The POPVOX Blog

  1. Issue Spotlight: Tobacco and E-Cig Marketing to Young People

    Protecting Kids from Tobacco and E-Cigarette Advertisements

    Last week, the Senate leadership and House Democrats released a report identifying tobacco and e-cigarette ads and images in magazines targeting teen readers. According to the report, "tobacco companies continue to glamorize smoking in advertisements in magazines with large youth readership" and that "magazines frequently contain alluring images of smokers in their editorial content." These advertisements and images appeared most frequently in Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone, US Weekly, People and Time. (Read the report).

    Along with the report, the members of Congress wrote to the magazine publishers urging them to act to help reduce teen tobacco use: "We hope you will reconsider your policies and voluntarily act to reduce cigarette, e-cigarette, and other tobacco product advertising and cut the number of editorial and news images of cigarette, e-cigarette, and other tobacco product in your policies. Eliminating them will help reduce teen smoking, which is a goal we should all share." (Read the letters).

    Members of Congress have also introduced bills related to the selling and marketing of cigarettes and e-cigs to young people. Weigh in:

    Photo credit: Bruno Mars Images from Rolling Stone Magazine (May 9, 2013) 

    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. Issue Spotlight: Airstrikes Against ISIS

    US fighters and drone aircraft continue to strike targets tied to the Islamic State terrorist group (ISIS or ISIL) as part of the President's "comprehensive strategy to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL." To conduct these strikes, the US employed Air Force and Navy attack and fighter aircraft. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates also participated in these strikes, according to CENTCOM.

    Night vision footage of a US Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker refueling a US Air Force B-1B Lancer during strike operations in Syria, Sept. 27, 2014. 

    Background on Congressional Authorization and the Constitution

    President Barack Obama laid out his strategy to the American people and to the United Nations — but the debate in Congress on whether he needs Congressional authorization for this mission against ISIS continues. The Constitution separates the power to declare war (Legislative Branch) from the power to conduct war (Executive Branch). In other words, Congress decides whether to fight, and the President, as Commander-in-Chief, manages the fight authorized by Congress.

    In the last century, Congress has authorized major military actions, including World War I and II, the Gulf War, the response to the 9/11 attacks, and the Iraq War. The 2001 authorization for the use of military force is the longest continuously used congressional use of force authorization.

    Congress's Response to the President

    The Obama Administration is using the 2001 authorization and the 2002 Iraq War authorization as approval for the military campaign against ISIS. However, some in Congress believe that the President should seek authorization for military action against ISIS, especially as the airstrikes continue. Congress did approve funding to train and arm moderate Syrian rebels in the fight against ISIS, which was a part of the Continuing Resolution (HJRes 124).

    Speaker of the House John Boehner believes Congress should debate authorizing military action against ISIS in Syria "after the new Congress convenes in January," according to the New York Times.

    Meanwhile, Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chairs Reps. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN) are urging Speaker Boehner to bring Congress back to session for a debate and vote on the issue:

    1. "Speaker Boehner should recognize the gravity of this situation and call members of Congress back to Washington to vote on ongoing military actions in Iraq and Syria. Congress needs to fulfill its constitutional duties by having a robust debate and a vote on Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) that is tailored to these specific actions. Military authorizations from a decade ago should not justify war policy today. Americans are wary of any expanded military campaigns and their voices should be heard through their elected representatives."

    Proposals Pending in Congress Regarding Military Action

    Before adjourning for recess, Members of Congress introduced several proposals authorizing military action:

    • 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 the bill sponsor, Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA), "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."

    • HJRes 125

      Authorizing Military Force Against ISIL; Sunsetting After 18 Months

      According to the resolution’s sponsor: would give temporary, tailored authority for the combat ongoing against ISIL in Iraq, and for strikes against ISIL targets in Syria; and would harmonize the legal authorities under which the President is authorized to take offensive action by sunsetting the 2002 Iraq AUMF immediately and then sunsetting both the new authorities and the 2001 AUMF eighteen months after the enactment of the joint resolution. Does not authorize the use of ground combat forces in Iraq or Syria.

    • SJRes 44

      Authorization for Use of Military Force against the Islamic State; Sunsetting in One Year

      Authorizes the use of United States Armed Forces against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, with four key limitations, according to the resolution’s sponsor: 1) No US ground troops; 2) Repeal of the 2002 Iraq Authorization for Use of Military Force; 3) Sunset after one year; 4) Narrow definition of "associated forces."

    • 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."

    Find more bills related to military action against ISIS.

    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.

  3. Issue Spotlight: The A-10 Thunderbolt and the F-35 Lightning

    In March 2014, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James announced that the Air Force is “severely, severely limited by the fiscal choices” after the "sequestration" related budget agreement. As a result, the Air Force announced it would retire the A-10 Thunderbolt II close air support aircraft and the U-2 reconnaissance aircraft. Instead, the Air Force will prioritize the joint strike fighter, the new aerial refueling tanker program and the long-range strike bomber. (Source: Testimony before the House Armed Services Committee)

    The decision to retire the A-10 has been a controversial one. “That is, I know, an extremely controversial area... But I want you to know we are absolutely committed to the close air support mission,” Secretary James explained. “We will not let it drop.”

