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Confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Merrick B. Garland
House passed resolution condemning terrorist attacks in Brussels
The House unanimously passed a resolution condemning the terrorist attacks in Brussels, for which ISIS has claimed responsibility. More than 30 people were killed and over 200 injured in the airport and metro attacks.
H.RES. 658 CONDEMNING IN THE STRONGEST TERMS THE TERRORIST ATTACKS IN BRUSSELS ON MARCH 22, 2016, WHICH MURDERED MORE THAN 30 INNOCENT PEOPLE, AND SEVERELY WOUNDED MANY MORE.
Sponsor: Rep. Ted Poe [R, TX-2]
In response to the Brussels attacks, capitals around the world tightened security by halting international trains and increasing police presence in the streets and airports.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “Our nation stands in solidarity with the people of Belgium and we will renew our determination to prevent more senseless violence against the innocent.”
Speaker Paul Ryan remarked on state of American politics
Speaker Paul Ryan addressed group of bipartisan House interns on the state of American politics, calling for civility in political discourse. The "remarkably candid speech" highlighted the importance of differing opinions and how to disagree respectfully. He recounted his days as an intern and how he worked his way up from being a waiter at Tortilla Coast. Speaker Ryan referenced America's history, our founding fathers, and the need for politics based on policy rather than personality.
Here are five top quotes, as well as the full speech:
1. "We treated each other with respect. We disagreed — often fiercely so — but we disagreed without being disagreeable…It almost sounds like I'm speaking of another time, doesn't it? It sounds like a scene unfamiliar to your generation."
2. "In a confident America, we also have a basic faith in one another. We question each other's ideas — vigorously — but we don't question each other's motives… People with different ideas are not traitors. They are not our enemies. They are our neighbors, our coworkers, our fellow citizens."
3. "Ideas, passionately promoted and put to the test — that's what politics can be."
4. "Governing ourselves was never meant to be easy… When passions flair, ugliness is sometimes inevitable. But we shouldn't accept ugliness as the norm. We should demand better from ourselves and from one another."
5. "Our political discourse — both the kind we see on TV and the kind we experience among each other — did not use to be this bad and it does not have to be this way."
Following the speech, he answered questions and reaffirmed his commitment to bring criminal justice reform legislation to the House floor. He mentioned the detrimental effects of "mandatory minimums" and "three strikes" laws and the need for redemption.
Here are some related bills:
These women pilots were some of the first to ferry B-17 "Flying Fortress" bombers.
More than 1,000 WASP provided essential military air support in the United States during World War II.
Photo: Air Force, Caption: Military Times
House passed bill to grant Women's Airforce Service Pilots Inurnment Eligibility in Arlington National Cemetery
House unanimously passed bill that would ensure cremated remains of Women's Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) be eligible for interment in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.
During World War II, over one thousand women served as airforce service pilots — "ferrying airplanes, training combat pilots and towing airborne targets."
As WWII drew to a close, the Army disbanded the program so men could return to flight training positions. Women were denied veterans benefits and services until 1977 when Congress passed retroactive legislation. In 2002, WASPs became eligible for inurnment in Arlington National Cemetery, but in 2015, eligibility was revoked, with Army officials saying the women were civilians at time of service.
There is similar legislation in the Senate, but no timeline for a possible vote. Last week during a Senate Armed Services hearing on the Department of Defense budget, Sen. Joni Ernst [R, IA] pressed Defense Secretary Ash Carter on the need to restore WASP inurnment eligibility.
House Passed Foster Care Bill
The House approved a bill that requires states to adopt a centralized electronic system to expedite the placement of children in foster care or guardianship, or for adoption, across state lines. The bill incentivizes states to implement the National Electronic Interstate Compact Enterprise (NEICE). It also provides grant money to develop such systems.
On average, children spend five months in temporary care waiting for paper-based processes to be completed. According to 2014 Ways and Means committee report, six pilot states launched NEICE and saw placement time decrease by 30 percent for interstate foster care placements.
The Senate companion bill (S. 2574) was introduced in February and waits to be considered by a congressional committee.
Housed passed bill that would alter antitrust procedures
House passed bill that would change how the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission implement antitrust laws.
The bill, known as the SMARTER Act, eliminates the differences in the FTC and DOJ review processes when examining mergers and acquisitions. The bill passed in largely party-line 235-171 vote, with 5 Democrats voting in support of the bill.
The Obama Administration issued a Statement of Administration Policy in opposition of the bill, saying the bill would eliminate important administrative and procedural tools of the Federal Trade Commission to "challenge anticompetitive mergers and protect consumers."
Congress sent FAA extension bill to President Obama
Congress passed bill extending Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) powers and programs through mid-July. The extension gives lawmakers more time to work on a longer-term aviation bill, with FAA funding expiring on March 31.
The Senate approved the bill last week, and the House passed the amended version this week by voice vote. Now it's off to President Obama's desk.
House to address Puerto Rico debt crisis
Speaker Paul Ryan's March 31 deadline to address Puerto Rico's debt crisis is fast approaching. Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop [R, UT-1] is spearheading a bill that would establish a federal board to oversee Puerto Rico's deficit-cutting, as well as considering granting the board the ability to restructure Puerto Rico's debt. According to Speaker Ryan, the committee is on track to take up the bill, with a hearing and markup scheduled following Easter recess.
This week Puerto Rico turned to a seven-member Supreme Court, looking for legal rights to restructure what it owes to creditors. Justice Samuel Alito recused himself due to financial conflicts, altering the dynamics of the Court.
New Bills on the Block
- Rep. Tony Cárdenas [D, CA-29] introduced a bill to curtail entities that make make money by buying patents and then suing companies for infringement, following similar legislation last week from Sen. Jeff Flake [R, AZ].
- Rep. Matt Salmon [R, AZ-5] introduced a bill that would prohibit the federal government from using the All Writs Act to compel a tech company to break the encryption for their service or product.
- House Homeland Security Committee approved legislation that would require DHS to collect and use testimonials of former terrorists to counter terrorist propaganda.
- President Obama set to nominate Air Force Gen. Lori Robinson to be the head of U.S. Northern Command, which would make her the first woman to be named combatant commander.
- Treasury Secretary Jack Lew delivered annual testimony on the international financial system before the House Financial Services Committee.
- In response to GMO labeling bill failing in the Senate, General Mills announced it will begin labeling genetically modified organisms on its products.
- President Obama danced the tango during State Dinner in Argentina.
- House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said more conversations are needed before committee passed 2017 Budget proposal will see the floor. Appropriators are moving forward with 12 individual spending bills.
- New seating order for the Supreme Court for the first time since Justice Scalia died.
- Justice Department said it may no longer need Apple's help to unlock the iPhone used by a terrorist in San Bernardino shooting.
- President Raúl Castro called on the US to return Guantánamo Bay to Cuba and to lift the trade embargo. President Obama said he expects the embargo to be lifted. Rep. Charles Rangel (member of Congressional delegation in Cuba) echoed those sentiments, referencing decades of work in Congress to see the embargo's end.
- House Judiciary and House Energy and Commerce announced creation of working group to examine encryption issues.
- FDA announced it will require new warnings about the risk of addiction, abuse, overdose, and death for short-acting opioid pain medications.
- President Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro did the wave — FLOTUS and the girls were not as into it.
- US Customs and Border Protection announced it is ready to expand series of sensor and camera equipped surveillance towers to monitor US-Mexico border.
- New study says anthropogenic carbon release rate is unprecedented in 66 million years.
- Bloomberg examined why voters are angry and only getting angrier — through the lens of income, unemployment, immigration, war, and more.
- New study examines why poor black kids are more likely to go to prison than poor white kids.
- Young people are voting in record numbers this primary season, in both parties.
- New Gallup poll says 64% of Americans are worried a great deal/a fair amount about global warming.
Legislative Lowdown: States Edition
- Georgia bill awaits approval from Gov. Nathan Deal [R] that would allow faith-based organizations to refuse to perform a marriage for groups, including LGBT couples. Major corporations came out against the bill.
- Maryland General Assembly considered bill to ban guns on public university and college campuses.
- North Carolina passed legislation that would restrict restroom use to the sex listed on birth certificates, rather than that of gender identity.
- Idaho legislature advanced bill that allows people 21+ without a permit to carry concealed gun. Gov. Butch Otter [R] has not acted on this bill yet.
- Kansas House supported bill to fix juvenile justice system.
"VA Improved Its Verification Program but Lacks an Effective Operational Plan for Ongoing Efforts" from U.S. Government Accountability Office
"The Labor Supply of Undocumented Immigrants" by George J. Borjas, The National Bureau of Economic Research
"Who Gets Time for Federal Drug Offenses? Data Trends and Opportunities for Reform" from The Urban Institute