This week in Congress

The US Senate is currently working on a "continuing resolution" that would extend government spending until December 9. The resolution is expected to pass the Senate and the House by the end of the week.

Assuming the CR passes, the House and Senate are expected to adjourn until after the election.

As of this writing, the CR has yet to be finalized, so we have no idea what may be in it. However, we do know that there is a movement to put a provision to the CR changing the Export-Import Bank's (Ex-Im Bank) quorum requirement. This would get around Senate Banking Committee Chairman Shelly's block on new members to the Ex-Im Bank's board, and thus allow them to approve new loans.

I'll be posting more about the Ex-Im Bank and the CR later today.

The House comes in on Tuesday. Among the legislation the House will consider is HR 3438, which requires federal agencies to postpone all federal regulation if the regulation is being challenged in court.

The House will also consider HR 5719, which allows companies to transfer stock to their employees without the employees incurring any tax liabilities during the first year of ownership.

The House will consider two pieces of legislation dealing with Iran. One, HR 5461, requires the Secretary of the Treasury to let Congress know how many assets Iranian officials have "direct or indirect" control over that belong to US and "foreign financial institutions".

The second bill, HR 5931, prohibits the US Government from making any payments to the Iranian government. The bill also requires that payments made by private individuals to settle a legal dispute with the Iranian government must be made "pursuant to a specific license by the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the Department of the Treasury..."  The bill also imposes certain reporting requirements on the Administration regarding transactions with Iran.

This bill is an (over) reaction to the controversy over the payments made to Iran that (allegedly) was in conjunction with the release of some American hostages. According to the Obama Administration, the payments were a release of assets frozen by he US government after Iran sized the American embassy in 1979.

The House will also consider over 50 pieces of legislation under suspension of the rules, including the following:

1. HR 670--  Makes changes to Medicaid, including  allowing states to use Medicaid funds to help new mothers quit smoking. It also forbids the use of Medicaid funds for cosmetic surgery and hair replacements.

2. HR 5963-- reauthorizes unconstitutional federal juvenile delinquent programs. This is another example of federal overreach.

3. HR 5687-- This bill "...eliminates provisions that require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to:

  • review reported legislation that requires financial audits of non-federal entities receiving federal awards;
  • evaluate the extent to which premium levels for Medicare supplemental policies reflect reductions in coinsurance for hospital outpatient services made by the Medicare, Medicaid, and SCHIP Benefits Improvement and Protection Act of 2000 under part B (Supplementary Medical Insurance Benefits for Aged and Disabled) of title XVIII (Medicare) of the Social Security Act (SSAct);
  • report on the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA's) pilot program under the Sandy Recovery Improvement Act of 2013 for alternative resolution for major disaster assistance disputes involving amounts of at least $1 million; and
  • conduct a biennial satisfaction survey of recipients of transportation intelligence reports under the Department of Homeland Security's transportation security information sharing plan.

The GAO must report annually (currently, every 60 days) on its oversight of the Troubled Asset Relief Program under the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008.

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act is amended to terminate the GAO's annual reporting after 2020, but requires GAO reports in 2022 and 2024, about the effectiveness of disclosures relating to conflict minerals originating in the Democratic Republic of the Congo or adjoining countries on the rate of sexual- and gender-based violence and the promotion of peace and security in such areas.

The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 is amended to extend until December 31, 2023. The GAO's deadline for updating a report under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act with an analysis of how the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has addressed GAO recommendations for the implementation of payment for oral-only ESRD (end-stage renal disease)-related drugs in the bundled prospective payment system under SSA title XVIII provisions regarding Medicare coverage for ESRD patients.

The Public Health Service Act is amended to transfer from the GAO to HHS the responsibility to provide information, personnel, and administrative assistance to the review panel that consults with HHS about applications for demonstration grants that HHS awards to states for the development of alternatives to tort litigation for resolving disputes over injuries allegedly caused by health care providers or organizations.

My first impression of the bill is that it reduces transparency of government programs. Instead of reducing the GAO's authority, Congress should empower the agency to reveal the full truth about America's monetary policy by passing the Audit the Fed legislation.

4. HR 5690-- This act also deals with the GAO. It gives the agency the power to "...obtain federal agency records required to discharge the GAO's duties (including audit, evaluation, and investigative duties), including through bringing civil actions to require an agency to produce a record."

This seems like a useful power for the GAO to have.

5. HR 5785-- this bill provides a "supplemental annuity" for some air traffic controllers. Instead of providing new benefits to air traffic controllers, why not privatize the air traffic control system?

6. HR 5625-- Authorizes new regulations to reimburse federal employees for use of travel services like Uber and Lyft.

7. HR 3957-- This bill provides a tax deduction for farmers to cover the cost of lost or damaged citrus plants. Since all tax reductions advance liberty, this bill is worth supporting.

8. HR 5659-- expands coverage under the Medicare Advantage program for seniors with kidney diseases. Medicare Advantage is a program that gives seniors greater choices then are available under traditional Medicare.

9. HR 5613-- reduces costs and increase services available to Medicare patients in rural areas by relieving small and titular hospitals of some regulators requiring "direct physician supervision" of "outpatient therapeutic services."

10. HR 5320-- This bill is intended to help prevent identity theft by forbiding the Social Security Administration form including an individual's complete social security number in letters unless it is "absolutely necessary."

11. HR 5946-- This bill makes the value of any metals or other prizes received by Olympic athletes non-taxable.

12. HR 5523-- forbids the IRS from using civil asset forfeiture against a taxpayer whose only "crime" is  "structuring".

Structuring is where someone is accused of managing their financial transactions in a way to avoid financial disclosure requirements.

For more on structuring see here.

13. HR 6007--  This bill recolonizes the increased popularity of commercial space travel by requiring analysis of navigable airspace activities to include impact of activities related to commercial space travel.

14. HR 5859-- creates a new federal grant program for state and local governments for planning, preparation, and response to terrorist attacks. This will no doubt increase police militarization and cause state and local government to try to exaggerate the terrorist threat in order to get more federal money.

15. HR 2315-- prevents states from imposing income taxes on individuals who work in their state, but live in another state.

16. HR 5094-- forbids the President from lifting sanctions on Russia until the President "certifies" that Crimea has been returned to Ukraine, even though polls show the majority of Crimean residents favor unification with Russia.

17. HR 3924-- creates a new United States Global Development Lab in the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to:

  • increase the application of science, technology, innovation, and partnerships to develop new solutions to end poverty;

  • discover and test innovations to increase cost effectiveness and support U.S. foreign policy and development goals;

  • leverage the expertise and resources of businesses, nongovernmental organizations, science and research organizations, and universities to increase program impact; and

  • support USAID missions and bureaus in applying science, technology, innovation, and partnership approaches to decision making, procurement, and program design.

18. HR 5064-- Creates a new grant program to help Small Business Development Centers advance a cyber security strategy that will be developed by homeland security and the Small Business Administration.

19. HR 5459-- This act expands the role of fusion centers in cyber-security. In 2009, a fusion center issue a report identifying supporters of Campaign for Liberty as potential terrorists. Yet the so-called pro-liberty Congress keeps giving these centers more  authority.

20. HR 5346--- Gives Homeland Security new authority over the security of our food system.

And to end on a positive note:

21. HR 5065-- requires Homeland Security to make sure TSA screeners know that Americans are allowed to carry containers of breast milk, baby formula and juice on airlines.

Hopefully this will put an end to stories like this. 


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