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December 22, 2007

December Answers to Prayer

Legislative Update
  • Foreign Policy: Iraq, Intelligence
  • Domestic Policy: Taxes, Spending
  • Heartland Issues: Energy, Farming, Global Warming
  • Health Care
The activity in Congress this month has been a remarkable example of what King Solomon meant when he said, The king's heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He wishes (Proverbs 21:1).

Jesus tells us to ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified (John 15:7-8). Thus, to give God the glory, we want to directly correlate our requests from the beginning of the month with the answers to those prayers.

Read today's edition of Inside the Mountain for those answers to prayer.

110th Congress - First Session (2007) In Review

Key Setbacks Dim Luster of Democrats' Year
The first Democratic-led Congress in a dozen years limped out of Washington last night with a lengthy list of accomplishments, from the first increase in fuel-efficiency standards in a generation to the first minimum-wage hike in a decade. But Democrats' failure to address the central issues that swept them to power left even the most partisan of them dissatisfied and Congress mired at a historic low in public esteem.

Handed control of Congress last year after making promises to end the war in Iraq, restore fiscal discipline in Washington and check President Bush's powers, Democrats instead closed the first session of the 110th Congress yesterday with House votes that sent Bush $70 billion in war funding, with no strings attached, and a $50 billion alternative-minimum-tax measure that shattered their pledge not to add to the federal budget deficit.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: "Almost everything we've done has been historic."
Still, the Democrats delivered much of what they promised last year. Of the six initiatives on the their "Six for '06" agenda, congressional Democrats sent five to the president and got his signature on four:
  1. a minimum-wage increase,
  2. implementation of the homeland security recommendations of the 9/11 Commission,
  3. college cost reduction, and
  4. an energy measure that requires conservation and the expanded use of renewable sources of energy.
  5. Federal funding for [embryonic] stem cell research was vetoed by Bush.
Prescription drugs, never made it to the Senate.
Congress also boosted spending on veterans' needs. Just yesterday, Democrats unveiled a proposal to create the first nonpartisan ethics review panel in House history and passed the most significant gun-control legislation since the early 1990s, tightening the instant background-check process. Beyond those, Democrats secured the biggest overhaul of ethics and lobbying rules since the Watergate scandal.
Not accomplished:
But the disappointments have dominated the news, in large part because Democrats failed on some of the issues that they had put front and center, and that their key constituents value most.
  • The military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, remains open.
  • Bush's warrantless surveillance program was actually codified and expanded on the Democrats' watch.
  • Lawmakers were unable to eliminate the use of harsh interrogation tactics by the CIA.
Democratic leaders also could not overcome the president's vetoes on an expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program, despite winning over large numbers of Republicans.

Policies that liberals thought would be swept aside under the Democratic majority remain untouched, including a prohibition on U.S. funding for international family-planning organizations that offer abortions.
Other issues:

White House:

Congress is currently off for Christmas.

The second session of the 110th Congress, 2008, is already taking shape.

Congress Last Week (and of 2007)

Week of December 17-19, 2007

New Public Laws

House Activity:
Senate Activity:

Previous Digest: First Two Weeks of December

Senate Committee Passed

The following bills passed out of committee and could be considered at any time on the Senate floor after the Christmas recess.
  • S. 772: Railroad Antitrust Enforcement Act of 2007
  • S. 595: Toxic Right-to-Know Protection Act
  • S. 1523: A bill to amend the Clean Air Act to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide from the Capitol power plant
  • S. 901: Health Centers Renewal Act of 2007
  • S. 1551: Comprehensive Tuberculosis Elimination Act of 2007

New Public Laws

The following bills have become law.
Designations have been excluded.
  • P.L. 110-138: United States-Peru Trade Promotion Agreement Implementation Act
  • P.L. 110-139: To provide that the great hall of the Capitol Visitor Center shall be known as Emancipation Hall
  • P.L. 110-140: Renewable Fuels, Consumer Protection, and Energy Efficiency Act of 2007
    Democrats Take Aim at Fuel Economy Rule
    Congressional Democrats may try to overturn the Bush administration’s decision to block states from setting new fuel economy standards for vehicles, which came just after the president signed a law establishing national mileage standards.
  • P.L. 110-141: To exclude from gross income payments from the Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund to the victims of the tragic event at Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University.
  • P.L. 110-142: Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007
  • P.L. 110-143: Methamphetamine Remediation Research Act of 2007
  • P.L. 110-144: Charlie W. Norwood Living Organ Donation Act
  • P.L. 110-147: To amend section 5112(p)(1)(A) of title 31, United States Code, to allow an exception from the $1 coin dispensing capability requirement for certain vending machines.
  • P.L. 110-148: To amend the Arizona Water Settlements Act to modify the requirements for the statement of findings
  • P.L. 110-149: Making further continuing appropriations for the fiscal year 2008, and for other purposes
  • P.L. 110-150: An act to amend title 39, United States Code, to extend the authority of the United States Postal Service to issue a semipostal to raise funds for breast cancer research.
  • P.L. 110-151: Genocide Accountability Act of 2007
  • P.L. 110-153: A bill to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to make technical corrections.
  • P.L. 110-155: A joint resolution providing for the reappointment of Patricia Q. Stonesifer as a citizen regent of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution.

House Vote - H.Con.Res. 271: Sine Die Adjournment

H.Con.Res. 271: Providing for the sine die adjournment of the first session of the One Hundred Tenth Congress.
Failed 184-218


S.Con.Res. 61: A concurrent resolution providing for a conditional adjournment or recess of the Senate, and a conditional adjournment of the House of Representatives.

This bill passed in the Senate by Unanimous Consent.
This bill passed in the House of Representatives by voice vote.


Bush vs. Congress
Democrats will convene pro forma sessions to prevent Bush from making recess appointments.

Senate Vote - John Tinder Nomination

John Daniel Tinder

Nomination

Debate

Confirming John Daniel Tinder, of Indiana, to be U.S. Circuit Judge
Nomination Confirmed 93-0

House Vote - H.R. 2764: Omnibus Appropriations

H.R. 2764: Omnibus Appropriations Act

Debate

Amendments (GovTrack, Thomas)

All Votes
Agree to Senate Amdt to House Amdt to Senate Amdt
Passed 272-142


Budget Season Ends With $555 Billion Omnibus Sent to President's Desk
Congress dropped the curtain Wednesday on the long-running budget season just before lawmakers headed home for the holidays.

