POPVOX WeeklyUpdate

The Week Ahead in Congress: Feb. 8-13, 2016

It’s Budget Week in Washington, with the President’s proposal to be released on Tuesday. In a break with tradition, neither House or Senate Budget Committees will hold hearings. This week the Senate will take up a bill calling for investigations of North Korea's nuclear activities. The House will vote on expansions of programs for veterans' health and vocational training. The House will also consider a bill limiting NSF funding to proposals within the “national interest," a bill requiring the Treasury Department to present a plan to reduce the national debt, and a bill amending new FDA rules that require menu labeling and calorie counts for restaurants.


In the Senate:

Requiring Investigations of North Korea Nuclear Threat


The Senate will take up a House-passed bill to require the President to investigate threats by North Korea. 
 

H.R. 757: THE NORTH KOREA SANCTIONS ENFORCEMENT ACT
Sponsor: Rep. Ed Royce [R, CA-39]       BIPARTISAN     

This bill requires the President to investigate any credible information of sanctionable activities involving North Korea and to designate and apply sanctions with respect to any person (including entities) knowingly engaging in or contributing to activities in North Korea, through export or import, which involve weapons of mass destruction, significant arms or related materiel, significant luxury goods, money laundering, censorship, or human rights abuses.

 

 

In the House:

A "national Interest" test for science funding


A bill from the chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology would place new requirements on funding at the National Science Foundation (NSF).
 

H.R. 3293: SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH IN THE NATIONAL INTEREST ACT
Sponsor: Rep. Lamar Smith [R, TX-21]       BIPARTISAN     


According to the sponsor, the bipartisan bill would:

"ensure that the National Science Foundation (NSF) is accountable to the taxpayers about how their hard-earned dollars are spent.  The bill requires that each NSF public announcement of a grant award be accompanied by a non-technical explanation of the project’s scientific merits and how it serves the national interest.  This written justification is intended to affirm NSF’s determination that a project is worthy of taxpayer support, based on scientific merit and serves the national interest."

The bill offers a seven-point test of “national interest," if the project: increases the nation’s economic competitiveness, advances Americans’ health and welfare, develops a national science and technology workforce that is globally competitive, increases Americans’ science and technology literacy or engagement, increases academia’s connection with industry, supports national defense, or promotes the progress of science in the U.S.

Science magazine reports that opponents of the bill “think that the legislation is a way to apply a political litmus test that would allow [limits on] research by social scientists and those studying climate change.”


Requiring a Debt Ceiling report and plan


The House will also consider a bill that sets up a “communication framework” for communicating information and plans to Congress around the debt ceiling. The Budget Deal signed in November suspended the $18.1 trillion debt limit until March 15, 2017, so the limit will not be reached again in the Obama Presidency. 
 

H.R. 3442: DEBT MANAGEMENT AND FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY ACT OF 2015
Sponsor: Rep. Kenny Marchant [R, TX-24]       BIPARTISAN     

The bill would apply to future presidents, and require the Treasury Secretary to present:

  • a Debt Report to Congress on the state of the national debt, including its composition and trajectory, as well as the Administration's plans to meet debt obligations in the event that Congress agrees to raise the debt limit.
  • a Statement of Intent on how the Administration proposes to reduce the debt and the debt to GDP ratio. Additionally, the statement would address the impacts of the increased limit on factors such as our reserve currency status and the sustainability of entitlements.
  • a Progress Report on the implementation of the Statement of Intent proposals by the Administration to reduce U.S. debt levels at subsequent appearances.

Amending FDA Rules on nutrition labeling 


A bill from the House GOP Conference chair would allow flexibility on new nutrition disclosure rules for restaurants.
 

H.R. 2017: COMMON SENSE NUTRITION DISCLOSURE ACT OF 2015
Sponsor: Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers [R, WA-5]  
 BIPARTISAN     

The bill would affect new FDA guidelines, scheduled to go into effect in December 2016, requiring fast-food restaurants, movie theaters, grocery stores and other locations that sell ready-to-eat single servings of food to list calorie counts on their menus and provide nutritional information to customers on request.

The bill includes a provision, welcomed by pizza businesses, that allows nutrition information to be “provided solely by a remote-access menu (e.g., an Internet menu) for food establishments where the majority of orders are placed by customers who are off-premises.”


 

Veterans' Employment, Education and Healthcare

The House will consider several bills to alter or expand the types of medical care provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA); reorganize the administration of several job training, readjustment benefits, transfer certain employment training and placement programs from the Department of Labor (DOL) to VA; and modify the processing of benefit claims. (Source: CBO
 

H.R. 3016: VETERANS EMPLOYMENT, EDUCATION, AND HEALTHCARE IMPROVEMENT ACT 
Sponsor: Rep. Brad Wenstrup [R, OH-2]     BIPARTISAN       


The bill combines over 30 smaller bills into a legislative package, addressing many issues, among them:

Health – including podiatrists as "physicians,"  providing for an audit of the VA budget, establishing a Chief Business Officer to manage payment of invoices for non-VA medical services provided to vets, piloting a program on dog training therapy for veterans with PTSD, increasing newborn care available for female veterans from seven to 42 days.

Economic Opportunity – establishing the Veterans Economic Opportunity and Transition Administration, (VEOTA), led by a new VEOTA Undersecretary, to manage the G.I. Bill, Home Loan Guaranty, and Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) programs, as well as all veterans' employment programs currently administered by the Department of Labor.

Educational Assistance and Vocational Training – authorizing eligible servicemembers to transfer unused education benefits under the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill to family members, extending and clarifying availability od the Fry Scholarship, which provides Post-9/11 G.I. Bill benefits to the children and surviving spouses of servicemembers who died in the line of duty after September 10, 2001; consideration of time spent receiving medical care as active duty for determination of eligibility for vocational programs.

Sources: CBO ReportCommittee report

 

H.R. 3106: CONSTRUCTION REFORM ACT OF 2015
Sponsor: Rep. Jeff Miller [R, FL-1]
 

The bill would provides for new guidelines and project management requirements for VA "super construction projects."
 

H.R. 2360: CAREER-READY STUDENT VETERANS ACT OF 2015
Sponsor: Rep. Mark Takano [D, CA-41]
    BIPARTISAN     

The bill would add a new requirement for state approval of educational institutions providing veterans with non-accredited courses.

 

H.R. 677: AMERICAN HEROES COLA ACT OF 2015
Sponsor: Rep. Ralph Abraham [R, LA-5]
    BIPARTISAN     

The bill would require veteran's benefits to receive a cost of living increase whenever there is a COLA increase for Social Security. Would apply to: veterans' disability compensation, additional compensation for dependents, the clothing allowance for certain disabled adult children, and dependency and indemnity compensation for surviving spouses and children.

 

H.R. 3234: FAILING VA MEDICAL CENTER RECOVERY ACT
Sponsor: Rep. Martha Roby (R, AL-2)

The bill would establish an Office of Failing Medical Center Recovery, and the position of Under Secretary for Failing Medical Center Recovery to carry out the managerial and day-to-day operational control of each VA failing medical center.
Requires publishing of key health metrics for each VA medical center and revoke the certification of failing medical centers.
 

H.R. 2915: FEMALE VETERAN SUICIDE PREVENTION ACT
Sponsor: Rep. Julia Brownley [D, CA-26]
    BIPARTISAN     

This bill directs the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to identify: (1) VA mental health care and suicide prevention programs that are most effective for women veterans, and (2) those programs with the highest satisfaction rates among women veterans.

 

H.R. 3894: TO REQUIRE PROMPT NOTIFICATION BY PERSONNEL OF THE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE OF SUSPECTED INSTANCES OF CHILD ABUSE AND NEGLECT DIRECTLY TO CHILD PROTECTIVE SERVICES
Sponsor: Rep. Tulsi Gabbard [D, HI-2]
 

The bill would direct a member of the Armed Forces, a civilian Department of Defense (DOD) employee, or a contractor employee working on a military installation who is required by federal regulation or state law to report known or suspected instances of child abuse and neglect to make the report directly to State Child Protective Services or another appropriate state agency in addition to the member's or employee's chain of command or any designated DOD point of contact.

