WASHINGTON — Here's how area members of Congress voted on major issues during the legislative week ending May 24.

House

  • EXPANSION OF WORKER RETIREMENT PLANS: Voting 417 for and 3 against, the House on May 23 passed a bill (HR 1994) that would expand tax-favored retirement plans and benefits. The bill would remove limits on contributions to Individual Retirement Accounts; increase from 70½ to 72 the age at which individuals must start making annual withdrawals from their plans; require employers to include in company-sponsored plans part-time employees with sufficient work histories; qualify home-health care workers to participate in 401(k)-style plans; allow penalty-free early distributions to cover birth and adoption expenses; expand the use in retirement plans of annuities offering lifetime payments; make it easier for workers to take retirement accounts with them to new jobs, and allow penalty-free distributions from Section 529 college savings plans for apprenticeship programs and repaying student loans.

The bill also would provide tax credits to encourage employers to automatically enroll workers in company retirement savings plans, as opposed to the current system in which workers are given an opportunity to sign up. After being automatically enrolled, workers could opt out of the plan. The bill would make it easier for small businesses to establish and administer multiple-employer and pooled-employer retirement plans, and would reduce the premiums some charities and cooperatives pay to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.

No member spoke against the bill. The negative votes were cast by GOP Reps. Justin Amash of Michigan, Thomas Massie of Kentucky and Chip Roy of Texas.

A yes vote was to send the bill to the Senate.

Voting yes: Rep. Greg Gianforte, R-Mont.; Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo.

  • BOYCOTTS, DIVESTITURE, SANCTIONS: Voting 200 for and 222 against, the House on May 23 defeated a Republican bid to include a rebuke of the so-called BDS movement in HR 1994 (above). The motion was unrelated to the bills purpose of expanding retirement savings. BDS is a global campaign by some companies and other entities to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel and Israeli-owned firms in response to Israels treatment of Palestinians.

A yes vote was to adopt the motion.

Voting yes: Gianforte, Cheney

  • RESTORING CONSUMER FINANCIAL PROTECTIONS: Voting 231 for and 191 against, the House on May 22 passed a Democratic-sponsored bill (HR 1500) that would restore Consumer Financial Protection Bureau powers watered down or abandoned by the Trump administration. The bureau was created by the 2010 Dodd-Frank law as an independent agency to protect consumers against predatory practices in matters involving credit cards, unsecured payday lending, debt collection, mortgages and auto financing. The administration has reined in the bureau by subjecting it to White House direction, freezing its staffing and cutting its budget while reducing oversight functions and scaling back enforcement activity.

In part, the bill would restore supervisory and enforcement powers to the Office of Fair Lending and Equal Opportunity; reconstitute an office charged with overseeing the student loan industry; increase rank-and-file staff levels; eliminate slots created for political appointees; resume aggressive regulation of payday lenders; and strengthen enforcement of the Military Lending Act, which caps interest rates on payday and auto loans to military families. The measure would also require the bureau to once again publicize student loan fees charged by large banks, reopen public access to a database of 1 million-plus consumer complaints, and resurrect and expand the agency's Consumer Advisory Board.

A yes vote was to send the bill to the Senate.

Voting no: Gianforte, Cheney

  • CONGRESSIONAL CONTROL OF BUREAU BUDGET: Voting 192 for and 235 against, the House on May 22 defeated a Republican amendment to HR 1500 (above) that sought to include the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau budget in the congressional appropriations process, thus giving the House and Senate more control over the independent agency. The bureau now receives its annual budget of about $600 million from the Federal Reserve with no strings attached. The Fed uses interest earned on government securities in its portfolio as its main funding source.

A yes vote was to establish congressional control over the consumer bureau's budget.

Voting yes: Gianforte, Cheney

  • MANDATORY ARBITRATION V. CONSUMER LAWSUITS: Voting 235 for and 193 against, the House on May 22 voted to reinstate a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau rule that would prohibit financial services firms from using mandatory arbitration clauses that prevent aggrieved customers from joining class-action lawsuits against the companies. Mandatory arbitration is conducted by company-approved mediators under rules that limit discovery, bar disclosure of the outcome and prohibit meaningful appeals. Consumers who agree to mandatory arbitration forfeit the option of pursuing claims in court. This vote occurred during debate on HR 1500 (above).

A yes vote was to reinstate a rule barring mandatory arbitration clauses in financial services contracts.

Voting no: Gianforte, Cheney

  • ALLOCATIONS FROM CIVIL PENALTY FUND: Voting 191 for and 231 against, the House on May 22 defeated a Republican motion to HR 1500 (above) that sought to require disbursements from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's Civil Penalty Fund to be used only to benefit victims of financial crimes. The fund is a depository for penalties the bureau collects in enforcement actions. Present law permits use of the fund to compensate victims or, when victim payments are not practicable, to finance programs that improve financial literacy and consumer education. Backers of this measure sought to bar the latter allocations, calling them a "slush fund."

A yes vote was to adopt the motion.

Voting yes: Gianforte, Cheney

Senate

  • FEDERAL JUDGE DANIEL COLLINS: Voting 53 for and 46 against, the Senate on May 21 confirmed Daniel P. Collins, an attorney in private practice in Los Angeles, as a judge on the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. He held Department of Justice positions in Washington under President George W. Bush and spent four years as an assistant U.S. attorney for the Central District of California.

Collins drew Democratic opposition, in part, for refusing to acknowledge the existence of climate breakdown and declining to tell senators whether he believes the Brown v. Board of Education 1954 school-desegregation case was correctly decided. Democrats also found fault with his authorship of law review article in 1995 calling for the Supreme Court to reverse its 1966 Miranda v. Arizona ruling that protects the civil liberties of detained criminal suspects.

A yes vote was to confirm the nominee.

Voting yes: Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont.; Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo.; Sen. Michael Enzi, R-Wyo.

Voting no: Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont.

  • $19.1 BILLION DISASTER AID: The Senate on May 23 approved, 85 for and eight against, $19.1 billion in emergency aid to homeowners, farmers, businesses, local governments and other entities struck by natural disasters such as wildfires, flooding, hurricanes and tornadoes in recent years. The bill includes $1.4 billion for Puerto Rico and $4.5 billion requested by the administration for security projects and humanitarian aid on the southern border.

A yes vote was to send HR 2157 to the House.

Voting yes: Daines, Tester, Barrasso

Not voting: Enzi

Key votes ahead

Congress will be in Memorial Day recess in the week of May 27.

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