Technically speaking, the second session of the 110th Congress
does not start until January 2008, but, in fact, it has already
begun. By early next year, the presidential nominees for each major
political party will be known, and the general election campaign
will further stall any significant legislative activity. Nominees
will become the new leaders and faces of their respective parties,
and most expect Congress will defer to them. Plus, neither party
will want to allow the other to claim a legislative victory in the
race to the Nov. 4, 2008, election.
This will not bring about a big change in terms of substance
because with only two laws passed of any consequence—the
minimum-wage hike and ethics reform—this has not been a
productive Congress. Most debates between the parties have stayed
along party lines, and neither Democrats nor Republicans are
expected to reach consensus. But adding a new twist will be
President Bush's more frequent use of vetoes, particularly on
None of the 12 annual appropriations bills had been sent to
President Bush when Congress took its August recess, and there were
only 19 legislative days to complete work on those bills before the
federal government's fiscal year ended Sept. 30. This is not an
unusual situation for Congress, and it typically hustles through
temporary funding extensions (stopgap bills) until it can complete
and send all 12 appropriations bills to the president, usually in a
massive omnibus spending package.
However, this year promises to be more dramatic with possibly
the first government shutdown since Republicans and former
President Clinton squared off in 1995. This could happen because
congressional Democrats added $22 billion to President Bush's
appropriations requests, and Bush insists he will not accept the
additional spending. And though Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi
(D-Calif.) called the $22 billion a "relatively minor difference"
and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) similarly called it
a "very small difference," House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.)
predicted a government shutdown, saying:...
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