Another busy year for the Episcopal Public Policy Network has passed and we wanted to let you know what has happened with measures on which we sent out Alerts and you acted. Your phone calls, emails, and faxes are critical to the churchâs efforts to âstrive for justice.â When Congress reconvenes January 20, we will send you information about priority issues for the second session of this Congress. As you will see, many issues remain to be voted on and of course, there are additional ones in the offing.
Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria: Grassroots efforts were key to getting the appropriation increased to $2.4 billion in the Omnibus bill the House has passed and the Senate will vote on when it returns January 20. That is still short of the $3 billion first requested by the President, but more than the $2 billion for FY â04 later requested by the Administration.
Middle East: House Resolution 479, with 32 co-sponsors, and Senate Resolution 279, with six co-sponsors, call on Israeli and Palestinian leaders and the President to seize the opportunity presented by recent Israeli-Palestinian initiatives to move toward a lasting peace in the region. This is an excellent start and efforts will continue over the recess to add co-sponsors.
Nuclear Disarmament: In a small, but not insignificant, victory House and Senate negotiators on the energy and water appropriations bill cut half the funds for the nuclear bunker buster from $15 million to $7.5 million.
Conflict Diamonds: While legislation regarding conflict diamonds has been enacted there is no independent monitoring and no way to investigate a country suspected of violations unless that country agrees to the investigation.
CEDAW: Although over 173 countries have ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the United States is the only industrialized nation not to have done so, the Senate is unlikely to take it up in this session.
Aid for Liberia: The supplemental bill for Iraq which has now been enacted included Sen. Lincoln Chafeeâs amendment to add $100 million for Liberia.
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR): The relatively small amounts of oil that would be recovered, the importance of wilderness space, and respect for the Gwichâin Indian culture (90% of the Gwichâin are Episcopalians) have accounted for key votes against opening up the refuge to drilling â most recently during consideration of Energy legislation.
Energy: While the House passed the Conference Report for H.R. 6, The Energy and Policy Act of 2003, Senate opponents blocked its consideration in December. It could be taken up when the Senate reconvenes. We will continue to oppose it in its present form based on the failure to increase fuel efficiency standards for automobiles and provisions that would exempt oil, gas and coal industries from portions of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act.
Head Start:The House passed H.R. 2210 reauthorizing the Head Start program and radically changing many fundamental features by redirecting funding and oversight to cash-strapped states with no guarantee that those funds would go to Head Start or that states would retain the current high performance standards. The bill also eliminates the existing Head Start prohibition against employment discrimination on the basis of religion. The Senate is expected to consider Head Start reauthorization early in 2004.
Child Care: The House passed H.R. 4, welfare reauthorization that includes increased work requirements for parents moving from welfare to work but no additional funds for child care. Lack of adequate child care had already proven to be a serious problem for parents before the extra work requirements were added. Senate Majority Leader Frist (R-TN) has said he will bring up the reauthorization in February when Senator Snowe (R-ME) is expected to offer an amendment to increase child care funds between $5-7 billion over five years.
Farm Workers: After years of negotiation, farm workers and growers came together on legislation that offers many undocumented farm workers and H-2A guest workers the opportunity to become legal immigrants. The Agricultural Jobs, Opportunity, Benefits and Security Act of 2003, H.R. 3142 and S. 1645, has strong bipartisan support and is expected to come to the Senate floor early in 2004. It should then move to the House where Speaker Hastert has said he supports it.