House of Representatives 107th Congress First Session
House of Representatives Blocks President Bush's Energy Plan
Senate's Version of the Patient's Bill of Rights
Bill Passes Senate
House of Representatives
House of Representatives Blocks President Bush's Energy Plan
The House dealt solid blows
to the Bush administration's energy strategy by blocking new
drilling for oil, gas or coal in national monuments and in an
area just off the Florida coast.
Also by a 216-194 vote, the
House stopped the administration from rolling back a Clinton-era
rule allowing the government to deny an environmental company
mining permits. (To see how your representative voted, visit
The measures were part of a
$18.9 billion interior appropriations that passed the House
on June 21, 2001. Their passaage was a defeat for the Bush administration,
which had counted on strong support for its energy strategy
in the Republican-controlled House although the amendments still
face uncertain futures in the Senate.
Representative Nick Rahall,
(Democrat - West Virginia) sponsored the amendment that would
effectively place a moratorium on all new driling in the nation's
monuments. As they were defined on the last day of Clinton's
Presidency, the measures cut off all federal dollars for leasing
and related activities in the nation's monuments.
The measure passed 242-173
with 47 Republicans joining Democrats in support. (To see how
your representative voted, visit http://clerkweb.house.gov/cgi-bin/vote.exe?year=2001&rollnumber=180).
The federal government was
also kept from finalizing a lease with energy companies seeking
to drill in a portion of the Gulf of Mexico until April 1, 2002
by an amendment approved by the House by a 247-164 vote. (To
see how your representative voted, visit http://clerkweb.house.gov/cgi-bin/vote.exe?year=2001&rollnumber=181).
The tract, estimated to contain between
2.9 trillion and 7.8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, is
less than 17 miles from Pensacola, Florida.
In addition, the Bush administration
is blocked from using federal dollars to suspend or change new
rules on the mining industry that became effective on former
President Clinton's last day in office by a third environmental
measure tacked onto the spending bill.
Mining companies are required
to post bonds to pay the full cost of environmental cleanup
by the so-called 3809 rules that are named for their section
in the Federal Register Mines that disturbed less than five
acres annually. Before the Clinton regulation, they could pledge
their own assets without posting clean-up bonds.
(Jennifer A Dlouhy and Charles
Pope, "House Slams Bush Energy Plan. Amendments aim to
block drilling in monuments, reverse mining-permit policy,"
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, June 22, 2001)
Senate's Version of the Patient's Bill of Rights
On June 29, 2001, after years
of political clashes, Democrats pushed through a Patient's Bill
of Rights with a triumphal sound.
The following are the key elements
of the Senate-passed Patient's Bill of Rights Bill:
Access to emergency care and
medical specialists, including gynecologists and pediatricians,
along with required medicines and care during clinical trials
is guaranteed to all Americans with private or public health
Over benefits (including disputes
about contracts), co-payments, and other non-medical judgments,
most patients can sue in federal courts.
Patients can sue insurers in
state courts over coverage denials if based on medical judgment.
Class Action Lawsuits...
To employees of one company
and one health care plan, class action lawsuits are restricted.
Also, in a suit, employees of different companies cannot join
Unless a state's law imposes
them, there are no limits for wages and other economic losses,
including pain and suffering or punitive damage in state courts.
There are also no limits for wages, pain and suffering and other
losses. In federal courts, there is a $5 million limit on punitive
Independent Review of Plan
Prior to suing, patients are
required to exhaust outside appeals. During the appeals process,
lawsuits would be allowed in special circumstances.
Unless they directly help make
a decision against a patient, most employers are shielded from
lawsuits. The only companies exposed to legal liability are
those that offer self-insured and self-administered insurance
plans. And if they found an outside entity to assume the risk,
even they could protect themselves.
(To see how your senator voted,
("Patient's Rights Glance,"
The Associated Press, June 30, 2001)
Bill Passes Senate
The Senate overwhelmingly approved
a bill overhauling the federal role in schools on June 24, 2001
after wading through more than 100 amendments.
To work out the final provisions,
leading senators are now preparing to work with their House
counterparts. By August, President Bush could have the finished
In the architecture of the
bi-partisan bills revising Elementary and Secondary Education
Act (which passed both houses with large majorities), there
is remarkable similarity. However,
plenty of work remains, from deciding how much flexibility the
new version of the law will allow and who gets that flexibility
to negotiating spending - authorization levels and defining
what constitutes a failing school.
The process has faced some
close calls since the Senate took up the bill the first week
of May. Despite the broad Senate support, the bill was approved
91-8 on June 14, 2001. (To see how your senator voted, visit
Several leading Republicans were threatening to hold up the
bill prior to it reaching the Senate floor because of an amendment
that would have trimmed some spending flexibility. A bipartisan
deal negotiated in its broad outlines would be undermined by
the narrowly defeated proposal.
One of the amendments that
would have caused Democrats the most heartache was a proposed
pilot voucher program which Democrats had an easy time stopping.
In voting the measure down, 11 Republicans joined all but three
The ESEA, the main federal
law for precollegiate education, which includes Title I and
a host of other programs would be reauthorized by the bill approved
on June 14, 2001.
The expansion of testing requirements,
new educational options for students in failing schools, and
a new reading initiative were many of the core elements of the
President's education agenda reflected in both the Senate and
Some of the President's plans
did not survive through compromise. For example, Democrats successfully
resisted the President's proposal to allow publicity funded
tuition vouchers for students in persistently failing schools.
