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Gavel Down

GAVEL DOWN: Closing out the Week in Congress (Feb. 6-10, 2017)

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Lots of sleep deprivation this week following marathon Senate session…

 

House passed bill to extend privacy protections to old emails. Senate confirmed three more nominees in historic confirmation sessions in more ways than one. House passed three more resolutions aimed at reversing executive rules. President Trump signed executive orders focused on law enforcement officers and Justice Department. Appeals court maintained freeze on travel ban executive order. House Democrats gathered for annual policy retreat. Senate scheduled three confirmation votes for next week.

 

Email Privacy  |  Congressional Review Act  |  Three Confirmed Nominees  |  Executive Orders  |  Travel Ban  |  Congressional Retreat  |  Cabinet and Agency Appointments  |  ICYMI: Around the Capital  |  ICYMI: Around the Country

 


House passed email privacy bill


House passed bill to extend privacy protections to older emails by voice vote. The bill would update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, law that allows law enforcement to access emails without a warrant if the emails are at least six months old. This legislation would remove the six month distinction.

Sound familiar? That's because this was the most co-sponsored bill in the 114th Congress and then reintroduced this Congress. Last Congress it passed the House and then stalled in the Senate. Let your lawmakers know what you think!

 

 


House passed three CRA resolutions disapproving of executive rules


The Congressional Review Act (CRA) was in the spotlight again this week. House passed three disapproval resolutions that now head to the Senate. Catch up on how CRA disapproval resolutions work and weigh in on other resolutions waiting for Senate consideration.

 

 


POPVOX Confirmed Nominees DeVos Price Sessions

 

Three more Trump nominees confirmed, bringing total to nine confirmed

 

This week the Senate voted to confirm three more Trump nominees – Betsy DeVos (Education Secretary) Jeff Sessions (Attorney General), and Tom Price (Health and Human Services Secretary). It was a very eventful week in the Senate, with Senate Democrats forcing two all-night sessions to delay confirmation votes, leading to a full 57 hours in session — second in length only to the 1960 82-hour session on the Civil Rights bill.

In other Senate milestones, the DeVos vote on Monday was the first cabinet nomination in U.S. history to require the Vice President to use his position as President of the Senate to break a tie.

Then on Tuesday, during the debate over the nomination of then-senator / now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Senate voted to discipline Senator Elizabeth Warren [D, MA] for reading a letter from the late Coretta Scott King, which a majority of senators said violated the rarely-invoked Rule XIX:

"no Senator in debate shall, directly or indirectly, by any form of words impute to another Senator or to other Senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator."  Read the full rule

Fun facts about Rule 19? It was created following an all out brawl in the Senate and includes little known provision that entitles former presidents to address the Senate with appropriate notice.

Sessions is now the first attorney general from Alabama.


 

What happens if my member leaves Congress?

Good question! This week we saw Tom Price (representing Georgia's sixth congressional district) and Jeff Sessions (serving as Alabama's senator) depart Congress to serve as Health and Human Services Secretary and Attorney General, respectively. 

For Senate vacancies, the state's governor appoints a replacement (lookin' at you 17th Amendment). The replacement holds the seat until the end of the senator's current term or until a special election can be held.

Vacancies in the House typically take longer to fill because the Constitution dictates that a representative can only be replaced by an election held in the congressional district of the former representative. 

So in the case of Sessions, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley announced replacement Luther Strange, and Senator Strange was sworn in within 24 hours of Sessions being confirmed for Attorney General.

To fill Price's vacancy, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal called for a special election on April 18. The people of the affected congressional district do not have voting representation in the House during the vacancy period, but the office's staff remains open and operating under the supervision of the Clerk of the House. This allows the office to continue working on pending constituent casework and provide limited services.

 


President Trump signed executive actions focused on law enforcement officers, DOJ


President Trump signed three executive orders related to law enforcement officers and one executive order restructuring the order of succession within the Department of Justice (DOJ).

President Trump signed the orders related to violent crime and violence against law enforcement officers on Thursday, during Jeff Sessions' swearing in ceremony. Later that day Trump signed order outlining the order of succession should the attorney general be unfit to serve, reversing executive order President Obama signed shortly before leaving office. 

 

Order: Task Force
Directs DOJ to form a task force to reduce violent crime.

 

Order: Plan to Protect law enforcement officers
Directs DOJ to implement a plan to "stop crime and crimes of violence against law enforcement officers."

 

Order: Transnational Criminal 
Directs DOJ and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to "undertake all necessary and lawful action to break the back of criminal cartels."

 

Order: DOJ Order of Succession
Outlines the order of succession if the attorney general dies, resigns, or becomes incapacitated. 

 


Travel Ban Executive Order in the Courts


On Thursday, the 9th Circuit Appeals court upheld the decision by U.S. District Judge James Robart to halt President Trump's travel ban. (The 9th Circuit technically denied the "stay" of the temporary restraining order that froze the ban until there was time for a full review of its legality). Read the unanimous decision.
 
Nearly 137,000 people tuned in to the oral arguments in the case, the highest number ever registered since the 9th Circuit became the first appeals court to livestream its proceedings. (Cameras are still prohibited in the Supreme Court).

While the President initially tweeted intent to appeal the denial of stay to the Supreme Court, on Friday he suggested that he was considering a "brand new" executive order on the topic.

 



House Democrats gather for annual policy retreat


House Democrats spent three days in Baltimore for annual policy retreat. The theme was "Fighting for All Americans," and members participated in sessions on national security, fake news, civil rights, and the economy. Similar to last month's Senate Democrats' retreat, House Democrats discussed the 2016 presidential election and outlined election plans for 2018.

Congressional Republicans gathered for their annual retreats last month. Catch up here!

 


Three confirmation votes set for next week, two withdrawals, and one hearing scheduled


Senate scheduled three confirmation votes, meaning next week every senator will vote on these nominees. Be sure to share your thoughts with your senators!

No longer being consideredVincent Viola, President Trump's pick for Army Secretary, withdrew from the confirmation process, citing business ties. Chuck Cooper (one of two finalists for solicitor general) withdrew from consideration, saying he wasn't prepared for a "grueling confirmation process."

Scheduling note — Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) scheduled confirmation hearing for Andy Puzder (Secretary of Labor nominee) for next Thursday (Jan. 17), following four postponements due to missing ethics and disclosure paperwork.

Legislative lowdown — Senate Finance Chair Orrin Hatch confirmed that U.S. Trade Representative nominee Robert Lighthizer will require a waiver from Congress due to his history of representing foreign governments in the legal system.


 

#ICYMI: Around the Capital


 

#ICYMI: Around the Country


Please keep in mind that highlighting specific legislation 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.

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