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  1. 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:

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. PRESS CLIP: Startup bureaucracy: Can government reinvent itself as an innovative force?

  8. POPVOX Daily Digest - October 8, 2013

    From our Hill Sources

    Don't Call it a "SuperCommittee": House Votes to Create New Working Group

     

    The House met Tuesday to quickly pass a bill developed on the same day to create a new congressional working group on the issues of spending and the debt ceiling.

      HR 3273 The Deficit Reduction and Economic Growth Working Group Act -- This bill creates a 20-member working group that would have to meet immediately to find solutions to the fights over 2014 spending levels and the pending problem related to the debt ceiling.

       

      The Obama Administration has said the government will bump up against the debt ceiling on October 17. Without a solution, the government will technically be unable to borrow more money, which some say runs the risk of defaulting on the national debt.

      The bill passed 224-197, in a mostly party-line vote..

      Republicans supported the bill as a way to get the two sides talking. Democrats rejected it as an empty gesture, and we backed by President Obama, who threatened to veto it and again called on Republicans to pass a clean continuing resolution to reopen the government.

    The House also passed:

    • HJ Res 89 The Federal Worker Pay Fairness Act -- This bill guarantees that any worker deemed "essential" in the shutdown is paid on time.

       

      This non-controversial bill passed 420-0..

      However, the House will send the worker pay bill over to the Senate as part of the bill creating the working group, which means Senate Democrats may try to amend the package and only pass the worker pay provision.

    Also Tuesday, the House approved another narrow spending bill for 2014, this one dealing with education grants for low-income families.

    • HJ Res 84 The Head Start for Low-Income Children Act -- This bill funds the Head Start program, which offers grants that allow children to enroll in preschool programs.

       

      This bill passed 248-168, with the help of 23 House Democrats..

      House Republicans continue to push these smaller spending bills as a way to slowly end the shutdown, but Democrats broadly oppose them and say they want a full funding bill.

  9. POPVOX Daily Digest - October 7, 2013

    From our Hill Sources:

    House Passes Short-term FDA Funding Bill

    The House met in the afternoon to pass another narrow spending bill, one that funds the work of the Food and Drug Administration.

    The House approved the resolution 235-162, with 20 Democratic votes.

    Passage sends it to the Senate, which continues to reject the short-term piecemeal bills the House has sent over during the Government Shutdown. Democrats are demanding passage of a single bill that funds all the government.

    The Senate was in and passed no legislation, although Democrats may soon vote on a bill extending the debt ceiling.

     

     

  10. POPVOX Daily Digest - October 5, 2013

    From our Hill Sources

    House Passes Retroactive Pay for Furloughed Workers

     

    The House was in for a quick morning session in which it passed legislation to pay back federal workers who were put on unpaid leave under the shutdown:

    • HR 3223 The Federal Employee Retroactive Pay Fairness Act -- The bill was easily approved in a 407-0 vote after a brief debate..

      The vote reflects a longstanding policy of Congress to pay back workers when they are furloughed under a shutdown. It provided a brief dose of bipartisanship in a week filled with partisan sniping over which party is to blame for the shutdown.

      In the coming days, Republicans are expected to continue passing smaller spending bills, which Democrats indicate they would reject.

    The House also approved a resolution on Saturday that calls on the Obama administration to allow furloughed military chaplains to continue serving members of the military on a volunteer basis.

    • HConRes 58

      The resolution has no legal force, but was a response to reports that these chaplains could be arrested for volunteering their services during the shutdown.

      The resolution was approved in a 400-1 vote; one Democrat, Rep. Bill Enyart (D-Ill.) opposed it.

  11. POPVOX Daily Digest - October 4, 2013

    From our Hill Sources

    More Short-term Spending Bills Pass House

    The House passed two more short-term spending resolutions, bringing the total to seven:

    Both bills would fund these programs through mid-December.

    They were passed over opposition from Democrats, who continue to insist on a House vote on the Senate's continuing spending resolution, the "Clean CR", which would fund all areas of the government at once. However, several Democrats voted for each bill.

    House Republicans say they will keep passing these "piecemeal" bills, though none have been taken up in the Senate.

