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Senate Vote Descriptions 2003

Click here for House Vote Descriptions 2003

+ for the public interest / - against the public interest
A absent / NA not applicable

Senate Vote Descriptions:
1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21

1. Arctic Refuge/Stop Drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: The original Senate energy bill did not include drilling in the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. However, when the Senate debated the energy bill, Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-AK) introduced an amendment to open the coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge for oil and gas drilling and development. Arctic champions Sens. Kerry (D-MA) and Lieberman (D-CT) filibustered the Murkowski amendment. To end the filibuster and proceed to a vote on the amendment, drilling supporters needed 60 votes (known as cloture) to proceed. On April 18, 2002, the Senate voted 46-54 not to end the filibuster and to protect the Arctic. Sen. Murkowski then withdrew his amendment. (Roll Call #71) PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: NO

2. Clean Air/Protect Crucial Clean Air Act Regulations: On December 31, 2002, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized the most significant rollback of clean air rules since the Clean Air Act was adopted 30 years ago. The Agency made the changes at the behest of industry lobbyists and in spite of the vocal opposition of state regulators, at least nine Attorneys General, hundreds of thousands of private citizens, more than one thousand medical doctors, and many members of Congress. These rule changes will allow increased emissions from 17,000 industrial facilities across the country, exacerbating the soot and smog that send hundreds of thousands of Americans to hospital emergency rooms each year. On January 21, 2003, Sens. Edwards (D-NC) and Lieberman (D-CT) introduced an amendment that would have prevented EPA's implementation of the rule changes until their health impacts were studied. On January 22, 2003, the Senate voted against the amendment 46-50. (Roll Call #12) PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: YES

3. Global Warming & Energy Efficiency/Reduce Oil Consumption: America is too dependent on oil; this dependence has repercussions for the environment, for consumers and for our national security. America's cars and light trucks comprise an estimated 40% of U.S. oil consumption; the U.S. could substantially reduce both its dependence on oil and its carbon dioxide emissions by raising the vehicle mileage-per-gallon of new cars and light trucks. Unfortunately, although the Senate energy bill (S. 517) originally included a provision to increase the fuel economy of cars and light trucks to 35 miles per gallon by 2013, this provision was removed. As amended, the Senate energy bill does nothing to decrease this dependence on oil, foreign or domestic. In fact, it would take us backwards, actually increasing oil consumption. Sens. Carper (D-DE) and Specter (R-PA) offered an amendment to require the Department of Transportation to reduce oil consumption by 1 million barrels a day by 2015. While the amendment did not set a specific target for fuel efficiency in vehicles, it would have been an important step toward protecting America's energy security and environment. However, Sen. Levin (D-MI) moved to table (kill) the Carper amendment. On April 25, 2002, the Senate tabled the Carper amendment 57-42. (Roll Call #90) PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: NO

4. Global Warming & Clean Energy/Oppose Weakening Renewable Energy Standard: A renewable energy standard requires power companies to generate an increasing percentage of electricity from renewable resources, such as solar and wind. Studies done by the Energy Information Administration (EIA) show that a national standard increasing the amount of electricity generated by renewable energy to 20% by 2020 is reasonable and achievable. The Senate energy bill drafted by Sens. Daschle (D-SD) and Bingaman (D-NM) included a national renewable energy standard that was half this level. Sen. Kyl (R-AZ) proposed an amendment to completely strip the modest renewable energy provision from the underlying bill and replace it with a voluntary state program that will allow consumers to be charged more for "green energy." In return, American consumers would have gotten no guarantee that even one additional kilowatt-hour of clean renewable energy will be generated. The Kyl amendment was a special interest ploy to trick consumers and deny all Americans the benefits of truly clean renewable energy. On March 21, 2002, the Senate rejected the Kyl amendment 40-58. (Roll Call #55) PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: NO

