House of Representatives Bill Summaries:

Measuring Cosponsorship and Voting in Legislation for our Progressive Scorecard in the 111th Congress

Brought to you by That's My Congress and Irregular Times

The following is a list of the legislation we reference in generating our ratings for members of the House of Representatives in the 111th Congress. We pay attention to cosponsorship and voting behavior regarding these bills, classifying these actions as either progressive or regressive.

Progressive action is measured as support for legislation in the promotion of freedom, knowledge and security. Freedom is achieved when constitutional protections are respected and when people are treated with equality under law. Knowledge is pursued through rigorous support for science and education. Security comes from the protection of environmental resources, the strengthening of economic opportunity for people and the preservation of peace from erosion by wasteful, destructive militarism.

A legislative action is classified as Regressive if it erodes freedom, knowledge and security. When constitutional protections are disregarded, when discrimination under law is fostered, when the pursuit of knowledge is abandoned and science overruled, when wealth for a few matters more than prosperity for all, and when "Yeehaw" becomes the articulation of foreign policy, our nation is headed a morally wrong and self-destructive direction.

Click on the title of each bill for complete and up-to-date information, including bill text and status. To review our scorecard ratings for your Representative on Capitol Hill, click here.

Amendment 35 to H.R. 2647

In June of 2009, Congressman Rush Holt introduced Amendment 35 to H.R. 2647 as a countercurrent to the current push for coverup in American military and interrogation activities. Amendment 35 requires military interrogations to be videotaped, with an exception provided at times when there may not be time to set up a camera.

The idea of required videotaping for interrogations is not an external imposition forced upon the military, but an internal recommendation of the Walsh Report in January of 2009, which states:
We endorse the use of video recording in all camps and for all interrogations. The use of video recording to confirm humane treatment could be an important enabler for detainee operations. Just as internal controls provide standardization, the use of video recordings provides the capability to monitor performance and to maintain accountability.
The Holt Amendment passed in a roll call vote by a margin of 224-193.

Legislative Tags: video evidence documentation interrogation videotape rush holt military

H.Con. Res 274

The United States Constitution is very clear when it comes to the role of religion in American politics. Religion is only mentioned twice in the Constitution, each time forbidding government from using its powers for purposes of religious imposition: "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States," goes the first constitutional declaration, and "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion," goes the second constitutional declaration.

But with the introduction of H.Con. Res 274, some members of Congress are attempting to make a law respecting an establishment of religion. If passed, the bill would make it a declaration of Congress that "it is Religion and Morality alone, which can establish the Principles upon which Freedom can securely stand," and would "encourage the public display" of the phrase "In God We Trust" in every public building and in every public school.

As any student of comparative religion knows, the monotheistic figure God is a particular feature of Abrahamic religion, incompatible with dozens of religious traditions from around the globe including Native American religious tradition, and also incompatible with the religious viewpoint of millions of secular, agnostic and atheist Americans. H.Con. Res 274 is a direct challenge to the First Amendment of the Constitution. Those who support the bill are brazenly sidestepping the Constitution, using government power to establish one religion in all government buildings, one religion in all public schools, one religion over others and over none.

Legislative Tags: god, religion, 1st amendment, separation clause, church, state, religiosity establishment clause, in god we trust

H.J. Res 37

The history of American liberty is expansive; over time we have come to recognize and respect the equality of citizens under the law to a greater degree, by treating non-whites as full citizens, by permitting women to vote, by ending Jim Crow segregation, by ending laws against interracial marriage, and by adding the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which mandates that all people shall receive "the equal protection of the laws."

H.J. Res 37 is a constitutional amendment that would reverse this American expansion of nondiscrimination. It would reverse the 14th Amendment by specifically mandating that same-sex couples be excluded from the right to marry everywhere in the United States. The amendment would also prevent same-sex couples from attaining the same legal status as married couples by an arrangement having a name other than marriage.

H.J. Res. 37, in short, writes discrimination back into the Constitution. That is a step backward.

Legislative Tags: same-sex marriage one man and one woman heterosexual homosexual gay lesbian marital equality fourteenth amendment

H.J. Res 47

A law passed to ban the burning of the American flag would be promptly struck down as unconstitutional because the 1st Amendment to the Constitution declares that freedom of speech shall not be abridged. Some consider free speech to be a good thing; others consider it to be an impediment. H.J. Res 47 is a bill before the Congress to remove the pesky impediment of free speech.

H.J. Res 47 would amend the United States Constitution to remove protection for speech that "desecrates" (renders unsacred) the flag of the United States. It would allow people to be thrown in prison for showing disrespect to the American flag.

By declaring the flag to be a sacred object, the sponsors of this constitutional amendment would establish a national civic religion. The dogma of this religion: that it is necessary to dilute actual American freedom in order to protect the symbolic representation of American freedom.

