Asserting incoming Senate GOP leader's "conciliatory" tone, Wash. Post article left out GOP's dumping of unfinished spending bills on Democrats

››› ››› SIMON MALOY

The Washington Post reported that incoming Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell "[s]ound[ed] a conciliatory note" and "vowed ... to work with Democrats" when they take control of Congress next year. But the article made no mention of the Senate Republican leadership's reported decision not to deal with several government spending bills for fiscal year 2007 in the lame-duck session, placing the burden on Democrats to finish them.

In a November 29 article, The Washington Post reported that incoming Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) "[s]ound[ed] a conciliatory note" and "vowed yesterday to work with Democrats to pass a minimum-wage increase and a strong ethics reform package shortly after the new Democratic-controlled Congress begins work next year." The article made no mention, however, of the reported decision by congressional GOP leaders not to deal with several government spending bills for fiscal year 2007 (which began on October 1) in the lame-duck session, placing the burden on Democrats, who will take control of the Congress on January 3, 2007. The article noted that McConnell met with "Washington Post editors and reporters" but gave no indication that he was asked about the GOP's punting of the spending bills, even though the Associated Press reported that Republicans "look forward to using unfinished budget work to gum up" the very same agenda McConnell pledged to help Democrats enact.

The McConnell article, by reporter Eric Pianin, made no mention of the decision by congressional Republicans, even as the Post reported in a separate November 29 article by staff writer Shailagh Murray that while "many" Republicans "wanted to pass at least a few" spending bills "if only to show that the GOP wasn't abrogating its governing duties[,] ... several fiscal conservatives in the Senate saw an opportunity to take a stand against 'earmarks.' " According to Murray, these GOP "rebels announced their intention to block all spending bills from advancing -- even one that financed veterans benefits and military housing."

According to the McConnell article:

Sounding a conciliatory note, the new Senate Republican leader vowed yesterday to work with Democrats to pass a minimum-wage increase and a strong ethics reform package shortly after the new Democratic-controlled Congress begins work next year.

Senate Minority Leader-elect Mitch McConnell (Ky.) described as "easy stuff" much of the Democrats' opening agenda, including a proposal to boost the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour and a congressional ethics package that would ban gifts, meals and travel from lobbyists, as well as impose new controls on the budget deficit. These issues, however, have not proved to be easy before.

McConnell said he is urging bolder action. He challenged House Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader-elect Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) to push for a long-term solution to financing the Social Security system and for a comprehensive overhaul of the nation's immigration laws. Democrats in the current Congress blocked President Bush's proposal to partially privatize Social Security, while an impasse between House and Senate Republicans over approaches to immigration changes thwarted a deal.

"One thing I hope we can do, now that we have the election out of the way, is see if we can quit kicking the can down the road on a number of significant issues," McConnell told a meeting of Washington Post editors and reporters. "Left over from last year, I would put immigration at the top of the list. But I also share the view . . . that this would be the perfect time to tackle Social Security."

The AP, however, reported on November 20 that "Republicans vacating the Capitol are dumping a big spring cleaning job on Democrats moving in," and that "GOP leaders have opted to leave behind almost a half-trillion-dollar clutter of unfinished spending bills." According to a November 16 New York Times article, only two of the 11 government spending bills for FY '07 have been enacted, while all but one have passed the House.

Congress already passed a continuing resolution to keep the government funded until December 8, and will likely pass a second continuing resolution before it adjourns for the year to ensure that the government remains funded at its current levels until the spending bills are passed. Citing a spokesman for incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), a November 20 Bloomberg article reported that "Reid's office has been alerted by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist that Republicans have decided to pass another stopgap spending measure when they return to Washington next month and leave the rest of the budget work needed to fund the government next year to the Democrats."

According to the AP:

Republicans vacating the Capitol are dumping a big spring cleaning job on Democrats moving in. GOP leaders have opted to leave behind almost a half-trillion-dollar clutter of unfinished spending bills[.]

There's also no guarantee that Republicans will pass a multibillion-dollar measure to prevent a cut in fees to doctors treating Medicare patients.

The bulging workload that a Republican-led Congress was supposed to complete this year but is instead punting to 2007 promises to consume time and energy that Democrats had hoped to devote to their own agenda upon taking control of Congress in January for the first time in a dozen years.

[...]

Driving the decision to quit and go home rather than finish the remaining budget work is a determined effort by a group of conservative Republicans to prevent putting a GOP stamp on spending bills covering 13 Cabinet Departments -- and loaded with thousands of homestate projects derided as "pork" by critics.

Some Republicans on Capitol Hill would rather complete this year's budget work and have the GOP's imprint rather than a Democratic one on how federal agencies will be spending their money through next September. However, conservatives such as Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., fear doing that would leave as the GOP's legacy a foot-tall bill containing thousands of parochial projects. Last week they seized the upper hand by employing delaying tactics to drag the budget process to a halt in the Senate.

"The last thing Republicans need is an end-of-Congress spending spree as our last parting shot as we walk out the door," said DeMint spokesman Wesley Denton.

Some Republicans also look forward to using unfinished budget work to gum up an early Democratic agenda that includes raising the minimum wage, negotiating lower drug prices for Medicare beneficiaries, cutting interest rates on college loans and repealing some tax breaks for oil companies.

"Other stuff may get pushed off the table," said GOP lobbyist Hazen Marshall, a former longtime Capitol Hill aide. "It kills (Democrats') message."

Posted In
Government, The Senate
Network/Outlet
The Washington Post
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