For the first time in a month, the House and Senate are back in at the same time. The Senate will continue working on a two-year FAA reauthorization (without the airplane legroom amendment) and the House will dive into financial regulations, homeland and border security, and potential limits on the FCC. It will also take up bills to reauthorize USAID's "Feed the Future" work, protect vets from fraudulent schemes, and to fast-track FDA consideration for a Zika treatment.
Protecting Veterans from Fraud
Some financial predators have targeted veterans with fraudulent offers to help with recovering VA benefits . These schemes typically target the elderly or those in public housing, charge thousands of dollars, and do little, if anything, to actually help the veterans. If the schemes were promoted through the mail or via telephone, they could be investigated as wire or mail fraud. However, some are exploiting a loophole in federal law by conducting in-person seminars or meeting in-person at a veteran’s home or assisted living facility, according to the bill's sponsor.
H.R. 4676 would impose a fine, imprisonment of up to five years, or both for anyone engaging in a scheme to defraud a veteran of his or her benefits.
A "whole government" strategy to fight hunger and malnutrition
H.R. 1567 reauthorizes a program, "Feed the Future," begun under President G.W. Bush and continued in the Obama Administration, to combat hunger and malnutrition in developing countries. The bill authorizes a U.S. global food and nutrition security strategy to help farmers and their families feed themselves. By sharing U.S. expertise in agriculture development and supporting programs that work with smallholder farmers and women, the bill seeks to tackle hunger and malnutrition and improve agricultural productivity.
According to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which is responsible for administering Feed the Future, the initiative helped more than 12.5 million children receive nutrition interventions and provided nearly 7 million farmers with new technologies and management practices in 2013 alone.
The bill passed the House Foreign Services Committee unanimously.
Priority FDA Review for Zika treatments
Since 2007, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a handful of special "priority review" vouchers which allow its recipient to expedite the review of any one of its new drug products. According to a draft guidance on tropical disease priority review vouchers, the program is designed to spur development of new drug and biological products to treat certain tropical diseases. This bill would add the ZIka virus to the list of tropical diseases for which the vouchers may apply.
The bill passed the Senate on March 17, 2016.
Border and Airport Security
The House will take up several bills related to border, maritime, and airport security.
The bill would authorize, enhance, and reform certain port security programs through increased efficiency and risk-based coordination within the Department of Homeland Security, specifically between the U.S. Coast Guard and Customs and Border Protection, and other State and local partners.
The bill instructs the Department of Homeland Security to submit an assessment of current and potential terrorist or criminal threats posed by individuals or groups seeking to unlawfully enter the southern border and improvements needed at or between ports of entry.
The bill seeks to improve coordination between state and local partners on funding priorities for homeland security grants by ensuring that decision-makers work together, requiring that planning committees and high-risk urban area working groups include representatives from each of the following stakeholder communities: (1) local and tribal government officials; (2) emergency response providers (fire service, law enforcement, emergency medical services and emergency managers); (3) public health officials and appropriate medical practitioners; (4) individuals representing educational institutions, including elementary schools, community colleges, and other institutions of higher learning; (5) State and regional interoperable communications coordinators, as appropriate; and (6) State and major urban area fusion centers, as appropriate.
H.R. 4403 would authorize the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of State to develop open-source software that would be designed to screen travelers by checking law enforcement databases and terrorist watch lists. The software would be shared with foreign governments and multilateral organizations. The bill would require DHS and the Department of State, within 60 days of enactment, to submit to the Congress a plan to develop and share such software.
The bill would require the TSA to restore screening services to any airport that lost service after January 1, 2013, and has commitment of return from a commercial airline.
The Crater Lake-Klamath Regional Airport is one of the small airports that has been unable to bring back TSA screening after losing commercial air service in 2014. (Source)
Changes to Financial Regulations
The measure is the product of a bipartisan coalition within the House Judiciary Committee to "strengthen our nation’s bankruptcy laws so that the process will be well-equipped to administer bankruptcy cases related to financial institutions.”
The bill "would allow for a speedy transfer of the operating assets of a financial firm tp allow the financial firm to continue to operate in the normal course, which preserves the value of the enterprise for the creditors of the bankruptcy without a significant impact on the firm's employees, suppliers, and customers." (Source)
The bill would raise the consolidated assets threshold under the small bank holding company policy statement to $5 billion. Currently the policy statement applies to bank holding companies with less than $1 billion in total consolidated assets. (Source: CBO)
As established under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, the Council provides comprehensive monitoring of the stability of our nation's financial system. The Council is charged with identifying risks to the financial stability of the United States; promoting market discipline; and responding to emerging risks to the stability of the United States' financial system. The Council consists of 10 voting members and 5 nonvoting members and brings together the expertise of federal financial regulators, state regulators, and an independent insurance expert appointed by the President. (Source: FSOC)
Under current law, the FSOC is funded through the Financial Research Fund (FRF). H.R. 3340 would change the law so that spending from the FRF would be subject to the annual appropriations process. The bill also would direct FSOC to prepare financial reports that would be submitted to the Congress each quarter and allow the public to comment on FSOC’s proposed rules and reports.
IN THE SENATE:
The Senate will continue its work on reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration, which runs out of funding on July 15.
As we noted in last week's Gavel Down, the Senate has adopted two bipartisan amendments to the bill:
- 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.
- To increase the number of bomb-sniffing dog teams in non-secure areas, such as check-in counters and baggage claim.
An amendment from Sen. Chuck Schumer [D, NY] to address seat sizes on airplanes failed 42-54.
This week, the big question is expected to be whether a package of green energy tax credits will be added to the bill.
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.