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Congress at Work

Protecting SCOTUS, Veterans in Special Circumstances, Disaster Victims, Potential Firearm Victims, and America’s Water Resources

By Blog, Congress at Work

America's Water ResourcesSupreme Court Police Parity Act of 2022 (S 4160) – In response to potential threats and protests outside the homes of Supreme Court judges following a leak of their preliminary judgement on a case related to Roe vs. Wade, this bill authorizes extra security for the justices and their families. Specifically, Supreme Court justices and their families would be provided with security detail similar to that of other top government officials and families in the executive branch (e.g., the president and vice president) and legislative branch (e.g., Speaker of the House and Senate Majority Leader). This type of detail generally cannot be declined. The bill was introduced by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) on May 5. It passed in both the Senate and the House on June 14 and was signed into law by the president on June 16.

Honoring our PACT Act of 2021 (HR 3967) – Introduced by Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA) on June 17, 2021, this bill recently passed in both the House and the Senate, but was returned with changes to the House on June 16. PACT is an acronym for Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxins Act. The bipartisan legislation, with 100 sponsors, would permit veterans who were exposed to burn pit smoke and other environmental hazards that caused cancers and other illnesses during their service, to receive health coverage for those ailments.

Air America Act of 2022 (S 407) – Air America was a government-owned airline deployed between 1950 and 1976 for the purpose of conducting certain covert operations in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. This bill is designed to restore benefits to the employees who worked for Air America during that period. Benefit applications must be filed within two years of the bill’s enactment. This legislation was introduced on Feb. 24, 2021, by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL). It passed in the Senate on June 14 and is currently in the House for consideration.

Post-Disaster Assistance Online Accountability Act (HR 2020) – Introduced by Jenniffer González-Colón, Resident Commissioner for Puerto Rico (R-PR) on March 18, 2021, this bill establishes a centralized website to publish information on disaster assistance. The Small Business Administration, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and other federal agencies that provide disaster assistance must submit the following information for publication on a quarterly basis: 1) the total amount of assistance provided by the agency; 2) the amount provided that was disbursed or obligated; and 3) a detailed list of all projects and activities to which assistance was allocated. The bill passed in the House on May 13 and is under consideration in the Senate.

Protecting Our Kids Act (HR 7910) – The bill was introduced by Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) on May 31 and passed in the House on June 8. The purpose of this legislation is to ban the sale or transfer of certain semiautomatic firearms to anyone under age 21; establish new federal criminal offenses for gun trafficking; regulate guns that do not have serial numbers (ghost guns); regulate the storage of firearms on residential premises at federal, state and tribal levels; regulate bump stocks under federal firearms laws; and generally prohibit the import, sale, manufacture, transfer and possession of large capacity ammunition feeding devices. The bill is currently facing significant challenges in the Senate, where a bipartisan committee is working on an alternative.

Water Resources Development Act of 2022 (HR 1766) – This legislation authorizes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to implement projects associated with water resources development, including water supply and wastewater infrastructure, flood control, navigation and ecosystem/ shoreline restoration. The Act was introduced by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) on May 16. It passed in the House on June 8 and is currently under consideration in the Senate along with other similar bills.

Rushing Baby Formula supplies, Helping Ukraine and Punishing Russia

By Blog, Congress at Work

To amend the Child Nutrition Act of 1966 to establish waiver authority to address certain emergencies, disasters and supply chain disruptions, and for other purposes. (HR 7791) – In response to the recent nationwide shortage of infant formula, Congress passed a bill authorizing $28 million to fund emergency supplies and to address the potential for future shortages due to emergencies, disasters or supply chain disruptions. The bill was introduced by Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-CT) on May 17. It passed in the House on May 18 and unanimously in the Senate on May 19. It is currently awaiting signature by the president.

Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act of 2022 (S 3522) – This legislation was introduced on Jan. 19, by Rep. John Cornyn (T-TX). It passed in the Senate on April 6, the House on April 28, and was signed into law by President Biden on May 9. The bill waives certain requirements that constrain the president’s authority to lend or lease defense articles intended for Ukraine’s government or other Eastern European countries affected by Russia’s war. For example, prohibiting a loan or lease period of more than five years. Furthermore, the president must establish procedures to ensure quick delivery of defense articles loaned or leased to Ukraine. The provisions of this bill are scheduled to terminate at the end of FY 2023.

Additional Ukraine Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2022 (HR 7691) – Introduced by Rep. Rosa DeLauro on May 10, this bill authorizes $40.1 billion in emergency funding for U.S. agencies to aid Ukraine’s response to Russia’s invasion. The funding is available only through fiscal year 2022 (which ends Sept. 30). The appropriations are designed to provide defense equipment, migration and refugee assistance, support for nuclear power issues, emergency food assistance, economic assistance, and property seizures related to the invasion. U.S. agency recipients include the Department of Justice, the Department of Defense, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Department of Agriculture and the Treasury Department. The bill passed in the House and Senate on May 19 and awaits the president’s signature.

Ukraine Comprehensive Debt Payment Relief Act of 2022 (HR 7081) – This bill is designed to advocate debt assistance for Ukraine among domestic and international financial institutions. Specifically, the legislation calls for an immediate suspension of Ukraine’s debt service payments to respective institutions, offering concessional financial assistance to Ukraine, and providing economic support to both refugees from Ukraine and to the countries receiving them. The bill was introduced by Rep. Jesus Garcia (D-IL) on March 17. It passed in the House on May 11 and is under review in the Senate.

Russia and Belarus SDR Exchange Prohibition Act of 2022 (HR 6899) – The purpose of this legislation is to prevent financial assistance to Russia or Belarus. Specifically, it prohibits the U.S. Treasury Department from making transactions that involve the exchange of Special Drawing Rights held by the Russian Federation or Belarus. Special Drawing Rights (SDR) are reserve assets contributed by member countries and maintained by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The act was introduced by Rep. French Hill (R-AK) on March 2. It passed in the House on May 11 and is in the Senate.

Isolate Russian Government Officials Act of 2022 (HR 6891) – Introduced by Rep. Ann Wagner (R-MO) on March 2, this bill is designed to exclude Russian government officials from certain international meetings, such as the Group of 20, the Basel Committee for Banking Standards, and the Bank for International Settlements. The bill’s mandate is scheduled to end either within five years, or 30 days after the president has reported (to Congress) the end of the Russian-Ukraine war. The act passed in the House on May 11; it currently resides in the Senate.

Asset Seizure for Ukraine Reconstruction Act (HR 6930) – This bill would authorize a task force to identify legal actions that can be used to confiscate the assets of foreign individuals affiliated with Russia’s political leadership. The work group also is directed to report (to Congress) its recommendations for more energy-related sanctions on Russia’s government, as well as any additional authority the president can use to seize assets. The act was introduced by Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) on March 3. It passed in the House on April 27 and is under consideration in the Senate.

Restricting Trade Relations with Russia, Enhancing U.S. Export Pathways, and Bearing Down on Cybercrime and Human Trafficking

By Blog, Congress at Work

Suspending Normal Trade Relations with Russia and Belarus Act (HR 7108) – This legislation suspends normal trade relations with Russia and Belarus. The president may restore normal trade relations pending Congressional approval, and this authority is scheduled to end on the last day of 2023. The bill also permanently authorizes the president to impose visa- and property-blocking sanctions based on violations of human rights, as well as increase duty rates on products from these countries. These actions are designed to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine by urging other World Trade Organization (WTO) members to suspend trade concessions to Russia and Belarus, and consider steps to suspend Russia’s participation in the WTO. The bill was introduced on March 17 by Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA). It passed in the House on the same day, passed in the Senate on April 7, and was signed into law by President Biden on March 17.

