Senate 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 United States Senate in the 111th Congress of 2009-2010. 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 Senators on Capitol Hill, click here.

Cloture Vote on H.R. 4213

On July 20, 2010 the Senate held a roll-call vote to stop a filibuster and allow unemployment benefits for jobless workers to be extended at a time when Americans are finding it very hard to obtain work. Exteding unemployment insurance coverage for those who have lost their jobs (a YES vote) is a way to keep families sustained in their homes until the economy improves and hiring opens back up. Continuing the filibuster of unemployment insurance coverage (by voting NO) is a way to throw American families and American society into crisis.

Legislative Tags: unemployment, insurance, extension, jobless, benefits

H.R. 2

The Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009, passed first in the House and then by the Senate, brought 4 million children without health insurance eligible onto the rolls of the the State Children Health Insurance Program. That accomplishment angers some legislators, but consider the contribution of H.R. 2 to the general welfare. This legislation isn't some kind of entitlement to people responsible for their own economic vulnerability; no child is responsible for being born into a poor family. Far from being a gift, the CHIP program is an investment: healthy children grow up to become productive adults.

Legislative Tags: children, health insurance, medicine, family, budget, poverty, chip, schip

H.R. 2965

In instrumental terms, the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy is a problem, weakening 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. At the end of the 111th Congress, the Senate finally voted to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

Legislative Tags: don't ask don't tell repeal gay lesbian servicemembers discrimination military 14th amendment

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 them, 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

S. 1102

Since the passage of the Defense of Marriage Act in the 1990s, Congress has made it clear that it has no intention of giving same-sex couples the right to marry at the federal level. But some members of Congress have been making efforts to address discrimination against gay and lesbian couples in other regards. S. 1102, 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, if not a step across the finish line.

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

S. 1227

Preceded by many paragraphs of flowery symbolic language, S. 1227 is nevertheless a short bill when you get down to the meat of it. The text of S. 1227 with 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.’."

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 — say, by advocating for the formation of a union in your workplace — your employer can fire you. There's a phrase for that: "union-busting."

S. 1227 legalizes union busting. The Senators who support S. 1227 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 senator jim demint

S. 1584

To a person only following expressions of popular culture, it might seem that the United States has moved beyond discrimination against gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transexuals. But in the workaday world, it's still legal for people to be fired from their jobs for no other reason than than their choice of whom to love. And a dirty not-so-secret secret of labor unions has been their historical practice of excluding gay and lesbian workers from full participation and leadership.

ENDA, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2009, would make workplace discrimination in hiring and promotions illegal, and would also prohibit discriminatory behavior against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender members of American labor unions. If passed, ENDA would bring the law into the 21st Century along with the majority of Americans who have realized what matters at work is what you do, not who you love.

Legislative Tags: homosexual job discrimination, sexual orientation, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, equality under law, labor unions, employment, enda

S. 1675

S. 1675, the Energy Development Program Implementation Act, cites the Nuclear Nonproliferation Act of 1978. Nuclear Nonproliferation has been used to justify the war in Iraq, but has it been used to promote peaceful development as intended? Under nuclear nonproliferation treaty obligations, the United States is supposed to provide non-nuclear, sustainable energy assistance to developing countries. It has failed in this regard.

Akaka’s legislation would change that, directing the Secretary of Energy to correct the neglect. The bill would create an Alternative Energy Corps, made up of American volunteers who agree to go overseas and help set up solar, wind and other forms of sustainable energy in developing countries. This bill addresses poverty, climate change, nuclear proliferation, treaty obligations and international relations through simple, achievable means.

Legislative Tags: daniel akaka s. 1675 secretary of energy alternative energy green non-nuclear nuclear proliferation treaty obligations united states

S. 1686

S. 1686, the JUSTICE Act, is a bill to reform the USA Patriot Act and FISA Amendments Act and restore some constitutional protection against unreasonable search and seizure by the United States Government.

