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Democrats' Plans for the Lame-Duck Session Have Changed

There will be a lame-duck session of Congress lasting for a few weeks. It will certainly be over before Christmas so members get a week off before returning for stunts and photo ops (but not legislating) on Jan. 3. Now that the Democrats have captured the Senate no matter what happens in the Georgia runoff, the agenda for the lame-duck session has changed radically.

If the Democrats had lost the Senate, the lame-duck session would have primarily focused on getting as many judges as possible confirmed. The Democrats will now be able to confirm judges up until Jan. 2, 2025, so there is no hurry. That takes a lot of pressure off them. In fact, there is now no reason to confirm a single judge until next year because the Republican takeover of the House will not block them in April or October or any other month. Nevertheless, if Herschel Walker wins in Georgia, the Democrats will be only one death away from losing their majority, so getting to work on judges soon after Jan. 3 would be wise. If Raphael Warnock is reelected, the Democrats will still hold the majority (with the help of President of the Senate Kamala Harris) even if a member passes away.

The Democrats' priorities for the lame-duck session are now these four things:

If the Democrats get all these things done, it will be much harder for the House Republicans to blackmail the country next year. They will no doubt try, but holding up a normal appropriations bill will generate a lot of blowback from the people who will be cut off, so that is risky. Do Republicans really want to cut off veterans, farmers, etc.? Probably not.

The lame-duck session will also see the passage of a few bills with bipartisan support. One is the Respect for Marriage Bill, which will codify the right to same-sex marriage and interracial marriage in federal law. The latter throws down the gauntlet and dares Justice Clarence Thomas to rule that it is unconstitutional. The bill does not require all states to allow same-sex marriages to be peformed in their state. What it does do is require all states to recognize a valid marriage performed in another state. Making the states honor each other's laws is something the federal government can do. Thus, a gay couple in, say, Tennessee, could scoot over to Illinois and get legally married there and Tennessee would have to honor the marriage. This can even be done online, so that the gay couple doesn't even have to leave their home state. The bill also has some provisions for allowing people and organizations to discriminate against same-sex couples based on their religious beliefs. Democrats had to swallow that to get enough votes to have any bill at all.

A bill to clarify the Electoral Count Act is also likely to pass because Republicans don't want Kamala Harris to be tossing out electoral votes she doesn't like on Jan. 6, 2025. (V)

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