POPVOX Gavel Down_Closing Out the Week in Congress_Jan_11_15_2016

Gavel Down: Closing out the week in Congress

President Obama delivered his final SOTU. Congress passed a soon-to-be-vetoed resolution disapproving a new water regulation, the Senate failed to advance a bill to audit the federal reserve, the House took steps to tighten sanctions on North Korea, and Speaker Ryan showed House Members what "gavel down" really means.


Top Search on POPVOX this week:  "gun"

 
Most active bill on POPVOX this week:
Federal Reserve Transparency Act of 2015 (S. 2232)

 

 

 

 

 


Audit the Fed bill did not advance in the Senate

The Senate considered a bill from Sen. Rand Paul [R, KY} to require an audit of the Federal Reserve. By a vote of 53-44, the bill did not reach "cloture" to end debate and proceed to a vote, which requires 60. Read more from The Hill.


President Obama delivers final State of the Union address

 
On Tuesday, President Obama delivered his final State of the Union Address to a joint session of Congress. Read the full text on Medium. (Follow POPVOX for annotations and links to bills.) Watch the speech on CSPAN.

 

 

 

For the fourth year in a POPVOX tweeted along, with links to bills that got a mention. (Walk down memory lane with the tweets from 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012.)

 

 


POTUS will veto WOTUS CRA resolution

This week, the House passed a resolution (253 YAYS – 166 NAYS) leveraging the "Congressional Review Act" to "disapprove" a new EPA and Army Corps regulation that expands the definition of the "Waters of the United States," protected by the Clean Water Act. The President is expected to veto the resolution.

The Congressional Review Act (CRA) gives Congress sixty “session days” to overturn a rule issued by the Executive branch. Read more from the Congressional Research Service.  While forty-seven CRA resolutions have been introduced since 1996, only two have passed both houses and only one rule has been disapproved by Congress — the Department of Labor rule on ergonomics. It’s pretty tough for a CRA resolution to  succeed in its attempt to invalidate an administrative rule, because it is usually subject to a veto by the very executive whose administration issued the rule in the first place (i.e. the President.) The special circumstance in the successful case was that incoming President George W. Bush opposed the rule and signed the CRA resolution that was waiting for him upon his inauguration.

Speaker Ryan wrote an op-ed for the Omaha World-Herald, detailing his opposition to the rule.


Congress moves on North Korea

On the heels of last week's nuclear test by North KoreaHouse passed bill that would impose harsher sanctions. The North Korea Sanctions Enforcement Act (H.R. 757) passed 418-2 — with Reps. Amash [R, MI-3] and Massie [R, KY-4] in opposition.

If you normally think of sanctions coming from the executive branch, you're not wrong. It's a somewhat unusual step by Congress but within congressional authority. The legislation is aimed at reducing financial assets that are used to develop nuclear weapons. It would target foreign companies doing business with North Korea, reduce North Korea's access to U.S. financial markets, and authorize the U.S. to sanction any entities transferring assets to North Korea.

In the past, Senate bills that would impose sanctions on North Korea have not moved as quickly. Members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee were briefed in a closed hearing on Monday, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell [R, KY] said the Senate will take up similar legislation soon.


137 House Members pull tardy card

Tardiness when voting continues to be a problem in the House. Speaker Ryan lectured Members last week — saying Members should attempt to make it to the House floor within the prescribed 15-minute voting period.

This week Speaker Ryan sent a clear message that he means business. The Iran Terror Finance Transparency Act (H.R. 3662) hit the House Floor on Wednesday. There's been lots of talk surrounding the bill that would give Congress increased oversight over the Iran nuclear deal. Reps. Royce [R, CA-39] and Engel [D, NY-16] wrapped up arguments and a 15 minute vote began.

15 minutes came and went, and 137 members had not voted. "They closed it," said Rep. Steve Stivers [R, OH-15]. "They need to learn."

Speaker Ryan, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy [R, CA-23], and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer [D, MD-5] huddled together to devise a solution. The vote was vacated, and the House will re-vote on Jan. 26 — when sanctions on Iran will have begun being lifted already.


Addressing Puerto Rico's debt crisis

One of the three House committees with jurisdiction over legislation affecting Puerto Rico's debt held a hearing this week. The House Committee on Natural Resources examined the circumstances that led to Puerto Rico's $73 billion debt crisis — specifically the state-owned and self-regulated monopoly Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) that serves as Puerto Rico's public utility.

Several legislative proposals exist, including declaring bankruptcy, creating a "superbond" to restructure debt into a single bond, and imposing austerity measures and cutting the size of Puerto Rico's government.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid [D, NV] wants to create a task force of six to eight senators who would devise a legislation solution by the end of February.


Legislative Lowdown: States Edition


Data Drop

  • Pentagon posted latest costs for #ISIL operations: averaging $11.2M per day since Aug. 2014.
  • New Gallup poll finds that Americans who identify as "Independents" tend to lean toward one party and vote with that party — suggesting independent voters aren't much different than partisans when it comes to voting.
  • The Chronicle of Higher Education unveiled new project tracking colleges and universities and possible Title IX violations involving sexual assault complaints.
  • Pew reported that 21 states lack a local newspaper with a dedicated D.C. reporter covering Congress

#ICYMI 


Weekend Reads

"Puerto Rico's Debt Crisis and the 1975 Law Complicating Matters" by Mary Williams Walsh, The New York Times

"A Modest Proposal to Restore Bipartisanship to SOTU" by former senators, POLITICO

"Iran Commercial Activities: Update on Foreign Firms Reported to Have Engaged in Iran's Energy or Communications Sectors" U.S. Government Accountability Office

EPA and the Army Corps’ “Waters of the United States” Rule: Congressional Response and Options Congressional Research Service 


 

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.

POPVOX Weekly Update_The Week Ahead in Congress_January_11_15_2016

WEEKLY UPDATE: The Week Ahead in Congress

This week: Senate returns and Obama's final State of the Union

Washington will be back in full swing this week as the Senate returns and the President addresses a joint session on Tuesday evening with his final State of the Union Address. On tap in the Senate: advancing a bill to “Audit the Fed.” In the House, government transparency, oversight of Iran and North Korea and “disapproving” the Administration's “Waters of the United States” rule from the EPA.


In the Senate: Auditing the Fed

In the Senate, the first major vote of the Second Session of the114th Congress will be Senator Rand Paul’s “Audit the Fed” bill, to require a full audit of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System and the Federal reserve banks by the Comptroller General of the United States. The Senate will hold a cloture vote on Tuesday.

  S. 2232 FEDERAL RESERVE TRANSPARENCY ACT OF 2015

Sponsor: Sen. Rand Paul [R, KY]"The legislation, S.2232, would eliminate restrictions on the U.S. Government Accountability Office audits of the Federal Reserve and mandate that the Federal Reserve's credit facilities, securities purchases, and quantitative easing activities be subject to congressional oversight," according to the sponsor.

 

 

 

 

 

In the House: Restrictions on Lifting Iran Sanctions

The House will vote on a bill that would prevent the Obama administration from lifting sanctions on Iranian banks and government officials until certifications are submitted to Congress — verifying the entities were not involved with nuclear proliferation or terrorist activities.

  H.R. 3662 IRAN TERROR FINANCE TRANSPARENCY ACT

Sponsor: Rep. Steven Russell [R, OK-5]

This bill prohibits the President from removing sanctions on foreign financial institutions until the President makes two certifications to Congress: (1) that the institution has not knowingly facilitated transactions or provided significant financial services for or on behalf of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps or any of its agents, a foreign terrorist organization, or a person whose property or property interests are blocked pursuant to the IEEPA in connection with Iran's proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. (2) that the institution no longer knowingly engages in illicit or deceptive financial transactions or other activities.

・  ・  ・

Requiring Investigations of North Korea Nuclear Threat

Also in the House: a bil from Foreign Affairs Chairman Rep. Ed Royce [R, CA-39] to require the President to investigate threats by North Korea. The bill passed committee in February 2015 by voice vote. The House plans to take up the bill this week in response to North Korean claims that it conducted a successful hydrogen bomb test (notwithstanding skepticism from nuclear experts about the claim.)

H.R. 757 THE NORTH KOREA SANCTIONS ENFORCEMENT ACT

Sponsor: Rep. Ed Royce [R, CA-39]     BIPARTISAN    

This bill requires the President to investigate any credible information of sanctionable activities involving North Korea and to designate and apply sanctions with respect to any person (including entities) knowingly engaging in or contributing to activities in North Korea, through export or import, which involve weapons of mass destruction, significant arms or related materiel, significant luxury goods, money laundering, censorship, or human rights abuses.

 

 

 

 


 

Government Transparency and Accountability

This week the House will vote on several bills to regarding public access to government information:

  H.R. 653: FOIA OVERSIGHT AND IMPLEMENTATION 2015 

Sponsor: Rep. Darrell Issa [R, CA-49]        BIPARTISAN    

"The FOIA Oversight and Implementation Act of 2015 would establish a presumption of openness for releasing information while creating electronic accessibility for frequently released information.  The Issa-Cummings bill would also strengthen oversight and review of FOIA compliance, as well as dispute resolution from the Office of Government Information Services," according to the sponsors.

  S. 1115: GONE (GRANTS OVERSIGHT AND NEW EFFICIENCY) ACT

Sponsor: Sen. Deb Fischer [R, NE]        BIPARTISAN    

"This legislation would require agencies to close out expired, empty grant accounts. It would also require federal agencies to identify exactly why those accounts were never closed in the first place," according to the sponsors.

  H.R. 598: TAXPAYERS RIGHT-TO-KNOW ACT

Sponsor: Rep. Tim Walberg [R, MI-7]        BIPARTISAN    

"The  legislation requires each federal agency to produce an annual report that identifies every program with a description of the program and its costs," according to the sponsors.

