Senate returned from recess; House is out until April 12. Senate passed trade secrets bill and began considering FAA reauthorization bill. Senate HELP committee advanced medical innovation bills, lining up floor votes for companion legislation to House-passed bill. Obama Administration released final "fiduciary rule" for investment advisors, with several lawmakers commenting on current legislation and pledging to introduce related legislation.
Top Search on POPVOX this week: "HR 25"
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Confirmation of Supreme Court Nominee Merrick B. Garland
Senate passed trade secrets bill
The Senate unanimously passed trade secrets bill, allowing companies to pursue civil remedies for trade secrets theft in federal court. Examples of trade secrets include plans, designs, negative information, customer lists, and nonpublic financial information. This bill also creates federal standards for what can be defined as a trade secret misappropriation.
Senate spent the rest of the week debating reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration, which runs out of funding on July 15. Senate voted unanimously to call up the bill and adopted two amendments aimed at strengthening airport security.
The first adopted amendment combined three bipartisan bills, with provisions to revise TSA's PreCheck program, strengthen security at foreign airports that have direct flights to the U.S., and prevent airport workers from carrying out terrorist attacks.
The second adopted amendment would increase the number of bomb-sniffing dog teams in non-secure areas, such as check-in counters and baggage claim. Many lawmakers referenced the Brussels attacks and the need for increased security in waiting areas.
The final amendment addressed seat sizes on airplanes and failed 42-54. Sen. Chuck Schumer [D, NY] introduced the amendment, saying "The public really cares about this. They don't want to be treated like sardines as the fares go up and up." Bill sponsor Sen. John Thune [R, SD] said "At 6'4", I experience firsthand leg-space issues on a weekly basis, but I just honestly think that it's not the FAA's place to decide how to define comfort."
Check out how your Senators voted on the following amendments:
- Adopted Thune Amendment 85-10 vote to tighten vetting process for airport employees
- Adopted Heinrich Amendment 91-5 vote to increase security in non-secure areas
- Rejected Schumer Amendment 42-54 vote to regulate seat sizes on airplanes
Catch up on all the Senate floor action here!
Obama Administration released "Fiduciary Rule"
This week the Obama administration unveiled long-awaited "fiduciary rule." This rule requires brokers to act in the “best interest” of their clients when handling retirement accounts instead of "acting suitably."
Sen. Warren called the fiduciary rule “the kind of change people want and expect in Washington.”
Speaker Paul Ryan said to expect congressional action in response. Sen. Johnny Isakson [R, GA] will introduce a disapproval resolution, referencing a bill he introduced earlier this year that would preempt the rule and outline "best interest" standard for retirement advisers. Rep. Peter Roskam [R, IL-6] introduced a similar bill in the House.
Last week we asked you to submit pictures of your Member working back home. Shoutout to Kitsap MOAA for being the first to respond with this picture from their luncheon!
Rep. Derek Kilmer [D, WA-6] attended luncheon of the Kitsap Chapter of the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA). Rep. Kilmer delivered a brief address and introduced the luncheon's speaker.
Pictured: Kitsap MOAA member Barbara Beagle, Kitsap MOAA President Darlene Iskra, and Congressman Derek Kilmer
Senate HELP advanced medical innovation bills
The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee held its third and final markup on a series of medical innovations bills, designed to complement House-passed 21st Century Cures Act (H.R. 6). These bills are focused on getting new medicine and treatments to patients more quickly.
The committee passed five bipartisan bills:
- S. 185 — Shortens development of new treatments to help people infected with superbugs
- S. 2713 — Maps genomes and makes genomes more readily available for researchers
- S. 2745 — Promotes inclusion of minorities in clinical research
- S. 2700 — Helps FDA and NIH attract and retain top talent
- S. 2742 — Decreases time spent by NIH researchers on administrative tasks
In total, Senate HELP has advanced 19 medical innovation bills. Previously passed bills address rare diseases, research for neurological diseases, voucher program for rare pediatric diseases, and medical devices. This package of bills contains more than 50 bipartisan proposals.
The biggest item of debate, additional funding for the National Institute of Health, has not reached a deal.
According to Senate HELP Chairman Lamar Alexander, “The House has done its work. The president has proposed his initiatives. I am hopeful we can take this to the Senate floor soon and ensure the president’s Precision Medicine and cancer ‘moonshot’ initiatives and ideas in the ‘Cures’ bill can become reality this year.”
New Bills on the Block
- Sens. Kirk and Rubio introduced bill that would prevent Iran from gaining access to U.S. financial system or using U.S. dollars in business transactions.
- Sens. Cornyn, Blumenthal, Schumer, and Cruz introduced a bill to return art stolen by the Nazis during WWII.
- House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy published an op ed on opioid abuse, pledging to schedule multiple bills on the floor to address the opioid epidemic.
- House Republicans are targeting the Affordable Care Act and tax credits for children of immigrants living in the U.S. illegally to get fellow Republicans to support budget proposal.
- #SenateJudiciaryLove Chairman Chuck Grassley gave Ranking Member Patrick Leahy a birthday cake, highlighting Leahy's affinity for photography.
- Armed Services Chairman John McCain said the committee is seriously looking at making the U.S. Cyber Command a standalone organization — would be proposed in annual defense authorization bill.
- Discussion draft is circulating for long-awaited Burr-Feinstein encryption bill — would force companies to provide "technical assistance" to government investigators when seeking locked data.
- Defense Department improperly taxed severance pay, meaning veterans who had to medically retire from the military due to combat-related injuries during the last 20 years have lost out on thousands of dollars. Boozman-Warner bill would allow veterans to recover the money.
- Sens. Boxer and Feinstein announced that President Obama will create a federal task force to investigate the cause of the Aliso Canyon natural gas leak.
- Vox mapped lead exposure risk from coast to coast.
- We're all in this together — Sens. Booker, Heitkamp, Sasse, and Scott had a group hug on the Senate floor.
- Millions of leaked documents link hidden accounts to current and former world leaders. "The Panama Papers" show how people use offshore and secret accounts to avoid taxes and sanctions and launder money.
- President Obama sent a letter to Speaker Ryan, proposing budget amendment to modernize the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
- Secretary of State John Kerry broke the record for most miles traveled, previously held by Condoleezza Rice.
- White House will transfer $600M in unspent funds allocated for Ebola to fight Zika virus.
- NCAA championship tweets between Sens. Burr and Toomey were pure gold — looks like Sen. Burr will have to wear navy soon.
- Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley and Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland will have breakfast together next week.
- Supreme Court ruled 8-0 that states must count all people, not just eligible voters, when drawing legislative districts.
- Senate Democrats are considering a rare procedural maneuver called a motion to discharge to force a vote on Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland.
- New Health & Human Services report says hospices sometimes bill Medicare for more care than patients actually need, in some cases up to four times as much, costing Medicare an additional $260M per year.
- All the charts and graphs you need to better understand the Panama Papers leak.
- White House released report on the impacts of climate change on human health.
- R Street Institute's Governance Project published 20 years of CRS annual reports online — latest development in push to release Congressional Research Service reports to the public.
Legislative Lowdown: States Edition
- New York and San Francisco advanced record-setting parental leave laws.
- New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan [D] signed Medicaid expansion extension bill.
- Tennessee House passed a bill allowing mental health counselors to refuse service based on religious grounds.
- California Assembly delayed action on a bill to end sales tax on tampons and sanitary napkins.
- Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant [R] signed legislation allowing businesses to refuse service based on religious objections.
- Salaries of state legislators vary greatly across states — in California legislators make nearly $100,000/year, whereas in New Hampshire, compensation is $100 annually and no per diem. Staff levels vary too, with some states having about 12 staffers per lawmaker and others having only 2 staffers per lawmaker.
- Arizona media was blocked from the House floor, following new House rules requiring background checks for media.
- Alaska lawmakers are considering bill that would place all of Alaska in Pacific time zone.
"Need to Address the Government's Remaining Financial Management Challenges and Long-Term Fiscal Path" from the U.S. Government Accountability Office
"Supporting the Child Care and Workforce Development Needs of TANF Families" by Heather Hahn et al., The Urban Institute
"DOD Needs to Clarify Its Roles and Responsibilities for Defense Support of Civil Authorities during Cyber Incidents" from the U.S. Government Accountability Office