The POPVOX Blog

  1. POPVOX Daily Digest - February 4, 2014

    From our Hill sources:

    The Senate passed The Farm Bill and sent it to President Obama for his signature into law.

    Senate passage marks the end of a more than three-year congressional effort. The bill didn't reform farm programs as much as some wanted, and also found a compromise on food stamps that many Republicans said was not enough.

    The final bill cuts food stamps by $8 billion over ten years, double the cuts in the original Senate-passed bill.

    Despite those cuts, most Democrats voted for the bill. Nine Democrats voted against it, along with 23 Republicans.

    After finishing the farm bill, Senate Democrats set up a vote later this week on S. 1845, a new bill to extend emergency unemployment benefits. The new bill extends benefits for three months, and pays for it by making changes to corporate pension funding requirements — those changes will increase taxes on these companies, and raise $6.4 billion over four years.

    The Senate will hold a vote by Thursday on whether to end debate on that bill, which will need 60 votes.

    The House was in to start work on H.R. 3590, the Sportsmen's Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act, which looks to ensure access to federal lands for hunting, sport shooting and other activities.

     

        Members considered a few amendments, and will hold a vote on final passage Wednesday.

  2. POPVOX Daily Digest - February 3, 2014

    From our Hill Sources: 

    Farm Bill progress in the Senate

    The Senate took a step toward passing a giant farm bill that would authorize agricultural commodity programs and food stamps for the next five years.

    Senators voted 72-22 to end debate on a House-Senate agreement on the farm bill. The compromise bill is being carried on the original House farm bill, H.R. 2642.

    Most of the "no" votes came from Republicans, although three Senate Democrats also voted against ending debate. Democrats have broadly been opposed to the bill because of its cuts to food stamps, but the bill is expected to pass the bill nonetheless Tuesday afternoon.

    The Senate also passed S. 376, the Drought Information Act, which funds a federal program aimed at helping the government respond to drought.

     

    Two suspension bills in the House

    H.R. 357 — the GI Bill Tuition Fairness Act, which ensures in-state tuition rates for veterans. Passed 390-0.

    H.R. 1791 — the Medical Preparedness Allowable Use Act, allowing for the stockpiling of drugs and medical kits to improve emergency medical preparedness. Passed 391-2.

  3. The Week Ahead: Feb. 3 - 7

    From our Hill Sources: The Senate will try to pass a farm bill early in the week, and then take another shot at extending emergency unemployment benefits.

    The State of the Union

    Last week, President Obama gave his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the Nation. Here's a POPVOX-style recap of his address -- meshing his quotes with proposals already pending before Congress.

    The Farm Bill

    The House and Senate Farm Bill negotiators who met to reconcile the different versions passed in either chambers have reached a bipartisan agreement.

    • HR 2642

      The Conference Report on the Farm Bill

      A "five-year farm bill that will reduce the deficit, grow the economy and provide certainty to the 16 million Americans whose jobs depend on agriculture," according to the negotiators.

    Here are some specifics in the agreement*:

    1. Program cuts. Repeals the direct payment program (which costs approximately $4.5 billion a year) and strengthens risk management tools. Repeals outdated programs and consolidates duplicative ones, eliminating nearly 100 programs or authorizations.
    2. Job creation. Helps farmers and ranchers create jobs and provides certainty for the 16 million Americans working in agriculture.
    3. Land protection. Strengthens conservation efforts to protect land, water and wildlife for future generations.
    4. Organics. Creates a cost-share measure for farmers transitioning to organic agriculture.
    5. "Food Stamps" or SNAP. Maintains food assistance for families while addressing fraud and misuse in SNAP. Reduces "food stamp" SNAP funding by nearly $9 billion over 10 years. (By comparison, the House-passed bill from Sept. 2013 had nearly $40 billion in cuts, while the Senate version had $4 billion in cuts.) Mandates electronic state immigration verification for SNAP applicants. Does not include provisions to let states drug test SNAP applicants.
    6. Animal protection. Makes it a federal crime to attend or bring a child under the age of 16 to an animal fighting event.
    7. The King Amendment was not included. The King Amendment would have prohibited states from setting mandatory agricultural production standards for other states.
    8. Hemp. Allows colleges and universities to grow industrial hemp for research purposes in states where it is already legal to do so.
    9. Christmas trees. Directs the Agriculture Dept. to resume establishment of an industry funded promotion program serving the fresh Christmas tree industry.
    10. Meat labeling. Includes federal labeling rules requiring more information about the origins of beef, pork and other meats.
    11. Marijuana. Clarifies that medical-marijuana can't be deducted as an expense to claim more food-stamp benefits.

    The Scoop from our Hill Sources: The House approved this $956 billion bill last week, and sent it to a Senate that should have an easy time passing it. Senators will hold a procedural vote on Monday, and if 60 votes are there for the bill, it will pass shortly thereafter.

    Unemployment Insurance

    Senate Democrats said they would try again to extend unemployment insurance benefits that expired in December. They want a three-month extension, which could cost $6.5 billion and would be paid for by making a change to private sector pension requirements in order to increase the tax liability of companies.

    The Scoop from our Hill Sources:  It's unclear whether enough Senate Republicans will go along with the new proposal, but Democrats are thought to need just a few more to get 60 votes and the right to end debate on the bill. As of the weekend, the bill was still being written, and there was no text available.

    The House

    The House has plans to work on bills related to the use of federal land:

    The House will also take up two suspension bills this 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.

    *Sources: House Agriculture Committee, Fresno Bee, Wall Street Journal, Sacramento Bee, Politico, Washington Post.

  4. PRESS CLIP: The Future Of Political Engagement Is Here (And It's Called POPVOX)

  5. The POPVOX Top 20: Jan 24 - 30, 2014

    Federal Funding of Abortion is the Top Issue Among POPVOX Users

    The President's State of the Union address to Congress was the biggest event in Washington, DC this week. (Only the frigid temperatures were perhaps more discussed!) Take a look at POPVOX's roundup of the State of the Union, where we meshed the President's quotes with proposals already pending in Congress. 

