The POPVOX Blog

  1. 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.

  2. The Week Ahead: Oct. 21-25

    From our Hill Sources: The end of the government shutdown means a return to a somewhat normal schedule as party leaders work toward a fiscal agreement in the next two months.

    What's next for Congress

    There's lots to do. Members have agreed to try again to find a deal on 2014 spending levels. Democrats are hinting that they may seek new revenues, something Republicans will reject. Republicans will likely try again to reform federal entitlement programs, efforts Democrats have resisted before.

    But those huge problems are now weeks away, giving Congress a few weeks to take a breather. This will be one of those weeks — the Senate is out, and the House has set up an agenda of bipartisan bills for the week:

    In the House

    This week, the House plans to vote on:

    The President's Priorities

    Last week, President Obama outlined his priorities for the rest of the year:

    "There are things that we know will help strengthen our economy that we could get done before this year is out. We still need to pass a law to fix our broken immigration system. We still need to pass a farm bill. And with the shutdown behind us and budget committees forming, we now have an opportunity to focus on a sensible budget that is responsible, that is fair, and that helps hardworking people all across this country."

    We'd like to spotlight these issues, and some of the bills that have already been introduced by Congress:

    Immigration

    In January 2013, a bipartisan group of Senators proposed a comprehensive set of immigration reform principles, which include giving immigrants a path to citizenship, strengthening border security, and reforming our legal immigration system to reunite families and strengthen our economy while protecting American workers. This turned into a Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill (S 744), which was passed by the Senate in June -- and had the support of the President. The House has yet to take up immigration reform, but two comprehensive bills have been introduced:

    • HR 15 Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Acta comprehensive immigration reform bill. This legislation is based on the Senate’s bipartisan immigration bill (S 744). It eliminates the border security language of the Senate-passed bill and replaces it with the bipartisan border security bill, Border Security Results Act (HR 1417).
    • HR 3163 CIR ASAP ActTo provide for comprehensive immigration reform. Increases the number of Customs and Border Protection Officers by not fewer than 5,000 and does not require additional fencing; immigrants who can establish presence in the US on the day of introduction will be eligible for conditional immigrant visa; Those who qualify would receive a conditional nonimmigrant visa which is valid for six years and will be able to naturalize under current law (up to 5 years), making the total path to citizenship about an 11-year wait.

    The Farm Bill

    The House and Senate haven't been able to agree on a farm bill -- and agriculture programs expired on Oct. 1. The House had passed a bill, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management (FARRM) Act (HR 2642), which included $39 billion in cuts to food stamps. The Senate's version (S 954) had $4 billion in cuts to food stamps. On Oct. 12, the House named Members to negotiate with the Senate on the farm bill -- and plans to meet soon reconcile differences. 

    A Federal Budget

    As part of the agreement that re-opened the government and raised the debt ceiling, the House and Senate will establish a budget conference committee to come up with a long-term budget plan for tax and spending policies over the next decade. Specifically, the legislation instructs House and Senate leaders to select Members for the committee who "have open minds willing to consider every option, no matter how painful to their own political party," according to Sen. Harry Reid. Their deadline is Dec. 13, 2013.

    Here are some bills related to the federal budget:

    Stay tuned -- and we'll have updates on POPVOX and Facebook and Twitter!

  3. The POPVOX Top 20: Oct. 11 - 17

    The Government Re-Opens

    After Wednesday night's 11th-hour agreement (literally, 11th hour), the federal government is open, back in full swing. With the shutdown showdown and the debt ceiling increase behind us -- at least temporarily -- President Obama looked forward to three critical issues facing our nation: immigration reform, the farm bill and a budget. (Learn more about the President's priorities.)

    As expected, bills related to the shutdown were the priority of POPVOX users. Here's the Top 20.

    POPVOX Roundup: Week of Oct. 11 - 17

    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.

    • Shutdown#1 Bipartisan Proposal to Reopen the Government and Prevent Default: Senate leaders announced a bipartisan proposal to end the shutdown -- funding the federal government through Jan. 15 -- and extend the debt limit, through Feb. 7, 2014. It also maintains the federal spending reductions in the Budget Control Act known as "sequestration."

      165 Support | 715 Oppose

    • S 1569#2 Default Prevention Act: The "Clean" Debt Ceiling Bill, to ensure the complete and timely payment of the obligations of the United States Government until December 31, 2014.

      50 Support | 400 Oppose

    • HR 3277#3 A bill to prohibit United States voluntary contributions to the regular budget of the United Nations or any United Nations agency.

