109th Congress Concluded
Pray for Congress
December 18, 2006
Arise, cry aloud in the night At the beginning of the night watches;
Pour out your heart like water Before the presence of the Lord;
Lift up your hands to Him For the life of your little ones
We are trying to keep these Legislative Updates as close as we can to strictly legislation and the processes in Congress surrounding those bills.
Having said that, have a Merry Christmas and blessings in Jesus' name!
The LORD bless you, and keep you; The LORD make His face shine on you, And be gracious to you; The LORD lift up His countenance on you, And give you peace (Numbers 6:24-26).
Today's Update in brief:
109th Congress - Final Accomplishments
- Appropriations, Sans Earmarks
- Tax Relief, Health Care and Trade
- Stand-alone Legislation Cleared for President
- Valiant Efforts
R Congress Ends
- Senate Nominations
- Bills Introduced
- Final Actions
- Mid-Term Election Results
109th Congress - Final Accomplishments
Appropriations, Sans Earmarks
The 109th Congress completed two of 11 annual appropriations bills for fiscal year 2007. Instead of rolling the rest of the $463 billion in spending bills into one big omnibus package pork magnet, as it has done many times over the last decade, it passed a continuing resolution (H.J.Res. 102) instead that would hold spending at FY 2006 levels through February 15, 2007, and blocks any increase in federal government spending (Passed 370-20, Map).
"The Wall Street Journal points out that House Republicans are intentionally leaving some spending bills undone, and that their 'unstated goal' is to 'disrupt the Democratic agenda and make it harder for the new majority to meet its promise to reinstitute "pay-as-you-go" budget rules, under which new costs or tax cuts must be offset to protect the deficit from growing... The White House is watching with alarm, as are many Senate Republicans, who have a greater stake than the House in maintaining relations with Democrats" (via First Read).
Not to be outdone, the incoming chairmen of the Appropriations Committees announced they would move another continuing resolution to finish out fiscal year 2007. To top it off, this resolution would also contain no earmarks. "Unlike the three stopgap spending measures that Congress has already cleared, the next one will not set funding at the lowest of the House-passed, Senate-passed or fiscal 2006 spending levels. Instead it will make 'limited adjustments' allowing appropriators to provide more money for priorities such as health, education and veterans' medical care (CQ Today Midday Update, 12/12/2006).
Not stopping there either, "They also said they would place a moratorium on all earmarks until lobbying changes are enacted," the Washington Post reported. "The alternative was to attempt to finish work on the spending bills when the Democratic-led Congress convenes in January, a dreaded prospect that could have derailed Democratic legislative efforts and stirred up policy battles around the same time that President Bush is due to submit his fiscal 2008 budget to the Hill, along with a large supplemental spending request for the Iraq war."
For fiscal year 2006, Congress shattered previous records with more than 10,000 earmarks; for fiscal year 2007, there could be no earmarks--something that hasn't happened in two decades. Started by the Republicans and finished by the Democrats, if they follow through, this could be the single greatest act of fiscal restraint the United States has ever seen.
The front page of the Washington Post yesterday decried, "Congress's Inaction Threatens Funding," as if the elimination of earmarks were such a terrible thing. With all the drama they could muster, the Post declared this decision "will reverberate in ways large and small." This story was not even on the editorial page--this is supposedly straight, unbiased "journalism." Who knew eliminating pork was so consequential?! Granted, it may not be a painless process, but it will move the country in a very positive direction.
Self-described "staunch conservative" Drew Ryun of the Madison Project: "if they can hold true to this promise, I am impressed." Although he expects "a lot of pushback" in Democratic circles from their "old bulls." His brother Ned Ryun: "Hats off to DeMint and Coburn. I just have to say, the Senate would be a heck of a lot better off with another 50 like them. Those two are fighting the good fight on government spending."
The White House has reacted warily to the Democrats' proposal. Rob Portman, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, called the long-term CR "disappointing" in a statement issued late yesterday. But he said the White House "will certainly work with the agencies and the Congress to ensure there are no major disruptions to essential government services" (CQ Today Midday Update, 12/12/2006).
Portman is seeking allies on the Hill among Democrats for next year's budget and appropriations process, and "was diving right into the troubled waters of entitlement reform."
- Praise the Lord for fiscal restraint by our leaders in Congress.
- Pray this would be the start of a federal two-year budget cycle.
Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law (Romans 13:8).
