Thursday, June 21, 2007

Legislative Update II

The House voted 355-69 on Thursday to adopt a proposal, as part of a $34.2 billion bill that funds State Department operations and foreign aid, to revive the Iraq Study Group.

The House also voted 223-201 to reverse a ban on contraception aid to groups overseas that offer abortions in an effort to overturn Bush's ban via executive order. Bush will veto the measure and conservatives in the House will uphold it.

Lawmakers from both parties proposed opening up agriculture exports to Cuba and ending travel restrictions, putting them at odds with a White House adamantly opposed to easing a half-century-old embargo.

On the Senate side, progress on the energy bill was a mixed bag. The Senate voted to increase fuel economy standards to 35 miles per gallon for cars and SUVs, the first significant boost demanded of automakers in nearly 20 years. The agreement was announced at a news conference and then quickly adopted by the Senate without a roll call vote. However, the chamber refused to limit debate on a $32.1 billion tax package proposed by the Finance Committee that would roll back tax cuts for oil and gas companies in favor of renewable energy sources, like the bill the House passed earlier in the year. However, there is still hope for the bill to come back and be passed. Democrats got enough Republican support they were only three votes down from the 60 votes needed. Sen. Boxer was out of town, and Sen. Reid only voted against it as a procedural move so he can bring it back up later when potentially Sen. Johnson will be back in the Senate after having recovered from his stroke earlier in the year. Thus, they would have the three votes needed for passage.

The Senate Judiciary Committee continued to ramp up its pressure on the White House by authorizing Chairman Patrick Leahy to subpoena documents relating to the administration’s warrantless wiretapping program. Republican Sens. Hatch, Grassley, and ranking member Specter joined all Democrats on the panel in subpoenaing both the Executive Office of the President and the Department of Justice for documents relating to the authorization of and legal justification for the wiretapping program.


According to the AP, the Senate passed an energy bill late Thursday that includes an increase in automobile fuel economy, new laws against energy price-gouging and a requirement for huge increases in the production of ethanol.

"Shortly before midnight, senators voted 62-32 to cut off debate, and followed by passing the bill 65-27. The measure now awaits action by the House, which is expected to take it up next week. But attempts to combine the two bills and send legislation to President Bush probably won't be possible until later this year."


On Friday, the House voted to prohibit any aid to Saudi Arabia as lawmakers "accused the close ally of religious intolerance and bankrolling terrorist organizations," according to the AP. The prohibition was attached to a foreign aid funding bill for next year that has not yet been debated by the Senate. It also faces a veto threat from the White House.

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