Senate Considers Nominations

With the House continuing its recess until next week, the focus on Capitol Hill this week will be on the Senate, where the main business is expected to be consideration of President Clinton's nominees for top Cabinet department and agency posts for his second term.

The House met last Tuesday to vote on the punishment for House Speaker Gingrich's ethics violations and then departed until Feb. 4, leaving the Senate behind to consider executive nominations.

The Senate today is in pro forma session only. Beginning Tuesday, the Senate is scheduled to consider any available nominations that have been reported from committee. In order to expedite action on the nominations, Senate Majority Leader Lott last week explained GOP leaders purposely are "trying to not force activity on the floor of the Senate so that the committees can do their work and so the proper investigations and hearings can be held."

Senators last week overwhelmingly approved the president's nominations of former Sen. William Cohen, R-Maine, to be defense secretary and Madeleine Albright to be secretary of state, both on 99-0 votes. That leaves nine other Clinton administration nominations awaiting Senate action: the secretaryships for the Commerce, Energy, HUD, Labor and Transportation departments, as well as the posts of U.N. ambassador, CIA director, U.S. trade representative and SBA administrator.

Apart from action on the executive branch nominations, some initial activity and strategizing is expected this week on Capitol Hill on other issues promising to be hotpoints during the 105th Congress.

The Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday is scheduled to mark up the constitutional amendment to require a balanced budget, on which House and Senate floor action is expected in February. Also Thursday, the top House and Senate Democrats are slated to unveil their versions of campaign finance reform.

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