Here’s how New Hampshire’s U.S. House members voted on major issues in the week ending Friday. The Senate was in recess.
GUN CONTROL RENEWAL: On a nonrecord voice vote, the House on Tuesday renewed for 10 years a statute outlawing firearms capable of evading X-ray machines at airports and walk-through metal detectors used by airports and other facilities. The bill (HR 3626) is now before the Senate, where it is likely to be passed without change and sent to President Obama before the law expires tomorrow. Reflecting the political sensitivity of gun measures as well as the pre-eminence of aviation security, the Republican leadership, which controls the flow of legislation in the House, arranged for the bill to be passed on a nonrecord vote. The National Rifle Association (NRA) did not object to this low-profile strategy and gun-limits groups supported it. The sponsor, Rep. Howard Coble, a North Carolina Republican, is not seeking re-election in 2014.
Congress and President Ronald Reagan first enacted the Undetectable Firearms Act in 1988, with periodic renewals required to cope with evolving technologies. But this latest version drew Democratic criticism for failing to address a scenario in which metal components could be removed from plastic handguns during airport security checks, then reattached during flight if they are needed for firing or discarded if they are not essential to operating the gun. Plastic handguns can be manufactured at home with 3-D printers. The NRA has signaled opposition to congressional actions to close the plastic-gun loophole.
Rep. Steve Israel, a New York Democrat, said renewal of the law “has always been a matter of bipartisanship . . . because it is a matter of common sense that we don’t want to make it easy for terrorists and criminals to bring guns past metal detectors onto our planes and into secure environments.”
Rep. Robert Scott, a Virginia Democrat, said: “The current law has a critical loophole that may enable and encourage the production of firearms that may escape detection. Under the statute, someone may produce a plastic firearm which is detectable only because it has a metal component – which is not essential for the operation of the firearm – but is easily removable by a firearm user seeking to avoid detection.”
No member spoke against the bill.
Because this was a voice vote, there is no record of where individual members stood on the legislation.
FINANCIAL DEREGULATION: Voting 254 for and 159 against, the House on Wednesday stripped the Dodd-Frank financial regulation law of its requirement that most private-equity firms register with the Securities and Exchange Commission registration and meet SEC reporting requirements about their balance sheets. The GOP-sponsored bill (HR 1105) is now before the Senate. The requirement aims to give regulators information for measuring any systemic risk these firms pose to financial markets and provide transparency to investors. But critics say it imposes unnecessary costs and red tape on job-growing firms that were not responsible for the 2008 financial collapse. The bill applies to firms with portfolios of between $150 million and $1 billion and debt-to-equity ratios under 2-to-1.
Rep. Robert Hurt, a Virginia Republican, said: “These registration requirements do not improve the stability of our financial system, and they restrict the ability of private equity to invest capital in our small businesses to spur job growth.”
Rep. Stephen Lynch, a Massachusetts Democrat, said: “Giving this exemption will allow threats to once again grow in the dark corners of our financial system, only showing themselves when it is too late to prevent serious harm to the American taxpayer.”
A yes vote was to send the bill to the Senate, where it is likely to be shelved.
Voting no: Reps. Carol Shea-Porter and Annie Kuster, both Democrats.
FINANCIAL CONFLICTS OF INTEREST: Voting 186 for and 225 against, the House on Wednesday defeated a Democratic amendment to HR 1105 (above) that would continue Securities and Exchange Commission regulation of private-equity firms but with simplified disclosure requirements designed to reduce filing costs and red-tape while still yielding important information to investors and regulators. In particular, firms would have to still disclose their fees, report any conflicts of interest in their management of assets and abide by fiduciary standards for acting in their clients’ best interests.
Sponsor Rep. Carolyn Maloney, a New York Democrat, said: “Most people think that (funds) are acting in their best interest” under fiduciary standards. “I think they would be horrified to know that some members of this body want to roll back that protection for them.”
Rep. Jeb Hensarling, a Texas Republican, said: “The amendment, regardless of how well-intentioned it may be, functionally guts the bill and is essentially redundant of current law in Dodd-Frank.”
A yes vote was to adopt the amendment.
Voting yes: Shea-Porter, Kuster.
OUTSOURCING AMERICAN JOBS: Voting 185 for and 227 against, the House on Wednesday defeated a Democratic bid to continue Securities and Exchange Commission regulation under HR 1105 (above) of any private equity firm with a controlling stake in companies sending U.S. jobs overseas. The motion also sought to require equity firms receiving SEC exemptions to disclose any workforce reductions by companies under their control.
Sen. Steven Horsford, a Nevada Democrat, said: “Instead of decreasing transparency by Wall Street, we should be demanding greater public disclosure to protect consumers. We should not be encouraging outsourcing of American jobs overseas.”
Rep. Robert Hurt, a Virginia Republican, said: “This bill is not about Wall Street” but “about encouraging private capital investment in those Main Street jobs. This bill is about not adding $500,000 in compliance costs to Main Street job creation.”
Voting yes: Shea-Porter, Kuster.
ABUSIVE PATENT LITIGATION: Voting 325 for and 91 against, the House on Thursday passed a bill (HR 3309) giving courts more tools for curbing an abusive business and litigation strategy known as “patent trolling.” The practice consists of holders of weak patents threatening or filing patent infringement lawsuits of dubious validity, then collecting settlements because the targeted company cannot afford or chooses not to pay the high cost of lengthy litigation. This bill makes it easier for judges to impose penalties on parties filing frivolous suits; requires up-front identification of the company behind the infringement claim; limits discoveries during lawsuits and requires the accusing party to pay legal fees if their claim fails, among other provisions.
Critics say patent trollers exist only to extort settlements from start-ups and small businesses, while defenders say their main purpose is to protect the intellectual property of small inventors.
Rep. Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican, said the bill “targets abusive patent litigation while protecting legitimate patent infringement claims.”
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a California Republican, called the bill “the greatest attack . . . on the small inventor that I have ever seen in 25 years” in Congress.
A yes vote was to send the bill to the Senate, where it is expected to advance.
Voting yes: Kuster.
Voting no: Shea-Porter.
Key votes ahead
This week, both chambers will take up a bipartisan budget plan. The House will debate Medicare payments to doctors as well as a short-term extension of farm programs and food stamp funding. The Senate will consider a gun control measure and resume debate on the 2014 military budget, and may also hold confirmation votes on presidential nominees.