Here’s how U.S. House members and senators voted on major issues during the legislative weeks starting Sept. 25 and Oct. 2.
KEVIN MCCARTHY DEPOSED AS HOUSE SPEAKER
Voting 216 for and 210 against, the House on Oct. 3, 2023, adopted a resolution (H Res 757) to remove Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., as House speaker. He was elected to the post Jan. 7 on the 15th ballot of a four-day power struggle among House Republicans. McCarthy’s continuance as speaker drew opposition from all Democrats who voted and eight Republicans. Because the chamber cannot perform a full range of official duties without a speaker, this vote effectively shut down legislative business until a successor takes office. The Republican conference is scheduled to meet as early as Oct. 10 to begin the process of choosing McCarthy’s replacement.
Floor Debate, Pro & Con:
Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., who sponsored the removal motion, said: “If we continue with Speaker McCarthy, the appropriations process will go right back to…just a sideshow, just a puppet show, just something to keep the hamsters on the hamster wheel as they continue to back people up against a calendar, centralize power with the lobbyists and special interests that move all kinds of money through the leadership. That is how they get their way, and that is why the American people have been getting screwed decade after decade. I am not going to tolerate it anymore without a fight.”
Tom Emmer, R-Iowa, who voted against the motion to vacate the speakership, said: “Speaker McCarthy’s Republican majority has been successful in bringing common sense back to our nation’s capital by passing legislation to affirm a parents’ right to be involved in their child’s education, bolster American energy production, fully fund veterans’ care and benefits, fight back against the regulatory state and continue delivering on our promise to rein in Democrats’ reckless spending by passing fiscally responsible appropriations bills.”
A yes vote was to vacate the office of House speaker.
BIPARTISAN BILL TO AVERT GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN
Voting 335 for and 91 against, the House on Sept. 30, 2023, passed a continuing resolution (HR 5860) that would fund the government on a stopgap basis through Nov. 15. The Senate was expected to approve the bill later in the day, averting a partial government shutdown slated to begin at midnight Sept. 30 without enactment of this legislation. The bill, which President Biden was prepared to sign into law, would fund disaster assistance for U.S. locales ravaged by floods and wildfires but omit military and humanitarian aid for Ukraine,
A yes vote was to send the bill to the Senate.
REPUBLICANS’ STOPGAP FUNDING AND IMMIGRATION BILL
Voting 198 for and 232 against, the House on Sept. 28, 2023, defeated a Republican-sponsored continuing resolution (HR 5525) intended to keep the government fully open during October while Congress seeks agreement on regular funding for the new fiscal year. Opposed by 21 Republicans and all 211 Democrats who voted, the bill slashed discretionary spending by up to 30 percent at all agencies except the departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security. The vote occurred after Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said he would not allow the House to consider a popular bipartisan continuing resolution working its way through the Senate (below). McCarthy’s decision, which placated his detractors on the far-right fringe of the GOP caucus, increased odds that a partial government shutdown would start at midnight on Sept. 30.
The House bill also sought to reinstate harsh Trump-era immigration policies for securing the southwest border and punishing undocumented immigrants including those seeking asylum pursuant to U.S. and international law. In part, the bill would speed the return of unaccompanied migrant children to their native country unless doing so would expose them to sex trafficking, and it would end federal funding of attorneys to represent these youths in immigration proceedings. The bill would prohibit the transfer of migrant families to U.S. communities while they await hearings in immigration court, instead requiring their detention near the border, among other provisions.
Floor Debate, Pro & Con:
Supporter Mike Johnson, R-La., said: “We have to change the way that the Biden administration is administering the economy. We have to change…this radical green energy transition. It is nonsense. The American people have had enough. They see the `Democrat’ policies destroying our economy, destroying our security, destroying opportunity for their children and grandchildren. We are taking a stand here. We are operating in good faith. We are negotiating together for the best outcome for the people, and we do not desire a shutdown.
Opponent Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said: “With just hours remaining before…an unnecessary shutdown, the House is being forced to waste time on a measure that would impose draconian cuts to vital federal programs and compel the enactment” of Trump-era immigration policies. The Senate will not take up [the bill] and it will never go to the president’s desk. The House must come together today and stop coddling extreme MAGA members looking to get former President Trump’s failed illegal and immoral policies enacted into law.”
A yes vote was to pass the bill.
ENDING MILITARY SUPPORT OF UKRAINE
Voting 93 for and 339 against, the House on Sept. 27, 2023, defeated an amendment that sought to remove U.S, military aid to Ukraine from the fiscal 2024 defense appropriations bill (HR 4365), which was later passed. Congress has approved $113 billion in military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine since it was invaded by Russia in February 2022, and the Biden administration has asked Congress to approve tens of billions more in the 2024 budget year.
Floor Debate, Pro & Con:
Sponsor Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., said: “I do not fear broken Russian tanks rolling through Europe. I fear Russia’s nuclear weapons and the risk that we could be sleepwalking into a nuclear conflict that could end life as we know it on the planet, all for what? To live out some neoconservative dream in Ukraine? Give me a break.”
Opponent Betty McCollum, D-Minn., said: “Putin and his thugs are committing war crimes on a mass scale. The United States and the other democratic nations of the world must continue to oppose him. If we do not, then he or another authoritarian leader will try something like this again, yes, either in Ukraine or elsewhere in the world.”
A yes vote was to adopt the amendment.
JAMES C. O’BRIEN, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE
Voting 67 for and 31 against, the Senate on Oct. 4, 2023, confirmed James C. O’Brien as assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs, putting him in charge, along with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, of U.S. diplomatic efforts to confront Russia over its invasion of Ukraine. An attorney who joined the Department of State in 1989, O’Brien served most recently as chief coordinator of U.S. sanctions policies around the world, and before that, he was the special envoy for hostage affairs, special envoy for the Balkans and coordinator of the Dayton Accords peace agreement among Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia, among other positions.
Floor Debate, Pro & Con:
Benjamin Cardin, D-Md., said O’Brien “brings a wealth of experience to this position, having most recently worked as the head of the Office of Sanctions Coordination, targeting, among others, the Russian oligarchs who thrive on corruption — Russian oligarchs whose corrupt networks are continuing to fuel the war in Ukraine, which in turn impacts global energy and food prices for just about every single person in the world.”
No senator spoke against the nominee.
A yes vote was to confirm the nominee.