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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, March 8th, 2020

Last Week In Congress: How Cascadia’s U.S. lawmakers voted (March 2nd-6th)

Good morn­ing! Here’s how Cascadia’s Mem­bers of Con­gress vot­ed on major issues dur­ing the leg­isla­tive week end­ing Fri­day, March 6th.

In the United States House of Representatives

Chamber of the United States House of Representatives

The House cham­ber (U.S. Con­gress pho­to)

APPROVING $8.3 BILLION TO TACKLE CORONAVIRUS: Vot­ing four hun­dred and fif­teen for and two against, the House on March 4th passed a bill (H.R. 6074) that would appro­pri­ate $8.3 bil­lion for pub­lic-health ini­tia­tives to counter the spread of the coro­n­avirus in the Unit­ed States while help­ing the U.S. diplo­mat­ic com­mu­ni­ty cope with the epi­dem­ic over­seas.

As emer­gency spend­ing, the out­lay would be added to the nation­al debt.

In part, the bill would:

  • pro­vide up to $4 bil­lion for devel­op­ing a vac­cine and diag­nos­tic and ther­a­peu­tic pro­ce­dures and train­ing care­givers;
  • $2.2 bil­lion for pre­pared­ness includ­ing the man­u­fac­ture and deliv­ery of test kits, ven­ti­la­tors and res­pi­ra­tors;
  • $950 mil­lion for addi­tion­al state and local pre­pared­ness;
  • and unspec­i­fied sums for build­ing surge capac­i­ty at local hos­pi­tals and clin­ics includ­ing com­mu­ni­ty health cen­ters.

The bill also would ensure seniors’ access to Medicare-fund­ed telemed­i­cine ser­vices and sub­si­dize bil­lions of dol­lars in low-inter­est loans to help small busi­ness­es cope with eco­nom­ic loss­es result­ing from the coro­n­avirus out­break. Repub­li­cans Andy Big­gs of Ari­zona and Ken Buck of Col­orado were the only mem­bers of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives vot­ing against the bill.

Fred Upton, R‑Michigan, said the emer­gency fund­ing “is not only going to help our health offi­cials on the front lines — it is going to help our fam­i­lies in vir­tu­al­ly every com­mu­ni­ty. It is also going to help devel­op the vac­cine and the ther­a­peu­tics to save per­haps tens of thou­sands of lives.”

Anoth­er sup­port­er, Nita Lowey, D‑New York, said:

“While the Trump admin­is­tra­tion has repeat­ed­ly demon­strat­ed a fail­ure to under­stand pub­lic health needs, Con­gress is act­ing with the seri­ous­ness and the sense of urgency the coro­n­avirus threat demands.”

No mem­ber spoke against the bill.

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

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 (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

ADDING AMERICA’S AIRPORT SECURITY WORKERS TO CIVIL SERVICE: Vot­ing 230 for and 171 against, the House on March 5th passed a bill (H.R. 1140) that would include Trans­porta­tion Secu­ri­ty Admin­is­tra­tion (TSA) employ­ees in the civ­il ser­vice per­son­nel sys­tem while grant­i­ng them full col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing rights, paid med­ical and fam­i­ly leave, the right to appeal dis­ci­pli­nary actions to an inde­pen­dent pan­el and oth­er ben­e­fits and job pro­tec­tions avail­able to near­ly all oth­er fed­er­al civil­ian employ­ees.

The TSA was estab­lished in the wake of Sep­tem­ber 11th, and most of its 45,000 employ­ees work as pas­sen­ger screen­ers at air­ports.

TSA pay lev­els and ben­e­fits, which are set by the agency admin­is­tra­tor rather than “Sched­ule 5” civ­il ser­vice rules, lag behind those for oth­er fed­er­al employ­ees, result­ing in a work­force with high turnover and low morale.