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

Blocking New Water Regulations

Two proposals in the House this week would block the Obama Administration's implementation of new environmental regulations:

The bill would prevent implementation of new regulations limiting coal extraction in a newly established "buffer zone" around streams and waterways. According to the bill's sponsor, "the bill would prevent the administration from implementing a new stream buffer zone rule intentionally designed to shut down all surface mining and a significant section of underground mining in the Appalachian region.”

The resolution seeks to invalidate the "Waters of the United States" rule, which refines the definition of the term determining which "waters" fall under the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act. The vote will attempt to leverage the Congressional Review Act, which allows for Congress to invalidate a rule from the executive. Though, given the potential for a veto, these resolutions rarely hit their mark (only one has ever been enacted.) Read more about the Congressional Review Act and Congressional attempts to invalidate Obama Administration environmental rules.

Also in the House this week:

 

  S. 142: CHILD NICOTINE POISONING PREVENTION ACT OF 2015

Sponsor: Sen Bill Nelson [D, FL]         BIPARTISAN    

This bill requires any nicotine provided in a liquid nicotine container to be packaged in accordance with the Consumer Product Safety Commission's (CPSC's) standards and testing procedures for special packaging that is difficult for children under five years of age to open or to obtain harmful contents from.

  H.R. 1777: PRESIDENTIAL ALLOWANCE MODERNIZATION ACT

Sponsor: Rep. Jason Chaffetz [R, UT-3]        BIPARTISAN    

"The legislation would set pensions for former presidents at $200,000 and survivor benefits for spouses would increase to $100,000, adjusted annually to reflect the Social Security cost of living increase. Under the proposed bill, the annual allowance for costs associated with post-presidential life, including travel, staff, and office expenses, would be reduced dollar-for-dollar for every dollar of outside income earned by a former president in excess of $400,000. This would have no impact on funding for security or protection," according to the sponsors.

  H.R. 1069 PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY DONATION REFORM ACT OF 2015     

Sponsor: Rep. John Duncan [R, TN-2]         BIPARTISAN    

Requires each presidential library fundraising organization to submit quarterly reports to the National Archives and Records Administration on every contributor who gave the organization a contribution or contributions (whether monetary or in-kind) totaling $200 or more for the quarterly period.

  S. 1629: DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA COURTS, PUBLIC DEFENDER SERVICE, AND COURT SERVICES AND OFFENDER SUPERVISION AGENCY ACT OF 2015

Sponsor: Sen. Ron Johnson [R, WI]        BIPARTISAN    

A bill to provide the District of Columbia Courts (D.C. Courts) and the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia (PDS) with the same authority that federal courts and federal agencies have to offer voluntary separation incentive payments, or buyouts, to their employees.

 

  H.R. 3231: FEDERAL INTERN PROTECTION ACT OF 2015

Sponsor: Rep. Elijah Cummings [D, MD-7]

The measures would protect unpaid interns who work at federal agencies. According to the sponsors, the bills would:

  • Define “intern” as someone who performs uncompensated voluntary service in an agency to earn credit awarded by an educational institution or to learn a trade or occupation;
  • Extend workplace protections against discrimination and harassment to unpaid interns; and
  • Close existing loopholes that permit discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin as prohibited by section 717 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; age as prohibited by Sections 12 and 15 of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967; and handicapping condition as prohibited in section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

 


Tuesday: President Obama's Last State of the Union

On Tuesday night at 9 PM ET, Members of Congress will join cabinet members, ambassadors, Supreme Court justices and honored guests for President Barack Obama's final State of the Union address.

South Carolina governor Nikki Haley will deliver GOP response, fueling talk that she is the establishment choice for the VP slot on an eventual GOP ticket. Author, Wayne Allyn Root will deliver the Tea Party response.

Think nothing ever comes of what gets discussed in the SOTU? Think again.

Washington watchers look to the First Lady's guest list for clues about the major themes of the speech, and this year is no different. Guests will include:

  • A Vacant Seat for the Victims of Gun Violence
  • Sue Ellen Allen (Scottsdale, AZ), Criminal Justice Reform advocate
  • Gloria Balenski (Schaumburg, IL), Letter Writer on economic recession
  • Jennifer Bragdon (Austin, TX), Community College Student
  • Edith Childs (Greenwood, SC), Greenwood County Councilmember who started the “Fired up!” “Ready to go!” chant
  • Cynthia “Cindy” K. Dias (Las Vegas, NV), Veteran, Veterans Homelessness Advocate
  • Mark Davis (Washington, D.C.), Small Business Owner
  • Cary Dixon (Huntington, WV), Mother, Opioid Reform Advocate
  • Lydia Doza (Klamath Falls, OR // Anchorage, AK), College Student, STEM Advocate
  • Refaai Hamo (Troy, MI), Syrian Refugee
  • Lisa Jaster (Houston, TX), Major, U.S. Army Reserve, Ranger School Graduate
  • Mayor Mark Luttrell (Shelby County, TN), Shelby County Mayor
  • Gov. Dannel P. Malloy (Hartford, CT), Connecticut Governor
  • Braeden Mannering (Bear, DE), 12-year-old student, founder of Brae’s Brown Bags
  • Satya Nadella (Bellevue, WA), Microsoft CEO
  • Jim Obergefell (Cincinnati, OH), plaintiff in marriage equality case Obergefell v. Hodges
  • Chief Kathleen O’Toole (Seattle, WA), Police Chief, Community Policing
  • Ryan Reyes (San Bernardino, CA), partner of victim of San Bernardino shooting
  • Ronna Rice (Greeley, CO), Small Business Owner
  • Cedric Rowland (Chicago, IL), ACA lead navigator for Near North Health Service Corporation
  • Naveed Shah (Springfield, VA), U.S. Army Veteran
  • Earl Smith (Austin, TX), Veteran
  • Spencer Stone (Sacramento, CA), Staff Sergeant, U.S. Air Force who prevented act of terrorism on Paris train
  • Oscar Vazquez (Fort Worth, TX), Veteran, DREAMer,

Watch President Obama's invitation to the SOTU:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

POPVOX Gavel Down_Closing Out the Week in Congress_Jan_4_8_2016

Gavel Down: Closing Out the Week in Congress

The House returned for the second session of the 114th Congress, starting with a long-awaited vote on the reconciliation bill to repeal parts of Obamacare and defund Planned Parenthood (which was promptly vetoed). President Obama ruled the headlines, with announcement of executive actions to address mass shootings — and the responses that the policy drew. North Korea and Iran policy again moved to the forefront, and will likely be the focus when the Senate returns next week, and when President Obama gives his final State of the Union address on January 12.

Top Search on POPVOX this week: "guns"

 
Most active action on POPVOX this week:
 
(POPVOX occasionally makes policy proposals available for input that have not been formally introduced as bills in Congress.)
POPVOX most active Jan 3-8

Executive Actions on Gun Control — and Congressional Responses

President Obama ruled the headlines this week, with his announcement of new executive policies to address gun violence. The announced actions include requests for more resources for law enforcement, steps to close the "gun show loophole" on background checks, and an emphasis on technology and increasing mental health treatment.

Members of Congress responded along party lines: Speaker Ryan expressed strong opposition. Senators called for a hearing on the efficacy of gun-related research done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Members of the House Appropriations committee sent a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch discouraging any requests for funding to implement the President's policies.

Several related bills were introduced in Congress this week:

Reconciliation Passed and Vetoed

As expected, the House passed the Budget Reconciliation bill on Wednesday. By a vote of 237-177, the House sent the bill to eliminate much of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and de-fund Planned Parenthood to the President's desk.  Also as expected, the President vetoed the bill on Friday afternoon.
 
 

House advances changes to the regulatory process

The House also passed several regulatory reform bills, including the Searching for and Cutting Regulations that are Unnecessarily Burdensome (SCRUB) Act (H.R. 1155) that would create a bipartisan panel to review federal regulations with the ability to sunset or eliminate them. The Sunlight for Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act (H.R. 712) would limit the practice of "rulemaking through litigation," in which interested parties sue agencies and the resulting consent decrees, settlements or compelled outcomes result in new regulations. The bills now go to the Senate.
 

North Korea

North Korea announced it conducted a successful hydrogen bomb test. Nuclear experts are skeptical about the claim (saying the size of the blast was consistent with an atomic explosion), but the news of the nuclear explosion spurred lawmakers to revisit long-delayed legislation that would expand sanctions against North Korea.

Monday's nuclear blast was the fourth nuclear test from North Korea and the first since February 2013. The House is now preparing a bipartisan package of new economic sanctions in response. The legislation would target foreign companies doing business with North Korea, reduce North Korea's access to U.S. financial markets, and authorize the U.S. to sanction any entities transferring assets to North Korea.

House Foreign Affairs Chairman Rep. Ed Royce [R, CA-39] introduced The North Korea Sanctions Enforcement Act (H.R. 757) last year. The committee marked up the bill in February 2015 and passed it by voice vote, but the bill did not make it to the House Floor for a vote.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said the bill is "ready to go" and House leadership sources say a vote is scheduled for Tuesday (1/12). Senate Committee on Foreign Relations will hold closed hearing on Monday.

Nuclear Weapons: Who Has Them?

Nuclear Weapons in the World

Source: CNN

Iran

The House Committee on Foreign Affairs cleared a bill that would prevent the Obama administration from lifting sanctions on Iranian banks and government officials until certifications are submitted to Congress — verifying the entities were not involved with nuclear proliferation or terrorist activities.

The Iran Terror Finance Transparency Act (H.R. 3662) would give Congress increased oversight over Iran nuclear deal and is scheduled for a vote next week.

Hours after House Foreign Affairs advanced the bill, Secretary of State John Kerry spoke on the progress of executing the nuclear deal. The legislation would interfere with the Obama administration's implementation plans. He cited "significant results" such as last week's enriched uranium stockpile delivery to Russia. "We are days away from implementation if all goes well," Kerry said.