Legislative Tags: flag desecration burning burn the american flag usa free speech first amendment constitution house of representatives jo ann emerson constitutional amendment

H.J. Res 6

H.J. Res 6 is a proposed amendment to the United States Constitution that reads:

"Nothing in this Constitution shall be construed to prohibit individual or group prayer in public schools or other public institutions. No person shall be required by the United States or by any State to participate in prayer. Neither the United States nor any State shall prescribe the content of any such prayer."

The words Nothing in this Constitution are crucial, because they overrule all other previous elements of the Constitution, including ones that safeguard American minorities against the tyranny of pushy, proselytizing majorities. The 1st Amendment, which prohibits the use of government to establish religion? Gone, to be overruled by this Amendment. The 14th Amendment, which promises equal protection under law? Gone, to be overruled by this Amendment. The demand in Article VI of the Constitution that there be no religious test for office or public trust in the United States? Gone, to be overruled by this Amendment.

This Amendment states that no individual person shall be forced to engage in prayer, that's true. But that doesn't mean that students at public elementary schools, for instance, couldn't be forced to witness such prayer over and over again on stages and over loudspeakers and through distributed tracts. And if this Amendment were to become part of the Constitution, there would be nothing to bar public school principals from being hired on the basis of their willingness to stand in front of the school every day and offer loud, public prayers to Jesus. There would be nothing to bar public school principals from hiring teachers on the basis of their willingness to stand in front of their classes every hour to offer prayerful thanks to the principal's parochial understanding of God. There would be nothing to bar public school districts from allocating large sums of public money for proselytizing prayer-based religious education of students in public schools. All "voluntary" nominally, to be sure. All meant to push a religion upon others... ...because prayers that do not impose upon others are already constitutionally protected. Jo Ann Emerson, the principal sponsor of this Constitutional Amendment, mentions schools in particular because she knows that the minds of school children are malleable to influence. Even when school prayer is "voluntary," if it is ever-present it will have its effect. Government schools (and other public institutions) will be turned into agents of whichever church has the greatest numbers, the most money and the most powerful lobbyists.

Legislative Tags: constitution, constitutional amendment, first amendment, school prayer, prayer, emerson, establishment clause, separation of church and state, religion

H.R. 1024

No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States. Nor shall any State deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. These are the American standards of nondiscrimination, chiseled into our legal bedrock in the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution. How seriously do members of Congress take this section of the U.S. Constitution? H.R. 1024 is a test.

H.R. 1024, the Uniting American Families Act, is a bill which aims to put into closer compliance with the U.S. Constitution by removing discrimination according to the status of permanent couples. According to law, same-sex couples in permanent relationships cannot marry; only different-sex couples can. The creates two classes of couple in the United States. They are separate. Are they equal? Not currently. Under current immigration law, married immigrant spouses of citizens and permanent residents have a preferred route toward gaining permanent resident status themselves. Unmarried partners of citizens and permanent residents have this avenue closed to them. That is unequal treatment under law for immigrants under American jurisdiction, and it is an unequal abridgment of legal privilege for the citizens whose permanent partners wish to join them.

Introduced by New York Democrat Jerrold Nadler, the Uniting American Families Act would end this status discrimination by amending various the immigration laws that discriminate against same-sex couples when one member of a couple is a citizen or permanent resident and the other is seeking citizenship or residency status.

Legislative Tags: 14th Amendment same-sex couples gay lesbian homosexual equality law constitution permanent resident status sexuality residency citizenship

H.R. 104

H.R. 104 would create a commission to investigate a bipartisan commission 'on presidential war powers and civil liberties'. The commission would investigate the extraordinary powers claimed for the Presidency under George W. Bush, including arbitrary and indefinite imprisonment, extraordinary rendition of detainees to foreign countries to be tortured, cruel and coercive interrogation techniques by American authorities and the 'ghosting' of detainees so that the American public doesn't know they have been detained. The commission would have the power to hold hearings and compel testimony by subpoena, and would issue reports to the President and to Congress. Knowing the past is key to change in the future.

Legislative Tags: constitution, bush, war powers, civil liberties, spying, commission, torture, detention, presidency, war, interrogation, extraordinary rendition, habeas corpus, warrantless wiretapping, surveillance, total information awareness, investigation

H.R. 1076

H.R. 1076, also known as the Internet Safety Act, would require all internet service providers, including small-scale providers such as coffee shops, hotels, libraries and even people at home with wireless routers, to collect and maintain databases recording all identifying information about every person who uses the internet, keeping that information for 2 years so that the government can look at it on request.

What's more, the law also punishes with up to 10 years in a federal prison anyone who has a discussion board, a blog, or even a guestbook set up so that people can post pictures on it, since that would be a "facilitation" of child pornography. It doesn't even matter whether the person intends to use the guestbook for nefarious purposes or realizes that other people could do the same.

