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.
Here's our list. What did we miss?

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_16_20_2016

WEEKLY UPDATE: The Week Ahead in Congress

The House will vote on the Defense Authorization bill (NDAA), Zika funding, and Military Construction-VA Appropriations. The Senate continues work on Transportation/Housing Appropriations, with a Zika funding provision.


The Senate will consider the  “THUD” and “MilCon-VA” appropriations bills together, as a substitute amendment to H.R. 2577.

H.R. 2577:
Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations
The Senate THUD bill provides $56.5 billion to fund the U.S. Department of Transportation, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and related agencies.

Military Construction-Veterans Affairs (MilCon-VA) Appropriations
The Senate will also consider the Military Construction-Veterans Affairs (MilCon-VA) Appropriations bill in the same legislative package. The Senate MilCon-VA bill provides $83 billion to fund the Department of Veterans Affairs, construction projects across all branches of the military, and related agencies.
Read more about the details of each spending bill.


NDAA, MilCon-VA Appropriations, and Zika Control

H.R. 4909:
National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017

Sponsor: Rep. Mac Thornberry

This week the House will consider the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which lays out the budget and expenditures for the Department of Defense. The bill passed out of the Armed Services Committee by a vote of 60 YAY – 2 NAY.



H.R. 4974:
Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act

Sponsor: Rep. Charlie Dent

According to the House Appropriations Committee, the funding bill:

Provides $81.6 billion in discretionary funding – $1.8 billion above the fiscal year 2016 level.

Funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is increased by 3 percent over the fiscal year 2016 level – including additional funding to address management problems and health care shortages, and to increase the speed, efficiency, and effectiveness of its services to veterans. 


Zika Response Appropriations Act (no bill number yet)
The bill is expected to tap unused Ebola accounts. (Source: Morning Consult)

H.R. 897:
Zika Vector Control Act

Sponsor: Rep. Bob Gibbs

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.

Security, Religious Freedom

H.R. 1150:
Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act
Sponsored: Rep. Lee Zeldin
H.R. 1150 would make several changes to the Office of International Religious Freedom and programs promoting international religious freedom within the Department of State.

H.R. 4743:
National Cybersecurity Preparedness Consortium Act
Sponsor: Rep. Joaquin Castro
H.R. 4743 would authorize the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to work with a consortium, including the National Cybersecurity Preparedness Consortium (NCPC), to assist state and local governments to prepare for, and respond to, cybersecurity risks and incidents over the five-year period immediately following the bill’s enactment.

H.R. 4780:
Department of Homeland Security Strategy for International Programs Act
Sponsor: Rep. Bennie Thompson
H.R. 4780 would require the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), within 180 days of the bill’s enactment, to transmit to the Congress a comprehensive three-year strategy to enhance DHS programs that deploy personnel and resources abroad to screen persons seeking to enter the United States.

H.R. 4407:
Counterterrorism Advisory Board Act
Sponsor: Rep. John Katko
H.R. 4407 would establish a counterterrorism advisory board in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The board would consist of senior representatives of operational agencies within DHS (such as Customs and Border Protection and the Coast Guard) and offices in DHS headquarters, including the Office of Intelligence and Analysis. The board would meet on a regular basis to coordinate departmental activities to combat terrorism.

Taiwan and the "Six Assurances"

H. Con. Res 88: 
Reaffirming the Taiwan Relations Act and the Six Assurances as cornerstones of United States–Taiwan relations
Sponsor: Rep. Steve Chabot [R, OH-1]

The Six Assurances are guidelines used in conducting relations between the United States of America and Taiwan. They were proposed by the Taiwanese government in 1982, as President Reagan was negotiating the “Third Shanghai Communiqué” between the U.S. and China.

