• When the dog days of August arrived, Congress adjourned for five weeks, leaving a number of major bills hanging fire. Among them were legislation aimed at resolving energy problems. After the House voted to adjourn, a group of feisty Republicans stayed on the floor–no microphones and dimmed lights–and demanded that Democratic leaders come back and take action on energy legislation. Democrats declined.
Gravina Island Bridge
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.
• In view of the enormous funds allocated for hurricane relief ($62 billion to date with more to come) and a mounting budget deficit, President Bush and legislators in both houses of Congress have been pushing programs that would reduce federal spending.
– Among the after-effects of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita was a flood of Congressional bills to provide relief to the communities and people devastated by the storms. Cost estimates range up to $300 billion, and legislators showed passing concern about where the money would come from and the effect such funding would have on other government programs.
• 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.
•Congress took a legislative break from November 18 to December 12 but, before leaving, both houses passed H.R.3058, the FY2006 Transportation, Treasury and Housing appropriations bill that provides funding for those agencies through September. The bill authorizes $13.8 billion for the FAA, $276 million more than the agency’s budget for FY2005, and $1.1 billion more than President Bush requested.
– Congress took a 10-day break over the Memorial Day holiday and on its return faced a number of issues that had been left in the holding pattern. Senate Democrats filibustered an attempt to eliminate the so-called “death tax,” and Republicans fell three votes short of what it would take to break the filibuster, so the current exemptions of $2 million of an individual’s estate and $4 million of a married couple’s estate still stand.