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Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Sunday, May 26th, 2019

Last week (May 20th-24th) in Congress: How Cascadia’s U.S. lawmakers voted

Good morn­ing! Here’s how Cas­ca­di­a’s Mem­bers of Con­gress vot­ed on major issues dur­ing the leg­isla­tive week end­ing Fri­day, May 24th, 2019.

In the United States House of Representatives

Chamber of the United States House of Representatives

The House cham­ber (U.S. Con­gress pho­to)

EXPANSION OF WORKER RETIREMENT PLANS: Vot­ing 417 for and 3 against, the House on May 23rd passed a bill (H.R. 1994) that would expand tax-favored retire­ment plans and ben­e­fits. The bill would:

  • remove lim­its on con­tri­bu­tions to Indi­vid­ual Retire­ment Accounts;
  • increase from 70 ½ to 72 the age at which indi­vid­u­als must start mak­ing annu­al with­drawals from their plans;
  • require employ­ers to include in com­pa­ny-spon­sored plans part-time employ­ees with suf­fi­cient work his­to­ries;
  • qual­i­fy home-health care work­ers to par­tic­i­pate in 401(k)-style plans; allow penal­ty-free ear­ly dis­tri­b­u­tions to cov­er birth and adop­tion expens­es;
  • expand the use in retire­ment plans of annu­ities offer­ing life­time pay­ments;
  • make it eas­i­er for work­ers to take retire­ment accounts with them to new jobs and allow penal­ty-free dis­tri­b­u­tions from Sec­tion 529 col­lege sav­ings plans for appren­tice­ship pro­grams and repay­ing stu­dent loans.

The bill also would pro­vide tax cred­its to encour­age employ­ers to auto­mat­i­cal­ly enroll work­ers in com­pa­ny retire­ment sav­ings plans, as opposed to the cur­rent sys­tem in which work­ers are giv­en an oppor­tu­ni­ty to sign up.

After being auto­mat­i­cal­ly enrolled, work­ers could opt out of the plan. The bill would make it eas­i­er for small busi­ness­es to estab­lish and admin­is­ter mul­ti­ple-employ­er and pooled-employ­er retire­ment plans, and would reduce the pre­mi­ums some char­i­ties and coop­er­a­tives pay to the Pen­sion Ben­e­fit Guar­an­ty Cor­po­ra­tion.

Richard Neal, D‑Massachusetts, said the bill is need­ed because “too many peo­ple [are] in dan­ger of not hav­ing enough in retire­ment to main­tain their stan­dard of liv­ing and avoid slid­ing into pover­ty. Social Secu­ri­ty ben­e­fits are mod­est, employ­er-spon­sored pen­sions are dis­ap­pear­ing and too many peo­ple find it dif­fi­cult to save for retire­ment… A 2018 study found that almost two-thirds of work­ers have no retire­ment account assets.”

Kevin Brady, R‑Texas, said the bill “makes it eas­i­er for Main Street busi­ness­es to offer retire­ment plans… to join togeth­er, to pool their resources.…This leg­is­la­tion is pro-work­er and equal­ly impor­tant pro-family.…The time is ripe for these reforms — work­ers’ pay­checks are ris­ing, infla­tion is low and busi­ness­es are expand­ing.”

No mem­ber spoke against the bill. The neg­a­tive votes were cast by Repub­li­cans Justin Amash of Michi­gan, Thomas Massie of Ken­tucky and Chip Roy of Texas.

A yes vote was to send the bill to the Sen­ate.

