Friday, December 15, 2006

Where The Rubber Meets The Road (12/15)

As reported in last Sunday's Philadelphia Inquirer, here is how Philadelphia-area members of Congress were recorded on major roll-call votes last week.


Taxes, Medicare, oil and gas drilling
. The House passed, 367-45, and sent to the Senate a bill (HR 6111) to renew an array of business and personal tax breaks, cancel a planned cut in Medicare payments to doctors, and open 8.3 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas drilling. Among the bill's tax breaks are a research and development credit for businesses; income tax deductions for college tuition; a provision allowing teachers to deduct up to $250 for the purchase of classroom supplies; and employer credits for the hiring of persons leaving welfare. A yes vote was to pass the bill.

Voting yes: Michael N. Castle (R., Del.), Charles W. Dent (R., Pa.), Michael G. Fitzpatrick (R., Pa.), Jim Gerlach (R., Pa.), Tim Holden (D., Pa.), Frank A. LoBiondo (R., N.J.), Joseph R. Pitts (R., Pa.), H. James Saxton (R., N.J.), Allyson Schwartz (D., Pa.), Christopher H. Smith (R., N.J.) and Curt Weldon (R., Pa.).

Voting no: Robert E. Andrews (D., N.J.) and Robert A. Brady (D., Pa.).

Not voting: Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.).
I was unable to find out why Andrews and Brady voted against this bill, unless it was because they objected to tax cuts being passed at a time when government agencies are underfunded and we’re in the middle of fighting a pointless war that is draining this country of our life blood of an entire generation of potential leaders of this country, to say nothing of funds that could be used to try and fix the environment, fund critical research and development for job growth (remember how we used to do that?), repair our infrastructure, promote educational advancement, and follow up on the 9/11 Commission recommendations. Maybe that was the reason.

If so, I applaud them.

Nuclear deal with India. Members approved, 330-59, the conference report on an administration plan to sell U.S. civilian nuclear supplies to India despite its rejection of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The Senate later passed the bill (HR 5682) on a voice vote. A yes vote was to approve the bill.

Voting yes: Andrews, Brady, Castle, Dent, Fattah, Fitzpatrick, Gerlach, Holden, LoBiondo, Saxton and Weldon.

Voting no: Pitts, Schwartz and Smith.

Not voting: Fattah.
What an interesting collection of “no” votes here! I went to the sites of all three representatives and could not find any information, and a record of the proceedings on this vote provided no information either.

My guess is that Pitts and Smith opposed this even though the outgoing House “leadership” wanted it, and they knew their votes wouldn’t have any effect on the final outcome, and Schwartz would vote no regardless. At any rate, these three did the right thing, as opposed to our area senators, who caved entirely on this a few weeks ago (God, I actually gave Joe Pitts credit for something – forgive me).

Stopgap budget. The House passed, 370-20, a measure to fund most federal agencies on a stopgap basis until Feb. 15 and delay until then a 2 percent congressional pay raise set for Jan. 1. The Senate later passed the bill (HJR 102) by voice vote. A yes vote approved the measure.

Voting yes: Andrews, Brady, Dent, Fitzpatrick, Gerlach, Holden, LoBiondo, Pitts, Saxton, Schwartz, Smith and Weldon.

Voting no: Castle.

Not voting: Fattah.
(By the way, I guess Chaka Fattah wasn't available becaue he was busy defending Mumia last week...a bright guy, but God was he dumb on that one).

Can’t find any information on why Castle voted no (Google-searching my brains out here and coming up with snake eyes, so to speak), unless it was because he objected to the partisan trick of stopgap funding for just long enough until it became the headache of the Democratic Party when it takes over.

Vietnam trade. The House approved, 212-184, and sent to the Senate the conference report on a bill (HR 6406) to begin normal U.S. trade with Vietnam. The bill also granted more access to American markets to Haiti, Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, Bolivia and several nations in sub-Saharan Africa. A yes vote was to approve the bill.

Voting yes: Castle, Dent and Schwartz.

Voting no: Andrews, Brady, Fitzpatrick, Gerlach, Holden, LoBiondo, Pitts, Saxton, Smith and Weldon.

Not voting: Fattah.
Here is a link to more information on this, including a nested link to an L. A. Times story on the entire session.

The issue I have with any trade bill coming from our government is whether or not enforceable worker safeguards are included (and I know the answer to the question of whether or not they’re included here before I even ask the question).

Does this mean more textile jobs lost to Central America and elsewhere and I.T. jobs lost to Vietnam (and I know trade relations with that country is a particularly dicey issue)?

I think Allyson Schwartz should take a shot at trying to answer those questions (I basically support her, though her vote here mystifies me).


Taxes, trade. The Senate passed, 79-9, and sent to President Bush a bill (HR 6111, above) to renew an array of tax breaks, avert a cut in Medicare payments to doctors, and expand oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. The vote also approved a bill that expands U.S. trade with many nations (HR 6406, above). A yes vote was to pass the bill.

Voting yes: Thomas Carper (D., Del.), Robert Menendez (D., N.J.) and Rick Santorum (R., Pa.).

Not voting: Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D., Del.), Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.) and Arlen Specter (R., Pa.).
I don’t like anything that encourages further oil and gas drilling offshore, but I’m not going to win that battle, so…

Defense confirmation. Senators confirmed, 95-2, Robert M. Gates, a former director of the CIA, to replace Donald H. Rumsfeld as secretary of defense. Gates, 63, is to take charge of the Pentagon on Dec. 18. A yes vote was to confirm Gates.

Voting yes: Carper, Lautenberg, Menendez and Specter.

Voting no: Santorum.

Not voting: Biden.
By the way, the other “No” vote here was cast by none other than Repug Jim Bunning of Kentucky (he was probably told by Fox “News” to vote no, since that is apparently the only source he consults, having admitted that he doesn’t read books or newspapers, no doubt adding to his reputation that earned him a note in Time Magazine’s April edition this year as “one of our five worst senators.”)

I have issues with Gates to be sure, but I just don't see how we were going to get anyone else from the ruling cabal who would've been any better.

FDA confirmation. Senators confirmed, 80-11, Andrew C. von Eschenbach, as commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration. Von Eschenbach, 65, a former head of the National Cancer Institute, has been acting commissioner. A yes vote was to confirm von Eschenbach.

Voting yes: Carper, Lautenberg, Menendez and Specter.

Voting no: Santorum.

Not voting: Biden.
This confirmation was held up in August by Sens. Clinton and Cantwell because of Bushco’s opposition of the Part B morning-after pill, but it has since been approved for sale (not a panacea of course, but a step in the right direction).

Farm aid. The Senate failed, 57-37, to reach the 60 votes needed to add $4.5 billion in emergency aid to the fiscal 2007 agriculture budget (H.R. 5384), on top of $4 billion already in the bill for that purpose. The supermajority was needed because the additional spending violated statutory spending caps. A yes vote was to provide more emergency farm aid.

Voting yes: Carper, Lautenberg and Menendez.

Voting no: Santorum and Specter.

Not voting: Biden.
(God, where the hell was Biden all week? Out giving his presidential candidacy "one last shot" - smirk).

And in their final infamous act, the 109th Congress tells our family farmers to drop dead (funny how they adhere to statutory spending caps when it suits them – how about statutory caps on how many tax cut bills you can pass for your corporate benefactors?).

Thus marks the end of the 109th Congress (don’t let the door hit you on the way out, ladies and gentlemen).

The Dems take over the hill on January 4th next year (and with Sen. Tim Johnson appearing to recover fortunately as of now, though he’s probably looking at a long rehab, things may work out after all).

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