The POPVOX Blog

  1. The Week Ahead: Sept. 22 - 26

    From our Hill Sources: Congress is in recess (again). Previously, we had reported that the Senate would be in session (including weekends) until Sept. 23rd. And the House would be in session until Oct. 2nd. But both the Senate and the House adjourned last week to hit the campaign trail. They won't be back until after the November elections. The Senate didn't work over the weekend, and according to our Hill Sources, they haven't worked a full week all year.

    Here's a recap of what they accomplished in the past two weeks, after their five-week August recess. While our elected leaders may be out on the campaign trail, it's important to note that their staffers are still on the Hill, responding to constituents. So keep weighing in on POPVOX.

    On Tuesday, President Obama will deliver remarks at the UN's Climate Summit. You can see recent proposals in Congress that address carbon pollution. We've also created a place on POPVOX where our users can weigh in on a recent Environmental Protection Agency proposal, which for the first time cuts carbon pollution from existing power plants, the single largest source of carbon pollution in the United States. 

    More than 500 New Bills and Resolutions Introduced

    In the two weeks after their August recess and before leaving for recess, Members of the House introduced almost 330 bills and resolutions. Senators introduced 175 bills and resolutions. (That's a lot!) Take a look at what they introduced on our "New Bills" page.

    Some of the bills introduced before Congress adjourned included: changing the Redskins' name; revoking the citizenship of individuals affiliated with designated foreign terrorist organizations; prohibiting accessing porn websites from Federal computers; increasing funding for domestic violence prevention programs, paid for by closing a tax loophole used by professional sporting leagues, and making it illegal for businesses to penalize customers who write negative reviews on Yelp or other online review sites.

    Shutdown Averted

    Last week, the House and Senate agreed on a "continuing resolution", or CR, that will keep the government operating even after regular appropriations acts have expired. President Obama signed the $1 trillion spending bill Friday afternoon. The bill also authorizes the President's plans to fight the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL). In addition, it extends the charter for the Export-Import Bank through June 30, 2015, and it provides additional funding to combat the Ebola epidemic and for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

    • HJRes 124

      Continuing Appropriations Resolution

      A short-term Continuing Resolution (CR) to prevent a government shutdown at the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, 2014. The legislation continues funding for government programs and services at the current annual cap rate of $1.012 trillion until Dec. 11, 2014. This rate of funding will remain in place for the length of the CR, or until Congress approves annual Appropriations legislation for fiscal year 2015. In addition, the bill includes an amendment, adopted on the House floor, to authorize the training and equipping of Syrian rebels to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), as requested by the President, according to the House Appropriations Committee. -- Passed the House and Senate on Sept. 18th; and signed into law by the President on Sept. 19th. --

    However, according to the House Appropriations Committee, "the CR does include some changes to existing law that are needed to prevent catastrophic, irreversible, or detrimental changes to government programs, to address current national or global crises, or to ensure good government." These provisions are funded within the total level of funding in the legislation. Some of these provisions include:

    1. Extending expiring Dept. of Defense activities, including counter-drug operations, support to the Office of Security Cooperation in Iraq, and rewards for assistance in combatting terrorism.
    2. Continuing a surge in funding for State Dept. programs to counter regional aggression toward Ukraine and other former Soviet Union countries.
    3. Ensuring appropriate treatment of veterans and continued oversight of the Dept. of Veterans Affairs, such as additional funds for disability claims processing, and funds for investigations into potential improper conduct including “waitlist” and “whistleblower” allegations.
    4. Allowing funding flexibility for Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement to maintain staffing levels, border security operations, detention space, and immigration enforcement activities.
    5. Addressing the recent Ebola crisis, including additional funding to accelerate HHS research on Ebola therapies, and additional funding for the Centers for Disease Control’s response to the growing outbreak in Africa.
    6. Allowing additional funds to offset food price increases in the Commodity Supplemental Food Program to ensure that no current recipients are removed from the program.
    7. Allowing funding flexibility to maintain weather satellite programs, ensuring the continuation of data for weather warnings and forecasts, including forecasts of severe weather events.
    8. Allowing the continuation of current funding for the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program.
    9. Extending the operating authority for the Export-Import Bank through June 30, 2015. A provision extending the Internet Tax Freedom Act through the period of the CR ending on December 11, 2014.

    Appropriations During the "Lame Duck"

    From our Hill Sources: We can expect to see the 12 appropriations bills combined into an omnibus spending bill in the "lame-duck session," after November’s midterm elections.

    Here are the appropriations bills that Congress has been working on:

    1. Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration Approps: HR 4800 in the House and S 2389 in the Senate
    2. Commerce/Justice/Science Approps: HR 4660, passed by the House on May 30th; and S 2437 in the Senate.
    3. Defense Approps: HR 4870, passed by the House on June 20th.
    4. Energy & Water Approps: HR 4923, passed by the House on July 10th.
    5. Financial Services Approps: HR 5016, passed by the House on July 16th.
    6. Homeland Security Approps: HR 4903 in the House.
    7. Interior & Environment Approps: HR 5171 in the House.
    8. Legislative Branch Approps: HR 4487, passed by the House on May 1st.
    9. Military Construction/Veterans Affairs Approps: HR 4486, passed by the House on April 30th.
    10. State/Foreign Operations Approps: HR 5013 and S 2499 in the Senate.
    11. Transportation/HUD Approps: HR 4745, passed by the House on June 10th; and S 2438 in the Senate.

    Job Creation Package in the House

    Job creation has been a priority of the new House Majority Leader, Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). (See his priorities for September.) Last week, the House passed a package bill which consisted of 15 bills that they had previously already passed.

    From our Hill Sources: It's unlikely that the Senate will consider this package of bills.

    • HR 4

      Jobs for America Act

      To make revisions to Federal law to improve the conditions necessary for economic growth and job creation. 

    The Jobs for America Act consists of 15 House-passed bills "that will make various changes to federal law to improve the conditions necessary for economic growth and job creation," according to the House Rules Committee:

    1. Save American Workers Act (HR 2575): --Bipartisan-- Repeals Obamacare’s 30-hour definition of full-time employment and the 120-hours-per- month definition of full-time equivalents, and replaces those thresholds with 40-hours- per-week for full-time employees and 174-hours-per-month for full-time equivalents. -- Passed by the House on Apr. 3, 2014 -- 
    2. Hire More Heroes Act (HR 3474):  --Bipartisan-- Incentivizes businesses to hire veterans by excluding them from Obamacare’s employer mandate threshold. Amends the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to permit an employer, when determining whether it must provide health care coverage to its employees under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), to exclude employees who have coverage under a healthcare program administered by the Department of Defense (DOD). This includes TRICARE or coverage provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). -- Passed by the House on March 11, 2014 -- 
    3. American Research and Competitiveness Act (HR 4438):  --Bipartisan-- Makes the R&D Tax Credit permanent, paving the way for increased innovation and investment in the U.S. Makes permanent and increases to 20 percent the alternative simplified method for calculating the research credit. -- Passed by the House on May 9, 2014 -- 
    4. America's Small Business Tax Relief Act (HR 4457):  --Bipartisan-- Makes section 179 expensing permanent ensuring that our small businesses have the certainty they need to grow their businesses and create jobs. Makes permanent the maximum expensing allowance at $500,000 and the phaseout threshold at $2 million. -- Passed by the House on June 12, 2014 -- 
    5. S Corporation Permanent Tax Relief Act (HR 4453):  --Bipartisan-- Provides the necessary flexibility for S corporations to access capital and make new investments. Amends the Internal Revenue Code to reduce from 10 to 5 years the period during which the built-in gains of an S corporation are subject to tax and to make such reduction permanent. -- Passed by the House on June 12, 2014 -- 
    6. Bonus depreciation (HR 4718):  --Bipartisan-- Making bonus depreciation permanent in order to lower the cost of capital for businesses. Makes permanent the 50-percent additional first-year depreciation deduction for qualified property. -- Passed by the House on June 11, 2014 -- 
    7. Repeal of the Medical Device Tax: (Passed by the House as part of HJRes 59--Bipartisan-- Repeals the excise tax on medical device manufacturers and importers.
    8. Small Business Capital Access and Job Preservation Act (HR 1105):  --Bipartisan-- Scales back costly Dodd-Frank Act regulations so that more capital can be invested in small- and medium-sized businesses. Provides an exemption from SEC registration for advisers to private equity funds that are not leveraged and that do not have outstanding a principal amount in excess of twice their funded capital commitments. -- Passed by the House on Dec. 4, 2013 -- 
    9. Small Business Mergers, Acquisitions, Sales, and Brokerage Act (HR 2274):  --Bipartisan-- Exempts certain brokers from onerous regulations when they facilitate the purchase or sale of businesses so that more capital can be used to innovate and create jobs. -- Passed by the House on Jan. 14, 2014 -- 
    10. Unfunded Mandates Information and Transparency Act (HR 899):  --Bipartisan-- Equips Congress and the public with tools to determine the true costs of regulations. Provides for a Committee chairman or ranking member to request that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) perform an assessment comparing the authorized level of funding in a bill or resolution to the prospective costs of carrying out any changes to a condition of Federal assistance being imposed on state, local, or tribal governments.  -- Passed by the House on Feb. 28, 2014 -- 
    11. Achieving Less Excess in Regulation and Requiring Transparency (ALERRT) Act (HR 2804): promotes jobs, better wages, and economic growth through regulatory reform. -- Passed by the House on Feb. 27, 2014 -- 
    12. Regulations From the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act (HR 367): ensures that Congress votes on all new major rules before they can be enforced. Requires passage of a joint resolution of approval for a major rule before it can take effect. -- Passed by the House on Aug. 2, 2013 -- 
    13. Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act (HR 3086):  --Bipartisan-- Protects internet access for all Americans and fosters growth in the digital economy. Permanently extends the Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA), which generally prohibits states and local governments from taxing Internet access or placing multiple or discriminatory taxes on Internet commerce.   -- Passed by the House on July 15, 2014 -- 
    14. Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act (HR 1526): will put Americans back to work by promoting responsible timber production. Requires the Forest Service to produce at least half of the sustainable annual yield of timber each year and share 25 percent of receipts with the counties. Protects the environment by requiring projects to complete National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and Endangered Species Act (ESA) consultations.   -- Passed by the House on Sept. 20, 2013 -- 
    15. National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act (HR 761):  --Bipartisan-- Allows the U.S. to develop resources that are critical to our economic competiveness.   -- Passed by the House on Sept. 18, 2013-- 

    Energy Package in the House

    The House employed the same package strategy around energy issues, passing a package that included a half-dozen bills, all of which had already been passed previously by the House:

    • HR 2

      American Energy Solutions for Lower Costs and More American Jobs Act

      To remove Federal Government obstacles to the production of more domestic energy; to ensure transport of that energy reliably to businesses, con- sumers, and other end users; to lower the cost of energy to consumers; to enable manufacturers and other businesses to access domestically produced energy affordably and reliably in order to create and sustain more secure and well-paying American jobs.

    The American Energy Solutions for Lower Costs and More American Jobs Act (HR 2) includes the following Energy and Commerce Committee bills:

    1. Northern Route Approval Act (HR 3):   --Bipartisan-- "to end the regulatory delays blocking construction of the Keystone XL pipeline and finally allow the job-creating project to proceed after nearly six years of review. The bill would eliminate the need for a Presidential Permit, address all other necessary federal permits, and limit litigation that could further block the project’s construction." -- Passed by the House on May 22, 2013 -- 
    2. Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Reform Act (HR 1900):   --Bipartisan--  "will expedite and modernize the federal review process for natural gas pipeline permits to help facilitate the construction of new pipeline infrastructure needed to help transport the nation’s growing natural gas supply to markets and consumers. The bill sets reasonable deadlines for review and helps hold agencies involved in the permitting process accountable. Despite the country’s growing supplies of natural gas, consumers in many areas of the country are still suffering from high heating prices due to a lack of adequate pipeline infrastructure. Consumers along the East Coast were hit particularly hard during last year’s Polar Vortex. This bill will get much-needed pipelines in the ground quicker, delivering relief to families and businesses across the country. -- Passed by the House on Nov. 21, 2013 -- 
    3. North American Energy Infrastructure Act (HR 3301):   --Bipartisan-- "will create a more modern and efficient cross-border approval process for oil pipelines, natural gas pipelines, and electric transmission lines that traverse the borders of the United States. The bill applies the lessons learned from the Keystone XL process, and will ensure that energy projects no longer fall victim to years of delay and red tape just because they cross an international border. Implementing a fair and standardized approval process for cross-border energy projects will help bring certainty to the regulatory process, encourage investment in job-creating energy infrastructure, and strengthen our partnership with Canada and Mexico toward achieving North American energy independence." -- Passed by the House on June 21, 2014 -- 
    4. Energy Consumers Relief Act (HR 1582): "will help protect consumers from higher energy costs by increasing transparency for major EPA regulations. It requires that before EPA finalizes any new energy-related rules estimated to cost more than $1 billion, the agency must submit a report to Congress detailing certain cost, benefit, energy price, and job impacts. The Secretary of Energy, in consultation with other relevant agencies, then must make a determination regarding the impacts of the rule. EPA would be prohibited from finalizing certain rules if the rule is determined to cause significant adverse effects to the economy." -- Passed by the House on Aug. 1, 2013 -- 
    5. Electricity Security and Affordability Act (HR 3826):   --Bipartisan-- "will protect a diverse electricity portfolio, which is needed to provide affordable and reliable energy to American households and businesses. According to EIA, electricity prices are already at the highest rate in five years, and EPA’s proposed power plants rules will cause rates to spike even further. Whitfield’s legislation directs EPA to adopt workable standards for new coal-fired plants that require technologies that have been adequately demonstrated and are commercially feasible. It would also instruct Congress to set the effective date for EPA’s regulations for existing plants." -- Passed by the House on March 6, 2014 -- 
    6. Thermal Insulation Efficiency Improvement Act (HR 4801):   --Bipartisan-- "will help identify opportunities for federal agencies to use energy and water more efficiently. The bill requires the Department of Energy to evaluate and report potential energy savings available to federal agencies through greater use of thermal insulation."-- Passed by the House on March 6, 2014 -- 
    7. Domestic Prosperity and Global Freedom Act (HR 6):   --Bipartisan--  "will help speed up the Department of Energy’s approval of U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports. Increasing U.S. LNG exports would help boost the U.S. economy while increasing global energy security, and this legislation would bring certainty to the export approval process to ensure the U.S. does not miss this window of opportunity. -- Passed by the House on June 25, 2014 -- 

    The UN Climate Summit, Sept. 23

    Tomorrow, the United Nations is hosting a Climate Summit "to engage leaders and advance climate action and ambition." The goal of the Summit is to "catalyze ambitious action on the ground to reduce emissions and strengthen climate resilience and mobilize political will for an ambitious global agreement by 2015 that limits the world to a less than 2-degree Celsius rise in global temperature." President Obama will deliver remarks at the Climate Summit. 

    We'd like to spotlight the "Clean Power Plan," a recent Environmental Protection Agency proposal, which for the first time cuts carbon pollution from existing power plants, the single largest source of carbon pollution in the United States. The EPA's Clean Power Plan will be implemented through a state-federal partnership under which states identify a path forward using either current or new electricity production and pollution control policies to meet the goals of the proposed program. 

    With POPVOX, you can now tell the EPA what you think about the Clean Power Plan -- and we'll deliver your message to the EPA as a "public comment":

    • EPA

      EPA's Clean Power Plan

      By 2030, the plan will: cut carbon emission from the power sector by 30 percent nationwide; cut particle pollution, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide by more than 25 percent; avoid up to 6,600 premature deaths, up to 150,000 asthma attacks in children, and up to 490,000 missed work or school days—providing up to $93 billion in climate and public health benefits; and shrink electricity bills roughly 8 percent by increasing energy efficiency and reducing demand. It will be implemented through a state-federal partnership under which states identify a path forward using either current or new electricity production and pollution control policies to meet the goals of the proposed program, according to the EPA.

    On June 23, the Supreme Court maintained the EPA's power to regulate green house gas emissions with only minor restrictions. This ruling is in addition to another decision earlier this term that allowed the EPA regulate air pollution that drift across state borders. The EPA is now able to regulate 83% of sources related to greenhouse gas emissions. 

    Ready for candidate ads this campaign season?

    With Congress hitting the campaign trail -- we know one thing is certain: political ads across the airwaves. At some point many candidates will face the notorious political decision of whether or not to "go negative" with their advertising -- attacking the record, and in many cases the character, of an opponent. POPVOX is teaming up with the National Institute for Civil Discourse in their "Respect or Reject" campaign, a nonpartisan effort to let people share their opinions on campaign ads. Tell Congress what you think about political advertising and going negative

    Please keep in mind that highlighting a bill doesn't imply a POPVOX endorsement in any way. Rather, we're simply trying to offer one more way to stay informed of an overwhelmingly complex legislative system.

  2. Do you "respect or reject" candidate ads this campaign season?

    Congress has officially closed up shop for the next few months and has headed back to home states and districts to hit the campaign trail. We all know that means that soon our airwaves will be loaded with political ads as candidates vie for attention and votes.

    At some point many candidates will face the notorious political decision of whether or not to "go negative" with their advertising -- attacking the record, and in many cases the character, of an opponent.

    The National Institute for Civil Discourse (NICD) at the University of Arizona spoke with many past candidates about negative campaigning, and found that nearly all said the same thing: They don't like it. They don't want to do it. And they would be happy to see it stop.. but they only way that can happen is if the people speak up. 

    We at POPVOX are happy to join with NICD in "Respect or Reject" a nonpartisan effort to let people share their opinions on campaign ads.

    Respect-or-Reject Campaign

    The Respect or Reject website is similar to POPVOX: The site is nonpartisan -- it presents ads for your consideration and you share what you think, on a scale of 1-5 stars, with an opportunity to comment and discuss.

    Watch real candidate ads and ask yourself:

    1. Is the ad respectful?
    2. Does the ad make you want to vote?
    3. Does the ad provide accurate information?

    You can also let Members of Congress know what you think, by weighing in on a proposal for "Civil and Truthful Campaign Ads."

    Respect or Reject is a project of the National Institute for Civil Discourse, in cooperation with the Roosevelt Institute Campus Network, The Democracy Commitment, HonestAdsCommon Sense ActionAmerican Association of State Colleges and Universities' American Democracy Project and POPVOX.

  3. The POPVOX Top 20: Sept. 12 - 18

    The most active bill on POPVOX this week was the Promoting Job Creation and Reducing Small Business Burdens Act (HR 5405), which was passed by the House on Tuesday. The 11-bill package is focused on "encouraging economic growth for small businesses" and strives to "make it easier for small businesses to grow and hire," according to the bill's sponsor, Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick (R-PA):

    1. “American workers and workplaces need legislation that empowers them to succeed and create a healthy economy. Too often what comes out of Washington are more regulations, higher taxes and heavier burdens that hold Americans back. This package of bills represents a common sense, bipartisan plan to cut red tape and give businesses the flexibility they need create better jobs and more opportunity. I hope the Senate acts quickly on this legislation in the same bipartisan fashion it passed the House.”

    Although average job growth was up from last year (215,000 as opposed to 194,000), job growth slightly declined in August (142,000 jobs). Last month, the unemployment rate decreased to 6.1% from July's 6.2% -- a drastic improvement from the 9.6% unemployment rate five years ago, and the 7.2% unemployment rate in August 2013.

    Weigh in on promoting job creation, and the other most active bills on POPVOX. We'll deliver your comment to Congress, guaranteed.

    Top 20 Bills of the Week

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    These are the bills and proposals that POPVOX users weighed in on with Congress in the past week. Keep in mind that these numbers aren't aggregates of total support, but just what happened in the past seven days.