In short, H.R. 1076 would penalize people who allow anonymous or pseudonymous posting of images on the Internet, and would require ISPs to act as pre-emptive spies on the rest of us.

Legislative Tags: internet safety act child pornography data logging privacy h.r. 1076 lamar smith blog discussion board

H.R. 11

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act is a decent bill that seeks to amend an injustice and provide a fair shot at equality in the workplace. It simply says that workers cannot be expected to file suit for compensation for wage discrimination before they actually find out that theyíve been discriminated against. A previous court case, decided against a worker named Lilly Ledbetter, had declared that workers must file a lawsuit within a few months of the time that wage discrimination begins, even if they are unaware of the discrimination at the time. H.R. 11 seeks to remove this preposterous restriction on workplace equality.

Legislative Tags: labor, workers, discrimination, gender, lilly ledbetter

H.R. 1106

H.R. 1106, The Helping Families Save Their Homes Act, is a bill passed by the House that would allow bankruptcy judges to restructure mortgages on family homes to make them more affordable. Judicial modification is already possible in bankruptcy for loans covering luxury yachts and the vacation homes of the wealthy. If the terms of those sorts of loans can be restructured during bankruptcy proceedings, then why shouldn't the mortgages on the homes they live in be similarly protected? H.R. 1106 includes a number of protections against mortgage fraud and limits coverage to those who have made good-faith efforts to stay current on their mortgage payments. This sort of policy would be beneficial to bankers as much as to homeowners, maximizing the likelihood that home loans will be repaid rather than abandoned and restoring stability to the U.S. housing market. A YES vote is cast in the direction of fairness. A NO vote preserves renegotiation for yachts and luxury villas but denies it to everyday Americans just trying to get by.

Legislative Tags: bankruptcy keep my home house renegotiation mortgage judges bankrupt help homeowners interest rate

H.R. 1310

H.R. 1310, the Clean Water Protection Act, would end the old practice in mountaintop mining of just taking all the heavy-metal-polluted rubble, calling it "fill material," and dumping it into streams from which toxins leach into water supplies and deadly, muddy floodwaters are regularly unleashed.

In 2002, the Bush administration declared that toxin-laden debris from mountaintop removal could be declared "fill material" and dumped into mountain waterways. H.R. 1310 would declare such activity, already dangerous to human health and natural ecosystems, to be illegal.

Legislative Tags: mountains mountaintop coal removal Federal Water Pollution Control Act waste fill material streams pollution Clean Water Protection Act

H.R. 14

In a document called the Monaco Declaration, hundreds of scientists from around the world warn that 'Ocean acidification is accelerating and severe damages are imminent'. Due to ocean acidification, animals like shellfish and corals are having a difficult time creating their shells and skeletons. Other ocean animals are experiencing disruptions in their reproductive behavior and general physiological functions as a result of the increased acidity. H.R.14, the Federal Ocean Acidification Research And Monitoring Act, would establish a regime of governmental research and monitoring of the progress of ocean acidification, with the goal of developing strategies for mitigation of ecological impact.

Legislative Tags: acidification, oceans, climate change, environment

H.R. 1467

H.R. 1467, the "Safe and Secure America Act of 2009," lets the government continue to obtain information on you without a warrant, to engage in continued roving wiretaps, and to designate people suspected of doing things that might be activities that might end up in a terrorist act as legally equivalent to a spy for the KGB.

These are provisions of the Patriot Act that are set to expire on December 31, 2009. H.R. 1467 would keep them going for another ten years.

Legislative Tags: section 215 usa patriot act reauthorization roving wiretaps sneak and peek agent of a foreign power terrorism sunset december 31 2019

H.R. 1726

Did you know that if you're crossing into or out of the United States, U.S. agents have declared the right take your electronic gear and data from you without the requirement of probable cause or a warrant? If the government makes its seizure on the border, it has decided it may keep what it takes indefinitely, and there is no regulation over what the government can do with whatever data it finds. There is no requirement for the government to inform the person whose property and private information it has confiscated.

To bring information about these warrantless seizures to the light of day and provide some accountability for what the government does, Rep. Loretta Sanchez has introduced H.R. 1726, the Border Security Search Accountability Act. If passed, Sanchez’ bill would require:

* sensitive, proprietary and/or personal information to be protected under current laws applying outside the border;
* searches to be done with supervision by commanding officers and the individuals whose gear has been seized;
* receipts for seized items, a procedure for complaints, and disclosure of any sharing of seized information by the government (with a national security exception)
* time limits on how long the U.S. government could keep objects and information without a warrant of probable cause;
* reports to Congress regarding the frequency, and implications for privacy and civil rights of such searches, as well as indicating how often such searches actually led to prosecution or conviction.

In short, Rep. Sanchez’s bill creates some initial limitations on the government’s border search powers while collecting the information necessary to raise awareness and address the problem in a systematic and informed way. It is a step in the right direction.

