Friday, August 11, 2006

Where The Rubber Meets The Road (8/11)

As reported in last Sunday's Philadelphia Inquirer, here is how Philadelphia-area senators were recorded on major roll-call votes last week. The House was in recess.

Gulf of Mexico drilling. The Senate passed, 71-25, a bill to open about 8.34 million acres in the eastern Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas extraction while setting a 125-mile buffer zone between Florida and the drilling area. The bill (S 3711) now goes to conference with the House.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

Voting yes: Thomas Carper (D., Del.), Rick Santorum (R., Pa.) and Arlen Specter (R., Pa.).

Voting no: Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D., Del.), Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.) and Robert Menendez (D., N.J.).
As I said earlier today, Carper might as well be a Republican.

Minimum wage, estate tax. Senators failed, 56-42, to get the 60 votes needed to advance a bill (HR 5970) raising the hourly minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 over three years, and exempting all but the wealthiest estates from taxation.
A yes vote was to advance the bill.

Voting yes: Santorum and Specter.

Voting no: Biden, Carper, Lautenberg and Menendez.
Once again, I give you Dr. Dean (and kudos to everyone who contacted their senators and told them what they could do with this).

And as far as Santorum is concerned...

Pension plans. Senators passed, 93-5, and sent to President Bush a bill (HR 4) requiring about 30,000 companies to fully fund traditional defined-benefit pension plans over seven years.

All Philadelphia-area senators voted for the bill.
This WaPo article explains that the bill, while providing the seven-year timeframe for companies to fully fund their pension plans, is ultimately going to allow companies to discontinue traditional pension plans altogether for many experienced workers (with maybe about 10-15 years or more into the work force) and those just beginning their careers. I have a feeling that that’s the reason why Barbara Boxer (who, aside from her recent Lieberman dalliance, has done a lot of good stuff) and Russ Feingold voted against it.

There were some other curious “no” votes on this, by the way, including Repugs Richard Burr of North Carolina and John Cornyn of Texas. Our ol’ Oakie buddy Tom Coburn also shot this down, but I have a feeling that it was because the phase “pension protection” sounded too much like “contraception” to him and he got confused.

Border fence. Senators voted 94-3 to spend $1.8 billion in the 2007 defense budget (HR 5631) on building 370 miles of triple-layered fencing on the U.S.-Mexico border and on scattered vehicle barriers along a 460-mile stretch.

All Philadelphia-area senators voted to fund the border fence.
How appropriate that this was the last bill they voted on before their vacation, since the problem comes from workers entering this country via plane and not via ground (or, as Bill Maher pointed out, they’re going to have a heck of a time getting the illegal/undocumented workers to do THIS for them).

Ahead. Congress is in recess until Sept. 5.
Thank God.

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