, Salem, MA

September 21, 2011

Congressional roll call for week of Sept. 16, 2011

Voterama in Congress
The Salem News

WASHINGTON — WASHINGTON - Here’s how members of the Massachusetts delegation in Congress voted on major issues the week of Sept. 12.


NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS ACT: Voting 238 for and 186 against, the House on Sept. 15 passed a bill (HR 2587) to amend the National Labor Relations Act in a way that curbs union rights while making it easier for companies to move operations to non-union states.

 The NLRA was enacted in 1935 to establish and protect the rights of workers to form unions and bargain collectively over pay, benefits and working conditions. This bill gives employers standing to shift facilities to right-to-work states or overseas despite the law’s stipulation that such moves cannot be a retaliation against legitimate union activity and can be subjected to collective bargaining. The bill achieves its aim by stripping the National Labor Relations Board of authority to order work restored to union employees in cases where courts rule the employer violated the law in moving work or facilities elsewhere to punish legal union activity.

John Kline, R-Minn., said the bill “tells job creators they don’t have to fear an activist NLRB reversing important decisions about where to locate a business. It offers workers peace of mind by ensuring no federal labor board can force an employer to ship their jobs across the country.”

Rob Andrews, D-N.J., called the measure “the outsourcers’ bill of rights. It says to an employer, if you want to use as an excuse the collective and union activities of your employees and you want to pick up and move to Central or South America or Asia, here’s the way to do it.”

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; Stephen Lynch, D-Boston; William Keating, D-Quincy  

Not voting:   Michael Capuano, D-Somverville

CHARTER SCHOOLS FUNDING: Voting 365 for and 54 against, the House on Sept. 13 passed a bill (HR 2218) to fund charter schools at $300 million annually through fiscal 2018. The bill would provide grants for operating expenses and to leverage private loans for building or renovating classroom space.

The nation’s 5,000 charter schools, which educate about 5 percent of the nation’s K-12 students, receive public funding but are freed of many of the rules that bind traditional public schools. In return, they are expected to produce superior academic results and show traditional schools a model for improvement.

George Miller, D-Calif., said: “Charter schools began 20 years ago as a laboratory for innovation to help tackle the stagnant education system ... and to give options to parents who felt helpless. These schools have often become the myth-busters of what is possible for a demographic of children that have all too often been written off.“

Gwen Moore, D-Wis., objected to the bill’s allowing state governors to receive grants for charter schools. She said that in Wisconsin,  “We have constitutionally elected superintendents of public instruction. And it should remain within their purview to oversee and administer this program.”

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

Voting yes: Olver, Neal, McGovern, Frank, Tsongas, Markey, Lynch, Keating  

Voting no: Tierney  

Not voting: Capuano

GREEN SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION: Voting 195 for and 220 against, the House on Sept. 13 refused to promote green practices and materials in the building and renovating of charter schools. The non-binding amendment to HR 2218 (above) called upon the Department of Education to give preference to applications from states that use tax incentives and other policies to encourage green construction in school systems.

Rush Holt, D-N.J., said: “Energy bills are the second highest operating expenditure for schools after personnel costs. So we must do all we can to help schools implement green building practices and reduce their energy costs.”

John Kline, R-Minn. said the amendment would “dramatically increase the cost of building elementary and secondary charter schools” and “is not an appropriate role for the federal government.”

A yes vote backed the amendment.

Voting yes: Olver, Neal, McGovern, Frank, Tsongas, Tierney, Markey, Keating

Voting no:   None

Not voting:   Capuano, Lynch

DEBT-LIMIT REVISITED: By a tally of 232 for and 186 against, members on Sept. 14 voted to rescind some of the new U.S. borrowing authority that Congress and President Obama enacted in August as the government neared default. The vote on HJ Res 77 was only symbolic because the Senate already had refused to go along. The measure would rescind $500 billion of the August law’s $2.7 trillion increase in the national-debt ceiling. Scores of members who voted for more borrowing in August supported this measure.

Marlin Stutzman, R-Ind., said “there’s plenty of blame to go around for both parties in Washington. But there’s a new crew in town. There’s 87 new Republicans that were elected last November ... who have joined those in our party who are saying stop the spending.”

Barney Frank, D-Mass., said “if anyone took (the measure) seriously, it would recreate the greatest source of uncertainty we’ve seen in a long time, whether or not the federal government was going to shut down. So that’s the phoniness of this.”

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

Voting yes: None

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

Not voting:   Capuano  


FEDERAL DISASTER AID: Voting 62 for and 37 against, the Senate on Sept. 15 passed a bill (HJ Res 66) to provide the Federal Emergency Management Agency with $6.9 billion in deficit spending to help communities and individuals recover from recent natural disasters such as Hurricane Irene, the earthquake centered in Virginia, wildfires and Tropical Storm Lee. The legislation also would insure the continued flow of FEMA aid to victims of tornadoes in cities such as Joplin, Mo., and Tuscaloosa, Ala. The bill awaits House action.

Richard Durbin, D-Ill., said: “Those who say we have to cut other government programs and education, medical research, for example, to pay for the devastation” don’t understand “there are critical areas of government spending that have been cut back already.”

Tom Coburn, R-Okla., said that while there is agreement that disaster aid should flow, “There is a dispute about how much that should be. But the greatest dispute is ... whether we ought to spend another $6 billion or $7 billion by borrowing or we ought to actually reduce spending” to pay for it.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

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

Voting no:   None

Not voting:   None

FOREIGN AID v. DISASTER AID: Voting 20 for and 78 against, the Senate on Sept. 15 defeated an amendment to offset $6.9 billion in disaster aid (HJ Res 66, above) by cutting foreign aid and other overseas programs by that amount. Foreign aid accounts for about 1 percent of the federal budget.

Rand Paul, R-Ky., called foreign aid “welfare to other countries” and said: “If we choose to spend some money on an emergency, we should take the money from somewhere else in the budget.”

John Kerry, D-Mass., said: “Foreign aid is an investment in our national security; it is not a gift to other countries. It is a very small investment that provides an enormous return in so many different ways in terms of advancing the interests of our country.”

A yes vote backed the amendment.

Voting yes: None

Voting no: Brown, Kerry  

Not voting: None

AVIATION, HIGHWAY FUNDING: Voting 92 for and six against, the Senate on Sept. 15 sent President Obama a bill (HR 2887) to fund federal aviation programs though January at a $5.4 billion level and highway and transit programs through March at $20 billion. The stopgap measure is designed to buy time for settling several major disagreements over aviation and highway programs.

Among those disputes, Congress has been unable to renew the Federal Aviation Administration for a sustained period because of disagreements over union-election rules for air traffic controllers and taxpayer subsidies of air service to smaller cities. Nor have lawmakers yet addressed the fact that the Highway Trust Fund, supported by federal gasoline taxes, no longer generates enough revenue to finance the nation’s required level of road and bridge construction. This has resulted in deficit spending to help pay for highway projects.

Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said the Federal Aviation Administration “has raised very substantial concerns publicly | but more importantly ... to me privately | that at all levels they will have to start compromising safety” if Congress does not put it on a sustainable budget.

Rand Paul, R-Ky., said: “The highway bill is a trust fund. When we hear the words `trust fund,’ we should have trust that money is only spent on highways. Unfortunately, that money has been spent through the years on other items.”

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

Voting yes: Brown, Kerry  

Voting no: None

Not voting: None