    Senate Advances Two Bills

    The Senate was also in session, and quickly passed two bills at the end of the day:

    • HR 1848 The Small Airplane Revitalization Act, which aims to streamline the process of certifying new aircraft.

    • HR 3095 requiring the government to write a formal rule for conducting sleep testing on millions of the nation's truck drivers.

  12. POPVOX Daily Digest - October 3, 2013

    From our Hill Sources:

    House passes bills to fund Veterans, National Guard during Shutdown.

    The House was in session. Despite tense moments caused by a shooting outside the Capitol, Members passed two more small spending bills:

    Republicans continue to hope that the ongoing shutdown will pressure Senate Democrats to cave in and pass some of these funding bills. So far, Democrats have said they will not bend, and will keep insisting on a full continuing resolution that funds all areas of the government subject to the shutdown.

    The House was preparing to pass several other spending bills in the coming days on a range of issues, including education, intelligence, nutrition and border security.


     

    Senate not expected to consider the bills.

    In the Senate, Republicans asked Democrats to call up some of the House-passed spending bills, but Democrats objected. The Senate does not appear likely to consider them at all.

    House Republican leaders have indicated that more votes would be held over the weekend, but the precise legislative agenda for Friday and beyond was not clear as of Thursday.


     

     

  13. POPVOX Daily Digest - October 1, 2013 (Part 2)

    From our Hill sources:

    House Attempts "Piecemeal" Approach to Government Funding

    On the first full day of the Shutdown, House Republicans said they would try to pass smaller spending bills and send them to the Senate.

    The plan was meant as a way to fund some of the areas of government that people are likely to notice soon. The GOP proposed funding veterans programs, national parks, and the District of Columbia government.

    But Democrats balked and said they would not allow Republicans to cherry-pick which programs will be open and which will be closed during the shutdown.

    Republicans tried to pass the bills under a suspension of the rules, which would need a two-thirds majority and thus require Democratic support. A few dozen Democrats supported each bill, but wasn't enough, and the bills failed.

    On Wednesday, the House is likely to try again under regular order, which will allow them to pass by a simple majority.

    But even then, Senate Democrats say they'll reject the bills. That's likely to leave the House and Senate without a clear way forward after two days of shutdown.

    The bills are:

    Senate Requests Farm Bill Conference

    Elsewhere today, the Senate requested a conference with the House on another matter — the farm bill. (H.R. 2642). That request could get the two sides talking about agriculture and nutrition programs, even as they're stuck on 2014 spending.

    But this issue isn't easy either. A House-passed nutrition bill calls for a $40 billion cut to food stamps, while the Senate has offered just $4 billion in cuts.

     

  14. POPVOX Daily Digest - October 1, 2013

    From our Hill sources:

    Congress is meeting today, and has nothing on its agenda other than trying to find a deal to end the government shutdown that took place this morning.

    However, it's not clear at all how a deal might be found. The House's last move was to request a House-Senate conference on a short-term spending resolution for the first few weeks of fiscal year 2014.

    The Senate quickly rejected that request this morning. Senate Democrats continue to oppose any talks that involve GOP demands to defund, delay or undermine ObamaCare.

    Last night, the Senate's last move was to send over a "Clean CR" that would have funded the government for six weeks, through November 15, 2013.

    The last spending resolution passed by the House early Tuesday morning would delay the individual insurance mandate for a year, and prevent any senior government officials using ObamaCare insurance exchanges from getting subsidies to buy insurance.

    At this point, no one is sure what happens next with the Shutdown.

    Check out "Showdown Ends in Shutdown" for more on the procedure that brought us to this point.


    The House and Senate did get some legislative work done on Monday.

    • HR 3210 The Pay Our Military Act. Both the House and Senate approved this bill, and it was signed by President Obama. It ensures members of the military and related civilian personnel and contractors will continue to be paid during the government shutdown.
    • HR 3174 ensuring extra federal funding to rebuild roads damaged by recent flooding in Colorado. Both chambers passed this bill as well.
    • HR 1566 The Senate passed this bill to extend visas for Iraqi citizens who helped the United States' military during the war. The House could consider it this week.
  15. POPVOX Daily Digest - September 28, 2013

    From our Hill sources:

    House advances Continuing Resolution

    The House voted early Sunday morning to send the short-term spending bill back to the Senate with changes, with just two days left before a government shutdown.

