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Sunday, July 14th, 2019

Last Week (July 8th-12th) 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, July 12th, 2019.

In the United States House of Representatives

Chamber of the United States House of Representatives

The House chamber (U.S. Congress photo)

9/11 VICTIMS’ COMPENSATION FUND: By a vote of 402 for and 12 against, the House on July 12th passed a bipartisan bill that would reauthorize the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund through fiscal 2090. Administered by a special master, the fund pays economic and non-economic damages to 9/11 first responders and their survivors as well as to individuals with health problems as a result of participating in 9/11 cleanup efforts, and to their survivors.

In addition, the bill would allow claims to be filed until October 2089, remove a cap on non-economic damages in certain circumstances and index for inflation the program’s annual limits on compensation for economic losses.

The bill replenishes the fund to avert threatened cuts of up to 70% in pending and future claims and makes whole claims already paid at reduced levels. Although the bill is projected to cost $10.2 billion in its first 10 years, and countless billions after that as cancers and other latent diseases emerge, it does not yet include a “pay for” mechanism or long-term funding means.

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, Kurt Schrader, and Peter DeFazio; Republican Representative Greg Walden

The State of Washington

Voting Aye (10): Democratic Representatives Suzan DelBene, Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer, Pramila Jayapal, Kim Schrier, Adam Smith, and Denny Heck; Republican Representatives Jaime Herrera-Beutler, Dan Newhouse, and Cathy McMorris Rodgers

Cascadia total: 17 aye votes

$733 BILLION FOR MILITARY IN 2020: Voting 220 for and 197 against, the House on July 12th authorized a $733 billion military budget (H.R. 2500) for fiscal 2020, including $69 billion for combat operations and more than $57 billion for active-duty and retiree health care. The bill:

  • sets a 3.1 percent pay raise for uniformed personnel;
  • addresses global warming as a national-security threat;
  • advances the closure of the Guantanamo Bay military prison;
  • requires Pentagon strategies for countering Russian interference in the 2020 U.S. elections;
  • lifts an administration ban on transgender military service;
  • prohibits U.S. troop reductions in South Korea below 28,000;
  • funds programs for military victims of sexual assault;
  • … and approves tens of billions for conventional and nuclear weapons while defunding the development of low-yield nuclear weapons.

In addition, the bill requires what would be the first congressional authorization for the U.S. war against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) forces in the Middle East. At the same time, it would effectively repeal the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), which, along with the Iraq war resolution approved in 2002, has been the legal basis of U.S. military actions since 9/11.

The bill also would establish twelve weeks’ paid family and medical leave for the federal workforce to accommodate circumstances including childbirth, adoptions, foster care and serious illness. The leave is now available without pay to civil servants under the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act.

In addition, the bill allows military personnel who are victims of sexual assaults to receive emergency contraception at base clinics, and eliminates co-pays for contraceptive services provided by the Department of Defense healthcare system.

The bill also would:

  • bar funding for space-based missile defenses;
  • prohibit the diversion of military funds to wall construction on the southwest border;
  • halt the sale of F-35 aircraft to Turkey unless it cancels its purchase an air defense system from Russia;
  • require the Marine Corps to admit women to basic training;
  • fund repair of earthquake damages to military bases in southern California;
  • require more accurate and transparent reporting of U.S.-caused civilian casualties, and provide $250 million to in security assistance to Ukraine.

A yes vote was to send the bill to a House-Senate conference committee.

The State of Idaho

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

The State of Oregon

Voting Aye (3): Democratic Representatives Suzanne Bonamici, Peter DeFazio, and Kurt Schrader

Voting Nay (2): Republican Representative Greg Walden; Democratic Representative Earl Blumenauer

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 (3): Republican Representatives Jaime Herrera-Beutler, Dan Newhouse, and Cathy McMorris Rodgers

Cascadia total: 10 aye votes, 7 nay votes

DEVELOPING LOW-YIELD NUCLEAR WEAPONS: Voting 201 for and 221 against, the House on June 12th defeated a Republican amendment to H.R. 2500 (above) that sought to fund an administration plan to start mounting low-yield nuclear weapons — W76-2 warheads — on submarine-launched Trident ballistic missiles. Military planners say low-yield, or tactical, warheads are for use in limited conflicts, in contrast to strategic nuclear weapons, which are designed to destroy targets far from the immediate battlefield.

