EYE ON CONGRESS: Congress starts its legislative year

WASHINGTON — Both chambers will debate government funding this week and may also take up a COVID-19 relief package. The Senate will vote on the final version of the fiscal 2021 military budget.

Contact legislators

The North Olympic Peninsula’s legislators in Washington, D.C., are Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Mountlake Terrace), Sen. Patty Murray (D-Seattle) and Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-Gig Harbor).

Contact information — The address for Cantwell and Murray is U.S. Senate, Washington, D.C. 20510; Kilmer, U.S. House, Washington, D.C. 20515.

Phone Cantwell at 202-224-3441 (fax, 202-228-0514); Murray, 202-224-2621 (fax, 202-224-0238); Kilmer, 202-225-5916.

Email via their websites: cantwell.senate.gov; murray.senate.gov; kilmer.house.gov. Kilmer’s North Olympic Peninsula office is located at 332 E. Fifth St. in Port Angeles.

Hours are from 9 a.m. to noon Tuesdays and Thursdays and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays.

It is staffed by Mary Jane Robins, who can be contacted at maryjane.robins@mail.house.gov or 360-797-3623.

State legislators

Jefferson and Clallam counties are represented in the part-time state Legislature by Rep. Mike Chapman, D-Port Angeles; Rep. Steve Tharinger, D-Port Townsend; and Sen. Kevin Van De Wege, D-Sequim.

Write Chapman and Tharinger at P.O. Box 40600 (Van De Wege at P.O. Box 40424), Olympia, WA 98504. Email them at Chapman.mike@leg.wa.gov; tharinger.steve@leg.wa.gov; vandewege.kevin@leg.wa.gov.

Or you can call the Legislative Hotline, 800-562-6000, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays (closed on holidays and from noon to 1 p.m.) and leave a detailed message, which will be emailed to Chapman, Tharinger, Van DeWege or to all three.

Links to other state officials: tinyurl.com/pdn-links officials.

Learn more

Websites following our state and national legislators:

• Followthemoney.org — Campaign donors by industry, ZIP code and more.

• Votesmart.org — How special interest groups rate legislators on the issues.

APPROVING $740.5 BILLION FOR THE MILITARY: Voting 335 for and 78 against, the House on Dec. 8 adopted the conference report on a $740.5 billion military budget (HR 6395) for fiscal 2021 that includes $69 billion to fund combat operations overseas, $60 billion-plus for active-duty and retiree health care; $8.5 billion for military construction; $1 billion for addressing present and future pandemics and hundreds of billions for weapons systems, personnel costs and research and development.

In addition, the bill would require the removal of Confederate names from military bases; treat global warming as a national-security threat; fund a 3 percent pay raise for uniformed personnel; expand programs for military victims of sexual assault; and provide Ukraine with $250 million for defending itself against Russian incursions.

The bill would require the administration to provide Congress with national-security justifications for President Donald Trump’s announced plans to slash U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan and Germany. This would not prohibit the withdrawals but delay them until after the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.

A yes vote was to send the bill to the Senate.

Kilmer voted yes.

STOPGAP FUNDING, COVID-19 RELIEF: Voting 343 for and 67 against, the House on Dec. 9 passed a bill (HR 8900) to fund the government on a stopgap basis through Dec. 18. In addition to averting a shutdown, the vote gives leaders more time to negotiate another round of emergency relief for individuals and households facing economic hardship as a result of COVID-19. If the coronavirus aid is agreed upon in coming days, it would be included in a permanent funding bill for the remaining nine-plus months of fiscal 2022, which would be debated against a deadline of Christmas Day.

A yes vote was to approve stopgap funding through Dec. 18.

Kilmer voted yes.

SELLING WEAPONS TO UNITED ARAB EMIRATES: Voting 46 for and 50 against, the Senate on Dec. 9 refused to block the Trump administration’s planned sale of MQ-9 Reaper drones to the United Arab Emirates. These unmanned aerial vehicles are equipped with laser-guided bombs and air-to-ground missiles. By this vote, the Senate failed to discharge from committee a measure (SJ Res 77) to disapprove of the sale. On a separate vote the same day, the Senate affirmed an administration plan to sell as many as 59 F-35 stealth fighter jets to the UAE. Totaling $23.5 billion, the deals drew opposition, in part, because they would skirt traditional congressional oversight of arms sales in the closing days of the Trump administration.

A yes vote was to effectively delay the arms sales.

Cantwell and Murray voted yes.

CONFIRMING FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSIONER: On a vote of 92 for and four against, the Senate on Dec. 9 confirmed Shana M. Broussard for a seat on the Federal Election Commission. The agency’s first African American commissioner, Broussard had been an FEC staff attorney, and before that she was an attorney with the Internal Revenue Service and an assistant district attorney in New Orleans. Her confirmation along with that of two other commissioners last week gives the agency a full slate of six commissioners for the first time since 2017. A post-Watergate panel, the FEC is charged with enforcing campaign-finance laws in federal contests, disclosing candidates’ campaign-finance data to the public, enforcing rules for contributions and spending and supervising the public funding of presidential elections.

A yes vote was to confirm Broussard.

Cantwell and Murray voted yes.

SENDING MILITARY BUDGET TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: Voting 84 for and 13 against, the Senate on Dec. 11 adopted the conference report on a $740.5 billion military budget for fiscal 2021 (HR 6395). In addition to provisions in the House summary above, the bill would prohibit U.S. troops from being deployed domestically against Americans exercising their constitutional right to peaceably protest; reinforce America’s role in NATO; expand health benefits to Vietnam-era veterans exposed to Agent Orange; and ensure that all federal employees have access to 12 weeks’ paid parental leave.

In addition, the bill would require the removal over three years of Confederate names from Army bases named after officers who waged war against the United States and from other U.S. military assets including naval vessels.

The bill would add a “violent extremism” article covering hate crimes and other offenses to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, while installing an inspector general to probe white supremacist activities in the armed forces and review racial and ethnic disparities in the administration of justice.

A yes vote was to send the bill to Trump.

Cantwell and Murray voted yes.

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