 

H.R. 3036: NATIONAL 9/11 MEMORIAL AT THE WORLD TRADE CENTER ACT
Sponsor: Tom MacArthur [R, NJ-3]
    BIPARTISAN     

The bill would designate the National September 11 Memorial located at the World Trade Center in New York City, New York, as a national memorial.

 

H.R. 890: TO CORRECT THE BOUNDARIES OF THE JOHN H. CHAFEE COASTAL BARRIER RESOURCES SYSTEM UNIT P16.
Sponsor: Rep. Curtis Clawson [R, FL-19]
    BIPARTISAN     

 

H.R. 3262: TO PROVIDE FOR THE CONVEYANCE OF LAND OF THE ILLIANA HEALTH CARE SYSTEM OF THE DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS IN DANVILLE, ILLINOIS.
Sponsor: Rep. John Shimkus [R, IL-15]
 


 

H.R. 4056: TO AUTHORIZE THE SECRETARY OF VETERANS AFFAIRS TO CONVEY TO THE FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS ALL RIGHT, TITLE, AND INTEREST OF THE UNITED STATES TO THE PROPERTY KNOWN AS "THE COMMUNITY LIVING CENTER" AT THE LAKE BALDWIN VETERANS AFFAIRS OUTPATIENT CLINIC, ORLANDO, FLORIDA.
Sponsor: Rep. John Mica [R, FL-7]
 


 

H.R. 4437: TO EXTEND THE DEADLINE FOR THE SUBMITTAL OF THE FINAL REPORT REQUIRED BY THE COMMISSION ON CARE.
Sponsor: Rep. Jeff Miller [R, FL-1]  
    BIPARTISAN     


Please keep in mind that highlighting a bill does not imply POPVOX endorsement in any way. As always, our goal is to offer one more way to help you stay informed about the complex U.S. legislative system.

GavelDown Li.001

Gavel Down: Closing Out the Week in Congress Feb. 1-5, 2016

The Senate failed to advance a bipartisan energy bill due to controversy over funding to aid Flint, Michigan. The House took another vote to end Obamacare, failing to override the President's veto — on Groundhog Day. The House passed several bills related to startup investment and ending "Operation Choke Point." Conservatives in Congress preemptively opposed the President's budget, set for release next Tuesday. And the House Oversight Committee had quite a week!

Top Search on POPVOX this week: "firearm"
 

Most Active Bill on POPVOX this week: 
S. 659 BIPARTISAN SPORTSMEN'S ACT OF 2015
 


 

Bipartisan Energy Bill Blocked on Disagreement over Aid to Flint, MI

The Senate failed to invoke cloture on energy bill, brought down by disagreements over funding for Flint water crisis. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Sens. Murkowski and Cantwell will work this weekend on a new plan and "hopefully we'll be able to salvage it."

How did your senator vote?


Business "Access to Capital" Bills Pass House


The House passed a bill to expand the definition of an "Accredited Investor" eligible to participate in certain unregistered securities to include those with as securities license or relevant professional expertise. The Fair Investment Opportunities for Professional Experts Act (H.R. 2187) now goes to the Senate. The House also passed legislation aimed at making it easier for companies to compensate employees with equity.

 

House votes to end "Operation Choke Point"

The House passed a bill to prohibit the practice of federal agencies "choking" the accounts of businesses deemed "high risk." The practice reportedly affects some online gambling, online lotteries or online payday lenders. Introduced in response to the Justice Department's "Operation Choke Point, " H.R. 766 "prohibits a federal banking agency from formally or informally suggesting, requesting, or ordering a depository institution to terminate either a specific customer account, or group of customer accounts, or otherwise restrict or discourage it from entering into or maintaining a banking relationship with a specific customer or group of customers, unless: (1) the agency has a material reason to do so, and (2) the reason is not based solely on reputation risk." The bill passed 265-159 and now goes to the Senate.
 

How did your representative vote?


President Sending Budget to Congress on Tuesday

On Tuesday, President Obama will submit his Budget to Congress. The President's Budget is an outline, a proposal, a "this is how I would do it if I didn't have to go through Congress," version. It is not a bill.

In December 2015, Congress passed an Omnibus spending bill that covers spending through fiscal year 2016. The budget submitted by the President would cover FY 2017, which begins October 1, 2016.

While some Members of Congress may introduce parts of the budget as bills or some parts of the budget may already exist as bills, the presidential budget has decreasing relevance, especially when proposed by a president whose party does not control Congress, and all the more when it is the final year of that president’s term, as many have noted.  

In fact, this year, the House and Senate Budget committees announced that they would not hold the traditional hearings on the President’s proposal. Talks have started on Capitol Hill for the Congressional budget process:

[Speaker] Ryan wants the House to pass a budget earlier than usual this year so that lawmakers can get to work on appropriations. Party leaders in both chambers aim to pass all 12 appropriations bills this year for the first time since the 1990s.

In preparation for the Budget battles ahead, the Speaker hosted a "budget and beer" get-together with members of the House Freedom Caucus. The meeting ran past 10 pm, and Freedom Caucus Members urged the Speaker to put forth a budget that reverts to the spending figure set under sequestration.

The Federal Budget in 2015 (Source: Congressional Budget Office)


President Proposes "21st Century Clean Transportation System" funded by $10/ Barrel Oil Tax

The President’s budget will call for a “21st Century Clean Transportation System” funded by a one-time business tax reform and sustained by an ongoing $10 per barrel oil tax paid by oil companies.  

The announcement was greeted with a cold reception by many on Capitol Hill. Speaker Paul D. Ryan called the proposal “dead on arrival.”

The White House preview mentions:

  • Federal investment in new transportation options: expand transit systems in cities, suburbs and rural areas; make high-speed rail a viable alternative to flying in major regional corridors and invest in new rail technologies like maglev; modernize our freight system; and expand the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program begun in the Recovery Act to support high-impact, innovative local projects.

  • Reward state and local innovations in “smarter, cleaner, more resilient transportation systems”: outcomes-based funding for for local, regional, and state investments, including a new Climate Smart Fund that provides bonus funding to states that use existing formula funding to cut carbon pollution in the transportation sector and a Clean Communities program to support more livable cities and towns with expanded transportation choices, and a Resilient Transportation program to spur investments that bolster resilience to climate impacts.

  • Accelerate the safe integration of autonomous vehicles (self-driving cars), low-carbon technologies, and intelligent transportation systems into our infrastructure: $2 billion per year to launch a new generation of smart, clean vehicles and aircraft by expanding clean transportation R&D and launching pilot deployments of safe and climate smart autonomous vehicles. Accelerates the transition to cleaner vehicle fleets in communities around the country, including expanding Diesel Emissions Reduction Act Grant Program funding, and supports the creation of regional fueling infrastructure for low-carbon vehicles. The budget also proposes to invest $400 million a year to ensure that new and changing technologies are integrated safely into our transportation system.

Other Expected Proposals in the President's Budget


Oil Prices, Transportation Funding, and Antique Earmarks

As you may have noticed, gas is really cheap these days. “The world is drowning in oil.” (The Economist). The steep price drop is attributed by many to: increased production from oil-producing countries (the U.S. doubled production in the past few years), OPEC resistance to cutting production to stabilize prices (see fascinating interactive graphic), more energy-efficient vehicles decreasing demand, economic slowdown in China, and new oil entering the market from Iran as sanctions are lifted. Meanwhile, oil companies are announcing record losses (See: ShellExxonChevronBP).

The price of oil is also shrinking state transportation funding coffers, which finance road repairs and highways (See: States with the highest and lowest gas taxes). One little-noticed provision in the recent Omnibus bill provides for some belt-loosening by freeing funding from previous transportation earmarks, expected to total approximately $2 billion. The Federal Highway Administration will soon release the list of earmark funding available, which must be spent on projects within 50 miles of the original allocation. States agencies and road builders are eagerly awaiting the list.

Crude oil prices over five years (Source: NASDAQ)


House Oversight and Government Reform Holds Heated Hearings 


The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform had quite a week — dominating the news cycle with three intense hearings.

