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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, December 22nd, 2019

Last Week In Congress: How Cascadia’s U.S. lawmakers voted (December 16th-20th)

Good morn­ing! Here’s how Cascadia’s Mem­bers of Con­gress vot­ed on major issues dur­ing the leg­isla­tive week end­ing Fri­day, Decem­ber 20th.

(For a recap of Wednes­day’s impeach­ment votes, please see this spe­cial report.)

In the United States House of Representatives

Chamber of the United States House of Representatives

The House cham­ber (U.S. Con­gress pho­to)

SETTING NEW RULES FOR NORTH AMERICAN TRADE: Vot­ing 385 for and 41 against, the House on Decem­ber 19th passed a bill (H.R. 5430) giv­ing con­gres­sion­al approval to the Unit­ed States-Mex­i­co-Cana­da Agree­ment (USMCA), which would replace the 25-year-old North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment (NAFTA) as the frame­work for com­merce among the three coun­tries.

The agree­ment:

  • requires Mex­i­co to guar­an­tee work­ers the right to join unions and engage in col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing;
  • autho­rizes fast-track probes of labor vio­la­tions in Mex­i­co and fac­to­ry-spe­cif­ic penal­ties when trans­gres­sions are found;
  • gives U.S. dairy and poul­try farm­ers and to a less­er extent wine­mak­ers more access to Cana­di­an mar­kets;
  • rais­es envi­ron­men­tal stan­dards but does not address cli­mate change;
  • reduces patent pro­tec­tions for cer­tain phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals;
  • expands domes­tic-con­tent rules to ben­e­fit automak­ers and parts man­u­fac­tur­ers in the three coun­tries;
  • sets wage require­ments that ben­e­fit U.S. and Cana­di­an auto fac­to­ries over those in Mex­i­co;
  • pro­hibits duties on dig­i­tal prod­ucts includ­ing music and e‑books;
  • … and pro­tects Inter­net com­pa­nies against lia­bil­i­ty for their users’ con­tent.

Kevin Brady, R‑Texas, said the agree­ment “will set the stage for bil­lions more in eco­nom­ic activ­i­ty. It cre­ates, for the first time, rules for com­pet­ing in the dig­i­tal econ­o­my…. ends the race to the bot­tom cre­at­ed by what had been Mexico’s poor labor laws…[and] “best of all, is enforce­able, allow­ing us to chal­lenge vio­la­tions and to stop coun­tries from block­ing these chal­lenges, hold­ing Mex­i­co and Cana­da account­able for these new rules.”

Andy Levin, D‑Michigan, said the agree­ment “will not be enough to over­haul the entrenched sys­tem in Mex­i­co that denies work­ers their rights, keeps wages uncon­scionably low, and, con­se­quent­ly, incen­tivizes com­pa­nies to ship jobs to Mex­i­co.”

A yes vote was to approve the trade agree­ment.

The State of Idaho

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

The State of Oregon

Vot­ing Aye (4): Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Suzanne Bonam­i­ci, Earl Blu­me­nauer, and Kurt Schrad­er; Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Greg Walden

Vot­ing Nay (1): Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Peter DeFazio

The State of Washington

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

Vot­ing Nay (1): Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Prami­la Jaya­pal

Cas­ca­dia total: 15 aye votes, 2 nay votes

RAISING CAP ON STATE AND LOCAL TAX DEDUCTIONS: Vot­ing 218 for and 206 against, the House on Decem­ber 19th passed a bill (H.R. 5377) that would tem­porar­i­ly lift the 2017 tax law’s cap on deduc­tions for state and local tax­es (SALT). To off­set the result­ing loss in Trea­sury rev­enue, the bill would raise the top income-tax rate for indi­vid­u­als from 37% to 39.6%  for the 2020–2025 tax years and low­er income thresh­olds at which the top rate takes effect.

