Conservatives don’t want to ground a lame-duck Congress altogether. They just want to clip its wings and keep bad policy from taking flight during the frantic last months of the year.  

Part of every congressional lifespan, the lame-duck session refers to the window after the November election but before newly elected representatives take their seats. Conservatives fear the lame duck because outgoing lawmakers, temporarily free from responsibility, often vote for controversial legislation.

That’s why conservatives want to limit the session. But they don’t want to kill it entirely, as one media outlet surmised last week. “No, no, no,” said Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C.

Mulvaney, board member of the House Freedom Caucus, told The Daily Signal his group wants to force Congress to take difficult votes now so that the electorate can give a thumbs up or down at the polls in November.

“None of this is about staying home in November and December. We should go to D.C., and we should work,” Mulvaney said. He’s not ready to kill the lame-duck session because Congress still has work to do after the election. “Plenty of really good small stuff needs to be done,” Mulvaney explained.

Another Freedom Caucus board member, Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., agrees and told The Daily Signal, “I’m in favor of working more hours, not fewer.”

But while conservatives like Meadows aren’t ready to quit early, they do want Congress to limits its activity after the November election. That’s why Meadows wants the House to finish the lion’s share of its work now to avoid sloppy work later during the lame-duck session.

“I’m in favor of having the most critical legislative issues brought up early this summer long before any lame-duck session,” Meadows said. “Consequential pieces of legislation should not be considered after an election by individuals who are no longer accountable to the people.”

In recent years, lawmakers have hammered together spending deals at the last moment before the federal government ran out of money to pay its bills. The frequent conservative complaint has been that during that scramble, questionable provisions get slipped into the final package.

To keep that from happening, conservatives and leadership would have to finish stalled negotiations over government spending levels. That could put members of the Freedom Caucus in an awkward position.

Vocal proponents of passing a budget according to so-called “regular order,” conservatives may have to sign off on an emergency spending patch known inside Washington as a continuing resolution.

A temporary fix, the continuing resolution would allocate enough funding to keep the government running.

But it’s unclear if Congress could reach a deal before federal funding runs out on Sept. 30. Lawmakers are already short on time.

“The lights are flickering now,” Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., told The Daily Signal. “If you look at the schedule, there’s not a whole lot of days to get things done before the election.”

When lawmakers leave for summer recess on July 15, they won’t return until Sept. 6—that leaves just 17 legislative days for them to finish their work. Those tight margins are a result of a condensed calendar.

This year, Republican leadership limited the days Congress is in session to make room for the Republican and Democrat national conventions in July and give ample time for incumbent members to fend off electoral challenges before November.

Take any more time off the clock and “it wouldn’t instill much confidence in the people in my district,” said Buck, a Freedom Caucus member and freshman class president. “I couldn’t imagine we would just not work through the end of the year. That would be disturbing to me.”

But even if members of the Freedom Caucus changed their mind, they still couldn’t cut out early. They don’t control the calendar. Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., does.

Asked about the possibility of shortening the legislative schedule, a senior leadership aide told The Daily Signal that leadership has no plans to kill the lame-duck session.