Congressional actions on the federal budget/110th Congress

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As is required by the 1974 Budget Act, the House and Senate each year consider non-binding budget resolutions. These set overall targets for revenue and spending and are intended to guide Congress as it debates thirteen separate appropriations bills that effectively fund the federal government. This page focuses on actions taken with regards to the federal budget in the 110th Congress. [1]

Contents

Budget resolutions

House

On March 29, 2007, the House passed its non-binding budget resolution for fiscal year (FY) 2008, 216-210. The budget called for a $2.9 trillion budget, the same as was requested by President Bush. Much of the spending, however, differed from what Bush had proposed. It included more money for domestic programs such as education, children’s healthcare and health care for active-service military personnel and veterans. In order to pay for programs such as this, the budget allowed deficits to continue in the near future, but projected a $153 surplus by 2012 by allowing several tax cuts passed by Congress in 2001 (and heavily supported by President Bush) to expire. [2]


Same for all scorecards:

Scored vote

Scorecard: Americans for Democratic Action 2007 House Scorecard

Org. position: Aye

Description:

"Adoption of a resolution allowing $503.8 billion for defense discretionary spending, $451.1 billion non-defense discretionary spending, plus $145.2 billion for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Of the domestic spending authority, $82.3 billion would be for education, training, employment and social services programs, $54.2 billion for health programs, and $44.7 billion for federal judicial and law enforcement activities. The resolution would call for $1.8 trillion in mandatory spending outlays in fiscal 2008 and create 12 reserve funds, each with a specific purpose, to allow for increases in spending or changes in tax policy, provided the increase is offset. It would assume mandatory spending cuts of $75 million between fiscal 2007 and 2012 would be specified by the Education and Labor Committee."

(Original scorecard available at: http://www.adaction.org/pages/publications/voting-records.php)

An alternative budget plan, proposed by House Republicans, was defeated 160-268. This would have provided smaller increases in many domestic programs and cut Medicare and Medicaid. It would also have extended all of the 2001 tax cuts, and assumed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan would end by 2009.


Provisions in the budget

The Democratic budget also called for the following:

  • Any additional federal spending to be matched by a revenue source.
  • Any attempt to alter the alternative minimum tax must not increase the deficit or decrease the surplus for the period of fiscal years 2007 through 2012 and the period of fiscal years 2007 through 2017.
  • All government agencies to be directed to review programs to root out waste, fraud, and abuse.
  • The extension of the child tax credit, the marriage penalty relief, the 10% individual income tax bracket, the research and experimentation tax credit, the deduction for state and local sales taxes, the deduction for small business expensing and the enactment of a tax credit for school construction bonds.
  • The elimination of estate taxes on all but a small fraction of estates by reforming and substantially increasing the unified tax credit.
  • Support for funding cooperative threat reduction and nuclear non-proliferation at current funding levels.
  • $50 million for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.
  • Legislation that reauthorizes the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 or prior farm support acts, or authorizes similar programs, or both.
  • Funds to accommodate reforms to student loan programs that increase benefits to students.
  • Additional mandatory spending for Medicare program improvements such as increasing the Medicare reimbursement rate for physicians while holding beneficiaries harmless from associated premium increases.
  • Investments in renewable or alternative energy resources.
  • Creating an affordable housing fund, offset by savings from reforming the regulation of certain government-sponsored entities, such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
  • Additional mandatory spending to provide equitable benefits for all Filipino veterans of World War II and their survivors and dependents.
  • Providing economic assistance for roads and schools in rural communities affected by the loss of receipts from sales on federal lands in their communities.
  • Temporary Medicaid assistance for families transitioning to the workforce.[3]

Controversies

On April 8, 2007, Democrats announced their intentions of preparing legislation that would permanently shield all but the very richest taxpayers from the alternative minimum tax. If left unchanged, the tax will affect nearly 23 million Americans. The effort, which lawmakers emphasize is still in its early stages, would exempt millions of people from the tax but would have to come up with a way to offset an enormous loss of revenue in the next decade. With the proposed plan, over the next decade there will be a $1 trillion hole in the federal budget. Between now and the end of May, House Democratic leaders hope to draft a permanent overhaul of the tax that would effectively exclude anyone who earns less than about $200,000 a year — about 97 percent of taxpayers.[4]

Senate

On March 23, 2007, the Senate passed a budget resolution for FY 2008, 52-47. The budget called for large increases for defense, education, and veterans. In addition, it called for the extension of several 2001 tax cuts, such as those on the estate tax and those that affected the middle class or families with children.


Additionally, the budget called for the following:

  • Any additional federal spending to be matched by a revenue source.
  • An additional $406 million over anticipated outlays for the IRS to implement advanced tax enforcement to address the tax gap (those funds not collected from taxpayers).
  • $383 million to curb healthcare fraud and abuse.
  • $145.162 billion in FY 2008 and $50 billion in FY 2009 for the War on Terror. $5 billion is the limit to address training, equipment, force protection, logistics, or other matters necessary to protect U.S. forces or to address deficiencies at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and other military health facilities.
  • $35 billion to cover more children with medical care.
  • Additional funds for medical care and disability benefits for wounded or disabled military personnel.
  • Tax relief to be extended as long as it does not increase the deficit as can spending for higher education, farm legislation (spending is set at $15 billion or less through 2012), energy and energy conservation, Medicare, small business health insurance, rural schools payments, terrorism risk insurance, affordable housing, Bonneville Power Administration, Indian Claims Settlements, healthcare reform, enhanced veterans benefits, long-term care, health information technology, childcare, comprehensive immigration reform (more enforcement and border security), or mental health parity.
  • Nearly $1.5 billion to restore the COPS program begun in the Clinton Administration to fight crime by adding more police.[5]