Legislative Tags: border, Border Security Search Accountability Act, data, electronic, proprietary information laptop, Loretta Sanchez, media coverage, privacy, receipt, safeguards, search, seizure, warrant,

H.R. 1868

The way that U.S. citizenship works is pretty simple when you get down to it: if you are born in this country, you are a citizen. That's the standard set out in the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution. But some members of the House of Representatives are not happy with the Constitution. They want to deny the constitution's presumption of citizenship rights, to take away the citizenship of kids born in America.

That's not an exaggeration. H.R. 1868 is a bill designed to remove the guarantee that what makes you an American is being born in the USA. This bill, inappropriately named the Birthright Citizenship Act, actually takes away birthright citizenship from people born in the USA if their parents aren't permanent residents or citizens. This is the old German Heimatland model of citizenship rights guaranteed by proper bloodline. Should America go down that road?

Legislative Tags: blood, purity, immigration, heimatland, german, citizenship, nazi, constitution, citizen, 14th amendment, birth, born, amendment, sexist, sexism, parents

H.R. 2

The Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009 makes 4 million children who are currently without health insurance eligible to be added to the rolls of the the State Children Health Insurance Program. This legislation isn't some kind of entitlement to a group of people responsible for their own economic vulnerability. It is the fault of no child to be born into a poor family. Rather, this Act is a wise investment in America's future: healthy children grow up to become productive adults.

Legislative Tags: children, health insurance, medicine, family, budget

H.R. 21

The Earth's oceans have entered an ecological crisis as massive as the seas themselves, and it threatens even those of us who live on the land. Oceans 21 is legislation that creates a comprehensive beginning for governmental intervention in this crisis. It establishes a national oceans policy, strengthens the ability of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration to deal with it, and establishes a framework for regional cooperation on issues as they arise.

Legislative Tags: ocean, environment, conservation

H.R. 223

The Farallon Islands are an uninhabited group of islands -- uninhabited by humans, that is. The Gulf of the Farralones is a sanctuary for marine birds, is a gathering point for marine mammals, and is host to a wide variety of ocean life due to the shallow depth of the water immediately surrounding it.

In short, the Farallon Island area is a biological treasure. It has value beyond its stark beauty as a biological bank, maintaining fisheries that sustain commerce as well. H.R. 223 is a bill before the Congress that would expand the boundaries of the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary to more fully protect our national biological (and thereby industrial) health for the long term.

Legislative Tags: farralon farallon islands farallones national marine sanctuary california environment environmental protection birds cordell bank fishery fisheries fish

H.R. 2458

H.R. 2458 is a bill that foists federal government standards on decisions of communities, decisions of schools and ultimately decisions of young girls about the direction of their lives. If passed, this bill would maintain federal funding for local schools that donít distribute post-coital contraception, but revoke federal funding for local schools that do choose to make post-coital contraception available. This post-coital contraception, also known as the "Morning After Pill," is used well before implantation of any fertilized egg and weeks before the any embryo would grow and differentiate to the point of cognitive development. The supporters of H.R. 2458 aren't saving babies here. They're taking their personal (and not insignificantly, religious) notions about sexuality and the holiness of the blastocyst, and attempting to shove those standards onto a nation of community schools and vulnerable young girls.

Legislative Tags: abortion contraception post-coital school high school middle school federal funding ron paul local choice

H.R. 2517

Since the passage of the Defense of Marriage Act in the 1990s, successive Congresses have made it clear, either loudly or meekly, that there is no intention to give same-sex couples the right to marry at the federal level. H.R. 2517, also known as the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act of 2009, would grant same-sex domestic partners of federal workers the same benefits as federal workers' different-sex spouses. For proponents of equality under law in America, this is a step forward for same-sex couples, albeit at a less ambitious scale than full-fledged same-sex marriage.

Legislative Tags: domestic partnership, same-sex, partners, marriage, benefits, equality, equal treatment, gay, lesbian

H.R. 2608

In mid-December of 2009, the government of Washington, DC voted to approve same-sex marriage in the District of Columbia. H.R. 2608 seeks to overturn the local decision of DC government by imposing a congressional prohibition on same-sex marriage in Washington, DC. Dozens of members of Congress, none of whom hail from Washington DC, through their support of this bill, support the nullification of DC marriages and the reinstatement of discrimination.

Legislative Tags: marriage, equality, lesbian, gay, lgbt, same-sex, dc, washington

H.R. 2704

H.R. 2704 is a bill to shut down the National Applications Office (NAO) in the Department of Homeland Security.

The NAO is a program to use military satellites to engage in surveillance of American people in American homes, American businesses and American public places. This military surveillance in domestic territory is in violation of the Posse Comitatus Act that forbids the U.S. military from being used for domestic purposes. The surveillance is done on Americans without the warrants from a judge that the 4th Amendment to the Constitution requires. The NAO is to share all this information with law enforcement officials at the state, federal and local level. Yes, this means that your local sheriff could be using military spy satellites to spy on you.

