Originally published here on December 19, 2010:
Back in November 2008, after the election, I wrote about the need for a 28th amendment to the Constitution. Said amendment would reduce the length of the lame-duck presidency to a week or less. Among my concerns were national security and the undeserved opportunity for an outgoing president to continue implementing his own agenda.
In recent weeks, and prompted by an article in today’s New York Times, I’ve been thinking such an amendment also should eliminate our lame-duck Congressional sessions. The rationale is the same. Defeated incumbents should not be allowed to stay in Washington to either enact or block legislation. They have been fired by their constituencies. As soon as a winner is declared, the loser’s keys should be taken away, figuratively speaking, and he or she should be escorted from the building for the same reasons as in the private sector — to ensure the ex-employee has no further access to the company’s business or property.
Regardless of how one feels about the recently passed tax compromise bill or the elimination of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” it’s not right for lawmakers who have been rejected/fired/voted out of office to continue to have a say in the nation’s business while their legitimately elected successors sit powerless for several months.
Currently 39 states forbid lame-duck sessions. It’s high time the federal government did likewise.
Furthermore, given our current situation regarding the filling of a vacancy on the Supreme Court, as well as a similar situation in 2016, we need a law/constitutional amendment stating specifically that a new justice cannot be named to the Court within x number of days before a presidential election. No more hypocritical statements from hopelessly partisan Senators. Create a law saying that no new justices can be appointed to the Court within x days of a presidential election. Period. And eliminate lifetime appointments to the Court. Maybe 20-30 years, but certainly not a lifetime. Not anymore. Times change, often rapidly. And average lifespans are far greater now than they used to be (~78 years today vs 38 years in 1787).
Of course, all this is about as likely as term limits on Congress.