Robert Menendez on Government Reform
Democratic Jr Senator; previously Representative (NJ-13)
Keep the Senate filibuster rules, to encourage debate
Q: Do you think there should be a change in the Senate rules governing the filibuster?
KEAN: No. Negotiation and compromise under the current rules are the best means to success and promotes bipartisan solutions to our nation’s challenges.
MENENDEZ: Under Bush, Washington has become too partisan and divided. Senate rules are meant to overcome that by encouraging debate and compromise. They should be preserved.
Source: Hall Institute N.J. Senate Virtual Debate (X-ref Kean)
, Sep 24, 2006
Allow dual-office holding for politicians, if voters choose
Q: Should public officials in New Jersey be allowed to hold more than one public office?
KEAN: I sponsored legislation to prohibit dual-office holding. It undermines the integrity and honesty of government. Regrettably, Bob Menendez was a dual-office
MENENDEZ: Voters have the final say in who represents them in government. If the electorate votes you into office, that is the will of the electorate.
Source: Hall Institute N.J. Senate Virtual Debate (X-ref Kean)
, Sep 24, 2006
Voted YES on Congressional pay raise.
Makes appropriations to the Senate for FY2010 for:Amends the Legislative Branch Appropriation Act of 1968 to increase by $50,000 the gross compensation paid all employees in the office of a Senator. Increases by $96,000 per year the aggregate amount authorized for the offices of the Majority and Minority Whip.
- expense allowances;
- representation allowances for the Majority and Minority Leaders;
- salaries of specified officers, employees, and committees (including the Committee on Appropriations);
- agency contributions for employee benefits;
- inquiries and investigations;
- the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control;
- the Offices of the Secretary and of the Sergeant at Arms and Doorkeeper of the Senate;
- miscellaneous items;
- the Senators' Official Personnel and Office Expense Account; and
- official mail costs.
Proponent's argument to vote Yes:Rep. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D, FL-20): We, as Members of
Congress, have responsibility not just for the institution, but for the staff that work for this institution, and to preserve the facilities that help support this institution. We have endeavored to do that responsibly, and I believe we have accomplished that goal.
Opponent's argument to vote No:Rep. SCALISE (R, LA-1): It's a sad day when someone attempts to cut spending in a bill that grows government by the size of 7%, and it's not allowed to be debated on this House floor. Some of their Members actually used the term "nonsense" and "foolishness" when describing our amendments to cut spending; they call that a delaying tactic. Well, I think Americans all across this country want more of those types of delaying tactics to slow down this runaway train of massive Federal spending. Every dollar we spend from today all the way through the end of this year is borrowed money. We don't have that money. We need to control what we're spending.
Reference: Legislative Branch Appropriations Act;
; vote number 2009-S217
on Jul 6, 2009
Voted YES on providing a US House seat for the District of Columbia.
- The District of Columbia shall be considered a Congressional district for purposes of representation in the House of Representatives.
- DC shall not be considered a State for purposes of representation in the US Senate.
- Reapportionment [census-based House seats] shall apply with respect to DC in the same manner as it applies to a State, except that DC may not receive more than one Member.
- Effective with the 112th Congress, the House of Representatives shall be composed of 437 Members, including the Member representing DC.
- The State of Utah is entitled to one additional Representative pursuant to this reapportionment.
Proponent's argument to vote Yes:Sen. ORRIN HATCH (R-UT): I am cosponsoring the legislation to provide a House seat for DC and an additional House seat for Utah. Representation and suffrage are so central to the American system of self-government that
America's founders warned that limiting suffrage would risk another revolution and could prevent ratification of the Constitution. The Supreme Court held in 1820 that Congress' legislative authority over DC allows taxation of DC. Do opponents of giving DC a House seat believe that DC is suitable for taxation but not for representation?
Opponent's argument to vote No:Sen. JOHN McCAIN (R-AZ): I make a constitutional point of order against this bill on the grounds that it violates article I, section 2, of the Constitution. I appreciate the frustration felt by the residents of DC at the absence of a vote in Congress. According to many experts, DC is not a State, so therefore is not entitled to that representation. Also, one has to raise the obvious question: If DC is entitled to a Representative, why isn't Puerto Rico, which would probably entail 9 or 10 Members of Congress? [With regards to the seat for Utah], this is obviously partisan horse-trading.