Senate is expected to vote on Iran Sanctions Act (S. 1682) later this month. The legislation would extend a package of sanctions set to expire next year, but there's talk that such a move would constitute a violation of the Iran nuclear deal.

Puerto Rico Debt Crisis

Several bills have been introduced to address Puerto Rico's debt crisis.

The Puerto Rico Emergency Financial Stability Act would place a stay on creditor lawsuits through March in an effort to help Puerto Rico's financial situation until "comprehensive relief" legislation can be passed. The Duffy bill would grant Chapter 9 bankruptcy in exchange for a federal fiscal control board on Puerto Rico, whereas the Puerto Rico Assistance Act would address the island's $73 billion debt crisis without allowing bankruptcy.

Speaker Paul Ryan set March 31 deadline for House committees to devise a legislative fix.

TPP

The Trans-Pacific Partnership received three major endorsements this week: National Association of Manufacturers, Business RoundtableU.S. Chamber of Commerce. The endorsements were expected, but support from the private sector is crucial in convincing GOP leaders to vote and ratify the agreement before year's end.

So what's next?

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said TPP shouldn't come to a vote until after the 2016 elections, whereas Speaker Paul Ryan hasn't ruled out a vote before November. House Ways & Means Chairman Rep. Kevin Brady [R, TX-8] said House Republicans will discuss the TPP's future at annual legislative retreat next week.

Coming Up: State of the Union

President Obama will give his final State of the Union address on January 12, 2016 at 9 PM ET (National Journal has some advice from other second-termers on the special nature of the last speech.)
South Carolina governor Nikki Haley will deliver GOP response, fueling talk that she is the establishment choice for the VP slot on an eventual GOP ticket. Author, Wayne Allyn Root will deliver the Tea Party response.

On Friday, the White House announced that one seat in the First Lady's box will remain empty during the speech, "for the victims of gun violence who no longer have a voice." The Washington Post reports that Laura Bush also left an empty chair at a previous SOTU speech, in memory of those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001.

 

Report from CES

While Washington returned to work this week, several lawmakers and Administration officials were on hand for the annual Computer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Drones, Virtual Reality, and Autonomous Cars were everywhere on the show floor, with new technologies spurring policy questions.
  • Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman, Edith Ramirez, discussed privacy and security for companies that collect significant amounts of consumer data. (The FTC released a report with recommendations for companies using "big data.")
  • Federal Communications Commission Chairman, Tom Wheeler, predicted a "spectrum extravaganza" for the largest ever auction of television and wireless spectrum, planned for later in the year. He also gave a shout-out to talk show host, John Oliver, for driving interest and participation around Net Neutrality rulemaking last year.
  • Federal Aviation Administrator, Michael Huerta, announced that drone registrations had reached 181,061 since the site went live on December 21, 2015.
  • The federal government also showed up in an unexpected place this year, as US Marshals raided and confiscated the booth of a Chinese company accused of violating the patents of American Future Motion one-wheel scooter.

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Legislative Lowdown: States Edition

  • Alabama sued the federal government — accusing the Obama administration of violating the Refugee Act of 1980 by not properly contacting local officials about resettling Syrians.
  • Georgia lawmaker pre-filed a medical marijuana bill.
  • California governor Jerry Brown released his $170.7 billion budget that will add $2 billion to the state's rainy day fund and includes a tax on health insurers.
  • A Missouri lawmaker introduced a bill that would expand the term "gift" for purposes of lobbyist disclosures to include sexual relations between a lobbyist and lawmaker.
  • A federal three-judge panel selected a new congressional map for Virginia.

 

Congressional Productivity

ICYMI

Weekend Reads

"2016 in Congress: Five Things to Watch" by Molly Reynolds, Brookings

"Why Polls Have Been Wrong Recently" by Nate Cohn, The New York Times

"Can Congress maintain its 2015 momentum in 2016?" by Bruce P. Mehlman and David Castagnetti, The Hill

"Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020" from The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture

"Guns Are Our Shared Responsibility" by Barack Obama, The New York Times Opinion Pages

Issue Spotlight: Weigh in on the President’s Executive Actions to Combat Gun Violence

This week, President Obama announced that his administration will undertake a series of executive actions to “keep guns out of the wrong hands.”

POPVOX has created a special page where you can find out more and weigh in on this proposal by choosing to “support” or “oppose” and posting a personal comment that will be shared with the White House and your Members of Congress.

ADD YOUR VOICE

Your comment (with your chosen screen name and Congressional district) will also be listed in the POPVOX public tally — now cataloged by the Library of Congress for the U.S. Digital Archives — and shared with journalists across the country.

The White House describes these steps in its Fact Sheet:

  1. Keeping guns out of the wrong hands through background checks.
  2. Making communities safer from gun violence.
  3. Increasing mental health treatment and reporting to the background check system.
  4. Shaping the future of gun safety technology.

The President will discuss the plan  in a televised live town hall meeting on Thursday night, hosted by CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

This is a neutral, apples-to-apples, straight-to-decisionmakers, transparent, public, verified tally of actual input from constituents. POPVOX is not a poll. it is a chance for those who care enough to raise their voice on the issue, to do so effectively.

What do you have to say?

POPVOX Weekly Update_The Week Ahead in Congress_January_4_8_2016

WEEKLY UPDATE: The Week Ahead in Congress

Congress slowly returning to session

This week Members will make their way slowly back to Washington to begin the second session of the 114th Congress. The Senate is out for another week while the House will gavel in on Tuesday afternoon and take its first big vote of the year on Wednesday — on the Reconciliation bill repealing parts of Obamacare and defunding Planned Parenthood. An announcement is expected from the other side of Pennsylvania Avenue this week, as President Obama prepares an executive action on gun control.


In the House: Reconciliation

By now you know — "reconciliation" is an expedited process for special bills that reduce the budget deficit to come up for consideration in the Senate without a 60-vote cloture threshold. The current reconciliation bill, H.R. 3762 from Rep. Tom Price [R, GA-6], would repeal key parts of the Affordable Care Act: the individual mandate, the employer mandate, and the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), and would defund Planned Parenthood for one year.

The bill passed the House on 10/23/15 with a vote of 240-189 and passed the Senate on 12/04/15 with a vote of 52-47. The bill is expected to pass Congress this week and head to President Obama's desk, where it will be vetoed.

H.R. 3762: RESTORING AMERICANS' HEALTHCARE FREEDOM RECONCILIATION ACT OF 2015

 

The House will also vote on several bills that would bring changes to the regulatory system and class action lawsuits.

H.R. 1155: SCRUB ACT OF 2015

The SCRUB Act (Searching for and Cutting Regulations that are Unnecessarily Burdensome" is designed to identify and eliminate outdated and ineffective regulations. The legislation put a bipartisan, BRAC-style commission in place to review regulations and make recommendations for repeal,” according to the sponsor.

H.R. 712: SUNSHINE FOR REGULATORY DECREES AND SETTLEMENTS ACT OF 2015

Sponsor: Rep. Doug Collins [R, GA-9]

The bill "seeks to end the practice of enacting federal regulations through sue-and-settle litigation"… According to the sponsor: "“Regulation by litigation subverts the normal regulatory process, denying Americans, especially Northeast Georgians who depend on agriculture, a seat at the national table. This bill would shed light on backroom deals between federal agencies and special interests – increasing transparency to provide the public its say in executive decision-making. This Administration’s rush to settle with litigious outside groups is costing us jobs and income. We’re giving more people a voice in the outcome."

H.R. 1927: FAIRNESS IN CLASS ACTION LITIGATION ACT OF 2015

Sponsor: Rep. Bob Goodlatte [R, VA-6]

 “The Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act is a simple, one-page bill, that furthers a common sense principle that should apply to class action lawsuits in the future. Only those people who share injuries of the same type and extent should be part of a class action lawsuit,” according to the sponsor.


Presidential Action on Gun Control

While details are still emerging, President Obama has said that he will announce a gun control initiative this week, with a television town hall planned for Thursday evening. (Read more on the proposed action from CNN and the Washington Post.)

We at POPVOX are working to help you weigh in on the proposal, with a "non-bill action" that will send your comments not just to Congress, but also to the White House. We will have more information on that once the proposal is unveiled. Be sure to check the POPVOX blog throughout the week for more details. If you work with an organization that will release a statement or conduct a campaign on the proposal, get in touch for more information.

Many bills have been introduced in Congress regarding gun control, background checks, and Second Amendment rights. Here is a sample:

THE DENYING FIREARMS AND EXPLOSIVES TO DANGEROUS TERRORISTS ACT (S. 551 and H.R. 1076)

A bill to "deny the transfer of a firearm or the issuance of a firearms or explosives license or permit (or revoke such license or permit) if the Attorney General: (1) determines that the transferee is known (or appropriately suspected) to be engaged in terrorism or has provided material support or resources for terrorism, and (2) has a reasonable belief that the transferee may use a firearm in connection with terrorism. Allows any individual whose firearms or explosives license application has been denied to bring legal action to challenge the denial."

S. 874: THE SECOND AMENDMENT ENFORCEMENT ACT

Denies the District of Columbia any authority to enact laws or regulations that discourage or eliminate the private ownership or use of firearms for legitimate purposes; repeals current Firearms Control Regulations Act (FCRA) definition of a machine gun as any firearm designed to shoot more than 12 shots without manual reloading; repeals the ban on semiautomatic weapons; and the District's registration requirement for possession of firearms, eliminates criminal penalties for possession of unregistered firearms… among other provisions

H.R. 2380: GUN SHOW LOOPHOLE CLOSING ACT OF 2015

"make[s] it unlawful for any person to operate a gun show unless such person: (1) has attained 21 years of age; (2) is not prohibited from transporting, shipping, or receiving firearms and has not violated any federal firearms requirements; (3) has registered with the Attorney General as a gun show operator and has provided a photograph and fingerprints; (4) has not concealed material information nor made false statements in connection with a gun show operator registration; and (5) notifies the Attorney General of the date, time, and duration of a gun show not later than 30 days before the commencement of such show and verifies the identity of each vendor at the gun show."

