SPECIAL REPORT | February 12, 2008

Democratic Accomplishments in the 110th Congress: A New Direction for America

In the Face of Relentless Republican Obstructionism, Senate Democrats Remain Committed to Working for Change 

In 2006, Democrats were elected to take the country in a new direction by advancing the priorities of the American people. By the end of the first session, under Democratic leadership, the 110th Congress had made significant down-payments on those expectations. After nearly a decade of Republican control, Democrats have worked to stimulate the slowing economy, restore fiscal responsibilityin Washington, fund the government, and pass key legislation on countering terrorism, homeland security, troop readiness, veterans’ care, crime, energy independence,competitiveness, ethics reform, labor and wages, small businesses, health care, nutrition, education, stem cell research, economic security, housing, transportation, water infrastructure, government accountability, and Gulf Coast revitalization. 

Though proud of these accomplishments for the country, Senate Democrats are far from satisfied. President Bush and Bush Republicans have stood in the way of progress time and time again and have often refused to work with Democrats in good faith to address the needs of the nation. The American people are fed-up; they are tired of partisan politics, and Democrats share their frustration. 

In 2008, Senate Democrats will not rest until we have addressed the key domestic and international priorities of our nation. We invite Republicans to join us. Together, with the American people at our side, Congress can and will take the country in a new direction.


Stimulating the Economy, Restoring Fiscal Responsibility and Investing in America’s Priorities 

The 110th Congress responded to the needs of the nation by passing a stimulus package that helps boost the economy and help America’s families.On February 7, both Houses of Congress passed H.R. 5140, the Economic Stimulus Act of 2008, by overwhelmingly bipartisan votes. In passing this legislation so quickly, the Democratic-led Congress has kept its promise to effectively mitigate an economic downturn. While we recognize that there are structural problems in the economy that the short-term stimulus measure will not solve, the bill will provide direct financial relief to those who need it most and are most likely to use it to jumpstart the slowing economy. The measure, expected to be signed the President in the coming days, will: 

·Issue a $300 – 600 rebate for individuals, or a $600- $1200 rebate for married couples, including seniors living only on Social Security and disabled veterans;

·Provide a $300-per child tax credit;

·Help families at risk of foreclosure by expanding mortgage financing opportunities; and

·Promote job-creating business investments by providing tax relief for American businesses, especially small businesses.


With Democrats at the helm, Congress passed a budget that restores fiscal discipline and puts middle-class families first, without raising new taxes. In 2001, the country enjoyed a $5.6 trillion ten-year projected surplus. Under the Bush Administration, that surplus was squandered, and the national debt ballooned from $5.8 trillion in 2001 to a projected $9 trillion by the end of 2007, all the while key domestic programs were left un-funded or under-funded and, as a result, average Americans suffered. In May 2007, Democrats began the process of reversing six years of fiscal mismanagement and irresponsible budget cuts by passing S. Con. Res. 21,the Budget Resolution for Fiscal Year 2008 (2008 Budget Resolution)

The Democratic-led Congress passed a budget that will lead to balance and a surplus. Measures in the 2008 Budget Resolution provide for cutting middle-class taxes, and funding domestic andforeign priorities, including education, childrens health care, veterans’ care, troops readiness, energy independence, and environmental protection. Under the resolution,the federal budget would be balanced within five years and, by 2012, there would be a surplus of more than $40 billion, all without raising a penny of new taxes. 

The2008 Budget Resolution also re-established the pay-as-you-go rule in the Senate, which requires that any new mandatory spending or tax cuts be offset or get 60 votes. This rule helped restore fiscal discipline before, in the 1990s, and its reinstatement represents a major step toward fiscal responsibility now. 

See the DPC Fact Sheet entitled, Democrats Pass Budget That Restores Fiscal Discipline, Invests in Middle-Class Priorities, for more information on the 2008 Budget Resolution.


The 110thCongress achieved what the last year’s Republican-led Congress did not: Democrats funded America’s priorities for Fiscal Year 2008…in 2007.

·Democrats passed legislation to strengthen our military and ensure adequate funding for the Department of Defense.On October 3, 2007 the Democratic-led Senate approved H.R. 3222, the Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2008. The bill provides $459.3 billion in funding to the Department of Defense, which represents an increase of 9.5 percent over Fiscal Year 2007 levels. These funds will help restore the readiness of our overstretched forces and fully support the needs of our servicemen and women by investing in equipment, training, and cutting-edge weaponry, and also providing our military personnel and their families with the care and benefits they have earned and deserve. The bill was signed into law by the President on November 13, 2007 (P.L. 110-116). Specifically, the legislation will provide: 

·Military health care.The bill provides $23.5 billion for military health care, which is $918 million above the President’s requested amount. 

·Military pay raise.The bill funds a 3.5 percent raise for all military personnel, which is 0.5 percent above the President’s request. 

·National Guard and Reserve equipment.The bill includes $980 billion above the President’s requested amount to address critical equipment shortfalls. 

·Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles.The bill includes $11.6 billion for MRAP funding, to better-protect our troops fighting in Iraqand Afghanistanfrom deadly roadside bombs; 

·Family support initiatives.The bill provides $2.6 billion for family support and advocacy programs, which is $237 million above the President’s request; and

·Readiness programs.The bill includes $140.1 billion for key readiness programs that prepare forces for combat operations as well as critical peace-time missions. 

·The Democratic-led Senate approved a funding bill that better reflects America’s priorities for Fiscal Year 2008. In spite of Senate Republicans who have been committed to blocking critical needs and a President who has refused to negotiate in good faith, the Democratic Congress passed a Fiscal Year 2008 appropriations bill that addresses the needs and priorities of the American people. Specifically, H.R. 2764, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2008 (P.L. 110-151) signed by the President on December 12, 2007) makes investments to:


·Support agriculture, forestry, and rural development programs.(Agriculture). 

Division A of the bill provides $18.1 billion in total funding with $16.26 billion for the operations at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), $1.71 billion for work at the Food and Drug Administration, and $111 million for United States Commodity Future Trading Commission. This rejects the President's proposed $24 million cut to the USDA and is $263 million above the President's budget request. The bill makes investments to: 

·Ensure the safety of our food supply; 

·Serve approximately 8.55 million low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and non-breastfeeding postpartum women, and infants and children up to age five who are found to be at nutritional risk; and 

·Help rural Americabetter handle the current problems in the housing market by providing funding for single and multi-family rural housing needs;

·Strengthenthe economy and promote American competitiveness, protect our nation against terrorism and violent crime, and promote scientific advancements. (Commerce-Justice-Science) 

Division B of H.R. 2764 will strengthen the economy and promote American competitiveness, protect our nation against terrorism and violent crime, and promote scientific advancements by providing $51.8 billion in funding for the Department of Commerce (including the National Institute of Standards and Technology Research (NIST)), Department of Justice (including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)), and Science-related agencies (including the National Aeronautics Space Administration (NASA)) for Fiscal Year 2008. This is $688 million above the president’s request and $1.5 billion over Fiscal Year 2007 funding levels. Division B also includes $286 million in emergency appropriations for border and cyber security. The bill makes investments to: 

·Help the FBI focus on counterterrorism and crime prevention activities; 

·Provide $2.7 billion for state and local law enforcement and crime prevention grants, including the Community Organized Policing Services’ (COPS) and COPS hiring program, which gives police departments across the country the tools needed to prevent, detect, and stop traditional street crime; and 

·Fight illegal drug use. 

·Help ensure that the country maintains its position as the global leader in science research and technology through the National Science Foundation; 

·Promotes U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness by assisting industry in developing technology to improve product quality, modernize manufacturing processes, ensure product reliability, and facilitate rapid commercialization of products based on new scientific discoveries through NIST; and 

·Provide important funding for NASA to ensure that the United Statesremains the world’s preeminent leader in manned space flight.


·Help reduce America's dependence on oil, protect the environment, and support development of our nation’s water resources. (Energy and Water) 

Division C of H.R. 2764 will fund important programs within the Department of Energy, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Bureau of Reclamation by providing provides $30.9 billion in funding for programs that will help reduce America's dependence on oil, improve the environment, and support development of our America’s water resources. This funding amount matches the President's proposed budget numbers and $1.6 billion more than enacted Fiscal Year 2007 levels. The bill makes investments to: 

·Conduct essential research into reducing America’s reliance on oil and developing renewable energy technologies that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions; 

·Support a series of advanced technology projects and climate change research; and 

·Help the Army Corps of Engineers protect, improve, and rebuild the nation’s water resources infrastructure.

·Enhance consumer protections, strengthen local economies, provide support for small businesses, and improve services for American taxpayers. (Financial Services and General Government) 

Division D ofH.R. 2764 provides $20.6 billion in funding for the Department of the Treasury, Executive Office of the President, the Judiciary, the District of Columbia, and 20 independent agencies. This is $1.1 billion below the President’s request and $1.1 billion over Fiscal Year 2007 funding. Division D also includes $250 million in emergency funds for border security. 

