Pennsylvania Member of Congress Tracking Report – 11/03/19

47 mins read
Graphic by Kelly Pollock.

This is a 100% volunteer effort brought to you by a handful of progressive Democrats and Independents who share a vision of an informed electorate.  We want to offer a big thank you to the Pennsylvania Together and Pennsylvania Statewide Indivisible organizations who host our report and help us share it out to the residents of our Commonwealth!

Some of our contributors are volunteers to other progressive efforts, and they need time this weekend to put towards Get Out The Vote efforts in the run up to Election Day on Tuesday, November 5th.  Accordingly, this week’s MoCTrack is going to be vote recaps only.  Thanks for bearing with us as we put some of our efforts to helping municipal, county and judicial candidates TURN PA BLUE!

Tracking Congress in the Age of Trump

The lower the number, the more the legislator votes in opposition to the Trump agenda.

Member of CongressThis week’s scoreChange from last report
Senator Bob Casey (D)27.9%-0.3%
Senator Pat Toomey (R)87.9%+0.2%
PA-01 Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R)67.8%-0.7%
PA-02 Rep. Brendan Boyle (D)13.6%-0.3%
PA-03 Rep. Dwight Evans (D)12.2%-0.3%
PA-04 Rep. Madeleine Dean (D)1.9%-0.1%
PA-05 Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D)5.4%-0.3%
PA-06 Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D)3.8%-0.2%
PA-07 Rep. Susan Wild (D)7.1%-0.4%
PA-08 Rep. Matt Cartwright (D)21.5%-0.5%
PA-09 Rep. Dan Meuser (R)98.0%+0.1%
PA-10 Rep. Scott Perry (R)88.4%+0.2%
PA-11 Rep. Lloyd Smucker (R)95.2%+0.1%
PA-12 Rep. Fred Keller (R)91.3%+1.3%
PA-13 Rep. John Joyce (R)98.1%+0.1%
PA-14 Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R)94.2%+0.3%
PA-15 Rep. Glenn W. Thompson (R)98.0%+0.1%
PA-16 Rep. Mike Kelly (R)95.9%+0.1%
PA-17 Rep. Conor Lamb (D)25.6%-1.1%
PA-18 Rep. Mike Doyle (D)15.8%-0.3%

Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight website assesses the voting records of our MoCs to provide this index, by comparing any bills where President Trump has stated a position, and comparing the vote of the legislator to that opinion. Want to see exactly what votes went into giving your MoC the numbers above?  Click on the name of any legislator and you will be brought to their 538 webpage, where all of the positions that went into the index are listed in an easy-to-read format.

This week 538 scored votes on a Senate effort to address the Trump Administrations sabotage of the Affordable Care Act, as well as a trio of House votes –  to preserve land in Colorado, to ban uranium mining near the Grand Canyon, and the well-covered vote on the impeachment rules resolution.

Words From Our Founders

— the full text of Federalist 47 has a lot to say about the situation we are in today, and is worth your time to read in full

Votes of Interest  

Impeachment Inquiry Rules passes the House

House Vote on H.Res. 660: Directing certain committees to continue their ongoing investigations as part of the existing House of Representatives inquiry

The impeachment rules vote has been covered extensively by most media outlets in the country.  Instead of rehashing the vote itself, let’s take a close look at the contents of the resolution.  What follows below is an amended version of an explainer piece (by your MoCTrack editor) that was published by Demcast. That version was produced just after the original resolution text was released.  This recap covers the version of the resolution that passed the House:

