From Our Hill Sources: With Congress still in recess, the President challenged Congress “to do its part” when it returns in September. “Americans expect Congress to help keep our country strong and growing,” he continued. “When Congress gets back, they should prevent a shutdown, pass a responsible budget, and prove that this is a country that looks forward—a country that invests in our future, and keeps our economy growing for all Americans.”
This week, we’re highlighting reauthorizing the Ex-Im Bank, which the President considers a top priority, as well as the federal budget process. Will there be another federal government shutdown? Congress has only a few weeks to act when it returns from recess.
Finally, we are spotlighting “sanctuary cities” and the enforcement of federal immigration laws. Share your voice on POPVOX!
(Photo: Workers raising the first of 32 sections of drapery in the Rotunda, from the Architect of the Capitol on Instagram. (Watch time-lapse video of the construction)
Reauthorizing the Ex-Im Bank
On the top of the President’s list for Congress after recess was reauthorizing the Export Import Bank:
“When it returns from recess, reauthorizing the bank ought to be a top agenda for members of Congress.”
The Export-Import Bank’s charter expired on July 1—for the first time in its 81-year history. While the bank cannot currently make new loans, it continues to service outstanding loans and guarantees. However, its funding runs out at the end of FY 2015, Sept. 30, without Congressional action.
Reauthorization Proposals in Congress
Before leaving for recess, the Senate voted 64-29 on an amendment reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank’s charter attached to their long-term highway bill. The amendment, from Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL), reauthorizes the bank's charter through the fall of 2019.
The amendment passed by the Senate and the House proposal, which failed to be considered, is identical to a bill that was introduced in March:
Sponsor: Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) —Bipartisan— Would reauthorize the Bank’s charter until September 30, 2019 and implement several reforms, including: Reduce risk to taxpayers by requiring higher loan loss reserves; Put greater focus on small businesses by increasing the required lending to small businesses from 20 percent to 25 percent; and increase oversight of Ex-Im Bank practices by: Creating a Chief Risk Officer and a Risk Management Committee to oversee the Bank's operations; Requiring the Inspector General to regularly audit the Bank’s risk management procedures; and Creating a non-political Chief Ethics Officer to oversee ethics practices of Bank employees. (Source: bill sponsors)
Congressman Stephen Fincher (R-TN), sponsor of a House bill to reauthorize the Ex-Im Bank, is pushing for a vote on his bill when Congress returns from August recess. “Make no mistake, American jobs will be lost over the month of August because we did not act to get this reauthorized," he explained.
Sponsor: Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-TN) —Bipartisan— Would reauthorize the Export-Import Bank through 2019. “Includes 31 meaningful reforms to the Ex-Im Bank that will enhance transparency, improve accountability, and reduce risk, while preserving an important entity that supports American jobs,” according to the bill sponsor. “Reforming and reauthorizing the Ex-Im Bank will not only allow American companies to break into emerging markets but it will keep jobs here at home.” (Read bill text)
From our Hill Sources: Supporters of the Export-Import Bank may continue to look for opportunities to add the Export-Import Bank to other must-pass legislation throughout the rest of the year.
Another Government Shutdown?
Also in his weekly address, President Obama urged Congress to pass a budget and avoid a government shutdown. The fiscal year ends on Sept. 30th, giving Congress only a few weeks after their recess to act. Alternately, they could pass a Continuing Resolution, a short-term funding bill that extends pre-existing funding at the same levels as the previous fiscal year. The President also challenged Congress to pass a budget without the sequestration cuts:
Congress also hasn’t passed a budget – and when they return from vacation, they’ll only have a few weeks to do so, or shut down the government for the second time in two years. They’ve had all year to do this. Months ago, I put forward a detailed plan to strengthen our economy and our national security in a fiscally responsible way. And for months, I’ve said I will veto any budget that locks in the sequester—those senseless cuts to domestic and national security priorities. Remember, we can’t cut our way to prosperity. We should be investing in things that help our economy grow today and tomorrow, like education or infrastructure or scientific research."
