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January 20, 2008

Second Session Begins

Legislative Update
  • Outlook for 2008
  • Presidential Agenda
  • Economic Stimulus
  • Annual Conferences
  • Indian Health Service
The House reconvened setting the stage for the rest of the year. Its first week back was relatively low on drama. There was a lot of talk about what (not if) Congress should do to stimulate the economy.

In the House, the major item on the legislative program next week is an attempt on Wednedsay to override the President's veto of the SCHIP bill. Then it adjourns early for the minority conference and the following week for the majority conference.

The Senate, plans to return from its non-recess on January 22, and is expected to take up the Indian Health Care Improvement Act. Sen. Vitter intends to file an amendment that would codify 26 years of precedent against funding abortions with federal Indian Health Service funds except to save the life of the mother, or in cases of rape or incest of a minor.

Read today's edition of Inside the Mountain for further details.

Indian Health Service - Vitter, Pitts Amendments

In 1976, Congress passed the Hyde Amendment to the Health and Human Services appropriations bill, which forbids federal funding for abortion with the only exceptions being in cases of rape, incest, and danger to the life of the woman. The Hyde Amendment has been in effect in various forms since October 1, 1976, during both Democratic and Republican administrations.

The Indian Health Service, however, is funded outside the scope of the Hyde Amendment by the Interior Appropriations bill. IHS originally continued to fund abortion until administrative action intervened in 1982. In the subsequent 1988 reauthorization, Congress enacted 25 USC 1676 which applied the funding limitations found in the HHS appropriations measure to the IHS.

Twenty years after the original Hyde Amendment, Congress ensured a more consistent comprehensive federal policy by codifying the Hyde Amendment for the Department of Defense through the Defense Authorization bill in 10 USC 1093. This year Congress has the opportunity to do the same thing in the Indian Health Service bill.

In the House, Rep. Joe Pitts is planning on offering this amendment to H.R. 1328 in the full House Energy and Commerce Committee which is expected to take up the bill in the next week or two.

In the Senate, Sen. David Vitter is planning on offering this amendment to S. 2532 on the Senate floor which is expected to come up as the first major order of legislative business in the new year beginning this week.

These amendments will codify the Hyde Amendment and 26 years of precedent with respect to the Indian Health Service. Pray for passage.

January 19, 2008

Congress Last Week (First of 2008)

Week of January 14-18, 2008

New Public Laws

Senate Activity:
The Senate was not in session last week.
The Senate returns at noon on Tuesday, January 22, 2008.

Agenda: Chairmen Return
House Activity:

Previous Digest: Final Week of December 2007

House Voice Vote - H.Con.Res. 279: Adjournment for Minority Conference

H.Con.Res. 279: Providing for an adjournment of the House.

On agreeing to the resolution
Agreed to without objection.

The House will not be in session on Thursday or Friday next week. The minority party is having its conference at that point in time, as the majority will have the following week.

After which the House will reconvene for legislative business at 2 p.m. on Monday, January 28, 2008.

House Discussions - Economic Stimulus

Economic Stimulus Needed?
A conference was held on January 10, 2008 at the Brookings Institution to discuss the economy. The gathering of economists and business leaders examined the state of the American economy and asked the question, "Are we close to a recession?" There are three major factors that could lead to a recession for the economy in 2008:
  1. Unemployment
  2. Oil Price Increases
  3. Housing and Subprime Loans

Economic Stimulus Proposals Divide Democrats
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid face a split in their party’s ranks over the best medicine for a tired economy: tax cuts or more spending.

Pelosi Stresses Need to Avoid Harm With Stimulus Package
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday she hopes that congressional leaders and President Bush can reach a speedy agreement on an economic stimulus package and said the first rule of such a proposal will be to do no harm.

Rep. Rangel Vows Swift Accord with GOP on Economy
House Ways and Means Chairman Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.) vowed today to reach accord with congressional Republicans and President Bush over an economic stimulus package, even snubbing his presidential candidate, Hillary Rodham Clinton, in the interest of bipartisanship.

