Copyright 2000 The National Journal, Inc.
The National Journal
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MARCH 11, 2000
SECTION: CONGRESS; Pg. 788; Vol. 32, No. 11
LENGTH: 1814 words
The Sausage Factory: House-Senate Committee Action, March 6-9
BYLINE: National Journal News Service
Here is the status of
major legislation on the congressional
House: Approved a bipartisan patients' rights bill
(H.R. 2723) on
Oct. 7, 1999, 275-151, then merged it with an insurance
bill (H.R. 2990).
Senate: Approved S.
1344 with narrower reforms favored by
health insurers on July 15, 1999,
Outlook: GOP leaders fret that conference
falling behind schedule because of haggling over emergency-room
care, access to obstetricians, and other issues. But the toughest
decisions are still to come: Who will be covered by the bill, and
rights will patients have to sue their health plans and
employers? Work on a
final bill is likely to continue well into
Social Security Earnings Limit
House: Approved H.R. 5 on March 1,
422-0. Senate: H.R. 5 has been placed on the calendar for
Outlook: This bill, which allows
full benefits for people
who keep working beyond retirement age, should fly
Senate, which is eager to approve the House-passed bill.
Marriage Penalty Tax Relief
House: Approved H.R.
6 on Feb. 10, 268-158.
Senate: Finance Committee
plans to draft a bill soon.
Republicans are inclined to postpone
major action until they can agree on a
new budget, although they
still must decide whether to move tax cuts one at
a time. They
hint they'll be even more generous to married couples than the
House, despite President Clinton's threat to veto a cut as large
one the House passed.
Africa Trade Enhancements
House: Approved H.R. 434 on July 16, 1999, 234-163.
Senate: Approved an amended H.R. 434 on Nov. 3, 1999, 76-
Outlook: The Senate bill, which includes a Caribbean
trade initiative (S. 1389), still must be reconciled with the
measure. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., is
working to close the
negotiations in the hope that Congress can
clear a bill by early April.
House: Approved H.R. 1995 on July 20,
239-185, and H.R. 2 on Oct.
21, 1999, 358-67.
Senate: Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee
on S. 2 provisions on March 7.
Outlook: A fierce
floor debate over who controls the way
federal aid to schools is spent
awaits the Senate, which is
trying to pass a single bill renewing the
Secondary Education Act instead of the separate House-passed
bills. Despite defeats in committee, Senate Democrats will push
Clinton's education priorities on the floor.
Rural Satellite TV
House: Agriculture Committee approved H.R. 3615 on
Feb. 16, 41-0.
Senate: Banking, Housing, and Urban
approved S. 2097 on March 8.
Outlook: The Senate should pass this popular bipartisan
includes $ 1.25 billion in federal loan guarantees for
service, by March 30. The House Commerce
Committee, which wants to help
negotiate a final bill, could
cause some static. But rural constituents are
in receiving local broadcast programming via satellite.
A Senate committee dished up some television news for rural
residents, President Clinton's education initiatives got a ruler
knuckles, and property-rights advocates prepared to send
local zoning issues
to federal courts.
Who Wants to See Regis? Rural
Somewhere in rural America, television
viewers are being
deprived of witnessing some crucial moments in
culture: the millionaire contestants offering their final
answers, or Darva and Rick getting married moments after meeting
onstage. The Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee
to the rescue on March 8, when it approved a bill to expand
access to local
broadcast TV signals for satellite dish owners in
The Launching Our Communities' Access to Local
Act (S. 2097), which the committee approved 19-0, would establish
a $ 1.25 billion federal loan guarantee program to encourage
TV companies to retransmit local broadcast signals in
rural communities and
small cities and towns.
A new law, enacted as part
of last year's omnibus
spending package (P.L. 106-113), gave such satellite
DIRECTV the authority to retransmit signals from local TV
stations to subscribers living in those stations' markets. One of
law's goals was to enable satellite companies to compete more
with cable service, which for years has carried local
broadcast stations. As
a result of the new law, satellite
companies plan to offer local broadcasts
in about 60 of the
nation's largest broadcast markets.
