Capitol Hill staffers of Democratic members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives are hopeful that Congress will act on two bills affecting government broadcasts and recording in a “lame duck” session after the November elections.
The latest bills were introduced in late September, and were immediately referred to committees, with at least one Senate proposal receiving swift action.
On Sept. 28, 2010, the proposed “Government Performance and Results Modernization Act” (S. 3853) was introduced into the Senate by Sens. Tom Carper, D-Del.; Mark Warner, D-Va.; and Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii. The proposed requires federal agencies to post performance data on a single public website on a quarterly, rather than a yearly, schedule. S. 3853 was referred to the Senate Homeland Security & Government Affairs Committee, and on Sept. 29, the committee approved the proposed legislation and offered it as an amendment to a House version of the bill, HR 2141, which proves Congress can get work accomplished when it wants to. The fast track is not over for this bill, staffers close to Carper are confident Congress will act on it during a lame duck session, and that bill is not alone.
On Sept. 29, 2010, the proposed “Effective Law Enforcement Through Transparent Interrogations Act” (HR 6245) was introduced in the House by Rep. Henry Johnson, D-Ga., and the bill was referred to the House Judiciary Committee. That particular bill seeks to require all federal police agencies record every suspect interrogation or forfeit the statements a suspect said during questioning.
Like with S. 3853, a top staffer for Johnson said the bill will be taken up by the Judiciary Committee in a lame duck session. But a look at the committees’ calendars in late October shows that no hearings or markup sessions have been scheduled for November. So by relaying on a lame duck session for these and other hundreds of other pending bills, the Democratic lawmakers are at least planning a legislative spurt growth during the last four to six weeks of the 111th Congress. That is an indication that the Democrats have at least considered the possibility they will lose control of one of the two houses in the November election (the Republicans were much more confident, as jockeying for leadership positions began in at least October), and the Democrats contingency seems to be to get as many bills passed before the Republicans take control and are able to set the agenda, including which bills get hearings, committee votes and finally make it to the floor. But is ramming bills through—without the usual hearings in which experts in the fields that are going to be affected by the proposed legislation—any way to make laws?