President's Radio Address (Audio)
Passing a new growth package is our most pressing economic priority. And when that is done, Congress must turn to the most important economic priority for our country -- making sure the tax relief now in place is not taken away from you.

President Bush Proposes Stimulus Package
President Bush suggested that the stimulus package should equal 1% of the economy or approximately $140 billion dollars. During December, the Senate Republicans and House Democrats conducted a strident battle over "pay-go" tax increases to pay for both AMT relief and the tax extenders. The result was passage of only AMT relief. House Ways and Means Chair Charles Rangel (D-NY) has now agreed to eliminate the pay-go requirement for a stimulus bill. He stated, "It's inconsistent to try to get money to consumers and talk about raising taxes at the same time. You just can't do it."

Bush, Bernanke Endorse Economic Stimulus Package
President Bush and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke on Thursday endorsed the idea of an economic stimulus package to boost the flagging economy, as Bush began discussions with congressional leaders on the next steps.

Fed Chairman Backs Stimulus
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke endorsed government efforts to stimulate the economy yesterday, as congressional leaders and the Bush administration moved closer to agreement on a plan.

Bush Calls for Economic Stimulus Package
Saying the nation's flagging economy urgently needs "a shot in the arm," President Bush called today for an economic stimulus package centered on tax rebates and incentives, but he declined to specify how large the rebate checks should be, leaving the matter up for negotiation with Congress.

GOP Leaders: Pro-Growth Policies Needed to Help Families and Small Businesses Feeling Squeezed by Rising Costs of Living
In their first news conference of 2008, House Republican leaders today discussed their constituents' growing view that Washington is broken. Pledging to work together to fix it on behalf of the American people, the leaders underscored the need for Congress to quickly craft a bipartisan economic growth package that does not raise taxes or spend billions on unrelated pork-barrel projects. House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH) and Republican Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO) will meet with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) later this afternoon to discuss their pro-growth priorities for an economic stimulus package.

Boehner Statement on Bipartisan Meeting to Discuss Economic Growth Package

Competing Economic Growth Plans Under Discussion
With growing concern about the threat of a recession this year, President Bush and Congressional leaders will be offering dueling “stimulus” packages.

Boehner Highlights Bipartisan Talks on Economic Growth Package, GOP Efforts on Earmark Reform
At his on-camera press briefing today, House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH) highlighted the ongoing discussion on an economic growth package, as well as the need to take tax hikes and wasteful spending increases off the table in that economic package.

Boehner Statement Following Today's Discussions on an Economic Growth Package
House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH) issued the following statement after discussing an economic growth package this afternoon with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and other House leaders. Earlier in the day, Boehner and other congressional leaders participated in a similar bipartisan conversation with President Bush.

House Votes - H.R. 3524: HOPE VI Improvement and Reauthorization

H.Res. 922: Providing for consideration of H.R. 3524

On agreeing to the resolution
Agreed to by voice vote.

H.R. 3524: H.R. 3524: HOPE VI Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2007
To reauthorize the HOPE VI program for revitalization of severely distressed public housing, and for other purposes.


Amendments (GovTrack, Thomas)


H.Amdt. 923 by Rep. Waters [D-CA]
An amendment numbered 1 printed in House Report 110-509 to make a number of technical and conforming changes as well as enhancements to the bill, including the following:
  1. redefines the scope of the 1 for 1 replacement requirement by requiring the replacement of all units in existence as of January 1, 2005, and provides a limited waiver from the replacement requirement;
  2. extends the timeline for rebuilding replacement housing units to 54 months from the date of execution of the grant agreement, consistent with current HUD practice;
  3. clarifies procedural requirements for making any significant amendments or changes to a revitalization plan;
  4. removes specific references to LEED for non-residential construction and excludes costs associated with green development compliance from HUD's Total Development Cost calculation;
  5. clarifies eligibility and occupancy standards; and
  6. clarifies that no person not lawfully permitted to be in, or remain in, the United States is eligible for housing assistance under this bill.
Agreed to 388-20