The bill makes investments to: 

·Provide additional funding for the Consumer Product Safety Commission to improve its ability to safeguard consumers against dangerous products and redouble its efforts to keep dangerous toys and other products out of children’s hands; 

·Support community and economic development through the Community Development Financial Institutions Fund, which promotes access to capital and spur economic growth in urban and rural low-income communities across the nation; and encourage the entrepreneurship that is the engine of the U.S. economy through small business programs; 

·Improve taxpayer services Taxpayer Services to help make the often daunting process of filing tax returns simpler and less burdensome; and create a demonstration grant program to help Community Volunteer Tax Assistance (VITA) programs provide volunteer income tax preparation services for low-income individual taxpayers; 

·Provide a 3.5 percent cost-of-living adjustment for the civilian federal workforce to continue the tradition of pay-parity between civilian and military employees; 

·Protect judicial personnel, witnesses, and family members of judicial personnel; 

·Implement of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) to provide grants to help states comply with the federal law, including upgrading voting machines and voter registration databases so that they are ready for the 2008 Presidential Election; 

·Permit the District to spend local funds for a needle exchange program to combat the epidemic spread of HIV/AIDS. While, on average, the United States has 14 cases of HIV per 100,000 people, there are 128 cases per 100,000 people in Washington, D.C. In previous appropriations for the District, use of federal and local funds for this purpose was prohibited; and 

·Help continue the progress on capital improvements in the Judiciary Square complex, including restoration of the Old Courthouse for occupancy by the Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C.


·Improve disaster preparedness programs and better secure American borders, ports, and transit systems against terrorist threats. (Homeland Security) 

Division E of H.R. 2764 provides $34.85 billion in base funding, which is $550 million above the President’s budget request and nearly $3 billion above Fiscal Year 2007 levels, excluding emergency supplemental appropriations. The bill also provides an additional $2.7 billion in emergency funding for Fiscal Year 2008 for border security, not requested by the President. The bill makes investments to: 

·Support critical homeland security grantprograms; 

·Increase funding for state and local first responder grants and training programs, including Urban Area, homeland security, transit, fire, Emergency Management Performance, Metropolitan Medical Response System, and Regional Catastrophic Preparedness grants; 

·Provide REAL ID grants to help states comply with DHS requirements for drivers’ licenses; 

·Fund port security grants under the SAFE Port Act and provide funding for Coast Guard port and maritime security programs; address the shortage of Coast Guard response boats protecting our ports; hire up to 200 additional Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) officers at ports nationwide; fund improvements in container security (C-TPAT); and improve intelligence, information-sharing and coordination among federal, state and local maritime authorities; 

·Bolsteraviation security, including increasing the procurement and installation of explosives detection equipment at airports; enhancing screening of air cargo placed on passenger aircraft; increasing vulnerability assessments of general aviation aircraft; increasing the number of canine explosive detection teams; funding card reader pilot programs for the transportation worker identification credential (TWIC) and airport checkpoint screening technologies; 

·Provideborder security fencing, infrastructure and technology and CBP facility construction funding; additional helicopters and eleven new marine enforcement units for northern border surveillance; and support the US-VISIT program; 

·Support Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) initiatives to identify and provide removal proceedings for criminal aliens and provide funding for detention and removal operations; 

·Help the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) rebuild its core competencies and improve management and ensure that state and local governments are prepared to respond to disasters; 

·Address unmet border security and immigration enforcement needs through Emergency Border Security Funding; and 

·Fund the chemical site inspection program. 

·Provide future and current generations with clean air and water, support firefighting activities, and improve America's national parks.(Interior/Environmental Protection)


Division F of H.R. 2764 provides $26.6 billion in funding to support programs that will help. This funding amount is $900 million above the President’s budget request and $200 million more than enacted Fiscal Year 2007 appropriations. The bill also includes $300 million in emergency funding for firefighting. The bill makes investments to: 

·Fund the drinking water state revolving fund, the clean water state revolving fund, and sewer and water grants to improve drinking water quality and polluted waters across the United States; 

·Distribute clean air grants to states, and fund clean air research grants to reduce emissions from diesel fuel; 

·Take important steps to protect the environment and the health of all Americans by allocating funding for the Superfund, air toxics and quality, and the Toxic Substances and Disease Registry; 

·Provide critical financial assistance through the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program to those counties across the country that have large amount of land owned by the federal government. 

·Fund the nation’s labor, health, and education programs. (Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies) 

Division G of H.R. 2764 provides $144.8 billion in discretionary funding for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and related agencies. This amount is $300 million above the Fiscal Year 2007 comparable level for these agencies and departments and $3.9 billion above the President’s budget proposal. In addition to the funding in the base bill, H.R. 2764 will also provide $307 million in emergency funds for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and for health monitoring and treatment needs for emergency responders, residents, and workers exposed to toxins at or around the World Trade Center Disaster site. The bill makes investments to: 

·Support critical medical researchat theNational Institutes of Health, including biomedical research and research into diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease;. 

·Increase access to health care through the Community Health Centers program, which includes community health centers, migrant health centers, and health care centers for the homeless.These organizations provide primary health care and social services for those without other access to care; 

·Increase Title I grants for K-12 education, providing extra academic support to help raise the achievement of disadvantaged students in high-poverty schools or districts; 

·Expand and improve the successful Head Start early childhood education program;

 ·Provide financial assistance to make college more affordable for millions of studentsthrough and increase in the maximum Pell Grant, need-based financial assistance that helps low- and middle-income undergraduate students and their families pay the costs of postsecondary education and vocational training; 

·Provide greater assistance to students with disabilities to ensure they have access to a free, appropriate public education; 

·Alleviate poverty through the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) program, which provides states, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, U.S. Territories, Indian Tribes and tribal organizations, community action agencies, migrant and seasonal farm workers or other organizations designated by the states, funds to alleviate the causes and conditions of poverty in communities; 

·Assist low-income households in meeting the rising costs of home energy through the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) awards grants to states, territories, Indian tribes, and tribal organizations to assist low-income households in meeting the costs of home energy; 

·Invest in workforce development programs, which enhance job training and employment assistance services at the local level for economically disadvantaged veterans, dislocated workers, civilian adults, and at-risk youth; 

·Fundthe International Labor Affairs Bureau (ILAB) to support the effort to eliminate exploitative and abusive child labor and to support a new initiative to address worker rights in foreign countries with which the UShas trade preference programs; 

·Help the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) meet its legal obligation to conduct 100 percent of mandatory health and safety inspections; and 

·Reduce the backlog of Social Security disability claims. Currently, it takes more than 550 days to process an appeal, up more than 300 days from fiscal year 2000

·Fund the legislative branch of government.(Legislative Branch) 

Division H of H.R. 2764 funds the activities of the legislative branch at $4 billion, which is $400 million below the President’s proposal but $100 million more than the Fiscal Year 2007 enacted level. This bill makes investments to fund: 

·the House of Representatives and the Senate;

·the Library of Congress, the Congressional Budget Office, the Government Printing Office, and the Government Accountability Office to help improve Congressional oversight efforts;

·the Architect of the Capitol and the Capitol Police, which will be merged with the Library of Congress Police.

·Provide the largest increase in veterans’ spending in the history of the United States. (Military Construction and Veterans’ Affairs) 

Division I of H.R. 2764 provides a total of $60.2 billion in discretionary funding for military construction and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), as well as an additional $3.7 billion in emergency funding for veterans. The total amount provided is $3.2 billion above the President’s budget request, and $14.1 billion above the Fiscal Year 2007 funding level. Veterans’affairs programs would receive $43.1 billion, which is$3.7 billion above the President’s proposal and $6.6 billion above enacted Fiscal Year 2007 appropriations (excluding FY 2007 emergency supplemental funding). The bill makes investments to: 

·Fullyfund veterans’ medical care, VA hospitals and clinics, and medical research; 

·Allow the VA to increase funding for the growing number of combat-related injuries such as Traumatic Brain Injury and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, without shortchanging the health care needs of veterans from previous conflicts; 

·Improve the management and efficiency of the VA health care system; 

·Fund medical facilities, including non-recurring maintenance of VA hospitals and clinics to ensure that VA facilities do not fall to the same neglect experienced at Walter Reed; 

·Provide for medical and prosthetic research; 

·Hire up to 1,800 new claims processors to address the backlog of the more than 400,000 disability claims pending at the Veterans Benefits Administration; 

·Fund construction needs at VA hospitals and clinics; and 

·Address the construction and maintenance needs, including critical renovations and repairs, at military facilities and military family housing.

·Fight international terrorism, strengthen diplomacy, and combat the global HIV/AIDS pandemic. (State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs) 

Division J of H.R. 2764 provides $32.8 billion in funding for Department of State operations, embassy security and foreign aid programs, as well as U.S.contributions to international organizations. This is $2.1 billion below the President’s proposal and $1.5 billion over enacted Fiscal Year 2007 appropriations. The bill makes investments to: 

·Promote global health, including HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care programs around the world; Global Fund grants to countries for AIDS, TB and malaria prevention, treatment and care programs; and Global Health and Child Survival programs; 

·Help displaced people around the world with food, water, shelter and other basic needs; 

·Support peacekeeping activities, includingthe UN-African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur as well as peacekeeping missions throughout the world, including in Liberia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, southern Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Haiti, Timor-Leste, the Middle East, and Kosovo; 

·Fund the participation of over 42,000 individuals in educational, cultural and professional exchange programs worldwide; and 

·Provide funding for radio programs critical to the nation’s overall public diplomacy efforts.