    Federal funding of abortions was a top priority among POPVOX users this week. This wasn't surprising given that the House passed the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act (HR 7) on Monday, which would make permanent the ban on spending federal funds on abortion, a policy that is usually renewed each year. The bill also includes a new attack against the 2010 Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare. It would prohibit federal subsidies to be used to buy Obamacare plans that cover abortion. According to POPVOX's Hill Sources, "opposition from Senate Democrats will likely turn the House effort into a "messaging" bill that goes no further than the House vote."

    POPVOX Roundup: Week of Jan. 24 - 30

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    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 7

      #1 No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act

      To prohibit taxpayer funded abortions.

      572 Support | 156 Oppose

    • S 946

      #2 No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act

      Prohibits the expenditure of funds authorized or appropriated by federal law or funds in any trust fund to which funds are authorized or appropriated by federal law (federal funds) for any abortion.

      403 Support | 77 Oppose

    • S 1726

      #3 Obamacare Taxpayer Bailout Prevention Act

      To prevent a taxpayer bailout of health insurance issuers.

      359 Support | 31 Oppose

    • HR 2642

      #4 Farm Bill Conference agreement

      "A bipartisan, bicameral agreement on a five-year farm bill that will reduce the deficit, grow the economy and provide certainty to the 16 million Americans whose jobs depend on agriculture. [It] contains major reforms, including eliminating the direct payments program, streamlining and consolidating numerous programs to improve their effectiveness and reduce duplication, and cutting down on program misuse. The bill also strengthens our nation's commitment to support farmers and ranchers affected by natural disasters or significant economic losses; and renews a national commitment to protect land, water, and other natural resources."

      78 Support | 260 Oppose

    • S 1945

      #5 Voting Rights Amendment Act

      To amend the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to revise the criteria for determining which States and political subdivisions are subject to section 4 of the Act.

      30 Support | 281 Oppose

    • S 1926

      #6 Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act

      To delay the implementation of certain provisions of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 and to reform the National Association of Registered Agents and Brokers.

      57 Support | 253 Oppose

    • HR 3279

      #7 Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act

      To amend section 1303(b)(3) of Public Law 111-148 concerning the notice requirements regarding the extent of health plan coverage of abortion and abortion premium surcharges.

      238 Support | 55 Oppose

    • HR 3899

      #8 Voting Rights Amendment Act

      To amend the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to revise the criteria for determining which States and political subdivisions are subject to section 4 of the Act.

      30 Support | 238 Oppose

    • S 1908

      #9 Constitutional Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act

      To allow reciprocity for the carrying of certain concealed firearms.

      215 Support | 39 Oppose

    • HR 676

      #10 Expanded & Improved Medicare For All Act

      To provide for comprehensive health insurance coverage for all United States residents, improved health care delivery.

      74 Support | 153 Oppose

    • HR 2166

      #11 Good Samaritan Search and Recovery Act

      To direct the Secretary of the Interior and Secretary of Agriculture to expedite access to certain Federal lands under the administrative jurisdiction of each Secretary for good Samaritan search-and-recovery missions.

      162 Support | 24 Oppose

    • S 1862

      #12 Monuments Men Recognition Act

      To grant the Congressional Gold Medal, collectively, to the Monuments Men, in recognition of their heroic role in the preservation, protection, and restitution of monuments, works of art, and artifacts of cultural importance during and following World War II.

      174 Support | 9 Oppose

    • HR 3927

      #13 Student Loan Debt

      To amend section 3716 of title 31, United States Code, to raise to at least the poverty line the amount of Social Security benefits that are exempt from being offset to satisfy student loan debt.

      20 Support | 160 Oppose

    • S 1731

      #14 Endangered Species Management Self-Determination Act

      To amend the Endangered Species Act of 1973 to permit Governors of States to regulate intrastate endangered species and intrastate threatened species.

      21 Support | 153 Oppose

    • HR 3932

      #15 No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act

      To prohibit taxpayer funded abortions.

      140 Support | 19 Oppose

    • HR 217

      #16 Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act

      To amend title X of the Public Health Service Act to prohibit family planning grants from being awarded to any entity that performs abortions.

      31 Support | 64 Oppose

    • HR 160

      #17 Disability Benefit Fairness Act

      To amend title II of the Social Security Act to eliminate the 5-month waiting period for entitlement to disability benefits and to eliminate reconsideration as an intervening step between initial benefit entitlement decisions and subsequent hearings on the record on such decisions.

      75 Support | 15 Oppose

    • HR 61

      #18 Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act

      To amend title X of the Public Health Service Act to prohibit family planning grants from being awarded to any entity that performs abortions.

      25 Support | 63 Oppose

    • S 604

      #19 Jerusalem Embassy and Recognition Act

      To recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, to relocate to Jerusalem the United States Embassy in Israel.

      70 Support | 8 Oppose

    • HR 198

      #20 Repeal of the Authorization for Use of Military Force

      To repeal Public Law 107-40.

      56 Support | 14 Oppose

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

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

  6. POPVOX Daily Digest - January 30, 2014

    From our Hill sources:

    Flood Insurance and Farm Bill in the Senate

    The Senate voted Thursday to delay some reforms to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

    Senators passed S. 1926, the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act, in a 67-32 vote. The bill delays rate hikes that were passed in 2012, which many senators on both sides of the aisle now say will make homeownership unaffordable for thousands of people who require flood insurance.

    Aside from the rate hikes, the bill also allows flood insurance subsidies to be transferred to new homeowners when a home is sold. The 2012 reform ended those subsidies.

    Opponents of the bill said the bill represents the unwillingness of Congress to stick to the 2012 reforms, which were aimed at pulling the NFIP out of debt. But with support from both parties, it was able to pass.

    Senate Democrats also set up a vote for next week on the $956 billion Farm Bill that the House passed earlier.