Modernizing Access to Our Public Land Act (HR 3113) – This bill was introduced by Rep. Blake Moore (R-UT) on May 11, 2021. It requires the Dept. of the Interior, the Forest Service, and the Corps of Engineers to digitize geographic information system mapping data relating to public access to Federal land and waters for outdoor recreation. This information, which must be made publicly available, will include status as to whether roads and trails are open or closed; the dates on which roads and trails are seasonally opened and closed; the types of vehicles allowed on each segment of roads and trails; the boundaries of areas where hunting or recreational shooting is regulated or closed; and the boundaries of any portion of a body of water that is closed to entry, watercraft or has horsepower limitations for watercraft. The bill passed in the House on March 15, the Senate on April 6, and is awaiting signature by the president.

Better Cybercrime Metrics Act (S 2629) – This bill authorizes various requirements to improve the collection of data related to cybercrime. For example, the Department of Justice must collect cybercrime reports from federal, state and local officials; include questions about cybercrime in the annual National Crime Victimization Survey; and evaluate current cybercrime data collection and reporting systems. The bill was introduced by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) on Aug. 5, 2021. It passed in the Senate on Dec. 7, 2021, the House on March 29, and is awaiting the president’s signature to become law.

Bankruptcy Threshold Adjustment and Technical Corrections Act (S 3823) – The primary purpose of this legislation is to modify the eligibility requirements for a debtor to file for bankruptcy under Chapter 13. Specifically, only an individual (or an individual’s spouse, except a stockbroker or a commodity broker) with regular income that owes aggregated debt of less than $2,750,000 may file as a debtor under Chapter 13. The bill was introduced by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) on March 14 and passed in the Senate on April 7. It is currently under consideration in the House.

Countering Human Trafficking Act of 2021 (S 2991) – This bill authorizes the establishment of a Department of Homeland Security Center for Countering Human Trafficking. The goal is to address human trafficking with a victim-centered approach to increase the focus on and effectiveness of investigating and prosecuting forced labor cases. Specifically, the legislation centers on eradicating forced labor from both corporate and government agency supply chain contracts and procurement. The act was introduced by Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) on Oct. 18, 2021. It passed in the Senate on April 16 and is under consideration in the House.

Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2022 (S 3580) – This bipartisan act was introduced by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) on Feb. 3. The bill increases the authority of the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) to investigate late fees charged by common ocean carriers and otherwise find ways to promote the growth of U.S. exports through a more effective and economical ocean transportation system. For example, the bill prohibits common ocean carriers, marine terminal operators, and ocean transportation intermediaries from unreasonably refusing cargo space when available. This legislation passed in the Senate on March 31 and is under consideration in the House.

Banning Masks, Banning Russian Oil, Making Lynching a Federal Hate Crime and Saving Sunshine

By Blog, Congress at Work

Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2022 (HR 2471) – This legislation will fund the federal government through September 2022, but also includes a plethora of other bills folded within for the purpose of quick passage by both the House and Senate. Among them is the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act and the allocation of $13.6 billion in additional aid to support Ukraine in its conflict against Russia. The bill was signed into law by President Biden on March 15.

STANDUP Act of 2021 (S 1543) – STANDUP is the anacronym for Suicide Training and Awareness Nationally Delivered for Universal Prevention. It authorizes the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to give preference to state, tribal and local educational agencies when awarding certain grants for priority mental health needs. Specifically, plans must include evidence-based suicide awareness and prevention training policies. The bill was introduced by Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) on May 10, 2021. It passed in the Senate on Dec. 14, 2021, the House on Feb. 28 and was signed by the president on March 15.

Suspending Energy Imports from Russia Act(HR 6968) – This bill was introduced by Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) on March 8. It is the bill that bans the import of Russian oil in response to the country’s invasion of Ukraine. The act also gives the president permanent authorization to impose visa- and property-blocking sanctions based on violations of human rights. In addition to oil, the act blocks importation of other Russian products such as mineral fuels, mineral oils and products of their distillation, bituminous substances and mineral waxes, with the exception of prior contracts or agreements. Subject to congressional approval, the president may waive this prohibition for national interest reasons. The bill also takes initial steps to suspend Russia’s participation in the World Trade Organization. The legislation passed in the House on March 9 and is currently under consideration in the Senate.

