WASHINGTON — The U.S. House last week passed a bill to fund the government on a stopgap basis through Dec. 18, with Alabama’s delegation splitting down the middle on the vote.
Overall, the vote was 343 for and 67 against. In Alabama’s delegation, Reps. Martha Roby, R; Mike Rogers, R; and Terri Sewell, D, voted for the bill. Reps. Bradley Byrne, R; Mo Brooks, R; and Gary Palmer, R, voted against it. Rep. Robert Aderholt, R, was under quarantine and not present for the vote.
In addition to averting a shutdown, the vote gives leaders more time to negotiate another round of emergency relief for individuals and households facing economic hardship as a result of COVID-19. If the coronavirus aid is agreed upon in coming days, it would be included in a permanent funding bill for the remaining nine-plus months of fiscal 2022, which would be debated against a deadline of Christmas Day.
Here’s how area members of Congress voted on other major issues during the legislative week ending Dec. 11.
Approving $740.5 Billion for the Military
Voting 335 for and 78 against, the House on Dec. 8 adopted the conference report on a $740.5 billion military budget (HR 6395) for fiscal 2021 that includes $69 billion to fund combat operations overseas, $60 billion-plus for active-duty and retiree health care; $8.5 billion for military construction; $1 billion for addressing present and future pandemics and hundreds of billions for weapons systems, personnel costs and research and development. In addition, the bill would require the removal of Confederate names from military bases; treat global warming as a national-security threat; fund a 3% pay raise for uniformed personnel; expand programs for military victims of sexual assault; and provide Ukraine with $250 million for defending itself against Russian incursions.
The bill would require the administration to provide Congress with national-security justifications for President Trump’s announced plans to slash U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan and Germany. This would not prohibit the withdrawals but delay them until after the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.
Adam Smith, D-Wash., said the bill “does nothing to prohibit the next president, President Biden, from completely drawing down in Afghanistan. That is a debate he will have. So, anyone who comes to the floor and says they are not voting for the bill because of (Afghanistan) is not really telling the truth.”
Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., said: “We have spent decades trading the same villages back and forth in Afghanistan. And I believe the administration that leads our country should work to bring those troops home, and unfortunately, this bill … puts barriers in the way of an administration that wants to bring our troops home and put America first.”
A yes vote was to send the bill to the Senate.
Voting yes: Byrne, Roby, Rogers, Brooks, Palmer, Sewell., D-7
Voting no: None
Not voting: Aderholt
Selling Weapons to United Arab Emirates
Voting 46 for and 50 against, the Senate on Dec. 9 refused to block the Trump administration’s planned sale of MQ-9 Reaper drones to the United Arab Emirates. These unmanned aerial vehicles are equipped with laser-guided bombs and air-to-ground missiles. By this vote, the Senate failed to discharge from committee a measure (SJ Res 77) to disapprove of the sale. On a separate vote the same day, the Senate affirmed an administration plan to sell as many as 59 F-35 stealth fighter jets to the UAE. Totaling $23.5 billion, the deals drew opposition, in part, because they would skirt traditional congressional oversight of arms sales in the closing days of the Trump administration.
Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said this is “the first time that we would sell these incredibly lethal, incredibly complicated technologies into the heart of the Middle East. … What we risk doing here is fueling an arms race.” He added “there arguably is no other country on the list for the F-35s that does as much business with China and Russia as the UAE does.”
Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said the UAE has been “willing to stand with us in at least six long-term deployments. They come; they stay. They are side by side with us in the field. They have been with us in the air. … This is not any kind of gift (but) a purchase totaling $23.5 billion for equipment that is made by American companies and almost always by American workers.”
A yes vote was to effectively delay the arms sales.
Voting yes: Doug Jones, D
Voting no: Richard Shelby, R
Confirming Federal Election Commissioner
On a vote of 92 for and four against, the Senate on Dec. 9 confirmed Shana M. Broussard for a seat on the Federal Election Commission. The agency’s first Black commissioner, Broussard had been an FEC staff attorney, and before that she was an attorney with the Internal Revenue Service and an assistant district attorney in New Orleans. Her confirmation along with that of two other commissioners last week gives the agency a full slate of six commissioners for the first time since 2017. A post-Watergate panel, the FEC is charged with enforcing campaign-finance laws in federal contests, disclosing candidates’ campaign-finance data to the public, enforcing rules for contributions and spending and supervising the public funding of presidential elections.
A yes vote was to confirm Broussard.
Voting yes: Shelby, Jones
Voting no: None
Sending Military Budget to President Trump
Voting 84 for and 13 against, the Senate on Dec. 11 adopted the conference report on a $740.5 billion military budget for fiscal 2021 (HR 6395). In addition to provisions in the House summary above, the bill would prohibit U.S. troops from being deployed domestically against Americans exercising their constitutional right to peaceably protest; reinforce America’s role in NATO; expand health benefits to Vietnam-era veterans exposed to Agent Orange; and ensure that all federal employees have access to 12 weeks’ paid parental leave.
In addition, the bill would require the removal over three years of Confederate names from Army bases named after officers who waged war against the United States, and from other U.S. military assets including naval vessels named in commemoration of Confederate military figures or battlefield prowess.
The bill would add a “violent extremism” article covering hate crimes and other offenses to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, while installing an inspector general to probe white supremacist activities in the armed forces and review racial and ethnic disparities in the administration of military justice.
James Inhofe, R-Okla., said that, with China and Russia posing “the most serious threats we’ve seen … . I can’t imagine having to face these people in the field in harm’s way and say, ‘Well, we didn’t pass a defense authorization bill.’ We’re going to pass it. These kids are going to get … the resources they need.”
Tom Cotton, R-Ark., said: “The bill condemns the president for proposing to move some troops out of Germany and restricts his ability to do so, even though NATO’s frontier has shifted hundreds of miles to the east and Germany hasn’t exactly carried its share of the NATO load. The Senate didn’t debate this major policy change.”
A yes vote was to send the bill to President Trump.
Voting yes: Shelby, Jones
Voting no: None
KEY VOTES AHEAD
Both chambers will debate government funding in the week of Dec. 14 and may also take up a Covid-19 relief package.