The U.S. Senate convened on May 22 to debate the controversial amendment to the Defense authorization bill (S. 1050) that would allow abortions to be performed at international U.S. military bases. The same amendment passed in the Senate in 2002 and was expected to go through again this year, but supporters received a rude surprise when it failed on an up-or-down vote. (See rollcall below.)
On June 3, after the Memorial Day recess, the Senate rejected five separate amendments that would have weakened the federal mandate to use ethanol in gasoline. One such amendment would have allowed states to opt out of federal ethanol mandates in the energy bill. Another would have provided for equal liability treatment of vehicle fuels and fuel additives, since ethanol will enjoy special liability protection under the energy bill as written. Both were badly defeated by supermajorities. (See rollcalls below.)
Congress will be in session until June 30, when it takes a week-long break to celebrate the 4th of July.
In Surprise, Senate Votes to Keep Abortions off Military Bases
On May 22, by a vote of 48 to 51, the Senate rejected an amendment by Sen. Patty Murray (D.-Wash.) to the Defense Department authorization bill (S. 1050) that would have allowed abortions to be performed at U.S. military bases abroad.
The rejection of the amendment-which passed last year by a vote of 52-40-was a surprising defeat for abortion-backers in the U.S. Senate. Pro-life Senate staffers told Human Events that they worked very hard to win the uncertain votes of Senators Lisa Murkowski (R.-Alaska) and Mark Pryor (D.-Ark.). They were successful on both counts.
“Under current restrictions, women who volunteer to serve their country-and female military dependents-are not allowed to exercise their legally guaranteed right simply because they are serving overseas,” Murray argued. “These women are committed to protecting our rights as free citizens. Yet they are denied one of the most basic rights accorded all women in this country. Women depend on their base hospital and military care providers to meet all of their health care needs. Singling out abortion-related services could jeopardize a womans health.”
Current law does not prevent servicewomen from getting abortions. Rather, it prohibits the use of taxpayer-funded military hospitals and personnel on official time for abortions, even if the mother killing her child is willing to pay a fee for the procedure.
Moreover, a vast majority of military doctors have high enough ethical standards that they refuse to perform abortions.
Murray and others also argued that the amendment would not require public funding of abortions, since servicewomen would still be required to pay for abortions. But this is not true, argued Sen. Sam Brownback (R.-Kan.).
“The Murray amendment. . .attempts to turn these taxpayer-funded Department of Defense medical treatment facilities into facilities that provide abortion on demand for military personnel and their dependents,” he said. “Using the coercive power of Government to force American taxpayers to fund health care facilities where abortions are performed would be a terrible precedent that would put many Americans in a difficult position of saying: They are using my taxpayer money to fund something that I dont agree with-abortion on demand.”
Brownback also added that the passage of the amendment would almost certainly lead President Bush to veto the entire Defense authorization bill (S. 1050), which would have been a huge problem.
“I certainly recognize the passion of the senator from Washington for womens rights,” added Brownback, the leading senator on life issues. “But there is also another person involved here and there are other issues involved here.”
A “yes” vote was a vote for the Murray amendment to allowed abortions to be performed at U.S. military bases abroad. . A “no” vote was a vote against the amendment.
REPUBLICANS FOR (5): Chafee, Collins, Snowe, Specter, and Stevens.
DEMOCRATS FOR (42): Akaka, Baucus, Bayh, Biden, Bingaman, Boxer, Byrd, Cantwell, Carper, Clinton, Conrad, Corzine, Daschle, Dayton, Dodd, Dorgan, Durbin, Edwards, Feingold, Feinstein, Graham (Fla.), Harkin, Hollings, Inouye, Johnson, Kennedy, Kohl, Landrieu, Lautenberg, Leahy, Levin, Lieberman, Lincoln, Mikulski, Murray, Nelson (Fla.), Reed (R.I.), Rockefeller, Sarbanes, Schumer, Stabenow, and Wyden..
INDEPENDENT FOR: (1): Jeffords.
