GavelDown Li.001

Gavel Down: Nov. 16 – 20

Repercussions of the attacks in Paris ruled headlines this week as the House voted to restrict U.S. refugee policy – a bill that the White House threatened to veto. Congress received a high-level security briefing. And Congress held two joint House-Senate conference committee meetings — on Highway and Education reform bills.

Top Search on POPVOX:

“refugee”

Most Active Bill on POPVOX:

Kate’s Law (S. 2193)

Sponsored by:Sen. Ted Cruz (R, TX)
To amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to increase the maximum prison term for a person who reenters after being denied admission, excluded, deported, or removed from two years to five years.

Bill to Limit Refugee Policy Passes House

As Congress reconvened for the week, dozens of bills were introduced in response to the Paris attacks. Many sought to restrict refugee policies, including The American Safe Act (H.R. 4038) from Rep. Michael McCaul (R, TX) which passed the House on Thursday/


To Conference We Go

One of the final steps of “regular order” in the legislative process is “going to conference” –when the House and Senate appoint conferees to meet and work out differences in different versions of bills that passed both chambers.

On Thursday, two conference committees met on major legislation: the long-term highway bill and an education reform bill. This is more in-the-weeds, “regular order” legislating than has happened in a long time! This increases the number of conference committees from two to four (so far) for the 114th Congress.The conferences now underway will likely impact infrastructure projects and education policy for many years to come.

Transportation Conference

  • Lawmakers are expected to reach agreement and file a conference agreement by Nov. 30. The combined bill (a “conference report”) would then come up for a vote in both the House and Senate.
  • House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R, PA), say that’s “a very ambitious schedule.”
  • The House and Senate passed respective bills that cover six years, but so far, neither legislative body can find enough funding for more than three years. This obstacle caused Senate leaders and transportation lobbying groups to shift support to a shorter bill with more funding. House Transportation Ranking Member, Peter DeFazio (D, OR), supports this option but Chairman Shuster is “sticking to his guns on a six-year bill, saying the House option is his preferred length.”
  • Learn more about the bills S. 1647 DRIVE Act and H.R. 3763 STRR Act.

Education Conference

  • On Thursday, House and Senate lawmakers agreed to a bipartisan, bicameral compromise for replacing No Child Left Behind — with a vote of 39-1 to endorse the deal.
  • Sen. Rand Paul (R, KY) was the lone dissenter — not present but voting “no” by proxy —  opposing any federal government role in public schools.
  • Here’s the framework for the agreement, the Every Student Succeeds Act.
  • Up next: The agreement will be brought to the House for a vote by Dec. 2. If it passes, President Obama is expected to sign it into law.This would mark a significant transfer of power and authority over public schools from the federal government to state and local governments.
  • Recap: Both chambers passed their respective bill versions in July. Learn more about the bills S. 1177 Every Child Achieves Act of 2015 and H.R. 5 Student Success Act.

Federal Reserve in Congressional Crosshairs

On Thursday, the House passed H.R. 3189: The Fed Oversight Reform and Modernization (FORM) Act by a vote of 241-185. The “Audit the Fed” bill now goes to the Senate. The White House has threatened to veto the bill if it reaches the President’s desk. Read more from the AP.
Also — Congress may tap the Fed’s capital reserves as a “pay-for” for the Highway Bill, now in conference.
The Fed expressed: “strong concerns about using the resources of the Federal Reserve to finance fiscal spending.”


#ViewFromTheHill – November 16, 2015

Upped security was evident on the Hill this week, in response to recent terrorist attacks and security concerns. Bearcats like this one were spotted, and public events and school field trips were cancelled or postponed. Check out our POPVOX View From the Hill on Tumblr

Trans Awareness Week

The House launched a task force for transgender equality and hosted its first-ever forum on violence against transgender people. Learn more about current legislation affecting the transgender community.


Congressional Pushback on Obama Environmental Efforts

Congressional disapproval of environmental rules: On Tuesday, the Senate held two votes invoking the Congressional Review Act to “disapprove” the President’s Clean Power Plan. (Read more about the Congressional Review Act – a “legislative Loch Ness monster.”)

Paris Climate talks coming – Congressional opposition hardening: The largest  climate talks ever will convene in Paris on November 30, with 190 countries represented. In the Senate, a bipartisan group introduced a non-binding resolution this week stating their view that any agreement emerging from the talks should be considered a “treaty”, constitutionally subject to approval by two-thirds of the Senate. The Obama Administration has indicated it plans to negotiate the deal in a way where it would not be submitted to Congress.