5. Global Warming & Energy Efficiency/Increase Efficiency of Air Conditioners: The quickest, cheapest, cleanest way to reduce America's dependence on polluting energy sources is to dramatically increase energy efficiency. Air conditioning accounts for as much as 70% of electricity used during hot summer days. As temperatures soar, so do electric bills and power plant emissions. Using existing technology to make air conditioners use less energy will not only save consumers $1 billion annually but will help reduce the threat of rolling blackouts by decreasing demand for electricity. The Department of Energy (DOE) under the Clinton administration set a standard calling for a 30% increase in efficiency for central air conditioners and heat pumps. In April 2001, however, the DOE announced its intention to roll back the standard to a 20% improvement. In May 2002, the DOE followed through on this statement by releasing a rule that allows air conditioner manufacturers to meet lower efficiency requirements. Sen. Bingaman (D-NM) opposed the lower standard and mandated a 30% increase in air conditioner efficiency in the Senate energy bill (S. 517). However, during Senate floor consideration of the bill, Sen. Harkin (D-IA) introduced an amendment that, in effect, struck the 30% increase from the bill. On April 25, 2002, the Senate approved the Harkin amendment 52-47. (Roll Call #89) PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: NO

6. Global Warming & Clean Energy/Oppose Toxic Incineration: Garbage incineration is one of our nation's costliest and most dangerous means of generating energy, releasing large quantities of toxic chemicals such as lead and dioxin into the atmosphere. In addition, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, garbage incinerators in 2000 emitted 2.2 tons of mercury-nearly 20% of the nation's mercury emissions-polluting groundwater and surface water, contaminating fish populations, and significantly raising the risk of neurological damage and birth defects in humans. The Senate energy bill (S. 517) contains a provision requiring the largest investor-owned electric utilities to generate at least 10% of their electricity from renewable sources, such as solar and wind, by 2020. Recognizing this provision's potential economic boon, advocates for the garbage incineration industry argue that incinerators should be defined as a renewable energy source. This definition will impede our nation's progress toward truly clean renewable energy sources. Sen. Fitzgerald (R-IL) introduced an amendment to make clear that garbage incineration is not a renewable energy source. Sen. Bingaman (D-NM) moved to table (kill) the Fitzgerald amendment. On April 24, 2002, the Senate voted to table the amendment 50-46. (Roll Call #84) PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: NO

7. Clean Water/Keep Polluters Responsible for Pollution: Companies should be fully liable for problems caused by their products, but the Senate energy bill (S. 517) exempts renewable fuels and fuel additives from federal and state product liability protections. This loophole would shift cleanup costs from polluters to local taxpayers, eliminate an important disincentive to pollute, and create a dangerous precedent for future environmental policy. Already, research indicates that ethanol may inhibit the breakdown of other, more toxic components of gasoline and increase the spread of benzene and other toxics around leaking storage tanks. As research on existing fuels goes forward and new renewable fuel technologies develop, new and unanticipated public health and environmental hazards may well emerge. Sens. Boxer (D-CA) and Feinstein (D-CA) offered an amendment to energy bill to ensure that oil companies are fully liable for problems caused by fuels and fuel additives. Sen. Reid (D-NV) introduced a motion to table (kill) the amendment. On April 25, 2002, the Senate voted to table the amendment 57-42. (Roll Call #87) PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: NO

8. Polluter Subsidies/Oppose Sending Dangerous Waste to Yucca Mountain: Nuclear waste from nuclear power plants may be the most dangerous substance produced by humans. Just a few seconds exposure to an unshielded nuclear power plant fuel rod after it is removed from the reactor is enough to deliver a lethal dose of radiation. No country in the world has delivered a sound policy for disposing of this waste, since it remains dangerous to humans and other living things for at least one quarter of a million years. Despite these dangers, the Bush administration weakened standards for a nuclear waste dump and designated a site at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. The government's own studies show the site will leak radioactive waste into groundwater and no one has adequately studied the risks of transporting 150,000 shipments of this lethal material. On July 9, 2002, the Senate voted to approve Yucca Mountain as the nation's nuclear waste dump 60-39. (Roll Call #167) PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: NO

9. Environmental Preservation/Oppose Drilling in National Monuments: Some of the nation's most spectacular places have been granted special status as National Monuments under the Antiquities Act, which allows presidents to provide protections to objects of important natural, historic, or scientific value. Treasured places like the Grand Canyon were protected as National Monuments when they were most vulnerable. Unfortunately, President Bush and Interior Secretary Gale Norton announced that they will consider the possibility of oil and gas drilling and other reckless development on these fragile lands, threatening the integrity of these national treasures. Sen. Durbin (D-IL) offered an amendment to H.R. 2217, the Fiscal Year 2002 Interior Appropriations bill, that will prohibit Secretary Norton from issuing oil, gas, coal, and geothermal leases on National Monuments. When Sen. Durbin offered his amendment, Sen. Burns (R-MT) introduced a motion to table (or kill) the amendment. On July 11, 2001, the Senate rejected the Burns motion 42-57. (Roll Call #229) PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: NO

