WASHINGTON – Here are the recent votes of Western New York’s three members of the House of Representatives and the state’s two U.S. senators on major legislation in Congress. A ”Y” means the member voted for the measure; an “N” means the member voted against he measure; an “A” means the member did not vote.
•Democratic Education Proposal – The House rejected a substitute amendment, sponsored by Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., to the Student Success Act. The amendment would have required states to establish education standards and provided funding for technology, science, and literacy education efforts. Miller said it “would help ensure that all students have access to a world-class education, regardless of their background or ZIP code, and that teachers, principals, and schools have supports and resources to provide that education.” An opponent, Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., said it “continues the same failed policies we’re seeking to correct and encourages greater federal intrusion in classrooms. No matter what you call it, AYP [Adequate Yearly Progress], or any other rigid Federal accountability system is still the wrong approach.”
The vote on July 19 was 193 yeas to 233 nays.
Reps. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, Y; Chris Collins, R-Clarence, N; Tom Reed, R-Corning, N.
•Federal Authority Over Education – The House passed the Student Success Act, sponsored by Rep. John Kline, R-Minn. The bill would revoke authority for the federal government to establish various performance and credential standards for schools and teachers and increase the authority of states and local school districts to spend federal funds as they see fit. Kline said: “This legislation will restore local control, empower parents, eliminate unnecessary Washington red tape and intrusion in schools, and support innovation and excellence in the classroom.” An opponent, Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., said the bill “guts funding for public education. It abdicates the federal government’s responsibility to ensure that every child has the right to an equal opportunity and a quality education.”
The vote on July 19 was 221 yeas to 207 nays.
Collins,Y; Higgins,N; Reed,N.
•Intelligence on Weapons of Mass Destruction – The House passed the WMD Intelligence and Information Sharing Act, sponsored by Rep. Pat Meehan, R-Pa. The bill would require the Homeland Security Department to coordinate with other federal and local agencies to share intelligence and information to counter the threat from weapons of mass destruction, and require the Secretary of Homeland Security to report to Congress on the agency’s intelligence and information sharing activities. Meehan said the bill “will ensure sustained Department of Homeland Security commitment to facilitate the partnership across the intelligence community and the first responder community.”
The vote on July 22 was 388 yeas to 3 nays.
Collins,Y; Higgins, A; Reed, A.
•Defense Against Ballistic Missiles – The House rejected an amendment, sponsored by Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., to the Department of Defense Appropriations Act The amendment would have cut funding for the military’s Ground-Based Midcourse Defense program for protecting against intercontinental ballistic missile attacks by $107 million and applied the $107 million to deficit reduction. Polis said the program “is simply a failure so far,” and continuing to develop a useless missile defense system would only waste more money. An opponent, Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., said the program was the only means of defense against intercontinental ballistic missiles, and recent problems with the program were the result of a lack of funding rather than the program’s inherent failings.
The vote, on July 23, was 141 yeas to 272 nays.
Higgins,Y; Collins,N; Reed,N.
•East Coast Missile Defense Site – The House rejected an amendment, sponsored by Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., to the Department of Defense Appropriations Act. The amendment would have cut $70 million of funding for developing a missile defense site on the East Coast, and applied the $70 million to deficit reduction. Nadler said: “In a time of budget deficits and looming sequester of funds, we cannot afford to spend money on a program that the military says it does not yet need and does not yet work. The Pentagon says the current system, based in Alaska and California, is sufficient to defend the entire continental United States against a limited attack from North Korea and Iran.” An opponent, Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., said an East Coast site was desirable because it “would allow us much greater battle space and not have to make our West Coast sites travel the entire length of the continent in order to engage a potential incoming Iranian missile.”
The vote on July 23 was 173 yeas to 249 nays.
Higgins,Y; Collins,N; Reed,N.
