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   Lame Duck Congress Victories

NEWS INFORMATION

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News Date

12/22/2010 12:00 pm

Author

The NATION

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Analysis

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Entered 12/28/2010, Updated 12/28/2010

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"A Congressional term that saw more than enough disappointment finished on three high notes and a fourth encouraging one. Repeal of the noxious "don't ask, don't tell" policy was approved by both the House and the Senate, finally clearing the way for gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military. Landmark food-safety legislation also passed both houses. At press time the Senate reached the two-thirds majority required to pass New Start, a significant arms control treaty with the Russians. And the DREAM Act, an immigration reform written to make it easier for undocumented young people to go to college, got through the House and came within a few votes of overcoming a filibuster, gaining sufficient support so that advocates could credibly argue for including a version of it in any comprehensive immigration reform measure. There is no need to be Pollyannaish about the 111th Congress. Democrats, especially in the Senate, proved the limits of one-party control of the legislative and executive branches. Stimulus spending was insufficient, as was infrastructure investment. Healthcare and financial reform legislation, although monumental in scope, were both limited by compromises of principle and logic. And the lame-duck session saw President Obama and Congressional Democratic leaders force both chambers to accept a tax cut "compromise" that extended Bush-era tax breaks for billionaires, developed a sweeping estate tax exemption for millionaires and put Social Security at risk. So how did historic gay rights reform make it through, especially given the fierce opposition of social conservatives? How did the most significant extension of food inspections in seventy-five years gain traction, even though it imposes burdens on food corporations that seem to have the run of Congress? And how did meaningful immigration reform come within a whisker of approval in a year that saw Arizona impose draconian anti-immigrant legislation and other states scramble to do the same?"


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