Friday, February 27, 2009

Legislative Update VI

The House of Representatives passed a couple of bills this week. First, the chamber passed a bill would prohibit the interstate shipment of pet monkeys and other primates. A similar measure passed the House last year, but Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., raised procedural hurdles to block it in the Senate. House also passed a $410 spending bill allow smooth functioning of the government through the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year. Bush administration restrictions on travel to Cuba were loosened in the legislation, to permit more frequent visits and expand the list of family members permitted to make trips to see relatives on the Communist nation-island.

The Senate finally got around to confirming Hilda Solis as the next Secretary of Labor, after Republicans had delayed the inevitable for weeks. Better yet, the Senate passed legislation that would give the D.C. Representative a vote in the House (right now, they can only vote on amendments, but not the final bill). The bill would increase the size of the House's membership to 247 because it would also add another seat for solid-red Utah (however, this could be reallocated in 2012 based on the census). The House itself should vote next week. Attached to the legislation was an amendment that would also repeal the District's ban on semiautomatic weapons, bar the city's registration requirements for most guns and drop criminal penalties for possessing an unregistered firearm, so this may cause an issue.

Lastly, a Senate bill has been re-introduced that would federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. President Bush previously vetoed the legislation and President Obama promised to overturn the limitations on the research Bush has set by executive order. However, the president and Democrats want a bill passed to prevent a future administration from simply changing the policy again.

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