The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

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The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

Vote Descriptions - Voting Record - 112th Congress

Introduction | Vote Descriptions | House Votes & Scores | Senate Votes & Scores | Download PDF

HOUSE VOTING RECORD, 112th Congress

Access to Justice

Legal Services Corporation (Duncan Amendment to H.R. 1, the Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act)

As part of H.R. 1, the continuing resolution to fund the federal government and its agencies, Rep. Jeff Duncan, R. S.C., offered an amendment (H. Amdt. 30) that would eliminate the Legal Services Corporation’s (LSC) basic field funding. LSC funds local programs in every congressional district that affect the lives of millions of low-income individuals. Recipients of LSC funding help clients secure basic needs, such as Social Security pensions and health care, and receive aid with consumer, housing, family law, and employment issues. In addition, LSC has expanded its capacity to meet the legal needs of veterans, active duty service members, and their families.

The Leadership Conference opposed the Duncan amendment because it would have virtually eliminated LSC and its ability to help low-income individuals. Full funding of the LSC would be an additional step toward meeting the dire need that exists because of the economic crisis. LSC’s FY 2011 funding was $404.2 million. The House and Senate conferees on the Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bill funded LSC at $348 million for FY 2012.

The Duncan amendmentfailed (171-259). A vote against it was counted as a + vote. Roll Call Vote No. 54 (2/16/11).

Budget

Ryan Budget Resolution for FY2012 (H. Con.Res. 34)

In April, the House considered H. Con.Res. 34, a proposal by Rep. Paul Ryan, R. Wis., which outlined government spending for the next 10 years.

The Leadership Conference opposed the Ryan budget. The budget proposed cuts that would have been extreme and irresponsible, slashing or eliminating many services that are needed by many vulnerable and low-income communities such as young children, students, seniors, and unemployed people. With millions of families currently hurt by unemployment and reduced income, the Ryan budget would have made things worse by gutting Medicare and Medicaid, and calling for massive cuts in education, emergency food assistance, and other necessities. At the same time that it proposed huge spending cuts under the guise of balancing the budget, it would have given massive tax cuts to corporations and wealthy individuals that need them the least. Because of these tax cuts, it would have resulted in only $155 billion in deficit reduction over the next 10 years – not the $1.6 trillion claimed by Ryan.

The Ryan budget passed the House (235-193), but did not advance in the Senate. A vote against it was counted as a + vote. Roll Call Vote No. 277 (4/15/2011).

Balanced Budget Amendment (H.J. Res. 2)

As one part of a deal that Congress reached in August to raise the federal debt ceiling, the House of Representatives voted on an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would require the government to balance the budget every year. H.J. Res. 2, one of several versions introduced in the House, would permit a deficit only if approved by two-thirds of each house or in the event of military conflict.

The Leadership Conference opposed H.J. Res. 2. While the notion of a balanced budget amendment (BBA) may have a certain political appeal, its impact in reality would be disastrous for the economy as a whole. While it punts on the specifics, it would require extreme spending cuts precisely when the economy is at its weakest and when government revenues are at their lowest, preventing the government from resorting to countercyclical policies precisely when they are needed most. It would tip a struggling economy into a recession and would keep it there for a protracted period of time. It would also virtually guarantee that in the event of any shortfall, the budget would be balanced on the backs of people who can afford it the least.By requiring a two-thirds vote to raise additional debt, H.J. Res. 2 would make the risk of default more likely and empower a minority to hold the creditworthiness of the U.S. hostage to whatever other political demands they may have. It is clear that BBA proponents have not yet fully thought out the details of this or similar proposals.

The House defeated H.J. Res. 2, as it failed to obtain the two-thirds vote required to advance (261-165). A vote against it was counted as a + vote. Roll Call Vote No. 858 (11/18/2011).

Sequester Replacement Reconciliation (H.R. 5652)

Under the terms of the Budget Control Act of 2011, which temporarily resolved the 2011 debate over raising the federal debt ceiling, Congress was required to come up with at least $1.2 trillion in savings over the next decade. Because Congress failed to reach an agreement, the law provided for the same amount in automatic cuts, through a process known as a “sequester.” Half of these cuts would come from defense spending, and half would come from other areas of the federal budget. H.R. 5652 exempted defense spending from the sequester, set to take effect in January 2013, and proposed additional cuts to non-defense discretionary spending.

The Leadership Conference opposed H.R. 5652. While we agree that our national defense cannot be sacrificed in the name of budget-cutting, H.R. 5652 was a fundamentally inhumane plan that would impose new “savings” almost entirely on the backs of the people who can least afford them. For example, it would cut $36 billion from the food stamp program, eliminating assistance for two million Americans and reducing it for everyone else. It would cut $22.7 billion from Medicaid, denying health care to people – including an estimated 300,000 children – who can least afford it. None of the cuts in the bill asked for any sacrifices from defense contractors, wealthy Americans, or other powerful interests.

The House passed the bill (218-199). A vote against it was counted as a + vote. Roll Call Vote No. 247 (5/10/2012).

Bush Tax Cuts (H.R. 8)

H.R. 8, the Job Protection and Recession Prevention Act, would have extended, through 2013, the federal income tax rates championed by President Bush and enacted in 2001 and 2003. The extension would have applied to all income brackets, including the wealthiest Americans.

The Leadership Conference opposed H.R. 8. The Bush-era tax cuts, particularly as they apply to wealthier taxpayers, have exploded the deficit and failed to result in economic growth. We cannot afford to simultaneously continue tax breaks for the richest 2 percent, restore long-term fiscal discipline, and address critical national priorities like education, health care, job training, infrastructure, scientific research, law enforcement, housing, and social services. Extending the Bush-era tax cuts for all Americans will force our government to borrow more money, increase the size of our deficit, raise the interest we must pay on our debt, and make it harder to effectively address our significant long-term fiscal challenges. We supported the more fiscally responsible bill passed by the Senate, which would extend the tax cuts for the first $250,000 in income, and which would keep taxes at the same rate for 98 percent of Americans.

