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Eagle Forum News
January 2004

What Happened in the 108th Congress, 1st Session?

With Republicans in control of the White House, Senate, and House, conservatives achieved some tremendous victories in the 108th Congress, First Session: speeding up the 2001 tax cuts, enacting a ban on partial birth abortions, expanding medical savings accounts, increasing funds for abstinence education, and more.  However because margins in Congress remain close in both bodies, compromises with moderate Republicans and Democrats are an ongoing challenge. 

The pro-family and limited government Members are becoming well-organized and a force that leadership cannot ignore. Encourage your conservative Members to join the Values Action Team, the Immigration Reform Caucus, the Senate Steering Committee, and the House Republican Study Committee (RSC), which is one of the largest Congressional caucuses.  By increasing these caucuses, the conservative voice within Congress grows louder and more effective.

Pro-family Tax Cuts Accelerated

In 2001, President Bush signed into law the largest tax cut since 1981.  Every American taxpayer benefited, but the phase-in period for the entire bill was drawn out over 10 years.  Early in 2003, the President and Congressional leadership began moving legislation to accelerate to tax year 2003 the $1,000 child tax credit, marriage penalty relief, and income rate reductions.  On May 9, the House successfully passed the Jobs and Growth Reconciliation Tax Act (H.R. 2) to achieve those goals (222 to 203, House Roll Call Vote 182).  The tougher vote came in the Senate later that month. In a rare moment, Vice President Richard Cheney was called in to cast the tie-breaking vote (Senate Roll Call Vote 196).  President Bush signed the bill on May 28.

Health Care Reformed

In 1996, Congress passed legislation to begin demonstration projects for medical savings accounts (MSAs), which are tax-free interest-bearing savings accounts that pay for basic medical expenses.  However, the many restrictions and regulations placed on MSAs made them unworkable for most people. MSAs were set to expire the end of the year.  In June, the House approved the Health Savings and Affordability Act of 2003 (H.R. 2596), which renamed MSAs to health savings accounts (HSAs)and removed the onerous restrictions (237 to 191, House Roll Call Vote 328).  The greater challenge was consideration in the Senate, especially opposition from Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA). 

Health savings account will fundamentally reform the entire health care system.  HSAs will bring freedom: tax-free accounts, roll over year-to-year, empowering individuals (instead of HMOs) to make health choices, and allowing contributions by employers and employees. Through HSAs, individuals would make their basic health care decisions and have catastrophic policies for major health problems, which means lower premiums.  This entire concept undermines the Kennedy and Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) concept of nationalized, socialized medicine. 

The only way to get HSAs enacted was to roll the bill into another piece of “must-pass” legislation, which turned out to be the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003 (H.R. 1).  This massive bill was tied up in conference for months because Kennedy and other liberals threatened to filibuster a bill that contained substantial reforms in Medicare and health care in general, specifically HSAs. 

When the Senate brought the Medicare conference report, including HSAs, to the floor, Sen. Tom Daschle (D-SD) raised a point of order against the bill stating that the provisions related to premium support and health savings accounts violated the Congressional Budget Act.  The procedural motion, which required 60 votes to waive, was an attempt to strip those key provisions from the bill.  Sen. Bill Frist’s (R-TN) motion to waive the point of order narrowly prevailed 61 to 39 (Senate Roll Call Vote 458). Ultimately, Congress passed and the President signed a moderate Medicare bill, including a substantial price tag, but HSAs survived the fight.  Starting in January 2004, individuals will have access to HSAs and, therefore, more choices in health care.

The War on Terrorism, Immigration, and Border Security

Troops on the Border 
On May 21, Rep. Virgil Goode (R-VA) offered an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for 2004 (H.R. 1588) to permit the Secretary of Defense to assign members of the Armed Forces to assist with border security to prevent the entry of terrorists, drug traffickers, and illegal aliens into the United States. His amendment passed 250 to 179 (House Roll Call Vote 206).  The amendment was dropped during conference and therefore not included in the bill signed by the President.

