Checking up on the voting records of Congress is a complicated business. What do they stand for?
By Jenifer Simpson and William G. Stothers
Things are not always what they seem. Except, perhaps, when they seem confusing.
We set out to pull together the voting records of members of Congress on disability issues in the 104th Congress.
It seemed like a straightforward task. What we found is a murky swamp. Members of Congress have developed techniques for slipping chameleon-like away from accountability for their actions.
It's like this:
A bill is proposed. It is pushed and pulled and pummelled in subcommittee and committee before -- if ever -- it reaches the floor of the House of Representatives or the Senate. The important stuff may happen in subcommittee with or without a vote.
If the proposal makes it through committee and onto the floor, it may never receive a straight up or down vote. Instead it may be tacked on to some other bill as a "poison pill" or as a little noticed side issue to some bigger issue.
Take Welfare Reform, for instance:
The Congress recently passed and President Clinton vowed to sign a Welfare Reform Act. Everybody was hot to reform welfare. It was a steamroller.
The "end of welfare as we know it" was proclaimed. Included in this extravaganza were significant changes in Children's SSI.
What ended up in the final measure for Children's SSI, although harmful to thousands of children, was significantly "better" then the original proposal to block grant the funds at the level of 75 percent of last year's money to each state.
It would be foolish to say a Senator or Representative who voted for welfare reform is against low-income children with disabilities who receive SSI.
Do the compromises in the Children's SSI mean that a representative voted the wrong way? Do we hold each legislator accountable for every provision in every statute? Some say yes. At the least, we should be asking a member why he or she voted for it and telling them how many children will lose their benefits -- even if we discern that it is election year politics and members can lose their seats on the bigger issue.
What about the minimum wage?
There is not always agreement in our community as to what is a "good" vote. For instance, a rise in the minimum wage may mean a lot for low-income individuals with disabilities who work, but can have a negative effect for individuals who hire personal assistants for whom they will have to pay higher wages.
And Section 8...
Some people may feel that a vote for expansion of funds for Section 8 rental assistance for persons with disabilities is a "good" indicator. Others may feel rental assistance in general is a market distorting factor that works to keep housing stock out of the housing market and works as a disincentive to a real increase in the number of housing units. Others may say that any income support program for persons with disabilities is good. Another person may feel "welfare" is bad. How we agree on these fundamental principles and how they are translated into legislation that affects a particular individual means every person with a disability and their family members must become even more informed and discerning about issues. And we have to got to tell our representatives -- again, and again, and again -- how important issues such as personal assistance services, Medicaid and health care, employment, access to affordable housing and transportation are to us.
In the August '96 issue of MAINSTREAM, the GO VOTE pullout section described the issues of most importance for the disability community, and suggested some pointed questions to ask members of Congress and the people challenging them in this election. Get a copy and press all the candidates strongly and persistently on our issues.
Okay, given all the caveats above, here are a few Congressional votes that show how Congress "works:"
How Representatives voted during initial welfare reform:
In January 1995, the U.S. House Ways & Means Committee Members initially voted for welfare reform in subcommittee. At that time, Section 402 of the welfare overhaul bill was a proposal to drastically reform the Children's SSI program. Children's SSI provides critical cash and Medicaid benefits to children with disabilities in low income families. Section 402 gutted the current federal cash benefit by proposing to remove the cash entitlement to families, block grant 75 percent of the current total amount to state bureaucracy and rip out the Individualized Functional Assessment (IFA) process.
The IFA process permits children with multiple but mild disabilities to be determined as disabled by SSA. The Senate later looked at welfare reform, and senators modified the House proposal, due to pressure from advocates for children with disabilities, so that the cash entitlement was maintained. Nevertheless, the Senate proposal for children's SSI reform revised the childhood definition of disability to be used by the Social Security Administration and completely removed the IFA process.
The recently passed welfare reform bill includes a version of Children's SSI reform that is basically the Senate proposal, despite another attack in May 1996 by the House Ways & Means Subcommittee on Human Resources. This critical vote follows.
Members who voted for Section 402 (against the SSI cash entitlement for children with disabilities):
Rep. E. Clay Shaw, Chairman (R-FL), Rep. Mac Collins (R-GA), Rep. Jim McCrery (R-LA), Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI), Rep. John Ensign (R-NV), Rep. Phil English (R-PA), Rep. Jennifer Dunn (R-WA), Rep. Jim Nussle (R-IA).
