The POPVOX Blog

  1. Issue Spotlight: Greater Sage Grouse

    Meet the New Poster Bird: The Greater Sage Grouse

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

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

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

    • HR 4716

      Sage Grouse Protection and Conservation Act

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

      Sage-Grouse and Endangered Species Conservation and Protection Act

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

      Sage-Grouse Accountability and Private Conservation Act

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

      Emergency Fuel Reduction Act

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

      Endangered Species Management Self-Determination Act

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

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

    Photo Credit: The US Fish & Wildlife Service

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

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

    Top 20 Bills of the Week

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

    • HR 5344

      #1 Responsible Body Armor Possession Act

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

      18 Support | 1088 Oppose

    • S 1486

      #2 Postal Reform Act in the Senate

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

      54 Support | 189 Oppose

    • SRes 225

      #3 Establishing a Joint Select Committee on Benghazi

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

      160 Support | 32 Oppose

    • HRes 711

      #4 Resolution Ensuring Door Delivery

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

      133 Support | 55 Oppose

    • HR 5226

      #5 Charlotte’s Web Medical Hemp Act

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

      153 Support | 4 Oppose

    • HR 2748

      #6 Postal Reform Act in the House

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

      75 Support | 81 Oppose

    • HR 4896

      #7 Do Your Job Act

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

      147 Support | 7 Oppose

    • Draft

      #8 Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act (Draft bill)

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

      122 Support | 25 Oppose

    • HR 1318

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

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

      46 Support | 100 Oppose

    • S 2313

      #10 Do Your Job Act

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

      136 Support | 2 Oppose

    • SRes 530

      #11 Resolution calling for action to protect Iraqi Christians

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

      99 Support | 18 Oppose

    • HR 5336

      #12 MEMORY Act

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

      74 Support | 37 Oppose

    • HR 4679

      #13 Stop Corporate Inversions Act

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

      37 Support | 72 Oppose

    • HR 5179

      #14 POSTAL Act

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

      31 Support | 76 Oppose

    • HR 4934

      #15 Regulatory Agency Demilitarization Act

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

      93 Support | 2 Oppose

    • HR 4599

      #16 Authorizing Military Force

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

      83 Support | 9 Oppose

    • HR 4716

      #17 Sage Grouse Protection and Conservation Act

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

      21 Support | 71 Oppose

    • HR 1718

      #18 United States Postal Service Shipping Equity Act

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

      77 Support | 13 Oppose

    • HR 630

      #19 Postal Service Protection Act

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

      53 Support | 37 Oppose

    • S 250

      #20 Corporate Tax Dodging Prevention Act

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

      43 Support | 45 Oppose

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

  3. Issue Spotlight: Burger King and Tax Inversions

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

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

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

    Related Bills

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

    • HR 4679

      Stop Corporate Inversions Act

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

      Corporate Tax Dodging Prevention Act

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

      End Wasteful Tax Loopholes Act

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

      Corporate Tax Fairness Act

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

      Stop Corporate Expatriation and Invest in America's Infrastructure Act

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

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

     

  4. The Week Ahead: Aug. 25 - 29

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

    "You've got mail!" Postal Reform

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

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

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

    • S 1486

      Postal Reform Act in the Senate

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

      Postal Reform Act in the House

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

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

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

    • HRes 711

      Resolution Ensuring Door Delivery

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

      Securing Access to Rural Postal Services Act

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

      United States Postal Service Shipping Equity Act

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

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

    • HR 961

      United States Postal Service Stabilization Act

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

      POSTAL Act

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

      FLEET Act

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

      Innovate to Deliver Act

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

      Protect Overnight Delivery Act

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

      Postal Facilities Preservation and Sales Reform Act

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

      Secure Delivery for America Act

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

      Postal Facilities Preservation and Sales Reform Act

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

      Postal Service Protection Act

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

    New Poster Bird: Greater Sage Grouse

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

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

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

    • HR 4716

      Sage Grouse Protection and Conservation Act

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

      Sage-Grouse and Endangered Species Conservation and Protection Act

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

      Sage-Grouse Accountability and Private Conservation Act

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

      Emergency Fuel Reduction Act

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

      Endangered Species Management Self-Determination Act

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

    The Benghazi Select Committee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Photo credit: The US Fish & Wildlife Service

  5. The POPVOX Top 20: Aug 15 - 21, 2014

    Once again, this week's top issue is whether to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank, the official export credit agency of the United States. Its mission is to assist in financing the export of US goods and services to international markets through direct loans, loan guarantees, working capital guarantees and export credit insurance, as well as special financing programs. Congress must decide whether to reauthorize the bank by Sept. 30th. So far, the vast majority of POPVOX users (98%) oppose the reauthorization of the bank. (See the pie chart. Already weighed in? Read others' comments and appreciate them.)

     

    The Ex-Im Bank has supported nearly 1.2 million private sector US jobs since 2009, including 205,000 jobs in FY 2013 alone. It financed a total of $6 billion in small business exports, of which $5.2 billion was for the direct support of American small-business exporters last year. (Source: Ex-Im Bank's Chairman Fred Hochberg's testimony before the Senate Banking Committee.) Many business groups and trade associations like the Business Roundtable, National Small Business Association and the US Chamber of Commerce are calling for reauthorization, while other traditionally pro-business groups such as the Club for Growth, Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), FreedomWorks and Heritage Action are urging Congress to abandon the bank based on free market principles. (Learn more.)

    Top 20 Bills of the Week

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    Here 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.

    • Ex-Im Bank

      #1 Reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank

      The Export-Import Bank is the official export credit agency of the United States. Its mission is to assist in financing the export of US goods and services to international markets. In 2012, Congress reauthorized the Ex-Im Bank, increasing its exposure limit (the limit on total aggregate outstanding amount of financing) from $100 billion to $140 billion. This authorization expires on Sept. 30, 2014.

      14 Support | 436 Oppose

    • HR 5344

      #2 Responsible Body Armor Possession Act

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

      30 Support | 380 Oppose

    • Draft

      #3 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. (Read bill text.).

      314 Support | 52 Oppose

    • HR 4934

      #4 Regulatory Agency Demilitarization Act

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

      270 Support | 15 Oppose

    • HR 4896

      #5 Do Your Job Act

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

      261 Support | 18 Oppose

    • S 2313

      #6 Do Your Job Act

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

      227 Support | 19 Oppose

    • S 2730

      #7 MEMORY Act

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

      114 Support | 47 Oppose

    • HR 2879

      #8 Stop Government Abuse Act

      To provide limitations on bonuses for Federal employees during sequestration, to provide for investigative leave requirements for members of the Senior Executive Service, to establish certain procedures for conducting in-person or telephonic interactions by Executive branch employees with individuals.

      144 Support | 8 Oppose

    • HR 5226

      #9 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.

      143 Support | 8 Oppose

    • SRes 530

      #10 Resolution calling for action to protect Iraqi Christians

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

      118 Support | 20 Oppose

    • S 1038

      #11 End Racial Profiling Act

      (And HR 2851 in the House) According to bill sponsors, it provides a prohibition on racial profiling, enforceable by declaratory or injunctive relief; and mandates training on racial profiling issues as part of Federal law enforcement training, the collection of data on all routine or spontaneous investigatory activities that is to be submitted through a standardized form to the Department of Justice. The receipt of federal law enforcement and other funds that go to state and local governments is conditioned on their adoption of effective policies that prohibit racial profiling.

      31 Support | 97 Oppose

    • HR 4912

      #12 Limiting DOD funds to support United States or Iraqi combat activities in Iraq

      Prohibits funds made available to the Department of Defense (DOD) from being obligated or expended to support any US or Iraqi combat activities in or around Iraq. Defines "combat activities" to include the use of US military personnel or equipment in direct physical conflict, or in combat supporting roles, including trainers or advisors.

      54 Support | 60 Oppose

    • HR 3086

      #13 Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act

      --*Bipartisan*-- "Keeps Internet access affordable, drives innovation, and promotes access to the Internet as a critical gateway to jobs, education, healthcare, and entrepreneurial opportunities." The bill specifically makes permanent the provisions of the Internet Tax Freedom Act, according to bill sponsors. -- Passed by the House on July 15. -- 

      93 Support | 4 Oppose

    • SRes 517

      #14 Resolution Supporting Israel

      --*Bipartisan*-- A resolution expressing support for Israel’s right to defend itself and calling Hamas to immediately cease all rocket and other attacks against Israel.

      71 Support | 22 Oppose

    • HR 5336

      #15 MEMORY Act

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

      67 Support | 23 Oppose

    • HR 1022

      #16 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.”

      74 Support | 11 Oppose

    • S 2667

      #17 Iranian Sanctions Relief Certification Act

      Would require Presidential certification that the funds made available to the Iranian regime under the extension of the P5+1 agreement are not used to support terrorism; build nuclear weapons and ballistic weapons; violate human rights. The extension of nuclear talks allows Iran access to $2.8 billion in blocked funds over the next four months. As Secretary of State John Kerry has previously stated, it would only take two months for the Iranians to complete work on a nuclear weapon,according to bill sponsors.

      77 Support | 7 Oppose

    • HCRes 107

      #18 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.

      74 Support | 8 Oppose

    • S 1764

      #19 Limiting the retirement of the A-10

      --*Bipartisan*-- (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.

      77 Support | 5 Oppose

    • S 2644

      #20 FAIR Act

      To restore the integrity of the Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution. "Under current law, law enforcement agencies may take property suspected of involvement in crime without ever charging, let alone convicting, the property owner. In addition, state agencies routinely use federal asset forfeiture laws; ignoring state regulations to confiscate and receive financial proceeds from forfeited property. The FAIR Act would change federal law and protect the rights of property owners by requiring that the government prove its case with clear and convincing evidence before forfeiting seized property. State law enforcement agencies will have to abide by state law when forfeiting seized property. Finally, the legislation would remove the profit incentive for forfeiture by redirecting forfeitures assets from the Attorney General's Asset Forfeiture Fund to the Treasury's General Fund," according to the bill sponsor.

      78 Support | 1 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.

  6. Issue Spotlight: Undocumented Children at the Border

    Unaccompanied Children Crossing the US-Mexico Border

    Background: Tens of thousands of unaccompanied minor children are arriving at the US-Mexico border. More than 50,000 children have already crossed the border this year — and sources expect the number to reach a record 90,000 by the end of the year.

    Parents in Central American countries are sending their children across the border to escape the large amount of violence, corruption, political instability and poverty rampant throughout their countries. There is also misinformation about the Obama Administration’s “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” (DACA) program — which was initiated in 2012 — and gives a small amount of undocumented children short-term work authorization and protection from deportation. DACA, according to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, “does not apply to a child who crosses the US border illegally today, tomorrow or yesterday.” To be eligible for DACA, a child must have been in the United States prior to June 15, 2007 – seven years ago. Secretary Johnson issued an open letter to parents stating that the “long journey is not only dangerous; there are no “permisos,” “permits,” or free passes at the end.” (Read his letter)

    unaccompanied children chart

    (Source: DHS) 

    The House passed a bill before recess, which the President plans to veto

    Before leaving for recess, the House passed a Supplemental Appropriations bill (HR 5230), a $694 million border proposal to address the "humanitarian crisis at our southern border," according to House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH).

    The Supplemental Appropriations bill includes:

    1. $405 million for the Dept. of Homeland Security to boost border security and law enforcement activities.
    2. $22 million to accelerate judicial proceedings for immigrants. 
    3. $35 million for National Guard border efforts – essentially doubling the funding for the Guard presence on the border. 
    4. $197 million for the Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS) to provide temporary housing and humanitarian assistance to unaccompanied minors. 
    5. $40 million in repatriation assistance to Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. 
    6. The funding in the legislation is fully offset through cuts and rescissions of existing funds within various federal agencies. (See the full summary.)

    President Obama opposes the House measure and has threatened to veto the bill. (Read the Administration's statement.) The President requested $3.7 billion to address the crisis, while the Senate's proposal (S 2648) -- which failed to advance to a vote -- provided $2.73 billion. President Obama had also urged Congress to work on immigration reform. The Senate had passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill last year, and the President said that “our country and our economy would be stronger today if House Republicans had allowed a simple yes-or-no vote on this bill or, for that matter, any bill.” (Read the President’s remarks

     In July, Congresswoman Kay Granger (R-TX), Chairwoman of the House Working Group to address the national security and humanitarian crisis at the southern border, announced the group’s recommendations and solutions. The House bill includes several of these policy provisions, including:

    1. Requiring that all unaccompanied minors are treated the same as Mexicans for the purpose of removals. This would require unaccompanied children who do not wish to be voluntarily returned to their home country to remain in HHS custody while they await an expedited immigration court hearing that must occur not more than seven days after they are screened by child welfare officials. 
    2. A prohibition on the Secretary of the Interior or the Secretary of Agriculture from denying or restricting CBP activities on federal land under their respective jurisdictions within 100 miles of the US-Mexico border. 
    3. A change to the Immigration and Nationality Act to strengthen the law prohibiting criminals with serious drug-related convictions from applying for asylum. 
    4. A provision expressing the “Sense of Congress” that the Secretary of Defense should not house unauthorized aliens at military installations unless certain specific conditions are met.

    The House also passed DAVA reform (HR 5272), which would "freeze the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and prohibit President Obama from taking future executive actions to expand amnesty for illegal aliens," according to the bill sponsor.

    Recently Introduced Bills

    Recently, several new bills were introduced in the House to directly address the problem of undocumented children crossing the border: 

    Expedited Processing of Children

    • HR 5114

      HUMANE Act (S 2611 in the Senate.)