·Improve America's transportation infrastructure and a variety community development programs.(Transportation, Housing and Urban Development) 

Division K of H.R. 2764 provides $103.4 billion for the Department of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development. This represents an increase of $3.1 billion above the President’s request and $4.9 billion more than the Fiscal Year 2007 enacted level. The bill makes investments to: 

·Providecritical funding to help address the glaring needs to rehabilitate and construct roads and bridges throughout the country, including $195 million for emergency reconstruction funds for Minneapolis to rebuild the I-35W bridge; 

·Prevent Amtrak’s bankruptcy and continue the ongoing work to improve the railroad’s infrastructure and current services. 

·Support a number of measures that will improve air traffic congestion and safety, including providing airport modernization, safety, and efficiency grants; funding aviation safety activities and FAA procurement requirements; speeding up the deployment of the next generation of air traffic control equipment; and restoring the President’s proposed $60 million cut to the Essential Air Service, which helps maintain aviation service to our nation’s rural communities; 

Provide funding for Section 8 tenant based voucher program to subsidize housing costs, provide relocation assistance, and assist residents with job training; ensure the development of affordable housing for 1.3 million low-income families and individuals; and create housing for low-income elderly and disabled Americans; 

·Provide new housing vouchers for more than 7,500 homeless veterans, including those returning from Iraq; 

·Restore funding for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and Hope VI programs, which invest in housing infrastructure projects in states and localities to provide affordable housing for low- and moderate-income Americans; 

·Provide grants to state and local governments to conduct lead-based paint hazard reduction and abatement activities in private low-income housing; and 

·Address the nation’s worsening housing crisis by providing funding for housing counseling, which includes a new program specifically targeted to foreclosure avoidance/mitigation assistance programs. 

See the DPC Fact Sheet entitled, Democratic Funding Bill More Closely Reflects America's Priorities than President Bush's Budget, for more information on the 2008 appropriations bills.


Under Democratic leadership, the Senate passed the Fiscal Year 2008 Defense Authorization bill. On January 22, Senate Democrats led the effort to pass H.R. 4986, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 (2008 Defense Authorization), by a vote of 91 to 3. After vetoing the initial version of the bill (H.R. 1585) in late December, the President signed the revised version (H.R. 4986) into law on January 28 (P.L. 110-181). The bill fully authorizes the President’s requested base budget of $507 billion for Fiscal Year 2008 defense-related spending, as well as an additional $189.5 billion in emergency supplemental funding to support military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and related purposes. The bill will advance Democratic priorities for troops and veterans by: 

  • Authorizing a 3.5 percent pay raise for all uniformed service personnel;
  • Providing our service members with the resources, equipment, cutting-edge technology, and training they need for missions at home and around the world;
  • Ensuring our troops and returning veterans are provided fair compensation, benefits, and first-rate health care;
  • Advancing a comprehensive plan for improving the care, management, and transition of wounded service members; and
  • Investing in programs that promote small business entrepreneurship amongst veterans and reservists.


Additionally, the conference report includes provisions to advance Democratic priorities on national security by: 

  • Promoting the transition of our military to meet 21st Century threats;
  • Strengthening nonproliferation and cooperative threat reduction programs;
  • Eliminating terrorist safe havens in Pakistan and strengthening initiatives to combat al Qaeda and bring Osama bin Laden to justice;
  • Ensuring a fair process for detainees held at Guantanamo Bay;
  • Improving the management and efficiency of Defense Department programs; and
  • Strengthening oversight and accountability of war-time contractors. 

Congressional Democrats began the 110th Congress by completing the fiscal work of the Republican Do-Nothing Congress. After running up trillions of dollars in new debt, last year’s Republican-led Congress left town without trying to pass a budget resolution and after completing only two of 11 annual appropriations bills. As a result, three months into the fiscal year that began in October 2006, 13 of 15 federal agencies were left to operate under a series of short-term continuing resolutions. Within six weeks of convening the 110th Congress, before beginning the 2008 budget and appropriations process, Democrats passed H. J. Res. 20, the Revised Continuing Appropriations Resolution, 2007 (2007 Continuing Resolution), which provided funding for the nine remaining appropriations bills that were not completed by Republicans in the 109thCongress. President Bush signed the bill into law (P.L. 110-5) on September 9, 2007. 

  • Additional funding for health and education programs. Democrats stayed within budget limits, eliminated earmarks, and increased funding for programs, including Pell grants, elementary and secondary education, the National Institutes of Health, and global AIDS prevention and treatment.
  • Additional funding for veterans health care. The resolution also provided a total of $32 billion for VA medical care, which was an increase of $3.5 billion over Fiscal Year 2006 levels, and the funding level approved by the Republican-passed Continuing Resolution during the last Congress. These funds were vital for improving mental health services, enhancing inpatient and outpatient care for veterans, and also allowing the VA to better address its backlog of pending benefits claims.
  • Additional funding for law enforcement.Democrats further provided $2.6 billion for state and local law enforcement assistance programs. Included in the funding was $519 million for the Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants (Byrne/JAG) program, which is an increase of $108.7 million over Fiscal Year 2006 levels, and $541.7 million for the Community Oriented Policing Services Program (COPS), which is an increase of $67.9 million from Fiscal Year 2006 levels.
  • Additional funding for energy and environmental programs.Democrats increased 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 and greenhouse gas emissions.


Senate Democrats passed an emergency spending bill to meet critical Fiscal Year 2007 national security funding needs.The U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans’ Care, Katrina Recovery, and Iraq Accountability Appropriations Act, 2007 (2007 Emergency Supplemental) (P.L. 110-28)included $120 billion in emergency funds, primarily for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, critical health care improvements for returning troops and veterans, Gulf Coast recovery efforts, and for addressing major shortfalls in homeland security funding needs and providing emergency drought relief to farmers. Specifically, the bill provided: 

  • A $1 billion funding increase for National Guard equipment needs;
  • An additional $1.1 billion for military housing requirements;
  • $3 billion, or $1.2 billion above the President’s requested amount, for Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles;
  • $4.8 billion to fund health care improvements for troops and veterans;
  • $6.4 billion for continued recovery efforts in the Gulf Coast, including $25 million for the small business economic injury disaster loan program;
  • $3 billion to help farmers and ranchers recover from severe drought and agricultural disasters; and
  • More than $1 billion in homeland security investments, including funds for port and mass transit security, and the installation of explosives detection equipment at airports. 

The legislation also included measures to increase the minimum wage, provide tax incentives for small businesses and promote small business entrepreneurship amongst women.


Combating Terrorism and Strengthening Homeland Security 

Democrats led the way toward implementing key 9/11 Commission recommendations.Congressional Democrats’ first priority is to protect our nation from further terrorist attack. After years of inadequate action on critical homeland security needs, the 110th Congress passed H.R. 1, the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007. The bill was signed into law (P.L. 110-53) by the President in early August 2007. This law will make America more secure by giving our first responders the tools they need to keep us safe, making it more difficult for potential terrorists to travel into our country; advancing efforts to secure our rail, air, and mass transit systems; and improving intelligence and information sharing between state, local, and federal law enforcement. The new law will also enhance the existing Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board to ensure government adherence to civil liberties guidelines. 

See the DPC Fact Sheet entitled, The Bush Administration Has Not Made America More Secure From Terrorism, for more information on this issue.


Senate Democrats are committed to giving the intelligence community the tools it needs to protect our nation from terrorist attack.On October 3, the Senate passed H.R. 2082, the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008, to authorize appropriations for Fiscal Year 2008 for intelligence and intelligence-related activities of the United Statesgovernment, including the nation’s 16 intelligence agencies and the director of National Intelligence. The bill includes provisions that will ensure greater flexibility and authority to the Director of National Intelligence; require greater accountability from the Intelligence Community and its managers; improve the mechanisms for conducting oversight of intelligence programs; and reform acquisition procedures. The bill also includes a classified annex including detailed budget recommendations. While the Republican-led Senate failed to pass the Intelligence Authorization bill for the past two years, Democrats have made this critical national security bill a top priority. 

Democrats approved important reforms that will strengthen the nation’s economy and security. In July, the Democratic-led Congress presented H.R. 556, the Foreign Investment and National Security Act of 2007 to the President for his signature, which he signed into law (P.L. 110-49) on July 26, 2007. The measure implements important reforms to ensure that there is a comprehensive and transparent process for assessing the national security implications of foreign investments in the United States. The new law strengthens the role of the Director of National Intelligence, makes the process more accountable to Congress and the public, and provides for a review and investigation, if warranted, of transactions covered by the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States to determine its effects on national security. This lawrepresents long-overdue, balanced reform that will strengthen our nation’s security and provide a more predictable process that enhances our security and encourages job-creating foreign investment in the United States. 

The Senate unanimously approved a Democratic initiative to enhance compliance with U.S.sanctions law. On June 26, 2007, the Senate unanimously approved S. 1612, the International Emergency Economic Powers Enhancement Act, whichwould increase penalties on violators of U.S. sanctions law. The bill was passed by the House on October 2 and was signed into law on October 16 (P.L. 110-96). Under the bill, individuals who have invested in a country or terrorist organization designated by the President as a major threat to the United States– such as Iran or Sudan – would be subject to significant fines. 

