December 15, 2019
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The yeas and nays: How Maine’s congressional representatives voted this week

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

There were 11 key votes and 22 roll call votes in the Senate this week. The House was not in session. The most important Senate vote was to pass a government budget for fiscal 2016. The House and Senate are in recess and scheduled to return to session on April 13.

There were no key votes in the House this week.

Senate votes

Senate vote 1

REPEALING ESTATE TAX: The Senate has passed an amendment sponsored by Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota, to a bill setting out the government’s budget for fiscal 2016. The amendment would repeal the federal estate tax.

Thune called the tax a “destructive and ill-conceived” levy on inheritances that especially harms farmers.

An amendment opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, said repeal would exclusively benefit the wealthiest three-tenths of 1 percent of families and increase the debt by $250 billion over 10 years.

The vote was 54 yeas to 46 nays. Both Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Angus King, I-Maine, were among the nays.

Senate vote 2

CLIMATE CHANGE AND HIGHWAY FUNDING: The Senate has passed an amendment sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, to a bill setting out the government’s budget for fiscal 2016. The amendment would block government agencies from withholding highway funds from those states that refuse to submit state implementation plans required by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan.

McConnell said highway funding should not be contingent on whether a state agrees with the EPA’s climate change policies.

An amendment opponent, Sen. Edward J. Markey, D-Massachusetts, said it would result in undercutting the plan and its effort to “reduce dangerous carbon pollution.”

The vote was 57 yeas to 43 nays. Collins gave a yea vote, and King gave a nay vote.

Senate vote 3

PRIVATE WATER RIGHTS: The Senate has passed an amendment sponsored by Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colorado, to a bill setting out the government’s budget for fiscal 2016. The amendment would limit the ability of the Forest Service to adopt rules that restrict the ability of private parties to exercise their water rights.

Gardner said the measure would preserve state water law as the primary legislation governing private water rights.

An amendment opponent, Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Washington, said it would “create havoc” for water use in the national parks and worsen water shortages in much of the West.

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

Senate vote 4

GOVERNMENT PROJECT LABOR AGREEMENTS: The Senate has passed an amendment sponsored by Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, to a bill setting out the government’s budget for fiscal 2016. The amendment would state that government agencies are not required to use project labor agreements with contractors on large construction projects.

Flake said the amendment sought to clarify that contractors have flexibility in the wages they pay to employees on such projects, which should allow project costs to come down by “allowing the free market to work its will.”

An amendment opponent, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, said project labor agreements in fact reduce costs by establishing a framework for wages, settlement of disputes and other issues before a construction project has begun.

The vote was 51 yeas to 49 nays. Collins gave a yea vote, and King gave a nay vote.

Senate vote 5

BENEFITS FOR SAME-SEX SPOUSES: The Senate has passed an amendment sponsored by Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, to a bill setting out the government’s budget for fiscal 2016. The amendment would stipulate that legally married same-sex spouses have access to Social Security benefits and Veterans Affairs benefits after the death of their spouse.

Schatz said the provision would mean legally married same-sex couples who move to a state that doesn’t allow same-sex marriages could still receive federal benefits.

An amendment opponent, Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyoming, said the matter of benefits for same-sex spouses should be taken up by the appropriate Senate committee, not by a budget amendment.

The vote was 57 yeas to 43 nays. Both Collins and King were among the yeas.

Senate vote 6

MIGRANTS FROM CENTRAL AMERICA: The Senate has passed an amendment sponsored by Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, to a bill setting out the government’s budget for fiscal 2016. The amendment would authorize the expedited removal of unaccompanied children from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras who unlawfully entered the U.S.

Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, said that U.S. policy encourages drug cartels and other smugglers to exploit children by promising to transport them to the U.S., whereas a policy of expedited removal would discourage such exploitation.

An amendment opponent, Sen. Mazie K. Hirono, D-Hawaii, said it “would roll back critical antitrafficking and humanitarian protections for children from Central America.”

The vote was 58 yeas to 42 nays. Both Collins and King were among the yeas.

Senate vote 7

MIDDLE CLASS TAX CREDITS: The Senate has passed an amendment sponsored by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, to a bill setting out the government’s budget for fiscal 2016. The amendment would authorize measures to extend and expand tax credits targeted for the middle class and working class.

Wyden said it “rewards hard work, makes college more affordable and helps parents who have a tough time making ends meet.”

An amendment opponent, Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyoming, said the issue of tax reform should be set aside for now, to allow the Senate Finance Committee to take a more comprehensive look at ways to reform the tax code.

The vote was 73 yeas to 27 nays. Both Collins and King were among the yeas.

Senate vote 8

HEALTH CARE EXCHANGES: The Senate has passed an amendment sponsored by Sen. David Vitter, R-Louisiana, to a bill setting out the government’s budget for fiscal 2016. The amendment would require members of Congress, the president and political appointees in the White House to buy their health insurance plans through government exchanges.

Vitter said it appropriately sought to ensure that those who passed and implemented health care reform go through the same exchanges other Americans do for their health insurance.

An amendment opponent, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-California, said the health care reform law already required politicians to be “treated like everyone else in this country who has an employer contribution to their health care,” making the amendment unnecessary.

The vote was 52 yeas to 46 nays. Both Collins and King were among the nays.

Senate vote 9

VOTER RE-ENFRANCHISEMENT: The Senate has rejected an amendment sponsored by Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, D-Maryland, to a bill setting out the government’s budget for fiscal 2016. The amendment would have authorized funding for measures to consider returning voting rights to citizens who have lost their voting rights because of criminal convictions.

Cardin said re-enfranchisement would allow up to 5.85 million citizens to fully participate in the nation’s democracy, including one out of every 13 African-Americans of voting age.

An amendment opponent, Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyoming, said the 50 states should preserve their own authority on policies for restoring voting rights to ex-convicts.

The vote was 47 yeas to 51 nays. Collins gave a nay vote, and King gave a yea vote.

Senate vote 10

REPLACING BUDGET SEQUESTER CUTS: The Senate has passed an amendment sponsored by Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Virginia, to a bill setting out the government’s budget for fiscal 2016. The amendment would allow for the budget sequester cuts agreed to in 2011 to be replaced by new spending and taxing legislation.

Kaine said replacing the sequester would give Congress the flexibility to repair damage done by cuts to the military and other vital government programs.

An amendment opponent, Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyoming, said the amendment would result in higher taxes and more spending, not deficit reduction, an urgent concern given that the national debt exceeds $18 trillion.

The vote was 50 yeas to 48 nays. Both Collins and King were among the yeas.

Senate vote 11

2016 BUDGET: The Senate has passed a bill, sponsored by Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyoming, to set out the government’s budget for fiscal 2016 and a planned budget for fiscal 2017 through 2025. The bill would repeal elements of the health care reform law, cut spending on entitlements and other programs by $5.1 trillion through 2025, and institute a block grant program for Medicaid.

Enzi said the budget “will help every American who wants to find a good-paying job and a fulfilling career” by increasing government effectiveness, reducing the deficit, and spurring economic growth.

A bill opponent, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, said it would cut funding for medical research, significantly cut benefits for low-income consumers while preserving tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy, and use fiscally irresponsible budgeting gimmicks.

The vote was 52 yeas to 46 nays. Collins gave a yea vote, and King gave a nay vote.

 



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