February 20, 2007
Last Week in Congress
By James Wilson
As many of you know, Congress's attention last week was on a non-binding resolution criticizing the President's 20,000 troop surge in Iraq. believes a better use of Congress's time is to end the war by de-authorizing it. As it happened, the House passed the resolution. It has been filibustered in the Senate. Otherwise, it was another fairly routine week, and nothing particularly troubling passed either the House or the Senate. IN THE HOUSE H.R. 976 - Small Business Tax Relief Act of 2007 -16 pages This appears to be legislation to “make up” for the minimum wage hike, providing tax incentives to hire poor people. Two weeks previous, the Senate tried to combine the two issues, a minimum wage hike and tax breaks, into the same bill. These differences have yet to be worked out in conference committee. We do not oppose tax cuts, but it's a pyrrhic victory when tax credits make the tax code even longer and more complicated. We much prefer tax cut packages that cut rates generally AND simplify the tax code AND are accompanied by spending cuts so the budget deficit is not increased. H.R. 34 - To establish a pilot program in certain United States district courts to encourage enhancement of expertise in patent cases among district judges. - 7 pages One post office designation and one courthouse designation – 3 pages each The latter is in Cape Girardeau, Mo. and is named for Rush Hudson Limbaugh, Sr. H.R. 798 - To direct the Administrator of General Services to install a photovoltaic system for the headquarters building of the Department of Energy - 3 pages Photovoltaics is a solar power technology. The federal government is the nation's largest polluter and consumer of energy resources, and I don't mind when they experiment with ways to conserve. Still, the $30 million designated for this sounds like a lot of money for just one building. But I'm no expert. IN THE SENATE H.R. 742 - Antitrust Modernization Commission Extension Act of 2007 - 1 page This commission appears to be advisory only and has no regulatory powers. 7 Separate Bills Naming Post Office Buildings – 21 pages total In reality, these are one-page bills in their final, small print drafts. H.J. Res. 20 - Revised Continuing Appropriations Resolution, 2007 - 56 pages After months of not getting anything done, the Senate finally passed the budget for most of the Cabinet Departments. The total comes to $463.5 billion. Most of the bill was a listing item-by-item of how much each agency will get. The good news is that spending increases, where they existed, were not excessive. The bad news is that Congress didn't do much to cut spending either. S. 487 - Living Kidney Organ Donation Clarification Act - 2 pages One sentence was added to a previous Organ Donation act. S. 188 - To revise the short title of the Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, and Coretta Scott King Voting Rights Act Reauthorization and Amendments Act of 2006. - 2 pages The name Cesar E. Chavez was added to this, uh, “Short Title.” In all, the House passed about 32 pages of legislation and the Senate passed 82. This is two weeks in a row that the number of bills and length of legislation were such that it was plausible that every member of Congress could have read every bill they voted on. Of course, that doesn't mean that they did. But we can encourage them to get in the habit. publishes this feature on weeks when Congress is in session. To see how your represenatives voted on particular bills, or to read the bills themselves, go here for the House and here for the Senate. You may also keep abreast of day-to-day activities in Congress by going to the Congressional Record Main Page and click for recent issues of the Daily Digest.
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