      398 Support | 41 Oppose

    • HR 3285#4 A bill to make technical corrections to the Pay Our Military Act to include midshipmen at the United States Merchant Marine Academy, who are appointed as midshipmen in the Navy Reserve.

      337 Support | 14 Oppose

    • HR 3287#5 Veterans Services Support Act: To direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to provide veterans service organizations with the same access to Department of Veterans Affairs facilities during the Government shutdown as such organizations had immediately prior to the shutdown.

      305 Support | 16 Oppose

    • HR 1825#6 Recreational Fishing and Hunting Heritage and Opportunities Act: To direct Federal public land management officials to exercise their authority under existing law to facilitate use of and access to Federal public lands for fishing, sport hunting, and recreational shooting.

      208 Support | 88 Oppose

    • HR 3268#7 A bill: Eliminating the debt ceiling for a period defined

      24 Support | 264 Oppose

    • S 812#8 A bill: to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to take actions to implement the Agreement between the United States of America and the United Mexican States Concerning Transboundary Hydrocarbon Reservoirs in the Gulf of Mexico.

      26 Support | 215 Oppose

    • HR 3274#9 Fallen Heroes and Families Assistance Act: to make appropriations available to continue the payment of a death gratuity and certain other death-related compensation in the event of the death of members of the Armed Forces and certain other persons who pass away during a Government shutdown.

      226 Support | 8 Oppose

    • S 1572#10 A bill: to direct the Secretary of the Treasury to reimburse States that use State funds to operate National Parks during the Federal Government shutdown

      196 Support | 31 Oppose

    • S 173#11 SMART Act: to repeal the current Internal Revenue Code and replace it with a flat tax, thereby guaranteeing economic growth and fairness for all Americans.

      112 Support | 55 Oppose

    • HR 25#12 Fair Tax Act: To promote freedom, fairness, and economic opportunity by repealing the income tax and other taxes, abolishing the Internal Revenue Service, and enacting a national sales tax to be administered primarily by the States.

      151 Support | 15 Oppose

    • HJRes 72#13 Veterans Benefits Continuing Appropriations Resolution: Making continuing appropriations for veterans benefits for fiscal year 2014.

      134 Support | 7 Oppose

    • S 1568#14 Pay Our Military Technical Corrections Act: to make technical corrections to the Pay Our Military Act to include midshipmen at the United States Merchant Marine Academy who are appointed as midshipmen in the Navy Reserve.

      129 Support | 8 Oppose

    • HR 3276#15 Closing the Congressional Gym During the Shutdown: To prohibit the operation of an exercise facility for Members of the House of Representatives during a Government shutdown.

      118 Support | 9 Oppose

    • Shutdown#16 Using the government shutdown as a way to reform Obamacare: Some lawmakers in Congress are using the government funding process -- and the resulting shutdown -- as an opportunity to defund, delay or reform Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act), rather than support a clean" Continuing Resolution, which only addresses government funding.

      82 Support | 37 Oppose

    • S 1490 #17 Delaying the implementation of Obamacare: to delay the application of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

      92 Support | 18 Oppose

    • Shutdown#18 The Government Shutdown and its Resulting Effects on NASA: The current entrenchment by both parties threatens key projects in the NASA pipeline, and endangers the economic recovery of the United States. Over 17,000 workers who build our future in space are without a job and current missions that expand our understanding of the Universe are under threat of delay. The important educational and outreach functions that have inspired millions across the planet are no longer being conducted. (Sponsored campaign* by Space Advocates.)

      0 Support | 110 Oppose

    • HR 1164 #19 Government Shutdown Prevention Act: to provide for automatic continuing resolutions.

      11 Support | 95 Oppose

    • HRes 372#20 "Open the Government Resolution: Providing for the consideration of legislation to reopen the Government.

      30 Support | 75 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.

    *POPVOX invites organizations to create "sponsored campaigns" on POPVOX, which include policy principles and actionable items directed at Congress. 

  4. What's Next? Post-Shutdown Priorities

    After last night's 11th-hour agreement, the federal government is back in full swing. With the shutdown showdown and the debt ceiling increase behind us -- at least temporarily -- President Obama looked forward to three critical issues facing our nation:

    "There are things that we know will help strengthen our economy that we could get done before this year is out. We still need to pass a law to fix our broken immigration system. We still need to pass a farm bill. And with the shutdown behind us and budget committees forming, we now have an opportunity to focus on a sensible budget that is responsible, that is fair, and that helps hardworking people all across this country."