    The late vote would seem to increase the chances of a government shutdown, as Democrats in the Senate say they will strip out two controversial pieces of the House bill and President Obama has indicated that he would veto the approach passed by the House.

    The resolution delays ObamaCare for a year, and eliminates the 2.3 percent tax on medical devices included in the Affordable Care Act. It inserts language related to the also resets the spending bill to fund the government through December 15, longer than the November 15 date that the Senate passed.

    The first amendment (delay of Obamacare, including all taxes, for one year) passed 248-174.

    The second amendment (repeal of the medical device tax) passed 231 - 192.

    The Senate has indicated it won't return until Monday afternoon. At that point, Democratic leaders have implied that they will quickly remove the health-related language.

    That will leave Congress deadlocked once again over 2014 funding, with just hours to go before funding for the discretionary parts of the government runs out at the end of Monday.

    House advances bill to pay military in case of a government shutdown

    In a separate vote, the House also passed a bill containing appropriations to ensure that members of the military would be paid in the event of a government shutdown.

    The bill passed unanimously, 423 - 0.

    Also passed: State Department Appropriations

    In a separate vote, the House also passed a bill to authorize appropriations for the Department of State for fiscal year 2014.

    The bill passed 384 - 37.

  16. POPVOX Daily Digest - September 27, 2013

    From our Hill sources:

     Hot Potato Returns to the House

    The Senate passed a continuing spending resolution for 2014, sending the hot potato back to a House that will meet over the weekend to decide what to do about it.

    The Senate considered a House-passed resolution, H.J.Res. 59, that had language defunding ObamaCare in it.

    On Friday, the Senate voted 79-19 to end debate on the bill. Sen. Ted Cruz and other Republicans warned that this procedural vote would allow Senate Democrats to take out the ObamaCare language.

    Sure enough, the Senate then voted 54-44 to take out the language. And then, the Senate again voted along party lines, 54-44, to pass the bill.

    House Republicans planned to meet Saturday to discuss next steps. GOP leaders are under pressure to re-attach ObamaCare language, but doing so would risk a government shutdown, since it's not clear whether the Senate would have enough time to act.

    The resolution as it stands now funds the government through November 15. Without any congressional action, the federal government would partially shut down after Monday, September 30.

    Also on Saturday, the House is expected to vote on two suspension bills:

    The House may also consider a resolution that would allow members to consider legislation on the floor on the same day that the Rules Committee approves a rule for that legislation. Normally, the House can only act a day after the Rules Committee acts.

    This resolution would allow members to speed up consideration of either a new House spending bill, or a bill relating to the debt ceiling.

  17. POPVOX Daily Digest - September 26, 2013

    From our Hill Sources:

    Senate Fails to Speed UP Consideration of Continuing Resolution

    The Senate tried to speed up the timing of the next procedural vote on a short-term 2014 spending resolution, but failed.

    The fight came to a head when Republican and Democratic senators ganged up on Sen. Ted Cruz, and asked him to allow a vote Thursday night. Those who want to speed up the process are hoping to give the House more time to react to the Senate bill, which is not expected to include House-passed language to defund ObamaCare.

    Cruz refused to budge, and said he wants the vote to happen Friday so people have an easier time watching it. That prompted Republicans and Democrats to charge Cruz with grandstanding for publicity.

    Nonetheless, Democrats had no choice but to schedule the vote for Friday. That will be a vote to end debate on the bill, and Cruz and some other Republicans are expected to oppose it, fearing that the next step will be to take out the ObamaCare language.

    A final vote on the spending resolution is also expected Friday.


