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End Of The Road For GOP-Led Congress

Outgoing U.S. Senate Republican Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) (3rd L) walks towards the Senate Chamber with incoming Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) (L) , U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney (2nd L, and Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-IL) (R) December 7, 2006 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Frist had given his farewell speech to his colleagues in the Senate.
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In its last hours of Republican control, the U.S. Congress passed a raft of legislation big and small, most significantly a sweeping bill reviving expired tax breaks, extending trade benefits for developing countries and protecting doctors from a big cut in health insurance payments.

The Senate cleared the bill for President George W. Bush's signature early Saturday by a 79-9 vote. Final adjournment followed after the House and Senate cleared away a bevy of other legislation, including bills reauthorizing health research programs at the National Institutes of Health and an overhaul of fisheries management.

Speaker Dennis Hastert gaveled the House of Representatives to a close for the last time about 3:15 a.m.; the Senate limped to a close about 4:40 a.m.

Republicans dumped an unfinished budget on the Democrats about to take power, with the Senate barely meeting a midnight deadline to pass a stopgap spending bill putting the government on autopilot until Feb. 15.

The failure to pass budget bills for domestic agencies amounted to "a blatant admission of abject failure by the most useless Congress in modern times," said Democratic congressman David Obey.

The House easily passed the tax and health care provisions — along with a plan to open 8.3 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas drilling. It passed the trade legislation by a narrower vote.

The legislation was then bundled and sent to the Senate for a single vote, where its popularity easily vanquished a handful of Republican opponents, although budget hawks bridled at the measure's cost and textile-state senators objected to trade provisions benefiting Haiti.

Also driving the massive bill forward was an effort to prevent a 5 percent cut in under the Medicare health insurance program for the elderly.

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    Scott Conroy is a National Political Reporter for RealClearPolitics and a contributor for CBS News.