The POPVOX Blog

  1. The POPVOX Top 20: Nov. 1 - 7

    Want to get this Top 20 List via email? Send Rachna an email at rachna@popvox.com

    ENDA Tops the List

    This week, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) was the most popular bill among POPVOX users. This bill would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in companies and all levels of government, and would be enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. It would exempt only religious organizations and the military. The Senate passed ENDA on Thursday, but it's not clear if the House will consider it.

    POPVOX Roundup: Week of Nov. 1 - 7

    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. 

  2. POPVOX Daily Digest - November 6, 2013

    From our Hill sources:

    ENDA Progresses in Senate; Vote Thursday

    This week the Senate has made considerable progress toward passing a bill to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identification in the public and private sectors. The bill is expected to pass Thursday.

    • S 815The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) gives the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission the right to enforce new rules that prohibit discrimination against people based on gender identity or sexual orientation.

      On Wednesday, Senate Democrats set up a final vote on the bill for Thursday afternoon. A procedural vote on Monday passed 61-30. If those numbers hold, the 60 votes in favor of the bill will be enough to prevent a filibuster.

      No Republican has spoken out against the bill on the Senate floor, though several are expected to vote against it Thursday.

      Democrats rewarded some of the Republican supporters of the bill by allowing votes on their amendments. On Wednesday, the Senate approved one from Sen. Rob Portman aimed at preventing legal retaliation against religious groups that would be exempt from ENDA's provisions. Portman's language was approved by unanimous consent, shortly after the Senate agreed by unanimous consent to formally proceed to the bill.

      On Thursday, the Senate will vote on another proposal from Sen. Pat Toomey that would broaden those religious exemptions.

    Davis-Bacon Change Passes Senate, Now Goes to White House

    Separately, the Senate approved a House-passed bill this week that would move authority to enforce the Davis-Bacon Act to the Department of Labor. Davis-Bacon is the law that requires people working on federal contracts to be paid prevailing local wages. That bill passed the Senate Tuesday by unanimous consent, after an easy House vote in September, and it now heads to the White House to be signed into law.

    Domestic Violence Protections for Veterans

    On Wednesday, the Senate also passed S. 287, The Helping Homeless Veterans Act. The bill lets veterans receive benefits from the Department of Veterans' Affairs when in a domestic violence situation.

    House Vote Coming on Health Plan Rules

    The House is out for the week, but Republicans say they will soon vote on a bill from Rep. Fred Upton that would ensure people can keep their health plan. The bill is H.R. 3350, The Keep Your Health Plan Act, a response to reports of cancelled health insurance plans under ObamaCare's (ACA's) new insurance standards.

  3. The Week Ahead: Nov. 4 - 8

    From our Hill Sources: The Senate is in this week to consider a bill that would prohibit workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The House is out all week.

    In the Senate

    The Senate will work on:

    • S 815Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA: This bill would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in companies and all levels of government, and would be enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. It would exempt only religious organizations and the military.

      The Scoop from our Hill Sources: Every Senate Democrat has cosponsored the bill, and Democrats are hoping to advance the bill on Monday, by voting to end debate on a motion to proceed to the bill. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said ENDA is one of the bills he wants to advance this month. Others include a bill that would increase the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, and a bill authorizing Defense programs.

    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.

  4. The POPVOX Top 20: Oct. 25 - 31

    Abortion, Affordable Care Act and Veterans Issues Top This Week's List

    This week, an abortion bill, the Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act was the most popular bill among POPVOX users -- not surprising given a federal appeals court decision which reinstated most of Texas' new restrictions on abortions. POPVOX users also weighed in on bills related to the rollout of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). In fact, more than a dozen bills related to the rollout and the problem-riddled healthcare.gov have been introduced in recent weeks. (See the full list.)

    Another priority in Congress and among POPVOX users has been veterans. According to the Dept. of Veterans Affairs, there are more than 711,000 pending veterans claims. More than half of these have been pending for more than four months. This past week, the House passed a bill (HR 2189) that would create a commission or task force to research the backlog and propose solutions by 2015. The bill now must be considered by the Senate.

    POPVOX Roundup: Week of Oct. 25 - Oct. 31

    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.

    • S 356#1 Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act: to ensure that women seeking an abortion are fully informed regarding the pain experienced by their unborn child.

      141 Support | 185 Oppose

    • HR 3342#2 Practice What You Preach Act: To amend the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to provide for health insurance coverage for the President through an Exchange in the same manner as for Members of Congress.

