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Weekly Update: The Week Ahead in Congress (Sep. 26-30, 2016)

Funding Vote, Water Resources, and a possible Veto Override

With one week left in current funding authorization, Congress must pass a deal this week to avoid a government shutdown. The House will vote on a major water resources bill. And both chambers are expected to vote to override a presidential veto of a bill to let 9/11 families sue potential state sponsors of terror.

Funding Deal   |     Water Resources   |     Mental Health    |    Security    |     Veterans    |    More


In the Senate: Funding Deal & Possible Override of Presidential Veto of 9/11 Bill

Congress is still working towards a deal to fund the government through December 9. The Senate is still at odds on whether funding for Flint, Michigan will be included.

Whitney has all of the details and the procedure in last week's Gavel Down

H.R. 5325: Legislative Vehicle for Continuing Funding Resolution through December 9, 2016

The Senate may also vote to override President Obama's veto of a bill to allow 9/11 families to sue Saudi Arabia for possible involvement in those attacks. (Read more on JASTA and the veto override procedure).

 S. 2040: Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA)
Sponsor: Sen. John Cornyn [R, TX]


In the House: WRDA, Cybersecurity, Veterans, and more

Another busy week in the House as they push to the finish line. With another long list of bills to consider, the House will prepare to vote on the funding deal that emerges from the Senate and also may consider a vote to override the President's veto of JASTA.

Water Resources and Conservation

Compromise on the Water Resources Development Act is coming down to the wire. The Senate passed its version on September 15 in a 95-3 vote and included money for aid to Flint, Michigan. The House version does not contain Flint funding, due to jurisdictional issues, but it could be included in a combined version of the Senate and House bills. 

A last minute point of contention has emerged with the removal of a Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund provision.

H.R. 5303: Water Resources Development Act 
Sponsor: Rep. Bill Shuster [R, PA-9]

H.R. 5303 would authorize the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to construct projects to mitigate storm and hurricane damage, to improve navigation and flood management, and to restore estuaries. (CBO).

Read more from the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

H.R. 845: National Forest Trails Stewardship Act
Sponsor: Rep. Cynthia Lummis [R, WY-0]

Calling on the USDA to publish a national strategy to significantly increase the role of volunteers and partners in trail maintenance. 

Mental Health and Controlled Substances


H.R. 1877: Mental Health First Aid Act of 2016, as amended
Sponsor: Rep. Lynn Jenkins [R, KS-2]
Creating grants for mental health first aid training programs within the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

H.R. 3537: Dangerous Synthetic Drug Control Act
Sponsor: Rep. Charlie Dent

The Federal Analogue Act allows chemicals that are “substantially similar” to controlled substances to be treated as if they are in Schedule I of the CSA. H.R. 3537 adds additional known synthetic drugs to Schedule I of the CSA and lowers the standard for new synthetics to be controlled as analogues.

 

Homeland and Cybersecurity

H.R. 5943: Transit Security Grant Program Flexibility Act
Sponsor: Rep. David Young [R, IA-3]

Expands the scope of how TSGP funds can be used and extends the deadline for use from two to three years.

H.R. 5460: First Responder Access to Innovative Technologies Act
Sponsor: Rep. Donald Payne [D, NJ-10]
 
Requires Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to develop a process for reviewing requests by first responders to purchase new technology with grant funds.

H.R. 5459: Cyber Preparedness Act of 2016
Sponsor: Rep. Dan Donovan [R, NY-11]

Adds cyberscurity risk information to the scope of Department of Homeland Security's (DHS's) State, Local, and Regional Fusion Centers.

 

H.R. 5346: Securing our Agriculture and Food Act
Sponsor: Rep. David Young [R, IA-3]

Names the Assistant Secretary for Health Affairs to coordinate DHS efforts related to defending the food, agriculture, and veterinary systems against terrorism and other high-consequence events.
 

H.R. 3779: To restrict the inclusion of social security account numbers on documents sent by mail by the Federal Government
Sponsor: Rep. David Valadao [R, CA-21]

 

Veterans

H.R. 5162: Vet Connect Act of 2016
Sponsor: Beto O'Rourke [D, TX-16]

Allowing the VA to disclose certain medical information to non-VA entities that provide hospital care or medical treatment to veterans who are enrolled in VA’s healthcare system, for programs relating to drug abuse, alcoholism or alcohol abuse, infection with the human immunodeficiency virus, or sickle cell anemia.

H.R. 5392: No Veterans Crisis Line Call Should Go Unanswered Act
Sponsor: Rep. David Young [R, IA-3]
 
Requiring a backup plan for veterans' call centers to ensure that each communication received by the VCL is answered in a timely manner by a person, consistent with the guidance established by the American Association of Suicidology.

H.R. 3216: Veterans Emergency Treatment (VET) Act
Sponsor: Rep. Dan Newhouse [R, WA-4]

Would apply the statutory requirements of the Emergency Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) to emergency care furnished by the VA to enrolled veterans who arrive at the emergency department of a VA medical facility.

 

H.R. 5978: Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Amendments Act of 2016
Sponsor: Rep. Duncan Hunter [R, CA-50]

To clarify the functions of the Chief Acquisition Officer of the Coast Guard.

And More
 

H.R. 5065: Bottles and Breast­feed­ing Equipment Screening Act
Sponsor: Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler [R, WA-3]

Directs DHS to notify air carriers and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) security screening personnel of guidelines allowing baby formula, breast milk, and juice on airlines.

H.R. 5883: Clarification of Treatment of Electronic Sales of Livestock Act of 2016
Sponsor: Rep. David Rouzer [R, NC-7]

Allows electronic funds transfers for livestock sales.

 

H.R. 5391: Gains in Global Nuclear Detection Architecture Act
Sponsor: Rep. Cedric Richmond [D, LA-2]

Directing the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office to improve the documentation and evaluation of research and development projects.
 

S. 1698: Treatment of Certain Payments in Eugenics Compensation Act
Sponsor: Sen. Thom Tillis [R, NC]

Excluding payments made under a state eugenics compensation program from classification as income for purposes of determining the eligibility for any federal public benefit.


 

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.

 

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Gavel Down: Closing out the Week in Congress (Sept. 19-23, 2016)

Fall arrived, as did a CR to keep the government open…

After several delays, Senate cleared its first procedural hurdle for short-term spending bill. CR made its debut on Thursday, giving Senators four days before next vote. President Obama vetoed legislation allowing families of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia, setting up possible congressional override. House passed bill banning cash payments to Iran, and Senate failed to take up resolution to override Saudi Arabia arms deal.

Government Funding |  JASTA  |  Iran  |  Saudi Arabia Arms Deal  |  ICYMI


CR debuted, Congress must pass by next Friday


Bill includes funds for Louisiana flood relief, zika virus, and opioid programs


Senate began the week with delayed procedural votes because a deal on short-term funding had not been reached.  Lawmakers debated and negotiated several sticking points from Planned Parenthood to SEC disclosures to refugees to internet domain transfers.

On Tuesday, the Senate cleared its first procedural hurdle (by vote of 89-7) on underlying vehicle for the must-pass spending bill. There still wasn't a final deal at the time, so the unusual procedural vote kicked off consideration of a "shell bill." And no, the Senate didn't pass a blank bill like you might have heard, rather the procedural motion allowed the body to begin considering the bill. Learn more about how cloture works in the Senate.

On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government from Oct. 1 to Dec. 9. Read section-by-section analysis and full legislative text (FYI: CR portion is pages 130-155).

“There have been broad requests for a clean continuing resolution. So that’s what I’ve just offered. It’s the result of many, many hours of bipartisan work across the aisle.”
–Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell

 

Legislative Vehicle for Continuing Funding Resolution (CR through Dec. 8, 2016
Sponsor: Rep. Tom Graves [R, GA-14]


What made it into the CR?


The proposed CR continues government spending at current levels. It includes $1.1 billion to combat the Zika virus, falling short of President Obama’s requested $1.9 billion. The measure includes $500 million in block grant funding to be made available to states recovering from natural disasters, including Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, and Maryland. Another big ticket item is $37 million to speed up the implementation of CARA , the comprehensive opioid addiction and treatment bill signed into law in July. The opioid funds are to be provided between when the law is implemented and the expiration of the CR.

