Only six months into the 110th Congress, Senate Democrats have made significant strides in advancing our Six for ’06 agenda. After nearly a decade of Republican control, we have worked to restore fiscal responsibility in Washington and pass key legislation on homeland security, troop readiness, veterans’ health care, Iraq policy, energy independence, economic competitiveness, ethics reform, the federal minimum wage, small businesses, health care, education, , medical research, and Gulf Coast revitalization. Democrats are committed to proving to the American people that elections do matter, and we will continue to pursue the international and domestic priorities that matter to them. Together, we will take the country in a new direction.
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 where left un-funded or under-funded and, as a result, average Americans suffered. In May, 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 will provide for cutting middle-class taxes, and funding foreign and domestic priorities, including education, children‘s health care, veterans, and troops. 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.
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 even 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 its own 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 109th Congress. In doing so, Democrats stayed within budget limits, eliminated earmarks, and increased funding for national priorities, including veterans’ medical care, Pell grants, elementary and secondary education, the National Institutes of Health, state and local law enforcement, and global AIDS prevention and treatment.
Senate Democrats led the way toward implementing key 9/11 Commission recommendations. Senate Democrats’ first priority is to protect our nation from further terrorist attack. After years of inadequate action on critical homeland security needs, the Senate passed S.4, the Improving America’s Security Act of 2007. This bill would 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.
See the DPC Fact Sheet entitled, Democrats’ New Direction for Homeland Security Will Make America More Secure, for more information on this legislation.
Under Democratic leadership, Congress provided emergency funds that will help address National Guard equipment shortfalls. P.L. 110-28, theU.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans’ Care, Katrina Recovery, and Iraq Accountability Appropriations Act, 2007 (2007 Emergency Supplemental), provides an additional $1 billion to President Bush’s request for National Guard equipment needs. In January, General Steven Blum, Chief of the National Guard Bureau, testified that 88 percent of Guard units are rated as unready (a historic high) and the Army National Guard has only 40 percent of its necessary equipment stock. General Blum warned that these shortfalls are compromising the quality of force training and limiting the Guard’s ability to quickly respond to natural and potential man-made disasters at home.
America was recently reminded of the dangers of equipment shortfalls when a devastating tornado ripped through the town of Greensburg, Kansas on May 4, 2007. Shortages reportedly impeded the National Guard’s ability to respond to the crisis. The New York Times reported that, “For nearly two days after the storm, there was an unmistakable emptiness in Greensburg, a lack of heavy machinery and an army of responders. By Sunday afternoon, more than a day and a half after the tornado, only about half of the Guard troops who would ultimately respond were in place.”
If not clear before, it should be absolutely clear now that adequately funding the National Guard is vital to the security and safety of our nation.
See the DPC Fact Sheet entitled, Overstretched and Under Strain: Bush Administration Mismanagement of Our Military Leaves Us Less Capable of Responding to Threats at Home and Around the World, for more information on this issue.
Democrats passed legislation to better secure American borders, ports, and transit systems. The 2007 Emergency Supplemental also provides $1.05 billion in funding necessary to address dangerous border and transit vulnerabilities left open by the Bush Administration since 9/11. This allocation includes hundreds of millions of dollars to protect American rail and mass transportation systems, install Explosive Detection Systems at airports, screen air cargo, and implement security measures at our nation’s ports.
Supporting, Honoring, and Caring for Our Troops and Veterans
Democrats provided funds to support our troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the 2007 Emergency Supplemental, Democrats fully funded the President’s requests for Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, which includes funding to support the current troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan and funds for the escalation force of 21,000 combat troops and 4,729 support personnel in Iraq and 7,200 troops in Afghanistan.
Democrats also added funding to protect our troops against improvised explosive devices. In addition to the President’s funding request, the 2007 Emergency Supplemental includes $1.2 billion in additional funding for a total of $3 billion to provide our troops in Iraq with mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles (MRAPs), vehicles that military commanders believe could reduce U.S. casualties by two-thirds compared to armored Humvees. These emergency funds will ensure that more than 2,000 MRAPs reach our troops by the end of this year.
