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Central Valley Project: Issues and Legislation

The Central Valley Project (CVP), a federal water project owned and operated by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation), is one of the world’s largest water supply projects. The CVP covers approximately 400 miles in California, from Redding to Bakersfield, and draws from two large river basins: the Sacramento and the San Joaquin. It is composed of 20 dams and reservoirs and numerous pieces of water storage and conveyance infrastructure. In an average year, the CVP delivers more than 7 million acre-feet of water to support irrigated agriculture, municipalities, and fish and wildlife...

Monuments and Memorials Authorized Under the Commemorative Works Act in the District of Columbia: Current Development of In-Progress and Lapsed Works

Under the Commemorative Works Act (CWA) of 1986, Congress may authorize commemorative works to be placed in the District of Columbia or its environs. Once a commemorative work has been authorized, Congress continues to be responsible for statutorily designating a memorial site location.

This report provides a status update on 12 in-progress memorials and 6 memorials with lapsed authorizations. For each monument or memorial, the report provides a rationale for the work as expressed in the Congressional Record or a House or Senate committee report; its statutory authority; the group or...

Bahrain: Unrest, Security, and U.S. Policy

An uprising against Bahrain’s Al Khalifa ruling family that began on February 14, 2011, has subsided, but punishments of oppositionists and periodic demonstrations continue. The mostly Shia opposition to the Sunni-minority-led regime has not achieved its goal of establishing a constitutional monarchy, but the unrest has compelled the ruling family to undertake some modest reforms. Elections for a legislative body, held most recently in 2018, were marred by the banning of opposition political societies and allegations of gerrymandering to prevent opposition victories, but observers praised...

Conference Committee and Related Procedures: An Introduction

The House and Senate must pass the same bill or joint resolution in precisely the same form before it can be presented to the President. Once both houses have passed the same measure, they can resolve their differences over the text of that measure either through an exchange of amendments between the houses or through the creation of a conference committee.

The House and Senate each have an opportunity to amend the other chamber’s amendments to a bill; thus, there can be House amendments to Senate amendments to House amendments to a Senate bill. If either chamber accepts the other’s...

The Economic Effects of the 2017 Tax Revision: Preliminary Observations

The 2017 tax revision, P.L. 115-97, often referred to as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, and referred to subsequently as the Act, substantially revised the U.S. tax system. The Act permanently reduced the corporate tax rate to 21%, made a number of revisions in business tax deductions (including limits on interest deductions), and provided a major revision in the international tax rules. It also substantially revised individual income taxes, including an increase in the standard deduction and child credit largely offset by eliminating personal exemptions, along with rate cuts, limits on...

USMCA and Mexico’s New Labor Law

The 116th Congress faces policy issues related to labor under the proposed U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) (see CRS Report R44981, NAFTA Renegotiation and the Proposed United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA)). On May 1, 2019, Mexican President Andrés Manual López Obrador signed into law a labor reform bill aimed at enhancing Mexican worker rights by ensuring that workers can vote for their union representatives by secret ballot, establishing the right of workers to join the union of their choice and establishing independent labor courts to resolve disputes and register...

The Kiddie Tax and Military Survivors’ Benefits

Some military families have discovered that they owe higher taxes for 2018 on distributions from their military survivors’ benefits than they had in previous years. This change in tax treatment is related to temporary changes to the “kiddie tax” in the 2017 tax revision (P.L. 115-97).

Military Survivor Benefits to Children

Retired servicemembers may elect to provide their spouses and/or children with up to 55% of their pension following the member’s death as part of a program called the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) (10 U.S.C. 1448). In 2001 (P.L. 107-107), Congress expanded eligibility for...

Unfunded Mandates Reform Act: History, Impact, and Issues

The Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995 (UMRA) culminated years of effort by state and local government officials and business interests to control, if not eliminate, the imposition of unfunded intergovernmental and private-sector federal mandates. Advocates argued the statute was needed to forestall federal legislation and regulations that imposed obligations on state and local governments or businesses that resulted in higher costs and inefficiencies. Opponents argued that federal mandates may be necessary to achieve national objectives in areas where voluntary action by state and local...

Resolving Legislative Differences in Congress: Conference Committees and Amendments Between the Houses

The Constitution requires that the House and Senate approve the same bill or joint resolution in precisely the same form before it is presented to the President for his signature or veto. To this end, both houses must pass the same measure and then attempt to reach agreement about its provisions.

The House and Senate may be able to reach agreement by an exchange of amendments between the houses. Each house has one opportunity to amend the amendments from the other house, so there can be Senate amendments to House amendments to Senate amendments to a House bill. House amendments to Senate...

