EYE ON CONGRESS: Senate takes on coronavirus economic aid

WASHINGTON — The Senate will take up bills on coronavirus economic aid and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act this week, and the House is tentatively scheduled to be in recess.

Contact legislators

“Eye on Congress” is published in the Peninsula Daily News every week when Congress is in session about activities, roll call votes and legislation in the House and Senate.

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 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; and 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: www.tinyurl.com/pdn-linksofficials.

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.

Voterama in Congress

APPROVING CORONAVIRUS RELIEF AND ECONOMIC STIMULUS: Voting 363 for and 40 against, the House on Saturday approved tens of billions of dollars in stimulus and safety-net spending to cushion the economic and social impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on individuals, families and mainly small- and medium-size businesses in the United States.

The bill (HR 6201) would appropriate $1 billion to provide free virus testing for all who request it, from the uninsured to Medicaid and Medicare recipients to individuals with private medical insurance; $1 billion to expand food stamps, nutrition programs for the poor and meals programs for seniors and K-12 students whose schools were closed; and $1 billion to expand state-federal unemployment benefits while delivering the checks more promptly.

The bill also would fund a 6.2 percent increase in Medicaid payments to states, grant liability protections to manufacturers of respiratory masks and delay filing deadlines for certain business and personal tax returns.

In addition, the bill would authorize two weeks’ paid sick leave and up to three weeks’ paid medical and family leave through December to individuals and households affected by the coronavirus crisis, using tax credits to fully reimburse qualified employers for the cost of providing the leave. Leave payments would have to be at least two-thirds of normal levels. Government employees would receive equivalent leave benefits.

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

Kilmer voted yes.

RENEWING SURVEILLANCE AUTHORITY FOR FIVE YEARS: Voting 278-136, the House on Wednesday approved a five-year extension (HR 6172) of three sections of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) that require periodic congressional renewal because of their direct or potential clash with Americans’ civil liberties.

One section allows law enforcement to place roving wiretaps on homegrown or foreign terrorist suspects moving about the United States, and another permits government surveillance on U.S. soil of foreign “lone wolf” suspects not linked to terrorist organizations.

Under the third section, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court can authorize forever-secret FBI searches of library, bookstore and business records in the United States if the agency shows “reasonable grounds” the targeted information is vital to an ongoing domestic probe of specifically defined foreign-sponsored threats to national security.

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

Kilmer voted yes.

ASSERTING CONGRESSIONAL CONTROL OVER WAR WITH IRAN: The House on Wednesday voted 227-186 to require the administration to obtain advance congressional approval for military actions against Iran or its proxy forces except when there is an imminent threat to the United States, its armed forces or its territories.

A yes vote was to send SJ Res 68 to President Donald Trump, who said he will veto it.

Kilmer voted yes.

KILLING ADMINISTRATION RULE ON STUDENT LOAN FORGIVENESS: Voting 53-42, the Senate on Wednesday joined the House in nullifying a Trump administration rule on debt forgiveness sought by more than 200,000 federal student-loan borrowers who allege that their school fraudulently misrepresented the quality of education they would receive.

The new rule bars class-action lawsuits against schools and requires claims to be adjudicated one-by-one by mandatory arbitration rather than in open court, with borrowers prohibited from appealing the decision. The rule sets a standard of evidence requiring borrowers to prove the fraud was intentional.

A yes vote was to send HJ Res 76 to the White House.

Cantwell and Murray voted yes.