As promised, this is the part where Michael establishes his own ACU rating. The descriptions of the bills are from the ACU site. Granted, the actual bill text may have swayed me in a different direction so “your results may vary.” This is going to be a pretty long post because of their descriptions, so bear with me.
There are 25 parts to the House ACU score, so I assume that each part agreed with is 4 points. I’ll score myself at the end.
1. New Interstate Tolls – Surface Transportation Reauthorization. HR 3 (Roll Call 59) The House rejected an amendment that would have authorized new tolls on any existing toll road or newly constructed lane on the interstate system to lower congestion or improve air quality. It also would have allowed new, toll-eligible express traffic lanes. ACU favored this amendment, which was rejected 155-265 on March 9, 2005.
Michael’s opinion: despite the fact that the interstate system is a federal highway system, in several instances they have piggybacked on existing state turnpikes (Ohio and Pennsylvania are examples.) Because of that and the fact that it’s generally a state that takes care of these highways anyway, it’s not the federal government’s place to authorize tolls on a state highway. I would have gone with the majority against the ACU and voted NO on the amendment.
2. Fiscal 2006 Budget Resolution – Republican Study Committee Substitute. H Con Res 95 (Roll Call 83) The House rejected an amendment that called for $58 billion more in mandatory spending cuts, for a total of $125 billion over five years. It would have reduced non-defense and non-homeland discretionary spending by 2 percent, and protected all $106 billion in tax cuts. It proposed a number of procedures to curtail new spending. ACU favored the amendment, which was rejected 102-320 on March 17, 2005.
Michael’s opinion: Only $58 billion? Well, it would be a start. I would have regretted that I have but one vote to favor this amendment, so here I agree with the ACU that a YES vote would have been appropriate.
3. Estate Tax Permanent Repeal – Passage. HR 8 (Roll Call 102) The House passed a bill making permanent the repeal of the estate tax contained in the 2001 tax cut law, which is set to expire after 2010. ACU favored the repeal. The bill passed 272-162 on April 13, 2005.
Michael’s opinion: When we tax people to death all through their life, why should we pick on their progeny too? Hell yes I’d have voted YES for this as the majority and ACU wisely did.
4. Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act – Passage. S 256 (Roll Call 108) The House passed a bill requiring debtors who have the ability to pay to pay back at least a portion of their debts. The bill also requires credit card companies to let card holders know up front what they are expected to pay and the penalties for late payment. The bill also makes it more difficult for serial bankruptcy filers to abuse the system by imposing an eight year waiting period between bankruptcy declarations. The bill also allows the federal government to clamp down on bankruptcy mills that make money advising bankruptcy abusers on how to game the system. ACU favored the bill. The bill passed 302-126 on April 14, 2005.
Michael’s opinion: I thought it was a good bill. Think of it this way…creditors set their interest rates to account for the certain number of people who can’t or won’t pay them back so the bank can assure a return on their investment (like any good bank with shareholders should.) People who rack up huge credit card bills then declare bankruptcy in order to screw the credit card companies out of being paid back are committing fraud and should have a provision to stop this activity. While there are people who are driven to bankruptcy by factors such as extended unemployment, large-scale medical bills, etc. those are the people who will (hopefully) file one time and this bill didn’t seem too onerous for their legitimate needs. On balance, I would have agreed with the ACU and voted YES on the bill.
5. CAFE Standards – Energy Policy. HR 6 (Roll Call 121) The House rejected an amendment that would have required the Transportation Department to issue regulations raising fuel efficiency standards to at least 33 miles per gallon in automobiles manufactured by model year 2015. ACU opposed the amendment, which was rejected 177-254 on April 20, 2005.
Michael’s opinion: I believe this is the very amendment that pissed me off at Rep. Gilchrest in the first place. Let the auto companies account for better mileage as a marketing factor, not as a mandate. Actually, with the declining sales of large SUV’s, the market will correct itself anyway as far as fleet mileage. So why add a mandate? I would’ve agreed with the ACU and the majority to vote NO on the amendment.
6. ANWR Leasing – Energy Policy. HR 6 (Roll Call 122) The House rejected an amendment that would have prevented leases for oil and gas exploration in a small portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. ACU opposed the amendment, which was rejected 200-231 on April 20, 2005.