It's a long bill, but the following are some of its highlights. If passed, S. 1686 would:

  • stop bulk collection of all Americans' communications and end reverse targeting of American citizens
  • stop the targeting of Americans on the basis of the content of their political speech
  • restrict warrantless surveillance programs to suspected terrorists and their direct contacts
  • limit the period of time for which a surveillance order may remain in effect
  • permit judicial review and court challenges to unreasonable programs of search and seizure
  • revoke retroactive immunity for telecommunications corporations that broke the law by releasing your private information
  • increase the level of reporting to the Congress and public regarding surveillance programs

The JUSTICE Act is not a perfect bill; it does not wholly shutter the program of national surveillance that contravenes the 4th Amendment guarantee against search or seizure without a specific warrant from a judge. But it does move our nation in the direction of greater respect for our constitution and for civil liberty.

Legislative Tags: fisa amendments act usa patriot act constitution 4th amendment warrantless search and seizure search warrant pen trap nsl national security letters judicial review foreign intelligence surveillance act terrorists homeland security fbi

S. 173

In the effort to rescue our oceans from chemical and biological disaster, the date is already late. Elevated levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide resulting from human activities have already increased the acidity of the oceans to such an extent that 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.

UNESCO's Monaco Declaration of scientists following on their meeting for the 2nd International Symposium on the Ocean in a High-CO2 world declares:

"Ocean acidification is accelerating and severe damages are imminent.... Since industrialization began in the 18th century, surface-ocean acidity has increased by 30%. This ongoing ocean acidification is decreasing the ability of many marine organisms to build their shells and skeletal structure. Increasing acidity and related changes in seawater chemistry also affect reproduction, behaviour, and general physiological functions of some marine organisms, such as oysters, sea urchins, and squid." We don’t see clear, boldfaced warnings like these very often, and when we do, we ought to pay attention to them. And as the report points out, an acified ocean is an ocean that decimates the marine life on which a significant portion of the world depends for food and commerce. That makes ocean acidification an economic as well as an environmental issue.

In the Senate, Frank Lautenberg has introduced S.173, the Federal Ocean Acidification Research And Monitoring Act. This legislation would establish and support a regime of empirical research and monitoring of ocean acidification under the auspices of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), with the purpose of developing specific strategies for mitigation of ecological impact.

Legislative Tags: s. 173 senate bill ocean acidification acid acidity

S. 1738

Our forests are a major source of clean and safe drinking water and a reservoir for biological diversity, as well as being a place for us to get away and experience challenge and solitude. There are many, many acres of federally-owned forest available for logging, with roads already created and maintained for that use. Those areas will remain available for logging into the future so long as they are responsibly maintained. Why not take the roadless areas that are left and keep them that way? Why not set them aside for future and current generations of humans and wild things to use and enjoy?

With this conservationist aim in mind, S. 1738 would set aside those roadless areas within the National Forest System and preserve that roadless status, with exceptions for catastrophes, preservation efforts, or other activities that were specifically provided for under the original mandates of particular National Forest lands.

Legislative Tags: logging roadless national parks

S. 181

On January 22, 2009, the U.S. Senate voted on the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, a law that seeks to amend an injustice and provide a fair shot at equality in the workplace. The law stems from a lawsuit filed by Lilly Ledbetter, who discovered after years of working for Goodyear Tire that she was being paid less than her coworkers because she was a woman. Her suit was denied all the way up to the Supreme Court, not on the grounds of her complaint, but on the grounds that Ledbetter had not filed suit within a few months of being employed.

Anyone with a sense of basic fairness can see the problem with this ruling. How on earth could Lilly Ledbetter have filed suit in the first few months after she was hired, if she didn’t find out about the pay discrimination until years later? Gathering evidence of pay discrimination takes time, especially when a corporation conceals the evidence as Goodyear Tire did.

S. 181, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, simply remedies the problem behind the injustice to Ledbetter - and other workers like her. It says that workers cannot be expected to file suit for compensation for wage discrimination before they actually find out that they've been discriminated against.

Legislative Tags: lilly ledbetter sex gender discrimination fair pay act s.181 remedy supreme court justice equality corporate

S. 206

Research demonstrates the effectiveness of public Pre-Kindergarten education in improving literacy and mathematics competency among children of a variety of economic and social backgrounds in the short and long term. Early intellectual skill development is crucial in determining the life chances of an individual child, and the potential for accomplishment of a generation of children. Not only to increase individual outcomes but to promote the general welfare, S. 206 would create a series of grants to state governments with the purpose of broadening and enriching Pre-K programs for all children.

