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Monday, January 24, 2005

Expanding Opportunity to All Americans

Posted by Bob Brigham


Senate Democrats open the 109th Congress steadfastly committed to keeping the promise of America, the promise that all Americans who work hard can build a stronger and brighter future for their families. It is the promise of opportunity so that every American can get the education they need to compete in the 21st century; live in an economy with well paying jobs and high quality health care; and participate in our democracy.


S. 14: Expanding Economic Opportunity. Democrats understand that the most effective means of increasing opportunity for our families is a high quality, good paying job. Democrats will fight to restore overtime protection to 6 million workers and increase the minimum wage for 7.4 million workers. We must do more to create good jobs today and in the future and the Democratic bill does so by eliminating tax incentives for companies that take jobs overseas, creating new jobs through an expansion of infrastructure programs to repair America’s backbone, and encouraging innovation in the American economy. We are also determined to pursue a trade policy that protects American workers and addresses our record trade deficit. Democrats will work to strengthen enforcement of our trade agreements while assisting those workers who have been unduly burdened by unfair trading practices of other nations.


Democrats understand that the most effective means of increasing opportunity for our families is a high quality, good paying job. We are committed to expanding economic opportunity to all Americans and investing in America to create the new jobs of the future.

Ensure Fair Wages for America’s Workers. This Administration has denied the availability of overtime wages to some of the workers who need it most. This bill restores that availability to 6 million workers. The existing minimum wage is no longer a livable wage. S. 14 would increase the Federal minimum wage over the next two years. Finally, the bill supports relief for multi-employer pension plans, which are used predominantly by small businesses to provide pension benefits to an estimated 9.7 million American workers.

End Tax Break for Companies Exporting Jobs. The tax code allows companies that earn income in foreign countries to defer paying tax on these profits until they are brought back to the United States. This quirk in the tax code provides a tax incentive for companies to move U.S. production facilities abroad, even if the eventual market for their products remains in the United States. Democrats will eliminate this loophole by requiring companies to pay tax immediately on the profits they earn abroad, but only with respect to products that are imported back into the United States. Companies that locate production facilities abroad for the purpose of serving those foreign markets would not be affected by this change.

A Marshall Plan to Improve Traditional and High-Tech Infrastructure. Across America thousands of infrastructure projects - from our smallest rural communities to our biggest cities - await the capital to move forward. Investing in our nation’s roadways and waterways would improve our quality of life and protect public health and safety. Equally important, it would create a huge boost for our economy - creating 47,000 well paying American jobs for each billion dollars in investment. America continues to fall behind our competitors in access to broadband internet service. Most of the communities lacking service are in rural and economically-distressed areas of the country. S. 14 expands broadband availability to these areas by allowing broadband service providers to immediately deduct one-half of the cost of their investment in equipment to provide current generation broadband access to rural and underserved areas.

Strengthen and Restore American Innovative Strength through Commitment to Research, Science and Technology. Research and development results in higher quality jobs, better and safer products and higher productivity among American businesses. U.S. economic strength is dependent on its leadership in science and technology, and the U.S. is losing ground to foreign competitors. The U.S. needs to re-commit itself to the value of public investment in research and development, which is being outpaced by investment in the private sector. This bill makes permanent a tax credit for entities that increase their research activities and makes a credit available to consortia of entities that research collaboratively. The bill also expresses support for legislation that will increase federally funded research at the National Science Foundation, the Office of Science at the Department of Energy, the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute of Science and Technology so we can better compete in the international economy, as well investment in math, science and technology programs at our secondary education institutions.

Enforce Our Trade Agreements and Maintaining Level Playing Field. Democrats are determined to pursue a trade policy that protects American workers and addresses our record trade deficit. This bill requires the Administration to identify the most important export markets that remain closed to U.S. products and provides the tools needed to open them. It also creates the office of Chief Enforcement Negotiator, whose sole responsibility will be to police our trading partners’ performance of their obligations. This bill will force China to stop manipulating its currency and force China to choose between revaluing its currency to its market value or facing a tariff on all Chinese imports to the United States equal to the unfair trade advantage China currently enjoys.

