THE process of amending, reconciling, adopting, and passing a
bill can be as exciting as boiled cabbage. But during the last 200
days and nights, the 104th Congress has launched a legislative
barrage that, viewed in the context of recent history, is truly
Led by the first Republican majority in 40 years, Congress has
voted to reduce the size and scope of American government: shedding
209 programs, discarding regulations, ceding power to the states,
and reforming itself.
While the ramifications of these votes are still imperceptible
outside Washington, and few bills have been signed into law, the
changes they could bring in the coming years would be as startling
as thunder. Republicans call it a revolution. Democrats call it
Here's what they have done:
*Congressional reform. Congress passed a slew of bills aimed at
reforming the legislative branch. The House eliminated three
committees and cut staff levels by one-third, and the president
signed a bill that ends congressional exemptions for several
workplace laws: including employee discrimination, worker safety,
and family and medical leave.
While a term-limits measure died in the House, both chambers
passed bills that would give the president a line-item veto: an act
that would make it more difficult for members of Congress to win
approval for pork-barrel projects.
In addition, the Senate voted to strengthen lobbying-disclosure
laws and banned members and their staffs from accepting expensive
meals and trips.
*Regulatory reform. Congress voted to limit the power of the
federal government to impose regulations on businesses and local
and state governments.
The House passed a bill that requires federal agencies to
perform risk assessment and cost-benefit studies before
implementing new regulations, and to compensate property owners who
are financially impacted by them.
The president signed a bill eliminating so-called "unfunded
mandates." This legislation prohibits the federal government from
imposing expensive regulations on local or state governments
without providing funding to offset the costs.
Also on the regulatory front, the House revised the Clean Water
Act to ease antipollution requirements on industry and make it
harder for government to declare wetlands off limits for
development. A proposed revision of the Endangered Species Act
would limit government's ability to add species to the list.
8Crime. In a revision of the 1994 crime bill, the House voted to
transform funding now earmarked for new officers into block grants
to state and local police. The bill would allow improperly obtained
evidence to be admitted in some criminal cases, set aside more
money for prison construction and deportation of criminal aliens,
and limit the number of times death row inmates can appeal.
*Welfare. The House-approved plan would replace 44 welfare
programs with five block grants to the states: eliminating federal
programs that provide child care, job training, and school meals.
The bill would cut extra benefits for mothers who have additional
children while on welfare, and deny funds to legal immigrants. …