vet flag parade

The Week Ahead in Congress: Nov. 9 – Nov. 13, 2015

This week, the House is in recess and the Senate will work on a Veterans Affairs funding bill. Before leaving town, 35 lawmakers—from across the political spectrum—sent a letter urging a vote on authorizing force against ISIS. And President Obama is urging Congress to “ban the box” to give formerly incarcerated people a fairer chance at employment.


 

But first, here’s a look at Veterans Day, as we honor our nation’s veterans and spotlight a few bills related to the GI Bill:

Veterans Day: November 11

Veterans Day falls on November 11, the anniversary of the end of World War I. “Armistice Day” under President Woodrow Wilson originally honored those who served in WWI and commemorated the armistice that brought the war to an end on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11 month of 1918. In 1954, Armistice Day was renamed Veterans Day under President Dwight Eisenhower to commemorate veterans of all wars.

A Snapshot of Our Nation’s Veterans from the US Census Bureau

Last week, Senator Johnny Isakson [R-GA], Chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, highlighted the committee’s work on behalf of veterans in the 114th Congress ahead of Veterans Day, including the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act, improvements to the Veterans Choice Program and the Veterans Identification Card Act.

Updating the Post-9/11 GI Bill

The Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944—commonly known as the GI Bill of Rights—with key provisions that offered veterans education and training, loan guaranty for homes, farms or businesses, and unemployment pay. In 1947, veterans accounted for 49 percent of college admissions as a result of the GI Bill.

In 2008, the GI Bill was updated again to address the needs of veterans with active duty service on, or after, Sept.11 2001. Today, nearly 550 service members transition from military to civilian life each day. One-half of eligible veterans use their GI Bill benefit to pursue higher education or a specialized training program or apprenticeship.

This year, lawmakers have introduced several proposals to expand the post-9/11 GI Bill and close loopholes to reduce waste in the program:


Veterans Entrepreneurial Transition (VET) Act (S 1870)
Sponsor: Sen. Jerry Moran [R, KS]
Bipartisan

“Establishes a 3-year pilot program that would enable up to 250 GI Bill benefit-eligible veterans who apply to the program to start a new business or purchase an existing business or franchise,” according to the sponsor.

“The VET Act proposes an innovative way to support veterans in their professional development by offering veterans a choice in accessing the resources, training and support they need to pursue the American dream to start a small business, create jobs, and generate growth in our economy.”


Military and Veterans Education Protection Act (S 1664 and HR 3988 in the House)
Sponsor: Senator Tom Carper [D, DE] and Jackie Speier [D, CA-14]
Bipartisan

“Would close a loophole that allows for-profit schools to avoid having to secure at least 10 percent of their revenue from non-federal sources.”

From our Hill Sources: Under current law, for-profit schools must follow the “90-10 rule” which requires them to obtain at least 10 percent of their revenues from sources other than taxpayers. However, current law leaves open a loophole that allows for-profit institutions to count military and veteran educational assistance, including tuition assistance and Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits, as non-federal revenues.


Veterans STEM Education Program Act (HR 3949)
Sponsor: Rep. Marc Veasey [D, TX-33]

“Would provide additional authority to the Veterans Affairs Secretary to grant funds to post 9/11 veterans seeking to obtain a degree in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields,” according to the sponsor.


GI Bill Education Quality Enhancement Act (HR 476)
Sponsor: Rep. Brad Wenstrup [R, OH-2]

“Would cap flight training fees paid for by the GI Bill at $20,235 a year,” according to the sponsor.

“Some flight schools discovered there was no limit to what they could charge veteran students taking flight school courses. Unfortunately, as a result, some private contractors have exploited this loophole to leverage uncapped fees to charge upwards of $500,000 per student.”

 


Senate Proceeds with Veterans Affairs Funding Bill

Last week, the Senate agreed to consider the FY 2016 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs (MilCon-VA) Appropriations Bill, which provides funding for veterans’ benefits and programs and makes funding available to equip, support and house military personnel. Senators voted 93-0 to advance the bill—the first spending bill Senate Democrats have allowed to move forward for FY 2016.

This week, the Senate will consider a substitute amendment to H.R. 2029 that adjusts funding to comport with the two-year Balanced Budget Act of 2015:

Substitute Amendment to the FY 2016 MilCon-VA Appropriations Bill (HR 2029) 

“Recommends a total of $79.7 billion in discretionary funding, a more than $2.1 billion increase over the committee-reported bill. This amount is $7.9 billion above the FY2015 funding level and $1.0 billion over the President’s FY 2016 budget request,”according to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

“The substitute recommends $8.2 billion for military construction and $71.2 billion in discretionary funding for veterans programs, a $1.9 billion over the committee’s mark for the Department of Veterans Affairs. The increase of $1.9 billion is for VA Medical Services, increasing the total to $50.7 billion for the treatment and care for approximately 6.9 million veterans in FY2016. The substitute would provide a total of $101 million for the Arlington National Cemetery, a $30 million increase over the committee-approved bill.”


 

“Ban the Box”

Last week, President Obama called on Congress to pass meaningful criminal justice reform, including reforms that reduce recidivism, or relapsing into criminal behavior resulting in rearrest, reconviction or return to prison. He also directed the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to modify its rules to delay inquiries into criminal history until later in the hiring process, which most federal agencies already do.

Additionally, the President urged Congress to pass sentencing reform and legislation that would “ban the box” for federal hiring and hiring by federal contractors:

Fair Chance Act (S 2021 and HR 3470 in the House)
Sponsor: Sen. Cory Booker [D, NJ] and Rep. Elijah Cummings [D, MD-7]
Bipartisan

“Would give formerly incarcerated people a fairer chance at securing employment by prohibiting federal contractors and federal agencies from asking about the criminal history of a job applicant until an applicant receives a conditional offer of employment,” according to the sponsor.

“Nationwide, states and cities have been implementing “Ban the Box”polices to help people with records overcome the barrier to employment of having to “check the box” about a past felony conviction on a job application. Eighteen states and over 100 cities and counties have taken action, giving formerly incarcerated people a fairer chance to secure employment. Additionally, companies such as Walmart, Koch Industries, Target, Starbucks, Home Depot, and Bed, Bath & Beyond have embraced these “Ban the Box” policies to more fairly assess job applicants.” – Sen. Cory Booker

The President also urged Congress to pass sentencing reform:

Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act (S 2123)
Sponsor: Sen. Chuck Grassley [R, IA]
Bipartisan

“Grants judges greater sentencing flexibility for certain low-level drug offenders and establishes recidivism reduction programs, while targeting violent criminals,” according to the sponsor.

