In '08, a curtailed agenda for Congress
The economy and education are areas where lawmakers may break partisan gridlock.
(Page 2 of 2)
Another prospect for legislative action is renewal of the No Child Left Behind Act, which is facing criticism from both Democratic and Republican presidential candidates. Top congressional sponsors, such as Sen. Edward Kennedy (D) of Massachusetts and Rep. George Miller (D) of California, however, still support core principles of the law, especially an accountability system linked to federal dollars.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
In an address to the National Press Club last week, Education Secretary Margaret Spellings said she is hopeful that the bipartisan congressional coalition that produced the landmark bill in 2001 will hold together.
"Things are particularly hard in a climate like this, [but] this is a unique bipartisan coalition that has some unique alliances," she said.
Moreover, criticism of No Child Left Behind out on the campaign trail could, in this case, favor moving the reauthorization in this session of Congress.
"What I know for sure is that the new president is probably not going to show up and work on George Bush's No. 1 domestic achievement," Secretary Spellings added.
The ups and downs of primary season are already resonating in the halls of Congress. The president still controls the veto pen and the bully pulpit. Democrats are looking to the presidential campaign to produce a candidate – and a set of issues – that can galvanize voters in November.
"We all know that this country is facing significant challenges, and the presidential nominees will spend the next several months attempting to fundamentally define how we address those challenges," said Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, in an address to the Chicago Commercial Club on Monday.
Some Republicans, though, warn that the presidential campaign could polarize Congress even further.
"When you're in a situation when you have Democratic presidential candidates calling for things that are more than you can get passed in the Senate, that puts Democrats in a bind," says Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell.
While legislative prospects may be iffy in an election year, prospects for vigorous oversight and investigation by a Democratic-controlled Congress are booming. In coming weeks, congressional panels are taking up issues ranging from the destruction of CIA interrogation videotapes and the political censorship of scientists studying climate change to multimillion-dollar pay packages for CEOs involved in the subprime mortgage crisis.