Key Votes Ahead
In the week of May 5, the House will debate bills on charter schools and tax policies for U.S. businesses and vote on a contempt-of-Congress resolution against former IRS official Lois G. Lerner The Senate will take up a bill to promote residential and industrial energy efficiencies.
Here’s how Arizona’s members of Congress voted on major issues last week.
VETERANS’ USE OF MEDICAL MARIJUANA
By a vote of 195 for and 222 against, the House on April 30 refused to allow the Veterans Health Administration to counsel patients on using medical marijuana for ailments such as chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). With marijuana illegal under federal law, the VHA is prohibited from prescribing it or counseling veterans on its medicinal benefits. This amendment did not give prescription authority to VHA doctors. The vote occurred during debate on a bill (HR 4486, below) to fund the fiscal 2015 U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs budget. Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana and nine allow it to be prescribed for treating PTSD.
A yes vote was to allow VHA doctors to counsel patients on medical marijuana.
Yes: Raul Grijalva, D-3, David Schweikert, R-6, Ed Pastor, D-7, Kyrsten Sinema, D-9
No: Ann Kirkpatrick, D-1, Ron Barber, D-2, Paul Gosar, R-4, Matt Salmon, R-5, Trent Franks, R-8
2015 BUDGET FOR VETERANS, MILITARY CONSTRUCTION
Voting 416 for and one against, the House on April 30 passed a fiscal 2015 budget bill (HR 4486) that appropriates $64.7 billion in discretionary spending for the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) and $6.6 billion in discretionary spending for military construction on U.S. bases at home and abroad. Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, cast the negative vote. The bill seeks to reduce a backlog of 300,000 veterans’ medical claims and expedites a long-overdue project to combine active-duty and veteran medical records into a seamless electronic file. They now must be accessed independently, adding major costs and inefficiencies to military healthcare.
Additionally, the bill provides tens of billions of dollars in mandatory (entitlement) spending for veterans’ programs such as disability compensation, pensions and the post-9/11 GI Bill. The bill also appropriates several hundred million dollars to operate Arlington National Cemetery, the Armed Forces Retirement Home, the American Battle Monuments Commission and the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.
A yes vote was to send the bill to the Senate.
Yes: Kirkpatrick, Barber, Grijalva, Gosar, Salmon, Schweikert, Pastor, Franks, Sinema
TECHNOLOGY ADVICE TO CONGRESS
By a vote of 164 for and 248 against, the House on May 1 refused to reinstate the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), which existed between 1972-1995 to advise House members and staff on the technological aspects of pending issues. The amendment was offered to a bill (HR 4487), later passed, that would appropriate $3.3 billion for legislative-branch operations other than the Senate in fiscal 2015.
A yes vote was to bring back the Office of Technology Assessment.
Yes: Kirkpatrick, Barber, Grijalva, Salmon, Pastor
No: Gosar, Schweikert, Franks, Sinema
LAWMAKERS’ LEASED VEHICLES
Voting 196 for and 221 against, the House on May 1 refused to end public funding of leased vehicles for use by members on official business. Under the amendment to HR 4487 (above), members would be required to use their personal vehicles for official travel, with reimbursement from the legislative- branch budget on the basis of miles driven. At present, about 60 House members use leased vehicles, at an average cost of under $600 per month, while most remaining members use their own vehicles for official business and receive cost reimbursements. The Senate prohibits its members from leasing vehicles. Whether House members’ vehicles are leased or financed by reimbursements, the cost is publicly reported to taxpayers.
A yes vote was to end taxpayer funding of leased vehicles for House members.
Yes: Kirkpatrick, Barber, Salmon, Franks, Sinema
No: Grijalva, Gosar, Schweikert, Pastor
HEALTH INSURANCE FOR EXPATRIATES
By a vote of 268 for and 150 against, the House on April 29 passed a bipartisan bill (HR 4414) that would exempt Americans abroad and foreigners working in the U.S. from the requirements of the Affordable Care Act. Backers said the bill would protect jobs at U.S. insurance companies that sell policies to expatriates, while foes said it would undermine the ACA and result in expatriates receiving inferior health coverage.
A yes vote was to send the bill to the Senate.
Yes: Kirkpatrick, Barber, Schweikert, Franks, Sinema
No: rijalva, Gosar, Salmon, Pastor
FEDERAL MINIMUM-WAGE INCREASE
Voting 54 for and 42 against, the Senate on April 30 failed to reach 60 votes needed to end Republican blockage of a Democratic-sponsored bill (S 2223) to raise the federal minimum wage from its present $7.25 per hour to $10.10 per hour over two years. The bill also would raise the “tipped minimum wage” from its present $2.13 per hour to a level that is 70 percent of the regular minimum wage. The tipped minimum wage, which is received by restaurant workers, hotel valets and others who depend mainly on tips for their income, has not been raised since 1991.
A yes vote was to advance a bill raising the federal minimum wage.
No: John McCain, R, Jeff Flake, R
JUDGE MICHELLE FRIEDLAND
Voting 51 for and 40 against, the Senate on April 28 confirmed Michelle T. Friedland for a seat on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which hears appeals from federal trial-level courts in Arizona, California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. Friedland, 42, joins the court from private practice. She once clerked for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. The 9th Circuit is the busiest U.S. appellate court, with more cases on its docket than any other circuit and the highest number of pending appeals per active judge. Friedland’s confirmation gives the court a full complement of 29 judges for the first time in nearly 10 years.
No: McCain, Flake