But Sen. Timothy P. Johnson, D-S.D., has noted that rural
be left behind unless incentives to serve them are
created. Johnson sought
loan guarantees last year, but Banking
Committee Chairman Phil Gramm,
R-Texas, objected to a "giveaway"
that could cost taxpayers money if
This year's bill, however,
includes compromises to
satisfy Gramm's concerns. Each loan guarantee would
be limited to $20 million, and an applicant's collateral would have to be at
least equal to the unpaid balance of the loan.
To participate in the program under the bill, lenders
would have to be
insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
Johnson and other Democrats
opposed that provision, saying it
would exclude rural electric cooperatives
and many other lenders.
They may pursue their objections on the Senate
floor, but did not
press the point at the committee because the rural TV
too important to delay," Johnson said. -Molly M. Peterson
Senate Panel Flunks Clinton School Aid Plan
Republicans dealt staggering blows to President Clinton's
initiatives on March 9 by approving a bill that
rejects his plan to hire
100,000 new teachers and help finance
the renovation of crumbling school
By a party-line 10-8 vote, the Senate
Labor, and Pensions Committee passed legislation (S. 2)
the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. GOP panel members
plowed under Clinton's initiatives while crafting their own
send federal dollars to state and local educators with
fewer federal strings
Committee Democrats, led by Sen. Edward
vowed to reprise the debate when the bill reaches the
floor, probably in early April. But the panel's votes
demonstrated a unified front among conservative and moderate
Republicans, which made the prospect of overturning its actions
remote. The passage of the GOP version could lead to a
veto, and a tough
fight this fall when Clinton and congressional
leaders try to work out
education spending levels on
Spearheaded by Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., a former
committee members pushed through amendments during
three days of markup
sessions-on March 7, 8, and 9-to permit
states to use the federal money with
few restrictions, other than
prescribing broad directions to improve the
performance of low-income and minority students.
Most of the nearly $ 20 billion in the ESEA bill allocated
fiscal 2001 would go to states and local schools in the form
of block grants
consolidating major programs that up to now have
been financed separately.
Under the Republicans' approach,
governors would have wide discretion on how
to spend the money.
In addition, a Gregg amendment,
approved on a party-line
9-8 vote, would let low-income students transfer to
school and take their $ 400 to $ 700 federal allocation of money
under ESEA's Title I program with them. "The money follows the
Gregg explained. The plan, which would begin as a
demonstration program in
10 unspecified states, is almost
identical to a controversial "Straight A's"
proposal passed by
down an amendment by Sen. Patty
Murray, D-Wash., who sought $ 1.75 billion
to continue the
President's program to hire 100,000 new teachers and reduce
sizes in the first three elementary grades. "As a former teacher,
I can tell you it really makes a difference if you have 18 kids
classroom instead of 35,'' Murray said.
committee also rejected a bid by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-
Iowa, to include
Clinton's plan to provide $ 1.3 billion to help
local schools finance the
renovation of dilapidated buildings.
committee sought to leave most educational
decisions in the hands of local
school districts, Sen. Jeff
Sessions, R-Ala., convinced his Republican
colleagues that the
House and Senate education committees should review
complaints about textbooks. Such complaints would be sent to the
Education Secretary, who would forward them to the committees.
scoffed that the plan would turn the congressional
"superschool boards." -David Hess
Property-Rights Bill Clears House
The House Judiciary Committee this week
Democratic amendments aimed at weakening a controversial bill to
help developers speed the settlement of land-taking disputes with
The legislation (H.R. 2372), which the
14-7, would permit property owners and builders to bypass
courts and take their disputes with local zoning authorities
directly to federal courts to seek compensation.
Environmental groups and local officials say the bill
would take away
local decision-making authority and put land-use
decisions in the hands of
federal judges. But the construction
industry, led by the National
Association of Home Builders, and
the bill's sponsor, Rep. Charles Canady,
R-Fla., argue that the
measure would give property owners quicker access to
courts to protect their constitutional right for just
compensation if their land is taken or its usage is restricted.
During markup sessions on March 8 and 9, committee
Democrats complained that the bill would allow federal courts to
local decisions on such things as building waste treatment
plants or housing
The panel rejected an amendment by Rep.
D-N.Y., that would have prevented the bill from applying to
involving the protection of public health or safety.
During the last Congress, a similar bill passed the
248-178, but died in the Senate. -Michael Posner
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