Senate Democrats

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

Last year, Democrats were elected to take the country in a new direction by advancing the priorities of the American people.  Nearly one year into the Democratic-led Congress, Democrats have made a significant down-payment on those expectations. After nearly a decade of Republican control, we have worked to restore fiscal responsibility in Washington 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, 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.  Senate Republicans and President Bush 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.  As we look toward 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.

Under Democratic leadership, the Senate has passed the following measures:

·        Ethics and lobbying reform: a bill to slow the “revolving door” for former Senators and staff, strengthen limits on gifts and travel, expand lobbying disclosure requirements, establish a study commission on ethics and lobbying, prohibit pensions for Members of Congress convicted of certain crimes, and implement reform procedures relating to earmarks and conference reports;

·        A fiscally responsible budget: a budget that restores fiscal discipline and will lead to a surplus, while cutting middle-class taxes and funding domestic and international priorities, including education, childrens health care, veterans, and our troops all without raising a penny in taxes;

·        9/11 Commission recommendations: a bill to 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 agencies;

·        Homeland security funding: an appropriations bill that invests $37.6 billion in the nation’s highest-priority security projects – $2.8 billion more than the President proposed – to strengthen our borders, ensure first responders have the tools they need to do their jobs, and enhance security at our airports, ports, and mass transit facilities; the bill also provides $3 billion in emergency spending, not requested by the President, to address unmet border security and immigration enforcement needs; 

·        Defense funding: an appropriations bill to provide $459.3 billion in funding to the Department of Defense to 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 also provides a 3.5 percent across-the-board pay raise for all uniformed service personnel;

·        Veterans affairs funding: an appropriations bill that would provide the largest increase in veterans’ spending in the history of the United States.  The bill provides $43.1 billion for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), which is a $3.7 billion increase above the President’s budget request for the VA, including a $2.6 billion increase for veterans’ health care and medical research.  This significant investment will ensure the VA has the resources it needs to provide benefits and first-rate care to all of our nation’s veterans, including the growing number of returning Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans;

·        Military construction funding: an appropriations bill that includes $21.5 billion for military construction, Base Realignment and Closure, and family housing, which is $367 million above the President’s budget request.  The funding also would support the Administration’s “Grow the Force” initiative, to increase the size of the U.S. Army and Marine Corps;

·        Equipment for our troops: legislation providing $11.6 billion for Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles, and increased funding for body armor and other protective equipment for Special Operations Command;

·        Care for wounded soldiers and veterans: legislation to improve military health care facilities, fill in gaps in health insurance coverage, increase severance pay, and provide a seamless transition from the Department of Defense to the Department of Veterans Affairs, and transition from military service to civilian life;

·        Tax relief for military families: legislation to provide tax relief for members of the military who are receiving combat pay, saving for retirement, or purchasing their own homes;

·        Benchmarks for Iraq: legislation that conditions U.S. economic support for the Iraqi government on its progress toward achieving key political benchmarks;

·        National Guard and Reserve readiness: legislation to provide $980 million in additional funding for National Guard and Reserve equipment above the President’s budget request to remedy equipment shortfalls that are compromising the quality of force training and limiting the Guard’s ability to quickly respond to natural disasters and defend against terrorist threats at home;

·        Diplomatic initiatives and foreign aid programs: an appropriations bill providing $34.4 billion in funding for State Department operations and foreign aid programs, as well as U.S. contributions to the United Nations, World Bank, and other international organizations.  This amount is more than $2.7 billion above the Fiscal Year 2007 funding level and includes increased funding for international peacekeeping, combating infectious diseases, and development initiatives;

·        Terrorism Risk Insurance: legislation to provide a federal backstop against catastrophic losses associated with massive terrorism damages in the property and casualty insurance marketplace;

·        Sudan divestment: legislation to allow American investors, taxpayers, and pensioners to divest from businesses directly contributing to the violence and misery of hundreds of thousands of innocent Darfuris;

·        Continuing Resolution: legislation providing funding for the nine remaining appropriations bills that were not completed by Republicans in the 109th Congress.  In passing this legislation, 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;

·       Children’s health coverage: a bill to reauthorize the popular and effective Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), investing an additional $35 billion over five years to strengthen the program’s financing; increase outreach and enrollment for low-income children of the working poor; enhance premium assistance options for low-income families; and improve the quality of health care that children receive from public programs like Medicaid and CHIP;

·        Labor, health, and education funding: an appropriations bill to provide $150.7 billion to make responsible investments to research cancer, heart disease, and diabetes; expand educational opportunities; provide access to health care for rural America; strengthen the skills of America’s workers and worker safety; and heat the homes of low-income elderly Americans;

·        Higher education: legislation providing $17 billion in additional college aid to students – the largest increase since the G.I. bill – including an increase in the maximum Pell Grant from $4,050 to $5,100 next year and to $5,400 by 2011; simplifying the financial aid process; decreasing subsidies so that the student loan system works for students, not the banks; and improving our K-12 schools by promoting effective teacher preparation programs;

·        Minimum wage: legislation to increase the federal minimum wage to $7.25/hour;

