The POPVOX Blog

  1. 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.

  2. 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:

  3. 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.

  4. 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!

  5. 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. 

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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!

  9. 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. 

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. POPVOX Daily Digest - October 14, 2013

    From our Hill Sources:

    Senate leaders on Monday continued to talk about a broad agreement to re-open the government and allow the government to keep borrowing past the current debt ceiling, which the U.S. will hit on October 17.

    Senators of both parties seemed to be headed toward a deal to re-open the government until January, and allow borrowing until February. But it wasn't clear Monday how House Republicans would react to this agreement.

    Senators are expected to roll out full details of that bill on Tuesday, which may also make it possible to assess whether the House will take it up and pass it, or seek changes.

    In the meantime, the House passed another narrow spending bill:

    H.J.Res. 80 — the American Indian and Alaska Native, Health, Education, and Safety Act. This bill funds parts of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and is the 15th of these narrow bills passed by the House.

    As has been the case with most of these bills, several Democrats supported it, but the bill is not expected to advance in the Senate, especially if a fiscal deal is in the works.

    The House also passed H.R. 3190, the United States Parole Commission Extension Act, which would extend the term of the commission for another five years.

  13. The Week Ahead: Oct. 14 - 18

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

    In the Senate: They're Talking!

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

    Debt Ceiling Deal This Week?

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

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

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

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

    In the House

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

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

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

    Veterans' Benefits During the Shutdown

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

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

    See more bills related to veterans' benefits.

    Furloughed Employees' Paychecks

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

    Discharge Petition to End the Shutdown

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

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

    Tired of the Shutdown and Debt Ceiling?

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

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

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

    See what else is trending in real time.

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

  14. Issue Spotlight: Veterans During the Shutdown

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

    Benefits Through Late October

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

    Signed into Law: The Pay Our Military Act

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

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

    Pending Bills Related to Veterans

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

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

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

  15. The POPVOX Top 20: Oct. 4 - 10

    The Capitol shut down, in the rain.

    Still. Shut. Down.

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

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

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

    POPVOX Roundup: Week of Oct. 4 - 10

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

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

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

  16. POPVOX Daily Digest - October 9-10, 2013

    From our Hill sources:

    Short-Term Deal on Debt Ceiling in Sight?

    House Republicans announced on Thursday that they would try to pass a bill allowing the government to continue to borrow money above the debt ceiling for six weeks. Republicans portrayed this idea as a concession to Democrats, but it still faces hurdles:

    1. It's not clear how much support the idea has among rank-and-file Republicans. Many are known to oppose more borrowing without spending cut concessions first, but GOP leaders have decided they need to meet Democrats halfway on the debt ceiling.
    2. Democrats say they still want the government to re-open first. The GOP plan is to allow a six-week increase in the debt ceiling and allow talks to happen on 2014 spending, but it would not re-open the government. Democrats seem set on ending the shutdown before negotiating with Republicans.

    Senate Republicans offered their own plan, which would reopen the government and raise the federal debt limit for as long as three months.

    Later in the day, 18 House Republicans met with President Obama at the White House. All parties indicated that no deal was reached in that meeting, but that commuication would continue throughout the night.

    "Piecemeal" Spending Bills Continue in House

    In a brief session on the floor Thursday, the House passed H.J.Res. 79, the Border Safety and Security Act, in a 249-175 vote. Republicans were joined by 21 Democrats who also voted for the measure, despite broad Democratic opposition to the GOP's "piecemeal" approach.

    On Wednesday the House passed a resolution ensuring that the Department of Defense can make "death gratuity" payments to the families and relatives of members of the Armed Forces who are killed in battle.

    • HJRes 91The Honoring the Families of Fallen Soldiers Act

      The Defense Department said the shutdown was preventing these payments. Less than a day later, Republicans and Democrats in the House wrote a bill and passed it, showing the depth of support for continuing these payments. The bill passed 425-0.

      The Senate likely feels some compulsion to pass this bill, even though Democrats have said they oppose all of the House's "mini" spending bills.

    On Wednesday, the House also passed:

    • HJRes 90The Flight Safety Act

      This resolution would fund airplane safety inspectors and other Federal Aviation Administration workers who have been furloughed by the sequester. The House approved this in a 252-172 vote.

      The House was expected to continue passing these narrow bills into the weekend, and then into next week, when they will return despite initially planning to be on recess.

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

  18. POPVOX Daily Digest - October 8, 2013

    From our Hill Sources

    Don't Call it a "SuperCommittee": House Votes to Create New Working Group

     

    The House met Tuesday to quickly pass a bill developed on the same day to create a new congressional working group on the issues of spending and the debt ceiling.

      HR 3273 The Deficit Reduction and Economic Growth Working Group Act -- This bill creates a 20-member working group that would have to meet immediately to find solutions to the fights over 2014 spending levels and the pending problem related to the debt ceiling.

       

      The Obama Administration has said the government will bump up against the debt ceiling on October 17. Without a solution, the government will technically be unable to borrow more money, which some say runs the risk of defaulting on the national debt.

      The bill passed 224-197, in a mostly party-line vote..

      Republicans supported the bill as a way to get the two sides talking. Democrats rejected it as an empty gesture, and we backed by President Obama, who threatened to veto it and again called on Republicans to pass a clean continuing resolution to reopen the government.

    The House also passed:

    • HJ Res 89 The Federal Worker Pay Fairness Act -- This bill guarantees that any worker deemed "essential" in the shutdown is paid on time.

       

      This non-controversial bill passed 420-0..

      However, the House will send the worker pay bill over to the Senate as part of the bill creating the working group, which means Senate Democrats may try to amend the package and only pass the worker pay provision.

    Also Tuesday, the House approved another narrow spending bill for 2014, this one dealing with education grants for low-income families.

    • HJ Res 84 The Head Start for Low-Income Children Act -- This bill funds the Head Start program, which offers grants that allow children to enroll in preschool programs.

       

      This bill passed 248-168, with the help of 23 House Democrats..

      House Republicans continue to push these smaller spending bills as a way to slowly end the shutdown, but Democrats broadly oppose them and say they want a full funding bill.

  19. POPVOX Daily Digest - October 7, 2013

    From our Hill Sources:

    House Passes Short-term FDA Funding Bill

    The House met in the afternoon to pass another narrow spending bill, one that funds the work of the Food and Drug Administration.

    The House approved the resolution 235-162, with 20 Democratic votes.

    Passage sends it to the Senate, which continues to reject the short-term piecemeal bills the House has sent over during the Government Shutdown. Democrats are demanding passage of a single bill that funds all the government.

    The Senate was in and passed no legislation, although Democrats may soon vote on a bill extending the debt ceiling.

     

     

  20. The Week Ahead: Oct. 7 - 11

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

    The Government Shutdown -- and a Divided Congress

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

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

    A "Clean" CR and a Piecemeal Approach

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

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

    Furloughed Employees' Paychecks

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

    Discharge Petition to End the Shutdown

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

    The Next Crisis Only 10 Days Away: The Debt Ceiling

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

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

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

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

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