The POPVOX Blog

  1. The Week Ahead: Oct. 7 - 11

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

    The Government Shutdown -- and a Divided Congress

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

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

    A "Clean" CR and a Piecemeal Approach

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

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

    Furloughed Employees' Paychecks

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

    Discharge Petition to End the Shutdown

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

    The Next Crisis Only 10 Days Away: The Debt Ceiling

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

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

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

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

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

  2. Issue Spotlight: Shutdown

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

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

    Signed into Law: The Pay Our Military Act

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

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

    Pending Bills for the Shutdown

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

    House Republican Piecemeal FY 2014 Appropriations Bills

    Related to Servicemembers and Veterans

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

    Related to Lawmakers' Pay

    Related to Seniors

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

    Related to DC

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

    Related to Federal Employees

    Other Related Bills

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

  3. POPVOX Daily Digest - October 5, 2013

    From our Hill Sources

    House Passes Retroactive Pay for Furloughed Workers

     

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

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

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

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

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

    • HConRes 58

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

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

  4. POPVOX Daily Digest - October 4, 2013

    From our Hill Sources

    More Short-term Spending Bills Pass House

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

    Both bills would fund these programs through mid-December.

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

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

    Senate Advances Two Bills

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

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

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

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

    What a Week!

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

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

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

    Here are the bills and proposals that POPVOX users weighed in on with Congress in the past week. Keep in mind that these numbers aren't aggregates of total support, but just what happened in the past seven days.

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

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

  6. POPVOX Daily Digest - October 3, 2013

    From our Hill Sources:

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

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

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

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


     

    Senate not expected to consider the bills.

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

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


     

     

  7. The Showdown Ends in a Shutdown

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

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

    Bills for a Government Shutdown

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

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

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

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

    Signed into Law

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

    House Republican Piecemeal FY 2014 Appropriations Bills

    Related to Servicemembers and Veterans

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

    Related to Lawmakers' Pay

    Related to Seniors

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

    Related to DC

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

    Related to Federal Employees

    Other Related Bills

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

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

    From our Hill sources:

    House Attempts "Piecemeal" Approach to Government Funding

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

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

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

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

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

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

    The bills are:

    Senate Requests Farm Bill Conference

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

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

     

  9. POPVOX Daily Digest - October 1, 2013

    From our Hill sources:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

    From our Hill sources:

    House advances Continuing Resolution

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    The bill passed unanimously, 423 - 0.

    Also passed: State Department Appropriations

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

    The bill passed 384 - 37.

  11. POPVOX Daily Digest - September 27, 2013

    From our Hill sources:

     Hot Potato Returns to the House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  12. The POPVOX Top 20: Sept. 20 - 26

    The Federal Spending Bill is the Top Issue of the Week

    The Continuing Resolution (HJRes 59) is the top bill among POPVOX users this past week. Not surprising since its fate will decide whether the federal government shuts down on October 1st. 

    Here's a recap of the Shutdown Showdown: Last week, the House passed their Continuing Resolution, which would fund the government through Dec. 15 -- but also defund Obamacare and would require the government to prioritize interest payments on the debt in the event of a shutdown. Today, the bill is being considered by the Senate -- and will likely pass and be sent back to the House without the Obamacare provision. Then the House will have to decide whether to accept those changes, or tweak it again. On POPVOX, more than two in three support the Continuing Resolution with the defunding Obamacare provision. (Learn more about the Shutdown Showdown.) 

    POPVOX Roundup: Week of Sept. 20 - 26

    Here are the bills and proposals that POPVOX users weighed in on with Congress in the past week. Keep in mind that these numbers aren't aggregates of total support, but just what happened in the past seven days.

