- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 21, 2002

Congress is adjourning this week having revamped election and campaign-finance laws and responded to September 11 by giving the administration broad new powers to protect the nation and fight a war in Iraq.
But the 107th Congress failed to pass most of the appropriations bills, prescription-drug coverage under Medicare and the president's faith-based initiative.
Outside of legislation, the session also made history: control of the Senate changed three times during the two years, two Capitol offices were the targets of anthrax attacks through the mail, the House expelled just its second member since the Civil War period, and President Bush and his party defied historical trends by adding seats in a midterm election.
The Senate gaveled its session to a close yesterday. The House, though it will have a pro forma session tomorrow, finished business last week.
And while the two chambers, and the two parties, worked together on most of the national-security legislation, they butted heads on a host of social and financial issues, and had decidedly less to show for that.
"This year, we ducked the tough votes, and the American people were the losers," said Sen. Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, who will become majority leader when the 108th Congress convenes in January.
Each party blamed the jam on the other side's ties to special interests.
"There's no question they were not going to do anything the labor unions didn't like. They were not going to do anything to make trial lawyers mad," Mr. Lott said of Democrats.
But outgoing Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, said he thinks Republicans blocked legislation on purpose in order to use it for political gain particularly on homeland security.
"I don't think they wanted an agreement before the election, so they could make the case that it was the Democrats who were responsible, because we were in the majority, for not having completed homeland security," he said. "I think that was a calculated political decision. They made it, and obviously, it probably assisted in their efforts to regain the Senate."
The homeland-security bill eventually passed, thanks to the president's insistence. But lost in the legislative scuffles were the energy bill, which failed in part because supporters of drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge couldn't muster the 60 votes needed to pass legislation in the Senate, and a prescription-drug benefit, which failed when no version of the bill could gain 60 votes in the Senate.
The Senate was never able to pass a budget to reconcile with the House-passed budget, and together Congress passed only two of the 13 necessary spending bills. That leaves many of this year's key bills, including election reform and homeland security, without funds to carry through on the promises made in the legislation.
Congress did work well together on military matters, though, managing to pass an emergency spending bill during the summer that allowed the military to continue the war in Afghanistan, and did pass the defense spending bill.
Congress also approved a resolution granting Mr. Bush the authority to act unilaterally to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction. And this week, it will send him a bill creating a new Department of Homeland Security, which will be tasked with protecting the borders and interior from terrorism.
Democrats' strongest showing, meanwhile, came in their response to the corporate-malfeasance scandals that exploded earlier this year.
Led by Mr. Daschle and Sen. Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, Maryland Democrat, the Senate passed a much stricter bill than the House. When it became clear public sentiment was on Democrats' side, House Republicans accepted most parts of the Senate's bill and sent it to the president, who signed it.
Mr. Daschle yesterday called it the "most historic" piece of legislation of the session.
Congress also passed a wide-ranging rewrite of election law, which its sponsors called the most sweeping civil rights legislation since the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and revamped campaign-finance laws.


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