U. S. PIRG Congressional Scorecard Votes

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Senate Votes 1999

1. Wilderness Preservation/Stop New Roads Through National Wilderness Areas: During consideration of the Emergency Supplemental spending bill to provide financial assistance to victims of devastating spring floods in North Dakota and California (S. 672), Sen. Stevens (R-AK) attached a rider to allow states to pave roads through national parks, monuments, wildlife refuges and wilderness areas, using a 130-year old law known as "R.S. 2477." This rider would have opened the door to thousands of roads across parks and wildlife refuges including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska and newly created Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah. Sen. Bumpers (D-AR) offered an amendment to remove the Stevens rider from the bill. Sen. Stevens offered a motion to table (kill) the Bumpers amendment. Motion to table adopted 51-49 on May 7, 1997. PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: NO

2. Alaska Wilderness/Stop Bulldozing of Road Through Alaska Wilderness: Alaskan Senators Frank Murkowski and Ted Stevens introduced this bill that will bulldoze a road straight through the heart of the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge and Wilderness Area in Alaska. The "King Cove Health and Safety Act of 1997" (S.1092) mandates the construction of an unnecessary 30 mile long highway through critical habitat for millions of migrating waterfowl, including threatened Stellarās eiders, tundra swan and the entire Pacific brant population. The road would cost as much as $30 million to construct and federal highway funds are expected to pay for 90 percent of the construction expenses. The bill passed 59-38 on October 1, 1998. PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: NO

3. Environmental Preservation/Stop Weakening of Land Use Protections: Sen. Hatch (R-UT) introduced a bill, with the assistance of the National Association of Home Builders, that threatened both federal environmental laws and local zoning. This bill would significantly amend most federal environmental laws, allowing polluters another opportunity to challenge long settled federal environmental protection decisions. This bill would also circumvent local land use decisional procedures and give developers a big stick to intimidate local governments who do not have the resources to defend against expensive federal lawsuits. S. 2271 was opposed by the National Governorsā Association, the Dept. of Justice, Attorneys General from 37 states, the National League of Cities, the U.S. Conferences of Mayors, and the U.S. Judicial Conference. Senators Leahy (D-VT) and Chafee (R-RI) led the opposition to this bill. The Senate voted 52-42 on a motion to proceed to consideration of S. 2271 ö short the 60 votes need to cut off debate and bring the bill up for a final vote ö on July 13, 1998. PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: NO

4. National Forests/Cut Timber Industry Road-Building Subsidy: The U.S. Forest Service encourages logging in our national forests through a variety of mechanisms, including building roads so that the timber industry can gain access to national forests, and selling the trees for less than the cost of administering the timber sale program. There are currently more than 440,000 miles of roads crisscrossing our National Forests ö more than ten times the size of the entire Federal Interstate Highway System. New road-building causes soil erosion and stream sedimentation, degrades water quality, and fragments wildlife habitat. An amendment to cut $60 million from the road-building budget in the Interior Appropriations bill offered by Sen. Bryan (D-NV) failed by a 49-51 vote on September 17, 1997. PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: YES

5. Public Lands/Stop Delay of Mining Reforms: The fiscal year 1999 Senate Interior Appropriations bill (S. 2237) contained an unrelated legislative provision, or "rider," that would have delayed the enactment of new regulations on the hardrock mining industry. New regulations are desperately needed to replace outdated 1981 regulations, which do not address any of the destructive mining methods that have developed in the last 18 years, to allow federal officials to weigh other values besides mining when considering approval of mines, and to prevent mining companies from abandoning their depleted mines and leaving taxpayers with tens of millions of dollars of cleanup costs a year. Senators Bumpers (D-AR), Feingold (D-WI), and Landrieu (D-LA) offered an amendment to strip the delaying rider from S. 2237. The Senate voted to table the amendment 58-40 on September 15, 1998. PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: NO

6. Nuclear Waste/Stop Dangerous Nuclear Waste Transport: S. 104, The Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1998, would needlessly mandate the transportation of highly radioactive waste through 43 states. This would put millions of Americans at risk; preempt state and local laws and portions of key federal laws including the Safe Drinking Water Act; and set a radiation standard for a permanent repository that would result in one excess cancer death per 1,100 exposed individuals. The Senate approved S. 104 by a 65-34 vote on April 15, 1997. PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: NO