H.R. 3051: BACKGROUND CHECK COMPLETION ACT

To eliminate the requirement that a firearms dealer transfer a firearm if the national instant criminal background check system has been unable to complete a background check of the prospective transferee within 3 business days.

H.R. 2994: SAFER COMMUNITIES ACT OF 2015

To protect individuals by strengthening the Nation's mental health infrastructure, improving the understanding of violence, strengthening firearm prohibitions and protections for at-risk individuals, and improving and expanding the reporting of mental health records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

H.R. 4269: ASSAULT WEAPONS BAN OF 2015

Sponsor: Rep. David Cicilline [D, RI-1]

"To regulate assault weapons, to ensure that the right to keep and bear arms is not unlimited, and for other purposes."

 

 

 

 

 

 


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.

 

 

 

POPVOX Gavel Down 2015

Gavel Down: Closing out the Year in Congress: 2015

A staggering amount of policy made its way through the Capitol Hill maze in the first session of the 114th Congress — including big bills on transportation, education, tax, and spending.

Omnibus

The funny term you've seen floating around refers to the BIG end-of-year spending bill. Think of it like a bus (hence the name). Several smaller spending bills that did not make it out of the appropriations process on their own try to catch a ride on the 'bus. In the end, several bills will ride together in one big spending bill. This can make voting difficult if a Member supports some policy riders but not others.

The $1.1 trillion omnibus included bills with levels and conditions on spending across the federal government, including: the intelligence authorization bill, the Cybersecurity and Information Sharing (CISA) bill, reauthorization of health benefits for 9/11 first responders and repeal of the ban on crude oil exports. Learn more about what was included in the appropriations bill.

How did your Senator vote?      How did your Representative vote?

 

 

 

New Speaker On The Block

John Boehner shocked everyone when he retired abruptly this October — after serving as Speaker of the House since 2011. "Last night I started thinking about this," he said. "I said my prayers as I always do, and I decided, you know, today's the day I'm going to do this. As simple as that."

After much back and forth between top GOP Representatives, Rep. Paul Ryan [R, WI-1] was persuaded to throw his name in the running and was elected with 236 votes. Paul D. Ryan took the oath of office as the youngest Speaker of the House since 1869. This is only the fifth time in the last century the House has voted mid-term to elect a new Speaker.

 

Bipartisan Budget Deal

Boehner made good on his pledge to "clean the barn" and led the House in passing a bipartisan budget deal. The Senate passed the budget deal at 3 am, delayed by objections from Presidential candidates Sen. Rand Paul [R, KY] and Sen. Ted Cruz [R, TX]. Sen. Pat Toomey [R, PA] also voiced concerns, saying the bill "fails to address our overspending problem." The Senate passed the deal 64-35, and it was quickly signed into law by President Obama.

 

Reconciliation Bill

You've heard the word reconciliation tossed around a lot this year — what does it mean? Reconciliation is an expedited process that offers some procedural advantages: it needs the support of a simple majority in the Senate, and cannot be filibustered. The reconciliation bill you've been hearing about is H.R. 3762 from Rep. Tom Price [R, GA-6]. This bill includes language to repeal key parts of the Affordable Care Act: the individual mandate, the employer mandate, and the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB). It would also defund Planned Parenthood for one year.

The bill passed the House on 10/23/15 with a vote of 240-189 and passed the Senate on 12/04/15 with a vote of 52-47. Speaker Paul Ryan said the House will put the Senate-amended reconciliation bill on the House floor the first week lawmakers return in January 2016. It is expected to pass and then head to President Obama, who has threatened to veto the legislation.

Reconciliation sentiment

 

 

 

Education Reform

 

Sens. Lamar Alexander [R, TN] and Patty Murray [D, WA] spearheaded the effort to overhaul the No Child Left Behind law. House and Senate lawmakers met in conference and agreed to a bipartisan, bicameral compromise, with a vote of 39-1 to endorse the deal. Sen. Rand Paul [R, KY] was the lone dissenter — not present but voting "no" by proxy — opposing any federal government role in public schools.

The Every Student Succeeds Act passed the House on 12/2/15 with a vote of 359-64 and passed the Senate on 12/9/15 with a vote of 85-12. 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. "Basically we're back to an era that encourages local and state innovation rather than Washington telling you what to do," said bill sponsor Sen. Lamar Alexander [R, TN].

 

Perkins Loan Program

House passed 2-year extension of Perkins loan program by voice vote. "Extending the Perkins Loan program ensures those in severe financial need will continue to have the certainty to help achieve their higher education goals," said the bill sponsor. The Senate agreed to the bill by unanimous consent. President Obama signed the bill into law on Dec. 18, 2015, making it Public Law No: 114-105.

 

Tax Extenders Package

Congress passed $622 billion "tax extenders" package on Dec. 18, 2015. "Tax extenders" are carve-outs in the tax code that give special treatment to certain activities. They are usually only authorized for one year and must be "extended" — giving way to a massive annual lobbying scramble for reauthorization from almost every corner of Washington.

This year's package many of the deductions and credits that are usually renewed each year and made some permanent, in addition to changes to some Treasury Department (and IRS) policies.

Permanent provisions include:

  • Child Tax Credit
  • Earned Income Tax Credit
  • Teacher's Out-of-Pocket expense deduction ($250/year)
  • Mass transit benefits excluded from income (same as parking benefits)
  • State and local sales tax deduction (for people who do not pay state income tax)
  • Research and Development (R&D) credit
  • Wage credit for employers of active duty military
  • 15-year straight-line cost recovery for qualified leasehold improvements (restaurant and retail)
  • Section 179 property expensing
  • 100% exclusion for gains on small business stock
  • Low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC)

Learn more about the tax extenders package. It passed the House with a vote of 318-109, with only three Republicans voting against the bill: Reps. Justin Amash [R, MI-3], Chris Collins [R, NY-27], and Walter Jones [R, NC-3].

How did your Representative vote

It passed the Senate with a vote of 65-33. How did your Senator vote?

 

Transportation Reform

After years of short term solutions, Congress passed the Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act (H.R. 22) — the first long-term transportation bill to pass Congress in more than a decade. The bill combines elements from the DRIVE Act (S. 1647) and the STRR Act (H.R. 3763). From funding levels to policy provisions, the bill is far-reaching and spends $296 billion over five years. "I'm proud. I'm relieved. We are in dire need of this," said Sen. Barbara Boxer [D, CA].

The 1,300+ page bill includes several changes that affect anyone using the nation's roads, bridges, and transit systems, including:

  • Passenger rail operators can operate long-distance routes currently run by Amtrak
  • Auto employees and contractors who "whistleblow" safety violations may soon collect a percentage of penalties imposed by the government
  • States such as Missouri, North Carolina, and Virginia have one year to determine tolls or be passed over in the pilot program, allowing other states to apply to the to apply
  • Raises the civil penalty the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration can impose upon automakers who fail to report safety defects within five days to $105 million from $35 million

 

Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF)

From beginning to end, 2015 has been marked by the term AUMF. You've heard it tossed around in presidential debates and used as a call-to-action in President Obama's Oval Office Address.

What is an AUMF and why is it needed? The President must notify Congress within 48 hours of ordering U.S. armed forces for a military operation overseas. These forces cannot operate in a deployed status for more than 60 days without a congressional declaration of war or an authorized use of military force (AUMF).

As the second half of the 114th Congress begins, several versions of authorization exist but none have been approved. The New York Times published an interactive tool to compare the various authorization plans. For example, the Graham bill authorizes "all necessary and appropriate force," with no restrictions on ground troops, whereas the president's draft expressly does not authorize use of forces in "enduring offensive ground combat operations." The drafts by the president, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Kaine-Flake all limit authorization to three years — the Graham bill has no time limits.

Despite recent calls from the President and lawmakers for a war authorization, both Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Congress is unlikely to pass a new authorization to fight the Islamic State — fearing a new authorization would constrain the next commander in chief.

Should Congress authorize the use of force against ISIS?

Weigh in now: President's draft, Graham bill, Kaine-Flake bill, Schiff bill, Kinzinger bill, Rigell-Welch bill

 

Medicare Deal

With overwhelming bipartisan support, leaders of both parties came together to produce a bill that would repeal the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) — a method used to control spending by Medicare on physician services. The long-awaited "doc fix" prevented a 21 percent cut in Medicare's physician fees. "This is what we can accomplish when we focus on finding common ground," said then Speaker John Boehner.

 

Mental Health Reform

Speaker Ryan called on Congress to pass mental health legislation — following shootings in both Colorado and California. "We want to see this process all the way through," said Speaker Paul Ryan. "We're really serious about our mental health legislation." Speaker Ryan cited the bill in multiple interviews when asked about gun violence.

When you read about the mental health bill, it's most likely referencing the Murphy bill (H.R. 2646). This bill includes provisions to increase the number of psychiatric hospital beds available (by lifting restrictions on Medicaid paying for certain care), to change health privacy law HIPAA (to allow caregivers and family members more information about a mentally ill person's care), and award a 2 percent increase in federal grants to states with assisted outpatient treatment (AOT) laws (where judges can mandate patients with serious mental illness seek treatment).

The Energy and Commerce health subcommittee advanced the bill last month, but consideration by the full committee has been put off until lawmakers work out new language. "I think that Dr. Murphy realizes that we're really not trying to kill the bill, we just have deep feelings that we've got to do something a little different to make it work right legally," said Rep. Morgan Griffith [R, VA-9].

The Senate quietly passed Comprehensive Justice and Mental Health Act (S. 993 / H.R. 1854). It received very little attention and reportedly, some some staffers weren't aware of the bill's passage. The lack of messaging surrounding the bill surprised many. The bill focuses on the criminal justice system — namely providing support for state and local officials in identifying people with mental illnesses within the criminal justice system.