      273 Support | 22 Oppose

    • HR 3301#3 North American Energy Infrastructure Act: To require approval for the construction, connection, operation, or maintenance of oil or natural gas pipelines or electric transmission facilities at the national boundary of the United States for the import or export of oil, natural gas, or electricity to or from Canada or Mexico.

      163 Support | 118 Oppose

    • HR 992#4 Swaps Regulatory Improvement Act: To amend provisions in section 716 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act relating to Federal assistance for swaps entities.

      18 Support | 258 Oppose

    • HR 2189#5 Establishing a commission on VA disability claims: would establish a commission or task force charged with examining the root causes of the Department of Veterans Affairs disability claims backlog and providing solutions for ending it by 2015.

      223 Support | 27 Oppose

    • HR 3212#6 Sean and David Goldman International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act: To ensure compliance with the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction by countries with which the United States enjoys reciprocal obligations, to establish procedures for the prompt return of children abducted to other countries.

      228 Support | 10 Oppose

    • HR 2374#7 Retail Investor Protection Act: To amend the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 to provide protections for retail customers.

      62 Support | 160 Oppose

    • HR 3199#8 Safe Military Bases Act: To safeguard military and civilian personnel on military bases by repealing bans on military personnel carrying firearms.

      202 Support | 14 Oppose

    • HR 3309#9 Innovation Act: To amend title 35, United States Code, and the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act to make improvements and technical corrections.

      185 Support | 20 Oppose

    • HJR 99#10 A Resolution relating to the disapproval of the President's exercise of authority to suspend the debt limit, as submitted under section 1002(b) of the Continuing Appropriations Act, 2014 on October 17, 2013.

      151 Support | 14 Oppose

    • HR 3197#11 SHARE Act: To protect and enhance opportunities for recreational hunting, fishing, and shooting.

      90 Support | 16 Oppose

    • HR 3350#12 Keep Your Health Plan Act: To authorize health insurance issuers to continue to offer for sale current individual health insurance coverage in satisfaction of the minimum essential health insurance coverage requirement.

      98 Support | 7 Oppose

    • HR 3431#13 American Families United Act: To amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to promote family unity

      61 Support | 40 Oppose

    • S 604#14 Jerusalem Embassy and Recognition Act: to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, to relocate to Jerusalem the United States Embassy in Israel.

      90 Support | 5 Oppose

    • HR 1405#15 A bill to require the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to include a notice of disagreement form in any notice of decision issued for the denial of a benefit sought, to improve the supervision of fiduciaries of veterans under the laws administered by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

      87 Support | 3 Oppose

    • HR 3305#16 Currency Optimization, Innovation, and National Savings Act: To improve the circulation of $1 coins, to remove barriers to the circulation of such coins.

      51 Support | 35 Oppose

    • HR 2337#17 Lake Hill Administrative Site Affordable Housing Act: To provide for the conveyance of the Forest Service Lake Hill Administrative Site in Summit County, Colorado.

      10 Support | 63 Oppose

    • HR 1742#18 Vulnerable Veterans Housing Reform Act: o exclude from consideration as income under the United States Housing Act of 1937 payments of pension made under section 1521 of title 38, United States Code, to veterans who are in need of regular aid and attendance.

      68 Support | 4 Oppose

    • HR 3080#19 Water Resources Reform and Development Act: To provide for improvements to the rivers and harbors of the United States, to provide for the conservation and development of water and related resources.

      14 Support | 54 Oppose

    • HR 623#20 Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium Land Transfer Act: To provide for the conveyance of certain property located in Anchorage, Alaska, from the United States to the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium.

      53 Support | 14 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. 

  5. Issue Spotlight: healthcare.gov

    The Affordable Care Act website, healthcare.gov, which enables Americans in 36 states to comparison shop and purchase private insurance, launched on Oct. 1 with major problems. This week, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testified before Congress about the website. While some Members of Congress are calling for her resignation, others have introduced bills that would delay or exempt individuals from deadlines.

    Bills Related to the Affordable Care Act Rollout and Healthcare.gov Problems

    Weigh in on these bills that have been recently introduced after the Affordable Care Act's Oct. 1st rollout and the launch of healthcare.gov.

