SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

September 29, 2011

Congressional roll call for weeks of Sept. 19 and 26, 2011

Voterama in Congress
The Salem News

WASHINGTON — WASHINGTON - Here’s how members of the Massachusetts delegation in Congress voted on major issues the weeks of Sept. 19 and 26:



HOUSE

CLEAN-AIR RULES DELAY: Voting 249 for and 169 against, the House on Sept. 23 sent the Senate a bill (HR 2401) to delay until February 2013 or later the effective dates of two clean-air regulations that the Environmental Protection Agency plans to begin phasing in next year.

One is the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, which would limit power-plant emissions in 28 eastern, southern and central states that contribute to ground-level ozone (smog) and fine-particle (soot) pollution in other states. The other is the Utility Maximum Achievable Control Technology Rule, which would limit coal-and oil-fired power plants in their discharges of acid gases and toxic elements such as mercury and arsenic. The plants would have to install equipment such as scrubbers and particulate controls to meet the EPA standards. Additionally, the bill would reduce EPA funding to enforce curbs on diesel emissions.

Critics said the regulations would worsen the recession by placing costly burdens on the private sector and raising electricity bills. The EPA said its cross-state rule would avert 13,000 to 34,000 premature deaths each year in thousands of U.S. counties while generating billions of dollars in annual benefits to the U.S. economy.

Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., said the bill is needed because “over the past 30 months under the Obama Administration, the EPA has issued a wide array of large, expensive regulations that affect virtually every facet of the U.S. economy, from homeowners, hospitals, and farmers to small businesses and manufacturers,” costing employers $17.8 billion annually.

Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, said: “Since 1970, the Clean Air Act has saved hundreds of thousands of lives and decreased air pollution by 60 percent. Implementing clean-air standards will mean fewer kids and parents will struggle with life-long costs of dirty air (and) reducing the amount of mercury and toxins in the air and water.”

A yes vote was to pass the bill.



Voting yes: None

Voting no:   John Olver, D-Amherst, Richard Neal, D-Springfield, James McGovern, D-Worcester; Barney Frank, D-Newton; Niki Tsongas, D-Lowell; John Tierney, D-Salem; Edward Markey, D-Malden; Michael Capuano, D-Somerville, Stephen Lynch, D-Boston; William Keating, D-Quincy  

Not voting:   None



DEFEAT OF STOPGAP BUDGET: Voting 195 for and 230 against, the House on Sept. 21 defeated a bill (HR 2608) to fund federal operations through Nov. 18 and provide $3.65 billion to help communities recover from this year’s earthquake, hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, storms and wildfires. The short-term budget is needed because Congress, with the new fiscal year just days away, had enacted none of the 12 appropriations bills that fund the government. The bill drew opposition from 182 Democrats who did not want to cut other programs to fund disaster relief and 48 conservative Republicans who demanded deeper spending cuts.

While much of the disaster aid would be deficit-spending, about $1 billion would be offset by cuts in Department of Energy loans to help the U.S. auto industry produce better-mileage vehicles. Critics said cutting the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing (ATVM) program would shelve 18 pending loans totaling $9.8 billion that could produce more than 40,000 jobs. Advocates said the cuts would touch only unobligated balances.

Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said the cuts would affect unobligated ATVM funds, adding “I don’t think ... anyone is intending to do anything damaging to potential job-creation.”

Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., told Cantor: “You are targeting a fund which has demonstrably grown jobs in America. You indicate there is still money in the account. ...But there are pending requests, again, which would result in 50,000 to 60,000 new jobs.”

A yes vote was to pass the bill.



Voting yes: None

Voting no: Olver, Neal, McGovern, Frank, Tsongas, Tierney, Markey, Capuano, Lynch, Keating

Not voting:   None



REVERSAL ON STOPGAP BUDGET: Voting 219 for and 203 against, the House on Sept. 23 reversed its vote of two days earlier (above) and passed a bill (HR 2608) to fund the entire government through Nov. 18 and provide $3.65 billion in disaster aid. The reversal occurred because 24 conservative Republicans, most of them aligned with the tea party, switched positions at the urging of GOP leaders.

The bill was still disputed by Democrats because about $1 billion of the aid would be offset by cuts in a federal loan program that has been creating tens of thousands of jobs while increasing the energy-efficiency of U.S. automobiles. Advocates said the cuts would affect only unobligated balances.

David Dreier, R-Calif., said the bill “is identical to the measure that we considered” two days earlier and must be passed because “we don’t want the government to shut down. We want to make sure that the people who are truly in need are able to have the resources necessary.”

Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., said: “When it comes to spending billions of dollars on two wars that are bankrupting us, the (Republicans’) concern for spending is nowhere to be found. ...When it comes to helping women, children, and families whose homes have been washed away, the majority has decided they just can’t help unless they get to take the money from a program that has created 39,000 jobs.”

A yes vote was to pass the bill.



Voting yes: None

Voting no:   Olver, Neal, McGovern, Frank, Tsongas, Tierney, Markey, Capuano, Lynch, Keating

Not voting:   None



SENATE

STOPGAP BUDGET, DISASTER AID: Voting 79 for and 12 against, the Senate on Sept. 26 sent the House a bill (HR 2608) to fund federal agencies at fiscal 2011 levels for the first seven weeks of fiscal 2012, from Oct. 1 through Nov. 18. The stopgap funding is needed because Congress has not yet enacted any of the 12 appropriations measures that fund the executive, legislative and judicial branches.

