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U.S. Capitol Building

U.S. Capitol Building

Here's a look at how area members of Congress voted the week of Dec. 15 to 21. Look for this roll call report by Targeted News Service (with a week delay) regularly in Sunday Forum.

HOUSE VOTES:

STEM OUTREACH PROGRAMS: The House has passed the STEM Research and Education Effectiveness and Transparency Act (H.R. 4375), sponsored by Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-Va. The bill would order the National Science Foundation to submit a report to Congress on the Foundation's research and education programs for broadening the participation of women and minorities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) degrees and careers. The vote, on Dec. 18, was 376 yeas to 9 nays.

YEAS: Rokita R-IN (4th), Walorski R-IN (2nd), Visclosky D-IN (1st)

NASA AND FEMALE TEACHERS: The House has passed the Women in Aerospace Education Act (H.R. 4254), sponsored by Rep. Stephen Knight, R-Calif., to require the National Science Foundation to promote fellowship opportunities at National Aeronautics and Space Administration centers for women training to be teachers. The vote, on Dec. 19, was 409 yeas to 17 nays.

YEAS: Rokita R-IN (4th), Walorski R-IN (2nd), Visclosky D-IN (1st)

TAX REFORM BILL: The House has agreed to the conference report with the Senate for the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (H.R. 1), which would nearly double the standard individual income tax deduction, lower the corporate tax rate to 21 percent, reduce rates for the seven individual tax brackets, reduce the deduction for state and local taxes paid, and effective in 2019, erase the penalty for not having individual health insurance. A supporter, Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, said: "We are delivering a new tax code that provides more jobs, fairer taxes, and bigger paychecks to Americans across the country." An opponent, Rep. Sander M. Levin, D-Mich., said the bill was "aimed at making the very wealthy even wealthier and forcing millions of middle class families to pay higher taxes." The vote, on Dec. 19, was 227 yeas to 203 nays.

YEAS: Rokita R-IN (4th), Walorski R-IN (2nd)

NAYS: Visclosky D-IN (1st)

REGULATING LARGE BANKS: The House has passed the Systemic Risk Designation Improvement Act (H.R. 3312), sponsored by Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo. The bill would replace the current $50 billion of assets threshold for finding that a bank is a systemically important financial institution subject to special regulations, with a set of standards the Federal Reserve is to apply to determine whether the bank should be subject to the special regulations. Luetkemeyer said the new, more flexible measure takes a pragmatic approach to managing risk and the danger that a given bank's financial distress would threaten the U.S. financial system. A bill opponent, Rep. John P. Sarbanes, D-Md., said eliminating the $50 billion threshold "will increase the likelihood of consolidation as large financial institutions and banks can now grow" with less regulation, resulting in increased danger to the financial system. The vote, on Dec. 19, was 288 yeas to 130 nays.

YEAS: Rokita R-IN (4th), Walorski R-IN (2nd)

NAYS: Visclosky D-IN (1st)

TRUCKING AND HUMAN TRAFFICKING: The House has passed the Combating Human Trafficking in Commercial Vehicles Act (S. 1536), sponsored by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. The bill would order the Transportation Department to charge an employee with the task of coordinating human trafficking prevention efforts across the agency and establish a committee to advise the agency on ways to reduce human trafficking. The vote, on Dec. 19, was 418 yeas to 1 nay.

YEAS: Rokita R-IN (4th), Walorski R-IN (2nd), Visclosky D-IN (1st)

PASSING TAX BILL: The House has concurred in the Senate amendment to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (H.R. 1). A supporter, Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, claimed the new tax code instituted by the bill "will be simple, it will be fair, and it will be focused on the needs of the American people, not on Washington's special interests." An opponent, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., claimed the bill was a Republican effort "to give tax breaks to the wealthiest people in our country and to corporate America, unpaid for, permanently," while increasing the deficit. The vote, on Dec. 20, was 224 yeas to 201 nays.

YEAS: Rokita R-IN (4th), Walorski R-IN (2nd)

NAYS: Visclosky D-IN (1st)

REGULATING SHAREHOLDER ADVISORS: The House has passed the Corporate Governance Reform and Transparency Act (H.R. 4015), sponsored by Rep. Sean P. Duffy, R-Wis. The bill would require firms that advise corporate shareholders on proxy votes regarding the operation of a company to register with the Securities and Exchange Commission and establish conflicts of interest and codes of ethics disclosure rules for the proxy firms. Duffy said the new regulations would promote "transparency, responsiveness and competition" among proxy advisors, two of whom currently make up 97 percent of the proxy advisory industry. A bill opponent, Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., said they would give corporate management too much power to shape the recommendations advisory firms make to shareholders and "would deter new proxy advisers from entering the market and squeeze out smaller, cost-sensitive firms" seeking to compete with the two dominant firms. The vote, on Dec. 20, was 238 yeas to 182 nays.

