Domestic Policy

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  Ban On Net Access Taxes Extended To 2014October 30, 2007 12:08 America's Internet access subscribers can breathe a sigh of relief: Congress isn't planning to allow taxes on your connection for another seven years.

With little debate, the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday voted 402-0 to pass an extension of an existing ban on Internet access taxes until 2014. The same proposal received unanimous approval in the Senate late last week.

The move comes just in the nick of time, as current law generally prohibiting state and local governments from levying the taxes was scheduled to expire Thursday.

The bill's next step is the president's desk, where it is expected to be signed swiftly into law. President Bush has long been an advocate of extending--or even making permanent--the ban.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) touted the vote as granting the longest extension of the Internet tax moratorium in history, although just a few weeks ago, she and the bulk of her colleagues backed a four-year extension instead. "Unlike the Republican-controlled Congress, which allowed the moratorium on taxes on Internet access to expire for more than a year, the Democratic Congress voted today to extend the moratorium on time," she said in a statement.

Pelosi was referring to Congress' failure to reach agreement on a Net tax ban renewal bill in time to meet a 2003 expiration date, although it ultimately passed a retroactive four-year extension the next year.
  Bush Scolds Dems For Second Effort On Children’S Health BillOctober 26, 2007 11:10 President Bush accused Democratic lawmakers today of wasting time by passing legislation to expand children’s health coverage, knowing that he would veto it again. At the same time, he criticized Congress for failing to approve spending bills to keep the government running.

Bush said Congress had "set a record they should not be proud of: October 26 is the latest date in 20 years that Congress has failed to get a single annual appropriations bill to the president’s desk."

He also complained that Congress had failed to pass a permanent extension of a moratorium on state and local taxes on Internet access, and that the Senate had not yet confirmed Michael Mukasey as attorney general. Further, he chided Congress for failing to approve more money for Iraq and Afghanistan.
  "Mother of All Tax Reforms"October 26, 2007 10:59 House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel has dropped a political bomb that Republicans say may derail his fellow Democrats' pre-election momentum.

Rangel yesterday offered a sweeping tax overhaul, which he dubbed ``the mother of all reforms.'' The proposal would raise taxes on higher-income families and some businesses, while cutting bills for the working poor and lowering the corporate rate. Republicans accused Rangel and his party of trying to raise taxes by more than $1 trillion.

``Very seldom in politics do your opponents give you this kind of gift,'' said House Minority Whip Roy Blunt of Missouri. ``Very seldom in politics do your opponents say, `If we could just elect a president and if we can hold onto the House and Senate, here's what we're going to do: We're going to raise taxes.'''

Republican presidential candidates seized the opportunity. ``We certainly shouldn't raise taxes the way Charlie Rangel wants to,'' said former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. ``It would devastate the economy.''

Few Democratic lawmakers or candidates rose to Rangel's defense. Of the party's top-tier presidential hopefuls, only Senator Hillary Clinton of New York commented on the plan: ``Senator Clinton and Representative Rangel share the broad goal of progressive tax reform,'' said Phil Singer, a campaign spokesman.
  Border Fence Shuts Out U.S. Steelworkers, Threatens EnvironmentOctober 24, 2007 11:57 Once again, the Bush administration is sending work overseas that could be done here and ignoring laws that get in the way of what it wants to accomplish.

This time it’s the $1.2 billion, 700-mile fence along the U.S.-Mexico border that’s supposed to make us more secure. Seems part of the fence is made out of pipes from China, and it’s being built in a way that’s jeopardizing one of the world’s top natural wonders.

Members of the Congressional Steel Caucus, who represent districts where the steel industry is struggling, condemned the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for using Chinese-made pipe when U.S. companies could do the job.

Says Rep. Pete Visclosky (D-Ind.), chairman of the Steel Caucus:

The Chinese can’t make safe toys, and this is the national security infrastructure.

A member of the United Steelworkers (USW), Mickey Bolt of Transfer, Pa., was the one who blew the whistle on DHS. He saw pictures of the pipes with “China” written on them and sent the picture to his congressman, Rep. Phil English (R-Pa.), whose staff confirmed through sources at DHS that Chinese pipe was being used on the project. Bolt, who worked at pipe maker Wheatland Tube Co. for 31 years, told the Sharon, Pa., Herald:
  Bush Advisers Urge Veto Of Any Bill Raising Oil Company TaxesOctober 17, 2007 14:38 The White House is threatening to veto any energy bill that seeks to raise taxes on oil companies.

President Bush's senior advisers will recommend he veto any energy bill that raises taxes or uses the tax code to "single out specific industries," Allan Hubbard, director of the National Economic Council, said in a letter sent late Monday to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

Reacting to Hubbard's letter today, House Democrats vowed not to back down, paving the way for a confrontation over energy policy this fall.

"There the Bush administration goes again — coddling Big Oil instead of developing alternative energy resources that will lower oil prices and save our planet from the worst impacts of global warming," said Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass.

House and Senate leaders are trying to cobble together a compromise energy package from two different packages passed by the two chambers last summer. And Hubbard's letter throws down a challenge on a number of key provisions dear to Democrats.

The House package would saddle the oil companies with $16 billion in new taxes. The companies, for instance, would be excluded from a scheduled rollback in the corporate tax rate for U.S. manufacturers.
  Bush Faces Gop Foes On Budget CutsOctober 09, 2007 18:34 Congressional Democrats have found an unexpected ally in their budget showdown with President Bush: Republicans.