The State of Idaho

Vot­ing Aye (2): Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Russ Fulcher and Mike Simp­son

The State of Oregon

Vot­ing Aye (5): Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Suzanne Bonam­i­ci, Earl Blu­me­nauer, Peter DeFazio, Kurt Schrad­er; Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Greg Walden

The State of Washington

Vot­ing Aye (9): Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Suzan Del­Bene, Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer, Prami­la Jaya­pal, Kim Schri­er, Adam Smith, and Den­ny Heck; Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Dan New­house and Cathy McMor­ris Rodgers

Not Vot­ing (1): Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Jaime Her­rera-Beut­ler

Cas­ca­dia total: 16 aye votes, 1 not vot­ing

BOYCOTTS, DIVESTITURE, SANCTIONS: Vot­ing 200 for and 222 against, the House on May 23rd defeat­ed a Repub­li­can bid to include a rebuke of the so-called “BDS” move­ment in H.R. 1994 (above). The motion was unre­lat­ed to the bil­l’s pur­pose of expand­ing retire­ment sav­ings. BDS is a glob­al cam­paign by some com­pa­nies and oth­er enti­ties to boy­cott, divest from and sanc­tion Israel and Israeli-owned firms in response to Israel’s treat­ment of Pales­tini­ans.

Patrick McHen­ry, R‑North Car­oli­na, said: “Let’s stand up against this anti-Zion­ism and the anti-Semi­tism that under­lies” the BDS move­ment.

Richard Neal, D‑Massachusetts, urged mem­bers to “set aside this dem­a­goguery and turn down this motion.…”

A yes vote was to adopt the motion.

The State of Idaho

Vot­ing Aye (2): Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Russ Fulcher and Mike Simp­son

The State of Oregon

Vot­ing Aye (1): Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Greg Walden

Vot­ing Nay (4): Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Suzanne Bonam­i­ci, Earl Blu­me­nauer, Peter DeFazio, Kurt Schrad­er

The State of Washington

Vot­ing Aye (2): Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Dan New­house and Cathy McMor­ris Rodgers

Vot­ing Nay (7): Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Suzan Del­Bene, Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer, Prami­la Jaya­pal, Kim Schri­er, Adam Smith, and Den­ny Heck

Not Vot­ing (1): Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Jaime Her­rera-Beut­ler

Cas­ca­dia total: 5 aye votes, 11 nay votes, 1 not vot­ing

RESTORING CONSUMER FINANCIAL PROTECTIONS: Vot­ing 231 for and 191 against, the House on May 22 passed a Demo­c­ra­t­ic-spon­sored bill (H.R. 1500) that would restore Con­sumer Finan­cial Pro­tec­tion Bureau pow­ers watered down or aban­doned by the Trump admin­is­tra­tion. The bureau was cre­at­ed by the 2010 Dodd-Frank law as an inde­pen­dent agency to pro­tect con­sumers against preda­to­ry prac­tices in mat­ters involv­ing cred­it cards, unse­cured pay­day lend­ing, debt col­lec­tion, mort­gages and auto financ­ing. The admin­is­tra­tion has reined in the bureau by sub­ject­ing it to White House direc­tion, freez­ing its staffing and cut­ting its bud­get while reduc­ing over­sight func­tions and scal­ing back enforce­ment activ­i­ty.

In part, the bill would:

  • restore super­vi­so­ry and enforce­ment pow­ers to the Office of Fair Lend­ing and Equal Oppor­tu­ni­ty;
  • recon­sti­tute an office charged with over­see­ing the stu­dent loan indus­try; increase rank-and-file staff lev­els;
  • elim­i­nate slots cre­at­ed for polit­i­cal appointees;
  • resume aggres­sive reg­u­la­tion of pay­day lenders;
  • and strength­en enforce­ment of the Mil­i­tary Lend­ing Act, which caps inter­est rates on pay­day and auto loans to mil­i­tary fam­i­lies.
  • The mea­sure would also require the bureau to once again pub­li­cize stu­dent loan fees charged by large banks, reopen pub­lic access to a data­base of one mil­lion-plus con­sumer com­plaints, and res­ur­rect and expand the agen­cy’s Con­sumer Advi­so­ry Board.

Lloyd Doggett, D‑Texas, said the bill is need­ed because…

… Repub­li­cans want to shield Wall Street, grant­i­ng it free rein to plun­der. Instead of drain­ing the swamp, this law­less pres­i­dent has drained the Con­sumer Finan­cial Pro­tec­tion Bureau of its strength.

