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Planning Ahead

Even though it is still not clear on what day the Senate will adjourn this year, Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) announced Tuesday that the chamber will gavel back into session on Jan. 20, 2004. [IMGCAP(1)]

The announcement all but ensures Congress will not return to the nation’s capital in early January, giving law- makers and staffers an extra couple of weeks to prepare for a session that will be shaped by the presidential election.

Frist also released on Tuesday the recess schedule for next year: Feb. 16- 20; March 15-19; April 12-16; May 24-31; June 28-July 5 and July 26- Sept. 6.

Visitor Center, Take 2. More than three years after a bill authorizing the construction of a visitor center for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was first introduced, President Bush signed into law Monday legislation that would make the long-sought goal a reality.

The final measure includes a con- troversial Senate provision — not in-cluded in the bill that passed the House this October — prohibiting the construction of additional monuments on the cross-axis of the National Mall, stretching from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial and from the White House to the Jefferson Memorial.

The underground center — estimated to cost more than $13 million — will be funded through the nonprofit Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund and is projected to take three years to complete.

Located at or near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the center will allow for self-guided tours and serve as a repository for some of the more than 60,000 articles left at the memorial each year by visitors.

Checks and Balances. The General Accounting Office has given a clean bill of health to the Senate Office of Public Records revolving fund for fiscal 2001 and 2002.

GAO did not conduct a financial audit, but did review the receipts, disbursements and fund balances of the revolving fund.

Established in 1989, the revolving fund receives fees charged by the public records office. The funds are disbursed by the Secretary of the Senate for the purchase of supplies of other equipment for the office.

The report notes only one error found in its review: “We identified one disbursement in the amount of $720 for fiscal year 2002 that, while properly certified and authorized, was not sanctioned by the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration prior to payment,” the report states.

The error was related to the displacement of Senate Disbursing Office staff following the October 2001 anthrax incident.

— Mark Preston, Bree Hocking and Jennifer Yachnin

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