    At POPVOX, we'd like to spotlight these issues, and some of the bills that have already been introduced by Congress:

    Immigration

    In January 2013, a bipartisan group of Senators proposed a comprehensive set of immigration reform principles, which include giving immigrants a path to citizenship, strengthening border security, and reforming our legal immigration system to reunite families and strengthen our economy while protecting American workers. This turned into a Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill (S 744), which was passed by the Senate in June -- and had the support of the President. The House has yet to take up immigration reform, but two comprehensive bills have been introduced:

    • HR 15 Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Acta comprehensive immigration reform bill. This legislation is based on the Senate’s bipartisan immigration bill (S 744). It eliminates the border security language of the Senate-passed bill and replaces it with the bipartisan border security bill, Border Security Results Act (HR 1417).
    • HR 3163 CIR ASAP ActTo provide for comprehensive immigration reform. Increases the number of Customs and Border Protection Officers by not fewer than 5,000 and does not require additional fencing; immigrants who can establish presence in the US on the day of introduction will be eligible for conditional immigrant visa; Those who qualify would receive a conditional nonimmigrant visa which is valid for six years and will be able to naturalize under current law (up to 5 years), making the total path to citizenship about an 11-year wait.

    The Farm Bill

    The House and Senate haven't been able to agree on a farm bill -- and agriculture programs expired on Oct. 1. The House had passed a bill, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management (FARRM) Act (HR 2642), which included $39 billion in cuts to food stamps. The Senate's version (S 954) had $4 billion in cuts to food stamps.

    On Oct. 12, the House named Members to negotiate with the Senate on the farm bill -- and plans to meet soon reconcile differences. 

    A Federal Budget

    For the coming months, the top priority will be passing a budget, which hasn't happened in Congress this year. However, as part of the agreement that re-opened the government and raised the debt ceiling, the House and Senate will establish a budget conference committee to come up with a long-term budget plan for tax and spending policies over the next decade. Specifically, the legislation instructs House and Senate leaders to select Members for the committee who "have open minds willing to consider every option, no matter how painful to their own political party," according to Sen. Harry Reid. Their deadline is Dec. 13, 2013.

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

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. The Week Ahead: Oct. 14 - 18

    From our Hill Sources: As the October 17 deadline to increase the nation's borrowing power or risk default nears, Republican and Democratic leaders continue to talk in hopes of reaching an agreement to end the shutdown and raise the debt ceiling.

    In the Senate: They're Talking!

    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell met on Saturday, and indicated they would continue talking. Talks in the Senate started after it became clear that the effort between House Republicans and the White House weren't getting anywhere. Republicans are still insisting on fiscal talks that would lead to a deal to re-open the government, while Democrats want the government opened immediately. But it's clear that Senate Democrats will not be able to get everything they want.

    Debt Ceiling Deal This Week?

    From our Hill Sources: The chances of at least a partial agreement are likely to increase during the next week, as the Treasury Department has said the government will no longer be able to borrow money after October 17. That deadline could make it possible for a deal on the debt ceiling in the coming days, even if issues related to the shutdown are not resolved.

    On Saturday, the Senate failed to advance a Democratic plan to extend the debt ceiling through the end of 2014:

    Recap: The debt ceiling is a limit set by Congress on the amount that the federal government can borrow for public spending and was set at $16.4 trillion in 2011. The Treasury Dept. announced that this limit will be reached by October 17, leaving Treasury with about $30 billion in cash, plus incoming revenue, but no ability to borrow money. (The government spends as much as $60 billion per day.)

    Remember August 2011? In the past, Congress passed a debt ceiling increase with little discussion -- and out of the public eye. But things were different during the last debt ceiling increase in August 2011, which ended with an 11th-hour agreement under pressure from shaken markets. That deal increased the debt limit but with an agreement to cut future government spending. Specifically, the deal put together a "Super Committee" to find ways to cut the deficit by $1.2 trillion over ten years. (See the "Super Committee" page on POPVOX.) And when the "Super Committee" couldn't come up with a plan for precise cuts, another part of the deal went into effect: Sequestration, or automatic, across-the-board cuts to the federal government beginning on Jan. 2, 2013. (See the Sequestration page on POPVOX.)

    In the House

    The House took Sunday off -- but will return on Monday, although it has not said what its plans are. On Saturday, House Republicans delayed a vote on their latest "piecemeal" spending bill:

    Republicans delayed it on Saturday after dozens of Democrats went to the House floor to argue in favor of passing the Senate's "clean" continuing spending resolution for 2014.

