Congressional Digest

CURRENT TOPICS


    Fracking and Toxic Chemicals

By , Editor,
January 23, 2015
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A coalition of nine environmental and open government groups filed a lawsuit on January 7 in an effort to force the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to collect information on chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking. Fracking involves the injection of water, chemicals, and sand below ground to extract oil and gas from shale formations. Opponents say that the process is environmentally dangerous, especially to drinking water supplies, while the energy industry maintains that fracking and water contamination have never been definitively linked. Meanwhile, the increased use of fracking has driven U.S. natural gas production to new heights….

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    Cuba Policy

By , Editor,
January 21, 2015
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On December 17, 2014, President Obama announced that the United States would re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba, thereby easing economic and travel restrictions between the two nations and ending one of the lasts vestiges of the Cold War. In a televised address, the President stated: “These 50 years have shown that isolation has not worked. … I am convinced that through a policy of engagement, we can more effectively stand up for our values and help the Cuban people help themselves as they move into the twenty-first century.” In a deal the Administration made with Cuban President Raul Castro, Cuba…

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    A New Path Toward Closing Guantánamo

By , Editor,
May 27, 2014
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Language included in the 2015 Defense authorization bill approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee on May 22 may provide what Committee Chair Carl Levin (MI-D) termed “a path to close Guantánamo.” During his campaign for the presidency, and immediately after taking office in 2009, President Obama pledged to close the U.S. naval installation in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, which now holds 154 prisoners; however, Congress has thwarted his efforts to transfer the detainees to facilities in the United States. The committee’s action could represent a new opportunity for the President to fulfill his promise. The defense bill authorizes the transfer…

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    Supreme Court Strikes Down Overall Campaign Contribution Limits

By , Editor,
April 02, 2014
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The U.S. Supreme Court has handed down a decision in the case of McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission that strikes down overall limits on campaign contributions. Although the Supreme Court has weighed in often in the past on the issue of campaign spending, recently ruling in Citizens United v. FEC (2010) that it should be protected as free speech, the Court has said little in the past few decades about the constitutionality of donation limits. In McCutcheon v. FEC, the Court was asked to rule on whether there should be a cap on the total combined donations that can be…

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    The End of Debt Limit Brinksmanship?

By , Editor,
February 18, 2014
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On February 15, President Barack Obama signed into law legislation to raise the Federal debt limit. The measure enables the government to borrow money to pay its bills, including Social Security benefits and the salaries of Federal workers. Failure to pass the bill — which passed the House 221 to 201 and the Senate 67 to 31 — could have led to another government shutdown and a first-ever default on the U.S. debt. Congress’s approval of the debt limit bill means that the Treasury Department is free to borrow money through March 15, 2015, and that lawmakers will not have to revisit…

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    Conflict Over Iran Sanctions Heats Up

By , Editor,
January 16, 2014
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The Obama Administration recently achieved a milestone in its negotiations to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons; however, the deal is in conflict with proposed congressional legislation that would impose additional sanctions on the Islamic Republic. The January 12 agreement, reached by the United States and its five partners in the talks ― Britain, China, France, Germany, and Russia ― spells out how Iran, in return for some relief from current sanctions,  will scale back its uranium enrichment program, suspend progress on a plutonium plant, and open up key sites to daily inspectors. These terms go into effect on January…

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    Defense Bill Includes Major Sexual Assault Reforms

By , Editor,
December 20, 2013
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Since the release of a Pentagon study showing that sexual assault incidents the U.S. military have increased significantly in recent years, Congress has been under pressure to change the way in which such cases are investigated and prosecuted. The study estimated that there were 26,000 such instances within the military last year, but that just over 10 percent were actually reported. President Barack Obama called the findings an “outrage” that threatened to undercut the military’s integrity. On December 19, right before adjourning for the year, the Senate cleared for the President’s signature a Defense Department Authorization bill that contains major…

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    World Powers Reach Interim Deal on Iran’s Nuclear Program

By , Editor,
November 25, 2013
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On Sunday morning in Geneva, Switzerland, the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany reached an interim agreement with Iran on the nation’s nuclear power program. The U.S. State Department has put together a fact sheet on the agreement, which you can read here. In addition, you can read the full text of the interim deal here. “The first step that we’ve taken today marks the most significant and tangible progress that we’ve made with Iran since I took office,” President Barack Obama said at the White House Saturday night. “And now we must use the…

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    D.C. Circuit Court Deals Blow to Health Care Law’s Contraceptive Mandate

By , Editor,
November 02, 2013
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While the Obama Administration attempts to sort out difficulties with the healthcare.gov website and Congress holds hearings on the subject, another cases challenging an employer-related portion of the Affordable Care Act is a step closer to the U.S. Supreme Court. On October 31, the District of Columbia Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the provision mandating that all health insurance plans must provide free-of-charge contraceptive coverage could violate the First Amendment religious freedom of owners of small businesses. In the case of Gilardi v. U.S. Department of Health  & Human Services, the two brothers who own Freshway Foods and…

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    Obama Addresses UN General Assembly

By , Editor,
September 27, 2013
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“These are extraordinary times, with extraordinary opportunities,” President Barack Obama told the United Nations on Tuesday as part of the opening proceedings of the 68th session of the UN General Assembly. In his 50-minute address, President Obama focused on the Middle East, a region of the world that has been at the center of U.S. foreign policy in recent months. He urged the UN Security Council to pass a resolution addressing Syria’s use of chemical weapons, stating: “If we cannot agree even on this, then it will show that the United Nations is incapable of enforcing the most basic of international laws. …

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