July 2013, Congressional Votes

July 29

Recent Senate Votes

Student Loan Interest Rates – Passage – Vote Passed (81-18, 1 Not Voting)

Senators moved to end a months-long partisan standoff over federal student loan interest rates by passing a bill July 24 that would tie rates to the government’s cost of borrowing. Sixteen Senate Democrats opposed the plan over concerns that the move to a variable rate would burden students with more debt in a couple of years. The bill would link student loan interest rates to the 10-year Treasury note. Senators adopted a substitute amendment by voice vote that would add 2.05 percentage points to the note rate for both the subsidized and unsubsidized portions of undergraduate loans, 3.6 points for graduate loans and 4.6 points for PLUS loans. As amended, the bill would cap the rates for undergraduate loans at 8.25 percent, graduate loans at 9.5 percent and PLUS loans at 10.5 percent. The current bill differs only slightly from the original version, which also set the interest rates on the 10-year Treasury note and passed the House, 221-198, in May. The House is expected to clear the measure this week. The White House, which threatened to veto the original House bill, backs the Senate compromise.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss voted YES
Sen. Johnny Isakson voted YES

Recent House Votes

Defense Appropriations – NSA Phone Record Collection Amendment – Vote Failed (205-217, 12 Not Voting)

An unlikely pair of Michiganders, Republican Justin Amash and Democrat John Conyers Jr. united to ensure a House floor vote on the Amash sponsored amendment to the fiscal 2014 defense appropriations bill that would restrict collection of telephone records through Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court orders to only data involving people under investigation. 94 Republicans and 111 Democrats supported the bill; however, a group of 134 Republicans and 83 Democrats voted to kill the amendment. Republican John A. Boehner of Ohio voted no, a rare vote from the House Speaker that showed how close the vote was. The White House opposed the amendment.

Rep. Sanford Bishop Jr. voted NO

Defense Appropriations—Final Passage – Vote Passed (315-109, 9 Not Voting)

After clearing numerous amendments, the House passed the C.W. Bill Young, R-Fla. sponsored legislation funding the Defense department for fiscal year 2014. After a split on the NSA amendment, 220 Republicans were joined by 95 Democrats in support of the bill with only 8 Republicans in opposition. It would provide $512.5 billion in non-war discretionary funding and $82.3 billion in contingency funds to support operations in Afghanistan and the general war on terrorism. The bill also includes a 1.8 percent pay raise for military personnel. The White House has already threatened to veto the legislation over provisions intended to limit executive branch budgetary and policy options, including effectively barring civilian furloughs in the next fiscal year, forbidding cuts in the strategic weapons arsenal and preventing spending to implement reductions required by the New START nuclear-arms agreement. The Senate likely won’t take up the legislation until after the August recess.

Rep. Sanford Bishop Jr. voted YES

Coal Ash Regulations – Passage – Vote Passed (265-155, 13 Not Voting)

In the last vote of the week, the House passed a bill that would allow states to create and implement their own permit programs for coal combustion residuals, removing that authority from the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA would still be able to review state permit programs in a limited manner. The Senate is unlikely to consider the legislation.

Rep. Sanford Bishop Jr. voted YES

July 22

Recent Senate Votes

Cordray Nomination – Confirmation – Vote Confirmed (66-34)

After an intense debate over a potential rules change to ban filibusters on executive branch nominations, the Senate proceeded to confirm several nominees offered by President Barack Obama. Richard Cordray of Ohio was confirmed as Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, ending a two year confirmation process that included a recess appointment in the beginning of last year. Twelve Republicans and the entire Democratic caucus voted in support of the nomination.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss voted YES
Sen. Johnny Isakson voted YES

Perez Nomination – Confirmation – Vote Confirmed (54-46)

On Thursday, President Obama’s nomination for Secretary of Labor, Thomas E. Perez, was confirmed by the Senate in a strictly party-line vote. Perez previously served as an Assistant Attorney General leading the Justice Department’s civil rights division.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss voted NO
Sen. Johnny Isakson voted NO