Tax Relief, Health Care and Trade
Tax Relief and Health Care Act, H.R. 6111 (Passed House 367-45, Senate 79-9) extends a number of tax credits, normalizes trade relations with Vietnam and opens an area of the Gulf of Mexico to oil drilling.
The House also passed H.R. 6406 (Passed 212-184) which combined several trade measures, including granting permanent normal trade relations with Vietnam and extending trade benefits to Haiti.
Look for free trade agreements to disappear from Congress' agenda after this. Blue Dog Democrats bemoan "losing millions of manufacturing jobs, the stagnation of incomes among middle class Americans and a massive trade deficit," resulting in a declining standard of living "thanks to self-destructive trade policies." According to the Associated Press today, "The Commerce Department reports that the deficit in the broadest measure of trade shot up to an all-time high of $225.6 billion in the summer."
Democrats cite with hope Capital Commerce Columnist "James Pethokoukis sharing 'his fear that likely 2008 Democratic Presidential contender John Edwards is about to 'raise the protectionist banner.' Pethokoukis notes that Edwards has established a committee to explore running for the 2008 Democratic nomination led by former Michigan Congressman David Bonior" who "has consistently supported measures to secure American jobs while opposing unfair trade" policies.
Whether or not the advocates of free trade are correct in their belief that "the world is flat" is not so much the issue that we see for prayer here. Our primary concern here is not one of freedom vs. fairness, or protection vs. globalization.
The real problem is an imbalance of freedom. The United States is aggressively pursuing two gratifications of freedom: free trade and free debt. Foreign investors, upon which our national debt and economy heavily rely, tolerate the latter because they get the former. However, if their incentive for bankrolling our national debt suddenly evaporates, look for them to lose interest, possibly in short order. If that happens, the United States economy could be in for a very hard landing. The United States currently has 8.6 trillion reasons to continue free trade.
- Pray that Congress would reduce the national debt, our national curse.
"Thus you shall live with us, and the land shall be open before you; live and trade in it and acquire property in it" (Genesis 34:10).
Stand-alone Legislation Cleared for President
- H.R. 5682: Henry J. Hyde United States-India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Act (Passed 330-59, Map) to allow the U.S. to share nuclear fuel and technology with India for civilian uses. Washington Post recap on the reversal of "decades of U.S. policy aimed at preventing the spread of nuclear weapons." President Bush signed this bill into law today.
- NBC Chief Medical Editor Dr. Nancy Snyderman reports "the $945 million 'Combating Autism Act' is the first ever bill to address autism, and could provide research funding over the next five years."
- S. 707, PREEMIE Act - First failed by voice vote, then subsequently passed by unanimous consent after being amended
- Law Passes Retooling Effort on Bioterror
The House and Senate have passed legislation that will revamp the Bush administration's $5.6 billion effort to counter bioterrorism threats, reorganizing management of the program and providing struggling companies with periodic cash infusions to help fund their research and testing.
- S. 2370 - Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act
- S. 3546 - Dietary Supplement and Nonprescription Drug Consumer Protection Act
- S. 1608 - Undertaking Spam, Spyware, And Fraud Enforcement With Enforcers beyond Borders Act of 2005
- S. 3678 - Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act
- S. 2653 - Call Home Act of 2006
- S. 3821 - COMPETE Act of 2006
- Pray for the President and the Administration as they seek to faithfully execute these laws.
How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night (Psalm 1:1-2).
The following is a collection of stories, most from the Washington Post, on the conclusion of the 109th Congress, and one-party control in Washington.
"Lawmakers on Thursday pieced together legislation extending popular tax breaks and saving doctors from a cut in Medicare payments as Republicans prepared to cede control of Congress to the Democrats. The legislation also contained several trade-related measures, including extending normal trade status to Vietnam." The AP also says "Democrats are unhappy that the budget impasse is being dropped in their laps next year, when it promises to clutter their early agenda."
Last-Minute Legislation At-A-Glance
Highlights of last-minute legislation, including tax and trade provisions, that Congress acted on Friday:
Last-Minute Lawmaking by Hastert, Reid
In the wee hours of the morning Dec. 7, Senate negotiators rejected a Medicare measure pushed by outgoing House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) that would have meant big revenues for an insurance company in Hastert's home state. But a day later, the $100 million proposal was alive and well,...
GOP Lawmakers Add Provision to Passing Tax Package
Republican lawmakers, with little public debate, quietly added a billion-dollar health-care benefit to legislation that was rushed through Congress just before it adjourned Saturday morning.
