The Tragedy in Charleston

Symbols, History, and Congressional Responses

by: Marci Harris – June 28, 2015

On June 17, 2015, nine parishioners were shot and killed in a prayer group at a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina, "Mother Emanuel" A.M.E. A racist manifesto emerged a few days later along with photos of the killer posing with the Confederate flag. Charleston community members responded to the tragedy by gathering to pray and mourn. In a stunning courtroom scene, victims’ families tearfully told the killer: "I forgive you."

On Monday, South Carolina’s Republican Governor, Nikki Haley, called for the removal of the Confederate flag from state grounds. Members of Congress responded throughout the week with statements and bills introduced to commemorate the tragedy and honor the victims.

    •    S.Res.212, sponsored by Sen. Tim Scott [R, SC] — "A resolution condemning the attack on Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, and expressing encouragement and prayers for all affected by this evil assault."


On Friday, President Obama President Obama eulogized South Carolina state senator, Reverand Clementa Pinckney, with a reflection on "Grace": Grace displayed by the victim's families and people in Charleston and around the country who responded peacefully to the tragedy. Grace of the black church and its special place in the history of the United States. He directly addressed the immorality of slavery and the question of whether the Confederate flag should fly over public spaces; the legacy of Jim Crow and its repercussions in our economy, schools, and prisons; unconscious institutional bias in hiring; gun violence; and a need for national unity.

 

 

 


Below, we highlight some of the bills related to the policies and issues raised in the President's speech. Follow the links to share your thoughts with Congress — in support or opposition.

Removing the [Confederate] flag from this state’s capital would not be an act of political correctness. It would not an insult to the valor of Confederate soldiers…

  • H.Res.344 — Urging the discontinued use of the Confederate battle flag, which represents pain, humiliation, torture, and racial oppression, in remembrance of the Emanuel 9.
  • S.1689 – A bill to amend title 23, United States Code, to reduce the funding available for a State under the national highway performance program and the surface transportation program if the State issues a license plate that contains an image of a flag of the Confederate States of America, including the Battle Flag of the Confederate States of America.
  • H.Res.342 — Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives regarding the enhancement of unity in America. 

It would simply be acknowledgement that the cause for which they fought — the cause of slavery — was wrong.

  • H.R.40 — Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act
  • H.Res.316 — Observing the historical significance of Juneteenth Independence Day.

… so that we search our hearts when we consider laws to make it harder for some of our fellow citizens to vote…

  • H.J. Res 25: Right to Vote Constitutional Amendment
  • H.Res. 123: Expressing Support for Designation of August 6 as National Voting Rights Day
  • H.R. 12: The Voter Empowerment Act
  • H.R. 411: The Streamlined and Improved Methods at Polling Locations and Early (SIMPLE) Voting Act
  • H.R. 885: The Voting Rights Amendment Act
  • H.R. 1459, H.R. 1556 and S. 772: A bill to secure the federal voting rights of persons when released from incarceration
  • S. 457: The Civil Rights Voting Restoration Act

 Perhaps it softens hearts towards those lost young men, tens and tens of thousands caught up in the criminal-justice system and lead us to make sure that that system’s not infected with bias.

  • H.Res.322: Recognizing the importance of providing services to children of incarcerated parents.
  • S. 502 and H.R. 920: Smarter Sentencing Act
  • H.R. 1255: Fairness in Cocaine Sentencing Act
  • H.R. 1252: Fair Sentencing Clarification Act
  • H.R. 706 and S. 353: Justice Safety Valve Act 
  • H.R. 1254: Recidivism Clarification Act
  • H.R. 1253: Prisoner Incentive Act 
  • H.R. 71: Federal Prison Bureau Nonviolent Offender Relief Act
  • H.R. 871: Formerly Incarcerated Voter Registration Act

… that we embrace changes in how we train and equip our police so that the bonds of trust between law enforcement… and the communities they serve make us all safer and more secure.

  • H.R.1680: Police CAMERA Act
  • S.877: Police CAMERA Act
  • H.Res.262:  Supporting the practice of community-oriented policing and encouraging diversity hiring and retention in law enforcement.
  • H.R.1232  and S.1441: Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act

For too long, we’ve been blind to the unique mayhem that gun violence inflicts upon this nation.

  • H.R.226 – Keeping Guns from High Risk Individuals Act
  • H.Res.289: Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that gun violence is a public health issue and Congress should enact by the end of the 114th Congress comprehensive Federal legislation that protects the Second Amendment and keeps communities safe and healthy, including expanding enforceable background checks for all commercial gun sales, improving the mental health system in the United States, and making gun trafficking and straw purchasing a Federal crime.
  • S.1473 — A bill to authorize the appropriation of funds to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for conducting or supporting research on firearms safety or gun violence prevention.
  • H.R.1745 — Support Assault Firearms Elimination and Reduction for our Streets Act
  • H.R.2612 — To authorize the appropriation of funds to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for conducting or supporting research on firearms safety or gun violence prevention.
  • H.R.2546 — Firearm Risk Protection Act (requiring firearms purchasers to have liability insurance)

The President closed by calling each victim by name. He sang "Amazing Grace" from the pulpit and finished by asking that "Grace continue to bless the UNITED States of America."


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 a complex legislative system.

What does “and for other purposes” mean in legislation?

by: Marci Harris — Updated June 30, 2015

We at POPVOX get lots of questions! About POPVOX, about startups.. but mostly about Congress and the legislative process. Our team loves hearing from users.

One of the most frequent questions we get is: "What does it mean when a bill says "and for other purposes?"

Q: "and for other purposes." This phrase scares the [] out of me. Yet is seems to be embedded in all bills I look at. I have yet to find out what any of these purposes are. It's almost like having to vote for it before we find out what's in it.

 

"For other purposes" appears in a lot of bill titles. It's not a bait-and-switch. It simply means that not all of the information about the bill can fit into the title, but if you want to know what is in the bill, just read the language. It does not create an open-ended law — it is simply a way to shorten the title or description of what the bill does. It just means that all of the elements of the bill cannot be included in the title, but any "purposes" the title alludes to will be in the bill language.

Bill Draft: "and for other purposes"

As described in the House Legislative Counsel's Manual on Drafting Style, "if the bill covers multiple items, 'and other purposes' may be used at the end of the title instead of describing each item." (p. 25). 

More questions? Please add them in the comments or email info@popvox.com.

IRONY ALERT:

The "One Subject at a Time Act", introduced in the 112th Congress, was described as:

To end the practice of including more than one subject in a single bill by requiring that each bill enacted by Congress be limited to only one subject, and for other purposes.

The Week Ahead: June 29 – July 3

From our Hill Sources: Congress is in recess this week for July 4th, but there’s still a lot happening in Washington. The Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage bans are unconstitutional. The Treasury Dept. announced there will be a woman on the next $10 bill. A new bill was introduced guaranteeing paid vacation days. And take a look at Congressional transparency.

The Supreme Court’s Same-Sex Marriage Decision and the 14th Amendment

On Friday, the Supreme Court ruled by a 5-to-4 vote that all state same-sex marriage bans violate the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantees of due process and equal protection. Justice Anthony Kennedy, in writing the majority opinion, explained:

“The right of same-sex couples to marry that is part of the liberty promised by the Fourteenth Amendment is derived, too, from that Amendment’s guarantee of the equal protection of the laws. The Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause are connected in a profound way, though they set forth independent principles. Rights implicit in liberty and rights secured by equal protection may rest on different precepts and are not always coextensive, yet in some instances each may be instructive as to the meaning and reach of the other. In any particular case one Clause may be thought to capture the essence of the right in a more accurate and comprehensive way, even as the two Clauses may converge in the identification and definition of the right.” (Source: SCOTUSblog)

In Congress, the Supreme Court’s decision also brought up the issue of religious freedom. In introducing the First Amendment Defense Act (HR 2802), Congressman Raul Labrador (R-ID) explained:

“The decision makes it all the more important that Congress move to protect the religious liberty of those who believe in traditional marriage. No American should be penalized for following their religious beliefs or moral convictions. In the majority opinion, Justice Kennedy states, ‘The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered.’ To provide those very protections, I have introduced the First Amendment Defense Act.”

First Amendment Defense Act (HR 2802 and S 1598 in the Senate)

Sponsor: Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) “Would prohibit any federal agency from denying a tax exemption, grant, contract, license or certification to an individual, association, or business based on their belief that marriage is between a man and a woman.” As the bill sponsor explained: “It is imperative that we move quickly to protect the religious liberty of religious organizations and persons and I call on the leadership of the House and the Senate to speed up consideration of this bill and its companion, S 1598, introduced by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT).” (Read bill text)

 

Thinking about a Summer Vacation?

With Congress in recess—and most kids heading for summer break—we wanted to share a recently introduced bill that would guarantee 10 days of paid vacation:

Guaranteed Paid Vacation Act (S 1564)

Sponsor: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) “Would provide 10 days of paid vacation for employees who have worked for an employer for at least one year. A recent study by Oxford Economics found benefits of taking time off from work include higher productivity, greater employee retention, increased workplace morale, significant health benefits and a boost to the economy,” according to the bill sponsor. (Read bill text)

 

Do You Read the Bills?

Many POPVOX users often ask us whether people actually read bill text before weighing in—and whether Members of Congress read the bills before voting. We’re also often asked why Congress can’t simplify their proposals. To that end, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) recently introduced a package of bills addressing Congressional transparency. “Too often in Congress, legislation is pushed through without hearings, amendments, or debate. I firmly believe the American people have a right to be part of the legislative process. My bills will allow citizens sufficient time to read and give input to members of Congress as they consider legislation impacting the lives of all Americans,” Sen. Paul said.

