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Analyzing the latest votes in Congress

WASHINGTON -- The passage of a massive defense authorization bill for fiscal 2013 highlighted last week's House votes last week.

It's a good bill for the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, since it prevents the Pentagon's proposed shutdown of the 107th Airlift Wing there. That being the case, it is no surprise that the three Western New York lawmakers who voted on the bill -- Rep. Kathleen C. Hochul, D-Amherst; Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo; and Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning -- all voted for it.

A more typical partisan split occurred on an amendment to the defense bill that would have stripped out a provision allowing for the indefinite detention of terrorism suspects, even if they are U.S. citizens. Hochul and Higgins supported that amendment, while Reed did not.

Meanwhile, the highlight of the Senate's calendar for the week was the passage of legislation reauthorizing the Import-Export Bank. That measure won a great deal of bipartisan support, but tea party Republicans opposed it, saying the bank -- which promotes international trade -- was just another example of the government meddling too much in business. Both of New York's senators backed the reauthorization of the Import-Export Bank.

--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 legislation 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.

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HOUSE

* Blue Alert Network: The House passed the National Blue Alert Act, sponsored by Rep. Michael G. Grimm, R-N.Y. The bill would establish a national Blue Alert communications network within the U.S. Justice Department to disseminate information to the media and law enforcement agencies about suspects in the death or injury of a law enforcement officer. Grimm said it "will enhance the safety of our communities as well as the law enforcement officers who protect them."

The vote May 15 was 394 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.

* Border Tunnels: The House passed the Border Tunnel Prevention Act, sponsored by Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas. The bill would establish criminal penalties for building or financing unauthorized tunnels across the U.S. border and increase penalties for individuals using tunnels to smuggle aliens, weapons, drugs, terrorists, or illegal goods into the country. Reyes said the bill would "give law enforcement officials the tools that they need to combat this growing threat to our national security and stop the flow of illicit drugs and other contraband into the United States."

The vote May 16 was 416 yeas to 4 nays.

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

* Violence Against Women: The House passed the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, sponsored by Rep. Sandy Adams, R-Fla. The bill would increase penalties for domestic violence and sexual abuse. Adams said the bill's audit and expense requirements would ensure that grants were "spent on the victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking, and not on Washington bureaucrats," and therefore help victims of abuse become survivors. An opponent, Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., said it "rolls back existing protections for battered immigrant women" and Native Americans, while also discouraging aid for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender victims of domestic violence.

The vote May 16 was 222 yeas to 205 nays.

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

* Iran and Nuclear Weapons: The House passed a resolution, sponsored by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., to express the sense of the House that the U.S. should apply continued and increasing economic and diplomatic pressure on Iran to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons capability. Ros-Lehtinen said that if Iran obtained that capability, it "would be able to intimidate its neighbors and engage in even more threatening actions by reminding us that they could develop nuclear weapons anytime the regime wanted." An opponent, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, said "this resolution contains broad and dangerous language that would undermine any diplomatic solution regarding Iran's nuclear program" and potentially lead the United States into a war with Iran.

The vote May 17 was 401 yeas to 11 nays.

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

* Flood Insurance Program Extension: The House passed the National Flood Insurance Program Extension Act, sponsored by Rep. Judy Biggert, R-Ill. The bill would extend the flood insurance program through June 30 and require several studies of options to privatize elements of the program. Biggert said the extension would maintain the program while initiating reform measures to stop having the government bear "the full expense and risk of an outdated flood program." An opponent, Rep. Candice S. Miller, R-Mich., said the program was unfair and poorly operated, and rejecting an extension would clear the way for Congress "to work on a way to allow the private marketplace to move in and to replace" the program.

The vote May 17 was 402 yeas to 18 nays.

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

* Terrorism Trials: The House approved an amendment, sponsored by Rep. Thomas J. Rooney, R-Fla., to the National Defense Authorization Act. The amendment would require the military to conduct trials of foreign detainees suspected of terrorism at its base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and not in the United States. Rooney said the trials would give detainees due process rights while allowing the military to protect its sources, "and would also protect the way that we gather evidence by men and women in uniform and by panels of men and women in uniform." An opponent, Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., said barring terrorism trials in civilian Article III courts "will limit our options for how to prosecute terrorists" and therefore hurt national security.

The vote May 17 was 249 yeas to 171 nays.

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

* Military Project Labor Agreements: The House approved an amendment, sponsored by Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, R-Md., to the National Defense Authorization Act. The amendment would bar the military from either requiring or prohibiting contractors to reach project labor agreements and bar the military from discriminating against or giving preference to contractors based on them entering or refusing to enter into such agreements. Bartlett said the amendment would ensure that the military awarded contracts without discrimination, on the basis of the best quality and efficiency offered by a contractor. An opponent, Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Conn., said it would deny the military the ability to set conditions on its contracts for issues such as security screening, apprenticeship programs, and veteran hiring programs.

