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Archive for Sunday, July 28, 2002

Congress, eyeing fall elections, gets busy

July 28, 2002

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— Eyes squarely on the fall election, Congress crammed as much as possible into its most productive work week of the year before rushing out to campaign for control of the House and Senate next year.

Lawmakers pushed through as many key election issues as possible as the House started its summer recess, with the Senate staying in session one more week. Then Congress will resume its work in September after Labor Day.

Lawmakers dealt with business, economic and ethics issues that they hope will shore up consumer confidence in the economy and the stock market before the November elections.

The recess is the last uninterrupted campaign block before Congress wraps up for the year, so lawmakers wanted to make sure they had something to promote to voters.

The election will determine control of both the Democrat-led Senate and the GOP majority House. Democrats hold the Senate by a single seat; Republicans control the House by seven seats.

"I think that is my job, to go around and talk about some of the successes we have had in this Congress and try to make sure that we return a Republican majority back here in November," House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., said before heading out on the road.

The White House prodded GOP leaders to soften their stances on several issues and resolve disputes with Democrats on some issues before the break.

It's the economy

Democrats have pounded Bush and his Capitol Hill allies for their handling of business scandals and accused them of ignoring the economy. It is a theme likely to dominate during the campaign season.

"The best thing they could do is completely scrap their entire economic plan and start over again from scratch ... and get rid of their entire economic team and start over with a brand new one that has some common sense," Al Gore, the 2000 Democratic nominee for president, said last week.

With both parties ready to deal, the House and Senate sent legislation to the president that creates stiff penalties for corporate fraud and document shredding.

Congress also passed a $28.9 billion counterterrorism package for the remainder of the budget year.

Proud president

"A lot has taken place here and I'm real proud of members of both parties," Bush said after a Friday visit to the Capitol.

Only a last-minute House revolt derailed an agreement with the Senate that would have made debts harder to dissolve in bankruptcy court. House leaders say they will try to pass the bill in September.

"The most productive weeks of each year is the one right before the August recess and the one right before we go out at the end of the year," said Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss.

This week, the Senate will try to finish up on Bush's proposed Homeland Security Department, a prescription drug benefit and presidential trade powers.

"By working together and by asking our colleagues to cooperate with us, I think we can produce an awful lot of good legislation" this week, Lott said.

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