How Our State's Members Of Congress Voted Last Week

Here’s how area members of Congress voted on major issues in the week ending June 29. Congress is in Independence Day recess until July 9. (A little background about why I’m re-posting this roll call report can be found here.)


ERIC HOLDER CONTEMPT CITATION: Voting 255 for and 67 against, the House on June 28 held Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for refusing to provide a House committee with certain subpoenaed documents related to its investigation of the “Fast and Furious” gun-walking operation, which is linked to a U.S. border agent’s murder in 2010. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, a Justice Department agency, conducted the operation. Agents allowed up to 2,000 illegal firearms to flow into Mexico in hopes that by tracing their spread, they could apprehend leaders of drug cartels. Two Fast and Furious weapons were found near where U.S. border agent Brian Terry was killed by outlaws. While Holder has provided the committee with thousands of emails and other subpoenaed documents, the panel charges he has withheld thousands more that could be self-incriminating. President Barack Obama has asserted executive privilege over the withheld documents.

Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said “it is our constitutional duty to find” the facts behind the failed operation and the agent’s death. “We showed more than enough good faith, but the White House has chosen to invoke executive privilege. That leaves us no other option.”

Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., said Rep. Darryl Issa, R-Calif., the sponsor of the contempt citation, publicly “acknowledged that the president and the White House did not know about the gun-walking operation.”

A yes vote was to hold Holder in contempt of Congress.

Voting yes: Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-3, Doc Hastings, R-4, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-5, Dave Reichert, R-8

Voting no: Rick Larsen, D-2, Norman Dicks, D-6, Jim McDermott, D-7, Adam Smith, D-9

Not voting: None

DEMOCRATIC BID FOR MUKASEY TESTIMONY: Voting 172 for and 251 against, the House on June 28 defeated a Democratic motion seeking testimony on U.S. gun-trafficking operations on the Southwest border from five individuals not heard from in the Republicans’ 16-month Fast and Furious probe (preceding issue; H Res 711). Among the five listed in the resolution are Michael Mukasey, who was President George W. Bush’s last attorney general, and Alice Fisher, an assistant attorney general under Bush. The resolution states Mukasey was informed in a briefing paper about the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ desire, expressed in 2007, “to expand” gun-trafficking efforts in Mexico, and that in a separate matter Fisher authorized wiretaps in a Bush administration gun-trafficking effort known as “Operation Wide Receiver.”

John Dingell, D-Mich., said “the Republican majority has engaged in what appears to be a partisan, political witch hunt with the attorney general as its target. Over the 16-month investigation, Democrats were not permitted to call a single witness to testify.”

Darrell Issa, R-Calif., responded to Dingell: “You’re just wrong. There were plenty of opportunities for the minority to ask for witnesses. They chose not to, except at one hearing, and then they wanted the former attorney general (Mukasey).”

A yes vote backed the Democratic motion.

Voting yes: Larsen, Dicks, McDermott, Smith

Voting no: Herrera Beutler, Hastings, McMorris Rodgers, Reichert

Not voting: None

DEMOCRATIC BID TO REBUKE ISSA: Voting 259 for and 161 against, the House on June 29 tabled (killed) a move by Democrats (H Res 718) to formally disapprove of the way Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., the chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, has conducted his panel’s 16-month investigation of the Fast and Furious gun-walking operation. The resolution faulted Issa, in part, for having “chosen to call the attorney general of the United States a liar on national television without corroborating evidence.”

As a privileged resolution, the measure was not debatable.

A no vote was to formally rebuke Issa.

Voting yes: Herrera Beutler, Hastings, McMorris Rodgers, Reichert

Voting no: Larsen, Dicks, McDermott, Smith

Not voting: None

DECLARATORY JUDGMENT AGAINST HOLDER: Voting 258 for and 95 against, the House on June 28 gave its Committee on Oversight and Government Reform authority to hire counsel for pursuing in federal court a declarative judgment upholding the newly voted contempt citation against Holder. Republicans said they needed this authority (H Res 706) because the Justice Department, headed by Holder, will not enforce what is the first contempt of Congress charge ever lodged against a sitting Cabinet member. With Holder having announced he will leave the Justice Department at year’s end, it is doubtful that any court action to enforce the citation would occur quickly enough to affect his status.

Daniel Lungren, R-Calif., said the committee needs this authority because “it would be folly … to suggest that (the Justice Department) would carry out the actions that we just voted upon against the attorney general.”

Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., said: “This subpoena is so partisan and political that I expect any court to do just what our committee should have done — compel the parties to sit down and negotiate.”

A yes vote backed the resolution.

Voting yes: Herrera Beutler, Hastings, McMorris Rodgers, Reichert

Voting no: Larsen, Dicks, McDermott, Smith

Not voting: None

ROAD PROJECTS, STUDENT LOANS, FLOOD INSURANCE: Voting 373 for and 52 against, the House on June 29 sent the Senate a catchall bill to fund road-construction, transit and highway-safety programs at a cost of about $109 billion until October 2014, freeze interest rates on newly issued student loans at 3.4 percent until July 2013 and renew the National Flood Insurance Program until October 2017.

The transportation measure would be funded mostly by the Highway Trust Fund, which draws its revenue from the 18.4 cents-per-gallon federal gasoline tax and the 24.4 cents-per-gallon federal diesel tax. The student-loan interest freeze will cost the Treasury at least $5.5 billion in lost revenue, to be recouped by measures such as raising premiums that the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., a federal agency, charges participating corporations for insuring their pension obligations.

