News Articles

Attacks alter plans for Congress;
action on bills may be postponed

WASHINGTON (BP)–Terrorism’s shocking intrusion into the United States has radically altered expectations of Congress this year.

Members of the Senate and House of Representatives are focusing on a few, high-priority measures in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks on the country instead of working on numerous other issues, including several proposals dealing with moral and church-state concerns.

“Because of the events of Sept. 11, all sorts of regular business that we had been working on for months now is on the back burner,” said Shannon Royce, director of government relations for the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

She said antiterrorism legislation, an economic stimulus package and appropriations bills “are the three main things that are on the plate right now. If they get those three things done and leave town, I will not be surprised.”

As a result, measures such as the Sudan Peace Act are in danger of being delayed until next year.

Both houses have approved versions of the Sudan Peace Act, but it remains unclear whether a conference committee will take up the differences this year. Both versions condemn human rights abuses in the East African country and urge the Bush administration to provide humanitarian aid to victims of the militant Islamic regime’s campaign waged primarily against Sudanese Christians and animists. The major difference is a provision in the House bill that bars foreign companies from being listed on U.S. stock exchanges if they participate in oil development in Sudan. Profits from oil production in the country are helping fund the Sudan military’s strikes against its citizens. Big business and some Bush administration officials, however, oppose such a measure.

Royce said she is “not giving up” on the Sudan Peace Act until Congress leaves. “We have got to get it to conference, and in conference we have to call the administration to be consistent in defunding those who are acting in a genocidal way in Sudan.”

Like the attacks on the United States, “[t]hat is terrorism as well,” she said. “It just happens to be intra-country terrorism instead of inter-country terrorism.”

Other bills that have passed at least one house but may not be acted on any further this year include the:

— Community Solutions Act (H.R. 7), a version of Bush’s faith-based initiative that has passed the House. The Senate has not voted on the proposal and appears opposed to some provisions of the House bill.

— Human Cloning Prohibition Act (H.R. 2505, S. 790), which would prohibit cloning for the purposes of creating an embryo for research and reproducing a child. The Senate has not acted on the bill.

— Born Alive Infants Protection Act, which has passed both houses as part of the Patients’ Bill of Rights. The measure would provide federal protection to a newborn fully outside his mother’s womb, including survivors of abortion procedures.

— Unborn Victims of Violence Act (H.R. 503, S. 480), which would recognize an unborn baby as a crime victim when injured or slain during a federal offense against the mother. The House has approved the bill.