Advocates say the United States needs to counter Russia’s extensive low-yield arsenal, while critics say the weapons heighten the risk of Armageddon because it is folly to think nuclear war can be waged on a limited basis.

Mike Turner, R-Ohio, called it “unilateral nuclear disarmament” to not deploy low-yield nuclear weapons.

Our own Adam Smith, D-Washington, called the weapon “a mistake” because “it takes us down the road of saying we can have a manageable nuclear war.”

A yes vote was to add low-yield nuclear weapons to the U.S. arsenal.

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, and Kurt Schrader

The State of Washington

Voting Aye (3): Republican Representatives Jaime Herrera-Beutler, 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

Cascadia total: 6 aye votes, 11 nay votes

BUDGET INCREASE FOR COMBAT READINESS, PAY RAISE: Voting 204 for and 212 against, the House on July 12th defeated a Republican motion that sought to add nearly $3 billion to H.R. 2500 (above) for purposes such as expanding combat accounts and increasing the bill’s pay raise for uniformed personnel from the 3.1 percent level requested by Trump to four percent.

Jim Banks, R-Indiana, said: “Let us give our troops the raise they earned.”

Our own Adam Smith, D-Washington, said the bill already funds “the largest pay raise for our troops in ten years.”

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, and Kurt Schrader

The State of Washington

Voting Aye (4): Republican Representatives Jaime Herrera-Beutler, Dan Newhouse, and Cathy McMorris Rodgers; Democratic Representative Kim Schrier

Voting Nay (6): Democratic Representatives Suzan DelBene, Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer, Pramila Jayapal, Adam Smith, and Denny Heck

Cascadia total: 7 aye votes, 10 nay votes

NEW RULES FOR ALLOCATING GREEN CARDS: Voting 365 for and 65 against, the House on July 10th passed a bill (H.R. 1044) that would change how “green cards” granting permanent legal status are allocated by U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services to immigrants living in the United States on temporary, employment-based H1-B visas. Those visas are used primarily to bring highly skilled, well-educated foreigners into the U.S. workforce for periods generally ranging from three to six years, after which they are usually required leave the country if they have not received a green card.

The bill would remove per-country caps on the number of employment-based green cards issued each year, and instead award them first-come, first-served. The current caps prohibit natives of any country from receiving more than 7 percent of the annual number of permanent, employment-based visas.

That disadvantages workers from populous countries supplying large numbers of H1-B recipients. Those from smaller countries do not wait nearly as long.

Ken Buck, R-Colorado, said imposing per-country caps “doesn’t make sense. Our employment-based immigration system has a single purpose, bringing in the best and brightest. We shouldn’t hamstring our economy by placing artificial caps on who can get a green card quicker based solely on where you are born.”

Doug Collins, R-Georgia, said he supports much of the bill, but because it was not subjected to committee hearings to fix what he sees as flaws, it “is not ready for prime time.”

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, Kurt Schrader, and Peter DeFazio; Republican Representative Greg Walden

The State of Washington

Voting Aye (10): Democratic Representatives Suzan DelBene, Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer, Pramila Jayapal, Kim Schrier, Adam Smith, and Denny Heck; Republican Representatives Jaime Herrera-Beutler, Dan Newhouse, and Cathy McMorris Rodgers

Cascadia total: 17 aye votes

INVENTORY OF U.S. BASES OVERSEAS: Voting 219 for and 210 against, the House on July 11th required the Department of Defense to provide Congress with an inventory of U.S. military installations on foreign territory along with the cost of operating each one and an explanation of how it serves national security.

The amendment was added to the fiscal 2020 military policy bill (H.R. 2500). The department reportedly owns several hundred permanent bases and short-term military facilities abroad, and the first-ever audit of Pentagon operations, released last November, was unable to pinpoint some of them.

Sponsor Ilhan Omar, D-Minnesota, said: “The American people deserve to know what their tax dollars are being spent on and not take it on blind faith that every dollar that is given to the Pentagon is a dollar that is protecting their safety.”

Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado, said Congress already has access to budget documents showing “in exhaustive detail…thousands of line items on where the Pentagon spending is going right now — domestic, foreign, everything.”

A yes vote was to require an inventory of U.S. military holdings abroad.

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 (3): Republican Representatives Jaime Herrera-Beutler, Dan Newhouse, and Cathy McMorris Rodgers

Cascadia total: 11 aye votes, 6 nay votes

PRESIDENTIAL CONTRACTS WITH FEDERAL AGENCIES: Voting 243 for and 186 against, the House on July 11th amended H.R. 2500 (above) to prohibit presidents, vice presidents and cabinet members from holding contracts with the U.S. government, just as members of Congress are barred by federal law from doing. The rationale of the ban is that high federal officials, as insiders, could exert undue influence over the terms of the contract.

The expanded ban presumably would prohibit any attempted renewal of the government’s contract for leasing the Old Post Office on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington to the Trump International Hotel, which generates profits for the Trump Organization and therefore the president.

Our own Adam Smith, D-Washington, called this “a good amendment that will improve the ethics of our government.”

Jody Hice, R-Georgia, said the amendment is “nothing other than, once again, an attack on President Trump and his family.”

A yes vote was to bar top executive branch officials, including presidents, from holding federal 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, and 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 (3): Republican Representatives Jaime Herrera-Beutler, Dan Newhouse, and Cathy McMorris Rodgers

Cascadia total: 11 aye votes, 6 nay votes

PROTECTING FEDERAL PERSONNEL AGENCY: Voting 247 for and 182 against, the House on July 11th adopted an amendment to HR 2500 (above) that would scuttle a Trump administration proposal to downgrade the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) by merging it with the General Services Administration (GSA). With 5,500 employees, the OPM administers programs ranging from health insurance to retirement accounts for millions of active and retired federal civilian workers and their families.

The GSA, with a staff of 12,000, is charged with managing federal office space, transportation, communications and procurement, among other duties.

Gerald Connolly, D-Virgina, said:

“The administration’s inadequate plan to dismantle OPM has been a disaster. After realizing that it cannot prevail on the merits, the administration is now resorting to blackmail” by trimming the OPM workforce.

Jody Hice, R-Georgia, said Republicans “want to find ways to improve services for federal employees and get retirement benefits for federal retirees. But we need to keep all solutions and all options on the table.”

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 (3): Republican Representatives Jaime Herrera-Beutler, Dan Newhouse, and Cathy McMorris Rodgers

Cascadia total: 11 aye votes, 6 nay votes

In the United States Senate

Chamber of the United States Senate

The Senate chamber (U.S. Congress photo)

JOHN PALLASCH, ASSISTANT LABOR SECRETARY: Voting 54 for and 39 against, the Senate on July 10th confirmed John P. Pallasch, the head of Kentucky’s employment and training agency, as an assistant secretary in the Department of Labor. He will lead the Employment and Training Administration, which consumes nearly two-thirds of the department’s budget while administering workplace programs for 22 million Americans. Pallasch was head of the Mine Safety and Health Administration in the George W. Bush administration.

Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, called Pallasch a “thoroughly well-qualified” nominee.

The Pacific Northwest’s own Patty Murray, D-Washington, said federal job programs need a leader “who is experienced and committed to providing workers with the training, support and benefits they need to succeed in this changing economy. Unfortunately, Mr. Pallasch is not that person.”

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 Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray

Cascadia total: 2 aye votes, 4 nay votes

ROBERT KING, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF EDUCATION: The Senate on July 11th confirmed, 56 for and 37 against, Robert L. King, the president of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, as assistant secretary of postsecondary education. He served previously as head of the Arizona Community Foundation and chancellor of the State University of New York system of higher education, and he was an aide to former New York Governor George Pataki.

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 Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray

Cascadia total: 2 aye votes, 4 nay votes

Key votes ahead

During the week of July 15th, the House will vote on raising the federal minimum wage and on whether to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in criminal contempt of Congress over their disregard of committee subpoenas. The Senate, operating under the auspices of Mitch McConnell, will vote on judicial and executive branch nominations.

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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