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
“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]
“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]
“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]
“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]
“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]
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]
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]
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.
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]
“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.”
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]
“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.