GavelDown Li.001

Gavel Down: Dec. 7 – Dec. 11

It was a “to be continued” sort of week in Congress. Negotiations continue on an end-of-year Omnibus spending bill and tax extenders, while a short-term extension passed to give the “glacial” process more time. A trade enforcement bill passed the House, marking the third conference report in ten days, and several Members introduced bills to authorize military force against ISIS.


 

Top Search on POPVOX this week:

“firearms”
Most active bill on POPVOX this week:

#Omnibus – delayed departure

Surprising no one, Congress voted this week on a short-term extension to current spending authority to give time for ongoing negotiations on the BIG end-of-year bill, known as the “Omnibus”

According to reports, things are moving slowly: “glacier-like” and “snail’s pace” were how several Members described it.
A deal is expected Monday, with negotiators working over the weekend to bridge remaining impasses on controversial “policy riders.” While there is no public list of riders under consideration some rumored provisions include:

 


 

 

#TaxExtenders

House and Senate tax writers are still working on a possible deal for large tax changes and extension of expired provisions. On Friday, House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi, said that House Democrats would not support the package:
“It’s too big, it’s unfair and does not have the support of House Democrats… but it could have the support of others. I’m not speaking for anyone except House Democrats.”

Given the Democratic opposition, the house may fall back to a bill introduced by Ways and Means Chairman, Kevin Brady, this week:

(As an amendment to the Senate amendment to H.R. 34): The Tax Increase Prevention and Real Estate Investment Act
Draft language | More from Forbes

What’s a “tax extender” anyway?


#TradeEnforcement Bill to Senate

On Friday, the House sent a third conference report to the Senate (following recent passage of the Highway and Education conference reports.) The Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act (H.R. 644)”would update trade policies at U.S. borders and authorize the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.”

Speaker Paul D. Ryan noted the milestone in his weekly press briefing as a return to “regular order”:

“I’ve talked about how conference committees have been an endangered species here in Washington. Well, with the customs conference report passing tomorrow, that will be the third conference report passing in Congress in 10 days.

“Let me put that in perspective. In the entire last Congress, only three conference reports became law in total. Only three conference reports became law all last Congress. We’ve done three conference reports in 10 days.

“So we are getting real, concrete results. And we’re getting the House of Representatives back to functioning as the people’s House.”


Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF)

Several versions of authorization exist but none have been approved. President Obama urged Congress “to vote to authorize the continued use of military force against these terrorists” in his Sunday address to the nation. This week Rep. Scott Rigell [R, VA-2] and Rep. Peter Welch [D, VT-0] introduced companion legislation to a proposal by Sen. Tim Kaine [D, VA] and Sen. Jeff Flake [R, AZ] to authorize war against the Islamic State.

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.

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


Paris Climate Talks

International negotiators continue to hash out major climate pact, working past original deadline. Text for the new climate change accord was released but there’s still one major hole to address — how to monitor follow through on promises to cut emissions growth.

Will the new agreement make a difference?

Mixed reviews — Mother Jones explains why 1.5 degrees matters. Morning Consult finds that 27% of voters think countries will not follow through on promises made in agreement.


Source: Morning Consult


#ViewFromTheHill When Congress votes late into the evening, the typically empty plaza fills up with cars double parked. Check out our POPVOX View From the Hill on Tumblr

Hearingpolooza

Several notable hearings occurred on the Hill this week, including but not limited to:

Senate Special Committee on Aging: Senate’s first hearing on drug pricing this year — examined sudden huge increases in prices of older drugs, such as Turing Pharmaceuticals’ overnight increase to $750 a pill from $13.50. Sen. Claire McCaskill [D, MO]: “My biggest challenge today is not to lose my temper. The facts underlying this hearing are so egregious…”

Senate Subcommittee on Space, Science and CompetitivenessSen. Ted Cruz [R, TX] held a nearly three-hour hearing to question “the objectivity of climate research.” The main focus of the hearing was examining satellite records that showed global temperatures have barely budged since 1998. Many Democrats refuted this evidence, saying it involved isolated data points taken out of context.

House Financial Services: Reauthorized its task force to study how money flows to militants and supports acts of violence. Chairman Rep. Jeb Hensarling [R, TX-5] said the committee is in “fact-finding mode” to determine financial links to terrorism. Legislation on terrorism financing is expected in the first months of 2016.

Senate Armed Services: Defense Secretary Ash Carter requested funds for the “Syria equipping program” during hearing on U.S. Strategy to counter ISIL and U.S. policy toward Iraq and Syria. Panel chair Rep. John McCain [R, AZ-0] said “We don’t want to approve of something like that again” — referencing previous funding that produced only a handful of fighters, falling short of intended goal of 5,000+ fighters.


#ICYMI 

 


Obama oval office2

Issue Spotlight: President Obama Oval Office Address on Security & Terrorism

On Sunday night, President Obama addressed the nation.

In the speech, he discussed the tragedy of San Bernardino, which he called “an act of terrorism designed to kill innocent people.”

He discussed the military strategy against ISIS:

  1. Air strikes in Iraq and Syria and “hunt[ing] down terrorist plotters in any country where it is necessary.”
  2. Training and equipping Iraqi and Syrian forces
  3. Working with allies to disrupt plans and cut off financing

 

In addition, the President called on Congress to take four actions. Below are bills that are already pending in Congress related to these four areas identified by the President:

 

“To begin with, Congress should act to make sure no one on a no-fly list is able to buy a gun”

S. 551: Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act of 2015
Sponsor: Sen. Dianne Feinstein [D, CA]

 

H.R. 1076: Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act of 2015
— BIPARTISAN —
Sponsor: Rep. 
Amends the federal criminal code to authorize the Attorney General 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.

Extends the prohibition against the sale or distribution of firearms or explosives to include individuals whom the Attorney General has determined to be engaged in terrorist activities. Imposes criminal penalties on individuals engaged in terrorist activities who smuggle or knowingly bring firearms into the United States.

“We also need to make it harder for people to buy powerful assault weapons, like the ones that were used in San Bernardino.”

H.R. 1745: Support Assault Firearms Elimination and Reduction for our Streets Act
Sponsor: Rep.

 

Amends the Internal Revenue Code to allow an individual taxpayer to elect a tax credit of $2,000 for surrendering a specified assault weapon, as defined by this Act, as part of a public safety program to reduce the number of privately owned weapons. 

 

H.R. 3051: Background Check Completion Act
Sponsor: Rep. 

 

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. 3411: The Fix Gun Checks Act
Sponsor: Rep. 

 

To ensure that all individuals who should be prohibited from buying a firearm are listed in the national instant criminal background check system and require a background check for every firearm sale.

 

“Next, we should put in place stronger screening for those who come to America without a visa so that we can take a hard look at whether they’ve traveled to war zones.”

***This week the House will vote on:***

H.R. 158: Visa Waiver Program Improvement Act of 2015
— BIPARTISAN —

Sponsor: Rep. 

Amends the Immigration and Nationality Act to include terrorism risk as a factor the Secretary of Homeland Security shall consider under the electronic system for travel authorization (ESTA) in determining the eligibility of an alien to travel to the United States. …

Authorizes the Secretary to suspend a country from the visa waiver program without prior notice if the country fails to comply with an agreement to share information regarding whether its citizens and nationals traveling to the United States pose a U.S. security threat.

 

“Finally, if Congress believes, as I do, that we are at war with ISIL, it should go ahead and vote to authorize the continued use of military force against these terrorists.”

Read more about the President’s request for Congressional authorization.

 

H.J.Res.27: Authorization for Use of Military Force Against ISIL Resolution

Sponsor: Rep. 

Authorizes the President to use the U.S. Armed Forces against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in the territory of the Republic of Iraq and the Syrian Arab Republic…  does not authorize the deployment of ground forces in a combat role (excluding special operations forces or other forces that may be deployed in a training, advisory, search and rescue, or intelligence capacity; and such authority shall terminate three years after enactment of this resolution. Directs the President to report to Congress at least once every 60 day.

