Here's an editorial from the Washington Post, circa 1998:
All Track No Train
The usual efforts to shovel out extra money in an election year are underway, and some will succeed. A so-called community renewal bill seems to be a possible vehicle. The House-passed measure is the result of a handshake between President Clinton and House Speaker Dennis Hastert. It would use tax incentives to lure business into, and thereby revive, lower-income communities. The Senate Republican leadership has been less than enthusiastic, but the Finance Committee is cranking out a bill that the president would be almost sure to sign, and to which eager members are therefore adding all manner of amendments. One would provide Amtrak with a badly needed capital subsidy-- a train for the trains.
Other bills that may provide some locomotion: a Medicare "giveback" bill, still being written, rescinding some cuts in payments to hospitals and other providers that Congress enacted with great pride to help balance the budget three years ago, and a bill to raise the minimum wage that Republicans don't much like but don't want to be blamed for defeating; they'd sweeten it with mostly unrelated tax breaks, mostly for the better off.
But those bills may themselves need a boost to pass in this listless Congress. Republican leaders swear that, this time, there won't be a massive end- of- session budget- buster-- one of those mega-bills that cover half the government for which everyone votes but no one has to take responsibility. But there may well again be such a bill; that's where the appropriations process seems to be pointing. The Senate is the problem. The Republican leadership doesn't want to let some of the money bills come to the floor; it fears debate. To avoid that, it proposes to tack them onto non-debatable conference reports on other appropriations bills. Thus the ever popular transportation bill (if a dispute over drunk driving can be resolved) might carry the bill for the departments of state, justice and commerce, or veterans affairs and housing.
[ Enacting Policies ]
Nor may the pairings be limited to appropriations measures. The Senate leadership indicated the other day that it might also try to tack onto the transportation bill a bankruptcy bill the White House doesn't like, together with the extension of the Violence Against Women Act, which the president favors. Let him veto that if he dares. That's the game. The best favor this Congress could do the country is adjourn.