The House passed the bill (256-171). A vote against it was counted as a + vote. Roll Call Vote No. 545 (8/1/2012).

Census

American Community Survey Funding (Webster Amendment to H.R. 5326, the Commerce, State, Justice Appropriations Bill for FY 2013)

During consideration of H.R. 5326, the Commerce, State, Justice Appropriations Bill for FY 2013, Rep. Daniel Webster, R. Fla., offered an amendment that would bar the use of funds in the bill for conducting the Commerce Department's American Community Survey (ACS), which gathers demographic information to help determine how federal and state funds are distributed each year. The ACS is the only source of objective, consistent, and comprehensive information about the nation’s social, economic, and demographic characteristics down to the neighborhood level. The amendment thus put in jeopardy the fair and wise allocation of limited taxpayer dollars by undermining the only source of reliable data to guide those allocations.

The Leadership Conference opposed the Webster amendment. The ACS is the cornerstone of our nation’s most comprehensive data set, used by planners, government officials, researchers, businesses, foundations, and service providers to inform decisionmaking and investments that drive almost every sector of the economy and every aspect of community life. Policymakers at all levels of government depend upon ACS data to make important determinations ranging from the number of teachers to hire at a neighborhood school to the location of polling places required to provide language assistance under the Voting Rights Act. Private businesses and community organizations likewise draw their knowledge of local capacity and needs from ACS results. Full and consistent funding of the ACS is critical to ensuring the reliability of critically important data, and ultimately, the successful investment of the hundreds of billions of dollars that are allocated in accordance with it.

The Webster amendment was adopted (232-190). A vote against it was counted as a + vote. Roll Call Vote No. 232 (5/9/12)

Consumer Protection

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Restructuring (H.R. 1315)

Ever since the 2010 enactment of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, a law The Leadership Conference strongly supported, opponents of it have worked tirelessly to weaken the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), a new federal entity charged with enforcing civil rights and consumer protection laws that long went ignored in the years leading up to our ongoing housing and banking crisis. H.R. 1315 aims to weaken the CFPB by replacing its director with a larger and less-responsive commission, and by making it easier for other regulators to overrule policies established by the CFPB in the name of protecting consumers.

The Leadership Conference opposed H.R. 1315. The abysmal failure of existing regulators to look out for the interests of consumers makes the need for a strong, independent CFPB perfectly clear. H.R. 1315, however, would badly weaken the CFPB relative to other financial industry regulators, eliminating the very accountability over consumer protection that the bureau was meant to provide. As a result, it would return more authority over consumer protection laws to the same regulatory bodies that steadfastly refused to use it. H.R. 1315 represents not just an astonishing refusal to learn from the mistakes of the past, but an insistence on making the very same mistakes all over again.

The House passed H.R. 1315 (241-173). A vote against it was counted as a + vote. Roll Call Vote No. 621 (7/21/2011).

Department of Justice

Holder Contempt Resolution (H. Res. 711)

H.Res. 711, a resolution to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress, was introduced by Rep. Darrell Issa, R. Calif., in June 2012. The resolution was in response to the attorney general’s alleged refusal to produce documents relating to a 2008 Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) gunwalking program known as “Operation Fast and Furious” to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, as directed by subpoena.

The Leadership Conference opposed the contempt citation against Holder. The attorney general appeared before Congress eight times and the Department of Justice (DOJ) submitted almost 8,000 pages of requested documents, only withholding documents that were deemed relevant to ongoing investigations. Furthermore, the attorney general made several attempts to compromise with Issa, and offered to submit some of the additional documents requested, but his offer was denied. A report issued on September 19 by DOJ’s inspector general found that the attorney general was not informed of the gunwalking program until 2011, and that neither Holder nor senior DOJ officials authorized or approved the controversial ATF program.

The House passed the resolution (255-67). A vote against it was counted as a + vote. Roll Call Vote No. 441 (6/28/12).

Education

Gainful Employment (Kline Amendment to H.R. 1, the Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act)

As part of H.R. 1, the continuing resolution to fund the federal government and its agencies, Rep. John Kline, R. Minn., proposed an amendment prohibiting the Secretary of Education from issuing or enforcing regulations regarding the “gainful employment” requirements in the Higher Education Act (HEA). Under the HEA, all post-secondary career education programs must “prepare students for gainful employment in a recognized occupation” in order to be eligible to receive federal student financial aid grants and loans Title IV of the Act. The gainful employment rule applies to many public and nonprofit programs and nearly all for-profit programs.

In order to be eligible to receive student financial aid grants and loans under Title IV, current federal law requires all post-secondary career education programs, including all public and nonprofit college programs of less than two years and nearly all for-profit college programs, to “prepare students for gainful employment in a recognized occupation.” What constitutes “gainful employment,” however, has yet to be defined. The proposed rule, if finalized, would fill this void and enable long overdue federal enforcement, protecting students and taxpayers alike from millions of dollars in wasted Pell Grants and defaulted student loans.

The Leadership Conference opposed the amendment because we support career education programs that provide the skills and training needed for students to enter the workforce or to further their careers. Students attending for-profit career education programs have defaulted on their student loans at higher rates than their peers, indicating that they are not gainfully employed. In fact, students enrolled in for-profit schools represent just 10 percent of all postsecondary students in the United States, yet account for 44 percent of all student-loan defaults. The failure of for-profit schools to meet the promise of gainful employment disproportionally harms students of color, low-income students, women, and armed-service members and veterans.

The Kline amendment was adopted (289-136.) A vote against it was counted as a + vote. Roll Call Vote No. 92 (2/18/11).

