What Happened in the 109th Congress, 1st Session?
The 109th Congress was poised to be a banner year for the conservative agenda. With values voters putting President Bush back in the White House and solidifying Republican Senate and House majorities, the time was right for conservative victories. We achieved several major victories by retaining conscience protections for hospitals, preserving the president's authority to deny federal funding to pro-abortion organizations, and preventing a vote on President Bush's guest worker amnesty program.
We look forward to continue working with conservative leaders in Congress, including Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS), chairman of the Senate Values Action Team and Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA), chairman of the House Values Action Team, along with Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN), chairman of the House Republican Study Committee, Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO), chairman of the House Immigration Reform Caucus, and Sen. Jeff Sessions, chairman of the Senate Steering Committee. Encourage your conservative Members to join these caucuses and increase the conservative voice in Congress!
The second session of the 109th Congress will be another opportunity for pro-family activists and leaders to build on our successes. Starting with a contentious confirmation battle for Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito and continuing with border security legislation, you voice will be essential to achieving victories for American families. Be ready to take action in the upcoming session!
Curbing the Courts
Pledge of Allegiance
The Pledge of Allegiance came under fire again when U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton in California ruled on September 14, 2005 that the Pledge's reference to one nation "under God" violates school children's right to be "free from a coercive requirement to affirm God." In response to this supremacist decision, Sen. Jim Talent (R-MO) sponsored a Senate resolution, which passed unanimously, condemning the Ninth Circuit decision.
Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) and Sen. Jim Talent (R-MO) reintroduced the Pledge Protection Act (H.R. 2389/ S. 1046), after the House version successfully passed in the last Congress. This bill would remove jurisdiction from the federal courts and the Supreme Court on issues regarding the Pledge of Allegiance. No votes were taken on this bill, but Eagle Forum will work to pass this legislation in this year's session of Congress.
In response to the outrageous Supreme Court decision in Kelo v. New London, which allows government to seize private property for public purposes, not just public use, the House passed the Private Property Rights Protection Act (H.R. 4128), sponsored by Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) by a vote of 376-38 (Roll Call 568). This legislation prohibits state and local governments from exercising the power of eminent domain for economic purposes.
In Fields v. Palmdale School District, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled on November 2, 2005 that parents' fundamental right to control the upbringing of their children "does not extend beyond the threshold of the school door." In response, the House passed a resolution condemning the decision and calling for the court to rehear the case. Sponsored by Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA), the resolution passed 320-91 (Roll Call 591).
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) inserted his Support Our Scouts Act (S. 642) into the Defense Appropriations bill (H.R. 2863), which passed both houses of Congress and was signed by President Bush on December 30. The legislation prohibits any federal law from being construed to limit support for the Scouts, including the use of federal property, such as the National Scout Jamboree held every four years at Fort A.P. Hill in Virginia.
With two Supreme Court vacancies, President Bush's judicial nominees continued to take center stage in the Senate. Last May, Majority Leader Frist led a showdown with Democrats over the use of the filibuster on judicial nominees. This led to the creation of the Gang of 14, a bipartisan group of Senate moderates agreeing to use the filibuster only in "extraordinary circumstances." This agreement allowed several previously filibustered nominees to be confirmed, including Judges Janice Rogers Brown and Priscilla Owen. However, now these Senators believe they are the arbiters of when using the filibuster on judicial nominees is appropriate.
On July 1, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor announced her resignation from the Supreme Court, contingent upon her replacement being confirmed. President Bush announced U.S. Circuit Court Judge John Roberts as her replacement on July 19. However, on September 3, Chief Justice William Rehnquist died, just days before the Roberts' confirmation hearings were scheduled to begin. The hearings were postponed one week and President Bush elevated Judge Roberts to the Chief Justice slot, for which he was confirmed on September 29 by a vote of 78-22 (Roll Call 245).