See the DPC Fact Sheet entitled, Overstretched and Under Strain: Bush Administration Mismanagement of Our Military Leaves Us Less Capable of Responding to Threats at Home and Around the World, for more information on this issue.
Democrats boosted funding to treat wounded soldiers. The neglect and mismanagement discovered at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center has highlighted the Bush Administration’s lack of focus on the well-being of our nation’s veterans and servicemembers. The 2007 Emergency Supplemental will provide $3 billion in funds for military health care, which is $1.9 billion above the amount the President requested. In addition to investing in military hospital improvements, the supplemental bill allocates $900 million for brain trauma injury (BTI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) treatment and research.
Democrats are also committed to investing in the resources needed to care for our veterans. One of the best ways to honor America’s more than 24 million veterans for their service and sacrifice in past and current conflicts is to provide them with high-quality, comprehensive care once they return home. In both the 2007 Emergency Supplemental and the 2008 Budget Resolution, Congress provides for additional funding for veterans’ health programs.
The 2007 Emergency Supplemental allocates nearly $1.8 billion in funds to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA), not requested by the President, to accommodate the increasing number of new veterans returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan, improve mental health and readjustment counseling services, and fund new polytrauma centers for the severely injured.
The Senate’s 2008 Budget Resolution allocates $43.1 billion for veterans in 2008, which is more than $3 billion above the President’s request. This represents 98 percent of the level requested in the Independent Budget, a plan developed by four leading veterans groups. The resolution also rejects the President’s proposal to increase TRICARE co-payments and to impose new fees and higher co-payments on certain veterans, which, according to VA estimates, would result in more than 200,000 veterans leaving the VA health care system.
See the DPC Fact Sheet entitled, Pattern of Neglect: The Bush Administration is Failing Our Troops and Veterans, for more information on this issue.
Democrats push for a change of course in Iraq. The 2007 Emergency Supplemental takes an important step forward in holding the President and the Iraqi government accountable for Iraq’s future and also advances the goal of changing course in Iraq. Specifically, the legislation would condition U.S. economic support for the Iraqi government on its progress toward achieving key political benchmarks, including: the formation of a Constitutional Review Committee and the completion of the constitutional review; the implementation of legislation to ensure the equitable distribution of the oil resources of the people of Iraq; the implementation of legislation on procedures to form semi-autonomous regions; and the implementation of legislation establishing an Independent High Electoral Commission, provincial elections law, provincial council authorities, and a date for provincial elections. The bill also requires the President to report to Congress on the Iraqi government’s success in meeting these benchmarks. If the established goals are not achieved, the legislation would require, subject to a presidential waiver, that $1.6 billion in economic support funding be withheld from the Iraqi government.
During the coming weeks, Democrats will remain committed to forging a new direction in Iraq that will bring this war to a responsible end and allow the United States to refocus much-needed resources on hunting down Osama bin Laden, countering the threat posed by al Qaeda and affiliated terrorist networks, and addressing other critical issues both at home and abroad.
Advancing Energy Independence and Environmental Protection
The Senate passed the Renewable Fuels, Consumer Protection, and Energy Efficiency Act of 2007. On June 21, 2007, the Senate passed landmark energy legislation that will increase our energy independence, strengthen the economy, reduce global warming emissions, and protect consumers. The bill combines provisions to increase appliance efficiency, reduce oil consumption by 35 percent by 2030, increase production of homegrown renewable fuels to 36 billion gallons by 2022 with measures to protect the environment, encourage the President to make the United States a leader in energy diplomacy, make price gouging a punishable crime during declared energy emergencies, and increase fuel efficiency standards for cars, trucks and SUV’s for the first time in 20 years.
See DPC Fact Sheet entitled, Senate Democrats Move Forward on a New Energy Policy, for more information on this issue.