Interest Rate Reduction Act (H.R. 4628)

H.R. 4628, the Interest Rate Reduction Act, was introduced by Rep. Judy Biggert, R. Ill. The bill would have extended, through 2013, the 3.4 percent interest rate on federally subsidized Stafford student loans that was scheduled to expire on July 1, 2012. Without congressional action, the interest rate for lower-income families would have doubled to 6.8 percent. However, H.R. 4628 would have offset the cost of the lower rate by taking money from the Prevention and Public Health Fund of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”).

The Leadership Conference supported maintaining the interest rate at 3.4 percent, but did not support the bill. Student loan debt in the U.S. has reached $1 trillion, surpassing credit card debt and auto loan debt, while college costs continue to increase. It is important to maintain federal financial support, including subsidized loans, for students from low- and moderate-income families to enable them to obtain a postsecondary education. While H.R. 4628 would have extended the 3.4 percent interest rate, it would have offset the costs by defunding critically needed health programs for women, children and families, such as vaccinations and mammograms. The Leadership Conference insisted that support for students, college access, and affordability must not be at the expense of Obamacare programs that provide important preventive health services to children, women and families.

The House passed the bill (215-195). A vote against it was counted as a + vote. Roll Call Vote No. 195 (4/27/2012). The 3.4 percent interest rate ultimately was extended by Congress without harming the Prevention and Public Health Fund.

Health Care

FY 2011 Planned Parenthood Funding (Pence Amendment to H.R. 1, the Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act)

As part of H.R.1, Rep. Mike Pence, R. Ind., offered an amendment (H. Amdt. 95) that would prohibit any funds in the bill from being made available to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America Inc. (PPFA) or its affiliates. This amendment, along with H.R. 217, the Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act, also introduced by Pence, amounted to an effort to deny needed funding for critical health care services to women and girls throughout the country. The bill was a direct attack on women’s health care and the organizations that provide it. These centers provide routine medical exams, cancer screenings, immunizations, contraceptive services, and testing and treatment for HIV and STDs. Loss of the critical health services it provides would have a severely adverse impact on the life and health of communities of color and low-income families. PPFA is the nation’s leading sexual and reproductive health care provider, with affiliates that operate more than 820 health centers nationwide. For the last 95 years, it has provided valuable health care services to millions of American women and men, particularly in low-income communities.

The Leadership Conference opposed the Pence amendment and H.R. 217, because we strongly believe that health care for all persons in the United States is a fundamental human right. As such, organizations that provide quality health care services in a cost-effective manner, particularly in low-income communities, deserve broad public support.

The Pence amendment was adopted (240-185). A vote against it was counted as a + vote. Roll Call Vote No. 93 (02/18/11).

Repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (H.R.6079)

In July 2012, the House took up a bill that would completely repeal both the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the health care provisions of the Health Care and Education and Reconciliation Act of 2010. The bill did not provide any alternatives that would have addressed the health care crisis in the U.S., and simply would have the system revert to the status quo prior to enactment of the ACA.

The Leadership Conference strongly supported health care reform and opposed the bill. For far too many Americans, particularly low-income individuals, minorities, women, and children, health care is often inaccessible, unaffordable or low-quality. The bill would undermine the important steps Congress took in the ACA toward greater health care affordability and access for all Americans.

The House passed the bill (244-185). A vote against it was counted as a + vote. Roll Call Vote No. 460 (7/11/2012).

Human Rights

Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2012 (H.R. 4970)

After Senate passage of the bipartisan Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) (S. 1925), Rep. Sandy Adams, R. Fla., introduced H.R. 4970 in the House. H.R. 4970 reauthorized the existing VAWA, which passed in 2005. However, it rolled back protections in current law and failed to extend new Senate protections to certain groups of survivors who are not currently being adequately served.

The Leadership Conference opposed the House version of the VAWA because it failed to protect all victims of domestic violence and weakened current legal protections. H.R. 4970 rolled back protections for immigrant women, ignoring specific recommendations from law enforcement that would better serve this community. Additionally, the bill failed to include new protections for Native American women, who experience a very high rate of violence, and it also failed to include provisions that would for the first time provide specific protections for LGBT survivors of domestic violence. Finally, H.R. 4970 narrowed current law on confidentiality, making it more risky for survivors to report their abusers. This version of the VAWA has not been taken up by the Senate, and the House has failed to take up the Senate-passed bill, thus leading to stalemate on this important piece of legislation. The Leadership Conference continues to work with allies to urge Congress to reauthorize the inclusive, bipartisan Senate-passed VAWA.

The House passed the bill (222-205). A vote against it was counted as a + vote. Roll Call Vote No. 258 (5/16/12).

Immigration

DOJ Lawsuits against State Immigration Laws (Black Amendment to the Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations bill for 2013)

During consideration of the Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations bill for FY 2013, Rep. Diane Black, R. Tenn., offered an amendment to prohibit the Department of Justice (DOJ) from using funds to mount legal challenges to Arizona’s controversial immigration law (S.B. 1070), or similar laws in Alabama (H.B. 56) and several other states.

The Leadership Conference opposed the Black amendment. Among other things, the new laws in Arizona, Alabama, and other states require police officers to investigate the immigration status of people they arrest, if they suspect arrestees are here unlawfully. We strongly oppose these laws because they are bound to cause widespread civil rights violations, with people being singled out for special treatment because they “look foreign,” and they undermine efforts to reduce violent crime. In addition, as the Department of Justice has argued in court, the laws are also unconstitutional because they usurp the role of the federal government in setting national immigration policy. The Black amendment would prohibit the DOJ from continuing its litigation, even though the constitutionality of these laws has yet to be fully resolved. It violates important principles regarding the separation of powers, and is the wrong way to address longstanding problems with our national immigration law system.

