108th Congress Mid Session Update

July 20, 2004


Funding for Global HIV/AIDS Pandemic: Thanks to intense grassroots pressure (particularly from the religious community), House and Senate budget negotiators increased the recommended funding level for global HIV/AIDS programs in the Congressional budget blueprint. While this was a welcome development, the actual funding for these programs will be debated later this year.
Legislation to Protect Orphans and Vulnerable Children: In an important victory in the effort to aid orphaned and vulnerable children worldwide, particularly those orphaned by HIV/AIDS, the House in June unanimously passed bipartisan legislation (H.R.4061) to establish a comprehensive response to the international orphans crisis. Similar efforts are underway in the Senate.
Sudan: Both chambers of Congress in May passed legislation – backed by the Episcopal Church – urging the U.S. and the international community to take all steps necessary to end the humanitarian disaster in Darfur in Western Sudan. In June, Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold wrote to President Bush to urge that the violence be recognized as genocide under international law, a step that would require the U.S. and the international community to employ all means necessary to end the violence.
Nuclear Disarmament: Unfortunately, amendments to curb funding of two new nuclear-weapons initiatives fell narrowly short of victory in both chambers of Congress this spring. Additional votes are expected in either or both chambers by the end of this summer (Click here to take action).



Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR): The relatively small amounts of oil that would be recovered from the region, the importance of wilderness space, and respect for the Gwich’in Indian culture (90% of Gwich’in are Episcopalians) have led the Episcopal Church to vigorously oppose the Administration’s attempts to drill for oil in the Arctic. Thanks to grassroots pressure, an important victory was achieved in June when the House leadership had to remove an energy bill from the floor after failing to line up the votes for drilling in the Arctic.
Assault-Weapons Ban: The federal ban on assault weapons is set to expire in September unless Congress takes action to extend it. President Bush has said he would sign an extension of the ban, but the administration has applied little pressure to Congress to send the president a reauthorization bill. The leadership of both chambers opposes extending the ban. Despite this, the Senate has taken action to extend the ban, but the House has not followed suit (Click here to take action).
Hate Crimes: In a surprise 65-33 vote, the Senate in June passed legislation that would extend the federal hate crimes law to include crimes based on actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender and disability. The law currently covers race, religion, and national origin.
TANF Reauthorization/Child-Care Funding: As part of the debate on reauthorization of the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families Program (TANF), the Senate in March passed, 78-20, an amendment to increase funding for child care assistance by $6 billion. The House has passed a TANF reauthorization bill that matches the Bush Administration’s requested level of funding for child care, but falls well short of the needed amount. A final reauthorization bill, however, has not yet cleared Congress; both chambers have enacted temporary authorizations through the fall (Click here to take action).