 

Hearing #1: U.S. Department of Education: Investigation of the CIO
The Committee began the week examining an ethics dispute within the Department of Education. Lawmakers accused Danny Harris, the agency's chief information officer, of failing to disclose outside income (failing to pay taxes on that income), awarding a government contract to a friend's company, and involving subordinate employees in side businesses. "I view my behavior as unacceptable," said Harris. "I make no excuses." After four hours of questioning, Harris collapsed, was taken to a hospital, and has since recovered.

The Committee expressed concerns over the agency's ability to protect the data of 139 million Americans in a hearing last November. House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz [R, UT] warned that a cyber attack on DOE would affect almost half of the country and would eclipse the massive cyber attack the Office of Personnel Management experienced last year.

 

Hearing #2: Examining Federal Administration of the Safe Drinking Water Act in Flint, Michigan
Next, the Committee examined the Flint water crisis, concluding the crisis was "a failure at every level of government." Three officials were issued subpoenas for not attending, including Flint Emergency Manager Darnell Earley. The Committee directed U.S. marshals to "hunt down" Earley to serve him his subpoena.

Joel Beauvais, the acting director of water quality for the Environmental Protection Agency was asked why the agency did not act immediately upon learning the water might contain lead. He said he didn't know. "You cannot come to a hearing before Congress and be in charge of water quality for the EPA and not know the answer to that question," said House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz [R, UT].

Congressional panels will examine the drinking water contamination over the next few months. House Democrats invited Gov. Rick Snyder to testify before the Steering & Policy Committee next week, while the House Energy and Commerce Committee announced it will hold a March hearing on the Flint water crisis.
 

Hearing #3: Developments in the Prescription Drug Market
Lastly, the Committee shifted attention to the prescription drug marketPrescription drug prices continue to increase, and Americans pay more for drugs than people in other countries. The Committee subpoenaed Martin Shkreli, the former CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals who increased the price of Daraprim from $13.50 per pill to $750 per pill overnight. Shkreli invoked his Fifth Amendment right and refused to answer lawmakers' questions…only to invite lawmakers to a post show later on Twitter. His smirks went viral — as did this vine

The Food and Drug Administration's lengthy review process for generic drug applications also came under fire. Currently there are over 3,500 generic drug applications awaiting FDA approval. Committee members said this massive backlog gives pharmaceutical companies pricing control. Rep. Blake Farenthold [R, TX-27] said "You're getting down to 10 and 15 months, but you've basically created a 10 and 15 month monopoly for anybody who's a single source of a generic drug who do that kind of price increase and name their price for that drug."

The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions examined the Generic Drug User Fee Amendments in a hearing last week. The Committee concluded that the process to approve generic drugs is still too slow, despite receiving an extra $1 billion from the generic drug user fee program.
 


ICYMI


#DataDrop


Legislative Lowdown: States Edition


Weekend Reads

Don't Panic: Making Progress on the "Going Dark" Debate by The Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University

What Does the Gig Economy Mean for Workers? from the Congressional Research Service

DATA ACT: Data Standards Established, but More Complete and Timely Guidance Is Needed to Ensure Effective Implementation from the Government Accountability Office

Why is New Hampshire the first primary in the nation? by Elaine Kamarck, Brookings

WeeklyUpdate

The Week Ahead in Congress: Feb 1-5, 2016

While the political world will be focused on the Iowa caucuses, Congress is back with both chambers in session. The House will consider changes to reporting and investing rules for small businesses and startups and reform to housing assistance programs. The House will also attempt to override the President’s veto of the Obamacare repeal that passed last year, and will re-vote on a bill to limit the President’s ability to lift Iranian sanctions. The Senate continues work on a bipartisan Energy bill.

 


IN THE HOUSE:

Snow-delayed Veto Override Vote

The House will vote to override the President's veto of the Reconciliation bill:
 

H.R. 3762 RESTORING AMERICANS' HEALTHCARE FREEDOM RECONCILIATION ACT OF 2015

Sponsor: Rep. Tom Price [R, GA-6]
(This bill was vetoed by the President on Jan 8, 2016)

H.R. 3762 would repeal key parts of the Affordable Care Act: the individual mandate, the employer mandate, and the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), and would defund Planned Parenthood for one year.


Snow-delayed Iran Sanctions Do-Over  Vote 

The House attempted to limit the President's ability to raise sanctions on Iran with a vote on H.R. 3662 on However, House Members did not make it to the House Floor within the 15 minutes allotted for the vote, and Speaker Ryan closed the vote with 137 votes outstanding (57 Republicans, 80 Democrats). The vote was "vacated" and will be held again this week:
 

H.R. 3662: IRAN TERROR FINANCE TRANSPARENCY ACT

Sponsor: Rep. Steve Russell [R, OK-5]

This bill prohibits the President from removing sanctions on foreign financial institutions until the President makes two certifications to Congress: (1) that the institution has not knowingly facilitated transactions or provided significant financial services for or on behalf of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps or any of its agents, a foreign terrorist organization, or a person whose property or property interests are blocked pursuant to the IEEPA in connection with Iran’s proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. (2) that the institution no longer knowingly engages in illicit or deceptive financial transactions or other activities.


Investing, Reporting, & Oversight for Startups and Small Businesses

The House will vote on a package of financial services bills regarding investment, access to capital, and reporting requirements for startups and small businesses.

The bill that will be considered by the House this week actually contains several related bills related to SEC requirements for small businesses and startups.  (Read full text from the House Rules Committee):
 

H.R. 1675: THE ENCOURAGING EMPLOYEE OWNERSHIP ACT

Sponsor: Rep. Randy Hultgren [R, IL-14]

Included bills:
H.R. 1675Lifts the threshold of securities that must be reported to investors for private companies awarding stock as part of an employee’s compensation from $5 million to $10 million in one year.

H.R. 686 "The M&A Broker Bill" — would allow private Mergers and Acquisitions brokers to be exempt from registration with the SEC.

H.R. 1965 – Exempts small companies from requirement to file financial statements in "eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL)"

H.R. 2354 – Requires the SEC to "review each significant regulation it has issued; determine by vote whether it is ineffective, excessively burdensome, unnecessary, or inconsistent with its mandate; solicit public comment as to whether the regulation should be amended or repealed; and subsequently amend or repeal accordingly."

H.R. 2356 – creates a safe harbor for certain publications or distributions of research reports by brokers or dealers distributing securities.

 

H.R. 2187: FAIR INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITIES FOR PROFESSIONAL EXPERTS ACT

Sponsor: Rep. David Schweikert [R, AZ-6]

Changes the definition of an “accredited investor” to include: 
(1) persons whose individual net worth, including their spouse’s, exceeds $1,000,000, excluding the value of their primary residence; (2) persons with an individual income greater than $200,000, or $300,000 for joint income; (3) persons with a current securities-related license; and (4) persons whom the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) determines have demonstrable education or job experience to qualify as having professional subject-matter knowledge related to a particular investment.

 

H.R. 2209: TO REQUIRE THE APPROPRIATE FEDERAL BANKING AGENCIES TO TREAT CERTAIN MUNICIPAL OBLIGATIONS AS LEVEL 2A LIQUID ASSETS…

Sponsor: Rep. Luke Messer [R, IN-6]

Requires federal banking agencies to treat certain municipal securities that are liquid, readily marketable, and investment grade as of the calculation date as high-quality level 2A assets.

 

H.R. 3784: SEC SMALL BUSINESS ADVOCATE ACT OF 2015

Sponsor: Rep. John Carney [R, DE]

Establishes an Office of the Advocate for Small Business Capital Formation and a Small Business Capital Formation Advisory Committee

 

H.R. 4168: SMALL BUSINESS CAPITAL FORMATION ENHANCEMENT ACT

Sponsor: Rep. Bruce Poliquin [R, ME-2]

Requires the SEC review the findings of the annual government-business forum and issue a public statement promptly assessing it and disclosing the action, if any, the SEC intends to take with respect to it.

 

H.R. 766: FINANCIAL INSTITUTION CUSTOMER PROTECTION ACT OF 2015

Sponsor: Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer [R, MO-3]

Introduced in response to Operation "Choke Point," the bill "prohibits a federal banking agency from formally or informally suggesting, requesting, or ordering a depository institution to terminate either a specific customer account, or group of customer accounts, or otherwise restrict or discourage it from entering into or maintaining a banking relationship with a specific customer or group of customers, unless: (1) the agency has a material reason to do so, and (2) the reason is not based solely on reputation risk.

