SPECIAL REPORT | August 17, 2007

Democrats Continue To Deliver On Promise to Put Middle-Class Families First

Over the past several years when Republicans controlled the White House and both houses of Congress, they dramatically increased the burdens on our middle-class families. President Bush’s record of fiscal incompetence and mismanagement, and Republicans’ close ties with special interests, have helped lead to lower wages and skyrocketing costs for basic necessities like gas, health care, and college tuition. 

Middle-class families, and our nation, deserve better. 

Democrats are committed to protecting middle-class tax payers,expanding educational opportunities, improving health and healthcare,providing more affordable and sustainable sources of energy, ensuring better pay and protections for working Americans, and restoring fiscal responsibility to the governance of our country. Under Democratic leadership, the Senate has already passed legislation that would make college more affordable and accessible. In addition, the bipartisan legislation to pass The America COMPETES Act,whichmakes important investments in our students and teachers has been signed into law. Democrats have also approved a balanced budget to restore fiscal responsibility and help promote the type of economic growth that provided so many benefits to middle-class families during the 1990s. 

For more information, see DPC Fact Sheets entitledDemocratic Accomplishments in the 110th Congress: A New Direction for America,Middle-Class Life Under Bush: Less Affordable and Less Secure and State-by-State Facts and Figures on the Bush Administration Middle-Class Squeeze.


Protecting Middle-Class Taxpayers 

Democrats are working to eliminate unfair tax burdens on middle-class Americans. More and more middle-class families are being forced to pay the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT), which was originally intended for the super-wealthy to ensure they paid a minimum amount of tax. The approval of the 2008 Budget Resolution (S. Con. Res. 21) in May will help ensure that the number of taxpayers subject to the AMT will not be allowed to increase in 2007, giving Congress and the Administration time to come up with a permanent solution, and protecting some 20 million middle-class taxpayers from being subject to the tax. 

The Budget Resolution also provides for the extension of tax cuts to minimize fiscal burdens on middle-income families and their children and grandchildren. Thesetax cuts include the: 1) permanent extension of the Marriage Penalty tax relief; 2) permanent extension of the $1,000 refundable Child Tax Credit; 3) permanent extension of the 10 percent income tax bracket; 4) permanent extension of the adoption tax credit; 5) permanent extension of dependent care tax credit; 6) permanent allowance of U.S. soldiers combat pay for the earned income tax credit; and 7) reform of the estate tax to protect small businesses and family farms. For more information, see DPC fact sheet entitled Democrats Pass Budget That Restores Fiscal Discipline, Invests in Middle-Class Priorities.


Expanding Educational Opportunities 

Democrats passed landmark legislation to make college more affordable. While higher education is becoming more and more important to achieving the American dream, access to a college is becoming less and less affordable and accessible. The cost of college has tripled in the past 20 years, but federal financial aid has not kept up. Concern about the increase in student loan debt is causing an increasing number of students to opt out of enrolling in college, or to leave before earning their degree. Democrats believe that as the costs of college rises, the federal government must do more to ensure that college is affordable for all. 

In July, under Democratic leadership, the Senate overwhelmingly passed two measures to make a college education more attainable: theHigher Education Access Act of 2007 (S. 1762) andtheHigher Education Amendments of 2007 (S. 1642). These bills would increase access to higher education, and direct federal dollars where they are needed most: to students. The legislation would increase student aid for low and middle-income students, make student loan debt more manageable, forgive student loan debt for those who commit to public service, hold colleges and states accountable for rising educational costs, simplify the financial aid process, and reform the student loan system to work for students, not banks. Moreover, the higher education legislation, approved by the Senate, would provide benefits to students at no cost to taxpayers by reducing excessive lender subsidies and redirecting federal aid to students who need it most. 

In response to the corruption uncovered by recent investigations of the student loan industry, the legislation would also ensure that colleges are recommending lenders based on the best interest of students, not the self-interest of financial aid officers; prohibit payments, gifts, and other inducements from lenders to colleges and financial aid administrators that create conflicts of interest; and require colleges to establish and follow a code of conduct with respect to student loans.


