It was the first week of recess but the week was anything but dull… 

Lots of agency movement this week regarding surveillance, prescription opioids production, prepaid credit cards, and prescription drug prices. President Obama signed three bills into law you’ve heard mentioned throughout the year. United Nations Security Council nominated a new Secretary-General. Historic hurricane brought heavy wind and rain, and members of Congress worked back home holding field hearings, visiting facilities, and sending letters to agency officials. 

Bills Become Law  |  Hurricane Matthew  |  Congress Goes Home  |  Around the Capital  |  Around the Country  |  Around the World  

Three bills you've heard about made it to the finish line

Sound familiar? Today, President Obama signed three bills into law that we've covered in Gavel Down previously.

The first bill provides additional protections for sexual assault survivors. The Senate passed the bill unanimously in May, and the House did the same in September. The legislation aims to standardize how sexual assault cases are handled across states with varying jurisdictions. 

Survivors' Bill of Rights Act of 2016 (H.R. 5578)
Sponsor: Rep. Mimi Walters [R, CA-45] 

House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte and Ranking Member Zoe Lofgren teamed up to make the legislation a reality. Read more about how it all began from the Los Angeles Times.

The next bill requires baby-changing stations in public buildings. Last month, House passed the bill by a vote of 389-34, and the Senate passed by unanimous consent. 

Bathrooms Accessible in Every Situation Act (H.R. 5147)
Sponsor: Rep. David Cicilline [D, RI-1]

The bill's author Rep. David Cicilline [D, RI-1] introduced the measure in response to constituents' experiences visiting his office in a federal building without any baby changing tables.

The last bill provides tax exemption for Olympic athletes returning home with medals and prizes. The House passed the legislation by a vote of 415-1 in August. The Senate passed by unanimous consent shortly after. 

United States Appreciation for Olympians and Paralympains Act of 2016 (H.R. 5946)
Sponsor: Rep. Bob Dold [R, IL-10]

Previous Congresses have taken up similar measures but this one made it all the way.


Photo: Petro Giannakouris, The Associated Press

United Nations Security Council nominated New Secretary-General

This week the United Nations Security Council unanimously nominated former Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres to be the next Secretary-General.

For several months, there's been speculation and unofficial straw polls, and the vote came this week in a closed-door meeting. All five permanent members were among the "encourage" votes, the only members with veto power.

Guterres would become the U.N.'s ninth Secretary-General and the first former statesman to become the world's top diplomat. Guterres previously served as U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, where he reformed the agency and responded to the largest displacement crisis since the end of World War II

Check out a timeline of U.N. Secretaries General

"He is a person who talks to everybody, listens to everybody, speaks his mind, a very outgoing, open person so I think it was a great choice and I'm glad that we rallied around Mr Guterres."
— Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin and UNSC President

That's nice. So what is the Secretary-General?
The Secretary-General of the United Nations is the head of the U.N. Secretariat, the division administering and coordinating U.N. activities. The Secretary-General acts as the spokesperson and leader of the United Nations.

What happens now?
The General Assembly is expected to meet next week to approve the nomination. The current Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon of South Korea will step down at the end of the year after serving two terms. 

So the folks that nominated him, who are they?
The U.N. Security Council (UNSC) holds primary responsibility for the “maintenance of international peace and security.” The Council is divided into permanent and non-permanent members. China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States permanently serve on the Council. Ten non-permanent members are elected for two-year terms, generally based on achieving equitable representation among geographic regions. There are no guarantees as more than 60 United Nations Member States have never been members of the Security Council.

So who’s on the current Council?
5 permanent members: China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States
10 non-permanent members: Angola, Egypt, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Senegal, Spain, Ukraine, Uruguay, Venezuela.

What does the UNSC do?
UNSC is the only United Nations body with the authority to issue binding resolutions to member states. Any state may bring a dispute to the attention of the Security Council, but only UNSC members can vote when deciding upon resolutions, sanctions, and operations.

Responsibilities include:

  • Accepting new members to the United Nations
  • Approving any changes to the United Nations Charter
  • Establishing peacekeeping operations
  • Authorizing military action through Security Council resolutions
  • Issuing diplomatic or economic sanctions

Hurricane Matthew brought wind and rain to Southeast U.S., significant damage and loss of life in the Caribbean 

Category 3 hurricane Matthew brought heavy wind and rain to the southeastern United States. Earlier in the week, the storm brought significant damage and loss of life in Haiti, Jamaica, Cuba, and the Bahamas.

President Obama signed emergency declarations for FloridaSouth Carolina, and Georgia. The declarations authorize the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to coordinate disaster relief efforts, including mobilizing and providing equipment and resources. Emergency measures will be provided at 75% federal funding. 

Track the storm and take necessary precautions. Stay safe, folks!


What were your lawmakers up to this week?

Rep. Dan Kildee [D, MI-5] led a roundtable discussion about the health of students in Flint, Michigan.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers [R, WA-5] discussed drug pricing and reimbursement transparency with local pharmacists

Bipartisan group of senators sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack regarding greater protections for horses from soring.

Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions subcommittee held a field hearing on rising prescription costs and EpiPen price increases.

Sen. Joe Donnelly [D, IN] sent a letter to Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald regarding provision to enable the VA to restore GI Bill benefits for veterans who were enrolled at ITT Tech at the time of the college’s closure.

Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer [R, MO-3] held Constituent Service Days, responding to constituents’ issues and questions.

Rep. Pete Aguilar [D, CA-31] visited new Ambulatory Care Center for veterans.

Rep. Ann Wagner [R, MO-2] mourned the loss of Officer Blake Snyder of the St. Louis County Police Department.

Rep. Gerry Connolly [D, VA-11] hosted issues forum for seniors.

Rep. John Culberson [R, TX-7] toured the Addicks and Barker dams with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

#ICYMI: Around the Capital

#ICYMI: Around the Country

#ICYMI: Around the World