10. Fair Trade/Stop Anti-Consumer, Anti-Environmental Trade Agreements: International trade agreements are quickly becoming vehicles for large, multi-national corporations to challenge environmental and consumer protections as "barriers to free trade." There have been several lawsuits filed by large corporations seeking to overturn bans on hazardous chemicals and local decisions on waste dumps under provisions of current trade agreements. The Senate voted on a bill to give the President virtually unfettered ability to negotiate additional trade agreements with no protections for the environment. In addition, the bill also contains a specific provision that declares consumer labeling of food products a barrier to free trade. On August 1, 2002, the Senate passed the bill 64-34. (Roll Call #207) PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: NO

11. Corporate Responsibility/Support "No More Enrons" Accounting Reforms: Auditor conflicts of interest helped Enron, Worldcom, Tyco and others cook their books and destroy investor confidence in the markets. Despite concerns that accounting reform opponents would weakenen the Senate's Corporate Reform Act, the crushing weight of the Worldcom fiasco and the Enron debacle gave Senate champion Sen. Sarbanes (D-MD), Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, enough leverage to reject all amendments to weaken the bill on the Senate floor and prevail in conference committee over House conferees insisting on the much weaker House version of the bill. The final bill creates a tough accounting oversight board, establishes strong auditor independence provisions and protects whistleblowers. On July 15, 2002, the Senate voted to pass the Corporate Reform Act 97-0. (Roll Call #176) PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: YES

12. Consumer Protections/Protect Consumers From Future Enrons: We need to strengthen corporate accountability in the post-Enron world and ensure that consumers receive reliable electricity at fair prices. Recent energy industry scandals demonstrate the need for more local control and accountability when it comes to the companies that sell us power. Electric utilities are already passing the costs of their reckless investments on to consumers with higher electricity prices. Unfortunately, the Senate energy bill (S. 517) would make this even easier by including a provision that weakens current law by repealing one of the only pro-consumer electricity laws on the books, the Public Utility Holding Company Act (PUHCA). Under PUHCA, the Securities and Exchange Commission requires large, multi-state companies that own utilities - known as registered holding companies - from using the kind of financial structures and accounting practices that helped lead to the downfall of Enron. PUHCA helps shield consumers and investors from these risky business decisions by requiring registered holding companies to invest only in businesses needed to run the utility. Sen. Cantwell (D-WA) offered an amendment to improve the electricity provisions of the energy bill by strengthening consumer protections. On April 24, 2002, the Senate voted to table (kill) the Cantwell amendment 58-39. (Roll Call #80) PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: NO

13. Corporate Responsibility/Prevent "Enron-like" Energy Market Fraud: The Commodity Futures Modernization Act, enacted in 2000, has a loophole that allows Enron and others companies to trade complex energy and minerals futures with no regulatory oversight. Enron used these over-the-counter derivatives trades extensively to hide its murky financial transactions. As a result, about 90% of energy trades representing purely financial transactions escape regulation by both the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission or the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). Sens. Feinstein (D-CA) and Fitzgerald (R-IL) offered an amendment to the Senate energy bill that closes this loophole and restores necessary transparency and oversight to the financial marketplace. It adds registration, reporting and capital requirements to energy derivatives trading and prevents "fraud on the markets" by restoring oversight authority of the CFTC. On April 10, 2002, the Senate rejected the amendment 48-50. (Roll Call #61) PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: YES

14. Health Care/Support Patients' Bill of Rights: The Bipartisan Patient Protection Act, sponsored by Sens. McCain (R-AZ) and Edwards (D-NC), amends the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) to protect consumers in managed care plans from unfair practices by HMOs. Provisions include access to emergency care and specialists; continuity of care when in the middle of treatment; a good, unbiased appeal process and right to external review; and the right to hold health plans accountable for their decisions, in court if necessary. On June 29, 2001, the Senate passed the bill by a vote of 59-36. (Roll Call #220) PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: YES