Write the Laws Act (S 1575)

Sponsor: Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) Prohibits an Act of Congress from containing any delegation of legislative powers, whether to: (1) any component within the legislative branch, (2) the President or any other member of the executive branch, (3) the judicial branch, (4) any agency, (5) any quasi-public agency, (6) any state or state instrumentality, or (7) any other organization or individual. (Read bill text)

One Subject at a Time Act (S 1572)

Sponsor: Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) To end the practice of including more than one subject in a single bill by requiring that each bill enacted by Congress be limited to only one subject. (Read bill text)

Read the Bills Act (S 1571)

Sponsor: Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) Bars a vote on final passage of a measure (except private bills) from occurring in either chamber, unless: (1) the full text of the measure is published at least seven days before the vote on an official website of each chamber, (2) public notice of the specific calendar week during which the vote is scheduled to take place is posted on the respective website within six days before the Monday of such week, and (3) there is a reading of its full text verbatim by the Clerk or the Secretary to the respective chamber. Requires a Member of Congress, before voting in favor of final passage of any measure (except a private bill) to sign an affidavit, executed under penalty of perjury, that the Member either: (1) was present throughout the entire reading of each such measure, and listened attentively to such reading in its entirety; or (2) before such vote, read attentively each such measure in its entirety. (Read bill text)

 

A Woman on the $10 Bill

Last week, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew announced that a woman will be featured on the 2020 release of the $10 note. The year 2020 will mark the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote. The Treasury Department is “asking the American people to share ideas, symbols, and designs for the new $10 note that reflect what democracy means to them.” You can share your ideas by visiting thenew10.treasury.gov

To date, Martha Washington is the only woman whose portrait has appeared on a US currency note. The engraving appeared on the face of the $1 Silver Certificate, Series 1886 and 1891, and on the back of the $1 Silver Certificate, Series 1896. (Learn more.)

Related Bills in Congress

Panel to Recommend a Woman on the Ten Dollar Bill (S 1613)

Sponsor: Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) Require the Secretary of the Treasury to convene a panel of citizens to make a recommendation to the Secretary regarding the likeness of a woman on the ten dollar bill. (Read bill text)

Celebrating the First Woman in Congress Currency Act (S 1633)

Sponsor: Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) Requires that former Montana Representative Jeannette Rankin, the first woman elected to Congress, be featured as the first woman on U.S. paper currency. (Read bill text)

“Jeannette Rankin, a proud Montanan and the first woman to serve in Congress, has left a lasting mark on our nation’s democratic process,” according to the bill sponsor. “She is a true example of America’s rich legacy of service and I urge the Treasury to make her the first woman to serve as the face of our paper currency.”

Harriet Tubman Tribute Act (HR 2610 and in the Senate, S 1508)

Sponsor: Rep. John Katko (R-NY) Would require the Secretary of the Treasury to place Harriet Tubman’s likeness on a Federal Reserve Note by 2017. (Read bill text)

Harriet Tubman “bravely led countless Americans to freedom and opportunity, courageously fought for her country, and was an outspoken advocate for women’s suffrage,” explained the bill sponsors. “Placing Harriet Tubman on our US Currency is a fitting tribute to a woman who fought to make the values enshrined in our Constitution a reality for all Americans.”


— 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 a complex legislative system. —

The Week Ahead: June 22 – 26

From our Hill Sources: This week, the House will consider bills related to transparency in the Dept. of Homeland Security, EPA regulations on power plants and the cotton market. The Senate will continue working on fast-track legislation, which was passed by the House last week. And take a look at bills related to fathers for Father's Day!

Five Bills in Congress about Fathers

As we celebrate fathers on Father's Day, here’s a look at five bills Congress has introduced regarding fathers:

1. Father's Day Resolution (HRes 332)

Sponsor: Rep. Joseph Pitts (R-PA) —Bipartisan— Recognizing the immeasurable contributions of fathers in the healthy development of children, supporting responsible fatherhood, and encouraging greater involvement of fathers in the lives of their children, especially on Father's Day. (Read resolution text)

2. Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act (HR 1439 and S 786 in the Senate)

Sponsor: Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT)  "Would establish a national paid family and medical leave insurance program, ensuring that American workers would no longer have to choose between a paycheck and caring for themselves or a family member," according to the bill sponsors.

"Current Family and Medical Leave law provides unpaid, job-protected leave for serious health related events, but only about half of the workforce qualifies for this unpaid leave, and many more simply cannot afford to take it because it is unpaid. The FAMILY Act would create an independent trust fund within the Social Security Administration to collect fees and provide benefits. This trust would be funded by employee and employer contributions of 0.2 percent of wages each, creating a self-sufficient program that would not add to the federal budget. The expected cost to the average worker would be similar to the expense of one tall latte a week. Benefit levels, based on existing successful state programs in New Jersey and California, would equal 66 percent of an individual’s typical monthly wages up to a capped monthly amount that would be indexed for inflation. The proposal makes leave available to every individual regardless of the size of their current employer and regardless of whether such individual is currently employed by an employer, self-employed or currently unemployed, as long as the person has sufficient earnings and work history." (Read bill text)

3. Gold Star Fathers Act (HR 1222 and S 136 in the Senate)

Sponsor: Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-CT) —Bipartisan— “Parents whose children are killed in action are referred to as “Gold Star parents” because they traditionally display a Gold Star flag as a symbol for their loss and sacrifice. The federal government has long recognized the sacrifice of Gold Star families by granting unmarried and separated Gold Star mothers – and unmarried and separated mothers of totally and permanently disabled veterans – a 10-point hiring preference when they apply for federal jobs. The Gold Star Fathers Act would make this preference gender neutral, extending it to unmarried or separated fathers of servicemembers killed in action or totally and permanently disabled,” according to the bill sponsors. (Read bill text)

4. Protecting Adoption Act (HR 2818 and S 1637 in the Senate)

Sponsor: Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) —Bipartisan— “Creates a National Responsible Father Registry and encourages states with existing registries to link to the national system. Empowering men and women to take responsibility for their rights as parents helps ensure adoptions are not jeopardized in the future. Birthfathers wishing to assert their rights to parent would be given timely notice of adoption proceedings, and adoptive parents would be apprised of potential claims, adding stability to the process from the beginning,” according to the bill sponsor. (Read bill text)

5. Honoring the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Sons and Daughters in Touch (HRes 320)

Sponsor: Rep. Janice Hahn (D-CA) —Bipartisan—  "To honor the 25th anniversary of Sons and Daughters in Touch, an organization dedicated to supporting and connecting children whose parents were killed in Vietnam. Since its founding, SDIT has been dedicated to locating, uniting, and providing support to children as well as other family members whose relatives have died or remain missing as a result of the Vietnam War. Prior to the founding of SDIT in 1990, there was no organization to support those who lost their parents during the war. The organization now represents an estimated 20,000 sons and daughters in the United States. This Father’s Day, Sons and Daughters in Touch will be celebrating its anniversary and holding a remembrance at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC.," according to the resolution's sponsor. (Read resolution text)

EPA Regulations on Power Plants

This month's agenda according to the House Majority Leader including legislation “which will protect consumers from burdensome and costly EPA regulations, keep the decision power in the hands of the states, and help modernize outdated laws.” This week, the House will vote on:

Ratepayer Protection Act (HR 2042)

Sponsor: Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY) —Bipartisan— “Addresses EPA’s pending carbon dioxide (CO2) regulations for existing power plants. It would allow for judicial review of any final rule before states would be required to comply and would empower states to protect families and businesses from electricity rate increases, reduced electric reliability, and other harmful effects,” according to the House Majority Leader. (Read bill text)

Internet Regulations

The House will consider legislation ensuring that “Congress continues its oversight role over the Administration’s work to transition its Domain Name System authority from the United States to the global Internet community,” according to the House Energy & Commerce Committee

Domain Openness Through Continued Oversight Matters (DOTCOM) Act (HR 805)

Sponsor: Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) “Require the Administration to submit to Congress a report certifying that the transition plans meet the United States’ objective of global Internet openness; Require NTIA to certify that changes to ICANN’s bylaws that the multistakeholder process has required as conditions of the transition have been implemented; Provide safeguards designed to make ICANN more accountable to the Internet community; and Give Congress 30 legislative days to review NTIA’s report before NTIA is permitted to relinquish its role in IANA,” according to the House Communications and Technology Subcommittee.  (Read bill text)

Homeland Security Transparency

The House will also vote on a series of bills to increase transparency in the Department of Homeland Security:

DHS Paid Administrative Leave Accountability Act (HR 1633)

Sponsor: Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-GA) “To provide for certain improvements relating to the tracking and reporting of employees of the Department of Homeland Security placed on administrative leave, or any other type of paid non-duty status without charge to leave, for personnel matters,” according to the House Committee on Homeland Security.  (Read bill text)

DHS FOIA Efficiency Act (HR 1615)

Sponsor: Rep. Earl Carter (R-GA) “Directs DHS’s Chief FOIA Officer to make certain improvements in the implementation the Freedom of Information Act,” according to the House Homeland Security Committee. (Read bill text)

Department of Homeland Security Headquarters Consolidation Accountability Act (HR 1640)

Sponsor: Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC) “Directs the Secretary of Homeland Security to submit to Congress a report on DHS’s headquarters consolidation project at St. Elizabeth’s,” according to the House Homeland Security Committee. (Read bill text)

DHS IT Duplication Reduction Act (HR 1626)

Sponsor: Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) “Seeks to reduce duplication of information technology at the department.”

According to the bill sponsor: “Call me crazy, but it just doesn’t make sense to have one agency using multiple IT systems that do the same thing. That’s a ridiculous waste of taxpayer dollars. We have to change the ‘it’s not my money, so let’s spend it’ culture in government that leads to this kind of waste. Taxpayers should be able to trust that every tax dollar is being used carefully and thoughtfully on effective, efficient government that works for the people.” (Read bill text)

Homeland Security University-based Centers Review Act (HR 2390)

Sponsor: Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) To require a review of university-based centers for homeland security. (Read bill text)

Federally Funded Research and Development Sunshine Act (HR 1637)

Sponsor: Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX) To require annual reports on the activities and accomplishments of federally funded research and development centers within the Department of Homeland Security. (Read bill text)

CBRN Intelligence and Information Sharing Act (HR 2200)

Sponsor: Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ) —Bipartisan— To establish chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear intelligence and information sharing functions of the Office of Intelligence and Analysis of the Department of Homeland Security and to require dissemination of information analyzed by the Department to entities with responsibilities relating to homeland security. (Read bill text)

Homeland Security Drone Assessment and Analysis Act (HR 1646)

Sponsor: Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) To require the Secretary of Homeland Security to research how small and medium sized unmanned aerial systems could be used in an attack, how to prevent or mitigate the effects of such an attack. (Read bill text)

Modernizing the Cotton Market

The House will also vote on a bill, which, according to the Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Commodities, Exchanges, Energy, and Credit, is a “step forward towards needed modernization of cotton hedging ability for market participants.” “This is a market-oriented initiative reflecting the modern realities of the global cotton market,” said Congressman Austin Scott. 

