Voterama in Congress
WASHINGTON — Here’s how the state’s 10 members of Congress voted on major issues in the week ending May 2.
Veterans’ use of medical marijuana
By a vote of 195 for and 222 against, the House on April 30 refused to allow the Veterans Health Administration to counsel patients on using medical marijuana for ailments such as chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). With marijuana illegal under federal law, the VHA is prohibited from prescribing it or counseling veterans on its medicinal benefits. This amendment did not give prescription authority to VHA doctors. The vote occurred during debate on a bill (HR 4486, below) to fund the fiscal 2015 U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs budget. Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana and nine allow it to be prescribed for treating PTSD.
Voting yes: Suzan DelBene, D-Medina; Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor; Jim McDermott, D-Seattle; Adam Smith, D-Bellevue; Denny Heck, D-Olympia
Voting no: Rick Larsen, D-Lake Stevens; Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Camas; Doc Hastings, R-Pasco; Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane; Dave Reichert, R-Auburn
2015 budget for veterans, military construction
By a vote of 416-1, the House on April 30 passed a fiscal 2015 budget bill (HR 4486) that appropriates $64.7 billion in discretionary spending for the Department of Veterans Affairs and $6.6 billion in discretionary spending for military construction on U.S. bases at home and abroad. The bill seeks to reduce a backlog of 300,000 veterans’ medical claims and expedites a long-overdue project to combine active-duty and veteran medical records into a seamless electronic file. Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, cast the negative vote.
Voting yes: DelBene, Larsen, Herrera Beutler, Hastings, McMorris Rodgers, Kilmer, McDermott, Reichert, Smith, Heck
Voting 164-248, the House on May 1 refused to reinstate the Office of Technology Assessment, which existed 1972-1995 to advise House members and staff on the technological aspects of pending issues. The amendment was offered to a bill (HR 4487), later passed, that would appropriate $3.3 billion for legislative-branch operations other than the Senate in fiscal 2015.
Voting yes: DelBene, Larsen, Kilmer, McDermott, Smith, Heck
Voting no: Herrera Beutler, Hastings, McMorris Rodgers, Reichert
By a vote of 196-221, the House on May 1 refused to end public funding of leased vehicles for use by members on official business. Under the amendment to HR 4487 (above), members would be required to use their personal vehicles for official travel, with reimbursement from the legislative-branch budget on the basis of miles driven. At present, about 60 House members use leased vehicles, at an average cost of under $600 per month, while most remaining members use their own vehicles for official business and receive cost reimbursements. The Senate prohibits its members from leasing vehicles.
Voting yes: DelBene, Herrera Beutler, McMorris Rodgers, Kilmer, Reichert, Smith, Heck
Voting no: Larsen, Hastings, McDermott
Health insurance for expatriates
Voting 268-150, the House on April 29 passed a bipartisan bill (HR 4414) that would exempt Americans abroad and foreigners working in the U.S. from the requirements of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Backers said the bill would protect jobs at U.S. insurance companies that sell policies to expatriates, while foes said it would undermine the ACA and result in expatriates receiving inferior health coverage.
Voting yes: DelBene, Larsen, Herrera Beutler, Hastings, McMorris Rodgers, Kilmer, Reichert
Voting no: McDermott, Smith, Heck
Minimum wage increase
By a vote of 54 for and 42 against, the Senate on April 30 failed to reach 60 votes needed to end Republican blockage of a Democratic-sponsored bill (S 2223) to raise the federal minimum wage from its present $7.25 per hour to $10.10 per hour over two years.
Voting yes: Maria Cantwell, D; Patty Murray, D
Judge Michelle Friedland
Voting 51-40, the Senate on April 28 confirmed Michelle Friedland for a seat on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which hears appeals from federal trial-level courts in Arizona, California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. Friedland’s confirmation gives the court a full complement of 29 judges for the first time in nearly 10 years.
Voting yes: Cantwell, Murray