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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 — For the first time this year, major legislation passed both chambers of Congress last week -- and the major bill that passed the House showed two local Democrats siding, surprisingly, with Republicans.

By a vote of 267-159, the House passed a bill repealing the "CLASS" program, the long-term care effort included in the 2010 health reform law. Republicans argued that the government just can't afford to start a long-term care program of its own -- and Reps. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, and Kathleen C. Hochul, D-Amherst, agreed with the GOP on the vote.

“While originally intended to expand options for disabled seniors or those who require long-term care, this legislation has become unsustainable, with no options for successful implementation," Hochul said.

All this just goes to show that neither Hochul nor Higgins are guaranteed Democratic votes. They're centrist Democrats willing to buck the party line. Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, D-Fairport, opposed the repeal of the long-term care program.

Meanwhile in the Senate, both Sens. Kirsten E. Gillibrand and Charles E. Schumer backed the STOCK Act, which bans insider stock trading among members of Congress and their staffs.

That's no surprise, given that Gillibrand was an original sponsor of the bill and Schumer has supported it strongly.

Interestingly, though, the two New York Democrats opposed an amendment by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., which would banned executive-branch employees with oversight responsibility from making decisions about companies or industries in which they or their spouse have an investment interest. Gillibrand and Schumer agreed with Democrats who said existing law already puts major restrictions on what executive-branch employees can or cannot do.

--Jerry Zremski

Here are the votes of Western New York's four members of the House of Representatives and the state's two U.S. senators on major legislation in Congress last week. 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.

HOUSE

* Studying Long-term Care Insurance: The House rejected an amendment sponsored by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, to the Fiscal Responsibility and Retirement Security Act. The amendment would have prevented the bill's provision repealing the government's long-term care program from taking effect until the Congressional Budget Office has studied the impact of individuals not having long-term care. Lee also said "we must determine the cost of not having long-term care insurance on the federal, state and local governments" before repealing the program. An opponent, Rep. Joseph R. Pitts, R-Pa., said that by blocking repealing of a failed program, the amendment would delay "any real attempt to ensure every American has access to affordable long-term care coverage."

The vote, on Feb. 1, was 161 yeas to 263 nays.

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

* Long-term Care Insurance: The House rejected an amendment sponsored by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, to the Fiscal Responsibility and Retirement Security Act. The amendment would have preserved the government's long-term care insurance program until the Secretary of Health and Human Services certified that at least 60 percent of individuals 25 or older had private long-term care insurance.Lee said her amendment would maintain "humane treatment of impoverished citizens" while helping to cut the deficit by containing the cost of long-term care. An opponent, Rep. Joseph R. Pitts, R-Pa., said that by maintaining the government's program, the amendment would block "any real attempt to ensure every American has access to affordable, long-term care coverage."

The vote, on Feb. 1, was 157 yeas to 264 nays.

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

* Long-term Care and Medicaid: The House rejected an amendment sponsored by Rep. Theodore E. Deutch, D-Fla., to the Fiscal Responsibility and Retirement Security Act. The amendment would have delayed repeal of the government's long-term care program until 90 days after the comptroller general certified that the decision would not raise Medicaid spending on long-term care.Deutch said repeal would end progress toward "a fully solvent, affordable, premium-financed, long-term care program" that would replace costly and unnecessary Medicaid spending. An opponent, Rep. Joseph R. Pitts, R-Pa., said the amendment "would promote reckless governing that maintains a failed program" that was not cutting Medicaid spending.

The vote, on Feb. 1, was 164 yeas to 260 nays.

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

* Reforming Long-term Care: The House rejected an amendment sponsored by Rep. Theodore E. Deutch, D-Fla., to the Fiscal Responsibility and Retirement Security Act. The amendment would have required the Secretary of Health and Human Services to develop three actuarially sound benefit plans for implementing CLASS, the government's long-term care program.Deutch said his amendment would ensure that the program would be fully financed by insurance premiums and establish "true fiscal responsibility." An opponent, Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., said the amendment would not resolve fiscal and constitutional problems with the program.