 


Housing Assistance Reform

The House will also vote on a series of changes to federal housing assistance programs. The “Housing Opportunity through Modernization Act" from Housing and Insurance Subcommittee Chair Blaine Luetkemeyer, includes changes to Section 8 rental assistance, public housing, rural housing, mortgage insurance, disaster housing assistance and homeless and veterans housing programs.

H.R. 3700: HOUSING OPPORTUNITY THROUGH MODERNIZATION ACT OF 2015

Sponsor: Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer [R, MO-3]

H.R. 3700 would amend the United States Housing Act of 1937 to change certain aspects of the Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD’s) rental assistance programs. The bill would alter calculations of tenant income and rent; make households that exceed new income and asset limits ineligible for assistance; change requirements for adjusting payment standards; and expand eligibility for the Family Unification Program. The bill also would make changes to Federal Housing Administration (FHA) requirements that affect whether buyers of certain condominiums would be eligible to receive mortgage insurance from the agency. 

Find our more about the legislation and its anticipated effects and costs from the Congressional Budget Office


Also in the House: Coast Guard Funding, "Electrifying" Africa, Bills to Address Child Trafficking

 

H.R. 4188: COAST GUARD AUTHORIZATION ACT OF 2015

Sponsor: Rep. Duncan Hunter [R, CA-50]

authorizes appropriations for the Coast Guard for FY2016-FY2017 as well as an end-of-year strength for active duty personnel of 43,000 for each of them and specified average military training student loads.

 

S. 2152: ELECTRIFY AFRICA ACT OF 2015

Sponsor: Sen. Bob Corker [R, TN]

This bill states that it is U.S. policy to partner with the governments of sub-Saharan African countries, international financial institutions, and African regional economic communities, cooperatives, and private sectors to:

promote first-time access to power services for at least 50 million people in sub-Saharan Africa by 2020; encourage the installation of at least 20,000 additional megawatts of electrical power in sub-Saharan Africa by 2020; promote reliable and affordable power in urban, rural, and under served areas; encourage necessary reforms to support electricity access projects and market-based power generation and distribution; promote policies to displace kerosene lighting with other technologies; promote an energy development strategy for sub-Saharan Africa that includes the use of oil, natural gas, coal, hydroelectric, wind, solar, and geothermal power; and promote the use of private financing and seek ways to remove barriers to private financing and assistance for projects, including through charitable organizations. 
 

H.R. 515: INTERNATIONAL MEGAN’S LAW TO PREVENT DEMAND FOR CHILD SEX TRAFFICKING

Sponsor: Rep. Christopher Smith [R, NJ-4]

Establishes an "Angel Watch Center" within the Child Exploitation Investigations Unit of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to receive information on travel by child-sex offenders; establish a system to maintain and archive all relevant information… and to engage in ongoing negotiations with nongovernmental organizations, governments, and internet companies "to facilitate the implementation of an international sex offender travel notification system in the United States and in other countries."

 

H.R. 400: TRAFFICKING PREVENTION IN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CONTRACTING ACT

Sponsor: Rep. Edward Royce [R, CA-39]

Would require the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development each to submit a report to the Congress on how they would define recruitment and placement fees charged by contractors or their agents. The agencies also would be required to modify their contracting policies and practices to prevent trafficking in persons. 

 


IN THE SENATE:

 

Energy Reform

The Senate will continue its work on the bipartisan “Energy Policy Modernization Act” (S. 2012).

Last week, the Senate adopted three amendments to the energy bill. (130+ amendments have been proposed — including one amendment that would provide $600 million in federal aid to Flint, Michigan)

  • Agreed to Crapo Amendment (87-4 voteRequires the Department of Energy to work with private partnerships to test and demonstrate new reactor concepts
  • Agreed to Markey Amendment (62-29 voteRequires the Government Accountability Office to conduct a review on energy production and the effects of crude oil exports and submit a report to Congress
  • Agreed to Schatz Amendment (55-37 voteDesignates funding for advanced research projects

 

S. 2012 ENERGY POLICY MODERNIZATION ACT OF 2015

Sponsor: Sen. Lisa Murkowski [R, AK]

SUMMARY OF KEY PROVISIONS (Provided by Committee on Natural Resources)

Section-by-section analysis   |  Bill Text   |   CBO Score (estimate of effect on federal revenue)

  • Efficiency – Energy efficiency provides significant benefits for consumers, the economy, and the environment. The provisions in this title include agreements on everything from longer-term utility energy service contracts to the reauthorization of the weatherization and state energy programs. The efficiency of our homes, buildings, and manufacturing facilities all stand to increase as a result of it.
     
  • Infrastructure – We depend on electrical transmission lines and other infrastructure to transport energy from where it is produced to where it is used. This title will help modernize our electrical grid, enhance cybersecurity safeguards, maintain the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, provide a streamlined process for natural gas export projects, and ensure a qualified, well-trained workforce.
     
  • Supply – To provide for an energy supply that is increasingly abundant, affordable, clean, diverse, and secure, this title focuses on the development of renewable energy, traditional resources, and non-fuel minerals alike. The responsible development of American resources – including hydropower geothermal, bioenergy and rare earth elements – will strengthen our economy, competitiveness, and security for decades to come.
     
  • Accountability – Practical reforms are needed to advance innovation, protect electric reliability, and ensure the proper stewardship of taxpayer dollars. Among the provisions in this title are the reauthorization of certain energy-related components of the America COMPETES Act, better interagency coordination of energy/water initiatives, and the repeal of numerous provisions within the U.S. Code that are outdated or redundant.
     
  • Conservation Reauthorization – The Committee is also responsible for oversight and stewardship of our public lands. The bipartisan legislation permanently reauthorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund in a way that balances land acquisition with other conservation programs important to states and permanently reauthorizes the Historic Preservation Fund, both set to expire this fall. It also creates a new National Park Maintenance and Revitalization Fund, to address the maintenance backlog at some of our nation’s most treasured public places.

 

Please keep in mind that highlighting a bill does not imply POPVOX endorsement in any way. As always, our goal is to offer one more way to help you stay informed about the complex U.S. legislative system.

GavelDown Li.001

Gavel Down: Closing out the Week in Congress Jan. 25-29, 2016

The Senate made it back into DC after snowstorm Jonas and began work on a major bipartisan energy bill. The House was out for a second week of snow days, postponing votes on limits to the President's ability to lift sanctions on Iran and a vote to override the veto of the reconciliation bill to repeal parts of the Affordable Care Act.


Top Search on POPVOX this week:


"firearms"


Most Active on POPVOX this week:
S. 659 BIPARTISAN SPORTSMEN'S ACT OF 2015
 

Senate debates major energy bill

The last time major energy reform made it across the finish line it was 2007. Gas was $2.81 per gallon, Britney Spears kicked off historic breakdown, and the iPhone was released.  Since that time, U.S. energy production has changed dramatically. Wind and solar electricity now compose 15% of non-fossil electricity generation. Coal is still the largest share of U.S. electricity generation, but last year coal production declined by 11% — the largest decline ever recorded. U.S. electricity sales continue to decline each year as homes become more energy efficient and solar power becomes more popular.

These significant energy changes have not gone unnoticed by Congress. This week the Senate debated the Energy Policy Modernization Act (S. 2012). The bipartisan act is spearheaded by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Lisa Murkowski [R, AK] and Ranking Member Maria Cantwell [D, WA]. The comprehensive legislation is aimed at updating the nation's power grid and oil and gas transportation systems. Provisions are divided into five main areas: efficiency, infrastructure, supply, accountability, and conservation reauthorization. 

Energy-Bill-Road-Map-FINAL

On Thursday, the Senate adopted three amendments to the energy bill(130+ amendments have been proposed — including one amendment that would provide $600 million in federal aid to Flint, Michigan)

  • Agreed to Crapo Amendment (87-4 voteRequires the Department of Energy to work with private partnerships to test and demonstrate new reactor concepts
  • Agreed to Markey Amendment (62-29 voteRequires the Government Accountability Office to conduct a review on energy production and the effects of crude oil exports and submit a report to Congress
  • Agreed to Schatz Amendment (55-37 voteDesignates funding for advanced research projects


The Senate will convene on Monday and resume consideration of the bill. The White House expressed concerns but did not issue a veto threat. 

