by Keith T. Barber and Jordan Green

Congressional roll call

A slew of critical legislation passed through the gauntlet in the middle of December as the two houses prepared for political gridlock over the next two years, with power transferring to the Republicans in the US House and the Democratic president gearing up for reelection in 2012.

Both of North Carolinas senators, Republican Richard Burr and Democrat Kay Hagan, voted for the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell on Dec. 18. Likewise both voted against the DREAM Act, which stands for Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors. The failed legislation would have allowed undocumented youth who graduate from high school in the United States to obtain citizenship through completion of a college degree or two years of military service. Hagan’s vote came as a disappointment to supporters of the legislation, which was backed by President Obama, including the NC NAACP. Undocumented immigrants calling themselves the NC Dream Team have canvassed the state in support of the legislation in recent months. Last summer, activists targeted one of Hagan’s offices with hunger strikes.

Party lines were crossed in both houses with the vote on extension of the Bush-era tax cuts and unemployment insurance, which provided a little something for everyone to hate and love. Democrats got middle-class tax cuts and unemployment insurance. Republicans got tax cuts for the wealthy. Everyone got a deferred bill of $858 billion, which will be added to the deficit.

Hagan balked, voting against the legislation, while Burr supported it. Two days after the Senate vote, on Dec. 17, the House voted to approve the bill, moving it to the president’s desk. In the North Carolina delegation, the yeas included Republican Howard Coble and Democrat Mel Watt while the nays included Republican Virginia Foxx and Democrat Brad Miller.

President Obama signed the tax bill on the same day. “I know that not every member of Congress likes every piece of this bill, and it includes some provisions that I oppose,” the president said following the Senate vote. “But as a whole, this package will grow our economy, create jobs, and help middleclass families across the country. As this bill moves to the House of Representatives, I hope that members from both parties can come together in a spirit of common purpose to protect American families and our economy as a whole by passing this essential economic package.”