Retrain Workers Displaced by Trade. Trade Adjustment Assistance has helped thousands of manufacturing workers get retraining, keep their health insurance, and make a new start. This bill will expand TAA to cover service workers who lose their jobs to offshoring. This bill will help rebuild communities hurt by outsourcing by integrating political and economic organizations and coordinating Federal, State, and local resources to develop a new plan and a new future for the people who live in them. Unemployed workers learning new skills can not stick with their training if they do not have effective health coverage. This bill allows them to complete their training by offering an effective health benefit.

Define a Ceiling for the U.S. Trade Deficit and Foreign Debt. The United States is now the world’s largest debtor nation, and risks serious consequences if its trade deficits continue unabated. While Congress has set a ceiling on the national debt, it has set no limit on the U.S. foreign debt, nor on the annual trade deficits that feed it. S. 14 will change that. Whenever the overall foreign debt reaches 25 percent of our GDP, or when the annual trade deficit reaches five percent of GDP, the Administration would be required to convene an emergency interagency meeting, and provide Congress with a trade deficit reduction plan to lower debt levels below the statutory ceiling.

S. 15: Quality Education for All. Democrats are committed to providing a quality education to all Americans because we recognize that education has always been the cornerstone of equal opportunity. Democrats will keep our promise to our children by increasing support for pre-school education, fully funding No Child Left Behind and improving its implementation. We are committed to providing safe and reliable transportation for our rural school children and meeting the Federal commitment to children with disabilities. Democrats will also address the shortfall of math, science and special education teachers by creating tuition incentives for college students to major in those fields. We will help expand educational opportunities for college by providing relief from skyrocketing college tuition, increasing the size and access to Pell Grants and supporting proven programs that encourage more young people to attend and succeed in college.


Democrats are committed to providing a quality education to all Americans because we recognize that education has always been the cornerstone of equal opportunity. Democrats will keep our promise to education at all levels, from pre-school to college. We are determined to expand access to a high quality education for all Americans.

Strengthen Head Start and Child Care Programs. Children that participate in Head Start and Early Head Start enter elementary school ready to learn. Democrats will acknowledge and support the Head Start program by allowing poor families up to 130% of the poverty line to participate; improving school readiness of Head Start children by strengthening activities to promote social, emotional, physical, and cognitive development; requiring teachers to have a college degree within the next 8 years and that within the next 3 years, all new teachers must have an AA or be enrolled in a program leading to an AA degree; requiring teachers to receive on-going literacy training; and targeting the use of quality funds to promote early childhood development in addition to safety.

Provide Safe, Reliable Transportation for Rural School Children. Many rural local educational agencies do not have safe and reliable buses and lack the resources to buy new buses or retrofit the ones they have. This leaves children no choice but to ride in outdated, unsafe buses. This bill creates a federal program for rural school districts to purchase new buses so that they can retire substandard buses. It establishes a 75% to 25% federal to local match, and authorizes $50 million for 2006 and such sums as may be necessary for 2007 through 2010.

Fulfill Our Obligation to Children With Disabilities. Improving educational results for children with disabilities is an essential element of national policy. Congress passed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Reauthorization in the 108th Congress, which called for the federal government to honor its commitment to the States by providing 40% funding for the excess cost of special education. S. 15 calls for the federal government to fulfill its obligation to the states and approximately 6.5 million children by appropriating the funds authorized in the law by 2011.

Improve Elementary and Secondary Education. The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) created unintended consequences for school districts nationwide. Due to the rigidity of the law’s requirements, many schools had difficulty implementing the mandate which was exacerbated by continual underfunding. S. 15 recognizes that NCLB can – and should – be improved. This bill makes improvements in the areas of supplemental services, highly qualified teachers and paraprofessionals, and recalculation of annual yearly progress (AYP). Democrats will provide the additional resources that will help our schools work with the nearly 4.1 million students, or 8.5 percent of our nation’s public school students, who are English language learners. The bill also provides full funding of Title I resources for local school districts that help disadvantaged students succeed academically. The bill also includes a Sense of the Senate Resolution to fully fund Title I: $22.75 billion in FY06 and $25 billion in FY07.

