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.
For-372 / Against-55
The House approved the conference report Wednesday on a bill (HR 2561) appropriating $267.7 billion for defense programs in fiscal 2000. The sum is $17.3 billion, or 6.6 percent, higher than the comparable 1999 figure. The bill provides $1.2 billion to continue development of the F-22 fighter jet, a next-generation Air Force plane that the House had voted earlier to scrap; $3.6 billion for developing ground- and space-based anti-missile defenses; $749 million for a new attack submarine; $460 million to help Russia dismantle nuclear and chemical weapons; and $302 million for upgrading the B-2 bomber. While the bill helps fund a 4.8 percent military pay hike, most money for the raise will come from a separate "emergency" measure that does not count against Social Security surpluses. A yes vote supported the appropriations.
For-415 / Against-5
The House passed a bill Thursday that took authority over truck and bus safety away from the Federal Highway Administration, which, according to critics, has become too close to those it regulates. The bill (HR 2679) establishes the National Motor Carrier Administration in an effort to give truck and bus regulation higher priority in the Department of Transportation. In part, the bill provides funding and federal leverage to help states do a better job of inspecting vehicles and policing unsafe drivers. A yes vote supported the transfer of authority over safety.
For-104 / Against-323
The House rejected a tighter congressional leash for the Overseas Private Investment Corp. on Wednesday. The defeated amendment sought to reauthorize the agency for one year, not four years as provided for in an export-promotion bill (HR 1993) that was later passed. OPIC provides blue-chip corporations such as Coca-Cola, Anheuser Busch, and ITT with taxpayer-backed insurance to help them do business in unstable political environments. Critics call it corporate welfare that puts public funds at risk and ships American jobs abroad. But defenders say OPIC creates U.S. jobs and helps offset subsidies that foreign companies receive from their governments. A yes vote was to tighten congressional control over OPIC.
For-174 / Against-249
The House defeated a bid by Democrats on Thursday to move gun legislation out of a House-Senate conference committee so that Congress can act on it before adjourning for the year. The nonbinding measure urged that a juvenile justice bill (HR 1501) containing the gun provisions reach the House floor by Oct. 20, the six-month anniversary of shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo. In conference for the past two months, the juvenile justice bill contains provisions for safety locks and gun-show background checks that were passed by the Senate but not the House. It is up to the committee to decide which gun measures, if any, will be in the compromise bill it sends to the House and Senate for final votes. A yes vote urged the conference committee to clear gun measures by Oct. 20.
TEST BAN TREATY
For-48 / Against-51
The Senate failed to get the two-thirds majority (67 votes) on Wednesday needed to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (TD 105-28), which would prohibit underground tests of atomic weapons. America is among 150 nations to have signed the pact; 51 have ratified it. Since stopping underground testing unilaterally in 1992, the United States has used computer simulations to ensure the reliability of its nuclear arsenal. A yes vote was to ratify the treaty.
CONTRIBUTION REPORTS ON THE INTERNET
For-77 / /Against-20
The Senate passed an amendment on Thursday requiring that in the final 90 days of general election campaigns, contributions to federal candidates be promptly reported on the Internet for the benefit of voters. Under the amendment, the giver's identity and the amount given would become public knowledge within 24 hours of receipt of the money on the local, state or federal level. The requirement was added to a campaign finance bill (S 1593) that seeks to outlaw unregulated, unlimited "soft money" contributions to political parties. The bill was sponsored by John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Russ Feingold (D- Wis.). A yes vote favored prompt Internet disclosure of campaign contributions.