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Results of 104th Congress

Major legislation passed by the 104th Congress, which convened in January 1995:

  • WELFARE - The long-standing federal guarantee of assistance to every person who qualifies will end, to be replaced by state programs financed partially by federal grants. Eligibility for welfare generally will be limited to five years. Food stamps and aid to legal immigrants will be scaled back considerably.

  • HEALTH - Workers who change jobs will be assured continued health coverage without a waiting period for pre-existing conditions. Insurers will have to pay for at least 48 hours' hospital care for newborns and their mothers and provide higher benefits for mental-health care.

  • BUDGET - A large majority of lawmakers agreed on balancing the budget by the year 2002, but disagreed on details. In 1995 none of the 13 regular spending bills was enacted by the Oct. 1 deadline; seven were in place this year.

    Republicans claimed $53 billion saved in spending cuts. The president was given authority to eliminate individual spending items from appropriation bills. This line-item veto option is effective with the next elected president.

  • TAXES - No across-the-board tax reduction, although targeted cuts were approved for adoption expenses and long-term health care. New legislation helps small business bear the cost of raising the minimum wage and helps the self-employed buy health insurance.

  • MINIMUM WAGE - The $4.25-an-hour federal minimum wage rises in two steps to $5.15.

  • RETIREMENT - Social Security recipients between 65 and 69 who still work will be able to earn more and continue receiving all their benefits. Small businesses will have greater incentive to offer retirement plans for workers. Many stay-at-home spouses will qualify for bigger tax-deductible Individual Retirement Accounts.

  • FARM POLICY - Farmers will decide for themselves what crops to plant. Lump- sum payments to farmers will be phased out over seven years. Subsidies and price supports for corn, other feed grains, cotton, rice and wheat will end.

  • CRIME - More money for police on the street. Limitation of appeals in death-penalty cases. Tougher penalties for crimes against the elderly and children. Interstate stalking made a federal crime. Increased federal authority to fight terrorism.

    More money for anti-drug efforts. Sex offenders who have finished their sentences will have to register with police; communities must be notified if authorities fear the offenders will strike again. Expedited deportation of criminal aliens.

    But Congress failed to agree on proposals to attach taggants to explosives that would have helped authorities in tracing their origin. It also refused to give the FBI broad new wiretap authority in legislation aimed at combating terrorism.

  • ENVIRONMENT - A new standard restricts cancer-causing pesticides in fresh and processed foods and also targets residues that increases the risk of birth defects. A new Safe Drinking Water Act zeroes in on pollutants posing the greatest risk to health.

  • TELECOMMUNICATIONS - A major overhaul allows local telephone companies to enter the long-distance business; big gas and electric companies will be able to offer telecommunications services. A "V- chip" eventually will screen TV programs for violence and adult-oriented content.

  • SPEED LIMIT - The 55 mph federal speed limit repealed.

  • FOREIGN POLICY - Penalties for companies that use property confiscated from U.S. owners by Fidel Castro's government in Cuba and for those that assist Libya and Iran develop their oil and gas industries.

  • GAY MARRIAGES - States will be allowed to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages. No federal spousal benefits will be available in such marriages.

  • CONGRESSIONAL OPERATIONS - In general, a federal law that imposes requirements on states and local governments will have to include money to pay for them. Civil-rights and worker-protection laws now apply to Congress.

    Disclosure by congressional lobbyists is required. Members and staff may no longer accept meals, travel or other gifts except for those with only token value.

  • VETOED - Passed by Congress but vetoed successfully by President Clinton:

    • BUDGET: A seven-year plan for balancing the budget, which included a tax credit of $500 per child, was vetoed on grounds the proposed scalebacks in Medicare the elderly and Medicaid for the poor were harmful.

    • ABORTION: A bill banning certain late-term abortions was vetoed on the ground that it left no protection for a mother whose health or fertility was threatened.

    • LAWSUITS: A bill limiting damage awards in lawsuits alleging defective products was vetoed on grounds it would deny protection to consumers and let wrongdoers the hook.


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