The Waning Days
of the 105th Congress
As the list of legislative issues near and dear to the information technology industry gets longer, the number of days in which members of Congress can consider them grows ever shorter.
The 105th Congress, which is scheduled to return next month from its August recess, faces a host of industry hot-button issues, including temporary visas for high-tech workers, a moratorium on Internet taxes, copyright protection and year 2000 legislation.
Other items on the IT industry's agenda - which could easily get crowded out by legislators' preoccupation with key appropriations bills for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 - include renewal of the U.S. research and development tax credit.
Industry officials plan to mount an aggressive lobbying campaign during the next two months to renew the R&D tax credit, but that effort might well be for naught. As Harris Miller, president of the Information Technology Association of America, noted in an interview for a story in this week's Federal section on remaining congressional business, that issue could easily get lost. As Miller aptly said, "It's a small flea on a big dog."
That's because legislators will be scrambling to finish key appropriations bills or face the specter of another government shutdown. Many of those bills face a presidential veto threat.
What's more, big headline issues such as tax cuts, campaign finance reform and spending priorities could dominate an agenda of two chambers eager to wrap up the people's business by early October with November elections looming.
One piece of legislation we'll be watching closely is the House version of the Department of Defense appropriations bill, which contains provisions that would curtail outsourcing. An industry association official blasted the House proposal as "an opportunity to delay and obstruct what would otherwise be logical moves to outsource and privatize," labeling the measure a fundamental test.
Just this week, legislation to boost the number of temporary work visas for high-tech workers was declared all but dead.
Meanwhile, John Koskinen, the White House's year 2000 czar, told an industry gathering this week that getting the Clinton administration's year 2000 liability legislation passed would be "the legislative equivalent of pulling a rabbit out of a hat."
Come to think of it, that's the way many seasoned observers view the prospects of Congress tackling most major unfinished business in the final days of this year's session. Why should IT be any different?