Congressional Votes for the Week Ending Aug. 3

WASHINGTON – Alabama’s senators split their votes last week on a bill to extend the National Flood Insurance Program through Nov. 30, giving lawmakers more time to consider proposed reforms. The program runs a significant deficit, but it offers citizens access to flood insurance that otherwise is expensive and often not available at all.

Here’s how the senators voted on that and other major issues in the week ending Aug. 3. The House was in recess.


Temporary Extension of Flood Insurance

Voting 88 for and 12 against, the Senate on July 31 passed a bill (S 1182) that would extend the National Flood Insurance Program through Nov. 30. This would give Congress more time to consider proposed reforms of a program that is running a deficit of more than $20 billion even after having received a $16 billion taxpayer bailout. Addressing a market largely shunned by the private sector, the program sells below-market-rate policies to five million-plus residential and commercial properties located in flood plains in 22,000 communities.

John Kennedy, R-Louisiana, said: “We need to reform this program. But we need to keep it alive. It is not going to do anybody any good to let this program expire … and scare five million-plus Americans half to death.”

Mike Lee, R-Utah, said the program “is losing money faster than Congress can spend it” because it “doesn’t charge policyholders market rates for insurance. It offers them a special, below-market rate despite the fact that we know floodplains are dangerous.”

A yes vote was to send the bill to President Trump.

Voting yes: Doug Jones, D.

Voting no: Richard Shelby, R.


Refusal to Fund Election-Security Grants:

Voting 50 for and 47 against, the Senate on Aug. 1 failed to reach the 60 votes needed to expand HR 6147 (below) to include $250 million for election-security grants to states. The underlying bill “zeroed out” funding in the new fiscal year for these grants, which help states upgrade voting equipment and fortify electoral systems against outside attacks and internal breakdowns. Both chambers have now voted to deny such funding in the new fiscal year.

Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, said: “Our country, our democracy, is under attack, and we should respond. … The president is not going to act. The duty has fallen to us. Let’s not, after an election, find out that this country was defenseless against attacks from Russia, and then say … we should have done something. ”

James Lankford, R-Oklahoma, said Congress should not fund additional election-security grants until previously appropriated funds for that purpose have been fully allocated. “Just four months ago, this body appropriated $380 million (for) states to help them in their elections,” he said.

A yes vote was to add electoral funds for states to a pending appropriations bill.

Voting yes: Jones.

Voting no: Shelby.


Retaining Individual Mandate in D.C.

Voting 54 for and 44 against, the Senate on Aug. 1 tabled (killed) an amendment to HR 6147 (below) that sought to repeal the District of Columbia’s individual mandate, which requires city residents to obtain health insurance or face a fine. Although Congress has outlawed the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate starting in 2019, jurisdictions including D.C. and Vermont have imposed a similar requirement in an effort to hold down premium costs in their ACA marketplaces.

Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, said: “Just like Vermont, D.C. should have the authority to make its own laws.”

Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said: “If you vote to table this amendment, you are voting to raise taxes on low-income D.C. residents who are struggling to make ends meet.”

A yes vote was to retain the D.C. individual mandate.

Voting yes: Shelby, Jones.

Voting no: None.


Passage of $154.2 Billion Spending Package:

Voting 92 for and six against, the Senate on Aug. 1 passed a bill (HR 6147) combining four of the 12 appropriations bills that fund the government into a single package totaling $154.2 billion. In part, the bill would fund the departments of Interior, Agriculture, Transportation and Housing and Urban Development; the Treasury Department and federal judiciary; numerous agencies, including the Small Business Administration and Environmental Protection Agency and the federally funded share of the District of Columbia.

A yes vote was to send the bill to a House-Senate conference committee.

Voting yes: Shelby, Jones.

Voting no: None.


Approval of $717 Billion for Military

Voting 87 for and 10 against, the Senate on Aug. 1 approved the conference report on a bill (HR 5515) that would authorize a $717 billion military budget for fiscal 2019, including $69 billion for war-fighting overseas and $57 billion for active-duty and retiree health care. The bill would lift a ban on the development of sea-launched low-yield nuclear weapons, fund a military parade in Washington requested by President Trump and weapons systems, set a 2.6 percent pay raise for uniformed personnel and fund programs for military victims of sexual assault.

A yes vote was to send the bill to Trump.

Voting yes: Shelby, Jones.

Voting no: None.


Both chambers are in recess this week.