Previewing Agenda of Lame Duck Congress

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Thanksgiving may be over, but Democrats are planning to spend the next three weeks feasting on their last few days in power. When members hit the ground this morning, the flurry of business had already begun. House and Senate offices met one last time before rushing head-long into a series of deadlines on tax cuts, the Defense Authorization bill, a nuclear arms treaty, illegal immigration, judicial nominees, and a trivial little thing called the national budget.

After months of speculation, the lame-duck Congress has finally come home to roost. To most Americans, 20 working days seems like a lot of time, but to this Congress, which can't even pass a budget for a fiscal year that began 90 days ago, it doesn't leave much wiggle room. And time isn't the only thing working against the liberals' agenda.

As of 5:30 this evening, so too is the GOP's vote count. That's when Mark Kirk, heir to President Obama's former seat, will be sworn in as the new Republican Senator from Illinois, narrowing the Democratic majority at a very inconvenient time for its current leadership. His arrival comes just as Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) tries to deep-six the ban on open homosexuals in the military--a repeal that Sen. Kirk voted against during his time in the U.S. House. Whether or not Sen. Kirk can help turn the tables on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" remains to be seen.

Starting Thursday, most of the attention will be on the Armed Services Committee, where Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) plans to host the first round over hearings over the study by the Defense Department's working group. Not surprisingly, the first day of scheduled debate is stacked with the President's hand-picked, pro-repeal witnesses like Secretary Robert Gates, Admiral Mike Mullen, and others who stated before any questions were asked that they supported the President's radical social experiment.

On Friday, Senators will hear from a more balanced panel of military leaders who are directly affected by the decision--many of whom have openly condemned the sexualization of our troops. Among them are Marine Corps Generals James Cartwright and James Amos, Army General George Casey, Admiral Gary Roughead, and Air Force General Norton Schwartz. To force a vote in the next three weeks, Sen. Levin will have to beat the clock-and his loudest opponent, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who criticized the campaign against "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" this weekend as "a political promise made by an inexperienced President..." "The military is at its highest point in recruitment, in retention, in professionalism, in capability," he argued on CNN. "So to somehow allege that this policy has been damaging to the military is simply false." Like us, Sen. McCain is pushing for a more thorough review of our troops, one that asks if--not how--the policy should change.


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