    • HR 5405

      #1 Promoting Job Creation and Reducing Small Business Burdens Act

      --Bipartisan-- To make technical corrections to the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, to enhance the ability of small and emerging growth companies to access capital through public and private markets, to reduce regulatory burdens. The bill is a package of 11 bills:
      ​— Business Risk Mitigation and Price Stabilization Act (HR 634): To provide end user exemptions from certain provisions of the Commodity Exchange Act and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. -- Passed the House on 6/12/13 --
      Inter-Affiliate Swap Clarification Act (HR 677): To exempt inter-affiliate swaps from certain regulatory requirements put in place by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.
      Holding Company Registration Threshold Equalization Act (HR 801): To amend the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 to make the shareholder threshold for registration of savings and loan holding companies the same as for bank holding companies. -- Passed the House on 1/14/14 --
      Small Business Mergers, Acquisitions, Sales, and Brokerage Simplification Act (HR 2274): To amend the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 to provide for a notice-filing registration procedure for brokers performing services in connection with the transfer of ownership of smaller privately held companies and to provide for regulation appropriate to the limited scope of the activities of such brokers. -- Passed the House 1/14/14 --
      Small Cap Liquidity Reform Act (HR 3448): To amend the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 to provide for an optional pilot program allowing certain emerging growth companies to increase the tick sizes of their stocks. -- Passed the House 2/11/14 --
      Improving Access to Capital for Emerging Growth Companies Act (HR 3623): To amend certain provisions of the securities laws relating to the treatment of emerging growth companies.
      Small Company Disclosure Simplification Act (HR 4164): To exempt smaller public companies from requirements relating to the use of Extensible Business Reporting Language for periodic reporting to the Securities and Exchange Commission.
      Restoring Proven Financing for American Employers Act (HR 4167): To amend section 13 of the Bank Holding Company Act of 1956, known as the Volcker Rule, to exclude certain debt securities of collateralized loan obligations from the prohibition against acquiring or retaining an ownership interest in a hedge fund or private equity fund. -- Passed the House 4/29/14 --
      SBIC Advisers Relief Act (HR 4200): To amend the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 to prevent duplicative regulation of advisers of small business investment companies.
      Disclosure Modernization and Simplification Act (HR 4569): To require the Securities and Exchange Commission to make certain improvements to form 10-K and regulation S-K.
      HR 4571: Directs the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to revise its rules so as to increase the threshold amount for requiring issuers to provide certain disclosures relating to compensatory benefit plans.
      --Passed in the House on Sept. 16, 2014, now being considered by the Senate--

      233 Support | 113 Oppose

    • HR 4137

      #2 Preserving Welfare for Needs Not Weed Act

      "Would prohibit individuals from using welfare benefit cards for purchases at marijuana stores, as well as forbid the withdrawal of welfare cash at ATMs in these stores. The legislation aligns with other commonsense prohibitions enacted in recent years such as preventing recipients from accessing Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) welfare benefits in liquor stores, casinos and strip clubs by adding stores selling marijuana to the list,” according to the bill sponsor-- Passed the House on Sept. 16th --

      296 Support | 42 Oppose

    • HJRes 124

      #3 Continuing Appropriations Resolution

      A short-term Continuing Resolution (CR) to prevent a government shutdown at the end of the fiscal year on September 30, 2014. The legislation continues funding for government programs and services at the current annual cap rate of $1.012 trillion until December 11, 2014. This rate of funding will remain in place for the length of the CR, or until Congress approves annual Appropriations legislation for fiscal year 2015. In addition, the bill includes an amendment, adopted on the House floor, to authorize the training and equipping of Syrian rebels to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), as requested by the President, according to the House Appropriations Committee-- Passed the House and Senate on Sept. 18th; now awaiting the President's signature. --

      35 Support | 297 Oppose

    • HR 5170

      #4 Federal Records Accountability Act

      "Creates a process for firing federal employees—after thorough investigation— who willfully and unlawfully destroy federal records. Additionally, the legislation bars federal employees from using personal e-mails and other electronic communications to conduct official business as a means of intentionally bypassing record keeping laws," according to the bill sponsor .-- Passed the House on Sept. 16th --

      282 Support | 14 Oppose

    • HR 5418

      #5 IRS Emails

      Would prohibit officers and employees of the Internal Revenue Service from using personal email accounts to conduct official business. According to the bill sponsor"The American people demand a higher ethical standard from public servants in our government. As our investigation continues to expose the rot at the core of the IRS’s culture, we must put safeguards in place to ensure this breach of the public trust is never repeated. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said, ‘sunlight is the best disinfectant.’ My bills bring the operations of the IRS into the sunlight of public scrutiny, providing greater accountability for future generations of Americans." --Passed by the House on Sept. 17th --

      289 Support | 3 Oppose

    • S 2685

      #6 USA Freedom Act

      -- Bipartisan -- "Would restore Americans’ privacy rights by ending the government’s dragnet collection of phone records and requiring greater oversight, transparency, and accountability with respect to domestic surveillance authorities," according to the bill sponsors. Bans bulk collection under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act and other surveillance authorities, requires the government to narrow the scope of a search to a clearly defined "specific selection term," adds needed transparency and reporting requirements, and provides key reforms to the FISA Court. The bill builds on the House version of the USA Freedom Act (HR 3361), which passed in May.

      233 Support | 54 Oppose

    • HR 24

      #7 The "Audit the Fed" Bill (Federal Reserve Transparency Act)

      (S 209 in Senate)--Bipartisan-- Would require a full audit by the US Comptroller General of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve and the Federal Reserve banks. According to the Senate version's sponsor, "The Fed's operations under a cloak of secrecy have gone on too long and the American people have a right to know what the Federal Reserve is doing with our nation's money supply. Audit the Fed has significant bipartisan support in Congress and across the country and the time to act on this is now." -- Passed the House on Sept. 17th --

      234 Support | 5 Oppose

    • HR 5415

      #8 Authorization for Use of Military Force against International Terrorism Act

      -- Bipartisan -- "Authorizing the use of military force against international terrorist groups, including the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and al Qaeda and its affiliates, like al Nusra, Ansar al Sharia, al Shabaab and Boko Haram, while encouraging close coordination with NATO and regional allies on any action." According to Congressman Wolf, "the motive behind the bill is to end any ambiguity about the President's authority -- or the Congress' support -- for a US-led international coalition to disrupt and eliminate ISIS and al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist groups from committing genocide."

      113 Support | 47 Oppose

    • S 2828

      #9 Ukraine Freedom Support Act

      -- Bipartisan -- Imposes broad sanctions on Russia’s defense, energy, and financial sectors, as well as increases military and non-military assistance for Ukraine, according to bill sponsors. Requires the President to apply sanctions against Rosoboronexport and other Russian defense firms that contribute to instability in Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, and Syria; companies worldwide that make significant investments in particular unconventional Russian crude oil energy projects; Gazprom, if the President determines that Gazprom is withholding significant natural gas supplies from member countries of NATO or further withholds such supplies from countries such as Ukraine, Georgia, or Moldova. Authorizes the President to provide $350 million (in FY15) military assistance to Ukraine, including providing defense articles, defense services, and training to the Government of Ukraine for the purpose of countering offensive weapons and reestablishing the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, including anti-tank and anti-armor weapons; crew weapons and ammunition; counter-artillery radars to identify and target artillery batteries; fire control, range finder, and optical and guidance and control equipment; tactical troop-operated surveillance drones, and secure command and communications equipment. Authorizes $50 million (in FY15) in short-term emergency energy assistance.

      45 Support | 113 Oppose

    • HR 5522

      #10 ATF Elimination Act

      To abolish the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, transfer its functions relating to the Federal firearms, explosives, and arson laws, violent crime, and domestic terrorism to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and transfer its functions relating to the Federal alcohol and tobacco smuggling laws to the Drug Enforcement Administration. "The ATF is a largely duplicative, scandal ridden agency that lacks a clear mission. It is plagued by backlogs, funding gaps, hiring challenges and a lack of leadership," according to the bill sponsor. "For decades it has been branded by high profile failures. There is also significant overlap with other agencies. At a time when we are approaching $18 trillion in debt, waste and redundancy within our federal agencies must be addressed. Without a doubt, we can fulfill the role of the ATF more efficiently."

      115 Support | 13 Oppose

    • S 2199

      #11 Paycheck Fairness Act

      According to bill sponsors, it "builds upon the landmark Equal Pay Act signed into law in 1963 by closing loopholes that have kept it from achieving its goal of equal pay" and "would require employers to show pay disparity is truly related to job-performance – not gender." The bill would also prohibit employer retaliation for sharing salary information with coworkers. (Under current law employers can sue and punish employees for sharing such information.) It strengthens remedies for pay discrimination by increasing compensation women can seek, allowing them to not only seek back pay, but also punitive damages for pay discrimination. And it would create a grant program to strengthen salary negotiation and other workplace skills. -- Failed a cloture vote in the Senate on Sept. 15th --

      32 Support | 94 Oppose

    • HR 5169

      #12 Senior Executive Service Accountability Act

      Would "give agencies the tools they need to better manage their senior executives and address areas of misconduct,” according to bill sponsors-- Passed the House on Sept. 16th --

      117 Support | 5 Oppose

    • HR 5226

      #13 Charlotte’s Web Medical Hemp Act

      --Bipartisan-- Would "ensure that children and individuals with epilepsy and other debilitating seizure disorders have access to life-changing Cannabidiol (CBD) Oil and therapeutic hemp." According to the bill sponsor, this legislation "in no way federally legalizes the recreational use of marijuana, nor is CBD marijuana; rather, the bill is an incremental approach to providing relief to those suffering from ailments that could benefit from CBD oil and therapeutic hemp." It also doesn’t legalize all forms of marijuana for medical use. It removes CBD oil and therapeutic hemp from the federal definition of marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act. Therapeutic hemp is defined as having no more than .3% THC, which means it has no hallucinogenic effects of traditional marijuana.

      99 Support | 13 Oppose

    • HR 2996

      #14 Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation Act 

      --Bipartisan-- "Would create a network of regional institutes across the country, each focused on a unique technology, material, or process relevant to advanced manufacturing. Comprised of local industry, academia and other stakeholders, the institutes would work to (1) expand research and development, (2) close the gap between R&D and commercialization of products, (3) support small and mid-sized manufacturers, and (4) train a top-tier advanced manufacturing workforce,” according to the bill sponsor. The network would be funded by a one-time, $600 million investment in the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). It would require support from non-government resources and would prohibit federal financial assistance for any institute beyond a seven-year period. -- Passed the House on Sept. 15th --

      27 Support | 83 Oppose

    • HR 5420

      #15 IRS Investigations

      To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to permit the release of information regarding the status of certain investigations. -- Passed the House on Sept. 16th --

      104 Support | 4 Oppose

    • HR 5478

      #16 Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act 

      Would "end the free transfers of certain aggressive military equipment to local law enforcement and ensure that all equipment can be accounted for," according to the bill sponsor. The bill targets a Pentagon surplus program that transfers military equipment like mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles to local governments, including MRAPs (Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicles. 

      91 Support | 15 Oppose

    • HR 5419

      #17 Tax-exempt status appeals

      To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide for a right to an administrative appeal relating to adverse determinations of tax-exempt status of certain organizations. -- Passed the House on Sept. 16th --

      97 Support | 5 Oppose

    • HR 3593

      #18 VA Construction Assistance Act

      --Bipartisan-- "Implements the GAO-recommended reforms such as assigning medical equipment planners to major medical construction projects and streamlining the change-order process. The proposal also goes a step further by requiring the assignment of an emergency manager, referred to as a “special project manager” from the Army Corps of Engineers, independent of the VA, to oversee each VA major medical facility project currently under construction. The GAO specifically singled out the Army Corps as an organization with a record of building similar projects within budget and on-schedule for the Department of Defense.” The proposed reforms are designed to help speed the construction and rein in the out-of-control costs of three major VA regional projects under development in Aurora, Colorado; New Orleans, Louisiana; and Orlando, Florida, according to the bill sponsor. -- Passed the House on Sept. 16th --

      63 Support | 38 Oppose

    • HR 495

      #19 Free File Program Act

      --Bipartisan-- Authorizes and directs the Secretary of the Treasury to continue to implement and operate the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Free File program (free online individual income tax preparation and electronic filing services provided by the private sector technology industry to lower income taxpayers). According the bill sponsor, "The Free File program not only gives middle income families an affordable option for completing and filing their taxes but also reaffirms an important public private partnership. By working together with the private sector to offer online tax preparation, the federal government has saved hundreds of millions of dollars since 2003. Making this program permanent is responsible to the hardworking families who can benefit from it and is fiscally responsible to all taxpayers."

      87 Support | 7 Oppose

    • HR 5404

      #20 Dept. of Veterans Affairs Expiring Authorities Act

      "Would extend a number of programs benefitting female veterans, homeless veterans and student veterans and other authorities given to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) pertaining to health care, housing and transportation,” according to the bill sponsor. Extends the authority of the VA to make grants to Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) in order to provide transportation to highly rural veterans. Would also continue the authorization for homeless veteran housing and reintegration programs, which have helped to significantly reduce the number of homeless veterans. Extends key reporting requirements for the Department of Defense (DoD) and the VA for veterans’ health care records, and ensures that the two departments keep working together to develop Integrated Electronic Health Records (iEHRs) so that important health information does not get lost when a servicemember leaves active duty. -- Passed the House and Senate on Sept. 18th; now awaiting the President's signature. --

      71 Support | 23 Oppose

    Please keep in mind that highlighting a bill doesn't imply a POPVOX endorsement in any way. Rather, we're simply trying to offer one more way to stay informed of an overwhelmingly complex legislative system.

  4. Issue Spotlight: Ukraine and Russia

    Ukraine and Russia

    Today, the House and Senate will meet in a joint session to hear from President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine. Here's a recap of recent diplomatic efforts and proposals introduced in Congress.

    Last week, President Obama announced new sanctions against Russia along with G-7 and European partners and our other Allies. "We will deepen and broaden sanctions in Russia’s financial, energy, and defense sectors," he explained. "These measures will increase Russia’s political isolation as well as the economic costs to Russia, especially in areas of importance to President Putin and those close to him."

    Already, the Obama Administration has committed $60 million in support for the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense (MOD), State Border Guard Service and the National Guard, as well as meals ready-to-eat, body armor, radios, vehicles, thermal vision devices, medical supplies, explosive ordinance disposal robots, uniforms, and individual tactical gear.  Meanwhile, NATO reports that Russian troops remain inside eastern Ukraine with some 20,000 amassed along the border.

    Proposals in Congress

    Members of Congress have been vocal about responding to Russian aggression. Senator John McCain (R-AZ), who along with Lindsey Graham (R-SC), announced they are "deeply concerned" that the cease-fire could "saddle Ukraine with a debilitating frozen conflict that amounts to Transnistria in eastern Ukraine." "If history teaches us anything," they explained, "it is that when people who believe in the rule of law and democracy give way to the dictates of thugs, it always gets worse."

    Here are bills recently introduced in Congress:

    • S 2828

      Ukraine Freedom Support Act

      -- Bipartisan -- imposes broad sanctions on Russia’s defense, energy, and financial sectors, as well as increases military and non-military assistance for Ukraine, according to bill sponsors. Requires the President to apply sanctions against Rosoboronexport and other Russian defense firms that contribute to instability in Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, and Syria; companies worldwide that make significant investments in particular unconventional Russian crude oil energy projects; Gazprom, if the President determines that Gazprom is withholding significant natural gas supplies from member countries of NATO or further withholds such supplies from countries such as Ukraine, Georgia, or Moldova. Authorizes the President to provide $350 million (in FY15) military assistance to Ukraine, including providing defense articles, defense services, and training to the Government of Ukraine for the purpose of countering offensive weapons and reestablishing the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, including anti-tank and anti-armor weapons; crew weapons and ammunition; counter-artillery radars to identify and target artillery batteries; fire control, range finder, and optical and guidance and control equipment; tactical troop-operated surveillance drones, and secure command and communications equipment. Authorizes $50 million (in FY15) in short-term emergency energy assistance.
    • HR 4346

      NATO Alliance Recognition and Promotion Act

      -- Bipartisan -- "Encourages enhanced security cooperation with America's European allies and the continued enlargement of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization," according to bill sponsors. (And S 2283 in the Senate.)
    • HR 4433

      Forging Peace Through Strength in Ukraine and the Transatlantic Alliance Act

      -- Bipartisan -- Would condemn Russian aggression and illegal annexation of Crimea, while also seeking to reassure NATO allies and promote closer military cooperation with Ukraine," according to bill sponsors.
    • S 2555

      Report on military assistance to Ukraine

      -- Bipartisan -- Expresses the sense of Congress that the President, working with North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies, should provide the armed forces of Ukraine with appropriate non-lethal military assistance and military training support requested by the government of Ukraine. Directs the Secretary of Defense (DOD), every 180 days until Jan. 31, 2017, to report to Congress regarding military assistance to Ukraine.

    Please keep in mind that highlighting a bill doesn't imply a POPVOX endorsement in any way. Rather, we're simply trying to offer one more way to stay informed of an overwhelmingly complex legislative system.

  5. Issue Spotlight: Election Money and the First Amendment

    Last week, the Senate considered a Constitutional amendment that would give Congress and the states the authority to set limits on the raising and spending of money in political campaigns. It received 54 votes, the most ever for a constitutional amendment on campaign finance, but 13 short of the threshold needed to pass:

    • SJRes 19

      Constitutional Amendment on Campaign Finance

      Would authorize Congress to regulate the raising and spending of money for federal political campaigns, including independent expenditures; allow states to regulate such spending at their level; and not dictate any specific policies or regulations, but instead allow Congress to pass campaign finance reform legislation that withstands constitutional challenges, according to the sponsor, Senator Tom Udall (D-NM).

    Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell opposed the proposal. In testifying before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary in June, he argued that this Amendment would hurt free speech:

    1. "Benjamin Franklin noted that 'whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.' The First Amendment is the constitutional guarantee of that freedom, and it has never been amended. Attempts to weaken the First Amendment—such as the proposal before this Committee—should therefore pass the highest scrutiny. SJ Res. 19 falls far short of that high bar."

    The Scoop on the Supreme Court Decision, McCutcheon v FEC

    In April, the Supreme Court struck down the limit on the total amount of money wealthy donors can contribute to candidates and political committees. These limits, which were inflation-adjusted every election cycle, capped contributions to federal candidates at $48,600, and contributions to federal PACs and federal political party committees at $74,600.

    In considering the case, McCutcheon v Federal Election Commission, the court had to decide whether the First Amendment trumps the government's interest in controlling who pay for elections and preventing corruption. In the end, the First Amendment prevailed. In its 5-4 decision, the court held that campaign finance regulations violates free-speech rights.

    The court's main opinion "made clear that Congress may not regulate contributions simply to reduce the amount of money in politics, or to restrict the political participation of some in order to enhance the relative influence of others." Chief Justice John Roberts wrote, “There is no right more basic in our democracy than the right to participate in electing our political leaders."

    The dissenting judges strongly disagreed -- so much so that Justice Stephen Breyer read aloud parts of his dissent from the bench. “The Court substitutes for the current two-year overall contribution ceiling of $123,000, the number infinity,” Justice Breyer remarked, which got a few chuckles. “If the Court in Citizens United opened a door, today’s decision may well open a floodgate,” he continued, referring to the decision which held that the government may not ban political spending by corporations. (Source: Scotusblog.com)

    What's Next for Campaign Finance Laws in Congress

    We can expect new legislative proposals in Congress. "The plurality opinion described several possible legislative approaches (without saying they were necessarily constitutional) to minimize the risks of circumvention of per-recipient contribution limits," explained POPVOX's advisor, Larry Gold. Among these suggestions include restricting transfers between federal candidates and political party committees; further restricting the ability to earmark a contribution for a particular use or ultimate recipient; and, implicitly, greater disclosure requirements. Here's a look at campaign finance bills pending before Congress.

    Related Bills Introduced in Congress

    Here are bills that Congress has introduced related to money in political campaigns. Weigh in on POPVOX, and we'll deliver your message to Congress -- guaranteed. (How POPVOX works.)

    Introduced After the McCutcheon Decision

    • S 2754

      Lobbying and Campaign Finance Reform Act

      "Prohibits members of Congress and candidates from soliciting campaign contributions from lobbyists while Congress is in session and bars lobbyists from bundling large contributions," according to the bill sponsor. "Prohibits solicitations of campaign contributions from lobbyists when Congress is in session; eliminates lobbyist bundling of large contributions; and requires lobbyists to register if he or she makes two or more lobbying contacts for a client over a two-year period regardless of whether the lobbyist spends more than 20 percent of his or her time serving the particular client.
    • HR 4442

      Election Transparency

      To require all political committees to notify the Federal Election Commission within 48 hours of receiving cumulative contributions of $1,000 or more from any contributor during a calendar year.
    • HR 4397

      Real Time Transparency Act

      (And in the Senate, S 2207.) Would require that all contributions of $1000 or more be filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) within 48-hours. Under current law, a contribution of $1000 or more to a U.S. Senate campaign must be filed with the Secretary of Senate on a quarterly basis, and all other political action committee or campaign contributions of $1000 or more must be filed with the FEC on a quarterly basis. Currently, only contributions made within 20 days preceding the election must be disclosed within 48-hours, according to bill sponsors.

    Introduced Before the McCutcheon Decision

    Please keep in mind that highlighting a bill doesn't imply a POPVOX endorsement in any way. Rather, we're simply trying to offer one more way to stay informed of an overwhelmingly complex legislative system.

  6. Issue Spotlight: Celebrating International Day of Democracy

    Celebrating International Day of Democracy and Promoting Government Transparency

    Since 2007, the United Nations has officially recognized September 15 as International Day of Democracy to emphasize the importance of providing citizens with the power to express themselves and to participate in the political process. Secretary of State John Kerry released a statement, recognizing the day:

    1. "Democratic societies are strong societies, because people are free to speak out against injustices and to discuss, debate, and work together to drive positive change – even with those who hold opposing views. In a democracy, we are free to choose our leaders, hold government institutions accountable, and work with those institutions to build a more stable and prosperous future for all members of our society."

    This year, the day's focus was on educating young people about democracy and encouraging more political participation among youth. In a statement, the UN explained the reason for this focus. "Study after study shows declining faith among young people in politics as we know it, with decreasing levels of participation in elections, political parties and traditional social organizations across the world. This applies to both established and emerging democracies."

    Despite its concerns with youth participation, however, the UN stressed the important role that social media has played in mobilizing youth, and encouraged the use of the hashtag #DemocracyDay on Twitter.

    September 15 is also the beginning of Global Legislative Openness Week (GLOW), which is spearheaded by the Legislative Openness Working Group of the Open Government Partnership. Throughout the "week" (which lasts for 10 days), governments across the globe will be encouraged to follow open government practices. GLOW is part of a larger open-government movement that seeks to increase government transparency. According to the GLOW official website, the week "is a celebration of open, participatory legislative processes around the world as well as an opportunity for diverse stakeholders to collaborate with one another and make progress toward adopting and implementing open-government commitments." GLOW is being promoted on Twitter via the hashtag #OpenParl2014.

    There are currently 64 countries that are members of Open Government Partnership, including the United States, Canada, Great Britain, South Africa, and Brazil. According to OGP, countries such as Australia and France are in the process of developing an "Action Plan" to creating a more open government. (Learn more).