7. Tobacco/Prevent Grant of Special Legal Protection to Tobacco Industry: The Senate considered Sen. McCainās (R-AZ) bill, S. 1415, to codify the tobacco damages settlement negotiated by state Attorneys General. In return for agreeing to settle certain Medicaid claims with the states, which it could easily pay for with modest price hikes, the tobacco industry asked for numerous conditions. Among the most egregious was its demand for sweeping and unprecedented immunity from future lawsuits against it. If it won, the industry faced a win-win situation. Not only could it profitably pay off the statesā modest damage claims with price hikes that its addicted customers would easily absorb, but it would eliminate future lawsuits from the victims of its 50-year conspiracy to market an addictive, carcinogenic product to children. This vote was on a procedural motion by Sen. McCain to table the Gregg (R-NH)-Leahy (D-VT) amendment, which eliminated special legal protections and other immunity for the tobacco industry from S. 1415. On May 21, 1998, the motion to kill the Gregg-Leahy amendment was defeated 37-61and all special legal protections for the tobacco industry, including an annual cap on liability to victims, were removed from the final bill. PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: NO

8. Tobacco/Allow Final Vote on Tobacco Bill: Following the improvement of S. 1415, the McCain (R-AZ) tobacco bill, by a number of pro-health provisions, this vote was a pro-health motion to end debate (invoke cloture) and allow a final vote to occur on that national tobacco control bill. The bill had been strengthened by a number of floor amendments, especially by the Gregg-Leahy amendment above, which blocked special legal immunity and other protections for the tobacco industry. Amendments to the bill also ensured that it would have improved Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority over the industry, imposed severe financial penalties for tobacco marketing targeted at children and teenagers and increased tobacco taxes by $1.10 per pack to reduce the incidence of youth smoking. The Senate voted 57-42 (60 votes needed invoke cloture) not to end debate, killing the bill on June 17, 1998. PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: YES

9. ATM Fees/Ban ATM Surcharges: Sen. DāAmato (R-NY) introduced legislation to ban unfair ATM surcharges. Since 1996, new rules of the bank ATM networks allow ATM owners to surcharge, or collect two fees from non-accountholders using their machines. Historically, ATM owners had always been compensated by receiving a portion of the "off-us" fee a consumerās own bank charged its accountholders for using another ownerās ATM. While charging consumers twice to use the ATM only once is unfair, ATM surcharging also reduces competition, since it unfairly benefits high-fee big banks, which have larger ATM networks, and harms low fee small banks and credit unions. PIRGās 1999 ATM fee report found that 93% of banks impose surcharges averaging $1.37, which combine with average off-us fees of $1.20 to total $2.57 in fees to use an ATM not owned by your bank. This motion by Majority Leader Lott (R-MS) was to table, or kill, the DāAmato amendment to ban ATM surcharges. The Senate voted 72-26 to table the amendment on September 17, 1998. PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: NO

10. Higher Education/Increase Student Loans and Grants: The 1965 Higher Education Act (HEA) was passed to provide equal access to postsecondary education for all Americans regardless of their economic circumstances. Federal support for higher education has been an essential building block of our society and is vital for the health of the democracy. Over the last two decades college costs have soared, the spending value of the Pell grant has been cut in half, and loan debt has more than doubled. S. 1882, the reauthorization of the HEA introduced by Senators Jeffords (R-VT), Kennedy (D-MA), Coats (R-IN) and Dodd (D-CT) provided some significant relief to college students by strengthening the Pell Grant and State Student Incentive Grant (now the LEAP Grant) and by lowering the interest rate on federal student loans. The interest rate reduction, established in prior law, was reformulated to maintain an interest rate reduction to students by .8 of a percent while also ensuring the continued availability of private capital in the federal loan programs. Student borrowers over the next five years will save an estimated $11 billion from the lower interest rate. PIRG supported the version of S. 1882 passed on July 9, 1998 by a vote of 96-1. PIRG did not support the bill as reported out of the House and Senate conference committee due to several provisions that were added that denied the lower interest rate for borrowers who consolidate their loans, weakened a Senate provision to establish an Office of Student Loan Ombudsman, and increased subsidies to lenders at the expense of student borrowers who end up in Bankruptcy. PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: YES