Democratic Congress extended a program to help American businesses and workers recover from terrorist attacks. In November 2007,the Democratic-led Senate unanimously approved the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2007 (H.R. 2761). On December 18, the House agreed to the Senate-passed version, and the President signed the bill into law (P.L.110-160) on December 26. This legislation extends for seven years a program that was originally passed by Congress and signed into law after the terrorist attacks of September 11th to provide a federal backstop against catastrophic losses in the property and casualty insurance marketplace associated with massive terrorism damages. Without this extension, the program was scheduled to expire at the end of 2007. Large and small businesses, labor unions, manufacturers, builders, lenders, universities, hospitals, as well as insurers, have all voiced their support for this initiative to stabilize the market and ensure the availability of affordable insurance against terrorist attacks. 

The Senate passed a bill to prohibit the recruitment of child soldiers.On December 18, 2007 the Senate passed S. 2135, the Child Soldiers Accountability Act of 2007, which would impose a fine and/or 20-year prison term for recruiting, enlisting, or conscripting a child under 15 years of age into an armed force or group or into active combat hostilities. The bill also expands jurisdiction for prosecuting U.S.nationals and aliens who violate the Act. 

The Senate passed legislation to assist 9/11 families in resolving legal claims from that tragic day. In the wake of 9/11, survivors and the families of those who did not survive had many tough choices to make, including legal ones, in addition to dealing with their grief. One of those decisions was whether to participate in the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund. Many chose to opt out of the fund and bring civil suits instead, and Congress required that victims and families bring those suits in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, however, this meant that they could only subpoena testimony and documents within 100 miles of that court. The unintended result was that many parties were legally barred from securing much-needed documents and testimony for their cases. In October, the Senate voted unanimously to fix this problem by passing S. 2106, the Procedural Fairness for September 11th Victims Act, which will give nation wide subpoena power to all parties -- victims, families, and defendants -- when litigating 9/11 claims. The President signed the bill into law (P.L. 110-113) on November 8, 2007.

Fighting Crime Across the Nation and Injustice Around the World

Senate Democrats are working to restore federal funding to state and local law enforcement programs. For years local law enforcement officers across the country have warned that funding cuts to state and local law enforcement programs at a time when law enforcement agencies are already stretched-thin by increasing homeland security responsibilities and national guard deployments would lead to fewer cops on the street, fewer resources for traditional crime fighting, and, eventually, an increase in violent crime. President Bush and Congressional Republicans, however, ignored their warning in favor of drastic funding cuts to critical law enforcement programs, including the COPS program and the Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program. In 2005, the country reaped the consequences of that failed fiscal policy when the nation’s violent crime rate increased significantly for the first time in nearly 15 years and then increased again in 2006. 

Democrats are committed to reversing the nation’s violent crime trend by funding the law enforcement programs that keep our nation safe from crime both foreign and domestic. In addition to funding included in the 2007 Continuing Resolution and the 2008 CJS Appropriations Bill, the Senate passed S. 231, a bill to authorize the appropriations for the Byrne/JAG program through Fiscal Year 2012, in June 2007. 

See the DPC Fact Sheet entitled, Bush Republicans Cut Law Enforcement Funding, Violent Crime Increases For Second Consecutive Year, for more information on this issue.

The Democratic-led Senate refuses to sit idle as methamphetamine abuse spreads across our nation. As far too many American families know, methamphetamine (meth) is a highly addictive, debilitating, and deadly drug that has ruined the lives of millions of Americans in 2007 alone. Beyond negatively impacting users and their families, meth abuse and production pose significant threats to communities, especially rural and tribal communities, and the environment. Congressional Democrats have renewed our longstanding commitment to employing innovative and comprehensive strategies to combat methamphetamine abuse by introducing several measures in the 110thCongress.

On December 12, the Senate passed H.R. 365, the Methamphetamine Remediation Research Act of 2007, a bill to address the environmental dangers of meth production. According to the Partnership for a Drug Free America, for every pound of meth that is produced, five to six pounds of hazardous, toxic waste is generated. Meth cooks often dump that waste -- the evidence of their crime -- into local waterways, woods, or other areas exposed the public. Moreover, these labs are not easily cleaned, poisonous vapors and residue from the cooking process settle into insulation, ceilings, and carpets and require costly, specialized Hazmat scrubs to repair the site. H.R. 365 requires the EPA to establish voluntary guidelines for the decontamination and remediation of former meth labs. The bill also requires the NIST to support a research program to develop new technologies and procedures to better detect meth. The President then signed the bill into law (P.L. 110-143) on December 21, 2007.

See the DPC Fact Sheet entitled, Senate Democrats Are Committed to Combating Methamphetamine Abuse Across the Nation, for more information on this issue.


The Senate passed legislation to improve criminal background checks for gun purchases. H.R. 2640, the NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007, which the President later signed into law (P.L. 110-180).The law is designed to improve the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), the country’s foremost background check system for gun purchases. Drafted in response to the tragic shootings at Virginia Tech this past year, the bill: makes clear that only correct records will be incorporated into the NICS system, and that incorrect records will be promptly removed from the national system; contains provisions to direct Federal and State agencies to establish relief from disabilities programs through which individuals who have overcome a disqualifying mental illness or disability may reclaim their right to purchase or possess a firearm; creates a legal regime where the reporting of disqualifying mental health records on both the State and Federal level will be improved; requires Federal agencies to report mental health and other disqualifying records into NICS; creates new incentives for States to report mental health and other disqualifying records; and provides States support to meet the goals outlined in the NICS Amendments Act.


The Senate passed a bill to combat gang violence across the country. On September 21, 2007, the Senate passed S. 456, the Gang Abatement and Prevention Act of 2007. This bipartisan, comprehensive legislation would provide more than $1 billion in funding for gang prevention, intervention, and suppression programs, as well as create tough federal penalties to deter and punish members of illegal street gangs. Included in this allocation is $411.5 million in funding over five years for newly designated “High Intensity” Gang Activity Areas, gang protection block grants, and mentoring and after-school programs, all of which will focus on prevention and intervention efforts. The bill would also authorize $100 million over five years to expand crime control grants to state and local governments to better enable them to investigate and prosecute more cases against gangs and violent criminals, and allocate $100 for the expansion of the Project Safe Neighborhood, which will focus on preventing violence and gun crimes by gang members. The bill would further authorize $270 million over three years for witness protection efforts and increases penalties for interfering with witnesses. The bill would also establish new federal crimes, including making it illegal to recruit members for a criminal street gang.


Democrat-led Senate passed legislation to fight identity theft and cyber crime. As the number of Americans using the Internet to conduct business transactions increases so do the incidents of internet crime. In 2006, more than 200,000 Internet fraud crimes alone were reported to the FBI’s InternetCrime ComplaintCenter. These crimes wreak havoc on their victims, ruining finances and lives. S. 2168, the Identity Theft Enforcement and Restitution Act of 2007, would assist the victims and aid in the prosecution and punishment of perpetrators of identity theft and cyber crimes, including spyware crimes. The bill would: 

  • Allow victims to seek restitution for the loss of time and money spent restoring credit;
  • Close loopholes to ensure identity thieves who impersonate businesses to steal sensitive data can be prosecuted under federal identity theft laws;
  • Extend federal jurisdiction over intrastate identity theft crimes;
  • Establish a misdemeanor charge for unauthorized access to a computer where the damage is less than $5,000;
  • Make it a felony to employ spyware or keyloggers to damage ten or more computers, regardless of damage amount;
  • Make it a crime to threaten to steal or release information from a computer; and
  • Enhance the ability of federal prosecutors to combat cyber crime by adding civil and criminal forfeiture to the list of crimes that can be used to prosecute offenders. 

Democratic Congress sent a strong measure to help end the genocide in Sudan to the White House. In response to the ongoing genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan, the Democratic-led Senate unanimously approved S. 2271, the Sudan Accountability and Divestment Acton December 12, 2007.This legislation would allow American investors, taxpayers, and pensioners to divest from businesses directly contributing to the violence and misery of hundreds of thousands of innocent Darfuris. S. 2271 would permit states and localities to adopt measures for divesting from certain companies involved in Sudan. The measure would also allow mutual fund and private pension fund managers to cut ties with these companies. It would require federal government contractors to certify that they are not involved in business in four key sectors of Sudan’s economy and require the Departments of State and the Treasury to report on the effectiveness of current Sudansanctions. On December 18, the House unanimously passed the bill, and on December 31, the President signed the bill into law (P.L. 110-174). 

The Senate, under Democratic leadership, passed legislation to ensure the safety of our courts and judicial officers. Recent violence against judges and their families, including the murders of United States District Judge Joan Lefkow’s mother and husband in Chicago and the murders of Superior Court Judge Rowland W. Barnes, a court reporter, and a deputy in Atlanta, has heightened concerns about judicial security. In an effort to better protect witnesses and the officers and personnel who work in our courts, the 110thCongress passed H.R. 660,the Court Security Improvement Act of 2007 on December 17. The bill would improve court security by enhancing measures that protect judicial personnel, witnesses, and family members of judicial personnel; increasing funding for judicial security at the federal and state levels; and strengthening relevant criminal penalties. The Democratic-lead Congress also passed, and the President signed, the Judicial Disclosure Responsibility Act (P.L. 110-24), which amended rules relating to judicial disclosure forms to better shield judges and their family from danger.


