2007 Senate Voting Record

INTRODUCTION

The American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO, is the nation’s largest federal employee union, representing 600,000 federal and D.C. government workers nationwide and overseas. Workers in virtually every function of government depend upon AFGE for legislative advocacy, legal representation, technical expertise, and informational services. 

AFGE is proud to represent federal and D.C. government workers because they are the vital threads of the fabric of American life. Government workers inspect the food we eat and the places we work. They protect citizens from the illicit flow of drugs, maintain the safety of our nation’s borders, and keep the national defense systems prepared for any danger. They care for our nation’s veterans and serve as a vital link to Social Security recipients. 

AFGE takes seriously its responsibility to protect the rights of the working- and middle-class Americans who make up the federal and D.C. workforces. The union believes the best way to improve government’s effectiveness and efficiency is to treat federal and D.C. workers as valuable resources rather than easy targets. 

As a labor union, AFGE is in a unique position because it is not currently afforded the same full-scope collective bargaining rights as unions representing private sector workers. For this reason, AFGE relies on a comprehensive legislative and political action program to deal with issues that affect the federal and D.C. workforces. When Congress tackles government employee pay and benefit issues or debates funding of vital government programs, AFGE is on the scene representing its members. 

The 2007 Voting Record shows where House and Senate lawmakers stood on the issues that were most important to federal and D.C. workers, as well as other working Americans, during the first session of the 110th Congress. While the 2007 Voting Record is an important tool in monitoring the actions of Congress, it is important to recognize that it is not the sole reflection of a lawmaker’s record. The 2007 Voting Record is neither an endorsement nor a condemnation of any Member of Congress. 

For more information, please contact AFGE’s Legislative and Political Action Department at (202) 639-6413.

SENATE 

1. Transportation Security Officers and Collective Bargaining (Vote #60) 

AFGE supported a motion offered by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to table (or kill) an amendment introduced by Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) that would strike a provision from the 9-11 Commission Recommendations Act (S. 4) to provide the 45,000 Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) with collective bargaining rights, adverse action appeal rights, and greater whistleblower protections. 

This provision, which had been added to S. 4 during the Homeland Security Committee markup through the leadership of Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, was designed to revamp a personnel system created by TSA management that (1) allows TSOs to join unions but not engage in collective bargaining, (2) fails to protect workers from arbitrary and capricious mismanagement, and (3) provides no meaningful enforcement of whistleblower protections. 

AFGE argued that the Lieberman provision was necessary if the American public is ever to have the highly trained, professional, career screener workforce it demanded after the tragic events of September 11th. The lack of enforceable labor rights has resulted in TSO workplace injury rates and TSO workforce attrition rates that are among the highest of all federal employees. 

The Senate approved the Reid motion to table (or kill) the anti-TSO labor rights amendment offered by Senator DeMint, 51-46, on March 6, 2007. A “Yes” vote in favor of the Reid motion was counted as a “Right” vote. 

2. Transportation Security Officers and Collective Bargaining (Vote #64) 

AFGE supported an amendment offered by Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) to the 9-11 Commission Recommendations Act (S. 4) to provide the Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) with collective bargaining rights while stipulating that the TSA Administrator could “take whatever actions may be necessary to carry out the agency mission during emergencies.” 

The McCaskill amendment became necessary after President Bush threatened to veto S. 4 if the bill’s TSO collective bargaining language was not removed. The Bush administration’s “Statement of Administration Policy” on S. 4 contended that granting collective bargaining rights to TSOs “would significantly diminish the Department of Homeland Security’s ability to respond quickly to security threats and would ultimately reduce transportation security.” President Bush also had the backing of most Senate Republicans on this issue. In a letter to the President, 36 senators – enough to sustain a presidential veto – said they would support a veto of S. 4 if it was included the TSO collective bargaining language. 

The Senate approved the McCaskill amendment, 51-48, on March 7, 2008. A “Yes” vote in favor of the McCaskill amendment was counted as a “Right” vote. 

However, the Senate Republican leadership later objected to a procedural motion to send S. 4 to conference with the House. That motion required 60 votes to pass, and the collective bargaining provision was eventually removed. 

3. Direct Conversions at Department of Veterans Affairs (Vote #315) 

AFGE supported an amendment offered by Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) to the FY 2008 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill (H.R. 2642) to require the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) to conduct a public-private competition before converting to private contractors a DVA activity or function that is performed by more than 10 federal employees. 

