How your lawmakers voted

May 24, 2006

Issues before Congress last week

IN THE SENATE

Border fence: Senators authorized, 83-16, the construction of triple-layer fencing along 370 miles of America's 2,000-mile border with Mexico and placement of vehicle barriers at key crossing points. A yes vote was to add the fencing to an immigration bill (S 2611) that remained in debate.

Immigrant criminals: Voting 99-0, senators amended the border fence bill to deny a path to citizenship to illegal aliens with a rap sheet of at least one felony or three misdemeanors. The exclusion could be waived on humanitarian grounds. A yes vote was to adopt the amendment.

Security first: Senators refused, 40-55, to require the U.S. border to be declared secure before other provisions of a pending immigration bill could take effect. A yes vote supported border security in advance of provisions granting illegal aliens a path to citizenship.

Guest worker program: Senators failed, 18-79, to table (kill) a bid to limit guest-worker visas in S 2611. The vote capped these temporary visas at 200,000 annually, in place of the underlying bill's level of at least 325,000 per year. A yes vote backed a larger guestworker program.

English for immigrants: Senators declared, 63-34, English as the national language. Under the immigration bill (S 2611) provision, U.S. agencies would not be required to provide materials and services in other tongues and aliens would have to learn English. A yes vote backed the declaration.

Social Security: Senators tabled, 50-49, a bid to prevent immigrants legalized under S 2611 from getting credit for Social Security contributions made while working illegally. A yes vote was to allow aliens who become legal to eventually receive all earned Social Security credits.

Burned forests: Members voted, 243-182, to waive environmental laws in order to expedite commercial logging in burned national forests. Backers said trees on burned acreage should be salvaged before they decay, while foes urged natural regeneration. A yes vote was to pass the bill.

Environment waivers: Members defeated, 189-236, a bid to keep HR 4200 (above) from waiving environmental laws such as the Clean Water Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. A yes vote was to keep green laws as a factor in determining U.S. logging policy for burned forests.

Offshore drilling ban: Members voted, 217-203, to continue a ban on drilling for natural gas under the Outer Continental Shelf in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. A yes vote was to add the prohibition to a 2007 Interior Department funding bill.

Oil and gas royalty relief: Members barred, 252- 165, certain oil firms from new leases for Outer Continental Shelf drilling in the western Gulf of Mexico. A yes vote was to apply the ban in HR 5386 to firms holding leases from the 1990s waiving royalty payments to the Treasury estimated at $7 billion.

Tongass forest logging: Members voted, 237-181, to bar funding in HR 5386 (above) for additional logging roads in the Tongass National Forest in Alaska. In the current fiscal year, the government is spending $48 million to subsidize clear-cutting there. A yes vote opposed logging subsidies.

2007 U.S. budget: Voting 218-210, members approved a GOP budget that sets spending of $2.73 trillion, a deficit of $348 billion and $50 billion for actions in Iraq and Afghanistan in the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1. A yes vote was to send the budget to negotiations with the Senate.

Key votesahead

This week, the House will take up fiscal 2007 appropriations bills, while the Senate will continue to debate an immigration bill. At week's end, Congress will begin a weeklong Memorial Day recess.

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

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