WASHINGTON — Here’s a look at how area members of Congress voted over the previous week.
Along with roll call votes this week, the Senate also concurred in the House amendment to the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, and passed the Female Veteran Suicide Prevention Act, to direct the Veterans Affairs Department to identify mental health care and suicide prevention programs that effectively treat female veterans.
The House also passed the Checkpoint Optimization and Efficiency Act, to reduce passenger wait times at airports; passed the Helping Hospitals Improve Patient Care Act, to provide regulatory relief under Medicare for providers of services and suppliers; and passed the Securing America’s Future Energy: Protecting our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety Act, to provide enhanced safety in pipeline transportation.
House vote 1
GERMANY AND HOLOCAUST SURVIVORS: The House has passed a resolution, sponsored by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Florida, to urge Germany’s government to provide funds to cover the health and welfare needs of Holocaust survivors living in the U.S. and elsewhere.
“Germany owes it to the survivors to alleviate and end the continuing injuries inflicted by the Nazi regime by finding a way to provide for all of their medical, mental health and home care needs, directly and without delay,” said Ros-Lehtinen.
The vote was unanimous with 363 yeas. Both Reps. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, and Bruce Poliquin, R-2nd District, were among the yeas.
House vote 2
TECHNOLOGY AND EMISSIONS RULES: The House has rejected an amendment sponsored by Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-New Jersey, to the Ozone Standards Implementation Act. The amendment would have struck from the bill a provision for the Environmental Protection Agency to consider technological feasibility when setting emissions rules under its National Ambient Air Quality Standards program.
Pallone said that historically, new technologies have emerged to enable industry to meet emissions rules and improve air quality, and introducing a feasibility provision ignored that history.
An amendment opponent, Rep. Pete Olson, R-Texas, said the bill merely said that the EPA may consider technological feasibility, without changing the basic requirement that emissions rules be based on public health, making the amendment unnecessary.
The vote was 169 yeas to 242 nays. Pingree gave a yea vote, and Poliquin gave a nay vote.
House vote 3
IMPLEMENTING OZONE EMISSIONS RULES: The House has passed the Ozone Standards Implementation Act, sponsored by Rep. Pete Olson, R-Texas. The bill would delay until 2024 the state implementation of 2015 ozone emissions rules set forth by the Environmental Protection Agency in its National Ambient Air Quality Standards program, and change the EPA cycle for reviewing NAAQS rules from five years to 10 years.
Olson said the delay for states to implement the ozone rules would give them time to prepare a strategy for meeting the tighter standards and use practical technology to improve air quality.
A bill opponent, Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Florida, said relaxing ozone standards and delaying reviews of NAAQS rules “will take us backwards” by blocking efforts to improve air quality, and the bill would create litigation hazards by exempting new and expanded emissions sources from emissions standards while not exempting existing sources.
The vote was 234 yeas to 177 nays. Pingree did not vote, and Poliquin gave a nay vote.
House vote 4
PUERTO RICO MINIMUM WAGE: The House has rejected an amendment sponsored by Rep. Norma J. Torres, D-California, to the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act. The amendment would have struck from the bill a provision allowing the minimum wage for Puerto Rican workers age 25 years and under to be reduced to $4.25 per hour for a four-year period.
Torres said cutting Puerto Rico’s minimum wage for young adults would encourage them to leave the island, hurting “Puerto Rico’s current and future workforce, its tax base, and its ability to pay off its debt, ultimately digging them into a deeper hole.”
An amendment opponent, Rep. David P. Roe, R-Tennessee, said a temporary lower minimum wage “will support economic growth and provide more job opportunities for the local workforce, particularly younger workers and workers with fewer skills.”
The vote was 196 yeas to 225 nays. Pingree gave a yea vote, and Poliquin gave a nay vote.
House vote 5
OVERSIGHT BOARD FOR PUERTO RICO: The House has passed the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act, sponsored by Rep. Sean P. Duffy, R-Wisconsin. The bill would create an oversight board for managing Puerto Rico’s budget and debt and give the board powers that include approving the territory’s annual budgets and ordering spending reductions, and restructuring its debt.
Duffy said that with Puerto Rico in dire financial straits, the board was needed to resolve its debts and help it recover financial health, setting the ground for a stabilized economy providing Puerto Ricans with a decent standard of living.
A bill opponent, Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez, D-Illinois, said the board would be “focused on austerity without consequences of action for the people” of Puerto Rico, and potentially make budget cuts that damage public health and safety.
