NPI's Cascadia Advocate

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, March 22nd, 2020

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

Good morn­ing! Here’s how Cascadia’s Unit­ed States Sen­a­tors vot­ed on major issues dur­ing the leg­isla­tive week end­ing Fri­day, March 20th.

The House was in recess.

In the United States Senate

Chamber of the United States Senate

The Sen­ate cham­ber (U.S. Con­gress pho­to)

APPROVING $100 BILLION TO ADDRESS CORONAVIRUS: Vot­ing 90 for and eight against, the Sen­ate on March 18th sent Don­ald Trump a $100 bil­lion eco­nom­ic secu­ri­ty and stim­u­lus pack­age to help fam­i­lies, indi­vid­u­als and small and medi­um-size busi­ness­es cope with the first wave of the coro­n­avirus out­break in the Unit­ed States. In part, the bill (H.R. 6201) would fund free virus test­ing for all who request it; emer­gency food aid for the poor, seniors and K‑12 stu­dents; enhanced unem­ploy­ment ben­e­fits; and stepped up Med­ic­aid and pub­lic-health out­lays.

In addi­tion, the bill would autho­rize ten days’ paid sick leave through Decem­ber to indi­vid­u­als and house­holds affect­ed by the pan­dem­ic, using tax cred­its to reim­burse employ­ers the full cost of pro­vid­ing the leave.

The pay­ments would have to be at least two-thirds of nor­mal pay and capped at $1,000 per week. Gov­ern­ment employ­ees would receive equiv­a­lent sick-leave ben­e­fits. But com­pa­nies with five hun­dred or more employ­ees, which account for slight­ly more than half of the U.S. work­force, would be exempt­ed from hav­ing to pay sick leave, and those with few­er than fifty work­ers, which sup­ply about a quar­ter of the pri­vate work force, could request hard­ship exemp­tions.

The bill is pro­ject­ed to deliv­er paid sick leave to only twen­ty to twen­ty-five per­cent of the country’s pri­vate work­force, a share Con­gress is expect­ed to increase in its next coro­n­avirus eco­nom­ic secu­ri­ty leg­is­la­tion. The bill also would pro­vide work­ers at com­pa­nies affect­ed by the coro­n­avirus with up to fif­teen days’ paid med­ical and fam­i­ly leave, which would kick in after expi­ra­tion of the sick leave.

As with sick leave, firms employ­ing more than five hun­dred work­ers would be exempt­ed and those with few­er than fifty work­ers could seek exemp­tions.

John Thune, R‑South Dako­ta, said: “This is a time for all of us to come togeth­er to ensure that med­ical pro­fes­sion­als, Amer­i­can busi­ness­es and Amer­i­can fam­i­lies have what they need to com­bat the coro­n­avirus and to deal with its effects.”

James Lank­ford, R‑Oklahoma, said:

“The first prin­ci­ple we should have as Con­gress is, do no harm… We need to take action, but we need to take action that helps peo­ple keep their jobs… My fear is that we didn’t do that just now. We might have just made it worse.”

A yes vote was to send the bill to the White House.

The State of Idaho

Vot­ing Aye (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 Maria Cantwell and Pat­ty Mur­ray

Cas­ca­dia total: 6 aye votes

DECLINING TO EXPAND SICK LEAVE AND FAMILY LEAVE: Vot­ing 47 for and 51 against, the Sen­ate on March 18th defeat­ed a Demo­c­ra­t­ic-spon­sored bid to amend H.R. 6201 (above) to include more inclu­sive paid sick leave dur­ing the  pan­dem­ic and first-time, per­ma­nent avail­abil­i­ty of paid leave to the pri­vate sec­tor dur­ing all types of emer­gen­cies under the 1993 Fam­i­ly and Med­ical Leave Act.

First, the amend­ment sought to pro­vide all pri­vate-sec­tor employ­ees and inde­pen­dent con­trac­tors affect­ed by any pub­lic-health emer­gency includ­ing the coro­n­avirus out­break with 14 days’ paid sick leave through 2021, with employ­ers receiv­ing imme­di­ate Trea­sury reim­burse­ment for their pay­ments when they show doc­u­men­ta­tion to the Depart­ment of Labor.

This pro­vi­sion was more advan­ta­geous to both work­ers and employ­ers than the sick-leave ben­e­fit in the under­ly­ing bill.

