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!
Neither the House nor the Senate were present in Washington for voting this past week, but there were some measures that were passed by unanimous consent, and this report will look at those. We are going to use the opportunity of a slow legislative week to catch up on the traditional media presences of our Senators, since those segments had been left out of our last several reports.
Tracking Congress in the Age of Trump
The lower the number, the more the legislator votes in opposition to the Trump agenda.
|Member of Congress||This week’s score||Change from last report|
|Senator Bob Casey (D)||29.8%||+1.2%|
|Senator Pat Toomey (R)||87.9%||+0.2%|
|PA-01 Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R)||64.5%||+0.3%|
|PA-02 Rep. Brendan Boyle (D)||13.3%||+0.6%|
|PA-03 Rep. Dwight Evans (D)||12.2%||+0.5%|
|PA-04 Rep. Madeleine Dean (D)||4.2%||+1.4%|
|PA-05 Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D)||6.7%||+1.3%|
|PA-06 Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D)||5.6%||+1.4%|
|PA-07 Rep. Susan Wild (D)||8.0%||+1.2%|
|PA-08 Rep. Matt Cartwright (D)||20.4%||+0.5%|
|PA-09 Rep. Dan Meuser (R)||98.6%||+0.1%|
|PA-10 Rep. Scott Perry (R)||89.7%||+0.1%|
|PA-11 Rep. Lloyd Smucker (R)||95.7%||0.0%|
|PA-12 Rep. Fred Keller (R)||95.2%||+0.1%|
|PA-13 Rep. John Joyce (R)||98.6%||0.0%|
|PA-14 Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R)||95.7%||0.0%|
|PA-15 Rep. Glenn W. Thompson (R)||98.2%||0.0%|
|PA-16 Rep. Mike Kelly (R)||96.4%||0.0%|
|PA-17 Rep. Conor Lamb (D)||23.7%||+0.8%|
|PA-18 Rep. Mike Doyle (D)||15.2%||+0.6%|
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. The numbers this week reflect legislator votes for the coronavirus response bills, which the president has also supported.
Bills passed via Unanimous Consent/Voice Votes
The last few editions of MoCTrack were mainly focused on the first three phases of coronavirus response legislation. These are smaller pieces of legislation, mostly related to veterans’ programs, that passed at least one chamber of Congress in the past three weeks.
- H.R. 6322 – Student Veteran Coronavirus Response Act of 2020
This bill makes changes to educational programs run by the Department of Veterans Affairs. From March 1, through December 31, 2020, it ensures that anyone who is already a part of a work study program will continue to be paid even if they cannot perform their work duties because of the emergency. It also extends time periods for eligible veterans to access benefits. A key example of this is the Montgomery GI bill, which gives veterans ten years after their period of active service to access their benefits. This new bill would ensure that if their eligibility period expires during this emergency (when facilities are closed), they still have some time after the emergency is over to use their benefits. This passed the House on 03/31/20 with no objection.
- H.R. 3504 – Ryan Kules and Paul Benne Specially Adaptive Housing Improvement Act
This is a bill that increases funding and allowances for the Department of Veterans Affairs, so that they can build special housing for veterans who are fully or partially blind. There are also portions of the legislation that deal with technical changes to Department of Veterans Affairs educational assistance programs and work-study allowance programs. This bill had passed the House in July 2019. The Senate passed it with some changes via unanimous consent on 03/26/20, and so it will now go back to the House.
- H.R. 4771: VA Tele-Hearing Modernization Act
This measure allows for claimants who have cases before the Board of Veterans’ Appeals to appear at a hearing through remote video (like Skype), and to do some from locations other than VA facilities. his bill had passed the House in November 2019. The Senate passed it with no changes via unanimous consent on 03/26/20, and so it will now go to the president for enactment.
- S. 3587 – Department of Veterans Affairs Website Accessibility Act
This is a bill that was introduced by our own 🔵 Senator Bob Casey. This bill explanation is from the Senator’s website:
Under current law, the Rehabilitation Act requires federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology accessible to individuals with disabilities. Unfortunately, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has not made all of their websites accessible for individuals who are blind or have vision impairments. This creates an extra, unacceptable burden for blind veterans, as well as blind family members of veterans, who may wish to use online or electronic resources through the VA.
The VA Website Accessibility Act will address this issue by requiring the VA to examine all of their websites to determine if they are accessible to people with disabilities. It will also require the VA to submit a report to Congress detailing which websites are not accessible to people with disabilities, along with a plan to make them accessible and a description of existing barriers to doing so. The VA would also be required to review the accessibility of kiosks at VA medical facilities. Kiosk accessibility is critical, as many VA medical centers use them for patient check in and management. Unfortunately, many of these kiosks do not currently use technology that would make them accessible for blind veterans.
