Congress Takes Easter Break with Little to Show for Itself
Roman, Nancy E., The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
The House and Senate began the Easter recess Friday after having passed only one piece of legislation that was signed into law - an extension of the airline-ticket tax.
The balanced-budget amendment - the GOP's best hope to deliver on a piece of its agenda - was killed in the Senate and didn't even get an airing in the House, which may not have had enough votes to pass it.
"We put all our eggs in one basket, and we failed," said Sen. Phil Gramm, Texas Republican.
Most House Republicans agreed that the 105th Congress' list of accomplishments is short so far, and little is visible on the horizon.
But Rep. John Linder, Georgia Republican, said the lack of accomplishment in the GOP-led Congress results not from the lack of an agenda, but from having ceded leadership power to committee chairmen, who have been crafting legislation that has not yet worked its way to the floor.
Here's what happened on key issues that did find their way to the floor so far this year:
* Mexico. Both houses seemed ready to reverse President Clinton's decision to certify Mexico as a partner in the war on drugs. Federal law requires Congress to ascertain that Mexico is "fully cooperating" with efforts to stem the flow of drugs into the United States before it can be recertified and thus made eligible for financial aid, loans and credits. The House voted to reverse Mr. Clinton in 90 days - with some exit clauses - if it is not satisfied with Mexico's progress by then. But the Senate could muster support only for a rebuke.
* Budget. The president unveiled his budget in February. Republicans refused to produce their own, preferring to criticize Mr. Clinton's, trying the same strategy that he employed successfully against them in 1995 and 1996. The House voted along party lines for a resolution calling on Mr. Clinton to support a balanced budget.
House leaders began to conclude that it will be difficult to balance the budget - with or without tax cuts. GOP Whip Tom DeLay of Texas and Speaker Newt Gingrich stirred up a hornet's nest by suggesting that tax cuts be handled outside the budget. …