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Analyzing the latest votes in Congress

WASHINGTON -- Beneath the radar screen, and at least temporarily, it seems that the House is acting in a more bipartisan manner.

And Western New York's lawmakers fit into that short-term trend.

Last week, for example, all three local representatives who voted -- Democrats Brian Higgins and Kathleen C. Hochul, along with Republican Tom Reed -- supported reauthorizing the Import/Export Bank. They voted in tandem on a measure, which failed, to increase funding for the Economic Development Administration. They supported increased funding for community-oriented policing. And they rejected a 1 percent across-the-board cut in funding to Commerce, Justice and science programs.

Those votes may be just a quirk of the legislative calendar, which brought issues to the floor that New York Democrats and Republican could agree on. Or they could be a sign of evolution -- especially by Rep. Tom Reed of Corning, a conservative Republican who crossed party lines to join Democrats on some of those measures.

--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

* Economic Development Administration: The House rejected an amendment, sponsored by Rep. Michael H. Michaud, D-Maine, to the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Ac. The amendment would have increased funding for the Economic Development Administration by $38 million and offset the increase by cutting an identical amount from census programs. Michaud said his amendment would have continued "level funding for a program that is uniquely designed to address almost any economic development activity," including "chronically poor and distressed areas, post-disastrous economic recovery, and the consequences of plant closures or downsizing." An opponent, Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., said the EDA was "a very, very political use of capital" that failed to help the economy.

The vote May 8 was 190 yeas to 218 nays.

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

* Law Enforcement Information Sharing: The House approved an amendment, sponsored by Rep. Michael G. Grimm, R-N.Y., to the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Ac. The amendment would provide $18 million of increased funding for the Regional Information Sharing System for federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to share information, and offset the increase with a cut in funding for climate change research by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Grimm said "in order to maximize the ability of law enforcement to combat crime and keep our community safe, regional information-sharing activities must remain adequately funded." An opponent, Rep. Frank R. Wolf, R-Va., said the cut would impair the ability to process data to improve weather forecasts and monitor including hurricanes, tornadoes and other severe storms.

The vote May 8 was 209 yeas to 199 nays.

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

* Law Enforcement Grants: The House approved an amendment, sponsored by Rep. Jon Runyan, R-N.J., to the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Act. The amendment would provide $22.4 million for the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant program and offset the funding with an identical cut to the General Administration Fund. Runyan said the program's grants "enhance law enforcement capabilities by providing funding to local law enforcement agencies through improving officer safety via equipment, technology, and training." An opponent, Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-Pa., said "the offsets we think are ill-advised in terms of its cuts, particularly to the Civil Rights Enforcement Office, and a number of others."

The vote May 8 was 325 yeas to 81 nays.

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

* Hiring Police Officers: The House approved an amendment sponsored, by Rep. Michael G. Grimm, R-N.Y., to the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Act. The amendment would increase funding for Community Oriented Policing Services by $126 million and offset the increase by cutting $126 million from NASA's cross-agency support account. Grimm said that by helping communities hire more police officers, his amendment "will ensure that we have sufficient police officers on our streets to prevent and to respond to crime and to keep our neighborhoods safe."An opponent, Rep. Frank R. Wolf, R-Va., said the NASA cut "will hamstring NASA's efforts to minimize the risk of loss of life and property."

The vote May 8 was 206 yeas to 204 nays.

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

*1 Percent Spending Cut: The House rejected an amendment, sponsored by Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., to the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Act. he amendment would have cut funding provided by the bill by 1 percent. Blackburn said it would save $511 million and help "get the out-of-control spending here in Washington, D.C., under control." An opponent, Rep. Frank R. Wolf, R-Va., said an across the board 1 percent cut "says $1 in one agency is just as dispensable and the same as any other agency," but spending cuts should instead be targeted for agencies with wasteful spending on unneeded programs.

The vote May 8 was 160 yeas to 251 nays.

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

* Catch Share Fishery Programs: The House approved an amendment, sponsored by Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Fla., to the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Act. The amendment would prohibit funding for the creation of limited access privilege programs for fisheries in the Atlantic Ocean or Gulf of Mexico. Southerland said the so-called catch share programs were "an effort by a select group to take away the individual fishing rights of individual citizens and to implement a cap-and-trade system where fish are traded like a commodity" rather than a commonly owned natural resource. An opponent, Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., said catch shares were regionally managed and have improved safety for fishermen by allowing them to catch their allotted share of a fishery "over a reasonable period of time" rather than in a few days.

The vote May 8 was 220 yeas to 191 nays.

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

* Export-Import Bank: The House passed the Securing American Jobs Through Exports Act, sponsored by Rep. Gary G. Miller, R-Calif. The bill would reauthorize the Export-Import Bank of the United States through Sept. 30, 2015. Miller said the bank helped ensure "a level playing field for American companies when they compete with foreign competitors who are basically supported by aggressive credit agencies" by providing loans and loan guarantees that "are often countervailing measures to compete against other foreign credit agencies." An opponent, Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, said the bank "distorts the market by allowing government bureaucrats to make economic decisions instead of individual consumers" and forces taxpayers "to subsidize the operations of wealthy companies that could easily afford to engage in international trade without government assistance."