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

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

  13. POPVOX Daily Digest - September 26, 2013

    From our Hill Sources:

    Senate Fails to Speed UP Consideration of Continuing Resolution

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

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

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

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

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


     

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

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

    From our Hill Sources:

    The Continuing Resolution

    Senate Voted 100-0 to Proceed to the Continuing Resolution 

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

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

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

    Up Next: Ending Debate (Cloture) 

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

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

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

    Other Senate Business

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

    House Passes Suspension Bills

    The House was also in and passed two suspension bills:

    • HR 1961 extending an exemption that the Delta Queen -- a steamship with national landmark status -- gets from federal fire safety rules.This bill passed 280-89.
    • HRes 354 a Senate-amended House bill that requires the government to auction off its helium supplies. This bill passed 367-0, and heads to the White House next.
  15. The Shutdown Showdown Part 1

    You Know You're In Washington, DC When...

    I'm sitting at a coffee shop in Dupont Circle and people are chatting about whether the federal government will shut down next week. Someone behind the counter says, "I don't watch the news. Can someone tell me what's going on?" Several "wifi hobos" (you know, the ones that sit at coffee shops for the wifi) add their opinion on what will happen. Everyone agrees that there's a 50 percent chance there will be a shutdown.

    Recap of the Government Shutdown Showdown

    Last week, the House passed this "Continuing Resolution":

    Now, the bill is being considered by the Senate. Senate Democrats want to strip out the Obamacare and interest payment provisions and send it back to the House. If they can do it, House Republicans will have to decide whether to accept those changes, or tweak it again.

    Enter Senator Ted Cruz. Beginning at 2:41pm on Tuesday, Senator Cruz (R-Texas) took to the Senate floor to deliver a lengthy speech and announced his intention to "speak against Obamacare until I am no longer able to stand." (If it's technically not a filibuster because of the Senate's procedural rules, can it be called a "fauxlibuster"?) As of 9am this morning, Senator Cruz was still standing -- and had even channeled Darth Vader. (Watch his "Mike Lee, I am your father" moment.)

    House cancels their weekend. The uncertainty over how the week will proceed has already led the House to cancel its weekend, in case they must work on the spending bill before the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30.

    The only things we know for certain is (1) the government will be forced to shut down if a spending bill isn't passed by Sept. 30; and (2) the Democrats don't like the House-passed resolution.

    In Case the Government Shuts Down

    The federal government has shut down 17 times since a new budgeting process was put into place in 1976. Both Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan dealt with six shutdowns each. The most recent shutdown came in 1996 -- for three weeks! If there is a shutdown this time, it may mean millions of federal employees getting furloughed, national parks closing, and even delays to passports, visas and Social Security and Medicare payments. Servicemembers may not get paid in time either -- and veterans may not get their benefits. (Letter to President from House Members.) A federal government shutdown may also mean a District of Columbia government shutdown. (Letter from Del. Eleanor Norton (D-DC).) Ironically, a shutdown wouldn't necessarily shut down Obamacare.

    Already, several bills have been introduced in the event the government shuts down. If you're part of the 50 percent of people at this coffee shop who think the government might shut down, then it's a good time to share your views on POPVOX and alert your friends and networks.

    • S 1543 A bill to appropriate such funds as may be necessary to ensure that members of the Armed Forces, including reserve components thereof, and supporting civilian and contractor personnel continue to receive pay and allowances for active service performed when a funding gap caused by the failure to enact interim or full-year appropriations for the Armed Forces occurs, which results in the furlough of non-emergency personnel and the curtailment of Government activities and services. Just introduced!
    • S 1541 Military Pay Protection Act: to appropriate such funds as may be necessary to ensure that members of the Armed Forces, including reserve components thereof, and supporting civilian and contractor personnel continue to receive pay and allowances for active service performed when a Governmentwide shutdown occurs. Just introduced!
    • HR 3152 Pay Our Veterans and Seniors First Act: To prohibit Members of Congress, the President, the Vice President, and the head of any Executive department from receiving pay for any period in which there is a Government shutdown and to provide for payments to seniors, military and veterans during a Government shutdown. Just introduced!
    • HR 3166 A bill to appropriate such funds as may be necessary to ensure certain important functions of the Government continue during a Governmentwide shutdown. Just introduced!
    • HR 3160 Government Shutdown Fairness Act: to reduce the annual rate of pay of Members of Congress if a Government shutdown occurs during a year. Just introduced!
    • HR 3100 DC Government Shutdown Avoidance Act: To amend the District of Columbia Home Rule Act to make local funds of the District of Columbia available for use by the District during any portion of a fiscal year in which no Federal law appropriating local funds for the fiscal year is in effect, at the rates of operation provided under the local budget act for the fiscal year. Just introduced!