Amending the US Cotton Futures Act (HR 2620)

Sponsor: Rep. David Scott (D-GA) —Bipartisan— “Amends the United States Cotton Futures Act to allow for the development of certain new cotton futures contracts. Current law requires that 100% of the cotton tendered under a U.S.-listed cotton futures contract be sampled and graded (classed) by the USDA. This restriction has hampered the development of new cotton futures contracts designed to hedge against market risks for foreign-grown cotton or U.S. cotton merchandised abroad. H.R. 2620 would amend the law to allow U.S.-based futures exchanges flexibility in handling foreign-grown cotton and foreign delivery points,” according to the House Agriculture Committee. (Read bill text)

Appropriations

It’s Appropriations Season in Congress! The Congressional budget resolution allocates the maximum amount of funding for all discretionary federal initiatives in every fiscal year. It’s the appropriators who determine how much actual funding is dedicated for each discretionary initiative, which constitutes about one-third of the federal budget. There are 12 appropriations bills organized by agencies and focus. This week, the House will consider:

Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (HR 2822)

Sponsor: Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA) Includes funding for the Department of the Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Forest Service, the Indian Health Service, and various independent and related agencies. “In total, the bill includes $30.17 billion in base funding, a decrease of $246 million below the fiscal year 2015 enacted level and a reduction of $3 billion below the President’s request. Included is $452 million to fully fund “Payments in Lieu of Taxes” (PILT) – which provides funds to local communities with federal land to help offset losses in property taxes – and $3.6 billion for the Department of the Interior and U.S. Forest Service to prevent and combat devastating wildfires,” according to the House Appropriations Committee. (Read bill text)

Also in the House…

The House will also vote on the following bills:

Boys Town Centennial Commemorative Coin Act (HR 893)

Sponsor: Rep. David Roe (R-TN) —Bipartisan— Directs the Secretary of the Treasury to mint and issue up to 50,000 $5 gold coins, 350,000 $1 silver coins, and 300,000 half-dollar clad coins to commemorate the centennial of the founding of Father Flanagan's Boys Town. (Read bill text)

Bullion and Collectible Coin Production Efficiency and Cost Savings Act (HR 1698)

Sponsor: Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-MI) —Bipartisan— This bill repeals: (1) the authority of the Secretary of the Treasury to change the design of certain gold bullion coins, and (2) requirements for the protective covering for certain bullion coins. The copper content requirements for quarter dollar coins are repealed, and the silver content is required to be not less than 90%. (Read bill text)

The House will also complete its work on:

Protecting Seniors' Access to Medicare Act (HR 1190)

Sponsor: Rep. David "Phil" Roe (R-TN) —Bipartisan— “Repeals the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), a panel of 15 unelected and unaccountable government bureaucrats tasked with reducing Medicare costs through arbitrary cuts to providers, limiting access to care for seniors,” according to the House Republican Majority Leader. (Read bill text)

Fast-Track Trade Legislation

The Senate will be considering a stand-alone fast-track bill this week, according to the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). The Senate had previously passed a trade bill, which included both fast-track legislation and Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA). However, last week, the House was able to pass a fast-track bill by a 218 to 208 vote. (To quickly move this stand-alone fast-track bill, the House Rules Committee attached it to a firefighter and police retirement bill, which had been sent over to the House by the Senate.)

House Legislative Vehicle for the Fast-Track Bill (HR 2146)

Sponsors: Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI)  —Bipartisan— “Outlines 21st century congressional negotiating objectives that any administration – Republican or Democratic – must follow when entering into and conducting trade talks with foreign countries while also increasing transparency by requiring that Congress have access to important information surrounding pending trade deals and that the public receive detailed updates and see the full details of trade agreements well before they are signed. When the trade agreement meets the United States’ objectives and Congress is sufficiently consulted, the legislation allows for trade deals to be submitted to Congress for an up-or-down vote, an incentive for negotiating nations to put their best offer forward for any deal. At the same time, the bill creates a new mechanism to withdraw TPA procedures and hold the administration accountable should it fail to meet the requirements of TPA,” according to the bill sponsors. (Read bill text)

From our Hill Sources: The Senate may take up the bill on Tuesday with a procedural vote. The House passed this bill on Thursday, sending it to the Senate. Then, the Senate will have to consider TAA separately

Last week, the House also considered Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), which offers assistance to workers who have had their jobs displaced by trade. However, House Democrats voted against TAA in an attempt to derail fast-track legislation, despite President Obama’s support of it. The House has given themselves a deadline of passing TAA by July 30th, before the August recess.

Trade Adjustment Assistance Reauthorization Act (S 1268 in the Senate and HR 1892 in the House)

Sponsor: Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Rep. David Reichert (R-WA) “Reauthorizes the TAA for Workers, TAA for Firms, and TAA for Farmers programs through June 30, 2021. Key components of the TAA for Workers program include: Trade Readjustment Assistance, a weekly payment to a worker who has exhausted his or her unemployment insurance benefits and enrolled in an eligible training program; occupational training; Alternative Trade Adjustment Assistance, which provides a wage subsidy to eligible workers over the age of 50 to subsidize a portion of the wage difference between new wage and their old wage; and job search assistance and relocation allowances. Previous reauthorizations of TAA have been done with congressional action on international trade,” according to the Senate Republican Policy Committee


— 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 a complex legislative system. —

The Week Ahead: June 15 – 19

From our Hill Sources: This week, the House will consider whether to withdraw troops from Iraq and Syria, or vote on the President’s request for AUMF (Authorization for the Use of Military Force). In addition, the House will vote on bills related to health care costs, and Medicare in particular, as well as a resolution regarding the three American prisoners in Iran. Meanwhile, the Senate will continue working on the NDAA, which authorizes funding for the Defense Department and national security programs. And, a look at Old Glory to commemorate Flag Day!


Debating US Troop Withdrawal from Iraq and Syria—and an AUMF Vote

Withdrawing troops from Iraq and Syria (HConRes 55)

Sponsor: Rep. James McGovern (D-MA) —Bipartisan— Under the provisions of the War Powers Resolution, “would force the House to debate on whether US troops should withdraw from Iraq and Syria,” according to the resolution sponsors. “Requires the President to withdraw US troops from Iraq and Syria within 30 days or no later than the end of this year, December 31, 2015. If this House approves this resolution, Congress would still have 6 months in which to do the right thing and bring an AUMF (Authorization for the Use of Military Force) before the House and Senate for debate and action.” (Read resolution text)

In introducing the resolution, Congressman Jim McGovern explained

“As all of my House colleagues know, last year, the President authorized airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria on August 7th. For over 10 months, the United States has been engaged in hostilities in Iraq and Syria without debating an authorization for this war. On February 11th this year, nearly 4 months ago, the President sent to Congress the text for an Authorization for the Use of Military Force – or an AUMF – on combating the Islamic State in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere, yet Congress has failed to act on that AUMF, or bring an alternative to the House floor, even though we continue to authorize and appropriate the money required for sustained military operations in those countries.”

American Prisoners in Iran

Resolution Calling for the Release of American Prisoners in Iran (HRes 233)

Sponsor: Rep. Dan Kildee (R-MI) —Bipartisan— Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that Iran should immediately release the three United States citizens that it holds, as well as provide all known information on any United States citizens that have disappeared within its borders. (Read resolution text)

The Congressional resolution reads, in part, “Iran should release all detained Americans immediately and provide any information it possesses regarding any Americans that have disappeared within its borders.” According to the resolution sponsor, Congressman Dan Kildee: “Iran cannot be taken seriously as a member of the global community if they continue to hold innocent Americans like Amir Hekmati as political prisoners. Amir is an American citizen, born and raised in the US, who served his country honorably in the US Marines. He is innocent yet has been unjustly held as a political prisoner by Iran for 1,340 days. This congressional resolution allows Congress to speak with one voice and say that Iran must release the innocent Americans it holds.” 

From our Hill Sources: TV personality and former Marine Montel Williams has been lobbying Congress to bring awareness to this issue. (See photo.) 

Health Care Costs

This week, the House will consider Medicare and the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare.” According to House Republican Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), “the House is acting this week to uphold our promise to defend America’s seniors with a combination of the following bills from the Ways and Means Committee that reduce the costs of Obamacare, stop Medicare rationing, and improve the Medicare Advantage (MA) program:”

Protecting Seniors' Access to Medicare Act (HR 1190)

Sponsor: Rep. David Roe (R-TN) —Bipartisan— “Repeals the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), a panel of 15 unelected and unaccountable government bureaucrats tasked with reducing Medicare costs through arbitrary cuts to providers, limiting access to care for seniors,” according to the House Republican Majority Leader. (Read bill text)

Medicare Advantage Coverage Transparency Act (HR 2505)

Sponsor: Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA) —Bipartisan— “Requires greater transparency by requiring the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to annually report on enrollment data in MA plans,” according to the House Republican Majority Leader. (Read bill text)

Increasing Regulatory Fairness Act (HR 2507)

Sponsor: Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) —Bipartisan— “Expands an annual regulatory schedule for MA payment rates so that stakeholders have the necessary time to review and provide feedback to ensure seniors continue to have access to quality low-cost plans of their choosing,” according to the House Republican Majority Leader. (Read bill text)

Seniors’ Health Care Plan Protection Act (HR 2582)

Sponsor: Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL) —Bipartisan— To improve the risk adjustment under the Medicare Advantage program, to delay the authority to terminate Medicare Advantage contracts for MA plans failing to achieve minimum quality ratings. (Read bill text)

Strengthening Medicare Advantage through Innovation and Transparency for Seniors Act (HR 2570)

Sponsor: Rep. Diane Black (R-TN) —Bipartisan— “Establishes a demonstration program that removes barriers and allows plans to innovate and incentivize high-value care that promotes better health outcomes through varying their plan benefits based on beneficiary population,” according to the House Republican Majority Leader. (Read bill text)

Protect Medical Innovation Act (HR 160)

Sponsor: Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-MN) —Bipartisan— “Repeals the 2.3% excise tax, included in the President’s health care law, that applies to the sale of medical device products,” according to the bill sponsor. (Read bill text)

Intelligence Funding Authorization

The House may also consider a bill to authorize funds for the federal intelligence program:

Intelligence Authorization Act, 2016 (HR 2596)

Sponsor: Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) “This legislation provides the Intelligence Community authorization needed to protect and defend the United States. It supports critical national security programs such as those protecting Americans against terrorism and cyberattacks. The total funding authorized by the bill is consistent with the Budget Resolution and the Budget Control Act, balancing fiscal discipline and national security,” according to the House Intelligence Committee. The legislation:

  • Sustains critical capabilities to fight terrorism and counter the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
  • Funds efforts to recover from unauthorized disclosures of intelligence capabilities.
  • Sustains activities in Afghanistan and Iraq to continue the fight against ISIS, al Qaeda, and the Taliban.
  • Invests in the resiliency of our national security space architecture.
  • Provides policy direction on sensitive intelligence operations.
  • Promotes intelligence integration and sharing through investment in Intelligence Community-wide information technology enterprises.
  • Enhances investments in military intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft.
  • Funds initiatives to thwart cyberattacks and insider threats.
  • Requires a report every 60 days on foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq.

