The following is a report of how some major bills fared the week ending May 28 in Congress and how Southern Maryland's representative, Steny H. Hoyer (D-5th District), and Democratic Sens. Paul S. Sarbanes and Barbara A. Mikulski voted. Congress was recessed last week.
The House refused to remove Russia as a partner in the International Space Station with countries including the United States, Japan, Canada, and European nations. The vote occurred during debate on a National Aeronautics and Space Administration funding bill (HR 1654). Although the first two components of the space station are now in orbit, Russia is behind schedule in meeting its commitment to provide a service module. Russia also has failed to meet its budget obligations by at least $4 billion, a deficit that U.S. taxpayers have covered. Those who advocate Russia's continued participation say the benefits of keeping it engaged in international scientific cooperation far outweigh the negatives. A yes vote was to end Russia's partnership in the International Space Station.
The House added $11 million to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's fiscal 2000 budget for research into quieter airplanes. This raised funding next year to $36 million, the same as in 1999. It restored a cut that had been made to provide more funds for the International Space Station. The vote occurred during debate on HR 1654 (above). A yes vote was to spend more on aircraft noise reduction research.
The Senate passed a $288.8 billion defense budget (S 1059) for fiscal 2000, a 2.2 percent increase over 1999 after adjusting for inflation. Nearly one-third of the outlay is for new weapons. Responding to reports of China systematically stealing U.S. nuclear secrets, the bill tightens security at U.S. weapons labs. In part, it puts the FBI in charge of background checks and gives the CIA increased authority to probe overseas launches of U.S. satellites and foreign attempts to obtain sensitive U.S. technology. The bill provides a 4.8 percent military pay raise, improves pay scales for mid- career officers, and enables military personnel to join civil servants and postal workers in the government's 401(k)-style Thrift Savings Plan. Also, it greatly expands the number of National Guard teams for responding to terrorist attacks within the United States. A yes vote was to pass the bill.
The Senate tabled (killed) an amendment cutting off funding of U.S. military actions in Yugoslavia on Oct. 1 unless Congress votes to authorize the war. This occurred during debate on S 1059 (above). The Senate in March authorized the NATO air offensive but refused in early May to sanction "all necessary force," including ground troops, against Serbia. A yes vote opposed cutting off funds for the war in Yugoslavia.
The Senate tabled (killed) an amendment allowing the United States to reduce its nuclear weapons at a faster pace than is permitted in the 2000 defense bill (S 1059, above). Backers said quicker reduction would ease pressure on Russia. That, in turn, would make it less likely for Russian warheads to be unleashed accidentally or by a rogue state, they said. But opponents termed the amendment unilateral disarmament. At issue was how quickly America should implement the START I and START II arms pacts. Both have been ratified by the Senate. But the Duma has not acted on START II. The 2000 defense bill prohibits America from going beyond START I reductions until Russia implements START II. This amendment sought to remove that statutory floor. A yes vote was to keep a floor under U.S. nuclear arms reduction.