March 3, 2006
I recently returned from a fact-finding mission to Africa led by House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, where I traveled to Khartoum, Sudan as well as the Darfur region of Sudan. As most of you know, I have been working tirelessly to call attention to the atrocities occurring in that country. Congress and President Bush have correctly characterized the horrific acts taking place in the Darfur region of Sudan as genocide. I believe that the United States has a moral obligation to do everything possible to stem the tide of unspeakable violence. We are now witnessing an increase in violence and unrest in neighboring Chad. Literally millions of innocent people are in grave danger.
While in Sudan, I met with government officials in Khartoum, Sudan, including Vice President Ali Osman Mohamed Taha. I expressed my outrage at the actions of the Sudanese government toward their own citizens and demanded that the government stop the violence in Darfur. During the meeting, Vice President Taha admitted that his government provided funding to the Janjaweed to wage war on the people of Darfur. The Janjaweed are armed militias of the government of Sudan. Vice President Taha also expressed resistance to the prospect of United Nations troops participating in peacekeeping efforts in Darfur. While we were in Sudan, President Bush called for the doubling of peacekeeping troops in Darfur. I strongly urge the President to fully support and participate in any peacekeeping mission to Darfur. A large number of troops to protect civilians are desperately needed now.
We also met with relief workers and traveled to Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps in Darfur, hearing firsthand accounts of the genocide. It was a heartbreaking experience to meet so many people who have lost loved ones to violent acts, lost homes and watched their villages get wiped out. It hardened my resolve to do everything I can to improve the lives of the Sudanese people. Hundreds of thousands of innocent people have been murdered in Sudan and millions more driven from their homes. This is happening with the full knowledge and active support of the Sudanese government and is, quite simply, a moral outrage.
A Reader Suggestion
One of our subscribers suggested that we provide explanations for certain legislative terms that are not widely used beyond Capitol Hill, in case some readers are not familiar with them. He offered the term "suspension bill" as an example. We thank him for the suggestion and will incorporate definitions in the future. Please feel free to send along any suggestions you have for making our regular e-update more useful to you. We welcome your feedback.
This is a good week to report on suspension bills because the House considered a number of them on Tuesday and Wednesday. A suspension bill is considered non-controversial legislation and, as a result, is not required to undergo the typical review. Unlike other bills, it does not have to first be considered by a committee, or go through the Rules Committee before becoming eligible for floor consideration. However, it must pass by a 2/3 majority. If it passes by less than that, it is sent back to committee. Most suspension bills pass by "voice vote" which means that a roll call vote is not requested. This week, the House considered the following suspension bills:
S. 449 A bill to facilitate shareholder consideration of proposals to make Settlement Common Stock under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act available to missed enrollees, eligible elders, and eligible persons born after December 18, 1971, and for other purpose
H.R. 1096 Act Commemorating the LITE, or Lifetime Innovations of Thomas Edison
H.R. 1728 French Colonial Heritage National Historic Site Study Act of 2005
H.Res. 677 Recognizing the creation of the NASCAR-Historically Black Colleges and Universities Consortium
H.Res. 668 Celebrating the 40th anniversary of Texas Western's 1966 NCAA Basketball Championship and recognizing the groundbreaking impact of the title game victory on diversity in sports and civil rights in America
H.R. 2872 Louis Braille Bicentennial -- Braille Literacy Commemorative Coin Act
H.R. 1259 To authorize the President to award a gold medal on behalf of the Congress, collectively, to the Tuskegee Airmen in recognition of their unique military record, which inspired revolutionary reform in the Armed Forces
H.Con.Res. 316 Raising awareness and encouraging prevention of stalking by establishing January 2006 as "National Stalking Awareness Month"
H.Res. 357 Honoring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor
H.Con.Res. 335 Honoring and praising the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People on the occasion of its 97th anniversary
Recent House Votes
Roll call votes were requested on several of the suspension bills listed above, and the House began consideration of H.R. 4167: the Food Uniformity Act, with a vote on the rule and an hour of general debate. H.R. 4167 requires the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to establish national standards for food safety labeling and would supersede any existing state regulations. The rule for a bill establishes the parameters of debate, including length of time. Any members wishing to offer amendments must first have them accepted for consideration by the Rules Committee. If rejected, then the member is not permitted to offer the amendment on the floor. Before moving to general debate on a bill, members must vote on the rule. If the rule fails, the bill goes back to committee. Additional votes on H.R. 4167 will take place next week.
The issue of port security has dominated the news lately and many are deeply concerned about the prospect of a foreign government overseeing port operations. I share you concerns and am working to learn as much as possible about the Bush Administration's deal with Dubai Ports World. I joined my colleagues in urging the President to reconsider allowing Dubai Ports World to oversee operations at certain U.S. ports. We also urged the administration to re-evaluate what this proposal means in terms of protecting our national security and economic interests. I am also very troubled by this administration's continued lack of attention to cargo inspection as it relates to port security. Each year, only a very small percentage of the cargo that arrives at our ports are physically inspected. We have to do better and the Bush Administration must begin to invest adequate resources in cargo inspection.
What's Up For Next Week
Next week, the House will complete consideration of H.R. 4167: the Food Uniformity Act. Additionally, amendments to the USA PATRIOT Act, scheduled for a vote this week, were delayed until next week.