     

    House Passes Bills on Sleep Apnea Testing for Truck Drivers and Disclosure Waivers for Condos

    • HR 3095 requiring government rules related to sleep apnea testing for truck drivers to be adopted only after a formal rule-making process takes place. Passed 405-0.
    • HR 2600 exempting condominiums from the Interstate Land Sales Full Disclosure Act. Passed 410-0.
  18. POPVOX Daily Digest - September 25, 2013

    From our Hill Sources:

    The Continuing Resolution

    Senate Voted 100-0 to Proceed to the Continuing Resolution 

    After a 21-hour filibuster from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), the Senate held procedural vote to advance the short-term spending bill for 2014.

    The vote was on a motion to end debate on a motion to proceed to the House spending bill. Because that bill includes language to defund ObamaCare, everyone — including Cruz — supported the vote, which passed 100-0.

    That vote set up the next step, a vote to proceed to the bill. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) passed that by voice vote Wednesday night.

    Up Next: Ending Debate (Cloture) 

    Next is a vote to end debate on the bill itself, something Reid set up for Friday. That "cloture" vote, which needs 60 votes to pass, is the one Cruz and other Republicans are expected to oppose, because they know the final vote will be on a version that strips the ObamaCare language by a simple majority vote.

    Nonetheless, Democrats are still expecting to get 60 votes, which would set up a vote to pass the bill Saturday, again by a simple majority vote.

    A Senate process that ends Saturday sets up the likelihood of a last-minute scramble in the House to either pass the Senate version or amend it again.

    Other Senate Business

    Aside from work on the spending bill today, the Senate passed a handful of other measures by voice vote:

    House Passes Suspension Bills

    The House was also in and passed two suspension bills:

    • HR 1961 extending an exemption that the Delta Queen -- a steamship with national landmark status -- gets from federal fire safety rules.This bill passed 280-89.
    • HRes 354 a Senate-amended House bill that requires the government to auction off its helium supplies. This bill passed 367-0, and heads to the White House next.
  19. POPVOX Daily Digest - September 24, 2013

    From our Hill Sources

    The Senate made no progress on a continuing resolution to keep the government open after the current one expires September 30. Several Republicans launched a talking filibuster targeting the Affordable Care Act ("ACA" or "ObamaCare") in the afternoon, led by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

    Cruz has said he would fight to maintain language in the House-passed continuing resolution that would defund ObamaCare. As he started Tuesday afternoon, he said he would stand and talk under he can't stand up anymore.

    But Cruz's speech was more along the lines of a delaying tactic, not one that threatened to permanently block the continuing resolution. Senate Democrats on Monday set up a vote to end debate on a motion to proceed to the bill, and that vote must happen by Wednesday at the latest.

    Regardless of when Republicans stop speaking, the Senate is expected to gather 60 votes in favor of ending debate on the motion to proceed on Wednesday. After that, the Senate will have to vote on a motion to proceed to the bill, after which it can start work on the legislation itself.

    At that point, Democrats are expected to try to strip the ObamaCare language, and also change the bill to fund the government through November 15, not December 15. Democrats want a shorter extension in order to force Congress to more quickly reach a long-term spending agreement.

  20. POPVOX Daily Digest - September 23, 2013

    From our Hill sources:

    Senate CR procedural maneuvers begin

    The Senate was in just long enough to provide a peek at the partisan fighting that will happen this week on a continuing resolution and funding for the Afforable Care Act, or "ObamaCare."

    In the afternoon, Sen. Ted Cruz asked the Senate for unanimous consent to approve the House-passed continuing resolution for 2014, H.J.Res. 59, which defunds ObamaCare. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid objected.

    Cruz then asked the Senate to agree that any amendment to the resolution must be passed with a 60-vote majority. With this request, Cruz was trying to make sure Democrats don't pass an amendment to the resolution to take out the ObamaCare language, and pass it with a simple-majority that would not need Republican support.

    Reid objected to that as well, leaving the Senate to hold a vote on whether to proceed to the resolution, which could happen by Wednesday. It will take 60 votes to proceed to the resolution, a tally that seems very possible given that not all Senate Republicans are in favor of Cruz's hardline position on maintaining the House's ObamaCare provisions.

    The Senate also passed H.R. 1412, the Improving Job Opportunities for Veterans Act, which is meant to help people transition from the military to the private sector. The Senate passed the bill with a few amendments, which means the House will have to consider the bill again.


     

    The House was not in session.