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Analyzing the latest votes in Congress

Last week in Congress: How our representatives voted with analysis from News Washington Bureau Chief Jerry Zremski

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WASHINGTON — Congress is starting 2012 with a yawn.

For proof, check out the following votes that took place in the House and Senate last week, which cover such riveting issues as electronic duck stamps and the possible establishment of a national park in the Northern Mariana Islands.

The votes are notable, from a local standpoint, for two reasons.

For one thing, Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, D-Fairport, missed all six of the votes on the House side.

“I wasn’t able to fly to Washington last week because I had a walking pneumonia," Slaughter said in a statement. "In light of the abbreviated work week, I remained home to recuperate while at the same time fulfilling my duties in the district, holding meetings in my Rochester office, and traveling to Buffalo and Albany for scheduled meetings."

Slaughter's recent missed votes follow a Buffalo News study that showed that she missed 9.35 percent of all votes from the start of last year through Dec. 2, more than any other local member of Congress. Slaughter attributed last year's missed votes to family commitments

Rep. Tom Reed,  R-Corning, did indeed vote on all six measures -- and he voted against two of the routine bills before the House last week: the Northern Mariana Islands bill and a measure calling for a study of ways to commemorate buffalo soldiers stationed in western national parks in the late 19th century and early 20th century.

Reed's spokesman, Tim Kolpien, said the congressman -- a budget hawk -- voted against the measures for fiscal reasons. Reed would not be opposed to either of the studies if the Department of the Interior were to fund their $600,000 cost through cuts elsewhere in its budget.

On the Senate side, both Sen. Charles E. Schumer and Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand, D-N.Y., voted against a motion to consider Reed's House-passed resolution disapproving of President Obama's decision to raise the federal debt limit. This was a no-brainer vote for Senate Democrats, who didn't want anything to do with repeating last summer's debate over the debt ceiling issue.

Anyway, here are last week's votes, and how our members voted. A "Y" means the member voted for the measure; an "N" means the member voted against the measure; an "A" means the member did not vote.

--Jerry Zremski

 

HOUSE

* Electronic Duck Stamps: The House passed the Permanent Electronic Duck Stamp Act, sponsored by Rep. Robert J. Wittman, R-Va.The bill would give the Interior Secretary permanent authority to allow states to electronically issue duck stamps required for hunters to hunt ducks and other migratory waterfowl. Wittman said the authority would enable "a more efficient and faster process" for issuing the stamps.

The vote on Jan. 23 was 373 yeas to 1 nay.

Reps. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, Y; Kathleen C. Hochul, D-Amherst, Y; Louise M. Slaughter, D-Fairport, A; Tom Reed, R-Corning, Y.

* National Park in Northern Mariana Islands: The House passed the Rota Cultural and Natural Resources Study Act, sponsored by Del. Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan, D-Northern Mariana Islands. The bill would authorize the Interior Secretary to study the possibility of designating sites on the island of Rota in the Northern Mariana Islands as a national park. Sablan said making the sites a national park "will help create jobs in ecotourism, transportation, hotels and restaurants," while also preserving sites of archaeological, historical and ecological significance.

The vote on Jan. 23 was 278 yeas to 100 nays.

Higgins, Y; Hochul, Y; Slaughter, A; Reed, N.

* Resolution on 2013 Budget: The House passed a resolution, sponsored by Rep. Richard Nugent, R-Fla., expressing the sense of the House that it was of national importance for Congress to pass a budget for fiscal 2013. Nugent criticized the Senate for failing to pass a budget in the past 1,000 days and called on it to meet its responsibility under the 1974 Budget Act in order to help manage the government's finances.

The vote on Jan. 25 was 410 yeas to 1 nay.

Higgins, Y; Hochul, Y; Slaughter, A; Reed, Y.

* World War II Memorial: The House passed the World War II Memorial Prayer Act, sponsored by Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio. The bill would direct the Interior Secretary to add the words of a prayer made by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on D-Day, June 6, 1944, to the World War II Memorial in Washington. Johnson said including the prayer "would bolster the meaning of the memorial and would also give strength and encouragement to future generations."

The vote on Jan. 25 was 386 yeas to 26 nays.

Higgins, Y; Hochul, Y; Slaughter, A; Reed, Y.

* Commemorating Buffalo Soldiers: The House passed the Buffalo Soldiers in the National Parks Study Act, sponsored by Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif. The bill would direct the Interior Secretary to study methods of commemorating and interpreting the role of buffalo soldiers stationed in western national parks in the late 19th century and early 20th century. Speier said the bill would help recognize "the legacy of the Army's first African American infantry and cavalry units and the contributions they made to our Nation."

The vote on Jan. 25 was 338 yeas to 70 nays.

Higgins, Y; Hochul, Y; Slaughter, A; Reed, N.

* Ultralight Aircraft and Drug Smuggling: The House passed the Ultralight Aircraft Smuggling Prevention Act, sponsored by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz. The bill would enhance efforts to combat the use of ultralight aircraft to smuggle drugs into the U.S. and establish greater penalties for smugglers who use the aircraft. A supporter, Rep. Mary Bono Mack, R-Calif., said it "will provide law enforcement officials with a powerful new tool in the on-going war against illicit drugs."

The vote on Jan. 25 was unanimous with 408 yeas.

SENATE

* Nebraska District Judge: The Senate confirmed the nomination of John M. Gerrard to serve as the U.S. District Judge for Nebraska. A supporter, Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., cited Gerrard's 15 years of service on the Nebraska Supreme Court and his unanimously well-qualified rating from the American Bar Association in saying that Gerrard was "held in the highest regard by both the bench and the bar in Nebraska." An opponent, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., expressed concern about Gerrard having taken part in a ruling that found electrocution violated the Constitution's cruel and unusual punishment clause.

The vote on Jan. 24 was 74 yeas to 16 nays.

Sens. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., Y; Kirsten E. Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Y.

* Increasing Debt Limit: The Senate rejected a motion to consider a resolution, sponsored by Rep. Tom Reed, R-N.Y., expressing disapproval of the President's exercise of authority to increase the debt limit. A supporter, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, said Congress "should be working together to lower the debt, not having votes to increase it," and criticized President Obama for lacking a plan to address the crisis of growing debt. An opponent, Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., said failing to increase the debt limit would mean defaulting on the national debt and potentially creating a financial and economic crisis.

The vote on Jan. 26 was 44 yeas to 52 nays.

Schumer, N; Gillibrand, N.

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Information is supplied by Targeted News Service.

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About Politics Now

Robert J. McCarthy

Robert J. McCarthy

A native of Schenectady, Robert J. McCarthy came to The Buffalo News in 1982 following a six-year stint at the Olean Times Herald. He is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University, and has been covering local, state and national politics since 1992.

[email protected]


Tom Precious

Tom Precious

Tom Precious joined The Buffalo News in 1997 as bureau chief at the state Capitol, where he covers everything from statewide politics and state government fiscal affairs to health care, environmental and municipal government matters. Prior to The News, he worked for news outlets in Albany and Washington, DC.

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Jill Terreri

Jill Terreri

Jill Terreri is an Amherst native and has covered politics and government in upstate New York since 2003. She joined The Buffalo News in 2012 and covers City Hall.

@jillterreri | [email protected]


Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski, The Buffalo News Washington bureau chief, has reported from the nation's capital since 1989 after joining The News as a business reporter in 1984. A graduate of Syracuse University, Zremski is a former Nieman fellow in journalism at Harvard University. In 2007, he served as president of the National Press Club.

@JerryZremski | [email protected]

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