GAVEL DOWN: Closing out the Week in Congress (Oct. 17-21, 2016)
It may be recess, but there’s plenty going on…
Worldwide leaders agreed on landmark deal to counter climate change, but folks still aren’t sure if it requires ratification from the Senate. Major cures package is likely to come up during lame-duck session, and lawmakers are calling for investigations into prescription drug price increases.
Last week, negotiators from more than 170 countries reached a legally binding deal to counter climate change by reducing worldwide use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). The international agreement falls under the Montreal Protocol, and it’s unclear whether the Senate will need to ratify the deal.
So what is the Montreal Protocol?
Well the long name is the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, and it’s an international treaty designed to protect the ozone layer by phasing out the production of ozone depleting substances. It was agreed to in 1987 and has undergone eight revisions, including this most recent revision in Kigali, Rwanda.
What does the Senate have to do with treaties?
The Constitution gives the President the power to commit the United States to treaties, but only with the advice and consent of two-thirds of the Senate.
So does the Senate need to ratify this new revision?
The jury’s still out! From agency officials to lawmakers to law experts, several parties are analyzing the pact and determining whether it requires ratification from the Senate.
House Democrats divided on Cures package,
expected to come up for vote during
upcoming lame-duck session
This week House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said House Democrats do not unanimously back the 21st Century Cures package, which is expected to come up for a vote during the upcoming lame-duck session.
The Cures package focuses on speeding up the development of medical treatments and cures. The House passed the bill by a vote of 344-77 last year, whereas the Senate passed several specific innovation bills. Now the chambers are working to reconcile differences amid disagreements over funding to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and changes to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) device approval pathways.
Sens. Bernie Sanders [I, VT] and Elijah Cummings [D, MD] questioned ARIAD Pharmaceuticals about Iclusig, a drug used to treat chronic myeloid leukemia. The price of the drug has increased four times this year, amounting to an overall increase of 27%.
Meanwhile, Rep. Dan Kildee [D, MI-5] wants Congress to investigate Valeant Pharmaceuticals' decision to increase the price of a drug used to treat lead poisoning. The list price of calcium disodium versenate has increased by roughly 2,700% since 2013.
There is a related bill pending in Congress that addresses high prescription drug costs. The Prescription Drug Affordability Act of 2015 (S. 2023 / H.R. 3513) would “empower Medicare to negotiate pharmaceutical prices, allow consumers to import cheaper drugs from Canada, and require companies to disclose the prices they charge overseas.”
Sen. Tom Carper [D, MD] traveled to Mexico and Central America to discuss the root causes of migration the the United States.
Rep. Tom MacArthur [R, NJ-3] collected supplies to help people in North Carolina affected by the flood.
Rep. Steve Israel [D, NY-3] celebrated 16 years in the House of Representatives.
- America's high school graduation rate hit record high.
- 27 million Americans are still uninsured.
- STD rates in America hit record high, according to new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- One thousand more people have been shot in Chicago this year compared to the same time last year.
- Average premium for Medicare Part D prescription drug insurance plans will increase by 9% next year.
- There's a new website making 8,200 Congressional Research Service reports available to the public.
- More police officers have been killed in the line of duty this year than all of last year combined.
- United States hit new milestone — 200 million registered voters for the first time in history.
- Bipartisan group of 48 lawmakers requested a briefing on Yahoo surveillance program.
- House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady plans to move GOP tax reform plan next year.
- Sen. Chuck Schumer has a style all his own.
- President Obama held final state dinner, welcoming Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.
- Retired four-star general Jeff Cartwright pleaded guilty to lying to FBI investigators as they examined leaks about a secret government hacking program directed at Iran's nuclear program.
- House Ethics is reviewing an "unspecified allegation" about Rep. Marlin Stutzman [R, IN-3].
- Just how much do folks make once they leave Congress?
- Sen. Chuck Schumer [D, NY] said Trans-Pacific Partnership could get done if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell brings it to the floor in lame duck. Said it's "iffy" for House to get a majority.
- President Obama reminded folks that government doesn't work like a start-up.
- House Democrats may delay leadership elections.
- President Obama shared his workout playlist.
- Environmental Protection Agency's inspector general released report saying the agency should have issued emergency order seven months prior.
- Three federal banking regulatory agencies rolled out proposed cybersecurity rules.
- Vice President Joe Biden drove his '67 Corvette and did an American burnout.
- Obama administration is considering an unprecedented cyber operation against Russia in retaliation for Russia's alleged role in election hacks.
- Congressman John Lewis's March: Book 3 became a National Book Award Finalist. It's the first time in nearly 60 years that a sitting member of Congress has earned such an honor.
- Connecticut judge threw out a lawsuit by families of Sandy Hook victims against a gun manufacturer. Judge invoked the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) which has received lots of attention in the past year including Blumenthal bill and Schiff bill to repeal the PLCAA.
- When it comes to Washington, Silicon Valley's outspending Wall Street.
- Florida Supreme Court ruled that Florida's new death penalty is unconstitutional, rather jury recommendations to impose the death penalty must be unanimous. Refresher: U.S. Supreme Court overturned state's old law in January because it allowed judges, not juries, to impose capital sentences.
- T-mobile was ordered to pay millions in fines after federal regulators determined that its "unlimited" data plans were, in fact, limited.
- Presidential candidates squared off in final debate. Here's the transcript, biggest moments, and related bills.
- Federal magistrate judge recommended that a transgender girl be able to use the girls' locker room at her Illinois high school, ruling against group of parents seeking injunction.
- There's a referendum going down in the Florida Keys over whether to introduce genetically modified mosquitoes in an attempt to reduce the population of mosquitoes transmitting the Zika virus.
- What happens if there is a tie in the Electoral College?
- Department of Energy is considering small-scale hydropower projects to reduce high energy costs in Alaska.
- Puerto Rico Gov. Alejandro García Padilla rolled out the commonwealth's fiscal plan proposal. Now a congressionally established federal oversight board will review the plan and suggest changes.
- BP is considering expanding its U.S. wind power business thanks to green energy tax credit Congress extended.
- Iraqi, Kurdish, and allied forces launched an operation to retake Mosul from the Islamic State. Mosul is the second-largest city in Iraq and has been under ISIS control for the last two years.
- France's National Assembly passed "YouTube tax" that would apply 2% levy on all streaming video.
- European Union ministers are considering new Syria sanctions to stop Aleppo strikes.
- Russia deployed new military infrastructure in its far northeast, not far from Alaska.
- Warring parties in Yemen agreed to a 72-hour ceasefire.
- Thailand's legislature is considering amending its controversial cybercrime law to widen scope of government spying.
- Turkish jets launched 20+ airstrikes on a U.S.-backed group of Kurdish militia in northern Syria, killing as many as 200 troops.
Congress is back home working, and we're sending a recess version of Gavel Down — full of how current events relate to Congressional happenings, as well as updates on major legislation. 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.