This is the WashingtonWatch.com email newsletter for the week of July 18, 2016. Subscribe (free!) here.
This is the WashingtonWatch.com email newsletter for the week of July 18, 2016. Subscribe (free!) here.
Congress hasn’t set the spending plan for fiscal 2017 yet, but it has adjourned for its summer break.
The House and Senate won’t meet again until September 6th. When it returns, just four weeks before the beginning of the new fiscal year, it might—might—set spending levels for the year. Failure to establish spending numbers plenty of time before the beginning of the fiscal year prevents agencies from planning and undercuts their efficiency—or, if you like, undercuts their efficiency even more.
The Republicans and Democrats are having their conventions this coming week and next, of course. It’s a symbol, in a way, that getting elected is much more important to them than doing the work they’re elected to do. (You could lay this charge chiefly with Republicans this time, because they currently control the House and Senate.)
At least the Senate has been good enough to publish its plans for its first week back: Work starts again at 3:00pm on Tuesday, September 6.
Shortly after that time, the Senate will resume consideration of the conference report for H.R. 2577, the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2016. As we noted in a recent WashingtonWatch.com email newsletter, that bill actually is the legislative vehicle for a couple of other bills, H.R. 4974, the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2017; H.R. 5243, the Zika Response Appropriations Act, 2016; and H.R. 897, the Zika Vector Control Act, which was formerly a regulatory reform bill.
The Senate may vote as earlier as late that day to cut off debate on that bill, and one other, H.R. 5293, the Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2017. The second largest of this year’s annual spending bills, DoD approps spends over $5,000 per U.S. family. Cutting off debate, or “cloture,” means that a bill will soon move to a decision on final passage.
So there’s some real action coming up in the Senate. …It’s just seven weeks away.
Enjoy your summer break, Congress!
This is the WashingtonWatch.com email newsletter for the week of July 11, 2016. Subscribe (free!) here.
There’s a big week planned in the House this week. Let’s take a look at the bills that are going to see debate. There are a lot of them. You can register your opinion by voting and commenting on the bills—and by calling your representatives.
H.R. 5322 – U.S. Territories Investor Protection Act of 2016
H.R. 5421 – National Securities Exchange Regulatory Parity Act of 2016 – costs $0.00 per U.S. family
H.R. 5469 – To require the Secretary of the Treasury to direct the United States Executive Director at the International Monetary Fund to support the capacity of the International Monetary Fund to prevent money laundering and financing of terrorism
H.R. 5594 – National Strategy for Combating Terrorist, Underground, and Other Illicit Financing Act
H.R. 5606 – Anti-terrorism Information Sharing Is Strength Act
H.R. 5607 – Enhancing Treasury’s Anti-Terror Tools Act
H.R. 5602 – To amend title 31, United States Code, to authorize the Secretary of the Treasury to include all funds when issuing certain geographic targeting orders, and for other purposes
H.R. 4785 – DHS SAVE Act – costs $0.28 per U.S. family
H.R. 5385 – Quadrennial Homeland Security Review Technical Correction Act of 2016 – costs $0.00 per U.S. family
H.R. 5056 – Airport Perimeter and Access Control Security Act of 2016 – costs $0.03 per U.S. family
H.R. 4404 – Terrorist and Foreign Fighter Travel Exercise Act of 2016 – costs $0.00 per U.S. family
H.R. 5252 – To designate the United States Customs and Border Protection Port of Entry located at 1400 Lower Island Road in Tornillo, Texas, as the “Marcelino Serna Port of Entry”
H.R. 5588 – Veterans’ Compensation COLA Act of 2016
H. Con. Res. 138 – Designating the George C. Marshall Museum and George C. Marshall Research Library in Lexington, Virginia, as the National George C. Marshall Museum and Library
H.R. 5530 – HBCU Capital Financing Improvement Act – costs $0.00 per U.S. family
H.R. 3178 – Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act – costs $0.01 per U.S. family
H.R. 3179 – Empowering Students Through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act – costs $0.02 per U.S. family
H.R. 5528 – Simplifying the Application for Student Aid Act – costs $0.03 per U.S. family
H.R. 5529 – Accessing Higher Education Opportunities Act – costs $0.00 per U.S. family
H.R. 636 – America’s Small Business Tax Relief Act of 2015 – saves $658.45 per U.S. family
H.R. 5639 – National Institute of Standards and Technology Improvement Act of 2016
H.R. 5636 – National Institute of Standards and Technology Campus Security Act
H.R. 5640 – Electricity Storage Innovation Act
H.R. 5638 – Solar Fuels Innovation Act
H.R. 4768 – Separation of Powers Restoration Act of 2016 – costs $0.00 per U.S. family
H.R. 5658 – TALENT Act of 2016
S. 304 – Conscience Protection Act of 2016 – costs $0.03 per U.S. family
H.R. 5119 – No 2 H2O from Iran Act
H.R. 5538 – Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2017
H.R. 4992 – United States Financial System Protection Act of 2016
H.R. 5631 – To hold Iran accountable for its state sponsorship of terrorism and other threatening activities and for its human rights abuses, and for other purposes
S. 764 – National Sea Grant College Program Amendments Act of 2015 – costs $3.44 per U.S. family
This is the WashingtonWatch.com email newsletter for the week of July 4, 2016. Subscribe (free!) here.
It’s seems small, but it’s one of many practices on which Congress is backwards: the failure to share bill numbers.