House Accepts War Funding, Clears Omnibus for President
The House cleared an omnibus fiscal 2008 spending package for President Bush’s signature Wednesday after a minor technical hiccup.

Typo Nearly Delays Consideration of Omnibus In the House
The House was on track to clear an omnibus spending package for President Bush’s signature Wednesday after a minor technical hiccup.

Iraq

Chance of Iraq Policy Change Slim for Democrats
After Congress’ vote to provide war funding without conditions, Democrats appear ready to set aside for 2008 their failed legislative effort to change President Bush’s Iraq policy.

Gates Says 'Fits and Starts' War Funding Hurting the Military
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates warned Friday that the refusal of Congress to provide upfront, consistent funding for the war in Iraq and Afghanistan is hurting Pentagon planning and procurement.

Boehner: Troop Funding Bill Fulfills Our Commitment to Americans Sent Into Harm's Way

Earmarks

Spending Bills Still Stuffed With Earmarks
Twice in the past two years, Alaska lawmakers lost congressional earmarks to build two "bridges to nowhere" costing hundreds of millions of dollars after Congress was embarrassed by public complaints over the pet projects hidden in annual spending bills.

Losing Earmark Battle, Conservatives Regroup
Conservative House Republicans are trying to regroup after seeing this year’s appropriations process end with a catchall measure that contains 8,983 earmarks.

White House Threatens to Cancel Pet Projects in Spending Bill
The White House threatened yesterday to cancel thousands of pet projects that Congress inserted into a massive spending bill before leaving town this week, a move that could provoke a fierce battle with lawmakers in both parties who jealously guard their ability to steer money to favored purposes.

Details

Omnibus Contains Funding for Domestic Airline Passenger Screening Program
A long-sought domestic airline passenger screening program is likely to get off the ground in fiscal 2008, after the House clears a broad spending bill this week.

U.S. House Blocks Gandhi's Pay Raise
Congress has blocked a $92,400 pay raise for D.C. Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi, another blow for the embattled leader in the wake of the embezzlement scandal at the city's tax office.

Senate Votes - H.R. 2764: Omnibus Appropriations

H.R. 2764: Omnibus Appropriations Act

Debate

Amendments (GovTrack, Thomas)

All Votes - House Votes
Senate Up Next as House Sends Over Omnibus
The Senate is set to consider a massive year-end spending package Tuesday, leading to predictions that Congress could adjourn for the year by midweek.

Reid motion to Concur in the House Amdts. to the Senate Amdt.
Motion to Invoke Cloture Rejected 44-51
Democrats Plan One Final Bid to Alter Iraq Policy in Spending Bill
Senate Republicans were expected to prevail in their bid Tuesday to provide $70 billion in unrestricted war funding in the fiscal 2008 omnibus spending package, but not before Democrats made a last-ditch effort to attach Iraq policy prescriptions to the bill.

S.Amdt. 3875 by Sen. Feingold [D-WI]
To provide for the safe redeployment of United States troops from Iraq.
Rejected 24-71

S.Amdt. 3876 by Sen. Levin [D-MI]
To express the sense of Congress on the transition of the missions of United States Forces in Iraq to a more limited set of missions as specified by the President on September 13, 2007.
Rejected 50-45

S.Amdt. 3874 by Sen. McConnell [R-KY]
To make emergency supplemental appropriations for the Department of Defense for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2008.
Agreed to 70-25
Previous Attempt

S.Amdt. 3877 by Sen. Reid [D-NV]
Relative to AMT relief.
Rejected 48-46

Reid Motion to Concur in House Amdt. No. 1 to Senate Amdt.
Agreed to 76-17


Iraq Funds Approved In Senate Budget Bill
The Senate last night approved a $555 billion omnibus spending bill to fund the federal government for the rest of the fiscal year, shortly after bowing to President Bush's demand for $70 billion in unrestricted funds for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Dems mull ousting Byrd as chairman
Senate Dems quietly exploring ways to replace venerable Robert Byrd as chairman of Appropriations Committee.

House Votes - H.R. 2764: Omnibus Appropriations

H.Res. 873: Same Day Rule
Waiving a requirement of clause 6(a) of rule XIII with respect to consideration of certain resolutions reported from the Committee on Rules.

On Ordering the Previous Question
Passed 215-183

On Agreeing to the Resolution
Passed 212-185


H.Res. 878: Providing for the consideration of the Senate amendment to H.R. 2764

On Ordering the Previous Question
Passed 216-186

On Agreeing to the Resolution
Passed 214-189


H.R. 2764: Omnibus Appropriations Act

Debate

Amendments (GovTrack, Thomas)

All Votes

On agreeing to Senate amendment with 1st House amendment
Passed 253-154

On agreeing to Senate amendment with 2nd House amendment
Passed 206-201


Democrats Tighten Spending in Latest Version of Bill
Congressional Democrats completed work last night on a sprawling, $515.7 billion domestic spending bill that would shave billions from cherished Democratic programs but would challenge President Bush's tough line on domestic spending with billions of dollars for added veterans care, border security and Southeastern drought relief.

Democrats Shift Funds to Boost Their Education, Health Priorities
Defying heavy pressure from the White House, Democrats released a new fiscal 2008 spending plan for the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education that would still exceed President Bush’s budget request by $3.9 billion.

House Offers $31 Billion, But Senate Will Add More War Funds
The omnibus spending package headed for a House floor vote Monday night contains $31 billion for the war in Afghanistan and U.S. force protection but no money for war operations in Iraq. That will be added in the Senate.

Liberals lose bigtime in budget battle
Dems buckle under pressure from White House, abandon anti-war, abortion and other policy promises.

House Approves Domestic Spending
The House last night approved a $515.7 billion domestic spending measure that shaves billions from spending levels desired by Democrats and uses emergency spending and other tactics to challenge President Bush on his budget demands.

