WASHINGTON — Along with roll call votes last week, the Senate also passed the Further Continuing Appropriations Act (H.R. 2250), to authorize appropriations for government agencies through Dec. 16; passed the Child Nicotine Poisoning Prevention Act (S. 142), to require special packaging for liquid nicotine containers; passed the Comprehensive Justice and Mental Health Act (S. 993), to facilitate collaboration among the criminal justice, juvenile justice, veterans treatment services, mental health treatment, and substance abuse systems; and passed the Foreclosure Relief and Extension for Servicemembers Act (S. 2393), to temporarily extend protection against foreclosure and eviction for members of the military.

The House also passed the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act (H.R. 3766), to require the president to establish guidelines for foreign development and economic assistance programs; and passed the Coast Guard Authorization Act (H.R. 4188), to authorize Coast Guard appropriations for fiscal 2016 and 2017.


House Vote 1

REQUIREMENTS FOR VISA REVIEWS: The House has passed the Visa Waiver Program Improvement Act (H.R. 158), sponsored by Rep. Candice S. Miller, R-Mich. The bill would require the Homeland Security Department to consider terrorism risks when reviewing a foreigner’s application for a visa to the U.S., adopt tighter application reviews for travelers from Syria, Iraq, Sudan, and Iran, and require a Homeland Security report on measures to improve the electronic system for travel authorization by foreigners to better safeguard against terrorism. Miller said the bill worked to give the government more of the information it needs to ensure that visa applications are not a threat to national security. A bill opponent, Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., called the tighter reviews for travelers from Sudan and the Middle East “arbitrary across-the-board judgments” that would “do nothing to enhance our security and only cast a cloud of suspicion over entire communities here in our country.” The vote, on Dec. 8, was 407 yeas to 19 nays.

YEAS: Chellie Pingree D-Maine (1st District), Bruce Poliquin R-Maine (2nd District)

House Vote 2

TRAINING FOR RESPONSE TO TERRORIST ATTACKS: The House has passed the Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers Reform and Improvement Act (H.R. 3842), sponsored by Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Ga. The bill would change the government’s Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers program by authorizing its use to train federal, state and local law enforcement to prevent and respond to terrorist attacks. Carter said the expanded authority “supports FLETC’s mission of providing world-class, expert training that can quickly adapt to emerging threats and training needs.” The vote, on Dec. 8, was 420 yeas to 2 nays.

YEAS: Pingree, Poliquin

House Vote 3

INDIAN TRIBES AND RED RIVER LAND: The House has passed an amendment sponsored by Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., to the Red River Private Property Protection Act (H.R. 2130). The amendment would state that Indian tribes in Oklahoma and Texas have the right of first refusal to purchase lands along the Red River to be sold by the government, and state that tribes would maintain their surface and mineral interests no matter the result of the sale of the lands in question. Cole said preserving tribal surface and mineral interests was critical for ensuring funding for tribal government programs, and would ensure the preservation of tribal property rights. An amendment opponent, Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, said landowners next to the lands being sold should have the right of first refusal, and approving the amendment would disrupt the process of working to properly survey and sell the lands in question. The vote, on Dec. 9, was 246 yeas to 183 nays.

YEAS: Pingree

NAYS: Poliquin

House Vote 4

RED RIVER LAND DISPUTE: The House has passed the Red River Private Property Protection Act (H.R. 2130), sponsored by Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas. The bill would cease the Bureau of Land Management’s claim to ownership of some lands along the south bank of the Red River on the border between Texas and Oklahoma, and require the BLM to conduct a new survey of the lands. Thornberry said the BLM was attempting to use faulty surveys to take control of lands that have been in private hands for generations, with property taxes paid on them, and the bill was needed to clarify that the federal government does not have a claim to the lands. A bill opponent, Rep. Niki Tsongas, D-Mass., said the government’s ownership of the disputed lands dated back to the Louisiana Purchase, and changes in the course of the Red River in past decades have not changed that fact. The vote, on Dec. 9, was 253 yeas to 177 nays.

NAYS: Pingree

YEAS: Poliquin

House Vote 5

TECHNOLOGY AT HOMELAND SECURITY: The House has passed the DHS Science and Technology Reform and Improvement Act (H.R. 3578), sponsored by Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas. The bill would expand the Homeland Security Department’s Directorate of Science and Technology by increasing the directorate’s responsibility for researching and evaluating technologies related to homeland security. Ratcliffe said clarifying the directorate’s mission and increasing its transparency would help it work to improve the government’s cybersecurity and the adoption of new technologies that benefit first responders. The vote, on Dec. 10, was unanimous with 416 yeas.

YEAS: Pingree, Poliquin

House Vote 6

TERRORISM AND FIRST RESPONDERS: The House has passed the First Responder Identification of Emergency Needs in Disaster Situations Act (H.R. 2795), sponsored by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas. The bill would require the Government Accountability Office to submit a report to Congress on how policies at state and local governments could impact the ability of first responders to be available to respond to terrorist attacks. Lee said the evaluation of how an attack could harm a first responder’s family should help governments take “measures to ensure first responder families are safe and the availability of personal protective equipment is there” for the families. The vote, on Dec. 10, was 396 yeas to 12 nays.

YEAS: Pingree, Poliquin


Senate Vote 1

FINALIZING EDUCATION REFORM BILL: The Senate has agreed to the conference report for the Every Student Succeeds Act (S. 1177), sponsored by Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn. The bill would reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and expand flexibility for states to develop their own education policies, including measurements of student, teacher, and school performance. Alexander said that by repealing the trend toward federal control of schools, the bill promised to “unleash a flood of innovation and excellence in elementary and secondary education” as state and local governments gain more freedom to develop the best methods for educating children. The vote, on Dec. 9, was 85 yeas to 12 nays.

YEAS: Collins R-ME, King I-ME