    • HR 3425 A bill: To amend the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to delay the individual health insurance mandate and any penalties for violating the individual mandate until after there is a certification that the healthcare.gov website is fully operational.
    • HR 3420 A bill: To require any communication using Federal funds to advertise or educate the public on certain provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the Healthcare and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 to state that such communication was produced at taxpayer expense.
    • HR 3419 A bill: To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to exempt certain small businesses from the employer health insurance mandate and to modify the definition of full-time employee for purposes of such mandate.
    • HR 3406 If You Like Your Health Care Plan You Can Keep It Act: To amend the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to ensure that individuals can keep their health insurance coverage.
    • HR 3376 Fairness for Lost Coverage Act: To provide a 12-month exemption from the health insurance mandate for individuals whose employer-sponsored health plan coverage or individual health insurance coverage is terminated for a plan year beginning during 2014.
    • S 1629 “Show Your Exemption” Act : to require the disclosure of determinations with respect to which Congressional staff will be required to obtain health insurance coverage through an Exchange.
    • HR 3429 A bill: To protect personal and financial information by requiring certain certifications by entities awarded funds under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act for the operation of a Navigator program or certain other Exchange activities.
    • HR 3373 Healthcare.gov Spending Accountability Act : To prohibit incurring further obligations with respect to the healthcare.gov website without offsetting savings.
    • HR 3367 A bill: to delay the application of the health insurance provider annual fee until 2016 and to provide a process to return to consumers any amounts attributable to the expected application of the annual fee to 2014 or 2015.
    • HR 3362 Exchange Information Disclosure Act: to require transparency in the operation of American Health Benefit Exchanges. (And in the Senate, S 1590.)
    • HR 3359 Delay Until Fully Functional Act: To provide for a delay of the individual mandate under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act until the American Health Benefit Exchanges are functioning properly. (And in the Senate, S 1592.)
    • HR 3358 Fairness for Individuals Using Exchange Websites Act: To provide for an exemption from the individual mandate under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act for individuals residing in States in which the Exchange Websites are not fully functional.
    • HR 3350 Keep Your Health Plan Act: To authorize health insurance issuers to continue to offer for sale current individual health insurance coverage in satisfaction of the minimum essential health insurance coverage requirement.
    • HR 3348 Obamacare Choice Act : to make the individual health insurance mandate voluntary in 2014.
    • HR 3338 Fairness In Failed Federal Exchange Act: To amend the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to provide, because of problems relating to the operation of Exchanges, for a hardship exemption from the individual mandate for months of noncoverage.

    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.

  6. Issue Spotlight: Snowden, Government Surveillance, Secret Courts and the Fourth Amendment

    Update: Additional Surveillance Bills Introduced

    11/1/13: Two bills related to the NSA were recently introduced -- and are getting attention on the Hill. The FISA Improvements Act (S 1631) was approved by the Senate Intelligence Committee on Oct. 31, and may be considered by the full Senate. Weigh in and share your voice:

    • S 1599 USA FREEDOM Act: seeks to restore Americans’ privacy rights by ending the government’s dragnet collection of phone records and requiring greater oversight, transparency, and accountability with respect to domestic surveillance authorities, according to the bill sponsor. (Also, HR 3361 in the House.)
    • S 1631 FISA Improvements Act: increases privacy protections and public transparency of the National Security Agency call-records program in several ways, while preserving the operational effectiveness and flexibility of this vital national security program, according to bill sponsor.

    Edward Snowden

    8/15/13: We've been watching Edward Snowden, the 30-year-old former National Security Agency (NSA) and CIA employee, who leaked details of top-secret US government mass surveillance programs to the press. In June, federal prosecutors charged Snowden with espionage and theft of government property. And now he is a "refugee" in Russia.

    In response, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Ed Royce (R-CA), stated, "Those who are entrusted with the security of our country must be held to the highest standard of accountability. There is no excuse for actions that endanger the lives of Americans at home and abroad." And, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Robert Menendez (D-NJ), explained, "Edward Snowden will potentially do great damage to U.S. national security interests and the information he is leaking could aid terrorists and others around the world who want to do real harm to our country."

    • SRes 198 A resolution expressing the sense of the Senate that the Government of the Russian Federation should turn over Edward Snowden to US authorities.

    Snowden's actions ignited a much larger conversation about the constitutionality of federal online surveillance programs and the Fourth Amendment. It also shed light on secret courts known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (or FISA Court), which oversee surveillance warrant requests against suspected foreign intelligence agents inside the US by federal law enforcement agencies.