Andy Barr, R‑Kentucky, said the mea­sure is…

… not about con­sumer pro­tec­tion. It is not about putting con­sumers first. It is about pol­i­tics. It is about giv­ing lip ser­vice to pro­tect­ing our ser­vice mem­bers while exclud­ing the nec­es­sary action to actu­al­ly do it.

A yes vote was to send the bill to the Sen­ate.

The State of Idaho

Vot­ing Nay (2): Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Russ Fulcher and Mike Simp­son

The State of Oregon

Vot­ing Aye (4): Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Suzanne Bonam­i­ci, Earl Blu­me­nauer, Peter DeFazio, Kurt Schrad­er

Vot­ing Nay (1): Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Greg Walden

The State of Washington

Vot­ing Aye (7): Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Suzan Del­Bene, Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer, Prami­la Jaya­pal, Kim Schri­er, Adam Smith, and Den­ny Heck

Vot­ing Nay (2): Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Dan New­house and Cathy McMor­ris Rodgers

Not Vot­ing (1): Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Jaime Her­rera-Beut­ler

Cas­ca­dia total: 11 aye votes, 5 nay votes, 1 not vot­ing

CONGRESSIONAL CONTROL OF BUREAU BUDGET: Vot­ing 192 for and 235 against, the House on May 22nd defeat­ed a Repub­li­can amend­ment to H.R. 1500 (above) that sought to include the Con­sumer Finan­cial Pro­tec­tion Bureau bud­get in the con­gres­sion­al appro­pri­a­tions process, thus giv­ing the House and Sen­ate more con­trol over the inde­pen­dent agency.

The bureau now receives its annu­al bud­get of about $600 mil­lion from the Fed­er­al Reserve with no strings attached. The Fed uses inter­est earned on gov­ern­ment secu­ri­ties in its port­fo­lio as its main fund­ing source.

Amend­ment spon­sor Michael Burgess, R‑Texas, said:

It says pret­ty clear­ly in the Con­sti­tu­tion that no mon­ey may be drawn from the Trea­sury except as an appro­pri­a­tion by the Unit­ed States Con­gress.

Max­ine Waters, D‑California, said:

Under the guise of the appro­pri­a­tions process, Repub­li­cans are seek­ing to do by amend­ment what they were unable to do for the eight years they were in pow­er — elim­i­nate the Con­sumer Finan­cial Pro­tec­tion Bureau entire­ly.

A yes vote was to estab­lish con­gres­sion­al con­trol over the bureau’s bud­get.

The State of Idaho

Vot­ing Aye (2): Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Russ Fulcher and Mike Simp­son

The State of Oregon

Vot­ing Aye (1): Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Greg Walden

Vot­ing Nay (4): Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Suzanne Bonam­i­ci, Earl Blu­me­nauer, Peter DeFazio, Kurt Schrad­er

The State of Washington

Vot­ing Aye (2): Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Dan New­house and Cathy McMor­ris Rodgers

Vot­ing Nay (7): Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Suzan Del­Bene, Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer, Prami­la Jaya­pal, Kim Schri­er, Adam Smith, and Den­ny Heck

Not Vot­ing (1): Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Jaime Her­rera-Beut­ler

Cas­ca­dia total: 5 aye votes, 11 nay votes, 1 not vot­ing

MANDATORY ARBITRATION V. CONSUMER LAWSUITS: Vot­ing 235 for and 193 against, the House on May 22nd vot­ed to rein­state a Con­sumer Finan­cial Pro­tec­tion Bureau rule that would pro­hib­it finan­cial ser­vices firms from using manda­to­ry arbi­tra­tion claus­es that pre­vent aggriev­ed cus­tomers from join­ing class-action law­suits against the com­pa­nies.