  • Section 1 – All the same groups that had been working on stuff (Rep. Adam Schiff’s Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Rep. Maxine Waters’ Committee on Financial Services, Rep. Eliot Engel’s Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Jerry Nadler’s Judiciary Committee, the late Rep. Elijah Cummings’ Oversight and Reform Committee, and Rep. Richard Neal’s Ways and Means Committee) should keep working on stuff.
  • Section 2 (sub-sections 1 & 2) – The House Intel Committee decides on open hearings. Both parties get equal time to question witnesses. They can start questioning by assigning professional staff to direct questions to witnesses, for up to 90 minutes on each side. That goofy, unhelpful 5 minute rule-type questioning on behalf of committee members will come after the professional segment.
  • Section 2 (3) – The minority can call witnesses, but Ranking Member of the Intelligence Committee Devin Nunes doesn’t just get to spring them on everyone last minute.  He has to put requests, in writing with explanation of why he wants them to testify, in advance.
  • Section 2 (4) A&B – If Adam Schiff concurs, Devin Nunes can subpoena people/records.  If Schiff doesn’t agree, Nunes can take it to the full Intel Committee to decide.  
  • Section 2 (5) – Adam Schiff can make transcripts available electronically, with redactions as needed.
  • Section 2 (6) – The House Intel Committee  will write up a report of their conclusions in consultation with the other involved committees, and it is to be made public
  • Section 3 – Adam Schiff or any of the other committee chairs who have materials or evidence have to turn them over to Rep. Jerry Nadler and the House Judiciary Committee.
  • Section 4 (a) – Rep. Jerry Nadler and the House Judiciary Committee will conduct the Impeachment Inquiry proceedings, and they will include the President and his counsel.
  • Section 4 (b) – The House Judiciary Committee can come up with new procedural rules, if needed “for the fair and efficient conduct of committee hearings” as long as they follow general House rules.
  • Section 4 (c) – Rep. Doug Collins, the ranking member in Judiciary, gets the same consideration that Rep. Nunes got in Intel. If Chairman Nadler agrees, he can subpoena people/records. If Chairman Nadler disagrees, Ranking Member Collins can take it to the full committee.
  • Section 4 (d) – The Judiciary Committee will report what resolutions or articles of impeachment “it deems proper”

The Week provided this infographic to put the impeachment rules resolution into context, as compared to protections in the Nixon and Clinton eras.

The resolution came to the floor on Thursday, October 31, 2019. It passed 231-196. Independent Rep. Amash and all but two Democrats voted YES.  All the Republicans and two Democrats voted NO. Our Pennsylvania House delegation voted on party lines:

NoRFitzpatrick, BrianPA 1st
NoRPerry, ScottPA 10th
AyeDBoyle, BrendanPA 2nd
NoRSmucker, LloydPA 11th
AyeDEvans, DwightPA 3rd
NoRKeller, FredPA 12th
AyeDDean, MadeleinePA 4th
NoRJoyce, JohnPA 13th
AyeDScanlon, MaryPA 5th
NoRReschenthaler, GuyPA 14th
AyeDHoulahan, ChrissyPA 6th
NoRThompson, GlennPA 15th
AyeDWild, SusanPA 7th
NoRKelly, MikePA 16th
AyeDCartwright, MatthewPA 8th
AyeDLamb, ConorPA 17th
NoRMeuser, DanielPA 9th
AyeDDoyle, MikePA 18th

Our MoCs made the following statements about the Impeachment Rules Vote:

🔴 PA-01’s Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, via his official website, 10/31/19:

Second only to declaring war, impeaching a president and overturning the results of an election is the most significant action that Congress can take. Historical precedent demands that this only occurs in the most extreme circumstances, and should happen only after a formal law enforcement investigation where independent, non-partisan factual findings of criminal activity are presented to Congress. As this had not occurred, and as all proceedings to date have been held in secret and excluded 75% of Congress, today’s actions by the House have set a dangerous precedent for our nation.

🔵 PA-02’s Rep. Brendan Boyle, via his official website, 10/31/19:

Today, I voted in support of a resolution that outlines the next phase of the impeachment inquiry into the conduct of President Donald Trump. It is time for the American people to see and hear firsthand about the President’s misconduct. I supported this resolution because there is simply too much at stake when a sitting President acts in a manner contrary to his oath of office and believes he is above the law. This is a tenuous time for American democracy. What we do from this day forward will say less about who Donald Trump is and more about who we are.

🔵 PA-03’s Rep. Dwight Evans, via his official website, 10/31/19:

The House vote for the impeachment inquiry is a vote to uphold the Constitution and the rule of law. Under the Constitution, which was drafted and announced in Philadelphia, no one is above the law! If the average Philadelphian had defied subpoenas to appear in court or provide records for an investigation, they would be in jail. Even President Trump has urged Republican members of Congress to focus on the substance, not the process — so let’s proceed with the investigation.

