Saturday, September 15, 2007

Dems make steady progress on domestic agenda

Congressional Democrats finally got some credit for moving through their legislative checklist from Bob Cusack over at The Hill this week:
The passage of the student loan bill on Friday is the fourth measure headed to President Bush’s desk from the Democrats’ “Six in ’06” campaign pledge. If Bush signs the education bill as expected, three of the Democrats’ high-profile legislative promises will have become law less than nine months into their majority.

“These are significant but modest bills,” Randall Strahan, a political scientist at Emory University, said, adding that the Democrats’ legislative accomplishments will help shield them from Republicans’ criticisms of a “do-nothing” Congress. Bolder bills could come in 2009, Strahan said, when Democrats hope to have control of Congress and the White House.
As it says, half of the "Six for '06" pieces of legislation have become the law of the land (the minimum wage increase, the remaining 9/11 commission recommendations to strengthen air cargo and port security, and the higher education bill slashing student loan interest rates and upping the Pell Grant limit), as has promised ethics/lobbying reform. Congress also overwhelmingly passed the stem cell research bill, but it was vetoed by President Bush and they couldn't override. A bill to make the U.S. government able to negotiate down prescription drug prices as part of the Medicare D program - created under the Bush administration and a GOP majority - was blocked by the Senate Republicans from even getting a vote (as was the Employee Free Choice Act to make it easier for workers to join a union). The sixth proposal, energy independence legislation, is still being worked out in conference between the House and Senate. Something should eventually pass as far as that goes, so Democrats will have a two-thirds success rate record.

Democrats are also working on reconciling between the two chambers an expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program, making changes to the "No Child Left Behind" law that is about to expire, and passing a hate crimes law and other bills to protect the rights of GLBT persons. And it looks like the Senate has just enough votes to avert a filibuster on a D.C. voting rights bill next week.

Overall, there's still work to do, particularly on Iraq of course. But Democrats in Congress deserve recognition for what they have accomplished so far. It's a hell of a lot better record than the previous Congress anyway!

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