House and Senate Democrats agree on budget

On May 16, 2007, House and Senate Democrats announced an agreement on a final $2.9 trillion FY 2008 resolution that would include $21 billion more for domestic discretionary spending than President Bush had requested.[6]

House Budget Committee Chair John Spratt (D-S.C.) said, "Within this framework, our budget does more for veterans' health care, more for education and more for children's health care."[7]

White House Office of Management and Budget Director Rob Portman declared that Bush would veto any FY 2008 appropriations bills that exceeded his budget request.[8]

House passes conference report

On May 17, 2007, the House passed the conference report on the budget discussed above, 214-209.[9]


Same for all scorecards:

Scored vote

Scorecard: AFSCME 2007 House Scorecard

Org. position: {{{Vote position 1}}}

Description:

"The House passed the fiscal year 2008 budget plan (S. Con. Res. 21), which begins to reverse six years of harmful cuts to a wide range of domestic programs administered by state and local governments, including new funding for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), veterans’ programs, special education, No Child Left Behind, child care, Pell grants and other pressing domestic needs."

(Original scorecard available at: http://www.afscme.org/legislation-politics/19812.cfm)

Senate passes conference report

On May 17, the Senate passed the conference report on the budget discussed above, 52-40.[10]


Same for all scorecards:

Scored vote

Scorecard: AFSCME 2007 Senate Scorecard

Org. position: Aye

Description:

"The Senate approved the fiscal year 2008 budget plan (S. Con. Res. 21) that begins to reverse six years of harmful cuts to a wide range of domestic programs administered by state and local governments, including new funding for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), veterans’ programs, special education, No Child Left Behind, child care, Pell grants and other pressing domestic needs."

(Original scorecard available at: http://www.afscme.org/legislation-politics/19812.cfm)

Consideration of appropriations measures

Conflict over the earmark process

House

In June 2007, Democratic leaders announced that earmarks would be added to the fiscal year (FY) 2008 appropriations bills in conference committees between the House and Senate. Congressional Republicans responded that they would use aggressive procedural tactics in an effort to disrupt the changes. The tactics would include adding amendments to each bill to highlight wasteful measures in the previous appropriations bill, asking the clerk to read each bill and amendment in its entirety, and filing discharge petitions to require another vote on earmark reform legislation passed by Republicans in the 109th Congress. Democrats stated that their reasons for adding earmarks in conference were due to time constraints and a desire to pass the appropriations bill in a timely manner.[11]

During the week in which these intentions were made clear, the House was expected to consider four appropriations measures, including Homeland Security, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, Energy and Water, and Interior and the Environment. The funding levels considered were expected to be greater than those proposed by President Bush.[12]

On June 13, after GOP members successfully stalled the appropriations process in the House through procedural tactics, House Republican and Democratic leaders attempted to broker an agreement over earmark disclosure. The deal included allowing future earmarks to come to the House floor if the Homeland Security and Military Construction appropriations bills were allowed to remain as they were.[13] By the following afternoon, however, the agreement seemed to reach a deadlock and the appropriations process remained uncertain. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Republican negotiators claimed a victory at a press conference on the morning of June 14, but House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) called the GOP announcement premature and purely political. House Democrats called for more than just allowing the Homeland Security and Military Construction bills to move along as is, seeking to establish time limits on amendments to the remaining appropriations bills as well, which Republicans had yet to agree.[14] By the evening of June 14, a final deal had been forged by Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.), and Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio). The agreement still allowed the Homeland Security and Military Construction bills, which typically include few earmarks, to move to conference committee without earmarks, where they would then be added. The remaining 10 appropriations bills, however, would list their earmarks up front, and any earmarks later added in conference would be allowed to come up on the House floor upon final consideration.[15]

In keeping with the agreement, on June 18, 2007, the House adopted by unanimous consent a rules change (H.Res.491) that stated that no conference report accompanying a general appropriations bill could be considered by the 110th Congress unless the joint explanatory statement prepared by the bill’s managers in the House and Senate included a list of congressional earmarks that were not committed to the conference committee by either House, not in a report on the bill, and not in a report of a committee of the Senate on a companion measure. The resolution also prohibited consideration of 1) a rule on debating a bill or 2) an order that waived the requirement that the earmarks be listed.[16][17]

Senate

In the Senate, Democratic leaders took a different approach, announcing their intent to disclose all earmarks after they pass the Senate Appropriations Committee. Following markups, the committee will publish all earmarks on its website, along with their sponsors, the amount requested, its purpose, the entity receiving the money, and letters from Senators who have requested earmarks certifying that they do not have a financial interest in the associated project.[18]

It was revealed in mid-June 2007 that in the defense authorization bill, Sens. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Carl Levin (D-Mich.) secured more earmarks than any other senators. Of the bill's $5.4 billion worth of earmarks, Clinton received 26 earmarks worth about $148.4 million and Levin received 45 earmarks worth about $210 million. [19]

