Recent Congressional Votes

  • Senate: Farm Bill – Amendment Vote
  • House: Keystone Pipeline Approval – Final Passage
  • House: Student Loan Interest Rate Reform – Final Passage

Editor’s Note: The House and Senate are in recess until Monday, June 3.

Recent Senate Votes

Farm Bill – Amendment Vote – Vote Agreed to (59-33, 8 Not Voting)

The Senate began working its way through amendments last week to a five-year reauthorization of food and nutrition programs, with a view toward passing the bill after the Memorial Day recess. This year’s farm bill is very similar to last year’s version, with some exceptions including greater support for Southern crops such as rice, cotton and peanuts. The bill would reduce spending on food stamps by about $4 billion and would reduce the deficit by $17.9 billion over ten years. The last amendment vote of the week changed the bill to reduce by 15 percent the amount of crop insurance subsidies for farmers with adjusted gross incomes above $750,000 a year. The amendment includes a clause stating that the new limitation would not take effect if the Agriculture secretary determines that it would result in a decline in overall crop insurance coverage or increase the total cost of the program. Other amendment votes last week included: a Gillibrand, D-N.Y. amendment to block the food stamp cuts (defeated, RC 131); an Inhofe, R-Okla. amendment to turn the food stamp program into a block grant to the states (defeated, RC 132); and a Sanders, I-Vt. amendment to permit states to require labeling of genetically-modified foods (defeated, RC 135). President Obama supports the Senate bill. The House is working on its own farm bill (H.R. 1947), which passed out of committee on May 15. The House measure would reduce the deficit by almost twice as much as the Senate bill, including more than $20 billion in cuts to nutrition programs.

Sen. Brian Schatz voted YES
Sen. Mazie Hirono voted NO

 


Recent House Votes

Keystone Pipeline Approval – Final Passage – Vote Passed (241-175, 1 Present, 16 Not Voting)

Returning to an issue from last Congress, the House passed a bill last week to force approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport diluted bitumen (or “tar sands”) from Canada through the American heartland to refining facilities on the Gulf Coast. Approval of pipelines do not normally spark so much controversy, but Keystone requires presidential approval because it crossed an international boundary, thus placing President Obama in the middle of a fight that places labor unions and environmentalists, two of his key constituencies, on opposing sides. H.R. 3 would seek to remove Obama from the approval process by declaring a presidential permit was not a necessity. It would deem various documents and reports that have been issued by federal and state entities over the last two years as satisfying the various regulatory thresholds to begin construction of the pipeline. It would essentially cut the Environmental Protection Agency out of the oversight process, and would force the Army Corps of Engineers to issue construction permits within 90 days of an application being filed. The president has threatened to veto the bill, though the Senate is unlikely to take it up in any case.

Rep. Colleen Hanabusa voted NO

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard voted NO


Student Loan Interest Rate Reform – Final Passage – Vote Passed (221-198, 15 Not Voting)

In its last action before the recess, the House passed a bill to overhaul student loan interest rates. Interest rates are currently set to rise from 3.4 to 6.8 percent this summer. H.R. 1911 would set rates for Stafford loans at the level of the 10-year Treasury Note plus 2.5 percent (capped at 8.5 percent), while PLUS loans would be set at 10-year Treasuries plus 4.5 percent (capped at 10.5 percent). Though Republicans stated that the bill was modeled on reforms from President Obama’s FY 2014 budget, the president has threatened to veto the bill . It is not clear what the Senate intends to do about interest rates at this time.

Rep. Colleen Hanabusa voted NO

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard voted NO

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