      — *Bipartisan*— To facilitate the expedited processing of minors entering the United States across the southern border.

      Would treat all unaccompanied migrant children crossing our border with equality under the law, and allowing for voluntary reunification with family, whether they are from Mexico, Central America, or any other country; and allow unaccompanied migrant children who have a claim to remain legally in the United States to make this claim in court before an immigration judge within 7 days of the completion of Health and Human Services screening under the TVPRA of 2008. It authorizes up to 40 new immigration judges for this purpose. Requires immigration judges to make a determination as to whether an unaccompanied migrant child is eligible to remain in the United States within 72 hours of making their claim. Children who succeed in their claim will be allowed to remain in the United States in the custody of a sponsor while they pursue their legal remedies. Children who do not successfully make such a claim will be reunited with family in their home country. (Source: Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX))

    • HR 5053

      Expedited Family Reunification Act

      To amend the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 to provide for the expedited removal of unaccompanied alien children who are not victims of a severe form of trafficking in persons and who do not have a fear of returning to their country of nationality or last habitual residence.

      "Under current law, Unaccompanied Alien Children (UACs) from nations not contiguous with the United States are required to face a deportation hearing before they are returned home to their parents. Thousands of Central American children recently apprehended by CBP agents now face immigration courts and the prospect of being forced to live for years in foster care—away from their families, loved ones, and home nations—before being returned home," according to the bill sponsor. "The Expedited Family Reunification Act would amend existing statute to harmonize the way unaccompanied children are processed and allow immigration officials to coordinate with Central American governments to ensure the safe return of UACs to their families in their home countries."

    • S 2666

      Protect Children and Families Through the Rule of Law Act

      To prohibit future consideration of deferred action for childhood arrivals or work authorization for aliens who are not in lawful status, to facilitate the expedited processing of minors entering the United States across the southern border, and to require the Secretary of Defense to reimburse States for National Guard deployments in response to large-scale border crossings of unaccompanied alien children from noncontiguous countries.

    • HR 5079

      Repatriating all unaccompanied children, regardless of their country-of-origin

      To amend the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 to provide for the repatriation of unaccompanied alien children.

      Under current law, unaccompanied children from Mexico or Canada can be screened within 48 hours and quickly repatriated back across the border if they are not a trafficking victim or have aclaim for asylum. However, children from other countries that are not contiguous with the US must go through a more formal and time consuming legal proceeding. In fact, unaccompanied children from countries other than Mexico (so-called OTM policy) are currently waiting 578 days on average for a hearing. Rep. Calvert’s bill would close the loophole by screening and repatriating all unaccompanied children, regardless of their country-of-origin, in the same process that has worked for unaccompanied children from Mexico and Canada. Source: Congressman Calvert (R-CA)

    • HR 5143

      Protection of Children Act

      To amend the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 to provide for the expedited removal of unaccompanied alien children who are not victims of a severe form of trafficking in persons and who do not have a fear of returning to their country of nationality or last habitual residence.

    • HR 5137

      Asylum Reform and Border Protection Act

      To modify the treatment of unaccompanied alien children who are in Federal custody by reason of their immigration status.

      All unaccompanied alien minors will be placed in expedited removal proceedings so they can be almost immediately returned home, unless they have a legitimate credible fear of persecution in their home country; provides that the Secretary of State shall negotiate agreements with other countries regarding the safe repatriation of minors, just as the Secretary does now for countries contiguous to the US; and implements tougher standards for “credible fear” claims.Unaccompanied alien minors will not have preferred access to asylum that is not available to others.Gives Border Patrol access to federal lands. Provides additional immigration judges and ICE prosecutors. (Source: House Judiciary Committee)

    • HR 5121

      Restore Unalienable Rights Act

      To prohibit the indefinite detention of United States citizens and lawful resident aliens.

    • S 2632

      Expedited Processing  (HR 5163 in the House)

      To provide for the expedited processing of unaccompanied alien children illegally entering the United States. Requires mandatory detention of all unaccompanied minors upon apprehension by border agents. Gives unaccompanied minors the option to voluntarily return to their country of origin. Places unaccompanied aliens children affiliated with gangs in an “expedited” removal proceeding. Raises the standards for “credible fear of persecution” to “substantiated fear of persecution” for unaccompanied minors seeking asylum under the law. Places unaccompanied minors without claims for asylum on the next available flight to their home countries within 72 hours of an initial screening, barring cost, feasibility, repatriation agreements with the minors’ countries and the health and safety of the minor, according to bill sponsors

    • S 2619

      Children Returning on an Expedited and Safe Timeline Act (CREST Act)

      Requires unaccompanied children (UAC) from non-contiguous countries be given the same treatment as those from Mexico and Canada with respect to the option of voluntarily returning to their own country. Requires expedited removal of all undocumented immigrants that are stopped at the border attempting to enter the United States illegally, allowing law enforcement to return them to their home countries within days as opposed months or years. Requires mandatory detention of UAC until their cases are fully adjudicated, according to bill sponsors.

    Border Security

    • HR 4962

      National Border and Homeland Security Act

      To provide enhanced border security. Directs the Dept. of Homeland Security to finish the construction of fencing, and to provide for the installation of additional physical barriers, roads, lighting, cameras, and sensors to gain operational control of the southwest border; creates 6,000 new full-time positions for border patrol agents; better equips our border patrol agents to protect our national security by providing the advanced equipment necessary to scan for nuclear materials, according to bill sponsor.
    • HR 4882

      Southwest Border Protection Act

      Would assist in refocusing our border security programs and secure DHS and CBP’s focus on illegal smuggling of drugs, individuals, and other transnational criminal activities," according to the sponsor. Calls for the deployment of at least 10,000 members of the US National Guard at the request of any Governor of a State that shares a portion of the international border between the US and Mexico.

    • HRes 675

      House Resolution

      Supporting the Constitutional authority of the Governors of the States of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California to take action to secure the international border of the United States within their States.

    • HR 5261

      Central American and USA (CAUSA) Initiatives Act

      To establish a North and Central American and Caribbean border security cooperation initiative, enhance the security of Mexico’s southern border, and improve United States short term detention standards.
    • HR 5316

      SECURITY Act (Safely Exacting Cautious Useful Rules for Immigration This Year)

      This bill introduces a wide array of border security measures including: requiring completion of double-layered fencing along the entire Southern border; requiring House and Senate Committees to be notified if there are closures of Border Patrol stations; deploying additional members of the National Guard to support Border Patrol; allowing detention of dangerous criminal aliens beyond 6 months and prohibiting gang members from achieving asylum or refugee status; prohibiting an alien deemed to have lawful presence via executive order or policy directive from being defined as a qualified alien for purposes of public benefits. The bill would also punish countries that refuse to accept their repatriated illegals by terminating trade and aid benefits. According to the bill sponsor.
    • HR 5368

      Security and Opportunity for Vulnerable Migrant Children Act

      To direct the Secretary of State to develop a strategy to address the factors driving large numbers of unaccompanied alien children from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala to seek admission to the United States.
    • HR 5400

      Border State Protection Act

      "To enable governors of a border state to take necessary steps to establish operation control of their borders. It will also provide a protective legal umbrella - as they act within the parameters of this bill - from being held liable by the federal government for taking action," according to the bill sponsor

    Appropriations And Foreign Aid

    Transparency in Where these Children are Placed

    • HR 5118

      Transparent Report of Alien Children’s Safety Act

      To facilitate the expedited processing of minors entering the United States across the southern border. Would "direct the Attorney General in consultation with the Secretary of DHS to report to Congress and the American people on how many unaccompanied children have entered our country, where they’re being sent, how many of them have been given immigration hearing dates, and how many of them are showing up for these hearings," according to the bill sponsor.
    • HR 5138

      Our Communities, Our Choice Act

      Would "require the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to hold a public hearing no sooner than 90 days after selecting potential locations. HHS must also consider input from State and local officials before issuing any grants to house these children," according to bill sponsors.

    • HR 5129

      UAC State Notification Act (S 2628 in the Senate)

      Would require the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to give states advanced notice when unaccompanied minors are to be placed in a state.  

    • S 2767

      Combating Fraudulent Child Transfers Act

      To prohibit the fraudulent transfer of custody of unaccompanied alien children.

    • HR 5253

      UAC State Authority Act

      To amend the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 to require consultation with States before awarding grants or contracts for housing facilities for unaccompanied alien children.

    Addressing DACA and the President

    The Obama Administration’s “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” (DACA) program — which was initiated in 2012 — and gives a small amount of undocumented children short-term work authorization and protection from deportation. DACA, according to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, “does not apply to a child who crosses the US border illegally today, tomorrow or yesterday.” To be eligible for DACA, a child must have been in the United States prior to June 15, 2007 – seven years ago. However, Members of Congress are calling on the President to amend DACA.

    • S 2631

      Preventing Expansion of DACA (HR 5160 in the House)

      To prevent the expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program unlawfully created by Executive memorandum on August 15, 2012.

    • SRes 486

      Senate Resolution

      — *Bipartisan*— A resolution expressing the sense of the Senate that President Obama should take immediate action to mitigate the humanitarian crisis along the international border between the United States and Mexico involving unaccompanied migrant children and to prevent future crises.
    • HR 5272

      DACA Reform

      To prohibit certain actions with respect to deferred action for aliens not lawfully present in the United States including newly authorizing any alien to work in the United States who was not lawfully admitted into, and not lawfully present in, the United States. -- Passed by the House on Aug. 1 -- 

    Related Immigration Bills

    There are also renewed calls for comprehensive immigration reform:

    • HR 3163

      CIR ASAP Act

      "Directs the Secretary of Homeland Security to develop and submit to Congress a National Strategy for Border Security consistent with the progress already made by the Department of Homeland Security and aligned with a vision of effective and accountable enforcement for the 21st century; Requires DHS to meet certain requirements to ensure humane treatment of detainees, ensures adequate medical treatment, requires access to telephones, and increases protections from sexual and other abuse; Creates an employment verification system for employers to verify the work authorization of new hires; creates a legalization program for qualified undocumented immigrants (and their spouses and children)," according to bill sponsors

    • S 744

      Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act

      -- Bipartisan -- To provide for comprehensive immigration reform. "Provides for border security measures that will achieve and maintain effective control in high risk areas of the Southern border; provides a path to citizenship for the 11.5 undocumented immigrants in the United States; creates a “Track One” merit based visa which will initially allocate 120,000 visas annually based on a points system; mandates E-Verify, provides additional worker protections, reforms the immigration court system and provides additional measures related to interior enforcement," according to bill sponsors.  -- Passed by the Senate on June 27, 2013; the House version of this bill is HR 15. -- 

    • HR 1525

      Save America Comprehensive Immigration Act

      To amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to comprehensively reform immigration law. "Provides a path to earned access to legalization for those who meet certain eligibility requirements; the opportunity for young person’s brought to the United States as children to earn access to legalization and later citizenship and to serve in the military and attend college, which will help make our nation better and stronger; Promotes family reunification by increases in the allotment of family based immigrations visas," according to bill sponsors.

    • HR 4620

      Accountability in Immigration Detention Act

      To ensure the humane treatment of persons detained pursuant to the Immigration and Nationality Act.

    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. The Week Ahead: Aug. 18 - 22

    From our Hill Sources: It's still August recess -- but there's a lot happening! (Congress won't be back in session until Sept. 8th. See what's waiting for them to return.) 

    With Congress away, we wanted to spotlight the situation in Ferguson as well as a few global events that the Administration has been following closely.  

    Ferguson, MO

    Updated 8/19/14: Yesterday, 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. The Attorney General himself will be traveling to Ferguson on Wednesday to meet with the FBI agents and DOJ personnel conducting the federal criminal investigation, and he will receive an update from them on their progress."

    Last week, President Obama acknowledged that many Americans this week have been "deeply disturbed" by the images of police clashing with protestors -- adding that we should all "take a step back, and think about how we're going to move forward." In response to the situation in Ferguson, Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) is introducing a bill that would limit a Pentagon program that provides surplus military equipment to local law enforcement. The bill cannot be officially introduced until Congress returns. In the meantime, we've created a special page for you to share your voice:

    • DRAFT

      The Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act (Draft version)

      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.)

      From our Hill Sources: 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.”

    Related Bills

    • HR 4934

      Regulatory Agency De-militarization (RAD) Act

      To prohibit certain Federal agencies from using or purchasing certain firearms. "In recent years, numerous federal regulatory agencies – including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Food and Drug Agency and the Department of Education – have created their own special law enforcement teams to conduct their own arrests and raids. This is in part a product of the 2002 Homeland Security Act, which gave most Offices of Inspector General arrest and firearm authority," according to the bill sponsor, Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT).
    • S 1038

      End Racial Profiling Act

      (And HR 2851 in the House) According to bill sponsors, it provides a prohibition on racial profiling, enforceable by declaratory or injunctive relief; and mandates training on racial profiling issues as part of Federal law enforcement training, the collection of data on all routine or spontaneous investigatory activities that is to be submitted through a standardized form to the Department of Justice. The receipt of federal law enforcement and other funds that go to state and local governments is conditioned on their adoption of effective policies that prohibit racial profiling.

    Foreign Affairs

    In recent weeks, lawmakers -- and Americans across the country -- have been discussing the role of the United States in foreign relations. Here are proposals that have been introduced in response to violence in regions globally. 

    Iraq

    Updated 8/19/14: Yesterday, President Obama announced that the American operation in Iraq has effectively protected personnel in Erbil by stopping the terrorist group ISIL from advancing on the city of Erbil, and by helping Iraqi forces to recapture the largest dam in Iraq. "There should be no doubt that the United States military will continue to carry out the limited missions that I've authorized -- protecting our personnel and facilities in Iraq in both Erbil and Baghdad, and providing humanitarian support, as we did on Mount Sinjar," the President said.

