Congress adjourned early Sunday after passing landmark budget, clean air and child care legislation, culminating a stormy election year session.
Major civil rights, campaign finance and crime measures were left unfinished as lawmakers headed home for the onrushing November elections.With the bang of the gavel in the Senate at 1:17 a.m. EST, the second session oif rthe 101st Congress adjourned, sine die.
The Senate voted 54-45 to embrace the budget compromise, the centerpiece of a $490 billion deficit-reduction plan - and President Bush said he would sign it into law. The action came a few hours after the Senate gave final congressional approval to the most wide-ranging clean air bill in 13 years.
The deficit-reduction measure reaches into the wallets of nearly everyone, but President Bush said in Hawaii that he would sign the bill "because for the first time we've made significant and long-term cuts in federal spending that should have a positive impact on America's economic future."
Noting that the bargaining that led to the budget has "sometimes been painful," the president said:
"All political points of view have sacrificed to bring this agreement about. Needless to say I don't like raising taxes, never will. But there is a price to divided government and that means that I have had to compromise on items that I feel strongly about in order to do what I think is best for the country."
Congressional leaders made their ceremonial end-of-session call to the president - this time in advance of actual adjournment - to tell Bush that Congress was nearing the close of business.
"Your biggest problem is over, Mr. President. Congress is going to leave," quipped Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole, R-Kan.
Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, D-Maine, expressed special gratitude to Bush for his support of tough clean-air legislation.
As debate began on the budget measure - which sat 10 inches tall on senators' desks and weighed 24 pounds - lawmakers said the sacrifices it would demand were necessitated by years of growing budget gaps that have helped weaken the economy.
Senate Budget Committee Chairman James Sasser, D-Tenn., said the measure would begin a "fundamental adjustment to too many years of indulgence and excess."
With two of the White House officials who helped negotiate the plan watching from the visitors' gallery - chief of staff John Sununu and budget director Richard Darman - opponents objected that farmers would be hit too hard and that the measure imposed a new burden taxpayers do not need.
"You're going to see the working, struggling people of this country will be hit by increased taxes and fees," said Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss.
But after 10 months of intense and partisan budget warfare, exhausted lawmakers said it was time to close the deal.
Tired and testy, the lawmakers pushed to complete work on a host of bills standing in the way of a hoped-for weekend adjournment, including final passage of historic clean-air legislation.
-The House worked out some last-minute snags on Senate-passed legislation embracing the first major overhaul of the nation's legal immigration system in a quarter-century, and the bill was passed and readied for dispatch to the White House.
-Congress passed legislation that would establish new grant programs for child care and increase tax credits for low-income families with children in the name of child-care assistance.
-Both chambers neared the finish of work on bills appropriating money for government operations for the budget year that started Oct. 1, including final passage of a $15.5 billion foreign aid bill. When all in place, they will appropriate nearly $1.2 trillion to operate the government for the current fiscal year.
-Congress approved emergency financing of the government through Nov. 5, the fifth temporary extension of spending authority since Oct. 1. This will keep the government going while the deficit-reduction bill is drafted into legislative form and signed by Bush. Federal authority to spend money technically ended at midnight Saturday. The stopgap was to be flown to Bush and the White House said he would sign it in San Francisco either Sunday or Monday.
Just before dawn Saturday, the House approved the budget 228-200, with the support of most Democrats and a few Republicans. (Among Utah lawmakers, only Rep. Wayne Owens voted for the budget.)
Even with the plan, the federal deficit will remain formidable. The red ink for the fiscal year is expected to reach a record $254 billion, even with the $40 billion in savings the budget would produce. The bill envisions that the overall federal debt is expected to soar from just over $3 trillion to nearly $5 trillion over the next five years.
But lawmakers on both sides said it was the best compromise they could reach. It was achieved only after a year that saw Bush abandon his campaign vow of "No new taxes" and congressional Republicans split deeply over taxes. Democrats achieved many demands for taxes on the rich while swallowing deeper spending cuts than they liked.
The package, the fruit of six months of negotiations, was originally designed as a $500 billion deal.