Senate Democrats

The 110th Congress – Democratic Accomplishments and Republican Obstructions

This afternoon, Congressional Republican leaders will try to spin fictions about the Democratic-controlled 110th Congress. But the facts are clear. Democrats have produced a record of accomplishment in spite of unprecedented obstruction by the Republican minority. Republicans must stop dragging their feet, and work with Democrats on the business most important to the American people.

Democrats have passed a series of measures to advance the agenda of the Ameriacn people:

Democrats Passed First Minimum Wage Increase in a Decade. “The nation’s lowest-paid workers will soon find extra money in their pockets as the minimum wage rises 70 cents to $5.85 an hour today, the first increase in a decade. It ends the longest span without a federal minimum wage increase since it was enacted in 1938. The previous increase came in September 1997, when a bill signed by President Bill Clinton raised the minimum 40 cents, to $5.15 an hour. Legislation signed by President Bush in May increases the wage 70 cents each summer until 2009, when all minimum-wage jobs will pay no less than $7.25 an hour.” [Associated Press, 7/24/07]

Democrats Passed War Spending Bill that Included $6 Billion for Hurricane Relief. “The war spending bill provides about $95 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through Sept. 30 and billions in domestic projects, including more than $6 billion for hurricane relief.” [Associated Press, 5/25/07]

Democrats Passed Wounded Warriors Bill to Upgrade Military Health Care and Provide a 3.5% Pay Raise for Our Troops. “Senate Democrats scored a crucial pre-recess legislative win Wednesday, as a veterans’ healthcare measure and military pay raise previously attached to the stalled defense authorization bill passed unanimously. Republicans sought to add the 3.5 percent pay increase to the healthcare bill, dubbed the Wounded Warriors Act, before allowing immediate passage of the package.” [The Hill, 7/26/07]

Democrats Passed Legislation Out of Committee Providing the Largest Increase for Veterans Affairs Funding in History. “House and Senate appropriators are both confidently moving forward with their proposals to give the Veterans Affairs Department its largest-ever budget increase to address the increasing health care needs of veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The House passed its version of the fiscal 2008 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs appropriations bill (HR 2642) June 15 by a vote of 409-2. The Senate Appropriations Committee approved, 28-1, its draft version on June 14.” [CQ Today, 6/15/07]

Iraq Supplemental Appropriations Bill Included Additional $1.8 Billion for Veterans’ Health Care. “The House and Senate approved the $120 billion package yesterday. The president had requested $103 billion, but Congress added additional spending requirements to increase veterans’ health care programs by $1.8 billion, military construction and realignment by almost $5 billion, and homeland security by more than $1 billion.” [VFW Press Release, 5/25/07]

Democrats Passed Bill to Implement 9/11 Commission Recommendations. “The Senate overwhelmingly approved legislation yesterday to implement many of the remaining reforms suggested by the Sept. 11 commission, answering its three-year-old call for better emergency communications; more money for cities at high risk of terrorist attacks; and tighter security for air cargo, ports, chemical plants and rail systems.” [Washington Post, 3/14/07]

Democrats Passed Ethics and Lobbying Reform Bill. “Senate Democrats and Republicans broke a difficult stalemate last night and approved 96 to 2 expansive legislation to curtail the influence of lobbyists, tighten congressional ethics rules and prevent the spouses of senators from lobbying senators and their staffs. The Senate legislation, hailed by proponents as the most significant ethics reform since Watergate, would ban gifts, meals and travel funded by lobbyists, and would force lawmakers to attach their names to special-interest provisions and pet projects that they slip into bills. Lawmakers would have to pay charter rates on corporate jets, not the far-cheaper first-class rates they pay now.” [Washington Post, 1/19/07]

Democrats Passed Bill to Cut Subsidies to Student Lenders and Provide $17 Billion in Grants and Other Student Aid. “The Senate overwhelmingly approved a wide-ranging overhaul of student loan programs early today that would pay for more than $17 billion in grants and other student aid by slashing subsidies to lending companies. Democrats and student advocates said the legislation, which passed in a 78 to 18 vote, would help millions of Americans pay for college in a time of steady and often steep tuition increases.” [Washington Post, 7/19/07]