Main article: FY 2008 Defense Department authorization

House consideration of spending bills

Homeland Security bill

On June 15, 2007, after a final deal with House Republicans over earmark disclosure, the House passed the Homeland Security appropriations bill for FY 2008 by a vote of 268-150. As per the agreement, the bill contained no earmarks, which could be added in the conference committee between the House and Senate.[20]



Main article: Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2008

House passes legislative branch spending bill

On June 22, 2007, the House passed the Legislative Branch appropriations bill in a vote of 216 to 176. The bill granted more than $3.1 billion to run the House of Representatives and nine legislative branch agencies during FY2008. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) commented that members made safety and security of the Capitol complex the top priority in the bill.[21]



House considers Financial Services and Interior-Environment measures

During the week of June 25, 2007, the House planned to consider two FY 2008 spending bills; a $21.4 billion Financial Services measure and a $27.6 billion Interior-Environment measure. The Financial Services bill was below Bush's budget request, so it was not predicted to see a veto threat. The Interior-Environment measure, on the other hand, was considered likely veto-bait despite its inclusion of 93 administration project requests totaling $214 million. It included funds for renovations and maintenance to the White House, and was $1.9 billion above the White House request.[22]

Interior


The DOI manages, surveys and researches America’s geographical and cultural infrastructure and natural resource assets. Simplistically, if the public owns it and you can walk around on, in it, or have an interest in what is beneath it, it is likely the responsibility of the DOI. Responsibilities also include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, U.S. Geological Survey, Minerals Management Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Forest Service, and the Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement Agency.[23]

The bill appropriated money for the Environmental Protection Agency with a focus on water and air quality and protection as well as hazardous waste management and cleanup.[24]

The bill provided $50 million to the Commission on Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation that would dissolve in September 2009. The Commission was charged with reviewing scientific challenges of global warming and making recommendations on how to adapt to changes and mitigate changes already occurring. $45 million would be distributed to government agencies responsible for implementation of the Commission’s recommendations.[25]

The House considered an amendment on June 26, 2007 that would have allowed offshore drilling for natural gas.[26]


Same for all scorecards:

Scored vote

Scorecard: American Conservative Union 2007 House Scorecard

Org. position: Aye

Description:

"The House defeated an amendment to the Interior Department Appropriations Bill that would have allowed the Interior Department to issue new leases for offshore natural gas development in areas at least 25 miles from the U.S. coast. ACU supported this amendment."

(Original scorecard available at: http://www.acuratings.org/)

On June 27, 2007, the House passed the Department of the Interior appropriations bill (H.R. 2643), sponsored by Rep. Norman Dicks (D-Wash.). The bill passed in a vote of 272-155. The bill appropriated $26.6 billion to the DOI and its related agencies, including national parks and the EPA.[27]


Financial Services


On June 28, 2007, the House passed the Financial services appropriations bill (H.R.2829) in a vote of 240 to 179. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jose Serrano (D-N.Y.), aimed to improve consumer protections, investment and government contracting oversight. Financial literacy would be bolstered and financial services in under-served populations and communities would be improved. It appropriated $21.434 billion for these purposes.[28]


The department of Treasury and the Executive Office of the President were funded in this bill. The bill also brought to light numerous agencies and commissions that occasionally rose to recognition in the media from time to time, while carrying out a great amount of U.S. business, regulating commerce and investments and other activities ongoing daily in society.[29]

Although it is not evident in the bill, procedural moves effectively approved a pay raise for Members. The new salary was estimated around $169,000 yearly.[30]

  • An amendment excluding small businesses from some provisions of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 was passed.


Same for all scorecards:

Scored vote

Scorecard: U.S. Chamber of Commerce 2007 House Scorecard

Org. position: Aye

Description:

"With the Chamber’s support, the House passed 267-154 an amendment to H.R. 2829, the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act of 2008, that would have extended a moratorium on small business compliance with costly and overly burdensome requirements of Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. Section 404 requires management and an external auditor to report on the adequacy of a company’s internal control over financial reporting. While the Chamber supports effective internal controls and the intent of Sarbanes-Oxley, it strongly believes that smaller companies should not have to bear the disproportionately burdensome costs of Section 404 until the implementation of Section 404 has been fixed. Although this amendment did not become law, in mid-December, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission announced that it would delay the implementation of reporting requirements imposed on small businesses by Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. The Chamber will continue working to protect small businesses from being unfairly and disproportionately burdened"

(Original scorecard available at: http://www.uschamber.com/issues/legislators/07htv_house.htm)

  • An amendment that "prohibits funds in the bill from being used for domestic partnership benefits in the District of Columbia," was passed by a vote of 224-203.[31]


Same for all scorecards:

Scored vote

Scorecard: National Journal 2007 House Scorecard

Org. position: {{{Vote position 1}}}

Description:

"Bar funds for unmarried couples in the District of Columbia to receive health care benefits. June 28. (224-200)"

(Original scorecard available at: http://www.nationaljournal.com/voteratings/house_votes.htm)

  • An amendment "to prohibit the use of funds to be used by the Federal Communications Commission to implement the Fairness Doctrine, as repealed in General Fairness Doctrine Obligations of Broadcast Licensees or any other regulations having the same substances" was passed by a vote of 309-115.[32] (The Fairness Doctrine was abolished in 1987.)


