Estate Tax Elimination Or Compromise Needed From Congress

An elimination of the estate tax seems to be the answer in providing certainty for the future of estate planning. If we are not able to vote by the end of the week on a bill that seeks to eliminate the estate tax, as I would like to see done, I hope that a compromise can be made that will provide some sort of certainty of the estate tax law.

Enforcement Only is a Good Slogan, But a Failed Strategy

Today the President continued the call for comprehensive immigration reform and I applaud his determination to fix our broken system. The bipartisan Senate reform plan will strengthen our national security, protect our borders better, and crack down harder on smugglers and employers who break the law. The President understands that our plan is even tougher and more effective than the House bill because not only does it include these strong enforcement provisions but it will also break the cycle of illegality by creating pathways to earned citizenship.

We know that an enforcement-only approach to solving our immigration problems may make a good campaign slogan. But in reality, it’s a failed strategy that threatens our security and threatens American wages. To truly strengthen our national security we must enact a common sense plan that includes earned citizenship for those who are here, a temporary worker program for the future, and enhanced enforcement.

Its Time For Congress To Stand With Working America

As millions of middle class families struggle with college costs, Congress should stand with students and reject calls from the banks to raise interest rates on student loans. With higher gas prices, higher health costs, and higher college tuition, it’s time to give average families a break for a change.

Repairing Our Broken Budget System is a Moral Duty

(Draft of Statement To Be Given Tomorrow)

Few are willing to admit - much less discuss - the looming financial crisis facing our country. However, the longer we put off fixing the problem, the worse the medicine will be and the greater the number of people that will be hurt.

That is why I introduced legislation today to establish a national commission that will put everything - entitlement benefits and all other federal government programs as well as our tax policies - on the table and require Congress to vote up or down on its recommendations in their entirety, similar to the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) first created by former Rep. Dick Armey in 1988. This commission would be called the SAFE Commission, to secure America's future economy.

Many will say the problem is too big to be fixed. Some will view the proposal as too risky, particularly in an election year. Others will say it is an abdication of responsibility. My response to such comments is that the problem is so great we can no longer look for excuses not to act. Nothing, I believe, is too big to undertake.

Economic, Foreign Policies Are The Threat--Not Gay Marriage

As instability spreads throughout Iraq and Americans struggle to pay their health care and energy bills, President Bush and Congressional Republicans have engaged in a last-ditch attempt to shore up their base support by doing the bidding of the radical right. This amendment is a political ploy that would divide Americans instead of addressing the problems they share.

The economic and foreign policies of the Bush Administration, not gay marriage, are threatening American families. Republicans should stop invading the personal lives of the American people and should focus instead on the real concerns discussed around kitchen tables across the country. This shameful politicking will not divert attention from the Republicans' record of failure. It does underscore the depths to which they will sink in their attempt to shift the national dialogue away from the issues facing Americans.

Military and Terrorism Highlight Recent House Legislation

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.


Marriage Amendment Debate is Proof of GOP's Misplaced Priorities

>Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy

Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee

On S.J. Res. 1, The Marriage Protection Amendment

June 5, 2006


It should come as no surprise to any observer of partisan politics that the Republican Leader has decided that today our Nation's most pressing priority is concern over committed relationships between same sex couples. That we are devoting the precious few Floor days we have left in this session to this issue, when so many of us are trying to focus on solutions to high gas prices, the rising costs of healthcare, the ongoing situation in Iraq, and strengthening our national security, is a testament to the misplaced priorities of the Senate Republican leadership. News reports have clearly revealed how this proposed constitutional amendment is being used to satisfy the most extreme right-wing supporters of Republican politicians. I do not believe that Americans are well served by this strategy.


Hayden's Flawed Vision Guides New McCarthyism

Most Members of Congress have been left in the dark about the particulars of the Administration's highly secretive domestic surveillance program. What we have been hearing about that program over the last few weeks, however, is extremely disturbing. Perhaps the most chilling development has been the revelation that the nation's phone companies may have turned over millions of customer calling records to the NSA National Security Agency (NSA) at the NSA's request.

In short, an Administration that professes the importance of limited government may be adopting Big Brother tactics to spy on the day-to-day activities of ordinary Americans. While the facts are still developing, we've also heard from General Michael Hayden, the new Director of the Central Intelligence Agency and architect of the NSA program. General Hayden unfortunately has a less than inspiring grasp of the Constitution. Asserting this past January that the Fourth Amendment does not include a "probable cause" requirement - which it does - he essentially stated that so long as a search and seizure is "reasonable" it is "lawful." That's not the standard, and while his approach is likely full of good intentions, the path to hell is paved with them.

General Hayden's interpretation of the law would essentially allow any domestic surveillance program to proceed, no matter how invasive, so long as he or someone else in the Administration believes that it will protect us. Just as 9/11 reminds us that we are not immune to terrorist attack despite our wealth and power, however, the McCarthy Era and the Church Committee remind us how our government is not immune to abuses of power and corruption. Today is no different.

If we are truly to be protected during the war on terror, we must concern ourselves not only with our physical security but also with securing our most cherished liberties and rights. Indeed, neither is worth much without the other. Leaders of all party affiliations accordingly need to work to execute an anti-terrorist strategy that promotes caution and precaution - one that includes robust efforts to protect us from attack while demanding that the Administration comply with the law when working those efforts. If "warrantless surveillance" and other homeland security strategies promulgated by General Hayden and others run roughshod over the Constitution, Congressional oversight, and the law, the Administration's approach to protecting the public may well become as potent a threat as terrorism itself.

FAA is Showcasing Unfair Bargaining Power

I am disappointed that the FAA has decided to implement its contract on our nation's air traffic controllers when it seems an agreement is in reach that would satisfy both parties. Going about it this way underscores what is wrong with the current system. When one side can dictate the terms, there is less of a need to find common ground. I am going to continue to work to improve this process.

New Refineries Will Increase Consumer Power

One of the few ways Congress can do something, really anything, to affect high gasoline prices is to increase the supply of products. To increase supply we must increase our domestic refinery capacity. The Refinery Permit Process Schedule Act that the U.S. House will vote on this Wednesday would simply establish a federal coordinator to work with the federal government agencies responsible for issuing permits in the development of a new refinery.

This would help eliminate some of the needless delays that beset any large project, such as a refinery. The bill also looks at closed military bases for possible sites for a refinery, including at least one biofuels refinery. In addition, this legislation would benefit coal to liquid refineries, which I strongly support.

The bill does not exempt a refinery developer from any regulations or environmental standards. It simply gives them a single point person to assist in running the maze of the permitting process and tries to keep government agencies on a time schedule for making their decisions.