Democrats Passed a Bill to Better Regulate the Student Loan Industry. “Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts made the comments shortly after senators passed legislation (S 1642) to reauthorize the primary law governing colleges, universities and federal aid by an overwhelming margin of 95-0…. The underlying bill would increase the amount of information that schools and lenders must provide to students — including up-front disclosure of loan rates and terms and data on total school costs — and would ban lenders from giving schools financial aid funds or any other perks to get on a preferred lender list…. The bill would require colleges and universities to draft codes of conduct governing relationships with lenders; shorten the application form for federal student aid; and authorize a pilot program to allow students to learn the total aid they can expect to receive up to two years in advance.” [CQ Today, 7/24/07]

Democrats Passed a Fiscally Responsible Budget. “Congress gave final approval on Thursday to a $2.9 trillion budget plan that promises big spending increases for education and health care and a federal surplus in five years… Democrats said their budget measure would put the government $41 billion in the black by 2012, after steady deficits since 2002. They said the measure also would reversing Bush’s clampdown on domestic agencies’ annual budgets passed by Congress… The budget plan would lock in a promise by Democrats to restore pay-as-you-go rules. Republicans abandoned these in 2001 to pass Bush’s tax cuts.” [Associated Press, 5/17/07]

Democrats Passed Energy Bill That Increased Fuel-Efficiency Standards for First Time Since 1975. “The Senate passed a sweeping energy legislation package last night that would mandate the first substantial change in the nation’s vehicle fuel-efficiency law since 1975 despite opposition from auto companies and their Senate supporters… The package, which still must pass the House, would also require that the use of biofuels climb to 36 billion gallons by 2022, would set penalties for gasoline price-gouging and would give the government new powers to investigate oil companies’ pricing. It would provide federal grants and loan guarantees to promote research into fuel-efficient vehicles and would support test projects to capture carbon dioxide from coal-burning power plants to be stored underground.” [Washington Post, 6/22/07]

Meanwhile time after time the Senate Republicans have obstructed progress on America’s priorities:

Democrats Pushed for A New Direction in Iraq; Republicans Obstructed. On July 17 and July 18, Democrats held an all night debate to force a change of course in Iraq. Republicans obstructed Democratic attempts to vote on the Levin-Reed Amendment 8 times. Republicans have obstructed progress on legislation calling for a change of course in Iraq 8 times earlier in the year. [Senate Floor Proceedings, 7/17/07-7/18/07; Senate Vote #241, HR 1585, 7/11/07; Senate Vote #171, HR 2206, 5/17/07; Senate Vote #167, HR 1495, 5/16/07; Senate Vote #117, HR 1591, 3/28/07; Senate Vote #74, S.J.Res. 9, 3/14/07; Senate Vote #51, S. 574, 2/17/07; Senate Vote #44, S. 470, 2/5/07; Senate Vote #43, S. Con. Res. 2, 2/1/07]

Democrats Tried to Pass a Minimum Wage Increase; Republicans Obstructed. On January 24, Republicans blocked a bill that would have increased the minimum wage to $7.25 per hour over two years. [Senate Vote #23, HR 2, 1/24/07]

Democrats Tried to Pass Tax Incentives for Clean Energy; Republicans Obstructed. On June 21, Republicans blocked an amendment that would have established $32.1 billion of tax incentives for alternative energy sources while imposing taxes on the oil and gas industry. The amendment would have created $3.6 billion worth of renewable energy bonds, established $11 billion in tax incentives for renewable energy and authorize $2.5 billion for the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self Determination Act. [Senate Vote #223, HR 6, 6/21/07] 

Democrats Tried Twice to Pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform; Republicans Obstructed. On June 7 and June 28, Republicans blocked debate on comprehensive immigration reform. [Senate Vote #206, S. 1348, 6/7/07; Senate Vote #235, S. 1639, 6/28/07]  

Democrats Tried to Pass Intelligence Authorization; Republicans Obstructed. On April 16, Republicans blocked consideration of the Intelligence Authorization bill, which would have authorized classified amounts in fiscal 2007 for U.S. intelligence activities and agencies including the CIA, the National Security Agency, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency. [Senate Vote #130, S. 372, 4/16/07] 

