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Congress Sends Defense Authorization to President

This week, both the House and Senate cleared the conference report accompanying the FY2001 defense authorization bill (H.R. 4205), sending the measure to the President. On October 11, the House approved, 382-31, the conference report. The Senate followed suit on October 12, approving the report by a vote of 90-3. The final measure represents a compromise between the House and Senate bills, while including a separate bill (H.R. 3616) to reauthorize the impact aid program within the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

H.R. 4205 does not include Senate-passed language that would have expanded the federal hate crimes statute. As approved by the Senate, the bill would have expanded the federal definition of hate crimes to include sexual orientation, disability, and gender. Another provision that would have required a study on whether states and localities are prosecuting hate crimes and would have authorized $5 million for the Department of Justice to prosecute hate crimes also was not included in the final agreement.

The final bill includes a compromise version of a House-passed provision dealing with women serving on submarines. The final language would require the Navy to notify Congress of its intent to change its current policy prohibiting women from serving on submarines. The Navy would be prohibited from implementing the policy change for 30 days of continuous congressional sessions, which would allow Congress to overrule the Navy’s decision. Under the original language, authored by Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD), Congress would have had 120 days of continuous congressional sessions to overrule the decision.

The final measure retains current law prohibiting privately funded abortions in military facilities overseas. Under current law, DoD covers abortions in domestic and international facilities only if the life of the pregnant woman is endangered. In 1996, the abortion restriction was written into permanent law.

Additionally, the final measure includes several provisions that would affect women-owned businesses. A House-passed provision that would require the Department of Defense (DoD) to study the practice of contract bundling and its impact on small business concerns, including women-owned or controlled businesses, was included in the final agreement. The provision was sponsored by Reps. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) and James Talent (R-MO). A Senate-passed provision that would allow businesses owned or controlled by women to qualify for assistance under the DoD’s Mentor-Protégé Program was also included in the final measure.

Another Senate-passed provision that would make it easier for military men and women serving overseas to qualify for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children by removing housing assistance from the income eligibility requirement was included in the final measure.

In addition to reauthorizing DoD programs, the conference report includes a bill (H.R. 3616) to reauthorize ESEA’s impact aid program. The measure passed the House on May 15 (see The Source, 5/19/00, p. 3), but was not considered by the Senate.

H.R. 3616 would continue a program providing federal funds to school districts that do not receive funding from property taxes, the traditional source of local education funds. Because local governments are unable to collect property taxes in areas such as military bases, tribal lands, low-rent housing, and national parks, impact aid is provided by the federal government to supplement education funds.

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