WASHINGTON — Here’s a look at Maine’s members of Congress voted over the previous week.
There were seven key votes in the House this week, which held a total of 17 roll call votes. There were three key votes in the Senate, which held six roll call votes. The most important Senate votes were to reject an end to debate on a sex trafficking bill. The most important House vote was to pass a bill to require hospitals to notify patients that their outpatient treatment might not be covered by Medicare.
Along with roll call votes, the House also passed the Medicare DMEPOS Competitive Bidding Improvement Act, sponsored by Rep. Patrick J. Tiberi, R-Ohio, to require state licensure and bid surety bonds for entities that submit bids under Medicare’s durable medical equipment, prosthetics, orthotics and supplies (DMEPOS) competitive acquisition program; and passed the Improving Regulatory Transparency for New Medical Therapies Act, sponsored by Rep. Joseph R. Pitts, R-Pennsylvania, to change drug scheduling recommendations by the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the registration of manufacturers and distributors seeking to conduct clinical testing of drugs.
House vote 1
TRAUMA CENTER GRANTS: The House has passed the Access to Life-Saving Trauma Care for All Americans Act, sponsored by Rep. Michael C. Burgess, R-Texas. The bill would reauthorize through 2020 the issuance of federal grants to trauma centers and to states and other governments for operating trauma centers.
Burgess said the grants help cover the costs of uncompensated care at trauma centers, provide emergency funding to the centers, and respond to the need for more physicians to staff trauma center.
The vote was 389 yeas to 10 nays. Both Reps. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, and Bruce Poliquin, R-2nd District, were among the yeas.
House vote 2
REGIONALIZING EMERGENCY CARE: The House has passed the Trauma Systems and Regionalization of Emergency Care Reauthorization Act, sponsored by Rep. Michael C. Burgess, R-Texas. The bill would reauthorize through 2020 a federal grant program to help fund trauma care systems and regionalize planning for emergency care efforts.
Burgess said “regionalizing emergency care allows states to coordinate their resources and helps first responders act faster, leading to lower costs and better outcomes.”
The vote was 382 yeas to 15 nays. Both Pingree and Poliquin were among the yeas.
House vote 3
HOSPITAL PATIENT NOTIFICATIONS: The House has passed the Notice of Observation Treatment and Implication for Care Eligibility Act, sponsored by Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas. The bill would require hospitals providing care to individuals enrolled in the Medicare part A hospital insurance program to notify outpatients of their status and tell them how their outpatient status affects their Medicare insurance coverage.
Doggett said the notification requirement would inform patients in cases where, because they are considered to be under observation rather than inpatients at a hospital, they will be personally billed for care that could cost many thousands of dollars.
The vote was unanimous with 395 yeas. Both Pingree and Poliquin were among the yeas.
House vote 4
FIREFIGHTERS AND HEALTH INSURANCE MANDATE: The House has passed the Protecting Volunteer Firefighters and Emergency Responders Act, sponsored by Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pennsylvania. The bill would exempt volunteer firefighters and emergency medical providers at charities, state and local governments from the health care reform law’s requirement that a large employer provide its employees with health insurance.
Barletta said that because the IRS considers emergency services volunteers employees for tax purposes, the bill was needed to ensure that fire companies with more than 50 volunteers do not fall under the insurance mandate, which would impose “crippling new health care costs” on the companies.
The vote was unanimous with 415 yeas. Both Pingree and Poliquin were among the yeas.
House vote 5
EPA SCIENTIFIC ADVISORY BOARD: The House has passed the EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act, sponsored by Rep. Frank D. Lucas, R-Oklahoma. The bill would set out rules governing the nine-member scientific advisory board to the Environmental Protection Agency, including requirements that board members be qualified by education, training and experience, not receive EPA funding and recuse themselves from advisory activities that involve their own work.
Lucas said that currently the advisory board is imbalanced, acts with little participation from the public, is hampered by potential conflicts of interest have gone unchecked and lacks independence from the EPA, decreasing its effectiveness.
A bill opponent, Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, D-Oregon, said it could lead to industry interests being overrepresented on the advisory board and allow lengthy delays in EPA’s regulatory process due to open-ended periods for public comment on board actions.
The vote was 236 yeas to 181 nays. Pingree gave a nay vote, and Poliquin gave a yea vote.
House vote 6
SCIENCE AND EPA REGULATIONS: The House has passed the Secret Science Reform Act, sponsored by Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas. The bill would bar the Environmental Protection Agency from enacting regulations that are not based on specific publicly available and reproducible scientific studies.
Smith said the EPA has proposed costly regulations based on unverifiable third-party science, leaving outsiders unable to determine whether the regulations stem from accurate scientific data.
A bill opponent, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, said the requirement would mean releasing private, personal health information about research study participants, and Johnson claimed the bill aimed to block the EPA from using public health studies to justify measures that protect the public from pollution.
The vote was 241 yeas to 175 nays. Pingree gave a nay vote, and Poliquin gave a yea vote.
House vote 7
RULE FOR UNION ELECTIONS: The House has passed a resolution, sponsored by Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, that would state Congress’s disapproval of a National Labor Relations Board rule to shorten the period between when employees seeking to organize a union at a workplace ask for a secret ballot election to vote on unionization and when the election takes place.
A supporter, Rep. John Kline, R-Minnesota, said the rule would arbitrarily limit the ability of both employers and employees to consider unionization, and also, by providing personal employee information to union organizers, make it easier “for labor bosses to harass employees and their families.”
A bill opponent, Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Virginia, said under the current process, unionization elections can be delayed for months or years by frivolous litigation, allowing “unscrupulous employers to engage in threats, coercion and intimidation of workers” in order to stop unionization.
The vote was 232 yeas to 186 nays. Pingree gave a nay vote, and Poliquin gave a yea vote.
Senate vote 1
TRANSPORTATION DEPARTMENT NOMINEE: The Senate has confirmed the nomination of Carlos A. Monje Jr. to serve as an assistant secretary for policy at the Department of Transportation.
A supporter, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, said Monje, currently a counselor to the Transportation Secretary and formerly an assistant to the Domestic Policy Council and various Democratic politicians, will help the DOT adopt new policies to protect consumers and improve aviation safety, including the Next Generation air traffic control system.
The vote was unanimous with 94 yeas. Both Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Angus King, I-Maine, were among the yeas.
Senate vote 2
CHILD AND SEX TRAFFICKING: The Senate has rejected a cloture motion to end debate on the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, sponsored by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas. The bill would increase financial penalties for those found guilty of smuggling or sex trafficking and increase compensation to trafficking victims, authorize block grants for child trafficking deterrence programs and classify the production of child pornography as child abuse.
Cornyn said that by imposing tougher fines and penalties against people who consume child pornography and child prostitutes, the bill would increase funding for efforts to combat child sexual exploitation.
A bill opponent, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vermont, criticized its inclusion of the Hyde amendment barring federal funding for most forms of abortion.
The vote was 57 yeas to 41 nays, with a three-fifths majority required to end debate. Collins gave a yea vote, and King gave a nay vote.
Senate vote 3
SECOND VOTE ON CHILD AND SEX TRAFFICKING DEBATE: The Senate has rejected a cloture motion to end debate on the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, sponsored by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.
A supporter, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said Democratic senators had co-sponsored the bill and approved it in committee, but were now blocking it due to pressure from “far-left lobbyists.”
An opponent, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, blamed Republicans for the impasse, due to their insistence on including the Hyde amendment barring federal funding for most forms of abortion in a bill that does not appropriate government funds.
The vote followed a proposal by Cornyn to use the appropriations process for the trafficking bill in order to address Democratic concerns that the bill sought to extend the Hyde abortion funding ban to nonappropriations legislation.
The vote was 56 yeas to 42 nays, with a three-fifths majority required to end debate. Collins gave a yea vote, and King gave a nay vote.
Collins, King, Pingree and Poliquin issued no statements this week about any of these votes.