    Weigh in on bills related to the International Day of Democracy and government transparency:

    • SRes 540

      International Democracy Day Resolution

      --Bipartisan-- A resolution recognizing September 15, 2014, as the International Day of Democracy, affirming the role of civil society as a cornerstone of democracy, and encouraging all governments to stand with civil society in the face of mounting restrictions on civil society organizations. According to the bill text, "an analysis of 84 independent studies shows that democracy has a favorable impact on the formation of human capital, the rate of inflation, the level of economic freedom, and the stability of political institutions…democracy promotes tolerance and respect by recognizing the human dignity of all people and is necessary to the full realization of the values enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."
    • HR 4245

      Transparency in Government Act

      To amend the Ethics in Government Act of 1978, the Rules of the House of Representatives, the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995, and the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006 to improve access to information in the legislative and executive branches of the Government. According to the bill sponsor, "The Transparency in Government Act utilizes 21st century technology to expand access to information, strengthen oversight of federal spending, increase disclosures from both lawmakers and lobbyists and improve judicial transparency. The TGA will bring unprecedented accountability to the federal government and empower everyday citizens to be the government’s best watchdog."
    • HRes 110

      Congressional Research Service Electronic Accessibility Resolution

      --Bipartisan-- Directing the Clerk of the House of Representatives to provide members of the public with Internet access to certain Congressional Research Service publications. "Folks back home should have access to the same information as members of Congress," said bill co-sponsor. "After all, they’re the ones paying for it. It’s a shame that most Americans don’t know what they’re missing, because members of Congress rely heavily on this respected, rigorous, nonpartisan research."
    • HR 1831

      Read the Bills Act

      To preserve the constitutional authority of Congress and ensure accountability and transparency in legislation. Requires that a bill's text must be electronically accessible to the general public at least seven days before leaders can vote on it. "It is our duty to be transparent to the constituents we serve. This legislation will increase transparency and ensure that Congress doesn’t pass legislation to find out what is in it," according the bill's sponsor. "Every law affects how the American people live and it is a dereliction of the Oath of Office to pass laws without knowing what they are."
    • HR 760

      Readable Legislation Act

      --Bipartisan-- According to a press release by bill co-sponsor, Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH), the bill "would make it easier for Members of Congress and the public to read and understand federal legislation. The Act would require bills that change existing law to reprint the affected section of the previous legislation to provide context and reduce ambiguity." Shea-Porter added, "Improving transparency and increasing accountability in Washington is a common-sense goal that’s good for our democracy." 
  7. The Week Ahead: Sept. 15 - 19

    From our Hill Sources: It's going to be another full week for Congress, as they prepare to adjourn for campaign season! Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said that the Senate will be in session (including weekends) until Sept. 23, when they will adjourn again until after Election Day. The House is scheduled to be in session Sept. 8 - 19, and Sept. 29 - Oct. 2nd.

    This week, the Senate will be working on wage discrimination for women in the workplace. Meanwhile, the House will work on a government funding bill to prevent a shutdown at the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30. The House will also work on veterans issues, child care funding, government agency accountability and job creation. Share your voice with POPVOX!

    Wage Discrimination

    The Senate will work on a bill that proposes to "help close the wage gap between women and men working the same jobs, costing women and their families $434,000 over their careers," according to bill sponsors.

    • S 2199

      Paycheck Fairness Act

      According to bill sponsors, it "builds upon the landmark Equal Pay Act signed into law in 1963 by closing loopholes that have kept it from achieving its goal of equal pay" and "would require employers to show pay disparity is truly related to job-performance – not gender." The bill would also prohibit employer retaliation for sharing salary information with coworkers. (Under current law employers can sue and punish employees for sharing such information.) It strengthens remedies for pay discrimination by increasing compensation women can seek, allowing them to not only seek back pay, but also punitive damages for pay discrimination. And it would create a grant program to strengthen salary negotiation and other workplace skills.

      From our Hill Sources: Republicans have considered this bill to be a "campaign stunt." They argue that it would make it "difficult for employers to defeat frivolous lawsuits, fostering larger class action lawsuits, and creating an unprecedented level of remedies regardless of the intent to discriminate," and "the real winner under the Democrats’ bill would be trial lawyers."

    Preventing a Government Shutdown

    Remember last year's government shutdown? That came about because Congress could not agree on a "continuing resolution" or CR. A CR keeps the government operating and spending money when regular appropriation acts have expired and new authority has not yet been enacted. The CR that finally passed will expire at the end of September, leaving a similar situation to the one that prompted the shutdown.

    • HJRes 124

      Continuing Appropriations Resolution

      A short-term Continuing Resolution (CR) to prevent a government shutdown at the end of the fiscal year on September 30, 2014. The legislation continues funding for government programs and services at the current annual cap rate of $1.012 trillion until Dec. 11, 2014. This rate of funding will remain in place for the length of the continuing resolution, or until Congress approves the annual Appropriations legislation for fiscal year 2015. The bill is “clean” and does not contain highly controversial provisions.

    However, according to the House Appropriations Committee, "the CR does include some changes to existing law that are needed to prevent catastrophic, irreversible, or detrimental changes to government programs, to address current national or global crises, or to ensure good government." These provisions are funded within the total level of funding in the legislation. Some of these provisions include:

    1. Extending expiring Dept. of Defense activities, including counter-drug operations, support to the Office of Security Cooperation in Iraq, and rewards for assistance in combatting terrorism.
    2. Continuing a surge in funding for State Dept. programs to counter regional aggression toward Ukraine and other former Soviet Union countries.
    3. Ensuring appropriate treatment of veterans and continued oversight of the Dept. of Veterans Affairs, such as additional funds for disability claims processing, and funds for investigations into potential improper conduct including “waitlist” and “whistleblower” allegations.
    4. Allowing funding flexibility for Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement to maintain staffing levels, border security operations, detention space, and immigration enforcement activities.
    5. Addressing the recent Ebola crisis, including additional funding to accelerate HHS research on Ebola therapies, and additional funding for the Centers for Disease Control’s response to the growing outbreak in Africa.
    6. Allowing additional funds to offset food price increases in the Commodity Supplemental Food Program to ensure that no current recipients are removed from the program.
    7. Allowing funding flexibility to maintain weather satellite programs, ensuring the continuation of data for weather warnings and forecasts, including forecasts of severe weather events.
    8. Allowing the continuation of current funding for the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program.
    9. Extending the operating authority for the Export-Import Bank through June 30, 2015. A provision extending the Internet Tax Freedom Act through the period of the CR ending on December 11, 2014.

    Job Creation

    Job creation has been a priority of the new House Majority Leader, Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). (See his priorities for September.) This week, the House will vote on several job creation bills: 

    • HR 2996

      Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation Act

      --Bipartisan-- "Would create a network of regional institutes across the country, each focused on a unique technology, material, or process relevant to advanced manufacturing. Comprised of local industry, academia and other stakeholders, the institutes would work to (1) expand research and development, (2) close the gap between R&D and commercialization of products, (3) support small and mid-sized manufacturers, and (4) train a top-tier advanced manufacturing workforce,” according to the bill sponsor. The network would be funded by a one-time, $600 million investment in the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). It would require support from non-government resources and would prohibit federal financial assistance for any institute beyond a seven-year period.
    • HR 5405

      Promoting Job Creation and Reducing Small Business Burdens Act

      To make technical corrections to the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, to enhance the ability of small and emerging growth companies to access capital through public and private markets, to reduce regulatory burdens.
    • HR 4

      Jobs for America Act

      To make revisions to Federal law to improve the conditions necessary for economic growth and job creation. 

    The Jobs for America Act consists of 15 House-passed bills "that will make various changes to federal law to improve the conditions necessary for economic growth and job creation," according to the House Rules Committee:

    1. Save American Workers Act (HR 2575): --Bipartisan-- Repeals Obamacare’s 30-hour definition of full-time employment and the 120-hours-per- month definition of full-time equivalents, and replaces those thresholds with 40-hours- per-week for full-time employees and 174-hours-per-month for full-time equivalents.
    2. Hire More Heroes Act (HR 3474):  --Bipartisan-- Incentivizes businesses to hire veterans by excluding them from Obamacare’s employer mandate threshold. Amends the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to permit an employer, when determining whether it must provide health care coverage to its employees under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), to exclude employees who have coverage under a healthcare program administered by the Department of Defense (DOD). This includes TRICARE or coverage provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
    3. American Research and Competitiveness Act (HR 4438):  --Bipartisan-- Makes the R&D Tax Credit permanent, paving the way for increased innovation and investment in the U.S. Makes permanent and increases to 20 percent the alternative simplified method for calculating the research credit.
    4. America's Small Business Tax Relief Act (HR 4457):  --Bipartisan-- Makes section 179 expensing permanent ensuring that our small businesses have the certainty they need to grow their businesses and create jobs. Makes permanent the maximum expensing allowance at $500,000 and the phaseout threshold at $2 million.
    5. S Corporation Permanent Tax Relief Act (HR 4453):  --Bipartisan-- Provides the necessary flexibility for S corporations to access capital and make new investments. Amends the Internal Revenue Code to reduce from 10 to 5 years the period during which the built-in gains of an S corporation are subject to tax and to make such reduction permanent.
    6. Bonus depreciation (HR 4718):  --Bipartisan-- Making bonus depreciation permanent in order to lower the cost of capital for businesses. Makes permanent the 50-percent additional first-year depreciation deduction for qualified property.
    7. Repeal of the Medical Device Tax: (Passed by the House as part of HJRes 59--Bipartisan-- Repeals the excise tax on medical device manufacturers and importers.
    8. Small Business Capital Access and Job Preservation Act (HR 1105):  --Bipartisan-- Scales back costly Dodd-Frank Act regulations so that more capital can be invested in small- and medium-sized businesses. Provides an exemption from SEC registration for advisers to private equity funds that are not leveraged and that do not have outstanding a principal amount in excess of twice their funded capital commitments.
    9. Small Business Mergers, Acquisitions, Sales, and Brokerage Act (HR 2274):  --Bipartisan-- Exempts certain brokers from onerous regulations when they facilitate the purchase or sale of businesses so that more capital can be used to innovate and create jobs.
    10. Unfunded Mandates Information and Transparency Act (HR 899):  --Bipartisan-- Equips Congress and the public with tools to determine the true costs of regulations. Provides for a Committee chairman or ranking member to request that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) perform an assessment comparing the authorized level of funding in a bill or resolution to the prospective costs of carrying out any changes to a condition of Federal assistance being imposed on state, local, or tribal governments.
    11. Achieving Less Excess in Regulation and Requiring Transparency (ALERRT) Act (HR 2804): promotes jobs, better wages, and economic growth through regulatory reform.
    12. Regulations From the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act (HR 367): ensures that Congress votes on all new major rules before they can be enforced. Requires passage of a joint resolution of approval for a major rule before it can take effect.
    13. Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act (HR 3086):  --Bipartisan-- Protects internet access for all Americans and fosters growth in the digital economy. Permanently extends the Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA), which generally prohibits states and local governments from taxing Internet access or placing multiple or discriminatory taxes on Internet commerce.
    14. Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act (HR 1526): will put Americans back to work by promoting responsible timber production. Requires the Forest Service to produce at least half of the sustainable annual yield of timber each year and share 25 percent of receipts with the counties. Protects the environment by requiring projects to complete National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and Endangered Species Act (ESA) consultations.
    15. National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act (HR 761):  --Bipartisan-- Allows the U.S. to develop resources that are critical to our economic competiveness.

    Veterans

    The House will also vote on several bills related to veterans' benefits and the VA:

    • HR 3593

      VA Construction Assistance Act

      --Bipartisan-- "Implements the GAO-recommended reforms such as assigning medical equipment planners to major medical construction projects and streamlining the change-order process. The proposal also goes a step further by requiring the assignment of an emergency manager, referred to as a 'special project manager' from the Army Corps of Engineers, independent of the VA, to oversee each VA major medical facility project currently under construction. The GAO specifically singled out the Army Corps as an organization with a record of building similar projects within budget and on-schedule for the Department of Defense.” The proposed reforms are designed to help speed the construction and rein in the out-of-control costs of three major VA regional projects under development in Aurora, Colorado; New Orleans, Louisiana; and Orlando, Florida, according to the bill sponsor.
    • HR 5404

      Department of Veterans Affairs Expiring Authorities Act

      "Would extend a number of programs benefitting female veterans, homeless veterans and student veterans and other authorities given to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) pertaining to health care, housing and transportation,” according to the bill sponsor. Extends the authority of the VA to make grants to Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) in order to provide transportation to highly rural veterans. Would also continue the authorization for homeless veteran housing and reintegration programs, which have helped to significantly reduce the number of homeless veterans. Extends key reporting requirements for the Department of Defense (DoD) and the VA for veterans’ health care records, and ensures that the two departments keep working together to develop Integrated Electronic Health Records (iEHRs) so that important health information does not get lost when a servicemember leaves active duty.
    • HR 4276

      Veterans Traumatic Brain Injury Improvement Act

      --Bipartisan-- Seeks to improve the quality of life of veterans affected by the disorder by expanding rehabilitation services available. Would modify a current pilot program by substituting the benchmark for treatment from “assisted living,” to “community-integrated rehabilitation (CIR)” services. This would increase the treatment options available to include neurobehavioral programs, residential programs, comprehensive holistic (day treatment) programs, and home-based programs. The program would extend from 5 to 8 years, allowing veterans to receive these services for an additional 3 years. (Read more).
    • S 2258

      Veterans' Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act

      --Bipartisan-- Would provide increases to several important veterans' benefits, including disability compensation and survivor benefits for spouses and children. The exact increase will be calculated in October when the most recent data is available, but the rate is anticpated to be between 1.5 percent and 2.0 percent,” according to bill sponsors. -- Passed in the Senate on Sept. 11, 2014 and being considered by the House. --

    Audit the Fed

    The House will once again take up a bill to audit the Fed, which was initially championed by former Congressman Ron Paul.

    Government Accountability

    The House will vote on several bills related to government accountability in federal agencies, including the IRS.

    • HR 5169

      Senior Executive Service Accountability Act

      Would "give agencies the tools they need to better manage their senior executives and address areas of misconduct,” according to bill sponsors.
    • HR 5170

      Federal Records Accountability Act

      "Creates a process for firing federal employees—after thorough investigation— who willfully and unlawfully destroy federal records. Additionally, the legislation bars federal employees from using personal e-mails and other electronic communications to conduct official business as a means of intentionally bypassing record keeping laws," according to the bill sponsor.

    IRS Reform

    • HR 5418

      IRS Emails

      Would prohibit officers and employees of the Internal Revenue Service from using personal email accounts to conduct official business
    • HR 5419

      Tax-exempt status appeals

      To provide for a right to an administrative appeal relating to adverse determinations of tax-exempt status of certain organizations.
    • HR 5420

      IRS Investigations

      To permit the release of information regarding the status of certain investigations.
    • HR 3043

      Tribal General Welfare Exclusion Act

      --Bipartisan-- Amends the Internal Revenue Code to exclude from gross income, for income tax purposes, the value of an Indian general welfare benefit, including any payment made or services provided to or on behalf of a member of an Indian tribe under an Indian tribal government program.
    • HR 495

      Free File Program Act

      --Bipartisan-- Authorizes and directs the Secretary of the Treasury to continue to implement and operate the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Free File program (free online individual income tax preparation and electronic filing services provided by the private sector technology industry to lower income taxpayers).

    Child Care

    The House will vote on a bipartisan agreement between the House and Senate to reauthorize child care grants.

    • S 1086

      Child Care and Development Block Grant Act

      --Bipartisan-- This is a bipartisan agreement between House and Senate leaders to improve and reauthorize the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act, which hadn’t been reauthorized since 1996. Provides funds to states to help low-income families pay for child care while a parent works or is in an educational or job training program. According to bill sponsors, the bipartisan, bicameral agreement includes reforms to: enhance parental choice by providing information about available care options from all providers, including faith-based and community-based providers, and allowing parents to choose the child care provider that best suits their family’s needs; strengthen safety in child care settings by requiring all providers to comply with state health, safety, and fire standards and undergo annual inspections; and promote high quality child care by reserving funds at the state level to improve the quality of care provided to children, enhancing states’ ability to train providers and develop safer and more effective child care services. -- Passed by the Senate on March 13, 2014, now being considered by the House. --

    Marijuana

    While there are several bills pending before Congress related to marijuana legalization, this bill would prevent people from using their welfare benefit cards from making purchases at marijuana stores:

    • HR 4137

      Preserving Welfare for Needs Not Weed Act

      "Would prohibit individuals from using welfare benefit cards for purchases at marijuana stores, as well as forbid the withdrawal of welfare cash at ATMs in these stores. The legislation aligns with other commonsense prohibitions enacted in recent years such as preventing recipients from accessing Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) welfare benefits in liquor stores, casinos and strip clubs by adding stores selling marijuana to the list,” according to the bill sponsor.

    Health

    • HR 4771

      Designer Anabolic Steroid Control Act

      --Bipartisan-- Adds 25 new chemicals to the list of substances that meet the Controlled Substances Act definition of anabolic steroid, thereby facilitating their control by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). "The bill also makes it easier for DEA to add subsequent designer chemicals to the list of anabolic steroids and increases civil and criminal penalties for offenses pertaining to anabolic steroids," according to the Energy & Commerce Committee.
    • S 2154

      Emergency Medical Services for Children Reauthorization Act

      --Bipartisan-- Reauthorizes the Emergency Medical Services for Children (EMSC) program, "to make sure that the entire spectrum of emergency medical services (EMS) can be provided to children and adolescents no matter where they live, attend school, or travel,”according to bill sponsors. The program is in its 30th year and is the only Federal program dedicated to improving emergency medical care for children. -- Passed by the Senate on Sept. 10, 2014, now being considered by the House. --
    • HR 4994

      Improving Medicare Post-Acute Care Transformation (IMPACT) Act

      --Bipartisan-- "Takes a crucial step toward the modernization of Medicare payments to post-acute care (PAC) providers and a more accountable, quality-driven PAC benefit,” according to the bill sponsor. "Requires standardized data that will enable Medicare to: compare quality across PAC settings; improve hospital and PAC discharge planning; and, use this information to reform PAC payments (via site neutral or bundled payments or some other reform) while ensuring continued beneficiary access to the most appropriate setting of care.

    Energy

    • HR 83

      Addressing Energy Needs of Insular Areas

      “Requires the Secretary of the Interior to establish a team of technical, policy, and financial experts to develop energy action plans addressing the immediate, near-term, and long-term energy and environmental needs of each of the insular areas of the United States (American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virgin Islands) and the Freely Associated States (Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of the Marshall Islands, and Republic of Palau). The team of experts must also assist each of these areas in implementing the energy action plan,” according to the House Energy & Commerce Committee.
    • HR 2

      American Energy Solutions for Lower Costs and More American Jobs Act

      To remove Federal Government obstacles to the production of more domestic energy; to ensure transport of that energy reliably to businesses, con- sumers, and other end users; to lower the cost of energy to consumers; to enable manufacturers and other businesses to access domestically produced energy affordably and reliably in order to create and sustain more secure and well-paying American jobs.

    The American Energy Solutions for Lower Costs and More American Jobs Act (HR 2) includes the following Energy and Commerce Committee bills:

    1. Northern Route Approval Act (HR 3): "to end the regulatory delays blocking construction of the Keystone XL pipeline and finally allow the job-creating project to proceed after nearly six years of review. The bill would eliminate the need for a Presidential Permit, address all other necessary federal permits, and limit litigation that could further block the project’s construction."
    2. Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Reform Act (HR 1900): "will expedite and modernize the federal review process for natural gas pipeline permits to help facilitate the construction of new pipeline infrastructure needed to help transport the nation’s growing natural gas supply to markets and consumers. The bill sets reasonable deadlines for review and helps hold agencies involved in the permitting process accountable. Despite the country’s growing supplies of natural gas, consumers in many areas of the country are still suffering from high heating prices due to a lack of adequate pipeline infrastructure. Consumers along the East Coast were hit particularly hard during last year’s Polar Vortex. This bill will get much-needed pipelines in the ground quicker, delivering relief to families and businesses across the country.
    3. North American Energy Infrastructure Act (HR 3301): "will create a more modern and efficient cross-border approval process for oil pipelines, natural gas pipelines, and electric transmission lines that traverse the borders of the United States. The bill applies the lessons learned from the Keystone XL process, and will ensure that energy projects no longer fall victim to years of delay and red tape just because they cross an international border. Implementing a fair and standardized approval process for cross-border energy projects will help bring certainty to the regulatory process, encourage investment in job-creating energy infrastructure, and strengthen our partnership with Canada and Mexico toward achieving North American energy independence."
    4. Energy Consumers Relief Act (HR 1582): "will help protect consumers from higher energy costs by increasing transparency for major EPA regulations. It requires that before EPA finalizes any new energy-related rules estimated to cost more than $1 billion, the agency must submit a report to Congress detailing certain cost, benefit, energy price, and job impacts. The Secretary of Energy, in consultation with other relevant agencies, then must make a determination regarding the impacts of the rule. EPA would be prohibited from finalizing certain rules if the rule is determined to cause significant adverse effects to the economy."
    5. Electricity Security and Affordability Act (HR 3826): "will protect a diverse electricity portfolio, which is needed to provide affordable and reliable energy to American households and businesses. According to EIA, electricity prices are already at the highest rate in five years, and EPA’s proposed power plants rules will cause rates to spike even further. Whitfield’s legislation directs EPA to adopt workable standards for new coal-fired plants that require technologies that have been adequately demonstrated and are commercially feasible. It would also instruct Congress to set the effective date for EPA’s regulations for existing plants."
    6. Thermal Insulation Efficiency Improvement Act (HR 4801): "will help identify opportunities for federal agencies to use energy and water more efficiently. The bill requires the Department of Energy to evaluate and report potential energy savings available to federal agencies through greater use of thermal insulation."
    7. Domestic Prosperity and Global Freedom Act (HR 6): "will help speed up the Department of Energy’s approval of U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports. Increasing U.S. LNG exports would help boost the U.S. economy while increasing global energy security, and this legislation would bring certainty to the export approval process to ensure the U.S. does not miss this window of opportunity.

