Congressional Happenings

Among the recent issues that Congress addressed in the last two weeks Homeland Security, the Keystone XL Pipeline and Amtrak reauthorization. Following is how Senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio and House Representative Gwen Graham, of the 2nd Congressional District, voted on the various issues.

In the Senate:
Keystone XL Pipeline: The Senate failed by a vote of 62 to 37 (with one abstention) to override President Obama’s Feb. 24, 2015 veto of a bill that would have immediately allowed TransCanada to construct, connect, operate and maintain the pipeline and cross-border facilities known as the Keystone XL pipeline Nelson voted no; Rubio voted yes.
Fiscal 2015 Department of Homeland Security Appropriations: The Senate voted 68 to 31 (with one abstention) to pass a bill that would provide $47.8 billion in fiscal 2015 for the Homeland Security Department and related activities. The bill includes $12.6 billion for Customs and Border Protection; $6 billion for Immigration and Customs Enforcement; $7.2 billion for the Transportation Security Administration, including fees; $10 billion for the Coast Guard; $1.7 billion for the Secret Service; and $10.8 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, including $6.4 billion for emergency disaster relief. Nelson voted yes; Rubio voted no.

In the House:
Fiscal 2015 Homeland Security Appropriations: The House voted 257 to 167 (with nine abstentions) to recede from the House amendment and concur in the Senate amendment to the bill (HR 240) that would provide $47.8 billion in fiscal 2015 for the Homeland Security Department and related activities. The motion cleared the bill for the president. Graham voted yes.
Amtrak Reauthorization: The House voted 316 to 101 (with 15 abstentions) to pass a bill that would reauthorize Amtrak through fiscal 2019, and restructure funding according to Amtrak’s major lines of business. It would authorize funds for Amtrak operating expenses in the Northeast corridor at the following levels: $439 million for fiscal 2016, $464 million for fiscal 2017, $480 million for fiscal 2018, and $498 million for fiscal 2019; and for Amtrak operating expenses within the national network at the following levels: $973 million for fiscal 2016, $974 million for fiscal 2017, $985 million for fiscal 2018, and $997 million for fiscal 2019. Graham voted yes. Education Savings Plan Expansion: The House voted 401 to 20 (with 11 abstentions) to pass a bill that would permanently expand the use of “529” educational savings plans by allowing tax-free distributions for students to buy computers and software. It also would eliminate the requirement that multiple 529 accounts held by a beneficiary be treated as a single account and exempt from taxation any amounts that are refunded from colleges as long as the beneficiary re-contributes the funds back into a 529 account within 60 days. Graham voted yes.

Upcoming Votes:
Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 – Senate Bill 625 would provide for congressional review and oversight of agreements relating to Iran’s nuclear program, and for other purposes.
Secret Science Reform Act of 2015 – House Bill 1030 would prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from proposing, finalizing, or disseminating regulations or assessments based upon science that is not transparent or reproducible.
Long-Term Care Veterans Choice Act – House Bill 294 would amend title 38, United States Code, to authorize the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to enter into contracts and agreements for the transfer of veterans to non-department medical foster homes for certain veterans who are unable to live independently. The 2nd Congressional District encompasses 13 counties in whole or part in the Panhandle. The district extends from Washington County on the west to Taylor County and the western part of Madison County on the east.

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