Saturday, September 20, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Area Votes in Congress

WASHINGTON - Here is how Philadelphia-area members of Congress voted on major issues last week:

House

Veterans' use of medical marijuana. By a vote of 195-222, the House on Wednesday 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.

Voting yes: Robert A. Brady (D., Pa.), John Carney (D., Del.), Matt Cartwright (D., Pa.), Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.), and Frank A. LoBiondo (R., N.J.).

Voting no: Charles W. Dent (R., Pa.), Michael Fitzpatrick (R., Pa.), Jim Gerlach (R., Pa.), Pat Meehan (R., Pa.), Joseph R. Pitts (R., Pa.), Jon Runyan (R., N.J.), and Christopher H. Smith (R., N.J.).

Not voting: Allyson Y. Schwartz (D., Pa.).

2015 budget for veterans, military construction. Voting 416-1, the House on Wednesday 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.

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

Voting yes: Brady, Carney, Cartwright, Dent, Fattah, Fitzpatrick, Gerlach, LoBiondo, Meehan, Pitts, Runyan, and Smith.

Not voting: Schwartz.

Technology advice to Congress. By a vote of 164-248, the House on Thursday refused to reinstate the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), which existed between 1972 and 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.

Voting yes: Carney, Cartwright, Fattah, and LoBiondo.

Voting no: Brady, Dent, Fitzpatrick, Gerlach, Meehan, Pitts, Runyan, and Smith.

Not voting: Schwartz.

Health insurance for expatriates. By a vote of 268-150, the House on Tuesday passed a bipartisan bill (HR 4414) that would exempt Americans abroad and foreigners working in the United States 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.

Charles Dent (R., Pa.) said that "1,200 of our fellow Americans stand to lose their jobs if we don't act and pass this legislation."

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

Voting yes: Carney, Dent, Fattah, Fitzpatrick, Gerlach, LoBiondo, Pitts, Runyan, Smith, and Meehan.

Voting no: Brady and Cartwright.

Not voting: Schwartz.

Senate

Federal minimum-wage increase. Voting 54-42, the Senate on Wednesday 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.

Voting yes: Cory Booker (D., N.J.), Thomas Carper (D., Del.), Bob Casey (D., Pa.), Chris Coons (D., Del.), and Robert Menendez (D., N.J.).

Voting no: Pat Toomey (R., Pa.).

Judge Michelle Friedland. Voting 51-40, the Senate on Monday confirmed Michelle T. Friedland for a seat on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, 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.

Voting yes: Booker, Carper, Casey, and Menendez.

Voting no: Toomey.

Not voting: Coons.

This week. 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.

VOTERAMA IN CONGRESS
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