    Land Use and Historic Sites

    The House will vote on several land use and historic sites:

    1. Pine Forest Range Recreation Enhancement Act (HR 433): --Bipartisan-- To designate the Pine Forest Range Wilderness area in Humboldt County, Nevada.
    2. Lyon County Economic Development and Conservation Act (HR 696): --Bipartisan-- To designate the Wovoka Wilderness and provide for certain land conveyances in Lyon County, Nevada.
    3. Restoring Storey County Act (HR 1167): To quitclaim surface rights to certain Federal land under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Land Management in Virginia City, Nevada, to Storey County, Nevada, to resolve conflicting ownership and title claims.
    4. Carlin Economic Self-Determination Act (HR 1168): To direct the Secretary of the Interior, acting through the Bureau of Land Management, to convey to the City of Carlin, Nevada, in exchange for consideration, all right, title, and interest of the United States, to any Federal land within that city that is under the jurisdiction of that agency.
    5. Naval Air Station Fallon Housing and Safety Development Act (HR 1169): To direct the Secretary of the Interior to transfer to the Secretary of the Navy certain Federal land in Churchill County, Nevada.
    6. Fernley Economic Self-Determination Act (HR 1170): To direct the Secretary of the Interior, acting through the Bureau of Land Management and the Bureau of Reclamation, to convey, by quitclaim deed, to the City of Fernley, Nevada, all right, title, and interest of the United States, to any Federal land within that city that is under the jurisdiction of either of those agencies.
    7. Elko Motocross and Tribal Conveyance Act (HR 2455): --Bipartisan-- To provide for the sale or transfer of certain Federal lands in Nevada.
    • HR 3222

      Flushing Remonstrance Study Act

      Would require the Secretary of the Interior to study the viability of the National Park Service acquiring spots associated with the 1657 signing of the Flushing Remonstrance, the document recognized as the forerunner of religious freedom in America. Sites include the John Bowne House and the Old Quaker Meetinghouse, both located in Flushing, according to the bill sponsor.
    • HR 2569

      Upper Missisquoi River and Trout Wild and Scenic Rivers Act

      Would designate segments of the Missisquoi River and the Trout River in the State of Vermont, as components of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.
    • HR 4119

      West Hunter Street Baptist Church Study Act

      --Bipartisan-- Authorizing the Department of Interior to determine whether the historic West Hunter Street Baptist Church in Atlanta meets the criteria for designation in the National Park System. During the Civil Rights Movement, the West Hunter Street Baptist Church served as a headquarters for many Civil Rights workers and organizers. It was the site of many important leadership meetings and doubled as a school for nonviolent protest during initiatives such as the Voter Education Project and the Freedom Summer of 1964, according to the bill sponsor.
    • HR 3044

      To approve the transfer of Yellow Creek Port properties in Iuka, Mississippi

      --Bipartisan--
    • HR 3006

      Cibola National Wildlife Refuge

      --Bipartisan-- To authorize a land exchange involving the acquisition of private land adjacent to the Cibola National Wildlife Refuge in Arizona for inclusion in the refuge in exchange for certain Bureau of Land Management lands in Riverside County, California.
    • S 476

      Extending the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historic Park Commission

      "Would ensure the continued involvement of the Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Canal National Park Historical Park Advisory Commission in decisions that affect the C&O Canal National Historical Park." The C&O Canal National Historical Park is managed by the National Park Service (NPS). Now more than 40 years old, the Advisory Commission was established to provide a vital link between the surrounding communities and the NPS in overseeing the operation, maintenance and restoration of the historic park, according to bill sponsors. -- Passed by the Senate on July 9, 2014, now being considered by the House. --
    • S 1603

      Gun Lake Trust Land Reaffirmation Act

      To reaffirm that certain land has been taken into trust for the benefit of the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians (Tribe). -- Passed by the Senate on June 19, 2014, now being considered by the House. --

    Also in the House...

    • HR 3374

      American Savings Promotion Act

      --Bipartisan-- Would authorize the use of prize-linked savings account to encourage savings. According to the bill sponsor, “prize-linked savings (PLS) accounts are an innovative tool to encourage saving while offering the thrill of a chance to win a larger prize. Unfortunately, an antiquated federal regulation from the 1960s prohibits banks from offering PLS accounts. The American Savings Promotion Act creates a narrow exemption for PLS products while maintaining the current ban on federally-insured financial institutions from operating lotteries. This law simply removes the federal regulation—empowering states to decide to decide how they will regulate PLS products for themselves.
    • HR 5462

      Limiting fees charged to airline passengers

      To amend title 49, United States Code, to provide for limitations on the fees charged to passengers of air carriers.
    • HR 5108

      Establishing the Law School Clinic Certification Program of the US Patent and Trademark Office

      --Bipartisan-- Would establish in law, the Law School Clinic Certification Program of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Would expand the current program by removing its “pilot” status, making it available to all accredited law schools in the country that meet the program’s eligibility requirements, according to the bill sponsors.
    • HR 2866

      Boys Town Centennial Commemorative Coin Act

      --Bipartisan-- Would authorize the US Treasury to mint commemorative coins to mark Boys Town’s upcoming 100th anniversary celebration.
    • HR ___

      Insurance Capital Standards Clarification Act

      Not on POPVOX because there's no bill number yet.
  8. The POPVOX Top 20: Sept. 5 - 11

    #1 This Week: The Authorization for Use of Military Force against International Terrorism Act

    The most active bill on POPVOX this week was the Authorization for Use of Military Force against International Terrorism Act (HR 5415).

    The bill was was introduced by Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA) in light of the recent threat posed by the terrorist group ISIS (also known as ISIL). "For far too long the Obama Administration and the Congress have been debating whether or not authority exists for action to address this threat," stated Congressman Wolf. "This resolution would provide clear authority for the president and our military, working with coalition partners, to go after these terrorists, whether in Syria, Iraq or elsewhere.  We cannot continue operating on outdated authorities passed 13 years ago; it is time for this Congress to vote." The majority of POPVOX users (73%) support Congressman Wolf's bill.

    On Wednesday -- the eve of the anniversay of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the attacks on the embassy in Benghazi -- President Obama delivered a speech outlining his plan to respond to ISIS and protect the United States:

    "Our objective is clear: we will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy...But I want the American people to understand how this effort will be different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil. This counter-terrorism campaign will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out ISIL wherever they exist using our air power and our support for partner forces on the ground. This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years." (Learn more.)

    Weigh in on authorizing the use of military force against terrorist groups, and the other most active bills on POPVOX. We'll deliver your comment to Congress, guaranteed.

    Top 20 Bills of the Week

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    These are the bills and proposals that POPVOX users weighed in on with Congress in the past week. Keep in mind that these numbers aren't aggregates of total support, but just what happened in the past seven days.

    • HR 5415

      #1 Authorization for Use of Military Force against International Terrorism Act

      -- Bipartisan -- "Authorizing the use of military force against international terrorist groups, including the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and al Qaeda and its affiliates, like al Nusra, Ansar al Sharia, al Shabaab and Boko Haram, while encouraging close coordination with NATO and regional allies on any action." According to Congressman Wolf, "the motive behind the bill is to end any ambiguity about the President's authority -- or the Congress' support -- for a US-led international coalition to disrupt and eliminate ISIS and al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist groups from committing genocide."

      278 Support | 101 Oppose

    • Draft

      #2 Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act (Draft bill)

      Would "end the free transfers of certain aggressive military equipment to local law enforcement and ensure that all equipment can be accounted for," according to the bill sponsor, Rep. Henry "Hank" Johnson (D-GA). The bill targets a Pentagon surplus program that transfers military equipment like mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles to local governments, including MRAPs (Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicles. (Read bill text.)

      260 Support | 43 Oppose

    • S 2685

      #3 USA Freedom Act

      -- Bipartisan -- "Would restore Americans’ privacy rights by ending the government’s dragnet collection of phone records and requiring greater oversight, transparency, and accountability with respect to domestic surveillance authorities," according to the bill sponsors. Bans bulk collection under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act and other surveillance authorities, requires the government to narrow the scope of a search to a clearly defined “specific selection term,” adds needed transparency and reporting requirements, and provides key reforms to the FISA Court. The bill builds on the House version of the USA Freedom Act (HR 3361), which passed in May.

      216 Support | 38 Oppose

    • S 2277

      #4 Russian Aggression Prevention Act

      Would prevent additional aggression on the part of Russia by strengthening NATO, imposing new sanctions, and providing military aid to Ukraine. “Rather than react to events as they unfold, which has been the policy of this administration, we need to inflict more direct consequences on Russia prior to Vladimir Putin taking additional steps that will be very difficult to undo,” according to Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN).

      86 Support | 143 Oppose

    • HR 5226

      #5 Charlotte’s Web Medical Hemp Act

      --Bipartisan-- Would "ensure that children and individuals with epilepsy and other debilitating seizure disorders have access to life-changing Cannabidiol (CBD) Oil and therapeutic hemp." According to the bill sponsor, this legislation "in no way federally legalizes the recreational use of marijuana, nor is CBD marijuana; rather, the bill is an incremental approach to providing relief to those suffering from ailments that could benefit from CBD oil and therapeutic hemp." It also doesn’t legalize all forms of marijuana for medical use. It removes CBD oil and therapeutic hemp from the federal definition of marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act. Therapeutic hemp is defined as having no more than .3% THC, which means it has no hallucinogenic effects of traditional marijuana.

      221 Support | 7 Oppose

    • HR 5204

      #6 Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Modernization Act

      To amend the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act to improve recreation opportunities and increase consistency and accountability in the collection and expenditure of recreation fees collected on public lands and forests. According to the bill sponsors, "Re-authorization of the Federal Lands and Recreation Enhancement Act of 2004 is an area where we can work together to improve government and protect the taxpayer." The bill "will help expand and improve opportunities for public recreation on federal lands by updating how the Federal agencies collect and spend Federal recreation fees authorized by the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA)," according to its sponsor, House Natural Resources Subcommittee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT). Currently, the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act authorizes the National Park Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, the US Forest Service, and the Bureau of Reclamation to collect fees for accessing and enjoying federal recreation lands and waters. These recreation fees fund necessary services and improvements that enhance the public visitor experience on federal lands such as welcome centers, trails, tours, campgrounds, picnic areas, roads, and boat landings. The bill "ensures that a minimum of 90% of fees collected are retained and used at the collection site so that recreation users are directly paying for the services used," according to the House Natural Resources Subcommittee.

      22 Support | 194 Oppose

    • HJ Res 119

      #7 Democracy for All Amendment

      "Would allow Congress to regulate the raising and spending of money, including so-called "Super PAC" independent expenditures, while giving states the same authority to regulate campaign finance at their level," according to the amendment sponsors. Restores authority to the American people, through Congress and the states, to regulate and limit the raising and spending of money for federal political campaigns; Allows states to regulate campaign spending at their level; Includes the authority to regulate and limit independent expenditures, like those from Super PACs; Would not dictate any specific policies or regulations, but instead would allow Congress to pass campaign finance reform legislation that withstands constitutional challenges; Expressly provides that any regulation authorized under the amendment cannot limit the freedom of the press.

      24 Support | 172 Oppose

    • HR 5344

      #8 Responsible Body Armor Possession Act

      According to the bill sponsor, it "allows law enforcement to respond to active shooters more effectively." The bill prohibits the sale, purchase, use, or possession of enhanced military-grade body armor by anyone who is not a member of law enforcement, active duty military, or other authorized users.

      5 Support | 152 Oppose

    • S 8

      #9 End Wasteful Tax Loopholes Act

      Expresses the sense of the Senate that Congress should enact legislation to: (1) eliminate wasteful tax loopholes; (2) eliminate corporate tax loopholes and wasteful tax breaks for special interests; (3) enhance tax fairness by reforming or eliminating tax breaks that provide excessive benefits to millionaires and billionaires; (4) crack down on tax cheaters and close the tax gap; (5) use the revenue saved by curtailing tax loopholes to reduce the deficit and reform the federal tax code; (6) address provisions in the tax code that make it more profitable for companies to create jobs overseas than in the United States; and (7) reform the tax code in a manner that promotes job creation, competitiveness, and economic growth.

      36 Support | 120 Oppose

    • HR 4419

      #10 Sage-Grouse and Endangered Species Conservation and Protection Act

      Would prevent sage grouse endangered species listing. "Would require the federal government to fund its fair share of conservation work before listing a species. As a funding mechanism, the bill would utilize the federal government’s own vast inventory of lands, providing for the competitive, market-rate sale of small parcels -- 160 acres or less -- to pay for conservation measures.The funds would be distributed to federal/state councils in states with 33 percent federal land or more. (According to bill sponsors). 

      78 Support | 67 Oppose

    • SJ Res 19

      #11 Democracy for All Amendment

      A joint resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relating to contributions and expenditures intended to affect elections; "To advance the fundamental principle of political equality for all, and to protect the integrity of the legislative and electoral processes, Congress shall have power to regulate the raising and spending of money and in-kind equivalents with respect to Federal elections."

      39 Support | 96 Oppose

    • Ex-Im Bank

      #12 Reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank

      A joint resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relating to contributions and expenditures intended to affect elections; "To advance the fundamental principle of political equality for all, and to protect the integrity of the legislative and electoral processes, Congress shall have power to regulate the raising and spending of money and in-kind equivalents with respect to Federal elections."

      15 Support | 109 Oppose

    • HR 3522

      #13 Employee Health Care Protection Act

      To authorize health insurance issuers to continue to offer for sale current group health insurance coverage in satisfaction of the minimum essential health insurance coverage requirement, and for other purposes. According to the bill sponsor, "The President and supporters of Obamacare promised numerous times that ‘if you like your healthcare plan, you can keep it, period.’ This unequivocal promise was necessary to pass Obamacare on one of the slimmest and partisan votes in congressional history. However, it was clear to anyone that read the bill, that this promise was false and that there would be major disruption in people’s healthcare plans... My legislation, the Employee Health Care Protection Act, is meant to do one thing- provide relief to American workers and ensure that the American people can keep the health care plans they like. If supporters of this law really believe in keeping their word to the American people, they should support this legislation to help millions of Americans keep the healthcare plan they like."

      85 Support | 20 Oppose

    • S 2609

      #14 Marketplace and Internet Tax Fairness Act

      -- Bipartisan -- Would allow states to collect sales taxes from out-of-state retailers. (Currently, states cannot enforce the collection of sales tax from retailers that do not have a physical presence in the state.) And would extend the Internet Tax Freedom law for 10 years. According to the bill sponsor, "For over a decade, congressional inaction has created one of the largest tax loopholes of our lifetime. The federal government should not favor some businesses over other businesses and some taxpayers over other taxpayers. It’s time to stop discriminating through the tax code and put local and Main Street retailers on a level playing field with their out-of-state and online counterparts. The Marketplace Fairness Act does this without raising taxes and without burdening small businesses. It’s time to let states make their own fiscal decisions without having to first ask Washington.”

      4 Support | 81 Oppose

    • HR 4679

      #15 Stop Corporate Inversions Act

      (S 2360 in Senate) "Increases the needed percentage change in stock ownership from 20 percent to 50 percent and provides that the merged company will nevertheless continue to be treated as a domestic US company for tax purposes if management and control of the merged company remains in the US and either 25 percent of its employees or sales or assets are located in the US," according to the bill sponsors. "Under current law, the merged company is treated as a foreign company if more than 20 percent of the stock of the merged company is owned by stockholders who were not stockholders of the US company or if the merged company has at least 25 percent of its employees, sales and assets where it is incorporated."  

      20 Support | 64 Oppose

    • HR 4934

      #16 Regulatory Agency Demilitarization Act

      According to the bill sponsor, the bill “repeals the arrest and firearm authority granted to Offices of Inspectors General in the 2002 Homeland Security Act, Prohibits federal agencies, other than those traditionally tasked with enforcing federal law—such as the FBI and U.S. Marshals, from purchasing machine guns, grenades, and other weaponry regulated under the National Firearms Act and Directs the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to write a complete report detailing all federal agencies, including Offices of Inspectors General, with specialized units that receive special tactical or military-style training and that respond to high-risk situations that fall outside the capabilities of regular law enforcement officers.”

      74 Support | 2 Oppose

    • S 250

      #17 Corporate Tax Dodging Prevention Act

      Would eliminate the deferral of tax on the foreign-source income of US corporations for taxable years beginning after December 31, 2013; deny the foreign tax credit to large integrated oil companies that are dual capacity taxpayers; limit the offset of the foreign tax credit to income that is subject to US tax; and treat foreign corporations managed and controlled in the United States as domestic corporations for US tax purposes.

      20 Support | 40 Oppose

    • SRes 517

      #18 Resolution supporting Israel

      -- Bipartisan -- Expressing support for Israel's right to defend itself and calling Hamas to immediately cease all rocket and other attacks against Israel.

      55 Support | 4 Oppose

    • HCRes 107

      #19 Resolution condemning Hamas's use of human shields

      -- Bipartisan -- Denouncing the use of civilians as human shields by Hamas and other terrorist organizations in violation of international humanitarian law.

      52 Support | 6 Oppose

    • S 1486

      #20 Postal Reform Act in the Senate

      -- Bipartisan --  The bill accomplishes three overarching goals: reduce operating costs; modernize its business model; and innovate to generate new revenue, according to bill sponsors. Would free the Postal Service from burdensome regulations and provide it the flexibility needed to responsibly manage postal employee obligations and benefits. Would slow the implementation of further cuts to allow cost saving and revenue increasing provisions in the new law to be carried out. Would give the Postal Service greater flexibility in how it calculates its rates. (Currently, USPS can not raise its rates more than the amount of the increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI).) -- Passed by Committee on Feb. 6, 2014, but has yet to be considered by the full Senate.-- 

      13 Support | 43 Oppose

    Please keep in mind that highlighting a bill doesn't imply a POPVOX endorsement in any way. Rather, we're simply trying to offer one more way to stay informed of an overwhelmingly complex legislative system.

  9. Issue Spotlight: Action Against the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL)

    The President and Congressional Leaders Meet to Discuss ISIS

    President Obama, Vice President Biden and Congressional leaders met yesterday to discuss action against the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL). The President told Congressional leaders that he has the authority he needs to take action against ISIL in accordance with the mission he will lay out in his address tonight. However, he said that he would "welcome action by the Congress that would aid the overall effort and demonstrate to the world that the United States is united in defeating the threat from ISIL.”

    In the meeting, the four Congressional leaders — House Speaker John Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi — expressed their support for efforts "to degrade and ultimately destroy" ISIL. Specifically, Speaker Boehner expressed support for certain options that have been proposed by the President, such as increasing the effectiveness of the Iraqi Security Forces and training and equipping the Syrian opposition. (Read more.)

    The President's Address Tonight

    This weekend, the President spoke about "taking some steps to order military strikes that have beat back ISIL.” Tonight, he will talk about the next phase and "protecting the core national security interests of the United States and protecting the American people, according to White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest.

    In addition to "building international support for the efforts that are underway by the Iraqis,” the President’s strategy will also include "supporting the Syrian opposition as they take the fight to ISIL in their country.” (The Press Secretary also referred to the President’s commencement address at West Point where he discussed assistance to the Syrian opposition.) He also plans to continue engaging members of the international community, including our allies in NATO in this effort. Already, the President has the support of nine countries (United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Poland and Turkey) who will join the fight against ISIS, according to the Defense Dept

    We’d like to spotlight recent bills related to military force against ISIS, as well as the War Powers Act. Weigh in on POPVOX.

    Bills Addressing the Islamic State (ISIS and ISIL)

    • HR 5415

      Authorization for Use of Military Force against International Terrorism Act

      -- Bipartisan -- "Authorizing the use of military force against international terrorist groups, including the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and al Qaeda and its affiliates, like al Nusra, Ansar al Sharia, al Shabaab and Boko Haram, while encouraging close coordination with NATO and regional allies on any action." According to Congressman Wolf, "the motive behind the bill is to end any ambiguity about the President's authority -- or the Congress' support -- for a US-led international coalition to disrupt and eliminate ISIS and al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist groups from committing genocide."
    • SJRes 42

      Resolution to authorize the use of the US Armed Forces against the Islamic State

      According to the bill sponsor, "if you don't stop ISIS, ISIS is going to take over that entire part of the world. … You're going to have a major new player in the world that is bent on the destruction of anyone who dares look different, talks different, acts different and thinks different. … The world doesn't need that kind of threat to its existence." 
    • SJRes 43

      Resolution to authorize the use of force against the Islamic State

      According to the bill sponsor, "it is estimated that 12,000 foreign fighters have joined IS, including about 2,500 who hold Western passports, giving them easy access to Western countries and a likely avenue to commit acts of terrorism on American soil. In their minds, the brutal execution of two Americans is just the beginning of greater attacks on America. And we must treat it for what it is: a first act of war against the American people. It demands a response." "With this resolution, the President, in coordination with allies and partners, will have clear authority to go after IS fighters, finances and their networks across the globe. IS operations are not confined by borders or timelines and neither should the U.S. effort to defeat them. IS is an evolving threat, and the President must have the flexibility needed to adjust as conditions on the ground change." 
    • HJRes 123

      Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)

      -- Bipartisan -- According to the bill sponsor, "it’s past time for President Obama to define a course of action.” The brutal murder of two American journalists was a shocking wake up call for the public, but the threat ISIL poses to America’s national interests has grown unchecked for some time. We need a strategic plan to stop the spread of their hateful ideology and violence. The defeat of ISIL must be a top priority – this resolution authorizes the use of force for a definite period and requires President Obama to develop and share his strategy with Congress and the American people."
    • HRes 718

      Calling on the Dept. of Defense to expedite the delivery of all necessary military equipmentto the Kurdish Peshmerga forces

      -- Bipartisan -- "The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) has committed acts of terrorism, crimes against humanity and continues to threaten the security and stability of the Middle East." Would support Kurdish Peshmerga forces that have "fought bravely against ISIS to secure Iraqi Army bases that contained United States-made weapons and equipment and to protect critical infrastructure vulnerable to invasion by ISIS."
    • HR 5431

      ISIS Isolate Act

      To impose sanctions on foreign financial institutions that engage in certain transactions with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. According to the bill sponsor, "ISIS is a unique terror organization in that it is able to self finance at an extremely high level – giving itself the resources and influence to expand its reign of hate and oppression. It’s reported that ISIS now controls tens of thousands of barrels of oil a day, netting the terror group nearly $2 million in sales through foreign markets. To halt ISIS’ growth, we must stop its ability to fund and finance – that’s what the Isolate ISIS Act does."
    • HR 5463

      To suspend military assistance to countries that harbor persons that provide material or financial support to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant

      "Reports of how and where ISIL jihadists are getting funding—from oil sales on the black market to independent financiers—make it both possible and vital to cut them off," according to the bill sponsor. "Suspending military sales or direct aid gives these vulnerable countries a tangible reason on top of the principled reason for eliminating this menace to the world."
    • HCRes 114

      Urging Congress to debate and vote on a statutory authorization for any sustained United States combat role in Iraq or Syria.

