What Happened in the 110th Congress, 1st Session?
The 110th Congress was sworn in on January 4, 2007 with the Democrat-controlled House and Senate, a first in over a decade. Feminists were clamoring in praise as San Francisco liberal, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was sworn in as the first female Speaker of the House. Amnesty supporters were beaming with delight at the prospect of legalizing millions of illegal aliens. Though the new majority was hostile to our agenda, Eagle Forum continued to champion pro-family principles and achieved success despite the opposition.
From pro-life riders on appropriations bills, to defeating a massive amnesty for illegal aliens, Eagle Forum stood strong to protect conservative principles. We also continue to lead the way on combating judicial supremacy and parents' rights issues. We always need your help to let our leaders know about the issues that concern Eagle Forum members, so get involved and stay involved!
Protecting traditional marriage from supremacist judges remains one of the top political issues facing our country. Eagle Forum advocates a multi-faceted strategy to protect marriage. While a constitutional amendment is ultimately necessary to protect marriage from activist judges, it remains a long process requiring a super-majority in Congress and then ratification by 38 states. Removing jurisdiction from federal courts over the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) provides immediate protection for marriage, as it only requires a majority of Congress, while we work for a significant constitutional amendment.
Representative Dan Burton (R-IN), introduced the Marriage Protection Act of 2007 (H.R. 724) on January 30, 2007. The Marriage Protection Act would remove jurisdiction from federal courts regarding DOMA. Currently, the bill has 50 co-sponsors and has been referred to the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties.
Building a Culture of Life
In 2001, President Bush announced a policy limiting the use of federal funds for embryonic stem cell research (ESCR) which requires killing a human embryo to harvest its stem cells to embryos killed before August 9, 2001. Since that time, federally funded ESCR has been permitted on dozens of stem cell lines provided by the National Institutes of Health, and privately funded ESCR research continues without restriction.
To date, not one single human patient has been successfully treated with embryonic stem cells. However, adult stem cells (extracted from bone marrow, cord blood, and other body cells) do not require killing human life and have been used to treat over 70 diseases in human patients! In fact, Dr. James Thomson, who was the first to grow human embryonic stem cells, and Professor Shinya Yamanaka from Japan each published a high profile paper on November 20, 2007 showing that embryonic-type stem cells can be produced directly from ordinary human cells, such as a skin cell, without first creating an embryo. This technique does appear to hold the ethical line: no embryos are created or destroyed, there is no cloning, and no eggs are needed. This breakthrough research further supports the President's policy that there is no need to destroy embryos, nor cloned embryos, for research.
One of the goals of the new Democrat majority this year was to expand federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. It only took 11 days into the new year for Nancy Pelosi to push through legislation in the House. On January 11, 2007, the House voted on the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007 (H.R. 3), which passed by a vote of 253-174 (House Roll Call 20). The Senate then passed its version of the bill by a vote of 63-34 (Senate Roll Call 127). On June 20, 2007, President Bush vetoed the bill. Neither the House nor the Senate has the required two-thirds vote necessary to override the veto. It is important to note that the Senate, the originating body of this legislation, still has not voted to override the President's veto. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has held it up on procedural grounds, which means it could still come up at any time.
The Supreme Court on Life
On April 18, 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court, by a vote of 5-4, ruled that the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act, which was passed by Congress and signed by President Bush in 2003, is constitutional. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote the court's dissenting opinion.
Current law prohibits the use of Title X family planning funds in programs where abortion is a method of family planning and current regulations also require some form of separation between federally-funded family planning services and abortions. In their 2005-2006 annual report, Planned Parenthood reported that it received a third of its budget-$305.1 million-from "government grants and contracts." On July 19, 2007, Representative Mike Pence (R-IN) offered an amendment to the 2008 Dept. of Labor, Health & Human Services, & Education Appropriations bill (H.R. 3043) to withhold Title X funds from Planned Parenthood, which is believed to be the largest provider of abortions in the country. The amendment failed by a vote of 189-231 (House Roll Call 684). Similarly, on October 18, 2007, Senator David Vitter (R-LA) offered the same amendment to the Senate version of the 2008 HHS & Education Appropriations bill (H.R. 3043) which failed by a vote of 41-52 (Senate Roll Call 379). Unfortunately, in the Omnibus bill (H.R. 2764) for fiscal year 2008, Democrats still managed to further increase funding for Planned Parenthood to $300 million.