    Meanwhile, the Congressional gym continues to stay open, despite the introduction of this bill, which only has five cosponsors:

    Veterans' Benefits During the Shutdown

    While testifying before Congress, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki stated that more than $6 billion in benefits to about 5 million veterans and their families would be halted with an extended shutdown. Congress has introduced several bills to address veterans' benefits during the shutdown:

    • HR 3287 Veterans Services Support Act: "to ensure that Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and American Legion can continue to work alongside VA employees at VA regional offices during the shutdown, providing invaluable assistance to the Nation’s veterans."
    • HR 3274 Fallen Heroes and Families Assistance Act: "would require that the military also pay death benefits, reimbursement for funeral expenses and travel, survivors’ basic housing allowance and other expenses incurred because of the death of a service member."
    • HJRes 72 Honoring our Promise to America’s Veterans Act: "would have ensured that veterans in receipt of VA disability compensation, pension, GI Bill, and other critical benefits could continue to receive those benefits in the event of a prolonged government shutdown. The bill would have also funded the Veterans Benefits Administration at President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2014 requested operational level, ensuring VA claims processing efforts could continue at normal rates." (House passed Oct. 3; hasn't been considered by the Senate.)
    • HR 3225 Save Our Veterans Act: Making continuing appropriations for veterans benefits in the event of a Government shutdown. 

    See more bills related to veterans' benefits.

    Furloughed Employees' Paychecks

    The one thing that lawmakers seem to agree on is federal employee pay during the shutdown. The House unanimously (407-0) passed a bill that would retroactively pay federal employees who have been furloughed -- after the shutdown is over. But the Senate has yet to vote on the bill, which is supported by President Obama. Weigh in:

    Discharge Petition to End the Shutdown

    The Scoop from our Hill Sources: The House Democrats filed a discharge petition to end the shutdown and pass a "clean" continuing resolution. This means that if they can get 218 signatures on the petition (half the House membership) -- they will force a House floor vote to reopen the government. (Those of you know have been using POPVOX for a while know that the "discharge petition" is the POPVOX team's favorite procedural move!)

    So far, 186 Members have signed the petition. Learn more and weigh in on the “Open the Government” resolution:

    Tired of the Shutdown and Debt Ceiling?

    On Saturday, the Senate did quickly pass one unrelated bill:

    And here are a few bills that were on the mind of POPVOX users -- unrelated to the crises of this week:

    • HR 25Fair Tax Act: To promote freedom, fairness, and economic opportunity by repealing the income tax and other taxes, abolishing the Internal Revenue Service, and enacting a national sales tax to be administered primarily by the States.
    • HR 3277A bill to prohibit US voluntary contributions to the regular budget of the United Nations or any United Nations agency.
    • S 1561The CHIMP Act Amendments to amend the Public Health Service Act to improve provisions relating to the sanctuary system for surplus chimpanzees.

    See what else is trending in real time.

    Stay tuned -- and we'll have updates on POPVOX and Facebook and Twitter!

  8. Issue Spotlight: Veterans During the Shutdown

    In the first week of the shutdown, much of the media focused on veterans getting shut out of war memorials. (See video.) In the shutdown's second week, things took a very serious tone when people began questioning how soon veterans' benefits would be halted. Then came the first casualties of the shutdown on our nation's servicemembers: The federal government began withholding "death gratuity," the $100,000 payment normally wired to relatives of fallen soldiers within three days to help with funeral costs and travel of Dover Air Force base. However, Congress passed the Honoring the Families of Fallen Soldiers Act (HJRes 91) on Oct. 10 to fund death gratuities and related survivor benefits for survivors of deceased military service members. 

    Benefits Through Late October

    VA has funds available to "ensure claims processing and payments in the compensation, pension, education, and vocational rehabilitation programs will continue through late October." (Source: VA) According to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, more than $6 billion in benefits to about 5 million veterans and their families would be halted with an extended shutdown. About 3.8 million veterans will not receive disability compensation next month, and 315,000 veterans and 202,000 surviving spouses and dependents will see pension payments stopped. (See Shinseki's testimony.) The VA closed its regional offices and furloughed 7,000 workers responsible for claims processing due to the government shutdown. The VA will also close operations for the Veterans Benefits Administration and GI Bill call centers. (Source: Military Times) As of this week, there were 725,165 pending benefits claims, with more than 418,000 of those pending longer than 125 days. (Read the VA's shutdown contingency plan.)

    Signed into Law: The Pay Our Military Act

    The Pay Our Military Act was passed by Congress on the eve of the shutdown, and signed by President Obama. While it ensures that servicemembers are paid during a shutdown, it does not apply to veterans' benefit payments.