The bill passed the committee by a bipartisan 15-5 vote. (Learn more in this Weekly Update)

Background: Each year, more than 600,000 individuals are released from state and federal prisons. According to the Department of Justice, a study that tracked more than 400,000 prisoners in 30 states after their release from prison in 2005 found that two-thirds (67%) were rearrested within three years of release. Property offenders were the most likely to be rearrested, with 82% released property offenders arrested for a new crime, compared with 77% of drug offenders and 71% of violent offenders. (Source)

 


 

Authorizing Military Force Against ISIS

A week after the Obama Administration announced that it is sending approximately 50 special operations troops into Syria in an advisory role, a bipartisan group of House lawmakers is urging a vote on authorizing force against ISIS. In a letter sent Friday, 35 House members, including liberal Democrats, Republicans and members of the conservative Freedom Caucus, asked to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) for a vote:

“We do not share the same policy prescriptions for US military engagement in the region, but we do share the belief that it is past time for the Congress to fulfill its obligations under the Constitution and vote on an AUMF that clearly delineates the authority and limits, if any, on US military engagement in Iraq, Syria and the surrounding region.”

Earlier this year, President Obama sent to Congress a draft AUMF for Iraq and Syria:

– Submitted to Congress on Feb. 12, 2015 –
Would not authorize long‑term, large-scale ground combat operations like those our nation conducted in Iraq and Afghanistan. Would provide the flexibility to conduct ground combat operations in other, more limited circumstances, such as rescue operations involving US or coalition personnel or the use of special operations forces to take military action against ISIL leadership. Would also authorize the use of US forces in situations where ground combat operations are not expected or intended, such as intelligence collection and sharing, missions to enable kinetic strikes, or the provision of operational planning and other forms of advice and assistance to partner forces.


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.

Gavel Down: Closing Out the Week in Congress — 11.06.15

This Week on POPVOX:

Top Search:
“firearms”

Most Active Bill or Proposal:

Proposal for Full and dedicated funding for the
Land and Water Conservation Fund
(LWCF)


#Highway Bill goes to conference

The House passed its long-term highway bill and went to conference to work out a final version with the Senate. House Leadership appointed conferees for the discussions soon after passing their bill.

  • Export-Import reauthorization expected to be in the final package
  • The Administration is pushing for more funding
  • A bill must pass the House and Senate and be signed by the President by November 20, when a short-term patch expires.

#TPP Text released

On Thursday, the Obama Administration released the long-awaited text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. The release set off a scramble among organizations and industries to parse the language and determine the agreement’s possible effects.


#Ways&Means has a new Chairman

Rep. Kevin Brady [R, TX-8] is the new chairman of the “Powerful Ways and Means Committee,” which former Chairman (and current Speaker) Paul Ryan called the “mission control of Congress.”

Chairman Brady talked to the Wall Street Journal about what his new position means for tax policy.

Q. What’s the first thing you’re going to try to get accomplished this year?

A. We’re going to continue to tee up pro-growth tax reform. There’s two steps we can take that are real, one of them immediate, which is to negotiate a package of permanent provisions among those [expired tax breaks]. …

The second one in 2016 is to conclude discussion on international tax reform and an innovation box. It could be a significant down payment on overall tax reform, done right, allow U.S. companies to bring those stranded profits home to reinvest in the U.S. and ensure America isn’t isolated on the innovation side of the economy.


Consumer Review Hearing in the Senate

This week, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on “gag” provisions in contracts that limit a customer’s ability to publicly review a service or product. The hearing follows the introduction of S. 2044, the Consumer Review Freedom Act, by Senators John Thune [R-SD], Jerry Moran [R-KS], and Brian Schatz [D-HI].

 

 


President Obama acts to “Ban the Box” for federal employees

A new Obama Administration directive eliminates “the box” asking if someone has ever been convicted of a felony on a federal job application. While the new initiative does not eliminate the question later in the process, it removes at least one initial barrier to employment for those with criminal records. As the Washington Post notes, a bipartisan coalition in Congress has proposed a bill that would go even further:
The Fair Chance Act (S. 2012 and H.R. 3470) prohibits Federal agencies and Federal contractors from requesting that an applicant for employment disclose criminal history record information before the applicant has received a conditional offer.

 


 

Revised #NDAA passes House — onto Senate

With President Obama’s veto of the Defense funding bill in late October, Congress had two options; it could either hold a veto override vote or pass a new Defense Authorization bill, with changes, that the President would sign. On Thursday, the House took steps toward the latter, passing a new bill (S. 1356), which is expected to be considered in the Senate next week.

 


 

A Senator’s Maiden Voyage

Senator Ben Sasse had not spoken a word on the Senate Floor since his election last year. That changed on Tuesday. Watch the speech.

The National Journal reports on Ben Sasse’s Plan to Save the Senate.

 


#ViewFromTheHill – Sharing POPVOX with Hill Staff

Screen Shot 2015-11-06 at 4.40.12 PMOne of the primary goals of POPVOX is to help constituents engage with Members of Congress in a meaningful way. That means working with staff and understanding their needs. We were happy to join SnapChat, Yelp, and Brigade in a product update for House Democratic staffers.

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POPVOX View From the Hill

The Week Ahead in Congress: Nov. 1 – Nov. 6

One step closer to a long-term highway bill;  a possible vote to override Defense bill veto; challenges to the Administration’s water rules, renewed discussion about military authorization and action in Syria… and much more!


A New Speaker

@SpeakerRyan: A new day. Photo cred: @SteveScalise

 

The House officially has a new Speaker: Rep. Paul D. Ryan (R, WI-1). You might have heard – after all, he just pulled a “Full Ginsburg,” appearing on all five Sunday talk shows!

Ryan is the 54th Speaker of the House and second in the line of Presidential succession (after the Vice President). At 45 years old, he is the youngest House Speaker in 140 years. Learn more about Speaker Ryan.

 

 

 


Now, here’s a look at what Congress is working on in the week ahead:

A Long-Term Highway Bill

Last week Congress passed a short-term highway “funding patch” to allow for time (until November 20th) to complete work on a long-term highway bill. This week, the House will vote on its own bill and then immediately appoint conferees to work with the Senate to resolve differences in the two bills.

