CONGRESSIONAL Quarterly published a list a couple of weeks ago of all the current legislation President Bush has threatened to veto. It includes just about every major bill still pending, which is to say almost every important question to which the 101st Congress has given time. It is not just the budget that remains in dispute, but the child care, clean air, campaign finance, civil rights, immigration, housing, farm, crime and defense authorization bills, all 13 appropriations, and all the way down to the fish inspection bill and the president's own proposal to make EPA a Cabinet-level department.
A lot of these bills depend on the budget, and most may still be passed this year. If they are, the administration's first Congress could still end with a creditable record. With just a little bad luck or rancor, it could also turn out to be as barren a Congress as any in years.
Its accomplishments (and the administration's on the legislative front) thus far are spare. A largely inadequate savings and loan bailout bill was passed last year, and a modest first increase in nine years in the minimum wage. The government took greater control over doctors' fees, a step still underappreciated nationally, but otherwise little was done to reduce the deficit (compounding this year's problem). The House (but not the Senate) banned honoraria. This year an important bill extending civil rights protection to the disabled has also been passed -- and that is about all.
Child care is hung up in part on cost, in part on a grant-giving program the Democrats want to include that the administration says would be heavy-handed and intrusive. A civil rights veto is threatened on grounds (not so) that the bill would force resort to quotas. Many issues are unresolved in the clean air bill, most of them bearing on its presumed cost to industry. Campaign finance reform has foundered in part on spending limits, which Democrats favor and Republicans don't (and in part on the fact that both parties in Congress are too well kept). The issues in housing are partly cost, but partly also the depth of the government's involvement. And so it goes.
It's true the budget has to be dealt with. But that is not the only issue outstanding between the president and this drifting Congress. Most of the other work of the Congress is also undone.