From our Hill Sources: Democrats in Congress believe there is bipartisan support for ending the sequestration cuts, which are the arbitrary across-the-board spending cuts that were enacted after the debt-ceiling crisis of 2011. In June, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) urged Congress to repeal the “mindless mechanism of sequestration” as the Senate worked on the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2016.
Ending Sequestration Cuts
Some Democrats in Congress have been pushing for repealing the sequestration cuts since they began in 2013. There’s a proposal in Congress that would repeal the cuts:
Sponsor: Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) This one sentence legislation would repeal sequestration, the across the board cuts that went into effect in 2013. (Read bill text)
Defunding Planned Parenthood
In addition, some conservative Republicans have threatened to hold up funding bills to keep the government open after Oct. 1 unless federal money for Planned Parenthood is cut. In a letter to House leadership, 18 Republican Representatives pledged that they “cannot and will not support any funding resolution—an appropriations bill, an omnibus package, a continuing resolution, or otherwise—that contains any funding for Planned Parenthood, including mandatory funding streams.” (Learn more in our previous Weekly Update.)
Stand-alone bills to defund Planned Parenthood have been introduced in both the House and Senate. The House bill has yet to have received a vote:
Sponsor: Rep. Diane Black (R-TN) —Bipartisan— “Would place an immediate moratorium on all federal funding of Planned Parenthood for the span of one year while Congress conducts a full investigation into the organization’s activities,” according to the bill sponsor. (Read bill text)
In the Senate, the bill was considered, but it didn’t have the 60 votes needed to advance:
Sponsor: Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) “In addition to defunding Planned Parenthood, this legislation ensures the preservation of Federal funding for women’s health services including relevant diagnostic laboratory and radiology services, well-child care, prenatal and postpartum care, immunization, family planning services including contraception, sexually transmitted disease testing, cervical and breast cancer screenings, and referrals,” according to the bill sponsors. “Funds no longer available to Planned Parenthood will continue to be offered to other eligible entities to provide such women’s health care services.” (Read bill text) —Failed cloture vote (53-46) on August 3, 2015.—
From our Hill Sources: Under the Hyde Amendment, Planned Parenthood is banned from using federal funding for abortion services.
We’ve been hearing about “sanctuary cities” particularly on the Presidential campaign trail, and wanted to spotlight related proposals in Congress. The issue became a flash point after the death of Kathryn Steinle, who was fatally shot on July 1 in San Francisco by a Mexican national with a criminal record who had been deported several times.
Before leaving for recess, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing, “Sanctuary Cities: A Threat to Public Safety.” Jim Steinle, Kathryn’s father, testified before the Committee in support of laws to keep “undocumented immigrant felons off our streets for good”:
“Our family realizes the complexities of immigration laws, however, we feel strongly that some legislation should be discussed, enacted and/or changed to take these undocumented immigrant felons off our streets for good. We would be proud to see Kate’s name associated with some of this new legislation. We feel that if Kate’s Law saves 1 daughter, 1 son, a mother or a father, Kate’s death won’t be in vain."
What is a Sanctuary City?
The term sanctuary city is given to cities that have policies designed to shelter immigrants who are in the United States illegally. These practices can be by law (de jure) or they can be by practice (de facto) Generally, these cities do not allow municipal funds or resources to be used to enforce federal immigration laws, usually by not allowing police or municipal employees to inquire about an individual's immigration status.
As the White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest explained, “one of the characteristic elements of our broken immigration system is the significant challenges that the federal government and federal law enforcement officials have had in enforcing the law by working closely with local law enforcement officials. And this is something that the United States Congress had the opportunity to fix in the context of comprehensive immigration reform legislation. But this fix was blocked by Republicans in the House of Representatives.”
