House votes to raise oil tax

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Democrats in both chambers, who said they wanted to ensure the rights of Americans weren’t trampled, failed to add stricter rules, such as requiring pre-surveillance permission from the special court that oversees the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

“We think it is not the bill that ought to pass,” said House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat.

But faced with the prospect of being questioned at home over obstructing efforts to battle terrorists, 41 Democrats joined Republicans to pass the measure. Two Republicans opposed it.

The Bush administration said Democratic proposals would have impeded quick action needed to battle technically savvy terrorists and had called on Congress to pass his version before going on recess.

“After months of prodding by House Republicans, Congress has finally closed the terrorist loophole in our surveillance law — and America will be the safer for it,” said House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican.

The Senate agreed late Friday to the plan created by the White House. It gives the revised authority for six months, when lawmakers will review the policy. FISA already mandates court review of government surveillance of terrorist suspects in the U.S. and requires a warrant when an American citizen is involved.

After the FISA vote, the House began consideration of the $459.6 billion defense authorization bill late last night.

The massive defense measure represents a nearly $40 billion increase over current levels but does not include 2008 funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Democrats say they want to consider that money in separate legislation next month, setting the stage for a major clash over the Iraq war. Democrats, who have failed repeatedly to legislatively alter Mr. Bush’s war policy, have vowed to keep trying.

Rep. John P. Murtha, Pennsylvania Democrat, a point man on military matters for Democrats, told reporters last week that he backs only short-term extensions of war spending. He prepared amendments to close the prison at U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and require troops to be fully trained and equipped before deployment in Iraq. But, facing the prospect of losing votes and inflaming partisan tensions, he didn’t offer them.

Mr. Bush has criticized the Pentagon bill — $3.5 billion less than his request — for not spending more on troop readiness and personnel accounts, but he has not threatened to veto the measure.

It provides $2.2 billion to cover a 3.5 percent pay raise for service members. The administration objects and says its recommended 3 percent pay increase is sufficient.

On one of the most contentious and heavily lobbied issues in the energy bill, the House voted to require investor-owned electric utilities nationwide to generate at least 15 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources, such as wind or biofuels, by 2020.

The utilities and business interests argued aggressively against the federal renewables mandate, saying it would raise electricity prices in regions of the country that do not have abundant wind energy. Environmentalists argued that the requirement would spur investments in renewable fuels and help address global warming as utilities use less coal.

The bill also calls for more stringent energy efficiency standards for appliances and lighting and incentives for building more energy-efficient “green” buildings. It would authorize special bonds for localities to reduce energy demand.

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