A lame-duck session of Congress is not necessary during times of ordinary legislation. In 1932, the 20th Amendment to the Constitution limited the time for a lame-duck Congress to 7 weeks, during which time it was understood that lawmakers were not to convene except in extraordinary cases, such as war. Since the 1990s, however, lame-duck congressional sessions have become the norm, and often big legislative decisions are made during these sessions. Besides the “utterly undemocratic” fact that defeated politicians are acting as representatives of the American people during a lame-duck session, Ackerman warns that this encourages politicians to escape voter scrutiny by putting put off major legislation until a lame-duck session. Congress should enact legislation prohibiting lame-duck sessions of Congress except in emergencies.
Ackerman is a professor of law at Yale and the author most recently of “The Decline and Fall of the American Republic.”
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