Sec­ond, the amend­ment sought to per­ma­nent­ly expand the fam­i­ly and med­ical leave law to include twelve weeks’ paid leave for pri­vate-sec­tor work­ers dur­ing emer­gen­cies; the act now autho­rizes paid emer­gency leave (also twelve weeks) only to fed­er­al civ­il ser­vants. The amend­ment also attempt­ed to per­ma­nent­ly pro­vide work­ers with sev­en days’ accrued paid sick leave under the 1993 law. There was no com­pa­ra­ble pro­vi­sion in the under­ly­ing bill.

Co-spon­sor Pat­ty Mur­ray, D‑Washington (the Pacif­ic North­west­’s most senior sen­a­tor), said her amend­ment was “good for work­ers who need to stay home if they are sick or to take care of their fam­i­ly with­out los­ing a job or their pay­check, and it is good for small busi­ness­es that want to keep their work­ers and com­mu­ni­ties safe and that are strug­gling to stay afloat dur­ing this cri­sis.”

Ron John­son, R‑Wisconsin, called the Demo­c­ra­t­ic approach “a new man­date on busi­ness [that] is going to do a great deal of eco­nom­ic harm. It may sound good, but it is not the right way to go.…We need to learn the les­son from 2009, where over­reg­u­la­tion ham­pered our recov­ery.”

A yes vote was to adopt the amend­ment.

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 Maria Cantwell and Pat­ty Mur­ray

Cas­ca­dia total: 4 aye votes, 2 nay votes

KEEPING PAID SICK LEAVE UNDER FEDERAL CONTROL: Vot­ing fifty for and forty-eight against, the Sen­ate failed to reach a six­ty-vote thresh­old for adopt­ing a Repub­li­can-spon­sored bid to trans­fer the admin­is­tra­tion of paid sick leave in H.R. 6201 (above) from employ­ers and fed­er­al agen­cies to state-run unem­ploy­ment insur­ance pro­grams. In the under­ly­ing bill, employ­ers would pay the sick leave and then receive full Trea­sury reim­burse­ment by means of tax cred­its. Under the amend­ment, state job­less pro­grams would make pay­ments and reim­burse employ­ers, and then shut down the pro­gram at the end of the year.

Co-spon­sor Ron John­son, R‑Wisconsin, said his amend­ment “does not sad­dle small busi­ness­es, Amer­i­can busi­ness­es, with a new man­date that they don’t have a great deal of con­fi­dence in. And it would def­i­nite­ly be tem­po­rary” with an expi­ra­tion date of Decem­ber 31st, 2020.

Pat­ty Mur­ray, D‑Washington., called the approach unwork­able because dis­placed employ­ees “would be on their own until they were com­pen­sat­ed by the state, and the unem­ploy­ment sys­tem in each state would be dras­ti­cal­ly over­bur­dened at a time when work­ers are going to need it in the event they are laid off.”

A yes vote was to adopt the Repub­li­can amend­ment.

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

DECLINING TO OFFSET COST OF CORONAVIRUS BILL: On a tal­ly of three for and 95 against, the Sen­ate on March 18th defeat­ed an amend­ment that sought to off­set the pro­ject­ed $100 bil­lion cost of H.R. 6201 (above) by cuts else­where in the fed­er­al bud­get. The amend­ment also sought to lim­it the pay­ment of the bil­l’s child tax-cred­its to fam­i­lies with a Social Secu­ri­ty num­ber, a pro­vi­sion seen by crit­ics as anti-immi­grant. As lat­er signed into law by Don­ald Trump, the bill would con­sist almost entire­ly of deficit spend­ing.

Spon­sor Rand Paul, R‑Kentucky, said his amend­ment “has noth­ing to do with not lik­ing immi­grants; it has to do with say­ing tax­pay­er mon­ey should­n’t go to non-peo­ple. You should have to be a per­son to get tax­pay­er mon­ey. It just says you have to have a Social Secu­ri­ty num­ber.”

Our own Ron Wyden, D‑Oregon, said:

“I would just ask my col­leagues to save the immi­gra­tion debates for anoth­er time when we are not in the mid­dle of a pan­dem­ic.”

A yes vote was to adopt the amend­ment.

The State of Idaho

Vot­ing Nay (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: 6 nay votes

Key votes ahead

Con­gress will take up its third coro­n­avirus relief pack­age in the week of March 23rd, a mea­sure that could prompt­ly send at least $500 bil­lion in direct pay­ments to indi­vid­u­als and house­holds and pro­vide bailouts to numer­ous indus­tries.

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!

© 2020 Thomas Vot­ing Reports.

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