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Analyzing the latest votes in Congress

WASHINGTON -- Amid a series of routine bipartisan votes, the House last week considered two more contentious issues that could have longer-lasting political ramifications.

But Western New York's representatives voted in predictable, party-line ways on both of those measures.

First, the House rejected a proposal to ban abortions that are based on sex selection -- but that happened only because it was considered under a procedure that requires a two-thirds majority. Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, and Rep. Kathleen C. Hochul, D-Amherst, both voted against that measure, which is no surprise, given that they typically support abortion rights. Rep. Tom Reed, a Corning Republican and abortion opponent, voted for the measure.

Abortion rights supporters and opponents are likely to try to use the issue to rally their respective bases in the coming fall election.

More surprisingly, the House approved a measure that allows project labor agreements on defense construction projects. The reliably pro-labor Hochul and Higgins favored the measure, while Reed opposed it.

Not only was the measure sponsored by a Republican --  Rep. Michael Grimm of Staten Island -- it also proved that on a rare occasion, a pro-labor measure can pass the GOP-led House.

-- Jerry Zremski


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 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.



* FDA Reauthorization: The House passed the Food and Drug Administration Reform Act, sponsored by Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich. The bill would reauthorize and extend the Food and Drug Administration's user-fee programs for prescription drugs and medical devices and establish user-fee programs for generic drugs and biosimilars. Upton said the bill would promote "American innovation by improving the predictability, consistency, transparency, and efficiency of FDA regulation."

The vote May 30 was 387 yeas to 5 nays.

Reps. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, Y; Kathleen C. Hochul, D-Amherst, Y; Louise M. Slaughter, D-Fairport, A; Tom Reed, R-Corning, Y.

* Soldiers and Child Custody: The House passed the Servicemember Family Protection Act, sponsored by Rep. Michael R. Turner, R-Ohio. The bill would require courts making temporary orders for child custody based on soldiers' deployment for military service to cancel those orders once the soldiers have returned from deployment. Turner said: "State courts should not be allowed to use a service member's previous deployments or the possibility of future deployments when making child custody determinations."

The vote May 30 was 390 yeas to 2 nays.

Higgins, Y; Hochul, Y; Slaughter, A; Reed, Y.

* Border Crime Task Force: The House passed the Jaime Zapata Border Security Task Force Act, sponsored by Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas. The bill would create a Border Enforcement Security Task Force program to coordinate federal, state and local law enforcement actions to prevent crime along the borders with Mexico and Canada. Cuellar said the program took "a comprehensive approach to identifying, disrupting, and dismantling criminal organizations posing significant threats to border and maritime security."

The vote May 30 was 391 yeas to 2 nays.

Higgins, Y; Hochul, Y; Slaughter, A; Reed, Y.

* Sex Selection for Abortions: The House rejected the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act, sponsored by Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz. The bill would have established criminal penalties for doctors who perform an abortion on the basis of sex selection. Franks said the penalties would address the increasing practice of sex-selection abortion, especially among Asian immigrants, and send the message "that it is wrong to knowingly kill unborn children because they are baby girls instead of baby boys." An opponent, Rep. John Conyers, Jr., D-Mich., said the bill was "intended to chip away at a woman's right to seek safe and legal medical care" by criminalizing abortion.

The vote May 31, was 246 yeas to 168 nays, with a two-thirds majority required for approval.

Higgins, N; Hochul, N; Slaughter, A; Reed, Y.

* Funding Intelligence Programs: The House passed the Intelligence Authorization Act, sponsored by Rep. Mike J. Rogers, R-Mich. The bill would fund intelligence activities by 13 different intelligence, military and law enforcement agencies in fiscal 2013. Rogers said it "sustains our current intelligence capabilities and provides for the development of future capabilities, all while achieving significant savings and ensuring the intelligence agencies are being good stewards of the taxpayers' dollars."

The vote May 31 was 386 yeas to 28 nays.

Higgins, Y; Hochul, Y; Slaughter, A; Reed, Y.

* Project Labor Agreements: The House approved an amendment, sponsored by Rep. Michael G. Grimm, R-N.Y., to the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act. The amendment would strike a provision barring the military from reaching project labor agreements with contractors on construction contracts. Grimm said the agreements were a "proven, cost-effective, and efficient option that saves taxpayers money" and gives the military the option of providing job training and jobs to military veterans. An opponent, Rep. John Abney Culberson, R-Texas, said "the language in the bill does not prohibit the use of project labor agreements," making the amendment unnecessary.

The vote May 31 was 218 yeas to 198 nays.

Higgins, Y; Hochul, Y; Slaughter, A; Reed, N.

* Prevailing Wages and Contractors: The House rejected an amendment, sponsored by Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., to the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act. The amendment would have barred funding for the application of prevailing wage requirements for government contractors under the Davis-Bacon Act. Franks said "this amendment is an attempt to stop the hemorrhage of wasteful spending and rein in our debt" by preventing artificially high wages being paid to employees of contractors. An opponent, Rep. Sanford D. Bishop, Jr., said the prevailing wage requirements "protect the government, as well as the workers, in carrying out the policy of paying decent wages on government contracts."

The vote May 31 was 180 yeas to 237 nays.

Higgins, N; Hochul, N; Slaughter, A; Reed, Y.

* Military Construction Projects: The House passed the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, sponsored by Rep. John Abney Culberson, R-Texas. The bill would provide funding for military and Department of Veterans Affairs construction projects in fiscal 2013. Culberson said the bill fully funded necessary programs while avoiding unnecessary spending and containing costs in an effort to cut the deficit.

The vote May 31 was 407 yeas to 12 nays.

Higgins, Y; Hochul, Y; Slaughter, A; Reed, Y.



There were no key votes in the Senate last week.


Information supplied by Targeted News Service.

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