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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, May 16th, 2021

Last Week In Congress: How Cascadia’s U.S. lawmakers voted (May 10th-14th)

Good morn­ing! Here’s how Cascadia’s Mem­bers of Con­gress vot­ed on major issues dur­ing the leg­isla­tive week end­ing Fri­day, May 14th, 2021.

In the United States House of Representatives

Chamber of the United States House of Representatives

The House cham­ber (U.S. Con­gress photo)

CRACKING DOWN ON DEBT COLLECTORS: Vot­ing 215 for and 207 against, the House on May 13th passed a bill (H.R. 2547) that would pro­hib­it abu­sive prac­tices by pri­vate firms that col­lect debt from con­sumers, stu­dent-loan bor­row­ers and oth­ers seri­ous­ly in arrears.

The bill would require a two-year grace peri­od before efforts to col­lect med­ical debt from seri­ous­ly ill indi­vid­u­als could begin. And it would allow co-sign­ers as well as bor­row­ers of pri­vate stu­dent loans to dis­charge their debt on the basis of total and per­ma­nent dis­abil­i­ty, just as seri­ous­ly dis­abled bor­row­ers of fed­er­al stu­dent loans and their co-sign­ers can do. The bill also would:

  • Pro­hib­it com­pa­nies from col­lect­ing med­ical debt or report­ing it to a cred­it report­ing agency with­out first noti­fy­ing the con­sumer about their rights.
  • Lim­it fees to ten per­cent of col­lec­tions in the case of com­pa­nies hired by fed­er­al agen­cies to col­lect debt.
  • Pro­hib­it col­lec­tion firms from mak­ing mali­cious, unfound­ed threats against mem­bers of the military.
  • Increase mon­e­tary dam­ages imposed by the 1977 Fair Debt Col­lec­tion Prac­tices Act on com­pa­nies using unfair and decep­tive practices.
  • Pro­hib­it col­lec­tion firms from using emails and text mes­sages to bad­ger those in arrears with­out their permission.
  • Expand pro­tec­tions for small and minor­i­ty-owned busi­ness­es against col­lec­tion actions.

Deb­o­rah Ross, D‑North Car­oli­na, said the bill is need­ed because “debt col­lec­tors often oper­ate with impuni­ty, threat­en­ing ser­vi­cepeo­ple, deny­ing small busi­ness own­ers due process, and harass­ing cus­tomers and home­own­ers with repeat­ed calls, texts, and emails. Harass­ment by debt col­lec­tors neg­a­tive­ly affects stu­dents’ career deci­sions, small busi­ness growth, home­own­er­ship, and fam­i­lies’ finan­cial stability.”

Guy Reschen­thaler, R‑Pennsylvania, said “con­sumers are already pro­tect­ed from harm­ful debt col­lec­tion prac­tices” under exist­ing law, and he added that “it is absolute­ly clear that [Democ­rats] are using the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic as an excuse to dis­man­tle our free-mar­ket sys­tem and force their rad­i­cal, pro­gres­sive agen­da on the Amer­i­can people.”

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

Vot­ing Nay (2): Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Cliff Bentz; Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Kurt Schrader

The State of Washington

Vot­ing Aye (7): Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Suzan Del­Bene, Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer, Prami­la Jaya­pal, Kim Schri­er, Adam Smith, and Mar­i­lyn Strickland

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

Cas­ca­dia total: 10 aye votes, 7 nay votes

WORKPLACE ACCOMMODATIONS FOR PREGNANCY: Vot­ing 315 for and 101 against, the House on May 14th passed a bill (H.R. 1065) that would require pri­vate-sec­tor firms and gov­ern­ment agen­cies with at least 15 employ­ees to pro­vide rea­son­able work­place accom­mo­da­tions for work­ers and job appli­cants who are preg­nant or have recent­ly giv­en birth.

The bill would not require employ­ers to make accom­mo­da­tions that impose undue hard­ship on their oper­a­tions. Repub­li­can crit­ics said it gave insuf­fi­cient pro­tec­tion to reli­gious organizations.

Lois Frankel, D‑Florida, said preg­nant women at work now “can be denied…an extra bath­room break, a place to sit, a lighter lift­ing, or [be] fired for ask­ing for sim­ple accom­mo­da­tions or even just dis­clos­ing that she is preg­nant. This leaves many women hav­ing to choose between the health of their preg­nan­cy and putting food on their fam­i­ly’s table. We are putting women in dan­ger every sin­gle day while we hold off on this action.”

