The yeas and nays: How Maine’s congressional representatives voted this week

Posted March 27, 2015, at 5:02 p.m.
Last modified March 27, 2015, at 5:43 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Here’s a look at how Maine’s members of Congress voted over the previous week.

There were eight key votes and 15 roll call votes in the House this week. There were 12 key votes and 53 roll call votes in the Senate. The most important House vote was to pass a budget for fiscal 2016, and the most important Senate vote was to pass a fiscal 2016 budget amendment to preserve Social Security benefits.

Along with roll call votes, the House also passed a resolution, sponsored by Rep. Robin L. Kelly, D-Illinois, to condemn a recent attack by Boko Haram on innocent men, women and children in the northeastern Nigerian town of Baga; and passed the Tenant Income Verification Relief Act, sponsored by Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colorado, to allow reviews of certain families’ incomes every three years in order to determine their eligibility for certain federal government assisted housing programs.

The Senate also passed the Boys Town Centennial Commemorative Coin Act, sponsored by Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Nebraska, to require the Treasury Department to mint coins commemorating the centennial of Boys Town; passed a bill, sponsored by Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, expressing the sense of the Senate regarding Jan. 24 attacks carried out by Russian-backed rebels on civilians in Mariupol, Ukraine, and providing lethal and nonlethal military aid to Ukraine; and passed a bill, sponsored by Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Nebraska, expressing the sense of the Senate about a strategy for the Internet of Things to promote economic growth and consumer empowerment.

House votes

House vote 1

INTERVENING IN UKRAINE: The House has passed a bill, sponsored by Rep. Eliot L. Engel, D-New York, calling on President Barack Obama to provide lethal military aid to Ukraine’s government in its operations against separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Engel said the conflict in Ukraine “poses the greatest threat to European security since World War II,” making it imperative that the U.S. act promptly to combat the danger of Russia occupying and dominating Ukraine, with resulting harm to U.S. interests and a peaceful, democratic Europe.

The vote was 348 yeas to 48 nays. Both Reps. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, and Bruce Poliquin, R-2nd District, were among the yeas.

House vote 2

CHANGING VETERANS AFFAIRS BUDGETING PROCESS: House has passed the Department of Veterans Affairs Budget Planning Reform Act, sponsored by Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Florida. The bill would require the Veterans Affairs secretary to annually submit to Congress a planned yearly budget for Veterans Affairs, and require the secretary to review the budgeting process every four years.

A supporter, Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Florida, said imposing more rigorous financial planning on Veterans Affairs would require it to consider whether it has the resources available to meet its goals and provide checks and balances to increase budgeting discipline.

The vote was unanimous with 420 yeas. Both Pingree and Poliquin were among the yeas.

House vote 3

PROGRESSIVE CAUCUS BUDGET PLAN: The House has rejected a substitute amendment sponsored by Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minnesota, to a bill to establish a fiscal 2016 budget. The budget plan, put forth by the Congressional Progressive Caucus, would have spent $820 billion on infrastructure projects, increased funding for student loans, established a public health insurance option for consumers and increased corporate taxes and taxes on the wealthy.

Ellison said the plan sought to create 8.4 million jobs and increase wages for the middle class, reducing the trend in this century of lower income for most Americans and higher costs for health care, housing and education.

An amendment opponent, Rep. Tom McClintock, R-California, said the plan’s $2.8 trillion debt increase and $7 trillion tax increase over 10 years would place a heavy burden on all Americans, hurting the economy and weakening the nation’s finances.

The vote was 96 yeas to 330 nays. Pingree gave a yea vote, and Poliquin gave a nay vote.

House vote 4

BLACK CAUCUS BUDGET PLAN: The House has rejected a substitute amendment sponsored by Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-North Carolina, to a bill to establish a fiscal 2016 budget. The budget plan, put forth by the Congressional Black Caucus, would have increased taxes by $2.7 trillion over the next 10 years, spent $500 billion on job creation programs, increased the minimum wage and reduced the deficit by $1.9 trillion over 10 years.