The "Six Assurances” promised that the U.S. would:

  1. not set a date for termination of arms sales to Taiwan;
  2. not alter the terms of the Taiwan Relations Act;
  3. not consult with China in advance before making decisions about United States arms sales to Taiwan;
  4. not mediate between Taiwan and China;
  5. not alter its position about the sovereignty of Taiwan which was, that the question was one to be decided peacefully by the Chinese themselves, and would not pressure Taiwan to enter into negotiations with China; and
  6. not formally recognize Chinese sovereignty over Taiwan.


H.R. 3832:
Stolen Identity Refund Fraud Prevention Act

Sponsor: Rep. James Renacci [R, OH-16]

S. 1492:
To direct the Administrator of General Services, to convey certain Federal property located in the State of Alaska to the Municipality of Anchorage, Alaska

Sponsor: Sen. Dan Sullivan [R, AK]

S. 2143:
To provide for the authority for the successors and assigns of the Starr-Camargo Bridge Company to maintain and operate a toll bridge across the Rio Grande near Rio Grande City, Texas

Sponsor: Sen. John Cornyn [R, TX]

H.R. 1887:
To amend certain appropriation Acts to repeal the requirement directing the Administrator of General Services to sell Federal property and assets that support the operations of the Plum Island Animal Disease Center in Plum Island, New York
Sponsor: Rep. Lee Zeldin [R, NY-1]

POPVOX Gavel Down_Closing Out the Week in Congress_May 9-13, 2016

GAVEL DOWN: Closing out the Week in Congress

President Obama signed trade secrets bill into law, as well as making the American bison the national mammal. Federal Court sided with House in lawsuit against the Obama administration over implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Senate passed first “regular order” appropriations bill, regarding energy and water spending. House passed several bills related to opioid abuse and treatment, looking to combine passed bills into one legislative package and work out differences with Senate-passed opioid bill. Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland submitted extensive questionnaire to Senate Judiciary.


Top Search on POPVOX this week: "firearms"

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


POPVOX trade secrets bill signed into law

Photo: Jim Watson, AFP/Getty Images   Source: USA Today


President Obama signs trade secrets bill into law

President Obama signed trade secrets bill into law, with some describing the new protections as "the most significant expansion of federal law in intellectual property in 70 years." The bill allows companies to sue entities for trade secret theft in federal court. Previously, only the Justice Department can sue on allegations of trade secrets theft.

SponsorSen. Orrin Hatch [R, UT]

The bill was largely uncontroversial, passing both chambers last month.

      Roll Call Votes      
Senate: 87-0, April 4
House: 410-2, April 27

President Obama signed the bill into law, saying:

"What these members of Congress have done is to, on a bipartisan basis, pass a strong enforcement bill that allows us not only to go after folks who are stealing trade secrets through criminal actions, but also through civil actions, and hurt them where it counts in their pocketbook." 

Read: full remarks

So what is a trade secret, anyway?

Trade secrets are a form of intellectual property. Information that someone has taken reasonable measures to protect which derives independent economic value from not being generally know.

Examples include: designs, negative information, computer software, customer lists, non-public financial information, cost and pricing information, manufacturing information, confidential information about business opportunities, and certain personnel information.

Court sides with House in ACA Suit

On Thursday, Judge Rosemary Collyer of the U.S. District Court for DC sided with the House of Representatives in a lawsuit against the Obama Administration regarding its implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Read the decision

The issue:
The ACA created a system for insurers to give discounts to people with incomes below a certain threshold, with the federal government reimbursing insurers for those discounts. The House of Representatives sued the Administration claiming that while Congress authorized (decided to spend the money) the program in the ACA, the money for the payments to insurers was never actually appropriated (writing the check). The court agreed with the House:

Paying out Section 1402 reimbursements without an appropriation thus violates the Constitution. Congress authorized reduced cost sharing but did not appropriate monies for it, in the FY 2014 budget or since. Congress is the only source for such an appropriation, and no public money can be spent without one.

Such appropriations are an integral part of our constitutional checks and balances, insofar as they tie the Executive Branch to the Legislative Branch via purse strings

What happens now?
The decision enjoins (halts) payments to insurers under the program unless or until Congress appropriates funds for it. However, the court will “stay its injunction” (postpone stopping the payments) until the case has an opportunity to be heard on appeal. So, while the decision is a victory for House Republicans, nothing changes until after an appeal.

Speaking of Appropriations…

This week, by a vote of 98-0, the Senate passed the first “regular order” Energy and Water Appropriations bill since 2009. Regular Order requires each of the twelve appropriations to pass through committees and then both chambers to appropriate spending for the coming year. In past years, Congress has not been able to get all twelve through the process, resorting instead to “continuing resolutions” (extending spending from previous years) or, as last year, an “Omnibus” (wrapping all the spending bills up into one big one). 

H.R. 2028 Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2016

It is still highly unlikely that all twelve spending bills will make it through the process in time this year, but the Senate is acting early to do its part. Immediately after passage of the $37.5 billion Energy and Water funding bill, the Senate announced a deal to consider the “THUD” and “MilCon-VA” appropriations bills together, as a substitute amendment to H.R. 2577.

H.R. 2577: Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2016

Read full post for more information about spending levels within each appropriations bill.

House passed several opioid related bills

House spent the week considering legislation related to opioid abuse and treatment. House leaders plan to combine handful of passed bills into single legislative package; then request conference with the Senate to hash out differences between House package and Senate-passed Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA).

Bills passed this week include (but are not limited to):

As well as larger bill that would authorize $103M annually over 2017-2021 for Department of Justice (DOJ) grants to state, local, and tribal governments for programs to combat opioid abuse:

H.R. 5046 Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Reduction Act of 2016
Sponsor: Rep. F. Sensenbrenner [R, WI-5]

Senate passed CARA in March by a vote of 94-1, with Sen. Ben Sasse [R, NE] in opposition, saying he's "not convinced fighting addiction…is best addressed at the federal level." The broad drug treatment and prevention bill is the largest of its kind in nearly a decade.

SponsorSen. Sheldon Whitehouse [D, RI]


CARA includes provisions to:

  • Expand the availability of naloxone to law enforcement agencies and other responders to help in the reversal of overdoses
  • Expand disposal sites for unwanted prescription medicines
  • Launch an evidence-based opioid and heroin treatment and intervention program to promote best practices throughout the country
  • Increase resources to identify and treat incarcerated individuals suffering from addiction disorders 
  • Launch medication assisted treatment and intervention demonstration program
  • Strengthen prescription drug monitoring programs

Bills heading to President Obama


POPVOX Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland submitted questionnaire to Senate Judiciary

Source: Mike DeBonis/Twitter

Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland submitted questionnaire to Senate Judiciary

Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland submitted an extensive questionnaire to Senate Judiciary in effort to spur hearings and confirmation vote.

Questionnaire didn’t include detailed financial information, departing from recent Supreme Court nominees. In recent years, Senate Judiciary has created a customized questionnaire for nominees. In the absence of one created by Senate Judiciary, Garland used a form completed by more routine judicial nominees.

Read: complete questionnaire


Legislative Lowdown: States Edition


Weekend Reads

"Drug Price Control: How Some Governments Do It"  by David Blumenthal and David Squires, The Commonwealth Fund

"International Energy Outlook 2016"  from the U.S. Energy Information Administration

"Off the Podium: Why Public Health Concerns for Global Spread of Zika Virus Means That Rio de Janeiro’s 2016 Olympic Games Must Not Proceed" by Amir Attaran, Harvard Public Health Review

What, If Anything, Has Judge Garland Said About the
 Second Amendment and Guns?
, Congressional Research Service

It’s Appropriations Season!

See the current status of the twelve appropriations bills:





S. 2956:

Approved by Committee

H.R. 5054

Approved by Committee

Commerce, Justice, Science

S. 2837

Approved by Committee

H.R. 5393

Approved by Committee


S. 3000

Approved by Committee

H.R. 5293

Approved by Committee

Energy and Water


H.R. 2028

Failed vote in the House


S. 2804

Passed the Senate

Financial Services


H.R. 2995

Approved by Committee

Homeland Security

S. 3001

Approved by Committee

Just released — no bill number yet




Labor, HHS, Education

S. 3040

Approved by Committee


Legislative Branch

S. 2955

Approved by Committee

H.R. 5325

Passed the House

Military Construction and Veterans Affairs

(H.R.2577 is the vehicle for T-HUD and MilCon-VA in Senate)

S. 2806

Approved by Committee


H.R. 4974

Passed the House

H.R. 2577

Passed the Senate


State and Foreign Operations



Transportation, HUD

(H.R.2577 is the vehicle for T-HUD and MilCon-VA in Senate)

S. 2844

H.R. 2577,


H.R. 5394

Approved by Committee


June 8, 2016: Speaker Paul Ryan proposed altering the floor process for appropriations bills.


June 8, 2016: The House Appropriations Committee released the proposed fiscal year 2017 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Appropriations bill. The bill includes $41.1 billion in discretionary funding for DHS, and $7.3 billion for disaster relief and emergency response activities through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).


June 9, 2016:  The $21.7 billion House Financial Services Bill passed committee. Reuter’s described the bill as “slash[ing] funding for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Internal Revenue Service and other financial regulators.”


The bill includes several policy riders, including:

  • Stalling the CFPB’s rule to end the use of forced-arbitration clauses

  • Exempting sellers of manufactured housing from Dodd-Frank provisions

  • The bill does not include a rider to defund the Labor Department’s recently finalized overtime pay rule.

  • It also doesn’t block funding for DOL’s “fiduciary rule” for retirement investment advice.


The 2017 Senate Labor, HHS & Education Appropriations Bill passed committee by a 29-1 vote. It now goes to the Senate Floor. The bill funds the U.S. Department of Labor at $12.04 billion, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services at $76.9 billion, and the U.S. Department of Education at $67.8 billion. It includes “a $2.0 billion increase for medical research by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), $261 million to combat the opioid abuse crisis, and sufficient funding to restore year-round Pell Grant eligibility.”


June 10, 2016: The House approved the fiscal year 2017 Legislative Branch Appropriations (233-175), to fund the offices of Members of the House of Representatives, the support agencies of Congress, security and police forces, services for visitors, and Capitol operations and maintenance. The total included for the House and joint operations, excluding Senate-only items, is $3.48 billion.


  • 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 bill extends a pay freeze for Members of Congress.


May 13, 2016: This week, by a vote of 98-0, the Senate passed the first “regular order” Energy and Water Appropriations bill since 2009. Regular Order requires each of the twelve appropriations to pass through committees and then both chambers to appropriate spending for the coming year. In past years, Congress has not been able to get all twelve through the process, resorting instead to “continuing resolutions” (extending spending from previous years) or, as last year, an “Omnibus” (wrapping all the spending bills up into one big one). 

H.R. 2028 Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2016

It is still highly unlikely that all twelve spending bills will make it through the process in time this year, but the Senate is acting early to do its part. Immediately after passage of the $37.5 billion Energy and Water funding bill, the Senate announced a deal to consider the “THUD” and “MilCon-VA” appropriations bills together, as a substitute amendment to H.R. 2577.

H.R. 2577: Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2016

Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD)
The Senate THUD bill provides $56.5 billion to fund the U.S. Department of Transportation, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and related agencies, including:


  • $525 million for TIGER grants (also known as National Infrastructure Investments)
  • Highways: $44 billion from the Highway Trust Fund to be spent on the Federal-aid Highways Program, consistent with the recently-enacted FAST Act.  
  • Aviation: $16.4 billion for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), including $1 billion for the FAA Next Generation Air Transportation Systems (NextGen).
  • Rail: $1.7 billion for the Federal Railroad Administration, including $1.4 billion for Amtrak.
  • Transit: $12.3 billion for the Federal Transit Administration, including $9.7 billion for transit formula grants, consistent with the FAST Act.
  • Maritime: $485 million for the Maritime Administration, including $275 million for the Maritime Security Program
  • Safety: $891 million for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, including additional funding for autonomous vehicle research.


  • Community Planning and Development: $6.7 billion, including:  $3 billion for the Community Development Block Grant formula program; $2.3 billion for Homeless Assistance Grants; $950 million for the HOME program; and $335 million for the Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS program.   
  • Youth Homelessness: $20 million to support over 2,500 new family unification vouchers to prevent youth from becoming homeless after exiting foster care.  $40 million to test comprehensive efforts to end youth homelessness in urban and rural areas.  
  • Section 8 and Public Housing: $27.9 billion for Public and Indian Housing
  • Housing Assistance: $505 million for Housing for the Elderly, $154 million for Housing for Persons with Disabilities

THUD  appropriations could also include Zika funding.

Military Construction-Veterans Affairs (MilCon-VA)
The Senate MilCon-VA bill provides $83 billion to fund the Department of Veterans Affairs, construction projects across all branches of the military, and related agencies, including:


  • Construction: $7.93 billion for military construction projects
  • Missile Defense: $155 million to fully fund the first phase construction of the Long Range Discrimination Radar in Clear, Alaska.
  • European Reassurance Initiative: $114 million for construction projects in support of U.S. allies through the European Reassurance Initiative.
  • Military Family Housing: $1.3 billion for construction, operation and maintenance of housing for nearly 1.4 million military families currently served by the program.
  • Military Medical Facilities: $350 million for military medical facilities.  
  • Department of Defense (DoD) Education Facilities: $272 million for four military school facilities
  • Guard and Reserve:  $673 million to support construction needs
  • NATO Security Investment Program (NSIP): – $178 million for infrastructure necessary for wartime, crisis, and peace support and deterrence operations, and training requirements, including responses to the challenges posed by Russia and risks and threats emanating from the Middle East and North Africa.

The bill contains $177.4 billion in both discretionary and mandatory funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs, an increase of $14.7 billion above the FY2016 level.  

  • VA Medical Care: $65 billion, including: 



    • $7.2 billion for the new Medical Community Care account to provide non-VA care;
    • $1.5 billion for the treatment of Hepatitis C; 
    • $675 million for medical and prosthetic research; 
    • $535 million for health care specifically for women veterans; 
    • $5.7 billion to care for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans;
    • $284 million for traumatic brain injury treatment; 
    • $735 million for the Caregivers Program;
    • $250 million for rural health initiatives.
  • VA Electronic Health Record: $260 million for continued modernization of the VA electronic health record system. 
  • Disability Claims Processing: $180 million for the paperless claims processing system,
  • Construction: $900 million for VA hospitals, projects to improve access to VA health care, and the VA’s National Cemeteries.
  • VA Mandatory Funding: $103.9 billion in advance funding for veterans’ mandatory benefits, including: disability compensation programs, education benefits, guaranteed home loans, vocational rehabilitation and employment training
  • Advance Appropriations: – $66.4 billion in advance funding for veterans’ medical programs to support VA medical services, medical community care, medical support and compliance, and medical facilities.

The legislation also includes $241.1 million in funding for:

  • American Battle Monuments Commission – $75.1 million
  • US Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims – $30.9 million
  • Arlington National Cemetery – $70.8 million
  • Armed Forces Retirement Home – $64.3 million
POPVOX Weekly Update_The Week Ahead in Congress_May_9_13_2016

WEEKLY UPDATE: The Week Ahead in Congress

The House will work on a series of bills to combat opioid  abuse and several bills impacting law enforcement, while the Senate will continue work on its Energy and Water Appropriations bill, which has hit a snag. A bill is expected Wednesday to address the Puerto Rican debt crisis.


Bills to Combat Opioid Abuse

In what has been called "Opioid Week," the House will vote on a host of bills to combat the Opioid Epidemic, including an amendment to the Senate-passed Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA). The House will then vote to go to conference with the Senate to work out differences and come up with one bill that can pass both chambers. House Democrats will push for a vote on $600 million in funds to address the crisis.


H.R. 5046 Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Reduction Act of 2016
Sponsor: Rep. F. Sensenbrenner [R, WI-5]

Authorizes $103 million annually over 2017-2021 for Department of Justice (DOJ) grants to state, local, and tribal governments for programs to combat opioid abuse.

S. 32: Transnational Drug Trafficking Act of 2015
Sponsor: Sen. Dianne Feinstein [D, CA]
Would broaden the coverage of current laws relating to the illegal importation of controlled substances. 

H.R. 5052: OPEN Act
Sponsor: Rep. Kevin McCarthy [R, CA-23]
To direct DOJ and HHS to evaluate the effectiveness of grant programs to address problems pertaining to opioid abuse

H.R. 5048: Good Samaritan Assessment Act of 2016
Sponsor: Rep. Frank Guinta [R, NH-1]
To require a GAO study on Good Samaritan laws that pertain to treatment of opioid overdoses


H.R. 4982: Examining Opioid Treatment Infrastructure Act of 2016
Sponsor: Rep. Bill Foster [D, IL-11]
Requiring a GAO report on in-patient and outpatient treatment capacity, availability, and needs of the United States


H.R. 4981: Opioid Use Disorder Treatment Expansion and Modernization Act
Sponsor: Rep. Larry Bucshon [R, IN-8]
To improve access to opioid use disorder treatment.


H.R. 4976: Opioid Review Modernization Act of 2016
Sponsor: Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney


H.R. 4641: To provide for the establishment of an inter-agency task force to review, modify, and update best practices for pain management and prescribing pain medication
Sponsor: Rep. Susan Brooks [R, IN-5]


H.R. 3680: Co-Prescribing to Reduce Overdoses Act of 2016, as amended
Sponsor: Rep. John Sarbanes [D, MD-3]
To create a grant program for co-prescribing opioid overdose reversal drugs.


H.R. 4978: NAS Healthy Babies Act, as amended
Sponsor: Rep. Evan Jenkins [R, WV-3]
Calling for a GAO report on neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) in the United States and its treatment under Medicaid.


H.R. 4969: John Thomas Decker Act of 2016
Sponsor: Rep. Pat Meehan [R, PA-7]
To provide for informational materials to educate and prevent addiction in teenagers and adolescents who are injured playing youth sports and subsequently prescribed an opioid.


H.R. 4599: Reducing Unused Medications Act of 2016
Sponsor: Rep. Katherine Clark [D, MA-5]
To permit certain partial fillings of prescriptions.


H.R. 4586: Lali’s Law
Sponsor: Rep. Bob Dold [R, IL-10]
To authorize grants to States for developing standing orders and educating health care professionals regarding the dispensing of opioid overdose reversal medication without person-specific prescriptions. The bill is named in memory of Alex Laliberte, a Buffalo Grove, Ill. resident who passed away seven years ago from a drug overdose. Source.

H.R. 4063: Jason Simcakoski PROMISE Act
Sponsor: Rep. Gus Bilirakis [R, FL-12]
This legislation would require the VA and DOD to update their Clinical Practice Guidelines for Management of Opioid Therapy for Chronic Pain, VA opioid prescribers to have enhanced pain management and safe opioid prescribing education and training, and the VA to increase information sharing with state licensing boards.

H.R. 3691 Improving Treatment for Pregnant and Postpartum Women Act
Sponsor: Rep. Ben Luján [D, NM-3]
To reauthorize the residential treatment programs for pregnant and postpartum women and to establish a pilot program to provide grants to State substance abuse agencies to promote innovative service delivery models for such women

Law Enforcement Bills in the House

H.R. 4985: Kingpin Designation Improvement Act of 2016
Sponsor: Rep. John Katko [R, NY-24]
To protect classified information in Federal court challenges.

H.R. 2317: Federal Law Enforcement Self-Defense and Protection Act of 2015
Sponsor: Rep. Doug Collins [R, GA-9]
Grants covered federal law enforcement officers the same rights to carry a government-issued firearm during a covered furlough as they had before such furlough was in effect.


S. 125: Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program Reauthorization Act of 2015
Sponsor: Sen. Patrick Leahy [D, VT]
Extend through FY2020 the authorization of appropriations for the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program. 

H.R. 3209: Recovering Missing Children Act
Sponsor: Rep. Erik Paulsen [R, MN-3]
To allow the disclosure of tax returns and return information to officers and employees of state or local law enforcement agencies who are partnering with a federal agency in investigations of missing or exploited child cases.

S. 2755: Fallen Heroes Flag Act of 2016, as amended
Sponsor: Sen. Roy Blunt [R, MO]
This bill allows the Representative or Senator of an immediate family member of a deceased firefighter, law enforcement officer, member of a rescue squad or ambulance crew, or public safety officer who died in the line of duty to give the family, on request, a Capitol-flown flag, together with a certificate, signed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Representative, or the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Senator, providing the flag, which contains an expression of sympathy for the family.

Also in the House:

H.R. 1818: Veteran Emergency Medical Technician Support Act of 2016
Sponsor: Rep. Adam Kinzinger [R, IL-16]
For states with a shortage of emergency medical technicians (EMTs) to streamline state requirements and procedures to assist veterans who completed military EMT training to meet state EMT certification, licensure, and other requirements.


H.R. 4957: To designate the Federal building located at 99 New York Avenue, N.E., in the District of Columbia as the “Ariel Rios Federal Building”
Sponsor: Rep. Andre Carson [D, IN-7]


Energy and Water Appropriations

The Senate will continue work on the Energy and Water Appropriations bill, which is reportedly stalled because of an amendment proposed by Sen. Tom Cotton [R, AR] to prohibit the U.S. from using federal funds to buy Iran's heavy water, which can be used in nuclear reactors. Senate Democrats oppose the amendment.

H.R. 2028: Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act
Sponsor: Rep. Michael Simpson [R, ID-2]

The Energy and Water spending bill includes total spending of $37.5 billion:

  • Department of Energy – $30.7 billion
  • Nuclear Security – $12.9 billion for DOE nuclear security programs, including Weapons Activities, Naval Reactors, and Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation. 
  • Science Research – $5.4 billion for science research to support basic energy research, development of high-performance computing systems, and research into the next generation of clean energy sources.
  • Environmental Cleanup – $6.4 billion for DOE environmental management activities
  • Solving the Nuclear Waste Stalemate – Pilot program for consolidated nuclear waste storage
  • Energy Programs – $11.2 billion; the bill prioritizes and increases funding for energy programs that encourage U.S. economic competitiveness and that will advance “all-of-the-above” solution to U.S. energy independence.
  • Fossil Energy Research and Development – $632 million for technologies to advance coal, natural gas, oil, and other fossil energy resources. 
  • International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) – The bill eliminates funding for ITER, which is under construction in France, saving $125 million. 
  • Army Corps of Engineers – $6 billion






    • Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund for the Corps of Engineers. 
    • Revenues from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund to advance American competitiveness and export capabilities
    • Funds for construction of river and harbor, flood storm damage reduction, shore protection, aquatic ecosystem restoration, and related projects authorized by law.
  • Bureau of Reclamation – $1.14 billion to help manage, develop, and protect the water resources of Western states.
  • Other policy items: The bill prohibits changes to the definition of “fill material” and “discharge of fill material” for the purposes of the Clean Water Act.

Source: Senate Committee on Appropriations


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.