Manda­to­ry arbi­tra­tion is con­duct­ed by com­pa­ny-approved medi­a­tors under rules that lim­it dis­cov­ery, bar dis­clo­sure of the out­come and pro­hib­it mean­ing­ful appeals. Con­sumers who agree to manda­to­ry arbi­tra­tion for­feit the option of pur­su­ing claims in court. This vote occurred dur­ing debate on H.R. 1500 (above).

Lloyd Doggett, D‑Texas, said: “Arbi­tra­tion is arbi­trary. It does not fair­ly resolve dis­putes. It is biased toward the finan­cial insti­tu­tion…” Patrick McHen­ry, R‑North Car­oli­na, called this “a tri­al lawyer’s dream amend­ment” giv­en the large share of class-action set­tle­ments that goes to the plain­tiffs’ attor­neys.

A yes vote was to rein­state a rule bar­ring manda­to­ry arbi­tra­tion claus­es in finan­cial ser­vices con­tracts.

The State of Idaho

Vot­ing Nay (2): Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Russ Fulcher and Mike Simp­son

The State of Oregon

Vot­ing Aye (4): Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Suzanne Bonam­i­ci, Earl Blu­me­nauer, Peter DeFazio, Kurt Schrad­er

Vot­ing Nay (1): Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Greg Walden

The State of Washington

Vot­ing Aye (7): Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Suzan Del­Bene, Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer, Prami­la Jaya­pal, Kim Schri­er, Adam Smith, and Den­ny Heck

Vot­ing Nay (2): Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Dan New­house and Cathy McMor­ris Rodgers

Not Vot­ing (1): Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Jaime Her­rera-Beut­ler

Cas­ca­dia total: 11 aye votes, 5 nay votes, 1 not vot­ing

ALLOCATIONS FROM CIVIL PENALTY FUND: Vot­ing 191 for and 231 against, the House on May 22nd defeat­ed a Repub­li­can motion to H.R. 1500 (above) that sought to require dis­burse­ments from the Con­sumer Finan­cial Pro­tec­tion Bureau’s Civ­il Penal­ty Fund to be used only to ben­e­fit vic­tims of finan­cial crimes.

The fund is a depos­i­to­ry for penal­ties the bureau col­lects in enforce­ment actions. Present law per­mits use of the fund to com­pen­sate vic­tims or, when vic­tim pay­ments are not prac­ti­ca­ble, to finance pro­grams that improve finan­cial lit­er­a­cy and con­sumer edu­ca­tion. Back­ers of this mea­sure sought to bar the lat­ter allo­ca­tions, call­ing them a “slush fund.”

Bryan Steil, R‑Wisconsin, said: “Let’s put an end to the slush fund at the bureau. Let’s redi­rect where this mon­ey belongs. Let’s give this mon­ey to the vic­tims.”

Katie Porter, D‑California, said: “The 2008 eco­nom­ic col­lapse cast a long shad­ow. One study …found that sui­cides spurred by evic­tions and fore­clo­sures dou­bled between 2005 and 2010. Those are going to be dif­fi­cult vic­tims to locate.”

A yes vote was to adopt the motion.

The State of Idaho

Vot­ing Aye (2): Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Russ Fulcher and Mike Simp­son

The State of Oregon

Vot­ing Aye (1): Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Greg Walden

Vot­ing Nay (4): Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Suzanne Bonam­i­ci, Earl Blu­me­nauer, Peter DeFazio, Kurt Schrad­er

The State of Washington

Vot­ing Aye (2): Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Dan New­house and Cathy McMor­ris Rodgers

Vot­ing Nay (7): Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Suzan Del­Bene, Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer, Prami­la Jaya­pal, Kim Schri­er, Adam Smith, and Den­ny Heck

Not Vot­ing (1): Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Jaime Her­rera-Beut­ler

Cas­ca­dia total: 5 aye votes, 11 nay votes, 1 not vot­ing

In the United States Senate

Chamber of the United States Senate

The Sen­ate cham­ber (U.S. Con­gress pho­to)

FEDERAL JUDGE DANIEL COLLINS: Vot­ing 53 for and 46 against, the Sen­ate on May 21 con­firmed Daniel P. Collins, an attor­ney in pri­vate prac­tice in Los Ange­les, as a judge on the San Fran­cis­co-based 9th U.S. Cir­cuit Court of Appeals. He held Depart­ment of Jus­tice posi­tions in Wash­ing­ton under Pres­i­dent George W. Bush and spent four years as an assis­tant Unit­ed States Attor­ney for the Cen­tral Dis­trict of Cal­i­for­nia.

