Along with roll call votes last week, the Senate also passed a bill (S. Res. 356), expressing the sense of the Senate that members of Congress should substitute-teach at least one day per year in a public school to gain firsthand knowledge on how to address the prevailing challenges facing educators and how to remove obstacles to learning for students; the Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today (JUST) Act (S. 447), to require reporting on acts of certain foreign countries on Holocaust-era assets and related issues; and a bill (S. Res. 357), expressing the sense of the Senate that international education and exchange programs further United States national security and foreign policy priorities, enhance United States economic competitiveness, and promote mutual understanding and cooperation among nations.

The House also passed the Securing General Aviation and Commercial Charter Air Carrier Service Act (H.R. 3669), to improve and streamline security procedures related to general aviation and commercial charter air carriers utilizing risk-based security standards; the Promoting Hydropower Development at Existing Nonpowered Dams Act (H.R. 2872); a bill (H. Res. 407), condemning the persecution of Christians around the world; and a bill (H. Res. 336), reaffirming a strong commitment to the United States-Mexico partnership.

HOUSE VOTES

THREATS AGAINST RELIGIOUS FACILITIES: The House has passed the Protecting Religiously Affiliated Institutions Act (H.R. 1730), sponsored by Rep. David Kustoff, R-Tenn. The bill would set out federal criminal penalties for threats of violence against churches, mosques, synagogues, and other religious facilities. Kustoff called the bill “essential in safeguarding religious institutions of all kinds from atrocious threats and acts of violence.” The vote, on Dec. 11, was 402 yeas to 2 nays.

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

REGULATING MORTGAGE LOANS: The House has passed the Community Institution Mortgage Relief Act (H.R. 3971), sponsored by Rep. Claudia Tenney, R-N.Y. The bill would exempt community banks and credit unions with less than $25 billion of assets from certain Truth in Lending Act regulations for mortgage loans. Tenney said overwhelmingly expensive regulations and a resulting decline in the number of U.S. banks and credit unions showed the need for “smart, commonsense regulatory relief.” A bill opponent, Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., said dropping the regulations would “set the stage for a return of the harmful practices of the subprime meltdown and the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.” The vote, on Dec. 12, was 294 yeas to 129 nays.

NAYS: Pingree

YEAS: Poliquin

REPORT ON IRANIAN LEADERS: The House has passed the Iranian Leadership Asset Transparency Act (H.R. 1638), sponsored by Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-Maine, to require the Treasury Department to provide Congress with a report on the assets controlled by certain senior Iranian politicians and other leading members of Iran’s government, and post part of the report on Treasury’s website. Poliquin said informing the global public of illicit activities by the Iranian leaders should spur reform efforts in Iran and discourage businesses around the world from investing in a government that sponsors terrorism. A bill opponent, Rep. Denny Heck, D-Wash., said the time and effort used by Treasury employees to track down the leaders’ assets would take resources away from investigations into terrorist financing and money laundering. The vote, on Dec. 13, was 289 yeas to 135 nays.

NAYS: Pingree

YEAS: Poliquin

PRIVACY AND FINANCIAL FIRMS: The House has passed the Privacy Notification Technical Clarification Act (H.R. 2396), sponsored by Rep. David A. Trott, R-Mich. The bill would exempt banks and other financial firms that have not changed their consumer privacy policies in the prior year from having to send their customers annual privacy disclosures, so long as they adequately inform their customers of the existence and availability of their privacy policies. Trott said the exemption would “help companies provide better service to their customers” by ending the expense of mailing out the policy notices, which Trott said are confusing and simply thrown away by many consumers. A bill opponent, Rep. Nydia Velazquez, D-N.Y., said the proposed exemption was far too broad given the power financial firms have to use their customers’ personal information. The vote, on Dec. 14, was 275 yeas to 146 nays.

NAYS: Pingree

YEAS: Poliquin

IRAN AIRCRAFT PURCHASES: The House has passed the Strengthening Oversight of Iran’s Access to Finance Act (H.R. 4324), sponsored by Rep. Roger Williams, R-Texas. The bill would require the Treasury Department to certify to Congress that financing arranged for Iran’s purchases of aircraft does not benefit Iranians who promote the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The vote, on Dec. 14, was 252 yeas to 167 nays.

NAYS: Pingree

YEAS: Poliquin

SENATE VOTES

APPEALS COURT JUDGE: The Senate has confirmed the nomination of Leonard Steven Grasz to serve as a judge on the U.S. Eight Circuit Court of Appeals. A supporter, Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., cited Grasz’s nearly 12 years of experience as Nebraska’s chief deputy attorney general, and said hundreds of people have written to the Senate in support of his nomination. The vote, on Dec. 12, was 50 yeas to 48 nays.

YEAS: Susan Collins, R-Maine

NAYS: Angus King, I-Maine

SECOND APPEALS COURT JUDGE: The Senate has confirmed the nomination of Don R. Willett to serve as a judge on the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. A supporter, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, cited Willett’s 12 years of experience as a Texas Supreme Court justice and his reputation for careful and meticulous analysis and fidelity to the law in his service on that court. The vote, on Dec. 13, was 50 yeas to 47 nays.

YEAS: Collins

NAYS: King

THIRD APPEALS COURT JUDGE: The Senate has confirmed the nomination of James C. Ho to serve as a judge on the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. A supporter, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said Ho had substantial experience as a lawyer at the Justice Department, solicitor general of Texas, and as chief counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee when Cornyn was on the committee. An opponent, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., cited Ho’s work helping the Bush administration justify torture of enemy combatants in the war on terror. The vote, on Dec. 14, was 53 yeas to 43 nays.

YEAS: Collins

NAYS: King