Tell your lawmakers what you think of the Energy Policy Modernization Act!


Zika virus

We're all hearing a lot about the Zika virus, which, according to the World Health Organization, is "spreading explosively" in the Americas and could reach four million cases this year. As of Friday, there were 31 reported cases in the U.S. 

The virus is spread to people through mosquito bites and most common symptoms are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week. Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon. – Source: Centers on Disease Control

The White House has called for "more research on diagnostic testing, vaccines and therapeutics," while emphasizing that it "poses a far different — and less severe — threat than the recent Ebola epidemic." The virus is most dangerous to women who are pregnant. The World Health Organization will convene a committee of experts Monday to "decide whether the outbreak of the virus should constitute a public health emergency of international concern." 

Members of Congress responded with requests for additional information and research, including:
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand [D, NY] sent a letter asking the NIAID Director to "prioritize research" for potential vaccine to Zika virus. Sen. Ron Johnson [R, WI] and Sen. Tom Carper [D, DE]sent letters to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and CDC Director Thomas Frieden asking about the risk posed by the virus and current preparedness measures. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen [D, NH] wrote to the secretaries of State, Health and Human Services and Homeland Security, urging them to quickly notify Congress of what resources they need to mount a defense.


House Democrats Convene for Annual Legislative Retreat

House Democrats gathered in Baltimore for their annual retreat this week, themed “United for Opportunity.” Members heard from comedian Trevor Noah, who spoke about his childhood in South Africa, and from environmentalist, Tom Steyer, who discussed climate change.

Vice President Joe Biden spoke to the caucus with an optimistic view of Democratic prospects for retaking the House, and pitched TPP, which Democrats say they “are reviewing” though many remain noncommittal on the President’s signature trade agreement. Vice President Biden shared an emotional moment with Congressman Mark Takai in the context of their family struggles with cancer. President Obama has enlisted Biden in a "moonshot" effort to treat and cure cancer.

President Obama delivered an upbeat message to the caucus, and reportedly took questions from Members about White House policies on refugees and immigration, the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, and the recent release of hostages held in Iran.

 

#ICYMI 


#DataDrop

  • New from PEW: Americans are increasingly sorted into think-alike communities, reflecting both their politics and demographics. Huge generation gap regarding partisan differences. 
  • Number of homicides in 50 largest cities increased nearly 17% last year — highest increase in lethal violence in the last 25 years.
  • Latest PEW survey: Budget deficit slipped as public priority.
  • New federal data: per-pupil spending on K-12 public schools dropped in 2013 for the third consecutive year.
  • Wonkblog ranked states by residents' well-being. Spoiler Alert  Hawaii, you win.

Legislative Lowdown: States Edition


Weekend Reads

"The Budget and Economic Outlook: 2015 to 2025" Congressional Budget Office
"Restoring Congress as the First Branch" by Kevin Kosar and various authors, R Street Institute

"Rigged Justice: 2016 — How Weak Enforcement Lets Corporate Offenders Off Easy" Report from Sen. Elizabeth Warren [D, MA]

"Short-Term Energy Outlook"  U.S. Energy Information Administration

Issue Spotlight: Energy Reform

The last time major energy reform made it across the finish line it was 2007. Gas was $2.81 per gallon, Britney Spears kicked off historic breakdown, and the iPhone was released. That's right, the iPhone had just entered our consciousness. 

Since that time, U.S. energy production has changed dramatically. Wind and solar electricity now compose 15% of non-fossil electricity generation. Coal is still the largest share of U.S. electricity generation, but last year coal production declined by 11% — the largest decline ever recorded. U.S. electricity sales continue to decline each year as homes become more energy efficient and solar power becomes more popular.

These significant energy changes have not gone unnoticed by Congress. This week the Senate debated the Energy Policy Modernization Act (S. 2012). The bipartisan act is spearheaded by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Lisa Murkowski [R, AK] and Ranking Member Maria Cantwell [D, WA]. The comprehensive legislation is aimed at updating the nation's power grid and oil and gas transportation systems.

Provisions are divided into five main areas: efficiency, infrastructure, supply, accountability, and conservation reauthorization. 

 

 

The bill would*:

*nonexhaustive list

On Thursday, the Senate adopted three amendments to the energy bill. (130+ amendments have been proposed — including one amendment that would provide $600 million in federal aid to Flint, Michigan)

 

  • Agreed to Crapo Amendment (87-4 vote) Requires the Department of Energy to work with private partnerships to test and demonstrate new reactor concepts
  • Agreed to Markey Amendment (62-29 voteRequires the Government Accountability Office to conduct a review on energy production and the effects of crude oil exports and submit a report to Congress
  • Agreed to Schatz Amendment (55-37 vote) Designates funding for advanced research projects

The Senate will convene on Monday and resume consideration of the bill. The White House expressed concerns but did not issue a veto threat.

Energy-Bill-Road-Map-FINAL


 

Please keep in mind that highlighting a bill does not imply POPVOX endorsement in any way. As always, our goal is to offer one more way to help you stay informed about the complex U.S. legislative system.

Issue Spotlight: The Wage Gap, the “X-Files” and Congress

It's not often when leaders in Hollywood and the nation's capital are talking about the same issue.

In recent months, the wage gap between men and women has gotten national attention as Hollywood stars and Members of Congress are focusing on the issue. This week, wage disparity between men and women was highlighted again when "X-Files" costar Gillian Anderson (Agent Dana Scully) talked about what she was offered for the reboot of the show.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Gillian Anderson said she was offered "half of what they wanted to offer" to her costar David Duchovny (Agent Fox Mulder) to participate in the reboot. She eventually got the salary that her costar was offered this time around. However, during the first run of the show, it took her three years before finally closing the wage gap between her pay and Duchovny's, according to the Daily Beast

"Especially in this climate of women talking about the reality of [unequal pay] in this business, I think it’s important that it gets heard and voiced. It was shocking to me, given all the work that I had done in the past to get us to be paid fairly. I worked really hard toward that and finally got somewhere with it." — Gillian Anderson of "X-Files"

"The Truth is out there?" TwitterEqual Pay is the law

In 1963, Congress passed and President Kennedy signed into law the Equal Pay Act, making it illegal for employers to pay lower wages to women doing substantially the same work as their male counterparts. The next year, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was enacted, making it illegal to discriminate, including in compensation, on the basis of sex, race, color, religion, and national origin.

In 2009, Congress passed, and President Obama signed into law, the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which “restored the interpretation of the law that a pay discrimination claim accrues when a discriminatory pay decision or practice is adopted, whenever an employee is subjected to a discriminatory pay decision or practice, and each time a discriminatory pay decision or practice affects an employee, including each time the employee receives a discriminatory paycheck.”

Proposals in Congress addressing the wage gap

There are two bills pending before Congress that addresses the wage gap. The Paycheck Fairness Act, which has the support of President Obama and Democrats in the House and Senate, and the Workplace Advancement Act in the Senate, sponsored by Republican Senator Deb Fischer (R-NE). While the Paycheck Fairness Act has failed to garner Republican support, the introduction of the Workplace Advancement Act by Republican Senators indicates that there is some common ground on the issue of wage discrimination.

According to the Workplace Advancement Act’s bill text: 

“Despite this significant progress, surveys suggest there is a concern among American women that gender-based pay discrimination still exists.”

HR 1619 and S 862: PAYCHECK FAIRNESS ACT

Sponsors: Rep. Rosa DeLauro [D-CT] and Sen. Barbara Mikulski [D-MD]

“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. The bill would require employers to show pay disparity is truly related to job performance, not gender. It also prohibits employer retaliation for sharing salary information with coworkers. Under current law employers can sue and punish employees for sharing such information. In addition, it strengthens remedies for pay discrimination by increasing compensation women can seek, allowing them to seek both back pay and punitive damages for pay discrimination – conforming it to damages allowed in other discrimination cases. The bill empowers women in the workplace through a grant program to strengthen salary negotiation and other workplace skills, and requires the Department of Labor to enhance outreach and training efforts to eliminate pay disparities,” according to the bill sponsors.