White House 'Encouraged’ as House Passes Omnibus Bill
The House moved a massive year-end spending bill on to the Senate late Monday night after the White House said it was “encouraged” by what the Democrats had produced.

Health Agencies See Modest Boost Under Omnibus Package
Federal health agencies would still see modest increases in fiscal 2008 under a massive budget package (HR 2764) congressional Democrats have trimmed to avoid a presidential veto, but the numbers will disappoint health care groups who hoped for much more in the way of increased National Institutes of Health funding.

Plan Omits Iraq Funding
The first iteration of the year-end spending package put forth by Congress contains $31 billion for the war in Afghanistan and force protection, but no money for operations in Iraq.

Senate Up Next as House Sends Over Omnibus
The Senate is set to consider a massive year-end spending package Tuesday, leading to predictions that Congress could adjourn for the year by midweek.

CBC complains of unfair treatment
Congressional Black Caucus demands an “emergency meeting” with Nancy Pelosi.

Massive Spending Bill Bad for Taxpayers

Air Dropped Earmarks
As you may have heard, the massive 3500 plus page spending bill last night contained over 9000 earmarks (spread over 692 pages). What you may not have heard is that over 300 of these earmarks were "air-dropped" into the bill, which means that they were secretly inserted in back room negotiations between House and Senate appropriators. This means that these specific earmarks were not passed by either the House or Senate during previous consideration of spending bills, were not subject to a point of order, amendment or debate on the floor of either body questioning their merit.

Pro-life provisions included
  • Language to weaken or eliminate the pro-life Mexico City Policy had been attached to the House and Senate versions of the FY08 State, Foreign Operations Appropriations bill. That language has been dropped. The Mexico City Policy is a pro-life policy established by Executive Order. Under this policy, international family planning assistance is directed to foreign NGOs that do not promote or perform abortion as a method of family planning.

  • The umbilical cord blood stem cell inventory is funded at just over $8.8 million. This is $3.2 million less than the Senate passed level of $12 million and $6.2 million less than the $15 million level included in the Smith (R-NJ)/Davis (D-AL) amendment which passed in the House on voice vote, but above the $4 million originally included in the version of the bill passed by the House Appropriations Committee.

  • The Title X program which serves as a funding source for abortion providing organizations like Planned Parenthood is funded at just under $300 million which reflects a $17 million increase. Unlike prior versions of the FY08 Labor, Health and Human Services Appropriations Act, this increase is not paired with an equal increase in abstinence education funding.

  • Community Based Abstinence Education (CBAE) is funded at about $109 million (which is level-funding to last year) and there is around $4 million for adolescent pregnancy prevention program evaluations, coming to approximately $113 million.

  • $461 is allocated for international family planning although an “across the board cut” in funding for that division of the bill will reduce that amount slightly.

  • The Omnibus contains the following Global AIDS-relevant language passed in the Senate earlier as part of the FY08 Foreign Operations bill: “Provided further, That funds made available under this heading shall be made available notwithstanding the second sentence of section 403(a) of Public Law 108-25” (Division J--State/Foreign Operations).

  • Embryo-destructive stem cell language included in the Senate LHHS Appropriations bill was been removed.
Include the language of the Brownback-Byrd bill (S. 2417) to return America’s national motto “In God We Trust” back to its prominent position on the face of $1 coins (“Division D--Financial Services”).

Secure Fence Act Gutted
  • Allows the Secretary of DHS to disregard the law entirely. Subparagraph D on page 123 of the Omnibus bill removes all requirements for the Secretary to construct any “fencing, physical barriers, roads, lighting, cameras, and sensors” if he/she determines that the “placement of such resources is not the most appropriate means to achieve and maintain operational control over the international border.” This effectively allows the Secretary to ignore current law entirely, as any land area could technically fall under this broad and loosely defined provision.

  • Rescinds the authority of future Secretaries to fully enact the law after one year. On page 122 Subparagraph B, the Secretary of Homeland Security must identity 370 miles to be constructed by December 31, 2008. After the end of calendar year 2008, the Secretary’s authority to determine other fencing mileage expires—meaning that no additional fencing may be constructed unless it is identified in 2008.

  • Removes the locations specified by the Secure Fence Act. Based upon the recommendations of Federal, State, and local law enforcement, the Secure Fence Act specified several locations in which border fencing was to be constructed, in order to maximize the impact of the fence. Language on page 122 of the Omnibus removes all specific locations included in the Secure Fence Act.

  • Contains a provision that will create miles of red tape for DHS, slowing construction to a crawl. The language includes an excessive consultation requirement to include the Secretary of Interior, the Secretary of Agriculture, States, local governments, Indian tribes and property owners. Subsection B limits the use of funds for building the fence until the Secretary of Homeland Security has complied with this section and completed the required consultation. There is no metric to determine when the consultation can be determined to be complete and fencing construction can begin.

House Votes - H.R. 6: CLEAN Energy Act

H.Res. 877: Providing for consideration of the Senate amendment to the House amendment to the Senate amendment to H.R. 6

On Ordering the Previous Question
Passed 220-187

On Agreeing to the Resolution
Passed 215-190


H.R. 6: Creating Long-Term Energy Alternatives for the Nation Act of 2007

Debate

Votes - Most Recent Senate Votes

On Agreeing to Senate Adt to House Adt to Senate Adt
Passed 314-100


House Clears Energy Bill Boosting Fuel Efficiency Standards
The House on Tuesday sent President Bush a streamlined energy bill that would make the first statutory increase in fuel economy standards in 32 years and require billions more gallons of biofuels to be blended into gasoline over the next 15 years.

House Sends President An Energy Bill to Sign
A year of rhetoric, lobbying, veto threats and negotiations ended yesterday as the House of Representatives voted 314 to 100 to pass an energy bill that President Bush is to sign this morning. The bill will raise fuel-efficiency standards for automobiles, order a massive increase in the use of biofuels and phase out sales of the ubiquitous incandescent light bulb popularized by Thomas Edison more than a century ago.

