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This is how New Jersey’s congressional delegation voted in June
This is how New Jersey’s congressional delegation voted in June

With little time left before the long August recess and the presidential election gradually drawing Washington’s attention, Congress set to work last month to pass annual legislation to fund the federal government and set the budget for the Department of Defense.

The House passed five major bills in June, including four appropriations bills, and debated hundreds of amendments, many of which split New Jersey’s congressional delegation along party lines. (The Senate, as is its way, did not keep up with this frenetic pace.)

Click here for a web version of the New Jersey Globe’s June 2024 voting tracker with links to the bills and votes in question, or scroll to the bottom of this article for a PDF version.

Bills with big names

This month, the House of Representatives has five bills before it that must be passed each year: the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and funding bills for the Departments of State, Defense, Homeland Security, and Veterans Affairs. These are four of the 12 appropriations bills that must ultimately be enacted.

In a repeat of last year’s process, all passed with minimal Democratic support, thanks to various conservative provisions included in the original bills or added later through amendments. New Jersey’s three Republican congressmen – Reps. Jeff Van Drew (R-Dennis), Chris Smith (R-Manchester) and Tom Kean Jr. (R-Westfield) – supported all five bills, while all New Jersey Democrats present opposed all five.

Democrats expressed particular frustration about the NDAA, which had passed the House Armed Services Committee almost unanimously but was later amended in a way that made it unacceptable to most Democrats.

“The National Defense Authorization Act has a decades-long history of bipartisanship, with both parties working to find common ground to protect our country,” said Rep. Andy Kim (D-Moorestown), a member of the Armed Services Committee, the day the bill passed the House. “In that spirit, I supported the bipartisan bill when it came to a vote in our committee, even though I had concerns about a number of provisions. (But) today, I cannot support the harmful and partisan changes made by Republicans and brought to the floor in the House.”

All five bills – as well as any future appropriations bills passed by the House of Representatives – will now likely be negotiated with the Democratic-dominated Senate and the White House, as they were last year, to find a compromise more acceptable to both parties.

Controversial changes

In the course of passing the five key bills, the House of Representatives voted by roll call on more than 60 amendments and passed numerous others by voice vote, many of them highly controversial.

Republicans added controversial amendments to the NDAA that would eliminate the Department of Defense’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Office, prohibit the department from reimbursing abortion costs, and prevent the military health system from covering the cost of gender reassignment surgeries. Representatives Van Drew, Smith, and Kean voted for all three amendments.

Van Drew also voted for a number of amendments to both the NDAA and the appropriations bill that would have eliminated funding for Ukraine and various Ukraine-related agencies. All of these amendments failed. These were not the only amendments that failed; a large number of amendments led by Republicans that sought to reduce or eliminate funding for various agencies and programs were unsuccessful, although Van Drew and Smith supported many of them.

New Jersey Democrats unanimously opposed almost all of the amendments, but there were some interesting exceptions. For example, a Democrat-sponsored amendment to prevent the State Department from citing the Health Department’s Gaza death toll during the ongoing war passed with the support of Reps. Donald Norcross (D-Camden), Josh Gottheimer (D-Wyckoff) and Frank Pallone (D-Long Branch), three of the 62 Democrats who voted for the controversial proposal.

Gottheimer also voted for two failed amendments that would have prevented funds from being allocated to the Lebanese Armed Forces and would have required congressional approval of all UN funds. He was the only Democrat in the entire House to support the latter.

In the Senate

The Senate, as so often, had a less eventful month and passed exactly one bill – a bill sheltered in the house by Representatives Kean and Pascrell – to renew fire subsidies and promote the development of nuclear energy, as well as to approve certain nominations.

The most notable votes in the Senate, however, were unsuccessful procedural votes on two bills that would have protected the right to Contraceptives And in vitro fertilizationThe bills, both introduced by Democratic Senate leadership, failed to reach a regular vote due to opposition from most Republican senators; New Jersey Senator Cory Booker sponsored both.

“I am deeply disappointed that Senate Republicans voted today to deny countless families the opportunity and right to make their own, deeply personal decisions about starting a family,” Booker said after the IVF bill failed. “No family should have to endure hardship to achieve their dream of having children. This fight is far from over.”

It is also worth noting that the Senate is still not approved: Nomination of Adeel Mangi to a seat on the Third District Court of Appeals. Mangi, a New Jersey resident, was confirmed by the Senate Judiciary Committee in January but does not appear to have the votes to be confirmed by the full Senate, and there is no current information on what will happen with his nomination.

Missing members

Two members of New Jersey’s congressional delegation, Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-Ewing) and Sen. Bob Menendez, were absent from every vote this month – for very different reasons.

Earlier this month, Watson Coleman had to undergo surgery for a back problem that kept her from traveling for several weeks, although she continued to be active in her New Jersey district. Menendez, meanwhile, is stuck in a Manhattan courtroom defending herself against corruption charges in a trial that began on May 13.

With the seat of the late Rep. Donald Payne Jr. (D-Newark) also vacant—and not to be filled until a special election on September 18—New Jersey’s normally 14-member congressional delegation has received only 11 votes in recent weeks. But Watson Coleman returns to Washington today and the Menendez trial is in the final phasetherefore the delegation should soon be stronger.

Click here for a web version of the voting tracker.

Votes in June 2024 – House of Representatives Votes in June 2024 – Senate

By Seren