15. Consumer Protection/Oppose Weakening Consumer Bankruptcy Rights: Despite independent research showing that most bankruptcies are the result of job layoffs, divorce, or sudden illness, the Senate passed one-sided legislation backed forcefully by the credit card industry that will restrict the ability of financially strapped consumers to make a fresh start in bankruptcy. The bill imposes a rigid new means test on debtors seeking to file for Chapter 7 "fresh-start" bankruptcy, unfairly forcing many consumers into Chapter 13 "5-year repayment plans." The bill also creates onerous legal and paperwork burdens for debtors of modest means while continuing to allow affluent debtors in some states to file for bankruptcy protection and retain expensive homes. Furthermore, it does virtually nothing to rein in abusive creditor practices that help lead consumers into insupportable debt. On March 15, 2001, the Senate approved the bankruptcy bill by a vote of 83-15. (Roll Call #36) PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: NO

16. Consumer Protection/Protect Medical Malpractice Victims: The root causes of increasing medical malpractice insurance rates are lack of doctor oversight to prevent medical errors and reckless investments by the insurance industry, not punitive legal damages awarded to victims. Sen. McConnell (R-KY) offered an amendment to the Greater Access to Affordable Pharmaceuticals Act to limit the rights of victims of medical malpractice to recover damages from doctors, HMOs, hospitals, and drug companies that commit medical malpractice. On July 30, 2002, the Senate rejected the amendment 57-42. (Roll Call #197) PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: YES

17. Consumer Protection/Prohibit Predatory Loans: During consideration of legislation (S. 420) supported by the credit card industry to amend the bankruptcy laws, Sen. Wellstone (D-MN) offered a balancing amendment to curb certain abusive practices. The Wellstone amendment would prevent predatory lenders that make loans at interest rates greater than 100% APR, such as payday and auto title pawn loan companies, from making claims against consumers to recover unpaid debts in bankruptcy. On March 14, 2001, the Senate voted to table (kill) the amendment by a vote of 58-41. (Roll Call #28) PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: NO

18. Consumer Protection/Protect Students from Unfair Credit Card Offers: Studies have documented abusive credit card marketing on college campuses as well as serious credit card delinquency problems among students and others under 21. During consideration of S.420, a credit card industry-backed bankruptcy bill, Sen. Dodd (D-CT) proposed an amendment to prohibit credit card offers to consumers under 21 unless they either have a co-signer, show an ability to repay their loans, or have completed a credit education course. Other credit card applicants need either an ability to repay or a co-signer, but typically the industry waives these requirements for students, hoping to hook them on their cards. On March 13, 2001, the Senate voted to table (kill) the amendment 58-41. (Roll Call #25) PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: NO

19. Health Care/Increase Access to Affordable Generic Drugs: Consumers are increasingly frustrated by the high costs of prescription drugs. In 2001, the price of drugs rose six times faster than the rate of inflation. In addition, drug prices in the United States are the highest in the world -- American consumers pay 72% more than consumers in Canada and 102% more than consumers in Mexico. One way to lower the costs for consumers is to make it easier for generic drug makers to enter the market without interference from brand-name manufacturers. Generic drugs are typically priced at 30-80% below brand-name drugs. The Greater Access to Affordable Pharmaceuticals (GAAP) Act would remove numerous unfair market barriers used by the prescription drug industry to inhibit competition from low-cost generic drug companies. On July 31, 2002, the Senate passed GAAP 66-33. (Roll Call #200) PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: YES

20. Campaign Finance Reform/Oppose Doubling Contribution Limits: During the Senate debate on campaign finance reform, Sen. Thompson (R-TN) offered an amendment to the McCain-Feingold bill that increased the current limit on contributions to candidates running for federal office from $1,000 to $2,000. This only further increases the amounts that candidates can raise from wealthy donors and gives special interests even more influence in determining who runs for office and who wins elections. On March 28, 2001, the Senate adopted the amendment 84-16. (Roll Call #55) PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: NO