To the members of Congress who have failed to cosponsor H.R. 2704, domestic deployment of the military to spy on Americans without so much as a warrant doesn't seem to be a big deal. For those members of the House who feel that violations of the Constitution, violations of Americans' privacy and the creeping infiltration of the military into civilians' lives are significant problems, cosponsorship of H.R. 2704 is imperative.

Legislative Tags: nao National Applications Office Jane Harman H.R. 2704 111th congress Posse Comitatus military surveillance satellite big brother black helicopters homeland security office of intelligence and analysis warrantless law enforcement fourth amendment

H.R. 2808

Preceded by many paragraphs of flowery symbolic language, H.R. 2808 is nevertheless a short bill when you get down to the meat of it. The text of H.R. 2808 that holds the force of law is short, reading as follows:
"Section 8(a) of the National Labor Relations Act (29 U.S.C. 158(a)) is amended by adding after and below paragraph (5) the following:

`Nothing in this subsection shall be construed as requiring an employer to employ any person who seeks or has sought employment with the employer in furtherance of other employment or agency status.í."

That's some highfalutin language that may confuse you; it's meant to confuse you, to hide the legislation's purpose behind a smokescreen. What those words boil down to is this: Under this bill, if you act in a manner that promotes the interests of a union ó say, by advocating for the formation of a union in your workplace ó your employer can fire you. There's a phrase for that: "union-busting."

H.R. 2808 legalizes union busting. The members of Congress who support H.R. 2808 are doing their part to begin another era of union busting.

Legislative Tags: union organizing corporations firing union organizers retribution union-busting national labor relations act organized labor revenge

H.R. 2965

Substantively, the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy weakens the strained U.S. military by kicking people out with good service records. There is a more formal problem with DADT as well: the policy to discriminate, to kick people out of the military because of their sexual orientation, is a violation of the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Donít Ask, Donít Tell Repeal Act of 2010 not only lends substantive benefit to the military and to lesbian and gay servicemembers, but also strengthens constitutional government.

Legislative Tags: lgbt, lesbian, gay, bisexual, dont ask dont tell, dadt, military, discrimination, 14th amendment, sexual orientation

H.R. 3017

It might seem that the USA is moving beyond discrimination against gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transexuals. Yet, it's still legal for people to be fired from their jobs for no other reason than that they aren't heterosexual.

H.R. 3017 would make it illegal to engage in discrimination against people on the basis of sexual orientation.

Legislative Tags: homosexuals, discrimination, sexual orientation

H.R. 310

H.R. 310, passed by the House of Representatives on September 8, 2009, is regressive in many senses. Environmentally, it hands over a public lands to an organization that seeks to develop them for its own private uses. The bill assaults the separation of church and state by doing special favors for an organization that discriminates against non-religious Americans, refusing them employment and membership. The bill is also a blow against equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans, because the organization discriminates in hiring and membership against them as well. Finally, the bill is an insult to Native Americans, giving over public lands so that they can be used in the mock rituals of an organization that encourages young boys to dress up in cartoonish versions of Native American costumes and pretend to be Indians.

The discriminatory organization this bill was designed to assist: The Boy Scouts of America, which seems to believe that it can attack the civic values of equality and respect for diversity, and still claim that any politician who dares protest is unpatriotic. Only seven members of the House of Representatives had the courage not to vote for this bill to coddle discrimination, and they only had the courage to vote "present".

Legislative Tags: lgbt, native american, oklahoma, public lands, national forest, boy scouts, discrimination, equality, atheist, secular, christian, religion, homosexual, sexual orientation

H.R. 3269

Corporations do not exist to benefit themselves. They are given existence by their charters on the condition that the behavior of corporations provides benefit to shareholders and the public. When corporate honchos authorize huge executive compensation for themselves without due opportunity for shareholder approval, they pervert the conditions those of corporate charters.

H.R. 3269, the Corporate and Financial Institution Compensation Fairness Act, is a piece of legislation designed to "to prevent perverse incentives in the compensation practices of financial institutions." The bill prohibits executive compensation packages that put the financial health of their companies at risk, and requires a separate shareholder vote to approve executive compensation packages.

Legislative Tags: executive pay, ceo, corporations, pay, executive compensation packages risk shareholders advisory vote

H.R. 3477

In part of its continuing bid to assert the nature of America as a "Christian Nation" with unique privileges for Christianity in government, the Congressional Prayer Caucus has brought H.R. 3477 to the floor of the House of Representatives. It's called the CHURCH Act of 2009, and if that isn't enough to tip you off, consider the acronym when it's all spelled out: the full name of the legislation is the Congressional Hope for Uniform Recognition of Christian Heritage Act of 2009. The bill would mandate a plaque to be erected in Capitol Hill's Statuary Hall declaring that there is "no problem with having nondenominational Christian services in government buildings," that the U.S. Government should favor Christianity and a return to preaching of "Christian doctrine in this Chamber" and only restrain itself to "not choose an official Christian denomination." H.R. 3477 stands in opposition to the First Amendment clause against the use of government to establish religion.

