Fair Pay Act, TARP legislation in the spotlight

Posted Jan. 26, 2009, at 9:53 p.m.

HOW THEY VOTED: MAINE’S CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATION, JAN. 16-22,2009

House votes:

Democratic Reps. Michael Michaud and Chellie Pingree

Vote 1: TARP accountability: The House passed an amendment sponsored by Rep. Maurice Hinchy, D-N.Y., to the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) Reform and Accountability Act (HR 384) that will require a full accounting of the distribution and use of any funds granted under TARP. The amendment requires the Treasury secretary to conduct an analysis of the use of the funds within 30 days of enactment and to report findings to Congress within 30 days. Proponents said the amendment would ensure that accountability was enforced. Opponents said the amendment did not address specific issues such as the elimination of verifying incomes for individuals receiving funds under TARP. The vote, on Jan. 20, was 427 yeas to 1 nay.

YEAS: Michaud, Pingree

Vote 2: Economic bailout reform: The House passed the TARP Reform and Accountability Act (HR 384), sponsored by Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., to increase accountability of the Troubled Assets Relief Program and to reform current policies and procedures related to it. Opponents of the bill said that the TARP Act should not be the first line of defense against abuses, but that the Federal Reserve Board should be given the responsibility for oversight. They called the TARP Reform Act a “slush fund.” Proponents said Republicans did not want the responsibility of making difficult decisions on foreclosure for Americans and noted that the original TARP Act contained no real controls on spending or compensation which resulted in its failure and that the reformed law addresses these failures. The vote, on Jan. 20, was 260 yeas to 166 nays.

YEAS: Michaud, Pingree

Vote 3: Realignment of economic stabilization funds: The House agreed to a resolution (HJRes 3) sponsored by Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., that declared a House disapproval of certain obligations required under the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act. Opponents of the resolution said that just because funds were originally misused in the original bailout un-der President Bush didn’t mean the Obama administration shouldn’t have another chance to make it right. Proponents said if Democrats were serious about avoiding waste with the next batch of bailout money that more restrictions should have been included in the law in the first place. The vote, on Jan. 21, was 270 yeas to 155 nays.

YEAS: Michaud, Pingree

Vote 4: National School Counseling Week: The House passed a resolution (Hres 56) sponsored by Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Calif., to express congressional support for the designation of National School Counseling Week in order to recognize the importance of school counselors in helping students deal with tragedies and traumas that occur in their own lives and in lives of others affecting them locally and nationally as well as issues related to growing and learning overall. National School Counseling Week will take place from Feb. 2 through Feb. 6 annually. The vote, on Jan. 21, was unanimous with 417 yeas.

NOT VOTING: Michaud, Pingree

Senate votes

Republican Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe

Vote 1: Secretary of State nomination: In executive session, the Senate voted to confirm President Obama’s nomination of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., as secretary of State. Proponents called the appointment one that “would provide a historical shift in American foreign policy.” The vote, on Jan. 20, was 94 yeas to 2 nays.

YEAS: Collins, Snowe

Vote 2: Defining discrimination terms: The Senate rejected an amendment sponsored by Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act (S 181) that would limit the application of the measure to discrimination-related compensation decisions. Proponents of the amendment said the language of the legislation was too ambiguous and left too much open to interpretation in determining what would be considered eligible in a discrimination compensation lawsuit. Opponents said the amendment only addresses half of the issue and wouldn’t cover lawsuits pertaining to other types of discrimination on the job such as job evaluations. The vote, on Jan. 21, was 55 yeas and 39 nays.

YEAS: Collins, Snowe

Vote 3: Provision strike rejected: The Senate rejected an amendment sponsored by Sen. Michael Enzi, R-Wyo., that would have eliminated a provision in the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act (S 181) to allow people suing in a discrimination compensation lawsuit to include not only the affected individual but anyone considered “affected” by the discrimination action. Proponents of the amendment said the provision in the bill was unclear and would expose business owners to a lawsuit by virtually anyone claiming to be affected. Opponents said the amendment would make the framework of the law too narrow. The vote to table the amendment, on Jan. 21, was 55 yeas to 41 nays.

YEAS: Snowe

NAYS: Collins

Vote 4: Federal work rights: The Senate rejected an amendment, sponsored by Sens. Jim DeMint, R-S.C. and David Vitter, R-La., to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act that would enable a right-to-work amendment and would prohibit jobs from forcing employees to join a union. The amendment also would eliminate a federal requirement for employees to pay union dues. Proponents of the amendment said that individuals should have the free choice to join or not join a union and that state and federal governments should not be involved in forcing them to act either way. Opponents of the amendment said it removed the rights of states to make such right-to-work decisions for themselves and would expose the states to other fed-eral mandates further eliminating states’ rights in the future. The vote to table the amendment, on Jan. 21, was 66 yeas to 31 nays.

YEAS: Collins, Snowe

Vote 5: Discrimination compensation lawsuits: The Senate rejected an amendment, sponsored by Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act (S. 181) that would have limited individuals from bringing compensation discrimination lawsuits dated before the enactment of the law. Proponents of the amendment said having a statute of limitations on such lawsuits would prevent age-old lawsuits from being filed and slamming business owners with legal issues. Opponents said the amendment was “arbitrary and unfair” to people eligible for discrimination compensation. The vote to table the amendment, on Jan. 21, was 59 yeas to 38 nays.

YEAS: Collins, Snowe

Vote 6: Equality amendment rejected: The Senate rejected an amendment sponsored by Sen. David Vitter, R-La., to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act (S. 181) that would have supported the continuance of open competition and equal opportunities among federal contractors and would have promoted government neutrality toward labor relations on federally funded construction projects. Proponents of the amendment noted wide support among groups such as Associated Builders and Contractors, Associated General Contractors of America, National Association of Minority Contractors, Independent Electrical Contractors, National Association of Disadvantaged Businesses, National Black Chamber of Commerce, National Federation of Independent Business and Women Construction Owners and Executives. The measure would prohibit union-only groups from obtaining government contracts. Opponents denied that government project labor agreements require union-only labor and said the amendment would remove longstanding executive authorities that help projects run smoothly. The vote to table the amendment, on Jan. 21, was 59 yeas to 38 nays.

NAYS: Collins, Snowe

Vote 7: Discriminatory compensation unlawful: The Senate passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act (S 181) sponsored by Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., to amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967. The measure also would modify the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 and Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to make it unlawful to discriminate against people eligible for certain compensatory payments based on age, sex, national origin, race, religion or color. Under the law, if discriminated against, eligible applicants for compensatory disability payments may accrue back payments up to two years if they had been subject to unlawful discriminatory practices. Opponents of the bill said discrimination practices already were made unlawful and that the bill eliminates a statute of limitations on pay discrimination cases and made it nearly impossible for business owners to defend themselves in the event of a lawsuit. Proponents said the bill would help protect people who didn’t file a timely discrimination lawsuit in hopes that the situation would be resolved through other means. The vote, on Jan. 21, was 61 yeas to 36 nays.

YEAS: Collins, Snowe

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