REPUBLICANS AGAINST (46): Alexander, Allard, Allen, Bennett, Bond, Brownback, Bunning, Burns, Campbell, Chambliss, Cochran, Coleman, Cornyn, Craig, Crapo, DeWine, Dole, Domenici, Ensign, Enzi, Fitzgerald, Frist, Graham (S.C.), Grassley, Gregg, Hagel, Hatch, Hutchison, Inhofe, Kyl, Lott, Lugar, McCain, McConnell, Murkowski, Nickles, Roberts, Santorum, Sessions, Shelby, Smith, Sununu, Talent, Thomas, Voinovich, and Warner.
DEMOCRATS AGAINST (5): Miller, Nelson (Neb.), Pryor, Reid, and Breaux.
NOT VOTING (1): Kerry.
Senate Wont Let States out of Ethanol Mandate
On June 3, by a vote of 34 to 62, the Senate soundly rejected an amendment by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D.-Calif.) to the energy bill (S. 14) that would have allowed states to opt out of the bills huge new ethanol mandate.
Ethanol, a fuel additive made from corn, is supposed to make gasoline burn cleaner, so that the same amount of gasoline gives off more energy and less pollution. However studies suggest that ethanol only worsens the smog problem in big cities, and it unquestionably adds to the cost of gasoline at the pump during the summer months when its use is legally required.
Moreover, ethanol does not reduce Americas dependence on foreign oil, at least at this point. The production of a gallon of ethanol requires using just about one gallon of gasoline, taking into account the gas used to farm and transport the corn and chlorine used in ethanol production. Ethanol is thus, at best, an unnecessary loop in the cycle of energy production. Its continued use will slow economic development by giving farmers a reason to continue working land when it makes no economic sense, instead of selling it or searching for truly profitable crops.
Most hard-core conservatives and East Coast and Mountain State senators voted for the Feinstein amendment, since their states economies are harmed by the wealth transfer to Middle America that ethanol causes.
On the other hand, Midwestern and Great Plains senators of both parties voted to continue this special corn subsidy, lest they should face the wrath of corn farmers in the coming election year.
Interestingly, all four senators running for President were absent for the vote, which was carefully watched by Democratic Iowans.
For more on the ethanol vote, click here.
A “yes” vote was a vote to let states opt out of requirements in the energy bill. A “no” vote was a vote against the amendment.
REPUBLICANS FOR (20): Allard, Allen, Campbell, Chambliss, Ensign, Enzi, Graham (S.C.), Gregg, Hutchison, Kyl, Lott, McCain, Nickles, Santorum, Sessions, Shelby, Specter, Sununu, Thomas, and Warner.
DEMOCRATS FOR (14): Akaka, Boxer, Clinton, Collins, Corzine, Feinstein, Hollings, Inouye, Kennedy, Lautenberg, Leahy, Reed (R.I.), Schumer, and Wyden.
REPUBLICANS AGAINST (30): Alexander, Bennett, Bond, Brownback, Bunning, Burns, Chafee, Cochran, Coleman, Cornyn, Craig, Crapo, DeWine, Dole, Domenici, Fitzgerald, Frist, Grassley, Hagel, Hatch, Inhofe, Lugar, McConnell, Murkowski, Roberts, Smith, Snowe, Stevens, Talent, and Voinovich.
DEMOCRATS AGAINST (31): Baucus, Bayh, Biden, Bingaman, Breaux, Byrd, Cantwell, Carper, Conrad, Daschle, Dayton, Dodd, Dorgan, Durbin, Feingold, Harkin, Johnson, Kohl, Landrieu, Levin, Lincoln, Mikulski, Miller, Murray, Nelson (Fla.), Nelson (Neb.), Pryor, Reid, Rockefeller, Sarbanes, and Stabenow.
INDEPENDENT AGAINST: (1): Jeffords.
NOT VOTING (4): Edwards, Graham (Fla.), Kerry, and Lieberman.
Senate Keeps Special Ethanol Liability Rules
On June 5, by a vote of 38 to 57, the Senate soundly rejected an amendment to the energy bill (S. 14) proposed by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D.-Calif.) to provide for equal liability treatment of vehicle fuels and fuel additives.