Representative Mike Pence (R-IN) also introduced the Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act (H.R. 4133), which currently has 47 cosponsors. The bill aims to prohibit what the failed amendments intended to do-prevent federal funds from going to entities that promote and provide abortion. Gaining cosponsors and seeing that this bill makes it to the floor will be a priority for Eagle Forum during the 2nd session.
Over the last six years, President Bush has called for more money for abstinence education. Title V Abstinence Education grants provide $50 million to states each year to fund programs that help teenagers avoid STDs and unwed pregnancies. Authorization for these grants was created in the Welfare reform bill in 1996. These programs were successfully reauthorized several times in 2007, and currently are reauthorized through June 30, 2008. In the Omnibus (H.R. 2764), the true abstinence education definition (A-H definitions) was successfully preserved and Community Based Abstinence Education (CBAE) remains level-funded at approximately $109 million.
Mexico City Policy
Early in 2007, 34 pro-life Senators and various family groups sent letters to President Bush asking that he firmly oppose any attempts by the new Congress to weaken current pro-life law. The President then issued a warning to both the Senate and House leadership that he will veto any bill which compromises such policies. Despite these warnings, language gutting Mexico City Policy was included in both the House and Senate versions of the 2008 State/Foreign Operations Appropriations bills (H.R. 2764). In the House, Reps. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Bart Stupak (D-MI) offered an amendment which would have stricken the language in the bill undermining Mexico City, but it failed by a vote of 205-218 (House Roll Call 534). In the Senate, Barbara Boxer (D-CA) offered an amendment to the bill which overturned existing Mexico City policy, and it passed by a vote of 53-41 (Senate Roll Call 319). However, due to pressure from groups such as Eagle Forum and a veto threat from the President, the language weakening the Mexico City policy was left out of the massive Omnibus (H.R. 2764), a major pro-life victory!
This was yet another monumental year for immigration reform. In fact, 2007 could be the year that we look back on in a decade and say, "That was the tipping point. That was the year we started to take back our country from illegal aliens." President Bush named immigration reform as one of the top issues on which he looked forward to working with the new Democratic majority. We were sure this was a deadly amnesty combination and Eagle Forum took the lead to fight the amnesty. When the dust settled, grassroots Americans had beaten back the Bush-Kyl-Kennedy amnesty and defeated it three different times, despite hard-handed lobbying by Big Business, Big Church, and the Big Media.
On May 8, 2007, a group of Senators, led by Republicans Arlen Specter (R-PA) and Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and Democrats Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), announced they had reached a "Grand Bargain" on immigration reform after months of negotiating behind closed doors. Introduced as a placeholder, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007 (S. 1348) was amended by Senator Kennedy (S. Amdt. 1150), whose text became the new bill. This language was not available to the public or most Senators until a couple days before they would vote on the motion to proceed to the bill. The real text of the bill would be provided as S. Amdt. 1150, offered by Senator Edward Kennedy. In short, the bill would have provided amnesty for millions of illegals, by granting them a "Z" visa if they could prove they were illegally present in the U.S. before January 1, 2007. The bill also included a massive guest-worker program, importing up to 400,000 foreign workers initially, with no numerical limits in the years to follow. Weak enforcement provisions were also included in the bill, but the focus remained on the amnesty.
Public opposition to the bill grew quickly and loudly. Phones rang off the hook in every Senate office, with some offices hiring additional staff to take the calls or switching to an automatic answering service. The Bush Administration dispatched Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and White House press secretary Tony Snow to try to quiet the opposition, but neither the public, nor groups like Eagle Forum, would buy their weak promises of enforcement.
As Eagle Forum led the opposition groups, we decided the way to defeat this bill was procedurally. A cloture motion (ending debate and proceeding to a final vote) requires 60 votes. Our objective was to get enough Senators to vote no on cloture that they would be forced to pull the bill from the floor. After 2 weeks of intense debate with opposition led by Senators Jeff Session (R-AL), Jim DeMint (R-SC), and David Vitter (R-LA), the cloture motion failed 33-63 (Roll Call 203) on June 7, 2007 at 11:41am. That afternoon, the Grand Bargainers tried to craft a new compromise behind closed doors, but that cloture attempt failed also as public opposition shut down the Senate phone system earlier that day. The cloture vote taken at 8:24pm failed 45-50 (Roll Call 206).