#ICYMI (In Case You Missed It)

  • Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a closed briefing on how the U.S. should proceed in the aftermath of the Paris attacks. Listen to Sen. Bob Corker (R, TN) discuss the closed briefing.
  • This week, the Obama Administration announced rules to clamp down on corporate “tax inversions” (moving operations to offshore subsidiaries to avoid US taxes).
  • Wednesday was The Great American Smokeout. We highlighted proposals in Congress that address smoking and tobacco sales, particularly among children.

 

Weekend Reads

Conference Committee and Related Procedures: An Introduction by Elizabeth Rybicki, Congressional Research Service

Syrian refugees split Democratic Party by Seung Min Kim and Burgess Everett, POLITICO

Negotiators Come to Agreement on Revising No Child Left Behind Law by Motoko Rich, The New York Times

ObamaCare repeal teeters in Senate by Alexander Bolton, The Hill

No Child Left Behind Overview, New America

The Clash Over the Paris Climate Talks by Clare Foran, The Atlantic

House Freedom Caucus Eyes Paul Ryan and Its Bolstered Relevance by Billy House, Bloomberg Politics


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.

 

photo credit: http://darkroom.baltimoresun.com/

Issue Spotlight: Refugee Policies and U.S. Strategy for Combatting ISIS/ISIL/D’aesh

The horrific attacks in Paris have intensified ongoing discussions about the American strategy for combatting ISIS — or “ISIL” or “D’aesh. (See: Why John Kerry and the French president are calling ISIS “Daesh.”) It has also brought some to express concerns about refugee resettlement policies for those fleeing ISIS, ongoing human rights violations in Syria, and US intelligence capabilities in the region. While there will be ongoing debate about the extent to which refugee policies, domestic threats, and military strategy intersect, the issues are already intersecting within the U.S. political debate.

We highlight bills already pending in Congress about these topics. Presidential candidates (and senators) Ted Cruz and Rand Paul have announced that they will introduce related bills. (We will update as bill details become available.)

 

UPDATE: November 19, 2015: House passes H.R. 4038

H.R. 4038: To require that supplemental certifications and background investigations be completed prior to the admission of certain aliens as refugees, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. McCaul, Michael T. [R-TX-10] (Introduced 11/17/2015)

How did your rep vote?

 

UPDATE November 18, 2015: Related bills introduced in the past 48 hours

H.R.4048: To suspend the admission and resettlement of aliens seeking refugee status because of the conflict in Syria until adequate protocols are established to protect the national security of the United States 
Sponsor: Rep. Graves, Garret [R-LA-6] (Introduced 11/17/2015)

 

H.R.4033: To temporarily suspend the admission of refugees from Syria and Iraq into the United States and to give States the authority to reject admission of refugees into its territory or tribal land.
Sponsor: Rep. Crawford, Eric A. “Rick” [R-AR-1] (Introduced 11/17/2015)

 

H.R.4032: To amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to provide for a limitation on the resettlement of refugees.
Sponsor: Rep. Poe, Ted [R-TX-2] (Introduced 11/17/2015)

 

H.R.4031: To prohibit obligation of Federal funds for admission of refugees from Syria, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Byrne, Bradley [R-AL-1] (Introduced 11/17/2015)

 

H.R.4030: To amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to provide that refugees may not be resettled in any State where the governor of that State has taken any action formally disapproving of the resettlement…
Sponsor: Rep. Palazzo, Steven M. [R-MS-4] (Introduced 11/17/2015)

 

H.R.4025: To prohibit obligation of Federal funds for admission of refugees from Syria, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Ross, Dennis A. [R-FL-15] (Introduced 11/17/2015)

 

S.2284: A bill to suspend the admission and resettlement of aliens seeking refugee status because of the conflict in Syria until adequate protocols are established to protect the national security of the…
Sponsor: Sen. Vitter, David [R-LA] (Introduced 11/17/2015)

 

H.R.4017: Save Christians from Genocide Act
Sponsor: Rep. Rohrabacher, Dana [R-CA-48] (Introduced 11/16/2015)

 

H.R.3999: American SAFE Act of 2015
Sponsor: Rep. Hudson, Richard [R-NC-8] (Introduced 11/16/2015)

 

H.Res.528: Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives regarding the Victims of the Terror Protection Fund.
Sponsor: Rep. Jackson Lee, Sheila [D-TX-18] (Introduced 11/16/2015)

 


The U.S. Military Strategy to Combat ISIS

Last Friday, the U.S. conducted an airstrike in Libya, killing the leader of ISIS in Libya. The airstrike marked the first time the U.S. directly attacked an ISIS target in Libya. “It demonstrates that the United States will go after ISIL leaders wherever they operate,” a Defense Department spokesperson explained.