    Members of Congress have introduced several bills related to government surveillance, the secret courts and the Fourth Amendment. It's clear that Congress needs to hear from its constituents. Weigh in on these bills, and POPVOX will deliver your message to Congress.Updated 8/15/13

    Surveillance and the Fourth Amendment Legislation

    • HR 2818 Surveillance State Repeal Act: to repeal the USA PATRIOT Act and the FISA Amendments Act of 2008.
    • HR 2736 Government Surveillance Transparency Act: "would allow companies to publicly disclose the volume and type of information they are ordered to turn over to federal intelligence agencies. Right now companies are barred from acknowledging when they are required to turn over information to the National Security Agency under some sections of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act," according to the bill sponsor.
    • HR 2849 Privacy Advocate General Act: To amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 to establish an Office of the Privacy Advocate General.
    • S 1168 Restore Our Privacy Act: to amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 to limit overbroad surveillance requests and expand reporting requirements.
    • S 1452 Surveillance Transparency Act: to enhance transparency for certain surveillance programs authorized by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978.
    • HR 3035 Surveillance Order Reporting Act: to permit periodic public reporting by electronic communications providers and remote computer service providers of certain estimates pertaining to requests or demands by Federal agencies under the provisions of certain surveillance laws where disclosure of such estimates is, or may be, otherwise prohibited by law.
    • HR 2399 LIBERT-E Act: According to bill sponsors, it "restricts the federal government’s ability under the Patriot Act to collect information on Americans who are not connected to an ongoing investigation. The bill also requires that secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court opinions be made available to Congress and summaries of the opinions be made available to the public."
    • S 1182 A bill: to modify the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 to require specific evidence for access to business records and other tangible things, and provide appropriate transition procedures.
    • S 1215 FISA Accountability and Privacy Protection Act: to strengthen privacy protections, accountability, and oversight related to domestic surveillance conducted pursuant to the USA PATRIOT Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978.
    • HR 2603 Relevancy Act: To amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 to allow access to certain business records only if an investigation relates to a specific individual or specific group of individuals.
    • S 1121 Fourth Amendment Restoration Act: To stop the National Security Agency from spying on citizens of the US.

    Secret Courts Legislation and Secret Laws

    • S 1460 FISA Judge Selection Reform Act: to create two additional judge positions on the court established by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 and modify the procedures for the appointment of judges to that court.
    • HR 2440 FISA Court in the Sunshine Act: To require the Attorney General to disclose each decision, order, or opinion of a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that includes significant legal interpretation of section 501 or 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 unless such disclosure is not in the national security interest of the US.
    • HR 2761 Presidential Appointment of FISA Court Judges Act: To require Presidential appointment and Senate confirmation of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judges.
    • HR 2586 FISA Court Accountability Act: to provide for the designation of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judges by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the minority leader of the House of Representatives, the majority and minority leaders of the Senate, and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
    • HR 2475 Ending Secret Law Act: To require the Attorney General to disclose each decision, order, or opinion of a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that includes significant legal interpretation of section 501 or 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 unless such disclosure is not in the national security interest of the US.

    Snowden and Security Clearance Legislation

    • S 1276 Security Clearance Oversight and Reform Enhancement (SCORE) Act: According to bill sponsors, it "improves oversight of the security clearance process, calls for the government to fire background check investigators and suspend others - including contractors - who falsify reports, and forces the government to update its policy determining which positions require a security clearance."

    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.

  7. POPVOX Daily Digest - October 31, 2013

    From our Hill sources:

     The Senate was in Thursday to set up votes next week on a bill mean to end workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation.

    • S 815The Employment Non-Discrimination Act would structurally to end discrimination against gay, lesbian and trans-gender people just the way the Americans with Disabilities Act sought to end discrimination against people with disabilities.

      Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday that a vote to end debate on a motion to proceed to the bill would take place Monday evening.

    The Senate also quickly passed H.R. 2094, which boosts grants to states so schools can train people to help children with asthma. And, it passed a bill the House has already approved to name a Florida-based Department of Veterans Affairs building after deceased former Rep. Bill Young.

    Those votes ended the Senate's week. The House was out, and will remain out until after next week.

  8. POPVOX Daily Digest - October 30, 2013

    From our Hill Sources:

    The House met Wednesday to pass a resolution disapproving of the debt ceiling increase.

    House Republicans pushed the so-called "disapproval resolution," H.J.Res. 99, as a way to protest the raising of the debt ceiling. It passed 222-191, but the vote is nothing more than a protest vote, as the Senate has already rejected a GOP resolution.

    Congress effectively gave Obama the authority to raise the debt ceiling when it passed the bill ending the government shutdown.

    The House also passed a bill that would change a much-discussed provision of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law.

    • HR 992The Swaps Regulatory Improvement Act would let banks use certain financial instruments known as swaps.(passed in a 292-122 vote.)

