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How they voted

Updated: November 5, 2013 1:04AM



WASHINGTON — This is how Northwest Indiana’s congressional delegation — U.S. Reps. Jackie Walorski, Republican, and Peter J. Visclosky, Democrat, and U.S. Sens. Joe Donnelly, Democrat, and Dan Coats, Republican — voted on key legislation.

House

PROCESSING VETERANS’ DISABILITY CLAIMS: The House passed a bill (H.R. 2189), sponsored by Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., that would create a commission or task force at the Department of Veterans Affairs charged with studying the backlog of disability claims filed by veterans and developing recommendations for strategies to resolve the backlog. Miller said there was an urgent need to reduce the backlog of nearly 412,000 claims, and the bill was a focused effort to do so and end a problem that has plagued the VA for decades. The vote, on Oct. 28, was 404 yeas to 1 nay.

Votes: Visclosky, yea; Walorski, yea

EDUCATION PROGRAMS FOR MILITARY VETERANS: The House passed the Veterans’ Advisory Committee on Education Improvement Act (H.R. 2011), sponsored by Rep. John K. Delaney, D-Md. The bill would extend through 2015 the Veterans’ Advisory Committee on Education, which advises the Secretary of Veterans Affairs on ways to provide effective education and training programs to military veterans. Delaney said: “To give our veterans the best chance to succeed, we need to make sure that they have a choice in the VA, we need to make sure that our current benefit programs are working, and we need to make sure that our veterans’ education programs are adapting to an ever-changing world.” The vote, on Oct. 28, was 404 yeas to 2 nays.

Votes: Visclosky, yea; Walorski, yea

RULES FOR ADVISING INVESTORS: The House rejected an amendment sponsored by Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., to the Retail Investor Protection Act (H.R. 2374). The amendment would have authorized the Labor Department to issue a rule concerning the fiduciary duty of financial advisors to provide investment education and advice to their clients, and required Labor to send to Congress a study on the effect of current practices in the investment industry on the quality of advice provided to clients. Miller said the amendment would allow Labor to “proceed with better protections for retirement investors in a way that provides for unbiased investment education, ensures that underserved communities are not unduly harmed by basic financial protections for investors, ensures reasonable competition to advisers, and protects employee stock ownership plan appraisals.” An opponent, Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, said the rule was unnecessary because financial advisors were already subject to standards that seek to prevent them from misleading their clients or acting contrary to their clients’ interests. The vote, on Oct. 29, was 174 yeas to 243 nays.

Votes: Visclosky, yea; Walorski, nay

REGULATING FINANCIAL ADVISORS: The House passed the Retail Investor Protection Act (H.R. 2374), sponsored by Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Mo. The bill would bar the Labor Department from issuing a rule concerning the need for financial advisors to act in their clients’ best interests as a fiduciary until the Securities and Exchange Commission has issued its own rule on the matter. It would also require the SEC to study whether its rule would resolve a problem not adequately addressed by current regulations. Wagner said the rules being proposed by the SEC and the Labor Department were “likely to impose tremendous new burdens on Main Street businesses and will take choices away from hardworking families” seeking to invest. An opponent, Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., said the bill “is going to interrupt the Department of Labor as they are pulling together a rule to protect retirees” by preventing conflicts of interest by financial advisors who fail to inform their clients about high fees and hidden commissions in investment vehicles. The vote, on Oct. 29, was 254 yeas to 166 nays.

Votes: Visclosky, nay; Walorski, yea

SWAPS TRADES AND BANKS: The House passed the Swaps Regulatory Improvement Act (H.R. 992), sponsored by Rep. Randy Hultgren, R-Ill. The bill would repeal limits on the ability of banks to hold positions in commodity and financial swaps markets. Hultgren said repealing the limits would improve the ability of farmers and manufacturers to use swaps to manage their exposure to volatile future prices of oil and crop products by enabling banks to serve as counterparties to swap trades. An opponent, Rep. Collin C. Peterson, D-Minn., said allowing banks to hold large levels of swaps assets “would effectively gut important financial reforms and put taxpayers potentially on the hook for big banks’ risky behavior” should the swaps produce large losses for banks. Peterson is the ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee; Hultgren is a member of the House Financial Services Committee. The vote, on Oct. 30, was 292 yeas to 122 nays.

