The POPVOX Blog

Articles By marci, page 3

  1. POPVOX Daily Digest - December 3, 2013

    From our Hill sources:

    The House was in to pass a key piece of gun legislation, which members easily approved despite the ongoing split between Republicans and Democrats on this issue.

    • HR 3626 a bill to extend the Undetectable Firearms Act for 10 years. Current law bans the manufacture, sale, use and import of guns that cannot be detected by a metal detector, such as plastic guns.

      Republicans have opposed other gun control bills, but they allowed this one to pass in a voice vote.

      Democrats also let it pass, although some said they would prefer a fix to the law to ensure that all critical gun components contain some metal, so these parts can be detected. Democrats fear that the advent of 3D printing can be used to build non-metal gun parts that might evade detection.

      Current law expires on December 9, which means the Senate will have to act quickly to deal with the issue when it returns next week.

     

    The House also passed three bills related to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA):

     

    Finally, the House approved several non-controversial bills dealing with the use of federal land:

    • HR 255 amending certain definitions under the Provo River Project Transfer Act, a federal land use bill. This bill passed 406-0.
    • HR 1241 allowing a land exchange involving National Forest System lands in the Inyo National Forest in California. Passed in voice vote.
    • HR 1963 The Bureau of Reclamation Conduit Hydropower Development Equity and Jobs Act, authorizing the development of certain hydropower projects. Passed in voice vote.
    • HR 2388 allowing the government to set aside land in California to the Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians. Passed in voice vote.
    •  HR 2650 allowing the government to set aside land in California to the Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians. Passed in voice vote.
  2. POPVOX Daily Digest - December 2, 2013

    From our Hill sources:

    The House took up two bills on Monday, and easily passed both:

    • HR 3574 The Space Launch Liability Indemnification Act. This bill extends for another year the current liability protections that the government gives to commercial space launch companies.

      Under current law, these companies must get insurance for the first half billion dollars in any damage they cause to third parties as the result of a failed launch. The next $2 billion or so is covered by the government.

      The House passed this bill 376-5.

    • HR 3588 The Community Fire Safety Act This bill changes the Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act so that fire hydrants are exempt from rules about the use of lead pipe in water delivery infrastructure.

      The law was meant to help keep lead out of drinking water. But in October, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decided the law would apply to fire hydrants, since they sometimes are used to provide drinking water.

      Supporters of the bill argued the EPA rule would effectively outlaw fire hydrants that are available for use today, since commercially ready hydrants don't meet the lead content rule.

      Votes about EPA rules are usually partisan, but the House passed this bill 384-0, and sent it to the Senate.

  3. POPVOX Daily Digest: November 21, 2013

    From our Hill sources:

    Bill to expedite pipeline permits advances in House

    The House was in briefly to pass its third energy bill of the week:

    • HR 1900 The Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Reform Act This legislation would require the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to decide on natural gas pipeline permit applications within one year.

      Republicans cast the bill as one that would spur the building of new pipeline to the East Coast, where prices of natural gas are higher than they are in the middle of the country. Democrats said the application process is not broken and that the GOP bill is not needed.

      The bill is unlikely to move any further; Senate Democrats oppose it and the Obama Administration has said it would veto the bill.

    Historic change to filibuster rules in Senate

    Democrats argued for several years that Republicans were delaying the process of approving nominees and judges in the Senate. In the past, Majority Leader Harry Reid has threatened to cut short the process, but had held back until today.

    On Thursday afternoon, Reid announced a vote to change Senate rules so that presidential nominees, with the exception of Supreme Court nominees, would no longer have to achieve 60 votes to end debate before proceeding to an up or down vote on the nomination.

    The Senate voted 52-48 to change the rule, which will now allow nominations to be taken up immediately in the Senate, and pass with a simple majority vote.

    Republicans criticized the move as one that was made itself with a simple majority vote, and said changing historic Senate rules should only be done by a super-majority. Members of both parties have described the move as the "nuclear option" because of its potential to create even more animosity between the parties than already exists.

    Senate will continue work on Defense Authorization

    The Senate has been working all week on S. 1197, the National Defense Authorization Act. Toward the end of the day, Democrats called a vote on whether to end debate on that bill, which also needed 60 votes for passage. It failed 51-44, which means the Senate will likely need to keep working on this bill in December.

    This bill has been tied up over a fight about amendments — Republicans are looking to call up as many as 25, but Democrats have been looking to consider a smaller number.

  4. POPVOX Daily Digest -November 20, 2013

    From our Hill sources:

    Two energy bills pass House; not expected to progress in Senate

    The House passed two energy bills that Republicans say will help spur energy development and create jobs:

    House passage is likely the end of the line for these bills, as the Senate is not expected to consider them, and the Obama administration has threatened to veto both bills.