I have supported impeachment since 2017 because of what we have already seen, including his firing of the FBI director to stop an investigation. What we have learned recently – including what Trump and his acting chief of staff have said publicly! – has only strengthened the case. Now the impeachment inquiry can continue and move into the public phase with televised hearings into Trump’s conduct. Again, no one is above the law!

🔵 PA-04’s Rep. Madeleine Dean, via her official website, 10/31/19:

This is the right step to determine whether sufficient grounds exist to move forward with articles of impeachment. The resolution is the next phase of the House impeachment inquiry and provides the path for public hearings, collection of evidence, and due process for the President.  The American people will hear directly from witnesses in an open setting—where the President and his counsel will have ample opportunity to state their case.

Our goals are simple: to get to the truth, and to ensure that this investigation is conducted in a manner befitting its gravity. No one is above the law, and Congress has a solemn duty to uphold the Constitution.

🔵 PA-05’s Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, via Twitter (@RepMGS), 10/31/19:

🔵 PA-06’s Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, via her official website, 10/31/19:

Today, I voted for a resolution to continue the impeachment investigation and present the proceedings before the American people. I am in full support of a transparent process. It is critical for our national security that we get to the truth. I take this vote solemnly with full understanding of the situation’s gravity. Throughout all this, the work of the people of Pennsylvania has and will continue.

🔵 PA-07’s Rep. Susan Wild, via The Allentown Morning Call, 10/31/19:

Rep. Wild does not have new impeachment resolution rules related content on her website, Facebook or Twitter presences.  This excerpt from Laura Olson’s article is the most recent content on her vote.

Ahead of the vote, Wild said the resolution ‘ratifies the integrity of the process we’ve conducted so far,”’ and sets ground rules for how the public phase will be conducted.

It’s not a vote for impeachment. It’s a resolution that’s nothing more than a process resolution,” Wild said. “Frankly, I think all sides should be happy. It’s exactly what Republicans have been asking for.

🔵 PA-08’s Rep. Matt Cartwright, via The Citizens’ Voice, 11/01/19:

Rep. Cartwright does not have new impeachment resolution rules related content on his website, Facebook or Twitter presences.  This excerpt from Borys Krawczeniuk’s article is the most recent content on his vote.

I support moving these ongoing hearings out into the open so everybody can listen to all the details of what went on, process it and decide for themselves what they think, rather than just being told what to think by all the people talking on cable television.

🔴 PA-09’s Rep. Dan Meuser, 🔴 PA-10’s Rep. Scott Perry, 🔴 PA-11’s Rep. Lloyd Smucker, 🔴 PA-12’s Rep. Fred Keller, 🔴 PA-13’s Rep. John Joyce, 🔴 PA-14’s Rep. Guy Reschenthaler, 🔴 PA-15’s Rep. Glenn Thompson & 🔴 PA-16’s Rep. Mike Kelly issued a joint statement on 10/31/19:

Regardless of political or personal views, the decision to impeach a sitting President is breathtakingly serious – and all members of Congress have a right to know what is going on. Now, as a result of mounting pressure, House Democrats are trying to legitimize this sham at the last minute. This needs to stop. We need to get back to the business of governing the country, end this farce, and focus on what really matters.

🔵 PA-17’s Rep. Conor Lamb, via his official website, 10/31/19:

This resolution sets the rules for the upcoming hearings.  I believe everyone benefits from clear rules, so I voted yes.  I have not made any decision about impeachment, nor will I until all the evidence is in.

I do believe that Russia is a major threat to the United States in Ukraine and around the world, and our oath requires us to put our country first, always.

🔵 PA-18’s Rep. Mike Doyle,  via his official website, 10/31/19:

The impeachment inquiry so far has uncovered substantial evidence that the President abused the power of his office, undermined our democracy, and endangered our national security. I voted in favor of the resolution establishing ground rules for the next stages of the impeachment inquiry. I believe my Constitutional duty requires nothing less.