For more information, see DPC fact sheet entitled Democrats Pass Landmark Legislation Making College More Affordable

On a broadly bipartisan basis, the 110thCongress has approved important investments to strengthen the math and science foundation of our students and teachers. The America COMPETES Act(H.R. 2272), signed into law by the President on August 9 (P.L. 110-69), follows through on a commitment by Democratic Leadership to ensure that students, teachers, businesses and workers are prepared to continue leading the world in innovation, research, and technology – well into the future. The America COMPETES Act provides incentives to increase math and science education to ensure that America retains its competitive edge in the future by taking a chance on the best and brightest young minds. The AmericaCOMPETES Act

  • Provides for $150 million in investments in K-12 science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education programs at the Department of Energy, including programs to: 

·Help establish or expand statewide specialty high schools in STEM education;

·Provide internship opportunities for middle and high-school students at the national labs, with priority given to students from high-needs schools;

·Establish a Center of Excellence in STEM education in at least one high-need public secondary school in each national lab region in order to develop and disseminate best practices in STEM education; and

·Establish or expand summer institutes at the national labs and partner universities in order to improve the STEM content knowledge of K-12 teachers throughout the country; 

  • Expands programs at National Science Foundation to enhance the undergraduate education of the future science and engineering workforce, including at 2-year colleges and including increases for K-12 STEM education programs; 
  • To enhance teacher education in the STEM fields and critical foreign languages, authorizes two new competitive grant programs that will enable partnerships to implement courses of study in mathematics, science, engineering, technology or critical foreign languages in ways that lead to a baccalaureate degree with concurrent teacher certification;
  • Authorizes competitive grants to increase the number of teachers serving high-need schools and expand access to Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) classes and to increase the number of qualified AP and IB teachers in high-need schools; and
  • Authorizes two new grant programs to enhance math education in elementary and middle schools. 

For more information, see DPC fact sheet entitled The 110th Congress Passes a Bipartisan Initiative to Strengthen American Competitiveness

Congressional Democrats have taken steps to increase funding for education and training programs. The 2008 Budget Resolution passed by the House and Senate in May provides for an increase in discretionary spending for education and training programs of $9.5 billion (including $2 billion in additional 2009 advance appropriations) above President Bush's 2008 Budget Request. Recognizing that investments in education and training programs are critical to our nation’s long-term economic outlook, the Budget Resolution rejected the President’s program eliminations and cuts and provided additional funding for investments in educational opportunities, social services, and job training. The resolution also provides for the largest increase since 2002 in funding for elementary and secondary programs, particularly for Title I, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and Impact Aid. 

Improving Health and Health Care for our Middle-Class Families 

Democrats are committed to expanding federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. Embryonic stem cells have the unique ability to develop into virtually every cell and tissue in the body, and stem cell research is giving hope to millions of people with debilitating diseases and disabilities who may one day benefit from embryonic stem cell therapies. Scientists report that the restrictions President Bush has imposed on the number of stem cell lines eligible for federally-funded research is hindering progress. Last year, the President vetoed bipartisan legislation that would have expanded the number of embryonic stem cell lines eligible for federally-funded research. 

Undeterred, Congress again passed legislation to expand the number of human embryonic stem cells eligible for federally-funded research. S. 5, the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007, directs the Health and Human Services Secretary to conduct and support embryonic stem cell research, regardless of when the stem cells were derived, provided that: 1) the stem cells were derived from embryos donated from in vitro fertilization clinics, were created for fertility treatment, and are in excess of what was needed for those treatments; 2) the embryos would never be implanted in a woman and would otherwise be discarded; and 3) the individuals who donated embryos have provided their written informed consent and have not received any financial or other inducements for making the donation. 

