In recent weeks, Congress has focused much of its attention on aiding the victims of Hurricane Katrina. More than forty bills have been introduced since August 25, 2005, focusing on assisting victims and investigating the preparation for and response to this national disaster. The “ Katrina Emergency Relief Act of 2005 ,” sponsored by Sen. Reid (D-NV) and introduced on Sept. 8, would ensure that all victims of the hurricane have access to health coverage and medical care through temporary Medicaid coverage. This and many other Hurricane Katrina-related bills are still pending in Congress.
John Roberts’ confirmation hearings have also taken center stage in Congress as the President hopes the Senate will confirm him as the next Chief Justice of the Supreme Court before the beginning of the Court session set to begin Oct. 1. Stephen L. Tober, Chair of the ABA Standing Committee on Federal Judiciary was the first witness to testify at the hearing, explaining Roberts’ “well-qualified” rating as evaluated by the Committee.
Congress has addressed a variety of other issues as well, including the Patriot Act, women’s rights, and immigration.
On July 25, 2005, Rep. Tancredo (R-CO) introduced HR 3425, to amend Title 38, United States Code, to require mandatory HIV testing of potential sources in the event of possible occupational exposure to HIV in a Department of Veterans Affairs medical facility. The bill was referred to the Committee on Veterans Affairs.
On Sept. 8, 2005, the House passed HR 3672, to provide assistance to families affected by Hurricane Katrina through the program of block grants to states for temporary assistance for needy families.
On June 23, 2005, Sen. Rockefeller (D-WV) and Rep. Stark (D-CA) introduced S 1303 and HR 3055, to amend the Social Security Act to guarantee comprehensive health care coverage for all children born after 2006. The bill was referred to the Senate Finance Committee, and the House Committees on Ways and Means and Energy and Commerce, respectively.
Civil Rights/Constitutional Law
On July 22, 2005, Rep. Bonilla (R-TX) introduced HR 3405, the “ Strengthening the Ownership of Private Property Act of 2005 ,” to prohibit the provision of federal economic development assistance for any state or locality that uses the power of eminent domain to obtain property for private commercial development or that fails to pay relocation costs to person displaced by use of the power of eminent domain for economic development purposes. The bill was referred to the Committees on Agriculture, Transportation and Infrastructure, Financial Services, Resources, and Education and the Workforce.
On July 11, 2005, Sen. Lautenberg (D-NJ) introduced S Res 192, affirming that the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States guarantees the freedom of the press and asserting that no purpose is served by sentencing journalists Judith Miller and Matthew Cooper, nor any similarly situated journalists, to prison for maintaining the anonymity of confidential sources. The resolution was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.
On July 29, 2005, Sen. Kyl (R-AZ) introduced S 1606, to establish an opt-out system for expungement of DNA profiles from the national index and to authorize collection of DNA samples from persons arrested or detained under federal authority. The bill was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.
On July 21, 2005, Rep. Hastings (D-FL) introduced HR 2282, to provide state and local governments with financial assistance that will increase their ability and effectiveness in monitoring convicted sex offenders by developing and implementing a program using global positioning systems to monitor convicted sexual offenders or sexual predators released from confinement. The bill was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.
On June 27, 2005, Rep. Lewis (R-KY) introduced HR 3073, the “ Congressional Accountability for Judicial Activism Act of 2005 ,” to allow Congress to review the judgments of the United States Supreme Court. It would allow the Congress, by 2/3 majority, to overturn decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court concerning the constitutionality of any act of Congress. The bill was referred to the House Committees on the Judiciary and Rules.
On June 24, 2005, Rep. Carter (R-TX) introduced HR 3060, the “ Terrorist Death Penalty Enhancement Act of 2005 ,” to provide the death penalty for certain terrorism related crimes and make other modifications of law relating to the penalty of death. The bill would provide the death penalty as possible punishment for committing an act of terrorism that results in death, or creates grave risk of death, and creates additional aggravating factors for such crimes. The bill was referred to the House Judiciary Committee.
