to Washington now?

“I know they have to do a spending bill, but we would like to see as little as possible done in the lame duck and wait for the new Congress,” Martin said. “Congress has been able to be out of Washington a lot since July. If it wasn’t urgent before the elections, it can wait until the next Congress.”

Lawmakers do behave and vote differently in lame-duck sessions, according to a report released in September by George Mason University’s Mercatus Center. The study, which analyzed more than 28,000 House and 22,000 Senate roll call votes between 1939 and 2013, found that lame-duck lawmakers were 3 to 4 percent less likely to vote along party lines.

“For legislators who are retiring or have been voted out of office, a lame-duck session is a unique opportunity to ignore the wishes of special interests, campaign donors, other legislators and party bosses,” Matthew Mitchell and Emily Washington, co-authors with Christopher Koopman of the Mercatus Center study, wrote last month for the website RealClearPolitics. “Only as lame ducks can they freely vote as they wish.”

That’s if they showed up at all. The report also found that House members were 50 percent more likely to miss votes and senators 30 percent more likely to skip on the yeas or nays in lame-duck sessions.

The 113th Congress has a long to-do list before it adjourns next month. House and Senate appropriators are working on an omnibus spending bill to keep the federal government funded beyond Dec. 11.

Lawmakers will get another chance to weigh in on matters of war and peace as President Barack Obama’s authorization to train and equip moderate Syrian rebels to combat the Islamic State expires next month. And the Senate will attempt to push through hundreds of Obama administration judicial, ambassadorial and administrative nominees before adjourning next month. One of those nominees could be a yet-to-be-named replacement for departing Attorney General Eric Holder.

Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, thinks soon-to-be ex-lawmakers will handle their lame-duck duties just fine.

“I know a few of my colleagues have said the lame-duck Congress shouldn’t do anything, but I think there are a few things you can do that the next Congress won’t do dramatically differently,” Blunt told reporters this week. “As long as you have a Republican House, I don’t think senators need to be overly worried about what a lame-duck Senate is going to do.”

Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., believes “there should be an accommodation” in the lame duck “based on the people having spoken so emphatically” in the elections. But he’s not scared or worried about what zombie lawmakers will do in Congress’ closing days.

“A lame duck, where there is a transition at the end, is an opportunity to get things done by consensus, which is the way we’ve historically done things in the Senate anyway,” Wicker said.

That’s if they show up to vote.

(Greg Gordon and Lindsay Wise of the Washington Bureau contributed to this report.)

Photo: “Night of the Living Dead” — 1968, via Wikimedia

Advertising

Start your day with National Memo Newsletter

Know first.

The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning

Supreme Court of the United States

YouTube Screenshot

A new analysis is explaining the disturbing circumstances surrounding the overturning of Roe v. Wade and how the U.S. Supreme Court has morphed into an entity actively working toward authoritarianism.

In a new op-ed published by The Guardian, Jill Filipovic —author of the book, The H-Spot: The Feminist Pursuit of Happiness—offered an assessment of the message being sent with the Supreme Court's rollback of the 1973 landmark ruling.

Keep reading... Show less

Billionaires

YouTube Screenshot

After a year of reporting on the tax machinations of the ultrawealthy, ProPublica spotlights the top tax-avoidance techniques that provide massive benefits to billionaires.

Last June, drawing on the largest trove of confidential American tax data that’s ever been obtained, ProPublica launched a series of stories documenting the key ways the ultrawealthy avoid taxes, strategies that are largely unavailable to most taxpayers. To mark the first anniversary of the launch, we decided to assemble a quick summary of the techniques — all of which can generate tax savings on a massive scale — revealed in the series.

1. The Ultra Wealth Effect

Our first story unraveled how billionaires like Elon Musk, Warren Buffett and Jeff Bezos were able to amass some of the largest fortunes in history while paying remarkably little tax relative to their immense wealth. They did it in part by avoiding selling off their vast holdings of stock. The U.S. system taxes income. Selling stock generates income, so they avoid income as the system defines it. Meanwhile, billionaires can tap into their wealth by borrowing against it. And borrowing isn’t taxable. (Buffett said he followed the law and preferred that his wealth go to charity; the others didn’t comment beyond a “?” from Musk.)

Keep reading... Show less
{{ post.roar_specific_data.api_data.analytics }}