On June 20, President Bush vetoed S. 5, for the second time, blocking legislation to advance research on embryonic stem cells. Both S. 5 and the legislation vetoed by the president in the last Congress were approved by bipartisan majorities in both the House and the Senate, with nearly universal support from Democrats. S. 5 has the support of the overwhelming majority of Americans, as well as major medical and scientific associations, research universities and institutions, and dozens of patient advocacy organizations. More than 100 million Americans suffer from diseases or conditions that could one day be treated with therapies derived from stem cell research. The President’s veto is a devastating setback for them. That is why Democrats will continue to fight to expand the President’s misguided policy. 

For more information, see DPC Fact Sheets entitled, President Bush Blocks Legislation to Advance Stem Cell Research...Again and NIH Director Agrees that Federally Funded Scientists Should Have Access to New Embryonic Stem Cell Lines.

Senate Democrats have led the way toward creating a stronger Food and Drug Administration (FDA) by establishing a new and better direction for the safety of the drugs we take and the food we eat.In May, the Senate passed S. 1082, the Food and Drug Administration Revitalization Act, which would greatly improve the FDA’s oversight of drug safety. The measure ensures that the FDA will no longer have to wait on legal opinions before making critical public health decisions. The bill also addresses misleading prescription drug ads by providing a constitutionally sound, effective, workable way to ensure that ads targeting consumers contain accurate information about the drug. S. 1082 will further end the abuse of so-called “citizen petitions,” while preserving the FDA’s ability to review any such petitions that have public health merit. 

In this new era of the life sciences, Democrats have no doubt that medical advances will continue to bring immense benefits for our citizens. Thus, we are working to ensure that we have strong, vigilant public health watchdogs to guarantee that new drugs and medical devices are safe and beneficial, and that they actually reach the patients who urgently need them. 

See the background and summary section of the DPC Legislative Bulletin entitled, S. 1082, the Food and Drug Administration Revitalization Act, for more information on this legislation.


Democrats are working to ensure fair prices for Medicare prescription drugs and improve the drug benefit for beneficiaries. When it comes to the Medicare prescription program,Democrats want to put seniors, people with disabilities, and taxpayers first. Democrats support legislation to eliminate the current-law prohibition on drug price negotiations in order to help ensure that all people with Medicare have access to the fairest prices for their medicines. Unfortunately, to date, Republicans have sided with special interests, and blocked pertinent legislation through a filibuster. 

Democrats support drug re-importation to remedy high prescription drug costs. U.S. consumers pay the highest prices for prescription drugs in the entire world, and these high prices reduce access to life-saving medications, particularly for the millions of Americans who lack prescription drug coverage. That is why Democrats support S. 242, the Pharmaceutical Market Access and Drug Safety Act, bi-partisan legislation which would allow American consumers, pharmacies and drug wholesalers to import FDA-approved drugs from Canada, Europe and other countries with drug safety systems similar to those in the U.S. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that this legislation would save U.S. consumers more than $50 billion over the next decade. 

The 110th Congress is working in a bipartisan manner to enact mental health parity legislation. Mental illness is a pervasive and often devastating health problem that, fortunately, is often treatable. Yet many Americans do not receive necessary mental health services due to financial constraints, stigma and other factors. To help reduce these barriers to care, the Democratic-led Senate is poised to approve S. 558, the Mental Health Parity Act of 2007. This bi-partisan legislation prohibits a group health plan that offers mental health coverage from imposing financial requirements or treatment limitations on mental health benefits that are more restrictive than the financial requirements or treatment limitations applied to the plan’s medical and surgical benefits. The legislation dos not mandate that group health plans provide any mental health coverage, but it does not preempt state mandate laws that require coverage of mental health benefits.


