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Key Legislation Passed This Week & Headed to President's Desk

The New Direction Congress has been working hard to make progress for the American people on the toughest challenges we face - working together to lessen our dependence on foreign oil, make America safer, strengthen our economy, and restore accountability.

This week, the New Direction Congress is sending four key bills to the President's desk for his signature:

Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act.  This critical bill prohibits health insurance companies and employers from discriminating against people on the basis of genetic test results.  Proponents have been fighting for this bill for 13 years.  It took the New Direction Congress to get this landmark bill to the President's desk.

Ensuring Continued Access to Student Loans Act.  This critical bill will provide students and families with continued, uninterrupted access to federally guaranteed student loans, despite the current credit crisis.  With families with college students now finalizing their financial aid packages for next year, enactment of this bill is urgent.

Highway Bill.  This bill allows the completion of important highway and transit projects outlined in the 2005 highway bill, thereby helping promote 40,000 new, good-paying American jobs in transportation and construction.  Investing in our nation's roads, highways and bridges is one of the best ways to stimulate our weakening economy.   

Omnibus Public Lands Bill.  This critical public lands bill will provide new protections for wilderness, national parks, historic sites and trails, and key water resources from coast to coast. 

In addition, in the next three weeks, it is anticipated that the House will consider landmark housing legislation that could help 1 to 2 million homeowners avoid foreclosure; a final conference report on beefing up Consumer Safety and cracking down on toxic toys from China and other countries; the Defense Authorization bill, which will contain key provisions to ensure that our troops receive the pay and benefits they deserve; and other critical legislation to support our troops and veterans and bring relief to working families struggling to make ends meet.

Since January 2008,  the New Direction Congress has enacted into law such bills as:

Bipartisan Economic Stimulus Bill.  This bipartisan bill puts hundreds of dollars into the hands of more than 130 million American families, including seniors and disabled veterans - who will spend it immediately to reinvigorate the economy; promotes small business investment in plant and equipment; and help creates 500,000 jobs by the end of the year. (signed into law)

Traumatic Brain Injury Act of 2008.   This bill reauthorizes and makes improvements in Traumatic Brain Injury programs, which fund prevention, education, research and services relating to TBI.  The thousands of brain injury survivors who are returning home from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan are joining the 5.3 million similarly afflicted Americans here at home. (signed into law)

Office of Congressional Ethics.  The New Direction Congress has established an historic new Office of Congressional Ethics, within the House of Representatives, providing an independent review of alleged ethics violations by Members of Congress.  (established by H.Res. 895)

Among the many accomplishments of its first year, the New Direction Congress:

  • Enacted a landmark Energy Security bill that cuts America's dependence on foreign oil and increases fuel efficiency standards;
  • Made America safer by implementing the recommendations of the bipartisan 9/11 Commission;
  • Raised the minimum wage for the first time in a decade;
  • Made college more affordable by cutting the cost of student loans;
  • Enacted a ground-breaking Innovation Agenda that makes investments in cutting-edge R&D and prepares our students for the jobs of the 21st century; and
  • Enacted a sweeping Lobbying and Ethics Reform package.

At a time of record gas prices, the New Direction Congress has also taken action in recent months to help American families at the pump and to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.  These steps include:

  • Last week, Speaker Pelosi called on President Bush to suspend purchases of oil for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) temporarily.  At a time of record prices, suspending these government purchases could reduce gas prices by 5 to 24 cents a gallon -- a critical first step for America's families, businesses, and the economy.  
  • On April 25, the New Direction Congress called on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to enforce the law and investigate record gas prices and possible market manipulation.  Under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, the FTC has the authority, but to date has failed to exercise this power to protect consumers from skyrocketing energy costs.
  • Speaker Pelosi has also urged President Bush to support two key bills that have passed the House in 2007 and that would bring down the costs of gas:  a bill to crack down on oil price gouging and a bill to hold OPEC accountable for oil price fixing.
  • In February, the House passed legislation to bolster renewable energy in America.  It (H.R. 5351) would redirect taxpayer subsidies from oil companies already earning record profits to clean renewable energy--making America less dependent on foreign oil, strengthening our national security, and lowering energy prices in the long-term.  These provisions will save more than 100,000 jobs in the renewable energy sector, and are vital to creating hundreds of thousands more.