Key House votes / Session 1
January 12, 2007
This bill would allow the government to negotiate directly with drugmakers for lower prescription drug prices for individuals using Medicare. The bill, which amends the Social Security Act, permits the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate with drug companies on behalf of private insurers that run the drug benefit program for Medicare. This overturns a 2003 law which made private insurers responsible for these negotiations. The bill would require the secretary of Health and Human Services to lead negotiations and report back to Congress in six months. Even with this new legislation in place, pharmaceutical companies are not mandated to lower their prices. The House swiftly passed the bill on Jan. 12, 2007, by a vote of 255-170, with 24 Republicans joining House Democrats. A companion bill has not been offered in the Senate. A similar Senate bill allows the government to negotiate with drugmakers in some instances.
January 10, 2007
This bill would increase the federal minimum wage from $5.15 an hour to $7.25 an hour over two years. It would increase the minimum wage in three increments. Sixty days after enactment, the minimum wage is to be raised to $5.85. A year after that it will be $6.55, and a year after that it will be $7.25. This is the first change to the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 since 1997 when the federal minimum wage was increased from $4.75 to $5.15 an hour. The bill also applies the federal minimum wage to the North Mariana Islands, a territory of the United States. The legislation passed in the House on Jan. 10, 2007, with a vote of 315-116. Every House Democrat voted in favor of the proposal along with 82 Republicans. The Senate version has been stalled because President Bush recommended that tax cuts for small businesses be added to the bill. Senate Democrats lost a 54-43 cloture vote on Jan. 24, 2007 to pass the legislation without tax cuts. The Senate bill now includes $8.3 million in tax breaks even though House Democrats argue constitutional precedents require that tax legislation originate in the House, according to The Washington Post. If the Senate passes its version of the bill, both the chambers will have to reconcile their differences between the two versions.
January 9, 2007
This bill would implement many of the remaining recommendations proposed by the 9/11 Commission in 2004. The almost 300-page bill amends the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to give faster and more efficient funding to first responders. It also boosts federal aid to regions at greatest risk of a terrorist attack. It aims to improve the flow of intelligence between local law enforcement and first responders. It amends existing statutes on weapons of mass destruction to provide greater assistance to countries willing to help the United States fight nuclear proliferation overseas. It also creates an independent civil liberties watchdog group within the executive branch, according to The Washington Post. The bill bolsters cargo security on passenger planes and ships traveling to the United States. Critics say this aspect of the legislation goes too far. The bill requires airlines to physically inspect 100 percent of cargo on passenger planes within three years of the bill’s passage. It also says shippers must inspect all U.S.-bound cargo in overseas ports for radiation within five years. Using existing technology, this change potentially could slow the flow of goods into the United States, skeptics argue. The House left this component intact and passed the measure on Jan. 9, 2007, with a vote of 299-128. However, this portion of the bill could lead to its demise in the Senate. The Bush Administration has said it will not support the current House version of the bill, according to The Washington Post.