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CONGRESS RETURNS BRIEFLY, POSTPONES DECISION ON EDUCATION SPENDING

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“You can’t ask the staff to work through Christmas,” said Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH)

Members of Congress returned to Capitol Hill during the week of November 13 to hold leadership elections and continue unfinished work on FY 2007 spending bills. While Democrats and Republicans were able to enact their respective leadership structures for the 110th Congress (see box below), they made little progress on the ten appropriations bills that have yet to be signed into law. Instead, Congress passed another stopgap spending measure, or continuing resolution, that will fund governmental agencies through December 8.

After a two-week break for Thanksgiving, lawmakers will return to Washington, DC during the week of December 4 to resume negotiations on the remaining spending bills. At that point, a decision will need to be made on whether to punt spending decisions to 2007—a time when Democrats will control both chambers of Congress—or to package the remaining spending bills into an omnibus bill or several “minibuses.”

“You can’t ask the staff to work through Christmas,” said Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “It’s not fair to them. So I think that at some point you just plain run out of time, and you have to go to a [continuing] resolution.”

Currently, the House of Representatives has passed all but one of its appropriations bills—the Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS), and Education bill—but the Senate has only passed two: Defense and Homeland Security. If Congress decides to enact a continuing resolution that will fund programs into the new year, it will likely adjourn by December 8. Otherwise, legislators will remain in Washington, DC until the middle of December or beyond.

 

Congressional Leadership Elections: Pelosi to Become First Woman Speaker of the House

 

In a unanimous vote by her Democratic colleagues, Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was elected Speaker of the House of Representatives. Representative Steny Hoyer (D-MD) was elected House majority leader and Representative James Clyburn (D-SC) was elected House majority whip. For Republicans, Representative John Boehner (R-OH) will serve as House minority leader whileRepresentative Roy Blunt (R-MO) will be House minority whip.

In the Senate, Senators Harry Reid (D-NV) and Richard Durbin (D-IL) will continue to lead the Democratic Party, but this time as majority leader and majority whip, respectively. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will replace retiring Senator Bill Frist (R-TN) as the leader of the Republican Party as Senate minority leader while Senator Trent Lott (R-MS) will act as Senate minority whip.

 

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