Same for all scorecards:

Scored vote

Scorecard: Family Research Council 2007-2008 House Scorecard

Org. position: Aye

Description:

"Introduced by Rep. Mike Pence, this amendment (H.AMDT. 484) to the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act, 2008 (H.R. 2829) strips the Federal Communications Commission of its authority to reinstitute the so-called “Fairness Doctrine,” which would order broadcasters to give equal air time to both sides of controversial issues."

(Original scorecard available at: http://www.frcaction.org/get.cfm?i=VR08I01)

  • An amendment "to prohibit the use of funds to be used by the District of Columbia for any program of distributing sterile needles or syringes for the hypodermic injection of any illegal drug," failed to pass. During debate, Rep. Jose Serrano raised a point of order that the amendment aimed to change existing legislation and thus constituted legislation in an appropriations bill.[33]


Same for all scorecards:

Scored vote

Scorecard: National Journal 2007 House Scorecard

Org. position: {{{Vote position 1}}}

Description:

"Bar funds for any needle-exchange program in the District of Columbia. June 28. (208-216)"

(Original scorecard available at: http://www.nationaljournal.com/voteratings/house_votes.htm)

House consideration of Transportation-HUD appropriations bill

On July 25, 2007, the House passed the Transportation-HUD appropriations bill in a vote of 268-153.


Same for all scorecards:

Scored vote

Scorecard: U.S. Chamber of Commerce 2007 House Scorecard

Org. position: Aye

Description:

"In July, the House passed H.R. 3074, the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 268-153, with the Chamber’s full support. This legislation provides the necessary funding to ensure that the U.S. transportation system is the safest and most efficient in the world. The business community depends on a safe, reliable transportation system to remain competitive and productive. H.R. 3074 addresses the enormous demands of the U.S. transportation infrastructure system by providing funding for highway and transit programs authorized by the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU). In addition, it provides full funding for the Federal Aviation Administration to improve the safety, performance, and capacity of the nation’s aviation system. This bill was ultimately folded into the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2008 and signed into law by the president on December 26."

(Original scorecard available at: http://www.uschamber.com/issues/legislators/07htv_house.htm)

An aging and stressed transportation infrastructure, degenerating public and affordable housing and wasted energy were the primary challenges the House addressed in deciding funding for the Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development.[34]

Congress concluded that roads, railways and mass transit, seen as neglected for decades, were adding to traffic congestion and waste of fuel while changing population demographics created needs where once there were none. Air travel, expected to grow to 1 million passengers in 2015, faced an aging control system that expected to lose 72% of air traffic controllers from 2007 to 2017.[35]

The bill tended to see the transportation, housing and energy problems as integrated entities where improvements to one could alleviate problems in others. Aged housing uses more energy, housing that is far from public transportation requires more cars on the roads. Aging and overwhelmed roadways cause traffic backups, causing wasted fuel. The bill report noted that in 2003 the "85 most congested urban areas in the United States experienced 3.7 billion hours of travel delay,...(and) ...caused travelers to use 2.3 billion extra gallons of fuel for a total cost of $63,100,000,000 or $794 per commuter."[36]

To begin to address those problems the bill would spend $3.2 billion over the previous level, an amount that was $2.8 billion over the President’s request. Most increases were directed to transportation needs. An increase of $400 million would go directly to air traffic control improvement. Rehabilitation of public housing would continue with the same amount as last year. HUD was directed to increase programs that save energy and reduce energy costs now at about 10% of its budget.[37]

Amendment activity generally aimed at shifting spending from one program to another believed to be more important. Voice vote amendments prohibited the use of funds to hire illegal aliens or to establish or implement a project to allow Mexican motor carriers to operate beyond the commercial zones on the US-Mexico border.[38]

Other amendments targeted earmarks. Earmark projects somewhat out of the scope of the underlying bill included funds for the National Forest Recreation Association in Woodlake, Ca., Hunting and Fishing Museum of Pennsylvania in Tionesta, Pa., the Houston Zoo, in Houston, TX., and the Edmunds Center for the Arts, City of Edmunds, WA. All amendments to strike earmarks failed.[39]

In November, the House voted on the conference report for H.R. 3074.


Same for all scorecards:

Scored vote

Scorecard: U.S. Chamber of Commerce 2007 House Scorecard

Org. position: Aye

Description:

"In a related measure in November, the House agreed to the conference report for H.R. 3074, by a 270-147 vote. The passage of this package was crucial to ensuring that the necessary funding levels for transportation programs were met in the final Consolidated Appropriations Act."

(Original scorecard available at: http://www.uschamber.com/issues/legislators/07htv_house.htm)

House consideration of Energy and Water appropriations bill

In June of 2007, House Democrats voted down four Republican amendments aimed at reducing the spending in the Energy-Water appropriations bill, defending increased funds for energy and other priorities. According to CQ, the four amendments sponsored by GOP conservatives would have reduced spending across the board, including one by Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) that would have cut $1.3 billion of the $31.6 billion bill (H.R. 2641), bringing appropriations back to the fiscal 2007 levels. Democrats defended their funding increases, arguing that they were important investments that Republicans had neglected during their tenure.[40]

In mid-July the House was expected to consider the $31.6 billion fiscal 2008 Energy-Water spending bill (HR 2641), which first came to the floor in June of 2007, but was held over for final action until earmarks could be added.

On July 12, 2007, House appropriators approved almost $1.1 billion in member-requested earmarks to the fiscal 2008 Energy-Water appropriations bill.[41]



An amendment that would have undone aspects of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 failed to pass.


