Last Wednesday, the House approved a rule change granting the four House delegates and the resident commissioner of Puerto Rico partial voting rights on the House floor. A similar rule was implemented in 1993 by a Democratic majority, but repealed in 1995 after Republicans took control of Congress. The resolution passed largely along party lines, 226-191.
In his State of the Union Address Tuesday night, President Bush asked Congress to not condemn his plan to send 21,500 additional U.S. troops to Iraq off the bat, but to "give it a chance" first. In the face of widespread and growing public opposition to both the plan and the war itself, however, many members are voicing their discontent with Bush’s policy, and some are trying to stop it.
Freshman senator and rising Democratic star Jim Webb (D-Va.) delivered the main Democratic response to Bush's speech (response text). He spoke of the rising income inequality in America and the growing pressure globalization is putting on the middle and professional classes. He stopped short, however, of offering any detailed plans beyond noting that the House had passed the first minimum wage increase in 10 years. On the foreign policy front, Webb delivered a strong rebuke to Bush's troop "surge" plan:
We need a new direction. Not one step back from the war against international terrorism. Not a precipitous withdrawal that ignores the possibility of further chaos. But an immediate shift toward strong regionally-based diplomacy, a policy that takes our soldiers off the streets of Iraq’s cities, and a formula that will in short order allow our combat forces to leave Iraq.
The Harvard School of Public Health released a study Thursday revealing that the amount of nicotine in cigarettes has increased significantly since the major American tobacco companies signed the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) in 1998. Predictably, Philip Morris (PM), in a media release available at their web site, denies the study results. The U.S. Surgeon General in 1988 warned that nicotine is as addictive as heroin and cocaine, but these drugs don't have decades of sophisticated R&D behind them aimed at heightening their addictiveness. Cigarettes, among the most highly engineered consumer products in the world, deliver nicotine into more people's bodies more times every day than aspirin. Still, they remain unregulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
In only forty-two hours of floor time, the Democratic-led House successfully passed all six of its "first 100 hours" initiatives. The final bill, the CLEAN (Creating Long-Term Energy Alternatives for the Nation) Energy Act of 2007, passed in a 264-163 vote last Friday. If approved by the Senate and signed into law by President Bush, the bill would do the following:
If you look beyond the headlines of the recently passed ethics reform bills, a revolutionary leap forward in transparency has been made by two members of Congress. Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) have each begun posting their schedules online, which we have included in their Congresspedia profiles (see here for Gillibrand and here for Tester). The idea of letting constituents know how their elected officials spend their day seems basic but, to my knowledge, has never been tried before.
Tester has thus far kept his previous schedules available in an online archive and Congresspedia has begun archiving Gillibrand's on the wiki, so don't worry if you don't catch her schedule on a particular day.
Early Wednesday evening, the House passed the College Student Relief Act of 2007, a bill which would reduce the interest rate on subsidized federal Stafford Loans from 6.8 to 3.4 percent over a five-year period.