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Roll Call: May 4, 2014

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

House

VETERANS’ USE OF MEDICAL MARIJUANA: By a vote of 195 for and 222 against, the House on Wednesday refused to allow the Veterans Health Administration to counsel patients on using medical marijuana for ailments such as chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder. With marijuana illegal under federal law, the VHA is prohibited from prescribing it or counseling veterans on its medicinal benefits. This amendment did not give prescription authority to VHA doctors. The vote occurred during debate on a bill (HR 4486, below) to fund the fiscal 2015 U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs budget. Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana and nine allow it to be prescribed for treating PTSD.

Rep. Sam Farr, a California Democrat, said, “All this amendment says is that if you are in a VA clinic and you want to have a discussion with your doctor about relieving pain or other things, you can have that conversation.”

Rep. John Culberson, a Texas Republican, said, “Marijuana is prohibited under federal law. . . . If (veterans) need it, they can go to states where it is permitted.”

A yes vote was to allow VHA doctors to counsel patients on medical marijuana.

Voting yes: Reps. Carol Shea-Porter and Annie Kuster, both Democrats.

2015 BUDGET FOR VETERANS, MILITARY CONSTRUCTION: Voting 416 for and 1 against, the House on Wednesday passed a fiscal 2015 budget bill (HR 4486) that appropriates $64.7 billion in discretionary spending for the Department of Veterans Affairs and $6.6 billion in discretionary spending for military construction on U.S. bases at home and abroad. Rep. Raul Labrador, an Idaho Republican, cast the negative vote. The bill seeks to reduce a backlog of 300,000 veterans’ medical claims and expedites a long-overdue project to combine active-duty and veteran medical records into a seamless electronic file. They now must be accessed independently, adding major costs and inefficiencies to military health care.

Additionally, the bill provides tens of billions of dollars in mandatory (entitlement) spending for veterans’ programs such as disability compensation, pensions and the post-9/11 GI Bill. The bill also appropriates several hundred million dollars to operate Arlington National Cemetery, the Armed Forces Retirement Home, the American Battle Monuments Commission and the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.

Rep. Harold Rogers, a Kentucky Republican, said the bill “demands” a unified health records system for the military.

Rep. Rick Nolan, a Minnesota Democrat, said, “Veterans of foreign wars like Afghanistan are sleeping under bridges – going without the life-saving health care and mental health services they deserve and so desperately need – and waiting for sometimes years for the VA to finally process their benefits claims.”

No member spoke against the bill.

A yes vote was to send the bill to the Senate.

Voting yes: Shea-Porter, Kuster.

TECHNOLOGY ADVICE TO CONGRESS: By a vote of 164 for and 248 against, the House on Thursday refused to reinstate the Office of Technology Assessment, which existed between 1972 and 1995 to advise House members and staff on the technological aspects of pending issues. The amendment was offered to a bill (HR 4487), later passed, that would appropriate $3.3 billion for legislative branch operations other than the Senate in fiscal 2015.

Rep. Rush Holt, a New Jersey Democrat, said that since the OTA was abolished, “Our need for its work has grown only more acute. Too often, we have considered or not considered legislation in ignorance of the technological factors.”

Rep. Tom Cole, an Oklahoma Republican, said there is “a bipartisan judgment that this is something we didn’t need to renew,” given the wide availability of technological advice from other sources.

A yes vote was to bring back the Office of Technology Assessment.

Voting yes: Shea-Porter, Kuster.

LAWMAKERS’ LEASED VEHICLES: Voting 196 for and 221 against, the House on Thursday refused to end public funding of leased vehicles for use by members on official business. Under the amendment to HR 4487 (above), members would be required to use their personal vehicles for official travel, with reimbursement from the legislative branch budget on the basis of miles driven. At present, about 60 House members use leased vehicles, at an average cost of under $600 per month, while most remaining members use their own vehicles for official business and receive cost reimbursements. The Senate prohibits its members from leasing vehicles. Whether House members’ vehicles are leased or financed by reimbursements, the cost is publicly reported to taxpayers.