Supporting, Honoring, and Caring for Our Troops and Veterans

Democrats passed landmark legislation to care for wounded warriors.The neglect and mismanagement discovered at the Walter ReedArmy MedicalCenter has highlighted the Bush Administration’s failure to protect the well-being of our nation’s veterans and service members. H.R. 1538, the Wounded Warrior Assistance Act of 2007, will reverse the Administration’s record of neglect, by providing a comprehensive plan to ensure the proper care of our wounded service members. The legislation will effectively improve military health care facilities, significantly enhance the treatment of mental health conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI), fill in gaps in health insurance coverage, increase severance pay, and ensure a seamless transition from active duty to the Veterans Administration. The measure was included in the conference report for 2008 Defense Authorization

Democrats advance legislation to protect military bonuses for wounded warriors.On December 14, 2007, the Senate unanimously adopted S. 2400, the Wounded Warrior Bonus Equity Act. The legislation will guarantee full payment of bonuses and incentives to veterans who have been medically discharged from service due to combat-related injuries. It effectively closes a loophole in the current law which has prevented some wounded veterans of the wars in Iraqand Afghanistanfrom receiving full enlistment bonuses. The legislation also requires the Pentagon to conduct an audit of such cases dating back to 2001 and to restore their rightful payments. 

The Democratic-led Senate passed a measure to strengthen veterans’ suicide prevention initiatives.According to DoD, suicide rates in the Army are the highest they have been since the Vietnam War. Today, the suicide rate for Iraq war veterans is 35 percent higher than that of the general population. Democrats led the effort to advance a bipartisan initiative to address this growing problem. H.R. 327, the Joshua OmvigVeterans Suicide Prevention Act of 2007, would significantly improve mental health services for returning war veterans. Specifically, the measure would ensure 24-hour access to mental health care for veterans at risk for suicide; provide suicide prevention education for VA staff and medical personnel caring for veterans; create a family education program to address the mental health needs of veterans, and implement a veterans peer support program to program to augment mental health services and suicide prevention efforts. The President signed the bill into law (P.L. 110-110) on November 5, 2007. 

Under Democratic leadership, the Senate provided a cost of living increase to veterans. On October 18, 2007, the Senate passed H.R. 1284, the Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2007, to provide a 2.3 percent cost of living increase for veterans. The bill was signed into law by the President on November 5, 2007 (P.L. 110-111). 

The Senate adopted legislation to expand benefits for veterans with service-related vision impairment and enhance VA burial and memorial benefits.On December 17, 2007, the Democratic-led Senate adopted H.R. 797, the Blinded Veterans Paired Organ Act of 2007. Under the VA’s current eligibility requirements, some veterans who are legally blind have been prevented from receiving compensation. This legislation will modify the VA’s strict standard to ensure that veterans with multiple disabilities that include vision impairment and veterans with service-connected blindness in one eye who later lose vision in the other are provided compensation. The bill also includes several provisions to improve burial and memorial benefits to veterans. The bill was signed into law (P.L. 110-157) by the President on December 26, 2007.


See the DPC Fact Sheet entitled, Senate Democrats' Commitment: Honoring the Service of Our Nation's Veterans, for more information on veterans’ issues.


Under Democratic leadership, the Senate advanced legislation to enhance support for veteran-owned businesses.On December 19, 2007, the Senate passed H.R. 4253, the Military Reservist and Veteran Small Business Reauthorization and OpportunityAct of 2007 by unanimous consent. The bill would reauthorize Small Business Administration (SBA) programs for veterans and reservists for two years and provide $4.4 million for Veterans Business Outreach Centers. It includes several additional provisions to expand technical and regulatory assistance and strengthen outreach programs to small businesses owned by veterans and military reservists. On January 31, 2008, the bill was sent to the White House to be signed into law. 

The Democratic-led Senate approved tax relief for America’s military men and women. On December 18, 2007, the Senate unanimously approved a modified version of the H.R. 3997, theHeroes Earnings Assistance and Relief Tax Act of 2007, legislation that ensures that military families are able to buy homes, save for the future, and meet day-to-day expenses. The bill includes all of the provisions in the S. 1593, the Defenders of Freedom Tax Relief Act, which the Senate approved earlier. If approved by the House and signed by the President, this bill would provide tax relief for members of the military who are receiving combat pay, saving for retirement, or purchasing their own homes. It would provide benefits for employers of military reservists and for members of the National Guard who provide assistance to employees who are called to active duty. The legislation would also create a new special enrollment right for reservists formerly covered under TRICARE to opt back into a civilian employer’s health insurance plan at any time and would create special distribution rules for reservists’ unused benefits in a health flexible spending account or in a civilian employer’s cafeteria plan.


Improving the Health of Americans 

Congress, under the leadership of Democrats, is working to ensure health care coverage for children in need.The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) has played a crucial role in helping to reduce the rate of uninsured low-income children over the past ten years. By every measure, CHIP is cost-effective, and has been shown to work well in meeting the basic health care needs of our nation’s children. In September, the House and Senate overwhelmingly approved a bipartisan, bi-cameral agreement to invest significant new federal resources into the program and cover millions more low-income uninsured children who are eligible for the CHIP and Medicaid, but whose families cannot afford private insurance. But President Bush vetoed the legislation. Although the President’s arguments against the legislation to renew CHIP are unfounded, Democrats and Republicans worked together once again to produce a revised CHIP reauthorization bill that addressed the issues raised by the President and those Republicans who opposed the original bill. In October 2007, Congress overwhelmingly approved this updated CHIP legislation, which -- like the CHIP legislation passed in September -- would cover nearly ten million low-income American children whose families cannot afford private insurance.

Despite the overwhelming support for this legislation and the promise it offers to our nation’s children, President Bush has, again, vetoed it -- for the second time denying millions of our nation’s most vulnerable children the care they need when they’re sick, and the checkups they need to stay well. As a result of the President’s actions, Congress was forced to merely extend the current CHIP program though March 31, 2009, thereby protecting coverage for currently enrolled children, but not making any headway in reducing the number of uninsured children. Despite the President’s vetoes of this critical legislation, 69 Senators, 43 governors, hundreds of organizations, and the vast majority of the American people continue to support the bipartisan CHIP reauthorization legislation.

See the DPC Fact Sheets entitled, President Bush Threatens to Veto Kids’ Health Care…Again and Improving Children’s Health Coverage is the Top Health Priority for a Bipartisan Majority in Congress. . .But President Bush Stands in the Way, for more information about this issue.


Congress approved legislation ensuring Medicare payments to physicians for six months and helping rural seniors receive care.Both the House and Senate approved legislation that will block a scheduled 10.1 percent cut to the Medicare physician reimbursement rate in 2008, and replace it with a 0.5 percent increase through June 30, 2008. The bill will also extend a number of expiring provisions, including measures to ensure rural seniors’ access to care. The bill also extends CHIP through March 31, 2009 (as further discussed above), and extends funding for the Transitional Medicaid Assistance and special diabetes programs. In addition, the bill imposes a six month moratorium on the implementation of the Bush Administration’s proposed Medicaid regulations on rehabilitation services and school-based services, which, if allowed to go into effect, would cut nearly $6 billion from Medicaid services for vulnerable children and people with disabilities. Democrats are committed to passing CHIP and more comprehensive Medicare legislation in the next session. 

Senate Democrats 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.On September 27, 2007, the President signed into law the Food and Drug Amendments Act of 2007, legislation that will reauthorize the successful drug and medical-device user-fee programs; greatly improve the FDA’s oversight of drug safety; and provide important incentives for the development of drugs for children. The legislation provides over $400 million for the review of drugs and medical devices at FDA, and over $50 million for needed safety reforms to give the agency the tools it needs to do the job we are counting on it to do. To help patients, providers and researchers learn more and make better health care decisions, the legislation creates a public registry of clinical trials and their results. The bill helps preserve the integrity of scientific review by improving the FDA’s safeguards against conflicts of interest. The bill also addresses misleading prescription drug ads by putting in place parameters for strong safety disclosures for direct-to-consumer ads, coupled with an effective enforcement mechanism. The legislation will further end the abuse of so-called“citizen petitions,” still allowing ordinary citizens to submit petitions to the agency about drugs it is reviewing to protect public health, but precluding those who seek only to delay the entry onto the market of generic drugs from using the process to do so. By creating a registry and a requirement to report problems, the legislation also takes important first steps toward ensuring a safer food supply. 

In this new era for 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.


The Senate unanimously approved 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 has approved S. 558, the Mental Health Parity Act of 2007. This bipartisan 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. While the legislation does not mandate that group health plans provide mental health coverage, it does not preempt states laws that require mental health benefits.

Senate Democrats passed landmark legislation to ban the use of asbestos.On October 4, 2007, the Senate unanimously passed S. 742, the Ban Asbestos in America Act of 2007. The use of asbestos in a number of materials commonly found throughout homes and businesses like fire insulation, floor tiles, and textured paints. Exposure to asbestos fibers can accumulate in lungs that can cause cancer, mesothelima, and scarring of long tissues. The legislation will: 

  • Require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ensure that asbestos products go out of circulation within two years of the bill becoming law; 
  • Allow researchers to expand the clearinghouse of information available to scientists;
  • Strengthen the existing asbestos disease registry by enabling it to include information on patients with assorted types of asbestos-related diseases;
  • Expand the treatment and research of asbestos-related diseases by creating a $50 million account to provide for the construction of treatment centers across the country; and
  • Require the Administrator at the EPA to conduct a public education campaign with a wide range of public health groups to educate the public on the dangers of using asbestos-related projects in their homes and places of business.


