• Almost immediately after his election, President-elect Barack Obama considered possible members of his Cabinet and staff. Obama and vice president-elect Joe Biden will give up their seats in the Senate. The governors of Illinois and Delaware, respectively, will choose their replacements. Should any of the current members of Congress be called on to fill cabinet positions, their successors will also need to be chosen.
Citizens Against Government Waste
• While Congress was on a five-week recess from August to September, the process for nominating presidential candidates (Senators John McCain and Barack Obama) took over the news headlines and focused attention on the coming election. As the campaign heated up and gathered steam, there were ever more promises as to what each candidate, if elected, would do by way of new programs and legislation.
A resolute President Bush may go down swinging as he finishes his term in office. In a recent Rose Garden speech he outlined his plans to combat skyrocketing energy costs by drilling for oil in Alaska, adding more refineries in the U.S. and building more nuclear plants. Those and other Bush proposals have not fared well as the Democrat-majority Congress appeared to be content to wait until after the November elections to act.
• Congress recessed for a couple of weeks at Easter time. “Pro forma” sessions continued in the Senate. To keep President Bush from making recess appointments for a number of government positions, the Senate convenes and adjourns in a matter of minutes, thereby blocking presidential action.
• As Washington pundits predicted, the $3.1 trillion budget President Bush proposed for the federal fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, 2008, received a cold reception from Democrats; Republicans were lukewarm on it. This being an election year, Presidential goals are not necessarily those of lawmakers and contentious negotiations might not resolve differences by election day.
• Following the recess for the year-end holiday season, the 110th Congress apparently was in no rush to resume work on leftover legislation and to prepare for new business. The House of Representatives returned on January 15, while the Senate indulged in “pro forma” or “hello and goodbye” sessions until January 22.
• The 108th Congress became history at the end of last year and its pending legislation died on the vine. Legislators in the 109th Congress, which was due to convene after the January 20 presidential inauguration, may consider which of the dead bills merit reconsideration and reintroduction. Legislator benefit by way of pleasing constituents comes first, and doing what is best for the country has a somewhat lower priority.
• Trillions, billions and chump-change millions appear to be the common denominations being bandied about in halls of Congress. For example, the House of Representatives approved a $2.4 trillion budget resolution that would increase spending by some 7 percent for the military and homeland defense, cut or freeze spending for other agencies and put the brakes on further tax cuts to the benefit of the economy.
• House Minority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) has been the subject of months of scrutiny for alleged improprieties in accepting travel paid for by lobbyists, which has led to finger-pointing by both parties. That, in turn, has caused a number of legislators to double-check their travel records to ensure that proper procedures for travel were followed.
• When Congress returned from its summer sojourn, lawmakers had 15 workdays scheduled for September. Very few, if any, were on the books for this month, as lawmakers will spend considerable time preparing for the November elections.
- Page 1