H.Amdt. 924 by Rep. Neugebauer [R-TX]
An amendment numbered 2 printed in House Report 110-509 to apply the one-to-one replacement requirement for units demolished under a HOPE VI grant only to units that are occupied prior to demolition.
Failed 181-227

H.Amdt. 926 by Rep. Sessions [R-TX]
An amendment numbered 4 printed in House Report 110-509 to maintain HUD's authority to issue demolition-only grants.
Failed 186-221

H.Amdt. 928 by Rep. King [R-IA]
An amendment numbered 6 printed in House Report 110-509 to prevent appropriations for Davis-Bacon wages.
Failed 136-268

H.Amdt. 929 by Rep. Capito [R-WV]
An amendment numbered 7 printed in House Report 110-509 to substitute the green building requirement, which is part of the mandatory core component of the underlying bill, with a provision that includes green building as part of the mandatory graded section. It also strikes references in the bill to specific green building standards and instead requires the Secretary of HUD to select a rating system, standard, or code for green buildings. This standard shall meet certain criteria and the Secretary shall conduct a study every 5 years to evaluate and compare third party green building standards to see if they meet the criteria.
Failed 169-240

On Motion to Recommit with Instructions
(consideration: CR H331-333; text: CR H331)
Passed 372-28
GOP Housing Proposal Puts Veterans First;
Strikes Dem Provision Giving Preference to Convicted Felons
The House today is considering the HOPE VI Improvement and Reauthorization Act (H.R. 3524) to reauthorize a federal housing program. Buried deep in the legislation is language that would give convicted felons a "Hard to House" preference for participating in the program. House Republicans will offer a motion to recommit proposal this afternoon to strip this preference for convicted felons and instead provide it to veterans.

New Year, Same Result: GOP Continues to Score Key Policy Victories
It's a new year, but some things have stayed the same - like Republican success on the House floor. House Republicans continue to score victories there, using what once was a parliamentary tool of the Minority - the motion to recommit (MTR) - as a vehicle to enact meaningful policy. Yesterday, the House overwhelmingly passed yet another GOP proposal, this one designed to put veterans' interests ahead of those of convicted felons - instead of behind them - when they participate in the Hope VI federal housing program.

On Passage
Passed 271-130

House Passes Bill Renewing Housing Revitalization Program
The House on Thursday passed an eight-year renewal of a program designed to rehabilitate or replace dilapidated public housing, despite Bush administration assertions that the program is inefficient and obsolete.

House Suspension Vote - H.R. 4986: Defense Authorization

H.R. 4986: National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008
To provide for the enactment of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008, as previously enrolled, with certain modifications to address the foreign sovereign immunities provisions of title 28, United States Code, with respect to the attachment of property in certain judgements against Iraq, the lapse of statutory authorities for the payment of bonuses, special pays, and similar benefits for members of the uniformed services, and for other purposes.


Amendments (GovTrack, Thomas)


On motion to suspend the rules and pass the bill
Passed 369-46

Boehner Praises Passage of FY 2008 Department of Defense Authorization Bill
After Democratic leaders needlessly delayed this bill for weeks on behalf of special interest trial lawyers, I’m pleased that both parties have finally come together to complete work on this bill.

Veto Response

House Leaders Assess Options on Vetoed Defense Bill
Democrats and the White House are at odds over what needs to be done to fix the fiscal 2008 defense authorization bill and whether the president’s purported pocket veto in December is valid.

House Leaders Undecided on Defense Veto Action
Although they have scheduled floor action Tuesday “disposing of” President Bush’s veto of a massive defense authorization bill, House Democratic leaders haven’t decided just what that action will be.