Federal Grants to State and Local Governments: A Historical Perspective on Contemporary Issues

The federal government is expected to provide state and local governments about $750 billion in federal grants in FY2019, funding a wide range of public policies, such as health care, transportation, income security, education, job training, social services, community development, and environmental protection. Federal grants account for about one-third of total state government funding, and more than half of state government funding for health care and public assistance.

Congressional interest in federal grants to state and local governments has always been high given the central role...

Coast Guard Cutter Procurement: Background and Issues for Congress

The Coast Guard’s program of record (POR) calls for procuring 8 National Security Cutters (NSCs), 25 Offshore Patrol Cutters (OPCs), and 58 Fast Response Cutters (FRCs) as replacements for 90 aging Coast Guard high-endurance cutters, medium-endurance cutters, and patrol craft. The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2020 budget requests a total of $657 million in procurement funding for the NSC, OPC, and FRC programs.

NSCs are the Coast Guard’s largest and most capable general-purpose cutters; they are intended to replace the Coast Guard’s 12 aged Hamilton-class high-endurance cutters. NSCs have an...

Iran Sanctions

Successive Administrations have used sanctions extensively to try to change Iran’s behavior. Sanctions have had a substantial effect on Iran’s economy but little, if any, observable effect on Iran’s conventional defense programs or regional malign activities. During 2012-2015, when the global community was relatively united in pressuring Iran, Iran’s economy shrank as its crude oil exports fell by more than 50%, and Iran had limited ability to utilize its $120 billion in assets held abroad.

The 2015 multilateral nuclear accord (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, JCPOA) provided Iran...

OMB Issues New CRA Guidance, Potentially Changing Relationship with Independent Agencies

On April 11, 2019, the acting director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued a memorandum to agencies on implementation of the Congressional Review Act (CRA). The memorandum discussed the types of agency actions covered by the CRA and, for some agencies, established a new process for determining whether rules are “major” under the CRA.

The most noteworthy effects of the memorandum are its apparent changes to rulemaking procedures for statutorily designated independent regulatory agencies, sometimes also referred to as independent regulatory commissions(IRCs). Depending on how...

House Rules Changes Affecting Committee Procedure in the 116th Congress (2019-2020)

As agreed to in the House, H.Res. 6, a resolution adopting the rules of the House of Representatives, provided amendments to the rules, as well as separate orders, that affect committee procedure in the 116th Congress (2019-2020). Several of these changes apply to general committee procedure, while others concern specific committees, such as modifications to the names, jurisdiction, or procedures of certain House committees. The rules package also established, during the 116th Congress, two new select committees.

H.Res. 6 made several changes to committee membership and organization. Most...

Farm Commodity Provisions in the 2018 Farm Bill (P.L. 115-334)

The farm commodity program provisions in Title I of the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 (P.L. 115-334; the 2018 farm bill) include revenue support programs for major program crops and permanent agricultural disaster assistance programs for producers of most tree crops and livestock. Aside from dairy and sugar, which have their own specific programs, most grain and oilseed crops produced in the United States are eligible for two tiers of revenue support under Title I of the 2018 farm bill—specialty crops such as fruits, vegetables, and tree nuts are not covered. The first tier of...

Columbia River Treaty Review

The Columbia River Treaty (CRT, or Treaty) is an international agreement between the United States and Canada for the cooperative development and operation of the water resources of the Columbia River Basin to provide for flood control and power. The Treaty was the result of more than 20 years of negotiations between the two countries and was ratified in 1961. Implementation began in 1964.

The Treaty provided for the construction and operation of three dams in Canada and one dam in the United States whose reservoir extends into Canada. Together, these dams more than doubled the amount of...

Digital Trade and U.S. Trade Policy

As the global internet develops and evolves, digital trade has become more prominent on the global trade and economic policy agenda. The economic impact of the internet was estimated to be $4.2 trillion in 2016, making it the equivalent of the fifth-largest national economy. The digital economy accounted for 6.9% of currentdollar gross U.S. domestic product (GDP) in 2017. Digital trade has been growing faster than traditional trade in goods and services.

Congress has an important role to play in shaping global digital trade policy, from oversight of agencies charged with regulating...

The Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA): A Legal Overview

A plaintiff injured by a defendant’s wrongful act may file a tort lawsuit to recover money from that defendant. To name a particularly familiar example, a person who negligently causes a vehicular collision may be liable to the victim of that crash. By forcing people who wrongfully injure others to pay money to their victims, the tort system serves at least two functions: (1) deterring people from injuring others and (2) compensating those who are injured.

