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Votes in Congress: How area lawmakers voted this past week

Votes in Congress: How area lawmakers voted this past week

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WASHINGTON — Here’s how area members of Congress voted on major issues during the legislative week ending Sept. 20:


Right to sue vs. mandatory arbitration. Voting 225 for and 186 against, the House on Sept. 20 passed a bill (HR 1423) that would make mandatory-arbitration clauses unenforceable in federal employment, consumer, antitrust and civil rights disputes. The measure would effectively eliminate from employee-employer agreements as well as from purchase and rental contracts between customers and corporations the increasingly common requirement that aggrieved parties pursue relief through closed mediation rather than openly in court. They still could choose to submit disputes to binding arbitration. This bill could influence the treatment of mandatory arbitration in state courts.

Many employers and companies require mandatory arbitration as a condition of employment or doing business. Employees and customers must agree in advance to relinquish their right to sue and, instead, to allow a mediator typically chosen by the company to settle the dispute. Mandatory arbitration usually limits discovery, precludes appeals, disregards rules of civil procedure and applies permanent secrecy to the proceedings and often to the outcome. Under federal law, arbitration clauses can be used to prohibit customers from filing class-action lawsuits.

Supporters of forced arbitration say it is faster and less expensive than litigation, and especially benefits individuals who cannot afford legal fees. Critics say the process denies the bedrock rights of due process and trial by jury.

A yes vote was to send the bill to the Senate.

Voting yes: Abigail Spanberger, D-7th.

Voting no: Denver Riggleman, R-5th.

Mandatory arbitration in collective bargaining. Voting 161 for and 253 against, the House on Sept. 20 refused to apply HR 1423 (above) to collective bargaining agreements in the same way it applies to contracts for everyday commercial transactions and non-unionized workplace arrangements. The amendment was sponsored by Republicans. Mandatory arbitration has been a standard feature of collective bargaining since the 1930s, but under terms of equity that deny management the advantages corporations enjoy in the type of forced mediation addressed by this bill. Still, backers of the amendment said it was “glaring flaw” and “hypocrisy” for the bill to provide an exemption to collective-bargaining agreements.

A yes vote was to adopt the amendment.

Voting yes: Riggleman.

Voting no: Spanberger.

Stopgap funding through Nov. 21. Voting 301 for and 123 against, the House on Sept. 19 passed a continuing resolution (HR 4378) to provide stopgap appropriations for the first seven weeks of fiscal 2020, which starts Oct. 1. Averting a government shutdown, the bill would fund agencies at 2019 levels while giving negotiators time to reach agreement on regular appropriations bills for the 2020 budget year.

A yes vote was to send the bill to the Senate.

Voting yes: Spanberger.

Voting no: Riggleman.


Destro for assistant secretary of state. Voting 49 for and 44 against, the Senate on Sept. 18 confirmed Robert Destro, a professor at The Catholic University Columbus School of Law, as assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor. Destro was a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in the Reagan administration. He drew unanimous Democratic opposition over his advocacy of state religious-freedom laws that restrict the rights of lesbians, gays and bisexual and transsexual individuals, and for his conservative views on women’s reproductive rights.

A yes vote was to confirm the nominee.

Voting no: Mark R. Warner (D); Tim Kaine (D).

Thomas Voting Reports Inc.

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