21. Election Reform/Protect Registered Voters: During the Senate debate on election reform, Sen. Burns (R-MT) offered an amendment that would have made it easier to purge voters from voting rolls. The National Voter Registration Act (often called "Motor-Voter") ensures that registered voters are not removed from the rolls simply because they have not voted recently. States must have a reason to believe that a voter is no longer eligible before initiating the "purging" process-and even in this case, there is a fail-safe mechanism to correct errors at the polls. The Burns amendment turned this protection on its head, permitting states to purge anyone who misses two successive federal elections and does not respond to a notice. This provision would result in the purging of many eligible and properly registered voters. On February 14, 2002, the Senate rejected the amendment 40-55. (Roll Call #34) PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: NO

House Vote Descriptions 2003

Click here for Senate Vote Descriptions 2003

+ for the public interest / - against the public interest
A absent / NA not applicable

House Vote Descriptions:
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1. Arctic Refuge/Stop Drilling in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: The House energy bill that went to the floor on July 27, 2001 included language allowing oil and gas drilling and development in the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, one of America's last wild places. Arctic champions Reps. Markey (D-MA) and Nancy Johnson (R-CT) offered an amendment stripping the Arctic Refuge drilling language out of the House energy bill, keeping the coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge off limits to oil and gas drilling. On August 1, 2001, the House rejected the amendment 206-223. (Roll Call #317) PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: YES

2. Environmental Preservation/Oppose Timber Industry Control of National Forests: The Omnibus Appropriations bill that passed the House contained anti-environmental riders that will lead to increased logging in our national forests. One of the anti-environmental riders will turn the management of our national forests over to timber companies by creating unlimited stewardship contracting authority for the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management until 2013. These projects include new and unproven practices that have resulted in extensive industrial logging, including logging in roadless areas, proposed wilderness areas, and sensitive wildlife areas. Another rider blocked any future administrative appeal or judicial review of a Forest Service decision not to designate additional wilderness areas in the Tongass National Forest. Rep. Obey (D-WI) offered a motion to recommit the bill and send it back to the conference committee to have the anti-environmental riders removed. On February 13, 2003, the motion to recommit failed 193-226. (Roll Call #31) PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: YES

3. Clean Energy/Oppose Dirty, Dangerous Energy Bill: The House passed energy legislation that is dirty, dangerous and doesn't deliver for consumers. It is a recipe for more drilling, more spilling, more asthma attacks, more nuclear waste, and more global warming. The energy bill allows drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, gives away more than $27 billion in taxpayer handouts to polluters, and rewards the polluting oil, coal and nuclear companies that have created energy problems. The House energy bill does little to ensure energy efficiency -- the cleanest, cheapest, quickest and safest way to save consumers money and reduce pollution. This bill does not require a significant shift to clean, renewable energy production, which could make us less reliant on fossil fuels. By weakening public lands protections, the bill will help to destroy sensitive public lands. On August 2, 2001, the House passed the energy bill 240-189. (Roll Call #320) PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: NO

4. Global Warming & Energy Efficiency/Raise Auto Fuel Economy Standards: In order to curb our dependence on foreign oil, we must reduce our consumption overall. Since cars and light trucks account for 40% of all petroleum use in the U.S., the best way to cut our dependence on oil is to make vehicles go farther on a gallon of gas. Unfortunately, fuel economy has reached an all-time low because gas-guzzling SUVs are allowed to meet weaker fuel economy standards than cars. Reps. Boehlert (R-NY) and Markey (D-MA) introduced an amendment to require SUVs and other light trucks to meet the same fuel economy standards as automobiles, saving consumers $16 billion at the pump by 2015. On August 1, 2001 the House rejected the amendment 160-269. (Roll Call #311) PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: YES

5. Clean Water/Reduce Arsenic in Drinking Water: More than 30 million people in the nation drink water with dangerous levels of arsenic. Arsenic can cause cancer of the skin, bladder, and lungs, and may cause cancers of the liver, kidney, and colon. Arsenic also may harm the nervous, immunological, pulmonary, cardiovascular, developmental and reproductive systems. In January 2001, after decades of study, debate, and three missed statutory deadlines, EPA lowered the legal limit of arsenic in tap water from 50 parts per billion (ppb), set in 1942, to 10 ppb. However, on May 22, 2001, EPA delayed the rule until February 22, 2002 and asked the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to review the science on arsenic's health effects. The NAS confirmed that arsenic is a dangerous substance that causes cancer at very low levels and contributes to a variety of non-cancer health impacts. Reps. Waxman (D-CA), Bonior (D-MI), and Brown (D-OH) offered an amendment to force EPA to restore the 10 ppb standard. On July 27, 2001, the House passed the amendment 218-189. (Roll Call #288) PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: YES

