ON Capitol Hill, there's nothing like the prospect of a little
`R & R' to spur action.
As legislators labored through the weekend to wrap up business
for the year, they came to closure on a variety of issues. Most
surprising was the Senate's passage Saturday of the so-called Brady
bill, which would impose a nationwide five-day waiting period on
the purchase of handguns.
The Brady bill, named for former White House press secretary
James Brady, who was critically wounded in the 1981 assassination
attempt on President Reagan, had seemed to be stalled in its latest
attempt at passage by a Republican filibuster. But in the face of
public sentiment, which supports the effort to control availability
of guns, enough Republicans dropped their objection to end the
"We finally decided ... let's get the Brady bill behind us,"
Senate minority leader Robert Dole (R) of Kansas told reporters
Though critics of the bill argue that it will do little to keep
guns out of the hands of criminals, it has taken on symbolic
importance since it was first introduced in the mid-1980s.
Senator Dole's remark also appeared to reflect a deeper
sentiment among members of Congress - a desire to show that they
can move beyond the gridlock that characterized the years of
Republican White Houses and Democratic Congresses. Perhaps most
important, Democratic control of the White House makes it all the
harder for Republicans to completely resist the Democratic agenda.
One example is the Senate's passage last Thursday of a bill
reviving the independent-counsel law. The bill - which allows
investigation of public officials by independent counsels -
resurrects the law that expired last December because of Republican
objection to counsel Lawrence Walsh's investigation of the
But Republicans decided that strenuous objection to a law
designed to keep public officials honest was not good for public
relations. After changes were made imposing cost and time limits on
the work of future independent counsels, the bill passed by a vote
of 76 to 21.
Congress's flurry of weekend activity also included:
* Senate passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement. It
was always the House that posed problems for approval of NAFTA, and
after the administration won a stronger victory there than expected
on Wednesday, the Senate vote seemed anti-climactic.
The treaty, which is set to be implemented Jan. …