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New Hampshire’s congresswomen tackle abortion coverage, flood insurance

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


ABORTION COVERAGE IN HEALTH LAW: Voting 227 for and 188 against, the House on Tuesday passed a Republican bill (HR 7) that would ban subsidized insurance policies that cover abortion from the Affordable Care Act’s state and federal marketplaces.

The bill would prohibit any use of federal funds, including tax credits, to subsidize premiums for such policies. Critics call this an overreach because the ACA already requires policyholders to pay the premium share that applies to reproductive services.

But backers said the “separate payment” requirement is being widely disregarded. The bill also adds the so-called “Hyde Amendment,” now a rider on annual appropriations bills, to permanent U.S. law. Since 1976, the amendment has prohibited the expenditure of federal funds for abortions except in cases of rape or incest or to save the life of the mother.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn, a Tennessee Republican, said the bill is needed because “the health care law’s premium subsidies can be used to purchase coverage on exchanges that include coverage of abortion.”

Rep. Lois Capps, a California Democrat, said the bill would “squarely put the government, namely the IRS, in the exam room by effectively raising the taxes of those who choose an insurance plan that happens to cover abortion services.”

A yes vote was to send the bill to the Senate, where it is expected to die.

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

WOMEN’S MEDICAL PRIVACY: Voting 192 for and 221 against, the House on Tuesday defeated a bid by Democrats to prevent HR 7 (above) from violating the medical privacy of any woman, including rape and incest victims, with respect to her choice or use of a health insurance policy.

The motion addressed privacy issues that could arise as insurance companies seek to document a woman’s claim to have been raped and thus eligible for taxpayer-funded abortion coverage under the 1976 Hyde Amendment.

That amendment bars federal funding of abortions except in cases of rape or incest or if the procedure is necessary to save the life of the mother.

Rep. Gwen Moore, a Wisconsin Democrat, said the bill “would force women in private health insurance to have to ‘justify’ their need for a full range of reproductive health care services, even if their life is in danger or if they have been the victim of sexual assault or incest.”

Blackburn said: “Privacy is an important issue, and we are concerned about that issue for all Americans,” adding “the first guarantee, the first right, is the right to life.”

A yes vote backed the Democratic motion.

Voting yes: Shea-Porter, Kuster.

FARM SUBSIDIES, FOOD STAMPS: Voting 251 for and 166 against, the House on Wednesday approved the conference report on a bill (HR 2642) to renew farm and food programs for five years at a projected cost of nearly $100 billion annually, down nearly $2.3 billion per year from presequester levels.

The bill would cut food-stamps spending by 1 percent; eliminate direct payments to farmers; expand crop insurance for growers of crops such as corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton and rice; fund rural development; boost exports; add stability to dairy incomes without directly limiting milk production; expand crop research and promote soil conservation and wetlands protection, among many other objectives.

About 80 percent of the bill’s $956 billion cost over 10 years is for food stamps and other food and nutrition programs, with the remainder allocated to farm programs.

Rep. Mike McIntyre, a North Carolina Democrat, said the bill “reforms the farm safety net, strengthening crop insurance and commodity programs. These risk management tools assure farmers that help is there when they need it. The bill also encourages conservation and develops export markets.”

Rep. James McGovern, a Massachusetts Democrat, said: “Not a single congressional district in this country is hunger-free. Our food banks, our food pantries, the people who are on the front lines in the fight against hunger simply cannot do any more. . . . This bill will make hunger worse in America, not better.”

A yes vote was to approve the conference report, which awaits Senate action.

Voting yes: Shea-Porter, Kuster.


FLOOD-INSURANCE PREMIUMS: Voting 67 for and 32 against, the Senate on Thursday passed a bill (S 1926) to delay for four years steep increases in premiums for the National Flood Insurance Program, giving the Federal Emergency Management Agency time to redraw the maps of flood plains upon which risk assessments and premium levels are based.

Adding $900 million to U.S. debt over five years, the bill would blunt reforms enacted by Congress in 2012 to phase out taxpayer subsidies that lower premium costs for about one in five NFIP policyholders.

The program is $24 billion in debt, due largely to covering damages from hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 and Sandy in 2012. Serving a market shunned by private insurers, the NFIP covers 5.6 million residential and commercial properties in flood plains in 22,000 U.S. communities.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, said the bill provides relief “while FEMA goes back to the drawing boards and figures out a way to have a flood-insurance program that does not bankrupt thousands of middle-class, working-class people.”

Sen. Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican, said: “Instead of being the most deliberative body in the world, (the Senate) might be described as the most pandering body in the world. What we are doing . . . is punting on these reforms.”

A yes vote was to send the bill to the House, where it faces stiff opposition.

Voting yes: Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat.

Voting no: Sen. Kelly Ayotte, a Republican.

TO ALLOW DEFICIT SPENDING: Voting 64 for and 35 against, the Senate on Wednesday reached a supermajority needed to exempt S 1926 (above) from statutory spending limits set by congressional budget resolutions.

Because the bill would increase deficit spending by $900 million over its first five years and possibly by additional sums in later years, it needed this waiver to move forward.

Sen. Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, said the bill would help to protect “the single most significant asset any family has in this country, which is their home.”

Sen. Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican, said “the American people need to be paying attention. Here we go again, not doing the hard, tough work of making choices about priorities.”

A yes vote was to allow deficit spending in the flood insurance bill.

Voting yes: Shaheen.

Voting no: Ayotte.

PHASE-IN OF PREMIUM INCREASES: Voting 34 for and 65 against, the Senate on Thursday defeated an alternative to S 1926 (above) that would allow flood insurance premiums to rise by 25 percent per year until the property owner has begun paying an actuarially sound rate no longer subsidized by taxpayers.

To put the flood insurance program on a pay-as-you-go basis over the next several years, the amendment would impose a surcharge of $40 annually on premiums for properties valued below $500,000 and $80 annually for more costly properties.

Sponsor Sen. Pat Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican, said his amendment “keeps us on a path to an actuarially sound, fiscally responsible flood insurance program” that is “actually able to pay its claims” without borrowing.

Schumer said the amendment “is almost a mirror image” of the 2012 flood insurance law that the underlying bill would change.

A yes vote backed the amendment.

Voting yes: Ayotte.

Voting no: Shaheen.

Key votes ahead

This week the Senate will take up the farm bill conference report and a bill on veterans’ health benefits. The House schedule was to be announced.

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