Megavote Summary, June 10, 2013

In this MegaVote for New York’s 25th Congressional District:

Recent Congressional Votes

  • Senate: Student Loan Rates Bill – Cloture
  • Senate: Student Loan Rates Bill – Cloture
  • House: FY2014 Military Construction & Veterans Affairs Appropriations – Passage
  • House: FY2014 Homeland Security Appropriations – Amendment Vote
  • House: FY2014 Homeland Security Appropriations – Passage

Upcoming Congressional Bills

  • Senate: Farm Bill
  • House: Fiscal 2014 Defense Authorization

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Recent Senate Votes Student Loan Rates Bill – Cloture – Vote Rejected (40-57, 2 Not Voting)

After a protracted battle, Congress last year passed a compromise extension of the current rate –3.4 percent – until July 1, 2013. After this date, interest rates on these loans will double. With that deadline looming, both parties are yet again wide apart on a method for setting interest rates permanently. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., authored this alternative to House Republicans’ bill for setting some federal student loan rates. The House plan (H.R. 1911) pegs Stafford subsidized and unsubsidized loans to the rate of 10-year Treasury notes plus 2.5% and plus 4.5% for Direct PLUS loans. Coburn’s bill more or less split the difference, pegging Stafford and Direct PLUS loans to the 10-year Treasury rate plus 3.0% at the time of loan origination. With current Treasury bill rates at 1.75 percent, Coburn argued that college students enrolling this fall would lock in a rate of 4.75 percent for the life of the loan. Senate Democrats continue to reject any approach to setting student loans permanently that ties interest rates to financial markets. Only Democrat Thomas R. Carper of Delaware crossed the aisle to vote for the bill, while five Republicans voted against the measure.

Sen. Charles Schumer voted NO
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand voted NO

Student Loan Rates Bill – Cloture – Vote Rejected (51-46, 2 Not Voting)

In May, Senate Democrats introduced their alternative to a House Republican plan for setting Federal Direct Stafford Loan interest rates. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., would have extended the 3.4 percent rates on Stafford Loans for another two years. It would have paid for the estimated $8.3 billion cost of this extension by closing tax loopholes on some pensions and corporate accounts and by applying an excise tax on oil produced from tar sands. The vote to invoke cloture failed almost entirely along partisan lines, with only Democrat Joe Manchin III of West Virginia breaking ranks to vote no with all Senate Republicans. Although it failed, the bill is a line in the sand for the Senate majority, which strongly opposes the market-based House plan that would tie interest rates to the market interest rate of 10-year Treasury bills and allow rates to rise up to 10.5 percent for some loans. Congress now has three weeks to find a compromise solution before rates double on July 1.

Sen. Charles Schumer voted YES
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand voted YES

Recent House Votes FY2014 Military Construction & Veterans Affairs Appropriations – Passage – Vote Passed (421-4, 8 Not Voting)

After approving one amendment from Mark Amodei, R-Nev., specifying $44 million in funds dedicated to reducing disability claims backlogs in Veterans Benefits Administration offices, the House passed its first fiscal 2014 spending bill last Tuesday to fund military construction and Department of Veterans Affairs programs with $157.8 billion. It provides $73.3 billion in discretionary funds, including $55 billion for veterans health services, and $84.5 billion in mandatory spending covering veterans service compensation, benefits and pensions. Adding in another $10 billion for military construction, such as $1.5 billion for military family housing, the House-approved legislation is $1.4 billion less than President Barack Obama requested and $2.4 billion more than the fiscal 2013 level that included cuts due to sequestration. It also provides $55.6 billion in advance appropriations for select VA medical care accounts for the 2015 fiscal year. The legislation now goes to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies; however, a markup still has not been scheduled for the bill.

Rep. Louise Slaughter voted YES

FY2014 Homeland Security Appropriations – Amendment Vote – Vote Agreed to (224-201, 9 Not Voting)

After clearing their first spending bill, two days later the House moved onto their second, funding the Homeland Security Department. The House passed, on a mostly party-line vote, Iowa Republican Steve King’s amendment that would bar the use of funds to implement or enforce six internal Homeland Security Department policies, including one from June 12, 2012 that granted temporary legal status to the so-called Dream Act immigrants – people younger than 31 who are in school and arrived in the United States prior to turning 16, have graduated or have served in the military, and do not have a criminal record. King said in House floor debate on June 5, “The president does not have the authority to waive immigration law, nor does he have the authority to create it out of thin air.”

Rep. Louise Slaughter voted NO

FY2014 Homeland Security Appropriations – Passage – Vote Passed (245-182, 7 Not Voting)

After the House completed votes on amendments, they passed Homeland Security appropriations legislation for the 2014 fiscal year, funding the department and related activities with $46.1 billion ($38.9 billion in discretionary funds and $5.6 billion in emergency disaster aid). The funds include $10.6 billion for Customs and Border Protection, $5.4 billion for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, $7.2 billion for the Transportation Security Administration and $9.9 billion each for the Coast Guard and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. An issue that may cause problems with Senate approval is an approved provision to prohibit federal funding for ICE to provide abortions for detainees, except in extreme circumstances including rape, incest or endangerment of the life of the woman. Like the Military Construction-VA legislation, the future for the Homeland Security appropriations bill is uncertain and is not on the Senate schedule, as of yet.

Rep. Louise Slaughter voted NO

Upcoming Votes Farm Bill – S.954

This week the Senate is scheduled to complete its work on this five-year farm policy bill.

Fiscal 2014 Defense Authorization – H.R.1960

The House is expected to work on this bill providing authorization for the Defense Department for FY 2014.

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