Did GOP Give Away Too Much in Lame Duck Congress?

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," December 22, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

MARK STEYN, GUEST HOST: The lame duck session is finally coming to a close in Congress. But the normally uneventful time between Election Day and the start of the new Congress has been marked by controversy this year. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Speaker Nancy Pelosi have attempted to push through a number of major pieces of legislation. Some of their efforts have succeeded, some have failed. But at least one GOP senator is not happy that some critical bills were voted on by defeated members of Congress. Listen to this.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: When it is all going to be said and done, Harry Reid has eaten our lunch. This has been a capitulation in two weeks of dramatic proportions of policies that wouldn't have passed in the new Congress.


STEYN: So, is Senator Graham right? Did the GOP give away too much or are the Democrats to blame for abusing the lame duck session?

Here to help answer those questions is Congressman Scott Garrett of New Jersey.

Congressman, I keep going back to this point, but it seems to me that there's something fundamentally unseemly about hearing the voice of the people and then saying, OK thanks, don't call us, we'll call you, we are going to ram all this stuff through in our last month of power anyway.

REP. SCOTT GARRETT, R-N.J.: Right. So, the answer to your question, yes, the Democrats are to blame. That's the easy answer to --

STEYN: But to go back to Juan Williams' point, they wouldn't have got away with it without a lot of your colleagues lapsing into the old reach across the aisle mambo of the pre-Christmas period.

GARRETT: And being magnanimous and saying, can't we just pass these things and all work together. But I think, you know, the American public sent us very clear message on November 2nd that they wanted what? They wanted transparency, accountability and most importantly, they wanted to rein in spending in Washington and they want the Republican Party to stand for something and to not capitulate on these issues.

And some of these issues on these bills that came through, after that, I really had to scratch my head and just say, how do we actually get here today that we are in this whole plethora of bills passed by with Republican votes on them.

STEYN: Yes in very unusual conditions. I think they've only being since 1935, something like 16 lame duck sessions in total. So, they are not something that even has to be done for even minimal legislation, never mind for this. And isn't one of the lessons of November 2nd that there was a feeling among the Republican base that government was out of control. And they wanted government to not just slow down but to go into reverse. And it is dangerous to send the message that the ruling class haven't heard the people.

GARRETT: Right. And our leadership in the House, Lisa says, will come January 5th, when we are in power, if we are going to start doing those things having votes every week or so and not only to keep spending where it is, but move actually move it back. That's all, good thing. But we have these three or four weeks where we had opportunity to actually say let's institute it right now. Let's put a stopgap to this.

You know, it's sort of kin to us. Someone said of Custer on the night of battle saying, well, we have reinforcements coming in tomorrow but let's go battle anyway today. You know, November 2nd, we got the reinforcements. The American public said, here are reinforcements coming to you in the House. Here are the reinforcements coming to you in the Senate, just hold your ground and we'll do better in January. Unfortunately, we didn't quite hold our ground.

STEYN: Yes. It's like saying, we've signed you up to spendaholics anonymous starting in January but you have a month of binge spending until you get there. What is it that your colleagues, that Republicans, what is that they didn't hear on November 2nd?

GARRETT: I think they heard. I think they heard the message. And they have a plan in place where we are going to go on January 5th when we go into place. But with the pressure come going the White House in the Senate, the Senate is that whole other mix of body over there that you have to scratch your head on and say, what are they thinking a lot of the times whether Democrats control or the Senate Republicans are in control. And once it came out of that, it came into our House where Speaker Pelosi of course had the votes do anything that she wanted to on all of these bills whether it was the last issue we're talking about on the spending, on the "don't ask, don't tell" on any of those issues. So, once it got to the house, it could go right through without any of us stopping it.

STEYN: Right. Right. But if you look at the way these last few weeks have gone, there was one moment, John McCain was if you remember was crowing triumphantly on the Senate floor when Harry Reid was forced to withdraw his omnibus spending bill stuffed with all this nonsense.


STEYN: And it was almost as if, OK, that high water mark, an exhausted Republican caucus that held together, then simply let the whole thing fall apart.

GARRETT: Right. And you saw that on bill after bill after bill. And I was troubled. I was one of the few, I guess few Republicans who voted no on the extension of the Bush tax cuts because I thought portions of it are good as far as getting the Bush tax cuts put in place. But we argued as well that it is only for two years. Economists all said, this is going to keep unemployment at nine or 10 percent over the next two years as one bankers said, no one is going to take five year note on a two-year tax plan. So we could have done better. We could have done better on that bill come January 5th, first few weeks of January. Any time the next year. Why we didn't do it? I think, that's a loss that we had at this point. So, all we can do at this point in time regrettably is put behind us and go forward and try to undo some of these things.

STEYN: Are you confident there's going to be serious effort to do that?

GARRETT: Oh, sure. In the House, one of the issues in the House, we're going to do is try to segregate the bills in the way that we are not using the old style and old formula where you're taking this omnibus-type legislations and just spending all of the things, and break them into pieces to the credit of Leader Boehner and say, let's do it bit by bit, so that when you have a special thing in this bill and he has a special thing on that bill, he can't just get us all to vote for it because you have that.

STEYN: Yes, 2,000 page bill. I mean, I don't want to re-vote the American Revolution. I mean, look at George III and the Tea Act, it was about Tea, there wasn't like some subsidy for Guam buried on page 1,078 of it. Why can't you go back to that?

GARRETT: Well, we are going to certainly try to do that. I mean, that's you know, Speaker Pelosi statement where we have to pass the bill in order to see what was in it.

STEYN: Exactly.

GARRETT: As basically what was happening here with some of these, the tax bill and some other bills, we are going through, we're not going through what we call in Washington regular order, just basically things that go through the committee process.

STEYN: Right.

GARRETT: You have an opportunity to actually discuss the bill and read the bill, you know, the rest, we didn't do that during the last couple of weeks. Now, we will and that will give us an opportunity to try to fix some of these things. I don't know what we're going to do, you know, not going to be able to undo that Social Security issue the next year and undo some of the other things but some issues we can fix.

STEYN: Legislators legislating on bills that are about the things the bills are going to be about. That sounds like a great start if you can hold to that. Merry Christmas to you.

GARRETT: Merry Christmas to you.

STEYN: And thanks for coming in on your way back to New Jersey tonight.

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