The House was not in session last week. Along with roll call votes, the Senate passed a resolution (S. Res. 292), condemning the brutal and senseless attack at the country music festival in Las Vegas on Oct. 1; and passed the Child Protection Improvements Act (H.R. 695), to establish a voluntary national criminal history background check system and criminal history review program for certain workers who have access to children, the elderly, or the disabled.

SENATE VOTES

VATICAN AMBASSADOR: The Senate confirmed the nomination of Callista Gingrich to serve as ambassador to the Vatican. Gingrich, the wife of longtime House member Newt Gingrich, worked for nearly two decades as a House aide and clerk on the House Agriculture Committee. A supporter, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Gingrich “will continue the strong relationship between our nation and the Vatican, building upon shared values, goals, and global responsibilities.” The vote Monday was 70 yeas to 23 nays.

YEAS: Susan Collins, R-Maine, Angus King, I-Maine

DEFENSE OFFICIAL: The Senate confirmed the nomination of David Joel Trachtenberg to serve as principal deputy undersecretary of defense. Trachtenberg served as an official in various roles at the Defense Department and, more recently, as a private national security consultant. The vote Tuesday was 79 yeas to 17 nays.

YEAS: Collins, King

MEDICARE RESERVE FUND: The Senate approved an amendment sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, to a bill (H. Con. Res. 71) setting out a government budget for fiscal 2018 and suggested budget levels for 2019 through 2027. The amendment would establish a deficit-neutral reserve fund to be used to maintain funding for Medicare and Medicaid. Hatch said the fund would promote “a stronger, more fiscally sound safety net” that improves the fiscal sustainability of Medicare and Medicaid. The vote Wednesday was 89 yeas to 8 nays.

YEAS: Collins, King

MEDICAID SPENDING: The Senate rejected an amendment sponsored by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., to a bill (H. Con. Res. 71) setting out a government budget for fiscal 2018 and suggested budget levels for 2019 through 2027. The amendment would have increased Medicaid spending by $1 trillion and increased taxes by a similar amount. Sanders said: “This amendment says no to the cutting of $1 trillion from Medicaid and forcing 15 million Americans off the health insurance they currently have, while at the same time providing a $1.9 trillion tax break to the top 1 percent.” An opponent, Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., said that by maintaining an unsustainable status quo for Medicare spending, the amendment would keep the program “on a path toward bankrupting our states.” The vote Wednesday was 47 yeas to 51 nays.

NAYS: Collins

YEAS: King

MEDICARE AND TAXES: The Senate rejected an amendment sponsored by Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., to a bill (H. Con. Res. 71) setting out a government budget for fiscal 2018 and suggested budget levels for 2019 through 2027. The amendment would have increased taxes by $473 billion, with the funds to be used to avoid $473 billion in cuts to Medicare spending. Nelson said that by preserving Medicare, the amendment would avert a damaging loss of access to health care for senior citizens. An opponent, Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., said the tax increases would hurt the economy, while the proposed Medicare cuts would be merely a decline in the projected annual rate of spending increases and was needed to preserve Medicare. The vote Wednesday was 47 yeas to 51 nays.

NAYS: Collins

YEAS: King

TAX CUTS FOR FAMILIES: The Senate passed an amendment sponsored by Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., to a bill (H. Con. Res. 71) setting out a government budget for fiscal 2018 and suggested budget levels for 2019 through 2027. The amendment would establish a deficit-neutral reserve fund to be used to lower taxes on families with children. Heller said the tax cuts “will help begin to address the financial insecurities facing American families and will help families confront the rising cost of raising children.” The vote Wednesday was unanimous with 98 yeas.

YEAS: Collins, King

DEDUCTING LOCAL TAXES: The Senate passed an amendment sponsored by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., to a bill (H. Con. Res. 71) setting out a government budget for fiscal 2018 and suggested budget levels for 2019 through 2027. The amendment would reduce the ability of taxpayers to deduct their state and local taxes from their federal income tax. Capito said the deductions overwhelmingly benefited wealthy taxpayers, and reducing expensive deductions would provide relief for the working class. An amendment opponent, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said “more than half the taxpayers claiming the state and local deduction make less than $100,000,” and removing their deductions would mean double taxation on their income. The vote Thursday was 52 yeas to 47 nays.

YEAS: Collins

NAYS: King

SIMPLIFYING TAXES: The Senate passed an amendment sponsored by Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., to a bill (H. Con. Res. 71) setting out a government budget for fiscal 2018 and suggested budget levels for 2019 through 2027. The amendment would establish a deficit-neutral reserve fund to be used to make the tax system simpler and fairer for all Americans. Flake said Congress needed to lower tax rates and broaden the tax base by eliminating spending through tax preferences and loopholes and deductions to make the tax code simpler and more efficient. The vote Thursday was unanimous with 98 yeas.

YEAS: Collins, King

PAYMENTS TO RURAL COUNTIES: The Senate passed an amendment sponsored by Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., to a bill (H. Con. Res. 71) setting out a government budget for fiscal 2018 and suggested budget levels for 2019 through 2027. The amendment would establish a deficit-neutral reserve fund to be used to permanently authorize the payment in lieu of taxes program, by which rural Western counties with large amounts of federal land receive federal funds as compensation for the federal land being non-taxable. Udall said establishing permanent funding for the counties was needed to ensure that they can plan on using the federal payments to maintain roads, operate schools, and provide other vital services. An opponent, Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., said the budget bill already funded the payment in lieu of taxes program, making the amendment unnecessary. The vote Thursday was 58 yeas to 41 nays.

NAYS: Collins

YEAS: King

HOUSE BUDGET PLAN: The Senate passed an amendment sponsored by Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., to a bill (H. Con. Res. 71) setting out a government budget for fiscal 2018 and suggested budget levels for 2019 through 2027. The amendment would make changes to the bill in order to authorize enforcement of the budget plan by the House. Enzi said the amendment’s technical changes “will help maintain fiscal discipline in the House” so it and the Senate can work on passing a budget bill. An opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said it would help Republicans “throw up to 32 million Americans off of the health insurance they currently have, increase premiums for older workers, and make even more harmful cuts to Medicaid.” The vote Thursday was 52 yeas to 48 nays.

YEAS: Collins

NAYS: King