Sunshine Protection Act of 2021 (S 623) – The purpose of this legislation is to make daylight savings time the new, permanent standard time. The bill states the change would begin on Nov. 5, 2023, in order to give airlines and other industries time to adjust their schedules and processes. States that currently contain areas exempt from daylight savings time will have the option to choose standard time for those areas. The bill was introduced by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) on March 9 and passed in the Senate on March 15. It is currently under consideration in the House.

Postal Service Reform Act of 2022 (HR 3076) – This bipartisan act was introduced by Rep. Carloyn Maloney (D-NY) on May 11, 2021. It passed in the House on Feb. 8, the Senate on March 15 and is awaiting the president’s signature to become law. The bill will repeal the annual prepayment requirement for future retirement health benefits; establish a Postal Service Health Benefits Program to offer health benefit plans for USPS employees and retirees; coordinate enrollment for retirees under this program and Medicare; and develop a publicly available dashboard that tracks service performance and reports on USPS operations and financial conditions.

Emmett Till Antilynching Act (HR 55) – This act was introduced by Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL) on Jan. 4, 2021. This act designates lynching as a federal hate crime, and imposes the criminal penalties of a fine, a prison term of up to 30 years, or both. It applies to anyone who conspires to commit a hate crime offense that results in death or serious bodily injury; kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap; aggravated sexual abuse or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse; or an attempt to kill. The bill passed in the House on Feb. 28 and the Senate on March 7. It is awaiting the president’s signature to become law.

A joint resolution providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, of the rule submitted by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention relating to “Requirement for Persons To Wear Masks While on Conveyances and at Transportation Hubs” (SJRes 37) – The purpose of this joint resolution is to nullify the CDC rule issued in February 2021 to require face masks on planes, trains, buses, and other public transportation systems and hubs in order to prevent the transmission of COVID-19. It was introduced by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) on Feb. 10 and passed in the Senate on March 15. It is currently in the House for consideration.

Relief for USPS Financial Requirements, Plus Support for Victims of Sexual Harassment and Online Child Exploitation

By Blog, Congress at Work

HR 2497,HR 4445,HR 3076,HR 2074,S 2551,S 2538Amache National Historic Site Act (HR 2497) – This Act was introduced by Rep. Joe Negusa (D-CO) on April 24, 2021. The bill authorizes the Department of the Interior to acquire land in Colorado in order to establish a park called the Amache National Historic Site. It is to be included as part of the National Park System for the purpose of preserving, protecting and interpreting resources associated with the incarceration of civilians of Japanese ancestry during World War II at the Granada Relocation Center, as well as the military service of incarcerees at the Granada Relocation Center. The bill was passed by Congress on Feb. 18 and is now with the president.

Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act of 2021(HR 4445) – The bill was introduced by Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL) on July 16, 2021. It invalidates arbitration agreements that prohibit a party from filing a lawsuit in court involving sexual assault or sexual harassment. The bill passed in both the House and the Senate on Feb. 10 and is awaiting signature by the president.

Postal Service Reform Act of 2022 (HR 3076) – This Act is designed to provide stability and enhance the services of the United States Postal Service. Among its many provisions, the bill proposes to: Repeal the annual prepayment requirement for future retirement health benefits;  establish a Postal Service Health Benefits Program to offer health benefit plans for USPS employees and retirees; coordinate enrollment for retirees under this program and Medicare; develop a publicly available dashboard that tracks service performance and reports on USPS operations and financial conditions. The legislation was introduced by Rep. Carloyn Maloney (D-NY) on May 11, 2021. It passed in the House on Feb. 8 and goes to the Senate next for consideration.

