|Recent Senate Votes|
|Disability Treaty Ratification – Vote Rejected (61-38, 1 Not Voting)
Despite a last-minute appearance by former GOP Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole of Kansas in support of the treaty, Senate Republicans mustered enough opposition to defeat the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Supporters, including Dole and Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry, D-Mass., described the treaty as essentially enshrining the Americans with Disabilities Act (PL 101-336) as an international standard. Kerry highlighted the treatys support among veterans groups. The treatys detractors, including Republican presidential candidate and former senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, raised the possibility of international bureaucrats making child-care decisions in place of parents, including potentially restricting home schooling. All international treaties require a two-thirds majority of those present and voting, so supporters fell five votes short. Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada vowed another vote in the next Congress.
Defense Authorization Final Passage – Vote Passed (98-0, 2 Not Voting)
Following a Monday cloture vote, last week the Senate gave unanimous support to its FY 2013 defense authorization bill. The measure provides funding for all branches of the armed services (excluding the Coast Guard), nuclear security operations at the Department of Energy, and overseas contingency operations, i.e., funding for the war in Afghanistan and other overseas conflicts. Fiscal 2013 funding in the bill would come to roughly $631 billion, $88 billion of which covers war costs. Major amendments adopted during debate would further toughen sanctions against Iran; clarify that U.S. citizens and permanent residents may not be detained without charge or trial if apprehended on American soil; prohibit transfer of detainees from Guantanamo Bay to a U.S. facility; and ensure that the Pentagon is able to purchase alternative fuels. The provision on alternative fuels is likely to be a sticking point in conference negotiations with the House, whose bill prohibits purchase of such fuels if they are more expensive than traditional options such as petroleum. Despite President Obamas veto message, both chambers bills contain restrictions on Guantanamo detainee transfers, retirement of Air National Guard planes, and TRICARE enrollment fees. Though conferees have not been named for either side (that is likely to happen this week), staff discussions have already begun.
Russia/Moldova Trade Relations Final Passage – Vote Passed (92-4, 4 Not Voting)
The Senate cleared the way for more open trade with the Russian Federation and the tiny Eastern European republic of Moldova last week with passage of a House measure that lifts 1970s-vintage restrictions on both countries. The move was necessitated by Russias accession to the World Trade Organization over the summer; had trade restrictions not been rescinded, the U.S. would have been vulnerable to retaliatory actions by the Russians. Moldova has been a WTO member since 2001 and appears simply to have hitched a ride on a moving legislative vehicle. Despite cheers from the business community for the free trade measure, the Russian government is deeply unhappy with accompanying language chiding its poor human rights record and sanctioning individuals associated with the imprisonment and death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky. The bill is currently before the president and will likely be signed into law shortly.
|Recent House Votes|
|Energy Efficiency Suspension – Vote Passed (398-2, 1 Present, 30 Not Voting)
In a rare moment of bipartisan agreement on an energy measure, the House came together to pass a bill clarifying federal efficiency standards for a variety of heavy appliances, including air conditioners and commercial refrigerators (excluding walk-in refrigerators). Though the measure appears uncontroversial, its prospects are not clear in the Senate given the crowded calendar.
Global Internet Governance Adoption – Vote Passed (397-0, 34 Not Voting)
The House unanimously agreed to Senate language expressing the sense of Congress that the Internet should remain free from government control. The concurrent resolution was adopted amid the backdrop of a meeting of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), a United Nations body broadly responsible for fostering cooperation among governments and the private sector on international telecommunications governance. Technology companies such as Google have voiced concern that the ITU conference could lead to adoption of restrictive regulations making it easier for national governments to censor content.
Amending Language in Federal Law Suspension – Vote Passed (398-1, 32 Not Voting)
In its final action of the week, the House cleared a Senate bill that would remove the pejorative lunatic from the United States Code. The lone House dissenter was Texas Republican Louie Gohmert, who insisted that lunatic should be retained, pointing to his fellow Members of Congress as living, breathing examples of the term. The bill awaits the presidents signature.
| To temporarily extend the transaction account guarantee program, and for other purposes. – S.3637
The Senate is scheduled to hold a cloture vote on the motion to proceed to a bill that would extend the Transaction Account Guarantee (TAG) program through the end of 2014. TAG is a program administered by the FDIC that provides full deposit insurance coverage for noninterest-bearing transaction accounts. The program was created in the midst of the financial crisis in late 2008 and later extended for two years in late 2010. It is set to expire at the end of this year, however, and lobbyists for small and independent banks are making a heavy push to extend the program again. Republicans are wary of keeping it alive, so invoking cloture is no guarantee.
The House is scheduled to consider several bills under suspension of the rules, as well as a Motion to go to Conference on the defense authorization bill.
December 11, 2012
Bennet, Udall, and Perlmutter Watch 12-10-12: Recent Votes