WASHINGTON – Here are the votes of Western New York’s three 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; an “A” means the member did not vote.
• SEARCH-AND-RECOVERY EFFORTS ON FEDERAL LANDS: The House passed the Good Samaritan Search and Recovery Act (H.R. 2166), sponsored by Rep. Joseph J. Heck, R-Nev. The bill would direct the Agriculture Department and Interior Department to expedite access to federal lands managed by the two agencies for private groups making search-and-recovery efforts for individuals missing and believed to be in the lands.
Heck said that currently, such groups often face months of bureaucratic delays before embarking on their missions, and “unnecessary red tape simply must not continue to get in the way of providing closure for families faced with tragic circumstances” of recovering the bodies of loved ones who have died on the lands.
The vote, on Jan. 27, was unanimous with 394 yeas.
Reps. Chris Collins, R-Clarence, Y; Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, Y; Tom Reed, R-Corning, Y.
• GOVERNMENT FUNDING OF ABORTION: House passed the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act (H.R. 7), sponsored by Rep. Christopher H. Smith, R-N.J. The bill would bar government funding for abortions except in the case of rape or incest or to save the life of the mother, including tax credits provided under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, for health insurance plans that cover abortions.
Smith said that under Obamacare, “there are many States where pro-life individuals and constituents will have no opportunity to buy a plan that is pro-life on the exchanges” for health insurance.
An opponent, Rep. Henry A. Waxman, D-Calif., called the bill an unfortunate attempt by Republicans “to interfere with the ability of people to buy with their own money a policy that may cover abortion services, which is a legal medical service.” The vote, on Jan. 28, was 227 yeas to 188 nays.
Collins, Y; Reed, Y; Higgins, N.
• FARM BILL: The House agreed to the conference report accompanying the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act (H.R. 2642), sponsored by Rep. Frank D. Lucas, R-Okla. The bill would authorize $956 billion of funding for Agriculture Department programs, including the food stamps program, through fiscal 2018, with funding for food stamps cut by $8.6 billion.
Lucas said the bill “makes a commitment to our fellow citizens who are in tough times” by maintaining food stamps funding near current levels, and also continues programs to help ensure the high productivity of American farms and ranches.
An opponent, Rep. James P. McGovern, D-Mass., said the bill would cut food stamps funding for 1.7 million people, and “there should be nobody in this country – the richest country in the history of the world – who should ever go hungry.”
The vote, on Jan. 29, was 251 yeas to 166 nays.
Collins, Y; Reed, Y; Higgins, N.
• PACE OF FLOOD INSURANCE RATE INCREASES: The Senate rejected an amendment sponsored by Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., to the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act (S. 1926). The amendment would have adjusted the phased-in implementation of new, higher rates at the federal flood insurance program by authorizing rates to increase by 25 percent annually until the point that rates accurately reflect the insured property’s risk of flooding.
Toomey said the amendment “keeps us on a path of reform, keeps us on a path to an actuarially sound, fiscally responsible flood insurance program” by allowing insurance rates to increase so that the flood insurance program has the financial resources to pay claims.
An opponent, Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., said the amendment would perpetuate the failed policy of increasing insurance rates so drastically that the increases “will act as a de facto eviction notice for homeowners who have lived in their homes and played by the rules their entire lives. That is going to drive down property values, as the housing market is struggling to recover.”
The vote, on Jan. 30, was 34 yeas to 65 nays.
Sens. Kirsten E. Gillibrand, D, N; Charles E. Schumer, D, N.
• OVERSEEING CROSS-STATE INSURANCE: The Senate rejected an amendment sponsored by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., to the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act (S. 1926). The amendment would have allowed states to not participate in the National Association of Registered Agents and Brokers, a government-authorized group to oversee the licensing of insurance providers in multiple states.
Coburn said the bill threatened to compel states to accept federal authority over insurance licensing and regulations, and the amendment would preserve states’ rights under the Constitution to oversee insurance providers.
An opponent, Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., said state regulators supported the group’s oversight of cross-licensing across state lines, which Tester said would increase competition in the insurance marketplace, driving down costs for consumers.
The vote, on Jan. 30, was 24 yeas to 75 nays.
Gillibrand, N; Schumer, N.
• PRIVATE FLOOD INSURANCE: The Senate rejected an amendment sponsored by Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., to the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act (S. 1926). The amendment would have stated that private flood insurance policies accepted by state governments satisfy the federal government’s requirement for homeowners and other property owners to buy primary flood insurance.
Heller said that by clearing the way for private insurers to compete with the federal government’s flood insurance program, the amendment would “give the American public more choices, higher competition, and less cost when it comes to flood insurance.”
An opponent, Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., said it “would weaken consumer protections and completely remove minimum standards with respect to private flood insurance policies.”
The vote, on Jan. 30, was 49 yeas to 50 nays.
Gillibrand, N; Schumer, N.
• DELAYING CHANGES TO FEDERAL FLOOD INSURANCE: The Senate passed the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act (S. 1926), sponsored by Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J. The bill would delay implementation of provisions of a 2012 federal flood insurance reform law, including imposing a moratorium on the phaseout of flood insurance subsidies for most primary residences until insurance affordability concerns have been considered and require the Federal Emergency Management Agency to certify its adoption of an accurate flood mapping approach before the agency can implement insurance rate reforms.
Menendez said the bill would restore the solvency of the flood insurance program “while fulfilling the original intent of the program to make flood insurance affordable and accessible.”
An opponent, Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said the delays “will ensure that mapping revisions which we desperately need do not move forward, that premium increases are halted, and, even more disturbing, that homeowners never truly learn their real flood insurance risk.”
The vote, on Jan. 30, was 67 yeas to 32 nays.
Gillibrand, Y; Schumer, Y.
– Targeted News Service