Will a Divided Congress Pass Pro-Family Legislation?

Kerby Anderson

Congress is divided like no Congress in modern times. By now, we all know the numbers. The Senate is divided 50-50, with Vice-President Dick Cheney casting the tie-breaking vote when necessary. Republicans in the House enjoy a slim majority of less than 10 votes. So many have erroneously concluded that few bills will pass and even fewer of those will be pro-family legislation.

A divided Congress does not necessarily mean a less conservative Congress. Pro-life conservatives like retiring Republican Tom Coburn are no longer in Congress. But other conservatives like former Virginia Governor George Allen have been elected. So there is every reason to believe the 107th Congress will be ideologically similar to the previous Congress.

There is also good reason to expect passage of some pro-family due to the leadership of the Values Action Teams in the both the House and the Senate. Senator Sam Brownback (KS) and Representative Chris Smith (NJ) are two of many leaders that will provide legislation and a legislative agenda for this session of Congress.

Many congressional leaders are optimistic about passing legislation that was vetoed by President Clinton in previous sessions of Congress. The bill calling for a ban on partial-birth abortion was twice vetoed by President Clinton. Both houses of Congress should pass the ban when legislation is submitted in the next few months. President Bush has given every indication he will sign any bill that bans partial-birth abortion.

President Clinton also vetoed bills to remove the burden of the marriage penalty and the estate tax. These tax burdens will likely be lifted in this session of Congress since a broad coalition of Republicans and Democrats voted for such tax relief in the past. President Bush has signaled that he is ready to sign these legislative proposals.

Congress will also probably pass the Born Alive Infants Protection Act. It passed the House last year by a vote of 380 to 15, but was stalled in the Senate when Democrats put a "hold" on the measure. Passage seems likely in this session, and President Bush will sign the bill.

Congress may adopt restrictions on the so-called abortion pill RU-486. Senator Jesse Helms has indicated that he will hold hearings on this drug in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The hearings will consider the FDA's approval the drug manufacturer in communist China.

President Bush will likely submit and promote various educational initiatives. One that was put forward in the previous session of Congress was Education Savings Accounts. This bill and others submitted by the White House will continue to focus attention on education choice, accountability within the educational establishment, etc.

Recent controversy about the boy scouts might also result in legislation. Congress may pass the Scouts Honor Act which would protect this fine organization from various lawsuits and court rulings that mandate that the Boy Scouts accept atheists and homosexuals into leadership positions.

Congress may be divided by party and ideology, but that doesn't mean that some important things might be done. It is likely that this session of Congress will pass some important pro-family legislation.