Leaders Plan Quick Action on Defense Measure
The House could vote as early as Wednesday on a revised defense authorization bill, with new language that would give the president authority to grant the Iraqi government immunity from the crimes of Saddam Hussein’s regime.


War rages, but Congress moves on
As Congress opens the 2008 session, it’s hard to find Iraq anywhere on the official agenda.

While Anti-War Groups Retreat on Iraq, Democratic Leaders Cling to Strategy to Ensure Our Troops' Defeat
Anti-war groups are throwing in the towel after wasting millions of dollars throughout 2007 on failed efforts to ensure our defeat in Iraq.

House Votes - H.R. 2768: S-MINER Act

H.Res. 918: Providing for consideration of H.R. 2768

On Ordering the Previous Question
Passed 222-191

On agreeing to the resolution
Agreed to by voice vote.

H.R. 2768: S-MINER Act
To establish improved mandatory standards to protect miners during emergencies, and for other purposes.


Amendments (GovTrack, Thomas)


H.Amdt. 919 by Rep. Miller [D-CA]
An amendment numbered 1 printed in House Report 110-508 to provide the mining industry with more time to install a new generation of fire-resistant conveyor belts. The amendment would also provide funds for MSHA to purchase a new generation of dust monitoring devices to limit black lung disease, and ensure that breathable air requirements of the MINER Act of 2006 are properly implemented. In addition, the amendment requires that the Secretary of Labor conduct a study on substance abuse by miners with recommendations for policy changes, in consultation with all interested parties. The Secretary shall report the findings within six months of the bill's enactment and, if she deems it feasible and effective, shall be authorized to establish a miner substance abuse testing, rehabilitation, and treatment program within MSHA in consultation with the interested parties.
Agreed to 234-183

H.Amdt. 920 by Rep. Boucher [D-VA]
An amendment numbered 2 printed in House Report 110-508 to authorize $10,000,000 to award grants to provide rehabilitation service s to current and former miners suffering from mental health impairments, including drug addiction and substance abuse issues, which may have been caused or exacerbated by their work as miners.
Agreed to 364-53

H.Amdt. 921 by Rep. Ellsworth [D-IN]
An amendment numbered 3 printed in House Report 110-508 to offer relief to mine operators that have been assessed penalties and pay them in a timely fashion. It also establishes a trust fund within Treasury, composed of mine safety civil penalties. Funds from the trust fund can be used for mine safety inspections and investigations only.
Agreed to 416-0

H.Amdt. 922 by Rep. Wilson [R-SC]
An amendment in the nature of a substitute numbered 4 printed in House Report 110-508 to promote the continued robust implementa tion of the 2006 MINER Act, increases worker safety by providing miners the opportunity to have a voice in mine safety, expands substance abuse programs to all mines to ensure safe working conditions for all miners, and addresses issues raised by the recent Crandall Canyon disaster.
Failed 188-229

On Motion to Recommit with Instructions
(consideration: CR H73; text: CR H73)
Failed 197-217

On Passage
Passed 214-199

Defying Veto Threat, House Moving to Pass Mine Safety Bill
Ignoring a White House veto threat, the House on Wednesday was moving toward passage of a bill designed to tighten mine safety enforcement in the wake of several deadly accidents over the past two years.

Boehner: Majority's S-MINER Act Will Saddle Employers with a Billion Dollar Federal Mandate, Place American Jobs at Risk
The S-MINER Act (H.R. 2768) would undermine the historic MINER Act passed by the Republican-led 109th Congress after the tragedy at the Sago Mine in West Virginia, as well as the others that followed in 2006

War on Jobs Update: Majority's Flawed Mining Bill Is the Latest Shot Fired in the Democrats' War on American Jobs
The S-MINER Act is meant to build on the historic MINER Act passed by the Republican-led 109th Congress after the tragedies at the Sago Mine in West Virginia, as well as others that followed in 2006. In reality, however, it will thrust upon employers broad, costly federal mandates that could endanger the jobs and physical security of the very miners the Majority claims it is intending to protect.

