The Sun brings you a weekly report of key votes in Congress.
USA Patriot Act
Senators on Feb. 16 voted, 96 -3, to begin debate on a bill (S 2271) designed to remedy concerns over civil liberties that have been holding up renewal of the USA Patriot Act. In part, this bill gives libraries, medical offices, businesses and other targets of secret government subpoenas standing to challenge "gag orders" that prevent them from discussing the investigations. A yes vote was to pass the bill.
Tax cuts vs. Military
Voting 45-55, senators on Feb. 14 rejected a Democratic recommendation that a pending tax-cut bill (HR 4297) not extend lower capital gains and dividend rates beyond the end of 2008. Under the non-binding motion, the resulting savings of about $21 billion over two years were to be spent on U.S. military operations in Iraq and veterans' healthcare. A yes vote backed the Democratic motion.
Voting 410-5, the House on Feb. 15 sent the Senate a bill (HR 4745) expanding by $4.8 billion the Small Business Administration's authority to make loans for recovery from last year's Gulf Coast hurricanes. The new authority is in addition to $4.3 billion already lent by the SBA to businesses victimized by hurricanes Katrina and Wilma. The average loan has been for $60,000. A yes vote was to pass the bill.
Palestinian aid cutoff
Voting 418-1, the House on Feb. 15 approved a non-binding measure (S Con Res 79) urging a cutoff of direct U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority until such time as Hamas, the authority's new ruling party, renounces its call for the destruction of Israel. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawaii, cast the negative vote. The Senate has not acted on the measure. A yes vote backed the resolution.
Asbestos trust fund
Voting 58-41, the Senate on Feb. 14 failed to reach the 60 votes needed to waive the Congressional Budget Act and advance a bill establishing a $140 billion trust fund for paying claims based on asbestos exposure. This shelved the bill (S 852). Senators disagreed over whether U.S. taxpayers would be obligated to cover claims if the Department of Laboradministered fund runs deficits or goes broke. A yes vote was to advance the bill.