The following is a list of the bills we use as a reference to generate our Senate Scorecard on the Economy:
Cloture Vote on H.R. 4213
On July 20, 2010 the Senate held a roll-call vote to stop a filibuster and allow unemployment benefits for jobless workers to be extended at a time when Americans are finding it very hard to obtain work. Exteding unemployment insurance coverage for those who have lost their jobs (a YES vote) is a way to keep families sustained in their homes until the economy improves and hiring opens back up. Continuing the filibuster of unemployment insurance coverage (by voting NO) is a way to throw American families and American society into crisis.
The Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009, passed first in the House and then by the Senate, brought 4 million children without health insurance eligible onto the rolls of the the State Children Health Insurance Program. That accomplishment angers some legislators, but consider the contribution of H.R. 2 to the general welfare. This legislation isn't some kind of entitlement to people responsible for their own economic vulnerability; no child is responsible for being born into a poor family. Far from being a gift, the CHIP program is an investment: healthy children grow up to become productive adults.
The 2010 extension of tax cuts didn't just continue the tax cuts for billionaires and millionaires enacted under George W. Bush. It expanded them, allowing inheritance of estates of up to 10 million dollars tax-free, and deepening special tax favors for investors. The legislation also undermined the integrity of Social Security by creating a new standard of low funding for the Social Security trust fund, exposing Social Security to new charges of being unsustainably funded.
Preceded by many paragraphs of flowery symbolic language, S. 1227 is nevertheless a short bill when you get down to the meat of it. The text of S. 1227 with the force of law is short, reading as follows:
"Section 8(a) of the National Labor Relations Act (29 U.S.C. 158(a)) is amended by adding after and below paragraph (5) the following:
`Nothing in this subsection shall be construed as requiring an employer to employ any person who seeks or has sought employment with the employer in furtherance of other employment or agency status.í."
That's some highfalutin language that may confuse you; it's meant to confuse you, to hide the legislation's purpose behind a smokescreen. What those words boil down to is this: Under this bill, if you act in a manner that promotes the interests of a union ó say, by advocating for the formation of a union in your workplace ó your employer can fire you. There's a phrase for that: "union-busting."
S. 1227 legalizes union busting. The Senators who support S. 1227 are doing their part to begin another era of union busting.
To a person only following expressions of popular culture, it might seem that the United States has moved beyond discrimination against gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transexuals. But in the workaday world, it's still legal for people to be fired from their jobs for no other reason than than their choice of whom to love. And a dirty not-so-secret secret of labor unions has been their historical practice of excluding gay and lesbian workers from full participation and leadership.
ENDA, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2009, would make workplace discrimination in hiring and promotions illegal, and would also prohibit discriminatory behavior against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender members of American labor unions. If passed, ENDA would bring the law into the 21st Century along with the majority of Americans who have realized what matters at work is what you do, not who you love.
In the effort to rescue our oceans from chemical and biological disaster, the date is already late. Elevated levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide resulting from human activities have already increased the acidity of the oceans to such an extent that animals like shellfish and corals are having a difficult time creating their shells and skeletons. Other ocean animals are experiencing disruptions in their reproductive behavior and general physiological functions as a result of the increased acidity.
UNESCO's Monaco Declaration of scientists following on their meeting for the 2nd International Symposium on the Ocean in a High-CO2 world declares:
"Ocean acidification is accelerating and severe damages are imminent.... Since industrialization began in the 18th century, surface-ocean acidity has increased by 30%. This ongoing ocean acidification is decreasing the ability of many marine organisms to build their shells and skeletal structure. Increasing acidity and related changes in seawater chemistry also affect reproduction, behaviour, and general physiological functions of some marine organisms, such as oysters, sea urchins, and squid." We donít see clear, boldfaced warnings like these very often, and when we do, we ought to pay attention to them. And as the report points out, an acified ocean is an ocean that decimates the marine life on which a significant portion of the world depends for food and commerce. That makes ocean acidification an economic as well as an environmental issue.
In the Senate, Frank Lautenberg has introduced S.173, the Federal Ocean Acidification Research And Monitoring Act. This legislation would establish and support a regime of empirical research and monitoring of ocean acidification under the auspices of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), with the purpose of developing specific strategies for mitigation of ecological impact.