YEAS: Rokita R-IN (4th), Walorski R-IN (2nd)

NAYS: Visclosky D-IN (1st)

VETERANS AND COMMERCIAL DRIVING: The House has passed the Jobs for Our Heroes Act (S. 1393), sponsored by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, to allow military veterans who have driven vehicles similar to commercial motor vehicles while in the military to seek an exemption from all or part of federal commercial motor vehicle driving test requirements. The vote, on Dec. 21, was unanimous with 418 yeas.

YEAS: Rokita R-IN (4th), Walorski R-IN (2nd), Visclosky D-IN (1st)

EXTENDING GOVERNMENT FUNDING: The House has passed the Senate amendment to the Further Additional Continuing Appropriations Act (H.R. 1370). The bill would fund the federal government through January and provide short-term extensions of funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program, National Flood Insurance Program, and several other federal programs. A supporter, Rep. Rodney P. Frelinghuysen, R-N.J. called the funding necessary to continue providing vital services to Americans while Congress works on a final budget for 2018. An opponent, Rep. Nita M. Lowey, D-N.Y., faulted the bill's lack of a measure to exempt from deportation illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children and failure to reauthorize the Children's Health Insurance Program. The vote, on Dec. 21, was 231 yeas to 188 nays.

YEAS: Rokita R-IN (4th), Walorski R-IN (2nd)

NAYS: Visclosky D-IN (1st)

DISASTER RECOVERY: The House has passed a bill (H.R. 4667), sponsored by Rep. Rodney P. Frelinghuysen, R-N.J. The bill would provide $81 billion of fiscal 2018 emergency appropriations to various federal agencies for efforts to recover from wildfires in western states and the several hurricanes that struck the U.S. in recent months. Frelinghuysen said: "This funding is desperately needed by thousands of American families, individuals, and communities to rebuild their homes and businesses, restore electric power and critical infrastructure, and to protect against further damage." An opponent, Rep. Nita M. Lowey, D-N.Y., said the bill had several serious shortcomings, including its failure to fix the danger that Medicaid programs in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands will run out of money within months. The vote, on Dec. 21, was 251 yeas to 169 nays.

NAYS: Rokita R-IN (4th)

YEAS: Walorski R-IN (2nd), Visclosky D-IN (1st)

PUNISHING HUMAN TRAFFICKING: The House has passed the No Human Trafficking on Our Roads Act (S. 1532), sponsored by Sen. John Thune, R-S.D. The bill would direct the Transportation Department to impose a lifetime commercial driving ban on anyone who uses a commercial motor vehicle to participate in felony human trafficking. The vote, on Dec. 21, was unanimous with 393 yeas.

YEAS: Rokita R-IN (4th), Walorski R-IN (2nd), Visclosky D-IN (1st)

The House also passed the Recognize, Assist, Include, Support, and Engage Family Caregivers Act (H.R. 3759), to provide for the establishment and maintenance of a Family Caregiving Strategy; the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Reporting Act (S. 1766), to reauthorize the SAFER Act of 2013; and a bill (H. Con. Res. 95), expressing support for the use of public-private partnerships to bring computer science education to more classrooms.

SENATE VOTES:

EXTENDING GOVERNMENT FUNDING: The Senate has passed the House amendment to the Further Additional Continuing Appropriations Act (H.R. 1370). The bill would fund the federal government through January and provide short-term extensions of funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program, National Flood Insurance Program, and several other federal programs. A supporter, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the funding extension will give the military the resources it needs to combat the various threats the U.S. faces. An opponent, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said the bill did not address what he called the moral imperative to provide a resolution for the citizenship status of the so-called Dreamers who were brought to the U.S. as children. The vote, on Dec. 21, was 66 yeas to 32 nays.

YEAS: Young R-IN, Donnelly D-IN

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Editor

Marc Chase is a veteran investigative reporter, columnist and editor of more than two decades. He currently leads The Times news staff as local news editor. He can be reached at 219-933-3327.