Same for all scorecards:

Scored vote

Scorecard: U.S. Chamber of Commerce 2007 House Scorecard

Org. position: Nay

Description:

"By a 257-174 vote, the House rejected an amendment to H.R. 2641, the Energy and Water appropriations bill, which would have prevented vital national interest electricity transmission corridors from being designated. The Chamber strongly opposed this amendment. National interest transmission corridors were established in the Chamber-supported Energy Policy Act of 2005 to provide a federal backstop for siting of new electricity transmission lines to address serious near-term problems of ensuring adequate delivery of electricity. The Chamber will continue to fight efforts in Congress to undo the national interest electricity transmission corridor provisions of the Energy Policy Act of 2005."

(Original scorecard available at: http://www.uschamber.com/issues/legislators/07htv_house.htm)

Questionable Murtha earmark

In mid-July the Department of Energy denied a claim by Rep. John Murtha that it supported a proposed $1 million earmark. The earmark would establish the Center for Instrumented Critical Infrastructure, which would be part of the Concurrent Technology Corporation (CTC), a Pennsylvania group that has received millions of dollars in earmarks in recent years.[42]

Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who has a reputation for opposing earmarks, challenged Murtha's earmark, asking if the Center for Instrumented Critical Infrastructure even existed. In a House vote, Flake’s challenge to the earmark failed, 98-326.[43]

A Murtha release stated, "CTC has been working with the Department of Energy to use sensor technology to protect the nation’s pipelines and power grids... This initiative will develop and employ sensor networks for the supervision of pipeline systems to detect, identify, and prevent at an early stage material defects, pipe faults, gas leakages, or major damage due to natural disasters or human attack."[44]

The DoE responded, "we’re no longer supporting research and development for oil and gas because we feel that those industries are performing well enough and they don’t need energy and gas initiatives."[45]

House consideration of Labor, HHS, and Education appropriations bill

During the week of June 16, it was expected that the House would consider a $151.5 billion spending bill for the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (S.1710). The bill was the largest of the annual domestic spending bills.

On June 11, the House Appropriations Committee approved the bill by voice vote, though it was expected that Republicans would attack the bill’s spending levels, which exceeded the White House's spending request by about $10.6 billion. President Bush previously threatened to veto any appropriations bill that went beyond his spending requests.[46]


The House Labor, HHS, and Education appropriations bill (H.R.3043) passed the House on July 19, 2007, in a vote of 276-140.



In the Senate, Sen. David Vitter proposed an amenmdent that would prohibit the distribution of Title X family planning funds to abortion providers except when a woman suffers from a physical disorder, injury, or illness that would risk the life of the mother unless an abortion is provided.[47] The amendment was rejected by a voted of 41-52 on October 18, 2007.


Americans for Democratic Action, which opposed the amendment, selected the vote for their 2007 Senate scorecard, where they gave it the following description:

Vitter (R-LA) amendment to Harkin (D-IA) legislation. The Vitter amendment would prohibit the distribution of Title X family planning funds to abortion providers except when a woman suffers from a physical disorder, injury, or illness that would risk the life of the mother unless an abortion is provided. The amendment would not apply to hospitals. Harkin’s legislation would appropriate $605.5 billion in fiscal 2008, including $149.9 billion in discretionary spending, for the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS), and Education, and for related agencies. It would provide $63 billion for the Education Department, $14.9 billion for the Labor Department and $479.1 billion for HHS.[48]



Bill details

Labor provisions in the bill included better inspection and enforcement of workplace safety laws and increases in training and educations programs, particularly for the under-served and minority populations.[49]

Health care provisions aimed directly at improving access to health insurance through programs that combined state and federal and private resources and efforts such as spreading out the risk of covering high-risk patients through insurance pools. Better coverage for children was offered, as well as an expansion of dental care policies. Funds would be increased for biomedical research to better prepare for and understand diseases, their causes, preventions and cures.[50]

Preparation for pandemics was addressed by increasing demand for vaccines through the Center for Disease Control, thereby stimulating production based on profitability. The avian flu threat was seen as imminent and required preparations for rapid response on a large scale. Increases in funding for more laboratories and rapid testing processes were among preparations for a successful response.[51]

Education provisions, most of them included in the recently passed College Cost Reduction Act of 2007, focused on increasing Pell Grant recipients and amounts, lowering interest rates on student loans, providing for loan forgiveness if students enter nursing and other needed fields or pubic service professions. Schools are given incentives to lower tuition costs and take on the responsibilities of becoming centers of excellence in some fields.[52]

Amendment activity centered on shifting funds from one preferred program to another and cutting selected earmarks from the bill. Most earmark amendments were clearly defeated with votes favoring the cuts in double digits and votes opposing the cuts in triple digits. Opposition to the cuts came from both parties. Most earmarks targeted were in the $100,000 dollar range.[53]

The argument supporting the cuts often centered on money being given to organizations that had large revenue bases and excess capital, sometimes in the millions of dollars. An example given was money requested for aquariums. Aquariums targeted by amendments reportedly charge high ticket prices and benefit from corporate and private financial support.[54]

Arguments against the cuts generally rested on the educational value of the projects, along with the local pride and/or historical value associated with them. The reasons for the small amounts being requested by projects and organizations with excess capital was not explained.[55]

House consideration of the Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bill

