Keeping tabs on congress

The issues that Congress addressed in recent weeks were Surface Transportation Reauthorization, Three-Month Surface Transportation Extension and Veterans Health Care, Congressional Approval of Major Rules, Veterans Affairs Accountability and Highway Transportation Funding and Veterans Affairs Accountability. Following are the corresponding votes from Senators Bill Nelson, Senator Marco Rubio and House Representative Gwen Graham, of the 2nd Congressional District, and Congressman Ted Yoho, of the 3rd Congressional District.

In the Senate:
Surface Transportation Reauthorization – With a vote of 65-34 and one not voting, the Senate passed a bill as amended, that would provide a six-year authorization of highway and transit programs, with a roughly $45 billion package of offsets, enough to cover three years of shortfalls in the Highway Trust Fund. The measure would authorize for the federal-aid highway program from the Highway Trust Fund $39.6 billion in fiscal 2016, with levels annually increasing to $45.7 billion in fiscal 2021. Nelson voted yes. Rubio voted no.

Three-Month Surface Transportation Extension and Veterans Health Care – With a vote of 91-4 with five not voting, the Senate passed a bill that would extend the authorization for federal-aid highway and transit programs through Oct. 29, 2015. Authority to spend money from the Highway Trust Fund would also be extended through that date. The bill would transfer $8.1 billion from the Treasury to replenish the Highway Trust Fund and cover projected shortfalls so that construction projects could continue to be fully funded during that time (the amount transferred would cover projected trust fund shortfalls through the end of the year). The measure also would allow the Veterans Affairs Department (VA) to use $3.4 billion from the Veterans Choice Fund to pay for care provided – from May 1 to Oct. 1, 2015 – to veteran patients by non-VA providers under VA Care in the Community programs. Nelson and Rubio voted yes.

In the House:
Congressional Approval of Major Rules – With a vote of 243-165 and 25 not voting, the House passed a bill that would amend the Congressional Review Act to require Congress to approve all executive agency regulatory proposals categorized as “major rules” before their implementation and would also create an expedited consideration process for joint congressional resolutions of approval. The bill defines “major rules” as regulations with an annual economic impact greater than $100 million, and would not require congressional approval of regulations that are not categorized as “major rules” or of rule proposals issued by the Federal Reserve or the Federal Open Market Committee. Graham voted no. Yoho voted yes.
Veterans Affairs Accountability and Highway Transportation Funding – With a vote of 385-34, one present and 13 not voting, the House passed a bill that would reauthorize federal-aid highway and transit programs for three months, through October 2015, and would transfer $8.1 billion from the Treasury to the Highway Trust Fund to cover shortfalls during that time. The bill also would authorize the Veterans Affairs Department (VA) to use $3.4 billion to pay for veteran care through non-VA providers and instruct the VA to consolidate all non-VA programs into a single program. Yoho and Graham voted yes.
Veterans Affairs Accountability – With a vote of 256-170 and seven not voting, the House passed a bill that would expand the ability of the Veterans Affairs (VA) Department to remove or demote VA employees based on performance or misconduct. The bill would also protect VA whistleblowers that report misconduct, modify the Senior Executive Service performance appraisal process, establish an 18-month probationary period for new VA employees, and place limits on administrative leave and bonuses within the VA. Graham and Yoho voted yes. There is one upcoming bill for the Senate (S.1881) to prohibit Federal funding of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

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