    From our Hill Sources: Last week, President Obama authorized two limited missions in Iraq, "protecting our people and facilities inside of Iraq, and a humanitarian operation to help save thousands of Iraqi civilians stranded on a mountain." The President noted in his statement, however, that the situation is still dire for Iraqis that are "subjected to ISIL's terror throughout the country," including minorities like Yezidis and Iraqi Christians, as well as Sunnis, Shia, and Kurds.

    Meanwhile, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) urged that "President Obama should make it clear -- ISIS is not just a threat to the Middle East, it is very much a threat to the American people and the homeland. It's time we go on offense and hit ISIS where they reside. We need a sustained air campaign to slow momentum and diminish ISIS capability."

    Before leaving for recess, Congress has considered many proposals related to Iraq. Here are some recently introduced bills and resolutions:

    • S 2667

      Iranian Sanctions Relief Certification Act

      Would require Presidential certification that the funds made available to the Iranian regime under the extension of the P5+1 agreement are not used to support terrorism; build nuclear weapons and ballistic weapons; violate human rights. The extension of nuclear talks allows Iran access to $2.8 billion in blocked funds over the next four months. As Secretary of State John Kerry has previously stated, it would only take two months for the Iranians to complete work on a nuclear weapon, according to bill sponsors.
    • HR 4912

      Limiting DOD funds to support United States or Iraqi combat activities in Iraq

      Prohibits funds made available to the Department of Defense (DOD) from being obligated or expended to support any US or Iraqi combat activities in or around Iraq. Defines "combat activities" to include the use of US military personnel or equipment in direct physical conflict, or in combat supporting roles, including trainers or advisors.
    • HCRes 110

      Resolution Urging Immediate International Humanitarian Intervention for Displaced Iraqi Communities

      -- Bipartisan -- Calling for urgent international intervention on behalf of Iraqi civilians facing a dire humanitarian crisis and severe persecution in the Nineveh Plain region of Iraq.
    • HRes 683

      Resolution calling for action to protect Iraqi Christians

      -- Bipartisan -- (And SRes 530 in the Senate) Expressing the sense of the House on the current situation in Iraq and the urgent need to protect religious minorities from persecution from the Sunni Islamist insurgent and terrorist group the Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (ISIL) as it expands its control over areas in northwestern Iraq. -- Passed by the House on Aug. 1 -- 
    • HCRes 105

      Resolution

      Prohibiting the President from deploying or maintaining US Armed Forces in a sustained combat role in Iraq without specific, subsequent statutory authorization. -- Passed by the House on July 25 -- 

    Ukraine and Russia

    From our Hill Sources: In light of Russia’s increased military presence on the Ukrainian border, Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Joe Donnelly (D-IN) sent a letter last week to President Obama urging him to send defensive weapons and share appropriate intelligence with Ukraine: "In light of these developments, we should supply the Ukrainian military with appropriate defensive weapons such as anti-tank weapons to help them reclaim their territory. This will help permit the Ukrainian government to address the worsening humanitarian crisis in eastern Ukraine’s rebel-controlled territories."

    Prior to recess, Members of Congress also introduced several proposals related to Ukraine and Russia:

    • S 2555

      Require a 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 January 31, 2017, to report to Congress regarding military assistance to Ukraine.
    • S 2433

      Ukrainian Independence from Russian Energy Act

      Would provide assistance to Ukraine to reduce the dependence of Ukraine on imports of natural gas from the Russian Federation.
    • HR 5249

      Rosoboronexport Embargo Act

      -- Bipartisan -- To re-impose sanctions on Russian arms exporter Rosoboronexport. “The Rosoboronexport Embargo Act would expand sanctions so that the government can no longer enter into contracts or agreements with the Russian company. We should not be filling the coffers of Russian arms dealers in any way, shape, or form. Our domestic manufacturers, like Sikorsky and Spectrum Associates, should get the chance to compete for this important work,” according to the bill sponsor.
    • S 2352

      Russian Weapons Embargo Act

      -- Bipartisan -- "Would forbid the direct or indirect use of American tax dollars to enter contracts or agreements with Rosoboronexport and immediately terminate existing contracts and agreements with the agency. The legislation also would prohibit contracts with any domestic or foreign company that cooperates with Rosoboronextort to design, manufacture or sell military equipment," according to bill sponsor.
    • SRes 520

      Resolution

      A resolution condemning the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 and expressing condolences to families of the victims. -- Passed by the Senate on July 31st --

    Israel and Gaza

    Last week, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spoke with Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon on the cease-fire underway between Israel and the militant group Hamas. “Secretary Hagel reiterated his support for Egypt's mediation efforts and underscored the importance of achieving a sustainable outcome that ensures Israel's security and addresses Gaza's humanitarian crisis,” according to Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby.

    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. The POPVOX Top 20: Aug 8 - 14, 2014

    This week's top issue is whether to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank. The Export-Import Bank is the official export credit agency of the United States. Its mission is to assist in financing the export of US goods and services to international markets. The Ex-Im Bank offers direct loans, loan guarantees, working capital guarantees and export credit insurance, as well as special financing programs. Congress must decide whether to reauthorize the bank by Sept. 30th. So far, the vast majority of POPVOX users (98%) oppose the reauthorization of the bank. (See the pie chart.)

    The Ex-Im Bank has supported nearly 1.2 million private sector US jobs since 2009, including 205,000 jobs in FY 2013 alone. It financed a total of $6 billion in small business exports, of which $5.2 billion was for the direct support of American small-business exporters last year. According to the Bank, it operates at no cost to the taxpayers -- and in FY2013, it generated more than $1 billion for US taxpayers above operation costs and loan loss reserves, which goes toward deficit reduction. (Source: Ex-Im Bank's Chairman Fred Hochberg's testimony before the Senate Banking Committee.) (Learn more.)

    Top 20 Bills of the Week

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    Here 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.

    • Ex-Im Bank

      #1 Reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank

      The Export-Import Bank is the official export credit agency of the United States. Its mission is to assist in financing the export of US goods and services to international markets. In 2012, Congress reauthorized the Ex-Im Bank, increasing its exposure limit (the limit on total aggregate outstanding amount of financing) from $100 billion to $140 billion. This authorization expires on Sept. 30, 2014.

      5 Support | 1,605 Oppose

    • HR 5344

      #2 Responsible Body Armor Possession Act

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

      20 Support | 918 Oppose

    • HR 4934

      #3 Regulatory Agency Demilitarization Act

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

      267 Support | 14 Oppose

    • HR 3086

      #4 Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act

      --*Bipartisan*-- To permanently extend the Internet Tax Freedom Act. -- Passed by the House on July 15. -- 

      250 Support | 17 Oppose

    • S 1764

      #5 Limiting the retirement of the A-10

      --*Bipartisan*-- (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.

      211 Support | 23 Oppose

    • HR 5226

      #6 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.

      217 Support | 10 Oppose

    • S 2738

      #7 Toxic Exposure Research and Military Family Support Act

      --*Bipartisan*-- To establish in the Department of Veterans Affairs a national center for research on the diagnosis and treatment of health conditions of the descendants of veterans exposed to toxic substances during service in the Armed Forces, to establish an advisory board on exposure to toxic substances.

      209 Support | 17 Oppose

    • HR 3125

      #8 Air Force Biofuels Development Act

      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.

      25 Support | 139 Oppose

    • HR 4315

      #9 21st Century Endangered Species Transparency Act

      Amends the Endangered Species Act of 1973 to require the Secretary of the Interior or the Secretary of Commerce, as appropriate, to make publicly available on the Internet the best scientific and commercial data available that are the basis for the determination of whether a species is an endangered species or a threatened species, including each proposed regulation for the listing of a species.

      31 Support | 104 Oppose

    • S 2644

      #10 FAIR Act

      To restore the integrity of the Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution. "Under current law, law enforcement agencies may take property suspected of involvement in crime without ever charging, let alone convicting, the property owner. In addition, state agencies routinely use federal asset forfeiture laws; ignoring state regulations to confiscate and receive financial proceeds from forfeited property. The FAIR Act would change federal law and protect the rights of property owners by requiring that the government prove its case with clear and convincing evidence before forfeiting seized property. State law enforcement agencies will have to abide by state law when forfeiting seized property. Finally, the legislation would remove the profit incentive for forfeiture by redirecting forfeitures assets from the Attorney General's Asset Forfeiture Fund to the Treasury's General Fund," according to the bill sponsor.

      129 Support | 3 Oppose

    • S 2609

      #11 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.) Would extend the Internet Tax Freedom law for 10 years.

      7 Support | 98 Oppose

    • HR 3513

      #12 Refuge from Cruel Trapping Act

      Amends the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966 to prohibit the use or possession of body-gripping traps in the National Wildlife Refuge System. Imposes on persons who possess or use such traps in the System: for a first offense, a civil fine of up to $500 for each body-gripping trap possessed or used; and for subsequent offenses, a civil fine of up to $1,000 for each body-gripping trap possessed or used, imprisonment for up to 180 days, or both such a civil fine and imprisonment. Subjects to civil forfeiture any body-gripping traps that are possessed or used in violation of this Act, and any wildlife captured by the use of such traps, including the pelts and raw fur. Requires persons found to be in violation of such prohibition to pay all associated court costs.

      71 Support | 14 Oppose

    • HR 5119

      #13 C-130 Modernization Act

      --*Bipartisan*-- (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.

      77 Support | 6 Oppose

    • HR 4230

      #14 Limit the retirement of KC-10 aircraft

      --*Bipartisan*-- 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.

      70 Support | 9 Oppose

    • HR 2879

      #15 Stop Government Abuse Act

      To provide limitations on bonuses for Federal employees during sequestration, to provide for investigative leave requirements for members of the Senior Executive Service, to establish certain procedures for conducting in-person or telephonic interactions by Executive branch employees with individuals.

      68 Support | 2 Oppose

    • HR 1022

      #16 Securing Energy Critical Elements and American Jobs Act

      To develop an energy critical elements program, to amend the National Materials and Minerals Policy, Research and Development Act of 1980.

      2 Support | 66 Oppose

    • HCRes 96

      #17 Path to Prosperity Budget for FY15

      Establishing the budget for the US Government for FY 2015 and setting forth appropriate budgetary levels for fiscal years 2016 through 2024. "Cuts spending and implements pro-growth reforms that boost job creation," according to House Republican Leadership.

      61 Support | 6 Oppose

    • HR 3522

      #18 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.”

      54 Support | 9 Oppose

    • HR 4286

      #19 American Energy Renaissance Act

      Would prevent Federal regulation of hydraulic fracturing; streamline the permitting process for upgrading existing and building new refineries; repeal (with phase out) the Renewable Fuel Standard; approve and allow private sector to build the Keystone pipeline; exclude greenhouse gases from regulation by EPA and other federal agencies; require Congress and the President to approve EPA regulations with negative job impacts; expand energy development on federal lands by providing states the option of leasing, permitting and regulating energy resources on federal lands within their borders, according to bill sponsors.

      36 Support | 10 Oppose

    • HR 890

      #20 Preserving Work Requirements for Welfare Programs Act

      Prevents the undermining of reforms critical to helping millions out of poverty and into the workforce. -- Passed on March 13, 2013. -- 

      40 Support | 5 Oppose

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

  9. The Week Ahead: Aug. 11 - 15

    From our Hill Sources: It's August recess -- and Congress won't be back in session until Sept. 8th. (See what's waiting for them to return.)

    The House also has new leadership. Congressman Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) became the Majority Leader, replacing Eric Cantor, on July 31st. In a memo to House Republicans, Majority Leader McCarthy outlined three items he expects to consider in September: jobs and economic growth; lowering costs on gas and groceries; and healthcare. There were several issues not mentioned in the memo, including reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank and a continuing resolution to prevent a government shutdown. 

    The New House Majority Leader, Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) 

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

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

    McCarthy's "Initial September Outlook"

    On Aug. 8, House Majority Leader McCarthy issued a memo to House Republicans:

    "As you travel your Districts and meet with constituents, I want to briefly update you on three items I expect the House to consider in September that you may wish to factor into your District events. I will provide additional details on the September agenda later this month." (Read the full memo.)

    #1 Jobs and Economic Growth

    According to Majority Leader McCarthy, "House Republicans have sent more than 40 bills to the Senate that would foster a true recovery that gets Americans back to work in good-paying jobs."

    "These bills would reduce the regulatory burdens that are suffocating job growth, help small businesses access capital, and make permanent a series of tax provisions that will grow our economy....To increase pressure on Harry Reid to finally put American workers and economic growth first, we will send the Senate a single package of our jobs bills." 

    These bills are listed below, with bill summaries provided by the House leadership. Weigh in and POPVOX will deliver your message to your Senators (since these bills have already passed the House).

    #2 Lowering Costs on Gas and Groceries

    Majority Leader McCarthy stated, "When President Obama took office, the average cost of a gallon of gasoline was $1.85; now, it is $3.52." He is urging House Republicans to talk to their constituents about energy prices. "What if oil production on federal land had grown just as it did on private land (between 2009 and 2013, oil production on federal lands fell 6 percent while it increased by 61 percent on state and private lands)?" he asks.

    In September, the House Republican leadership plans to send a consolidated energy package to the Senate that will "open federal lands, support the Keystone XL pipeline, and prevent environmental regulations that are killing American-made energy."

    While his memo doesn't mention any specific bills, here are some bills related to gas prices and American-made energy. (There are no introduced bills related to lowering costs of groceries.)