Sanctions on Turkey

House Vote on H.R. 4695: Protect Against Conflict by Turkey Act

In the aftermath of the October 23rd decision by President Trump to lift sanctions on Turkey, the House of Representatives considered their own package of sanctions this week.  The New York Times summarizes the background:

The top Democrat and Republican on the Foreign Affairs Committee — Representative Eliot L. Engel of New York, the chairman, and Representative Michael McCaul of Texas — sponsored the legislation that passed Tuesday, which is an attempt by lawmakers to add teeth to what they consider an insufficient response from the Trump administration to Turkey’s bloody offensive into Syria. If enacted, it would prohibit the sale of arms to Turkey for use in Syria, impose sanctions on senior Turkish officials for their role in the military offensive against the Kurds, and require the administration to impose additional sanctions for the Turkish government’s purchase of surface-to-air missile systems from Russia.

The House voted upon this measure on Tuesday, October 29, 2019.  The vote was taken under a suspension of the rules, requiring a supermajority of ⅔ to pass.  The final vote was 403-16. Fifteen Republicans (mostly Freedom Caucus members) and one Democrat (Rep. Ilhan Omar) voted NO.  Our Pennsylvania delegation all placed votes and all PA MoCs all voted YES.

As for the future of this bill, The Hill reports that the sanctions have the support of both Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).  That pair has their own Turkey sanctions bill in the Senate, but each expressed their support for the House version. Sen. Graham stated, “I’m OK with what the House did. I have no pride of authorship, just take the House bill and sign me up for it.”

Grand Canyon, Colorado and New Mexico Land Preservation

A trio of preservation bills affecting broad swaths of public lands were voted upon this week. H.R. 1373 will protect just over 1,000,000 acres near the Grand Canyon, H.R. 823 will shield 400,000 acres in the Western Slope area of Colorado, and H.R. 2181 covers at least 300,000 acres in New Mexico.  According to the Library of Congress summary that accompanies each bill on Govtrack, these bills withdraw designated lands from “entry, appropriation, and disposal under the public land laws; location, entry, and patent under the mining laws; and operation of the mineral leasing and geothermal leasing laws and mineral materials laws.”

In coverage of the Chaco Area bill, the Albuquerque Journal explained:

The bill contains protections for tribal and allotted land, specifically excluding trust and allotted land from withdrawal, stating nothing in the bill “affects the mineral rights of an Indian Tribe or member of an Indian Tribe to trust land or allotment land” and preserving tribes’ and allottees’ rights to build the infrastructure they need elsewhere in the withdrawal area in order to develop on their land.

The blog National Parks Traveller quoted Rep. Rául Grijalva (D-Ariz), who chairs the Natural Resources Committee, and introduced the Grand Canyon bill.  He stated: 

Protecting the Grand Canyon is more important than offering the mining industry more corporate welfare, and the alliance behind this bill will stand together until we preserve this international icon for our grandchildren once and for all. Some issues are powerful and popular enough to blast right through the usual Senate deadlock, and protecting the Grand Canyon is one of them.

His bill made permanent the 20 year ban on uranium mining that had been in place in the Grand Canyon area.

The Colorado Independent observed that the bill that the bill affecting their area was not just the work of Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.), but incorporated “a number of smaller bills that the freshman congressman’s predecessors had worked on for years.”  That same article added that “the bill grew out of local proposals and has support from a wide array of local groups, including environmental groups, outdoor business owners, ski resorts, Colorado Trout Unlimited, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, mayors, and county commissioners.”

H.R. 2181 came to the floor for a vote on Wednesday, October 30, 2019 and passed, 245-174. All Democrats present voted YES and they were joined by 17 Republicans. H.R. 1373 came to the floor about an hour later, and passed 236-185, with the support of 9 Republicans in addition to all but one Democrat.  Lastly, H.R. 823 received its vote on Thursday, October 31, 2019, and it passed as well. The 222-182 vote was achieved by all but one Democrat voting YES along with 5 Republicans. The vote tally on ALL THREE bills for Pennsylvania’s MoCs was identical, and is shown below.

