Table of Contents
U.S. House of Representatives
Iran and Libya Sanctions Extended
by House and Senate
Cuba Travel Ban Lifted By House
Foreign Drug Mail Orders Pass House
Faith-Based Plan Passes House
China Trade Status Retained in the House
Flag Amendment Clears House
Strict Safety Standards Imposed
on Mexican Trucks in U.S. By Senate
Energy Exploration and National Monument Lands Defeated
In the Senate, A Bill to Delay Gulf Drilling Fails
Bankruptcy Debate Ended by the Senate
Federal Judges Confirmed by Senate
U.S. House of Representatives
Iran and Libya Sanctions
Extended by House and Senate
A five-year-old extension of sanctions on foreign
companies that invest in Iran and Libya was approved by the House of
Representatives on July 26, 2001. Both Republicans and Democrats accused
the two nations of being deeply involved in world terrorism. The measure
was approved on a 409-6 vote (To see how your representative voted,
On July 25, 2001, by a vote of 96-2, a similar measure was approved
by the Senate. (To see how your senators voted, visit http://www.senate.gov/legislative/vote1071/vote_00251.html)
The current "Iran and Libya Sanction Act," which
originally became law in 1996 will be renewed on August 5, 2001. A House-Senate
conference likely will have to resolve the discrepancies since the House
and Senate versions differ slightly.
To give it more flexibility in foreign policy, the
Bush administration sought to limit the extension to two years, but
The President has numerous sanctions he can impose
an offending foreign companies under the measure. For example, prohibiting
selling to the U.S. government, obtaining more than $10 million annually
in U.S. bank loans, or blocking the companies from exporting goods to
the United States.
Tougher sanctions on Libya's energy production were
carried by both the Senate and House bills targeting foreign companies
that invest more than $40 million annually. The same limits were placed
on both Liberian and Iranian investments that would now be reduced to
a more stringent $20 million for Libya.
(Carolyn Skorneck, "House Votes to Extend Sanctions,"
The Associated Press, July 26, 2001)
to the Top
Cuba Travel Ban Lifted By
In what sponsors said would be a first step toward
ending the communist nation's economic isolation and hastening democratic
forms, the House of Representatives voted to lift restrictions on travel
to Cuba by U.S. citizens.
On an amendment by Representative Jeff Flake (Republican
- Arizona) to the $32.7 billion fiscal 2002 spending bill for the Treasury
Department, Postal Service, White House and other agencies, the House
voted in favor by 240-186 on July 25, 2001. (To see how your representative
voted, visit http://clerkweb.house.gov/cgi-bin/vote.exe?year=2001&rollnumber=270)
Also, on the full report of the trade embargo against
Cuba, which was eased last year to allow the sale of food and medicine,
the House rejected by a vote of 227 to 201. (To see how your representative
voted, visit http://clerkweb.house.gov/cgi-bin/vote.exe?year=2001&rollnumber=271)
Currently, by obtaining a special license from the
Treasury Department, which limits access generally to journalists, academics,
government officials, and people in humanitarian missions, U.S. citizens
can now travel to Cuba.
("House Passes Bill Lifting Ban on Travel to Cuba,"
From News Service, July 26, 2001)
to the Top
Foreign Drug Mail Orders
The House of Representatives approved legislation
that would allow Americans to purchase medicine from abroad by mail
on July 11, 2001.
The measure restricts purchasing drugs that have
been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
The House-passed legislation is an amendment to
a $74 billion spending bill for the FDA and the Agriculture Department.
The measure passed 324 to 101.
(To see how your representative voted, visit http://clerkweb.house.gov/cgi-bin/vote.exe?year=2001&rollnumber=217)
By a 414-16 vote, the overall bill was approved. (To see how your representative
voted, visit http://clerkweb.house.gov/cgi-bin/vote.exe?year=2001&rollnumber=221)
As a result of price controls, legislatures soundly
rejected a measure that would have eased restrictions on the wholesale
import of drugs sold more cheaply in other countries. (To see how your
representative voted, visit http://clerkweb.house.gov/cgi-bin/vote.exe?year=2001&rollnumber=216)
A provision that would require the government to
guarantee the medicines' safety, a law passed last year that would have
allowed importation of U.S.-made drugs, was effectively blocked by the
The popularity of the bill's passage was due to
the hopes that lower drug prices in foreign countries would be passed
on to American patients.
(Phillip Brasher, "House OKs Foreign Drug Mail Orders,"
The Associated Press, July 12, 2001)
to the Top
Faith-Based Plan Passes
By expanding the role of religious groups in delivering
social services, the House of Representatives approved President Bush's
plan to fundamentally change aid for the needy.
In favor of the Community Solutions Act, 15 Democrats
joined all but four Republicans in favor of the faith-based plan by
a 233-198 vote on July 19, 2001.
(To see how your representative voted, visit http://clerkweb.house.gov/cgi-bin/vote.exe?year=2001&rollnumber=254)
However, passage in the Senate is much less certain.