Reference: District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act;
; vote number 2009-S073
on Feb 26, 2009
Voted YES on granting the District of Columbia a seat in Congress.
Cloture vote on the District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act:
[Washington DC currently has a "delegate" to the US House, whose vote does not count. Utah had complained that the 2000 census did not count many Utahns on Mormon missions abroad].
- Considers D.C. a congressional district for purposes of representation in the House.
- D.C. shall not be considered a state for representation in the Senate.
- Limits D.C. to one Member under any reapportionment.
- Increases membership of the House from 435 to 437.
- Entitles Utah to one additional Representative until the next census, and modifies the reapportionment formula thereafter.
Opponents recommend voting NO because:
Sen. BYRD: In 1978, I voted for H.J. Res. 554, that proposed amending the Constitution to provide for representation of D.C. [That amendment passed the Senate but was not ratified by the States]. While I recognize that others believe that the Constitution authorizes the
Congress to "exercise exclusive legislation" over D.C., the historical intent of the Founders on this point is unclear. I oppose S.1257, because I doubt that our Nation's Founding Fathers ever intended that the Congress should be able to change the text of the Constitution by passing a simple bill.
Proponents support voting YES because:
Sen. HATCH. There are conservative and liberal advocates on both sides of this issue,and think most people know Utah was not treated fairly after the last census. For those who are so sure this is unconstitutional, [we include an] expedited provision that will get us to the Supreme Court to make an appropriate decision. It will never pass as a constitutional amendment. There are 600,000 people in D.C., never contemplated by the Founders of this country to be without the right to vote. They are the only people in this country who do not have a right to vote for their own representative in the House. This bill would remedy that situation.
Reference: District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act;
Bill S. 1257
; vote number 2007-339
on Sep 18, 2007
Voted NO on requiring photo ID to vote in federal elections.
Vote on Dole Amdt. S.2350, amending SP2350 (via the College Cost Reduction Act): To amend the Help America Vote Act of 2002 to require individuals voting in person to present photo identification.
Proponents support voting YES because:
Sen. DOLE. I am proposing a commonsense measure to uphold the integrity of Federal elections. My amendment to require voters to show photo identification at the polls would go a long way in minimizing potential for voter fraud. When a fraudulent vote is cast and counted, the vote of a legitimate voter is cancelled. This is wrong, and my amendment would help ensure that one of the hallmarks of our democracy, our free and fair elections, is protected. Opinion polls repeatedly confirm that Americans overwhelmingly support this initiative.
Opponents recommend voting NO because:
Sen. FEINSTEIN. If one would want to suppress the vote in the 2008 election, one would vote for this because this measure goes into effect January 1, 2008. It provides that everybody who votes essentially would have to have a photo ID. If you want to suppress the minority vote, the elderly vote, the poor vote, this is exactly the way to do it. Many of these people do not have driver's licenses. This amendment would cost hundreds of millions of dollars to actually carry out. It goes into effect--surprise--January 1, 2008 [to affect the presidential election]. I urge a "no" vote.
Reference: Dole Amendment to the Help America Vote Act;
Bill S.2350, amending SP2350
; vote number 2007-269
on Jul 19, 2007
Voted NO on allowing some lobbyist gifts to Congress.
A motion to table (kill) an amendment to clarify the application of the gift rule to lobbyists. Voting NAY would define employees of lobbying companies as registered lobbyists and therefore subject to the gift ban. Voting YEA would apply the gift ban only to specific people who registered as lobbyists.
Proponents of the amendment say to vote NAY on the tabling motion because:
Reference: Feingold Amendment to Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act;
Bill S.Amdt.2962 to S.2349
; vote number 2006-080
on Mar 29, 2006
- Using the term "registered lobbyist'' will create a huge loophole. The Ethics Committee treats the actual listed lobbyists as registered lobbyists, but not the organization.
- So, for example, a company can give a Senator free tickets to a show or a baseball game, as long as a lobbyist doesn't actually offer or handle them. If the lobbyist's secretary makes the call, that would be permitted.
- If these companies can still give gifts, we won't have a real lobbyist gift ban. We won't be able to look the American people in the eye and say, "We just banned gifts from lobbyists,'' because we didn't.
Voted YES on establishing the Senate Office of Public Integrity.
An amendment to establish the Senate Office of Public Integrity. Voting YEA would establish the new office, and voting NAY would keep ethics investigations within the existing Senate Ethics Committee.
