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The Congressional Connector

Week of October 17 - 21, 2005

Congress Clears Bill to Shield Gun Manufacturers from Lawsuits
On October 20, the House of Representatives voted 283 to 144 to approve legislation making it more difficult for victims of gun violence to sue gun manufacturers and gun dealers.  Supporters of the measure claimed it would block frivolous lawsuits designed to bankrupt a responsible industry.  Opponents of the bill say it would dramatically re-write liability law for the direct benefit of a single industry and would deny justice to victims of gun violence.  The legislation had previously been approved by the Senate on a vote of 65 to 31.  President Bush is expected to sign the bill into law in the near future.  Rep. Levin voted against passage of this bill.

House Approves A Cheeseburger Bill
On October 19, the House voted 306 to 120 to adopt legislation to give sweeping protection to restaurants, food producers, fast food chains, and even dietary supplement makers from being held responsible in court for deceptive marketing practices related to obesity.  The House bill prohibits civil lawsuits from being brought in federal or state court for injuries related to a person=s consumption of food and weight gain.  Opponents of the bill noted that the bill was so broadly drafted that it would insulate negligent and reckless activity, such as mislabeling food products.  Rep. Levin voted against passage of the bill.

Lawmakers Urge Changes to PATRIOT Act
More than 140 members of the House of Representatives signed a letter this week to urge greater safeguards to American's library and bookstore records under the USA PATRIOT Act.  One of the most controversial sections of the PATRIOT Act is the library records provision which allows the FBI broad authority to secretly obtain a wide variety of personal information, including people=s library and bookstore records.  The House and Senate have approved very different versions of legislation to renew expiring provisions of the PATRIOT Act.  The Senate-passed bill contains a much higher standard that the FBI would have to meet before they could access personal records.  Under the Senate=s language, the FBI would be required to provide facts showing reason to believe that the records sought are relevant to a terrorism investigation, and that these records are somehow connected to an agent of a foreign power.  The House bill, however, does not require any facts establishing a link between the person whose records are being sought and a terrorism investigation or a crime.  Rep. Levin co-signed the letter to the House and Senate negotiators who are meeting to craft a compromise bill.

Levin Cosponsors Bill to Help Endangered Species
This week Rep. Levin agreed to cosponsor bipartisan legislation to help endangered populations of great cats and rare canine species.  The Great Cats and Rare Canids Act of 2005 would add 13 species B including Central America=s jaguars, Asian and African lions, South America's bush dog, Tibet=s snow leopard, and Spain=s Iberian lynx -- to the list of species protected by the Multinational Species Conservation Fund (MSCF).  All of these species are in severe decline due to habitat loss, illegal hunting, and other factors.  The Fund supports efforts to control illegal logging in protected areas, reduce poaching and smuggling of wildlife products, curb unauthorized hunting, and mitigate human-wildlife conflicts. 

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