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

  16. POPVOX Daily Digest - September 24, 2013

    From our Hill Sources

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

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

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

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

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

  17. POPVOX Daily Digest - September 23, 2013

    From our Hill sources:

    Senate CR procedural maneuvers begin

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

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

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

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

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


     

    The House was not in session.


     

  18. POPVOX Daily Digest - September 20, 2013

    From our Hill sources:

    House Passes Continuing Resolution (Defunds ACA, includes "Full Faith & Credit" language

    The House approved H.J.Res. 59, which funds the government through December 15, a goal most members support. The resolution also defunds ObamaCare, something Democrats in the Senate oppose.
     

    The House passed the bill 230-189, with just one Republican "no" vote.

    When the Senate returns next week, it is expected to try to remove this language, and send it back to the House. The House will then have to decide if it can live with the Senate's adjustments, a decision that could prove tricky for House Republican leaders.

    Congress is rushing to finish the bill by September 30, which is when funding for the government runs out.


    House Passes Timber Bill

    Also Friday, the House passed a less-controversial bill that would reformulate the government's forest management system.

    H.R. 1526, the Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act, calls for increased timber harvests on public lands, which supporters say would lead to job creation and also help remove timber that can end up as fuel for wildfires.

    Members passed this bill 244-173, and it won the support of 17 Democrats.



    The Senate was out Friday.



     

  19. The POPVOX Top 20: Sept. 13 - 19

    Food Stamps Tops Priority List on POPVOX

    The Nutrition Reform and Work Opportunity Act (HR 3102) was the most popular bill on POPVOX in the past week. Three in four POPVOX users told Congress that they support the bill. The Nutrition Reform and Work Opportunity Act would reauthorize federal nutrition programs but make significant cuts to the food stamp program. According to POPVOX's Hill Sources, the bill is essentially the nutrition title of the farm bill that failed to move forward earlier this year. However, it would cut $40 billion from federal nutrition programs, a bigger cut than what was in the earlier bill. About $20 billion would cut by narrowing eligibility for food stamps, and another $20 billion would be cut by ending eligibility for people who aren't working or looking for work.

    POPVOX Roundup: Week of Sept. 13 - 19

    Here are the bills and proposals that POPVOX users weighed in on with Congress in the past week. Keep in mind that these numbers aren't aggregates of total support, but just what happened in the past seven days.

    • HR 3102#1 Nutrition Reform and Work Opportunity Act: To amend the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008.

      437 Support | 153 Oppose

    • S 1490#2 Delaying the implementation of Obamacare.: A bill to delay the application of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

      461 Support | 59 Oppose

    • HR 3086#3 The Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act: To permanently extend the Internet Tax Freedom Act.

      441 Support | 12 Oppose

    • HJR 58#4 House Resolution Prohibiting the use of funds available to any US Government department or agency for the use of force in, or directed at, Syria by the United States Armed Forces.

      402 Support | 11 Oppose

    • HJR 62#5 Stability, Security, and Fairness Resolution: Making continuing appropriations for fiscal year 2014.

      332 Support | 55 Oppose

    • HR 3093#6 Union Bailout Prevention Act: To exclude individuals who receive health insurance coverage pursuant to the terms of a collective bargaining agreement from tax credits and reductions in cost-sharing under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

      325 Support | 34 Oppose

    • SJR 21#7 Senate Resolution Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against the Government of Syria to Respond to Use of Chemical Weapons

      13 Support | 318 Oppose

    • HR 3092#8 Missing Children's Assistance Reauthorization Act: To amend the Missing Children’s Assistance Act.

