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Recent votes in Congress / How our representatives voted

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 recent major legislation in Congress. 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.

>HOUSE

Funding Military in Fiscal 2011 -- The House passed the Ike Skelton National Defense Authorization Act, sponsored by Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo. The bill would authorize fiscal 2011 appropriations for military programs in the Defense Department and Energy Department. This bill was described as a "must-pass piece of legislation" that 1) Stops an increase in health care fees from hitting the families of military personnel; 2) Authorizes military families to extend TRICARE coverage to their dependent children until age 26; 3) Adopts comprehensive legislation fighting sexual assault in the military; 4) Creates a counter-IED database; 5) Enhances the effort to develop new, lightweight body armor; 6) Gives DOD new tools and authorizes it to reduce its energy demand while improving military readiness; 7) Bolsters defense against cyberattacks; 8) Requires independent assessments of the National Nuclear Security Administration modernization plan and of the annual budget request for sustaining a strong deterrent; 9) Aligns the Navy's long-term shipbuilding plan with the Quadrennial Defense Report; 10) Includes significant acquisition reform, the Improve Acquisition Act, which could save as much as $135 billion over the next 5 years; 11) Provides for critical funding for warfighters; 12) Allows a 1.4 percent raise in pay for troops; 13) Provides funding for training equipment to sustain the Afghan security forces; 14) Provides essential funding to keep weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of terrorists; and 15) Creates additional positions for mental health care providers to treat troops who come home in need. Skelton said the bill contained numerous provisions essential to the military, including reforms to the acquisitions process, training for Afghan security forces, health care for soldiers and their families, and extensions of special pay and bonuses for soldiers at war. An opponent, Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., said the bill contained unnecessary spending on missile defense and an unnecessary alternative engine for the F-35 fighter.

The vote, on Dec. 17, was 341 yeas to 48 nays.

Reps. Brian Higgins D-Buffalo, Y; Chris Lee R-Clarence, Y; Tom Reed R-Corning, Y; Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, D-Fairport, N.

Legal Aid for Homeowners to Avoid Foreclosure -- The House rejected the Aiding Those Facing Foreclosure Act, sponsored by Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio. The bill would have allowed funds in the Troubled Assets Relief Program to be distributed to legal organizations in the 19 states hardest hit by the housing and economic crisis that provide assistance to homeowners seeking to avoid foreclosure. Kaptur said "nothing could be more important than allowing families facing foreclosure to be afforded proper legal assistance to rework their loan where that is possible." An opponent, Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb., objected to the lack of debate on the bill, said it was not allowed by the original legislation authorizing the TARP bailout, and said it could result in over $7 billion of unspent TARP funds not being returned to taxpayers. The vote on Dec. 17, was 210 yeas to 145 nays, with a two-thirds majority required for approval.

Higgins, Y; Lee, N; Reed, N; Slaughter, Y.

Lead Standard for Drinking Water -- The House passed the Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act, sponsored by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. The bill would apply a lead content standard to drinking water pipes, fittings, faucets, and fixtures. A proponent, Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pa., said barring lead from drinking water systems would improve public health by establishing "a consistent and effective national standard to ensure that no one will be exposed to a serious health threat which can easily be avoided." An opponent, Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., said the bill failed to apply the standard to lead service lines for drinking water systems, lacked an education component for consumers, and cited a Congressional Budget Office estimate that the standard could cost manufacturers hundreds of millions of dollars in the first five years after it takes effect. The vote on Dec. 17, was 226 yeas to 109 nays.

Higgins, Y; Lee, Y; Reed, Y; Slaughter, Y.

Modernizing Food Safety -- The House agreed to the Senate amendments to the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, sponsored by Rep. Betty Sutton, D-Ohio. The bill would increase FDA regulatory powers over the food supply, including more-frequent inspections of food facilities and requiring companies to recall contaminated food. A proponent, Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., said the bill "will dramatically improve the safety of our nation's food supply" by preventing foodborne illnesses and establishing FDA authority to mandate food recalls. An opponent, Rep. Joseph R. Pitts, R-Pa., said it was "a gross departure from reasonable legislating" because the House had failed to conference with the Senate to negotiate changes to the bill before putting it to a vote. The vote Dec. 21 was 215 yeas to 144 nays.

Higgins, Y; Lee, Y; Reed, N; Slaughter, Y.

