WASHINGTON – Here’s how Maine’s members of Congress were recorded on major roll call votes in the week ending June 20.

HOUSE Estate tax repeal

Voting 264 for and 163 against, the House on June 18 passed a bill (HR 8) to permanently repeal the federal estate tax in 2011. The levy is set to end in 2010, but without this measure, it will return the following year for individual estates over $3.5 million. This bill, which awaits Senate action, is projected to add $50 billion annually to the national debt between 2011-2013.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

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

$3 million exclusion

Voting 188 for and 239 against, the House on June 18 rejected a Democratic alternative to HR 8 (above). In place of the GOP’s permanent repeal in 2011, Democrats proposed that beginning in 2004, the first $3 million of individual estates, or $6 million for couples, be excluded from taxation. They said this would permanently exempt 99.6 percent of estates from taxation at a cost of $30 billion over the first ten years.

Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., said the substitute provides family farm couples “a $6 million exclusion from estate tax….One hundred percent repeal, effective January 1.”

A yes vote backed the Democratic substitute.

Allen and Michaud voted yes.

April 30 tax deadline

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Voting 252 for and 170 against, the House on June 19 passed a bill (HR 1528) setting a later deadline – April 30 – for taxpayers who file electronically with the Internal Revenue Service. The April 15 deadline would remain for paper filers. Backers said the extra time would spur taxpayers to switch to electronic filing, while foes said it would only cause confusion. Now awaiting Senate action, the bill also bolsters the confidentiality of tax returns, eases IRS financial penalties for minor infractions and authorizes more spending for IRS clinics to help low-income taxpayers.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

Allen and Michaud voted no.

Health coverage

Voting 196 for and 226 against, the House on June 19 defeated a Democratic substitute to HR 1528 (above). It sought, in part, to block the GOP bill’s curbs on health insurance subsidies for workers displaced by foreign trade. Enacted last year, the entitlement provides a 65 percent tax credit for buying health policies, and it guarantees against denials based on pre-existing medical conditions. The GOP provision addressed on this vote could result in thousands of individuals in certain states losing the pre-existing conditions guarantee. The substitute also sought to keep April 15 as the date for filing electronic tax returns, among other provisions.

Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., said the GOP bill “undermines Congress’ commitment of providing healthcare tax credits to displaced workers, regardless of their age or health status.”

Jim McCrery, R-La., said that because many states have been slow to implement the tax credit, the Republican approach would help thousands of individuals “who, if this bill does not pass, would not be able to get coverage.”

A yes vote was to block GOP changes in the tax credit.

Allen and Michaud voted yes.

SENATE

Medicare drug benefit

Voting 37 for and 58 against, the Senate on June 18 rejected an amendment to a bill (S 1) that would expand Medicare to include an optional prescription-drug benefit delivered by the private sector.

The amendment sought to allow Medicare itself to offer the new benefit in direct, nationwide competition with the federally subsidized private insurance companies. Backers said this would inject needed competition and lessen chances of the hospital and doctor elements of Medicare eventually being privatized. Opponents said direct government involvement would discourage participation by private insurance firms and undermine the new program’s free-market rationale.

A yes vote backed the amendment.

Sen. Susan Collins, R, voted no. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R, voted no.

Generic drugs

The Senate on June 19 voted, 94 for and one against, to close loopholes in patent law that now block or delay the market entry of generic drugs. The amendment to S 1 (above) limits brand-name pharmaceuticals to a single 30-month stay against the entry of competing generic copies of their drugs. Under present law, brand-name manufacturers typically obtain repeated stays during patent disputes. The amendment also prevents brand name firms from paying generic companies to keep competing brands off the market.

A yes vote backed the amendment.

Collins and Snowe voted yes.


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