This bill passed the Senate via unanimous consent on 03/26/20, and now goes to the House for consideration.
- S. 3503: A bill to authorize the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to treat certain programs of education converted to distance learning by reason of emergencies and health-related situations in the same manner as programs of education pursued at educational institutions
This bill does very much what its title describes. It directs the Department of Veterans Affairs to continue to provide educational assistance through December 21, 2020 when educational programs have been converted into distance learning programs. It also ensures that the VA will continue to provide monthly housing stipends or subsistence allowances. This measure passed the Senate by a voice vote on 03/16/20. It then went to the House on 03/19/20, where it was passed without objection. President Trump signed it into law on 03/21/20.
- S. 3501: A bill to provide a 77-day extension of certain authorities for foreign intelligence and international terrorism investigations
Several provisions of the USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005 and the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 were due to expire on 03/15/20. This bill extends those expiration dates to May 30th. THis passed the Senate by voice vote on 03/16/20.
Casey in the News
Courtesy of contributor Linda Houk
“During this time of great uncertainty and difficulty, Pennsylvania’s rural and urban areas alike need support to respond to COVID-19. I am pleased that the transportation systems in our communities will receive a combined total of $1.13 billion in FTA grants to support transit operations, pay employees who are unable to work due to the pandemic and continue operating for those who rely on public transportation. Our public transit systems are a backbone of our communities and I will continue to work to ensure they receive the resources they need during this time of national crisis.”
— from a 04/03/20 article on the ABC 27 website titled “Senator Casey releases transit funding breakdown for Pa. communities”
“An outbreak at a BOP facility will impact far more people than simply those inside the facility. If the staff and general prison population are not adequately tested, they will be more likely to unknowingly spread the disease to other staff members and incarcerated individuals.”
“Furthermore, without proper PPE, those correctional officers will then subsequently be more likely to take the virus home with them and spread it unknowingly to their family and friends. Infected individuals from BOP facilities may also strain local healthcare facilities, particularly in small rural communities similar to the towns scattered across Pennsylvania housing BOP facilities.
“It would be deeply irresponsible and significantly damaging to any community housing a BOP facility if a COVID-19 outbreak were to occur at that facility without the DOJ ensuring that complete and comprehensive preventive measures were being fully deployed at BOP facilities across the country.”
— an excerpt of a letter sent from Senator Casey to Attorney General William Barr, from a 04/03/20 article in The Bradford Era titled “Casey requests DOJ’s plans to prevent coronavirus spread in prisons”
“I will be pushing for such a waiver to be included in a future coronavirus legislative package. Pennsylvanians should not have to pay exorbitant fees to get home during a crisis.”
— from a 04/03/20 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article titled “Pompeo, State Department work to bring home U.S. citizens but thousands remain abroad”
“We have to treat health care workers on the same level as soldiers in combat. At the end of this, we should have something comparable to a GI Bill. It’s the kind of challenge we have not seen since World War II.”
— from a 03/31/20 article in The Danville News titled “Health care workers need protection in fight against virus”
“Americans need money now to pay for basic necessities, not temporary credits towards future travel… We believe your company has a moral responsibility to provide real refunds, not travel vouchers, to consumers, and to support State Department efforts to repatriate any American citizens trying to come home.”
— an excerpt from a letter that nine senators, including Bob Casey, sent to the chief executives of eleven airlines after the federal government approved $25 billion in grants to the airline industry, from a 03/31/20 New York Post article titled “Senators urge airlines to issue cash ticket refunds after bailout”
“It is outrageous that scammers are seeking to capitalize on the public anxiety of the COVID-19 pandemic to prey on the public, especially seniors. Scammers are continuously updating their tactics to find new ways to trick consumers so it is imperative that all individuals, particularly older adults, are armed with information to prevent them from falling victim to a con artist.”
— from a 03/31/20 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article titled “A neighbor or a robocall? FCC steps up efforts to root out fake caller ID ‘spoofing‘”
“We’re going to have to take a closer look at this in the next piece of legislation, if not having a separate bill just on some of the census related issues.”