 

S. 1587: Authorization for Use of Military Force against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant

Sponsor: Rep. 

 

H.J.Res.33: Authorization for Use of Military Force against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant

Sponsor: Sen. Tim Kaine

Authorizes the President to use the U.S. Armed Forces against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or associated persons or forces. Declares that this resolution is intended to constitute specific statutory authorization pursuant to section 5(b) of the War Powers Resolution.

 

S.J.Res. 26:A joint resolution to authorize the use of United States Armed Forces against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and its associated forces.

Sponsor: Sen. Lindsey Graham [R, SC]

 

Photo: Vadim Ghirda/AP
in The Atlantic "The War Against Isis will go Undeclared"

Should Congress authorize the use of force against ISIS?

 

February 2015: President Obama requested authorization from Congress

In February, President Obama submitted a request to Congress for military authorization to combat ISIS.

(Read the President’s letter to Congress.)

On POPVOX, constituents opposed the measure five-to-one (see map). Read what these constituents wrote to Congress.

 

By April, House GOP leaders said that there was “no path to 218 votes” on the President’s plan.

In May, then-Speaker John Boehner criticized the President’s approach:

“The president’s request for an authorization of the use of military force calls for less authority than he has today… This is why the president, frankly, should withdraw the authorization of use of military force and start over.”

 

Without a formal authorization, the Obama Administration “relied on past authorizations for the use of military force (AUMFs) against al-Qaeda in 2001 and in Iraq in 2002 as the legal justification for the current campaign against the terrorist organization operating mostly in Iraq and Syria.” (RCP)

 

Several Members of Congress have introduced versions of authorization resolutions, including:

 

 


 

On December 3, Sen. Lindsey Graham [R, SC] introduced the latest resolution:

 

Here’s what constituents are telling Congress about this new proposal to authorize military force against ISIS:

 
WeeklyUpdate

The Week Ahead in Congress: Dec. 7 – 11

Avoiding a Government Shutdown… and More

It’s that time of year again… when Congress looks to pass spending legislation to avoid a federal government shutdown by Friday. During the last budget negotiations in late September, a Republican proposal defunding Planned Parenthood threatened to trigger a shutdown, which was averted by a temporary measure keeping the government funded until December 11. Now, Members of Congress are proposing to include carbon and water deregulation measures as well as limiting Syrian refugees as part of the spending bill.

The Hill 101: What is an “Omnibus” bill?

In addition to the omnibus spending bill, the House will work on changing the Visa Waiver Program, in light of the Paris attacks, as well as banning microbeads. The Senate will continue a bipartisan effort to replace No Child Left Behind, before sending it to the President for his signature. And, House Speaker Paul Ryan is calling for comprehensive mental health legislation to address gun violence, while other Members of Congress are proposing an end to the ban on federal gun violence research.


 

Sunday night: President Obama Live Address to the Nation

Last night, President Obama addressed the nation. In the speech, he discussed the tragedy of San Bernardino, which he called “an act of terrorism designed to kill innocent people.” In addition, the President called on Congress to take four actions:
  1. Deny weapons to individuals on the no-fly zone,
  2. Make it tougher to access assault weapons,
  3. Improve the security of the visa waiver program,
  4. Pass an authorization for the use of military force against ISIS.
Several bills are pending in Congress to address each of these topics (and the House will vote this week on changes to the visa waiver program.) Find out more and tell Congress what you think about these issues.

 

Visa Waiver Program Changes

The House will vote on legislation to amend the Visa Waiver Program, which allows for visa-free travel into the US for millions of people from 38 participating countries.

“Following the attacks in Paris last month, a bipartisan majority in the House swiftly urged the Obama administration to pause its Syrian refugee resettlement program. We also pledged to examine other potential vulnerabilities that foreign terrorists could exploit to enter the country. To that end, next week the House will consider thoughtful legislation offered by Rep. Candice Miller to ratchet up security guidelines within the Visa Waiver Program.

– House Speaker Paul D. Ryan

 

Would “help the Department of Homeland Security identify and stop terrorists with Western passports from entering the United States,” according to the bill sponsor

  • “Requires countries participating in our Visa Waiver Program to continually share terrorism and foreign traveler data with the United States and requires the Secretary of Homeland Security to suspend their participation if they do not meet this requirement.  (Currently, the Secretary can only suspend VWP participation for imminent national security threats.)
  • “Requires countries participating in our Visa Waiver Program to utilize INTERPOL’s criminal and law enforcement databases by requiring countries to report lost and stolen passports within 24 hours and screen all passengers against all INTERPOL databases and notices, and requires the Secretary of Homeland Security to suspend their participation if they do not meet this INTERPOL requirement.”

 


Mental Health Legislation in Response to Mass Shootings

The tragic mass shootings in Colorado, South Carolina and California have prompted Members of Congress to discuss the causes of gun violence and ways to reduce it. House Speaker Paul Ryan called on Congress to work on mental health legislation early next year, noting a bill introduced by Congressman Tim Murphy (R-PA) to address the issue:

 

H.R. 2646: Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act
— BIPARTISAN —
Sponsor: Rep. Tim Murphy [R-PA-18]

 

“Fixes the nation’s broken mental health system by focusing programs and resources on psychiatric care for patients & families most in need of services,” according to the bill sponsor. (Read summary here)

 

Gun Violence Research

On the same day as the San Bernardino shooting, a group of doctors lobbied lawmakers in Washington, DC to end the ban on allowing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to conduct research on gun violence.

In 1996, Congress added an amendment, known as the Dickey Amendment, to an appropriations bill that blocked the CDC from researching gun violence and discontinuing funding for that research. Last week, the amendment’s author, Congressman Jay Dickey [R-AR], reversed his position in a letter to the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force:

“Research could have been continued on gun violence without infringing on the rights of gun owners, in the same fashion that the highway industry continued its research without eliminating the automobile… it is my position that somehow or someway we should slowly but methodically fund such research until a solution is reached.  Doing nothing is no longer an acceptable solution.”

— Former Congressman Jay Dickey, author of the initial gun violence research ban

 

In October, more than 100 members of the House sent a letter to leadership to end the ban on federal funding for gun violence research. “As a result of this ban, there has been very limited academic research into the causes of gun violence and its impact on public health, weakening efforts to make our communities safer and to implement bipartisan gun reforms,” explained the letter.

 

In addition, several bills have been introduced to promote research on gun violence:

 

H.R. 2612 and S. 1473: Authorizing CDC gun violence prevention research
— BIPARTISAN —
Sponsor: Rep. Carolyn Maloney [D, NY-12] and Sen. Ed Markey [D, MA]

Would set aside $10 million in funding each year for FY2016-2021 at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to conduct or support research on firearms safety or gun violence prevention, according to the bill sponsors.

 

H.R. 3926: Gun Violence Research Act

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

“Would Give the CDC the authority to research the causes, mechanisms, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of injuries with respect to gun violence; encourage the improvement and expansion of National Violent Death Reporting System; and empower health care providers by not inhibiting a physician or other health care provider from asking a patient about the possession of a firearm, speaking to a patient about gun safety, or reporting to authorities a patient’s threat of violence,” according to the bill sponsor.

 

H.Res 467 Establishing the Select Committee on Gun Violence Prevention

Sponsor: Rep. Mike Thompson [D, CA-5]

Establishes the House Select Committee on Gun Violence Prevention to investigate and report on: the causes of mass shootings, methods to improve the federal firearms purchaser background check system, connections between access to firearms and dangerously mentally ill individuals, strengthening federal penalties for trafficking and straw purchasing of firearms, closing loopholes that allow some domestic abusers continued access to firearms, linkages between firearms and suicide, gun violence’s effect on public health.

 


Banning Microbeads

This week, the House will vote on banning microbeads. According to the House Energy and Commerce Committee:

“Microbeads are those tiny little scrubbers in your soap, cleansers, and even toothpaste. On their own, they are nearly invisible, smaller than a pinhead. But once they’ve flushed down the drain is when the problems begin…. They are known to absorb pollutants, and are often mistaken as food by fish and wildlife. Simply put, microbeads are causing mega-problems.”