    The huge bill — which is mostly a food stamp bill but also includes reforms to U.S. farm commodity programs — split both parties in the House but ended up passing 251-166. It's expected to pass next week.

    The Senate will start by holding a procedural vote that needs 60 votes. After that, a simple majority is enough for final passage.

  7. POPVOX Daily Digest - January 29, 2014

    From our Hill Sources:

    Farm Bill passes House

    The House approved a huge farm bill on Wednesday, sending it over to the Senate where it will likely be approved in the coming days.

    Members passed a House-Senate agreement on federal farm policy in a 251-166 vote. The bill spends $956 billion over ten years, mostly on food stamps, which would be cut by $8 billion over ten years. That's higher than the Senate's original $4 billion cut, but much lower than the House's $39 billion cut.

    Most Democrats opposed the bill, primarily because they wanted no cuts to food stamps. And while most Republicans supported it, several dozen voted "no" to protest the lack of reforms and the inability to closely examine the deal, which was agreed earlier in the week.

    Senate continues with Flood Insurance reforms

    The Senate made some progress toward passing S. 1926, the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act. The bill delays rate hikes for homeowners and businesses under a 2012 law reforming the National Flood Insurance Program.

    Senators adopted three amendments to the bill, including language requiring more study of community-based flood insurance. The bill also survived a Republican challenge that the bill violates the budget — senators shot down the GOP's budget complaint in a 64-35 vote.

    The Senate did approve two bills, including H.R. 2860, the OPM IG Act, which provides funding for the Office of Personnel Management's Inspector General. That bill was approved by unanimous consent in the Senate.

     

    Senators also passed S. 1417, the Newborn Screening Saves Lives Reauthorization Act, which extends grants for prenatal screening.

  8. The State of the Union, 2014

    Today, President Obama gave his State of the Union address to Congress. Here's a recap of the priorities the President outlined in his speech -- and some related proposals already pending before Congress. Weigh in with POPVOX!

    State of the Union History

    The Constitution requires the President to "from time to time give to Congress information of the State of the Union and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient." George Washington delivered the first message before Congress on Jan. 8, 1790. Thomas Jefferson discontinued the practice of delivering the address in person; he saw it as too monarchical. Instead, a written version was sent to Congress to be read by a clerk -- until Woodrow Wilson in 1913. Some Presidents during the latter half of the 20th century have sent written addresses. The last President to do this was Jimmy Carter in 1981.

    The President's 2014 Address: "Let’s make this a year of action."

    We've taken excerpts from the President's speech and added related bills already proposed by Congress. Share your voice with your lawmakers -- then alert your friends and networks. (Read his full speech.)

    Addressing Economic Inequality

    "Today, after four years of economic growth, corporate profits and stock prices have rarely been higher, and those at the top have never done better. But average wages have barely budged. Inequality has deepened. Upward mobility has stalled. The cold, hard fact is that even in the midst of recovery, too many Americans are working more than ever just to get by – let alone get ahead. And too many still aren’t working at all...Our job is to reverse these tides.”

    "...we can help Americans return to the workforce faster by reforming unemployment insurance so that it's more effective in today's economy. But first, this Congress needs to restore the unemployment insurance you just let expire for 1.6 million people.”

    Women in the Workplace

    "You know, today, women make up about half our workforce, but they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. That is wrong, and in 2014, it's an embarrassment. Women deserve equal pay for equal work."

    • HR 377

      Paycheck Fairness Act

      "Would require employers to show pay disparity is truly related to job-performance – not gender. It prohibits employer retaliation for sharing salary information with coworkers. Under current law employers can sue and punish employees for sharing such information. In addition, it strengthens remedies for pay discrimination by increasing compensation women can seek, allowing them to not only seek back pay, but also punitive damages for pay discrimination," according to bill sponsors.  
    • S 168

      Fair Pay Act

      (And HR 438 in the House.) To prohibit discrimination in the payment of wages on account of sex, race, or national origin. (Allows payment of different wages under seniority systems, merit systems, systems that measure earnings by quantity or quality of production, or differentials based on bona fide factors that the employer demonstrates are job-related or further legitimate business interests.)

    "You know, she deserves to have a baby without sacrificing her job. A mother deserves a day off to care for a sick child or sick parent without running into hardship. And you know what, a father does too. It is time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a "Mad Men" episode. This year let's all come together, Congress, the White House, businesses from Wall Street to Main Street, to give every woman the opportunity she deserves, because I believe when women succeed, America succeeds."

    • S 1810

      Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act (The FAMILY Act) 

      (HR 3712 in the House.) To provide paid family and medical leave benefits to certain individuals. "Would create an independent trust fund within the Social Security Administration to collect fees and provide benefits. This trust would be funded by employee and employer contributions of 0.2 percent of wages each, creating a self-sufficient program that would not add to the federal budget. The expected cost to the average worker would be similar to the expense of one tall latte a week. Benefit levels, based on existing successful state programs in New Jersey and California, would equal 66 percent of an individual’s typical monthly wages up to a capped monthly amount that would be indexed for inflation," according to bills sponsors.
    • HR 1286

      Healthy Families Act

      (S 631 in the SenateTo allow Americans to earn paid sick time so that they can address their own health needs and the health needs of their families. 

    Foreign Trade

    "And when 98 percent of our exporters are small businesses, new trade partnerships with Europe and the Asia-Pacific will help them create even more jobs. We need to work together on tools like bipartisan trade promotion authority to protect our workers, protect our environment and open new markets to new goods stamped 'Made in the USA.’”

    • Trade

      Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

      A vehicle for Asia-Pacific-wide economic integration, which will strengthen US ties to the robust economies of this region. As a group, the TPP countries are the largest goods and services export market of the United States. US goods exports to the broader Asia-Pacific totaled $942 billion in 2012, representing 61% of total exports, according to the US Trade Representative.
    • S 1900

      Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities Act

      (And HR 3830 in the House.) Also called "fast track" negotiating authority, which allows the President to negotiate trade agreements that Congress can approve but not amend or filibuster. "Establishes 21st century Congressional negotiating objectives and rules for the Administration to follow when engaged in trade talks, including strict requirements for Congressional consultations and access to information. Provided the Administration follows the rules, special procedures apply when moving a negotiated deal that satisfies the objectives through the Senate and House of Representatives," according to bill sponsors.