In the wake of the Paris attacks, several Members of Congress called for a “Syria Surge,” while President Obama, speaking from the G20 meeting in Turkey, said: “It is not just my view, but the view of my closest military and civilian advisers, that that would be a mistake.”

Beyond the question of strategy, there is also the question of the President’s authority to undertake military in the region. On November 10, Deputy Special Presidential Envoy For The Global Coalition To Counter ISIS, Brett McGurk, spoke before a Senate briefing, saying that President Obama did not need additional authority to take on ISIS.

However, the President has requested this authority, sending Congress a draft Authorization of the Use of Military Force (AUMF) resolution earlier in the year:

 

 Draft Authorization for the use of Military Force in Syria
Proposed by: President Barack Obama

 

Several lawmakers have proposed versions of an AUMF, and other bills related to military strategy against ISIS:

 

S.1587: Authority for the Use of Military Force Against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Act
Sponsor: Sen. Kaine, Tim [D-VA]

 

H.J.Res.33: Authorization for Use of Military Force against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
Sponsor: Rep. Kinzinger, Adam [R-IL-16]

 

H.J.Res.30: Comprehensive Solution to ISIL Resolution
Sponsor: Rep. Lee, Barbara [D-CA-13]

 

H.J.Res.27: Authorization for Use of Military Force Against ISIL Resolution
Sponsor: Rep. Schiff, Adam B. [D-CA-28]

 

HRes. 139: Condemning violence against religious minorities in the Middle East and any actions that limit the free expression and practice of faith by these minorities.
Sponsor: Rep. Black, Diane [R-TN-6]

 

HJ.Res. 269 A resolution expressing the sense of the House
Sponsor: Rep. Smith, Christopher H. [R-NJ-4]

[T]hat: the United States should urge the government of Syria and other parties to the civil war in Syria to implement an immediate cease fire and engage in negotiations to end the bloodshed; the United States should declare that it is a requirement of basic justice that war crimes and crimes against humanity, whether committed by officials of the government of Syria or other parties to the civil war in Syria, should be investigated and prosecuted; the President should direct the U.S. representative to the United Nations to promote the establishment of a Syrian war crimes tribunal; the United States should continue its efforts to collect and analyze documentation related to ongoing violations of human rights and make collection of information that can be supplied to a Syrian war crimes tribunal a priority; in working with other countries to establish a Syrian war crimes tribunal the United States should promote judicial procedures that enable the prosecution of the most culpable persons guilty of directing such crimes; the United States should urge other interested states to apprehend and deliver into the custody of a Syrian war crimes tribunal persons indicted for war crimes or crimes against humanity in Syria, and urge such states to provide relevant information to the tribunal.


 

U.S. Refugee Policies

On September 20, Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the US would increase the number of worldwide refugees it accepts:

Under the new plan, the limit on annual refugee visas would be increased to 85,000 in 2016. The cap would then rise to 100,000 the following year.

 

The announcement was met with criticism from some activists who said it was too little:

“This minimal increase for next year is certainly not a strong response to the largest refugee crisis since World War II.” — Eleanor Acer, director of the refugee protection program at Human Rights First

Eighteen US Mayors signed a letter in support of the President’s plan, indicating that their cities welcomed refugees.

After the Paris attacks on November 13th, some elected officials suggested a link between recent refugees and terrorist activity and called for a limit to expanded refugee policies for the U.S. In recent days, nine governors said that they would “at least resist temporarily” refugee resettlement in their states. Texas Governor Greg Abbot sent a letter to President Obama, saying that the has instructed Texas agencies to not participate in refugee resettlement programs, though some question the legality of such an order. On Monday, CNN reported that “more than half the nation’s governors say Syrian refugees not welcome.”

Despite the push-back, Administration officials have said that the new plan will proceed. Congressional Democrats are rallying around the President’s plan. According to the Huffington Post, House Speaker Paul Ryan may move legislation regarding Syrian refugees through the House as early as this week.

 

Limits on refugee policy as part of spending bills?

On Monday, Senator Pete Sessions, Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest, sent a letter to Senate colleagues:

“to respectfully request that any upcoming appropriations legislation – including any Omnibus legislation – require Congressional approval for the President’s refugee resettlement plans and the funds to carry them out.”

 

Below, we highlight pending bills on the topic. But first, some background about the current policy.

 

 

Who is a refugee?

  • Refugees are forced to flee due to war, conflict or persecution and cross a border into a new country to find safety. (See full definition from USCIS)
  • Internally Displaced People (or IDPs) are forced to flee due to war, conflict or persecution and move into safer areas within their country.
  • Immigrants are people who leave their country by choice. They choose to live somewhere else for any number of personal reasons.
  • Migrants also leave their country by choice, in order to improve their livelihood, usually for economic reasons.
    Source: http://www.unrefugees.org/

How do refugees enter the United States?

