During this holiday period, the Senate will hold a series of pro forma session rather than a single, lengthy recess.
I will be one of list of senators who will preside over the Senate during this period. This unusual step will preclude the administration from making “recess appointments” that circumvent the Senate’s responsibility of advice and consent of senior government officials, including judges.
Shortly after the full Congress reconvenes, the President will deliver his State of the Union address followed by his budget for the coming year. As a member of the Senate Budget Committee, I will join with my colleagues to carefully review the proposal and make improvements that best reflect the priorities of Marylanders and all Americans. We’ll also strive to complete work on some unfinished business from 2007, including dedicated funding for the Washington Metro System, expanding healthcare for children (CHIP), guidelines for federal wiretapping through FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act), support for farmers and conservation measures to protect the Chesapeake Bay, payments to physicians and other health care providers who treat Medicare patients, and important funding to support the influx of new jobs and families to Maryland thanks to the Base Realignment (BRAC) recommendations.
More details on the progress of each of these vital issues as legislation progresses through the Senate.
Among the key legislation working through the Senate is the
Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act, which I voted for as a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee. This landmark bill to combat global warming establishes a “cap-and-trade” system for reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. CO2 is one of the principal greenhouse gases.
I am pleased that the bill set to be debated by the full Senate includes my provision dedicating 1 percent of the revenue raised by this bill for mass transit.
In addition, I will continue to pressure the administration and EPA Administrator Johnson to reverse their decision that prohibits Maryland and other states from following California’s stricter emissions guidelines to better protect our local environment. The administration used the signing of an historic energy bill that raised emissions standards as an excuse to stop more than a dozen states from getting tougher. This is unacceptable.
As a member of the Judiciary Committee, I will closely follow the investigation into the CIA’s destruction of interrogation/torture tapes. I’ll also be involved in hearings and legislative activity related to a number of civil and human rights issues. Some of these include: passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA); pushing for floor passage of legislation addressing deceptive practices against voters; ending racial profiling; and finally passing the Matthew Shepard Act, also known as the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act. The Judiciary Committee also will seek to end the gap that exists in access to legal services in civil cases and we will work to restore a balance between prevention and enforcement of juveniles accused of crimes.
I will hold Attorney General Mukasey accountable for the action – or inaction – of his staff, particularly when it comes to mediating within communities touched by hate crimes.
There are many other issues of importance in the coming year. Look for details on education initiatives, healthcare and more in the weeks and months to come.
I wish you and your family a happy and healthy new year filled with peace and laughter.