(Read bill text)

According to the House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), this bill “provides the intelligence community with the authorization it needs to protect and defend the United States. It supports critical national security programs, such as those protecting Americans against terrorism and cyber attacks. The total funding authorized by the bill is consistent with the Budget Resolution and the Budget Control Act, balancing fiscal discipline and national security.”

NDAA in the Senate

This week, the Senate plans to finish working on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which would require wrapping up the lengthy amendment process. The NDAA is an amendment magnet in the Senate because it is one of the few bills that makes it through the entire legislative process.

Defense Authorization (NDAA) (HR 1735)

Sponsor: Rep. Don Young (R-AL) The comprehensive legislation to authorize the budget authority of the Department of Defense and the national security programs of the Department of Energy. The bill authorizes appropriations to DOD for: (1) Procurement, including aircraft, missiles, weapons and tracked combat vehicles, ammunition, shipbuilding and conversion, space procurement, and other procurement; (2) Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation; (3) Operation and Maintenance; (4) Working Capital Funds; (5) the Joint Urgent Operational Needs Fund; (6) Chemical Agents and Munitions Destruction; (7) Drug Interdiction and Counter-Drug Activities; (8) the Defense Inspector General; (9) the Defense Health Program; (10) the Armed Forces Retirement Home; (11) Overseas Contingency Operations and; (12) Military Construction.

The bill also authorizes the FY2016 personnel strength for active duty and reserve forces and sets forth policies regarding military personnel, compensation and other personnel benefits, acquisition policy and management, DOD organization and management, financial matters, naval vessels and shipyards, civilian personnel matters, and matters relating to foreign nations. (Read bill text)

In last week’s Weekly Update, we highlighted several proposed amendments to the NDAA. Here are a few more that may be considered this week:

  • Senator Mike Lee’s (R-UT) Amendment #1687: to remove the endangered special status for Sage Grouse, Lesser Prairie-Chicken and American Burying Beetle.
  • Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)’s Amendment #1889: bipartisan anti-torture amendment “that would strengthen the legal prohibition against torture and codify certain aspects of a 2009 executive order signed by President Obama, effectively barring all US government officials from using interrogation techniques that are not authorized by and listed in the US Army Field Manual,” according to sponsors. “The amendment would also require that the Army Field Manual be reviewed every three years, with possible relevant revisions by agencies such as the US Department of Defense, US Department of Justice, Director of National Intelligence, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and that it be used as the standard for all government interrogations.” 
  • Senator Joni Ernst’s (R-IA) Amendment #1549: to provide for defense equipment, services and training to the Kurdistan Regional Government.

It’s Flag Week!

On June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress approved the design of a national flag:

Resolved, that the Flag of the thirteen United States shall be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the Union be thirteen stars, white on a blue field, representing a new constellation. (June 14, 1777, in Journals of the Continental Congress.)

Since 1916, Americans have been commemorating the adoption of the Stars and Stripes by celebrating June 14 as Flag Day. President Woodrow Wilson issued the first presidential proclamation establishing a national Flag Day on June 14. Later, the week of June 14 has become Flag Week. (Read President Obama's proclamation.) 

To date, there have been twenty-seven official versions of the flag, but the arrangement of the stars varied according to the flag-makers' preferences until 1912 when President Taft standardized the then-new flag's forty-eight stars into six rows of eight. The forty-nine-star flag (1959-60), as well as the fifty-star flag, also have standardized star patterns. The current version of the flag dates to July 4, 1960, after Hawaii became the fiftieth state the year prior. (Source: Library of Congress)

(Image on the right: Betsy Ross showing the United States flag to George Washington and others, by Percy Moran. “The Birth of Old Glory,” 1917.)

Bills Related to the American Flag

In honor of Flag Day, we are highlighting bills related to the American flag:

Flag Amendment (HJRes 9)

Sponsor: Rep. Steve Womack (R-AR) —Bipartisan— Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States giving Congress power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States. (Read bill text)

No Federal Funds Without the American Flag Act (HR 1691)

Sponsor: Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI) Amends the Higher Education Act of 1965 to prohibit an institution of higher education that is located in the United States from participating in title IV's student assistance programs if it bans the display of the American flag on its campus. (Read bill text)

All-American Flag Act (HR 916)

Sponsor: Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL) —Bipartisan— Requires any flags of the United States acquired for use by the federal government to be entirely manufactured in the United States from articles, materials, or supplies entirely grown, produced, or manufactured in the United States. (Read bill text)

Registering the Flag (S 328)

Sponsor: Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) —Bipartisan— To amend the Trademark Act of 1946 to provide for the registration of marks consisting of a flag, coat of arms, or other insignia of the United States, or any State or local government. (Read bill text)


— 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 a complex legislative system. —

The Week Ahead: June 8 – 12

From our Hill Sources: It’s a busy week! The Senate will work on funding federal defense and intelligence programs (NDAA). The House will work on labeling of meats, taxing Internet access and body cameras on police officers. Also, it’s Appropriations season!

Agriculture and Meat

The House this week will vote on two bills from the Agriculture Committee:

Country of Origin Labeling Amendments Act (HR 2393)

Sponsor: Rep. Michael Conaway (R-TX) To repeal country of origin labeling requirements for beef, pork, and chicken. Country of origin labeling requirements are administered by the Department of Agriculture and require a retailer to inform consumers of the country of origin of a covered commodity. (Read bill text)

According to the House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), this bill would “bring the US into compliance with WTO rules. Without immediate action, businesses from every sector of the economy could face retaliation from Canada and Mexico that could cost the US economy billions.”

Commodity End-User Relief Act (HR 2289)

Sponsor: Rep. Rep. Michael Conaway (R-TX) “Would authorize appropriations to operate the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) through 2019 and to make changes in some of the agency’s operating procedures. The bill also would amend the Commodity Exchange Act to provide greater protections for customer funds held by entities that broker transactions in commodity futures and to relax requirements on certain participants in swap transactions. (A swap is a contract that calls for an exchange of cash between two participants, based on an underlying rate or index or on the performance of an asset.) (Source: CBO) (Read bill text)

According to the House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), this bill would “reauthorize the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. This bill will ensure that businesses can effectively use the derivatives market to manage their risk, enhance consumer protections, and protect job creators from unfair regulations.”

Taxing Internet Access

The House will also vote on a bill that would renew the existing ban on taxing Internet access:

Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act (HR 235)

Sponsor: Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) —Bipartisan— “Keeps the Internet affordable and drives innovation by banning access taxes permanently. If the moratorium is not renewed or made permanent, the potential tax burden on Americans would be substantial. It is estimated that Internet access tax rates could be more than twice the average rate of all other goods and services – and the last thing that Americans need is another tax bill on their doorsteps,” according to the House Judiciary Committee. (Read bill text)

From our Hill Sources: Original legislation that temporarily banned Internet access taxes, the Internet Tax Freedom Act, was first enacted in 1998 and extended five times with bipartisan support. The most recent extension expires on October 1, 2015.

Intelligence Funding Authorization

The House may also consider a bill to authorize funds for the federal intelligence program:

Intelligence Authorization Act, 2016 (HR 2596)

Sponsor: Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) “This legislation provides the Intelligence Community authorization needed to protect and defend the United States. It supports critical national security programs such as those protecting Americans against terrorism and cyberattacks. The total funding authorized by the bill is consistent with the Budget Resolution and the Budget Control Act, balancing fiscal discipline and national security,” according to the House Intelligence Committee. The legislation:

  • Sustains critical capabilities to fight terrorism and counter the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
  • Funds efforts to recover from unauthorized disclosures of intelligence capabilities.
  • Sustains activities in Afghanistan and Iraq to continue the fight against ISIS, al Qaeda, and the Taliban.
  • Invests in the resiliency of our national security space architecture.
  • Provides policy direction on sensitive intelligence operations.
  • Promotes intelligence integration and sharing through investment in Intelligence Community-wide information technology enterprises.
  • Enhances investments in military intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft.
  • Funds initiatives to thwart cyberattacks and insider threats.
  • Requires a report every 60 days on foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq.

(Read bill text)

According to the House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), this bill “provides the intelligence community with the authorization it needs to protect and defend the United States. It supports critical national security programs, such as those protecting Americans against terrorism and cyber attacks. The total funding authorized by the bill is consistent with the Budget Resolution and the Budget Control Act, balancing fiscal discipline and national security.”