  1. Under the Refugee Act of 1980, each year, the President makes an annual “determination on refugee admissions” setting refugee admissions numbers, after consultation with Congress. (Read the 2016 Presidential Determination.)
  2. A person must be referred by the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) for consideration as a refugee (USRAP processes referrals from the State Department, UNHCR, Resettlement Support Centers, DHS, Department of Health and Human Services/Office of Refugee Resettlement, International Organization for Migration (IOM), and non-governmental associations like the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
  3. Eligibility is determined “on a case-by-case basis through an interview with a specially-trained USCIS officer,” who “confirm[s] that security checks have been completed and the results of the checks are reviewed and analyzed before approval.”
  4. Refugees then undergo additional security checks, a medical check, are matched with a voluntary local sponsor agency, and given cultural orientation.
  5. Before departing for the U.S., refugees are given an additional pre-departure security check.

“it currently takes anywhere from 18 to 24 months or even longer to process a case from referral or application to arrival in the United States.” – Background Briefing On the Mechanics of the United States Refugee Admissions Program, September 11, 2015

See: This Is How the Syrian Refugee Screening Process WorksTime magazine

Pending Bills about US Refugee Policy:

H.R. 4017: To recognize that Christians and Yazidis in Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Iran, and Libya are targets of genocide, and to provide for the expedited processing of immigrant and refugee visas for such individuals
Sponsor: Rep. Dana Rohrabacher [R, CA]

 

S.2145: Middle East Refugee Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2016
Sponsor: Sen. Lindsey Graham [R, SC]

 

H.R. 2839: To reform and modernize domestic refugee resettlement programs.
Sponsor: Rep. Bill Pascrell [D, NJ]

 

H.Res. 435: Recognizing the persecution of religious and ethnic minorities, especially Christians and Yezidis, by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also known as Daesh, and calling for the immediate prioritization of accepting refugees from such communities.
Sponsor: Rep. Tulsi Gabbard [D, HI]

 

H.R. 2798 Strengthening Refugee Resettlement Act
Sponsor: Rep. Keith Ellison [D, MN]

 

S.1615 Domestic Refugee Resettlement Reform and Modernization Act of 2015
Sponsor: Sen. Lindsey Graham [R, SC]

 

H.R. 3573 Refugee Resettlement Oversight and Security Act of 2015
Sponsor: Rep. Michael McCaul [R, TX]

 

H.R. 3314 Resettlement Accountability National Security Act of 2015
Sponsor: Rep. Tulsi Gabbard [D, HI]

 

S.Res. 268 A resolution expressing the sense of the Senate regarding the Syrian refugee crisis
Sponsor: Sen. Jeanne Shaheen [D, NH]

Recognizes:

the scale and complexity of the Syrian refugee crisis and the need for the international community to work together to provide resources and capacity to aid refugees; the humanitarian commitment of Syria’s neighbors who have worked to absorb the vast majority of refugees, as well as the European nations who have made commitments to share in the refugee resettlement effort; and that the refugee crisis is a symptom of the broader conflict in Syria, the persecution of persons based on identity groups, including Christians, Yezidis, Turkmen, and Kurds, and instability in the Middle East and North Africa, and that efforts to resolve those challenges are a necessary component of any plan to address the refugee crisis. Welcomes the President’s decision to admit at least 10,000 Syrian refugees in 2016, and to increase the overall number of refugees received by the United States to 85,000 in 2016 and 100,000 in 2017.

Migrant crisis: Migration to Europe explained in graphics” – BBC

 

 


 

We will update as new bills are introduced.

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 Dem Debate Recap

Debate Recap: Second #DemDebate

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(Photo Source: ABC News)

Many topics discussed in the presidential debates have already been introduced as bills in Congress. Check out a summary of our #DemDebate tweets below:

 

Weekly Update: November 16th – 20th

The Week Ahead in Congress: Nov. 16 – 20, 2015

Lawmakers respond to the Paris Attacks. Some urge vote on authorizing military force against ISIS. House takes up veterans legislation, FCC transparency, laws on tribal lands and financial services. Senate will vote on “Kate’s Law.”

The House will work on bills related to veterans (they were in recess last week, during Veterans Day), as well as bills related to financial services, amending Dodd-Frank and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. In addition, the House will consider a bipartisan bill that aims to bring transparency to the FCC. The Senate may work on “Kate’s Law.”


But first, here’s a look at how elected officials are responding to the tragic attacks in Paris on Friday.

“We’re going to do whatever it takes to work with the French people and with nations around the world to bring these terrorists to justice, and to go after any terrorist networks that go after our people.” – President Obama


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“Peace for Paris”

Created by artist Jean Jullien

The image has received over 50,000 retweets,
and was shared by Members of Congress of both parties.

 

Read the responses of President Barack Obama; Vice President Joe Biden; Speaker of the House Paul Ryan; and Secretary of State John Kerry.

 


Also last week, the US conducted an airstrike in Libya on Friday, killing the leader of ISIS in Libya. This airstrike marks the first time the US has directly gone after an ISIS target in Libya. “It demonstrates that the United States will go after ISIL leaders wherever they operate,” a Defense Department spokesperson explained.

Deputy Special Presidential Envoy For The Global Coalition To Counter ISIS, Brett McGurk, spoke before a Senate briefing, saying that President Obama did not need additional authority to take on ISIS—even with 50 Americans on the ground in Syria, according to media reports. Yet, earlier this year, President Obama sent to Congress a draft Authorization of the Use of Military Force against ISIS.

 Draft Authorization for the use of Military Force in Syria
Proposed by: President Barack Obama

As lawmakers, pundits and Americans across the country discuss ISIS and the use of the American military force, the question of whether the President needs a formal Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) may again re-emerge.

 


Veterans Legislation in the House

The House was in recess last week during Veterans Day. This week, House members will consider several bills related to veterans.

One bill to be considered would change the definition of “veteran” to include Guard and Reserve retirees who served honorably for a minimum of 20 years but do not meet the active duty service requirement to qualify them as veterans under existing law:

  Honor America’s Guard-Reserve Retirees Act (HR 1384)
Sponsor: Rep. Tim Walz [D, MN]
Bipartisan

“The law defines a veteran as servicemen and women who have served on active duty. This legislation would amend this definition and allow these Guard and Reserve retirees to be recognized as a veteran. Due to the fact that no additional benefits beyond the title of veteran are extended to these retirees, there is no cost associated with this legislation,” according to the bill sponsor. 

“It is estimated that 47,000 unclaimed, uninterred veteran cremains remain on shelves collecting dust,” Congressman Bill Shuster testified before the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

To further research this issue, the House will vote on:

 Dignified Internment of Our Veterans Act (HR 1338)
Sponsor: Rep. Bill Shuster [R, PA]
Bipartisan

“Requires the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to conduct a study on matters relating to claiming and interring of unclaimed veteran remains. The intent of the study is to confirm the scope of this problem, uncover any barriers associated with claiming and interring veteran remains, and solicit recommendations from the Department of Veterans Affairs on potential program improvements. This is the first step in fixing this issue and bringing honor back to our fallen heroes,” according to the bill sponsor.

In addition, the House will vote on these veterans’ bills:

 Fairness to Veterans for Infrastructure Investment Act (HR 1694)
Sponsor: Rep. Mike FItzpatrick [R, PA]
Bipartisan

“Levels the playing field in federal contracting for veteran-owned businesses by providing veterans access to existing preferences authorized for transportation projects,” according to bill sponsors.

Background: Federal agencies, including the Department of Transportation, have special ‘set-asides’ for contracts going to small businesses owned and controlled by particular groups of people who have been designated for contracting preferences. States that receive federal dollars for highway infrastructure repairs have to set aside 10 percent for preferred groups of small businesses through the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) – however Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (VOSBs) are currently not included within this program. The Fairness to Veterans for Infrastructure Investment Act fixes this discrepancy and ensures veteran small businesses are put on the same playing field as everyone else. Source
 Army Corps of Engineer’s Veterans Curation Program (VCP) Act (HR 3114)
Sponsor: Rep. Grace Napolitano [D, CA]
Bipartisan

“Would authorize the VCP, which trains and utilizes veterans in carrying out the Corps’ curatorial responsibilities,” according to the bill sponsor. “Created in 2009, the VCP protects and preserves the Nation’s cultural and archeological resources with curatorial services according to professional museum and archival practices. Currently, there are VCP laboratories in Augusta, GA, Washington, DC, and St. Louis, MO, providing veterans with a 5-month program of training and employment in curatorial services. Of the 203 graduates of the program to date, 87 percent have gone on to either permanent employment—in museums, forensics, administrative, and records management—or to continuing education.”


 

Kate’s Law in the Senate

This week, the Senate may consider “Kate’s Law.” The bill is named for Kate Steinle, the 32-year-old woman who tragically died on a San Francisco pier after being shot by an undocumented immigrant who had several felony convictions and had been deported from the United States five times.

Kate’s Law, or the Establishing Mandatory Minimum for Illegal Reentry Act (S 2193) 
Sponsor: Sen. Ted Cruz [R, TX]

“Imposes a mandatory minimum sentence of five years for any illegal reentry offense,” according to bill sponsor. 


House Votes on Bills Passes by the Senate

The House will consider three bills recently passed by the Senate. Once a bill is passed by both chambers, it is delivered to the White House to be signed into law by the President. (Check out this flow chart)

Equity in Government Compensation Act (S 2036)
Sponsor: Sen. David Vitter [R, LA]
Bipartisan

Passed by the Senate on Sept. 15, 2015; now goes to the House for consideration.

Suspends the current compensation packages for the chief executive officers of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Improving Access to Emergency Psychiatric Care Act (S 599)
Sponsor: Sen. Ben Cardin [D, MD]
Bipartisan

Passed by the Senate on Oct. 2, 2015; now goes to the House for consideration.

Would extend the current three-year Medicaid Emergency Psychiatric Demonstration Project, which is providing timely, cost-effective and life-saving care to individuals who are experiencing an emergency psychiatric crisis, through Sept. 30, 2016. The Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) would be required to submit a report to Congress with her recommendations based on the final evaluation, according to the bill sponsor. 

Background: “In 2010, Congress authorized this demonstration project to alleviate the shortage of psychiatric beds by allowing federal Medicaid matching payments to freestanding psychiatric hospitals for emergency psychiatric cases, waiving the longstanding Institution for Mental Disease (IMD) exclusion for Medicaid beneficiaries between the ages of 21 and 64 years. In Maryland and 10 other participating states, as well as the District of Columbia, this demonstration project is allowing Medicaid beneficiaries with severe mental illness to receive emergency inpatient treatment in community psychiatric hospitals. Despite very promising preliminary results, the demonstration is set to end on December 31, 2015.”

Protecting Our Infants Act (S 799)
Sponsor: Sen. Mitch McConnell [R, KY]
Bipartisan

Passed by the Senate on Oct. 22, 2015; now goes to the House for consideration.

“Would direct the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to conduct a departmental review to identify gaps in research and any duplication, overlap or gaps in prevention and treatment programs related to prenatal opioid abuse and infants born with opioid withdrawal. It also would direct HHS to work with stakeholders to develop recommendations both for preventing prenatal opioid abuse, and for treating infants born dependent on opioids.  Finally, this measure would encourage the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to work with states and help improve their public health response to this epidemic.” Source

Background: Researchers estimate that nationwide, one baby every hour is born dependent on drugs and suffering from withdrawal. Nationwide, there has been a staggering 300-percent increase in the number of infants diagnosed with newborn withdrawal since 2000.


FCC Transparency

The House will consider a bill that “aims to bring much-needed transparency, accountability, and predictability to the FCC,” according to the bill sponsor.

 FCC Process Reform Act (HR 2583)
Sponsor: Rep. Greg Walden [R, OR]

Would require the FCC to: (1) adopt rules concerning rulemaking comment and reply periods, public notices, petition dispositions, the specific language of proposed rules or amendments to be included in proposed rulemaking notices, and performance measures to be included in certain proposed rulemakings or orders that would create or substantially change a program activity; (2) seek public comments regarding a bipartisan majority of commissioners’ authority to place items on an open meeting agenda, deadlines for the disposition of certain license applications, and whether to publish orders, decisions, reports, and actions within 30 days after adoption; and (3) initiate a new rulemaking proceeding every five years to continue consideration of procedural rule changes. Allows a bipartisan majority of commissioners to hold a nonpublic meeting under specified conditions if: (1) no votes or actions are taken, (2) an attorney from the FCC’s Office of General Counsel is present, and (3) the meeting is disclosed subsequently within two business days.


 

 

Financial Services Legislation

This week, the House will vote on several bills related to financial services firms, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau regulations and amending Dodd-Frank:

Specifying how clearing requirements apply to certain affiliate transactions (HR 1317)
Sponsor: Rep. Gwen Moore [D, WI]
Bipartisan

“Clarifies Dodd-Frank’s treatment of affiliates of non-financial firms that use a central treasury unit (CTU) as a risk-reducing, best practice to centralize and net the hedging needs of affiliates. Without a clear legislative exemption, non-financial companies may either have to eliminate the CTU function, be subjected to increased regulatory costs, or retain more risk on their balance sheets and pass along that risk to customers in the form of higher prices. This bipartisan bill would enable non- financial companies with affiliates to continue employing best practices to manage internal and external trading in order to mitigate risk within a commercial entity,” according to the House Financial Services Committee.