•Buying Helicopters for Afghanistan – The House passed an amendment, sponsored by Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., to the Department of Defense Appropriations Act. The amendment would block $553.8 million of funding for the Defense Department to buy 30 Russian-built Mi-17 helicopters for the Afghan Special Mission Wing. Coffman said the 2013 military spending bill had signaled Congress’ opposition to the purchase, which would be ill-advised because the Afghanistan military lacks the personnel and expertise to operate and maintain the Mi-17 helicopters. An opponent, Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark., said the Mi-17 helicopters would strengthen the Afghanistan military, speeding the exit of U.S. troops from the country.
The vote on July 23 was 346 yeas to 79 nays.
Collins,Y; Higgins,Y; Reed, Y.
•Transferring Guantanamo Bay Detainees – The House passed an amendment, sponsored by Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-Ind., to the Department of Defense Appropriations Act The amendment would bar funding for the transfer or release of suspected terrorist detainees at the military’s Guantanamo Bay facility in Cuba to Yemen. Walorski said “it makes no sense to send terrorists to a country where there is an active al Qaeda network that we know has been engaged in targeting the U.S.,” and that Yemen’s failure to secure its prisons would create the risk of the escape of terrorists transferred to the country. An opponent, Rep. Peter J. Visclosky, D-Ind., said the restriction on transferring suspected terrorists from Guantanamo Bay would perpetuate “the legal and moral problems arising from the prospect of indefinite detentions at Guantanamo.”
The vote on July 24 was 238 yeas to 185 nays.
Collins,Y; Reed,Y; Higgins,N.
• NSA Surveillance – The House passed an amendment, sponsored by Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., to the Department of Defense Appropriations Act. The amendment would bar funding for the National Security Agency to target U.S. citizens or acquire or store electronic communications by U.S. citizens under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Pompeo said: “It is, of course, our duty to ensure that the NSA stays within these legal bounds here in Congress, and this amendment makes those boundaries perfectly clear for everyone to know and understand.” An opponent, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., said the amendment would continue to allow the NSA to collect sweeping data on the activities of U.S. citizens.
The vote on July 24 was 409 yeas to 12 nays.
Collins,Y; Higgins,Y; Reed,Y.
•Collecting Phone Records – The House rejected an amendment, sponsored by Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., to the Department of Defense Appropriations Act The amendment would have barred the National Security Agency and other government agencies from collecting records such as telephone call records pertaining to people who are not under investigation under Section 215 of the Patriot Act. Amash said the amendment would stop “the suspicionless collection of every American’s phone records” and the NSA’s violation of the right to privacy. An opponent, Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., said the amendment was a hasty response to the recent revelation of a legal and constitutional NSA program collecting data on phone records.
The vote on July 24 was 205 yeas to 217 nays.
Collins,N; Higgins,N; Reed, N.
•Military Spending – The House passed the Department of Defense Appropriations Act, sponsored by Rep. Bill C.W. Young, R-Fla. The bill would provide $512.5 billion of funding for military programs in fiscal 2014, as well as $82.3 billion for war operations in Afghanistan and other overseas countries. Young said the bill reflected months of analysis to determine proper funding levels for the military. An opponent, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., cited the indefinite detention of suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, 86 of whom, he said, have not been charged with an offense and do not pose a threat to the U.S.
The vote on July 24 was 315 yeas to 109 nays.
Collins, Y; Higgins,Y; Reed,Y.
•State Coal Ash Permits – The House rejected an amendment, sponsored by Rep. Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., to the Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act. The amendment would have required the Environmental Protection Agency to find deficient state programs for granting permits for the disposal of coal ash waste if the programs threaten public health or the environment in neighboring states. Tonko said: “In order to ensure good relations between neighboring States, and to ensure that all our citizens are protected from exposure to the toxic substances contained in coal ash, I believe the EPA should have the authority to step in when necessary.” An opponent, Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., said the bill already gave the EPA authority to oversee state regulators, and that the state regulators “are up to the task of making sure that our communities are protected” from potential coal ash hazards. The vote on July 25 was 176 yeas to 239 nays.