On July 26, 2007, the House passed the Commerce, Justice & Science appropriations bill (H.R. 3093) in a vote of 281 to 142. The bill would increase spending by $3.2 billion and target FBI and other Justice Department programs for increases. Funds were also increased to Community Oriented Policing. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-W.V.).[56]



Bill details

Programs of the Departments of Commerce and Justice and various Federal entities regarding science would be funded and modified in this bill.[57]

The Department of Commerce would continue its varied role of facilitating international commerce and trade promotion, economic development, small and minority business development and support, setting standards for technology, researching and managing the nation’s coasts and oceans, setting telecommunications policy and regulations, protecting intellectual property, patents and trademarks, and gathering census data among other missions. The Department would be supported with about $7 billion.[58]

While Commerce sections of the bill were relatively without any politics, the Department of Justice was extremely politicized. Under the Justice sections were the FBI, the US Marshall Service, the US Prison system, Drug Enforcement Agency, and various anti-terror agencies on the criminal end and the Office of Civil Rights, Anti-Trust entities, and management of bankruptcy and other civil law entities. In 2007, the Appropriations Committee concluded that the President’s request for funding was too low at a time when Justice was facing increased challenges. The Committee was concerned that violent crime rose two years in a row. The Committee more than doubled the President’s request for aid to local law enforcement to over $3 billion. An additional $146 million was added to the FBI budget and other law enforcement efforts, including grants to states to expand Community Oriented Policing.[59]

Politics entered the bill report in three areas: National Security Letters, Warrantless Wiretapping and firing of US Attorneys.[60]

Justice's Office of Inspector General concluded that the FBI had improperly used National Security Letters to gather personal information from Internet providers on customers with the promise that a subpoena was forthcoming when, in fact, the subpoena had never been requested. The bill prohibited the use of funds to authorize a National Security Letter in contravention of the statutes authorizing the FBI to issue them.[61]

The warrantless wiretapping issue was raised when the Administration held that Executive Privilege allowed for wiretapping and other similar information gathering without obtaining a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court. Although the bill had no provisions relating to that concern the Committee affirmed its opposition to that activity.[62]

The firing of US Attorney’s allegedly for political reasons was addressed without resolution as well. The Committee noted that the alleged activity was unacceptable.[63]

NASA and the National Science Foundation were the centerpieces of Science spending in the bill. NASA would see substantial increases in its budget and continued space exploration was supported. The National Science Foundation that creates and implements the nation’s science policy would emphasize education programs in the fields of science, math and technology that would reach from university graduate level down to grades K through 12.[64]

Senate consideration of spending bills

Senate consideration of Homeland Security appropriations bill

In the week of July 27, 2007, the Senate took up H.R. 2638, the Homeland Security spending bill passed by the House. On passage, the text of H.R. 2638 was replaced with the Senate Measure, S. 1644, a similar bill. The Senate bill would spend $40.4 billion, $3.2 billion more than the House. Senate amendments to the bill raised border security spending by $3 billion- nearly $200 million over the House amount. The additional funds aimed to complete the 700 miles of borders fencing and would add to border patrol and other immigration personnel necessary to further protect the border from illegal immigration. Another Senate provision increased enforcement of immigration laws in places of employment.[65]



Senate consideration of Transportation-HUD appropriations bill

On September 12, the Senate passed the Transportation-HUD appropriations bill in a vote of 88 to 7.[66]

The bill, HR 3074, which passed by the House in July, would tie current deficiencies and future growth in transportation and housing with energy efficiency. “Transportation, housing, and energy can no longer be viewed as completely separate spheres with little or no coordination throughout the different levels of government,” the House committee had noted.[67]


"The effort is to be made to plan affordable housing projects closer to public transportation thereby lowering the need for private vehicles and reducing energy demand in general. The bill creates an inter-agency working group to address approaches to interconnecting transportation and housing." The House bill would spend $50.7 billion, $3.2 billion over last year, and $2.8 billion over the President’s request.[68]


The Senate amended the bill with an eye on surface transportation. A 60 to 33 vote approved extended authority for the Secretary of Transportation to increase spending by $1 billion for bridges, but two amendments focusing funds on bridge and highway repair failed. The Senate voted 82 to 14 to table an amendment that would prohibit funds for Member-requested projects until "all structurally deficient and functionally obsolete bridges have been repaired" and in an 80 to 18 vote tabled an amendment prohibiting funds for municipality-requested bike paths thereby freeing the money to improve bridge and road safety.[69]


An amendment to suspend the Davis-Bacon Act requirements on federally funded construction projects was defeated by a vote of 56 to 37. Davis-Bacon required that workers are paid the prevailing wage in the region where the project is underway. Supporters of the amendment held that the requirement raised the cost of the project.[70]


An amendment to prohibit a Department of Transportation demonstration program allowing Mexican commercial trucks to transport goods beyond southern border commercial zones prevailed 75 to 23 over another amendment (29 to 69) that would have funded the program with the requirement that Mexican trucks meet the same safety standards as US trucks. The debate centered on safety concerns raised by government reports that the Transportation Department was beginning the program despite missing data from the Mexican Government verifying truck safety and records of drivers' driving violations.[71]


Rail Safety received attention from an amendment requiring an evaluation of the infrastructure of some transit systems. The Inspector general was given expanded authority to investigate rail service commodity delivery disruptions and delays.[72]


Airline pilots would still continue in multi-crew flights until age 65 under an amendment, but a pilot sixty years or older on an international flight would have to be accompanied by a copilot under the age of sixty.[73]

A $25 million increase in funds to help low-income Americans with first-home down payments was agreed to along with additional funds to expand a program that facilitated involvement in housing programs for those with limited English. Another amendment was accepted that would establish mitigation activities and alternatives to mortgage foreclosure as well as reasonably ensure the long-term affordability of any mortgage assisted under a Federal program.[74]

Moveon.org condemnation amendment discarded

A Senate amendment to HR 3074, the Transportation-HUD appropriation bill, defending Coalition Commander General Petraeus was ruled not germane to the bill and was not considered by the Senate. The amendment, SA 2820, was offered by Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) in response to an ad by a political organization Moveon.org asking:

"General Petraeus? or General Betray Us?"

