Paul  Weyrich

Congress is in recess until after Labor Day. It will reconvene only for about four weeks as members will want to adjourn around the first week in October so they will have a month before the elections.

I had such high hope for the 109th Congress. A Republican President had been re-elected with an outright majority of the popular vote. Republicans increased their margins by four in each body of the Congress. Yet unless there are some spectacular moves in that final month the 109th Congress will go down in history as one of the least productive. That is no fault of the House. The House has repeatedly passed the right kind of legislation only to see it die in the Senate. Just before the Senate went out, Majority Leader William H. Frist, M.D. (R-TN), took up the House-passed bill which would raise the minimum wage while at the same time eliminate much of the death tax. There were sufficient votes to pass the measure but Senator Bill Frist was three votes short of breaking the Democratic filibuster. That has been the problem with virtually all important legislation. The House will pass a sound piece of legislation and then it will die in the Senate, even though there are enough to pass it, but not 60 votes to break a filibuster.

Regardless of what happens in the final month of the 109th Congress it will be disappointing. Oh, they might be able to resolve ANWR and offshore drilling (although that may take a post-election session) but regardless of what happens before the election, the 109th Congress will be a disappointment because it utterly has failed to do anything about entitlements.

The President tried to get a reform of Social Security. The Democrats told him not just no, but Hell no. Other entitlements, such as Medicare, have not even been tackled, even though Medicare is closer to bankruptcy than is Social Security. David Walker, the Comptroller General of the United States, in an interview with reporter Dave Eberhart, warned that unless Congress takes radical steps to curb federal spending America will be facing a disaster of unthinkable proportions. Walker estimated the true cost of the prescription-drug program passed by the last Congress is $8 trillion, not the $300 billion which Congress estimated. Walker told Eberhart that the prescription drug plan "is a poster case for what is wrong with Washington."

Walker is a CPA. He began his 15-year term in November 1998. He has won plaudits from both Republicans and Democrats for his straight talk. For example, Walker said that the Department of Defense budget is out of control and the basic rules of accountability don't apply. Walker said that Defense is the only agency which cannot account for its assets and expenditures.

Paul Weyrich

Paul M. Weyrich is the late Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Research and Education Foundation.
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