    A-10 Thunderbolt (The Warthog)

    Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), John McCain (R-AZ), and Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), who serve on the Senate Armed Services Committee, oppose the retirement of the A-10, citing the Chief of Staff of the Army, General Ray Odierno. General Odierno believes that it's “the best close air support aircraft” and confirmed that the Army did not recommend that the Air Force retire the A-10. It's been known for flying "75 feet above the enemy position." (Read the Senators' article on the A-10.) Sen. Ayotte's husband, Joe, was an A-10 pilot who flew combat missions in Iraq and also served in the Air National Guard.

    1. Primary Function: Close air support, airborne forward air control, combat search and rescue 
    2. Fun Facts: Top speed: 439 mph; Range: 800 miles; Wingspan: 57'
    3. Contractor: Fairchild Republic Co.
    4. Unit Cost: $18.8 million
    5. Inventory: Active force, 187; Reserve, 49; ANG, 107

    Should Congress Retire the A-10 Aircraft?

    The Air Force proposed retiring the 283 A-10s remaining in the fleet by 2019 to save an estimated $4.2 billion over five years. And in June, the House Appropriations Committee voted to cut the A-10 from the Air Force’s fleet. Days later, the House voted for an amendment to the Dept. of Defense Appropriations Act that prevents the Air Force from using appropriated funds to divest the A-10. (The full House adopted the amendment by Congresswoman Candice Miller (MI-10) by a 300 - 114 vote.)

    The Senate's Defense Appropriations bill proposes $338 million to maintain the A-10 fleet. (Read bill summary)

    Meanwhile, Members of Congress have also introduced a bill to prohibit the retirement of the A-10:

    • S 1764

      Limiting the retirement of the A-10

      (Also HR 3657 in the House) Prohibits the obligation or expenditure of any Department of Defense (DOD) funds to retire, prepare to retire, or place in storage any A-10 aircraft until: (1) the Secretary of the Air Force certifies that the F-35A aircraft has achieved full operational capability and Block 4A capabilities and that a sufficient number of F-35A aircraft exists in the Air Force inventory to replace the A-10 aircraft in order to meet close air support capability requirements of the combatant commands.

    F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter 

    Meanwhile, Congress has provided funds to build and maintain the F-35 Lightning II, "a 5th Generation fighter, combining advanced stealth with fighter speed and agility," according to its manufacturer, Lockheed Martin. They cite General Mark Welsh, Chief of Staff of the US Air Force: “When a 5th Generation fighter meets a 4th Generation fighter — [the latter] dies. We can't just dress up a 4th Generation fighter as a 5th Generation fighter; we need to get away from that conversation."

    The aircraft's "advanced airframe, autonomic logistics, avionics, propulsion systems, stealth, and firepower will ensure that the F-35 is the most affordable, lethal, supportable and survivable aircraft ever to be used by so many warfighters across the globe," according to the Joint Strike Fighter Program. The F-35 is intended to replace the US Air Force A-10s and F-16s, US Navy F/A-18s, US Marine Corps AV-8B Harriers and F/A-18s, and UK Harrier GR7s and Sea Harriers, according to the Air Force.

    So far, the federal government has provided close to $400 billion in funding to develop and procure 2,457 F-35 aircraft through 2037. Fifty-two aircraft have been delivered through 2012, according to a 2013 GAO report.

    The Senate's Defense Appropriations Committee provides funding for 34 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, the same as the President’s budget request. The House Appropriations Committee voted to support funding for 38 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters for FY 15, an increase of four jets more than the President's budget. "In order to reduce costs, it is a priority to get the Joint Strike Fighter line to full rate production as soon as possible," explained Congresswoman Kay Granger (R-TX), who serves on the Committee.  

    1. Primary Function: Multirole fighter
    2. Fun Facts: Top speed: 1,199 mph; Range: 1,379 miles; Wingspan: 35'
    3. Contractor: Lockheed Martin
    4. Unit Cost: varies by version, $181 - $299.5 million (source)
    5. Versions: a conventional-takeoff-and-landing (CTOL) variant for the US Air Force, an aircraft-carrier version (CV) for the US Navy, and a short-takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) version for the US Marine Corps and the UK Royal Air Force and Royal Navy. 
    6. Inventory: 34 - 38 in FY 15. (The US military plans to acquire 2,457 F-35 aircraft in the future.)

    Related Bills

    Members of Congress have introduced proposals related to Air Force aircraft:

    • HR 5119

      C-130 Modernization Act

      (S 2758 in Senate) To authorize the Secretary of the Air Force to modernize C-130 aircraft using alternative communication, navigation, surveillance, and air traffic management program kits and to ensure that such aircraft meet applicable regulations of the Federal Aviation Administration.
    • HR 4230

      Limit the retirement of KC-10

      The KC-10 aircraft, which is the largest, newest, and most capable refueling aircraft currently in the military’s inventory, is a workhorse and vital to meeting air refueling mission taskings for the Arctic, Trans-Atlantic, and Pacific routes,” according to the bill sponsor.
    • HR 3125

      Bio-based fuel research

      To authorize the Secretary of the Air Force to make competitive grants to support research and development, education, and training to produce a bio-based aviation fuel for use by the Air Force and to provide an initial infusion of funds for the grant program.