The Black amendment was adopted (238-173). A vote against it was counted as a + vote. 2012 Roll Call Vote No. 220 (5/9/2012).

Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act (H.R.5855)

During consideration of appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security, Rep. Steve King, R. Iowa, offered an amendment to prohibit funds to be used to enforce Executive Order 13166, which directs federal agencies to provide foreign language services to individuals with limited English proficiency.

The Leadership Conference opposed the amendment because it would further disenfranchise those with limited English proficiency. Executive Order 13166 ensures non-native English speakers access to the same benefits and programs as native speakers. Regardless of native language, all Americans deserve equal treatment and equal access to federal services and programs.

The King amendment was adopted (224-189). A vote against it was counted as a + vote. Roll Call Vote No. 362 (6/7/2012).

LGBT

Defense of Marriage Act & Military Personnel[t1] (King Amendment to the Department of Defense Appropropriations bill for FY 2012)

During consideration of the FY 2012 Department of Defense Appropriations bill, Rep. Steve King, R. Iowa, offered an amendment to prohibit the Department of Defense (DOD) from using funds in a manner that contravenes the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which prohibits federal recognition of lawful same-sex marriages.

The Leadership Conference opposed the King amendment. Like every federal agency, DOD is already bound by DOMA and, as a result, cannot convey equal spousal rights and benefits to families of gay and lesbian service members. The long-overdue and popular repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law, which barred open gays and lesbians from serving in the military and resulted in more than 13,500 unnecessary and unjust discharges, has not changed this. While we believe DOMA must be repealed, and the Department of Justice and a growing number of federal courts have concluded that it is unconstitutional, it remains the law of the land and DOD is bound by it. The King amendment is wholly unnecessary, and, if it has any purpose at all, it only complicates the effort of the Pentagon to eradicate discrimination while complying with existing law.

The King amendment was adopted (247-166). A vote against it was counted as a + vote. Roll Call Vote No.487 (7/19/2012).

Voting Rights

Bar on Challenging State Voter ID Laws(H.Amdt. 1075)

Using its authority under the Voting Rights Act, the Department of Justice (DOJ) brought suits in several states challenging certain restrictive voting laws, such as laws requiring photo identification. H. Amdt. 1075, introduced by Rep. David Schweikert, R. Ariz., prohibited DOJ from using any of its funds to bring any action against any state for implementation of a state law requiring voter identification.

The Leadership Conference opposed H. Amdt. 1075because it violated important principles regarding the role of the federal government in protecting the franchise for traditionally disenfranchised communities. We believe the DOJ should be able to use all resources at its disposal to exercise its litigation and enforcement responsibilities. The state laws DOJ challenged included laws requiring voters to provide photo identification, limiting the ability of community registration efforts, and shortening the length of early voting periods, creating obstacles to access to voting. We strongly oppose these laws because they restrict access to our democracy and have a disproportionate effect on minorities, women, young people and older voters.

The House passed H. Amdt. 1075(232-190). A vote against it was counted as a + vote. Roll Call Vote No. 231 (5/9/12).

Workers’ Rights

Fair Elections (LaTourette Amendment to H.R. 658, the FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act)

In 2010, the National Mediation Board (NMB), an agency that coordinates labor-management relations in railroad and airline industries, issued a new rule for union representation elections. The NMB’s decision provided that a simple majority of votes cast would determine the outcome of the elections, consistent with how the majority of votes cast decide congressional and other elections. Prior to the 2010 change, nonvoting workers were counted as “no” votes. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill would have returned election rules to the previous system, repealing the NMB decision. Rep. Steve LaTourette, R. Ohio, offered an amendment to the bill, under which representation would be determined by a majority of the votes actually cast and the unfair election language would be removed from the bill.

The Leadership Conference supported the LaTourette amendment because it would have preserved the fair NMB rule. The House ultimately rejected the ability of FAA employees to form a union. The FAA has been extended through March 31, 2012, and this will likely be a contentious issue as the House attempts to pass a long overdue FAA reauthorization bill.

The LaTourette amendment failed (206-220).A vote for it was counted as a + vote. Roll Call Vote No. 217 (4/1/11).

Pigford II Settlement Payments (King Amendment to H.R. 2112, the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act)

In February 2010, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Justice announced a $1.25 billion settlement agreement with African-American farmers to settle litigation in In re Black Farmers Discrimination Litigation (commonly referred to as Pigford II). After a series of failed attempts to appropriate funds for the settlement agreement, in November 2010, Congress passed the Claims Resolution Act (H.R. 4783), which funded the settlement and included strong protections against waste, fraud, and abuse to ensure integrity of the claims process. President Obama signed the Act in December 2010. Rep. Steve King, R. Iowa, filed an amendment (H. Amdt. 461) to H.R. 2112, the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, that would have barred the use of any funds appropriated under the Act from being used to settle claims associated with the Pigford II program.

The Leadership Conference opposed the King amendment and supported funding the settlement. Many of the farmers who would qualify for monies under the settlement have waited longer than a decade to be compensated; some have already died or lost their land.

The King amendment failed (155-262).A vote against it was counted as a + vote. Roll Call Vote No. 444 (6/16/11).

Eliminating Prevailing Wage Requirements (H.R. 5856)

In July 2012, the House considered the Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2013(H.R. 5856), which would determine appropriations for the Department of Defense for the fiscal year 2013. Rep. Steve King, R. Iowa, offered an amendment that would prohibit funds in the bill from being used to enforce or implement wage requirements in the Davis-Bacon Act. The Davis-Bacon Actrequires contractors on federally assisted construction contracts and federal service contracts to pay their employees at rates prevailing in the communities where the work is performed.