      Banks can already use some of these swaps, but Dodd-Frank requires others to be parked in a non-bank institution. Many experts believe that was a mistake, since those non-bank institutions are less regulated by the federal government.

    The Senate is focused on nominations all week, but it did pass two bills by unanimous consent just before leaving for the day.

  9. The Hill 101: Conference Committees

    Why does Congress create “conference committees”?

    Conference committees are set up when the House and Senate have passed two different versions of a bill. Article 1, Section 7 of the Constitution requires that both chambers pass the exact same language before a bill can be presented for the President's signature and become law.

    Conference Committtee

    One version of a bill passed the House. One version passed the Senate. Now both chambers must come together on a combined version that can pass both houses and be signed into law by the President.

    How does a Conference work?

    1. The House and Senate appointed conferees to negotiate the combined version (a conference report.)
    2. A majority of House conferees and a majority of Senate conferees must sign the conference report.

    How does Congress vote on conference reports?

    1. Both the House and Senate must vote on the same version of the conference report.
    2. The Conference report must be publicly available before a vote — 48 hours in the Senate, 3 days in the House.
    3. In the Senate, filibuster rules apply (so 60 votes are needed to “end debate” and proceed to a vote.)
    4. In the House, the conference report gets one hour of debate, and then a vote.
    5. Conference reports can’t be amended and get an “up or down vote.”

     

    (As with everything in Congress, there are exceptions. For more information, see “Conference Committee and Related Procedures: An Introduction” from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service.)

    Read more articles on "The Hill 101"

  10. POPVOX Daily Digest - October 29, 2013

    The House met to consider several suspension bills, and a bipartisan bill to alter pending regulations under the Dodd-Frank financial reform law.

    • HR 2374 The Retail Investor Protection Act A bill that bill would require the Department of Labor to wait for the Securities and Exchange Commission before regulating financial advisers.

      The Department of Labor is considering rules that would require more advisers to adhere to a "fiduciary" standard, or a standard that requires them to act on the best interest of their clients.

      Supporters of the bill argue that these rules would affect advisers used by average people, and would increase the cost of making stock trades online and seeking advice. The bill passed 254-166, with 30 Democratic votes.

      The Obama administration opposes the bill, which makes it unlikely the Senate will take it up.

    The House also debated a resolution disapproving of President Obama's decision to suspend the debt ceiling.

    House Republican leaders are expected to allow a vote Wednesday on this resolution, H.J.Res. 99. However, House passage would not have any effect on the debt ceiling, as the Senate on Tuesday voted against advancing similar language. The Senate voted 45-54, which effectively killed the resolution.

    The resolution is a way for Republicans to say they oppose the suspension of the debt ceiling, but Democratic opposition means there is no chance the measure will be approved by Congress.

    Also today, the House passed four bills involving land exchanges between the federal government and state and local governments. Each of these passed in a voice vote:

    The Senate was also in and voted 55-44 in favor of the nomination of Richard Griffin to be the general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board.

  11. POPVOX Daily Digest - October 28, 2013

    The House passed veterans-related bills in a short Monday session:

    • HR 2189 a bill creating a commission to study and make recommendations for reducing the backlog of disability claims at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

      The House passed this bill in a 404-1 vote. It requires a report to Congress on how to resolve these claims, and would require the Department to increase training for claims processors.

    • HR 1405 a bill making it easier to appeal decisions that deny veterans benefits, and cutting VA bonuses.

      Passed in a voice vote.

    • HR 1742 The Vulnerable Veterans Housing Reform Act deducting in-home care expenses from income when determining housing benefits to veterans.

      Passed in a voice vote.

    • HR 2011 The Veterans Advisory Committee on Education Improvement Act extending the committee for another two years.

      Passed 404-2.

    • HR 2481 The Veterans Economic Opportunity Act ensuring federal education benefits get to the families of veterans.

      Passed in a voice vote.

    • HR 3304 a billcalling on the President to award the Medal of Honor to two Vietnam veterans.

      Passed in a voice vote.

    The Senate passed its own veterans bill Monday night by a voice vote:

  12. Issue Spotlight: Innovation and Patent Litigation

    Our nation's patent system is designed to encourage innovation and invention -- and is rooted in the Constitution:

      The Congress shall have Power … To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.

