GOP compiles mixed record on early agenda

GOP compiles mixed record on early agenda

Early this winter, House and Senate leaders laid out a limited but substantive agenda they were hoping to accomplish before the spring recess begins in late March. Republicans hoped to demonstrate that Congress could get back to business in the wake of the president's impeachment. Today, while Republicans have some accomplishments to which to point, there have also been some bitter flare-ups on the floor, and tough decisions on the budget and spending lie ahead.

Chief among the goals outlined by Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., were raising military pay, passing education flexibility legislation, and dealing with missile defense, the budget, and emergency spending. The Senate dispensed with a bill raising military pay without much difficulty, and Lott had hoped that the so-called ed-flex education bill would be easy. But the bill became a vehicle for the Democrats' education goals, tying up the Senate floor for weeks.

Whoever was at fault, the ed-flex bill caused a delay in consideration of other measures. A Lott spokesman said that because consideration of the missile defense bills and the budget are a priority before the break, a bill to provide emergency spending for disaster relief in Central America and the Caribbean might have to be pushed back until after the break. Since the supplemental bill was also a vehicle for dealing with the Kosovo conflict, the Kosovo resolution might move as a freestanding bill, he said.

Lott also has called Y2K legislation a priority, but it has been held up by partisan differences in committee.

Things on the House floor seemed to be going more smoothly over the past few weeks, although the legislative schedule has been light.

The House moved its version of ed-flex legislation without much difficulty. But partisan tensions grew last week, when the House took up a resolution on Kosovo. "Our people were furious," said one Democratic leadership aide.

Legislation dealing with missile defense seems poised to pass the House this week without much difficulty, having been reported by the Armed Services Committee with broad bipartisan support.

Republicans have had trouble finding agreement on tax cuts. But most GOP members have expressed enthusiasm for the budget outline reached by House and Senate leaders, which will hit the House and Senate floors next week.

The House supplemental appropriations measure is expected to reach the floor before the break. Meanwhile, there has been little movement on a Republican-sponsored Patients' Protection Act, although Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, said Republicans want it on a "fast track."

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