The amendment noted the General's 81 to 0 Senate confirmation, listed his educational and military accomplishments and condemned the ad as personal and unwarranted.[75]

Presidential action on the budget

President Bush calls for additional AIDS relief funding

On May 30, 2007, President Bush urged Congress to authorize an additional $30 billion for funding AIDS relief in Africa over a five-year period (beyond his time in office). The funding would be part of PEPFAR (President's Emergency Program for AIDS Relief). That amount would double the figure initially budgeted for the program's initial five-year run, which was set to expire in September 2008. The increased appropriations would be used to provide treatment for 2.5 million people and the prevention of over 12 million new infections.[76]

Lobbying groups came out in disagreement over the reauthorization of PEPFAR and its provisions that require at least one third of prevention funding to be used for "abstinence-until-marriage education" only. House Committee on Foreign Affairs Chair Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) stated that the committee would closely examine the effectiveness of the requirement, which both the Institute of Medicine and the Government Accountability Office had said hindered the program's prevention efforts. The Family Research Council (FRC) and Concerned Women for America (CWA) announced their intention to fight to maintain the provisions, which were passed in 2003 under the Republican-led Congress, while organizations like the Global AIDS Alliance lobbied for their removal.[77]

On June 5, 2007, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations approved a measure that would allow the president, now or in the future, to waive current provisions that require one-third of all U.S. aid for HIV/AIDS prevention be spend on abstinence-only programs, opening up the possibility of funding to international family planning organizations since barred from American aid resources. President Bush would not be expected to reverse the requirements, but it would leave the option open for the next president to do so. The subcommittee's Republican members, led by ranking member Frank Wolf (R-Va.), came out against the measure, citing the president's threat to veto any legislation weakening abortion laws. Subcommittee Chair Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) stated that the legislation does not violate the anti-abortion policy as it leaves the authority to the president to make the decision.[78]

