- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 2, 2000

Due to the breakdown of negotiations over the budget, Congress appears to be headed for a rare lame duck session. That's not by any means a worst-case scenario. Earlier this week, House Speaker Dennis Hastert said to reporters, "We're not going to get pushed out of town on a bad deal. You call it a stalemate. I call it fighting for the American people." Mr. Hastert is right. Congress should finish its work, despite chilly Washington winds and frosty comments from the White House.

The cause of the dispute appears to be President Clinton's midnight veto of the Treasury and Legislative Appropriations bill earlier this week, in response to what Republicans claim was a good-faith agreement about workplace rules and education funding in the bill.

Both sides have accused one another of bad faith. In an open letter to the president, Mr. Hastert wrote, "Mr. President, we sent you the check, but you refused to deliver the goods," while Mr. Clinton maintained, "I cannot in good conscience sign a bill that funds the operations of Congress … before funding our classrooms."

Given Mr. Clinton's well-deserved reputation for mendacity, a handful of salt is in order here. Nonetheless, it appears that both sides are playing for time, hoping to gin up core supporters and anticipating favorable election returns.

Democrats have again brought up hackneyed charges of a "do-nothing Congress," yet quite the opposite appears to be true. While Congress failed to act on favorites of the liberal establishment like gun control and campaign-finance reform, it passed legislation overhauling banking laws, boosted the defense budget, normalized trade with China, and attempted to revoke the marriage and inheritance taxes.

Far too much pork has already entered the process, yet Congress needs to finish the remaining appropriations bills. Even though the Treasury and Legislative Appropriations bill contains provisions allowing members of Congress a $3,800 pay raise, it should be reintroduced; among its other provisions is the overdue repeal of a telephone excise tax originally promulgated to pay for the Spanish-American War. Republicans should also maintain their opposition to Democratic proposals on school construction in the appropriations bill for the departments of Labor, Human Services and Education.

Most important, Republicans should continue to insist on legislation which would cut taxes by $240 billion over the next 10 years, even if it means compromising on the minimum wage. In doing so, they will be laying the groundwork for the Bush tax-cut agenda, which one hopes will serve as the upcoming budgetary blueprint.

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