Early last month President Bush departed for a month-long hiatus in Texas and just about the same time Congress opted to take its August recess. So, the dog days of August descended on a more or less deserted legislative Washington.
United States Senate Committee on Appropriations
The 108th Congress opened for business the first week in January with a few changes of note. The racial gaffe committed by Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) during the departure ceremonies for Sen. Strom Thurmond forced him out as the Senate Majority Leader.
• Congress enjoyed a recess for the Thanksgiving holiday period, but not all members of the Senate availed themselves of the break. The Constitution gives a President authority to make appointments to top federal positions without Senate approval if that chamber is adjourned for more than three days without reconvening on the fourth.
• With many eyes focused on the Presidential election date, both houses of Congress worked diligently on such agenda items as tax cuts, disaster relief, counter-terrorism measures and so on so that they could recess on or about October 8 for legislators to hit the campaign trails. How Congressional elections go will affect Senate and House party majorities and, therefore, who will chair various committees.
When Congress returned from its August recess, both houses set about to debate what to do about the declining budget surplus and what to do about spending.
Helicopter Association International (HAI) president Roy Resavage has written to members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to press for an amendment to the 2002 transportation appropriations bill that would help protect reliever airports in the Chicago area.
• By a vote of 404 to 14, the House of Representatives passed a stopgap funding bill that would keep government agencies running until November 16. Included were the various aviation-related taxes that fund FAA operations. The new budget year started October 1 and, at that time, none of the 12 appropriations bills funding government agencies had been signed into law.
• Even though the Senate and the House of Representatives did not sit in session during August, a multitude of committee and subcommittee meetings convened during this period to look into the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the aftermath and how to avoid such events in the future.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has raised its estimates of budget deficits. Earlier this year, the prediction was for a deficit of $46 billion for the current fiscal year. However, individual tax receipts were recently projected to run some $40 billion below expectations, and that has caused experts to guess that the deficit could go upwards of $70 billion.
Lawmakers had much to think about when they returned from their summer break at the end of August. A Gallup poll revealed that the job approval rating for the Democrat-led Congress had dropped to 18 percent, the lowest rating since Gallup began tracking public opinion in 1974. When the Democrats took control of Congress in January the job approval rating was 35 percent.