When 91-year-old Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) relinquished his chairmanship of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee late last year, the domino effect thrust Sen. John Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.) into the chairmanship of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.
With the days before Congress’ summer vacation rapidly dwindling, the FAA funding conundrum continued last month. In late June, Congress bought itself three more months when it extended the agency’s current funding and programs until September 30. Lawmakers now have extended aviation funding and taxes five times since they initially expired on Sept. 30, 2007.
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.).
Ah, yes, there is considerable trouble in River City, and it isn’t a pool hall like in the 1950s Broadway musical. In this case, the river is the Potomac, the city is Washington and the trouble is that the Senate Republicans and Democrats do not seem to be able to join hands to break through their agonizingly slow pace and move forward to pass stalled legislation.
• 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.