The Leadership Conference opposed the King amendment because the fundamental principles underlying prevailing wage requirements are at the core of protecting workers’ civil rights. By keeping rates at the prevailing local levels, the Davis-Bacon Act ensures a decent standard of living for construction workers.

The King amendment failed (182-235). A vote against the amendment was counted as a + vote. Roll Call Vote No. 486 (7/18/2012).

SENATE VOTING RECORD, 112th Congress

Budget

Cut, Cap, and Balance Act (H.R. 2560)

The Cut, Cap, and Balance Act was one of several proposals that came up in Congress during the summer 2011 debate over deficit reduction. With the federal government projected to reach the debt ceiling in several weeks, possibly resulting in the government defaulting on its obligations for the first time in history, the House passed H.R. 2560. The bill would have cut the deficit by half in Fiscal Year 2012, capped future spending at 18 percent of the Gross Domestic Product, and required the House and Senate to pass a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution before allowing any further increase in the debt ceiling. When it reached the Senate, it was subjected to a motion to table the consideration of the bill, which would have the effect of killing it.

The Leadership Conference opposed H.R. 2560, and supported the motion to table it. While we share the interest of all Americans in ensuring long-term fiscal stability, H.R. 2560 amounts to a “crash diet” approach that will devastate our most vulnerable populations and create lasting impediments to economic growth. Even though it would put off the painful details until later, it is clear that it would require extreme and irresponsible cuts in federal spending, particularly those most important to people of color, young children, students, older Americans, women, unemployed people, and uninsured people. By restricting federal spending to 18 percent of GDP (a level not seen since 1966), the proposed amendment would force cuts even more drastic than the Ryan budget, which reduces spending to approximately 20 percent each year. Finally, it would hold hostage our nation’s long-term economic health by requiring, as a condition to any increase in the federal debt ceiling, that Congress pass a balanced budget amendment, which would require the largest budget cuts precisely when the economy is at its weakest.

The Senate voted to table the Cut, Cap, and Balance Act (51-46). A vote in favor of the motion was counted as a + vote. Roll Call Vote No. 116 (7/22/2011).

Balanced Budget Amendment (S.J. Res. 10)

As one part of a deal that Congress reached in August to raise the federal debt ceiling, the Senate voted on an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would require the government to balance the budget every year. S.J. Res. 10, one of several versions introduced in the Senate, would permit a deficit only if approved by two-thirds of each house or in the event of military conflict. The House had already defeated a similar proposal, rendering the Senate vote purely symbolic.

The Leadership Conference opposed S.J. Res. 10. While the notion of a balanced budget amendment (BBA) may have a certain political appeal, its impact in reality would be disastrous for the economy as a whole. While it punts on the specifics, it would require extreme spending cuts precisely when the economy is at its weakest and when government revenues are at their lowest, preventing the government from resorting to countercyclical policies precisely when they are needed most. It would tip a struggling economy into a recession and would keep it there for a protracted period of time. It would also virtually guarantee that in the event of any shortfall, the budget would be balanced on the backs of people who can afford it the least.By requiring a two-thirds vote to raise additional debt, S.J. Res. 10 would make the risk of default more likely and empower a minority to hold the creditworthiness of the U.S. hostage to whatever other political demands they may have. It is clear that BBA proponents have not yet fully thought out the details of this or similar proposals.

The Senate defeated S.J. Res. 10, as it failed to obtain the two-thirds vote required to advance (47-53). A vote against it was counted as a + vote. Roll Call Vote No. 229 (12/14/11).

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Sessions Amendment to S. 3240, the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act)

During consideration of S. 3240, the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R. Ala., offered an amendment to cut $11 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) over the next ten years. It would do this by eliminating Broad Based Categorical Eligibility, which makes families automatically eligible for food stamps if they meet the eligibility requirements for other safety net programs. 40 states and the District of Columbia currently use Broad Based Categorical Eligibility.

The Leadership Conference opposed the Sessions amendment. By giving states an alternative to rigid and outdated eligibility requirements, Broad Based Categorical Eligibility makes it easier for struggling families to obtain the assistance they need. According to a Congressional Budget Office analysis, the proposal would cut off SNAP food benefits for 1.8 million individuals, and undermine access to free school meals for 280,000 low-income children. While we understand the need for greater fiscal restraint, it is simply unconscionable to single out programs that help the poorest Americans among us without looking for savings or revenue increases in other areas first.

The Sessions amendment failed (43-56). A vote against it was counted as a + vote. Roll Call Vote No. 127 (6/19/2012).

Bush Tax Cuts (S. 3412)

S. 3214, the Middle Class Tax Cut Act, would have extended, through 2013, the federal income tax rates championed by President Bush and enacted in 2001 and 2003. The extension would have applied to 98 percent of taxpayers, while incomes above $250,000 would go back to the tax rates that existed in 2000.

The Leadership Conference supported S. 3214. The Bush-era tax cuts, particularly as they apply to wealthier taxpayers, have exploded the deficit and failed to result in economic growth. We cannot afford to simultaneously continue tax breaks for the richest two percent, restore long-term fiscal discipline, and address critical national priorities like education, health care, job training, infrastructure, scientific research, law enforcement, housing, and social services. Extending the Bush-era tax cuts for all Americans will force our government to borrow more money, increase the size of our deficit, raise the interest we must pay on our debt, and make it harder to effectively address our significant long-term fiscal challenges. S. 3412 strikes a fair and responsible balance between keeping taxes low for the overwhelming majority of Americans, on one hand, and ensuring fiscal soundness and preserving the basic functions of government, on the other.

The Senate passed the bill (51-48). A vote for it was counted as a + vote. Roll Call Vote No. 184 (7/25/2012).