AyeRFitzpatrick, BrianPA 1st
NoRPerry, ScottPA 10th
AyeDBoyle, BrendanPA 2nd
NoRSmucker, LloydPA 11th
AyeDEvans, DwightPA 3rd
NoRKeller, FredPA 12th
AyeDDean, MadeleinePA 4th
NoRJoyce, JohnPA 13th
AyeDScanlon, MaryPA 5th
NoRReschenthaler, GuyPA 14th
AyeDHoulahan, ChrissyPA 6th
NoRThompson, GlennPA 15th
AyeDWild, SusanPA 7th
NoRKelly, MikePA 16th
AyeDCartwright, MatthewPA 8th
AyeDLamb, ConorPA 17th
NoRMeuser, DanielPA 9th
AyeDDoyle, MikePA 18th

Armenian Genocide

House Vote on H.Res. 296: Affirming the United States record on the Armenian Genocide

The House voted this week to officially designate the 1915 killings of roughly 1.5 million Armenians as a genocide.  The resolution states, in part, “is the policy of the United States to commemorate the Armenian Genocide through official recognition and… reject efforts to enlist, engage, or otherwise associate the United States Government with denial of the Armenian Genocide or any other genocide.”  The measure concludes by promoting “the United States role in the humanitarian relief effort, and the relevance of the Armenian Genocide to modern-day crimes against humanity.” 

The New York Times explained the significance of this vote, at this time, observing “lawmakers had previously shirked from supporting such a resolution to preserve the United States’ relationship with Turkey, a NATO ally that has steadfastly denied that the atrocities amounted to genocide.”  And the response from Turkey to this vote was swift and furious. Reuters reported that Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan replied, “We reject… unilateral judgments on events more than a century ago, that don’t even mention Turkey’s losses.”  President Erdogan’s Communication Director was more direct in noting potential repercussions of this vote, adding “those who voted for this resolution will be responsible for the deterioration of a critical strategic relationship in a turbulent region.”

This resolution came to the floor on Tuesday, October 29, 2019.  It passed, 405-11. There were also three Representatives who voted “present.” All eleven of the NO votes came from Republicans, while the three PRESENT votes came from 2 Democrats and 1 Republican. Our Pennsylvania delegation all placed votes and all PA MoCs all voted YES.

While the vast majority (12 of 14) of the MoCs objecting to this bill by voting against it or present were GOP legislators, predictably, it was Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) who received the most criticism. Her website statement explained her votes on this bill and the sanctions on Turkey.  She stated, in part:

I also believe accountability for human rights violations—especially ethnic cleansing and genocide—is paramount. But accountability and recognition of genocide should not be used as cudgel in a political fight. It should be done based on academic consensus outside the push and pull of geopolitics. A true acknowledgment of historical crimes against humanity must include both the heinous genocides of the 20th century, along with earlier mass slaughters like the transatlantic slave trade and Native American genocide, which took the lives of hundreds of millions of indigenous people in this country. For this reason, I voted ‘present’ on final passage of H.Res. 296, the resolution Affirming the United States record on the Armenian Genocide.

There are nearly a dozen articles in major press outlets that say Rep. Omar is receiving blowback, criticism or condemnation for voting present. The coverage from NBC News is representative of the other articles (ellipses below excise segments of background facts about the bill already covered above):

Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., faced criticism Wednesday after voting “present” on a House resolution to formally recognize the mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks as a genocide… Two other House members also voted “present” with Omar… But it was Omar’s vote that drew the dismay of Armenian advocacy groups and political organizations….

Armenian groups and other critics voiced displeasure over [her] statement, however, with some accusing the congresswoman of parroting Turkish government talking points and effectively punting on what they consider an issue of grave importance.

A First Step to Addressing Prescription Drug Costs

House Vote on H.R. 2115: Public Disclosure of Drug Discounts and Real-Time Beneficiary Drug Cost Act

This bill, introduced by Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), looks to increase transparency in the role of pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), the middleman supervisors of prescription drugs for medical insurance companies.  Politico goes into some detail about the content of this legislation:

The bills’ goal is to obtain more data to try and address concerns that PBMs may be contributing to higher drug prices by favoring high-list price drugs with large rebates. PBMs are accused of pocketing the sum of these rebates as profits and then basing patients’ share of a drug off the list price. The PBMs argue they use rebates to lower the cost of patient premiums.