Legislative Tags: education, pre-k, early, literacy, pre-literacy, childhood, funding, preschool, universal, public, kindergarten, children

S. 212

The Farallon Islands are an uninhabited group of islands -- uninhabited by humans, that is. The Gulf of the Farallones 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. S. 212 is a bill before the Congress that would expand the boundaries of the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, not just to protect this area for wildlife, but also to strengthen the long-term security of the Pacific fishing industry.

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

S. 22

S. 22, if passed and signed into law by President Obama, will designate over 2 million acres of new wilderness areas across the United States, and expand environmental protections for some already existing public lands. At a time when the integrity of America's natural resources are threatened by a pace of unsustainable consumption and a climate knocked out of equilibrium, conserving public lands is as important to human populations as to the populations of the wild animals that inhabit these areas.

Legislative Tags: conservation, wilderness, public lands, habitat, environment

S. 2821

In the fall of 2009, the United States Department of Labor released a 194-page report identifying countries where "there is a significant incidence of forced labor and/or child labor in production" of various sorts of goods, from toys to textiles. As you can see for yourself, the list of countries with significant labor abuses is long. If S. 2821 is a bill that would require new international trade agreements to contain conditions requiring partner countries to guarantee the right to form labor associations and collectively bargain, eliminate forced labor, end child labor, and outlaw employment discrimination. If a new trade pact coming through the Congress did not contain such guarantees, a single Senator could object and bring the trade pact to a halt. This bill represents a significant expansion to the scope of our nation's moral gaze.

Legislative Tags: fair trade agreements labor minimum wage forced labor child labor collective bargaining union international pact reporting mechanism

S. 3081

S. 3081, if passed, would grant the U.S. government power to imprison its own citizens without criminal charges, without any trial, at without end. Breaking nearly two hundred years of posse comitatus tradition, this legislation would allow the military to round up and hold Americans without evidence of wrongdoing. The new law would forbid the government from telling detained citizens what their rights are. Designations and determinations that could put Americans in military confinement for the rest of their lives would be made at the discretion of the President and the Secretary of Defense. Juries and judges would be forbidden from participating. Nobody in the government would ever have to prove anything. Far from moderate, this legislation gives a few people in charge of the government immense and unquestionable power over the rest of us.

Legislative Tags: indefinite detention, constitution, citizens, citizenship, miranda rights, high-value detainee, unprivileged enemy belligerent, military, posse comitatus

S. 3816

Senators like to declare their support for American jobs in speeches, but do they actually support American jobs in their actions? S. 3816, the Creating American Jobs and Ending Offshoring Act, is a bill that if passed would promote the development of American jobs in two ways. First, it would give a 2-year payroll tax cut to businesses every time they hire an American citizen or resident for a job that used to be sourced overseas. Second, it would eliminate tax breaks for the corporate expenses involved in transferring an American job overseas.

Legislative Tags: american jobs made in the usa tax subsidies outsourcing

S. 416

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 a perfect bill, 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

S. 424

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? S. 424 is a test.

S. 424, 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 Senator Patrick Leahy, 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: discrimination anti-discrimination gay lesbian same-sex marriage couples married immigration policy border alien

S. 436

S. 436, 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 other words, S. 436 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. Goodbye, American Internet. Hello, East Germany.

Legislative Tags: internet safety act child pornography data logging privacy s. 436 john cornyn david vitter blog discussion board anonymous anonymity pseudonymous ip address

S. 482

S. 482, a bill introduced by Senator Russ Feingold, would require senators to file campaign finance reports electronically and for the Secretary of the Senate to forward such reports to the Federal Election Commission within one working day of their receipt. As it stands now, many Senators exploit a special exemption in order to file their campaign finance reports on paper. The practical effect of this is to delay the processing of campaign contribution reports until after an election is over and to make the discovery of unsavory campaign expenditures by reporters and citizens more difficult. Feingold's bill would increase efficiency within the government, increase transparency of information to reporters, and increase the accountability of Senators to American citizens.