S 2200: WORKPLACE ADVANCEMENT ACT

Sponsors: Sen. Deb Fischer [R-NE]

To amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to strengthen equal pay requirements. “To prevent retaliation against employees who inquire about, or discuss, their salaries, while also reinforcing current law banning gender discrimination under both the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act,” according to the bill sponsor.

Status: Last year, as part of the fiscal year 2016 budget, the Republican-led Senate passed an amendment offered by Senator Fischer on a bipartisan vote of 56 to 43. The amendment was supported by 53 Republicans and Senators Angus King (I-Maine), Joe Donnelly (I-IN) and Joe Manchin (D-WV).


— 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 a complex legislative system. —

Photo credit: "The X-Files": My Struggle image from Twitter

POPVOX WeeklyUpdate

The Week Ahead in Congress: Jan. 25-30, 2016

This week: Energy Policy in the Senate

It’s going to be a light week in Congress, with the House staying out due to the DC snowstorm, and no Senate votes until Wednesday evening. Washington-area federal offices will also be closed on Monday. The Senate is in Wednesday evening and will begin consideration of bipartisan energy legislation.


In the House (soon)


The next votes in House will be February 1. The chamber was scheduled to re-vote on limits to the President’s ability to lift sanctions on Iran (H.R. 3662), which was previously vacated because 137 Members were late for the vote. The House was also set to vote on overriding the President’s veto of the Reconciliation bill that would have repealed parts of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and removed federal funding for Planned Parenthood.

H.R. 3662 IRAN TERROR FINANCE TRANSPARENCY ACT   

Sponsor: Rep. Steven Russell [R, OK-5]

This bill prohibits the President from removing sanctions on foreign financial institutions until the President makes two certifications to Congress: (1) that the institution has not knowingly facilitated transactions or provided significant financial services for or on behalf of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps or any of its agents, a foreign terrorist organization, or a person whose property or property interests are blocked pursuant to the IEEPA in connection with Iran’s proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. (2) that the institution no longer knowingly engages in illicit or deceptive financial transactions or other activities.

 

H.R. 3762 RESTORING AMERICANS' HEALTHCARE FREEDOM RECONCILIATION ACT OF 2015

Sponsor: Rep. Tom Price [R, GA-6]
(This bill was vetoed by the President on Jan 8, 2016)

As you know, “reconciliation” is an expedited process for special bills that reduce the budget deficit to come up for consideration in the Senate without a 60-vote cloture threshold. H.R. 3762 would repeal key parts of the Affordable Care Act: the individual mandate, the employer mandate, and the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), and would defund Planned Parenthood for one year.


 

In the Senate: Energy Reform

 

The Senate will be in on Wednesday evening and will begin consideration of the bipartisan “Energy Policy Modernization Act” (S. 2012).

The bill's lead sponsors are Chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee, Lisa Murkowski [R, AK] and Ranking Member Maria Cantwell [D, WA], who held four hearings to consider 114 individual bills introduced by senators on topics relevant to energy reform: "After weeks of negotiations, this bill represents the common ground that exists for modernizing our energy policies on efficiency, infrastructure, supply, accountability, and reauthorizing conservation programs." Source: Committee release.
 

   S. 2012 ENERGY POLICY MODERNIZATION ACT OF 2015

Sponsor: Sen. Lisa Murkowski [R, AK]

SUMMARY OF KEY PROVISIONS (Provided by Committee on Natural Resources)

Section-by-section analysis   |  Bill Text   |   CBO Score (estimate of effect on federal revenue)

  • Efficiency – Energy efficiency provides significant benefits for consumers, the economy, and the environment. The provisions in this title include agreements on everything from longer-term utility energy service contracts to the reauthorization of the weatherization and state energy programs. The efficiency of our homes, buildings, and manufacturing facilities all stand to increase as a result of it.
     
  • Infrastructure – We depend on electrical transmission lines and other infrastructure to transport energy from where it is produced to where it is used. This title will help modernize our electrical grid, enhance cybersecurity safeguards, maintain the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, provide a streamlined process for natural gas export projects, and ensure a qualified, well-trained workforce.
     
  • Supply – To provide for an energy supply that is increasingly abundant, affordable, clean, diverse, and secure, this title focuses on the development of renewable energy, traditional resources, and non-fuel minerals alike. The responsible development of American resources – including hydropower geothermal, bioenergy and rare earth elements – will strengthen our economy, competitiveness, and security for decades to come.
     
  • Accountability – Practical reforms are needed to advance innovation, protect electric reliability, and ensure the proper stewardship of taxpayer dollars. Among the provisions in this title are the reauthorization of certain energy-related components of the America COMPETES Act, better interagency coordination of energy/water initiatives, and the repeal of numerous provisions within the U.S. Code that are outdated or redundant.
     
  • Conservation Reauthorization – The Committee is also responsible for oversight and stewardship of our public lands. The bipartisan legislation permanently reauthorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund in a way that balances land acquisition with other conservation programs important to states and permanently reauthorizes the Historic Preservation Fund, both set to expire this fall. It also creates a new National Park Maintenance and Revitalization Fund, to address the maintenance backlog at some of our nation’s most treasured public places.


 

In Process: Authorization for Use of Military Force Against ISIS/ISIL


Last week, in a surprising move, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell [R, KY] set up a vote for an Authorization for the Use of Military Force, something that has been requested by President Obama since February 2015, though a McConnell aide told the National Journal that the AUMF resolution: “is not the one the [p]res­id­ent asked for” and “not one that would tie the [p]res­id­ent’s hands.” 

"McConnell used Rule 14 to place the ISIL AUMF directly on the Senate calendar rather than going through the committee process. This means that the Senate can take up the bill at any time," explained Cody Poplin on Brookings' LawFare blog.
 

S.J.RES. 29: A JOINT RESOLUTION TO AUTHORIZE THE USE OF UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES AGAINST THE ISLAMIC STATE OF IRAQ AND THE LEVANT AND ITS ASSOCIATED FORCES.

Sponsor: Sen. Mitch McConnell [R, KY]
(Text pending)

Other AUMF proposals that have been introduced:
 

Several other versions of authorization exist but none have been approved:

  H.J.RES. 27 AUTHORIZATION FOR USE OF MILITARY FORCE AGAINST ISIL RESOLUTION
Sponsor: Rep. Adam Schiff [D, CA-28]

  • Does not authorize the deployment of ground forces in a combat role
  • Repeals the 2002 authorization of force that led to the invasion of Iraq
  • Requires report to Congress every 60 days
  • Limits authorization to three years
  • Allows for any lawmaker to offer a privileged motion to force a "timely debate" to repeal or revise the authorization resolution

 

  H.J.RES. 33 AUTHORIZATION FOR USE OF MILITARY FORCE AGAINST THE ISLAMIC STATE OF IRAQ AND THE LEVANT
Sponsor: Rep. Adam Kinzinger [R, IL-16]

  • Authorizes "necessary and appropriate force" against ISIL and any "individuals and organizations fighting for, on behalf of, or alongside ISIL"
  • Repeals the 2002 authorization of force that led to the invasion of Iraq
  • Requires report to Congress every 90 days

 

  H.R. 4208 AUTHORITY FOR USE OF MILITARY FORCE AGAINST THE ISLAMIC STATE OF IRAQ AND THE LEVANT ACT
Sponsor: Rep. Scott Rigell [R, VA-2]

  • Authorizes forces "against ISIL, any closely related successor entity, or associated persons or forces"
  • Repeals the 2002 authorization of force that led to the invasion of Iraq
  • Limits authorization to three years
  • References ISIS's "descipable acts of violence and mass executions against Muslims," threatened genocides against religious groups, anti-ISIL Coalition, beheadings of journalists James Foley andSteven Sotloff, death of American aid worker (and former Army ranger) Abdul-Rahman Peter Kassig, and American hostage Kayla Mueller
  • Expressly states that the use of US ground troops in combat against ISIL, except to protect the lives of US citizens from imminent threat, is not consistent with purpose of this bill

 