The Senate has approved critical legislation to expand programs and funding to treat traumatic brain injuries.On December 11, 2007, the Senate approved S. 793, legislation to reauthorize the Traumatic Brain Injury Act, to continue funding for a range of traumatic brain injury programs. The bill would reauthorize grants that have been assisting states in building or enhancing coordinating systems of community-based services and support for adults and children with traumatic brain injuries. Every year 1.5 million people in the United States sustain a traumatic brain injury, including approximately 475,000 children. This bill would provide assistance to the millions of adults and children in our nation who are facing an array of problems due to their injury. 

The Senate has approved legislation to improve health screenings for newborn children.While some newborn screening occurs in every state, fewer than half of all states screen for all 29 of the medical conditions recommended by the AmericanCollege of Medical Genetics and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. On December 13, 2007, the Senate unanimously approved S. 1858, the Newborn Screening Saves Lives Act of 2007, which will educate parents and health care providers about newborn health screening; improve follow-up care for infants with an illness detected through newborn screening; and help states expand and improve their newborn screening programs.


The 110thCongress worked in a bipartisan manner to ensure the availability of breast and cervical cancer screenings for low-income women. In April, 2007, the President signed into law (P.L.110-18), theNational Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program Reauthorization Act of 2007, which reauthorized and increased funding for the program to subsidize mammography exams, pap tests, and other screening exams. The law would also allow some states to spend grant money on outreach programs to underserved women who may not otherwise know about the program.


Democrats are committed to expanding federally funded 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. In 2006, 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, 2007, 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. 

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, for more information on this issue.

Senate Democrats also passed a measure to better ensure the safety of our seniors. On August 1, 2007, the Senate unanimously approved S. 845, the Safety of Seniors Act of 2007. This legislation would authorize new programs to help prevent falls among older adults through public education, research and demonstration projects. Falls are the leading cause of injury deaths among persons over 65, and this bill will take significant steps towards preventing falls among our nations’ seniors.


Expanding Educational Opportunities

Landmark legislation to make college more affordable has become law. Higher education is becoming more and more important to achieving the American dream, yet it is also becoming increasingly unaffordable and inaccessible. Democrats recognize that students and their families are struggling to cover the rising cost of college and have made college affordability a top priority. That is why under Democratic leadership, Congress overwhelmingly approved the College Cost Reduction and Access Act, legislation that will increase access to higher education, and direct federal dollars where they are needed most. 

This legislation will increase student aid for low- and middle-income students, providing over $20 billion in new student aid and benefits, the largest increase in student aid since the G.I. bill. The bill will also make student loan debt more manageable, forgive student loan debt for those who commit to public service, and reform the student loan system to work for students, not banks. Moreover, the higher education legislation, approved by the Senate, will provide benefits to students at no cost to taxpayers by reducing excessive lender subsidies and redirecting federal aid to students who need it most. The President signed this legislation into law (P.L. 110-84) on September 27, 2007. 

See the DPC Fact Sheet entitled, Democrats Send the President Landmark Legislation Calling for the Largest Increase in Student Aid Sincethe G.I. Bill, for information on this legislation.

Under Democratic leadership, vital legislation to expand and improve Head Start has become law. For more than 40 years, Head Start has provided America’s neediest children with cognitive, social-emotional, and academic skills, helping to prepare them for success in school. Studies show that at-risk children who have participated in Head Start programs are better prepared for school than their peers who have not had the benefit of Head Start. However, Head Start currently serves only about half of all eligible preschool children and fewer than five percent of eligible infants and toddlers. 

On November 14, 2007, the Senate unanimously approved the conference report to accompany H.R. 1429, the Head Start for School Readiness Act, which will increase funding and expand access for the Head Start program to include additional low-income children up to 130 percent of the federal poverty level. The bill also takes important steps to expand Early Head Start (a component of Head Start that benefits infants and toddlers and their families) to serve and additional 8,000 low-income infants and toddlers over the next five years. To improve and expand the availability of quality early childhood education, the legislation would establish an Early Education and Care Council in each state to develop a coordinated and comprehensive system of early childhood education and development. The President signed this legislation into law (P.L. 110-134) on December 12.


Strengthening the Economy and American Competitiveness 

Senate Democrats are committed ensuring that Americans can buy a home -- and keep a home.From coast to coast, American families are facing a record number of mortgage payment delinquencies and foreclosures. An estimated two million households may lose their homes to foreclosure this past year and next, resulting in hundreds of billions of lost home equity.Unwilling to do nothing as millions stand to lose everything, Democrats have been focused on fixing the nation’s housing problems -- by working with the private sector, government agencies, and homeowner advocacy groups to find real world solutions. 

On December 14, 2007, the Senate passed S. 2338, the Federal Housing Administration Modernization Act of 2007, which would help homeowners facing foreclosure obtain safe and affordable homes loans and bring stability to the economy and local communities. The bill would make FHA loans a more viable alternative to the subprime market by: 

  • raising loan limits;
  • making FHA insurance more accessible to certain buyers;
  • removing the cap on the number of “reverse mortgages” made through Home Equity Conversion Mortgage;
  • lowering fees; and
  • improvingthe FHA loss mitigation process. 

The legislation would also expand access to post-purchase homeownership counseling, enhance fraud protection, and expand access to credit for borrowers without sufficient credit histories. Further, the measure would enhance access to affordable housing by restructuring FHA insurance for manufactured housing and increasing consumer protections for residents of manufactured homes.

Democratic Congress passed mortgage tax relief for families in crisis. On December 14, 2007, the Democratic-led Senate unanimously approved an amended version of the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007 (H.R. 3648), which the House later approved on December 18 and the President signed into law (P.L. 110-142) on December 20. The new law offers tax relief to American families caught in the sub-prime mortgage crisis. Specifically, this fully off-set measure creates a three-year exception for debt forgiveness on home loans – helping families already unable to meet their mortgages to avoid incurring large tax bills as well – and extends a provision allowing homeowners to deduct mortgage insurance payments from their taxable income. The law also gives a surviving spouse an additional two years from the spouse’s death to sell their home and claim the full $500,000 exclusion from capital gains tax. 

See the DPC Fact Sheet entitled, S. 2338, the FHA Modernization Act of 2007and Senate Democrats Are Committed to Protecting the American Dream of Homeownership, for more information on this legislation and issue.


Democratic Congress passes alternative minimum tax relief for America’s working families. In fall 2007, the Democratic-led Senate and House sentH.R. 3996, the Temporary Tax Relief Act of 2007 to the President for signature, which he signed into law (P.L. 110-166) on December 26. This law will protect 19 million American families from being hit by the alternative minimum tax (AMT). While the AMT was created in 1969 to keep wealthy people from avoiding taxes altogether, it has started to hit working families instead. Without this measure, the hard-working American families that would have been ensnared by the AMT would have been hit with an average tax increase of nearly $2,000. 

Democrats sought better pay for working Americans by passing legislation to raise the minimum wage.In May 2007, after a ten year battle, Congress, under Democratic leadership, gave workers a long overdue raise by increasing the federal minimum wage to $7.25/hour. While the Senate passed H.R. 2, the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007, earlier in the year, the wage was finally increased as part of 2007 Emergency Supplemental

The bill, which raises the minimum wage from $5.15/hour to $7.25/hour in three steps over two years, will benefit 13 million workers -- 5.6 million directly and 7.4 million indirectly-- and help reverse years of wage stagnation, without harming the economy. Nearly 59 percent of those who will benefit are women and 10 percent are single parents. Minimum wage earners also serve as the sole breadwinners of 46 percent of families who will benefit. Moreover, the raise will help well-over six million children under the age of 18 whose parents will receive an increase in earnings. 

The increase of $2.10/hour will help many of the approximately 37 million (or 12.6 percent) Americans who live below the poverty line by adding nearly $4,400 to a full-time, year round minimum wage worker’s income. In some areas of the country, this additional money could be enough for a low-income family of three to cover months of groceries, utilities, or rent or nearly two years of child care or college tuition at a public two-year college. When combined with the Earned Income Tax Creditand assistance programs, the additional income could lift a family of four above the poverty line, even afterpayroll taxes. While more needs to be done, raising the federal minimum wage was an important step toward economic security for working Americans. 

See the DPC Fact Sheet entitled, After a Ten Year Battle, Democrats Raised the Minimum Wage for American Workers, for more information on this legislation and issue. 

The 110th Congress is determined to keep Americacompetitive in the global economy. In early August 2007, on a broad bipartisan basis and with the strong support of the technology, business, and academic community, the House and the Senate approved the conference report to H.R. 2272, the AmericaCreating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science Act (America COMPETES). The bill was signed into public law (P.L. 110-69) on August 9, 2007. The law ensures that the United States retains its competitive position in the world through increased resources for math and science education for teachers and students in elementary through graduate school; and increased investments in science and technology research and innovation in the public sector. America COMPETES also supports private sector research and innovation, including investing in programs that ensure small- and medium-sized businesses have the tools needed to contribute to the global economy. 

America COMPETESis the culmination of a two-year, bipartisan, bicameral effort to pass a package of competitiveness bills in response to recommendations in the 2005 National Academies report, “Rising Above the Gathering Storm.” Earlier in the year, the House and Senate passed comprehensive legislation (H.R. 2272, S. 761) that served as the basis for the multidisciplinary America COMPETES conference agreement, which passed the House on an overwhelming 367 to 57 vote and the Senate by unanimous consent. It was then signed into law by President Bush on December 26, 2007 (P.L. 110-169). The America COMPETES Act follows through on a commitment by Democratic Leadership to ensure U.S. students, teachers, businesses and workers are prepared to continue leading the world in innovation, research, and technology -- well into the future. 

