House passed bipartisan bill to overhaul 40-year-old toxic chemicals law, stalled in Senate after lawmaker called for more time to read bill. House failed to pass energy and water spending bill over controversial amendment. House passed amended Senate energy bill, teeing up conference committee to reconcile differences. House Natural Resources marked up and advanced latest Puerto Rico debt crisis bill. House and Senate have approved separate funding measures to combat Zika virus, now working to merge the two measures.
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H.R. 5090 To ensure that air transportation between the United States and the European Union complies with the intent of article 17 bis of the United States-European Union-Norway-Iceland Air Transport Agreement of June 21, 2011
House passed chemical safety overhaul
House passed bipartisan chemical safety bill by vote of 403-12. Bill would overhaul 40-year-old toxic chemicals law, allowing Environmental Protection Agency to gather more information about a chemical before it is used in the U.S.
Obama administration “strongly supports” the measure, saying the bill would provide the EPA necessary power and resources to review new chemicals. Statement of Administration said the bill “represents a historic advancement for both chemical safety and environmental law.”
So what is the TSCA?
Toxic Substances Control Act (1976) is main law regulating chemicals in everyday products, from cleaning supplies to pesticides to laundry detergents. Despite the name, TSCA does not separate chemicals into toxic v. non-toxic, but rather existing chemicals v. new chemicals. When TSCA became law, all existing chemicals were considered safe for use and grandfathered in without examination. Out of roughly 85,000 chemicals in use today, the EPA has been able to ban or restrict production or use of five chemicals.
House failed to pass energy and water spending bill
On Thursday, the Energy and Water Appropriations bill failed to pass the House due to controversy over an amendment to prohibit discrimination against LGBT employees by federal contractors.
Here's a recap:
- Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney [D, NY-18] introduced an amendment on Wednesday night to enforce a 2014 executive order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The amendment passed 223-195.
- On Thursday during debate on the appropriations bill, Rep. Rick Allen [R, GA-12] read a passage from the Bible and questioned whether members would violate their religious principles by supporting the bill. Several Republican members said they could no longer support it.
- The vote failed 305-112, as the bill shed both Republicans who withdrew support for the bill with the addition of the amendment and Democrats who had supported the amendment but not the underlying bill, which Speaker Paul Ryan referred to as “sabotage.”
- GOP conference will meet following Memorial Day recess to discuss how to resume appropriations process, including potential rule changes for considering floor amendments.
House passed Senate energy bill, teeing up conference committee
House Amendment included H.R. 8 and several House-passed bills related to energy and natural resources. House version is less broad and does not include permanent reauthorization of Land and Water Conservation Fund, which is included in Senate bill. Both bills include provisions to modernize energy infrastructure like electric grid and pipelines.
So what is a conference committee?
A conference committee is a temporary, ad hoc panel composed of members from both House and Senate to resolve disagreements on particular legislation that has passed both chambers.
House Natural Resources advanced Puerto Rico debt crisis bill
House Natural Resources Committee voted 29-10 to approve amended Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA). The bill would establish an oversight board and provide Puerto Rico tools to restructure its $70 billion debt.
Bill prevents new Dept. of Labor overtime rule from applying to Puerto Rico and clarifies fiscal oversight board’s authority to protect prioritized payments to bondholders. Language that gives federal district court “personal jurisdiction over any person or entity” remains.
Included in the proposed amendments: Rep. McClintock’s [R, CA-4] Amendment 094, which sought to exempt debt that is Constitutionally backed from the bill on the grounds that the bill would undermine credibility of all Constitutionally backed debts and create a precedent for states. However, Chairman Bishop (R, UT-1) countered that it was not Congress’s domain to determine priority of creditors, and it was further argued that no precedent for states could be established via laws of territories.
In the end, the committee approved 11 amendments and faced significant bipartisan compromises. The bill is expected to gain House approval, however, the fate of the bill is still largely unknown. Sen. Bob Menendez [D, NJ] and Rep. Luis Gutiérrez [D, IL-4] said they will actively work to significantly change or sink the bill as they feel it does not provide for an orderly debt restructuring process and grants too much power to the fiscal oversight board, whose members are unknown. Additionally, Sen. Bernie Sanders [I, VT] said the bill treats Puerto Rico like a colony, and that perhaps statehood is necessary.
House passed Senate energy bill, teeing up conference committee
Center for Disease Control Director Dr. Tom Frieden said, "We have a narrow window of opportunity to scale up effective Zika prevention measures, and that window is closing," as House and Senate began talks to merge their two funding measures to combat Zika virus.
House passed bill to provide $648M through the end of the fiscal year. House also passed an older bill that had been introduced in several Congresses removing environmental restrictions on pesticides in waterways. Renamed the Zika Vector Control Act, the bill passed 258-156.
Obama administration underscored importance of developing tools for vector control and reducing mosquito populations. Last month President Obama signed bill into law to speed up development of vaccines and drugs to prevent and treat Zika infections, but the bill lacked necessary funding. President Obama reiterated three-month-old request for $1.9B, saying "[Congress] needs to get me a bill that has sufficient funds to do the job."
New Bills on the Block
- Rep. George Holding [R, NC-13] introduced a bill to move IRS's Criminal Investigation division to create new Bureau of Criminal Investigation managed by Treasury. The organization is the only entity allowed to investigate potential criminal violations of the Internal Revenue Code.
- Sen. Joe Manchin [D, WV] announced a bill to impose a 1-cent-per-milligram excise tax on every opioid pill sold. Money raised through the tax would be used to fund opioid addiction treatment.
- House Appropriations released Fiscal Year 17 financial services appropriations bill, does not block President Obama's proposed federal pay raises, the largest increases in six years.
- Sen. Ron Wyden [D, OR] introduced bill to require presidential nominees to release their tax returns.
- Number of pregnant women in the U.S. infected with the Zika virus suddenly tripled, after CDC announced reporting change, now including all women who test positive, regardless of symptoms.
- 31% of all mass shootings last year were related to domestic violence incidents, according to new NYT analysis.
- House Energy & Commerce Democratic Staff report says at least six NFL health officials waged improper campaign to influence government study.
- For the first time since 1880, Americans age 18-34 are more likely to be living with their parents than in a household shared with a spouse or partner.
- Morning Consult poll found 74% of registered-voters support allowing women to serve in combat roles in the military.
- There are only three northern white rhinos remaining on Earth. Scientists are working to avoid extinction.
- Congress is moving to intervene in legal dispute over whether female guards at Guantánamo Bay should be barred from touching Muslim detainees. House added provision to annual defense authorization that would nullify current ban and prohibit future bans.
- Nutrition labels are getting a facelift — number of calories will be in larger font and added sugars will be listed.
- Senate showdown over provision to require women to register for the draft. House dropped similar provision from its annual defense bill last week.
- Sens. McCaskill and Tester wrote a letter to Office of Personnel Management, voicing concerns about National Background Investigations Bureau, new agency created to address holes in security clearance process.
- Environmental Protection Agency proposed requiring more ethanol in gasoline in 2017, though the amount is short of target set by 2007 federal law.
- Sens. Scott and Roberts rocked one sock for National Missing Children's Day.
- Senate Homeland Security approved bipartisan bill to reward federal officials with up to $10k bonuses for identifying waste and saving money.
- Obama administration announced U.S. would fully lift longstanding U.S. embargo on lethal arm sales to Vietnam.
- Speaker Paul Ryan proposed tightening rules for submitting amendments to spending bills, following recent votes on controversial issues. Rule change would go into effect following Memorial Day recess.
- Leaked emails show how advocates' messages synched up with White House campaign surrounding Iran deal.
- Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies appropriations subcommittee Chairman Culberson offered transgender bathroom amendment to own bill in markup.
- 25-year-old Army veteran helped draft legislation to reinstate VA reporting requirement, now adopted as amendment to Senate's Military Construction-Veterans Affairs spending plan. Salahuddin is part of Vet Voice fellowship that offers congressional work experience for post 9/11 veterans. Currently, 1% of employees on the Hill are veterans. Similar programs exist to increase number of veterans on the Hill, such as HillVets.
- House voted down Yoder bill that would require cell phone carriers to disclose phone's location to law enforcement. Lawmakers voted 229-158, falling short of two-thirds threshold needed for rules invoked to expedite bill's vote.
- President Obama signed Meng bill into law, removing offensive and outdated minority descriptions in the U.S. Code such as "Negro" and "Oriental."
- Sen. Jeanne Shaheen [D, NH] introduced an amendment to annual defense policy bill to authorize 4,000 additional visas for Afghans who served as interpreters to U.S. troops and officials during war in Afghanistan to come to the U.S.
- Obamas have decided where to call home following presidency: Kalorama, expensive area near embassies and the Zoo. They will lease mansion of power couple Joe Lockhart and Giovanna Grey — 8,200-square-footer with nine bedrooms.
- House Energy and Commerce subcommittee discussed 17 bills related to the Federal Trade Commission.
- Rep. John Mica [R, FL-7] jokingly presented Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority head a "certificate of appreciation" for firing 20 managers and addressing safety issues.
- For the first time, researchers have found someone carrying bacteria resistant to antibiotics of last resort.
- These elementary schoolers are in the know about Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).
- House Judiciary discussed impeaching IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.
- Legislative Branch Capacity Working Group examined decades of declines in legislative staff capacity.
- Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald refused to apologize for comparing wait times at VA clinics to lines at Disneyland, saying wait times are not indicative of performance. Several lawmakers expressed concerns, with some calling for McDonald's resignation.
- New Government Accountability Office report revealed Pentagon is using 1970s IBM computer and floppy disks to control U.S. nuclear weapons. Here's a look at the 10 oldest IT systems in the federal government.
- Rep. Dana Rohrabacher [R, CA-48] said he's used medical marijuana to treat his arthritis while in office.
- House voted 240-179 to send bill to Senate that would repeal local law that provides D.C. government control over its budget and permits the city to spend money raised from local taxes, without waiting for federal approval. White House has threatened to veto the legislation.
- Hearing about long lines at airports? TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger testified before House Homeland Security, acknowledging failures and citing inadequate staff levels.
- Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer said Supreme Court of the US has not been diminished by having only eight members. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg disagreed.
- Senate passed equal pay resolution, calling for equal pay for U.S. women's national soccer team.
"Observations on the Toxic Substances Control Act and EPA Implementation" from Government Accountability Office
"Shared, Collaborative and On Demand: The New Digital Economy" by Aaron Smith, Pew Research Center
"Conference Committee and Related Procedures" by Elizabeth Rybicki, Congressional Research Service
"Hail to the Computer" by Daniel Oberhaus, Popular Mechanics
Wishing you a wonderful weekend!
– Team POPVOX
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