Congressional Digest

UPDATES


    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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    U.S.–China Climate Change Deal

By , Editor,
March 17, 2015
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On November 11, during his visit to China, President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping jointly announced a landmark agreement on climate change that sets ambitious carbon dioxide (CO2) emission reduction targets for each country. Under the agreement, the United States will double its current pollution reduction, which so far has seen CO2 emissions fall roughly 10 percent below 2005 levels. The new target will be a reduction of 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. China has pledged to reach peak CO2 emissions “around 2030” and to “increase the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption…

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    Concealed Guns

By , Editor,
March 17, 2015
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Legislation recently introduced in both houses of Congress would allow gun owners to carry concealed weapons across State lines. 
The Constitutional Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act has been introduced by Senator John Cornyn (TX-R) as S. 498 and by Representative Richard Nugent (FL-R) as H.R. 402. Under the bill, gun owners with concealed carry permits from their State would be able to bring their firearms to any other State with concealed carry laws. All 50 States and the District of Columbia have some form of “concealed carry” — which generally refers to the practice of carrying a concealed firearm on one’s…

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    Keystone Update

By , Editor,
January 28, 2015
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Republicans in Congress are following through on their pledge to make approval of the Keystone XL pipeline an early item on their agenda as they take control of both the House and Senate. On January 9, the House easily approved a bill (H.R. 3) authorizing the pipeline’s construction; however, the vote, which was 266 to 157, fell short of the two-thirds majority necessary to override a presidential veto. On the same day, the Nebraska Supreme Court, after months of deliberation, reached a decision that allowed a route for the pipeline to cross the State. The case focused on whether the…

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    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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