    In recent years, however, "there has been an explosion of abusive patent litigation designed not to reward innovation and enforce intellectual property, but to threaten companies in order to extract settlements based on questionable claims," according to the Obama Administration. Such firms are known as Patent Assertion Entities (PAEs) or "patent trolls." And defendants and licensees in these lawsuits paid out $29 billion in 2011, a 400% increase from 2005. (Source: The White House)

    The Obama Administration called on Congress to take legislative action to address "patent trolls" and their litigation techniques. Here are some bills that have been introduced. Weigh in on POPVOX and tell Congress what you think should be done.

    Issue Spotlight: Patent and Innovation Legislation

    • HR 3309 Innovation Act: targets abusive patent litigation behavior and not specific entities with the goal of preventing individuals from taking advantage of gaps in the system to engage in litigation extortion. It does not attempt to eliminate valid patent litigation, according to the bill sponsor.
    • S 866 Patent Quality Improvement Act: would "provide small technology start-ups with the opportunity to efficiently address these claims outside of the legal system, saving billions of dollars in litigation fees," according to the bill sponsor.
    • S 1013 Patent Abuse Reduction Act: would require plaintiffs to disclose the substance of their claim and reveal their identities when they file their lawsuit; allow defendants to hale into court interested parties; bring fairness to the discovery process; and shift responsibility for the cost of litigation to the losing party.
    • HR 845 SHIELD Act (Saving High-Tech Innovators from Egregious Legal Disputes Act): "forces patent trolls to take financial responsibility for frivolous lawsuits. If a troll brings a patent lawsuit and loses, the SHIELD Act makes sure that the troll pays all costs and attorney’s fees associated with the case," according to the bill sponsors.
    • HR 2024 End Anonymous Patents Act: "would require any sales or transfers of patents to be disclosed to the Patent and Trade Office, along with a notice of the real party in interest filing by the purchasing entity. The same disclosure requirements would apply to new patents at the time they are awarded, and for currently held patents at the next scheduled maintenance fee payment," according to the bill sponsor.
    • HR 2639 Patent Litigation and Innovation Act: would "require a heightened pleading standard in patent infringement actions, provide end users with the opportunity to stay litigation and limit unnecessarily burdensome discovery until matters related to dismissal motions, transfer of venue issues and claim construction are decided," according to the bill sponsors.
    • HR 2766 Stopping Offensive Use of Patents Act: "makes improvements to the Transitional Business Method Program by broadening the definition beyond “a financial product” to include “an enterprise” or “a product.” This change will allow the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to determine the extent of the validity of a number of patents, particularly those related to software and computers, where litigation abuse has run rampant," according to the bill sponsors.

    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.

  13. The Week Ahead: Oct. 28 - Nov. 1

    From our Hill Sources: Congress is back to start work on a 2014 spending bill and the Farm Bill. As those negotiations begin, the House will take up several bills — on financial regulations and veterans — that should pass with bipartisan support.

    In the House

    The House will consider two financial reform bills this week:

    The House will also consider a handful of bills affecting land usage around the country:

    Veterans Day

    Just a few days out from Veterans Day, the House will also consider several bills dealing with veterans. The main one is:

    • HR 2189Creating a commission to study and make recommendations for reducing the backlog of disability claims at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

    Both parties are angry over the hundreds of thousands of unsettled veterans claims that have gone unanswered for months. The bill would require a report to Congress on how to resolve these claims, and would require the Department to increase training for claims processors.

    Other veterans bills are:

    Conference Committees Begin Meeting

    After many months without any formal "conferences", two high profile committees will begin public meetings this week on the Farm Bill and the Budget.

    What's a "conference"? Conference committees are set up when the House and Senate have passed two different versions of a bill. Article 1, Section 7 of the Constitution requires that both chambers pass the exact same language before a bill can be presented for the President's signature and become law.

    Majority and minority leaders in both houses appoint "conferees" to negotiate a new, combined version of the bills, which goes for a vote in both chambers. While conference reports are subject to filibuster rules in the Senate, they are not subject to amendments, so each will get an "up or down vote." In order for a conference committee to release its report, however, a majority of conferees must sign off.

    The Budget Conference

    Under the debt ceiling bill that was approved earlier this month, budget negotiators are required to find an agreement by December 13. The big issues in these talks will center around possible changes to entitlements and new revenues through tax changes to replace or alter the Sequester. A new round of mandated across-the-board cuts will take effect on January 15, 2014, if Congress does not act.

    The House budget is HConRes 25, and the Senate budget is an amended version of that House resolution.

    • HCR 25The Ryan House Budget Resolution: Establishing the budget for the United States Government for fiscal year 2014 and setting forth appropriate budgetary levels for fiscal years 2015 through 2023. (Passed by the House on Oct. 16, 2013)

    The Farm Bill Conference

    The farm policy talks are likely to focus on the level of cuts to the food stamp program. The Senate has passed a farm bill with $4 billion in cuts, while the House supports a $39 billion cut.

