WASHINGTON — Here’s a look at how area members of Congress voted over the previous week.
Along with roll call votes this week, the Senate also passed the Fallen Heroes Flag Act, to provide flags flown at the U.S. Capitol to the immediate family of firefighters, law enforcement officers and other public safety officers killed in the line of duty; the Breast Cancer Awareness Commemorative Coin Act, to require Treasury Department to mint coins in recognition of the fight against breast cancer; and the Global Food Security Act, to require the president and regulatory agencies to develop a global food security strategy that will supply food aid to developing countries with the goal of improving their nutrition, and resilience to drought and other disasters that impact food supply.
The House also passed a bill to prohibit the use of funds by the IRS to target U.S. citizens for exercising rights guaranteed by the first amendment to the Constitution; passed the Service Provider Opportunity Clarification Act, to require the Small Business Administration to issue regulations providing examples of a failure by subcontractors to comply in good faith with the requirements of prime contractors; passed the Small Agriculture Producer Size Standards Improvements Act, to allow the Small Business Administration to establish size standards for small agricultural enterprises using the same process used for other small business concerns; and passed the Unifying Small Business Terminology Act, to modify the anticipated value of certain contracts reserved exclusively for small businesses.
House vote 1
SETTING INTERNET SERVICE PRICING: The House has passed the No Rate Regulation of Broadband Internet Access Act, sponsored by Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Illinois. The bill would bar the Federal Communications Commission from regulating prices charged for broadband Internet service. Kinzinger said blocking the FCC from attempting to regulate broadband service would preserve a free market online, continuing a tradition that has helped the Internet spur economic growth and job creation.
A bill opponent, Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-New Jersey, said its open-ended definition of rate regulation would effectively gut the agency’s ability to oversee the Internet and act in the interest of the public by preserving net neutrality.
The vote was 241 yeas to 173 nays. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, gave a nay vote, and Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-2nd District, gave a yea vote.
House vote 2
STEM EDUCATION PROGRAMS FOR WOMEN: The House has passed the 100 Years of Women in Congress Act, sponsored by Rep. Grace Meng, D-New York. The bill would rename the Agriculture Department’s program for issuing education grants to increase the ranks of women and minorities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields as the Jeannette Rankin Women and Minorities in STEM Fields Program, after the first female representative in Congress.
Meng said renaming the program recognized Rankin’s achievements both in Congress and as a pioneering biologist in the early 1900s, and Rankin’s continuing source of inspiration for young women pursuing scientific and technical careers.
The vote was 377 yeas to 6 nays. Both Pingree and Poliquin were among the yeas.
House vote 3
IRS AND TAX DELINQUENCIES: The House has passed the No Hires for the Delinquent IRS Act, sponsored by Rep. David Rouzer, R-North Carolina. The bill would bar the IRS from adding new employees until it has been certified as having no employees with a seriously delinquent tax debt to the federal government.
Rouzer cited reports that many IRS employees have not met their tax-paying obligations, and he said the IRS has developed a “culture of arrogance and unchecked bureaucratic power,” in which workers at the agency disregard the same laws they help enforce.
A bill opponent, Rep. Sander M. Levin, D-Michigan, called it “another politically motivated attack on the IRS and its 80,000 employees, who have one of the lowest rates of tax delinquency in the federal government at around 1 percent.”
The vote was 254 yeas to 170 nays. Pingree gave a nay vote, and Poliquin gave a yea vote.
House vote 4
OVERSIGHT OF IRS SPENDING: The House has passed the IRS Oversight While Eliminating Spending Act, sponsored by Rep. Jason Smith, R-Missouri. The bill would require the Internal Revenue Service to deposit fees charged for its services in the Treasury Department’s general fund, with IRS spending of the fees barred unless Congress has authorized such spending.
Smith said the IRS has been using the fees as a slush fund for often improper spending, making the bill necessary to give Congress and the public “greater oversight in how the IRS is spending valuable taxpayer resources.”
A bill opponent, Rep. Sander M. Levin, D-Michigan, said it would translate to a significant cut in IRS efficiency by stripping away funds the agency needs to audit tax returns and provide taxpayer services.
The vote was 245 yeas to 179 nays. Pingree gave a nay vote, and Poliquin gave a yea vote.
House vote 5
CUSTOMER SERVICE AT THE IRS: The House has passed a bill, sponsored by Rep. Patrick Meehan, R-Pennsylvania, that would bar the Treasury Department from paying bonuses to IRS employees until the Treasury has adopted a comprehensive strategy for improving the agency’s customer service.