    Veterans

    "As this time of war draws to a close, a new generation of heroes returns to civilian life. We’ll keep slashing that backlog so our veterans receive the benefits they’ve earned, and our wounded warriors receive the health care – including the mental health care – that they need. We’ll keep working to help all our veterans translate their skills and leadership into jobs here at home. And we all continue to join forces to honor and support our remarkable military families."

    • HR 1725

      Veterans Mental Health Accessibility Act

      "Currently, veterans face a five-year window in which they must seek treatment for mental illnesses before losing their higher priority status. This legislation would eliminate the five-year window and allow veterans to seek treatment for service-connected mental illnesses, regardless of when their conditions manifest themselves," according to bill sponsor.
    • HR 241

      Veterans Timely Access to Health Care Act

      Would "ensure that veterans seeking primary and specialty care from a Department of Veterans Affairs medical facility will receive an appointment within 30 days," according to bill sponsor.
    • HR 3453

      Putting Our Veterans Back to Work Act

      To reauthorize the VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011, to provide assistance to small businesses owned by veterans, to improve enforcement of employment and reemployment rights of members of the uniformed services. "Aims to provide veterans with training and opportunities to help them succeed in a job market where 246,000 post-9/11 era veterans are currently unemployed," according to bill sponsor.

    Innovation

    "An entrepreneur flipped on the lights in her tech startup and did her part to add to the more than 8 million new jobs our businesses have created over the past four years."

    • S 1468

      Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation Act

      "Designed to bring together industry, universities and community colleges, federal agencies and all levels of government to accelerate manufacturing innovation in technologies with commercial applications. It would establish public-private institutes to leverage resources to bridge the gap between basic research and product development," according to bill sponsors.
    • S 310

      Startup Act 3.0

      To jump-start economic recovery through the formation and growth of new businesses. "The Entrepreneur Visa created by Startup Act 3.0 has the potential to add, conservatively, between 500,000 and 1.6 million new jobs for Americans over the next 10 years," according to the bill sponsors.

    Voting Rights

    "Last year, part of the Voting Rights Act was weakened. But conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats are working together to strengthen it; and the bipartisan commission I appointed last year has offered reforms so that no one has to wait more than a half hour to vote. Let’s support these efforts. It should be the power of our vote, not the size of our bank account, that drives our democracy."

    • HR 3899

      Voting Rights Amendment Act

      (And S 1945 in the Senate.) Would update the Section 4 formula of the Voting Rights Act, placing any state with five violations of federal voting rights law in the last 15 years back on "pre-clearance" by courts or the Justice Dept. in order to make any future voting changes.
    • HR 12

      Voter Empowerment Act

      To modernize voter registration, promote access to voting for individuals with disabilities, protect the ability of individuals to exercise the right to vote in elections for Federal office.

    Clean Energy

    "The shift to a cleaner energy economy won't happen overnight, and it will require some tough choices along the way. But the debate is settled. Climate change is a fact. And when our children's children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say yes, we did."

    • HR 3574

      End Polluter Welfare Act

      To eliminate certain subsidies for fossil-fuel production.
    • S 1225

      Solar Uniting Neighborhoods (SUN) Act

      To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide that solar energy property need not be located on the property with respect to which it is generating electricity in order to qualify for the residential energy efficient property credit.

    Immigration Reform

    "Independent economists say immigration reform will grow our economy and shrink our deficits by almost $1 trillion in the next two decades. And for good reason: when people come here to fulfill their dreams – to study, invent, and contribute to our culture – they make our country a more attractive place for businesses to locate and create jobs for everyone. So let’s get immigration reform done this year."

    International Diplomacy

    "In a world of complex threats, our security and leadership depends on all elements of our power – including strong and principled diplomacy."

    @POPVOX: A Recap of our Tweets for #SOTU

    In case you weren't on Twitter, here's a look at our tweets. Join us next time by following us @POPVOX!

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

  9. POPVOX Daily Digest - January 28, 2014

    From our Hill Sources:

    While the State of the Union commanded the nation's attention Tuesday night, several bills advanced in Congress earlier in the day:

    House passes abortion restrictions

    The House approved a controversial abortion bill that would permanently block taxpayer funded abortions, and also seeks to limit access to abortion coverage under ObamaCare.

    The House passed H.R. 7, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, in a 227-188 vote.

    In addition to making permanent a limitation on federal funding for abortions, the bill also ends federal subsidies that can be used to buy health plans under ObamaCare that cover abortion. As expected, most Democrats rejected this as a GOP overreach, and said Republicans were looking to discourage people from spending their own money the way they want — including to buy legal medical services.

    The White House has said it would veto the bill, and Senate Democrats oppose it, which means there's no chance the bill can advance now that the House vote is done.

    The House also passed another bill today: S. 1901, the Support for United States-Republic of Korea Civil Nuclear Cooperation Act. This bill extends a civil nuke agreement between the two countries for another two years, and it was passed in a voice vote.

    Pension Flexibility in the Senate

    The Senate also passed one bill, S. 1302, the Cooperative and Small Employer Charity Pension Flexibility Act. This bill ensures that charitable organizations are free from rules that would otherwise hinder their efforts to provide pension plans to their workers.

  10. POPVOX Daily Digest - January 27, 2014

    From our Hill Sources:

    Bipartisan Farm Bill Conference Report released

    On Monday, House-Senate Negotiators announced a bipartisan agreement on a final Farm Bill.

    The Agricultural Act of 2014 reconciles the two versions of farm bills that previously passed the House and Senate. A vote is expected to come Wednesday. 