Immigration Enforcement and Cooperation with Local Governments 
The 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigration Responsibility Act states that a Federal, State, or local government may not prohibit or restrict any government entity or official from sending to or receiving from the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) information regarding the citizenship or immigration status of any individual.  However, dozens of cities have passed laws prohibiting their police forces from cooperating with the new Bureau of Immigration and Customs, formerly the INS.  Despite the violation of law, there are no sanctions or penalties. On June 24, Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) offered an amendment to the FY 2004 Homeland Security Appropriations bill (H.R. 2555) to impose sanctions by denying certain federal funds to government entities that prohibit cooperation for immigration purposes.  The amendment failed 102 to 322 (House Roll Call Vote 309).

Matricula Consular 
In the last 2 years, foreign governments have issued more than 1.5 million consular cards in the United States. During testimony before the House Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security, and Claims, the FBI explained that most of these cards are vulnerable to fraud and forgery, which pose both criminal and terrorist threats. 

On July 15, Rep. John Hostettler (R-IN) offered an amendment to the Foreign Relations Authorization Act (H.R. 1950) to provide the Secretary of State with the authority to regulate the issuance of consular identification cards by foreign missions in the United States. Regulations must include: 1) notification to the U.S. government by a foreign mission of each consular identification card issued within the United States, 2) issuance to bona fide citizens of the country of origin, 3) maintenance of accurate and complete records, 4) notification by card recipients of any change of address, and 5) access to auditable records. The Hostettler amendment passed 226 to 198 (House Roll Call Vote 367).  The Senate did not complete action on the bill but will likely do so in 2004.

Social Security Benefits For Illegal Mexican Aliens 
As reported last January in a Phyllis Schlafly column, the Social Security Administration began informal discussions with Mexico to write an agreement to permit Mexicans to receive U.S. Social Security benefits. An estimated 5 million illegal Mexicans could become eligible.  In order for any deal with Mexico to move forward, discussions must formalize, and then, a formal agreement would be presented to Congress.  Within 60 days, either body, House or Senate, could vote for disapproval, and the agreement would die.  After much press attention and receiving hundreds of calls, Members were put on notice to oppose the agreement.  Considering the solvency problems with the Social Security system, Rep. Clay Shaw (R-FL) began asking hard questions.  SSA never formalized discussions, but we continue to monitor the situation to ensure it doesn’t sneak through.

The Federal Judiciary: Nominations and Curbing Activist Decisions
After losing control of the Senate to a Republican majority, Senate Democrats, led by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Edward Kennedy (D-MA), began unprecedented obstructionist tactics to prevent the confirmation of President Bush’s well-qualified nominees.  Using the Senate rules against the nominees, the Democrats set a new threshold of 60 votes for confirmation.  For the first time in the history of the U.S. Congress, Democrats filibustered judicial nominees. 

The filibustering of Charles Pickering Sr., and Priscilla Owen carried over from the 107th Congress and the tally rose as Democrats filibustered Miguel Estrada, William H. Pryor, Jr., Carolyn B. Kuhl, and Janice R. Brown.   Miguel Estrada faced seven cloture votes, as Democrats failed to grant him an up or down vote in over two years.  This obstructionism forced Estrada to withdraw himself as a nominee in order to return to his law practice and family. With Democrats particularly targeting nominees at the Appellate level, only 76 percent of President Bush’s nominees have been confirmed, unlike the traditionally high confirmation numbers of Clinton (90%), Bush 41 (95%), Reagan (99%), and Carter (93%). 

A possible option in the 2nd session is a change in Senate rules that would reduce the number of votes needed to defeat a filibuster on nominations. Cloture votes would decline from 60 to 57 to 54 and then to 51.   However, this rule’s change, which was introduced by Senators Bill Frist (R-TN) and Zell Miller (D-GA), requires a two-thirds vote to take effect. Republicans are more likely to focus on increasing their numbers in the Senate in the upcoming 2004 elections.  Open seats in many Southern states offer some hope.

