As the 107th Congress finally wrapped up, the House on November 13 took care of a very important loose end by making sure the government would be kept functioning until Congress returns in January. By repeatedly passing such “continuing resolutions” to fund every government function except defense and military construction-which have already received their full 2003 appropriations-the House has kept government spending at its fiscal 2002 levels well into fiscal 2003, which began in October. Whether this will result in any savings for taxpayers remains to be seen.
Six days later, the Senate finally passed the bill establishing the Department of Homeland Security by an overwhelming margin. Members first voted on whether to limit debate, then on final passage. Interestingly, some Democrats changed their position between the two votes, apparently not wanting to appear as opposing President Bush on Homeland Security.
Senate Votes Cloture For Homeland Security Bill
On November 19, by a vote of 83 to 16, the Senate agreed to limit debate so that it could pass the bill establishing the new Department of Homeland Security.
The department will combine more than 20 disparate agencies into a single new department with 200,000 employees. The plan is to finish within just one year.
During the debate on November 19, in the last week of this years session, Senate proponents of the bill argued that the department is necessary to protect Americans from terror attacks.
“Even as we speak, unprecedented challenges face our national security,” said Sen. Olympia Snowe (R.-Maine). “Counterterrorism officials report that the level of intelligence chatter, or information, being picked up from al Qaeda by the CIA, FBI, and National Security Agency is approaching the volume seen in the weeks before September 11, promoting the FBIs recent warning of spectacular attacks. That is why the President needs this new department, and must have the opportunity to begin its organization as soon as possible in order to respond to this national imperative and to secure American soil to the best of his ability.”
Opponents, however, argued that the bill was hastily thrown together and forced through Congress-even though Democrats had fought to block its passage for nearly two months.
Sen. Robert Byrd (D.-W.Va.), true to form, delivered a lengthy speech in which he denounced the bill. “Senators feel that they are under great pressure from the administration to pass this bill that is before us-a bill that contains 484 pages,” he said. “Here it is. This is the 484-page bill that was passed by the House of Representatives-a new bill, passed by the House quickly, without adequate debate, dumped into the laps of senators.”
Sen. Phil Gramm (R.-Tex.), however, noted that it was finally time to pass a bill and go home. “As we tried to bring this seven-week debate toward cloture, the President reached a compromise with several of our Democrat members to give additional power and input to government employees and their representatives” he said. “Also, to get a bill we could vote on and hopefully conclude this debate, we had to meet with members of the House who had a separate bill. . . . A great harangue has come forth against that final agreement.” Gramm noted that the bill was perfectly good in its current form and should be passed.
Minority Leader Trent Lott (R.-Miss.) echoed that sentiment. “We have had an opportunity to have a long and fruitful debate,” he said. “A lot of senators and congressmen and the administration have been involved in this process. There is no use rehashing all of the history. We know we need a Department of Homeland Security.”
In spite of some provisions senators found objectionable-such as a large grant to Texas A & M-Lott urged immediate passage of the bill. “The terrorists are not going to wait for a process that will go on days, weeks, or months.”
Before voting on final passage of the bill, the Senate first had to vote on cloture. On the cloture vote, a “yes” vote is a vote to limit debate and finally have an up-or-down vote on the bill. A “no” vote was a vote to continue debate, either in order to insert more provisions or in order to postpone action on the homeland security bill permanently. If the “no” position had won, no homeland security bill would have passed this year.
REPUBLICANS FOR (49): Allard, Allen, Bennett, Bond, Brownback, Bunning, Burns, Campbell, Chafee, Cochran, Collins, Craig, Crapo, DeWine, Domenici, Ensign, Enzi, Fitzgerald, Frist, Gramm (Tex.), Grassley, Gregg, Hagel, Hatch, Helms, Hutchinson (Ark.), Hutchison (Tex.), Inhofe, Kyl, Lott, Lugar, McCain, McConnell, Murkowski, Nickles, Roberts, Santorum, Sessions, Shelby, Smith(Ore.), Smith (N.H.), Snowe, Specter, Stevens, Thomas, Thompson, Thurmond, Voinovich and Warner.
