The POPVOX Blog

  1. The Week Ahead: July 15 - 19

    From our Hill Sources: The House looks at "Obamacare" once again, while the Senate works to confirm Obama Administration nominees. Senate Democrats may deploy the “nuclear option” -- which would allow 51 senators to change the Senate rules instead of the 67 "supermajority" that's normally required -- to approve cabinet nominees.

    In the House

    The House will vote this week to delay parts of the 2010 healthcare law. The bills are an attempt by Republicans to capitalize on the Obama administration's decision to delay the employer insurance mandate. The GOP says a similar delay is needed to give individuals a grace period from the mandate.

    The House may also take up:

    Votes on three suspension bills are also expected:

    In the Senate

    The Senate is planning a week filled with debate over the process for confirming Obama administration nominees. Republicans and Democrats will meet Monday night to hear Democratic complaints about the GOP's stonewalling of nominations, and Republican complaints about plans to make it harder to filibuster these nominations.

    The "Nuclear Option"

    Democrats have threatened to rewrite Senate rules to limit filibusters of cabinet nominations, and to do so by requiring only a majority vote for these changes instead of needing a supermajority. This "nuclear option" has outraged Republicans as a step toward fundamentally altering the right of the Senate to consider, and even delay, nominations.

    Tuesday may provide a glimpse into whether the two parties were able to find a way around their ongoing dispute. Senate Democrats have set up procedural votes on seven nominations, and say GOP attempts to filibuster them could result in an exercising of the "nuclear option."

    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.

  2. What to Watch in Congress - Week of July 14, 2013

    Veteran Washington reporter Charlie Mitchell (@CharlieReports) joins us to highlight the big issues before Congress in the coming week.

    This week, the Senate contemplates the "nuclear option" on judicial nominees -- changing Senate rules to require only a majority vote, rather than sixty for Executive Branch nominees. The House will vote on two bills to delay provisions of the Affordable Care Act: the employer mandate (which the Administration has said it will delay) and the individual mandate.

    Weigh in on these bills:

  3. POPVOX Daily Digest - June 11, 2013

    From our Hill sources

    In the House:

    The House spent all day passing a farm bill that excludes nutrition programs for the needy, which led Democrats to protest the bill throughout the day.

    The House passed a slimmed-down version of the farm bill, H.R. 2609, because it was the only way to get the bill through the House. A version that included food stamps failed to pass the House in June, as dozens of Republicans rebelled against what they said was a costly, fraud-ridden program.

    Taking food stamps out of the bill let Republicans pass it relatively easily, although Democrats argued that this bill contains no guarantees that a food stamp bill will be forthcoming. They also noted that the Democratic Senate would oppose it, and that President Obama has threatened to veto the measure.

    Republicans said they were hopeful that a House-Senate conference might now be established, and possibly find agreement on a final bill that includes both commodity and food stamp programs.

    In the Senate:

    The Senate was in, but held no votes, other than passing a minor bill renaming part of the tax code after former Sen. Kay Bailey Hutichison.

    Democrats did, however, set up votes on seven Obama administration nominees, and indicated they might threaten to change the Senate’s filibuster rules if Republicans tried to block them through a filibuster.

    Democrats have indicated for the last several days that changes to Senate filibuster rules may be coming. But the way the rules might be changed is potentially controversial – Senate rules are normally changed through a super-majority, but Democrats are threatening to change the rules by simple majority, an option known as the “nuclear option” given how politically controversial it would be.

  4. The POPVOX Top 20: July 5 - 11

    Gun Bill To Prevent Five-Year-Olds from Firing Tops the Weekly List on POPVOX

    Once again, the Child Handgun Safety Act (HR 2567) topped the list of the most popular bills among POPVOX users. The bill would require that all guns sold in the US include technology to prevent the average five-year-old from firing it. More than nine in ten POPVOX users opposed the bill.

    Want to be a part of the POPVOXnation conversation? Please join us on Facebook or Twitter. It's a great way to stay connected with the POPVOX team and Congress. Thanks for using POPVOX!

    POPVOX Roundup: Week of July 5 - 11

    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. 

  5. POPVOX Daily Digest - July 10, 2013

    From our Hill sources:

    In the Senate:

    The Senate held a procedural vote on a student loan bill Wednesday, but as expected, it failed, sending senators back to the drawing board on how to handle the doubling of student loan rates that happened automatically on July 1.

