House May Consider Lame Duck

Posted October 6, 2008 at 6:44pm

The fiscal tsunami hitting the economy could prompt a lame-duck session in the House if President Bush shows a willingness to cut a deal on another stimulus package.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has been bashing Bush and Republicans almost daily over their opposition to a second stimulus package and has made clear that she would bring the House back if there was a deal to be had.

The House passed a $60.8 billion stimulus package Sept. 26 that included such items as infrastructure spending, unemployment insurance and aid to states. A similar package was blocked in the Senate.

“The pressure continues to build on the White House and Republicans in the Senate to agree to the House-passed economic stimulus and job creation package,” Pelosi spokesman Nadeam Elshami said. “The president must take a leadership role in this effort and work with us to finalize a package. That’s our focus.”

There’s also the potential for the House to return if the situation in the financial markets continues to deteriorate, despite the $700 billion bailout package passed last week.

Republicans still hold out a small hope of returning to pass the Colombia free-trade agreement — the last big item remaining on Bush’s agenda.

But that would require dealing with Pelosi, who has blocked a vote on Colombia to give herself “leverage” and has made a stimulus package, trade assistance for displaced workers and an improvement in the situation in Colombia itself among her prerequisites for allowing a vote. Pelosi personally supports passage of the agreement, but doing so before the November elections and without a big prize in return was a nonstarter given the strong opposition from labor unions who are a major part of the Democratic election effort.

Of course, there is no requirement that Congress show up for another three months, given that they passed a long-term continuing resolution keeping the government running until March. Lawmakers also completed the politically important annual tax-extender legislation earlier than expected by tacking it on to the Wall Street bailout.

Bush’s decision to sign a CR that lasted through the end of his term struck some Capitol Hill Republicans as odd because it took some of the pressure off bringing Congress back for Colombia.

The Senate will be returning for a lame duck during the week of Nov. 17 to take up a package of land bills. More substantive matters also could come up.

Pelosi’s drumbeat for a stimulus package gives Democrats an issue to take into the elections, much the way they used the stagnant minimum wage to blast the GOP in 2006.

“Why on the drop of a hat can they ask us for $700 billion, and we couldn’t get any support from the administration on a stimulus package that would also help grow the economy?” Pelosi asked on the House floor during the speech later attacked by Republican leaders as too partisan.

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) has argued that Democrats were never serious about a second stimulus and were instead playing politics. Boehner and other Republicans have argued that the best stimulus package would be to pass a comprehensive energy package that focuses on domestic production to create jobs. Republicans have also argued that Democrats should extend Bush’s tax cuts to prevent a tax increase.

Democrats already capitulated on offshore oil drilling, but Republicans want more.

“The victory for the American people on deepwater energy exploration is just the beginning what is needed,” a House GOP aide said. “There is no reason to delay.”