The POPVOX Blog

  1. What to Watch in Congress - Week of July 28, 2013

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

    1. The student loan deal gets a vote in the House.
    2. The House and Senate will vote on their respective Transportation Appropriations bills.
    3. House Republicans will hold a series of votes on what they call "Stop Government Abuse Week," including a bill (H.R. 2009) that would essentially halt ACA (ObamaCare) implementation.
    4. Bipartisan Sheheen-Portman Energy Efficiency bill in the Senate could include a vote on amendment to approve the KeystoneXL pipeline.

  2. The House Republicans' #StopGovtAbuse Initiative

    7/27: The House Majority Leader Eric Cantor announced #StopGovtAbuse Week, a new initiative by House Republicans to "restrain runaway government" and "protect citizens from government overreach." As part of this initiative, the House will consider these ten bills, beginning on Wednesday, July 31. (Source: Weekly Republican Address)

    Weigh in and POPVOX will deliver your message to your lawmakers.

    #StopGovtAbuse Initiative Legislation

    • HR 2711 Citizen Empowerment Act: would establish certain procedures for conducting in-person or telephonic interactions by Executive branch employees with individuals.
    • HR 2579 Government Employee Accountability Act: "would give all federal agencies the mechanisms necessary for agency heads to deal with Senior Executive Service (SES) employees, including the ability to conduct “investigative leave without pay” and to carry out immediate termination," according to the bill sponsor.
    • HR 1541 Common Sense in Compensation Act: would establish limitations, for fiscal years 2013, 2014, and 2015 on the total amount in awards or other discretionary monetary payments which may be paid to any Federal employee.
    • HR 2009 Keep the IRS Off Your Health Care: "would prohibit the Internal Revenue Service from implementing or enforcing any provisions of the president’s health care law," according to the bill sponsor. (Passed House on Aug. 2)
    • HR 367 Regulations From the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act: "would require any major regulation—a rule or regulation with an economic impact of $100 million or more as scored by the Office of Management and Budget—from the executive branch to come before Congress for an up-or-down vote before it could be enacted," according to the bill sponsor. (Passed House on Aug. 2)
    • HR 1660 Government Customer Service Improvement Act: would require the establishment of Federal customer service standards and improve the service provided by Federal agencies. (Passed House on July 31)
    • HR 313 Government Spending Accountability Act: would institute spending limits and transparency requirements for Federal conference and travel expenditures. (Passed House on July 31)
    • HR 2565 Stop Targeting Our Politics IRS Act: would give the head of the IRS the ability to fire employees who engage in political targeting.  (Passed House on July 31)
    • HR 2769 Stop Playing on Citizen’s Cash Act: would impose a moratorium on conferences held by the Internal Revenue Service.  (Passed House on July 31)
    • HR 2768 The Taxpayer Bill of Rights: "would require the IRS to respect common-sense taxpayer rights such as the right to be informed and assisted, the right of appeal and the right to confidentiality, among others. This law ensures the IRS Commissioner and IRS employees are familiar with, and abide by, these taxpayer rights," according to the bill sponsor.  (Passed House on July 31)

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

  3. Issue Spotlight: Human Trafficking

    Under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, human trafficking is defined as the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person to perform labor or a commercial sex act through force, fraud, or coercion. Any commercial sex act performed by a person under age 18 is considered human trafficking, regardless of whether force, fraud, or coercion is involved. (Learn more from the Bureau of Justice Statistics.)

    Human Trafficking Legislation

  4. POPVOX Daily Digest - July 25, 2013

    From our Hill Sources:

    In the House:

    The House was in session and approved a bill that would move regulation of coal ash to the states from the Environmental Protection Agency.

    • HR 2218 The Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act. The House approved this bill 265-155.

      Coal ash is the byproduct of coal after it is burned by power plants and has many industrial applications. The EPA has said coal ash is toxic, and that regulations on how to dispose of it are needed to ensure it doesn't leak into groundwater.

      Republicans said the threat of possible EPA regulations on coal ash has left many industries in limbo that use coal ash as an ingredient in their industrial products.

      The GOP said giving states control over coal ash would help ensure rational regulation. Democrats said taking the authority away from the EPA would only lead to more environmental danger.