    Photo credits: National Air Force Museum  and Air Force aircraft fact sheet 

    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. The Week Ahead: Sept. 29 - Oct. 3

    From our Hill Sources: Congress is in recess until after the November elections. However, some members of Congress are calling on the House to return to debate and vote on authorizing military action against the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL). And this month marks the six-year anniversary of the initial application for the Keystone XL pipeline, which is still being debated in Congress.

    Also, Congress issued a report on cigarette marketing to young people, so we're spotlighting related bills. And the Senate is considering higher education affordability. Weigh in on POPVOX!

    Airstrikes Against ISIS

    US fighters and drone aircraft continue to strike targets tied to the Islamic State terrorist group (ISIS or ISIL) as part of the President's "comprehensive strategy to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL." To conduct these strikes, the US employed Air Force and Navy attack and fighter aircraft. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates also participated in these strikes, according to CENTCOM.

    Background on Congressional Authorization and the Constitution

    President Barack Obama laid out his strategy to the American people and to the United Nations — but the debate in Congress on whether he needs Congressional authorization for this mission against ISIS continues. The Constitution separates the power to declare war (Legislative Branch) from the power to conduct war (Executive Branch). In other words, Congress decides whether to fight, and the President, as Commander-in-Chief, manages the fight authorized by Congress.

    In the last century, Congress has authorized major military actions, including World Wars I and II, the Gulf War, the Iraq War, and the response to the 9/11 attacks. The 2001 authorization for the use of military force is the longest continuously used congressional use of force authorization.

    Congress's Response to the President

    The Obama Administration is using the 2001 authorization and the 2002 Iraq War authorization as approval for the military campaign against ISIS. However, some in Congress believe that the President should seek authorization for military action against ISIS, especially as the airstrikes continue. Congress did approve funding to train and arm moderate Syrian rebels in the fight against ISIS, which was a part of the Continuing Resolution (HJRes 124).

    Speaker of the House John Boehner believes Congress should debate authorizing military action against ISIS in Syria "after the new Congress convenes in January," according to the New York Times.

    Meanwhile, Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chairs Reps. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN) are urging Speaker Boehner to bring Congress back to session for a debate and vote on the issue:

    1. "Speaker Boehner should recognize the gravity of this situation and call members of Congress back to Washington to vote on ongoing military actions in Iraq and Syria. Congress needs to fulfill its constitutional duties by having a robust debate and a vote on Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) that is tailored to these specific actions. Military authorizations from a decade ago should not justify war policy today. Americans are wary of any expanded military campaigns and their voices should be heard through their elected representatives."

    Before adjourning for recess, several proposals regarding military action were introduced:

    • 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."

    • HJRes 125

      Authorizing Military Force Against ISIL, Sunsetting After 18 Months

      According to the resolution’s sponsor: would give temporary, tailored authority for the combat ongoing against ISIL in Iraq, and for strikes against ISIL targets in Syria; and would harmonize the legal authorities under which the President is authorized to take offensive action by sunsetting the 2002 Iraq AUMF immediately and then sunsetting both the new authorities and the 2001 AUMF eighteen months after the enactment of the joint resolution. Does not authorize the use of ground combat forces in Iraq or Syria.

    • SJRes 44

      Authorization for Use of Military Force against the Islamic State; Sunsetting in One Year

      Authorizes the use of United States Armed Forces against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, with four key limitations, according to the resolution’s sponsor: 1) No US ground troops; 2) Repeal of the 2002 Iraq Authorization for Use of Military Force; 3) Sunset after one year; 4) Narrow definition of “associated forces.”

    • 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."

    Find more bills related to military action against ISIS.

    Tobacco and E-Cig Marketing to Young People

    Last week, the Senate leadership and House Democrats released a report identifying tobacco and e-cigarette ads and images in magazines targeting teen readers. According to the report, "tobacco companies continue to glamorize smoking in advertisements in magazines with large youth readership" and that "magazines frequently contain alluring images of smokers in their editorial content." These advertisements and images appeared most frequently in Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone, US Weekly, People and Time. (Read the report).

    Along with the report, the members of Congress wrote to the magazine publishers urging them to act to help reduce teen tobacco use: "We hope you will reconsider your policies and voluntarily act to reduce cigarette, e-cigarette, and other tobacco product advertising and cut the number of editorial and news images of cigarette, e-cigarette, and other tobacco product in your policies. Eliminating them will help reduce teen smoking, which is a goal we should all share." (Read the letters).

    Members of Congress have also introduced bills related to the selling and marketing of cigarettes and e-cigs to young people. Weigh in:

    Higher Education Affordability

    Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, released for discussion a draft proposal for the upcoming reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA). "College affordability, skyrocketing student debt, accountability, and transparency – these are all very high-stakes issues for students and families," he explained. "The Higher Education Affordability Act seeks changes to our system of higher education in order to make a college education more affordable and accessible.”

