Last modified on April 9, 2019, at 04:52

110th United States Congress

The Zogby International Poll reported a "paltry 11 percent rated Congress positively, beating the previous low of 14 percent in July." [1]

The Democratic party which gained control of the U.S. House of Representatives in the 2006 Congressional midterm elections had promised major reforms within the first 100 hours. One reform in particular was lobbying and ethics reform—a key plank in the fall 2006 campaign. Democrats vowed greater openness in the Congressional Appropriations process, and an end to so-called "earmarks," an appropriation designated to spend specific money on a specific project in a specific members district, sometimes designating a specific private business concern to whom the money is to be spent with. Several Republican members had been caught up in so-called earmark scandals, trading money for influence, and this was widely accredited as a key reason why the GOP lost control of the House after a dozen years.


In the first five months of 2007 after the Democratic party took control of Congress, the majority party,

  • Reissued a "blank check" to the President on the Iraq War, which allegedly was opposed by 70 percent [2] in opinion polls and was vociferously opposed by many Congressional candidates in 2006. The bill included an increase in the minimum wage.
  • Successfully renamed six post offices, four courthouses, a national park, and one of the buildings housing the Department of Education in Washington. They also extended the lives of two government commissions, reduced the membership of the Red Cross board of governors from 50 to 20, and authorized construction of 541 feet of road on a flood plain in St. Louis County, Missouri.
  • Kept the government going with two temporary spending bills, completed one appropriations bill which was vetoed, redesignated five Eastern European countries (Albania, Macedonia, Croatia, Georgia and Ukraine) for security aid, and passed a bill on penalties for animal fighting that had passed in the Republican Congress last year.
  • Passed a bill to allow federal funding of stem cell research on lines of stem cells derived from discarded human embryos created for fertility treatments. The bill caused the first veto of Bush's presidency.
  • Passed a bipartisan bill expanding the State Children's Health Insurance Program, increasing coverage by 4 million people by 2012. After a Bush veto, Congress passed a second version which was also vetoed by the President.
  • Passed the appropriations bill to fund the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education for 2008. It was vetoed by the President and did not pass an override.

By mid June 2007, Congressional Approval ratings had hit a new low, with only 23% of the American people expressing approval, worse than President George W. Bush had experienced.[4] The L.A. Times reported Congressional Approval ratings were the lowest in a decade—since the Clinton Impeachment trial.[5]

Earmark reform

A House ethics panel is led by a lawmaker who holds the record for taking the most free travel, while another panel member was implicated in the recent flap over the firing of U.S. attorneys. The earmark process by which so-called "pork barrel" projects are doled out to members by June 2007 saw no major changes. In fact, rules approved the first day in power in January, the Associated Press reported, where being ignored. Rep. David Obey of Wisconsin, Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, instructed members to withhold "earmark requests" until September.

According to the Associated Press, what Obey did ran counter to new rules Democrats promised that would make spending decisions more open. Those rules made it clear that projects earmarked for federal dollars and their sponsors were to be made available to public scrutiny. The rules also require lawmakers requesting such projects to provide a written explanation describing their requests and a letter certifying that they or their spouse would not make any financial gain from them. The greater transparency was intended to lead to more self-discipline on the part of lawmakers.[6] Two weeks later, a group called Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) reported that after a wave of protest from across the political spectrum, Democrats backed down from plans to keep taxpayers in the dark about tens of billions of dollars in congressionally earmarked spending. CAGW President Tom Schatz said “Chairman Obey wanted to stay behind closed doors and play ‘God’ with earmarks, but the taxpayers won this battle for transparency and accountability.” [7]

The legislative journal, The Hill, reported Sen. Carl Levin and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton were the two top Senatorial pork barrel reciepients via the earmark process in 2007.[8]

Tax increases

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell of Michigan announced a proposal for a new carbon tax that would increase the gasoline tax by 50 cents. In addition to raising the gasoline tax, Dingell’s new proposal would institute a “double digit” tax on each ton of carbon dioxide emitted.[9]

The Wall Street Journal reported in April House Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel effectively declared the death of Reaganomics in America. Democrats have come up with an idea to slow the 17 million middle class Americans subject Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). Changes in the AMT rate, and the treatment of dividends and capital gains, still leaves the budget at least $600 billion short of paying for the AMT fix. House Democrats have acknowledged that to close this final gap, they will have to consider raising personal income taxes.

The top AMT rate would increase to 31.5% from 28%. Democratic tax experts also recommend eliminating the lower rate for capital gains and dividends for those subject to the AMT. This would raise the capital gains tax rate to about 31% from its present 15% rate.[10]

Other Congresses

See also


  1. Reuters/Zogby Poll, Septermber 19, 2007.
  2. The entire government has failed us on Iraq, Keith Olbermann, MSNBC Countdown, May 24, 2007.
  3. Panel softens lobbying bill provisions, By Alexander Bolton, The Hill, May 17, 2007.
  4. Democratic Congress shows cracks, By Donald Lambro, The Washington Times, June 18, 2007.
  5. Approval of Congress lowest in a decade, By Noam N. Levey, L.A. Times, June 12, 2007.
  6. House Keeps Pet Projects From Scrutiny Andrew Taylor, Associated Press, June 03, 2007.
  7. Obey Lost - Taxpayers Won!, Citizens Against Waste in Government Press Release June 15, 2007.
  8. Clinton can boast wealth of earmarks, By Roxana Tiron and Ilan Wurman, The Hill, June 13, 2007.
  9. Dingell to propose 50 cent gasoline tax increase, By Chris Good, The Hill, July 07, 2007.
  10. $650 Billion Tax Hike, Stephen Moore, Op-Ed, The Wall Street Journal, 4/30/07.

External links