Voting against this draconian proposal:
Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA), Rep. Barbara B. Kennelly (D-CT), Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI), Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-NY), Rep. Harold E. Ford, Ranking Member (D-TN).
How Senators Voted on the Chafee Amendment:
Congress passed the Medicaid Transformation Act in December 1995, which both removed the individual entitlement and set a cap to the states on federal money for medical assistance and which permits states to design their own medical assistance programs.
During the negotiations Senators Chafee (RI), Conrad (ND), Rockefeller (WV), Frist (TN), Harkin (IA) and Wellstone (MN) pushed through a critical amendment ("the Chafee amendment") favoring persons with disabilities. This amendment would have required states, in developing their plans for medical assistance under proposed block granting, to include persons with disabilities to be defined as those who are currently SSI eligible.
The Medicaid Transformation Act of 1995 was wrapped into an Omnibus Reconciliation Act, which also included welfare reform. That act was passed by Congress and then vetoed by President Clinton. (Medicaid was not included in the welfare reform act passed in July 1996.)
How the Senate Voted:
AL-Heflin(D), AK-Stevens(R), AR-Bumpers(D), AR-Pryor(D), CA-Boxer(D), CA-Feinstein(D), CT- Dodd(D), CT-Lieberman(D), DE-Biden(D), DE-Cohen(R), FL-Graham(D), GA-Nunn(D), HI-Akaka(D), HI- Inouye(D), IA-Harkin(D), IL-Moseley-Braun(D), IL-Simon(D), KS-Kassebaum(R), KY-Ford(D), KY-McConnell(R), LA-Breaux(D), LA-Johnston(D), MA-Kennedy(D), MA-Kerry(D), MD-Mikulski(D), MD-Sarbanes(D), ME-Snowe(R), MI-Levin(D), MN-Wellstone(D), MT-Baucus(D), ND-Conrad(D), ND-Dorgan(D), NE-Exon(D), NE-Kerrey(D), NH- Gregg(R), NJ- Bradley(D), NJ-Lautenberg(D), NM-Bingaman(D), NM-Domenici(R), NV-Bryan(D), NV-Reid(D), NY-Moynihan(D), OH-DeWine(R), OH-Glenn(D), OR-Hatfield(R), PA-Specter(R), RI- Chafee(R), RI-Pell(D), SC-Hollings(D), SD- Daschle(D), TN-Frist(R), VA-Robb(D), VT-Jeffords(R), VT-Leahy(D), WA-Murray(D), WI-Feingold(D), WI-Kohl(D), WV-Byrd(D), WV-Rockefeller(D), WY-Simpson(R).
AK-Murkowski(R), AL-Shelby(R), AZ-Kyl(R), AZ-McCain(R), CO-Brown(R), CO-Campbell(R), DE-Roth(R), GA-Coverdell(R), FL-Mack(R), IA-Grassley(R), ID-Craig(R), ID-Kempthorne(R), IN-Coats(R), IN-Lugar(R), KS-Dole(R), MI-Abraham(R), MN-Grams(R), MO-Ashcroft(R), MO-Bond(R), MS-Cochran(R), MS-Lott(R), MT-Burns(R), NC-Faircloth(R), NC-Helms(R), NH-Smith(R), NY-D'Amato(R), OK-Inhofe(R), OK-Nickles(R), PA-Santorum(R), SC-Thurmond(R), SD-Pressler(R), TN-Thompson(R), TX-Gramm(R), TX-Hutchison(R), UT-Bennett(R), UT-Hatch(R), VA-Warner(R), WA-Gorton(R), WY-Thomas(R).
President Clinton promised to sign the Welfare Reform Act passed in July. In addition to many other provisions, this act terminates SSI cash payments and food stamps for legal immigrants and potentially will eliminate 300,000 children with disabilities from the SSI rolls.
That will result from the repeal of the Individualized Function Assessment process by which children with disabiliies were deemed eligible for SSI based on their functional status in relation to their chonologically aged peers.
The act also removes "maladative behaviour" from the list used to establish whether a child has a medically determinable physical or mental impairment of sufficient severity to qualify for SSI.
In addition, many children who now qualify for Medicaid based on the SSI eligibility will not be able to re-establish their eligibility for Medicaid on some other basis, and thus lose their only means of health insurance coverage.
How the House of Representatives voted on Welfare Reform:
ALABAMA -- Republicans: Bachus, yes; Callahan, yes; Everett, yes. Democrats: Bevill, yes; Browder, yes; Cramer, yes; Hilliard, no.
