The Implications of Regular Lame-Duck Sessions in Congress for Representative Government

Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 3154, 6 September (2016). (with Paul Winfree)


Barring exceptional circumstances Congress should not consider major legislation or presidential nominations during lame-duck sessions. Doing so undermines representative government by weakening the accountability link between the American people and their elected representatives. In recent years, Members of Congress have planned on taking up controversial issues during lame-duck sessions in order to avoid explaining their votes to the electorate. Congress now increasingly relies on lame-duck sessions to conduct its regular work. This practice undermines the ability of the American people to hold their representatives accountable because it allows Members to deliberately postpone unpopular decisions until after their constituents cast their votes.