Meehan said the IRS is failing to provide timely answers to taxpayers seeking help in navigating a complex tax code and is decreasing its investment in customer service, making the halt in bonuses a needed move to encourage improved customer service at the IRS.
A bill opponent, Rep. Sander M. Levin, D-Michigan, blamed poor customer service on Congress failing to adequately fund the IRS, and he claimed House Republicans were “trying to pass the buck because they are not providing the bucks necessary for adequate taxpayer services” at the IRS.
The vote was 260 yeas to 158 nays. Pingree gave a nay vote, and Poliquin gave a yea vote.
House vote 6
EMPLOYEE MISCONDUCT AT THE IRS: The House has passed the Ensuring Integrity in the IRS Workforce Act, sponsored by Rep. Kristi L. Noem, R-South Dakota. The bill would bar the re-hiring of any IRS employee who was fired from the agency because of misconduct.
Noem cited a recent government report finding that the IRS has rehired hundreds of former employees who had done such things as falsify tax documents and improperly access sensitive taxpayer information, and he said the bill would hold the IRS accountable to Congress “for its hiring practices and ensure a high-quality workforce for the agency.”
A bill opponent, Rep. Joseph Crowley, D-New York, said “this bill is not a serious attempt at oversight of the IRS,” and Congress should instead be working on tax reform that benefits the country by forcing large corporations to pay their fair share of taxes.
The vote was 345 yeas to 78 nays. Both Pingree and Poliquin were among the yeas.
Senate vote 1
REAUTHORIZING THE FAA: The Senate has passed the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act, sponsored by Rep. Patrick J. Tiberi, R-Ohio. The bill would reauthorize the FAA and change various aviation policies, including the adoption of new rules aimed at improving the safe operation of unmanned drone aircraft and avoiding midair collisions between drones and airplanes, and tighten mental health evaluation standards for commercial pilots.
A supporter, Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, said it “contains some of the most significant passenger-friendly reforms and airport security enhancements that we have seen in years.”
The vote was 95 yeas to 3 nays. Both Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Angus King, I-Maine, were among the yeas.
Senate vote 2
ENERGY EFFICIENCY AND HOME MORTGAGES: The Senate has passed an amendment sponsored by Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia, to the Energy Policy Modernization Act. The amendment would require the Federal Housing Administration to consider energy efficiency improvements and resulting lower energy costs for a given home when reviewing a mortgage loan application for financing the home purchase.
Isakson said efforts by families to improve the energy performance of the homes they are buying should be rewarded by helping them apply the savings to reducing their mortgage costs.
The vote was 66 yeas to 31 nays. Both Collins and King were among the yeas.
Senate vote 3
ENERGY POLICY BILL: The Senate has passed the Energy Policy Modernization Act, sponsored by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska. The bill would direct the Energy Department to conduct various electricity storage and vehicle technology research programs, adopt new energy efficiency standards, increase cybersecurity requirements for the electricity grid, and require speedy reviews of applications to export liquefied natural gas.
Murkowski said it promoted more energy production, heightened energy efficiencies and innovation in the energy sector, “allowing us to finally become that global energy superpower and enjoy the benefits that come with it.”
The vote was 85 yeas to 12 nays. Both Collins and King were among the yeas.
Senate vote 4
FUNDING NEW ENERGY RESEARCH: The Senate has passed an amendment sponsored by Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, to the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act. The amendment would increase funding for the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy by $32 million, most of which would be dedicated to energy efficiency and renewable energy research programs, as well as loan guarantees for developing new energy technologies.
Schatz said ARPA-E deserved added funding because its support of “research at the cutting edge of clean energy” has proven to be highly productive.
The vote was 70 yeas to 26 nays. Both Collins and King were among the yeas.
Senate vote 5
ENERGY LOANS TO INDIAN TRIBES: The Senate has passed an amendment sponsored by Sen. Al Franken, D-Minnesota, to the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act. The amendment would provide $9 million of funding for the Energy Department’s program for guaranteeing energy loans to Indian tribes.
Franken said that using the guarantees to leverage up to $85 million of loans on tribal land would help bring electricity to remote reservations, with a resulting boost to tribal members who struggle with unemployment and a general lack of opportunity.
The vote was 76 yeas to 19 nays. Both Collins and King were among the yeas.