    • HR 3210 Pay Our Military ActMaking continuing appropriations for military pay in the event of a Government shutdown. (President signed it into law on 9/30.)

    Pending Bills Related to Veterans

    Several bills have been introduced that address veterans during a shutdown. Weigh in on these bills and POPVOX will deliver your message to Congress. (And we'll keep updating this list, so keep coming back!)

    • HJRes 91 Honoring the Families of Fallen Soldiers Act: Making continuing appropriations for death gratuities and related survivor benefits for survivors of deceased military service members of the Department of Defense for fiscal year 2014. (House and Senate passed, 10/10.)
    • HR 3287 Veterans Services Support Act: "to ensure that Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and American Legion can continue to work alongside VA employees at VA regional offices during the shutdown, providing invaluable assistance to the Nation’s veterans."
    • HR 3274 Fallen Heroes and Families Assistance Act: "would require that the military also pay death benefits, reimbursement for funeral expenses and travel, survivors’ basic housing allowance and other expenses incurred because of the death of a service member."
    • HJRes 72 Honoring our Promise to America’s Veterans Act: "would have ensured that veterans in receipt of VA disability compensation, pension, GI Bill, and other critical benefits could continue to receive those benefits in the event of a prolonged government shutdown. The bill would have also funded the Veterans Benefits Administration at President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2014 requested operational level, ensuring VA claims processing efforts could continue at normal rates." (House passed Oct. 3; hasn't been considered by the Senate.)
    • HR 3225 Save Our Veterans Act: Making continuing appropriations for veterans benefits in the event of a Government shutdown. 
    • S 1564 Protecting Those Who Protected Us Act: making continuing appropriations for veterans benefits and services in the event of a Government shutdown. 
    • HR 3152 Pay Our Veterans and Seniors First Act: To prohibit Members of Congress, the President, the Vice President, and the head of any Executive department from receiving pay for any period in which there is a Government shutdown and to provide for payments to seniors, military and veterans during a Government shutdown. 
    • HR 3214 Preserve our National Security Act: Making continuing appropriations for personnel critical to national security during a Government shutdown.

    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 POPVOX Top 20: Oct. 4 - 10

    The Capitol shut down, in the rain.

    Still. Shut. Down.

    With the shutdown well into its second week, it's not surprising that so many of the top bills on POPVOX are related to government funding. (Learn more about the shutdown.)

    The top issue continued to be whether lawmakers in Congress should use the government funding process -- and the resulting shutdown -- as an opportunity to defund, delay or reform the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. And three in four POPVOX users agreed this past week that the shut down was indeed an opportunity to reform Obamacare.

    Veterans' Benefits During the Shutdown    Another shutdown-related issue arose this week: whether veterans' benefits will stop as a result of the shutdown. VA Secretary Shinseki testified before Congress that more than $6 billion in benefits to about 5 million veterans and their families would be halted with an extended shutdown. About 3.8 million veterans will not receive disability compensation next month, and 315,000 veterans and 202,000 surviving spouses and dependents will see pension payments stopped. (Learn more.)

    POPVOX Roundup: Week of Oct. 4 - 10

    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.

    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.

    *POPVOX invites organizations to create "sponsored campaigns" on POPVOX, which include policy principles and actionable items directed at Congress. 

  10. 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.

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

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

     

     

  14. The Week Ahead: Oct. 7 - 11

    From our Hill Sources: Just when we thought the government shutdown was the crisis to focus on, there's another, perhaps bigger, crisis on the horizon: the October 17 deadline to increase the nation's borrowing power or risk default.

    The Government Shutdown -- and a Divided Congress

    This week, the government shutdown -- the first in 17 years -- was on the minds of POPVOX users. The discussions around the shutdown were not only about government funding and the 800,000 federal employees who were furloughed, but also inextricably tied to the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.

    We invited POPVOX users to weigh in what they thought about using the debate over the continuing resolution to reform Obamacare. They overwhelmingly supported shutting down the government as leverage to reform Obamacare. Share your views:

    A "Clean" CR and a Piecemeal Approach

    House Speaker John Boehner continues to say that there are not enough votes in the House for the "clean" continuing resolution -- but others are disagreeing with him, including Republican Rep. Peter King: “I’m positive that a clean CR would pass,” Rep. King explained. “If it went on the floor tomorrow, I could see anywhere from 50 to 75 Republicans voting for it. And if it were a secret ballot, 150.” (Source: New York Times.)

