Congressional Digest

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    Highlights of the 2016 Republican and Democratic Party Platforms

By , Editor,
September 11, 2016

Delegates to the Republican National Convention approved their party′s platform in Cleveland on July 18. Delegates to the Democratic Convention approved theirs in Philadelphia on July 25. Read the highlights of both documents below …   2016 Republican Party Platform: ″Making America Great Again″ We believe in American exceptionalism. We believe the United States of America is unlike any other nation on earth. We believe America is exceptional because of our historic role — first as refuge, then as defender, and now as exemplar of liberty for the world to see. Read more highlights … 2016 Democratic Party Platform: ″We…

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    Women and the Draft

By , Editor,
September 04, 2016
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In 1981, the Supreme Court ruled that women did not have to register for the draft because they did not participate in the front lines of combat. The debate resumed, however, when Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced in December 2015 that the Pentagon was opening all combat roles to women. In late April 2016, the House Armed Services Committee, by a vote of 32 to 30, approved an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to require women to register for the draft when they turn 18. Representative Duncan Hunter (CA-R), an opponent of the change, offered the amendment…

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    Student Loan Application Process

By , Editor,
August 21, 2016
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Prospective students use the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to apply for Federal student financial aid, as well as for aid from State governments and most colleges and universities. According to a 2015 report from the college financing website Edvisors, however, an estimated 2 million low-income students would have qualified for a Federal Pell grant, but failed to correctly fill out or complete the FAFSA — a lengthy form with more than 100 questions. Congress has taken note, and both Republicans and Democrats have introduced legislation to simplify the process and the application. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and…

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    Boosting College Savings Plans

By , Editor,
June 01, 2016
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There is a new, bipartisan drive in Congress to expand what are known as 529 education savings accounts by offering a tax credit for annual contributions to such accounts by low- and middle-income families. A 529 plan, otherwise known as a “qualified tuition plan,” is an education savings account designed to help families set aside funds for future education costs. The plans are sponsored by States or educational institutions and are authorized by Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code. The Boost Savings for College Act, introduced by Senators Richard Burr (NC-R) and Bob Casey (PA-D), would provide a tax…

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    Biofuels and Rural Poverty

By , Editor,
May 23, 2016
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In a recent speech on the Obama Administration’s approach to rural poverty, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack focused on the use of biofuels in manufacturing as a way to address persistent high unemployment in rural communities. Secretary Vilsack said that such communities — defined as areas where 20 percent of the population has been poor for three decades or more — might rebuild their local economies by producing renewable fuels. According to the Agriculture Department’s Economic Research Service, an estimated 353 counties are in this category. In 2010, the Agriculture Department created five Regional Biomass Research Centers to help establish…

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    New Voting Laws

By , Editor,
May 09, 2016
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Leading Democrats in the House sent a letter to the Justice Department on April 12 requesting a review of new voting laws nationwide following reports of problems experienced during primary elections in Arizona and North Carolina. Seventeen States have new laws in place this election year with provisions that include voter ID requirements, cutbacks in early voting, and registration changes. Senior Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee and the chairs of the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, the Asian Pacific American Caucus, and the Congressional Progressive Caucus signed the letter. The Justice Department is already investigating voting issues…

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    Climate Change and Health

By , Editor,
May 09, 2016
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On April 4, the Obama Administration released Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A Scientific Assessment. The report was developed over three years by climate change and public health experts from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of Health and Human Services, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Department of Agriculture, U.S. Geological Survey, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Veterans Affairs. According to a White House fact sheet, the assessment: “… reinforces that climate change is a significant threat to the health of the…

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    Guns and Mental Health

By , Editor,
April 09, 2016
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As part of a series of proposals designed to tighten Federal gun laws, President Obama, in early January, pushed for $500 million in Federal appropriations for improved access to mental health services. His announcement opened up a debate in Congress over whether, and to what extent, gun policy and mental health reform should be linked legislatively. Most Republicans have said that improving the Nation’s mental health system would be the best way to reduce gun violence, while most Democrats have maintained that both mental health reform and gun safety measures are needed. Mental health advocates, while wary about combining the…

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    Obama Nominates Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court

By , Editor,
March 21, 2016
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On March 16, 2016, President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, to fill the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. The following is excerpted from the president’s remarks at the White House following the announcement. Of the many powers and responsibilities that the Constitution vests in the presidency, few are more consequential than appointing a Supreme Court justice — particularly one to succeed Justice Scalia, one of the most influential jurists of our time. The men and women who sit…

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    Zika Virus

By , Editor,
March 21, 2016
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The U.S. Government is responding on several fronts to the outbreak of Zika, a virus primarily spread by mosquitoes that recently has been linked to birth defects and other concerning health conditions in parts of Latin America. In early February, the Obama Administration sent Congress a request for $1.9 billion in emergency funding to combat Zika overseas and in the United States. The money would go to the Department of Health and Human Services and the State Department and its U.S. Agency for International Development. It would be used for preparedness efforts, mosquito control, vaccine research and development, testing and…

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