WASHINGTON – Here’s how Maine’s members of Congress were recorded on major roll call votes in the week ending Feb. 14.

Welfare to work

Voting 230 for and 192 against, the House on Feb. 13 passed a Republican bill (HR 4) renewing for five years a 1996 law designed to move welfare recipients from dependency on government checks to either paying jobs or pre-employment activities. At present, at least half of a state’s welfare families must spend at least 30 hours a week at work or its equivalent. Under this bill, by 2008, 70 percent must spend at least 40 hours on the job or in equivalent activities. Vocational education no longer would count toward the work requirement.

The bill increases U.S. funding of child care for welfare families from $4.8 billion to $6.8 billion per year. It authorizes $300 million annually for programs promoting marriage, $50 million a year for abstinence education and $20 million annually for programs to teach responsible fatherhood.

A yes vote was for renewing the 1996 law.

Rep. Michael Michaud, D-Maine, voted no. Rep. Tom Allen, D-Maine, did not vote.

Democratic version

Voting 197 for and 225 against, the House on Feb. 13 rejected a Democratic substitute to HR 4 (above). It retained 30 hours as the period welfare recipients must spend at work or its equivalent; allowed states to include legal aliens in their programs, and permitted states to spend sex-education funds to teach contraception and abstinence, not just abstinence as called for in the GOP bill.

The substitute allowed welfare recipients two years of education and training before facing work requirements, and made transitional medical assistance a permanent feature of welfare reform rather than a one-year program as proposed by Republicans.

Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said polls show most parents support “abstinence and contraception education for their children.”

Michael Bilirakis, R-Fla., said “abstinence is the only sure way of preventing sexually transmitted diseases as well as out-of-wedlock pregnancies.”

A yes vote backed the substitute.

Michaud voted yes. Allen did not vote.

Liberals’ substitute

The House on Feb. 13 rejected, 124 for and 300 against, an alternative to HR 4 (above) sponsored by some of the most liberal House members. It allowed those leaving welfare to count schooling as a work equivalent; provided child-care payments even after work begins if the pay is particularly low, and guaranteed access to professional help for the disabled, addicts and victims of domestic violence.

Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, said low-income women “need the time and opportunity to build their skills, otherwise there will not be a job for them to go to….”

Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Tex., said “this primitive, retrograde substitute amendment is a dangerous summons to step back” to pre-1996 welfare policies.

A yes vote backed the liberals’ substitute.

Michaud voted no. Allen did not vote.

Child-care funding

The House on Feb. 13 rejected, 197 for and 221 against, a Democratic bid to increase child-care funding in HR 4 (above) by $11 billion over five years. Backers said states need the increase to meet new requirements for putting welfare mothers to work, while foes said the bill already contained adequate day-care funding.

Dave Camp, R-Mich., said the bill “adds $2 billion over the next five years to the current record amounts” for child care.

A yes vote was to raise child-care funding by 32 percent.

Michaud voted yes. Allen did not vote.

Confirm Junell

The Senate on Feb. 10 confirmed, 91 for and none against, Robert A. Junell, 56, as a federal judge for the Western District of Texas. He was among several judicial nominees confirmed without dissent as the Senate moved toward a showdown over Miguel A. Estrada’s nomination to sit on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Tex., said Junell “knows it is the elected representatives who should make law, not judges with lifetime appointments.”

A yes vote was to confirm Junell.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, voted yes. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, voted yes.

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