The meeting of a lame duck Congress has been mocked and even vilified in recent weeks, but if the concept seems somewhat ungainly, it is unfailingly Constitutional – and critically important in the midst of international tension and heightened security concern.
The opening salvos of war have been fired in Iraq, and the FBI has warned of the possibility of “spectacular” Al-Qaeda-led terrorist attacks; a vigilant Congress must be in place to filter information, find truth and ensure stability.
This is not to say that the executive branch is inherently dishonest, or that the Congress is some kind of moral authority or arbiter of truth, but the branches of government must work in cohesion to decipher propaganda and discern an objective path to justice.
Make no mistake, the Department of Defense is in the business of winning wars, and part of that function is to control propaganda to garner widespread support. This is by no means a corrupt or deceitful tactic, but if the public is ever to gain a true sense of reality, issues must be examined by multiple sets of eyes.
The criticism of a lame duck session amounts to nothing more than political rancor and spin control-typical Washington in-fighting that consistently demonizes a practice unless it benefits the party of the complainer.
Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi, who will regain his title of majority leader when the new Congress convenes in January and the Republicans take control, last week said, “Members who are retiring or those who have been defeated need to step aside now.”
But is this call for silence motivated by a sense of righteousness or a desire for political expedience and an attempt to block all legislation that could result from the Democratic led Senate that currently has control?
New Hampshire Republican Bob Smith lost his senatorial primary, but Lott did not call for Smith to relinquish his vote or resign his committee assignments last spring.
The Constitution is the one instrument of justice that cannot be tweaked or sullied by specious and self-serving rhetoric. Legislators are elected for either two or six years; these terms are non-negotiable, and they are not subject to review after 90 percent of them have expired.
Loathe them or love them, elected officials are given the pledge of their constituencies for the entirety of their term; this pledge is unbreakable and its endowments and responsibilities are impossible to revoke.
Legislators have the sworn duty and obligation to serve until the moment their time is up. To fade away or fall silent would be a breach of such a privileged contract with the sovereign people.
Any attempt to de-legitimize the principles or governance of departing members of Congress is an affront to freedom of speech and the power of the Congress itself.
Many warn that a lame duck Congress is an inevitably dangerous proposition, as beaten or retiring members may behave vindictively or act with reckless abandon as they are subject to no real outside accountability, but more likely, members will shift towards the fundamental idealism that first defined their political intrigue as they are free to legislate with impunity, not concerned with expending political capital or compromising belief in favor of image.
So turn an ear to this rapidly expiring, abbreviated session. You might just witness a couple of things you aren’t accustomed to: honesty and candor.