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Articles By marci, page 3

  1. POPVOX Daily Digest - January 7, 2014

    From our Hill sources:

    Cloture on Emergency Unemployment Benefits Extension

    Legislation extending emergency unemployment payments for three months cleared a procedural hurdle in the Senate on Tuesday.

    Senators voted 60-37 to end debate on a motion to proceed to S. 1845, the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extension Act. Sixty votes were needed, and the vote means the Senate will be able to formally proceed to the bill (possibly on Wednesday).

    Six Republicans voted with Democrats on Tuesday, but many of them said afterwards that they can only support the bill if it is paid-for. The Senate could pass the bill without any GOP help, but that would decrease the chance that the Republican-controlled House would consider it at all. This puts pressure on Democrats to explore ways to offset the $6.4 billion cost of the extension.

    The House was in just briefly on Tuesday, to officially start the second session of the 113th Congress. Members of the House return Wednesday to consider three suspension bills.

  2. POPVOX Daily Digest - December 20, 2013

    From our Hill sources

    It's the last day of work for Congress ing 2013. The House recessed last week; the Senate will take its last votes today.

    This week, the Senate has been busy wrapping up its final packages:

    Tuesday: Budget Cloture and Fire Hydrants

    On Tuesday, the Senate voted to end debate on the Budget Deal and approved a House bill that would gut guidance from the Environmental Protection Agency forcing new fire hydrants to be lead-free. Members approved H.R. 3588, the Community Fire Safety Act, by unanimous consent.

    Supporters of the bill -- practically everyone in Congress -- say the EPA guidance would make it difficult to replace hydrants starting next year, since there are not enough lead-free versions around. The Senate vote came on the same day that the EPA itself reversed its guidance, a likely reaction to the strong House vote last week (384-0).

    Wednesday: Budget Deal passed 

    On Wednesday, Senators passed a two-year budget deal that the House approved last week. The Bipartisan Budget Act stops $63 billion of sequester cuts from happening in 2014, and offsets that extra spending with several steps, including a hike on fees for air travelers and customs user fees.

    The Budget passed with 64 percent of the Senate in favor (only 51 percent was required)

    Thursday: NDAA passes Senate; moves to White House

    The final vote on the NDAA came Thursday night; the last legislative action of 2013. With 84 YAYS and 15 NAYS the bill passed, ending several weeks of protest from Republicans over Democratic restrictions on amendments for previous versions. The bill that passed on Thursday was the result of negotiations between the House and Senate. The House also voted on the bill without considering amendments. The NDAA now goes to the President to be signed into law.

    With the NDAA vote, the last legislative action of the year, the Senate will hold a few nomination votes on Friday, including one vote to end debate on the nomination of Janet Yellen to lead the Fed. A final vote on her confirmation, however, will take place in early January.

  3. POPVOX Daily Digest - December 12, 2013

    On its last legislative day of the year, the House packed a year of work into a single day. Several major bills were passed:

    The Budget

    The Bipartisan Budget Agreement on a two year budget was hailed by most members as a significant achievement that could let Congress get back to passing separate appropriations bills, instead of continuing resolutions.

    The bill passed the House 332-94, with 62 Republicans voted against it, reflecting an unwillingness to give up the sequester.

    The budget deal repeals $63 billion from the sequester, which are mandatory cuts that members of both parties have grown to hate. It makes up for that by finding ways to reduce government spending, such as overpayments that aren't recollected. But it also calls for new fees on airline tickets and customs processing, changes that dozens of Republicans opposed.

    The budget goes to the Senate, where it should pass next week. Passage by both chambers will let Congress work on final 2014 spending levels across all agencies of the government.

    Defense Authorization

    The National Defense Authorization Act was a last minute addition to the schedule this week. The House had already passed a bill, but it got stuck in the Senate over a fight on amendments, so the House and Senate agreed to a new version that is expected to become law.

    The House passed the bill 350-69. It authorizes $607 billion in Defense Department spending in 2014. It also includes some language aimed at improving how the Department of Defense deals with sexual harassment charges, although it doesn't go as far as many Democrats wanted.

    The Senate could pass the bill by next week.

    The Farm Bill

    Republicans called up a 30-day extension of farm programs as a suspension bill, and it easily passed in a voice vote.

    The bill would ensure no spike in dairy prices, which could happen if dairy subsidies are suspended at the end of the year. However, Senate Democrats are not expected to consider this bill next week.

    Several other smaller bills were passed by the House today:

    Nominations, Space Launch Liability in Senate

    The Senate spent most of the day on nominations but did pass one bill:

  4. POPVOX Daily Digest - December 11, 2013

    From our Hill sources:

    The House held a quick legislation session after a morning meeting in which most Republicans seemed fine with a two-year budget deal that House and Senate negotiators reached this week.

