But Maybe Not So Lame After All?

There is reason to be cautiously optimistic Congress will act on some pressing priorities no matter which party wins control in the midterms. 

For example, Congress has passed the defense authorization bill for well over half a century without fail and is likely to do so again this year. Traditional bipartisan support for appropriations bills combined with earmarks, general agreement on the need to provide additional disaster assistance and perhaps more funds for Ukraine should be enough to overcome conservative opposition to processing this package during the lame duck rather than kicking it into the next Congress even if the Republicans win the House and Senate. 

The fate of other items on the list is murkier. While the marriage and election bills enjoyed bipartisan support before the elections, big wins for Republicans on election night could increase the pressure on moderate Republicans to toe the conservative line. 

And the debt limit has already sparked lots of controversy and concern even though it’s not likely to hit until the summer of 2023. Reports indicate Republicans have already been meeting to discuss their strategy. Some Republicans have said they see it as a bargaining chip to extract concessions on entitlements and other issues if they win the House, which has caused many in the business community and the Democratic Party to push for action in the lame duck. 

If the Republicans control both the House and Senate after the elections, it will be hard for them to escape responsibility for a failure to pass a debt limit and avoid a default that could be damaging to both the economy and perhaps their political fortunes.