The Democratic-led Senate has rejected funding cuts to energy and environment programs. Democrats took the first step toward a national energy policy that promotes energy independence, protects the environment, and confronts global climate change by increasing funding for energy and environment programs in Fiscal Year 2007. The 2007 Continuing Resolution 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.
In the 2008 Budget Resolution, Democrats sought to increase funding for energy and environmental programs, which have sustained dramatic cuts during the Bush Administration. Among many other cuts, the Bush Administration reduced funding for clean water, public lands, oceans, climate research, energy efficiency and conservation, and energy cost assistance for low-income Americans. While the Administration has cut these important programs, the President, in his 2008 Budget Request, failed to repeal lucrative subsidies for oil and gas companies.
See DPC Fact Sheet entitled, President Bush’s Budget Cuts Environmental, Natural Resource and Energy Independence Programs, for more information on this issue.
The Senate passed bipartisan, forward-thinking legislation to help ensure America’s competitive advantage in science, research, and technology. In April, the Senate passed S. 761, the America COMPETES Act, which increases the nation’s investment in basic and innovative research; strengthens educational opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics from elementary through graduate school; and develops the infrastructure needed to enhance innovation and competitiveness in the United States. A true example of bipartisanship, the bill passed overwhelmingly in the Senate and responds to concerns by industry leaders that America’s role as a leader in the technological and scientific fields is slipping. The bill takes significant steps toward securing our competitive edge in the future.
See the DPC Legislative Bulletin entitled, S.761, the America Competes Act, for more information on this legislation.
Democrats have prioritized other measures to maintain America’s competitiveness. The 2008Budget Resolution reflects the Sense of the Congress to provide sufficient funding so that the United States can continue to be the world leader in education, innovation, and economic growth. The resolution provides substantially increased funding above the President‘s requested level for scientific research and education, including programs that will educate new scientists, engineers, and mathematicians, place highly-qualified teachers in math and science K-12 classrooms, and support independent scientific research.
The Budget Resolution also provides for deficit-neutral legislation that would revitalize the American manufacturing sector by: 1) increasing federal research and development; 2) expanding the scope and effectiveness of manufacturing programs across the federal government; 3) increasing support for development of alternative fuels and leap-ahead automotive and energy technologies; and 4) establishing tax incentives to encourage the continued production in the United States of advanced technologies and the infrastructure to support such technologies.
See the DPC Legislative Bulletin entitled, Democrats Pass Budget That Restores Fiscal Discipline, Invests in Middle-Class Priorities, for more information on the 2008 Budget Resolution.
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 January, the Senate passed S.1, the Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act of 2007, which is the most sweeping ethics and lobbying reform bill in a generation. The bill will strengthen internal Senate rules regarding gifts and travel by restricting gifts from lobbyists and entities that hire lobbyists; it will slow the “revolving door” for former Senators and staff; it will dramatically enhance disclosure of the activities of lobbyists; it will enhance enforcement of lobbying disclosure requirements; it will make important changes to Senate rules to help prevent provisions “air dropped” into conference reports in the dead of night; it will ensure Members of Congress convicted of public corruption do not receive pensions on the taxpayer’s dime; it will for the first time ever require transparency in earmarks; and it will ban the pay-to-play K Street Project. Together, Congressional Democrats are working to achieve the toughest, most sweeping ethics and lobbying reform in a generation.
See the DPC Fact Sheet entitled, Senate Democrats Passed the Toughest, Most Sweeping Ethics Reform in a Generation, for background information on this legislation.
The Senate passed bipartisan legislation to restore checks and balances to the appointment process for United States Attorneys and safeguard the integrity of our justice system. The recent probe into the firing 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. House and Senate Democrats are committed to continuing the full investigation into these firings, and into the broader issue of political influence on the administration of justice, and to ensuring proper checks and balances in the selection of future U.S. Attorneys.
In March, the Senate overwhelmingly passed S.214, the Preserving United States Attorney Independence Act of 2007, which will ensure the Senate’s role in the placement of U.S. Attorneys. Under a provision that was slipped into the USA Patriot Act reauthorization 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. S.214 will restore 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.