The amendment was an attempt to remove the privileged status of the inefficient fuel additive ethanol. It was easily defeated because so many senators are in thrall to the corn farmers lobby.
“Is this not a fair idea?” Boxer asked of the equal liability idea. “As we go into this whole new production of ethanol, be it derived from corn or be it derived from agricultural residues or municipal waste or wherever we wind up getting it, renewable fuel should be subject to the same liability standards as any other motor vehicle fuel.”
Senators from inland states disagreed, wanting to meet the needs of their corn-producing farmers who find their jobs otherwise unprofitable. Those supporting this amendment did only slightly better on this vote than the Feinstein amendment (see rollcall above), almost denying pro-ethanol forces a 3/5ths majority.
Boxer complained that the energy bill, as written, gives a special liability exemption to makers of ethanol. “We should not be doing this,” she said. “We dont know all the impacts of what we are doing today. Why would we give a safe harbor to ethanol or various refiners of ethanol?
Boxer showed little confidence in ethanol, suggesting that the additive could someday be found to have serious negative health effects. This was the case with another fuel additive, MTBE, which was later discovered to be a carcinogen and an extremely volatile water contaminant.
Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) jabbed back at Boxer, stating that the ethanol liability exemption, while it does protect the makers of ethanol, will not protect companies that spill gasoline contaminated by ethanol. Besides, he argued, “defective product liability cases only make up .002 percent of all civil cases filed each year according to the National Center for State Courts,” he said.
Sen. Kit Bond (D-Mo.), protecting the interests of his states crop growers, had other reasons for his confidence in ethanol.
“With the war we face on terrorism, we have to be more concerned about U.S. energy,” Bond said. “We need to reduce imported oil. We can develop and supply that oil from our rich farmlands,” he added, even though many scientists maintain that it takes about a gallon of gasoline to produce a gallon of ethanol.
“No new oil refineries have been built in the U.S. since 1976, but 68 ethanol production facilities have been built during that time,” said Bond. He was using this as an argument for ethanol, but in fact it was more a statement of national priorities: that the federal government would artificially create a need for ethanol, thus draining the economy, and simultaneously enact draconian environmental laws to prevent oil refineries from being built.
Again, the opposition to the bill was a motley mix of conservatives and coastal liberals whose constituents are bilked by higher gas prices because of the governments ethanol policies.
A “yes” vote was one in favor of equal liability for vehicle fuels and fuel additives, while a “no” vote was against the amendment.
REPUBLICANS FOR (9): Chafee, Collins, Gregg, McCain, Smith, Snowe, Specter, Sununu, and Warner.
DEMOCRATS FOR (28): Akaka, Biden, Bingaman, Boxer, Byrd, Cantwell, Carper, Clinton, Corzine, Dayton, Dodd, Durbin, Feingold, Feinstein, Hollings, Kennedy, Kerry, Lautenberg, Leahy, Levin, Mikulski, Murray, Nelson (Fla.), Reed (R.I.), Reid (Nev.), Sarbanes, Schumer, and Wyden.
INDEPENDENT FOR (1): Jeffords.
REPUBLICANS AGAINST (40): Alexander, Allard, Allen, Bennett, Bond, Brownback, Bunning, Burns, Campbell, Chambliss, Cochran, Coleman, Cornyn, Craig, Crapo, DeWine, Dole, Domenici, Enzi, Fitzgerald, Frist, Graham (S.C.), Grassley, Hagel, Hatch, Hutchison, Inhofe, Kyl, Lott, Lugar, McConnell, Nickles, Roberts, Santorum, Sessions, Shelby, Stevens, Talent, Thomas, and Voinovich,
DEMOCRATS AGAINST (17): Baucus, Bayh, Breaux, Conrad, Daschle, Dorgan, Edwards, Harkin, Johnson, Kohl, Landrieu, Lincoln, Miller, Nelson (Neb.), Pryor, Rockefeller, and Stabenow.
NOT VOTING (5): Ensign, Graham (Fla.), Inouye, Lieberman, and Murkowski.