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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:

H.R. 3713 SENTENCING REFORM ACT OF 2015
Sponsor: Rep. Bob Goodlatte [R, VA-6]

S. 2123 SENTENCING REFORM AND CORRECTIONS ACT OF 2015
Sponsor: Sen. Chuck Grassley [R, IA]

H.R. 759 THE FEDERAL PRISON REFORM ACT
Sponsor: Rep. Jason Chaffetz [R, UT-3]


 

POPVOX Women's Airforce Service Pilots

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.


H.R. 4336 WOMEN AIRFORCE SERVICE PILOT ARLINGTON INURNMENT RESTORATION ACT
Sponsor: Rep. Martha McSally [R, AZ-2]


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. 

S. 2437 WOMEN AIRFORCE SERVICE PILOT ARLINGTON INURNMENT RESTORATION ACT OF 2016
Sponsor: Sen. Barbara Mikulski [D, MD]

Acting Army Secretary Patrick Murphy called on Congress to reverse the 2015 decision, saying the fastest way to fix this is an act of Congress.

 


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.

H.R. 4472 MODERNIZING THE INTERSTATE PLACEMENT OF CHILDREN IN FOSTER CARE ACT
Sponsor: Rep. Todd Young [R, IN-9]

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.

H.R. 2745 STANDARD MERGER AND ACQUISITION REVIEWS THROUGH EQUAL RULES (SMARTER) ACT OF 2015
Sponsor: Rep. Blake Farenthold [R, TX-27]

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.

H.R. 4721 AIRPORT AND AIRWAY EXTENSION ACT OF 2016
Sponsor: Rep. Bill Shuster [R, PA-9]

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

 


#ICYMI

 


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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.

 


Weekend Reads

"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