Mortgage relief program in the spotlight
Democratic Reps. Mike Michaud (2nd District) and Chellie Pingree (1st District)
Vote 1: RATIONALE FOR ENDING MORTGAGE RELIEF PROGRAM: The House has approved an amendment sponsored by Rep. Richard Hanna, R-N.Y., to the HAMP Termination Act (HR 839). The amendment would insert the findings of Congress that the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) had failed to benefit many of the homeowners who enrolled in it, that it had harmed some homeowners, and that its termination would save $1.4 billion. Hanna said that by declaring “the specific reasons why we should end the failed HAMP program,” the amendment would provide the public with information about the rationale for passing the bill. An opponent, Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., said the program was helping middle-class families remain in their homes. The vote, on March 29, was 247 yeas to 170 nays.
Vote 2: REPORT ON HOME MORTAGE RELIEF PROGRAM: The House has rejected an amendment sponsored by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, to the HAMP Termination Act (HR 839). The amendment would have required the treasury secretary to conduct a study and report to Congress on successful elements of the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), and the creation of a new program that would be more successful. Jackson Lee said that by providing information about best practices for helping homeowners modify their mortgages, the study would help stabilize the housing market and encourage economic growth. An opponent, Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., said the study “would be completely counterproductive” given that the program had been proved to be a failure. The vote, on March 29, was 182 yeas to 239 nays.
YEAS: Michaud, Pingree
Vote 3: ENDING MORTGAGE MODIFICATIONS PROGRAM: The House has passed the HAMP Termination Act (HR 839), sponsored by Rep. Patrick T. McHenry, R-N.C. The bill would end new enrollments in the Home Affordable Modification Program (HARP) at the Treasury Department. McHenry said the program had helped little more than 500,000 homeowners modify their mortgages, compared to the original goal of helping up to 4 million homeowners, and said it had “actively harmed” a majority of participants who had tried to keep their homes by enrolling. An opponent, Rep. Michael Capuano, D-Mass., said the program should not be canceled after helping so many homeowners keep their homes, and that Congress should focus on reforming the program rather than ending it. The vote, on March 29, was 252 yeas to 170 nays.
Vote 4: PUBLIC EDUCATION IN WASHINGTON: The House has rejected a substitute amendment sponsored by Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., to the Scholarships for Opportunity and Results Act (HR 471). The amendment would have authorized $300 million of spending on public schools and public charter schools in Washington over the next five years. Norton said the public charter schools had outperformed private voucher schools, and that her amendment reflected the wishes of the residents of the District of Columbia to choice which charter schools their children should attend. An opponent, Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., said students also should be able to receive vouchers to attend private schools and “go to whatever high school they want to.” The vote, on March 30, was 185 yeas to 237 nays.
NOT VOTING: Pingree
Vote 5: EDUCATION VOUCHERS IN WASHINGTON: The House has passed the Scholarships for Opportunity and Results Act (HR 471), sponsored by Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio. The bill would reauthorize the Opportunity Scholarship Program to provide private school vouchers for students attending private schools and chartered public schools in Washington. A supporter, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said the program was supported by District residents and had succeeded in providing opportunities for students to obtain “an education of their choice.” An opponent, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., said extending the program would create $100 million of new deficit spending over the next five years, and that the program “has not resulted in better student achievement.” The vote, on March 30, was 225 yeas to 195 nays.
NOT VOTING: Pingree
Vote 6: REGULATING PESTICIDES: The House has passed the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act (HR 872), sponsored by Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio. The bill would amend current law to state that parties need not apply for permits to discharge legally authorized pesticides into navigable waterways. Gibbs said that by reversing a federal court ruling, the bill would save states and pesticide users from “increased financial and administrative burdens in order to comply with the new permitting process” imposed by the ruling. An opponent, Rep. Grace Napolitano, D-Calif., said it could hurt public health by allowing harmful pesticides in drinking water supplies. The vote, on March 31, was 292 yeas to 130 nays.
YEAS: Michaud, Pingree
Vote 7: AIRSPACE REDESIGN IN NORTHEAST: The House has rejected an amendment sponsored by Rep. Scott Garrett, R-N.J., to the FAA Reauthorization and Reform Act (HR 658). The amendment would have required the FAA to revisit its planned redesign of airspace in Philadelphia, New Jersey and New York in order to reduce airport delays. Garrett said the airspace design now planned by FAA would redirect thousands of flights annually over homes, hurting their value and disturbing residents. An opponent, Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., said that by delaying reforms to airspace management in the region, the amendment would allow nationwide problems with flight delays to continue. The vote, on March 31, was 120 yeas to 303 nays.
Vote 8: SECURITY AND AIRPLANE MECHANICS: The House has rejected an amendment sponsored by Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., to the FAA Reauthorization and Reform Act (HR 658). The amendment would have required mechanics at contract repair stations to have the same criminal background checks as those required for employees at U.S. airports. DeFazio said that given the intent of many terrorist groups to strike against the aviation system, the background checks were needed to ensure that nonairport mechanics do not sabotage aircraft. An opponent, Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., said the Transportation Security Administration and not FAA should have responsibility for the security of the aviation system. The vote, on March 31, was 161 yeas to 263 nays.
YEAS: Michaud, Pingree
Vote 9: DISCLOSING AIRLINE BAGGAGE FEES: The House has rejected an amendment sponsored by Rep. Michael Capuano, D-Mass., to the FAA Reauthorization and Reform Act (HR 658). The amendment would have required airlines to disclose baggage fees to consumers before the purchase of a ticket and to refund the fee should the airline lose the baggage. Capuano said it was “simply allowing people to make informed decisions as to how much they want to pay to actually travel with their own bags.” An opponent, Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., said a provision in the amendment unfairly “tips the scales in favor of global distribution systems and their business relationships with airlines.” The vote, on March 31, was 187 yeas to 235 nays.
YEAS: Michaud, Pingree
Vote 10: UNION ACTIVITY AND FAA WORKERS: The House has rejected an amendment sponsored by Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., to the FAA Reauthorization and Reform Act (HR 658). The amendment would have barred FAA employees from using work-related time to engage in union activities. Gingrey said that employees at 61 federal agencies spent nearly 3 million work-hours and more than $120 million on union activities during work-related time in fiscal 2008. An opponent, Rep. Jerry Costello, D-Ill., said FAA employees had the legal right to use work-related time “to represent their colleagues on issues ranging from discrimination to managerial misconduct and to resolve disputes” through arbitration rather than litigation. The vote, on March 31, was 195 yeas to 227 nays.
NAYS: Michaud, Pingree
Republican Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins
Vote 1: CONFIRMING DISTRICT JUDGE: The Senate has confirmed the nomination of Mae A. D’Agostino to serve as U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of New York. A supporter, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said D’Agostino had won numerous awards for her work as a trial lawyer in the Albany area, and said she “has earned the distinction of being one of the most well-respected and revered trial attorneys in the state of New York.” The vote, on March 28, was unanimous with 88 yeas.
YEAS: Collins, Snowe
Compiled by Targeted News Service for the Bangor Daily News.