The vote was 297 yeas to 127 nays. Pingree gave a yea vote, and Poliquin gave a nay vote.
Senate vote 1
THE MILITARY AND MEDICAL RESEARCH GRANTS: The Senate has passed an amendment sponsored by Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, to the National Defense Authorization Act. The amendment would maintain a Defense Department grant program funding medical research by voiding two bill provisions proposing to impose new limits on the issuance of grants.
Durbin said the proposed limits would effectively end the grant program, with a resulting increase in fatalities from cancer and other diseases.
An amendment opponent, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, said the limits would reform a $1 billion grant program often used to fund research that has nothing to do with the military.
The vote was 66 yeas to 32 nays. Both Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Angus King, I-Maine, were among the yeas.
Senate vote 2
PRIVATIZING MILITARY COMMISSARIES: The Senate has passed an amendment sponsored by Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, to the National Defense Authorization Act. The amendment would strike a bill provision authorizing a pilot program for the military to privatize its commissary grocery stores servicing families at military bases.
Inhofe cited government reports indicating that privatizing the commissaries would not produce cost savings for shoppers and would cut benefits for them.
An amendment opponent, Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, said the pilot program could prove the potential for the military to cut costs by replacing loss-making commissaries with privately run stores that provide a greater variety of grocery products to military families at lower prices while reducing a financial burden for taxpayers.
The vote was 70 yeas to 28 nays. Collins gave a yea vote, and King gave a nay vote.
Senate vote 3
EBOLA PROGRAMS FUNDING LEVEL: The Senate has rejected a motion sponsored by Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, to instruct Senate conferees with the House in negotiating the two chambers’ versions of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act. The motion would have insisted that the bill’s final conference report include $510 million to reimburse emergency spending on Ebola programs and response to the Zika virus, and that it maintain existing Ebola emergency funds at current levels.
Nelson said although the Ebola outbreak in Africa has been contained, the danger of another large outbreak persists, and maintaining funding levels for Ebola programs will help prevent such an outbreak.
A motion opponent, Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Missouri, said there was still $1.2 billion in the government’s Ebola response fund, and devoting the $510 million to Ebola reimbursements was not necessary.
The vote to adopt the motion was 46 yeas to 49 nays. Collins gave a nay vote, and King gave a yea vote.
Senate vote 4
PERMITS FOR BRIDGE REPAIRS: The Senate has passed a motion sponsored by Sen. Daniel Sullivan, R-Alaska, to instruct Senate conferees with the House in negotiating the two chambers’ versions of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act. The motion would insist the bill include a provision speeding the issuance of federal permits for repairing and rebuilding structurally deficient bridges.
Sullivan said that with it now taking five to six years to get bridge permits, the amendment would allow a much faster permitting process that will improve safety and grow the economy by improving the transportation system.
A motion opponent, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-California, said repairing aging bridges without paying adequate heed to the array of dangerous materials that could be released into waterways would endanger public health.
The vote to adopt the motion was 56 yeas to 38 nays. Both Collins and King were among the yeas.
Senate vote 5
INCREASING NON-MILITARY DISCRETIONARY SPENDING: The Senate has rejected a cloture motion to end debate on an amendment sponsored by Sen. Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island, to the National Defense Authorization Act. The amendment would have authorized $18 billion of funding for nonmilitary programs, including cybersecurity, infrastructure projects, anti-Islamic State efforts, a response to the Zika outbreak, and measures responding to the water crisis in Flint, Michigan.
Reed said the increases would take a broader approach to national security that recognized the need to adequately fund public health and economic growth measures as well as the military.
An amendment opponent, Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, said it would wrongly put “domestic considerations on the same plane as national security” despite the unique problems that spending cuts of recent years have created for the military.
The vote to end debate was 43 yeas to 55 nays. Collins gave a nay vote, and King gave a yea vote.
Senate vote 6
MILITARY FUNDING LEVELS: The Senate has rejected a cloture motion to end debate on an amendment sponsored by Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, to the National Defense Authorization Act. The amendment would have authorized a $17.8 billion increase in the military’s war operations fund, with the money to be used for jet fighters and other equipment, and to add 15,000 people to the Army and 3,000 to the Marines.
McCain said the increase was needed to reverse a sharp decline in the military’s personnel and fighting capacity so that it can adequately respond to the country’s growing security challenges.
An amendment opponent, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, called it a budgeting gimmick that would improperly use the war operations fund for the military’s basic spending plans.
The vote to end debate was 56 yeas to 42 nays, with a three-fifths majority required for approval. Both Collins and King were among the yeas.