On October 3, President Bush nominated White House counsel Harriet Miers to fill the O'Connor vacancy. Her nomination sparked criticism from conservatives, including Eagle Forum, due to her lack of constitutional law experience. Eagle Forum took the lead in questioning her nomination, including giving numerous print, radio, and television interviews and participating in WithdrawMiers.org. After three weeks without a solid defense of her nomination, President Bush announced Miers was withdrawing her nomination due to a conflict with the Senate over internal White House documents.
On October 31, President Bush nominated U.S. Appeals Court Judge Samuel Alito, Jr. to fill the O'Connor vacancy. His nomination hearings begin in January.
Protecting Traditional Marriage
Protecting traditional marriage from supremacist judges remains one of the top political issues facing our country. Eagle Forum advocates a multi-faceted strategy to protect marriage. While a constitutional amendment is ultimately necessary to protect marriage from activist judges, it remains a long process requiring high vote totals in Congress and then ratification by 38 states. Removing jurisdiction from federal courts over the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) provides immediate protection for marriage, as it only requires a majority vote in Congress, while we work for a constitutional amendment.
Rep. John Hostettler (R-IN) re-introduced the Marriage Protection Act (H.R. 1100), which passed the House in the 108th Congress by a vote of 233-194 (House Roll Call 410). This bill removes the jurisdiction of federal courts and the Supreme Court on challenges to the full faith and credit clause use in DOMA, which allows states to define marriage and to determine what marriages they will recognize. We are currently seeking a Senate sponsor for this important legislation, which will be a top priority for Eagle Forum this year.
This year supremacist federal district Judge Joseph Bataillon struck down Nebraska's state constitutional amendment, which passed in 2000 with 70% support of voters. Kansas and Texas also passed state marriage amendments with over 70% voter support bringing the total to 19 states. At least four more marriage amendments will be on statewide ballots in 2006.
This year was a turning point for the immigration issue. We have turned from the defensive to the offensive and achieved major victories in this Congress. President Bush has shifted his rhetoric closer to enforcement and away from guest-worker/amnesty programs due to public outrage over the lack of current enforcement. We will certainly face attempts to force a guestworker/amnesty program on the American people in the 2006 session, but we have the momentum to fight back. Thanks to grassroots activists, Congress is getting the message-secure our borders!
To fulfill the deal brokered in order to pass Intelligence Reform in the 108th Congress, House leadership agreed to allow a vote on Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner's (R-WI) REAL ID Act (H.R. 418) early in the 109th Congress. The House passed REAL ID by a vote of 261-161 (Roll Call 31) and it was later attached to the must-pass Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act (H.R. 1268), which passed the House (Roll Call 77) and the Senate (Roll Call 109) and was signed by the president on May 11, 2005.
The REAL ID Act: 1) prohibits states from issuing driver's licenses to illegal aliens for identification purposes, 2) makes it harder for terrorists to claim asylum in the U.S., 3) makes terrorists deportable for the same offenses for which they would be inadmissible, and 4) calls for the completion of the San Diego border fence.
In a late December session, House leadership felt compelled to pass an enforcement bill to quell grassroots outrage at the lack of immigration law enforcement. Following a high profile speech by President Bush in Arizona, where he renewed his call for a guestworker/amnesty program amidst talk of increased enforcement, the House took up the Border Security, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act (H.R. 4437), sponsored by House Judiciary Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-WI).
The crux of the Sensenbrenner bill is the requirement of employers to verify the Social Security number and work eligibility status of each employee through the Social Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security. The bill also contains increased penalties for alien smugglers and expedited removal processes for other than Mexican (OTM) aliens.
As introduced, this bill lacked many key components to an effective immigration reform bill, including eliminating incentives for illegal aliens to cross the border. The House Immigration Reform Caucus (IRC), led by Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO), lined up to offer dozens of amendments to strengthen the bill. Over 130 amendments were filed, including amendments ending birthright citizenship (Rep. Nathan Deal, R-GA), placing troops on the border (Rep. Virgil Goode, R-VA), prohibiting in-state college tuition for illegal aliens (Rep. Scott Garrett, R-NJ), and prohibiting Social Security benefits for work done illegally (Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-CA), among others.
