WASHINGTON – Alabama’s delegation in the House of Representatives split along party lines last week on a vote aimed at funding the Trump administration’s proposed addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 census.
The House voted 192 for and 240 against the amendment, which was offered to a $690.4 billion spending package (HR 3055) for fiscal 2020 that remained in debate at week’s end.
The outcome of the census affects many things, including some federal funding and the number of congressional seats a state is allocated.
Amendment opponent Jose Serrano, D-N.Y., said the amendment would “reduce the accuracy and increase the undercount in places like Florida, Texas, Alabama, Michigan, California and New York. This, in turn, will affect reapportionment and the distribution of federal funds for the next decade in many of the communities we represent.”
Amendment sponsor Steve King, R-Iowa, referred to the use of the census in allocating congressional districts and said, “It is important that we understand that the voices in this Congress be the voices of American citizens, not the voices of illegal aliens.”
The Supreme Court is now weighing the constitutionality of a citizenship question, which Democrats say is a partisan tactic to deter undocumented aliens from taking part in the census. Under the Constitution, the decennial census is required to count all persons living in the United States.
A yes vote was to adopt the GOP amendment.
Voting yes: Bradley Byrne, R-1, Martha Roby, R-2, Mike Rogers, R-3, Robert Aderholt, R-4, Mo Brooks, R-5, Gary Palmer, R-6
Voting no: Terri Sewell, D-7
Here’s more on how area members of Congress voted on major issues during the legislative week ending June 21.
$982.8 Billion Spending Package
Voting 226 for and 203 against, the House on June 19 approved a $982.8 billion package consisting of four of the 12 appropriations bills that will fund government operations in fiscal 2020, which starts Oct. 1.
The bill (HR 2740) funds a $690.2 billion Pentagon budget while repealing the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force and prohibiting the diversion of military funds to wall construction on the southeast border. In addition, the bill would provide $17.2 billion for operating the State Department and $24 billion in bilateral foreign aid including $3.3 billion for Israel, $1.52 billion for Jordan, $1.4 billion for Egypt and $445.7 million for Ukraine. The bill also would appropriate $42.2 billion for K-12 education programs; $41.1 billion for the National Institutes of Health; $13.3 billion for the Department of Labor; $4 billion for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and $495 million for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, among hundreds of other outlays.
A yes vote was to pass the bill.
Voting yes: Sewell
Voting no: Byrne, Roby, Rogers, Aderholt, Brooks, Palmer
Warrantless Collection of Americans’ Communications
Voting 175 for and 253 against, the House on June 18 defeated an amendment to HR 2740 (above) aimed at restricting intelligence agencies’ use of the billions of telecommunications involving Americans inadvertently collected as part of warrantless surveillance of foreign targets under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
The amendment sought to withhold funding to administer Section 702 next fiscal year unless the government takes additional steps to prevent violations of Americans’ Fourth Amendment privacy rights. For example, stricter controls would have to be imposed to keep agencies from using warrantless targeting of foreigners, which is permitted, to intentionally or accidentally access the communications of people in the United States.
The FISA law gives agencies, including the National Security Agency and FBI warrantless access to commercial databases of foreigners’ voice and digital communications – phone calls, emails, online chats, text messaging and social-media postings – that pass through wireless and landline facilities in the United States. But in order to use the data to target Americans, they must obtain court warrants based on probable cause.
When the government inadvertently collects innocent Americans’ communications, the information must be expunged or disregarded, although the law lacks a means for outsiders to see if that has occurred.
Sponsor Justin Amash, R-Mich., said his amendment would “allow the government to continue using Section 702 for its stated purpose of gathering foreign intelligence, while limiting the government’s warrantless collection of Americans’ conversations.”
Mike Conaway, R-Texas, said the amendment could mean that “if a terrorist located in a foreign country communicates with conspirators located in the United States, the Intelligence community might not be able to use Section 702 to target that terrorist because he is communicating with a person in the United States.”
A yes vote was to adopt the amendment.
Voting yes: Byrne, Brooks
Voting no: Roby, Rogers, Aderholt, Palmer, Sewell
U.S. Funding to Combat Global Warming
Voting 174 for and 251 against, the House on June 18 defeated an amendment to prohibit U.S. funding in HR 2740 (above) to support the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. With 195 signatory nations including the United States, the convention, or treaty, is the governing authority for a series of international efforts to slow the rate of global warming. For example, it ushered in the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, the Paris Agreement in 2015 and, in 2010, the goal among nations to limit global temperature rises to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial (about 1850) levels.
Amendment sponsor Jodey Arrington, R-Texas, called it “reckless and naive to bind taxpayers to international agreements that compromise our freedom and our economic security and virtually do nothing to impact the environment.”
Harley Rouda, D-Calif., said: “Ninety-seven percent of scientists recognize that climate change is real. The Department of Defense recognizes this is one of the top, if not the number one, national threats to our security.”
A yes vote was to withhold U.S. support of international efforts to slow global warming.
Voting yes: Byrne, Roby, Rogers, Aderholt, Brooks, Palmer
Voting no: Sewell
Blocking Arms to Saudi Arabia
Voting 53 for and 45 against, the Senate on June 20 adopted a measure (SJ Res 36) that would disapprove of billions of dollars in planned and ongoing U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia and its allies in the Middle East for use in a Saudi-led war against Iranian-backed forces in Yemen. Congress voted this year to end U.S. involvement in the Yemen war, but President Trump successfully vetoed the measure.
Rand Paul, R-Ky., said the Saudis already have “enough arms to blow up the Middle East 10 times over. Is there just no stopping? Is there no limitation to what we will do? Do we not believe that any of our arms sales should be conditioned on behavior?”
Jim Risch, R-Idaho, said: “These sales are needed to address the legitimate security requirements of other countries we support in response to there being numerous threats from Iran and its proxies. These threats are real.”
A yes vote was to block the arms sales.
Voting yes: Doug Jones, D
Voting no: Richard Shelby, R
KEY VOTES AHEAD
The House will debate fiscal 2020 appropriations bills in the week of June 24, while the Senate will take up the 2020 military budget and emergency spending to deal with immigration overflow on the southwest border.