After their trouncing in the mid-term elections and President Obama’s resultant conciliatory approach to the Republicans, prospects for passage of progressive legislation during the 2010 lame duck session appeared faint…
But Pelosi and Reade managed to organize their ranks and cherry pick key Republican votes on several watershed votes so they closed the term on a very positive note. Among the accomplishments passed in just the last few weeks:
Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) Repeal: Repeal of this discriminatory law was one of President Obama’s campaign promises. Once the military study revealed the majority of service men and women did not oppose gays serving openly and Secretary of Defense Gates and most military brass urged passage of the repeal, eight Republicans broke ranks realizing they couldn’t forestall destiny any longer.
9/11 Responders Health Bill: The fact that this bill was the least bit controversial is shocking and downright shameful. Republicans, who politicized 9/11 for years, questioned the funding of health care benefits for the emergency responders who heroically worked around the clock following the attack. Some credit John Stewart for its passage as he conducted an emotional interview of a group of injured 9/11 first responders on the Daily Show shortly before the vote.
START Treaty: Another no-brainer…Congressional Republican opposition to ratification of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty that will begin to limit weapon systems in the U.S. and Russia was indefensible considering the list of former Republican officials who strongly supported the treaty. Finally, 13 Republican senators stepped up to the plate and voted in favor of the treaty, allowing its passage.
Food Safety Bill: Congress passed legislation that provides the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with new powers to regulate the food industry and proactively prevent the outbreak of food-borne disease. This too, shouldn’t be subject to political wrangling, but hey these are some mighty strange times.
Tax Rate Extension: The most controversial of the lame duck session bills, this one was a bitter pill for progressive Democrats to swallow. Along with extending the “temporary” 10 year old Bush tax reductions to lower and middle-class Americans, the final bill included extended tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans (supposedly to help stimulate the economy). On the plus side, extension of unemployment benefits to those in need was also included.