The U.S. House Votes to Lift Green Card Caps. How Did Alabama’s Representatives Vote on That and Other Bills?

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill last week that would lift the caps on the share of people from individual countries who could be granted green cards that give permanent legal status to the workers.

The House vote on HR 1044 was 365 for and 65 against. From Alabama’s delegation, Reps. Bradley Byrne, R-Mobile; Martha Roby, R-Montgomery; and Terri Sewell, D-Birmingham, voted to lift the cap. Reps. Mike Rogers, R-Saks; Robert Aderholt, R-Haleyville; Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville; and Gary Palmer, R-Hoover, voted against lifting the cap.

The proposed change, which was among the major issues considered by Congress during the week ending July 12, affects immigrants living in the United States on temporary, employment-based H1-B visas.

Those visas are used primarily to bring highly skilled, well-educated foreigners into the U.S. workforce for periods generally ranging from three to six years, after which they are usually required to leave the country if they have not received a green card.

Currently, U.S. law prohibits natives of any country from receiving more than 7% of the annual number of permanent, employment-based visas. That puts workers from populous countries supplying large numbers of H1-B recipients at a disadvantage. Those from smaller countries do not wait nearly as long.

Ken Buck, R-Colo., said imposing per-country caps “doesn’t make sense. Our employment-based immigration system has a single purpose, bringing in the best and brightest. We shouldn’t hamstring our economy by placing artificial caps on who can get a green card quicker based solely on where you are born.”

Doug Collins, R-Ga., said he supports much of the bill, but because it was not subjected to committee hearings to fix what he sees as flaws, it “is not ready for prime time.”

The House passage sent the bill to the Senate for consideration.

Here’s how area members of Congress voted on other major issues during the legislative week ending July 12.


Inventory of U.S. Bases Overseas:

Voting 219 for and 210 against, the House on July 11 required the Department of Defense to provide Congress with an inventory of U.S. military installations on foreign territory along with the cost of operating each one and an explanation of how it serves national security. The amendment was added to the fiscal 2020 military policy bill (HR 2500). The department reportedly owns several hundred permanent bases and short-term military facilities abroad, and the first-ever audit of Pentagon operations, released last November, was unable to pinpoint some of them.

Amendment sponsor Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., said: “The American people deserve to know what their tax dollars are being spent on and not take it on blind faith that every dollar that is given to the Pentagon is a dollar that is protecting their safety.”

Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., said Congress already has access to budget documents showing “in exhaustive detail … thousands of line items on where the Pentagon spending is going right now — domestic, foreign, everything.”

A yes vote was to require an inventory of U.S. military holdings abroad.


Voting yes: Sewell

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

Not voting: Rogers

Presidential Contracts With Federal Agencies:

Voting 243 for and 186 against, the House on July 11 amended HR 2500 (above) to prohibit presidents, vice presidents and cabinet members from holding contracts with the U.S. government, just as members of Congress are barred by federal law from doing. The rationale of the ban is that high federal officials, as insiders, could exert undue influence over the terms of the contract. The expanded ban presumably would prohibit any attempted renewal of the government’s contract for leasing the Old Post Office on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington to the Trump International Hotel, which generates profits for the Trump Organization and therefore the president.

Adam Smith, D-Wash., called this “a good amendment that will improve the ethics of our government.”

Jody Hice, R-Ga., said the amendment is “nothing other than, once again, an attack on President Trump and his family.”

A yes vote was to bar top executive-branch officials, including presidents, from holding federal contracts.


Voting yes: Sewell

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

Protecting Federal Personnel Agency:

Voting 247 for and 182 against, the House on July 11 adopted an amendment to HR 2500 (above) that would scuttle a Trump administration proposal to downgrade the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) by merging it with the General Services Administration (GSA). With 5,500 employees, the OPM administers programs ranging from health insurance to retirement accounts for millions of active and retired federal civilian workers and their families. The GSA, with a staff of 12,000, is charged with managing federal office space, transportation, communications and procurement, among other duties.

Gerald Connolly, D-Va., said: “The administration’s inadequate plan to dismantle OPM has been a disaster. After realizing that it cannot prevail on the merits, the administration is now resorting to blackmail” by trimming the OPM workforce.

Jody Hice, R-Ga., said Republicans “want to find ways to improve services for federal employees and get retirement benefits for federal retirees. But, we need to keep all solutions and all options on the table.”

A yes vote was to adopt the amendment.


Voting yes: Sewell

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

9/11 Victims’ Compensation Fund:

By a vote of 402 for and 12 against, the House on July 12 passed a bipartisan bill that would reauthorize the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund through fiscal 2090. Administered by a special master, the fund pays economic and non-economic damages to 9/11 first responders and their survivors, as well as to individuals with health problems as a result of participating in 9/11 cleanup efforts and to their survivors. In addition, the bill would allow claims to be filed until October 2089, remove a cap on non-economic damages in certain circumstances and index for inflation the program’s annual limits on compensation for economic losses.

