Roll Call for Nov. 17
Here’s how New Hampshire’s congresswomen voted on major issues in the week ending Friday.
AFFORDABLE CARE ACT WAIVER: Voting 261 for and 157 against, the House on Friday sent the Senate a bill (HR 3350) that would enable individuals and families to retain any heath insurance they obtained before the Affordable Care Act took effect even if those policies do not meet the act’s minimum coverage standards. The vote occurred a day after President Obama ordered a similar waiver through 2014. However, this bill went beyond the president’s change by also allowing individuals and families without health insurance to obtain policies not compliant with the ACA, which would skew the risk pool the ACA needs to lower the cost of premiums.
Obama announced his change after repeatedly stating in error that policyholders could retain insurance that predated the ACA. Both his waiver and this bill apply to coverage bought in the so-called “individual market” and not to policies provided by employers or purchased in ACA insurance exchanges.
Rep. Mike Rogers, an Alabama Republican, said: “Obamacare has many flaws, but forcing people off their plans when they were promised they could keep them is really starting to hit home now. . . . The best path forward is to get rid of Obamacare, but for now, we should support this bill to help hardworking Americans keep their health insurance.”
Rep. Jim McGovern, a Massachusetts Democrat, said the GOP bill would “drag us back to the bad old days of the American healthcare system. It would allow insurance companies to go back to offering cut-rate, shoddy policies that lack the consumer protections required by the Affordable Care Act.”
A yes vote was to send the bill to the Senate.
Voting yes: Reps. Carol Shea-Porter and Annie Kuster, both Democrats.
DEMOCRATIC ALTERNATIVE: Voting 229 for and 191 against, the House on Friday blocked a bid by Democrats to add certain consumer protections to HR 3350 (above), including a requirement that state regulators prohibit the sale of policies that discriminate on the basis of pre-existing conditions.
Rep. Fred Upton, a Michigan Republican, said he opposed the motion because it was not germane to the underlying bill, in part because it imposed a mandate on state insurance commissioners.
Rep. Rob Andrews, a New Jersey Democrat, said: “How about the woman who had breast cancer 10 years ago and can now be told: ‘We’re sorry, you can’t buy an insurance policy or you’ve got to pay more if you do.’ I want to help her by banning discrimination based on pre-existing conditions.”
A yes vote was to block a direct vote on the Democratic motion on grounds it was not germane to the underlying bill.
Voting no: Shea-Porter, Kuster.
ASBESTOS VICTIMS’ CLAIMS DATA: Voting 221 for and 199 against, the House on Wednesday passed a bill (HR 982) to require public disclosure on the internet of information about claims filed by victims of asbestos-related illness such as lung cancer. Under the bill, the several dozen bankruptcy-court funds for compensating asbestos victims and their families would have to post quarterly reports on claims filed and paid, including details on claimants but not their names or Social Security numbers.
Backers said this heightened transparency would guard against legal malpractice by the plaintiffs’ bar while deterring fraud such as the filing of bogus claims. Foes said the bill was a solution in search of a problem that would delay payments to dying claimants and violate their privacy rights.
Litigation based on workplace exposure to asbestos particles has become the longest-running mass-tort litigation in U.S. history, with hundreds of thousands of claims having been filed against more than 8,000 companies in recent decades. This has sent many companies into bankruptcy court, where judges have established funds to pay existing and future claims. Because diseases caused by asbestos can be slow to develop, new claims are still being filed against the bankruptcy-court funds that are the subject of this bill.
Rep Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican, said the bill “strikes the appropriate balance between achieving the transparency necessary to reduce fraud . . . and providing claimants with sufficient privacy protections. We cannot allow fraud to continue reducing recoveries for future asbestos victims.”
Rep. John Conyers, a Michigan Democrat, said the bill’s disclosure requirements “could include (claimants’) name, address, work history, income, medical information (and) exposure history as well as the basis of any payment that the trust made to the claimant.”
A yes vote was to send the bill to the Senate, where it is likely to be shelved.
Voting no: Shea-Porter, Kuster.
ASBESTOS DISCLOSURES BY CORPORATIONS: Voting 195 for and 226 against, the House on Wednesday refused to amend HR 982 (above) so that it also imposes disclosure requirements on companies that are defendants in asbestos litigation. Under the amendment, defendants would have to publicly state the locations of their asbestos-laden products, information that is now usually kept from the public by confidentiality terms in court settlements.
Sponsor Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a Texas Democrat, said that without her amendment, the bill “protects an asbestos defendant’s right to continue to hide the dangers of their asbestos products from asbestos victims and the American public.”
Rep. Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican, said plaintiffs in asbestos litigation “already have the ability to gain access to the defendant’s information through the traditional discovery process.”
A yes vote was to adopt the amendment.
Voting yes: Shea-Porter, Kuster.
MILITARY EXEMPTION FROM ASBESTOS DISCLOSURES: Voting 197 for and 224 against, the House on Wednesday defeated a bid by Democrats to exempt veterans and active-duty personnel who file asbestos claims from the public-disclosure requirements of HR 982 (above).
Rep. Bill Owens, a New York Democrat, asked: “Why would we subject a gravely ill veteran battling a disease like cancer to the additional risk of identity theft?”
Goodlatte said: “Fraudulent claims are diluting the ability of too many trusts to provide for the recoveries of future asbestos victims, including our nation’s veterans.”
A yes vote was to put veterans and active-duty personnel beyond the reach of the bill.
Voting yes: Shea-Porter, Kuster.
GOP JUDICIAL FILIBUSTER: Voting 56 for and 41 against, the Senate on Tuesday failed to reach 60 votes needed to end Republican blockage of the nomination of Cornelia Pillard to sit on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. President Obama nominated Pillard, 52, for the position in June. Now a Georgetown University law professor, she served as a deputy assistant attorney general in the administration of President George H.W. Bush and was an assistant to the solicitor general in the Clinton administration.
This court is regarded as the most powerful of the 13 federal appeals courts because it has jurisdiction over rulemakings by federal agencies. The 11-seat court is now split between four judges nominated by Republican presidents and four chosen by Democratic presidents, with Pillard slated to fill one of the three vacancies. Because she would tip the balance in favor of Democratic nominees, Senate Republicans mounted this filibuster to keep her off the court, prompting Democrats to consider changing Senate rules so that she and other judicial nominees could be confirmed by simple majority votes.
Sen. Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, said Pillard “has argued nine cases before the Supreme Court of the United States. She has written briefs on many more, including U.S. v. Virginia, the landmark equal-protection case that opened the doors of the Virginia Military Institute to female students. There is no question that Ms. Pillard has the intellect, experience and integrity to be an excellent federal court judge.”
Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, said Senate Democrats and President Obama “are going to try to jam through three new judges on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals even though these judges are clearly not needed and there is demand elsewhere around the country where the workload is far heavier. But because of the special significance of the (court), there is a conscious effort being made to pack (it) with three additional judges it does not need.”
A yes vote was to advance the Pillard nomination.
Voting yes: Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat.
Voting no: Sen. Kelly Ayotte, a Republican.
Key votes ahead
This week, the Senate will take up the fiscal 2014 military budget and resume debate on a House-passed bill to increase federal regulation of compounded pharmaceuticals. The House will debate energy measures.