The bipartisan $325 billion House bill would spend $261 billion on highways, $55 billion on transit and approximately $9 billion on safety programs over six years. It requires that Congress come up with a way to pay for the final three years.

Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform (STRR) Act (H.R. 3763) 

Sponsor: Rep. Bill Shuster (R, PA-9) 
SOURCE  |  COMMITTEE REPORT

– Bipartisan –

“The STRR Act helps improve the Nation’s surface transportation infrastructure, reforms programs and refocuses those programs on addressing national priorities, maintains a strong commitment to safety, and promotes innovation to make the system and programs work better. The proposal is fiscally responsible, provides greater flexibility and more certainty for states and local governments to address their priorities, and accelerates project delivery. The bill also extends the deadline for US railroads to implement Positive Train Control technology,” according to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Increasing the Gas Tax to pay for the Highway Bill?

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D, OR-3) introduced an amendment to the transportation bill that would increase the gas tax by 15 cents – to 33.4 cents per gallon on driver gas purchases. This would be the first federal gas tax increase in 22 years.

My amendment will not only fully fund H.R. 3763, but also provide enough revenue to increase investment above the current, anemic levels of spending. A long-term transportation reauthorization should be fully funded with revenue that is sustainable, dedicated to transportation, and big enough to give states and local governments the federal partnership they need.”  Statement from Rep. Blumenauer

The amendment is identical to a bill Rep. Blumenauer introduced earlier this year:

Would raise federal gas and diesel taxes 15 cents over three years and index them to inflation. “In recent years, Congress has added to the deficit by transferring over $65 billion of General Fund revenue to the Highway Trust Fund to keep it afloat. In order to maintain current funding levels in the following years, the Highway Trust Fund will need over $15 billion a year by 2018 in addition to current gas tax receipts. Continuing down the current path will mean a 33% drop in federal transportation spending by 2024. The UPDATE Act would solve the problem by providing $210 billion over ten years,” according to the bill sponsor


Next Steps After the NDAA Veto

In October, President Obama vetoed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) (H.R. 1735) – this third veto this year and the fifth of his presidency. (Read his statement)

According to the President:

The bill “underfunds our military in the base budget, and instead relies on an irresponsible budget gimmick that has been criticized by members of both parties. Specifically, the bill’s use of $38 billion in Overseas Contingency Operations funding – which was meant to fund wars and is not subject to budget caps – does not provide the stable, multi-year budget upon which sound defense planning depends.

From our Hill Sources: President Obama’s veto is not unprecedented: Presidents Reagan, Clinton and Bush all vetoed a NDAA.

Congress can now try to override the President’s veto—which requires a two-thirds vote in the Senate and House. While some Democrats in Congress did vote for the NDAA, it isn’t likely that there will be enough support to override the veto. The House, which voted 270-156 for the NDAA, is planning to hold a veto override vote on Nov. 5. (The Senate voted 70-27 to pass the bill, which would be enough to override a veto.)

Alternatively, Congress could work on a new NDAA bill, which would incorporate last week’s bipartisan budget deal’s funding levels. The deal raises budget caps for defense and nondefense spending by a total of $112 billion over two years, and provides $32 billion in funding for the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) fund—$5 billion less than what was vetoed by the President.


Disapproving New Water Proposals from the EPA

The Senate may work on two proposals to address the Environmental Protection Agency and the Corps of Engineers’ Clean Water Rule that expands federal authority over all ‘waters of the United States’ (WOTUS) under the Clean Water Act.

On Oct. 9, the US Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, temporarily suspended implementation of the final WOTUS rule, questioning “… specific scientific support substantiating the reasonableness” of certain parts of this rule.

The Senate will consider:

— Bipartisan —
The bill “would direct the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to “issue a revised “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule that protects traditional navigable water from water pollution, while also protecting farmers, ranchers and private landowners. The revised rule would not include “things such as isolated ponds, ditches, agriculture water, storm water, groundwater, floodwater, municipal water supply systems, wastewater management systems, and streams without enough flow to carry pollutants to navigable waters.” – Sen. Barrasso Press Release

Resolution disapproving the WOTUS rule (S.J.Res. 22)
Sponsor: Sen. Joni Ernst (R, IA)

Nullifies the rule submitted by the Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency relating to the definition of “waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act and published on June 29, 2015.


U.S. Troops in Syria

The Obama Administration announced last week that it would send approximately 50 special operations troops into Syria in an advisory role. The U.S. Air Force is also deploying A-10s and F-15s to Incirlik Air Base in Turkey. Some in Congress are re-emphasizing the need for Congress to consider an authorization for use of force (AUMF).

Earlier this year, President Obama sent to Congress a draft AUMF for Iraq and Syria:

The President’s Draft Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF)

– Submitted to Congress on Feb. 12, 2015 –

Would not authorize long‑term, large-scale ground combat operations like those our nation conducted in Iraq and Afghanistan. Would provide the flexibility to conduct ground combat operations in other, more limited circumstances, such as rescue operations involving US or coalition personnel or the use of special operations forces to take military action against ISIL leadership. Would also authorize the use of US forces in situations where ground combat operations are not expected or intended, such as intelligence collection and sharing, missions to enable kinetic strikes, or the provision of operational planning and other forms of advice and assistance to partner forces.

Rep. Barbara Lee (D, CA-13) – the only Member of the House who voted against the AUMF in 2001 – issued a statement urging repeal of the current AUMF for Iraq and Afghanistan, saying that Congress should, “repeal this blank check for endless war and re-establish Congress’s long abdicated responsibility to debate and authorize military action.”

 Comprehensive Solution to ISIL Resolution (H.J.Res. 30)

Sponsor: Rep. Barbara Lee (D, CA-13)

“Requires the President to submit to Congress a “comprehensive diplomatic, political, economic and regionally-led strategy to degrade and dismantle” ISIL within 90 days of enactment, according to the sponsor. “Advances a comprehensive strategy that is regionally-led and incorporates critical political, economic and diplomatic components and “re-establishes Congress’s Constitutionally-mandate role in war making.”