Articles and resources

See also

References

  1. Edward Epstein, “House passes budget that drops Bush tax cuts,” San Francisco Chronicle, March 30, 2007.
  2. Edward Epstein, “House passes budget that drops Bush tax cuts,” San Francisco Chronicle, March 30, 2007.
  3. Robert McElroy, “Managing America: Budget,” TheWeekInCongress, March 29, 2007.
  4. Edmund Andrews, "Democrats Seek to Lead the Way in Tax Overhaul," New York Times, April 9, 2007.
  5. Robert McElroy, “Managing America: Budget,” TheWeekInCongress, March 29, 2007.
  6. "Democrats Propose $2.9T FY 2008 Budget Resolution That Includes Additional SCHIP Funding," Capitol Hill Watch, May 17, 2007.
  7. "Democrats Propose $2.9T FY 2008 Budget Resolution That Includes Additional SCHIP Funding," Capitol Hill Watch, May 17, 2007.
  8. "Democrats Propose $2.9T FY 2008 Budget Resolution That Includes Additional SCHIP Funding," Capitol Hill Watch, May 17, 2007.
  9. Robert McElroy, "Conference Report on SCR 21 the FY 2008 Budget," TheWeekInCongress, May 17, 2007.
  10. Robert McElroy, "Conference Report on SCR 21 the FY 2008 Budget," TheWeekInCongress, May 17, 2007.
  11. Jackie Kucinich, "GOP threatens to slow appropriations process" The Hill, June 10, 2007.
  12. "Chambers Look To Funding, Energy But Not Before 'No Confidence' Vote," National Journal, June 11, 2007.
  13. Susan Crabtree, "Flake declares early victory on earmark deal," The Hill, June 14, 2007.
  14. Jackie Kucinich and Jonathan E. Kaplan, "Earmark deal in limbo," The Hill, June 14, 2007.
  15. Jackie Kucinich, "House agrees on earmarks," The Hill, June 14, 2007.
  16. Liriel Higa, "House Adopts Rules Giving Earmark Foes Tools for Fighting Member Projects," CQ, June 18, 2007.
  17. Robert McElroy, "Managing America: House / Senate Procedures," TheWeekInCongress, June 22, 2007.
  18. Susan Davis, Steven T. Dennis, and John Stanton, "Senate to Publicize Earmarks in Advance," Roll Call, June 14, 2007.
  19. "Clinton can boast wealth of earmarks" The Hill, June 13, 2007.
  20. Josh Rogin, "House Passes Homeland Security Spending After Earmarks Deal Ends GOP Protest," CQ, June 15, 2007.
  21. John McArdle. "House Approves Legislative Branch Spending Bill," Roll Call. June 22, 2007.
  22. "First Legislation, Then The Fireworks," National Journal, June 25, 2007.
  23. "H.R.2643," This Week in Congress. June 29, 2007.
  24. "H.R.2643," This Week in Congress. June 29, 2007.
  25. "H.R.2643," This Week in Congress. June 29, 2007.
  26. THOMAS page on H.AMDT.405.
  27. "H.R.2643," This Week in Congress. June 29, 2007.
  28. "H.R.2892," This Week in Congress. June 29, 2007.
  29. "H.R.2892," This Week in Congress. June 29, 2007.
  30. "H.R.2892," This Week in Congress. June 29, 2007.
  31. THOMAS info page on H.AMDT 489
  32. THOMAS info page on H.AMDt 484
  33. THOMAS info page on H.AMDT. 465
  34. Robert McElroy. " Managing America: Appropriations," The Week in Congress. July 27, 2007.
  35. Robert McElroy. " Managing America: Appropriations," The Week in Congress. July 27, 2007.
  36. Robert McElroy. " Managing America: Appropriations," The Week in Congress. July 27, 2007.
  37. Robert McElroy. " Managing America: Appropriations," The Week in Congress. July 27, 2007.
  38. Robert McElroy. " Managing America: Appropriations," The Week in Congress. July 27, 2007.
  39. Robert McElroy. " Managing America: Appropriations," The Week in Congress. July 27, 2007.
  40. Jeff Tollefson. [http://www.cq.com/display.do?docid=2536311&sourcetype=6 "Democrats Defeat Efforts to Cut Spending in Bill That Funds Water Projects." CQ. June 20, 2007.
  41. "House Resumes Debate Over Appropriations Next Week," CQ. July 13, 2007.
  42. Susan Crabtree. "Department of Energy disputes Rep. Murtha’s claims on earmark request," The Hill. July 19, 2007.
  43. Susan Crabtree. "Department of Energy disputes Rep. Murtha’s claims on earmark request," The Hill. July 19, 2007.
  44. Susan Crabtree. "Department of Energy disputes Rep. Murtha’s claims on earmark request," The Hill. July 19, 2007.
  45. Susan Crabtree. "Department of Energy disputes Rep. Murtha’s claims on earmark request," The Hill. July 19, 2007.
  46. "House Resumes Debate Over Appropriations Next Week," CQ. July 13, 2007.
  47. THOMAS [1] S.AMDT.3330
  48. ADA Today, February 2008.
  49. Robert McElroy"H.R.2643," The Week in Congress. June 29, 2007.
  50. Robert McElroy"H.R.2643," The Week in Congress. June 29, 2007.
  51. Robert McElroy"H.R.2643," The Week in Congress. June 29, 2007.
  52. Robert McElroy"H.R.2643," The Week in Congress. June 29, 2007.
  53. Robert McElroy"H.R.2643," The Week in Congress. June 29, 2007.
  54. Robert McElroy"H.R.2643," The Week in Congress. June 29, 2007.
  55. Robert McElroy"H.R.2643," The Week in Congress. June 29, 2007.
  56. Robert McElroy. " Managing America: Appropriations," The Week in Congress. July 27, 2007.
  57. Robert McElroy. " Managing America: Appropriations," The Week in Congress. July 27, 2007.
  58. Robert McElroy. " Managing America: Appropriations," The Week in Congress. July 27, 2007.
  59. Robert McElroy. " Managing America: Appropriations," The Week in Congress. July 27, 2007.
  60. Robert McElroy. " Managing America: Appropriations," The Week in Congress. July 27, 2007.
  61. Robert McElroy. " Managing America: Appropriations," The Week in Congress. July 27, 2007.
  62. Robert McElroy. " Managing America: Appropriations," The Week in Congress. July 27, 2007.
  63. Robert McElroy. " Managing America: Appropriations," The Week in Congress. July 27, 2007.
  64. Robert McElroy. " Managing America: Appropriations," The Week in Congress. July 27, 2007.
  65. Robert McElroy "Appropriations: Dept. of Homeland Security," The Week in Congress. July 27, 2007.
  66. Robert McElroy, "Managing America: Appropriations," The Week in Congress, September 14, 2007.
  67. Robert McElroy, "Managing America: Appropriations," The Week in Congress, September 14, 2007.
  68. Robert McElroy, "Managing America: Appropriations," The Week in Congress, September 14, 2007.
  69. Robert McElroy, "Managing America: Appropriations," The Week in Congress, September 14, 2007.
  70. Robert McElroy, "Managing America: Appropriations," The Week in Congress, September 14, 2007.
  71. Robert McElroy, "Managing America: Appropriations," The Week in Congress, September 14, 2007.
  72. Robert McElroy, "Managing America: Appropriations," The Week in Congress, September 14, 2007.
  73. Robert McElroy, "Managing America: Appropriations," The Week in Congress, September 14, 2007.
  74. Robert McElroy, "Managing America: Appropriations," The Week in Congress, September 14, 2007.
  75. Robert McElroy, "Managing America: Appropriations," The Week in Congress, September 14, 2007.
  76. "Bush Seeks Extra $30 Billion for AIDS Program" Associated Press (delivered by the New York Times), May 30, 2007.
  77. Ilan Wurman, "Groups poised for lobbying battle on AIDS measure" CQ), June 2, 2007.
  78. Jim Abrams, "Panel OKs Aid for Family Planning Groups" Associated Press (delivered via The Examiner), June 5, 2007.

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