Rep. Richard Nugent, a Florida Republican, said, “We are asking agencies throughout the federal government to . . . cut out unnecessary, nice-to-have things. We ought to apply the same standard to ourselves.”

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Florida Democrat, said, “Removing transportation options for members trying to effectively represent their constituents forces a one-size-fits-all approach . . . that is not reasonable, nor does it make sense.”

A yes vote was to end taxpayer funding of leased vehicles for House members.

Voting yes: Shea-Porter, Kuster.

HEALTH INSURANCE FOR EXPATRIATES: By a vote of 268 for and 150 against, the House on Tuesday passed a bipartisan bill (HR 4414) that would exempt Americans abroad and foreigners working in the U.S. from the requirements of the Affordable Care Act. Backers said the bill would protect jobs at U.S. insurance companies that sell policies to expatriates, while foes said it would undermine the ACA and result in expatriates receiving inferior health coverage.

Rep. Charles Dent, a Pennsylvania Republican, said, “1,200 of our fellow Americans stand to lose their jobs if we don’t act and pass this legislation.”

Rep. Sander Levin, a Michigan Democrat, said the bill “could substantially undermine health security for foreign workers as well as American dependents who remain in this country.”

A yes vote was to send the bill to the Senate.

Voting yes: Kuster.

Voting no: Shea-Porter.

Senate

FEDERAL MINIMUM-WAGE INCREASE: Voting 54 for and 42 against, the Senate on Wednesday failed to reach 60 votes needed to end Republican blockage of a Democratic-sponsored bill (S 2223) to raise the federal minimum wage from its present $7.25 per hour to $10.10 per hour over two years. The bill also would raise the “tipped minimum wage” from its present $2.13 per hour to a level that is 70 percent of the regular minimum wage. The tipped minimum wage, which is received by restaurant workers, hotel valets and others who depend mainly on tips for their income, has not been raised since 1991.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said, “The heart of the minimum wage debate is not found in statistics but . . . in a question we should ask ourselves: What kind of a country do we aspire to be?”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said, “Senate Democrats are pushing (minimum wage) legislation . . . that would actually cost – not create, but actually cost – up to a million American jobs.”

A yes vote was to advance a bill raising the federal minimum wage.

Voting yes: Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat.

Voting no: Sen. Kelly Ayotte, a Republican.

JUDGE MICHELLE FRIEDLAND: Voting 51 for and 40 against, the Senate on Monday confirmed Michelle Friedland for a seat on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which hears appeals from federal trial-level courts in Arizona, California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. Friedland, 42, joins the court from private practice. She once clerked for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. The 9th Circuit is the busiest U.S. appellate court, with more cases on its docket than any other circuit and the highest number of pending appeals per active judge. Friedland’s confirmation gives the court a full complement of 29 judges for the first time in nearly 10 years.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, called Friedland “an exceptionally talented attorney” who becomes “the 17th woman to ever sit on this appellate court,” compared with 83 men.

No senator spoke against the nominee.

A yes vote was to confirm Friedland.

Voting yes: Shaheen.

Voting no: Ayotte.

Key votes ahead

This week, the House will debate bills on charter schools and tax policies for U.S. businesses and vote on a contempt-of-Congress resolution against former IRS official Lois Lerner. The Senate will take up a bill to promote residential and industrial energy efficiencies.

The callous lack of compassion by legislators who voted against American veterans receiving medicine that can help them is disgusting. Un-American. Vote them all out! In 2003 the Bush administration received a broad patent for medical cannabis applications. "Cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants" United States Patent 6,630,507 In is infuriating that the Bush administration, and since then the Obama administration, have continued to keep cannabis in Schedule-1 having no medicinal value. Veterans need to go to the ACLU and sue the Obama administration to take cannabis off Schedule-1.

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