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Originally published Saturday, May 11, 2013 at 7:54 PM

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How Your U.S. Lawmaker Voted

Voterama in Congress

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WASHINGTON — Here’s how state members of Congress voted on major issues in the week ending Friday.

House

U.S. debt priorities

By a vote of 221-207, the House on Thursday sent the Senate a Republican bill, HR 807, giving payment priority to bondholders, such as domestic-pension funds and foreign governments, if the Treasury were unable to meet all of its debt obligations. Social Security Trust Funds would be next, followed in no special order by the thousands of fiscal obligations — from military salaries to education grants to veterans benefits — routinely funded by the Treasury. Republicans said this advance statement of debt-payment priorities would instill confidence in investors essential to the health of the U.S. economy. Democrats called the bill an alarmist measure that wrongly suggests Congress and the administration would ever allow a government default.

The national debt of about $16.8 trillion consists of about $4.9 trillion that the government owes itself (primarily to Social Security Trust Funds) and nearly $12 trillion owed to bondholders outside of the government. Foreign entities hold more than one-third of the $12 trillion, with the People’s Republic of China ($1.2 trillion) and Japan ($900 billion) the leading foreign creditors.

Voting yes: Jaime Herrera, R-Camas; Doc Hastings, R-Pasco; Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane; Dave Reichert, R-Auburn

Voting no: Suzan DelBene, D-Medina; Rick Larsen, D-Lake Stevens; Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor; Jim McDermott, D-Seattle; Adam Smith, D-Bellevue; Denny Heck, D-Olympia

Democrats’ debt priorities

By a vote of 200-207, the House on Thursday defeated a bid by Democrats to ensure that obligations to federal deposit insurance, Social Security and Medicare trust funds, veterans benefits and recovery from natural disasters be paid ahead of debt service to foreign bondholders such as China and Iran under the terms of HR 807.

Voting yes: DelBene, Larsen, Kilmer, McDermott, Smith, Heck

Voting no: Herrera Beutler, Hastings, McMorris Rodgers, Reichert

‘Comp time’ for overtime

By a vote of 223-204, the House on Wednesday sent the Senate a bill, HR 1406, authorizing employers in the private sector to offer “compensatory time off” in place of extra cash for working overtime. Under the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act, employers are required to pay “time and a half” for each hour worked over 40 hours a week. Under this bill, employers could instead provide one-and-one-half hours off for each hour over 40 if that is agreeable to the employee. Employers have discretion to schedule the time off under the bill. State agencies, not the U.S. Department of Labor, would enforce comp-time agreements.

Voting yes: Herrera Beutler, Hastings, McMorris Rodgers, Reichert

Voting no: DelBene, Larsen, Kilmer, McDermott, Smith, Heck

Employee control of ‘comp time’

By a vote of 200-207, the House on Wednesday defeated a Democratic bid to give employees the right to schedule their time off under certain circumstances. The underlying bill, HR 1406, empowers employers to choose when “comp time” can be taken. This motion shifted control to workers if they need to schedule medical appointments, care for a relative or, if they are veterans, schedule appointments related to combat injuries.

Voting yes: DelBene, Larsen, Kilmer, McDermott, Smith, Heck

Voting no: Herrera Beutler, Hastings, McMorris Rodgers, Reichert

Senate

Online-sales taxes

By a vote of 69-27, the Senate on April 25 sent the House a bill, S 743, requiring online retailers to collect state and local sales taxes and send the revenue to the taxing jurisdiction where the customer lives. At present, firms selling over the Internet are obligated to collect sales taxes only if they have a physical presence in the particular state or locality, giving them a cost advantage over brick-and-mortar stores, which by law must add sales taxes to purchases. The bill exempts Internet retailers with less than $1 million annually in out-of-state sales. It does not raise taxes, but facilitates the collection of an estimated $23 billion in sales taxes that now goes unpaid.

Voting yes: Maria Cantwell, D; Patty Murray, D

Guns at water projects

By a vote of 56-43, the Senate on Wednesday failed to advance a gun-rights amendment offered to a water-resources bill, S 608, still in debate. The measure sought to make it legal for visitors to Army Corps of Engineers projects to carry concealed handguns. Concealed-carry is legal on National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service lands but outlawed on many other federal properties.

Voting no: Cantwell, Murray

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