    The House passed the farm bill in two pieces. It approved the nutrition provisions that deals with food stamps, HR 3102, in September:

    And it passed commodity policy provisions in HR 2642 in July:

    The Senate passed both provisions in a single bill, S 954.

    Conference committee talks will easily stretch for several weeks. So stay tuned -- and we'll have updates on POPVOX and Facebook and Twitter!

  14. The POPVOX Top 20: Oct. 18 - 24

    What's Next? Check out POPVOXnation's Priorities

    With the federal government back up and running, the President outlined his priorities for the weeks ahead: immigration reform, the farm bill and a sensible budget. (Learn more about the President's priorities.) Meanwhile, here are the priorities among POPVOX users. Immigration reform was #2, #9 and #11; the farm bill was #18, and bills related to the budget took #3, #5, #14 and #15. 

    POPVOX Roundup: Week of Oct. 18 - 24

    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 3199#1 Safe Military Bases Act: To safeguard military and civilian personnel on military bases by repealing bans on military personnel carrying firearms.

      412 Support | 11 Oppose

    • HR 15#2 Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act: To provide for comprehensive immigration reform.

      29 Support | 344 Oppose

    • SJRes 7#3 Consensus Balanced Budget Amendment: proposing an amendment to the US Constitution relative to balancing the budget.

      292 Support | 43 Oppose

    • HR 2083#4 Protecting Students from Sexual and Violent Predators Act: To require State educational agencies that receive funding under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to have in effect policies and procedures on background checks for school employees.

      257 Support | 61 Oppose

    • S 29#5 End Government Shutdowns Act: to provide for automatic continuing resolutions.

      39 Support | 277 Oppose

    • HR 3080#6 Water Resources Reform and Development Act: To provide for improvements to the rivers and harbors of the United States, to provide for the conservation and development of water and related resources.

      70 Support | 198 Oppose

    • HR 3205#7 Promoting Adoption and Legal Guardianship for Children in Foster Care Act: To reauthorize and restructure the adoption incentives grant program.

      50 Support | 151 Oppose

    • HR 3299#8 Security Before Access Act: To amend section 340A of the Public Health Service Act to protect the privacy of personally identifiable information in relation to enrollment activities of health insurance exchanges.

      190 Support | 5 Oppose

    • HR 1417#9 Border Security Results Act: To require the Secretary of Homeland Security to develop a comprehensive strategy to gain and maintain operational control of the international borders of the United States.

      156 Support | 24 Oppose

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

      127 Support | 17 Oppose

    • HR 3163#11 CIR ASAP Act: To provide for comprehensive immigration reform.

      12 Support | 101 Oppose

    • HR 3197#12 SHARE Act: To protect and enhance opportunities for recreational hunting, fishing, and shooting.

      96 Support | 14 Oppose

    • HR 3292#13 US-Iran Nuclear Negotiations Act: To prevent the Government of Iran from gaining a nuclear weapons capability and to maximize the United States' diplomatic influence to achieve, consistent with the national security interest of the United States and its allies and partners, a negotiated settlement with the Government of Iran regarding Iran's nuclear weapons program.

      22 Support | 82 Oppose

    • HJRes 24#14 Business Cycle Balanced Budget Amendment: proposing a balanced budget amendment to the US Constitution.

      78 Support | 15 Oppose

    • HJRes 4#15 A resolution proposing a balanced budget amendment to the US Constitution.

      64 Support | 24 Oppose

    • HR 233#16 A bill: to amend chapter 31 of title 31, United States Code, to provide for an orderly process by which the debt ceiling is increased.

      18 Support | 69 Oppose

    • HR 3301#17 North American Energy Infrastructure Act: To require approval for the construction, connection, operation, or maintenance of oil or natural gas pipelines or electric transmission facilities at the national boundary of the United States for the import or export of oil, natural gas, or electricity to or from Canada or Mexico.

      26 Support | 51 Oppose

    • HR 2642#18 Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act: To provide for the reform and continuation of agricultural and other programs of the Department of Agriculture through fiscal year 2018.

      2 Support | 70 Oppose

    • HR 3215#19 Shutdown Member of Congress Pay Act: To amend the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946 to suspend the salary of Members of Congress and deem Members of Congress as “non-essential” employees during a government shutdown.