Our inspiration for this post is a simple Tweet with an important message: “@washingtonwatch Thank you for including bill #; it’s so much easier to track. THANK YOU!”
We’re happy to do that service.
Believe it or not, it’s out of the ordinary for members of Congress and senators to include bill numbers when they talk about their work. Oh, they tout what they’re doing, but they don’t give ordinary Americans that chance to following along by reading the bills themselves.
So it’s time for us to require our representatives to share this piece of information. Getting the bill number is the key to reading the bills, telling friends and colleagues about them, and seeing whether and how proposals make their way through the legislative process.
A few times, we’ve come across Tweets from U.S. representatives and allied organizations about legislative priorities, and we’ve asked what the bill number is. We’ve gotten no answer. The offenders are the following Twitter accounts: @nydiavelazquez, @senatordurbin, @repmikepompeo, @repteddeutch, @repperlmutter, @HouseGOP, and @repgusbilirakis.
There are many others who fail to share this essential information. And it may include your member of Congress and senators.
So, take a look at their Twitter feeds, or their press releases. Do they talk about their legislative work, bills introduced, and how they’re serving their constituencies without sharing the bill number? They should!
Let ’em hear it from you!
They should Tweet the bill number!
This is the WashingtonWatch.com email newsletter for the week of June 27, 2016. Subscribe (free!) here.
You wouldn’t think it, but July 4th is exactly the right time to talk about fiscal year 2017 spending. That’s because your federal representatives are home kissing babies and riding in Fourth of July parades. (Pictured at right, a non-federal representative parading past a federal building.)
The deadline for Congress to finish passing spending bills for the coming fiscal year is next week. Having the spending process done in the summer allows federal agencies plan for the coming fiscal year, which begins in the fall.
So you might contact your representative in his or her district office this coming week. You can talk about lots of things. You can talk about the failure of Congress to follow the schedule, or you can talk about a specific opinion you have about the spending plans that are out there being hatched.
You can see what the currently pending appropriations bills are in the table below. The House and Senate bills in each spending category are listed, along with the amount the spend per average U.S. family.
No bill has passed yet, and in some cases, a bill hasn’t even been introduced. If a bill isn’t introduced, you can’t assess how much it spends and you can’t comment on that. So maybe you should talk about Congress’s failure to run the appropriations trains on time. Doing so would be a first step toward putting yourself back in the driver’s seat.
Below is the current state of play with spending bills for fiscal year 2017, which begins October 1st. Happy week ahead of July Fourth from your friends at WashingtonWatch.com!
|Budget Resolution*||H. Con. Res. 125 ($27,748)||none|
|Agriculture||H.R. 5054 ($1,141)||S. 2956 ($1,146)|
|Commerce/Justice/Science||H.R. 5393 ($586)||S. 2837 ($585)|
|Defense||H.R. 5293 ($5,071)||S. 3000 ($5,060)|
|Energy and Water||H.R. 5055 ($340)||S. 2804 ($339)|
|Financial Services||H.R. 5485 ($406)||S. 3067 ($410)|
|Homeland Security||not yet introduced||S. 3001 ($438)|
|Interior and Environment||H.R. 5538 (n/a)||S. 3068 ($303)|
|Labor/HHS/Education||not yet introduced||S. 3040 ($8,542)|
|Legislative Branch||H.R. 5325 ($34)||S. 2955 ($30)|
|Military/Veterans||H.R. 4974 ($1,662)||S. 2806 ($1,667)|
|State/Foreign Operations||not yet introduced||not yet introduced|
|Transportation/HUD||H.R. 5394 ($1,084)||S. 2844 ($1,088)|
*Budget resolutions set overall spending amounts but do not spend money.
This is the WashingtonWatch.com email newsletter for the week of June 20, 2016. Subscribe (free!) here.
It was an impetuous response, but not wrong. That’s what we Tweeted upon seeing a new bill introduced by Representative Elise Stefanik (R-NY): “YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES”
The bill is H.R. 5493, the EDIT Act. It would direct the Librarian of Congress to ensure that each version of a bill on Congress.gov allows for tracking of changes from previous versions. What a neat idea! Allowing the public to follow along with changes Congress makes to proposed new laws!
When we see legislation like this, we step out of our standard role of strict neutrality and get a little favorable. We like bills that will make the government more transparent. This is one, and you should support it. You should ask your representative to support it.
Now there are details to hash out. It may be that the better institution for making changes to bills available is the Congress itself. Bills should be produced in formats that allows computers to reveal automatically how they would affect existing law (among other things). The format for publishing bills should support automated proposal of amendments in a digital format, which would allow for displaying amendments, whether declined of adopted, over the Internet.
Just as important, the House and Senate should adopt a uniform digital standard for committees to use in publishing amendments—and votes. It’s not just the Library of Congress in charge of making Congress transparent. The LoC is a downstream consumer of data that originates with Congress. So Congress should really lead the way.
But it’s great to see a member of Congress joining the effort to improve congressional transparency. The proposal arrives just in time for the House Administration Committee’s annual Legislative Data Transparency Conference. (Word is it will be streamed, so you can learn whether Congress will soon make the amendments it adopts to bills will be revealed in an easy-to-access format.
Here’s the current WashingtonWatch.com vote on H.R. 5493. Click to vote, comment, learn more, and edit the wiki article on the bill.