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Here's What's Happening in Congress:

18 August 2008
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Below is a continuation of our review of some of the key votes taken by Congress before their August recess. Click on the "summary" links to view more information about that piece of legislation. According to the calendar on the Senate website (view here as a pdf), the Congress is expected to reconvene on September 8. If you would like to view blog posts about other votes taken in Congress over the last year or so, click here.

On June 26, the House took a vote on HR 6251 under a suspension of the rules (summary). This bill would require a business that holds leases to drill for oil or gas on federal land to develop those leases before being granted leases to additional land. The vote was 223-195, but failed because of a requirement that it have a two-thirds majority. Considering a bill under a suspension of the rules limits debate on the bill and prohibits amendments, but also carries that two-thirds majority requirement for passage. Also, remember that you can view the yeas and nays for any vote by clicking on "How Members Voted" in the upper right of the summary page.

Also on June 26, the Senate took a vote on the whole of HR 2642. This bill provided new extensions for unemployment benefits, additional education assistance for veterans (new GI bill), funding for midwestern flood cleanup, funding for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a moratorium on certain actions related to the administration of the Medicaid program (summary). This was the final vote on the bill, and this summary reflects the final version that was signed into law by the President. The vote passed the Senate 92-6.

HR 5811, a bill establishing new regulations for archiving electronic messages in the White House and in other federal agencies, was passed by the House on July 9 (summary). The vote was 286-137. This bill is currently in the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

On July 10, the Senate confirmed the President's nomination of General David Patraeus as the leader of military operations in the Middle East region. This vote passed 95-2 (summary). The nomination was PN 1641

The House voted on July 15 on HR 5803. This bill would provide $75 million in grants to state and local governments to make backup paper ballots available for the 2008 elections. This bill was considered under a suspension of the rules, which requires a two-thirds majority, and failed 248-170 (summary).

During mid-July, the House and Senate each had a bill extending and expanding the program through wich the United States provides aid to certain foreign countries to combat HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. This program was originally started in 2003, and had $15 billion authorized for it for the 2003-2008 period. The House bill reauthorizing this program was HR 5501, which the House originally passed in April (summary). The House version provided $50 billion for the program over the next five years, the vast majority of which would be provided for combating HIV/AIDS. The Senate's bill was S 2731. During debate on this bill, the Senate considered an amendment that stated that the only countries eligible for assistance were the countries that have been eligible for assistance in the program so far. This amendment was S Amdt 5078, and it was tabled by a vote of 70-24 (summary). The Senate also considered an amendment to reduce the funding in the bill from $50 billion to $35 billion. This amendment, S Amdt 5077, was rejected by a vote of 31-64 (summary). After the House passed HR 5501, it went to the Senate. The Senate struck all of the language from HR 5501 and inserted the language of S 2731, which was a very similar bill. The Senate then passed this bill by a vote of 80-16 (summary). The House concurred with the Senate version via a vote of 303-115 (summary). This bill was signed into law.

On July 16, the House voted 242-175 to pass HR 415. This bill would add parts of the Taunton River in Massachusetts to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System, which places certain limits on development and other activities that can be performed there (summary). This bill is currently on the Senate calendar and could potentially be brought up for consideration at any time, although there is no guarantee that any particular bill on the calendar will ever be brought up for consideration.

The House passed HR 5959 by voice vote on July 16. This bill authorizes appropriations levels for the intelligence community. During consideration of this bill, the House adopted H Amdt 1114. This amendment prohibits the funds in the bill from being used to discourage the use of the terms "jihadist," "Islamic terrorist," and other such terms by the federal government. The amendment was adopted 249-180 (summary). The bill, HR 5959, is now on the Senate calendar awaiting action.

That's it for today, Informed Voter. Look for information on more key votes in the near future. In the meantime, if you would like to view all of the Project Vote Smart key votes from 2008, a list is availabel here. As always, if you have any questions about any of these bills, or any other topic, feel free to give us a call at our Voter's Research Hotline at 1-888-VOTE-SMART (1-888-868-3762).

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