Gavel Down: Nov. 16 – 20

3 min read

Repercussions of the attacks in Paris ruled headlines this week as the House voted to restrict U.S. refugee policy – a bill that the White House threatened to veto. Congress received a high-level security briefing. And Congress held two joint House-Senate conference committee meetings — on Highway and Education reform bills.

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Kate’s Law (S. 2193)

Sponsored by:Sen. Ted Cruz (R, TX)
To amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to increase the maximum prison term for a person who reenters after being denied admission, excluded, deported, or removed from two years to five years.

Bill to Limit Refugee Policy Passes House

As Congress reconvened for the week, dozens of bills were introduced in response to the Paris attacks. Many sought to restrict refugee policies, including The American Safe Act (H.R. 4038) from Rep. Michael McCaul (R, TX) which passed the House on Thursday/

To Conference We Go

One of the final steps of “regular order” in the legislative process is “going to conference” –when the House and Senate appoint conferees to meet and work out differences in different versions of bills that passed both chambers.

On Thursday, two conference committees met on major legislation: the long-term highway bill and an education reform bill. This is more in-the-weeds, “regular order” legislating than has happened in a long time! This increases the number of conference committees from two to four (so far) for the 114th Congress.The conferences now underway will likely impact infrastructure projects and education policy for many years to come.

Transportation Conference

  • Lawmakers are expected to reach agreement and file a conference agreement by Nov. 30. The combined bill (a “conference report”) would then come up for a vote in both the House and Senate.
  • House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R, PA), say that’s “a very ambitious schedule.”
  • The House and Senate passed respective bills that cover six years, but so far, neither legislative body can find enough funding for more than three years. This obstacle caused Senate leaders and transportation lobbying groups to shift support to a shorter bill with more funding. House Transportation Ranking Member, Peter DeFazio (D, OR), supports this option but Chairman Shuster is “sticking to his guns on a six-year bill, saying the House option is his preferred length.”
  • Learn more about the bills S. 1647 DRIVE Act and H.R. 3763 STRR Act.

Education Conference

  • On Thursday, House and Senate lawmakers agreed to a bipartisan, bicameral compromise for replacing No Child Left Behind — with a vote of 39-1 to endorse the deal.
  • Sen. Rand Paul (R, KY) was the lone dissenter — not present but voting “no” by proxy —  opposing any federal government role in public schools.
  • Here’s the framework for the agreement, the Every Student Succeeds Act.
  • Up next: The agreement will be brought to the House for a vote by Dec. 2. If it passes, President Obama is expected to sign it into law.This would mark a significant transfer of power and authority over public schools from the federal government to state and local governments.
  • Recap: Both chambers passed their respective bill versions in July. Learn more about the bills S. 1177 Every Child Achieves Act of 2015 and H.R. 5 Student Success Act.

Federal Reserve in Congressional Crosshairs

On Thursday, the House passed H.R. 3189: The Fed Oversight Reform and Modernization (FORM) Act by a vote of 241-185. The “Audit the Fed” bill now goes to the Senate. The White House has threatened to veto the bill if it reaches the President’s desk. Read more from the AP.
Also — Congress may tap the Fed’s capital reserves as a “pay-for” for the Highway Bill, now in conference.
The Fed expressed: “strong concerns about using the resources of the Federal Reserve to finance fiscal spending.”

#ViewFromTheHill – November 16, 2015

Upped security was evident on the Hill this week, in response to recent terrorist attacks and security concerns. Bearcats like this one were spotted, and public events and school field trips were cancelled or postponed. Check out our POPVOX View From the Hill on Tumblr

Trans Awareness Week

The House launched a task force for transgender equality and hosted its first-ever forum on violence against transgender people. Learn more about current legislation affecting the transgender community.

Congressional Pushback on Obama Environmental Efforts

Congressional disapproval of environmental rules: On Tuesday, the Senate held two votes invoking the Congressional Review Act to “disapprove” the President’s Clean Power Plan. (Read more about the Congressional Review Act – a “legislative Loch Ness monster.”)

Paris Climate talks coming – Congressional opposition hardening: The largest  climate talks ever will convene in Paris on November 30, with 190 countries represented. In the Senate, a bipartisan group introduced a non-binding resolution this week stating their view that any agreement emerging from the talks should be considered a “treaty”, constitutionally subject to approval by two-thirds of the Senate. The Obama Administration has indicated it plans to negotiate the deal in a way where it would not be submitted to Congress.

#ICYMI (In Case You Missed It)

  • Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a closed briefing on how the U.S. should proceed in the aftermath of the Paris attacks. Listen to Sen. Bob Corker (R, TN) discuss the closed briefing.
  • This week, the Obama Administration announced rules to clamp down on corporate “tax inversions” (moving operations to offshore subsidiaries to avoid US taxes).
  • Wednesday was The Great American Smokeout. We highlighted proposals in Congress that address smoking and tobacco sales, particularly among children.


Weekend Reads

Conference Committee and Related Procedures: An Introduction by Elizabeth Rybicki, Congressional Research Service

Syrian refugees split Democratic Party by Seung Min Kim and Burgess Everett, POLITICO

Negotiators Come to Agreement on Revising No Child Left Behind Law by Motoko Rich, The New York Times

ObamaCare repeal teeters in Senate by Alexander Bolton, The Hill

No Child Left Behind Overview, New America

The Clash Over the Paris Climate Talks by Clare Foran, The Atlantic

House Freedom Caucus Eyes Paul Ryan and Its Bolstered Relevance by Billy House, Bloomberg Politics

Wishing you a wonderful weekend!


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