The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has raised its estimates of budget deficits. Earlier this year, the prediction was for a deficit of $46 billion for the current fiscal year. However, individual tax receipts were recently projected to run some $40 billion below expectations, and that has caused experts to guess that the deficit could go upwards of $70 billion.
United States Senate Committee on Appropriations
Lawmakers had much to think about when they returned from their summer break at the end of August. A Gallup poll revealed that the job approval rating for the Democrat-led Congress had dropped to 18 percent, the lowest rating since Gallup began tracking public opinion in 1974. When the Democrats took control of Congress in January the job approval rating was 35 percent.
• After the November elections, House Democrats vowed to pass the “Six for ’06” bills (minimum wages, stem cell research, energy and so on) in the first 100 legislative hours of the 110th Congress and, to their credit, they did so in 87 hours. However, when those bills were sent to the Senate, three met resistance, one appeared to be destined for a veto by the President and two were subjected to heavy criticism from outside groups.
• So, President George W. Bush won the election and will serve four more years in the White House. Cabinet changes are the subject of speculation, but Department of Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta’s name has not surfaced as of press time. Troubled by back problems, Mineta may or may not stay on.
Having missed the October 1 deadline for funding nine of the 13 government agencies that had been neglected, a lame-duck Congress made up for that lack of action after the November elections by enacting the Fiscal Year 2005 Consolidated Appropriations Act, a $388 billion “Omnibus” spending package, contained in a 3,000-page document that weighed some 14 pounds.
The 110th Congress opened for business on January 4, with the Democrats in control of the Senate and the House of Representatives. After the obligatory congratulatory oratory to honor newly elected legislators, Democrats began the process of showing that they can break the previous legislative deadlock by having both parties involved in solving the country’s problems.
• 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.
• Election Day results delivered a knockout blow to Republican hopes of retaining the majority in the House of Representatives and the Senate. The first blow came as Democrats gained control of the House by the end of the day. Two days later, the last punch came as Republican Sen. George Allen of Virginia, considered a shoo-in for reelection, conceded the election to Democrat James Webb, one time Secretary of the Navy.
• Congress closed up shop on September 29, and November 13 was set as the date for what might be a lame-duck Congress to reconvene. The long interval freed legislators who are up for election to go to their home districts and do battle for votes. Democrats are hoping that the scandals surrounding Republican congressmen will influence voters to restore the Democrats to majorities in the House and Senate.
• 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.