Along with roll call votes this week, the Senate also passed the Sam Farr and Nick Castle Peace Corps Reform Act (H.R. 2259), to expand services and benefits for volunteers; a resolution (S. Res. 643), honoring the memory of the victims of the brutal and senseless attack at a country music festival in Las Vegas last September; and the Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act (H.R. 4958), to increase, effective as of Dec. 1, the rates of compensation for veterans with service-connected disabilities and the rates of dependency and indemnity compensation for the survivors of certain disabled veterans.

The House also passed the Border Tunnel Task Force Act (H.R. 6740), to establish Border Tunnel Task Forces; the Strategic Petroleum Reserve Reform Act (H.R. 6511), to authorize the Secretary of Energy to carry out a program to lease underutilized Strategic Petroleum Reserve facilities; the Patient Right to Know Drug Prices Act (S. 2554), to ensure that health insurance issuers and group health plans do not prohibit pharmacy providers from providing certain information to enrollees; the Know the Lowest Price Act (S. 2553), to prohibit health plans and pharmacy benefit managers from restricting pharmacies from informing individuals regarding the prices for certain drugs and biologicals; and the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act (H.R. 1872), to promote access for U.S. officials, journalists, and other citizens to Tibetan areas of the People’s Republic of China.


SMALL BUSINESS CONTRACTORS: The House has passed the Expanding Contracting Opportunities for Small Businesses Act (H.R. 6369), sponsored by Rep. Roger W. Marshall, R-Kan., to raise the financial threshold for sole-source contracts awarded to small businesses through the Small Business Act’s contracting programs by accounting for inflation. Marshall said the change would “promote small business growth, strengthen oversight, and incentivize federal agencies to work with small businesses.” The vote, on Sept. 25, was 392 yeas to 5 nays.

YEAS: Chellie Pingree, D-1st District; Bruce Poliquin, R-2nd District

DEFENSE, EDUCATION SPENDING BILL: The House has agreed to the conference report with the Senate to reconcile the two chambers’ versions of the Department of Defense and Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Act and Continuing Appropriations Act (H.R. 6157). The bill would authorize $674 billion of fiscal 2019 spending at the Defense Department and defense programs at the Energy Department, as well as $178 billion of spending at the Departments of Labor, Education, and Health and Human Services, and continued appropriations through Dec. 7 for other federal programs. A supporter, Rep. Rodney P. Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., said the military funding would help rebuild the Defense Department by giving it a fiscal year budget on time for the first time in over a decade, and the rest of the bill supported “programs that protect the health, education, and labor standards that all Americans deserve.” The vote, on Sept. 26, was 361 yeas to 61 nays.

YEAS: Pingree, Poliquin

IMMIGRATION AND VOTING RIGHTS: The House has passed a resolution (H. Res. 1071), sponsored by Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., stating that allowing illegal immigrants the right to vote devalues the franchise and diminishes the voting power of U.S. citizens and criticizing San Francisco for allowing non-citizens to register to vote in the city’s school board elections. McCarthy said the resolution was needed for “protecting the right to vote for every American citizen of legal age and rejecting all outside and foreign interference in our elections.” An opponent, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, called the resolution a gotcha measure that ignored other, more vital concerns about the integrity of elections and upholding of voting rights. The vote, on Sept. 26, was 279 yeas to 72 nays, with 69 voting as present.

PRESENT: Pingree

YEAS: Poliquin

FEMA REFORM AND AUTHORIZING THE FAA: The House has passed a measure concurring with the Senate amendment to the FAA Reauthorization Act (H.R. 302), to authorize Federal Aviation Administration programs for the next five years, as well as make changes to Federal Emergency Management Agency programs. A supporter, Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., said the FAA portion of the bill would give the aviation industry stability for planning purposes, while the FEMA portion would work to prevent and limit damage from disasters by “building better and building smarter.” The vote, on Sept. 26, was 398 yeas to 23 nays.