      The bill now moves to the Senate, where it is not likely to be taken up by Senate Democrats. The White House has said that it wants the bill to be improved to ensure environmental safety, but did not issue a veto threat.

    In the Senate:

    The Senate was also in, working on S. 1243, the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill. No major votes were taken, and work will continue on this next week.

  5. The Sportsmen's Act Tops This Week's List

    The Sportsmen's Act Tops This Week's List

    The Sportsmen's Act was the top bill among POPVOX users this past week. According to the sponsor, the bill would "protect and enhance opportunities for recreational hunting, fishing, and shooting." Three in five POPVOX users oppose this bill. As a user from New Mexico opposing the bill explained it, "recreational hunting, fishing, and shooting is an industry that's already heavily protected and doesn't need any more privileges."

    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 19 - 25

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

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

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

  6. POPVOX Daily Digest - July 24, 2013

    From our Hill Soures:

    The House passed a Defense Department spending bill for 2014, while the Senate passed a bill aimed at lowering student loan interest rates.

    In the House:

    • HR 2397The Department of Defense Appropriations Act

      This bill has been controversial for the last two weeks, as many members wanted to include language that would limit the ability of the National Security Agency (NSA) to spy on Americans.

      The House looked at two amendments, but rejected language proposed by Rep. Justin Amash [R, MI-3] that would have ended the ability of the NSA to collect phone and Internet data on American citizens. It accepted language offered by Rep. Richard Nugent [R, FL-11] to prohibit the NSA from targeting American citizens in their data collection activities.

      The spending bill itself provides nearly $600 billion in war and non-war spending for the Defense Department. House passage sends the bill to the Senate.

      Members approved the final bill 315-109.

    In the Senate:

    After several weeks of delay, the Senate passed a student loan bill:

    • HR 1911The Smarter Solutions for Students Act, as amended by the Senate.

      The amended Senate bill would peg the interest rate on student loans at the rate of the 10-year Treasury bill plus 2.05 percent. That could send rates higher than the current 6.8 percent, but the Senate bill includes a 8.25 percent cap on rates.

      The Senate version is close to the House version, which set the rate at the 10-year Treasury bill plus 2.5 percent. Democrats originally said they oppose the House bill, but eventually came around after making adjustments to the House bill, including ensuring that loans would be taken out under a fixed rate, not a variable rate.

      Senate passage could allow the House to pass the bill as early as Thursday, and send it to the President. The absence of a deal led the rate to increase from 3.4 to 6.8 percent on July 1, but the Senate-passed language would retroactively reset the rate starting on July 1.The House passed a Defense Department spending bill for 2014, while the Senate passed a bill aimed at lowering student loan interest rates.

      The Senate approved this bill 81-18.

       

  7. POPVOX Daily Digest - July 23, 2013

    From our Hill sources

    In the Senate:

    The Senate took a step toward passing its first 2014 spending bill of the year:

    In the House:

    The House was in and started amendment work on the 2014 Defense Department spending bill:

    • HR 2397The Department of Defense Appropriations Act The bill spends $54 billion on transportation and housing. Senators voted 73-26 to proceed to the bill.

      Over 100 amendments have been allowed on the bill and the House will continue its work throughout the week.

      The House will consider two amendments aimed at addressing complaints about spying on Americans by the National Security Agency (NSA).


      The Amash-Conyers Amendment

      One amendment from Rep. Justin Amash [R, MI-3] and Rep. John Conyers [D, MI-13] would require the NSA to only collect data on Americans pursuant to orders saying the targets of surveillance are suspects in an investigation:


      The Nugent Amendment

      Another amendment from Rep. Richard Nugent [R, FL-11] would ensure no money is used by NSA to target U.S. citizens or acquire and store their information.

      Many members are looking for a debate and votes on the controversial NSA spying plan, but some said allowing votes on just these two amendments is not enough.


      The House will also get to vote on one Syria and one Egypt-related amendment, but again, some members said Tuesday that a broader debate is needed.

      The Radel Syria Amendment

      H.Amdt.102 to H.R. 2397 from Rep. Trey Radel [R, FL-19]: Prohibits the use of any funds with respect to military action in Syria to the extent such action would be inconsistent with the War Powers Resolution.


