Congressional Votes for the Week Ending Sept. 7

WASHINGTON – Alabama’s House delegation voted together, and with the vast majority of other representatives, to pass a bill that would require couseling of parents and students participating in federal student-loan programs. Students receiving loans and Pell grants also would have to go through online counseling on their loan obligations.

The House split, however, on a proposal to expand the bill to offer specialized counseling for veterans. Rep. Terri Sewell, Alabama’s only Democratic representative, also was the only member of the state’s delegation who voted in favor of the proposed provision, which failed.

Here’s how area members of Congress voted on that and other major issues during the week ending Sept. 7.


Sharper Definition of Violent Crime

Voting 247 for and 152 against, the House on Sept. 7 passed a bill (HR 6691) that would more precisely define what constitutes a violent crime in the U.S. criminal code while listing the violent crimes for which non-citizens – both undocumented immigrants and legal permanent residents – could be deported.

The bill responds to a Supreme Court ruling in April, in Sessions v. Dimaya, that the law requiring the deportation of immigrants convicted of certain crimes of violence is so vague it is unconstitutional. Debate touched on the fact that the Republican leadership waited five months to bring a corrective measure to the floor, then did so without having held hearings on the far-reaching bill.

Karen Handel, R-Georgia, said the bill provides clarity “by precisely and legally defining the phrase crime of violence and the related criminal acts that, when combined with the element of force, are indeed considered violent. They include crimes such as voluntary manslaughter, attempted kidnapping, lewd acts upon a child….”

Mark Takano, D-California, said: “For the thousands of service members and veterans who are legal permanent residents, this bill will make it easier to deport them. If a soldier comes home with PTSD, or if a veteran is struggling with substance abuse and gets in trouble with the law, this bill makes it harder to grant them any kind of discretion.”

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. 


Small-Scale Natural Gas Exports

Voting 260 for and 146 against, the House on Sept. 6 passed a bill (HR 4606) that would speed Department of Energy approval of applications to export relatively small quantities of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to countries with which the United States does not have free trade agreements. This would codify a departmental regulation under which such applications are automatically approved if they are deemed compliant with environmental laws and certain other requirements.

The bill is designed to boost LNG exports on smaller vessels mainly to countries in South America, Central America and the Caribbean whose ports cannot accommodate large tankers. It would apply to applications for shipping up to 51.75 billion cubic feet per year of liquefied fuel that would be converted back to a gaseous state after importation.

Liz Cheney, R-Wyoming, said that with America “in the midst of an energy boom … unnecessary and overly burdensome regulations on small LNG exporters prevent us from taking full advantage of this unprecedented growth in our energy production.”

Frank Pallone, D-New Jersey, said: “Passing this bill will not create new jobs or approve any small-scale LNG applications … .Giving the fossil-fuel industry a green light to extract and export unlimited amounts of natural gas will only lead to greater methane leaks and the displacement of carbon-free energy sources.”

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


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

Voting no: None.


Curbs on Methane Emissions

Voting 195 for and 210 against, the House on Sept. 6 defeated an amendment to HR 4606 (above) that sought to require export applications to show that the natural gas was produced using technology to minimize methane emissions from leaks, venting and flaring. A greenhouse gas, methane is a cause of climate change when it escapes into the atmosphere.

Diana DeGette, D-Colorado, said the measure would “increase the royalties collected for taxpayers, it would reduce climate-changing emissions and it would protect public health.”

Pete Olson, R-Texas, called the amendment unnecessary “because emissions from natural gas wells are already regulated by the EPA and states under the Clean Air Act.”

A yes vote was to adopt the amendment.


Voting yes: Sewell.

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


Mandatory Student-Loan Counseling

Voting 406 for and 4 against, the House on Sept. 5 passed a bill (HR 1635) that would require parents and students participating in federal student-loan programs to receive online counseling before signing up. In addition, students receiving loans and Pell grants would have to undergo annual online counseling on their loan obligations as a condition of continuing to receive aid.

Rick Allen, R-Georgia, said: “With student loan debt climbing to over $1.5 trillion nationwide, we must do more to ensure students are aware of the financial obligations of accepting a federal student loan.”

Suzanne Bonamici, D-Oregon, said: “More than 40 million Americans are struggling with student loan debt, and default rates are climbing,” which puts “a drag on the broader economy. (It) affects the ability to buy a home, to purchase a new car or to afford childcare.”

No member spoke against the bill.

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


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

Voting no:           None.


Counseling Tailored to Veterans

Voting 187 for and 224 against, the House on Sept. 5 defeated a Democratic effort to expand HR 1635 (above) to provide student-loan counseling tailored to veterans in higher education, who differ from other students in that they are older and often have financial obligations including family expenses and home mortgages.

Conor Lamb, D-Pennsylvania, said: “We thank our veterans for their service all the time, using words. Today, let’s thank them with action. Let’s thank them with the force of law.”

Brett Guthrie, R-Kentucky, said that “we all support veterans” and that under the bill, “every veteran receives the same enhanced counseling provided to all borrowers.”

A yes vote was to add specialized veterans counseling to the bill.


Voting yes: Sewell.

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


Elad Roisman, Securities Regulator

Voting 85 for and 14 against, the Senate on Sept. 5 confirmed Elad L. Roisman, 37, the chief counsel of the Senate Banking Committee, for a five-year term on the Securities and Exchange Commission. The commission’s mission is to protect investors, maintain orderly markets and foster capital formation. Roisman worked most recently as chief counsel of the Senate Banking Committee, where he helped advance GOP legislation that repealed parts of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial-regulation law.

Michael Crapo, R-Idaho, said Roisman “has consistently demonstrated a commitment to ensuring that our markets remain the envy of the world, and … he will work hard to make sure the U.S. financial markets can thrive while also protecting investors.”

No senator spoke against the nominee.

A yes vote was to confirm Roisman.


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

Voting no: None.



The Senate will vote on the nomination of Charles Rettig to be commissioner of Internal Revenue and an opioids bill in the week of Sept. 10. The House schedule was to be announced.