      "Congress must weigh in when it comes to confronting ISIL through military action," according to the bill co-sponsors. "The voices of the American people must be heard during a full and robust debate in Congress on the use of military force. Speaker Boehner should put legislation authorizing military action on the floor of the House of Representatives before Congress leaves for the upcoming district work period."

    The War Powers Resolution

    The War Powers Resolution is again being debated as lawmakers debate President Obama's proposed response to ISIS. Enacted in 1973, "the War Powers Resolution requires the President to notify Congress within 48 hours of committing armed forces to military action and forbids armed forces from remaining for more than 60 days, with a further 30 day withdrawal period, without an authorization of the use of military force or a declaration of war."

    Although President Obama has explained that his plan would not require approval from Congress, some Congressional leaders have expressed that the President should in fact seek their approval before engaging in an armed conflict with ISIS forces.

    Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) has proposed repealing the War Powers Resolution:

    • HR 5416

      The War Powers Consultation Act

      (And S 1939 in the Senate) -- Bipartisan -- Would repeal the War Powers Resolution and provide for proper war powers consultation. "(1) The War Powers Resolution (50 U.S.C. 1541 et seq.) has not worked as intended, and has added to the divisiveness and uncertainty that exists regarding the war powers of the President and Congress. (2) The American people want both the President and Congress involved in the decisionmaking process when United States Armed Forces are committed to significant armed conflict, and the involvement of both branches is important in building domestic understanding and political support for doing so and ensuring the soundness of the resulting decision." "This long-overdue reform of the War Powers Resolution would address structural issues that prevent more dialogue and consultation on military actions," according to the bill sponsor. “It codifies the consultation process between the branches and would require the Congress to take an up-or-down vote on any military action taken by the president."

    Please keep in mind that highlighting a bill doesn't imply a POPVOX endorsement in any way. Rather, we're simply trying to offer one more way to stay informed of an overwhelmingly complex legislative system.

  10. Issue Spotlight: Government Shutdown (2014)

    Another Government Shutdown??

    Remember last year's government shutdown? That came about because Congress could not agree on a "continuing resolution" or CR. A CR keeps the government operating and spending money when regular appropriation acts have expired and new authority has not yet been enacted. The CR that finally passed will expire at the end of September, leaving a similar situation to the one that prompted the shutdown.

    Once again, Congress will have to pass a continuing resolution to fund programs and to keep the federal government operating past the end of this fiscal year, Sept. 30th:

    From our Hill Sources: The December 2013 budget deal set spending levels for the federal government at a little over $1 trillion. The appropriations process would require the House and Senate to divvy up that amount. However, to date, the House has passed seven of the 12 annual appropriations bills, while the Senate has yet to pass one. It's unlikely that the House and Senate will complete passage of the bills on time, so a CR is the only way to keep the government functioning. 

    Here are the appropriations bills that Congress has been working on:

    1. Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration Approps: HR 4800 in the House and S 2389 in the Senate
    2. Commerce/Justice/Science Approps: HR 4660, passed by the House on May 30th; and S 2437 in the Senate.
    3. Defense Approps: HR 4870, passed by the House on June 20th.
    4. Energy & Water Approps: HR 4923, passed by the House on July 10th.
    5. Financial Services Approps: HR 5016, passed by the House on July 16th.
    6. Homeland Security Approps: HR 4903 in the House.
    7. Interior & Environment Approps: HR 5171 in the House.
    8. Legislative Branch Approps: HR 4487, passed by the House on May 1st.
    9. Military Construction/Veterans Affairs Approps: HR 4486, passed by the House on April 30th.
    10. State/Foreign Operations Approps: HR 5013 and S 2499 in the House.
    11. Transportation/HUD Approps: HR 4745, passed by the House on June 10th; and S 2438 in the House.

    Please keep in mind that highlighting a bill doesn't imply a POPVOX endorsement in any way. Rather, we're simply trying to offer one more way to stay informed of an overwhelmingly complex legislative system.

  11. Issue Spotlight: Domestic Violence

    Ray Rice and the NFL -- and the 20th Anniversary of VAWA

    This past week, the Baltimore Ravens fired running back Ray Rice due to the emergence of a new video from TMZ that depicts him hitting his wife. Rice had been previously suspended by the NFL and indicted for third-degree aggravated assault due to the incident, but has now been officially cut from the team roster.

    There has been a major outcry against Rice, shedding more light on the issue of domestic violence in America. Rice's wife came out to defend her husband and attacked the media for meddling. Other victims of domestic abuse are using Twitter to express their sentiment and share their own stories, using the hashtags #WhyIStayed and #WhyILeft.

    Members of the House Judiciary Committee sent a letter to Commissioner Roger Goodell, describing their frustration with how the NFL had chosen to deal with the controversy. One of the Representatives that signed the letter, Suzan DelBene (D-WA), stated "As an NFL fan, I am greatly disappointed in the way the organization has handled this serious and disturbing incident. It is critical that, going forward, the NFL ensures their policies relating to domestic violence are public and transparent, and I hope that all professional sports leagues take notice and do the same."

    In the letter, Congressional leaders expressed to Goodell, "We welcome your recent willingness to change the NFL’s policies regarding issues of domestic violence, and we also believe other major professional sports leagues should consider making their policies public and reviews transparent as well." (Read the entire letter). 

    Domestic violence, both among adults and teens, continues to be a serious issue in America. As we discuss the Ray Rice incident, it is worth noting that today is the 20th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act. Vice President Biden reflected on how far we've come in our willingness to address domestic violence:

    "Even just 20 years ago, few people wanted to talk about violence against women as a national epidemic, let alone something to do something about. No one even back then denied that kicking your wife in the stomach, or smashing her in the face, or pushing her down the stairs in public was repugnant. But our society basically turned a blind eye. And hardly anyone ever intervened, directly intervened -- other than my father and a few other people I knew.

    "And no one -- virtually no one called it a crime. It was a family affair. It was a family affair. Laws -- state laws when we attempted at a state or a federal level to design laws to prevent actions that were said that we now are celebrating, we were told, I was told, many of us were told that it would cause the disintegration of the family. That was the phrase used. It would cause the disintegration of the family." (Read Vice President Biden's full remarks.)

     

    Bills Addressing Domestic Violence

    There are several proposals pending before Congress to address domestic violence, stalking and dating violence. Weigh in on POPVOX:

    • HR 4906

      Protecting Domestic Violence and Stalking Victims Act

      (And S 1290 in the Senate) to protect more victims of domestic violence by preventing their abusers from possessing or receiving firearms, and for other purposes. "Existing federal laws designed to protect victims of domestic violence from gun violence are important, but gaps remain,” according to the bill sponsor. “The Protecting Domestic Violence and Stalking Victims Act would close these loopholes to better protect victims and survivors of domestic violence".
    • HR 393

      Domestic Violence Judicial Support Act

      To consolidate, improve, and reauthorize programs that support families and victims in the justice system affected by domestic violence. According to the bill sponsor, “For over a year, the larger VAWA reauthorization has been held hostage by the extreme right and, as a result, women everywhere have suffered. The critical and specialized training and resources provided under this bill help train judges to understand the dynamics of domestic violence and child custody cases. Additionally, this bill will help ensure that these programs are funded in any final compromise agreement. 
    • HR 840

      To improve services for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.

      Increases the amount of funding used for rape crisis centers and other programs that aid victims of domestic violence from 0.125% to 1.5%. for U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, DC, Puerto Rico, and the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands.
    • HR 3566

      Domestic Violence Criminal Disarmament Act

      To amend the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 to provide for a grant program regarding firearms. According to the bill sponsor, the act "would encourage states to adopt baseline policies that (1.) require officials to routinely take into account whether a gun is present in a serious domestic violence situation and (2.) take steps to protect the victim by removing the gun from the equation if it is illegally possessed or determined to be a threat to the victim. As we continue to debate our budgetary priorities, the farm bill, comprehensive immigration reform, and other important issues, I encourage my colleagues to join me in my fight to turn domestic violence victims into survivors." 
    • HR 1177

      Domestic Violence Survivor Protection Act

      According to the bill sponsor, the act "would ensure that all abused women, whether married or not, are provided the same protections. In addition, this bill would provide greater security for domestic violence survivors by protecting them during the time when they are most at risk, in the minutes, hours and days immediately after leaving a violent partner. An abusive ex-boyfriend with a gun is no less lethal than an abusive ex-husband with a gun." 
    • HRes 392

      National Domestic Violence Awareness Month

      Supporting the goals and ideals of October as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month and expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that Congress should continue to raise awareness of domestic violence and its devastating effects on individuals, families, and communities, and support programs designed to end domestic violence in the United States. According to the bill sponsor, "we must rededicate ourselves to the goal of ending violence against women and helping heal the lives of domestic violence survivors as well as their families.” “The impact of domestic violence is too pervasive. This issue affects women and men in all communities, regardless of age, race, sexual orientation, nationality, educational background, and socioeconomic status. This is why combating domestic violence should be a universal priority." 

    Please keep in mind that highlighting a bill doesn't imply a POPVOX endorsement in any way. Rather, we're simply trying to offer one more way to stay informed of an overwhelmingly complex legislative system.

  12. The Week Ahead: Welcome Back, Congress!

    From our Hill Sources: Congress returns from a five-week recess on Monday with many issues to tackle -- from escalating global tensions to domestic challenges relating to jobs, the economy, immigration and even the Constitution before Election Day. However, they will be racing against the clock. With elections only two months away, they will be heading home to campaign!

    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said that the Senate will be in session (including weekends) until Sept. 23, when they will adjourn again until after Election Day. The House is scheduled to be in session Sept. 8 - 19, and Sept. 29 - Oct. 2nd.

    Welcome Back, Congress!

    Here are 15 issues on the agenda. On your mark, get set, go!

    #1 Another Shutdown?

    Remember last year's government shutdown? (Of course!) Once again, Congress will have to pass a continuing resolution to fund programs and keep the federal government operating past the end of this fiscal year, Sept. 30.

    The Dec. 2013 budget deal set spending levels for the federal government at a little over $1 trillion. The appropriations process requires the House and Senate to divvy up that amount. However, to date, the House has passed seven of the 12 annual appropriations bills, while the Senate has yet to pass one. It's unlikely that the House and Senate will complete passage of the bills on time. If Congress fails to appropriate, then a Continuing Resolution is the only way to keep the government operating past Sept. 30. (See which appropriations bills have been passed.)

    #2 Reauthorizing the Ex-Im Bank

    The Export-Import Bank assists in financing the export of US goods and services to international markets through direct loans, loan guarantees, as well as special financing programs. Congress must decide whether to reauthorize the bank by Sept. 30th.

    The Ex-Im Bank has supported 205,000 jobs in FY 2013 and financed a total of $6 billion in small business exports, according to the Ex-Im Bank's Chairman Fred Hochberg. In an open letter to Congress, more than 850 business organizations warned that "failure to reauthorize Ex-Im would amount to unilateral disarmament in the face of other governments' far more aggressive export credit programs...American companies would be put at a unique disadvantage in global markets, resulting immediately in lost sales and lost jobs." However, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) expressed opposition to reauthorizing the Bank, arguing that it provides services that can be offered by the private sector.

    #3 Authorizing Military Force Against Terrorist Groups

    Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA) introduced legislation:

    • HR 5415

      Authorization for Use of Military Force against International Terrorism Act

      "authorizing the use of military force against international terrorist groups, including the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and al Qaeda and its affiliates, like al Nusra, Ansar al Sharia, al Shabaab and Boko Haram, while encouraging close coordination with NATO and regional allies on any action." According to Congressman Wolf, "the motive behind the bill is to end any ambiguity about the President's authority -- or the Congress' support -- for a US-led international coalition to disrupt and eliminate ISIS and al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist groups from committing genocide."

    Meanwhile, air operations in Iraq continue in support of Iraqi and Kurdish forces in their fight with terrorists from ISIL, and to provide humanitarian assistance to Iraqi civilians and protect US personnel and facilities. Last week, President Obama authorized the Dept. of Defense to provide the Dept. of State 350 additional military personnel to protect US diplomatic facilities and personnel in Baghdad, Iraq.

    #4 Unaccompanied Children at the Border

    More than 66,000 unaccompanied children have arrived at our border in FY 2014, according to US Customs and Border Patrol. The House passed a Supplemental Appropriations bill (HR 5230), a $694 million border proposal to address the "humanitarian crisis at our southern border." It includes $405 million for the Dept. of Homeland Security to boost border security and law enforcement activities and $22 million to accelerate judicial proceedings for immigrants. (The funding in the legislation is fully offset through cuts and rescissions of existing funds within various federal agencies.)

    President Obama opposes the House measure and has threatened to veto the bill. The President requested $3.7 billion to address the crisis, while the Senate's proposal (S 2648) -- which failed to advance to a vote -- would provide $2.73 billion.

    #5 "You've Got Mail!" Postal Service Reform

    In August, the US Postal Service reported a two percent revenue increase -- but a $2.0 billion loss in the third quarter, and announced plans to cut 15,000 jobs and consolidate 82 mail-processing centers in 2015. In response, 50 Senators sent a letter to the Appropriations Committee leadership urging them to block additional Postal Service cutbacks in appropriations legislation that would be introduced to fund the government and avoid a shutdown -- and to block for one year any Postal Service plans to consolidate more mail-processing facilities.

    Instead, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman urged his colleagues to enact comprehensive postal reforms "before it's too late":

    • S 1486

      Postal Reform Act in the Senate

      -- Bipartisan -- Accomplishes three overarching goals: reduce operating costs; modernize its business model; and innovate to generate new revenue, according to bill sponsors. -- Passed by Committee on Feb. 6, 2014, but has yet to be considered by the full Senate. -- 

    Both the Senate and House versions would save $17 billion over ten years. However, the House version focuses on reducing operation costs, including reducing health and life insurance premium contributions ($2 billion) and eliminating the free and reduced-rate mail ($1 billion). The Senate version instead raises nearly $16 billion from a 4.3 percent stamp price increase.

    #6 The Ferguson Aftermath

    In August, President Obama announced that the Justice Department has opened an independent federal civil rights investigation into the death of Michael Brown: "They are on the ground and, along with the FBI, they are devoting substantial resources to that investigation." On Sept. 3, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon lifted the State of Emergency he declared on Aug. 16 in response to the "violent unrest" in Ferguson.

    In response to the situation in Ferguson, Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) will introduce a bill limiting a Pentagon program that provides surplus military equipment to local law enforcement:

    • Draft

      Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act

      Would "end the free transfers of certain aggressive military equipment to local law enforcement and ensure that all equipment can be accounted for," according to the bill sponsor, Rep. Henry "Hank" Johnson (D-GA). The bill targets a Pentagon surplus program that transfers military equipment like mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles to local governments, including MRAPs (Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicles.

    A "Dear Colleague" letter from Rep. Johnson stated: "Our main streets should be a place for business, families, and relaxation, not tanks and M16s. Unfortunately, due to a Department of Defense (DOD) Program that transfers surplus DOD equipment to state and local law enforcement, our local police are quickly beginning to resemble paramilitary forces."

    #7 Hamas and Israel

    On Sept. 9, the House Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade will hold a hearing on Hamas. According to the Subcommittee Chairman, "the purpose of this hearing is to allow Members to take an in-depth look at the financing capabilities of Hamas, a designated foreign terrorist organization."

    While we expect additional legislation to be introduced, here are some proposals already pending before Congress:

    #8 Ukraine and Russia

    President Obama met with NATO allies last week to finalize sanctions across Russia's financial, energy and defense sectors and "strongly support President Poroshenko's efforts to pursue a peaceful resolution to the conflict in his country," including the cease-fire.

    Already, the Obama Administration has committed $60 million in support for the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense (MOD), State Border Guard Service and the National Guard, as well as meals ready-to-eat, body armor, radios, vehicles, thermal vision devices, medical supplies, explosive ordinance disposal robots, uniforms, and individual tactical gear.

    We can expect further proposals in Congress, possibly from Senator John McCain (R-AZ), who along with Lindsey Graham (R-SC), announced they are "deeply concerned" that the cease-fire could "saddle Ukraine with a debilitating frozen conflict that amounts to Transnistria in eastern Ukraine." "If history teaches us anything," they explained, "it is that when people who believe in the rule of law and democracy give way to the dictates of thugs, it always gets worse."

    Here are a few bills already introduced in Congress:

    • HR 4346

      NATO Alliance Recognition and Promotion Act

      -- Bipartisan -- "Encourages enhanced security cooperation with America's European allies and the continued enlargement of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization," according to bill sponsors. (And S 2283 in the Senate.)
    • HR 4433

      Forging Peace Through Strength in Ukraine and the Transatlantic Alliance Act

      -- Bipartisan -- Would condemn Russian aggression and illegal annexation of Crimea, while also seeking to reassure NATO allies and promote closer military cooperation with Ukraine," according to bill sponsors.
    • S 2555

      Report on military assistance to Ukraine

      -- Bipartisan -- Expresses the sense of Congress that the President, working with North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies, should provide the armed forces of Ukraine with appropriate non-lethal military assistance and military training support requested by the government of Ukraine. Directs the Secretary of Defense (DOD), every 180 days until Jan. 31, 2017, to report to Congress regarding military assistance to Ukraine.

    #9 The Benghazi Select Committee

    A House Resolution (HRes 567) authorized and directed a Select Committee to conduct a full and complete investigation and study of the events surrounding the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi and issue a final report of its findings to the House. Representative Trey Gowdy (R-SC), chairman of the committee, announced that the Committee would hold its first public hearing on Sept. 14th.

    Many are concerned with the slow progress of the committee's investigation, which was authorized in May. Meanwhile, the House Intelligence Committee already concluded that there was no deliberate wrongdoing by the Obama administration in the 2012 attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans:

     

    "This report shows that there was no intelligence failure surrounding the Benghazi attacks that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other brave Americans. Our investigation found the Intelligence Community warned about an increased threat environment, but did not have specific tactical warning of an attack before it happened, Americans which is consistent with testimony that the attacks appeared to be opportunistic. It also found that a mixed group of individuals including those associated with Al-Qaeda, Qadafi loyalists and other Libyan militias participated in the attack. Additionally, the report shows there was no "stand down order" given to American personnel attempting to offer assistance that evening, and no American was left behind," according to the Ranking Member of the Intelligence Committee, Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD).

     

    The Intelligence Committee's bipartisan report, adopted unanimously on July 31, 2014, is pending review by the intelligence agencies for declassification.

    Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) proposed a similar investigation in the Senate.

    #10 Government Surveillance

    Last week, Attorney General Eric Holder and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper sent a letter to Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) in support of his bill, which would end the automatic bulk collection of phone records by the National Security Agency:

    • S 2685

      USA Freedom Act

      -- Bipartisan -- "Would restore Americans’ privacy rights by ending the government’s dragnet collection of phone records and requiring greater oversight, transparency, and accountability with respect to domestic surveillance authorities," according to the bill sponsors. Bans bulk collection under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act and other surveillance authorities, requires the government to narrow the scope of a search to a clearly defined “specific selection term,” adds needed transparency and reporting requirements, and provides key reforms to the FISA Court.

    The bill builds on the House version of the USA Freedom Act (HR 3361), which passed in May.

    #11 Campaign Finance 2.0

    Also in September, the Senate plans to vote on a Constitutional Amendment to reverse Supreme Court decisions related to campaign contributions like Citizens United v. FEC.

    • SJRes 19

      The Democracy for All Amendment

      "Would allow Congress to regulate the raising and spending of money, including so-called "Super PAC" independent expenditures, while giving states the same authority to regulate campaign finance at their level," according to the amendment sponsors.

    In 1976, the Supreme Court held in Buckley v. Valeo that restricting independent campaign expenditures violates the First Amendment right to free speech. According to Amendment sponsors, "building on this flawed precedent, the Supreme Court decided in Citizens United v. FEC that corporations deserve the same free speech protections as individual Americans."

    A Constitutional Amendment requires a two-thirds majority vote in the Senate and the House. If it clears those hurdles, it would then have to be ratified by three-fourths of state legislatures in order to actually be enacted.

    #12 Refinancing Student Loans

    The Senate is expected to vote again on the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act (S 2432), which failed to move forward last June. The bill enables students to refinance their loans, and lowers the loan rate by raising taxes on millionaires, according to the bill sponsor, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). "Allowing students to refinance their loans would put money back in the pockets of people who invested in their education." 

    The Obama Administration strongly supports this bill: "The legislation would benefit an estimated 25 million Americans and save a typical borrower $2,000 over the life of his or her loan. It would strengthen the economy by offering relief to Americans who are working hard to pay back their student loans and launch careers, start families, or buy homes."

    #13 The FY 2015 NDAA

    Each year, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) specifies the budget and expenditures of the US Dept. of Defense. The House passed its version in May, which authorized $521.3 billion in spending for national defense and an additional $79.4 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), primarily in Afghanistan.

    House and Senate staff from the Armed Services committees worked through recess to draft a compromise proposal in case the Senate is unable to pass its version of the bill:

    • S 2410

      NDAA in the Senate

      Provides $514 billion for national defense, including $496 billion for the Dept. of Defense base budget and $17.7 billion for national security programs. Specifically prohibits the US Air Force from retiring A-10 aircraft for one year, and would improve the prospects of competition for military space launch and help move the Pentagon away from using taxpayer dollars to purchase rocket engines from Russia, according to Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).

