Democratic priorities in Congress
By The Associated Press November 8, 2006
Some priorities set by Democrats in Congress:
--Military: Force an immediate drawdown of troops in Iraq and conduct oversight hearings on missteps on the war.
--Intelligence: Increase attention given to emerging terrorist threats in Africa and Southeast Asia and devote more resources to North Korea and Iran. More oversight of terrorism and government surveillance.
--Homeland security: Boost security for rail and mass transit systems. Tougher oversight of the Department of Homeland Security, potential restructuring of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
--Judiciary: Conduct oversight hearings on treatment of terrorism detainees, domestic surveillance programs and President Bush's use of "signing statements" affecting some requirements in the laws he signs.
--Minimum wage. Pass legislation to raise the minimum wage from the current $5.15 an hour to $7.25.
--Veterans affairs: Increase oversight with detailed budget accountings. More funding for veterans' health care, including additional mental health counseling for vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
--Health: Allow the Medicare program to negotiate directly with drug companies for lower prices. Pass a vetoed embryonic stem cell research bill again. Require insurance companies to provide benefits for treating mental illnesses equal to other medical and surgical benefits.
--Transportation: Consolidate air traffic control facilities. Allow more foreign control of airlines. Limit the number of Transportation Security Administration airport screeners to 45,000. More oversight hearings on the Federal Aviation Administration.
--Taxes: Increase education-based tax breaks. Close the so-called $345 billion tax gap, the estimated amount that people and companies owe but avoid paying each year.
--Trade: Let a law expire that forbids Congress from amending trade agreements negotiated by the president. Create a chief enforcement officer in the office of the U.S. trade representative.
--Energy and environment: Increase incentives for biodiesel, ethanol and other alternative fuels as well as wind, solar, geothermal and other sources of alternative energy. Renegotiate oil and gas leases that waived royalty payments to the government. Impose a national cap on industrial carbon dioxide emissions. Resist Bush's efforts to open more public lands to oil exploration.
--Agriculture: Increase conservation programs and require more corn-based ethanol in motor fuel blends.