Congress Approves Fuel Economy Mandate
Congress by a wide margin approved the first increase in automobile fuel economy in 32 years Tuesday, and President Bush plans to quickly sign the legislation, accepting the mandates on the auto industry.

Solidarity for Bush, Democrats
After a year of partisan combat and legislative stalemate, President Bush and Democratic congressional leaders came together yesterday for a holiday season consensus as they enacted legislation to promote energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Senate Vote - S. 2248: FISA Amendments Act (Motion to Proceed)

S. 2248: FISA Amendments Act of 2007
An original bill to amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, to modernize and streamline the provisions of that Act, and for other purposes.

Debate

Amendments (GovTrack, Thomas)

Votes

Motion to Proceed
Cloture Motion Agreed to 76-10


Green Light:

Surveillance Overhaul Gets Past First Senate Hurdle
The Senate on Monday voted 76-10 to move forward with legislation overhauling the rules of electronic surveillance, although it may take awhile to resolve policy disputes over the bill.

Red Light:

Telecom Immunity Issue Derails Spy Law Overhaul
Amid deep and growing divisions among Senate Democrats, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) last night abruptly withdrew legislation that would have changed surveillance law and granted the nation's telecommunications companies retroactive immunity from lawsuits charging they had violated privacy rights.

Senate Puts Off Surveillance Overhaul
The Senate on Monday postponed until January a controversial measure to overhaul the rules for electronic surveillance after opponents’ delaying tactics threatened other must-pass legislation.

Surveillance Bill Stalls in Senate
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pulled legislation from the floor that would overhaul electronic surveillance rules, leaving Congress little time to act early next year before provisions in the current law expire.

House Suspension Votes - AMT, SCHIP, Medicare, Title V

The House suspended the rules and voted on the following on the House floor.
Bills voted on under suspension require a 2/3 majority to pass.


H.Res. 856: Expresses heartfelt sympathy for the victims and families of the shootings in Omaha, Nebraska, on Wednesday, December 5, 2007.
Passed 387-0

H.Res. 851: Honoring local and state first responders, and the citizens of the Pacific Northwest in facing the severe winter storm of December 2 and 3, 2007.
Passed 390-0

H.R. 4286: To award a congressional gold medal to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in recognition of her courageous and unwavering commitment to peace, nonviolence, human rights, and democracy in Burma.
Passed 400-0

H.Con.Res. 254: Recognizing and celebrating the centennial of Oklahoma statehood.
Passed 403-1
At the End of a Long Day, Anything Can Go Wrong
Imagine the distinction: The only member of Congress to vote against a resolution commemorating Oklahoma’s 100th anniversary of statehood.

H.R. 3793: Veterans Guaranteed Bonus Act of 2007
Passed 405-0

H.R. 2761: Terrorism Risk Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2007
Senate Amendment Passed 360-53

S. 2271: Sudan Accountability and Divestment Act of 2007
Passed 411-0

H.Res. 542: Expressing the unconditional support of the House of Representatives for the members of the National Guard.
Passed 408-0

H.Res. 884: Heroes Earnings Assistance and Relief Tax Act of 2007
Passed 411-0

H.R. 3690: U.S. Capitol Police and Library of Congress Police Merger Implementation Act of 2007
Senate Amendment Passed 413-0

H.R. 3996: Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2007 (AMT)
Senate Amendment Passed 352-64
Boehner: Republicans Ensure 23 Million Americans Will Not Face Massive Tax Hike

S. 2499: Medicare, Medicaid, and SCHIP Extension Act of 2007
Passed 411-3
Deal Reached on Medicare Pay Cuts, Children's Health Insurance
Senate Finance Committee leaders have reached a deal to delay for six months a 10 percent cut to Medicare physician pay rates and extend funding for children’s health insurance, a Republican committee aide said Monday.

Senate's Medicare-Child Health Package Ready to Go
Senate negotiators have put the final touches on a bill that would temporarily shield physicians from a 10 percent cut in their Medicare payments while extending funding for a children’s health insurance program through March 2009.

House Clears Medicare, Children's Health Extensions, but Parties See Bill as Not Ideal
The House Wednesday cleared legislation to extend funding for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program and stop a cut to doctors’ Medicare payment rates.

House Passes GOP SCHIP Extension Without Harmful Medicare Cuts Proposed by the Majority
The House voted to extend the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) through March 2009, sending the measure to President Bush for his signature.

The bill includes an extension of Title V abstinence programs through June 30, 2008.

H.R. 4040: Consumer Product Safety Modernization Act
Passed 407-0
Bill to Beef Up Consumer Product Safety Commission Gains House Passage
Against a backdrop of a holiday shopping season that was soured by a spate of product recalls, the House passed legislation Wednesday aimed at ensuring the safety of toys and other products.

House Voice Votes

The following passed on the House floor by voice vote.
Resolutions and designations have been excluded.

Senate Bills: (Passed Both Chambers)
  • S.Con.Res. 62: A resolution to correct the enrollment of H.R. 660.
  • S.Con.Res. 61: A concurrent resolution providing for a conditional adjournment or recess of the Senate, and a conditional adjournment of the House of Representatives.
  • S. 2488: OPEN Government Act of 2007
    Congress Votes To Broaden Openness Law
    Taking aim at Bush administration secrecy, Congress yesterday overwhelmingly approved a bill that would toughen the Freedom of Information Act and penalize government agencies that fail to surrender public documents on time.
  • S.J.Res. 13: A joint resolution granting the consent of Congress to the International Emergency Management Assistance Memorandum of Understanding
House Bills: (First Chamber)
  • H.Con.Res. 246: Honoring the United States Marine Corps for serving and defending the United States on the anniversary of its founding on November 10, 1775
  • H.Con.Res. 270: To make corrections in the enrollment of the bill H.R. 1593.
  • H.J.Res. 15: Recognizing the contributions of the Christmas tree industry to the United States economy
  • H.R. 1374: To amend the Florida National Forest Land Management Act of 2003 to authorize the conveyance of an additional tract of National Forest System land under that Act, and for other purposes.
  • H.R. 3179: Local Preparedness Acquisition Act
  • H.R. 3454: To provide for the conveyance of a small parcel of National Forest System land in the George Washington National Forest in Alleghany County, Virginia, that contains the cemetery of the Central Advent Christian Church and an adjoining tract of land located between the cemetery and road boundaries.
  • H.R. 4220: Federal Food Donation Act of 2007
  • H.R. 1216: Cameron Gulbransen Kids and Cars Safety Act of 2007
    Bill to Beef Up Consumer Product Safety Commission Gains House Passage
    Against a backdrop of a holiday shopping season that was soured by a spate of product recalls, the House passed legislation Wednesday aimed at ensuring the safety of toys and other products.
11:20 Update:
  • H.R. 660: Court Security Improvement Act of 2007
    House Clears Court Security Measure
    The House cleared legislation by voice vote Wednesday that aims to combat violence against judges, other courthouse officials and witnesses in legal proceedings.