    #14 Extending "Internet Tax Freedom"

    The Internet Tax Freedom Act placed a moratorium on the ability of state and local governments to impose new taxes on Internet access or to impose multiple or discriminatory taxes on e-commerce, since it was first enacted in 1998. It's scheduled to expire on Nov. 1 unless Congress takes action.

    The House passed the Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act (HR 3086), a permanent extension on July 15th. Meanwhile, the Senate is considering whether to pass its version of the bill alone (S 1431) or as a legislative package for the Marketplace Fairness Act, which would allow states to collect sales tax for online purchases:

    • S 2609

      Marketplace and Internet Tax Fairness Act

      -- Bipartisan -- Would allow states to collect sales taxes from out-of-state retailers. (Currently, states cannot enforce the collection of sales tax from retailers that do not have a physical presence in the state.) And would extend the Internet Tax Freedom law for 10 years.

    #15 "Obamacare" and Small Businesses

    House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy intends to bring a bill to a vote to address the "devastating consequences Obamacare has had for small businesses and their employees." He cited a recent non-partisan government analysis that found two-thirds of all small businesses will face increases in monthly premiums -- affecting 11 million Americans -- as a direct result of the law.

    House Republican leaders plan to bring this bill to a vote in September:

    • HR 3522

      Employee Health Care Protection Act

      According to the bill sponsor, Congressman Bill Cassidy, (R-LA), it "is meant to do one thing -- provide relief to American workers and ensure that the American people can keep the health care plans they like."

    Please keep in mind that highlighting a bill doesn't imply a POPVOX endorsement in any way. Rather, we're simply trying to offer one more way to stay informed of an overwhelmingly complex legislative system.

  13. The POPVOX Top 20: Aug 29 - Sep 4, 2014

    #1 This Week: The Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act

    The most active bill on POPVOX this week was the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Modernization Act (HR 5204). The bill "will help expand and improve opportunities for public recreation on federal lands by updating how the Federal agencies collect and spend Federal recreation fees authorized by the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA)," according to its sponsor, House Natural Resources Subcommittee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT).

    Currently, the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act authorizes the National Park Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, the US Forest Service, and the Bureau of Reclamation to collect fees for accessing and enjoying federal recreation lands and waters. These recreation fees fund necessary services and improvements that enhance the public visitor experience on federal lands such as welcome centers, trails, tours, campgrounds, picnic areas, roads, and boat landings. The Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Modernization Act (HR 5204) "ensures that a minimum of 90% of fees collected are retained and used at the collection site so that recreation users are directly paying for the services used," according to the House Natural Resources Subcommittee. A majority of POPVOX users oppose the bill. (See the pie chart.)

     

    Top 20 Bills of the Week

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    These are the bills and proposals that POPVOX users weighed in on with Congress in the past week. Keep in mind that these numbers aren't aggregates of total support, but just what happened in the past seven days.

    • HR 5204

      #1 Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Modernization Act

      To amend the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act to improve recreation opportunities and increase consistency and accountability in the collection and expenditure of recreation fees collected on public lands and forests. According to the bill sponsors, "Re-authorization of the Federal Lands and Recreation Enhancement Act of 2004 is an area where we can work together to improve government and protect the taxpayer."

      34 Support | 317 Oppose

    • HR 4498

      #2 Legitimate Use of Medicinal Marijuana Act

      --*Bipartisan*-- "Would prohibit the federal government from preventing the prescription, possession, transportation, and distribution of marijuana for medical purposes in compliance with applicable state law,"according to the bill sponsor. The bill would also reclassify marijuana from a Schedule I drug to a Schedule II drug. The Controlled Substance Act (CSA), which became law in 1970, provides for the current classification of marijuana.

      275 Support | 73 Oppose

    • HR 5344

      #3 Responsible Body Armor Possession Act

      According to the bill sponsor, it "allows law enforcement to respond to active shooters more effectively." The bill prohibits the sale, purchase, use, or possession of enhanced military-grade body armor by anyone who is not a member of law enforcement, active duty military, or other authorized users.

      8 Support | 333 Oppose

    • HR 4679

      #4 Stop Corporate Inversions Act

      (S 2360 in Senate) "Increases the needed percentage change in stock ownership from 20 percent to 50 percent and provides that the merged company will nevertheless continue to be treated as a domestic US company for tax purposes if management and control of the merged company remains in the US and either 25 percent of its employees or sales or assets are located in the US," according to the bill sponsors. "Under current law, the merged company is treated as a foreign company if more than 20 percent of the stock of the merged company is owned by stockholders who were not stockholders of the US company or if the merged company has at least 25 percent of its employees, sales and assets where it is incorporated."  

      97 Support | 242 Oppose

    • S 250

      #5 Corporate Tax Dodging Prevention Act

      Would eliminate the deferral of tax on the foreign-source income of US corporations for taxable years beginning after December 31, 2013; deny the foreign tax credit to large integrated oil companies that are dual capacity taxpayers; limit the offset of the foreign tax credit to income that is subject to US tax; and treat foreign corporations managed and controlled in the United States as domestic corporations for US tax purposes.

      87 Support | 210 Oppose

    • HJ Res 119

      #6 The Democracy for All Amendment

      "Would allow Congress to regulate the raising and spending of money, including so-called "Super PAC" independent expenditures, while giving states the same authority to regulate campaign finance at their level," according to the amendment sponsors. Restores authority to the American people, through Congress and the states, to regulate and limit the raising and spending of money for federal political campaigns; Allows states to regulate campaign spending at their level; Includes the authority to regulate and limit independent expenditures, like those from Super PACs; Would not dictate any specific policies or regulations, but instead would allow Congress to pass campaign finance reform legislation that withstands constitutional challenges; Expressly provides that any regulation authorized under the amendment cannot limit the freedom of the press.

      57 Support | 214 Oppose

    • S 8

      #7 The End Wasteful Tax Loopholes Act

      Expresses the sense of the Senate that Congress should enact legislation to: (1) eliminate wasteful tax loopholes; (2) eliminate corporate tax loopholes and wasteful tax breaks for special interests; (3) enhance tax fairness by reforming or eliminating tax breaks that provide excessive benefits to millionaires and billionaires; (4) crack down on tax cheaters and close the tax gap; (5) use the revenue saved by curtailing tax loopholes to reduce the deficit and reform the federal tax code; (6) address provisions in the tax code that make it more profitable for companies to create jobs overseas than in the United States; and (7) reform the tax code in a manner that promotes job creation, competitiveness, and economic growth.

      72 Support | 189 Oppose

    • HR 5226

      #8 Charlotte’s Web Medical Hemp Act

      --Bipartisan-- Would "ensure that children and individuals with epilepsy and other debilitating seizure disorders have access to life-changing Cannabidiol (CBD) Oil and therapeutic hemp." According to the bill sponsor, this legislation "in no way federally legalizes the recreational use of marijuana, nor is CBD marijuana; rather, the bill is an incremental approach to providing relief to those suffering from ailments that could benefit from CBD oil and therapeutic hemp." It also doesn’t legalize all forms of marijuana for medical use. It removes CBD oil and therapeutic hemp from the federal definition of marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act. Therapeutic hemp is defined as having no more than .3% THC, which means it has no hallucinogenic effects of traditional marijuana.

      196 Support | 12 Oppose

    • SJ Res 19

      #9 The Democracy for All Amendment

      A joint resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relating to contributions and expenditures intended to affect elections; "To advance the fundamental principle of political equality for all, and to protect the integrity of the legislative and electoral processes, Congress shall have power to regulate the raising and spending of money and in-kind equivalents with respect to Federal elections."

      50 Support | 110 Oppose

    • HR 694

      #10 Corporate Tax Fairness Act

      "Would require US companies to pay taxes on all of their income by ending the deferral of foreign source income. Corporations would pay US taxes on their offshore profits as they are earned. Would take away the tax incentives for corporations to move jobs offshore or to shift profits offshore because the US would tax their profits no matter where they are generated," according to the bill sponsors.

      48 Support | 99 Oppose

    • HR 4985

      #11 Stop Corporate Expatriation and Invest in America’s Infrastructure Act

      Would "put an end to corporate expatriations and devote the resulting revenue to the Highway Trust Fund. It will raise $19.5 billion in revenue over ten years and keep the Trust Fund solvent as Congress works on a long-term funding solution," according to bill sponsors.

      36 Support | 96 Oppose

    • HR 4716

      #12 Sage Grouse Protection and Conservation Act

      (And S 2394 in the Senate.) "Would prevent the Sage grouse from being listed under the Endangered Species Act for 10 years, and instead requires states to develop conservation management plans to meet the unique needs of the Sage grouse in each state," according to bill sponsors. "The Sage Grouse Protection and Conservation Act encourages states to work with the Departments of Interior and Agriculture throughout the species management process to ensure that all concerns about the recovery of the Sage grouse are met."

      35 Support | 95 Oppose

    • SRes 225

      #13 Establishing a Joint Select Committee on Benghazi

      A resolution to express the sense of the Senate that Congress should establish a joint select committee to investigate and report on the attack on the United States diplomatic facility and American personnel in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012. “Twenty months after the Benghazi attack, we have four dead Americans and no dead terrorists,” according to the bill sponsor. “It is chilling to think our President had better things to do than personally attend to an ongoing terrorist attack on our people. It is chilling to imagine we could have mounted a rescue attempt of our people but did not even bother to try. It is chilling to think our Secretary of State would not insist on giving an interview for the ARB report. It is chilling to think we have an administration that is reluctant to utter the words ‘radical Islamic terrorism,’ let alone fight against it. The clock is ticking. Memories are fading. It is beyond time to get the full resources of both houses of Congress behind this investigation."

      106 Support | 14 Oppose

    • HR 4599

      #14 Authorizing Military Force

      To authorize the use of force against those nations, organizations, or persons responsible for the attack against United States personnel in Benghazi, Libya. According to the bill sponsor, “As important as it is to gain absolute clarity on the Benghazi attacks through ongoing oversight, it is no less important for the President, as Commander-in-Chief, to possess the necessary authority to strike targets directly linked to the attacks."

      101 Support | 19 Oppose

    • HRes 711

      #15 Resolution Ensuring Door Delivery

      -- Bipartisan -- "Would put the House on record as supporting the continuation of door-to-door delivery of our mail," according to the resolution's sponsor. "Postal reform efforts in both the House and the Senate call for the elimination of door delivery over the next six years. Instead of getting mail at their door, residents would be forced to pick up their mail at shared cluster boxes, many of which are in unsecure locations, poorly maintained and far from people’s homes. Seniors and people with disabilities would be most be hurt by the forced adoption of cluster boxes especially for getting their prescriptions."

      84 Support | 33 Oppose

    • HR 2417

      #16 Secure High-voltage Infrastructure for Electricity from Lethal Damage Act

      -- Bipartisan -- To amend the Federal Power Act to protect the bulk-power system and electric infrastructure critical to the defense and well-being of the United States against natural and manmade electromagnetic pulse (”EMP”) threats and vulnerabilities. The bill states, "According to the Report of the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse Attack (in this Act referred to as the 'EMP Commission Report'), the society and economy of the United States are 'critically dependent upon the availability of electricity.'"

      99 Support | 7 Oppose

    • S 1486

      #17 Postal Reform Act in the Senate

      -- Bipartisan --  The bill accomplishes three overarching goals: reduce operating costs; modernize its business model; and innovate to generate new revenue, according to bill sponsors. Would free the Postal Service from burdensome regulations and provide it the flexibility needed to responsibly manage postal employee obligations and benefits. Would slow the implementation of further cuts to allow cost saving and revenue increasing provisions in the new law to be carried out. Would give the Postal Service greater flexibility in how it calculates its rates. (Currently, USPS can not raise its rates more than the amount of the increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI).) -- Passed by Committee on Feb. 6, 2014, but has yet to be considered by the full Senate.-- 

      16 Support | 89 Oppose

    • Draft

      #18 Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act (Draft bill)

      Would "end the free transfers of certain aggressive military equipment to local law enforcement and ensure that all equipment can be accounted for," according to the bill sponsor, Rep. Henry "Hank" Johnson (D-GA). The bill targets a Pentagon surplus program that transfers military equipment like mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles to local governments, including MRAPs (Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicles. (Read bill text.)

      75 Support | 11 Oppose

    • HR 2574

      #19 Keep Student Loans Affordable Act

      (S 1238 in Senate) Would extend the lowered interest rate of 3.4% on Federal Direct Stafford Loans for one year. According to the Senate HELP Committee Chairman, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), the bill is "a responsible solution to keep student loan rates affordable for middle-class students and families struggling to afford college...I believe we need to continue to work in a bipartisan way to maintain, not increase, student loan rates—and preserve our historical commitment to protecting students from outrageous interest rates.”

      25 Support | 56 Oppose

    • S 2277

      #20 Russian Aggression Prevention Act

      Would prevent additional aggression on the part of Russia by strengthening NATO, imposing new sanctions, and providing military aid to Ukraine. “Rather than react to events as they unfold, which has been the policy of this administration, we need to inflict more direct consequences on Russia prior to Vladimir Putin taking additional steps that will be very difficult to undo,” according to Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN).

      37 Support | 44 Oppose

    Please keep in mind that highlighting a bill doesn't imply a POPVOX endorsement in any way. Rather, we're simply trying to offer one more way to stay informed of an overwhelmingly complex legislative system.

  14. Introducing the New House Majority Leader, Kevin McCarthy

    Meet Kevin McCarthy

    When the House returns on Monday, it will be under the leadership of Congressman Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). In this Issue Spotlight, we want to share with you the bills he has sponsored in this Congress as a Representative. (We previously spotlighted the issues he identified as priorities after he became Majority Leader: jobs and economic growth; lowering costs on gas and groceries; and healthcare.) But first, some fun facts...

    About Kevin McCarthy

    On July 31st, Congressman Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) of California’s 23rd District became the Majority Leader in the House of Representatives. He was first elected to Congress in 2006 and is a native of Bakersfield. He previously served two terms in the California State Assembly, including two years as the minority leader. 

    1. Birthdate: Jan. 26, 1965 (He's 49)
    2. Attended: California State University, Bakersfield; Graduated 1989 (B.S.), 1994 (M.B.A.) -- Go Roadrunners! -- 
    3. First job: At 19, he opened a deli called Kevin O's Deli.
    4. Married to Judy McCarthy; has 2 kids
    5. Find him on Facebook or Instagram

    Fun Facts

    1. "House of Cards." He has a connection to the popular Netflix series "House of Cards." Not only is McCarthy a fan of the show, but lead actor Kevin Spacey spent time with him to prep for his performance as the ruthless Frank Underwood. Spacey and McCarthy are even friends.
    2. Lottery. McCarthy also has some luck with playing the lottery; he won the California state lottery when he was 19. $5,000 is a lot of money for a 19 year-old, and with it he opened his deli.
    3. Other Kevins. He is at times confused with two other Kevin McCarthys: one happens to be a well-known movie reviewer and the other was an Academy-Award nominated actor. Turns out, staying true to his Los Angeles roots, McCarthy is a movie-lover himself, notably screening a clip from the film "The Town" during a meeting with fellow Republicans. Wonder if there are McCarthy movie nights at the Capitol?
    4. What's he wearing? During a FOX interview, unbeknownst to viewers, McCarthy was wearing shorts and flip-flops under his suit and tie. Makes you wonder who else does this when being interviewed on TV!?
    5. 4th Gen. He is the son of a firefighter, and his family has been in the same California county for four generations.

    About CA's 23rd

    Congressman McCarthy represents California's 23rd Congressional District, which includes most of Kern andTulareCounties -- and encompasses the Sequoia and Los Padres National Forests. Over 700,000 people reside in the district, in Bakersfield, California City, Frazier Park and other cities.

    Bills Rep. McCarthy Introduced

    • HR 4697

      Small-Cap Access to Capital Act

      "Would require the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to revise the definition of a Well-Known Seasoned Issuer (WKSI) to reduce the dollar amount relating to the worldwide market value of outstanding common equity from $700 million to $250 million." Also prohibits an emerging growth company from qualifying as a WKSI. Prevents the undermining of reforms critical to helping millions out of poverty and into the workforce. (Source: Financial Services Committee memo(Introduced 05/21/2014)
    • HR 4458

      Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake Security Enhancement Act

      Would permanently transfer the public land located within the boundaries of the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, in Inyo, Kern, and San Bernardino Counties, California, but are currently administered by the Bureau of Land Management. (See video of Majority Leader McCarthy testifying.) (Introduced 04/10/2014)
    • HR 3576

      SENTRI Act

      -- *Bipartisan* -- (And S 1728 in the Senate.) “This legislation will seek to ensure that the Department of Defense implements important reforms that will expand access and assistance for voting for those who defend our nation overseas," according to Congressman McCarthy. Improves voter registration and voting opportunities for service members through use of online system and by requiring voter assistance as a routine part of service members’ annual training. Ensures requests for absentee ballots are valid for one full Federal election cycle. Strengthens protection of voting rights of military and overseas voters. Requires reporting on implementation and effectiveness of new voter assistance obligations. (Introduced 11/21/2013)
    • HR 3038

      SOARS Act

      Would "streamline the regulatory process for commercial spacecraft, ensuring that the commercial spaceflight industry can continue to innovate quickly and safely, creating high-quality American jobs in the process," according to Congressman McCarthy. Ensures that innovative launch and reentry vehicles have a “one-stop shop” for regulatory oversight, instead of dealing with two or more separate sets of regulatory requirements. Fixes a technical issue with current law to allow vehicle manufacturers to use individual vehicles as test platforms while other individual vehicles are being used in commercial service. (Current law requires all vehicles of the same design either to be used for one purpose or the other.) Creates a demonstration project to evaluate the benefits of using experimental aircraft to support launch and reentry activities. These provisions promote safety and innovation by unifying regulatory oversight, allowing companies to test safety improvements rapidly, and providing opportunities to develop new approaches to supporting launch and reentry activities. (Introduced 08/02/2013)
    • HR 2661

      Veterans Access to Timely Medical Appointments Act

      -- *Bipartisan* -- Requires the VA to schedule primary care appointments within 7 days and specialty care appointments within 14 days -- goals used internally by VA supervisors and identified within the GAO report. Specifically, it addresses the GAO-identified factors contributing to unreliability of appointment wait times by mandating the VA improve its medical appointment scheduling policy within 180 days of the bill’s enactment, according to Congressman McCarthy(Introduced 07/11/2013)
    • HR 2138

      Ending VA Claims Disability Backlog and Accountability Act

      Would implement the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office’s recommendations, which are a result of an audit that Congressman McCarthy requested based on the persistent and intolerable backlogs that local veterans face at the VA Los Angeles Regional Office and at VA facilities across the country, according to him(Introduced 05/23/2013)
    • HR 667

      Renaming the Dryden Flight Research Center

      -- *Bipartisan* -- To redesignate the Dryden Flight Research Center as the Neil A. Armstrong Flight Research Center and the Western Aeronautical Test Range as the Hugh L. Dryden Aeronautical Test Range. (Introduced 02/13/2013)

    You can find all the bills Majority Leader McCarthy has introduced and cosponsored on his profile page on POPVOX. And, you can learn about his Congressional District, CA-23

    Please keep in mind that highlighting a bill doesn't imply a POPVOX endorsement in any way. Rather, we're simply trying to offer one more way to stay informed of an overwhelmingly complex legislative system.

    (Photo Credits: Congressman McCarthy's website.)

  15. The Week Ahead: Sept. 2 - 5

    From our Hill Sources: It's the home stretch for August recess! Congress returns next week. Here are some issues that we're hearing about around the Hill.

    Political Money

    After recess, the Senate plans to vote on a Constitutional Amendment to reverse Supreme Court decisions related to campaign contributions like Citizens United v. FEC.

    • SJRes 19

      The Democracy for All Amendment

      "Would allow Congress to regulate the raising and spending of money, including so-called "Super PAC" independent expenditures, while giving states the same authority to regulate campaign finance at their level," according to the amendment sponsors. Restores authority to the American people, through Congress and the states, to regulate and limit the raising and spending of money for federal political campaigns; Allows states to regulate campaign spending at their level; Includes the authority to regulate and limit independent expenditures, like those from Super PACs; Would not dictate any specific policies or regulations, but instead would allow Congress to pass campaign finance reform legislation that withstands constitutional challenges; Expressly provides that any regulation authorized under the amendment cannot limit the freedom of the press.

    Background: "In 1976, the Court held in Buckley v. Valeo that restricting independent campaign expenditures violates the First Amendment right to free speech, essentially saying that money and speech are the same. Building on this flawed precedent, the Supreme Court decided in Citizens United v. FEC that corporations deserve the same free speech protections as individual Americans. Since then, corporations have been able to spend unlimited amounts of money on political activity and mostly negative campaign advertising. With the Court striking down the sensible regulations Congress has passed, the only way to address the root cause of this problem is to give Congress clear authority in the Constitution to regulate the campaign finance system," according to amendment sponsors.

    A version of the amendment has also been introduced in the House:

    • HJRes 119

      The Democracy for All Amendment

      "The Democracy for All Amendment is the product of months of collaboration between the House and Senate sponsors of earlier constitutional amendment proposals, constitutional scholars, and grassroots advocacy organizations committed to restoring the integrity of the American electoral process. In addition to overturning recent rulings like Citizens United and McCutcheon, the Democracy is for All Amendment also reverses the Supreme Court’s controversial holding in Buckley v. Valeo that spending money in elections is a form of speech protected by the First Amendment," according to amendment sponsors.

    Burger King and Tax Inversion

    This week, Burger King announced that it is buying the Canadian chain Tim Horton's -- and relocating its headquarters to Canada, a move that could lower its corporate taxes. According to accounting firm KPMG, total tax costs in Canada are 46.4% lower than in the US.

    Burger King isn't the first corporation to pursue this strategy, known as "tax inversion." Walgreens recently abandoned plans to pursue a tax inversion after negative publicity. Already, Burger King is receiving some angry responses. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) released a statement calling people to boycott Burger King:

    "Burger King’s decision to abandon the United States means consumers should turn to Wendy's Old Fashioned Hamburgers or White Castle sliders," Brown said. "Burger King has always said 'Have it Your Way'; well my way is to support two Ohio companies that haven’t abandoned their country or customers." Wendy's is based in Dublin, Ohio, while White Castle is headquartered in Columbus.

