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 15th, 2020

Last Week In Congress: How Cascadia’s U.S. lawmakers voted (March 9th-14th)

Good morn­ing! Here’s how Cascadia’s Mem­bers of Con­gress vot­ed on major issues dur­ing the leg­isla­tive week end­ing Sat­ur­day, March 14th.

In the United States House of Representatives

Chamber of the United States House of Representatives

The House cham­ber (U.S. Con­gress pho­to)

APPROVING CORONAVIRUS RELIEF AND ECONOMIC STIMULUS: Vot­ing 363 for and 40 against, the House just before 1 AM on March 14th approved tens of bil­lions of dol­lars in stim­u­lus and safe­ty-net spend­ing to cush­ion the eco­nom­ic and social impacts of the coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic on indi­vid­u­als, fam­i­lies and main­ly small and medi­um-size busi­ness­es in the Unit­ed States.

The bill (H.R. 6201) would appro­pri­ate $1 bil­lion to pro­vide free virus test­ing for all who request it, from the unin­sured to Med­ic­aid and Medicare recip­i­ents to indi­vid­u­als with pri­vate med­ical insur­ance; $1 bil­lion to expand food stamps, nutri­tion pro­grams for the poor and meals pro­grams for seniors and K‑12 stu­dents whose schools were closed; and $1 bil­lion to expand state-fed­er­al unem­ploy­ment ben­e­fits while deliv­er­ing the checks more prompt­ly.

The bill also would fund a 6.2 per­cent increase in Med­ic­aid pay­ments to states, grant lia­bil­i­ty pro­tec­tions to man­u­fac­tur­ers of res­pi­ra­to­ry masks and delay fil­ing dead­lines for cer­tain busi­ness and per­son­al tax returns.

In addi­tion, the bill would autho­rize two weeks’ paid sick leave and up to three weeks’ paid med­ical and fam­i­ly leave through Decem­ber to indi­vid­u­als and house­holds affect­ed by the coro­n­avirus cri­sis, using tax cred­its to ful­ly reim­burse qual­i­fied employ­ers for the cost of pro­vid­ing the leave.

Leave pay­ments would have to be at least two-thirds of nor­mal lev­els. Gov­ern­ment employ­ees would receive equiv­a­lent leave ben­e­fits.

Richard Neal, D‑Massachusetts, called it “imper­a­tive that any­one who needs to be test­ed for coro­n­avirus is able to afford that test­ing” because: “If indi­vid­u­als wor­ry that they can’t afford the cost of the test, they will for­go it and risk endan­ger­ing them­selves and their com­mu­ni­ty.”

Kay Granger, R‑Texas, said “we must pass this bill today to help lessen the dev­as­tat­ing impact of this glob­al pan­dem­ic on the Amer­i­can peo­ple.”

No mem­ber spoke against the bill.

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

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 (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: 16 aye votes, 1 nay vote

RENEWING SURVEILLANCE AUTHORITY FOR FIVE YEARS: Vot­ing 278 for and 136 against, the House on March 11th approved a five-year exten­sion (H.R. 6172) of three sec­tions of the For­eign Intel­li­gence Sur­veil­lance Act (FISA) that require peri­od­ic con­gres­sion­al renew­al because of the law’s direct clash with Amer­i­cans’ con­sti­tu­tion­al­ly-guar­an­teed civ­il lib­er­ties.

One sec­tion allows law enforce­ment to place rov­ing wire­taps on home­grown or for­eign ter­ror­ist sus­pects mov­ing about the Unit­ed States, and anoth­er per­mits gov­ern­ment sur­veil­lance on U.S. soil of for­eign “lone wolf” sus­pects not linked to ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions. Under the third sec­tion, the For­eign Intel­li­gence Sur­veil­lance Court can autho­rize for­ev­er-secret FBI search­es of library, book­store and busi­ness records in the Unit­ed States if the agency shows “rea­son­able grounds” the tar­get­ed infor­ma­tion is vital to an ongo­ing domes­tic probe of specif­i­cal­ly defined for­eign-spon­sored threats to nation­al secu­ri­ty.

This author­i­ty is root­ed in Sec­tion 215 of FISA, a law enact­ed in 1978 and expand­ed after the attacks of Sep­tem­ber 11th, 2001, to strength­en gov­ern­ment pow­ers to detect and pre­vent ter­ror­ist threats to Amer­i­ca.

In part, this bill:

  • Pro­hibits the use of Sec­tion 215 to obtain GPS and cell-phone loca­tions;
  • Requires most infor­ma­tion obtained in Sec­tion 215 search­es to be destroyed after five years;
  • Requires the attor­ney gen­er­al to approve in writ­ing FISA war­rants issued against elect­ed offi­cials or can­di­dates;
  • Expands Civ­il Lib­er­ties Over­sight Board pow­ers to mon­i­tor abus­es in the dis­charge of the FISA law;
  • Allows inde­pen­dent out­side reviews of cer­tain FISA court delib­er­a­tions;
  • Restricts the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Agen­cy’s already-scaled-back col­lec­tion of meta data on telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions pass­ing through U.S. switch­ing points;
  • … and requires the gov­ern­ment to dis­close with­in one hun­dred and eighty days all sub­stan­tive opin­ions by the FISA court.

