A Short, Combative Congressional Session

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WASHINGTON, D.C.: Lawmakers return to the Capitol this week for a brief, one-month pre-election session that is likely to shadow the partisan bickering of the upcoming presidential and congressional elections. TIME's congressional correspondent Karen Tumulty says Republicans hope to spark their re-election campaigns with votes on politically-charged, if marginal, bills to curb government benefits for same-sex marriage partners and to forbid U.S. troops from serving under international command. "There will be a lot of grandstanding going on this month," Tumulty says. "But there won't be much accomplished. The main goal is to get out of town by the end of the month and run their campaigns." The most controversial legislation should be the pending immigration initiative that would give states the ability to deny public schooling to the children of illegal immigrants who are not already in school. President Clinton has indicated he would veto that bill. Congress also must pass legislation to fund the government past the beginning of the new fiscal year on October 1. Tumulty says Republicans are unlikely to fill the legislation with the so-called poison pills that led to last year's politically damaging government shutdowns. "They were burned last year, so they aren't going to try that again," Tumulty says. Only one of the 13 bills to fund the government next year has been signed into law, with three others awaiting Congressional clearance. The other nine will either be passed by the end of the month or will probably be lumped into one stopgap bill to fund the government into next year, Tumulty says. Trailing badly in the presidential race, the Republicans are focusing on maintaining control of Congress. The Democrats need a net gain of 19 House seats and three Senate seats to regain control of the legislative branch. Democratic officials believe there is an outside chance they can retake the House, and longer odds that they can recapture the Senate. Senator Robert Kerrey told TIME that his main obstacle in raising sufficient funds to press successful Senate races is that he must compete with party fund-raising efforts for other goals. This week he hopes to meet with President Clinton to enlist the First Couple and Vice President Gore in Senate campaigns. -- Josh Dubow