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.
• Implementation of Surface Coal Mining Rule – The House rejected an amendment, sponsored by Rep. Alan S. Lowenthal, D-Calif., to the Preventing Government Waste and Protecting Coal Mining Jobs in America Act. The amendment would have required states to implement a 1983 Interior Department rule governing stream buffer zones near surface coal mines. Lowenthal said using the 1983 rule rather than a less restrictive rule adopted in 2008 would increase environmental and public health protections for those living near the mines. An opponent of the amendment, Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., said the 2008 rule was preferable because it offered regulatory certainty for coal companies and a resulting increase in job creation compared to using the 1983 rule.
The vote on March 25 was 188 yeas to 231 nays.
Reps. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, Y; Chris Collins, R-Clarence, N; Tom Reed, R-Corning, N.
• Coal Mining Rules – The House rejected an amendment, sponsored by Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Pa., to the Preventing Government Waste and Protecting Coal Mining Jobs in America Act.
The amendment would have allowed states to issue their own rules for stream buffer zones near surface coal mines in place of federal rules if a state’s rule is found to exceed the federal standard in protecting the streams. Cartwright said: “States should be able to maintain the ability to adequately protect their natural resources and health and safety of their local coal mining communities.” An opponent of the amendment, Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., said it would restrict states’ rights by eliminating their ability to meet, and not exceed, the federal rules, whereas flexibility for the states was needed so they could protect their own geology, hydrology, and community interests. The vote on March 25 was 196 yeas to 225 nays.
Higgins, Y; Collins, N; Reed, N.
• Streams and Surface Coal Mine Waste – The House passed the Preventing Government Waste and Protecting Coal Mining Jobs in America Act,sponsored by Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio. The bill would direct the Interior Department to implement its 2008 rule governing surface coal mine waste and the establishment of buffer zones for perennial and intermittent streams near coal mines, and abandon its current effort to rewrite the rule. Johnson said the rule rewrite effort has wasted nearly $10 million “and threatens to shut down underground coal mining in America, killing thousands of jobs in the process.” An opponent of the bill, Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J., said it would allow “the poisonous environmental impacts of mountaintop removal mining” in the Appalachians to continue by stopping the Obama administration from addressing the devastation to streams caused by such mining practices. The vote on March 25 was 229 yeas to 192 nays.
Collins,Y; Reed,Y; Higgins, N.
• Military National Monuments – The House rejected an amendment, sponsored by Rep. Niki Tsongas, D-Mass., to the Ensuring Public Involvement in the Creation of National Monuments Act. The amendment would have exempted the declaration of national monuments related to U.S. military history from the bill’s requirements for public input and Congressional review of monument declarations. Tsongas said the amendment sought “to maintain the President’s ability to honor our military and military families and fix one small piece of this misguided legislation.” An opponent of the amendment, Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, said it would undermine the bill’s goal of ensuring transparency for monument declarations.
The vote on March 26 was 197 yeas to 223 nays.
Higgins, Y; Collins, N; Reed, N.
• Designating National Monuments – The House passed the Ensuring Public Involvement in the Creation of National Monuments Act, sponsored by Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah. The bill would limit to one the number of national monuments that the president can declare in any one state during a four-year term of office without approval from Congress, and require public participation before a national monument can be designated. Bishop said “we need to make sure that a President, before he puts his pen to a paper, has actually talked to local people, and it has not always happened” before designating monuments. An opponent of the bill, Rep. Raul M. Grijalva, D-Ariz., said it would add “layers upon layers of duplicative oversight and unnecessary congressional review” that could stifle efforts to protect federal lands.
The vote on March 26 was 222 yeas to 201 nays.
Collins, Y; Reed, Y; Higgins, N.
• Russia-Ukraine Dispute –The House passed the Ukraine Support Act, sponsored by Rep. Edward R. Royce, R-Calif. The bill would set forth various policies showing U.S. support for Ukraine’s new government and opposition to Russia’s annexation of Crimea, including funding for pro-Ukraine operations by the Voice of America, sanctions against certain Russian officials, and efforts to promote Ukraine’s economy. Royce said the U.S. must “move quickly to strengthen Ukraine by reinforcing its sovereignty, its independence and territorial integrity, and assist the new government in meeting the enormous challenges it faces.” An opponent of the bill, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., said the people of Crimea have freely chosen to leave Ukraine and join Russia after Ukraine’s democratically elected president was removed from power, so any U.S. intervention to counter Crimea’s annexation was unwarranted.
Collins, Y; Higgins, Y; Reed, N.
• Loan Guarantees for Ukraine – The Senate passed a substitute amendment, sponsored by Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., to the Support for the Sovereignty, Integrity, Democracy, and Economic Stability of Ukraine Act. The substitute amendment would provide $1 billion of loan guarantees for Ukraine’s new government, fund democracy, governance, and civil society programs in the country, and impose sanctions and asset freezes against Russian officials. Menendez said the amendment would “send a very clear message to world actors” that the U.S. does not tolerate aggression against neighboring countries and the forced annexation of territory, as Russia has done in Crimea. The vote, on March 27, was 98 yeas to 2 nays.
Sens. Kirsten E. Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Y; Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., Y.
• Extending Unemployment Benefrits – The Senate approved a cloture motion to end debate on the Protecting Volunteer Firefighters and Emergency Responders Act, sponsored by Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pa. The bill would provide nearly $10 billion to extend federal unemployment benefits for five months, retroactive to Dec. 28, with the spending offset by measures such as a 10-year extension of customs user fees and changes to pension benefits. A supporter of the bill, Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., said the benefits extension would “help create jobs and strengthen our Nation’s economy so it works for every American, so everyone has a fair shot.” The vote to end debate, on March 27, was 65 yeas to 34 nays, with a three-fifths majority required for approval.
Gillibrand,Y; Schumer, Y.
– Targeted News Service