DEMOCRATS FOR (33): Baucus, Bayh, Biden, Bingaman, Breaux, Cantwell, Carnahan, Carper, Cleland, Clinton, Conrad, Daschle, Dayton, Dorgan, Edwards, Feinstein, Graham (Fla.), Hollings, Inouye, Johnson, Kerry, Kohl, Landrieu, Leahy, Lieberman, Lincoln, Mikulski, Miller, Nelson (Neb.), Nelson (Fla.), Rockefeller, Schumer and Wyden.
INDEPENDENT FOR (1): Barkley.
DEMOCRATS AGAINST (15): Akaka, Boxer, Byrd, Corzine, Dodd, Durbin, Feingold, Harkin, Levin, Murray, Reed (R.I.), Reid (Nev.), Sarbanes, Stabenow and Torricelli.
INDEPENDENT AGAINST (1): Jeffords.
NOT VOTING (1): Kennedy.
Senate Handily Passes Homeland Security Bill
After agreeing to limit debate, the Senate voted directly on whether to pass the homeland security bill. A “yes” vote was a vote to establish the Homeland Security Department basically according to President Bushs wishes, while a “no” vote was a vote against creating the new department as proposed.
REPUBLICANS FOR (48): Allard, Allen, Bennett, Bond, Brownback, Bunning, Burns, Campbell, Chafee, Cochran, Collins, Craig, Crapo, DeWine, Domenici, Ensign, Enzi, Fitzgerald, Frist, Gramm (Tex.), Grassley, Gregg, Hagel, Hatch, Helms, Hutchinson (Ark.), Hutchison (Tex.), Inhofe, Kyl, Lott, Lugar, McCain, McConnell, Nickles, Roberts, Santorum, Sessions, Shelby, Smith(Ore.), Smith (N.H.), Snowe, Specter, Stevens, Thomas, Thompson, Thurmond, Voinovich and Warner.
DEMOCRATS FOR (41): Baucus, Bayh, Biden, Bingaman, Boxer, Breaux, Cantwell, Carnahan, Carper, Cleland, Clinton, Conrad, Corzine, Daschle, Dayton, Dodd, Dorgan, Durbin, Edwards, Feinstein, Graham, Harkin, Johnson, Kerry, Kohl, Landrieu, Leahy, Lieberman, Lincoln, Mikulski, Miller, Murray, Nelson (Neb.), Nelson (Fla.), Reed (R.I.), Reid (Nev.), Rockefeller, Schumer, Stabenow, Torricelli and Wyden.
INDEPENDENT FOR (1): Barkley.
DEMOCRATS AGAINST (8): Akaka, Byrd, Feingold, Hollings, Inouye, Kennedy, Levin and Sarbanes.
INDEPENDENT AGAINST (1): Jeffords.
NOT VOTING (1): Murkowski.
House Easily Approves Continuing Resolution
On November 13, by a vote of 270 to 143, the House passed the “continuing resolution” (H. J. Res. 124) that is providing fund for the entire government at the current level of spending until Jan. 11, 2003.
Conservatives were happy to see the temporary spending package-known as a CR-pass, because it insured that there would be no spending hikes or new pork barrel projects for at least two months. Also, the spending bills for fiscal 2003, which Democrats could have affected while they still held the Senate, will now be considered by a Republican-controlled Congress.
This year, Congress has passed only two of the 13 appropriations bills required to fund the government-defense and military construction. Those two bills passed thanks only to pressure from President Bush.
This was the fifth CR Congress has passed this year, largely thanks to Senate Democrats failure to consider most spending bills during 2002-or to even come up with a budget.
