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July 21, 2006

Last Week in Congress

On Thursday, July 13, the Senate unanimously passed H.R. 5441, a “bill making appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2007, and for other purposes.” The House had passed a version in June; what’s left is the Conference Committee in which differences in the bills are fixed and agreed upon, and then a final vote in both Houses. As of this writing, the latest version of this bill available from the Government Printing Office runs 224 pages, of which 64 are lined out signifying deletion. Expect the final version, then, to run about 160 pages. And expect no one who will vote for it to actually read it.

There is, however, some good news and one piece of great news. The good news is that several Amendments to increase funding for various aspects of the bill were rejected. Even better news is Senator Vitter’s Amendment to “prohibit the United States Customs and Border Protection from preventing an individual not in the business of importing a prescription drug from importing an FDA-approved prescription drug.” In other words, individuals are free to carry FDA-approved drugs into the country. This piece of common sense passed the Senate 68-32.

Senator Vitter also deserves credit for the great news. He proposed an Amendment to “prohibit the confiscation of a firearm during an emergency or major disaster if the possession of such firearm is not prohibited under Federal or State law.” This was in reaction to last year’s disgraceful attempted gun-grab in New Orleans in the days after Hurrican Katrina. This Amendment passed overwhelmingly, 84-16. With this level of support, we should expect this Amendment to remain in the final, passed bill.

The House of Representatives didn’t appear to have a good week, Downsize-wise. The roll of legislation can be found here. Six bills were passed

:- H.R. 2563, “To authorize the Secretary of the Interior to conduct feasibility studies to address certain water shortages within the Snake, Boise, and Payette River systems in Idaho, and for other purposes” is two pages long and spends $3 million.

– H.R. 5061, the “Paint Bank and Wytheville National Fish Hatcheries Conveyance Act” is 3 pages and transfers some property from the federal government to the state of Virgina. Actually, this one doesn’t sound too bad!

– H.R. 4411, the “Internet Gambling Prohibition and Enforcement Act” is 34 pages long and is an unjustified assault on the liberty and privacy of the American people. Had the staff and resources, we would have organized opposition to this. It passed 317-93. You can see how your Congressperson voted here.

– H.R. 2990, the “Credit Rating Agency Duopoly Relief Act of 2006” is 26 pages long. It appears to lower barriers-to-entry in the credit rating industry. This is good. At the same time, however, it continues to authorize the Securities and Exchange Commission to regulate the industry. We believe that Congress, not the SEC and other administrative agencies, should Write the Laws. And we believe in free and open markets, not closed and regulated ones.

– H.R. 5646, “To study and promote the use of energy efficient computer servers in the United States.” This is six pages authorizing a study on improving the energy efficiency of computer servers. We do believe the federal government should improve energy efficiency in its own computers, but do not believe it should spend time doing research that private companies should be, and probably are, doing themselves. Reading between the lines, this little bill appears to be an item of corporate welfare.

– Finally, there is H.R. 9, the “Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, and Coretta Scott King Voting Rights Act Reauthorization and Amendments Act of 2006.” This is 15 pages.

If I’ve done my addition properly, the House passed 86 pages of legislation – much of it unnecessary at best. Did they actually read any of it? Almost certainly not.

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