Gavel Down: Closing out the Week in Congress

6 min read

Congress is back home working…

And we're sending a summer version of Gavel Down —
full of how current events relate to Congressional happenings,
as well as updates on major legislation.

Follow us on Twitter as we tweet the conventions
with related legislation!

Five Things Mentioned at the DNC that Relate to the 114th Congress

Equal pay was also mentioned several times at this year’s Democratic National Convention (DNC), with a focus on providing equal compensation for men and women doing the same work. DNC speakers mentioned the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the first bill President Obama signed into law. The bipartisan bill extended the time period to bring pay discrimination claims. There are several bills this Congress that focus on closing the gender wage gap. Learn more.

Many DNC speakers called for student debt reform. Last year, Congress passed a two-year extension of the Perkins loan program, which allows undergraduate students to obtain student loans on per need basis. Free college tuition was mentioned by several speakers, a policy promoted by Sen. Bernie Sanders [I, VT] who introduced the College for All Act.

3. TPP
Many in the DNC this week held signs referencing the TPP, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement between twelve Pacific Rim countries that was finalized earlier this year. Presidential advisors are encouraging Congress to approve the deal during the lame-duck session after the November election. Several Congressional leaders, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Harry Reid have said it is unlikely. What do you think?

Many speakers mentioned gun-related legislation. Following the Orlando shooting, there have been several bipartisan efforts to introduce, debate, and vote on gun-related legislation, such as increasing background checks, denying firearms to those on the terrorist watchlist, and closing the “gun show loophole.” To draw attention to the issue, Democratic Senators held the floor for 15 hours in a filibuster in mid-June, and House Democrats held a 25-hour sit-in on the chamber floor a week later. Catch up on what’s been happening.

The hacking and release of 19,000+ DNC emails was mentioned several times at the convention. In response, bipartisan Senate Judiciary leaders asked Attorney General Loretta Lynch and FBI Director James Comey for more details surrounding the hack. Meanwhile, top Democrats on House and Senate Intelligence called for the release of classified reports on the DNC hack.

What's happening with the energy bill?

Before adjourning for seven week recess, the House and Senate agreed to convene a conference committee on major energy legislation introduced last September. The last time the two chambers convened a formal conference to negotiate major energy bill was 2005.

Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015 (S. 2012
Sponsor: Sen. Lisa Murkowski [R, AK]

Senate version covers five main areas: efficiency, infrastructure, supply, accountability, and conservation reauthorization. The Obama administration praised parts of the bill but has voiced concerns over how to implement some of the provisions. Senate passed bill in April by vote of 85-12. See how your Senators voted.

North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act Policy Modernization Act of 2015 (H.R. 8
Sponsor: Rep. Fred Upton [R, MI-6]

House version is narrower and received a veto threat from the White House. The "engrossed House amendment" includes several passed bills put up by House Natural Resources, House Energy and Commerce, House Transportation and Infrastructure, and House Agriculture. This means House replaced Senate version with its own version. House passed bill largely along party lines, by vote of 241-148. See how your Representative voted.

HR 8 timeline

So now, Members head to conference to reconcile differences between their respective versions of legislation. Going to conference is one of the final steps of "regular order" in the legislative process — when House and Senate appoint conferees to meet and work out differences in different versions of similar bills that passed both chambers. According to U.S. Constitution, chambers must pass identical legislation for the bill to leave Congress and be signed by the President.


Legislative Lowdown: States Edition

  • Missouri Supreme Court overturned law that capped unemployment benefits for laid-off workers at 13 weeks. The law was approved by the legislature and vetoed by Gov. Jay Nixon [D]. Although the House overrode the veto in spring, the Senate did not act on the veto override until September. The Court held that the Senate waited too long to act and allowing the veto override to stand would violate the state’s constitution.
  • North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory [R] signed several bills into law this week. One bill creates a statewide district of five underperforming schools, to be turned over to charter school management companies.
  • Arizona became the last state to ensure that all low-income children receive health insurance. Under the new program, children whose parents make too much to receive Medicaid but still do not have health insurance will be covered.
  • Pennsylvania legislature adjourned this week without voting on several high-profile bills regarding pension reform, updates to statute of limitations on child sexual abuse cases, abortion restrictions, and anti-discrimination protections. When lawmakers return in September, they will have until November 30 to vote on these bills.  
  • Georgia Court of Appeals ruled that a man who recorded videos up a woman’s skirt did not violate the state’s privacy laws
  • Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner [R] signed the Citizen Privacy Protection Act into law this week. The legislation would require law enforcement officers to gain court approval for using cell-site simulators (aka stingrays) which can locate and track a person’s cell phone without their knowledge. 
  • Virginia Supreme Court ruled that Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s executive order to restore voting rights to over 200,000 felons exceeded his clemency powers and violated the state constitution. Court held that the governor could only restore voting rights on a case-by-case basis. In response, Gov. McAuliffe [D] said he will sign 200,000 individual restoration orders.
  • US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit struck down North Carolina's voter ID law. The three-judge panel remarked that upholding the law would overlook the "inextricable link between race and politics" in the state.
  • New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie [R] said he would not sign a Democratic proposal to increase the state’s gas tax in exchange for tax reforms, such as eliminating the estate tax, reducing taxes on retirement funds, increasing the Earned Income Tax, and providing new tax breaks for veterans and commuters.
  • Alaska Supreme Court invalidated a state law requiring pregnant minors to obtain parental consent before receiving an abortion. 


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.