6. Environmental Preservation/Ban Drilling Activity Off California Coast: The coast of California is an integral part of many Californians' lives and is ideal for surfing, swimming, or just enjoying the beach. This coastal environment is also a fragile ecosystem, a complex mosaic of wetlands, bays, estuary systems, beaches and dunes. The State of California and an overwhelming majority of its citizens have long opposed new drilling off of California's treasured coastlines. Reps. Capps (D-CA), Rahall (D-WV), and George Miller (D-CA) offered an amendment to the Interior Appropriations bill that would prohibit drilling activity on the 36 leases located off California's central coast. On July 17, 2002, the House approved the amendment 252-172. (Roll Call #315) PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: YES

7. Environmental Preservation/Oppose Drilling Off Florida Coast: The Florida coastline dominates the geography of the eastern Gulf and is the vacation and recreation destination for millions of Americans. Unfortunately, offshore oil and gas drilling threatens the precious coastline with routine pollution and increases the risk of a damaging deepwater oil spill. In order to protect the eastern Gulf of Mexico from harmful offshore oil and gas drilling, Reps. Jim Davis (D-FL) and Scarborough (R-FL) offered an amendment during consideration of H.R. 2217, the Interior Appropriations bill. This amendment would delay oil and gas leasing off Florida's sensitive coastline. On June 21, 2001, the House approved the Davis-Scarborough amendment 247-164. (Roll Call #181) PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: YES

8. Environmental Preservation/Oppose Drilling in Great Lakes: The Great Lakes contain 20% of all the fresh water in the entire world, yet numerous attempts have been made to expand so-called "directional drilling" under the bed of the Great Lakes, jeopardizing the shoreline, surrounding wetlands, and the waters of the Great Lakes themselves. During consideration of H.R. 2311, the Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill, Reps. Bonior (D-MI), Stupak (D-MI), Kaptur (D-OH), and LaTourette (R-OH) introduced an amendment to protect the Great Lakes region from the environmental harm caused by oil and gas drilling. Specifically, the amendment would prohibit the Army Corps of Engineers from spending federal funds to issue any new permits for oil or gas drilling from land beneath the water in any of the Great Lakes, as well as in Lake Saint Clair, Saint Mary's River, Saint Clair River, Detroit River, Niagara River, or the Saint Lawrence River from Lake Ontario to the 45th parallel of latitude. On June 28, 2001, the House approved the amendment 265-157. (Roll Call #203) PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: YES

9. Environmental Preservation/Oppose Drilling in National Monuments: Some of the nation's most spectacular places have been granted special status as National Monuments under the Antiquities Act, which allows the president to provide protections to objects of important natural, historic, or scientific value. Treasured places like the Grand Canyon were protected as National Monuments when they were most vulnerable. Unfortunately, President Bush and Interior Secretary Gale Norton announced that they will consider the allowing oil and gas drilling and other reckless development on these fragile lands, threatening the integrity of these national treasures. During House consideration of H.R. 2217, the Fiscal Year 2002 Interior Appropriations bill, Rep. Rahall (D-WV) introduced an amendment to prohibit Interior Secretary Norton from issuing any oil, gas, coal or geothermal leases in any National Monument. On June 21, 2001, the House approved the Rahall amendment 242-173. (Roll Call #180) PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: YES

10. Environmental Preservation/Oppose Military Exemptions from Environmental Protections: During consideration of H.R. 4546, the Defense Authorization bill, the House Armed Services Committee inserted provisions exempting the military from the Endangered Species Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, threatening more than 300 federally-listed threatened and endangered species living on Defense Department lands. These exemptions are unnecessary; under the Endangered Species Act, the Secretary of Defense already has the authority to waive regulations, on a case-by-case basis, in the interest of national security. The bill also included a provision to reduce protections for pristine Utah wilderness lands, as well as provisions to override California state law to allow construction of a four-lane toll road through California's San Onofre State Beach Park. Reps. Rahall (D-WV), Hinchey (D-NY), Pallone (D-NJ), and Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) attempted to introduce amendments to strike the environmental exemptions. On May 9, 2002, the House approved a rule that limited debate and stopped these amendments from being offered 216-200. (Roll Call #136) PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: NO