See the DPC Legislative Bulletin entitled, The 110th Congress Passes a Bipartisan Initiative to Strengthen American Competitivenessand S. 1745, the Departments of Commerce and Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, 2008for more information on this issue.

The Democratic-led Senate unanimously passed important disaster aid legislation. In August 2007, as the two-year anniversary of Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma approaches, the Senate unanimously approved bipartisan legislation to improve assistance to business owners and homeowners after a disaster. S. 163, the Small Business Disaster Response and Loan Improvements Act, would improve assistance to disaster victims by: 1) establishing a private disaster loan program to be used in the aftermath of catastrophic disasters; 2) creating a new expedited disaster assistance business loan program; 3) creating a new presidential declaration of “Catastrophic National Disaster” that will allow the Small Business Administration to issue nationwide economic injury disaster loans to small businesses affected by a large-scale disaster; 4) improving the disaster loan application process; and 5) increasing the maximum size of a disaster loan and allows non-profit groups to be eligible for disaster loans. 

Democrats enacted small business tax relief. The Small Business and Work Opportunity Tax Act,passed and signed into law as a part of the 2007 Emergency Supplemental, provides important tax relief for America’s small businesses. These deficit-neutral tax incentives include measures to: 

  • Encourage the hiring of low-income and disadvantaged workers (extension of the Work Opportunity Tax Credit); 
  • Help growing businesses save when they buy new equipment (extension and expansion of Section 179 Small Business Expensing); 
  • Assist economic growth in the Gulf Opportunity Zone – the area still struggling to recover from Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma (enhancement of GO Zone tax incentives); 
  • Reduce reporting requirements for family businesses (family business tax simplification); 
  • Help entrepreneurs hit by the alternative minimum tax (waiver of individual and corporate AMT limitations on WOTC and tip credits); 
  • Make sure employers don’t lose current tax benefits when the minimum wage increases (enhanced tip credit); and
  • Help small businesses keep the tax benefits of being a small business, even as they grow (S-Corp tax incentives).

The Senate unanimously extended a program to assist workers who have been adversely affected by international trade. On September 28, 2007, the President signed into law (P.L. 110-89) a three-month extension of the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program. This will ensure that eligible U.S. workers, farmers, fishermen, and manufacturing firms do not fall through the cracks while Congress completes its work on a broad expansion and reauthorization of the current program. Originally established by the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, the TAA program provides temporary federal assistance to hundreds of thousands of individuals, farmers and firms facing job losses as a consequence of free trade agreements, when it can be demonstrated that the job losses resulted from increased imports or production being moved overseas due to a trade agreement. Eligible individuals, who currently include workers in the textiles, electronic, transportation, apparel, and other industries, can receive reemployment services, training in new occupational skills, and income support while the worker is in training.

The Senate also passed legislation to give travelers and commuters more options, relieve crowding on highways and in airports, and reduce oil consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.S. 294, the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2007 would reauthorize Amtrak for six-years at$11.6 billion. This legislation would: 

  • Improve Amtrak’s operations save taxpayer money by reducing Amtrak’s federal operating subsidy by 40 percent;
  • Repair Amtrak’s deteriorating infrastructure by authorizing $818 million in capital grants per year, $1.4 billion in grants to states for new passenger rail projects, funding to return the Northeast Corridor -- America’s busiest rail corridor, running from Boston, MA, to Washington, DC -- to a state of good repair;
  • Expand Amtrak’s operations and allow it to operate more efficiently by authorizing $11.4 billion over six years to fully fund Amtrak’s capital and operating needs; and
  • Improve the service of Amtrak’s passengers by setting a minimum standard of 80 percent on-time performance record for Amtrak trains and allowing the Surface Transportation Board to issue fines to freight railroad companies for delaying Amtrak trains. 

See the DPC Fact Sheet entitled, Senate Democrats Invest in Passenger Rail Service: American Travelers, Taxpayers, and our Environment Benefit, for more information on this issue.

Congress passed a law to extend the moratorium on taxes on Internet usage and electronic commerce. In October 2007, Congress passed and the President signed the Internet Tax Freedom Act Amendments Act of 2007 (P.L. 110-108). The new law will extend the moratorium for seven years and ensure that that certain internet services, such as e-mail and homepages, remain included in the definition of tax-exempt internet access.

The 110thCongress, under Democratic leadership, passed legislation to keep experienced pilots in the air.On December 11, 2007, the Senate passed H.R. 4343, Fair Treatment for Experienced Pilots Act; two days later the bill was signed into law (P.L. 110-135) by the President. The measure will raise the mandatory retirement age for pilots from 60 to 65 and will ensure that older pilots are not discriminated against in health guidelines.

The Senate strengthened the national do-not-call registry. On February 6, 2008 the Senate passedH.R. 3541, theDo-Not-Call Improvement Act of 2007, which would revoke the previous rule that requires phone numbers to be automatically removed from the registry after five years. The do-no-call registry is an extremely popular program -- with more than 145 million numbers registered -- that protects the American people from unwanted, often times aggressive and excessive, telemarketing calls.

The Senate also passed S. 781, the Do-Not-Call Extension Act, which is a measure to permanently authorize the FTC to collect do-not-call registry fees from telecommunications companies for the operation and enforcement of the registry. These fees enable the FTC to keep the registry free for consumers.


Demanding Transparency, Accountability, and Ethics in Washington

The Senate passed legislation to protect federal whistleblowers. Recent congressional oversight hearings about government waste, fraud, and abuse, especially as it relates to the War in Iraq, have highlighted the importance of federal whistleblowers in holding the government accountable. On December 17, 2007, the Senate passed S. 274, the Federal Employees Disclosure Act of 2007, a bipartisan bill to strengthen the Whistleblower Protection Act to shield federal employees who uncover waste, fraud, abuse, or gross mismanagement, without restriction as to time, place, form, motive, context, or prior disclosure. These protections would include safeguards against the enforcement of nondisclosure policies, the retaliatory revocation of security clearances, and unnecessary investigations. The measure would give the Office of Special Counsel the ability to file amicus briefs in federal courts and codify and strengthen anti-gag rules. The legislation would also permit multi-circuit review for up to five-years, suspending the Federal Circuit’s sole jurisdiction over federal whistleblower cases.

See the DPC oversight and accountability projecthomepage for more information on this issue.


The Democratic-led Congress passed comprehensive ethics and lobbying reform. In the last election, Americans sent a clear message that unethical and illegal behavior in government will no longer be tolerated. Democrats responded by making ethics reform their first priority in the 110th Congress. In August 2007, Democrats delivered on that promise by achieving final passage of S. 1, the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007. The legislation will strengthen Senate rules regarding gifts and travel, slow the “revolving door”for former Senators and staff, enhance and better enforce lobbying disclosures, reduce “dead of night” changes to conference reports, require earmark transparency, and ban the pay-to-play K Street Project. When the President signed the bill into law (P.L. 110-81) on September 14, the 110th Congress, under Democratic leadership, accomplished what previous Republican congresses would not: enact the toughest, most sweeping ethics and lobbying reform in a generation.

See the DPC Fact Sheet entitled, The Democratic-led, 110th Congress Delivered a Victory for the American People by Passing Ethics and Lobbying Reform, for background information on this legislation.


The Senate, under Democratic leadership, passed bipartisan legislation to increase transparency and accessibility in government.On December 17, 2007, the Senate enacted final passage of S. 2488, the Openness Promotes Effectiveness in our National Government Act(OPEN Government Act), which provides the first reforms to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in over a decade. The bill was signed into law (P.L. 110-175) by the President on December 31, 2007.

FOIA was passed in 1966 to establish the public’s presumptive right to access government documents. In recent years, however, concerns have been raised about the slowness with which FOIA requests are processed and answered. Some requests have been backlogged for years due to both bureaucratic red-tape and intentional delays. Under the Bush Administration, government agencies shifted the long-held presumption in favor of complying with requests to a presumption against complying with requests -- a policy change that has resulted in the frivolous denials of requests and conflicts directly with the spirit of FOIA.

TheOpen Government Act addresses the administrative and policy hurdles that have caused the FOIA backlog to balloon and would work to shine the light on government actions. The bill restores meaningful deadlines for agency action under FOIA; imposes penalties on federal agencies that fail to meet FOIA's 20-day statutory deadline; closes loopholes that would have limited public access to public records held by outside private contractors; creates a FOIA ombudsman to provide the public and agencies with a meaningful alternative to costly litigation; and gives agencies the tools they need to process FOIA requests in a timely manner.

See the DPC Oversight Highlights for the Week of March 12, 2007 for a summary of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on FOIA.


The Senate passed bipartisan legislation to clean-up government contracting abuses. On November 7, 2007, the Senate passed by unanimous consent S. 680, the Accountability in Government Contracting Act of 2007. The bill would strengthen competition in federal contracting, add transparency to the process, and help curtail waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayers’ money by: 

·Requiringmore information in a contract's statement for orders over $5 million; 

·Strengthening oversight and transparency of “sole source” contracting; 

·Curtailingthe practice of awarding contracts missing key terms, such as price, scope, or schedule; 

·Limitingthe award on an Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity, single vendor contract valued at more than $100 million; 

·Reining-in wasteful use of government purchase cards by seeking better analysis of purchase card use; and 

·Placinga limit on the length of contracts awarded non-competitively under urgent and compelling circumstances.