Mike Quigley, D‑Illinois, said it “strikes just the right bal­ance between pro­tect­ing our nation­al secu­ri­ty and strength­en­ing civ­il lib­er­ties. It pre­serves crit­i­cal tools used by author­i­ties to inves­ti­gate inter­na­tion­al ter­ror­ism and for­eign intel­li­gence mat­ters, but also makes sig­nif­i­cant reforms to enhance pri­va­cy and trans­paren­cy.”

Louie Gohmert, R‑Texas, said: “We need to fix the FISA court. This doesn’t do it, and I will vote ‘no’ until we have ade­quate reforms that do.”

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

The State of Idaho

Vot­ing Aye (1): Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Mike Simp­son

Vot­ing Nay (1): Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Russ Fulcher

The State of Oregon

Vot­ing Aye (1): Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Kurt Schrad­er

Vot­ing Nay (4): Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Suzanne Bonam­i­ci, Earl Blu­me­nauer, and Peter DeFazio; Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Greg Walden

The State of Washington

Vot­ing Aye (5): Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer, Kim Schri­er, and Den­ny Heck; Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Dan New­house

Vot­ing Nay (5): Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Suzan Del­Bene, Prami­la Jaya­pal, and Adam Smith; Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Jaime Her­rera-Beut­ler and Cathy McMor­ris Rodgers

Cas­ca­dia total: 7 aye votes, 10 nay votes

ASSERTING CONGRESSIONAL WAR POWERS: The House on March 11th vot­ed, 227 for and 186 against, to require the admin­is­tra­tion to obtain advance con­gres­sion­al approval for mil­i­tary actions against Iran or its proxy forces except when there is an immi­nent threat to the Unit­ed States, its armed forces or its ter­ri­to­ries. The bipar­ti­san vote sent the mea­sure (SJ Res 68) to Don­ald Trump and his expect­ed veto. The mea­sure invokes the 1973 War Pow­ers Res­o­lu­tion, which asserts the pow­er of Con­gress to declare war under Arti­cle I of the Con­sti­tu­tion.

Under that Viet­nam-era law, pres­i­dents must noti­fy Con­gress with­in 48 hours when they send the U.S. mil­i­tary into com­bat, then with­draw the forces with­in a set peri­od unless Con­gress has autho­rized the action.

Our own Prami­la Jaya­pal, D‑Washington and Co-Chair of the Pro­gres­sive Cau­cus, said: “The Amer­i­can peo­ple have spo­ken. They don’t want us in end­less wars with­out autho­riza­tion from Con­gress, with­out a debate here in Con­gress, with­out uti­liz­ing those con­sti­tu­tion­al pow­ers that our found­ing framers gave us.”

Michael McCaul, R‑Texas, said: “This polit­i­cal War Pow­ers Res­o­lu­tion is based on a false premise. It orders the pres­i­dent to ter­mi­nate hos­til­i­ties against Iran. The prob­lem is we are not engaged in hos­til­i­ties in Iran.”

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

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)

KILLING ADMINISTRATION RULE ON STUDENT LOAN FORGIVENESS: Vot­ing 53 for and 42 against, the Sen­ate on March 11 joined the House in nul­li­fy­ing a Trump admin­is­tra­tion rule on debt-for­give­ness sought by more than 200,000 fed­er­al stu­dent-loan bor­row­ers who allege that their school fraud­u­lent­ly mis­rep­re­sent­ed the qual­i­ty of edu­ca­tion they would receive.

The bor­row­ers’ claims have been lodged main­ly against for-prof­it schools such as the ITT Tech­ni­cal Insti­tute [ITT orig­i­nal­ly stood for “Inter­na­tion­al Tele­phone & Tele­graph”] and Corinthi­an Col­leges that abrupt­ly went out of busi­ness, leav­ing them with steep debt but no degree and cur­tailed earn­ing pow­er. Crit­ics said the Trump rule would pro­vide debt for­give­ness to only three per­cent of claimants.

But Edu­ca­tion Sec­re­tary Bet­sy DeVos said in con­gres­sion­al tes­ti­mo­ny it would cor­rect the “blan­ket for­give­ness” of an Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion rule it replaced. The new rule bars class-action law­suits against schools and requires claims to be adju­di­cat­ed one-by-one by manda­to­ry arbi­tra­tion rather than in open court, with bor­row­ers pro­hib­it­ed from appeal­ing the deci­sion. The rule sets a stan­dard of evi­dence requir­ing bor­row­ers to prove the fraud was inten­tion­al.

Richard Durbin, D‑Illinois, said:

“How many times have we giv­en speech­es about how much we care about vet­er­ans? Here is a chance to vote with the vet­er­ans, espe­cial­ly those who have been defraud­ed out of their GI bill of rights and have end­ed up with addi­tion­al debt.…These stu­dents were mis­led by these schools, and these schools are noto­ri­ous for it. The ques­tion is this: Are we going to stand up for the stu­dents, many of whom are vet­er­ans, or are we going to stand up for the schools…?

No sen­a­tor spoke in sup­port of the Trump admin­is­tra­tion’s rule on stu­dent-loan for­give­ness. A yes vote was to send HJ Res 76 to the White 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 Maria Cantwell and Pat­ty Mur­ray

Cas­ca­dia total: 4 aye votes, 2 nay votes

Key votes ahead

Next week (begin­ning March 16th), the Sen­ate will take up the Fam­i­lies First Coro­n­avirus Response Act and the For­eign Intel­li­gence Sur­veil­lance Act dis­cussed above. The House is ten­ta­tive­ly sched­uled to be in recess.

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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