Lame-duck Congress

Posted: Aug 14, 2004 12:00 AM

WASHINGTON -- The Republican majority in Congress has regretfully concluded that there is no alternative to calling the lawmakers back into session for what everybody had hoped to avoid: a lame-duck post-election session.
The final blow to ending the life of the 108th Congress may be pressure to complete work on recommendations made by the independent 9/11 commission. Even if the pre-election adjournment time is delayed from Oct. 4 to Oct. 11 as is now contemplated, the legislators will have no more than 20 legislative days to conclude a mass of unfinished work.

 A lame-duck session could be embarrassing if Democrats win the presidency or either house of Congress on Nov. 2. That would probably guarantee trouble in passing anything, particularly the 9/11 commission reforms.


 Practical Republican politicians are not happy with the selection by the party leadership of the five-star, super-expensive Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in Manhattan as headquarters for the Republican National Convention.

 Prices for rooms at the Waldorf normally range from $205 to $670 a night, with the expectation of a higher rate being imposed for the convention. Critics argue that this hotel selection exposes the GOP to charges of being the party of the rich and plays into the hands of leftist demonstrators in New York, likely to be camped outside the Waldorf's doors.

 At the last national political convention held at Madison Square Garden, the Democrats used the less pretentious Hilton New York as their headquarters hotel.


 Republican National Committee sources say operatives in Washington are not happy about "Unfit for Command," the book that attacks John Kerry's record as both a combatant in Vietnam and as an anti-war protester.

 These critics fear the attack on the Democratic presidential candidate will backfire and be regarded by voters as dirty politics. They also are apprehensive that the examination of Kerry's Vietnam record will renew charges that George W. Bush did not fulfill his obligations as an Air National Guardsman during the Vietnam War.

 Actually, the judgment among Republicans is mixed. Some grass-roots activists feel that criticism of the anti-Kerry book betrays faintness of heart within the Republican establishment. Some prominent Republicans, while keeping quiet in public, feel the book does pose serious problems for Sen. Kerry.


 Senior operatives in the Bush-Cheney campaign did not get any alert that President Bush last Tuesday would hoist a trial balloon for a national sales tax.

 In response to a question about such a tax, Bush said at a campaign event in Niceville, Fla.: "It's the kind of interesting idea that we ought to explore seriously." The campaign game plan had been for the president to refrain from making new proposals during the vacation month of August and instead wait until the Republican convention in New York beginning Aug. 30.

 Bush-Cheney campaign surrogates were recently advised that the president will soon start boosting Social Security reform by creating personal accounts without him getting too specific. Nothing was said to the surrogates about tax reform, however.


 The conservative Club for Growth this summer in Oklahoma and Kansas scored some of its biggest victories in its five-year history, and may record another Tuesday in North Carolina.

 In North Carolina, the Club backs State Rep. Patrick McHenry, a strong anti-tax conservative, against Sheriff David Huffman, plagued by charges of corruption, in a heavily Republican congressional district's runoff.

 The organization this summer was behind the nomination for the Senate in Oklahoma of anti-tax former Rep. Tom Coburn, running against the Republican establishment. Coburn has taken a double-digit lead in the polls against Democratic Rep. Brad Carson. In Kansas, the Club was also a big player in the ousting of pro-tax Republican legislative leaders, including State Rep. Bill Kassebaum (son of former U.S. Sen. Nancy Kassebaum and grandson of the late former Gov. Alf Landon).