Proponents of the bill say to vote YEA because:
- We have heard from the media about the bribes and scandals, but we have heard only silence from the House Ethics Committee. One of the greatest travesties of these scandals is not what Congress did, but what it didn't do.
- The American people perceive the entire ethics system--House and Senate--to be broken. We can pass all the ethics reforms we want--gift bans, travel bans, lobbying restrictions--but none of them will make a difference if there isn't a nonpartisan, independent body that will help us enforce those laws.
- The Office of Public Integrity established in this amendment would provide a voice that cannot be silenced by political pressures. It would have the power to initiate independent investigations
and bring its findings to the Ethics Committees in a transparent manner.
Opponents of the bill say to vote NAY because:
Reference: Collins Amendment to Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act;
Bill S.Amdt.3176 to S.2349
; vote number 2006-077
on Mar 28, 2006
- The Constitution gave us not only the right but the duty to create our own rules, including the rules concerning our ethics. They are enforced internally by the Senate itself.
- The decisions made under this amendment would be no different than right now. The final decision will be made by the Senate Ethics Committee. All this really does is find a way to further publicize that complaints have been made.
- We have people accusing us almost daily of having done something wrong and publishing it through blogs and all that. I think we should be very careful in setting up another tool for these bloggers to create more charges against the Senate.
- I cannot support an amendment that either replaces the Senate Ethics Committee or adds another layer to our already expensive and time-consuming process. I urge the Senate to defeat this provision.
Voted YES on prohibiting lawsuits about obesity against food providers.
The Personal Responsibility in Food Consumption Act ("The Cheesburger Bill") would prevent civil liability actions against food manufacturers, marketers, distributors, advertisers, sellers, and trade associations for claims relating to a person's weight gain, obesity, or any health condition associated with weight gain or obesity. A YES vote would:
Reference: The Cheesburger Bill;
Bill HR 554
; vote number 2005-533
on Oct 19, 2005
- Prohibit such lawsuits in this act in federal or state courts
- Dismiss any pending lawsuits upon this bill's enactment
- Maintain an individual's right to bring a lawsuit to court for false marketing, advertising or labeling of food when such information led to injury, obesity or weight gain
Voted NO on limiting attorney's fees in class action lawsuits.
Class Action Fairness Act of 2005: Amends the Federal judicial code to specify the calculation of contingent and other attorney's fees in proposed class action settlements that provide for the award of coupons to class members. Allows class members to refuse compliance with settlement agreements or consent decrees absent notice. Prohibits a Federal district court from approving:
Reference: Bill sponsored by Sen. Chuck Grassley [R, IA];
; vote number 2005-038
on Feb 17, 2005
- a proposed coupon settlement absent a finding that the settlement is fair, reasonable, and adequate;
- a proposed settlement involving payments to class counsel that would result in a net monetary loss to class members, absent a finding that the loss is substantially outweighed by nonmonetary benefits; or
- a proposed settlement that provides greater sums to some class members solely because they are closer geographically to the court.
Voted NO on restricting frivolous lawsuits.
Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act of 2004: Amends the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to:
Reference: Bill sponsored by Rep Lamar Smith [R, TX-21];
; vote number 2004-450
on Sep 14, 2004
- require courts to impose sanctions on attorneys, law firms, or parties who file frivolous lawsuits (currently, sanctions are discretionary);
- disallow the withdrawal or correction of pleadings to avoid sanctions;
- require courts to award parties prevailing on motions reasonable expenses and attorney's fees, if warranted;
- authorize courts to impose sanctions that include reimbursement of a party's reasonable litigation costs in connection with frivolous lawsuits; and
- make the discovery phase of litigation subject to sanctions.
Voted YES on campaign finance reform banning soft-money contributions.
Shays-Meehan Campaign Finance Overhaul: Vote to pass a bill that would ban soft money contributions to national political parties but permit up to $10,000 in soft money contributions to state and local parties to help with voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives. The bill would stop issue ads from targeting specific candidates within 30 days of the primary or 60 days of the general election. Additionally, the bill would raise the individual contribution limit from $1,000 to $2,000 per election for House and Senate candidates, both of which would be indexed for inflation.
Reference: Bill sponsored by Shays, R-CT, and Meehan D-MA;
Bill HR 2356
; vote number 2002-34
on Feb 14, 2002
Voted NO on banning soft money donations to national political parties.