11. Polluter Subsidies/Oppose Sending Dangerous Waste to Yucca Mountain: Nuclear waste from nuclear power plants may be the most dangerous substance produced by humans. Just a few seconds exposure to an unshielded nuclear power plant fuel rod after it is removed from the reactor is enough to deliver a lethal dose of radiation. No country in the world has developed a sound policy for disposing of this waste, as it remains dangerous to humans and other living things for at least one quarter of a million years. Despite these dangers, the Bush administration weakened standards for a nuclear waste dump and designated a site at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. The government's own studies show the site will leak radioactive waste into groundwater, and no one has adequately studied the risks of transporting 150,000 shipments of this lethal material. On May 8, 2002, the House voted to approve Yucca Mountain as the nation's nuclear waste dump 306-117. (Roll Call #133) PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: NO

12. Fair Trade/Stop Anti-Consumer, Anti-Environmental Trade Agreements: International trade agreements are quickly becoming vehicles for large, multi-national corporations to challenge environmental and consumer protections as "barriers to free trade." Large corporations have filed several lawsuits under provisions of current trade agreements seeking to overturn bans on hazardous chemicals and local decisions on waste dumps. The House voted on a bill to give the president virtually unfettered ability to negotiate additional trade agreements with no protections for the environment. In addition, the bill also contains a specific provision that declares consumer labeling of food products a barrier to free trade. On July 27, 2002, the House passed the bill 215-212. (Roll Call #370) PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: NO

13. Open Government/Protect Public Right to Know: The public "right to know" is a core principle of a responsive democracy; public access to government information is a critical tool for people to hold their government accountable and to gain access to information that affects their lives. The Freedom of Information Act has for decades required the government to disclose any information it has to the public, with certain exceptions for national security and other sensitive situations. When Congress drafted legislation to create a Department of Homeland Security, the telecommunications industry led a multi-industry coalition that sought a new exemption from the Freedom of Information Act. This new exemption would allow private companies to submit information to the Department and tell the government that it pertains to vulnerabilities in "critical infrastructure," thus prohibiting the government from releasing that information to the public and even from using it against them in court to enforce laws. The new loophole would allow companies to keep chemical spills or other threats to health and safety secret, even if they are in violation of the law. Rep. Schakowsky (D-IL) offered an amendment to strike the new exemptions from the bill. On July 26, 2002, the House defeated the amendment 188-240. (Roll Call # 363) PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: YES

14. Clean Air & Clean Water/Restore Funds for EPA Enforcement: Enforcement is a vital component of any environmental law. In the same way that drivers are more likely to break the speed limit if they know no police officer is present, polluters often break the law when they think they can get away with it. Violations of the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act are still pervasive and severe, inspections are too infrequent, and resource constraints are a significant factor in preventing the situation from improving. When President Bush's budget, as introduced in the House, called for an additional $25 million reduction in enforcement dollars at the federal level, Rep. Menendez (D-NJ) introduced an amendment to restore the funding. On July 27, 2001, the House voted 182-214 against Rep. Menendez's amendment to restore environmental enforcement funding. (Roll Call #289) PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: YES

15. Consumer Protection/Protect Strong State Rent-to-Own Laws: Several states strictly regulate the predatory rent-to-own industry -- which sells furniture and appliances over time at triple-digit interest rates. These states treat rent-to-own under credit-sale laws, subject it to interest ceilings or require Annual Percentage Rate (APR) disclosure. The Consumer Rental Purchase Agreement Act (H.R. 1701) would preempt, or over-ride, any of these stronger state laws. The rent-to-own industry would be regulated under much weaker laws applied to leasing goods, rather than buying goods, even though the rent-to-own industry promises the dream of ownership. A typical rent-to-own contract involves up to 78 weekly payments of $10-20 to "own" a television with a retail value of as little as $220 at an APR of 250% or more. Yet, the industry argues that none of the payment is either interest or finance charges. States should always have the right to protect their consumers better than the Congress does, especially because Congress generally chooses to enact legislation, such as H.R. 1701, intended to protect predatory lenders at the expense of consumers. On September 18, 2002 the House voted to pass this bill 215-201. (Roll Call #395) PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: NO