    Senate continues with Defense Authorization

    The Senate spent the day debating S. 1197, The National Defense Authorization Act. Members spent several hours debating two amendments aimed at improving anti-sexual assault efforts in the military. One of the amendments is from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, and the other is from Sens. Kelly Ayotte and Claire McCaskill.

    Sen. Tom Coburn objected to holding votes on Wednesday without a guarantee that other amendments would be considered during the process.

  5. POPVOX Daily Digest - November 19, 2013

    From our Hill sources:

    Drilling permits, AIDS funding in the House:

    The House started work on legislation meant to speed up the federal approval process for oil and gas drilling permits on federal land: H.R. 1965 — the Federal Lands Jobs and Energy Security Act. The bill sets a 60-day deadline by which the government has to decide on these permits.

    The House voted on three amendments, with more to go on Wednesday before passing the bill.

    The House also approved S. 1545, the PEPFAR Stewardship and Oversight Act, which extends the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) program. By voice vote, members approved this bill to extend the government's main global HIV/AIDS relief program.

    Defense Authorization in the Senate:

    The Senate was in to consider S. 1197, the National Defense Authorization Act, which authorizes defense programs for 2014.

    Several amendments are likely to be considered this week and maybe next week. On Tuesday, the Senate voted 43-55 against a Republican amendment that would have prevented the Obama administration from shutting down terrorist detention facilities in Cuba.

  6. POPVOX Daily Digest - November 18, 2013

    From our Hill sources:

    The Senate finished up work on a key pharmaceutical policy bill, and started work on a defense policy bill:

    The Senate also passed two bills by unanimous consent:

    • S 1471 a bill that allows the government to remove the remains of people from national cemeteries if those buried committed certain crimes.
    • S 1545 The PEPFAR Stewardship and Oversight Act, extending federal HIV/AIDS programs for five years. The House is expected to consider this bill Tuesday. 

    The House passed several bills in a quick Monday session:

    • HR 2061 The Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA), which is designed to make it easier to keep track of federal spending.This is a bipartisan bill, and it passed 388-1; the only member voting against it was Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ).
    • HR 272 a bill naming a future Department of Defense outpatient clinic after Gen. William Gourley. This bill passed in a 388-0 vote.

    Three bills were approved in voice votes:

    • HR 3343 a bill allowing the District of Columbia to provide a salary for its Chief Financial Officer that can be as high as that of the Vice President or other senior executive service officials in the government.
    • HR 3487 a bill extending the authority of the Federal Election Campaign Act to impose civil penalties for certain violations.
    • SCR 25 a bill allowing the use of Emancipation Hall to award the Congressional Gold Medal to Native American code talkers.

     

     

     

  7. POPVOX Daily Digest - November 13, 2013

    From our Hill sources:

    House passes changes to Asbestos Trust

    The House spent the day on a bill to address fraudulent asbestos injury claims, which passed in a party-line vote:

    Republicans said the bill would ensure that asbestos trusts established to pay out injury claims have enough money for legitimate claims, citing evidence that some people are making multiple claims. These trusts were set up by Congress to pay out claims and exempt companies from further liability.

    Democrats disputed that there is significant fraud and said the bill threatens the privacy of claimants. Under the legislation, trusts would have to file quarterly reports detailing who has sought compensation and who has been paid.

    The House passed it 221-199. The bill is opposed by the Obama administration, and the Democratic Senate is unlikely to consider it.

    The House also passed a resolution stating Congressional support for the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution. H.Res. 196 passed in a voice vote.

    Senate Drug Safety bill delayed

    The Senate was in to continue debate on H.R. 3204, the Drug Quality and Security Act. This bill is meant to strengthen the ability to trace the origin of prescription drugs back to their source.

    No progress was made, however, as Republicans are seeking a vote on an amendment from Sen. David Vitter, which would force Congress to explain which of its staff must buy insurance under ObamaCare. Democrats oppose the amendment.

  8. POPVOX Daily Digest - November 12, 2013

    From our Hill sources:

    The House was in and passed several suspension bills:

    Passage of these Senate bills sends the legislation to the White House for President Obama's signature into law.

    • HR 2871 a bill modifying the various judicial districts in southern Mississippi. This bill passed 401-1.
    • HR 2922 a bill allowing Supreme Court police officers to protect members of the Court outside the grounds of the Court. This bill passed 399-3.

