WASHINGTON – Here are the votes of Western New York’s four members of the House of Representatives and the state’s two U.S. senators on major legislation in Congress last week. A “Y” means the member voted for the measure; an “N” means the member voted against the measure; and an “A” means the member did not vote.


FEMA GRANTS TO RELIGIOUS FACILITIES –The House passed the Federal Disaster Assistance Nonprofit Fairness Act, sponsored by Rep. Christopher H. Smith, R-N.J. The bill would require the Federal Emergency Management Agency to consider issuing emergency assistance and disaster relief grants to churches, synagogues, mosques and other religious facilities without regard to their religious character.

Smith said that FEMA’s current policy of excluding religious facilities was “patently unfair, unjustified and discriminatory, and may even suggest hostility to religion” and that the bill was needed to ensure “fundamental fairness for these essential private nonprofits.”

An opponent, Rep. Jerold Nadler, D-N.Y., said the proposal “would direct federal taxpayer dollars to the reconstruction of houses of worship. The idea that taxpayer money can be used to build a religious sanctuary or an altar has consistently been held unconstitutional.”

The vote, Wednesday, was 354 yeas to 72 nays.

Rep. Chris Collins, R-Clarence, Y; Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, Y; Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, Y.

PERMITTING SMALL HYDROPOWER PROJECTS – The House passed the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act, sponsored by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash. The bill would require the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to complete within two years reviews of permit applications for new hydropower projects that would generate at most 10,000 kilowatts of electricity.

Rodgers said the bill could encourage hydropower generation to double by installing hydropower at the 97 percent of U.S. dams that do not generate electricity, which could create 700,000 jobs and lower energy costs.

The vote, Wednesday, was unanimous with 422 yeas.

Collins, Y; Higgins, Y; Reed, Y,

PAY INCREASE FOR GOVERNMENT WORKERS – The House agreed to a rule, sponsored by Rep. Rob Woodall, R-Ga., providing for consideration of a bill that would eliminate the 2013 statutory pay increase for federal employees.

Woodall said eliminating the pay increase would save $11 billion to be used for government agencies “to perform the services that they were created to perform.”

An opponent, Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., said federal employees “have already contributed $103 billion toward deficit reduction” under a pay freeze in effect since 2011, increased pension contributions and a reduced and delayed pay increase for 2013.

The vote, Thursday, was 227 yeas to 192 nays.

Collins, Y; Higgins, N; Reed, Y.


DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND TRIBAL COURTS – The Senate rejected an amendment, sponsored by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., to the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act. The amendment would have struck a bill provision authorizing the trial in tribal courts of non-Indians who have been charged with sexual assault, assault or abuse.

Coburn said the provision would “trample on the Bill of Rights of every American who is not a Native American” because most tribal courts do not recognize the Bill of Rights.

An opponent, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said the provision “would destroy, utterly undermine and eviscerate the purpose of this bill and provisions of this bill that are designed to protect Native Americans against domestic violence and assault.”

The vote, last Monday, was 31 yeas to 59 nays.

Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand, D, N; Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D, N.

COMBATING TRAFFICKING – The Senate passed an amendment, sponsored by Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., to the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act. The amendment would authorize through fiscal 2017 the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which funds programs to combat sex trafficking and forced labor in the U.S. and overseas.

Leahy said the amendment included accountability measures to prevent wasteful spending and would help fight trafficking of children and adults.

The vote Feb. 12 was 93 yeas to 5 nays.

Gillibrand, A; Schumer, Y.

GRANTS FOR SEX TRAFFICKING VICTIMS – The Senate passed an amendment, sponsored by Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, to the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act. The amendment would clarify that child victims of sex trafficking may receive grants authorized by the Violence Against Women Act.

Portman said the grants would help protect the child victims against domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking.

The vote, Tuesday, was unanimous with 100 yeas.

Gillibrand, Y; Schumer, Y.

RAPES AND DNA TESTING – The Senate rejected an amendment, sponsored by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., to the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act. The amendment would have consolidated Justice Department programs for conducting DNA tests on rape kits.

Coburn said it would improve efficiency in investigating cases of rape by helping eliminate the backlog in DNA testing.

An opponent, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., said: “Mandating vast cuts in programs for victims and law enforcement at a time when those programs are already being squeezed is bad policy.”

The vote, Tuesday, was 46 yeas to 53 nays.

Gillibrand, N; Schumer, N.

STDS AND RAPE SUSPECTS – The Senate rejected an amendment, sponsored by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., to the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act. The amendment would have required suspected rapists to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases.

Coburn said: “If a woman is raped and there is an article of indictment against the rapist, she ought to have a right to know the sexually transmitted diseases that rapist carries.”

An opponent, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., said the amendment “sets up requirements that many state and local governments cannot comply with and will cause states to lose millions in assistance that helps victims of rape and domestic violence.”

The vote, Tuesday, was 43 yeas to 57 nays.

Gillibrand, N; Schumer, N.

VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN – The Senate passed the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, sponsored by Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt. The bill would extend the Violence Against Women Act for five years, provide grants to help enable victims of domestic violence to leave their abusers and allow illegal immigrants to remain in the country as recipients of U visas if they are victims of domestic violence.

Leahy said the bill would “help all victims of domestic and sexual violence” by reducing the backlog of untested rape kits and helping prevent domestic violence homicides.

An opponent, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said a provision allowing the prosecution of domestic violence cases against non-Indians in tribal courts “raises serious constitutional questions concerning both the sovereignty of tribal courts and the constitutional rights of defendants who would be tried in those courts.”

The vote, Tuesday, was 78 yeas to 22 nays.

Gillibrand, Y; Schumer, Y.

U.S. FIRST CIRCUIT JUDGE – The Senate confirmed the nomination of William J. Kayatta Jr., of Maine, to serve as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.

A supporter, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, cited Kayatta’s 32 years of experience with the Pierce Atwood law firm, specializing in civil litigation, and his unanimously well-qualified rating from the American Bar Association. Collins said: “Mr. Kayatta’s impressive background makes him eminently qualified for a seat on the First Circuit. His 30-plus years of real-world litigation experience would bring a valuable perspective to the court.”

The vote, Wednesday, was 88 yeas to 12 nays.

Gillibrand, Y; Schumer, Y.

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE – The Senate rejected a motion to close debate on the nomination of Chuck Hagel to serve as secretary of defense.

A supporter, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., cited Hagel’s experience as a combat soldier in the Vietnam War who received two Purple Hearts and his support for Israel and for strong action against Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Leahy said Hagel’s “record of experience, his patriotism and his dedication to this nation qualify him to be the next secretary of defense.”

An opponent, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said that in the last 10 years, Hagel “has taken policy positions that I believe call into question the quality of his professional judgment on issues critical to national defense. I am also concerned that Sen. Hagel is ill-suited to lead the 2.5 million uniformed members of the Armed Services and to ensure the sound management of an agency that has an annual budget equal to the 17th largest economy in the world.”

The vote, Thursday, was 58 yeas to 40 nays, short of the three-fifths majority needed to end debate.

Gillibrand, Y; Schumer, Y.

Targeted News Service provided the information for this story.