Appropriations

It’s Appropriations Season in Congress! The Congressional budget resolution allocates the maximum amount of funding for all discretionary federal initiatives in every fiscal year. It’s the appropriators who determine how much actual funding is dedicated for each discretionary initiative, which constitutes about one-third of the federal budget. There are 12 appropriations bills organized by agencies and focus. This week, the House will consider:

Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2016 (HR 2577)

Sponsor: Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) “In total, the bill reflects an allocation of $55.3 billion in discretionary spending – an increase of $1.5 billion above fiscal year 2015 and $9.7 billion below the President’s budget request. However, given reduced offsets – primarily caused by a $1.1 billion decline in Federal Housing Administration receipts – the bill actually represents an increase of only $25 million above the current level. Within the legislation, funds are targeted toward transportation, infrastructure, and housing programs of national need and significance that have the biggest impact on Americans and communities across the country,” according to the House Appropriations Committee. (Read bill text)

Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2016 (HR 2685)

Sponsor: Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) “The legislation funds critical national security needs, military operations abroad, and health and quality-of-life programs for the men and women of the Armed Forces and their families. In total, the bill provides $578.6 billion in discretionary funding, an increase of $24.4 billion above the fiscal year 2015 enacted level and $800 million above the President’s request. This includes $88.4 billion in Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) funding for war efforts and related costs, which is within the level assumed in the House and Senate budget conference agreement,” according to the House Appropriations Committee. (Read bill text)

From our Hill Sources: The House Appropriations Committee also adopted an amendment to the bill stating a sense of Congress that “Congress has a constitutional duty to debate and determine whether or not to authorize the use of military force against ISIL.” The amendment was offered by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA).

Also in the House…

United States Grain Standards Act Reauthorization Act (HR 2088)

Sponsor: Rep. Don Young (R-AL) “Would reauthorize the United States Grain Standards At of 1916, which gave the federal government authorization to establish official marketing standards for grains and oilseeds and provided procedures for grain inspection and weighing. Most of the act is permanently authorized, including mandatory inspection and weighing of exported grain, as well as authority to amend grain standards of quality. However, serveral provisions expire on September 30, 2015,” according to the House Agriculture Committee. (Read bill text)

Mandatory Price Reporting Act (HR 2051)

Sponsor: Rep. Michael Conaway (R-TX) To extend the livestock mandatory price reporting requirements. (Read bill text)

National Forest Foundation Reauthorization Act (HR 2394)

Sponsor: Rep. Glen Thompson (R-AL) “Will reauthorize the National Forest Foundation Act so the Foundation is able to have the resources to continue its work to ensure U.S. national forests and grasslands are maintained,” according to the House Agriculture Committee. (Read bill text)

Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity Clarification Act (HR 889)

Sponsor: Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH) “Bolsters the ability of U.S. museums and schools to borrow foreign government-owned artifacts and artwork from other cultures around the world. The legislation would encourage governments to loan many of their most treasured pieces of art and artifacts for public viewing in the United States. This goodwill partnership between nations of the world would allow for U.S. institutions to feature major pieces from around the world, while assuring foreign governments that their loans would not subject them to litigation in U.S. courts,” according to the House Judiciary Committee. This bill also contains an exception for cultural property taken during the Nazi era. (Read bill text)

Resolution Supporting Police Body Cameras (HRes 295)

Sponsor: Rep. Al Green (D-TX) Resolution supporting local law enforcement agencies in their continued work to serve our communities, and supporting their use of body worn cameras to promote transparency to protect both citizens and officers alike. (Read resolution text)

In the Senate

This week, the Senate plans to finish working on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which would require wrapping up the lengthy amendment process. The NDAA is an amendment magnet in the Senate because it is one of the few bills that makes it through the entire legislative process.

National Defense Authorization Act (HR 1735)

Sponsor: Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX) The comprehensive legislation to authorize the budget authority of the Department of Defense and the national security programs of the Department of Energy. The bill authorizes appropriations to DOD for: (1) Procurement, including aircraft, missiles, weapons and tracked combat vehicles, ammunition, shipbuilding and conversion, space procurement, and other procurement; (2) Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation; (3) Operation and Maintenance; (4) Working Capital Funds; (5) the Joint Urgent Operational Needs Fund; (6) Chemical Agents and Munitions Destruction; (7) Drug Interdiction and Counter-Drug Activities; (8) the Defense Inspector General; (9) the Defense Health Program; (10) the Armed Forces Retirement Home; (11) Overseas Contingency Operations and; (12) Military Construction.

The bill also authorizes the FY2016 personnel strength for active duty and reserve forces and sets forth policies regarding military personnel, compensation and other personnel benefits, acquisition policy and management, DOD organization and management, financial matters, naval vessels and shipyards, civilian personnel matters, and matters relating to foreign nations. (Read bill text)

More than 300 amendments have been offered, including:

  • Senator Rand Paul’s (R-KY) Amendment No. 1543, “Bonus for Cost Cutters”: allows US government agency’s inspector general to pay a bonus of up to $10,000 when a federal employee identifies surplus or unneeded funds; 90% of those savings go towards deficit reduction.
  • Senator Rand Paul’s (R-KY) Amendment No. 1680: would require President Obama to declassify and make available to the public the redacted 28 pages from the Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 2001.
  • Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s (D-NY) Amendment No. 1578, the Military Justice Improvement Act: to ensure that the survivors of military sexual assault have access to an unbiased military judicial system.
  • Senator John McCain’s (R-AZ) Amendment No. 1539, that prohibits the Department of Defense from spending taxpayer dollars to honor American soldiers at sporting events. The amendment also encourages professional sports organizations that have accepted taxpayer funds in exchange for military tributes to return those profits as a charitable contribution to organizations that support members of the US armed forces, veterans, and their families.
  • Senator Portman’s Amendment No. 1522: to authorize $371 million for the Army to research, develop and buy 81 Stryker armored combat vehicles with upgraded weapons systems.
  • Senator Jack Reed's (D-RI) Amendment No. 1521, Overseas Contingency Operation (OCO) Account: fences off the additional $38 billion in OCO funds added to the president’s budget request, unless the budget caps are increased for both defense and non-defense spending.
  • Senator John Cornyn's (R-TX) Amendment No. 1486: requires reporting on energy security issues involving Europe and the Russian Federation.
  • Senator Michael Bennett's (D-CO) Amendment No. 1540: requires a GAO report on major Veterans Affairs medical facility projects.

(See the full list of amendments.)

From our Hill Sources: The Obama Administration has announced that the President may veto this bill in its current form. The Administration strongly objects to a number of provisions in the bill. In particular, "the President has been very clear about the core principle that he will not support a budget that locks in sequestration, and he will not fix defense without fixing non-defense spending," according to a White House statement.


— 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 a complex legislative system. —

Top 20 Bills in May

Here’s a look at the Top 20 Bills in May. These were the bills that garnered the most activity on POPVOX—and what (if any) action they’ve gotten in Congress.

May's most active bill on POPVOX was the America Competes Reauthorization Act (HR 1806), which was passed by the House. Nearly 4,200 people weighed in, with the vast majority opposing the bill.

How many of these bills have you weighed in on?


The Top Bills in May 2015

#1 America Competes Reauthorization Act (HR 1806)

Sponsor: Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) This bill prioritizes basic research and development while staying within the caps set by the Budget Control Act. America’s businesses rely on government support for basic research to produce the scientific breakthroughs that spur technological innovation, jumpstart new industries and spur economic growth," according to the bill sponsor. (Read bill text)

On POPVOX: 0.5% Support | 99.5% Oppose

Action in the 114th Congress: Introduced on 4/15/2015; Passed by the House on 5/20/2015.

#2 Horse Protection Amendments Act (S 1161)

Sponsor: Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) To amend the Horse Protection Act to provide increased protection for horses participating in shows, exhibitions, or sales. (Read bill text)

On POPVOX: 41% Support | 59% Oppose

Action in the 114th Congress: Introduced on 4/30/2015.

#3 USA Freedom Act (HR 2048)

Sponsor: Rep. F. Sensenbrenner (R-WI) — Bipartisan — “As several intelligence-gathering programs are set to expire in a month, it is imperative that we reform these programs to protect Americans’ privacy while at the same time protecting our national security. The bipartisan bill introduced today builds on the Committee’s work on this issue last year. It enhances civil liberties protections, increases transparency for both American businesses and the government, ends the bulk collection of data, and provides national security officials targeted tools to keep America safe from foreign enemies.” according to the bill sponsor. (Read bill text)

On POPVOX: 62.4% Support | 37.6% Oppose

Action in the 114th Congress: Introduced on 4/28/2015; passed by the House 5/13/15; passed by the Senate 6/2/2015 and signed into law by the President on 6/2/2015.

#4 Safeguard American Food Exports Act (HR 1942)

Sponsor: Rep. Frank Guinta (R-NH) — Bipartisan —  “For centuries, horses have embodied the spirit of American freedom and pride. To that end, horses are not raised for food – permitting their transportation for the purposes of being slaughtered for human consumption is not consistent with our values and results in a dangerously toxic product. My bipartisan bill seeks to prevent and end the inhumane and dangerous process of transporting thousands of horses a year for food,” according to the bill sponsor. (Read bill text)

On POPVOX: 89.2% Support | 10.8% Oppose

Action in the 114th Congress: Introduced on 4/22/2015.

#5 Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act (S 995)

Sponsor: Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) — Bipartisan — "This bill establishes new trade-negotiating objectives that reflect today’s economic challenges, including measures to combat currency manipulation, and eliminate barriers to innovation and digital trade, among others. Updated provisions address government involvement in cyber theft, protect trade secrets and the negotiating objectives continue to call for trade agreements to provide a high standard of intellectual property protection. The bill also updates provisions to promote human rights, and strengthen labor and environment protection, to reflect America’s most recent trade accords," according to the bill sponsor. (Read bill text)

On POPVOX: 12.3% Support | 87.7% Oppose

Action in the 114th Congress: Introduced on 4/16/2015.

#6 American Families United Act (HR 2095)

Sponsor: Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) — Bipartisan — This bill would provide necessary discretion to judges and the Department of Homeland Security to provide relief to families who could live legally in the U.S. except that they committed a minor immigration violation in the past, according to the bill sponsor. (Read bill text)

On POPVOX: 95% Support | 5% Oppose

Action in the 114th Congress: Introduced on 4/29/2015.

