The Democrats’ “first 100 hours” in the House ended Thursday with the passage of their sixth major piece of legislation this year – a bill to repeal $14 billion in oil company subsidies.
The bill will reinvest the billions of dollars’ worth of subsidies currently given to big oil companies into cleaner, renewable energy sources, including alternative fuels. Congresswoman Lois Capps, whose constituency includes Isla Vista, said the Creating Long-Term Energy Alternatives for the Nation or CLEAN Act, will help steer America toward energy independence.
“The CLEAN Energy Act will begin breaking the cycle of our nation’s dependence on oil and strike out on a new path toward meeting America’s energy demands,” Capps said. “We simply can’t drill our way to energy independence and so we must aggressively pursue alternative sources of energy which are better for our economy, our environment and our national security.”
The other pieces of legislation passed in the first 100 hours included bills to reduce college loan interest rates, lower prices for Medicare prescription drugs, raise the minimum wage, enact all of the 9/11 Commission’s national security recommendations, use federal funds for stem cell research and adopt a strict ethics bill for congressmen.
Although Democrats, including Capps, praised the legislation, the future of the six bills is still in question. President Bush said he will veto the stem cell and prescription drug acts, and all the bills still have to pass through the Senate – where the Democrats have a smaller majority.
Still, Capps remains hopeful and enthusiastic.
“It’s been amazing,” Capps said. “I’ve never served in a majority; it’s like a brand new place to be – oh I shouldn’t say that.”
The bills passed in the first 100 hours were symbolic for the Democrats, Capps said. Even if the bills are cut down by the president, or undergo drastic changes in the Senate, Capps said they represent a step in the right direction. In the Senate, for example, Republicans are looking to add an $8 billion tax break to the minimum wage increase bill.
The bills address issues the Democrats pursued in the previous Congress but could not pass, Capps said. Even if they fail, she said, they are important benchmarks, showing Democratic leaders what percentage of Congress will vote yes on these issues.
Capps said she believes the majority of Americans agree with the House Democrats concerning these topics.
“[The bills] are unfinished business,” Capps said. “They’re all in the American people’s interest.”
With the new Congress, Capps has gained significant leeway in one of the biggest political battles she fought last year. Capps now sits on the committee that will oversee legislation involving the future of Santa Rosa Island – the Natural Resource Committee.
Last year, Congressman Duncan Hunter pushed a bill through the House Armed Services Committee, of which he was chair, to close off Santa Rosa Island to the public for five months each year to allow disabled veterans to hunt game on the mountainous island. Capps vowed to kill the legislation last year, and she now sits on the committee to do so.
“[The Natural Resource Committee] is the committee that the Santa Rosa Island legislation will go through and believe me, that’s number one on our list,” Capps said.
Capps is also staunchly opposed to the president’s new plan for Iraq, she said. She believes increasing the troop levels will only escalate the conflict, and that it is against the wishes of most Americans to send more soldiers.
“To me, the election was a referendum on the war in Iraq, and here we have the president coming out with a speech that extremely disappointed and saddened me,” Capps said.
The Democrats in Congress plan to send a message to the president about the war as soon as possible.
“By holding oversights and hearings and examining how the war’s been so far, we will make a case to the president for the need for pulling out and ending the war as quickly as possible,” Capps said.
As for devising an exit plan, Capps said that is the president’s job.
In addition, Capps said she is afraid of using Congress’ “power of the purse” to cut the funding for the Iraq war, because soldiers could suffer.
For Capps, listening is a central theme for leaving the Iraq war. The president needs to listen to Congress, she said, and Congress needs to listen to the people.