Homeland Security Bills in the House

Department of Homeland Security Insider Threat and Mitigation Act (H.R. 3361)
Sponsor: Rep. Peter King (R, NY-2)

 — Bipartisan — 
“To establish the Insider Threat Program,” according to the House Homeland Security Committee.
 SOURCE  |  BILL TEXT

Department of Homeland Security Clearance Management and Administration Act (H.R. 3505)
Sponsor: Rep. Bennie Thompson (D, MS-2)

“To improve the management and administration of the security clearance processes throughout the Department of Homeland Security,” according to the House Homeland Security Committee.
SOURCE  |  BILL TEXT

Fusion Center Enhancement Act (H.R. 3598)
Sponsor: Rep. Lou Barletta (R, PA-11)

“To clarify and enhance the partnership between the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the national network of fusion centers,” according to the bill sponsor. “A fusion center is a collaborative effort of two or more agencies that share resources and information to improve their ability to detect, prevent, and respond to terrorist or criminal activity.”  
SOURCE  |  BILL TEXT

Partners for Aviation Security Act (H.R. 3144)
Sponsor: Rep. Donald Payne (D, NY-2)

 — Bipartisan —  
“Requires the TSA to consult with the Aviation Security Advisory Committee regarding modifications to the prohibited items list,” according to the bill sponsor.

From our Hill Sources: In 2012, the TSA changed its prohibited items list to allow small knives and sporting goods equipment to be stowed in carry-on luggage and eventually allowed on planes. TSA ultimately reversed its position—after much feedback from advocates and constituents. In addition to requiring that the TSA consult with key stakeholders when making changes to the prohibited items list, this bill requires a TSA report on the Transportation Security Oversight Board.
SOURCE  |  BILL TEXT

Department of Homeland Security Support to Fusion Centers Act (H.R. 3503)
Sponsor: Rep. Martha McSally (R, AZ-2)

“To require an assessment of fusion center personnel needs,” according to the bill sponsor. “Requires the Department of Homeland Security to assess if additional DHS employees assigned to fusion centers would improve information sharing. In addition, the bill establishes a program to provide higher security clearances to local intelligence analysts to improve threat awareness.”

From our Hill sources: After the attacks of September 11, 2001, threat analysis and information sharing centers, known as fusion centers, were established around the country. These fusion centers are manned with local and federal law enforcement and intelligence personnel and help disseminate information about threats between local, state, and federal authorities.
SOURCE  |  BILL TEXT

 


 

Also in the House This Week

Global Anti-Poaching Act (H.R. 2494)
Sponsor: Rep. Ed Royce (R, CA-39)
 — Bipartisan —  

“The bill will help the United States and partner countries counter the terrorist organizations, rebel groups, and international criminal syndicates that are profiting from international wildlife trafficking,” according to the bill sponsor.

“With its high profit margins, the illicit trade of wildlife has become an extremely lucrative funding source for terrorist groups and international gangs. As rhino horn now sells for tens of thousands of dollars a pound, poaching is one of the most profitable criminal activities in the world. Tackling this growing problem conserves some of the world’s most iconic species and strengthens our national security. This bipartisan legislation will aid the global fight against the rampant poaching that is plaguing the world.” – Rep. Ed Royce
SOURCE  |  BILL TEXT

To direct the President to develop a strategy to obtain observer status for Taiwan in the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) (H.R. 1853)
Sponsor: Rep. Matt Salmon (R, AZ-5)

— Bipartisan —  
“This bill will require the President to develop a strategy to obtain observer status for Taiwan in INTERPOL. Specifically, it requires an official request for observer status for Taiwan, active urging of member states to assist in the effort as well as a status report to Congress.” Taiwan was a member of INTERPOL from 1964 until 1984, but was removed when the People’s Republic of China (PRC) applied for membership, according to the bill sponsor.

“Taiwan’s observer status would promote stability and security in the Asia Pacific region and assist Taiwan in protecting the safety of its citizens by combatting criminal activity through access to INTERPOL’s global police communications systems.”  
SOURCE  |  BILL TEXT

Expressing concern over anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incitement within the Palestinian Authority (H.Res. 293)
Sponsor: Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R, FL-27)
— Bipartisan —  
“Expresses concern over anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incitement and calls on the Palestinian Authority to immediately discontinue all official incitement. In order to help restore some peace and stability within the region, the Obama administration needs to do more to support Israel. We must hold Abu Mazen accountable for his inflammatory statements at the UN General Assembly and urge him to take accountability for the current wave of violence and to take measures to de-escalate the situation.” 

SOURCE  |  BILL TEXT

Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives regarding the safety and security of Jewish communities in Europe (H.Res. 354)
Sponsor: Rep. Chris Smith (R, NJ-4)

— Bipartisan —  
“Urges the US Administration to work closely with European governments, law enforcement agencies, and intergovernmental organizations – including the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) – to formally recognize and partner with Jewish community groups to strengthen crisis prevention, preparedness, mitigation, and responses related to anti-Semitic attacks,” according to the bill sponsor.

SOURCE  |  BILL TEXT


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.

 

Gavel Down: Closing Out the Week in Congress — 10.30.15

This Week on POPVOX

Top Search on POPVOX: “firearm”

Most Active Bill on POPVOX:

  Hearing Protection Act of 2015 (H.R. 3799)

To provide that silencers be treated the same as long guns.

 

 

New Speaker On The Block

This week in Congress was one for the history books. John Boehner led the House in passing a bipartisan budget deal, aka the “Boehner Budget,” before making his retirement official. Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin took the oath of office as the youngest Speaker of the House since 1869. As several noted, his remarks were hopeful, aspirational, and struck a bipartisan tone, borrowing from Harry Truman:

“… if you ever pray, pray for each other — Republicans for Democrats, Democrats for Republicans. And I don’t mean pray for a conversion. Pray for a deeper understanding, because — when you’re up here, you see it so clearly — wherever you come from, whatever you believe, we are all in the same boat.”
Read full remarks.

 

John Boehner told the House goodbye, “with no regrets, no burdens. If anything, I leave the way I started, just a regular guy, humbled by the chance to do a big job.”
In shepherding the two-year Bipartisan Budget Act, which some are calling the “Boehner Budget,” Boehner made good on his pledge to “clean the barn” before leaving. The deal funds the government and eliminates the debt ceiling for two years, staves off an increase in Medicare premiums — it even renames a Capitol corridor the “Freedom Foyer.”
The Senate passed the budget deal at 3 AM on Friday morning, delayed by objections from Presidential candidates Sen. Rand Paul (R, KY) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R, TX) (procedural rules did not allow for a filibuster, but the two Senators took available opportunities to speak against the deal). As did Sen. Pat Toomey (R, PA) who said the bill fails to address our overspending problem.” In the end, the Senate passed the deal 64-35, and it is expected to soon be signed by the President.
While the appropriations process awaits, the budget deal means that government shutdown and debt ceiling brinksmanship will not be a factor until after the 2016 election. One House staffer told us it felt like the “fever broke” on the gridlock and acrimony of recent years.

