Senate Democrats

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 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.  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. 

As we begin 2008, Senate Democrats will not rest until we have addressed the key domestic and international priorities of our nation, starting by amending the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and passing a bipartisan economic stimulus package.    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 law 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 restoring funding for domestic and international priorities, including education, childrens health care, veterans, and our troops all without raising a penny in taxes;
  • Continuing Resolution: a law that provided funding for the agencies covered by the nine remaining 2007 appropriations bills not completed by Republicans in the 109th Congress, including vital funding for 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;
  • Omnibus appropriations: consolidated funding to support the operations of the federal government in Fiscal Year 2008;
  • 9/11 Commission recommendations: a law 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: a consolidated appropriations law that invests $34.85 billion in the nation’s highest-priority security projects – $550 million 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 $2.7 billion in emergency spending, not requested by the President, to address unmet border security and immigration enforcement needs; 
  • Defense authorization: legislation to authorize defense related spending and advance national security priorities, including 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;
  • Defense funding: an appropriations law 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 includes a 3.5 percent across-the-board pay raise for all uniformed service personnel, $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; and legislation to protect military bonuses for wounded soldiers;
  • Military Construction and Veterans Affairs funding: a consolidated appropriations law that provides $60.2 billion in discretionary funding for military construction and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), including a $3.7 billion increase above the President’s budget request for the VA, to (1) ensure funding for military construction, Base Realignment and Closure, and family housing; (2) support the Administration’s “Grow the Force” initiative, to increase the size of the U.S. Army and Marine Corps; and (3) 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;
  • 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: a law that provides $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;
  • Terrorism Risk Insurance: a law that provides a federal backstop against catastrophic losses associated with massive terrorism damages in the property and casualty insurance marketplace;
  • Diplomatic and foreign aid programs funding: a consolidated appropriations law providing $32.8 billion in funding for State Department operations and foreign aid programs, including increased funding for international peacekeeping, combating infectious diseases, and development initiatives, and U.S. contributions to the United Nations, World Bank, and other international organizations;
  • Sudan divestment: a law that allows American investors, taxpayers, and pensioners to divest from businesses directly contributing to the violence and misery of hundreds of thousands of innocent Darfuris;
  • Minimum wage: a law that increases the federal minimum wage to $7.25/hour;
  • Extending trade adjustment assistance: a law 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;
  • Experienced airline pilots: a law that raises the mandatory retirement age for pilots from 60 to 65;
  • Federal Housing Administration (FHA) reform: legislation to strengthen and modernize the FHA to help homeowners facing foreclosure obtain safe and affordable home loans;
  • Mortgage tax relief: a law that offers tax relief to Americans facing foreclosure by providing a three-year exception for debt forgiveness on home loans and extends a provision that allows homeowners to deduct mortgage insurance payments from their taxable income; 
  • American competitiveness: a law that 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;
  • Middle-class tax cuts: provisions of the budget resolution that allow 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, and U.S. soldiers combat pay for the earned income tax credit; and reform of the estate tax to protect small businesses and family farms;
  • Financial services and general government programs: a consolidated appropriations law that invests $20.6 billion in agencies and programs that safeguard toys and other consumer products, support small businesses and community economic growth in urban and rural low-income communities, improve taxpayer services, and ensure the implementation of key governmental programs, such as the Help America Vote Act;
  • 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;
  • Energy and water programs funding: a consolidated appropriations law that provides $30.9 billion to help reduce America’s dependence on oil, protect the environment, and support the development of our nation’s water resources by funding the Department of Energy, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the Bureau of Reclamation;
  • Higher education: a law providing $20 billion in additional college aid to students – the largest increase since the G.I. bill – including an increase in the maximum Pell Grant; 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;
  • Head Start: a law to expand eligibility for the Head Start program;
  • Elementary and secondary education: provisions of the budget resolution that provide for the largest increase in funding for elementary and secondary programs since 2002;
  • Labor, health, and education funding: a consolidated appropriations law that provides $144.8 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, including $307 million in emergency funds for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program;
  • 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;
  • Extending Medicare, Medicaid, and CHIP: a law that blocks cuts to Medicare and ensures access to health care for rural seniors; funds the Transitional Medicaid Assistance and special diabetes programs; and extends CHIP;
  • 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: a law to reauthorize of the National Breast Cancer and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program;
  • Safety for seniors: a bill that directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services to expand research programs on elder slip and falls;
  • 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;
  • Farm bill: legislation to invest in rural communities, ensure participation in the food stamp program, expand programs to feed low-income children, improve conservation, reform producer income protection programs, and expand the development and use of farm-based renewable energy;
  • Water resources development: a law that invests in environmental restoration and storm protection along the Gulf Coast, supports the restoration of wetlands and their accompanying ecosystems across the country, improves transit and increase environmental protection along America’s waterways, and enhances the safety of levees nationwide;
  • FDA reauthorization: a law to greatly improve the Food and Drug Administration’s oversight of food and drug safety;
  • Agriculture, food and drug safety, and rural development funding: a consolidated appropriations law that invests $18.1 billion — more than the President’s request — to safeguard the nation’s food supply, meet the nutritional need of low-income pregnant and postpartum women and infants, and address housing shortages in rural America by funding  the Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration, and the United States Commodity Future Trading Commission; 
  • Environmental protection and interior funding: a consolidated appropriations law that invests $26.6 billion — $900 more than the President – in programs that promote clean air, improve the quality of our drinking water, support firefighting activities, and improve and safeguard the nation’s national parks;
  • Transportation, housing and urban development funding: a consolidated appropriations law to provide $103.4 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;
  • Gulf Coast revitalization: a law that provides 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: a law that enhances criminal penalties for fraud associated with major disaster or emergency relief benefits;
  • Disaster assistance for small businesses: a bill to provide recovery assistance for small businesses impacted by the 2005 hurricanes in an effort to revitalize the Gulf Coast economy;
  • Tax relief for small businesses: a law that provides a range of deficit-neutral tax incentives designed to help small businesses grow;
  • Veterans-owned businesses: legislation to reauthorize Small Business Administration programs for veterans and reservists for two years and provide millions for Veterans Business Outreach Centers;
  • 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: a law that establishes guidelines for the decontamination and remediation of former meth labs;
  • Criminal background checks for gun purchases: a law that improves the National Instant Criminal Background Check System by ensuring that records are more easily updated by state and federal agencies to reflect a disqualifying mental illness and by establishing a better process by which citizens who have overcome a disqualifying mental illness can have their rights restored;
  •  Law enforcement: a 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;
  • Commerce, Justice and science funding: a consolidated appropriations law providing more than $51.8 billion to strengthen the economy and promote American competitiveness; protect our nation from terrorism and violent crime, including $263 million in emergency appropriations for border and cyber security; and promote scientific advancements;
  • U.S. Attorney appointments: a law 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 law to improve the security of our courts, judges, and their families;
  • 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;
  • Improving the Do-Not-Call Registry: a bill to ensure that phone numbers can remain on the list beyond five years and that removed numbers can be re-included; and a bill to authorize the Federal Trade Commission to collect do-not-call registry fees from telecommunications companies for the operation and enforcement of the registry;  
  • Internet tax moratorium: a law to extend the moratorium on taxes on Internet usage and electronic commerce;
  • Freedom of Information Act(FOIA)reform: a law that addresses the policy and administrative hurdles that have created an extensive FOIA request backlog; and
  • 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.