Here’s how area members of Congress voted on major issues during the legislative week ending Dec. 21.
WASHINGTON — Here’s how area members of Congress voted on major issues during the legislative week ending Dec. 21.
Budget dispute over border-wall funding: Voting 217 for and 185 against, the House on Dec. 20 sent the Senate a short-term government-funding bill (HR 695) that includes $5.7 billion requested by President Trump for construction of a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. Democrats voted unanimously against the bill because of the wall expenditure. The bill wraps together seven fiscal 2019 appropriations bills totaling about $250 billion to fund agencies including the Department of Homeland Security between Dec. 22-Feb. 8. Congress already has passed the other five basic appropriations bills for 2019, which total $845 billion and fund the departments of Defense, Education, Labor, and Health and Human Services.
Voting yes: Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Camas, Dan Newhouse, R-Sunnyside, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, Dave Reichert, R-Auburn
Voting no: Suzan DelBene, D-Medina, Rick Larsen, D-Lake Stevens, Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, Pramila Jayapal, D-Seattle, Adam Smith, D-Bellevue, Denny Heck, D-Olympia
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Criminal-justice overhaul: By a vote of 358 for and 36 against, the House on Dec. 20 joined the Senate in passing a bipartisan bill (S 756) that would revamp the federal prison system in an effort to improve the rehabilitation of inmates, lower rates of recidivism, impose more humane incarceration rules and scale back mandatory-minimum sentencing laws including ones that impose lengthy terms on nonviolent drug offenders. The bill would require qualified prisoners to be assigned to prisons within 500 miles of home; virtually eliminate the solitary confinement of juveniles; write into law rules against shackling pregnant and postpartum inmates; expand the use of medications to treat opioid and heroin addiction; require dyslexia screening and treatment; expand prison industries to provide more jobs for inmates and set more-compassionate release terms for elderly prisoners.
Voting yes: DelBene, Larsen, Herrera Beutler, Newhouse, McMorris Rodgers, Kilmer, Jayapal, Reichert, Smith, Heck
Republican tax package: By a vote of 220 for and 183 against, the House on Dec. 20 passed a Republican-drafted bill (HR 88) that would temporarily repeal certain Affordable Care Act taxes including a 2.3 percent levy on medical devices; provide one-time tax relief to victims of natural disasters this year in 14 states and territories; extend an array of credits and deductions for businesses, individuals and other beneficiaries; make organizational changes at the Internal Revenue Service and correct drafting errors in the Republicans’ 2017 tax-cut law. The bill would add between $50 billion and $100 billion to national debt because it is not paid for. In addition, the bill would scale back the so-called “Johnson rule,” which prevents religious and charitable organizations with tax-exempt status under Section 501(c) of the tax code from supporting or opposing candidates for public office. A yes vote was to send HR 88 to the Senate, where it was dead on arrival.
Voting yes: Herrera Beutler, Newhouse, McMorris Rodgers, Reichert
Voting no: DelBene, Larsen, Kilmer, Jayapal, Smith, Heck
Criminal-justice overhaul: The Senate on Dec. 18 passed, 87-12, a bill (S 756, above) that would give federal judges more discretion to set sentences, reduce mandatory-minimum terms for nonviolent drug offenders and remove lingering disparities in sentences for crack-cocaine vs. powder-cocaine offenders, among other changes to the federal criminal-justice system. A yes vote was to send the bill to the House. The bill does not directly affect the nation`s nearly 2 million state and local inmates. On the federal level, it would give judges more discretion to tailor sentences to the severity of the crime; reduce mandatory-minimum sentences for nonviolent, low- level drug offenders; reduce mandatory sentences from life to 25 years for “three strike” drug felons and remove lingering disparities in sentences for crack-cocaine vs. powder-cocaine offenders. To reduce recidivism, or relapse into crime, the bill would require the Federal Bureau of Prisons to tailor a rehabilitation plan for each inmate in areas such as high-school-equivalency education, vocational training, substance-abuse treatment, anger management and faith-based engagement. In return for sustained participation in such programs, qualified inmates could receive credits toward early release to halfway houses or home-custody.
Voting yes: Maria Cantwell, D, Patty Murray, D