Senate Voice Votes

The following passed on the Senate floor by Unanimous Consent:
Resolutions and designations have been excluded.

House Bills: (Passed Both Chambers)
  • H.R. 3690: U.S. Capitol Police and Library of Congress Police Merger Implementation Act of 2007
  • H.R. 3703: To amend section 5112(p)(1)(A) of title 31, United States Code, to allow an exception from the $1 coin dispensing capability requirement for certain vending machines.
  • H.R. 660: Court Security Improvement Act of 2007
  • H.R. 2640: NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007
    To improve the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, and for other purposes.
    Congress Passes Bill to Stop Mentally Ill From Getting Guns
    Prompted by the Virginia Tech University shootings, Congress yesterday approved legislation that would help states more quickly and accurately identify potential firearms buyers with mental health problems that disqualify them from gun ownership under federal law.
  • H.R. 3890: Block Burmese JADE (Junta's Anti-Democratic Efforts) Act of 2007
  • H.R. 4253: Military Reservist and Veteran Small Business Reauthorization and Opportunity Act of 2007
    Senate Passes Bill to Aid Small Businesses Owned by Veterans
    The Senate passed legislation Wednesday to expand Small Business Administration programs for veterans and military reservists.
Senate Bills: (First Chamber)
  • S. 274: Federal Employee Protection of Disclosures Act
  • S. 781: Do-Not-Call Registry Fee Extension Act of 2007
  • S. 2135: Child Soldiers Accountability Act of 2007
  • S. 2260: A bill to extend the existing provisions regarding the eligibility for essential air service subsidies through fiscal year 2008
  • S. 2436: A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to clarify the term of the Commissioner of Internal Revenue
  • S.Con.Res. 53: A concurrent resolution condemning the kidnapping and hostage-taking of 3 United States citizens for over 4 years by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), and demanding their immediate and unconditional release.
  • S.Con.Res. 61: A concurrent resolution providing for a conditional adjournment or recess of the Senate, and a conditional adjournment of the House of Representatives.
  • S.Con.Res. 62: A resolution to correct the enrollment of H.R. 660.
  • S. 1974: A bill to make technical corrections related to the Pension Protection Act of 2006.
  • S. 924: Integrated Deepwater Program Reform Act
    Senate Passes Overhaul of Coast Guard Modernization Program
    The Senate passed a bill Wednesday to overhaul the Coast Guard’s troubled $24 billion Deepwater modernization program.

December 17, 2007

Congress This Week - Omnibus, Conference Reports, FISA

Year-End Spending Package Falls in Line With President's Request
The House as early as Monday night is expected to vote on a year-end appropriations package that largely adheres to President Bush’s spending limit — a move the new majority reluctantly made to end this year’s budget impasse with the White House.

Conferees Want Hard Look at Contractors
The 104-page House-Senate conference report on the fiscal 2008 intelligence authorization bill is heavily focused on the use of private contractors by intelligence agencies.

Farm Bill Conferees Face Potentially Tough Bargaining on Taxes, Subsidies
A House-Senate conference on the farm bill could start as early as this week, and although each chamber passed the legislation with bipartisan support, the negotiations promise to be tough.

Senate Set for Tough FISA Debate
The Senate is set to begin debate Monday on a bill that would overhaul the rules for electronic surveillance, but the measure faces major hurdles.

December 14, 2007

Congress Next Week - The Final of 2007

House: Legislative Business (Video)

We will consider several bills under suspension of the rules.

Further action on the following items:
  • energy legislation,
  • terrorism risk insurance,
  • the fiscal 2008 appropriations package,
  • the alternative minimum tax,
  • the children's health insurance program.
And there may be within the children's health program, depending on what the Senate does, dealing with the reimbursement of providers under Medicare, the docs.

Monday night we might consider the omnibus appropriation bill.


Senate:
  • Omnibus Appropriations
  • AMT Patch
  • Intelligence Conference Report
  • FISA Reauthorization (due in February)

110th Congress - 2008 Beginning

Economy

Democrats Plan 2008 Economic Stimulus Package
Congress will consider an economic stimulus package next year, driven by fear that the economy will slow significantly, House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank, D-Mass., said Friday.

AIDS

AIDS Fracas
When President Bush's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief comes up for reauthorization next year, it will probably be a bit battered from some fresh culture-war assaults. The original five-year, $15 billion initiative — unveiled in the president's 2003 State of the Union address and authorized by a Republican Congress four months later — soon adopted a heavy emphasis on abstinence education and a pledge from U.S. health groups to direct participants out of prostitution and other forms of sex work.

Condoms Useless In Fight Against HIV/AIDS in Africa, Witness Says
HIV-prevention plans in African countries based primarily on promoting condom use are doing “tremendous damage,” to Africans, said a witness who testified in a Senate Health, Education and Pensions committee hearing Tuesday.

State of the Union

State of Union Address Shifted to Jan. 28
President Bush's State of the Union speech next year has been shifted from Jan. 22 to Jan. 28, according to leadership aides in the House and the Senate.

110th Congress - 2007 Unraveling

Democrats Rethink Endgame Strategy
The plan to complete this year’s spending bills was in flux late Monday as House Democrats considered whether to abandon what they have offered as their compromise to fund the government for fiscal 2008.

Hoyer struggles for greater control
Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer drives Democratic agenda though the House.