    Some conservative Republicans will likely oppose the deal, but most GOP members indicated they could live with it, which means the House will try to pass it as early as Thursday.

    The deal reverses $63 billion of sequester spending cuts, and replaces it with $85 billion in new user fees and efforts to stop fraud and waste in government spending. Conservative Republicans are likely to argue that Congress should not trade spending cuts for new fees, but not enough to stop the deal.

    Similarly, Democrats are likely to argue that the deal does not extend emergency unemployment insurance, but many Democrats will support it.

    Five Suspension bills Approved in House

    In the meantime, the House considered five suspension bills today:

  5. POPVOX Daily Digest - December 10, 2013

    From our Hill sources:

    Congress had another slow day on the floor, as members waited for a budget deal and did minimal work on legislation. But late in the day, House and Senate budget negotiators announced a two-year budget deal that the House will try to pass this week.

    Budget Deal Emerges

    Among other things, the deal would reduce sequester spending cuts by $63 billion over the next two years, but finds another $85 billion in non-tax revenue and cuts to mandatory programs. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan encouraged Republicans to support it because those changes mean another $22 billion in deficit reduction, and does not include a tax hike.

    The deal was struck just three days before it was required to under legislation passed weeks ago. Members of the House and Senate were expected to make legislative text available late Tuesday night.

     The House is expected to pass the agreement this week, and is likely to do so without the full support of the Republican or Democratic caucus. The Senate is expected to approve it next week.

    Veterans Bills Pass House

    While budget talks continued, the House passed just two bills dealing with the Department of Veterans Affairs:

    H.R. 1402 — the VA Expiring Authorities Extension Act. This bill authorizes ongoing VA programs for disabled veterans, and it passed 353-0.

    H.R. 3521 — the Department of Veterans Affairs Major Medical Facility Lease Authorization Act. This bill extends the ability of the VA to lease 27 medical facilities, and it passed 346-1.

    First Nominations Pass Senate under New Majority Rule.

    The Senate spent most of the day dealing with Obama administration nominations. As it did in November, the Senate triggered the "nuclear option," a process by which executive nominations can pass by a simple majority vote.

    Republicans have opposed this change from the prior process, which allowed Republicans to block nominations by preventing a vote on a motion to proceed to anyone they opposed. Those procedural votes required 60 senators to advance a nomination, but under the nuclear option, only a simple majority is needed — as a result, nominations can proceed with support from only Democrats, and then can be approved by another simple majority.

    Using this process, the Senate approved the nomination of Rep. Mel Watt of North Carolina to be the next Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency. He was confirmed in a 57-41 vote.

    The Senate also approved the nomination of Patricia Millett to the Washington D.C. Circuit Court. The Senate approved her in a 56-38 vote; she was the first to be approved under the "nuclear option."

  6. POPVOX Daily Digest - December 9, 2013

    From our Hill Sources:

    The House and Senate each held quick legislative sessions that were shortened by ice and snow in Washington, which prevented some members from returning.

    Undetectable Firearms Bill Passes Senate

    The Senate passed:

    H.R. 3623 — a bill extending the Undetectable Firearms Act for 10 years. The House passed this bill last week — it would continue the current ban on guns that don't contain enough metal and can pass through metal detectors without being detected.

    Many Democrats wanted to expand current law to ensure that people can't use 3D printers to produce guns with metal parts that can be easily removed and then reassembled once a plastic gun is passed through a checkpoint.

    But the ban expired Monday night, so the Senate had little choice but to pass the clean House extension.

    In the House, Stiffer penalties for Child Abuse

    The House passed a single bill — H.R. 3627, the Kilah Davenport Child Protection Act. The bill is aimed at tracking the various state penalties for child abuse, and boosting federal penalties for child abuse.

  7. POPVOX Daily Digest - December 5, 2013

    From our Hill sources:

    House passes the Innovation Act

    H.R. 3309 — the Innovation Act creates new requirements that patent litigants must meet when filing a patent infringement lawsuit. The goal is to make it harder for people with frivolous claims to stop filing nuisance suits against companies, which can take several years and several million dollars to defend.

    The House approved the bill 325-91. It was supported by a majority of both parties, though 64 Democrats voted against it. The bill is also supported by the Obama administration.

    Supporters say the bill is necessary because companies are spending too much money defending frivolous claims, money that could be used to expand their business. Members of both parties said it would help curb efforts to shakedown companies for settlements in cases that have no merit.

    Others worried that creating new hurdles to litigation would only make it harder for small patent holders to win suits against large companies. Some said it goes against the intent of the Constitution.

    Passage in the House means the next step is consideration in the Senate. Senate Democrats have not said if or when they will take it up.

  8. 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.
  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

     

     

     

  14. 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.

  15. 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:

  16. PRESS CLIP: How Popvox Can Improve National Dialogue

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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.)

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