Legislative Tags: electronic filing, information, disclosure, campaign, finance, contributions, fec, elections, transparency

S. 896

S. 896, The Helping Families Save Their Homes Act, is a bill passed by the Senate 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 should the mortgages on the homes they live be unprotected? S. 896 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 foreclosure prevention

S.Amdt. 1133 to H.R. 2346

After years of waiting through the presidency of George W. Bush, the United States Senate finally was given the chance this year to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay and put an end to the abuses there. Torture, arbitrary imprisonment, and the kangaroo courts that mocked the Constitution all could have come to an end. Instead, Senator Daniel Inouye gave us S.Amdt. 1133 to H.R. 2346, legislation that banned the President from moving prisoners out of Guantanamo and into prisons legitimately established with the American system of justice. The excuse for this amendment is that it would pressure President Obama to finally come up with a specific plan for getting prisoners out of Guantanamo. Lawmakers have had years, however, to craft such a plan. There is no more need for delay. On closing Guantanamo, it's time for Congress to act, without reservation, and without excuses. Even one in which a person is held captive in a prison outside the law is a day too long.

Legislative Tags: guantanamo, prison, funding, detention

S.Amdt. 1469 to S. 1390

The F-22 is an extremely expensive weapon. A billion dollars will build the government just three, and the cost just begins there. As the Washington Post has revealed, the plane manages to fly just 1.7 hours on average before suffering a critical failure, and requires 34 hours of maintenance for every hour it flies. It has never hit its contracted reliability goals. It can't be flied reliably in the rain. It can't even communicate with other planes. And its purpose? To defeat the hypothetical next-generation aircraft of the Soviet Union, a country that no longer exists. The persistence of the F-22 fighter is a testament to the harm done by the bloated military-industrial complex.

Senate roll call vote 235 struck $1.75 Billion in funding to build more of these hugely expensive, unreliable and unneeded airplanes. The 58-40 vote will hopefully mark the end of this embarrassing hawkish boondoggle.

Legislative Tags: f22 f-22 fighter aircraft air force defense military boondoggle funding cancellation 2009 senate

S.Amdt. 2508 to H.R. 2996

On September 23 2009, Senator David Vitter introduced an amendment to an appropriations bill which would have forced programs of offshore oil drilling to commence. In Roll Call 293, the Senate voted to reject Vitter's amendment and preserve a temporary moratorium on offshore oil drilling. Senate procedure makes the meaning of this vote counterintuitive: a YES vote is a vote to reject Vitter's amendment and keep the moratorium on offshore drilling. a NO vote is a vote to maintain Vitter's amendment and end the moratorium on offshore oil drilling.

Legislative Tags: offshore oil drilling, energy, environment, ocean, natural resources

S.Amdt. 2558 to H.R. 3326

The White House didn't ask for them. The Defense Department didn't want any more. So in September 2009 Senator John McCain did the sensible thing and introduced an amendment, S. AMDT. 2558, to a defense appropriations bill. McCain's amendment would have removed 2.5 billion dollars in spending on the construction of new but unwanted C-17 planes.

A vote for Senate Amendment 2558 was a vote for reasonable spending cuts in an age of austerity, and it was a vote for reasonable limits on the extension of military power. A vote against Senate Amendment 2558 was a vote to further bloat a military already obsese from the ingestion of pork.

Legislative Tags: c17 c-17 cargo plane budget

S.Amdt. 2905 to H.R. 3590

United States taxes are structured to reward corporations for paying big executive salaries. Under current U.S. tax code, corporations can deduct the cost of executive pay up to one million dollars for each corporate executive. This provides an incentive for corporate boards to award large salaries to the corporate leadership in an insider relationship funded by Uncle Sam. On December 6 2009, Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas introduced Senate Amendment 2905 to the health care reform bill currently before the Senate. Lincoln’s amendment would have cut the executive pay tax deduction down to $400,000 a year for each executive in a health insurance company participating in the new national health care exchange system. Corporations could still have paid their executives more than $400,000; they only would have had to pay taxes on compensation above above that limit. The change in the tax structure would have provided incentives for corporations to cut executive costs in health care, and executive flight to competitor corporations would have been avoided since the change would be system-wide. Any additional tax money coming in to the federal government would have been dedicated to the Medicare Trust Fund. The Lincoln Amendment gained majority support in a roll call, but did not achieve the 60 votes required to overcome an implicit Republican filibuster.

