With the Presidential election campaign well underway and many important state primaries within three weeks, few people have thought about Congress. There is perhaps some justification for this. In a major election year with the Presidency and control of Congress on the line one can expect loud and aggressive rhetoric to emanate from Capitol Hill. Whether that translates to actual work accomplished remains to be seen. Both parties may attempt to use the national platform Congress provides to address current issues along the campaign trail while stalling votes on actual legislation which addresses those issues.
Given that warning, some legislation certainly will reach the floor of the House of Representatives and the Senate for a vote. Congress returns to session this week. The Senate this month is expected to take up debate on S. 2248, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Amendments Act of 2007. FISA allows the Federal Government to execute warrantless wiretaps on suspected terrorists abroad in order "to obtain foreign intelligence information." Last year Congress passed a temporary extension of the program, which expires on February 1. Democrats were unwilling to reauthorize the program for a longer period of time because they sought to strip from the bill immunity for telecommunications companies which had participated in President George W. Bush's warrantless domestic-surveillance program from the months following September 11, 2001. The President and some Republicans insist that the bill must be passed soon as is, while Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-NV) and some Democrats seem unwilling to do so, speaking instead about the need to defend the civil liberties of American citizens.
Congress also must address funding for the war in Iraq. Democrats have been quite outspoken in their opposition to the war, yet last year they approved $70 billion in funding for the war. President Bush asked for $196.4 billion total for the war, which means another $126.4 billion must be appropriated by Congress in the coming months. Democrats may attempt to delay this vote as long as possible. Their base remains vigorously anti-war while the war is no longer dominating the campaign trail as it was in 2006.