Compensation for 9/1 1 First Responders -- The House agreed to the Senate amendment to the James Zadroga 9/1 1 Health and Compensation Act, sponsored by Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, D-N.Y. The bill would provide $4.2 billion of funding for compensation and health care programs for firefighters, police, and other first responders affected by the 9/1 1 attacks in New York City. Maloney said the bill "will give support and hope to the more than 36,000 Americans who are ailing because of the attacks on our nation." An opponent, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., criticized the failure to allow amendments or open debate on the bill, as well as its establishment of a new health care entitlement and its expansion of "eligibility for compensation under the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund of 2001." The vote Dec. 22 was 206 yeas to 60 nays.

Higgins, Y; Lee, Y; Reed, Y; Slaughter, Y.

>SENATE

DREAM Act -- The Senate rejected a cloture motion to cut off debate on the House amendment to the DREAM Act. The amendment would allow illegal immigrants brought into the United States as children, who are under 29 years old, have resided in the country for five years and have either graduated from high school or been admitted to a college or university, to apply for citizenship. An opponent, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said the Congressional Budget Office estimated the amendment would cost $5 billion, would allow millions of illegal aliens to obtain legal residency, and "leaves the door open to more fraud and abuse of our immigration system." The vote on Dec. 18 was 55 yeas to 41 nays, with a three-fifths majority required for approval.

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

Don't Ask, Don't Tell -- The Senate approved a cloture motion to cut off debate on an amendment to the House amendment to the Small Business Act. The amendment, which essentially renames the legislation to the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act, would repeal the military's don't ask, don't tell policy for dismissing gay soldiers. A proponent, Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., said the repeal would "right a wrong and put the military in line with the best of American values." An opponent, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said repeal would create a dangerous distraction for soldiers that could result in fatalities. The vote Dec. 18, was 63 yeas to 33 nays.

Gillibrand, Y; Schumer, Y.

Repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell -- The Senate agreed to the House amendment to the Small Business Act. The amendment, which essentially renames the legislation to the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act, would repeal the military's don't ask, don't tell policy for dismissing homosexual soldiers. A proponent, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said military leaders and servicemembers supported the repeal of don't ask, don't tell, which Murray said was "depriving our armed services of talented men and women at a time when we need our best on the front lines defending America."

The vote on Dec. 18, was 65 yeas to 31 nays.

Gillibrand, Y; Schumer, Y.

Amending START Treaty -- The Senate rejected an amendment, sponsored by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and John Barrasso, R-Wyo., to a treaty with Russia to reduce the number of strategic nuclear weapons held by Russia and the United State. The amendment would have removed language in the treaty preamble discussing the interrelationship between strategic offensive arms and strategic defensive arms, and seeking to ensure that defensive arms do not diminish the effectiveness of offensive arms. Barrasso said the language was an effort by Russia to limit U.S. missile defense development, and he said "it is unacceptable for the United States to make any concessions on missile defense."

The vote on Dec. 18, was 37 yeas to 59 nays.

Gillibrand, N; Schumer, N.

START Treaty Amendment -- The Senate rejected an amendment sponsored by Sen. James E. Risch, R-Idaho, to a treaty with Russia to reduce the number of strategic nuclear weapons held by Russia and the United States. The amendment would have amended the treaty preamble to acknowledge the interrelationship between nonstrategic and strategic offensive arms and the need for greater transparency by both countries as their number of strategic offensive arms declines. Risch said that with Russia having a 10-to-1 advantage over the United States in the number of tactical nuclear weapons, and continuing to develop new weapons and new technology for the weapons, the United States needed to pursue transparency and reductions in Russia's holdings of tactical weapons. An opponent, Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., said as general amendments are not allowed to a treaty negotiated by the White House, this amendment "would require renegotiation with the Russian Federation. That would lead to a prolonged delay for the U.S. nuclear weapons inspectors to return to Russia to get on the ground to inspect and to verify" Russia's holdings of nuclear weapons. The vote on Dec. 19 was 32 yeas to 60 nays.

Gillibrand, N; Schumer, N.

Agreeing to START Treaty -- The Senate agreed to a treaty with Russia to reduce the number of strategic nuclear weapons held by Russia and the United States. A proponent, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., said the treaty "will provide predictability, confidence, transparency and stability in the United States-Russian relationship." An opponent, Sen. Mark S. Kirk, R-Ill., said the treaty "recognizes limits on U.S. missile defenses in return for marginal reductions in the Russian arsenal" of nuclear weapons, and therefore restricts the ability of the United States to "build missile defenses to protect against Iran." The vote Dec. 22 was 71 yeas to 26 nays.

Gillibrand, Y; Schumer, Y.

Information for this column is supplied by Targeted News Service.

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