Lame Duck Session Could Start on Nov. 15

Posted September 13, 2004 at 6:42pm

The House Republican leadership said last week that it plans to call lawmakers to Washington the week of Nov. 15 to organize for the 109th Congress, making that the most likely target for a lame-duck session.

With days slipping away before the target adjournment date — which now appears to be either Oct. 8 or 15 — and the Senate having completed only one of 13 regular appropriations bills, lawmakers and aides are becoming increasingly resigned to the idea that a post-election session will be necessary to complete an omnibus spending measure.

During Thursday’s colloquy on the House floor, Rules Chairman David Dreier (R-Calif.) suggested that Members will be here in mid-November regardless of what remains on the legislative agenda.

“I would simply say that it is the intention for the organization for the 109th Congress to take place during the week of Nov. 15,” Dreier said. “That would be a time when Members would be here in Washington as we begin our preparation for the next Congress. I am not going to say anything further on that, other than to throw out that is the date for the organization for the Democratic Caucus and the Republican Conference.”

In theory, Members could visit Washington that week simply to select their leaders and complete other organizational tasks without conducting any formal House business.

Leaders could choose that week to schedule votes on a final omnibus package, or they could still decide to put off work on the remaining spending measures until next year.

Republican aides said that their hesitance to give a firm answer about the prospects for a lame-duck session stemmed not from a desire for secrecy but for the simple reason that the leadership has not yet made a decision and probably won’t in the near future.

“Congress makes decisions like a college kid approaches a term paper,” said a House GOP staffer. “We wait until the last minute and then we scurry all night and get it done.”