Refusing to listen to the will of the American people, Senate leaders and the Bush administration crafted a new piece of legislation to bring back to the floor in late June. The bill, S. 1639, was brought to the floor in the hope of persuading enough opponents to vote for the bill if they were able to offer their amendments. An archaic Senate procedure, the clay pigeon, was used to offer all selected amendments in one piece, then break them up and vote on them individually, like shooting a clay pigeon, with little debate and no way to offer new amendments. The Grand Bargainers held a pact with other senators to vote down any amendments that actually changed the bill, so they could keep the little balance of support they had for it. Such an amendment lockdown represented the type of closed-door, chip-trading, and arm-twisting type of debate immigration reform had been.
The vote to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to the clay pigeon bill (S. 1639) needed 60 votes to pass and bring the bill back to the floor. We hoped to stop it there, but failed by a vote of 64-35 (Roll Call 228) on June 26. We had just 36 hours until the cloture vote on the whole bill, also requiring 60 votes. We needed to switch at least 5 votes to keep them under 60. On June 28, the motion to invoke cloture on the immigration bill, failed by a vote of 46-53 (Roll Call 235, see Appendix A). This was a monumental victory for the grassroots!
Update on the Border Fence
Last year President Bush signed the Secure Fence Act, which mandated over 700 miles of double layer fencing on the southern border and requires the Secretary of Homeland Security to gain "operational control" of the border within 18 months of enactment. Over 14 months later, only 165.7 miles of pedestrian fence and 119.1 miles of vehicle barriers have been built, according to an update from Republican Whip Roy Blunt's office. In addition to the changes in language, such as "pedestrian fencing" instead of double layer fencing, the pace of fence construction remains slow.
The border fence took another blow late in 2007, as the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2008 (H.R. 2764) effectively gutted the Secure Fence Act. The Omnibus (H.R. 2764) language provides a loophole for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary to entirely disregard building the fence if he determines that the "placement of such resources is not the most appropriate means to achieve and maintain operational control over the international border." It also removes the specific locations for the fence outlined in the Secure Fence Act and creates red tape for DHS by requiring excessive consultation with other government agencies on all levels. Representative Duncan Hunter, author of the Secure Fence Act, plans to offer legislation in the 2nd session that will restore the parameters of the bill.
In an attempt to pass amnesty by a piecemeal approach, Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) offered the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act (S. 2205), which provides amnesty for illegal aliens who came to the U.S. as children. Legalized children would then be able to sponsor their extended family for legal status, leading to millions more illegal aliens receiving amnesty. The bill failed by a vote of 52-44 (Roll Call 394), eight votes shy of the 60 needed to invoke cloture.
In December, Eagle Forum endorsed the Secure America through Verification and Enforcement (SAVE) Act (H.R. 4088/S.2366). The SAVE Act is sponsored by Representative Heath Shuler (D-NC) and has 133 co-sponsors, including 44 Democrats. The SAVE Act is an enforcement approach to immigration reform. It calls for increases in border agents, immigration judges, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. It expands the E-verify program, making it mandatory for all employers to check the immigration status of their employees within five years.
As a bi-partisan enforcement approach, the SAVE Act has a significant chance at being voted on in the House and perhaps the Senate in the next session.
On May 3, 2007, the House passed the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act (H.R 1592) by a vote of 237-180 (Roll Call 299). Senator Edward Kennedy offered identical Hate Crimes language as an amendment to the Defense Authorization bill (H.R. 1585), which was adopted automatically when cloture on the amendment was invoked by a vote of 60-39 (Roll Call 350). Senator Hatch offered an alternative hate crimes related amendment, supported by Eagle Forum, which passed 96-3 (Roll Call 351).
The House-passed language (and Kennedy's identical Senate amendment) would make hate crimes (a crime in which the victim is intentionally selected based on his or her race, religion, ethnicity, gender, etc.) a federal offense, adding "sexual orientation" as protected classes in the U.S. criminal code (Title 18).
