Americans ought to make this lame duck session of Congress the last in history. Members who lose re-election have no moral authority to continue governing: They were fired by the voters, who should demand that they clean out their desks and go home.
On Nov. 2, the voters replaced the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives with at least 61 new Republican members who campaigned on lower spending and less government power. Allowing members who were not re-elected to legislate national policy or set the 2011 federal budget is like allowing a fired employee to run the office another two months, or letting your ex-spouse continue managing your checkbook.
Lame duck sessions were unavoidable before jet planes. The framers of the U.S. Constitution provided 17 weeks for newly elected members to travel to the capital and take their seats on March 3. That was the 18th century.
In 1933, Americans ratified the 20th Amendment to eliminate lame duck sessions. It set Jan. 3 as the day newly elected members would take their seats. That still left seven weeks after the election, but no one imagined that the old Congress would return to the capital during that time.
For a half-century, the 20th amendment worked. Except during World War II and the Korean War, Congress did not reconvene after November elections. But for the last two decades, lawmakers have hurried back to the capital after Election Day to deal with spending bills and controversial legislation they deliberately had avoided before the election.
The unrepresentative lame duck Congress should do as little as possible.