    • HR 4899

      Lowering Gasoline Prices to Fuel an America That Works Act

      Requires the Administration to move forward with new offshore energy production in areas containing the most oil and natural gas resources – including the Atlantic Coast and Pacific Coast; requires the Administration to conduct oil and natural gas leases sales that it has delayed or cancelled, including the Virginia Lease sale originally scheduled for 2011; and increases offshore energy production by establishing fair and equitable revenue sharing of offshore revenues for all coastal states, including US territories, according to bill sponsors. Passed on June 26, 2014.
    • HR 4349

      Crude Oil Export Act

      Would repeal the crude oil export ban under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act, repealing the authority of the President to restrict exports of coal, petroleum products, natural gas, or petrochemical feedstocks.
    • HR 4286

      American Energy Renaissance Act

      Would prevent Federal regulation of hydraulic fracturing; streamline the permitting process for upgrading existing and building new refineries; repeal (with phase out) the Renewable Fuel Standard; approve and allow private sector to build the Keystone pipeline; exclude greenhouse gases from regulation by EPA and other federal agencies; require Congress and the President to approve EPA regulations with negative job impacts; expand energy development on federal lands by providing states the option of leasing, permitting and regulating energy resources on federal lands within their borders, according to bill sponsors.
    • HR 5034

      Stop the EPA Act

      Immediately halts every proposed regulation until the EPA completes a review of all existing regulations; requires a retroactive review of all past EPA regulations; any regulation with an economic impact over $50 million must be sent to Congress for approval; requires that all new proposed regulations with an economic impact over $50 million must be approved by Congress before they take affect.
    • HR 3

      Northern Route Approval Act

      -- *Bipartisan* -- Approves the Keystone pipeline, as well as the thousands of jobs that would result. Passed on May 22, 2013.

    See more bills related to American energy.

    #3 Health Care

    Majority Leader McCarthy is urging House Republicans to talk to small businesses in their district during recess and "collect first-hand stories to share with the Conference on what devastating consequences Obamacare has had for small businesses and their employees." He cites 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.

    He also points out a bill that the Energy & Commerce Committee passed, which would allow those who purchase health care on the group market to keep the plans they had:

    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. The POPVOX Top 20: Aug 1 -7, 2014

    Medical hemp was the top issue on POPVOX this week. The Charlotte's Web Medical Hemp Act (HR 5226) 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.

    Top 20 Bills of the Week

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    Here 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 5226

      #1 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.

      783 Support | 39 Oppose

    • HR 4315

      #2 21st Century Endangered Species Transparency Act

      Amends the Endangered Species Act of 1973 to require the Secretary of the Interior or the Secretary of Commerce, as appropriate, to make publicly available on the Internet the best scientific and commercial data available that are the basis for the determination of whether a species is an endangered species or a threatened species, including each proposed regulation for the listing of a species.

      46 Support | 716 Oppose

    • S 2644

      #3 FAIR Act

      To restore the integrity of the Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution. "Under current law, law enforcement agencies may take property suspected of involvement in crime without ever charging, let alone convicting, the property owner. In addition, state agencies routinely use federal asset forfeiture laws; ignoring state regulations to confiscate and receive financial proceeds from forfeited property. The FAIR Act would change federal law and protect the rights of property owners by requiring that the government prove its case with clear and convincing evidence before forfeiting seized property. State law enforcement agencies will have to abide by state law when forfeiting seized property. Finally, the legislation would remove the profit incentive for forfeiture by redirecting forfeitures assets from the Attorney General's Asset Forfeiture Fund to the Treasury's General Fund," according to the bill sponsor.

      258 Support | 4 Oppose

    • S 2738

      #4 Toxic Exposure Research and Military Family Support Act

      To establish in the Department of Veterans Affairs a national center for research on the diagnosis and treatment of health conditions of the descendants of veterans exposed to toxic substances during service in the Armed Forces, to establish an advisory board on exposure to toxic substances.

      221 Support | 8 Oppose

    • HR 5230

      #5 Secure the Southwest Border Act

      According to the sponsor: The bill contains a total of $659 million for border security, enforcement of immigration and customs laws, humanitarian assistance, and illegal immigration prevention. This funding is targeted to meet the immediate needs surrounding the current border crisis, and will be sufficient to cover the estimated costs of these activities for the rest of the 2014 fiscal year. The legislation is fully offset through cuts and rescissions of existing funds within federal agencies, and will result in no new or additional federal spending. (Bill Summary.)

      87 Support | 122 Oppose

    • S 2609

      #6 Marketplace and Internet Tax Fairness Act

      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.) Would extend the Internet Tax Freedom law for 10 years.

      23 Support | 168 Oppose

    • S 2410

      #7 NDAA in the Senate

      The Senate Armed Services Committee version of the FY15 NDAA 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 airplanes for one year. 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. Also would eliminate wasteful spending in Defense Department IT systems." (Source: Senator John McCain (R-AZ))

      16 Support | 131 Oppose

    • HR 5022

      #8 Enhanced Dental Care for Veterans Act

      (And S 1586 in the Senate) Would ensure that all veterans have access to enhanced dental care, authorize a pilot program to utilize community-based clinics for more extensive dental work, and provide dental health education to encourage prevention. 

      117 Support | 23 Oppose

    • HR 5272

      #9 DACA Reform

      To prohibit certain actions with respect to deferred action for aliens not lawfully present in the United States including newly authorizing any alien to work in the United States who was not lawfully admitted into, and not lawfully present in, the United States.

      107 Support | 9 Oppose

    • HR 5059

      #10 Clay Hunt SAV Act

      --*Bipartisan*-- (And S 2182 in the Senate) Improves access to care for troops and veterans by extending combat eligibility from 5 to 15 years. Sets up a review process for potentially wrongful discharges. (An unknown numbers of troops who struggle with mental health issues have been discharged for behavior often caused by invisible injuries.) Increases the capacity to meet demands for mental health care professionals by repaying medical school loans for psychiatrists who commit to long-term service in the VA. Requires an annual review of care programs within DOD and the VA to ensure resources are effectively combatting the problem. Requires the VA and DOD to ensure mental health care providers have special training to identify veterans at-risk for suicide. (Source: Sen. John Walsh (D-MT).) 

      88 Support | 20 Oppose

    • HR 2263

      #11 Export-Import Bank Termination Act

      (And S 1102 in the Senate.) To abolish the Export-Import Bank of the United States.

      94 Support | 14 Oppose

    • HR 5007

      #12 Restoring Accountability in Veterans Access to Health Care Act

      To assess staffing shortages at medical facilities of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

      88 Support | 16 Oppose

    • HR 1981

      #13 Stop Child Abuse in Residential Programs for Teens Act

      To require certain standards and enforcement provisions to prevent child abuse and neglect in residential programs. Would prohibit programs from physically, mentally, or sexually abusing children in their care; and prohibit programs from denying children essential water, food, clothing, shelter, or medical care – whether as a form of punishment or for any other reason, according to the House Education & Workforce Committee.

      82 Support | 5 Oppose

    • S 2648

      #14 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act

      Provides $615 million to suppress dangerous and devastating wildfires. (Already this year, more than 30,000 fires have raged across the nation from Florida to California.) Provides $225 million to accelerate production for Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile defense system. Provides $2.73 billion to address the crisis of unaccompanied children at the border -- $1 billion less than the President's request. (Source: Senate Appropriations Committee)

      8 Support | 77 Oppose

    • S 2569

      #15 Bring Jobs Home Act

      Ends a tax loophole that pays the moving expenses of companies that send jobs overseas -- but would keep this deduction in place for companies that bring jobs and business activity back home. Would allow companies to qualify for a tax credit equal to 20% of the cost associated with bringing jobs back to the United States, according to the bill sponsor.

      45 Support | 21 Oppose

    • S 2054

      #16 Stop Child Abuse in Residential Programs for Teens Act

      To require certain standards and enforcement provisions to prevent child abuse and neglect in residential programs. Would prohibit programs from physically, mentally, or sexually abusing children in their care; and prohibit programs from denying children essential water, food, clothing, shelter, or medical care – whether as a form of punishment or for any other reason, according to the House Education & Workforce Committee.

      55 Support | 1 Oppose

    • HR 1892

      #17 Unlocking Technology Act

      Would permanently guarantee consumers can unlock their cell phones, tablets, and other mobile communications devices in order to switch carriers, according to bill sponsors.

      52 Support | 0 Oppose

    • HR 4950

      #18 Protecting American Jobs and Exports Act

      "Calls for a seven-year reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank of the United States and an increase in the lending cap to $175 billion," according to bill sponsors.

      9 Support | 34 Oppose

    • HR 4903

      #19 Appropriations for the DHS

      Making appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2015.

      2 Support | 40 Oppose

    • HR 4271

      #20 Increasing American Jobs Through More Exports Act

      To authorize the Export-Import Bank of the United States to use 3 percent of its profits for administrative expenses.

      5 Support | 35 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.

  11. 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 version has provides funding for 34 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, the same as the President’s budget request. The House 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.

  12. It's August Recess! Now What?

    From our Hill Sources: Congress adjorned for a five-week August recess on Friday night. But before they left, the House approved a border security bill addressing unaccompanied children and the Senate passed a highway funding bill and finalized veterans' health care reform.

    The House and Senate are both scheduled to return on Sept. 8th. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said that the Senate will then be in session straight through (including weekends) until Sept. 23rd, when they will adjourn again until after the Nov. election. At the moment the House is scheduled to be in session Sept. 8 - 19, and Sept. 29 - Oct. 2nd. 

    Here's a look at five issues still on the table for when Congress returns. Mark your calendar for Sept. 8th and stay tuned on POPVOX!


    #1 Undocumented Children

    With nearly 60,000 unaccompanied children at the border, the crisis continues to grow. On Friday, the House passed a Supplemental Appropriations bill (HR 5230), a $694 million border proposal to address the "humanitarian crisis at our southern border," according to House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH). It includes:

    1. $405 million for the Dept. of Homeland Security to boost border security and law enforcement activities.
    2. $22 million to accelerate judicial proceedings for immigrants.
    3. $35 million for National Guard border efforts – essentially doubling the funding for the Guard presence on the border.
    4. $197 million for the Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS) to provide temporary housing and humanitarian assistance to unaccompanied minors. 
    5. $40 million in repatriation assistance to Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.
    6. The funding in the legislation is fully offset through cuts and rescissions of existing funds within various federal agencies. (See the full summary.)

    From our Hill Sources: President Obama opposes the House measure and has threatened to veto the bill. (Read the Administration's statement.) The President requested $3.7 billion to address the crisis, while the Senate's proposal (S 2648) -- which failed to advance to a vote -- provided $2.73 billion.

    Last month, Congresswoman Kay Granger (R-TX), Chairwoman of the House Working Group to address the national security and humanitarian crisis at the southern border, announced the group’s recommendations and solutions. The House bill includes several of these policy provisions, including:

    1. Requiring that all unaccompanied minors are treated the same as Mexicans for the purpose of removals. This would require unaccompanied children who do not wish to be voluntarily returned to their home country to remain in HHS custody while they await an expedited immigration court hearing that must occur not more than seven days after they are screened by child welfare officials.
    2. A prohibition on the Secretary of the Interior or the Secretary of Agriculture from denying or restricting CBP activities on federal land under their respective jurisdictions within 100 miles of the US-Mexico border.
    3. A change to the Immigration and Nationality Act to strengthen the law prohibiting criminals with serious drug-related convictions from applying for asylum.
    4. A provision expressing the “Sense of Congress” that the Secretary of Defense should not house unauthorized aliens at military installations unless certain specific conditions are met.

    The House also passed HR 5272, which would "freeze the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and prohibit President Obama from taking future executive actions to expand amnesty for illegal aliens," according to the bill sponsor

    See more bills related to undocumented children.

    #2 Reauthorizing the Ex-Im Bank

    The Export-Import Bank is the official export credit agency of the United States. Its mission is to assist in financing the export of US goods and services to international markets. The Ex-Im Bank offers direct loans, loan guarantees, working capital guarantees and export credit insurance, as well as special financing programs. Congress must decide whether to reauthorize the bank by Sept. 30th.

    The Ex-Im Bank has supported nearly 1.2 million private sector US jobs since 2009, including 205,000 jobs in FY 2013 alone. It financed a total of $6 billion in small business exports, of which $5.2 billion was for the direct support of American small-business exporters last year. According to the Bank, it operates at no cost to the taxpayers -- and in FY2013, it generated more than $1 billion for US taxpayers above operation costs and loan loss reserves, which goes toward deficit reduction. (Source: Ex-Im Bank's Chairman Fred Hochberg's testimony before the Senate Banking Committee.)

    From our Hill Sources: In a letter to the House and Senate leadership, 37 governors (including 15 Republicans) urged Congress to reauthorize the Ex-Im Bank: "Failure to reauthorize the agency’s operations will place US companies at a serious disadvantage, which would inevitably lead to fewer exports and the loss of thousands of jobs in our states." (Read the letter.) Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) have both expressed opposition to reauthorizing the Bank. However, 41 Republican Representatives sent Speaker Boehner (R-OH) a letter in favor of reauthorization of the Bank. Meanwhile, other Members of Congress want to abolish the Ex-Im Bank entirely.
    More than 850 business organizations are urging Congress to reauthorize the Bank. In an open letter to Congress, they 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."

    Learn more about the Ex-Im Bank.

