WASHINGTON – Alabama’s congressional delegation had an “odd man out” on more votes than usual last week.
Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Birmingham, broke from the delegation on a couple of the week’s biggest votes, including on universal savings accounts, which would allow more types of tax-exempt investments but cost the treasury more than $21 billion over 10 years. She also voted against bringing the Violence Against Women Act up for debate in the House at that time.
Rep. Gary Palmer, R-Hoover, also found himself on the other side of a vote on the proposed $854 billion spending bill; Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville, also split from the delegation on a bill to fund aviation programs, disaster aid and FEMA.
Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, also broke ranks and voted against confirming Peter Feldman’s nomination to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Read more about how area congressmen voted on key issues in the week ending Sept. 28.
Tax-Favored Savings Accounts
Voting 240 for and 177 against, the House on Sept. 27 passed a bill (HR 6757) that would create a new type of tax-favored savings account – Universal Savings Accounts – to which individuals could contribute up to $2,500 annually. USAs would be similar to Roth IRAs in that contributions would not be tax deductible. But withdrawals would be tax-free, as would growth in account balances from dividends, capital gains and interest. There would be no income limits for USA participation, tax-free withdrawals could be made before retirement and the “required minimum distribution” for seniors would be waived for accounts below certain balances. The bill also would loosen rules governing Section 529 tax-advantaged education accounts and employer-provided retirement plans. The legislation is projected to cost the treasury $21 billion in lost revenue over 10 years.
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, Mo Brooks, R-5, Gary Palmer, R-6
Voting no: Terri Sewell, D-7
Violence Against Women Act
Voting 230 for and 188 against, the House on Sept. 26 blocked a Democratic bid to call up for debate a bill (HR 6545) now in committee that would reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act through fiscal 2023. The vote occurred during consideration of ground rules for debating an appropriations bill (HR 6157, below) that would, in part, extend the law until Dec. 7, giving lawmakers more time to negotiate a long-term extension. The 1994 law is designed to prevent domestic and dating violence, stalking and sexual assaults and to help victims repair their lives after those crimes occur. The Democratic bill would increase the law’s funding while giving it more teeth to address a wide range of offenses, including ones against immigrants and tribal members.
Tom Cole, R-Oklahoma, said that, while the Violence Against Women Act should be extended, the Democratic motion would derail the spending package, which includes a short-term extension as well as money for domestic violence programs.
Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, said: “the (Judge Brett) Kavanaugh confirmation hearings and the allegations that have been made by Dr. (Christine Blasey) Ford and others … raise a sense of urgency for the passage of the Violence Against Women Act.”
A yes vote was in opposition to allowing debate on the Democratic bill.
Voting yes: Byrne, Roby, Rogers, Aderholt, Brooks, Palmer
Voting no: Sewell
$854 Billion Spending Bill for 2019
Voting 361 for and 61 against, the House on Sept. 26 agreed to the conference report on a bill (HR 6157) that would appropriate $854 billion for the departments of Defense, Health and Human Services, Education and Labor in fiscal 2019. In addition, the bill would fund stopgap budgets through Dec. 7 for departments and agencies that await regular 2019 appropriations. The bill would fund a 2.6 percent pay raise for those in uniform while providing $68.1 billion for combat operations abroad. In addition, it would appropriate $3.7 billion for addressing opioid addiction; $2.3 billion for Alzheimer’s research; $445 million for charter schools and $95 million in grants to help K-12 schools prevent and recover from classroom shootings.
A yes vote was to send the conference report to President Trump.
Voting yes: Byrne, Roby, Rogers, Aderholt, Brooks, Sewell
Voting no: Palmer
Aviation Programs, Disaster Aid, FEMA
Voting 398 for and 23 against, the House on Sept. 26 passed a measure (H Res 1082) that would authorize federal aviation programs and the Federal Emergency Management Agency through September 2023 while requiring FEMA to allocate a larger share of its resources to mitigating damage from disasters. The bill would authorize $1.68 billion in disaster relief to victims of Hurricane Florence and western wildfires this year. In addition, the bill would fund capital improvements at airports; subsidize passenger service to smaller cities; require minimal leg-room and width dimensions for passenger seats; prohibit the bumping of passengers who have already boarded; bar the use of cell phones for in-flight calls and upgrade in-fight accommodations for handicapped passengers.
A yes vote was to pass the bill.
Voting yes: Byrne, Roby, Rogers, Aderholt, Palmer, Sewell
Voting no: Brooks
Peter Feldman, Consumer Product Regulator
Voting 51 for and 49 against, the Senate on Sept. 26 confirmed Peter A. Feldman, a staff member on the Senate Commerce Committee, for a seven-year term on the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission starting Oct. 27, 2019. The nomination proved controversial because Feldman has been separately confirmed to fill out the unexpired term of a commissioner who resigned this year. Democrats called it wrong to confirm a sitting commissioner for a future vacancy. The commission is charged with regulating the manufacture and safety of everyday products for infants, youths and adults. The addition of Feldman gives it a 3-2 Republican majority.
John Thune, R-South Dakota, said that while working in the Senate, Feldman was “instrumental in drafting and negotiating bipartisan legislation and conducting meaningful oversight of federal agencies related to consumer product safety.”
Dianne Feinstein, D-California, said “confirming Mr. Feldman to a second, seven-year term today would undermine the CPSC’s independence and set a dangerous precedent for future nominations … . We must do all we can to defend the agency from partisanship.”
A yes vote was to confirm the nominee.
Voting yes: Richard Shelby, R
Voting no: Doug Jones, D
KEY VOTES AHEAD
The House will be in recess the week of Oct. 1, while the Senate’s voting schedule was to be announced..