      194 Support | 59 Oppose

    • HR 1526#9 Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act: To restore employment and educational opportunities in, and improve the economic stability of, counties containing National Forest System land, while also reducing Forest Service management costs, by ensuring that such counties have a dependable source of revenue from National Forest System land, to provide a temporary extension of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000.

      64 Support | 177 Oppose

    • S 1494#10 Child Care Infant Mortality Prevention Act: to amend the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 1990 to improve child safety and reduce the incidence of preventable infant deaths in child care settings.

      26 Support | 175 Oppose

    • HR 2907#11 National Guardsmen and Reservists Parity for Patriots Act: to ensure that members of the reserve components of the Armed Forces who have served on active duty or performed active service since September 11, 2001, in support of a contingency operation or in other emergency situations receive credit for such service in determining eligibility for early receipt of non-regular service retired pay.

      160 Support | 9 Oppose

    • HR 2775#12 No Subsidies Without Verification Act To condition the provision of premium and cost-sharing subsidies under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act upon a certification that a program to verify household income and other qualifications for such subsidies is operational.

      126 Support | 16 Oppose

    • HR 2818#13 Surveillance State Repeal Act: To repeal the USA PATRIOT Act and the FISA Amendments Act of 2008.

      127 Support | 4 Oppose

    • HR 3018#14 Gun Violence Prevention and Safe Communities Act: To increase the excise tax and special occupational tax in respect of firearms and to increase the transfer tax on any other weapon.

      9 Support | 117 Oppose

    • S 1335#15 Sportsmen's Act: to protect and enhance opportunities for recreational hunting, fishing, and shooting.

      24 Support | 82 Oppose

    • S 1392#16 Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act: to promote energy savings in residential buildings and industry.

      19 Support | 71 Oppose

    • HR 2682#17 Defund Obamacare Act: To prohibit the funding of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

      80 Support | 6 Oppose

    • HCR 53#18 House Resolution urging all parties to the conflict in Syria to work through the United Nations and with the international community to hold the Assad regime accountable and resolve the crisis in Syria through a negotiated political settlement.

      29 Support | 45 Oppose

    • HR 687#19 Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act: To facilitate the efficient extraction of mineral resources in southeast Arizona by authorizing and directing an exchange of Federal and non-Federal land.

      30 Support | 42 Oppose

    • SJR 22#20 Senate Resolution to promote a diplomatic solution in Syria

      23 Support | 47 Oppose

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

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

  20. POPVOX Daily Digest -September 19, 2013

    From our Hill sources:

    The House had a busy Thursday, passing a bill that would cut billions from the federal food stamp program and moving ahead with a short-term 2014 spending bill.

    • HR 3201The Nutrition Reform and Work Opportunity Act , which would cut $39 billion from the food stamp program, formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

      The bill would eliminate a waiver allowing extended food stamp access for adults who are not working. Democrats said jobs are not always available, which means millions of people would be at risk of losing needed benefits.

      House passage of the bill could lead to a House-Senate conference on a final farm bill in the coming weeks. But the conference could be rocky — the Senate is proposing a $4 billion cut, about one tenth the size of the House cut.

    • HJ Res 59 The Continuing Appropriations Resolution: This is the short-term spending bill (Continuing Resolution) for 2014. On Thursday, the House approved a rule that will allow members to debate the measure on Friday, and probably pass it.

      In its current form, the resolution funds the government through December 15, a goal most members support. But it would also defund ObamaCare and instruct the government to prioritize interest payments on the debt if a government shutdown takes place.

      Democrats spent the day warning that tying spending to ObamaCare runs the risk of a government shutdown, as the Democratic Senate and the Obama administration oppose that language.

      However, some Republicans said the Senate has the option of passing a different version of the resolution, which implies last-minute negotiations on spending that would take place next week. The House now plans to be in next week to start those talks.

    On Thursday evening, the House also began work on H.R. 1526, the Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act. A final House vote on that bill is expected Friday.