Not to Worry, Says Durbin, They'll Be Here for the Big Votes
House Democrats are quietly expressing concern that the coming Iowa caucuses, on Jan. 3, might erode their party’s narrow one-vote margin in the Senate during the race to adjournment.

Senate Republicans Keep Democrats Off Balance
In one legislative battle after another this fall, the Democrats who won control of Congress a year ago are surrendering to President Bush and minority Republicans.

Democrats Blaming Each Other For Failures
When Democrats took control of Congress in January, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) pledged to jointly push an ambitious agenda to counter 12 years of Republican control.

Scaled-Back Health Care Proposals May Be Only Viable Option for Passage
House and Senate negotiators were unable to agree on a year-end Medicare package Wednesday, increasing the likelihood that Democrats will have to discard many original priorities.

110th Congress - December to Date (Digest Post)

A Presidential Call to Congressional Action

Major Prayer Request: Hate Crimes Threat
Prayer Answered: Hate Crimes Removed

New Public Laws


Week of December 3-7, 2007

House Activity:
Senate Activity:

Week of December 9-14, 2007 - the original plan

House Activity: Legislative Program (Video)Senate Activity:

Senate Vote - H.R. 2419: Farm Bill (Passage)

H.R. 2419: Farm, Nutrition, and Bioenergy Act of 2007
To provide for the continuation of agricultural programs through fiscal year 2012, and for other purposes.

Debate

Amendments (GovTrack, Thomas)

Votes - Senate Amendment Votes

On Passage of the Bill
Passed 79-14


Senate Passes Huge Farm Bill
Ending a six-week impasse, the Senate yesterday approved a $286 billion farm bill that would authorize significant new spending for farm programs, food stamps and conservation but would make only modest changes in the nation's traditional agricultural subsidy system.

Senate Vote - H.R. 1585: Defense Authorization (Conference Report)

H.R. 1585: National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008
To authorize appropriations for fiscal year 2008 for military activities of the Department of Defense, for military construction, and for defense activities of the Department of Energy, to prescribe military personnel strengths for such fiscal year, and for other purposes.

Debate

Amendments (GovTrack, Thomas)

All Votes - House Conference Report Vote - 370-49

On the Conference Report
Agreed to 90-3


Senate Clears Defense Authorization Bill
The Senate on Friday cleared the fiscal 2008 Defense authorization bill, paving the way for a 3.5 percent pay raise for U.S. troops along with major improvements in their medical care and other benefits.

Senate Vote - S. 2338: FHA Modernization

S. 2338: FHA Modernization Act of 2007
An original bill to modernize and update the National Housing Act and enable the Federal Housing Administration to more effectively reach underserved borrowers, and for other purposes.

Debate, Votes

Amendments (GovTrack, Thomas)

On Passage of the Bill
Passed 93-1


FHA Loan Expansion Heading To a Vote
Hundreds of thousands of minority and moderate-income home buyers would become eligible to get low-rate, low-down-payment mortgages insured by the federal government under an agreement struck yesterday in the Senate.

Senate Passes Bill to Boost FHA Mortgage Loans
The Senate on Friday passed legislation designed to modernize the Federal Housing Administration's mortgage insurance program to give home buyers a safe, low-cost alternative to subprime loans.

New Public Laws

The following bills have been signed into law:
  • P.L. 110-132: Multinational Species Conservation Funds Reauthorization Act of 2007
  • P.L. 110-133: Asian Elephant Conservation Reauthorization Act of 2007
  • P.L. 110-134: Head Start for School Readiness Act
12/16 Update:
  • P.L. 110-135: Fair Treatment for Experienced Pilots Act
  • P.L. 110-136: To provide for an additional temporary extension of programs under the Small Business Act and the Small Business Investment Act of 1958 through May 23, 2008, and for other purposes.
  • P.L. 110-137: Making further continuing appropriations for the fiscal year 2008, and for other purposes

Senate Votes - H.R. 2419: Farm Bill (Amendments)

H.R. 2419: Farm, Nutrition, and Bioenergy Act of 2007
To provide for the continuation of agricultural programs through fiscal year 2012, and for other purposes.

Debate

Votes
Amendments (GovTrack, Thomas)
Amendment Deal in Hand, Senate Resumes Work on Farm Bill
After reaching a last-minute deal on amendments to the farm bill, lawmakers resumed debate Friday on the five-year reauthorization measure.

S.Amdt. 3711 by Sen. Lugar [R-IN]
Relative to traditional payments and loans.
Rejected 37-58

S.Amdt. 3671 by Sen. Gregg [R-NH]
To strike the section requiring the establishment of a Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network.
Rejected 37-58

S.Amdt. 3672 by Sen. Gregg [R-NH]
To strike a provision relating to market loss assistance for asparagus producers.
Rejected 39-56

S.Amdt. 3551 by Sen. Alexander [R-TN]
To increase funding for the Initiative for Future Agriculture and Food Systems, with an offset.
Rejected 19-75

S.Amdt. 3673 by Sen. Gregg [R-NH]
To improve women's access to heath care services in rural areas and provide improved medical care by reducing the excessive burden the liability system places on the delivery of obstetrical and gynecological services.
Rejected 41-53
Congressional Record > Dec 12, 2007 > Section 16

Sen. Judd Gregg [R-NH]: Mr. President, I appreciate the courtesy of the chairman of the Agriculture Committee. I will speak on our amendment dealing with how we get more doctors to be able to care for women in rural communities. We have a real crisis in rural America today. There is a significant shortage of doctors who deliver babies. This is purely a function of one fact, and that is that the trial lawyer bar has been so aggressive in pursuing doctors who deliver babies with lawsuits, they have essentially created a cost of liability insurance for doctors who deliver babies--OB/GYNs--that is so high that a doctor practicing in a rural community who is there to help women having children, deliver those babies safely, that type of doctor cannot make ends meet. That sounds unusual, but that is a fact.