Butterfield said the plan sought to “increase economic opportunities for all Americans through significant and sustained investments in education and infrastructure, affordable housing, domestic manufacturing, small businesses, and job training.”

An amendment opponent, Rep. Tom Price, R-Georgia, said the combination of increased spending and higher taxes would hurt the economy and add to the nation’s debt, while weakening security by cutting military spending $314 billion over 10 years.

The vote was 120 yeas to 306 nays. Pingree gave a yea vote, and Poliquin gave a nay vote.

House vote 5

DEMOCRATIC BUDGET PLAN: The House has rejected a substitute amendment sponsored by Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Maryland, to a bill to establish a fiscal 2016 budget. The amendment would have increased spending on infrastructure and education programs, expanded the child tax credit and earned income tax credit programs, expanded Medicare and Medicaid, and increased taxes on the wealthy.

Van Hollen said it “supports working families in America and invests in our future” by reducing taxes for the working class, encouraging greater education, and promoting public health by preserving the Affordable Care Act.

An amendment opponent, Rep. Tom Price, R-Georgia, said the plan’s $855 billion of new spending would move the government further away from a balanced budget despite increasing taxes by $1.9 trillion over 10 years, including higher taxes for small business and resulting harm to the economy.

The vote was 160 yeas to 264 nays. Pingree gave a yea vote, and Poliquin gave a nay vote.

House vote 6

SPENDING ON WAR ON TERROR: The House has passed an amendment sponsored by Rep. Tom Price, R-Georgia, to a bill to establish a government budget for fiscal 2016. The amendment would increase fiscal 2016 funding for U.S. military operations in Afghanistan and other areas involved in the war on terrorism from $94 billion to $96 billion, and eliminate a requirement for offsetting spending on the war on terrorism with spending cuts elsewhere.

Price said $96 billion was the necessary level of spending to help the military accomplish its mission of ending terrorist threats.

An amendment opponent, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Maryland, said the increased spending was unnecessary.

The vote was 219 yeas to 208 nays. Pingree gave a nay vote, and Poliquin gave a yea vote.

House vote 7

ESTABLISHING BUDGET LEVELS: The House has passed a bill, sponsored by Rep. Tom Price, R-Georgia. The bill would set out a $2.9 trillion government budget for fiscal 2016 and planned budgets for fiscal 2017 through 2025. It would repeal the Affordable Care Act, repeal the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, increase state control over spending on Medicare and other federal programs, and cut domestic spending by $5.5 trillion over 10 years.

Price called the budget a plan to establish a “more efficient, more effective, and more accountable” government that better promotes economic growth.

A bill opponent, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Maryland, criticized it for inadequate investment in infrastructure, higher taxes for the middle class and higher costs for education and health care, and tax cuts for the wealthy.

The vote was 228 yeas to 199 nays. Pingree gave a nay vote, and Poliquin gave a yea vote.

House vote 8

MEDICARE REFORM: The House has passed the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act, sponsored by Rep. Michael C. Burgess, R-Texas. The bill would repeal the sustainable growth rate formula for determining Medicare payments to medical providers and replace it with a system that links payments to the quality and value of care.

It would also reauthorize through fiscal 2017 the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and permanently authorize the Qualifying Individual program to subsidize Medicare part B premiums for low-income seniors.

Burgess said ending the problematic sustainable growth rate formula would improve Medicare for both medical providers and patients, promising to reduce costs, improve care, and make Medicare more sustainable.

“For the last decade, Washington has kicked this can down the road and left Maine seniors who rely on Medicare services uncertain of whether or not they will receive care each year,” Poliquin said.

“While this bill is not perfect, it’s an important pathway to allow seniors to continue to see their trusted doctors by making Medicare more accessible and strengthen Medicare for future generations.”