Providing Americans with More Affordable and Sustainable Sources of Energy 

In June, the Senate passed theRenewable Fuels, Consumer Protection, and Energy Efficiency Act of 2007 (H.R. 6) (previously titled the CLEAN Energy Act of 2007), landmark energy legislationthat will increase our energy independence, strengthen the economy, reduce global warming emissions, and protect consumers. The bill includes provisions to increase appliance efficiency, reduce oil consumption by 35 percent by 2030, increase production of homegrown renewable fuels to 36 billion gallons by 2022 with measures to protect the environment, encourage the President to make the United States a leader in energy diplomacy, and make price gouging a punishable crime during declared energy emergencies. The Senate bill raises fuel efficiency standards by 10 miles-per-gallon (MPG) for cars and light trucks for the first time in 20 years. Assuming that gas prices remain at today’s levels ($2.75 per gallon), the changes will save a middle-class family with two vehicles with an average fuel economy of 25 MPG, or about $950 dollars per year at the pump. For more information, see DPC Fact Sheets entitled Senate Passes Landmark Energy Legislation, Senate Democrats Work to Protect Consumers and Move Toward Energy Independence, and The Impact of High Fuel Prices on the American Economy and Businesses

Democrats are also advancing a sustainable national energy policy that promotes energy independence, protects the environment, and confronts global climate change with increased funding for energy and environment programs. H.J.Res. 20, the Revised Continuing Appropriations Resolution, 2007, increased fiscal year 2007 funding for basic science research at the Department of Energy by $200 million and for energy efficiency and renewable energy programs by $300 million. Efficiency and conservation are the cheapest and fastest ways to reduce energy costs for low- and middle-class families as well as reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Bush Administration’s 2008 Budget Request proposed cuts to energy efficiency and conservation programs by $112 million. 

In addition, in the 2008 Budget Resolution, congressional Democrats increased funding for energy and environmental programs, which have sustained dramatic cuts during the Bush Administration. Among many other cuts, the Bush Administration reduced funding for clean water, public lands, oceans, climate research, energy efficiency and conservation, and energy cost assistance for low-income Americans. While the Administration has cut these important programs, the President, in his 2008 Budget Request, failed to repeal lucrative subsidies for oil and gas companies and failed to budget for any extension of the renewable energy production tax credit and solar investment tax credit beyond their current expiration date in 2008, which would create high paying jobs across the country. Senate Democrats remain committed to repealing unneeded and unnecessary tax breaks for the major oil companies and investing those savings in a sustainable energy policy. 

While Republicans blocked the inclusion of the tax title to H.R. 6 that would have rescinded certain excessive tax breaks for the major oil and gas companies, Senate Democrats remain committed to repealing these unneeded and unnecessary tax breaks and investing those savings in a more sustainable energy policy. The long-term extension and expansion of renewable energy tax credits and consumer incentives for buying green productswill create new-high paying jobs for the middle class, especially in rural America, and help to reinvigorate manufacturing across the country. A recent study conducted by the non-partisan Apollo Alliance and Urban Habitat found that for each megawatt of solar photovoltaic electricity generated, about 22 jobs are created. Geothermal energy creates 10.5 jobs per megawatt, and wind energy creates 6.4 jobs per megawatt. 

For more information, see DPC Fact Sheets entitled Senate Democrats at Work for the American People on Energy Independence, Environmental Protection, and Climate Changeand President Bush's Budget Cuts Environmental, Natural Resource and Energy Independence Programs.


Ensuring Better Pay and Protections for Working Americans 

The Democrats’ Employee Free Choice Act would help to restore middle class security. No surprise to workers seeking to organize, our current laws governing union formation are in desperate need of repair. Pores in our labor laws have left millions of workers vulnerable to aggressive anti-union campaigns, in which some employers are allowed to intimidate, harass, and even fire workers who try to unionize without fear of serious repercussion.Worse, nearly one-third of workers who are able to form a union never attain their first contract because there is no effective penalty for employers who refuse to bargain in good faith. 

Had Senate Republicans not obstructed the bill, the Democratic-sponsored, the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) (H.R. 800),would have restored workers' freedom to form unions and collectively bargain by: 1) strengthening penalties for companies that coerce or intimidate employees; 2) establishing mediation and binding arbitration guidelines when employers and workers cannot agree on a first contract and 3) enabling employees to form unions when a majority express their desire to do so by signing authorization cards. 

