Congressional Votes for the Week Ending Jan. 18

WASHINGTON – Alabama’s House delegation, along with many members of the House, had party-line votes last week on bills to fund disaster relief for businesses and residents harmed by wildfires, hurricanes, flooding, mudslides, volcanic eruptions and typhoons.

Republicans opposed the original measure because it would have opened closed portions of the government temporarily without allocating money to build Trump’s wall. Democrats also passed an amendment that would prohibit the president from using disaster relief funds to build the wall, which he has speculated he might do. Republicans failed in an attempt to pass an alternate disaster relief funding bill that would not temporarily reopen government offices but without providing funding for a border wall.

In Alabama’s delegation, each of those votes cast Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Birmingham, on the opposite side from the state’s six other representatives.


 Sanctions Relief for Russian Companies

Voting 362 for and 53 against, the House on Jan. 17 passed a measure (HJ Res 30) that would prevent the Treasury Department from lifting economic sanctions on aluminum and energy companies controlled by Russian tycoon Oleg Deripaska, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. But the Senate (below) voted to clear the way for Treasury to grant sanctions relief starting this month in return for Deripaska relinquishing majority stakes in the three firms. U.S. sanctions on his personal assets are to remain in force.

Congress and President Trump imposed the sanctions to penalize the Kremlin and Putin-aligned oligarchs for actions including Russia’s interference in U.S. elections, military aggression in eastern Ukraine and seizure of Crimea. Deripaska was an associate of Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, who has been convicted of or pleaded guilty to banking and tax-fraud charges brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Deripaska reportedly remains under Mueller’s scrutiny.

Adam Schiff, D-California, said: “The Russian actions in the last election continued through the manipulation of social media to meddle in our democratic affairs. Violence … between Russia and Ukraine continues. Nothing has changed in the Kremlin’s behavior. Nothing has changed to warrant Treasury lifting these sanctions.”

No member spoke against the measure.

A yes vote was to retain sanctions on the Deripaska-controlled companies.


Voting yes: Martha Roby, R-2, Gary Palmer, R-6, Terri Sewell, D-7

Voting no: Bradley Byrne, R-1, Mike Rogers, R-3, Robert Aderholt, R-4, Mo Brooks, R-5 

Disapproval of Congressman’s Racist Comments

Voting 424 for and one against, the House on Jan. 15 adopted a resolution (H Res 41) disapproving of comments by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, extolling white nationalism and supremacy. He said in a New York Times interview published Jan. 10:  “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization – how did that language become offensive?” The vote occurred the day after House Republican leaders stripped the eight-term congressman from northwestern Iowa of his committee assignments.

Pramila Jayapal, D-Washington, said: “The terrible truth is that racism and xenophobia escalate when racism and white supremacy are permitted here in Congress and all the way up to the White House to be issues with both sides. There are no both sides when it comes to white supremacy.”

Bobby Rush, D-Illinois, the only member to vote against the resolution, said that he opposed it as too weak and that the House should instead formally censure King. “This resolution just restates the obvious. It does not address Steve King’s violent, vitriolic and rabid racism,” he said.

A yes vote was to adopt the resolution.


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

Voting no: None

 $12.1 Billion Disaster Relief

Voting 237 for and 187 against, the House on Jan. 16 passed a bill (HR 268) that would provide $12.1 billion to homeowners, businesses, farmers, local governments and other entities harmed by wildfires, hurricanes, flooding, mudslides, volcanic eruptions and typhoons in the United States and its territories in recent years. The bill drew Republican opposition because of its language to reopen closed parts of the government through Feb. 8 without providing border-wall funding requested by President Trump. The disaster aid includes $2.96 billion for rebuilding infrastructure; $2.54 billion for mitigating damages in future disasters; $1.86 billion for farmers and rural communities; $1.16 billion for community-development grants and $555 million to fund social services for displaced persons, among other outlays.

Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, said: “This nation needs a better strategy to mitigate damage in future disasters, especially as year after year we see accelerating numbers and severity of national disasters due to climate change.”

John Rutherford, R-Florida, asked: “If the goal of this bill is to provide disaster relief, why on earth would (Democrats) attach something that effectively ensures its defeat?”

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


Voting yes: Sewell

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

Prohibition on Wall Funding

The House on Jan. 16 voted, 230 for and 197 against, to prohibit the department of Homeland Security or Army Corps of Engineers from spending any funds in a disaster relief bill (HR 268, above) to plan, develop or build President Trump’s proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall. The amendment was introduced after Trump said he might use previously appropriated but not yet spent disaster aid to build the wall.

Jim McGovern, D-Massachusetts, said: “Disaster funding should go where Congress intended: to the sites of actual disasters, to communities dealing with things like hurricanes, mudslides, wildfires and floods.”

Kay Granger, R-Texas, said: “Not a single paragraph in the bill before us includes funds for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, yet this amendment restricts funds for this purpose.”

A yes vote was to adopt the amendment.


Voting yes: Sewell

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

Clean Bill on Disaster Relief

Voting 193 for and 231 against, the House on Jan. 16 defeated a GOP effort to reshape HR 268 (above) as a bill dealing only with disaster relief. The motion sought to strip the bill of a “continuing resolution” that would reopen the government at least through Feb. 8 but disregard President Trump’s request for border-wall funding. Republicans called the wall rebuff a “poison pill” they could not accept.

Neal Dunn, R-Florida, said House members deserve a vote “on a standalone emergency funding bill … unencumbered by hot button, divisive issues.”

Nita Lowey, D-New York, said the motion “would only further prolong the shutdown.”

A yes vote was to produce a bill dealing only with disaster aid.


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

Voting no: Sewell


Sanctions Relief for Russian Companies

Voting 57 for and 42 against, the Senate on Jan. 16 failed to reach 60 votes needed to advance a Democratic-sponsored measure (SJ Res 2) that sought to retain U.S. economic sanctions on the corporate domain of Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska. This upheld a deal soon to take effect in which the Treasury Department will remove the sanctions in return for Deripaska giving up majority interests in three firms he controls. In addition, the vote rendered as symbolic a House move (above) to nullify the sanctions deal. Deripaska is an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin and onetime business associate of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, said: “There should not be sanctions relief for President Putin’s trusted agent (Deripaska) before the conclusion of Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation.”

Michael Crapo, R-Idaho, called the proposed sanctions relief “a hard-fought divestiture agreement. It is among the most robust and verifiable delisting determinations ever devised by Treasury – worthy of Senate approval and not a gift to the Kremlin.”

A yes vote was to block Russian sanctions relief.


Voting yes: Doug Jones, D 

Voting no:  Richard Shelby, R 

Affordable Care Act Abortion Funding

Voting 48 for and 47 against, the Senate on Jan 17 failed to reach 60 votes needed to advance a Republican-sponsored bill (S 109) that would prohibit federal subsidies of insurance plans sold in Affordable Care Act exchanges that provide abortion coverage. The bill would nullify the existing requirement that ACA policyholders personally pay the share of their insurance premium that reflects coverage of reproductive services. The health law is covered by the so-called Hyde Amendment, a standard part of annual appropriations bills that prohibits the expenditure of federal funds for abortions except in cases of rape or incest or to save the life of the mother.

Jennifer Popik, legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee, says on the NRLC website in reference to this bill: “The American people want the government out of the business of paying for abortion once and for all.”

Adrienne Kimmell, vice president of the National Abortion Rights Action League, says on the NARAL website: “The bill would essentially eliminate abortion coverage across the entire insurance market.”

A yes vote was to advance the bill.


Voting yes: Shelby 

Voting no:  Jones 


The House will take up government-funding measures in the week of Jan. 21, while the Senate will consider a bill authorizing military aid to Israel