GAVEL DOWN: Closing out the Week in Congress

6 min read

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

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.

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?

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 conscienceSee 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.




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.