Dems Up for Election in 2012 Can Stop the Lame-Duck Agenda

So, in the end, the fate of the radical lame-duck agenda -- which could include everything from cap and trade to card check to multi-trillion dollar tax hikes based on the deficit commission recommendations -- could come down to what a handful of moderate Democratic senators who are in cycle in 2012 decide to do. The reason is that the votes that take place right after the 2010 election will be the first votes of the 2012 cycle and will take place in the immediate aftermath of a potential wave election.  The 2010 election may send a powerful warning to 2012 Democrats on the importance of listening to their constituents -- a warning that will have to be amplified with specific pressure to oppose the lame-duck agenda.

The energy issue, now confirmed by Reid to be on the lame-duck agenda, could be the most difficult politically for 2012 Democrats. Whether it’s full-blown cap and trade or something similarly devastating to affordable energy like a so-called renewable electricity standard, for senators like Jim Webb of Virginia, Kent Conrad of North Dakota, Jon Tester of Montana, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, and Bill Nelson of Florida the pressure will be enormous. President Obama himself has said that under his energy plan “electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket.” That’s not a good way to start out the 2012 cycle, and their constituents can make that clear.

It’s not just the energy issue. Union priorities like card check and pension bailouts are also a major political liability in those states, as is the idea of jamming through massive changes to entitlement programs and trillions of dollars in tax hikes based on the president’s deficit commission.

These enormous policy changes would be politically dangerous under any circumstances, but to force them through in a matter of weeks over the holiday season? In a body full of people who already lost their bids for re-election? Without the benefit of proper hearings or committee action? If strong grassroots pressure is applied to the group of senators I listed above, it’s hard to imagine most of them buckling under for Harry Reid, who may himself be a lame duck at that point.

During last year’s holiday health care debate in the Senate, it would have taken just one courageous Democratic senator to stand up to Harry Reid and stop the health care takeover from passing on Christmas Eve. Not one of them did. Activists concerned about the lame-duck agenda need to make clear to the 2012 Democrats that if they do the same thing this time voters will remember in November 2012.