Congressional Digest

PRO & CON UPDATES


    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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    “Cancer Moonshot”

By , Editor,
March 10, 2016
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In his January 12, 2016, State of the Union Address, President Obama announced a “national effort” to find innovative new treatments for cancer and said he was putting Vice President Joe Biden “in charge of mission control.” Last October, after stating that he would not be running for President, Biden called for a “moon shot in this country to cure cancer” and said that he would dedicate the remainder of his term to that cause. In a January 12 blog post, the Vice President wrote that although “innovations in data and technology offer the promise to speed research advances and…

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    Antonin Scalia’s Career and Legacy

By , Editor,
March 03, 2016

Justice Antonin Scalia died in his sleep while on vacation at a ranch resort near Marfa, Texas, on February 13, 2016. Although the cause of death was not announced, the 79-year-old jurist had battled health problems, including heart disease, for a number of years. “Nino” Scalia, as he was referred to by friends, was nominated to be an associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court by President Ronald Reagan and confirmed by the U.S. Senate on September 26, 1986. He became the first Italian American to serve on the Court. With nearly 30 years on the bench, he was the…

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    Flint Water Crisis

By , Editor,
February 29, 2016
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The drinking water crisis in Flint, Michigan, resulted from a 2014 decision by the city to switch its water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River. The change was made without adding chemicals to prevent pipe corrosion, so lead leaked into residents’ water, creating a serious public health problem. As the crisis gained national attention in the fall of 2015, Michigan’s congressional representatives called for action. On February 10, the House passed, 416 to 2, H.R. 4470, introduced by Representative Dan Kildee (MI-D), to require the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to notify the public within 15 days after discovering…

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    Expanding Broadband

By , Editor,
February 10, 2016

One issue that is uniting Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill, the Obama Administration, and the technology industry is the need to expand high-speed Internet access nationwide, especially for rural and other underserved communities. According to a Brookings Institution study, 75.1 percent of American households had a broadband Internet subscription in 2014; however, there remains “enormous variation in U.S. digital connectivity across demographic groups and between metropolitan areas.” In September 2015, the White House released a report by the Administration’s Broadband Opportunity Council, created last March to develop a broadband expansion strategy. The report contained recommendations for both expanding broadband…

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