Katie Couric's Notebook: Lame Duck

Members of the 111th Congress .. many of whom were not re-elected two weeks ago .. have returned to work.

It's called a lame duck session.

But, with apologies to the Marx Brothers, why a duck?

The term was first used in 18th century London to describe a stock broker who could not pay his debts .. and was thus as powerless as a lame duck.

It was first applied to American politicians in the mid 19th-century - and now commonly refers to those who've lost re-election or are not running again but are still in office - their power greatly reduced.

Originally, the Constitution required Congress to meet once a year, in December.

With elections held in November, but the new Congress not sworn-in until March, that meant a mandatory lame duck session.

That changed in 1933, when the 20th Amendment said Congress must meet -- and the new members take office -- on the same day .. January Third .. making it all just .. ducky.

That's a page from my notebook.

I'm Katie Couric, CBS News.


Follow Us

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.

Watch Now

On Twitter

New Android App

For your Android phone and tablet, download the FREE redesigned app, featuring CBSN, live 24/7 news.

The all new
CBS News App for Android® for iPad® for iPhone®
Fully redesigned. Featuring CBSN, 24/7 live news. Get the App