• 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.
As the Senate and the House of Representatives neared adjournment for August, both parties in the Senate were patting themselves on the back for their presumed successes.
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.).
• 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 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.
There was good news and bad news concerning appropriations for those 11 of 13 government agencies that have been impatiently waiting and enduring the agony of eight continuing resolutions that allowed them to operate with Fiscal Year 2002-level funding.
• 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.
• At press time, appropriations for the 12 government agencies were still in the holding pattern. As of the middle of last month it seemed unlikely that new bills would be approved by November 16, the last day of a Continuing Resolution that allowed agencies to continue doing business at the same spending level as last year.
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