Address the Need for Math, Science and Special Education Teachers. Democrats recognize that math, science and special education teachers are becoming scarce. This bill creates a tuition-free program for future teachers in these fields. Democrats will make public college effectively tuition free for future math, science, and special education teachers.

Provide a Roadmap for First Generation and Low-Income College Students. Democrats will continue to support the opportunity of a college education. The bill provides additional funding to TRIO, a program that helps low-income, first-generation college student attend and complete college, and GEARUP, a program created to help lower-income students consider and prepare early for college. These are two of the most important and successful support systems for aspiring students and the budget should not be balanced on their backs. This legislation authorizes funding for TRIO at $1 billion and GEARUP at $400 million.

Provide College Tuition Relief for Students and Their Families. The Department of Education changed the eligibility determination for Pell Grants via tax tables in the dead of night. The new formula will purge about 90,000 students from the rolls. This bill provides a hold harmless component on the Administration’s change to the tax table determination and restores the formula for Pell Grants, saving 1.3 million students from receiving decreased funding. Democrats will also increase the maximum Pell Grant award to $5,100 starting in FY2006. Democrats are also committed to helping students succeed and graduate. The legislation authorizes $500 million to create a Summer Pell Demonstration Program to facilitate the ability of low-income students to complete their degree within 150% of the expected time.

Making College Affordable for All Students. Democrats are determined to expand the opportunity of college and will do so by increasing access to HOPE and Lifetime Learning tax credits. The bill makes these two credits refundable. We will also triple the maximum college tuition deduction to $12,000 and make the deduction permanent. Democrats also understand the difficult burden that college loan payments place on recent graduates and their families. Democrats will create a tax credit for student loan interest expenses. The credit is targeted to low and middle-income families and increases the current tax benefit for the average family from $375 to $1,500.

S. 16: Making Health Care More Affordable. Spiraling health care costs are putting the opportunity of America at risk, making it harder for families to buy health insurance and placing a difficult burden on small businesses and manufacturers. Democrats will address these concerns by making prescription drugs more affordable through the legalization of prescription drug reimportation and more safe by ensuring drugs are monitored after they are approved for use. Democrats will ensure that all children and pregnant women will have health care and protect Medicaid. We will reduce the growing cost of health care to small businesses by offering tax credits while also modernizing health care to cut costs for patients and businesses.


Spiraling health care costs not only make it harder for families to buy health insurance and seniors to afford their prescriptions but these soaring costs weaken our economy by burdening small businesses and making American manufacturers less competitive. Democrats are committed to addressing the rising cost of health care with commonsense measures that will provide relief to businesses and families.

Make Prescription Drugs More Affordable. S.16 makes prescription drugs more affordable by legalizing the safe importation of FDA-approved prescription drug from other industrialized countries where they are more affordable. The bill also addresses the safety of prescription drugs and provides for better monitoring of drugs after they are approved for use.

Make Health Care Affordable For Children and Pregnant Women. This legislation would provide coverage to all children and would increase coverage for pregnant women. It also affirms Democrats’ commitment to protect the Medicaid program that provides coverage to more than 40 million Americans.

Provide Small Businesses Relief. S. 16 will provide small businesses relief by offering tax credits to help small employers provide coverage for their employees. The bill would create 25 pilot programs to build on the innovation of several programs across the country that help small employers cover their employees.

Modernize Health Care. This legislation would cut costs and improve care by increasing the use of information technology and assuring patients have electronic medical records. This bill would help in reducing medical errors which contribute to 98,000 deaths each year.