When rumor spread that House leadership would allow Sense of the Congress language giving the green light to the Senate to pass a guest-worker/amnesty program, the IRC stood boldly and committed to kill the bill if such language were added. Guest-worker/amnesty language was not included and instead the House passed several important amendments:
Hunter Amendment erects 700 miles of security fencing along the southern border.
Goodlatte Amendment eliminates the diversity visa lottery, which admits 50,000
foreigners from mostly Third World and terrorist supporting countries.
Ryun Amendment establishes the Oath of Renunciation and Allegiance as federal law
so that it cannot be changed without an act of Congress.
Norwood Amendment reaffirms local law enforcement's inherent authority to enforce
immigration laws and calls for increased training and resources to assist them in
enforcing immigration laws.
Stearns Amendment prohibits an alien from being granted legal status until all relevant
databases and terrorist watch lists have been checked.
Royce Amendment states that no immigration benefit shall be granted until an FBI
fingerprint check has been completed and results show no criminal or
immigration history that would render the alien ineligible for such benefits.
A Bush Administration-supported amendment to reduce the maximum sentence for illegal entry and illegal presence to six months was defeated 164-257 Roll Call 655. Current penalties remain in place. The House passed the Sensenbrenner bill with the above amendments on December 16 by a vote of 239-182 (Roll Call 661), without any guest-worker/amnesty language. This vote sets the stage for a battle royale with the Senate over guest-worker/amnesty language early in 2006.
Mental Health Screening
In August of 2005, the Administration released its Federal Mental Health Action Agenda (FMHAA) which is the follow up to the New Freedom Commission on Mental Health (NFCMH). The FMHAA does not contain some of the recommendations for problematic programs that the NFCMH did when it was released in 2003. Teen Screen and Texas Medication Algorithm Project (TMAP), both very controversial programs which were model programs under NFCMH, are not included as model programs in FMHAA.
TeenScreen, which is a mental health screening program used widely in the States, has been and continues to be a major focus of concern for parents and conservative activists. Although not included in the FMHAA, SAMSHA has funded millions of dollars of grants to implement TeenScreen in four states Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico and New York.
The New Freedom Commission on Mental Health recommendations for mental health screening have made their way to states such as Illinois, Texas, Indiana, and Minnesota. The Minnesota and Texas bills were fortunately stopped by the informed testimony and grassroots work of Eagle Forum and EdWatch and by other state and national groups.
In October of 2005, conservative and professional associations, including Eagle Forum, met with Mr. Charles Currie, the Administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The issues discussed included: opposition to federally funded mental health screening programs, lack of true informed consent for such programs, concerns over the language in many of the SAMHSA grants to the states, the problems with many of the psychiatric drugs especially used with children, screening of infants and preschool aged children, and the unconstitutionality of having a federal mental health agency in the first place. It was agreed that the groups in attendance would work with SAMHSA to ensure appropriate protections are in place for parents and their children, strengthen consent language and protect medical privacy. A follow-up letter has been sent to SAMSHA discussing these issues and the discrepancies mentioned above.
The House passed H.R. 1790, the Child Medication Safety Act (CMSA) on November 16 by a vote of 407-12 (Roll Call 590). The CMSA requires states, as a condition of receiving funds under any program or activity administered by the Secretary of Education, to develop and implement policies and procedures prohibiting school personnel from requiring a child, as a condition of attending school or receiving services, to obtain a prescription for any specified controlled substance listed under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). The effort now will be to find a Senator to introduce and champion the bill in the Senate.
