Congress In No Rush To Do Much

July is supposed to be one of the busiest months on the congressional calendar, but you wouldn't know it from a look around Washington. Major bills remain unfinished, and politicians will only rush to point fingers at one another over why so little is getting done.

A key White House adviser blamed Senate Republican leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., for the lack of action. "Senator Lott has decided to preside over not so much a 'do-nothing' Congress, as a 'kill-everything' Congress," said Paul Begala, a White House adviser.

Lott was quick to fire back. In the Republican Party's weekly radio address Saturday, he compared President Clinton's alleged inattention to that shown by Richard Nixon in the months before the Watergate scandal drove him from office in 1973.

"People in Washington want to gauge everything by how many bills you pass, how much more Federal government did you put on the American people," he said. "As Republicans, that's not our approach."

By the White House count, there are about 34 days left before this session of the Congress adjourns. Republicans insist it's more like 50. Either way, the to-do list is lengthy.

Both parties are pushing similar goals:

  • Tax cuts
  • Education
  • Crime-fighting initiatives
  • A so-called patient's bill of rights
  • Tobacco legislation
But compromise on any of these items will be elusive. Republicans contend that part of the problem is the president's extensive foreign travel.

"Presidents do have to go overseas," Lott said. "But this president has already been out of the country over 70 days this year."

Still, there has been agreement on some important bills. Just last week, Congress approved a taxpayer rights overhaul of the Internal Revenue Service. And both parties agree there will probably be action to improve education and help keep kids from smoking, using drugs, and committing crimes.