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The Congressional Connector

Week of December 5-9, 2005

House Extends Tax Cuts for the Very Wealthy

On December 8, the House of Representatives approved a $56 billion tax cut bill that overwhelmingly benefits the very wealthy.  The House approved the measure on a vote of 234 to 197.  The centerpiece of the bill is a $28 billion tax cut for capital gains and dividend income.  Those with incomes above $1 million a year will get nearly half of the tax cuts, an average of more than $32,000 per year.  Taxpayers with incomes below $40,000 – the majority of taxpayers – will get an average tax cut of just $7 a year.  Speaking in opposition to the tax bill, Rep. Levin said: “What are the choices of the Republicans?  First, they want to extend the capital gains and dividend tax cuts even though they already are scheduled to continue through 2009.  Secondly, they chose to slash funding from student loans and child support enforcement to pay for these tax cuts.  Finally, the Republicans chose to leave out of this bill relief from the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT).  The choice is clear: the Republican-controlled House would rather provide tax relief to those people making over a million dollars a year rather than millions of working families.”  Rep. Levin voted for a substitute proposal offered by Rep. Rangel of New York that would fix the Alternative Minimum Tax problem, which will hit 19 million families next year, preventing them from taking exemptions for their children, deductions for state and local taxes and other tax breaks.  The substitute failed on a vote of 192 to 239.  Since the Senate approved a very different tax relief bill, the House and Senate must now negotiate a final tax cut package.

Rep. Levin Participates in E-Hearing on the Crisis Facing the Automotive Industry

Democrats on the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workplace on sponsoring “The American Automobile Industry in Crisis: An E-Hearing to Address Threats to Middle Class Jobs, Wages and Health Care and Pensions.  Employees or Retirees are invited to submit testimony for this Hearing at the website.  In his opening statement, Rep. Levin stated, “I say we must actively shape the terms of globalization to advance the interests of U.S. businesses and workers.  The federal government is not without the tools, it is currently without the will to take the concrete action necessary to address the manufacturing crisis facing our nation.”


9/11 Commission Gives Failing Grades to Bush Administration and Congress

On December 5, the bipartisan members of the former 9/11 Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States awarded Congress and the Bush Administration failing grades on implementing the recommendations that the Commission made 17 months ago.  The Commission members gave the government seventeen F’s and D’s.  For example, the Commission awarded Congress an F for its failure to allocate homeland security grants based on risk, with the result that low-risk areas, like Montana, receive more homeland security funds per capita than high-risk areas like New York City.  The House has approved a bill to correct this problem, but the Senate has not taken action on it. 


Rep. Levin Urges EPA to Fund Great Lakes Restoration

On December 7, Rep. Levin sat down with the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Stephen Johnson, to urge that the Bush Administration provide new federal funding to restore the Great Lakes.  For the last year, a Regional Collaboration of more than 1500 people representing federal, state, local and tribal governments; non-governmental entities; and private citizens have been working to design and implement a strategy for the restoration, protection and sustainable use of the Great Lakes.  Last summer, the Regional Collaboration issued a promising draft report calling for a $20 billion Great Lakes restoration effort over the next 15 years.  Some members of the Bush Administration have since suggested that the White House may be unwilling to provide any new federal money for Great Lakes restoration.  A number of Members of Congress have been urging EPA to identify additional financial resources to back up the restoration plan.  The Regional Collaboration is meeting in Chicago on December 12 to release the final Great Lakes restoration plan and hopefully make some commitment to near-term restoration efforts.

House Adopts Free Trade Agreement with Bahrain

On December 7, the House approved the U.S. - Bahrain Free Trade Agreement on a vote of 327 to 95.  Rep. Levin supported the bill after working to press the Bahrainian government to bring their labor laws up to basic international standards.  The Bahrainian government has now introduced concrete legislation to fill these gaps in their labor code.

Levin Sets Up Committee to Look At Higher Education Needs in Macomb County

Governor Granholm’s Commission on Higher Education and Economic Growth set a goal of doubling the number of college graduates in the next ten years.  Rep. Sander Levin has announced the formation of a 12th District Congressional Advisory Committee on Higher Education in Macomb County. Former Fitzgerald School Superintendent Jim Edoff and Former State Senator Ken DeBeaussaert will Co-Chair the Congressional Panel to facilitate discussions, meetings and other activities on the challenges of higher education and the establishment of a four year public institution in Macomb.  At the announcement, Rep. Levin said, “The time is now to address this issue head-on. I am inviting all residents of the 12th Congressional District in Macomb County to join us in this discussion at whatever level they wish,” said Rep. Sander Levin. “They can email me their views, attend the town hall meetings we will schedule on this issue, organize a discussion within a group they are involved with, volunteer to outreach to others – together we seek consensus around an issue vital to Macomb’s future.”  To read the full statement, click here.  In addition, there is a special email account set up to receive opinions and expressions of interest in participating in the activities of the Advisory Committee. The email address is FourMacomb@mail.house.gov
  

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