Vote explanation for The Save American Workers Act (H.R. 30) and The Keystone XL Pipeline Act (H.R. 3)

1/9/2015

On Thursday and Friday of this week, the House voted on the Save American Workers Act (H.R. 30) and Keystone XL Pipeline Act (H.R. 3). I did not vote on either of these bills because I left Washington for El Paso Wednesday after the tragic shooting at our VA clinic, and because VA Secretary Bob McDonald was also in El Paso.

Voting on legislation is one of the most basic and important responsibilities of my job. However, the gravity of the situation in El Paso required that I fly back home and miss these votes. Because I could not be in Washington, I inserted an explanation in the Congressional Record about what my votes would have been had I voted on H.R. 30 and H.R. 3.

H.R. 30: Currently, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires employers to offer health coverage for employees who work 30 or more hours per week. H.R. 30 would change that threshold to 40 hours making it significantly easier for employers to shift their workers into part-time status by just slightly reducing their hours. Economists agree that with the growing US economy few employers would cut worker hours from 40 hours a week to 29, but many would be willing to cut them to 39 from 40. This means raising the definition of a full-time worker under the ACA would put far more workers at risk and allow employers to avoid their responsibility of providing workers with health insurance.

The proposed change under H.R. 30 would result in 1 million people being dropped from their current employer coverage and push an additional 500,000 to 1 million people onto government insurance such as Medicare and CHIP. This would raise federal spending by more than $53 billion over the next 10 years all the while failing to include an offset to help pay for the bill’s cost. Thousands of El Pasoans are already benefiting from coverage under the ACA and I could not support legislation such as H.R. 30 that would do otherwise.

H.R. 3: H.R. 3 would allow for the immediate construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline by the company TransCanada. I would have voted against H.R. 3 because I do not think we should compromise our laws for the sake of expediency. We shouldn’t exempt one company — TransCanada — from laws that everyone has to follow. Having Congress intervene in an ongoing permitting process and provide a special exemption for one company is neither wise, nor in the national interest.
Keystone XL is a massive proposal with many governments and regulatory agencies involved. H.R. 3 would bypass important regulatory agencies like the EPA, which has recommended that the State Department consider relocating the pipeline to avoid contaminating important water resources — a reasonable proposition. Before we allow the construction of this massive project, we must fully consider all of our options to ensure the best solution for Americans.

Both bills passed the House and I expect the Senate to consider them. President Obama has indicated that he would veto both pieces of legislation, meaning neither is likely to become law.