      65 Support | 6 Oppose

    • S 1569#20 Default Prevention Act: The "Clean" Debt Ceiling Bill, to ensure the complete and timely payment of the obligations of the US Government until December 31, 2014.

      4 Support | 64 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. 

  15. POPVOX Daily Digest - October 23, 2013

    The House spent the entire day on a bipartisan bill authorizing billions of dollars worth of water infrastructure projects.

    H.R. 3080 — the Water Resources Reform and Development Act. House passage sets up the possibility that Congress will act to authorize waterway and port projects for the first time since 2007.

    The bill also tries to speed up the approval process for projects, including environmental reviews, which was opposed by some Democrats. The bill passed in a 417-3 vote.

    Congress is famously behind in appropriating money for water projects — about $60 billion of these projects have never been funded, and some of them date back decades. The bill "de-authorizes" $12 billion of these projects, but some Republicans were pushing to de-authorize more.

    The Obama administration said it supports the bill, which now goes to the Senate. The Senate has passed its on version of WRRDA, S. 601.

    With today's vote, the House and Senate are now out for the rest of the week. Dozens of House members are expected to attend the funeral of former Rep. Bill Young (R-Fla.) in Florida on Thursday. Both chambers return on Monday.

  16. POPVOX Daily Digest - October 22, 2013

    The House met and quickly passed a handful of non-controversial bills, a big change from the last several weeks, which was filled with fighting over spending and the debt. Those fights will warm up again early next year, but this week was reserved for much easier tasks.

    H.R. 2083 — the Protecting Students from Sexual and Violent Predators Act. This bill requires schools to run background checks on all school employees, and is a reaction to incidents in which some schools hired people with violence of sexual abuse backgrounds.

    This bipartisan bill passed by unanimous consent after a brief debate.

    H.R. 3205 — the Promoting Adoption and Legal Guardianship for Children in Foster Care Act. This legislation extends and expands upon federal grant programs aimed at promoting adoption.

    The bill includes language meant to create an incentive for states to boost the rate of adoption for teenagers in foster homes, and it passed 402-0.

    H.R. 3302 — legislation naming a Veterans Affairs building in Florida after Rep. Bill Young (R-Fla.), who passed away last week. This bill passed by unanimous consent.

    The House also passed a resolution, H.Res. 384, allowing members to travel to Young's funeral in Florida on Thursday.

    And, members passed another resolution, H.Res. 383, marking the death of former House Speaker Tom Foley (D-Wash.). Both resolutions were passed by unanimous consent.

  17. The Week Ahead: Oct. 21-25

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

    What's next for Congress

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

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

    In the House

    This week, the House plans to vote on:

    The President's Priorities

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

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

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

    Immigration

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

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

    The Farm Bill

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

    A Federal Budget

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

    Here are some bills related to the federal budget:

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

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

    The Government Re-Opens

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

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

    POPVOX Roundup: Week of Oct. 11 - 17

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

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

      165 Support | 715 Oppose

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

      50 Support | 400 Oppose

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

      398 Support | 41 Oppose

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

      337 Support | 14 Oppose

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

      305 Support | 16 Oppose

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

      208 Support | 88 Oppose

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

      24 Support | 264 Oppose

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

      26 Support | 215 Oppose

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

      226 Support | 8 Oppose

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

      196 Support | 31 Oppose

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

      112 Support | 55 Oppose

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

      151 Support | 15 Oppose

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

      134 Support | 7 Oppose

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

      129 Support | 8 Oppose

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

      118 Support | 9 Oppose

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

      82 Support | 37 Oppose

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

      92 Support | 18 Oppose

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

      0 Support | 110 Oppose

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

      11 Support | 95 Oppose

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

      30 Support | 75 Oppose

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

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

  19. What's Next? Post-Shutdown Priorities

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

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

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

    Immigration

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

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

    The Farm Bill

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

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

    A Federal Budget

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

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

  20. POPVOX Daily Digest - October 15, 2013

    Form our Hill Sources:

    The House spent the day trying to find a way forward on a bill opening up the government and extend the debt ceiling, but had to scramble for votes all day and came up short.

    Late Tuesday afternoon, the GOP released a bill that would cut government subsidies to members of Congress, congressional staff and senior administration officials. But many Republicans opposed it for not going far enough to undermine the healthcare law, and Republicans never even called it up in the Rules Committee.

    That forced the House to leave for the day without any plan for going forward, which may leave it up to the Senate to figure it out.

    Senate Democrats and Republicans started up their talks again on a bill to reopen the government through mid-January, and extend the debt ceiling through mid-February.