— BIPARTISAN —
Sponsor: Rep. Frank Pallone [D, NJ-6]

Would ban the sale or distribution of cosmetics products containing plastic microbeads effective January 1, 2018.


Conference on Customs and Trade Enforcement

Last week, the House agreed to go to conference with the Senate to negotiate the two chambers’ versions of the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act, also known as Customs Reauthorization. The House and Senate each passed different versions of the bill this summer.

A House-Senate agreement would send the bill to the President—authorizing the Customs and Border Protection agency for the first time since it was created in the aftermath of the September 2001 attacks.

H.R. 644: Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act

Sponsor: Rep. Tom Reed [R, NY-23]

“Provides direction on how to streamline trade, improve enforcement, and measure progress within Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in order to move the ever-increasing volume of legitimate trade more efficiently and halt trade that doesn’t comply with US laws,” according to the House Ways and Means Committee. The bill focuses on three critical aspects of CBP’s mission, as well as enhancing transparency and accountability: facilitating and streamlining the flow of legitimate trade; modernization of CBP’s automated systems; and enforcement of US trade laws.  


Education Reform in the Senate

Last week, the House passed a House-Senate conference agreement that would replace No Child Left Behind. The agreement now goes to the Senate for its approval. It represents a compromise between the House-passed Student Success Act (H.R. 5) and the Senate-passed Every Child Achieves Act (S. 1177):

— BIPARTISAN —

This agreement is a historic step in reforming K-12 education. Lead negotiators – Representatives John Kline [R, MN-2] and Bobby Scott [D, VA-3] and Senators Lamar Alexander [R, TN] and Patty Murray [D, WA] — combined policies from the House bill that passed with only Republican support, and the Senate bill that carried broad bipartisan support.


In the House

The House will also vote on the following bills:

Sponsor: Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee [D, TX-18]

“Requires the Secretary of Homeland Security to submit a study on the circumstances which may impact the effectiveness and availability of first responders before, during, or after a terrorist threat or event,” according to the House Homeland Security Committee.

 

 

— BIPARTISAN —
Sponsor: Rep. Buddy Carter [R, GA-1]

“Would reauthorize the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) located in Brunswick, Georgia. Since its creation in the 1970’s, FLETC has provided high-quality, cost-effective, standardized training for federal law enforcement training officers from multiple agencies,” according to the bill sponsor. 

 

 

— BIPARTISAN —
Sponsor: Rep. Will Hurd [R, TX-23]

“Will give state and local governments access to federal resources when it comes to securing their digital information systems,” according to the bill sponsor. “directs the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC) at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to coordinate with state and local governments on securing their information systems on a voluntary basis. The NCCIC can assist in identifying system vulnerabilities and possible solutions. They can also provide technical, implementation and privacy training for cybersecurity analysts. In addition, the NCCIC will be required to seek feedback from state and local governments in order to report on the effectiveness of their efforts.”  Source

(Congressman Hurd organized cyber offensive campaigns while working as an undercover officer in the CIA.)

 

 

— BIPARTISAN —
Sponsor: Rep. Michael McCaul [R, TX-10]

Establishes a Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and Explosives Office (CBRNE) within the Department of Homeland Security.

— BIPARTISAN —
Sponsor: Rep. John Ratcliffe [D, TX-4]

Would expand: (1) the role of the Directorate of Science and Technology as the primary research, development, testing, and evaluation arm of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS); and (2) the duties of the Under Secretary for Science and Technology, who is the head of the Directorate.

 

 

— BIPARTISAN —
Sponsor: Sen. John Thune [R, SD]

Would “make the STB more accountable and effective in addressing rail rate and service disputes,” according to the bill sponsor. http://www.thune.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/2015/6/senate-passes-bipartisan-surface-transportation-board-reforms
·       “Improves the STB’s current dispute resolution process by setting timelines for rate reviews and expanding voluntary arbitration procedures to address both rate and service disputes;
·       “Ensures the STB has the authority to proactively resolve problems before they escalate into larger disputes by providing the STB with the ability to initiate investigations on matters other than rate cases; and
“Improves the STB’s structure and
decision making processes by expanding the board membership from three to five and, with proper disclosure, allowing board members to talk with one another.”
— Passed by the Senate on 6/8/2015; now goes to the House for consideration. — 

 

 

— BIPARTISAN —
Sponsor: Rep. Darrell Issa [R, CA-49]
“Would waive passport fees for certain first responders who travel to foreign countries to aid in disaster response,” according to the bill sponsor. 

— BIPARTISAN —
Sponsor: Rep. Ted Poe [R, TX-2]

“would increase public oversight over foreign aid by requiring federal agencies to show both where taxpayer money is spent around the world and how effective that aid is,” according to the bill sponsor. “First, it would require the President to establish guidelines on measurable goals, performance metrics, and monitoring and evaluation plans for all foreign aid programs. Second, it would increase aid transparency by codifying what is currently being done through the Foreign Assistance Dashboard and increasing the amount of information required to be posted online, including actual expenditures and evaluations.” Source

 

 

— BIPARTISAN —
Sponsor: Rep. Albio Sires [D, NJ-8]

“To encourage the development of health products that are affordable, culturally appropriate, and easy to use in low-resource health systems. This bill will require the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to submit a report on the development and use of global health innovations at the Agency,” according to the bill sponsor. 

 

 

— BIPARTISAN —
Sponsor: Rep. Kevin Brady [R, TX-8]

Would extend from 45 days to 60 days the annual notice period for the announcement of payment rates under Medicare Advantage (MA). MA organizations shall have at least 30 days to comment on proposed changes.

 

 

— BIPARTISAN —
Sponsor: Rep. Scott Perry [R,PA-4

Makes technical corrections to the Homeland Security Act (HSA) of 2002.

 

 

Sponsor: Sen. Tom Carper [D, DE]

“Would improve existing programs, requirements and procedures across federal agencies established to identify and prevent improper payments,” according to the bill sponsor.  “Improper payments continue to cost agencies billions of taxpayer dollars, and ultimately undermine the effectiveness of the services that Americans rely upon. This legislation builds on past bipartisan efforts to implement stronger program integrity measures across the federal government and provide agency officials with the tools they need to identify and prevent improper payments.”
—Passed by the Senate on 7/28/2015; now goes to the House for consideration.—

 

 

Sponsor: Rep. Mac Thornberry [R, TX-13]

“Requires the BLM to commission a survey along the 116-mile stretch of the Red River using the gradient boundary survey method developed and backed by the Supreme Court to determine the proper ownership boundary between public and private land,” 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.

what's am omnibus.001

The Hill 101: What’s an “Omnibus” bill?

The end-of-year “Omnibus” Spending Bill is by now a Congressional holiday tradition — as is the “will they or won’t they?” nail-biter finish that comes within hours of a stated deadline and sometimes pushes through multiple short-term extensions…and delayed holiday plans.

Technically, the Omnibus is one big bill that “carries” lots of smaller bills.

And it really does work like a “bus.” This year’s spending bill will carry the very important cargo of several smaller spending bills that did not make it out of the appropriations process on their own. These bills end up riding together in one big bill at the end of the year. But they may not be the only ones on board.

Policy Riders (or, “poison pills” if you don’t like them): The big debate occurring now is whether additional non-appropriations measures will “ride” along with the spending bills. And the standby list is long. Some of those reported to have been in a first draft (which was rejected by House Democrats) include:

  • Provisions to disapprove Obama’s EPA regulations — would garner Republican votes but lose some Democrats and bring a veto threat, so it might be negotiated away in order to get another priority, like:
  • Repealing the ban on exports of crude oil — a bill passed earlier in the year to this effect, with bipartisan support.
  • Limiting entry for Syrian refugees — would lose some Democrats, who instead favor:
  • Bipartisan proposal to limit the visa waiver program, which allows citizens of some countries to enter the U.S. without a visa. (President Obama supports some form of this provision and has already begun tightening restrictions on the visa waiver program.)
  • A McConnell proposal to eliminate caps campaign spending by political parties in coordination with candidates (opposed by the Freedom Caucus)

And those are just some of the ones that have made it to the press. CNN reports: “Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, the top Democrat in the Senate, was upbeat on Tuesday about progress in the talks, noting that the number of riders in the bill had shrunk from 250 to 100. But he also warned that any one of those riders could cause the bill to fail.”

The ‘bus is supposed to arrive by December 11, when current spending expires, but Speaker Paul Ryan said Congress might not have a deal by then. If not, we would likely see a short-term extension to allow time for negotiations to continue. GOP leaders are showing no desire for another shutdown fight, while President Obama is not ruling it out, if he is sent a bill with policy riders he opposes.

GavelDown Li.001

Gavel Down: Nov. 30 – Dec. 4

It was a HUGE week — the long-term Highway Bill finally passed (in time to avoid a midnight Friday deadline). The Senate voted to repeal Obamacare, the House passed its Energy bill and the Education Reform conference report. Speaker Ryan gave a “major speech” to a DC audience. US Special Forces were deployed to combat ISIS, the UK Parliament voted to join the fight, and US military combat roles were opened to women. And gun access questions were again in the spotlight after the tragedy in San Bernardino.


 

Top Search on POPVOX this week: “gun”

Most active bill on POPVOX this week:

Congress has struck deals on major highway and education bills. And there’s a push on the budget and taxes…  Don’t look now, but Congress is actually about to get a lot done.

– Steven T. Dennis, writing in Fortune


 

#HighwayBill

Congress passed long-term highway bill just in time — the Highway Trust Fund was to expire at midnight on Friday (after several short-term extensions.) Obama will sign. Reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank was included in the bill. (How’d that happen?)  Experts say we still need to talk about transportation policy.


#Reconciliation: Obamacare Repeal & Defunding Planned Parenthood

For the first time ever, the Senate passed a bill to repeal parts of Obamacare and defund Planned Parenthood (through the budget reconciliation procedure that is not subject to the 60-vote cloture requirement). President Obama will veto the bill. Nevertheless, Senate GOP leadership says that the bill gets senators on the record and establishes a precedent with Senate Parliamentarians for a similar vote in the future, (if the next president were to be Republican and would sign it into law).

Gun Amendments Rejected

The Reconciliation process included a “vote-a-rama” of amendments, including several in response to the tragedy in San Bernardino. Each gun measure failed.

S. 551: The Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act
Sponsor: Sen. Dianne Feinstein [D, CA]
“To increase public safety by permitting the Attorney General to deny the transfer of firearms or the issuance of firearms and explosives licenses to known or suspected dangerous terrorists. ”
— The measure failed, 45-54 — (Vote to waive point of order) How did your Senator vote?

Manchin-Toomey Amendment (introduced in previous Congress)
Sponsors: Sen. Joe Manchin [D, WV], Sen. Pat Toomey [R, PA], Sen. Mark Kirk [R, IL]
“To protect Second Amendment rights, ensure that all individuals who should be prohibited from buying a firearm are listed in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, and provide a responsible and consistent background check process.”
— The measure failed, 48-50 — (Vote to waive point of order) How did your Senator vote?

S. 2359: A bill to restore Second Amendment rights in the District of Columbia (concealed-carry reciprocity)
Sponsor: Sen. Rand Paul [R, KY]
“To increase public safety by permitting the Attorney General to deny the transfer of firearms or the issuance of firearms and explosives licenses to known or suspected dangerous terrorists. ”
— The measure failed, 54-45 — (needed 60) How did your Senator vote?


#Omnibus

The end-of-year “Omnibus” Spending Bill is by now a Congressional holiday tradition — as is the “will they or won’t they?” nail-biter finish that comes within hours of a stated deadline and sometimes pushes through multiple short-term extensions…and delayed holiday plans.

Technically, the Omnibus is one big bill that “carries” lots of smaller bills.

And it really does work like a “bus,” with some very important cargo of several smaller spending bills that did not make it out of the appropriations process on their own. These bills end up riding together in one big bill at the end of the year. But they may not be the only ones on board.

Policy Riders (or, “poison pills” if you don’t like them): The big debate occurring now is whether additional non-appropriations measures will “ride” along with the spending bills. And the standby list is long. Some of those reported to have been in a first draft (which was rejected by House Democrats) include:

  • Provisions to disapprove Obama’s EPA regulations — would garner Republican votes but lose some Democrats and bring a veto threat, so it might be negotiated away in order to get another priority, like:
  • Repealing the ban on exports of crude oil — a bill passed earlier in the year to this effect, with bipartisan support.
  • Limiting entry for Syrian refugees — would lose some Democrats, who instead favor:
  • Bipartisan proposal to limit the visa waiver program, which allows citizens of some countries to enter the U.S. without a visa. (President Obama supports some form of this provision and has already begun tightening restrictions on the visa waiver program.)
  • A McConnell proposal to eliminate caps campaign spending by political parties in coordination with candidates (opposed by the Freedom Caucus)

And those are just some of the ones that have made it to the press. CNN reports: “Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, the top Democrat in the Senate, was upbeat on Tuesday about progress in the talks, noting that the number of riders in the bill had shrunk from 250 to 100. But he also warned that any one of those riders could cause the bill to fail.”

The ‘bus is supposed to arrive by December 11, when current spending expires, but Speaker Paul Ryan said Congress might not have a deal by then. If not, we would likely see a short-term extension to allow time for negotiations to continue. GOP leaders are showing no desire for another shutdown fight, while President Obama is not ruling it out, if he is sent a bill with policy riders he opposes.


#ESSA — the End of No Child Left Behind

This week the House passed the conference report on an education reform bill that “restores local education control” according to the New York Times. The bill heads to the Senate and is expected to pass and be signed into law next week.

Basically we’re back to an era that encourages local and state innovation rather than Washington telling you what to do,” – Sen. Lamar Alexander [R, TN] (Sponsor)


 

 

Energy Reform

In what’s been called “the first major energy legislation in nearly a decade,” the House passed a sweeping energy bill that would lift the ban on U.S. crude oil exports, update the electric grid, and increase production.

What next? The bill goes to the Senate. President Obama has threatened to veto the bill (H.R. 8).

Meanwhile in the energy world, clean-energy patents continue to increase and are headed for a new record. According to the Clean Energy Patent Growth Index, most patents this year have been for solar technologies — followed by fuel cells, electric vehicles, and wind power.

 Source: Bloomberg Business

Hearingpolooza

Several notable hearings occurred on the Hill this week, including but not limited to:

House Judiciary: Long-awaited hearing on e-mail privacy bill. Chairman Bob Goodlatte [R, VA-6] proposed an exemption that would require Internet companies to turn over customer data during an emergency.

Senate Judiciary: Puerto Rico Governor said to let the commonwealth go bankrupt.

House Armed Services: Joint Chiefs Chairman says “We have not contained ISIL” when asked point blank by Rep. Randy Forbes [R, VA-4].

Senate Finance: Sen. Orrin Hatch [R, UT] and Sen. Ron Wyden [D, OR] both spoke about the need for comprehensive tax reform. Big topic of discussion: tax inversions, specifically recent Pfizer/Allergan merger.

#ViewFromTheHill – December 1, 2015

The Senate Finance Committee held its third hearing in 18 months to examine the need for international tax overhaul. Sen. Ron Wyden [D, OR] said Pfizer/Allergan’s planned inversion wouldn’t be the last. Download testimony here.

Check out our POPVOX View From the Hill on Tumblr


Mental Health Reform

Speaker Paul Ryan called on Congress to pass mental health legislation — following recent shootings in both Colorado and California.