11. Student Loans/Reduce Fees on Student Loans: Sen. Harkin (D-IA) introduced an amendment to S. 1882 that would have eliminated the "Insurance Fee" charged to the neediest borrowers of the Federal student loan programs. The result of the Harkin amendment would have been to eliminate the taxation of student loans that results in borrowers not receiving the full amount of the loan at the time they borrow. The savings to students from elimination of the insurance fee would have been up to $171 for undergraduate students. The "Insurance Fee" that would have been eliminated under the Harkin Amendment was established in 1993 as a temporary measure to ensure stability in the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) program under assumed competition from the new Federal Direct Loan Program. Five years since the creation of the temporary fee, loan volume held by the FFEL lenders has increased by 11%, thus eliminating the assumed need of the "Insurance Fee." The Harkin amendment was supported by PIRG, the U.S. Student Association, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, the American Council on Education, the Association of American Universities, and many other student and education associations. The amendment was opposed by private lenders and guarantors in the FFEL program. The amendment was defeated by a vote of 41-56 on July 9, 1998. PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: YES

12. Campaign Contributions/Amend Constitution to Limit Contributions and Spending: Senators Hollings (D-SC) and Specter (R-PA) brought a proposed constitutional amendment (S.J. Res 18) to the Senate floor to authorize the Congress and the states to set mandatory limits on campaign spending and contributions. Congress set spending limits in 1974, but they were invalidated by the controversial Supreme Court decision, Buckley vs. Valeo, which extended First Amendment protection to unlimited spending in elections. The amendment was defeated by a vote of 38-61 on March 18, 1997. PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: YES

13. Campaign Finance Reform/Ban "Soft Money" Contributions: Senators. McCain (R-AZ) and Feingold (D-WI) brought S. 1663 to the floor of the Senate to ban soft money contributions in federal elections. Soft money is unlimited and unregulated funds from corporations, labor unions, and wealthy individuals given to political parties as a way to get around the legal limits on contributions to candidates. While the bill fell short of comprehensive reform, it would be an important first step. A motion to table the bill was defeated by a vote of 48-51 on February 24, 1998. Despite the fact that a majority of Senators supported the bill, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) did not bring it to a final vote due to a filibuster by Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY). PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: NO

House Votes 1999

1. Endangered Species/Stop Endangered Species Act Flood Waiver: Following on the heels of a disastrous flood season in California, Reps. Pombo (R-CA) and Herger (R-CA) introduced H.R. 478, the "Flood Prevention and Family Protection Act of 1997," to exempt nearly all flood control activities from compliance with the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Despite the lack of credible evidence, Reps. Pombo and Herger blamed the ESA for delays in levee maintenance. This legislation would have exempted virtually any project relating to flood control, including levees, canals, dredging, draining wetlands, clearcutting riparian forests and even massive dam projects, from the requirement that these projects consider and minimize impacts to endangered and threatened species. Rep. Boehlert (R-NY) offered an amendment that significantly narrowed H.R. 478 to exempt for one year flood control projects from the ESA in federally declared disaster areas or when there was a substantial threat to human life. The amendment was adopted 227-196 on May 7, 1997. H.R. 478 was pulled from the floor by its supporters before it came to a final vote. PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: YES

2. Environmental Preservation/Stop Weakening of Land Use Protections: Rep. Gallegly (R-CA) introduced a bill, written with assistance from the National Association of Homebuilders, that would allow developers to sue cities and counties in federal courts over local land use disputes. This bill would circumvent local land use procedures and give developers a big stick to intimidate local governments who do not have the resources to fight expensive federal lawsuits. This bill would also greatly increase the burden on federal courts. H.R. 1534 was opposed by the National Governorsā Association, the U.S. Dept. of Justice, Attorneys General from 37 states, the National League of Cities, the U.S. Conferences of Mayors and the U.S. Judicial Conference (on behalf of federal courts). Adopted 248-178 on October 22, 1997. PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: NO

3. Environmental Defense/Stop Anti-Environmental Budget Amendments: Special interest lobbyists and their allies in Congress increasingly attach legislative attacks on environmental protections to must-pass appropriations bills, rather than proposing these attacks as stand-alone legislation. The VA-HUD Appropriations bill of 1998 contained a number of "riders" in the legislative report which would, among other things, prevent the cleanup of PCB-contaminated sediments, stall implementation of our pesticide safety laws, prevent adequate cleanup of old nuclear facilities, interfere with efforts to control air pollution in our national parks, and block controls of dangerous mercury air pollution. Rep. Waxman introduced an amendment, H.R. 4194, to strip the riders out of the appropriations bill. The amendment was rejected 176-243 on July 23, 1998. PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: YES