This DVA-specific language essentially restates the DVA’s obligation to comply with government-wide competition rules. It became necessary after DVA began contracting out the work of its blue-collar employees – some four-fifths of whom are veterans themselves - without bothering to see if they could perform as well as their private competition. 

The Senate approved the Brown amendment to the FY 2008 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill, 52-39, on September 6, 2007. A “Yes” vote in favor of the Brown amendment was counted as a “Right” vote. 

4. Contracting Out Reforms at the Department of Defense (Vote #358) 

AFGE supported an amendment offered by Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) to the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2008 (H.R. 3058) to codify a fair and commonsense set of rules to govern competition between federal employees and private contractors. 

The Kennedy-Mikulski amendment includes provisions to: 

(a) Prevent the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) from telling the Department of Defense (DoD) how many federal employees to review for privatization, which federal employees to review for privatization, and when to do so.

(b) Allow federal employees to have the same right long enjoyed by contractors to appeal agencies’ adverse contracting out decisions so that they can be reviewed by independent third parties at the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Court of Federal Claims (CFC).

(c) Neutralize the impact of the costs of health care and retirement benefits on the DoD contracting out cost comparison process.

(d) Nullify a one-sided and wasteful provision in the OMB Circular A-76 privatization process that requires work performed by federal employees to be automatically recompeted at the end of performance periods (or five years when there are no performance periods) – except in very narrow circumstances.

(e) Reaffirm the requirement included in Section 343 of the FY 2006 Defense Authorization Act (P.L. 109-163) that DoD develop and implement guidance to ensure that civilian employees have opportunities to perform outsourced work, without using the OMB Circular A-76 process.

(f) Include as permanent law a requirement that there be a public-private competition before work performed by federal employees in agencies other than DoD can be converted to contractor performance, which would be similar to the one that was established for DoD pursuant to Section 341 of the FY 2006 Defense Authorization Act (P.L. 109-163). 

The Senate approved the Kennedy-Mikulski amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for 2008 (H.R. 1585), 51-44, on October 1, 2007. A “Yes” vote in favor of the Kennedy-Mikulski amendment was counted as a “Right” vote. 

The Kennedy-Mikulski amendment was included in the final Defense Authorization conference agreement, which President Bush signed on January 28, 2008. 

5. Employee Free Choice Act of 2007 (Vote #227) 

AFGE supported a motion offered by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to invoke cloture – that is, to end debate and proceed to a vote -- on the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) of 2007 (H.R. 800). 

EFCA is a bill designed to strengthen and expand the American middle class by restoring workers’ freedom to organize and collectively bargain under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). It consists of three basic provisions: 

(a) Certification of a union as the bargaining representative if the National Labor Relations Board finds that a majority of employees in an appropriate unit has signed valid authorizations designating the union as its bargaining representative;

(b) If an employer and a union are engaged in bargaining for their first contract and are unable to reach agreement within 90 days, either party may refer the dispute to the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) for mediation. If the FMCS has been unable to bring the parties to agreement after 30 days of mediation, the dispute will be referred to arbitration and the results of the arbitration shall be binding on the parties for two years; and

(c) Tougher penalties for violations of the NLRA committed by employers against employees during any period while employees are attempting to organize a union or negotiate a first contract agreement. 

The Senate rejected the cloture motion to end debate and proceed to a vote on EFCA, 51-48, on June 26, 2007. (A cloture motion must be approved by 60 Senators.) A “Yes” vote on the cloture motion was counted as a “Right” vote. 

6. Federal Minimum Wage Increase (Vote #23) 

AFGE supported a motion offered by Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) to invoke cloture – that is, to end debate and proceed to a vote – on H.R. 2, a “clean” bill to increase the federal minimum wage from $5.15 an hour to $7.25 an hour over two years, without providing another round of tax breaks to the business community. 

H.R. 2’s minimum wage increase is necessary to ensure once more that a family of four with a parent working full time at minimum wage does not have to raise its children in poverty. The $2.10 increase means an additional $4,200 in annual earnings for a full-time minimum wage worker. It also automatically triggers $1,140 in increases in the family’s Earned Income Tax Credit and refundable Child Tax Credit, enough to roughly offset the decrease in the family’s food stamp benefits resulting from the increase in the family’s cash income (due to the minimum wage increase.) As a result, the family is lifted 5 percent above the poverty line in 2009, instead of being 11 percent below the poverty line, as it would be if the federal minimum wage were not increased. 