House Republican leaders overcame furious last-minute
opposition from homosexual-rights groups and allies, who argued the
measure would allow religious charities to discriminate against homosexuals
in employment, in approving the bill.
However, the bill simply preserves current civil
rights law that allows churches and synagogues to hire people who share
their religious principles said Republicans.
By promising to work in a House-Senate conference
committee to ensure that churches observe local and state civil rights
laws, Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (Republican-Illinois) blunted some opposition
from Democrats and liberal Republicans, which had delayed the vote for
The opportunities for religious organizations to
compete for government grants to provide services such as food banks,
drug treatment and counseling would be expanded by the measure. Also,
to encourage charitable giving, it would create about $13 billion in
new tax deductions.
(Dave Boyer, "House approves faith-based plan,"
The Washington Times, July 20, 2001)
to the Top
China Trade Status Retained
in the House
Rejecting a measure offered by members angered by
China's human rights record and its detention of a U.S. Navy crew earlier
this year, the House of Representatives on July 19, 2001, defeated an
effort to suspend normal trade relations with China.
As part of the annual review in which Congress determines
whether China is entitled to normal trade relations with the United
States, the resolution was offered. With last year's vote extending
normal trade status to China on a permanent basis, such reviews were
supposed to end. However, that permanent status, has been delayed pending
China's entry into the World Trade Organization which will probably
take place in the second half of this year.
In the meantime, Congress approved President Bush's
request to extend China's normal trade status for another year.
Representatives Dana Rohrabacher (Republican-California)
and Sherrod Brown (Democrat-Ohio) offered the resolution to end normal
trade relations which failed on a 259-169 vote. (To see how your representative
voted, visit http://clerkweb.house.gov/cgi-bin/vote.exe?year=2001&rollnumber=255)
(John Lancaster, "House Retains China Trade Status,"
The Washington Post, July 20, 2001)
to the Top
Flag Amendment Clears House
A constitutional amendment to protect the American
flag from desecration was endorsed for the fourth time in six years
by the House of Representatives on July 17, 2001.
However, the legislation faces likely defeat in
the Senate once again in its effort to amend the Constitution for only
the 18th time since the Bill of Rights was ratified in 1791.
For the one-sentence article stating that "The Congress
shall have the power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag
of the United States," the House voted 298-125. (To see how your representative
voted, visit http://clerkweb.house.gov/cgi-bin/vote.exe?year=2001&rollnumber=232)
The amendment would overturn Supreme Court rulings
in 1989 and 1990 that flag-burning and other acts of desecration were
protected under First Amendment free speech rights if it also wins a
two-thirds majority in the Senate and is approved by three-fourths of
(Jim Abrams, "House Passes Flag Amendment," The
Associated Press, July 17, 2001)
to the Top
Strict Safety Standards
Imposed on Mexican Trucks in U.S. By Senate
To support efforts to impose strict safety standards
on Mexican trucks seeking access to American roads, the Senate defied
threats from the White House and the Mexican government and voted overwhelmingly
for the new standards on July 27, 2001.
A Republican-led effort to use parliamentary tactics
to kill the measure, which would subject Mexican truck companies to
a variety of inspecting and insurance requirements before their vehicles
could enter the United States, was stopped by the 65 to 30 procedural
vote. (To see how your senators voted, visit http://www.senate.gov/legislative/vote1071/vote_00253.html).
Around-the-clock inspections of Mexican trucks at
the border would be required and Mexican trucking companies would have
to get insurance from an insurer licensed to operate in the United States
according to the Senate's proposed plan which is much more intensive
on Mexican trucks than on those generously required of Canadian trucks
crossing the border.
Interestingly, a recent study by the inspector-general
of the Department of Transportation found that one in seven Canadian
trucks failed basic safety inspections, compared with one in four American
trucks and two in five Mexican trucks.
(Philip Shenan, "Senate Backs Strict Safety Tests
for Mexican Trucks in U.S.," The New York Times, July 27, 2001)
to the Top
Energy Exploration and
National Monument Lands Defeated in Senate
In a direct rebuff to President Bush's call for
increased U.S. energy production, the Senate voted on July 11, 2001,
to block new coal mining and oil and gas drilling on national monument
lands in the West.
The House, in June, approved similar restrictions
and the Senate did the same by a 57-42 vote, with 10 Republicans joining
most Senate Democrats. (To see how your senators voted, visit http://www.senate.gov/legislative/vote1071/vote_00229.html)
(Peter Behr, "Senate Protects Parkland Coal, Oil,"
The Washington Post, July 12, 2001)
to the Top
In the Senate, A Bill to
Delay Gulf Drilling Fails
Scoring the first significant victory for President
Bush's energy plan, a measure to delay new offshore drilling in the
Gulf of Mexico was defeated in the Senate.
