House GOP seeks quick lame duck session; Dems may object

Congress could postpone a final vote on intelligence reform measure until next year if an agreement is not reached quickly.

House GOP leaders are planning a quick and clean lame duck session after Election Day victories strengthened the Republican majorities in both chambers, aides said Wednesday.

With the concession of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, Republicans face significantly less pressure to push through legislation in the remaining days of this session.

The House returns Nov. 16 for reorganization -- the current GOP and Democratic leadership teams are expected to remain intact -- and Congress will address a short list of must-pass legislation that week. Raising the debt limit and addressing the unresolved appropriations bills, either through a continuing resolution or some combination of omnibus spending packages, are the only items Congress must approve before adjourning for the 109th Congress. The current appropriations CR expires Nov. 20.

Conference work on the intelligence overhaul bill continues, although some GOP leadership aides indicated today that Congress could postpone a final vote on the measure until next year if an agreement is not reached quickly. Aides said leadership is still actively pursuing a deal, since postponing the bill would unravel the conference in the next Congress.

Aides also said today the House might again attempt to move the long-stalled highway bill before adjournment. House leaders, particularly House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., are expected to push for a final bill.

But Senate Democrats Wednesday were bracing for a lame-duck showdown with Republicans which they promised would be a politically charged affair after they suffered bruising losses Tuesday. A senior Democratic leadership aide said Democrats were especially incensed that Republicans intended to reduce Democratic committee assignments and staffing levels in the next Congress.

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