Along with roll call votes last week, the Senate also passed: the African American Civil Rights Network Act (H.R. 1927), to establish within the National Park Service the African American Civil Rights Network; a bill (S. Res. 139), condemning Iran’s state-sponsored persecution of its Baha’i minority and its continued violation of the International Covenants on Human Right; the Connected Government Act (H.R. 2331), to require a new or updated federal website that is intended for use by the public to be mobile friendly; and the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (S. 1447), to reauthorize the diesel emissions reduction program.

The House also passed the Recognize, Assist, Include, Support, and Engage Family Caregivers Act (H.R. 3759), to provide for the establishment and maintenance of a Family Caregiving Strategy; the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Reporting Act (S. 1766), to reauthorize the SAFER Act of 2013; and a bill (H. Con. Res. 95), expressing support for the use of public-private partnerships to bring computer science education to more K-12 classrooms.

HOUSE VOTES

STEM OUTREACH PROGRAMS: The House has passed the STEM Research and Education Effectiveness and Transparency Act (H.R. 4375), sponsored by Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-Va. The bill would order the National Science Foundation to submit a report to Congress on the Foundation’s research and education programs for broadening the participation of women and minorities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) degrees and careers. Comstock said the study was needed because “we cannot leave anybody behind with our need for more STEM resources, and to be able to make sure that we have that workforce of the 21st century.” The vote, on Dec. 18, was 376 yeas to 9 nays.

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

WILDLIFE REFUGE PROGRAMS: The House has passed the Keep Americas Refuges Operational Act (H.R. 3979), sponsored by Rep. Hakeem S. Jeffries, D-N.Y. The bill would reauthorize through 2022 the National Wildlife Refuge System’s volunteer services, community partnership, and refuge education programs. Jeffries said volunteers at the wildlife refuges, by contributing 20 percent of total work hours for operating the refuges, help save taxpayer dollars, stimulate local economies, and protect America’s natural beauty. The vote, on Dec. 18, was 371 yeas to 14 nays.

YEAS: Pingree, Poliquin

NASA AND FEMALE TEACHERS: The House has passed the Women in Aerospace Education Act (H.R. 4254), sponsored by Rep. Stephen Knight, R-Calif., to require the National Science Foundation to promote fellowship opportunities at National Aeronautics and Space Administration centers for women training to be teachers. Knight said encouraging women to get aerospace expertise should help them become teachers who encourage girls to become aerospace professionals and can replace the aging population of U.S. aerospace engineers. The vote, on Dec. 19, was 409 yeas to 17 nays.

YEAS: Pingree, Poliquin

TAX REFORM BILL: The House has agreed to the conference report with the Senate for the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (H.R. 1), which would nearly double the standard individual income tax deduction, lower the corporate tax rate to 21 percent, reduce rates for the seven individual tax brackets, reduce the deduction for state and local taxes paid, and effective in 2019, erase the penalty for not having individual health insurance. A supporter, Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, said: “We are delivering a new tax code that provides more jobs, fairer taxes, and bigger paychecks to Americans across the country.” An opponent, Rep. Sander M. Levin, D-Mich., said the bill was “aimed at making the very wealthy even wealthier and forcing millions of middle class families to pay higher taxes.” The vote, on Dec. 19, was 227 yeas to 203 nays.

NAYS: Pingree YEAS: Poliquin

REGULATING LARGE BANKS: The House has passed the Systemic Risk Designation Improvement Act (H.R. 3312), sponsored by Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo. The bill would replace the current $50 billion of assets threshold for finding that a bank is a systemically important financial institution subject to special regulations, with a set of standards the Federal Reserve is to apply to determine whether the bank should be subject to the special regulations. Luetkemeyer said the new, more flexible measure takes a pragmatic approach to managing risk and the danger that a given bank’s financial distress would threaten the U.S. financial system. A bill opponent, Rep. John P. Sarbanes, D-Md., said eliminating the $50 billion threshold “will increase the likelihood of consolidation as large financial institutions and banks can now grow” with less regulation, resulting in increased danger to the financial system. The vote, on Dec. 19, was 288 yeas to 130 nays.

NAYS: Pingree YEAS: Poliquin

TRUCKING AND HUMAN TRAFFICKING: The House has passed the Combating Human Trafficking in Commercial Vehicles Act (S. 1536), sponsored by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. The bill would order the Transportation Department to charge an employee with the task of coordinating human trafficking prevention efforts across the agency and establish a committee to advise the agency on ways to reduce human trafficking. A supporter, Rep. Brenda L. Lawrence, D-Mich., said the new efforts would help close “loopholes in our transportation system that traffickers have taken advantage of for far too long.” The vote, on Dec. 19, was 418 yeas to 1 nay.

YEAS: Pingree, Poliquin

PASSING TAX BILL: The House has concurred in the Senate amendment to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (H.R. 1). A supporter, Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, claimed the new tax code instituted by the bill “will be simple, it will be fair, and it will be focused on the needs of the American people, not on Washington’s special interests.” An opponent, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., claimed the bill was a Republican effort “to give tax breaks to the wealthiest people in our country and to corporate America, unpaid for, permanently,” while increasing the deficit. The vote, on Dec. 20, was 224 yeas to 201 nays.

NAYS: Pingree YEAS: Poliquin

U.S.-ISRAEL SPACE PARTNERSHIP: The House has passed United States and Israel Space Cooperation Act (H.R. 1159), sponsored by Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Wash., to direct the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to continue working with the Israel Space Agency on developing peaceful space exploration and science initiatives by the U.S. and Israel. Kilmer said the bill “continues a deep and lasting partnership among free societies” who benefit all of humanity by learning more about the universe. The vote, on Dec. 20, was unanimous with 411 yeas.

