Saving Animals, Enhancing Government Efficiency, and Supporting Global Food Security

Saving Animals, Enhancing Government Efficiency, and Supporting Global Food SecurityPlanning for Animal Wellness Act /PAW Act (S 4205) – Introduced by Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) on May 12, this act instructs the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to compile best practices and federal guidance for handling household pets, service and assistance animals and captive animals during emergencies and disasters. Initiatives include preparedness (e.g., sheltering and evacuation planning), response and recovery.The bill passed in the Senate on Aug. 6, in the House on Sept. 14 and was signed into law on Oct. 17 by President Biden.

Bulb Replacement Improving Government with High-Efficiency Technology Act/BRIGHT Act (S 442) – Presently, public buildings managed by the General Services Administration (GSA) must be equipped with energy-efficient lightbulbs and fixtures. This new bill expands requirements to ensure buildings are equipped with the most cost-effective and energy-efficient lighting systems available. Procurement must take into consideration factors such as motion sensors, fixture distribution and other elements. The act was introduced by Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) on Feb. 25, 2021. It passed in the Senate on March 30, the House on Sept. 14 and was enacted into law on Sept. 17.

FTC Collaboration Act of 2021 (HR 1766) – Introduced by Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ) on March 10, 2021, this bill authorizes the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to work with state attorneys general to evaluate procedures, such as accountability mechanisms, to better facilitate efforts to prevent and detect fraud and scams. FTC proposals must provide the opportunity for public comment, then submit legislative recommendations based on the results of the study. This bill passed in the House on April 14, 2021, and in the Senate on Sept. 29, 2022. It was signed into law on Oct. 10.

Expedited Delivery of Airport Infrastructure Act of 2021 (HR 468) – This legislation was introduced by Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO) on Jan. 25, 2021, to amend Title 49 of the United States Code. New provisions allow for incentive payments to expedite certain federally financed airport development projects, subject to an allowable project cost standard. The bill passed in the House on June 15, 2021, the Senate on Sept. 27, 2022, and was signed into law on Oct. 10.

Supporting Families of the Fallen Act (S2794) – This legislation impacts service members (or former members) covered by the Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance program and the Veterans’ Group Life Insurance program. Specifically, it increases the maximum life insurance coverage amount from $400,000 to $500,000. The bill was introduced by Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) on Sept. 22, 2021. It was passed in the Senate on March 23, 2022, and in the House on Sept. 29. It was signed into law by the president on Sept. 17.

Global Malnutrition Prevention and Treatment Act of 2021 (HR 4693) – Introduced on July 26, 2021, by Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), this bipartisan bill directs the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to develop initiatives designed to prevent and treat malnutrition globally. The USAID is charged with choosing recipient countries based on specified malnutrition-related indicators. These initiatives andcountry selections must be made within five years, and the provisions are scheduled to terminate seven years after the bill’s enactment. The bill passed in the House with a 90 percent vote on April 27, 2022, in the Senate on Sept. 20, 2022, and was signed into law on Oct. 19.

Global Food Security Reauthorization Act of 2022 (HR 8446) – This act reauthorizes funding to support the government Global Food Security Strategy and the Emergency Food Strategy programs through fiscal year 2028. The first program is designed to promote nutrition and food security, with a newly enhanced focus on improving efficiency and reliability in agriculture production. The latter program provides market-based assistance throughout the world. The bill was introduced by Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) on July 20. With 78 percent of the vote, it was passed in the House on Sept. 29 and is currently under consideration in the Senate.

Shoring up Protections for Sexually Abused Children, the Mentally Ill in Crises, and a Benefit Increase for Disabled Veterans

Eliminating Limits to Justice for Child Sex Abuse Victims Act of 2022 (S 3103) – Introduced by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) on Oct. 28, 2021, this Act eliminates the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits by anyone who, as a minor, was a victim of human trafficking or a federal sex crime. The bill passed in the Senate on March 2, in the House on Sept. 13, and was signed into law on Sept. 16 by President Biden.

Law Enforcement De-Escalation Training Act of 2022 (S 4003) – This bill would authorize training for de-escalation and alternatives to the use of force when law enforcement officers are called to a scene involving mental and behavioral health and suicidal crises. The Act was introduced by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) on April 5. It passed in the Senate on Aug. 1 and is currently under consideration in the House.

National Aviation Preparedness Plan Act of 2022 (HR 884) – This legislation directs the Department of Transportation (DOT), in consultation with the aviation industry and labor stakeholders such as air carriers, to develop a national aviation preparedness plan for future outbreaks of communicable diseases. The plan must include provisions for frontline, at-risk workers to be equipped with the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) to reduce exposure and spread of the disease. The bill was introduced by Rep. Rick Larson (D-WA) on Feb. 5, 2021. It was passed in the House on Sept.14and has moved to the Senate.

Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2022 (HR 7846) – This legislation was introduced by Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA) on May 19. It proposes a cost-of-living increase beginning Dec. 1 for the compensation of veterans with service-connected disabilities as well as dependency and indemnity compensation for the survivors of certain disabled veterans. The bill passed in the House on Sept. 14 and is currently under consideration in the Senate.

Securing and Enabling Commerce Using Remote and Electronic Notarization Act of 2022 (HR 3962) – Introduced by Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-PA) on June 17, 2021, this bill would permit notaries public to perform electronic notarizations and remote notarizations for matters pertaining to interstate commerce. The Act specifies that minimum standards be established, and that all Federal courts be required to recognize notarizations performed by a notarial officer of any state. This bipartisan bill passed in the House on July 27 and has a very high chance of passing in the Senate.

Jenna Quinn Law (S 734) – On March 11, 2021, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), re-introduced this bill from an earlier version he proposed in 2019. The legislation would amend the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act to authorize grants for training and education to teachers (as well as other school personnel, students and the community)for sexual abuse awareness and prevention programs among primary and secondary school students. The bill passed unanimously in the Senate on Aug. 3 and is awaiting further action by the House.

Productive Month Passing Domestic Manufacturing and Prescription Drug Allowances, Climate and Gun Violence Mitigation, and Veteran Burn Pit Healthcare Legislation

Productive Month Passing Domestic Manufacturing and Prescription Drug Allowances, Climate and Gun Violence Mitigation, and Veteran Burn Pit Healthcare LegislationInflation Reduction Act of 2022 (HR 5376) – This legislation was originally introduced as the Build Back Better Act, President Biden’s signature bill of 2021. After suffering defeat in the Senate, the bill was later revised with fewer provisions to enhance its likelihood of passage, and renamed the Inflation Reduction Act. The bill authorizes funding for investments in domestic energy production and manufacturing with the goal of reducing U.S. carbon emissions by 40 percent by 2030. The bill provides tax credits for clean energy home enhancements and electric vehicle purchases, permits Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices,and extendslower healthcare premiums for insurance purchased via the Affordable Care Act program through 2025. Also billed as a deficit reduction tool, the legislation imposes a minimum 15 percent corporate tax rate on large businesses with more than $1 billion in reported income, and a 1 percent excise tax on corporate stock buybacks. Furthermore, the bill increases previously reduced funding for the IRS in order to help track down and recoup taxes unlawfully skirted by high income earners. Initially introduced on Sept. 27, 2021, the Act was passed by both the House and the Senate in August and signed into law on Aug. 16.

CHIPS and Science Act of 2022(HR 4346) – This legislation includes $280 billion in funding to build a domestic supply chain for semiconductor chips as well as scientific and technological research to help keep U.S. industries competitive. The bill authorizes new and expanded investments in STEM education for K-12 to community college, undergraduate and graduate education.The bill was enacted on Aug. 9.

Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (S 2938) – Introduced by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) on Oct. 5, 2021, this Act expands background checks for anyone under age 21 who seeks to purchase firearms, and offers incentives for states to pass red flag laws to remove weapons from people deemed a threat to themselves or others. The bill provides $11 billion in funding for mental health services in schools and local clinics, and to support mental health courts, drug courts, veterans’ courts and extreme risk protection orders. The final version of the bill passed in the Senate on June 23 and in the House on June 24. President Biden signed the bill into law on June 25.

