Votes in Congress: How the area's delegation voted on major bills this week - The Daily Progress: Local

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Votes in Congress: How the area's delegation voted on major bills this week

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Posted: Saturday, July 27, 2013 4:14 pm

WASHINGTON -- Here's how area members of Congress voted on major issues in the week ending July 26.


2014 military budget. Voting 315 for and 109 against, the House on July 24 sent the Senate a $595 billion military appropriations bill for fiscal 2014, including $82 billion for war in Afghanistan and other theaters. The bill (HR 2397) funds a 1.8 percent military pay raise; authorizes 1.36 million active-duty forces and 833,700 National Guard and Reserve troops; bars closure of the Guantanamo Bay military prison; advances plans for an East Coast missile- defense installation; bars military actions in Syria without congressional approval and takes steps to prevent sexual assaults and, if they occur, to deal with them within the chain of command where the offense occurs.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

Voting yes: Robert Hurt, R-5th; Eric I. Cantor, R-7th.

Telephone records dragnet. Voting 205 for and 217 against, the House on July 24 defeated an amendment to HR 2397 (above) that sought to outlaw the National Security Agency's bulk collection of most American telephone calls under Section 215 of the Patriot Act. The dragnet picks up the number called, the number calling and the duration of the call but not the content of the communication. Stored as "metadata" in a vast database, the records reportedly are not associated with names unless the NSA has cause to target a particular communication in a terrorism investigation.

The NSA says its searches for suspicious calling patterns have helped it spot nefarious activity and prevent terrorist acts, while critics say the mass collection of innocent Americans' telephone records without specific warrants violates Fourth Amendment privacy guarantees.

A yes vote was to outlaw the NSA's bulk collection of telephone records.

Voting no: Hurt, Cantor.

Bipartisan defense-spending cut. Voting 215 for and 206 against, the House on July 24 defeated a bipartisan amendment to strip HR 2379 (above) of $3.6 billion for overseas operations that the Pentagon did not request. Sponsored by Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., and Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., the amendment sought to reduce funding for Afghanistan and other theaters to the level requested by the Pentagon, thus removing extra billions inserted by the Appropriations Committee.

A yes vote backed the defense-spending cut.

Voting no: Hurt, Cantor.

East Coast missile defense. Voting 173 for and 249 against, the House on July 23 refused to strip HR 2379 (above) of its $70 million for planning an East Coast missile-defense installation to go with existing sites in California and Alaska. Neither Congress nor the Department of Defense has authorized an East Coast site, and the Pentagon did not request these funds. Backers said the site is a needed hedge against burgeoning nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea.

A yes vote opposed funding an East Coast anti-missile site.

Voting no: Hurt, Cantor.

Regulation of coal ash. Voting 265 for and 155 against, the House on July 25 passed a Republican bill (HR 2218) giving states rather than the Environmental Protection Agency primary authority to regulate the coal ash left as waste by coal-burning power plants. The bill would override an ongoing EPA effort to implement the first federal regulation of coal ash, which is an inorganic, toxic substance now retained in ponds or landfills near power plants.

The EPA began its rulemaking after a spill in December 2008 at a Tennessee Valley Authority power plant near Kingston, Tenn., in which coal-ash sludge flowed from a containment pond over 300 acres of land and into two rivers.

A yes vote was to send the bill to the Senate.

Voting yes: Hurt, Cantor.

Groundwater contamination. Voting 192 for and 225 against, the House on July 25 defeated a Democratic-sponsored requirement that state- regulated disposal structures built under the terms of HR 2218 (above) be sufficient to prevent coal ash toxins from seeping into water tables and surface waters such as the Great Lakes.

A yes vote backed the Democratic motion.

Voting no: Hurt, Cantor.

Interstate environmental risks. Voting 176 for and 239 against, the House on July 25 defeated a Democratic-sponsored amendment to HR 2218 (above) requiring Environmental Protection Administration intervention to keep one state's coal- ash disposal program from creating environmental and drinking-water problems in another state.

A yes vote backed the amendment.

Voting no: Hurt, Cantor.


Student-loan interest rates. Voting 81 for and 18 against, the Senate on July 24 passed a bipartisan bill (HR 1911) setting variable but capped interest rates for higher-education loans, retroactive to July 1. For Stafford undergraduate loans, the rate would be set annually at the prevailing rate for a 10-year Treasury note plus 2.05 percentage points, with a cap of 8.25 percent. For Stafford loans for the upcoming school year, that translates into nearly 3.9 percent interest that would be fixed for the life of the loan. Under the bill, rates for graduate loans are set at the 10-year Treasury rate plus 3.6 percentage points, with a cap of 9.5 percent, and for Parent Plus loans, rates are set at the 10-year T-note rate plus 4.6 percentage points, with a cap of 10.5 percent.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the government is expected to issue $1.4 trillion in student loans over 10 years under the terms of this bill, generating $715 million in profits for the Treasury.

A yes vote was to send the bill to the House, where a vote was expected soon.

Voting yes: Mark R. Warner (D); Timothy M. Kaine (D).

2014 transportation, housing budget. Voting 73 for and 26 against, the Senate on July 25 advanced a bill (S 1243) to appropriate $54 billion in fiscal 2014 for the departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development and related agencies. The bill funds initiatives such as airport improvements, maritime programs, highway safety, mass transit, intercity rail, public housing and Community Development Block Grants to cities. Separately, it releases $53.5 billion from the Highway Trust Fund for road and bridge repairs and new construction in the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. Having cleared this procedural hurdle, the bill was on course for more debate and final passage in late July or early August.

A yes vote was to advance the bill.

Voting yes: Warner, Kaine.

Public-housing disqualifiers. Voting 99 for and one against, the Senate on July 23 amended S 1243 (above) to deny public-housing assistance to individuals convicted of sex offenses, murder and certain other state or federal crimes. Current law allows offenders to be barred from public-housing programs on the basis of their criminal past but does not make the exclusion mandatory, as this amendment does.

A yes vote was to adopt the amendment.

Voting yes: Warner, Kaine.


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