Wrapping Up

With the end of the fiscal year approaching at midnight, the Senate is set to vote sometime after 2 p.m. on the massive FY97 omnibus appropriations conference report -- although that does not necessarily mean the 104th Congress will leave town for good today.

While the spending package is the most significant legislation that remains unfinished, aides on both sides of the Capitol Sunday said the House and Senate may be in session Tuesday to clean up other bills lost in the last-minute push to adjourn.

The House approved the 3,000-page spending bill on a 370-37 vote Saturday night, following the announcement of agreement on the legislation early Saturday morning. The House then went out of session until 2 p.m. today, and GOP leaders expect "routine and wrapup business only." The Senate -- which also was in session Saturday -- is slated to come in at 10 a.m. today to begin considering the appropriations bill, with no roll call votes set until after 2 p.m.

President Clinton over the weekend said he would sign the omnibus appropriations measure, which includes immigration reform legislation, if it is presented to him in its current form. Counting entitlements and discretionary spending, the bill includes some $600 billion -- more than one-third of the entire federal budget.

The bill gives the Clinton administration and Democrats $6.5 billion more in domestic spending than Republicans originally had wanted. The additional spending is paid for through new spectrum auctions, bank fees and about $1 billion from the defense budget. The bill includes a prohibition on gun ownership by people convicted of spouse or child abuse, but does not contain the so-called physician gag clause amendment.

While the Senate is likely to easily pass the spending legislation, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., is retaining the Democrats' right to offer amendments when the bill goes to the floor. "He wants to continue to have the opportunity to offer amendments," Daschle spokeswoman Ranit Schmelzer said Sunday. Daschle said he does not anticipate a large number of amendments.

"Our hope is that we can preclude contentious amendments and find ways to deal with whatever unfinished business there may be," Daschle said at a Saturday news conference. He said Democrats may offer the amendment to restrict "gag clauses" in managed care contracts that limit what doctors may tell patients about treatments or specialists not covered by their plan. "I thought we had an agreement on a number of occasions, and we're disappointed that we have not been able to come to closure on it," Daschle said. Senate Democrats are set to meet at noon today to discuss possible amendments.

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