    Related Bills

    Members of Congress have introduced proposals related to corporate taxes and inversions:

    • HR 4679

      Stop Corporate Inversions Act

      (S 2360 in Senate) "Increases the needed percentage change in stock ownership from 20 percent to 50 percent and provides that the merged company will nevertheless continue to be treated as a domestic US company for tax purposes if management and control of the merged company remains in the US and either 25 percent of its employees or sales or assets are located in the US," according to bill sponsors. "Under current law, the merged company is treated as a foreign company if more than 20 percent of the stock of the merged company is owned by stockholders who were not stockholders of the US company or if the merged company has at least 25 percent of its employees, sales and assets where it is incorporated."  
    • S 250

      Corporate Tax Dodging Prevention Act

      Would eliminate the deferral of tax on the foreign-source income of US corporations for taxable years beginning after December 31, 2013; deny the foreign tax credit to large integrated oil companies that are dual capacity taxpayers; limit the offset of the foreign tax credit to income that is subject to US tax; and treat foreign corporations managed and controlled in the United States as domestic corporations for US tax purposes.
    • S 8

      End Wasteful Tax Loopholes Act

      Expresses the sense of the Senate that Congress should enact legislation to: (1) eliminate wasteful tax loopholes; (2) eliminate corporate tax loopholes and wasteful tax breaks for special interests; (3) enhance tax fairness by reforming or eliminating tax breaks that provide excessive benefits to millionaires and billionaires; (4) crack down on tax cheaters and close the tax gap; (5) use the revenue saved by curtailing tax loopholes to reduce the deficit and reform the federal tax code; (6) address provisions in the tax code that make it more profitable for companies to create jobs overseas than in the United States; and (7) reform the tax code in a manner that promotes job creation, competitiveness, and economic growth.
    • HR 694

      Corporate Tax Fairness Act

      "Would require US companies to pay taxes on all of their income by ending the deferral of foreign source income. Corporations would pay US taxes on their offshore profits as they are earned. Would take away the tax incentives for corporations to move jobs offshore or to shift profits offshore because the US would tax their profits no matter where they are generated," according to bill sponsors.
    • HR 4985

      Stop Corporate Expatriation and Invest in America's Infrastructure Act

      Would "put an end to corporate expatriations and devote the resulting revenue to the Highway Trust Fund. It will raise $19.5 billion in revenue over ten years and keep the Trust Fund solvent as Congress works on a long-term funding solution," according to bill sponsors.

    NATO responds to Russia

    NATO is sending a "spearhead rapid reaction" force to Ukraine. Meanwhile, President Obama will be in Wales this week meeting with NATO allies.

    In August, NATO Secretary General condemned the entry of Russian convoy into Ukraine "without the consent of the Ukrainian authorities and without any involvement of the International Committee of the Red Cross." "This is a blatant breach of Russia’s international commitments, including those made recently in Berlin and Geneva, and a further violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty by Russia." (Read the full statement.)

    This week, the NATO Secretary General announced that NATO was planning to assemble a “spearhead” force that would be able to “travel light but strike hard if needed” in the face of Russia’s increasingly aggressive behavior in eastern Ukraine. The new force would include several thousand rotating allied troops who would be ready to respond by air or sea with the aid of special forces. (Read his full statement.)

    Background: The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is an intergovernmental military alliance based on the North Atlantic Treaty which was signed on April 4, 1949. Its creation was part of a broader effort to serve three purposes: deterring Soviet expansionism, forbidding the revival of nationalist militarism in Europe through a strong North American presence on the continent, and encouraging European political integration, according to the NATO website.

    Bills Related to NATO

    With Congress in recess, there haven't been bills introduced related to the situation in Russia and NATO's response. However, here are some bills related to NATO itself:

    • HR 4346

      NATO Alliance Recognition and Promotion Act

      -- Bipartisan -- (And S 2283 in the Senate.) "Encourages enhanced security cooperation with America’s European allies and the continued enlargement of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization," according to bill sponsors. "It does so by reaffirming the commitment of the United States to collective defense under the NATO treaty, and by putting Congress on record that NATO members should review defense spending to ensure that it is sufficient and that the allies should continue to pursue enlargement initiatives for aspirant countries."
    • HR 4433

      Forging Peace Through Strength in Ukraine and the Transatlantic Alliance Act

      -- Bipartisan -- "Would condemn Russian aggression and illegal annexation of Crimea, while also seeking to reassure NATO allies and promote closer military cooperation with Ukraine," according to bill sponsors. Supports NATO enlargement and calls for The United States to seek immediate membership in NATO for Montenegro, a NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP) for Georgia, a diplomatic solution to disputes between Macedonia and Greece, and seeks a "Dayton II" agreement in order to resolve the constitutional issues of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Requires a plan to provide advice and assistance to the Ukrainian military to enhance their defensive preparations and posture.
    • S 2277

      Russian Aggression Prevention Act

      Would prevent additional aggression on the part of Russia by strengthening NATO, imposing new sanctions, and providing military aid to Ukraine. “Rather than react to events as they unfold, which has been the policy of this administration, we need to inflict more direct consequences on Russia prior to Vladimir Putin taking additional steps that will be very difficult to undo,” according to Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN).

    Student Loans

    The Senate is expected to vote again on the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act, which failed to move forward last June.

    The Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act enables students to refinance their loans, and lowers the loan rate by raising taxes on millionaires, according to the bill sponsor, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). "Allowing students to refinance their loans would put money back in the pockets of people who invested in their education." 

    • S 2432

      Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act

      Would allow those with outstanding student loan debt to refinance at the lower interest rates currently offered to new borrowers, according to the bill sponsor.

      From our Hill Sources: The Obama Administration strongly supports this bill. "The legislation would benefit an estimated 25 million Americans and save a typical borrower $2,000 over the life of his or her loan. It would strengthen the economy by offering relief to Americans who are working hard to pay back their student loans and launch careers, start families, or buy homes," according to a Statement of Administration Policy.

    Last week, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) urged Senators to pass the bill: “Student debt has reached the breaking point in this country. Far too many young people are looking at a lifetime of debt just because they wanted to do the right thing and get a college degree." (Read his full statement.) 

    Bills Related to Student Loans

    Weigh in on other bills related to student loan debt:

    • S 897

      Bank on Student Loan Fairness Act

      Strives to avoid the doubling of student loan interest rates by providing funds through the Federal Reserve System. Student loan interest rates would be made equivalent to interest rates for loans given to banks by the Federal Reserve.
    • HR 4236

      Student Loan Fair Prepayment Act

      -- Bipartisan -- Would amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 and The Truth in Lending Act by having extra payments on student loans directed to paying back the original amount. According to the bill sponsor, Congresswoman Susan Davis (D-CA), "this bill is about giving people more options on how they want their money applied to a student loan. Default payments need to be altered to the benefit of the borrower, who should get ahead when they pay ahead." 
    • HR 2574

      Keep Student Loans Affordable Act

      (Also S 1238 in the Senate.) Would extend the lowered interest rate of 3.4% on Federal Direct Stafford Loans for one year. According to the Senate HELP Committee Chairman, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), the bill is "a responsible solution to keep student loan rates affordable for middle-class students and families struggling to afford college...I believe we need to continue to work in a bipartisan way to maintain, not increase, student loan rates—and preserve our historical commitment to protecting students from outrageous interest rates.”

    Please keep in mind that highlighting a bill doesn't imply a POPVOX endorsement in any way. Rather, we're simply trying to offer one more way to stay informed of an overwhelmingly complex legislative system.

  16. Issue Spotlight: Greater Sage Grouse

    Meet the New Poster Bird: The Greater Sage Grouse

     Last week, the US Fish and Wildlife Service announced that it is initiating its formal status review of the greater sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act. The Center for Biological Diversity estimates that only a few hundred thousand birds survive, compared with its peak population of 16 million. The grouse depends on sagebrush to survive, which grows in areas that are perfect for oil and natural gas drilling, across 165 million acres across 11 states in the West. Energy companies are concerned that listing the grouse as "endangered" would hurt drilling opportunities and cost jobs.

    From our Hill Sources: According to the Fish and Wildlife Service, it "supports efforts to keep the greater sage-grouse off the endangered species list by protecting its habitat to increase sage-grouse numbers." Already, among Hill staffers, the grouse is quickly being considered "the new spotted owl" -- a reference to the controversy surrounding whether to list the Northern spotted owl, whose habitat overlapped with the Pacific Northwest's logging industry in the 1990s.

    Members of Congress have introduced several bills related to the greater sage grouse. Weigh in:

    • HR 4716

      Sage Grouse Protection and Conservation Act

      (And S 2394 in the Senate.) "Would prevent the Sage grouse from being listed under the Endangered Species Act for 10 years, and instead requires states to develop conservation management plans to meet the unique needs of the Sage grouse in each state," according to bill sponsors. "The Sage Grouse Protection and Conservation Act encourages states to work with the Departments of Interior and Agriculture throughout the species management process to ensure that all concerns about the recovery of the Sage grouse are met."
    • HR 4419

      Sage-Grouse and Endangered Species Conservation and Protection Act

      Would prevent sage grouse endangered species listing. "Would require the federal government to fund its fair share of conservation work before listing a species. As a funding mechanism, the bill would utilize the federal government’s own vast inventory of lands, providing for the competitive, market-rate sale of small parcels -- 160 acres or less -- to pay for conservation measures.The funds would be distributed to federal/state councils in states with 33 percent federal land or more. (According to bill sponsors.)
    • S 2575

      Sage-Grouse Accountability and Private Conservation Act

      "Requires the Interior Department to lay its cards on the table by making clear the metrics it will use to make a listing decision about the sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act. It requires a report to be released making all of the information public before a decision is made," according to the bill sponsor.
    • S 2768

      Emergency Fuel Reduction Act

      "Expedites the review process for wildfire prevention projects when risks on public lands pose a threat to critical infrastructure, private land holders, and endangered species habitats," according to bill sponsors. "Expediting the review process will protect local water resources, address a major habitat threat to the greater sage-grouse, and spur grazing and timber related economic development."
    • S 1731

      Endangered Species Management Self-Determination Act

      "Provides state governors with the power to regulate intrastate endangered species and intrastate threatened species," according to bill sponsors. As Sen. Heller explained, "in Nevada, we have been working hard to protect both the sage grouse and our economy, which is why I am working hard with the Governor, the delegation, and Nevadans to prevent a listing for the bird."

    Please keep in mind that highlighting a bill doesn't imply a POPVOX endorsement in any way. Rather, we're simply trying to offer one more way to stay informed of an overwhelmingly complex legislative system.

    Photo Credit: The US Fish & Wildlife Service

  17. The POPVOX Top 20: Aug 22 - 28, 2014

    The most active bill on POPVOX this week was the Responsible Body Armor Possession Act (HR 5344). According to the bill sponsor, it "allows law enforcement to respond to active shooters more effectively." The bill prohibits the sale, purchase, use, or possession of enhanced military-grade body armor by anyone who is not a member of law enforcement, active duty military, or other authorized users.

    Top 20 Bills of the Week

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    These are the bills and proposals that POPVOX users weighed in on with Congress in the past week. Keep in mind that these numbers aren't aggregates of total support, but just what happened in the past seven days.

    • HR 5344

      #1 Responsible Body Armor Possession Act

      To prohibit the sale, purchase, use, or possession of enhanced military-grade body armor by anyone who is not a member of law enforcement, active duty military, or other authorized users.

      18 Support | 1088 Oppose

    • S 1486

      #2 Postal Reform Act in the Senate

      -- Bipartisan --  The bill accomplishes three overarching goals: reduce operating costs; modernize its business model; and innovate to generate new revenue, according to bill sponsors. Would free the Postal Service from burdensome regulations and provide it the flexibility needed to responsibly manage postal employee obligations and benefits. Would slow the implementation of further cuts to allow cost saving and revenue increasing provisions in the new law to be carried out. Would give the Postal Service greater flexibility in how it calculates its rates. (Currently, USPS can not raise its rates more than the amount of the increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI).) -- Passed by Committee on Feb. 6, 2014, but has yet to be considered by the full Senate. -- 

      54 Support | 189 Oppose

    • SRes 225

      #3 Establishing a Joint Select Committee on Benghazi

      A resolution to express the sense of the Senate that Congress should establish a joint select committee to investigate and report on the attack on the United States diplomatic facility and American personnel in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012.

      160 Support | 32 Oppose

    • HRes 711

      #4 Resolution Ensuring Door Delivery

      -- Bipartisan -- "Would put the House on record as supporting the continuation of door-to-door delivery of our mail," according to the resolution's sponsor. "Postal reform efforts in both the House and the Senate call for the elimination of door delivery over the next six years. Instead of getting mail at their door, residents would be forced to pick up their mail at shared cluster boxes, many of which are in unsecure locations, poorly maintained and far from people’s homes. Seniors and people with disabilities would be most be hurt by the forced adoption of cluster boxes especially for getting their prescriptions."

      133 Support | 55 Oppose

    • HR 5226

      #5 Charlotte’s Web Medical Hemp Act

      --*Bipartisan*-- Would "ensure that children and individuals with epilepsy and other debilitating seizure disorders have access to life-changing Cannabidiol (CBD) Oil and therapeutic hemp." According to the bill sponsor, this legislation "in no way federally legalizes the recreational use of marijuana, nor is CBD marijuana; rather, the bill is an incremental approach to providing relief to those suffering from ailments that could benefit from CBD oil and therapeutic hemp." It also doesn’t legalize all forms of marijuana for medical use. It removes CBD oil and therapeutic hemp from the federal definition of marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act. Therapeutic hemp is defined as having no more than .3% THC, which means it has no hallucinogenic effects of traditional marijuana.

      153 Support | 4 Oppose

    • HR 2748

      #6 Postal Reform Act in the House

      -- Bipartisan --  Prevents taxpayer bailouts. Allows the Postal Service to maintain Saturday delivery of packages and medicine while phasing out the Saturday delivery of mail -- like bills and advertisements, saving at least $2 billion annually. Allows the Postal Service to forgo past due payments owed to prefund retiree health care benefits, and will eliminate the FY 2013 and FY 2014 payments as well. Will replace the current part-time Board of Governors with a temporary panel of 5 full-time executives that have a clear mandate to turn around the agency and implement cost-cutting reforms. Will begin to standardize how mail is received around the nation by phasing out the expensive “to the door” delivery of mail, which only a quarter of addresses receive today, in favor of curbside and secure clusterbox delivery -– the delivery modes more than 70 percent of the nation already receive, saving $4 billion or more annually. Eliminates the ability of the national and state political committees to use the non-profit mail rate. (See full summary, according to bill sponsors.) -- Passed by Committee on July 24, 2013, but has yet to be considered by the full House. -- 

      75 Support | 81 Oppose

    • HR 4896

      #7 Do Your Job Act

      Would require Congress to approve a budget that balances within ten years and pass all of its annual spending bills before members can leave Washington for any recess periods, according to bill sponsor.

      147 Support | 7 Oppose

    • Draft

      #8 Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act (Draft bill)

      Would "end the free transfers of certain aggressive military equipment to local law enforcement and ensure that all equipment can be accounted for," according to the bill sponsor, Rep. Henry "Hank" Johnson (D-GA). The bill targets a Pentagon surplus program that transfers military equipment like mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles to local governments, including MRAPs (Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicles. (Read bill text.)

      122 Support | 25 Oppose

    • HR 1318

      #9 Youth PROMISE Act (Prison Reduction through Opportunities, Mentoring, Intervention, Support, and Education Act)

      -- Bipartisan --  "Under the Youth PROMISE Act, communities facing the greatest youth gang and crime challenges will be able to develop a comprehensive response to youth violence through a coordinated prevention and intervention response. Representatives from local law enforcement, the school system, court services, social services, health and mental health providers, the business community, and other public and private community and faith-based organizations will form a council to assess the problems and costs the community incurs as a result of youth violence, crime , and social welfare for teen pregnancy," according to bill sponsors.

      46 Support | 100 Oppose

    • S 2313

      #10 Do Your Job Act

      Would require Congress to approve a budget that balances within ten years and pass all of its annual spending bills before members can leave Washington for any recess periods, according to bill sponsor.

      136 Support | 2 Oppose

    • SRes 530

      #11 Resolution calling for action to protect Iraqi Christians

      --*Bipartisan*-- (And HRes 683 in the House) Expressing the sense of the House on the current situation in Iraq and the urgent need to protect religious minorities from persecution from the Sunni Islamist insurgent and terrorist group the Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (ISIL) as it expands its control over areas in northwestern Iraq.

      99 Support | 18 Oppose

    • HR 5336

      #12 MEMORY Act

      --*Bipartisan*-- “Would ensure that unit commanders document events that individual service members are exposed to which might later be connected to PTS, mTBI, or other injuries. The DoD would then furnish these Significant Event entries to the VA to ensure better treatment for veterans and faster processing of claims. The SET Act would allow unit commanders and their delegates to report unit and individual exposures to traumatic events. By creating an individualized SET, injuries that are not currently documented through physical injuries, awards, or other service-related means will now be included on an individual’s medical history”, according to bill sponsor.

      74 Support | 37 Oppose

    • HR 4679

      #13 Stop Corporate Inversions Act

      (S 2360 in Senate) "Increases the needed percentage change in stock ownership from 20 percent to 50 percent and provides that the merged company will nevertheless continue to be treated as a domestic US company for tax purposes if management and control of the merged company remains in the US and either 25 percent of its employees or sales or assets are located in the US," according to bill sponsors. "Under current law, the merged company is treated as a foreign company if more than 20 percent of the stock of the merged company is owned by stockholders who were not stockholders of the US company or if the merged company has at least 25 percent of its employees, sales and assets where it is incorporated."  

      37 Support | 72 Oppose

    • HR 5179

      #14 POSTAL Act

      Would allow the Postal Service to offer basic financial services. "Post office customers would be able to open checking accounts, deposit funds in an interest-bearing savings account, and receive small-dollar loans. The bill would also require that the Postal Service offer customers a convenient “Postal Card” that functions as a debit card and allows them to engage in in-store, mobile, and online transactions," according to the bill sponsor.

      31 Support | 76 Oppose

    • HR 4934

      #15 Regulatory Agency Demilitarization Act

      This bill “repeals the arrest and firearm authority granted to Offices of Inspectors General in the 2002 Homeland Security Act, Prohibits federal agencies, other than those traditionally tasked with enforcing federal law—such as the FBI and U.S. Marshals, from purchasing machine guns, grenades, and other weaponry regulated under the National Firearms Act and Directs the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to write a complete report detailing all federal agencies, including Offices of Inspectors General, with specialized units that receive special tactical or military-style training and that respond to high-risk situations that fall outside the capabilities of regular law enforcement officers.” according to the bill sponsor.

      93 Support | 2 Oppose

    • HR 4599

      #16 Authorizing Military Force

      To authorize the use of force against those nations, organizations, or persons responsible for the attack against United States personnel in Benghazi, Libya.

      83 Support | 9 Oppose

    • HR 4716

      #17 Sage Grouse Protection and Conservation Act

      (And S 2394 in the Senate.) "Would prevent the Sage grouse from being listed under the Endangered Species Act for 10 years, and instead requires states to develop conservation management plans to meet the unique needs of the Sage grouse in each state," according to bill sponsors. "The Sage Grouse Protection and Conservation Act encourages states to work with the Departments of Interior and Agriculture throughout the species management process to ensure that all concerns about the recovery of the Sage grouse are met."

      21 Support | 71 Oppose

    • HR 1718

      #18 United States Postal Service Shipping Equity Act

      Would give the US Postal Service the authority to mail wine and beer. From our Hill Sources: A Prohibition-era law drafted in 1909 bans shipping any “spirituous, vinous, malted, fermented or other intoxicating liquors of any kind” by mail.

      77 Support | 13 Oppose

    • HR 630

      #19 Postal Service Protection Act

      -- Bipartisan -- (And S 316 in the Senate.) Fix the immediate fiscal problem of the Postal Service by ending the pre-funding mandate and allowing the Postal Service to recover pension overpayments. Would establish a permanent legislative requirement that USPS deliver mail on Saturdays. Would re-establish overnight delivery standards for delivering first class mail which would ensure the timely delivery of mail, keep mail processing facilities open, and protect jobs. Would give the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) binding authority to prevent post offices from being closed based on the effect on the community and the effect on the employees. Establish new ways the Postal Service can generate revenue, by ending the prohibition on providing new products and services, such as shipping wine and beer. Would eliminate the current rate increase limitation that ties yearly increases to CPI. (According to bill sponsor.)

      53 Support | 37 Oppose

    • S 250

      #20 Corporate Tax Dodging Prevention Act

      Would eliminate the deferral of tax on the foreign-source income of US corporations for taxable years beginning after December 31, 2013; deny the foreign tax credit to large integrated oil companies that are dual capacity taxpayers; limit the offset of the foreign tax credit to income that is subject to US tax; and treat foreign corporations managed and controlled in the United States as domestic corporations for US tax purposes.

      43 Support | 45 Oppose

    Please keep in mind that highlighting a bill doesn't imply a POPVOX endorsement in any way. Rather, we're simply trying to offer one more way to stay informed of an overwhelmingly complex legislative system.

  18. Issue Spotlight: Postal Service Reform

    "You've got mail!" Postal Reform

    This month, the US Postal Service reported a two percent revenue increase -- but a $2.0 billion loss in Quarter Three, and announced plans to cut 15,000 jobs and consolidate 82 mail-processing centers in 2015. The Postal Service has already consolidated 141 mail-processing facilities since 2012.

    Last week, 50 Senators sent a letter to the Appropriations Committee leadership urging them to block additional Postal Service cutbacks in appropriations legislation to fund the government and avoid a shutdown -- and block for one year any Postal Service plans to consolidate more mail-processing facilities. They also proposed a moratorium on any more reductions, which would slow first-class mail service, through fiscal 2015. (A similar letter is being circulated in the House.) Instead, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman urged his colleagues in Congress to instead enact comprehensive postal reforms "before it's too late.”

    Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) have proposed different approaches to streamline and modernize the Postal Service:

    • S 1486

      Postal Reform Act in the Senate

      -- Bipartisan --  The bill accomplishes three overarching goals: reduce operating costs; modernize its business model; and innovate to generate new revenue, according to bill sponsors. Would free the Postal Service from burdensome regulations and provide it the flexibility needed to responsibly manage postal employee obligations and benefits. Would slow the implementation of further cuts to allow cost saving and revenue increasing provisions in the new law to be carried out. Would give the Postal Service greater flexibility in how it calculates its rates. (Currently, USPS can not raise its rates more than the amount of the increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI).) -- Passed by Committee on Feb. 6, 2014, but has yet to be considered by the full Senate. -- 
    • HR 2748

      Postal Reform Act in the House

      -- Bipartisan --  Prevents taxpayer bailouts. Allows the Postal Service to maintain Saturday delivery of packages and medicine while phasing out the Saturday delivery of mail -- like bills and advertisements, saving at least $2 billion annually. Allows the Postal Service to forgo past due payments owed to prefund retiree health care benefits, and will eliminate the FY 2013 and FY 2014 payments as well. Will replace the current part-time Board of Governors with a temporary panel of 5 full-time executives that have a clear mandate to turn around the agency and implement cost-cutting reforms. Will begin to standardize how mail is received around the nation by phasing out the expensive “to the door” delivery of mail, which only a quarter of addresses receive today, in favor of curbside and secure clusterbox delivery -– the delivery modes more than 70 percent of the nation already receive, saving $4 billion or more annually. Eliminates the ability of the national and state political committees to use the non-profit mail rate. (See full summary, according to bill sponsors.) -- Passed by Committee on July 24, 2013, but has yet to be considered by the full House. -- 

    From our Hill Sources: Both the Senate and House versions would save $17 billion over ten years. However, the House version focuses on reducing operation costs, including reducing health and life insurance premium contributions ($2 billion) and eliminating the free and reduced-rate mail ($1 billion). The Senate version instead raises nearly $16 billion from a 4.3 percent stamp price increase.

    Additionally, Members of Congress have introduced other proposals to reform the Postal Service:

    • HRes 711

      Resolution Ensuring Door Delivery

      -- Bipartisan -- "Would put the House on record as supporting the continuation of door-to-door delivery of our mail," according to the resolution's sponsor. "Postal reform efforts in both the House and the Senate call for the elimination of door delivery over the next six years. Instead of getting mail at their door, residents would be forced to pick up their mail at shared cluster boxes, many of which are in unsecure locations, poorly maintained and far from people’s homes. Seniors and people with disabilities would be most be hurt by the forced adoption of cluster boxes especially for getting their prescriptions."
    • HR 2615

      Securing Access to Rural Postal Services Act

      -- Bipartisan --  Would ensure rural service is not inappropriately targeted by capping closures and consolidations of small post offices at 5 percent in any given year, according to bill sponsors.
    • HR 1718

      United States Postal Service Shipping Equity Act

      Would give the US Postal Service the authority to mail wine and beer. 

      From our Hill Sources: A Prohibition-era law drafted in 1909 bans shipping any “spirituous, vinous, malted, fermented or other intoxicating liquors of any kind” by mail.

    • HR 961

      United States Postal Service Stabilization Act

      "Would address the billions of dollars that the agency has overpaid to the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) liabilities and return the overpayment surplus to the Postal Service so that it can better meet its financial obligations," according to the bill sponsor.
    • HR 5179

      POSTAL Act

      Would allow the Postal Service to offer basic financial services. "Post office customers would be able to open checking accounts, deposit funds in an interest-bearing savings account, and receive small-dollar loans. The bill would also require that the Postal Service offer customers a convenient “Postal Card” that functions as a debit card and allows them to engage in in-store, mobile, and online transactions," according to the bill sponsor.
    • HR 3963

      FLEET Act

      Would require the USPS to reduce their petroleum consumption by 2% each year over the next 10 years, saving an estimated 150 million gallons of fuel over the next ten years—about $400 million, according to the bill sponsor.
    • HR 2690

      Innovate to Deliver Act

      Would authorize the Postal Service to expand its non-postal products and services, including check-cashing, public internet access, and warehousing services. Would establish the position of Chief Innovation Officer to manage the development and implementation of these innovative services, according to the bill sponsor.
    • HR 2459

      Protect Overnight Delivery Act

      "Would protect overnight postal delivery by preventing the Postal Service from weakening delivery standards. Moving from overnight to two or three day delivery standards will not only slow mail delivery, it will result in 508 closed processing facilities and an estimated 30,000 jobs lost," according to the bill sponsor.
    • HR 5377

      Postal Facilities Preservation and Sales Reform Act

      "Would reform the way the Postal Service goes about selling their properties, and will implement expert recommendations to protect historic post offices that are on the National Register of Historic Places," according to the bill sponsor.
    • HR 4670

      Secure Delivery for America Act

      Converts 15 million current door delivery addresses to an even division of Secure Clusterbox and Curbside delivery. (See bill summary from sponsor.)
    • HR 5377

      Postal Facilities Preservation and Sales Reform Act

      "The Postal Service currently sells their properties in a process that is not open, transparent, or consistent with their obligations under the law," according to the bill sponsor. "In some cases, their actions endanger historic artwork and buildings. This legislation ends these problematic practices and creates protections that will ensure that the public is informed when the Postal Service attempts to sell property in their areas, and that historic public properties are protected if sold into the private sector."
    • HR 630

      Postal Service Protection Act

      -- Bipartisan -- (And S 316 in the Senate.) Fix the immediate fiscal problem of the Postal Service by ending the pre-funding mandate and allowing the Postal Service to recover pension overpayments. Would establish a permanent legislative requirement that USPS deliver mail on Saturdays. Would re-establish overnight delivery standards for delivering first class mail which would ensure the timely delivery of mail, keep mail processing facilities open, and protect jobs. Would give the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) binding authority to prevent post offices from being closed based on the effect on the community and the effect on the employees. Establish new ways the Postal Service can generate revenue, by ending the prohibition on providing new products and services, such as shipping wine and beer. Would eliminate the current rate increase limitation that ties yearly increases to CPI. (According to bill sponsor.)

    Please keep in mind that highlighting a bill doesn't imply a POPVOX endorsement in any way. Rather, we're simply trying to offer one more way to stay informed of an overwhelmingly complex legislative system.

  19. Issue Spotlight: Burger King and Tax Inversions

    This week, Burger King announced that it is buying the Canadian chain Tim Horton's -- and relocating its headquarters to Canada, a move that could lower its corporate taxes. According to accounting firm KPMG, total tax costs in Canada are 46.4% lower than in the US.

    Burger King isn't the first corporation to pursue this strategy, known as "tax inversion." Walgreens recently abandoned plans to pursue a tax inversion after negative publicity. Already, Burger King is receiving some angry responses. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) released a statement calling people to boycott Burger King:

    "Burger King’s decision to abandon the United States means consumers should turn to Wendy's Old Fashioned Hamburgers or White Castle sliders," Brown said. "Burger King has always said 'Have it Your Way'; well my way is to support two Ohio companies that haven’t abandoned their country or customers." Wendy's is based in Dublin, Ohio, while White Castle is headquartered in Columbus.

    Related Bills

    Members of Congress have introduced proposals related to corporate taxes and inversions:

    • HR 4679

      Stop Corporate Inversions Act

      (S 2360 in Senate) "Increases the needed percentage change in stock ownership from 20 percent to 50 percent and provides that the merged company will nevertheless continue to be treated as a domestic US company for tax purposes if management and control of the merged company remains in the US and either 25 percent of its employees or sales or assets are located in the US," according to bill sponsors. "Under current law, the merged company is treated as a foreign company if more than 20 percent of the stock of the merged company is owned by stockholders who were not stockholders of the US company or if the merged company has at least 25 percent of its employees, sales and assets where it is incorporated."  
    • S 250

      Corporate Tax Dodging Prevention Act

      Would eliminate the deferral of tax on the foreign-source income of US corporations for taxable years beginning after December 31, 2013; deny the foreign tax credit to large integrated oil companies that are dual capacity taxpayers; limit the offset of the foreign tax credit to income that is subject to US tax; and treat foreign corporations managed and controlled in the United States as domestic corporations for US tax purposes.
    • S 8

      End Wasteful Tax Loopholes Act

      Expresses the sense of the Senate that Congress should enact legislation to: (1) eliminate wasteful tax loopholes; (2) eliminate corporate tax loopholes and wasteful tax breaks for special interests; (3) enhance tax fairness by reforming or eliminating tax breaks that provide excessive benefits to millionaires and billionaires; (4) crack down on tax cheaters and close the tax gap; (5) use the revenue saved by curtailing tax loopholes to reduce the deficit and reform the federal tax code; (6) address provisions in the tax code that make it more profitable for companies to create jobs overseas than in the United States; and (7) reform the tax code in a manner that promotes job creation, competitiveness, and economic growth.
    • HR 694

      Corporate Tax Fairness Act

      "Would require US companies to pay taxes on all of their income by ending the deferral of foreign source income. Corporations would pay US taxes on their offshore profits as they are earned. Would take away the tax incentives for corporations to move jobs offshore or to shift profits offshore because the US would tax their profits no matter where they are generated," according to bill sponsors.
    • HR 4985

      Stop Corporate Expatriation and Invest in America's Infrastructure Act

      Would "put an end to corporate expatriations and devote the resulting revenue to the Highway Trust Fund. It will raise $19.5 billion in revenue over ten years and keep the Trust Fund solvent as Congress works on a long-term funding solution," according to bill sponsors.

    Please keep in mind that highlighting a bill doesn't imply a POPVOX endorsement in any way. Rather, we're simply trying to offer one more way to stay informed of an overwhelmingly complex legislative system.

     

  20. The Week Ahead: Aug. 25 - 29

    From our Hill Sources: It's still August recess -- but Congress will be back in session on Sept. 8th. See what's waiting for them to return.) With Congress away, we wanted to spotlight a few emerging issues: postal service reform; the investigation on the US Consulate attack in Benghazi; and the Greater Sage Grouse.

    "You've got mail!" Postal Reform

    This month, the US Postal Service reported a two percent revenue increase -- but a $2.0 billion loss in Quarter Three, and announced plans to cut 15,000 jobs and consolidate 82 mail-processing centers in 2015. The Postal Service has already consolidated 141 mail-processing facilities since 2012.

    Last week, 50 Senators sent a letter to the Appropriations Committee leadership urging them to block additional Postal Service cutbacks in appropriations legislation to fund the government and avoid a shutdown -- and block for one year any Postal Service plans to consolidate more mail-processing facilities. They also proposed a moratorium on any more reductions, which would slow first-class mail service, through fiscal 2015. (A similar letter is being circulated in the House.) Instead, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman urged his colleagues in Congress to instead enact comprehensive postal reforms "before it's too late.”

    Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) have proposed different approaches to streamline and modernize the Postal Service:

    • S 1486

      Postal Reform Act in the Senate

      -- Bipartisan --  The bill accomplishes three overarching goals: reduce operating costs; modernize its business model; and innovate to generate new revenue, according to bill sponsors. Would free the Postal Service from burdensome regulations and provide it the flexibility needed to responsibly manage postal employee obligations and benefits. Would slow the implementation of further cuts to allow cost saving and revenue increasing provisions in the new law to be carried out. Would give the Postal Service greater flexibility in how it calculates its rates. (Currently, USPS can not raise its rates more than the amount of the increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI).) -- Passed by Committee on Feb. 6, 2014, but has yet to be considered by the full Senate. -- 
    • HR 2748

      Postal Reform Act in the House

      -- Bipartisan --  Prevents taxpayer bailouts. Allows the Postal Service to maintain Saturday delivery of packages and medicine while phasing out the Saturday delivery of mail -- like bills and advertisements, saving at least $2 billion annually. Allows the Postal Service to forgo past due payments owed to prefund retiree health care benefits, and will eliminate the FY 2013 and FY 2014 payments as well. Will replace the current part-time Board of Governors with a temporary panel of 5 full-time executives that have a clear mandate to turn around the agency and implement cost-cutting reforms. Will begin to standardize how mail is received around the nation by phasing out the expensive “to the door” delivery of mail, which only a quarter of addresses receive today, in favor of curbside and secure clusterbox delivery -– the delivery modes more than 70 percent of the nation already receive, saving $4 billion or more annually. Eliminates the ability of the national and state political committees to use the non-profit mail rate. (See full summary, according to bill sponsors.) -- Passed by Committee on July 24, 2013, but has yet to be considered by the full House. -- 

    From our Hill Sources: Both the Senate and House versions would save $17 billion over ten years. However, the House version focuses on reducing operation costs, including reducing health and life insurance premium contributions ($2 billion) and eliminating the free and reduced-rate mail ($1 billion). The Senate version instead raises nearly $16 billion from a 4.3 percent stamp price increase.

    Additionally, Members of Congress have introduced other proposals to reform the Postal Service:

    • HRes 711

      Resolution Ensuring Door Delivery

      -- Bipartisan -- "Would put the House on record as supporting the continuation of door-to-door delivery of our mail," according to the resolution's sponsor. "Postal reform efforts in both the House and the Senate call for the elimination of door delivery over the next six years. Instead of getting mail at their door, residents would be forced to pick up their mail at shared cluster boxes, many of which are in unsecure locations, poorly maintained and far from people’s homes. Seniors and people with disabilities would be most be hurt by the forced adoption of cluster boxes especially for getting their prescriptions."
    • HR 2615

      Securing Access to Rural Postal Services Act

      -- Bipartisan --  Would ensure rural service is not inappropriately targeted by capping closures and consolidations of small post offices at 5 percent in any given year, according to bill sponsors.
    • HR 1718

      United States Postal Service Shipping Equity Act

      Would give the US Postal Service the authority to mail wine and beer. 

      From our Hill Sources: A Prohibition-era law drafted in 1909 bans shipping any “spirituous, vinous, malted, fermented or other intoxicating liquors of any kind” by mail.

    • HR 961

      United States Postal Service Stabilization Act

      "Would address the billions of dollars that the agency has overpaid to the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) liabilities and return the overpayment surplus to the Postal Service so that it can better meet its financial obligations," according to the bill sponsor.
    • HR 5179

      POSTAL Act

      Would allow the Postal Service to offer basic financial services. "Post office customers would be able to open checking accounts, deposit funds in an interest-bearing savings account, and receive small-dollar loans. The bill would also require that the Postal Service offer customers a convenient “Postal Card” that functions as a debit card and allows them to engage in in-store, mobile, and online transactions," according to the bill sponsor.
    • HR 3963

      FLEET Act

      Would require the USPS to reduce their petroleum consumption by 2% each year over the next 10 years, saving an estimated 150 million gallons of fuel over the next ten years—about $400 million, according to the bill sponsor.
    • HR 2690

      Innovate to Deliver Act

      Would authorize the Postal Service to expand its non-postal products and services, including check-cashing, public internet access, and warehousing services. Would establish the position of Chief Innovation Officer to manage the development and implementation of these innovative services, according to the bill sponsor.
    • HR 2459

      Protect Overnight Delivery Act

      "Would protect overnight postal delivery by preventing the Postal Service from weakening delivery standards. Moving from overnight to two or three day delivery standards will not only slow mail delivery, it will result in 508 closed processing facilities and an estimated 30,000 jobs lost," according to the bill sponsor.
    • HR 5377

      Postal Facilities Preservation and Sales Reform Act

      "Would reform the way the Postal Service goes about selling their properties, and will implement expert recommendations to protect historic post offices that are on the National Register of Historic Places," according to the bill sponsor.
    • HR 4670

      Secure Delivery for America Act

      Converts 15 million current door delivery addresses to an even division of Secure Clusterbox and Curbside delivery. (See bill summary from sponsor.)
    • HR 5377

      Postal Facilities Preservation and Sales Reform Act

      "The Postal Service currently sells their properties in a process that is not open, transparent, or consistent with their obligations under the law," according to the bill sponsor. "In some cases, their actions endanger historic artwork and buildings. This legislation ends these problematic practices and creates protections that will ensure that the public is informed when the Postal Service attempts to sell property in their areas, and that historic public properties are protected if sold into the private sector."
    • HR 630

      Postal Service Protection Act

      -- Bipartisan -- (And S 316 in the Senate.) Fix the immediate fiscal problem of the Postal Service by ending the pre-funding mandate and allowing the Postal Service to recover pension overpayments. Would establish a permanent legislative requirement that USPS deliver mail on Saturdays. Would re-establish overnight delivery standards for delivering first class mail which would ensure the timely delivery of mail, keep mail processing facilities open, and protect jobs. Would give the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) binding authority to prevent post offices from being closed based on the effect on the community and the effect on the employees. Establish new ways the Postal Service can generate revenue, by ending the prohibition on providing new products and services, such as shipping wine and beer. Would eliminate the current rate increase limitation that ties yearly increases to CPI. (According to bill sponsor.)

    New Poster Bird: Greater Sage Grouse

     Last week, the US Fish and Wildlife Service announced that it is initiating its formal status review of the greater sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act. The Center for Biological Diversity estimates that only a few hundred thousand birds survive, compared with its peak population of 16 million. The grouse depends on sagebrush to survive, which grows in areas that are perfect for oil and natural gas drilling, across 165 million acres across 11 states in the West. Energy companies are concerned that listing the grouse as "endangered" would hurt drilling opportunities and cost jobs.

    From our Hill Sources: According to the Fish and Wildlife Service, it "supports efforts to keep the greater sage-grouse off the endangered species list by protecting its habitat to increase sage-grouse numbers." Already, among Hill staffers, the grouse is quickly being considered "the new spotted owl" -- a reference to the controversy surrounding whether to list the Northern spotted owl, whose habitat overlapped with the Pacific Northwest's logging industry in the 1990s.

    Members of Congress have introduced several bills related to the greater sage grouse. Weigh in:

    • HR 4716

      Sage Grouse Protection and Conservation Act

      (And S 2394 in the Senate.) "Would prevent the Sage grouse from being listed under the Endangered Species Act for 10 years, and instead requires states to develop conservation management plans to meet the unique needs of the Sage grouse in each state," according to bill sponsors. "The Sage Grouse Protection and Conservation Act encourages states to work with the Departments of Interior and Agriculture throughout the species management process to ensure that all concerns about the recovery of the Sage grouse are met."
    • HR 4419

      Sage-Grouse and Endangered Species Conservation and Protection Act

      Would prevent sage grouse endangered species listing. "Would require the federal government to fund its fair share of conservation work before listing a species. As a funding mechanism, the bill would utilize the federal government’s own vast inventory of lands, providing for the competitive, market-rate sale of small parcels -- 160 acres or less -- to pay for conservation measures.The funds would be distributed to federal/state councils in states with 33 percent federal land or more. (According to bill sponsors.)
    • S 2575

      Sage-Grouse Accountability and Private Conservation Act

      "Requires the Interior Department to lay its cards on the table by making clear the metrics it will use to make a listing decision about the sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act. It requires a report to be released making all of the information public before a decision is made," according to the bill sponsor.
    • S 2768

      Emergency Fuel Reduction Act

      "Expedites the review process for wildfire prevention projects when risks on public lands pose a threat to critical infrastructure, private land holders, and endangered species habitats," according to bill sponsors. "Expediting the review process will protect local water resources, address a major habitat threat to the greater sage-grouse, and spur grazing and timber related economic development."
    • S 1731

      Endangered Species Management Self-Determination Act

      "Provides state governors with the power to regulate intrastate endangered species and intrastate threatened species," according to bill sponsors. As Sen. Heller explained, "in Nevada, we have been working hard to protect both the sage grouse and our economy, which is why I am working hard with the Governor, the delegation, and Nevadans to prevent a listing for the bird."

    The Benghazi Select Committee

    A House Resolution (HRes 567) authorized and directed a Select Committee to conduct a full and complete investigation and study of the events surrounding the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi and issue a final report of its findings to the House. Last week, Representative Trey Gowdy (R-SC), chairman of the committee, hired Lt. Gen. Dana K. Chipman as its chief counsel to lead the investigation. Rep. Gowdy also announced that the Committee would hold its first public hearing in September, after members return from the August recess.

    From our Hill Sources: Many are questioning the slow progress of the committee's investigation, which was authorized in May. This month, the House Intelligence Committee concluded that there was no deliberate wrongdoing by the Obama administration in the 2012 attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans:

    "This report shows that there was no intelligence failure surrounding the Benghazi attacks that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other brave Americans. Our investigation found the Intelligence Community warned about an increased threat environment, but did not have specific tactical warning of an attack before it happened, Americans which is consistent with testimony that the attacks appeared to be opportunistic. It also found that a mixed group of individuals including those associated with Al-Qaeda, Qadafi loyalists and other Libyan militias participated in the attack. Additionally, the report shows there was no “stand down order” given to American personnel attempting to offer assistance that evening, and no American was left behind," according to the Ranking Member of the Intelligence Committee, Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD).

    "The report also shows that the process used to develop the talking points was flawed, but that the talking points reflected the conflicting intelligence assessments in the days immediately following the crisis. Finally, the report demonstrates that there was no illegal activity or illegal arms sales occurring at U.S. facilities in Benghazi. And there was absolutely no evidence, in documents or testimony, that the Intelligence Community’s assessments were politically motivated in any way."

    The Intelligence Committee's bipartisan report, adopted unanimously on July 31, 2014, is pending review by the intelligence agencies for declassification.

    Members of Congress have introduced several bills related to Benghazi. Weigh in:

    Please keep in mind that highlighting a bill doesn't imply a POPVOX endorsement in any way. Rather, we're simply trying to offer one more way to stay informed of an overwhelmingly complex legislative system.

    Photo credit: The US Fish & Wildlife Service