The vote was 392 yeas to 37 nays. Both Pingree and Poliquin were among the yeas.

Senate votes

Senate vote 1

SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS: The Senate has passed an amendment sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, to a bill to establish a fiscal 2016 budget. The amendment would establish a deficit-neutral reserve fund intended to protect benefits received by current beneficiaries of Social Security.

Hatch said the fund would also make it easier for Congress to work on legislation to reform Social Security to ensure that program benefits can continue to be paid to future generations.

An amendment opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, said it did nothing to protect future benefits for those not currently on Social Security.

The vote was 75 yeas to 24 nays. Both Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Angus King, I-Maine, were among the yeas.

Senate vote 2

INTEREST RATES ON STUDENT LOANS: The Senate has rejected an amendment sponsored by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, to a bill to establish a fiscal 2016 government budget. The amendment would have allowed borrowers with federal or private student loans to refinance their loans at the interest rates that prevailed during the 2013-14 school year, and offset the resulting lost government revenue with a 30 percent minimum tax rate.

Warren said loan refinancing would relieve young adults of the strain created by the cost of loans taken out at a time of higher interest rates, increasing fairness and opportunities for the middle class “to build some real economic security.”

An amendment opponent, Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyoming, said the government’s income-based repayment plan for student loans was already providing relief to former students.

The vote was 46 yeas to 53 nays. Collins gave a nay vote, and King gave a yea vote.

Senate vote 3

WATER REGULATION: The Senate has passed an amendment sponsored by Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyoming, to a bill to establish a fiscal 2016 government budget. The amendment would restrict regulations under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to those that protect water quality, and exempt various manmade waterways from regulation by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Barrasso called the amendment a necessary response to a proposed EPA rule that would subject manmade waterways to regulation, with resulting harm to the ability of farmers, ranchers, and other parties to use their property as they see fit.

An amendment opponent, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan, called it an unnecessarily broad measure that would increase regulatory uncertainty.

The vote was 59 yeas to 40 nays. Both Collins and King were among the yeas.

Senate vote 4

CLIMATE CHANGE: The Senate has rejected an amendment sponsored by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, to a bill to establish a fiscal 2016 government budget. The amendment would have authorized the adoption of policies to minimize climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, provided that such policies do not increase the deficit.

Sanders said the amendment recognized the need for action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address the “devastating problems in the United States and throughout the world” caused by climate change.

An amendment opponent, Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyoming, said there was still uncertainty among scientists about the causes and severity of climate change, making measures to cut emissions premature.

The vote was 49 yeas to 50 nays. Both Collins and King were among the yeas.

Senate vote 5

REPLACING SEQUESTER BUDGET CUTS: The Senate has rejected an amendment sponsored by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, to a bill to establish a fiscal 2016 government budget. The amendment would have replaced the budget sequester agreement with a $148 billion increase in spending in 2016 and 2017, offsetting the increase with the elimination of various tax incentives and tax credits.

Murray said replacing automatic spending cuts with new investments that support low-income families as well as the military would translate to a growing economy that benefits all Americans.

An amendment opponent, Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyoming, said its spending increases failed to address the need to eliminate wasteful spending on discretionary government programs.

The vote was 46 yeas to 53 nays. Collins gave a nay vote, and King gave a yea vote.

Senate vote 6

THE UNITED NATIONS AND ISRAEL: The Senate has passed an amendment sponsored by Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, to a bill to establish a fiscal 2016 government budget. The amendment would allow for a decrease in U.S. funding for the United Nations and other international institutions if those institutions adopt policies discriminating against Israel.

Cotton said the threat of funding cuts would “reaffirm our commitment to the U.S.-Israel alliance in preventing unfair, discriminatory treatment” against Israel.

The vote was unanimous with 99 yeas. Both Collins and King were among the yeas.