House Suspension Votes (January 16, 2008)

The following passed on the House floor under suspension of the rules.
Suspension votes require a 2/3 majority for passage.

H.Res. 912: Condemning the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and reaffirming the commitment of the United States to assist the people of Pakistan in combating terrorist activity and promoting a free and democratic Pakistan.
Passed 413-0

H.Res. 921: Military Reservist and Veteran Small Business Reauthorization and Opportunity Act of 2008
Passed 406-2
House Seeks to Expand SBA Programs for Veterans
The House on Wednesday sent the Senate a revised version of legislation to expand Small Business Administration programs for veterans and military reservists.

110th Congress, Second Session - House Reconvenes

Quorum Call: 393 present, 38 absent

H.Res. 913: Providing for a committee to notify the President of the assembly of the Congress.

H.Res. 914: To inform the Senate that a quorum of the House has assembled.

H.Res. 915: Providing for the hour of meeting of the House.
That unless otherwise ordered before Monday, May 12, 2008, the hour of daily meeting of the House shall be
  • 2 p.m. on Mondays;
  • noon on Tuesdays; and
  • 10 a.m. on all other days of the week; and
from Monday, May 12, 2008, for the remainder of the 110th Congress, the hour of daily meeting of the House shall be
  • noon on Mondays,
  • 10 a.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays; and
  • 9 a.m. on all other days of the week.

Short Work Weeks, Light Load Mark Start of Second Session
The second session of the 110th Congress gets under way Tuesday, when the House returns to work after its holiday recess. But neither chamber is likely to get much done this month.

House Democrats Target Bolten, Miers
Democratic leaders are preparing to launch the second session of the 110th Congress this week with a partisan shot, hints of conciliation and some serious procrastination.

Why does Congress outsource its work?
Panels are doing a job that Congress can’t — or doesn’t want to — do.


Political Economy: Let's Not Make a Deal
It’s possible to regard the just-completed congressional appropriations cycle as representing a compromise of sorts. President Bush insisted on his bottom line for discretionary spending — that ever-shrinking pot of money that lawmakers can actually control — and the Democrats played around at the margins with the totals for programs they truly cared about, ditching a few White House favorites in the process.

Leading Earmark Critic Seeks Appropriations Seat
The House’s most vocal critic of earmarks is making a bid for a seat on the committee that distributes funding for the member projects he so often attacks.

Sparing Trees, Saving Money: The Fiscal 2009 'E-Budget'
There will be no delivery truck pulling up to the White House next month to unload freshly printed copies of President Bush’s fiscal 2009 budget proposal, which is likely to total more than 2,000 pages.

Lawmakers Want Quick Action on Improving Infrastructure
The chairman and ranking Republican of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee agreed Thursday that Congress shouldn’t wait until it has to reauthorize a highway bill in 2009 to begin improving the nation’s infrastructure.

Democrats Consider Use of Reconciliation, Adoption of Early CR for FY 2009
After finishing the FY 2008 budget 80 days late, Democrats are reportedly considering the use of two strategies for the FY 2009 budget process.
  1. First, the Democrats may try and use reconciliation more, even for increasing direct spending, which negatively impacts the federal budget. In last year’s budget resolution, the majority broke with precedent to include reconciliation instructions for the Education and Workforce Committee to save $750 million, a far lower figure than previous efforts at budget reconciliation. The real purpose of this legislation was not to save money, but instead to create new entitlements. The advantage reconciliation offers Democrats is that it makes it possible to pass legislation with the support of only 51 Senators instead of 60 (to reach the 3/5 cloture requirement). For this reason, Democrats are looking at the possibility of including much more extensive reconciliation instructions in the FY 2009 budget resolution.
  2. Second, Congressional Democrats may try to enact a CR very early in the FY 2009 appropriations process, the purpose of which would be to carry the fight over spending levels into the next administration. In the FY 2008 budget process, Democrats fought to spend $23 billion more than President Bush’s request. Although the President’s FY 2009 budget has yet to be released, Congressional leaders are once again anticipating that their budget will propose a higher overall level of spending. The Democrats are considering passing a CR, as early as this spring or summer, that would cover the period from October 1, 2008 through the beginning of the next administration—in the hopes that their higher level of spending might be approved by the next administration.