Justice for Judges Marathon 
Senate Republicans brought the Democratic obstructionism to the forefront as they orchestrated the Justice for Judges Marathon.  Senators debated judges for nearly 40 hours straight from November 12 through 14, including spending two nights in the Capitol.  While this move did not break the filibuster, its real purpose was to bring the debate to the American people.  Throughout the debate, observers filled the Senate galleries to watch this historic event, and press conferences took place hourly with dozens of Senators and conservative groups participating.

Limiting Jurisdiction of the Federal Courts Under Article III, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, Congress has the power limit to jurisdiction of the federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court.  Exercising this option is not uncommon; in fact, Senator Tom Daschle (D-SD) has used it for his agenda.  Conservative Members are now pushing this Constitutional option to curb judicial activism.  From reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to displaying the Ten Commandments, the attacks by activist judges on the acknowledgement of God are occurring with greater frequency. 

Pressure is mounting on Congressional Leadership to bring a court limitation bill to the floor for a vote. Urge your Members to co-sponsor the following bills:

  1. Marriage Protection Act of 2003 (H.R. 3313) – Sponsored by Rep. John Hostettler (R-IN), this bill removes jurisdiction from all federal courts regarding the Defense of Marriage Act.

  2. Protect the Pledge Act of 2003 (H.R. 2028/S. 1297) – Sponsored by Rep Todd Akin (R-MO) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), this bill removes jurisdiction of inferior federal courts regarding the Pledge of Allegiance.

  3. Religious Liberties Restoration Act (S. 1558) and Safeguarding Our Religious Liberties Act (H.R. 3190) – Sponsored by Sen. Wayne Allard (R-CO) and Rep. Chip Pickering (R-MS), this bill removes jurisdiction of inferior federal courts regarding the national motto, the Pledge of Allegiance, and the Ten Commandments, and reserves those decisions to the states.

Defunding Enforcement of Activist Judicial Decisions 
Rep. John Hostettler (R-IN) sought to address judicial activism through the Commerce Justice, State Appropriations bill (H.R. 2799) by restricting law enforcement from using federal funds to enforce the judgment in Newdow v. U.S. Congress, regarding the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. On July 22, 2003, this amendment passed 307 to 119 (House Roll Call Vote 406). 

Hostettler then offered another amendment to the appropriations bill that would prohibit use of funds to enforce the judgment of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in Glassroth v. Moore, decided July 1, 2003, regarding the display of the Ten Commandments in the Alabama Courthouse.  On July 23, 2003, this amendment passed 260 to 161 (House Roll Call Vote 419).  Unfortunately, neither amendment survived when the Commerce, Justice, State Appropriations bill was rolled into the Consolidated Appropriations Bill (H.R. 2673).

Rebuilding a Culture of Life to Protect the Unborn
Human Cloning 
As in the 107th Congress, House approval of the Human Cloning Prohibition Act (H.R. 534) came quickly.  On February 27, the House successfully passed the bill 241 to 155 (House Roll Call Vote 39).  However, the gridlock in the Senate continues.  The biotechnology companies continue to spend thousands of dollars lobbying Senators to permit their destructive human cloning research.  Unfortunately, Senators are abiding by that request.  More grassroots pressure combined with replacing some Senators in the next election is the only way to achieve the ban.

Human Patenting  
Because of difficulty in enacting a human cloning ban, Rep. Dave Weldon (R-FL) devised another approach to slow down biotech’s destructive research.  On July 22, the House approved by unanimous consent an amendment sponsored by Rep. Weldon to the Commerce-Justice-State appropriations bill (H.R. 2799), which prevents the use of federal funds to issue patents on human organisms.  This amendment affirms and grants legislative authority to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) policy, which recognizes that “human beings at any stage of development” are not patentable subject matter. 

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) and the powerful biotech industry groups attempted to water down the language to encompass only “human beings,” which would open the debate over the definition of a human being. Despite their attempts, the original Weldon language was inserted into the Consolidated Appropriations Bill (H.R. 2673), which passed the House on December 8 and awaits final action by the Senate.  If approved and sent to the President, the Weldon Amendment will be one of the most substantial pro-life successes because it greatly diminishes biotech’s ability to profit from embryo-killing research.