  S.J.RES. 26 AUTHORIZATION FOR USE OF MILITARY FORCE AGAINST THE ISLAMIC STATE OF IRAQ AND THE LEVANT AND ITS ASSOCIATED FORCES
Sponsor: Sen. Lindsey Graham [R, SC]

 

  S. 1587 AUTHORITY FOR USE OF MILITARY FORCE AGAINST THE ISLAMIC STATE OF IRAQ AND THE LEVANT ACT
Sponsor: Sen. Tim Kaine [D, VA]

  • Repeals the 2002 authorization of force that led to the invasion of Iraq
  • Requires a report to Congress at least once every six months
  • Limits authorization to three years
  • Purpose: "to protect the lives of US citizens and to provide military support to regional partners in their battle to defeat ISIL"
  • Expressly states that the use of US ground troops in combat against ISIL, except to protect the lives of US citizens from imminent threat, is not consistent with purpose of this bill

 

   THE PRESIDENT'S DRAFT AUTHORIZATION FOR USE OF MILITARY FORCE (AUMF)

  • Expressly does not authorize use of forces in "enduring offensive ground combat operations"
  • Repeals the 2002 authorization of force that led to the invasion of Iraq
  • Requires report to Congress "at least once every six months" of actions taken under the authorization
  • Limits authorization to three years

 


Please keep in mind that highlighting a bill does not imply POPVOX endorsement in any way. As always, our goal is to offer one more way to help you stay informed about the complex U.S. legislative system.

GavelDown Li.001

Gavel Down: Closing out the Week in Congress Jan. 18-22, 2016

Relations with Iran warmed but "thaw" was not a word anyone was using in snowy Washington. The Senate was in but both major votes this week did not advance — an attempt to override the President's veto of a "disapproval" resolution on expanded water rules and the House-passed bill to tighten security procedures for refugees from Syria and Iraq. Filibuster reform got a new look and the House GOP emerged from their retreat with a new agenda (Democrats will retreat and plan soon.) And, on Friday, Washington got its snow day.

 

Top Search on POPVOX this week:   "firearms"
 

Most Active on POPVOX this week:
 

 


The Post-Implementation Era Begins with Iran

The week began still in the light of significant developments in relations with Iran. With last Saturday's announcement that Iran had met obligations necessary for the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Action Plan, President Obama signed an executive order lifting U.S. sanctions. That was quickly followed by the announcement of new, limited sanctions on five Iranian citizens and 11 companies for violating United Nations resolutions against ballistic missile tests.

The U.S. celebrated the release of five American prisoners who had been held in Iran:

  • Jason Rezaian, a reporter for the Washington Post
  • Amir Hekmati, a U.S. Marine from Flint, Michigan
  • Saeed Abedini, an Iranian-American Christian pastor from Idaho
  • Businessman Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari and American student, Matthew Trevithick, about both of whom little is known.

The House had previously teed up a vote on restricting the President's ability to lift the sanctions, but the vote was vacated because Members didn't make it to the Floor in time to vote. While the vote was rescheduled for next week, conditions have changed significantly.


Senate Narrowly Avoids Drama on Refugee Vote

The Senate did not advance the House-passed bill that would step up security screening for refugees entering the country from Syria and Iraq.  Senate Democrats floated a proposal that would have allowed the bill to proceed if Republicans allowed a politically difficult vote on a proposal from the Presidential campaign trail to prohibit Muslims from entering the United States. The cloture vote on the bill was 55-43 (60 were needed) and did not proceed. A proposal to tighten restrictions on the visa waiver program is expected in the coming weeks.



Senate Fails to Override Veto of Water Rule Rollback

This week the Senate took its last swing at the Environmental Protection Agency and the Corps of Engineers’ Clean Water Rule that expands federal authority over all ‘waters of the United States’ (WOTUS) under the Clean Water Act. 

On Oct. 9, 2015, the US Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, temporarily suspended implementation of the final WOTUS rule, questioning “… specific scientific support substantiating the reasonableness” of certain parts of this rule. 

Congress passed a resolution invoking the "Congressional Review Act" to invalidate the rule. As expected, however, President Obama vetoed the measure of disapproval, and this week, the Senate failed to get the votes required to override the veto.


Flint Water Crisis

The lead-contaminated water crisis sparked news and commentary everywhere this week. Bipartisan House Energy and Commerce Committee sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency requesting an urgent briefing. Members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee asked Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder to testify on Feb. 3. President Obama signed an emergency declaration, providing federal aid for emergency conditions.

How did tap water become toxic in Flint, Michigan?


Filibuster Might Get a Facelift

Filibusters are an American tradition used to delay or block disagreeable legislation. Lawmakers wear sneakers, hold their bladders, and sing Gene Autry songs. The filibuster’s purpose is to ensure minority opinions are expressed before the Senate votes on an issue. To keep a filibuster afloat, a senator cannot sit, leave the Senate Floor (lawmakers get creative), eat (better make friends with the keeper of the candy desk), or drink anything besides water or milk (although sometimes milk can’t be trusted). The senator can talk about whatever he or she chooses and holds the Floor until cloture is invoked, the filibuster wins an accommodation, or the filibustering senators throws in the towel.

There’s been a lot of talk about filibusters the last few years, and now some Republicans are looking to revise the legislative tool.

Senate Republicans held a special meeting this week to discuss proposed changes such as:

  • Eliminating the minority party’s ability to filibuster motions to begin debate on spending bills
  • Changing the rule through regular order (requiring 67 votes and bipartisan support)
  • Using the “nuclear option” to change filibuster rules with a simple majority vote (what was used in 2013 to eliminate filibusters of executive branch and judicial nominees)

So what is cloture and why do you hear about it when talking about filibusters?
President Woodrow Wilson urged the Senate to create the procedure known as “cloture.” Senators can force an end to debate and bring the question to an up or down vote. Cloture is effective at limiting filibusters but requires a three-fifths vote.

 


#WEF16

The World Economic Forum is underway in Davos. The annual meeting of political and business leaders includes plenty of familiar faces. Videos from the past two days are posted online and prime for binging this weekend.

Highlights:


GOP Annual Legislative Retreat

The GOP annual legislative retreat is typically marked by arguing and anger — this year’s retreat was much different.  Speaker Paul Ryan received a standing ovation and Rep. Louie Gohmert [R, TX-1] said “I don’t feel like I was vilified as much this year for speaking truth as I have in the past.” Republicans pushed for party unity and differences emerged between Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s plan for the Senate and Speaker Paul Ryan’s vision for the House.


After three days in Baltimore, Republicans emerged with policy goals in five main areas:

  • National security
  • Jobs and economic growth
  • Health care
  • Poverty and opportunity
  • Restoring the constitutional balance of powers


Democrats’ annual retreat kicks off next Wednesday in Baltimore — with addresses from President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and Trevor Noah from The Daily Show.


#ICYMI 


#DataDrop


Legislative Lowdown: States Edition


Weekend Reads

"Millennials Make Up Almost Half of Latino Eligible Voters in 2016" by Jens Manuel Krogstad et. al, Pew Research Center

"Summary of The Budget and Economic Outlook: 2016 to 2026" Congressional Budget Office

"Medicaid and CHIP Eligibility, Enrollment, Renewal, and Cost-Sharing Policies as of January 2016: Findings from a 50-State Survey" The Kaiser Family Foundation

"Entry/Exit Overstay Report" U.S. Department of Homeland Security

"Actually, Things Are Getting Better" by Barney Frank, POLITICO

"Deregulating Corporate America" by the Editorial Board, The New York Time

Compare & Contrast Proposals: Authorizations for Use of Military Force

Should Congress authorize the use of military force against ISIS? 

Several versions of authorization exist but none have been approved. Weigh in on the proposals currently in Congress.