But defend­ers say cur­rent per­son­nel rules enable the agency to adapt quick­ly to chang­ing nation­al-secu­ri­ty threats. Although TSA work­ers are rep­re­sent­ed by the Amer­i­can Fed­er­a­tion of Gov­ern­ment Employ­ees (AFGE), their col­lec­tive-bar­gain­ing rights have been restrict­ed by Con­gress.

Mary Gay Scan­lon, D‑Pennsylvania, the Vice Chair of the Judi­cia­ry Com­mit­tee, said under­pay­ing and over­work­ing air­port screen­ers “is a greater threat to nation­al secu­ri­ty than pay­ing a fair wage to keep Amer­i­cans safe… Whether in busi­ness, law or gov­ern­ment, you get what you pay for, and I, for one, do not believe that the secu­ri­ty of our air­ports and skies or the lives of the trav­el­ing pub­lic are some­thing we should be look­ing to get a bar­gain on.”

Deb­bie Lesko, R‑Arizona, said “plac­ing the screen­er work­force under [civ­il ser­vice rules] would tie the agen­cy’s hands relat­ed to nation­al secu­ri­ty pol­i­cy, work­force man­age­ment and col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing. [The bill] amounts to a forced union­iza­tion of the TSA work­force and a forced des­ig­na­tion of the union (the AFGE) that will rep­re­sent that work­force.”

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 (1): Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Den­ny Heck

Not Vot­ing (9): Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Suzan Del­Bene, Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer, Prami­la Jaya­pal, Kim Schri­er, and Adam Smith; Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Jaime Her­rera-Beut­ler, Dan New­house, and Cathy McMor­ris Rodgers

Cas­ca­dia total: 5 aye votes, 3 nay votes, 9 not vot­ing

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Wash­ing­ton State con­gres­sion­al del­e­ga­tion, with the excep­tion of Den­ny Heck, returned home ear­ly to dis­cuss the coro­n­avirus response with Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence and Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee at Camp Mur­ray, which is why they were not present for the vote.

BARRING SEXUAL PREDATORS FROM WORKING IN AIRPORT SCREENING: Vot­ing 227 for and 175 against, the House on March 5th added Repub­li­can-spon­sored lan­guage to HR 1140 (above) that would pro­hib­it the Trans­porta­tion Secu­ri­ty Admin­is­tra­tion (TSA) from hir­ing work­ers with crim­i­nal his­to­ries includ­ing crimes relat­ed to ter­ror­ism and sex­u­al mis­con­duct.

Crit­ics said civ­il ser­vice hir­ing rules already would dis­qual­i­fy such indi­vid­u­als from TSA employ­ment. A yes vote was in sup­port of the Repub­li­can motion.

The State of Idaho

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

The State of Oregon

Vot­ing Aye (2): Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Greg Walden and Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Kurt Schrad­er

Vot­ing Nay (3): Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Suzanne Bonam­i­ci, Earl Blu­me­nauer and Peter DeFazio

The State of Washington

Vot­ing Nay (1): Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Den­ny Heck

Not Vot­ing (9): Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Suzan Del­Bene, Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer, Prami­la Jaya­pal, Kim Schri­er, Adam Smith; Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Jaime Her­rera-Beut­ler, Dan New­house, and Cathy McMor­ris Rodgers

Cas­ca­dia total: 4 aye votes, 4 nay votes, 9 not vot­ing

In the United States Senate

Chamber of the United States Senate

The Sen­ate cham­ber (U.S. Con­gress pho­to)

SENDING CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE PACKAGE TO WHITE HOUSE: Vot­ing nine­ty-six for and one against, the Sen­ate on March 5th joined the House (above) in pass­ing a bill (H.R. 6074) that would appro­pri­ate $8.3 bil­lion for emer­gency fund­ing of fed­er­al, state, local and glob­al efforts to com­bat the coro­n­avirus out­break. Rand Paul, R‑Kentucky, cast the lone dis­sent­ing vote.

