The following is a report of how some major bills fared last week in Congress and how Southern Maryland's representative, Steny H. Hoyer (D-5th District), and Democratic Sens. Barbara A. Mikulski and Paul S. Sarbanes voted.
TRADE WITH CHINA
The House on Tuesday voted to continue normal trade with China for at least another year. Members defeated a measure (HJ Res 57) to impose higher tariffs on imports from the Communist country. Congress is expected to vote later this year on whether to confer more trade benefits on China in the form of admission to the World Trade Organization. A yes vote was to impose trade penalties on China.
The House on Monday refused to require a public accounting of what "corporate welfare" costs taxpayers. This occurred as the House passed a bill (HR 1074) requiring the government to disclose the cost of its regulations on the private sector. The defeated amendment sought to broaden the disclosure to also include government benefits for businesses such as tax loopholes, spending subsidies, taxpayer-funded research, and the use of public land at below-market costs. A yes vote backed public disclosure of the cost of such government benefits.
The House voted to prohibit the District of Columbia from using its own budget or federal funds for needle exchange programs designed to curb the spread of AIDS among addicts. This occurred as the House on Thursday passed a bill (HR 2587) providing a $453 million federal contribution to D.C.'s $4.7 billion budget for fiscal 2000. A yes vote opposed public funding of D.C. needle exchange programs.
The Senate on Friday passed a bill (S 1429) providing $792 billion in personal and business tax cuts through 2009. The largest share of relief--$216 billion--is for taxpayers in the 15 percent bracket, those with taxable incomes of up to $43,050 for joint returns and $25,750 for singles. The bill lowers their top rate to 14 percent in 2001 and expands the bracket to cover slightly higher incomes.
Among other breaks for individuals, the bill eliminates in 2005 the "marriage penalty" that causes couples filing joint returns to pay higher taxes than if filing as singles; lowers the top estate tax rate to 50 percent; raises the annual limit on IRA contributions to $5,000 and sets a higher income level for IRA eligibility; increases income limits and other tax benefits associated with student loans; increases deductions for long-term care insurance, and allows the self-employed to deduct 100 percent of medical insurance premiums. Among business cuts, it gives permanent status to the research and development tax credit, extends welfare-to-work tax credits, allows businesses to deduct certain investments in the year they are made, and provides numerous breaks for senators' home-state companies. A yes vote backed the proposed tax cuts.
The Senate on Friday tabled (killed) an amendment to S 1429 (above) to use projected budget surpluses for reducing the national debt rather than for purposes such as cutting taxes or expanding programs. The publicly held U.S. debt stands at $3.6 trillion and requires about $225 billion annually in debt service. A yes vote opposed using 100 percent of surpluses for debt reduction.
The Senate on Thursday defeated an amendment to S 1429 (above) to delay tax cuts until after enactment of legislation guaranteeing the solvency of Social Security through 2075 and Medicare through 2027. A yes vote favored delaying the tax cuts.