 

tumblr_nx1rpvOkto1uhgnc2o1_1280

#ViewFromTheHill – October 29, 2015

Anti-trade House Democrats employed 2-year-old bloodhound Roxy to call attention to the elusive text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Roxy was charged with a big duty: #SniffOutTPP. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D, MI) said “The public deserves to see the text.”

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Top 5 Quotes from Speaker Transition Ceremony

  1. “We have protected this institution and made it more open to the people … So believe in the long, slow struggle. Believe in this country’s ability to meet her challenges, and lead the world.” –Rep. John Boehner (R, OH)
  2. “This is the beauty of America – that for all our honest differences, perspectives and priorities, aired and argued so passionately on this Floor, we are committed to being one nation. –Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D, CA)
  3. “As much as I enjoyed working with all of you, some of you could still learn to dress better. You know who you are.” –Rep. John Boehner (R, OH)
  4. “This is the People’s House. This is the People’s gavel. In the people’s name, it is my privilege to hand this gavel to the Speaker of the House, the Honorable Paul Ryan.” –Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D, CA)
  5. “We have nothing to fear from honest differences honestly stated If you have ideas, let’s hear them. I believe a greater clarity between us can lead to a greater charity among us.” –House Speaker Paul D. Ryan

 

 

#ICYMI

  • Congress passed a three-week transportation extension, to allow time for a long-term highway bill to be considered.
  • The controversial cybersecurity bill, CISA, passed the Senate and now goes to conference with the House. The Administration is pushing Congress to act.
  • Congress launched challenges to the President’s climate regulations under the rarely-used Congressional Review Act.
    • Four resolutions were filed to challenge the EPA’s Climate Plan
    • Next Tuesday the Senate will vote on a resolution to disapprove the contentious Waters of the United States rule, which re-defines which “waterways” fall under regulation by the Clean Water Act.
  • A mental health reform bill gets a tweak just in time for a markup in the House Energy and Commerce committee on Tuesday.
  • The Budget Reconciliation bill (repealing parts of Obamacare and de-funding Planned Parenthood) is likely to get a vote in the Senate in November.
  • Republicans completed their third presidential candidates debate. We recapped 5 bills to know coming out of the debate.

 

#BudgetDeal

How did your Senator vote on the Bipartisan Budget Act?


Source: Twitter

Policy Change: U.S. Troops Deployed to Syria

Today, the Obama Administration authorized “several dozen” U.S. Special Forces to enter Syria and combat the Islamic State. Members of Congress immediately weighed in on the decision. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R, SC) said this new decision looks like weakness to the enemy, and called the current strategy “half-assed at best” earlier in the week. Sen. Tim Kaine (D, VA) said, “It’s time for Congress to debate and declare war” and called for a comprehensive conflict strategy. How does this new “boots on the ground” decision affect Syria peace talks in Vienna?

#EqualPay

On the heels of Abby Wambach’s retirement announcementSen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced a non-binding resolution stating that gender pay equity should be a priority in professional soccer. He referenced the disparity between prize winnings ($2 million for female World Cup winners and $35 million for male World Cup winners). Leahy asked for unanimous consent to pass his resolution, but Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) barred the request, citing a Senate schedule packed with more pressing concerns.

Weekend Reads

Attempts to Invalidate the Clean Power Plan rule with the Congressional Review Act (CRA)

The Congressional Review Act (CRA) is a legislative Loch Ness monster, much discussed and rarely seen. Members of Congress will use the CRA to seek to override the Obama Administration’s “Clean Power Plan.”

Members of Congress will seek to override the Obama Administration’s “Clean Power Plan” with a rarely-used legislative tool the Congressional Review Act.

The Congressional Review Act (CRA) is a legislative Loch Ness monster, much discussed and rarely seen (though the same could be said for motions to “Vacate the Chair” and Discharge Petitions, both of which were introduced in this Congress.) The 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.

In October, we saw the beginning of a fresh CRA attempt. On Monday, October 26, President Obama’s Clean Power Plan was published in the Federal Register, setting off the sixty-day opportunity for a CRA challenge.

So far, four resolutions have been filed challenging the Clean Power Plan rule — in the House by Rep. Ed Whitfield [R, KY] and in the Senate by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell [R, KY] and Sen. Shelly Moore Capito [R, WV]. (See House Energy and Commerce press release)


Tell Congress what you think about the resolutions to disapprove the Clean Power Plan for existing and new power plants:

PROVIDING FOR CONGRESSIONAL DISAPPROVAL UNDER CHAPTER 8 OF TITLE 5, UNITED STATES CODE, OF A RULE SUBMITTED BY THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY RELATING TO “STANDARDS OF PERFORMANCE FOR GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS FROM NEW, MODIFIED, AND RECONSTRUCTED STATIONARY SOURCES: ELECTRIC UTILITY GENERATING UNITS (HJRes 71)
Sponsor: Rep. Ed Whitfield [R, KY]

 

PROVIDING FOR CONGRESSIONAL DISAPPROVAL UNDER CHAPTER 8 OF TITLE 5, UNITED STATES CODE, OF A RULE SUBMITTED BY THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY RELATING TO “STANDARDS OF PERFORMANCE FOR GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS FROM NEW, MODIFIED, AND RECONSTRUCTED STATIONARY SOURCES: ELECTRIC UTILITY GENERATING UNITS (HJRes 71)
Sponsor: Rep. Ed Whitfield [R, KY]

 

A JOINT RESOLUTION PROVIDING FOR CONGRESSIONAL DISAPPROVAL UNDER CHAPTER 8 OF TITLE 5, UNITED STATES CODE, OF A RULE SUBMITTED BY THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY RELATING TO “STANDARDS OF PERFORMANCE FOR GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS FROM NEW, MODIFIED, AND RECONSTRUCTED STATIONARY SOURCES: ELECTRIC UTILITY GENERATING UNITS (S.J.RES. 23) Sponsor: Sen. Mitch McConnell [R, KY] 

 

A JOINT RESOLUTION PROVIDING FOR CONGRESSIONAL DISAPPROVAL UNDER CHAPTER 8 OF TITLE 5, UNITED STATES CODE, OF A RULE SUBMITTED BY THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY RELATING TO “CARBON POLLUTION EMISSION GUIDELINES FOR EXISTING STATIONARY SOURCES: ELECTRIC UTILITY GENERATING UNITS” (S.J.RES. 24) Sponsor: Sen. Shelly Moore Capito [R, WV] 

 


Nearly half the Senate signed on to support the resolutions in that chamber, while at least one Republican, Sen. Kelly Ayotte [R, ME], indicated support for the Climate Plan. In order for any CRA resolution to succeed, it would need to pass both houses of Congress and garner enough votes to override a Presidential veto.