    #3 FY 2015 NDAA

    From our Hill Sources: Each year, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) specifies the budget and expenditures of the US Department of Defense. House and Senate staff from the Armed Services committees will be working during the recess to draft a compromise proposal in case the Senate is unable to pass a version of the bill:

    • S 2410

      NDAA in the Senate

      The Senate Armed Services Committee version of the FY15 NDAA 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 airplanes for one year. 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. Also would eliminate wasteful spending in Defense Department IT systems." (Source: Senator John McCain (R-AZ)

    Meanwhile, the House passed its version, the Howard P. “Buck” McKeon National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2015 (HR 4435), in May. Their proposal authorizes $521.3 billion in spending for national defense and an additional $79.4 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), primarily in Afghanistan. This is consistent with the President’s budget request.

    #4 Extending "Internet Tax Freedom"

    From our Hill Sources: 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. 1st, unless Congress takes action.

    The House passed a permanent extension:

    • HR 3086

      Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act

      —*Bipartisan* — "Keeps Internet access affordable, drives innovation, and promotes access to the Internet as a critical gateway to jobs, education, healthcare, and entrepreneurial opportunities." The bill specifically makes permanent the provisions of the Internet Tax Freedom Act, according to bill sponsors.

      Passed by the House on July 15th. 96% of POPVOX users support the bill.

    Meanwhile, the Senate is considering whether to pass its version of the bill alone or as a legislative package for the Marketplace Fairness Act, which would allow states to collect sales tax for online purchases:

    • S 1431

      Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Forever Act

      Permanently extends the Internet Tax Freedom Act.

      Introduced on Aug. 1, 2013, but hasn't yet received a vote. The co-chairs of the bipartisan Internet Caucus sent a letter to House and Senate leadership supporting a permanent extension, stating that "the moratorium’s expiration poses a threat to many of the current benefits of the Internet for American citizens." (Read the full letter.)

    • S 2609

      Marketplace and Internet Tax Fairness Act

      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.) Would extend the Internet Tax Freedom law for 10 years.

    #5 Another Government Shutdown?!?

    Remember last year's government 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.

    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.

  13. The POPVOX Top 20: July 25 - 31, 2014

    This is the last week before Congress adjourns for August recess -- and there are a lot of issues still left on the table. The most pressing of these is the crisis at the border. Nearly 60,000 unaccompanied children have entered the United States this year alone. The Senate failed to pass a bill that would have provided $2.73 billion to address the crisis -- $1 billion less than the President's request.

    Meanwhile, the House is scrambling to pass its version of a border security bill, the Secure the Southwest Border Act (HR 5230). The House bill would fund border security, enforcement of immigration and customs laws, humanitarian assistance, and illegal immigration prevention. This funding is targeted to meet the immediate needs surrounding the current border crisis, and will be sufficient to cover the estimated costs of these activities for the rest of FY 2014. Funding for this bill comes from cuts to existing programs within federal agencies, and will result in no new or additional federal spending.  

    Top 20 Bills of the Week

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    Here 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.

    • S 2644

      #1 FAIR Act

      To restore the integrity of the Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution.
      "Under current law, law enforcement agencies may take property suspected of involvement in crime without ever charging, let alone convicting, the property owner. In addition, state agencies routinely use federal asset forfeiture laws; ignoring state regulations to confiscate and receive financial proceeds from forfeited property. The FAIR Act would change federal law and protect the rights of property owners by requiring that the government prove its case with clear and convincing evidence before forfeiting seized property. State law enforcement agencies will have to abide by state law when forfeiting seized property. Finally, the legislation would remove the profit incentive for forfeiture by redirecting forfeitures assets from the Attorney General's Asset Forfeiture Fund to the Treasury's General Fund," according to the bill sponsor.

      610 Support | 11 Oppose

    • HR 4315

      #2 21st Century Endangered Species Transparency Act

      Amends the Endangered Species Act of 1973 to require the Secretary of the Interior or the Secretary of Commerce, as appropriate, to make publicly available on the Internet the best scientific and commercial data available that are the basis for the determination of whether a species is an endangered species or a threatened species, including each proposed regulation for the listing of a species.

      166 Support | 413 Oppose

    • HR 5226

      #3 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. 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," according to the bill sponsor.

      464 Support | 24 Oppose

    • HRes 676

      #4 Authorizing a Lawsuit Against the President

      Providing for authority to initiate litigation for actions by the President or other executive branch officials inconsistent with their duties under the Constitution of the United States. -- Passed by the House on July 30th --

      364 Support | 120 Oppose

    • S 2569

      #5 Bring Jobs Home Act

      Ends a tax loophole that pays the moving expenses of companies that send jobs overseas -- but would keep this deduction in place for companies that bring jobs and business activity back home. Would allow companies to qualify for a tax credit equal to 20% of the cost associated with bringing jobs back to the United States, according to the bill sponsor.

      249 Support | 117 Oppose

    • S 2648

      #6 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act

      Provides $615 million to suppress dangerous and devastating wildfires. (Already this year, more than 30,000 fires have raged across the nation from Florida to California.) Provides $225 million to accelerate production for Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile defense system. Provides $2.73 billion to address the crisis of unaccompanied children at the border -- $1 billion less than the President's request. (Source: Senate Appropriations Committee) 

      44 Support | 302 Oppose

    • HR 24

      #7 Federal Reserve Transparency Act

      --*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. (S 209 in the Senate)

      266 Support | 13 Oppose

    • HR 3513

      #8 Refuge from Cruel Trapping Act

      Amends the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966 to prohibit the use or possession of body-gripping traps in the National Wildlife Refuge System. Imposes on persons who possess or use such traps in the System: for a first offense, a civil fine of up to $500 for each body-gripping trap possessed or used; and for subsequent offenses, a civil fine of up to $1,000 for each body-gripping trap possessed or used, imprisonment for up to 180 days, or both such a civil fine and imprisonment. Subjects to civil forfeiture any body-gripping traps that are possessed or used in violation of this Act, and any wildlife captured by the use of such traps, including the pelts and raw fur. Requires persons found to be in violation of such prohibition to pay all associated court costs.

      204 Support | 22 Oppose

    • HR 5059

      #9 Clay Hunt SAV Act

      --*Bipartisan*-- Improves access to care for troops and veterans by extending combat eligibility from 5 to 15 years. Sets up a review process for potentially wrongful discharges. (An unknown numbers of troops who struggle with mental health issues have been discharged for behavior often caused by invisible injuries.) Increases the capacity to meet demands for mental health care professionals by repaying medical school loans for psychiatrists who commit to long-term service in the VA. Requires an annual review of care programs within DOD and the VA to ensure resources are effectively combatting the problem. Requires the VA and DOD to ensure mental health care providers have special training to identify veterans at-risk for suicide. (Source: Sen. John Walsh (D-MT).) (S 2182 in the Senate)

      170 Support | 25 Oppose

    • HR 5022

      #10 Enhanced Dental Care for Veterans Act

      Would ensure that all veterans have access to enhanced dental care, authorize a pilot program to utilize community-based clinics for more extensive dental work, and provide dental health education to encourage prevention. (S 1586 in the Senate)

      169 Support | 23 Oppose

    • HR 4962

      #11 National Border and Homeland Security Act

      To provide enhanced border security. Directs the Dept. of Homeland Security to finish the construction of fencing, and to provide for the installation of additional physical barriers, roads, lighting, cameras, and sensors to gain operational control of the southwest border; creates 6,000 new full-time positions for border patrol agents; better equips our border patrol agents to protect our national security by providing the advanced equipment necessary to scan for nuclear materials, according to the bill sponsor.

      146 Support | 20 Oppose

    • HR 935

      #12 Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act

      --*Bipartisan*-- Would amend the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and the Clean Water Act (CWA) to clarify Congressional intent and eliminate the requirement of a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit for the use of pesticides already approved for use under FIFRA, according to the House Agriculture Committee.

      121 Support | 33 Oppose

    • HR 5007

      #13 Restoring Accountability in Veterans Access to Health Care Act

      To assess staffing shortages at medical facilities of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

      120 Support | 23 Oppose

    • HR 5053

      #14 Expedited Family Reunification Act

      To amend the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 to provide for the expedited removal of unaccompanied alien children who are not victims of a severe form of trafficking in persons and who do not have a fear of returning to their country of nationality or last habitual residence. "Under current law, Unaccompanied Alien Children (UACs) from nations not contiguous with the United States are required to face a deportation hearing before they are returned home to their parents. Thousands of Central American children recently apprehended by CBP agents now face immigration courts and the prospect of being forced to live for years in foster care—away from their families, loved ones, and home nations—before being returned home," according to the bill sponsor. "The Expedited Family Reunification Act would amend existing statute to harmonize the way unaccompanied children are processed and allow immigration officials to coordinate with Central American governments to ensure the safe return of UACs to their families in their home countries.”

      117 Support | 17 Oppose

    • HRes 675

      #15 Governors Securing International Border

      Supporting the Constitutional authority of the Governors of the States of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California to take action to secure the international border of the United States within their States.

      115 Support | 9 Oppose

    • HR 5114

      #16 Helping Unaccompanied Minors and Alleviating National Emergency Act

      --*Bipartisan*-- To facilitate the expedited processing of minors entering the United States across the southern border. Would treat all unaccompanied migrant children crossing our border with equality under the law, and allowing for voluntary reunification with family, whether they are from Mexico, Central America, or any other country; and allow unaccompanied migrant children who have a claim to remain legally in the United States to make this claim in court before an immigration judge within 7 days of the completion of Health and Human Services screening under the TVPRA of 2008. It authorizes up to 40 new immigration judges for this purpose. Requires immigration judges to make a determination as to whether an unaccompanied migrant child is eligible to remain in the United States within 72 hours of making their claim. Children who succeed in their claim will be allowed to remain in the United States in the custody of a sponsor while they pursue their legal remedies. Children who do not successfully make such a claim will be reunited with family in their home country. (Source: Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX))

      25 Support | 78 Oppose

    • HR 3717

      #17 Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act

      --*Bipartisan*-- Focuses on delivering acute psychiatric care to the most challenging cases of serious mental illness; includes provisions to expand access to inpatient and outpatient psychiatric treatment; and training for law enforcement and first responders to understand how and when to properly intervene when a person is experiencing a mental health crisis. Also encourages states to adopt a “need for treatment” standard of commitment rather than the imminent danger standard. (According to the bill sponsor.)

      90 Support | 8 Oppose

    • HR 3846

      #18 United States Customs and Border Protection Authorization Act

      --*Bipartisan*-- "Represents the first attempt by the Congress, since the Homeland Security Act was enacted, to clearly delineate the current authorities and responsibilities of the largest law enforcement agency in the Federal government," according to the House Homeland Security Committee.

      22 Support | 74 Oppose

    • HR 1981

      #19 Stop Child Abuse in Residential Programs for Teens Act

      To require certain standards and enforcement provisions to prevent child abuse and neglect in residential programs. Would prohibit programs from physically, mentally, or sexually abusing children in their care; and prohibit programs from denying children essential water, food, clothing, shelter, or medical care – whether as a form of punishment or for any other reason, according to the House Education & Workforce Committee.

      81 Support | 11 Oppose

    • HR 3696

      #20 National Cybersecurity and Critical Infrastructure Protection Act

      --*Bipartisan*-- "Strengthens the cybersecurity of the nation’s 16 critical infrastructure sectors as well as the federal government by codifying, strengthening and providing oversight of the cybersecurity mission of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) – the agency responsible for ensuring the security of our critical infrastructure. The NCCIP Act bolsters the true partnership between private industry and the federal government so that together they can raise the bar on cybersecurity. The bill ensures privacy and civil liberties are protected and prevents additional new regulatory authority at DHS." (Source: House Homeland Security Committee)

      26 Support | 65 Oppose

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

  14. Issue Spotlight: The Export-Import Bank

    The Export-Import Bank's authorization is set to expire on Sept. 30, 2014 -- and the House and Senate must decide whether to reauthorize the Bank.

     

    What is the Export-Import Bank?

    The Export-Import Bank is the official export credit agency of the United States. Its mission is to assist in financing the export of US goods and services to international markets. The Ex-Im Bank offers direct loans, loan guarantees, working capital guarantees and export credit insurance, as well as special financing programs.

    The Ex-Im Bank has supported nearly 1.2 million private sector US jobs since 2009, including 205,000 jobs in FY2013 alone. It financed a total of $6 billion in small business exports, of which $5.2 billion was for the direct support of American small-business exporters last year. Last year, 3,413 small businesses were financed by the Bank, accounting for nearly 90 percent of its transactions.

    According to the Bank, it operates at no cost to the taxpayers -- and in FY2013, it generated more than $1 billion for US taxpayers above operation costs and loan loss reserves, which goes toward deficit reduction. (Source: Ex-Im Bank's Chairman Fred Hochberg's testimony before the Senate Banking Committee.)

    The Export-Import Bank was established by executive order in 1934 and became an independent agency in 1945.

    In 2012, Congress reauthorized the Ex-Im Bank, increasing its exposure limit (the limit on total aggregate outstanding amount of financing) from $100 billion to $140 billion. This authorization expires on Sept. 30, 2014. (Learn more.)

     


    Current Status on Reauthorization

    On June 25, the House Financial Services Committee held a hearing entitled "Corporate Necessity or Corporate Welfare?" on the expiring authorization for the Export-Import Bank. And, in a surprise move at the hearing, both Rep. John Campbell (R-CA) and Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-TN) announced that they would be introducing bills to reform and reauthorize the Bank.

    In a letter to the House and Senate leadership, 37 governors (including 15 Republicans) urged Congress to reauthorize the Ex-Im Bank: "Failure to reauthorize the agency’s operations will place US companies at a serious disadvantage, which would inevitably lead to fewer exports and the loss of thousands of jobs in our states." (Read the letter.)