When asked about the mental health bill, Energy & Commerce Committee Ranking Member Rep. Frank Pallone [D, NJ-6] said there’s been no progress since the markup last month. He said Rep. Tim Murphy “doesn’t seem to want to incorporate or address any of the concerns we have.” Rep. Eliot Engel [D, NY-16] said Murphy spoke with him this week and that Murphy would like to come up with a compromise.


Combatting ISIS

British Parliament voted to approve airstrikes against ISIS in Syria — joining the U.S. and other nations in the bombing campaign. Speech from Hilary Benn brought British MPs to tears. Sen. Lindsey Graham [R, SC] introduced Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) against ISIL. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter sent additional Special Operations forces to Iraq.

#ICYMI 

  • Most Americans feel that “their side” loses more than it wins in politics, according to a new study from Pew.
  • The Treasury Department sanctioned several banks and individuals for assisting the government of Syria and facilitating Syrian oil purchases from ISIL.
  • The Pentagon opened all combat roles in the military to women.
  • Capitol Hill staffer was arrested for bringing loaded gun to work.
  • Texas officials sued the Obama administration and a refugee resettlement nonprofit, after a Syrian refugee family was due to arrive in the state.
  • Florida Supreme Court approved a new congressional map for the sunshine state.
  • Physicians from around the country petitioned Congress to lift a restriction that blocks the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from conducting research on gun violence.
  • Speaker Paul Ryan delivered his first “major speech” at the Library of Congress.

 

#inGENuitY2015

The Washington Post and 1776 hosted a summit devoted to the entrepreneurial spirit of the millennial generation and how it is changing business, politics and culture. Our very own Whitney Wyszynski joined entrepreneurs and policy influencers for a day of informational panels and peer-to-peer learning. POPVOX guest snapped for the Post. Watch the full sessions here.


Weekend Reads

Who Gets to Be Represented in Congress? by Garrett Epps, The Atlantic

How Washington is holding Puerto Rico back by Anne O. Krueger, POLITICO

Today’s Washington Press Corps More Digital, Specialized, Pew Research Center

ISIS in America: From Retweets to Raqqa by Lorenzo Vidino and Seamus Hughes, The George Washington University Program on Extremism


Wishing you a wonderful weekend!

– Team POPVOX

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.

WeeklyUpdate

The Week Ahead in Congress: Nov. 30 – Dec. 4

Congress is back in session after Thanksgiving recess. The House will consider an energy bill—and whether to disapprove the Administration’s new EPA standards — while the President travels to Paris for the COP21 climate change conference. The Senate and House will soon vote on the final long-term highway funding bill, which is being hammered out in conference, before a Friday deadline.


 

#GivingTuesday

“Giving Tuesday” — the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving — kicks off the holiday season in a spirit of service following the Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping days. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard [D, HI-2] and Rep. Will Hurd [R, TX-23] introduced a bipartisan resolution to recognize #GivingTuesday (H.Res. 482):

H.Res. 482: Expressing the sense of the House that Congress should recognize the benefits of charitable giving and express support for the designation of #GivingTuesday       — Bipartisan — 

 


Energy Policy Changes (and Challenges)

House energy policy vote

This week, the House will vote on an energy bill that, according to the sponsor, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman, Rep. Fred Upton [R, MI-6], addresses “many of the nation’s energy laws [that] are rooted in the days of energy scarcity and do not take into account our newfound energy abundance.”

H.R. 8: North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act  
—  Bipartisan  —   
Sponsor: Rep. Fred Upton [R, MI-6]
“Fortifies America’s energy security by reinvesting in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and by hardening and modernizing energy infrastructure to withstand21st century threats like cyber, severe weather, and EMP attacks. The legislation will also help benefit the United States by streamlining the approval of LNG exports and by providing improved coordination on energy diplomacy issues with our North American neighbors… also includes energy efficiency provisions,” according to the House Energy and Commerce Committee. 

Section-by-Section Summary   |   Congressional Budget Office Score

 

Paris Climate Talks #COP21

On Sunday, President Obama travels to Paris to attend the United Nations “Conference of Parties” to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, also known as the 2015 Paris Climate Conference or “COP21.” The stated goal of the conference was “to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate,” with over 150 heads of state participating. That goal, however, was a sticking point for the Obama Administration, which would be constitutionally-bound to submit any “treaty” to the Senate for ratification. On the eve of the talks, it was announced that French negotiators would not push for a “treaty” designation and would be open to allowing some non-binding provisions.

In Congress, Members have introduced three measures stating that the results of the Paris talks should be considered a treaty and submitted by the President for the “Advice and Consent” of the Senate.

 

S.Res.290: Expressing the sense of the Senate that any protocol to, or other agreement regarding, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change… shall be considered a treaty requiring the advice and consent of the Senate.
Sponsor: Sen. Rand Paul [R, KY]

 

H.Con.Res. 97: Expresses the sense of Congress that the President should submit to the Senate for advice and consent the climate change agreement … and Congress should refuse to consider any budget resolutions and appropriations language that include funding for the Green Climate Fund until COP-21 emissions commitments are submitted to the Senate. 
Sponsor: Rep. Mike Kelly [R, PA-3]

 

S.Con.Res 25A concurrent resolution expressing the sense of Congress that the President should submit the Paris climate change agreement to the Senate for its advice and consent.
Sponsor: Sen. Mike Lee [R, UT]

 

Obama Administration Efforts on Climate Change

In May 2015, President Obama, in a speech at the Coast Guard Academy commencement, said that climate change poses a serious national threat:

 

“Around the world, climate change increases the risk of instability and conflict. Rising seas are already swallowing low-lying lands, from Bangladesh to Pacific islands, forcing people from their homes. Globally, we could see a rise in climate change refugees…

Climate change, and especially rising seas, is a threat to our homeland security, our economic infrastructure, the safety and health of the American people.”
—  President Obama speech to Coast Guard Academy commencement

 

On August 3, 2015, President Obama and EPA announced the “Clean Power Plan” regulatory plan—“a historic and important step in reducing carbon pollution from power plants that takes real action on climate change.” It establishes “strong but achievable standards for power plants, and customized goals for states to cut the carbon pollution that is driving climate change,” according to the EPA. Learn more about the Clean Power Plan.

 

This Week: Congressional Efforts to “Disapprove” Obama Environmental Regulations

This week, the House will vote on two resolutions to formally “disapprove” Administration regulations under the rarely-used “Congressional Review Act.” (Read more from POPVOX on the CRA). The resolutions have already passed the Senate and are expected to be vetoed if they reach the President’s  desk. (Only one CRA resolution in history has been successful.)

 

S.J.Res. 23: Resolution Disapproving of the New EPA EGU Carbon Pollution Standards
Bipartisan
Sponsor: Sen. Mitch McConnell [R, KY]

Disapproves of the EPA’s “Standards of Performance for Greenhouse Gas Emissions from New, Modified, and Reconstructed Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Generating Units.” The EPA is finalizing new source performance standards (NSPS) under Clean Air Act (CAA) section 111(b) that, for the first time, will establish standards for emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) for newly constructed, modified, and reconstructed affected fossil fuel-fired electric utility generating units (EGUs). This action establishes separate standards of performance for fossil fuel-fired electric utility steam generating units and fossil fuel-fired stationary combustion turbines.

S.J.Res. 24Resolution Disapproving of the EPA’s Carbon Pollution Guidelines for Existing Sources  
Sponsor: Sen. Shelley Moore Capito [R, WV]

Disapproves of the EPA’s “Carbon Pollution Emission Guidelines for Existing Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Generating Units.”  The EPA is establishing final emission guidelines for states to follow in developing plans to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from existing fossil fuel-fired electric generating units (EGUs).


Highway and Transportation Funding Deadline Friday

A long-term highway funding bill is currently under negotiation by a formal House–Senate conference committee.

“This is significant in and of itself,” explained a spokesman for House Speaker Paul Ryan. Conference committees have become rare. This month, two conference committees met—one on the highway bill and one on K-12 education reform. The ESEA conference report may also get a vote this week.

