Week of July 19, 2004

» Please view "The Weekly Whip" for the week of July 19, 2004

» All referenced documents are bundled in a PDF here

A Record Setting "Do-Nothing" Congress
 
Only one week remains before Congress adjourns for the six-week August district work period.  Yet the Republican majority appears poised to leave without having finished a 2005 budget, reauthorizing critical transportation legislation, passing the FSC/ETI bill to end E.U. sanctions against U.S. manufacturers, and enacting a comprehensive energy policy to prevent summer blackouts, among other outstanding bills.
Democrats should continue to highlight these failures and the disturbing Republican record, which includes: the highest budget deficit ever; the least number of days spent in session in 48 years; and failing to pass a budget for the first time in modern budget history when one party controls the Congress and the White House.
 
THIS WEEK:
 
The House is expected to consider the Fiscal Year 2005 Military Construction Appropriations Bill this week.    
 
    Congressman Chet Edwards pressured Republicans into offering language to this bill in the full committee mark-up that will relieve the Pentagon from a statutory spending limit on building and renovating under a military family housing program he helped to initiate in 1996.  The language would lift the $850 million cap under the public-private housing program by $500 million starting Oct. 1. The Pentagon is expected to reach the spending ceiling in November.
 
    Without this provision, thousands of military families will lose access to military housing.
 
    There is a concern that Republican leaders will strip this provision from the bill in the Rules Committee.  Democrats should help raise the profile on this issue and ensure that our military families have access to affordable quality housing.
 
Please find Congressman Edwards' press release regarding this issue attached.
 
The Department of Defense Appropriations Conference Report is slated for this week.  Below are two provisions contained within the Conference Report that may be of interest to you:
 
1) Torture Language
 
Rep. Hoyer inserted language into the House version of the bill that reaffirms that torture is illegal and inconsistent with U.S. policy and values:
 
“Congress, consistent with international and United States law, reaffirms that torture of prisoners of war and detainees is illegal and does not reflect the policies of the United States Government or the values of the people of the United States.”
 
2) Iraq Reporting Language
Language in the House version also requires semi-annual reports on Iraq, including:
 
• The amount expended for military operations and reconstruction activities.
 
• An assessment of the progress on preventing attacks on United States personnel.
 
• An assessment of the effects of the operations and activities in Iraq and Afghanistan on the readiness of the Armed Forces, as well as on recruiting and retention.
 
• The costs incurred for repair of Department of Defense equipment used in the operations and activities in Iraq and Afghanistan.
 
• The foreign countries, international organizations, and nongovernmental organizations that are contributing support for the ongoing military operations and reconstruction activities.
 
• The extent to which, and the schedule on which, the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve of the Armed Forces is being involuntarily ordered to active duty.
 
• For each unit of the National Guard of the United States and the other reserve components of the Armed Forces on active duty, the following information:
The unit; The projected date of return of the unit to its home station; The extent (by percentage) to which the forces deployed within the United States and outside the United States in support of a contingency operation are composed of reserve component forces. 

In addition, the House is currently scheduled to consider the Republican tax cut extension bill as part of "tax simplification week." 

This tax bill, H.R. 1308, which uses the stalled Child Tax Credit conference from last summer, is expected to extend for two years the previously-passed middle class tax cuts: marriage penalty relief, child tax credit, the 10 percent bracket, along with another year extension of the alternative minimum tax relief (AMT.)  Our understanding is that these cuts will not be paid for.

Republicans have to extend these tax cuts now because last year, they made these middle-income provisions temporary in order to pay for their tax cuts for the wealthy.  Democrats strongly support middle-income tax cuts, including extending the new 10 percent bracket, child tax credit, and marriage penalty relief, but believe they should be fully paid for. 

Attached please find talking points from the Leader's Office on this important bill.