The House is our for a district work period. The Senate is in and will vote on a bill to increase security screenings for refugees from Syria and Iraq. The nation celebrates the life and legacy of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., with a day of service, and a new era of relations with Iran dominate the headlines and the debate in Washington.
A "Day On" to honor MLK
On Monday, the federal government is closed to commemorate the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., a federal holiday signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in 1983.
"For millions of Americans, the holiday has become “a day on, not a day off” as they volunteer to honor Dr. King’s legacy through service across the nation." – Corporation for National and Community Service
"Martin Luther King, Jr., and his spirit live within all of us. Thank God for the blessing of his life and his leadership and his commitment. What manner of man was this? May we make ourselves worthy to carry on his dream and create the love community."- President Ronald Reagan on signing the bill making the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., a National Holiday, November 2, 1983
Leading the Week: Iran Prisoner Exchange, Implementation Day, and new sanctions
Developments in US-Iran policy accelerated over the past week, with high-stakes diplomacy. Here's are the bullet points:
- Monday: Ten American sailors taken into Iranian custody after they veered into Iranian waters in the Persian Gulf.
- Tuesday: President Obama gave his final State of the Union speech, with no mention of the sailors.
- Wednesday: The sailors were released the next day.
- Saturday: U.N. nuclear watchdog IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano stated that "Iran has completed the necessary preparatory steps to start the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action"
"Implementation Day" began with a ceremony in Vienna (read remarks from Secretary of State, John Kerry) and several significant announcements
- Sunday: U.S. imposes new, limited sanctions on five Iranian citizens and 11 companies for violating United Nations resolutions against ballistic missile tests.
Last week, the House vacated a vote on a bill to restrict the lifting of sanctions on Iran because 137 Members did not make it to the House Floor in time for the 15-minute vote. (Speaker Ryan had previously indicated that he expected Members to be prompt and show up for votes.) The House expects to re-vote on the bill when they return the week of January 25, though conditions have changed significantly.
This bill prohibits the President from removing sanctions on foreign financial institutions until the President makes two certifications to Congress: (1) that the institution has not knowingly facilitated transactions or provided significant financial services for or on behalf of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps or any of its agents, a foreign terrorist organization, or a person whose property or property interests are blocked pursuant to the IEEPA in connection with Iran’s proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. (2) that the institution no longer knowingly engages in illicit or deceptive financial transactions or other activities.
In the Senate: Tightened Security Checks for Syrian and Iraqi Refugees
The Senate will vote on a House-passed bill that aims to “stop the open flow of 10,000 Syrian refugees to the United States without adequate vetting.” The President issued a veto threat, saying that the bill introduces “unnecessary and impractical requirements that would unacceptably hamper our efforts to assist some of the most vulnerable people in the world.”
“Would put in place the most robust national security vetting process in history for any refugee population and it gives the American people the assurances needed that we will do everything possible to prevent terrorists from reaching our shores,” according to the bill sponsors.
“Specifically, under this legislation, no refugee from Iraq or Syria will be admitted into the U.S. unless: 1. The FBI Director certifies the background investigation of each refugee; and 2. The Secretary of Homeland Security, along with the FBI Director and the Director of National Intelligence, certifies to Congress that each refugee is not a security threat to the United States. Under this legislation, no Syrian or Iraqi refugee can enter the United States until the American people’s representatives in Congress receive these certifications.”
Select Bills under consideration in Senate Hearings:
S. 659: BIPARTISAN SPORTSMEN'S ACT OF 2015 | Sponsor: Sen. Dan Sullivan [R, AK]
“to protect and enhance opportunities for recreational hunting, fishing, and shooting"
“to authorize the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative"
S. 1674: LONG ISLAND SOUND RESTORATION AND STEWARDSHIP ACT | Sponsor: Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand [D, NY]
“to amend and reauthorize certain provisions relating to Long Island Sound restoration and stewardship"
S. 1724: LAKE TAHOE RESTORATION ACT OF 2015 | Sponsor: Sen. Dean Heller [R, NV]
“to provide for environmental restoration activities and forest management activities in the Lake Tahoe Basin"
An oversight hearing to examine the Department of Justice's role in implementing new executive actions related to gun control.
On January 4, 2016, President Obama announced a series of actions to reduce gun violence.
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.