All Quiet On the House Side
Thursday was that week's busiest day, as Republicans and Democrats vigorously debated a "continuity of government" bill, meant to ensure that Congress could function if many lawmakers perished in a terrorist attack. The measure, which passed 306 to 97, would require states to hold special elections within 45 days if at least 100 House members were killed. As usual, members had Monday, Friday and most of Tuesday free of Washington-based duties.
Meanwhile, the U.S. military campaign in Iraq had one of its bloodiest weeks ever. Shells killed 22 Iraqi prisoners near Baghdad one day, and suicide bomb blasts killed 68 people in Basra -- many of them children -- the next. Violence in the besieged city of Fallujah continued, and 14 U.S. servicemen were killed during the week.
The week before that, the House was in recess, as it plans to be the week of May 24, the week of June 28, the six weeks starting July 26, and all of October, November and December.
John Feehery, spokesman for Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), defended the House's accomplishments and pace. "Last year we sent a lot of things over to the Senate, and they're sitting in Tom Daschle's back pocket," he said, referring to the Senate minority leader, from South Dakota. Those bills include tort reform to curb medical malpractice suits, energy legislation, and welfare reauthorization.
This year, Feehery said, "we've passed a lean budget" for fiscal 2005. "We're working very hard to keep the president's tax cuts in place. We're monitoring the situation in Iraq" and will appropriate extra funds as needed. House committees, he said, "have done a lot of oversight on the Iraq war," primarily aimed at seeing that money is well spent.
The House does not need showy inquiries in front of cameras to fulfill its watchdog obligations, Feehery said. "Our oversight is not politically motivated, which probably frustrates the Democrats," he said. "It's motivated by better governance."
Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), a top adviser in the Clinton White House, is unconvinced.
"We can name post offices," Emanuel said, "or we can ask the hard questions about the direction of our nation."
Staff writer Helen Dewar contributed to this report.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company