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Congress Likely to Get Election Timeout

WASHINGTON — The Senate has agreed to a cease-fire of sorts to let the Republican Congress go home, then return after the election to wrap up this year’s business.

It did so on a voice vote to approve a stopgap spending measure that would fund government operations through Nov. 14.

House Majority Leader Dick Armey said Republicans in the House will probably go along, though House Democrats have not yet given their backing. The House was scheduled to vote on the continuing resolution tonight.

“My own view is that at this point, the die is pretty well cast,” Rep. Armey said.

White House Chief of Staff John Podesta signaled that President Clinton would also go along, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott said.

Mr. Podesta told members of the House and Senate Democratic leadership that he “will not recommend a veto,” according to a spokesman for Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota.

The move would suspend the politically charged budget gridlock that has kept Congress in session closer to a presidential election than at any time in history, and it would free members of Congress to campaign full-time from now until Election Day next Tuesday.

“Every time they say, ‘We want y’all to make a decision,’ we make a decision and somebody doesn’t like it,” Sen. Lott said. “I thought it was time to make a move” to a lame-duck session.

Sen. Lott said he hopes that when Congress reconvenes, it would be in session for one or two days to handle only a few remaining spending bills and a $240 billion tax-cut measure.

The hiatus may help Senate negotiators iron out differences on a commodity and derivatives bill that some critics said would insufficiently protect bank products from regulation by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

“Work will slow down” during the election break, “but maybe this gives us more time to get things worked out,” said a spokeswoman for Senate Banking Committee Chairman Phil Gramm, R-Tex.

Sen. Gramm is still pressing to shield bank swaps from Securities Exchange Commission regulation.

The move to adjournment came after Republicans and Democrats both concluded they could no longer make progress toward resolving disputes on education funding, labor policy, immigration, and taxes that were blocking action, senators said. Five of 13 required annual spending bills have not been enacted.

This article was written by William Roberts of Bloomberg News, with additional reporting by Michele Heller.

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