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-271 / Against-156
The House on Wednesday voted to negate any state law that allows doctors to prescribe medicine for a patient's suicide. Oregon, the only state with such a law, permits doctors to provide drugs to help the terminally ill deemed of sound mind end their lives. Under this bill (HR 2260), doctors convicted of prescribing federally controlled drugs for suicide would face up to 20 years behind bars. The bill distinguishes prescriptions intended to ease pain from those that facilitate suicide, and steps up federal efforts to increase the medical community's ability to treat pain. A yes vote supported penalties for prescribing drugs for suicide.
ACROSS-THE-BOARD SPENDING CUT
For-218 / Against-211
The House on Friday passed a GOP bill (HR 3064) inflicting a nearly 1 percent across-the-board cut in discretionary spending in fiscal 2000. Republicans said the expected savings of $5.7 billion would keep overall spending for the year from tapping into Social Security reserves. Disagreeing, Democrats cited new findings by the Congressional Budget Office that the 13 budget bills approved by the House would, in their present form, skim at least $17 billion from Social Security in fiscal 2000. President Clinton said he would veto HR 3064, which, in addition to imposing a 0.97 percent cut in most domestic, defense and foreign affairs programs, appropriates $429 million for the District of Columbia and $84.6 billion for the departments of Labor, Education, and Health and Human Services. A yes vote was to pass the GOP bill.
For-11 / Against-417
The House on Thursday refused to exempt congressional pay from a nearly 1 percent across-the-board cut in federal spending (HR 3064, above). Members acted earlier this year to raise their pay on Jan. 1, 2000. This vote retained language in HR 3064 to cap House and Senate pay on Jan. 1 at $139,900 rather than the $141,300 level it would reach if there were no across-the-board cut. Members of Congress now make $136,700.
At issue was whether it was public relations or a substantive act for Republican leaders to include congressional pay in the across-the-board cut. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., who sponsored this motion, argued that Republicans were posturing in view of the fact that the Constitution prevents cutting lawmakers' pay during their current term. Therefore, he said, the new $141,300 level cannot be reduced until after next year's congressional elections, by which time the across-the-board cut no longer would be in force. No member spoke against Hoyer's motion.
A yes vote was to exclude congressional pay from the reach of a pending budget bill.
AFRICAN AND CARIBBEAN TRADE
For-90 / Against-8
The Senate on Tuesday voted to begin debating legislation (HR 434) granting trade benefits to certain countries in sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean Basin. In part, the bill allows clothing exporters to receive duty-free and quota-free access to U.S. markets if their goods are made from U.S.-supplied raw materials. It provides a profit incentive for U.S. manufacturers to build plants in countries getting favorable export treatment. To qualify, countries would have to show movement toward establishing market economies, democratic governments and respect for human rights. The bill also provides the Caribbean and Central America with some of the trade benefits that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) bestowed on Mexico and Canada. A yes vote was to advance the bill granting trade benefits.