      The Massie Egypt Amendment

      H.Amdt.105 to H.R. 2397 from Rep. Thomas Massie [R, KY-4]: Provides that no funds made available by this Act may be used to fund military or paramilitary operations in Egypt.

  8. POPVOX Daily Digest - July 22, 2013

    From our Hill Sources:

    The House considered five suspension bills on Monday, and passed them all:

  9. The Week Ahead: July 22 - 26

    From our Hill Sources: With just a few weeks left before the August break, Congress will try this week to pass a few spending bills for the next fiscal year. And the Senate may address the student loan interest rate hike that took place July 1.

    Spending Bills

    • S 1243 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act: this bill would spend $54 billion in 2014, $10 billion more than the House version, and is the first spending bill for next year that the Senate has considered.
    • HR 2397 Defense Appropriations Act: This bill spends $512 billion in non-war funding, down about $5 billion from last year's bill but up $28 billion from current spending levels that include the sequester.

      As part of the debate on the defense spending bill, House members will be considering amendments to reduce military aid to Egypt and Syria -- and limit NSA surveillance. Learn more in this week's What to Watch with Charlie Mitchell.

    • While work continues on 2014 spending bills, chances are slim that they will be completed by the end of September, when the current continuing resolution expires. Most expect that Congress will again pass a continuing spending resolution to ensure 2014 funding.

    In the Senate

    • S 1334 Student Loan Interest Rates: Congress might also finally pass a bill modifying the interest rate on student loans from the current 6.8 percent. A group of senators said they agreed to a bill last week that would peg the interest rate to the government's borrowing rate, and the Senate may be in a position to pass this bill.

      From our sources: Many Democrats oppose the compromise, however, as it could lead the student rate to rise above 6.8 percent when interest rates are higher. However, several key Democrats said last week that they support the bill, which would have the immediate effect of lowering the rate from 6.8 percent. The Senate compromise is very similar to a House-passed bill that many Democrats and President Obama said they oppose. As a result, Senate passage of the bill this week, could let the House quickly pass it as well.

    In the House

    The House may also take up to energy deregulation bills this week:

    Finally, the House will consider up to six, less controversial suspension bills throughout the week:

    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.

  10. What to Watch in Congress - Week of July 21

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

    1. A possible student loan deal in the Senate to roll back doubling of rates that took affect July 1
    2. A bill to require electronic filing of Senate campaign reports gets a hearing in the Rules Committee
    3. Controversial Defense Appropriations procedure in the House

    Weigh in on these bills:

  11. POPVOX Daily Digest - July 19, 2013

    Form our Hill Sources:

    The House was in session and passed legislation that would revamp the federal government's role in education.

    • HR 5 The Student Success Act.

      House Members passed this bill in a 221-207 vote, with 12 Republicans voted against it, and no Democrats supporting.

      Republicans are angry at the Obama administration's use of waivers from the No Child Left Behind act. The GOP says the Administration has used these waivers as leverage to get states to pursue its own education goals, not those of Congress.

      The bill removes the federal government from the setting school standards, letting states decide how to apportion money for underperforming schools and set their own metrics for teacher and school performance.

      Democrats argued that the federal role helps protect at-risk students.

      Despite House passage, the bill is unlikely to move beyond this point. Democrats in the Senate are working on a different bill, and President Obama has said he would veto the House bill.

  12. The POPVOX Top 20: July 12 - 18

    Delaying Obamacare Mandates Top Priority on POPVOX

    The House voted this week to delay parts of Obamacare, the 2010 health care law, after the Obama Administration decided to delay the employer insurance mandate. Not surprisingly, this issue was the top priority among POPVOX users over the past week. The Authority for Mandate Delay Act (HR 2667) would delay the requirement that companies must offer health insurance to its workers, and the Fairness for American Families Act (HR 2668) would delay the requirement that individuals must purchase health insurance.

    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 12 - 18

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

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

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

  13. POPVOX Daily Digest - July 18, 2013

    From our Hill Sources:

    In the House:

    The House was in to start work on a bill rewriting federal education policy.

    • HR 5 The Student Success Act.