    The Senate vote was procedural one -- whether to end debate on a motion to proceed to a bill, S. 1238, which would extend for another year the 3.4 percent interest rate on federally subsidized student loans. Sixty votes were needed, and the bill failed 51-49. 

    In the wake of that vote, Senate Democrats scrambled to find some compromise vote that might be able to get a vote this week.

    In the House:

    The House was in all day, considering amendments to the 2014 energy and water spending bill, H.R. 2609. Just before 11 p.m., the House finished up work and quickly passed the bill in a 227-198 vote.

    Democrats fought all week against the cuts in the bill to renewable energy programs, science research, and other cuts. But aside from a few tweaks in spending levels, the House rejected most other amendment proposals.

    House passage sends the bill to the Senate, where it is opposed by Democrats who are working on a bill that increases funding in these areas.

    Post updated at 3:14 AM ET July 11 to reflect late House vote.

  6. POPVOX Daily Digest - July 9, 2013

    From our Hill sources:

    In the House:

    The House spent the day on amendments to a bill funding the Department of Energy and federal water projects for 2014.

    • HR 2609 The Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act

      The bill spends $30.4 billion in 2014, a cut compared to current levels.

      Democrats proposed several amendments Tuesday night that would boost funding for various science and renewable energy programs, but Republicans were on the road to rejecting most of these.

      The House is expected to be in a position to pass the bill by Wednesday or Thursday.

    In the Senate:

    The Senate was also in session, but had no major work to do until Wednesday, when it will hold a procedural vote on S. 1238, the Keep Student Loans Affordable Act, a Democratic plan to extend lower student loan interest rates for another year.

    The Senate did pass one resolution, S.Res. 151, which calls on Afghanistan to hold transparent elections.

  7. POPVOX Daily Digest - June 8, 2013

    From our Hill sources:

    The House and Senate were in briefly Monday, their first day back from the July 4 recess.

    In the Senate:

    The Senate set up a procedural vote on S. 1238, the Keep Student Loans Affordable Act, which would keep the interest rate on subsidized student loans at 3.4 percent for another year.

    Democrats favor this bill from Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), but it doesn't seem likely that the Senate will be able to pass this bill, and may need a few weeks to figure out an alternative, if it can at all.

    A bipartisan group of senators support a bill that would peg the interest rate to the 10-year Treasury borrowing rate (S. 1241), which would keep rates lower than the current 6.8 percent for the next several years, but could allow rates to exceed that amount later on.

    By unanimous consent, the Senate also quickly passed S. 793, the Organization of American States Revitalization and Reform Act. This bill would require the State Department to set out a strategy for implementing requirements related to the Organization of American States.

    In the House:

    The House worked on three suspension bills, all of which passed easily:

  8. The Week Ahead: July 8 - 12

    From our Hill Sources: Congress returns, and will deal with the student loan interest rate this week, along with a spending bill for federal energy and water programs.

    Video to Watch: Watch veteran Washington reporter Charlie Mitchell as he discusses immigration efforts in the House and other issues to watch. (Video)

    In the Senate

    The Senate adjourned in late June without passing a bill dealing with student loans, but is hoping to make progress this week. Two bills will be considered:

    • S 1238 The Keep Student Loans Affordable Act, which would lower the 6.8 percent interest rate on subsidized student loans back down to 3.4 percent for another year.
    • S 1241 The Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act, which would set the rate at that of the 10-year Treasury note plus 1.85 percent.

      The Scoop: The bipartisan bill is much closer to a version passed by the House in June. Passing it in the Senate would likely set up a House-Senate conference that would work to reach an agreement on a final bill. Passage of the one-year extension (The Keep Student Loans Affordable Act), however, could delay progress on the issue further, as House Republicans have indicated they are not likely to advance a simple extension.

    In the House

    In the House, members will deal with a major spending bill for 2014:

    The House will also consider:

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

  9. What to Watch in Congress - Week of July 7

    Veteran Washington reporter Charlie Mitchell (@CharlieReports) joins us to highlight the big issues before Congress in the coming week.

    This week, much of the action is behind the scenes as House Republicans meet July 10 to discuss the road ahead for immigration efforts in the House.

    Also on July 10, the House Ways and Means Committee will hold a hearing on the Obama Administrations delay of the implementation of a key provision of the health reform legislation, the employer mandate.

    The Senate will try again on Student Loan rates, which doubled on July 1st.


