Will 2010 Make 1980 Look Like Child’s Play?

Senator Robert Bennett’s defeat in today’s Utah Republican Convention must be viewed with extreme caution. Bennett was far too moderate in a state that is undeniably one of the top five Republican electorates in the nation. I support the decision of the delegates to move to install a Senator more in line with the conservative voters of Utah.

However, it is reasonable to fear Senator Bennett cannot be counted on to support GOP filibusters for the rest of the 111th Session of the Congress. The slogan “Remember in November” does not account for the fact that the new Congress will not be sworn in until the first week of January 2011.

History is usually a very good guide when making predictions about the behavior of Democrat-controlled Congresses and lame-duck sessions. Although some will look at 1994 as the model, the real year to review and fear is 1980.

In the aftermath of the 1980 Reagan landslide, Democrats suffered massive losses and control of the US Senate for the first time since the 1950’s. Confronted with the realization that their control of the legislative branch was coming to an end and an activist Republican Administration was coming in January of 1981, President Carter and the Democrat leadership in Congress went on a legislative spree that is unprecedented in sheer scope and size.

Legislation passed at the end of 1980 included two major bills with little or no debate that continue to cause problems to this day.

The first was a major land grab in Alaska, more commonly know as the “Alaska Lands Bill” that saw the federal government take control of millions of acres of land and prevented drilling in some of the most productive oil and natural gas deposits in the country. This is causing enormous headaches today as we rely too heavily on foreign sources of energy when we could provide much higher percentages domestically, especially in Alaska.

The second major bill was the Superfund environmental legislation (Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act {CERCLA}) that implemented major taxes on energy producers and spawned a wave of litigation around the country. Superfund is a ticking time bomb today as the taxes to pay for the fund have expired but the cleanups in many areas of the country have yet to take place.

Should conservatives around the country be fearful that President Obama, Speaker Pelosi and likely defeated Senate Majority Leader Reid will not attempt to push through items like Cap and Trade, Card Check and other dangerous bills pending before Congress?

We saw how these people operated during the debate over health reform BEFORE the threat to their re-election began to materialize. Without this fear and with the looming threat of a likely GOP House and large GOP Senate caucus in January 2011, we may not be able to count on 41 GOP Senators holding the line against Democrats with nothing to lose.

And in the aftermath of Bob Bennett’s electoral demise, who knows how many other squishy GOP Senators will be voted out between now and election day and thus will have no incentive to block big government legislation through the first week of January? This is a serious concern – but what options are available to the defenders of the American Republic under this scenario?

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