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Media

Here's What's Happening in Congress:

15 August 2008
Written by

Good day, Informed Voter,

Congress is on their annual August recess, but here is a quick recap of some of the voting activity in the House and Senate during late June and July. Look for more votes next week.

There have been several votes over the last couple of years on funding for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and another such vote was taken by the House on June 19. This was a House concurrence vote with a Senate amendment on HR 2642, and it provided $165.35 billion over fiscal years 2008 and 2009. The federal government's fiscal year begins on October 1 of each calendar year. You can view a summary of the content of this vote here. Always remember, also, that you can view the votes of your Representatives and Senators by clicking "How Members Voted" in the upper right of the summary pages.

HR 6304 is a bill addressing foreign electronic surveillance and the FISA program. The bill defines what types of individuals may be targeted through electronic surveillance and defines procedures required for implementing electronic surveillance. This bill passed the House on June 20 (summary) and passed the Senate on July 9 (summary). The House vote was 293-129, while the Senate vote was 69-28. The President signed this legislation into law on July 10.

HR 6304 provides civil immunity to telecommunications companies, and there was an amendment voted on in the Senate that would have removed the immunity language from the bill. This amendment was S Amdt 5064 (summary). The Senate rejected this amendment by a vote of 32-66 on July 9, thereby leaving the immunity language in the bill.

HR 6346 is a bill that would prohibit "price gouging" on gasoline and other petroleum based fuels during energy emergencies, as declared by the President (summary). The House voted 276-146 on this bill on June 24, but it failed. It needed a two-thirds majority because it was considered under a suspension of normal procedural rules. Under procedural rules, a bill is subject to debate and amendments before being voted on. The House leadership can suspend these rules and bring the bill directly to a vote, but the vote then must have a two-thirds majority to pass instead of the simple majority normally required.

Also on June 24, the House had a vote on HR 6331, the Medicare bill (summary). This bill made certain extensions to programs and made other changes to fee-for-service programs. It passed the House 355-59. The bill then went to the Senate, where time of debate is unlimited. In order to end a debate in the Senate, a cloture vote is frequently taken. This is a vote that requires 60 of 100 Senators to vote in favor. Invoking cloture does not pass the bill; it only limits the debate on the bill. If cloture votes fail, it is sometimes difficult to get legislation through the Senate. HR 6331 had a cloture vote in the Senate which passed 69-30 (summary). Once the cloture vote limited the debate on the bill, the Senate passed the bill by unanimous consent (not to be confused with a unanimous vote). This bill was vetoed by the President, and veto override votes were taken in the House and Senate. The House override vote passed 383-41. The Senate override vote passed 70-26. The bill was enacted into law.

The next day, June 25, the House had a vote on HR 2176, a bill addressing land claims of the Bay Mills Indian Community in Michigan. The bill would extinguish a claim the Community has to Charlotte Beach Lands by providing alternative lands (summary). The bill failed in the House by a vote of 121-298.

Also on June 25, the House voted on HR 6275, a bill addressing the alternative minimum tax. This tax was originally established to create a minimum tax for the wealthiest households in the country, which at the time were generating income from sources with little or no tax. The alternative minimum tax has not been adjusted for inflation since its creation, and now affects many upper and upper-middle income households. This bill would raise taxes on certain oil, investment, and credit companies and increase alternative minimum tax exemptions (summary). It passed the House 233-189. This bill is currently in the Senate Finance Committee.

On June 26, the House passed HR 6052 on a vote of 322-98 (summary). This bill provides $850 million to the Department of Transportation to be used to provide additional public transportation, to lower public transportation fares, and for other similar objectives.

That's it for today, Informed Voter. Look for information on additional recent votes in coming days. And, as always, you can find a list of all of our Congressional key votes from 2008 and links to their summaries here.

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