 

Pope Addressed Congress

In a historical first, Pope Francis became the first pontiff to address a joint meeting of Congress. He urged Congress to "move forward together, as one, in a renewed spirit of fraternity and solidarity" — calling for a new era of bipartisanship. Speaker Boehner referenced "the awesome sight of Pope Francis addressing the greatest legislative body in the world" when announcing his decision to retire from Congress.

 

 

International Deals and Congressional Responses

2015 was also the year of the “deal”, with several significant announcements from the President and strong responses from Congress:

  • Iran Deal On April 2, President Obama announced that the United States and the other P5+1 countries reached a “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” with Iran. In September, a Congressional resolution to disapprove the deal did not advance in the Senate, prompting Majority Leader McConnell to say that the President "won the 'short-term battle' … but that the debate will continue until Americans 'render judgment' on Election Day 2016." (Source: Fox News)

  • Cuba Deal On July 1, 2015, President Obama announced a historic deal with Cuba to reopen diplomatic relations, building on efforts to thaw relations that started with loosened travel restrictions and some new economics ties have been established. The U.S. removed Cuba from its state sponsors of terror list in May.

  • Trade Deal (TransPacific Partnership) Congress voted to give the President authority to negotiate trade agreements (“Trade Promotion Authority”) in April. The TPP deal was announced October 5, and text released on November 1. While President Obama said he wants action on the trade agreement before the end of 2015, Congress did not take action and may end up waiting for a post-election “lame duck” session in 2016 to vote on the controversial deal.

  • Climate Deal On December 12, 2015, President Obama joined world leaders to announce a global agreement to combat climate change. The announcement capped a year of efforts by the Administration to implement climate provisions, including the “Clean Power” regulatory plan announced by the Administration in August. Both efforts have been met with resistance in Congress.

Major Court Cases and Congressional Responses

  • Gay Marriage On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled by a 5-to-4 vote that all state same-sex marriage bans violate the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantees of due process and equal protection. Congressional responses

  • Voting Rights Should the entire population count when drawing electoral districts — or only the population eligible to vote? That's the question that has Supreme Court Justices stumped as they examine Texas's redistricting plan.

  • Parental Rights SCOTUS blocked an Alabama court from denying parental rights to a lesbian woamn who was granted adoption rights in Georgia.

  • Weapons SCOTUS declined to review whether cities and states can prohibit semiautomatic, high-capacity assault weapons.

State Events

 

The Year's Best Legislative Data Reports

  • When you think “average lawmaker” in America you may think white, male, Protestant, baby boomer with a graduate degree and business background – new study found that is not the case. See the legislator demographics of your state.
  • Millennials surpassed baby boomers as the largest share of the U.S. voting-age population.
  • New study from PEW found that women hold just under 25% of state legislative seats – women are more hesitant to seek political office and less likely to be recruited as political candidates.
  • The Lugar Center and Georgetown University released bipartisan index – ranking Members of Congress on how well they work across party lines.
  • The Guardian published an interactive graphic that displays gun deaths by district, along with congressional votes and campaign donations received from the gun lobby.
  • New website provides free, publicly accessible archive of 33,000 CRS research reports. New initiative is in response to complaints that Congressional Research Service reports are requested by lawmakers and then kept secret unless they choose to release the reports.

Top Bills of 2015


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POPVOX users from coast to coast messaged lawmakers about bills involving food safety, tax policy, and firearm regulations. Here’s an update on the top bills you weighed in on this year, ranked by the aggregate number of combined support and opposition.

Top 50 of 1st Session of 114th

#10  H.RES. 11 Authorizing a lawsuit against the President on Immigration Actions

Sponsor: Rep. Mo Brooks [R, AL-5]

This bill would authorize the Speaker of the House of Representatives to initiate or intervene in civil actions (on behalf of the House of Representatives) in federal court regarding the President and immigration laws.

The bill was reintroduced on the first day of the 114th Congress and referred to House Administration.


 

#9  H.R. 3762 Restoring Americans’ Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Act of 2015

Sponsor: Rep. Tom Price [R, GA-6]

This bill would repeal parts of the Affordable Care Act and defund Planned Parenthood through budget reconciliation procedure.

The bill passed the House on 10/23/15 with a vote of 240-189 and passed the Senate on 12/04/15 with a vote of 52-47. Speaker Paul Ryan said the House will put the Senate-amended reconciliation bill on the House floor the first week lawmakers return in January 2016. It is expected to pass and then head to President Obama, who has threatened to veto the legislation.


 

#8  S. 1 Keystone XL Pipeline Act

Sponsor: Sen. John Hoeven [R, ND]

This bill would have issued a permit for TransCanada to build the 1,179-mile Aberta-to-Texas oil pipeline.

The bill had quite the year: working its way through the bill lifecycle and ultimately failing to become law. The bill passed the Senate on 1/29/15 with a vote of 62-36, passed the House on 2/11/15 with a vote of 270-152 and then was presented to President Obama, who vetoed the legislation. Congress failed to pass the bill over presidential veto.


 

#7 H.R. 4269: Assault Weapons Ban of 2015

Sponsor: Rep. David Cicilline [D, RI-1] This bill would regulate assault weapons.  The bill was referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary on December 16, 2015.


 

#6  H.R. 3799 Hearing Protection Act of 2015

Sponsor: Rep. Matt Salmon [R, AZ-5] This bill would eliminate the $200 transfer tax on firearm silencers and amend the federal criminal code to preempt state or local laws that tax or regulate firearm silencers. The bill was referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, and Investigations (House Judiciary) on November 23, 2015.


 

#5  H.R. 1365 The Ammunition and Firearms Protection Act

Sponsor: Rep. Patrick McHenry [R, NC-10]

This bill would revise the definition of “armor piercing ammunition,” according to the bill sponsor.

The bill was referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, and Investigations (House Judiciary) on March 31, 2015.


 

#4  H.R. 3423 Agent Orange Extension Act of 2015

Sponsor: Rep. Timothy Walz [D, MN-1]

This bill would extend for two years the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) presumption of service connection for diseases associated with exposure to certain herbicides, including Agent Orange.

The bill was referred to the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs (House Veterans’ Affairs) on August 8, 2015.


 

#3  S. 155 / H.R. 25 The Fair Tax Act

S. 155 Sponsor: Sen. Jerry Moran [R, KS] H.R. 25 Sponsor: Rep. Rob Woodall [R, GA-7] This bill would impose a national sales tax on taxable property or services in the United States in lieu of the current income and corporate income tax, employment and self-employment taxes, and estate and gift taxes. H.R. 25 was reintroduced on the first day of the 114th Congress. Rep. Rob Woodall waits every session to introduce his “Fair Tax Act” in a way that guarantees him the same bill number. It was referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means. S. 155 was introduced on January 13, 2015 and referred to the Senate Committee on Finance.


#2  H.R. 1806 America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015

Sponsor: Rep. Lamar Smith [R, TX-21]

This bill would provide for technological innovation through the prioritization of Federal investment in research, fundamental scientific discovery and development to improve the competitiveness of the United States — namely by authorizing appropriations for FY2016-FY2017 for the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The bill passed the House on 5/20/15 with a vote of 217-205 — despite a statement from the Obama Administration strongly opposing the bill and recommending a veto. The bill appropriated $7.6 billion to the National Science Foundation (NSF), whereas the consolidated appropriations act (aka omnibus) that passed both the House and Senate on 12/18/15 appropriated $7.5 billion to the NSF.


#1  H.R. 378 Responsible Body Armor Possession Act

Sponsor: Rep. Michael Honda [D, CA-17]

This bill would prohibit the purchase, ownership, or possession of enhanced body armor, except in specified circumstances.

The bill was referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, and Investigations (House Judiciary) on February 5, 2015.

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.

Tax Extenders

Issue Spotlight: Tax Extenders (Updated) – What’s in the bill that just passed?

Updated: December 20, 2015

On Friday, December 18, 2015, Congress passed an enormous legislative package that included a $1.1 trillion “Omnibus” Spending bill and a $633 million “Tax Extenders” package.

The “Extenders” package contained a long list of tax provisions for individuals and businesses.

What is a “Tax Extender”?

“Tax Extenders” are carve-outs in the tax code that give special treatment to certain activities. They have typically been authorized for only one year and had to be “extended” every year. This annual exercise creates uncertainty for those impacted by the provisions — and a boon to lobbyists whose job it is to make sure their clients’ extensions made it into the bill each year. 

If you are a lobbyist, this history represents scalps on your belt (and client fees in your pocket). If you are a member of Congress, it is the gift that keeps on giving—countless Washington reps and their clients attending endless fundraisers, all filling your campaign coffers, election after election. – Howard Gleckman, contributor to Forbes

The near-automatic exercise of extending these provisions each year makes “getting into the extenders package” a goal for those who champion one-off provisions that benefit a narrow group. From the Research and Development (R&D) credit to encourage business innovation; the production tax credit (wind energy) and the solar tax credit that were enacted to encourage alternative energy; “bonus depreciation” for business capital expenditures, a $250 deduction for teachers who spend money out of pocket for classroom materials, low income and new market tax credits to encourage development of affordable housing and in underserved areas, and many many many more.

Over time, as new temporary provisions have been routinely extended and hence added to this package, the number of provisions that might be considered “tax extenders” has grown.” — Congressional Research Service)

Each extender has its champion and its constituency. The “package” practice brings strange bedfellows together in an “I won’t cut yours if you won’t cut mine” pact within the committees of jurisdiction.

Extenders and the quest for Tax Reform

While those committees — Ways and Means in the House and the Finance Committee in the Senate — undoubtedly benefit from the attention and lobbying scramble of the tax extenders dance, it drives their members and staffers crazy. Decades of committee meetings chronicle the complaints and laments of a ridiculous system. Chairmen of both parties, including now-Speaker Paul Ryan, have worked on tax reform packages that would have eliminated the Extenders for good as a part of larger reforms.