Rep. David Obey (D.-Wis.) attempted to add about $10 billion in extra spending to the continuing resolution, ridiculing the House GOP leadership for being tight-fisted with his favorite programs. “Somehow we are committing a mortal sin if we try to provide more funding for veterans medical care, for medical research, to our local police and firemen to strengthen our response against terrorism, and to the SEC in order to ensure that corporate balance sheets are actually on the square and legitimate,” he said.
Obeys effort to change the bill were defeated in a 196-to-216 vote on the House floor, in spite of his loud complaints that spending hikes were urgently needed. “I would simply say that this is a pitiful performance by a pitiful Congress walking away from its major responsibility,” he said. However, more than a month later, the lack of extra federal funding does not seem to have killed anyone.
Rep. Elaine Tauscher (D.-Calif.) complained that the Republican House leadership was acting irresponsibly in passing another continuing resolution instead of passing the other 11 appropriations bills all at once. “People at home send us to Washington to do a job and make tough decisions-not simply kick the can down the street when its convenient for us to do so,” she said. “It is irresponsible to run our government like this-without a budget or any sense of what we can afford to spend money on, especially during times of war.”
Tauscher said this even though the Democratic Senate leadership, unlike the House, had failed to pass a budget. Senate Democrats also proved to be too busy blockading the homeland security bill to consider the appropriations bills. They had other reasons for avoiding considering the bills as well, since their spending plans, if released in October, would have likely created even larger deficits and irked voters as the election approached.
A “yes” vote was a vote to continue funding the government at 2002 levels until January 11, when the new Congress will consider the long-overdue 2003 appropriations bills. A “no” vote was a vote against the continuing resolution.
REPUBLICANS FOR (208): Aderholt, Akin, Armey, Bachus, Baker, Ballenger, Bartlett, Barton, Bass, Bereuter, Biggert, Bilirakis, Blunt, Boehlert, Boehner, Bonilla, Bono, Boozman Brady (TX), Brown (SC), Bryant, Burr, Burton, Buyer, Callahan, Calvert, Camp, Cannon, Cantor, Capito, Castle, Chabot, Chambliss, Coble, Collins, Combest, Cooksey, Cox, Crane, Crenshaw, Culberson, Cunningham, Davis, Jo Ann, Davis, Tom, Deal, DeLay, DeMint, Diaz-Balart, Doolittle, Dreier, Duncan, Dunn, Ehlers, Ehrlich, Emerson, English, Everett, Ferguson, Flake, Fletcher, Foley, Forbes, Fossella, Frelinghuysen, Gallegly, Ganske, Gekas, Gibbons, Gilchrest, Gillmor, Gilman, Goode, Goodlatte, Goss, Graham, Granger, Graves, Green (WI), Greenwood, Grucci, Gutknecht, Hansen, Hart, Hastings (WA), Hayes, Hayworth, Hefley, Hilleary, Hobson, Hoekstra, Horn, Hostettler, Hulshof, Hunter, Hyde, Isakson, Issa, Istook, Jenkins, Johnson, Sam, Johnson (CT), Johnson (IL), Jones (NC), Keller, Kelly, Kennedy (MN), Kerns, King (NY), Kingston, Kirk, Knollenberg, LaHood, Latham, LaTourette, Leach, Lewis (CA), Lewis (KY), Linder, LoBiondo, Lucas (OK), Manzullo, McCrery, McHugh, McInnis, McKeon, Mica, Miller, Dan, Miller, Gary, Miller, Jeff, Morella, Myrick, Nethercutt, Ney, Northup, Norwood, Nussle, Osborne, Ose, Otter, Pence, Peterson (PA), Petri, Pickering, Pitts, Pombo, Portman, Pryce (OH), Putnam, Quinn, Radanovich, Ramstad, Regula, Rehberg, Reynolds, Riley, Rogers (KY), Rogers (MI), Rohrabacher, Ros-Lehtinen, Ryan (WI), Ryun (KS), Saxton, Schaffer, Schrock, Sensenbrenner, Sessions, Shadegg, Shaw, Shays, Sherwood, Shimkus, Shuster, Simmons, Simpson, Skeen, Smith (MI), Smith (NJ), Smith (TX), Souder, Stearns, Sullivan, Sununu, Sweeney, Tancredo, Tauzin, Taylor (NC), Terry, Thomas, Thornberry, Tiahrt, Tiberi, Toomey, Upton, Vitter, Walden, Walsh, Watkins (OK), Watts (OK), Weldon (FL), Weldon (PA), Weller, Whitfield, Wicker, Wilson (NM), Wilson (SC), Wolf, Young (AK), Young (FL)
DEMOCRATS FOR (62): Abercrombie, Andrews, Baca, Barcia, Berkley, Boucher, Brady (PA), Brown (FL), Cardin, Carson (OK), Clement, Cramer, Cummings, Deutsch, Dicks, Dooley, Doyle, Edwards, Engel, Frost, Gephardt, Gonzalez, Gordon, Green (TX), Harman, Hilliard, Hoeffel, Holden, Hoyer, Inslee, Israel, John, Johnson, E. B., Kanjorski, Larsen (WA), Lofgren, Lowey, Lucas (KY), Maloney (CT), Matheson, Matsui, McCarthy (NY), McKinney, McNulty, Millender-McDonald, Mollohan, Moore, Murtha, Ortiz, Pastor, Pomeroy, Reyes, Rush, Shows, Skelton, Stenholm, Strickland, Tanner, Taylor (MS), Weiner, Wexler, Wynn
REPUBLICANS AGAINST (6): Kolbe, Moran (KS), Paul, Platts, Thune, Wamp
DEMOCRATS AGAINST (136): Ackerman, Allen, Baird, Baldacci, Baldwin, Barrett, Becerra, Bentsen, Berman, Berry, Bishop, Blumenauer, Bonior, Borski, Boswell, Boyd, Brown (OH), Capps, Capuano, Carson (IN), Clay, Clayton, Clyburn, Conyers, Costello, Coyne, Crowley, Davis (CA), Davis (FL), Davis (IL), DeFazio, DeGette, Delahunt, DeLauro, Dingell, Doggett, Eshoo, Etheridge, Evans, Farr, Filner, Ford, Frank, Gutierrez, Hall (TX), Hastings (FL), Hill, Hinojosa, Holt, Honda, Jackson (IL), Jackson-Lee (TX), Jefferson, Kaptur, Kennedy (RI), Kildee, Kilpatrick, Kind (WI), Kleczka, Kucinich, LaFalce, Lampson, Langevin, Lantos, Larson (CT), Lee, Levin, Lewis (GA), Lipinski, Luther, Lynch, Maloney (NY), Markey, Mascara, McCollum, McDermott, McGovern, McIntyre, Meehan, Meek (FL), Meeks (NY), Menendez, Moran (VA), Nadler, Napolitano, Oberstar, Obey, Olver, Owens, Pallone, Pascrell, Payne, Pelosi, Peterson (MN), Phelps, Price (NC), Rahall, Rivers, Rodriguez, Roemer, Ross, Rothman, Roybal-Allard, Sabo, Sanchez, Sandlin, Sawyer, Schakowsky, Schiff, Scott, Serrano, Sherman, Slaughter, Smith (WA), Snyder, Solis, Spratt, Stark, Stupak, Tauscher, Thompson (CA), Thompson (MS), Thurman, Tierney, Towns, Turner, Udall (CO), Udall (NM), Velazquez, Visclosky, Waters, Watson (CA), Watt (NC), Waxman, Woolsey, Wu
INDEPENDENT AGAINST (1): Sanders
REPUBLICANS (8): Barr, Cubin, Herger, Houghton, Oxley, Roukema, Royce, Stump
DEMOCRATS (10): Blagojevich, Condit, Fattah, Hinchey, Hooley, Jones (OH), McCarthy (MO), Miller, George, Neal, Rangel