Congress's Last Acts Include Tax Breaks
The rancorous 109th Congress adjourned yesterday morning with final passage of measures to expand civilian nuclear trade with India, establish permanent trade relations with Vietnam and extend a bevy of expiring business tax breaks.
GOP Laments Mixed Results As Control of Congress Ends
Demoralized Republicans adjourned the 109th Congress at 5 a.m. yesterday with a near-empty Capitol, closing the door on a dozen years of nearly unbroken GOP control by spending more time in the final days lamenting their failures -- to rein in government, tame the deficit and temper their own lust...
Andrew C. von Eschenbach, Food and Drug Administration commissioner (Confirmed 80-11) Washington Post recap on break with tradition over holds by two lawmakers.
Robert M. Gates, Secretary of Defense (Confirmed 95-2) was sworn in today.
When your average member of Congress introduces legislation this late in the Congress, it's obviously not intended to make it into law. It can, however, make a point, and pave the way for future legislative action. A couple bills introduced at the end worth noting:
S. 4081: Habeas Corpus Restoration Act of 2006
Cynthia McKinney's Last Act
In her last act on her last day of Congress, Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D), who lost in a primary run off due in part to the fallout from her striking a Capitol Hill police officer, is introducing articles of impeachment against President Bush.
The 110th Congress plans to hit the ground running, and we plan a thorough update on the details of their first 100 hours, the week between Christmas and the new year. There are a few developing stories about the new Congress worth noting prior to that time. However, before that, we wanted to highlight an important Christmas story as we remember our defenders of freedom in the Middle East and around the world at this time:
Remembering fallen heroes at Christmas
On his first trip to Washington, D.C., more than 45 years ago, Morrill Worcester was awestruck by Arlington National Cemetery. So much so that 14 years ago he decided that the graves be graced with free holiday wreaths. Thursday at Arlington National Cemetery, 5,300 fresh, Maine balsam, grown, harvested and assembled wreaths were laid. (Washington Post story)
Mid-Term Election Results
NBC First Read reports on "the unusual case of Florida's 13th district, where Republican Vern Buchanan was declared the winner by 369 votes" remains "somewhat less than settled." Democratic candidate Christine Jennings (D) has not only sought a new, court-ordered election, but is asking the soon-to-be Democrat-run House Administration Committee to seat her instead of Buchanan. The committee is expected to make a recommendation in January.
- Pray for a gracious concession to the victor soon
The Iraq Study Group "lambasted the method the Bush Administration has used to pay for the Iraq war, saying its reliance on 'emergency' budgeting procedures has circumvented congressional oversight and led to billions of taxpayer dollars spent on extras and pet projects not directly related to the war," adds the Boston Globe. The group "said the American people deserve to know exactly where the money is going. It recommended that President Bush begin including money for the war in his annual budget request for the 2008 fiscal year" (via First Read).
Bush May Back Sending More Troops to Iraq
The Pentagon plan to send thousands would attempt to control Baghdad and Anbar Province. President Bush is likely to support a "surge" of additional U.S. troops to Iraq, officials familiar with planning believe. The surge could include more than 30,000 additional troops and last as long as two years, sources tell ABC News. That could bring the total number of troops in Iraq to at least 164,000--the highest total yet.
GOP Senator Wants Troops Home
Republican Sen. Gordon Smith says he's tried to be a "good soldier" for his party and his president, but has reached "the end of his rope" supporting the Bush Iraq policy and wants to bring the troops home whether it's "cut and run or cut and walk." Smith made his remarks in an emotional speech on the Senate floor last night to an almost empty chamber, feeling the need to "speak from my heart."
- Pray for wisdom for Defense Secretary Gates and the rest of our leaders in the decisions they make about troop levels and funding levels.
Her leaders pronounce judgment for a bribe, Her priests instruct for a price And her prophets divine for money. Yet they lean on the LORD saying, "Is not the LORD in our midst? Calamity will not come upon us" (Micah 3:11).
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6).
NBC Nightly News Anchor Brian Williams blogged about Sen. Johnson (D-SD): "There are also obvious political ramifications that play a potential role here: should the senator become incapacitated, the Republican Governor would appoint a successor under South Dakota law. That would put the Senate at 50-50 and tilt effective control to the Republicans under Vice President Cheney's role as tie-breaking vote."
- Continue to pray for Sen. Johnson's recovery.
The tongue of the wise brings healing (Proverbs 12:18).
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