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The Week in Congress

March 10, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

There’s five days remaining before a two-week spring recess, and Congress will probably remain bitterly divided as it continues work on the 2009 federal budget. Also this week, a March 15 deadline is fast approaching for some type of agreement on the long-delayed Farm bill, while lawmakers will question the Air Force over a recent contract for airborne fuel-tankers, and discuss proposed cuts to a popular community revitalization program.

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What Waterboarding Bill?

March 10, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

First of all, the "waterboarding bill" that President Bush vetoed over the weekend was H.R. 2082, the 2008 Intelligence Authorization act. Second, Will Riley at PublicPlease makes a good point about how difficult it is to find out this simple fact of the story if your source for news, like the majority of Americans, is the mainstream media: >Have you read about a bill in an online news article and wanted to read the bill? Good luck because most online news articles neither name the bill nor...

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As the job market continues to worsen, people from across the country are organizing on OpenCongress to get the Senate to pass an extension of unemployment insurance benefits. The comments section for the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extension Act of 2008 has become a meeting place for people to push the bill into the media's attention and to get the Senate to act on it.

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Congress Responds to the Toy Safety Scare

March 6, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

It's been 18 years since Congress has adopted any significant consumer safety legislation, but after a series of incidents involving unsafe toys last year, the current Congress is taking action. The Senate on Thursday passed a bill to strengthen the Consumer Product Safety Commission and increase oversight of the commission's inspections of imported toys. The vote was 79-13, with all Democrats voting in favor and 13 Republicans voting against.

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A bill to boost mental health insurance coverage, which has stalled in the last few Republican-led sessions of Congress, is finally moving forward towards becoming law. The Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act of 2007 passed the House yesterday by a vote of 268-148. The Senate has also passed a version of the bill, but there are some differences between the House and Senate versions that are threatening to stop the bill in its tracks.

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This Week in Congress

March 5, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

The House and Senate will begin laying the groundwork for the 2009 federal budget this week, with proposals coming from the Senate Finance Committee and from the House and Senate budget and appropriations committees. Also this week, a compromise might be reached on electronic surveillance, with some saying a bill could head to the President by the end of next week.

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The Budget Battle Will Be Live-Blogged

March 4, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

Wednesday's budget resolution markup will begin a long and contentious battle over tax and spending priorities for fiscal year 2009. The future of Bush's tax cuts, an expansion of SCHIP and an economic stimulus package with increased unemployment insurance and food stamps will all be on the table. And live-blogging it all will the Republican members of the House Budget Committee.

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Dems Ready to Cave on Telecom Immunity

March 3, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

The standoff over FISA and telecom immunity appears to be coming to an end. The Senate passed their version of the FISA reform bill on February 13th, but the House did not approve it in time to keep part of the bill from expiring three days later. The sticking point has been a provision demanded by President Bush to provide retroactive legal immunity to the telecom companies that helped the Bush administration carry out their warrantless wiretapping program. But, over the weekend, Silvestere Reyes (D-TX) said that Democrats are just about ready to give up their opposition to the immunity provision and pass the bill.

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A Historic Vote for Mental Health Insurance

March 1, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

After more than a decade of delay, Congress appears ready to pass a bill to boost insurance coverage for the treatment of mental illnesses. The Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act of 2007 is designed to improve upon the Mental Health Parity Act passed in 1996 by the former senator after which it is named. While, the bill from '96 barred insurers from setting lower dollar limits on mental health treatment than on other kinds of treatment, it left open the possibility of insurers putting other kinds of restrictions on mental health treatment coverage.

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