McCarthy Nomination – Confirmation – Vote Confirmed (59-40, 1 Not Voting)

After confirming Perez, the Senate quickly moved to confirm Gina McCarthy as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. McCarthy had served as the head of the EPA’s air and radiation office since 2009. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia was the only dissenting Democrat vote, and six Republicans voted in favor of the nomination.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss voted NO
Sen. Johnny Isakson voted NO

Recent House Votes

Employer Health Insurance Mandate Delay – Passage – Vote Passed (264-161, 8 Not Voting)

The House passed this bill that would delay a requirement from the 2010 health care overhaul for one year until the start of 2015. The requirement would mandate businesses with at least 50 full-time employees provide health insurance to their workers or pay a penalty. Morgan Griffith of Virginia was the only Republican to vote against the bill.

Rep. Sanford Bishop Jr. voted NO

Individual Health Insurance Mandate Delay – Passage – Vote Passed (251-174, 8 Not Voting)

After postponing the employer insurance mandate, the House moved a bill to postpone the same requirement of most individuals to maintain health insurance coverage or pay a penalty until the beginning of 2015. Once again, Griffith of Virginia was the only Republican to vote against the bill. Both the employer and individual mandate delays are unlikely to receive a vote in the Senate.

Rep. Sanford Bishop Jr. voted NO

Education Law Overhaul – Passage – Vote Passed (221-207, 6 Not Voting)

In the last vote of the week, the House passed its updated version of federal education policy despite a veto threat from President Obama and unified Democratic opposition to the legislation. The bill would extend for an additional five years the elementary and secondary education law that was last reauthorized in 2001 as part of President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind initiative. The bill would reduce the federal government’s role in education and give state and local officials more authority to develop their own standards and accountability assessments. The House adopted by voice vote an amendment from Republican Steve Scalise of Louisiana that would eliminate a requirement that states develop teacher evaluation systems. The Senate will most likely take up the legislation after the August recess.

Rep. Sanford Bishop Jr. voted NO

July 15

Recent Senate Votes

Student Loan Interest Rates – Cloture – Vote Rejected (51-49)

Senators failed to broker a temporary deal to maintain federal student loan interest rates, which rose automatically on July 1 to 6.8 percent. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., could not muster the 60 votes needed to invoke cloture on a bill that would have extended the previous interest rate of 3.4 percent for subsidized undergraduate loans for one year. Proposed by Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., the plan would have cost $4.25 billion, offset by changing the tax treatment of certain inherited IRAs and 401(k)s. The bill received no Republican support, ensuring under current Senate rules that it would not receive a final vote for passage.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss voted NO
Sen. Johnny Isakson voted NO

Recent House Votes

Energy-Water Appropriations – Passage – Vote Passed (227-198, 9 Not Voting)

After voting on more than two dozen amendments, the House passed the fiscal 2014 energy-water spending measure on Wednesday. A mostly party-line vote, with only 8 Democrats in support and 9 Republicans in opposition, the legislation would provide $30.4 billion for the Energy and Interior Departments and the Army Corps of Engineers, which is $2.9 billion less than the enacted level for fiscal 2013 and $4.3 billion less than legislation currently being considered in the Senate. The measure would combine renewable-energy and electricity delivery programs into a single account funded at $958 million, about a 50 percent reduction from this year. Ohio Republican Rep. Michael R. Turner’s amendment to prohibit funds in the Energy Department’s nuclear-weapons program from being used to reduce the U.S. nuclear stockpile below levels in the New Start Treaty was adopted by voice vote. Turner said it would prevent President Barack Obama from implementing his plan to reduce the nuclear arsenal. The legislation will now likely be taken up by the Senate.