Higgins,Y; Collins,N; Reed, N.
•Regulating Coal Ash Waste – The House passed the Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act, sponsored by Rep. David B. McKinley, R-W.Va. The bill would assign states the authority to review permit applications for the disposal of coal ash waste, while setting a national standard for the states to follow in their reviews.
McKinley said the alternative of potentially allowing the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate coal ash waste as a hazardous material “would essentially destroy the ability to recycle coal ash, dramatically increase the cost of electricity, and crush hundreds of thousands of jobs across America.” An opponent, Rep. Henry A. Waxman, D-Calif., said: “If this bill is enacted, coal ash disposal sites will continue to pollute our groundwater; and once contamination is confirmed, well, this bill would allow it to continue for another 10 years – and do nothing.”
The vote on July 25 was 265 yeas to 155 nays.
Collins,Y; Reed,Y; Brian Higgins,N.
•Crime and Public Housing Aid – The Senate passed an amendment, sponsored by Sen. David Vitter, R-La., to the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act. The amendment would bar the Department of Housing and Urban Development from providing housing assistance benefits to people convicted of sexual abuse or murder. Vitter said the restriction would improve the safety of public housing projects by discouraging the concentration of violent criminals in the projects.
The vote on July 23 was 99 yeas to 1 nay.
Sens. Kirsten E. Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Y; Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., Y.
•Loans for Graduate Students – The Senate rejected an amendment, sponsored by Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., to the Smarter Solutions for Students Act The amendment would have capped the interest rate for Stafford Loans issued to graduate or professional students at 6.8 percent and established a .55 percent surtax on individuals with an annual modified adjusted gross income of more than $1 million. Reed said: “Many people are struggling in many different ways, and particularly students are struggling with student debt. We should ensure that the new rate structure does not leave students worse off.” An opponent, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said the cost of the amendment was unknown, and passing it could mean the defeat of the overall bill in the Senate, which would derail efforts to lower the cost of student loans.
The vote on July 24 was 46 yeas to 53 nays.
•Student Loans – The Senate passed the Smarter Solutions for Students Act, sponsored by Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., with an amendment added by the Senate. The bill would set the interest rate for Stafford Loans issued to undergraduate students at the 10-year Treasury note rate plus 2.05 percent, with a cap on the interest rate of 8.25 percent, and a 9.5 percent cap for loans to graduate and professional students. A supporter, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said that by containing the cost of student loans, the bill would increase the affordability of higher education. An opponent, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said: “This bill falls short in preventing higher student loan interest rates, especially for graduate and professional students. A cap of 9.5 percent for graduate and professional students offers no guarantees that our rates won’t significantly increase in the future.”
The vote on July 24 was 81 yeas to 18 nays.
•Associate Attorney General – The Senate confirmed the nomination of Derek Anthony West to serve as U.S. Associate Attorney General. A supporter, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., cited West’s year of experience as Acting Associate Attorney General and three prior years serving as Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Division at the Justice Department. Feinstein said West “brings a great deal of experience in Justice Department leadership, private practice, and criminal prosecution to this position. I am confident he will do an outstanding job.”
The vote on July 25 was 98 yeas to 1 nay.
•Spending on Transportataion, HUD – The Senate tabled a motion, sponsored by Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., to recommit the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act to the Senate Appropriations Committee with instructions for the committee to cut fiscal 2014 funding provided by the bill to $45.5 billion. Toomey said in its current form the bill would spend more than $54 billion, and revising the bill to cut spending would reduce waste and comply with spending caps set out by the Budget Control Act. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., an opponent of the motion to recommit, said it would reverse efforts to “work in creating jobs, investing in communities, and lay down a foundation for long-term and broad-based growth.”
The vote to table the motion on July 25 was 56 yeas to 42 nays.
Targeted News Service