Bills Recently on the House Floor...

[HR:5385], the FY07 Military Construction-VA Appropriations bill. This bill would provide $136.1 billion for the VA, military construction and military housing, including $21 billion for the Defense Health Program and$13.5 billion for the basic military housing allowances. It would provide $77.9 billion for the VA, including $32.7 billion for the Veterans health Administration; $.1 billion for military construction; $4 billion for military family housing and $5.3 billion for the latest round of base closures. This bill passed the House unanimously.

[S:1235], the Veterans' Housing Opportunity and Benefits Improvement Act of 2006. This bill would indefinitely pass the bill that would indefinitely increase, to $400,00, the federally subsidized life insurance payment for servicemembers killed in the line of duty. It would temporarily extend post-separation group life insurance coverage for disabled veterans to two years. This bill passed the House unanimously.

[HR:4681], the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006. This bill would restrict most aid to the Palestinian Authority as long as it is controlled by the organizations that have ties to terrorism and fail to recognize Israel's right to exist. I was a cosponsor of this bill, and it passed the House 361-37.

[HR:5384], FY07 Agriculture Appropriations bill. This bill would provide $93.6 billion for the Department of Agriculture and related agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration. The bill would fund the food stamp program at $37.9 billion and child nutrition program at $13.3 billion. It would provide $19.7 billion for the Commodity Credit Corporation, $1.5 billion for the FDA and $5.2 billion for the Women, Infants and Children program. It would appropriate $1.2 billion for the Food for peace program. It also would bar the FDA from using funds to prevent the importation of drugs approved by the FDA. This bill passed the House, with my support, 378-46.

The House adopted an amendment to H.R. 5384, introduced by myself and Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY), to increase (by offset) the funding for Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service by $23 million. These funds are used to fight invasive species, like the emerald ash borer, that cause massive ecological and economic damage nationwide. The emerald ash borer has killed millions of ash trees in Michigan and is spreading across the country at a rapid rate. Michigan will benefit from this additional funding in its fight to protect the natural beauty of the state.

[HR:5427], FY07 Energy-Water Appropriations bill. This bill would provide $30.5 billion for energy and water development projects, including $5 billion for the Army Corps of Engineers and $9.2 billion for the National Nuclear Security Administration. It would provide $545 million for the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, as well as $30 million for the department to begin accepting waste for interim storage at one of more storage facility by 2006. The bill would provide $5.6 billion for defense environmental cleanup. I voted in favor of this bill, and it passed the House 404-20.

[HR:5429], the American-Made Energy and Good Jobs Act. This bill would authorize the Department of Interior to grant leases for oil and gas exploration, development and production in the coastal plain of Alaska's Arctic Nation Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). A 1987 environmental impact statement would be sufficient for the Department of Interior to begin sales, which could start within 22 months of enactment. Half of the revenues would be paid to Alaska and half would go to the federal government. Oil pumped from ANWR could not be exported. I voted against this bill, but it passed the House 225-201.

The House also began debating [HR:5441], the FY07 Homeland Security Appropriations bill. The House will vote on this bill when it comes back in session in June.

New Legislation I Have Introduced:

The Home Oxygen Patient Protection Act, [HR:5513], a bill that would allow Medicare beneficiaries to continue renting oxygen equipment beyond a newly-instituted 36-month deadline. The bill repeals a provision in last year's budget reconciliation bill that requires transfer of ownership of the equipment to the beneficiary.

Home oxygen therapy is essential for maintaining a sound quality of life for many of our nation's elderly who suffer from respiratory diseases. My concern with current law lies with the risk associated with forcing patients to take title of the oxygen equipment and burdening themselves with responsibility for their oxygen therapy. My bill will protect our nation's seniors by returning to the previous Medicare oxygen policy, which preserves the provider-patient relationship and allows the patients to continue renting equipment.

[HCR:417], a resolution calls on the president to tell the newly established Iraqi government they must capitalize on the opportunity presented by the presence of American armed forces to complete the formation of their government and agree to modifications in their own constitution to make it more inclusive.

Only the Iraqis can unify their country and take the steps necessary to achieve a lasting and secure peace. The Iraqis must know the continued presence of U.S. armed forces is not unconditional. Accordingly, my resolution calls on Iraq to continue making the political compromises necessary to form an enduring national unity government capable of quelling the insurgent led violence and sectarian strife.

I have signed on as a cosponsor to the following legislation:

[hcr:411], a resolution commemorating the anniversary of, commending, and reaffirming the national motto of the United States on the 50th anniversary of its formal adoption. On July 30, 1956, `In God We Trust' became the official motto of the United States. This resolution encourages the American people to devote time to reflect on the national motto and the long, integral part it has played in the life of the United States, during periods of its official and unofficial adoption.

[HR:5067], the Border Security and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2006. Last year, [HR:4312] was unanimously reported out of the Homeland Security committee and was subsequently merged with immigration legislation from the Judiciary committee to become [HR:4437]. This new immigration bill passed the House with my support, but has subsequently stalled in the Senate. At this time, it seems unlikely that a comprehensive bill solving the three major problems related to illegal immigration (border security, the status of illegal immigrants in country now, limits on future immigration to include a guest worker program). HR 5067 focuses specifically on border security and because the original bill, HR 4312, had unanimous committee support, it is my hope that Congress can at least pass border security legislation before tackling the other more controversial problems.

[HR:5249], a bill to amend the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 to require recipients of United States foreign assistance to certify that the assistance will not be used to intentionally traffic in goods. The bill would also require the recipients of U.S. Foreign Aid to certify that they own all relevant intellectual property rights to perform obligations of their assistance. Any entity found in violation of its certification would be ineligible for U.S. Foreign Aid.

[HR 997], the English Language Unity Act, a bill that declares English to be the official language of the United States. It also establishes the affirmative obligation of the representatives of the Federal Government to preserve and enhance the role of the English language as the Government's official language. The Secretary of Homeland Security would have to provide a proposed rule for uniform testing of the English language ability of candidates for naturalization.

[HR:4894], a bill to provide for certain access to national crime information databases by schools and educational agencies for employment purposes, with respect to individuals who work with children. This bill specifically directs the Attorney General, at the request of certain state education officials, to conduct fingerprint-based checks of public or private school employees, job applicants, or volunteers for positions involving work with or around children. It would restrict the disclosure of information from such checks, and imposes criminal penalties for unauthorized use or release of such information.

These are recent letters that I have signed:

To the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Science, State, Justice, and Commerce, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, requesting support for full funding at $50 million for the U.S. Department of Justice Bulletproof Vest Partnership (BVP) Grant Program. This program successfully provides state, local, and tribal law enforcement officers with needed protection by aiding in the purchase of protective equipment.

To the Chairman and Ranking Members of the Appropriations Committee and the Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development Appropriations, urging them to retain a provision in conference directing the Army Corps of Engineers to use $400,000 in existing funds to continue operating and maintaining the invasive species dispersal barrier demonstration project on the Chicago Ship and Sanitary Canal in Illinois. This demonstration barrier was designed to prevent aquatic invasive species from moving between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins through the Canal.