In order for a doctor to generate enough income to simply pay the liability insurance, which is generated by the large number of lawsuits filed against doctors in this country by the trial bar, it is necessary for an OB/GYN--a doctor who delivers babies--to have a very large basically urban or suburban clientele. When you get into rural America and you don't have a lot of people per square mile, where you have people who work on farms and those farms take up a fair amount of acreage, then you don't have the population base necessary for these doctors to practice and generate enough income to pay the liability insurance.

What we are proposing in this amendment is a very narrow proposal. It doesn't say that doctors who are incompetent, or doctors who, unfortunately, make a mistake won't be sued. It doesn't say that at all. It simply says that in the area of rural America where we need to attract doctors so women have adequate health care, especially if they are having children, in those parts of the country--from the standpoint of population, a small part of the country--we are going to have a special consideration that allows doctors to be able to afford their liability insurance.

Sen. Wayne Allard [R-CO]: Mr. President, I thank Senator Gregg from New Hampshire for his amendment. This is a commonsense amendment, and I think it is entirely appropriate to have it on the agriculture bill because it is one that will make a difference in rural America.

I support the amendment which is called the Healthy Mothers and Healthy Babies Access to Care amendment, that contains measures for targeted liability reform directed at curtailing the number of frivolous lawsuits that are filed every year against obstetricians and gynecologists, especially those in rural areas, such as many parts of my State of Colorado.


S.Amdt. 3596 by Sen. Sessions [R-AL]
To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to establish a pilot program under which agricultural producers may establish and contribute to tax-exempt farm savings accounts in lieu of obtaining federally subsidized crop insurance or noninsured crop assistance, to provide for contributions to such accounts by the Secretary of Agriculture, to specify the situations in which amounts may be paid to producers from such accounts, and to limit the total amount of such distributions to a producer during a taxable year, and for other purposes.
Rejected 35-58

S.Amdt. 3553 by Sen. Alexander [R-TN]
To limit the tax credit for small wind energy property expenditures to property placed in service in connection with a farm or rural small business.
Rejected 14-79

S.Amdt. 3695 by Sen. Dorgan [D-ND]
To strengthen payment limitations and direct the savings to increase funding for certain programs.
Rejected 56-43
Bid to Tighten Farm Payment Caps Falls Short in Senate
The Senate on Thursday narrowly rejected a bid to tighten limits on federal payments to farmers, putting the five-year farm policy bill on a path toward passage.

S.Amdt. 3810 by Sen. Klobuchar [D-MN]
To improve the adjusted gross income limitation and use the savings to provide additional funding for certain programs and reduce the Federal deficit.
Rejected 48-47

S.Amdt. 3666 by Sen. Tester [D-MT]
To modify the provisions relating to unlawful practices under the Packers and Stockyards Act.
Rejected 40-55

S.Amdt. 3819 by Sen. Brown [D-OH]
To increase funding for critical Farm Bill programs and improve crop insurance.
Rejected 32-63

S.Amdt. 3640 by Sen. Craig [R-ID]
To prohibit the involuntary acquisition of farmland and grazing land by Federal, State, and local governments for parks, open space, or similar purposes.
Rejected 37-58

Sen. Larry Craig [R-ID]: Mr. President, earlier on, we thought we had a 40-minute time agreement. We are going to start the debate on this amendment. Some of our colleagues want to discuss it. With that in mind, let me open the debate on amendment No. 3640, an amendment we think is critical to America's farmers and ranchers and the value of private property.

Ever since the Supreme Court in 2005 decided on the Kelo decision, I have felt and many others have felt, including the American Farm Bureau, that America's farmers' and ranchers' property is now at a greater risk today than ever before by the issuance of eminent domain, or the broadening of the power of Government as it relates to that issue.

I debated this amendment earlier. Several of my colleagues are on the floor and want to debate this amendment. Let me now turn to my colleague from Colorado, the senior Senator, Mr. Allard, and yield to him 10 minutes for the purpose of debate on this amendment.

Chair: Without objection, it is so ordered. The Senator from Colorado is recognized.

Sen. Wayne Allard [R-CO]: Mr. President, I thank the Senator from Idaho for his leadership on this particular issue. I am involved because farmers and ranchers all over the country are being impacted by their land values since the Supreme Court's ruling in Kelo.

As was stated by the Farm Bureau, farmers and ranchers have been particularly vulnerable to States or local municipalities taking their land for private economic uses, open space or other purposes.

Farmlands in several States have already been taken for open space purposes. The Farm Bureau goes on to say the amendment would strongly discourage the exercise of eminent domain for open space purposes.

I have a strong record of supporting limitations on eminent domain. I have to rise on behalf of my farmers and ranchers in Colorado in support of Senator Craig's amendment. This amendment would protect farmland and ranchland throughout this great Nation from land condemnation for use as open space.

I wish to be clear at the outset that this amendment would not affect uses of eminent domain that have been found to be justified. There are a few legitimate uses for eminent domain powers. Necessary use of eminent domain for items such as utility corridors or military and national security needs would not be affected.

America's farmers and ranchers are some of the best land managers around. Not only do they manage their land in a manner making it the most productive in the world but also in a way that makes it some of the most scenic land in our country and certainly a valuable way of keeping open space because of the nature of their operations.


S.Amdt. 3500 by Sen. Harkin [D-IA]
In the nature of a substitute.
Cloture Motion Agreed to 78-12


Temporary Extension Needed as Senate Farm Bill Debate Drags On
Congress will have to pass a three-month extension of the current farm law because the Senate is still slogging through a new five-year replacement, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin C. Peterson said Wednesday.

Senate Votes - H.R. 6: CLEAN Energy Act

H.R. 6: Creating Long-Term Energy Alternatives for the Nation Act of 2007

Debate

Votes - Previous Cloture Vote

Motion to Concur in the House Amendment to the Senate Amendment with an Amendment
Motion to Invoke Cloture Rejected 59-40
Senate Moving to Pass Energy Bill Without Tax Provisions
Bowing to a White House veto threat, the Senate agreed Thursday to move forward with a major energy bill that omits two sections President Bush refused to accept. By a single vote, the Senate refused to advance the bill while it included $21.8 billion in tax incentives for conservation and renewable energy. The tax package faced a veto threat because it targeted subsidies for the oil and gas industry to offset the cost of the proposed incentives.