·        Energy bill: a bill to increase our energy independence, enhance energy efficiency, increase production of clean domestic biofuels, raise fuel economy standards for the first time in 25 years, punish price gougers, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve our energy security, reduce our dependence on oil, strengthen the economy, and protect American consumers;

·        Federal Housing Administration (FHA) reform: legislation to strengthen and modernize the FHA to help homeowners facing foreclosure obtain safe and affordable home loans;

·        American competitiveness: bipartisan legislation to increase the nation’s investment in basic and innovative research; strengthen educational opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics from elementary through graduate school; and develop the infrastructure needed to enhance innovation and competitiveness in the United States;

·        Middle-class tax cuts: the 2008 Budget Resolution allows for permanent extensions of the Marriage Penalty tax relief, the $1,000 refundable Child Tax Credit; the 10 percent income tax bracket; the adoption tax credit; the dependent care tax credit; U.S. soldiers combat pay for the earned income tax credit; and reform of the estate tax to protect small businesses and family farms;

·        Government contracting reform: a bill to strengthen competition in federal contracting, add transparency to the process, and help curtail waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayers’ money;

·        Freedom of Information Act(FOIA)reform: legislation to address policy and administrative hurdles that have created a FOIA request backlog;

·        Elementary and secondary education: the 2008 Budget Resolution provides for the largest increase in funding for elementary and secondary programs since 2002;

·        Head Start: a bill to expand eligibility for the Head Start program;

·        Stem cell research: legislation to expand the number of human embryonic stem cells eligible for federally-funded research; 

·        Mental health parity: legislation prohibiting 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 that apply to the plan’s medical and surgical benefits;  

·        Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) programs: legislation to reauthorize state grants for community-based services and support for adults and children with TBI;

·        Newborn screenings: legislation to improve health screenings for newborn babies;

·        Women’s health care: reauthorization of the National Breast Cancer and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program;

·        Asbestos ban: a bill to prohibit the importation, manufacture, processing, and distribution of asbestos containing products, invest in research and treatment, and launch a public education campaign on the dangers of asbestos;

·        Transportation, housing and urban development funding: an appropriations bill to provide $105.6 billion for key investments in the nation’s highway systems, securing our pipelines and railways, and providing housing and community development services for those in need, the elderly, and veterans;

·        Amtrak Reauthorization: a bill to help ease congestion on the road and in the air, improve the environment, enhance Amtrak operations, and reduce its operating subsidy by 40 percent;

·        FDA reauthorization: a bill to greatly improve the Food and Drug Administration’s oversight of food and drug safety;

·        Gulf Coast revitalization: legislation providing 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; 

·        Emergency disaster fraud: legislation to enhance criminal penalties for fraud associated with major disaster or emergency relief benefits;

·        Water resources development: a bill to invest in environmental restoration and storm protection along the Gulf Coast, support the restoration of wetlands and their accompanying ecosystems across the country, improve transit and increase environmental protection along America’s waterways, and enhance the safety of levees nationwide;

·        Disaster assistance for small businesses: a bill providing recovery assistance for small businesses impacted by the 2005 hurricanes in an effort to revitalize the Gulf Coast economy;

·        Tax relief for small businesses: legislation providing a range of deficit-neutral tax incentives designed to help small businesses grow;

·        Energy efficiency for small businesses: a bill creating incentives for small businesses to invest in green technologies, providing the resources to help entrepreneurs conduct energy audits, and ensuring the Administration implements an energy efficiency information program that Congress enacted two years ago;

·        Internet tax moratorium: a bill to extend the moratorium on taxes on Internet usage and electronic commerce;

·        Gang abatement and prevention: legislation authorizing more than $1 billion for gang prevention, intervention, and suppression programs, as well as creating tough federal penalties to deter and punish members of illegal street gangs; 

·        Combating the impact of methamphetamine abuse: legislation to establish guidelines for the decontamination and remediation of former meth labs;

·         Law enforcement: reauthorization of the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program, which provides critical assistance to state and local governments to prevent and control crime and improve the criminal justice system;

·        Combating identity theft and cyber crime: legislation toassist the victims and aid in the prosecution and punishment of perpetrators of identity theft and cyber crimes;

·        Commerce, Justice and science funding: an appropriations bill providing more than $54 billion to strengthen the economy and promote American competitiveness, protect our nation from terrorism and violent crime, and promote scientific advancements;

·        U.S. Attorney appointments: legislation ending the indefinite appointment of interim U.S. Attorneys and restoring the role of the Senate in the selection of U.S. Attorneys;

·        Judicial and court security: a bill to improve the security of our courts, judges, and their families;

·        Safety for seniors: a bill that directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services to expand research programs on elder slip and falls;

·       Extending trade adjustment assistance: legislation to ensure that eligible U.S. workers, farmers, fisherman, and manufacturing firms facing job losses as a consequence of free trade agreements do not fall through the cracks while Congress completes its work on a broad expansion and reauthorization of the current programs; and

·        Experienced airline pilots: legislation to raise the mandatory retirement age for pilots from 60 to 65.

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