- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 3, 2001

Members of the 107th Congress will meet today for the first time to be sworn into office.

With Republicans retaining a 221 to 211 majority in the House, Rep. J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican, will be re-elected speaker of the House and both parties have already reconfirmed the rest of their leadership.

In the Senate, where there will be 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans, Democrats will take control for 17 days. The reason? Until the Jan. 20 inauguration, Vice President Al Gore will remain the Senate's presiding officer able to break tie votes, thus making South Dakota Democrat Tom Daschle the Senate majority leader.

Mr. Daschle has already said he will not try to pass legislation or change the Senate's rules while in charge. Instead, spokeswoman Ranit Schmelzer said yesterday, Mr. Daschle will continue to work with Majority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, to resolve whether and how to share power in the Senate.

Mr. Daschle and Mr. Lott met for about 45 minutes yesterday morning to continue those discussions. No further meetings have been set, but spokeswomen from both offices confirmed that the two have begun trading proposals.

Mr. Daschle would like to see power shared in the Senate and its committees.

Some Republicans including Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Ted Stevens, Alaska Republican agree, but it appears most others want at least a one-vote majority in each committee and a Republican as chairman of every committee.

Ms. Schmelzer said if Mr. Daschle and Mr. Lott's talks fall through, Mr. Daschle will convene the Senate, possibly next week, to propose his own proposal for governing the Senate, including chairmanships, committee ratios and rules on who will set the agenda for the full Senate.

Ms. Schmelzer and Susan Irby, Mr. Lott's spokeswoman, also agreed that a failure to agree on the new composition of committees would not impede consideration of President-elect George W. Bush's Cabinet nominees.

The committees will continue unchanged from the 106th Congress until Mr. Daschle and Mr. Lott reach an agreement for their composition in the 107th, the spokeswomen said.

The only difficulty might arise in the Senate Finance Committee, where the nomination for Treasury Secretary-designate Paul O'Neill must be considered. Senate Finance Committee Chairman William V. Roth Jr., Delaware Republican, lost his bid for re-election and under Senate rules, confirmation hearings cannot proceed without a chairman.

Still, Republicans and Democrats say they expect to reach an agreement to allow Mr. O'Neill's hearings to proceed.

Meanwhile, the House is expected to vote on several changes to its own rules today, mostly minor.

Of interest, the House takes another step into the electronic-information age, dropping the requirement that various internal documents such as reports and journals be printed. Instead, those documents can now be transmitted electronically.

The new rules will also ban legislation that names a public works project after a sitting member of Congress and increase the amount of information that must be provided in legislation appropriating money for an "unauthorized program" in other words, a pork-barrel project.


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