  Partial-Birth Abortion Ban 
After eight years of Congressional consideration and two Presidential vetoes, President George W. Bush finally signed into law the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003. (H.R. 760/S.3)  Getting the bill to the President had its challenges. Pro-Abortion Senators again tried to gut the bill, and they successfully passed an amendment by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) that reaffirmed Roe v. Wade.  The Harkin amendment passed 52 to 46 (Senate Roll Call Vote 48), but it was easily stripped in conference. The House approved the bill for the final time on October 2 with a vote of 281 to 142 (House Roll Call Vote 530).  On October 21, the Senate followed by voting 64 to 34 (Senate Roll Call Vote 402).  Unfortunately before the ink was dry, pro-abortion organizations filed four injunctions in three states to prevent enforcement.  Court action is pending.

Unborn Victims of Violence Act 
The Unborn Victims of Violence Act, also known as Laci and Conner’s Law (H.R. 1997/S. 1019) would punish criminals who hurt or kill an unborn child during the commission of a federal crime against a pregnant woman.  During the 107th Congress, the House approved the bill 252 to 172, but the bill was never considered in the Senate.  With the deaths of Laci and Conner Peterson, the issue received prime media attention, and the legislation had clear support in several public opinion polls.  Laci’s family even visited with Members of Congress to urge passage of the bill. The Senate is expected to bring the bill to the floor during the second session of the 108th Congress.  The House has promised speedy approval once the Senate acts. 

Abortions in Overseas Military Hospitals 
On nearly an annual basis, Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) offers an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 1588) to allow abortions to be performed in military hospitals overseas.  As in previous years, her amendment was solidly defeated on May 22 with a vote of 201 to 227 (House Roll Call Vote 215).

Mexico City 
In 1984, President Reagan announced that nongovernmental organizations must agree, as a condition of their receipt of Federal funds from USAID family planning accounts, that they would neither perform nor actively promote abortion in other nations.  This policy, known as the Mexico City Policy, was in effect until President Clinton rescinded it on January 22, 1993. Eight years later, President Bush entered the White House and issued a memorandum fully reinstating the Mexico City policy.  On August 29, 2003, he expanded the policy to cover all “voluntary population planning” accounts administered by the State Department.  Unfortunately, pro-abortion groups are eligible to apply for HIV/AIDS funds.

On July 9, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) offered an amendment to the Foreign Relations Authorization Act (S. 925) to prohibit the President from exercising the Mexico City policy. The motion to table the amendment failed 43 to 53 (Senate Roll Call Vote 267). The amendment was approved by voice vote, but the Senate never completed action on the bill.  When portions of the House version were rolled into the Consolidated Appropriations Act (H.R. 2673), the Boxer amendment was not included. 

United Nations Fund for Population Assistance (UNFPA) 
In 2002, the Bush Administration withheld U.S. contributions to UNFPA, pursuant to the 1985 Kemp-Kasten amendment prohibiting U.S. funds from going to groups that support forced abortion and non-voluntary sterilization.  This policy continued in 2003.  Pro-abortion Members attempted to eliminate the President’s authority to make this decision through language in the Foreign Relations Authorization Act (H.R. 1950). On July 15, Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) offered an amendment to the bill to eliminate the additional $25 million for UNFPA and to restore the Kemp-Kasten human rights protections. The amendment passed 216 to 211 (House Roll Call Vote 362).  The President’s authority remains in tact. 

Because last year's funding for UNFPA was essentially sitting in an account waiting for it to come back into compliance, the President elected on September 30 to use those funds for a better purpose.  He transferred the $25 million allocated for UNFPA to Child Survival and Health Programs Fund, which provides food, water, and essential medicines to children in poor countries.

Where Are Your Tax Dollars Going?

