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Capitol Hill Review

March 19-30, 2001 (Updated Weekly)

Table of Contents:

U.S. Senate & House of Representatives 107th Congress First Session

Measure Would Protect Gays Under Hate Crimes

U.S. House of Representatives 107th Congress First Session

Faith-Based Bills Taken up in Congress
A School Bill Mirroring President Bush's Plan Unveiled by House Republicans    (H.R. 1)
President's Budget Blueprint Adopted by House Panel
Banning Human Cloning
Unborn Victims of Violence Act Passes House (H.R. 503)
Increasing Strength for Juvenile Justice Systems
The Marriage Penalty and Family Tax Relief Passes through the House
House Committee Approves Death Tax Elimination

U.S. Senate & House of Representatives 107th Congress First Session

Measure Would Protect Gays Under Hate Crimes

On March 27, 2001, a bipartisan group of lawmakers renewed efforts to extend federal hate crime legislation to gays, an issue opposed by President Bush.

Senator Edward M. Kennedy (Democrat - Massachusetts) who introduced the bill (Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act of 2001. To view this bill, visit http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d107:s.00625:) said, "Hate crimes are a national disgrace, an attack on everything that this country stands for. And they send a poisonous message that some Americans are second-class citizens who deserve to be victimized solely because of their race, their ethnic background, their religion, their sexual orientation, their gender or their disability."

A version of the bill, introduced in both the House and Senate last year, was blocked by Republican opponents in the House.

This new measure would add to existing federal laws against hate crimes to include violent crime motivated by sexual orientation, disability, or gender. Financial help and assistance to states and local officials investigating and prosecuting hate crimes would also be provided by the bill.

Currently, hate crime based on race, religion and national origin are now covered by federal law.

Supporting the new bill is Senator Gordon Smith, (Republican - Oregon) who said he spoke with the President about the renewed effort in Congress regarding hate crimes: "I have mentioned the subject to him. I've not gone into details as to whether he would sign the bill or not. But I think, clearly, the signal to me was, Let's keep talking," and we will.

The President has said he felt existing laws were adequate although he largely refused to take specific positions on such legislation.

Historically extending such protection to crimes based on sexual orientation, which would recognize lesbian and gays as a legally protected class has been rejected by opponents of such measures.

Two days after the bill was introduced, an appeals court ruled that federal civil rights laws do not protect homosexual workers harassed as a result of their sexual orientation.

According to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the law protects workers against discrimination only on the basis of race, color, religion, gender or national origin, upholding a similar decision in 1979.

Under their own anti-discrimination rules, 12 states (California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin) already allow such suits.

Homosexuals have a 50,000 percent greater risk of being a victim of what is called a "love crime" than they do of being a victim of a "hate crime" indicates Gary Glenn, the president of the Michigan Chapter of the American Family Association.

Glenn asked, "How seriously should we take homosexual activists who feign alarm about [hate crimes] while ignoring or covering up the greater threat [of domestic violence]?"

State legislation that would add violence against homosexuals to the existing hate crime laws is being fought by the American Family Association of Michigan. The Michigan House of Representatives passed the measure in a previous legislation session; however, in the Senate, it was killed on procedural grounds. Already, hate crime laws that single out protection on the basis of sexual orientation are in 21 states plus the District of Columbia.

David Island and Patrick Letellier, two homosexual activists, compiled data in 1991 on crimes against certain demographic groups. Glenn compared their information with similar FBI data from 1999. After careful research, Glenn said that through this comparison, the number of hate crime "offenses" committed as a result of a victim's sexual orientation was 1,317 in relation to 650,000 incidents of domestic violence between male homosexual couples in an earlier year.

However, since the collection and reporting of such data is far from thorough, measuring such violence is difficult. For example, the national homosexual activist group (LAMBDA) pegs the incidents of documented domestic violence at 3,327 for a recent years published in their 1998 annual report on homosexual domestic violence.

Nonetheless, the likelihood of homosexuals being involved in domestic violence is at least twice what it is for a heterosexual couple according to Island and Letellier, who authored a book on homosexual domestic violence. A primary health risk for homosexuals, ranking only behind AIDS for males, cancer of females, and drug abuse for both is domestic violence according to the authors.

To complement Senator Kennedy's bill, Representative John Conyers (Democrat - Michigan) re-introduced legislation on March 27, 2001, that for the first time treats cases as hate crimes that involve violence directed at homosexuals. The measure also seeks to protect people from being victimized on the basis of their religion, race and national origin.

According to Conyer's measure, the U.S. Justice Department would be authorized to give grants to state and local law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute hate crimes by the Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act of 2001.

