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Roll Call for Nov. 24: How N.H.'s congresswomen voted

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

House

REGULATION OF HYDRAULIC FRACTURING: Voting 235 for and 187 against, the House on Wednesday passed a GOP bill (HR 2728) to prohibit federal regulation on federal and tribal lands of the energy-extraction process known as hydraulic fracturing, a boom industry in many states in which chemical fluids are injected deep into the earth to break loose previously unrecoverable oil and gas deposits. Now before the Senate, the bill gives states sole authority to regulate “fracking,” as the process is called, on or under federal and tribal lands within their boundaries.

Rep. Doc Hastings, a Washington Republican, said: “Hydraulic fracturing has been safely and effectively regulated by states for decades. So . . . regulations are unnecessary, they are redundant and they simply waste precious time and money duplicating what is already being done successfully.”

Rep. Rush Holt, a New Jersey Democrat, called it “preposterous” for the House to “tell the people who want to know what chemicals are being injected under their homes that the real danger is that the federal government wants them to know.”

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

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

DISCLOSURES OF “FRACKING” CHEMICALS: Voting 188 for and 232 against, the House on Wednesday defeated a bid by Democrats to require detailed public disclosures about hydraulic-fracturing, or fracking, operations on federal and nonfederal lands. Under the motion to HR 2728 (above), the Department of Interior could require disclosure of the chemicals used in fluids, details on the disposal of fluids that return to the earth’s surface and other chemical and environmental information about specific projects.

Rep. Alan Lowenthal, a California Democrat, said: “If the public has a right to know what ingredients are in their food, don’t our communities have a right to know what chemicals the oil and gas industry is going to pump past their drinking water?”

Rep. Bill Flores, a Texas Republican, said the bill already compels state regulators to provide the federal Bureau of Land Management with information on any state regulations for disclosure of fracking chemicals.

A yes vote supported federally required disclosures about fracking chemicals.

Voting yes: Shea-Porter, Kuster.

NATURAL GAS PIPELINE PERMITS: Voting 252 for and 165 against, the House on Thursday passed a bill (HR 1900) setting deadlines for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and other agencies to act on applications for building natural gas pipelines. FERC, the overall permitting and licensing agency for pipeline projects, would have to approve or deny applications within one year of their submission or face legal consequences. And agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management and Army Corps of Engineers would face deadlines of 90 days to complete environmental reviews and other evaluations of pipeline applications. There are no statutory deadlines in present law for acting on pipeline applications.

Rep. Mike Pompeo, a Kansas Republican, said: “We are simply asking agencies to do what the law requires them to do. They can say ‘yes’ to a permit, they can deny the permit, but they can’t sit on it. . . . They have to get the job done.”

Rep. Henry Waxman, a California Democrat, said: “This unworkable bill won’t speed up pipeline permitting, but it will have adverse health, safety and environmental impacts, and it will undermine the public’s acceptance of interstate natural gas pipelines going through their communities.”

A yes vote was to send the bill to the Senate, where it is likely to be shelved.

Voting no: Shea-Porter, Kuster.

PIPELINE SAFETY, SITING CERTIFICATION: Voting 180 for and 233 against, the House on Thursday defeated a motion by Democrats to delay implementation of HR 1900 (above) until the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission certifies it will not result in the construction of unsafe pipelines or deny communities a voice in determining the location of pipelines within their boundaries.

Rep. John Tierney, a Massachusetts Democrat, said the motion “seeks to protect public safety. It seeks to ensure that our constituents continue to have a voice in the permitting process.”

Pompeo said: “Nothing in this legislation does anything to impact the safety of pipelines,” adding that building new pipelines “will actually allow the retirement of older pipelines which might present even more risk.”

A yes vote backed the Democratic motion.

Voting yes: Shea-Porter, Kuster.

Senate

“NUCLEAR OPTION” RULES CHANGE: Voting 52 for and 48 against, the Senate on Thursday weakened its filibuster rules to set a simple-majority, up-or-down vote as the new standard for advancing executive-branch nominees as well as judicial nominees other than Supreme Court selections. This virtually erased the 60-vote threshold for invoking cloture and thus ending filibusters against presidential nominees. But the 60-vote hurdle will continue to apply to filibusters against legislation. This rules change was dubbed “the nuclear option” because it is a politically explosive rollback of long-standing minority rights in the Senate.

Sen. Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat, said that as a result of the change, “Our government will work better. A president will be able to form an executive branch, our judiciary will function better, and the Senate will be able to move qualified nominees . . . in a more responsible manner. . . . The Senate now enters the 21st century.”

Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican, said: “This is, very simply, another partisan political power grab to permit the majority to do whatever it wants to anytime it wants to do it. . . . It is the most dangerous and the most consequential change in the rules of the Senate since Thomas Jefferson wrote those rules at the founding of our country.”

A yes vote was to immediately put into effect a simple-majority standard for advancing presidential nominees.

Voting yes: Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat.

Voting no: Sen. Kelly Ayotte, a Republican.

PATRICIA MILLETT FILIBUSTER: Voting 55 for and 43 against, the Senate on Thursday invoked cloture on a previously successful Republican filibuster of the nomination of Patricia Ann Millett to sit on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. This was the Senate’s first vote on a nominee after it changed its filibuster rules (above). The vote cleared the way for a simple-majority, up-or-down vote next month on Millett’s nomination to fill one of three vacancies on what is regarded as the most powerful of the 13 federal appeals courts.

A yes vote was to end a GOP filibuster against Millett.

Voting yes: Shaheen.

Voting no: Ayotte.

ROBERT WILKINS FILIBUSTER: Voting 53 for and 38 against, the Senate on Monday failed to reach 60 votes needed to end Republican blockage of the nomination of federal Judge Robert Wilkins to join the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Wilkins, 50, is now a district court judge in that circuit. This was the Senate’s final vote on a nominee under the 60-vote cloture rule. Three days later, Democratic senators changed that standard to require only simple-majority votes to advance presidential nominees, and a revote that would confirm Wilkins is expected within weeks.

The D.C. court is regarded as the most influential of the 13 federal appeals court, in part because it rules on challenges to federal regulations. The 11-seat tribunal has four judges nominated by Republican presidents, four chosen by Democratic presidents and three vacancies. As a result of the rules change, Wilkins, Patricia Millett (see vote above) and Georgetown Law Professor Cornelia Pillard are on course to fill those vacancies by year’s end.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, said: “One of the great glories of our country’s three-part government is the independence of the federal judiciary. But, over the last five years, Senate Republicans have dragged it into politics.”

Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican, said the court “is evenly balanced today, with four Republican and four Democratic appointees. So President Obama sees this as his chance to stack the D.C. Circuit with judges he believes will approve his agenda.”

A yes vote supported the Wilkins nomination.

Voting yes: Shaheen.

Voting no: Ayotte.

GOP FILIBUSTER OF MILITARY BUDGET: Voting 51 for and 44 against, the Senate on Thursday failed to reach 60 votes needed to end a Republican filibuster of a bill (S 1197) to authorize a $625.1 billion military budget for fiscal 2014, which began Oct. 1. The bill includes $80.7 billion for actions in Afghanistan, Iraq and other war zones and up to $60 billion for active-duty and retirement health care and funds a 1 percent pay raise for uniformed personnel. The bill was mired in a dispute over the number of amendments Republicans would be allowed to offer. The Senate was to resume debate on the bill Dec. 9.

Sen. Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat, said: “We must pass a national defense authorization bill. If we fail to do so, we will be . . . failing to perform one of Congress’s most basic duties – providing for the national defense.”

Sen. James Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican, said Republicans would continue their filibuster in response to the Democratic leadership’s refusal to allow votes on 25 GOP-sponsored amendments to the bill.

A yes vote was to advance the bill.

Voting yes: Shaheen.

Voting no: Ayotte.

GUANTANAMO BAY PRISONERS: Voting 43 for and 55 against, the Senate on Tuesday refused to extend a congressional ban on the transfer of prisoners from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to “super-max” incarceration in the U.S. Proposed to S 1197 (above), the amendment also prohibited transfers from Guantanamo to Yemen, where the U.S. and Yemeni governments are preparing a prison and rehabilitation facility to receive Guantanamo detainees. President Obama vowed in his 2008 presidential campaign to close Guantanamo, but Congress has repeatedly blocked his efforts to do so, leaving the existing roll of about 164 suspected or convicted terrorists in indefinite detention.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss, a Georgia Republican, said: “I have yet to hear why it is a good idea to bring Guantanamo detainees to the United States. While the president made a promise to close Guantanamo, the American people seem unified against (closure), and I believe we should listen to the American people.”

Sen. Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, said: “Guantanamo is a terrorist creating institution and is a direct facilitator in filling out the ranks of al-Qaida and other terror organizations that would attack the U.S. or our interests. Guantanamo has become such a sad symbol that it is time for it to be closed.”

A yes vote was to extend a ban on detainee transfers out of Guantanamo.

Voting yes: Ayotte.

Voting no: Shaheen.

Key votes ahead

This week, Congress is in Thanksgiving Day recess.

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