Employees and officers of the federal government occasionally commit torts just like other members of the general public. For a...

Combating Corruption in Latin America: Congressional Considerations

Corruption of public officials in Latin America continues to be a prominent political concern. In the past few years, 11 presidents and former presidents in Latin America have been forced from office, jailed, or are under investigation for corruption. As in previous years, Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index covering 2018 found that the majority of respondents in several Latin American nations believed that corruption was increasing. Several analysts have suggested that heightened awareness of corruption in Latin America may be due to several possible factors: the...

The Highway Funding Formula: History and Current Status

More than 90% of federal highway assistance is distributed to the states by formula. Between 1916, when Congress created the first ongoing program to fund road construction, and 2012, various formula factors specified in law were used to apportion highway funds among the states. After 1982, these factors were partially overridden by provisions to guarantee that each state received federal funding at least equal to a specific percentage of the federal highway taxes its residents paid.

Since enactment of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21; P.L. 112-141) in 2012,...

Military Service Records, Awards, and Unit Histories: A Guide to Locating Sources

This guide provides information on locating military unit histories and individual service records of discharged, retired, and deceased military personnel. It also provides information on locating and replacing military awards and medals. Included is contact information for military history centers, websites for additional sources of research, and a bibliography of other publications, including related CRS reports.

The Legislative Process on the House Floor: An Introduction

The daily order of business on the floor of the House of Representatives is governed by standing rules that make certain matters and actions privileged for consideration. On a day-to-day basis, however, the House can also decide to grant individual bills privileged access to the floor, using one of several parliamentary mechanisms.

The standing rules of the House include several different parliamentary mechanisms that the body may use to act on bills and resolutions. Which of these will be employed in a given instance usually depends on the extent to which Members want to debate and amend...

Medicare Primer

Medicare is a federal program that pays for covered health care services of qualified beneficiaries. It was established in 1965 under Title XVIII of the Social Security Act to provide health insurance to individuals 65 and older, and has been expanded over the years to include permanently disabled individuals under the age of 65. Medicare, which consists of four parts (A-D), covers hospitalizations, physician services, prescription drugs, skilled nursing facility care, home health visits, and hospice care, among other services. Generally, individuals are eligible for Medicare if they or...

Major Agricultural Trade Issues in the 116th Congress

Sales of U.S. agricultural products to foreign markets absorb about one-fifth of U.S. agricultural production, thus contributing significantly to the health of the farm economy. Farm product exports, which totaled $143 billion in FY2018 (see chart below), make up about 9% of total U.S. exports and contribute positively to the U.S. balance of trade. The economic benefits of agricultural exports also extend across rural communities, while overseas farm sales help to buoy a wide array of industries linked to agriculture, including transportation, processing, and farm input suppliers.

U.S....

Navy DDG-51 and DDG-1000 Destroyer Programs: Background and Issues for Congress

The Navy began procuring Arleigh Burke (DDG-51) class destroyers, also known as Aegis destroyers, in FY1985, and a total of 82 have been procured through FY2019. The Navy’s proposed FY2020 budget requests funding for the procurement of three more DDG-51s, which would be the 83rd, 84th, and 85th ships in the class.

DDG-51s planned for procurement in FY2018-FY2022 are being procured under a multiyear procurement (MYP) contract that Congress approved as part of its action on the Navy’s FY2018 budget. DDG-51s procured in FY2017 and subsequent years are being built to a new design (the Flight...

Health Policy: Resources for Congressional Staff

KEYWORDS: Health policy, health insurance, public health, medical research, health workforce, health spending, health expenditures, Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP, SCHIP, state children’s health insurance program, children’s health insurance program.

Navy Frigate (FFG[X]) Program: Background and Issues for Congress

The FFG(X) program is a Navy program to build a class of 20 guided-missile frigates (FFGs). The Navy wants to procure the first FFG(X) in FY2020, the next 18 at a rate of two per year in FY2021-FY2029, and the 20th in FY2030. The Navy’s proposed FY2020 budget requests $1,281.2 million for the procurement of the first FFG(X). The Navy’s FY2020 budget submission shows that subsequent ships in the class are estimated by the Navy to cost roughly $900 million each in then-year dollars.

The Navy intends to build the FFG(X) to a modified version of an existing ship design—an approach called the...

FY2019 Supplemental Appropriations: CRS Experts

(To be suppressed.)