Motion to Concur in the Amendment of the House to the Amendment of the Senate to the Text of H.R. 6, with an Amendment
Agreed to 86-8


Senate Passes Comprehensive Energy Bill Without Tax Provisions
The Senate confidently passed a pared-down energy bill Thursday, stripping out a $21.8 billion package of tax incentives that drew a presidential veto threat and failed a key test vote just hours earlier.

Senate Committee - Bills Passed

The following bills passed committee and could come to the Senate floor at any time, likely next year at the earliest.
  • S. 1429: A bill to amend the Safe Drinking Water Act to reauthorize the provision of technical assistance to small public water systems
  • S. 911: Conquer Childhood Cancer Act of 2007
  • S. 781: A bill to extend the authority of the Federal Trade Commission to collect Do-Not-Call Registry fees to fiscal years after fiscal year 2007
  • S. 506: High-Performance Green Buildings Act of 2007
  • S. 2096: Do-Not-Call Improvement Act of 2007
  • S. 2004: A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to establish epilepsy centers of excellence in the Veterans Health Administration of the Department of Veterans Affairs, and for other purposes.
  • S. 1965: Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act
  • S. 2445: An original bill to provide for the flexibility of certain disaster relief funds, and for improved evacuation and sheltering during disasters and catastrophes.
  • S. 2135: Child Soldiers Accountability Act of 2007
5:35 PM Update
  • S. 2344: Internet Safety Education Act of 2007
  • S. 1829: Protect our Children First Act of 2007

House Votes - H.J.Res. 69: FY 2008 Continuing Appropriations (to 12/21)

H.Res. 869: Providing for consideration of H.J. Res. 69

On Ordering the Previous Question
Passed 222-184

On agreeing to the resolution
Agreed to by voice vote.


H.J.Res. 69: Making further continuing appropriations for the fiscal year 2008, and for other purposes.
until December 21, 2007

Votes, Thomas

Motion to Recommit
Mr. Lewis (CA) moved to recommit with instructions to Appropriations.
(consdieration: CR H15439; text: CR H15439)

Mr. Obey raised a point of order against the motion to recommit with instructions. Mr. Obey stated that the provisions of the Lewis (CA) motion to recommit with instructions was non-germane to the joint resolution. Sustained by the Chair.

Table the appeal of the ruling of the Chair
Passed 222-194

On Passage
Passed 385-27


Democrats Bow to Bush's Demands in House Spending Bill
House Democratic leaders yesterday agreed to meet President Bush's bottom-line spending limit on a sprawling, half-trillion-dollar domestic spending bill, dropping their demands for as much as $22 billion in additional spending but vowing to shift funds from the president's priorities to theirs.

House Set To Consider Year-End Spending Package Dec. 18
The House appears on track to consider a year-end omnibus spending bill Dec. 18, one week after Democratic leaders had planned to bring up a costlier version that was ditched after a White House veto threat.

Reported Omnibus is Way Above President's Level
The omnibus package would result in a topline discretionary level of $936.5 billion—$3.7 billion above the President’s request.

Mega-Bill May Shut Down Revamped Regulatory Review Process
Congress' undeclared War on American Jobs may advance in the coming days via the giant "omnibus" spending bill sought by the Democratic majority. Congressional leaders are expected to slip language into their massive year-end bill that would derail a reform initiative aimed at stopping the federal bureaucracy from accidentally imposing unnecessary regulatory burdens on the private sector that destroy jobs and hamper economic growth.

5:10 PM Update:
Bush Signs Latest Stopgap Bill, Urges Congress to Finish Spending Package
As congressional appropriators scramble to complete an omnibus year-end spending package, President Bush on Friday signed the third stopgap funding measure for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1.

House Votes - H.R. 2082: Intelligence Authorization Act (Conference Report)

H.Res. 859: Providing for consideration of the conference report to accompany H.R. 2082

On Ordering the Previous Question
Passed 226-189

On Agreeing to the Resolution
Passed 227-191


H.R. 2082: Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008

Debate, Votes - House Conferee Instruction Vote

Recommit Conference Report With Instructions
(consideration: CR H15436-15437; text: CR H15436)
Failed 205-215

On Agreeing to the Conference Report
Passed 222-199


House Advances Intelligence Bill With Ban on Harsh Interrogation Methods
The House on Thursday adopted a conference report for the fiscal 2008 intelligence authorization bill that would block the CIA from using several controversial interrogation techniques.

House Passes Bill to Ban CIA's Use of Harsh Interrogation Tactics
The House approved legislation yesterday that would bar the CIA from using waterboarding and other harsh interrogation tactics, drawing an immediate veto threat from the White House and setting up another political showdown over what constitutes torture.

Dem Dilemma: Will the Majority Back Away from Its Vote to Strip Pork-Barrel Earmarks from Key Intelligence Bill?
The House Majority faces a defining moment today, when 62 of its Members will have the chance to back up a vote they cast just nine days ago to strip pork-barrel earmarks from the Intelligence Authorization Act (H.R. 2082) conference report and direct the funding to human intelligence. On December 4, 2007, 62 Democrats voted for a Republican motion to instruct conferees negotiating the intelligence measure to strike all earmarks in the underlying bill - including a controversial earmark requested by powerful Defense Appropriations Subcommittee chair Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) for the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC) in his district. The motion passed 249-160.

Boehner: 51 Democrats Flip-Flop as Majority Chooses Pork Over National Security
House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH) issued the following statement opposing the FY 2008 National Intelligence Authorization Act (H.R. 2082) after the Majority rejected a Republican proposal to strip pork-barrel earmarks from the bill and use those funds to bolster human intelligence resources. In fact, 51 Democrats flip-flopped and rejected the proposal after voting to strike all earmarks just nine days ago.

CIA Interrogation Tapes Issue Plays Out Against Authorization Bill Vote
A Senate panel questioned the chief of the CIA on Tuesday about destroyed interrogation videotapes, an issue that will color House debate Wednesday over a conference report that would ban harsh interrogation tactics. The conference report for the fiscal 2008 intelligence authorization faces a tough fight in the Senate and a veto threat.

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