As our middle class shrinks and more and more Americans are struggle to make ends meet, the ability to form a union is key to the economic stability, health, and safety of families. A union worker’s median weekly earnings are 30 percent higher than a non-union worker, union workers are 63 percent more likely to have employer-provided health insurance, and union workers are 77 percent more likely to have short-term disability benefits. Moreover, according to a recent poll, 60 million Americans say they would join a union if they could. 

Instead of clearing the path to unionization, every Senate Republican voted to block consideration of EFCA – to the advantage of large corporations and the disadvantage of working Americans. Disappointed, but undeterred, Democrats are still committed to working on behalf of middle-class families to level the playing field between employer and employee in the union organization process. For more information, see DPC fact sheet entitled Myth vs. Reality: The Reality is the Employee Free Choice Act Helps American Workers and their Families and H.R. 800, the Employee Free Choice Act of 2007

Democrats are working to end pay discrimination on the basis of sex, race, age, and disability. In May 2007, the Supreme Court dealt working Americans and their families a severe blow when it ruled 5 to 4 in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., Inc. that the statute of limitations on a pay discrimination on the basis of sex lawsuit begins with the original discriminatory pay decision, instead of the statue of limitations beginning with, for example, each pay check reflecting the discrimination. With this decision, the Court’s majority created an outrageous incentive structure where, to be safe, an employee must begin a reconnaissance mission the moment she receives her first pay check to determine whether she is the victim of pay discrimination. Moreover, an employer need only keep an employee in the dark for six months after an initial discriminatory pay decision before being cleared of a discrimination lawsuit, even though the employee will continue to suffer from the affects of that decision with each pay check andmay not become aware of the disparate pay until long after the decision. 

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, writing for the minority, noted that "[p]ay disparities often occur … in small increments; cause to suspect that discrimination is at work develops only over time … Congress never intended to immunize forever discriminatory pay differentials unchallenged within 180 days of their adoption… [E]ven a relatively minor pay disparity will expand exponentially over an employee's working life if raises are set as a percentage of prior pay.” Beyond sex discrimination, Justice Ginsberg also warned that the Court’s decision will likely truncate the ability to file lawsuits against employment discrimination on the basis of race, religion, age, and disability. 

Disappointed by the Court majority’s misinterpretation of Congress’s intent, Democrats immediately offered legislation overturn the Court’s decision. In July, the House passed H.R. 2831, the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2007,and Senate Democrats, joined by two Republicans, introduced S. 1843, the Fair Pay Restoration Act. Both bills clarify that an unlawful employment practice can occur with each discriminatory pay check. These measures have been praised by labor groups for reasserting “America's commitment to fairness, and restor[ing] longstanding protections against discrimination.” President Bush, on the other hand, has threatened to veto the House bill. Undeterred, Democrats are committed to clearing unfair and unnecessary roadblocks to identifying and ending pay discrimination. The nearly 153 million working Americans – nearly 71 million of whom are women – deserve nothing less. (BNA Daily Labor Report, "House Passes Pay Discrimination Legislation That Aims to Counter Supreme Court Ruling," 8/1/07)


Restoring Fiscal Responsibility 

Democrats have approved a balanced budget to restore fiscal responsibility and help promote the economic growth that provided so many benefits to middle-class families during the 1990s. With the approval of the 2008 Budget Resolution in May, Democrats have passed a budget that restores fiscal discipline and puts the middle class first. It begins to reverse six years of fiscal mismanagement and harmful cuts in key areas. It leads to balance and an actual surplus, while cutting middle-class taxes and funding priorities like education, childrens health care, veterans, and our troops – all without raising taxes. 

Although it is not signed into law, the Budget Resolution establishes the overall levels available for discretionary appropriations and for direct spending under the jurisdiction of authorizing committees. Under the Budget Resolution, this is accomplished in the same common-sense way that our middle-class families manage their own household budgets – by balancing their checkbooks and paying their bills so that they do not burden their children and grandchildren with future debt. For more information, see DPC fact sheet entitled Democrats Pass Budget That Restores Fiscal Discipline, Invests in Middle-Class Priorities




  • Erika Moritsugu (224-3232)


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