    • Draft

      Higher Education Affordability Act (Draft)

      According to a Committee release, the draft "takes a comprehensive approach to rein in rising college costs and ensure the system is better serving students and families. The proposal focuses on four main goals: increasing college affordability, helping struggling borrowers, strengthening accountability, and improving transparency."

    Meanwhile, the House approved several HEA-related bills before leaving for recess:

    • HR 3136

      Advancing Competency-Based Education Demonstration Project Act

      —Bipartisan— Would "provide students new opportunities to receive a high-quality education in a way that best serves their personal and financial needs." --Passed by the House on July 23--

    • HR 4983

      Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act

      —Bipartisan— "Would improve consumer information to provide a more complete picture of all student populations, streamline existing transparency efforts at the federal level to reduce confusion for students, and require better coordination by federal agencies to avoid duplication and confusion," according to bill sponsors. --Passed by the House on July 23-- 

    • HR 4984

      Empowering Students Through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act

      —Bipartisan— Would "promote financial literacy through enhanced counseling for all recipients of federal financial aid," according to bill sponsors. Ensures borrowers, both students and parents, who participate in the federal loan program receive interactive counseling each year that reflects their individual borrowing situation. Provides awareness about the financial obligations students and parents are accumulating by requiring borrowers to consent each year before receiving federal student loans. --Passed by the House on July 24--

    • HR 5134

      Extending two small HEA agencies

      —Bipartisan— To extend the operations of the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity and the Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance for one year. Their operations will cease Sept. 30 unless they are extended. --Passed by Congress on September 15, and is waiting to be signed into law by the President--

    • HR 3393

      Child Tax Credit Improvement Act and Student and Family Tax Simplification Act

      —Bipartisan— The legislation consolidates four existing education provisions — the Hope Credit, the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC), the Lifetime Learning Credit, and the tuition deduction — into a single, modernized and strengthened AOTC, according to bill sponsors. The new AOTC, which would be permanent and partially refundable, would provide a 100-percent tax credit for the first $2,000 of eligible higher education expenses and a 25-percent tax credit for the next $2,000 of such expenses (for a maximum credit of $2,500). The first $1,500 of the credit would be refundable, meaning that families could receive the benefit regardless of whether they have Federal income tax liability. --Passed by the House on July 24--

    Keystone XL Pipeline — Six Years Later

    This month marks six years since application to build the Keystone XL pipeline was first submitted. TransCanada has proposed laying 1,179 miles of pipe, 36 inches in diameter, that would connect oil producers in Canada’s tar sands region with refineries along the American Gulf Coast. The project has been extensively debated and studied — and the Obama Administration has not yet made a decision to approve the pipeline.

    Congress could pass legislation to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, but the proposal failed to pass in the Senate in May. Then, Senate Majority Harry Reid (D-NV) had agreed to a vote to approve the pipeline — if Republicans agreed to a bipartisan energy efficiency bill. Republicans threatened a filibuster, which killed the energy efficiency bill and the subsequent pipeline vote.

    Weigh in on bills related to Keystone:

    • S 2823

      North American Energy Infrastructure Act

      —Bipartisan—  Eliminates the Presidential Permit requirement for projects crossing the national boundary between the US and Canada or Mexico and puts the decision making into the hands of appropriate agencies. Imposes a 120-day time limit on the State Department to either issue a certificate of crossing or deny a project approval following completion of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process. Focuses the NEPA process to the federal section of the pipeline – the portion that crosses the border and recognizes that the states are the ones to regulate the siting of pipelines within their boundaries, according to bill sponsors(A similar bill, HR 3301, passed the House on June 24, 2014.)
    • HR 334

      Keystone For a Secure Tomorrow Act

      Would "allow Congress to directly and immediately approve the permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline," according to the sponsor.

    • HR 3

      Northern Route Approval Act

      —Bipartisan— To approve the construction, operation, and maintenance of the Keystone XL pipeline. --Passed the House on May 22, 2013--

    • S 2136

      Keystone Oil for American Consumers

      To ensure that oil transported through the Keystone XL pipeline into the US is used to reduce US dependence on Middle Eastern oil. "The Keystone XL pipeline would terminate in Port Arthur, Texas, which is a foreign trade zone, allowing for the re-export of the Canadian tar sands oil without paying taxes," according to the bill sponsor

    • S 2280

      Keystone Pipeline Approval

      —Bipartisan— "Would immediately authorize TransCanada’s application with the State Department to build the Keystone XL pipeline," according to the bill sponsors. "Would also finalize the environmental review process and respects existing private property rights." 

  5. The POPVOX Top 20: Sept. 19 - 25

    The most active proposal on POPVOX this week was about advancing a cure for Alzheimer's disease: HRes 489 is a bipartisan resolution calling on the US "to both engage in and lead a coordinated, international effort to advance work for the treatment, prevention and perhaps even a cure for Alzheimer’s disease as well as other forms of dementia," according to sponsors.

    Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States with a 68 percent increase in deaths caused by Alzheimer’s in the last ten years alone, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. The number of Americans with Alzheimer’s is expected to increase by 40 percent by 2025 and increase by 2.5 times to over 13 million by 2050. The WHO and Alzheimer’s Disease International 2012 Dementia Report estimates that there were 35.6 million people with dementia (including AD) worldwide in 2010. Beyond the human suffering, the global cost of this condition totaled $604 billion in 2010, according to Alzheimer’s Disease International. (Learn more).