    Weigh in on these issues:

     

     

     

     

     

     

  10. PRESS CLIP: Presenting the 2013 FASTCASE 50

  11. The POPVOX Top 20: June 28 - July 4

    Gun Technology Bill Tops the Weekly List on POPVOX

    This week on POPVOX, the Child Handgun Safety Act (HR 2567) topped the list of the most popular bills among POPVOX users. The bill would require that all guns sold in the US include technology to prevent the average five year old from firing it. More than nine in ten POPVOX users opposed the bill.

    Want to be a part of the POPVOXnation conversation? Please join us on Facebook or Twitter. It's a great way to stay connected with the POPVOX team and Congress. Thanks for using POPVOX!

    POPVOX Roundup: Week of June 28 - July 4

    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 2567#1 Child Handgun Safety Act: To require that all handguns manufactured, sold in, or imported into, the United States incorporate technology that precludes the average five year old child from operating the handgun when it is ready to fire.
    • S 744#2 Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act: to provide for comprehensive immigration reform.
    • HJRes 50#3 A resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relating to parental rights.
    • HR 2408#4 A bill to prohibit the Department of Justice from tracking and cataloguing the purchases of multiple rifles and shotguns.
    • HR 2533#5 A bill To impose a moratorium on conferences held by the Internal Revenue Service.
    • HR 2510#6 The Helping Veterans Exposed to Toxic Chemicals Act: To direct the Secretary of Defense to establish within the Department of Defense centers of excellence in the prevention, diagnosis, mitigation, treatment, and rehabilitation of health conditions relating to exposure to open burn pits.
    • HJRes 29#7 A resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States providing that the rights extended by the Constitution are the rights of natural persons only.
    • HR 2437#8 Creating Jobs Through Cooperatives Act: To authorize the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development to establish a national program to create jobs and increase economic development by promoting cooperative development.
    • S 541#9 Safeguard American Food Exports Act: to prevent human health threats posed by the consumption of equines raised in the United States.
    • S 1149#10 Undetectable Firearms Modernization Act: to reauthorize the ban on undetectable firearms, and to extend the ban to undetectable firearm receivers and undetectable ammunition magazines.
    • HR 2417#11 Secure High-voltage Infrastructure for Electricity from Lethal Damage (SHIELD) Act: To amend the Federal Power Act to protect the bulk-power system and electric infrastructure critical to the defense and well-being of the United States against natural and manmade electromagnetic pulse (”EMP”) threats and vulnerabilities.
    • NASA#12 Doubling Funding for NASA (sponsored campaign by Penny4NASA)
    • HR 1864#13 A bill to require an Inspector General investigation of allegations of retaliatory personnel actions taken in response to making protected communications regarding sexual assault.
    • HR 2403#14 Securing America’s Fair Elections (SAFE) Act: to permit a State to require an applicant for voter registration in the State who uses the Federal mail voter registration application form developed by the Election Assistance Commission under such Act to provide additional information as a condition of the State's acceptance of the form.
    • S 1088#15 The Student Non-Discrimination Act: to end discrimination based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity in public schools.
    • HR 1005#16 The Defund Obamacare Act: To deauthorize appropriation of funds, and to rescind unobligated appropriations, to carry out the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010.
    • HR 2475#17 The 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 United States.
    • HR 2375#18 Transparency and Accountability in Medicare Bidding Act: To delay for at least 6 months the implementation of round 1 recompete and round 2 of the Medicare durable medical equipment (DME) competitive bidding program and of the national mail order program for diabetic testing supplies to permit Congress an opportunity to reform the competitive bidding program, to provide for an evaluation of that program by an auction expert team.
    • HR 1094#19 The Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act: To prohibit the sale or transport of equines and equine parts in interstate or foreign commerce for human consumption.
    • HR 1893#20 The Keeping All Students Safe Act: To prevent and reduce the use of physical restraint and seclusion in schools.

    POPVOX Roundup

    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. 

  12. Issue Spotlight: "Made in the USA"

    July 2 was "Made in the USA" Day, so on this July 4th, POPVOX would like to highlight efforts in Congress to promote buying American-made products.

    But first, here's a recent proposal that passed the House: Last month, the House passed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization bill sponsored by Rep. Mike Michaud (ME) that would require any footwear provided to new members of the Armed Forces be made in America. Since 1941, the Department of Defense (DOD) has been required to provide clothing items for servicemembers that are produced in the United States. However, the DOD has circumvented this policy by issuing cash allowances to new recruits for their own purchase of athletic training shoes. (Learn more.) The Senate's version of the bill is still pending.

