Along with roll call votes last week, the Senate also passed the Promoting Women in Entrepreneurship Act (H.R. 255) to authorize the National Science Foundation to support entrepreneurial programs for women.

The House also passed the Working to Integrate Networks Guaranteeing Member Access Now Act (H.R. 512) to permit veterans to grant access to their records in the databases of the Veterans Benefits Administration to certain designated congressional employees.


VA CONTRACTING PREFERENCES: The House has passed the Boosting Rates of American Veteran Employment Act (H.R. 974), sponsored by Rep. Kathleen M. Rice, D-N.Y. The bill would authorize the Department of Veterans Affairs to give preference, when awarding contracts, to firms that employ a large percentage of veterans. Rice said the preferential treatment would give veterans more opportunities to be hired by potential contractors, helping them “bring their unique skills, training, and experience to the civilian workforce.” The vote on Feb. 13 was unanimous with 407 yeas.

NOT VOTING: Chellie Pingree, D-1st District

YEAS: Bruce Poliquin, R-2nd District

RED RIVER LAND DISPUTE: The House has passed the Red River Gradient Boundary Survey Act (H.R. 428), sponsored by Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas. The bill would direct the Bureau of Land Management to make a gradient boundary survey of some lands along the south bank of the Red River on the border between Texas and Oklahoma. The survey would be used to settle private and public claims to land bordering the river. Thornberry said the bill followed repeated directives from the Supreme Court for the federal government to use the gradient boundary method to resolve ongoing confusion about the proper title and ownership of land that private landowners have used for generations. An opponent, Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, D-Hawaii, said that by forcing the federal government to accept state surveys of the land in question would set “a terrible precedent” of ceding authority over federal lands to the states. The vote on Feb. 14 was 250 yeas to 171 nays.

NAYS: Pingree / YEAS: Poliquin

WORKER RETIREMENT PLANS RULE: The House has passed a resolution (H.J. Res. 66), sponsored by Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Mich., disapproving of a Labor Department rule authorizing state governments to enroll non-government employees in payroll deduction retirement savings plans. Walberg faulted the rule for exempting the states from meet various federal standards designed to safeguard workers’ retirement savings, and said it aimed to push private sector workers into poorly run government plans. A resolution opponent, Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., said the rule sought to help states implement innovative solutions for aiding workers who do not have employer-provided retirement plans. The vote on Feb. 15 was 231 yeas to 193 nays.

NAYS: Pingree / YEAS: Poliquin

DRUG TESTS AND UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION: The House has passed a resolution (H.J. Res. 42), sponsored by Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, expressing disapproval of a Labor Department rule restricting state government from requiring drug testing for those applying for unemployment compensation. Brady said the rule ran counter to a 2012 law that allowed state drug tests for those seeking jobs in fields that ordinarily require drug tests, making the resolution necessary to block “blatant executive overreach that all but prohibits states from moving forward with this reform.” An opponent, Rep. Richard E. Neal, D-Mass., said state drug tests were a “time-consuming, humiliating obstacle” for Americans needing aid while looking for new jobs. The vote on Feb. 15 was 236 yeas to 189 nays.

NAYS: Pingree / YEAS: Poliquin

HUNTING IN ALASKA: The House has passed a resolution (H.J. Res. 69), sponsored by Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, disapproving of an Interior Department rule regulating hunting and fishing activities on national wildlife refuges in Alaska. Young said federal law assigned sole regulatory authority over the refuges to Alaska’s government, and canceling the rule was necessary to halt an infringement of Alaska’s rights. A resolution opponent, Rep. Donald S. Beyer Jr., D-Va., said the rule was needed to “prohibit the inhumane and indiscriminate killing of keystone species” such as grizzly bears and wolves in Alaska’s national wildlife refuges. The vote on Feb. 16 was 225 yeas to 193 nays.

NAYS: Pingree / YEAS: Poliquin

FAMILY PLANNING GRANTS: The House has passed a resolution (H.J. Res. 43), sponsored by Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., disapproving of a Health and Human Services Department rule for issuing family planning grants that limited the scope of eligibility reviews to an applicant’s ability to provide family planning services. Black said the rule was an Obama administration bid to funnel federal funds to Planned Parenthood and others in the abortion industry, and voiding it would restore to states the freedom to manage their own family planning programs. A resolution opponent, Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., said it “threatens access to family planning care for millions of our most vulnerable citizens” by stripping funding for planning groups that also perform abortions. The vote on Feb. 16 was 230 yeas to 188 nays.

NAYS: Pingree / YEAS: Poliquin


TREASURY SECRETARY: The Senate has confirmed the nomination of Steven T. Mnuchin to serve as treasury secretary. A supporter, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, cited Mnuchin’s 30 years of experience in finance and support from an array of experts and finance industry groups in saying that he had “ample experience, credentials and qualifications.” An opponent, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said Mnuchin “has a history of fighting against working people and profiting off their misfortune.” The vote on Feb. 13 was 53 yeas to 47 nays.

YEAS: Susan Collins, R-Maine

NAYS: Angus King, I-Maine

VETERANS AFFAIRS: The Senate has confirmed the nomination of David J. Shulkin to serve as secretary of veterans affairs. A supporter, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said Shulkin’s “impressive record of service in both the public and private health care sectors as well as his firm grasp of VA health care issues make him extraordinarily well-qualified to lead the department through the coming period of major reforms and continuing transformation.” The vote on Feb. 13 was unanimous with 100 yeas.

YEAS: Collins, King

SMALL BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION: The Senate has confirmed the nomination of Linda E. McMahon to serve as administrator of the Small Business Administration. A supporter, Sen. Benjamin Cardin, D-Md., said McMahon would be in a position to use her experience in developing World Wrestling Entertainment to help protect and improve federal programs that serve and impact small businesses. An opponent, Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., claimed that McMahon grew her company at least in part by using business practices that mistreated WWE employees, including failing to treat or prevent health problems resulting from pro wrestling. The vote on Feb. 14 was 81 yeas to 19 nays.

YEAS: Collins, King

GUN SALES AND MENTAL DISORDERS: The Senate has passed a resolution (H.J. Res. 40), sponsored by Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Texas, disapproving of a Social Security Administration rule adopted in December. The rule would place individuals who receive disability insurance or supplemental security income benefits related to having a mental disorder in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System for would-be firearms purchasers. A resolution supporter, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, criticized the rule for lacking due process for those placed in the background check database and failing to require proof that the person is dangerous or mentally ill. An opponent, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said voiding the rule would “make it easier for individuals with severe mental illness to buy guns” and use them to commit murder and suicide. The vote on Feb. 15 was 57 yeas to 43 nays.

YEAS: Collins, King

BUDGET AGENCY HEAD: The Senate has confirmed the nomination of Mick Mulvaney, formerly a Republican House member from South Carolina, to serve as Director of the Office of Management and Budget. A supporter, Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., expressed hopes that Mulvaney will improve the White House’s budget proposals and pursue measures to cut tens of billions of dollars of wasteful and duplicative spending. An opponent, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., cited Mulvaney’s opposition to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security in their current form, as well as his past lack of concern for avoiding government shutdowns. The vote on Feb. 16 was 51 yeas to 49 nays.

YEAS: Collins

NAYS: King