Published September 1979 — Download PDF of the original newspaper column
Byrd's-Eye View By U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd Update on Congress More than half of the first session of the 96th Congress is over, so it is appropriate to take a close look at the Senate's accomplishments. The first matter the Senate disposed of is often overlooked, although it is important. In February, the Senate agreed to a 100-hour limit on debating time after cloture has been invoked. This rule change ended the so-called post-cloture filibuster, which prolonged debate unnecessarily. This Congress, following a course set in the 95th Congress, has also reflected the public's desire for limited federal spending and reduced government regulation. This year, the Congress reduced the Federal deficit by $21 billion. In setting fiscal 1980 budget levels, the Congress cut the President's budget request by $12.4 billion and the projected deficit by $17.6 billion. On energy issues, Congress approved the President's standby emergency building temperature restrictions of 78 degrees for cooling and 65 degrees for heating for most commercial, industrial and nonresidential public buildings. The Senate also gave the President emergency authority to authorize state governors to submit for approval their own plans for energy conservation in their states. The President's modified standby gasoline rationing plan was approved by the Senate, but defeated in the House. Safety precautions were tightened at nuclear plants, in the wake of the Three Mile Island accident. Legislation was enacted approving and implementing the largest single trade bill in U.S. history-the multilateral trade agreements negotiated in Geneva, which reduce literally thousands of tariff and nontariff barriers to free trade. In the health field the Senate extended and amended five health programs dealing with alcohol abuse and alcoholism prevention, drug abuse and treatment, emergency medical services, health planning and nurse training. The Senate also passed two bills to improve health care for veterans, and to make benefits more equitable. On international matters, the Senate debated and expressed its will regarding economic sanctions against Rhodesia, aid to Turkey, the MX missile, and clarification of unofficial U.S. relations with Taiwan. The Senate has also passed 58 of the 67 authorization bills, necessary to keep programs operating. Six of the regular 1980 appropriations bills have also been approved. This represents but a portion of the work that has occupied the Senate so far. The Senate still faces many important issues, including enactment of a windfall profits tax, approval of a government-backed synthetic fuels program, a gas-rationing program, and debate on the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty.