Congressional Votes for the Week Ending March 8

WASHINGTON — The House of Representatives tackled a package of bills the week ending in March 8 that addressed voting, campaign financing and influence peddling. The votes split mostly along party lines, including among Alabama’s representatives.



Revamp of Electoral Systems and Campaign Funding

Voting 234 for and 193 against, the House on March 8 passed a 700-page Democratic-sponsored bill (HR 1) that would make it easier to register to vote and participate in federal elections; begin partial public financing of House campaigns; help states fortify voting systems against cyberattacks; require disclosure of “dark money” political contributions; end partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts; require presidential and vice-presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns; crack down on influence peddling by inaugural committees; expand handicapped access to voting places and tighten ethics rules in the legislative and executive branches, among other provisions. The bill would directly affect federal elections, and House races in particular, while inevitably having a major impact on state and local voting as well.

The bill would impose a 2.75 percent surcharge on penalties paid by corporate and high-income individual tax cheats and use the revenue – projected at $1.948 billion over 10 years – to establish a Freedom From Influence Fund that would aid House candidates in general and primary election campaigns. Incumbents and challengers who agree to a $200 limit on individual contributions would receive $6 in public funds for each $1 they raised. Federal money from other sources could not be added to the fund, which is projected to disburse about $200 million to House candidates in each two-year election cycle.

The bill also would require high-traffic social-media platforms including Facebook, Google, Twitter and Instagram to maintain public databases of foreign actors and other entities seeking to purchase at least $500 annually in political ads and would require “dark-money” financiers of political ads, who now remain anonymous to voters, to be publicly identified in their ads. In addition, states would have to replace partisan gerrymandering with bipartisan commissions to redraw congressional district boundaries following each census.

The bill would authorize spending $750 million over five years on state programs to make voter registration easier. States would have to automatically register residents who sign up for government services including education; allow registration applications online and in person on Election Day; provide ample opportunity for early voting and require voting systems to be backed up with paper ballots that can be audited. The measure would authorize $1.55 billion over five years for grants to states for modernizing voting equipment and hardening systems against cyberattacks.

Under the bill, felons who have served their sentences would be entitled to vote in federal elections. Presidential and vice-presidential candidates would have to disclose personal tax returns for the preceding 10 years, as well as the returns of any company they control.

Jerrold Nadler, D-New York, said: “The right to vote has been called protective of all other rights. Without it, you can’t protect your rights. That right has been eroded in recent years…. We must restore, as this bill will do, the protections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that guarantee the right to vote, that stop local politicians from choosing their own electorates.”

Andy Barr, R-Kentucky, said: “Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin once famously said: `The people who cast the votes don’t decide an election – the people who count the votes do.’ H.R. 1 would `Stalinize’ American elections by legalizing voter fraud, giving partisan election bureaucrats the power to ration free speech and … coercing Americans to support candidates and causes with whom they fundamentally disagree.”

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


Voting yes: Terri Sewell, D-7 

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

Not voting: Mike Rogers, R-3

Tax-Exempt Political Activity

Voting 194 for and 238 against, the House on March 7 defeated a Republican bid to remove from HR 1 (above) a provision allowing the IRS to require disclosure of donors and set limits on political activity by nonprofit organizations, including 501(c)(4) “social-welfare” groups, that participate in election campaigns. Donors to those groups are the main source of the estimated $100 million-plus in “dark money” that flows anonymously into U.S. elections each two-year cycle. Current law prohibits the IRS from collecting donor information from the groups or tightening standards for tax-exempt status.

Sponsor Warren Davidson, R-Ohio, said the amendment is needed because “the IRS is a tax collection agency, not an arbiter of the fitness of an organization’s political viewpoint. (It) is about the fundamental 1st Amendment rights for citizens and groups to participate in public discourse.”

Jason Crow, D-Colorado, said the disclosure requirement is necessary to police “organizations that are flooding our elections with dark money. In the 2018 cycle, $150 million was spent by groups that did not have to disclose their donors. Voters had no idea who was spending this money to influence their vote.”

A yes vote was to adopt the amendment.


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

Voting no: Sewell 

Not voting: Rogers

Pre-Registration for 16-Year-Olds

Voting 239 for and 186 against, the House on March 8 adopted a Democratic amendment to HR 1 (above) requiring states to make it possible for youths to pre-register to vote in federal elections at ages 16 and 17, so that they are prepared to cast ballots when they turn 18.

Joe Neguse, D-Colorado, said “states across the nation are taking up pre-registration to integrate young people into the democratic process early, and I think it is time for … these reforms at the federal level.”

Rodney Davis, R-Illinois, said: “Many states already accept pre-registration forms, and that’s within their jurisdiction to do so. I just don’t like this top-down approach” in the pending bill.

A yes vote was to adopt the amendment.


Voting yes: Sewell

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

Not voting: Rogers

Lowering Federal Voting Age to 16

Voting 126 for and 305 against, the House on March 8 defeated a Democratic amendment to HR 1 that sought to lower the minimum voting age in federal elections from 18 years to 16 years. The federal voting age was lowered from 21 to 18 in 1971.

Grace Meng, D-New York, said 16-year-olds “participate in our democracy already. They are legally permitted to work, they pay federal taxes on their income and can even be tried as adults in court. It is only just that they are given the right to vote.”

Mark Green, R-Tennessee, said: “We don’t allow a 16-year-old to buy a beer … because of their ability to reason at that age ….  And now the other side wants to give a 16-year-old the ability to decide the future of the country. I think this is foolish.”

A yes vote was to adopt the amendment.


Voting yes: Sewell

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

Not voting: Rogers

School Board Voting by Undocumented Aliens

Voting 197 for and 228 against, the House on March 8 defeated a Republican bid to add language to HR 1 (above) that would outlaw San Francisco’s current practice of allowing undocumented immigrants to vote in school board elections.

Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, said “It should not be a partisan idea that the people who do not legally live in our country should not be allowed to vote in our elections.”

Zoe Lofgren,, D-California, said the bill already prohibits federal voting by non-citizens, and called the motion “an effort to divert us from the mission … to expand voting rights to every American citizen in federal elections.”

A yes vote was to adopt the GOP motion.


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

Voting no: Sewell

Not voting: Rogers

 Condemnation of Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia

Voting 407 for and 23 against, the House on March 7 adopted a resolution (H Res 183) condemning all manifestations of religious and racial bigotry and hatred while specifically naming anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim bigotry. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minnesota, sparked the resolution by recently inferring that some lawmakers “push for allegiance to a foreign country,” namely Israel. Jewish lawmakers said it was an anti-Semitic trope inviting harm against Jews to assert they have dual loyalties. Omar voted for the resolution.

Jerrold Nadler, D-New York, said: “The trope that support for Israel particularly among Jewish Americans is the result of a dual loyalty to Israel and the United States is deeply offensive to me. What I find equally despicable is a somewhat equally analogous dual-loyalty trope increasingly deployed against Muslim-Americans.”

Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, said he would vote no because the resolution “condemns just about everything and the reason that it is so dangerous is that anti-Semitism against the children of Israel is a very special kind of hatred that should never be watered down.”

A yes vote was to adopt the resolution.


Voting yes: Byrne, Roby, Aderholt, Palmer, Sewell

Voting no: Rogers, Brooks

Not voting: None


Chad Readler, Federal Appeals Judge

Voting 52 for and 47 against, the Senate on March 6 confirmed Chad A. Readler, 46, as a judge on the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Formerly a lawyer in private practice, Readler was employed most recently as acting head of the Department of Justice Civil Division. His nomination drew Democratic opposition, in part, because he filed the administration brief challenging the Affordable Care Act as unconstitutional.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said Readler “built a longstanding reputation in private practice as a consummate legal professional … and his nomination earned a `well-qualified’ rating from the American Bar Association.”

Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, said Readler “was the chief cook and bottle washer of the Trump administration’s” attack on the health law. “Can you imagine the lack of compassion it takes to argue that 130 million Americans with cancers, respiratory ailments, and all the way down to asthma don’t deserve the guarantee of affordable healthcare?”

A yes vote was to confirm the nominee.


Voting yes: Richard Shelby, R 

Voting no:  Doug Jones, D 


In the week of March 11, the House will take up measures to protect the undocumented aliens known as “dreamers” and urge that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian election interference be made public. The Senate will vote on President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency on the southern border.