WASHINGTON – Here’s how Maine’s members of Congress were recorded on major roll call votes in the week ending May 23.

HOUSE Wildfires, logging

Voting 256 for and 170 against, the House on May 20 passed a bill (HR 1904) waiving environmental rules so that commercial logging in national forests can be increased to control wildfires. By easing the National Environmental Review Policy Act (NEPA), the bill opens 20 million acres in western states, including swaths of old-growth forests, to stepped-up brush clearing and timbering. Critics said a better way to protect property owners against catastrophic fires is to target limited funds at “community protection zones” near populated areas rather than at remote, uninhabited areas (next issue).

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

Rep. Tom Allen, D, voted no. Rep. Michael Michaud, D, voted yes.

Firefighting issue

Voting 184 for and 239 against, the House on May 20 rejected a Democratic alternative to HR 1904 (above) that focused fire-prevention resources on “community protection zones” near vulnerable, inhabited areas rather than remote areas of national forests. In part, it sought to keep the bill from weakening the National Environmental Policy Act.

A yes vote backed the substitute.

Allen and Michaud voted yes.

Environmental waivers

The House on May 21 voted, 252 for and 175 against, to give military training operations an across-the-board exemption from compliance with the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammals Protection Act. Affecting all military bases, the blanket waiver would replace provisions in current law that allow the Pentagon to obtain case-by-case environmental exemptions. The vote occurred during debate on a $400.5 billion defense authorization bill (HR 1588) for fiscal 2004.

A yes vote backed the exemption.

Allen voted no. Michaud voted yes.

SENATE

Endangered species

The Senate on May 21 voted, 51 for and 48 against, to increase protection for endangered species in the fiscal 2004 defense budget (S 1050, above). The 25 million acres of military property are habitat to about 300 endangered species. The bill originally gave the Pentagon broad latitude to disregard the Endangered Species Act in the name of national security. This amendment requires affirmation by the secretary of Interior that a given military installation, in its conservation plan, is doing its best to balance species protection with military objectives.

A yes vote backed the amendment.

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

Nuclear weapons

The Senate on May 20 voted, 51 for and 43 against, to end a 10-year ban on research into “low-yield” nuclear weapons. These bombs contain less than five kilotons, about one-fourth the strength of the bomb dropped on Nagasaki in World War II. They are envisioned as tactical battlefield weapons, as opposed to strategic warheads designed to obliterate large civilian populations. The vote occurred during debate on the fiscal 2004 defense authorization bill (S 1050).

Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., said: “We are in a new world environment….We should not shut off any study, any evaluation, of nuclear weapons (into) what we might need in the future….”

Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said the defense bill “clearly opens the door to the development of new nuclear weapons and will, if left as is, begin a new era of nuclear proliferation….”

A yes vote was to advance low-yield nuclear research.

Collins and Snowe voted yes.

Bunker-busters

The Senate on May 21 voted, 56 for and 41 against, to continue an Energy Department study into the feasibility of nuclear weapons that penetrate deeply into the earth and then explode. These encased, high-yield missiles would destroy enemy weapons of mass destruction in underground bunkers. The vote occurred during debate on the fiscal 2004 defense authorization bill.

Wayne Allard, R-Colo., said: “The key is, if the U.S. president is faced with a situation so grave that the use of nuclear weapons is considered, we must have a full sweep of options.”

Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., said that in a break with the post-World War II U.S. doctrine of nuclear deterrence, “We now have people walking around this town engaged in policy discussions, talking about “usable’ nuclear weapons.”

A yes vote was to advance the bunker-buster.

Collins and Snowe voted yes.


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