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Congress Approves Long Term Continuing Resolution

On February 14, the Senate approved, 81-15, a resolution (H.J. Res. 20) to fund government programs for the remainder of the fiscal year after invoking cloture to limit debate, 71-26. No amendments could be offered to the bill following a decision by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to use a parliamentary maneuver known as “filling the amendment tree.” The current continuing resolution (P.L. 109-383) expired February 15. The House passed the measure on January 31 (for a detailed list of appropriations contained in the measure, see The Source, 2/2/07). The President signed the bill into law (P.L. 110-5) on February 15.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) urged her colleagues to vote for the measure and for the cloture motion, saying that failure to do so would result in “painful and unnecessary cuts in housing, law enforcement, and veterans’ health care…we are going to see families across this country lose their housing.” Sen. Murray said that, among other government programs and personnel, air traffic controllers, mental health programs at the Veterans Administration, homeless assistance grants, and the Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women (OVAW) would all face drastic funding losses. She stated that the OVAW “is funded at $382.5 million in our resolution. That is nearly $1 million over their funding of fiscal year 2006, critical dollars for a very important initiative to fight violence against women.” In closing, Sen. Murray said the consequences of not passing the resolution would be “severe for some of our country’s most vulnerable families.”

“I want to spend a few minutes talking about the importance of what we are doing with this bill and why amendments ought to be allowed in order,” said Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK). He said that the bill, which disallowed any earmarks, would strip funding from the Early Diagnosis Grant Program, which was “established by the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Modernization Act. It provides $30 million for grants that will be utilized for states that become eligible to do the testing and the treatment for both mothers and their infants.” Saying that “women, children, and African Americans will be most affected by the termination of this program,” Sen. Coburn contended that the program, which was created in most recent reauthorization of the Ryan White CARE Act (see The Source, 12/08/06), “doesn’t meet any of the criteria that the Senate has defined as an earmark. It is not directed to any specific state, any entity, any location, and does not bypass the statutory award process…It is hogwash to call this an earmark.” He concluded by urging the Senate to “make in order this amendment to restore this money. By not doing so, you walk out of here condemning hundreds of infants, thousands of infants to death, at worst, and a life on medicines for the rest of their life.”

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