Mar­jorie Tay­lor Greene, R‑Georgia, said: “Pass­ing this bill means a small busi­ness or reli­gious orga­ni­za­tion could be forced to pro­vide paid time off to an employ­ee to have an abor­tion even if that vio­lates the reli­gious beliefs of the orga­ni­za­tion. On top of that, these groups can be sued for dam­ages for not tak­ing every step to accom­mo­date preg­nant work­ers. That means church­es and small busi­ness­es, the back­bone of Amer­i­ca, will be tied up in court for years.…”

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

The State of Idaho

Vot­ing Nay (1): Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Russ Fulcher

Not Vot­ing (1): Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Mike Simpson

The State of Oregon

Vot­ing Aye (5): Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Suzanne Bonam­i­ci, Earl Blu­me­nauer, Peter DeFazio, and Kurt Schrad­er; Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Cliff Bentz

The State of Washington

Vot­ing Aye (9): Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Suzan Del­Bene, Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer, Prami­la Jaya­pal, Kim Schri­er, Adam Smith, and Mar­i­lyn Strick­land; Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Jaime Her­rera Beut­ler and Dan Newhouse

Vot­ing Nay (1): Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Cathy McMor­ris Rodgers

Cas­ca­dia total: 14 aye votes, 2 nay votes, 1 not voting

In the United States Senate

Chamber of the United States Senate

The Sen­ate cham­ber (U.S. Con­gress photo)

NULLIFYING TRUMP ADMINISTRATION BANKING RULE: Vot­ing 52 for and 47 against, the Sen­ate on May 11th nul­li­fied a six-months-old Trump admin­is­tra­tion rule that has made it eas­i­er for state-reg­u­lat­ed preda­to­ry lenders to use fleet­ing alliances with nation­al banks and fed­er­al sav­ings asso­ci­a­tions to avoid state bank­ing reg­u­la­tions includ­ing usury rules cap­ping inter­est rates.

The fed­er­al insti­tu­tions involved in such arrange­ments are not answer­able to state reg­u­la­tions. The Office of the Comp­trol­ler of the Cur­ren­cy (OCC) pub­lished the rule on Oct. 30, 2020. With this vote, the Sen­ate adopt­ed a res­o­lu­tion (S.J. Res 15) that would revoke it by means of the Con­gres­sion­al Review Act.

Defend­ers said the rule right­ful­ly allows nation­al banks to become the lender of record if they have put up the mon­ey and signed their name at the time of orig­i­na­tion. They said nul­li­fi­ca­tion would penal­ize com­mu­ni­ty banks that part­ner with Inter­net-based finan­cial insti­tu­tions (“fin­techs”) to expand their portfolios.

Chris Van Hollen, D‑Maryland, said that under the rule, unscrupu­lous lenders “go to a nation­al bank, and you essen­tial­ly rent their name. And by doing that, you cre­ate a loop­hole that allows you to avoid the state laws that have been put in place to pro­tect against this kind of preda­to­ry lending.…”

Pat Toomey, R‑Pennsylvania, said the rule “ensures that nation­al banks are account­able for the loans they issue through these lend­ing part­ner­ships, and it requires the OCC to super­vise those loans for com­pli­ance with con­sumer pro­tec­tion and anti-dis­crim­i­na­tion laws.”

A yes vote was to send the nul­li­fi­ca­tion mea­sure to the 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

ANDREA PALM, DEPUTY HEALTH SECRETARY: Vot­ing 61 for and 37 against, the Sen­ate on May 11th con­firmed Andrea J. Palm, forty-sev­en, as deputy sec­re­tary of the Depart­ment of Health and Human Services.

Palm was a senior HHS staff mem­ber and White House aide and dur­ing the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion, and she worked under Hillary Clin­ton when she rep­re­sent­ed New York in the Sen­ate. Palm worked most recent­ly as sec­re­tary-designee of the Wis­con­sin Depart­ment of Health Services.

A yes vote was to con­firm the nominee.

The State of Idaho

Vot­ing Aye (1): Repub­li­can Sen­a­tor Mike Crapo

Vot­ing Nay (1): Repub­li­can Sen­a­tor Jim Risch

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: 5 aye votes, 1 nay vote

CINDY MARTEN, DEPUTY EDUCATION SECRETARY: Vot­ing 54 for and 44 against, the Sen­ate on May 11th con­firmed Cindy M. Marten as deputy sec­re­tary of the Depart­ment of Edu­ca­tion. She was super­in­ten­dent of the San Diego Uni­fied School Dis­trict between 2013–2021. A for­mer class­room teacher and school prin­ci­pal, Marten is a lit­er­a­cy spe­cial­ist who served as pres­i­dent of the San Diego Coun­cil of Lit­er­a­cy Professionals.

A yes vote was to con­firm the nominee.

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

This week, the House will take up bills to address hate crimes against Asian-Amer­i­cans and estab­lish a com­mis­sion to inves­ti­gate the Jan­u­ary 6th attack on the U.S. Capi­tol, while the Sen­ate will vote on Biden admin­is­tra­tion nominees.

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!

© 2021 Thomas Vot­ing Reports.

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