WASHINGTON -- Congress spent last week in recess, but there were a couple House votes from the tail end of the previous week that offer interesting proof that bipartisanship is not entirely dead.
First, the House voted almost unanimously to pass the Cybersecurity Enhancement Act, which creates a task force to try to find ways to bolster online security. It's the modern-day version of motherhood-and-apple-pie legislation, and only 10 lawmakers -- most from the farthest tip of the Republican Party's libertarian right wing -- voted against it.
Western New York's House members supported both that bill and a Republican measure keeping federally backed student loan rates steady at 3.4 percent for another year. Democrats didn't like the fact that the bill financed the lower interest rate by trimming $12 billion from the Obama health care reform program, but 13 of them -- including Reps. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, and Kathleen C. Hochul, D-Amherst -- voted for it anyway.
During a visit home last month, "I looked into the eyes of over 40 students at Daemen College struggling to pay for college," Hochul said in explaining her vote for the bill. "I saw their concern about increasing interest rates and whether they could afford the additional charges if the interest rate were to double."
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.
* Cybersecurity Reforms:The House passed the Cybersecurity Enhancement Act, sponsored by Rep. Michael T. McCaul, R-Texas. The bill would establish a private-public task force to pursue improvements in cybersecurity, create a cybersecurity education program and establish procurement standards for computer hardware and software to account for cybersecurity concerns. McCaul said, "These commonsense reforms are a baseline of what we need to secure our infrastructure" and "take action before life is lost and our economy and defenses have been weakened to the point of damaging our country."
The vote April 27 was 395 yeas to 10 nays.
Reps. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, Y; Kathleen C. Hochul, D-Amherst, Y; Louise M. Slaughter, D-Fairport, A; Tom Reed, R-Corning, Y.
* Interest Rate for Education Loans:The House passed the Interest Rate Reduction Act, sponsored by Rep. Judy Biggert, R-Ill. The bill would provide a one-year extension of the 3.4 percent interest rate for Stafford loans to students in higher education and offset the cost of the extension by cutting $12 billion from the Prevention and Public Health Fund. Biggert said: "By reclaiming a portion of the administration's misguided health care law through the elimination of this blank-check program, my legislation would extend lower rates for college loans, granting relief to our young people without raising taxes on their potential employers."An opponent, Rep. John F. Tierney, D-Mass., said the bill did not "make sure that women's health care and children's health care is protected" because of its proposal to cut funding for "children's immunizations, women's screenings for breast and cervical cancer and birth defects."
The vote April 27 was 215 yeas to 195 nays.
Higgins, Y; Hochul, Y; Slaughter, A; Reed, Y.
Information supplied by Targeted News Service.