Lawmakers Urge Bush Administration to Fight for U.S. Auto Industry
On July 6, a bipartisan group of 38 members of the House of Representatives wrote to the U.S. Trade Representative, Susan Schwab, to urge her to address persistent unfair trade practices by South Korea in ongoing trade negotiations between the two countries. While South Korean automakers enjoy access into the U.S. auto market, American automobile and auto parts manufacturers have been virtually shut out of the Korean market for decades. The letter was organized by Michigan Representatives Levin, Kildee and Upton. For additional information, click here.
House Democrats Press for Increase in Minimum Wage
For the last several weeks, Democrats have been using parliamentary tactics on the House Floor to focus attention on the need to boost the federal minimum wage. Despite rising health care, college and energy costs, the minimum wage has been frozen for nearly nine years. The last increase in the minimum wage took it to $5.15 an hour in 1997. A full-time minimum wage worker in 2006 earns only $10,712. In calling for a boost in the minimum wage paid to millions of Americans, Democrats noted that over the last nine years Congress has not been shy about voting itself regular cost-of-living adjustments. This week House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said that Democrats will not support any increase in Congressional salaries until Congress raises the minimum wage. On July 12, the House voted 260 to 159 in support of a motion by Representative George Miller of California to boost the minimum wage to at least $7.25 an hour. Because the Miller motion was non-binding, Democrats will continue to raise the issue on the House Floor.
New Study Uncovers Problems with EPA's Spill Prevention Efforts in Lake St. Clair
On July 7, Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow and Representative Sandy Levin announced the results of a new study by the General Accounting Office (GAO) that identified a number of serious concerns about the accuracy of the Environmental Protection Agency's data concerning oil and chemical spills in the St. Clair River/Lake St. Clair/Detroit River corridor as well as deficiencies in the EPA's procedures to prevent and respond to spills. GAO is the non-partisan investigatory arm of Congress. The three lawmakers wrote to EPA Administrator Johnson to urge that immediate corrective measures be taken. The letter read, in part: "The situation described in the GAO report is simply not acceptable. There is a longstanding problem with oil and chemical spills in the corridor, but no one is keeping track of the number of spills or their severity. Further, the regulated facilities within the corridor are largely left to their own devices when it comes to reporting spills and implementing spill control and prevention measures." For additional information, click here.
House Votes to Curb Internet Gambling
On July 11, the House of Representatives approved legislation [H.R. 4411] to curb Internet gambling by prohibiting banks and credit card companies from processing payments for online gambling bets. The Internet gambling business has grown into a worldwide $12 billion industry, with as much of half of the money being wagered by Americans, mostly at off-shore casinos that fall outside federal and state laws that apply to U.S.-based casinos. The House approved the measure on a vote of 317 to 93. Rep. Levin supported the bill.
$296 Billion Is Still A lot of Money
On July 11, the Bush Administration released revised projections for this year's federal budget deficit. According to White House, the budget shortfall will total $296 billion, an improvement over the Administration's earlier estimate. While the President trumpeted the improved deficit projections as proof that the Administration's economic policies are working, the Ranking Member of the House Budget Committee, Representative Spratt of South Carolina, indicated that the updated estimate would still make 2006 the fourth-largest deficit in U.S. history. Rep. Spratt said, "While any improvement in the budget's bottom line is welcome, today's news is not cause for complacency, much less celebration. We are not on a glide path to a balanced budget...and a deficit of $296 billion is still a large deficit."
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