YEAS: Pingree, Poliquin

NONPROFITS AND HUMAN TRAFFICKING: The House has passed the Empowering Financial Institutions to Fight Human Trafficking Act (H.R. 6729), sponsored by Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Mo., to give nonprofit groups that share information about suspected human trafficking with the Treasury Department protection from liability to defamation, libel, and privacy laws. Wagner said: “This bill creates a pathway for registered nonprofits to safely provide valuable information on trafficking crimes to financial institutions, without the threat of defamation suits that could end their organizations.” An opponent, Rep. Nydia Velazquez, D-N.Y., warned that the liability protections could result “in serious unintended consequences for innocent people, including losing access to their money and to the financial system based on the mere accusation from a nonprofit.” The vote, on Sept. 26, was 297 yeas to 124 nays.

NAYS: Pingree

YEAS: Poliquin

TAXES AND RETIREMENT SAVINGS: The House has passed the Family Savings Act (H.R. 6757), sponsored by Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pa., to change various tax treatments for retirement savings accounts, including authorizing tax-free withdrawals from universal savings accounts and tax-free withdrawals used for child rearing. Kelly said the bill sought to “make it easier for American families and individuals to save for their future, whether it is retirement, education, or healthcare.” An opponent, Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, said the bill’s tax reductions mainly benefited the wealthy while “doing little or nothing for those who are struggling to have a golden year in retirement.” The vote, on Sept. 27, was 240 yeas to 177 nays.

NAYS: Pingree

YEAS: Poliquin

TAXES ON NEW BUSINESSES: The House has passed the American Innovation Act (H.R. 6756), sponsored by Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., to allow newly established businesses to immediately deduct up to $20,000 of startup organizational expenses and expand tax credits for early-life businesses. Buchanan said increasing tax incentives for new and young businesses should help in “making the United States the innovation leader of the world” by reversing the recent decline in formation of new businesses. An opponent, Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., said the bill’s reduction of tax revenue would “recklessly add to the deficit” without doing enough to help new businesses thrive. The vote, on Sept. 27, was 260 yeas to 156 nays.

NAYS: Pingree

YEAS: Poliquin


NUCLEAR ENERGY AND THE U.N.: The Senate has confirmed the nomination of Jackie Wolcott to serve as the U.S. representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency and U.S. representative to the Vienna Office of the United Nations. Wolcott has been a government official for several decades, including service on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom since 2010, and previous posts related to nuclear weapons nonproliferation and U.S. national security. Her nomination was not debated on the Senate floor. The vote, on Sept. 24, was 75 yeas to 19 nays.

YEAS: Susan Collins, R-Maine; Angus King, I-Maine

CONSUMER PRODUCT SAFETY: The Senate has confirmed the nomination of Peter A. Feldman to serve as a commissioner on the Consumer Product Safety Commission for a seven-year term ending in October 2026. Feldman had been confirmed earlier in the week to serve the remainder of a term ending in October 2019. A supporter, Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., said that in his seven years of work as senior counsel for consumer protection on the Senate Commerce Committee, Feldman has developed a “well-earned reputation for building consensus and forming coalitions to improve consumer safety.” An opponent, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said the Senate should not be confirming Feldman for two consecutive terms because that “would undermine the CPSC’s independence and set a dangerous precedent for future nominations” by creating a partisan influence on it. The vote, on Sept. 26, was 51 yeas to 49 nays.

YEAS: Collins

NAYS: King

DEFENSE ENGINEERING OFFICIAL: The Senate has confirmed the nomination of Lisa Porter to serve as Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering. Porter has worked as a scientist and administrator at NASA and other federal agencies, and most recently as an executive vice president at In-Q-Tel Labs, a firm that invests in new technologies used by government agencies. Her nomination was not debated on the Senate floor. The vote, on Sept. 26, was 98 yeas to 1 nay.

YEAS: Collins, King

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