The President's 2005 budget proposed eliminating funding for numerous controversial education programs within No Child Left Behind. One such controversial program, that conservatives wanted to see eliminated was the Center for Civic Education's (CCE) We the People program (WTP). WTP includes the We The People: The Citizen and the Constitution textbook (the federal curriculum), promotion of the National Standards on Civics and Government, We the People teacher training, and making those programs and products "available" to all schools. Unfortunately, Congress fully funded all of the programs the President wanted eliminated.
The newest federal civics bill (S. 860) was introduced by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) on 4/20/05. Hearings were held in the HELP Committee on 6/30/05. Alexander's S. 860 is the next step in the federal takeover of education and would further extend the power of a special interest group, the Center for Civic Education (CCE), over schools and their civics curricula. S. 860 is being promoted as preserving U.S. History and American founding principles. Instead, just as in Alexander's 2004 legislation to set up federal history and civics "academies," S. 860 will continue to undermine the teaching of our founding principles and extend the CCE's already substantial power over what schools must teach.
On November 18th, 2005, Eagle Forum co-sponsored a Congressional Briefing on Federal Education with EdAction and Gun Owners of America. During the briefing, Allan Quist, Ph.D. from EdAction presented a model bill entitled "Freedom in Education." The Freedom in Education Model Legislation denies federal funds for the development, publishing, advertisement, promotion or distribution of textbooks or curriculum. It requires all questions in federally funded education assessments to be released to the public within three years of being administered. It also says that no federal funds shall be used for cooperative education activities between the Department of Education and UNESCO. The effort now is to find Congressional and Senate offices interested in introducing and championing the legislation.
Building a Culture of Life
Three years ago, the House passed the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act (ANDA) to clarify existing law to make sure that health care entities, such as hospitals and insurance companies, are not required to perform or refer for abortions. Unfortunately, the bill died in the Senate. In 2004, Rep. Dave Weldon (R-FL) and Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL) successfully attached the language to the FY 2005 Consolidated Appropriations bill (H.R. 4818) and it was signed into law on Dec. 8, 2004. This same conscience protection provision (Hyde-Weldon) was included in the FY2006 Labor-HHS appropriations conference report (H.R. 3010). After initially defeating the bill, the House passed it in conference after being earmarked. The Senate passed it by unanimous consent on December 21, and it was signed by President Bush on December 30.
Because Congress has been unable to pass a complete human cloning ban, Rep. Dave Weldon (R-FL) devised another approach to slow down biotech's destructive research. In 2003, the House approved an amendment sponsored by Rep. Weldon to the Commerce-Justice-State appropriations bill, 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. The Weldon language was inserted into the FY 2004 Consolidated Appropriations Bill and signed into law in January 2004. Congress approved prohibiting human patenting in conference in the SSJC Appropriations Bill of 2005 (H.R. 2862), which is set to expire in September 2006.
Every year pro-abortion Members of Congress try to use our servicewomen as a means to further their extremist agenda. Thus far, they have failed each time, and this year was no different. On May 25, Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA) offered an amendment to the Defense Authorization Bill (H.R. 1815) to repeal the prohibition on performing abortions in overseas military hospitals. The amendment was defeated 194-233 (House Roll Call Vote 216).
Title X of the Public Health Service Act funds hundreds of clinics, including Planned Parenthood clinics, which distribute contraceptives to teens without their parents' knowledge or consent. Unlike years prior, Title X funding will decrease to $285,963,000 for FY 2006 which is a -0.005% reduction of $13,736. This is the first step in the right direction, but as long as abortion clinics are being subsidized by Title X, more action is needed in Congress to take away federal tax dollars from Planned Parenthood.
Over the last five years, President Bush has called for more money for abstinence education. Congress has incrementally increased the funding each year. The Labor-HHS Appropriations bill (H.R. 3010) was narrowly approved by the House (215-213), providing $115 million for community-based abstinence education programs, which is an $11 million increase over FY05. In the Senate, Sen. Lautenberg introduced a dangerous medical accuracy clause to the LHHS which was stripped out in negotiations before it went into conference. The Senate passed the conference report without the Lautenberg amendment on December 21 by unanimous consent, and was signed by President Bush on December 30.
