November 14, 2006

AFTER THE STORM

Senator Mike Crapo

Fall is a transitional season, the scene of strong winds and driving rain storms that scatter branches and leaves in the melee. Yet, after a stormy night, the weather can be remarkably clear; the wind--calm. This election season was not unlike a fall storm with political winds blowing fast and furiously. Now, with the House of Representatives under Democratic leadership (as of this writing, the Senate was still undecided) Congress can look ahead take a collective deep breath from the wild weather, and finish its remaining business for the year. This â??Lame Duck Sessionâ?? --the 16th in 66 yearsâ??will feature a critical agenda of tasks to be accomplished as the 109th Session of the U.S. Congress concludes. As has been the case in lame duck sessions since the mid-1970s, this post-election season will feature the Senate taking up remaining appropriations bills, including the Department of Agriculture; Departments of State, Justice, Commerce and science-related agencies; Department of Energy; District of Columbia; foreign operations; Departments of Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency; Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and Education; Department of Veterans Affairs and military quality of life; Departments of Treasury, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and funding for the judiciary and legislative branches. In addition to unfinished agency appropriations bills, the Senate will likely debate a package of tax measures, including an extension of the research and development credit, welfare-to-work credit and deductions for state and local taxes. A scheduled five percent reduction in physiciansâ?? payments by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services may prompt legislation to stop that cut as well. A look back at past lame duck sessions provides perspective on this yearâ??s session and the observation that broad issues facing our nation remain largely constant over the decades:1940 - 1941:During this lame duck period, Congress sustained the veto of a measure to limit regulatory agency powers, and it published a committee report on sabotage of the defense effort.1942:Congress provided for the military draft of 18- and 19-year-old men.1950 - 1951:At the time of this lame duck session, our nation faced the prospect of the use of atomic weapons in the Korean War for the first time. Priorities for Congress included aid to Yugoslavia, supplemental defense and atomic energy appropriations and statehood for Hawaii and Alaska. When Congress adjourned in January, Yugoslavia had $38 million in famine aid and $18 billion was appropriated for defense, but Alaskaâ??s statehood question was to remain unanswered until the new session. 1970 â?? 1971:Congress passed two of seven regular appropriations bills, the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1970, and a law to create the Community Development Corporation.1974:During this post-war lame duck session, Congress passed trade reform and established federal policy for research on developing non-nuclear energy sources.1980:Considering the impending major power shift in Congress that occurred in 1981, this lame duck session was remarkably productive, including a budget resolution and reconciliation measure, five regular appropriations bills, the historic Superfund bill, and a bill making low-level nuclear waste disposal a state responsibility.2000:In addition to an omnibus appropriations bill, Congress passed the Intelligence Authorization Act and a bankruptcy reform measure which President Clinton pocket-vetoed in his final days in the White House. One historical assessment calls lame duck sessions to date â??moderately productive.â?? Iâ??m looking forward to working on the issues facing us during the relative calm of this lame duck session, and Iâ??m optimistic about the prospect of adding even more to our long list of accomplishments of the 109th Congress. (For a list of the accomplishments of the 109th Congress, please go to: http://crapo.senate.gov.)WORD COUNT: 607