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-362 / Against-57
The House on Thursday sent President Clinton the conference report on a bill (S 900) removing Depression-era restrictions so that banks, insurance companies and investment firms can compete directly against one another. It authorizes the establishment of holding companies whose affiliates will offer customers one-stop shopping for an array of financial services. It continues the Community Reinvestment Act that requires banks to lend in poor neighborhoods from which they get deposits.
Firms will be able to spread customers' personal data among their affiliates so long as they provide a copy of their policy for sharing information. The bill allows customers to block transfer of personal data to third parties such as telemarketers, although critics said loopholes in fine print weaken this provision. A yes vote was to remove the restrictions on direct competition.
ANNUAL DRUG KINGPIN LIST
For-385 / Against-26
The House passed legislation (HR 3164) on Tuesday instructing the Treasury Department to publish an annual list of international drug kingpins, whose U.S. assets would then be seized by the government. The bill also allows the government to freeze the assets of kingpins' associates and front businesses. Agencies such as the FBI and CIA would put names on the list by executive decree rather than through a procedure involving the submission of evidence, judicial review and other due process safeguards. A yes vote supported publishing the list.
READING BY PHONICS
For-224 / Against-193
The House failed to approve a measure on Thursday urging schools to teach reading by the phonics method, not the less-structured, story-based "whole-language" approach used in many schools. The nonbinding measure (HCR 214) needed a supermajority for passage because it was considered under a shortcut parliamentary procedure. Phonics uses the 26 letters of the alphabet as the basis for teaching students to learn words by sounding them out. A yes vote was to urge schools to use the phonics method of teaching reading.
For-274 / Against-153
The House passed a bill (HR 2389) on Wednesday increasing federal compensation to school districts and state and local governments, located mostly in the West, whose property tax base is diminished by Bureau of Land Management and National Forest Service holdings. The bill is without measures to offset a projected cost of $1.1 billion over five years. For each of the next seven years, schools and other units of governments would get payments equal to their highest three-year average payment between 1985 and 1999. The program is funded by revenue generated on public lands, such as timbering receipts. A yes vote supported increasing federal compensation.
For-90 / Against-8
The Senate approved the conference report on Thursday on a bill (S 900) paving the way for "financial supermarkets" at which businesses and individuals could use one-stop shopping to obtain an array of banking, insurance and investment services. Repealing anti-competition laws dating to the 1930s, the bill is designed to give customers more convenience and choice and financial firms a broader customer base for developing products and cutting their costs. But it raises privacy concerns because it allows firms to share customers' financial data among their affiliates and, unless the customer acts to block it, with unaffiliated telemarketers.
States would continue to regulate insurance, the Securities and Exchange Commission would remain as overseer of securities transactions and the Treasury and Federal Reserve Board would share banking regulation. A yes vote supported the new competition measures.
For-76 / Against-19
The Senate passed a bill (HR 434) on Wednesday to provide certain manufacturers in sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean Basin and Central America with greater access to U.S. markets. In part, the bill waives or lowers U.S. duties and quotas for clothing products made with U.S. textiles in countries showing progress toward establishing market economies, democratic governments, and respect for human rights. A yes vote supported greater access to U.S. markets.