New Public Laws

The following bills from the first session (2007) of the 110th Congress have become law.

P.L. 110-177: Court Security Improvement Act of 2007
To amend title 18, United States Code, to protect judges, prosecutors, witnesses, victims, and their family members, and for other purposes.

P.L. 110-178: U.S. Capitol Police and Library of Congress Police Merger Implementation Act of 2007
To provide for the transfer of the Library of Congress police to the United States Capitol Police, and for other purposes.

P.L. 110-179: Emergency and Disaster Assistance Fraud Penalty Enhancement Act of 2007
A bill to amend title 18, United States Code, with respect to fraud in connection with major disaster or emergency funds.

P.L. 110-180: NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007
To improve the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, and for other purposes.

January 8, 2008

110th Congress, Second Session Agenda - No Child Left Behind

Bush Pushes Congress to Renew 'No Child' Law in 2008
Just over two months after an attempt to reauthorize a landmark education law collapsed in the House, President Bush is again pressuring Congress to renew his prized domestic policy initiative.

Congress Is Urged to Enhance 'No Child' Law
President Bush urged the Democratic-led Congress on Monday to revive a stalled effort to reauthorize the No Child Left Behind law before he leaves office, but he pledged to veto any bill that "weakens the accountability" measures at the core of one of his signature domestic achievements.

Time to LEARN
January 8th marks the 6-year anniversary of No Child Left Behind. Since 2002, NCLB has thrust federal bureaucrats into local schools, millions of dollars and millions of teacher work-hours have been wasted to excessive paperwork and regulatory red tape. And, the results are clear: Children are not getting better educations and no one is held accountable for it.

1/11 Update:
Congress Is Urged to Enhance 'No Child' Law
President Bush urged the Democratic-led Congress on Monday to revive a stalled effort to reauthorize the No Child Left Behind law before he leaves office, but he pledged to veto any bill that "weakens the accountability" measures.

January 6, 2008

Senate Agenda - Chairmen Return

Return of Dodd, Biden Could Provide Push to Legislation
The return of two Senate committee chairmen from the presidential campaign trail could provide a boost to legislation within their purview.

Topping the list for Dodd is a sweeping modernization of the Federal Housing Administration that the White House has embraced as its preferred legislative response to the ongoing housing crisis. The Senate passed the bill, which Dodd sponsored, by 93-1 on Dec. 14, just days before the first session ended.

The House has passed its own, very different version. That could presage a difficult conference negotiation, one that will require Dodd’s personal involvement and attention.

Biden is expected to resume efforts to ease the ongoing crisis in Pakistan. He has backed a large boost in non-military aid, and conditions on U.S. military aid based on success against terrorists. “Ten billion dollars later, Pakistan remains the central base of Al Qaeda operations. We must strike a much better bargain,” Biden said in November.

The Foreign Relations Committee this year must reauthorize President Bush’s Emergency Plan to Fight AIDS. Biden’s priority list also includes more steps to address the humanitarian crisis in Darfur and international climate change issues stemming from last month’s conference in Bali.

January 4, 2008

House Agenda - Defense Veto Override

House May Attempt Override of Bush's Defense Bill Veto
Democratic leaders in Congress dispute President Bush’s contention that he has the authority to use a pocket veto to kill the fiscal 2008 defense policy bill and may attempt a veto override later this month.

Today in Washington
The House met at noon in pro forma session to begin the second session of the 110th Congress; reconvenes for business on Jan. 15.

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