Indian Buffalo Management Act (HR 2074) – This Act was introduced by Rep. Don Young (R-AK) on March 18, 2021. The bill establishes a permanent program within the Department of the Interior to develop and promote tribal ownership and management of buffalo and buffalo habitat on Indian lands. Furthermore, the department may enter into agreements with tribal organizations to transport surplus buffalo from federal land onto Indian land. The bill passed in the House on Dec. 8, 2021, and is presently with the Senate.

AI Training Act (S 2551) – The purpose of this legislation is to establish a training program in artificial intelligence (AI). It would be managed by the Office of Management and Budget for an acquisition workforce of executive agencies by ensuring that those workforces have knowledge of the capabilities and risks associated with AI. The Act would require the program to be updated at least every two years, measure workforce participation and solicit and analyze feedback from program participants. The bill was introduced by Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) on July 29, 2021. It passed in the Senate on Dec. 18, 2021, is currently under consideration in the House.

EARN IT Act of 2022 (S 2538) – EARN IT is an acronym for Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies. The purpose of this bipartisan legislation is to revise the current federal framework for governing the prevention of online sexual exploitation of children by establishing a National Commission for Online Child Sexual Exploitation Prevention. The commission would develop best practices for interactive computer services providers such as Facebook and Twitter to prevent, reduce and respond to the online sexual exploitation of children. In addition to requiring service providers to report facts and circumstances to identify and locate minors involved, the Act would also limit provider liability protections for alleged violations of child sexual exploitation laws. It was introduced by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on Jan. 31 and is presently under consideration at the committee level.

Pursuing Voting Rights, Critical Therapies, VA Online Education Benefits and Condemning Forced Labor

By Blog, Congress at Work

John R. Lewis ActFreedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act(HR 5746) – This act is comprised of two previous bills that were combined and passed in the House using a procedural workaround, then sent to the Senate where it did not pass under current Senate rules. A Senate bipartisan committee is taking action to draft another bill containing components of this one, but it is yet to be seen. This Freedom to Vote Act was designed to expand voting access, standardize voting election laws across the country, and restore provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Other key provisions include:

  • Making Election Day a federal holiday
  • Online, automatic and same-day voter registration
  • A minimum of 15 days of early voting, including during at least two weekends
  • No-excuse mail voting
  • Ample access to ballot drop boxes
  • Online ballot tracking
  • Streamlined election mail delivery by the USPS
  • Requiring states to accept a wide range of forms of non-photographic ID
  • Restoring voting rights to formerly incarcerated people convicted of felonies
  • Making it harder for states to remove eligible voters from rolls
  • Providing more protections and resources for disabled, overseas and military voters
  • Strengthen voting rights and protections for voters in Native American Indian districts
  • Greater federal protections and oversight for voting in U.S. territories
  • Improve voter registration resources and outreach
  • Reauthorize and strengthen the US Election Assistance Commission
  • Require states to use standardized criteria when drawing new congressional districts
  • Require states to use voter-verifiable paper ballots and conduct post-election audits
  • Strengthen cybersecurity standards for voting equipment
  • Prohibit local election officials from being fired or removed without cause
  • Make interference with voter registration a federal crime, with stricter penalties for the harassment, threats and intimidation of election workers
  • Enhance transparency disclosures for campaign financing
  • Require campaigns to report foreign interference

Accelerating Access to Critical Therapies for ALS Act (HR 3537) – This bill authorizes grant programs to be awarded by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for scientific research utilizing data from expanded access to investigational ALS treatments for individuals who are not otherwise eligible for clinical trials. Furthermore, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) shall award grants to cover the costs of research and development of drugs that diagnose or treat ALS and other rare neurodegenerative diseases, and publish a five-year action plan to foster the development of drugs that improve or extend the lives of people living with these diseases. The bill was introduced by Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL) on May 25, 2021, passed in the House on Dec. 8 and in the Senate on Dec. 16. It was signed into law by the president on Dec. 23.

REMOTE Act (HR 5545) – This act was introduced by Rep. David Trone (D-MD) on Oct. 8, 2021. In light of the pandemic and many college classes moving online, Congress passed this bill to ensure veterans making the transition to virtual classes would still receive full benefits. These education benefit protections, which include allowing the VA to make payments or extend eligibility periods for students who can’t participate in school, work-study or vocational rehabilitation programs that were closed as a result of COVID-19, will be extended through June 1. The bill passed in the House on Dec. 8, the Senate on Dec. 15 and was signed into law on Dec. 21.

To ensure that goods made with forced labor in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China do not enter the United States market, and for other purposes. (HR 6256) – The purpose of this legislation is to ban imports produced using forced labor in China, particularly in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. It also expands existing asset- and visa-blocking sanctions for foreign individuals and entities responsible for serious human rights abuses in connection with forced labor. The bill was introduced by Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) on Dec 14, 2021. It passed in the House on Dec. 16, the Senate two days later and was enacted by the president on Dec. 23.

Raising the Debt Limit, Protecting the Capitol and Prohibiting Foreign Campaign Financing

By Blog, Congress at Work

A joint resolution relating to increasing the debt limit(SJ Res 33) – This legislation was initially introduced on Dec. 14 by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY). It is a joint resolution that authorized an increase to the public debt limit by $2.5 trillion. It passed in the Senate and the House within one day and was enacted into law by the president on Dec. 16.

Capitol Police Emergency Assistance Act of 2021(S 3377) – This bill empowers the chief of the U.S. Capitol Police to unilaterally request the assistance of the D.C. National Guard or Federal law enforcement agencies in emergencies without prior approval from the Capitol Police Board. The legislation was introduced on Dec. 13 by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN). It passed in the House and the Senate within one day and is currently awaiting signature by the president.

Protecting Our Democracy Act (HR 5314) – This bill is designed to protect American democracy by preventing abuses of presidential power (e.g., requires the president to submit materials relating to certain pardons to Congress, prohibits self-pardons by the president, suspends the statute of limitations for federal offenses committed by a sitting president or vice president); restoring checks, balances, accountability and transparency in government (e.g., requires cause for removal of inspectors general, increases whistleblower protections, requires a candidate for president or vice president to produce 10 years of most recent income tax returns); and preventing foreign interference in U.S. elections (prohibits the acceptance of foreign or domestic emoluments and foreign donations to political campaigns); as well as other purposes.

The bill was introduced by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) on Sept. 21 and passed in the House on Dec. 9. It is currently with the Senate.

No CORRUPTION Act (S 693) – Presently, the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007 prevents a member of Congress who is convicted of a felony from collecting a government pension. However, they may continue receiving their pension until the completion of legal appeals. This bill alters the conditions of the previous Act to stop pension payments immediately after the original conviction. Should the conviction eventually be overturned, the pension would retroactively pay out lost benefits and resume from that point on. The bill was introduced by Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) on March 10. It passed in the Senate on Dec. 8 and is in the House for consideration.

Federal Rotational Cyber Workforce Program Act of 2021 (S 1097) – This bill was introduced by Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) on April 13. It passed in the Senate on Dec. 14 and is currently under consideration in the House. The purpose of this legislation is to establish a rotational cyber workforce program. The program will have processes in which to dispatch certain federal employees to work in other cyber positions at other agencies.

Methamphetamine Response Act of 2021 (S 854) – The purpose of this legislation is to designate methamphetamine as an emerging threat as an illicit drug, and directs the Office of National Drug Control Policy to implement a methamphetamine response plan. The bill was introduced by Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) on May 18. It passed in the Senate on Dec. 18 and is currently in the House.

Congress at Work: Infrastructure Spending, Hiring Veteran Health Heroes and Initiatives for Education, Childcare and Immigration

By Blog, Congress at Work

HR 3684, S 1031, S 894, S 108, HR 5376Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act(HR 3684) – This legislation authorizes funding for federal highway, transit, safety, motor carrier, hazardous materials and rail programs of the Department of Transportation (DOT). The bill also addresses climate change with strategies to reduce the environmental impacts of the surface transportation system and facilitate the efficient use of federal resources. It was initially introduced on June 4; it passed in the House on July 1 and in the Senate on Aug. 10. It was passed again in the House in its final form on Nov. 5, and then was signed into law by the president on Nov. 15.

A bill to require the Comptroller General of the United States to conduct a study on disparities associated with race and ethnicity with respect to certain benefits administered by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and for other purposes. (S 1031) – This bill was introduced by Rep. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) on March 25. It passed in the House on Aug. 6, then in the Senate on Nov. 15. It is awaiting signature by the president. Within one year, a study must be conducted and Congress briefed on how race and ethnicity impact VA compensation benefits, disability ratings and the rejection of claims for VA benefits.

Hire Veteran Health Heroes Act of 2021 (S 894) – The purpose of this legislation is to identify separating service members in healthcare occupations and refer them for jobs at the VA. The bill was introduced by Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN) on March 23. It passed in the Senate on July 21, the House on Nov. 15 and is currently with the president.

A bill to authorize the Seminole Tribe of Florida to lease or transfer certain land, and for other purposes (S 108) – This legislation allows the Seminole Tribe of Florida to lease, sell, convey, warrant or transfer any real property it owns that is not held in trust by the United States. The bill was introduced by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) on Jan. 28. It was passed in the Senate on May 26, in the House on Nov. 2 and is currently waiting to be signed into law by the president.

Build Back Better Act (HR 5376) – This bill is currently being debated in Congress as the second phase of President Biden’s effort to “build an economy from the bottom up and the middle out.” It includes funding for a wide array of initiatives, including education, labor, childcare, healthcare, taxes, immigration and the environment. Specifically, the legislation would provide for up to six semesters of free community college, free childcare for children under the age of 6, free universal preschool services, health benefits for eligible individuals who reside in states that have not expanded Medicaid, expand Medicare to cover dental, hearing and vision care; provide certain aliens with a path to permanent resident status (e.g., those who entered the United States as minors); and provide up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave. Funding mechanisms include increasing the tax rates for certain corporations and individuals with annual income over $400,000; and require the Department of Health and Human Services to negotiate maximum prices for certain brand-name drugs under Medicare. The bill was introduced by Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY) on Sept. 27 and is currently under consideration in the House.

Increasing the Debt Limit, Extending Government Funding, and Protecting Vets, Veteran Moms and the Capitol Police

By Blog, Congress at Work

Increase of Public Debt Limit(S 1301) – This bill was enacted on Oct. 14 in order to increase the public debt limit. The debt was increased by $480 billion, the amount projected by the Treasury Department to be needed through early December in order to avoid surpassing the public debt limit. Had this stopgap legislation not been passed, it would have created the potential for a severe economic crisis in which the government would have run out of money to pay back existing debts, government salaries and other pre-existing obligations. The bill was initially introduced by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) on April 22; it passed in the House on Sept. 29 and in the Senate on Oct. 7. It was signed into law on Oct. 14.

Extending Government Funding and Delivering Emergency Assistance Act (HR 5305) – The bill was both introduced by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and passed in the House on Sept. 21; then passed by the Senate on Sept. 30. It authorizes appropriations for federal agencies for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2022, including providing emergency assistance for activities related to natural disasters and evacuees from Afghanistan. The bill is also known as a continuing resolution (CR), which prevented a government shutdown that would otherwise have occurred if the 2022 appropriations bills had not been enacted by Oct. 1, when the new fiscal year began. The legislation was signed and enacted in the nick of time by the president on Sept. 30.

