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The Planet
March 1999 Volume 6, Number 2

House Flunks First Environmental Test

In the first environmental votes of the 106th Congress, the House rejected two amendments designed to protect major federal environmental laws, then passed H.R. 350, the Mandates Information Act, which would allow Congress to sink key programs without having to vote against them directly.

"These votes tell us that this Congress is against open debate and afraid of being held accountable for voting against the environment," said Carl Pope, Sierra Club executive director.

If H.R. 350 becomes law, any member of Congress could raise a "point of order" against any program that would impose costs greater than $100 million on the private sector. Then members of Congress would vote on the "point of order" - not the program itself - allowing them the opportunity to claim they didn't directly oppose the environmental program. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) offered as an amendment to H.R. 350, the "Defense of the Environment Act." It would require full and open debate and vote on any legislation that would undercut environmental safeguards and public-health protections. Waxman's amendment would also prevent the use of backdoor legislative gimmicks, like riders, that hide anti-environmental votes from the public.

Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.) also introduced an amendment to H.R. 350 that would have eliminated the point of order provision.

H.R. 350 passed by a vote of 274-149. The Waxman and Boehlert amendments failed by votes of 216-210 and 216-203, respectively.

Click here to find out how your representative voted.

Go on to the next page, "Letters to the Editor."
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