The quest for the great Tax Reform victory has played at least some part in thwarting many less ambitious plans over the years to rein in Extenders (a story that is familiar to those who watch the Immigration issue closely and its tension between those who advocate incremental-vs.-comprehensive efforts.)

The “Pay-Go” Challenge

The related challenge that has perpetuated the Extenders debacle is “PAY-GO.”

For several years, Congress has loosely abided by “pay-go” rules, meaning you can’t spend money without finding a way to pay for it. While not a straight appropriation, a tax break is still technically “spending” money in the world of the federal budget. Even a small tax break starts to look huge when you look at cost over many years. (Most legislative budget estimates are in ten-year chunks.) To avoid that big number (and the need to find a big “pay-for”), Congressional tax writers have consistently passed this long list of tax provisions for just one year at a time.

The strange status of these tax breaks is a testament to budget gamesmanship. Lawmakers say they want at least some of the provisions to be a permanent part of the code. But Congress’ budgeting rules require lawmakers to consider the 10-year cost of any new provision—and viewed through that lens, these breaks suddenly seem too costly for many lawmakers to pass. So they approve them as one- or two-year “extenders,” slashing the apparent price tag, and they slide right through.  —  Meet the Tax Extenders Politico


So what just happened in Congress? 

On December 18, Congress passed a $680 million tax extenders package that “split the baby,” in legislative terms: making some provisions permanent, extending some until 2019, and others for two years, until the end of 2016.*

* Things were especially hairy this year because no extenders package was passed at the end of 2014. So, Congress had extenders apply retroactively to the 2015 tax year. That may seem strange given that many of these are intended to be “incentives” rather than rewards for actions already taken. Those who benefit from the extenders say that Congress has been doing this so consistently for so long that the extenders are already baked into many business and capital planning assumptions.

Here’s what was in the 2015 Tax Extenders package, the “Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act of 2015”:

Permanent Extenders:

Personal

Child Tax Credit, American opportunity tax credit (tuition and related expenses for two years of post-secondary education), earned income tax credit, teacher’s out of pocket expense deduction $250/yr), mass transit benefits excluded from income (same as parking benefits), state and local sales tax deduction (for people who don’t pay state income tax).

Charitable

Conservation easements, tax-free IRA contributions to charity for people over age 70, deduction for donation of food inventory.

Business

Research and Development (R&D) credit, wage credit for employers of active duty military, 15-year straight-line cost recovery for qualified leasehold improvements (restaurant and retail), section 179 property expensing, 100% exclusion for gains on small business stock, low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC).

Real Estate

9% minimum credit rate for low-income housing tax credit, exclusion of military basic housing allowances for income determination for the low-income housing tax credit.

Extensions through 2019

New market tax credits; work opportunity tax credit; bonus depreciation (the most expensive tax extender, allowing half of business capital expenditures to be deducted immediately, see CRS report); look-through treatment for payments of dividends, interest, rents, and royalties between related controlled foreign corporations.

Extensions through 2016

(Expect these to show up next year as the “new” extenders package)

Individuals

Excluding “discharge of qualified principal residence indebtedness” from gross income (if, for example, an underwater mortgage sells at below fair market value, the difference is not treated as “income”); mortgage insurance premiums treated as qualified residence interest, above-the-line deduction for qualified tuition and related expenses.

Business

Indian employment tax credit, railroad track maintenance credit, mine rescue team training credit, qualified zone academy bonds, classifying certain race horses as 3-year property, 7-year recovery period for motorsports entertainment, accelerated depreciation for business property on an Indian reservation,  election to expense mine safety equipment, Extension of special expensing rules for certain film and television (and — new this year — live theatre productions), eligibility of domestic gross receipts from Puerto Rico for the domestic production deduction, empowerment zone tax incentives,  increase in limit on cover over of rum excise taxes to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, American Samoa economic development credit, moratorium on medical device excise tax.

Energy

Credit for nonbusiness energy property (30% of costs up to $1,500 for improvements such as residential exterior doors and windows, insulation, heat pumps, furnaces, central air conditioners, and water heaters), credit for alternative fuel vehicle refueling property, $2,500 credit for 2-wheeled plug-in electric vehicles, second generation biofuel producer credit, biodiesel and renewable diesel incentives, credit for Indian coal facilities, production tax credit for certain renewable sources of electricity (including wind energy), credit for energy-efficient new homes,  50-percent bonus depreciation for cellulosic biofuel facilities, energy efficient commercial buildings deduction, 50 cents per gallon alternative fuel tax credit and alternative fuel mixture tax credit,  credit for purchases of new qualified fuel cell motor vehicles.

In addition to these Extenders provisions, Congress passed several other tax provisions in the Omnibus Spending bill (passed at the same time), including:

  • Repeal of the “Cadillac Tax” on high-cost health plans
  • Moratorium on the annual fee on health insurers
  • Delay of the Medical Device Tax
  • Extension of election to treat qualified facilities as energy property
  • Extension and phaseout of solar energy credit
  • Extension and phaseout of credits with respect to qualified solar electric property and qualified solar water heating property


How much will this cost?

CRFB provides an excellent chart of the major provisions and costs, based on the work of the nonpartisan Joint-Tax Committee.

How will this affect you?

You knew this was coming… ask your tax professional. 🙂 In many ways, it may feel as if nothing has changed, since many of these provisions have been in place for many years.

 

GavelDown Li.001

Gavel Down: Closing Out the Week in Congress: Dec. 14-18

A staggering amount of policy made its way through the Capitol Hill maze  — impacting everyone and every sector of the economy. The $1.1 trillion Omnibus Spending bill and the $625 million Tax Extenders package passed early Friday morning. The House and Senate then adjourned, bringing the first session of the 114th Congress came to a close.

 

Top Search on POPVOX this week:

“gun”
Most active bill on POPVOX this week:

#Omnibus

The $1.1 trillion package passed Friday morning. The “bus” carried bills with levels and conditions on spending for operations and programs across the federal government, including: many “policy riders”, the intelligence authorization bill, the Cybersecurity and Information Sharing bill (CISA), reauthorization of health benefits for 9/11 responders, repeal of the ban on crude oil exports, and much more.

 

Omnibus Vote Breakdown - House

How did your Representative vote?

 

Omnibus Vote Breakdown - Senate

How did your Senator vote?

 

Tax Extenders Package

This year’s “Tax Extenders” package, not only continued many of the deductions and credits that are usually renewed each year, it actually made some of them permanent, in addition to changes to some Treasury Department (and IRS) policies.

Permanent provisions include: the Child Tax Credit, earned income tax credit, teacher’s out of pocket expense deduction $250/yr), mass transit benefits excluded from income (same as parking benefits), state and local sales tax deduction (for people who don’t pay state income tax), the Research and Development (R&D) credit,  wage credit for employers of active duty military, 15-year straight-line cost recovery for qualified leasehold improvements (restaurant and retail), section 179 property expensing, 100% exclusion for gains on small business stock, low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC). Read more about the full package.

 

How did your Representative and Senator vote?

 

Adjourning “Sine Die”

When the House and Senate gaveled down on Friday, they adjourned “sine die” (from the Latin “without day”), ending the first session of the 114th Congress. They will reconvene in January to begin the second session.

Bills currently pending in Congress will carry over into the next year; the 114th Congress closes at the end of 2016 (when we will have speculation about a potential post-election “Lame Duck” session.)

 

Legislative Lowdown

 

#ICYMI

 

Weekend Reads

The Bipartisan Index by The Lugar Center and Georgetown University

Give Puerto Rico Bankruptcy Protections by Bill de Blasio and Bob Buckhorn, Bloomberg

An Environmental Policy Primer for the Next President by Diane Katz, The Heritage Foundation

Parenting in America, PEW Research Center
The Paris Climate Pact Will Need Strong Follow-Up, The New York Times Editorial Board

Issue Spotlight: What’s in the #Omnibus?

Our non-exhaustive outline, drawing from committee sources, summaries, and bill text:

Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016 (The “Omnibus”)

 

A. Agriculture

  • Rural Development: $2.8 billion ($36.7 billion in loan authorizations for rural communities to address housing, electrification and telecommunication needs)
  • Natural Resources Conservation Service: $864 million
  • Food Safety
    • $1 billion for the Food Safety and Inspection Service
    • Withholds more than $57 million from the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) until the Secretary certifies that ARS has updated its animal care policies and improved procedures at its animal research facilities.
  • U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC): $250 million
  • Food and Drug Administration (FDA): $2.73 billion (total funding for the FDA, including revenue from user fees, is $4.68 billion)
  • Nutrition
    • $6.350 billion for Special Supplemental Nutrition for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
    • $23 million for the summer EBT program
    • $22.1 billion in required mandatory funding for child nutrition programs
    • $80.8 billion in required mandatory spending for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program)
  • International Food Programs
    • $1.466 billion for Food for Peace (including one-time appropriation of $250 million to address the refugee crisis in the Middle East)
    • $201.626 million for the McGovern-Dole Food for Education Program
  • Emergency Watershed Protection Program –  $130 million in disaster funding

Policy Riders:

  • Repealing mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) requirements for certain meat products. (Violated WTO standards, and would have resulted in trade retaliation by other nations if continued – negatively impacting the U.S. economy by more than $1 billion) (related bill: H.R. 2393)
  • Year delay for groceries and restaurants applying new menu labeling regulations (On July 10, 2015, FDA published a final rule to extend the compliance date to December 1, 2016.) (related bills: H.R. 2017 and S. 2217)
  • Exempting baking industries and small businesses from FDA trans-fat rules
  • Restrictions on Dietary Guidelines (pending Institute of Medicine review + requirement to include “balanced and scientific process”)
  • Flexibility to local schools to implement whole grain nutrition standards if the school can demonstrate a hardship when procuring whole grain products
  • Preventing FDA review of genome-editing tools
  • Delaying school nutrition sodium standards