S. 17: Democracy Begins at Home. Equal opportunity in this country is based upon equal representation and fair voting. Democrats are determined to reforming the voting system in this country to create Federal standards for our elections. The bill adds verification, accountability and accuracy to the system. It increases access to the polls with Election Day registration, shorter lines and early voting. The bill also aims to modernize our election equipment and increase impartiality and provides the resources to our states to implement the bill.


Democrats are united in our effort to making voting reform a reality for all Americans. It is time for the opportunity of a fair and transparent voting system to be available to every voter. The Help America Vote Act made important steps forward and now it is time to continue to make reforms that will ensure each voter gets the opportunity to vote and all votes are counted.

Voter Verified Ballots. All voters must be able to ensure that their vote is accurately recorded. The bill requires that all voting systems used in Federal elections provide a voter verified ballot that is fully accessible to the disabled and ensures privacy and independence.

Election Day Registration. The bill requires each state to adopt Election Day registration procedures for Federal elections.

Uniform and Nondiscriminatory Standards 1for Counting Provisional Ballots. The bill requires that states count any otherwise eligible provisional ballot if cast anywhere in the state.

Shorter Lines at the Polls. Numerous and often widespread reports of long lines at the polls hinder the voting process. The bill requires states to meet Election Assistance Commission (EAC) mandatory standards that establish a minimum number of voting systems and poll workers which must provide geographic distribution.

Create a National Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot. The bill creates a National Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot (NFWAB) for Federal office that every and any eligible voter is entitled to cast from anywhere inside or outside the United States and requires the NFWAB be counted without regard to which polling place, precinct, local unit of government, state, or country the NFWAB is cast in.

Accurate and Transparent Voting Rolls. The bill requires states to provide public notice of all proposed purged names from voting rolls 60 days in advance of a Federal election. It also prohibits states from purging names of voters from the list without specific notice provided in accordance with National Voting Rights Act (NVRA).

Establish Early Voting. The bill requires states to establish early voting periods for a minimum of fifteen calendar days prior to a Federal election, with uniform mandatory Saturday hours, and a minimum of four hours per day, including Saturdays.

Investigate a Federal Election Day Holiday. The bill requires the Election Assistance Commission to study and make recommendations for a national voting holiday within six months of enactment of this Act.

Upgrade Voting Machines and Improve Ballot Designs. The bill requires punch card voting systems to provide in-person notice of over-votes and prohibits central count optical scan systems from meeting the voter verification requirements through an education system to ensure all votes are counted.

Create Uniform and Inclusive Voter Registration Standards. This bill 1establishes the right of a citizen to use the Federal voter registration form under NVRA to register to vote in Federal elections and directs the EAC to issue a revised form that requires a mandatory affidavit/signature attesting to both citizenship and age.

Establish Fair and Uniform Voter ID Rules. This bill expands the means for establishing voter identification to allow a voter to execute a written affidavit attesting to their identification.

Impartial Election Administrators. The bill requires notice provisions, public statements, and other transparency/accountability measures with regard to election administrators, changes in state election laws prior to Federal election,; modifications to polling places, and denial of requests by international and other non-partisan observers for access polling places.

Increase Funding to States. The bill provides additional appropriations to states for the requirement grant payments to meet the new requirements included in this bill.

Democrat's Promise

Posted at 11:33 AM in 2006 Elections, 2006 Elections - House, 2006 Elections - Senate, Activism | Technorati


Some good stuff here ... I always ask, "what are the speicifc proposals, and how can they be communicated?" Will health care for all children and mothers be a centerpiece of the 2006 campaign and then be passed as legislation? National elections standards -- with early voting -- would be a great. Its a start ... the message itself doesn't sound new, though, and some of the headings (quality education for all) sound like slogans.

Sounds like Dems can get a lot of play from ideas such as pragmatism (the republicans as slaves to ideology); duty (not lying to the people, not being profit-hungry) and responsibility (not creating huge deficits). A little bit of emphasis on responsbility would help justify things like insuring all children, balancing budgets, protecting the environment ...

Posted by: Marc at January 24, 2005 02:26 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment