Gavel 25-29

Gavel Down: Closing out the Week in Congress

Congress is back home working…

And we're sending a summer version of Gavel Down —
full of how current events relate to Congressional happenings,
as well as updates on major legislation.

Follow us on Twitter as we tweet the conventions
with related legislation!


Five Things Mentioned at the DNC that Relate to the 114th Congress

1. EQUAL PAY
Equal pay was also mentioned several times at this year’s Democratic National Convention (DNC), with a focus on providing equal compensation for men and women doing the same work. DNC speakers mentioned the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the first bill President Obama signed into law. The bipartisan bill extended the time period to bring pay discrimination claims. There are several bills this Congress that focus on closing the gender wage gap. Learn more.

2. STUDENT DEBT
Many DNC speakers called for student debt reform. Last year, Congress passed a two-year extension of the Perkins loan program, which allows undergraduate students to obtain student loans on per need basis. Free college tuition was mentioned by several speakers, a policy promoted by Sen. Bernie Sanders [I, VT] who introduced the College for All Act.

3. TPP
Many in the DNC this week held signs referencing the TPP, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement between twelve Pacific Rim countries that was finalized earlier this year. Presidential advisors are encouraging Congress to approve the deal during the lame-duck session after the November election. Several Congressional leaders, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Harry Reid have said it is unlikely. What do you think?

4. GUN-RELATED LEGISLATION
Many speakers mentioned gun-related legislation. Following the Orlando shooting, there have been several bipartisan efforts to introduce, debate, and vote on gun-related legislation, such as increasing background checks, denying firearms to those on the terrorist watchlist, and closing the “gun show loophole.” To draw attention to the issue, Democratic Senators held the floor for 15 hours in a filibuster in mid-June, and House Democrats held a 25-hour sit-in on the chamber floor a week later. Catch up on what’s been happening.

5. DNC EMAIL HACK
The hacking and release of 19,000+ DNC emails was mentioned several times at the convention. In response, bipartisan Senate Judiciary leaders asked Attorney General Loretta Lynch and FBI Director James Comey for more details surrounding the hack. Meanwhile, top Democrats on House and Senate Intelligence called for the release of classified reports on the DNC hack.


What's happening with the energy bill?

Before adjourning for seven week recess, the House and Senate agreed to convene a conference committee on major energy legislation introduced last September. The last time the two chambers convened a formal conference to negotiate major energy bill was 2005.

Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015 (S. 2012
Sponsor: Sen. Lisa Murkowski [R, AK]

Senate version covers five main areas: efficiency, infrastructure, supply, accountability, and conservation reauthorization. The Obama administration praised parts of the bill but has voiced concerns over how to implement some of the provisions. Senate passed bill in April by vote of 85-12. See how your Senators voted.

North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act Policy Modernization Act of 2015 (H.R. 8
Sponsor: Rep. Fred Upton [R, MI-6]

House version is narrower and received a veto threat from the White House. The "engrossed House amendment" includes several passed bills put up by House Natural Resources, House Energy and Commerce, House Transportation and Infrastructure, and House Agriculture. This means House replaced Senate version with its own version. House passed bill largely along party lines, by vote of 241-148. See how your Representative voted.

HR 8 timeline

So now, Members head to conference to reconcile differences between their respective versions of legislation. Going to conference is one of the final steps of "regular order" in the legislative process — when House and Senate appoint conferees to meet and work out differences in different versions of similar bills that passed both chambers. According to U.S. Constitution, chambers must pass identical legislation for the bill to leave Congress and be signed by the President.


#DataDrop


Legislative Lowdown: States Edition

  • Missouri Supreme Court overturned law that capped unemployment benefits for laid-off workers at 13 weeks. The law was approved by the legislature and vetoed by Gov. Jay Nixon [D]. Although the House overrode the veto in spring, the Senate did not act on the veto override until September. The Court held that the Senate waited too long to act and allowing the veto override to stand would violate the state’s constitution.
  • North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory [R] signed several bills into law this week. One bill creates a statewide district of five underperforming schools, to be turned over to charter school management companies.
  • Arizona became the last state to ensure that all low-income children receive health insurance. Under the new program, children whose parents make too much to receive Medicaid but still do not have health insurance will be covered.
  • Pennsylvania legislature adjourned this week without voting on several high-profile bills regarding pension reform, updates to statute of limitations on child sexual abuse cases, abortion restrictions, and anti-discrimination protections. When lawmakers return in September, they will have until November 30 to vote on these bills.  
  • Georgia Court of Appeals ruled that a man who recorded videos up a woman’s skirt did not violate the state’s privacy laws
  • Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner [R] signed the Citizen Privacy Protection Act into law this week. The legislation would require law enforcement officers to gain court approval for using cell-site simulators (aka stingrays) which can locate and track a person’s cell phone without their knowledge. 
  • Virginia Supreme Court ruled that Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s executive order to restore voting rights to over 200,000 felons exceeded his clemency powers and violated the state constitution. Court held that the governor could only restore voting rights on a case-by-case basis. In response, Gov. McAuliffe [D] said he will sign 200,000 individual restoration orders.
  • US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit struck down North Carolina's voter ID law. The three-judge panel remarked that upholding the law would overlook the "inextricable link between race and politics" in the state.
  • New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie [R] said he would not sign a Democratic proposal to increase the state’s gas tax in exchange for tax reforms, such as eliminating the estate tax, reducing taxes on retirement funds, increasing the Earned Income Tax, and providing new tax breaks for veterans and commuters.
  • Alaska Supreme Court invalidated a state law requiring pregnant minors to obtain parental consent before receiving an abortion. 

#ICYMI


Please keep in mind that highlighting a bill does not imply POPVOX endorsement in any way. As always, our goal is to offer one more way to help you stay informed about the complex U.S. legislative system.

 

What’s going on with gun control legislation this year?

The nation was struck by tragedy in the early morning hours of June 12, when a gunman in Orlando opened fire in a gay nightclub, killing 49 people and then committing suicide. Almost unimaginably, that was only the beginning of shocking events, as the days that followed brought the killing of Philando Castile and Alton Stirling by police officers and the July 7 ambush in Dallas that left five officers dead and injured nine others. The violent events sparked debates among lawmakers about how to respond and prvent future tragedies. 

Senate Filibuster

On June 15, Sen. Christopher Murphy [D, CT] stood to speak and proceeded to hold the floor for the next 14 hours and 50 minutes, now the ninth-longest Senate floor speech since 1900. The filibuster ended the next morning at 2:11 am, as lawmakers reached an agreement to hold votes on gun-related measures. 

The next Monday (June 20), Senate considered four gun control measures, two Democratic proposals and two Republican proposals, as amendments to Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) appropriations bill. ​Proposal from Sens. Chuck Grassley [R, IA] and Ted Cruz [R, TX] was similar to previously introduced gun control bill. All four measures failed.

  • S.AMDT.4720 (No Fly/No Buy) from Sen. Dianne Feinstein [D, CA] to authorize the Attorney General to deny requests to transfer a firearm to known or suspected terrorists. Amendment failed 47-53

  • S.AMDT.4749 "To Secure our Homeland from radical Islamists by Enhancing Law enforcement Detection (SHIELD)" from Sen. John Cornyn, [R, TX] requiring that law enforcement be alerted when anyone on the terror watch list attempts to buy a weapon from a licensed dealer. Amendment failed 53-47

  • S.AMDT.4750 (Closing the Gun Show Loophole): "To ensure that all individuals who should be prohibited from buying a firearm are listed in the national instant criminal background check system and require a background check for every firearm sale." from Sen. Chris Murphy [D, CT] requiring every gun purchaser to undergo a background check, and to expand the background check database. Amendment failed 44-56

  • S.AMDT.4751 "To address gun violence and improve the availability of records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System." from Sen. Chuck Grassley [R, IA] to make it more difficult to add mentally ill people to the background check database, giving people suspected of serious mental illness a process to challenge that determination. Amendment failed 53-47

Later in the week, Sens. Susan Collins [R-ME] and Heidi Heitkamp [D-ND] unveiled bipartisan Terrorist Firearms Prevention Act, which would prevent people on the No-Fly List and the Selectee List from purchasing firearms. The legislation was more narrow than the Democratic amendments put forward earlier in the week, but more sweeping than the Republican proposals. The Collins/Heitkamp compromise survived a procedural vote on June 23, receiving 52 votes in support and 46 in opposition, meaning the proposal mustered enough support to keep it from being tabled indefinitely but not enough to ensure that it would achieve cloture in the future.

Prominent Republican Sens. Kelly Ayotte [R-NH] and Jeff Flake [R-AZ] lobbied fellow senators to build support for the bill. On June 23 by Majority Whip John Cornyn and Sen. Ron Johnson [R-WI] introduced a more limited measure, placing burden on government to prevent gun sale, rather than requiring the potential buyer to appeal a denied sale. The Johnson measure also received a roll call vote on whether to table the legislation: 31 senators supported advancing the measure, 67 senators voted to table.

House Sit-in

On June 23, House Democrats held a 25-hour sit-in on the House Floor, pressing for a vote on several gun-related billsSenate Democrats joined in, sending care packages and sitting on the House floor alongside Democratic colleagues.

The House was adjourned so the official House cameras, which feed CSPAN broadcasts, were off, as House rules require that the cameras be turned off when the House is not formally in session. With no official coverage, members on the floor began streaming the protest via Periscope and Facebook Live. CSPAN followed suit and began broadcasting the Persicope feeds, as more Members joined in. (Here’s how it went down.)

On July 11, House Republican leaders decided to postpone vote on gun-related legislation, and gaveled out for summer recess.

The 114th Congress by the Numbers (so far)

The 114th Congress has passed a significant number of major policies into law. With six months left until it officially adjourns at the end of 2016, here's an overview of what this Congress has been up to since it convened in January 2015.

Major* Bills that Became Law in the 114th Congress (so far)

The 114th Congress has passed a significant number of major policies into law: from ending a Medicare physician payment system that required a temporary “doc fix” every year for seventeen years, to repeal of No Child Left Behind; repeal of the NSA bulk data surveillance program with reauthorization of the PATRIOT Act, the first long-term transportation bill in a decade, a new version of toxic chemicals bill, and an update to the Freedom of Information Act.

In the 114th, there have been many bipartisan moments, with procedural gymnastics that push parliamentary limits (usually designed to shield vulnerable members from tough votes). We saw this with passage of the controversial “Fast-Track” —Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) — authority for the President to negotiate trade agreements. The approval was packaged with customs reform and assistance for workers (Trade Adjustment Assistance or TAA) as it passed the Senate. The House then “split the question,” allowing for a separate vote on each piece and used a “self-executing rule” to deem the bill passed and send back to the Senate. (See: TPA amendment and House vote).

The policy motherlode came at the end of 2015 with departing Speaker John Boehner’s commitment to “clean the barn” before leaving his post. Boehner negotiated a 2-year bipartisan budget deal with Congressional leaders and the White House to raise sequestration limits for two years, raise the debt ceiling through March and 2017, and forestall a 20% cut to Social Security Disability Insurance. Notably, the deal put the kibosh on brinksmanship around the debt limit through the Presidential election cycle. 

With a budget deal in place, incoming Speaker Paul Ryan’s first act was to shepherd a colossal Omnibus appropriations resolution through the legislative gamut (to spend the money that the budget deal authorized.) The 2,009-page bill contained new spending levels and requirements for all federal agencies, with few “policy riders” — unrelated provisions that are frequently inserted into spending bills to allow a controversial policy to “hitch a ride” with must-pass legislation. But, some of the bills that did ride in the Omni included reauthorizing the James Zadroga 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, tightening restrictions on use of the visa waiver program for people who have traveled to certain countries, and the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA), codifying an information-sharing framework between private industry and government.

A separate bill, still part of the Omnibus negotiations, made permanent many of the annual “tax extenders" that had been repeatedly authorized for one to two years, creating what many described as a lobbying bonanza. The 2015 Tax Extenders deal made many of these permanent (including the R&D credit), removing uncertainty and providing a more accurate baseline for federal budget projections.

The pace has continued in 2016, with several major bills passing just before the August recess, and several more teed up for action when Congress returns.

 

Major Bills that Became Law (so far) in the 114th Congress

Conference Committees and Reports in the 114th Congress (so far)

The "regular order" process for resolving differences between bills that pass the House and Senate in different forms is for House and Senate leaders to appoint "conferees" to represent each in a conference. The result is a "conference report," a combined bill that then gets a vote in both chambers.

While the conference process is well established, it fell out of practice for a few Congressional sessions, as members opted for more informal negotiating processes. However, holding legitimate conferences is still regarded as a sign of a functioning legislative process. The conference is seeing a comeback in the 114th Congress, with seven completed conference reports and two conference committees appointed just before Congress dismissed for recess. 

POPVOX Conference Reports During Last Five U.S. Congresses

Those numbers only tell part of the story. The 110th and 111th Congresses engaged less in formal conferences than in informal “ping-ponging” and dealmaking. As a staffer for the newly appointed Energy conference committee, described to an industry publication:

In 2007, the last time Congress passed a bipartisan energy deal, there was an informal deal-making version of reconciliation. That means legislators have not conferenced on an energy bill since 2005… “A lot of the staff and some of the members have never been through the process. It will be really interesting to see how it unfolds because it won’t be familiar to a lot of the people in the room.”

But staffers (and Members) are getting used to it, with formal conferences now registered in the 114th on Education, Transportation, Trade, and a bill to combat the Opioid crisis — and Energy and the Defense bill ahead after the break.

Conference Committees in the 114th Congress

   

Appointed

Met

Reported

Passed House

Passed Senate

Became Law

               

1

S. Con. Res. 11: Concurrent Resolution on the Budget, FY2016

226 – 197

51 – 48

 

2

H.R.1735: National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016

270 – 156

70 – 27

VETOED

3

S.1177: Every Student Succeeds Act

359 – 64

85 – 12

12/10/2015

4

H.R.22: Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act

359 – 65

83 – 16

    12/04/2015

5

H.R.644: Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015

256 – 158

75 – 20

02/24/2016

6

H.R. 2577: Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2017 and Zika Response and Preparedness Act

239 – 171

   

7

S.524: Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016

407 – 5

92 – 2

07/23/2016

8

S. 2012: North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act

         

9

H.R. 4909: National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017

         

 


*We understand that "major" is in the eye of the beholder. We worked to narrow the list to make it easier to digest. If we missed something that you think should be here, please let us know!


Highlighting a bill does not imply POPVOX endorsement in any way. As always, our goal is to offer one more way to help you stay informed about the complex U.S. legislative system.

 

Gavel Down Header July 18-22

GAVEL DOWN: Closing out the Week in Congress

As Congress heads home for seven weeks…

We bring you a summer version of Gavel Down — full of how current events relate to Congressional happenings, as well as updates on major bills.

Follow us on Twitter as we tweet the conventions with related legislation!


Five Things Mentioned at the RNC
that Relate to the 114th Congress


1. SANCTUARY CITIES
Many RNC speakers mentioned “sanctuary cities” — cities that bar local law enforcement from complying with federal immigration authorities, usually by not allowing police or municipal employees to inquire about an individual's immigration status. There have been several attempts this Congress to call up legislation related to sanctuary cities. Three bills have failed to pass procedural hurdles in the Senate. Learn more.

2. TRADE AGREEMENTS
You couldn't watch the RNC and not hear trade agreements mentioned. Trade agreements are broad tax, tariff, or trade pacts made between countries, often including investment guarantee. The most talked about trade agreement this Congress is the Trans-Pacific Partnership, finalized proposal between twelve Pacific Rim countries. Presidential advisors expect Congress to approve the deal during the lame-duck session, following the November election, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said this is unlikely. What do you think?

3. EDUCATION REFORM
Several RNC speakers called for major education reform, referencing wide-ranging proposals from vouchers to tuition tax credits. Last year, Congress passed bipartisan education reform, overhauling No Child Left Behind. House and Senate lawmakers reconciled differences in their versions of the legislation in conference and passed compromise legislation. President Obama signed the bill into law — marking a significant transfer of power and authority over public schools from the federal government to state and local governments. Catch up now.

4. GLASS-STEAGALL
One similarity between the RNC and DNC platforms is a call for to “reinstate Glass-Steagall,” referring to the post-Depression law that separated commercial and consumer banking activity. In 1999, Bill Clinton signed the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which rolled back many of the original provisions, allowing commercial banks, investment banks and non-bank financial entities to consolidate. Some policymakers on both sides of the aisle have argued that 1999 changes created greater consolidation of risk in the banking sector, and led to the 2008 financial crisis. Several pending bills would reinstate provisions of the Glass-Steagall Act: The 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act (S. 1709) and (H.R. 3054) and the draft Financial CHOICE Act from Rep. Jeb Hensarling [R, TX-5].  Read more on proposed financial reforms.

5. CONSCIENCE PROTECTION"Conscience protection" was specifically mentioned in this year's RNC platform. These policies usually refer to provisions allowing health care providers to refuse to provide certain treatments or assistance that violate the provider's religious beliefs. Last week Congress passed a bill that would shield health care providers that decline to be involved in abortions as a matter of conscienceSee how your representative voted.


What's happening with the defense bill?

Congress is "going to conference" on the on annual defense authorization bill:

That means House Democrats and Republicans will appoint a few members as "conferee;" Senate Democrats and Republicans will do the same. The conferees will meet to hammer out differences between what passed the House and what passed the Senate, to reach one combined version that will go back to both chambers for a vote. According to U.S. Constitution, chambers must pass identical legislation for the bill to become law.

Conferees will begin their work on a combined bill after they return from recess in September. President Obama has threatened to veto both the House and Senate versions. Read more about both versions.

 

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#DataDrop


Legislative Lowdown: States Edition

  • Following police shootings in Dallas and Baton Rouge, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott [R] asked state lawmakers to enact a “Police Protection Act” that would increase penalties for crimes against officers.

  • Federal judge in Missouri ruled Obama administration cannot force Missouri lawmaker and his family to carry health insurance that includes contraception coverage, despite Affordable Care Act's requirement that insurers cover birth control.

  • After 25 years of taxation, California newspapers may soon score a tax break. New interpretation of rule would acknowledge digital content which is nontaxable.
  • Six states legalized and began regulating fantasy sports leagues this month. 
  • Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon [D] signed a measure into law that would make it easier for state residents with criminal convictions to seal their criminal records. People who have committed dangerous felonies, sex offenses, domestic assault and other violent crimes would not be eligible.
  • Alaska Senate ended its eight-day special legislative session called by Gov. Bill Walker [R] Monday without voting on any of the deficit-reduction bills that Walker proposed. Alaska House adjourned from its special session last Friday. Lawmakers passed only one of the eight deficit-reduction bills proposed by the governor this year.
  • North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory [R] restored employees’ right to claim in state court that they were fired for discriminatory reasons. Lawmakers unintentionally suspended this right in March, when they passed controversial bathroom bill.
  • In response to concerns about safety at the Republican National Convention, Ohio Gov. John Kasich [R] stated that he lacked the ability to suspend a state law allowing citizens to openly carry guns.
  • Federal appeals court ruled Texas voter identification law (largely viewed as nation's strictest voter ID law) violates Voting Rights Act. Court did not strike down the law in full, instead  lower court to devise a fix for the law in time for November elections.

#ICYMI

Bill Mentions: Congress to Conference on Defense Bill

Congress is "going to conference" on the on annual defense authorization bill:

That means House Democrats and Republicans will appoint a few members as "conferees"; Senate Democrats and Republicans will do the same. The conferees will meet to hammer out differences between what passed the House and what passed the Senate, to reach one combined version that will go back to both chambers for a vote. According to U.S. Constitution, chambers must pass identical legislation for bill to become law.

President Obama has threatened to veto both the House and Senate versions.

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The Senate Version:

National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 (S. 2943
Sponsor: Sen. John McCain [R, AZ]

Provisions include: 

  • $602 billion in base funding for Military Services
  • Large-scale procurement and contracting overhaul.
  • 25% reduction in general and flag officers and DOD Senior Executive Service civilian employees
  • Reforms to the military health system
  • Implementing the recommendations of the Department of Defense Military Justice Review Group

Read a summary of the bill here.

One of S.2943’s most controversial amendments was Sec. 591, which would require that women turning 18 on or after January 1, 2018 would be obligated to register for Selective Service in the same way men register now. 

The consequences for not registering would be the same men currently face, such as the possible loss of financial aid like Pell grants. However, this provision would not apply to women who turned 18 before January 2018. The amendment received support from military leaders and Republicans and Democrats alike in the Senate, but some more conservative members opposed it.

 

The House Version:

National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 (H.R. 4909
Sponsor: Rep. Mac Thornberry [R, TX-13]

The $610 billion House NDAA would use $18 billion meant for war funding to cover the Pentagon’s base budget, a measure not included in the Senate version and likely difficult to reconcile during conference negotiations.

Other policy provisions include:

  • Upholding the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force

  • Delivering, modernizing, and maintaining new equipment

  • Reforms to the Military Health System

  • Making the Joint Staff and operations more accountable and transparent

One of bill's more controversial provisions was an amendment preventing discrimination against LGBT employees by federal contractors. In May, chaos erupted on the House floor when several Republicans switched their vote on the amendment at the last minute, causing the amendment to fail.


Conferees will begin their work on a combined bill after they return from recess in September.


Please keep in mind that highlighting a bill does not imply POPVOX endorsement in any way. As always, our goal is to offer one more way to help you stay informed about the complex U.S. legislative system.

BILL MENTIONS: Sanctuary Cities Legislation in the 114th Congress

What is a Sanctuary City?

A "sanctuary city" is one with policies to shelter immigrants who are in the United States illegally. These practices can be 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 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."

When comprehensive immigration reform efforts failed in Congress two years ago, President Obama scrapped the Secure Communities Program, which previously codified the relationship between the federal government and local law enforcement that 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.

Sanctuary Cities Legislation in the 114th Congress

Sanctuary cities legislation in the 114th Congress surfaced following the killing of Kathryn Steinle, who was fatally shot on July 1, 2015 in San Fransisco by a Mexican national with a criminal record who had not been deported three months earlier due to San Francisco's sanctuary city policy.

Attempts to restrict sanctuary cities include:

Stop Dangerous Sanctuary Cities Act (S. 3100)
Sponsor: Sen. Pat Toomey [R, PA]

THe bill would have blocked federal funding for “sanctuary cities,” cities or counties that bar local enforcement from complying with federal immigration authorities. This July, the bill failed to reach cloture, a procedural hurdle that ends debate and puts bill to floor vote, by vote of 53-44.


Kate’s Law (S. 2193)
Sponsor: Sen. Ted Cruz [R, TX]

The bill would have increased the maximum penalty for illegal re-entry into the country from two to five years, as well as imposing a maximum 10-year sentence on an individual who has been removed from the country 3 times. This bill also failed to reach cloture in July.
 

Stop Sanctuary Policies and Protect Americans Act (S. 2146)
Sponsor: Sen. David Vitter [R, LA]

The bill would withhold certain federal funding from sanctuary states or cities that do not comply with the DHS issued detainer requests for illegal aliens. This bill failed to invoke cloture in 2015 by a vote of 54-45.

 

BILL MENTIONS: Sanctuary Cities

Senate failed to invoke cloture on two immigration measures


Two immigration measures sponsored by Republican lawmakers failed to pass procedural hurdles in the Senate in July.

Stop Dangerous Sanctuary Cities Act (S. 3100

Sponsor: Sen. Pat Toomey [R, PA]

Toomey bill would have blocked federal funding for “sanctuary cities,” cities or counties that bar local enforcement from complying with federal immigration authorities. Bill failed to reach cloture by vote of 53-44.

POPVOX How did your Senators vote immigration bill sanctuary cities

Next up — Kate's Law, named after Kate Steinle, a San Francisco resident who was shot and killed by an illegal immigrant who had been deported multiple times.

Kate's Law (S. 2193

Sponsor: Sen. Ted Cruz [R, TX]

Cruz bill would have increased the maximum penalty for illegal re-entry into the country fromtwo to five years, as well as imposing a maximum 10-year sentence on an individual who has been removed from the country 3 times.

POPVOX How did your Senators vote Cruz immigration bill Kate's Law

Refresher: Senate defeated similar measure last year, failing to invoke cloture by 54-45 vote.

 

So 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)


Please keep in mind that highlighting a bill does not imply POPVOX endorsement in any way. As always, our goal is to offer one more way to help you stay informed about the complex U.S. legislative system. 


BILL MENTIONS: Dodd-Frank Related Legislation

As the U.S. economy recovers from the 2008 crisis, many wonder if the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act will be able to prevent future banking crises while still allowing investments to flourish. In response, several lawmakers have proposed legislation related to Dodd-Frank.

A Brief History

  • Following the Great Depression, the Glass-Steagall Act was enacted in 1933. The Glass-Steagall act banned commercial banks from dealing securities and prohibited investment banks from accepting deposits – essentially separating commercial and investment banks to protect consumers from risky investments and prevent future economic crises.

  • Under President Bill Clinton, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999 deregulated the financial market and modified the Glass-Steagall Act, allowing well-capitalized commercial banks and non-bank financial entities to affiliate under financial holding companies. It is often cited as a cause of the 2008 financial collapse.

  • After the 2008 financial crisis, the Dodd-Frank Act was signed into law in 2010. Its provisions include:

    • Volcker Rule: aims to prevent excessive risk taking by prohibiting consumer banks from proprietary trading for their own profit (similar to Glass-Steagall, in that it limits commercial banks’ engagement in investment bank operations), and limiting financial institutions ability to grow their non-deposit liabilities

    • Financial Stability Oversight Council: can break up large banks deemed too large in size, lessening systemic risk

    • Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB): a consumer protection watchdog to prevent predatory mortgage lending and improve transparency of loan terms

    • Prevent future bailouts: by requiring the liquidation of future financially weak firms, with a clause that Wall Street not taxpayers will be responsible

  • Since President Barack Obama signed the Dodd-Frank Act into law, several legislators have proposed changes. The latest being Rep. Hensarling’s proposal to dismantle Dodd-Frank and replace it with a plan to deregulate the financial market.

Related Bills

Bills that call for a return to Glass-Steagall:

 

Bills that call for less regulation of the financial market:

Bills that call for greater regulation of the financial market:

Gavel Header July 11-15

GAVEL DOWN: Closing out the Week in Congress


A week full of legislating before departing for seven-week recess… 

Two bills head to the White House — GMO labeling and opioid addiction and treatment — after passing Congress this week. Senate voted to tee up two conference committees — one on major energy legislation and one on annual defense bill. House passed interior-EPA appropriations bill during late night vote series. Congress passed compromise FAA reauthorization, providing funding for another 14 months. Senate approved historic nomination for Librarian of Congress. House passed bill to end major principle of administrative law and several bills related to Iran, following one year anniversary of Iran nuclear deal. Senate fails to pass funding to combat Zika virus.


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Congress passed GMO labeling bill,
Now it's off to the White House


House passed legislative vehicle for Senate-passed GMO labeling. Bill passed by a vote of 306-117 and would require labels on foods containing GMO ingredients. Bill passed the Senate last week by vote of 63-30 after some initial confusion over its contents. Now, it heads to President Obama, who has indicated that he will sign the legislation.

Legislative Vehicle for genetically modified organisms (GMO) labeling bill (S. 764

Sponsor: Sen. Roger Wicker [R, MS]

Bill would give the Department of Agriculture two years to create and implement a national, mandatory standard for disclosing foods that contain GMO ingredients. It requires food containing GMO ingredients be labeled using print, pictures, or scannable bar codes. Bill pre-exempts state labeling laws, such as Vermont law that required GMO labeling in grocery stores.


Senate voted to go to conference over energy legislation


To conference we go — Senate voted 84-3 to convene a conference committee with House lawmakers on broad energy legislation. Going to conference is one of the final steps of "regular order" in the legislative process — when House and Senate appoint conferees to meet and work out differences in different versions of similar bills that passed both chambers. This Congress (114th) has approved more conference committee reports than the previous two Congresses. There's still plenty of time left this year, and Congress has approved two more conferences — one on energy legislation and one on annual defense bill.

POPVOX Conference Reports During Last Five U.S. Congresses

See if your lawmaker has been named as a conferee for the energy conference committee!

 


Congress passed opioid legislation,
Now it's off to the White House


On Wednesday, Senate approved bipartisan opioid legislation, by vote of 92-2 with only Sen. Ben Sasse [R, NE] and Sen. Mike Lee [R, UT] in opposition. House passed conference report last week by vote of 407-5, but there was major concern that Senate Democrats would not vote for the bill without additional funding. The compromise opioid bill is the product of bipartisanship and considered the largest drug reform and prevention bill in nearly a decade.  

Bill now goes to President Obama, who is set to sign the legislation into law. Lawmakers will have to authorize funding after Congress returns from its seven-week recess but before the end of the fiscal year on September 30.


House passed interior-EPA appropriations bill 


Following more late night vote series this week, House passed interior-EPA spending bill, mostly along party lines.

Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2017 (H.R. 5538

Sponsor: Rep. Ken Calvert [R, CA-42]

Bill seeks to rein in regulatory overreach, use the nation’s natural resources responsibly, fight wildfires, and tackle safety drinking water issues. Bill allots $32.1B in funding, $64M below last year’s package and $1B below the President’s budget request. The majority of funding cuts come from the Environmental Protection Agency, with the goal of reducing costly regulation.

White House has threatened to veto the bill if riders that roll back clean air, water, and wildlife protections are included. After recess, the bill heads to the Senate for consideration.


Congress passes compromise FAA reauthorization


Two days before funding for the Federal Aviation Administration was set to expire, the Senate passed bipartisan bill reauthorizing FAA funding for another 14 months. The compromise bill passed the House by voice vote on Monday and passed the Senate 89-4 on Wednesday.

 

POPVOX FAA reauthorization compromise bill

House and Senate reached an agreement on the bill last week, when lawmakers finished negotiating differences between the Senate (S. 2658) and House (H.R. 4441) versions. The resulting bill is similar to the Senate version. Bill focuses on increasing airport safety, reducing terrorist attacks, and regulating drones. Bill also includes consumer protections, such as generally ensuring kids 13 years old and younger are seated next to parents or older children traveling with them on flights.

H.R. 636 does not include House bill’s provision to privatize air traffic control. However, as the bill is a relatively short term extension, legislators will have the opportunity to continue debating the merits of privatization for the 2017 reauthorization.


Carla Hayden Librarian of Congress

Photo Source: Dave Munch/Getty Images

Senate approves historic nomination,
Carla Hayden next to serve
as Librarian of Congress


On Wednesday, Senate confirmed Carla Hayden as the next Librarian of Congress, making her the first woman and first African-American to hold the job. She previously served as president of the American Library Association (ALA) and head of Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore.

Hayden was approved by a vote of 74-18, with few expecting her confirmation vote to see the floor.  An anonymous Republican senator blocked the vote for more than five weeks after the Senate Rules Committee unanimously voted to recommend Hayden.

Resistance to Hayden largely focused on her opposition to the Patriot Act and the Children’s Internet Protection Act. As the head of the ALA, Hayden protested CIPA’s stipulation that publicly-funded libraries install internet content filters to block pornography. Hayden and others argued that the filters would restrict legitimate searches on subjects like breast cancer.

Since 1800, the Library of Congress has served as the research arm of Congress, provided members with legal advice, and operated the Copyright Office.  Critics argue that the Library has recently failed to modernize, partly because the previous Librarian of Congress James Billington served for nearly three decades. In November, President Obama signed the Librarian of Congress Succession Modernization Act of 2015 into law and established a ten-year term limit.


House passed bill to end major principle of administrative law


On Tuesday, House passed the Separation of Powers Restoration Act by a vote of 240-171 (largely along party lines). Bill would end one of the major principles of administrative law. Bill was introduced in March, marked up last month by House Judiciary, and now moves to the Senate for consideration.

Separation of Powers Restoration Act of 2016 (H.R. 4768

Sponsor: Rep. John Ratcliffe [R, TX-4]

Bill would end the “Chevron Doctrine,” a staple in administrative law that requires courts to defer to interpretations of “ambiguous” statutes made by government agencies charged with enforcing them. To overrule an interpretation, a court would have to find an agency’s interpretation to be “unreasonable.” Supreme Court established this precedent in a 1984 ruling on a dispute over the Environmental Protection Agency’s interpretation of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1977. (See: Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc.)

Under the bill, which amends the Administrative Procedure Act, courts would be authorized to review agency actions to decide de novo all relevant questions of laws. In other words, courts would be allowed to consider agency interpretations of statutes without deferring to other lower court or agency interpretations.


Senate failed to take up Zika funding package


Senate failed to invoke cloture on larger military and veterans spending bill (which includes Zika funding) by 52-44 vote. 60 votes were needed to advance the House version of compromise bill, with Senate blocking the deal for the second time.
 

Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2017 Health and Safe Communities Act of 2015 (H.R. 2577

Sponsor: Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart [R, FL-25]

Lawmakers continue to debate language in the conference report related to Puerto Rico, Planned Parenthood, ObamaCare, and confederate flags.

POPVOX Senate zika vote


House passed Iran-related bills

House passed three bills relating to Iran, following one year anniversary of Iran nuclear deal.

No 2H20 From Iran Act (H.R. 5119

Sponsor: Rep. Mike Pompeo [R, KS-4]

Bill bars the use of federal funds in the purchase of heavy water from Iran. Legislation followed announcement that the Department of Energy would spend $8.6M to buy 32 tons of Iranian heavy water. Proponents of the bill do not support using federal funds to finance trade with Iran. However, critics point out that the deal would ensure Iran no longer has the resources to store potential nuclear weapons production. The bill passed the House along party lines, 249-176.

United States Financial System Protection Act of 2016 (H.R. 4992

Sponsor: Rep. Ed Royce [R, CA-39]

Bill seeks to codify regulations relating to transfer of funds involving Iran, with the goal of blocking Iran from the U.S. financial system. The bill also passed along party lines, by vote of 246-181.

Iran Accountability Act of 2016 (H.R. 5631

Sponsor: Rep. Kevin McCarthy [R, CA-23]

Bill imposes new sanctions on Iran in an effort to hold Iran accountable for its state sponsorship of terrorism. The legislation targets Iran’s continued ballistic missile program and violation of human rights. It passed the House larly along party lines, by vote of 246-179.


Response from The White House
All three bills threaten the pact made with Iran last year, and Iran President Hassan Rouhani has said that if the U.S. breaks the pact then Iran will resume its nuclear weapon program. Accordingly, the White House has threatened to veto all bills that undermine the nuclear deal.


Senate voted to go to conference with House over annual defense bill


Congress is teeing up for conference on annual defense authorization bill. Senate voted 90-7 to go to conference with the House to reconcile differences between both chambers’ passed bills. President Obama has threatened to veto both versions.

National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 (S. 2943

Sponsor: Sen. John McCain [R, AZ]

Senate passed annual defense bill last month by vote of 85-13. $602 billion Senate NDAA contains controversial amendment that would require women turning 18 on or after January 1, 2018 to register for Selective Service.

Other policy provisions include: 

  • Large-scale procurement and contracting overhaul.
  • 25% reduction in general and flag officers and DOD Senior Executive Service civilian employees
  • Reforms to the military health system
  • Implementing the recommendations of the Department of Defense Military Justice Review Group

Read summary of the Senate version.

National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017  (H.R. 4909

Sponsor: Rep. Mac Thornberry [R, TX-13]

House passed annual defense bill in May by vote of 277-147. $610 billion House NDAA would use $18 billion meant for war funding to cover the Pentagon’s base budget, a measure not included in the Senate version and likely difficult to reconcile during conference negotiations.

Other policy provisions include:

  • Upholding the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force
  • Requiring women to register for the Selective Service
  • Removing protections for LGBT employees of military contractors
  • Delivering, modernizing, and maintaining new equipment
  • Reforms to the Military Health System
  • Making the Joint Staff and operations more accountable and transparent

Read summary of the House version.

Read Congressional Research Service summary of both the House and Senate versions.

How did your Representative and Senators vote on defense bills?


New Bills on the Block


#DataDrop


Legislative Lowdown: States Edition

  • California State Board of Education unanimously approved new social studies curriculum that would include the evolution of gay rights and the contributions of LGBT historical figures. The decision officially implements provisions of the FAIR Act, signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown [D] in 2011.
  • Bill has been introduced in the Ohio House that would exempt some some police body camera videos from public records law.
  • Maryland Court of Appeals—the state’s highest court—ruled that non-biological parents who live with and help raise children have parental rights. LGBT advocates lauded the decision, which overturned a precedent set in 2008 that prevented “third party parents” from obtaining parental rights.
  • Vermont has become the first state to provide publicly funded pre-kindergarten programs for 3- and 4-year olds as of this month. Under the law, Vermont communities will be required to offer at least 10 hours of free, high-quality preschool a week for 35 weeks a year.
  • Ten states sued the federal government last Friday over the Obama administration’s directive requiring public schools to allow transgender students to use restrooms that match their gender identity.
  • Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards [D] stripped $44 million from the state’s multi-year construction budget, remarking that that state could not afford them as it continues to struggle financially. 
  • Alaska Gov. Bill Walker [I] signed reforms of the state’s criminal justice system into law Monday. The reforms would lighten sentences for those charged with nonviolent offenses and simple possession of drugs with the intention of allowing them to become re-integrated into society and reduce the chances of them breaking the law again.
  • Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf [D] allowed the state 2016-17 budget bill to become law without his signature Monday night, even though the Republican-majority legislature had not agreed how to pay for it. The revenue gap of over $1 billion may affect schools and non-profits the most and downgrade the state’s credit by forcing it to increase its borrowing.

#ICYMI

Copy of POPVOX_Weekly_Update_Header_Images_2016 (6)

WEEKLY UPDATE: The Week Ahead in Congress

Bills up for a vote in Congress this week

With a long list of bills, Congress is working to finish up its business before heading into the "August recess" (which begins next week). Of note: the House takes up the Senate-passed GMO labeling bill; bills to impose restrictions on Iranian sponsorship of terrorism, human rights abuses, and the ballistic missile program; increasing financial tools to combat terrorism. The Senate will work on the Defense appropriations bill. Congress is expected to send a 14-month FAA extension to the President before authorization expires on July 15.


In the Senate:

Defense Appropriations


The $575.8 billion FY2017 Defense spending bill passed the House by a vote of 282-138. It includes $58.6 billion for “overseas contingency operations” (OCO). “OCO” refers to the operations that were previously referred to as the Global War on Terror. The White House has issued a veto threat. (Read more from the House Committee and CRS Fact Sheet)

 


In the House:

FAA Reauthorization

Before the summer recess, Congress must pass an extension for the Federal Aviation Administration, which runs out of funding on July 15. A 14-month extension is expected to be sent to the President this week.

  • FAA Extension, Safety, and Security Act of 2016 (in legislative vehicle H.R. 636)

Joint statement | Summary | Bill Text

 

GMO Labeling

  • Senate Amendment to the House Amendment to S. 764: GMO Labeling Requirements

     

    The House will consider the Senate-passed amendment to S. 764, the legislative vehicle for genetically modified organisms (GMO) labeling bill, by vote of 63-30. The bipartisan bill creates a national, mandatory standard for disclosing foods that contain GMO ingredients. It requires food containing GMO ingredients to be labeled using print, pictures, or scannable bar codes. It pre-exempts state labeling laws, such as Vermont law that required GMO labeling in grocery stores.

 

Veterans' Compensation

 

Energy Innovation

 

 

Iran

 

  • H.R. 4992: United States Financial System Protection Act
    Sponsor: Rep. Edward Royce [R, CA-39]
    This bill applies to transfers of funds to or from Iran, or for the direct or indirect benefit of an Iranian person or the government of Iran, for a specified period only, the existing authorization for U.S. depository institutions and registered brokers or dealers in securities to process such a funds transfer if the transfer arises from, and is ordinarily incident and necessary to give effect to, an underlying transaction that has been authorized by a specific or general license and does not involve debiting or crediting an Iranian account.

 

  • H.R. 5631: To hold Iran accountable for its state sponsorship of terrorism and other threatening activities and for its human rights abuses
    Sponsor: Rep. Kevin McCarthy [R, CA-23]

     

    H.R. 5631 contains provisions to address state sponsorship of terrorism, human rights abuses, and the ballistic missile program in Iran. Provisions include:requirements for sanctions on members or affiliates of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and peopel who have provided material support to the development of Iran's ballistic missle program; special measures to reduce money laundering concerns; expanding the list of persons involved in human rights abuses; requirements for sanctions on the Supreme Leader and President of Iran, Iranian Ministers, and other government officials, individuals who participated in a terrorist attack or the kidnapping or politically motivated detention of a U.S. citizen, and financial institutions that engage in certain transactions on behalf of persons involved in human rights abuses or that export sensitive technology to Iran.

 

Financial Services and Terror Finance Prevention

 

 

 

 

 

  • H.R. 5606: Anti-terrorism Information Sharing Is Strength Act
    Sponsor: Rep. Robert Pittenger [R, NC-9]
    H.R. 5606 increases safe harbor provisions for information sharing among financial institutions and government agencies and broadens the range of suspected illegal activities. The bill requires the Secretary of the Treasury to submit a study to Congress that determines the appropriate level of information sharing with foreign subsidiaries within 120-days after enactment.

 

  • H.R. 5607: Enhancing Treasury’s Anti-Terror Tools Act
    Sponsor: Rep. Robert Pittenger [R, NC-9]
    H.R.5607 requires the Treasury Department to investigate ways to incorporate U.S. Embassies into counter-terrorism financing efforts, assess ways to improve anti-terror finance monitoring of cross-border fund transfers, and implement a program to enhance intergovernmental efforts to combat terrorist financing. The bill also adds the Secretary of the Treasury to the National Security Council.

 

 

Higher Education

 

  • H.R. 3178: Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act
    Sponsor: Rep. Virginia Foxx [R, NC-5]
    H.R. 4983 would reserve $1 million from funding for the Department of Education to replace the current College Navigator website with a new website and change the type of information that the website would need to provide. The bill also would amend the requirements for the department’s net-price calculator, which provides details on the costs of post-secondary education.

 

 

  • H.R. 5528: Simplifying the Application for Student Aid Act
    Sponsor: Rep. Joseph Heck [R, NV-3]
    H.R. 5528 would reserve $3 million from funding for the Department of Education to implement changes to the application process for federal student aid. Those changes would include developing and testing a version of the application for mobile devices and continuing to develop the data retrieval system that allows students to pre-populate the online application with data from the Internal Revenue Service.

 

  • H.R. 5529: Accessing Higher Education Opportunities Act
    Sponsor: Rep. Joseph Heck [R, NV-3]
    H.R. 5529 would reauthorize the Developing Hispanic-Serving Institutions Program and expand the types of activities that institutions can support with the grant funds. The bill would authorize the appropriation of $108 million for fiscal year 2016. The underlying authorization for the program has expired but the Congress has already appropriated $108 million for those grants in fiscal year 2016.

 

  • H.R. 5530: HBCU Capital Financing Improvement Act
    Sponsor: Rep. Alma Adams [D, NC-12]
    H.R. 5530 would amend the reporting requirements for the Historically Black College and University (HBCU) Advisory Board, which advises the Department of Education about the HBCU Capital Financing Program. It also would allow the department to provide financial counseling to HBCUs to better prepare them to qualify for that program.

Government Operations

The bill would end the "Chevron Doctrine," one of the most influential principles of administrative law, which requires that courts defer to an executive agency's interpretation of a law. The principle was established in the 1984 decision, Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U.S. 837.

 

  • H.R. 4785: DHS Stop Asset and Vehicle Excess Act (SAVE) Act
    Sponsor: Rep. Scott Perry [R, PA-4]
    H.R. 4785 would direct the Under Secretary of Management for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to oversee and manage vehicle fleets throughout the department. Currently, agencies within DHS (such as Customs and Border Protection) largely manage their own fleets. The bill would require the Under Secretary to monitor compliance with federal laws and regulations related to the use of government vehicles, develop a methodology to determine optimal fleet size, and approve vehicle leases and acquisitions. H.R. 4785 also would require DHS agencies to report data on vehicle use quarterly and submit fleet management plans, including cost-benefit analyses, annually to the Under Secretary.

 

 

  • H.R. 5056: Airport Perimeter and Access Control Security Act of 2016
    Sponsor: Rep. William Keating [D, MA-9]
    This bill directs the Transportation Security Administration to update the Transportation Sector Security Risk Assessment for the aviation sector, the Comprehensive Risk Assessment of Perimeter and Access Control Security for airports (as well as conduct a system-wide assessment of airport access control points and airport perimeter security), and the 2012 National Strategy for Airport Perimeter and Access Control Security.

 

  • H.R. 4404: Terrorist and Foreign Fighter Travel Exercise Act
    Sponsor: Rep. Martha McSally [R, AZ-2]
    This bill requires the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to develop and conduct an exercise related to the terrorist and foreign fighter threat in order to enhance domestic preparedness for and the collective response to terrorism, promote the dissemination of homeland security information, and test the U.S. security posture. DHS shall submit an after-action report, including any identified or potential vulnerabilities in U.S. defenses and requested legislative changes. The bill also amends the Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act of 2006 to require the national exercise program to be designed to include emerging terrorist threats, such as such a scenario.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Please keep in mind that highlighting a bill does not imply POPVOX endorsement in any way. As always, our goal is to offer one more way to help you stay informed about the complex U.S. legislative system.