Congressional Votes for the Week Ending March 29

WASHINGTON — The House on March 27 voted 242 for and 187 against a bill (HR 7) that would expand federal prohibitions on paycheck discrimination based on gender while giving women additional legal tools for obtaining equal pay for substantially equal work. The bill now goes to the Senate.

The vote was largely along party lines, including members representing Alabama. U.S. Rep Terry Sewell, D-Birmingham was the lone yes vote in the state’s delegation.

The bill, which exempts companies with annual revenue less than $500,000, would require employers to demonstrate that any pay disparities between men and women are a business necessity and job-related; prohibit retaliation against those who share salary data with co-workers; prohibit the use of salary histories in setting pay levels, so that sex-based pay gaps do not follow workers from job to job; allow plaintiffs to receive unlimited punitive and compensatory damages just as they can in other civil-rights litigation; and expand the categories of payroll data the Department of Labor and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission can collect from employers to determine their compliance with laws, including the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, Equal Pay Act of 1963 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Rosa DeLauro, D-Connecticut, said Congress “has a rich history of making a difference in the lives of the American people: Social Security, the Fair Labor Standards Act, the GI Bill, Medicare, and the Affordable Care Act, to name but a few. Today, we can make a difference for working women and their families.”

Carol Miller, R-West Virginia, said the bill “tells young women entering the workforce that they are unable to negotiate for their own jobs or take control of their own life and that they need to be coddled by the government in order to succeed. What arrogance … . This bill is nothing more than a trial lawyer’s dream and a job creator’s nightmare.”

A yes vote was to pass the bill.


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 

Other votes in Congress this week included the following.


Cap on Contingency Fees

Voting 191 for and 236 against, the House on March 27 defeated a Republican motion to HR 7 (above) that sought to limit lawyers’ contingency fees and expense reimbursements in pay discrimination lawsuits to 49 percent of the recovered sum. A contingency fee is the payment attorneys receive when their client wins a judgement; if the client loses, the attorney goes without pay. Lawyers and clients often agree on a contingency fee equal to one third of the judgment, according to the American Bar Association website, but critics say the figure is often higher.

Susan Wild, D-Pennsylvania, said: “Without these lawyers, low-income female employees with legitimate grievances would have no recourse. … This motion, if passed, would discourage lawyers from taking these cases. And if they don’t take these cases, employees, workers, families lose out.”

Virginia Foxx, R-North Carolina, said: “If this amendment is adopted, trial lawyers will have to somehow make do with 49 percent of the overall judgment, and we all know that trial lawyers siphon off more than this amount in many of their class-action cases.”

A yes vote was to adopt the motion.


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

Voting no: Sewell.

Repudiation of Transgender Service Ban:

Voting 238 for and 185 against, the House on March 28 adopted a non-binding measure (H Res124) repudiating President Trump’s decision to ban transgender persons from serving openly in the U.S. military. Soon to take effect, the ban would reverse an Obama administration ruling in 2016 granting the trans community its first-ever opportunity to serve openly in the Armed Forces. Trump’s policy would allow the several thousand trans individuals now in uniform to continue serving openly if they identify their sex as that which they had at birth, although the Pentagon could relax that requirement on a case by case basis.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, said Trump’s policy “is cruel and arbitrary, a decision designed to humiliate the transgender Americans who are risking and giving their lives for the United States of America.”

Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, said: “This is a messaging bill. It changes no law. It changes no policy. It could also be done down in the House radio-television correspondents’ gallery. Somebody could give a speech, and there could be a press conference.”

A yes vote was to adopt the resolution.


Voting yes: Sewell 

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

Trump Prevails in Wall Dispute

The House on March 26 failed to override President Trump’s veto of a resolution (HJ Res 46) aimed at nullifying his declared national emergency on the southwest border over immigration concerns. The tally was 248 for and 181 against, with override forces falling 38 votes short of the two-thirds majority they needed to prevail. This clears the way for Trump to transfer appropriations from military accounts specified by Congress for other purposes to the construction of a border wall, an action Democrats say they will challenge in court.

Adriano Espaillat, D-New York, said: “Let me remind the American people: There is no emergency at the southern border or anywhere else that warrants this wall.”

Tom McClintock, R-California, said: “History warns us that nations that cannot or will not defend their borders aren’t around very long. Let that not be the epitaph of the American republic or the Constitution that created it.”

A yes vote was to override the veto.


Voting yes: Sewell

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


Jousting Over Green New Deal

Voting zero for and 57 against, the Senate on March 26 turned back a Democratic-sponsored measure (SJ Res 8) that would establish a “Green New Deal” for greatly expanding governmental and private-sector initiatives for dealing with climate change. All 53 Republican senators voted against the resolution along with three Democrats and one independent, while 42 Democrats and one independent answered “present,” which is a non-vote similar to absenteeism. Republicans, who arranged this vote, said it was time to take a stand on proposals that would disrupt the U.S. economy by phasing out consumption of fossil fuels over 10 years. But Democrats said it was too soon to conduct votes on legislation still in the discussion stage.

John Barrasso, R-Wyoming, said the roll call offered senators “a chance … to show whether they support this radical approach.”

Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nevada, said: “This isn’t a vote about legislation. It is a cynical attempt to distract from the challenge confronting our country.”

A no vote was a statement against the so-called Green New Deal.


Voting yes: None

Voting no: Richard Shelby, R, Doug Jones, D 


The House will vote on renewing the Violence Against Women Act in the week of April 1, while the Senate will debate aid for areas struck by wildfires, flooding, hurricanes and other natural disasters.