Behind the Scenes of Lame Duck Congress
A is a Boshemia columnist writing about their experiences working behind the scenes at the US Capitol.
When last we spoke, the midterm elections were looming with an intensity that caused everyone to speculate on the veracity of claims made in the Book of Revelation. Yet we’ve made it through and the world continues to turn steadily. That Blue Wave the press predicted turned out to be less of a tsunami than some had hoped, but the incoming class of freshman Democrats will add an exciting amount of diversity to Congress.
At work in the Capitol, we’ve been provided a pictorial list of members-elect in the hopes that we’ll recognize their faces and not mistake them for congressional interns. Nearly everyone I work with who’s seen this list has made the same remark: The list of Democratic members-elect look a lot like America as it’s reflected in the U.S. Census. There are many men and women of color, and a record number of women are going to be serving in Congress. But the Republican members-elect still look like America as reflected in a 1950’s primary school history textbook: primarily white men, and one blonde woman.
Now that the elections are settled, incoming members are readying their staff, organizing their visions for the next two years, and lobbyists are chomping at the bit to secure their footholds during and after the transition. Most Americans call this period of transition between sessions of Congress the “lame duck” period. On Capitol Hill, we recognize it as the time when there’s furniture piled up in all the office hallways. The outgoing members of Congress have almost entirely cleared out their offices and left the furniture to be cleared out. Re-elected members are moving to better offices, now that they’re moving up the list in seniority, and incoming members will get what’s left.
Every two years it starts out this way. New members are still riding the hope and enthusiasm of their recent victories. They all believe this will be the session that will change America for the better. In another two years, many of them will be clearing their furniture out and handing their offices over to the person who unseated them.
It’s hard to predict how functional the 116th Congress will prove to be, especially when considering the current government shutdown. Even with a slight majority in the house of representatives, Democrats in Congress will be battling a majority Republican Senate under a Republican-controlled executive branch and a conservative Supreme Court. One thing I do know is that in January, the halls of the Capitol will be filled with an inescapable and infectious energy of change, and I’ll be there to see it all happen.
Happy New Year,