Legislative Tags: national statuary hall capitol hill plaque church christian nation christianity first amendment

H.R. 35

Essential to the structure of the Constitution is the concept of the balance of powers between the three branches of government. That balance was disturbed in November of 2001, when George W. Bush issued Executive Order No. 13233. That executive order thwarted the intention of the law by declaring that sitting presidents, former presidents, and even the heirs of former presidents, would have the power to deny the release of public White House records.

Congress and the Judicial Branch cannot check the power of the White House without knowledge of the Executive apparatus that the White House has put into place. Bush executive order interfered with the system of government oversight and review the Constitution put into place. The Presidential Records Act Amendments of 2009, H.R. 35, ended this interference by specifically counteracting Executive Order No. 13233.

Legislative Tags: privacy, president, secrecy, bush, executive order, history, balance of powers

H.R. 3567

If passed, the Respect for Marriage Act of 2009 (H.R. 3567) would repeal DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act. Enacted in the 1990s, DOMA removed the presumption (based in the "Full Faith and Credit" clause of the Constitution) that same-sex marriages carried out in one state would be recognized in other states or by the federal government. H.R. 3567 would restore cross-state and federal recognition, recognition that different-sex marriages continue to enjoy.

Legislative Tags: doma defense of marriage act full faith and credit clause constitution marriage equality

H.R. 3591

The Constitution and Citizenship Day Act of 2009 establishes a small grant program to fund the creation of curricula teaching high school students about the history and content of the United States Constitution, using the event of Constitution Day (September 17) as an anchor.

Legislative Tags: constitution day curriculum secondary school high school lesson plans

H.R. 4300

H.R. 4300 is a bill that responds to incidents of credit card corporations raising interest rates as many as 30 percentage points on credit card users, even when those holding credit cards keep up with their payments and aren't late sending in their checks. If passed into law, the bill would cap annual interest rates for credit cards in America at 16% and limit fees for late balances to $15. These provisions would preserve the ability of credit card corporations to make a profit while protecting Americans from downright usurious financial exploitation.

Legislative Tags: usury credit card rates limitation interest rate cap debt corporate loan profit

H.R. 4853

The 2010 extension of tax cuts didn't just continue the tax cuts for billionaires and millionaires enacted under George W. Bush. It expanded those tax cuts, allowing inheritance of estates of up to 10 million dollars tax-free and deepening special tax favors for investors. The legislation also undermined the integrity of Social Security by creating a new standard of low funding for the Social Security trust fund, exposing Social Security to new charges of being unsustainably funded.

Legislative Tags: taxes, economy, social security, tax cut

H.R. 5029

Members of Congress often like to stand up and make speeches in which they talk about how hard they fight for the little guy, Joe and Jane Six Pack. They rail against elites in front of the cameras as their finger rises in high dudgeon. Instead of watching what they say, watch what they do. In H.R. 5029, many of the same members of Congress are pushing to eliminate taxes on capital gains -- money made off the investment of money, not through work. H.R. 5029 also cuts the maximum corporate tax rate to just 12.5 percent, eliminates restrictions on CEO pay for those banks that just took billions in bailout money, and eliminates altogether any taxes on the inheritance of multimillion dollar estates. These are all benefits for wealthy people. The same bill eliminates programs to cut health care premiums, to expand the availability of broadband internet access to rural communities, to make Medicare and Medicaid more efficient, and to help parents who have been laid off and cannot find a job. H.R. 5029, in short, cancels programs that help Jane and Joe Six Pack while padding the wallets of people who are already wealthy.

Legislative Tags: tax breaks, corporations, executive pay, capital gains, health care, medicare trust fund, taxes, tax cuts, wealthy

H.R. 579

If passed, the School Building Enhancement Act would work through two already-established programs of energy efficiency: Energy Star for K-12 through the Environmental Protection Agency and EnergySmart Schools through the Department of Energy. H.R. 579 would provide grants and planning assistance for states to implement cost-saving environmental building designs, to deploy fleets of energy-efficient buses, and to maximize transportation alternatives for students, staff and parents to and from school. The bill is designed to simultaneously save educational institutions money and protect the environment.

Legislative Tags: schools, education, global warming, climate change, energy, efficiency, conservation, environment

H.R. 591

The Military Commissions Act is one of the worst laws to be passed by Congress during the Bush years. It revoked the ancient protection of the writ of habeas corpus, enabling arbitrary and indefinite imprisonment. The law ended the right to a fair and speedy trial, setting up a system of kangaroo courts that could operate under absurdly unjust standards. The law gave retroactive immunity to the President and his aides for war crimes. It created unconstitutional exceptions to the Geneva Conventions. It made hearsay and evidence obtained under coercive interrogation admissible.

