A coalition of union groups aired ads during the NBC broadcast of the parade in a number of key states, urging Congress to resist cutting entitlement programs. Since Election Day, another group, the National Coalition to Preserve Social Security and Medicare has collected 65,000 signatures, also urging Congress not to meddle with the retiree programs.
The debate over what Congress should do to avoid the troubling consequences of a series of tax hikes and spending cuts set to hit at the end of this year has underscored the intensity of the nation’s political divide, and the speed with which the partisan machinery can now shift gears from one big fight to the next.
Within days after the November election, the bus shelters and billboards were taken over by a group called Fix the Debt, which is urging a bipartisan deal to avoid the cliff.
All of that attention has the potential to change the character of dealmaking now beginning in the lame-duck session of Congress, which is faced with a series of monumental decisions about the nation’s fiscal future.
There appears to be little chance that even a post-election populace preparing for the holidays would miss it if lawmakers cast unpopular votes as part of a deficit-reduction compromise.
With the next election two years away, lawmakers have traditionally felt more free to take difficult votes during post-election sessions. In some of the busiest lame ducks, one party was about to lose its power — and sought to make a deal while it still had the power.
In 1994, the recently defeated congressional Democrats helped pass a massive trade deal. Just two years ago, Vice President Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) worked in near secrecy to hatch a deal to extend the George W. Bush -era tax cuts — now expiring again. House Democrats, dislodged from their majority in the midterm elections, grudgingly but quickly signed off.
This lame-duck session, however, will offer legislators less cover than usual. Few previous sessions have been as closely watched by outside groups, and none has ever occurred under the present level of moment-by-moment scrutiny made possible by cable news and social media.
“People are yearning for and very interested in a much more transparent process,” said John Hishta, a top official with AARP, which has urged Congress to avoid major entitlement cuts in the condensed hothouse of a lame-duck session.
Max Richtman, president and chief executive of the National Coalition to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, said people are following developments so closely that the organization now tweets its supporters before and after each meeting their lobbyists hold with lawmakers.