    "Made in the USA" Legislation

    Updated 8/15/13
    • HR 2664 Made in America Act: To direct the Secretary of Commerce to establish a voluntary program under which manufacturers may have products certified as meeting the standards of labels that indicate to consumers the extent to which the products are manufactured in the United States. -- Recently Introduced --
    • S 63 Made In America Manufacturing Act: to require the Secretary of Commerce and the Secretary of Labor to establish the Made In America Incentive Grant Program. (And HR 375 in the House.)
    • HR 194 Congressional Made in America Promise Act: To clarify the applicability of the Buy American Act to products purchased for the use of the legislative branch, to prohibit the application of any of the exceptions to the requirements of such Act to products bearing an official Congressional insignia.
    • HR 1480 Buy America Accountability Act: To amend chapter 83 of title 41, United States Code (commonly known as the Buy American Act), to require each department or independent establishment to conduct an annual audit of its contracts for compliance with such chapter.
    • S 1051 A bill to ensure that footwear furnished or obtained by allowance for enlisted members of the Armed Forces upon their initial entry into the Armed Forces complies with domestic source requirements. (And HR 2188 in the House.)
    • S 1214 All-American Flag Act: to require the purchase of domestically made flags of the United States of America for use by the Federal Government. (And HR 2355 in the House.)
    • HR 1817 American Steel First Act: To require certain Federal agencies to use iron and steel produced in the United States in carrying out projects for the construction, alteration, or repair of a public building or public work.
    • HR 2595 American Parks, American Products Act: To help ensure that all items offered for sale in any gift shop of the National Park Service or of the National Archives and Records Administration are produced in the United States. (And S 1384 in the Senate.)

    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. What to Watch in Congress - Week of June 30, 2013

    Veteran Washington reporter Charlie Mitchell (@CharlieReports) joins us to highlight the big issues before Congress in the coming week.

    Look for Members in their districts for the July 4 holiday, hearing from contituents on: Immigration reform, Student Loans (see POPVOX issue spotlight), and Tax reform. (Read Senate Finance Committee June 27 "Dear Colleague" asking Senators for input on a "clean slate" for tax breaks.)

     

     

    Weigh in on these issues:

  14. POPVOX Daily Digest - June 27, 2013

    From our Hill sources:

    In the Senate:

    After a few long weeks, the Senate finally passed a bipartisan immigration plan, sending the bill to the House.

    The Senate approved the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, in a 68-32 vote. Fourteen Republicans supported the bill, almost enough for supporters to reach the 70 votes they were looking for.

    Passage in the Senate was never in doubt, but the addition of border security language helped the Senate make the case that the House should consider the bill. The border language was submitted by two Republican senators.

    Nonetheless, House Republican leaders said they would not be taking up the Senate passed bill, and indicated they would continue to work on a piecemeal approach to immigration. In the House, that will mean a heavy focus on border security — Republicans are already moving legislation on the border, and may hold a vote or votes by the end of the summer.

    In the House:

    The House was also in and passed two bills:

  15. The POPVOX Top 20: June 21 - 27

    Plastic Gun Ban Top Issue Among POPVOX Users This Week

    This week on POPVOX, the Undetectable Firearms Modernization Act was the top bill. It would reauthorize the ban on undetectable firearms and extend the ban to undetectable firearm receivers and undetectable ammunition magazines. The bill sponsors referred to plastic guns created by 3-D printers as a particular concern for them.

    Want to be a part of the POPVOXnation conversation? Please join us on Facebook or Twitter. It's a great way to stay connected with the POPVOX team and Congress. Thanks for using POPVOX!