("Court: Homosexuality Not Protected," The Associated Press, March 29, 2001; Christine Hall, Homosexuals Face Greater Risk of 'Love Crime' Than 'Hate Crime', Says Conservative Activists," CNS News.com, March 29, 2001; Julie Mason, "Lawmakers unveil bill protecting gays under hate crimes," Houston Chronicle, March 28, 2001)

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U.S. House of Representatives 107th Congress First Session

Faith-Based Bills Taken up in Congress

By giving religious organizations greater access to federal money and encouraging donations for programs to help the poor, Congress on March 21, 2001, moved forward on two fronts with President Bush's proposal to revolutionize welfare.

House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, (Republican - Illinois) said, "We can't discriminate against faith-based groups. Instead we must help them to provide help and hope."

Sponsors seek to promote charitable giving through a wide range of new tax credits and allow religious groups to apply for federal grants to administer social services.

Representative Tony P. Hall (Ohio - Democrat) said, "If churches and faith-based organizations can respond effectively to some of the people in need, we should encourage them. The best kind of religion in the world is to take care of people."

The "charitable choice" provision found only in the House version of the bill (Community Solutions Act. To view this bill, visit http://www.house.gov/tonyhall/ pr216.html) has generated criticism from those on both the right and left who worry that the initiative could entangle churches and the government.

Within a few months, it is the intent of Senator Rick Santorum (Republican-Pennsylvania), sponsor of the Savings Opportunity and Charitable Giving Act of 2001 (S. 592 To view this bill, visit http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d107: s.00592:) to introduce the charitable choice element. Senator Santorum, who has advocated an "incremental" approach to this new philosophy of government aid, also wants more time to address the concerns of his co-sponsor Senator Joseph I. Lieberman (Democrat - Connecticut) say Republican sources.

Senator Lieberman said, "We need a good public airing of this. These are difficult [church-state] questions raised. But they are solvable."

The core of President Bush's "compassionate conservative" approach to government is represented by the measures, taken together. Giving faith-based organizations a more prominent role in delivering government aid to the need, since he said too often government is woefully inefficient in the job, was a campaign pledge of the President last year.

The President also said that the government should not discriminate against faith-based groups by shutting them out of the process.

Concerns that participation by unpopular religious "fringe" groups would imperil the program or that the government could eventually coerce churches to alter their doctrine or mission has caused some religious conservatives to raise questions.

According to other opponents, the proposal violates the Constitution's prohibition against state support of religion.

Despite these objections, dozens of community activists and volunteers who have worked in faith-based programs joined in support of Representative Hall, speaker of the House Hastert and legislation co-sponsor Representative J.C. Watts, Jr. (Republican - Oklahoma) on March 21, 2001.

(Dave Boyer, "Congress takes up faith-based aid bills," The Washington Times, March 22, 2001)

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A School Bill Mirroring President Bush's Plan Unveiled by House Republicans (H.R. 1)

On March 22, 2001, Republicans in the House of Representatives unveiled their education bill, (H.R. 1, "No Child Left Behind" Education Bill introduced as H.R. 1 at http://edworkforce.house.gov/) which is similar to President Bush's blueprint for annual tests of student progress. The Republican bill also adds threats to reduce federal money for schools that chronically fall behind.

The bill embraces issues that the Senate education committee put off for later debate on the floor in their recently passed version of an education bill. These issues include using school choice to allow children in poorly-performing schools to transfer to other schools.

The $19 billion bill would enforce annual testing of students in reading and math from grades three to eight and would increase the share of Title I money sevenfold, which goes to the nation's poorest schools.

Because of the state of failing schools, the legislation would require rapid steps for improvement.

Schools would get more money and technical help after an initial year of poor performance. However, parents would have the option of switching their children to another public school if the school failed to improve by the end of the second year. Parents could switch to a private school, taking Title I money with them, after three years without improvement.

Republicans on the committee are calling the mechanism "Safety Valve" that will help low-income students escape failing schools while avoiding the use of the term vouchers.

Democrats however have vowed that the provision under any name would not survive in the final education bill.

Representative George Miller of California, the Committee's ranking Democrat said, "If, in fact, we want a bipartisan bill, you're not going to have a bipartisan bill with vouchers."

The proposed House bill, in financing Title I, is far less generous than the Senate version. The House version for Title I sets aside $9 billion compared to the Senate which has budgeted $15 billion.

Furthermore, the House measure provides a provision that would allow states to circumvent all restriction on how they spend federal education money in exchange for signing a five-year performance agreement parting ways with the Senate version and with Democrats.

Additionally, a requirement proposed by the President and Senate that states administer a specific standardized test, now given in 40 states, as a gauge for comparing the rigor of state-determined standards was removed from the House bill. The use of a single test imposed by Washington is an imposed expansion of federal control over education according to conservatives opposing the restriction. However, according to the White House, the standardized test would be used only to confirm, not determine, any penalties or bonuses states might be use based on the varying statewide exams.