  

The listing of the rule also opened the door for legal challenges. According to Bloomberg BNA, the following have been filed:

  • A coalition of 24 states, led by West Virginia
  • Murray Energy Corp
  • A coalition of 16 industry groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers and American Chemistry Council
  • Separate lawsuits from Oklahoma and North Dakota

The timing of the rule’s release — and the ensuing controversy — is related to the upcoming Paris Climate Change Summit in December, the Washington Post reported:

Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which puts the country on course to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, is key for the United States to meet the greenhouse gas emission reduction target it pledged to the United Nations.

Opponents of the effort may seek to hold the CRA vote before the Paris Summit to fall within the 60-day review period and to raise doubts that the US can meet its climate targets under the agreement, according to the Post.


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.

Transportation Funding — The #HighwayBill

The Highway Trust Fund authorization is set to expire on October 29th. Without an agreement on a highway funding bill, the Department of Transportation will begin cutting back on payments to states and local governments for infrastructure projects beginning in November. This summer, Congress passed a three-month highway funding extension – the 34th short-term extension since 2009. The Senate had also passed the DRIVE Act (Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy Act), a longer term six-year funding bill, which the House would not consider.

Last week, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee unanimously approved a bipartisan, $325 billion, six-year surface transportation bill to reauthorize and reform federal highway, transit and highway safety programs:

SURFACE TRANSPORTAION REAUTHORIZATION AND REFORM (STRR) ACT (H.R. 3763)
Sponsor: Rep. Bill Shuster [R, PA] 
SOURCE | BILL TEXT
 

Bipartisan — The STRR Act helps improve the Nation’s surface transportation infrastructure, reforms programs and refocuses those programs on addressing national priorities, maintains a strong commitment to safety, and promotes innovation to make the system and programs work better. The proposal is fiscally responsible, provides greater flexibility and more certainty for states and local governments to address their priorities, and accelerates project delivery. The bill also extends the deadline for US railroads to implement Positive Train Control technology,” according to the Committee.

From our Hill Sources: The bill would spend $261 billion on highways, $55 billion on transit and approximately $9 billion on safety programs — but requires that Congress can come up with a way to pay for the final three years.

The Highway Trust Fund authorization is set to expire on October 29th. Without an agreement on a highway funding bill, the Department of Transportation will begin cutting back on payments to states and local governments for infrastructure projects beginning in November. This summer, Congress passed a three-month highway funding extension – the 34th short-term extension since 2009.

 

In the meantime, the House will vote on another short-term extension to ensure that highway funds are disbursed past the Oct. 29 deadline. This “funding patch” would extend the deadline another three weeks to Nov. 20:

SURFACE TRANSPORTATION EXTENSION ACT (H.R. 3819)
Sponsor: Rep. Bill Shuster [R, PA] 
SOURCE | BILL TEXT

Bipartisan — H.R. 3819 would extend federal transportation spending — currently set to expire Oct. 29 — until Nov. 20.

 


 

The Week Ahead: Oct. 26 – Oct. 30

The Highway Trust Fund authorization is set to expire on October 29th. Without an agreement on a highway funding bill, the Department of Transportation will begin cutting back on payments to states and local governments for infrastructure projects beginning in November. 

Ex-Im Discharge Petition expected to proceed

On Monday, the first successful discharge petition since 1992 is expected to force a vote in the House. Rep. Stephen Fincher [R, TN], who circulated the petition to "discharge" a bill to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank, is expected to  start the voting process with a floor motion. The petition received the requisite 218 signatures allowing it to be brought up for a vote. 

THE REFORM EXPORTS AND EXPAND THE AMERICAN ECONOMY ACT (H.R. 597)
Sponsor: Rep. Stephen Fincher [R, TN] 
SOURCE | BILL TEXT

From the House Clerk: On 10/9/2015, a motion was filed to discharge the Committee on Rules from the consideration of H.Res.450 a resolution providing for consideration of H.R.597.


Highway Funding in the House 

Last week, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee unanimously approved a bipartisan, $325 billion, six-year surface transportation bill to reauthorize and reform federal highway, transit and highway safety programs:

SURFACE TRANSPORTATION REAUTHORIZATION AND REFORM (STRR) ACT (H.R. 3763)
Sponsor: Rep. Bill Shuster [R, PA] 
SOURCE | BILL TEXT
 

BipartisanThe STRR Act helps improve the Nation’s surface transportation infrastructure, reforms programs and refocuses those programs on addressing national priorities, maintains a strong commitment to safety, and promotes innovation to make the system and programs work better. The proposal is fiscally responsible, provides greater flexibility and more certainty for states and local governments to address their priorities, and accelerates project delivery. The bill also extends the deadline for US railroads to implement Positive Train Control technology,” according to the Committee.

From our Hill Sources: The bill would spend $261 billion on highways, $55 billion on transit and approximately $9 billion on safety programs — but requires that Congress can come up with a way to pay for the final three years.

The Highway Trust Fund authorization is set to expire on October 29th. Without an agreement on a highway funding bill, the Department of Transportation will begin cutting back on payments to states and local governments for infrastructure projects beginning in November. This summer, Congress passed a three-month highway funding extension – the 34th short-term extension since 2009.

 

In the meantime, the House will vote on another short-term extension to ensure that highway funds are disbursed past the Oct. 29 deadline. This “funding patch” would extend the deadline another three weeks to Nov. 20:

SURFACE TRANSPORTATION EXTENSION ACT (H.R. 3819)
Sponsor: Rep. Bill Shuster [R, PA] 
SOURCE | BILL TEXT

Bipartisan — H.R. 3819 would extend federal transportation spending — currently set to expire Oct. 29 — until Nov. 20.


Cybersecurity (CISA) in the Senate

On Tuesday, the Senate will vote on a series of amendments and final passage of the Cybersecurity and Information Sharing Act (S. 754). The bill, which sets out procedures and legal protections for information sharing between business and the government about cyber threats, has faced significant opposition from privacy advocates. Last week, the White House signaled its support for the measure.
 

