How to use this story in a classroom...
Special report: Congress
Campaign Finance Kwame Holman looks into the impact of the new campaign finance law. (3/29/02)
Energy Politics Kwame Holman looks at the long journey of the energy bill recently debated in Congress. Iraq (4/26/02)
While students may be distressed that summer vacation is drawing to a close, they're not the only ones going back to work after Labor Day weekend. Members of Congress will also be returning from their version of summer break, called the "August recess."
Every year, the members of the Senate and the House of Representatives take the month of August off from writing and revising the laws of the country. They leave Capitol Hill and return to their home states.
Many members of Congress will be doing quite a bit of homework during their summer break. Democrats and Republicans alike will be hitting the road to campaign for the upcoming congressional elections in November as well as making plans for how to tackle the tough issues on the schedule for the fall.
A Report Card for Congress
Congress began 2002 with quite a few challenges. New security threats loomed large after the September 11th terrorist attacks as well as a dismal economic forecast. Some congressional offices were closed due to letters laced with the deadly anthrax bacteria.
One of the first big issues lawmakers tackled was campaign finance reform. The House and the Senate passed the long awaited Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, a bill that placed limits on how politicians can raise and use money during their election campaigns. President Bush signed this bill into law at the end of March.
Congress also debated an important environmental issue -- the future of energy production and consumption. But the House and Senate disagreed on whether to permit drilling for oil in a wildlife refuge in Alaska.
Now the two chambers
will have to work out their differences if they hope to send a final
energy bill to the president.
A piece of legislation of particular importance to students is called the Dot Kids Implementation and Efficiency Act. This bill would create a separate Internet domain, called ".kids" that would only contain student-friendly Web sites and block out any others.
The House passed this bill in May and a Senate committee is now considering their version of the legislation.
When Congress reconvenes on September 3rd, they will be working on a very important bill called the Homeland Security Act of 2002.
This piece of legislation combines several different government offices into a whole new agency called the Department of Homeland Defense.
Lawmakers have many details to iron out as they create a whole new federal agency charged with the important job of protecting the country from future terrorist attacks.
In November, attention will shift to the voters all over the country. Every member of the House of Representatives is up for re-election and many senators -- who serve six year terms -- are also up for re-election.
These elections are important because they could change the balance of power between Democrats and Republicans, making it easier for one or the other party to get their version of a bill to the president's desk.
What do you think about the nation's newest laws?
-- By Maureen Hoch, Online NewsHour
Copyright © MacNeil-Lehrer Productions All Rights Reserved