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Legislative Update for January 4, 2013

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The new Members of Congress were sworn into office on Thursday, January 3.The House also re-elected Rep. John Boehner as Speaker and Nancy Pelosi as Minority Leader.Click here to see how your representative voted.On January 4, the House and Senate met for a Joint Session of Congress to count the electoral votes for president and vice president.The official tally was 332 electoral votes for President Obama/Vice President Biden and 206 votes for Gov. Romney/Rep. Paul Ryan.

Fiscal Cliff:

Early on New Year’s Day, the Senate passed H.R. 8, the American Taxpayer Relief Act, legislation that “averts” the fiscal cliff by “preventing tax increases on most, but not all, Americans and small business owners.

The Senate bill includes the extension of all Bush tax cuts for all individuals earning less than $400,000 and couples earning less than $450,000. It provides some families with relief from the marriage penalty, extends the child tax credit and the adoption tax credit, and extends the charitable giving deduction for two years.

In addition, many special interests get goodies as well. It extends the farm bill for one year, ensures that physicians’ reimbursement rates for Medicare patients are not cut, provides a five-year extension of the stimulus tax credits, and provides renewable energy incentives. Also buried in this bill is a provision that allows film and television producers to expense the first $15 million of production costs incurred in the United States for two years ($20 million if the costs are incurred in economically depressed areas in the United States).

However, this legislation merely forestalls for a couple of months the tough decisions our leaders need to make. The Senate bill, while raising taxes, delays the automatic spending cuts in the sequester for two months, and it postpones debate on the debt ceiling.

The Congressional Budget Office has scored the Senate bill as increasing spending by $332 billion.

The House initially looked like it was going to act boldly and amend H.R. 8 to address the spending issues now and not save them for the new Congress. Regrettably, the House shunned its leadership responsibility to the American people and passed the Senate bill on a vote of 257-167.


The Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Reporting Act of 2012 (SAFER Act), S. 3250, will help law enforcement process the backlog of rape kits. In today’s fiscal climate, it will strengthen the Debbie Smith Act by eliminating the testing backlog without spending any additional money.

There are estimates that 400,000 rape kits sit untested in labs and on police storage shelves across the nation.Without this legislation, criminals remain on the streets able to commit other rapes.Victims are denied justice. This legislation facilitates the testing and reporting of this important evidence which will prevent additional crimes and provide rape victims with closure.

The SAFER Act also increases the amount of money spent directly on testing these rape kits. It requires that 75% of the Debbie Smith funds be used to analyze untested DNA evidence from crime scenes or to enhance the capacity of the labs to test it. Currently, only 40% of the funds appropriated for this purpose are actually used.

According to a committee report on the Fiscal Year 2012 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations bill, Debbie Smith funds were misspent on activities such as polling firms, colleges and universities, and cell phone technology components, instead of spending these funds to test sexual assault and crime scene evidence. The SAFER Act will ensure that taxpayer money allocated to the rape kit backlog is not squandered.

Thanks to Concerned Women for America Legislative Action Committee’s (CWALAC) push, this legislation passed the Senate by unanimous consent on December 30, and a different version passed the House on January 2.CWALAC tried unsuccessfully to get the Senate to agree to the House changes before the clock ran out.We are working with our friends on Capitol Hill to get this legislation through the House and Senate early in the 113th Congress.

Filibuster Reform:

The Senate minority is in danger of being silenced. Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nevada) is attempting to change the Senate filibuster rules to limit Republicans’ ability to block legislation.

Currently in the Senate, if a bill does not have unanimous consent, Sen. Reid must file a motion to proceed to bring it to the floor for debate. This requires a 60-vote threshold. Sen. Reid thinks this process, which is a part of the Senate, needs to be changed so he and his cronies can advance their liberal agenda.

His tactic to eliminate the filibuster is ironic, considering that since he has become Majority Leader, he has implemented his own strong arm tactics to silence opposition. Reid routinely denies Republicans the opportunity to offer amendments to legislation on the Senate floor. He has used a Senate procedure known as “filling the amendment tree” more than his six immediate predecessors combined.

In order to protect conservatives in the Senate, Reid cannot be allowed to change the filibuster rules. Please call your senators today and urge them to oppose Reid’s efforts. To find your senators’ contact information, please click here.