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Here's What's Happening in Congress:

5 November 2007
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HR 3963, the SCHIP bill, passed the House on October 25 by a vote of 265-142. It passed the Senate without amendments on Nov. 1 by a vote of 64-30. This is the second version of the SCHIP bill to be passed by Congress this year. The first was vetoed by President Bush, who stated that its costs were too high and that it focused too much on middle class children when it should be focusing on low-income children. President Bush has said he will veto this version, as well. A two-thirds majority vote in both chambers of Congress is needed to override a veto.



HR 505, the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act of 2007, passed the House on October 24. This bill provides a mechanism for Native Hawaiians to organize a governing entity and for that entity to negotiate with the federal government over issues such as control of natural resources and land transfers. It passed the House by a vote of 261-153.

HR 3043 is the appropriations bill for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. It appropriates just over $600 billion. It also prohibits the Social Security Administration from implementing a "totalization" agreement with Mexico. This agreement would prevent U.S. citizens working in Mexico (and vice versa) from paying into both the U.S. and Mexican pension systems, while allowing workers from both countries to claim work in either country towards their retirement benefits. It passed the Senate 75-19 on October 23.

S 2205 permits certain undocumented immigrants to remain in the country if they meet certain standards. Known as the "DREAM Act" by its supporters (for Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors), this bill would allow undocumented immigrants who entered the United States before they were 16 and who have no other criminal record to stay in the country for up to six years if they are under 30 years old, have been admitted to an institution of higher education, or have earned a high school diploma. They can apply for permanent residence if they have acquired a higher education degree or finished at least two years of a bachelor's or advanced degree program or if they have served at least two years in the uniformed services. A similar program was included in the two comprehensive immigration bills that failed cloture votes this summer. Some of the pieces of those bills are being considered individually now. This is one such case. S 2205 failed a cloture vote 52-44.

On October 25, the Senate rejected an amendment that would have placed limits on subsidies for Amtrak. S Amdt 3453 to S 294 would have decreased funding for Amtrak routes that needed $200 or more per passenger in subsidies. This limit would have been gradually reduced by $25 a year until the limit was $100 per passenger. The amendment failed by a vote of 28-66.

S 294 itself passed the Senate by a vote of 70-22. This bill reauthorizes Amtrak and provides funding for the next six years.

HR 2262 is the Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act. This bill would impose an eight percent royalty on new hard rock mining operations on public lands and a four percent royalty on existing hard rock mining operations. It also provides funding to clean up abandoned mines. President Bush has stated that he will veto this bill if it comes before his desk in its current form, saying that these royalties could reduce domestic production of minerals. The bill passed the House by a vote of 244-166 on November 1.

HR 3920 is the Trade and Globalization Act of 2007. This would extend the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program that was established in the 1960's. The TAA provides retraining assistance to workers who have lost their jobs because of foreign competition. This bill would also include a multi-billion dollar expansion of the program to include assistance for the service sector and allow more manufacturing workers to apply for the aid. It also includes a two year increase in subsidies to help unemployed workers maintain health insurance. President Bush plans to veto this bill, saying it changes the program from a trade related program to universal income support and training assistance program. HR 3920 passed the House by a vote of 264-157 on October 31.

Until next time, Informed Voter.

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