How Hawaii’s Elected Officials Voted – June 12, 2012

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In this MegaVote for Hawaii’s 1st Congressional District:

Recent Congressional Votes

  • Senate: Wage Discrimination
  • Senate: Farm Bill
  • House: Energy-Water Appropriations
  • House: Medical Device Tax Repeal
  • House: Homeland Security Appropriations
  • House: Legislative Branch Appropriations

Upcoming Congressional Bills

  • Senate: Farm Bill

Editor’s Note: The House is in recess this week.

Recent Senate Votes

Wage Discrimination – Vote Rejected (52-47, 1 Not Voting)

The Senate failed to invoke cloture last week on a motion to proceed to a bill that would provide additional legal recourse to individuals who experience gender-based wage discrimination. Among other provisions, the bill would have allowed employees to sue for punitive damages (as opposed to just back pay) and would increase penalties against employers who engage in wage discrimination based on gender. The measure would also make it illegal for employers to retaliate against workers for talking about their wages with each other. Republicans decried the bill as unnecessary and a boon to trial lawyers, while Democrats continued to hammer their election-year theme of the GOP being out of touch with women. The President expressed strong support for the bill.

  • Sen. Daniel Inouye voted YES……send e-mail or see bio
  • Sen. Daniel Akaka voted YES……send e-mail or see bio

Farm Bill – Vote Agreed to (90-8, 2 Not Voting)

After much talk about a revolt among Southern senators, the Senate easily invoked cloture on a motion to proceed to its version of the multi-year reauthorization of farm and nutrition programs. Ultimately the only senators voting against cloture were Republican fiscal hawks who will likely vote against the bill anyway. Nonetheless, battle lines have been drawn between the Agriculture committee’s top two members, Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich. and Ranking Member Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and about a dozen Southern senators. Stabenow and Roberts have drawn up a bill that eliminates about $5 billion in annual direct payments to farmers and replaces it with a “shallow loss” program that would replace revenue losses of 11 to 21 percent below a five-year average. Southern senators object that this program would be of little help to their farmers, whose rice, peanut and cotton crops are less subject to natural disaster than wheat and corn but more subject to price fluctuation. Southerners are demanding some form of guaranteed price protection. Another battle will center around funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Both the Senate and House Agriculture committees have proposed SNAP cuts, with much larger cuts expected to come out of the House. Democrats in both houses are opposed to these cuts. The House has yet to mark up its version of the bill, and there is some question over whether it will happen later in the summer or not at all. Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., Ranking Democratic on House Ag, has expressed confidence the measure will come to the floor, but a “summer agenda” memo distributed by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va. made no mention of it. President Obama has backed the Senate bill.

  • Sen. Daniel Inouye voted YES……send e-mail or see bio
  • Sen. Daniel Akaka voted YES……send e-mail or see bio

Recent House Votes

Energy-Water Appropriations – Vote Passed (255-165, 11 Not Voting)

The House passed three FY 2013 appropriations bills last week, the first of which covered funding for the Department of Energy (DOE), Army Corps of Engineers and water development projects under the Interior Department, as well as various independent agencies including the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. This is typically a non-controversial measure, but that did not stop Members from forcing nearly three dozen amendment votes on the floor. Most of these involved either shifting funds from one program area to another or barring funding for an activity disliked by a particular Member. Very few amendments passed. The underlying bill would increase funding for DOE’s nuclear weapons programs by $298 million and cut the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) account within the Energy Department by $428 million. Several Democratic amendments attempted to restore EERE funding, but each was turned aside. The bill would also prohibit the closure of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste depository, a priority of President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. The President has issued a veto threat on the measure.

  • Rep. Colleen Hanabusa voted NO……send e-mail or see bio
  • Rep. Mazie Hirono voted NO……send e-mail or see bio

Medical Device Tax Repeal – Vote Passed (270-146, 15 Not Voting)

House Republicans, with the help of 37 Democrats, passed a bill last week repealing the 2.3-percent tax on medical devices that was included as a pay-for in the 2010 health care overhaul. Bundled into the device tax repeal bill was a separate measure ending the overhaul’s restriction on using certain tax-preferred accounts to buy over-the-count drugs, and a third provision allowing individuals to recoup up to $500 remaining in their FSAs at the end of a plan year. The measure would be paid for by lifting caps on liability for overpayments of subsidized coverage under the overhaul. President Obama has threatened to veto the measure. Senator Scott P. Brown, R-Mass. and Orrin Hatch, R-Utah have introduced device tax repeal bills in the upper chamber, neither of which has attracted Democratic cosponsors.

  • Rep. Colleen Hanabusa voted NO……send e-mail or see bio 
  • Rep. Mazie Hirono voted NO……send e-mail or see bio 

Homeland Security Appropriations – Vote Passed (234-182, 15 Not Voting)

Second on the approps docket last week was funding for the Department of Homeland Security. Several provisions in the House measure have caused consternation among House Democrats and the Administration. These include a new limitation on the ability of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials to provide abortions for detainees and cuts to a program that provides alternatives (such as electronic monitoring) to detention for individuals who are in deportation proceedings. Sure to cause additional heartburn for Democrats is an amendment offered by Steve King, R-Iowa to bar funding for the Administration’s “prosecutorial discretion” policy in targeting certain illegal immigrants for deportation. The policy, dating to June 2011, instructs ICE personnel to focus their resources on individuals with criminal records and to “consider relevant factors” before targeting certain others, including members of the armed forces, those who came to the United States as children, and high school and college graduates. Republicans have called this policy “administrative amnesty.” King’s amendment passed, mostly along party lines (Roll Call #363). The president has threatened to veto the bill.

  • Rep. Colleen Hanabusa voted NO……send e-mail or see bio
  • Rep. Mazie Hirono voted NO……send e-mail or see bio

Legislative Branch Appropriations – Vote Passed (307-102, 22 Not Voting)

Last but not least (at least not for lawmakers), the House passed its measure funding FY 13 spending on legislative branch operations. The measure provides funding for Member and committee offices and operations of agencies such as the Library of Congress, Capitol Police, Congressional Research Service (CRS), and Government Accountability Office (GAO). The House bill would cut funding for House operations by one percent, hold CRS flat and give bumps of six, two, and one percent to the Capitol Police, GAO and the Congressional Budget Office respectively. A 10 percent cut to the Architect of the Capitol means that ongoing restoration of the Capitol dome would be placed on hold. Funding for Senate operations will be taken up by the Senate Appropriations committee.

  • Rep. Colleen Hanabusa voted YES……send e-mail or see bio
  • Rep. Mazie Hirono ABSENT

Upcoming Votes

Farm Bill – S.3240

The Senate is scheduled to continue work on the farm bill.