WASHINGTON — Here’s how the state’s members of Congress voted on major issues in the week ending March 28.
U.S. support for Ukraine
By a vote of 399 for and 19 against, the House on March 27 passed a bipartisan bill (HR 4278) authorizing $70 million in U.S. aid to Ukraine, including $50 million to strengthen its civil institutions. In part, the bill expands Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Voice of America broadcasts into Ukraine, Moldova and the Crimean Peninsula. The bill also expands and gives force of law to economic penalties and visa denials ordered by President Obama against certain Russian officials and civilians who have worked to destabilize Ukraine. To pay for itself, the bill cuts U.S. aid to Pakistan by $70 million. This aid is in addition to $1 billion the House already approved in U.S. loan guarantees for Ukraine.
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Voting yes: Rick Larsen, D-Lake Stevens; Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Camas; Doc Hastings, R-Pasco; Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane; Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor; Jim McDermott, D-Seattle; Dave Reichert, R-Auburn; Adam Smith, D-Bellevue; Denny Heck, D-Olympia
Not voting: Suzan DelBene, D-Medina
By a vote of 229 to 192, the House on March 25 passed a GOP bill (HR 2824) to retain mountaintop-mining regulations from the George W. Bush administration that a federal judge struck down in February on grounds they violate the Endangered Species Act. Issued in December 2008, what is known as the “Stream Buffer Zone Rule” curbs but does not prohibit the coal-industry practice of dumping fractured rock and other waste from blasted mountaintops into adjacent streams and valleys. In part, this bill would “deem” the Bush-era rules in compliance with the Endangered Species Act. The Obama administration is drafting replacement regulations.
Voting yes: Hastings, McMorris Rodgers
Voting no: DelBene, Larsen, Herrera Beutler, Kilmer, McDermott, Reichert, Smith, Heck
Antiquities act of 1906
Voting 222-201, the House on March 26 passed a bill (HR 1459) to weaken presidential authority under the Antiquities Act of 1906 to preserve certain federal lands in their natural state. The law was enacted to give presidents a quick means of preventing looting of archaeological and historical resources such as Indian relics on federal land. But critics say modern-era presidents have been overly aggressive in giving “national-monument” protection to federal land in the West. The bill limits presidents to one national-monument designation per state in their four-year term and subjects preservation decisions to lengthy National Environmental Policy Act reviews.
Voting yes: Herrera Beutler, Hastings, McMorris Rodgers
Voting no: Larsen, Kilmer, McDermott, Reichert, Smith, Heck
Not voting: DelBene
By a vote of 193 for and 227 against, the House on March 26 defeated a bid by Democrats to delay enactment of HR 1459 (above) until after Congress has gradually raised the federal minimum wage from its present $7.25 per hour to at least $10.10 per hour.
Voting yes: Larsen, Kilmer, McDermott, Smith, Heck
Voting no: Herrera Beutler, Hastings, McMorris Rodgers, Reichert
Not voting: DelBene
U.S. support for Ukraine
By a vote of 98 to 2, the Senate on March 27 passed a bipartisan bill (HR 4152) to allocate up to $1 billion in U.S. funds to guarantee private-sector loans obtained by Ukraine to stabilize its economy and democracy. The negative votes were cast by GOP Sens. Ron Paul of Kentucky and Dean Heller of Nevada. The bill also authorizes $70 million in direct U.S. aid to Ukraine and expands economic sanctions ordered by President Obama against certain Russian officials and civilians. This vote sent the bill back to the House for routine approval and then to Obama for his signature.
Voting yes: Maria Cantwell, D; Patty Murray, D
Extended jobless benefits
Voting 65 to 34, the Senate on March 27 advanced a bipartisan bill (HR 3979) to restore jobless benefits that expired in late December for millions of the long-term unemployed. The bill would be retroactive to Dec. 28 and last through May 31. Its projected $10 billion cost would be paid for, in part, by an accounting maneuver known as “pension smoothing” that allows companies to temporarily pay less into their pension funds, which raises their taxable income over the short term.
Voting yes: Cantwell, Murray