Consumer Protection

Nomination of Richard Cordray as Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

In July 2011, President Obama nominated former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray to serve as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), a new regulatory agency that was created by the 2010 Wall Street reform law. His nomination came several months after 44 Republican senators had vowed in writing to filibuster any nominee to head the CFPB, unless Obama agreed to new legislation that would drastically weaken the agency. As a result, 60 votes would be required to overcome the filibuster, in a procedure known as cloture.

The Leadership Conference supported the confirmation of Cordray. He possesses a stellar background and a wealth of experience, including a master’s degree in economics from Oxford University, a J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School, a clerkship on the U.S. Supreme Court, years in private practice, and public service at many levels of government. He has earned widespread praise from the Ohio business community and consumer advocates alike. Few people have questioned his qualifications. Instead his confirmation was held hostage by a minority of senators who were unhappy with the enactment of Wall Street reform, and who were willing to handcuff a part of the government unless Congress bows to their new demands. Such a move is unprecedented in the Senate, and it will drastically alter the nature of the confirmation process in the future. (In January 2012, during a long period of congressional inactivity, Obama installed Cordray as director of the CFPB, through his constitutional power to make recess appointments.)

The Senate did not invoke cloture (53-45). A vote for it was counted as a + vote. Roll Call Vote No. 223 (12/8/11). On January 4, 2012, Obama recess appointed Cordray to direct the CPFB.

Criminal Justice

National Criminal Justice Commission (Webb Amendment to H.R. 2112, the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act)

During consideration of the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2012 (H.R. 2112), Sen. Jim Webb, D. Va., offered an amendment (Amdt. 750 as modified) to include the National Criminal Justice Commission Act (NCJCA) in the bill. The NCJCA, which has bipartisan support, would establish an independent national commission charged with conducting a thorough evaluation of the nation’s criminal justice system and offering recommendations for cost-effective reforms. The NCJCA would examine disparities in the criminal justice system, over-reliance on incarceration, and the costs associated with our burgeoning prison system.

The Leadership Conference supported the NCJCA because of the need for comprehensive review of our criminal justice system, where basic tenets of fairness and justice are called into question at every stage. The establishment of a National Criminal Justice Commission to study and evaluate our criminal justice policies and practices is an important first step in developing cost-effective and evidence-based solutions to improve the system. Furthermore, in addition to developing a research-based strategy, the commission would restore public confidence in the criminal justice system and increase our collective safety.

The Senate did not invoke cloture (57-43).A vote for it was counted as a + vote. Roll Call Vote No. 173 (10/20/11).

Education

Stop the Student Loan Interest Rate Hike Act of 2012 (S.2343)

S. 2343, the Stop the Student Loan Interest Rate Hike Act of 2012, was offered by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D. Nev. The bill would have maintained the 3.4 percent rate on federally-subsidized Stafford student loans until July 1, 2013 by closing a corporate tax loop hole. Without congressional action, the interest rate for lower-income families would have doubled to 6.8 percent.

The Leadership Conference supported maintaining the interest rate at 3.4 percent. Student loan debt in the U.S. has reached $1 trillion, surpassing credit card debt and auto loan debt, while college costs continue to increase. It is important to maintain federal financial support, including subsidized loans, for students from low- and moderate-income families to enable them to obtain a postsecondary education.

The Leadership Conference supported Reid’s proposal over other proposals that would have extended the lower interest rate by diverting funds from preventive and public health programs funded under the Prevention and Public Health Fund of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”).

The Senate did not invoke cloture (51-43). A vote for cloture was counted as a + vote. Roll Call Vote No. 113 (5/24/2012).

Employment

Paycheck Fairness Act(S. 3220)

S. 3220, the Paycheck Fairness Act, would amend and strengthen the Equal Pay Act of 1963. It would ensure that women can have the same remedies from sex-based pay discrimination as individuals who are discriminated against based on race or national origin. The bill would prohibit employer retaliation against employees who disclose or discuss their salaries and improve wage data collection. It would also make clear that individuals may compare themselves to similarly situated employees to determine whether wage discriminationexists, even if those employees do not work in the same physical location.

The Leadership Conference supported the bill, which would be an important step toward achieving gender equality in the workplace and assisting the many working families that depend on women’s earnings to make ends meet. In the 111th Congress, the Paycheck Fairness Act twice passed the House, and it fell just two votes short of a Senate vote on cloture. Given the importance of this bill for millions of women and working families, The Leadership Conference strongly urged the Senate to not block it once again on procedural grounds.

The Senate did not invoke cloture (52-47). A vote for cloture was counted as a + vote. Roll Call Vote No. 115 (6/5/12).

Health Care

FY 2011 Planned Parenthood Funding (H. Con.Res. 36)

As part of a continuous attack onwomen’s reproductive rights, the House of Representatives passed a bill to retroactively prohibit any funds in the Fiscal Year 2011 appropriations bill (H.R. 1473) from being made available to Planned Parenthood Federation of America Inc. or its affiliates. This provision was a direct attack on women’s health care and organizations that provide it. These centers provide routine medical exams, cancer screenings, immunizations, contraceptive services, and testing and treatment for HIV and STDs. Loss of the critical health services it provides would have a severely adverse impact on the life and health of communities of color and low-income families. Adoption of the resolution would have denied funding for the most critical health needs of low-income and minority women in the United States. After House passage, it was immediately brought up in the Senate.

The Leadership Conference opposed the adoption of H. Con.Res. 36 because we strongly believe that health care for all persons in the United States is a fundamental human right. As such, organizations that provide quality health care services in a cost-effective manner, particularly in low-income communities, deserve broad public support.

The Senate defeated H. Con.Res. 36 (42 -58). A vote against it was counted as a + vote. Roll Call Vote No. 60 (4/14/11).

Human Rights

Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2011 (S. 1925)

S. 1925, the Violence Against Women Act, was introduced by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D. Vt., in November 2011. The bill, which was introduced with bipartisan support, would reauthorize the existing Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which had passed in 2005. VAWA protects women from domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. This bipartisan version of VAWA expanded protections for some of the most vulnerable communities.