    The Senate voted to extend funds for Children's Hospitals that provide Graduate Medical Education:

  9. PRESS CLIP: How Popvox Can Improve National Dialogue

  10. POPVOX Daily Digest - November 6, 2013

    From our Hill sources:

    ENDA Progresses in Senate; Vote Thursday

    This week the Senate has made considerable progress toward passing a bill to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identification in the public and private sectors. The bill is expected to pass Thursday.

    • S 815The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) gives the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission the right to enforce new rules that prohibit discrimination against people based on gender identity or sexual orientation.

      On Wednesday, Senate Democrats set up a final vote on the bill for Thursday afternoon. A procedural vote on Monday passed 61-30. If those numbers hold, the 60 votes in favor of the bill will be enough to prevent a filibuster.

      No Republican has spoken out against the bill on the Senate floor, though several are expected to vote against it Thursday.

      Democrats rewarded some of the Republican supporters of the bill by allowing votes on their amendments. On Wednesday, the Senate approved one from Sen. Rob Portman aimed at preventing legal retaliation against religious groups that would be exempt from ENDA's provisions. Portman's language was approved by unanimous consent, shortly after the Senate agreed by unanimous consent to formally proceed to the bill.

      On Thursday, the Senate will vote on another proposal from Sen. Pat Toomey that would broaden those religious exemptions.

    Davis-Bacon Change Passes Senate, Now Goes to White House

    Separately, the Senate approved a House-passed bill this week that would move authority to enforce the Davis-Bacon Act to the Department of Labor. Davis-Bacon is the law that requires people working on federal contracts to be paid prevailing local wages. That bill passed the Senate Tuesday by unanimous consent, after an easy House vote in September, and it now heads to the White House to be signed into law.

    Domestic Violence Protections for Veterans

    On Wednesday, the Senate also passed S. 287, The Helping Homeless Veterans Act. The bill lets veterans receive benefits from the Department of Veterans' Affairs when in a domestic violence situation.

    House Vote Coming on Health Plan Rules

    The House is out for the week, but Republicans say they will soon vote on a bill from Rep. Fred Upton that would ensure people can keep their health plan. The bill is H.R. 3350, The Keep Your Health Plan Act, a response to reports of cancelled health insurance plans under ObamaCare's (ACA's) new insurance standards.

  11. POPVOX Daily Digest - October 31, 2013

    From our Hill sources:

     The Senate was in Thursday to set up votes next week on a bill mean to end workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation.

    • S 815The Employment Non-Discrimination Act would structurally to end discrimination against gay, lesbian and trans-gender people just the way the Americans with Disabilities Act sought to end discrimination against people with disabilities.

      Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday that a vote to end debate on a motion to proceed to the bill would take place Monday evening.

    The Senate also quickly passed H.R. 2094, which boosts grants to states so schools can train people to help children with asthma. And, it passed a bill the House has already approved to name a Florida-based Department of Veterans Affairs building after deceased former Rep. Bill Young.

    Those votes ended the Senate's week. The House was out, and will remain out until after next week.

  12. POPVOX Daily Digest - October 30, 2013

    From our Hill Sources:

    The House met Wednesday to pass a resolution disapproving of the debt ceiling increase.

    House Republicans pushed the so-called "disapproval resolution," H.J.Res. 99, as a way to protest the raising of the debt ceiling. It passed 222-191, but the vote is nothing more than a protest vote, as the Senate has already rejected a GOP resolution.

    Congress effectively gave Obama the authority to raise the debt ceiling when it passed the bill ending the government shutdown.

    The House also passed a bill that would change a much-discussed provision of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law.

    • HR 992The Swaps Regulatory Improvement Act would let banks use certain financial instruments known as swaps.(passed in a 292-122 vote.)

      Banks can already use some of these swaps, but Dodd-Frank requires others to be parked in a non-bank institution. Many experts believe that was a mistake, since those non-bank institutions are less regulated by the federal government.

    The Senate is focused on nominations all week, but it did pass two bills by unanimous consent just before leaving for the day.

  13. The Hill 101: Conference Committees

    Why does Congress create “conference committees”?

    Conference committees are set up when the House and Senate have passed two different versions of a bill. Article 1, Section 7 of the Constitution requires that both chambers pass the exact same language before a bill can be presented for the President's signature and become law.

    Conference Committtee

    One version of a bill passed the House. One version passed the Senate. Now both chambers must come together on a combined version that can pass both houses and be signed into law by the President.

    How does a Conference work?

    1. The House and Senate appointed conferees to negotiate the combined version (a conference report.)
    2. A majority of House conferees and a majority of Senate conferees must sign the conference report.

    How does Congress vote on conference reports?

