We can thank legendary Nebraska U.S. Senator George Norris that the lame duck session of Congress is only about a month long. Before Norris wrote the 20th Amendment to the Constitution, lame duck sessions lasted four months and those who lost would stay in office passing laws during the entire time.
Norris wanted to move outgoing members out of office as soon as possible following an election. He figured the people had spoken and it was in their interests to bring newly elected members into office quickly so important issues would be addressed by new members, not by those who lost.
A lot of important legislation has been talked about for this lame duck session such as a Defense Authorization bill, a new START nuclear arms treaty with Russia, immigration, unemployment benefits extension, a food safety bill, and more.
Those are serious issues that should and will be addressed, but not necessarily first. We should leave the lame duck session to first deal with jobs, taxes and reducing the debt. That's what Nebraskans told me over the past month and that is my main focus.
Nebraska families and businesses want all of the tax cuts that expire on December 31st extended at least for a couple of years. With our economy still shaky, they want continuity, consistency and clarity.
I support extending all of the expiring tax cuts until Nebraska's and the nation's economy is in better shape, and perhaps longer, because raising taxes in a weak economy could impair recovery.
I've read that businesses are sitting on $1 trillion in cash they could invest, waiting to see how the tax cut extension turns out. That money could be invested overseas if Congress plays politics and doesn't provide certainty soon.
Nebraskans also want Washington to create jobs and to protect jobs they still have. I couldn't agree more.
And Nebraskans want Washington to cut the nearly $14 trillion federal debt that is a drag on our economy and a danger for our country's future. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mullen, when asked this year what was the greatest threat to America, said, "Our debt."
We need to try to pay for tax cuts as much as we can. That's a tall order because we're talking about a significant amount of money. I don't like deficits and I hate our debt, but I also know that if we have the equivalent of a tax increase by not extending the tax cuts, we could send our economy back into shock.
I've tried to set an example as chairman of the Legislative Branch Committee on Appropriations by holding its budget flat for 2011. We need to do more of that for all federal spending.
Nebraskans want us in Congress to put aside partisanship and address as many important issues as possible. If we can quickly work on jobs, taxes and the debt, we can move on to their other priorities.
During this Thanksgiving week, one thing we can be thankful for is that the lame duck session isn't any longer than it is and we have a famous Nebraskan, George Norris, to thank for that. Just because it's shorter, though, doesn't mean it can't be productive.