    Majority Leader-elect Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Whip-elect Steve Scalise (R-LA) have both expressed opposition to reauthorizing the Bank. However, 41 Republican Representatives sent Speaker Boehner (R-OH) a letter in favor of reauthorization of the Bank. Meanwhile, other Members of Congress want to abolish the Ex-Im Bank entirely.

    From our Hill Sources

    Supporters of the Ex-Im Bank say that not reauthorizing “would be detrimental to the thousands of small businesses that work with the Export-Import Bank and would put 205,000 export-dependent jobs in jeopardy.” More than 850 business organizations are urging Congress to reauthorize the Bank. In an open letter to Congress, they 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."

    Several Members of Congress -- mostly Republicans -- argue that the Ex-Im Bank should not be reauthorized. They argue that the Ex-Im Bank doesn’t create jobs, citing a 1997 GAO study that found that government export finance assistance programs like Ex-Im “largely shift production among sectors within the economy rather than raise the overall level of employment in the economy.”  

    Opponents also express concern that the Bank "uses American taxpayers’ money to help foreign corporations, including businesses that are owned by the governments of China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates." On July 25, House Chairman Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling called on President Obama to immediately halt Ex-Im Bank deals with Russia: "While your Administration announces sanctions on Russian companies on the one hand, on the other it offers sweetheart deals to Russian companies through Ex-Im." (Read the letter.) 

    Related Bills

    Congress is also proposing other reforms for the Bank -- or eliminating it completely.

    Please keep in mind that highlighting a bill or issue 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.

  15. Issue Spotlight: Veteran's Health Care

    JULY 28 UPDATE: This afternoon, Senator Bernie Sanders and Rep. Jeff Miller, the Senate and House veterans committee chairmen, held a joint press conference to announce compromise legislation to reform the VA and address the problems regarding veterans' access to healthcare.

     

    The major changes the legislation proposes are:

    1. Provides $10 billion for the contracting out of health care and to allow veterans to give private care if they 40 miles away from a VA facility
    2. Provides $5 billion for the VA to add doctors and other clinicians as well as address some of the serious space problems at overcrowded VA facilities
    3. Gives the secretary authority to immediately remove incompetent senior executives based on poor job performance, while providing a 21-day period for due-process and appeals.
    4. Provides about $17 billion into VA health care over the next several years. There are $5 billion in offsets that will bring the total cost of the package down to $12 billion in new funding.

    (Read Senator Sanders' full statement and the Conference Report.)


    Negotiating a Veterans Health Reform Compromise

    7/23: With two weeks left before August recess, Congress is feeling the pressure about passing a veterans' health bill that would ease wait time for veterans.Pass a bill or don’t come back from recess,” William A. Thien, the national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, warned Congress. In June, the Senate and House passed their own versions of veterans health legislation to improve access to care. Since then, they've been negotiating the differences in order to pass one bill to send to the President for his signature into law.

    The biggest sticking point is the cost. According to Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who heads the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, "the Senate voted 93-3 to pay for this bill entirely with emergency funding as a cost of war," referring to the bipartisan bill he introduced with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). "It is imperative that the VA be able to hire the doctors and nurses and other medical personnel that are needed so that we do not have the same problems at the VA in years to come that we have today.”

    The House version would fund outside care for veterans only “to the extent that appropriations are available,” leaving most of the responsibility for funding the program to Congressional appropriators in the long term. 

    Newly Introduced Veterans' Health Bills

    Meanwhile, here are a few other bills recently introduced in Congress related to veterans' health: 

    • HR 5059

      Suicide Prevention for America’s Veterans Act (S 2182 in the Senate)

      —Bipartisan— Improves access to care for troops and veterans by extending combat eligibility from 5 to 15 years. Sets up a review process for potentially wrongful discharges. (An unknown numbers of troops who struggle with mental health issues have been discharged for behavior often caused by invisible injuries.) Increases the capacity to meet demands for mental health care professionals by repaying medical school loans for psychiatrists who commit to long-term service in the VA. Requires an annual review of care programs within DOD and the VA to ensure resources are effectively combatting the problem. Requires the VA and DOD to ensure mental health care providers have special training to identify veterans at-risk for suicide. (Source: Sen. John Walsh (D-MT).)
    • HR 4816

      Toxic Exposure Research and Military Family Support Act (S 1602 in the Senate)

      Ensures the descendants of veterans whose illnesses are related to exposure to toxins are covered by the Veterans Administration and the Department of Defense. instructs the Department of Veterans Affairs to fund treatment for descendants of veterans who were exposed to toxins while in combat or during their tours of duty. Toxins such as Agent Orange have been shown to cause birth defects in the children of military personnel who came in to contact with them either during the Vietnam War, in the storage and transportation of them, or by riding in aircraft that had been previous used to transport the toxins, according to bill sponsors.
    • HR 4810

      Veterans Access to Care Act

      —Bipartisan— Emergency legislation aimed at helping veterans receive timely access to medical care. Would require VA to offer non-VA care at the department’s expense to any enrolled veteran who cannot get an appointment within VA wait time goals or who lives more than 40 miles from a VA medical facility. Any care provided by a non-Department facility not under an existing VA contract would be reimbursed at the rate set by the VA, Tricare, or Medicare—whichever is greatest. The access portions of the bill would sunset two years after enactment of the bill. (Source: House Veterans Affairs Committee.) -- Passed by the House on June 10th; goes to the Senate for consideration. --
    • HR 5097

      Local Care For Veterans Act

      To direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to allow certain veterans to participate in the Patient-Centered Community Care program.
    • HR 5047

      Continuing Care for Veterans Act (S 2467 in the Senate)

      Would prohibit the Secretary of Veterans Affairs from altering availability and wait times for hospital care, medical services, or other health care based on the length of time since the veteran’s last visit to a VA facility, according to bill sponsors.
    • HR 5022

      Enhanced Dental Care for Veterans Act (S 1586 in the Senate)

      Would ensure that all veterans have access to enhanced dental care, authorize a pilot program to utilize community-based clinics for more extensive dental work, and provide dental health education to encourage prevention.
    • HR 5007

      Restoring Accountability in Veterans Access to Health Care Act

      To assess staffing shortages at medical facilities of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

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

  16. The Week Ahead: July 28 - Aug. 1

    From our Hill Sources: With August recess looming, the House and Senate are scrambling to address many pressing issues. Last month, the House and Senate passed version of veteran health reforms -- but have yet to reconcile their differences. The Senate will be working on an emergency funding bill, which would provide $2.73 billion to address the crisis of unaccompanied children at the border -- $1 billion less than the President's request. The House will consider regulations, border security and cybersecurity -- and a lawsuit against the President. (Also, do you know about Bernardo de Galvez's role in the Revolutionary War?)

    Suing the President

    One of the more controversial votes this week will be whether to authorize a House lawsuit against the President:

    • HRes 676

      Authorizing a Lawsuit Against the President

      Providing for authority to initiate litigation for actions by the President or other executive branch officials inconsistent with their duties under the US Constitution.

      From our Hill Sources: House Democrats have asked Congressman Pete Session (R-TX), the resolution sponsor, about the cost of suing the President -- and where the money would be coming from. In a letter, he responded, "it is too early in the process to calculate an exact dollar amount that will be spent on all elements of the litigation process."

    American Jobs

    The Senate will consider a bill that would encourage companies to bring jobs back to the United States.

    • S 2569

      Bring Jobs Home Act

      Ends a tax loophole that pays the moving expenses of companies that send jobs overseas -- but would keep this deduction in place for companies that bring jobs and business activity back home. Would allow companies to qualify for a tax credit equal to 20% of the cost associated with bringing jobs back to the United States, according to the bill sponsor.

      From our Hill Sources: Over the last 10 years, 2.4 million jobs have been shipped overseas, according to the bill supporters. Last week, the Senate voted 93-7 to advance the bill to a Senate vote, but Republicans are expected to pull their support for the legislation unless they get to offer amendments. Democrats may make outsourcing an election issue this Fall.

    Emergency Supplemental Funding Bill

    Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD), Chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, introduced an emergency funding bill. "Without this Emergency Supplemental Funding bill, the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service will run out of funds to meet these needs as early as August."

    • S 2648

      The Senate Emergency Supplemental Funding Bill

      Provides $615 million to suppress dangerous and devastating wildfires. (Already this year, more than 30,000 fires have raged across the nation from Florida to California.) Provides $225 million to accelerate production for Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile defense system. Provides $2.73 billion to address the crisis of unaccompanied children at the border -- $1 billion less than the President's request. (Source: Senate Appropriations Committee)

      From our Hill Sources: This bill does not include immigration legislation. And it doesn't give the Administration the authority to more swiftly deport the children from Central America. Meanwhile, House Republicans are working on a proposal that would provide $1.5 billion in funding -- about half of the President's request -- to address the crisis at the border and is funded by cuts elsewhere in the budget.

    Undocumented Children at the Border

    With nearly 60,000 unaccompanied children at the border, the crisis continues to grow. The Senate and House are considering supplemental funding to respond to the crisis. And many proposals have been introduced in Congress.

    This week, Congresswoman Kay Granger (R-TX), Chairwoman of the House Working Group to address the national security and humanitarian crisis at the southern border, announced the group’s recommendations and solutions. The House working group is working on a proposal that would provide $1.5 billion in funding -- about half of the President's request -- to address the crisis.

    House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) recently led a bipartisan Congressional delegation to Central America "to understand the recent border crisis involving unaccompanied children illegally entering the United States." From July 17 - 20, Members traveled to El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala "to assess root causes of the surge in migration as well as U.S. and local efforts to address the crisis." (Read their findings.)

    See more bills related to undocumented children.

    Environmental Regulations

    The House will vote on two bills related to environmental regulations:

    • HR 935

      Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act

      -- *Bipartisan* -- Would amend the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and the Clean Water Act (CWA) to clarify Congressional intent and eliminate the requirement of a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit for the use of pesticides already approved for use under FIFRA, according to the House Agriculture Committee.
    • HR 4315

      21st Century Endangered Species Transparency Act

      Would require data used by federal agencies for ESA listing decisions to be made publicly available and accessible through the Internet, according to bill sponsors. "Would allow the American people to actually see what science and data are being used to make key listing decisions."

    "Car-mageddon" and other Transportation Issues

    The Federal Highway Trust Fund is the source of federal transportation funding for all the states. It pays for the building, rebuilding and repair of highways and bridges — and it will run out of money in late August 2014. According to the Dept. of Transportation (DOT), “the United States is heading toward a dramatic slowdown — perhaps even a complete halt — this summer.” “Car-mageddon indeed,” says the DOT. Dept. of Transportation Secretary Foxx sent a letter to state Dept. of Transportation CEOs telling them that without Congressional action, “the Department will be forced to limit payments to manage the reduced levels of cash available in the Trust Fund.” (Read Secretary Foxx’s letter.)

    From our Hill Sources: On July 15, the House passed its version, Highway and Transportation Funding Act (HR 5021), which would provide nearly $11 billion for highway funding -– allowing projects to move forward through May 31, 2015. The Senate version of the bill, the Preserving America’s Transit and Highways (PATH) Act would provided nearly the same amount of funding -- but hasn't yet been considered by the Senate. (Read bill summary.)

    The House will vote on:

    Border Security

    The House will vote on:

    Cybersecurity

    The House will vote on:

    • HR 3696

      National Cybersecurity and Critical Infrastructure Protection Act

      -- *Bipartisan* -- "Strengthens the cybersecurity of the nation’s 16 critical infrastructure sectors as well as the federal government by codifying, strengthening and providing oversight of the cybersecurity mission of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) – the agency responsible for ensuring the security of our critical infrastructure. The NCCIP Act bolsters the true partnership between private industry and the federal government so that together they can raise the bar on cybersecurity. The bill ensures privacy and civil liberties are protected and prevents additional new regulatory authority at DHS." (Source: House Homeland Security Committee)
    • HR 2952

      Critical Infrastructure Research and Development Act

      -- *Bipartisan* -- "Will establish the development of a Research and Development strategy for critical infrastructure security technologies, and streamline current barriers within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The CIRDA Act will explore how expanding the use of public-private R&D consortiums can accelerate new security technologies and spur innovation and economic competiveness. Finally, the legislation will designate a 'Technology Clearinghouse' where proven security tools for protecting infrastructure can be rapidly shared amongst government and private partners," according to the bill sponsor
    • HR 3107

      Homeland Security Cybersecurity Boots-on-the-Ground Act

      -- *Bipartisan* -- Directs DHS to assess its cyber workforce, create occupational classifications, and develop a cybersecurity workforce strategy, according to the bill sponsor.
    • HR 3635

      Safe and Secure Federal Websites Act

      -- *Bipartisan* -- "Requires Healthcare.gov and future federal websites that collect personal information, such as social security numbers, be reviewed by GAO and certified as secure by the issuing agency's Chief Information Officer before being made available to the public. Further, any federal websites published after July 1, 2013 that are not certified as secure must be taken down until they are secure," according to the bill sponsor.

    International Affairs

    The House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing Tuesday on the "Shootdown of Malaysian Flight 17 and the Escalating Crisis in Ukraine." Meanwhile, the bipartisan Ukraine Security Assistance Act (HR 5190) was just introduced in the House, which would "authorize the President to work with the Government of Ukraine to assess that country’s military, intelligence, and security needs and provide adequate and necessary assistance to protect Ukrainian democracy and sovereignty," according to bill sponsors.