Under President Barack Obama, the Military Commissions Act is still on the books. It is true that the prisons of Guantanamo Bay and other "black sites" run by the U.S. around the world will be closed... but the laws that enabled them remain in effect. As long as the Military Commissions Act remains on the books, any closure of prisons like those at Guantanamo will be purely voluntary... and wholly reversible.

The surest way to overcome this problem is not just to rely on the trustworthiness of the President of the United States, but to enact a law that specifically contradicts and counteracts the Military Commissions Act. U.S. Representative David Price has introduced legislation to do just that. Itís H.R. 591, the Interrogation and Detention Reform Act. It does away with the unconstitutional military tribunal system. It does away with torture interrogations. It repeals the repeal of habeas corpus and returns constitutional legal protections to the American justice system. Those members of Congress who support H.R. 591 show the most fidelity to their oath of office pledge that they defend the liberties inherent in the Constitution of the United States.

Legislative Tags: military commissions act repeal david price torture indefinite detention constitution constitutional protections 6th amendment 8th amendment bill of rights habeas corpus

H.R. 626

Claims of common ground are often a sham, covering up the results of a lopsided negotiation in which one side gets the lionís share of the benefits. But H.R. 626, the Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act, is one case in which the interests of Republican and Democratic constituencies truly meet. Republicans say that they support family values. Democrats say that they support workersí rights. Both of these are provided for with H.R. 626, which if passed would give federal employees four weeks of paid parental leave. Such benefits increase employee satsifaction and loyalty, cement family bonds and give children a healthy start in that critical first month of life.

Legislative Tags: paid leave, parental leave, parenthood, federal workers, federal, workers rights, labor, paternity, maternity

H.R. 6262

With so many people struggling to get by, this is no time for the U.S. government to reward factory owners who exploit their workers. H.R. 6262, the Jobs Through Procurement Act, closes a loophole that has allowed contractors to supply the government with sweatshop-made products if a subcontractor does the dirty work. This bill requires a contractor to certify that the products it sells to the government are made in conditions that respect workers rights and pay them a living wage.

Legislative Tags: sweatshops, sweat-free, government procurement, loophole, contracts, subcontractors, working conditions, labor rights

H.R. 636

H.R. 636, also known as the Positive Alternatives Act, reroutes money allocated for TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) benefits, programs and services for poor Americans, reallocating that federal money to go instead to support the budgets of non-governmental groups that counsel poor people not to have abortions. During these hard times, taking money away from programs to help those down on their luck and diverting it into programs telling people what they should do with their own bodies seems especially callous and meddlesome.

Legislative Tags: tanf welfare programs positive alternatives act michele bachman abortion anti-abortion crisis counseling pro-life expenditure alternative-to-abortion services

H.R. 676

H.R. 676 is a bill that would NOT create a system of universal health care in the United States. Rather, it would expand an already functional system, Medicare, to cover every American. Nobody would have to invent an entirely new system, and so startup costs would be low. The moral benefit of health care for everybody would be great, but personal economic benefit would be considerable as well: no more bankruptcies and foreclosures caused by huge health care bills, no more delayed primary care leading to the accumulation of huge and expensive problems, no staying in dead-end jobs just to keep health care, no worries about exclusion due to pre-existing conditions. The best of the private system is retained: you choose your hospitals, you choose your doctors, and you don't need government responsibility to see them.

Legislative Tags: universal health care medicare expansion bankruptcy medical treatment

H.R. 790

Our oceans are in severe crisis, not just because of pollution, but also because of overfishing and climate change. It's irresponsible to ruin the marine resources of tomorrow in order to fill the gas tanks of today. On February 2, 2009, Representative Ed Markey remarked:

"Last year, as a result of opposition from the Bush Administration, the longstanding protections against drilling off the east and west coasts expired. As a result, the American people could now begin to see drill rigs as close as three miles to our beaches and in fragile ecosystems like Georges Bank. Allowing oil and gas drilling in Georges Bank would forever destroy this fragile ecosystem and our nationís most important fishery."

The Georges Bank Preservation Act, H.R. 790, would prevent oil companies from establishing offshore drilling operations on the Georges Bank, a very biologically productive area off the coast of New England. It would protect the fisheries of the Georges Bank rather than decimate them at a time when they are already threatened.

Legislative Tags: new england georges bank preservation act h.r. 790 environment environmental protection offshore oil drilling fishery fisheries fish

H.R. 981

The problem with cluster bombs is threefold:

1. When used, they are distributed in large numbers across terrain;
2. They have a high failure rate, leaving many unexploded bombs;
3. They are small and typically shiny, disproportionately attracting the hands of curious children.

