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Congress Agrees to Lame Duck Session; Several Issues Remain

With the election only days away, Congress reluctantly agreed to a lame duck session, with the House and Senate taking different approaches to the decision. On November 1, the Senate approved, by unanimous consent, a continuing resolution (H. J. Res. 84) to fund government programs through November 14, sending Senators home to campaign. The House leadership insisted that work could be completed before Election Day and Members were uncertain whether the House would work through the weekend. However, on November 3 after a meeting of the Republican conference, the House leadership agreed that work could not be completed. As a result, the House approved, by unanimous consent, the long-term continuing resolution on November 3. To date, 7 of the 13 annual appropriations bills have been signed into law—Agriculture, Defense, Energy and Water, Interior, Military Construction, Transportation, and Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development. Of the remaining six bills, two have been vetoed, one is awaiting the President’s signature, two have been cleared for the President, and one is still in negotiations.

Legislative Branch/Treasury-Postal
On October 30, the President vetoed the FY2001 Legislative Branch appropriations bill (H.R. 4516), which also contained the FY2001 Treasury, Postal Service, and General Government spending bill (H.R. 4871). The veto came as a surprise to lawmakers, who expected the measure to be signed. However, the President vetoed the bill in an effort to send a message to lawmakers that negotiations on the remaining issues would have to be completed before he would sign a bill to fund the White House and Congress.

Foreign Operations
Last week, Congress cleared the FY2001 foreign operations appropriations bill (H.R. 4811), sending it to the President (see The Source, 10/27/00, p. 1). He is expected to sign the measure into law.

Commerce-Justice-State/District of Columbia
Additionally, while Congress cleared the FY2001 District of Columbia appropriations bill (H.R. 4292), which contains the FY2001 Commerce, Justice, State, and Related Agencies spending bill (H.R. 4690), the measure has not been sent to the President. Last week, the President indicated he would veto the measure over his objections to immigration provisions contained in the Commerce-Justice-State bill. The Senate approved, 49-42, the measure on October 27. The House approved the conference report on October 26 (see The Source, 10/27/00, p. 5).

Labor-Health and Human Services-Education
Lawmakers are still negotiating with the White House on a final version of the FY2001 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education appropriations bill (H.R. 4577). The measure is likely to be the final bill cleared by the 106th Congress. One of the more contentious items is a House-passed provision that would prohibit the use of funds by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to promulgate, issue, implement, or enforce a temporary or final rule on ergonomics standards for workplaces. However, disagreement over the language may be moot since OSHA is prepared to issue its regulations by mid-November. Additionally, negotiators are still discussing the bill’s overall funding level.

Other Remaining Issues When Congress returns after the election, there will be several other issues to be addressed. One such issue is a tax cut package that includes a minimum wage increase, Medicare “givebacks” legislation, pension reform legislation, and a bill to reauthorize a Small Business Administration loan program. The House approved the package on October 26 (see The Source, 10/27/00, p. 3), but the Senate has yet to consider the measure. Last week, when the House approved the package, the President threatened to veto it over objections to the Medicare “givebacks” legislation (see The Source, 10/27/00, p. 4). Another issue is a bill to reform bankruptcy (see story on page 2).

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