    POPVOX Roundup: Week of June 21 - 27

    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 1149#1 Undetectable Firearms Modernization Act: to reauthorize the ban on undetectable firearms, and to extend the ban to undetectable firearm receivers and undetectable ammunition magazines.
    • S 744#2 Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act: to provide for comprehensive immigration reform.
    • HR 2403#3 Securing America’s Fair Elections (SAFE) Act: to permit a State to require an applicant for voter registration in the State who uses the Federal mail voter registration application form developed by the Election Assistance Commission under such Act to provide additional information as a condition of the State's acceptance of the form.
    • HR 2417#4 The SHIELD Act: To amend the Federal Power Act to protect the bulk-power system and electric infrastructure critical to the defense and well-being of the United States against natural and manmade electromagnetic pulse threats and vulnerabilities.
    • HJRes 8#5 A resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States to limit the number of terms that a Member of Congress may serve to 4 in the House of Representatives and 2 in the Senate.
    • HJRes 50#6 A resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relating to parental rights.
    • HR 1864#7 A bill to require an Inspector General investigation of allegations of retaliatory personnel actions taken in response to making protected communications regarding sexual assault.
    • HR 1315#8 Robo Calls Off Phones Act: To direct the Federal Trade Commission to revise the regulations regarding the Do-not-call registry to prohibit politically- oriented recorded message telephone calls to telephone numbers listed on that registry.
    • HJRes 16#9 A resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States to repeal the sixteenth article of amendment.
    • HR 1613#10 Outer Continental Shelf Transboundary Hydrocarbon Agreements Authorization Act: To amend the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to provide for the proper Federal management and oversight of transboundary hydrocarbon reservoirs.
    • HR 2277#11 A bill to eliminate the sporting purposes distinction in the gun laws.
    • HR 2355#12 All-American Flag Act: to require the purchase of domestically made flags of the United States of America for use by the Federal Government.
    • Loans#13 The Discharge Petition on the Student Loan Relief Act (HR 1595): On June 13, 2013, Rep. Joe Courtney [D-CT-2] filed a discharge petition in the House that would force a vote on the Student Loan Relief Act of 2013 (HR 1595). The Student Loan Relief Act would amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to extend the reduced interest rate for Federal Direct Stafford Loans. In the House, if a majority of Members (218 or more) sign on to "discharge" a bill from committee, it will be brought to the House Floor for a vote without a report from a Committee -- without cooperation of the leadership.
    • HR 2247#14 Collectible Firearms Protection Act: to provide that certain firearms listed as curios or relics may be imported into the United States by a licensed importer without obtaining authorization from the Department of State or the Department of Defense.
    • HR 2437#15 The Creating Jobs Through Cooperatives Act: To authorize the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development to establish a national program to create jobs and increase economic development by promoting cooperative development.
    • HR 1947#16 The Farm Bill: To provide for the reform and continuation of agricultural and other programs of the Department of Agriculture through fiscal year 2018.
    • HR 1595#17 Student Loan Relief Act: to extend the reduced interest rate for Federal Direct Stafford Loans.
    • HR 1914#18 Preventing Victims of Stalking Act: To ban guns for persons who have been convicted of stalking or who are subject to a court order restraining the person from stalking.
    • HR 2375#19 Transparency and Accountability in Medicare Bidding Act: To delay for at least 6 months the implementation of round 1 recompete and round 2 of the Medicare durable medical equipment (DME) competitive bidding program and of the national mail order program for diabetic testing supplies to permit Congress an opportunity to reform the competitive bidding program, to provide for an evaluation of that program by an auction expert team.
    • S 1121#20 The Fourth Amendment Restoration Act: to stop the National Security Agency from spying on citizens of the United States.

    POPVOX Roundup

    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. 

  16. POPVOX Daily Digest - June 26, 2013

    From our Hill sources:

    In the Senate:

    The Senate on Wednesday cleared more procedural hurdles to passing a bipartisan immigration bill.

    Senators took three votes Wednesday, one of which was to defeat a Republican point of order against the legislation. Senators also adopted a substitute amendment that includes Republican-backed language to beef up enforcement on the souther border.

    The votes mean the Senate will have one last procedural vote Thursday morning. If that succeeds, the Senate should be able to pass the bill Friday morning.

    In the House:

    The House had a short day and set up votes Thursday and Friday on two energy bills:

  17. POPVOX Daily Digest - June 25, 2013

    From our Hill sources:

    In the Senate:

    The Senate decided on Tuesday to set up a series of Wednesday votes that should allow senators to approve the bipartisan immigration bill by Thursday or Friday.

    Starting just before noon on Wednesday, the Senate will likely vote to waive a Republican point of order against the bill. Then, it will vote to adopt the new language of the bill — this contains the tougher border enforcement language that has won the support of several Senate Republicans.

    The Senate will vote to end debate on the amended bill, allowing a final vote later in the week.

    Senate Democrats indicated that there may be a set of less controversial amendments that can still be attached to the bill.

    In the House

    The House was in and approved three suspension bills, with two energy votes scheduled on Wednesday:

  18. POPVOX Daily Digest - June 24, 2013

    From our Hill sources:

    The Senate pushed the bipartisan Senate immigration bill through an important procedural vote on Monday, setting up a final vote later this week.

