Romina Boccia --- The Daily Signal
The current lame-duck session, referring to the period of time between Election Day and when the new members enter Congress, is particularly important because the Republicans will take control of the Senate in January and retain control of the House of Representatives, leaving Senate Democrats with a brief window of opportunity until they lose control of the Senate in January.
Lame duck sessions are often abused to enact fiscally irresponsible policies. As then- Sen.Jim DeMint, R-S.C., wrote in a 2012 report, “They [lame ducks] are free, for two months and at taxpayer expense, to vote for whatever they please … without their constituents being able to do anything about it.”
Congress should not give into demands by special interest groups to rush legislation through the lame duck session—legislation that the new Congress could address with the deliberation that these issues deserve.
Specifically, Congress should postpone considering:
1. The Medicare “doc fix.” On March 15, 2015, Medicare doctors face a 21 percent pay cut because of Medicare’s Sustainable Growth Rate payment update formula. All agree that Medicare’s flawed payment system should be repealed and replaced, but Congress should address the problem in regular order and in a fiscally responsible fashion. Any efforts to enact a permanent fix without permanent savings to finance the fix in the lame duck session should be stopped cold. The Congressional Budget Office estimated the 10-year cost at $138 billion. Beyond the 10-year window, the unfunded fix would add massively to the nation’s deficits. Congress should not burden taxpayers with heavier debt because it irresponsibly wants to rush reform of Medicare physician payments.
2. The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). CHIP was created in 1997 to provide coverage for uninsured children whose families earned too much to qualify for Medicaid. However, its continued role is uncertain due to the Affordable Care Act, and some are calling for Congress to provide additional CHIP funding in the lame duck session. Yet CHIP has sufficient funding for the rest of fiscal year 2015, so Congress does not need to act before the end of this calendar year. Congress should do due diligence to CHIP, including reviewing the program’s effectiveness, enrollment, and CHIP’s interaction with the Affordable Care Act.