Honoring our PACT Act of 2022 (S 3373) – This legislation, which expands healthcare benefits for veterans who were exposed to burn pits and other toxic substances while on active duty, was introduced by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) on Dec. 9, 2021. Amid much fanfare and controversy this summer, this bipartisan bill was finally passed in both the House (July) and the Senate (August, requiring a second vote) and was signed into law by President Biden on Aug. 10.

PPP and Bank Fraud Enforcement Harmonization Act of 2022 (HR 7352) – Introduced by Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) on March 31, this bill amends the Small Business Act to extend the statute of limitation to 10 years for criminal charges and civil enforcement against borrowers under the Paycheck Protection Program, enacted during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill passed in the House on June 8 and in the Senate on June 28. It was enacted on Aug. 5.

Strengthening the Supply Chain, the Professional Workforce, Cybersecurity and Coastal Ecosystems

Strengthening the Supply Chain, the Professional Workforce, Cybersecurity and Coastal EcosystemsSupply Chain Security Training Act of 2021 (S 2201) – This legislation is designed to identify supply chain risks and develop a government program to train federal officials with supply chain risk management responsibilities to prepare and mitigate those risks. The training program would cover the complete acquisition life cycle, including funding for data access and processing as well as appropriate technology and communication vehicles. The bill was introduced by Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) on June 23, 2021. It passed in the Senate on Jan. 11 and in the House on May 10. It was signed into law by the president on June 16.

Bridging the Gap for New Americans Act (S 3157) – Introduced by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MI) on Nov. 3, 2021, this bill recently passed in the Senate on June 23 and is in the House for consideration. The bipartisan bill would authorize a study on employment opportunities for naturalized and lawfully present non-U.S. citizens who hold professional credentials from non-U.S. countries. For example, the opportunity to employ doctors with medical degrees to help meet U.S. demand in the growing shortage of physicians. The Department of Labor would identify and recommend how to address factors that affect their qualifications for U.S. jobs in various fields of expertise.

State and Local Government Cybersecurity Act of 2021(S 2520) – This legislation expands the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) responsibilities for mitigating cybersecurity threats, risks and vulnerabilities with more proactive and defensive measures.The Act was introduced by Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) on July 28, 2021. It passed in the Senate on Jan. 11 and in the House on May 17. It was signed into law on June 21.

South Florida Clean Coastal Waters Act of 2021 (S 66) – An algal bloom is a rapidly growing algae that can produce toxic conditions harmful to humans, animals, aquatic ecosystems and the economy. They are most prevalent in South Florida. The bill, introduced by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) on Jan. 27, 2021, directs the Inter-Agency Task Force on Harmful Algal Blooms and Hypoxia to develop a plan to address how to reduce and control theeffects of the blooms throughout the South Florida ecosystem. This legislation passed in the Senate on March 8 and in the House on May 11. President Biden signed the bill into law on June 16.

Active Shooter Alert Act of 2022 (HR 6538) – Introduced by Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) on Feb. 1, this bill would direct the Department of Justice to set up a national alarm system specifically to warn citizens of an active shooter event. The DOJ also would work with state, tribal and local governments to coordinate networks and establish procedures for how to respond to active shooters. The bill passed in the House on July 13. It is presently under consideration in the Senate, where it faces opposition because many believe it duplicates the existing Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS). The premise is that a separate system for active shooter events would risk desensitizing citizens with false alarms.

Advanced Air Mobility Coordination and Leadership Act (S 516) – This bill was introduced by Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) on March 11, 2021. It passed in the Senate on March 23, 2022, and in the House on June 14, but the House made changes and returned it to the Senate. The purpose of this legislation is to establish an Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) interagency task force to plan and coordinate efforts for urban-based cargo and passenger aircraft (e.g., drones, air taxis, air ambulances) in the United States. The program would address matters related to safety, infrastructure, physical security, cybersecurity and federal investment in order to integrate these new aircraft into existing airspace operations.

Women’s Health Protection Act of 2022 (HR 8296) – Introduced by Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA) on July 7, this bill passed the House on July 15 and is currently with the Senate. The bill would prohibit state governments from restricting access to abortion services (via drug prescription, telemedicine or immediate action) in situations where the provider determines that birth would endanger the mother’s life.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Congressional Budget Justification Transparency Act of 2021 (S 272)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.