The bill would raise the state and local tax cap in 2019 from $10,000 to $20,000 for mar­ried cou­ples fil­ing joint­ly and from $5,000 to $10,000 for mar­ried tax­pay­ers fil­ing sep­a­rate­ly, and elim­i­nate it for all tax­pay­ers in 2020 and 2021.

(The cap would, how­ev­er, be allowed to return in 2023.)

In addi­tion, the bill would per­ma­nent­ly increase from $250 to $500 the tax deduc­tion for teach­ers buy­ing school sup­plies and index the deduc­tion for infla­tion. The bill also would cre­ate a per­ma­nent $500 deduc­tion indexed for infla­tion for work-relat­ed expens­es by first respon­ders includ­ing fire­fight­ers, police offi­cers, para­medics and emer­gency tech­ni­cians. The bill is pro­ject­ed to increase fed­er­al rev­enue by $2.4 bil­lion between 2020–2029.

Nor­ma Tor­res, D‑California, said: “In 2017, the Repub­li­cans gave away almost $2 tril­lion in tax cuts to cor­po­ra­tions and the wealthy. They paid for this tax scam on the backs of hard­work­ing Amer­i­can fam­i­lies. Thir­ty-six mil­lion mid­dle-class fam­i­lies saw their tax­es increase” as a result of the cap on SALT deduc­tions.

Tom Cole, R‑Oklahoma, said: “This is not a mid­dle-class bill. This is not even an upper-mid­dle-class bill. This is a bill for pret­ty wealthy peo­ple. Nine­ty-six per­cent of the ben­e­fits go to house­holds that make more than $200,000 a year.”

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

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

RETAINING DEDUCTION CAP FOR THE ULTRA-RICH: Vot­ing 388 for and 36 against, the House on Decem­ber 19th approved a Repub­li­can amend­ment to H.R. 5377 (above) that would retain the $10,000 cap on deduc­tions for state and local tax­es for tax­pay­ers earn­ing $100 mil­lion or more per year and use the rev­enue to fund work-relat­ed tax deduc­tions for teach­ers and first respon­ders.

A yes vote sup­port­ed the amend­ment.

The State of Idaho

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

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, Kim Schri­er, Adam Smith, and Den­ny Heck; Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Jaime Her­rera-Beut­ler, Dan New­house, and Cathy McMor­ris Rodgers

Vot­ing Nay (1): Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Prami­la Jaya­pal

Cas­ca­dia total: 16 aye votes, 1 nay vote

APPROVING 2020 DOMESTIC SPENDING: Vot­ing 297 for and 120 against, the House on Decem­ber 17th approved a pack­age of eight appro­pri­a­tions bills (H.R. 1865) that would fund non-defense agen­cies and depart­ments for the remain­ing nine months of fis­cal 2020 at an annu­al­ized lev­el of $632 bil­lion.

The bill would raise the min­i­mum age for buy­ing tobac­co prod­ucts from 18 to 21 years, fund fed­er­al gun-vio­lence research for the first time since 1996 and repeal the Patient Pro­tec­tion Act’s tax on high-end insur­ance plans and excise tax on sales of med­ical devices. In addi­tion, the bill would:

  • pre­serve coal min­ers’ health­care and pen­sion ben­e­fits;
  • pro­vide elec­tion-secu­ri­ty grants to states;
  • reau­tho­rize the Export-Import Bank and Ter­ror­ism Risk Insur­ance Pro­gram for sev­en years each;
  • pro­hib­it pay rais­es for mem­bers of Con­gress while increas­ing House mem­bers’ staff bud­gets;
  • grant fed­er­al civil­ian work­ers a 3.1 per­cent pay raise;
  • … and fund two car­bon-free nuclear-ener­gy reac­tors by the mid-2020s while boost­ing out­lays for renew­able ener­gy devel­op­ment and cli­mate research.

Kay Granger, R‑Texas, said the bill “pro­vides fund­ing to the Nation­al Insti­tutes of Health to con­tin­ue their ground­break­ing research in the areas of Alzheimer’s dis­ease and can­cer research. It com­bats the opi­oid and metham­phet­a­mine epi­dem­ic by pro­vid­ing funds for pre­ven­tion, treat­ment, recov­ery, and research into alter­na­tive ther­a­pies for pain man­age­ment.”