National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) 
Republicans in previous Congresses attempted to eliminate NEA funding completely, but were only able to cut funding to $98 million.  One unfortunate sign that Congress is not controlled by limited-government Members is the funding stream going back up.  On July 17, Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) offered an amendment to the Interior Appropriations bill (H.R. 2691) to increase funding for the National Endowment for the Arts by $10 million and for the National Endowment for the Humanities by $5 million.  The amendment passed 225 to 200, with 1 voting present (House Roll Call Vote 376).  Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) tried to divert NEA funds to the Forest Service Wildland Fire Management fund, but his amendment failed 112 to 313 (House Roll Call Vote 379).  When the FY2004 Interior Appropriations bill was signed into law, the NEA received $122,480,000, including $17 million to administer the Challenge America Arts program. 

National Institutes of Health (NIH) 
The NIH has substantially benefited from the Republican-controlled Congresses. Its funding rose from $10.956 billion in FY1994 to $27.897 billion in FY2004.  Exercising oversight, Congressional staffers uncovered some questionable grants: Mood Arousal and Sexual Risk Taking, Study on Sexual Habits of Older Men, Study on San Francisco's Asian Prostitutes and Masseuses, Study on American Indian Transgender Research, and National Institute for Child Health and Human Development Study on Pandas in China. On July 10, Rep. Pat Toomey (R-PA) offered an amendment to the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations bill (H.R. 2660) to deny further federal funding to these five specific grants.  The amendment failed 210 to 212 (House Roll Call Vote 352).  After the vote was gaveled, two conservative Members announced that they had accidentally voted against the measure and had intended to vote yes.

Curbing Federal Spending 
In an effort to reign in federal spending, Rep. Pat Toomey (R-PA) offered an amendment to the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill (H.R. 2859) to offset the bill with $983.6 million in cuts for discretionary accounts, except for the Departments of Homeland Security, Defense, and Veteran Affairs. Agencies would have been required to cut 29 cents out of every $100 spent.  On July 25, the amendment failed 111 to 300 (House Roll Call Vote 458).

Title X 
Title X of the Public Health Service Act funds hundreds of clinics (including Planned Parenthood clinics) that distribute contraceptives to teens without their parents’ knowledge or consent.  Title X funding will increase 2.4 percent to $280 million for FY2004.  As some states have already done, look for action next year in Congress on taking away tax dollars from Planned Parenthood.

Abstinence Education 
During the campaign, President Bush called for more money for abstinence education with a goal of reaching parity with the Title X “family planning” funds.  Over the last three years, Congress has incrementally raised the funding, and this year, they actually exceeded the President’s request by nearly $2 million.  In addition to the $50 million available for abstinence under the Welfare Title V program, the FY2004 Consolidated Appropriations bill (H.R. 2673) includes over $74 million for abstinence grants under Special Programs of Regional and National Significance (SPRANS).  H.R. 2673 also includes $3.531 million in earmarks for abstinence programs, including $50,000 for Project Reality.  The House approved the bill on December 8, but Senate action is delayed until January 2004.

U.S. Still Contributes to the United Nations 
The effort to eliminate U.S. funding for the United Nations was unsuccessful again this year; it’s another unfortunate sign of the type of Republicans in control of the purse strings.

Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) offered an amendment to the Foreign Relations Authorization Act (H.R. 1950) to prohibit funds from being authorized to pay any U.S. contribution to the United Nations or any affiliated agency of the United Nations.  Unfortunately, the amendment failed 74 to 350 (House Roll Call Vote 364). Rep. Steve King (R-IA) tried another approach on the same bill that would limit the U.S. contribution to the U.N. regular budget to an amount no greater than that paid by any other permanent Security Council member.  The vote improved, but the amendment still lost 187 to 237 (House Roll Call Vote 365).

The Bush Administration has also brought the U.S. back into UNESCO.  Rep. Ron Paul tried to cut off U.S. funding to UNESCO during consideration of the Commerce, Justice, State Appropriations bill (H.R. 2799), but his amendment fell short 145 to 279 (House Roll Call Vote 405).

