As Congress heads home for seven weeks…
We bring you a summer version of Gavel Down — full of how current events relate to Congressional happenings, as well as updates on major bills.
Follow us on Twitter as we tweet the conventions with related legislation!
Five Things Mentioned at the RNC
that Relate to the 114th Congress
1. SANCTUARY CITIES
Many RNC speakers mentioned “sanctuary cities” — cities that bar local law enforcement from complying with federal immigration authorities, usually by not allowing police or municipal employees to inquire about an individual's immigration status. There have been several attempts this Congress to call up legislation related to sanctuary cities. Three bills have failed to pass procedural hurdles in the Senate. Learn more.
2. TRADE AGREEMENTS
You couldn't watch the RNC and not hear trade agreements mentioned. Trade agreements are broad tax, tariff, or trade pacts made between countries, often including investment guarantee. The most talked about trade agreement this Congress is the Trans-Pacific Partnership, finalized proposal between twelve Pacific Rim countries. Presidential advisors expect Congress to approve the deal during the lame-duck session, following the November election, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said this is unlikely. What do you think?
3. EDUCATION REFORM
Several RNC speakers called for major education reform, referencing wide-ranging proposals from vouchers to tuition tax credits. Last year, Congress passed bipartisan education reform, overhauling No Child Left Behind. House and Senate lawmakers reconciled differences in their versions of the legislation in conference and passed compromise legislation. President Obama signed the bill into law — marking a significant transfer of power and authority over public schools from the federal government to state and local governments. Catch up now.
One similarity between the RNC and DNC platforms is a call for to “reinstate Glass-Steagall,” referring to the post-Depression law that separated commercial and consumer banking activity. In 1999, Bill Clinton signed the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which rolled back many of the original provisions, allowing commercial banks, investment banks and non-bank financial entities to consolidate. Some policymakers on both sides of the aisle have argued that 1999 changes created greater consolidation of risk in the banking sector, and led to the 2008 financial crisis. Several pending bills would reinstate provisions of the Glass-Steagall Act: The 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act (S. 1709) and (H.R. 3054) and the draft Financial CHOICE Act from Rep. Jeb Hensarling [R, TX-5]. Read more on proposed financial reforms.
5. CONSCIENCE PROTECTION"Conscience protection" was specifically mentioned in this year's RNC platform. These policies usually refer to provisions allowing health care providers to refuse to provide certain treatments or assistance that violate the provider's religious beliefs. Last week Congress passed a bill that would shield health care providers that decline to be involved in abortions as a matter of conscience. See how your representative voted.
What's happening with the defense bill?
Congress is "going to conference" on the on annual defense authorization bill:
That means House Democrats and Republicans will appoint a few members as "conferee;" Senate Democrats and Republicans will do the same. The conferees will meet to hammer out differences between what passed the House and what passed the Senate, to reach one combined version that will go back to both chambers for a vote. According to U.S. Constitution, chambers must pass identical legislation for the bill to become law.
Conferees will begin their work on a combined bill after they return from recess in September. President Obama has threatened to veto both the House and Senate versions. Read more about both versions.
- New from Congressional Budget Office: Stewart bill to allow military retirees to opt out of TRICARE and contribute to employer-sponsored health savings accounts would decrease government revenues by $97M over the next decade.
- New Health & Human Services report says wearables have created privacy gaps in HIPAA.
- House Homeland Security Majority Staff released report saying encryption makes detecting ISIS plots more difficult.
Legislative Lowdown: States Edition
Following police shootings in Dallas and Baton Rouge, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott [R] asked state lawmakers to enact a “Police Protection Act” that would increase penalties for crimes against officers.
Federal judge in Missouri ruled Obama administration cannot force Missouri lawmaker and his family to carry health insurance that includes contraception coverage, despite Affordable Care Act's requirement that insurers cover birth control.
- After 25 years of taxation, California newspapers may soon score a tax break. New interpretation of rule would acknowledge digital content which is nontaxable.