    In addition, the House will vote on:

    • HR 1771

      North Korea Sanctions Enforcement Act

      -- *Bipartisan* -- "Provides for tougher sanctions against North Korea for its brutality against its people and its aggressive and dangerous actions and threats on the world stage," according to the bill sponsor. "Addresses money laundering, currency counterfeiting, the violation of UN Security Council resolutions and financial restrictions, and various other offenses committed by North Korea. It also addresses human rights abuses and promotes unrestricted communications to the people of North Korea." 
    • HR 4490

      US International Communications Reform Act

      -- *Bipartisan* -- Improves the missions, objectives, and effectiveness of US international broadcasters. Clarifies the mission of the Voice of America (VOA), making clear that the Voice of America mission is to support US public diplomacy efforts. Consolidates “the Freedom Broadcasters” -- Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), Radio Free Asia (RFA), and the Middle East Broadcasting Network (MBN) -- into a single, non-federal organization to achieve cost savings, allow for closer collaboration, and improve responsiveness.

    Health Care

    The House will vote on:

    Also in the House...

    The House will also vote on:

    • S 1799

      Victims of Child Abuse Act

      -- *Bipartisan* -- Will improve accountability and extend the Victims of Child Abuse Act (VOCCA) program for 5 years. Provides funding to the National Children’s Alliance, local Children’s Advocacy Centers (CACs), and four Regional Children’s Advocacy Center programs. These centers and programs help expedite prosecution of offenders, reduce violent encounters, and improve safety in communities across the country, according to bill sponsors.
    • HJRes 105

      Conferring honorary citizenship

      -- *Bipartisan* -- Conferring honorary citizenship on Bernardo de Galvez y Madrid, Viscount of Galveston and Count of Galvez.

      Background: Beginning in 1779, Galvez led thousands of Spanish soldiers against the British in the South. His most important military victory over the British forces occurred May 9, 1781, when he attacked and took by land and by sea Pensacola, the British (and formerly, Spanish) capital of West Florida. The loss left the British with no bases in the Gulf of Mexico. (Learn more.)

    • HR 4250

      Sunscreen Innovation Act

      -- *Bipartisan* -- Would "ensure that US consumers have access to the safest, most effective sunscreens available," according to bill sponsors. Would streamline the FDA’s approval process for new sunscreen ingredients while maintaining strict safety standards. The FDA has not approved a new sunscreen ingredient in nearly two decades. (Also, S 2141 in the Senate)
    • HR 4626

      SAFE Act Confidentiality and Privilege Enhancement Act

      -- *Bipartisan* -- "Enables information sharing between federal and state regulators and reduces regulatory burden for businesses," according to the House Financial Services Committee.
    • HR 5062

      Examination and Supervisory Privilege Parity Act

      -- *Bipartisan* -- "Would clarify that the sharing of information between federal banking regulators and state agencies that license, supervise or examine the offering of consumer financial products or services would not be construed as waiving, destroying or otherwise affecting any privilege a person could claim," according to the House Financial Services Committee.
    • HR 4809

      Reauthorizing the Defense Production Act

      To reauthorize the Defense Production Act, to improve the Defense Production Act Committee. "In recent years, the Defense Production Act has been used to support our troops in the Gulf War, Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan. The same DPA authorities that help protect our troops also help the nation respond and recover when disaster strikes. President George W. Bush, for example, used the DPA after Hurricane Katrina to procure railroad switching and signaling equipment so trains could go back into operation," according to the House Financial Services Committee.

      From our Hill Sources: At the start of the Korean War, Congress granted the President the authority to mobilize the US economy for the war effort and enhance military preparedness. This was granted through the Defense Production Act in 1950.

    • HR 3896

      Repair workers in the recreational boating industry

      -- *Bipartisan* -- To amend the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act to provide a definition of recreational vessel.

    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. POPVOX Top 20: July 18 - 24, 2014

    This week, the most popular issue on POPVOX was whether to authorize a House lawsuit against the President. More than four in five POPVOX users support the resolution, HRes 676. As the sponsor of the resolution, Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), explained:

    "Today I introduced a resolution that would authorize the Speaker of the House to file a lawsuit against President Obama for failing to faithfully execute the law. Rather than following the requirements of the Constitution, President Obama has selectively enforced the law in some instances, ignored it in others, and changed statutes altogether. This President, as well as future presidents from both parties, must not be allowed to circumvent Congress and ignore the Constitution. Through this lawsuit, the House of Representatives will take a crucial step to rein in the President and defend our Constitution so that it endures for generations to come."

    Another issue of importance on POPVOX continues to be the record numbers of unaccompanied children crossing the US border. Nearly half the bills on the Top 20 related to this crisis, or the broader issue of child trafficking. As the number of proposals addressing unaccompanied children continues to grow, we will be updating our Issue Spotlight.

    Top 20 Bills of the Week

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    Here 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 676

      #1 Authorizing a Lawsuit Against the President

      Providing for authority to initiate litigation for actions by the President or other executive branch officials inconsistent with their duties under the US Constitution.

      506 Support | 95 Oppose

    • HR 5114

      #2 HUMANE (Helping Unaccompanied Minors and Alleviating National Emergency) Act

      --**BIPARTISAN**-- To facilitate the expedited processing of minors entering the United States across the southern border. 

      Would treat all unaccompanied migrant children crossing our border with equality under the law, and allowing for voluntary reunification with family, whether they are from Mexico, Central America, or any other country; and allow unaccompanied migrant children who have a claim to remain legally in the United States to make this claim in court before an immigration judge within 7 days of the completion of Health and Human Services screening under the TVPRA of 2008. It authorizes up to 40 new immigration judges for this purpose. Requires immigration judges to make a determination as to whether an unaccompanied migrant child is eligible to remain in the United States within 72 hours of making their claim. Children who succeed in their claim will be allowed to remain in the United States in the custody of a sponsor while they pursue their legal remedies. Children who do not successfully make such a claim will be reunited with family in their home country. (Source: Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX))

      113 Support | 450 Oppose

    • HR 3513

      #3 Refuge from Cruel Trapping Act

      To end the use of body-gripping traps in the National Wildlife Refuge System.

      411 Support | 26 Oppose

    • HCRes 105

      #4 Directing the President to Remove US Troops from Iraq

      --**BIPARTISAN**-- Directing the President, pursuant to section 5(c) of the War Powers Resolution, to remove United States Armed Forces, other than Armed Forces required to protect United States diplomatic facilities and personnel, from Iraq.

      258 Support | 109 Oppose

    • HR 4962

      #5 National Border and Homeland Security Act

      To provide enhanced border security. Directs the Dept. of Homeland Security to finish the construction of fencing, and to provide for the installation of additional physical barriers, roads, lighting, cameras, and sensors to gain operational control of the southwest border; creates 6,000 new full-time positions for border patrol agents; better equips our border patrol agents to protect our national security by providing the advanced equipment necessary to scan for nuclear materials, according to bill sponsor.

      328 Support | 33 Oppose

    • HR 5053

      #6 Expedited Family Reunification Act

      To amend the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 to provide for the expedited removal of unaccompanied alien children who are not victims of a severe form of trafficking in persons and who do not have a fear of returning to their country of nationality or last habitual residence. 

      "Under current law, Unaccompanied Alien Children (UACs) from nations not contiguous with the United States are required to face a deportation hearing before they are returned home to their parents. Thousands of Central American children recently apprehended by CBP agents now face immigration courts and the prospect of being forced to live for years in foster care—away from their families, loved ones, and home nations—before being returned home," according to the bill sponsor. "The Expedited Family Reunification Act would amend existing statute to harmonize the way unaccompanied children are processed and allow immigration officials to coordinate with Central American governments to ensure the safe return of UACs to their families in their home countries."

      322 Support | 35 Oppose

    • HR 4411

      #7 Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act

      --**BIPARTISAN**-- To prevent Hezbollah and associated entities from gaining access to international financial and other institutions.

       "Takes a comprehensive approach to addressing the threat posed by Hezbollah by imposing severe new sanctions on Hezbollah’s fundraising channels and restricting its ability to use its funds to support global terrorist activities. Dealing a blow to Hezbollah’s finances will reduce its capacity to sow instability in the Middle East and cut off a major source of terrorist support," according to the bill sponsor.

      321 Support | 13 Oppose

    • HR 5079

      #8 Repatriating all unaccompanied children, regardless of their country-of-origin

      To amend the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 to provide for the repatriation of unaccompanied alien children.

      Under current law, unaccompanied children from Mexico or Canada can be screened within 48 hours and quickly repatriated back across the border if they are not a trafficking victim or have aclaim for asylum. However, children from other countries that are not contiguous with the US must go through a more formal and time consuming legal proceeding. In fact, unaccompanied children from countries other than Mexico (so-called OTM policy) are currently waiting 578 days on average for a hearing. Rep. Calvert’s bill would close the loophole by screening and repatriating all unaccompanied children, regardless of their country-of-origin, in the same process that has worked for unaccompanied children from Mexico and Canada. Source: Congressman Calvert (R-CA)

      276 Support | 33 Oppose

    • HRes 675

      #9 Governors Securing International Border

      Supporting the Constitutional authority of the Governors of the States of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California to take action to secure the international border of the United States within their States.

      274 Support | 25 Oppose

    • HR 5081

      #10 Strengthening Child Welfare Response to Trafficking Act

      --**BIPARTISAN**-- Launches a review by the Interagency Task-Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking that will look into federal and state trafficking prevention activities. Requires an inventory of existing federal anti-trafficking efforts by the non-partisan Government Accountability Office to make sure all federal agencies and programs work together and that federal resources are being targeted where needed. Improves existing Department of Justice grants, allowing the grants to also support shelters for survivors. Currently, there are just 200 beds available in the United States for underage victims, according to the bill sponsor.

      42 Support | 237 Oppose

    • S 2516

      #11 Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending in Elections Act

      Would "require political groups to list publicly their big donors, so voters can at least know who is trying to sway their opinions," according to bill sponsors. Requires any covered organization that spends $10,000 or more during an election cycle to file a report with the Federal Election Commission within 24 hours, detailing the amount and nature of each expenditure over $1,000 and the names of all of its donors who gave $10,000 or more. Transfer provisions in the bill prevent donors from using shell organizations to hide their activities.

      128 Support | 125 Oppose

    • HR 5118

      #12 Transparent Report of Alien Children’s Safety Act

      To facilitate the expedited processing of minors entering the United States across the southern border. Would "direct the Attorney General in consultation with the Secretary of DHS to report to Congress and the American people on how many unaccompanied children have entered our country, where they’re being sent, how many of them have been given immigration hearing dates, and how many of them are showing up for these hearings," according to the bill sponsor.

      232 Support | 18 Oppose

    • S 2550

      #13 Civil Rights Voting Restoration Act

      To secure the Federal voting rights of non-violent persons when released from incarceration.

      143 Support | 80 Oppose

    • HR 3471

      #14 Women’s Health Protection Act

      Would protect a woman’s right to safe and legal abortion by stopping restrictive regulations and laws -– such as those in place in states including Texas and Wisconsin -– intended to curtail reproductive health services for women. Would prohibit laws that impose burdensome requirements on access to reproductive health services such as requiring doctors to perform tests and procedures that doctors have deemed unnecessary or preventing doctors from prescribing and dispensing medication as is medically appropriate, according to bill sponsors.

      24 Support | 172 Oppose

    • HR 1981

      #15 Stop Child Abuse in Residential Programs for Teens Act

      To require certain standards and enforcement provisions to prevent child abuse and neglect in residential programs. Would prohibit programs from physically, mentally, or sexually abusing children in their care; and prohibit programs from denying children essential water, food, clothing, shelter, or medical care – whether as a form of punishment or for any other reason, according to the House Education & Workforce Committee.

      160 Support | 23 Oppose

    • S 2054

      #16 Stop Child Abuse in Residential Programs for Teens Act

      To require certain standards and enforcement provisions to prevent child abuse and neglect in residential programs. Would prohibit programs from physically, mentally, or sexually abusing children in their care; and prohibit programs from denying children essential water, food, clothing, shelter, or medical care – whether as a form of punishment or for any other reason, according to the House Education & Workforce Committee.

      131 Support | 35 Oppose

    • HR 4906

      #17 Protecting Domestic Violence and Stalking Victims Act

      Would close several loopholes that currently exist in current federal protections against gun violence for those experiencing domestic violence and stalking, according to the bill sponsor. 

      25 Support | 127 Oppose

    • HR 1022

      #18 Securing Energy Critical Elements and American Jobs Act

      To help the United States develop the technical expertise and production capabilities to assure a long-term, secure, and sustainable supply of energy critical elements, according to the bill sponsor. The US relies on other countries for more than 90 percent energy critical elements, which have applications in everyday electronics like smart phones and flat screen TVs, clean tech innovations like hybrid cars and wind turbines and US military needs, like night-vision goggles, cruise missiles, and other weapons.

      16 Support | 135 Oppose

    • HR 5137

      #19 Asylum Reform and Border Protection Act

      To modify the treatment of unaccompanied alien children who are in Federal custody by reason of their immigration status. 

      All unaccompanied alien minors will be placed in expedited removal proceedings so they can be almost immediately returned home, unless they have a legitimate credible fear of persecution in their home country; provides that the Secretary of State shall negotiate agreements with other countries regarding the safe repatriation of minors, just as the Secretary does now for countries contiguous to the US; and implements tougher standards for “credible fear” claims. Unaccompanied alien minors will not have preferred access to asylum that is not available to others.Gives Border Patrol access to federal lands. Provides additional immigration judges and ICE prosecutors. (Source: House Judiciary Committee)

      89 Support | 62 Oppose

    • HR 5129

      #20 UAC State Notification Act

      Amends the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008, with respect to an unaccompanied alien child in federal custody by reason of the child's immigration status, to require the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) or the Secretary of Homeland Security (DHS) to notify the governor of a state within 48 hours before the child's placement in the care of a proposed custodian located in that state.