 

 

The House and Senate are under pressure to pass the highway bill before a Friday deadline for the expiration of highway funding authority — a time set by the latest stop-gap, short-term extensions passed to give the conference committee time to work.

This means that by Friday, the conference committee must negotiate differences to create one bill, pass the bill in both the House and Senate and finally send it to the President for his signature into law. However, House procedures require that Members have 48 hours to view legislation before voting on it—making the deadline essentially December 2nd.

The House passed its version earlier this month, the Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform (STRR) Act (H.R. 3763), which 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 Senate passed a six-year highway authorization, the DRIVE Act (H.R. 22), providing three years of guaranteed funding for the highway trust fund, in July.


Also in the House

This week, the House will also consider:

S. 1170: Breast Cancer Research Stamp Reauthorization Act 
   — Bipartisan  —   
Sponsor: Sen. Dianne Feinstein [D, CA]
– Passed Senate 9/22/15  –

Current authorization for the Breast Cancer Research Stamp expires this year, and this bill would extend the sale of the stamps for an additional four years. The stamp provides first-class postage and currently costs 60 cents, with 11 cents directed toward helping fund breast cancer research programs.  Since 1998, proceeds from the stamp have exceeded $80.4 million, helping to fund the National Cancer Institute’s breast cancer research programs at the National Institutes of Health and the Medical Research Program at the Department of Defense, according to the bill sponsors.

S. 611: Grassroots Rural and Small Community Water Systems Assistance Act  
   — Bipartisan  —   
Sponsor: Sen. Roger Wicker [R, MS]
Passed Senate 6/9/15  –

“Would reauthorize the “Safe Drinking Water Act’s” (SDWA) technical assistance and training provision for $15 million per year over the next six years,” according to the sponsor. “More than 50,000 small and rural communities, comprising more than 90 percent of the drinking water supplies in the country, are responsible for providing safe, clean water to their citizens. The Environmental Protection Agency’s technical assistance and training provision assists these communities in securing the necessary technical expertise to improve and protect their water resources. The initiative has been effective in ensuring implementation of the SDWA in rural areas.”

H.R. 3490: Strengthening State and Local Cyber Crime Fighting Act
   — Bipartisan  —   
Sponsor: Rep. John Ratcliffe [R, TX-4]

“Authorizes the National Computer Forensics Institute (NCFI) under the US Secret Service in order to train state and local law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and judges on how to investigate cyber and electronic crimes, conduct computer and mobile device forensic examinations, and respond to network intrusion investigations,” according to the House Judiciary Committee. 

H.R. 3279: Open Book on Equal Access to Justice Act 
   — Bipartisan  —   
Sponsor: Rep. Doug Collins [R, GA-9]

“Will strengthen the Equal Access to Justice Act, passed in 1980, by reinstating the tracking and reporting requirements on how much money is being paid out by the federal government under EAJA. The Open Book on Equal Access to Justice Act increases transparency by requiring the Administrative Conference of the United States (ACUS) to submit an annual report to Congress and establish an online searchable database to allow public access to information on the amount being spent on attorneys’ fees under EAJA. This allows taxpayers to see to whom their money is being paid and from which agencies,” according to bill sponsors.

H.R. 1755: Changing the Disabled American Veterans’ Federal Charter
   — Bipartisan  —   
Sponsor: Rep. Jeff Miller [R, FL-1]

Since 1920, Disabled American Veterans “provides free assistance to veterans and their families in obtaining federal benefits and services earned through military service” and “represents the interests of disabled veterans, their families, their widowed spouses and their orphans before the federal, state and local governments.” This bill would alter the DAV’s federal charter as a step toward changing its tax-exempt status from a 501(c)(4) to a 501(c)(3) organization to “facilitate DAV in its fund-raising efforts,” according to the House Judiciary Committee. 

H.R. 1541: PRISM (Preservation Research at Institutions Serving Minorities) Act 
   — Bipartisan  —   
Sponsor: Rep. Raúl Grijalva [D, AZ-3]

Would make Hispanic-serving institutions eligible for technical and financial assistance for the establishment of preservation training and degree programs, according to the House Natural Resources Committee. 

H.R. 2212: To take Federal lands in Lassen County, California, into trust for the benefit of the Susanville Indian Rancheria 
   — Bipartisan  —   
Sponsor: Rep. Doug LaMalfa [R, CA-1]

Would direct the Secretary of the Interior to take into trust approximately 300 acres of adjacent Bureau of Land Management (BLM) managed lands for the Susanville Indian Rancheria. Under the bill, class II and class III gaming under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act is prohibited on these lands, according to the House Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs. 

H.R. 2288: To remove the use restrictions on certain land transferred to Rockingham County, Virginia
   — Bipartisan  —   
Sponsor: Rep. Bob Goodlatte [R, VA-6]

Removes a deed restriction on Rockingham County, VA property so that upgrades can be made to a childcare facility, according to the House Committee on Natural Resources. 

H.R. 2270: Billy Frank Jr. Tell Your Story Act
   — Bipartisan  —   
Sponsor: Rep. Denny Heck [D, WA-10]

Would designate the wildlife refuge on the Nisqually River Delta as “The Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge.” The legislation also creates a National Historic Site at the location of the signing of the 1854 Medicine Creek Treaty, and requires the U.S. Secretary of the Interior to involve the Nisqually, Muckleshoot, Puyallup, and Squaxin Island Tribes in the development of educational materials for the National Historic Site, according to the sponsor.

Background: Billy Frank Jr. was known as a tireless champion for treaty rights, tribal sovereignty, and salmon recovery. He was on the front lines in the campaign against state-imposed limits on tribal fishing, known as the Fish Wars in the 1960s and 1970s where he organized “fish-ins”—modeled after the sit-ins of the civil rights movement. Those efforts lead to the 1974 Boldt, which reaffirmed the Tribes’ rights to half of the fish harvest in Washington.


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.

GavelDown Li.001

Gavel Down: Nov. 21 – 27

This week Congress was out for Thanksgiving. The President pardoned a turkey and signed six bills into law — including one he previously vetoed. A corporate merger strategically designed for tax benefit reignites the “inversions” talk in Congress and there are rumors of a deal coming on “Tax Extenders.”


 

Top Search on POPVOX this week:

“refugee”

Most active bill on POPVOX this week:

President Pardons Turkey — Sets Off International Incident

With “Dad jokes” and a few pretty good one-liners, President Obama fulfilled his seventh turkey “pardon” this year for Thanksgiving. (Watch)

“Time flies, but turkeys don’t,” remarked the President — even drawing a giggle from his youngest daughter.

The turkeys, “Honest” and “Abe” were selected in a nationwide poll by the National Turkey Foundation. Unfortunately, a turkey named “Abe,” —  also the English spelling of the name of the Japanese Prime Minister — brought some (perhaps intentional) confusion in the Chinese media.


President Signed Sweeping Defense Authorization (that he previously vetoed)

On November 25th, President Obama signed S. 1356, the “National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016” (NDAA) into law, explaining that he vetoed a previous version due to a disagreement on military funding levels that was later changed in the Bipartisan Budget Agreement. Though “deeply disappointed” with restrictions in the NDAA on moving detainees from Guantanamo, the President said he was signing the bill:

because it includes vital benefits for military personnel and their families, authorities to facilitate ongoing operations around the globe, and important reforms to the military retirement system, as well as partial reforms to other military compensation programs.  It also codifies key interrogation-related reforms from Executive Order 13491, which I strongly support.

Speaker Paul Ryan said: “By signing this legislation, President Obama is now required to come up with a real, comprehensive plan to defeat ISIS.”

(Read full summary of the bill from the House Armed Service Committee.)

How did your Representative or Senators vote on the NDAA? 