— from a 03/30/20 article on the Local 21 News website titled “Deadline to respond to Census extended to August”
“The COVID-19 pandemic has created and worsened many health and economic challenges for Pennsylvania families, including food and security. I wrote a letter to Secretary Perdue in support of PDA’s request so that the Bureau of Food Assistance can serve our families who need help, including an influx of children, older adults and displaced workers. In my bill, the Food Assistance for Kids and Families during COVID-19 Act, I called for this authority to be provided nationwide in order to streamline paperwork requirements to reduce contact and accelerate the process of helping individuals and families in need of food assistance. As congress considers further Covid-19 relief legislation, I will continue to fight to make food assistance a national priority.”
— from a 03/29/20 Your Erie article titled “Casey and Wolf administration secure waiver for local food banks to expand access”
“I commend the Department of Education for taking long-overdue action to address the failures that allowed Jerry Sandusky to harm children. Anyone who abuses a child or stands by silently as someone else does must be held fully accountable, and that includes institutions.
“As part of my newly released legislative plan, Five Freedoms for America’s Children, I outline several steps our Nation must take to better protect children from harm. “I will also continue to push to enact this proposal into law, along with the Speak Up Act, which would work to ensure that instances of child abuse are more likely to be reported.”
— from a 03/29/20 article in the Sharon Herald titled “Dept. of Education reprimands PSU for handling of sexual misconduct cases”
“We can’t even begin to say we are on the right track until we have the pandemic in a place where if it is not under control, it is pushed back… [the bill] provides significant funding to combat this public health emergency, including a $150 billion ‘Marshall Plan’ for hospitals, nursing homes and community health centers…”
“I think our team did a good job with small business as well.”
“Unlike Congressional Republicans, who refused to support the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act when a Democratic president (Barack Obama) proposed it to rescue the American economy in 2009, Democrats worked with a Republican administration to help all Americans during this time of national crisis… This agreement could have been even better for Main Street if not for the intransigence of Senate Republicans, who prioritized Wall Street and corporate interests over hardworking Americans.”
—from a 03/26/20 article in the Indiana Gazette titled “Area lawmakers respond to stimulus bill”
“This wouldn’t be possible without the work of Senate Democrats. Simple as that… We added so much to the Republicans’ initial proposal of the bill and Democrats put it in much better shape.”
—from a 03/26/20 article in the Delco Times titled “Morning Briefing: State’s politicians praise stimulus”
“Today, we can announce, that after my efforts, substantial funding to feed seniors during the coronavirus pandemic will be released to older Americans across the country and in Pennsylvania… While this funding is needed, getting it out the door should not have taken this long. The Administration should have moved more quickly and I will continue to press them to act with the speed that this crisis deserves.”
—from a 03/26/20 article in the Bradford Era titled “Casey secures $250 million to help feed seniors during pandemic”
“It’s vitally important that this bill move as fast as we can now that we’ve made badly needed corrections to meet the crisis that so many families, so many businesses, so many workers face.”
—from a 03/25/20 article in WENY News titled “Senate prepares to vote on $2 trillion Coronavirus stimulus package”
Toomey in the News
Courtesy of contributor Elayne Baker
“The CDC is right to clarify its guidance to encourage Americans to wear cloth masks when they must venture out of their homes, even if they are not exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19. We appreciate the President, Dr. Fauci, Dr. Redfield, and his team at the CDC working with us on this issue.
“Wearing a cloth mask is not a substitute for staying home and regularly washing our hands, but it is an important compliment. By wearing a cloth mask when in public, we will limit transmission of the virus, which can be spread through saliva emitted via cough, sneeze, or even when speaking and breathing. Put simply, my mask protects you, and your mask protects me.
“To be clear, N95 or surgical masks should be reserved for front-line health care workers. We implore all Americans, when you leave your house, cover up with a cloth mask or any sort of facial barrier like a scarf or a bandanna.”
— from a 04/03/20 Media News Group article titled “Toomey urges residents to wear masks when going out in public”
“The final week of negotiations were extremely intense, and at times, there were a dozen or more people in a small conference room, sitting around a table in a room with no windows. After several days of that, it occurred to me that, probably for the sake of Kris and the kids, I probably ought to just keep to myself for the two-week period. I have no symptoms or anything. I feel fine, 100%, but just to be safe, I’m sticking with basement life…”
“…we could do a lot of good at slowing down the rate of transmission if we just put a scarf, or a bandanna, or a homemade mask, some kind of device that would slow down the rate of transmission.
“I had a good conversation with the president [Tuesday] afternoon, where I called him to advocate for this. He was sympathetic. He did not make a commitment, but he was aware that his team was discussing this very matter.
