House Passes Sewell-Backed Bill to Restore Voting Preclearance Requirements

WASHINGTON – Here’s how area members of Congress voted on major issues during the legislative week ending Dec. 6.


Restoring Key Part of Voting Rights Act:

The House on Dec. 6 voted, 228 for and 187 against, a bill sponsored by U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Birmingham, to restore the 1965 Voting Rights Act’s “preclearance” requirements, which were invalidated by the Supreme Court in 2013. Preclearance under Section 5 of the law requires states and localities with histories of systemic voting discrimination to obtain advance approval of proposed changes in voting laws from the Department of Justice or a District of Columbia federal court.

The requirement originally applied to Alaska and most or all of eight southern states and numerous jurisdictions elsewhere including ones in the North. The Supreme Court ruled that Section 5 was based on an outdated formula for measuring discriminatory practices.

The court invited Congress to restore the section using contemporary evidence of voter repression, which this bill (HR 4) seeks to accomplish. In part, the bill updates the formula for invoking preclearance requirements; requires ample public notice of proposed changes in voting laws; prohibits potentially discriminatory measures from taking effect until lawsuits contesting them have been adjudicated; and expands DOJ powers to send federal election monitors to states and localities. The bill is aimed at practices such as voter ID laws, prohibitions on bilingual ballots, the purging of voter rolls and the scaling back of voting opportunities and polling places.

Sewell said after the vote: “Voting is personal to me, not only because I represent America’s Civil Rights District, but because it was on the streets of my hometown, Selma, Alabama, that foot soldiers shed their blood on the Edmund Pettus Bridge so that all Americans, regardless of race, could vote! I am so proud that, today, the House took critical steps in addressing the Supreme Court’s Shelby decision.”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said: “The constitutional right of all Americans to determine their leaders and the destiny of their democracy is under grave assault from a brazen nationwide voter suppression campaign. Since (2013), at least 23 states have enacted voter-suppression laws including voter purges, strict ID requirements, poll closures and voter intimidation.”

Debbie Lesko, R-Ariz., said: “States should be allowed to implement their own laws regarding their elections and voting security to ensure all results are accurate on election day. State and local governments know more about how to handle their elections than bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.”

A yes vote was to pass the bill.


Voting yes: Terri Sewell, D-7

Voting no: Martha Roby, R-2, Mike Rogers, R-3, Robert Aderholt, R-4, Mo Brooks, R-5, Gary Palmer, R-6 

Not voting: Bradley Byrne, R-1 

Advocating Two-State Solution in Middle East:

Voting 226 for and 188 against, the House on Dec. 6 adopted a nonbinding measure (H Res 326) calling for a two-state solution in the Middle East in which a Palestinian nation would be established alongside the nation of Israel, with boundaries to be negotiated. The resolution, which also endorses robust U.S. military aid to Israel and increased humanitarian aid for Palestinians, stands in contrast to the Trump administration’s reluctance to advocate Palestinian sovereignty in its still-developing Middle East peace plan.

Elliot Engel, D-N.Y., said: “Even when they disagreed on many issues, presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama agreed on this. A two-state solution is not only good for Palestinians, but also good for Jews, for Israelis, for all people in the Middle East.”

Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., criticized the measure as “an attempted rebuke of the Trump administration” that fails to condemn “terrorist groups like Hamas that deny Israel’s right to exist.”

A yes vote was to adopt the resolution.


Voting yes: Sewell

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

Not voting: Byrne 

Enacting First Specific Law on Insider Trading:

Voting 410 for and 13 against, the House on Dec. 5 passed a bill (HR 2534) that would become the first federal law specifically written to prohibit insider trading in U.S. financial markets. The Securities and Exchange Commission traditionally has used court-made law and antifraud provisions of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 to prosecute those who use inside information to gain an advantage over other investors. The bill would apply to individuals who exchange non-public material information about securities regardless of whether they receive payment or other personal benefit in return, and it would cover the manipulation of automated as well as humanly conducted securities transactions.

Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., said the bill is needed because “when company insiders, or market participants with insider knowledge, use nonpublic information to trade stocks, bonds or other types of securities, not only do they unfairly gain a financial advantage over families saving for their futures, but (they) also erode trust in our nation’s financial system.”

Bill Huizenga, R-Mich., said the bill “could potentially create more confusion and uncertainty within the law. It could expand the liability of good-faith traders, which could hurt the efficiencies of our markets, chill vital information-gathering and weaken investor confidence.”

A yes vote was to pass the bill.


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

Voting no:  None

Excluding Russia From Group of Seven:

The House on Dec. 3 adopted, 339 for and 71 against, a nonbinding statement of support (H Res 546) for continuing the exclusion of Russia from the Group of Seven (G-7) economic alliance of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States. Russia was expelled from the group in 2014 after it forcibly annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine and began arming separatists against government forces in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine. That war continues today. President Trump has called upon the G-7 to readmit Russia.

Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said: “Russia should not be readmitted to the Group of Seven until (President Vladimir) Putin respects the principles shared by the other members, relinquishes his chokehold over Crimea and ceases his global attacks on democratic institutions.”

Albio Sires, D-N.J., said that by approving this measure, “Congress makes it clear that we do not support Russia’s inclusion in the G-7 as (it) continues to attack us, our partners and democratic institutions around the world.”

No member spoke against the resolution.

A yes vote was to adopt the resolution.


Voting yes: Roby, Rogers, Sewell

Voting no: Aderholt, Brooks, Palmer 

Not voting: Byrne 

Sanctioning China Over Muslim Crackdown:

Voting 407 for and one against, the House on Dec. 3 passed a bill (S 178) that would impose economic sanctions and visa restrictions on Chinese government officials responsible for an ongoing crackdown on more than one million Muslims, primarily ethnic Uighurs, in the Xinjiang region of western China. In addition, the bill would sanction global firms that export surveillance technology including facial recognition software to China. And it would require the Department of State to report to Congress on forced labor camps in Xinjiang and human-rights abuses including torture and forced renunciations of religious beliefs. The negative vote was cast by Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky.

Chris Smith, R-N.J., said: “Beijing is using Xinjiang as a proving ground for an all-knowing police and surveillance state. The technology used to construct China’s high-tech police state is being exported around the world to some countries in Africa, central Asia and beyond.”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Muslim minorities in China are subjected to “mass surveillance, including the arbitrary and nonconsensual collection of children’s DNA; the mass incarceration of one to three million innocent people with beatings, solitary confinement, deprivation of food and medical treatment, forced sterilizations … incidents of mass shootings and extrajudicial killings.”

No member spoke against the bill.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.


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

Voting no: None

Not voting: Byrne 


Dan Brouillette, Secretary of Energy:

Voting 70 for and 15 against, the Senate on Dec. 2 confirmed Dan R. Brouillette, the deputy secretary of energy, as the 15th secretary of the Department of Energy, replacing Rick Perry, who resigned the day before. Brouillette was the department’s assistant secretary for congressional and intergovernmental affairs under President George W, Bush and staff director of the House Energy and Commerce Committee in 2003-2004. His resume also includes stints as a Washington lobbyist, Ford Motor Co. executive and Army veteran.

Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said: “We are very fortunate to have someone of (the nominee’s) caliber and his experience nominated to head one of our most important departments.”

Ron Wyden, D-Ore., criticized Brouillette for having “failed to provide substantive answers to key questions about (former secretary) Perry’s dealings with the Ukrainian state-owned energy company Naftogaz.”

A yes vote was to confirm the nominee.


Voting yes: Richard Shelby, R 

Voting no: None

Not voting: Doug Jones, D 


The House will consider a bill lowering prescription-drug costs during the week of Dec. 9, while the Senate will vote on judicial and executive-branch nominations.