      139 Support | 12 Oppose

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

  18. The Week Ahead: July 21 - 25

    From our Hill Sources: The House will be considering children at the border, human trafficking, air travel, education -- and a resolution on Iraq. The Senate will be working on confirmations, but also will hold hearings on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, campaign finance reform and the Violence Against Women Act.

    Undocumented Children at the Border

    As tens of thousands of children from Central America have crossed the border to the United States, the President and Congress are putting forward many proposals to address the issue. Part of the discussion includes a 2008 law, which gives undocumented children from countries other than Mexico or Canada (that don't share a border with the United States) different protections when they are picked up after crossing the border. Under current law, unaccompanied children from Mexico or Canada can be screened within 48 hours and quickly repatriated back across the border if they are not a trafficking victim or have a claim for asylum. However, children from other countries must go through a more formal and time consuming legal proceeding. In fact, unaccompanied children from countries other than Mexico (so-called OTM policy) are currently waiting 578 days on average for a hearing. (Learn more.)

    President Obama has requested from Congress $3.7 billion in emergency funds to deal with the crisis. Meanwhile, dozens of bills have been introduced addressing this crisis, including:

    • HR 5114

      HUMANE Act

      — *Bipartisan*— To facilitate the expedited processing of minors entering the United States across the southern border. (Introduced in the Senate as S 2611)

      Would treat all unaccompanied migrant children crossing our border with equality under the law, and allowing for voluntary reunification with family, whether they are from Mexico, Central America, or any other country; and allow unaccompanied migrant children who have a claim to remain legally in the United States to make this claim in court before an immigration judge within 7 days of the completion of Health and Human Services screening under the TVPRA of 2008. It authorizes up to 40 new immigration judges for this purpose. Requires immigration judges to make a determination as to whether an unaccompanied migrant child is eligible to remain in the United States within 72 hours of making their claim. Children who succeed in their claim will be allowed to remain in the United States in the custody of a sponsor while they pursue their legal remedies. Children who do not successfully make such a claim will be reunited with family in their home country. (Source: Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX))

    • See more bills related to undocumented children.

    Human Trafficking

    As Congress considers undocumented children at the border, the House will also vote on bills related to human and child trafficking:

    • HR 5081

      Strengthening Child Welfare Response to Trafficking Act

      -- *Bipartisan* -- Launches a review by the Interagency Task-Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking that will look into federal and state trafficking prevention activities. Requires an inventory of existing federal anti-trafficking efforts by the non-partisan Government Accountability Office to make sure all federal agencies and programs work together and that federal resources are being targeted where needed. Improves existing Department of Justice grants, allowing the grants to also support shelters for survivors. Currently, there are just 200 beds available in the United States for underage victims, according to the bill sponsor.
    • HR 5076

      Enhancing Services for Runaway and Homeless Victims of Youth Trafficking Act

      -- *Bipartisan* -- Would "improve support provided specifically to runaway and homeless youth who are victims of sex trafficking," according to the bill sponsor
    • HR 4980

      Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act

      -- *Bipartisan* -- Reflects agreements reached between the House and Senate negotiators, reconciling differences on three bills previously approved by the House (HR 1896, HR 3205, and HR 4058) and the Senate Finance Committee (S 1876, S 1877, and S 1878).  The legislation is fully paid for, and includes numerous provisions that will encourage states to reduce the incidence of sex trafficking among youth in foster care, empower and promote normalcy for foster youth, quickly move more children from foster care into adoptive homes or the homes of relatives, and increase the amount of child support provided to families in which one parent is outside of the US.
    • HR 5135

      Human Trafficking Prevention, Intervention, and Recovery Act

      -- *Bipartisan* -- To direct the Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking to identify strategies to prevent children from becoming victims of trafficking and review trafficking prevention efforts, to protect and assist in the recovery of victims of trafficking.
    • HR 5116

      Human Trafficking Detection Act

      -- *Bipartisan* -- Would require Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agents responsible for monitoring travelers across US borders and through airports receive training to identify potential victims of human trafficking and report these cases to local law enforcement officials, according to bill sponsors.
    • HR 4449

      Human Trafficking Prevention Act

      -- *Bipartisan* -- To amend the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 to expand the training for Federal Government personnel related to trafficking in persons.
    • HR 2283

      Human Trafficking Prioritization Act

      -- *Bipartisan* -- To prioritize the fight against human trafficking within the Department of State according to congressional intent in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 without increasing the size of the Federal Government.
    • HR 5111

      Child Trafficking

      -- *Bipartisan* -- To improve the response to victims of child sex trafficking.

    Air Travel and Airports

    The House will vote on:

    Technology and Innovation

    The House will vote on:

    International Affairs

    The House will also consider bills related to the Middle East: 

    • HR 4411

      Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act

      -- *Bipartisan* -- "Takes a comprehensive approach to addressing the threat posed by Hezbollah by imposing severe new sanctions on Hezbollah’s fundraising channels and restricting its ability to use its funds to support global terrorist activities. Dealing a blow to Hezbollah’s finances will reduce its capacity to sow instability in the Middle East and cut off a major source of terrorist support," according to the bill sponsor.
    • HCRes 105

      Resolution on Iraq

      -- *Bipartisan* -- To direct the President to remove US troops from Iraq within 30 days, or no later than the end of this year, except for those troops needed to protect US diplomatic facilities and personnel, according to the sponsors.

    Education

    The House will vote on several bills related to education and school financing -- including tax credits:

    Campaign Finance Reform

    On Tuesday, the Senate Rules and Administration Committee will hold a hearing on a campaign finance reform bill. According to the bill sponsor, the DISCLOSE Act "would crack down on so-called 'dark money' by requiring organizations that spend money to influence elections to disclose their spending as well as their major sources of funding in a timely manner" after the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision.

    • S 2516

      DISCLOSE Act

      Would "require political groups to list publicly their big donors, so voters can at least know who is trying to sway their opinions," according to bill sponsors. Requires any covered organization that spends $10,000 or more during an election cycle to file a report with the Federal Election Commission within 24 hours, detailing the amount and nature of each expenditure over $1,000 and the names of all of its donors who gave $10,000 or more. Transfer provisions in the bill prevent donors from using shell organizations to hide their activities.

    Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

    On Tuesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a meeting on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

    • CRPD

      Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

      "The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is an agreement by countries around the world to make sure that people with disabilities and people without disabilities are treated equally," according to the UN. "It clarifies and qualifies how all categories of rights apply to persons with disabilities and identifies areas where adaptations have to be made for persons with disabilities to effectively exercise their rights and areas where their rights have been violated, and where protection of rights must be reinforced."

    Violence Against Women and Gun Control

    On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on VAWA Next Steps: Protecting Women from Gun Violence. Earlier this year, Congresswoman Giffords delivered a petition to Chairman Leahy requesting the hearing. Here are some related bills:

    Also in the House...

    In addition, the House will vote on the following:

    • HR 2430

      Hinchliffe Stadium Heritage Act

      -- *Bipartisan* -- Would make Paterson’s Hinchliffe Stadium a part of the Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park.
    • HR 3802

      John Adams

      -- *Bipartisan* -- To extend the legislative authority of the Adams Memorial Foundation to establish a commemorative work in honor of former President John Adams and his legacy.
    • HR 3716

      Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe

      -- *Bipartisan* -- To ratify a water settlement agreement affecting the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe.
    • HR 4508

      Extending water services

      To amend the East Bench Irrigation District Water Contract Extension Act to permit the Secretary of the Interior to extend the contract for certain water services
    • HR 4562

      Nebraska Irrigation

      To authorize early repayment of obligations to the Bureau of Reclamation within the Northport Irrigation District in the State of Nebraska.

    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. The POPVOX Top 20: July 11 - 17, 2014

    The top bill of the week, the Women's Health Protection Act (S 1696) was introduced to prevent regulations such as those in place in Texas and Wisconsin to "curtail reproductive health services for women," according to bill sponsors. On Tuesday, July 15, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing, "Removing Barriers to Constitutionally Protected Reproductive Rights," on the Women’s Health Protection Act. Currently, three in four POPVOX users oppose the bill.

    Top 20 Bills of the Week

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    Here 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.

    • S 1696

      #1 Women’s Health Protection Act

      Would protect a woman’s right to safe and legal abortion by stopping restrictive regulations and laws -– such as those in place in states including Texas and Wisconsin -– intended to curtail reproductive health services for women. Would prohibit laws that impose burdensome requirements on access to reproductive health services such as requiring doctors to perform tests and procedures that doctors have deemed unnecessary or preventing doctors from prescribing and dispensing medication as is medically appropriate, according to bill sponsors.

      104 Support | 399 Oppose

    • HR 1981

      #2 Stop Child Abuse in Residential Programs for Teens Act

      To require certain standards and enforcement provisions to prevent child abuse and neglect in residential programs.

      411 Support | 86 Oppose

    • HR 5058

      #3 Wild Horse Oversight Act

      Would give states and Indian Tribes the option to take over the management of wild horses and burros. Would preserve all protections under the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971, and simply allow states to implement horse and burro management plans that address the specific needs of their own state, according to bill sponsors.

      75 Support | 379 Oppose

    • HR 5021

      #4 Highway and Transportation Funding Act

      To provide an extension of Federal-aid highway, highway safety, motor carrier safety, transit, and other programs funded out of the Highway Trust Fund. -- Passed by the House on July 15th -- 

      147 Support | 258 Oppose

    • S 2578

      #5 Protect Women’s Health From Corporate Interference Act

      To ensure that employers cannot interfere in their employees’ birth control and other health care decisions.

      63 Support | 335 Oppose

    • HR 5034

      #6 Stop the EPA Act

      To provide for certain special congressional review procedures for EPA rulemakings.

      311 Support | 51 Oppose

    • S 2533

      #7 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.

      263 Support | 64 Oppose

    • HR 3513

      #8 Refuge from Cruel Trapping Act

      To end the use of body-gripping traps in the National Wildlife Refuge System.

      274 Support | 12 Oppose

    • S 2054

      #9 Stop Child Abuse in Residential Programs for Teens Act

      To require certain standards and enforcement provisions to prevent child abuse and neglect in residential programs.

      242 Support | 41 Oppose

    • S 2432

      #10 Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act

      Would provide for the refinancing of certain Federal student loans. Would establish a program to allow those with outstanding student loan debt to refinance at the lower interest rates (3.86% interest rate compared to 7%) currently offered to new borrowers. The legislation is fully funded by enacting the Buffett Rule, which would limit special tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans that allow millionaires and billionaires to pay lower effective tax rates than middle class families, according to bill sponsor.

      79 Support | 175 Oppose

    • S 2363

      #11 Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act

      --*BIPARTISAN*-- A comprehensive Senate sportsmen’s bill that enhances opportunities for hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation; improves access to federal lands and helps to boost the outdoor recreation economy, according to bill sponsors. -- Failed cloture in the Senate on July 10th -- 

      46 Support | 186 Oppose

    • HR 4582

      #12 Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act

      To amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to provide for the refinancing of certain Federal student loans.

      46 Support | 154 Oppose

    • HR 5031

      #13 STEM Education Act

      --*BIPARTISAN*-- To define STEM education to include computer science, and to support existing STEM education programs at the National Science Foundation. -- Passed by the House on July 14th -- 

      50 Support | 117 Oppose

    • S 2550

      #14 Civil Rights Voting Restoration Act

      --*BIPARTISAN*-- To secure the Federal voting rights of non-violent persons when released from incarceration.

      113 Support | 53 Oppose

    • HR 4850

      #15 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.

      122 Support | 31 Oppose

    • S 2414

      #16 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.

      118 Support | 32 Oppose

    • S 2244

      #17 Terrorism Risk Insurance Program Reauthorization Act

      --*BIPARTISAN*-- To extend the termination date of the Terrorism Insurance Program established under the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act of 2002. -- Passed by the Senate on July 17th -- 

      12 Support | 136 Oppose

    • HR 3471

      #18 Women’s Health Protection Act

      Would protect a woman’s right to safe and legal abortion by stopping restrictive regulations and laws -– such as those in place in states including Texas and Wisconsin -– intended to curtail reproductive health services for women. Would prohibit laws that impose burdensome requirements on access to reproductive health services such as requiring doctors to perform tests and procedures that doctors have deemed unnecessary or preventing doctors from prescribing and dispensing medication as is medically appropriate, according to bill sponsors.

      37 Support | 104 Oppose

    • HR 4719

      #19 America Gives More Act

      To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to permanently extend and expand the charitable deduction for contributions of food inventory. -- Passed by the House on July 17th -- 

      121 Support | 12 Oppose

    • HR 4882

      #20 Southwest Border Protection Act

      To achieve operational control of the international border between the United States and Mexico through the deployment of members of the National Guard in support of the United States Customs and Border Protection.

      121 Support | 11 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.

  20. Issue Spotlight: Horses

    Horses have long been a part of the American economy, culture and history. Beginning with Columbus's journey, horses were a key part of American exploration. In fact, some of the Iberian horses brought in the late 1400's escaped and became feral. Their relatives are now the mustangs found in western United States. (However, the horse family Equidae and the genus Equus evolved in North America and existed in prehistoric times.)

    By 1911, there were more than 23 million horses in the US, according to the Dept. of Agriculture. By the last horse census in 1959, there were only 4.5 million horses. But the number of horses since the 1960's has grown -- not for agricultural or transportation use -- but for sport, competition, recreation and companionship. A 2005 study found that there are 9.2 million horses in the US. (Source: USDA)

    Proposals in Congress

    Weigh in and POPVOX will deliver your message to Congress. 

    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.