Legislative Tags: tax breaks, corporations, executive pay, healthcare, health care reform, medicare trust fund, taxes

S.Amdt. 2962 to H.R. 3590

The Nelson-Hatch Amendment was an amendment to the main health care bill heading through the Senate. If passed, the Amendment would have prohibited health insurance companies from offering anyone coverage for abortion services, even to citizens who paid for the coverage themselves, if just one person bought into the plan with the help of a federal subsidy. Rich women would still be able to purchase an abortion with their own money outside of an insurance system, as they were able to do when abortion was fully illegal. Millions of middle-class and poor women would have been stuck, unable to obtain an abortion even though it is legal and even though they have an insurance policy, because under the law their insurance would have been forbidden from covering it. (Note: This was a vote to kill the Nelson-Hatch Amendment, which means that a YES vote marks a progressive stance and a NO vote marks a regressive one.)

Legislative Tags: pro-choice bart stupak nelson-hatch amendment health care reform access to abortion insurance coverage reproductive rights

S.Amdt. 43 to S.Amdt. 39 to H.R. 2

Is the idea of children getting health care despicable? Some U.S. senators seem to think so, working hard to undo positive changes in legislation to expand SCHIP.

Senate Amendment 43, proposed by Senator Jim DeMint, would have required state health programs to "impose premiums, deductibles, coinsurance" upon poor children getting care through state Children's Health Initiative Programs. Under the DeMint amendment, all SCHIP families earning 200 percent of the poverty line would have to pay for their children’s health insurance.

To mask the barbarity, Senate Amendment 43 refers to these families as "higher income families," which makes them sound like champagne-swilling yachters. But if you look at the actual poverty level set by the Department of Health and Human Services, for a single mother with a child we're just talking about at most an income of $28,000 per year.

What Senator DeMint and his colleagues who supported S. Amdt 43 suggest is that a working single mother and her child can live on $28,000 a year and buy health insurance too. That's an unrealistic outcome with a cruel outcome.

A YES vote on Roll Call Vote 16 was a vote to defeat the DeMint Amendment and defend health care for poor kids. A NO vote was in the DeMint Amendment's defense, a vote against caring for kids.

Legislative Tags: schip chip children childrens health initiative program child health care state cost sharing poverty level poor kids health care jim demint amendment 43 senate

S.Amdt. 65 to H.R. 2

In this country, abortion is a legal procedure. It is also legal in many other countries. But the Mexico City Gag Rule (instated by Ronald Reagan, rescinded under Bill Clinton, then re-instated under George W. Bush) prohibited organizations receiving federal funding from even mentioning available legal abortion resources when providing service to women overseas. If a woman asked a member of such an organization where a safe and legal abortion clinic might be, that person couldn't say a word. Senate Amendment 65 to H.R. 2 would have extended the Mexico City Gag Rule for another term; by voting NO on January 28 2009, 60 senators brought the gag rule to an end.

Legislative Tags: abortion, mexico city policy, funding, non-profit, international

S.J. Res 15

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. S.J. Res 15 is a bill before the Senate to remove the pesky impediment of free speech.

S.J. Res 15 would amend the United States Constitution to remove protection for speech that "desecrates" (that is, 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 prohibition

S.J. Res 26

On June 10 2010, the extent of Arctic sea ice plummeted to four standard deviations below the 1979-2000 mean. Also on June 10 2010, NASA released data showing that a heat wave in May of 2010 had set new worldwide temperature records for the month.

On the afternoon of June 10 2010, 47 Senators put blinders on, ignored our climate crisis and voted in favor of prohibiting the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases. Fortunately, 53 Senators voted to reject S.J. Res 26.

Legislative Tags: environment, global warming, greenhouse gases, climate, climate change, epa, environmental protection agency, regulation

S.J. Res 6

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 U.S. Senate are not happy with the Constitution. They want to change it to deny citizenship rights.

S.J. Res 6 is a constitutional amendment that, if passed, would deny citizenship to American-born babies if their parents are not themselves citizens. Such a change would move us toward the German model of citizenship, in which families who have lived in Germany for generations were denied citizenship because they lacked the so-called "virtue" of a German bloodline.

Do you think a German Heimatland notion of blood purity in citizenship belongs in our Constitution? Unfortunately, some of our Senators do.

Legislative Tags: blood line, heimatland, german, citizenship, nazi, constitution, citizen, 14th amendment, birth, birthright, born, amendment