Eighteen Democrats crossed party lines on July 12,
to defeat the amendment from Senator Bill Nelson (Democrat-Florida)
by a 67-33 vote. To see how your senators voted, visit http://www.senate.gov/legislative/vote1071/vote_00231.html)
After the House of Representatives first moved to
block drilling in June, President Bush agreed to reduce the drilling
area acreage by 25 percent. The reduction, which prohibits drilling
within 100 miles of Florida's tourist dependent beaches, was applauded
by Florida Governor Jeb Bush and several House Republicans.
The drilling area on the Gulf of Mexico called Lease
181 was adjusted from 5.9 million acres to 1.5 million and contains
1.25 trillion cubic feet of natural gas enough to serve 1 million families
for 15 years.
Also, as a result of the new federal government
cutoff of water to protect two endangered fish species, the Senate approved
the President's request for $20 million in disaster aid for California
and Oregon farmers facing bankruptcy.
(To see how your senators voted, visit http://www.senate.gov/legislative/vote1071/vote_00230.html)
However, refusing to return water to the parched
farmland, liberal Republicans sided with Democrats in a 52-48 vote.
To see how your senators voted, visit http://www.senate.gov/legislative/vote1071/vote_00232.html)
(Audrey Hudson, "Bill to delay Gulf drilling fails
in Senate, The Washington Times, July 13, 2001)
to the Top
Bankruptcy Debate Ended
by the Senate
On July 17, 2001, the Senate voted to end the debate
on a measure passed overwhelmingly in March making it tougher for people
to erase credit card and other debt in bankruptcy court.
President Bush, while supporting a sweeping overhaul
of the bankruptcy laws, was opposed to one provision in the bill which
capped the amount of home equity that debtors can keep out of the reach
of creditors in court proceedings at $125,000. The provision was designed
to close a loophole in the so-called homestead exemption that allows
wealthy debtors to shield their assets in luxury homes.
To terminate debate on the legislation, the vote
was 88-10 in the Democratic-controlled Senate. (To see how your senators
voted, visit http://www.senate.gov/legislative/vote1071/vote_00234.html).
In the coming days, the measure and an alternative House-passed version,
which does not contain the $125,000 national homestead cap, could be
submitted to House and Senate negotiators.
Stricter laws are required to stop abuse of the
bankruptcy system by people who can afford to repay their debts argue
supporters of the legislation, which has been promoted by banks and
credit card companies for nearly four years.
For determining whether people filing for bankruptcy
should be forced to repay their debts under a court-approved reorganization
plan rather than having them dissolved, a new standard is applied by
the legislation. A reorganization plan generally would be required if
a debtor is found to have sufficient income to repay at least 25 percent
of the debt over five years.
Recently, the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts
reported bankruptcy filings by consumers and businesses increased 17.5
percent in the first three months of this year. Highest ever for a first
quarter and up from 312,335 a year earlier, filings reached 366,841
in the January-March period.
Filings are expected to reach a record this year
say the American Bankruptcy Institute, an independent group of bankruptcy
judges, attorneys and experts.
In a strong economy, personal bankruptcies reached
a record 1.4 million in 1998. Up more than 300 percent since 1980. However,
in 1999 they declined to about 1.3 million and in 2000 to 1.2 million.
(Marcy Gordon, "Senate Votes to End Bankruptcy Debate,"
The Associated Press, July 17, 2001)
to the Top
Federal Judges Confirmed
On July 20, 2001, Roger Gregory was given a permanent
seat on the U.S. Appeals Court and Sam Haddon and Richard Cebull were
made new U.S. District Court judges in Montana as the Democratic-controlled
Senate approved its first federal judges of the year.
Gregory was confirmed by a vote of 93-1 with Senate
Republican Leader Trent Lott, (Republican-Mississippi) voting against
his confirmation. (To see how your senators voted, visit http://www.senate.gov/legislative/vote1071/vote_00244.html).
Cebull and Haddon were approved by a 93-0 vote and a 98-0 vote, respectively.
(To see how your senators voted, visit http://www.senate.gov/legislative/vote1071/vote_00246.html
Gregory, among the first nominees presented by the
President, will serve in the 4th circuit, which covers North Carolina,
South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland. Compared to other
federal jurisdictions, this court has more minorities.
The American Bar Association approved all three
nominees. Unanimously, a "qualified" rating was given Gregory by the
ABA's nomination review committee and unanimous "well qualified" ratings
were given Cebull and Haddon.
Montana's two senators were hoping to get Haddon
and Cebull (nominated for U.S. District Court) through the Senate quickly
since Chief Judge Don Molloy, currently serving in Missoula, is the
one full-time federal judge for three different slots.
Twenty-five of the President's nominees have yet
to receive hearings by the Democrat-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee.
But, there are still 107 vacancies in the federal court system with
One of the 40 "judicial emergency" seats in the
nation, which are seats that have been open for a long time was filled
by Gregory's nomination which has been open since 1990.
(Jesse J. Holland, "Senate Approves Federal Judges,"
The Associated Press, July 20, 2001)
to the Top