(Diana Jean Schemo, "House Republicans Present a School Bill Mirroring Bush's Plan," The New York Times, March 23, 2001)

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President's Budget Blueprint Adopted by House Panel

Embracing a conservative philosophy that holds down government spending and provides $1.6 trillion over the next ten years, House Republicans took the first step toward enacting President Bush's budget on March 22, 2001.

The House Budget Committee rejected Democratic amendments that would have reduced the tax cut in half and devoted more funds to spending initiatives and debt reduction when they adopted the budget by a 23 to 19 vote.

However, omitting the President's proposal to lease oil drilling rights in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) which has drawn fire from environmentalist, the lawmakers made one break with the President. As part of his answer to the energy crunch, the President touted the drilling plan during the campaign.

Budget Committee Chairman Jim Nussle (Republican - Iowa) told reporters, "That is a battle we didn't want to fight in the budget."

Republicans also moved to accelerate the President's tax cut most of which would take effect over the next five years. The tax plan, as now structured, would do little this year to stimulate the economy argue Democrats and some economists.

The annual budget resolution which does not require the President's signature is somewhat symbolic since during their year-end negotiations with the White House lawmakers routinely exceed its restrictions. However, the resolution does set basic parameters for the congressional spending debates and dictates how much money each of the appropriations committees can spend on their respective departments this year.

The President's plan, to a large extent, is mirrored by the $1.9 trillion budget blueprint of House Republicans. Compared with this year's eight percent increase, the plan would increase government spending about four percent for the fiscal year that starts October 1. And for government agencies and programs, it then assumes ever slower growth in the spending Congress sets each year.

In one other departure from the President's proposal, House Republicans set aside $393 billion in surpluses to build the Medicare hospital trust fund in a departure from the President's proposal which had mixed funds with other uncommitted dollars in a "contingency fund."

The Medicare funds would be used only for Medicare reform said the Budget Committee. However, Democrats would have devoted that money to the reduction of debt.

For additional spending in the next four years, with virtually no money for contingencies or increased spending for defense, agriculture or other items in 2005, the budget blueprint suggests less than $100 billion would be available.

On March 28, 2001, the House passed House Conference Resolution 83 (H. Con. Res. 83; to view this bill, visit http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d107: h.con.res.00083:), the Fiscal Year 2002 budget resolution, by a 222-205 vote (To see how your representative voted, visit
http://143.231.123.93/cgi-bin/vote.exe?year=2001&rollnumber=70
)

(Juliet Eilperin and Glen Kessler, "House Panel Adopts Bush Budget Democrats' Challenges to Blueprint Die on Party-Line Votes," The Washington Post, March 22, 2001)

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Banning Human Cloning

Lawmakers are planning legislation to outlaw human cloning as a result of their concerns that a few researchers may try to clone a human despite the risks. The President has indicated that he will sign the bill.

During a hearing on March 28, 2001 (for a Witness List and Prepared Testimony, visit http://www.house.gov/commerce/hearings/03282001-141/03282001.htm), scientists told a congressional panel that efforts to clone humans are ethically treacherous and likely to produce deformed babies.

Representative James Greenwood (Republican - Pennsylvania), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce oversight subcommittee said, "We're dealing with the most profound of human responsibilities the future of our species."

In the United States, any human cloning experiments would need the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. Based on safety concerns, the agency has indicated it would not approve any applications at this time.

Representative Greenwood and Billy Tauzin (Republican - Louisiana), the committee's chairmen, each said they would introduce legislation to ban cloning humans, as the six-hour hearing came to a close.

Tauzin said, "Cloning may literally threaten the character of our human nature."

President Bush will work with Congress on a federal statute banning cloning. He also supports the ban in place since 1997 on federal funding for this research said White House Spokesman Ari Fleischer: "The President believes that no research to create a human being should take place in the United States. The President believes that any attempt to clone a human being would present a grave risk both to the mother and the child. He opposes it on moral grounds."

A couple of years ago, Congress worked on legislation banning cloning, but failed to produce a bill. However, on March 29, 2001, a moratorium on cloning that would be revisited in a few years was suggested by several experts.

(Laura Meckler, "New Bill Would Ban Human Cloning," The Associated Press, March 29, 2001)

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Unborn Victims of Violence Act Passes House (H.R. 503)

Sending the measure to the full House for a second year, a House committee approved a measure that would make it a crime to hurt or kill a fetus during a violent crime against the mother.