Support a ban on soft money donations to national political parties but allow up to $10,000 in soft-money donations to state and local parties for voter registration and get-out-the vote activity.
Bill HR 2356
; vote number 2001-228
on Jul 12, 2001
Voted YES on banning soft money and issue ads.
Campaign Finance Reform Act to ban "soft money" and impose restrictions on issue advocacy campaigning.
Reference: Bill sponsored by Shays, R-CT;
Bill HR 417
; vote number 1999-422
on Sep 14, 1999
Keep campaign soft money; allow legal resident contributions.
Menendez adopted the CHC principles:
The Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) adopted principles on campaign finance reform today to ensure that the reform efforts underway in Congress do not limit the growing Latino population’s path to political empowerment. The CHC principles support maintaining the hard money individual contribution limit at $1000, allowing “soft money” to be used strictly for voter registration and turnout activities, ensuring that legal permanent residents are not stripped of their right to make campaign contributions, and raising election reform as philosophically linked to campaign finance reform without slowing down legislative progress on either effort. “These principles are very important to the empowerment of minorities and we will press forward to ensure they are addressed in whatever legislation is ultimately passed by Congress,” said Silvestre Reyes, Chair of the CHC. “We in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus hope to join with the Congressional Black Caucus to advance these principles.”
Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) adopted principles on campaign finance reform:
Source: CHC Principles on Campaign Finance Reform, press release 01-CHC1 on Jun 28, 2001
- The CHC opposes the increased hard dollar campaign contribution limits as passed by the Senate. The limit in current law is $1000, and the Senate amended McCain-Feingold to raise the limit to $2000, indexed for inflation.
- The CHC supports exemptions that would allow soft money to be used strictly for voter registration and get-out-the-vote activities.
- The CHC supports the right of legal permanent residents to make campaign contributions. Current law allows this, but past amendments to campaign finance reform bills have sought to outlaw legal permanent residents’ right to make campaign contributions.
- While campaign finance reform and election reform are linked philosophically because they seek to strengthen the integrity of our democracy, the CHC does not rule out nor necessarily support linking the two issues legislatively.
Establish the United States Public Service Academy.
Menendez co-sponsored establishing the United States Public Service Academy
Introductory statement by Sponsor:
Sen. CLINTON: I rise today to introduce legislation that will create an undergraduate institution designed to cultivate a generation of young leaders dedicated to public service. The US Public Service Academy Act (The PSA Act) will form a national academy to serve as an extraordinary example of effective, national public education.
The tragic events of September 11 and the devastation of natural disasters such as Hurricanes Katrina and Rita underscore how much our Nation depends on strong public institutions and competent civilian leadership at all levels of society. Congress must take a step forward to ensure competent civilian leadership and improve our Nation's ability to respond to future emergencies and to confront daily challenges.
This legislation will create the US Public Service Academy to groom future public servants and build a corps of capable civilian leaders. Modeled after the military service academies, this academy
will provide a four-year, federally-subsidized college education for more than 5,000 students a year in exchange for a five year commitment to public service.
The PSA Act will meet critical national needs as the baby-boomer generation approaches retirement. Already, studies show looming shortages in the Federal civil service, public education, law enforcement, the non-profit sector and other essential areas.
Unfortunately our young people are priced out of public service careers all too often. By providing a service-oriented education at no cost to the student, the PSA Act will tap into the strong desire to serve that already exists among college students while erasing the burden of enormous college debt.
The establishment of a United States Public Service Academy is an innovative way to strengthen and protect America by creating a corps of well-trained, highly-qualified civilian leaders. I am hopeful that my Senate colleagues from both sides of the aisle will join me today.
Source: United States Public Service Academy Act (S.960 & HR.1671) 07-HR1671 on Mar 23, 2007
Prohibit voter intimidation in federal elections.
Menendez co-sponsored prohibiting voter intimidation in federal elections
Makes it unlawful for anyone before or during a federal election to knowingly communicate false election-related information about that election, with the intent to prevent another person from exercising the right to vote. Increases from one year to five years' imprisonment the criminal penalty for intimidation of voters.
Introductory statement by Sponsor:
Sen. OBAMA: This bill seeks to address the all-too-common efforts to deceive voters in order to keep them away from the polls. It's hard to imagine that we even need a bill like this. But, unfortunately, there are people who will stop at nothing to try to deceive voters and keep them away from the polls. What's worse, these practices often target and exploit vulnerable populations, such as minorities, the disabled, or the poor. We saw countless examples in this past election.