Other Legislation Impacting Families

Protecting Traditional Marriage 
After the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled in November in favor of gay marriage, the Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA, H.J. Res. 56 and S.J. Res. 26), sponsored by Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-CO) and Sen. Wayne Allard (R-CO), gained significant attention. 

The amendment states:  “Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution, nor the Constitution of any State, nor State or Federal law, shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups.” 

The amendment essentially defines marriage and prevents both federal and state courts from forcing homosexual marriage, civil unions, domestic partnerships, etc. on states. However, state legislatures remain free to take such actions. 

In 1996, Congress overwhelmingly passed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage as the union between one man and one woman and also interprets the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the U.S. Constitution to permit each state to define marriage within its jurisdiction.  Thirty-seven states responded by passing state DOMAs.  Even though DOMA is solid law, many legal scholars are now warning that activist courts will strike it down.  Only a constitutional amendment would stop homosexual marriage from spreading state-by-state.  Passing an amendment is a substantial challenge. The Constitution requires two-thirds approval in the House and Senate and then ratification by three-fifths of the states.

In addition to an amendment, Rep. John Hostettler (R-IN) is leading an effort to amend the Defense of Marriage Act to remove jurisdiction from all federal courts on the question.  The Marriage Protection Act of 2003 (H.R. 3313)would not stop the state courts from acting, but it would stop federal court mischief, especially across appellate circuits.

Welfare Reform 
In 1996, Congress dramatically changed the welfare system by emphasizing work and marriage.  These successful reforms are credited with cutting the welfare rolls in half, doubling employment among single mothers, and reducing child poverty to historic lows.  Congress was supposed to reauthorize the expiring program in 2002, but the Senate failed to complete a bill.  In February, the House again passed legislation, known as the Personal Responsibility, Work, and Family Promotion Act of 2003 (H.R. 4), which builds on the 1996 reforms by increasing the required work hours, setting aside $300 million specifically for marriage promotion, and preserving the abstinence education program with its seven-point definition.  The current welfare law has been extended until March 31, 2004 to again give the Senate more time to complete a bill.

Global HIV/AIDS bill 
During President Bush’s State of the Union Address, he announced a global effort to combat HIV/AIDS. This $15-billion, 5-year emergency initiative is targeted at African and Caribbean countries to provide treatment, prevention, and humane care for those afflicted with HIV/AIDS as well as orphaned children. 

During the 107th Congress, the Democrats were pushing a similar initiative but with a very liberal spin.  Once it became a Presidential priority, conservatives had to make lemonade from this lemon of a bill.  Conservatives were successful in adding some important provisions to direct the bill, known as the United States Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Act of 2003 (H.R. 1298), away from just another funding stream for the left. 

During committee consideration in the House, Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) successfully included an amendment requiring grant recipients to have an explicit policy opposing prostitution and sex trafficking.  Even though his amendment failed during the committee, Rep. Smith also won approval by voice vote during floor consideration so that organizations are not required to endorse, utilize, or participate in a HIV/AIDS prevention method or treatment program to which the organization has a religious or moral objection.

As for HIV prevention efforts, the Administration highlighted the successful Uganda “ABC” model, instead of the typical condom airlift approach.  The “ABC” model prioritizes abstinence, being faithful to a monogamous partner, and only as a last resort, condoms. Despite USAID Administrator Andrew Natsios stating that the ABC model is American policy, codifying abstinence as a priority in the law narrowly failed in the International Relations Committee.  During floor consideration of H.R. 1298, Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA) offered an amendment to ensure that at least 33 percent of HIV prevention dollars (as part of direct U.S. aid) are used for abstinence-until-marriage programs. The amendment passed 220 to 197 (House Roll Call Vote 157).  Twice, Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) offered amendments to eliminate the designated abstinence funding, but she failed both times (45 to 52 on Senate Roll Call Vote 180, 45 to 47 on Senate Roll Call Vote 430). 

The prostitution language, religious protections, and abstinence funding survived the conference committee and were included in the final bill signed by the President.


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