The Leadership Conference supported S. 1925 and urged the House of Representatives to take up this legislation. Research shows domestic and dating violence, sexual assault and stalking disproportionately affects minorities, immigrant women, Native American women and LGBT individuals, underscoring the importance of strengthening protections for these communities and their inclusion in S. 1925. S.1925 enhanced protections for immigrant women by increasing mechanisms that allow women to escape their abusers. In addition, the bill includes new protections for Native American women, who experience a very high rate of violence, and also included provisions that would for the first time provide specific protections for LGBT survivors of domestic violence. However, this version of the Violence Against Women Act has not been taken up by the House, and there has been no further action on the legislation.

The Senate passed the bill (68-31). A vote for it was counted as a + vote. Roll Call No. 86 (4/26/12).

Jobs

American Jobs Act (S. 1660)

Initially proposed by President Obama in a September 2011 speech before a joint session of Congress, the American Jobs Act contains a number of strong, bipartisan proposals that will help reduce unemployment in the short term, and put our nation on a more solid economic footing in the long term. It was shortly thereafter introduced in the Senate as S. 1660, and the leadership made a motion to proceed to its consideration. Opponents filibustered it, however, forcing supporters to invoke cloture – a procedure requiring 60 votes – in order to proceed with the bill.

The Leadership Conference supported S. 1660 and the underlying motion. The American Jobs Act contains many commonsense, bipartisan, cost-efficient, and – most important of all – effective provisions that will help Americans get back on their feet, revitalize our nation’s economy, and get Americans back to work. Among other things, it would provide badly needed investments in our infrastructure; prevent layoffs of teachers, first responders, and other important public employees; assist low-income youth and adults to obtain work experience; expand job assistance to veterans; extend unemployment insurance; and help rebuild the housing market in the aftermath of staggering levels of foreclosures. It paid for these provisions through responsible increases in revenues. S. 1660 would rapidly put Americans back to work and increase economic growth.

The Senate did not invoke cloture (50-49). A vote for it was counted as a + vote. Roll Call Vote No.160 (10/11/2011).

Nominations

Nomination of Edward M. Chen to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California

In August 2009, President Obama first nominated Magistrate Judge Edward M. Chen for a judgeship. After the Senate failed to act on his nomination in the 111th Congress, Obama nominated him again in January 2011. In a refreshing break from what has increasingly become the norm in the Senate confirmation process, several opponents of his confirmation agreed that he should be given an up-or-down vote without being required to overcome a filibuster.

The Leadership Conference supported Chen’s confirmation. By the time he was confirmed, he had served for nearly a decade as a magistrate judge on the same court to which he was being nominated, having recently been appointed to a second term. During that time, as well as throughout his career, Chen had earned widespread bipartisan praise for his intelligence, integrity, judgment, and compassion. Chen was the son of Chinese immigrants, and spent much of his childhood supporting his family’s small business after his father passed away. He graduated from the University of California at Berkeley School of Law (Boalt Hall). He then served as a law clerk on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, before working as an attorney in private practice and then with the American Civil Liberties Union. Prior to his confirmation vote, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D. Vt., called Chen’s life story “a moving reminder of what it is possible to achieve in this great nation through hard work.”

The Senate voted to confirm Edward Chen (56-42). A vote for it was counted as a + vote. Roll Call Vote No. 68 (5/10/2011).

Nomination of Goodwin Liu to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

In February 2010, President Obama nominated Professor Goodwin Liu, of the University of California at Berkeley School of Law (Boalt Hall) to a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. After the Senate failed to act on his nomination in the 111th Congress, he was renominated in January 2011. Due to a filibuster by opponents, the Senate was forced to vote on a motion to invoke cloture, a procedure that required 60 votes to succeed.

The Leadership Conference supported Liu’s confirmation. His stellar background, his intellectual honesty and independence, and his utmost respect for the Constitution and its values all made him an outstanding candidate to serve on the Ninth Circuit. His credentials are truly outstanding: He graduated from high school as a co-valedictorian, graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Stanford University, was a Rhodes Scholar, and distinguished himself at Yale Law School by serving as an editor of the Yale Law Journal. He also served as a law clerk for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. After several years in private practice, he became a highly respected law professor at Boalt Hall. His writings and other legal work show that he takes a highly thoughtful approach to difficult issues, carefully analyzing all sides of arguments and reaching conclusions based on well-established law rather than political ideology. His nomination garnered strong support, from across the political and philosophical spectrum, among those who know him best.

The Senate did not invoke cloture (52-43). A vote in favor of the motion was counted as a + vote. Roll Call Vote No. 74 (5/19/2011).

Nomination of Caitlin Halligan to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit

In September 2010, President Obama nominated attorney Caitlin Halligan for a judgeship. After the Senate failed to act on the nomination in the 111th Congress, she was renominated in January 2011. Due to a filibuster by opponents, the Senate was forced to vote on a motion to invoke cloture, a procedure that required 60 votes to succeed.

The Leadership Conference supported the confirmation of Halligan. Her credentials were outstanding, including graduating with honors from Princeton University and Georgetown University Law Center. She had served as solicitor general of New York, representing the state in many cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. She had the enthusiastic bipartisan support of fellow lawyers, former judges, law enforcement officials, and others who cited her "brilliant legal mind, her collegiality and fair-mindedness, and her abiding respect for the rule of law."