4. Environmental Defense/Prevent Hidden Anti-Environmental Amendments: Because they wish to shield their actions from public scrutiny, special interests and their Congressional allies attach anti-environmental provisions to unrelated legislation. In the last Congress, special interests attached several anti-environmental provisions to "must-pass" legislation to fund emergency spending for troops in Bosnia. These provisions would: pressure the Forest Service into building new roads in roadless areas in our national forests, delay new rules to help ensure that taxpayers get their fair share of royalties for oil drilled on public lands, and allow a multi-lane commuter highway to be built through the Petroglyphs National Monument in New Mexico. Rep. Waxman (D-CA) offered an amendment that would guarantee Members of Congress the right to openly debate and independently vote on anti-environmental provisions. This would make it more difficult to pass major legislation with unrelated and undebated anti-environment riders. The amendment was rejected 190-221 on May 19, 1998. PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: YES

5. National Monuments/Oppose New Hurdles to National Monuments: The Antiquities Act has been essential for protecting our nationās natural heritage by authorizing the President to designate significant federal lands as national monuments. Since enactment, 13 Presidents, from both political parties, have used the Act to create 105 national monuments, including Denali, Joshua Tree and the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. H.R. 1127, introduced by Rep. Hansen (R-UT) would severely limit the Presidentās ability to immediately protect threatened federal lands and resources. H.R. 1127 passed 229-197 on October 7, 1997. PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: NO

6. National Forests/Cut Timber Industry Road-Building Subsidy: The U.S. Forest Service encourages logging in our national forests through a variety of mechanisms including building roads so that the timber industry can gain access to national forests, and selling the trees for less than the cost of administering the timber sale program. There are currently more than 440,000 miles of roads crisscrossing our National Forests ö more than ten times the size of the entire Federal Interstate Highway System. New road-building causes soil erosion and stream sedimentation, degrades water quality, and fragments wildlife habitat. The House was scheduled to vote on an amendment to the Interior Appropriations bill offered by Reps. Porter (R-IL), Kennedy (D-MA), Kasich (R-OH), Furse (D-OR), Miller (R-FL), Minge (D-MN), and Cook (R-UT) to cut up to $92 million in timber road-building subsidies. A much weaker, industry-supported substitute amendment was offered by Rep. Dicks (D-WA) and was adopted by a 211-209 vote on July 10,1997. PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: NO

7. National Forests/Stop Increased Logging: The U.S. Forest Service subsidizes the destruction of our rapidly dwindling National Forests by selling off our trees to the timber industry at prices that do not even cover the basic costs of the timber sales program. As a result, taxpayers have lost $2 billion over the last six years, and logging has destroyed wildlife habitat, polluted rivers necessary for fish and for drinking water, and caused expensive and deadly mudslides. On March 27, 1998, House Agricultural Committee Chair Bob Smith (R-OR) offered H.R. 2515, the so-called "Forest Recovery and Protection Act," which would have increased subsidized logging under the guise of "forest recovery" and, for the first time ever, permanently authorized below-cost timber sales. The Smith bill was defeated 181-201 on March 27, 1998. PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: NO

8. Public Lands/Cut Grazing Subsidy for Large Ranchers:Current federal policy for grazing on public lands is worse than a simple taxpayer handout to ranchers. More than two-thirds of our federally owned rangelands have been over-grazed, eroded, or otherwise degraded. Below-cost grazing fees cost taxpayers more than $50 million per year. The House passed H.R. 2493, introduced by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Bob Smith (R-OR), which would perpetuate below-cost grazing, discourage permittee stewardship and increase program costs. An amendment offered by Rep. Klug (R-WI) that would have significantly raised the federal fees to those charged in the state was rejected by a vote of 205-219 on October 30, 1997. PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: YES

9. Clean Air/Overturn Clean Air Health Protections: In July 1997, the EPA issued regulations under the Clean Air Act to protect public health from ozone (smog) and fine particulates (soot). EPA estimates that the new standards will prevent 15,000 premature deaths, 350,000 cases of aggravated asthma and tens of thousands of hospital admissions, doctor visits and work absences each year. H.R. 1984, introduced by Reps. Klink (D-PA), Upton (R-MI) and Boucher (D-VA), was an effort to overturn the new standards for smog and soot and place a four year moratorium on EPA setting new standards. Co-sponsorship of H.R. 1984 is an anti-public interest action.

