Not unlike the way the Philadelphia Phillies’ chances of winning this year’s World Series decreased substantially on Sunday when they lost game four to the New York Yankees, the Lockheed Martin/AgustaWestland VH-71 presidential helicopter’s chances of receiving funding in this year’s defense appropriations bill diminished considerably yesterday when Congressman John Murtha (D-Pa.) apparently removed his support of the program.
Within days after it became public last month that Congress was seeking to purchase additional business jets for use by senior government officials, House leaders dropped the $550 million request from the Defense Department’s budget.
Congress resumed business early last month after an 11-day hiatus and took note of the to-do list President Bush outlined in his weekly radio address. That list included a war funding bill, intelligence legislation, veterans’ benefits and a free-trade pact. However, the Senate first debated the Climate Security Act sponsored by Sens. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and John Warner (R-Va.).
• 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.
• The House of Representatives of the 110th Congress adjourned in mid-December. However, to keep President Bush from making recess appointments, the Senate conducted “pro forma” sessions that lasted only minutes. By the time Congress adjourned, there had been 2,531 bills introduced in the Senate and 4,930 in the House. According to the Library of Congress, the 110th Congress passed 155 bills.
• Pushing hard to wrap up business before they took their customary August break, lawmakers devoted a good deal of time to deciding what to do about the Iraq war and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
• Congressional debates on war funding consumed much of lawmakers’ time and much national media attention. The House passed the $504 billion National Defense Authorization Act by a vote of 397-27. The bill included $141.8 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan for Fiscal Year 2008. It now moves to the Senate.
• Congress took a three-week break on November 16 to allow lawmakers to ponder the results of the election. On December 5 lame-duck lawmakers limped back into session but ran like race horses on the way to the finish line and ended the business of the 109th Congress four days later.