By Jove, I Think They’re Getting It

President Bush has lain out an ambitious agenda for the upcoming two-week lame-duck Republican congress. In addition to the work they must do authorizing the spending bills for this fiscal year and dealing with tax relief measures that have expired, Bush has asked them to (a) approve the nomination of John Bolton to the US; (b) approve a bill retroactively authorizing domestic wiretapping; and (c) approve the nomination of the replacement Defense Secretary. The spending bills are a high priority. Congress has so far passed only two of 11 spending bills for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1, for defense and homeland security programs. It has yet to deal with all other domestic programs, worth some $460 billion. Right now, Republican leaders are leaning toward passing a continuing resolution that would fund federal programs at the 2006 budget year levels into January. This would shift the burden of dealing with these bills to the Democrats at a time when they are moving into the majority and trying to launch action on their agenda. [Of course, it may affect my conference, as NIST is part of the Department of Commerce] Reid has said that Democrats would cooperate with Republicans on three legislative fronts: appropriations, security and tax cuts. Reid said Democrats would support appropriations measures with “fair” spending levels as well as bioterrorism legislation and a package of popular tax cuts that does not include “extraneous” language.

However, it seems the current congress got the message of the election. According to USA Today, Lincoln Chaffee (R-RI) has already said he will vote against Bolton and intends to bottle up the nomination in the Foreign Relations Committee during the lame-duck session. This makes the nomination as good as dead. As for the wiretapping, Democrats have strongly opposed the bill and even Republican leaders indicated it would be difficult to pass during the lame-duck session.

Here’s hoping…