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Offshore drilling bill approved by House

WASHINGTON — Oil drilling would be permitted 50 miles from the U.S. coast if shoreline states agree to open their waters, under a bill that was passed 236-189 last week in the House.

The bill also calls for more investment in alternative energy sources such as wind and solar.

Despite the apparent victory for oil drilling supporters, Republicans and the White House criticized the legislation for not going far enough.

Democratic leaders, who offered the bill after Republicans made political gains by demanding offshore drilling, described the bill as a compromise.

The legislation moves to the Senate where it faces an uncertain future.

Reps. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., and Jon Porter, R-Nev., voted for the bill.

Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nev., voted against it.


The House voted 283-133 to strengthen regulations of financial markets that could affect the cost of gasoline and other energy resources.

The bill would broaden the oversight authority of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and increase its staffing.

Supporters of the bill cited concerns that speculation on energy futures contributed to the skyrocketing surge in gasoline prices this year.

Opponents, including the White House, said the legislation would divert the commission from its primary mission of promoting fair and efficient trading of futures.

Berkley and Porter voted for the bill.

Heller voted against it.


Gun control laws in Washington, D.C., would be rolled back significantly under legislation approved by a 260-160 vote in the House.

The bill by Rep. Travis Childers, D-Miss., would repeal the District of Columbia’s ban on semi-automatic weapons and eliminate registration requirements for most guns.

Criminal penalties for possessing an unregistered firearm would be dropped.

Advocates said the bill was necessary to send a message to Washington, D.C., leaders who are ignoring a ruling by the Supreme Court in June which overturned the city’s ban on handguns.

Critics said the bill interferes with the home rule rights of the District of Columbia.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., has vowed to block Childers’ bill in the Senate.

Heller and Porter voted for Childers’ bill.

Berkley voted against it.


The House voted 226-176 against forcing the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee to step down until an investigation of his taxes and financial dealings is completed.

The chairman, Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., has acknowledged there are discrepancies in his financial disclosure forms, including an omission of real estate income.

Rangel has declined to step down and so far has the backing of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

Republicans argued it sends the wrong message to Americans when the chairman of the committee that crafts tax laws keeps his seat while ethical questions surround his finances.

Berkley voted to allow Rangel to keep his chairmanship.

Heller and Porter voted to make him step down.


The Senate voted 88-8 to authorize $612.5 billion in military spending next year.

Among other things, the bill would increase pay for U.S. military personnel and finance operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., complained the bill includes $5 million in earmarks for local projects.

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., who guided the bill through the Senate, said DeMint could propose an amendment eliminating spending for any project he deems objectionable.

Sens. John Ensign, R-Nev., and Harry Reid, D-Nev., voted for the defense authorization bill.

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