The vote May 9 was 330 yeas to 93 nays.

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

* Funding for Prosecutors and Public Defenders: The House rejected an amendment, sponsored by Rep. John F. Tierney, D-Mass., to the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Act. The amendment would have provided $10 million for the John R. Justice Prosecutors and Defenders program and offset the funding with an identical cut to NASA's Mars Next Decade program. Tierney said allowing public defenders and district attorneys' offices to use the tool of loan forgiveness for recent law school graduates would encourage the graduates "to stay on and use their experience and make the system work better." An opponent, Rep. Adam B. Schiff, D-Calif., said the cut to NASA's Mars program would hurt the effort "to continue to push the envelope of our understanding of the universe" by exploring Mars.

The vote May 9 was 160 yeas to 260 nays.

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

* NOAA and Forfeited Assets: The House approved an amendment, sponsored by Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., to the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Act. The amendment would bar the use of funds to pay the salary of any employee of the U.S. Department of Commerce who uses funds in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Fisheries Enforcement Asset Forfeiture Fund for unauthorized purposes. Gardner said the amendment would ensure that abusive use of forfeited assets does not continue.

The vote May 9 was 357 yeas to 68 nays.

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

* Medical Marijuana: The House rejected an amendment, sponsored by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., to the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Act. The amendment would have barred funding for the U.S. Department of Justice that was used to prevent states from implementing laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.Rohrabacher said "this amendment would take a step in the right direction of respecting States' rights and individual liberties, and it would help the Federal Government prioritize its very scarce resources and show compassion for those thousands of ailing patients across our country." An opponent, Rep. Frank R. Wolf, R-Va., said "this amendment does not address the problem of marijuana abuse and possibly makes it worse by sending a message to young people that there can be health benefits" from using marijuana.

The vote May 9 was 163 yeas to 262 nays.

Higgins, Y; Hochul, N; Slaughter, A; Reed, N.

* Budget Cuts: The House passed the Sequester Replacement Reconciliation Act, sponsored by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. The bill would replace $1.2 trillion of scheduled cuts to military and non-military discretionary spending through 2021 with $243 billion of fiscal 2013 cuts. Ryan said bill supporters were ensuring individuals are actually eligible for the taxpayer benefits they receive, eliminating government slush funds to stop bailouts, controlling runaway, unchecked spending, putting restraints on government spending by bureaucracies and getting rid of duplicative spending. An opponent, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., said if the bill became law, more than 22 million households with kids "would see their food and nutrition support reduced with 300,000 kids knocked off the school lunch program and a similar number knocked off the Children's Health Insurance Program."

The vote May 10 was 218 yeas to 199 nays.

Higgins, N; Hochul, N; Slaughter, A; Reed, Y.

* Funding Commerce, Justice, Science: The House passed the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, sponsored by Rep. Frank R. Wolf, R-Va. The legislation would provide $51.1 billion in fiscal 2013 appropriations for the Departments of Commerce and Justice as well as for science and related agencies. Wolf said "it provides increases where needed to maintain and strengthen operations of critical law enforcement" and strongly supports scientific research, innovation and competitiveness as well as NASA's mission. An opponent, Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., said the funding was "not adequate to meet the needs in some areas," including the Legal Services Corporation, several National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration programs, and the Community Oriented Policing Services program.

The vote May 10 was 247 yeas to 163 nays.

Higgins, Y; Hochul, Y; Slaughter, A; Reed, Y.

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SENATE

* Appeals Court Judge: The Senate confirmed the nomination of Jacqueline H. Nguyen to serve as a judge on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. A supporter, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., cited Nguyen's 10 years of experience as a judge on the Los Angeles Superior Court and U.S. District Court for the Central District of California and previous seven years of experience as an assistant U.S. attorney in saying, "I have no doubt she will be an outstanding circuit court judge."

The vote May 7 was 91 yeas to 3 nays.

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

* Interest Rate for Student Loans: The Senate rejected a motion to end debate on the Stop the Student Loan Interest Rate Hike Ac, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. The bill would extend for one year the 3.4 percent interest rate for Stafford loans to students in higher education and offset the $6 billion cost of the extension by eliminating several tax breaks for S corporations. A supporter, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said it "will prevent a rate hike on more than 7.4 million college students, and it pays for it by closing a tax loophole that allows certain wealthy professionals to dodge paying their fair share of taxes." An opponent, Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., said "this bill would raise taxes on job creators at a terrible time," hurting the economy by increasing costs for S corporations.

The vote May 8 was 52 yeas to 45 nays, with a three-fifths majority required for approval.

Gillibrand, Y; Schumer, Y.

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Information 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.

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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