On January 22, 2009, the U.S. Senate voted on the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, a law that seeks to amend an injustice and provide a fair shot at equality in the workplace. The law stems from a lawsuit filed by Lilly Ledbetter, who discovered after years of working for Goodyear Tire that she was being paid less than her coworkers because she was a woman. Her suit was denied all the way up to the Supreme Court, not on the grounds of her complaint, but on the grounds that Ledbetter had not filed suit within a few months of being employed.
Anyone with a sense of basic fairness can see the problem with this ruling. How on earth could Lilly Ledbetter have filed suit in the first few months after she was hired, if she didn’t find out about the pay discrimination until years later? Gathering evidence of pay discrimination takes time, especially when a corporation conceals the evidence as Goodyear Tire did.
S. 181, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, simply remedies the problem behind the injustice to Ledbetter - and other workers like her. It says that workers cannot be expected to file suit for compensation for wage discrimination before they actually find out that they've been discriminated against.
In the fall of 2009, the United States Department of Labor released a 194-page report identifying countries where "there is a significant incidence of forced labor and/or child labor in production" of various sorts of goods, from toys to textiles. As you can see for yourself, the list of countries with significant labor abuses is long. If S. 2821 is a bill that would require new international trade agreements to contain conditions requiring partner countries to guarantee the right to form labor associations and collectively bargain, eliminate forced labor, end child labor, and outlaw employment discrimination. If a new trade pact coming through the Congress did not contain such guarantees, a single Senator could object and bring the trade pact to a halt. This bill represents a significant expansion to the scope of our nation's moral gaze.
Senators like to declare their support for American jobs in speeches, but do they actually support American jobs in their actions? S. 3816, the Creating American Jobs and Ending Offshoring Act, is a bill that if passed would promote the development of American jobs in two ways. First, it would give a 2-year payroll tax cut to businesses every time they hire an American citizen or resident for a job that used to be sourced overseas. Second, it would eliminate tax breaks for the corporate expenses involved in transferring an American job overseas.
S. 896, The Helping Families Save Their Homes Act, is a bill passed by the Senate that would allow bankruptcy judges to restructure mortgages on family homes to make them more affordable. Judicial modification is already possible in bankruptcy for loans covering luxury yachts and the vacation homes of the wealthy. If the terms of those sorts of loans can be restructured during bankruptcy proceedings, then why should the mortgages on the homes they live be unprotected? S. 896 includes a number of protections against mortgage fraud and limits coverage to those who have made good-faith efforts to stay current on their mortgage payments. This sort of policy would be beneficial to bankers as much as to homeowners, maximizing the likelihood that home loans will be repaid rather than abandoned and restoring stability to the U.S. housing market. A YES vote is cast in the direction of fairness. A NO vote preserves renegotiation for yachts and luxury villas but denies it to everyday Americans just trying to get by.
S.Amdt. 2558 to H.R. 3326
The White House didn't ask for them. The Defense Department didn't want any more. So in September 2009 Senator John McCain did the sensible thing and introduced an amendment, S. AMDT. 2558, to a defense appropriations bill. McCain's amendment would have removed 2.5 billion dollars in spending on the construction of new but unwanted C-17 planes.
A vote for Senate Amendment 2558 was a vote for reasonable spending cuts in an age of austerity, and it was a vote for reasonable limits on the extension of military power. A vote against Senate Amendment 2558 was a vote to further bloat a military already obsese from the ingestion of pork.
S.Amdt. 2905 to H.R. 3590
United States taxes are structured to reward corporations for paying big executive salaries. Under current U.S. tax code, corporations can deduct the cost of executive pay up to one million dollars for each corporate executive. This provides an incentive for corporate boards to award large salaries to the corporate leadership in an insider relationship funded by Uncle Sam. On December 6 2009, Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas introduced Senate Amendment 2905 to the health care reform bill currently before the Senate. Lincolnís amendment would have cut the executive pay tax deduction down to $400,000 a year for each executive in a health insurance company participating in the new national health care exchange system. Corporations could still have paid their executives more than $400,000; they only would have had to pay taxes on compensation above above that limit. The change in the tax structure would have provided incentives for corporations to cut executive costs in health care, and executive flight to competitor corporations would have been avoided since the change would be system-wide. Any additional tax money coming in to the federal government would have been dedicated to the Medicare Trust Fund. The Lincoln Amendment gained majority support in a roll call, but did not achieve the 60 votes required to overcome an implicit Republican filibuster.
