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Do Nothing Congress

I'm from the do-nothing Congress, and I'd like your vote

Issue: "Tools of a tyrant," Aug. 10, 2002

Since Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle has been so successful blocking House initiatives, what's a House member to tout back home during the summer recess? The National Republican Congressional Committee is urging members to use their time at home to talk up the few presidential priorities that have passed-the package of tax cuts, the Democrat-edited education bill, and the latest rush to pass tougher federal scrutiny of corporate accounting.

But isn't it hard to sell accomplishments when they aren't accomplished yet? Republicans believe a "we did our part" message will resonate with voters, even with all the Senate"s stalling. But NRCC spokesman Carl Forti insists House races will be run and won on local issues this time around: "We've made no attempt at nationalizing this."

The House's "Values Action Team" is sending around a colorful memo reminding incumbents to mention long-forgotten provisions of enacted bills, like amendments to the education bill exempting homeschooled students from federal and education-testing requirements, and one banning federal funds from schools that kick out the Boy Scouts for refusing to allow homosexual leaders.

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Other important work remains unfinished: banning partial-birth abortion and human cloning, rewriting court-gutted laws against child pornographers and predators, approving greater funding for marriage promotion in the welfare-reform bill, and kick-starting the House version of the president's faith-based initiative.

But free-standing legislation is likely to take a back seat when the House returns in September.

Between then and Election Day, Congress needs to agree on 10 separate appropriations bills, without which government will technically run out of money when the fiscal year ends on Sept. 30. The "how-much" questions on those appropriations bills are contentious enough, but the "how-it's-spent" questions are even tougher-and they take time.

Every day Congress spends with those issues unresolved is a day its members can't use to campaign back home.

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