Politics & Government

Here’s how local representatives voted Oct. 9-13, 2017

Here’s how members of the House in the area voted on major issues in the week ending Oct. 13. The Senate was in recess.

HOUSE

$36.5 BILLION FOR HURRICANE, WILDFIRE RELIEF: Voting 353 for and 69 against, the House on Oct. 12 passed a bill (HR 2266) that would appropriate $36.5 billion to fund recovery from hurricanes Maria, Harvey and Irma and this months wildfires in California. Because this is emergency spending not offset elsewhere in the budget, it would be added to federal deficits. The bill’s major outlays are $18.7 billion to the Federal Emergency Management Agencys disaster-relief fund; $16 billion to enable the heavily indebted National Flood Insurance Program pay claims and $576.6 million for wildfire recovery. The package includes $4.9 billion in loan authority to help Puerto Rico and its municipalities pay their bills as recovery proceeds.

No member spoke against the bill.

A yes vote was to send the bill to the Senate.

Reps. Glenn Thompson, R-Howard Township, and Bill Shuster, R-Hollidaysburg, voted yes.

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 lawmakerswould 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.

Opponents did not speak during brief discussion of the motion.

A yes vote was to block floor debate on the DACA bill.

Thompson and Shuster voted yes.

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 over-medicated 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 government-wide steps to prevent whistleblowers’ medical records from being used against them.

No member spoke against the bill.

A yes vote was to send the bill to President Trump.

Thompson and Shuster voted yes.

BLOWING WHISTLES ON 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 whistleblowing on improper cabinet travel.

Thompson and Shuster voted no.

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