SEC Reporting Modernization Act (HR 3032)
Sponsor: Rep. Krysten Sinema [D, AZ]

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

Policyholder Protection Act (HR 1478)
Sponsor: Rep. Bill Posey [R, FL]

“Affirms that resources from an insurance company may not be used to bail out an affiliated financial institution from liquidation under Title II of Dodd-Frank – unless the state insurance commissioner consents. This bill clarifies Dodd-Frank to ensure that resources set aside to satisfy insurance policyholder claims cannot be used to satisfy non-insurance liabilities within a holding company system,” according to bill sponsors. 

Reforming CFPB Indirect Auto Financing Guidance Act (HR 1737)
Sponsor: Rep. Frank Guinta [R, NH] / Financial Services Committee

“To rescind flawed guidance from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) which harms consumers by limiting their ability to obtain discounted auto financing,” according to the bill sponsor. “Would repeal a CFPB bulletin from 2013 that was designed to pressure lending institutions into eliminating the availability of auto financing discounts.” 

Portfolio Lending and Mortgage Access Act (HR 1210)
Sponsor: Rep. Andy Barr [R, KY]

“Would ease the regulatory requirements on home loans, so long as the mortgage lender holds the loan on its books rather than selling it into the secondary market,” according to the bill sponsor. “Would relax the overly burdensome, one size fits all Qualified Mortgage Rule imposed by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The bill promotes affordable home financing and discourages the risky practices which led to the 2008 financial crisis and the resulting taxpayer bailouts of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and large systemically important financial institutions.”

FORM Act (HR 3189)
Sponsor: Rep. Bill Huizenga [R, MI]

“Requires the Fed to generate a monetary policy strategy of its own choosing in order to provide added transparency about the factors leading to its monetary policy decisions,” according to the House Financial Services Committee. “By requiring the Fed to regularly communicate how its policy choices compare to a benchmark rule, the FORM Act helps consumers and investors make better decisions in the present and form better expectations about the future. These improvements are important for Americans to enjoy greater economic opportunity. By pursuing this expansion through increased transparency instead of policy mandates, the FORM Act further insulates the Fed from political pressures.”


Laws on Tribal Lands

The House will consider two bills related to tribal lands – one banning casino gaming in Indian land in Arizona, and the other exempting business from certain labor laws under the NLRA:

Keep the Promise Act (HR 308)
Sponsor: Rep. Trent Franks [R, AZ]

To prohibit gaming activities on certain Indian lands in Arizona until the expiration of certain gaming compacts. According to the sponsor, the bill “halts a precedent that may lead to an expansion of off-reservation casinos and dangerous changes to the complexion of tribal gaming in other states across the country. Tribes across the nation, including many of the other Arizona tribes that played an integral role in the 2002 gaming compact, strongly support this legislation due to the impact this situation could have on tribal gaming enterprises nationally. This bill is not about a vendetta. Nor is it about ending gaming in Arizona. It is, very specifically, about ensuring that the limits on casinos specifically promised back in 2002 during debate on Proposition 202 are realized.”

Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act (HR 511)
Sponsor: Rep. Todd Rokita [R, IN]

“Will amend the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) to stipulate that the law does not apply to any enterprise or institution owned and operated by an Indian tribe and located on tribal land, restoring to tribal leaders sovereignty over employee-employer relations,” according to the House Education and Workforce Committee. “As passed by the committee, the bill also specifies that the NLRA does not apply to Native American tribes themselves.” 


Homeland Security

The House will consider two bills related to security:

Critical Infrastructure Protection Act (HR 1073)
Sponsor: Rep. Trent Franks [R, AZ]

“Will enhance DHS threat assessments for geomagnetic disturbances and electromagnetic pulse blackouts which will enable practical steps to protect the vital electric grid that serves America and her critical financial, agricultural, medical and emergency response capabilities and many other critical systems,” according to the bill sponsor. 

Partners for Aviation Security Act (HR 3144)
Sponsor: Rep. Donald Payne [D, NJ]
Bipartisan

“Requires the TSA to consult with the Aviation Security Advisory Committee regarding modifications to the prohibited items list,” 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: Nov. 9 – 13

Closing Out the Week in Congress Nov. 9 – 13

#Recess

There was a collective exhale on Capitol Hill, as frenetic pace gave way to a recess in the House and shortened week in the Senate. Members were home in their districts and states to commemorate Veteran’s Day and staffers in Washington put away the heels, pulled out the jeans, and brought canine friends to work.


POPVOX Podcast Launch

POPVOX Rep. Stephen Fincher

 

Join us for our first podcast episode — we speak with Congressman Stephen Fincher (R-TN) who led the effort on the first successful “discharge petition” in many years.

