House Sends Bill Designed to Avert Government Shutdown to Senate

Key Votes Ahead

The House in the week of Sept. 23 will take up bills dealing with banking rules, the Border Patrol and medical care for migrant children. The Senate will debate fiscal 2020 appropriations and executive-branch nominations.

WASHINGTON — The House last week passed a continuing funding resolution (HR 4378) in an attempt to avert a government shutdown.

The resolution, which is expected to be taken up this week by the Senate, provides stopgap appropriations for the first seven weeks of fiscal 2020, which starts Oct. 1. It would fund agencies at 2019 levels while giving negotiators time to reach agreement on regular appropriations bills for the 2020 budget year.

The House voted 301 for and 123 against the resolution on Sept. 19.

Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, said supporting the bill is the only responsible vote for national security, for the economy and for the general welfare of the American people.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., said the bill embraces shared priorities, such as bolstering the 2020 Census Bureau and ensuring that critical health programs don’t expire.

No member spoke against the bill.

A yes vote was to send the bill to the Senate. This is how Alabama’s representatives voted:

Voting yes: Martha Roby, R-2, Mike Rogers, R-3, Robert Aderholt, R-4, and Terri Sewell, D-7 

 Voting no: Bradley Byrne, R-1, Mo Brooks, R-5, and Gary Palmer, R-6 

Here’s how area members of Congress voted on other major issues during the legislative week ending Sept. 20.


Right to Sue vs. Mandatory Arbitration:

Voting 225 for and 186 against, the House on Sept. 20 passed a bill (HR 1423) that would make mandatory-arbitration clauses unenforceable in federal employment, consumer, antitrust and civil rights disputes. The increasingly common clauses require that aggrieved parties pursue relief through closed mediation rather than openly in court. The measure would effectively eliminate such clauses from employee-employer agreements as well as from purchase and rental contracts between customers and corporations. Parties still could choose to submit disputes to binding arbitration. This bill could influence the treatment of mandatory arbitration in state courts.

Many employers and companies require mandatory arbitration as a condition of employment or doing business. Employees and customers must agree in advance to relinquish their right to sue and, instead, to allow a mediator typically chosen by the company to settle the dispute. Mandatory arbitration usually limits discovery, precludes appeals, disregards rules of civil procedure and applies permanent secrecy to the proceedings and often to the outcome. Under federal law, arbitration clauses can be used to prohibit customers from filing class-action lawsuits.

Supporters of forced arbitration say it is faster and less expensive than litigation, and they say it especially benefits individuals who cannot afford legal fees. Critics say the process denies the bedrock rights of due process and trial by jury, while enabling employers and corporations to avoid public accountability for wrongdoing.

Norma Torres, D-Calif., said: “The #MeToo movement taught us a valuable lesson about nondisclosure agreements and forced arbitration. Without forced arbitration, we could have stopped Bill O’Reilly or Roger Ailes from assaulting women and spewing their hate on Fox News long ago. Doing away with forced arbitration means more victims can share their stories and prevent abusers from harming others.”

Debbie Lesko, R-Ariz., said: “It has (been) proven over and over again in multiple studies that arbitration actually has better results for the small guy, for the employee … . Arbitration is an important option in our legal system. It allows us to resolve disputes without costly litigation. It is easier, faster and cheaper.”

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


Voting yes: Sewell

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

Mandatory Arbitration in Collective Bargaining:

Voting 161 for and 253 against, the House on Sept. 20 refused to apply HR 1423 (above) to collective bargaining agreements in the same way it applies to contracts for everyday commercial transactions and non-unionized workplace arrangements. The amendment was sponsored by Republicans. Mandatory arbitration has been a standard feature of collective bargaining since the 1930s, but under terms of equity that deny management the advantages corporations enjoy in the type of forced mediation addressed by this bill. Still, backers of the amendment said it was a glaring flaw and hypocrisy for the bill to provide an exemption to collective-bargaining agreements.

A yes vote was to adopt the amendment.


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

Voting no: Sewell


Robert Destro, Assistant Secretary of State:

Voting 49 for and 44 against, the Senate on Sept. 18 confirmed Robert Destro, a professor at the Catholic University Columbus School of Law, as assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor. Destro was a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in the Reagan Administration. He drew unanimous Democratic opposition over his advocacy of state religious-freedom laws that restrict the rights of lesbians, gays and bisexual and transsexual individuals, and for his conservative views on women’s reproductive rights.

Opponent Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., the minority leader, said: “If confirmed Mr. Destro, who is opposed to the rights of women (and) the rights of LGBTQ people, will be in charge of promoting civil rights around the world. What message would that send to women and members of the LGBTQ community who struggle under intolerant and oppressive governments?

No senator spoke on behalf of Destro.

A yes vote was to confirm the nominee.


Voting yes: Richard Shelby, R 

Voting no:  Doug Jones, D