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The Congressional Connector

Week of November 14-18, 2005

House Adopts Midnight Raid on Child Care, Student Aid and Health Care

At 1:12 a.m. on November 18, the House of Representatives began a showdown vote on a controversial package of $49 billion in spending cuts, primarily targeting child support enforcement, student loan programs, food stamps, and health services for children, the elderly, and the disabled.  The budget package squeaked by on a near party-line vote of 217 to 215.  Speaking of the provision in the GOP budget bill that cuts funding for child support enforcement, Rep. Levin said: “This is the most callous reflection of your fiscal irresponsibility.  You have driven yourselves and this country into so much debt, now you are reaching into the homes of this country.  This is anti-family.  This is anti-kids.  There is no defense of it. [The Congressional Budget Office] says if anyone votes for this, they are going to reduce child support payments over 10 years by $24 billion.  I say to you, you go home, you face the kids in your district, you face the parents in your district, and you tell them you voted for this.”   In the near future, the House is schedule to debate a $59.6 billion tax cut bill.  The largest component of this tax package is a $21 billion tax cut for capital gains and dividends – more than 50% of which would go to individuals with annual incomes of over $1 million.

Lawmakers Urge Adoption of McCain Amendment Banning Torture

A bipartisan group of more than 60 members of the House of Representatives is circulating a letter this week that urges adoption of the McCain Amendment to the Defense funding bill for 2006.  On October 5, the Senate vote 90 to 9 to adopt an amendment sponsored by Senator John McCain of Arizona that would prohibit cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment of persons in custody of the United States Government.  McCain is a decorated veteran who was tortured as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.  The letter, which Rep. Levin has agreed to sign, reads: “We support the McCain amendment and would strongly oppose any changes to the language of the amendment that would allow exemptions for the CIA, other government agencies or government contractors, or which would permit the President to waive the amendment’s prohibitions....  Torture is always abhorrent, regardless of the location, regardless of the agency and regardless of the occupant of the White House.”  The Bush Administration is threatening to veto the defense bill if it includes Senator McCain’s anti-torture provisions. 

Guaranteed Pensions Threatened by Controversial Pension Bill

On November 9, the House Ways and Means Committee approved a highly controversial pension bill, the “Pension Protection Act of 2005,” which would likely increase the number of companies terminating their pension plans.  Rep. Levin, who voted against the measure said, the bill “hits right at the manufacturing industry and smacks the American worker in the face.... [The bill is] about driving guaranteed benefit pension plans out of business.  We need to stand up for American workers by safeguarding their pensions, not passing policies that make it harder for companies trying to do the right thing.”  Sponsors of the pension legislation claim that the purpose is to make companies fully fund their pension obligations.  Democrats on the Committee agreed with business and labor groups that the pension bill would cause companies to terminate their pension plans, not fund them.

Legislation to Establish Ukrainian Famine Memorial Clears House

On November 16th, the House approved legislation introduced by Representative Levin to allow the Government of Ukraine to donate to the people of the United States a memorial in Washington, DC honoring the victims of the Ukrainian Famine-Genocide of 1932-33.  During this tragic period, 7 to 10 million Ukrainians were deliberately and systematically starved to death by the Soviet Union.  “The memorial authorized by this legislation will not only honor the memory of the millions that lost their lives, but serve as a tangible reminder to all of us that we must work together to prevent such tragedies in the future,” said Levin.  The legislation must now be considered by the Senate.

House Adopts Resolution Promoting Early Detection and Awareness of Ovarian Cancer

On November 8, the House of Representatives approved a resolution calling for early detection and awareness of ovarian cancer in its early stages before it spreads to other parts of the body. Ovarian cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer death among women in the United States. Fifty percent of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer die from it within 5 years, yet the disease can be treated effectively if it is discovered in its early stages.  Rep. Levin, an original cosponsor of the resolution, spoke in support of the measure: “Early detection of ovarian cancers most often leads to treatment and successful treatment, while late diagnosis makes treatment exceptionally difficult....  Every year about 27,000 women die from the gynecological cancers, and about half of those...from ovarian cancer.”   Levin also called on the Congress to back up the “good intentions” in the resolution with real action on Johanna’s Law, which would provide for a national public education campaign on the early warning signs of gynecologic cancers. Johanna’s Law, which Levin originally introduced in 2003, currently has over 220 cosponsors in the House.


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