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Analyzing the latest votes in Congress

WASHINGTON -- Amid a collection of routine votes in the House last week, one stands out for its local impact.

The House rejected an amendment, put forth by Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, that would have increased funding for a key anti-terrorism program by $58 million. Buffalo was recently shut out of the Urban Area Security Initiative grant program -- which once brought the area upwards of $10 million a year -- and Higgins' amendment was an attempt to give Buffalo and other such communities a fighting chance of landing some of the funding.

But the vote failed amid the budget-consciousness of the Republican majority -- although Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, joined Higgins and Rep. Kathleen C. Hochul, D-Amherst, in supporting it.

On the Senate side, lawmakers rejected an effort -- pushed strongly by Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand, D-N.Y. -- to expand federal equal-pay legislation for women.

-- Jerry Zremski

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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

* Energy Efficiency, Renewables: The House rejected an amendment, sponsored by Rep. Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., to the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act. The amendment would have increased funding for the Department of Energy's energy efficiency and renewable energy programs by $180 million and offset the increase by cutting funding for nuclear programs. Tonko said efficiency programs "save money, create jobs, and improve our energy security." An opponent, Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., said the amendment would provide unnecessary funding for efficiency and renewables while making cuts that "would put at risk our nuclear security activities, the things we're doing to modernize our nuclear stockpile."

The vote June 1 was 148 yeas to 236 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, A.

* Payment for Responding to Surveys: The House approved an amendment, sponsored by Rep. Scott R. Tipton, R-Colo., to the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations. The amendment would bar funding for surveys that provide monetary compensation for survey respondents. It arose from a Bureau of Reclamation survey that was sent to households nationwide offering payment in return for providing input on whether to remove four privately owned dams on the Klamath River in Oregon and California. Tipton said "sending out American taxpayer dollars to encourage public participation, or worse, to buy public support where it might otherwise be lacking, is a symbol of the lack of accountability and how out of touch our Federal Government has become."

The vote Wednesday was 355 yeas to 51 nays.

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

* Missouri River Projects: The House approved an amendment, sponsored by Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo., to the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act. The amendment would bar funding to study Missouri River environmental restoration projects authorized by a 2007 law.
Luetkemeyer said it would prevent a study that aimed to promote the Missouri River's return "to its most natural state with little regard for flood control, navigation, trade, power generation, or the people who depend on the Missouri River for their livelihoods." An opponent, Rep. Peter J. Visclosky, D-Ind., said the amendment would endanger a collaboration between governments and stakeholder groups "to develop a shared vision and comprehensive plan for the restoration of the Missouri River ecosystem."

The vote Wednesday was 242 yeas to 168 nays.

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

* Nuclear Weapons: The House rejected an amendment, sponsored by Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., to the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act. The amendment would have cut funding for the National Nuclear Security Administration by $298 million and applied the savings to deficit reduction. Polis said the amendment would save the expense of "spending hundreds of millions of additional dollars on redundant and unneeded nuclear weapons technology on top of the $7 billion base included in this bill." An opponent, Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., said the "additional funding was essential to ensure that our infrastructure is adequately maintained and that our warheads receive the refurbishments they need to remain reliable and effective."

The vote Wednesday was 138 yeas to 281 nays.

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

* Nuclear Waste Cleanup: The House rejected an amendment, sponsored by Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, D-N.M., to the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act. The amendment would have increased funding for environmental cleanup programs by $21.9 million, with the funding to be used for the National Nuclear Security Administration to remove nuclear waste from the Los Alamos National Laboratory and other sites, and offset the increase with a $21.9 million cut in funding for the NNSA Office of the Administrator. Lujan said adding $21.9 million to the $30 million increase in funding for cleanup programs already provided by the bill was "a more effective use of taxpayer funds for NNSA to remove dangerous toxic waste from their lab's property than it is to maintain the current levels of redundant oversight bureaucracy." An opponent, Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., said the bill's $30 million increase in funding for cleanup programs, and $215 million to fund cleanup at Los Alamos, was already adequate.

The vote Wednesday was 174 yeas to 244 nays.

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

* Energy and Water Programs: The House passed the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, sponsored by Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J. The bill would fund water projects by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Interior Department, as well as the Department of Energy and other related agencies in fiscal 2013. Frelinghuysen said: "This is a tight, fiscally conservative bill which funds critical national security, jobs, and infrastructure priorities while helping to fight future gasoline price increases." An opponent, Rep. Charles W. Boustany, Jr., R-La., said the bill failed to fully fund projects to adequately dredge ports and waterways, which would hurt the economy by hampering shipping.

The vote Wednesday was 255 yeas to 165 nays.

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

* Port Security Grants: The House rejected an amendment, sponsored by Rep. Janice Hahn, D-Calif., to the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act. The amendment would have increased funding for state and local port security grants by the Federal Emergency Management Agency by $75 million. Hahn said: "This amendment will ensure that the ports receive the funding they need in order to address the lingering gaps in port security of which there are many." An opponent, Rep. Robert B. Aderholt, R-Ala., said the amendment would eliminate funding for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, and therefore endanger "our research capacity into pathogens that afflict animals and our food chain and, by extension, human beings."

