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Votes in Congress through the week of Feb. 28

WASHINGTON — Here’s how area members of Congress voted on major issues during the legislative week ending Feb. 28:


Designating lynching a hate crime. Voting 410 for and four against, the House on Feb. 26 passed a bill (HR 35) that would designate lynching a federal hate crime. The bill is named in honor of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old African-American who was murdered in Mississippi in 1955 after having been falsely accused of signaling advances on a white woman. The bill says "at least 4,742 people, predominantly African Americans, were reported lynched in the United States between 1882 and 1968," and notes that more than 200 antilynching bills have been introduced in congressional history but then shelved. Although lynching can be prosecuted under federal laws including civil rights statutes, this marks its first specific designation as a federal crime. The bill would add lynching to a 1968 hate-crimes law that already covers — and requires increased penalties for — offenses based on the victim’s perceived or actual gender, race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability or sexual orientation.

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

Voting yes: Denver Riggleman, R-5th; Abigail Spanberger, D-7th.

Outlawing flavored tobacco products. Voting 213 for and 195 against, the House on Feb. 28 passed a bill (HR 2339) that would prohibit the manufacture and sale of flavored tobacco products including e-cigarettes and traditional menthol cigarettes; impose an excise tax on the sale of products such as e-cigarettes and vaping devices that deliver nicotine in liquid form; outlaw the marketing, advertising and online sales of e-cigarettes and vaping products to individuals under 21; require the Government Accountability Office to study the impact of liquid-nicotine products on public health; and fund stop-smoking demonstration programs in poor communities. In addition, the bill would require the Food and Drug Administration to start regulating products containing synthetic nicotine and require color coding to heighten the impact to warnings on cigarette packages.

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

Voting no: Riggleman, Spanberger.

Adding abortion provision to tobacco bill. Voting 187 for and 220 against, the House on Feb. 28 defeated a Republican-sponsored measure that sought to add abortion-related language to a pending bill (HR 2339, above) that would outlaw the sale and manufacture of flavored tobacco products. Addressing standards of care for infants who survive failed late-term abortions, the proposed GOP amendment was essentially a mirror image of a bill (S 311, below) debated earlier in the week by the Senate.

A yes vote was to add abortion language to the tobacco bill.

Voting yes: Riggleman.

Voting no: Spanberger.


Protecting infants in failed abortions. Voting 56 for and 41 against, the Senate on Feb. 25 failed to reach 60 votes needed to advance a GOP-drafted bill (S 311) that would prescribe rules of care for infants who survive failed late-term abortions. Healthcare providers including doctors could face up to five years in prison if they failed to immediately ensure the hospitalization of an infant showing signs of life after an attempted abortion. The infant would have to receive the same level of care provided to "any other child born alive at the same gestational age." The bill also would require medical practitioners or employees of hospitals, clinics or physician’s offices to report to law enforcement agencies any violation they witnessed.

A yes vote was to overcome a Democratic-led filibuster and advance the bill.

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

Imposing stricter abortion limits. Voting 53 for and 44 against, the Senate on Feb. 25 failed to reach 60 votes needed to advance a GOP-drafted bill (S 3275) that would outlaw abortions after 20 weeks of fertilization on grounds that the fetus can feel pain by then. The bill repudiates the Roe v. Wade standard that abortion is legal up to when the fetus reaches viability — usually after 24-to-28 weeks of pregnancy — and after viability if the procedure is necessary to protect the health or life of the mother. Under Roe, viability occurs when the fetus can potentially survive outside the womb with or without artificial aid. The bill allows exemptions for victims of rape or incest and to save the mother’s life. Rape victims must receive counseling and medical care at least 48 hours before the procedure could be exempted. Doctors who violate the law could be criminally prosecuted.

A yes vote was to overcome a Democratic-led filibuster and advance the bill.

Voting no: Warner, Kaine


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