President Bush issued a veto (pdf) threat to the Defense Authorization bill if the Hate Crimes language was included. This threat, combined with grassroots pressure, resulted in the Hate Crimes language being removed from the bill on December 6, 2007.
On February 2, 2007, Texas Governor Rick Perry (R), issued an Executive Order mandating all Texas girls ages 11 and 12 receive the Humanpapillomavirus (HPV) vaccine before entering the sixth grade. The order contained weak parental opt-out language, which placed burdens on parents. HPV is a sexually transmitted disease which can lead to some types of cervical cancer. The mandate is an outrage because HPV is not spread through casual contact at schools.
The drug company, Merck, produces the vaccine called Gardasil, which was only approved by the FDA a short eight months before the Perry mandate. Merck also hired Gov. Perry's former chief of staff to lobby for Gardasil. It would later be revealed that Merck had an extensive state-by-state lobby plan to get state legislatures and governors to mandate the vaccine, resulting in billion dollar profits for Merck.
A public firestorm erupted as word of the mandate spread across Texas and the country. Texas Eagle Forum led the opposition and successfully lobbied the Texas General Assembly to pass a bill to overturn the Governor's mandate by a veto-proof margin. This resounding victory by parents led Merck to drop its plans to push states to mandate Gardasil. However, Virginia's General Assembly did pass a bill in April mandating HPV vaccine for all sixth graders.
On July 18, 2007, Representative Phil Gingrey, M.D. (R-GA) offered an amendment to the Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services Appropriations bill (H.R. 3043) to prohibit the use of federal funds to require HPV vaccinations for school admittance. The amendment passed by a voice vote.
DC Voting Rights
On April 19, 2007, the House passed the DC voting rights bill (H.R. 1905) by a vote of 241-177 (Roll Call 231). This bill extends to the delegate from the District of Columbia full voting rights in the House of Representatives. The Constitution specifies that only states may be represented. In an attempt to silence critics of DC voting rights, the bill added an additional congressional seat in Utah (next in line to receive a seat in reapportionment). The Utah seat would be a "safe Republican" seat, whereas the DC seat would surely be Democratic, as the District is overwhelmingly Democrat.
On September 18, the Senate failed to invoke cloture (requiring 60 votes) on the District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act (S. 1257), by a vote of 57-42 (Roll Call 339). By failing to invoke cloture, the bill effectively died for this session of Congress. President Bush issued a veto threat on this bill.
Puerto Rico Statehood
In another attempt to pad their voting majority in Congress, the Democrat majority attempted to move the Puerto Rico Democracy Act (H.R. 900) by passing it in the House Natural Resources Committee on October 23 by a voice vote. This bill would set up two plebiscites which would effectively deceive Puerto Ricans into voting for statehood. The House committee amended the bill by adding a constitutional convention as an option for deciding statehood status.
Puerto Rico has repeatedly rejected statehood in previous referendums. Also, allowing Puerto Rico to become a state would transform the U.S. into a bilingual country overnight and require massive federal funding to improve infrastructure. The bill did not receive a floor vote, but could be considered in the 2nd session.
In the remaining two years of his term, President Bush faces an uphill battle to get his judicial nominees confirmed by a Democrat-controlled Senate. This session, five circuit court judges have been confirmed, well behind the 15 judges confirmed during President Clinton's last two years in office, also controlled by the opposing party. Eagle Forum enthusiastically supported the nomination of Judge Leslie Southwick to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. After a difficult battle, Judge Southwick was confirmed 59-38 (Roll Call 393) on October 24, 2007.
Security and Prosperity Partnership
Eagle Forum has led the charge against the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) and the North American Union for over two years. The SPP, created by the Bush administration, seeks to economically integrate the U.S., Canada, and Mexico through harmonizing laws and regulations into a single market. In the first congressional vote relating to SPP, Representative Duncan Hunter offered an amendment to the Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill (H.R. 3074) which prohibits federal funds from being used to fund the SPP working groups. The amendment passed overwhelmingly 362-63 (Roll Call 707). However, the Senate did not take up any amendments related to the SPP.
Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA)
On November 7, 2007, the House passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (H.R. 3685) by a vote of 235-184 (Roll Call 1057). ENDA would make it illegal for an employer to "fail or refuse to hire" any employee because of the individual's "actual or perceived" sexual orientation. This bill assaults the freedom of employers to hire as they choose and makes them vulnerable to lawsuits due to the broad language. Religious entities would also be threatened as it would make it against the law for certain religious entities to refuse to hire someone who did not share their religious beliefs.