Votes: Visclosky, nay; Walorski, yea

DEBT LIMIT SUSPENSION: The House passed a resolution (H.J. Res. 99), sponsored by Rep. Todd C. Young, R-Ind., to express the disapproval of Congress of the President’s exercise of his authority to suspend the government’s debt limit. Young said the disapproval resolution signaled the intent of Congress to act to address the government’s increasing debt burden and the damage the burden is doing to the U.S. economy. An opponent, Rep. Sander M. Levin, D-Mich., said passing the resolution would bring back the risk that the U.S. will default on its debt. The vote, on Oct. 30, was 222 yeas to 191 nays.

Votes: Visclosky, nay; Walorski, yea

Senate

NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS BOARD: The Senate confirmed the nomination of Richard F. Griffin Jr. to serve as general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board for a four-year term. A supporter, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said Griffin “is very well qualified. He has been thoroughly vetted. I have received absolutely not one objection to his qualifications or his background. He has had 30 years’ experience as a labor lawyer.” An opponent, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said that as general counsel, Griffin would help put the Board in the position of advocating for unions rather than have it serve as a neutral umpire for settling employee-employer disputes. The vote, on Oct. 29, was 55 yeas to 44 nays.

Votes: Coats, nay; Donnelly, yea

MANAGING GOVERNMENT PERSONNEL: The Senate confirmed the nomination of Katherine Archuleta to serve as director of the Office of Personnel Management for a four-year term. A supporter, Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., cited Archuleta’s experience as a senior policy advisor at the Energy Department and as deputy chief of staff and chief of staff at the Transportation Department. Carper said installing Archuleta as director of OPM would help it resolve backlogs in its processing of personnel paperwork and managing the government’s workforce. An opponent, Sen. David Vitter, R-La., did not discuss Archuleta’s qualifications, but instead cited the OPM’s issuance of what he called an illegal rule that ran contrary to Obamacare legislation by exempting congressional staffers from a requirement to buy their health care through Obamacare exchanges. The vote, on Oct. 30, was 62 yeas to 35 nays.

Votes: Coats, nay; Donnelly, yea

HEAD OF FEDERAL HOUSING FINANCE AGENCY: The Senate rejected a cloture motion to end debate on the nomination of Melvin L. Watt to serve as director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency. A supporter, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., cited Watts’ 21 years of experience as a representative and member of the House Financial Services Committee, and 22 previous years of experience as a lawyer who worked on housing issues. Warren said Watt “is a thoughtful policymaker. He can see problems coming, and when he does he seeks common ground and works hard to develop real solutions.” An opponent, Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., said that as director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Watts would expand the government’s already excessive involvement in the home mortgage market; the government guarantees 48 percent of outstanding mortgages. The vote, on Oct. 31, was 56 yeas to 42 nays, with a three-fifths majority required to end debate.

Votes: Coats, nay; Donnelly, yea

D.C. CIRCUIT COURT JUDGE: The Senate rejected a cloture motion to end debate on the nomination of Patricia Ann Millett to serve as U.S. Circuit Judge for the District of Columbia Circuit. A supporter, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., cited Millett’s 11 years of experience as an official in the Solicitor General’s office, unanimously well qualified rating from the American Bar Association, and experience arguing 32 cases before the Supreme Court in her current position as co-head of the Supreme Court and appellate practice at the Akin Gump law firm. An opponent, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said the D.C. Circuit Court did not need an additional judge at this time, given that the court’s caseload is low and each additional judgeship costs $1 million annually. Grassley also said the nomination of Millett was an effort by President Obama “to stack the court and to upset the current makeup simply in order to obtain favorable judicial outcomes” in the face of opposition to his administration’s actions from Congress. The vote, on Oct. 31, was 55 yeas to 38 nays, with 3 voting present, and a three-fifths majority required to end debate.

Votes: Coats, nay; Donnelly, yea



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