It’s Budget Week in Washington, with the President’s proposal to be released on Tuesday. In a break with tradition, neither House or Senate Budget Committees will hold hearings. This week the Senate will take up a bill calling for investigations of North Korea's nuclear activities. The House will vote on expansions of programs for veterans' health and vocational training. The House will also consider a bill limiting NSF funding to proposals within the “national interest," a bill requiring the Treasury Department to present a plan to reduce the national debt, and a bill amending new FDA rules that require menu labeling and calorie counts for restaurants.
In the Senate:
Requiring Investigations of North Korea Nuclear Threat
The Senate will take up a House-passed bill to require the President to investigate threats by North Korea.
H.R. 757: THE NORTH KOREA SANCTIONS ENFORCEMENT ACT
Sponsor: Rep. Ed Royce [R, CA-39] BIPARTISAN
This bill requires the President to investigate any credible information of sanctionable activities involving North Korea and to designate and apply sanctions with respect to any person (including entities) knowingly engaging in or contributing to activities in North Korea, through export or import, which involve weapons of mass destruction, significant arms or related materiel, significant luxury goods, money laundering, censorship, or human rights abuses.
In the House:
A "national Interest" test for science funding
A bill from the chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology would place new requirements on funding at the National Science Foundation (NSF).
H.R. 3293: SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH IN THE NATIONAL INTEREST ACT
Sponsor: Rep. Lamar Smith [R, TX-21] BIPARTISAN
According to the sponsor, the bipartisan bill would:
"ensure that the National Science Foundation (NSF) is accountable to the taxpayers about how their hard-earned dollars are spent. The bill requires that each NSF public announcement of a grant award be accompanied by a non-technical explanation of the project’s scientific merits and how it serves the national interest. This written justification is intended to affirm NSF’s determination that a project is worthy of taxpayer support, based on scientific merit and serves the national interest."
The bill offers a seven-point test of “national interest," if the project: increases the nation’s economic competitiveness, advances Americans’ health and welfare, develops a national science and technology workforce that is globally competitive, increases Americans’ science and technology literacy or engagement, increases academia’s connection with industry, supports national defense, or promotes the progress of science in the U.S.
Science magazine reports that opponents of the bill “think that the legislation is a way to apply a political litmus test that would allow [limits on] research by social scientists and those studying climate change.”
Requiring a Debt Ceiling report and plan
The House will also consider a bill that sets up a “communication framework” for communicating information and plans to Congress around the debt ceiling. The Budget Deal signed in November suspended the $18.1 trillion debt limit until March 15, 2017, so the limit will not be reached again in the Obama Presidency.
H.R. 3442: DEBT MANAGEMENT AND FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY ACT OF 2015
Sponsor: Rep. Kenny Marchant [R, TX-24] BIPARTISAN
The bill would apply to future presidents, and require the Treasury Secretary to present:
- a Debt Report to Congress on the state of the national debt, including its composition and trajectory, as well as the Administration's plans to meet debt obligations in the event that Congress agrees to raise the debt limit.
- a Statement of Intent on how the Administration proposes to reduce the debt and the debt to GDP ratio. Additionally, the statement would address the impacts of the increased limit on factors such as our reserve currency status and the sustainability of entitlements.
- a Progress Report on the implementation of the Statement of Intent proposals by the Administration to reduce U.S. debt levels at subsequent appearances.
Amending FDA Rules on nutrition labeling
A bill from the House GOP Conference chair would allow flexibility on new nutrition disclosure rules for restaurants.
H.R. 2017: COMMON SENSE NUTRITION DISCLOSURE ACT OF 2015
Sponsor: Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers [R, WA-5]
The bill would affect new FDA guidelines, scheduled to go into effect in December 2016, requiring fast-food restaurants, movie theaters, grocery stores and other locations that sell ready-to-eat single servings of food to list calorie counts on their menus and provide nutritional information to customers on request.
The bill includes a provision, welcomed by pizza businesses, that allows nutrition information to be “provided solely by a remote-access menu (e.g., an Internet menu) for food establishments where the majority of orders are placed by customers who are off-premises.”
Veterans' Employment, Education and Healthcare
The House will consider several bills to alter or expand the types of medical care provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA); reorganize the administration of several job training, readjustment benefits, transfer certain employment training and placement programs from the Department of Labor (DOL) to VA; and modify the processing of benefit claims. (Source: CBO)
H.R. 3016: VETERANS EMPLOYMENT, EDUCATION, AND HEALTHCARE IMPROVEMENT ACT
Sponsor: Rep. Brad Wenstrup [R, OH-2] BIPARTISAN
The bill combines over 30 smaller bills into a legislative package, addressing many issues, among them:
Health – including podiatrists as "physicians," providing for an audit of the VA budget, establishing a Chief Business Officer to manage payment of invoices for non-VA medical services provided to vets, piloting a program on dog training therapy for veterans with PTSD, increasing newborn care available for female veterans from seven to 42 days.
Economic Opportunity – establishing the Veterans Economic Opportunity and Transition Administration, (VEOTA), led by a new VEOTA Undersecretary, to manage the G.I. Bill, Home Loan Guaranty, and Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) programs, as well as all veterans' employment programs currently administered by the Department of Labor.
Educational Assistance and Vocational Training – authorizing eligible servicemembers to transfer unused education benefits under the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill to family members, extending and clarifying availability od the Fry Scholarship, which provides Post-9/11 G.I. Bill benefits to the children and surviving spouses of servicemembers who died in the line of duty after September 10, 2001; consideration of time spent receiving medical care as active duty for determination of eligibility for vocational programs.
The bill would provides for new guidelines and project management requirements for VA "super construction projects."
H.R. 2360: CAREER-READY STUDENT VETERANS ACT OF 2015
Sponsor: Rep. Mark Takano [D, CA-41]
The bill would add a new requirement for state approval of educational institutions providing veterans with non-accredited courses.
H.R. 677: AMERICAN HEROES COLA ACT OF 2015
Sponsor: Rep. Ralph Abraham [R, LA-5]
The bill would require veteran's benefits to receive a cost of living increase whenever there is a COLA increase for Social Security. Would apply to: veterans' disability compensation, additional compensation for dependents, the clothing allowance for certain disabled adult children, and dependency and indemnity compensation for surviving spouses and children.
The bill would establish an Office of Failing Medical Center Recovery, and the position of Under Secretary for Failing Medical Center Recovery to carry out the managerial and day-to-day operational control of each VA failing medical center.
Requires publishing of key health metrics for each VA medical center and revoke the certification of failing medical centers.
H.R. 2915: FEMALE VETERAN SUICIDE PREVENTION ACT
Sponsor: Rep. Julia Brownley [D, CA-26]
This bill directs the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to identify: (1) VA mental health care and suicide prevention programs that are most effective for women veterans, and (2) those programs with the highest satisfaction rates among women veterans.
H.R. 3894: TO REQUIRE PROMPT NOTIFICATION BY PERSONNEL OF THE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE OF SUSPECTED INSTANCES OF CHILD ABUSE AND NEGLECT DIRECTLY TO CHILD PROTECTIVE SERVICES
Sponsor: Rep. Tulsi Gabbard [D, HI-2]
The bill would direct a member of the Armed Forces, a civilian Department of Defense (DOD) employee, or a contractor employee working on a military installation who is required by federal regulation or state law to report known or suspected instances of child abuse and neglect to make the report directly to State Child Protective Services or another appropriate state agency in addition to the member's or employee's chain of command or any designated DOD point of contact.
H.R. 3036: NATIONAL 9/11 MEMORIAL AT THE WORLD TRADE CENTER ACT
Sponsor: Tom MacArthur [R, NJ-3]
The bill would designate the National September 11 Memorial located at the World Trade Center in New York City, New York, as a national memorial.
H.R. 890: TO CORRECT THE BOUNDARIES OF THE JOHN H. CHAFEE COASTAL BARRIER RESOURCES SYSTEM UNIT P16.
Sponsor: Rep. Curtis Clawson [R, FL-19]
H.R. 3262: TO PROVIDE FOR THE CONVEYANCE OF LAND OF THE ILLIANA HEALTH CARE SYSTEM OF THE DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS IN DANVILLE, ILLINOIS.
Sponsor: Rep. John Shimkus [R, IL-15]
H.R. 4056: TO AUTHORIZE THE SECRETARY OF VETERANS AFFAIRS TO CONVEY TO THE FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS ALL RIGHT, TITLE, AND INTEREST OF THE UNITED STATES TO THE PROPERTY KNOWN AS "THE COMMUNITY LIVING CENTER" AT THE LAKE BALDWIN VETERANS AFFAIRS OUTPATIENT CLINIC, ORLANDO, FLORIDA.
Sponsor: Rep. John Mica [R, FL-7]
H.R. 4437: TO EXTEND THE DEADLINE FOR THE SUBMITTAL OF THE FINAL REPORT REQUIRED BY THE COMMISSION ON CARE.
Sponsor: Rep. Jeff Miller [R, FL-1]
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.