In addi­tion to the out­lays cit­ed above, the bill pro­vides $1.3 bil­lion for over­seas ini­tia­tives by the State Depart­ment and U.S. Agency for Inter­na­tion­al Devel­op­ment, includ­ing $264 mil­lion to oper­ate con­sular offices and cov­er evac­u­a­tion costs; $435 mil­lion in con­tri­bu­tions to glob­al health funds; $300 mil­lion for inter­na­tion­al human­i­tar­i­an aid; $250 mil­lion for eco­nom­ic and secu­ri­ty mea­sures in coun­tries desta­bi­lized by the virus; and $1 mil­lion for inspec­tor-gen­er­al over­sight of the gov­ern­men­t’s over­seas coro­n­avirus response.

Patrick Leahy, D‑Vermont., said the bill is “vast­ly dif­fer­ent from the $1.25 bil­lion gross­ly inad­e­quate pro­pos­al from the Trump admin­is­tra­tionthat was so poor­ly thought out that both Repub­li­cans and Democ­rats said it made no sense.”

Anoth­er sup­port­er, Richard Shel­by, R‑Alabama, said the bill “pro­vides a surge in fund­ing at every lev­el — local, state, fed­er­al and inter­na­tion­al — to meet the grow­ing chal­lenge that we face.”

Rand Paul, R‑Kentucky, object­ed to the fact that all spend­ing in the bill would be added to annu­al deficits rather than off­set by cuts else­where in the bud­get.

A yes vote was to send the bill to Trump, who sub­se­quent­ly signed it into law.

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

STARTING DEBATE ON BIPARTISAN ENERGY BILL: The Sen­ate on March 4th vot­ed, nine­ty for and four against, to start debate on a bipar­ti­san bill (S. 2657) that would mar­shal pub­lic and pri­vate resources to upgrade all ener­gy sec­tors of the Amer­i­can econ­o­my. The bill would:

  • fur­ther the devel­op­ment of tech­nolo­gies for the cap­ture and under­ground stor­age of emis­sions from indus­tri­al sites and coal-burn­ing pow­er plants;
  • pro­mote wind, solar, geot­her­mal and oth­er sources of renew­able ener­gy;
  • boost tech­nolo­gies for stock­pil­ing sup­plies of renew­able ener­gy, includ­ing hydropow­er;
  • … and incen­tivize “smart” weath­er­iza­tion tech­nolo­gies to improve the ener­gy effi­cien­cy of com­mer­cial and gov­ern­ment build­ings and schools.

The bill also includes mea­sures to tight­en the secu­ri­ty of the nation’s pow­er grid, reduce depen­dence on for­eign-sup­plied rare min­er­als used to build mil­i­tary weapons and devel­op a more skilled and bet­ter edu­cat­ed ener­gy work­force.

Lisa Murkows­ki, R‑Alaska, called nuclear ener­gy “our nation’s largest and most reli­able source of zero-emis­sion elec­tric­i­ty,” and said the bill would spur devel­op­ment of “advanced reac­tors to help restore our nation­al lead­er­ship and keep our domes­tic [nuclear] indus­try com­pet­i­tive with the likes of Rus­sia and Chi­na.”

Anoth­er sup­port­er, Tom Udall, D‑New Mex­i­co, voiced sup­port for cer­tain pro­vi­sions but said the over­all bill fails “to set tar­gets to reduce green­house gas emis­sions to the lev­els required to meet glob­al tar­gets or tran­si­tion us to a clean ener­gy econ­o­my, which is where we need to head, and we need to be head­ing there fast.”

No sen­a­tor spoke against start­ing debate on the bill.

A yes vote was to advance the bill.

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

Key votes ahead

Next week (March 9th-13th), the House will take up bills that would renew parts of the For­eign Intel­li­gence Sur­veil­lance Act and pro­hib­it Don­ald Trump from clos­ing U.S. bor­ders to trav­el­ers from Mus­lim-major­i­ty coun­tries. The Sen­ate will con­tin­ue to debate S. 2657, the bipar­ti­san ener­gy bill dis­cussed above.

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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