Busy start for Senator Coons

It’s been a busy lame-duck session for Congress, and for Delaware’s freshman Senator Chris Coons (D).

In just the last week, Congress has extended the Bush tax cuts, repealed “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and extended unemployment benefits.

So much for a quiet introduction to Capitol Hill for Coons, who was sworn in Nov. 15th.

There was also a vote last weekend on the Dream Act, which fell five votes short in the Senate. The bill would have granted hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants brought to the United States as children a chance to gain legal status if they enroll in college or join the military.

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Coons said he was disheartened that the Senate “turned its back” on immigrants trying to realize the American Dream.

“Our nation is home to many upstanding and law-abiding young immigrants,” he said, “many of whom had no choice in being brought to the United States and now want nothing more than the chance to contribute to this country as members of our military or civilian workforce.”

But disappointment was replaced by a feeling of satisfaction for Coons when the Senate voted Saturday to overturn the military’s 17-year ban on openly gay troops.

“I was proud to stand as one of 65 Senators to vote to end this discriminatory policy and repeal ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’” Coons said. “Brave men and women in uniform are willing to fight for our freedom every day, and it is our responsibility – as legislators – to continue to fight for theirs.”

And then there was the passage last week of the massive $858 billion tax bill that prevents a big New Year’s Day tax hike for millions of Americans.

The measure extends tax cuts for families at every income level, renews jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed, and enacts a new one-year cut in Social Security taxes that would benefit nearly every worker who earns a wage.

Coons called it a vote for middle-class Delawareans.

“Although this bill wasn’t ideal, it was one that prevents tax increases on Delaware’s middle class and extends unemployment insurance to those who are out of work.”

Coons says the legislation misses on a couple of levels.

“I’m disappointed that two measures I believe would have been influential in aiding Delaware’s economic recovery – an extension of the Build America Bonds program and an expansion of the Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credit – were not included in the final passage of the bill.”

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