In May, the House joined the Senate in passing S.214, and the bill has been cleared for the President’s signature. Returning to this effective, proven process will ensure that appropriate checks and balances are in place for the appointment of U.S. Attorneys. The effectiveness and legitimacy of the federal justice system depends upon it.
See the DPC Legislative Bulletin entitled, S.214, the Preserving United States Attorney Independence Act of 2007, for more information on this legislation.
Democrats sought better pay for working Americans by passing legislation to raise the minimum wage. In May, 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 Credit and 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.
Supporting Small Businesses — the Engine of our Economy
Democrats restored funding and resources to critical small business programs. In 2005, there were approximately 25.8 million businesses in the United States and 99.9 percent of these businesses were small firms. Supporting the growth of these businesses is vital to our economy. Nearly six million of these small businesses are employers; together, they employ approximately 50 percent of all private sector workers and pay more than 45 percent of the total U.S. private sector payroll. Further, small firms contribute more than 50 percent of the non-farm, private gross domestic product. In order to survive and thrive, these businesses rely heavily on loans from the Small Business Administration (SBA). Nevertheless, in his 2008 Budget Request, President Bush proposed cutting funding to critical SBA programs.
In the 2008 Budget Resolution, Congress rejected the President’s proposal to cut assistance to America’s small businesses and provided for the restoration of funding for the Manufacturing Extension Program, which helps small businesses adopt advanced manufacturing technologies. The measure also provided robust resources for the SBA’s budget, which has already experienced deep cuts to key programs including federal contracting oversight, veterans’ small business programs and microlending.
In addition, the resolution provides for deficit-neutral legislation that would make health insurance coverage more affordable and available to small businesses and their employees, through pooling arrangements that provide appropriate consumer protections.
Democrats enacted small business tax relief. The Small Business and Work Opportunity Tax Act, passed 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 expanded assistance for women-owned small businesses, one of the fastest growing segments of our economy. In 2002, women owned over 28 percent, or 6.5 million, of non-farm businesses, up 20 percent from 1997. More than 85,000 of these women used the SBA’s Women’s Business Centers. In the 2007 Emergency Supplemental, Democrats were successful in including legislation to extend funding to all Women’s Business Centers, which currently cannot receive federal funding after ten years. This legislation creates a permanent funding stream for Centers, helping them secure matching funds so they can continue to provide women-owned small businesses the tools they need to grow and flourish.
Democrats also secured an additional $25 million for small business disaster assistance. In the 2007 Emergency Supplemental, Democrats included recovery assistance for small businesses impacted by the 2005 hurricanes in an effort to revitalize the Gulf Coast economy. This additional $25 million in economic injury loans will provide disaster relief for some of the more than 125,000 businesses disrupted by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Improving Health and Health Care
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. In May, the Senate passed S.1082, the Food and Drug Administration Revitalization Act, which would greatly improve the FDA’s oversight of drug safety. The measure ensures that the FDA will no longer have to wait on legal opinions before making critical public health decisions. The bill also addresses misleading prescription drug ads by providing a constitutionally sound, effective, workable way to ensure that ads targeting consumers contain accurate information about the drug. S.1082 will further end the abuse of so-called “citizen petitions,” while preserving the FDA’s ability to review any such petitions that have public health merit.
In this new era of the life sciences, Democrats have no doubt that medical advances will continue to bring immense benefits for our citizens. Thus, we are working to ensure that we have strong, vigilant public health watchdogs to guarantee that new drugs and medical devices are safe and beneficial, and that they actually reach the patients who urgently need them.
See the background and summary section of the DPC Legislative Bulletin entitled, S.1082, the Food and Drug Administration Revitalization Act, for more information on this legislation.
