WASHINGTON – Voting 232 for and 183 against, the House on Feb. 13 adopted a measure (HJ Res 79) that would advance the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution by replacing a long-expired deadline for states to vote on ratification with an open-ended deadline.
The ERA states: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”
Alabama, joined by two other states, filed suit in December to block ratification of the amendment, saying the time for ratification had long since passed.
Congress on March 22, 1972, sent the ERA to the states, allowing seven years for them to muster the three-fourths majority (38) needed for ratification. The legislatures of 35 states voted to ratify, although five – Idaho, Kentucky, Nebraska, Tennessee and South Dakota – rescinded their approvals on or before the March 22, 1979, deadline. In 1978, Congress and President Carter set a new deadline of June 30, 1982, but no states came aboard during the extension. Nevada, Illinois and Virginia have voted to ratify the ERA since 1982.
Republicans said ERA ratification would boost the pro-choice agenda and result in more abortions. They also argued that women’s rights are protected by the Fifth and 14th amendments to the Constitution and laws including the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.
Democrats cited an interview that former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia gave to The Atlantic in 2001, in which he said: “Certainly the Constitution does not require discrimination on the basis of sex. The only issue is whether it prohibits it. It doesn’t.”
Only one of Alabama’s representatives, Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Selma, voted for extending the deadline, while Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Mobile, did not vote. The others voted against it.
Mary Gay Scanlon, D-Pa., said: “Why the ERA did not become a constitutional amendment in the 70s is up for debate, but it was in large part due to vicious, antifeminist rhetoric and actions by conservative activists who sought to trample on the rights of all women to work for an equal wage, to control their own reproductive health and to participate as equal members of our society, in the name of protecting the traditional values of a privileged few.”
Debbie Lesko, R-Ariz., said: “The bill is totally unconstitutional” because “when the 1972 ERA deadline passed without ratification by three-fourths of the states, the proposed amendment expired and is, therefore, no longer pending. The 1972 ERA, therefore, can no longer be ratified because it no longer exists … . Women have made huge strides against institutional discrimination against women in education, employment, sports, politics and many other aspects of society.”
A yes vote was to send the proposed new deadline to the Senate.
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
Here’s how area members of Congress voted on other major issues during the legislative week ending Feb. 14.
Expanding Protected Wilderness by 1.4 Million Acres:
Voting 231 for and 183 against, the House on Feb. 12 passed a bill (HR 2546) that would add nearly 1.4 million unspoiled acres in Colorado, California and Washington state to the 111-million-acre National Wilderness Protection System, which permanently safeguards federally owned land mostly in the West from commercial development including hard-rock mining and oil and natural gas drilling.
The newly added acreage is in areas including Washington’s Olympia Peninsula; northwestern California; the Santa Monica Mountains and Central Coast in California; and 36 distinct areas of Colorado mostly on the Western Slope. The bill also would set aside 100,000 acres as national monument areas and expand the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. In addition, the bill authorizes the departments of interior and agriculture to take whatever measures are necessary to prevent and fight wildfires in federally protected wilderness areas.
Diana DeGette, D-Colo., said the bill’s designations “will do more than protect the land itself. They will help protect the air we breathe and the water we drink. They will help protect wildlife and world-class recreation areas. They will provide a boost to the nearby economies and help grow our nation’s multibillion-dollar outdoor recreation industry that directly supports thousands of jobs across the U.S.”
Russ Fulcher, R-Idaho, said: “The wilderness designation is the most vulnerable public land there is. More wilderness equals more fire. More fire equals more carbon, about 40 tons per acre when a wildfire burns. And it gets worse. If a forest burns, that is God’s best tool for absorbing greenhouse gases, and that is destroyed. That is like taking out your lungs. The climate-change fighters are fighting to increase one of the most major causes of just that.”
A yes vote was to send the bill to the Senate.
Voting yes: Sewell
Voting no: Roby, Rogers, Aderholt, Brooks, Palmer
Not voting: Byrne
Preventing and Fighting Fires in Wilderness Areas:
Voting 199 for and 215 against, the House on Feb. 12 defeated a Republican motion that sought to ensure that mechanized fire-prevention and firefighting equipment would have unhindered access to wilderness areas protected by HR 2546 (above). This would be in addition to assurances already in the bill that federal agencies have full authority to take actions to prevent and fight fires in the designated areas.
Tom McClintock, R-Calif., said: “If these wilderness restrictions are imposed on acreage near people’s homes, it is only a matter of time until the forest succumbs to neglect and the inevitable cycle of overcrowding, death and fire. In the aftermath, people will have the right to ask why their elected representatives refused to protect them, their families, their homes and their forests when they had the chance to do so today.”
Diana DeGette, D-Colo., said: “Our local agencies already have the ability to fight fires if they need to in wilderness areas. There is no provision in the Wilderness Act that says they can only use axes or nonmechanical items, none. (Republicans) keep saying this all day, and I don’t know why. It is simply not true.”
A yes vote was to send the bill to the Senate.
Voting yes: Roby, Rogers, Aderholt, Brooks, Palmer
Voting no: Sewell
Not voting: Byrne
Asserting Congressional Control Over War With Iran:
The Senate on Feb. 13 voted, 55 for and 45 against, to require the administration to obtain advance congressional approval for military actions against Iran or its proxy forces except when there is an imminent threat to the United States, its armed forces or its territories. The bipartisan vote sent the measure (SJ Res 68) to the House and likely on to President Trump, who says he will veto it.
The measure invokes the 1973 War Powers Resolution, which asserts the power of Congress to declare war under Article I of the Constitution. Under that Vietnam-era law, presidents must notify Congress within 48 hours when they send the U.S. military into combat, then withdraw the forces within a specified period unless Congress has authorized the action. Last year, the House and Senate invoked the war-powers law to end America’s military involvement in Yemen’s civil war but lost their bid when President Trump successfully vetoed the measure.
Tim Kaine, D-Va., said: “We should not be at war with Iran unless Congress votes to authorize such a war. While the president does and must always have the ability to defend the United States from imminent attack, the executive power to initiate war stops there. An offensive war requires a congressional debate and vote.”
Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said: “If this passes, the president will never abide by it. No president would. It will have an effect on our enemies’ perception of the will of the United States to stand up to Iranian aggression. It will have an effect on our allies: Can you really trust America? Our friends in Israel are watching with great concern about this debate.”
A yes vote was to restrain Trump’s war-making powers against Iran.
Voting yes: Doug Jones, D
Voting no: Richard Shelby, R
Not voting: None
KEY VOTES AHEAD
Congress is in Presidents’ Day recess during the week of Feb. 17.