- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 9, 2006

The promised spirit of bipartisanship already is deteriorating on Capitol Hill.

Lawmakers wrapped up the 109th Congress early yesterday, with Democrats snapping about the Republicans’ do-nothing attitude and Republicans leaving Democrats an expensive spending bill to deal with when they gain the majority next year.

Republican leaders left town without completing most of the annual spending bills — leaving Democrats “with a tremendous mess,” said incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat.

Congress completed only two of its 11 annual appropriations bills. The other nine represent about $460 billion and cover a range of domestic programs. The House late Friday approved a resolution to continue funding the programs through Feb. 15. The Senate followed suit early yesterday.

“They’re leaving behind a disaster for us to deal with,” said Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat.

House and Senate Democratic leaders held press conferences in the waning hours of the congressional session to criticize not only the unfinished spending bills but a long list of other issues they said Republicans failed to address, ranging from energy and security to education and health care.

“Congress is set to adjourn the lamest of lame-duck sessions … bringing two years of failure and misplaced priorities to a sad culmination,” according to a packet of so-called Republican failures that was compiled and distributed by Mr. Reid’s office.

Democrats swept to victory in the midterm elections last month repeatedly pledging a new era of bipartisan civility on Capitol Hill.

Just weeks ago, Mr. Reid pledged Democrats would “move America forward” and said they are “going to focus on bipartisanship.” The sentiment was echoed by Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi of California and House Majority Leader-elect Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland.

But the tense back and forth that emerged as Congress wrapped up does not bode well for the chances of bipartisan cooperation in the next Congress.

Mr. Hoyer said Thursday it’s “only appropriate that the ‘do-less-than-do-nothing Congress’ ends by doing nothing.”

“No minimum wage increase. No immigration reform. No legislation expanding access to health care,” he said. “We failed to enact the 9/11 commission recommendations. We failed to enact a budget, and congressional Republicans will boot the remaining nine spending bills into the new year with a continuing resolution.”

Despite their criticism, Democratic leaders said they’ll still try to work with Republicans.

Mr. Reid said Democrats will look for “common ground” with Republicans. Mr. Hoyer said it’s clear that voters want change and that Democrats will “reach across the aisle and seek bipartisan consensus whenever possible.”

“I’m going to take them at their word,” said Rep. Ray LaHood, Illinois Republican. “I believe it’s what the country wants.”

While that bipartisanship seems like a tall order given the partisan bickering last week, there is at least one flicker of hope.

Senate Democrats and Republicans will open the 110th Congress with a joint caucus meeting that will allow senators to meet and socialize before any official legislative business begins. The meeting was announced by Mr. Reid and incoming Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican.

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