Along with roll call votes last week, the House also passed the Disaster Simplified Assistance Value Enhancement Act (H.R. 1214), to require the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency to conduct a program to use simplified procedures to issue public assistance for certain projects under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act; and it passed the Terrorist and Foreign Fighter Travel Exercise Act (H.R. 1302), to require an exercise related to terrorist and foreign fighter travel. The Senate passed the Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act (H.R. 353), to improve the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s weather research capabilities.

HOUSE VOTES

HOMELAND SECURITY ACQUISITIONS: The House has passed the Department of Homeland Security Acquisition Innovation Act (H.R. 1365), sponsored by Rep. J. Luis Correa, D-Calif., to require the Homeland Security Department to develop efforts to test and develop innovative acquisition practices. Correa said the acquisition innovations would create more efficient and effective ways for Homeland Security to manage taxpayer dollars. The vote, on March 24, was unanimous with 424 yeas.

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

DISASTER RESPONSE PLANNING: The House has passed a bill (H.R. 1117), sponsored by Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo., to require the Federal Emergency Management Agency to submit to Congress a report on FEMA’s plans for programs to provide assistance to recipients of FEMA aid in disaster-response efforts. Hartzler said that by spurring FEMA to improve its response-planning efforts, the required report would “help those recovering from a disaster feel supported and assured relief will come in a timely, efficient manner.” The vote, on March 27, was unanimous with 408 yeas.

YEAS: Pingree, Poliquin

INTERNET PRIVACY: The House has passed a resolution (S.J. Res. 34), sponsored by Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., disapproving of a Federal Communications Commission rule governing privacy and broadband internet providers. A resolution supporter, Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., said the rule was a unilateral usurpation of the Federal Trade Commission’s jurisdiction over internet privacy, with resulting regulatory confusion, and that the rule was unnecessary because the FCC already had the authority to enforce privacy laws as they apply to broadband service providers. A resolution opponent, Rep. Michael F. Doyle, D-Pa., said voiding the rule would stop internet users from having the freedom to decide how to control their personal information. The vote, on March 28, was 215 yeas to 205 nays.

NAYS: Pingree / YEAS: Poliquin

BASIS FOR EPA REGULATIONS: The House has passed the Honest and Open New EPA Science Treatment Act (H.R. 1430), sponsored by Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas. The bill would require the Environmental Protection Agency to use reproducible and publicly released scientific studies as the basis for its proposed regulations and regulatory studies. Smith said the requirement “ensures that sound science is the basis for EPA decisions and regulatory actions” by having the scientific method serve as the approach for those actions. A bill opponent, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, said because the EPA does not use its own data for all of its studies, the agency lacks authority to order the public release of such data. The vote, on March 29, was 228 yeas to 194 nays.

NAYS: Pingree / YEAS: Poliquin

NORTHWEST EARTHQUAKE PREPAREDNESS: The House has passed the Pacific Northwest Earthquake Preparedness Act (H.R. 654), sponsored by Rep. Peter A. DeFazio, D-Ore. The bill would require the Federal Emergency Management Agency to develop measures, including an earthquake early-warning system, to prepare the Northwest states for a subduction zone earthquake and tsunami. DeFazio cited the 3/11/11 disaster in Japan as showing the pressing need for action to save lives and property in the event of a similar disaster happening in the Pacific Northwest. The vote, on March 27, was 395 yeas to 11 nays.

YEAS: Pingree, Poliquin

EPA SCIENCE ADVISORY BOARD: The House has passed the EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act (H.R. 1431), sponsored by Rep. Frank D. Lucas, R-Okla. The bill would change procedures at the EPA’s Science Advisory Board by requiring the EPA to include risk assessments in regulatory proposals it makes to the board, add transparency and public comment requirements, and direct the board to avoid making policy determinations or recommendations. Lucas said the bill’s changes would ensure “the best experts are free to undertake a balanced and open review of regulatory science” as it impacts EPA actions. An opponent, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, said the changes, including setting up obstacles for independent academic scientists to serve on the board and making it easier for industry representatives to serve on the board, would impair the EPA’s ability to effectively use it to make informed decisions. The vote, on March 30, was 229 yeas to 193 nays.

NAYS: Pingree/ YEAS: Poliquin

SENATE VOTES

MONTENEGRO JOINING NATO: The Senate has agreed to a resolution giving consent to Montenegro joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. A supporter, Sen. Christopher Murphy, D-Conn., said Montenegro was ready to join NATO after improving its government, and said its membership would help stop Russia from filling a power vacuum in the Balkans and disrupting U.S. interests. An opponent, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said giving Montenegro a security guarantee as a NATO member could result in putting more American soldiers at risk in overseas deployments. The vote, on March 28, was 97 yeas to 2 nays.

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

WORKER RETIREMENT PLANS RULE: The Senate has passed a resolution (H.J. Res. 67), 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. A resolution supporter, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the rule would force workers “into risky government-run savings plans.” An opponent, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said keeping the rule would lower retirement savings costs by increasing competition for providing plans to workers. The vote, on March 30, was 50 yeas to 49 nays.

YEAS: Collins / NAYS: King

FAMILY PLANNING GRANTS: The Senate 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. A resolution supporter, Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, called the rule an Obama administration effort to have less-informed federal bureaucrats override state authority to allocate the planning grants as a state sees fit. A resolution opponent, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said the rule “protects family planning providers from being discriminated against and denied federal funding.” The vote, on March 30, was 50 yeas to 50 nays, with Vice President Mike Pence casting a tie-breaking yea vote.

NAYS: Collins, King