By Lawrence J. Goodrich, writer of The Christian Science Monitor
The Christian Science Monitor
So far, the 105th Congress has been unremarkable, with few achievements to its credit. But this week could go a long way toward changing that.
In an atmosphere left highly charged by a number of political brawls, Congress will take up a series of contentious issues that will help set the tone for the rest of the session.
This will be a decisive week for the budget if either a deal is reached or White House and congressional negotiators decide to throw in the towel. Also, the Senate will debate and vote on a chemical weapons treaty - an issue with global implications that divides members within their own parties. These weighty matters take place against a background of anger in both houses. Senate Democrats are outraged by a party-line Rules Committee vote to conduct a broader investigation of last fall's Louisiana Senate race than the one recommended by a bipartisan team of lawyers. In the House of Representatives, the two parties are barely on speaking terms after Speaker Newt Gingrich's announcement that he would pay a $300,000 ethics penalty with the help of a loan from former Sen. Bob Dole. On the budget issue, negotiators will resume their efforts Wednesday, in a sign that both sides still think they can reach an agreement. But few details have emerged from the talks and those that have emerged displeased Budget Committee Democrats. Clearing the air They met Thursday with presidential advisers Franklin Raines and Gene Sperling, minority leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota, and ranking committee Democrat Sen. Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey to complain about presidential strategy "There was some misunderstanding about what concessions had or had not been made," said Senator Daschle. "We cleared the air." The Senate will also finally take up the Chemical Weapons Convention Wednesday in a delicately choreographed deal. In order to proceed to the treaty, the Senate first debated and passed a bill to outlaw production, storage, or shipment of chemical and biological weapons in the United States. The president, meanwhile, announced that the US Information Agency and the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency would be merged into the State Department and subordinate the Agency for International Development to the Secretary of State. …