When comprehensive immigration reform efforts failed in Congress last year, President Obama “acted on his own; and in acting on his own, the President actually scrapped the Secure Communities Program” in November 2014. This was the program that previously codified the relationship between the federal government and local law enforcement that actually caused a number of cities to declare themselves sanctuary cities.
The Secure Communities Program was then replaced by the Priority Enforcement Program, which focuses on convicted criminals and others who pose a danger to public safety. The Program enables the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to work with state and local law enforcement to take custody of individuals who pose a danger before those individuals are released into our communities. (Source: DHS)
Congress Responds to Sanctuary Cities
In reaction to Steinle’s murder, the House passed the Enforce the Law for Sanctuary Cities Act last month:
Sponsor: Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) —Passed the House on 7/24/2015— “Would deny funding for states or local governments that fail to enforce immigration laws that protect Americans,” according to the House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH). (Read bill text)
A similar bill has been introduced in the Senate, which was supposed to be marked-up by the Senate Judiciary Committee in early August, but has been postponed until after recess:
Sponsor: Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) “To withhold federal funding from sanctuary cities that fail to comply with detainer requests issued by the Department of Homeland Security,” according to the bill sponsors. “Under the legislation, sanctuary cities would be ineligible to receive funds under the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP), a federal grant program intended to offset the cost to states and local jurisdictions for jailing illegal immigrants who commit crimes. States or cities that do not then come into compliance within 180 days would subsequently lose eligibility for grants under the Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program (Byrne JAG). The bill would also ensure that these funds are reallocated to other regions of an affected state that are in compliance with federal immigration law.” (Read bill text)
Related Bills in Congress
Last year’s calls for “comprehensive immigration reform” in Congress resulted in a bipartisan framework, which was passed by the Senate but not considered by the House. Some in Congress continue to fight for a comprehensive approach: “Without comprehensive immigration reform, we are jeopardizing the safety and imperiling the economic security of immigrant families and our country,” explained Congressman Charles Rangel (D-NY). Others in Congress have introduced more piecemeal proposals to fix the immigration system.
Here are a few recently introduced bills related to "sanctuary cities":
Sponsor: Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) “Would prevent “sanctuary cities” from harboring dangerous criminal aliens by requiring state and local law enforcement to notify U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) following the arrest of an illegal immigrant, and detain an illegal immigrant if requested to do so by ICE,” according to the bill sponsors. “Additionally, if the Bureau of Prisons receives a request from ICE to transfer an illegal immigrant to their custody, that request will take priority over the request from state and local agencies. Under this legislation, localities will be required to follow the new requirements as a condition of receiving federal law enforcement grants.” (Read bill text)
From our Hill Sources: Sen. Paul also introduced this proposal as an amendment to the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (S 754), which may be considered after recess by the Senate.
Sponsor: Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) “Named for two Sheriff’s Deputies in California who were murdered by an illegal alien with an extensive criminal record and immigration history,” according to the bill sponsors. “In addition to enhancing cooperation with states and local law enforcement and eliminating loopholes that allow criminal aliens to obtain immigration benefits, this bill would constitute the strongest response to sanctuary jurisdictions that this government has ever undertaken. Specifically, it would withhold federal funding from sanctuary jurisdictions that do not cooperate with the enforcement of federal immigration laws or do not honor federal immigration detainers, provide immunity to jurisdictions that honor federal detainers and hold aliens until ICE can pick them up, and provide a general sense of Congress that “the Department of Homeland Security has probable cause to believe that an alien is inadmissible or deportable when it issues a detainer” for an alien.” (Read bill text)
Sponsor: Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) “Would withhold federal funding from sanctuary jurisdictions that refuse to cooperate on criminal aliens and other high priority individuals. The bill would also increase the amount of time, from up to 2 years to a mandatory 5 years, an illegal immigrant must spend in jail for re-entry after deportation,” according to the bill sponsors. (Read bill text)
— 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 a complex legislative system. —