Congressional Votes for the Week of April 23

WASHINGTON – Here’s how Alabama’s members of Congress voted on major issues in the week ending April 27.


Forced Resignation of House Chaplain

Voting 215 for and 171 against, the House on April 27 tabled (killed) a Democratic motion to establish a select committee to probe the forced resignation of the Rev. Patrick Conroy as House chaplain. Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., has not commented publicly on his request for the resignation of Conroy, who had held the post since 2011. There was no debate on this measure. But off the floor, Democrats accused Ryan of retaliating against Conroy over the egalitarian message in a prayer he offered in the chamber on Nov. 6, during consideration of GOP legislation cutting taxes and revising the tax code. The speaker’s staff denied that charge.

In his prayer, Conroy said, in part: “As legislation on taxes continues to be debated this week and next, may all members be mindful that the institutions and structures of our great nation guarantee the opportunities that have allowed some to achieve great success while others continue to struggle. May their efforts these days guarantee that there are not winners and losers under new tax laws, but benefits balanced and shared by all Americans.”

A yes vote was in opposition to establishing a select committee to probe the chaplain’s removal.

Voting yes: Bradley Byrne, R-1, Martha Roby, R-2, Mike Rogers, R-3, Robert Aderholt, R-4, Mo Brooks, R-5, Gary Palmer, R-6.

Voting no: None.

Not voting: Terri Sewell, D-7.

$100 Billion, Six-Year Aviation Budget

Voting 393 for and 13 against, the House on April 27 passed a bill (HR 4) that would authorize federal aviation programs at a spending level of nearly $100 billion through September 2023, with funding provided by annual appropriations bills as well as user fees including fuel taxes and ticket add-ons. The bill would expand the Federal Aviation Administration’s regulation of commercial drone flights; fund capital improvements at airports; require the FAA to streamline its certification of new aircraft and aviation gear; finance the “Next-Gen” program that is gradually shifting air-traffic-control from a radar-based system to one dependent on global positioning satellites; fund the Essential Air Service program that subsidizes commercial flights to smaller cities; expand the minimum between-flights rest period for airline attendants from eight to 10 hours; order a study of pilot rest and duty rules; prohibit the bumping of passengers who have already boarded the aircraft and bar the use of cell phones for verbal communication during flights

A yes vote was to send the bill to the Senate.

Voting yes: Byrne, Roby, Rogers, Aderholt, Brooks, Palmer.

Voting no: None.

Not voting: Sewell.

Lithium Batteries as Aircraft Cargo

Voting 192 for and 223 against, the House on April 26 defeated an amendment to HR 4 (the aviation budget referenced above) that sought to give U.S. rather than foreign regulators the lead role in setting safety rules for transporting flammable lithium batteries on commercial cargo aircraft in U.S. skies. The Federal Aviation Administration now cedes authority in this area to the International Civil Aviation Organization, a United Nations body that sets global rules for non-military aviation. Amendment backers said that if the FAA were to become the primary regulator, it would set stricter standards for shipping these types of batteries. At present, the FAA’s authority kicks in only if there is credible evidence that an explosion is likely or after an accident has occurred. The transport of flammable lithium batteries is banned on commercial flights under international rules.

Peter DeFazio, D-Oregon, said the current regulatory structure “is an accident waiting to happen. It is an imposition of a tombstone mentality on the FAA by Congress. It says, until there is another proven crash due to lithium batteries, we can’t regulate. Come on. Really? Let’s give the FAA the authority to regulate these batteries.”

Bill Shuster, R-Pennsylvania, said that, under existing law, the FAA has authority to issue “regulations that exceed international requirements if the (secretary of transportation) has credible evidence that lithium batteries would substantially contribute to onboard fires. Billions of lithium batteries and lithium-battery-containing products are shipped safely by air every year” worldwide.

A yes vote was to adopt the amendment.

Voting yes: None.

Voting no: Byrne, Roby, Rogers, Aderholt, Brooks, Palmer.

Not voting: Sewell.