    The Scoop from our Hill Sources: The House is also working on a piecemeal strategy to pass smaller government spending bills, which the Senate leadership says will not be considered. Already, the House has passed a half-dozen of these bills. (See the full list.) And the House will consider other such bills this week:

    Furloughed Employees' Paychecks

    The one thing that lawmakers seem to agree on is federal employee pay during the shutdown. The House unanimously (407-0) passed a bill that would retroactively pay federal employees who have been furloughed -- after the shutdown is over. The Senate will next consider the bill, which is supported by President Obama. Weigh in:

    Discharge Petition to End the Shutdown

    The Scoop from our Hill Sources: The House Democrats will file a discharge petition to end the shutdown and pass a "clean" continuing resolution. If they can get 218 signatures on the petition (half the House membership) -- they will force a House floor vote to reopen the government. (Those of you know have been using POPVOX for a while know that the "discharge petition" is the POPVOX team's favorite procedural move!)

    The Next Crisis Only 10 Days Away: The Debt Ceiling

    The debt ceiling is a limit set by Congress on the amount that the federal government can borrow for public spending and was set at $16.4 trillion in 2011. The Treasury Dept. announced that this limit will be reached by October 17, leaving Treasury with about $30 billion in cash, plus incoming revenue, but no ability to borrow money. (The government spends as much as $60 billion per day.)

    Remember August 2011? In the past, Congress passed a debt ceiling increase with little discussion -- and out of the public eye. But things were different during the last debt ceiling increase in August 2011, which ended with an 11th-hour agreement under pressure from shaken markets. That deal increased the debt limit but with an agreement to cut future government spending.

    Specifically, the deal put together a "Super Committee" to find ways to cut the deficit by $1.2 trillion over ten years. (See the "Super Committee" page on POPVOX.) And when the "Super Committee" couldn't come up with a plan for precise cuts, another part of the deal went into effect: Sequestration, or automatic, across-the-board cuts to the federal government beginning on Jan. 2, 2013. (See the Sequestration page on POPVOX.)

    From our Hill Sources: With the Oct. 17 debt ceiling deadline ahead, Republicans in the House are saying that they won’t agree on any deal to increase the debt limit without concessions from President Obama. Speaker Boehner, said this weekend that he believed President Obama is risking default by refusing to negotiate with Republicans and that he doesn’t have the votes to pass a "clean" debt-limit proposal.

    Stay tuned -- and we'll have updates on POPVOX and Facebook and Twitter!

  15. Issue Spotlight: Shutdown

    On Oct. 1, after considerable back-and-forth between the House and the Senate -- and the Republicans and the Democrats -- over the Continuing Resolution, the federal government shut down, for the first time in 17 years. (Learn more about the lead-up to the shutdown.)

    On the eve of the shutdown, Republicans and Democrats in both chambers were able to agree on a bill to ensure that active duty servicemembers get paid during a shutdown. President Obama signed the bill into law on Sept. 30.

    Signed into Law: The Pay Our Military Act

    • HR 3210 Pay Our Military ActMaking continuing appropriations for military pay in the event of a Government shutdown. (President signed it into law on 9/30.)

    Since it was passed, several bills expanding the Pay Our Military Act have been introduced:

    Pending Bills for the Shutdown

    Many bills have been introduced to fund the federal government in a piecemeal manner and to address issues arising from the shutdown. Weigh in on these bills and POPVOX will deliver your message to Congress. (And we'll keep updating this list, so keep coming back!)