Rep. Sanford Bishop Jr. voted NO

Farm Bill – Passage – Vote Passed (216-208, 11 Not Voting)

After failing last month to approve a five-year $939 billion reauthorization of both agricultural and nutrition programs, the House decided to take a different approach and approved only agricultural programs through fiscal year 2018. The legislation passed without a single Democratic vote and twelve Republicans in opposition. The House will now try to pass a separate bill for nutrition programs that include the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP). The Senate passed its version of the comprehensive legislation a month ago including $4 billion in reductions to SNAP; House Republicans have proposed $20.5 billion in cuts during committee mark-ups. Ultimate outcomes for the bill include either a conference committee between the Senate and House to negotiate a compromise or possibly another one-year extension like Congress had to do last year.

Rep. Sanford Bishop Jr. voted NO

July 1

Recent Senate Votes

Pritzker Nomination – Confirmation – Vote Confirmed (97-1, 2 Not Voting)

The Senate confirmed President Obama’s nomination of Penny Pritzker to be Secretary of Commerce. Sen. Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., was the only vote against the Chicago real estate and investment executive’s confirmation. She had served on the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness and Economic Recovery Advisory Board. Secretary Pritzker was sworn in one day after her confirmation, June 26.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss voted YES
Sen. Johnny Isakson voted YES

Foxx Nomination – Confirmation – Vote Confirmed (100-0)

In their second Cabinet level vote of the week, the Senate unanimously confirmed current mayor of Charlotte, N.C. Anthony Foxx to be Secretary of Transportation. Mr. Foxx should be sworn in later this week after his planned resignation in Charlotte on July 1.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss voted YES
Sen. Johnny Isakson voted YES

Immigration Bill – Passage – Vote Passed (68-32)

After months of negotiations led by a bipartisan group of eight lawmakers, the Senate passed a sweeping overhaul of immigration policy by a vote of 68-32. Fourteen Republicans joined all Democrats in supporting the bill, which gained traction after a compromise amendment providing $42.5 billion for border security initiatives passed the day before. The measure would expand the number of both permanent resident and temporary visas available annually to highly-skilled professionals and entrepreneurs. The bill also would create a program to allocate green cards, up to 250,000 each year, on a merit-based system that would consider family ties in the United States along with the country’s economic needs. It mandates use of the E-Verify electronic employment verification system and requires the Department of Homeland Security to begin removal proceedings for at least 90 percent of people who stay beyond the duration of their visas. Perhaps most importantly, it offers an incremental 13-year path to citizenship for most of the 11 million immigrants living in the United States illegally, with expedited processes for some agricultural workers and young immigrants. Conservative House members have expressed opposition to this portion of the bill.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss voted NO
Sen. Johnny Isakson voted NO

Recent House Votes

Offshore Drilling Bill – Passage – Vote Passed (235-186, 13 Not Voting)

Before leaving for the July 4th recess, the House passed a bill that would direct the Interior secretary to implement a five-year oil and gas leasing program off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, including areas off of California, South Carolina and Virginia. The vote largely broke along party lines, with 16 Democrats voting in favor of the bill and 6 Republicans voting no. Five of the six GOP no votes came from the New Jersey delegation. The bill would make at least half of the unleased coastal areas with the most potential for energy production available for exploration and would create a nationwide revenue sharing system for all coastal states. Before passing the bill, the chamber narrowly defeated (209-210) a Democratic amendment by Alan Grayson of Florida that would prevent the bill from affecting states’ authority to restrict leasing and natural-resource development beneath states’ navigable waters. Reps. Peter A. DeFazio, D-Ore. And Lois Capps, D-Calif. also offered amendments to protect sensitive coastline in Alaska and California. Both were defeated. The House adopted (217-202) a Paul Broun, R-Ga., amendment that would place a 60-day limit on judicial review of claims arising from projects in the leasing program. It would place restrictions on appeals and institute a “loser pays” requirement on individuals or entities filing suit, except in specified circumstances.

Rep. Sanford Bishop Jr. voted YES

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*