The vote May 17 was 211 yeas to 209 nays.

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

* Missile Defense: The House rejected an amendment, sponsored by Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., to the National Defense Authorization Act. The amendment would have cut funding for the military's ground-based midcourse missile defense program by $403 million. Polis said the program has performed poorly in tests, "and there isn't any justification for spending an additional $400 million on a weapons program that simply doesn't work." An opponent, Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., said the program "is the only tested system that we have that defends the homeland of the United States against the most dangerous and powerful weapons mankind has ever known."

The vote May 17 was 165 yeas to 252 nays.

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

* Terror Suspect Detentions: The House rejected an amendment, sponsored by Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., that would have stripped out of the bill a provision allowing the indefinite detention of terrorism suspects — even if they are U.S. citizens. Smith argued that such indefinite detentions are clearly unconstitutional, but many Republicans argued that such harsh measures are called for in a war -- which, they said, is exactly what the fight against terrorism is.

The vote May 18 was 238 nays to 182 yeas.

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

* National Defense Authorization Act: The House passed the National Defense Authorization Act, which sets Pentagon funding levels for fiscal 2013. The $642 billion measure gives the Pentagon $8 billion more than it had requested, and it keeps operating ships, planes and other facilities that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta had wanted mothballed. The bill also preserves Air National Guard units that had been targeted for closure or realignment, including the 107th Airlift Wing based in Niagara Falls. The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif, said: "Despite a tough fiscal environment, we have provided our Armed Forces with the tools they need to win the war today and deter against the wars of tomorrow." But the White House issued a veto threat, calling the bill a budget-buster that spends money on items the Pentagon doesn't need.

The vote May 18 was 299 yeas to 120 nays.

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

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SENATE

* Reserve Ration for Export-Import Bank: The Senate rejected an amendment, sponsored by Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., to the Export-Import Bank Reauthorization Act. The amendment would have established a 10 percent capital reserve requirement for loans made by the Export-Import Bank of the United States. Corker said the requirement would limit risks for the bank's loans, which were riskier than financing provided by the private sector. An opponent, Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said the bank's current reserve ratio "has worked for decades, worked successfully, and I like the fact that it helps us pay down the deficit."

The vote May 15 was 36 yeas to 62 nays.

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

* Export-Import Bank and Energy Loans: The Senate rejected an amendment, sponsored by Sen. David Vitter, R-La., to the Export-Import Bank Reauthorization Act. The amendment would have barred the Export-Import Bank of the United States from making or guaranteeing loans for fossil fuel projects in foreign countries that competed with U.S. fossil fuel projects and prohibited the financing of renewable energy products manufactured in foreign countries. Vitter said the amendment would create a "reasonable, fair playing field to promote U.S. jobs." An opponent, Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., said: "It would wrongly target renewable energy manufacturing, and it would threaten millions of dollars in the export of U.S.-made products at a time when we should be seeking to expand these markets overseas."

The vote was 37 yeas to 61 nays.

Schumer, N; Gillibrand, N.

* Financing Exports: The Senate rejected an amendment, sponsored by Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., to the Export-Import Bank Reauthorization Act. The amendment would have established a $100 billion cap on the lending authority of the Export-Import Bank of the United States until the Treasury Secretary has begun negotiating with other countries on an agreement to end export financing programs. Toomey said that by encouraging the end of export subsidies around the world, his amendment would reduce the costs taxpayers faced from risky loans made by the bank. An opponent, Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., cited the economic benefits produced by the bank's loans.

The vote May 15 was 35 yeas to 63 nays.

Schumer, N; Gillibrand, N.

* Export-Import Bank: The Senate passed the Export-Import Bank Reauthorization Act, sponsored by Rep. Gary G. Miller, R-Calif. The bill would reauthorize the Export-Import Bank of the United States through Sept. 30, 2015. A supporter, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said the bank "gives American corporations, large and small, a fighting chance to build the products here in America and sell them overseas, creating jobs right here at home." An opponent, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said the bank enabled "corporate welfare that distorts the market and feeds crony capitalism," breeding "undue favoritism from government bureaucrats who control where the money goes."

The vote May 15 was 78 yeas to 20 nays.

Schumer, Y; Gillibrand, Y.

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Information 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.

rmccarthy@buffnews.com


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.

tprecious@buffnews.com


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 | jterreri@buffnews.com


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 | jzremski@buffnews.com

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