They also do not go as far in the direction of vouchers as the
President initially proposed although the bills contain some
flexibility and program consolidation.
For new ideas to long-standing
initiatives that had been consolidated or removed in the original
bill, the Senate kept busy adding programs during the weeks
of debate. Amendments authorized funding for programs like physical
education, prevention of suicide and alcohol abuse and school
The bill's authorization level
is a related change that has raised some eyebrows. During the
Senate debate, it climbed substantially. In fiscal 2002 the
President proposed spending 19.1 billion, an increase of about
$670 billion on ESEA programs. Thirty-three billion would be
authorized by the Senate bill.
Senator Bill Frist, (Republican
- Tennessee) said, "It is frightening how much money has
been added in terms of authorizations as we go forth. I say
this as someone who believes we need to significantly invest
increasing amounts in education."
For ESEA programs next year,
the House bill would authorize about $23 billion.
The White House must be prepared
to increase education spending dramatically to meet the new
demands imposed in the legislation according to Democrats. An
amendment to launch a pilot voucher initiative for poor children
in several cities and states was offered by Senator Judd Gregg,
(Republican - New Hampshire) but failed by a 58-41 vote. (To
see how your senators voted, visit http://www.senate.gov/legislative/vote1071/vote_00179.html).
Even more finely tailored to
help low-income students only in the District of Columbia, Senator
John McCain (Republican - Arizona) was planning to offer his
own voucher amendment. However, Senator McCain announced that
he would not offer it after two of the pro-voucher groups he
had worked with on the amendment asked him to withdraw it. Shortly
after, the Gregg amendment was also rejected.
Senator McCain said, "They
said they were afraid they were going to lose, and that they
wanted to wait...and build support for it."
In response to whether the
debate might resurface during the appropriations process, the
Senator said, "Maybe, but I'm not optimistic, to tell you
the truth, because I think this was the best time to have the
debate and the vote."
Senator Christopher Dodd, (Democrat
- Connecticut) offered another amendment that garnered substantial
controversy. In a pilot version of the Straight A's initiative
it would have limited the flexibility of the program.
In exchange for negotiating
five-year performance agreements with the Education Department,
up to seven states and 25 districts could consolidate funding
from several major programs into a block grant under a Straight
As compromise in the Senate. From the list of programs, Senator
Dodd's amendment would have removed the federal after school
program. However, according to Republicans, great harm would
be done to a bipartisan deal worked out in advance of floor
action by Dodd's proposal said Republicans.
In a frustrated tone, Senator
Frist said shortly after the vote, "If that had won today,
it would have put the whole bill in jeopardy. Republicans had
already compromised on Straight A's by agreeing to make it a
pilot program rather than open it for all 50 states to apply."
Another tough issue for the
House and the Senate to negotiate will be Straight A's. A slightly
different approach allowing 100 school districts but no states
to apply was taken by the House.
How schools define "adequate
yearly progress" is another thorny issue. Under each version
of the ESEA, persistently failing schools face a series of consequences
like replacing the school staff, allowing parents to direct
a portion of a school's federal aid to pay for private tutoring
or paying students' transportation costs to attend another public
The definition of adequate
yearly progress was a central issue, and there were clear distinctive
between the Senate and House approaches said Daniel Weiss, a
spokesman for Representative George Miller of California, the
House Education and the Workforce Committee's ranking Democrat.
He argued that tough language
to help close the achievement gap between students of differnt
racial and socioeconomic backgrounds has been one of Mr. Miller's
top priorities, "The House bill is better on accountability.
Almost more than anything else, it's the reason that George
Miller and President Bush got together," to work on the
The House language is too stringent,
and would make too many schools into "failing" schools
said the White House and leading senators. An alternative was
negotiated, but it has been attacked as being too complex and
not demanding enough by critics.
However, the most expensive
distinction between the two bills, a guaranteed $2.5 billion-a-year
increase for special education, the Senate will carry to the
conference table. Especially since the Democrats will take the
lead for the Senate negotiating team, facing off against members
from the Republican-controlled House, it is almost certain to
be a tough issue.
A bipartisan amendment was
approved that would shift funding for the Individuals with Disabilities
Education Act from the discretionary to the mandatory side of
the budget, locking in increases for years to come and dramatically
increasing spending. Over the next 10 years it would allow up
to $181 billion in extra spending.
Senator Paul Wellstone (Democrat
- Minnesota) views the special education provision as one of
the best but said he has mixed feelings about the legislation.
He said, "There's good and bad. I mean I think that the
fundamental good part is the IDEA."
Overall, Sandy Kress, the President's
chief advisor, said he was pleased with the Senate bill, calling
it a "very good step" that incorporates most of the
President's education agenda." He said in reference to
the bill's steady expansion, "It's virtually all there,
but there's so much more. The grade would not be high on the
issue of consolidation. In consolidating programs, he said the
House did a better job. And when House and Senate members meet
in a conference committee, he predicted that negotiating that
terrain would be among the primary tasks.
Mr. Kress said, "We've
far more money. The question for the [House-Senate] conference
will be, do we want to get to the mandatory issue, and do we
want to get to truly extraordinary levels of increase ahead
of the reform that needs to take place?"
(Erik W. Robelen, "Education
Bill Ready to Face Final Hurdles," Education Week, June