10. Toxic Chemical Threats/Expand Citizensā Right to Know: EPA estimates that there are 80,000 synthetic chemicals on the market today. Fewer than one percent of these are covered by the Community Right to Know Act, the publicās best source of information on toxics. A study conducted by Congressā Office of Technology Assessment estimated that due to the short list of chemicals and industries covered, the Right to Know Act fails to inform the public about 95 percent of toxic pollution. The Childrenās Environmental Protection and Right to Know Act (H.R. 1636), introduced by Reps. Waxman (D-CA) and Saxton (R-NJ), would fill in many of these gaps, requiring polluters to report on toxic chemical use in products, the workplace and neighborhoods. The bill will also require polluters to report on some of the most toxic substances known to science such as lead, mercury and dioxins and require labels on products that contain chemicals that cause cancer, birth defects, reproductive harm or nerve damage. Co-sponsorship of H.R. 1636 is a pro-public interest action.

11. Global Warming/Stop Ban on EPA Global Warming Education: The threat of catastrophic global warming appears to be closer than we once believed. 1998 was the hottest year ever on record, bringing devastating extreme weather that is consistent with scientistsā predictions of the impacts of global warming. Despite this imminent threat, Rep. Knollenberg (R-MI) introduced a bill that would have: 1) prevented the Environmental Protection Agency from educating the public about global warming; 2) endangered cost-effective energy efficiency and renewable energy programs; and 3) carved out an exception for the main global warming pollutant from all environmental laws. Because he could not get enough support to pass his bill on its own merits, Rep. Knollenberg attached the first two parts of the bill as a rider on the EPA funding bill. Rep. Obey (D-WI) offered an amendment to this bill which ensured that the EPA could continue public education and protected energy efficiency and renewable energy programs. The amendment was adopted 226-198 on July 23, 1998. PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: YES

12. Energy Efficiency/Increase Funding for Energy Efficiency: Energy efficiency programs reduce pollution, saves businesses and individuals money, and protects our wild places from development for coal and oil. Each year the Federal government allocates a certain amount of money to promote energy efficiency. Part of this funding goes to help low income families weatherize their homes so that they wonāt have to spend extra money on fuel, or suffer exposure to harsh temperatures. On July 21, 998, Rep. Fox (R-PA) and Rep. Skaggs (D-CO) proposed an amendment to the Interior Appropriations bill which would have increased this funding. The amendment was rejected 212-213 on July 21, 1998. PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: YES

13. Coal Subsidies/Cut Federal Coal Subsidy: Coal is the most polluting of all fossil energy sources. Coal-fired power plants are responsible for approximately one-third of the carbon dioxide and mercury emissions in the U.S. Neither carbon dioxide nor mercury can be substantially reduced from coal-fired power plants at any feasible cost. Nonetheless, the Department of Energy has allocated more than $1.5 billion in taxpayer dollars toward the so-called "Clean Coal Technology Program" (CCTP). This program is designed to encourage private companies to develop cleaner coal-burning technologies but has been mismanaged. A 1991 General Accounting Office study found that a large portion of the CCTP projects had either been terminated within a few years of being funded, experienced substantial cost increases, or funded technologies which were less effective than those already available. Reps. Klug (R-WI), Miller (R-FL) and Royce (R-CA) offered an amendment to the Interior Appropriations bill to cut $292 million from the program. The amendment was rejected 173-243 on July 11, 1997. Although this amendment was rejected, Congressional committees did cut $100 million from the program. PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: YES

14. Nuclear Waste/Stop Dangerous Nuclear Waste Transport: H.R. 1270, The Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1998 would needlessly mandate the transportation of highly radioactive waste through 43 states. This would put millions of Americans at risk; preempt state and local laws and federal laws including the Safe Drinking Water Act; and set a radiation standard for a permanent repository that would result in one excess cancer death per 286 exposed individuals. H.R. 1270 was passed 307-120 on October 30, 1997. PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: NO