Cluster bombs are designed to kill people, not to damage buildings or roads. Like land mines, they continue to kill people long after the battle in which they were used. It is typical for a large number of these smaller bombs to remain undetonated, waiting to explode, after their initial deployment.

The Federation of American Scientists' report on the matter makes clear the danger of cluster munitions: "40 percent of the duds on the ground are hazardous and for each encounter with an unexploded submunition there is a 13 percent probability of detonation. Thus, even though an unexploded submunition is run over, kicked, stepped on, or otherwise disturbed, and did not detonate, it is not safe. Handling the unexploded submunition may eventually result in arming and subsequent detonation." Cluster bombs kill civilians when they are used. Our government knows this, and yet our government continues to manufacture, use and sell cluster bombs to foreign countries. The Cluster Munitions Civilian Protection Act of 2009 forbids the United States government from spending money to use, sell or transfer cluster bombs unless the following requirements are met:
  • The cluster bombs are proven to have a 1 percent or lower rate of malfunction
  • The cluster bombs will not be used against anything but a clearly defined military target, in an area where there are no civilians and in places where civilians do not ordinarily live
  • A plan is submitted, with the costs included, for cleaning up all the undetonated explosives that come from cluster bombs, whether they are used by the US military, or by other countries to whom the United States has supplied the cluster bombs
There is a waiver in the law for the first requirement (for the malfunctioning rate of 1 percent or lower), in cases in which it is "vital" to use cluster bombs in order to protect the security of the United States. However, even in such cases, the President is required to submit a report to Congress which explains how civilians will be protected from the cluster bombs, and revealing the failure rate of the cluster bombs, as well as whether the cluster bombs are equipped with self-destruct functions. The Cluster Munitions Civilian Protection Act is not perfect, but it is a big improvement over the deadly status quo.

Legislative Tags: cluster bombs munitions civilian casualties death war arms transfers foreign weapons trade unsafe

Mack Amendment to H.R. 1262

On March 12, 2009, the House of Representatives voted on the Mack Amendment, which if passed would have slapped aside the usual rule for federally-funded projects that construction workers be paid at least the prevailing wage of the area in compensation for their labor. That prevailing wage standard is not high to begin with, at poverty-level compensation in many places. But for 140 members of the House of Representatives, poverty-level pay for wasnít low enough. In the middle of the worst economic recession in over a generation, those who voted for the Mack Amendment acted to slash the wages of working-class Americans. They tried to push construction workersí wages further down at the historical moment when their economic security was at its lowest.

Legislative Tags: Davis-Bacon prevailing wage repeal construction workers wages recession federal spending works projects

Motion to Concur on Patriot Act

On February 25, 2010, the House of Representatives passed an extension of Patriot Act provisions for spying on Americans without establishment of probable cause or so much as a demonstration that the person being spied upon is even tangentially connected to terrorism. This reauthorization of the most controversial of Patriot Act powers made it through the House hidden within Medicare legislations and contained no reforms whatsoever.

Legislative Tags: patriot act, reauthorization, lone wolf, national security letters, warrantless, surveillance

Pingree Amendment to H.R. 5136

It's hard to think of a better example of military waste: Spending billions of dollars for two separate manufacturing systems in two separate companies to make two versions of an engine, with identical performance, for the same airplane Ė the F-35, an airplane that only requires one engine in the first place. Yet that's just what the House of Representatives voted in favor of on May 27, 2010. Representative Chellie Pingree of Maine introduced an amendment to cut funding for the second redundant F-35 engine, but a majority of contractor-funded legislators voted the Pingree Amendment down. A yes vote is a vote to cut military pork spending. A no vote is a vote to preserve the pork.

Legislative Tags: f-35 military waste spending engines pork

S 3307

No child in America deserves to go hungry, but in places and times of poor economic opportunity, some children in America go without food. When this happens, we starve our future. S. 3307, The Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010, was passed and signed into law in order to do better by America's kids. The bill makes the first inflation-adjusted increase in federal funding to feed poor kids in 30 years. Those who voted against food for poor kids overwhelmingly voted a week later to give billionaires a tax break.

Legislative Tags: healthy hunger free kids act school lunch free reduced price food availability children

Stupak Amendment to H.R. 3962

The Stupak Amendment is an amendment to the Democrats' main health care bill. The Amendment prohibits health insurance companies from offering abortion coverage in a plan to anyone, even to citizens who pay for the coverage themselves, if just one person buys into the plan with the help of a federal subsidy. Rich women will be able to purchase an abortion with their own money, as they were able to do when abortion was fully illegal. Millions of middle-class and poor women will be stuck, unable to obtain an abortion even though it is legal because their insurance won't cover it.

Legislative Tags: abortion, pro-choice, access, reproductive rights, health care reform, healthcare, insurance, exchange