United States Senate
Go-Ahead For Nuclear Deal: Voting 56 for and 42 against, the Senate on Sept. 17 failed to reach 60 votes needed to advance a Republican resolution (HJ Res 61) disapproving of a nuclear deal signed by Iran, the United States, Great Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany. Because it upheld a Democratic filibuster against the resolution, this vote effectively removed the last congressional hurdle to the agreement taking effect. It was the third and final failed attempt by GOP leaders over seven days to advance their resolution.
The agreement requires Iran to immediately dismantle, and then suppress for at least 10-to-15 years, a nuclear-weapons program thought by experts to be within a year of going operational. In return, Iran would gain access to approximately $100 billion of its assets that have been frozen abroad by U.S. and international economic sanctions. These sanctions, as well as ones on Iran’s energy sector, would be lifted as soon as inspectors certify Iran’s compliance with the dismantling stages of the deal. The agreement allows international sanctions to immediately “snap back” if Iran is found to be cheating on the deal.
The agreement would diminish Iran’s nuclear capability to where it would need several months to a year, or longer, to be restored. The U.S. and other countries say this “breakout” period gives them ample time to mount military strikes against any revived nuclear-weapons program.
Deal foe Tom Cotton, R-Ark., said President Obama and Democrats favoring the deal “bear a direct political, moral and personal responsibility for the coming crimes and outrages of Iran’s ayatollahs. There will be grave consequences for them and for all of us.”
Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said “derailing this agreement, in my view, means war….I do not think the people in this country want another war in the Middle East.”
A yes vote backed a resolution that would kill the nuclear deal.
Iranian Recognition Of Israel: Voting 53 for and 45 against, the Senate on Sept. 17 failed to reach 60 votes needed to advance a GOP-sponsored amendment that would prohibit the administration from lifting economic sanctions on Iran as part of a six-nation nuclear deal until such time as Iran formally recognizes Israel and releases four American prisoners it now holds. The vote occurred during debate on HJ Res 61 (below).
Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., said: “I hope our Democratic colleagues will come to their senses…and join us in seeking the release of our U.S. citizens held captive abroad and the future security of our unwavering ally, the state of Israel.”
Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Republicans have lost the debate over the nuclear deal. “We should move on to something else. It should be the budget. It shouldn’t be abortion.”
A yes vote was to advance the Republican amendment.
United States House of Representatives
Row Over Export-Import Bank: Voting 238 for and 179 against, the House on Sept. 17 blocked a procedural bid by Democrats (H Res 420) to force a vote on a bill reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank. After losing its congressional charter June 30, the bank, a U.S. taxpayer-backed lender to foreign customers, can no longer provide new financing of U.S. companies’ sales abroad. Democrats turned to this procedural tactic after the House GOP leadership refused to bring to the floor a bill with more than 190 sponsors to revive the 81-year-old agency. The vote occurred two days after General Electric announced it would move 500 jobs abroad in response to the bank’s demise.
Supporters extol the bank as a job-creator, while critics say it distorts free markets by practicing “corporate welfare” and “crony capitalism.” Fewer than 2 percent of the bank’s transactions have defaulted in recent years, and the it usually returns a profit to the Treasury even with an exposure of $100 billion-plus in taxpayer liability.
Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said: “Last week, General Electric announced it would be moving 500 jobs from New York, Texas, South Carolina and Maine to Europe and China because of the failure of this Congress to pass the Export-Import Bank reauthorization.”
Doug Collins, R-Ga., said Republicans “say `yes’ to free-market principles because we recognize that economic growth is rooted in the ingenuity of America’s entrepreneurs, not government programs.”
A yes vote was to block a move for floor debate on a bill to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank.
Exemption For Wage-Bias Suits: Voting 179 for and 239 against, the House on Sept. 17 defeated a motion by Democrats to exempt from HR 758 (above) lawsuits filed in federal court under employment-discrimination laws, including actions to ensure women receive equal pay for equal work.
Suzan DelBene, D-Wash., said: “Women still make only 79 cents on the dollar, about 20 percent less take-home pay, than their male counterparts. That is why it is critical (to) vote for this amendment: to ensure women can continue fighting for equal pay at work.”
Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., said: “No one who supports civil-rights laws or the Constitution should support the filing of frivolous claims without penalty, but that is exactly what this motion…would allow.”
A yes vote was to add a wage-bias exemption to the bill.
Dispute Over `Frivolous’ Lawsuits: Voting 241 for and 185 against, the House on Sept. 17 passed a GOP-drafted bill (HR 758) requiring federal courts to impose financial penalties on plaintiffs who file lawsuits seen by the presiding judge as frivolous. The bill would require offending parties to pay compensation such as attorneys’ fees to those on the receiving end of frivolous suits. At present, judges can levy such penalties at their discretion.
Lamar Smith, R-Texas, said: “Innocent Americans sacrifice reputations. They sacrifice money. They oftentimes lose their livelihoods to frivolous lawsuits. I think we ought to do everything we possibly can to reduce the number of these frivolous lawsuits.”
Jared Polis, D-Colo., said: “Rather than `preventing abuse,’ this bill would actually promote civil rights abuses and weaken the courts’ ability to crack down on people who seek to discriminate illegally at work or school or at the voting booth….”
A yes vote was to send the bill to the Senate.
Reduced Funding Of Planned Parenthood: Voting 241 for and 187 against, the House on Sept. 18 passed a GOP-drafted bill (HR 3134) to slash but not eliminate federal funding of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, a nonprofit that provides its 2.6 million annual patients at 700 clinics nationwide with health services such as reproductive care, sex-education counseling and screening to detect cervical and breast cancer. Planned Parenthood says abortions account for about 3 percent of its services, while the news watchdog PolitiFact estimates the level at 12 percent. The bill follows the release of videos, secretly recorded by anti-abortion activists, in which Planned Parenthood officials discuss, in starkly graphic terms, certain abortion procedures and the provision of fetal tissue to medical researchers.
The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects the bill would impose a net cut in Medicaid payments to Planned Parenthood of $235 million, or 60 percent, in fiscal 2016. In addition to Medicaid funding, Planned Parenthood receives $60 million annually in family-planning grants under Title X of the Public Health Service Act, said the CBO. Grants such as those would be transferred under this bill to other health clinics or medical practitioners, according to the CBO.
Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., said: “No organization that performs divisive practices like abortion, particularly in such a gruesome, profitable manner, should receive taxpayer dollars, and this legislation advances that principle.”
Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., said: “This bill creates chaos, and in that chaos, people’s lives will be put at risk. This bill is spiteful; it is mean spirited, and it is cruel. It tells millions of low-income Americans: Forget your health. You can just die.”
A yes vote was to send the bill to the Senate.
— Illinois Representatives’ Votes in Congress —