Here’s how area members of Congress voted on major issues in the week ending Oct. 13.
WASHINGTON — Here’s how area members of Congress voted on major issues in the week ending Oct. 13.
Disaster relief: The House on Oct. 12 approved by a vote of 353 to 69, a $36.5 billion aid package that would provide hurricane and wildfire relief funding while bailing out the financially troubled National Flood Insurance Program. This resolution rewrote the text of H.R. 2266 to be the Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Requirements Act, 2017, and sent the new text of H.R. 2266 back to the Senate for approval. The aid package would also help Puerto Rico’s financially beleaguered government avoid running out of cash in the wake of Hurricane Maria. All of the no votes came from Republicans. The disaster package, now awaiting consideration in the Senate, would be the second installment of aid money that Congress has approved in response to this year’s hurricanes, after a $15.3 billion relief measure in September. With the tab now more than $50 billion, lawmakers warn that much more money will still be needed. Lawmakers from Texas and Florida have already outlined expansive requests, adding up to tens of billions of dollars in total. And the U.S. Virgin Islands delegate to the House, Stacey Plaskett, a Democrat, complained that the package lacked aid needed by her devastated territory
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
Floor debate on bill to protect ‘Dreamers’: Voting 227 for and 190 against, the House on Oct. 11 blocked a Democratic bid to force floor consideration of a bill (HR 3440) now in committee that would grant permanent legal status to the so-called “dreamers” who were brought illegally to the United States as children. The bill would grant relief to potentially hundreds of thousands of undocumented aliens who were younger than 18 when they entered the United States; have been continuously present in the United States for at least four years; have clean law enforcement records and have received a high school (or equivalent) degree and met other conditions. This vote occurred during debate on H Res 562. President Trump on Sept. 5 revoked former president Barack Obama’s executive order known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) that temporarily shielded dreamers from potential deportation and gave them the right to work legally. Trump allowed six months for Congress to either to put protections into law or stand aside as removals go forward. He said he would work with Democrats to enact legislation safeguarding dreamers from deportation, but set terms Democratic lawmakers would not accept. With congressional Republicans also showing little interest in developing a legislative solution, Democrats have begun forcing votes such as this one to keep the issue before the public as the March deadline approaches. A yes vote was to block floor debate on the DACA bill.
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Voting yes: Herrera Beutler, Newhouse, McMorris Rodgers, Reichert
Voting no: DelBene, Larsen, Kilmer, Jayapal, Smith, Heck
Federal whistleblower protections: By a unanimous vote of 420 for and none against, the House on Oct. 12 passed a bill (S 585) that would increase protections for whistleblowers in the civil service, with a focus on shielding Department of Veterans Affairs employees who challenge their supervisors policies and actions. The bill is named after Dr. Chris Kirkpatrick, a clinical psychologist at the Tomah, Wis., veterans hospital who committed suicide in 2009 after being fired in a dispute with superiors over whether patients were being overmedicated by drugs including opioids. In part, the bill requires the training of all DVA employees in whistleblower rights; requires the department to inform employees of available mental health services including online counseling; stiffens penalties against supervisors throughout the government who retaliate against defiant employees and takes governmentwide steps to prevent whistleblowers’ medical records from being used against them. A yes vote was to send the bill to President Trump.
Voting yes: DelBene, Larsen, Herrera Beutler, Newhouse, McMorris Rodgers, Kilmer, Jayapal, Reichert, Smith, Heck
Cabinet travel: Voting 190 for and 232 against, the House on Oct. 12 defeated a bid by Democrats to extend whistleblower protections in S 585 (above) to civil servants who reveal information on improper travel by political appointees in the executive branch including cabinet members. The vote followed Tom Price’s resignation as secretary of Health and Human Services over disclosures that he had taken charter and military flights costing taxpayers more than $1 million, and amid questions raised over taxpayer-funded travel by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin. A yes vote was to expand the bill to cover whistle-blowing on improper cabinet travel.
Voting yes: DelBene, Larsen, Kilmer, Jayapal, Smith, Heck
Voting no: Herrera Beutler, Newhouse, McMorris Rodgers, Reichert
The House is adjourning until Monday, October 23rd. The Senate returns to work on Monday, October 16th.