    Flood Insurance reforms advance in Senate

    Also on Monday, the Senate took a step  to advance a bill that would scale back some of the 2012 reforms Congress made to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

    S. 1926 — the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act. This bill would delay some of the required rate hikes for flood insurance until the federal government studies what those changes will mean for home affordability.

    While the bill delays some reforms agreed to less than two years ago, it has bipartisan support, and the Senate voted 86-13 to end debate on the motion to proceed to the bill.

    In a separate vote, Senators also approved S. 1901, which would extend an agreement between the U.S. and South Korea on the civil uses of atomic energy.

    Suspension Bills in the House, Abortion vote Tuesday

    The House was also in, and easily approved three non-controversial suspension bills:

    H.R. 1684 — Ranch A Consolidation Management Improvement Act, conveying land to an historic ranch in Wyoming. Passed in a voice vote.

    H.R. 2166 — Good Samaritan Search and Recovery Act, allowing for faster approval by volunteer groups to conduct search and recovery operations on federal land. Passed 394-0.

    H.R. 3008 — conveying the rights to land in the National Forest System to the White Lotus Foundation, a yoga training center. Passed 367-27.

     

     

  11. The Week Ahead: Jan. 27 - 31

    From our Hill Sources: The House and Senate return to work, but will face a light week of work that will include President Obama's State of the Union address, and a House Republican policy retreat.

    The State of the Union

    On Tuesday night, Obama will address the nation from the House chamber in a joint session of Congress. The next day, the House will adjourn to allow Republicans to meet in Maryland and will be done for the week. (Get a recap of last year's State of the Union.)

    ***Join the conversation with the POPVOX team on Twitter. Follow us @POPVOX.***

    The House

    Given this short week, the House will focus on one major bill:

    • HR 7

      No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act

      This is the latest Republican attempt to make permanent the ban on spending federal funds on abortion, a policy that is usually renewed each year.

      The Scoop from our Hill Sources: The bill also includes a new attack against the 2010 healthcare law known as ObamaCare. It would prohibit federal subsidies to be used to buy ObamaCare plans that cover abortion. Most Democrats will oppose the bill, and opposition from Senate Democrats will likely turn the House effort into a "messaging" bill that goes no further than the House vote.

    The House will also consider three suspension bills:

    The House may also find time to work on a House-Senate conference report on the farm bill. If not, that work would be pushed into February.

    The Senate

    In the Senate, members will focus on another bill:

    • S 1926

      Flood Insurance

      To delay the implementation of certain provisions of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 and to reform the National Association of Registered Agents and Brokers.

      The Scoop from our Hill Sources: That law requires people to pay higher flood insurance rates if their risk is higher, and includes other measures aimed at restoring the debt-ridden National Flood Insurance Program. But both parties have said these solvency requirements are a hardship on people who need flood insurance, and the bill calls for a delay in their implementation until more study is done on how affordable they will be for homeowners.

    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.

  12. The POPVOX Top 20: Jan 17 - 23, 2014

    Concealed Carry Top This Week's List

    The Constitutional Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act (S 1908) was the most popular bill on POPVOX this week. It "would treat state-issued concealed-carry permits like drivers’ licenses, allowing law-abiding citizens with concealed carry privileges to concealed-carry in any other states that also permit it by law," according to the bill sponsor, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX). “This bill strengthens two of our nation’s most fundamental rights, ensuring law-abiding gun owners can lawfully carry their weapons into like-minded states, while respecting the rights of states to adopt laws that are best-suited for the people of that state." A majority of POPVOX users support this bill, which was introduced on Jan. 9 and has yet to garner bipartisan support.

    POPVOX Roundup: Week of Jan. 17 - 23

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    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.

  13. Issue Spotlight: Mental Health

    An estimated 26% of adult Americans suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year -- nearly 58 million people. About 6 percent, or one in 17 people, suffer from a serious mental illness, according to the National Institute of Mental Illness.

    Among veterans, an estimated 18.5% to 42.5% of recently returned service members and veterans have been found to have a mental disorder, according to a 2011 Dept. of Veterans Affairs report. And the number of veteran suicide is staggering (and has remained stable for a dozen years): an average of 18 - 22 veterans die of suicide every day. (Source: VA)

    POPVOX is highlighting bills in Congress related to mental health and access to mental health services. Weigh in and we'll deliver your message to Congress, guaranteed. (Learn how POPVOX works.)  

    Access to Mental Health Services

    Law Enforcement and Gun Control

    Under the Gun Control Act of 1968, it is unlawful for any person to sell or otherwise dispose of any firearm or ammunition to any person knowing or having reasonable cause to believe that such person “has been adjudicated as a mental defective or has been committed to any mental institution.” Congress has proposed bills related to firearms and mental illness.

    • Compromise

      The Toomey-Schumer-Manchin Amendment

      Would require states and the federal government to send all necessary records on criminals and the violently mentally ill to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). It also extends the existing background check system to gun shows and online sales.

      3,529 people weighed in

    • HR 2910

      Gun Violence Prevention and Reduction Act

      To protect American children and their families from the epidemic of gun violence by banning access to certain weapons, strengthening the Nation's mental health infrastructure, and improving the understanding of gun violence.
    • HR 577

      Veterans Second Amendment Protection Act

      (And S 572 in the Senate.) To clarify the conditions under which certain persons may be treated as adjudicated mentally incompetent for certain purposes.

      According to bill sponsors: "Currently, veterans who have a VA appointed fiduciary to help them with their benefits are deemed "mentally defective" and are reported to the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), a system which prevents them from being able to purchase firearms in the United States. The Veterans Second Amendment Protection Act would require that a judicial authority determine that VA beneficiaries pose a danger to themselves or others before they can be added to the FBI's NICS." 

    • S 162

      Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Act

      (And HR 401 in the House.) To reauthorize and improve the Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act of 2004. 

