Here’s how area members of Congress voted on major issues during the legislative week ending Dec. 14.
WASHINGTON — Here’s how area members of Congress voted on major issues during the legislative week ending Dec. 14.
Farm bill: By a vote of 369 for and 47 against, the House on Dec. 12 agreed to the conference report on a bill (HR 2) that would reauthorize federal farm, nutrition and anti-hunger programs for five years on a budget averaging $87 billion annually. The measure would renew the federal sugar program without major changes; fund programs to boost exports; subsidize crop insurance and provide price supports for growers of commodities including corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton and rice, and renew a diary program designed to stabilize incomes without directly limiting milk production. About 80 percent of the bill’s $867 billion projected cost over 10 years is allocated to nutrition and anti-hunger initiatives including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps), with the remainder to be spent on agricultural programs including income supports for agribusiness operations and family farms. The conference report omits proposed work requirements for the 40 million food-stamp recipients that the House voted previously to impose.
Voting yes: Suzan DelBene, D-Medina; Rick Larsen, D-Lake Stevens; Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Camas; Dan Newhouse, R-Sunnyside; Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane; Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor; Pramila Jayapal, D-Seattle; Dave Reichert, R-Auburn; Adam Smith, D-Bellevue; Denny Heck, D-Olympia
Support for Saudi military in Yemen: By a vote of 56 for and 41 against, the Senate on Dec. 13 adopted a measure (SJ Res 54) that would require the administration to end U.S. military support of a Saudi-led coalition waging war against Iran-backed Houthi forces in Yemen unless Congress authorizes the action under the 1973 War Powers Act. This marked the Senate`s first substantive debate and up-or- down vote on the intervention since America joined forces with the anti-Iran coalition in 2015. The House has never debated U.S. military involvement in Yemen, and Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., blocked action on this measure in the closing days of the 115th Congress.
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Voting yes: Maria Cantwell, D; Patty Murray, D
Holding crown prince responsible, rebuking Trump: On a non-record vote, the Senate on Dec. 13 adopted a resolution (SJ Res 69) holding Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia responsible for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2. The measure was a rebuke to President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who have declined to pin blame on the crown prince despite a Central Intelligence Agency assessment that he oversaw the torture and murder of the Saudi dissident and Washington Post columnist. There was no debate directly on the resolution, and it was adopted unanimously.
“Dark money’ tax rule: By a vote of 50 for and 49 against, the Senate on Dec. 12 adopted a measure (SJ Res 64) that would nullify a Trump administration rule making it more difficult for the Internal Revenue Service to police the sources of so-called “dark money” flowing into the American political system. The six-months-old rule repealed a longstanding requirement that nonprofit groups with tax-exempt status under Section 501 (c) of the tax code disclose their donors to the IRS (but not the public) so that the agency can check for illegal activity such as spending by foreign corporations and governments to influence U.S. elections. Defenders say the new rule protects free-speech and privacy rights, while critics say it gives cover to illegal political contributions by foreign donors. Under the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling, corporations, labor unions and individuals can make unlimited contributions to 501 (c) groups, which can spend the donated money to support or oppose candidates for federal office. A yes vote was to send the nullification measure to the House.
Voting yes: Cantwell, Murray
Farm bill: By a vote of 87 for and 13 against, the Senate on Dec. 11 agreed to the conference report on a bill (HR 2, above) that would reauthorize federal farm, nutrition and anti-hunger programs through fiscal 2023 at a cost averaging $87 billion annually. In addition to provisions described above, the bill would designate industrial hemp as an agricultural commodity and declassify it as a controlled substance; expand the definition of family members eligible to receive farm-subsidy payments to include first cousins, nieces and nephews; fund rural development including broadband expansion; address mental health and opioid addiction in rural America; launch a foot-and-mouth disease vaccine bank and fund bioenergy programs and organic farming research.
Voting yes: Cantwell, Murray
Jason G. Muzinich confirmation: By a vote of 55 for and 44 against, the Senate on Dec. 11 confirmed Jason G. Muzinich, 41, as deputy Treasury secretary. A Treasury employee since early 2017, he helped draft the $1.4 billion in business and personal tax cuts enacted last year by Congress. Muzinich was previously employed at Morgan Stanley and a family investment firm and also served on Jeb Bush`s presidential campaign. His nomination proved controversial over his assertion that the tax bill would pay for itself, not swell the national debt.
Voting no: Cantwell, Murray
Jonathan A. Kobes confirmation: By a vote of 51 for and 50 against, with Vice President Pence casting the deciding vote, the Senate on Dec. 11 confirmed Jonathan A. Kobes for a seat on the St. Louis-based 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. He received approval despite the American Bar Association rating him “not qualified” because he lacks “knowledge of the law, or ability to write about complex matters in a clear and cogent manner qualities that are essential for a Circuit Court judge.” Kobes, 41, was employed most recently as general counsel to Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., and also has worked as an assistant U.S. attorney in South Dakota and CIA attorney. Opponent Patty Murray, D-Wash., said: “The American Bar Association has rated him unqualified. That makes Mr. Kobes the sixth judicial nominee from President Trump who is opposed by his professional colleagues. But the thin record he does have is disqualifying because it shows he will put extreme right-wing ideology ahead of women and science” in cases concerning reproductive rights. A yes vote was to confirm the nominee.
Voting no: Cantwell, Murray
KEY VOTES AHEAD: Congress will debate criminal-justice reforms and a fiscal 2019 spending measure in the week of Dec. 17.