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The Congressional Connector

Week of April 3 - 7, 2006 

GOP Budget Negotiations Collapse
On April 6, Republican Leaders of the House of Representatives were forced to pull their 2007 budget from the House Floor and send members home for a two-week recess.  Congress is required to approve a budget each year setting broad spending and revenue goals that the House and Senate must adhere to.  During more than 5 hours of Floor debate on Thursday, House Democrats made it clear that they would not support the Republican’s budget blueprint and would instead support their own budget alternative.  But in an unusual turn of events, after days of effort spent trying to round up enough votes to pass the measure, Republican leaders were unable to convince enough of their own members to support the GOP budget.  Moderate Republicans maintained that the budget cut too much funding from important domestic programs, while conservatives demanded even more draconian spending reductions.  It remains to be seen whether these differences can be bridged when Congress returns in two weeks.

Lawmakers Introduce Bill to Fix Flaw in Medicare Prescription Drug Program
On April 5, Rep. Levin joined with 51 of his colleagues in introducing H.R. 5102, which would prevent the private insurance companies that offer Medicare drug plans from changing which medications are covered partway through the year.  The current Medicare prescription drug law, which was signed into law by President Bush, included a provision that allowed the plans to change which drugs are covered and how much seniors pay for them every month, even though seniors are only allowed to change which plan they’re enrolled in once a year.  As a result, seniors could be locked into a plan that decides to stop covering the medication they take or starts charging a higher co-payment for it.  Over the past month, Congressman Levin has hosted a number of community conversations with seniors to find out about their experiences with the drug insurance program, and the unpredictable nature of the coverage is one of the reasons many seniors gave for not signing up.

Major Great Lakes Restoration Bill Introduced in Congress
On April 5, a bipartisan group of 31 House lawmakers introduced a Great Lakes restoration bill [H.R. 5100] that would help to protect and restore the Great Lakes.  The legislation implements the recommendations of the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration, which developed a comprehensive strategy on how to restore the Great Lakes ecosystem.  H.R. 5100 would set in motion the most ambitious environmental restoration effort ever attempted.  The legislation would reduce sewage entering the Lakes; help deal with the threat posed by invasive species entering the Lakes, including the Asian Carp; restore fish and wildlife within the Basin, and clean up contaminated sediments.  The following Michigan Representatives have cosponsored H.R. 5100: Ehlers, Levin, Dingell, Hoekstra, Kildee, Camp, McCotter, Upton, and Stupak.

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