#7 Hereditary Hemorrhagic Telangiectasia Diagnosis and Treatment Act (HR 1849)

Sponsor: Rep. Edward Royce (R-CA) — Bipartisan — “Hereditary Hemorrhagic Telangiectasia (HHT) is a serious genetic disorder that can lead to sudden internal bleeding, stroke and disability, and even death. Unfortunately, only nine in ten affected individuals are diagnosed and the only visible warning sign is often a common nosebleed, the bipartisan HHT Diagnosis and Treatment Act will support much-needed federal research and surveillance efforts to improve HHT early diagnoses and interventions. Through the work of the NIH and CDC, we can help reduce suffering for HHT patients, further our nation’s strong commitment to medical research and lower health care costs.” according to the bill sponsor. (Read bill text)

On POPVOX: 99.7% Support | 0.3% Oppose

Action in the 114th Congress: Introduced on 4/16/2015.

#8 Stop Online Ammunition Sales Act (HR 2283)

Sponsor: Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) This bill would require federally licensed ammunitions dealers to confirm the identity of individuals who arrange to purchase ammunition over the internet by verifying a photo I.D. in-person. The bill would also require ammunition vendors to report any sales of more than 1,000 rounds within five consecutive days to the U.S. Attorney General, if the person purchasing ammunition is not a licensed dealer. according to the bill sponsor. (Read bill text)

On POPVOX: 2.1% Support | 97.9% Oppose

Action in the 114th Congress: Introduced on 5/12/2015.

#9 PTC Elimination Act (HR 1901)

Sponsor: Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-TX) “Since its creation in 1992, the PTC has ballooned from a temporary boost for energy innovation into a massive special interest handout for the now multibillion-dollar wind industry. Today the wind industry regularly produces more energy than the market demands while hardworking taxpayers shell out billions of dollars each year in PTC support.The PTC Elimination Act would begin this phase-out immediately by significantly scaling back PTC handouts to those who are eligible. Similar proposals have been estimated to save nearly $10 billion,” according to the bill sponsor. (Read bill text)

On POPVOX: 4.1% Support | 95.9% Oppose

Action in the 114th Congress: Introduced on 4/21/2015.

#10 Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (HR 36)

Sponsor: Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) — Bipartisan — “Seeks to afford basic protection to mothers and their unborn children entering the sixth month of gestation,” according to the bill sponsors. Prohibits the abortion from being performed if the probable post-fertilization age of the unborn child is 20 weeks or greater, except: (1) where necessary to save the life of a pregnant woman whose life is endangered by a physical disorder, illness, or injury, excluding psychological or emotional conditions; or (2) where the pregnancy is the result of rape, or the result of incest against a minor, if the rape has been reported at any time prior to the abortion to an appropriate law enforcement agency, or if the incest has been reported at any time prior to the abortion to an appropriate law enforcement agency or to a government agency legally authorized to act on reports of child abuse or neglect.  (Read bill text)

On POPVOX: 67.7% Support | 32.3% Oppose

Action in the 114th Congress: Was scheduled for a House floor vote in January but was pulled from consideration. Congresswoman Renee Ellmers (R-NC) actively opposed some of the language in the bill: “I remain disappointed that the concern for the language of mandatory reporting of rape to law enforcement held by House Republican women and many men were not addressed before our leadership made the decision to pull the bill from the House floor in the eleventh hour.”  Passed the House 5/13/2015; now goes to the Senate for possible consideration.

#11 Expressing the sense of Congress that the people have the Constitutional right to record law enforcement authorities (HConRes 41)

Sponsor: Rep. Janice Hahn (D-CA) Expressing the sense of Congress that the people of the United States have the Constitutional right to record law enforcement authorities, and they have the full protection of the law to the possession of the recording devices, and full protection of the law regarding data saved on the recording devices. (Read bill text)

On POPVOX: 89.6% Support | 10.4% Oppose

Action in the 114th Congress: Introduced on 4/23/2015.

#12 Responsible Body Armor Possession Act (HR 378)

Sponsor: Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA) To prohibit the purchase, ownership, or possession of enhanced body armor by civilians, with exceptions. (Read bill text)

On POPVOX: 1.9% Support | 98.1% Oppose

Action in the 114th Congress: Introduced on 1/14/2015.

#13 PAST Act (S 1121)

Sponsor: Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) — Bipartisan — “To protect horses from the abusive practice known as soring – in which show horse trainers apply blistering or burning agents, lacerations, sharp objects, or other substances or devices to a horse's limb to intentionally make each step painful, forcing a horse to perform an exaggerated high-stepping gait that is rewarded in show rings,” according to bill sponsor. (Read bill text)

On POPVOX: 62.1% Support | 37.9% Oppose

Action in the 114th Congress: Introduced on 4/28/2015.

#14 National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2016 (HR 1735)

Sponsor: Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX) — Bipartisan — According to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), “in order to respond to an increasingly dangerous world from the terrorist threat in Africa and the Middle East to Russian aggression in Europe, the committee’s bill makes sure our military has the resources and capabilities it needs to keep America safe and defend our interests abroad. The bill: ensures our military has funding for national defense and overseas operations; makes sure our military personnel receive the benefits they need, deserve, and earned; authorizes and provides resources for cyber defense; updates our crumbling nuclear infrastructure; funds the purchasing of the most advanced missiles, planes, bombers, tanks, defense systems, and more; and supports joint US-Israeli missile defense against those who threaten instability in the region.” “This authorization institutes necessary reforms in the Department of Defense’s costly and duplicative acquisitions process,” according to House Majority Leader McCarthy (R-CA). “To accomplish that, the bill: reforms acquisitions strategy by streamlining the processes and reducing the number of legal certifications needed for acquisitions; empowers the workforce to allow our best military talent to serve in acquisition roles and increases training on markets; simplifies the chain of command to cut down on the multiple layers of bureaucracy.” “The NDAA also cuts wasteful expenditures and institutes much needed compensation reform. For the first time, our troops will be able to choose to either be grandfathered into the current retirement plan or contribute to a Thrift Savings Plan, which ensures that our servicemembers who serve for less than 20 years will still accrue retirement savings.” (Source: House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy) (Read bill text)

On POPVOX: 53.7% Support | 46.3% Oppose

Action in the 114th Congress: Introduced on 4/13/2015.

#15 Fair Tax Act (HR 25)

Sponsor: Rep. Rob Woodall (R-GA) "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," according to the bill summary. Repeals the income tax, employment tax, and estate and gift tax. Imposes a national sales tax on the use or consumption in the United States of taxable property or services. Sets the sales tax rate at 23% in 2017, with adjustments to the rate in subsequent years. Allows exemptions from the tax for property or services purchased for business, export, or investment purposes, and for state government functions. Prohibits the funding of the Internal Revenue Service after FY 2019.  (Read bill text)

On POPVOX: 95.1% Support | 4.9% Oppose

Action in the 114th Congress: Introduced on the first day of the Congressional session, 1/6/2015.

#16 End Racial Profiling Act (HR 1933)

Sponsor: Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) To eliminate racial profiling by law enforcement. “Has a multi-pronged approach to healing the rift between community and law enforcement,” according to the bill sponsors. “It will eliminate the well documented problem of racial profiling by establishing a prohibition on the practice and mandating retraining and data collection by federal law enforcement agencies. The legislation also provides grants for the reinforcement and/or development of effective, positive policing practices. For the first time, this bill will make federal cause of action for racial profiling, meaning victims will be able to seek redress in a court of law.” 

On POPVOX: 20% Support | 80% Oppose

Action in the 114th Congress: Introduced on 4/22/2015.

#17 Police Accountability Act (HR 1102)

Sponsor: Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) “Would expand the Department of Justice’s authority to investigate wrongdoing by police by making it a federal crime for police officers to commit murder and manslaughter,” according to the bill sponsor. “Expanding authority under the “Police Accountability Act” would enable the DOJ to conduct murder investigations and bring charges in the event that states fail to do so. This way, civil rights investigations, while encouraged, would not be the only mechanism to necessary to hold police accountable.”  (Read bill text)

On POPVOX: 30.2% Support | 69.8% Oppose

Action in the 114th Congress: Introduced on 2/26/2015.

#18 Gas Tax Replacement Act (HR 309)

Sponsor: Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA) ”The Gas Tax Replacement Act would take our nation in a bold new direction and stabilize the chronically-underfunded Highway Trust Fund, which states and municipalities rely on to repair crumbling roads and bridges, expand transit rail service, and support a growing economy. Further, the Gas Tax Replacement Act would help spur advancements in clean energy technology, reduce carbon pollution, and fight climate change here at home and abroad,” according to the bill sponsor. (Read bill text)

On POPVOX: 13.4% Support | 86.6% Oppose

Action in the 114th Congress: Introduced on 1/13/2015.

#19 Highway and Transportation Funding Act (HR 2353)

Sponsor: Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA) To provide an extension of Federal-aid highway, highway safety, motor carrier safety, transit, and other programs funded out of the Highway Trust Fund. According to the bill sponsor: “while highway and transit program spending authority expires at the end of the month, the Highway Trust Fund has sufficient resources to fund its obligations through the end of July. It was our preference to move an extension through the end of the year, but we will need more time to reach a bipartisan agreement on offsets. This legislation will allow transportation spending to continue through July, while we work towards a next step to close the Trust Fund’s shortfall. Doing so will require our colleagues on both sides of the aisle to be constructive in working towards a solution. Only then will we be able to produce a plan that gives states the certainty they need to build the roads, bridges, and other infrastructure our communities and economy need to thrive.” (Read bill text)

On POPVOX: 51.1% Support | 48.9% Oppose

Action in the 114th Congress: Introduced on 5/15/2015; Passed by the House on 5/19/2015; Passed by the Senate on 5/23/15; Signed into law by the President on 5/29/15.

#20 Police CAMERA Act (HR 1680)

Sponsor: Rep. Corinne Brown (D-FL) —Bipartisan— Would create a pilot grant program to assist state and local law enforcement agencies with purchasing or leasing body-worn cameras, according to bill sponsors. “Body cameras will benefit the brave men and women who serve in our police force and the people they protect,” said Sen. Paul. “The use of body cameras helps officers collect and preserve evidence to solve crimes, while also decreasing the number of complaints against police. The Police CAMERA Act will help state and local police departments access this new tool, while ensuring that the privacy rights of every civilian is respected.” (Read bill text)

On POPVOX: 37% Support | 63% Oppose

Action in the 114th Congress: Introduced on 3/26/2015.