At the same time, H.R. 2 does not include new business tax breaks because there is little reason to do so. President Bush and the majority of Senate Republicans argued that corporate tax cuts were necessary to offset the alleged adverse effects of the federal minimum wage increase on small businesses and low-wage workers. But an early 2007 Gallup Poll found that 86 percent of small business owners did not think the minimum wage adversely affected their businesses, and 75% of small business owners said than an increase in the minimum wage would have no effect on their companies. In addition, studies by Professors David Card and Alan Krueger have demonstrated that minimum wage increases do not necessarily result in employment losses for low-wage workers. 

Unfortunately, the Senate rejected the Kennedy cloture motion to end debate and proceed to a vote on a “clean” federal minimum wage increase, 54-43, on January 24, 2007. (A cloture motion must be approved by 60 Senators.) A “Yes” vote in favor of the Kennedy cloture motion was counted as a “Right” vote. 

Eventually, the Senate and House approved the federal minimum wage increase – accompanied by a $4.8 billion package of business tax breaks – as part of the FY 2007 Iraq Supplemental Appropriations bill (P.L. 110-28). 

7. Effective Repeal of Federal Minimum Wage (Vote #24) 

AFGE opposed an amendment offered by Senator Wayne Allard (R-CO) to the “clean” federal minimum wage increase bill (H.R. 2) that would have effectively repealed the federal minimum wage. 

The federal minimum wage is a minimum national standard designed to keep states from competing with each other in a race to pay the lowest possible wages – sweat labor – in order to attract industries into those particular states. Yet Senator Allard offered an amendment that would nullify the federal minimum wage in the 45 states that have their own minimum wage laws, and allow the remaining 5 states that don’t – Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Tennessee – to opt out of any federal minimum wage increase by passing a state minimum wage law providing at least $5.15 an hour. 

The Senate rejected the Allard amendment to effectively repeal the federal minimum wage, 28-69, on January 24, 2007. A “No” vote in opposition to the Allard amendment was counted as a “Right” vote. 

8. State Children’s Health Insurance Program (Vote #353) 

AFGE supported a conference agreement to reauthorize and expand the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) (H.R. 976), a valuable program that has provided access to health insurance to millions of low- and middle-income children over the past decade. 

SCHIP is a federal-state program under which the federal government provides funding to states to provide health insurance to families with children. The program is designed to cover uninsured children in families with incomes that are modest but too high to qualify for Medicaid. 

This SCHIP legislation, which was supported on a bipartisan basis, would boost funding to $60 million over five years, which is $35 million more than current spending. This funding increase would enable states to maintain their existing coverage of 6.6 million children while expanding coverage to an additional 3.8 million children. 

The Senate passed the SCHIP conference agreement, 67-29, on September 27, 2007. A “Yes” vote in favor of the bipartisan SCHIP legislation was counted as a “Right” vote. 

Unfortunately, President Bush vetoed the bipartisan SCHIP legislation on October 3, 2007. In his veto message, President Bush argued that a veto was necessary because the bill included provisions that would provide SCHIP coverage to middle-income children -- those children whose family income exceeds 250% of the poverty level. But what he ignored is that many middle-class families clearly need help today in the wake of cutbacks in employer-based health insurance. A recent analysis of census data by Urban Institute researchers found that the number of uninsured children jumped by a startling 710,000 in 2006. Almost half of the increase was in families with incomes between 200% and 399% above the poverty level – the very group President Bush seemed to believe is adequately insured and in no need for SCHIP coverage. 

President Bush also implicitly criticized the SCHIP bill’s $35 billion funding increase when he pointed out that his FY 2008 budget proposed an increase of $5 billion spread over the next five years. But what he didn’t say was that this paltry sum is not even enough to provide continued coverage for all of the children who are currently enrolled, let alone enroll millions more uninsured children. 

The House failed to override President Bush’s veto of the SCHIP legislation, 273-156, on October 18, 2007. (A House veto override requires a two-thirds majority, or 281 votes.) 

9. Medicare Prescription Drug Prices (Vote #132) 

AFGE supported a motion offered by Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) to invoke cloture – that is, end debate and proceed to a vote - on the Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act of 2007 (S.3). 

S.3 would allow the federal government to use the buying power of millions of Medicare beneficiaries and negotiate with pharmaceutical and insurance companies to lower drug prices. The 2003 Medicare Modernization Act, which established Medicare Part D for prescription drug coverage, prohibits the federal government from negotiating for lower drug prices. 

The Senate rejected the cloture motion to end debate and proceed to a vote on S. 3, 55-42, on April 18, 2007. (A cloture motion must be approved by 60 Senators.) A “Yes” vote in favor of the cloture motion was counted as a “Right” vote. 

