Tuesday, November 21, 2006

GOP Leaders Not Pushing White House Agenda In Lame Duck Session

In a move that has infuriated Republican appropriators, GOP congressional leaders have decided to punt their annual spending bills until next year, when Democrats assume control of both chambers, according to numerous Republican aides.

The decision was expected and is a further indication that congressional Republicans will not address any of the White House's legislative priorities before ceding control next year.

Within the last week, Vice President Cheney and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales have urged Congress to move an update of the administration's controversial domestic surveillance program, but there has been little activity to meet that goal since members returned from the watershed election.

A federal judge's decision over the summer to invalidate the administration's wiretapping of overseas calls to suspected terrorists has forced the administration to negotiate with congressional leaders to continue the eavesdropping program.

Relations between the White House and Republicans on the Hill have been strained since the election, which further complicates the negotiations between Republicans in the House and Senate on the contentious bill because members are less motivated to give the administration a win.

President Bush urged Congress to pass a Vietnam trade bill before his trip there this past weekend, but after the measure failed in the House, congressional leaders did little to revive the legislation, which attracted the backing of Democratic leaders, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)

The expected decision to postpone consideration of the remaining spending bills, which was finalized late last week, angered appropriators in both chambers who worked hard to finish their bills on time this year.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) met with the two appropriations chairmen, Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.), last Friday to break the bad news, aides said yesterday.

"Senator Cochran thinks it's completely irresponsible that the responsibilities of this Congress have been abdicated for the year," Cochran spokeswoman Jenny Manley said.

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