Not such a lame-duck session: What Congress passed, Obama signed in week
December 23rd, 2010
12:59 PM ET

Not such a lame-duck session: What Congress passed, Obama signed in week

So about that lame-duck Congress.

After midterm elections, predictions abounded that the next few months were going to be brutal in the halls of Congress - with fighting between the GOP and Democrats, fillibusters aplenty and all around disagreement, meaning nothing was going to get done - despite a massive agenda for the Obama administration.

But now, shortly before the holidays, in what many might have said in November would only happen if there were a Christmas miracle, key pieces of legislation have been signed into law, practically back-to-back. Some, such as the DREAM Act, failed a procedural vote in the Senate. The bill would have offered a path to citizenship to some illegal immigrants who entered the U.S. as children. President Barack Obama called the defeat his "biggest disappointment."

Still, with everything happening so fast, it was blink, and you missed if legislation passed or failed.

So, we figured we'd help you catch up, take a look at where things stand and perhaps re-dub the group of lawmakers many thought couldn't even sit in the same room together as the not so lame-duck Congress after all.

Tax deal - Signed into law Friday

The compromise worked out by Obama and Senate Republican leaders extended Bush-era tax cuts to everyone for two more years while also extending unemployment benefits for 13 months and reducing the payroll tax by 2 percentage points for a year, all intended to bolster the slow recovery from economic recession. Here's what's in the bill and what it means for you.

Unemployment benefits extension - Signed into law Friday

The unemployed will get a 13-month extension of the deadline to file for additional unemployment benefits - which go as high as 99 weeks in states hit hardest by job losses.

The benefits were part of the brokered tax deal but don't affect everyone: Residents in at least five states won't have access to the same level of unemployment benefits as their peers nationwide because the unemployment rates there are improving. So, according to federal law, the jobless there can't receive checks for as long as those in harder-hit states.

Food safety - Passed by Congress on Tuesday, sent to Obama to sign

A major food safety bill that passed the House of Representatives and Senate earlier this year before stalling because of a procedural problem won final approval Tuesday and now goes to Obama to be signed into law.

The bill, designed to increase government inspections of the food supply in the wake of recent deadly foodborne disease outbreaks, originally passed with wide support in both chambers after originating in the Senate. However, it needed approval again because it violated a constitutional requirement that bills raising revenue be initiated in the House. The Senate passed its version of the Food Safety Modernization Act on Sunday, and the House voted 215-144 for final approval.

'Don't ask, don't tell' - Signed into law Wednesday

Obama signed a bill repealing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy that bans openly gay and lesbian soldiers from the military. Obama promised to repeal the ban during the 2008 presidential election.

However, it will take a series of actions to make the policy end, and no one at the Pentagon seems to know when that actual date might be. Over the next several weeks, military officials need to examine and rewrite a series of policies, regulations and directives related to the current law.

Government funding - Signed into law Wednesday

Obama signed a bill that will maintain most funding levels for the federal government for another 10 weeks, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said.

Both chambers of Congress agreed on a resolution authorizing government funding through March 4. The previous law funding the government - a so-called continuing resolution - expired at midnight Tuesday.

9/11 responders health bill - Passed by Congress on Wednesday, sent to Obama to sign

A compromise bill to provide free medical treatment and compensation to first responders of the September 11, 2001, attack won final approval Wednesday from the House and Senate.

The bill has been sent to Obama to be signed into law. And it is one some first responders said they never expected to see enacted - one responder called the passage "bittersweet" and better than any other Christmas gift.

New START - Approved by Congress on Wednesday, sent to Obama to sign

The Senate voted Wednesday to approve the new nuclear arms control treaty with Russia. The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or New START, was cleared with the help of solid Democratic support as well as the backing of several Republican senators.

The treaty would resume inspections of each country's nuclear arsenal while limiting both the United States and Russia to 1,550 warheads and 700 launchers. It still needs the Russian parliament's approval. Obama signed the treaty with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in April.

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Filed under: Budget • Don't Ask Don't Tell • Economy • Food • Jobs • Military • Nuclear • Russia • September 11 • Taxes
soundoff (119 Responses)
  1. steve

    These numbnuts are clueless they are just going to lose worse in 2012 and we will replace these rhinos with conservatives its still the economy stupid and no Obama the people handed you a shallacking on your policies . You are trying to con the people pack your bags boys you are toast in 2012 and we will roll your garbage back! Yea you are the comeback kid ok lets see you came back from 85 golf trips 15 vacations and gone on one now Mr president you and this congress will be rembered after your 4 years as the worst in history hows that.

    December 23, 2010 at 11:08 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Ed

    PRoductive in the sense they passed many bills yes, but productive in that they actually accomplished anything in the process, no. People who point to this as being so successful are simply playing a numbers game. The more bills you get passes (no matter how bad) = successful congress. The fact is that any one of these could have gotten passed much earlier. The administration knew they would take a beating in Nov so they sandbagged and voila! You sheep are back on the side of a horrible administration.

    December 24, 2010 at 12:56 am | Report abuse |
  3. DanteX

    Bill writes:

    "Pool our resources? Are you joking? I could spend my $s on goods, services, or on investments and put twice as many people to work as the government can. You need to have a better understanding of economics instead of grade school instilled socialist values. You sound like Robin Hood aka Obama[.]"

    First – You are an IDIOT.

    Second – I doubt that you and the rest of those so-called "free-market" and "free-trade" -which is ANYTHING BUT FREE because of the corporate WELFARE give-sways and tax-payer subsidies provided- 'economists' would make enough money on your own to provide for a functioning and stable society.

    Third – We can thank the fascist right-wing Conservatives and their friends in the Republican Party for allowing the corporations to close-down factories in this Nation and ship MILLIONS AND MILLIONS of GOOD-PAYING JOBS overseas to China and India and Indonesia and Maylaysia and Mexico and other far-flung places around the world thereby throwing MILLIONS AND MILLIONS OF PEOPLE HERE IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA OUT OF WORK and THEN RUN TO THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT FOR "HELP" BECAUSE THOSE SAME CORPORATIONS THAT SHIPPED THE JOBS OVERSEAS CANNOT SELL THEIR POOR QUALITY SUB-STANDARD GOODS AND SERVICES to an American public that refuses to buy them.

    Fourth – Go back to school -if you EVER went to begin with- and learn how REAL-WORLD Economics works because that old tired Ronald Reagan -what a PATHETIC CLOWN that IDIOT was- theory of "trickle-down economics" did NOT work back in the 1980s when he tried to sell that scheme to the American people and it will NOT work NOW. Or EVER.

    December 25, 2010 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
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