Last week in Congress / How our representatives voted - The Buffalo News

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Last week in Congress / How our representatives voted

WASHINGTON – Here are the 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 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.


•New Car Dealers and Emissions Disclosures – The House passed a bill, sponsored by Rep. Robert E. Latta, R-Ohio, that would remove a requirement under the Clean Air Act for new car dealers to certify to car buyers that that their vehicle conforms to Clean Air Act emissions requirements. Latta said certification at the point of sale was no longer needed because vehicle manufacturers must meet the requirements, certifications of compliance with the requirements are provided in numerous other locations, and many new vehicle warranties include terms that exceed the requirements. Latta added that ending the requirement “will make the car-buying process a little simpler and let auto dealers spend less time complying with obsolete regulatory requirements and more time developing their businesses, investing in local communities, and creating jobs.”

The vote on Jan. 8 was unanimous with 405 yeas.

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

•Poison Control Centers – The House passed the Poison Center Network Act, sponsored by Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb. The bill would reauthorize the nationwide network of poison control centers, including the operation of a national toll-free phone number to advise people on poison exposure and treatment, grants to states to operate the centers, and an advertising and publicity campaign to support the centers and poison prevention. Terry said the network of centers improved public health and saved billions of dollars annually by helping Americans avoid 1.7 million trips to emergency rooms and other health care facilities.

The vote on Jan. 8 was 388 yeas to 18 nays.

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

•Requirements for Transportation Reports – The House passed the Transportation Reports Elimination Act, sponsored by Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa. The bill would eliminate, consolidate, or modify 27 different requirements for federal government agencies to submit reports to Congress on transportation and infrastructure issues. Shuster said the reforms, by ending outmoded and duplicative requirements, will improve the ability of Congress to effectively oversee the agencies, reduce administrative costs at the agencies, and increase transparency by making the reports available to the public.

The vote on Jan. 8 was unanimous with 406 yeas.

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

•Listing Hazardous Waste Cleanup Sites – The House rejected an amendment, sponsored by Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., to the Reducing Excessive Deadline Obligations Act.

The amendment would have eliminated language in the bill that expands eligibility for the National Priorities List for cleaning up sites contaminated by hazardous waste, directed the EPA to list the highest priority facilities for cleanup, and guaranteed that sites recommended by states for listing receive higher priority for cleanup than other sites. Sinema said her amendment would prevent an unfunded expansion of the National Priorities List and required the government to respect the rights of states in deciding which sites to prioritize for cleanup. An opponent, Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, said the process set out by the bill for placing sites on the National Priorities List would help fix the problem of the EPA having excessive control over the process, and the amendment would not help in that effort.

The vote on Jan. 9 was 189 yeas to 228 nays.

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

•Impact of Legislation on Superfund Sites – The House rejected an amendment, sponsored by Rep. Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., to the Reducing Excessive Deadline Obligations Act. The amendment would have blocked implementation of the bill if any provision of it was found to increase the potential for litigation over the cleanup of Superfund sites contaminated by hazardous waste, reduce the amount of funds available for cleanup, or delay cleanup work. Tonko said his amendment “will keep current site cleanups on track and ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent efficiently– spent on cleaning up contaminated sites and not spent in courtrooms.” An opponent, Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, said the amendment was unnecessary because the bill will not increase litigation, slowdown site cleanup, or decrease funding for cleanup.

The vote on Jan. 9 was 190 yeas to 227 nays.

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

•Hazardous Waste Rules – The House passed the Reducing Excessive Deadline Obligations Act, sponsored by Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colo. The bill would authorize the Environmental Protection Agency to review its hazardous solid waste disposal regulations issued under the Resource Conservation Recovery Act whenever a review is deemed appropriate rather than every three years, and restrict the EPA from preempting rules already issued by state and other federal government agencies. Gardner called the bill an effort “to roll back unnecessary and overburdensome regulations that are duplicative and unnecessary,” aiding the faster cleanup of hazardous waste sites by reforming ineffective rules. An opponent, Rep. Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., said the bill “does nothing to improve public health or create jobs or protect the environment or avoid needless public expenses,” in part because it fails to allow the EPA to require companies responsible for hazardous waste to show that they have the financial resources to remedy site contamination.

The vote on Jan. 9 was 225 yeas to 188 nays.

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


•New Federal Reserve Head – The Senate confirmed the nomination of Janet L. Yellen to serve as Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System for a four-year term. A supporter, Sen. Sherrord Brown, D-Ohio, said that in her time as Vice Chair of the Federal Reserve, Yellen “has shown she understands how risky financial practices deep inside the largest Wall Street banks can have a terrible and terrifying impact on American families.” Brown added that Yellen “can recognize emerging threats to economic stability” and act to prevent abuses by financial firms “that put American consumers and workers at risk.” An opponent, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said Yellen would likely continue the Fed’s easy-money policies by maintaining record-low interest rates and buying trillions of dollars worth of mortgage-backed securities and longer-term debt from the U.S. Treasury, creating the risks of a stock market and housing bubble as well as future high inflation.

The vote on Jan. 6 was 56 yeas to 26 nays.

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

•Extending Unemployment Benefits – The Senate approved a cloture motion to end debate on a bill, sponsored by Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., that would extend emergency and certain other unemployment benefits through the end of March. A supporter, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, said every $1 spent on unemployment benefits creates $1.50 of increased economic activity, making an extension of benefits an economically stimulative way to help the unemployed. An opponent, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, said there was “no excuse to pass unemployment insurance legislation without also finding ways to create good, stable, high-paying jobs and also trying to find the money to pay for” the extension of unemployment benefits.

The vote to end debate on Jan. 8 was 60 yeas to 37 nays, with a three-fifths majority required for approval.

Gillibrand, Y; Schumer,Y.

•D.C. Appeals Court Judge – The Senate agreed to a cloture motion to end debate on the nomination of Robert Leon Wilkins to serve as a U.S. judge on the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals. A supporter, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., cited Wilkins’ three years of experience as a U.S. district judge for the District of Columbia, in which time he has “presided over hundreds of cases and issued significant decisions in various areas of the law, including in the fields of administrative and constitutional law,” more than 10 years as a public defender in the District of Columbia, and unanimously well qualified rating from the American Bar Association. An opponent, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said “we should not confirm any more judges to the DC Circuit, especially when those additional judges cost approximately $1 million per year per judge,” because the court does not handle enough cases to require more judges. The vote to end debate on Jan. 9 was 55 yeas to 38 nays.

Gillibrand, Y; Schumer, Y.

– Targeted News Service

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