Voter Education 8

I think I missed a week when I was reuniting with my Drill Team buddies at Penn State, and then Congress was in recess for two weeks, but I don’t know where the fourth missing week went – but it’s been that long since I last posted about Arizona’s Congressional District 2’s Representative, the Honorable Martha McSally, and her voting record. In yesterday’s edition, though, the Arizona Daily Star had a summary of the House of Representatives’ recorded votes from the past week, along with how McSally voted.

We start today with a cumulative record of 21 Fails, 11 Passes, and 4 Abstains (based on how I feel I would have voted). Of these 36 votes, I rated 30 of them “party line,” 1 “independent,” and the remaining 5 “unknown.” Let’s see how she does for the week ending Friday, April 17.

  1. “Mortgage Rules for Mobile Homes” [R] (HR 650) – This bill spares the mobile-home industry from some of the rules established by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, by (re)defining the terms “mortgage originator” and “high-cost mortgage.” The proponents said the exemptions would “spur the sale of much-needed affordable housing,” but critics claimed it would “foster predatory lending and home foreclosures” (both quotes according to the Star). Depending on how the bill was written, I could see either or both sides being at least partly correct. McSally voted FOR. Without more information on the bill, I don’t know how I would have voted, so I’ll abstain on this one.
  2. “Firms Convicted of Mortgage Fraud” [D] (Amendment to HR 650) – This amendment to HR 650, above, would have denied the regulatory relief of the main bill to any mobile-home maker that had been convicted of either federal or state mortgage fraud. McSally voted AGAINST. Regardless of the merits of the main bill, I don’t see that companies convicted of mortgage fraud should be exempted from stricter oversight or regulations, so I would have voted for this amendment. I give McSally a FAIL.
  3. “Federal Workers’ Tax Debt” [R] (HR 1563) – Had it passed (it failed to reach the required 2/3 majority vote for passage), it would have mandated that any federal worker with “seriously delinquent federal tax debt” be fired. [Critics “noted in debate that the tax compliance rate for civil servants was 97 percent in 2014, compared to 95 percent for House members and their staffs and 91 percent for the public at large. Civil servants owed $1.14 billion in delinquent taxes last year,” according to the Star.] This looks to me like a solution in search of a problem and I would have voted AGAINST. McSally voted FOR, so I give her another FAIL.
  4. “Repeal of Estate Tax” [R] (HR 1105) – This bill permanently repealed the federal estate tax on any estate amount over $5.43 million for an individual or $10.86 million for a married couple. (According to this article in Forbes, estates up to these levels can be passed to the heirs levy-free in 2015.) The existing tax rate for the super-size estates is capped at 40 percent, but is paid at an average rate of almost 17 percent (according to the Tax Policy Center). The bill affects less than 1% of estates, or around 6,000 families in 2014. The bill would “add $269 billion to national debt through fiscal 2025,” according to the Star. McSally voted FOR. While $27 billion per year isn’t a lot of money when compared to multi-trillion-dollar budgets, in my opinion those 6,000 families don’t really need this giveaway. I would have voted AGAINST. McSally gets another FAIL.
  5. “Individuals Convicted of Tax Fraud” [D] (Amendment to HR 1105) – This amendment to HR 1105, above, would have denied the estate-tax relief of the main bill to individuals who have been convicted of tax fraud. McSally voted AGAINST. As with the mortgage fraud amendment (#2, above), I don’t think that people convicted of cheating the government out of its share of their money should be given a free pass to give more of it to their families, so I would have voted FOR. Another FAIL for McSally.
  6. “Deductions for State, Local Sales Taxes” [Unknown] (HR 622) – This bill makes permanent a tax benefit for residents of states that don’t have an income tax, by allowing them to deduct state and local sales taxes on their federal tax returns. (Actually, if I remember correctly, people in states *with* an income tax can deduct whichever is higher, so if you buy a big-ticket item or three in one year, and the total sales tax is greater than your state income tax, you can deduct the sales tax.) The sales-tax deduction has been renewed annually for several years, but the state income tax deduction is a permanent part of the Tax Code. This bill is projected to add $42 billion to national debt over the next ten fiscal years. McSally voted FOR. I also would have voted FOR, primarily because it’s one fewer item of annual uncertainty. Just like the state income tax deduction, people (and companies, too, probably) will be able to plan around this without wondering whether it’ll be there every year. I give McSally her first PASS for the week.
  7. “Comprehensive Tax Reform” [D] (No specific reference – Amendment to HR 622?) – This vote would have allowed HR 622, above, to only become effective as part of comprehensive tax reform. McSally voted AGAINST. While I’m definitely in favor of major tax reform, and would like to see such a bill come before the House, I don’t think it’s going to happen in the next two years – let alone any time sooner than that. Given that opinion, I would have voted AGAINST this measure, too, because I think removing some (even if minor) uncertainties is better than no action at all. McSally gets another PASS.

For this week, Representative McSally gets four FAILS, two PASSES, and one ABSTAIN, for cumulative totals of 25 Fails, 13 Passes and 5 Abstains.

I didn’t see that any of her votes went against type with respect to which party sponsored the bill / amendment. There was one vote where I wasn’t able to determine who sponsored the measure, so I gave that vote an Unknown (versus Party Line or Independent). All the others were strictly party line votes. Her new totals here are: Party Line – 36, Independent – 1, Unknown – 6.

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