Sunday, August 05, 2007

Congress recesses amid Democratic accomplishments

Reuters reports on the following legislative victories from Democrats in Congress so far:
* The first minimum wage increase in a decade went into effect in July helping the lowest-paid workers. Republicans repeatedly blocked the pay hike when they controlled Congress.

* Republicans lost their majority in last November's elections largely because of the Iraq war, but also due to voter disgust with ethics violations that left some Republican lawmakers and aides in jail or under investigation. Democrats pushed through ethics and lobbying reforms that public advocacy groups applauded while also saying the provisions could have been stronger. Bush is expected to sign the bill into law.

* Congress passed, and Bush signed into law on Friday, a series of post-September 11 anti-terrorism steps that had been recommended by an independent commission in 2004. These include broader screening of cargo bound for the United States, allocating more federal grants to cities at high-risk of attack and improving emergency workers' communications systems so they can better coordinate during an attack or natural disaster.

* The House and Senate passed different versions of a bill to significantly expand child health insurance coverage for those in low-income families not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid. Bush has threatened to veto either version, but Democrats may be able to override him.

* The House and Senate passed bills to help students handle soaring college costs and crack down on misconduct in the student loan industry. They likely will send Bush a bill in September that goes directly to the stressed wallets of middle-class parents.

* A popular measure allowing broader stem cell research that supporters hope will help cure Parkinson's disease and other incurable illnesses was passed a second time and Bush vetoed it a second time.

* Appealing to growing consumer fears of global warming and U.S. reliance on foreign oil, the Senate passed a bill mandating that cars get 40 percent better fuel efficiency and encouraging a dramatic increase in ethanol as a fuel. Democrats hope to send Bush a bill after the August recess.

* A fiscal 2008 budget plan passed with new controls that attempt to impose fiscal responsibility after years of huge budget deficits. Under the plan, any new tax cuts or spending increases would have to be paid for. Republicans complain there is no guarantee Bush's tax cuts will be renewed after 2010.

* After six years of mostly getting a free pass from Republicans, the Bush administration is facing oversight by committees with probes ranging from the Justice Department's firing of federal prosecutors to the Pentagon's handling of the death in Afghanistan of ex-football player Pat Tillman.
Not bad, though Democrats will also have their work cut out for them when they return, facing another supplemental spending fight over the Iraq war after a mid-September progress report to Congress by General Petraeus. Another battle over funding the government in the 2008 fiscal year also looms, with Bush having promised to veto several appropriations bills.

There have been disappointments as well, most recently with the wiretap bill, but it is nice to finally see some press attention to what Democrats have done.

1 comment:

jedi4375 said...

The wage increase is blood money. While I applaud its passage I certainly believe the cost of the soldiers who died for it to high.

This bill was passed as part of the grand compromise in which return for the pay hike they Dems would back off the timetable for withdrawl discussion until the September report.