Congress Election Security

Sen. Mark R. Warner, D-Va., walks on Capitol Hill after attending a briefing on election security on July 10.

WASHINGTON — Here’s how area members of Congress voted on major issues during the legislative week ending July 19:

House

Condemning Trump’s comments. Voting 240 for and 187 against, the House on July 16 adopted a measure (H Res 489) that “strongly condemns President Donald Trump’s racist comments that have legitimized and increased fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color.” Republicans cast all of the votes against the resolution. The entire Democratic caucus voted for it, as did Republicans Susan Brooks of Indiana, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Fred Upton of Michigan and Will Hurd of Texas and independent Justin Amash of Michigan. Six Republicans did not vote. The 435-seat House has two vacancies.

The measure was offered in response to Twitter postings by the president on July 14 that criticized an outspoken quartet of progressive Democrats — Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. They are women of color, and all but Omar, a native Somali, were born in the United States. The president wrote that they have been “loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run. Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how it is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough.”

A yes vote was to adopt the resolution.

Voting yes: Abigail Spanberger, D-7th.

Voting no: Denver Riggleman, R-5th.

Calling Trump tweets racist. The House on July 16 voted, 231 for and 190 against, to allow Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to describe President Trump’s July 14 Twitter postings as racist during debate on H Res 489 (above).

Pelosi said: “Every single member of this institution, Democratic and Republican, should join us in condemning the president’s racist tweets. To do anything less would be a shocking rejection of our values and a shameful abdication of our oath of office.”

Republicans asked for the characterization of Trump’s comments as racist to be stricken from the Congressional Record under House rules of decorum, and the parliamentarian upheld their request. Democrats overturned the ruling on this vote.

A yes vote was to let Pelosi’s labeling of Trump’s language appear in the official record.

Voting yes: Spanberger.

Voting no: Riggleman.

Shelving Trump impeachment. Voting 332 for and 95 against, the House on July 17 tabled (killed) a resolution (H Res 498) calling for impeachment of President Trump on grounds he has demonstrated he is manifestly unfit for the office. Republicans voted unanimously to kill the resolution, as did 137 Democrats and the chamber’s one independent. Democrats cast all of the 95 votes to proceed with impeachment.

The Constitution allows Congress to remove a president for treason, bribery or “other high crimes and misdemeanors.” Should the House vote to impeach, or essentially bring charges, the Senate would conduct a trial, with a two-thirds vote needed for conviction and removal from office.

The resolution tabled by the House accused Trump of “high misdemeanors.” It cited the president’s demeaning of immigrants and asylum seekers and pointed to the House’s condemnation (above) of the president’s July 14 Twitter attacks against four first-term House Democrats, all women of color, who have urged their party to vigorously pursue a progressive agenda. In part, the call for impeachment said Trump has brought “contempt, ridicule, disgrace, and disrepute” to the presidency.

As a privileged resolution, the measure was not debatable.

A yes vote was in opposition to starting impeachment proceedings.

Voting yes: Riggleman, Spanberger.

Passing fiscal year 2020 intelligence budget. Voting 397 for and 31 against, the House on July 17 approved a fiscal year 2020 budget (HR 3494) estimated at $85 billion or more for the 16 U.S. civilian and military intelligence agencies, with the actual figure classified. In part, the bill would fund steps to protect U.S. elections from foreign interference and the domestic energy grid from cyberattacks; require measures to counter the spread of domestic terrorism including actions by white supremacists; step up intelligence collections on drug and human trafficking in Mexico and the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras; allocate resources for reducing a deep backlog of applicants for top-security clearances; give priority to collection and analytic capabilities against China, Russia, Iran and North Korea; require the FBI to notify Congress of any counterintelligence probes related to federal elections; and recruit private-sector expertise for developing countermeasures to the forged and manipulated digital content known as “deepfake.”

To attract and retain a skilled intelligence-community workforce, the bill would help employees discharge student loans and establish 12 weeks’ paid family and medical leave to accommodate circumstances including childbirth, adoptions and foster placements. The bill would assure compensation for family members of CIA employees killed while in service.

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

Voting yes: Riggleman, Spanberger.

Removing climate council from intelligence budget. Voting 178 for and 255 against, the House on July 17 refused to strip HR 3494 (above) of funding to establish a Climate Security Advisory Council, which would coordinate efforts by U.S. intelligence agencies to monitor the global impact of climate breakdowns on national security. The council would be established in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

A yes vote was to defund the bill’s advisory council on climate change.

Voting yes: Riggleman.

Voting no: Spanberger.

Raising federal minimum wage. Voting 231 for and 199 against, the House on July 18 passed a bill (HR 582) that would gradually increase the federal minimum wage from its present level of $7.25 per hour to $15 per hour starting in 2025. The $15 figure would be indexed to keep pace with increases in the median hourly wage as measured by the Department of Labor. In addition, the bill would phase out separate minimum wages for disabled and tipped employees and new hires younger than 20 so that these individuals eventually receive the same base wage as the rest of the private-sector workforce.

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

Voting yes: Spanberger.

Voting no: Riggleman.

Exempting mom-and-pop firms. Voting 210 for and 218 against, the House on July 18 defeated a Republican motion that sought to exempt establishments with fewer than 10 employees or annual sales under $1 million from the minimum-wage requirements of HR 582 (above).

A yes vote was to exclude mom-and-pop firms from the bill.

Voting yes: Riggleman, Spanberger.

Repealing “Cadillac tax” in health law. Voting 419 for and six against, the House on July 17 passed a bill (HR 748) that would permanently remove from the Affordable Care Act the so-called “Cadillac tax” on employer-sponsored health plans having high costs and generous benefits. Scheduled to take effect on 2022, the 40% excise tax, to be paid by employers and insurers, would be levied initially on the value of plans above $11,200 for individuals and $30,000 for families. The tax is intended to contain health care costs while generating revenue to finance other parts of the 2010 health law. But critics say it would harm policyholders as employers reduce benefits and increase out-of-pocket costs to skirt triggering thresholds. Because the bill lacks a “pay for” mechanism, it would add $197 billion to national debt through 2029, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

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

Voting yes: Riggleman, Spanberger.

Holding Barr, Ross in contempt of Congress. Voting 230 for and 198 against, the House on July 17 held Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in criminal contempt of Congress over their failure to comply with congressional subpoenas for documents related to the administration’s now-abandoned plan to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. The citation will prove to be largely symbolic because the Department of Justice is unlikely to enforce it.

A yes vote was to hold Barr and Ross in criminal contempt of Congress.

Voting yes: Spanberger.

Voting no: Riggleman.

Senate

Blanchard for ambassador to Slovenia. Voting 54 for and 40 against, the Senate on July 18 confirmed Lynda Blanchard of Montgomery, Alabama, as U.S. ambassador to the Republic of Slovenia. Blanchard is co-founder of a real estate investment firm and a nonprofit for helping impoverished children in the United States and developing countries, and she is also known for circulating murderous conspiracy theories about Bill and Hillary Clinton on Facebook. A Republican Party donor, she received her ambassadorial nomination in June 2018 after her husband, John, donated more than $500,000 to the Trump inaugural fund, according to NBC News.

A yes vote was to confirm the nominee.

Voting no: Mark R. Warner (D); Tim Kaine (D).

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