    1. Both the House and Senate must vote on the same version of the conference report.
    2. The Conference report must be publicly available before a vote — 48 hours in the Senate, 3 days in the House.
    3. In the Senate, filibuster rules apply (so 60 votes are needed to “end debate” and proceed to a vote.)
    4. In the House, the conference report gets one hour of debate, and then a vote.
    5. Conference reports can’t be amended and get an “up or down vote.”

     

    (As with everything in Congress, there are exceptions. For more information, see “Conference Committee and Related Procedures: An Introduction” from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service.)

    Read more articles on "The Hill 101"

  14. POPVOX Daily Digest - October 29, 2013

    The House met to consider several suspension bills, and a bipartisan bill to alter pending regulations under the Dodd-Frank financial reform law.

    • HR 2374 The Retail Investor Protection Act A bill that bill would require the Department of Labor to wait for the Securities and Exchange Commission before regulating financial advisers.

      The Department of Labor is considering rules that would require more advisers to adhere to a "fiduciary" standard, or a standard that requires them to act on the best interest of their clients.

      Supporters of the bill argue that these rules would affect advisers used by average people, and would increase the cost of making stock trades online and seeking advice. The bill passed 254-166, with 30 Democratic votes.

      The Obama administration opposes the bill, which makes it unlikely the Senate will take it up.

    The House also debated a resolution disapproving of President Obama's decision to suspend the debt ceiling.

    House Republican leaders are expected to allow a vote Wednesday on this resolution, H.J.Res. 99. However, House passage would not have any effect on the debt ceiling, as the Senate on Tuesday voted against advancing similar language. The Senate voted 45-54, which effectively killed the resolution.

    The resolution is a way for Republicans to say they oppose the suspension of the debt ceiling, but Democratic opposition means there is no chance the measure will be approved by Congress.

    Also today, the House passed four bills involving land exchanges between the federal government and state and local governments. Each of these passed in a voice vote:

    The Senate was also in and voted 55-44 in favor of the nomination of Richard Griffin to be the general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board.

  15. POPVOX Daily Digest - October 28, 2013

    The House passed veterans-related bills in a short Monday session:

    • HR 2189 a bill creating a commission to study and make recommendations for reducing the backlog of disability claims at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

      The House passed this bill in a 404-1 vote. It requires a report to Congress on how to resolve these claims, and would require the Department to increase training for claims processors.

    • HR 1405 a bill making it easier to appeal decisions that deny veterans benefits, and cutting VA bonuses.

      Passed in a voice vote.

    • HR 1742 The Vulnerable Veterans Housing Reform Act deducting in-home care expenses from income when determining housing benefits to veterans.

      Passed in a voice vote.

    • HR 2011 The Veterans Advisory Committee on Education Improvement Act extending the committee for another two years.

      Passed 404-2.

    • HR 2481 The Veterans Economic Opportunity Act ensuring federal education benefits get to the families of veterans.

      Passed in a voice vote.

    • HR 3304 a billcalling on the President to award the Medal of Honor to two Vietnam veterans.

      Passed in a voice vote.

    The Senate passed its own veterans bill Monday night by a voice vote:

  16. POPVOX Daily Digest - October 23, 2013

    The House spent the entire day on a bipartisan bill authorizing billions of dollars worth of water infrastructure projects.

    H.R. 3080 — the Water Resources Reform and Development Act. House passage sets up the possibility that Congress will act to authorize waterway and port projects for the first time since 2007.

    The bill also tries to speed up the approval process for projects, including environmental reviews, which was opposed by some Democrats. The bill passed in a 417-3 vote.

    Congress is famously behind in appropriating money for water projects — about $60 billion of these projects have never been funded, and some of them date back decades. The bill "de-authorizes" $12 billion of these projects, but some Republicans were pushing to de-authorize more.

    The Obama administration said it supports the bill, which now goes to the Senate. The Senate has passed its on version of WRRDA, S. 601.

    With today's vote, the House and Senate are now out for the rest of the week. Dozens of House members are expected to attend the funeral of former Rep. Bill Young (R-Fla.) in Florida on Thursday. Both chambers return on Monday.

  17. POPVOX Daily Digest - October 22, 2013

    The House met and quickly passed a handful of non-controversial bills, a big change from the last several weeks, which was filled with fighting over spending and the debt. Those fights will warm up again early next year, but this week was reserved for much easier tasks.

    H.R. 2083 — the Protecting Students from Sexual and Violent Predators Act. This bill requires schools to run background checks on all school employees, and is a reaction to incidents in which some schools hired people with violence of sexual abuse backgrounds.

    This bipartisan bill passed by unanimous consent after a brief debate.

