When Congress perceives public or political demands to do something, the House and Senate can act with uncharacteristic speed. For example, take the legislation that would curb and curtail corporate conniving and chicanery that raced through legislative processes, was passed by both houses and handed for signature by President Bush in near record time. If only some desirable aviation bills had the same priority.
111th United States Congress
As a result of the Congressional elections in November, the 108th Congress, due to convene early this month, will enjoy a Republican majority in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. In the Senate, Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), whom many Washington pundits regarded as an obstructionist when it came to moving legislation through that body, gave way as majority to Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.).
• With many eyes focused on the Presidential election date, both houses of Congress worked diligently on such agenda items as tax cuts, disaster relief, counter-terrorism measures and so on so that they could recess on or about October 8 for legislators to hit the campaign trails. How Congressional elections go will affect Senate and House party majorities and, therefore, who will chair various committees.
• Even though the Senate and the House of Representatives did not sit in session during August, a multitude of committee and subcommittee meetings convened during this period to look into the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the aftermath and how to avoid such events in the future.
• As anticipated, President Bush vetoed the $124 billion bill for funding military operations. The bill would have required the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq as early as next month. And, also as anticipated, the House, by a vote of 222 to 203, failed to override the veto. White House aides and lawmakers were to hammer out a new bill that would be acceptable to the President and have it ready before Congress takes its Memorial Day break.
• Congress closed up shop on September 29, and November 13 was set as the date for what might be a lame-duck Congress to reconvene. The long interval freed legislators who are up for election to go to their home districts and do battle for votes. Democrats are hoping that the scandals surrounding Republican congressmen will influence voters to restore the Democrats to majorities in the House and Senate.
Before leaving for Congress’s December break the Senate approved a $39.7 billion, five-year deficit reduction bill by a vote of 51 to 50. Among the provisions of the bill are an increase in out-of-pocket costs for Medicare, changes in welfare and child-support programs to save $1.6 billion and a change in the student loan program to save $12.7 billion by fixing the interest rate at 6.8 percent.
• Congress recessed for the 4th of July, as it generally does when there is a national holiday, but, before adjourning, lawmakers passed a $94.5 billion emergency spending bill that included funds for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, hurricane recovery on the Gulf coast, a border security plan and avian flu preparedness.
• The dog days of August descended on the Capitol right on schedule, and Congressional lawmakers escaped the doldrums as they usually do–by recessing for the month. Most headed for their home districts to catch up locally and
to prepare for the coming elections.
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