Protecting Moms Who Served Act of 2021 (S 716) – This bill was introduced by Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) on March 17. The purpose of the legislation is to codify maternity care coordination programs at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Specifically, the VA must work with local non-VA maternity care providers for training and support related to the unique needs of pregnant and postpartum veterans, particularly with regard to mental and behavioral health conditions. The bill passed in the Senate on Oct. 7 and is currently under consideration in the House.

A bill to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to designate one week each year as Buddy Check Week for the purpose of outreach and education concerning peer wellness checks for veterans, and for other purposes. (S 544) – This bill directs the Department of Veterans Affairs to designate one week each year as Buddy Check Week for veterans to conduct peer wellness checks. It also mandates that the VA ensure the Veterans Crisis Line has a plan to handle potential increases in calls during that week. The bill was introduced by Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) on March 2 and passed in the Senate on Oct 7. It is currently under consideration in the House.

Emergency Security Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2021 (HR 3237) – This legislation provides $1.9 billion in emergency supplemental appropriations for the legislative branch and federal agencies for preventive measures in response to what happened at the U.S. Capitol Complex on Jan. 6. Because this funding is designated as emergency spending, it is exempt from discretionary spending limits. The funding is allocated for expenses such as security-related upgrades, repairs to facilities damaged by the attack, reimbursements for the costs of responding to the attack, support for prosecutions, the establishment of a quick reaction force within the District of Columbia National Guard to assist the Capitol Police, and mandatory use of body-worn cameras by Capitol Police officers who interact with the public. The bill was introduced by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) on May 14. It was passed in the House on May 20, in the Senate on July 29, and signed into law by the president on July 30.

Enhancing Agency Budget Transparency, Opportunities to Study Science and Environmental Protections

By Blog, Congress at Work

Congressional Budget Justification Transparency Act of 2021 (S 272) – This bill mandates that federal agencies must make budget justification materials publicly available online. The Office of Management and Budget will be required to publish details regarding the agencies that submit budget justification materials to Congress and dates the materials are posted online, along with links to the materials. The bill was introduced by Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) on Feb. 8, passed in the Senate and the House on Aug. 23 and is awaiting enactment by the president.

National Science Foundation for the Future Act (HR 2225) – Introduced by Rep. Eddie Johnson (D-TX) on March 26, the bill authorizes appropriations for the National Science Foundation for fiscal years 2022 through 2026. It is designed to assess opportunities and award grants for Pre-K through 12 science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs, including computer science and STEM education research. The legislation passed in the House on June 28 and is in the Senate for consideration.

Driftnet Modernization and Bycatch Reduction Act (S 273) – This bill was introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) on Feb. 8. The purpose of the legislation is to prohibit the use of large-scale gillnets with a mesh size of 14 inches or greater. Gillnets are used for driftnet fishing, in which nets with panels of webbing are placed in the water and allowed to drift with the currents and winds to passively catch fish by entangling them in the webbing. Presently, gillnets are limited in size to less than 2.5 kilometers in length. However, the bill will not go into effect within the U.S. exclusive economic zone for five years in order for the Department of Commerce to facilitate the phase out of large-scale driftnet fishing and promote the adoption of alternative practices to minimize the incidental catch of living marine resources. Furthermore, the bill authorizes the Commerce Dept. to award grants to program participants. The bill passed in the Senate on Sept. 14 and is currently under consideration in the House.

PFAS Action Act of 2021 (HR 2467) – This legislation would require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to limit the use of and designate perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) as hazardous substances. These are manmade materials used in a variety of products, such as nonstick cookware and weatherproof clothing, that may have adverse human health effects. The legislation would classify PFAS under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980, which in turn would require appropriate remediation of those substances released into the environment. This bill was introduced by Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) on April 13. It is currently in the Senate after passing in the House on July 21.

Divided Families Reunification Act(HR 826) – This bill directs the State Department to make regular reports to Congress on its work with South Korea to reunite Korean Americans with family in North Korea. The legislation was introduced by Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY) on Feb. 4 and passed in the House on July 19. It is currently under consideration in the Senate.