ALASKA -- Republican: Young, yes.
ARIZONA -- Republicans: Hayworth, yes; Kolbe, yes; Salmon, yes; Shadegg, yes; Stump, yes. Democrat: Pastor, no.
ARKANSAS -- Republicans: Dickey, yes; Hutchinson, yes. Democrats: Lincoln, yes; Thornton, yes.
CALIFORNIA -- Republicans: Baker, yes; Bilbray, yes; Bono, yes; Calvert, yes; Campbell, yes; Cox, yes; Cunningham, yes; Doolittle, yes; Dornan, yes; Drier, yes; Gallegly, yes; Herger, yes; Horn, yes; Hunter, yes; Kim, yes; Lewis, yes; McKeon, yes; Moorhead, yes; Packard, yes; Pomba, yes; Radanovich, yes; Riggs, yes; Rohrabacher, yes; Royce, yes; Seastrand, yes; Thomas, yes. Democrats: Becarra, no; Beilenson, no; Berman, no; Brown, no; Condit, yes; Dellums, no; Dixon, no; Dooley, yes; Eshoo, no; Farr, no; Fazio, yes; Filner, no; Harmon, yes; Lantos, no; Lofgren, no; Martinez, no; Matsui, no; Millender-McDonald, no; Miller, no; Pelosi, no; Roybal-Allard, no; Stark, no; Torres, no; Waters, no; Waxman, no; Wollsey, no.
COLORADO -- Republicans: Allard, yes; Hefley, yes; McInnis, yes; Schaefer, yes. Democrats: Schroeder, no; Skaggs, no.
CONNECTICUT -- Republicans: Franks, yes; Johnson, yes; Shays, yes. Democrats: DeLauro, no; Gejdenson, yes; Kennelly, yes.
DELAWARE -- Republican: Castle, yes.
FLORIDA -- Republicans: Bilirakis, yes; Canady, yes; Diaz-Balart, no; Foley, yes; Fowler, yes; Goss, yes; McCollum, yes; Mica, yes; Miller, yes; Ros-Lehtinen, no; Scarborough, yes; Shaw, yes; Stearns, yes; Weldon, yes; Young, not voting. Democrats: Brown, no; Deutsch, yes; Gibbons, no; Hastings, no; Johnson, no; Meek, no; Peterson, yes; Thurman, yes.
GEORGIA -- Republicans: Barr, yes; Chambliss, yes; Collins, yes; Deal, yes; Gingrich, yes; Kingston, yes; Linder, yes; Norwood, yes. Democrats: Bishop, yes; Lewis, no; McKinney, no.
HAWAII -- Democrats: Abercrombie, no; Mink, no.
IDAHO -- Republicans: Chenoweth, yes; Crapo, yes.
ILLINOIS -- Republicans: Crane, yes; Ewing, yes; Fawell, yes; Flanagan, yes; Hastert, yes; Hyde, yes; LaHood, yes; Manzullo, yes; Porter, yes; Weller, yes. Democrats: Collins, no; Costello, yes; Durbin, yes; Evans, no; Gutierrez, no; Jackson, no; Lipinski, yes; Poshard, yes; Rush, no; Yates, no.
INDIANA -- Republicans: Burton, yes; Buyer, yes; Hostettler, yes; McIntosh, yes; Myers, yes; Souder, yes. Democrats: Hamilton, yes; Jacobs, no; Roemer, yes; Visclosky, yes.
IOWA -- Republicans: Ganske, yes; Latham, yes; Leach, yes; Lightfoot, yes; Nussie, yes.
KANSAS -- Republicans: Brownback, yes; Moyers, yes; Roberts, yes; Tiahrt, yes.
KENTUCKY -- Republicans: Bunning, yes; Lewis, yes; Rogers, yes; Whitfield, yes. Democrats: Baesler, yes; Ward, yes.
LOUISIANA -- Republicans: Baker, yes; Hayes, yes; Livingston, yes; McCrery, yes; Tauzin, yes. Democrats: Fields, no; Jefferson, no.
MAINE -- Republican: Longley, yes. Democrat: Baldacci, yes.
MARYLAND -- Republicans: Bartlett, yes; Ehrlich, yes; Gilchrest, yes; Morelia, yes. Democrats: Cardin, yes; Cummings, no; Hoyer, yes; Wynn, yes.
MASSACHUSETTS -- Republicans: Blute, yes; Torkildsen, yes. Democrats: Frank, no; Kennedy, no; Markey, no; Meehan, no; Moakley, no; Neal, yes; Olver, no; Studds, no.