Senate vote 7

MEDICAL CARE FOR VETERANS: The Senate has passed an amendment sponsored by Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, to a bill to establish a fiscal 2016 government budget. The amendment would allow a veteran who lives more than 40 miles driving distance from the nearest Veterans Affairs medical facility to seek medical care from other, more local facilities if the Veterans Affairs’ facility cannot provide the care the veteran needs.

Moran said the change would give veterans the flexibility they need to receive care without excessive inconvenience.

“Regardless of where they live, our veterans deserve access to quality health care,” Collins and King said in a joint statement. “We are pleased to hear that Secretary McDonald has listened to veterans’ concerns and will adopt a common-sense interpretation of the 40-mile rule and implement the provision the way that Congress had intended.”

The vote was unanimous with 100 yeas. Both Collins and King were among the yeas.

Senate vote 8

PELL GRANTS: The Senate has rejected an amendment sponsored by Sen. Al Franken, D-Minnesota, to a bill to establish a fiscal 2016 government budget. The amendment would have provided $89 billion of Pell Grant funding for higher education.

Franken said escalating college costs meant Pell Grants no longer adequately help students cover their college expense, making increased funding for the grants desirable as a way to help lower-income families send their children to college.

An amendment opponent, Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyoming, said the increased funding would add to the deficit.

The vote was 46 yeas to 54 nays. Collins gave a nay vote, and King gave a yea vote.

Senate vote 9

CO2 EMISSIONS TAX: The Senate has passed an amendment sponsored by Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Missour, to a bill to establish a fiscal 2016 government budget. The amendment would bar the adoption of a tax or fee on carbon dioxide emissions believed to be linked to climate change.

Blunt said the ban would avert the significantly higher energy costs Americans face if an emissions tax were adopted.

An amendment opponent, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-California, said California’s experience with an emissions tax was evidence that a tax “leads to prosperity, jobs, and a clean and healthy environment.”

The vote was 58 yeas to 42 nays. Collins gave a yea vote, and King gave a nay vote.

Senate vote 10

FEDERAL EDUCATION STANDARDS: The Senate has passed an amendment sponsored by Sen. David Vitter, R-Louisiana, to a bill to establish a fiscal 2016 government budget. The amendment would bar the Education Department from making the distribution of funds to a state contingent on the state adopting Common Core and other federal education standards.

Vitter said education policy decisions should be made by states and school districts rather than a federal government that seeks to coerce states into accepting a given policy.

An amendment opponent, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, said it was not necessary because Common Core and other standards are not mandated by the federal government.

The vote was 54 yeas to 46 nays. Collins gave a yea vote, and King gave a nay vote.

Senate vote 11

ARMS TRADE AND THE UNITED NATIONS: The Senate has passed an amendment sponsored by Sen. James Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, to a bill to establish a fiscal 2016 budget. The amendment would bar funding of the United Nations and other international organizations that support the U.N Arms Trade Treaty until the Senate has ratified the treaty.

Inhofe said the ban would protect Second Amendment rights and the ability of Israel and other U.S. allies to build weapons systems.

An amendment opponent, Sen. Robert Menendez, D-New Jersey, said prohibiting U.N. funding because of a treaty being adopted by other nations was absurd, and Menendez added that the treaty would benefit the U.S. by establishing standards for arms exports that prevent the proliferation of “destabilizing arms that could be used against American soldiers.”

The vote was 59 yeas to 41 nays. Collins gave a yea vote, and King gave a nay vote.

Senate vote 12

EXEMPTION FROM WATER REGULATIONS: The Senate has passed an amendment sponsored by Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan, to a bill to establish a fiscal 2016 government budget. The amendment would maintain the Clean Water Act’s regulatory exemption for agriculture, ranching, and forestry activities, and require scientific evidence for future regulations concerning water quality.

Stabenow said the amendment ensured regulatory clarity for farmers to manage their water supplies while also maintaining important protections to ensure clean water.

The vote was unanimous with 99 yeas. Both Collins and King were among the yeas.

Pingree issued no statements about any of the House votes this week.

 

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