The Senate is currently holding up reauthorization for the Welfare Reform Bill which is hindering $50 million from abstinence education.
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 policy. In 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. In this session, pro-abortion forces in the Senate attempted to legislatively strip the President of his authority to deny federal funding to international pro-abortion organizations, but their language was removed from the Foreign Operations bill (H.R. 3057) before it reached the President's desk. The Mexico City Policy remains intact.
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 and 2004, due to UNFPA's continued involvement with the coercive one-child policy. Each year pro-abortion Members attempt to eliminate the President's authority to make this decision. In June, Rep. Carolyn Maloney introduced an amendment to the SSJC Appropriations Bill (H.R. 2862) to make funding available which supports China's coercive one-child abortion policy. It was defeated 192-233 (House Roll Call Vote 266). For the fourth year in a row, the President's authority remains intact.
Through the horrific nature of Terri Schiavo's death by dehydration and starvation in March, Congress passed Terri's Law to allow a federal court review of the case prior to her death. S. 686 was passed and signed by the President on March 21. The House voted 203-58 while the Senate passed it by a voice vote.
In 2001, President Bush announced a policy limiting the use of federal funds for embryonic stem cell research (ESCR), which requires killing a human embryo to harvest its stem cells, to embryos killed before August 9, 2001. Since that time, federally funded ESCR has been permitted on dozens of stem cell lines provided by the National Institutes of Health and privately funded ESCR research continues without restriction.
To date, not one single human patient has been successfully treated with embryonic stem cells. However, adult stem cells (bone marrow, cord blood, and other body cells which do not require killing human life) have been used to treat over 65 diseases in human patients!
In May 2005, the House Leadership agreed to vote on H.R. 810, the Stem Cell Enhancement Act, sponsored by Rep. Mike Castle (R-DE) and Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO), which would overturn President Bush's policy and allow taxpayer dollars to be used to experiment on human embryos abandoned at fertility clinics. Though the bill passed 238-194 (House Roll Call 204), including 50 Republicans, we managed to highlight embryo adoption as a way to save abandoned embryos rather than sacrifice them to researchers. Although the Senate did not vote on H.R. 810, Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN), who had supported the President's policy, disappointed pro-lifers and returned to his original position supporting ESCR and H.R. 810.
In good news, after Democratic Senators placed a hold on the bill for months, the Senate finally passed the Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Act (H.R.2520 / S.1317), which establishes a national cord blood registry. This non-controversial bill, which also passed the House 431-1 (House Roll Call 205), helps meet the need for cord blood treatments. The President signed the bill December 20, 2005.
Violence Against Women Act
The Violence Against Women Act (H.R. 3402), also known as feminist pork, came up for its second reauthorization since its passage in 1994. VAWA is widely known as a feeding trough for radical feminist groups who will receive over $3.9 billion dollars over five years. Despite efforts by many outside groups to defeat VAWA, the House and Senate passed it by voice votes in late December and sent it to President Bush, who signed it on January 5, 2006.
President Bush took another step toward "hemispheric integration" in calling for the passage of the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). A trade agreement with Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic, CAFTA is a dangerous power grab that threatens our national sovereignty. The Senate Republican Policy Committee admitted that CAFTA's purpose is "integrating more closely with 34 hemispheric neighbors thus furthering the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA)." CAFTA will not give us new customers for U.S. goods, since the average citizen in most CAFTA countries lives below the poverty line, but will integrate us with the poverty, corruption, and socialism of the Western Hemisphere.
After hours of arm-twisting tactics, the House passed CAFTA 217-215 (Roll Call 443). The Senate passed CAFTA 54-45 (Roll Call 170) and the President signed it on August 2, 2005. CAFTA will go into effect in January with countries that have met all requirements of the agreement.