The Fine Print

  • Military Construction and Veterans Affairs appropriations bill, $82.3 billion in discretionary funding for FY17 (up $2.5 billion from 2016)
  • Department of Veterans Affairs total funding, $176.9 billion (up $14.2 billion from 2016)
  • Disaster aid, $500 million
  • Zika virus, $1.1billion

     

     

     

     

    • $993 million to the Department of Health and Human Services
    • $394 million to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for mosquito control and surveillance
    • $397 million to the National Institutes of Health for vaccine and diagnostic development
  • Opioid addiction and treatment programs, $37 million (to be provided between when the law is implemented and the expiration of the CR)

    • $17 million for Department of Health and Human Services
    • $20 million for Department of Justice
  • State and foreign operations and programs, $175.1 million


What didn't make the cut?

Export-Import Bank
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle pushed for language to allow the Export-Import Bank to approve more deals. Last year, Congress reauthorized the bank (through a rarely used legislative procedure), but only two of the Ex-Im board’s seats are filled, meaning the bank cannot operate at full capacity. Without quorum, the bank cannot approve deals over $10 million. According to the bank, more than 30 deals worth a collective $20 billion are on hold until the Senate approves a third board member. Lawmakers and the White House sought language to eliminate the quorum requirement.

ICANN
The Obama administration will cede domain name authority to an international body on Oct. 1, the same day overall government spending authority would expire in the absence of a CR signed into law. Sen. Ted Cruz [R, TX] pushed for ICANN rider in short-term funding bill, looking to prevent the transfer. Last week, Government Accountability Office said scheduled transition of the internet domain naming authority from the U.S. government to an international nonprofit is not a property transfer and thus does not require congressional approval.

Flint water crisis
Some lawmakers felt the CR was the best way to get funding for the Flint water systems, but others argued that funding is already included in the water projects bill the Senate passed last week. The House will take up its own water bill next week which does not contain any Flint water provisions (due to jurisdictional differences). Senate water bill sponsor Sen. James Inhofe [R, OK] urged the House to pass their version and then Flint funding could be added to final version in conference.


So what now?


Well, there’s one week left until the the federal fiscal year ends, meaning Congress must pass a spending measure to keep the government open. Senate will hold a procedural vote on Tuesday. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell “filled the amendment tree,” meaning no other senators can offer amendments. Since there’s seven days remaining before a shutdown, the Office of Management and Budget is required to prepare shutdown plans. However, OMB spokesperson said Congress has enough time to pass the CR and they do not anticipate a shutdown.


JASTA vetoed, congressional override expected

 

On Friday, President Obama vetoed “JASTA” (Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act), a bill that unanimously passed both houses of Congress to allow 9/11 families to sue the government of Saudi Arabia in U.S. federal courts over possible involvement in the terrorist attack. 

  Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (S. 2040)
  Sponsor: Sen. John Cornyn [R, TX]

Opponents say the bill challenges longstanding international laws of national sovereignty — that a state cannot be sued by the citizens of another state. In vetoing the bill, President Obama expressed concern that its precedent could threaten U.S. sovereignty in the future and allow foreign nationals to bring suit against the U.S. in foreign courts. For its part, Saudi Arabia has fought the measure, employing a team of lobbyists in D.C. and calling upon CEOs of American companies with interests in Saudi Arabia to write letters on their behalf.

Congress is expected to override the President’s veto. A veto override requires at least two-thirds vote in each chamber. Less than 10% of vetoed bills have been overridden and this would be the first of President Obama’s tenure.

 


House passed bill blocking payments to Iran

The House passed a bill to prohibit the United States from making payments to Iran through promissory notes, including currency.  

Prohibiting Future Ransom Payments Iran Act (H.R. 5931)
Sponsor: Rep. Ed Royce [R, CA-39] 


The effort was prompted by the $400 million payment made on the day the Iran deal went into effect, the same day that several American prisoners were released. The money was technically refunding money Iran paid to the U.S. in the 1970s for weapons that were never delivered (due to the breakout of the Revolution). However, some critics say the timing amounted to a “ransom” for the prisoners and would embolden enemies to hold Americans to negotiate for money.

The bill bans any future cash payments to Iran and requires the White House to provide 30 days to Congress for any payments that might be required by a pending international tribunal.
 


Senate voted on Saudi Arabia arms deal

 

This week the Senate took a rare vote regarding a pending $1.15 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia. The 1976 Arms Export Control Act “allows any senator to force a debate and a vote on an arms sale if the Senate Foreign Relations Committee doesn't move on a disapproval resolution over a 10-day period.” (The Hill).

Senators Rand Paul [R-KY], Christopher Murphy [D-CT], Mike Lee [R-UT] and Al Franken [D-MN] used this provision to attempt to bring a vote on S.J.Res.39 (disapproving the arms sale). The Senate voted on a “motion to table” (aka not to consider) the resolution, so the only vote that occurred was a vote to not consider the motion to consider the resolution. Confusing, we know. So how did your senator vote? (Keep in mind, yea votes mean to not consider the motion to disapprove the arms sale.)


#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.


 

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Weekly Update: The Week Ahead in Congress (Sep. 19-23, 2016)

Cramming for finals

It's a race to a funding deal (and the exit) in the Senate. And a long list of bills in the House, putting limits on payments to Iran, updating government technology, cybersecurity resources, and much more.
 

Funding Deal   |     Foreign Relations    |     Financial Services    |     GovOps     |     Security    |     More


In the Senate: Funding Deal

Senators will vote on Monday to advance a bill that will eventually be used as a "vehicle" for a funding deal that is still in the works. (This process keeps a bill moving through the somewhat slow Senate process while negotiations are ongoing). There is growing agreement to fund the government through December 9, to allow lawmakers to return and take up the funding discussion in the post-election Lame Duck session.

The funding deal will be a "continuing resolution" (CR), extending most spending levels unchanged. However, several may make it into the final package:

  • Funding to treat and fight the spread of Zika
  • Funding to fight opioid addiction
  • Funding for flood recovery efforts in Louisiana

H.R. 5325: Legislative Vehicle for Continuing Funding Resolution through December 9, 2016


In the House:

The House has a very full plate this week, with over 50 bills on the docket. And behind the scenes, House negotiators will be working with the Senate on the funding deal.

Foreign Relations

H.R. 5931: Prohibiting Future Ransom Payments to Iran Act
Sponsor: Rep. Ed Royce [R, CA-39]

H.R. 5931 would prohibit the Government of the United States from making payments to the Government of Iran through promissory notes (including currency) issued by the United States or any foreign government. In addition, the bill would require that payments to settle any claim being considered by the special tribunal to resolve disputes between Iran and the United States be made pursuant to a license from the Department of the Treasury and after providing certain notifications to the Congress. Finally, the legislation would require the President to report to the Congress on outstanding claims before the tribunal.
 

H.R. 5461: Iranian Leadership Asset Transparency Act
Sponsor: Rep. Bruce Poliquin [R, ME-2]

H.R. 5461 would require the Department of the Treasury to provide reports on the financial assets held by specified Iranian political and military leaders. The reports would describe how the assets were acquired and any unclassified portions of those reports would be posted on the Treasury’s website in multiple languages.

 

H.R. 5094: STAND for Ukraine Act
Sponsor: Rep. Eliot Engel [D, NY-16]

Codifying sanctions and calling on the Department of State to report a strategy to counter Russian disinformation and propaganda.

 

H.R. 3924: Global Development Lab Act of 2016
Sponsor: Rep. Joaquin Castro [D, TX-20]

Codifying the Global Development Lab (Lab) in the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)


Financial Services, Banking and Capital

H.R. 1309: Systemic Risk Designation Improvement Act
Sponsor: Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer [R, MO-3]

Changes how banks are designated for systemic risk to the financial system by replacing the $50 billion asset threshold with a new method that weighs not only a company's size but also complexity and other factors.
 

H.R. 5719: Empowering Employees through Stock Ownership Act
Sponsor: Rep. Erik Paulsen [R, MN-3]

Allows employees to defer taxes on stock options.

 

H.R. 2315: Mobile Workforce State Income Tax Simplification Act 
Sponsor: Rep. Mike Bishop [R, MI-8]
Provides a uniform 30-day threshold that a worker must be present in a state before state income tax liability attaches and withholding is required. 

 

H.R. 5883: Clarification of Treatment of Electronic Sales of Livestock Act of 2016
Sponsor: Rep. David Rouzer [R, NC-7]
Allows electronic funds transfers for livestock sales.

 

H.R. 5523: Clyde-Hirsch-Sowers RESPECT Act
Sponsor: Rep. Peter Roskam [R, IL-6]

Banks are required to report to the IRS any cash transactions over $10,000. Attempting to circumvent this reporting requirement by making smaller transactions is a crime. The bill would prohibit the IRS from seizing money from people who circumvent reporting requirements unless the agency proves that the money was connected to a crime.


Government Operations and Management

 

H.R. 6004: Managing Government Technology (MGT) Act
Sponsor: Rep. Will Hurd [R, TX-23]

Funding agency IT modernization and creating a central Information Technology and Modernization Fund and Board to improve Government-wide efficiency and cybersecurity.

 

H.R. 5625: Modernizing Government Travel Act
Sponsor: Rep. Seth Moulton [D, MA-6]

To allow federal employees to use alternative transportation options such as Uber, Lyft, and bike-share for official travel. 

 

S. 1550, Program Management Improvement Accountability Act
Sponsor: Sen. Joni Ernst [R, IA]
To establish a council to be the primary interagency forum for program and project management. 

 

H.R. 3438: REVIEW Act of 2016
Sponsor: Rep. Tom Marino [R, PA-10]

Requiring federal agencies to postpone the implementation of any rule imposing an annual cost on the economy of at least $1 billion if a petition seeking judicial review of that regulation is filed within 60 days of the rule taking effect. 
 

H.R. 5320: Social Security Must Avert Identity Loss (MAIL Act)
Sponsor: Rep. Sam Johnson [R, TX-3]

Requiring the Social Security Administration (SSA) to remove complete Social Security Numbers (SSN) from documents sent by mail as soon as practicable.
 

H.R. 5690: GAO Access and Oversight Act of 2016
Sponsor: Rep. Buddy Carter [R, GA-1]

Clarifying that Government Accountability Office (GAO) has the authority to obtain certain records and information.

 

H.R. 5687: GAO Mandates Revision Act of 2016
Sponsor: Rep. Jody Hice [R, GA-10]

Modifies or repeals nine reports that the Government Accountability Office is required to perform each year.

 

H.R. 5460: First Responder Access to Innovative Technologies Act
Sponsor: Rep. Donald Payne [D, NJ-10]
 
Requires Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to develop a process for reviewing requests by first responders to purchase new technology with grant funds.


Homeland and Cybersecurity

H.R. 5459: Cyber Preparedness Act of 2016
Sponsor: Rep. Dan Donovan [R, NY-11]

Adds cyberscurity risk information to the scope of Department of Homeland Security's (DHS's) State, Local, and Regional Fusion Centers.


H.R. 5859: Community Count­er­ter­ror­ism Preparedness Act
Sponsor: Rep. Michael McCaul [R, TX-10]

To establish the major metropolitan area counterterrorism training and exercise grant program.

 

H.R. 5064: Improving Small Business Cyber Security Act of 2016
Sponsor: Rep. Richard Hanna [R, NY-22]

Authorizes Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) to offer cyber support to small businesses. Calls for the DHS and SBA to work together on an SBDC Cyber Strategy.
 

H.R. 5346: Securing our Agriculture and Food Act
Sponsor: Rep. David Young [R, IA-3]

Names the Assistant Secretary for Health Affairs to coordinate DHS efforts related to defending the food, agriculture, and veterinary systems against terrorism and other high-consequence events.
 

H.R. 5943: Transit Security Grant Program Flexibility Act
Sponsor: Rep. David Young [R, IA-3]

Expands the scope of how TSGP funds can be used and extends the deadline for use from two to three years.
 

H.R. 4712: Strengthening the Department of Homeland Security Secure Mail Initiative Act
Sponsor: Rep. Jackie Speier [D, CA-14]

The bill would create a paid option for recipients of sensitive documents such as green cards, travel documents, and employment authorization forms to opt for signature-required delivery.


Health Care

H.R. 5713: Sustaining Healthcare Integrity and Fair Treatment Act of 2016
Sponsor: Rep. Pat Tiberi [R, OH-12]
H.R. 5713 would modify Medicare’s payments to Long-Term Care Hospitals (LTCHs) and would prohibit Medicare from paying for items or services furnished by certain newly enrolled providers in select areas of the country. 
 

H.R. 670: Special Needs Trust Fairness and Medicaid Improvement Act 
Sponsor: Rep. Glenn Thompson  [R, PA-5]

Special needs trusts allow non-elderly individuals with disabilities to maintain their assets and their eligibility for Medicaid. Upon death, the remaining proceeds of the trust go to the state to compensate for medical assistance provided under the state Medicaid program. Parents, grandparents, legal guardians, and a court may establish a special needs trust but current law does not allow a person with disabilities to set up his or her own trust.

This bill would:

  • permit qualified individuals to establish their own special needs trusts
  • extend access to tobacco cessation services to mothers of newborns
  • eliminate federal matching funds for prescription drugs used for cosmetic purposes;
  • provide funding for the Medicaid improvement fund.

And More

H.R. 5147: Bathrooms Accessible in Every Situation (BABIES) Act
Sponsor: Rep. David Cicilline [D, RI-1]

Requires male and female restrooms in public buildings to be equipped with safe, sanitary, and appropriate baby changing facilities.

 

H.R. 5065: Bottles and Breast­feed­ing Equipment Screening Act
Sponsor: Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler [R, WA-3]

Directs DHS to notify air carriers and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) security screening personnel of guidelines allowing baby formula, breast milk, and juice on airlines.
 

H.R. 5963: Supporting Youth Opportunity and Preventing Delinquency Act
Sponsor: Rep. Carlos Curbelo [R, FL-26]

To reauthorize and improve the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act.

 

H.R. 2285: Prevent Trafficking in Cultural Property Act
Sponsor: Rep. Bill Keating [D, MA-9]

Declares U.S. policy to interdict, detain, seize, and investigate cultural property illegally imported into the United States, disrupt and dismantle smuggling and trafficking networks, and prosecute illegal trade. Calls for cooperation between the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
 

H.Con.Res. 122: PROTECT Patrimony Resolution (Protection of the Right of Tribes to stop the Export of Cultural and Traditional Patrimony)
Sponsor: Rep. Steve Pearce [R, NM-2]

Condemns the theft, illegal possession or sale, transfer, and export of tribal cultural items. Calls for consultation with tribes and Native American religious leaders to address and secure repatriation of tribal cultural items; and for the Government Accountability Office to determine the scope of illegal trafficking in tribal cultural items and identify steps required to end such trafficking. 

 

H.R. 470: Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest Land Adjustment Act
Sponsor: Rep. Doug Collins [R, GA-9]

Authorizes the Department of Agriculture (USDA) to sell or exchange 30 tracts of National Forest System land in Georgia totaling approximately 3,841 acres.
 
 

H.R. 5946: United States Appreciation for Olympians and Paralympians Act
Sponsor: Rep. Robert Dold [R, IL-10]

Excludes the value of any medal or prize money received in the Olympic Games or Paralympic Games from gross income for tax purposes.

 

H.R. 5391: Gains in Global Nuclear Detection Architecture Act
Sponsor: Rep. Cedric Richmond [D, LA-2]

Directing the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office to improve the documentation and evaluation of research and development projects.

 

H.R. 6014: To direct the Federal Aviation Administration to allow certain construction or alteration of structures by State departments of transportation without requiring an aeronautical study
Sponsor: Rep. Rick Nolan [D, MN-8]

 

H.R. 5957: Federal Aviation Administration Veteran Transition Improvement Act
Sponsor: Rep. Rick Larsen [D, WA-2]

To include disabled veteran leave in the personnel management system of the Federal Aviation Administration.
 

H.R. 5785: To amend title 5, United States Code, to provide for an annuity supplement for certain air traffic controllers
Sponsor: Rep. Steve Russell [R, OK-5]

 

H.R. 6007: To amend title 49, United States Code, to include consideration of certain impacts on commercial space launch and reentry activities in a navigable airspace analysis
Sponsor: Rep. Kevin McCarthy [R, CA-23]

 

H.R. 5977: To direct the Secretary of Transportation to provide to the appropriate committees of Congress advance notice of certain announcements
Sponsor: Rep. Bill Shuster [R, PA-9]

 

H.R. 5944: To amend title 49, United States Code, with respect to certain grant assurances
Sponsor: Rep. Fred Upton [R, MI-6]

 

H.R. 5037: District of Columbia Courts and Public Defender Service Voluntary Separation Incentive Payments Act
Sponsor: Rep. Eleanor Norton [D, DC]

Authorizes establishment of a voluntary separation incentive payments program for nonjudicial employees of the District courts substantially similar to that for certain federal employees and members of the uniformed services.
  

H.R. 4419: District of Columbia Judicial Financial Transparency Act
Sponsor: Rep. Eleanor Norton [D, DC]

Revises the financial disclosure requirements for District of Columbia judges. 

 

H.R. 3957: Emergency Citrus Disease Response Act 
Sponsor: Rep. Vern Buchanan [R, FL-16]

Allows a full deduction in the current taxable year of the cost of replanting lost or damaged citrus plants.

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GAVEL DOWN: Closing out the Week in Congress (Sept. 12-16, 2016)

Quite the week of legislative action…

Senate passed bipartisan water projects bill that includes money for Flint, Michigan. A bill to block President Obama from releasing Guantanamo Bay detainees passed, as did a sweeping Veterans Affairs reform package. Lawmakers struck a deal regarding IRS Commissioner impeachment vote, and are still working on a deal for short-term funding bill. 

WRDA  |  Veterans Affairs  |  Government Funding   
Guantanamo Bay  |  IRS Commissioner |  State Legislation  |   ICYMI


 

Senate passed major water infrastructure bill

Bill includes $220 million for Flint, Michigan

On Thursday, the Senate passed $10 billion water projects bill by a vote of 95-3. The bipartisan bill focuses on flood control, water infrastructure, ecosystem restoration, and water transportation. The measure includes $220 million for Flint, Michigan and authorizes 29 water projects in 18 states. Read committee summary.

 

Water Resources Development Act of 2016 (S. 2848)
Sponsor: Sen. Jim Inhofe [R, OK]


What now?
Attention shifts to the House, as the chamber has its own version of the WRDA. The House version is more narrow than the Senate version and does not contain any drinking water provisions (due to jurisdictional differences). Senate WRDA sponsor Sen. James Inhofe [R, OK] urged the House to advance the WRDA and then Flint funding could be added to final version in conference. House WRDA could see floor vote next week under an expedited process.
 

Water Resources Development Act of 2016 (H.R. 5303)
Sponsor: Rep. Bill Shuster [R, PA-9]


House passed Veterans Affairs reform bill

Bill would make it easier to fire VA employees


On Wednesday, the House passed Veterans Affairs reform bill by a vote of 310-116. The bill would change how the VA disciplines, fires, and rewards its employees. For example, senior executives would be banned from receiving performance bonuses between 2017 and 2021. The bill also increases whistleblower protections and addresses the VA’s disability benefits appeals process. Obama administration praised and criticized various parts of the bill in Statement of Administration Policy.

VA Accountability First and Appeals Modernization Act of 2016 (H.R. 5620) 
Sponsor: Rep. Jeff Miller [R, FL-1]


Rings a bell?
There’s a similar VA accountability bill in the Senate. It was reported out of Senate Veterans Affairs in May. The bipartisan bill addresses employee procedures, healthcare, benefits, education, and pensions. This week Senate Veterans Affairs held related hearing.
 

Veterans First Act (S. 2921)
Sponsor: Sen. Johnny Isakson [R, GA] 

 


Lawmakers continue negotiating short-term CR

Government funding expires Sept. 30

Lawmakers and staffers from both sides of the aisle are still negotiating a short-term spending bill. What's the hold up? Disagreements on Zika, Export-Import Bank, ICANN transition, and Planned Parenthood. Senate is teed up for a procedural vote on Monday if a deal can be reached in time.

What is a CR?
A continuing resolution (CR) is a short-term appropriations bill.


House passed bill to block POTUS from releasing Guantanamo Bay detainees

Bill would prevent transfers until end of year
(or until new defense authorization is enacted)


On Thursday, House passed bill that would prevent President Obama from releasing any more detainees from Guantanamo Bay detainees until Jan. 1 or until a new defense authorization is signed into law. The bill passed 244-174 and now heads to the Senate. President Obama threatened to veto the legislation should it make it to his desk.
 

To Prohibit the Transfer of any Individual Detained at United States, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba
Sponsor: Rep. Jackie Walorski [R, IN-2] 


Last month, President Obama transferred another 15 detainees, the largest single transfer to date. There are now 61 detainees left at the facility. 


Lawmakers strike a deal to postpone IRS Commissioner Impeachment Vote

House Judiciary will hold related hearing next week


On Tuesday, Rep. John Fleming [R, LA-4] moved to force a vote on a resolution to impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. Filing a privileged resolution requires the House to take action on it within two legislative days and is a legislative maneuver that allows any rank-and-file member to try and and call up a matter for consideration. Learn more from the Congressional Research Service.

Freedom Caucus Chairman Jim Jordan and Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte reached an agreement late the next day. IRS Commissioner John Koskinen will be called to testify before House Judiciary next week, and impeachment vote will be postponed until after elections. However, resolution cosponsor Rep. Tim Huelskamp [R, KS-1] said he still intends to call up the resolution next week.

Impeaching John Andrew Koskinen, Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, For High Crimes and Misdemeanors (H.Res. 828)
Sponsor: Rep. John Fleming [R, LA-4]


Why does this sound familiar?
Rep. John Fleming [R, LA-4] filed notice of his privileged resolution on the House’s last day in session before seven-week recess. There were two pro forma sessions that counted as legislative days, meaning the two days on which the House had to act expired while Members were back home in their districts.


Legislative Lowdown: States Edition


#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.

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Weekly Update: The Week Ahead in Congress (Sep. 12-16, 2016)

Tech bills in the House, water resources in the Senate, and lots of behind-the-scenes talk about a funding deal.

The Senate will again work on a $9.4 billion water projects bill that includes $200 million for Flint, Michigan. The House will vote on tech-related bills to prohibit ticket-buying bots, and prevent agreements limiting consumers' right to leave Yelp-like reviews. The House will also vote on bills to prohibit prisoner transfers from Guantanamo Bay, limit the President's ability to remove countries from the list of state sponsors of terror, and finalizing a military agreement with Israel.
 

Water Resources     |     Technology     |     Israel    |     Terrorism/Guantanamo    |     Native Americans     |     Conservation & Preservation    |    Veterans   |   & More


In the Senate: Water Resources (#WRDA)

The bipartisan $9.4 billion water projects bill under consideration in the Senate includes $200 million for updating water infrastructure in Flint, Michigan. 

S. 2848: Water Resources Development Act of 2016
Sponsor: Sen. Jim Inhofe [R, OK]

S. 2848 would authorize the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to construct projects to mitigate storm and hurricane damage, to improve navigation and flood management, and to assist state and local governments with safety programs for dams and levees. The bill also would authorize the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to provide grants and loans to state and local governments, public water systems, and nonprofit organizations to support a wide range of water quality projects and programs. (Source: CBO).

READ COMMITTEE SUMMARY


In the House:

Technology: Consumer Reviews, Ticket Bots, and IoT
Should companies be able to prohibit customers from leaving reviews on sites like Yelp? Should ticket re-sellers be able to use "bots" to purchase tickets when they become available online, with the intention of re-selling at higher prices? Should the U.S. have a national strategy for the Internet of Things (IoT)? Those are some of the tech questions up for a vote in the House this week.

H.R. 5111: Consumer Review Fairness Act of 2016
Sponsor: Rep. Leonard Lance [R, NJ-7]

The bill would  prohibit contract clauses that restrict the ability of a consumer to review goods or services. 

H.R. 5104: Better On-line Ticket Sales Act (BOTS) Act
Sponsor: Rep. Marsha Blackburn [R, TN-7]

Prohibits use or sale of software “bots” to circumvent security or access controls on a ticket seller's website that is used to ensure equitable consumer access to tickets. Also prohibits the sale of tickets obtained through these measures. 

H.Res. 847Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives about a national strategy for the Internet of Things to promote economic growth and consumer empowerment
Sponsor: Rep. Leonard Lance [R, NJ-7]

H.Res. 835Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the United States should adopt a national policy for technology to promote consumers’ access to financial tools and online commerce to promote economic growth and consumer empowerment
Sponsor: Rep. Adam Kinzinger [R, IL-16]

H.R. 4979: Advanced Nuclear Technology Development Act of 2016
Sponsor: Rep. Robert Latta [R, OH-5]

H.R. 4979 would direct the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to report to Congress on existing federal activities related to testing and demonstrating advanced reactors with significant design improvements over existing commercial reactors. (Source: CBO)
 

H.R. 5587: Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act
Sponsor: Rep. Glenn Thompson [R, PA-5]
H.R. 5587 would amend and reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 through fiscal year 2022. That act funds secondary and postsecondary career and technical education (CTE). (Source: CBO)
 

H.R. 1301: Amateur Radio Parity Act of 2016
Sponsor: Rep. Adam Kinzinger [R, IL-16]

H.R. 1301 would direct the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to amend regulations related to the height and dimensions of certain antenna structures. Under the bill, the regulations would be amended to prohibit private land-use restrictions from applying to antennas used for amateur radio communications if the restrictions prevent or impede those communications. The bill also would require any licensee in an amateur radio service to obtain prior approval from a community association before installing an outdoor antenna. (Source: CBO)


Holocaust Remembrance, Military Assistance to Israel

H.Res. 729: Expressing support for the expeditious consideration and finalization of a new, robust, and long-term Memorandum of Understanding on military assistance to Israel between the United States Government and the Government of Israel
Sponsor: Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen [R, FL-27]

H.Res. 810: Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives regarding the life and work of Elie Wiesel in promoting human rights, peace, and Holocaust remembrance, as amended
Sponsor: Rep. Steve Israel [D, NY-3]

S.Con.Res. 46: Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives regarding the life and work of Elie Wiesel in promoting human rights, peace, and Holocaust remembrance, as amended
Sponsor: Sen. Bill Nelson [D, FL]


Limiting Presidential Discretion on Guantanamo Bay, State Sponsors of Terror List

Two bills up for consideration this week would limit the President's ability to act without Congressional approval.

H.R. 5351: To prohibit the transfer of any individual detained at United States Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba
Sponsor: Rep. Jackie Walorski [R, IN-2]

H.R. 5484: State Sponsors of Terrorism Review Enhancement Act
Sponsor: Rep. Ted Yoho [R, FL-3]

H.R. 5484 would reduce the President’s flexibility to remove a country’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism by:

  • Increasing the period of time the Congress would have to review any such proposed action,

  • Increasing the period of time a country must refrain from supporting terrorism before the President could remove such a designation, and

  • Requiring the President to notify the Congress when the Administration initiates a review of a country’s designation and, 20 days later, brief the Congress on the status of that review.


Veteran's Affairs

H.R. ___ : Department of Veterans Affairs Expiring Authorities Act of 2016 (no bill number yet)
Sponsor: Rep. Jeff Miller [R, FL-1]

H.R. 5620: VA Accountability First and Appeals Modernization Act of 2016
Sponsor: Rep. Jeff Miller [R, FL-1]

To provide for the removal or demotion of employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs based on performance or misconduct.
 

H.R. 5936: Veterans Care Agreement and West Los Angeles Leasing Act of 2016
Sponsor: Rep. Jeff Miller [R, FL-1]

To permit agreements for health care for veterans and to authorize leases at the Department of Veterans Affairs West Los Angeles Campus.

 

H.R. 3471: Veterans Mobility Safety Act of 2016
Sponsor: Rep. Jeff Miller [R, FL-1]

H.R. 3471 would modify a program administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) that assists eligible veterans with purchasing automobiles and having those vehicles adapted to accommodate the veterans’ disabilities. (Source: CBO)


Conservation and Historical Preservation

H.R. 5937: To amend title 36, United States Code, to authorize the American Battle Monuments Commission to acquire, operate, and maintain the Lafayette Escadrille Memorial in Marnes-la-Coquette, France, and for other purposes, as amended
Sponsor: Rep. Jeff Miller [R, FL-1]

H.R. 4576: Ensuring Access to Pacific Fisheries Act
Sponsor: Rep. Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen [R, American Samoa]

H.R. 4576 would implement the Conventions on the Conservation and Management of High Seas Fisheries Resources in the North and South Pacific Ocean (Pacific Conventions). The bill also would amend the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Convention Act to implement an amendment to the Convention on Future Multilateral Cooperation in the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries, which governs the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO). That amendment would detail NAFO’s objectives; outline general management principles for the Northwest Atlantic Ocean; and describe the duties of all parties to that Convention related to inspections, reports, compliance, and enforcement.
 

H.R. 295: To reauthorize the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Historic Preservation program
Sponsor: Rep. James Clyburn [D, SC-6]

Reauthorizes through 2025 Historic Preservation Fund activities related to the preservation and restoration of historic buildings and structures on the campuses of historically black colleges and universities.


Native Americans

S. 1579: Native American Tourism and Improving Visitor Experience Act (NATIVE) Act
Sponsor: Sen. Brian Schatz [D, HI]

S. 1579 would direct federal agencies that administer programs related to recreation and tourism to update existing plans to promote tourism among Indian communities. 

S. 246: Alyce Spotted Bear and Walter Soboleff Commission on Native Children Act
Sponsor:  Sen. Heidi Heitkamp [D, ND]

S. 246 would establish the Alyce Spotted Bear and Walter Soboleff Commission on Native Children in the Office of Tribal Justice in the Department of Justice. The 11-member commission would be tasked with completing a study of federal and nonfederal programs that serve Native American children. Under the bill, the commission would use the results of the study to develop plans and recommendations to improve those programs.


And More

H.R. 921: Sports Medicine Licensure Clarity Act
Sponsor: Rep. Brett Guthrie [R, KY-2]

Clarifies that sports medicine professionals who travel outside their primary licensed state to provide care for the athletes will be covered by their medical malpractice insurance.

H.R. 3590: Halt Tax Increases on the Middle Class and Seniors Act
Sponsor: Rep. Martha McSally [R, AZ-2]

Under current law, individuals may generally claim an itemized deduction for unreimbursed medical expenses to the extent that such expenses exceed a threshold of 10 percent of adjusted gross income (AGI). For taxpayers 65 years of age or older, the threshold is generally 7.5 percent in 2016, but it rises to 10 percent thereafter. Regardless of the age of the taxpayer, the threshold is 10 percent for the purposes of the alternative minimum tax (AMT). H.R. 3590 would amend the Internal Revenue Code to permanently lower the threshold from 10 percent to 7.5 percent of AGI under the regular income tax, regardless of the age of the taxpayer. (Source: CBO)

H.R. 5226: Regulatory Integrity Act 
Sponsor: Rep. Tim Walberg [R, MI-7]

H.R. 5226 would direct each federal agency to make information regarding their regulatory actions publicly available in a searchable format on a prominent website. That information would have to include the date a regulation was considered, its current status, an estimate of when the regulation would be final, and a brief description of the regulation. In addition, agencies would be required to track the details of all public communications about pending regulatory actions. (Source: CBO)

H.Res. 728: Supporting human rights, democracy, and the rule of law in Cambodia 
Sponsor: Rep. Alan Lowenthal [D, CA-47]



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.

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Gavel Down: Closing out the Week in Congress: Sept. 5-9, 2016

Congress is back from August recess, with legislative days ticking away.

A bipartisan bill to protect sexual assault victims passed, as did a bill to allow families of 9/11 victims to sue sovereign states over potential involvement in those attacks. The energy conference committee met for the first time and a bipartisan water resources bill got ready to move next week. Zika funding failed for a third time but appears set to be rolled into a short-term spending bill that will stave off a government shutdown and send this Congress off into the election year sunset.

Sexual Assault Survivors' Bill of Rights  |  Energy Conference Committee  |  Saudi Arabia Litigation |  WRDA  |  9/11 Anniversary |  Zika bill  |  Government Funding  |  Moving Bills  New Bills |  ICYMI  

 


House passed bill to provide protections for sexual assault survivors

Bill now heads to President Obama


The House unanimously passed legislation to create Sexual Assault Survivors' Bill of Rights.

The bipartisan bill:

  • Guarantees survivors have access to rape kits (the materials necessary to gather and preserve physical evidence) 
  • Ensures survivors do not have to pay for evidence collection
  • Preserves the kits for a state's maximum statute of limitations or up to 20 years
  • Requires that survivors be informed of any test results associated with their rape kits
  • Requires that survivors be notified 60 days prior to when the kit is set to be destroyed

  Survivors' Bill of Rights of 2016 (H.R. 5578)
  Sponsor: Rep. Mimi Walters [R, CA-45]

 

House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte and Ranking Member Zoe Lofgren teamed up to make the legislation a reality. Read more about how it all began from the Los Angeles Times.

The legislation aims to standardize how sexual assault cases are handled across states with varying jurisdictions. Last year, Reps. Ann Wagner [R, MO-2] and Debbie Wasserman Schultz [D, FL-23] introduced a House resolution encouraging states to adopt a similar bill of rights for sexual assault survivors.

The Senate passed a companion bill unanimously in May. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen [D, NH] introduced the legislation after meeting a young woman who had to return to the state where her assault occurred every six months to prevent her evidence from being destroyed. 
 

  Sexual Assault Survivors' Rights Act (S. 2566)
  Sponsor: Sen. Jeanne Shaheen [D, NH]

 


What happens next?
Technical differences between the bills will be reconciled and then the legislation will head to President Obama's desk. He is expected to sign the measure into law.


Energy conference committee convened for the first time

House and Senate reconciling differences in major energy legislation

 

Shortly before leaving for seven-week recess, the Senate voted 84-3 to convene a conference committee with House lawmakers over major energy legislation. This week, the House and Senate met for the first time to hear opening statements. This is the eighth conference convened this Congress, more than twice that of the previous Congress.

The nearly 800-page bill addresses energy generation, conservation, natural resources, transportation, security and trade and would be the first major overhaul of federal energy laws in a decade.

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

 


The conference committee consists of 24 Republicans and 16 Democrats. See if your lawmakers are serving as conferees.
 

That's great but what is a conference committee?
Glad you asked! A conference committee is a temporary, ad hoc panel composed of members from both House and Senate to resolve disagreements on particular legislation that has passed both chambers. The House and Senate must pass identical legislation before it can be presented to the President to become law.


House passed Saudi Arabia litigation bill

Bill allows families of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia

 

On Friday, the House passed a bill allowing September 11 victims and relatives to sue Saudi Arabia or any other countries in federal court over possible roles in the 2001 attacks. The bill previously passed the Senate in May.

  Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (S. 2040)
  Sponsor: Sen. John Cornyn [R, TX]

 

Saudi Arabia strongly opposed the bill, launching a lobbying effort to oppose. Senior Bush Administration officials wrote a letter to Congress opposing the bill. President Obama has threatened to veto the bill.


Senate takes up $9.4 billion water projects bill

Vote could come as soon as next week

 

The Senate spent the week working on a $9.4 billion water projects bill that includes $200 million for updating water infrastructure in Flint, Michigan. Staffers have likened the importance of the bill to that of highway infrastructure bills.

  Water Resources Development Act of 2016 (S. 2848)
  Sponsor: Sen. Jim Inhofe [R, OK]

 

The legislative package, spearheaded by Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Jim Inhofe and Ranking Member Barbara Boxer, passed committee by 19-1 vote in April. The committee held four hearings on issues addressed in the legislation, including flood control, ecosystem restoration, drinking water and wastewater needs and solutions, and water transportation. The bipartisan bill addresses the Environmental Protection Agency's 2015 coal ash rule, giving states the authority to implement individual coal ash regulations. See similar standalone legislation from Sens. Joe Manchin [D, WV] and John Hoeven [R, ND].

On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took the first procedural step and filed for cloture. Senators have until Monday at 3:30 pm to submit amendments. 

What now?
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is looking to pass the bill next week. Initially, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid threatened to block the bill's progress until the Senate addressed other priorities, namely a vote on Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, but speaking on the Senate floor on Wednesday, Senator Reid said Democrats will no longer block the bill.


wtc-wide

 

It's been 15 years since 9/11…


And our very own Marci Harris, Co-founder and CEO, was in New York City this week, sharing her experience visiting the World Trade Center Memorial and reminding us all that the tragedy is anything but a distant memory.


Senate Democrats block Zika bill for third time

Lawmakers look to CR to include Zika funding


Senate Democrats blocked a $82.5 billion appropriations bill containing Zika funding for the third time, citing "poison pills" such as limits on funding for Planned Parenthood. 

The conference report would provide appropriations for military construction and the Department of Veterans Affair in Fiscal Year 2017 and supplemental appropriations to respond to the outbreak of the Zika virus. It would also include the text of H.R. 897, the Zika Vector Control Act, which would repeal Environmental Protection Act (EPA) requirements that require permitting under the Clean Water Act (CWA) for the application of EPA approved pesticides.

It now appears that Zika funding will be wrapped into efforts to pass several short-term spending bills.


Lawmakers consider government funding plans

Government funding runs out on Sept. 30


Lawmakers are hard at work brainstorming the best way to keep the government funded beyond Sept. 30. Speaker Ryan is considering smaller funding "mini-buses" instead of one large spending package. This strategy has been used in the past but more commonly an "omnibus" is used to lump all 12 spending bills together.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Democrats will accept a funding measure into December but no longer. This week Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced he's prepared to move a stopgap funding measure next week that would keep the government open through Dec. 9. This means the Senate might finish up late next week and leave the House to accept their spending resolution. Passage of a continuing resolution would fund the government at current spending levels.


Bills on the Move


New Bills on the Block


ICYMI

POPVOX Weekly Update (Sep 6-9) header

Weekly Update: The Week Ahead in Congress (Sep. 6-9, 2016)

Congress is back — and so is the POPVOX Weekly Update!

Congress returns with four weeks to decide whether a short-term spending bill will run through the end of this year (leaving a new Congress to pass spending for next year) or into 2017. Also on the agenda: Zika funding. This week the House considers several bills on foreign relations, public lands, and parts of the House GOP's "Innovation Initiative."
 

Zika Funding     |     Spending Bills     |    House Bills     |     Innovation Initiative     |     Foreign Relations     |     Public Lands     |     Technical Corrections


In the Senate: Re-vote on Zika funding

On Tuesday, the Senate will resume consideration of the conference report to accompany H.R.2577, MilCon-VA Appropriations. The $82.5 billion annual appropriations was approved by the House 239-171

H.R. 2577: Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations  (CONFERENCE REPORT)

The Conference Report would provide appropriations for military construction and the Department of Veterans Affair in Fiscal Year 2017 and supplemental appropriations to respond to the outbreak of the Zika virus. It would also include the text of H.R. 897, the Zika Vector Control Act, which would repeal Environmental Protection Act (EPA) requirements that require permitting under the Clean Water Act (CWA) for the application of EPA approved pesticides. ​

There are issues:

  1. Senate Democrats have blocked the conference report twice because they say it contains "poison pills," including limits on funding for Planned Parenthood, and reductions to environmental regulations on pesticides. 
  2. Even if the bill did pass the Senate, the White House has issued a veto threat.

For more on the Zika funding debate, see McClatchy's coverage: The day Zika deal died: A cautionary tale of congressional gridlock, by Lindsay Wise.


Spending Bill Options

It is increasingly likely that plans for Zika funding will be wrapped into a larger effort to reach agreement on a short-term spending bill. With no time left for a regular budget/appropriations cycle, Congress has to pass a "continuing resolution" (CR) to extend spending at current levels for a defined period of time. How long? That's what's up for debate (and heavily influenced by the election cycle).

"A short-term extension through December is favored by some Republican leaders and almost all Democrats. Under this scenario, Congress would work with the Obama administration after the November elections in a lame-duck session to pass a larger spending bill, called an omnibus," reports Morning Consult. However, some conservative groups and lawmakers would like to see a CR that goes into 2017.


In the House:

H.R. 4511: Gold Star Families Voices Act
Sponsor: Rep. Christopher Smith [R, NJ-4]

H.R. 4511 would amend the Veterans Oral History Project Act to allow the immediate family of certain members of the armed forces to provide biographical histories of those members through video and audio recordings. Under current law, only histories by veterans may be collected. About $2 million was appropriated for the project in 2016. Based on information from the Library of Congress, CBO estimates that expansion would result in approximately 1,000 new collections to the project, and that the cost of the expansion would be $0.6 million. Source: CBO.

H.R. 5578: Survivors’ Bill of Rights Act of 2016
Sponsor: Rep. Mimi Walters [R, CA-45]

H.R. 5578 would direct DOJ to establish a working group to develop and disseminate best practices relating to the care and treatment of survivors of sexual assault and the preservation of forensic evidence. Source: CBO.

H.R. 4245: To exempt importation and exportation of sea urchins and sea cucumbers from licensing requirements under the Endangered Species Act
Sponsor: Rep. Chellie Pingree [D, ME-1]

H.R. 5063: Stop Settlement Slush Funds Act 
Sponsor: Rep. Bob Goodlatte [R, VA-6]

H.R. 5063 would prohibit government officials from entering into or enforcing any settlement agreement for civil actions on behalf of the United States if that agreement requires the other party to the settlement to make a donation to a third party. That prohibition would not include payments to provide restitution or another remedy that is associated with the basis for the settlement agreement. In recent settlements with the United States, large corporations, such as Goldman Sachs and Bank of America, have been required to donate funds to charitable institutions as a part of their restitution. Such donations typically constitute a very small fraction of overall settlement amounts. Source: CBO.
 

House GOP "Innovation Initiative"

The House will vote on several bills that are part of "a legislative package aimed at helping financial technology companies expand by shielding them from emerging regulatory constraints," as reported by the Wall Street Journal. (Read more from House Majority Leader, Kevin McCarthy, on Medium).

H.R. 2357: Accelerating Access to Capital Act
Sponsor: Rep. Ann Wagner [R, MO-2]

H.R. 2357 would make it easier for businesses to file registration statements with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in order to sell securities to the public. Specifically, the bill would remove certain limitations on the use of a simplified form for filing a registration statement. Source: CBO.

H.R. 5424: Investment Advisers Modernization Act
Sponsor: Rep. Robert Hurt [R, VA-5]

Under current law, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) enforces rules and requirements for advertising, transferring, and selling funds and securities by investment advisers. H.R. 5424 would provide investment advisers several exemptions from certain of those requirements. It also would prohibit the SEC from applying its rules to private funds that provide sales literature about their securities offerings. Source: CBO.

H.R. 5577: Innovation in Offshore Leasing Act
Sponsor: Rep. Garret Graves [R, LA-6]

To authorize the Secretary of the Interior to conduct offshore oil and gas lease sales through Internet-based live lease sales.

 

Foreign Relations

H.Res. 660: Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives to support the territorial integrity of Georgia
Sponsor: Rep. Ted Poe [R, TX-2]

H.Res. 634: Recognizing the importance of the United States-Republic of Korea-Japan trilateral relationship to counter North Korean threats and nuclear proliferation, and to ensure regional security and human rights
Sponsor: Rep. Matt Salmon [R, AZ-5]

H.R. 4481: Education for All Act 
Sponsor: Rep. Nita Lowey

H.R. 4481 would codify many of the practices and programs relating to education assistance at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The bill would establish the position of Senior Coordinator within USAID to coordinate federal efforts to improve basic education in other countries, conduct oversight of those efforts, develop an integrated strategy to promote basic education, and report to the Congress. USAID has indicated that a similar position already exists but that the agency would require one employee for the additional administrative support and reports that would be required under the bill. Source: CBO.

H.R. 5537: Digital GAP Act 
Sponsor: Rep. Ed Royce [R, CA-39]

H.R. 5537 would codify many of the guiding principles and practices of the federal government’s efforts to promote Internet access in developing countries. In addition, the bill would require the President to report to the Congress on his policy to promote such access and on partnerships between federal agencies to provide access and expand infrastructure. Source: CBO.

H.R. 2845: AGOA Enhancement Act 
Sponsor: Rep. Ed Royce [R, CA-39]

H.R. 2845 would direct the President to increase public awareness of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and authorize several federal programs to encourage trade and economic cooperation with and between AGOA countries. In particular, the bill would:

Based on information from agencies engaged in implementing AGOA, CBO expects that most of the bill’s requirements will be implemented under current and ongoing initiatives. MCC indicated that allowing it to enter into concurrent compacts would not require additional appropriations nor would it significantly affect MCC’s planned obligations. Source: CBO.

 

Public Lands


H.R. 3881: Cooperative Management of Mineral Rights Act
Sponsor: Rep. Glenn Thompson [R, PA-5]​

H.R. 4510: Bolts Ditch Access and Use Act
Sponsor: Rep. Jared Polis [D, CO-2]​

H.R. 3480: Fort Frederica National Monument Boundary Expansion Act
Sponsor: Rep. Buddy Carter [R, GA-1]​

H.R. 3839: Black Hills National Cemetery Boundary Expansion Act
Sponsor: Rep. Kristi Noem [R, SD-0]​

H.R. 4202: Fort Ontario Study Act, as amended
Sponsor: Rep. John Katko [R, NY-24]

H.R. 4789: To authorize the Secretary of the Interior to establish a structure for visitor services on the Arlington Ridge tract, in the area of the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial
Sponsor: Rep. Don Beyer [D, VA-8]

Technical Corrections

Congress frequently considers "technical corrections" bills to address issues with definitions, numbers, or minor policy questions. Technical corrections are usually uncontroversial and, in the House, brought up for a vote under a "suspension of the rules."

Several technical corrections bills sponsored by Rep. Bob Goodlatte [R, VA-6], will be considered this week:

H.R. 2830: To make technical amendments to update statutory references to certain provisions classified to title 2

H.R. 2831: To make technical amendments to update statutory references to provisions classified to chapters 44, 45, 46, and 47 of title 50

H.R. 2832: To make technical amendments to update statutory references to certain provisions classified to title 52



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.

Copy of Template- POPVOX Gavel Down_Closing Out the Week in Congress (2)

Gavel Down: Closing out the week in Congress

August recess has officially come and gone…

Congress will return to the District next week, with our Weekly Update and Gavel Down newsletters back in full force.

Apple-EU  |  SCOTUS nomination  |  State Legislation  |
Congress Back Home  |  ICYMI
 


European Union ordered Apple to pay back taxes to Ireland, spurring tax legislation talk

Roll up your sleeves and let's talk taxes. This week you heard about Apple being ordered to pay $14.5 billion in unpaid taxes to Ireland — the biggest tax ruling the European Union has ever made regarding a single company

So what does Apple’s big tax bill have to do with your taxes?

Tax reform was already on the docket for 2017, but the European Union’s decision this week to enforce laws against company-specific tax breaks by its member states may increase the pressure for a broad tax overhaul.

Repatriating foreign earnings: American companies have over $2 trillion in foreign earnings overseas. The tax code allows them to defer paying a 35% corporate tax until the earnings are brought into the U.S. So, many companies keep foreign earnings abroad (to invest in international operations or research, buy foreign companies, or draw interest) rather than “repatriating” back to U.S. headquarters.

How Tax Inversions Work: With this tax approach, companies set up foreign divisions and “invert” their structure so earnings technically belong to the foreign company rather than the U.S. home office.

EU says Ireland broke law with Apple tax breaks: The European Union hit Apple with a $14.5 billion tax bill for its operations in Ireland, where a majority of its earnings were made by a “head office” with “no employees, no premises, no real activities.” The EU does not allow member countries to offer “state aid” (favorable tax treatment) to individual companies, and found that Ireland violated this by giving Apple unfair tax advantages from 2003-2014, during which the company paid 0.5% in taxes instead of the 12.5% required under Irish law. (Read letter to customers from Apple addressing these charges.)

Ireland doesn’t want the money: The EU does not have the power to levy fines, so it has ordered Ireland to recoup the $14.5 billion in back taxes from Apple. But Ireland does not want to collect the money and its finance minister has said it will appeal.

Many U.S. officials oppose the EU decision; still don’t like tax inversions: The Obama Administration and lawmakers on both sides of the aisles criticized the EU decision. In many cases, these same lawmakers have spoken out against tax inversions. (Remember, Apple CEO Tim Cook was called before a Senate tax panel in 2013 to discuss the company’s structure.) Policymakers say that the EU’s enforcement will reduce the amount of tax Apple eventually pays to the U.S. (since Irish taxes would offset the company’s U.S. tax burden). Read related Treasury Department report.

Sounds familiar because it is: Last November U.S. pharmaceutical company Pfizer announced record-breaking $160B merger with Irish pharmaceutical company Allergan. The deal was the largest inversion deal of its kind. In April, U.S. Treasury Department issued new rules, taking aim at tax inversions. Two days later, Pfizer and Allergan abandoned the deal, saying the decision was driven by new Treasury rules.

Gist: This isn't the first you're hearing about tax inversions and calls for reform (just check our archives), and it certainly won't be the last. House Republicans addressed inversions in their tax reform blueprint released in June. Senate Democrats are working on anti-inversion package. Keep an ear out this weekend with President Obama set to discuss the situation at the G-20 Summit.


Grassley on holding SCOTUS nominee hearings:
"I could be convinced"

On March 16, 2016, President Obama nominated U.S. Appeals Court Judge Merrick Garland to succeed Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. 170 days later, there has been no Senate hearings or votes, and the nomination now stands as the longest waiting period for confirmation in history.

This week while speaking at a local rotary club, Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley said he could be convinced to hold confirmation hearings if pressured by a large number of senators.


Legislative Lowdown: States Edition


What does Congress do on recess POPVOX

Last week of August recess, Members prepare to head back to D.C.


#ICYMI


 

That's it, folks. Enjoy the long weekend! We'll see you next week as Congress returns to the District. Expect Weekly Update in your inbox on Monday as we keep you in the know about bills and issues up for a vote in Congress. 


— Whitney at POPVOX

 



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.

POPVOX Gavel Down_Closing Out the Week in Congress

Gavel Down: Closing out the Week in Congress (Aug. 21-26, 2016)

August recess is drawing to a close…

Congress will return to the District after Labor Day, along with your Weekly Update and Gavel Down newsletters from POPVOX.  

For now, here's a recap of the issues Congress is talking about in their final days of summer.
National Parks   |   Louisiana Flood    |   Zika Funding   |  Private Prisons   |   TPP    |   EpiPen pricing

 

NPS turns 100!

The National Parks Service turned 100 on August 25, with celebrations around the country, including a naturalization ceremony at the Grand Canyon and a concert at Yellowstone.

President Obama marked the occasion by creating a new national monument: Katahdin Woods and Waters monument in Maine. On Friday, he announced the expansion of the Papahānaumokuākea (pronounced “Papa-ha-now-moh-koo-ah-kay-ah”) Marine National Monument, which was established by President George W. Bush in 2006. The expanded Hawaii national monument will be the largest protected area in the world.

The Antiquities Act of 1906 created the ability for presidents to designate national parks. A bill (H.R. 330) from Rep. Don Young [R, AK] would require Congressional approval for new monuments.


Louisiana Flood Recovery 


President Obama toured Louisiana flood damage this week, after issuing a disaster declaration on August 14. Federal assistance has reached $127 million and more than 100,000 people have applied for federal disaster aid.

Administration officials say that FEMA has enough funding to address the Louisiana recovery, though there is talk of a potential aid package as an add-on to a funding bill expected in September.

Congress has appropriated the necessary funding to address disasters for this fiscal year. FEMA has enough funding to address response and recovery support to Louisiana”

– Rafael Lemaitre, FEMA director of public affairs


Zika Funding

Additional funding for the Louisiana recovery may be intertwined with the ongoing discussion about resources to combat Zika, since both are considered emergency appropriations.

Florida Governor Rick Scott said this week that he will be in DC the day that Congress returns (September 6) to push for action on Zika funding. A cloture vote is scheduled in the Senate that day on a House-passed conference report that contains $1.1 billion in funding to combat Zika. However, the bill (H.R. 2577 – appropriations for Military Construction and the Veterans’ Administration) contains several provisions that Democrats consider “poison pills,” including prohibitions on funding for Planned Parenthood and loosening of environmental restrictions on pesticides. 


Private Prison Phase-out for Federal Prisons

The Department of Justice announced the reduction and eventual end of using private prisons to house federal prisoners. The DOJ instructed the Bureau of Prisons not to renew and to substantially reduce private contracts. The move is partially in response to an Inspector General's report, finding that "contract prisons incurred more safety and security incidents per capita than comparable BOP (Bureau of Prisons) institutions."

Of 195,000 federal inmates, approximately 14,200 will be in private prisons by May 2017, down from 30,000 in 2013.

Private prisons are the subject of several pending bills, including: 


McConnell on TPP: "No action this year."

As we mentioned last week, President Obama is pushing Congress to vote on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement this year. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell appeared to end that conversation this week in a speech to the Kentucky State Farm Bureau:

"The current agreement, the Trans-Pacific [Partnership], which has some serious flaws, will not be acted upon this year."

– Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell


 

EpiPen Price Increase

Many in Congress expressed concerns about the 548% price increase for EpiPens by its manufacturer, Mylan pharmaceuticals. Sen. Joe Manchin [D, WV], father of Mylan's CEO, Heather Bresch, said that he shared the concerns. A twin EpiPen pack now costs a little more than $608 from $57 for a single pen in 2007.

Demand for the drug skyrocketed after a 7-year-old girl died in 2013 at school due to an allergic reaction to peanuts that could have been treated with an EpiPen. Congress passed legislation encouraging epinephrine devices in schools and 47 states require or encourage EpiPens in schools.

Several members of Congress sent letters seeking information on the company’s pricing practices, including: Senator Richard Blumenthal (letter); Senator Chuck Grassley (letter); Sens. Susan Collins and Claire McCaskill, the chair and ranking Democrat of the Senate Special Committee on Aging (letter). Representative Grace Meng sent a letter to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform requesting a hearing. Senator Amy Klobuchar sent a letter to the FTC calling for an investigation.

Price increases for existing drugs were the subject of a Congressional hearing earlier this year, when Turing Pharmaceuticals raised the price of Daraprim more than 5,000%. Former CEO Martin Shkreli pled the fifth before House Oversight and Government Reform.


What does Congress do on recess POPVOX

Sen. Jerry Moran [R, KS] wrapped up his third 105-county Kansas Listening Tour.

 

Sen. Jon Tester [D, MT] visited Yellowstone National Park and celebrated 100th Anniversary of the National Park Service.

Reps. Mario Díaz-Balart [R, FL-25] and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen [R, FL-27] participated in Zika preparedness roundtable.

Rep. Rick Nolan [D, MN-8] shoveled dirt at school groundbreaking.

Rep. Mark Meadows [R, NC-11] concluded Veterans' Solutions Seminar.

Sen. Martin Heinrich [D, MN] read books to children.

House Majority Whip John Cornyn traveled to Afghanistan, received briefings, and met servicemembers.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin [D, WI] toured local gem Forest Lodge.

Rep. Will Hurd [R, TX-23] took student-led tour of local elementary school.

Rep. Bennie Thompson [D, MS-2] recognized new Mississippi Freedom Trail marker, commemorating Mississippi's first black, female mayor Unita Blackwell.


Legislative Lowdown: States Edition


#ICYMI


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. 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.

POPVOX Gavel Down_Closing Out the Week in Congress

Gavel Down: Closing out the Week in Congress (Aug. 15-19, 2016)

Trans-Pacific Partnership is on the move…

President Obama submitted notice to Congress, kicking off series of Congressional hearings and negotiations with the White House. Historic flooding in Louisiana caused multibillion-dollar disaster, spurring federal response. House Ways and Means set to mark up bill providing Olympic tax exemption. Members of Congress continued work back home — hosting job fairs, touring dairy farms, and writing op eds.


President Obama submitted notice to Congress,
Now's the time to weigh in on TPP


Last Friday, the Obama administration issued formal notice to Congress of intent to sign the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), by submitting a draft statement of administrative action [SAA]. The SAA lays out how the President would implement the TPP if Congress approves the 12-nation trade agreement. This notice kicks off a process of Congressional hearings and negotiations with the White House.

After 30 days has passed, the White House can submit a final SAA along with a bill to approve the agreement, which Congress will give expedited consideration and an up or down vote.

Here's a timeline to catch you up, as well as a brief overview. Learn more from the Congressional Research Service.

Tell your Members of Congress what you think about TPP!


House Ways and Means set to mark up Olympic tax exemption bill


The House Ways and Means Committee will mark up a bill in September to provide tax exemption for Olympic athletes returning home with medals and prizes. Under current law, Olympic prizes are subject to taxes.

Tax Exemptions for American Medalists (TEAM) Act of 2015 (H.R. 2628

Sponsor: Rep. Blake Farenthold [R, TX-27]

Senate passed companion bill last month by unanimous consent. Previous Congresses have taken up similar measures.


Historic flooding caused multibillion-dollar disaster in southern Louisiana 


Louisiana experienced historic flooding, with some areas receiving three times as much rain as Hurricane Katrina. Thousands of people needed to be rescued and cost estimates put damages at $30M, making this the worst natural disaster since Superstorm Sandy.

President Obama approved disaster declarations for Louisiana, providing federal assistance for areas damaged by the floods. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson travelled to the area to review the federal response. Aides say DHS may ask Congress to approve additional disaster funds.


What does Congress do on recess POPVOX

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rep. Charles Boustany [R, LA-3] sent a letter to President Obama calling for disaster declaration for additional south Louisiana parishes. 

Sen. Richard Blumenthal [D, CT] urged the National Hockey League to fund research on concussions and brain trauma.

Reps. David Jolly [R, FL-13] and Kathy Castor [D, FL-14] observed Zika research.

Sen. Cory Booker [D, NJ] wrapped up #JerseyRoadTrip, visiting 21 counties in 7 days.

Sen. Tom Cotton [R, AR] penned an op-ed about the Iran payment.

Delaware's Congressional Delegation hosted job fair for veterans.

Rep. Elise Stefanik [R, NY-21] toured dairy farms, learning about new technology.

Sen. Joe Donnelly [D, IN] delivered packages alongside UPS driver.

Sens. Steve Daines [R, MT] and Jon Tester [D, MT] exchanged very Montana gifts.

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp [D, ND] penned an op ed on opioid abuse. 


Legislative Lowdown: States Edition


#ICYMI


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. 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.