WASHINGTON — Here’s how area members of Congress voted on major issues in the week that ended Jan. 27.
ABORTIONS, AFFORDABLE CARE ACT: Voting 238 for and 183 against, the House on Jan. 24 passed a GOP-sponsored bill (HR 7) that would prevent taxpayer-subsidized insurance policies in Affordable Care Act marketplaces from covering abortions, which are legal in the U.S. under conditions set by the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade. Because the ACA already requires policyholders to personally pay the share of their premium applicable to reproductive care, there was dispute over whether this bill would change anything.
In other provisions, the bill would prohibit the use of tax credits to subsidize premiums for ACA policies that cover abortions, prevent the District of Columbia from using locally raised funds to pay for abortions and add the so-called Hyde Amendment to permanent law. A standard part of appropriations bills since 1976, the Hyde measure prohibits the spending of federal funds for abortions except in cases of rape or incest or to save the life of the mother.
Diane Black, R-Tenn., said the bill would ensure that “hard-earned tax dollars are not used to fund the destruction of innocent life.”
Judy Chu, D-Calif., said the bill “is a woman’s health catastrophe ... In effect, it makes abortion an option only for the wealthy.”
A yes vote was to send the bill to the Senate, where it is likely to face a Democratic filibuster.
Voting yes: Martha McSally, R-2, Paul Gosar, R-4, Andy Biggs, R-5, David Schweikert, R-6, Trent Franks, R-8.
Voting no: Tom O’Halleran, D-1, Raul Grijalva, D-3, Ruben Gallego, D-7, Kyrsten Sinema, D-9.
GENDER BIAS, AFFORDABLE CARE ACT: Voting 187 for and 235 against, the House on Jan. 24 defeated a Democratic motion that sought to ensure that HR 7 (above) would not result in women paying higher premiums than men for the same policies in Affordable Care Act marketplaces. Under an ACA provision that took effect in 2014, insurance companies are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of policyholders’ gender or health status. The anti-abortion provisions of the underlying bill would apply to any law that replaces the Affordable Care Act.
Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., said: “We cannot go back to the days when insurance companies were free to discriminate against women. But that is exactly what Republicans want to do. They want women to pay more for insurance coverage that doesn’t include the services they need.”
Diane Black, R-Tenn., did not comment directly on the motion, but said: “Today we have an opportunity to invest in women’s health over abortion by passing (this bill) and making the Hyde amendment permanent.”
A yes vote was to adopt the Democratic motion.
Voting yes: O’Halleran, Grijalva, Gallego, Sinema.
Voting no: McSally, Gosar, Biggs, Schweikert, Franks.
DISCLOSURE OF DONALD TRUMP’S TAX RETURNS: Voting 233 for and 187 against, the House on Jan. 24 blocked a parliamentary move by Democrats that sought to force debate on a bill now in committee that would require sitting presidents and presidential candidates to publicly release personal tax returns for the preceding three years. Democrats took this procedural step after the Republican majority denied them a chance to offer amendments to HR 7 (above). As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump said he would release his tax returns at the conclusion of what he said was an ongoing IRS audit. But Trump as president will not disclose his returns, a spokeswoman said days before this vote.
Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., said “it is no surprise that (Democrats) would rather talk about just about anything besides the text and the substance” of the pending anti-abortion bill.
Jim McGovern, D-Mass., said that “between (Trump’s) refusal to release his tax returns and all these business conflicts of interest, this presidency is on a collision course with corruption.”
A yes vote was to quash a Democratic bid for disclosure of Trump’s tax returns.
Voting yes: McSally, Gosar, Biggs, Schweikert, Franks.
Voting no: O’Halleran, Grijalva, Gallego, Sinema.
MIKE POMPEO, CIA DIRECTOR: The Senate on Jan. 23 voted, 66 for and 32 against, to confirm Mike Pompeo, 53, a Republican congressman from Kansas, as director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Pompeo becomes the sixth CIA director since the spy agency was restructured in 2005 as part of a revamp of U.S. intelligence operations in response to global terrorist threats.
According to his supporters, Pompeo firmly opposes any resumption of abandoned U.S. security practices such as collecting bulk data on Americans’ telecommunications or torturing terrorist suspects. But critics say Pompeo’s statements and writings call into question his true feelings about several post-9/11 policies that were stopped by acts of Congress or executive orders.
Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said Pompeo “has committed to following the law with respect to torture. He committed (in testimony) to refuse any orders to restart the CIA’s use enhanced interrogation techniques that fall outside of the Army Field Manual.”
Jon Tester, D-Mont., said: “The threats we face in this world are real, but we cannot afford to revive and expand some of the worst elements of the PATRIOT Act. Every American has a fundamental right to privacy, and Mr. Pompeo has indicated he is willing to sacrifice that right.”
A yes vote was to confirm Pompeo as CIA director.
Voting yes: John McCain, R, Jeff Flake, R.
NIKKI HALEY, UNITED NATIONS AMBASSADOR: The Senate on Jan. 24 voted, 96 for and four against, to confirm South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, a Republican, as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Haley, 45, served in the state House of Representatives for six years before becoming South Carolina’s first female governor in 2011.
Supporters praised Haley’s leadership as governor and natural diplomatic skills, and while acknowledging her inexperience above the state level, they predicted she will grow into her international position. Opponents said that in her confirmation hearing, Haley only repeated GOP talking points, including a hard line on refugees and Cuba, while showing little understanding of world affairs or U.N. operations.
Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Haley “can learn the nuances of foreign policy, but diplomacy is something you either have or you don’t. She is tough and determined, and I think she is very capable of being the United States’ voice in the United Nations.”
Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said that in contrast to Haley, U.N. ambassadors historically have been “accomplished people (such) as Henry Cabot Lodge, Adlai Stevenson, George H.W. Bush, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Thomas Pickering and Madeleine Albright. Each was recognized ... across the political spectrum for his or her depth of foreign policy experience and wisdom.”
A yes vote was to confirm Haley as U.N. ambassador.
Voting yes: McCain, Flake