Some governors might choose to mandate it. I would not suggest that on a national level, certainly. I would leave that up to the individual governors. But I would want to strongly encourage the adoption of this behavior.”
— from a 04/02/20 Washington Examiner article titled “Pat Toomey Q&A: Why masks matter for all of us in the fight against coronavirus”
“My staff is in regular contact with the Governor’s office and Pennsylvania healthcare providers actively troubleshooting and directing traffic as needed. We will continue to aggressively advocate for Pennsylvania’s health care providers until they get the materials they need.”
— from a 04/02/20 article on the WESA website titled “Documents Show FEMA Fulfills Only Part Of Pennsylvania’s Requests For Emergency Equipment”
“…it should not be the vehicle for Speaker Pelosi’s partisan, parochial wish list. ”
— Senator Toomey’s comments on a potential Phase FOur coronavirus response bill, from a 03/31/20 Politico article titled “McConnell and Pelosi draw coronavirus battle lines”
“…the biggest government intervention in the economy in the history of the world… This is a response to an invasion. This is the kind of thing you’d have to do if we were at war.”
— Senator Toomey’s description of the Phase Three response bill, from a 03/29/20 article in the Journal Gazette titled “Many in GOP change tune on big spending”
“[failing to take action] would be a wildly imprudent thing, and it would probably result in such a severe recession — it might very well be a depression — and it could take decades to come out of this.”
— from a 03/28/20 article in ABC News titled “Hawks no more: Fiscal conservatives embrace rescue package”
“A lethal pathogen has invaded our country, killing hundreds and making tens of thousands ill. In an effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus, employers across the country, including in Pennsylvania, have been forced to close. Our economy is shutting down and millions of Americans are unable to work, travel, or simply enjoy common aspects of life.
“For financially-stressed families and workers who are furloughed or laid off, the CARES Act delivers direct payments and expanded unemployment benefits. The CARES Act aims to keep this economic contraction from becoming a full-blown depression through crucial lending programs for businesses — small and large — so they can survive an extended period with little or no revenue.’
“Unfortunately, it contains policies that waste taxpayer money and others that create unhelpful incentives. “Nevertheless, this bill will do much more good than harm. This crisis demands this action and the Senate delivered.”
— from a 03/28/20 article in THe Bradford Era titled “Pa. legislators pleased with passage of bill”
“It is true that the Fed theoretically has an infinite steadiness sheet, however the Fed has constraints in the way it can deploy that. The Fed is not allowed to lose cash. That is why our laws is so important.”
“What we do is we authorize a program the place the Treasury can capitalize autos that may then exit and leverage up that capital, many multiples from the Fed, and use that to before everything stabilize these markets. Get the company bond market, get the muni market functioning as a result of they aren’t functioning proper now.”
“The purpose is to offer the liquidity to get by means of this horrible second. All of us hope this is transient however if you’re prohibited from opening your doorways, when you can not promote your merchandise, you can not keep alive.”
— from a 03/25/20 article in GruntStuff titled “GOP Sen. Pat Toomey: New Fed action shows why the stalled coronavirus bill is ‘so important’”
“While our Democratic colleagues were going down to the floor and criticizing our bill to be a big slush fund, a big giveaway to corporations despite the fact that these are loans. Behind closed doors they were insisting actually to give away money to the airlines.”
— from a 03/25/20 article on the WKOK website titled “Senators Toomey, Casey supported $2 trillion COVID-19 bill”
Toomey told a CNBC reporter that by combining the direct $1,200 payment and extending the unemployment benefits “creates incentives not to work.”
— excerpted from a 03/23/20 Pittsburgh City Paper article titled “Sen. Pat Toomey supports coronavirus stimulus bill, but worries it ‘creates incentives not to work’”
A Note from the MoCTrack Editor
If you’ve been watching television these past few weeks (who hasn’t?), you’ll notice that advertisers are all using the phrases “this age of uncertainty” and “this uncertain time.” It feels like a cliche, but it does hold true for us at MoCTrack. We just don’t know when Congress will return to Washington to work on a Phase Four coronavirus response legislative package, and we don’t know when and if there will be news to report on from a legislative perspective. We at MoCTrack like having a weekly report for you, but “in this uncertain time” we aren’t sure when our next report will be.
We wish you well, we hope that you are staying safe and healthy, and we’ll be back when there is a new batch of bills to recap for you!
This report was brought to you by the Pennsylvania MoCTrack team:
- Elayne Baker
- Gary Garb
- Helen aka @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 KierstynPZ@gmail.com and put “MoCTrack Help” in the subject. Thanks!
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