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Daschle takes jab at Republicans' schedule for passing spending bills

WASHINGTON (CNN) - With the end of the federal fiscal year looming, Democratic Senate Leader Tom Daschle on Friday took a tongue-in-cheek jab at this year's Senate work schedule, saying it would take 572 more days, or until April 16, 2002, for Congress to finish work on the spending bills for the fiscal year beginning this October 1.

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Daschle, D-South Dakota, armed with huge blue charts, said he thought Republican Leader Trent Lott, R-Mississippi, was deliberately scaling back the work schedule because polls show the less time the Republican-controlled Congress spends in Washington, the more popular it becomes.

He said Congress will only have worked 115 days this year if the adjournment date of October 6 is met. There is little chance Congress will adjourn on time because only two of the 13 must-pass spending bills needed to keep the government in operation have been signed into law.

Daschle said that of the 115 days, there were no Senate votes on 34. The Senate leaders scheduled votes on only two Mondays and six Fridays during the entire year. There have been no votes on Monday or Friday in the month of September.

"That is what we are up against," he said. The Senate minority leader said he has offered to limit the number of Democratic amendments on each spending bill and believed that each could be debated and passed on a daily basis between now and the targeted adjournment date.

But Daschle and Senator Edward M. Kennedy, D-Massachusetts, said Republican leaders wanted to avoid all amendments because they do not want to debate issues from the Democrats' agenda including HMO reform, prescription drug coverage for senior citizens and new and expanded education spending programs.

Republicans are blaming Democrats for the delays and say Democrats want to postpone approval of the spending bills, a charge Daschle denied.

Republicans are also trying to save time by bundling appropriation bills together into packages, bypassing Senate floor consideration and sending spending bills directly from the Senate Appropriations Committee to the joint House-Senate conference committee. The first bill to follow that plan, the Treasury, Postal Service and Legislative branch appropriation bill, was rejected by an overwhelming margin in the Senate this week as Democrats protested the tactic.

 
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