B. Commerce/Justice/Science

  • Funds DOJ at $28.7 billion (FBI, U.S. Attorneys, Immigration judges, DEA, ATF, Federal Prisons)
  • $2.5 billion for various state and local grant programs
    • $480 million for Violence Against Women programs
    • $476 million for Byrne Justice Assistance Grants
    • $210 million for the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program
    • $72 million for missing and exploited children programs
    • $45 million to address the sexual assault kit backlog
    • $70 million for programs to improve police-community relations (including body cameras)
  • $19.3 billion for National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
  • $7.5 billion for NSF
  • $9.2 billion for Commerce Department (USPTO, Census Bureau, NOAA)

Policy Riders:

  • Prohibition on the transfer or release of Guantanamo detainees into the U.S.
  • Prohibition on construction of facilities in the U.S. intended for Guantanamo detainees
  • Prohibiting Dept. of Commerce from relinquishing internet management responsibility (related bills: S. 1551 and H.R. 805)
  • Second Amendment Provisions:
    • Prohibiting “gunwalking”
    • Prohibiting license requirement to export gun parts to Canada under $500
    • Prohibiting DOJ from denying permit for importing “curios or relics” related to firearms, parts or ammunition of U.S. origin
    • Prohibiting DOJ from denying permit for importing shotguns
    • Prohibiting funds to implement the UN Arms Trade Treaty
  • Prohibiting Legal Services Corp grantees from abortion-related litigation
  • No funds can be used for abortions (except where life of the mother in danger)
  • Prohibiting overhaul to Census questions re: health insurance coverage
  • Addressing supply chain risk assessments for major DOJ IT acquisitions
  • Prohibiting NASA and the Office of Science and Technology Policy from engaging in bilateral activities with China unless specifically authorized by Congress
  • Prohibition on agencies denying information access to Offices of Inspector General

 C. Defense

  • $58.6 billion for ongoing military operations abroad
  • $32.3 billion for the Defense Health Program for our troops, military families, and retirees
  • $111 billion for new equipment and upgrades
    • 68 F-35 Joint-Strike Fighters
    • 102 Blackhawk Helicopters
    • 64 Remanufactured Apache Helicopters
    • Three Littoral Combat Ships
    • Two Attack Submarines
    • Two DDG-51 Guided Missile Destroyers
    • Seven EA-18G Growlers and five F-18E/F Super Hornets
    • 12 KC-46 Tankers
  • Prohibits funding for transfers of Guantanamo detainees to the U.S.
  • $288.3 million for sexual assault prevention and response programs
  • $69.8 billion in base for Research and Development
  • 1.3% pay raise for military personnel
  • $26.7 million for the Defense Suicide Prevention Office
  • $231.2 million for Formerly Used Defense Sites Environmental Restoration
  • $250 million for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative
  • $715 million for the Iraq Train and Equip program
  • $527.6 million for Israeli cooperative missile defense programs and tunnel detection

D. Energy and Water

  • $2.1 billion for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.
  • $5.35 billion for the Department of Energy Office of Science
  • $291 million for the Advanced Research Projects Agency
  • $206 million for activities to modernize the electricity grid
  • $6.2 billion for environmental cleanup activities
  • $8.8 billion for Weapons Activities
  • $1.94 billion for Nuclear Nonproliferation
  • $1.4 billion for Naval Reactors
  • $6.0 billion for the Army Corps of Engineers
  • $1.2 billion is for Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund
  • $1.3 billion for water resources projects within the Department of Interior
  • $146 million for the Appalachian Regional Commission

Policy Riders:

  • prohibiting change in definition of “fill material”
  • restricting the application of the Clean Water Act in certain agricultural areas, including farm ponds and irrigation ditches
  • prohibiting funding for the “light bulb” standard
  • Continuation of funding for Yucca mountain to maintain readiness for future use

E. Financial Services

  • $11.9 billion for the Department of the Treasury
  • $11.235 billion for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) (Current level)
    • A prohibition on funding for videos or conferences unless approved by the “Service-Wide Video Editorial Board” “taking into account the cost, topic, tone, and purpose of the video.”
    • Prohibition on funding to target organizations for regulatory scrutiny based on their ideological beliefs or for exercising their First Amendment rights
    • A prohibition on a proposed regulation related to political activities and the tax exempt status of 501(c)(4) organizations
    • Prohibition on funding for improperly disclosing confidential taxpayer information
    • Prohibition on funds for preparing tax returns, with certain exceptions;
    • A prohibition on funds for bonuses or to rehire former employees unless employee conduct and tax compliance is given consideration
    • A prohibition on funding for the White House to order the IRS to determine the tax exempt status of an organization
    • A requirement that the agency report on spending activities and official time
  • $6.8 billion for the Judiciary
  • $729.8 million for the District of Columbia
  • $1.605 billion for the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)
  • $871 million for the Small Business Administration (SBA)
  • $691.8 million for the Executive Office of the President
  • $10.2 billion for the General Services Administration (GSA) Federal Buildings Fund (FBF)
  • $9.6 million for the Election Assistance Commission (EAC)

Policy Riders:

  • Prohibiting funds from being used for abortions under FEHBP except in the case of rape or incest or if the life of the mother is in danger (same as current law)
  • Prohibiting federal funds for needle exchange programs under certain conditions (same as current law)
  • Prohibiting federal funds to carry out District of Columbia laws to reduce penalties associated with schedule I substances; and prohibits both Federal and local District of Columbia funds to enact a law to legalize or reduce penalties associated with schedule I substances (same as current law)
  • Prohibition on the use of funds for painting portraits of government employees
  • Prohibition on funding for all agencies in the bill, including the IRS, to conduct email searches in violation of the Fourth Amendment
  • Exemption until 2025 for broadcast companies from FCC TV ownership rules that would force them to undo joint sales agreements or sell stations
  • Extends the Internet Tax Freedom Act for another year
  • Prohibits funds from being used in fiscal year 2016 to finalize or implement the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s proposed rule on recreational off-highway vehicles until a study is completed by the National Academy of Sciences

F. Homeland Security

  • $50 million in new funding to help state and local communities counter violent extremism and prepare for and respond to complex, coordinated terrorist attacks
  • Up to $10 million for Immigrant Integration grants through U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
  • Exemption from the H-2B visa cap in fiscal year 2016 for workers who held H-2B visas in 2013, 2014, or 2015
  • $11 billion for customs and border protection, including $1.2 billion in investments in border security and air operations
  • $5.8 billion for ICE to strengthen enforcement of immigrations and customs laws
  • Full funding for E-Verify
  • $7.4 billion for disaster relief – fully funding FEMA’s stated requirement for fiscal year 2016.
    • $2.5 billion for first responder grants
      • $1.5 billion for state and local grants
      • $690 million for Assistance to Firefighter Grants
      • $350 million for Emergency Management Performance Grants.
  • The bill specifically does not fund the President’s climate change initiatives within FEMA and NPPD.

 G. Interior and Environment

  • $8.139 billion for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  • $4.2 billion for wildfire fighting
  • $2.9 billion for the National Park Service
  • Prohibiting funding for proposed rule to list the greater sage-grouse under the Endangered Species Act
  • Prohibiting funding for EPA to regulate lead content of ammunition
  • $4.8 billion for Indian Health Service
  • $1.5 billion for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • $450 million for Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), with 50%+ to state and local recreation, conservation, and battlefield protection programs
  • Prohibition on administrative creation of new wilderness areas

H. Labor/Health and Human Services/Education

  • $32 billion for the NIH (Alzheimer’s disease research, brain research, antibiotic research, Precision Medicine Initiative)
  • $7.2 billion for the CDC
  • $70 million to increase the efforts to combat prescription drug overdose abuse
  • $160 million to support the Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention
  • $160 million for the Preventive Health & Health Services Block Grant
  • Ban on “risk corridor” adjustment
  • Blocks use of Prevention and Public Health Fund (PPH Fund) for other expenses
  • Cuts the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) by $15 million
  • Directs the Inspectors General at HHS and the Treasury Department to report on improper payments of ObamaCare tax subsidies
  • Require the Department of Labor to accept private wage surveys in the H-2B program
  • Exempt seasonal contractors offering recreational services or recreational equipment rental on federal land from Executive Order 13658 (minimum wage for contractors)
  • Exempt certain rural long-term care hospitals for one year from a revision in billing rates for treating patients with severe wounds
  • Block a change in reimbursement policy for breast cancer screening, mammography, and breast cancer prevention (will continue to be covered by insurers without a copay)
  • Allows state or local public health departments to use federal funds for support services related to syringe exchange programs, as long as the federal funds do not purchase the syringes
  • Continuation of an annual provision to prevent HHS from discriminating against health care providers who refuse to provide, pay for, or refer for abortions
  • Ban on federal funding for abortions except in cases of rape, incest, or endangerment of the life of the mother
  • Ban on creating embryos for research purposes, or federal funding of research in which embryos are destroyed
    Requiring public comment and transparency in Occupational Safety and Health Administration processes
  • Rolling back labor regulations restricting H-2B program.
  • Ending NLRB electronic voting regulations for union elections

I. Legislative Branch

  • $1.2 billion to fund the operations of the House
  • $375 million for the Capitol Police (increase of $27 million)
  • $612.9 million for the Architect of the Capitol
  • $600 million for the Library of Congress (Copyright Office, the Congressional Research Service, collections for the blind and physically handicapped, and other LoC programs)
  • $556 million for the Government Accountability Office (to provide Congress with accurate, nonpartisan reporting of how taxpayer dollars are spent)
  • $117 million forGovernment Publishing Office (GPO)