Spanberger’s bill would additionally require Medicare Part D plans to provide patients with information that is integrated into their health care providers’ electronic prescribing systems or electronic health records about their cost-sharing responsibility for a drug — as well as their portion of the costs of clinically appropriate alternatives on their plan’s formulary. Plans will have to provide these out-of-pocket costs for the drugs at a variety of nearby pharmacies, so patients can determine the best option.

Rep. Spanberger’s floor speech in support of this bill was forthright and persuasive.  She declared, “If we don’t cast sunlight into this black box, patients will continue to be left in the dark about the effect of PBMs on the prices of specific drugs.” Her full remarks area available in video and text format.

H.R. 2115 came to the floor on Monday, October 28, 2019 under a suspension of the rules.  It needed to achieve a ⅔ supermajority to pass, but that was not a problem – it passed 403-0. Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation was not fully present for the vote:

AyeRFitzpatrick, BrianPA 1st
AyeRPerry, ScottPA 10th
AyeDBoyle, BrendanPA 2nd
AyeRSmucker, LloydPA 11th
AyeDEvans, DwightPA 3rd
AyeRKeller, FredPA 12th
AyeDDean, MadeleinePA 4th
AyeRJoyce, JohnPA 13th
AyeDScanlon, MaryPA 5th
AyeRReschenthaler, GuyPA 14th
AyeDHoulahan, ChrissyPA 6th
AyeRThompson, GlennPA 15th
no voteDWild, SusanPA 7th
AyeRKelly, MikePA 16th
no voteDCartwright, MatthewPA 8th
AyeDLamb, ConorPA 17th
AyeRMeuser, DanielPA 9th
no voteDDoyle, MikePA 18th

🔵 PA-02’s Rep. Brendan Boyle was an original co-sponsor of H.R. 2115. The Augusta Free Press reported on his reaction to the passage of this bill.  Rep. Boyle stated, “by increasing market transparency and accountability for pharmacy benefit managers, we provide a new insight into the full impact of PBMs’ involvement in drug price negotiations—giving power back to everyday people. I’m proud to have introduced this legislation with my colleagues and I will continue to work with them to address rising drug prices so that every American can access the quality care they need.”

Infrastructure Maintenance Measure

House Vote on H.R. 2440: Full Utilization of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund Act

This is a bill that was introduced by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-N.Y.), the Chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.  Logistics Management, an industry periodical, explains that the legislation will “enable Congress to appropriate $34 billion over the next decade to restore America’s federal navigation channels to their originally-constructed widths and depths and subsequently improve safety and reliability needed to handle larger ships and growing trade levels.”  They add that the bill “makes it easier for Congress to appropriate any funds collected in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, which includes the fund’s existing $9.5 billion balance.”

In the statement he released when he introduced this measure, Chairman DeFazio explained why this bill is important:

As someone who represents a coastal district, I’ve heard from countless fishermen, ship, tug and barge operators about the critical need for safe and well-maintained ports and harbors that allow them to do their jobs and keep our economy moving. And I agree. The federal government should be using the fees it collects at our ports for their intended purpose — harbor maintenance.  By merely spending what is already being collected we can ensure our nation’s ports and harbors remain open for business and can continue to sustain our local, regional, and national economies.

The vote on H.R. 2440 was taken on Monday, October 27, 2019. It was held under a suspension of the rules, which means that it needed a ⅔ supermajority to pass.  The bill passed the House with a final vote of 296-109. Seventy-nine Republicans joined all but one Democrat (Rep. Ben McAdams of Utah) in voting YES. This is how our Pennsylvania MoCs voted:

AyeRFitzpatrick, BrianPA 1st
NoRPerry, ScottPA 10th
AyeDBoyle, BrendanPA 2nd
NoRSmucker, LloydPA 11th
AyeDEvans, DwightPA 3rd
NoRKeller, FredPA 12th
AyeDDean, MadeleinePA 4th
NoRJoyce, JohnPA 13th
AyeDScanlon, MaryPA 5th
AyeRReschenthaler, GuyPA 14th
AyeDHoulahan, ChrissyPA 6th
AyeRThompson, GlennPA 15th
AyeDWild, SusanPA 7th
AyeRKelly, MikePA 16th
no voteDCartwright, MatthewPA 8th
AyeDLamb, ConorPA 17th
NoRMeuser, DanielPA 9th
no voteDDoyle, MikePA 18th

Senate Democrats try to overturn Trump ACA sabotage rules

Senate Vote on S.J.Res. 52: A joint resolution providing for congressional disapproval of the rule relating to “State Relief and Empowerment Waivers”.

Each of the past two weeks the Senate Democrats have attempted to use the Congressional Review Act to overturn some portion of the Trump Administration’s bureaucratic rule changes. Two weeks ago they took on a weakening of the Environmental Protection Agency’s rules on power plant emissions, and last week they went after an IRS rule aimed at predominantly Democrat-governed states that came out of the 2017 GOP Tax Bill. Clearly they don’t believe they have enough votes to overturn any of these  regulations, but their efforts to force votes on these awful policies highlight the damaging moves made by President Trump’s administration and the GOP-led Senate.

This week the Senate Democrats took on a rule designed to weaken Affordable Care Act protections for people with pre-existing conditions.  Vox has the best explainer of the regulation in question:

Democrats sought to overturn one of the administration’s most recent attempts to undermine the health care legislation: a rule that would give states more flexibility in the types of plans they could use ACA subsidies to purchase.

Under the administration’s rule, states could request a 1332 waiver, which would enable them to buy and offer plans that Democrats see as low-quality options, including plans that could discriminate against patients with preexisting conditions — rolling back one of the key accomplishments of the ACA.

The vote on this resolution was taken on Wednesday, October 30, 2019. A YES vote is to overturn the weakened rules, and a NO vote supports the President’s attack on the ACA.  The measure failed in a 43-52 vote. Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) was the only legislator to cross party lines. Casey voted YES  and Toomey voted NO.

Senator Toomey did not make any public comment about his vote, with the Pennsylvania Capital-Star coverage of the measure including only the bare fact of his vote. Senator Casey shared his thoughts via Twitter:

A 2020 Authorization passes the Senate

Senate Vote on H.R. 3055: Commerce, Justice, Science, Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, Interior, Environment, Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Act, 2020

This is an omnibus spending bill that includes five of the twelve appropriations bills that need to pass each year to fund the government.  This bill already passed the House in June. As you might infer from its name it covers the Department of Commerce, the Department of Justice (DOJ), science agencies, including the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF). Other smaller, related agencies also included in the bill are the Bureau of the Census, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Office on Violence Against Women, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, and the Federal Prison System. 

There are major differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill, and it is unlikely that they will be worked out before funding runs out, which will force a continuing resolutionRoll Call reports:

With only about two full weeks when both chambers are in session left before current stopgap funding lapses on Nov. 21, the immediate focus has turned to the appropriate length of the next continuing resolution.

Congressional leaders are backing a stopgap extending into December, eyeing a year-end wrapup. But top appropriators of both parties don’t appear to be on the same page, expressing concern about impeachment obstructing progress on ironing out spending disputes.

House Appropriations Democrats have pushed for a CR into early February, according to an aide, which would take some of the heat off of spending issues while the impeachment process plays out. It would also give lawmakers more time to reach compromises on the dozen fiscal 2020 appropriations bills, none of which have yet become law a month into the new fiscal year… But sources familiar with the talks said Senate GOP and House Democratic leaders prefer a stopgap ending in December, keeping the pressure on to wrap up the year’s business before that chamber’s likely impeachment trial starts in earnest.  

The appropriations came to the floor of the Senate on Thursday, October 31, 2019. The bill passed, 84-9. All Democrats and 43 Republicans voted YES.  The nine NO votes were all from Republicans. Casey voted YES and Toomey voted NO.