CYBERSECURITY INFORMATION SHARING ACT OF 2015 (S. 754)
Sponsor: Sen. Richard Burr [R, NC] 
BILL TEXT

Bipartisan “S. 754 would require the government to establish procedures to be followed when information on cyber threats is shared between the government and nonfederal entities. The bill also would require the government to audit the process for sharing information and would require additional reports to the Congress on cyber information sharing.” according to the Congressional Budget Office.


Debt Ceiling

Both the House and Senate are still working to find a solution to the pending breach of the US borrowing limit. The “Debt Ceiling” will be reached on November 3rd, if Congress does not act to raise it. Last week, the House shelved a bill that would have tied a list of Republican priorities to lifting the limit, lacking sufficient support. Without Republican votes, Congressional Leaders will have to rely on Democrats, who support a "clean" debt ceiling bill.
A "clean bill" is the term used for legislation that addresses one issue without unrelated policies attached.


A "CLEAN" BILL TO RAISE THE U.S. DEBT CEILING

(A "clean bill" has not yet been introduced in Congress, but is the subject of much discussion. The link above allows you to weigh in and write to Congress about the proposed tactic.)


Sentencing Reform Advances in the Senate

Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 15 to 5 to advance a bipartisan criminal justice reform bill. Introduced by Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), and sponsored by ten other Senators, the bill “grants judges greater sentencing flexibility for certain low-level drug offenders and establishes recidivism reduction programs, while targeting violent criminals.”

SENTENCING REFORM AND CORRECTIONS ACT (S.2123)
Sponsor: Sen. Chuck Grassley [R, IA] 
BILL SUMMARY  |  BILL TEXT
 

BipartisanAccording to the sponsor, the bill:

  • “Narrows the scope of mandatory minimum prison sentences to focus on the most serious drug offenders and violent criminals, while broadening and establishing new outlets for individuals with minimal non-felony criminal histories that may trigger mandatory minimum sentences under current law.”
  • “Reduces certain mandatory minimums, providing judges with greater discretion when determining appropriate sentences, and preserves cooperation incentives to aid law enforcement in tracking down kingpins.”
  • “Reduced sentences through recidivism reduction programs outlined in the Corrections Act (S. 467) introduced by Cornyn and Whitehouse.
  • Makes retroactive the Fair Sentencing Act (FSA) and certain statutory reforms that address inequities in drug sentences, such as between offenses for crack and powder cocaine.

Support from the White House

Last week, a White House spokesman reiterated the President’s support for criminal justice reform:

“We urge Congress to continue to work together cooperatively to get a bill to the President’s desk before the end of the year. The President has called for criminal justice reform since before he took office, and we are pleased that so many different leaders, both Democrats and Republicans, are coming together to answer the President’s call.” 


Financial Services

This week, the House will vote on several financial services bills. These are a part of a bipartisan package that the House Financial Service worked on this summer “designed to help grow the economy, create jobs, and bring much needed accountability and transparency to the Federal Reserve.”

H.R. 1317
Sponsor: Rep. Gwen Moore [D, WI] 
SOURCE  |  BILL TEXT

Bipartisan — To amend the Commodity Exchange Act and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 to specify how clearing requirements apply to certain affiliate transactions. The bill “provides much needed regulatory relief to commercial businesses inappropriately captured by some of the costly and burdensome requirements of Title VII of the Dodd-Frank Act,” according to the Committee.

 

SEC REPORTING MODERNIZATION ACT (H.R. 3032)
Sponsor: Rep. Krysten Sinema [D, AZ] 
SOURCE  |  BILL TEXT

Bipartisan — “Eliminates a reporting requirement for the Securities and Exchange Commission that has already been eliminated for all other federal agencies,” according to the Committee.

 

STATE LICENSING EFFICIENCY ACT (H.R.  2643)
Sponsor: Rep. Roger Williams [R, TX] 
SOURCE  |  BILL TEXT

Bipartisan — “Ensures state regulatory agencies have access to the most up-to-date criminal background information from the FBI for their licensing purposes,” according to the Committee.


Also up for vote in the House this week…

RETAIL INVESTOR PROTECTION ACT (H.R. 1090)
Sponsor: Rep. Ann Wagner [R, TX] 
SOURCE  |  BILL TEXT

In April 2015, the Department of Labor proposed new fiduciary rules under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) of 1974 to apply to any financial advisor providing investment advice for a retirement account. At the same time, the SEC is considering using permissive authority granted under Section 913 of Dodd-Frank to adopt a “uniform fiduciary standard” for both brokers and investment advisors,” according to the bill sponsor. https://wagner.house.gov/RIPA “The Retail Investor Protection Act would prohibit the DOL from issuing new fiduciary rules under ERISA unless the SEC first issues a rule under Section 913 of Dodd-Frank.”

 

EQUITY IN GOVERNMENT COMPENSATION ACT (S. 2036)
Sponsor: Rep. David Vitter [R, LA] 
SOURCE  |  BILL TEXT

Passed the Senate on September 15th, 2015, now goes to the House for consideration — Bipartisan — “Would cap pay raises for executives at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, authorized earlier this year by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA). The mortgage lenders cost the taxpayers $187.5 billion during the financial crisis,” according to the bill sponsors Sens. David Vitter and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

"Taxpayers paid nearly $200 billion to bail out Fannie and Freddie, the enterprises remain in federal conservatorship, and the public is still on the hook if they falter again. Rather than approving massive pay raises for Fannie's and Freddie's CEOs, FHFA should be working to reduce costs for homeowners and those who hope to own homes." – Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)

 

RESEARCH EXCELLENCE AND ADVANCEMENTS FOR DYSLEXIA (READ) ACT (H.R. 3033)
Sponsor: Rep. Lamar Smith [R, TX] 
SOURCE  |  BILL TEXT

Bipartisan — “Requires the Bipartisan president’s annual budget request to Congress include a line item for the Research in Disabilities Education program of the National Science Foundation (NSF). It also requires the NSF to devote at least $5 million annually to dyslexia research,” according to the House Science Committee.

 

NORTHERN BORDER SECURITY REVIEW ACT (H.R. 455)
Sponsor: Rep. John Katko [R, NY] 
SOURCE  |  BILL TEXT

Bipartisan H.R. 455 would require the Department of Homeland Security to conduct a northern border threat analysis, according to the bill sponsor.


