Lawmakers to push for passage of homeland bill before lame-duck ends

With President Bush insisting on action, House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill. and Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., Friday afternoon vowed to press for passage of homeland security legislation before the upcoming lame-duck session adjourns.

Bush at a news conference Thursday insisted that Congress not leave until the homeland security bill is passed. But Hastert and Lott, who spoke with reporters at the White House Friday following a lunch with Bush, gave little firm indication about how much more work they believe can get done this year.

Lott said legislation related to port security and the Coast Guard is "most likely" to move, and that approval of a handful of other conference reports is possible. But he said that while terrorism insurance legislation might be a candidate for passage, there remain "a lot of problems" with the bill. Hastert said appropriators would continue to try to make progress striking agreements on outstanding issues.

Lott indicated he was uncertain when during the lame-duck session he would become majority leader. "It could be next Tuesday, it could be Nov. 22," he said.

Lott said he talked Thursday with Sen.-designate Dean Barkley, I-Minn., but indicated it remains unclear whether Barkley will caucus with Republicans. Barkley has said he intends to take the weekend to think over his options, although GOP Sen.-elect Norm Coleman has called on him to resign so Coleman can be seated immediately. Lott said the lame duck could last one or two weeks, and he hoped no longer than that.

Despite calls from Lott for a speedy lame-duck session, outgoing Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., Friday joined President Bush in calling for Congress to hold a more meaningful post-election session. Daschle, who will begin the session as majority leader, said he hopes Congress will use the session to approve each of the remaining fiscal 2003 appropriations bills, create a Homeland Security Department, wrap up a few remaining conference reports-specifically naming the port security bill as the most likely measure to emerge from conference-and clear the calendar of dozens of pending nominations. On homeland security, Daschle said he would "probably" lose the critical vote on the personnel rules for the new department, but he quickly backtracked and said, "I don't know what would happen."

Although Daschle said he did not want to add any legislation to the calendar that is "outside of the box," his comments indicate that the lame-duck session could stretch for weeks, rather than days, as Lott wants.

Earlier Friday, House Republican leaders said they are anxious to move homeland security legislation and fiscal 2003 spending bills in the lame-duck session, which begins next week, but that progress depends largely on the composition and action of the Senate. A spokesman for Hastert said Friday the workload is an "open question," and depends upon how quickly newly elected or appointed senators take their seats or decide which side to join to determine which party will be in majority. "There are a lot of variables. I'm not sure we can assume anything right now," the Hastert spokesman said.

Another House GOP leadership aide called the arrival of Sen.-elect Jim Talent, R-Mo., who can be sworn in immediately once his election is officially certified, and the decision of Barkley the "two X factors" that will determine the future of spending bills and homeland security legislation. "We don't know what the makeup of the Senate will be. I think there is hope, but we don't know," the aide said.

The aide added that Congress could complete some of the 11 unfinished appropriations bills and pass the others in an omnibus bill or approve another continuing resolution, deferring them until next year. GOP leaders also are considering bankruptcy and terrorism risk insurance as possible candidates for House action in the lame-duck session.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.