The Week Ahead: May 11 – 15

From our Hill Sources: The House will vote on legislation responding to the Obama Administration’s reforms of the Clean Water Act, funding for national defense programs, reforming NSA bulk data collection and an abortion ban. The Senate will consider “fast track” trade authority and Americans held in Iran. Also, a look at World War II legislation on the 70th anniversary of V-E Day. 


Making Changes to the Clean Water Act

The House will consider legislation responding to the Obama Administration’s proposed reforms of the Clean Water Act:

Regulatory Integrity Protection Act (HR 1732)

Sponsor: Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA) “Will uphold the integrity of the federal-state partnership to regulate the Nation’s waters by preserving existing rights and responsibilities with respect to “waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act,” according to the House Transportation Committee. “Gives the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers 30 days to withdraw the current proposed rule that defines “waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act, and charges them with developing a new proposed rule.” (Read bill text)

From our Hill Sources: According to the Obama Administration, clarifying the scope of the Clean Water Act through a proposed rule “helps to protect clean water, safeguard public health, and strengthen the economy. Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006 focused on specific jurisdictional determinations and rejected the analytical approach that the Army Corps of Engineers was using for those determinations, but did not invalidate the underlying regulation. This has created ongoing questions and uncertainty about how the regulation is applied consistent with the Court's decisions. The proposed rule would address this uncertainty.” If the President were presented with this bill, his senior advisors are recommending that he veto it. (Read the White House statement)

The National Defense Authorization Act

Last week, the House Armed Service Committee held a marathon markup of the Fiscal Year 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which authorizes funding for the Department of Defense and national security programs of the Department of Energy. This legislation passed out of committee on a vote of 60 to 2, and is scheduled to for a vote in the House this week:

National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 (HR 1735)

Sponsor: Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX) According to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), “in order to respond to an increasingly dangerous world from the terrorist threat in Africa and the Middle East to Russian aggression in Europe, the committee’s bill makes sure our military has the resources and capabilities it needs to keep America safe and defend our interests abroad. The bill: ensures our military has funding for national defense and overseas operations; makes sure our military personnel receive the benefits they need, deserve, and earned; authorizes and provides resources for cyber defense; updates our crumbling nuclear infrastructure; funds the purchasing of the most advanced missiles, planes, bombers, tanks, defense systems, and more; and supports joint US-Israeli missile defense against those who threaten instability in the region.” “This authorization institutes necessary reforms in the Department of Defense’s costly and duplicative acquisitions process,” according to House Majority Leader McCarthy (R-CA). “To accomplish that, the bill: reforms acquisitions strategy by streamlining the processes and reducing the number of legal certifications needed for acquisitions; empowers the workforce to allow our best military talent to serve in acquisition roles and increases training on markets; simplifies the chain of command to cut down on the multiple layers of bureaucracy.” “The NDAA also cuts wasteful expenditures and institutes much needed compensation reform. For the first time, our troops will be able to choose to either be grandfathered into the current retirement plan or contribute to a Thrift Savings Plan, which ensures that our servicemembers who serve for less than 20 years will still accrue retirement savings.” (Source: House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy) (Read bill text)

20-Week Abortion Ban

The House plans to vote on a revised version of a bill that would prohib abortion after 20 weeks except in the case of rape—but would not require that the rape be reported to law enforcement as it previously mandated. The final text of the bill has not been released.

Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (HR 36)

Sponsor: Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) Prohibits the abortion from being performed if the probable post-fertilization age of the unborn child is 20 weeks or greater. “I am so grateful to all who have worked so hard to craft language that will now unite the pro-life base in a positive and effective way,” explained the bill sponsor. “This proposal is substantially stronger than the original bill, and it places the focus back upon protecting mothers and their innocent little pain-capable babies, from the beginning of the sixth month until birth.” (Read bill text)

From our Hill Sources: The bill was originally scheduled for a House floor vote in January but was pulled from consideration. Congresswoman Renee Ellmers (R-NC) actively opposed some of the language in the bill: “I remain disappointed that the concern for the language of mandatory reporting of rape to law enforcement held by House Republican women and many men were not addressed before our leadership made the decision to pull the bill from the House floor in the eleventh hour.”

Reforming NSA Data Collection

USA Freedom Act (HR 2048)

Sponsor: Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) To reform intelligence-gathering programs operated under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). According to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), the bill:

  • Ends bulk collection (“In place of the current bulk telephone metadata program, the USA Freedom Act creates a narrower, targeted program that allows the Intelligence Community to collect non-content call detail records held by the telephone companies, but only with the prior approval of the FISA Court. The records provided to the government in response to queries will be limited to two “hops” and the government’s handling of any records it acquires would be governed by minimization procedures approved by the FISA Court.”);
  • Prevents government overreach (“strengthens the definition of “specific selection term,” – the mechanism used to prohibit bulk collection – to ensure the government can collect the information it needs to further a national security investigation while also prohibiting large-scale, indiscriminate collection, such as data from an entire state, city, or even zip code.”);
  • Strengthens protections for civil liberties (“creates a panel of experts to advise the FISA Court on matters of privacy and civil liberties, communications technology, and other technical or legal matters.”). (Source: House Judiciary Committee) (Read bill text)

In the Senate

The Senate will consider a resolution regarding Americans held in Iran:

Freeing American Held in Iran (SConRes 16)

Sponsor: Sen. James Risch (R-ID) “Calls for the release of four Americans being held as political prisoners in Iran and directs the administration to use all diplomatic tools at its disposal to do that. One such tool, of course, is to refuse to lift sanctions without securing the American prisoners’ release,” according to the resolution sponsor. “The resolution calls for the release of Pastor Saeed Abedini of Boise, as well as the release of former U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati, former FBI agent Robert Levinson, and Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian.” (Read resolution text)

On Tuesday, the Senate is expected to take a procedural vote ending debate on a motion to proceed to a House bill on tax exemptions, which the Senate will use as the legislative vehicle to consider “fast-track”:

Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act (“Trade Promotion Authority” or TPA-2015) (S 995)

Sponsor: Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) “Outlines 21st century congressional negotiating objectives that any administration – Republican or Democratic – must follow when entering into and conducting trade talks with foreign countries while also increasing transparency by requiring that Congress have access to important information surrounding pending trade deals and that the public receive detailed updates and see the full details of trade agreements well before they are signed. When the trade agreement meets the United States’ objectives and Congress is sufficiently consulted, the legislation allows for trade deals to be submitted to Congress for an up-or-down vote, an incentive for negotiating nations to put their best offer forward for any deal. At the same time, the bill creates a new mechanism to withdraw TPA procedures and hold the administration accountable should it fail to meet the requirements of TPA,” according to the bill sponsors. (Read bill text)

Also in the House…

The House will also vote on bills related to law enforcement officers:

Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu National Blue Alert Act (S 665)

Sponsor: Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) “Would encourage, enhance, and integrate Blue Alert programs through the United States. The Attorney General would establish a national Blue Alert communications network within the Department of Justice. The Blue Alert system could be used when a law enforcement officer is: (1) seriously injured or killed in the line of duty; (2) missing in connection with the officer’s official duties; or (3) an imminent or credible threat that an individual intends to cause the serious injury of death of a law enforcement officer is received,” according to the bill sponsor. “In December 2014, New York City Police Department officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu were assassinated while sitting in their marked police patrol car in Brooklyn. This legislation is named after those officers in honor of the ultimate sacrifice that they made to serve and protect their fellow citizens.” (Read bill text)

Don’t Tax Our Fallen Public Safety Heroes Act (HR 606)

Sponsor: Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-MN) Ensures “that death benefits for family members of public safety officers killed in the line duty would not be subject to federal taxation,” according to the bill sponsor. (Read bill text)

Defending Public Safety Employees Retirement Act (HR 2146)

Sponsor: Rep. David Reichert (R-WA) To allow Federal law enforcement officers, firefighters, and air traffic controllers to make penalty-free withdrawals from governmental plans after age 50. (Read bill text)

Fallen Heroes Flag Act (HR 723)

Sponsor: Rep. Peter King (R-NY) Allows the Representative of the immediate family of a deceased fire fighter, law enforcement officer, member of a rescue squad or ambulance crew, or public safety officer who died in the line of duty to provide the family, at their request, with a Capitol-flown flag, together with a certificate, signed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Representative providing the flag, which contains an expression of sympathy for the family. (Read bill text)

Commemorating World War II

In celebration of the 70th anniversary of Victory in Europe, or V-E, Day on May 8, the skies over the National Mall played host to the largest-ever fly-over of World War II-era aircraft. These planes, often referred to as “warbirds,” flew in formation across the Mall, and over the World War II memorial. World War II witnessed tremendous growth in the size of American military aviation, from about 2,500 airplanes to nearly 300,000 by the war’s end. The flyover included trainer, bombers and fighter aircraft—but the highlight was to see the only flying B-29 Superfortress Fifi above the National Mall and the World War II memorial. (Check out the full lineup of warbirds or watch the webcast of the flyover.)

Bills Honoring World War II Veterans

Here are some proposals pending before Congress addressing World War II veterans:

Recognizing an “American World War II City” (HR 1512)

Sponsor: Rep. David Rouzer (R-NC) Will designate at least one city in the United States each year as an “American World War II City,” according to the bill sponsor. The legislation names Wilmington, NC as the first recognized city. (Read bill text)

“Ghost Army” Congressional Gold Medal (HR 2170)

Sponsor: Rep. Ann Kuster (D-NH) To award a Congressional Gold Medal to the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops, known as the “Ghost Army,” a covert World War II unit that contributed to key Allied victories, including the Battle of the Bulge and the crossing of the Rhine River. “By deploying inflatable tanks, planes, and other vehicles, using radio trickery, impersonating other Army units, and employing other deceptive tactics, the Ghost Army diverted the attention of enemy forces and is credited with saving thousands of lives. The Ghost Army’s activities were classified for more than 40 years, and this legislation would provide the unit with long-delayed recognition,” according to the bill sponsors. (Read bill text)

World War II Merchant Mariner Service Act (HR 1288)

Sponsor: Rep. GK Butterfield (D-NC) “Would expand the list of documents accepted by the US Department of Homeland Security to prove service and to grant honorary veterans status to a forgotten segment of the World War II Merchant Marine, the Coastwise Merchant Seamen. The bill would also award any commendations, ribbons, or honors earned during time of service, and provide burial benefits to these individuals that played such an invaluable role in the World War II efforts,” according to the bill sponsors. “Congress has previously passed laws to recognize the efforts of the Merchant Marine. However, these laws have failed to incorporate the entirety of those who served in the Merchant Marine during World War II, and have placed onerous and sometimes impossible criteria on these individuals to prove their service.” (Read bill text)

Guam World War II Loyalty Recognition Act (HR 44)

Sponsor: Rep. Madeleine Bordallo, (D-GU) Recognizes the suffering and the loyalty of the residents of Guam during the Japanese occupation of Guam in World War II. Directs the Secretary of the Treasury to establish a Fund for the payment of claims submitted by compensable Guam victims and survivors of compensable Guam decedents. (Read bill text)

Filipino Veterans Family Reunification Act (HR 483 and in the Senate, S 733)

Sponsor: Mark Takai (D-HI) “Would seek to expedite the process by which children of Filipino veterans are able to achieve US citizenship, by exemptions to the family visa program. President George H. Bush signed the Immigration Act of 1990, which offered citizenship to Filipino veterans of World War II but did not include their immediate families, according to the bill sponsors. (Read bill text)

Filipino Veterans Promise Act (HR 315 and S 151 in the Senate)

Sponsor: Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY) “Will establish a process for all eligible Filipino veterans to receive the compensation they are entitled to for their service to the United States during World War II,” according to the bill sponsors. (Read bill text)

Honoring Our WWII Merchant Mariners Act (HR 563)

Sponsor: Rep. Janice Hahn (D-CA) “Would provide surviving Merchant Marines who served during World War II with a modest benefit for their bravery and sacrifice. During World War II, more than 200,000 Americans served in the US Merchant Marines and aided our nation’s military efforts in both Europe and the Pacific. Thousands of our Merchant Mariners faced enemy attack and died at sea while hundreds more were captured and held as prisoners of war. Despite having the highest casualty rate of any US service during the war, they were not eligible to receive veteran’s benefits,” according to the bill sponsors. The legislation would provide a one-time lump sum of $25,000 to each of surviving WWII Merchant Marines. (Read bill text)

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

Photo credits: Air and Space Museum on Twitter; NASA Langley