Friday, September 19, 2008

Where The Rubber Meets The Road (9/19/08)

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 (getting back to this after a month's absence).


Tobacco trafficking. Voting 379-12, the House passed a bill (HR 4081) to crack down on those who sell tobacco products across state lines without paying state sales taxes. The bill virtually bans the mailing of those products, and requires vendors to notify tax officials in receiving states when they use commercial delivery services. The bill raises cigarette trafficking from a misdemeanor to a felony and empowers the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to inspect companies that distribute large volumes of tobacco products. The bill is now before the Senate.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

Voting yes: Robert E. Andrews (D., N.J.), Robert A. Brady (D., Pa.), Michael N. Castle (R., Del.), Charles W. Dent (R., Pa.), Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.), Jim Gerlach (R., Pa.), Tim Holden (D., Pa.), Frank A. LoBiondo (R., N.J.), Patrick Murphy (D., Pa.), Allyson Y. Schwartz (D., Pa.), Joe Sestak (D., Pa.), and Christopher H. Smith (R., N.J.).

Not voting: Joseph R. Pitts (R., Pa.) and H. James Saxton (R., N.J.).
The only stone I would throw, so to speak, at this otherwise worthy legislation is that I would hate to see precious law enforcement resources wasted over trying to find out if someone received a pack of smokes through the U.S. Mail. Otherwise, it’s all good.

(And as you can see, this passed as a productive week for Pancake Joe Pitts.)

Mexican truck ban. The House voted 395-18 to block an administration plan to extend a pilot program in which a limited number of Mexican trucks can travel throughout the United States. The bill (HR 6630) would confine Mexican trucking to border zones.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

Voting yes: Brady, Castle, Dent, Fattah, Gerlach, Holden, LoBiondo, Murphy, Saxton, Schwartz, Sestak and Smith.

Not voting: Andrews and Pitts.
This extensive post on the pilot program for the Mexican truck drivers explains why it was cancelled (with President Highest Disapproval Rating In Gallup Poll History readying his veto crayon for this, no doubt); if you’re carrying freight over land in this country, play by the rules or don’t play at all.


National missile defense. Voting 39-57, the Senate refused to increase National Missile Defense spending by $271 million over the $9.3 billion already included in the $601 billion 2009 military budget (S 3001). The bill remained in debate. Backers sought to pay for the amendment by reducing other defense programs by $271 million, but left it up to the Pentagon to specify the cuts.

A yes vote backed the amendment.

Voting yes: Arlen Specter (R., Pa.).

Voting no: Thomas Carper (D., Del.), Bob Casey (D., Pa.), Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.), and Robert Menendez (D., N.J.).

Not voting: Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D., Del.)
A wise vote to oppose another Repug “sacred cow” that is a boon to defense-related engineering and consulting firms and a bust to taxpayers (and I think the price tag is already too high as it is).

And as always, screw you, Arlen (and I’d be very surprised if we saw any votes from Biden for the rest of this session).

Military benefits. The Senate voted 94-2 to end a policy that reduces military spouses' survivor benefits by the amount received in Dependency and Indemnity Compensation. The former is an insurance annuity to spouses and children of deceased soldiers. The latter is a Department of Veterans Affairs benefit for spouses of active-duty personnel who die from a service-related cause. This vote occurred during debate on S 3001 (above).

A yes vote backed the amendment.

Voting yes: Carper, Casey, Lautenberg, Menendez and Specter.

Not voting: Biden.
Oh, and just for the record (noted here), Repugs Crazy Jim (“High And Tight”) Bunning and George Voinovich voted no. I cannot possibly imagine why.

This week, both chambers took up energy bills expanding offshore drilling and raising spending to develop non-fossil fuels. The Senate continued to debate the 2009 defense budget.

And just as a reminder, more posts are here.

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