S.Amdt. 43 to S.Amdt. 39 to H.R. 2
Is the idea of children getting health care despicable? Some U.S. senators seem to think so, working hard to undo positive changes in legislation to expand SCHIP.
Senate Amendment 43, proposed by Senator Jim DeMint, would have required state health programs to "impose premiums, deductibles, coinsurance" upon poor children getting care through state Children's Health Initiative Programs. Under the DeMint amendment, all SCHIP families earning 200 percent of the poverty line would have to pay for their childrenís health insurance.
To mask the barbarity, Senate Amendment 43 refers to these families as "higher income families," which makes them sound like champagne-swilling yachters. But if you look at the actual poverty level set by the Department of Health and Human Services, for a single mother with a child we're just talking about at most an income of $28,000 per year.
What Senator DeMint and his colleagues who supported S. Amdt 43 suggest is that a working single mother and her child can live on $28,000 a year and buy health insurance too. That's an unrealistic outcome with a cruel outcome.
A YES vote on Roll Call Vote 16 was a vote to defeat the DeMint Amendment and defend health care for poor kids. A NO vote was in the DeMint Amendment's defense, a vote against caring for kids.
War is making us Poor T-Shirt
I've Been Down So Long Down Don't Worry Me Shirt
Gas Prices: Our Own Damn Fault (Environmentalist Shirt)
Got Prius Envy?Gas Price Spoof T-Shirt
111th Congress Senate Scorecard on the Economy from That's My Congress
House Scorecards: Overall | Discrimination | Environment | Constitution | Economy | LGBT
Senate Scorecards: Overall | Discrimination | Environment | Constitution | Economy | LGBT
This is a historical record. Current Scorecards for the House and Senate are also available.
We're in an economic recovery, the politicians say. Everything's coming up roses and buttercups, they say. Oh, it's true that millions of Americans can't find work in this jobless recovery, but just look at the stock market! It's true that working Americans' take-home pay hasn't grown for more than a decade, but look at hedge fund performance. The rising tide of wealth is... well, it's lifting the yachts while the dinghies take on water.
If there's an economic recovery without jobs, and if the American workers who are left are being paid less and less, then who exactly is recovering? Who is reaping the rewards of this wealth regeneration? Take away the workers, and take away the unemployed, and who do you have left? Corporations and the already wealthy who make interest on their capital, that's who. While the rich are getting richer, and American workers have to work harder and harder just to run in place, the top executives in the big corporations make more and more and more money. These people get multi-million dollar bonuses while they fire tens of thousands of Americans who just want a good day's work. While their workers take pay cuts, these rich executives drive their Italian cars to ritzy restaurants and take sailing vacations on their yachts. While laid-off workers lose their homes and their health care, corporate fatcats and the trustafarians tinker with their third homes and take vacations to have surgery in posh third-world resorts.
What are the elected officials on Capitol Hill doing to address the glaring economic discrepancy in America? On this page, we track members of the U.S. Senate in their work to either comfort the afflicted or tilt the playing field in favor of the already privileged.
Advocates for the Afflicted
The following members of the Senate use their positions on Capitol Hill to look out for the least powerful members of American society; they have the strongest record among their peers, acting to support at least eight bills to institute reforms in the wake of our recent economic crisis. Click on a senator's name to discover more about his or her voting and cosponsorship record in detail.
Defenders of Privilege
The following senators cast votes in favor of the prerogatives of the rich and against relief for those hit hardest by the economy's decline, acting in callous disregard of the economic crisis hitting American families in at least six instances. Click on a senator's name to discover more about his or her voting and cosponsorship record in detail.
If you can't find your senator's name on either the honor roll or the dishonor roll, she or he belongs neither to the most economically progressive nor the most pro-corporate wings of the Senate.
To find out more about your senator's record of voting and cosponsorship, access our overall U.S. Senate rankings here.
News on the Constitution and Politics
Read below for the latest coverage of discrimination-related political developments from That's My Congress and Irregular Times: