POPVOX Gavel Down_Closing Out the Week in Congress

GAVEL DOWN: Closing out the Week in Congress

Congress made moves this week, with plenty of policy and bipartisan legislation…

House passed bill providing Puerto Rico with tools to restructure $70B debt. President Obama vetoed disapproval resolution blocking Labor Department’s fiduciary rule regarding retirement accounts and investment advice. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed Joint Meeting of Congress, discussing US-India relations. House Financial Services Chairman announced Dodd-Frank replacement legislation. Senators donned seersucker in annual tradition. Senate passed chemical safety overhaul — now it’s off to President Obama. Senate voted to go to conference to resolve Zika legislation, naming 19 conferees. Senate voked to invoke cloture on annual defense bill. Both chambers spent the week working on spending bills.

Top Search on POPVOX this week: gun

Most Active Bill

House passed Puerto Rico debt bill

On June 9th, the House passed H.R. 5278 Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA) with a bipartisan vote of 297-127. The bill, which tackles the economic and humanitarian crisis of Puerto Rico’s inability to make payments on its $70 billion debt, is the result of large bipartisan compromises.  It gives Puerto Rico the tools to restructure its debt and creates an oversight board to manage Puerto Rico’s spending and tax policies.

The bill was largely unchanged on the House floor, from its original committee form, as the House Rules Committee ruled dozens of amendments filed on the bill as out of order.  However, the House did vote on Rep. Norma Torres’s [D, CA-35] minimum wage amendment, which House Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop had previously ruled out of order. The amendment would have prevented Puerto Rico’s governor from lowering minimum wage for younger workers. However, the amendment failed on party lines, with a vote 225-196.  

Leaders from both parties have pushed for the highly anticipated bill. Speaker Paul Ryan urged the House to pass the bill on a humanitarian level, exclaiming, “The Puerto Rican people are our fellow Americans. They pay our taxes. They fight in our wars. We cannot allow this [humanitarian crisis] to happen.” It has also been promoted by the White House, which has urged the Senate to continue the bipartisan progress with haste, to meet the July 1st deadline, when Puerto Rico may default on $2 billion.

However, the bill’s fate in the Senate remains uncertain, as many GOP leaders do not express interest in hurrying the bill along. Additionally, the bill continues to receive criticism by those that characterize it as a bailout and by those that believe it deprives Puerto Ricans from self-government.

President Obama vetoed disapproval resolution to block Labor Dept. Fiduciary Rule

In early April, the Obama administration unveiled long-awaited Department of Labor "fiduciary rule." This rule requires brokers to act in the “best interest” of their clients when handling retirement accounts instead of their own. That’s to say, brokers would be allowed to earn sales commission and other income only if they disclose all “suitable” financial products, as well as any incentive agreements or conflicts of interest they have with products they recommend.

Before the rule’s passage, only Registered Investment Advisors (RIAs) were considered fiduciaries and subjected to this higher standard, while brokers were exempt. The rule is meant to protect workers from receiving conflicting investment advice and improve disclosure, but its opponents say it would discourage financial firms from serving low-income clients.

Later that month, the House voted 234-183 to disapprove the rule.

Sponsor: Rep. Phil Roe [R, TN-1]

While disapproval resolutions are “rarely used and almost always veto-ed,” they have become more common in the current Congress. A similar resolution of disapproval was approved 56-41 by Senate in late May.

Sponsor: Sen. Johnny Isakson [R, GA]

By early June, financial and business groups filed lawsuits in three separate federal circuit courts. One of the petitioning groups is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which was among eight organizations that filed suit against the rule in a Texas federal district court. Filing lawsuits in multiple circuits may result in a split in lower court decisions, which could increase the likelihood that the issue will move to the Supreme Court.

Amid these lawsuits, President Obama vetoed H.J. Res. 88 on June 8, the 10th veto of his presidency.

“The outdated regulations in place before this rulemaking did not ensure that financial advisers act in their clients' best interests when giving retirement investment advice,” President Obama wrote in his veto message. “Instead, some firms have incentivized advisers to steer clients into products that have higher fees and lower returns — costing America's families an estimated $17 billion a year.”

Republicans do not have the two-thirds majority in Congress to overcome the president’s veto, but several have commented that they would continue their attempts to block the rule’s implementation.

“This veto threatens the retirement security of millions of working families,” said Rep. Phil Roe [R, TN-1], who chairs the Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions Subcommittee and introduced H.J.Res. 88. “We’ll continue to do everything in our power to protect access to affordable retirement advice for every American.”

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed Joint Meeting of Congress

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Washington this week to celebrate the relationship between India and the United States.

Just over a decade ago, Modi was denied a visa for his role in the 2002 Gujarat riots. Since he became prime minister in 2014, he has visited the U.S. several times, forming a seemingly close relationship with President Obama. Wednesday, Modi addressed a Joint Meeting of Congress and celebrated the ties between India and the United States. He highlighted both the formal and informal relationships that bind the two countries, saying that “our thinkers impacted one another and shaped the course of our societies… Gandhi’s nonviolence inspired the heroism of Martin Luther King. Today, a mere distance of three miles separates the Martin Luther King Memorial at Tidal Basin from the statue of Gandhi at Massachusetts Avenue.”

Prime Minister Modi spoke of the US-India partnership in trade, defense, and climate change. Modi addressed past joint efforts to fight terrorism and urged the U.S. and India to continue to combat terrorism together. He stressed that counterterrorism policies must “[delink] religion from terrorism."

Beyond counterterrorism efforts, Modi called for continued American support in Afghanistan as a stepping stone for “a strong India-US partnership [that] can anchor peace, prosperity and stability from Asia to Africa and from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific.” In an era of transition, complexity, and uncertainty, Modi said that “in every sector of India’s forward march, [he sees] the US as an indispensable partner.”

As Obama ends his time in office and Modi nears the halfway point of his term, the visit and the address to Congress highlighted the remarkable progress between the two countries over the last few decades, particularly the last few years. The Obama administration has called the US-India relationship the “defining partnership of the 21st century” and views India as an Asian ally to counter China. Modi’s visit served to underscore what President Obama considers one of the great foreign policy achievements of his administration.


House Financial Services Chairman announced Dodd-Frank Replacement

On June 7th, House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling announced his proposal to replace the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act with the Financial Choice Act. His plan promises to be the first of many Republican proposals for deregulation, part of Speaker Paul Ryan’s detailed Republican policy agenda.

Watch and read full speech.

The Dodd-Frank Act was enacted in 2010, with the purpose of increasing financial regulation and consumer protection, to avoid an economic crisis similar to that of 2008. However, Rep. Hensarling has criticized the Dodd-Frank Act as being too heavy handed in its control on the financial market.

On Tuesday, he proposed the following provisions in its place:

  • Repealing the Volcker Rule, allowing commercial banks to engage in what has been deemed risky investment for their own profit
  • Allowing big banks with capital of at least 10% of their assets to exempt themselves from liquidity requirements and other regulatory standards
  • Revoking power of the Financial Stability Oversight Council to deem which banks are too large and should be broken apart
  • Increasing fines for violating insider trading laws and other financial wrongdoing
  • Restructuring the Consumer Protection Bureau so single director would be replaced by a bipartisan commission, and the budget would be subject to congressional appropriations
  • Removing liquidation requirement designed to prevents bailouts, and replacing the provision with a new section of bankruptcy code to wind down financially weak firms.

Learn more.

Seersucker takes over the Hill

Easy, breezy, beautiful: the Senate looked especially dapper on Thursday as they celebrated nearly 20 years of National Seersucker Day. In 1996, former Mississippi Senator Trent Lott proposed that a warm day in the second or third week of June be designated Seersucker Day, and past hosts have included Sens. Bill Cassidy [R-LA], who revived the tradition in 2014 after a brief hiatus, and Diane Feinstein [D-CA], who encouraged female senators to take part in 2004 by gifting them with seersucker suits.  

Seersucker, which comes from the Persian words for “milk and sugar,” is a lightweight rumpled cotton fabric that is traditionally blue and white striped and was popularized in the Senate by southern legislators.  While modern air-conditioning has made seersucker suits less essential, Senator Lott started the holiday to show that congressional fashion need not only consist of dark suits with red or blue ties. Keep an eye out for seersucker every Thursday throughout the summer while the Senate channels its inner Kentucky Derby.

Congress passed chemical safety overhaul —
now bill heads to the White House

This week Sen. Rand Paul [R, KY] dropped his hold on chemical safety bill, after requesting more time to read the 180-page billSenate passed bipartisan chemical safety bill by voice voice, sending measure to President Obama for expected signature. 

Bill would overhaul 40-year-old toxic chemicals law, allowing Environmental Protection Agency to gather more information about a chemical before it is used in the United States. House approved the measure last month 403-12.

SponsorRep. John Shimkus [R, IL-15]

Obama administration “strongly supports” the measure, saying the bill would provide the EPA necessary power and resources to review new chemicals. Statement of Administration said the bill “represents a historic advancement for both chemical safety and environmental law.”

So what is the TSCA?

Toxic Substances Control Act (1976) is main law regulating chemicals in everyday products, from cleaning supplies to pesticides to laundry detergents. Despite the name, TSCA does not separate chemicals into toxic v. non-toxic, but rather existing chemicals v. new chemicals. When TSCA became law, all existing chemicals were considered safe for use and grandfathered in without examination. Out of roughly 85,000 chemicals in use today, the EPA has been able to ban or restrict production or use of five chemicals.

Senate voted to go to conference to resolve Zika legislation

On June 8, the Senate voted 93-2 to go to conference to negotiate with the House on a measure that would appropriate funds to fight the spread of the Zika virus. Ten Republicans and nine Democrats from the Senate were named to conference.


Both chambers passed legislation to combat the virus in late May. The House passed H.R. 5243 The Zika Response Appropriations Act, which provided $622 million to the Departments of Health and Human Services and State, $350 million of which were originally intended to fight the Ebola virus. The Senate added amendments to H.R. 2577 The Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for FY 2016 that would allocate another $1.1 billion. Neither measure provided the $1.9 billion in funding President Obama requested in February.

Senate Invoked Cloture on Annual Defense Bill

On June 10, the Senate decided 68-23 to invoke cloture on a $602 billion defense bill. 50 Republicans and 18 Democrats voted to end debate on the bill. Three Republicans and twenty Democrats—including Minority Leader Harry Reid, who called the amendment process “unfair”— opposed the move.
A Friday vote is unusual for the Senate. However, because the NDAA had 500-plus amendments, most of which were likely to fail, the Senate moved to finish the debate.

Sponsor: Sen. John McCain [R, AZ]

The Senate’s 2017 NDAA contains several policy reforms, including:

  • Large-scale procurement and contracting overhaul.
  • 25% reduction in general and flag officers and DOD Senior Executive Service civilian employees
  • Reforms to the military health system
  • Including women in the requirement to register for selective service
  • Implementing the recommendations of the Department of Defense Military Justice Review Group

Read a summary of the bill here.

Debates over the bill and its amendments got heated this week. Sen. Mike Lee [R-UT] asked for a roll call vote on his amendment, which would prevent the US from detaining American citizens indefinitely. When his request was denied, he blocked a vote on an amendment that would protect Afghan translators who helped US troops during the war in Afghanistan. In response, Sen. John McCain [R-AZ] said, “[The translators] are going to die. They’re going to be killed. Doesn’t that somehow appeal to your sense of compassion for these people?”

The White House threatened to veto the Senate’s NDAA, remarking that it limits DOD’s flexibility, prevents the closure of Guantanamo, restricts US-Cuba relations, and puts an “arbitrary” cap on the size of the National Security Council.

Last month, the House version of the NDAA, HR 4909, passed 277-147 despite a veto threat from the White House. However, chaos erupted on the House floor when several Republicans switched their vote on an amendment that would have prohibited federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT employees, causing it fail.

Both Chambers Working on Spending Bills 

Both chambers of Congress are working on appropriations bills. Though Congress has not yet passed a budget for FY 2017, both chambers are working with targets roughly keyed to the amounts laid out in the 2015 Bipartisan Budget Act (BBA).

This week: Speaker Paul Ryan proposed altering the floor process for appropriations bills, to stave off controversial amendments (like the ones that sank the .. appropriations bill). In the House, the Appropriations committee released the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) bill (no bill number yet) and sent the Financial Services Bill (H.R. 2995) to the Floor. The House passed the fiscal year 2017 Legislative Branch Appropriations (H.R. 5325) by a vote of 233-175. The normally uncontroversial bill includes a provision to reverse a decision made by the Library of Congress to stop using the term “illegal alien” in subject headings, which led all but 10 Democrats to oppose. The 2017 Senate Labor, HHS & Education Appropriations Bill (S. 3040) passed committee by a 29-1 vote. It now goes to the Senate Floor.

Learn more.

Legislative Lowdown: States Edition

Wall Street Journal POPVOX Hensarling Dodd-Frank

BILL MENTIONS: Financial Choice Act

*Updated on October 3*

On September 13th, the House Financial Services Committee approved the Financial Choice Act (H.R. 5983), by a vote of 30 to 26 – largely along party lines. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jeb Hensarling [R, TX-5], aims to promote economic growth by deregulating the financial sector and scaling back the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

A Brief History

  • Following the Great Depression, the Glass-Steagall Act was enacted in 1933. The Glass-Steagall Act banned commercial banks from dealing securities and prohibited investment banks from accepting deposits – essentially separating commercial and investment banks to protect consumers from risky investments and prevent future economic crises.

  • Under President Bill Clinton, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999 deregulated the financial market and modified the Glass-Steagall Act, allowing well-capitalized commercial banks and non-bank financial entities to affiliate under financial holding companies. It is often cited as a cause of the 2008 financial collapse.

  • After the 2008 financial crisis, the Dodd-Frank Act was signed into law in 2010. Its provisions include:

    • Volcker Rule: aims to prevent excessive risk taking by prohibiting consumer banks from proprietary trading for their own profit (similar to Glass-Steagall, in that it limits commercial banks’ engagement in investment bank operations), and limiting financial institutions ability to grow their non-deposit liabilities

    • Financial Stability Oversight Council: can break up large banks deemed too large in size, lessening systemic risk

    • Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB): a consumer protection watchdog to prevent predatory mortgage lending and improve transparency of loan terms

    • Prevent future bailouts: by requiring the liquidation of future financially weak firms, with a clause that Wall Street not taxpayers will be responsible

  • Since President Barack Obama signed the Dodd-Frank Act into law, several legislators have proposed changes. The latest being Rep. Hensarling’s proposal to dismantle Dodd-Frank and replace it with a plan to deregulate the financial market.

The Financial Choice Act

Due to a belief that Dodd-Frank’s regulations on the financial sector have stifled economic growth, the Financial Choice Act aims to restructure oversight of banking and capital markets. Following the committee markup, the bill’s provisions now include:

  • Repealing the Durbin Amendment – which set limits on certain fees that retailers could charge for debit card transactions, but many argue resulted in larger bank fees

  • Repealing the Volcker Rule, meaning that commercial banks can once again engage in what some deem risky investments for their own profit

  • Allowing big banks with capital of at least 10% of their assets to exempt themselves from liquidity requirements (which the Dodd-Frank had required to cover potential losses) and other regulatory standards

  • Taking away the power of the Financial Stability Oversight Council to deem which banks are too large and should be broken apart

  • Increasing fines for violating insider trading laws and other financial wrongdoing

  • Restructuring and renaming the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) so the single director would be replaced by a bipartisan commission. the Office of Economic Analysis would conduct a cost-benefit analysis of all rules, and it would be renamed Consumer Financial Opportunity Commission (CFOC)

  • Removing liquidation requirement designed to prevent bailouts, and replacing the provision with a new section of bankruptcy code to wind down financially weak firms

  • Providing regulatory relief/exemptions for smaller community banks

What’s Next for the Financial Choice Act?

The legislation will be sent to the House floor for a vote, but is suspected to fail. While the bill may not be adopted this year, it is expected to set the tone for future financial reform legislation after the November election.  

Related Bills

Aside from Hensarling’s proposal, several other bills that would modify Dodd-Frank have previously been introduced this Congress.

Bills that call for a return to Glass-Steagall:

Bills that call for less regulation of the financial market:

Bills that call for greater regulation of the financial market:

Copy of POPVOX_Weekly_Update_Header_Images_2016

WEEKLY UPDATE: The Week Ahead in Congress

This week the House will vote on Puerto Rico assistance, pipeline safety measures, delaying air quality standards, & statements opposing carbon taxes. The Senate will continue work on the Defense bill. Congress will also hear remarks from Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India, in a joint session.


Delaying Implementation of Air Quality Standards Changes
The Clean Air Act established National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), to set limits on the amount of certain pollutants in the air. The NAAQS have been revised several times, including in 1979, 1997, and 2008. Regulations to implement the 2008 standards were released in March 2015, and revised again in October 2015.

H.R. 4775: Ozone Standards Implementation Act of 2016
Sponsor: Rep. Pete Olson [R, TX-22]
The bill delays requirements for states to implement the 2015 standards. See: House Energy and Commerce Committee fact sheet.

Reauthorizing the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA)

S. 2276: Securing America's Future Energy: Protecting our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety Act or the SAFE PIPES Act
Sponsor: Sen. Deb Fischer [R, NE]

The bill would reauthorize PHMSA through FY 2019. According to the sponsor, the bill would: require the agency to address outstanding mandates and rulemakings before moving to new ones. Requestion an assessment of the inspections process for natural gas and liquid pipelines, encourage advanced mapping technologies for pipeline networks, and provide direct hire authority to the agency.

"Sense of Congress": Opposition to Carbon Taxes
Congress uses "Sense of" resolutions to go on the record or send a message to the public or the President on the views of a majority of members. Concurrent resolutions express the sense of Congress as a whole (rather than just the House or Senate) and must pass both chambers. They are not binding, however, and do not require the President's signature. You can recognize a concurrent resolution by a bill number containing"Con.Res." before the number.

H.Con.Res. 89: Expressing the sense of Congress that a carbon tax would be detrimental to the United States economy.  
Sponsor: Rep. Steve Scalise [R, LA-1]

The Congressional Budget Ofice examined possible outcomes of a carbon tax in 2013: Effects of a Carbon Tax on the Economy and the Environment.

H.Con.Res. 112: Expressing the sense of Congress opposing the President’s proposed $10 tax on every barrel of oil.
Sponsor: Rep. Charles Boustany [R, LA-3]

President Obama's 2017 Budget proposal contained a request for a $10 per barrel tax to fund transportation projects. (See: Obama $10-Per-Barrel Oil Tax Lands With Thud in Congress, Bloomberg).

Puerto Rico Debt Relief

H.R. 5278: PROMESA (Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act)
Sponsor: Rep. Sean Duffy [R, WI-7]

"H.R. 5278 would create a legal framework for the federal government to oversee the fiscal and budgetary affairs of certain U.S. territories. In particular, the bill would outline procedures under which the governments of such territories and their instrumentalities could establish an oversight board and thus restructure their public debt. The bill would immediately establish such a board for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico." Source: Congressional Budget Office. According to CBO, the bill would "have no significant net effect on the federal deficit."


Also in the House:

H.R. 5338: Checkpoint Optimization and Efficiency Act of 2016
Sponsor: Rep. John Katko [R, NY-24]

The bill requires the TSA to report on its staffing allocation plans and calls for several reports on wait times and security at airports.

H.R. 5273: Helping Hospitals Improve Patient Care Act of 2016
Sponsor: Rep. Patrick Tiberi [R, OH-12]
H.R. 5273 would modify Medicare payment rules for certain hospital outpatient departments and some hospital inpatient services, increase the number of beds for long-term care hospitals (LTCHs), extend a demonstration involving rural community hospitals, modify meaningful use standards for some physicians practicing in ambulatory surgical centers, and delay the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) authority to terminate certain Medicare Advantage (MA) contracts.
Source: CBO. See: Section-by-section summary


H.Con.Res. 129: Expressing support for the goal of ensuring that all Holocaust victims live with dignity, comfort, and security in their remaining years, and urging the Federal Republic of Germany to reaffirm its commitment to this goal through a financial commitment to comprehensively address the unique health and welfare needs of vulnerable Holocaust victims, including home care and other medically prescribed needs
Sponsor: Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen [R, FL-27]

H.R. 4906: To amend title 5, United States Code, to clarify the eligibility of employees of a land management agency in a time-limited appointment to compete for a permanent appointment at any Federal agency
Sponsor: Rep. Gerald Connolly [D, VA-11]

H.R. 4904: Making Electronic Government Accountable By Yielding Tangible Efficiencies (MEGBYTE) Act of 2016
Sponsor: Rep. Matthew Cartwright [D, PA-17]

Requiring agency CIOs to develop a comprehensive software licensing policy, including: maintaining a comprehensive inventory of software licenses; analyzing software usage to make cost-effective decisions; and considering the software license management life cycle phases to implement effective decision making and incorporate existing standards, processes, and metrics.

H.R. 5325: Legislative Branch Appropriations Act
Sponsor: Rep. Tom Graves [R, GA-14]

The bill includes $3.48 billion for House and joint operations of Congress. The legislation also extends a freeze on the pay of Members of Congress, which has been in place since 2010.
See: Summary


2017 Defense Authorization

S. 2943 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY 2017
Sponsor: Sen. John McCain [R, AZ]

The Senate’s 2017 NDAA authorizes $602 billion in funding for the Department of Defense and the national security programs of the Department of Energy. 

See: Full Summary from the Senate Armed Services Committee

Public Lands Bills in the House

H.R. 1815: Eastern Nevada Land Implementation Improvement Act
Sponsor: Rep. Cresent Hardy [R, NV-4]

H.R. 87: Shiloh National Military Park Boundary Adjustment and Parker’s Crossroads Battlefield Designation Act
Sponsor: Rep. Marsha Blackburn [R, TN-7]

H.R. 2733: Nevada Native Nations Land Act
Sponsor: Rep. Mark Amodei [R, NV-2]

H.R. 3070: EEZ Transit Zone Clarification and Access Act
Sponsor: Rep. Lee Zeldin [R, NY-1]

H.R. 3826: Mount Hood Cooper Spur Land Exchange Clarification Act
Sponsor: Rep. Greg Walden [R, OR-2]

H.R. 2009: Pascua Yaqui Tribe Land Conveyance Act
Sponsor: Rep. Raúl Grijalva [D, AZ-3]

Please keep in mind that highlighting a bill does not imply POPVOX endorsement in any way. As always, our goal is to offer one more way to help you stay informed about the complex U.S. legislative system.

POPVOX Gavel Down_Closing Out the Week in Congress

GAVEL DOWN: Closing out the Week in Congress

House and Senate were on recess this week, working back home. C-SPAN II celebrated 30 years of Senate coverage, and we welcomed three interns to the Hill for the summer!

Top Search on POPVOX this week: gun

Most Active Bill on POPVOX this week:
H.R. 5090 To ensure that air transportation between the United States and the European Union complies with the intent of article 17 bis of the United States-European Union-Norway-Iceland Air Transport Agreement of June 21, 2011


Cheers to 30 years of seeing the U.S. Senate from your living room!

This week marked 30 years of Senate coverage on C-SPAN II.

In 1986, the U.S. Senate voted to televise its debates, and C-SPAN II began, with the purpose of televising "unfiltered, gavel-to-gavel access" of the U.S. Senate. In the first televised speech from the Senate floor, Sen. Bob Dole [R, KS] said "I think today we in effect sort of catch up with the 20th century."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, then a freshman senator, recollected voting against opening up the U.S. Senate Floor to the public, saying he feared senators would preach to the cameras and be less concerned about debate

"There's been nowhere near the amount of grandstanding as one would've thought," said Sen. Patrick Leahy [D, VT], the Senate's longest-serving senator. Leahy recalls pre and post TV days, the installation of the bright TV lights and at least one colleague with a terrible toupee who hated the cameras.

C-SPAN compiled Senate highlights from 1986-2016, including debates regarding:

C-SPAN kicked off in 1979, the first day the House allowed televised coverage of its floor debates. At the time there were only four employees working to open up government proceedings to households across the U.S.

Contrary to popular belief, C-SPAN receives no government money or underwriting support. In fact, there is no contract with Congress to broadcast its proceedings. The channels are instead funded by cable, satellite, and telecom companies that then distribute the channels to their viewers.

POPVOX Summer interns take the Hill

We welcomed three Summer interns to join our D.C. team! They spent the week exploring Capitol Hill, researching bills, and preparing to attend hearings and markups next week as Congress returns for legislative business.

Check out their posts on their first impressions of the Hill…and why it's so confusing getting around this place.

 "As we traversed from the House side to the Senate side of the Capitol, I couldn’t help but think, “Here I am, doing what I had dreamed of doing for so long—interning in DC with an awesome organization, walking across the Hill with the Capitol on my left and the Supreme Court and the Library of Congress on my right.”
Hannah Gourdie, Legislative Affairs Intern


"Interestingly, it doesn’t seem to matter how confident you are or look, when walking in a fleet of interns, people will still ask if you are lost or need help. But, as Maddie so astutely put it, just because we are young interns doesn’t mean we can’t read arrows and signs."
Holly Stokes, Government Relations Interns



"Before coming to Washington for this internship, I assumed that Congress worked in the Capitol just like the Supreme Court works in the Supreme Court Building.  And yet like many facets of American government, the neat picture at the surface belies a far more complicated structure underneath."
Maddie Burton, Government, New Media Intern



New Bills on the Block


Legislative Lowdown: States Edition


Weekend Reads


"The Graying of Rural America" by Alana Semuels, The Atlantic

"U.S. Supreme Court: Policies and Perspectives on Video and Audio Coverage of Appellate Court Proceedings"  from Government Accountability Office 

"Are Members of Congress Overpaid?"  by Nora Kelly, The Atlantic

"Potential Increases in Hurricane Damage in the United States: Implications for the Federal Budget"  from Congressional Budget Office

"Introducing the Democracy Dashboard Part II with a focus on institutional functioning"  by Elaine Karmark, Brookings

"How blockchains could change the world"  from McKinsey&Company

POPVOX Ways and Means Interns Scavenger Hunt

First Impressions of the Hill

First off, let me just say how lucky I am to be working at POPVOX this summer. A scavenger hunt across the Hill on the second day of my job? Yes, please.

I started my internship a week later than Holly, so fortunately for me, I had a bit more time to figure out the Hill’s labyrinthine underground tunnels and bizarre building numbering system (Why is Longworth “1” on the House side when Cannon was the first to be built? Beats me.) I know I have a shoddy sense of direction—I’ve walked to work for the past few days with Google Maps navigation open on my phone—so I welcomed the opportunity to find my bearings before Congress returns from recess.

When I arrived at the Rayburn cafeteria (I didn’t get lost! Thanks, Google Maps.) on Wednesday morning, Whitney (our lovely supervisor) had given us a worksheet to fill out before we got started on our scavenger hunt. Several of the questions asked us to research the acronyms for committee names. OGR? E&C? T&I? HSGAC? HELP!* I’m a millennial, so naturally, acronyms should be my jam, but I already felt a little bit clueless before we had even started our trek under and across the Hill.

After finishing up our worksheet and planning our route, Holly, Maddie, and I took off. We started on the House side, wandering up and down the corridors in and the tunnels under Rayburn, Longworth, and Cannon until we came across the offices of our representatives and the hearing rooms Whitney had asked us to find, taking selfies outside of each destination. Passing by and selfie-ing (© Hannah Gourdie 2016) in front of offices with open doors was always exciting, as we got to see Congressmen and women’s office decor—a fan favorite was a representative from Maine who had put up a Maine license plate and buoys in his office. Still, coordinating selfies outside of open offices definitely garnered some exasperated looks and raised eyebrows from staffers.

Hannah Gourdie Representative Rob Wittman

Next, we emerged from the dimly lit tunnels under the House office buildings and crossed over to the Senate side, taking this beautiful picture in the process.


POPVOX Capitol Hill Interns Scavenger Hunt

Photo creds to Maddie.


Eventually, we made it to Russell, and with some navigational and awkward-selfie-outside-Congressmen’s-offices experience under our belts, we got to work finding our senators (s/o to Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine!) and the other hearing rooms on our list. One of the coolest places we hit up was the Kennedy Caucus Room, the site of the Titanic hearings, the Joseph McCarthy-led investigations on communists in the U.S. army, the hearings on the conduct of the Vietnam War, and the meetings of the special committee on Watergate. As we snapped a picture of it, I found it pretty difficult to wrap my mind around how much history had happened in that one room. In Hamilton terms, it really is the room where it happened.


POPVOX Kennedy Caucus Room Intern Scavenger Hunt


Ok, to conclude, get ready. It’s about to get a bit sentimental.

Overall, the POPVOX intern adventure was a bit of a ~spiritual~ experience. As we traversed from the House side to the Senate side of the Capitol, I couldn’t help but think, “Here I am, doing what I had dreamed of doing for so long—interning in DC with an awesome organization, walking across the Hill with the Capitol on my left and the Supreme Court and the Library of Congress on my right.” Despite the sweltering heat reflecting off the pavement, I felt terrific. Plus, based on my first week here, I’m sure that I’ll be feeling the same level of excitement everyday for the rest of the summer as an intern with POPVOX. Hopefully, I’ll get to the point where I can navigate the city without Google Maps.


The rotunda in Russell. Takes your breath away, doesn’t it?


*Get it? Like Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, the committee? I’m really trying here, guys.




POPVOX Cannon Rotunda Capitol Model

Tunnels, Dogs, and Elevators — First Day on the Hill

The Capitol building is as iconically “D.C.” as the White House and cherry blossoms.  Before coming to Washington for this internship, I assumed that Congress worked in the Capitol just like the Supreme Court works in the Supreme Court Building.  And yet like many facets of American government, the neat picture at the surface belies a far more complicated structure underneath.

I suppose I just assumed that all senators and representatives went to work in the Capitol every day. Of course now I realize that with the number of staffers each member of Congress has, they need office buildings. So that’s how I came to learn about Longworth, Cannon, and Rayburn, but my confusion was hardly cleared up after that.

The numbering system does not seem particularly intuitive. I’m not sure how it was decided which building would be designated 1, 2, or 3, but I would have guessed it’d be oldest-newest. I think the way Dirksen (one of three Senate buildings) does it seems fairly logical, giving room numbers as SD-G50 or SD-123 and so on.


POPVOX Senate Foreign Relations Intern Scavenger Hunt


Simply getting around the House and Senate buildings seems to be easiest when you’re an insider, when you already know where you’re going.  It doesn’t do much to alleviate the impression that navigating the federal government is too difficult for the average citizen.

Similarly, it is surprisingly difficult to figure out which entrance one can go in. I felt like I was walking around the building just trying to get inside. But once I did, there were some pleasant surprises.

First, there was a woman in front of me (she looked like a staffer) who had her terrier on a leash.  I was really interested to see how they were going to get through security, but it was somewhat anti-climactic: she just walked through, pulling on the dog’s leash to get her to pay attention.

Additionally, everyone working security is very friendly. Maybe their colleagues working for the TSA have given security officers a bad name, but everyone has been very friendly and patient.

Once you’re inside (hopefully in the right building), the elevators present new challenges.  They’re fairly small, so sometimes you have to squeeze in tight while a tour group crowds in around you.  And don’t expect the tour guide to stop recounting the history of the building, but do be aware that his voice will reverberate in the tiny elevator.  

There are also a few elevators you, the average citizen or bright-eyed intern, can’t go inside.  They could be freight elevators inexplicably placed in a regular looking hallway with signs that people cannot get in them or elevators reserved for Members of Congress, which I suppose is convenient.

Perhaps this is just because I started while Congress is on recess, but I’ve been entertained by the ratio of members of Congress to staffers, visitors, and best of all, interns.  There are swarms of interns everywhere, young men in their navy suits moving in packs and college women holding their bosses’ spot in line.  

POPVOX Bob Goodlatte Intern Scavenger Hunt

And while there are limitless interns, there were a few things I felt the House and Senate office buildings were missing. First, to those who must work in Dirksen day in and day out, I apologize.  I hope y’all get windows soon because the lack of natural lighting in there seems horrible. If I hadn’t searched high and low for an elevator fit for humans (but not too fancy as to be reserved for special humans), I’d have thought I was still stuck in the labyrinth of tunnels beneath the buildings.

There are also a few places without air conditioning. These buildings do a wonderful job of staying cool for the most part, but in the rare instances that you walk into bathroom or elevator that has been left au naturale in the face of all the heat and humidity Washington has to offer, it’s noticeable.  

Unfortunately, one huge problem I noticed was the lack of women’s restrooms. Female senators and POPVOX interns alike have remarked upon how difficult it can be to get to a bathroom.  Where a men’s room is conveniently in an alcove in the middle of a hall, women will need to walk halfway around the building to access a restroom or walk down a floor hoping that one might be there.

While I believe that my adventures around the office buildings have certainly cleared up a lot of confusion, one thing I remained confused about was the black flags outside of some legislator’s office doors. Everyone has the US flag and their state flag, but a sizeable number of members of Congress have a black flag with white text on it. I felt like I maybe should not be unfurling flags outside of Kirsten Gillibrand’s office, so I resolved to google it when I got home.

Turns out, the flag is the POW/MIA flag originally displayed by families of soldiers missing in action or taken prisoner during the Vietnam War. It generally indicates support for members of the armed services who are MIA or who are POWs, so I am curious still why some members of Congress display the flags while others do not.

All in all, my first few days on the Hill answered quite a few questions but also created a few more.  Should I make sure to take a few days’ supply of food and water every time I go down into the tunnels?  Why does the sub-basement come before the basement on the elevator panel, and while we’re on the subject, what does it do anyways?  What happens if I get on the wrong elevators?  Where is the nearest bathroom?  May I ask to pet the random dogs of Congress, or should I assume they’re busy serving their constituents? I have nine more weeks to answer these questions, and as long as I don’t succumb to heat stroke in the meantime, I hope to do just that.


Capitol Hill for Dummies…er Interns

My first day on the hill felt a little like a nightmare, you know, the one where you have a pop quiz that everyone else seemed to know about already.

The day before, I got a message that said to attend a hearing at 10 am in Rayburn 2123. Haha cool. Because I know what that means. *Spends rest of night feverishly searching how to navigate capitol hill*

So after about 2 hours of google searches I learned that the first number of house office buildings indicates the specific building: where 1 is Longworth, 2 is Rayburn, and 3 is Cannon. Which Hannah rightfully questioned, “Why is Longworth 1 when Cannon was the first to be built?” Meh. Go with it. I then learned that the second number indicates which floor. Ok, so that’s actually pretty helpful.

In the classic it’s a small world moment, I then stumbled upon this helpful post from POPVOX. So with a bit of insight into navigating the hill, I google mapped my metro route and built in an extra 45 minutes for finding the exact room.

The next morning I was off. And after a brief panic attack of realizing I had no U.S. ID on me, I entered Rayburn. The security seemed lax, but that’s probably just because us millennials grew up in the era of 30 minute TSA lines. Imagine my surprise that House Homeland Security’s working on cutting those TSA waiting times.

After entering, I soon realized that Rayburn 2123 is actually the first room that you see after entering off of S. Capitol St. Fortunately, that meant I wasn’t going to wander around looking lost. Unfortunately, that meant I had 45 minutes to kill as I stood awkwardly next to security.

In the days following, I read signs religiously, and only got helplessly lost once. (As I failed to find an escalator up from the tunnels to Rayburn’s basement; thankfully a nice passerby pointed me in the direction of an unmarked door with a narrow escalator behind it.)

So, by the next week when the other interns joined I foolishly thought of myself as an expert. Wrong. On Tuesday, Hannah, Maddie, and I ventured on a scavenger hunt to try and master navigating Capitol Hill.

We spent a good half hour mapping out our destinations and planning the most efficient route (ok, so most of this was actually already done by our boss Whitney). And then we were off, trying to navigate our way through the House tunnels. For the most part, we navigated Rayburn and Longworth with ease, though there was a bit of confusion when an elevator in Longworth deposited us in an unmarked and unfinished tunnel. Overall the tunnels were surprisingly easy to find our way through, despite my fear of accidentally wandering into the restricted Capitol area.

*Casually sorority squatting next to Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs*

Interestingly, it doesn’t seem to matter how confident you are or look, when walking in a fleet of interns, people will still ask if you are lost or need help. But, as Maddie so astutely put it, just because we are young interns doesn’t mean we can’t read arrows and signs.

Despite the hallways teeming with interns, you will always get slightly odd looks. Whether it was as we *casually* took selfies outside our Congressmen’s open doors or posed by Longworth’s old phone booths, we received exasperated looks and even the occasional question about where our scavenger hunt was taking us next. (Guess we weren’t as inconspicuous as we thought.)

How we didn't blend in is beyond me

After wrapping it up at the House buildings, we made our way into the sweltering heat and towards the Russell Senate Office Building. We had a chance to take in the ever picturesque Capitol, which Maddie beautifully captured.


Once in Russell, we worked quickly through the floors, checking off offices from our list. Then we made our way through the tunnels to Dirksen – but not before noticing how even the elevators in the Senate are fancier than in the House, albeit smaller.

Dirksen felt a little stuffier than the past few buildings. Maybe it was the lack of sunlit windows or the retro fitted lighting that forced the ceiling a bit too low for comfort.

Nonetheless, we walked through both Russell and Dirksen in awe, as we passed by the offices of Sen. John McCain [R, AZ] and Sen. Bernie Sanders [I, VT].

As we neared the end of our scavenger hunt we only had a few questions remaining: Isn’t it time we start getting more women in Congress if only to have equal numbers of female bathrooms? Jk  And, if there is a basement floor and there is a 1st floor, then what is ground floor?

Smiling as we near the end of the maze

Finally, after countless double takes of signs, selfies in front of offices, and friendly security guards, we made our way to the Hart Atrium – featuring the most modern art installation on Capitol Hill. And then we stumbled back into the sunlight and GPSed our disoriented selves to the nearest Starbucks.


POPVOX Gavel Down_Closing Out the Week in Congress_date (date format _April_11_18_2016

GAVEL DOWN: Closing Out the Week in Congress

House passed bipartisan bill to overhaul 40-year-old toxic chemicals law, stalled in Senate after lawmaker called for more time to read bill. House failed to pass energy and water spending bill over controversial amendment. House passed amended Senate energy bill, teeing up conference committee to reconcile differences. House Natural Resources marked up and advanced latest Puerto Rico debt crisis bill. House and Senate have approved separate funding measures to combat Zika virus, now working to merge the two measures.


Top Search on POPVOX this week: "firearm"

Most Active Bill on POPVOX this week:
H.R. 5090 To ensure that air transportation between the United States and the European Union complies with the intent of article 17 bis of the United States-European Union-Norway-Iceland Air Transport Agreement of June 21, 2011


House passed chemical safety overhaul

House passed bipartisan chemical safety bill by vote of 403-12. Bill would overhaul 40-year-old toxic chemicals law, allowing Environmental Protection Agency to gather more information about a chemical before it is used in the U.S.

SponsorRep. John Shimkus [R, IL-15]

Senate was expected to pass the bill later this week, but on Thursday, Sen. Rand Paul [R, KY] placed a hold, saying he needed more time to read the 180-page bill.

Obama administration “strongly supports” the measure, saying the bill would provide the EPA necessary power and resources to review new chemicals. Statement of Administration said the bill “represents a historic advancement for both chemical safety and environmental law.”


So what is the TSCA?
Toxic Substances Control Act (1976) is main law regulating chemicals in everyday products, from cleaning supplies to pesticides to laundry detergents. Despite the name, TSCA does not separate chemicals into toxic v. non-toxic, but rather existing chemicals v. new chemicals. When TSCA became law, all existing chemicals were considered safe for use and grandfathered in without examination. Out of roughly 85,000 chemicals in use today, the EPA has been able to ban or restrict production or use of five chemicals.

House failed to pass energy and water spending bill

On Thursday, the Energy and Water Appropriations bill failed to pass the House due to controversy over an amendment to prohibit discrimination against LGBT employees by federal contractors.

Sponsor: Rep. Michael Simpson [R, ID-2]

Here's a recap:

  • Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney [D, NY-18] introduced an amendment on Wednesday night to enforce a 2014 executive order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The amendment passed 223-195.
  • On Thursday during debate on the appropriations bill, Rep. Rick Allen [R, GA-12] read a passage from the Bible and questioned whether members would violate their religious principles by supporting the bill. Several Republican members said they could no longer support it.
  • The vote failed 305-112, as the bill shed both Republicans who withdrew support for the bill with the addition of the amendment and Democrats who had supported the amendment but not the underlying bill, which Speaker Paul Ryan referred to as “sabotage.”
  • GOP conference will meet following Memorial Day recess to discuss how to resume appropriations process, including potential rule changes for considering floor amendments.

House passed Senate energy bill, teeing up conference committee 

House voted 241-178 to pass amended version of Senate energy bill, setting up conference committee to resolve differences between the two energy bills.

House Amendment included H.R. 8 and several House-passed bills related to energy and natural resources. House version is less broad and does not include permanent reauthorization of Land and Water Conservation Fund, which is included in Senate bill. Both bills include provisions to modernize energy infrastructure like electric grid and pipelines.

Sponsor: Sen. Lisa Murkowski [R, AK]

Sponsor: Rep. Fred Upton [R, MI-6]

Speaker Paul Ryan and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi named conferees, including 24 Republicans and 16 Democrats. See if your lawmaker will be working on energy reform.

So what is a conference committee?
A conference committee is a temporary, ad hoc panel composed of members from both House and Senate to resolve disagreements on particular legislation that has passed both chambers.

POPVOX Puerto Rico markup House Natural Resources

House Natural Resources advanced Puerto Rico debt crisis bill

House Natural Resources Committee voted 29-10 to approve amended Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA). The bill would establish an oversight board and provide Puerto Rico tools to restructure its $70 billion debt. 

Bill prevents new Dept. of Labor overtime rule from applying to Puerto Rico and clarifies fiscal oversight board’s authority to protect prioritized payments to bondholders. Language that gives federal district court “personal jurisdiction over any person or entity” remains.

Sponsor: Rep. Sean Duffy [R, WI-7]

Included in the proposed amendments: Rep. McClintock’s [R, CA-4] Amendment 094, which sought to exempt debt that is Constitutionally backed from the bill on the grounds that the bill would undermine credibility of all Constitutionally backed debts and create a precedent for states. However, Chairman Bishop (R, UT-1) countered that it was not Congress’s domain to determine priority of creditors, and it was further argued that no precedent for states could be established via laws of territories.

In the end, the committee approved 11 amendments and faced significant bipartisan compromises. The bill is expected to gain House approval, however, the fate of the bill is still largely unknown. Sen. Bob Menendez [D, NJ] and Rep. Luis Gutiérrez [D, IL-4] said they will actively work to significantly change or sink the bill as they feel it does not provide for an orderly debt restructuring process and grants too much power to the fiscal oversight board, whose members are unknown. Additionally, Sen. Bernie Sanders [I, VT] said the bill treats Puerto Rico like a colony, and that perhaps statehood is necessary

Puerto Rico's Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi mentioned his bipartisan bill to make Puerto Rico a state by 2021. Pierluisi represents the island in Congress but cannot vote

Sponsor: Rep. Pedro Pierluisi [R, PR]

House passed Senate energy bill, teeing up conference committee 

Center for Disease Control Director Dr. Tom Frieden said, "We have a narrow window of opportunity to scale up effective Zika prevention measures, and that window is closing," as House and Senate began talks to merge their two funding measures to combat Zika virus.

Senate approved $1.1B in amendment offered by Sens. Blunt and Murray, 68-29 (included in THUD/MilCon appropriations bill which passed 89-8).

House passed bill to provide $648M through the end of the fiscal year. House also passed an older bill that had been introduced in several Congresses removing environmental restrictions on pesticides in waterways. Renamed the Zika Vector Control Act, the bill passed 258-156.

Sponsor: Rep. Bob Gibbs [R, OH-7]

Obama administration underscored importance of developing tools for vector control and reducing mosquito populations. Last month President Obama signed bill into law to speed up development of vaccines and drugs to prevent and treat Zika infections, but the bill lacked necessary funding. President Obama reiterated three-month-old request for $1.9B, saying "[Congress] needs to get me a bill that has sufficient funds to do the job."

New Bills on the Block



Weekend Reads

"Observations on the Toxic Substances Control Act and EPA Implementation" from Government Accountability Office

"Shared, Collaborative and On Demand: The New Digital Economy" by Aaron Smith, Pew Research Center

"Conference Committee and Related Procedures"  by Elizabeth Rybicki, Congressional Research Service

"Hail to the Computer" by Daniel Oberhaus, Popular Mechanics

Wishing you a wonderful weekend!


Please keep in mind that highlighting a bill does not imply POPVOX endorsement in any way. As always, our goal is to offer one more way to help you stay informed about the complex U.S. legislative system.

POPVOX Weekly Update_The Week Ahead in Congress_May_25_27_2016

WEEKLY UPDATE: The Week Ahead in Congress

The House will vote on several major bills on energy and the environment, including a bipartisan energy policy bill, energy funding, an update to the Toxic Substances Act, and lowering restrictions on anti-mosquito chemicals in response to the Zika outbreak. The Senate will work on the annual defense bill (NDAA) and reauthorizing the Sex Offender Management Assistance program.



S. 2613 Adam Walsh Reauthorization Act of 2016
Sponsor: Sen. Charles Grassley [R, IA]

Reauthorizes the Sex Offender Management Assistance program and the Jessica Lunsford Address Verification Grant program and appropriations for the U.S. Marshals Service to locate and apprehend sex offenders who violate sex offender registration requirements.


S. 2943 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY 2017
Sponsor: Sen. John McCain [R, AZ]

The Senate’s 2017 NDAA authorizes $602 billion in funding for the Department of Defense and the national security programs of the Department of Energy. It contains several policy reforms, including:

  • Large-scale procurement and contracting overhaul.

  • 25 % reduction in general and flag officers and DOD Senior Executive Service civilian employees

  • Reforms to the military health system

  • Including women in the requirement to register for selective service

  • Implementing the recommendations of the Department of Defense Military Justice Review Group





S. 2012 Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015
Sponsor: Sen. Lisa Murkowski [R, AK]


The House will vote on the bipartisan conference report (combined House and Senate bill) to update a wide range of energy policies. The five-part bill includes:

  • Expedited approval processes for a range of energy projects

  • Conservation efforts, including instructing federal agencies to reduce their building energy intensity by 2.5 percent per year through FY2025

  • Cybersecurity provisions for  protection of the electric grid

  • Permanent authorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the Historic Preservation Fund 



H.R. 5055: Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act
Sponsor: Rep. Michael Simpson [R, ID-2]

The legislation provides $37.4 billion funding for national defense nuclear weapons activities, the Army Corps of Engineers, various programs under the Department of Energy (DOE), and other related agencies.


H.R. 897: Zika Vector Control Act
Sponsor: Rep. Bob Gibbs [R, OH-7]

Eliminates the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit requirement for the application of pesticides authorized under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and the Federal Water Pollution Control Act.

Intelligence Reauthorization

H.R. 5077: The Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017
Sponsor: Rep. Devin Nunes [R, CA-22]

Authorizes appropriations forfiscal year 2017 for intelligence activities of the U.S. government, the Intelligence Community Management Account (ICMA), the Central Intelligence Agency Retirement and Disability System (CIARDS), and the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB).


Telecommunication, Emergency Access

H.R. 3998: Securing Access to Networks in Disasters Act
Sponsor: Rep. Frank Pallone  [D, NJ-6]

Requires a series of preparations for increasing access to communications networks during and after disasters, including:

  • (1) Allowing for mobile service at reasonable rates during emergencies when there is a mobile service outage lasting longer than 24 hours, and (2) no roaming charges during emergencies to or from 911 services.
  • Including all categories of communications service providers (currently, only telecommunications service providers) among the essential service providers that may access a disaster site to restore and repair essential services during a power outage.


H.R. 4167: Kari's Law Act of 2016
Sponsor: Rep. Louie Gohmert [R, TX-1]
Requires multi-line telephone systems to have a default configuration that allows users to directly initiate a call to 9-1-1 (without dialing any additional digit, code, prefix, or post-fix, including any trunk-access code such as the digit "9").

H.R. 4889: Kelsey Smith Act
Sponsor: Rep. Kevin Yoder [R, KS-3]
To require providers to provide call location information to an investigative or law enforcement officer in an emergency situation involving risk of death or serious physical injury or in order to respond to the user's call for emergency services.

H.R. 2589: To require the Federal Communications Commission publish online changes to the rules of the Commission not later than 24 hours after adoption
Sponsor:  Rep. Renee Ellmers [R, NC-2]

Veterans' Health and Caregiving 

H.R. 5229: Improving Transition Programs for All Veterans Act
Sponsor: Rep. Mark Takano [D, CA-41]
Calling for a study to evaluate the effectiveness of programs, especially in regards to women veterans and minority veterans, in transitioning to civilian life.

H.R. 2460: To amend title 38, United States Code, to improve the provision of adult day health care services for veterans
Sponsor: Rep. Lee Zeldin [R, NY-1]
Allowing for payment for adult day health care for a veteran eligible for, but not receiving, nursing home care.

H.R. 3956: VA Health Center Management Stability and Improvement Act
Sponsor: Rep. Mike Bost [R, IL-12]
Directs the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to develop and implement a plan to hire a director for each VA medical center without a permanent director.

H.R. 3989: Support Our Military Caregivers Act
Sponsor: Rep. Elise Stefanik [R, NY-21]
Permits independent external clinical review of a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) denial of an individual's application to be a caregiver eligible for VA benefits; determination of the level or amount of personal care services that a veteran requires; and a revocation of benefits by the VA. Each external clinical review must be completed and the individual notified of the results within 120 days of the election.

H.R. 3715 Final Farewell Act of 2016
Sponsor: Rep. Corrine Brown [D, FL-5]
Permits funerals and memorial services of a deceased veteran at a national cemetery during weekends, other than federal holiday weekends, upon the request of the veteran's next-of-kin made for religious or cultural reasons.

H.R. 5286: VA Construction and Lease Authorization, Health, and Benefits Enhancement Act
Sponsor: Rep. Jeff Miller [R, FL-1]
H.R. 5286 would authorize the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to enter into leases for 18 medical facilities and enhanced-use leases to provide supportive housing for veterans. The bill also would modify disability compensation for veterans by rounding payments down to the next lower dollar and authorizing payments to veterans who have lost certain organs. 

Also in the House:



H.R. 496: Alabama Hills National Scenic Area Establishment Act
Sponsor: Rep. Paul Cook [R, CA-8]
Establishes the Alabama Hills National Scenic Area, comprised of approximately 18,610 acres of land in Inyo County, California.



S. 184: Native American Children's Safety Act
Sponsor: Sen. John Hoeven [R, ND]
Would expand the background check requirements for people who hold tribal positions related to the foster care of Native American children. The bill would require tribal social services agencies to complete criminal records checks of each individual who resides in or is employed by a foster care institution that serves Native American children. Under current law, those checks are required only if the tribal agency receives federal funds. S. 184 also would require tribal agencies to develop procedures to recertify the safety of foster care institutions. 

H.R. 2121: To amend the S.A.F.E. Mortgage Licensing Act of 2008 to provide a temporary license for loan originators transitioning between employers
Sponsor:  Rep. Steve Stivers [R, OH-15]

H.R. 4139: Fostering Innovation Act of 2015
Sponsor: Rep. Kyrsten Sinema [D, AZ-9]
Amends Sarbanes-Oxley requirement that accounting firms preparing or issuing an audit for an issuer of securities shall attest to, and report on, the internal control assessment made by the management of the issuer. 

H.R. 4465: Federal Assets Sale and Transfer Act
Sponsor: Rep. Jeff Denham [R, CA-10]
Establishes the Public Buildings Reform Board to identify opportunities for the federal government to reduce significantly its inventory of civilian real property.

H.R. 4487: Public Buildings Reform and Savings Act
Sponsor: Rep. Lou Barletta [R, PA-11]
Enables the General Services Administration (GSA) to facilitate consolidations, reduce space, and negotiate office space lease deals for federal buildings. The bill also strengthens authorities of the Federal Protective Service (FPS) in order to improve security at Federal buildings.

Naming federal buildings and post offices:

  • 523 East Railroad Street in Knox, Pennsylvania, as the "Specialist Ross A. McGinnis Memorial Post Office" (H.R. 433)


  • 620 Central Avenue Suite 1A in Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas, as the "Chief Petty Officer Adam Brown United States Post Office" (H.R. 3931)


  • 4122 Madison Street, Elfers, Florida, as the "Private First Class Felton Roger Fussell Memorial Post Office" (H.R. 3953)


  • 6691 Church Street in Riverdale, Georgia, as the "Major Gregory E. Barney Post Office Building" (H.R. 4747)


  • 3130 Grants Lake Boulevard in Sugar Land, Texas, as the "LCpl Garrett W. Gamble, USMC Post Office Building" (H.R. 4877)


  • 5720 South 142nd Street in Omaha, Nebraska, as the "Petty Officer 1st Class Caleb A. Nelson Post Office Building" (H.R. 4975)


  • 3957 2nd Avenue in Laurel Hill, Florida, as the "Sergeant First Class William 'Kelly' Lacey Post Office" (H.R. 4987)


  • 61 South Baldwin Avenue in Sierra Madre, California, as the "Louis Van Iersel Post Office"  (H.R. 4761)


  • 836 Anacapa Street, Santa Barbara, California as the "Special Warfare Operator Master Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Louis 'Lou' J. Langlais Post Office Building" (H.R. 3218)


  • 110 East Powerhouse Road in Collegeville, Minnesota, as the "Eugene J. McCarthy Post Office” (H.R. 4425)


  • To designate the Department of Veterans Affairs community-based outpatient clinic in Laughlin, Nevada, as the "Master Chief Petty Officer Jesse Dean Department of Veterans Affairs Community-Based Outpatient Clinic" (H.R. 3969)


  • To name the Department of Veterans Affairs community-based outpatient clinic in The Dalles, Oregon, as the "Loren R. Kaufman Memorial Veterans' Clinic" (H.R. 1762)


  • To designate the Department of Veterans Affairs community-based outpatient clinic in Newark, Ohio, as the “Daniel L. Kinnard Department of Veterans Affairs Community Based Outpatient Clinic (H.R. 960)


Please keep in mind that highlighting a bill does not imply POPVOX endorsement in any way. As always, our goal is to offer one more way to help you stay informed about the complex U.S. legislative system.

POPVOX Gavel Down_Closing Out the Week in Congress_May_16_20_2016

GAVEL DOWN: Closing out the Week in Congress

It was a busy week — MilCon-VA spending passed the Senate (with Zika funding) and another version passed the House (along with a standalone Zika bill). The House passed the 2016 NDAA, with tough votes on controversial amendments. A Puerto Rico bill was released Thursday, along with a compromise toxic substances update. And the Supreme Court remanded a case on the ACA contraceptive mandate back to the lower court.

Top Search on POPVOX this week: "HR40"


Most active bill on POPVOX this week:
H.R. 5090 To ensure that air transportation between the United States and the European Union complies with the intent of article 17 bis of the United States-European Union-Norway-Iceland Air Transport Agreement of June 21, 2011.

Senate: THUD, MilCon-VA appropriations

Senators voted 89-8 on the Transportation-Housing and Urban Development, military construction and Veterans Affairs spending bill (H.R. 2577). The bill includes more than $190 billion for military construction and veterans and more than $114 billion for transportation and housing programs. 

House MilCon-VA appropriations

The House passed its own MilCon-VA spending bill (H.R. 4974), with a vote of a bipartisan vote of 295-129. The bill includes a ban on all Senior Executive Service (SES) performance awards at the VA and a provision to allow VA doctors to recommend medical marijuana as treatment for PTSD in states where it is legal. The legislation contains $81.6 billion in funding to house, train, and equip military personnel, to provide housing and services to military families, to maintain base infrastructure, and to support veterans’ benefits and programs.

Congress moves on Zika funding

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports it is monitoring nearly 300 cases of Zika in the U.S., including Puerto Rico.

This week the Senate passed a measure in the MilCon-VA spending bill to provide $1.1 billion to combat the Zika virus. The House passed a standalone bill (H.R. 5243) that provides $622 million for the HHS and other agencies, available until Sept. 30, which is offset with over $350 million from funds designated for Ebola. The House and Senate are expected to work out the differences in conference.

House NDAA — Open Process, Tough Votes

This week the House also took up the National Defense Authorization Act, holding to the House GOP Leadership commitment to an open process.

That led to hundreds of amendments (379 introduced), setting up several controversial votes, including provisions to remove Confederate flags from veterans' cemeteries (passed) and another to prohibit LGBT discrimination by federal contractors (failed).

The LGBT discrimination amendment provoked a heated conflict on the House Floor, as the vote initially seemed set to pass but changed after time had expired. While it is not unusual for a vote to be held open after time runs out, and not uncommon for leadership to continue to whip votes, electronic voting machines are usually disabled and vote changes made verbally by the member to the Clerk. That didn't happen for this vote, though ten members changed their vote. The Hill has the background on the chaotic scene that erupted on the House Floor. Roll Call has the numbers.

H.R. 4909: National Defense Authorization Act
How did your representative vote?

Senate passed 9/11 lawsuit bill

On Tuesday, the Senate passed a bill to allow September 11 victims and relatives to sue Saudi Arabia or any other countries in federal court over possible roles in the 2001 attacks.

S. 2040: Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act

The bill now heads to the House, where Speaker Paul Ryan says he is still evaluating whether the bill will be brought to a vote. According to the White House, the bill challenges the internationally recognized standard of sovereign immunity and could subject the United States to similar lawsuits in the future.

The bill "triggered a threat from Riyadh to pull billions of dollars from the US economy if the bill is enacted," (The Guardian). Politico reports that Saudi Arabia is undertaking an unprecedented outreach campaign, even distributing a bound white paper to Capitol Hill offices describing its efforts to fight terrorism.

Puerto Rico bill released with bipartisan support

On Thursday night, the House Natural Resources Committee released an updated version of the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA). The bill gives Puerto Rico tools to restructure to restructure its $70 billion in debt, including the ability to reprioritize creditors. If the committee votes next week on the bill, it will set up a House floor vote in June.

“This package of reforms will restore the guardrails of freedom and self-governance in Puerto Rico. It will hold Puerto Rico accountable to its debt, uncover audited financial statements, enforce fiscal responsibility and cut red tape holding down the Island’s economy. It provides tools to redirect Puerto Rico from a path of destitution towards a path of prosperity, preserving freedom and opportunity for the next generation.

Committee Chairman Rob Bishop and bill sponsor Rep. Sean Duffy

Toxic Substances Deal

House and Senate negotiators announced a deal that reconciles the House (H.R. 2576) and Senate-passed (S. 697) TSCA bills. The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act.

Bloomberg reports that the negotiated draft bill will:

  • help the EPA manage chemicals
  • grandfather existing state law and regulations
  • establish a “regulatory pause” preempting states from regulating chemicals while EPA evaluates a chemical’s risks, but allowing states to take action if the EPA takes too long
  • allow states to seek waivers to manage chemicals risks for certain reasons while the EPA conducts its risk evaluation
  • reduce the number of laboratory animals sacrificed or injured for toxicity test

Supreme Court remands contraceptive case

The Supreme Court returned a case regarding religious objections to providing contraceptive coverage under the ACA to lower courts this week. The rare unanimous opinion was seen as a direct consequence of the even 4-4 split of the Court since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.


We were asked about bills for a high school Civics class to research.
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Wishing you a wonderful weekend!


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.