The vote, on Feb. 1, was 160 yeas to 264 nays.

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

* Long-term Health Care: The House passed the Fiscal Responsibility and Retirement Security Act sponsored by Rep. Charles W. Boustany, R-La. The bill would repeal CLASS, the long-term health care insurance program included in the 2010 health care reform law. Boustany called the program "clearly unsustainable" fiscally and predicted that maintaining it would increase the deficit while creating "another individual mandate" for health insurance. An opponent, Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., said repeal would end a program "to put choice in the hands of consumers while saving Medicaid dollars."

The vote, on Feb. 1, was 267 yeas to 159 nays.

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

* Pay Freeze for Federal Workers: The House passed a bill sponsored by Rep. Sean P. Duffy, R-Wis. The bill would extend the freeze on cost-of-living pay increases for federal workers and members of Congress through 2013. Duffy said failing to extend the freeze would result in private-sector workers having "to pay for a pay increase for federal workers who already make 16 percent more than they do." An opponent, Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., said the freeze "would have a devastating long-term effect on the quality of government services and operations."

The vote, on Feb. 1, was 309 yeas to 117 nays.

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

* Accessing Welfare Funds: The House passed the Welfare Integrity Now for Children and Families Act sponsored by Rep. Charles W. Boustany, R-La. The bill would bar enrollees in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program from accessing and spending their benefits in strip clubs, casinos and liquor stores. Boustany said the bill would ensure that the program be used "to assist poor families with their basic needs and to support them in their efforts to become self-sufficient." An opponent, Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wis., called the bill "mean-spirited berating of low-income people who are eligible" for program benefits, and said the restrictions would actually do little to prevent enrollees from spending their benefits how they wanted.

The vote, on Feb. 1, was 395 yeas to 27 nays.

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

* Economic Impact of Legislation: The House passed the Pro-Growth Budgeting Act sponsored by Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga. The bill would require the Congressional Budget Office to analyze the impact major proposed legislation would have on the economy. Price said the bill would "encourage pro-growth policy ideas from all of our colleagues that will help get our economy back on track, create jobs and protect hardworking taxpayers." An opponent, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., said the bill failed to address the potential impact of repealing tax cuts that benefited the wealthy or spending to improve the country's infrastructure.

The vote, on Feb. 2, was 242 yeas to 179 nays.

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

SENATE

* Conflicts of Interest in Executive Branch: The Senate rejected an amendment sponsored by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., to the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act. The amendment would have barred employees in the executive branch with oversight power from making decisions regarding industries or companies in which they or their spouse have a significant financial interest. Paul said "the idea that you should not make money off government" should apply to the executive branch as well as Congress. An opponent, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., said "executive branch employees are already subject to an effective, in some ways broader ethics regime than we face now."

The vote, on Feb. 2, was 48 yeas to 51 nays.

Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand, D, N; Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D, N.

* Financial Disclosure in Executive Branch: The Senate approved an amendment sponsored by Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., to the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act. The amendment would extend financial disclosure requirements to high-level employees in the executive branch and independent agencies. Lieberman said his amendment was an efficient way to require policymakers to electronically file financial disclosure statements. An opponent, Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said the amendment "would create loopholes, disparity, and it undermines the true transparency" for reporting financial transactions by federal employees.

The vote, on Feb. 2, was 81 yeas to 18 nays.

Gillibrand, Y; Schumer, Y.

* Congress and Insider Trading: The Senate passed the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act sponsored by Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn. The bill would bar members of Congress and congressional employees from using nonpublic information about companies obtained from their work for their personal investing benefit. Lieberman said his bill took "a small step forward toward rebuilding public trust in Congress" by stopping insider trading by its members. An opponent, Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., said insider trading by members of Congress was not a problem, and the bill should have instead focused on the greater problem of members of Congress agreeing to support bills in exchange for wasteful spending that often benefited their constituents.

The vote, on Feb. 2, was 96 yeas to 3 nays.

Gillibrand, Y; Schumer, Y.

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Information is supplied by Targeted News Service.

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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.

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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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