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Things That Go "Quack" on Capitol Hill

No matter the outcome of the November elections, one thing is certain. A lame duck session will begin on November 13 in the House...
October 4, 2006

A Lame Duck Session and What May Lie Ahead

By Kellie Bray
Assistant Vice President, Federal Affairs
PIA National

No matter the outcome of the November elections, one thing is certain.  A lame duck session will begin on November 13 in the House of Representatives and the United States Senate.

The term "lame duck" originated in the 1700s regarding stockbrokers who could not meet their debts.  In the 1860s, the term was applied to politicians. A lame luck session now refers to a formal meeting of old members of an organization after the election of new members, but before the new terms have started.

Some politicians find themselves in peculiar situations during a lame duck session.  Those who will not be returning to office because of retirement, election defeat or term limit do not really face consequences for their actions or the votes that they cast.  In most election years, Members of Congress usually do not want to return to Washington for a lame duck session. Instead, they try to finish all legislative business before the November election, however that is not the case in 2006.

Various 2007 fiscal year spending bills are still to be completed before the end of the year, so Congress must return.

While the Senate is hoping to call it quits for the year by Thanksgiving, House Republican leaders have already left open the likelihood of meeting for at least a couple weeks of business in December.

New Chairman to be Named

The current chairman of the Financial Services Committee, Michael Oxley (R-OH) will retire at the end of the 109th Congress leaving the gavel up for grabs.  The Speaker of the House and the steering committee of the majority party select committee chairmen.  Currently, there are two front-runners for the chairmanship if the Republicans retain the majority and the Democratic Ranking Member would be an almost sure bet if the Democrats take the majority in the November elections.  Here are the lead contenders:

Representative Spencer Bachus (R-AL)

Representative Bachus is serving his 7th term in the House of Representatives and is currently the subcommittee chairman for the Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit.  The subcommittee has jurisdiction over banks, credit unions, thrifts and the federal agencies that regulate them, including the Federal Reserve, the U.S. Treasury and the Comptroller of the Currency.  Prior to his service in the House, Bachus owned a sawmill, was a practicing criminal trial lawyer, and served as a state legislator and the chairman of the Alabama GOP.

Representative Richard Baker (R-LA)

Representative Baker serves as the sub-committee chairman for the Subcommittee on Capitol Markets, Insurance and Government Sponsored Enterprises.  Baker continued with a subcommittee chairmanship after he failed in a run for chairmanship of the then-Banking Committee in 2000, when the committee was restructured and became the Financial Services Committee, with Representative Mike Oxley named as Chairman.

Chairman Oxley and Representative Baker cultivated a close working relationship and worked on major legislation over the years to bolster corporate accountability and give the insurance industry a backstop following potential terrorist attacks.

Representative Barney Frank (D-MA)

If the Democrats win the majority in the November elections, the most likely chairman of the Financial Services Committee would be current Ranking Member, Barney Frank of Massachusetts.  Representative Frank is serving his 13th term and has never won with less than 60 percent of the vote.

Frank is an ardent supporter of affordable housing and community development, especially for low income Americans.  One of Frank's priorities on the Financial Services Committee has been attention to housing issues; he opposed President Bush's efforts to curtail spending on rent assistance for low-income families.

Representative Paul Kanjorski (D-PA)

While the Chairmanship of the Financial Services Committee would probably go to Rep. Frank in a Democratic Congress, a major player on the panel will be 11-term Representative Paul Kanjorski of Pennsylvania. He is the Ranking Member on the Financial Services Subcommittee on Capital Markets, Insurance and Government Sponsored Enterprises, which has jurisdiction over insurance matters.

Kanjorski is well-attuned to the views of professional insurance agents, and PIA has an excellent working relationship with him. Last month, on the day when Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) introduced a bill calling for an optional federal charter for insurers, which PIA adamantly opposes, Rep. Kanjorski was careful not to endorse it; in fact, he discussed the matter with PIA lobbyists the night before.

The outcomes of the November 7 elections will determine the direction the 110th Congress will go starting in January 2007. But before that happens there will be that time-honored ritual known as the quacking of the lame ducks, before they finally waddle off the national stage.

Kellie Bray kelliebr@pianet.org is Assistant Vice President of Federal Affairs for PIA National.

PIA Connection

This article originally appeared in the October 2006 issue of PIA Connection.