Senator Toomey did not release any new comments explaining his NO vote, but this August statement from his website could be applicable to any of his dissenting positions on budget-related bills. Sen. Toomey stated:

Our country is on an unsustainable fiscal path and this budget deal only makes matters worse for taxpayers. Equally troubling is the continuing trend of raising the debt ceiling, without corresponding, meaningful budgetary reforms. Our country does not have a revenue problem. We have a spending problem. And until Congress is willing to make tough spending choices, the national debt will continue to rise and trillion dollar deficits will be the norm.

Unanimously passed Legislation

This is a selection of some of the measures that passed either house of congress unanimously.  It excludes actions naming post offices, commemorative coins and similarly ceremonial items. These votes either passed by unanimous consent or voice vote.

House Bills

  • H.R. 3942 – Preventing Online Sales of E-Cigarettes to Children Act
  • H.R. 4067 – Financial Inclusion in Banking Act
  • H.R. 647 – Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act
  • H.R. 4334 – Dignity in Aging Act
  • H.R. 728 – Title VIII Nursing Workforce Reauthorization Act
  • H.R. 886 – Veteran Treatment Court Coordination Act
  • H.R. 1775 – Notice to Airmen Improvement Act
  • H.R. 1781 – Payment Commission Data Act
  • H.R. 2502 – Transparency in Federal Buildings Projects Act
  • H.R. 4860 – Crowdfunding Amendments Act
  • H.R. 2514 – Coordinating Oversight, Upgrading and Innovating Technology, and Examiner Reform Act
  • H.R. 2781 – Educating Medical Professionals and Optimizing Workforce Efficiency and Readiness for Health Act

Senate Bills

  • S. Res. 367 – A resolution condemning the horrific attack in Dayton, Ohio, and expressing support and prayers for all those impacted by that tragedy
  • S. 1678 – Taiwan Allies International Protection and Enhancement Initiative (TAIPEI) Act
  • S. Res. 183 – A resolution reaffirming the vital role of the United States-Japan alliance in promoting peace, stability, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond
  • S. Res. 236 – A resolution reaffirming the strong partnership between Tunisia and the United States and supporting the people of Tunisia in their continued pursuit of democratic reforms
  • S. Res. 345 – A resolution supporting the goals and ideals of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month to raise awareness about, and enhance the state of, cybersecurity in the United States.
  • S. Res. 394 – A resolution honoring the members of the military and intelligence community who carried out the mission that killed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
  • S. 134 – Combat Online Predators Act.  This is an effort that was introduced by Sen. Pat Toomey with Sen. Bob Casey as a co-sponsor; the House version was introduced by PA-01’s Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick and co-sponsored by PA-14’s Rep. Guy Reschenthaler.  More information on this bill is available in these articles from WHYY. Lehigh Valley Live, and ABC News 27 out of Harrisburg.

And a note about what you can do on Election Day…

Familiarize yourself with your rights as a voter.  Our nation is facing increasing reports of voter intimidation and electoral violations. Learn what is allowed and what is illegal on this Pennsylvania’s resource and the ACLU website. By knowing your rights and the rights of others, you can be prepared to report a violation if you see one. You can use this number 1-877-VOTESPA (1-877-868-3772) to report any sketchiness you may encounter at a polling place on Tuesday.

Congress is on recess next week.  MoCTrack will have a report next week, focused on bills that have passed the House thus far in the 116th Congress, but are sitting in the “McConnell graveyard”.  Our next full report will come out once Congress returns to Washington, on November 17th. 

This report brought to you by the Pennsylvania MoCTrack team… 

  • Elayne Baker 
  • Gary Garb
  • Helen a.k.a. @ElastigirlVotes
  • Linda Houk
  • Kierstyn Piotrowski Zolfo

We are seeking additional assistance. Our Congresspeople are always busy and there is always more for us to cover — tasks big and small to fit any level of time commitment or experience. Can you help us out?  Please email and put “MoCTrack Help” in the subject. Thanks!

DemCast is an advocacy-based 501(c)4 nonprofit. We have made the decision to build a media site free of outside influence. There are no ads. We do not get paid for clicks. If you appreciate our content, please consider a small monthly donation.

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