 

Subscribe to the POPVOX Podcast

Warning: our POPVOX Podcast song will get stuck in your head!

 


Big News From the Congressional Powerhouse Few People Know About…Or Understand

Believe it or not, in the game of Congress, there actually IS a referee.

Parliamentarians ensure that the House and Senate follow their own rules. This week, the Senate Parliamentarian blew its whistle and made a call on the pending Reconciliation bill.

  • The Reconciliation bill passed the House 240 to 189 with a laundry list of issues, including repeal of certain pieces of Obamacare (individual and employer mandate), defunding Planned Parenthood, repeal of the medical device tax, and repeal of the Cadillac tax.
  • Reconciliation is a procedure that allows Congress to put forward a bill with initiatives to reduce the deficit with expedited consideration, not subject to a filibuster in the Senate.
  • Just as a Reconciliation bill gets expedited consideration, it is also subject to special limitations — in this case, the “Byrd Rule.”

The Byrd Rule is a Senate rule that amends the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 to allow Senators, during the Reconciliation Process, to block a piece of legislation if it purports significantly to increase the federal deficit beyond a ten-year term or is otherwise an “extraneous matter” as set forth in the Budget Act.

  • The Senate “Parls” (as they’re known in the biz) just issued a decision on the Reconciliation bill, finding that:
    • Repeal of the ACA employer mandate and individual mandate violates the Byrd Rule.
    • De-funding Planned Parenthood does not violate the Byrd Rule.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s aides downplayed the decision and said that a substitute amendment that preserves the repeals will bring the Obamacare repeal bill in compliance with Senate rules.

Three moderate Republicans, Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME), Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), have indicated opposition to defunding Planned Parenthood. With 54 Senate seats, Republicans can lose only three votes to pass an Obamacare repeal bill. (Democrats are expected to vote unanimously against it.)


Military and Veterans Funding Bill

Just in time for Veteran’s Day, the Senate passed the Military and Veterans funding bill in a unanimous vote.

  • Of note: the bill contained a provision that would allow Veterans Administration (VA) doctors to recommend medical marijuana. The amendment, offered by Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), would allow the VA medical providers to recommend medical marijuana to veterans living in states where medical marijuana is legal.
    See: Veterans drop hundreds of empty pill bottles in front of the White House

Fourth #GOPDebate Recap

GOP Debate Recap POPVOX Top Policy Issues

Many topics discussed in this week’s #GOPDebate relate to bills currently in Congress. Learn more about related bills here.

We live tweeted related bill mentions during the debate. Follow POPVOX for future debate coverage. The next #DemDebate is tomorrow (11/14). With only three presidential candidates remaining, the debate is expected to “dive deep into policy.”


#SCOTUS Update

The Supreme Court decided today it will hear its first major abortion case in nearly a decade. The case evaluates the constitutionality of a Texas abortion law that would leave the state with about 10 abortion clinics, compared to more than 40.

Veterans Day 2015

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.

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.

 

This Veterans Day, here’s a look at a few issues that lawmakers are working on:


Military Veterans, For-Profit Colleges, and the 90/10 Rule

In May 2015, Corinthian Colleges, Inc., a for-profit parent company of 28 schools closed its doors and filed for bankruptcy. As a result, thousands of students — many of them veterans who used their GI Bill benefits to enroll — were left with no options of transferring credits to traditional schools.

The Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, has called on Congress to strengthen accountability of for-profit schools:

“Some of these schools have brought the ethics of payday lending into higher education… They prey on the most vulnerable students, and leave them with debt that they too often can’t repay.”

Thirty percent of veterans using the post-9/11 GI Bill attend for-profit schools — compared to only 8% of students nationally, according to a Los Angeles Times analysis of government data. Some lawmakers are have asserted for-profits schools have recruited veterans in order to comply with the “90/10 rule.” The rule requires for-profit schools to derive at least 10% of revenue from non-federal sources, so not to rely solely on federal financial aid. Because GI Bill benefits aren’t counted as a federal source, veteran enrollment has prevented some schools from violating the rule.

About a quarter of the money spent under the new GI Bill has gone to for-profit colleges, According to the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pension Committee. “For-profit colleges received $1.7 billion in Post-9/11 G.I. Bill benefits in the 2012-2013 school year, nearly as much as the total cost of the program just four years earlier.”


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.


 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 make it more accountable:


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)
Sponsors: 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 HR 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.”


Please keep in mind that highlighting a bill doesn’t imply a POPVOX endorsement in any way. Rather, we’re simply trying to offer one more way to stay informed of a complex legislative system.

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.

Check out our POPVOX View From the Hill on Tumblr