— 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 a complex legislative system. —

The Week Ahead: June 1 – 5

From our Hill Sources: The Senate was in session on Sunday—a rare occurrence—to consider reforming NSA surveillance programs before provisions of the PATRIOT Act expire at midnight. The House will return on Monday to consider American fishing, modernizing the Toxic Substance Control Act and several land bills. Also, it’s Appropriations season!

Reforming NSA Surveillance

The Senate returned to session on Sunday, May 31, to consider whether to reform NSA data collection before the midnight deadline that will "sunset" major provisions of the PATRIOT Act. They failed to reach a deal before they left for the Memorial Day recess—and the debate continues on the Senate floor today. On Sunday, the Senate voted 77-to-17 to advance the House-passed USA Freedom Act, reforming NSA surveillance programs. Sixty votes were needed for the bill to move to a vote.

In the House, critics of the PATRIOT Act have kept guard over the Memorial Day recess to ensure that the expiring provisions weren’t extended without their consent while members were out. There was some speculation that House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) could bring a short-term extension up for a voice vote during a brief pro forma session and enact it as long as there were no objections.

The House passed a bill reforming the NSA data collection program before leaving for recess, which the Senate is now considering:

USA Freedom Act ( HR 2048)

Sponsor: Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) To reform intelligence-gathering programs operated under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). According to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), the bill:

  • Ends bulk collection (“In place of the current bulk telephone metadata program, the USA Freedom Act creates a narrower, targeted program that allows the Intelligence Community to collect non-content call detail records held by the telephone companies, but only with the prior approval of the FISA Court. The records provided to the government in response to queries will be limited to two “hops” and the government’s handling of any records it acquires would be governed by minimization procedures approved by the FISA Court.”);
  • Prevents government overreach (“strengthens the definition of “specific selection term,” – the mechanism used to prohibit bulk collection – to ensure the government can collect the information it needs to further a national security investigation while also prohibiting large-scale, indiscriminate collection, such as data from an entire state, city, or even zip code.”);
  • Strengthens protections for civil liberties (“creates a panel of experts to advise the FISA Court on matters of privacy and civil liberties, communications technology, and other technical or legal matters.”). (Source: House Judiciary Committee) (Read bill text)

American Fisheries

In a memo to House Republicans, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) prioritized the American fishing industry on this month’s agenda: “The American fishing industry doesn’t just put food on the plates of millions of American families; it also supports jobs and the economy.” This week, the House will vote on:

Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act (HR 1335)

Sponsor: Rep. Don Young (R-AK) “This reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act will increase local control so that councils and local stakeholders have greater ability to manage their fisheries. It will also promote the conservation and management of U.S. fishery resources, ensure sustainable domestic fisheries can be harvested in federal waters, and provide for a thriving domestic seafood industry,” according to the House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy. (Read bill text)  Flow chart from the House Committee on Natural Resources.

From our Hill Sources: The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act) is the primary law governing marine fisheries management in US federal waters. First passed in 1976, the Magnuson-Stevens Act fosters long-term biological and economic sustainability of our nation's marine fisheries out to 200 nautical miles from shore. The goals of the law include preventing overfishing, rebuilding overfished stocks, increasing long-term economic and social benefits, and ensuring ensuring a safe and sustainable supply of seafood. (Learn more.)

This week, the House will also vote on a related bill:

National Estuary Program Reauthorization (HR 944)

Sponsor: Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ) —Bipartisan— To reauthorize the National Estuary Program. “Established in 1987, the NEP’s goal is to improve the quality of estuaries by developing plans for attaining or maintaining water quality. This includes protection of public water supplies and the protection of indigenous populations of shellfish, fish, and wildlife. According to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the nation’s estuaries provide habitat for 75% of the US commercial fish catch and 80-90% of the recreational fish catch,” according to the bill sponsors. (Read bill text)

Modernizing the Toxic Substances Control Act

Toxic Substances Control Act Modernization Act (HR 2576)

Sponsor: Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) —Bipartisan— “The landmark bill is a bipartisan effort to bring reform to the decades-old Toxic Substances Control Act. The legislation will improve the protection of human health and the environment, help better facilitate interstate and international commerce, and provide the public greater confidence in the safety of American-made chemicals and the products that contain them,” according to the House Energy & Commerce Committee.

According to the Committee, the TSCA Modernization Act would: 

  • Provide EPA the tools to ensure chemicals in commerce are safer for consumers
  • Create a new system for EPA to evaluate and manage risks associated with chemicals already on the market
  • Set deadlines for EPA to take action (Risk evaluations must be completed within 3 years; Risk management rules must follow completion of risk evaluations by 90 days)
  • Ensure user fees paid to EPA for specific purposes are used just for those purposes
  • Provide limited preemption of state law
  • Maintain protection of confidential business information

(Read bill text)

Appropriations

It’s Appropriations Season in Congress! The Congressional budget resolution allocates the maximum amount of funding for all discretionary federal initiatives in every fiscal year. It’s the appropriators who determine how much actual funding is dedicated for each discretionary initiative, which constitutes about one-third of the federal budget. There are 12 appropriations bills organized by agencies and focus. This week, the House will consider:

Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2016 (HR 2578)

Sponsor: Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) “The bill funds the Department of Commerce, the Department of Justice, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and other related agencies. The legislation contains $51.4 billion in total discretionary funding, an increase of $1.3 billion over fiscal year 2015 and $661 million below the President’s request for these programs. The bill prioritizes funding for law enforcement, national security, science, and space exploration programs,” according to the House Appropriations Committee. (Read bill text or summary)

This week, the House may also consider:

Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2016 (HR 2577)

Sponsor: Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) “In total, the bill reflects an allocation of $55.3 billion in discretionary spending – an increase of $1.5 billion above fiscal year 2015 and $9.7 billion below the President’s budget request. However, given reduced offsets – primarily caused by a $1.1 billion decline in Federal Housing Administration receipts – the bill actually represents an increase of only $25 million above the current level. Within the legislation, funds are targeted toward transportation, infrastructure, and housing programs of national need and significance that have the biggest impact on Americans and communities across the country,” according to the House Appropriations Committee. (Read bill text)

Also in the House…

The House plans to vote on the following bills this week:

Authorizing early repayment of obligations to the Bureau of Reclamation within the Nebraska Northport Irrigation District (HR 404)

Sponsor: Rep. Adrian Smith (R-NE) Authorizes any landowner within the Northport Irrigation District in Nebraska to repay, at any time, the construction costs of project facilities allocated to the landowner's land within the District. Provides that upon discharge in full of the obligation for repayment of all such costs, the parcels of land shall not be subject to the ownership and full-cost pricing limitations under federal reclamation law. Directs the Secretary of the Interior, upon request, to provide to the landowner who has repaid such costs in full a certificate acknowledging that the landholding is free of such limitations. (Read bill text)

Revoking the charter of incorporation of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma (HR 533)

Sponsor: Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) —Bipartisan— Accepts the request of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma to revoke the charter of incorporation issued to that tribe and ratified by its members on June 1, 1940. (Read bill text)

Native American Children's Safety Act (HR 1168)

Sponsor: Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) “A background check must be conducted on all adults living in a potential foster home before a tribal court can place any child there. This must include a National Instant Criminal Background Check as well as a search of child abuse or neglect registries maintained by the tribe or any state the individual has lived in the preceding five years. Any adult 18 years or older who moves into the home after placement of the child would also be required to undergo the same thorough check. A tribal foster care placement would be prohibited if a search reveals that a covered individual has been convicted of felony spousal or child abuse, felony child neglect, felony drug conviction, or a violent felony,” according to the bill sponsors. (Read bill text)

Designating a “Sky Point” Mountain (HR 979)

Sponsor: Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) —Bipartisan— To designate a mountain in the John Muir Wilderness of the Sierra National Forest as "Sky Point" (Read bill text)

To convey federal property in Alaska to the Municipality of Anchorage (HR 336)

Sponsor: Rep. Don Young (R-AK) Directs the Administrator of the General Services Administration, on behalf of the Archivist of the United States, to convey to the City of Anchorage, Alaska, property in such city consisting of approximately nine acres and improvements located at 400 East Fortieth Avenue for not less than fair market value. (Read bill text)

Girls Count Act (S 802)

Sponsor: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) —Bipartisan— “Directing current US foreign assistance programming to provide assistance to support the rights of women and girls in developing countries by working to establish birth registries in their countries,” according to the bill sponsors. “Every year, approximately 51 million children under the age of five are not registered at birth, most of whom are girls. Proof of birth determines a child’s citizenship, nationality, place of birth, parentage and age, which are critical to ensuring children remain a part of society and do not fall victim to dangers such as exploitation.” (Read bill text) – Passed by the Senate; now goes to the House for consideration –

Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act (HR 1493)

Sponsor: Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) —Bipartisan— “Would impose import restrictions on cultural property illegally removed from Syria, mirroring restrictions currently in place for Iraq, and better coordinate US government efforts to protect cultural property around the world. It would designate a Coordinator for International Cultural Property Protection at the Department of State and establish a Coordinating Committee to organize inter-agency efforts to combat the destruction of cultural property due to political instability, armed conflict, or natural disaster,” according to the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “Cultural property has recently been lost in Syria and Iraq at the hands of ISIL and other groups, in Egypt due to political instability, in Mali and Afghanistan from radical Islamist activity, in Haiti from the 2010 earthquake, and as a result of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.” (Read bill text)


— 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 a complex legislative system. —

Nine Facts You Should Know this Memorial Day

In honor of Memorial Day, we wanted to share some facts about the holiday. For those of you who have served in our country's Armed Forces, we thank you and your families for your service.

Arlington National Cemetery

1. Memorial Day was established after the Civil War.

Three years after the end of the Civil War (May 5, 1868), an organization of Union veterans established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. May 30 was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country.

2. Memorial Day was first observed at Arlington National Cemetery.

However, several local springtime tributes to the Civil War dead already had been held in various places. One of the first occurred in Columbus, Miss., April 25, 1866, when a group of women visited a cemetery to decorate the graves of Confederate soldiers who had fallen in battle at Shiloh. The nearby graves of Union soldiers lay bare — and the women placed some of their flowers on those graves as well.

