Congressional Votes for the Week Ending Jan. 4

WASHINGTON – In a partisan vote, the House last week agreed to a continuing resolution (HJ Res 1) that would fund the Department of Homeland Security through Feb. 8, giving Congress and President Trump more time to negotiate his request for up to $5.7 billion this year for building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. The department has been partially closed since Dec. 22.

Alabama’s representatives also voted along party lines on the bill, with Democratic Rep. Terri Sewell approving it and the rest opposing.

Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Alabama, said that in the new Congress, “It looks like we are in for a Democratic agenda influenced by the far-left echo chamber that promotes open borders and illegal immigration.”

Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, called Trump’s border wall “a 14th Century solution to a 21st Century problem. If you want to spend billions on that wall, I will spend $10 on a ladder to (scale) that wall,” he said.

The vote was 239 for and 192 against passing the continuing resolution. The vote sent the bill to the Senate.


Voting yes: Sewell, D-7

Voting no: Bradley Byrne, R-1, Martha Roby, R-2, Rogers, R-3, Robert Aderholt, R-4, Mo Brooks, R-5, Gary Palmer, R-6

Here’s how area House members voted on other major issues during the legislative week ending Jan. 4. The votes occurred after the House elected Nancy Pelosi, D-California, as speaker for the 116th Congress. She received 220 votes, Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., garnered 192 votes, and others received a total of 18 votes. There were no Senate votes during the week.


Bill to Reopen Cabinet Departments

Voting 241 for and 190 against, the House on Jan. 3 sent the Senate a bill (HR 21) that would provide regular budgets through September for eight cabinet departments and numerous agencies that have been closed since Dec. 22 in a dispute over President Trump’s request for up to $5.7 billion to build a wall on the southwest border.

Enactment of the bill would leave the Department of Homeland Security (below) as the only department still shuttered in a partisan standoff that has forced nearly 400,000 civil servants to take unpaid leave and another 420,000 to work without pay, sharply curtailing services to taxpayers.

A combination of six individual appropriations measures, the bill would reopen the departments of Treasury, Justice, Agriculture, Commerce, Interior, State, Transportation and Housing and Urban Development along with agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration, Environmental Protection Agency and Transportation Security Administration.

Congress already has passed regular 2019 budgets for the legislative branch and the departments of Defense, Education, Labor and Health and Human Services and certain agencies.

Nita Lowey, D-New York, said: “Funding the federal government is one of the most important duties of Congress. The previous majority failed to do so and they failed to do the most basic task of keeping the lights on. Here on day one of the 116th Congress, we Democrats are here to reopen federal agencies shuttered by the Trump shutdown.”

Kay Granger, R-Texas, said: “By accepting this bill, we’re throwing away … resources to help federal law enforcement better investigate groups such as terrorists, drug traffickers, human traffickers, violent criminals and criminal aliens.”

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


Voting yes: Sewell

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

 Dispute Over Abortion Counseling

Voting 199 for and 232 against, the House on Jan 3 defeated a Republican bid to ensure that HR 21 (above) complied with President Trump’s executive order expanding the “Mexico City Policy.” The policy is a Reagan-era directive used by Republican administrations to deny U.S. family-planning aid to non-governmental foreign organizations that provide abortion counseling or perform abortions overseas. Trump expanded the policy to cover virtually all categories of U.S. global health funding, including support for children’s health programs and combatting malaria and HIV/AIDS.

Kay Granger, R-Texas, said the bill as written “reverses the president’s protecting lives in global health assistance policies … . This policy is important to protect lives and must be maintained.”

Nita Lowey, D-New York, said Trump’s order “goes beyond existing U.S. law and forces the United States to withhold critical family-planning assistance from non-governmental organizations with expertise, capacity and proven track records on supporting women’s heath around the globe.”

A yes vote was to adopt the GOP motion.


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

Voting no: Sewell

 New House Ground Rules

Voting 234 for and 197 against, the House on Jan. 3 adopted rules changing how the chamber processes legislation, oversees its members’ conduct and addresses issues including climate change during the two-year span of the newly convened 116th Congress. The package (H Res 6) offered by the House’s new Democratic majority was added to a body of standing rules that has controlled House proceedings since the 1st Congress in 1789.

The rules package establishes a select committee on climate change, a special panel for modernizing congressional operations and a new legislative subcommittee to promote diversity in financial services. The texts of bills must be publicly available for at least 72 hours before floor action; bills considered by the Rules Committee for floor debate first have to receive a committee hearing and markup; bills with at least 290 cosponsors are to get prompt floor consideration and committees must periodically hold “Member Day” hearings at which panel members can tout proposals they believe have been ignored.

The new rules authorize the House to join court actions in defense of the Affordable Care Act, while the Administration Committee is newly empowered to conduct depositions while overseeing federal elections. The renamed Committee on Oversight and Reform is given jurisdiction to investigate all corners of government operations including the White House. Term limits are dropped for committee chairs and members of the Budget Committee. The former Committee on Education and the Workforce is now the Committee on Education and Labor.

The Democrats are reinstating “pay-go” rules requiring that the costs of cuts in taxes or increases in mandatory spending programs including Medicare and Social Security must be offset so that they do not add to the deficit. The package eliminates a rule requiring three-fifths majority votes for income tax increases, and it drops the “dynamic scoring” process promoted by Republicans to reduce the estimated costs of tax cuts by projecting economic benefits. Also reinstated is the “Gephardt rule,” under which adoption of the annual budget resolution automatically grants House approval of suspending the federal debt limit. The new ground rules repeal the “Holman rule” allowing appropriations bills to be used to eliminate federal programs or dismiss or cut the salary of specific federal employees.

The new majority’s rules package includes several steps to tighten the chamber’s ethical standards and protect staff members and minorities. House members and aides are prohibited from sitting on corporate boards, members and staff have to receive annual ethics training and committee assignments and leadership posts are to be denied to members indicted or convicted of serious crimes. House members would have to use personal funds to pay settlements resulting from harassment or discrimination claims by aides, and nondisclosure agreements cannot include language prohibiting current or former staff members from speaking to House authorities probing workplace abuses. House members are prohibited from having sexual relationships with their aides or with aides to the committees on which they serve. Discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity is outlawed, and religious headwear can now be worn on the House floor.

The new rules allow the six delegates representing residents of the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands to vote on amendments when the House is meeting as the Committee of the Whole. But should their votes prove decisive, the roll call would have to be conducted again without their participation when the House is in official legislative session.

A yes vote was to adopt House rules for the new Congress.


Voting yes: Sewell 

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

Coverage of Pre-Existing Conditions

Voting 233 for and 197 against, the House on Jan. 3 blocked a Republican bid to marshal H Res 6 (above) in support of the Affordable Care Act requirement that health policies cover pre-existing conditions. The Democratic-drafted rules package already gave the House the authority join lawsuits defending the health law against a federal court ruling in Texas that it is unconstitutional.

Greg Walden,, R-Oregon, said “let us come together and make sure that those Americans with pre-existing health conditions are protected, period” in the rule package.

Jim McGovern, D-Massachusetts, said “it’s laughable” that Republicans are now defending coverage of pre-existing conditions after eight years of trying to repeal and dismantle the Affordable Care Act.

A yes vote was to block the Republican motion.


Voting yes: Sewell 

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


House and Senate legislative schedules for the week of Jan. 7 were to be announced.