On July 27, 2005, Rep. Andrews (D-NJ) introduced HR 3454, to amend Title XIX of the Social Security Act to require Medicaid coverage for disabled children and individuals who became disabled as children, without regard to income or assets. The bill was referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce.
On July 29, 2005, Sen. Kennedy (D-MA) introduced S Res 232, celebrating the 40th anniversary of the enactment of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and reaffirming the commitment of the Senate to ensuring the continued effectiveness of the Act in protecting the voting rights of all citizens of the United States. The bill was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.
On July 28, 2005, Rep. Hastings (D-FL) introduced HR 3557, to amend the Help America Vote Act of 2002 to require states to permit individuals to register to vote at polling places on the date of an election, to cast ballots at designated polling places prior to the date of the election, and to obtain absentee ballots for an election for any reason. The bill was referred to the Committees on House Administration, Government Reform, and Education and the Workforce.
On June 28, 2005, Rep. Hoyer (D-MD) introduced HR 3094, to amend the Help America Vote Act of 2002 to improve the fairness and accuracy of voter registration in election for federal office, and establish a uniform standard for the treatment of provisional ballots cast at an incorrect polling place. The bill was referred to the House Administration Committee.Elder Law
On June 21, 2005, Sen. Clinton (D-NY) introduced S 1283, to assist family caregivers in accessing affordable and high-quality respite care. The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions
On July 28, 2005, Rep. Castle (R-DE) introduced HR 3540, to require criminal background checks on all firearms transactions occurring at events that provide a venue for the sale, offer for sale, transfer, or exchange of firearms. The bill was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.
On July 27, 2005, Sen. Feinstein (D-CA) introduced S 1520, to prohibit human cloning. The bill was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.
On June 27, 2005, Sen. Hatch (R-UT) introduced S 1317, to provide for the collection and maintenance of cord blood units for the treatment of patients and research, and to amend the Public Health Service Act to authorize the Bone Marrow and Cord Blood Cell Transplantation Program to increase the number of transplants for recipients suitable matched to donors of bone marrow and cord blood. The bill was recommended for Senate consideration.
On July 20, 2005, Sen. Cornyn (R-TX) introduced S 1438, the “ Comprehensive Enforcement and Immigration Reform Act of 2005 ,” to provide for immigration reform, including the temporary worker program. The bill was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.
On June 21, 2005, Sen. Leahy (D-VT) and Rep. Nadler (D-NY) introduced S 1278 and HR 3006, the “ Permanent Partners Immigration Act ,” to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to provide a mechanism for U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents to sponsor their permanent partners for residence in the United States. The bills were referred to the Senate and House Judiciary Committees.
On July 25, 2005, the House passed, by a vote of 426 to 0, H Res 383, encouraging the Transitional National Assembly of Iraq to adopt a constitution that grants women equal rights under the law and to work to protect such rights.
On July 28, 2005, Rep. Conyers (D-MI) introduced HR 3541, to affirm that the United States may not engage in torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. The bill was referred to the Committees on the Armed Services and International Relations.
On Sept. 6, 2005, Sen. Nelson (D-FL) introduced S 1612, to amend the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to establish certain qualifications for the office of the Undersecretary for Emergency Preparedness and Response. The bill was referred to the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.
On July 29, 2005, the Senate passed HR 3199, the “ USA PATRIOT and Terrorism Prevention Reauthorization Act .” The House passed this Act on July 21.
On July 20, 2005, Sen. Gregg (R-NH) introduced S 1437, to amend the Public Health Service Act to provide protections for first responders. The bill was referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.
Stem Cell Research
On July 26, 2005, Rep. Paul (R-TX) introduced HR 3444, to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide credits against income tax for qualified stem cell research, the storage of qualified stem cells, and the donation of umbilical cord blood. The bill was referred to the Committee on Ways and Means.
On Sept. 8, 2005, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved S 1197, to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act of 1994.
On Aug. 2, 2005, President Bush signed H J Res 59 (P.L. 109-49), expressing the sense of Congress with respect to the woman suffragists who fought for and won the right of women to vote in the United States.