Mike Pompeo, Secretary of State

The Senate on April 26 confirmed, 57 for and 42 against, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, 54, as the 70th secretary of state. Pompeo was a GOP congressman from Kansas, a member of the Tea Party faction, in 2011-2017. He graduated first in his class from West Point and was an Army tank commander in the late 1980s. Republicans praised Pompeo’s record in government and the military and said his closeness to President Trump will boost his credibility in dealing with world leaders, including Kim Jong-un of North Korea. Democrats said that while in the House, Pompeo was “Islamophobic” and floated conspiracy theories about the 2012 attacks on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya. They also criticized his congressional stands against the Paris agreement on climate change and U.S. funding of international women’s health organizations.

Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said “it is fair to say Mike Pompeo doesn’t always couch his words in diplomatic niceties. He doesn’t mince words about the threats that we face. And his time at the CIA has surely enhanced his strategic thinking. That is good, and that is exactly what we need at the State Department. We need less diplomatic double-talk and more clear-eyed, strategic thinking about international threats. Real diplomacy isn’t always about sweet talk.”

Patty Murray, D-Washington, said that while in Congress, “Mike Pompeo was deeply intertwined with this network of anti-Muslim organizations … .(He) went on these radio shows that traded in these conspiracy theories about Muslims. He allowed for his name and his office to be associated with their causes. At one point, he actually accepted an award from a group called Act for America, which is arguably the largest anti-Muslim group in America.”

A yes vote was to confirm the nominee.

Voting yes: Richard Shelby, R, Doug Jones, D.

Voting no:  None.

Kyle Duncan, Federal Appeals Judge

The Senate on April 24 voted, 50 for and 47 against, to confirm Kyle Duncan, a partner in a Washington law firm, for a lifetime appointment on the New Orleans-based 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over federal trial courts in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Duncan was lead counsel on the winning side of the Supreme Court’s 2014 Hobby Lobby Stores v. Burwell ruling that closely held, for-profit corporations could refuse on religious grounds to provide employees with certain types of birth-control coverage under the Affordable Care Act. Democrats criticized Duncan over his restrictive views on LGBTQ rights, immigration and women’s reproductive rights and for his support of voter ID laws and a former North Carolina law barring transgender individuals from using the bathroom of their choice in government buildings.

Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana, said Duncan’s “body of work … demonstrates his high respect for legal precedent. He understands that a judge is not an advocate for a particular case but, instead, an adjudicator upholding the law, applying the law to the facts. He is a man of high integrity, high character … .”

Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., said Duncan’s legal career is one of “slamming (doors) shut … on all LGBTQ communities … on women seeking reproductive rights and health care … on those who simply wish to vote in America … on those who are here and have been here legally, who are seeking to become citizens.”

A yes vote was to confirm the nominee.

Voting yes: Shelby.

Voting no: Jones.

Richard Grenell, Ambassador to Germany

Voting 56 for and 42 against, the Senate on April 26 confirmed Richard Grenell, 51, a Fox News contributor and head of a public-affairs firm, as U.S. ambassador to Germany. He was America’s press spokesman at the United Nations under President George W. Bush. In 2012, as an aide to Mitt Romney, he became the first openly gay spokesman for a GOP presidential nominee. Democrats criticized Grenell for having sent numerous Tweets disparaging women, including first lady Michelle Obama, MSNBC journalist Rachel Maddow and U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See Calista Gingrich.

Bob Corker, R-Tennessee, said Grenell has a “deep background in diplomacy and strategic communications.” He added it was “fitting that we are voting on this ambassadorship” the day before a scheduled Washington visit by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Robert Menendez, D-New Jersey, said: “Not only do these Tweets show bad judgment, they show us who Mr. Grenell really is and how comfortable he is publicly contributing his own brand of toxic political discourse. Will he do such things if he is confirmed and goes to Germany? Will he insult via his Twitter account the female Chancellor of Germany? I don’t know. I hope not.”

A yes vote was to confirm the nominee

Voting yes: Shelby, Jones.

Voting no: None.


Congress is in recess until the week of May 7.