How Your Lawmakers Voted

April 05, 2006

The Sun brings you a weekly report of key votes in Congress.

Issues before Congress last week

Senate secrecy

Senators voted, 84-13, to end the practice of senators' placing anonymous holds to block legislation and nominations. A yes vote was to require senators to identify themselves and publish their objections within three days in the Congressional Record.

Ethics, lobbyist rules

Senators voted, 90-8, to upgrade Senate ethics and increase oversight of lobbyists. A yes vote was to pass a bill that, in part, bars lobbyists from providing senators with meals and gifts and adds sunlight to the secretive "earmarking" of appropriations.

"Earmarked" spending

Senators voted, 57-41, to retain a loophole in attempts to reform the secretive "earmarking" of appropriations for special interests. A yes vote was to kill a bid for the broadest possible disclosure of those who sponsor and benefit from earmarks.

Ethics enforcement

Senators refused, 30-67, to establish a non-partisan office to help the Senate Ethics Committee investigate complaints of misconduct by senators and their staffs. The unit also was to have watched over lobbyists. A yes vote was to set up the new office.

Gift and meal ban

Senators voted, 68-30, to ban only registered lobbyists from providing senators with gifts and meals. This killed an amendment to extend the ban to all members of the lobbyist's organization. A yes vote was to limit the ban to registered lobbyists.

Higher education

Members passed, 221-199, a bill renewing programs for higher education. In part, the bill would raise the top Pell Grant for poor students by $200 to $6,000, help students schooled at home get into college and boost for-profit colleges. A yes vote was the bill.

Student loans

Members refused, 200-220, to cut student-loan interest rates from 6.8 percent to 3.4 percent. The proposal by Democrats sought to offset recently enacted entitlement curbs that trim student loans by $12 billion over five years. A yes vote was to cut rates.

Racial preferences

Voting 83-337, members defeated an amendment requiring colleges and universities to file periodic reports with the Department of Education on the extent to which they factor race into their admissions policies. A yes vote backed the requirement.

Middle East endowments

Members defeated, 120-306, an amendment requiring colleges and universities to file periodic reports with the Department of Education on their endowments from Middle Eastern interests. A yes vote was to impose the reporting requirement.

Tax cuts

Members rejected, 192-229, a nonbinding bid by Democrats to remove lower dividend and capital gains rates from a tax bill now in House-Senate conference. The motion also urged that Alternative Minimum Tax relief be part of the bill. A yes vote backed the motion.

Key votesahead

This week, the House will take up the fiscal 2007 budget and a campaignfinance measure, while the Senate will continue to debate immigration policy.

Congress begins a two-week recess at week's end.

To contact your lawmakers and find out the district in which you live, go to: baltimoresun.com/representatives

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