|Recent Senate Votes|
|FDA User Fees Final Passage – Vote Agreed to (92-4, 4 Not Voting)
The Senate last week cleared a compromise version of FDA user fee legislation, paving the way for President Obamas signature. The five-year reauthorization measure allows the FDA to charge the industries it oversees a fee to finance the approval process for medical devices and prescription drugs. The bill will also create new fee programs for generic drugs and generic biologic drugs. Final passage in the Senate followed about a month of negotiations after each chamber passed slightly differing bills in late May. As with everything coming through the Senate these days, a cloture vote was needed before voting on the underlying bill.
Highway/Flood Insurance/Student Loan Package Adoption of Conference Report – Vote Agreed to (74-19, 1 Present, 6 Not Voting)
After months of speculation about whether any of the highway, flood insurance, or student loan bills would become law this year, all three cleared the Senate as a single package last week. The final agreement combined a 27-month reauthorization of highway, transit and transportation safety programs; a one-year extension of lowered interest rates on federally-subsidized Stafford loans; and a five-year reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The surface transportation component featured by far the most drama of the three provisions, as the fight surrounding it lasted far longer, dating back to last year. More importantly (at least outside the Beltway) infrastructure spending will provide a much-needed shot in the arm for the construction industry and hopefully the broader economy. The bill makes several major changes to existing transportation law, including streamlining project approval, drastically reducing the number of federal programs through consolidation, and giving states more spending flexibility on certain types of projects. The NFIP measure is designed to bring the program back into solvency following years of indebtedness. Payouts resulting from the devastating Gulf Coast hurricanes in 2005-6 had left the program roughly $18 billion in debt. The new law will raise premiums overall and cover more homeowners. The combined measures would be paid for largely by two changes to pension law. The first would change the formula by which employers contribute to their employees defined benefit plans. The second would increase employer premiums on insurance provided by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, a federal entity that insures private sector defined benefit pension plans. A third offset would shorten the amount of time students are eligible for an in-school interest subsidy on their loans.
|Recent House Votes|
|Contempt Resolution – Vote Passed (255-67, 1 Present, 109 Not Voting)
Last week the House voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt Congress, the first time in American history either house has held a Cabinet member in contempt. An accompanying measure was also passed, authorizing the Oversight and Government Reform Committee to intervene in judicial proceedings in order to enforce its subpoenas. The vote was the culmination of well over a years worth of congressional investigation and, depending on whom you ask, showboating and stonewalling, regarding a failed gun-walking operation overseen by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. The operation allowed firearms to walk into the hands of Mexican drug cartels, with the intent of tracking the guns and locating the cartels, whose movements are difficult to trace. Weapons bought through the operations were later used in the murder of a Border Patrol agent, Brian Terry. The subject of the contempt vote, however, has specifically to do with a very narrow set of documents demanded by House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif. from the Department of Justice (DOJ). DOJ has already announced they will not prosecute Holder, so House Republicans are expected to try their hand in civil court.
FY13 Transportation-HUD Appropriations Final Passage – Vote Passed (261-163, 8 Not Voting)
The House passed its annual transportation spending measure in addition to a transportation policy measure last week. The bill, which also provides funding for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), would provide $51.6 billion in discretionary spending for FY2013 ($103.6 billion when including spending from the transportation trust funds. In direct contradiction to the highway bill, which passed the House just minutes after the appropriations measure, an amendment from GOP freshman Rep. Jeff Landry, R-La. was included in the final bill text that would prohibit the Transportation Department from requiring that commercial trucks install on-board electronic recording devices to track hours of use. The highway bill, by contrast, mandates the installation of such devices. The bill also provides no funding for Obamas favored TIGER grants and high-speed rail initiatives. On the housing side, the bill would increase funding for Community Development Block Grants but cut funding for rental assistance. The Senate Appropriations committee passed its bill in April, but no spending measure has made it to the Senate floor this year. The president has threatened to veto the House bill, objecting primarily to its overall funding level, but also to a few particulars such as those mentioned above.
Highway/Flood Insurance/Student Loan Package Adoption of Conference Report – Vote Passed (373-52, 7 Not Voting)
The House passed the conference report for the Highway/Flood Insurance/Student Loan Package shortly before the Senate.
July 3, 2012
Bennet, Udall, and Perlmutter Watch 7-2-12: Recent Votes
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