10. Social Security Privatization (Vote #89) 

AFGE opposed an amendment offered by Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) to the Senate FY 2008 budget resolution (S.Con.Res. 21) to establish a “reserve fund for Social Security reform.” 

The DeMint amendment was intended to encourage the development of private investment accounts by establishing a Social Security reserve fund and “permitting the pre-funding of at least some portion of future benefits.” Such a diversion of Social Security revenues into private investment accounts would require substantial Social Security tax increases, Social Security benefit cuts, or some combination of the two. 

The Senate rejected Senator DeMint’s Social Security privatization amendment, 45-52, on March 22, 2007. A “No” vote on the DeMint amendment was counted as a “Right” vote. 

11. Temporary Tax Relief Act of 2007 (Vote #414) 

AFGE supported a motion offered by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to invoke cloture – that is, to end debate and proceed to a vote – on the Temporary Tax Relief Act of 2007 (H.R. 3996), a bill intended to provide 23 million middle-income households with $50 billion in tax relief for 2007 by protecting them from the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). 

The AMT was created in 1969 to ensure that the highest-income households could not exploit loopholes, exclusions, and deductions to avoid paying any federal income tax. The AMT acts as a stop-gap tax system, with taxpayers owing their regular income tax or AMT liability, whichever is higher. 

Unfortunately, the AMT is beginning to adversely affect a rapidly increasing number of middle-income households because the AMT was never indexed for inflation, and because the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts substantially lowered taxpayers’ liability under the regular income tax without changing the AMT structure. 

Senate Republicans voted against the Reid cloture motion because H.R. 3996 offset the cost of providing middle-class households with tax relief from the AMT by closing tax loopholes that benefit private equity firms and hedge funds, allowing the very wealthiest households to enjoy tax rates lower than those paid by middle-income households and, in some cases, to deter federal taxes indefinitely. 

The Senate rejected the Reid cloture motion to end debate and proceed to a vote on the AMT fix, 46-48, on December 6, 2007. (A cloture motion must be approved by 60 Senators.)A “Yes” vote on the Reid cloture motion was counted as a “Right” vote. 

12. FY 2008 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations (Vote #405) 

AFGE supported the conference agreement on the FY 2008 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bill (H.R. 3043), a bill that provided substantial funding increases in a number of key areas that benefit working families – such as job training, education, health care, child care, and services for the elderly. 

The conference agreement increased the Labor-HHS-Education budget by $5.2 billion, or 3.5%, over the FY 2007 level adjusted for inflation. In so doing, lawmakers rejected President Bush’s proposal to cut the Labor-HHS-Education budget by $6.7 billion, or 4.5%, below the FY 2007 level adjusted for inflation. 

The Senate approved this conference agreement on the FY 2008 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bill, 56-37, on November 7, 2007. A “Yes” vote in support of this Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations agreement was counted as a “Right” vote. 

Unfortunately, President Bush vetoed this Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations agreement on November 13, 2007. The president claimed that his veto stemmed from a concern about the bill’s “fiscally irresponsible” $6 billion increase for key domestic programs that benefit working families. But this claim was difficult to reconcile with the $42 billion he wanted to devote to his own budget priorities, especially defense-related increases that were in addition to – and unrelated to – operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and activities related to terrorism. 

The House failed to override President Bush’s veto of the conference agreement on the FY 2008 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bill, 277-141, on November 15, 2007. (A House veto override requires a two-thirds majority, or 281 votes.) 

13. District of Columbia Voting Rights Act of 2007 (Vote #339) 

AFGE supported a motion offered by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to invoke cloture – that is, to end debate and proceed to vote – on the District of Columbia Voting Rights Act of 2007 (S. 1257). 

The purpose of S. 1257 is to correct the historical anomaly that leaves 600,000 American citizens – who live closest to the seat of our democracy, who pay taxes, who go off to war, and who observe other responsibilities of citizenship – without the right to vote for representation in the U.S. House of Representatives. 

S. 1257 would permanently expand the U.S. House of Representatives from 435 to 437 seats, providing one seat to the District of Columbia and one additional seat to the State of Utah, the next state in line to receive an additional seat based on the 2000 census. 

The Senate rejected the Reid cloture motion on S. 1257, 57-42, on September 18. (A cloture motion must be approved by 60 Senators.) A “Yes” vote on the cloture motion was counted as a “Right” vote.

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