The bill replenishes the fund to avert threatened cuts of up to 70% in pending and future claims and makes whole claims already paid at reduced levels. Although the bill is projected to cost $10.2 billion in its first 10 years, and countless billions after that as cancers and other latent diseases emerge, it does not yet include a “pay for” mechanism or long-term funding means.

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


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

Voting no: Brooks

Not voting: Rogers

$733 Billion for Military in 2020:

Voting 220 for and 197 against, the House on July 12 authorized a $733 billion military budget (HR 2500) for fiscal 2020, including $69 billion for combat operations and more than $57 billion for active-duty and retiree health care. The bill sets a 3.1 percent pay raise for uniformed personnel; addresses global warming as a national-security threat; advances the closure of the Guantanamo Bay military prison; requires Pentagon strategies for countering Russian interference in the 2020 U.S. elections; lifts an administration ban on transgender military service; prohibits U.S. troop reductions in South Korea below 28,000; funds programs for military victims of sexual assault and approves tens of billions for conventional and nuclear weapons while defunding the development of low-yield nuclear weapons.

In addition, the bill requires what would be the first congressional authorization for the U.S. war against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) forces in the Middle East. At the same time, it would effectively repeal the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), which, along with the Iraq war resolution approved in 2002, has been the legal basis of U.S. military actions since 9/11.

The bill also would establish 12 weeks’ paid family and medical leave for the federal workforce to accommodate circumstances including childbirth, adoptions, foster care and serious illness. The leave is now available without pay to civil servants under the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act. In addition, the bill allows military personnel who are victims of sexual assaults to receive emergency contraception at base clinics and eliminates co-pays for contraceptive services provided by the Department of Defense healthcare system.

The bill also would bar funding for space-based missile defenses; prohibit the diversion of military funds to wall construction on the southwest border; halt the sale of F-35 aircraft to Turkey unless it cancels its purchase an air defense system from Russia; require the Marine Corps to admit women to basic training; fund repair of earthquake damages to military bases in southern California; require more accurate and transparent reporting of U.S.-caused civilian casualties and provide $250 million in security assistance to Ukraine.

A yes vote was to send the bill to a House-Senate conference committee.


Voting yes: Sewell

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

Developing Low-Yield Nuclear Weapons:

Voting 201 for and 221 against, the House on June 12 defeated a Republican amendment to HR 2500 (above) that sought to fund an administration plan to start mounting low-yield nuclear weapons — W76-2 warheads — on submarine-launched Trident ballistic missiles. Military planners say low-yield, or tactical, warheads are for use in limited conflicts, in contrast to strategic nuclear weapons, which are designed to destroy targets far from the immediate battlefield. Advocates say the United States needs to counter Russia’s extensive low-yield arsenal, while critics say the weapons heighten the risk of Armageddon because it is folly to think nuclear war can be waged on a limited basis.

Mike Turner, R-Ohio, called it “unilateral nuclear disarmament” to not deploy low-yield nuclear weapons.

Adam Smith, D-Wash., called the weapon “a mistake” because “it takes us down the road of saying we can have a manageable nuclear war.”

A yes vote was to add low-yield nuclear weapons to the U.S. arsenal.


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

Voting no: Sewell

Budget Increase for Combat Readiness, Pay Raise:

Voting 204 for and 212 against, the House on July 12 defeated a Republican motion that sought to add nearly $3 billion to HR 2500 (above) for purposes such as expanding combat accounts and increasing the bill’s pay raise for uniformed personnel from the 3.1 percent level requested by President Trump to 4 percent.

Jim Banks, R-Ind., said: “Let us give our troops the raise they earned.”

Adam Smith, D-Wash., said the bill already funds “the largest pay raise for our troops in 10 years.”

A yes vote was to adopt the motion.


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

Voting no: Sewell


John Pallasch, Assistant Labor Secretary:

Voting 54 for and 39 against, the Senate on July 10 confirmed John P. Pallasch, the head of Kentucky’s employment and training agency, as an assistant secretary in the Department of Labor. He will lead the Employment and Training Administration, which consumes nearly two-thirds of the department’s budget while administering workplace programs for 22 million Americans. Pallasch was head of the Mine Safety and Health Administration in the George W. Bush administration.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called Pallasch a “thoroughly well-qualified” nominee.

Patty Murray, D-Wash., said federal job programs need a leader “who is experienced and committed to providing workers with the training, support and benefits they need to succeed in this changing economy. Unfortunately, Mr. Pallasch is not that person.”

A yes vote was to confirm the nominee.


Voting yes: Richard Shelby, R

Voting no:  Doug Jones, D

Robert King, Assistant Secretary of Education:

The Senate on July 11 confirmed, 56 for and 37 against, Robert L. King, the president of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, as assistant secretary of postsecondary education. He served previously as head of the Arizona Community Foundation and chancellor of the State University of New York system of higher education, and he was an aide to former New York Gov. George Pataki.

A yes vote was to confirm the nominee.


Voting yes: Shelby, Jones

Voting no:  None


In the week of July 15, the House will vote on raising the federal minimum wage and on whether to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in criminal contempt of Congress over their disregard of committee subpoenas. The Senate will vote on judicial and executive branch nominations.