    H.R. 3205 — the Promoting Adoption and Legal Guardianship for Children in Foster Care Act. This legislation extends and expands upon federal grant programs aimed at promoting adoption.

    The bill includes language meant to create an incentive for states to boost the rate of adoption for teenagers in foster homes, and it passed 402-0.

    H.R. 3302 — legislation naming a Veterans Affairs building in Florida after Rep. Bill Young (R-Fla.), who passed away last week. This bill passed by unanimous consent.

    The House also passed a resolution, H.Res. 384, allowing members to travel to Young's funeral in Florida on Thursday.

    And, members passed another resolution, H.Res. 383, marking the death of former House Speaker Tom Foley (D-Wash.). Both resolutions were passed by unanimous consent.

  18. POPVOX Daily Digest - October 15, 2013

    Form our Hill Sources:

    The House spent the day trying to find a way forward on a bill opening up the government and extend the debt ceiling, but had to scramble for votes all day and came up short.

    Late Tuesday afternoon, the GOP released a bill that would cut government subsidies to members of Congress, congressional staff and senior administration officials. But many Republicans opposed it for not going far enough to undermine the healthcare law, and Republicans never even called it up in the Rules Committee.

    That forced the House to leave for the day without any plan for going forward, which may leave it up to the Senate to figure it out.

    Senate Democrats and Republicans started up their talks again on a bill to reopen the government through mid-January, and extend the debt ceiling through mid-February.

  19. POPVOX Daily Digest - October 14, 2013

    From our Hill Sources:

    Senate leaders on Monday continued to talk about a broad agreement to re-open the government and allow the government to keep borrowing past the current debt ceiling, which the U.S. will hit on October 17.

    Senators of both parties seemed to be headed toward a deal to re-open the government until January, and allow borrowing until February. But it wasn't clear Monday how House Republicans would react to this agreement.

    Senators are expected to roll out full details of that bill on Tuesday, which may also make it possible to assess whether the House will take it up and pass it, or seek changes.

    In the meantime, the House passed another narrow spending bill:

    H.J.Res. 80 — the American Indian and Alaska Native, Health, Education, and Safety Act. This bill funds parts of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and is the 15th of these narrow bills passed by the House.

    As has been the case with most of these bills, several Democrats supported it, but the bill is not expected to advance in the Senate, especially if a fiscal deal is in the works.

    The House also passed H.R. 3190, the United States Parole Commission Extension Act, which would extend the term of the commission for another five years.

  20. POPVOX Daily Digest - October 9-10, 2013

    From our Hill sources:

    Short-Term Deal on Debt Ceiling in Sight?

    House Republicans announced on Thursday that they would try to pass a bill allowing the government to continue to borrow money above the debt ceiling for six weeks. Republicans portrayed this idea as a concession to Democrats, but it still faces hurdles:

    1. It's not clear how much support the idea has among rank-and-file Republicans. Many are known to oppose more borrowing without spending cut concessions first, but GOP leaders have decided they need to meet Democrats halfway on the debt ceiling.
    2. Democrats say they still want the government to re-open first. The GOP plan is to allow a six-week increase in the debt ceiling and allow talks to happen on 2014 spending, but it would not re-open the government. Democrats seem set on ending the shutdown before negotiating with Republicans.

    Senate Republicans offered their own plan, which would reopen the government and raise the federal debt limit for as long as three months.

    Later in the day, 18 House Republicans met with President Obama at the White House. All parties indicated that no deal was reached in that meeting, but that commuication would continue throughout the night.

    "Piecemeal" Spending Bills Continue in House

    In a brief session on the floor Thursday, the House passed H.J.Res. 79, the Border Safety and Security Act, in a 249-175 vote. Republicans were joined by 21 Democrats who also voted for the measure, despite broad Democratic opposition to the GOP's "piecemeal" approach.

    On Wednesday the House passed a resolution ensuring that the Department of Defense can make "death gratuity" payments to the families and relatives of members of the Armed Forces who are killed in battle.

    • HJRes 91The Honoring the Families of Fallen Soldiers Act

      The Defense Department said the shutdown was preventing these payments. Less than a day later, Republicans and Democrats in the House wrote a bill and passed it, showing the depth of support for continuing these payments. The bill passed 425-0.

      The Senate likely feels some compulsion to pass this bill, even though Democrats have said they oppose all of the House's "mini" spending bills.

    On Wednesday, the House also passed:

    • HJRes 90The Flight Safety Act

      This resolution would fund airplane safety inspectors and other Federal Aviation Administration workers who have been furloughed by the sequester. The House approved this in a 252-172 vote.

      The House was expected to continue passing these narrow bills into the weekend, and then into next week, when they will return despite initially planning to be on recess.