    House Republican Piecemeal FY 2014 Appropriations Bills

    Related to Servicemembers and Veterans

    • HCRes 58 Expressing the sense of Congress regarding the need for the continued availability of religious services to members of the Armed Forces and their families during a lapse in appropriations.
    • HR 3239 A bill: Making automatic continuing appropriations for the continuation of FBI emergency and critical training programs in the event of a Government shutdown.
    • HR 3236 Hold Congress Accountable Act: To reduce the annual rate of pay of Members of Congress if a Government shutdown occurs during a year.
    • HR 3235 A bill: To provide for the compensation of any Federal, State, or local employee furloughed due to a lapse in appropriations which began on or about October 1, 2013.
    • HR 3234 A bill: To withhold the pay of Members of Congress, the President, and the Vice President if a Government shutdown is in effect or the Government is unable to make payments or meet obligations because the public debt limit has been reached.
    • HR 3231 Continuing Protection for Victims and Law Enforcement Act: Making automatic continuing appropriations for law enforcement, crime prevention, and victim services programs of the Department of Justice in the event of a Government shutdown.
    • HJRes 72 Veterans Benefits Continuing Appropriations Resolution: Making continuing appropriations for veterans benefits for fiscal year 2014. 
    • HR 3225 Save Our Veterans Act: Making continuing appropriations for veterans benefits in the event of a Government shutdown. 
    • S 1564 Protecting Those Who Protected Us Act: making continuing appropriations for veterans benefits and services in the event of a Government shutdown. 
    • HR 3217 Military Pay Act: To ensure the pay and allowances of members of the Armed Forces in the event that the debt limit is reached or during a funding gap. 
    • HR 3216 A bill: to ensure that members of the Armed Forces and Federal law enforcement officers continue to receive their pay and allowances despite a shutdown of the Federal Government or in the event that the debt of the US Government reaches the statutory limit. 
    • HR 3214 Preserve our National Security Act: Making continuing appropriations for personnel critical to national security during a Government shutdown.
    • HR 3187 Military Pay Protection Act: To appropriate such funds as may be necessary to ensure that members of the Armed Forces, including reserve components thereof, and supporting civilian and contractor personnel continue to receive pay and allowances for active service performed when a Governmentwide shutdown occurs. 
    • HR 3175 A bill: Making appropriations for fiscal year 2014 to ensure that members of the Armed Forces, including reserve components thereof, continue to receive pay and allowances for active service performed during a Government shutdown. 
    • S 1543 Ensuring Pay for Our Military Act: to appropriate such funds as may be necessary to ensure that members of the Armed Forces, including reserve components thereof, and supporting civilian and contractor personnel continue to receive pay and allowances for active service performed when a funding gap caused by the failure to enact interim or full-year appropriations for the Armed Forces occurs, which results in the furlough of non-emergency personnel and the curtailment of Government activities and services. 
    • S 1541 Military Pay Protection Act: to appropriate such funds as may be necessary to ensure that members of the Armed Forces, including reserve components thereof, and supporting civilian and contractor personnel continue to receive pay and allowances for active service performed when a Governmentwide shutdown occurs. 

    Related to Lawmakers' Pay

    Related to Seniors

    • HR 3152 Pay Our Veterans and Seniors First Act: To prohibit Members of Congress, the President, the Vice President, and the head of any Executive department from receiving pay for any period in which there is a Government shutdown and to provide for payments to seniors, military and veterans during a Government shutdown. 

    Related to DC

    • HR 3100 DC Government Shutdown Avoidance Act: To amend the District of Columbia Home Rule Act to make local funds of the District of Columbia available for use by the District during any portion of a fiscal year in which no Federal law appropriating local funds for the fiscal year is in effect, at the rates of operation provided under the local budget act for the fiscal year.

    Related to Federal Employees

    Other Related Bills

    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. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. The POPVOX Top 20: Sept. 27 - Oct. 3

    What a Week!

    For the first time in 17 years, the federal government shut down. After weeks of ping-pong between the House and Senate over the "Continuing Resolution," the bill which would fund the federal government, lawmakers could not reach an agreement by the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30. As a result, the government shut down on Oct. 1. (Learn more.)

    Not surprisingly, 17 of the Top 20 bills of the week related to government funding, the shutdown or the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare). Some lawmakers in Congress are using the government funding process -- and the resulting shutdown -- as an opportunity to defund, delay or reform the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. And three in four POPVOX users agreed this week that the shut down provided an opportunity to reform Obamacare.

    POPVOX Roundup: Week of Sept. 27 - Oct. 3

    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.

    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.

    *POPVOX invites organizations to create "sponsored campaigns" on POPVOX, which include policy principles and actionable items directed at Congress. 

  19. 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.


     

     

  20. The Showdown Ends in a Shutdown

    The federal government has shut down for the first time in 17 years. After weeks of ping-pong-style back and forth over the "Continuing Resolution," which would fund the federal government, the House and Senate could not reach an agreement by the Sept. 30 deadline.

    • WEIGH IN What’s your position on using the government shutdown as a way to reform Obamacare? Some lawmakers in Congress are using the government funding process -- and the resulting shutdown -- as an opportunity to defund, delay or reform Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act). Other lawmakers as well as President Obama oppose any attempts to change Obamacare in the government funding process. Instead, they're seeking a "clean" Continuing Resolution, which only addresses government funding. Weigh in.

    Bills for a Government Shutdown

    The federal government has shut down 17 times since a new budgeting process was put into place in 1976. Both Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan dealt with at least six shutdowns each. The most recent shutdown came in 1996 -- for three weeks!

    The Obama Administration estimates roughly 800,000 federal workers will be furloughed in a government shutdown. The vast majority -- 85 percent -- of federal workers live outside the Washington, DC metro region.

