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This Week- The House is considering several pieces of legislation this week. They begin with H.R. 4691, the “Abortion Non-Discrimination Act of 2002,” and then will turn to a resolution known as a ‘CR.’ Short for “continuing resolution,’ a CR provides government funding during the interim of the fiscal year and the signing into law of the appropriations bills. It is required since the fiscal year officially ends on October 1st. Near the end of the week they expect to take up a very important piece of legislation limiting medical malpractice claims. This legislation, H.R. 4600, would address a growing crisis in our nation. Due to rampant lawsuite and aggressive trial lawyers medical malpractice insurance has skyrocketed leaving many communities without physician care. This bill would impose some limited legal reform bringing sanity back into the medical liability system.
Like the movie Groundhog Day the Senate will take up the interior appropriations bill at the beginning of the week with homeland security being considered on a dual track. This is the fourth week for the interior appropriations bill which might actually be a new record for Senatorial logjams. The Senate also hopes to take up a continuing resolution since the fiscal year ends early next week.
Bring in the Prognosticators
Senator Minority Leader Lott (R-MS) this week claimed that Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) has “mired the Senate into a pit of legislative quicksand.“ Obviously part of this is political politicking but is there some truth to the allegation? And if so, what are the consequences? Despite the fact that the fall elections are approaching at lightening speed, the Senate expects to spend it’s fourth week on the same appropriations bill. Further, it continues to debate the homeland security bill ad nauseam, without any final solution to passing this top priority of the President’s. It would appear that Senator Lott’s remarks might have merit. Additionally, with only three to four weeks left in the session, Senator Daschle has yet to pass several of his self-described priorities such as Prescription drugs, welfare re-authorization and a minimum wage increase. Since Daschle’s moniker all Spring was ‘do-nothing Daschle’ you would think that he in particular would feel the need for some action. This is normally the time that Washington steps up its pre-election frenzy in an attempt to prove to the voters back home how indispensable they are and why they need to be returned to their posh offices and generous salaries. So why doesn’t he seem more concerned?
With the legislative logjam in the Senate and the slowdown of legislative activity in the House, what activity is taking center stage? Polling. This is the time in the political process where pollsters and polling begin to dominate the nation’s capitol. Everything and everyone in politics is subject to a poll. You could say that this town is obsessed with the latest polling data. Want to know how Jim Talent is fairing against Jean Carnahan in Missouri? Or what Sununu’s chances may be in New Jersey? Check the latest polling information in Roll Call politics section. What about generic polling about whether the American people like Republicans or Democrats? CongressDaily should have that at least once a week. Want to know how many Americans like milk gravy over sausage gravy? I am sure we can find that out too. Polling literally takes a life of it’s own. People recite pollsters names like old friends; Zogby, Wirthlin, Luntz, POS (Public Opinion Strategies), the Polling Company etc.. People across the city wait literally with baited breath for the latest polls hoping for the results that could make or break a career. Entire battles are won and lost over mere tenths of a percentage point.
With the elections and polling moving into center stage – it gives do-nothing Daschle some cover for the lackadaisical pace currently being employed. That is not to say however that all legislative activity is dead. Behind-the-scenes, the legislative process continues to run amuck. The Energy bill is still held up in conference between the House and Senate on several issues, including the ability to access the ANWR Basin, and may still rears its ugly head. Bankruptcy reform, which has been sought after for years hangs by a thread as an abortion amendment continues to stymie final passage. Advocates for the airline industry bandy about the idea of another bailout. And the business community along with the President keep pushing for legislation to bail out the insurance market from future terrorist attacks. However, most of this legislation, suffering from a dwindling calendar and contentious issues will never see the President’s pen.
In the weeks to come any sort of legislative activity will most likely be drowned out by the avalanche of polling numbers that is just beginning to appear. That is of course unless we find out that the American people like legislative activity over polls by a margin of 60 to 40 percent!