The Free Press, Mankato, MN

February 8, 2013

Congress: How they voted week ended Feb. 8

Thomas Voting Reports

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Here's how area members of Congress voted on major issues in the week ending Feb. 8.


REPUBLICAN BUDGET DEMAND: Voting 253 for and 167 against, the House on Feb. 6 sent the Senate a Republican bill (HR 444) demanding that President Obama, in his soon-to-be-released budget for fiscal 2014 and later years, specifies when the federal budget will be balanced and his policies for achieving balance.

The U.S. Code requires presidents to release a new budget by the first Monday in February each year but sets no penalty for tardiness. The administration failed to meet this year's deadline, saying Congress's long-running "fiscal cliff" dispute delayed preparation. The next budget year, fiscal 2014, begins Oct. 1, 2013.

Tom McClintock, R-Calif., said the bill "simply requires that if the president can't balance the budget this year, he tell us how long it will take and what needs to be done to do so. We would expect that from any family. We should demand it from our government."

Jim McGovern, D-Mass., said he bill "isn't a meaningful attempt to address the budget. It's a gimmick wrapped in talking points inside a press release."

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

MINNESOTA: Voting yes: Tim Walz, D-1, John Kline, R-2, Erik Paulsen, R-3, Michele Bachmann, R-6 

Voting no: Betty McCollum, D-4, Keith Ellison, D-5, Collin Peterson, D-7, Rick Nolan, D-8.

DEMOCRATS' `SEQUESTER' PLAN: Voting 194 for and 229 against, the House on Feb. 6 defeated a bid by Democrats to replace HR 444 (above) with measures to avert massive cuts in discretionary-spending programs that are to start taking effect March 1 and last for eight years under a process known as "sequestration."

These cuts consist of about $109 billion in annual across-the-board reductions in military, foreign-affairs and domestic spending (but not entitlement spending) between fiscal 2013-2021. This motion sought to replace these blind, multi-year cuts with equivalent savings that would be reached by combining revenue increases that spare the middle class with targeted reductions in discretionary spending.

Allyson Schwartz, D-Pa., criticized the Republicans' "rigid partisan view...that deficit reduction must be achieved by spending cuts alone, regardless of the consequences. Moving from one crisis to another and failing to meet our responsibilities, as Republicans have done time and time again, has hurt our economic growth."

Tom Price, R-Ga., said Schwartz was wrong to say Republicans "reject a balanced approach" because "in fact, all you've got to do is read our budget. There's a balanced approach (of) appropriate spending reductions, appropriate closure of loopholes in credits and reductions of the Tax Code to gain revenue in pro-growth policy so that we can balance the budget."

A yes vote backed the Democratic motion.

Voting yes: Walz, McCollum, Ellison, Peterson, Nolan

Voting no:   Kline, Paulsen, Bachmann 


VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN ACT: The Senate on Feb. 4 voted, 85 for and eight against, to start debate on a bill (S 47) to renew the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) through fiscal 2016.

This bill adds protections for gays, lesbians and transsexuals and empowers tribal courts to issue protection orders and prosecute non-Indians who commit violence on reservations against Native Americans, among other changes.

Since enacted in 1994, the law has funneled billions of dollars in grants to state and local governments and non-profit organizations for a variety of programs aimed at preventing domestic and dating violence, stalking and sexual assaults and helping victims recover when those crimes occur.

Agencies such as the departments of Justice and Homeland Security and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention disburse the grants through laws such as the Victims of Child Abuse Act, the Higher Education Act and the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Michael Crapo, R-Idaho, said the bill "provides access to legal and social services for survivors. It provides training for law enforcement, prosecutors, judges, attorneys and advocates to address these crimes" and "provides shelter and resources for victims who have nowhere else to turn."

None of the eight senators who voted no spoke against the bill.

A yes vote was to debate the bill.

MINNESOTA: Voting yes: Al Franken, D, Amy Klobuchar, D 

GOP ANTI-VIOLENCE BILL: Voting 34 for and 65 against, the Senate on Feb. 7 defeated a Republican substitute for S 47 (above). The GOP bill differed, in part, by denying tribal courts jurisdiction over certain domestic-violence cases on reservations; setting mandatory minimum sentences for crimes involving child pornography and sexual assault; imposing stricter controls on the funding of anti-violence programs and providing fewer protections for illegal immigrants who are victims of domestic violence.

Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said: "The key stumbling block to enacting a bill at this time is the provision concerning Indian tribal courts," which, he said, "raises serious constitutional questions concerning both the sovereignty of tribal courts and the constitutional rights of defendants who would be tried in those courts...."

Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said the GOP bill "abandons (the law's) historic emphasis on abuse of women. Women are still more often the victims of domestic and sexual violence with more catastrophic results." He said the GOP bill also provides less protection for victims of violence based on "sexual orientation or gender identity."

A yes vote backed the GOP substitute.

Voting yes: None

Voting no: Franken, Klobuchar