 

Five Other Bills Became Law This Week

The President also signed:

  • H.R. 208, the “Recovery Improvements for Small Entities After Disaster Act,” expanding access to Small Business Administration (SBA) loans to small businesses during major disasters;
  • H.R. 639, the “Improving Regulatory Transparency for New Medical Therapies Act,” to amends the effective date of Food and Drug Administration approval of drugs;
  • H.R. 2262, the “U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act,” which amends current law concerning the U.S. commercial human spaceflight industry; extends authority for use of the International Space Station through September 30, 2024; and provides authority to facilitate commercial exploration for and commercial recovery of space resources;
  • S. 799, the “Protecting Our Infants Act,” which establishes activities at the Department of Health and Human Services to research and address prenatal and postpartum opioid-use disorder and neonatal abstinence syndrome;
  • S. 2036, the “Equity in Government Compensation Act,” (capping CEO pay and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac)

 

Congress could vote on Major Tax Bill in Next Two Weeks

The tax media is reporting that Congress is working on a $700 million end-of-year tax package that could come up for a vote in the next two weeks:

House and Senate negotiators are working on a tax extenders package that would make the research credit permanent and delay the Affordable Care Act’s “Cadillac” tax on high-cost healthcare plans for two years …

According to tax lobbyists and House staffers, the tentative deal now under consideration is being developed by all congressional leaders and the White House. The extenders are likely to be attached to the omnibus budget legislation expected to pass Congress by December 11.   Tax Analysts

What are “Tax Extenders”?

“Tax Extenders” are carve-outs in the tax code that give special treatment to certain activities — and they are usually only authorized for one year and must be “extended.” That one-year, short-term policymaking means that there is a massive annual lobbying scramble for reauthorization from almost every corner of Washington. 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 markets” tax credits to encourage development of affordable housing and in underserved areas, and many many many more. (Read the full list on POPVOX, also see: Meet the Tax Extenders from Politico)


Pfizer Deal Reignites Corporate “Tax Inversions” Debate

On Monday, American pharmaceutical giant, Pfizer, announced that it would merge with the Irish company, Allergan. While Pfizer is much larger, the combined company will officially be Irish, for tax purposes, becoming the latest (and one of the largest) “corporate inversions,” and reigniting discussions about the U.S. “worldwide” tax system. “Corporate inversion” is the practice of companies moving headquarters overseas to avoid U.S. taxes. The pending Pfizer deal received several mentions on the Presidential campaign trail from both Republicans and Democrats.

On December 1, the two tax-writing committees in Congress (Senate Finance and House Ways and Means) will hold hearings to examine international tax policy. The U.S. Treasury Department recently released new rules aimed at making the practice more difficult, but significant reform would require Congressional action. Several bills are pending to limit corporate inversions, including S. 198 from Senator Dick Durbin [D-IL] and H.R. 415 from Rep. Sander Levin [D-MI-9].


Congressional Action on Refugees Hits Bumps

Members of Congress responded to the Paris attacks with a host of bills aimed at limiting entry into the United States and discussions about ways to roll back the President’s plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees next year.

  • A House bill (H.R. 4038) that passed last week to require heightened screening of Syrian refugees may face a Democratic filibuster in the Senate.
  • While some Members of Congress have suggested blocking funding for Syrian refugees in a funding bill, the process is not straightforward. Most refugee assistance is financed by immigration fees and not dependent on a Congressional appropriation, which is how Congress normally yields its “power of the purse.”
  • Instead of limiting refugee entry, some Democrats are proposing to limit “visa waiver” access for people who have spent time in Syria.
  • The visa waiver program allows people with certain passports to enter the US without a visa, which many business groups support. In fact, two bills (S. 2091H.R. 1401) were introduced this Congress to expand the program.
  • In the wake of the Paris attacks, some Members are pushing for bipartisan legislation to bar gun sales to suspected terrorists. The Senate bill (S. 551) is sponsored by Sen. Diane Feinstein [D-CA] and the House bill (H.R. 1076) is sponsored by Rep. Peter King [R-NY].

 

#ICYMI (In Case You Missed It)

  • Some Senators are working on a bill to assist Puerto Rico, which is expected to default on its debt on December 1.
  • Most Americans feel that “their side” loses more than it wins in politics, according to a new study from Pew.
  • The Treasury Department sanctioned several banks and individuals for assisting the government of Syria and facilitating Syrian oil purchases from ISIL

 

Weekend Reads

Speaker Ryan is “steering” the Congress toward more changes – Molly E. Reynolds, Brookings

See how Americans rate their own senators (Hint: much better than they rate “Congress” as a whole) – Reid Wilson, Morning Consult



 

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 WeeklyUpdate

The Week Ahead in Congress: November 23rd-27th

With Congress in recess this week for Thanksgiving, here’s a look at bills related to military action against ISIS, safeguards and funding for admission of Syrian refugees — and whether states have the authority to refuse refugees. Before leaving for recess last week, the House and Senate reached bipartisan agreement on replacing No Child Left Behind. And, as you plan your holiday shopping, remember “Small Business Saturday”!


Replacing No Child Left Behind

Last week, the House and Senate conference committee reached agreement on a proposal to replace No Child Left Behind. The legislation is expected to be on the floor of both chambers shortly after the Thanksgiving recess. It represents a compromise between the House-passed Student Success Act (HR 5) and the Senate-passed Every Child Achieves Act (S 1177).

Conference Agreement on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) — Bipartisan—

This agreement is a historic step in reforming K-12 education. Lead negotiators – Representatives John Kline [R, MN-2] and Bobby Scott [D, VA-3] and Senators Lamar Alexander [R-TN] and Patty Murray [D-WA] — combined policies from the House bill that passed with only Republican support, and the Senate bill, which carried broad bipartisan support.

This agreement, in my opinion, is the most significant step towards local control in 25 years.”  – Senator Lamar Alexander

According to the House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline, this agreement:

  • “Reduces the federal role in K-12 education. One-size-fits-all federal policies dictating accountability and school improvement are eliminated.”
  • “Restores local control by returning to state and local leaders the primary responsibility for accountability and school improvement. The framework protects the right of states to opt out of federal education programs, as well as provides new funding flexibility so federal resources are better spent on priorities set at the local level.”
  • “Empowers parents. We continue to promote transparency about school performance, so parents have the information they need to do what’s best for their children. We also strengthen the charter school program and magnet school program to offer parents greater school choice.”

Read the full summary  |  Check out the POPVOX Issue Spotlight


Small Business Saturday

With Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the full holiday shopping season just around the corner, Congress considered bills related to small business issues before leaving for Thanksgiving recess. Small Business Saturday, November 28, celebrates and supports small businesses and their roles in communities.

The Senate recently adopted a resolution honoring small businesses (S.Res. 304). The House Small Business Committee will consider a similar resolution when they return:

H.Res. 534 — Bipartisan —

Sponsor: Rep. Steve Chabot [R, OH-1]

Expressing support for the designation of a “Small Business Saturday” and supporting efforts to increase awareness of the value of locally owned small businesses.

The resolution notes that there are over 28 million small businesses in the United States, representing 99.7 percent of all businesses with employees and employing more than 48 percent of private sector employees.

The House Small Business Committee also held a hearing on the contribution of entrepreneurs to America’s economy and considered a resolution recognizing the third Tuesday in November as National Entrepreneurs’ Day:

HRes. 511 — Bipartisan —

Sponsor: Rep. Steve Chabot [R, OH-1]

Expressing support for designation of the third Tuesday in November as “National Entrepreneurs’ Day”.


Military Action Against ISIS?

In the wake of the Paris attacks, the White House released a progress update on the fight against ISIS (also known as ISIL or Daesh). A part of that strategy includes “relentlessly pursuing ISIL leaders and going after attack plotters wherever they are.” Some Members of Congress are urging for additional action.

Last week, Congressman Tom Emmer (R-MN) introduced a joint resolution declaring a state of war against the Islamic State:

H.J.Res. 73

Sponsor: Rep. Tom Emmer [R, MN-6]

Declaring that a state of war exists between the Islamic State and the Government and the people of the United States and making provision to prosecute the same.

