Congressional Digest

PRO & CON UPDATES


    Sanctuary Cities

By , Editor,
August 29, 2015
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Although the immigration reform debate has been stalled in Congress for some time, a new discussion has revolved around “sanctuary cities” — generally defined as jurisdictions with policies or laws that limit the extent to which local law enforcement will assist the Federal Government on immigration matters. Currently, more than 200 State and local jurisdictions have policies that do not honor U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention requests. The sanctuary movement grew out of efforts by churches in the 1980s to provide safe havens for those fleeing violence in Central America. The logic behind sanctuary cities is that encouraging…

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    Passenger Rail Safety

By , Editor,
August 26, 2015
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Major train accidents occurring earlier this year have prompted Congress to readdress the issue of passenger rail safety. Funding for Amtrak has long been controversial, with many Republicans wanting to privatize the system and many Democrats arguing that the United States has fallen behind other countries, such as Germany and Japan, by not making a greater investment in rail travel. The last time Congress reauthorized funding for Amtrak was through passage of the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, which required the Nation’s busiest railroad operators to implement a technology called positive train control (PTC) and to have it in…

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    Planned Parenthood

By , Editor,
August 24, 2015
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In August 3, the Senate, by a 53-to-46 margin, failed to obtain the 60 votes needed to proceed on S. 1881, to prohibit Federal funding of Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood is a nonprofit organization that provides reproductive, maternal, and child health services, including abortions. The organization operates about 700 clinics that treat 2.7 million patients a year. The organization says that abortions account for approximately 3 percent of its services. Planned Parenthood has been a focus of the abortion debate for some time but recently came under new scrutiny after the release of secretly taped and edited videos showing a…

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    Immigrant Military Enlistment

By , Editor,
June 05, 2015

On May 14, the House of Representatives stripped language from the Defense Department Authorization bill that would have pushed the Secretary of Defense to consider allowing undocumented immigrants to serve in the military. The provision would have applied to those eligible for a path to citizenship under President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program — the group known as DREAMers, after the Development, Relief, and Education for Alient Minors (DREAM) Act. The DREAM Act has been introduced several times in Congress but has failed to pass. It covers certain individuals who arrived in the United States as minors…

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    Pentagon Sexual Assault Survey

By , Editor,
May 28, 2015
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A new Pentagon report based on an independent survey found that the prevalence of sexual assault in the military has dropped. The survey showed that 20,300 sexual assaults occurred within the military’s ranks in 2014, down from an all-time high of 26,000 in 2012 but still higher than the 19,000 reported in 2010. The 2014 figure represents 4.9 percent of women and 1 percent of men in the active duty forces. The 2014 RAND Military Workplace Study also determined that reports of sexual assault are up 11 percent over the previous year and 70 percent over 2012, with one in…

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    Dietary Guildelines

By , Editor,
May 18, 2015
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In February, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee submitted its Scientific Report to the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Secretary of Agriculture. The committee was charged with examining where sufficient “new scientific evidence is likely to be available that may inform revisions to the current guidance or suggest new guidance.” Based on their research, the committee concluded that “a healthy dietary pattern is higher in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low- or non-fat dairy, seafood, legumes, and nuts; moderate in alcohol (among adults); lower in red and processed meat; and low in sugar sweetened foods and drinks and refined…

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    Equal Pay Protections

By , Editor,
May 05, 2015
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The Equal Pay Act of 1964 made it illegal to pay employees different wages based on their sex. In addition, the National Labor Relations Act says that employers cannot prevent employees from discussing wages and other issues. And in 2009, Congress passed, and President Obama signed, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which amends the 1964 Civil Rights Act to state that the 180-day statute of limitations for filing an equal pay lawsuit resets with each new paycheck affected by that discriminatory action. Nevertheless, the gap between men’s and women’s wages has persisted. Although the wage gap varies by State…

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    Wind Energy Production

By , Editor,
April 22, 2015
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Federal subsidies for wind production began under the Administration of President Jimmy Carter with passage of the Public Utility Regulatory Policy Act and the Energy Tax Act. When these subsidies failed to make the industry competitive, Congress, in 1992, created the Production Tax Credit (PTC) to give it a boost. The PTC gives wind energy producers a tax credit of 2.2 cents per kilowatt hour of electricity generated. Although originally intended as a temporary measure, the PTC has been continually extended by Congress under pressure from the wind industry and renewable energy advocates. A setback occurred on January 29, 2015,…

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    Student Loan Repayment

By , Editor,
April 16, 2015
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Many Americans have outstanding undergraduate student loans with interest rates of 7 percent or higher; however, those who took out loans during the 2013-2014 school year pay a rate of 3.86 percent under the Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act, passed by Congress in 2013. On March 18, 2014, Senators Elizabeth Warren (MA-D) and Representative Joe Courtney (CT-D) introduced the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act. The legislation would allow those with college loan debt to refinance at the lower interest rates. The rates would be slightly higher for graduate student loans. The cost would be paid for by requiring…

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    Terrorism and Social Media

By , Editor,
March 27, 2015
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On January 27, the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade held a hearing on “The Evolution of Terrorist Propaganda: The Paris Attack and Social Media.” The purpose was to explore the question of whether U.S. companies like Twitter, YouTube, and Facbook are doing enough to stop or limit social media use by terrorists. Subcommittee Chair Ted Poe (TX-R) said that groups like ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) “have hosted press conferences, raised money on Twitter, and other social media,” likening such practices to “letting our enemies take out an ad in the New York…

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