YEAS: Pingree, Poliquin

REGULATING SHAREHOLDER ADVISORS: The House has passed the Corporate Governance Reform and Transparency Act (H.R. 4015), sponsored by Rep. Sean P. Duffy, R-Wis. The bill would require firms that advise corporate shareholders on proxy votes regarding the operation of a company to register with the Securities and Exchange Commission and establish conflicts of interest and codes of ethics disclosure rules for the proxy firms. Duffy said the new regulations would promote “transparency, responsiveness, and competition” among proxy advisors, two of whom currently make up 97 percent of the proxy advisory industry. A bill opponent, Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., said they would give corporate management too much power to shape the recommendations advisory firms make to shareholders and “would deter new proxy advisers from entering the market and squeeze out smaller, cost-sensitive firms.” The vote, on Dec. 20, was 238 yeas to 182 nays.

NAYS: Pingree YEAS: Poliquin

VETERANS AND COMMERCIAL DRIVING: The House has passed the Jobs for Our Heroes Act (S. 1393), sponsored by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, to allow military veterans who have driven vehicles similar to commercial motor vehicles while in the military to seek an exemption from all or part of federal commercial motor vehicle driving test requirements. A supporter, Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., said that by easing the path by which veterans can transfer their driving skills for use as drivers in civilian life, the bill would help the veterans thrive. The vote, on Dec. 21, was unanimous with 418 yeas.

YEAS: Pingree, Poliquin

EXTENDING GOVERNMENT FUNDING: The House has passed the Senate amendment to the Further Additional Continuing Appropriations Act (H.R. 1370). The bill would fund the federal government through January and provide short-term extensions of funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, National Flood Insurance Program, and several other federal programs. A supporter, Rep. Rodney P. Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., called the funding necessary to continue providing vital services to Americans while Congress works on a final budget for 2018. An opponent, Rep. Nita M. Lowey, D-N.Y., faulted the bill’s lack of a measure to exempt from deportation illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children and failure to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program. The vote, on Dec. 21, was 231 yeas to 188 nays.

NAYS: Pingree YEAS: Poliquin

DISASTER RECOVERY: The House has passed a bill (H.R. 4667), sponsored by Rep. Rodney P. Frelinghuysen, R-N.J. The bill would provide $81 billion of fiscal 2018 emergency appropriations to various federal agencies for efforts to recover from wildfires in western states and the several hurricanes that struck the U.S. in recent months. Frelinghuysen said: “This funding is desperately needed by thousands of American families, individuals, and communities to rebuild their homes and businesses, restore electric power and critical infrastructure, and to protect against further damage.” An opponent, Rep. Nita M. Lowey, D-N.Y., said the bill had several serious shortcomings, including its failure to fix the danger that Medicaid programs in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands will run out of money within months. The vote, on Dec. 21, was 251 yeas to 169 nays.

NAYS: Pingree YEAS: Poliquin

PUNISHING HUMAN TRAFFICKING: The House has passed the No Human Trafficking on Our Roads Act (S. 1532), sponsored by Sen. John Thune, R-S.D. The bill would direct the Transportation Department to impose a lifetime commercial driving ban on anyone who uses a commercial motor vehicle to participate in felony human trafficking. A supporter, Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo., said Congress had an obligation to take all viable steps available to prevent human trafficking. The vote, on Dec. 21, was unanimous with 393 yeas.

YEAS: Pingree, Poliquin

SENATE VOTES

HUD GENERAL COUNSEL: The Senate has confirmed the nomination of J. Paul Compton, Jr., to serve as general counsel for the Department of Housing and Urban Development. A supporter, Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, said of Compton, who heads the affordable housing practice of a large Alabama law firm, that his “extensive track record, his experience, and his intimate familiarity with HUD programs make him an ideal fit to join the leadership team at HUD.” An opponent, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, cited his concerns that Compton would help HUD revise an Obama administration rule. The vote, on Dec. 18, was 62 yeas to 34 nays.

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

STATE LEGAL ADVISER: The Senate has confirmed the nomination of Jennifer Gillian Newstead to serve as legal adviser for the State Department. A supporter, Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., said Newstead had senior experience at several federal agencies. Young also cited Newstead’s recent statements indicating that she had “a full and accurate appreciation for U.S. law as it relates to impediments to humanitarian assistance,” namely in the case of Saudi Arabia’s blocking of aid supplies being shipped to Yemen. The vote, on Dec. 19, was 88 yeas to 11 nays.

YEAS: Collins, King

TAX REFORM BILL: The Senate has agreed to a motion to concur with the House amendment to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (H.R.1) and add a further amendment. The Senate amendment modified the bill by deleting several provisions that the Senate parliamentarian found inadmissible. A supporter, Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., said: “The tax plan includes reforms that will help grow the economy, that will create more jobs, and that will simplify taxes.” An opponent, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said that with the bill, “Republicans are doling out new giveaways to the multinational corporations, raising taxes on the middle class after a brief sugar high, and taking away the Medicare and Social Security guarantees for the future.” The vote, on Dec. 19, was 51 yeas to 48 nays. YEAS: Collins NAYS: King

EXTENDING GOVERNMENT FUNDING: The Senate has passed the House amendment to the Further Additional Continuing Appropriations Act (H.R. 1370). The bill would fund the federal government through January and provide short-term extensions of funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, National Flood Insurance Program, and several other federal programs. A supporter, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the funding extension will give the military the resources it needs to combat various threats. An opponent, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said the bill did not address what he called the moral imperative to provide a resolution for the citizenship status of the so-called Dreamers who were brought to the U.S. as children. The vote, on Dec. 21, was 66 yeas to 32 nays.

YEAS: Collins, King

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