  S.J.RES. 29 AUTHORIZATION FOR USE OF MILITARY FORCE AGAINST THE ISLAMIC STATE OF IRAQ AND THE LEVANT AND ITS ASSOCIATED FORCES
Sponsor: Sen. Mitch McConnell [R, KY]

 

  H.J.RES. 27 AUTHORIZATION FOR USE OF MILITARY FORCE AGAINST ISIL RESOLUTION
Sponsor: Rep. Adam Schiff [D, CA-28]

  • Does not authorize the deployment of ground forces in a combat role
  • Repeals the 2002 authorization of force that led to the invasion of Iraq
  • Requires report to Congress every 60 days
  • Limits authorization to three years
  • Allows for any lawmaker to offer a privileged motion to force a "timely debate" to repeal or revise the authorization resolution

 

  H.J.RES. 33 AUTHORIZATION FOR USE OF MILITARY FORCE AGAINST THE ISLAMIC STATE OF IRAQ AND THE LEVANT
Sponsor: Rep. Adam Kinzinger [R, IL-16]

  • Authorizes "necessary and appropriate force" against ISIL and any "individuals and organizations fighting for, on behalf of, or alongside ISIL"
  • Repeals the 2002 authorization of force that led to the invasion of Iraq
  • Requires report to Congress every 90 days

 

  H.R. 4208 AUTHORITY FOR USE OF MILITARY FORCE AGAINST THE ISLAMIC STATE OF IRAQ AND THE LEVANT ACT
Sponsor: Rep. Scott Rigell [R, VA-2]

  • Authorizes forces "against ISIL, any closely related successor entity, or associated persons or forces"
  • Repeals the 2002 authorization of force that led to the invasion of Iraq
  • Limits authorization to three years
  • References ISIS's "descipable acts of violence and mass executions against Muslims," threatened genocides against religious groups, anti-ISIL Coalition, beheadings of journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, death of American aid worker (and former Army ranger) Abdul-Rahman Peter Kassig, and American hostage Kayla Mueller
  • Expressly states that the use of US ground troops in combat against ISIL, except to protect the lives of US citizens from imminent threat, is not consistent with purpose of this bill

 

  S.J.RES. 26 AUTHORIZATION FOR USE OF MILITARY FORCE AGAINST THE ISLAMIC STATE OF IRAQ AND THE LEVANT AND ITS ASSOCIATED FORCES
Sponsor: Sen. Lindsey Graham [R, SC]

 

  S. 1587 AUTHORITY FOR USE OF MILITARY FORCE AGAINST THE ISLAMIC STATE OF IRAQ AND THE LEVANT ACT
Sponsor: Sen. Tim Kaine [D, VA]

  • Repeals the 2002 authorization of force that led to the invasion of Iraq
  • Requires a report to Congress at least once every six months
  • Limits authorization to three years
  • Purpose: "to protect the lives of US citizens and to provide military support to regional partners in their battle to defeat ISIL"
  • Expressly states that the use of US ground troops in combat against ISIL, except to protect the lives of US citizens from imminent threat, is not consistent with purpose of this bill

 

   THE PRESIDENT'S DRAFT AUTHORIZATION FOR USE OF MILITARY FORCE (AUMF)

  • Expressly does not authorize use of forces in "enduring offensive ground combat operations"
  • Repeals the 2002 authorization of force that led to the invasion of Iraq
  • Requires report to Congress "at least once every six months" of actions taken under the authorization
  • Limits authorization to three years

 

The Week Ahead in Congress: Jan. 18-23, 2016

The House is our for a district work period. The Senate is in and will vote on a bill to increase security screenings for refugees from Syria and Iraq. The nation celebrates the life and legacy of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., with a day of service, and a new era of relations with Iran dominate the headlines and the debate in Washington.


 A “Day On” to honor MLK

On Monday, the federal government is closed to commemorate the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., a federal holiday signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in 1983.

 

 

“For millions of Americans, the holiday has become “a day on, not a day off” as they volunteer to honor Dr. King’s legacy through service across the nation.” – Corporation for National and Community Service

 

“Martin Luther King, Jr., and his spirit live within all of us. Thank God for the blessing of his life and his leadership and his commitment. What manner of man was this? May we make ourselves worthy to carry on his dream and create the love community.”- President Ronald Reagan on signing the bill making the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., a National Holiday, November 2, 1983

 

 


 

Leading the Week: Iran Prisoner Exchange, Implementation Day, and new sanctions

Developments in US-Iran policy accelerated over the past week, with high-stakes diplomacy. Here’s are the bullet points:

  • Monday: Ten American sailors taken into Iranian custody after they veered into Iranian waters in the Persian Gulf.
  • Tuesday: President Obama gave his final State of the Union speech, with no mention of the sailors.
  • Wednesday: The sailors were released the next day.
  • Saturday: U.N. nuclear watchdog IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano stated that “Iran has completed the necessary preparatory steps to start the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action”
  • Implementation Day” began with a ceremony in Vienna (read remarks from Secretary of State, John Kerry) and several significant announcements
    • The European Union announced the lifting of sanctions
    • President Obama signed an executive order lifting U.S. sanctions
    • Iran announced the release of five American prisoners
  • Sunday: U.S. imposes new, limited sanctions on five Iranian citizens and 11 companies for violating United Nations resolutions against ballistic missile tests.

Last week, the House vacated a vote on a bill to restrict the lifting of sanctions on Iran because 137 Members did not make it to the House Floor in time for the 15-minute vote. (Speaker Ryan had previously indicated that he expected Members to be prompt and show up for votes.) The House expects to re-vote on the bill when they return the week of January 25, though conditions have changed significantly.

  H.R. 3662 IRAN TERROR FINANCE TRANSPARENCY ACT    |    Sponsor: Rep. Steven Russell [R, OK-5]

This bill prohibits the President from removing sanctions on foreign financial institutions until the President makes two certifications to Congress: (1) that the institution has not knowingly facilitated transactions or provided significant financial services for or on behalf of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps or any of its agents, a foreign terrorist organization, or a person whose property or property interests are blocked pursuant to the IEEPA in connection with Iran’s proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. (2) that the institution no longer knowingly engages in illicit or deceptive financial transactions or other activities.

 


In the Senate: Tightened Security Checks for Syrian and Iraqi Refugees

The Senate will vote on a House-passed bill that aims to “stop the open flow of 10,000 Syrian refugees to the United States without adequate vetting.” The President issued a veto threat, saying that the bill introduces “unnecessary and impractical requirements that would unacceptably hamper our efforts to assist some of the most vulnerable people in the world.”

 H.R. 4038 THE AMERICAN SAFE ACT   |     Sponsor: Rep. Michael McCaul [R, TX-10]

“Would put in place the most robust national security vetting process in history for any refugee population and it gives the American people the assurances needed that we will do everything possible to prevent terrorists from reaching our shores,” according to the bill sponsors.

“Specifically, under this legislation, no refugee from Iraq or Syria will be admitted into the U.S. unless: 1. The FBI Director certifies the background investigation of each refugee; and 2. The Secretary of Homeland Security, along with the FBI Director and the Director of National Intelligence, certifies to Congress that each refugee is not a security threat to the United States. Under this legislation, no Syrian or Iraqi refugee can enter the United States until the American people’s representatives in Congress receive these certifications.”


Select Bills under consideration in Senate Hearings:

Environment and Public Works

 S. 659: BIPARTISAN SPORTSMEN’S ACT OF 2015 |     Sponsor: Sen. Dan Sullivan [R, AK]

“to protect and enhance opportunities for recreational hunting, fishing, and shooting”

 S. 1024 GREAT LAKES RESTORATION INITIATIVE ACT OF 2015 |     Sponsor: Sen. Mark Kirk [R, IL]

“to authorize the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative”

 S. 1674: LONG ISLAND SOUND RESTORATION AND STEWARDSHIP ACT |     Sponsor: Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand [D, NY]

“to amend and reauthorize certain provisions relating to Long Island Sound restoration and stewardship”

S. 1724: LAKE TAHOE RESTORATION ACT OF 2015 |     Sponsor: Sen. Dean Heller [R, NV]

“to provide for environmental restoration activities and forest management activities in the Lake Tahoe Basin”

Appropriations: Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies

An oversight hearing to examine the Department of Justice’s role in implementing new executive actions related to gun control.


EXECUTIVE ACTIONS TO REDUCE GUN VIOLENCE
 

On January 4, 2016, President Obama announced a series of actions to reduce gun violence.


 

Please keep in mind that highlighting a bill does not imply POPVOX endorsement in any way. As always, our goal is to offer one more way to help you stay informed about the complex U.S. legislative system.