J. Military Construction/Veterans Affairs

  • $8.2 billion for military construction projects
  • $135 million to upgrade infrastructure needed for deterrence to counter Russian aggression and address threats from the Middle East and Africa
  • $1.4 billion to fund construction, operation, and maintenance of military family housing
  • $623 million for construction and alterations for new or existing military medical facilities
  • $334 million for essential safety improvements and infrastructure work at ten DoD Education Activities facilities
  • $551 million for construction or alteration of Guard and Reserve facilities in 30 states
  • $162.7 billion for the Department of Veterans Affairs
  • $50 billion for VA medical services
    • $1.5 billion for Hepatitis C treatment
    • $7.5 billion in mental health care services
    • $605 million for family caregivers of seriously injured veterans
    • $144 million in suicide prevention activities
    • $232 million for traumatic brain injury treatment
    • $6.7 billion in homeless veterans treatment, services, housing, and job training
    • $270 million in rural health initiatives.
  • $233 million for the VA electronic health record & requirement that the VA create an interoperable system – in a timely and cost-effective fashion
  • $2.7 billion for the costs of processing disability claims
  • $1.2 billion for major construction
  • VA Mandatory Funding (veteran disability compensation and pension program, post-9/11 GI bill education benefits, vocational rehabilitation and employment training)
  • Expansion of whistleblower protection for VA medical staff

K. State/Foreign Operations

  • $53 billion in total funding
  • $8.9 billion for international security assistance (including international narcotics control, nonproliferation programs, peacekeeping operations, and other critical international security and stabilization efforts, and $408 million for anti-terrorism programs)
  • $3.1 billion commitment to the United States-Israel Memorandum of Understanding
  • $16.3 billion for the operational costs of the State Department and related agencies
  • $5.6 billion for embassy security
  • $1.5 billion for USAID
  • $24 billion for bilateral assistance to foreign countries (prioritized to support global health and humanitarian assistance
  • Maintains the fiscal year 2015 level for migration and refugee assistance.
  • Additional funds available if needed to respond to humanitarian crises overseas, but not for the domestic refugee resettlement program
  • $2.8 billion for the International Disaster Assistance program

Policy Riders:

  • Prohibition on the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and Export-Import Bank from blocking coal-fired or other power-generation projects in low and lower-middle income countries that increase the export of U.S. goods or services and prevent the loss of U.S. jobs
  • Reforms of the International Monetary Fund (IMF)
  • Abortion-related policies:
    • The “Tiahrt Amendment”
    • The “Helms Amendment,” which bans foreign aid from being spent on abortions
    • The “Kemp-Kasten Amendment,” which prohibits funds to organizations the President determines to support coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization
    • Reduction of $2.5 million for the UN Population Fund (UNFPA)
  • Requirement that the State Department report to Congress on agreements with other countries to accept detainees from Guantanamo Bay
  • Prohibition on funding for the renovation of the UN Headquarters in New York
  • Prohibition on appropriations for the new London embassy
  • No funding for debt relief for foreign countries
  • Prohibition on aid to Libya until the Secretary of State confirms Libyan cooperation in the Benghazi investigation
  • Prohibition on funding to implement the UN Arms Trade Treaty
  • Prohibition on funding for the State Department and USAID for private email accounts or servers. Requirement for the State Department and USAID to ensure all departing employees turn over records belonging to the federal government
  • Prohibition on funding for the UN Human Rights Council (pending determination national interest and adjustments to Israel stance)
  • Withholds 15% of funds for UN agencies pending audits
  • Country and Region Specific Provisions and Funding:
    • $658 million for Ukraine
    • $1.275 billion for Jordan
    • $141.9 million for Tunisia
    • Iran
      • Requirement that the Secretary of State inform Congress of sanctions on Iran and existing agreements on Iran’s nuclear program
      • Prohibition on Export-Import Bank financing of projects in Iran
      • Requirement that the State Department inform Congress of any separate agreements between the International Atomic Energy Agency and Iran related to Iran’s nuclear program
    • Afghanistan – withholds funds until certain conditions are met
    • Palestinian Authority (PA) – stops economic assistance if they obtain membership in the United Nations or UN agencies without an agreement with Israel, restricts aid if the PA pursues actions against Israel at the International Criminal Court, prohibits funds for Hamas, and halts funds unless action is taken to counter the incitement of violence
    • Central America – The bill conditions assistance provided to Central American governments on their progress on addressing the migration of unaccompanied, undocumented minors, including improving border security, combating human smuggling and trafficking, and supporting repatriation for migrants returning from the U.S
    • Russia – No funds are provided for the Russian Government.

L. Transportation/Housing and Urban Development

  • $57.6 billion in funding
  • Transportation
    • $18.7 billion for the Department of Transportation (DOT)
    • $56.4 billion in “obligation limitation” funding for surface transportation and safety programs
      • $500 million for the TIGER program, which funds competitive grants for state and local road, transit, port, and railroad construction projects.
    • $42.4 billion for highways
    • $16.3 billion for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
    • Funds FAA’s Next Generation air transportation systems (NextGen) at $2.9 billion
    • $1.7 billion for the Federal Railroad Administration
      • Amtrak grant funding is maintained at $1.4 billion
      • $50 million for positive train control technologies and other rail safety grants.
      • No funding for high-speed rail
    • $11.8 billion for the Federal Transit Administration (FTA)
    • $869 million for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
    • $580 million for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
    • $252 million for the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration
    • $210 million for the Maritime Security Program
  • Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
    • $38.6 billion for the Department of Housing and Urban Development
    • No funding for any new, unauthorized “sustainable,” “livable,” or “green” community development programs
    • $26.9 billion for Public and Indian Housing
    • $11.3 billion for housing programs
      • $433 million for Housing for the Elderly
      • $151 million for Housing for Persons with Disabilities.
      • Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) program to help end veterans’ homelessness receives an increase of $60 million for new VASH vouchers
    • Community Planning and Development
      • $6.7 billion for Community Planning and Development programs ($3 billion for Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) formula program)

Policy Riders:

  • Prohibition on funding for “National Roadside Survey”
  • Provision conforming Truck Weight Limitations on federal and state highways in Idaho
  • Provision delaying the enforcement of a new Truck Driver Hours of Service rule
  • Provision requiring DOT to ensure citizens’ rights to privacy when issuing vehicle safety regulations
  • Prohibition on funding for the FHA to finance mortgages seized by eminent domain
  • Requiring proof of citizenship to receive housing assistance
  • Limiting the salaries of public housing authority directors
  • Prohibition on bonuses for HUD employees subject to administrative discipline actions
  • Requiring overtime limits on Amtrak employees
  • Prohibiting federal funding for routes where Amtrak offers a discount of 50% or more off normal, peak fares

M. Intelligence Authorization

N. CYBERSECURITY ACT OF 2015

  • Provides incentives to encourage businesses to share more data on hackers (related bills: H.R. 1731S. 754)
  • Codifies an information-sharing framework by which the government and private industry can share data about known cyber threats in real time
  • DHS will lead collecting and disseminating information, as well as managing the creation of Information Sharing and Analysis Organizations (ISAOs)
  • NATIONAL CYBERSECUTIRY WORKFORCE MEASUREMENT INITIATIVE
    • Federal agency heads will identify all positions that require the performance of cybersecurity or cyber-related functions
    • Part of the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (authorized by the Cybersecurity Enhancement Act of 2014)
  • GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY OFFICE STATUS REPORTS
    • Submit reports to appropriate congressional committees describing implementation of this Act no later than 3 years following Act’s enactment
  • OTHER CYBER MATTERS
    • Study on security threats of mobile devices of the Federal Government, must be completed within one year of Act’s enactment
    • Secretary of State shall produce a comprehensive strategy relating to U.S. international policy with regard to cyberspace within three months of Act’s enactment, made available to public
    • Addresses apprehension and prosecution of international cyber criminals
    • Creates Health Care Industry Cybersecurity Task Force, comprised of health care industry stakeholders, cybersecurity experts and any appropriate Federal agencies or entities (as determined by Secretary of Health and Human Services) to improve cybersecurity in the healthcare industry (must convene within three months of Act’s enactment, produce report on cybersecurity threat preparedness within one year of Act’s enactment, task force terminated after one year)

O. “Other Matters”

  • OIL EXPORTS, SAFETY VALVE, AND MARITIME SECURITY
  • TERRORIST TRAVEL PREVENTION AND VISA WAIVER PROGRAM REFORM
    • Electronic passport requirement
    • Restriction on use of visa waiver program for aliens who travel to certain countries (related bill: H.R. 158)
  • JAMES ZADROGA 9/11 HEALTH AND COMPENSATION REAUTHORIZATION ACT
    • Reauthorizing the World Trade Center Health Program through 2090 (related bill: S. 928 / H.R. 1786)
  • JAMES ZADROGA 9/11 VICTIM COMPENSATION FUND REAUTHORIZATION
    • Reauthorizing the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund of 2001 for an additional five years and $4.6 billion extension (related bill: S. 928 / H.R. 1786)
  • MEDICARE AND MEDICAID PROVISIONS
    • Payment incentive for the transition from traditional x-ray
      imaging to digital radiography
    • Limiting Federal Medicaid reimbursement to States for durable medical equipment (DME) to Medicare payment rates
  • PUERTO RICO – related provisions
  • FINANCIAL SERVICES provisions
  • LAND AND WATER CONSERVATION FUND
  • NATIONAL OCEANS AND COASTAL SECURITY
  • BUDGETARY PROVISIONS
  • IRAQ LOAN AUTHORITY

P. “Tax-related Provisions”

  • HIGH COST EMPLOYER-SPONSORED HEALTH COVERAGE EXCISE TAX PROVISIONS (Cadillac tax repeal)
  • Moratorium on annual fee on health insurance providers.
  • Extension and phaseout of credits for wind facilities.
  • Extension of election to treat qualified facilities as energy property
  • Extension and phaseout of solar energy credit
  • Extension and phaseout of credits with respect to qualified solar electric property and qualified solar water heating property
  • Treatment of transportation costs of independent refiners.