- Six states legalized and began regulating fantasy sports leagues this month.
- Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon [D] signed a measure into law that would make it easier for state residents with criminal convictions to seal their criminal records. People who have committed dangerous felonies, sex offenses, domestic assault and other violent crimes would not be eligible.
- Alaska Senate ended its eight-day special legislative session called by Gov. Bill Walker [R] Monday without voting on any of the deficit-reduction bills that Walker proposed. Alaska House adjourned from its special session last Friday. Lawmakers passed only one of the eight deficit-reduction bills proposed by the governor this year.
- North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory [R] restored employees’ right to claim in state court that they were fired for discriminatory reasons. Lawmakers unintentionally suspended this right in March, when they passed controversial bathroom bill.
- In response to concerns about safety at the Republican National Convention, Ohio Gov. John Kasich [R] stated that he lacked the ability to suspend a state law allowing citizens to openly carry guns.
- Federal appeals court ruled Texas voter identification law (largely viewed as nation's strictest voter ID law) violates Voting Rights Act. Court did not strike down the law in full, instead lower court to devise a fix for the law in time for November elections.
- Congress released long-classified 28 pages of its 9/11 inquiry, cataloging meetings between Saudi officials and hijackers.
- Gunman fatally shot three police officers and wounded three officers in Baton Rouge, near protests following police-involved shooting of Alton Sterling. Gunman has been identified as Missouri Marine vet.
- Rep. Vern Buchanan [R, FL-16] called on President Obama to veto GMO labeling bill.
- Sens. Brown and Merkley called on financial regulators to provide more information about their oversight of fintech companies.
- Rep. Mark Takai [D, HI] died at 49 years old of pancreatic cancer. Takai served on House Small Business and Armed Services.
- Reps. Pallone, Schakowsky, and DeGette sent letter to Niantic, inquiring about how much data the game uses and if users are sufficiently being made aware of it.
- Rep. Will Hurd [R, TX-23] proposed an alternative to White House $3.1B modernization fund bill. Hurd bill directs individual agencies to establish IT working capital funds, rather than one big fund administered by General Services Administration that agencies borrow against.
- Sen. Al Franken [D, MN] introduced bill to boost discounts for rural healthcare IT.
- Humana announced it will exit 8 of the 19 individual health insurance markets where it's sold Obamacare plans this year — same day Department of Justice filed lawsuit to block its proposed merger with rival Aetna.
- Bipartisan group of House lawmakers unveiled Whistleblower Protections for Contractors Act, companion to McCaskill bill introduced last month.
- Google rolled out new search feature, designed to help people learn how to register to vote.
- New Yoho bill would expedite disciplinary process by limiting time federal employees have to appeal a negative personnel action.
- Rep. Bobby Rush [D, IL-1] introduced a resolution, calling for creation of select committee on excessive use of police force.
- President Obama became the first sitting president to publish an academic paper.
- House Judiciary created bipartisan working group to examine relationships between police and black communities. First meeting focused on excessive force by police, aggression towards law enforcement, and related public safety concerns.
- Rep. Adam Kinzinger [R, IL-16] and Rep. Tony Cárdenas [D, CA-29] introduced resolution calling for development of national technology policy, to include digital currencies and blockchain technology.
- White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Housing & Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro will not be punished for violating the Hatch Act, which bans federal employees from political activity in their official capacities.
- Sen. Tom Cotton [R, AR] announced his family's welcoming a new baby boy this winter.
- White House announced initiative to help more Americans use renewable energy.
- Police officer charged in Freddie Gray arrest and death was acquitted of all charges.
- Utah Health Dept. reported new case of Zika that does not appear to have been contracted through two known sources of transmission: mosquito bite or sexual contact.
- Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady said he's focused on revamping tax code, not impeaching IRS commissioner.
- North Dakota filed a lawsuit against the EPA over new methane emissions rules for oil and gas facilities.