WASHINGTON — Here’s how our state’s House members voted on major issues in the week ending May 30. The Senate was in recess.
Fiscal 2015 budget
By a vote of 321 for and 87 against, the House on May 29 approved a bill (HR 4660) to appropriate $51.2 billion in fiscal 2015 for the departments of Commerce and Justice and science agencies such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Science Foundation and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In part, the bill boosts FBI funding to combat human trafficking, violence against women and foreign hacking of government computer systems; reduces Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grants; increases funding to improve National Weather Service forecasts while cutting the budget for climate-change research; increases spending for NASA programs aimed at exploring Mars and returning the U.S. to the moon, and provides the Bureau of Prisons with a $7 billion budget for its handling of more than 215,000 inmates in 119 federal prisons.
Additionally, the bill prohibits funding to implement the United Nations-sponsored Arms Trade Treaty to regulate international trade in conventional weapons, a pact that dozens of countries, but not the U.S., have ratified. The bill increases funding for programs that study the role of mental health and video games in causing gun violence but limits federal authorities’ ability to collect information on mass purchases of semi-automatic rifles in states along the U.S.-Mexico border. The bill increases funding to boost brain research and neuroscience, combat prescription-drug abuse and feed more information into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System for screening firearms purchasers. Also, the bill slashes funding for programs to conserve and restore fisheries habitats.
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Voting yes: Suzan DelBene, D-Medina; Rick Larsen, D-Lake Stevens; Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Camas; Doc Hastings, R-Pasco; Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane; Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor; Dave Reichert, R-Auburn
Voting no: Jim McDermott, D-Seattle; Adam Smith, D-Bellevue; Denny Heck, D-Olympia
Background checks on gun sales
Voting 260-145, the House on May 29 increased from $58.5 million to $78 million the spending in HR 4660 (above) to help states increase their supply of information on felons and the mentally ill to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS, for gun purchases. Federally licensed gun dealers are required to use the NICS to conduct criminal and mental-health checks on prospective buyers. But an estimated 40 percent of sales, including Internet sales and transactions between private parties at gun shows, are exempted from mandatory background checks.
Voting yes: DelBene, Larsen, Herrera Beutler, Hastings, McMorris Rodgers, Kilmer, McDermott, Reichert, Smith, Heck
States’ rights, medical marijuana
In a 291-189 vote, the House on May 30 adopted an amendment to HR 4660 (above) that would prohibit federal law-enforcement authorities from interfering with the administration of state medical-marijuana laws. Marijuana possession, cultivation and distribution are prosecuted as criminal offenses under federal law. But at least 26 states and the District of Columbia allow the drug to be used legally for medicinal purposes, and two states, Colorado and Washington, have legalized it for recreational use as well.
Voting yes: DelBene, Larsen, Hastings, Kilmer, McDermott, Smith, Heck
Voting no: Herrera Beutler, McMorris Rodgers, Reichert
Legal services corporation
Voting 116-290, the House on May 29 defeated an amendment to abolish the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) by eliminating its $350 million budget from HR 4660 (above). With 800 offices nationwide, the LSC provides free legal representation on an as-available basis to individuals and families with incomes below 125 percent of the federal poverty level. The LSC’s proposed $350 million budget for next year is $90 million below its fiscal 2010 budget.
Voting yes: Hastings
Voting no: DelBene, Larsen, Herrera Beutler, McMorris Rodgers, Kilmer, McDermott, Reichert, Smith, Heck
2014-2015 intelligence budgets
By a vote of 345 for and 59 against, the House on May 30 authorized fiscal 2014-2015 budgets (HR 4681) estimated at $80 billion annually for the 16 U.S. civilian and military intelligence agencies. The actual budget figures are classified. The bill tightens security rules for private contractors in response to Edward Snowden’s theft of National Security Agency (NSA) secrets while he worked for the Beltway consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton. The bill establishes the position of inspector general at the NSA; increases cybersecurity operations and investments in technology; downgrades the impact of climate change on national security; bars private contractors from performing inherently governmental functions; makes it more difficult for government intelligence specialists to take jobs with foreign-owned companies and speeds the declassification of intelligence documents.
Voting yes: Larsen, Herrera Beutler, Hastings, McMorris Rodgers, Kilmer, Reichert, Smith, Heck
Voting no: DelBene, McDermott