Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Congress Faces Full Buffet in Another Washington Spring the 105th Congress Returns This Week to a Large Smorgasbord of Bills in Need of Debate and Decision

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Congress Faces Full Buffet in Another Washington Spring the 105th Congress Returns This Week to a Large Smorgasbord of Bills in Need of Debate and Decision

Article excerpt

Congress faces a grueling five weeks of work as it returns from the Easter recess tomorrow. Besides the budget, members will take on matters ranging from controversial education legislation to tobacco to expanding the NATO military alliance.

With the budget and 13 annual spending bills still on the agenda, and an abbreviated election-year schedule, the time between now and Memorial Day may well determine how productive the second session of the 105th Congress will be.

Every move on Capitol Hill now takes place with an eye toward November. Democratic leaders are already taunting Republicans for running a "do-nothing" Congress. Republicans reply that the first three months of the year are slow because much work is still in committee. Several measures are just now moving to the floor. "We're gonna have a very aggressive agenda," says Senate majority leader Trent Lott (R) of Mississippi. Among the issues that will make news: Budget. While the Senate passed its budget measure before the recess, the House has yet to take up a bill. A key issue will be the size of the GOP tax cut proposal. The Senate limits the tax cut to $30 billion, but conservatives agreed to support the bill only after Senator Lott promised to work for a higher figure. The challenge will be how to pay for the reduction, and what form it will take. Disaster relief. Each chamber has passed its version of a bill to provide funds for disaster relief, the Bosnia peacekeeping mission, and Gulf military deployments. A conference committee will meet to try to bridge the serious differences: The House wants to pay for the emergency-spending bill with cuts elsewhere; the Senate does not. The House has split off additional loan guarantees for the International Monetary Fund into a separate bill and attached anti-abortion legislation; the Senate has a single measure. "I really don't know how it is going to be resolved," says Senate minority leader Tom Daschle (D) of South Dakota. "My guess is both sides are going to have to give." Tobacco. Senator Lott says he'll bring the Senate Commerce Committee bill, which the tobacco industry opposes, to the floor in May. …

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