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Hale Pai
Pacific American-News Journal

Nowemapa/Kekemapa - November/December 1996 Volume 2 Issue 11

Notes from "Capitol Hill"...

It was a mad dash out of the chambers of Capitol Hill on October 7th for the Members of the 104th Congress. For many, is wasn’t just a race to get to the home district, but a race to save their political careers with elections looming less than a month away.

In 1994, the Republican-controlled Congress brought about a wave of enthusiasm that even boasted of a coming Republican revolution. Fast forward two years and the talk is now whether the balance of power will return to the Democrats. Many around Capitol Hill will surely testify that events over the past two years were so belligerent and contentious that the term "mean-spirited" became a cliché. Witness the Members lambasting each other during the month-long government shutdown. The hostility may have even contributed to the exodus of many respected Members such as Senator Claiborne Pell, Senator Paul Simon, and Representative Patricia Schroeder. And this rancor has not gone unnoticed by the American public. Speaker Newt Gingrich, leader of the Republican revolution, has been quoted as saying the chances of Congress returning to the Democrats is about 50/50. Forget the Presidential race, the races to watch are those in the House and Senate.

This year, the closest races aren’t for the empty seats vacated by the veterans, rather it is the House Freshman Republican seats that have become the fertile ground for upsets. Of particular concern, watch the six Freshmen Republican seats in the State of Washington. Don’t be surprised if Rep. Randy Tate, Rep. Rick White and Rep. George Nethercutt have to run for their lives with the Rep. Linda Smith, Rep. Jack Metcalf and Rep. Richard Hasting a short step behind. Also, watch the 6 Freshmen seats in California and the 2 Freshman seats in Oregon; they are all up for grabs again.

All was not lost over talk about the elections as Congress, influenced by election year politics, passed some major legislation before recess.

Omnibus Appropriations Bill

When Congress can’t agree on individual appropriation bills, House and Senate negotiators construct an Omnibus Appropriations bill to carry unfinished fiscal spending measures. Actions as these become necessary when time is running out and it becomes difficult to pass bills separately. Such was the case this year when Congress passed an Omnibus Appropriations bill. Lumped in the bill was the appropriations for Defense, Interior Foreign Operations, Treasury-Postal Service, Labor-Health and Human Services, and Commerce-Justice-State. Appropriations is still unfinished business; however, the government will not shut down for Christmas this year.

Late Term Abortion Veto Override

With one of the most controversial debates causing the greatest rift among all citizens, Congress failed to override President Clinton’s veto of the Late Term Abortion Ban. The late term abortion ban would have made it illegal for a doctor to perform a third trimester abortion unless is was needed to save the woman’s life. In order to override a presidential veto, there must be a 2/3 majority in both the House and Senate. The House voted to override President Clinton’s veto; however, the Senate did not gain the necessary 2/3 majority killing the override attempt. Depending on the character of the 105th Congress, look for another Late Term Abortion Ban bill to be reintroduced.

Immigration Reform Act

Another explosive issue came during the Immigration Reform Act debate. As passed, the new law doubles the number of border patrol agents, establishes a pilot program in t states wherein employers can voluntarily check the immigration status of their employees through a too-free system; denies most federal benefits to illegal aliens; bars most of those convicted of illegally entering the United States from legally entering the country for 10 years; makes it easier to turn away asylum seekers and streamlines deportation procedures; and makes it harder for job applicants to sue employers for hiring discrimination. Left out of the bill was the amendment that would deny free education to illegal immigrant children. Leaving out this amendment was the only way the Republican Congress could have passed this bill. Don’t expect the tightening of the immigration laws to end with just this, look for future attempts to restrict the immigration even more.

More Notes from "Capitol Hill"...

The elections results are in! And the verdict of the American people - is a Democratic President tempered by a Republican Congress. America mandated a political status quo and refused to hand either political party authoritative control of both the executive and legislative branches.

This is the first time since FDR that a Democratic president was elected to a consecutive term and the first time in 60 years that the Republicans have earned back-to-back control of the House. With 435 House races, Republicans maintained majority by winning 225 seats, Democrats count 205 plus one independent who generally votes with the Democrats. In the Senate, 34 seats were up for grabs and the chamber shifted further to the Republicans. Trent Lott, Senate Majority Leader, will maintain control of the Senate with 54 seats to the Democrats’ 45, a net gain of 2 seats.

What are some of the interesting facts of the make-over of the 105th Congress?

Certainly, one for the records is Sen. Strom Thurman qualifying as the oldest Senator to win reelection at 93 years (and looking every bit of it), while Harold Ford Jr. Winds the youngest Member of Congress at a youthful 26.

Congress will see its obligatory share of Members who are lawyers, but we now also include in the mix, a psychologist, John Cooksey; an explosives company executive, Merril Cook; and Olympian-turned motivational speaker, Jim Ryun; and a retired Border Patrol Chief, Silvester Reyes.

Money doesn’t buy everything. The Democratic Senatorial candidate for Virginia, Mark Warner, spent a record 8.3 million of his own money, and still lost.

Despite the rhetoric of both parties claiming historical and unequivocal victories, the political make-up remains virtually same as the 104th Congress. This is not necessarily a bad thing. The 104th Congress overhauled the nation’s welfare system, raised the minimum wage, took steps to curb illegal immigration, established new environmental standards, and guaranteed most employees health insurance when they lose or leave their jobs. So what’s next for the 105th Congress?

Expect the centrist of Congress, the moderate Republicans and conservative Democrats, playing a critical role in this next Congress. From the experience of the last two years of political grid-lock, both parties have learned to lean on an incremental agenda which now puts the moderates of both parties in the driver’s seat. This doesn’t mean the conservative Republicans are backing off, in fact, there are a few agenda items you can count on. Bank on a Balanced Budget Amendment coming to the floor within the first 100 days. Look for Gingrich to introduce another Term Limit bill as well as some sort of tax cut. The Republicans will still gun for killing the Commerce Department and the Department of Education. Don’t think that the Republicans will let up on Pres. Clinton either, file gate, whitewater, and campaign finance investigations will continue.

Ethan S.K.K. Cooper, Esq., is a Legislative Assistant to Rep. Thomas M. Foglietta (D-PA)

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