Congress Watch: Much to Do

Members of Congress and the president have debated, disputed, and dragged their feet over the federal budget for months. And as Christmas and the new year approach, they still have quite a lot of work to do this week before packing up for the holidays.

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Members of Congress and the president have debated, disputed, and dragged their feet over the federal budget for months. And as Christmas and the new year approach, they still have quite a lot of work to do this week before packing up for the holidays.

Democrats have been counting on the president's lame duck status, but as U.S. News's Kenneth T. Walsh reports, "Bush retains enough political juice to block many Democratic initiatives from Congress and throw his adversaries into a frustrated funk." Bush retains so much political juice, in fact, that the $520 billion omnibus spending bill that wraps 11 annual appropriations measures into one piece of legislation largely meets the president's budget criteria.

The White House said this morning that, while Bush was encouraged by the Democrats' work on the bill over the weekend, he wouldn't be able to accept it without funding for the Iraq war, which is currently absent from the bill. Also missing is the additional $27 billion Democrats wanted to tack on for domestic programs.

The bill is expected to pass so that legislators can head home for the holidays, but probably not without another fight over Iraq war spending. Senate Republicans might add an amendment to fund the war, meaning that the bill would have to be passed in the House with the new language, no doubt agitating antiwar House Democrats.

—Nikki Schwab