    This Saturday, the UC-Berkeley Golden Bears will be hosting the first collegiate football game dedicated to raising awareness for Alzheimer's disease. The game, which will also serve as Berkeley's home opener for the Pacific-12 Conference, is being promoted on Twitter via the hashtag #ENDALZ which is also promoting Alzheimer's fundraising events. 

    Weigh in on the Alzheimer's resolution 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.

    • HRes 489

      #1 Alzheimer's Resolution

      -- Bipartisan -- Calls on the US Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to enter into negotiations with the World Health Organization (WHO) to develop a Global Alzheimer’s and Dementia Action Plan, according to sponsors. Also calls on the US government to encourage and facilitate partnerships with the private sector, such as the current partnership between the National Institutes of Health and 10 pharmaceutical companies to identify new approaches to treat Alzheimer’s. It states that the HHS Secretary along with the Secretary of the Treasury should develop the foundation for a Global Alzheimer’s Fund that would provide resources to support implementation of specific strategies to address AD.

      506 Support | 48 Oppose

    • HR 5522

      #2 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."

      337 Support | 18 Oppose

    • S 2884

      #3 Changing the Redskins's name

      According to the bill sponsor, "American taxpayers should not be forced to subsidize a $9 billion league that promotes a dictionary-defined racial slur. It’s time to end the special tax breaks for the National Football League."

      23 Support | 246 Oppose

    • S 2828

      #4 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.

      74 Support | 185 Oppose

    • HR 5669

      #5 Revoking citizenship due to terrorist affiliation

      To amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to provide for the loss of nationality by native-born or naturalized citizens due to affiliation with designated foreign terrorist organizations.

      164 Support | 28 Oppose

    • HR 4813

      #6 Protection and Accountability Regulatory Act

      --Bipartisan-- "Would stop the Obama Administration’s rules for both new and existing power plants, and place a five-year moratorium on any similar rules," according to the bill sponsor.

      141 Support | 17 Oppose

    • HR 4

      #7 Jobs for America Act

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

      121 Support | 36 Oppose

    • S 2865

      #8 Voter Registration Modernization Act

      To provide for voter registration through the Internet. According to the bill sponsor, "voting is one of our most sacred rights as Americans. Instead of adding new burdens, we should make voting easy for millions of people. Bringing our nation’s antiquated voter registration system into the 21st century is common sense. We must ensure that all states have secure online voter registration in order to make every voice heard at the ballot box."

      24 Support | 124 Oppose

    • HR 4569

      #9 Disclosure Modernization and Simplification Act

      To require the Securities and Exchange Commission to make certain improvements to form 10-K and regulation S-K.

      93 Support | 32 Oppose

    • HR 5418

      #10 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 --

      113 Support | 1 Oppose

    • HR 2555

      #11 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.

      91 Support | 15 Oppose

    • S 532

      #12 Same Day Registration Act

      According to the bill sponsor, "The right to vote is the foundation of effective democratic government. Voting is the only true way the American people can ensure their elected leaders are held accountable for their actions and decisions, and we should be doing everything we can to foster this right."

      15 Support | 87 Oppose

    • HR 5169

      #13 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 --

      91 Support | 6 Oppose

    • HR 5405

      #14 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.

      54 Support | 34 Oppose

    • SRes 524

      #15 Global Climate Change Resolution

      "Would simply express the sense of the Senate that climate change is occurring and that it will continue to pose ongoing risks and challenges to our citizens and to our country," according to the resolution sponsor.

      9 Support | 77 Oppose

    • HR 4137

      #16 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 --

      70 Support | 8 Oppose

    • S 2685

      #17 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.

      61 Support | 14 Oppose

    • HR 5226

      #18 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.

      64 Support | 9 Oppose

    • S 2905

      #19 Carbon Pollution Transparency Act

      To require the Congressional Budget Office to calculate a carbon score for each bill or resolution.

      15 Support | 56 Oppose

    • HR 662

      #20 Prohibiting Contributions to UN Climate Change Efforts

      To prohibit the US from contributing taxpayer dollars to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), according to bill sponsor

      57 Support | 10 Oppose

  6. Issue Spotlight: Camp Lejeune

    Here's an example of sharing your voice, telling others to do so  and being heard by your elected officials in Washington, DC.

    Water Contamination at Camp Lejeune

    From 1957 to 1987 -- thirty years -- the water supply at the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina was contaminated. "An estimated 750,000 people may have been exposed to probable and known human carcinogens," according to the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. To date, it is the largest recorded environmental incident on a domestic Department of Defense installation.

    People Shared their Voice about the Contamination

    In the subsequent years, and decades, after the water contamination was detected, servicemembers and their families urged Congress to do something. And their stories were heart-felt. So much so that they inspired the POPVOX team to create the "+appreciate" function, enabling POPVOX users to say, "thank you -- and I *appreciate* you taking the time to share your story." 

