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Roll Call: New Hampshire’s congresswomen tackle food stamps, Obamacare, confirmation of a judge

Here’s how New Hampshire’s congresswomen voted on major issues in the week ending Friday.

House

FOOD STAMPS CUTS: Voting 217 for and 210 against, the House on Thursday passed a Republican bill (HR 3102) to cut spending on food stamps by nearly $4 billion annually over 10 years, resulting in a projected budget of at least $75 billion per year for what is formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Under the bill, states could deny stamps to able-bodied adults without dependents who are jobless, under 51 years of age and not participating in training or some other work-related activity. States could further reduce their rolls by subjecting food stamps applicants to drug testing. Steps such as these would reduce participation from about 47 million to 43 million recipients per month, a figure that varies with the state of the economy.

The House has now passed separate bills this year to fund farm subsidies and food security programs. Both are now headed to conference with a traditional five-year farm and food security bill passed by the Senate, one that authorizes far higher food stamp spending.

Rep. Pete Sessions, a Texas Republican, said the House bill sends the message: “Where you’re able-bodied and on food stamps, you’ve got to be looking for work. . . . You have to make sure you’re trying to go and better your life, not using the food stamp program as an alternative to the hard work that will help you and perhaps your family, but certainly your community and your country.”

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, a Connecticut Democrat, said: “These $40 billion in cuts (over 10 years) go against decades of bipartisan support for the fight against hunger in the United States. . . . They are, in a word, ‘immoral.’ If this cruel legislation were to become law, at least four million of the nation’s poorest citizens would lose access to the food that they need. We are talking about people on the edge.”

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

Voting no: Reps. Carol Shea-Porter and Annie Kuster, both Democrats.

BENEFITS FOR VETERANS, PREGNANT WOMEN: Voting 193 for and 230 against, the House on Thursday defeated a Democratic bid to prohibit HR 3102 (above) from denying food stamps to veterans, pregnant women, seniors, the disabled or minor children in the event of a U.S. government shutdown or default on its debt.

Rep. Pete Gallegos, a Texas Democrat, said that “in typical congressional fashion, this bill decimates a program that is not broken,” given that 97 percent of food stamp recipients receive benefits according to the rules.

Rep. Renee Ellmers, a North Carolina Republican, called the Democratic motion misleading because “nobody’s benefits will be denied if they meet . . . eligibility requirements.”

A yes vote was to ensure uninterrupted benefits for veterans and certain other categories of food stamps recipients.

Voting yes: Shea-Porter, Kuster.

FAST-TRACK MINING PERMITS: Voting 246 for and 178 against, the House on Wednesday passed a bill (HR 761) to ease environmental rules and limit lawsuits in order to quicken agency reviews of applications to mine critical and noncritical minerals on federal lands in the West. While the bill spotlights strategically important rare-earth minerals, it also would speed action on permits for sand and gravel mining. The bill would designate mining activities as “infrastructure projects” to make them eligible for fast-tracked government reviews.

Rep. Doc Hastings, a Washington Republican, said the bill is needed because “burdensome red tape, duplicative reviews, frivolous lawsuits and onerous regulations can hold up new mining projects here in the U.S. for more than 10 years.”

Rep. Rush Holt, a New Jersey Democrat, said: “This bill has winners and losers. The winners would be the mining companies. The losers would be local communities, the environment, water quality, wildlife and the American taxpayers.”

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

Voting no: Shea-Porter, Kuster.

MINERAL EXPORTS TO CHINA, IRAN: Voting 197 for and 229 against, the House on Wednesday defeated a Democratic bid to prohibit strategic and critical minerals mined as a result of HR 761 (above) from being exported to China, Iran or any country that has violated U.S. economic sanctions against Iran.

Rep. David Cicilline, a Rhode Island Democrat, said: “China is already stockpiling various minerals upon which American manufacturers and our defense capabilities rely, and they may even be working with Iran to gain a larger market share. . . . Despite these concerns, the (GOP) bill fails to protect these strategic and critical minerals from exposure to foreign influence or control.”