The filibuster against Halligan marked the abandonment of a bipartisan agreement in the Senate, reached in 2005, to allow the filibuster of nominees only in “extraordinary circumstances.” No one can claim in good faith that such a standard was met here. Most of the opposition to Halligan’s confirmation stemmed from her representation of the state of New York, in litigation against gun manufacturers. Opponents used this work to brand her as “hostile” to the Second Amendment, even though legal ethics guidelines have long made clear that an attorney’s work on behalf of a client does not amount to an endorsement of the client's objectives. The filibuster of a judicial nominee based on her diligent representation of a client will, unfortunately, set a disastrous precedent for the judicial confirmation process in the future.

The Senate did not invoke cloture (54-45). A vote for it was counted as a + vote. Roll Call Vote No. 222 (12/6/11).

Nomination of Robert Bacharach to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit

In January 2012, President Obama nominated U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert E. Bacharach to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit. In June, he was approved by the Judiciary Committee with near-unanimous support. The following week, however, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R. Ky., invoked what he called the “Thurmond rule,” named after Sen. Strom Thurmond, R. S.C., and stated that his party would filibuster all appellate court nominations until the presidential election. Due to this filibuster, the Senate was forced to vote on a motion to invoke cloture, a procedure that required 60 votes to succeed.

The Leadership Conference supported the confirmation of Bacharach. His credentials were outstanding, the American Bar Association unanimously rated him “well qualified” for elevation to the 10th Circuit, and he was praised by his home state senators as well as many other experts in the legal community – from across the political and ideological spectrum – who knew him best.

Bacharach’s qualifications, however, were not the issue. Instead, his confirmation was held up by an extremely distorted interpretation of Senate tradition. The tradition has long held, understandably, that a president cannot fill the courts with highly partisan lifetime nominees in the last months of his term. But the minority leader’s blanket opposition to any nominee, including those with strong bipartisan support like Bacharach, went far beyond this precedent. It was simply a continuation of his efforts to use every procedural tactic available to keep Obama from doing his job. In doing so, he has set a terrible new precedent for the judicial confirmation process, and caused immeasurable harm to people who rely on the courts for the fair, efficient administration of justice.

The Senate did not invoke cloture (56-34). A vote for cloture was counted as a + vote. Roll Call Vote No. 186 (7/30/12).

Transportation

Equity and Fairness in Surface Transportation Proposal (S. 1813)

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D. Nev., moved to invoke cloture on a substitute amendment that would haveprovided the basis for an equitable surface transportation bill. The substitute amendment included changes that would have helped ensure that the federal surface transportation program improves mobility and travel options for communities of color, people with disabilities, seniors, rural communities, and low-income populations, while preserving our existing infrastructure. The failed cloture vote prolonged the battle on the Senate floor, which led to the incorporation of additional amendments that weakened the surface transportation bill. The final surface transportation bill omitted key provisions that would help ensure fully accessible transportation. The bill also lacks protections from transit service cuts; provides limited access to quality jobs and career pathways; and limits public participation in local decision-making.

The Leadership Conference supported the investments and the provisions of the substitute amendment. The amendment included key provisions that would expand research opportunities focusing on the needs of communities that depend the most on access to reliable and affordable public transportation to reach employment, health care, and educational centers. The Leadership Conference believes more research and understanding is critical since these communities, which include people of color, low-income people, and people with disabilities, are disproportionately affected by the decisions of both rural and urban transit agencies.

TheSenate did not invoke cloture (52-44). A vote for cloturet was counted as a + vote. Roll Call Vote No. 25 (3/6/2012).

Workers’ Rights

Threatening Union Election Rules (S.J. Res. 36)

S.J. Res. 36, a Motion to Proceed to the Joint Resolution, was introduced by Sen. Mike Enzi, R. Wyo. The motion was aimed at blocking the introduction of a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) rule designed to eliminate the worst cases of deliberate delay in union certification elections. This rule aimed to restore basic fairness for employees seeking to form unions, and to reduce unjustified pre-election litigation. Enzi’s motion, S.J. Res. 36, was introduced under the Congressional Review Act (CRA). The CRA allows a senator to introduce a joint resolution of disapproval with full force of law to stop a federal agency from implementing a recent rule or regulation.

The Leadership Conference opposed Enzi’s resolution because it would undercut collective bargaining rights. The Leadership Conference believes that workers’ rights—including the right to organize unions and engage in collective bargaining—are civil and human rights. The NLRB’s election rule was a moderate measure that would eliminate unnecessary delays and modernize an outdated system by removing unfair roadblocks for workers who wish to decide for themselves whether or not to unionize at their workplace and bargain with their employers. (In May, a federal district court declared the rule void because the board lacked the necessary quorum to approve the rule.)

The Enzi motion to proceed failed (45-54). A vote against it was counted as a + vote. Roll Call Vote No. 68 (4/24/12).

Undercutting Collective Bargaining Rights (S. 3240)
During consideration of the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2012, Sen. Marco Rubio, R. Fla., offered an amendment that would unfairly give employers the right to disregard negotiated contractual agreements and to arbitrarily grant pay increases in any amount to selected employees. The Rewarding Achievement and Incentivizing Successful Employees Act, S. 3240, would amend the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) to allow an employer to pay an employee greater wages or compensation regardless of whether those employment decisions had already been agreed to by both the employer and employees in a collective bargaining agreement. The amendment would have undermined our system of privately bargained, legally binding agreements, and would instead permit companies to violate contracts with workers and ignore previously agreed upon wages and benefits.

The Leadership Conference opposed the Rubio amendment because it would destroy the gains of collective bargaining, which have significantly reduced racial and gender inequality in wages and benefits. In fact, it could easily result in discrimination against certain employees, including older workers and employees of color, and expand the wage disparity between men and women in the workplace. Preserving collective bargaining rights is important to The Leadership Conference because the right to form a union has facilitated significant advances in workers’ rights since the passage of the NLRA.

The Rubio amendment failed (45-54). A vote against it was counted as a + vote. Roll Call Vote No. 163 (6/21/2012).