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Roll Call: N.H.’s congresswomen tackle farm bill, military budget, immigration

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

House

2014 MILITARY BUDGET: Voting 315 for and 108 against, the House on Friday approved a $638.4 billion military budget for fiscal 2014, including $85.8 billion for actions in Afghanistan and Iraq, more than $60 billion for active-duty and retirement health care and $17.8 billion for Department of Energy nuclear weapons programs. The bill (HR 1960) sets a 1.8 percent military pay raise; bars closure of the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, military prison; recommends a missile defense shield for the East Coast, bars another round of base closings and takes several steps to prevent sexual assaults in the military.

Addressing sexual assaults, the bill strips commanders of their historical authority to dismiss the findings of a court-martial; deprives commanders of the power to reduce guilty verdicts to lesser offenses; sets minimum-sentence guidelines for sex offenses; provides specially trained counsel to represent victims of sex-related crimes; allows victims of assaults to apply for transfer to a new unit and permits reassignment of those charged with but not convicted of sexual assaults.

The bill withholds funding of Afghan security forces until the two countries reach a long-term security agreement satisfactory to Congress. The bill hinges U.S. military aid to Pakistan on its performance in allowing the U.S. troops and supplies to move through its territory.

Rep. Mike Turner, an Ohio Republican, said: “This bill says if you commit a sexual assault, you are out. If (there is) an inappropriate relationship between a trainer and a trainee, you are out. . . . No longer will victims ever have to passionately tell in a hearing before Congress that they were forced to salute someone who had committed a sexual assault against them.”

Rep. Barbara Lee, a California Democrat, objected to GOP leaders barring her amendment to repeal the “Authorization for Use of Military Force” that since 2001 has been the legal underpinning of U.S. military actions overseas. “We did not have a meaningful debate 12 years ago, and by blocking my amendment, this Congress will not be able to exercise its constitutional war-making duties today,” she said.

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

Voting yes: Rep. Annie Kuster, a Democrat.

Not voting: Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, a Democrat.

WITHDRAWAL FROM AFGHANISTAN: Voting 305 for and 121 against, the House on Thursday urged that a congressional vote be held to authorize any U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan after Dec. 31, 2014. President Obama has set that target date for ending most U.S. military involvement there. This nonbinding amendment was added to HR 1960 (above).

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a California Republican, said: “Let’s not send any more (troops) over there, and if we do, let’s make sure that it’s a decision made by the House of the people rather than just by a clique someplace in the Pentagon or elsewhere.”

Rep. Howard McKeon, a California Republican, said presidential decisions for military transition in Afghanistan “should be based upon the conditions on the ground and the input of our commanders,” not on nonbinding amendments such as this one.

A yes vote backed the amendment.

Voting yes: Kuster.

Not voting: Shea-Porter.

OFFSHORE DERIVATIVES TRADING: Voting 301 for and 124 against, the House on Wednesday sent the Senate a bill (HR 1256) to weaken the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial regulation law as it applies to derivatives trading by foreign subsidiaries of U.S. banks and other financial institutions. This bill creates a presumption that these overseas entities are exempt from Dodd-Frank if their host countries have “broadly comparable” derivatives regulations. This would reverse the presumption in current law that overseas subsidiaries are automatically covered by the strict Dodd-Frank derivatives rules unless U.S.-government regulators act to exempt them.

Financial institutions enter into derivatives contracts to hedge, or provide insurance against, other investments they have made. Lacking value of their own, derivatives are priced according to the value of some underlying asset, with their purchasers, in effect, betting on the future value of the base asset (or assets). In 2008, the sudden collapse of the derivatives industry when the housing bubble burst helped crash the global economy, resulting, in part, in the $182 billion U.S.-taxpayer bailout of AIG, an insurance firm. AIG held the losing side of numerous derivatives contracts with Wall Street firms linked to the value of securitized home mortgages. To guard against such breakdowns in the future, the 2010 Dodd-Frank law requires most derivatives contracts to be traded openly on exchanges and cleared by a third party, and also requires derivatives buyers to post adequate reserves against potential losses.

Rep. Jeb Hensarling, a Texas Republican, called the bill “a bipartisanship response to what many view to be, frankly, regulatory red-tape overreach and the adverse consequences that it can have on . . . the competitiveness of our U.S. employers and job creators.”

Rep. Carolyn Maloney, a New York Democrat, said the bill “would fundamentally undermine Dodd-Frank’s derivatives reforms and would create a loophole big enough to drive an AIG-sized truck through.”

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

Voting yes: Kuster.

Voting no: Shea-Porter.

Senate

IMMIGRATION OVERHAUL: Voting 84 for and 15 against, the Senate on Tuesday agreed to start what will be weeks of debate on an immigration bill (S 744) that would tighten U.S. borders; create a 13-year path to citizenship for the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants; crack down on foreign visitors who overstay their visas; require all states to adopt the E-Verify system by which employers check on the legality of new employees; streamline family visas to reduce lengthy waits for overseas relations to join family members in the U.S., and establish new or streamlined employment visas for low-skilled and high-tech workers.

Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, said, “we have a broken legal immigration system. . . . The result is that even if we did not have a single illegal immigrant in the United States, we should be on the floor of the Senate debating immigration reform because we must modernize our legal immigration system.”

Sen. Mike Lee, a Utah Republican, said the bill “offers more of what the American people are used to from Washington – plans, promises, commissions, studies and spending lots and lots of money, but (it) requires almost no action on border security.”

A yes vote was to start debating the bill.

Voting yes: Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat, and Kelly Ayotte, a Republican.

DISPUTE OVER BORDER CONTROL: Voting 57 for and 43 against, the Senate on Thursday tabled (killed) a bid to require six months of tight U.S. government control of the border with Mexico before any undocumented immigrant could take even the first step on the 13-year road to citizenship offered by S 744 (above).

Tabling supporter Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, said the amendment “would significantly delay even the initial registration process for the 11 million undocumented individuals. . . . We believe the pathway to citizenship has to be earned, but it also has to be attainable.”

Sponsor Sen. Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican, said the provisional status that is the bill’s first step toward legality amounts to “de facto permanent legalization. We all know it will never be taken away.” He said his amendment therefore “ensures the border is secured before one person gets legal status under this act.”

A yes vote was to kill the amendment.

Voting yes: Shaheen.

Voting no: Ayotte.

FIVE-YEAR FARM BILL: Voting 66 for and 27 against, the Senate on Monday sent the House a bill (S 954) to renew federal agriculture and nutrition programs for five years at a projected cost of nearly $1 trillion over 10 years, down $24 billion from current spending levels. About $800 billion of the outlay is for food stamps and other food and nutrition programs, with the remainder allocated to programs to protect farm incomes, boost exports, expand domestic markets, promote land conservation and fund rural development.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat, said the bill stands “with families who need (food) help . . . because of the economy, just as we stand with farmers for a strong crop-insurance program when a farmer has a disaster as well.”

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat, objected to the bill’s cutting food stamps, “our nation’s most important anti-hunger program. In this challenging economic climate. . . . it is wrong to cut critical food assistance funding.”

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

Voting yes: Shaheen.

Voting no: Ayotte.

Key votes ahead

Next week, the House will take up a bill to restrict abortions, while the Senate will debate amendments to an immigration bill.

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