Collins drew Demo­c­ra­t­ic oppo­si­tion, in part, for refus­ing to acknowl­edge the exis­tence of cli­mate dam­age and declin­ing to tell sen­a­tors whether he believes the Brown v. Board of Edu­ca­tion 1954 school deseg­re­ga­tion case was cor­rect­ly decid­ed. Democ­rats also found fault with his author­ship of law review arti­cle in 1995 call­ing for the Supreme Court to reverse its 1966 Miran­da v. Ari­zona rul­ing that pro­tects the civ­il lib­er­ties of detained crim­i­nal sus­pects.

Major­i­ty Leader Mitch McConnell, R‑Kentucky, said Collins…

… has devel­oped a rep­u­ta­tion for legal excel­lence. The Amer­i­can Bar Asso­ci­a­tion rates him well qual­i­fied for this new post.

Dianne Fein­stein, D‑California, said Collins’ record on “repro­duc­tive rights, exec­u­tive pow­er, civ­il lib­er­ties and crim­i­nal jus­tice mat­ters puts him far out­side the judi­cial main­stream,” adding “we can­not have a judge on the 9th Cir­cuit who denies cli­mate change and its impacts.”

A yes vote was to con­firm the nom­i­nee.

The State of Idaho

Vot­ing Aye (2):
Repub­li­can Sen­a­tors Jim Risch and Mike Crapo

The State of Oregon

Vot­ing Nay (2):
Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­a­tors Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley

The State of Washington

Vot­ing Nay (2):
Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­a­tors Pat­ty Mur­ray & Maria Cantwell

Cas­ca­dia total: 2 aye votes, 4 nay votes

$19.1 BILLION IN DISASTER AID: The Sen­ate on May 23rd approved, 85 for and eight against, $19.1 bil­lion in emer­gency aid to home­own­ers, farm­ers, busi­ness­es, local gov­ern­ments and oth­er enti­ties struck by nat­ur­al dis­as­ters such as wild­fires, flood­ing, hur­ri­canes and tor­na­does in recent years. The bill includes $1.4 bil­lion for Puer­to Rico and $4.5 bil­lion request­ed by the admin­is­tra­tion for secu­ri­ty and human­i­tar­i­an aid on the south­ern bor­der.

A yes vote was to send H.R. 2157 to the House.

The State of Idaho

Vot­ing Nay (2):
Repub­li­can Sen­a­tors Jim Risch and Mike Crapo

The State of Oregon

Vot­ing Aye (2):
Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­a­tors Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley

The State of Washington

Vot­ing Aye (2):
Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­a­tors Pat­ty Mur­ray & Maria Cantwell

Cas­ca­dia total: 4 aye votes, 2 nay votes

Last Week In Congress will be on hiatus next week

Con­gress will be in Memo­r­i­al Day recess this week, so there will be not be an install­ment of Last Week In Con­gress next Sun­day.

Edi­tor’s Note: The infor­ma­tion in NPI’s week­ly How Cas­ca­di­a’s U.S. law­mak­ers vot­ed fea­ture is pro­vid­ed by Votera­ma in Con­gress, a ser­vice of Thomas Vot­ing Reports. All rights are reserved. Repro­duc­tion of this post is not per­mit­ted, not even with attri­bu­tion. Use the per­ma­nent link to this post to share it… thanks!

© 2019 Thomas Vot­ing Reports.

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