On March 28, 2001, the GOP-controlled House Judiciary Committee approved the "Unborn Victims of Violence Act," (H.R. 503. To view the bill visit http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d107:h.r.00503:) with a vote of 15-9 along party lines. The full House of Representatives will now vote on the measure (H.R. 2436 - Unborn Victim of Violence Act of 1999) which is a similar measure passed by a 254-172 vote in 1999 H.R. 2436 - Unborn Victim of Violence Act of 1999. (To see how your representative voted, visit http://143.231.123.93/cgi-bin/vote.exe?year=1999& rollnumber=465)

The bill is a backdoor attack on abortion rights according to opponents of the measure. However, the bill's aim is to punish violent criminals who harm pregnant women said Republicans. Two dozen states have already passed laws to punish violence against fetuses.

Representative Lindsey Graham (Republican - South Carolina), sponsor of the bill said, "This is not about abortion. This is about protecting women to the fullest extent of the law."

Currently, federal law only recognizes one person being attacked the expectant mother. Under the Graham bill, all federal authorities would be allowed to prosecute the attacker for assaults against two people, the mother and the unborn child.

Representative Steve Chabot (Republicans - Ohio) said while responding to critics that the bill creates exceptions for abortions, "[The Graham Bill] simply does not apply to abortions. The act could not be more clear."

(Jesse J. Holland, "House Passes Fetal Harm Bill," The Associated Press, March 28, 2001)

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Increasing Strength for Juvenile Justice Systems

To strengthen the juvenile justice systems, the committee passed measures to authorize the Justice Department to award $1.5 billion in grants over three years to state and local governments. (H.R. 863. To view this bill, visit http://thomas.loc.gov/ cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d107:h.r.00625:)

Reviving juvenile justice legislation that failed to make it through the past two Congresses, the bill would provide funds to train law enforcement personnel in preventing and controlling juvenile crime, to build juvenile detention centers, and to establish drug and gun courts for young people.

(Jesse J. Holland, "House Passes Fetal Harm Bill," The Associated Press, March 28, 2001)

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The Marriage Penalty and Family Tax Relief Passes through the House

On March 29, 2001, the House voted overwhelmingly for the Marriage Penalty and Family Tax Relief Act of 2001 (H. R. 6) {To view the bill, visit http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d107:hr.00006:] reducing income taxes for millions of married couples and gradually doubling the $500 per child tax credit.

By a 282-144 vote [To see how your representative voted visit http://clerkweb.house. gov/cgi-bin/vote.exe?year=2001&rollnumber=75) the measure passed with all Republicans voting in favor as well as 64 Democrats. However, its prospects are less assured in the Senate.

Defeated on a 231-196 vote [to see how your representative voted, visit http://clerkweb.house.gov/cgi-bin/vote.exe?year=2001&rollnumber=73) was a democratic substitute for the bill that would have provided an immediate $300 rebate for individual income taxpayers and $600 for married couples, providing about $50 billion in tax relief.

An anomaly in the tax code that causes almost 25 million two-income married couples to pay higher taxes than they would if single would be addressed by the marriage-penalty bill.

By 2004, the tax bracket for married couples would be equal to twice the corresponding bracket for singles, widening the bottom 15 percent tax bracket for married couples if H.R. 6 becomes law. In addition, the standard deduction in 2002 for couples who do not itemize would increase to twice the size of the deduction for singles.

The bill also increases the income threshhold for lower income couples to claim the earned income tax credit and ensures that for the couples' alternative minimum tax, they would not effectively lose their tax relief.

Retroactive to 2001, the $500 child tax credit would increase to $600 and then gradually to $1,000 in 2006.

This bill's passage is another example of the Republicans' effort to stay on track passing through the biggest parts of the President's overall tax package by early April after passing the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Act of 2001 (H.R. 3) In a Senate divided between 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans, the measures are likely to undergo significant change.

(Curt Anderson, "House Votes to Cut Tax Penalty," The Associated Press, March 28, 2001)

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House Committee Approves Death Tax Elimination

The Committee on Ways and Means on March 29, 2001 passed the Death Tax Elimination Act of 2001 (H.R. 8) (To view bill, visit: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d107:h.r.00008:) by a 24 to 14 vote. (To view action by the Committee on Ways and Means, visit http://waysandmeans.house.gov/fullcomm/107cong/fc-5act.htm). The measure provides $192.8 billion in tax relief over the next ten years.

Similar to the one advocated by President Bush and passed by Congress last year, the measure is more generous than last year's bill and less generous than the President's proposal on the capital gains tax treatment of inherited assets. Beneficiaries would be allowed to eliminate up to $4.3 million in capital gains on inherited assets by the bill approved by the Ways and Means Committee.

The sole Democrat to vote for the estate-tax bill was Representative John Tanner of Tennessee, and the sole Republican to vote against it was Representative Amo Houghton of New York.

(John Godfrey, "House approves marriage tax cuts," The Washington Times, March 30, 2001)

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