News Release: Faculty Experts, Finance and Economics, Law, Politics

Nov. 19,  2008

Congressional Expert: Lame Duck Congress not Likely to Make Progress on Economy

The deep shifts in power occurring on Capitol Hill during Congress' current lame duck session will likely delay any major economic initiatives until after President-Elect Obama's inauguration in January, says Emory University political scientist and congressional expert Randall Strahan.  

"What we're seeing here is a transition of the Democratic Party to becoming the real governing party in an extremely difficult political environment," says Strahan. "At the same time, Republicans are making the transition from having been the party of government to being the party of opposition. The current impasse over the bailout of American automakers and enactment of new fiscal stimulus measures is indicative of what's happening politically."
 
With growing skepticism in the country over big bailouts from the Treasury, "Republicans for the most part have decided they are not going to push back against that public opposition. For both principled and political reasons, most Republicans in Congress are not supporting further commitments of federal funds to finance these bailouts, leaving Democrats to take responsibility for economic policy from here on out.  We'll likely see a political stalemate until January," Strahan says. "Congress may extend unemployment benefits and some short-term help to automakers, but we're not likely to see a new stimulus package or big bailout."
 
"Everyone is worried but there is not a consensus about what to do," he says. "Political responsibility is diffused right now. That's one reason why the Republicans are pulling back, not wanting to share the heat for approving tens of billions of dollars in new aid that may or may not work. Waiting until January makes it clear that whatever is passed at that point is Democratic policy. It will require the leadership of a new president working in tandem with congressional leaders of his party to move forward on major new economic initiatives."
 
Strahan, a professor of political science, is the author of "Leading Representatives: The Agency of Leaders in the Politics of the U.S. House," published in 2007 by Johns Hopkins University Press. He currently is working on a book about partisanship in Congress.

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