    Students and Schools

    • S 195

      Mental Health in Schools Act

      (And HR 628 in the House.) To amend the Public Health Service Act to revise and extend projects relating to children and violence to provide access to school-based comprehensive mental health programs. 
    • HR 1100

      Mental Health on Campus Improvement Act

      To amend the Public Health Service Act to improve mental and behavioral health services on college campuses.
    • HR 3536

      S.O.S. Act

      To amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to support teacher and school professional training on awareness of student mental health conditions and suicide prevention efforts.
    • HR 320

      Student Support Act

      To amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to direct the Secretary of Education to make grants to States for assistance in hiring additional school-based mental health and student service providers.
    • S 648

      Helping Educators Support All Students Act

      To amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to support teacher and school professional training on awareness of student mental health conditions.

    Mental Health Professionals

    • S 1815

      Occupational Therapy in Mental Health Act

      (And HR 1037 in the House.) Amends the Public Health Service Act to include occupational therapists within the definition of "behavioral and mental health professionals" for purposes of the National Health Service Corps. 
    • HR 1236

      Amendment to Title 10

      To amend title 10, United States Code, to require the inclusion of a behavioral health professional on any physical evaluation board that considers issues of post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, or other mental health condition.

    Mental Health Research

    Seniors

    • HR 1464

      Seniors Mental Health Access Improvement Act

      To amend title 10, United States Code, to provide notice to members of the Armed Forces, beginning with recruit basic training and the initial training of officer candidates, regarding the availability of mental health services, to help eliminate perceived stigma associated with seeking and receiving mental health services, and to clarify the extent to which information regarding a member seeking and receiving mental health services may be disclosed.
    • S 1119

      Positive Aging Act

      To amend the Public Health Service Act to provide for integration of mental health services and mental health treatment outreach teams.

    Servicemembers and Veterans

    • S 562

      Military Mental Health Empowerment Act

      Amends title XVIII (Medicare) of the Social Security Act to cover marriage and family therapist services and mental health counselor services under Medicare part B (Supplementary Medical Insurance), particularly those provided in rural health clinics, federally qualified health centers, and in hospice programs.
    • S 1703

      Information to Armed Forces About the Mental Health Service

      To require the provision of information to members of the Armed Forces on availability of mental health services and related privacy rights.
    • S 1583

      Mental Health Support for Veteran Families and Caregivers Act

      To require the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to conduct an education program and peer support program for the education and training of family members and caregivers of veterans with mental health disorders.
    • S 819

      Veterans Mental Health Treatment First Act

      To amend title 38, United States Code, to require a program of mental health care and rehabilitation for veterans for service-related post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety disorder, or a related substance use disorder.
    • HR 1725

      Veterans Mental Health Accessibility Act

      To amend title 38, United States Code, to provide for unlimited eligibility for health care for mental illnesses for veterans of combat service during certain periods of hostilities and war.
    • HR 3387

      Classified Veterans Access to Care Act

      To amend title 38, United States Code, to improve the mental health treatment provided by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to veterans who served in classified missions.
    • HR 975

      Servicemember Mental Health Review Act

      (And S 628 in the Senate.) To amend title 10, United States Code, to extend the duration of the Physical Disability Board of Review and to the expand the authority of such Board to review of the separation of members of the Armed Forces on the basis of a mental condition not amounting to disability, including separation on the basis of a personality or adjustment disorder. 
    • HR 1463

      Military Suicide Reduction Act

      To amend title 10, United States Code, to improve the mental health assessments provided to members of the Armed Forces deployed in support of a contingency operation.
    • HR 3499

      Rural Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act

      (And S 1155 in the Senate.) To provide for advance appropriations for certain information technology accounts of the Department of Veterans Affairs, to include mental health professionals in training programs of the Department. 
    • S 294

      Ruth Moore Act

      (And HR 671 in the House.) To amend title 38, United States Code, to improve the disability compensation evaluation procedure of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs for veterans with mental health conditions related to military sexual trauma. 
    • S 810

      Jacob Sexton Military Suicide Prevention Act

      To require a pilot program on an online computerized assessment to enhance detection of behaviors indicating a risk of suicide and other mental health conditions in members of the Armed Forces.

    Children and Families

    • HR 1827

      Pediatric Subspecialty and Mental Health Workforce Reauthorization Act

      Reauthorizes through FY2018 a pediatric specialty educational loan repayment program for health professionals providing pediatric medical subspecialty, pediatric surgical specialty, or child and adolescent mental and behavioral health care in an area with a shortage of the specified pediatric subspecialty that has a sufficient pediatric population to support the subspecialty.
    • HR 3717

      Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act

      To make available needed psychiatric, psychological, and supportive services for individuals diagnosed with mental illness and families in mental health crisis.

    Native American Communities

    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.

  14. Issue Spotlight: EPA

    The chemical spill in Charleston, W.Va. earlier this month contaminated the Elk River and left more than 300,000 residents without access to water. It also raised into question the role of the federal government -- especially the EPA -- in regulating toxic substances.

    Background

    The Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 gives the Environmental Protection Agency the authority to regulate and restrict the use of chemical substances. According to the TSCA, when a company creates a new chemical, the EPA's New Chemicals program "functions as a "gatekeeper" that can identify conditions, up to and including a ban on production, to be placed on the use of a new chemical before it is entered into commerce." The EPA has 90 days to review a new chemical and tell the company how it will be regulated.

