Senate session likely to extend into next week

Dashing hopes that this would be the final week of session before the Nov. 5 election, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., said Tuesday the Senate would likely remain in session next week-and possibly longer-to act on unfinished business.

"There haven't been any decisions, but that appears to be a possibility," Daschle said.

However, Daschle said he would not press for another week if it appears unlikely Congress could make any progress. "I don't want to bring people back unless we get work done," he said.

Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., also seemed resigned to the fact that Congress would remain in Washington next week. "It's OK with me, but he better check with his own senators before he does that," Lott said, adding that another week of session would be "unfair" and a "mistake."

In the House, Republican leaders are expected to make another push this week to pass a continuing resolution that would last through Nov. 22, but there is no decision yet on how to proceed, as possible add-ons such as drought aid and Medicare givebacks continue to get support.

Talks on all possible add-ons probably will not heat up until legislators return Wednesday, sources said, although little progress appears to have been made over the weekend.

"Everybody's got something they want and didn't get in the regular process," said a House Appropriations Committee aide. The leadership "is going to have to make a decision on the impact of doing or not doing" these things, he said.

Daschle and Lott also said they expect Congress to return to Capitol Hill for a lame-duck session, but neither knew how long the session would last.

"I don't see how we can avoid it," Daschle said.

Meanwhile, Lott said he was increasingly confident that a GOP victory in the Missouri Senate race would give Republicans control of the chamber in a lame duck-but he downplayed what the GOP could accomplish.

"I certainly would prefer that to the alternative," Lott said, but added there would be a "severe limit on what I could do" as majority leader. Because Democrats are unlikely to approve a resolution needed to reorganize the chamber, Lott would be majority leader but Democrats would continue to control committees.

The Senate is expected to approve Wednesday the election reform legislation already passed by the House, as well as the defense authorization bill, Daschle said. Once those issues are approved, Daschle said senators would vote to move to a budget enforcement measure sponsored by Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., and ranking member Pete Domenici, R-N.M. However, Daschle said it is not clear if senators would invoke cloture on the budget package.

For the remainder of the week, Daschle said he would like to make progress on homeland security and any conference reports that become available, such as energy policy or terrorism reinsurance legislation.