The president is pushing to cut and even eliminate some popular domestic programs that pump billions of dollars into the states. Many congressional Republicans, wary of the potential fallout from the loss of funds, have joined Democrats to oppose the cuts.

California alone has hundreds of millions of dollars at stake.

More than a week into the new fiscal year, Congress has yet to send Bush any of its 12 spending bills. And Bush has threatened to veto most of those that have been approved by the House or the Senate, accusing lawmakers of overspending in a time of budget deficits. But Democrats have stood their ground, not only rejecting many of the proposed cuts, but adding more funds for programs they believe have been neglected.

"We didn't overspend; the president under-funded," Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) said during debate last week on a spending bill that Bush has threatened to veto.

And they're getting help from some Republicans who, unlike the president, must run for reelection in communities that rely on Washington's money for community development, housing, anti-crime programs and other activities. For example, Rep. David Dreier (R-San Dimas) helped engineer a successful bipartisan effort in the House to boost to $460 million the federal funding to reimburse states for jailing illegal immigrants. Bush has proposed no money for the program.

Bush wants to cut federal aid programs by about $3.8 billion, according to Federal Funds Information for States, a Washington-based organization. The House has called for an increase of $13.8 billion, and the Senate is headed toward a $10-billion increase.
  Anger Over Iraq And Bush Prompts Calls For Secession From The Us For VermontOctober 06, 2007 19:44 Along the Appalachian Trail, the 2000-mile ribbon of wilderness stretching from Vermont to Tennessee, the leaves are putting on their annual display of dazzling yellows, gold and vermilion.

And like the autumn leaves politics turns quicker in Vermont than elsewhere in the US.

The self-styled Green Mountain state has always had a doggedly independent streak. It opposed slavery long before other states. Vermont people are fiercely proud of the way they run their affairs through "town hall meetings" at which everything from school budgets to planning applications are thrashed out in public.

In 2004, Vermont elected its first socialist congressman Bernie Sanders, it almost sent the maverick Democrat Howard Dean to the White House, and was the first state to approve same-sex civil unions. Montpelier is the only state capital in the US to have no McDonald's restaurant and Vermont has kept Wal-Mart superstores out of its cities far longer than any other state. Vermont has some of the toughest environmental laws in the country. In a landmark case, it recently won the right to set tougher pollution standards on car makers than federal law demands.

And in the stores of its cities, T-shirts bearing the slogan "US out of Vt!" are big sellers. Because Vermont is now home to a growing movement agitating for outright secession from the United States. In Vermont's rural air, there has always been a whiff of rebellion. One of Vermont's founding fathers, Ethan Allen, was an early American revolutionary and guerrilla leader who fought with his Green Mountain Boys for Vermont's independence in the American Revolutionary War and for the establishment of the Vermont Republic which lasted from 1777 to 1791.
  Congress Vows To Override Bush Veto On Child Health CareOctober 06, 2007 19:41 Congressional Democrats are vowing to override President Bush's veto of legislation that would expand health insurance coverage for poor children. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

President Bush says he supports the Children's Health Insurance Program, known as CHIP, but vetoed its expansion on Wednesday because he believes the bipartisan legislation is deeply flawed.

"Millions of children would move out of private health insurance and onto a government program," he said. "Congress's plan would also transform a program for poor children into one that covers children in some households with incomes up to $83,000. Congress's plan would raise taxes on working people. And Congress's plan does not even fully fund all the new spending."

In his weekly radio address, the president says the legislation would take the country in the wrong direction, because more government-run health care deprives Americans of the choices and competition in the private market.

The president says he is willing to compromise with Congress if covering all eligible children not currently enrolled in the program requires more than the 20 percent increase he is proposing.

But congressional Democrats have so far shown no interest in negotiating with the White House on children's health insurance and hope to override the president's veto by convincing at least 15 House Republicans to change their vote.

  Bush's Vetos Kids' Health PlanOctober 04, 2007 08:39 President George W. Bush's veto of a bipartisan bill that would dramatically expand the SCHIP children's health insurance program Wednesday drew sharp rebuke from both sides of the aisle.

"This is a presidency fixated on ideology and not one fixated on solving the nation's problems," said Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton). "Kids need health care."

Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, a conservative Republican, said: "Frankly, I don't understand how we can say it is a great program without covering the kids who deserve to be covered."
  Bill Would Reduce Meat InspectionsOctober 02, 2007 17:25 - As one of the largest meat recalls in history unfolds, Congress is considering legislation that would reduce required federal inspections for meat that is produced by small companies and then shipped to another state.

Because of a little-noticed legislative change buried deep within the 2007 farm bill approved in July by the House, only state inspections would be required for some meat products.

The measure was planted in the farm bill by Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), according to congressional staffers familiar with the bill. It would be a boon to small meat processing companies whose products must remain in the state of origin because they lack a federal inspection stamp.

Consumer advocates and a federal meat inspectors union oppose the measure, which is now under consideration in the Senate. They say that state inspection standards vary widely and that the federal inspection requirement ensures food safety.

Under current law, the U.S. Department of Agriculture inspects and regulates the interstate sale of beef and poultry. Inspectors are present in many large and medium meat plants. Some states also regulate meat production, but only for products that stay within that state's jurisdiction.