National Lame Duck Day, celebrated every February 6, observes the day the 20th Amendment was passed, reducing what’s known as the congressional lame-duck period or the weeks between the congressional elections and their inauguration day. During this time, elected officials on their way out of office tend to have less clout and are just waiting for their term to end, thus, they are considered lame ducks. There are other types of political lame ducks that also deserve our attention today so read on to learn more about celebrating National Lame Duck Day!
History of National Lame Duck Day
In the literal sense, a lame duck is a duck that is unable to keep up with its flock or reach safety on its own — basically, it is vulnerable to predators and just waiting for the end. The first known use of this term for a person was in the 1700s with reference to a stockbroker who had defaulted on his debts.
The term made its way to the political world by the 19th century when cited in the Congressional Globe on January 14, 1863. In this political context, ‘lame duck’ refers to an elected official who is nearing the end of his or her political term and finds they have diminished influence to effectively carry out their responsibilities.
Most commonly, we see lame ducks when they have not won re-election or their term limit is expiring and they must leave office. Today, we hear this term most frequently regarding the office of the president of the United States.
Thankfully, Congress passed the 20th Amendment in 1933 in order to shorten the lame-duck period between election and inauguration. This is why a day has been set aside to observe our lame ducks. It should be a time for a meaningful transition of power. While this does happen, it is not always the case.
There have been several congressional and presidential lame-duck periods in which the outgoing official slammed down last-minute legislations, granted multiple pardons, and took politically unpopular actions.
It has been argued that the lame-duck period should be even shorter, given today’s technology and speed of business compared to prior centuries, even in the 1900s!
National Lame Duck Day timeline
Lame-duck President John Adams appoints many federal and Supreme Court judges during his final days in office.
The 20th Amendment changes the inauguration date of the president from March 4 to January 20, thus limiting the lame-duck period.
During the congressional lame-duck transition of power to the Republicans, House Democrats pass 100 laws.
Unlike several lame ducks who preceded him, President Obama seems re-energized during his second lame-duck term.
National Lame Duck Day FAQs
Who were the last five presidential lame ducks?
Every president serves a lame-duck period of some type. Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Ronald Reagan were lame ducks during their second term in office when they were not eligible for re-election. George H.W. Bush became a lame duck at the point when he lost his second term re-election.
Who was a role model lame duck?
George W. Bush has been credited with the most effective presidential transition with his efforts to welcome and equip Barack Obama.
How many people have presidents pardoned?
Presidents throughout history have pardoned, commuted, or rescinded the convictions of thousands of individuals. Beginning with George Washington who pardoned 16 people through to Donald Trump, who pardoned 74 people in the final hours of his lame-duck period alone. Only two presidents never pardoned anyone — William Henry Harrison and James Garfield.
How to Observe National Lame Duck Day
Cut the Lame Duck some slack
If you find yourself working with someone who has resigned or given notice of retirement and their successor has been identified or the search is in progress, be sure to support that lame duck until their last day. Making the transition easier on them and on your organization will end up benefiting all parties and allow your co-worker to leave on the most positive terms.
Understand how government works
In the event you don’t remember everything you learned in your civics class in high school, today would be a great day to brush up on the inner workings of our government. What exactly are Members of Congress supposed to do? Well, you can read below for the short list but this only scratches the surface of what the three branches of our government do and how they do it.
Donate to wildlife rehabilitation
In the most literal sense and original use of the term ‘lame duck,’ celebrate National Lame Duck Day by donating to a wildlife refuge. There are many across the United States, some specializing in bird- and fowl rescue.
5 Major Roles Of Congress
Members of Congress can introduce bills as well as vote on bills raised by other members and committees that can ultimately be voted into law.
Represent the people
Both U.S. representatives and state senators are elected by the people within their state or district and are expected to carry out their responsibilities with their constituents’ desires in mind.
Lead congressional activities
Whether in a formal leadership role or not, Members of Congress are expected to lead various aspects of congressional responsibilities, from negotiating legislative issues to formulating committee- and party activities.
Manage their staff
Each representative is allowed to have up to 18 full-time staff members and four part-time, while each senator’s staff varies based on the size of the state they represent.
Congressional leaders seeking re-election devote time to campaign activities as well as support the elections of others within their party.
WHY WE LOVE EFFECTIVE TRANSITION OF POWER
America’s business continuity
As with major corporations, the effective succession of one leader by another in our government is key to the country’s smooth operation and peaceful- and powerful status in the world.
Allows time for appointment considerations
The president may appoint or nominate up to 4,000 positions once they’ve assumed office and the Senate may need to approve up to 1,000 of these so the period of transition allows the incoming president to consider candidates and prepare for personnel changes.
It lays the groundwork for the new administration
Once inaugurated, the new president must begin executing their strategy and campaign promises. A smooth transition into office builds the foundation for this work.
National Lame Duck Day dates