    Senators voted 67-27 in favor of ending debate on a new version of the bill that includes Republican-backed language that would dramatically increase spending on border security, including border fencing, thousands of new border guards and the required use of a system that ensures illegal residents are not taking jobs from U.S. citizens. The 27 "no" votes came from Republicans.

    Senate Democrats filed a motion Monday to allow a few more procedural votes to take place mid-week, but by the end of the week, it appears that the new immigration language will be approved by the Senate.

    The House was not working Monday, but returns Tuesday.

  19. Issue Spotlight: Student Loans

    Issue Spotlight: Student Loans

    Interest rates on federal subsidized Stafford student loans are set to double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent on July 1. According to the House Committee on Education and Workforce, if Congress doesn't act, the neediest students will see their costs increase by over $1,000 per year through repayment. 

    Here's a recap of what Congress has been working on to address student loan interest rates:

    The House passed a bill, which hasn't been considered by the Senate:

    • HR 1911 In May, the House passed the Smarter Solutions for Students Act (HR 1911), which would reset student loan interest rates once a year according to the market -- for new loans made after July 1, 2013. Stafford loan interest rates would be calculated based on the 10-year Treasury note plus 2.5 percent, and parent and graduate PLUS loans would be calculated using the 10-year Treasury note plus 4.5 percent. The legislation would also cap interest rates at 8.5 percent on Stafford loans and 10.5 percent on PLUS loans. (The White House has indicated that President Obama would veto this bill.)

    Meanwhile, the House Democrats have a proposal, which hasn't gotten a vote:

    • HR 1595 Student Loan Relief Act: would extend the reduced interest rate for Federal Direct Stafford Loans. (House Democratic proposal, which has not gotten a vote.)

    So the House Democrats are using an uncommon tactic to "discharge" the bill from the committee process and force it to a vote:

    In the Senate, where bills must first pass a "cloture vote" to be voted on, there are two proposals that failed cloture votes:

    • S 1003 Comprehensive Student Loan Protection Act: to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to reset interest rates for new student loans. (Senate Republican proposal; failed cloture vote.)
    • S 953 Student Loan Affordability Act: to extend the reduced interest rate for undergraduate Federal Direct Stafford Loans, to modify required distribution rules for pension plans, to limit earnings stripping by expatriated entities, to provide for modifications related to the Oil Spill Liability Trust. (Senate Democratic proposal, supported by President Obama; failed cloture vote.)

    With interest rates for student loans about to double, this is an issue that not only concerns graduates but may affect the US economy. Weigh in on POPVOX, and we'll deliver your message to Congress. And also take a look at other proposals related to student loans in general.

    Other student loan bills proposed in Congress

    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. The Week Ahead: June 24 - 28

    From our Hill Sources: The Senate appears to be on track to pass a bipartisan immigration bill, and the House will focus on energy this week.

    Video to Watch: Watch veteran Washington reporter Charlie Mitchell as he discusses "what to watch" next week in Congress. (Video)

    Student Loan Interest Rates: As federal student loan interest rates are set to double on July 1, a discharge petition has been filed in the House that would force a vote on the Student Loan Relief Act of 2013 (HR 1595). If a majority of Members of the House sign on to the petition, it will be brought directly to the House floor. So far, 195 Members have signed in support. 218 signatures are needed. Weigh in.

    In the Senate

    The Senate returns on Monday, and appears to be on track to pass a bipartisan immigration bill:

    • S 744 The Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill (officially, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act): The Senate has been on this bill for the last few weeks, and may have finally found a formula for getting enough Republican support to pass it this week.

      The Scoop: Last week, two Senate Republicans, Bob Corker and John Hoeven, proposed language that would add thousands more border guards and hundreds of miles of border fencing. Senate Democrats embraced it, in part because millions of illegal residents would not have to wait for these border measures to take effect, and could immediately gain provisional residency status. Democrats appear likely to support the measure, and possibly a handful of other amendments before pushing for final passage by Friday.

    In the House

    The House is focusing on energy this week, and will approve two bills aimed at boosting offshore energy development:

    The House will also consider:

    • HR 1864 A bill aimed at addressing the rising occurrence of sexual assault in the military.

      The Scoop: This legislation would clarify that victims of sexual crimes are protected from punishment for reporting those crimes, and would also require an investigation into whether people who have reported these crimes have been the subject of retaliatory personnel actions.

    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.