Michael’s opinion: Okay, if it wasn’t the amendment above that made me mad at Wayne Gilchrest, this one would have torn it. He was a supporter, I agreed with the ACU that the amendment was a bad idea. Count me as a NO vote on that one – drill as many holes in ANWR as we need.
7. Abortion Notification – Passage. HR 748 (Roll Call 144) The House passed a bill barring the transportation of a minor girl across state lines to obtain an abortion without the consent of a parent, guardian, or judge. ACU favored the bill, which passed 270-157 on April 27, 2005.
Michael’s opinion: While I think abortion is properly a state issue, because this deals with the practice of crossing state lines to skirt state laws it becomes a federal issue. Throw in the fact that we’re talking about girls under 18, and the fact that I’m pro-life (yes, it’s not a “choice” it’s a child – your personal rights end because you’re doing harm to an otherwise innocent person) and I’m in agreement with the ACU that a YES vote would be correct.
8. Fiscal 2006 Budget Resolution – Conference Report. H Con Res 95 (Roll Call 149) The House adopted the conference report on the resolution setting broad spending and revenue targets for five years, limiting discretionary spending to $843 billion in fiscal 2006, and requiring $70 billion in tax cuts and $34.7 billion in savings. ACU favored the report. The report was adopted 214-211 on April 28, 2005.
Michael’s opinion: Again, it’s a start. The federal budget is at least twice what is necessary, although we can’t get rid of all I’d want to in one lump. I know that, but this is a good step. I agree with the ACU and their support, call it a YES.
9. Natural Gas Moratorium – Fiscal 2006 Interior and Environment Appropriations. HR 2361 (Roll Call 192) The House rejected an amendment that would have lifted the moratorium on natural gas production in the Outer Continental Shelf. ACU favored the amendment, which was rejected 157-262 on May 19, 2005.
Michael’s opinion: As above, drill as many holes in the Outer Continental Shelf as needed. We can thank this amendment rejection (among a myriad of other government-induced regulations) as a reason Delmarva’s electric rates are going to skyrocket. Natural gas is a great producer of electricity. I agree with the ACU and would have said YES with the minority.
10. Embryonic Stem Cell Research – Passage. HR 810 (Roll Call 204) The House passed a bill that would allow the use of federal funds in research on embryonic stem cell lines derived from surplus embryos at in-vitro fertilization clinics, but only if donors give their consent and are not paid for the embryos. ACU opposed the bill, which passed 238-194 on May 24, 2005.
Michael’s opinion: There are no “surplus” embryos to me. I seem to recall reading where adult stem-cell research is as promising as embryonic, and there’s no need to kill the unborn to do it. I agree with the ACU and would have voted NO with the minority.
11. Ten Commandments Court Ruling – Fiscal 2006 Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations. HR 2862 (Roll Call 257) The House adopted an amendment that would nullify a ruling by a U.S. District Court in Indiana that a monument representing the Ten Commandments must be removed from a county courthouse. ACU favored the amendment, which was adopted 242-182 on June 15, 2005.
Michael’s opinion: This is sort of a “feel-good” amendment and I’m not quite certain whether it’s Constitutional to nullify a decision unless the Supreme Court has refused to hear the appeal. If it were a “sense of the Congress” amendment I would favor it, but because the case wasn’t fully through the appellate process (insofar as I know), I’d allow the case to make its way through the courts before I would agree with the ACU. So it would be a NO vote with the caveats listed above.
12. Firearms Exportation – Fiscal 2006 Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations. HR 2862 (Roll Call 265) The House rejected an amendment that would have prohibited the exportation of non-automatic or semi-automatic 50 caliber firearms. ACU opposed the amendment, which was rejected 149-278 on June 16, 2005.
Michael’s opinion: America makes guns, and I think it’s proper that whoever wants to own one should be able to – whether they are American or not. I’ll concede that it’s very possible that they could be pointed at Americans abroad but on balance this was a poor amendment. I agree with the ACU and would vote NO.
13. United Nations Population Fund – Fiscal 2006 Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations. HR 2862 (Roll Call 266) The House rejected an amendment that would have allowed funding for the United Nations Population Fund. ACU opposed the amendment, which was rejected 192-233 on June 16, 2005.