MICHIGAN -- Republicans: Camp, yes; Chrysler, yes; Ehlers, yes; Hoekstra, yes; Knollenberg, yes; Smith, yes; Lipton, yes. Democrats: Barcia, yes; Bonior, no; Collins, no; Conyers, no; Dingell, yes; Kildee, yes; Layin, yes; Rivers, yes; Stupak, yes.
MINNESOTA -- Republicans: Gutknecht, yes; Ramstad, yes. Democrats: Luther, yes; Minge, yes; Oberstar, no; Peterson, yes; Sabo, no; Vento, yes.
MISSISSIPPI -- Republicans: Parker, yes; Wicker, yes. Democrats: Montgomery, yes; Taylor, yes; Thompson, no.
MISSOURI -- Republicans: Hancock, yes; Talent, yes. Democrats: Clay, no; Danner, yes; Gephardt, no; McCarthy, yes; Skelton, yes; Volkmar, yes.
MONTANA -- Democrat: Williams, no.
NEBRASKA -- Republicans: Barrett, yes; Bereuter, yes; Christensen, yes.
NEVADA -- Republicans: Ensign, yes; Vucanovich, yes.
NEW HAMPSHIRE -- Republicans: Bass, yes; Zeliff, yes.
NEW JERSEY -- Republicans: Franks, yes; Frelinghuysen, yes; LoBiondo, yes; Martini, yes; Roukema, yes; Saxton, yes; Smith, yes, Zimmer, yes. Democrats: Andrews, yes; Menendez, no; Pallone, yes; Payne, no; Torricelli, yes.
NEW MEXICO -- Republicans: Schiff, yes; Skeen, yes. Democrat: Richardson, yes.
NEW YORK -- Republicans: Boehlert, yes; Forbes, yes; Frisa, yes; Gilma, yes; Houghton, yes; Kelly, yes; King, yes; Lazio, yes; McHugh, yes; Molinari, yes; Paxon, yes; Quinn, yes; Solomon, yes; Walsh, yes. Democrats: Ackerman, yes; Engel, no; Flake, not voting; Hinchey, no; LaFalce, no; Lowey, yes; Maloney, no; Manton, yes; McNulty, no; Nadler, no; Owens, no; Rangel, no; Schumer, no; Serrano, no; Slaughter, no; Towns, no; Velazquez, no.
NORTH CAROLINA -- Republicans: Ballenger, yes; Burr, yes; Coble, yes; Funderburk, yes; Heineman, yes; Jones, yes; Myrick, yes; Taylor, yes. Democrats: Clayton, no; Hefner, yes; Rose, yes; Watt, no.
NORTH DAKOTA -- Democrat: Pomeroy, yes.
OHIO -- Republicans: Boehner, yes; Chabot, yes; Cremeans, yes; Gillmor, yes; Hobson, yes; Hoke, yes; Kasich, yes; LaTourette, yes; Ney, yes; Oxley, yes; Portman, yes; Pryce, yes; Regula, yes. Democrats: Brown, no; Hall, no; Kaptur, yes; Sawyer, yes; Stokes, no; Traficant, yes.
OKLAHOMA -- Republicans: Coburn, yes; Istook, yes; Largent, yes; Lucas, yes; Watts, yes. Democrat: Brewster, yes.
OREGON -- Republicans: Dunn, yes; Cooley, yes. Democrats: Blumonsuer, no; DeFazio, yes; Furse, yes.
PENNSYLVANIA -- Republicans: Clinger, yes, English, yes; Fox, yes; Gekes, yes; Goodling, yes; Greenwood, yes; McDade, not voting; Shuster, yes; Walker, yes; Weldon, yes. Democrats: Borski, yes; Coyne, no; Doyle, yes; Fattah, no; Foglietta, no; Holden, yes; Kanjorski, yes; Klink, yes; Mascara, yes; McHale, yes; Murtha, yes.
RHODE ISLAND -- Democrats: Kennedy, no; Reed, yes.
SOUTH CAROLINA -- Republicans: Graham, yes; Inglis, yes; Sanford, yes; Spence, yes. Democrats: Clyburn, no; Spratt, yes.
SOUTH DAKOTA -- Democrat: Johnson, yes.
TENNESSEE -- Republicans: Bryant, yes; Duncan, yes; Hilleary, yes; Quillen, yes; Wamp, yes. Democrats: Clement, yes; Ford, not voting; Gordon, yes; Tanner, yes.
