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Last week 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 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.

>HOUSE

U.S. Botanic Garden -- The House approved an amendment, sponsored by Rep. Paul A. Gosar, R-Ariz., to the Legislative Branch Appropriations Act. The amendment would cut funding for the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington by $1.2 million. Gosar said: "While the Botanic Garden is a wonderful attraction, Congress must seek to limit excess spending in the name of getting our fiscal house in order."

An opponent, Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., said the cut would cripple the Botanic Garden, forcing it to close during parts of the year.

The vote on June 8, was 213 yeas to 193 nays.

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

Open World Leadership Center -- The House approved an amendment, sponsored by Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., to the Legislative Branch Appropriations Act.

The amendment would cut $1 million of funding for the Open World Leadership Center, a part of the Library of Congress that educates foreign leaders about democratic principles, and apply the savings to deficit reduction.

Scalise said the center duplicated a similar program at the State Department, and "we have to cut back programs that we just can't afford" at a time of high deficits. An opponent, Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., said the $1 million was needed to finance the cost of shutting down the center. The vote on June 8, was 204 yeas to 203 nays.

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

Using Styrofoam in the U.S. House -- The House rejected an amendment, sponsored by Rep. James P. Moran, D-Va., to the Legislative Branch Appropriations Act. barring the use of polystyrene products in food service facilities in the House. Moran said: "Removing polystyrene would show our concern for the health of our visitors and our employees, and for the future of our environment. We should be using recyclable and biodegradable products and avoiding polystyrene foam packaging."

An opponent, Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Calif., said returning to biodegradable products in the House would cost about $500,000 annually and deliver minimal environmental benefits compared with continuing to use polystyrene, which is also known as Styrofoam.

The vote on June 8 was 178 yeas to 229 nays.

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

Members of Congress and Online Ads -- The House rejected an amendment, sponsored by Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., to the Legislative Branch Appropriations Act barring funding for members of Congress to buy advertisements on non-Congressional Internet sites. Flake said the advertisements "blur the lines between official duties and campaign activities. I believe, and I think most of us would concede, it's an inappropriate use of taxpayer money." An opponent, Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., said given that members of Congress were already allowed to buy advertising in other media, it would be a step backwards to bar advertising online.

The vote on June 8 was 148 yeas to 261 nays.

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

Spending on Congressional Mailings -- The House rejected a motion, sponsored by Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, to recommit the Legislative Branch Appropriations Act to the House Appropriations Committee with instructions for the committee to report the bill back to the House with a 10 percent cut in the franking (mailing) budget for members of Congress.

Pingree said the measure would have members help cut the deficit "by cutting our own spending on fancy taxpayer-funded mailings that our constituents don't always want us to send."

An opponent, Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., said the motion would block passage of a bill that in other ways sought to rein in spending by Congress. The vote on June 8 was 101 yeas to 309 nays.

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

Legislative Branch -- The House passed the Legislative Branch Appropriations Act, sponsored by Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla. The bill would provide $3.3 billion of funding for the legislative branch in fiscal 2013. Crenshaw said it reflected "a commitment to make sure that every task of government is accomplished and completed in a most efficient and most effective manner," cutting spending at several agencies while increasing funding for the Government Accountability Office to "allow them to continue to write the reports that they write that tell us whether we're spending the money wisely or not."

An opponent, Rep. Michael Honda, D-Calif., criticized the bill's lack of funding to continue rehabilitation of the Capital dome and its funding for the House General Counsel's defense of the Defense of Marriage Act.

The vote on June 8 was 307 yeas to 102 nays.

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

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>SENATE

Sugar Subsidies -- The Senate tabled an amendment, sponsored by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., to the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act that would phase out subsidies for sugar cane, sugar beets and other sugar crops from 2012 to 2014. Shaheen said: "We need to reform the sugar subsidy because it costs consumers and businesses $3.5 billion each year in the form of higher prices."

An opponent, Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., said the impact of ending the subsidies would be "to kill 140,000 good jobs in this country, to kill $19 billion of economic activity in this country." The vote on June 13 was 50 yeas to 46 nays.

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

Food STYL not found Stamps -- The Senate tabled an amendment, sponsored by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., to the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act that would have replaced the federal food stamps program with a system of block grants provided to states to administer their own food stamp programs. Paul said the block grants would limit the waste involved in granting food stamps to the wealthy and for purchasing unhealthy food.

An opponent, Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., said: "At a time when 50 percent of food stamp recipients are children, it would be a moral stain on our country's character to cut this program." The vote on June 13 was 65 yeas to 33 nays.

Schumer, Y; Gillibrand, Y.

El Salvador Ambassador -- The Senate agreed to a motion to close debate on the nomination of Mari Carmen Aponte to serve as ambassador to El Salvador. A supporter, Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., said that during the 15 months Aponte was ambassador to El Salvador before her recess appointment expired, "she impressed the diplomatic establishment with her professionalism and won the respect of parties both on the right and the left in El Salvador." The nomination is controversial because she had a relationship with an individual who was believed to be a Cuban spy.

The vote on June 14 was 62 yeas to 37 nays.

Schumer, Y; Gillibrand, Y.

Information for this column is supplied by Targeted News Service.