Congressional Digest

    Senate Throws the Postal Service a Lifeline

By , Editor,
April 26, 2012

Legislation approved by the Senate on April 25 is aimed at saving the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), which has been losing money daily and plans to make drastic changes if Congress doesn’t act by May 15. Postmaster Patrick Donahue had proposed a series of cost-cutting measures, including eliminating Saturday and overnight delivery and closing up to 3,700 local post offices, mostly in small towns, and replacing them with automated centers operating out of local businesses. (See the February 2012 issue of Congressional Digest, “Saving the U.S. Postal Service.”) Donahue said that he had to cut $22 million in operating costs…

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    Health Care Reform on Trial – Day 3

By , Editor,
March 28, 2012

The Supreme Court wrapped up its third and final day of oral arguments on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act today, as it considered two distinct questions. The first case dealt with how much of the reform law should survive if the Court strikes down the mandate that most Americans must buy health insurance or pay a penalty. Lawyers for the opponents of the law argued that the entire Act must be thrown out. The Obama Administration position is that the prohibition against insurers discriminating against those with pre-existing conditions, as well as insurance rate controls, would be invalidated….

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    Supreme Court Finishes Day 2 of Health Care Challenges

By , Editor,
March 27, 2012

The U.S. Supreme Court has wrapped up two hours of oral arguments on the constitutionality of a key provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the mandate that most Americans must purchase health insurance or pay a penalty. Early analysis is that it was a hard day for Obama Administration Solicitor General Donald Verrilli and proponents of the health care reform law, as conservative justices expressed skepticism about legal justification for the law. Predicting the outcome of cases based on oral arguments, however, is usually a risky game. Today is just the beginning of a long internal debate…

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    Health Care Reform Before the Court – Day 1

By , Editor,
March 27, 2012

On Monday, the Supreme Court heard the first round of oral arguments for cases challenging the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s signature health care reform legislation. In a way, it was an appetizer before the judicial main course that will be served up the following two days, as the nine justices spent 89 minutes considering whether they should even be considering this case right now at all. At the center of Monday’s discussion was a 19th century law called the Anti-Injunction Act, which prohibits challenges to tax laws until they take effect. The question…

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    UN Security Council Passes New Syria Resolution

By , Editor,
March 22, 2012
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On March 21, the UN Security Council unanimously voted to issue a presidential statement calling on the Syrian government and opposition forces to cease hostilities and implement a peace plan proposed by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Annan, who is currently serving as the joint special envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States on the Syrian Crisis, first presented his proposal during a visit to Damascus, Syria, earlier in March. It is comprised of six points: Syria commits to working with Annan to address the legitimate “aspirations and concerns” of the Syrian people. Syria stops fighting…

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    Fracking is Topic of Hill Hearings

By , Editor,
February 22, 2012
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The natural gas drilling method called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, was a topic of discussion at recent hearings on the President’s proposed energy budget for Fiscal Year 2013. (For background on this issue, see the March 2012 Congressional Digest, titled “Fracking and Drinking Water Safety.”) On February 15, at a hearing of the House Natural Resources Committee, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar noted that the President has requested $45 million for a research and development initiative by the U.S. Geological Survey, the Department of Energy, and the Environmental Protection Agency “aimed at understanding and minimizing potential environmental, health, and safety impacts…

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    House Passes Line-Item Veto Bill

By , Editor,
February 09, 2012

On February 8, the House approved legislation to allow the President to eliminate specific items from appropriations bill ― otherwise known as line-item veto authority. The authority is one that Presidents of both parties have long sought but ultimately failed to obtain.  (See the September 1998 issue of Supreme Court Debates titled  “The Line Item Veto ― The President, the Congress, and the Constitution.”) H.R. 3521, the Expedited Legislative Line-Item Veto and Rescissions Act, introduced by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul D. Ryan (WI-R) and the panel’s top Democrat, Representative Chris Van Hollen (MD-D), passed the House by a bipartisan…

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    Russia, China Veto Security Council Syria Resolution

By , Editor,
February 07, 2012

On Saturday, China and Russia vetoed a proposed UN Security Council resolution backed by the League of Arab Nations that would have imposed further sanctions on Syria and called for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down. The two permanent members of the Council were the only two no votes versus 13 yes votes, but only one permanent member has to vote against a resolution for it to fail. Despite attempts by backers of the resolution to win Russian and Chinese support, ambassadors for the two nations said that they considered the proposal too one-sided against the Syrian regime and…

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    UN Security Council Meets as Syria Crisis Escalates

With U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in attendance, an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council debated a new resolution calling on the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad end its increasingly violent anti-insurgency military campaign in the countries cities, release all political prisoners, and begin a transition toward democratic elections and the end of Assad’s 11-year autocratic reign. (For video of the full meeting, click here.) The meeting began with Nabil El Araby, the secretary-general of the League of Arab States (LAS), briefing the council on current situation in Syria and the draft resolution prepared by LAS member-state…

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    President Rejects Pipeline, but Controversy Continues

By , Editor,
January 19, 2012
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On January 18, President Obama announced the Administration’s decision to deny the application for construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline. (For background, see the December 2011 Congressional Digest titled “Keystone Pipeline.”) Republicans in Congress had forced the President’s hand on the issue last year by attaching a provision to the shot-term payroll tax cut extension legislation that required the Administration to make a decision on the pipeline within two months. In a statement released by the White House, the President said: “This announcement is not a judgment on the merits of the pipeline, but the arbitrary nature of a deadline…

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