A lame duck Congress has been asked to come to the aid of this country many times in its history; likely, a no more important time occurred in our republic than in 1865. In January of that year after much acrimony, debate and political logrolling, Congress enacted the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, abolishing slavery. This story is told so poignantly in the film “Lincoln” in theaters now.
President Abraham Lincoln, quoted by Carl Sandburg in his wonderful biography, said, “In a great national crisis, like ours, unanimity of action among those seeking a common end is very desirable — almost indispensable. And yet no approach to such unanimity is attainable unless some deference shall be paid to the will of the majority, simply because it is the will of the majority. In this case the common end is the maintenance of the Union, and among the means to secure the end such will (of the majority), through the election, is most clearly declared in favor of the (13th) amendment.”
Part of the calculus in a democracy — in reaching agreement on the financial issues comprising the fiscal cliff – is giving deference to the will of the majority that re-elected a president who spoke with clarity and campaigned vigorously on these issues.