The following is a report of how some major bills fared last week inCongress and how Southern Maryland's representative, Steny H.Hoyer (D-5th District), and Democratic Sens. Barbara A. Mikulskiand Paul S. Sarbanes voted.
For-166 / Against-257
The House refused to establish a voucher program enabling some students in grades 1-6 in poorly performing, unsafe public schools to transfer to a private, parochial or another public school. Under the amendment by Majority Leader Richard Armey (R-Tex.), families of students in failing schools were to get up to $3,500 annually to make a switch. The program would cost $100 million annually. The vote occurred Thursday as the House passed a bill (HR 2) reauthorizing Title I of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act. A yes vote was to begin a 50-state school voucher program.
For-311 / Against-111
The House on Wednesday voted to retain a 25-year-old program to counter bias against girls in school curriculums. The vote continues the Women's Educational Equity Act in fiscal 2000 at a $3 million budget. WEEA has funded about 700 programs for teachers and administrators, such as ones on involving girls in math and science and introducing them to nontraditional careers. The vote occurred during debate on HR 2 (above). A yes vote backed the Women's Educational Equity Act.
SPENDING ON EDUCATION
For-213 / Against-208
The House on Thursday passed a bill (HR 2300) giving 10 not-yet-selected states more freedom in spending education funds including Title I money for poor districts. The bill originally was designed as a GOP make over of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which in fiscal 2000 will channel up to $13.4 billion to K-12 classrooms nationwide. But bipartisan opposition scaled it down to a pilot program in which certain narrowly defined education grants would be converted to block grants to the selected states. A yes vote was to approve a 10-state pilot program for education spending.
THE WORKING DISABLED
For-412 / Against-9
The House on Tuesday passed a bill (HR 1180) making it easier for recipients of Social Security disability benefits to take jobs without losing Medicaid or Medicare because they are no longer sufficiently poor. But the promised benefits will materialize only if Congress funds at least $565 million over five years. Under the bill, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients, who begin receiving paychecks and then face loss of Medicaid eligibility, would be able to retain coverage by paying their own way in part or full. Individuals getting Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) could keep their Medicare Part A (hospitalization) coverage for up to 10 years while earning $700 monthly or more. Now there is a 39-month cutoff. Nearly 11 million individuals receive the two types of disability benefits. At $66 billion annually, it makes up the fourth-largest federal entitlement program. A yes vote supported the benefits.
For-53 / Against-47
The Senate on Tuesday shelved a bill to ban "soft money" from federal election campaigns. Supporters failed to get the 60 votes needed to end a GOP filibuster and advance to an up-or-down vote on the bill. The bill (S 1593) would limit the value of contributions that flow to political parties for the benefit of specific campaigns. These donations, from business and labor groups and wealthy individuals, often exceed $100,000 and sometimes top $1 million. They are in contrast to "hard money" contributions that are regulated by federal law. The bill also codifies the Supreme Court's 1988 Beck decision, which enables nonunion members to prevent any of their "agency fees" to unions from being spent politically. A yes vote was to advance the bill to ban "soft money."
For-63 / Against-34
The Senate on Thursday passed a bill (S 1692) making it a federal crime for doctors to perform a late-term abortion in which they partially extract the fetus feet-first, then terminate it and complete its removal. Labeled "partial-birth" abortion by critics, the procedure is allowed under the bill only to save the mother's life. A yes vote was to make performing such abortions a federal crime.
ROE V. WADE
For-51 / Against-47
The Senate on Thursday voted in support of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that abortion is a constitutionally protected procedure when it is necessary to protect the woman's life or health. The nonbinding vote occurred during debate on S 1692 (above). A yes vote was to express support of Roe v. Wade.