The Senate unanimously passed legislation to prosecute those who steal from disaster victims. Two years after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita ravaged the Gulf Coast, much of the region’s economy, infrastructure, and housing remains devastated. Failures of the insurance industry, increased crime, and the breakdown of many social services have made it difficult for long-time residents to return to and rebuild their homes and lives. Congress has devoted billions in resources and assistance to the region, but much, much more is needed. What the residents of the Gulf Coast-- and survivors of other disasters -- do not need are people defrauding the government of critical resources that would otherwise be used to help them restore their homes, businesses, schools, and hospitals. In 2006, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) estimated that fraud and abuse of disaster recovery funds resulted in the waste of $1 billion in disaster relief funds following Hurricane Katrina. 

In December 2007, the Senate passed S. 863, the Emergency and Disaster Assistance Fraud Penalty Enhancement Act of 2007, a bipartisan bill to create a new crime of fraud in connection with major disaster or emergency benefits; increase criminal penalties for engaging in mail or wire fraud during and in relation to a major disaster or emergency; and direct the United States Sentencing Commission to develop guidelines to provide for increased penalties for persons convicted of disaster or emergency benefit fraud. The bill was signed into law on January 7, 2008 (P.L. 110-179).


The Senate passed bipartisan legislation to restore checks and balances to the appointment process for United StatesAttorneys and safeguard the integrity of our justice system. Last year’s probe into the firing and hiring of U.S. Attorneys for allegedly political reasons has revealed excessively partisan, at best, and illegal, at worst, action by officials at the highest levels of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the White House. The Bush Administration has caused many to question the independence of U.S. Attorneysacross the nation and, in so doing, heightened concerns about the overall politicization of the Justice Department, especially the Civil Rights Division. Moreover, mismanagement and poor judgment by former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and other DOJ officials have the left the once revered agency in disarray. 

In March 2007, the Senate took concrete steps to restore the effectiveness and legitimacy of the federal justice system by overwhelmingly passing the Preserving United States Attorney Independence Act of 2007, which ensures the Senate’s role in the placement of U.S. Attorneys. Under a provision that was slipped into the USA Patriot Actreauthorization by Republicans in 2006, the appointment process for U.S. Attorneys was altered so that the Attorney General could appoint “interim” U.S. Attorneys indefinitely – thus completely avoiding the Senate confirmation process. The measure, now signed into law (P.L. 110-34), restores the process that existed for 20 years prior to the 2006 change and will require an interim appointment made by the Attorney General to expire after 120 days or when a permanent U.S. Attorney is nominated by the President and confirmed with the advice and consent of the Senate. After the 120 days, if a successor is not in place, the U.S. District Court will then appoint the U.S. Attorney. Returning to this effective, proven process ensures that the appropriate checks and balances are in place for the appointment of U.S. Attorneys.

As Judge Michael Mukasey continues his tenure as the new Attorney General, Democrats look forward to working with him through consultation and oversight to restore the Justice Department’s reputation and ensure its unbridled commitment to enforcing the nation’s laws, safeguarding the country from harm, and ensuring the civil rights of all Americans. 

See the DPC Legislative Bulletin entitled, S. 214, the Preserving United States Attorney Independence Act of 2007, for more information on this legislation.


Advancing Energy Independence, Improving Water Infrastructure, and Focusing on the Environment

The Senate passed legislation to promote energy independence and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.On December 13, 2007, the Senate passed theEnergy Independenceand Security Act of 2007, which will help move the United States away from the Bush-Cheney energy policy -- a policy that has worked for big oil companies, helping them accumulate $500 billion in profits since 2001, but has failed the American people. The bill was signed into law (P.L. 110-140) on December 19. 

The law: 

  • Raises fuel economy standards for automobiles for the first time in 25 years from 25 miles per gallon (MPG) to 35 MPG. By 2020, the new fuel economy standards are expected to save 1.1 million barrels of oil per day, remove 192 million metric tons of greenhouse gases from the air each year, and save American consumers up to $1,000; 
  • Raises the annual requirements for the amount of renewable fuels used in motor vehicles to 36 billion gallons by 2022. The law also makes a historic commitment to the development of cellulosic ethanol by requiring that the United States produce 21 billion gallons of advanced biofuels, like cellulosic ethanol by 2022. This support for expanding ethanol, particularly cellulosic ethanol, is important because cellulosic ethanol can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent or more compared to regular gasoline;
  • Makes the government a leader in cutting energy consumption and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by reducing petroleum usage by the federal government by 30 percent by 2015 and requiring that the federal government increase its purchases of renewable electricity to 10 percent by 2010 and 15 percent by 2015;
  • Invests in carbon capture technology which “captures” or confines carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and sequesters them within the earth; and
  • Enacts the most important energy efficiency increases in American history by enacting national efficiency standards for light bulbs. By approximately 2015, the new lighting standards alone are expected to save 65 billion kilowatt hours of electricity savings. That is the equivalent to the annual output of about 24 new coal power plants at 500 megawatts. 

The law also creates incentives for small businesses to invest in green technologies, provides the resources to help entrepreneurs conduct energy audits, and ensures that the Bush Administration will implement an energy efficiency information program that Congress enacted two years ago. 

See the DPC Fact Sheet Bulletin entitled, The Democratic Energy Bill Will Promote Energy Independence, Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions, and Deliver Savings to American Consumers, for more information on this issue.


Congress, under Democratic leadership, overrode the President Bush’s veto of important, bipartisan legislation to improve water infrastructure. The House and Senate’s override (361 to 54 and 79 to 14, respectively) of the President’s veto of the Water Resources Development Act on November 9, 2007 will protect millions of Gulf Coastresidents from catastrophic hurricanes and floods. The new law (P.L. 110-114) will also protect sensitive areas like the Florida Everglades and Mississippi River and improve water quality across the country. The act will: 

  • Improve hurricane protection for Louisiana and the GulfCoast by authorizing activity that will restore coastal wetlands, give New Orleans increased hurricane protection and allow for a peer review process of construction work performed by the Army Corps of Engineers. 
  • Ensure levee safety by creating a national levee safety program that will allow inspections on the general condition of levees throughout the country. 
  • Continue the restoration for the Florida Everglades by authorizing projects to increase freshwater flows into natural areas, avert the loss of wildlife habitat, and maintain the hydrologic balance of the region. 
  • Improve flood control for New Orleanians and other LouisianaGulf Coastresidents by giving it 100-year flood protection.
  • Re-nourish and restore beaches that are damaged by storm surges which if not done can leave coastal communities at risk. 

See the DPC Fact Sheet Bulletin entitled, Ten Reasons Democrats Have Overridden the President's Veto of the Water Resources Development Act, for more information on this issue.


Securing a Sound Agricultural Future

The Senate passed a landmark Farm Bill.On December 14, 2007, the Senate passed (79 to 14) H.R. 2419, the Food and Energy Security Act of 2007, which makes significant investments in America’s rural communities by improving its ability to produce food, feed, fiber and fuel while supporting efforts to improve its water, air, and wildlife habitat. The Farm Bill also includes modest reforms of producer income protection programs and expands the development and use of farm-based renewable energy. The bill would provide:

  • An extension of the farm safety net for five years until 2012;
  • Financial certainty as rural America enters the upcoming planting seas on;
  • A cost of living adjustment for food stamp (now called the Food and Nutrition Program) recipients to end the program’s benefit erosion. This is important because since 2000 the number of Americans living in poverty has increased, from 31.5 million (11.3 percent) in 2000 to 36.4 million (12.3 percent) in 2006;
  • An expanded fruit and vegetable program that is targeted to low-income children in all 50 states. The current fresh fruit and vegetable programs are widely popular and successful but only available to a handful of school districts in very few states. The Farm Bill would expand the program into every state by investing more than $1.1 billion and, as a result, help prevent diet-related chronic diseases in children;
  • The annual enrollment of 13.2 million acres into the Conservation Stewardship Program. The Conservation Stewardship Program allows all agricultural producers, including livestock and specialty crop producers, the opportunity to achieve high levels of conservation on their soil and water resources;
  • A reauthorization of the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) at $1.27 billion in 2008 and 2009, and $1.3 billion thereafter. The reauthorization of EQIP provides voluntary contracts to agricultural producers with a particular focus on livestock production, and the new Farm Bill would strengthen the program’s assistance on forest management, fuels management, and pollinator (bees) habitat protection;
  • The elimination of the “three entity rule,” which has been used by agricultural producers to exceed the statutory limits on payments by splitting their operations into multiple pieces and allowing each piece to draw farm payments;
  • Improved transparency through the direct attribution of payments to an actual agricultural producer;
  • A lowered adjusted gross income (AGI) limit for commodity programs from the current level of $2.5 million to $1 million in 2009 and $750,000 for 2010 and subsequent years; and
  • $300 million for grants and loan guarantees for biofuel refineries. The grants may cover up to 50 percent of the projects eligible costs while the loan guarantees may cover up to 80 percent of project costs.




  • Joi Chaney (224-3232)


Link to this report

Click on field; right-click and copy; paste into your page

E-mail this Report

Your E-mail Message

Democratic Policy Committee
419 Hart Senate Office Building Wash. D.C. 20510 (202-224-3232)