    However, most of the 60,000 chemicals in use prior to 1979 were essentially "grandfathered" in, and are not regulated by the TSCA. "Of about 72,000 substances in EPA's inventory of TSCA chemicals, 62,000 were already in commerce when EPA began to review new chemicals in 1979.  EPA reviewed the remaining 10,000 substances as new chemicals and added them to the inventory when their manufacture began." (Source: GAO Report, 1994)

    Related Bills

    Members of Congress have proposed many regulations to revise the TSCA and expand the scope of the EPA. Meanwhile, other Members of Congress are working to reduce the EPA's regulatory reach, which may jeopardize the nation's economy and jobs. Weigh in with Congress about the EPA regulations

    The Toxic Substances Control Act

    • S 696

      Safe Chemicals Act

      To amend the Toxic Substances Control Act to ensure that risks from chemicals are adequately understood and managed. Authorizes the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to determine that a variant of a chemical substance is a new chemical substance.
    • S 1009

      Chemical Safety Improvement Act

      To reauthorize and modernize the Toxic Substances Control Act. "New chemicals entering the market must be screened for safety and the EPA is given the authority to prohibit unsafe chemicals from entering the market," according to bill sponsors.
    • HR 1625

      Coal Tar Sealants Reduction Act

      To amend the Toxic Substances Control Act to prohibit the manufacture, processing, distribution in commerce, and use of coal tar sealants.
    • HR 2093

      Lead Exposure Reduction Amendments Act

      To amend the Toxic Substances Control Act relating to lead-based paint renovation and remodeling activities. Exclude from the definition of "abatement" any renovation, remodeling, or other activity: (1) the primary purpose of which is to repair, restore, or remodel target housing, public buildings constructed before 1978, or commercial buildings; and (2) that incidentally results in a reduction or elimination of lead-based paint hazards.
    • HR 3590

      SHARE Act

      To protect and enhance opportunities for recreational hunting, fishing, and shooting. Amends the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to exclude from the definition of "chemical substance" for purposes of such Act: (1) any component of any pistol, revolver, firearm, shell, or cartridge the sale of which is subject to federal excise tax, including shot, bullets and other projectiles, propellants, and primers; and (2) any sport fishing equipment the sale of which is subject to federal excise tax and sport fishing equipment components.

    The EPA

    • HR 3641

      EPA MACT Act

      To require that the workforce of the Environmental Protection Agency be reduced by 15 percent.
    • HR 2948

      Transparency in Regulatory Analysis of Impacts on the Nation Act

      To require analyses of the cumulative and incremental impacts of certain rules and actions of the Environmental Protection Agency.
    • HR 2916

      Domestic Energy Production Protection Act

      To require congressional review of certain rules promulgated by the Environmental Protection Agency.
    • S 1466

      RELATE with the Farm Act

      Directs the Secretary of Agriculture (USDA) to review each notice issued by the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and published in the Federal Register relating to the preparation of any guidance, policy, memorandum, regulation, or statement of general applicability and future effect that may have a significant impact on a substantial number of agricultural entities. (And HR 2776 in the House)
    • HR 2891

      Medical Waste Management Act

      To amend the Solid Waste Disposal Act to require the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency to promulgate regulations on the management of medical waste.
    • HR 2850

      EPA Hydraulic Fracturing Study Improvement Act

      To require certain procedures in the conduct by the Environmental Protection Agency of its study of the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources.
    • S 1363

      Energy Consumer Relief Act

      To protect consumers by prohibiting the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency from promulgating as final certain energy-related rules that are estimated to cost more than $1,000,000,000 and will cause significant adverse effects to the economy.
    • HR 2127

      Carbon Dioxide Emission

      To prohibit the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency from finalizing any rule imposing any standard of performance for carbon dioxide emissions from any existing or new source that is a fossil fuel-fired electric utility generating unit unless and until carbon capture and storage is found to be technologically and economically feasible.
    • S 830

      EPA Fair Play Act

      Amends the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (commonly known as the Clean Water Act) to remove the authority of the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to prohibit the specification of any defined area as a disposal site for discharges of materials into waters of the United States.
    • S 558

      Accountability in Grants Act

      To prohibit the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency from awarding any grant, contract, cooperative agreement, or other financial assistance under section 103 of the Clean Air Act for any program, project, or activity outside the United States.
    • HR 796

      Renewable Fuel

      To require the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency to use the commercially available volume of cellulosic biofuel in setting requirements for the renewable fuel program under the Clean Air Act.
    • HR 524

      Disposal Of Fill Material into Water

      Amends the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (commonly known as the Clean Water Act) to authorize the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to prohibit the specification of any defined area as a disposal site for the discharge of dredged or fill material into navigable waters, or to deny or restrict the use of any defined area for such a disposal site, only until such time as the Secretary of the Army has issued a permit for such a discharge at such site.
    • S 344

      Gasoline

      To prohibit the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency from approving the introduction into commerce of gasoline that contains greater than 10-volume-percent ethanol.
    • S 318

      Environmental Protection Agency Accountability Act

      To rescind funds made available to the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency if the Administrator fails to meet certain deadlines.
    • S 67

      Secure Water Facilities Act

      To amend the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to authorize the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency to reduce or eliminate the risk of releases of hazardous chemicals from public water systems and wastewater treatment works.

    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. Issue Spotlight: Family and Medical Leave Act

    The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) enables certain employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for specified family and medical reasons, to care for a newborn or a seriously ill family member; or 26 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a seriously-injured servicemember. (Learn more.)

    The FMLA was first introduced in Congress in 1984 -- and passed by Congress in 1991 and again in 1992, but vetoed by President George HW Bush both times. Congress passed the FMLA again in 1993, when it was signed into law in 1993 by President Clinton. Since the passage of the FMLA, dozens of proposals have been introduced to expand the scope of the leave -- or to offer paid leave. Many states have already expanded FMLA provisions for their states' workers, and changes to the federal FMLA would create a national standard.

    Four states (California, New Jersey, Washington and Rhode Island) have created their own paid family and medical leave programs. In addition, Congress has proposed paid sick time for short-term leave, as well as other bills related to work-life policies. (In 2011, Connecticut became the first state to require that employers offer paid sick time to certain workers.)

    Bills Related to the FMLA and Workplace Flexibility

    Here are some bills introduced this Congress. Share your voice with POPVOX, and we'll deliver your message to Congress.

