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Roll Call: April 28, 2013

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

House

Air travel, sequestration: Voting 361 for and 41 against, the House on Friday passed a bill (HR 1765) to end furloughs of air traffic controllers made necessary by the blind, across-the-board cuts known as sequestration that are now in force. The bill reallocates $253 million in the Federal Aviation Administration budget in order to return controllers to full work schedules and end flight delays clogging U.S. air travel. The bill awaited Senate approval and President Obama’s signature.

Rep. Bill Shuster, a Pennsylvania Republican, said: “This bill will force the administration to stop these needless furloughs so that we can . . . make sure the airline industry is functioning to keep our economy strong and growing.”

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat, said: “Let’s deal with all the adverse consequences of sequestration, not just those that affect the powerful air travelers of America.”

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

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

Federal helium reserve: Voting 394 for and one against, the House on Friday sent the Senate a bill (HR 527) to avert the scheduled closure of the Federal Helium Reserve on Oct. 1. The bill ends tight federal control of the helium market in which four companies now 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 will receive adequate helium supplies based on market prices. A byproduct of natural gas, the element helium is used in making products such as fiber optic cables, MRI machines, space rockets and computer chips. The bill would save $340 million over 10 years, to be applied to deficit reduction.

The reserve was established in 1925 in a geologic formation near Amarillo, Texas. Congress in 1995 directed the Department of the Interior to eventually privatize the reserve, and that process, now under way, would be prolonged for at least 10 years by this bill.

Rep. Doc Hastings, a Washington state Republican, said: “We cannot keep selling helium to a handful of companies. Instead, we need an open helium market that encourages more bidders, more competition and more accurate pricing in order to get the best return for the taxpayers.”

Rep. Hank Johnson, a Georgia Democrat, said: “America would be much better off if this Tea Party Republican Congress brought to the floor issues that mean the most to Americans, like appointing a conference committee to work out a budget with the Senate.”

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

Voting yes: Shea-Porter, Kuster.

Senate

Online sales taxes: Voting 63 for and 30 against, the Senate on Thursday advanced a bill (S 743) requiring online retailers to collect state and local sales taxes and send the revenue to the taxing jurisdiction where the customer lives. At present, firms selling over the internet are obligated to collect sales taxes only if they have a physical presence in the particular state or locality, giving them a cost advantage over brick-and-mortar stores, which by law must add sales taxes to purchases. The bill exempts internet retailers with less than $1 million annually in out-of-state sales. It does not raise taxes, but facilitates the collection of an estimated $23 billion in sales taxes that now goes unpaid. Senators will resume debate on the bill in early May.

Sen. Mark Udall, a Colorado Democrat, said the bill would remedy “two inequitable forms of treatment in the marketplace – one where local brick-and-mortar retailers have to pay sales taxes and one where out-of-state online retailers get to take advantage of a loophole and avoid collecting any sales taxes at all.”

Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican, said: “We are talking about a bill that would impose new costs on businesses throughout the country – costs that will most certainly impact the ability of these companies to grow and expand.”

A yes vote was to advance the bill.

Voting no: Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat, and Kelly Ayotte, a Republican.

Budget director Burwell: By a unanimous vote of 96 for and none against, the Senate on Wednesday confirmed Sylvia Mathews Burwell as director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Burwell, 48, had been president of the Walmart Foundation, and before that she was a top executive of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Burwell held several positions on President Bill Clinton’s economic team. She becomes the second woman to serve as federal budget director, following Alice Rivlin, who headed the OMB in 1994-1996.

Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican, said: “With our country now facing a $16.8 trillion dollar debt, which is more than $53,000 per person, the director of OMB is perhaps the toughest job in Washington, and I am confident that Mrs. Burwell is up for the challenge.”

No senator spoke against the nominee.

A yes vote was to confirm Burwell.

Voting yes: Shaheen, Ayotte.

Key votes ahead

The House and Senate are in recess this week.

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