• After the November elections, House Democrats vowed to pass the “Six for ’06” bills (minimum wages, stem cell research, energy and so on) in the first 100 legislative hours of the 110th Congress and, to their credit, they did so in 87 hours. However, when those bills were sent to the Senate, three met resistance, one appeared to be destined for a veto by the President and two were subjected to heavy criticism from outside groups.
United States Senate Committee on Appropriations
• So, President George W. Bush won the election and will serve four more years in the White House. Cabinet changes are the subject of speculation, but Department of Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta’s name has not surfaced as of press time. Troubled by back problems, Mineta may or may not stay on.
Having missed the October 1 deadline for funding nine of the 13 government agencies that had been neglected, a lame-duck Congress made up for that lack of action after the November elections by enacting the Fiscal Year 2005 Consolidated Appropriations Act, a $388 billion “Omnibus” spending package, contained in a 3,000-page document that weighed some 14 pounds.
The 110th Congress opened for business on January 4, with the Democrats in control of the Senate and the House of Representatives. After the obligatory congratulatory oratory to honor newly elected legislators, Democrats began the process of showing that they can break the previous legislative deadlock by having both parties involved in solving the country’s problems.
• Congress took a three-week break on November 16 to allow lawmakers to ponder the results of the election. On December 5 lame-duck lawmakers limped back into session but ran like race horses on the way to the finish line and ended the business of the 109th Congress four days later.
• Election Day results delivered a knockout blow to Republican hopes of retaining the majority in the House of Representatives and the Senate. The first blow came as Democrats gained control of the House by the end of the day. Two days later, the last punch came as Republican Sen. George Allen of Virginia, considered a shoo-in for reelection, conceded the election to Democrat James Webb, one time Secretary of the Navy.
• Congress closed up shop on September 29, and November 13 was set as the date for what might be a lame-duck Congress to reconvene. The long interval freed legislators who are up for election to go to their home districts and do battle for votes. Democrats are hoping that the scandals surrounding Republican congressmen will influence voters to restore the Democrats to majorities in the House and Senate.
• When Congress returned from its summer sojourn, lawmakers had 15 workdays scheduled for September. Very few, if any, were on the books for this month, as lawmakers will spend considerable time preparing for the November elections.
• The House of Representatives approved appropriations for Fiscal Year 2006 for the Department of Transportation. The House bill allocates to the FAA $14.4 billion for operations, $3.6 billion for the Airport Improvement Program, $25 million to hire some 600 new air traffic controllers and $8 million to add more safety inspectors in the aircraft certification and flight standards offices.
Before leaving for Congress’s December break the Senate approved a $39.7 billion, five-year deficit reduction bill by a vote of 51 to 50. Among the provisions of the bill are an increase in out-of-pocket costs for Medicare, changes in welfare and child-support programs to save $1.6 billion and a change in the student loan program to save $12.7 billion by fixing the interest rate at 6.8 percent.
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