    The Ensminger family's tragedy lead them to advocacy. As Jerry Ensminger explained on POPVOX about a Congressional proposal addressing the water contamination, originally called the Janey Ensminger Act:

    1. "This bill is named after my deceased daughter, Jane Y. Ensminger. She was the only one of my four children to have been conceived, carried, or born while living aboard Camp Lejeune. When Janey was six years old, she was diagnosed with leukemia and died shortly after her ninth birthday. Fourteen years later I discovered that the drinking water in several water distribution systems aboard Camp Lejeune were highly contaminated with a cocktail of chemicals (TCE, PCE, DCE, vinyl chloride, benzene, toluene, ethyl-benzene, xylene, and methylene-chloride).

      One of the most shocking revelations I discovered in my nearly 15 year fight for justice on this issue was the fact that the Department of the Navy and United States Marine Corps knew about the presence of these chemicals in the water for nearly 5 years before they took any action to rectify the problem. They also had regulations which prohibited these chemicals from being in our water. All of us were at Camp Lejeune voluntarily serving to protect our nation, none of us expected or suspected that we were being poisoned by our own leaders...Jerry Ensminger."

      — jmeusmc (NC-7) (Link to comment

    And they were joined by hundreds of other POPVOX users who weighed in on this issue. Here are just a few of their comments:

    1. "My Mother died of several forms of cancer and my father had numerous pollups on his body, both were stationed at Camp LeJeune during the period of water contamination, and both died at young ages, I was stationed at Camp LeJeune during the contamination and I have experienced some of the same issues as my Mother and Father. I thank you for supporting this bill."

      — johnjhobrien (MO-5) (Link to comment) 

    2. "I am truly happy that after all these years the service members that were station in Camp Lejeune will finally have the healthcare that they so despertally need. I too am a Mariine that was stationed in Camp Lejeune from 1976 trhough 1979, and I too am suffering from so many medical problems, Thank you so much for not leaving a service member behind."

      — domingo.aguilar (CA-8) (Link to comment

    3. "I was stationed at Camp Lejeune in 1983 as a Navy Hospital Corpsman. I was diagnosed with advanced Non Hodgkin's Lymphoma in 2005. My Doctor told me that it is caused by exposure to pesticides and other hazardous chemicals, and is incurable. I have undergone 32 rounds of chemotherapy at my own expense. I recently learned of this issue and feel that I remain faithful to my country, I now need my country to remain faithful to me, and my family, when I need to undergo further treatment. Semper Fi"

      — FreddyKeilman (NC-11) (Link to comment)

    4. "I am the daughter, grand daughter, and great-great niece of United States Marines. There are four generations of Marines in my family. Both my grandfather and my father were stationed at MCB Camp Lejeune. My father, mother, and older sister lived in NCO housing aboard Lejeune, at Knox Trailer park, part of Tarawa Terrace. My mother was pregnant with me when my father was TAD to a Naval Air Station between his 2nd and 3rd tours in Viet Nam. They left Lejeune after living there for 3.5 years. We never knew why my mother became so ill when I was just a little girl. So many things went wrong so quickly. We felt CURSED. She had blood issues that no one could explain. Neurological problems that defied diagnosis. My grandmother raise me until I was about 12 and could mostly take care of myself because my family was in shambles. At 18 yrs old, my sister was operated for uterine tumors, which returned. She managed to give birth to 3 children, but suffered 6 miscarriages. Her first son was born 2 months premature, with Spina Bifida, & congenital heart defects. I could go on, but my family DESERVES fair treatment."

      — OhioJarheadBrat (OH-8) (Link to comment

    Congress Listened

    In August 2012, Congress passed the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act. It provides health care for Marines and family members who had lived on the base for at least 30 days and are suffering from related medical conditions. (Add your name to the Camp Lejeune registry, if you or your family are ill.) 

    While veterans began receiving care immediately after the law passed in 2012, it has taken longer for the VA to establish a reimbursement policy for medical care provided to military families who once lived on the base and were also exposed to the toxins in the water supply. The VA this week announced final regulations on health care services for veterans who served at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days between Jan. 1, 1957 and Dec. 31, 1987. The VA also developed regulations to reimburse eligible Camp Lejeune family members for out-of-pocket health care costs incurred for any of the 15 covered medical conditions listed in the 2012 law after other health insurance coverage and reimbursement is received. (Family members will be eligible to apply for this benefit next month.) (Learn more.)

    Next Steps in Congress

    A 2013 Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) study found that the drinking water was contaminated as far back as 1953, four years earlier than previously thought. Senators Richard Burr (R-NC) and Kay Hagan (D-NC) have introduced legislation that would extend health care coverage for Camp Lejeune veterans and their families back to 1953:

    In addition, Rep. GK Butterfield (D-NC) and Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC) introduced a bill that would "protect the ability of North Carolinians harmed by toxic chemicals to seek legal recourse, including Marines harmed by contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune":

    • HR 4993

      Seeking Legal Recourse

      (And S 2542 in the Senate.) To clarify the effect of State statutes of repose on the required commencement date for actions under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980. "Clarifies that federal law preempts state laws that limit the timeframe in which damages could be recovered for injuries and diseases that often do not appear for decades after toxic exposure. " 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.