Rep. Mark Amodei, a Nevada Republican, said the Democratic measure was “well-intentioned” but duplicative of existing laws to restrict sensitive exports.

A yes vote backed the Democratic motion.

Voting yes: Shea-Porter, Kuster.

OBAMACARE DEFUNDING, STOPGAP SPENDING: Voting 230 for and 189 against, the House on Friday sent the Senate a stopgap appropriations measure (HJ Res 59) to fund the government between Oct. 1 and Dec. 15 at a spending rate of $986 billion per year for discretionary domestic, military and foreign affairs programs. The Republican bill also would defund and thus kill the 2010 health law that is known as Obamacare while continuing the blind, across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen, a Maryland Democrat, called it “simply reckless for our Republican colleagues to say they will shut down the government unless we shut down the Affordable Care Act, a law which is already providing protections to millions of children in this country who have pre-existing conditions . . . and to millions of seniors on Medicare who have high drug costs.”

Rep. Tom Cole, an Oklahoma Republican, said Republicans “are doing everything we can to stop Obamacare through voting to repeal it, defund it and to dismantle it. I am proud of that effort. Obamacare is bad for jobs, (and) that means it’s bad for our economy and it’s bad for our nation’s health care systems.”

A yes vote was to pass the continuing resolution.

Voting no: Shea-Porter, Kuster.

SOCIAL SECURITY, MEDICARE: Voting 190 for and 228 against, the House on Friday defeated a Democratic bid to prohibit spending in H Res 59 (above) aimed at privatizing Social Security or converting Medicare to a voucher program. The motion also sought to establish a regular yearlong budget rather than three months’ stopgap spending for veterans’ benefits and military operations.

A yes vote backed the Democratic motion.

Voting yes: Shea-Porter, Kuster.

LOGGING IN NATIONAL FORESTS: Voting 244 for and 173 against, the House on Friday sent the Senate a bill (HR 1526) to establish “timber production zones” in national forests. In addition to reducing fire risks, the purpose of the bill is to fund a 2000 law that sends federal payments to nearby counties as compensation for the fact that federally managed lands do not generate local tax revenue. The bill devolves U.S. Forest Service management authority over the newly created timber zones to state boards, while granting exemptions from federal environmental laws.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

Voting no: Shea-Porter, Kuster.

Senate

FEDERAL JUDGE ELAINE KAPLAN: Voting 64 for and 35 against, the Senate on Tuesday confirmed Elaine Kaplan as a judge on the United States Court of Federal Claims, which hears monetary claims against the federal government. The 16 federal claims judges are appointed for 15-year terms. Kaplan, 57, joins the court from her dual positions as general counsel and acting director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, called Kaplan a “highly qualified” nominee whose appointment had been “stalled unnecessarily” by Republicans in the seven months since President Obama sent her name to the Senate.

No senator spoke against Kaplan during brief floor discussion of her nomination.

Voting yes: Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat.

Voting no: Sen. Kelly Ayotte, a Republican.

FEDERAL HELIUM RESERVE: Voting 97 for and two against, the Senate on Thursday sent back to the House a bill (HR 527) that would avert the scheduled closure Oct. 7 of the Federal Helium Reserve near Amarillo, Texas. The bill ends tight federal control of the helium market, in which four companies have exclusive rights to refine crude helium from the reserve. But the bill keeps the federal facility in operation to ensure that private companies and government agencies receive adequate helium supplies based on market prices. A byproduct of natural gas, helium is used in making products such as fiber optic cables, MRI machines, space rockets and computer chips. The bill would save $500 million over 10 years, $100 million of which would be allocated to deficit reduction.

Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, said that if Congress fails to act soon, “scores of American manufacturing and technology companies employing millions . . . are going to find it impossible to continue their current operations.”

Sen. Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican, said he opposes the bill because he wants the entire $500 million in savings to be applied to deficit reduction.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

Voting yes: Shaheen, Ayotte.

Key votes ahead

This week, both chambers will debate a continuing resolution to avert a government shutdown Oct. 1, while the Senate will resume work on a bill increasing energy efficiencies in the U.S. economy.

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