      This legislation would give states more authority to set teacher qualification standards, take steps to improve schools, and direct funding as they see fit.

      Republicans say the bill is needed because the current No Child Left Behind law requires too much federal oversight, and states have already been granted dozens of waivers by the government due to restrictions under the current law.

      Democrats agree that the law needs reform, but say the bill goes too far the other way, and argued that some federal standards are needed to ensure state standards don't slip.

      House members debated the bill and considered several amendments. Final House passage is expected on Friday.

    In the Senate:

    The Senate confirmed the nomination of Tom Perez as the next Secretary of Labor. Perez won confirmation in a 54-46 vote. No Republicans voted to confirm.

    The Senate also approved the nomination of Gina McCarthy to be the next administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, in a 59-40 vote.

    Both appointees were confirmed under an agreement reached earlier this week under which Democrats dropped two controversial nominees to the National Labor Relations Board.

  14. POPVOX Daily Digest - July 17, 2013

    From our Hill sources:

    In the House:

    The House voted Wednesday to delay two health insurance mandates under the Affordable Health Act or "ObamaCare." Republicans brought the measures in response to the Obama Administration's decision to delay implementation of the employer mandate.

    In a 264-161 vote, the House voted for H.R. 2667, the Authority for Mandate Delay Act. This bill would delay the requirement that all companies with more than 50 employees give those employees a health plan.

    In a 251-174 vote, the House also passed H.R. 2668, the Fairness for American Families Act. This bill would extend the same delay for the individual mandate, which requires everyone to buy an insurance plan.

    Republicans argued that Administration's delay of the requirement on large employers favored companies over regular people, arguing that if compliance is tough for companies, it would likely also be a challenge for individuals.

    Democrats said the two bills were just another attempt to repealing ObamaCare piece-by-piece.

    The bills have little chance of advancing further, as the Obama Administration has said it would veto, and the Senate is not expected to consider either bill.

    In the Senate:

    <p>The Senate was dealing with nominations all day. It approved Fred Hochberg to become the next head of the Export-Import Bank in an 82-17 vote, and held a procedural vote that could allow senators on Thursday to approve Tom Perez to be the next Labor Secretary.

     

  15. POPVOX Daily Digest - July 16, 2013

    From our Hill Sources:

    In the Senate:

    The Senate started the day with the possibility of making radical changes to the filibuster system, but ended with a deal allowing votes this week on several Obama administration nominations.

    Under the agreement, Democrats agreed to drop two controversial nominees to the National Labor Relations Board. The controversy with the nominees stemmed from their "recess appointment" by President Obama in January, 2012. In January 2013, the D.C. Circuit found that the Senate had not technically been in recess at the time, and therefore the appointments were invalid. (Noel Canning v. NLRB).

    With a deal reached, the Senate was able to confirm Richard Cordray to be the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Board. Other nominations will follow throughout the week.

    In the House:

    The House was also in, and passed three suspension bills:

    • HR 1848 The Small Airplane Revitalization Act Passed 411-0.

    • HR 2576 changing U.S. law to eliminate a requirement that certain pipeline standards do not have to be published online, to protect the intellectual property of standards-setting groups. Passed 405-2.

    • HR 2611 naming the Coast Guard headquarters building in Washington DC. Passed 411-0.

  16. POPVOX Daily Digest - June 15, 2013

    From our Hill Sources:

    In the Senate:

    Senators from both parties held a meeting lasting several hours on Senate procedures — specifically, whether they can agree to a deal that allows consideration of President Obama's nominations.

    Senators met for three and a half hours, but did not announce any agreement that would let Democrats pull back from their threat to change Senate rules in order to make it harder to filibuster nominees.

    With no deal in sight, the Senate seemed poised to hold a series of votes on Tuesday on seven nominations. However, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid indicated that Senate leaders were still working on the issue into the night, meaning that the situation could change by Tuesday.

    Democrats have threatened the so-called "nuclear option," by which Democrats would change Senate rules on the filibuster by a simple majority vote. Normally, it would take a supermajority to change the rules -- changing them with only a simple majority would be seen as a dramatic departure from historical precedent.

    In the House:

    No votes were held in the House.

  17. 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.

  18. 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:

  19. 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.

  20. 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.