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

  16. The POPVOX Top 20: Jan 10 - 16, 2014

    Obamacare Once Again Tops the List of Priorities on POPVOX

    This week, the No Bailout For Insurance Industry Act (HR 3812) was the top bill among POPVOX users. The bill would "amend the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, to prohibit a potential bailout for the insurance industry that is currently authorized under Section 1341 and Section 1342 of the Affordable Care Act," according to the bill sponsor. A vast majority of POPVOX users (92%) support this bill, which was introduced in early January.

    POPVOX Roundup: Week of Jan. 10 - Jan. 16

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    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.

  17. POPVOX Daily Digest - January 16, 2014

    From our Hill Sources:

    Omnibus Spending bill passes Senate

    The Senate passed the $1 trillion omnibus spending bill, which will ensure the government does not face another shutdown threat until October at the earliest.

    Senate passage seemed assured in light of supportive comments from several Senate Republicans. That support meant no GOP filibusters or other delaying tactics, and it also let the Senate pass the bill Thursday, instead of the weekend.

    The Senate approved it 72-26, and all opposition came from Republicans. Many GOP senators were upset both at the process, which required quick passage of the giant bill without time for reviewing it, and the cost of the bill, which repealed some of the sequester.

    President Obama now has until Saturday to sign the bill into law. The bill is an amended version of H.R. 3547, the Space Launch Liability Indemnification Extension Act.

    "Obamacare" Transparency bill passes in the House

    Earlier it the day, the House approved legislation that would require federal officials to update Congress each week on the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

    H.R. 3362: The Exchange Information Disclosure Act reflects ongoing GOP criticism about the lack of full transparency on new enrollments. While it's largely a Republican bill, it attracted 33 Democrats in the 259-154 vote.

    The Senate is not expected to consider the bill, and the White House opposes it.

    These votes were the last of the week for both the House and Senate, which are out next week for the Martin Luther King holiday.

  18. POPVOX Daily Digest - January 14, 2014

    From our Hill Sources:

    Unemployement Benefits stalled in the Senate.

    The Senate did not advance a bill to extend emergency unemployment benefits, as the two parties were unable to agree on the content of the bill or a process for considering. While Democrats promised to try again, the lack of agreement and failed series of procedural votes means the effort has failed in the Senate for now.

    Democrats and Republicans each met with their members for lunch to discuss the bill, but failed to agree on a way forward together.

    Republicans held out for votes on some of their proposed amendments to the bill, which Democrats initially rejected. Democrats then offered to allow votes on five GOP amendments, with the stipulation that 60 votes are needed to approve them. Republicans balked at that idea, and that left the Senate to try to end debate on two proposals to extend benefits. One was an 11-month extension that was offset with spending cuts 10 years from now, and the other was a three-month extension that was not offset.

    Both votes failed, and Democrats left without offering any firm plan for trying again.

    3-day Spending bill passed, paving the way for the 2014 Appropriations bill.

    Despite those problems, the House and Senate were able to agree on a short-term spending bill that funds the government through Saturday. The short extension on spending is meant to allow Congress to wrestle with the $1.012 trillion Omnibus spending bill by the weekend.

    The House passed the short-term bill by a voice vote Tuesday afternoon, and the Senate followed by passing it by unanimous consent Tuesday evening.

    The House also approved two suspension bills that proved to be non-controversial:

    H.R. 1233 — the Presidential and Federal Records Act Amendments, setting up formal procedures for the consideration of requests for presidential documents. Passed 420-0.

    H.R. 2860 — the OPM IG Act, authorizing audits and oversight activities by the Office of Personnel Management. Passed 418-0.

    The Senate passed one substantive bill by unanimous consent:

    H.R. 3527 — reauthorizing federal programs that fund poison control centers around the country.

  19. The Week Ahead: Jan. 13 - 17

    From our Hill Sources: Congress has one main mission this week: to pass a funding bill for the rest of fiscal year 2014.

    Passing a Funding Bill

    Congress has one main mission this week: to pass a funding bill for the rest of fiscal year 2014. To get there, the House and Senate are expected to act in two stages:

    On Tuesday, the House will consider a short-term spending bill that extends government operations three days past the current deadline — Jan. 15 — until Saturday, Jan. 18. The Senate is likely to pass the House extension later that same day.

    The extension should give Congress enough time to pass an omnibus bill by the end of the week. The quick schedule means members will only have a few days to review the $1 trillion spending bill.

    Unemployment Benefits

    As the spending bills move through each chamber, members will also be working on emergency unemployment benefits, and the Affordable Care Act, or "Obamacare."

    • S 1845

      Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extension Act

      This is the bipartisan Senate proposal to extend emergency benefits for three months.

      The Scoop from our Hill Sources: Last week, Senate Democrats proposed an 11-month extension, paid for by extending the sequester another year, until 2024. Republicans pushed for consideration of their own ideas for paying for the extension, but Democrats were not open to allowing amendments. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has since said he would consider some amendments, but it is not yet clear which ones.

    • "Obamacare"

    • HR 3362

      Exchange Information Disclosure Act

      This bill would require the Obama administration to report weekly on the implementation of the Affordable Care Act healthcare law.

      The Scoop from our Hill Sources: Reports would have to include data about how many people are using the healthcare website and how many are signing up for health insurance,in addition to information about the status of the website itself, including glitches or other problems users are facing. The bill is a House Republican response to what they say is a lack of consistent information from the administration about how the law is working.

    Also in the House

    As usual, the House will consider several suspension bills.

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

  20. The POPVOX Top 20: Jan. 3 - 9, 2014

    Unemployment Benefits is the Top Priority on POPVOX, and in the Senate

    Happy New Year! The Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extension Act was the top priority among POPVOX users this week. The extended federal UI program -- originally signed into law in June 2008 by President George W. Bush -- expired on Dec. 28. As a result, more than 1.3 million long-term unemployed workers lost their unemployment insurance benefits. This week, the Senate first began considering a three-month extension, and then a ten-month extension, which would cost $18 billion, paid for with new spending cuts. The Senate will continue to consider the benefit extensions next week.

    POPVOX Roundup: Week of Jan. 3 - 9, 2014

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    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.