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Legislative Legacy of the 107th Congress

October 20, 2002

Status of major bills as Congress heads into a preelection recess. Action is possible in a postelection, lame-duck session.

Major Bills Passed in 2002 Session

* Elections: Authorizes states to improve voting systems, in response to the 2000 election problems in Florida.

* Iraq: Allows president to use military force against Iraq if he concludes that diplomatic efforts to disarm the country of suspected weapons of mass destruction have failed.

* Trade: Gives president power to negotiate international trade agreements that can be approved or disapproved -- but not amended -- by Congress.

* Corporations: Tightens oversight of the accounting industry and increases criminal penalties for corporate fraud.

* Farms: Increases spending for farm subsidies and conservation programs, scrapping a 1996 law that sought to wean farmers from federal subsidies.

* Campaigns: Prohibits national parties from raising and spending loosely regulated contributions -- known as "soft money" -- from corporations, unions and wealthy individuals.

Major Bills Passed in 2001 Session

* Education: Sets strict standards for testing, while giving local school districts more flexibility in how they spend federal aid.

* Airports: Requires increased security, including federalizing the job of baggage screening.

* Terrorism: Expands law enforcement agencies' surveillance powers to help track down and prosecute suspected terrorists.

* Airlines: Provides aid to the industry to help with the economic fallout of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

* Taxes: Cuts taxes by $1.35 trillion over 10 years.

Major Bills That Failed or Are Stalled

* Appropriations: Congress cleared only two of 13 bills to fund federal agencies and programs for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1. Stopgap funding lasts through Nov. 22.

* Bankruptcy: Would make it harder to discharge debt by declaring bankruptcy. Bill is ready for final passage -- possibly in the lame-duck session -- but has been slowed by conservative Republican opposition to abortion-related provision.

* Energy: Stalled in a House-Senate conference committee. Compromise may emerge in lame-duck session, but will not include major initiatives such as more oil drilling in Alaska wilderness or stricter fuel economy standards for motor vehicles.

* Faith-based initiative: Bush proposal for increased aid to faith-based institutions to provide social services stalled in Senate.

* Security: Bill to create a Department of Homeland Security stalled in the Senate over Bush's effort to ease civil-service protections and other rights for employees of the new agency.

* Immigration: Legislation to relax laws applying to certain illegal immigrants stalled after last year's terrorist attacks heightened security considerations.

* Medicare: Bill to provide prescription-drug benefits for the elderly died in the Senate.

* Patients rights: Bill to give patients more rights in dealing with managed-care health plans died amid a dispute over patients' ability to sue.

* Pensions: Bill to give workers more protection against losses in 401(k) retirement plans passed in the House, but stalled in the Senate.

* Terrorism: Tentative compromise reached to provide federal backup insurance for future terrorist attacks. Could be approved before the election or in lame-duck session.

* Welfare: Bush proposal to extend the 1996 welfare reform law stalled in the Senate.

Source: Times research

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