Congressional Votes for the Week Ending June 15

By Voterama in Congress

WASHINGTON – Here’s how Alabama’s members of Congress voted on major issues in the week ending June 15.


Opioid Recovery, Housing Vouchers

Voting 230 for and 173 against, the House on June 14 passed a bill (HR 5735) establishing a pilot program that would make a small percentage of federal Section 8 housing vouchers available to individuals in recovery from substance abuse, including opioid addiction.

Administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development under a 1974 law, the Section 8 program pays the rent and in some cases utility costs of 2.2 million low-income households in the United States, providing shelter and improving their chances of escaping poverty. Because this bill expands eligibility without providing additional funding, critics said it would penalize poor families now on lengthy Section 8 waiting lists. Under the bill, up to 10,000 Section 8 vouchers – less than 1 percent of the available supply – would be distributed through non-profit organizations to recovering drug addicts and combined with mandatory skills training.

Sean Duffy, R-Wisconsin, said: “We are talking about a small sliver of vouchers that can go to help people who are addicted to opioids, or even other drugs. … help them maintain sobriety. Teach them valuable job-training skills. Help them get employment. This is just simple common sense.”

Maxine Waters, D-California, said: “I support the idea that the new population of opioid abusers can have a decent place to live … but let’s not deny the people who have been standing in line, who have been praying, who have been hoping for a decent” home.

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

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

Voting no: Mo Brooks, R-5; and Terri Sewell, D-7.

Opioid Detection by Postal Service

Voting 353 for and 52 against, the House on June 14 passed a bill (HR 5788) that would require the United States Postal Service to develop technology by 2020 for detecting the presence of illicit synthetic opioids such as fentanyl in packages arriving from other countries. The USPS would promptly relay the information to U.S. customs officials for enforcement action. The bill would put USPS detection capabilities on a par with those of FedEx, UPS and other private services that already are required by federal law to track three pieces of information on international packages – point of origin, destination and contents.

Mike Bishop, R-Michigan, said he was “astounded to find out that current law treats packages coming in through private carriers like FedEx and UPS differently than it does shipments through the international mail system.” He added, “It is high time … to put a stop to the inflow of foreign synthetic opioids.”

Jim McGovern, D-Massachusetts, said: “If Republicans were serious about dealing with opioids, they would drop their assault on Medicaid. Medicaid is a critical service to help individuals battling opioid addiction, including supporting inpatient treatment centers and case managers to help get people the help they need.”

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

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

Voting no: None.


$716 Billion for Military in 2019

Voting 81 for and 15 against, the Senate on June 13 advanced a bill that would authorize a $715.6 billion military budget (HR 5515) for fiscal 2019, including $68.5 billion for war-fighting in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and other hot spots, $57 billion for active-duty and retiree health care and funding for a 2.6 percent pay raise for uniformed personnel. A final vote on the bill was expected June 18.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said: “As Russia persists in its efforts to destabilize western democracies and sow doubt within NATO, the bill before us would enhance multilateral security cooperation throughout the alliance and give U.S. Cyber Command the resources to disrupt, deter and defeat cyber aggression.”

Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, said: “Do we have to spend more money on defense than the next 10 countries combined when children in America go hungry, when veterans sleep out on the street, when we are the only major country that does not guarantee health care to all people? I say no.”

A yes vote was to advance the bill.

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

Voting no: None.

Rights of U.S. Terrorism Suspects

The Senate, during debate June 13 on HR 5515 (above), voted to repeal a 7-year-old law permitting indefinite detention without trial of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents seized in the United States as terrorism suspects. The tally on a motion to kill the amendment was 30 for and 68 against. The measure did not address the rights of foreign terrorism suspects captured outside this country and detained at U.S. facilities, including the Guantanamo Bay military prison. Whether the Senate will include the repeal measure in the bill’s final version was to be determined.

Lindsay Graham, R-South Carolina, said the amendment amounts to “incentivizing ISIS and al-Qaeda to find an American because they have protections other people would not have in their own backyard. It is insane to say America is not part of the battlefield. Ask people in New York if America is part of the battlefield.”

Sponsor Mike Lee, R-Utah, said his amendment “simply says that if you are a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident, you may not be indefinitely detained on U.S. soil without trial, without charge, without access to a jury or to counsel. These are not radical concepts … .These are concepts required by the Constitution itself.”

A yes vote was in opposition to adding the repeal amendment to the military budget.

Voting yes: Shelby.

Voting no: Jones.

Congressional Control Over Nuclear Weapons

The Senate, during debate June 13 on HR 5515 (above), voted to uphold a 15-year-old requirement that Congress must explicitly authorize actions by the departments of defense and energy to develop or change U.S. nuclear weapons. The underlying bill sought to end or weaken this area of congressional authority. The tally on a motion to kill the amendment was 47 for and 50 against. Whether the amendment will be included in the bill’s final version was to be determined.

At issue was the degree of control Congress can exert over a new category of low-yield nuclear weapons – the W76-2 warhead – that would be mounted on submarine-launched Trident ballistic missiles. The American arsenal already has low-yield nuclear bombs that can be deployed from aircraft. Low-yield nuclear weapons are defined as those with less than five kilotons of explosives. The bomb dropped on Nagasaki 73 years ago, killing tens of thousands of people, contained 18 to 20 kilotons.

Military planners say low-yield, or tactical, warheads are for use in limited conflicts, in contrast to strategic nuclear weapons, which are designed to obliterate targets far from the immediate battlefield. Supporters of developing these weapons say the United States needs to counter Russia’s extensive low-yield arsenal. Critics say low-yield nuclear weapons heighten the risk of Armageddon because it is folly to think nuclear war can be waged on a limited basis.

James Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, said: “The purpose of developing the low-yield capability is the same as our entire nuclear enterprise – deterrence. … I would hate to have our country in a position where the only choice we have is to do nothing or to use the high-yield equipment that we don’t want to use.”

Edward Markey, D-Massachusetts, said: “A nuclear weapon is a nuclear weapon, period. They are the only human-made force that could destroy all of humanity in a matter of minutes. … The size of the bomb does not matter. Using any nuclear weapon is a step so grave that it is, in and of itself, an act of war. It also invites nuclear retaliation.”

A yes vote was to relax congressional oversight of the nation’s nuclear arsenal.

Voting yes: Shelby.

Voting no: Jones.


The House will take up immigration bills in the week of June 18, while the Senate will debate the fiscal 2019 water and energy budget.