  7. Issue Spotlight: Climate Change

    The UN Climate Summit, Sept. 23

    Yesterday, the United Nations hosted 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 addressed the Summit, and announced that he is directing federal agencies to factor climate resilience into international development programs and investments. (Read his remarks.)

    1. "For all the immediate challenges that we gather to address this week -- terrorism, instability, inequality, disease -- there’s one issue that will define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other, and that is the urgent and growing threat of a changing climate." -- President Obama

    New Executive Order on Climate-Resilient International Development

    In his speech, the President highlighted "the ambitious actions the US is taking under his Climate Action Plan, while stressing that all major economies must step up to the plate if we are to avoid the dangerous consequences of climate change." President Obama announced an Executive Order on Climate-Resilient International Development, requiring agencies to factor climate-resilience considerations systematically into the US government’s international development work and to promote a similar approach with multilateral entities. (Read the new Executive Order.)

    One of the key elements of the President's Climate Action Plan is to address the largest source of carbon emissions — the 32 percent of US greenhouse gas emissions that come from the power sector, mostly from coal-fired power plants. The "Clean Power Plan," a recent Environmental Protection Agency proposal, will for the first time cuts carbon pollution from existing power plants. 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. 

    Related Bills in Congress

    Congress has also introduced several bills related to climate change and the EPA proposals. Here are a few pending before Congress:

    • HR 4813

      Protection and Accountability Regulatory Act

      --*Bipartisan*-- "Would stop the Obama Administration’s rules for both new and existing power plants, and place a five-year moratorium on any similar rules," according to the bill sponsor.
    • S 2533

      Agency PAYGO for Greenhouse Gases Act

      "Would limit the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ability to impose the costs of greenhouse gas (GHG) rules on other federal agencies without first providing an offset. Would prohibit the EPA from circumventing Congress to implement the President’s Climate Action Plan, including the EPA’s June 2, 2014 proposed regulations on carbon emissions from existing power plants," according to bill sponsors.
    • HR 4850

      Coal Jobs and Affordable Energy Protection Act

      To prevent the EPA’s proposed regulations from taking effect until the Department of Labor certifies that the regulations would not cost jobs; the Congressional Budget certifies that the regulations would not result in any loss in the gross domestic product; the Energy Information Administration certifies that the regulations would not increase electricity rates; the Federal American Electric Reliability Corporation certifies that electricity deliver would remain reliable.
    • S 2414

      Coal Country Protection Act

      To amend the Clean Air Act to prohibit the regulation of emissions of carbon dioxide from new or existing power plants under certain circumstances. The bill would prevent the EPA’s proposed emissions rule from going into effect until the Department of Labor certifies that the rule will not cause a loss in the US GDP, the Department of Energy certifies that the rule will not increase electricity rates, and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission certifies that electricity delivery will remain viable.
    • HR 5034

      Stop the EPA Act

      To amend title 5, United States Code, to provide for certain special congressional review procedures for EPA rulemakings.
    • HR 4799

      Clean Air Fairness Act

      To amend the Clean Air Act to give States adequate time to revise their State implementation plans to prevent emissions activity within such States from contributing significantly to nonattainment in, or interfering with maintenance by, any other State with respect to any national ambient air quality standard.
    • HR 4808

      Protecting Jobs, Families, and the Economy From EPA Overreach Act

      --*Bipartisan*-- Requires that specific criteria be met before the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can impose any new regulations on the nation’s power plants, including the controversial new rule recently announced by the Obama Administration, according to the bill sponsors.
    • S 2905

      Carbon Pollution Transparency Act

      To require the Congressional Budget Office to calculate a carbon score for each bill or resolution.
    • HR 4754

      Managed Carbon Price Act

      To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by requiring a Federal emission permit for the sale or use of covered substances. Would reduce harmful carbon dioxide emissions and to help American industry transition to clean sources of energy, according to bill sponsors.
    • S 2526

      Commonsense Legislative Exceptional Events Reform (CLEER) Act

      "Would streamline Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations intended to ensure that states and localities are not considered in violation of federal air-quality standards due to uncontrollable, naturally occurring events – otherwise known as “exceptional events” – such as the dust storms and wildfires that occur in Arizona," according to bill sponsors.
    • S 2514

      Ozone Regulatory Delay and Extension of Assessment Length (ORDEAL) Act

      "Would give the EPA more time to review and revise air quality standards, ensuring a more certain regulatory environment for state air-quality agencies and businesses, according to bill sponsors.

    Additionally, there are several proposals related to global climate change:

    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.

  8. Issue Spotlight: National Voter Registration Day

    Happy National Voter Registration Day!

    The midterm elections are coming up! Are you registered to vote? (You can register online.) Today might be a good day to sign up. Across the country, from Wilmington, DE to Cambridge, MA to Cincinnati, OH, volunteers will be registering people to vote as a part of National Voter Registration Day. Celebrities such as Russel Simmons and Fergie Duhamel have even joined the effort, promoting the day via Twitter with the hashtag "#CelebrateNVRD."