In September 2007, the Department of Transportation launched a pilot program allowing 100 Mexican trucking companies (not just 100 trucks) access to all U.S. highways, despite safety concerns expressed by Congress and the public. On September 10, a Mexican truck laden with dynamite exploded in Northern Mexico, killing 34 people. This truck could easily have been headed for U.S. roads.
In attempts to prevent the pilot program from rolling out, the House passed the Safe American Roads Act (H.R. 1773), sponsored by Rep. Nancy Boyda (D-KS), by a vote of 411-3 (Roll Call 349). This bill would not allow Mexican trucks access to U.S. roads beyond the commercial zone on the U.S.-Mexico border until U.S. trucks are allowed comparable operation in Mexico. Also, it would open the program to public comment and require a review by the Inspector General. Similarly, the Senate passed an amendment to the Transportation appropriations bill (H.R. 3074) sponsored by Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND), which prohibited federal funds from being used to "establish a cross-border motor carrier demonstration program to allow Mexico-domiciled motor carriers to operate beyond the commercial zone in the United States." The amendment passed 75-23 (Roll Call 331). This language was retained in the Omnibus spending bill (H.R. 2764) signed into law by the president on December 26, 2007.
Law of the Sea Treaty
On May 15, 2007, President Bush announced his support for the Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST), which has been opposed by President Reagan and many conservative groups. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) held a hearing on September 27 featuring three treaty supporters and no opponents. A second hearing was held on October 4, featuring five supporters of the treaty and only 2 opponents. On October 31, the Senate Foreign Relations committee voted 17-4 in support of LOST. The four opponents were Senators Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Jim DeMint (R-SC), David Vitter (R-LA), and Norm Coleman (R-MN). The treaty can now be brought up at any time for a ratification vote on the Senate floor, which requires 2/3 vote.
Although the House does not deal with treaties specifically, Republican Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO) offered an amendment to the Department of State and Foreign Operations appropriations bill (H.R. 2764) that prohibited federal funds from being used by the International Seabed Authority, the governing body of LOST. The amendment passed by a voice vote on June 21, 2007.
Eagle Forum mounted opposition to the Patent Reform Act (S. 1145/H.R. 1908). Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) sponsored the Senate bill, while Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA) introduced the House legislation. The House Judiciary subcommittee on courts and intellectual property reported H.R. 1908 by voice vote on May 16, 2007. The full Judiciary Committee sent the bill to the House, also on a voice vote, on July 18. On September 7, the House of Representatives considered the bill, adopted several amendments, then approved the bill on a narrow 220–175 vote. The Senate Judiciary Committee debated and amended S. 1145 in June, then reported it out of committee on July 19. The legislation appeared to be on the fast track for Senate floor action.
Eagle Forum opposes this patent legislation because it would fundamentally alter our entire system for giving American inventors the ability to enjoy the fruits of their creations. The U.S. patent system would be refashioned into a process much like that of European or Asian nations – meaning weak property rights for actual inventors, faster issuance of patents and easier challenges to them throughout the life of a patent, mandatory publication of all patent applications (empowering piracy), easier ability to infringe a patent and then much weaker consequences for infringement (i.e., theft). Throughout the fall, Eagle Forum fought alongside a wide range of bill opponents (e.g., venture capitalists, independent inventors, American manufacturers, research universities) and successfully slowed the pace at which the bill was moving. Active opposition has forced proponents into behind-the-scenes negotiations and caused many Senators to remain neutral on the issue. The bill could come to the Senate floor in 2008, but it no longer is on the fast track.
June 28, 2007, 11:04am
(The motion to invoke cloture on S. 1639, the immigration reform bill)
It is important to note the order in which Nay votes were called out on the Senate floor since many Senators had not made up their minds on how to vote until the last minute. Many wanted to see how the votes fell, in order that they might protect themselves if the bill was going down overwhelmingly.
Nay votes (from those changing their position from Roll Call 228) as they were called out from the floor:
Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM)
*Senator Brownback originally called out Aye, but changed his vote to Nay while the vote was still ongoing.