A To-Do List for Lame Duck Dems

Congress’s lame duck session begins today. Many promises were made on the campaign trail and whether they get attention during the lame duck session will have significant consequences for Democrats in 2012.

First is the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT). Last Friday, the Supreme Court declined to take up the repeal of DADT and prevent the enforcement of the lower court’s ban. Now it is up to the President and Democrats to make good on their commitment to lift the ban on gays serving in the military. Both the American public and military personnel support lifting the ban. A leaked Pentagon study stated that seventy percent of military service men and women said the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t would have a “positive, mixed or nonexistent” impact. Congress must act to repeal DADT now. Given the makeup of the 112th Congress, it is unlikely that we will get this opportunity again

Second, Democrats must push Congress to pass the Dream Act. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid repeatedly promised on the campaign trail that if he won, he would push to get the Dream Act passed during the lame duck session. This legislation would give a pathway to citizenship for immigrant children who serve in the military or pursue higher education. Reid was partially reelected because he promised Latino voters that he would take up the issue if he returned to the Senate. There is no question that Reid will have a better chance of passing the Dream Act in the lame duck session. While he was unable to pass the bill in September, he may be able to pick up some votes from Senators who are retiring or lost their reelection bid and can support the passage of the bill without political repercussions.

Finally, Congress must act to prevent the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts for middle class families. We must protect millions of working families from significant tax increases. If no compromise is reached, the higher tax rates will take effect in January. For a typical middle class family that could mean an additional $2,000 a year in tax expenses.  Given that many working families are struggling to pay the mortgage and put food on the table, this will be crippling.

None of these issues are on the roaster for the first week of the lame duck session. In week one, Congress is going to decide whether the World Soccer Association can bring its championship to the United States. Lets hope the week after, Congress will do what the American people asked them to do and start tackling the important issues that have real consequences for working families.

Reshma Saujani ran an unsuccessful campaign in the Democratic primary against Rep. Carolyn Maloney in New York's 14th district, which covers Manhattan and Western Queens. A community activist, attorney for hedge funds and a legal scholar, she is a graduate of the University of Illinois, received her Masters in Public Policy from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and her JD from Yale Law School.