16. Consumer Protection/Protect Medical Malpractice Victims: The root causes of increasing medical malpractice insurance rates are lack of doctor oversight to prevent medical errors and reckless investments by the insurance industry, not legal damages awarded to victims. Instead of addressing these causes the House sought to limit damages that consumers can recover from doctors, HMOs, hospitals, and drug companies that commit malpractice through the cynically named "Health Act." The bill limits consumer rights to recover damages and is especially unfair to children and to non-working women, since its caps on damages for maiming, loss of child-bearing ability or disfigurement (non-economic damages) would unfairly limit their most important form of compensation in malpractice cases. On September 26, 2002, the House passed the bill 217-203. (Roll Call #421) PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: NO

17. Corporate Responsibility/Support Toughest "No More Enrons" Accounting Reforms: Auditor conflicts of interest helped Enron, Worldcom, Tyco and others cook their books and destroy investor confidence in the markets. Rep. LaFalce (D-NY) introduced an amendment to the Corporate and Accounting Reform bill to prevent future Enrons by ensuring that auditors would be independent from the consulting conflicts that led to the Enron debacle and creating a stronger independent oversight board for the accounting industry. The LaFalce amendment had stronger guarantees than the bill the House ultimately passed. On April 24, 2002, the House rejected the amendment 202-219. (Roll Call #108) PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: YES

18. Consumer Protection/Protect Consumer Legal Rights: The House passed H.R. 2341, the falsely-labeled "Class Action Fairness Act," which makes it harder for consumers victimized by dangerous products or unfair financial practices to band together into a group, or class, to sue wrongdoers. Class action lawsuits are an especially effective consumer tool for victims of "nickel, dime and dollar" rip-offs, such as unfair credit card practices, where individuals cannot afford their own attorneys. Although individual claims are small, the total rip-offs amount to millions of dollars. This bill would force most class actions out of consumer-friendly state courts and into more-restrictive federal courts where corporate defendants can take advantage of federal court procedures to delay and weaken cases against them. On March 13, 2002, the House passed H.R. 2341 by a vote of 233-190. (Roll Call #62) PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: NO

19. Health Care/Support Strong Patients' Bill of Rights: In the 106th Congress, Rep. Charlie Norwood (R-GA) championed bipartisan patients' bill of rights legislation guaranteeing consumers a strong right to sue their HMOs. However, Norwood changed his position and backed a weaker proposal negotiated with President Bush to gut the pro-patients' bill, H.R. 2563, sponsored by Reps. Ganske (D-IA) and Dingell (D-MI). On August 2, 2001, the House voted 218-213 to approve the Norwood amendment to H.R. 2563, limiting the right of patients to sue their HMOs. (Roll Call #329) PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: NO

20. Consumer Protection/Oppose Weakening Consumer Bankruptcy Rights: Despite independent research showing that most bankruptcies are the result of job layoffs, divorce, or sudden illness, the House passed one-sided legislation backed forcefully by the credit card industry that would restrict the ability of financially strapped consumers to make a fresh start in bankruptcy without reining in unfair credit card company marketing practices. The bill imposes a rigid new means test on debtors seeking to file for Chapter 7 "fresh-start" bankruptcy, unfairly forcing many consumers into Chapter 13 "5-year repayment plans." The bill also creates onerous legal and paperwork burdens for debtors of modest means while continuing to allow affluent debtors in some states to file for bankruptcy protection and retain expensive homes. Furthermore, it does virtually nothing to rein in abusive creditor practices that help lead consumers into insupportable debt. On March 1, 2001, the House approved the bankruptcy bill, H.R. 333, by a vote of 306-108. (Roll Call #25) PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: NO

21. Campaign Finance Reform/Oppose Doubling Contribution Limits: During the House debate on campaign finance reform, Rep. Wamp (R-TN) offered an amendment to the Shays-Meehan bill that increased the current limit on contributions to candidates running for seats in the U.S. House of Representatives from $1,000 to $2,000. This only further increases the amounts that candidates can raise from wealthy donors and gives special interests even more influence in determining who runs for office and who wins elections. On February 13, 2002, the House adopted the amendment 218-211. (Roll Call #28) PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: NO

Note: The Speaker of the House votes at his discretion.

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May 29, 2003