 The bill includes $2.65 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to distribute over the seven weeks to areas damaged by hurricanes, flooding, tropical storms, wildfires and the Mid-Atlantic earthquake. The FEMA aid is not offset by cuts in other programs in keeping with congressional precedent that disaster aid should be rushed as emergency spending to those in need, not delayed by partisan disputes.

 All 56 members of the Democratic caucus and 23 Republicans supported the bill. When the House takes up the bill early next week, the issue of whether to require disaster aid to be offset by spending cuts will be debated anew.

Mary Landrieu, D-La., said: “It is easy to generalize and say our government spends too much money and needs to cut all government programs. Then a tornado wipes out Joplin, Mo., or a hurricane called Irene slams into the East Coast destroying countless homes and lives in Vermont or a flood devastates communities in Derry Township, Middletown and Harrisburg, Pa. It is then we count on ... the federal government to support us with disaster relief.”

Rand Paul, R-Ky., objected to Congress’s habit of wrapping individual appropriations bills into massive, catchall measures such as this one. “Actions such as this are a big part of what gives Washington a reputation for being dysfunctional,” he said. “The fact that authorizations for many programs expire on Sept. 30 each year is not a secret. Nor is it a secret when Sept. 30 will come around each year.”

A yes vote was to pass the bill.



Voting yes: Scott Brown, R; John Kerry, D  

Voting no:   None

Not voting:   None



REPUBLICANS’ BUDGET DEFEAT: Voting 59 for and 36 against, the Senate on Sept. 23 tabled (killed) a House-passed GOP budget (HR 2608) to fund the government through Nov. 18 while providing $3.65 billion to help communities recover from natural disasters. Democratic opposition centered on the bill’s using $1 billion of cuts in a popular Department of Energy loan program for the U.S. auto industry to help offset the cost of the disaster aid. The vote left House Republicans in search of a replacement bill that could win passage before the new fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

A yes vote was to kill the House Republicans’ stopgap budget.



Voting yes: Kerry  

Voting no:   Brown  

Not voting:   None



TRADE ADJUSTMENT ASSISTANCE: Voting 69 for and 28 against the Senate on Sept. 22 renewed Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) for workers displaced by foreign trade at a cost of $900 million over three years. The renewal was added to a broader trade bill (HR 2832) and sent to the House for pairing with U.S. free-trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama.

Begun in 1962, TAA provides job retraining and temporary financial support to workers whose jobs have been lost or curtailed as a result of an increase in imports or their company shifting work overseas. The program mainly benefits displaced workers in the manufacturing, service, government and farm sectors, but also funds professional assistance for companies injured by foreign trade (next issue).

Bob Casey, D-Pa., said: “This program for decades now has helped people get through crises and ... has allowed them to be trained and retrained for the jobs of the future. We need this program, our workers need it, and our economy needs it.”

Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, called TAA “a caustic program of dubious value. ...There is no evidence that TAA works. ...TAA continues to grow and TAA is on top of unemployment insurance that we are paying anyway, and it isn’t justified.”

A yes vote was to renew Trade Adjustment Assistance.



Voting yes: Brown, Kerry  

Voting no:   None

Not voting:   None



TRADE ADJUSTMENT FOR FIRMS: Voting 43 for and 54 against, the Senate on Sept. 21 refused to eliminate a Department of Commerce program known as Trade Adjustment Assistance for Firms, which funds professional guidance for companies harmed by free-trade agreements. The amendment was offered to HR 2832 (above). While TAA is designed mainly to help workers, it also funds this specialized program to help managements cope with the downside of foreign trade.

Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., noted that President Obama called for eliminating Trade Adjustment Assistance for Firms in his first budget plan for fiscal 2012.

Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said: “When a job-creator goes out of business because of an unfair trade deal ... workers lose their jobs, communities lose revenues, funds for schools are cut, funds for public services (are cut).”

A yes vote was to repeal Trade Adjustment Assistance for Firms.



Voting yes: None

Voting no:   Brown, Kerry  

Not voting:   None



F-16 JETS FOR TAIWAN; On a tie vote of 48-48, the Senate on Sept. 22 defeated an amendment to HR 2832 (above) requiring the administration to sell 66 new F-16 fighter jets to the Republic of China, or Taiwan, over objections from the People’s Republic of China, or mainland China. The amendment sought to counter a possible administration decision to upgrade rather than replace Taiwan’s aging fleet of nearly 150 F-16s. Lockheed-Martin Corp. builds the F-16 in Fort Worth, Texas. The sale of new F-16s is priced in the $8 billion vicinity.

John Cornyn, R-Texas, said the U.S. is obligated by the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979 to provide Taiwan “with sufficient ... weapons in order to defend itself against any possible aggression by Communist China or from any other source.”

Max Baucus, D-Mont., said “this Trade Adjustment Assistance bill is not the appropriate time, season or place to raise this issue. This is a trade bill. This is not about sales of F-16s to Taiwan or to any country.”

A yes vote was to sell new F-16 jets to Taiwan.



Voting yes: Brown  

Voting no:   Kerry  

Not voting:   None