Michael’s opinion: Defund the UN? Are you kidding? I say send their ass packing out of New York and over to Geneva or The Hague or wherever and let’s get out of that fraud of an organization. The ACU is correct and I say hell NO to that amendment.
14. United Nations Overhaul – Passage. HR 2745 (Roll Call 282) The House passed a bill that withholds up to 50 percent of U.S. payments to the United Nations unless the U.N. changes its operations to provide more rigorous budget control, oversight, and financial disclosure for top officials. Overall U.S. contributions under the bill are capped at 22 percent of the U.N. budget. ACU favored these reforms. The bill passed 221-184 on June 17, 2005.
Michael’s opinion: Yeah, it’s a start, although see #13 above. So I’d be for the reforms as is the ACU. I’d vote YES.
15. Corporation for Public Broadcasting – Fiscal 2006 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations. HR 3010 (Roll Call 305) The House adopted an amendment adding $100 million in funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. ACU opposed the amendment, which was adopted 284-140 on June 23, 2005.
Michael’s opinion: I’d like to defund the CPB, not add more money. So I agree with the ACU and would say NO.
16. Eminent Domain – Fiscal 2006 Transportation-Treasury-Housing Appropriations. HR 3058 (Roll Call 350) The House adopted an amendment that prohibits any use of federal funds on private property obtained through the power of eminent domain for private development. ACU favored the amendment, which was adopted 231-189 on June 30, 2005.
Michael’s opinion: Thanks to the poor Kelo decision, this became an issue last year. It’s an appropriate use of Congressional power to mitigate a poor decision by the Supreme Court, since there’s no appellate court above the Supremes (as opposed to #11 above.) I concur with the ACU and would say YES.
17. Medical Malpractice – Passage. HR 5 (Roll Call 449) The House passed a bill capping non-economic and punitive damages that plaintiffs and their attorneys receive in medical malpractice cases. Punitive damages would be barred against makers and distributors of medical products if those products were approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The bill does not pre-empt state damage caps but imposes federal caps where states do not have their own. The bill limits attorneys’ contingency fees. ACU favored the bill, which passed on July 28, 2005.
Michael’s opinion: Because of the portion of the bill where it doesn’t pre-empt the state caps, the bill makes good sense. While it’s a bit of a reach to limit attorney’s fees, they really should be made more reasonable as a whole anyway. I’m in support of the ACU position and would say YES.
18. Sex Offender Registration – Hate Crimes. HR 3132 (Roll Call 469) The House adopted an amendment broadening the categories covered by the federal hate crimes statute to include crimes motivated by the victim’s gender, sexual orientation, or disability. ACU opposed the amendment. It was adopted 223-199 on September 14, 2005.
Michael’s opinion: There shouldn’t be a federal “hate crimes” statute in the first place. While crime based on a person’s gender, sexual orientation, or disability is reprehensible, these crimes are covered under existing statutes. It’s not a matter of degrees of criminality, you’re either guilty of assault, battery, rape, murder, etc. or you’re not. Like the ACU urges, I’d vote NO to this amendment.
19. Endangered Species Act Overhaul – Passage. HR 3824 (Roll Call 506) The House passed a bill overhauling and reauthorizing the Endangered Species Act through 2010. It replaces the critical habitat designation which has been used to infringe on property rights and requires the government to reimburse landowners when they are not allowed to develop their land because of protections for endangered species. It also authorizes grants for private landowners to protect endangered species. ACU favored the bill, which passed 229-193 on September 29, 2005.
Michael’s opinion: Because this bill reauthorized the ESA, and I think that’s a matter best left to the several states, I disagree with the ACU on this one. I’d have voted NO with the minority.
20. Oil Refinery Construction – Passage. HR 3893 (Roll Call 519) The House passed a bill streamlining approvals for refinery expansion and construction projects. It requires the President to designate federal sites for new oil refineries and allows the federal government to pay new refineries for the costs due to lawsuits and government regulations. Price gouging on gasoline is banned in times of emergencies. ACU favored the bill while recognizing that it contains some questionable provisions. The bill passed 212-210 on October 7, 2005.
Michael’s opinion: The summary “ACU favored the bill while recognizing that it contains some questionable provisions” is along the lines of my thoughts. The part about streamlining approvals is favorable to me, but giving government largesse away and placing a federal law above state laws on gouging troubles me. It’s one of those things where I’d not want to throw the baby out with the bathwater and work to eliminate the troublesome portions of the bill later. This is a YES vote with the ACU’s problems with the measure taken into advisement.
