The Battle for America 2010: Special Election Candidates Promise to Stop Lame-Duck Agenda

Illinois will hold parallel elections on November 2: a general election to a six-year Senate term and a special election to fill out the final two months of President Obama’s unexpired term. Under ordinary circumstances, the six-year term would be the only one that mattered, but with the looming lame-duck threat the two-month term could be extremely consequential. Fortunately, at least one of the candidates has promised to put the brakes on the lame-duck agenda: Mark Kirk. On MSNBC’s Morning Joe last week, Kirk made a clear promise to stop the lame-duck threat if elected.  He went further in the Washington Post, saying, correctly: “The only legitimate thing for the Congress to do is to pass a short-term continuing resolution to keep the doors open -- and let the voice of the American people as communicated through their new representatives and senators speak in January.”

Kirk’s Democratic opponent, Alexi Giannoulias, has not made a similar promise to prevent a runaway lame-duck session from circumventing the national elections.

West Virginia is having a special election to fill the remaining two years of Robert C. Byrd’s term. The primary will be this Saturday, August 28, and the likely nominees will be Republican businessman John Raese and Democratic Governor Joe Manchin. Both men are running as conservatives, and the lame-duck issue may provide the best litmus test of the claim.

If Manchin is not willing to make a clear public commitment to buck the national Democratic Party and its extreme agenda to block a lame-duck session, then voters concerned about cap and trade, card check, tax hikes and a range of other issues would do well to consider voting for Raese. I recently spoke with Raese, who signed our pledge and promised to oppose a lame-duck session. I expect he will specifically campaign on stopping the lame-duck agenda -- as Kirk and O’Donnell are doing -- and that if Manchin fails to match the promise it may become a defining issue in the campaign.

These three states (and possibly Colorado, although it appears unlikely that Michael Bennet will follow custom there) will offer their voters an opportunity to elect U.S. senators who can be immediately seated to derail Reid’s lame-duck ambitions.