Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

At Session's End, Congress Cuts Taxes ; the 11th-Hour Output Also Included Controversial Provisions for Gulf Coast Drilling and a Trade Deal with Haiti

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

At Session's End, Congress Cuts Taxes ; the 11th-Hour Output Also Included Controversial Provisions for Gulf Coast Drilling and a Trade Deal with Haiti

Article excerpt

In a final, late-night surge of legislating, the 109th Congress passed $45 billion in tax cuts and a trade package affecting at least 150 developing nations, as well as a range of smaller bills on issues from healthcare to energy. But they left most of the current fiscal year's spending decisions to the next Congress.

It was the last gasp of a lame-duck Congress caught between two majorities - and ready to go home. With Democrats poised to take control of both the House and Senate next month, Republicans used their final hours in charge of Congress to make good on promises to many of Washington's most powerful interests as well as to American families they hope to woo back in 2008.

The 11th-hour output includes popular tax extenders, such as the research and development tax credit for businesses and the tax break for college tuition. It also includes more controversial provisions, such as opening some 8.3 million acres along the Gulf Coast to oil and gas drilling, and a trade deal with Haiti that could hurt US textile interests.

Meanwhile, Democrats say the outgoing "do nothing" Republican Congress met rarely and accomplished little. On Friday, House majority leader-elect Steny Hoyer (D) of Maryland announced there would be more five-day work weeks in the next Congress "to address the critical issues facing our nation and fulfill our responsibility to oversee the executive branch." (Under GOP control, the Washington work week was about 2.5 days.)

In the final days, Republicans faced their greatest opposition from within their own ranks. "This is an embarrassing situation to be chairman of [the] Budget Committee in a Republican Congress and to have a bill brought to the floor that does such damage to the budget," said Sen. Judd Gregg (R) of New Hampshire in a floor speech directed mainly to his GOP colleagues Friday night.

As late as Friday, eight senators from textile states were threatening to block the omnibus trade and tax bill unless a proposal to lift tariffs on clothing manufactured in Haiti was removed. …

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