Of course, these so-called warnings have no basis in fact, and are made with only one goal in mind--to keep Americans away from the polls. We see these problems election after election, and my hope is that this bill will finally stop these practices. This bill makes voter intimidation & deception punishable by law, and it contains strong penalties. The bill also seeks to address the real harm of these crimes--people who are prevented from voting by misinformation--by establishing a process for reaching out to these misinformed voters with accurate information so they can cast their votes in time.
Source: Voter Intimidation Prevention Act (H.R.1281 & S.453) 07-S453 on Mar 1, 2007
- Some of us remember the thousands of Latino voters in Orange County, California, who received letters warning them in
Spanish that, "if you are an immigrant, voting in a federal election is a crime that can result in incarceration."
- Or the voters in Virginia who received calls from a so-called "Virginia Elections Commission" informing them--falsely--that they were ineligible to vote.
- Or the voters who were told that they couldn't vote if they had family members who had been convicted of a crime.
Require full disclosure of independent campaign expenditures.
Menendez co-sponsored DISCLOSE Act
Wikipedia & OnTheIssue Summary:
- Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending in Elections Act of 2012 or DISCLOSE Act:
- Amends the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 (FECA) to add to the definition of "independent expenditure" an expenditure by a person that expressly advocates the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate, or takes a position on a candidates, qualifications, or fitness for office.
- Expands the period during which certain communications are treated as electioneering communications.
- Prescribes disclosure requirements for corporations, labor organizations, and certain other entities, including a political committee with an account established for the purpose of accepting donations or contributions that do not comply with the contribution limits or source prohibitions under FECA (but only with respect to such accounts).
- Repeals the prohibition against political contributions by individuals age 17 or younger.
- On January 21, 2010, the Supreme Court, in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, ruled that prohibiting corporations and unions from making independent expenditures in political campaigns was unconstitutional. This ruling is frequently described as permitting corporations and unions to donate to political campaigns, but these claims are incorrect. The ruling did remove the previous ban on corporations and organizations using their funds for direct advocacy, including endorsing for or against specific candidates, actions that were previously prohibited.
The result of Citizens United was that "Super PACs" spent millions on TV ads in the 2012 election, advocating both issues and candidates. The DISCLOSE Act attempts to reduce the negative effect of Citizens United by requiring disclosure of independent expenditures made by advocacy groups.
Source: S3369/HR4010 12-S3369 on Jul 10, 2012
Prohibit 'voter caging' which intimidates minority voting.
Menendez co-sponsored prohibiting 'voter caging' which intimidates minority voting
Rep. CONYERS: "Since the late 1950's, the pernicious practice of 'voter caging' has been used to discourage or prevent eligible voters from casting their vote. Recent elections have shown that caging tactics are not outdated, and in fact, have disenfranchised voters in recent midterm and Presidential elections. While caging efforts have traditionally been directed at minority communities, all voters are susceptible to these attempts at voter intimidation and suppression.
"The undemocratic practice of voter caging involves sending mail to voters at the addresses at which they are registered to vote. Should such mail be returned as undeliverable or without a return receipt, the voter's name is placed on a 'caging list.' These caging lists are then used to challenge a voter's registration or eligibility.
"In my home State of Michigan, I have seen firsthand how caging efforts are used to harass, bully, and ultimately disenfranchise, eligible voters. With a
Michigan lawmaker advocating 'suppress the Detroit vote,' I cannot help but think that is synonymous with 'suppress the Black vote' as Detroit is 83% African American. These voter suppression campaigns always seem to target our most vulnerable voters--racial minorities, low-income people, homeless people, and college students.
"Caging tactics meant to suppress the vote do more than impede the right to vote. They threaten to erode the very core of our democracy. By eliminating barriers to the polls, we can help restore what has been missing from our elections--fairness, honesty, and integrity."
S.2305: PROHIBITION ON VOTER CAGING: No State or local election official shall prevent an individual from registering or voting in any election for Federal office, or challenge an individual's registration status or eligibility to vote, if the sole basis for such decision or challenge is evidence consisting of a voter caging document or voter caging list; or an unverified match list.
Source: Caging Prohibition Act (S.2305/H.R.5038) 2007-S2305 on Nov 5, 2007
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