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Here's What's Happening in Congress:

13 May 2008
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This is a brief recap of the votes that have taken place recently in Congress that Project Vote Smart has selected to summarize under the Key Votes Program (Click here to view our selection criteria.). We have selected eight votes since the last recap on April 28th (Click here to view similar recent posts recapping Congressional votes.).

On April 29, the House passed the Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008 (S 2739). Among other things, this bill extends certain federal labor and immigration laws to the Northern Mariana Islands, give the Northern Mariana Islands a delegate in the U.S. House, and establishes the Wild Sky Wilderness Protection Area in Washington state, creates heritage areas, and provides for certain water projects around the country. It passed the House by a vote of 291-117 (Note that on the roll call lists on our website, you can reorganize the list by state, district, name, party, or vote simply by clicking on the column headers.). This bill was signed by the President on May 8 and became Public Law 110-229.

The following day, the House passed HR 5522, a bill requiring OSHA to establish combustable dust safety standards within 18 months of the bill's enactment. This bill passed the House by a vote of 247-165.

The first Key Vote from May happened on the first of the month. On this date, the House had a concurrence vote on HR 5715. The concurrence vote passed 388-21. This bill sets up provisions regarding school loans. It increases the amount limits undergraduate and graduate students are able to borrow and provides for the federal government to purchase loans from lenders if there is a shortage of capital for making new loans. The President signed this bill on May 7 and it became Public Law 110-227.

On May 7, the Senate took up consideration of S 2284, an extension of the National Flood Insurance Program. We selected a vote on Senate Amendment 4719. This amendment would have required the National Flood Insurance Program to offer an optional "multi-peril" insurance that covers wind and water damage, rather than just water damage as the plans offered under the program currently do. The amendment was rejected by the Senate 19-74.

The House took four votes on May 8 that we have selected for the Key Votes Program. These all concerned mortgage foreclosure assistance. Two bills were considered which contained various provisions for this end. The first was HR 3221. This bill initially started in the House as an energy bill in 2007. It passed the House and was sent to the Senate. The Senate stripped all of the language from the bill and rewrote it as foreclosure bill with certain tax incentives for energy conservation and renewable energy use. The bill was then sent back to the House for a concurrence. The House, in a procedurally relatively unusual move, considered the bill three separate times and voted on three changes in the text. The first vote incorporated the text of several other bills that had already passed the House or were awaiting action on the House floor. These bills that were incorporated into HR 3221 contained a wide array of related assistance provisions. Project Vote Smart is currently working on the summary for this vote, but you can find it at this link when it is finished. The vote passed 266-154.

Immediately following that vote, the House took another vote to change the text further. This second vote added several tax provision changes related to foreclosures. News articles noted in particular a provision that provides certain families with a tax deduction of about $7,500 for the purchase of a new home. This vote also contained other tax provisions. Project Vote Smart is currently working on the summary for this vote, as well, but you can find it at this link when it is finished. The vote passed 322-94.

The other foreclosure bill the House considered that day was HR 5818. This bill provides for a grant program through which state would be able to puchase certain foreclosed houses and resell them, in some cases to low-income families. This bill passed the House 239-188. The House also considered an amendment on this bill, House Amendment 1045, that specified that undocumented immigrants will not be eligible for assistance under this bill. The amendment was adopted on a vote of 391-33.

If you have any questions about these bills, or any other questions about the legislative process or pieces of legislation, please give us a call at 1-888-868-3762 or email us at comments@votesmart.org and we will be more than happy to provide any assistance we can.

Until next time, Informed Voter!

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