3. After World War I, Memorial day was expanded to honor all Americans who died in war.

In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress and placed on the last Monday in May.

4. A National Moment of Remembrance at 3pm on Memorial Day honors those who have died in service with a minute-long moment of silence.

In December 2000, Congress passed and President Clinton signed into law “The National Moment of Remembrance Act,” PL 106-579

5. The flag should be flown at half-staff from sunrise until noon only.

On Memorial Day, the flag should be flown at half-staff from sunrise until noon only, then raised briskly to the top of the staff until sunset, in honor of the nation’s battle heroes. No regulations existed for flying the flag at half-staff and, as a result, there were many conflicting policies — until March 1, 1954, when President Dwight Eisenhower issued a proclamation on the proper times. (Learn more on flag etiquette.)

6. Bright red poppies were first sold in 1920 to help orphans and others struggling after the war.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars adopted the poppy as its official memorial flower in 1922. And in 1924, a poppy factory was built in Pittsburgh, Pa., providing a reliable source of poppies and a practical means of assistance to veterans. (Learn about the VFW's Buddy Poppy Program.)

7. The Old Guard honors the fallen with a tradition known as "flags in."

The Old Guard (3rd US Infantry designated as the Army's official ceremonial unit) places flags before the gravestones of service members buried at both Arlington National Cemetery and the US Soldier's and Airmen's Home National Cemetery just prior to Memorial Day weekend. Small American flags are placed one foot in from and centered before each grave marker: the toe of the combat boot placed against the center of a headstone, flag planted at the heel. In three hours, The Old Guard places flags in front of more than 260,000 gravestones and about 7,300 niches at the cemetery's columbarium, and they remain in the cemetery throughout the weekend, ensuring that a flag remains at each gravestone. (Watch video of the tradition. See photos of the Old Guard on Facebook.)

8. More than one million Americans died in our nation’s conflicts going back to the Revolutionary War:

Honor Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

  1. American Revolution (1775-1783): 4,435
  2. War of 1812 (1812-1815): 2,260
  3. Mexican War (1846-1848): 13,283
  4. Civil War (1861-1865): 364,511 (Union and Confederate)
  5. Spanish-American War (1898-1902): 2,446
  6. World War I (1917-1918): 116,516
  7. World War II (1941-1945): 405,399
  8. Korean War (1950-1953): 36,574
  9. Vietnam War (1964-1975): 58,209
  10. Gulf War (1990-1991): 382
  11. Afghanistan War (2001-present): 2,355 (as of May 19, 2015)
  12. Iraq War (2003-2012): 4,486

9. Out of the 83,126 missing, approximately 75% of the losses are located in the Asia-Pacific, and over 41,000 of the missing are presumed lost at sea (i.e. ship losses, known aircraft water losses, etc.) (as of April 15, 2015).

Last week, the Department of Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced the remains of a US soldier missing from the Korean War have been identified and will be returned to his family for burial with full military honors. In 1950, Army Pfc. Paul L. Tingle, 36, of Montpelier, Ohio was deployed north and east of the town of Kujang, North Korea. When their defensive line was attacked by Chinese forces, Tingle was reported missing in action. (Learn about the Honor Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.)

(Sources: Dept. of Veterans Affairs; VA Fact Sheet on Displaying the Flag at Half-staff; The Flower of Remembrance; PBS National Memorial Day Concert; Arlington National Cemetery; ; CRS Report on American War and Military Operations CasualtiesDOD Casualty Report; Stars and Stripes) 

The Week Ahead: May 25 – 29

Arlington National Cemetery

From our Hill Sources: Congress is in recess this week, but the Senate will return early to consider NSA data collection. Last week, the Senate passed “fast track” trade authority, which now goes to the House. Also, a look at bills related to veterans in honor of Memorial Day.

NSA Data Collection Sunsets on Sunday

The Senate will return on Sunday, May 31, to attempt to pass a bill before the midnight deadline that will "sunset" major provisions of the PATRIOT Act. They failed in their attempt to reach a deal before they left for the Memorial Day recess. Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-KY) “filibuster” on Thursday added to the delay.

Meanwhile, the House passed its version – the USA FREEDOM Act – before leaving for recess. So now, the Senate is left with few options to pass a bill before the sunset: accept the House bill or hope the House returns to vote on a Senate-passed alternative.

USA Freedom Act (House bill, HR 2048)

Sponsor: Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) To reform intelligence-gathering programs operated under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). According to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), the bill:

  • Ends bulk collection (“In place of the current bulk telephone metadata program, the USA Freedom Act creates a narrower, targeted program that allows the Intelligence Community to collect non-content call detail records held by the telephone companies, but only with the prior approval of the FISA Court. The records provided to the government in response to queries will be limited to two “hops” and the government’s handling of any records it acquires would be governed by minimization procedures approved by the FISA Court.”);
  • Prevents government overreach (“strengthens the definition of “specific selection term,” – the mechanism used to prohibit bulk collection – to ensure the government can collect the information it needs to further a national security investigation while also prohibiting large-scale, indiscriminate collection, such as data from an entire state, city, or even zip code.”);
  • Strengthens protections for civil liberties (“creates a panel of experts to advise the FISA Court on matters of privacy and civil liberties, communications technology, and other technical or legal matters.”). (Source: House Judiciary Committee) (Read bill text)

From our Hill Sources: The Senate started working with the House-passed bill, but it failed to achieve cloture by two votes. The Senate then attempted to pass a straight two-month extension of the PATRIOT Act, and that failed to achieve cloture as well.

At that point, Majority Leader asked (many times) for unanimous consent to shorter-term extensions, but senators (primarily Senator Rand Paul) continued to object. (Watch that exchange)

”Fast Track” Trade Authority Goes to the House

Also on Friday, the Senate considered, and passed, Trade Promotion Authority to allow the Obama administration to negotiate trade agreements within Congressionally-defined parameters that would then receive an up or down vote in Congress.

Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act (“Trade Promotion Authority” or TPA-2015) (S 995)

Sponsor: Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) —Bipartisan— “Outlines 21st century congressional negotiating objectives that any administration – Republican or Democratic – must follow when entering into and conducting trade talks with foreign countries while also increasing transparency by requiring that Congress have access to important information surrounding pending trade deals and that the public receive detailed updates and see the full details of trade agreements well before they are signed. When the trade agreement meets the United States’ objectives and Congress is sufficiently consulted, the legislation allows for trade deals to be submitted to Congress for an up-or-down vote, an incentive for negotiating nations to put their best offer forward for any deal. At the same time, the bill creates a new mechanism to withdraw TPA procedures and hold the administration accountable should it fail to meet the requirements of TPA,” according to the bill sponsors. (Read bill textSenate Democrats also negotiated into the “fast-track” package consideration of the Trade Adjustment Assistance Reauthorization Act (S 1268), a federal program that helps retrain workers who have lost their jobs because companies moving production overseas.

From our Hill Sources: TPA now must be considered by the House, where House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) is supportive though many in the Republican caucus are not. This vote is anticipated to be another nail-biter that will require Democratic and Republican cooperation. The White House is pushing for House Democrats' support, while 151 House Democrats sent a letter saying they will not support TPA. 

Honoring Veterans on Memorial Day

Three years after the end of the Civil War (May 5, 1868), an organization of Union veterans established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. May 30 was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country. (Nine facts about Memorial Day.) This week on POPVOX, we are highlighting bills related to veterans:

GI Bill Fairness Act (S 602 and in the House, HR 1141)

Sponsor: Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) “Would ensure wounded Guardsmen and Reservists receive the GI Bill benefits they’ve earned,” according to the bill sponsors. “Members of the Guard or Reserve who are wounded in combat are often given orders under 10 USC 12301(h) for their recovery, treatment and rehabilitation. Unfortunately, federal law does not recognize such orders as eligible for Post-9/11 GI Bill education assistance, meaning that unlike other members of the military, these members of the Guard and Reserve actually lose benefits for being injured in the line of duty. The GI Bill Fairness Act would end that unequal treatment and ensure these service members are eligible for the same GI Bill benefits as active duty members of the military.” (Read bill text)

Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act (S 681)

Sponsor: Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) “To ensure thousands of Navy veterans known as "Blue Water" vets from the Vietnam War exposed to the powerful toxin Agent Orange will be eligible to receive disability and health care benefits they have earned for diseases linked to Agent Orange exposure, according to bill sponsors. “During the Vietnam War, the US military sprayed approximately 20 million gallons of Agent Orange in Vietnam to remove jungle foliage. This toxic chemical had devastating effects for millions serving in Vietnam. In 1991, Congress passed a law requiring Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide presumptive coverage to Vietnam veterans with illnesses that the Institute of Medicine has directly linked to Agent Orange exposure. However, in 2002 the VA determined that it would only cover Veterans who could prove that they had orders for “boots on the ground” during the Vietnam War. This exclusion affects thousands of sailors who may have still received significant Agent Orange exposure from receiving VA benefits.” (Read bill text)

21st Century Veterans Benefits Delivery Act (S 1203)

Sponsor: Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) “Comprehensive legislation designed to create a system that can withstand surges in disability claims without generating another veteran disability claims backlog,” according to the bill sponsors. “Will assist and educate veterans on the benefits of submitting a completed claim and encourages the use of the resources and services available to help a veteran complete a claim.” “Institutes improvements to Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) processes to increase accuracy and efficiency at the regional office level, and ensure transparency.” “Holds the government accountable and helps to ensure the claims process is a priority.” (Read bill text)

Charlie Morgan Military Spouses Equal Treatment Act (S 270)

Sponsor: Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) “Extending veterans benefits to same-sex couples and their families regardless of where they live,” according to the bill sponsor. “The legislation is named after the late New Hampshire National Guard Chief Warrant Officer Charlie Morgan who passed away in 2013 after a battle with breast cancer; after her passing, Morgan’s wife and daughter were initially ineligible to receive certain survivor benefits until the Supreme Court ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional. To this day, families in states where same-sex marriages are not recognized remain ineligible for certain Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits.” (Read bill text)


— 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 a complex legislative system. —