Right on schedule, the second half of the 102nd Congress is off to a fast start with the Democratic leadership pushing health care insurance reform, tax cuts, extension of unemployment insurance and domestic spending to fight the recession. Republicans are more subdued as they await President Bush's State of the Union address.
As is the case with all election year legislative sessions, this one will be steeped in politics.
Take health care and the "play or pay" measure introduced by Sens. George Mitchell and Edward Kennedy. Employers who don't offer health insurance to workers would have to do so or put money into a government-controlled pool. While this bill whipped through Mr. Kennedy's Labor and Human Relations Committee, it may hit a roadblock in the Senate Finance Committee chaired by Sen. Lloyd Bentsen. Along with many Republicans, he prefers tax incentives to make health insurance almost irresistible to small employers.
Another issue that is less clear than it seems is tax cuts. While most Democrats have jumped on the bandwagon to reduce middle-class taxes, the Senate's two Democratic presidential candidates -- Bob Kerrey and Tom Harkin -- are on opposite sides. As for Republicans, they are split between those who want consumer-oriented and investment-spurring emphasis.