CONGRESS: ‘Bolting for Home’ Despite Unfinished Business
Unable to reach agreement with the White House on "crucial" end-of-the-year issues over the last three "dizzying days," the Senate has adjourned until Nov. 14, and House Republicans may not be far behind, the New York Times reports. As a result, Congress will likely return for a "lame-duck session" after the election to complete work on Medicare "givebacks," ergonomics rules and other legislation. Republican and Democratic Senate leaders, noting the "stalemate" and the number of senators "bolting for home," agreed that recent legislative battles had "poisoned" the "atmosphere" on Capitol Hill and recommended a "cooling-off" period. "We need to take a timeout," Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) said. In the House, however, Republicans remain concerned that the White House and Democrats, left "chortling" over the GOP's "disarray," would use the work stoppage to "chide" them on the campaign trail. House leaders initially expressed "confidence" about remaining in session despite the Senate's departure, but they will likely stay in Washington only until Friday (Holmes, New York Times, 11/2). "We're not making a lot of progress. It looks like maybe a cooling-off period is not a bad idea," House Speaker Dennis Hastert said (AP/Investor's Business Daily, 11/2). Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) added, "It doesn't serve any purpose to be here ... It's kind of just saying: 'No one can push us around, no one can make us go home. We'll decide when the masochism is over'" (Holmes, New York Times, 11/2). On Monday, Republican leaders rejected a compromise on new workplace rules designed to reduce repetitive-motion and other injuries. The deal would have allowed OSHA to issue the rules this year but would delay implementation until next year. "We think it could cost jobs; we think it could cost billions of dollars," Lott said. Democrats, toting posters of "people crippled by work-related injuries," accused Republicans of "bow[ing] to special interests" (AP/Investor's Business Daily, 11/2). Meanwhile, Congress and President Clinton continue to feud over a $240 billion tax bill, which contains a provision that would restore about $30 billion in Medicare funds to providers and HMOs. Last Thursday, the House passed the measure 273-174, and while the Senate continues to debate the bill, Clinton has vowed to veto the tax legislation, arguing that the Medicare provision provides "too much" funding to HMOs "at the expense" of hospitals, nursing homes and other providers (California Healthline, 10/30).