Chip Roy, R‑Texas, said the bill “changes the tobac­co age nation­wide, turn­ing fed­er­al­ism on its head, with nary a whim­per from Repub­li­cans who like to talk about the 10th Amend­ment in speech­es back home. The bill funds bureau­crats who wish to tar­get your Sec­ond Amend­ment rights. It funds abor­tion through [Patient Pro­tec­tion and Afford­able Care Act] plans.”

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

The State of Idaho

Vot­ing Aye (1): Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Mike Simp­son

Vot­ing Nay (1): Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Russ Fulcher

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 Jaime Her­rera-Beut­ler, and Dan New­house

Vot­ing Nay (1): Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Cathy McMor­ris Rodgers

Cas­ca­dia total: 15 aye votes, 2 nay votes

In the United States Senate

Chamber of the United States Senate

The Sen­ate cham­ber (U.S. Con­gress pho­to)

APPROVING $738 BILLION FOR MILITARY IN 2020: Vot­ing eighty-six for and eight against, the Sen­ate on Decem­ber 17th gave final con­gres­sion­al approval to a $738 bil­lion mil­i­tary pol­i­cy bud­get (S. 1790) for fis­cal 2020, up $23 bil­lion from 2019. The bud­get, also known as a Nation­al Defense Autho­riza­tion Act, or NDAA, received a vote in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives last week.

The bill:

  • autho­rizes $71.5 bil­lion for com­bat oper­a­tions and at least $57 bil­lion for active-duty and retiree health care;
  • sets a 3.1 per­cent pay raise for uni­formed per­son­nel;
  • cre­ates the U.S. Space Force as the sixth branch of the mil­i­tary;
  • ends the “wid­ow’s tax” on Pen­ta­gon death ben­e­fits received by an esti­mat­ed 65,000 sur­vivors who also receive vet­er­ans’ sur­vivor ben­e­fits;
  • estab­lish­es 12 weeks’ paid fam­i­ly and med­ical leave for the fed­er­al civil­ian work­force;
  • con­fronts glob­al warm­ing as a nation­al-secu­ri­ty threat;
  • requires Pen­ta­gon strate­gies for coun­ter­ing Russ­ian inter­fer­ence in U.S. elec­tions;
  • … and funds pro­grams for mil­i­tary vic­tims of sex­u­al assault.

Major­i­ty Leader Mitch McConnell, R‑Kentucky, said: “For the third con­sec­u­tive year, Pres­i­dent Trump and Repub­li­cans in Con­gress will deliv­er on our com­mit­ment to con­tin­ue rebuild­ing Amer­i­ca’s mil­i­tary after near­ly a decade of forced belt-tight­en­ing,” while neglect­ing to men­tion Repub­li­cans’ role in seques­tra­tion.

Rand Paul, R‑Kentucky (McConnel­l’s seat­mate) said: “We spend more on our mil­i­tary than the next sev­en largest mil­i­taries com­bined. Over the past six years, mil­i­tary spend­ing has risen over $120 bil­lion. Many so-called con­ser­v­a­tives will hail this bloat­ed mil­i­tary spend­ing, but in truth, there is noth­ing fis­cal­ly con­ser­v­a­tive about bor­row­ing mon­ey from Chi­na to pay for our mil­i­tary.”

A yes vote was to approve the fis­cal 2020 mil­i­tary bud­get.

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 Aye (2):
Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­a­tors Maria Cantwell and Pat­ty Mur­ray

Cas­ca­dia total: 4 aye votes, 2 nay votes

That’s it for 2019!

Con­gress has com­plet­ed its leg­isla­tive year and will recon­vene on Mon­day, Jan­u­ary 6th, 2020 for the sec­ond ses­sion of the 116th Con­gress.

Last Week In Con­gress will return on Jan­u­ary 12th.

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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