“The Islamic State has declared war against America and now we have an obligation to act,” said Congressman Emmer. “The wolf of tyranny is at our doorstep and now is the time to euthanize this evil before it enters America’s home. Congress must exercise its constitutional authority through this Declaration of War and give the President the power to utilize all facets of our military and diplomatic strength to successfully defeat our enemies. It is time that we speak with one voice and unite as a country against the Islamic State.”

Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX) introduced a resolution urging the Administration to work with the NATO member states:

H.Res. 525

Sponsor: Rep. Ted Poe [R, TX-2]

Urging the Administration to work with North Atlantic Treaty Organization member states to invoke Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty in response to the Paris attacks. Article 5 signifies that an attack on one NATO country is an attack on all and requires a joint response from all NATO members.


Syrian Refugees and National Security

More than four million Syrians have fled the conflict zone in their home country, contributing to the largest global refugee crisis since World War II. In response to the crisis, the Obama Administration announced plans to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees into the United States over the course of this fiscal year — after each of them undergo 18 to 24 months of security screenings, including biometric (fingerprint) and biographic checks, medical screenings, and lengthy interviews.

Last week, the House passed the American SAFE Act (HR 4038), which aims to “stop the open flow of 10,000 Syrian refugees to the United States without adequate vetting.” The President issued a veto threat, saying that the bill introduces “unnecessary and impractical requirements that would unacceptably hamper our efforts to assist some of the most vulnerable people in the world.”

American Security Against Foreign Enemies (SAFE) Act (HR 4038)

Sponsor: Rep. Michael McCaul [R, TX-10]

|| Passed by the House on Nov. 19, 2015; now goes to the Senate for consideration ||

“Would put in place the most robust national security vetting process in history for any refugee population and it gives the American people the assurances needed that we will do everything possible to prevent terrorists from reaching our shores,” according to the bill sponsors.

“Specifically, under this legislation, no refugee from Iraq or Syria will be admitted into the U.S. unless: 1. The FBI Director certifies the background investigation of each refugee; and 2. The Secretary of Homeland Security, along with the FBI Director and the Director of National Intelligence, certifies to Congress that each refugee is not a security threat to the United States. Under this legislation, no Syrian or Iraqi refugee can enter the United States until the American people’s representatives in Congress receive these certifications.”

The American SAFE Act is under fire by some Republicans in the Senate who believe there isn’t a way to easily vet Syrian refugees, and estimate the costs of resettling Syrian refugees in the United States as too high. (The bill doesn’t specify how the certification process is supposed to work.) Senator Jeff Sessions [R-AL], Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest, explained:

“[T]he American SAFE Act – fails to defend the interests of the American people. It is based on a flawed premise, as there is simply no way to vet Syrian refugees. …  there is no database in Syria against which they can run a check…  no way to enter Syria to verify the applicants’ personal information.  And we know the region is being flooded with false documents.” – Senator Jeff Sessions


States’ Response to Refugees

In October 2015, 187 Syrian refugees were accepted into the US and settled in 17 states—the first of the 10,000 expected in this fiscal year:

Last week, 27 Republican governors wrote to President Obama asking him to “suspend all plans to resettle additional Syrian refugees.” The governors wrote that while the US “has long served as a welcoming beacon”, the priority must be on “ensuring the safety and wellbeing of our citizens.”

Members of Congress also responded by introducing bill related to governors’ authority to receive refugees into their states:

States Right of Refusal Act (HR 4032)

Sponsor: Rep. Ted Poe [R, TX-2] and 32 cosponsors

“Will amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to ensure that States have the right to refuse to participate in the Refugee Resettlement program if their Governor chooses to opt out.  Right now, the Refugee Resettlement Act only permits consultation with the States, but it does not give the States the right to refuse,” according to the bill sponsor.

Give States a Chance Act (HR 4078)

Sponsor: Rep. Ted Yoho [R, FL-2] and 2 cosponsors

“Protects state governors’ right to refuse Syrian refugees in their states if they have not been properly notified, if they impose a security threat, or if the proposed location is not appropriate,” according to the bill sponsor.

HR 4030

Sponsor: Rep. Steven Palazzo [R, MS-4] and 0 cosponsors

“Would support the rights of the states to determine whether or not they choose to accept refugees as part of any resettlement program,” according to the bill sponsor. 

Refugee Relocation Security Act (HR 4033)

Sponsor: Rep. Eric “Rick” Crawford [R, AR-1] and 1 cosponsor

“Would put an immediate moratorium on the relocation of refugees from Syria and Iraq into the United States. In response to state and local leaders… who have expressed concerns about the relocation of refugees, the bill would give State governments the authority to decide whether or not to allow refugees into their states,” according to the bill sponsor.

H.Con.Res. 94

Sponsor: Rep. Mark Meadows [R, NC-11] and 0 cosponsors

Declares that, in the case of a governor requesting that Syrian refugees not be resettled in his or her state (whether temporarily or permanently), no federal official should take any adverse action against, or withhold funds from, the state, and no federal official should take any other action to persuade or entice the governor to reverse such request.

Find more information and related bills in the POPVOX Issue Spotlight


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.

ESEA

Issue Spotlight: Replacing No Child Left Behind

*** UPDATE – November 30, 2015: The language for the combined House/Senate bill is now available here. ***


Last week, the House and Senate conference committee reached agreement on a proposal to replace No Child Left Behind.
The legislation is expected to be on the floor of both chambers shortly after the Thanksgiving recess. It represents a compromise between the House-passed Student Success Act (HR 5) and the Senate-passed Every Child Achieves Act (S 1177).

Conference Agreement on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act 

 

This bipartisan agreement is a historic step in reforming K-12 education. The lead negotiators – Representatives John Kline (R-MN) and Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA)—borrowed ideas from both the House bill that passed in July with only Republican support as well as the Senate bill, which carried broad bipartisan support.

As one of the lead negotiators, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), explained to the media:

This agreement, in my opinion, is the most significant step towards local control in 25 years.” – Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN)

According to the House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) this agreement addresses three key principles:

  • “Reduces the federal role in K-12 education. One-size-fits-all federal policies dictating accountability and school improvement are eliminated.”
  • “Restores local control by returning to state and local leaders the primary responsibility for accountability and school improvement. The framework protects the right of states to opt out of federal education programs, as well as provides new funding flexibility so federal resources are better spent on priorities set at the local level.”
  • “Empowers parents. We continue to promote transparency about school performance, so parents have the information they need to do what’s best for their children. We also strengthen the charter school program and magnet school program to offer parents greater school choice.”

(Read the full summary http://edworkforce.house.gov/uploadedfiles/joint_esea_conference_framework_short_summary.pdf )

 

Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Conference Agreement

The joint House-Senate conference committee’s agreement on a proposal to improve K-12 education and replace No Child Left Behind. The agreement represents a compromise between the House-passed Student Success Act (HR 5) and the Senate-passed Every Child Achieves Act (S 1177).

Highlights in the proposal include:

  • Replaces the one-size-fits-all “adequate yearly progress” federal accountability system under current law with a comprehensive State-designed system that improves State capacity to identify and support struggling schools.
  • Builds on State-led innovation in measuring school performance using multiple measures beyond test scores, including student engagement, access to and completion of advanced coursework, and school climate and safety.
  • Maintains annual, statewide assessments in reading and math in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school, as well as science tests given three times between grades 3 and 12.
  • Requires that the federal government not mandate or incentivize states to adopt or maintain any particular set of standards, including Common Core.
  • Ends federal mandates on teacher evaluations, while allowing states to innovate with federal funding.
  • Improves the Charter Schools Program by investing in new charter school models, as well as allowing for the replication and expansion of high-quality charter school models.
  • Includes early childhood education under the federal education umbrella.
  • Authorizes ESEA for four more years, which means that lawmakers will be able to revisit the policy under the next Administration.

(Read the full summary http://edworkforce.house.gov/uploadedfiles/joint_esea_conference_framework_short_summary.pdf )