The US House of Representatives’ “100 hours” is up. They promised to pass legislation dealing with the minimum wage, embryonic stem cell research, health care, national security, education, and energy, and also to work on ethics issues.
How’d they do?
- The House approved a measure to implement the 9/11 Commission's recommendations for homeland security. That means that more DHS funding will go where the major targets are, and all cargo entering the country by boat and by air will be inspected. The Senate seems skeptical of this one, concerned about the cost.
- They agreed to enforce budget rules that will require tax cuts to be offset by spending cuts (or other tax increases). This is their stab at rolling back Bush's ill-advised tax cuts, by making it hard to make them permanent before they expire.
- They overwhelmingly approved lobbying reform. No longer will Congress be allowed to accept gifts and trips from lobbyists. They'll have to pay full charter fares if they fly in lobbyists' airplanes. The Senate has also approved a similar measure, which Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is calling the most significant such change in the history of the Senate.
- For education, another overwhelming approval: the House passed a bill that will reduce the interest rates on some student loans.
- They're raising the minimum wage to $7.25/hour over the next two years, with almost 3/4 of them voting in favour. It's sobering to note, though, that even at the new rate, 40-hour work weeks mean a yearly gross wage of about $15,000, still well under the poverty line for a family of four (which was $20,000 in 2006, according to the Department of Health and Human Services).
- They approved federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. The Senate is about to do the same. But that passed last year too, even with the Republican-controlled congress, and the Emperor vetoed it in his first use of the veto of his reign. He promises to veto it again, and the vote is again insufficient to override the veto.
- Also in the healthcare area, the House passed a bill that will have the government negotiate lower prices for prescription medicine. Bush says he'll veto this one, too, if the Senate passes it, and this one, too, has insufficient votes to override that.
- They've just passed legislation that eliminates oil-company subsidies and increases their taxes and fees. The income from that will be used to promote the development and use of renewable energy sources.
Yes, it's a pretty good 100 hours. They've accomplished what they said they would — though the healthcare success is hollow because of the certain vetoes. I hope they can carry on, and continue with their progress!