    According to the official National Voter Registration Day website, "In 2008, 6 million Americans didn't vote because they missed a registration deadline or didn't know how to register. In 2014, we want to make sure no one is left out. This single day of coordinated field, technology and media efforts will create pervasive awareness of voter registration opportunities--allowing us to reach tens of thousands of voters who we could not reach otherwise."

    Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley recognized the day in a statement:

    1. "Government works best when more people participate at the ballot box. We’re doing more, not less, to give young people, the mentally disabled, our military, and so many others the opportunity to make their voices heard in their communities, and exercise what Dr. Martin Luther King called, ‘civil right number one’ — the right to vote.”

    In 2013, the Supreme Court struck down the crux of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, allowing nine states -- Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia -- to change their election laws without advance federal approval. Chief Justice John Roberts explained that Congress can still go on an create new federal oversight on states where voting rights were at risk, but they must do so based on contemporary data. 

    Weigh in on Bills Relating to Voter Registration

    • HR 12

      Voter Empowerment Act

      (And S 123 in the Senate.) To modernize voter registration, promote access to voting for individuals with disabilities, protect the ability of individuals to exercise the right to vote in elections for Federal office. According to the bill sponsor, "The right to vote is precious, almost sacred. Too many people in this country had to give their lives to exercise a right already guaranteed them by the Constitution. Outlawing the poll tax 49 years ago does not mean we are finished protecting democratic freedom. New challenges to equal access still arise today. To be a credible voice for equal justice abroad, we must be watchful here at home to alleviate every historic and current  impediment to the democratic process."

    • HR 2829

      Restoring Important Voter Eligibility Requirements to States Act

      To amend the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 to require an applicant for voter registration for elections for Federal office to affirmatively state that the applicant meets the eligibility requirements for voting in such elections as a condition of completing the application, to require States to verify that an applicant for registering to vote in such elections meets the eligibility requirements for voting in such elections prior to registering the applicant to vote.

    • S 85

      FAST Voting Act

      A bill to provide incentives for States to invest in practices and technology that are designed to expedite voting at the polls and to simplify voter registration. According to the bill sponsor, "the November 2012 elections were a wake-up call. Tens of thousands of Americans, including Republicans and Democrats in both 'red states' and 'blue states,' saw their fundamental right to vote for the candidate of their choice eroded by exceptionally long lines and confusing procedures in well over a dozen states. It does not have to be this way. We can pass the FAST Voting Act to accelerate the adoption of efficient and effective practices for administering elections."

    • S 2865

      Voter Registration Modernization Act

      To provide for voter registration through the Internet. According to the bill sponsor, "voting is one of our most sacred rights as Americans. Instead of adding new burdens, we should make voting easy for millions of people. Bringing our nation’s antiquated voter registration system into the 21st century is common sense. My legislation will strengthen New York’s efforts to make every vote count. We must ensure that all states have secure online voter registration in order to make every voice heard at the ballot box."

    • S 1336

      Permitting States to require proof of citizenship for voter registration in Federal elections

      To permit States to require proof of citizenship for registration to vote in elections for Federal office. According to the bill sponsor, "The right to vote is a fundamental building block of our nation’s democratic process and it is crucial that we have the measures in place to uphold the integrity of our elections. This bill ensures that states can enforce the commonsense requirement that those registered to vote must actually be U.S. citizens."

    • HR 2115

      Voter Registration Efficiency Act

      To amend the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 to require an individual who applies for a motor vehicle driver’s license in a new State to indicate whether the new State is to serve as the individual’s residence for purposes of registering to vote in elections for Federal office.

    • HR 1280

      Voter Fraud Prevention Act

      To amend the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 to increase the penalties imposed for intimidating, threatening, or coercing any person from engaging in voter registration activities or for procuring, submitting, or casting false voter registration applications or ballots, to require election officials to transmit voter registration cards and absentee ballots to voters in elections for Federal office through the use of the automated tagging and tracing services provided by the United States Postal Service.

    • S 532

      Same Day Registration Act

      According to the bill sponsor, "The right to vote is the foundation of effective democratic government. Voting is the only true way the American people can ensure their elected leaders are held accountable for their actions and decisions, and we should be doing everything we can to foster this right."

    • S 2235

      Democracy Restoration Act

      A bill to secure the Federal voting rights of persons when released from incarceration. According to the bill sponsor, "The Democracy Restoration Act would restore voting rights in federal elections to approximately 5.8 million citizens who have been released from prison and are back living in their communities...The legislation would restore voting rights to prisoners after their release from incarceration. It requires that prisons receiving federal funds notify people about their right to vote in federal elections when they are leaving prison, sentenced to probation, or convicted of a misdemeanor."

    • HJRes 44

      A Constitutional Right to Vote

      Proposing an amendment to the US Constitution regarding the right to vote. "Every citizen of the United States, who is of legal voting age, shall have the fundamental right to vote in any public election held in the jurisdiction in which the citizen resides." 

    • HCRes 17

      National Voting Rights Act Mobilization Day

      Expressing the sense of Congress that a day should be designated as “National Voting Rights Act Mobilization Day."
  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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." 
  15. 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.
  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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.