Just to emphasize the fact, this generally isn't supposed to happen. For nearly 70 years, the Lame Duck session has been a time when congressmen/women accomplish relatively little, or insert text into other legislation to get earmarks or local victories.
Let's take a look at some of the wins/losses from this LDS you should have heard about:
- Congress passes legislation to aid 9/11 rescuers and cleanup crews with ailments from their work on Ground Zero.
- Congress and the WH agree on compromise legislation that extends Bush-era tax cuts (for poor, middle class and phenomenally wealthy Americans :/ ) for another two years, at which point the cuts will undoubtedly become part of the 2012 campaign season.
- Congress (finally) passes a Defense Spending budget for next year. House Republicans had been blocking the legislation until the WH agreed to permanently extending the Bush-era tax cuts. (refer to previous bullet)
- The DREAM Act fails a vote in the Senate, but President Obama vows to renew the bill next year as part of comprehensive immigration reform.
- The military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy prohibiting gay men and women to serve openly in the armed forces was repealed this week (sort of suddenly) by the Don't Ask Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010. DADT was implemented as a military policy in 1993 as a compromise between President Clinton and a more Congress, but it's intent to protect gay men and women from prejudiced targeting was never fully realized.
- President Obama rallies enough Republican support to ratify the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with the Russian Federation. 13 Republican Senators crossed the isle for a 71-26 vote, and the Russian Duma is now expected to ratify the treaty by the end of the month. New START replaces the previous START that expired early this, and has be become a point of contention under President Bush when he moved forward with missile shield projects in Eastern Europe. It's better now.
- The Food Safety Modernization Act passes the House and Senate, and is signed by President Obama. Several amendments are passes weeks later to fix unresolved gaps issues and fill gaps in the regulations.
ADDENDUM: I recently learned (thanks to SFGSA-IT) of another odd but reasonable law that was passed during this session. SB.2847, or the Commercial Advertising Loudness Mitigation (that's right, CALM), forbids television ads from playing at a volume noticeably louder than the programs during which they air. You know when you're watching a rerun of Law and Order on TNT, and it skips to a commercial that is suddenly twice as loud as anything you'd previously seen on that channel? Well, they can't do that anymore.