The following is a report of how some major bills fared lastweek 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.
For-214 / Against-211
The House passed a bill (HR 2606) on Tuesday appropriating $12.7 billion for international programs in fiscal 2000. Republicans said the bill is fiscally responsible. But Democrats faulted it for not funding the Wye River agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority and for shirking U.N. dues. In addition to providing $6.1 billion in economic and military aid to a long list of countries, the bill earmarks $960 million for Israel; $735 million for the former Soviet Union; $635 million for Egypt, and $150 million for Kosovo. Also, $599 million for the Export-Import Bank; $385 million for family planning; $235 million for the Peace Corps, and $182 billion for removing land mines, slowing the spread of nuclear weapons, and fighting terrorism. A yes vote favored funding the international programs.
For-275 / Against-151
The House on Thursday passed legislation (HR 2723) giving more legal rights to the 161 million individuals who receive medical insurance through health maintenance organizations (HMOs) and other managed-care plans. The bill establishes the right to sue insurance companies in state court for damages resulting from denial of care or maltreatment. It guarantees immediate emergency room coverage without prior approval; assures prompt access to specialists including pediatricians and obstetricians; and sets up independent panels of doctors to hear grievances and issue rulings that are binding on the health plan. Patients must exhaust this procedure before filing suits. The bill was sponsored by Charles Whitlow Norwood Jr. (R-Ga.) and John Dingell (D-Mich.), backed by the American Medical Association and American Trial Lawyers Association, and opposed by the National Association of Manufacturers and the American Association of Health Plans. A yes vote supported more legal rights for the insured.
RIGHT TO SUE
For-145 / Against-284
The House on Thursday rejected a managed-care bill that differed from the Norwood-Dingell measure (HR 2723, above) in not granting patients the right to sue insurers in state court. In place of lawsuits, it set up an independent grievance process, including stiff fines on insurers, that was designed to prevent harm to patients and resolve complaints more rapidly than would lawsuits. A yes vote opposed allowing patients to sue managed-care plans in state court.
For-227 / Against-205
The House passed legislation (HR 2990) on Wednesday providing tax incentives to make private health insurance more affordable for individuals and businesses. It is projected to cost $48.6 billion over 10 years but contains no revenue measures or offsetting cuts to pay for itself. The GOP-drafted bill makes medical savings accounts (MSAs) universally available and adds new tax advantages to these IRA-style savings accounts for meeting future medical costs. The bill makes it easier for individuals and small businesses to band together to purchase health insurance and increases the tax deductibility of health insurance premiums for the self-employed and those paying for long-term care. A yes vote supported the tax incentives.
For-45 / Against-54
On a party-line vote, the Senate on Tuesday rejected President Clinton's nomination of Ronnie L. White to sit on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. White, an African American, is a jurist on the Missouri Supreme Court. Republicans said White has wavered too much on applying the death penalty, while some Democrats charged the GOP opposition was race-based. Although White was cleared by the Judiciary Committee with some GOP support, all Republicans turned against him as the Senate floor vote drew near. A yes vote was to confirm Judge White.
For-51 / Against-49
The Senate gave final congressional approval on Wednesday to a fiscal 2000 foreign operations bill (HR 2606, see House vote above). This sent the measure to President Clinton, who is expected to veto it on grounds that it underfunds U.S. programs abroad. The $12.7 billion outlay is $800 million less than 1999 levels and $1.9 billion under the president's 2000 request. Republicans have given him a choice of accepting the bill as is or raiding Social Security surpluses for the additional funds he seeks. A yes vote approved the foreign operations bill.