National Flood Insurance, run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is funded by a combination of policy premiums and Treasury loans, with private agents selling the policies. The bill authorizes the program to add $3 billion in new debt to the $17.8 billion it already owes the Treasury. About 1 percent of policyholders receive about 40 percent of claims paid.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

Voting yes: Larsen, Herrera Beutler, Hastings, McMorris Rodgers, Dicks, McDermott, Reichert, Smith

Voting no: None

Not voting: None

TAXPAYER-SUBSIDIZED AIR SERVICE: Voting 164 for and 238 against, the House on June 26 refused to defund and thus close the Essential Air Service program, which subsidizes daily commercial flights to more than 120 smaller cities and rural outposts nationwide. The amendment sought to shift the program’s $114 million fiscal 2013 appropriation to deficit reduction. The vote occurred during debate on a bill (HR 5972), later passed, to appropriate $51.6 billion in 2013 discretionary spending for the departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development and related agencies. The bill awaits Senate action.

Tom McClintock, R-Calif., said: “Apologists for this wasteful spending tell us it is an important economic driver for these small towns — and I’m sure that’s so. Whenever you give away money, the folks you’re giving it to are always better off. But the folks you’re taking it away from are always worse off to exactly the same extent.”

Tom Latham, R-Iowa, said the program “plays a key role in the economic development of many rural communities. … Does the program need reform? Absolutely. That’s why last year we (limited it to) existing communities and … removed the requirement that larger and more expensive planes must be used in the program.”

A yes vote was to end the Essential Air Service program.

Voting yes: Hastings, Reichert

Voting no: Larsen, Herrera Beutler, McMorris Rodgers, Dicks, McDermott, Smith

Not voting: None

PUBLIC-HOUSING BUDGET: Voting 160 for and 264 against, the House refused to cut $562 million, or about 12 percent, from the $4.7 billion fiscal 2013 budget for operating expenses at the nation’s 14,000 public-housing developments in 3,500 communities. With their rents, the 2.3 million tenants of these units also pay a share of operating expenses. This vote, which occurred during debate on HR 5972 (above), did not affect the $1.9 billion the House has budgeted next year for capital expenses at public-housing developments.

Amendment sponsor Paul Broun, R-Ga., objected to “a $500 million increase (for public housing) at a time when our nation is broke and American taxpayers are struggling to put food on their tables and looking for jobs.”

Tom Latham, R-Iowa, said the budget targeted by this amendment “provides many of the necessary operating and maintenance activities for our housing authorities, including health, safety and sanitation.”

A yes vote was to cut spending for public housing.

Voting yes: McMorris Rodgers

Voting no: Larsen, Herrera Beutler, Hastings, Dicks, McDermott, Reichert, Smith

Not voting: None


FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION: Voting 92 for and four against, the Senate on June 26 sent President Obama a bill (S 3187) giving the Food and Drug Administration more funds and regulatory power for delivering safe medical products from global and domestic supply chains to U.S. consumers. The bill authorizes $6 billion over five years in FDA user fees on companies seeking approval of new brand-name and generic drugs, medical devices and biotechnology products. Additionally, the bill renews programs for assuring that children receive safe pharmaceuticals; seeks to prevent any recurrence of shortages of lifesaving drugs; promotes new drugs for treating rare diseases and diseases that have become resistant to existing antibiotics and stiffens penalties for drug counterfeiting. With 40 percent of finished U.S. drugs manufactured overseas and 80 percent of ingredients originating abroad, the bill gives the FDA more tools for inspecting plants in countries such as India and China.

Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., said the bill makes “important reforms to foster drug innovation and patient access to new therapies. It (provides) accelerated-approval … for drugs to reflect advances in science over the past 20 years (and) contains important reforms that will help mitigate … drug shortages.”

Richard Burr, R-N.C., said: “This is the first time we have ever had a user fee for generic pharmaceuticals. Generics were called that because generics were created after the patent life expired so we could bring low-cost products to the market. … We are creating generic user fees which will raise the generic price for the American people.”

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

Voting yes: Maria Cantwell, D, Patty Murray, D

Voting no: None

Not voting: None

RENEWAL OF THREE MAJOR LAWS: Voting 74 for and 19 against, the Senate on June 29 sent President Obama a bill (HR 4348, above) projected to add or retain more than 2 million construction jobs in the transportation sector, hold down borrowing costs for 7.4 million college students and boost certain real estate markets by providing a long-range extension of National Flood Insurance. While the massive spending bill is mostly self-funding or paid for by changes in pension rules and other measures, it raises the debt limit for the flood-insurance program by about $3 billion to nearly $21 billion.

The transportation measure prohibits earmarks; provides financial incentives for state crackdowns on distracted drivers; combines 90 transportation programs into fewer than 30 and increases regulation of the touring and long-distance buses. The measure also allows longer driving hours for agricultural truckers during planting and harvesting seasons; permits family farmers to use their vehicles within a 150-mile radius without having to obtain a commercial driver’s license; gives states more flexibility in allocating federal funds; sets the framework for a new national freight program and expands federally funded tax credits that leverage private investment in road projects of regional or national significance.

National Flood Insurance covers about 5.6 million residential and commercial properties located in flood plains in 22,000 communities. The program was established in 1968 to reduce federal disaster payments to flooded areas and serve a high-risk market largely shunned by private insurers.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

Voting yes: Cantwell, Murray

Voting no: None

Not voting: None

— Thomas Voting Reports Inc.

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