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.

Gavel Down: Closing Out the Week in Congress — 10.23.15

POPVOX This Week

Top Search on POPVOX: “gun”

Most Active Bill on POPVOX:
Restoring Americans’ Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Act (H.R.3762)

from Rep. Tom Price (R, GA)

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.

This reconciliation bill includes language to repeal key parts of Obamacare: the individual mandate, the employer mandate, the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), the medical device tax and the ‘Cadillac tax.’ In addition, it would defund Planned Parenthood for one year.


#SpeakerSearch

  • Paul Ryan kicked off the week announcing he was ready to take the Speaker’s gavel, with conditions. (The Daily Show has a few other suggestions for conditions he might consider.)
  • On Thursday we learned that a supermajority in the House Freedom Caucus is on board with the conditions (but not enough for a formal endorsement), and they have conditions of their own:
    • no immigration reform while Obama in office, and
    • following the “Hastert Rule,” no advancement of bills without support of a “majority of the majority”.

Who will be the next chair of “The Powerful Ways and Means Committee” (now that Paul Ryan looks set for a promotion)?

Looks like candidates for the next chair are Reps. Patrick Tiberi [OH-12], Kevin Brady [TX-8] and Devin Nunes [CA-22].


#ViewFromTheHill – October 22, 2015

The real “Monuments Men” were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for recovering valuable pieces of Western culture during WWII. The Monuments Men Foundation used the POPVOX widget to mobilize more than 800 people in support of H.R. 3658: The Monuments Men Recognition Act, in the 113th Congress.


#BenghaziHearing

It was hard to miss the crowds flooding the Longworth House Office Building for the Benghazi hearing on Thursday — or the flood of news coverage that followed Hillary Clinton’s marathon testimony before the House Select Committee. The Washington Post provided a helpful three minute summary of the testimony.


#HighwayBill #ICYMI

In case you missed it, one of the most consequential bills likely to be considered this year got a markup while most of Washington was focused on the Benghazi hearing. The Transportation & Infrastructure Committee amended and approved the Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act (aka “the highway bill” you keep hearing about) for the House floor. Transportation & Infrastructure leaders “are sure” it will make it to the floor, the question is: when?


#NDAA

Also on Thursday (notice a pattern?), President Obama vetoed the $612 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the fifth veto of his term.
He cited several objections, including the ongoing sequester and other spending limits. In addition: 

“This legislation specifically impeded our ability to close Guantánamo in a way that I have repeatedly argued is counterproductive to our efforts to defeat terrorism around the world.” – White House statement on the NDAA veto


#Reconciliation

On Friday, the House voted to pass reconciliation package that would repeal parts of the Affordable Care Act and halt federal funding for Planned Parenthood. The bill is now off to the Senate, where it can be considered without a 60-vote cloture requirement (assuming the package passes muster with the Senate “Byrd Rule.”) The President is then expected to veto, setting up a veto override vote in Congress. However, a conservative revolt could derail the bill’s progress, as some conservative groups are opposing because the bill leaves some parts of ObamaCare intact.


#BudgetTalks

Budget talks stalled before they could even really begin. Democrats reject Republicans’ entitlement programs reform, while Republicans dismiss Democrats’ domestic spending increases (sans painful cuts). The stalemate could lead to a one-year deal being passed, rather than the intended two-year deal to avoid a spending fight in the middle of an election year.


#CISA

October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month — as if on cue, the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (S. 754) advanced in the Senate on Thursday. This bill has seen the Senate Floor three times but stalled over privacy protections. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Senate will try to wrap up work on the bill and vote next Tuesday afternoon.


#DebtCeiling

Treasury Secretary, Jacob Lew, has warned that the U.S. will breach its “debt ceiling” on November 3, if Congress does not act to raise it. While raising the debt ceiling has been used in the past as a leverage point for negotiations on other issues, President Obama indicated on Friday that he would veto anything less than a “clean bill” to raise the limit. The House is expected to vote on the bill next week. House Freedom Caucus members will likely oppose the bill, meaning outgoing Speaker John Boehner will have to rely on Democratic votes as he “clear the barn” of these contentious issues before passing the gavel to a successor.


About that Gavel…

Speaker John Boehner tells the story of the gavel.


#HackWeTrust: “Hacking Congress” with Congress

Civic techies joined Members of Congress and staff to imagine ways to leverage technology to help Congress better communicate with constituents, be more transparent, and create the “hearing of the future.”

Alex Howard has a wrap-up for HuffingtonPost: “Biggest Innovation At Congressional Hackathon Was Lawmakers Actually Working Together.”


Weekend Reads

A Pictorial History of the U.S. Federal Debt Limit – George J. Hall and Thomas J. Sargent, Becker Friedman Institute, The University of Chicago

Introduction to Budget “Reconciliation” – David Reich and Richard Kogan, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities 

Veto Override Procedure in the House and Senate  – Elizabeth Rybicki, 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.

The Real “Monuments Men” Recognized by Congress

Advocates used the POPVOX Write Congress widget to request that Congress honor these brave men. The ceremony will take place on October 22, 2015.

photo: The Monuments Men Foundation

On Thursday, October 22, House and Senate leaders will present a Congressional Gold Medal in recognition of the Monuments Men, a group of men and women who protected and recovered historical sites and cultural artifacts during World War II.

In the 113th Congress, more than 800 POPVOX users weighed in, urging Congress to recognize the Monuments Men with the highest civilian honor bestowed by Congress.

We recently received this message from one of the advocates:

 

[Dear POPVOX]:

The Monuments Men Foundation used your widget last year to help with our outreach and ask our friends and followers to contact their legislators to ask for their support of this bill. Now the time has come to actually award this medal! We would love it if you would share the news with your readers.

 

The ceremony will take place October 22nd, 2015 at 3 pm in Emancipation Hall and will be live streamed at speaker.gov/live.

For more information about the real Monuments Men, see:  https://www.monumentsmenfoundation.org/.

To the Monuments Men, our heartfelt congratulations. And to all of the brave veterans of WWII, we thank you for your service!


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The Week Ahead in Congress: Oct. 19 – Oct. 24

The House returns from recess on Tuesday to consider reauthorizing the District of Columbia’s school voucher program, and bills related to reforming homeland security programs, the federal budget and data privacy. Meanwhile, the Senate will continue to work on a bill that would withhold certain federal funds from “sanctuary cities.”

Read More