Obama took an active role in the Senate’s drive for improved border security and immigration reform. In 2005, he co-sponsored the “Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act” introduced by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).He later added three amendments to the “Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act”, which passed the Senate in May 2006, but failed to gain majority support in the U.S. House of Representatives.In September 2006, Obama supported a related bill, the Secure Fence Act, authorizing construction of fencing and other security improvements along the MexicoUnited States border.President Bush signed the Secure Fence Act into law in October 2006, calling it “an important step toward immigration reform.”
Partnering first with Sen. Dick Lugar (R-IN), and then with Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), Obama successfully introduced two initiatives bearing his name. “Lugar-Obama” expands the Nunn-Lugar cooperative threat reduction concept to conventional weapons, including shoulder-fired missiles and anti-personnel mines.
The “Coburn-Obama Transparency Act” provides for the web site USAspending.gov, managed by the Office of Management and Budget, listing all organizations receiving Federal funds from 2007 onward, and providing breakdowns by the agency allocating the funds, the dollar amount given, and the purpose of the grant or contract. In December 2006, President Bush signed into law the “Democratic Republic of the Congo Relief, Security, and Democracy Promotion Act,” marking the first federal legislation to be enacted with Obama as its primary sponsor.
As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Obama made official trips to Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. In August 2005, he traveled to Russia, Ukraine, and Azerbaijan. The trip focused on strategies to control the world’s supply of conventional weapons, biological weapons, and weapons of mass destruction as a first defense against potential terrorist attacks.Following meetings with U.S. military in Kuwait and Iraq in January 2006, Obama visited Jordan, Israel, and the Palestinian territories. At a meeting with Palestinian students two weeks before Hamas won the legislative election, Obama warned that “the U.S. will never recognize winning Hamas candidates unless the group renounces its fundamental mission to eliminate Israel.” He left for his third official trip in August 2006, traveling to South Africa, Kenya, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Chad. In a nationally televised speech at the University of Nairobi, he spoke forcefully on the influence of ethnic rivalries and corruption in Kenya. The speech touched off a public debate among rival leaders, some formally challenging Obama’s remarks as unfair and improper, others defending his positions.
In the first month of the newly Democratic-controlled 110th Congress, Obama worked with Russ Feingold (DWI) to eliminate gifts of travel on corporate jets by lobbyists to members of Congress and require disclosure of bundled campaign contributions under the “Honest Leadership and Open Government Act”, which was signed into law in September 2007. He joined Chuck Schumer (D-NY) in sponsoring S. 453, a bill to criminalize deceptive practices in federal elections, including fraudulent flyers and automated phone calls, as witnessed in the 2006 midterm elections. Obama’s energy initiatives scored pluses and minuses with environmentalists, who welcomed his sponsorship with John McCain (R-AZ) of a climate change bill to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by two-thirds by 2050, but were skeptical of his support for a bill promoting liquefied coal production. Obama also introduced the “Iraq War De-Escalation Act”, a bill to cap troop levels in Iraq, begin phased redeployment, and remove all combat brigades from Iraq before April 2008.
Later in 2007, Obama sponsored with Kit Bond (R-MO) an amendment to the 2008 Defense Authorization Act adding safeguards for personality disorder military discharges, and calling for a review by the Government Accountability Office following reports that the procedure had been used inappropriately to reduce government costs. He sponsored the “Iran Sanctions Enabling Act” supporting divestment of state pension funds from Iran’s oil and gas industry, and joined Chuck Hagel (R-NE) in introducing legislation to reduce risks of nuclear terrorism. A provision from the Obama-Hagel bill was passed by Congress in December 2007 as an amendment to the State-Foreign Operations appropriations bill. Obama also sponsored a Senate amendment to the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) to provide one year of job protection for family members caring for soldiers with combat-related injuries. After passing both houses of Congress with bipartisan majorities, SCHIP was vetoed by President Bush in early October 2007, a move Obama said “shows a callousness of priorities that is offensive to the ideals we hold as Americans.