The2008 Budget Resolution responds to our nation’s health care crisis by providing for improvements in children’s health care coverage. Approximately nine million American children do not have health insurance. These statistics are worse for children of color: a staggering 21.9 percent of Hispanic children, 12.5 percent of Black children, and 12.2 percent of Asian children are uninsured. Programs like the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) are working to reduce this percentage by insuring low-income children who do not qualify for Medicaid but whose families cannot afford private insurance. Nonetheless, the President and a number of Congressional Republicans have called on Congress to ratchet back CHIP coverage to limit coverage to children in families earning no more than twice the federal poverty level.
The President has also called for a reduction in the federal matching rate for children in families with incomes above 200 percent of the federal poverty line, and for CHIP-covered adults, the large majority of whom are working-poor parents of children enrolled in Medicaid or CHIP. If adopted, the President’s proposals would not only fail to make any headway toward covering the nation’s uninsured children but would effectively cut-off health coverage for 1.6 million children and low-income adults.
At a time when the number of uninsured has reached approximately 45 million people, Congress should be working to expand health coverage, not causing individuals to lose the coverage they already have. That is why a bipartisan majority of the Senate rejected the inadequate funding for CHIP proposed by the President. The2008 Budget Resolution provides for up to $50 billion for CHIP over five years to provide coverage to the estimated six million children eligible but not enrolled in either CHIP or Medicaid, and to maintain coverage for all currently-enrolled individuals. Further, to address this year’s shortfalls, which would have left 14 states without money to provide full CHIP coverage, Congress included $650 million in funding to CHIP the 2007 Emergency Supplemental.
As Congress works to reauthorize CHIP, Democrats will work hard to fully-fund the program to cover more currently eligible children and ensure that no one looses their existing coverage.
See the DPC Fact Sheets entitled, Improving Health Coverage for Children is America’s Top Health Priorityand Debating CHIP Reauthorization: Setting the Record Straight(release expected the week of June 4, 2007)for more information on this issue.
Democrats are committed to expanding federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. Embryonic stem cells have the unique ability to develop into virtually every cell and tissue in the body, and stem cell research is giving hope to millions of people with debilitating diseases and disabilities who may one day benefit from embryonic stem cell therapies. Scientists report that the restrictions President Bush has imposed on the number of stem cell lines eligible for federally-funded research is hindering progress. Last year, the President vetoed bipartisan legislation that would have expanded the number of embryonic stem cell lines eligible for federally-funded research.
Undeterred, Congress again passed legislation to expand the number of human embryonic stem cells eligible for federally-funded research. S.5, the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007, directs the Health and Human Services Secretary to conduct and support embryonic stem cell research, regardless of when the stem cells were derived, provided that: 1) the stem cells were derived from embryos donated from in vitro fertilization clinics, were created for fertility treatment, and are in excess of what was needed for those treatments; 2) the embryos would never be implanted in a woman and would otherwise be discarded; and 3) the individuals who donated embryos have provided their written informed consent and have not received any financial or other inducements for making the donation.
On June 20, President Bush vetoed S.5, for the second time, blocking legislation to advance research on embryonic stem cells. Both S.5 and the legislation vetoed by the president in the last Congress were approved by bipartisan majorities in both the House and the Senate, with nearly universal support from Democrats. S.5 has the support of the overwhelming majority of Americans, as well as major medical and scientific associations, research universities and institutions, and dozens of patient advocacy organizations. More than 100 million Americans suffer from diseases or conditions that could one day be treated with therapies derived from stem cell research. The President’s veto is a devastating setback for them. That is why Democrats will continue to fight to expand the President’s misguided policy.
See DPC Fact Sheets entitled, NIH Director Agrees that Federally Funded Scientists Should Have Access to New Embryonic Stem Cell Lines and President Bush Blocks Legislation to Advance Stem Cell Research — Again for more information on this issue.
