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Fate of omnibus bill unclear as House, Senate plan brief return

The House is scheduled to take up the huge spending bill next week. The Senate will also convene to try to pass the measure, but several senators will likely seek to block the effort.

The House will be in session next Monday to pass the fiscal 2004 omnibus spending bill before leaving for the remainder of the year, while the Senate expects to return one day later to make an effort to get a unanimous consent agreement to take up the omnibus.

Objections are expected from both sides of the aisle, according to a spokeswoman for Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., meaning final action on the remaining seven appropriations bills that were wrapped into the omnibus will be delayed until early next year.

The omnibus bill includes the Transportation-Treasury appropriations bill, which contains language granting white-collar federal employees a 4.1 percent average pay raise in 2004.

There are no scheduled roll call votes in the Senate and it is unlikely efforts will be made to seek agreements on floor time for either class action reform or pension legislation, said a spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn. Agreements were made in the waning hours of last week on these two items, but much work remains, aides said.

Frist will be giving a speeches in Tennessee this week, and will also travel to New York to participate in a Christmas charity program, a spokesman said. Daschle will be in New York Tuesday to promote his new book on the "Charlie Rose Show" and Comedy Central's "Daily Show," his spokeswoman said. He will be in South Dakota the rest of the week for book signings and fundraisers.

Besides voting on the omnibus, the House is expected next Monday to cast a final vote on a bipartisan bill to combat unsolicited commercial e-mail, a spokesman for Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., said Monday. A compromise version of the "Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act" passed the House last month on a 392-5 vote.

The Senate, which had unanimously approved its version of the bill in October, signed off on the House changes last Tuesday. But the Senate made minor technical changes that require another House vote before Congress can send the bill to President Bush, according to a spokeswoman for Senate Commerce Communications Subcommittee Chairman Conrad Burns, R-Mont.