Cooking up some lame duck soup

Can the Democrats use the lame-duck session to make good on all their promises to the LGBT community? If not, then maybe we should start looking for candidates who will keep their promises

Hardy Haberman | Flagging Left

Do you hear that quacking sound? Nope it’s not the AFLAC duck, but a lame-duck Congress.

During this session, members who have been ousted can take their parting shots and actually try to do some of the things they promised before the previous election.

You would think that would be as easy as duck soup. Heck, what have they got to lose?

Well, that remains to be seen. When Congress returns on Monday, Nov. 15, they will have a lot of work to do. Much of it is related to spending. During the last session, not a single spending measure passed — which means that if the government is not going to shut down, a stop-gap measure will have to be enacted.
Then there is the matter of those Bush-era tax cuts that are set to expire. These affect mainly the wealthiest Americans, and you can bet the GOP won’t let these die without a fight.

The Democrats have a stake in it as well. There was a token: The $1,000-per-child tax credit that would be pared down to $500 and some relief on the “marriage penalty” that will make this a tough pill to swallow for the left.

On the health care front, there is a provision on Medicare that cuts what doctors are paid by 23 percent. That most likely will have to be fixed.

And on the Social Security front, there is a proposed one-time $250 payment to some seniors who didn’t get a cost-of-living adjustment this year. That measure didn’t fly in the previous session, and there is no telling what will happen to it now.

There is lots of unfinished business that was put on hold prior to the election when both parties were afraid to do anything that could be used as ammunition against them during the campaigns. Now the big question is, will Congress actually get down to business and do their job?

Your guess is a good as mine.

And then there is the “elephant in the room,” or more appropriately the “donkey in the room.”

That mythic creature consists of the LGBT issues that are still just empty promises. DADT, an unjust policy that even Defense Secretary Robert Gates wants repealed, may or may not get addressed, much less the Defense of Marriage Act or the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

Though some progress has been made on the human rights front, LGBT citizens are still second-class when it comes to employment discrimination, marriage and serving in the military.

Wouldn’t it be a wonderful thing if the politicians put away their rhetoric and actually looked at the inequity caused by this institutionalized discrimination?
Wouldn’t it be nice if the president used some of his remaining political capital to actually push the reluctant Democrats to do the right thing?

So far, even though President Barack Obama has repeatedly said DADT will be ended “on his watch,” there doesn’t seem to be any effort beyond rhetoric toward this end. I am beginning to doubt whether he or Congress has the political will (read “balls”) to pick up the LGBT hot potato.

After expending so much energy on enacting health care reforms, and being incredibly unsuccessful in framing the issue before the GOP dubbed it “Obama Care,” I don’t know if any further measures will happen.

Now, we have to rely on the remaining Democrats and those who have lost their seats to use the brief time of this lame-duck session to take up our cause, when they have a whole year’s worth of bills log-jammed in Congress. Since many of these representatives are not coming back to Washington after Jan. 1, our leverage with them is limited.

What can we do? Well, aside from the fantasy of the GOP suddenly deciding to turn gay-friendly, something that would blunt one of the most effective weapons in their arsenal of fear-based tactics, we might do well to punt.

Punting in this case means trying some unorthodox tactics.

Though I am loathe to say it, that might include more lawsuits like the Log Cabin Republicans tried against DADT. While I am still a bit suspect of their real agenda, which I believe was to embarrass the Obama Administration, at least it’s a shot.

Left-wing LGBT groups are going after the Defense of Marriage Act at a national level with lawsuits. This tactic will likely hit the brick wall of the Bush-era-packed Supreme Court, but it’s worth a shot.

Frankly, I am tired of being patient, and if the lame-duck Congress doesn’t deliver on its many promises to the LGBT community, then we might have to start finding new candidates who are actually socially liberal.

Unfortunately, that will be a much tougher recipe than duck soup.

Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas. His blog is at http://dungeondiary.blogspot.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 12, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens