A lame-duck session with unexpected victories
By Perry Bacon Jr. Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 22, 2010; 4:34 PM
When the lame-duck session of Congress started more than a month ago, President Obama looked defeated and deflated, publicly acknowledging the “shellacking” his party had taken in the November midterm elections.
Now, a six-week session that was expected to reflect a weakened president has turned into a surprising success. On Wednesday, Obama signed into law the repeal of the military’s ban on openly gay service members, and the Senate approved a new nuclear treaty with Russia that the president had declared a top priority.
Those accomplishments come after Obama successfully negotiated a free-trade agreement with South Korea, reached a deal with Republicans that extended unemployment benefits and prevented a tax hike for millions of Americans and signed a bill that will make school lunches healthier.
This blitz of bill signings completes a dramatic first two years for the nation’s first black president that included the enactment of arguably the most major liberal policies since the Johnson administration but also the Democrats’ biggest loss of House seats in 72 years.
After the election defeats and bitter battles over the health care and financial regulation legislation, the next two years were widely expected to be tied up by gridlock between the GOP-controlled House and the Democratic president. But the past month suggests the future could be different.
Obama and his team reinvented their political approach over the past several weeks to win key Republican votes, no longer relying mainly on the huge Democratic majorities in Congress that they won’t have in the new year.