Democrats Passed War Supplemental Funding Bill With Measures to Change Direction in Iraq; President Bush Vetoed the Bill. “President Bush used his veto pen for only the second time Tuesday after Congress sent him a war spending bill that would impose timelines to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq, which he called a ‘prescription for chaos.’” [NBC News, 5/1/06]  

Democrats Passed a Bill to Expand Stem Cell Research; President Bush Vetoed the Bill.President Bush yesterday vetoed legislation to expand federally funded embryonic stem cell research, saying that scientific advances now allow researchers to pursue the potentially lifesaving work without destroying human embryos.” [Washington Post, 6/21/07]

The Senate Republicans are on pace to reach new records for obstruction. It is worth noting the hypocrisy of the current minority on the issue of obstruction:

McConnell Called for Up-or-Down Vote on Republican Tax Package. “Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said all three elements of the bill could have survived simple-majority votes had they been allowed, and he accused the Democrats of being obstructionists. ‘How can we have bipartisanship in the Congress if Democrats won’t take ‘yes’ for an answer?’ he asked.” [Washington Post, 8/4/06]

  • McConnell Justified 60 Vote Threshold on Iraq Debate. “As I indicated, it had been my hope that we could have had the Levin Amendment and the Cornyn Amendment in juxtaposition, by consent, both requiring 60 votes. This has been the way we’ve dealth with I think essentially every controversial Iraq amendment this year, no matter what bill it’s been offered up upon.” [Senate Floor Proceedings, 7/16/07]
  • McConnell Said It Was Absurd that Controversial Matters Should Not Be Decided by 60 Vote Threshold “Point number two, the suggestion that it’s somehow unusual in the Senate to have controversial matters decided by 60 votes is absurd on its face.” [McConnell Press Conference, 7/18/07]

Senator Lott Called for An Up-or-Down Vote on 2002 Iraq War Resolution. “President George W. Bush yesterday agreed to narrow the terms of a congressional resolution authorizing military action against Saddam Hussein and offered what one lawmaker called ‘an olive branch’ to angry Democrats who have accused him of politicizing the issue…Lott, however, signaled that Republicans were not willing to negotiate much further, saying: ‘It’s time. We could wordsmith this to death.’ Lott said Republicans want an up-or-down vote on the resolution with no ability to offer amendments; Daschle said floor amendments are possible. [Newsday, 9/22/02]

Senator Lott Called for Up-or-Down Vote on 2002 Stimulus Package. “Lott called on Daschle to allow the Senate to cast a straight up or down vote on each party’s economic proposals. That would require a simple majority of 51, rather than the tougher, 60-vote hurdle.” [Chicago Tribune, 2/6/02]

  • Senator Lott Admitted GOP Was Using Obstructionist Tactics. “Is this obstructionism? Yes, indeed–according to none other than Lott. The Minority Whip told Roll Call, ‘The strategy of being obstructionist can work or fail. For [former Senate Minority Leader Tom] Daschle, it failed. For Reid it succeeded, and so far it’s working for us.’ Lott’s point was that a minority party can push as far as it wants until the public blames them for the problem, and so far that has not happened.” [Ornstein Column, AEI, 7/18/07]

Senator Kyl Claims Democrats Won’t Allow Congress to Have ‘Serious Policy Debates.’ “We really ought to be asking why this Democrat leadership won’t allow Congress to move forward on serious policy debates,” said Kyl. “Americans have been disappointed by a majority leadership that stages one show debate after another, while the only consistent legislative work getting done is the renaming of post offices.” [Washington Times, 7/24/07]

  • However Senator Kyl Spearheaded the ‘Serious Debate’ Over Immigration Reform And Worked With Senator Reid to Revive The Debate. Kyl worked with Democrats to craft and have a ‘serious policy debate’ on the recent Immigration bill. Kyl also requested Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to bring the immigration bill back to the floor. Senator Reid said, “…Following the unsuccessful cloture vote on June 7, a group of Senators, including Minority Leader McConnell, Republican Conference Chairman Kyl and Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Specter, came to see me with a request that I bring the immigration bill back before the Senate…” [Arizona Republic, 5/10/07; Congressional Record, 6/27/07]