WASHINGTON -- Struggling to end a frustrating year with some accomplishments, Congress moved on long-delayed terrorism insurance and passed port security legislation. But a measure to tighten bankruptcy law, in the works for years, stumbled over an abortion-related dispute.
The House, determined to make this the final day of its 107th Congress, worked well into the morning Friday, also approving a bill authorizing intelligence agency spending that includes creation of an independent commission to investigate the failure to anticipate the Sept. 11 attacks.
A compromise on the makeup of the commission was reached Thursday between White House officials and the two main Senate advocates of the commission, Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn.
The Senate returns Friday to act on terrorism insurance and President Bush's top legislative priority, establishing a new Homeland Security Department. The House approved the legislation on Wednesday after the White House agreed to some concessions to Democrats concerned over the labor rights of the 170,000 employees of the new agency. The Senate is expected to pass the measure before it adjourns next week.
Left unresolved as the lame duck session of the 107th Congress nears an end are such issues as prescription drug benefits for the elderly, retirement fund protections and the rights of patients in managed care programs.
Congress also completed only two -- both dealing with defense -- of the 13 spending bills it must pass to fund federal programs for fiscal year 2003, which began on Oct. 1. To avoid a government shutdown, the House voted to keep spending at fiscal year 2002 levels through Jan. 11, after the beginning of the 108th Congress.
With Republicans recapturing control of the Senate in the midterm elections, Bush is expected to have a Congress more amenable to his spending priorities when lawmakers return in January.
House Democrats, revamping their leadership for the next Congress, on Thursday chose Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., as their party leader, succeeding Dick Gephardt, who stepped down from the post after eight years. Pelosi is the first woman ever to head a political party in Congress.
In its biggest achievement of the day, the House passed a measure under which the government would cover up to $90 billion annually in insurance claims from terrorist attacks.
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