    The shutdown will also close national parks, and even delay passports and visas and perhaps even Social Security and Medicare payments. Servicemembers may not get paid in time either, although the President signed into law a bill ensuring military pay -- and veterans may not get their benefits. (Letter to President from House Members.) A federal government shutdown may also mean a District of Columbia government shutdown. (Letter from Del. Eleanor Norton (D-DC).) Ironically, a shutdown wouldn't necessarily shut down Obamacare.

    Already, dozens of bills have been introduced related to the government shut down, including one that Congress passed and the President signed into law: 

    Signed into Law

    • HR 3210 Pay Our Military Act Making continuing appropriations for military pay in the event of a Government shutdown. (House and Senate passed this bill; and the President signed it into law on 9/30.)

    House Republican Piecemeal FY 2014 Appropriations Bills

    Related to Servicemembers and Veterans

    • HCRes 58 Expressing the sense of Congress regarding the need for the continued availability of religious services to members of the Armed Forces and their families during a lapse in appropriations.
    • HR 3239 A bill: Making automatic continuing appropriations for the continuation of FBI emergency and critical training programs in the event of a Government shutdown.
    • HR 3236 Hold Congress Accountable Act: To reduce the annual rate of pay of Members of Congress if a Government shutdown occurs during a year.
    • HR 3235 A bill: To provide for the compensation of any Federal, State, or local employee furloughed due to a lapse in appropriations which began on or about October 1, 2013.
    • HR 3234 A bill: To withhold the pay of Members of Congress, the President, and the Vice President if a Government shutdown is in effect or the Government is unable to make payments or meet obligations because the public debt limit has been reached.
    • HR 3231 Continuing Protection for Victims and Law Enforcement Act: Making automatic continuing appropriations for law enforcement, crime prevention, and victim services programs of the Department of Justice in the event of a Government shutdown.
    • HJRes 72 Veterans Benefits Continuing Appropriations Resolution: Making continuing appropriations for veterans benefits for fiscal year 2014. 
    • HR 3225 Save Our Veterans Act: Making continuing appropriations for veterans benefits in the event of a Government shutdown. 
    • S 1564 Protecting Those Who Protected Us Act: making continuing appropriations for veterans benefits and services in the event of a Government shutdown. 
    • HR 3217 Military Pay Act: To ensure the pay and allowances of members of the Armed Forces in the event that the debt limit is reached or during a funding gap. 
    • HR 3216 A bill: to ensure that members of the Armed Forces and Federal law enforcement officers continue to receive their pay and allowances despite a shutdown of the Federal Government or in the event that the debt of the US Government reaches the statutory limit. 
    • HR 3214 Preserve our National Security Act: Making continuing appropriations for personnel critical to national security during a Government shutdown.
    • HR 3187 Military Pay Protection Act: To appropriate such funds as may be necessary to ensure that members of the Armed Forces, including reserve components thereof, and supporting civilian and contractor personnel continue to receive pay and allowances for active service performed when a Governmentwide shutdown occurs. 
    • HR 3175 A bill: Making appropriations for fiscal year 2014 to ensure that members of the Armed Forces, including reserve components thereof, continue to receive pay and allowances for active service performed during a Government shutdown. 
    • S 1543 Ensuring Pay for Our Military Act: to appropriate such funds as may be necessary to ensure that members of the Armed Forces, including reserve components thereof, and supporting civilian and contractor personnel continue to receive pay and allowances for active service performed when a funding gap caused by the failure to enact interim or full-year appropriations for the Armed Forces occurs, which results in the furlough of non-emergency personnel and the curtailment of Government activities and services. 
    • S 1541 Military Pay Protection Act: to appropriate such funds as may be necessary to ensure that members of the Armed Forces, including reserve components thereof, and supporting civilian and contractor personnel continue to receive pay and allowances for active service performed when a Governmentwide shutdown occurs. 

    Related to Lawmakers' Pay

    Related to Seniors

    • HR 3152 Pay Our Veterans and Seniors First Act: To prohibit Members of Congress, the President, the Vice President, and the head of any Executive department from receiving pay for any period in which there is a Government shutdown and to provide for payments to seniors, military and veterans during a Government shutdown. 

    Related to DC

    • HR 3100 DC Government Shutdown Avoidance Act: To amend the District of Columbia Home Rule Act to make local funds of the District of Columbia available for use by the District during any portion of a fiscal year in which no Federal law appropriating local funds for the fiscal year is in effect, at the rates of operation provided under the local budget act for the fiscal year.

    Related to Federal Employees

    Other Related Bills

    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.