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Is A Lame-Duck Good or Bad For Your Business?

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This year’s Congressional August Recess set a new record for being the longest on record (50 days). After nearly 20 years in D.C., and close to 30 years working for or lobbying members of Congress, I now have a great appreciation for Will Rogers sentiment about Congress captured best in his famous 1923 quote, “Well, all of our Senators and Congressmen are away from Washington now. This is the season of the year when they do the least damage to our country.”

While there may be nothing wrong with a long congressional recess, it is an indicator, along with both presidential nominating conventions being held earlier than any time in the past quarter century, that considerably more attention is being devoted to campaigning and politicking than to policy-making and legislating.

Congress is often viewed as a mirror to the nation – and I think we could all agree there are several cracks in that mirror. Congress used to be a more centrist place where politicians from both sides of the aisle could come together and work out “deals” that were in the best interests of the country and their constituents.

When Congress returns September 6 from their recess they will have just 17 short days in session before breaking for the November 8 elections. During this time almost anything that gets done will likely be votes designed to highlight the differences between parties.

The lame-duck session starts after the elections. This is the time Congress meets after successors are elected, but before the successor’s term begins, assuming all votes and hanging chads are counted. This can be a really exciting time for advancing ACCA’s legislative priorities.

There are two schools of thought going into lame-duck sessions. The Optimist School believes that Congress will work on a whole slew of must-pass legislation, a host of tax extenders, and other cats and dogs.

The Pessimist School believes that nothing will get done during the lame-duck, with the possible exception of a continuing resolution that has some agreed-upon updated spending bills attached to it.

Pessimists are all about punting, over and over again, and optimists are all about scoring last-minute touchdowns. History has made me an optimist when it comes to lame-duck sessions, especially Presidential election year lame-duck sessions, which I’ve found to be a bit like Christmas and a milestone birthday all rolled into one.

This year’s election cycle has brought us many firsts, and when it comes to the lame-duck we might have another with the establishment of a group of conservative leaders calling themselves the Conservative Action Project. This group is urging U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) to promise that Congress will not even hold a lame-duck session after the election.

The leaders of the effort range from CEOs of organizations representing economic, social, and national security elements of the conservative movement. Signatories of the letter sent to Republican leadership include President Ronald Reagan’s former Attorney General, Edwin Meese III, and Heritage Action for America CEO, Michael Needham. Their letter advises that Congress should complete its work before the November 8 general elections, “because legislators who have been defeated in an election or are retiring are no longer accountable to the voters for their votes, any actions taken, which required their votes are essentially undemocratic.”

The Conservative Action Project sights massive tax and spending increases, increases in the gasoline tax, pay raises for members of Congress, and ratifications of treaties that threaten U.S. sovereignty as examples that have occurred during past lame-duck sessions as part of their rational.

As it stands the appetite for stepping away from the traditional lame-duck by Leader McConnell and Speaker Ryan is unknown, but will most likely be determined by election polling information closer to November 8. One thing is certain, Congress will need to hold some sort of pro forma session even if no business occurs and lasts for only a few minutes to prevent President Obama from making recess appointments, such as the vacancy to the Supreme Court after the passing of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

For ACCA and the HVACR industry the lame-duck could be our swan song for renewal of the geothermal tax credit, ending the estate tax (long shot even for a lame-duck), passing an energy bill in the first time in nearly a decade, repeal of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), and reforming the Federal Election Commission’s prior approval requirement for trade associations with a Political Action Committee.

No matter the outcome, ACCA well be standing guard, and continuing our efforts to educate decision makers about issues important to your bottom line.

Barton James

Posted In: ACCA Now, Government

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