At a time when we were all busy with Christmas cards and letters and last-minute shopping, Santa Claus came early for Americans.
What happened in our nation's capitol this last week will have a positive effect on every U.S. citizen.
Apparently some Republican lawmakers decided it didn’t look so good to continue voting “no” on every piece of legislation, and they are to be commended in helping to pass a strong and beneficial Democratic agenda.
Since you might have missed the full impact of the flurry of activity on Capitol Hill – which some have dubbed “a Christmas miracle” - DemWit presents this CNN recap of what was accomplished by a “not-so-lame duck Congress:”
THE DREAM ACT
In what President Obama called his “greatest disappointment,” the legislation failed a procedural vote in the Senate. The bill would have offered a path to citizenship to some illegal immigrants who entered the U.S. as children.
THE TAX DEAL
Signed into law Friday, 17 December. The compromise worked out by Obama and Senate Republican leaders extended Bush-era tax cuts to everyone for two more years while also extending unemployment benefits for 13 months and reducing the payroll tax by 2 percentage points for a year, all intended to bolster the slow recovery from economic recession. Here's what's in the bill and what it means for you.
UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS EXTENSION
Signed into law Friday, 17 December. The unemployed will get a 13-month extension of the deadline to file for additional unemployment benefits – which go as high as 99 weeks in states hit hardest by job losses. The benefits were part of the brokered tax deal but don't affect everyone: Residents in at least five states won't have access to the same level of unemployment benefits as their peers nationwide because the unemployment rates there are improving. So, according to federal law, the jobless there can't receive checks for as long as those in harder-hit states. Unemployed? Will you benefit?
FOOD SAFETY ACT
Passed by Congress on Tuesday, 21 December, sent to Obama to sign. A major food safety bill that passed the House of Representatives and Senate earlier this year before stalling because of a procedural problem won final approval Tuesday and now goes to Obama to be signed into law. The bill, designed to increase government inspections of the food supply in the wake of recent deadly foodborne disease outbreaks, originally passed with wide support in both chambers after originating in the Senate. However, it needed approval again because it violated a constitutional requirement that bills raising revenue be initiated in the House. The Senate passed its version of the Food Safety Modernization Act on Sunday, and the House voted 215-144 for final approval.
‘DON’T ASK, DON’T TELL’ REPEALED
Signed into law Wednesday, 22 December. Obama signed a bill repealing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy that bans openly gay and lesbian soldiers from the military. Obama promised to repeal the ban during the 2008 presidential election. However, it will take a series of actions to make the policy end, and no one at the Pentagon seems to know when that actual date might be. Over the next several weeks, military officials need to examine and rewrite a series of policies, regulations and directives related to the current law.
Signed into law Wednesday, 22 December. Obama signed a bill that will maintain most funding levels for the federal government for another 10 weeks, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said. Both chambers of Congress agreed on a resolution authorizing government funding through March 4. The previous law funding the government – a so-called continuing resolution – expired at midnight Tuesday.
9/11 FIRST RESPONDERS HEALTH BILL
Passed by Congress on Wednesday, sent to Obama to sign. A compromise bill to provide free medical treatment and compensation to first responders of the September 11, 2001, attack won final approval Wednesday from the House and Senate. The bill has been sent to Obama to be signed into law. And it is one some first responders said they never expected to see enacted – one responder called the passage "bittersweet" and better than any other Christmas gift.
NEW START TREATY
Approved by Congress on Wednesday, 22 December, sent to Obama to sign. The Senate voted Wednesday to approve the new nuclear arms control treaty with Russia. The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or New START, was cleared with the help of solid Democratic support as well as the backing of several Republican senators. The treaty would resume inspections of each country's nuclear arsenal while limiting both the United States and Russia to 1,550 warheads and 700 launchers. It still needs the Russian parliament's approval. Obama signed the treaty with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in April.
SOURCE: CNN. COM
MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY AND HEALTHY 2011!