21. Gun Liability – Passage. S 397 (Roll Call 534) The House passed a bill barring lawsuits against manufacturers and distributors of firearms and ammunition making them liable for gun violence. Penalties for violent or drug trafficking crimes using armor-piercing ammunition are increased to a minimum of 15 years imprisonment, or, if death resulted from the use of such ammunition, life in prison or the death penalty. ACU favored the bill. It passed 283-144 on October 20, 2005.
Michael’s opinion: It’s an appropriate use of federal power only because firearms are sold nationally. If it were many other products, I’d be less inclined to trump the states. And because there are federal crimes, the sentencing portions of the bill are appropriate as a guide to judges. The only worry I have about this is expansion of the measure someday to the general public where if someone shot a home invader using this ammunition they would face the same penalties. At this time, I’m with the ACU on the YES vote.
22. Government-Sponsored Enterprises – HR 1461 (Roll Call 541) The House adopted an amendment reforming the quasi-government enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac prohibiting their funds for political activities, advocacy, lobbying, counseling services, travel expenses, or preparing or providing advice on tax returns. ACU favored the amendment. The amendment was adopted 210-205 on October 26, 2005.
Michael’s opinion: Maybe a touch too restrictive on travel expenses, but overall a good reform package. The ACU is correct in supporting the amendment and I would vote YES to it.
23. Online Freedom of Speech – Passage. HR 1606 (Roll Call 559) The House rejected an attempt to exempt the Internet, including blogs and e-mail, from the definition of “public communication” and thus subject to Federal Election Commission regulation and disclosure requirements. ACU favored the bill, which was rejected 225-182 on November 2, 2005. Although the bill got a majority, under House procedures a two-thirds vote was required.
Michael’s opinion: Gee, I run a blog that tends to support conservative candidates and issues. If a newspaper can run an editorial that disdains conservative positions on issues, is it not my right to point out where the newspaper is wrong? I may not have the circulation of the newspaper, but the last time I checked my copy of the Constitution, Congress cannot abridge freedom of the press (newspapers, radio, television, etc.) OR freedom of speech (my blog.) I’d have voted YES as the ACU would, and probably gotten an ulcer from choking back my urge to bitchslap anyone who voted against the “incumbent protection plan.”
24. Deficit Reduction Act. HR 4241 (Roll Call 601) The House passed a bill to reduce the FY 2006 deficit. Among many other provisions, it allowed oil and natural gas leasing and pre-leasing activities for Outer Continental Shelf areas, terminated subsidies for broadband telecommunications services in rural areas, and provided for energy production on a small portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and established a national mining and minerals policy. ACU favored the bill, which passed 217-215 on November 18, 2005.
Michael’s opinion: I’m troubled by the addition of a thousand provisions to the main bill, but most of these would be good cuts. Thus, I’m in agreement with the ACU stance of a YES vote.
25. Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act. HR 4437 (Roll Call 660) The House refused to send the immigration reform bill back to a conference committee. Such a recommittal would have killed the immigration reform effort. Notable provisions of the bill include the expansion of the expedited alien removal program and expansion of the categories and types of crimes that make non-citizens removable. ACU opposed the motion, which was rejected 198-221 on December 16, 2005.
Michael’s opinion: I liked the House immigration reform much more than the Senate version. The post that will be above this one as I write this Sunday morning (and will write on the immigration subject Sunday night) will explain some of my feelings on the immigration issue. Just based on the description the ACU provided and opposed, I would tend to agree with their position and vote NO. But that’s only based on what they say here, not the text of the actual bills.
To summarize: I agreed with the ACU on numbers 2 through 10, 12 through 18, and 20 through 25. I disagreed with the ACU on nunbers 1, 11, and 19. So my ACU rating would be 88. While there are a number of Congressmen who share that 88 rating, my voting record wouldn’t exactly match any of theirs. But it’s certainly more conservative than the nominal Republicans who represent the vast majority of the people who live on Delmarva.
Because this post was so long, I’m going to do a part 3 with the Senate votes sometime early this coming week. I have a lot of posts on items that interest me getting stacked up so look for a pretty regular update schedule.