The following list of CRS experts provides points of contact for CRS’s congressional clients with specific questions regarding the particular appropriations and provisions proposed in the various disaster relief supplemental bills considered for FY2019. This report is intended as a companion to other CRS products on the FY2019 disaster relief supplemental appropriations measures.

The appropriations are largely arranged the way they are in the bill itself: they are grouped by subcommittee of jurisdiction, and by department or agency within each subcommittee—some...

Cuba: Trump Administration Expands Sanctions

In recent weeks, the Trump Administration has imposed a series of increasingly strong economic sanctions against Cuba, effectively ending the previous policy of engagement begun by the Obama Administration in 2014 that had eased some sanctions and moved toward the normalization of relations. As a result, U.S. policy toward Cuba again is centered on economic pressure aimed at influencing the behavior of the Cuban government, not only with regard to Cuba’s own human rights record, but also its support to the regime of Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela. On April 30, 2019, President Trump threatened...

Federal Preemption in the Dual Banking System: An Overview and Issues for the 116th Congress

Banks play a critical role in the United States economy, channeling money from savers to borrowers and facilitating productive investment. While the nature of lawmakers’ interest in bank regulation has shifted over time, most bank regulations fall into one of three general categories. First, banks must abide by a variety of safety-and-soundness requirements designed to minimize the risk of their failure and maintain macroeconomic stability. Second, banks must comply with consumer protection rules intended to deter abusive practices and provide consumers with complete information about...

Navy Virginia (SSN-774) Class Attack Submarine Procurement: Background and Issues for Congress

The Navy has been procuring Virginia (SSN-774) class nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSNs) since FY1998. The three Virginia-class boats that the Navy has requested for procurement in FY2020 would be the 31st, 32nd, and 33rd boats in the class. Virginia-class submarines are being procured under a multiyear procurement (MYP) contract covering at least 10 boats to be procured in FY2019-FY2023.

Navy plans previously called for procuring two Virginia-class boats in FY2020. The third boat requested for FY2020 was added to the budget request as part of the FY2020 budget-planning cycle. The...

Navy LPD-17 Flight II Amphibious Ship Program: Background and Issues for Congress

The Navy wants to procure a total of 13 LPD-17 Flight II amphibious ships. LPD-17 Flight II ships cost roughly $1.8 billion each to procure. The first LPD-17 Flight II ship, LPD-30, was procured in FY2018. As part of its action on the Navy’s proposed FY2019 budget, Congress provided $350 million in unrequested advance procurement (AP) funding for a second LPD-17 Flight II ship, LPD-31, to be procured in FY2020. This was consistent with the Navy’s FY2019 budget submission, under which LPD-31 was planned for procurement in FY2020 and the remainder of its procurement cost was to be requested...

Navy John Lewis (TAO-205) Class Oiler Shipbuilding Program: Background and Issues for Congress

The Navy began procuring John Lewis (TAO-205) class oilers in FY2016, and a total of four have been procured through FY2019, including two in FY2019. The first six ships are being procured under a block buy contract that was authorized by Section 127 of the FY2016 National Defense Authorization Act (S. 1356/P.L. 114-92 of November 25, 2015). The Navy wants to procure a total of 20 TAO-205s.

The Navy’s proposed FY2020 budget requests the procurement of the fifth and sixth ships in the program. The Navy estimates the combined procurement cost of the two ships at $1,056.3 million, or an...

Salaries of Members of Congress: Recent Actions and Historical Tables

Congress is required by Article I, Section 6, of the Constitution to determine its own pay. In the past, Congress periodically enacted specific legislation to alter its pay; the last time this occurred affected pay in 1991. More recently, pay has been determined pursuant to laws establishing formulas for automatic adjustments.

The Ethics Reform Act of 1989 established the current automatic annual adjustment formula, which is based on changes in private sector wages as measured by the Employment Cost Index (ECI). The adjustment is automatic unless denied statutorily, although the percentage...

Navy Columbia (SSBN-826) Class Ballistic Missile Submarine Program: Background and Issues for Congress

The Columbia (SSBN-826) class program is a program to design and build a class of 12 new ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) to replace the Navy’s current force of 14 aging Ohio-class SSBNs. The Navy has identified the Columbia-class program as the Navy’s top priority program. The Navy wants to procure the first Columbia-class boat in FY2021. Research and development work on the program has been underway for several years, and advance procurement (AP) funding for the program began in FY2017. The Navy’s proposed FY2020 budget requests $1,698.9 million in advance procurement (AP) funding...

