A barely Republican Congress returns this week with one eye on the November elections and the other on a lame-duck Democratic president trying to have his vice president succeed him. So what legislative script can we expect in 2000?
Stalemate might be the easy answer in this hyper-politicized state of affairs, especially over how to use a federal surplus heading for $2 billion in non-Social Security revenues over the next decade. But there's hope of compromise, even if it's simply to deflate any hot issue that might be used for drubbing political opponents.
For one, modest reform of health care is in order. On taxes, both sides appear ready to compromise for some income-tax relief, such as removal of the so-called "marriage penalty."
Both parties will be pressed to stay within spending caps imposed in 1997. The caps should be retooled - but not scrapped.
Perhaps the biggest compromise will be a plan to pay down the national debt over the next 15 years, with the goal of freeing resources that now go to pay interest. Among other things, those resources can help bolster Social Security into the next century.
This script depends on the economy not going south and a genial dialogue being maintained during the campaign. After the presidential primaries, both parties will stop playing to their extremes and vie for the relatively content midsection of the American electorate, as they should.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society