Congressional Democrats have taken steps to increase funding for other education and training programs. The 2008 Budget Resolution provides for an increase in discretionary spending for education and training programs of $9.5 billion (including $2 billion in additional 2009 advance appropriations) above President Bush’S.2008 Budget Request. Recognizing that investments in education and training programs are critical to our nation’s long-term economic outlook, the Budget Resolution rejected the President’s program eliminations and cuts and provided additional funding for investments in educational opportunities, social services, and job training. The resolution also provides for the largest increase since 2002 in funding for elementary and secondary programs, particularly for Title I, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and Impact Aid.
Under Democratic Leadership, the Senate has passed legislation to expand the Head Start program. 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 June 19, the Senate passed the “Head Start for School Readiness Act“, which would increase funding and expand access for Head Start program to include additional low-income children up to 130 percent. The bill would also double the size of Early Head Start, delivering services to over 56,000 additional children. To improve and expand the availability of quality early childhood education, the legislation would establish an Early Care and Education Council in each state to develop a coordinated and comprehensive system of early childhood education and development.
Protecting Middle-Class Taxpayers
Democrats are working to eliminate unfair tax burdens on middle-class Americans. Skyrocketing health care, education, housing, and gas costs have placed middle-class families in a tight economic squeeze. Making matters worse, more and more of these families are being forced to pay the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT), which was originally intended for the super-wealthy to ensure they paid a minimum tax. The 2008 Budget Resolution ensures that the number of taxpayers subject to the alternative minimum tax (AMT) will not be allowed to increase in 2007, giving Congress and the Administration time to come up with a permanent solution. The resolutionwill also protect some 20 million middle-class taxpayers from being subject to the tax.
The Democratic Budget Resolution provides for the extension of tax cuts to minimize fiscal burdens on middle-income families and their children and grandchildren. Thesetax cuts include the:
- Permanent extension of the Marriage Penalty tax relief;
· Permanent extension of the $1,000 refundable Child Tax Credit;
· Permanent extension of the 10 percent income tax bracket;
· Permanent extension of the adoption tax credit;
· Permanent extension of dependent care tax credit;
· Permanent allowance of U.S. soldiers‘ combat pay for the earned income tax credit; and
· Reform of the estate tax to protect small businesses and family farms.
See the DPC Fact Sheet entitled, Middle-Class Life Under Bush: Less Affordable and Less Secure, for more information on this issue.
The Democratic-led Senate passed important, bipartisan legislation to improve water infrastructure. For seven years, communities have been waiting to shore up their infrastructure needs — many of which are vital to protecting families and homes from catastrophic flooding. In May, Democrats worked with Republicans to authorize the projects and programs of the Civil Works Program of the Army Corps of Engineers through H.R.1495,the Water Resources Development Act. The Corps constructs projects for flood damage reduction, navigation, ecosystem restoration, recreation, hydroelectric power, water supply, aquatic plant control, and hurricane and storm damage reduction.
Congress has not authorized the activities and projects of the Army Corps of Engineers since 2000. Corps reform provisions in the bill include updates in the Corps’ planning process, the water resources planning coordinating committee, independent peer review, and improvements to the Corps’ mitigation program. These provisions would help ensure that the Army Corps of Engineers does its job more effectively and soundly, and require, in many cases, an extra pair of expert eyes on its projects. H.R.1495 wouldalso authorize the Louisiana Coastal Area ecosystem restoration program to reverse wetland losses and provide hurricane and storm damage reduction benefits to areas devastated by the hurricanes of 2005.
Rebuilding the Gulf Coast
Democrats are committed to investing in and rebuilding the Gulf Coast region. More than a year and a half 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 even more difficult for long-time residents to return to and rebuild their homes and lives. The situation has caused many to wonder whether some in Washington have forgotten about the region. Democrats, however, are committed to ensuring that the Gulf Coast receives the necessary funds to continue the recovery effort. In the 2007 Emergency Supplemental, in addition to providing funds for small businesses in the area, Congress provided a total of $6.4 billion for victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, including $1.3 billion to complete levee and drainage repairs, $50 million to reduce violent crime in Gulf Coast states, and $110 million to repair the seafood and fisheries industries, which is vital to the region’s economic recovery.