TEXAS -- Republicans: Archer, yes; Armey, yes; Barton, yes; Bonilla, yes; Combest, yes; DeLay, yes; Fields, yes; Johnson, Sam, yes; Laughlin, yes; Smith, yes; Stockman, yes; Thornberry, yes. Democrats: Bentsen, yes; Bryant, yes; Chapman, yes; Coleman, no; de la Garza, yes; Doggett, yes; Edwards, yes; Frost, yes; Geren, yes; Gonzalez, no; Green, no; Hall, yes; Jackson Lee, no; Johnson, E.B., no; Ortiz, no; Stenholm, yes; Tejeda, no; Wilson, yes.
UTAH -- Republicans: Greene, yes; Hansen, yes. Democrat: Orton, yes.
VERMONT -- Other: Sanders, no.
VIRGINIA -- Republicans: Bateman, yes; Bliley, yes; Davis, yes; Goodlatte, yes; Wolf, yes. Democrats: Boucher, yes; Moran, yes; Payne, yes; Pickett, yes; Scott, no; Sisiky, yes.
WASHINGTON -- Republicans: Dunn, yes; Hastings, yes; Metcalf, yes; Nethercuti, yes; Smith, yes; Tate, yes; White, yes. Democrats: Dicks, yes; McDermott, no.
WEST VIRGINIA -- Democrats: Mollohan, no; Rahall, no; Wise, yes.
WISCONSIN -- Republicans: Gunderson, not voting; Klug, yes; Naumann, yes; Petri, yes; Roth, yes; Sensenbrenner, yes. Democrats: Barrett, no; Kleczka, yes; Obey, yes.
WYOMING -- Republican: Cubin, yes.
How the Senate Voted on Welfare Reform:
AK-Murkowski(R), AK-Stevens(R), AL-Heflin(D), AL-Shelby(R), AZ-Kyl(R), AZ-McCain(R), CO-Brown(R), CO-Campbell(R), CT-Lieberman(D), DE-Biden(D), DE-Roth(R), FL-Graham(D), FL-Mack(R), GA-Coverdell(R), GA-Nunn(D), IA-Harkin(D) IA-Grassley(R), ID-Craig(R), ID-Kempthorne(R), IN-Coats(R), IN-Lugar(R), KS-Fram(R), KS-Kassebaum(R), KY-Ford(D), KY-McConnell(R), LA-Breaux(D), LA-Johnston(D), MA-Kerry(D), MD-Mikulski(D), ME-Cohen(R), ME-Snowe(R), MI-Abraham(R), MI-Levin(D), MN-Grams(R), MO-Ashcroft(R), MO-Bond(R), MS-Cochran(R), MS-Lott(R), MT-Baucus(D), MT-Burns(R), NC-Faircloth(R), NC-Helms(R), ND-Conrad(D), ND-Dorgan(D), NE-Exon(D), NH-Gregg(R), NH-Smith(R), NM-Domenici(R), NV-Bryan(D), NV-Reid(D), NY-D'Amato(R), OH-DeWine(R), OK-Inhofe(R), OK-Nickles(R), OR-Hatfield(R), PA-Santorum(R), PA-Specter(R), RI-Chafee(R), SC-Hollings(D), SC-Thurmond(R), SD-Pressler(R), TN-Frist(R), TN-Thompson(R), TX-Gramm(R), TX-Hutchison(R), UT-Bennett(R), UT-Hatch(R), VA-Robb(D), VA-Warner(R), VT-Jeffords(R), WA-Gorton(R), WI-Feingold(D), WI-Kohl(D), WV-Byrd(D), WV-Rockefeller(D), WY-Simpson(R), WY-Thomas(R).
AR-Bumpers(D), CA-Boxer(D), CA-Feinstein(D), CT-Dodd(D), HI-Akaka(D), HI-Inouye(D,) IL-Moseley- Braun(D), IL-Simon(D), MA-Kennedy(D), MD-Sarbanes(D), MN-Wellstone(D), NE-Kerrey(D), NJ-Bradley(D), NJ-Lautenberg(D), NM-Bingaman(D), NY-Moynihan(D), OH-Glenn(D), RI-Pell(D), SD-Daschle(D), VT-Leahy(D), WA-Murray(D).
Jenifer Simpson is a Policy Associate in the National Office of UCPA, and William G. Stothers is editor of MAINSTREAM.
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