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National votes

March 29, 2009

By Thomas Voting Reports

WASHINGTON - Here's how area members of Congress voted on major roll call votes in the week ending March 27.

HOUSE

Public lands conservation

Voting 285 for and 140 against, the House on March 25 sent President Obama a bill (HR 146) that would conserve tens of millions of acres of public land, mostly in the West. The bill would protect 2.1 million acres in California, Colorado, Idaho, Michigan, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Virginia and West Virginia as wilderness; add 26 million acres to the National Landscape Conservation System; preserve 2,800 miles of federal trails; and add three units to the National Park System.

Additionally, the bill would preserve Revolutionary War battlefields; protect shoreline acreage on 1,000-plus miles of rivers in Arizona, California, Idaho, Oregon, Massachusetts and Wyoming; and ratify water settlements in California, Nevada and New Mexico involving Indian, environmental, agricultural, state and municipal interests. The bill would protect existing hunting, fishing and trapping access and ensure state regulatory authority over those activities.

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A yes vote was to send the bill to President Obama.

Maryland

Roscoe Bartlett, R-6, no

Pennsylvania

Bill Shuster, R-9, no

West Virginia

Shelley Moore Capito, R-2, yes

Fighting wildfires

Voting 412 for and three against, the House on March 26 passed a bill (HR 1404) that would establish a dedicated fund within the normal appropriations process for paying the costs of fighting catastrophic wildfires. The purpose is to keep firefighting expenditures from draining the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management budgets. The bill awaits Senate action.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

Maryland

Bartlett, yes

Pennsylvania

Shuster, yes

West Virginia

Capito, yes

Federal-state contracts

Voting 148 for and 272 against, the House on March 26 refused to give the U.S. Forest Service permanent authority to sign contracts with states to prevent forest fires. Backers said the amendment to HR 1404 would reduce the risk of catastrophic fires, while opponents said such contracts would undermine federal workers' rights and U.S. policies in areas such as timbering and environmental protection.

A yes vote backed the amendment.

Maryland

Bartlett, yes

Pennsylvania

Shuster, yes

West Virginia

Capito, no

SENATE

AmeriCorps expansion

Voting 79 for and 19 against, the Senate on March 26 passed a bill (HR 1388) that would more than triple the ranks of AmeriCorps, Volunteers in Service to America and the National Civilian Community Corps - to 225,000 participants by 2014 - while expanding their missions to areas such as health care and clean energy. With a budget of $6 billion through 2014, the bill authorizes AmeriCorps stipends of at least $11,400 for 12 months' service along with grants of $5,350 for paying college tuition or retiring student loans. Those education awards are indexed to keep pace with increases in Pell Grants for students who are poor. The bill bans funding for legislative advocacy or political activity.

The bill would reauthorize initiatives such as the Foster Grandparent Program, the Senior Companion Program and Learn and Serve America, which prepares college students for careers in public service. The bill authorizes summer programs in which middle and high school students would earn $500 credits toward college costs.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

Maryland

Barbara Mikulski, D, yes

Benjamin Cardin, D, yes

Pennsylvania

Arlen Specter, R, yes

Robert Casey Jr., D, yes

West Virginia

Robert Byrd, D, yes

John Rockefeller, D, yes

ACORN dispute

Voting 53 for and 43 against, the Senate on March 26 tabled an amendment to prohibit funding under HR 1388 for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). The bill contains no such funding. A nongovernmental organization, ACORN works mainly in poor communities on issues such as foreclosures, Gulf Coast recovery, immigration, voter registration and raising the minimum wage. Critics accuse ACORN of fraudulent voter registration activity.

A yes vote was to kill the amendment.

Maryland

Mikulski, yes

Cardin, yes

Pennsylvania

Specter, no

Casey, yes

West Virginia

Byrd, no

Rockefeller, yes

Key votes ahead

In the week of March 30, the House and Senate will take up President Obama's budget along with their own budget blueprints for fiscal 2010 and later years. Congress will begin a two-week Easter-Passover recess at the end of the week.

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