Congressional Digest

PRO & CON UPDATES


    Women in Combat

By , Editor,
January 22, 2016
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Saying that America’s armed forces must draw from “the broadest possible pool of talent,” Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, on December 3, 2015, ordered the U.S. military to open all combat jobs to women, with “no exceptions.” Prior to this announcement, women were not precluded by law from serving in any military unit or specialty; however, a 1994 Department of Defense policy barred them from serving in combat. In January 2013, then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta directed each branch of the armed services to assess the impact of opening combat positions to women and to develop plans for integrating them…

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    Obama’s Gun Proposals

By , Editor,
January 22, 2016
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On January 5, in a ceremony at the White House, President Obama announced a series of proposals to tighten Federal gun laws, calling them “common-sense steps to save lies and protect more of our children.” The initiative includes both legislative proposals that Congress would have to act on and executive actions that the President can take on his own. Major provisions include: Requiring more gun sellers — especially those who do business on the Internet and at gun shows — to be licensed and to conduct background checks on potential buyers. Hiring more than 230 additional FBI personnel to help…

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    Paris Climate Talks

By , Editor,
December 01, 2015
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On October 19, the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Multilateral International Development, Multilateral Institutions, International Economic, Energy, and Environmental Policy held a hearing on the upcoming United Nations Conference on Climate Change. Senator John Barrasso (WYR) led the hearing to examine the economic and environmental impacts of the negotiations. The goal of the talks, which are taking place from November 30 to December 11, 2015, in Paris, is to achieve a universal agreement on climate. Nations responsible for about two-thirds of global pollution have come up with greenhouse emissions targets — known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). The United States…

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    Fantasy Sports

By , Editor,
November 29, 2015
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The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 made transactions from financial companies to online gambling sites illegal, but carved out an exception for fantasy sports, classifying it as a game of skill. Since then, however, daily fantasy sports websites have exploded in popularity and are now worth billions of dollars because of a surge of investors, including national sports organizations, television networks, and team owners. Fantasy sports recently came under scrutiny after an employee of one of the sites admitted to having released confidential information. The same employee then won $350,000 in a competition on a rival site. The…

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    For-Profit Colleges

By , Editor,
November 24, 2015
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Over the past six years, the U.S. Department of Education has established tougher regulations targeting for-profit, or career colleges — institutions that operate as a business, often have shareholders, and derive most of their revenue from taxpayer-funded student financial aid. Among other actions, the Department has issued “gainful employment” regulations (also applied to community colleges and public universities), intended to help ensure that students at career colleges don’t end up with debt they cannot repay. The rule requires colleges to track their graduates’ performance in the workforce and eventually will cut off Federal funding for career training programs that fall…

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    Sharing Economy

By , Editor,
November 04, 2015
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On September 29, the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade held a hearing titled “The Disrupter Series: How the Sharing Economy Creates Jobs, Benefits Consumers, and Raises Policy Questions.” The Background Memo on the hearing stated, “The sharing economy typically is described as the facilitation of peer-to-peer transactions, many of which would be impossible or too costly without sharing platforms.” It also cited a study estimating that the sharing economy generated $15 billion in revenues in 2013, and is projected to generate $335 billion in 10 years. The hearing looked at the influence the sharing economy and its emerging…

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    Gun Violence Research

By , Editor,
October 29, 2015
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The Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 1997 contained language stating that “none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] may be used to advocate or promote gun control.” Although the bill did not explicitly ban research on gun violence, Congress took the money previously appropriated for firearm injury research and earmarked it for another purpose. The ban on CDC research on gun deaths and injuries, which has remained in place ever since, was prompted by the results of a 1993 study, published in the New England…

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    Refugee Admissions

By , Editor,
October 24, 2015
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Each year, the President determines the maximum number of refugees to be admitted into the United States. The ceiling is 70,000 for the current fiscal year. With Syrians continuing to flee that country’s violence and strife, however, Secretary of State John Kerry pledged that the United States will take in as many as 85,000 refugees, including at least 10,000 from Syria. That ceiling would be raised to 100,000 in 2017. Refugees will also be admitted from parts of Africa that are experiencing similar conflicts. “This step is in keeping with America’s best tradition as a land of second chances and…

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    Opioid Abuse

By , Editor,
October 16, 2015
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A national survey on drug use and health, conducted in 2013 by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, found that an estimated 1.9 million people in the United States suffered from substance use disorders related to prescription pain medicines and 517,000 suffered from a heroin use disorder. In the last year, Congress has held several hearings on the what is now considered to be a public health epidemic. These included: Two House Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee hearings: one on April 23, titled “Combatting the Opioid Abuse Epidemic: Professional and Academic Perspectives” and one on May…

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    Gun Transfers

By , Editor,
October 05, 2015
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In the wake of the shooting of two Virginia television journalists, Senator Tim Kaine (VA-D) introduced S. 2016, the Responsible Transfer of Firearms Act. The legislation is designed to hold people responsible if they sell or transfer a firearm to someone who is barred by Federal law from firearms possession. In essence, the proposal would raise the bar for commercial and private dealers who are now protected from criminal prosecution. Under Kaine’s bill, gun sellers would be criminally liable for a bad sale if they did not take reasonable, affirmative steps to determine that the customer met Federal criteria. The…

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