WASHINGTON — U.S. House of Representatives members voted last week to increase funding for vaccine research, a measure driven by the recent measles outbreak in the country. Alabama’s members in the House split their votes on the issue, but not along party lines. Three voted to increase spending while four voted against the majority to leave funding as it is.
Members of Congress also took on a number of controversial issues, including reporting deaths of migrant children, using fetal tissue samples in research and selling arms to Bahrain. Here’s how area members of Congress voted on major issues during the legislative week ending June 14
Seeking Courts’ Help to Enforce Subpoenas
Voting 229 for and 191 against, the House on June 11 adopted a resolution (H Res 430) authorizing its committees to ask federal courts to enforce committee subpoenas for documents and testimony from the Trump administration and its current and former officials. The action came in response to the administration’s refusals to comply with House Democrats’ requests for information and witness appearances in more than a dozen areas of inquiry, including Russian interference in U.S. elections, the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 census, an administration-backed lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act and the separation of immigrant families on the southwest border. Democrats say the subpoenas embody Congress’s constitutional duty to oversee the executive branch, while President Trump has cited executive privilege to block testimony of his current and former advisers and thwart legislative-branch scrutiny.
On a related track, the Judiciary Committee on May 8 approved civil contempt of Congress charges against Attorney General William Barr for not complying with its subpoena for the entire unredacted report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and underlying materials. The full House has delayed a vote on citing Barr pending the outcome of negotiations to obtain his voluntary cooperation.
A yes vote was to adopt the resolution, which took effect immediately.
Voting yes: Terri Sewell, D-7
Voting no: Bradley Byrne, R-1, Martha Roby, R-2, Mike Rogers, R-3, Robert Aderholt, R-4, Mo Brooks, R-5, Gary Palmer, R-6
Public Education About Vaccines
The House on June 12 voted, 341 for and 83 against, to increase spending by $5 million next fiscal year on a government program to educate the public about the effectiveness and safety of vaccines. The amendment was intended to combat misinformation being spread on social media about vaccinations. The vote occurred during debate on a bill (HR 2740) appropriating $99.4 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services in fiscal 2020 that remained in debate.
Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said: “The scientific and medical communities are in overwhelming consensus that vaccines are both effective and safe. There is no evidence to suggest that vaccines cause life-threatening or disabling diseases, and the dissemination of unfounded or debunked theories about the dangers of vaccination pose a great risk to the public health.”
No member spoke against the amendment.
A yes vote was to increase spending on vaccine education.
Voting yes: Roby, Aderholt, Sewell
Voting no: Byrne, Rogers, Brooks, Palmer
“Conscience Rule” For Denying Healthcare
Voting 192 for and 230 against, the House on June 12 refused to uphold a proposed Trump administration rule under which doctors and workers at hospitals, clinics and other health facilities could deny care to patients that conflicts with their religious or moral beliefs. Scheduled to take effect July 22, the “conscience rule” would override existing laws and policies that strike a balance between protecting the religious convictions of providers and delivering care in areas including reproductive services. On this vote, the House defeated a GOP-sponsored attempt to fund the rule as part of HR 2740 (above).
Phil Roe, R-Tenn., said: “We have a First Amendment right to practice our religion in America, and the government forcing someone to act in a way that violates those beliefs is in direct opposition to the very foundation of our Constitution.”
Lois Frankel, D-Fla., said: “Under this Trump rule, a pharmacist could refuse to fill a prescription for birth control, a receptionist could refuse to schedule an abortion for a child rape victim, an ambulance driver could refuse to take a patient suffering from miscarriage to the hospital, all based upon their personal beliefs, not the patient’s welfare.”
A yes vote was to allow the rule to take effect next month.
Voting yes: Byrne, Roby, Rogers, Aderholt, Brooks, Palmer
Voting no: Sewell
Clampdown on Fetal Tissue Research
The House on June 13 voted, 225 for and 193 against, to block funding to implement a newly announced clampdown by the Trump administration on federal support of fetal tissue research. The vote occurred during debate on HR 2740 (above). In part, the policy would prohibit National Institutes of Health scientists from conducting such research while subjecting academic scientists to an additional layer of ethics and bureaucratic review when they apply for NIH research grants. Under a 1993 law, the NIH last year funded more than 150 projects by university scientists using fetal tissue donated after elective abortions to pursue treatments and cures for diseases including Alzheimer’s, ALS and Parkinson’s.
Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., said the administration’s new policy puts “personal ideology ahead of public health.”
Andy Harris, R-Md., said additional ethics review is warranted for “one of the most controversial areas of research.”
A yes vote was to adopt the amendment in support of fetal tissue research.
Voting yes: Sewell
Voting no: Byrne, Roby, Rogers, Aderholt, Brooks, Palmer
Reporting Migrant Children’s Deaths
Voting 355 for and 68 against, the House on June 13 adopted an amendment to HR 2740 (above) requiring the Office of Refugee Resettlement in the Department of Health and Human Services to promptly inform Congress and the public when migrant children die while in the custody of U.S. immigration officials.
Sponsor Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, said that in September 2018, “a young 10-year-old girl died. This Congress and the American people were not told for seven or eight months about that young girl’s death.”
Andy Harris, R-Md., called the amendment “make-believe” because “this administration reports the deaths” of migrant children.
A yes vote was to adopt the amendment.
Voting yes: Roby, Aderholt, Sewell
Voting no: Byrne, Rogers, Brooks, Palmer
$300 Million Arms to Bahrain
Voting 43 for and 56 against, the Senate on June 13 turned back a measure (SJ Res 20) that sought to block the administration’s planned sale of $300 million in U.S. arms to Bahrain. The package consists mainly of surface-to-surface missiles and mobile rocket launching units along with American technical support. Bahrain, which belongs to a Saudi-led coalition waging war in Yemen, is host to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet. Backers called this a proxy vote against American involvement in Yemen’s civil war, while advocates of the arms sale it would benefit a key U.S. ally in the Middle East.
A yes vote was to advance a measure blocking the arms sale.
Voting yes: None
Voting no: Richard Shelby, R, Doug Jones, D
KEY VOTES AHEAD
The House will debate fiscal 2020 appropriations bills in the week of June 17, while the Senate will vote on judicial nominations.