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How WNY's members of Congress voted last week

By Jerry Zremski

WASHINGTON – It was a quiet week in Washington, with local members of the House voting along party lines on a series of relatively minor measures as well as a measure that's aimed to priortize government payments in the event that the nation crashes through its debt ceiling.

Meanwhile, the Senate casting a couple big votes: one in favor of taxing Internet sales, and another aimed at curbing the possible spread of Asian carp in the Great Lakes.

Here's a closer look, courtesy of Targeted News Service:


CONTRIBUTIONS TO VIETNAM VETERANS MEMORIAL: The House passed the Vietnam Veterans Donor Acknowledgment Act of 2013  sponsored by Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska. The bill would require the Interior Secretary to allow the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund to display information in the memorial’s visitor center acknowledging donor contributions.

Young said: “This recognition will lead to larger donations, a faster fund-raising pace, and quick and timely construction of the education center. It will also make the act of giving more personal and more rewarding.”

 The vote, on May 6, was 398 yeas to 2 nays.

 Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, Y; Rep. Chris Collins, R-Clarence, Y; Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, Y.

 IMPACT OF PAID TIME OFF LAW: The House passed an amendment sponsored by Rep. Christopher P. Gibson, R-N.Y., to the Working Families Flexibility Act. The amendment would require the Government Accountability Office to submit a report to Congress on the use of compensatory time off following the bill’s enactment, as well as complaints and enforcement actions taken.

Gibson said the report would be a protection against the possible abuse by employers of the option of granting employees paid time off in place of overtime pay.

The vote, on May 8, was 384 yeas to 42 nays.

Higgins, Y; Collins, Y; Reed, Y.

PAID TIME OFF IN PLACE OF OVERTIME WORK: The House passed the Working Families Flexibility Act sponsored by Rep. Martha Roby, R-Ala. The bill would authorize private employers to offer their employees paid time off in lieu of overtime work.

Roby said employees in the private sector “should enjoy the benefit that federal employees have now, and that’s compensatory time and the right to choose what to do with their time.”

An opponent, House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., said the bill “will result in a cut in pay for almost everybody” because employers will decide to offer time off rather than overtime pay to their employees.

The vote, on May 8, was 223 yeas to 204 nays.

Higgins, N; Collins, Y; Reed, Y.

DEBT LIMIT CONTINGENCY PLAN: The House passed the Full Faith and Credit Act sponsored by Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif. The bill would direct the Treasury secretary to prioritize payments on government debt held by the public and by the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund and Disability Insurance Trust Fund in the event that the debt limit is reached later this year.

McClintock said: “This bill tells credit markets that even in the event of an impasse on the debt limit, their loans to this government are absolutely safe.”

An opponent, House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., said the bill would unfairly have the government “pay China first and other creditors before we pay our troops, seniors, health care and veterans benefits” promised by law.

The vote, on May 9, was 221 yeas to 207 nays.

Higgins, N; Collins, Y; Reed, Y.


INTERNET SALES TAXES: The Senate passed the Marketplace Fairness Act sponsored by Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo. The bill would authorize state and local governments to adopt their own sales taxes for purchases made on the Internet from retail sellers located in other jurisdictions with $1 million or more in annual sales.

Enzi said the bill would fix the problem of declining sales tax revenue being collected by communities that depend on the revenue to fund vital services.

An opponent, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said the bill would wrongly place the burden of collecting sales taxes on private business and would drive economic activity outside the U.S. by forcing domestic retailers to try to comply with the complex tax rules imposed by thousands of taxing jurisdictions in the U.S.

The vote, on May 6, was 69 yeas to 27 nays.

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

OVERSEEING PRIVACY AND CIVIL LIBERTIES: The Senate confirmed the nomination of David Medine to serve as chairman of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board for a term scheduled to end on Jan. 29, 2018.

A supporter, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., called Medine’s confirmation “a significant victory for all Americans who care about safeguarding our privacy rights and civil liberties.”

An opponent, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said that at his confirmation hearing, Medine gave unsatisfactory answers to questions about the use of profiling based on country of origin and how the board should address privacy concerns in its oversight of national security laws, including the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and the Patriot Act.

The vote, on May 7, was 53 yeas to 45 nays.

Gillibrand, Y; Schumer, Y.

FIREARMS AND WATER PROJECTS: The Senate rejected an amendment sponsored by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., to the Water Resources Development Act. The amendment would have barred the Army secretary from prohibiting individuals legally authorized to carry firearms from carrying their firearms at Army Corps of Engineers’ water resource development projects.

Coburn said: “The purpose of this amendment is so law-abiding citizens who are granted the authority in their state will not be vulnerable to criminals or dangerous wildlife while on Army Corps land.”

An opponent, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said the amendment “would put our national security at risk by making the nation’s dams, reservoirs, hydroelectric powerhouses, navigation locks, major river systems, levees and other flood risk management features vulnerable to attacks.”

The vote, on May 8, was 56 yeas to 43 nays, short of the three-fifths majority required for approval.

Gillibrand, N; Schumer, N.

CONSERVING OCEANIC ENVIRONMENT: The Senate passed an amendment sponsored by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., to the Water Resources Development Act. The amendment would create a  National Endowment for the Oceans to promote the protection and conservation of U.S. ocean, coastal and Great Lakes ecosystems.

Whitehouse said the program would give residents of coastal areas “a solid and fact-based appreciation of what the risks are to them from this worsening condition of stronger storms and higher measured sea levels” due to climate change.

The vote, on May 8, was 67 yeas to 32 nays.

Gillibrand, Y; Schumer, Y.

ASIAN CARP IN UPPER MIDWEST: The Senate passed an amendment sponsored by Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, to the Water Resources Development Act. The amendment would authorize an effort by multiple agencies to slow the spread of Asian carp in the Upper Mississippi and Ohio River basins and tributaries.

Brown said the Asian carp threatens the ecosystem of the upper Midwest, making the effort necessary to maintain environmental quality.

The vote, on May 8, was unanimous with 95 yeas.

Gillibrand, Y; Schumer, Y.

U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE IN NEW YORK: The Senate confirmed the nomination of Nelson Stephen Roman to serve as a U.S. district judge for the Southern District of New York.

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., cited Roman’s experience as a judge on various New York City courts and the appellate division of the New York State Supreme Court, and his prior experience as an assistant district attorney.

The vote, on May 9, was unanimous with 97 yeas.

Gillibrand, Y; Schumer, Y.



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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.

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.

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 |

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 |