15. Tobacco Subsidies/Cut Tobacco Industry Giveaway: While the U.S. government spends nearly $200 million each year warning Americans about the deadly effects of tobacco use, it also subsidizes tobacco farming. Although each year, the federal government provides crop insurance guarantees on only about 65 of over 1600 crops grown by American farmers, tobacco, the only product with no known safe level of use, is one of the crops subsidized by the taxpayer. Rep. Loweyās (D-NY) amendment to H.R. 2160, the Agricultural Appropriations bill, would prohibit government funds from being used for tobacco crop insurance or non-insured tobacco crop assistance. The estimated $34 million per year savings from this prohibition would have been used to provide rural development and rural health funding. The amendment was rejected 209-216 on July 24, 1997. PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: YES

16. Consumer Protection/Prevent Undisclosed Sale of Rebuilt "Lemon" Cars: For the last several years, the auto industry has sought passage of legislation ostensibly to establish a national title disclosure system for cars that had been wrecked and rebuilt. Yet, the industry proposals would allow thousands of cars that had been wrecked to be re-sold without any title labels, leaving consumers in the dark. S. 852, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS), would have exempted thousands of wrecked cars annually (including cars "totaled" by insurance companies) from being labeled as salvage vehicles. The bill was supported by car dealers but opposed by consumer groups and state attorneys general. Before it passed the Senate, the Lott bill was improved by amendments sponsored by Senate consumer champions Feinstein (D-CA), Levin (D-MI) and Bryan (D-NV). However in the House, Commerce Committee Chairman Bliley (R-VA) used a parliamentary maneuver to bring the unamended anti-consumer Senate proposal to the House floor instead. Consumer champion Rep. Markey (D-MA) led an unsuccessful House floor attempt to defeat final passage of the Lott proposal. The bill was passed 271-133 on October 10, 1998 (2/3rds vote needed under suspension of rules). PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: NO

17. Higher Education/Increase Student Loans and Strengthen Grants: The 1965 Higher Education Act (HEA) was passed to provide equal access to postsecondary education for all Americans regardless of their economic circumstances. Federal support for higher education has been an essential building block of our society and is vital for the health of the democracy. Over the last two decades, college costs have soared, the spending value of the Pell grant has been cut in half, and loan debt has more than doubled. H.R. 6, the reauthorization of the HEA introduced by Representatives Goodling (R-PA), Clay (D-MO), McKeon (R-CA) and Kildee (D-MI) provided some significant relief to college students by strengthening the Pell Grant and State Student Incentive Grant (now the LEAP Grant) and by lowering the interest rate on federal student loans. The interest rate reduction, established in prior law, was reformulated to maintain an interest rate reduction to students by .8 of a percent while also ensuring the continued availability of private capital in the federal loan programs. Student borrowers over the next five years will save an estimated $11 billion from the lower interest rate. PIRG supported the version of H.R. 6 passed on May 6, 1998 by a vote of 414-4. PIRG did not support the bill as reported out of the House and Senate conference committee due to several provisions that were added that denied the lower interest rate for borrowers who consolidate their loans, weakened a Senate provision to establish an Office of Student Loan Ombudsman, and increased subsidies to lenders at the expense of student borrowers who end up in Bankruptcy. PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: YES

18. Campaign Finance Reform/Ban "Soft Money" Contributions: Representatives Chris Shays (R-CT) and Marty Meehan (D-MA) introduced a bill to enact modest reforms in the federal campaign finance system in the 105th Congress. That bill did nothing to limit the outrageous amounts that special interests can give directly to candidates, but it did prevent corporations and very wealthy donors from giving unregulated and unlimited "soft money" contributions to political parties. During a lengthy and grueling debate on the floor of the House of Representatives, the Shays-Meehan bill withstood numerous attempts to weaken it and eventually received more votes than numerous alternative bills, including a weaker version introduced by House Freshman Asa Hutchinson (R-AR) and Tom Allen (D-ME). The final version of the bill passed 252-179 on August 6, 1998. PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: YES

19. Campaign Finance Reform/Stop Increases in Contribution Limits: During the debate on campaign finance reform, Rep. Edward Whitfield (R-KY) offered an amendment to the Shays-Meehan bill that would have increased the current limit on contributions to candidates from $1,000 to $3,000. This would only further increase the amounts that candidates raise from wealthy donors, and give special interests even more influence in who runs for office and who wins elections. The amendment was rejected 102-315 on July 31, 1998. PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: NO

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june 1999