The vote Wednesday was 144 yeas to 273 nays.

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

* Anti-terrorism Initiatives: The House rejected an amendment, sponsored by Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, to the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act. The amendment would have provided a $58 million increase in funding for anti-terrorism initiatives in 36 urban areas from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Higgins said: "We should be doing everything that we can to empower these communities to protect themselves from these threats." An opponent, Rep. Robert B. Aderholt, R-Ala., said the amendment would discourage fiscal discipline and cut investment in critical science and technology research and development programs at the Department of Homeland Security.

The vote Wednesday was 150 yeas to 266 nays.

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

* Tax on Medical Devices: The House passed the Protect Medical Innovation Act, sponsored by Rep. Erik Paulsen, R-Minn. The bill would repeal the excise tax on medical devices and repeal restrictions on the use of health savings accounts to pay for over-the-counter medication. Paulsen said letting the excise tax take effect in 2013 would threaten jobs at medical device manufacturers and harm an industry developing "life-improving, lifesaving technologies that help patients and literally save lives." An opponent, Rep. Sander M. Levin, D-Mich., said the excise tax was needed to help pay for the health care reform law.

The vote Thursday was 270 yeas to 146 nays.

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

* Crime and Illegal Immigrants: The House approved an amendment, sponsored by Rep. John Sullivan, R-Okla., to the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act. The amendment would bar funding to end the 287(g) program, under which federal and local law enforcement agents partnered to investigate crimes by illegal immigrants. Sullivan said: "This program has been highly successful at not only apprehending immigration offenders but in facilitating the incarceration of dangerous criminals, and it has contributed to overall public safety." An opponent, Rep. David E. Price, D-N.C., said the amendment would force the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency "to fund this cost-prohibitive and questionable immigration enforcement activity in order to keep on doing what we know isn't working and wasting Federal taxpayer funds."

The vote Thursday was 250 yeas to 164 nays.

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

* Cutting Homeland Security Spending: The House rejected an amendment, sponsored by Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., to the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act. The amendment would have cut funding provided by the bill for all programs other than counterterrorism by 2 percent. Polis said "the Department of Homeland Security has significant waste and abuse that can be targeted for reduction," and a 2 percent cut would "take real action to achieve fiscal sustainability and spur economic growth." An opponent, Rep. Robert B. Aderholt, R-Ala., said: "The amendment would slash critical funding for our Nation's homeland security."

The vote Thursday was 99 yeas to 316 nays.

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

* Homeland Security: The House passed the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, sponsored by Rep. Robert B. Aderholt, R-Ala. The bill would provide $39.1 billion for Homeland Security in fiscal 2013. Aderholt said it would cut spending by nearly $500 million while increasing spending on disaster preparedness and science and technology programs in the effort "to address our nation's most urgent needs for security and also to address fiscal discipline." An opponent, Rep. John F. Tierney, D-Mass., said it failed to adequately fund cybersecurity initiatives and underfunded grants to help protect urban areas from terrorism.

The vote Thursday was 234 yeas to 182 nays.

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

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SENATE

* Wages and Sex Discrimination: The Senate rejected a motion to close debate on the Paycheck Fairness Act, sponsored by Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md. The bill would have established new funding, training and data collection measures for eliminating pay disparities between men and women and would have increased protections against employer retaliation against employees filing gender-discrimination lawsuits. Mikulski said: "I believe people should be judged in the workplace for skills and competence and that once you get the job and you show you can do the job, you should be paid to do that job."
An opponent, Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., said the bill would "insert the federal government into workplace management decisions like never before. This intrusion will benefit trial lawyers and harm job growth and employment, which will affect both women and men."

The vote Tuesday was 52 yeas to 47 nays, short of the three-fifths majority required to end debate.

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

* Ohio District Judge: The Senate confirmed the nomination of Jeffrey J. Helmick to serve as a U.S. District judge for the Northern District of Ohio. A supporter, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, cited praise for Helmick from a bipartisan commission of distinguished Ohioans in the legal community, his innovation as a lawyer and his volunteer work in the community in urging the Senate "to confirm this qualified, smart man with great integrity." An opponent, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, cited an Ohio Supreme Court order in 2000 requiring Helmick to comply with a subpoena and turn over an incriminating letter signed by a former client. Grassley said Helmick was "willing to put private interests over the public interest in the administration of justice." He also expressed concerns that Helmick "may believe terrorism cases are less serious than other criminal cases."

The vote Wednesday was 62 yeas to 36 nays.

Gillibrand, Y; Schumer, Y.

* Agriculture Programs: The Senate approved a motion to close debate on a motion to consider the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act, sponsored by Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich. The bill would reauthorize agricultural programs through fiscal 2017. Stabenow said it would cut over $23 billion from the deficit while strengthening conservation programs and improving the safety net for farmers by developing a risk-based system for crop insurance.

The vote Thursday was 90 yeas to 8 nays to stop the debate and move on to final consideration of the bill.

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.

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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.

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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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