Navy Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Program: Background and Issues for Congress

The Navy began procuring a small surface combatant called the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) in FY2005, and a total of 35 LCSs have been procured through FY2019, including three in FY2019. The total of 35 LCSs is three more than the 32 the Navy says are required under its 355-ship force-level goal. The Navy wants FY2019 to be the final year of LCS procurement, and it has not requested the procurement of any additional LCSs in its FY2020 budget submission.

The Navy wants to shift procurement of small surface combatants in FY2020 to a new frigate called the FFG(X). The Navy’s proposed FY2020...

Burma’s Political Prisoners and U.S. Policy

Despite a campaign pledge that they “would not arrest anyone as political prisoners,” Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy (NLD) have failed to fulfil this promise since they took control of Burma’s Union Parliament and the government’s executive branch in April 2016. While presidential pardons have been granted for some political prisoners, people continue to be arrested, detained, tried, and imprisoned for alleged violations of Burmese laws. According to the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners (Burma), or AAPP(B), a Thailand-based, nonprofit human rights...

Navy Ford (CVN-78) Class Aircraft Carrier Program: Background and Issues for Congress

CVN-78, CVN-79, CVN-80, and CVN-81 are the first four ships in the Navy’s new Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) class of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers (CVNs).

CVN-78 (Gerald R. Ford) was procured in FY2008. The Navy’s proposed FY2020 budget estimates the ship’s procurement cost at $13,084.0 million (i.e., about $13.1 billion) in then-year dollars. The ship received advance procurement (AP) funding in FY2001-FY2007 and was fully funded in FY2008-FY2011 using congressionally authorized four-year incremental funding. To help cover cost growth on the ship, the ship received an additional $1,394.9...

Shipping Under the Jones Act: Legislative and Regulatory Background

The Jones Act, which refers to Section 27 of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 (P.L. 66-261), requires that vessels transporting cargo from one U.S. point to another U.S. point be U.S.-built, and owned and crewed by U.S. citizens. The act provides a significant degree of protection for U.S. shipyards, domestic carriers, and American merchant sailors. It is a subject of debate because some experts point out that it leads to high domestic ocean shipping costs and constrains the availability of ships for domestic use. The Jones Act has come into prominence amid debates over Puerto Rico’s...

Navy Lasers, Railgun, and Gun-Launched Guided Projectile: Background and Issues for Congress

Three new ship-based weapons being developed by the Navy—solid state lasers (SSLs), the electromagnetic railgun (EMRG), and the gun-launched guided projectile (GLGP), also known as the hypervelocity projectile (HVP)—could substantially improve the ability of Navy surface ships to defend themselves against surface craft, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and eventually anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMs).

The Navy has been developing SSLs for several years, and in 2014 installed on a Navy ship a prototype SSL called the Laser Weapon System (LaWS) that was capable of countering surface craft...

Unreimbursed Employee Job Expenses and the Suspension of the Miscellaneous Itemized Deduction

Before the 2018 tax year, employees who incurred certain unreimbursed job-related expenses were allowed to claim a deduction for the amount of those expenses above 2% of a taxpayer’s adjusted gross income (AGI), under Sections 62 and 67 of the federal tax code. (The deduction also applied to certain costs related to the production or collection of income, and to the management, conservation, or maintenance of property held for producing such income, but they are not addressed here.) Guidance issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for this itemized miscellaneous deduction identified...

Management of the Colorado River: Water Allocations, Drought, and the Federal Role

The Colorado River Basin covers more than 246,000 square miles in seven U.S. states (Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and California) and Mexico. Pursuant to federal law, the Bureau of Reclamation (part of the Department of the Interior) manages much of the basin’s water supplies. Colorado River water is used primarily for agricultural irrigation and municipal and industrial (M&I) uses, but it also is important for power production, fish and wildlife, and recreational uses.

In recent years, consumptive uses of Colorado River water have exceeded natural flows. This...

HUD’s Proposal to End Assistance to Mixed Status Families

On May 10, 2019, HUD released a proposed rule to end eligibility for “mixed status” families in its major rental assistance programs (public housing, Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers, Section 8 project-based rental assistance). “Mixed status” families comprise both citizens (or eligible noncitizens) and ineligible noncitizens. As reported in the press and reflected in analysis by both CRS and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the rule would likely result in the displacement from HUD-assisted housing of over 25,000 families, including 55,000 children. Additionally,...

House Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress: Structure and Procedures

On January 4, 2019, the House established the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress by adopting Title II of H.Res. 6, the House rules package for the 116th Congress (2019-2020), on a 418-12 vote. The purpose of the select committee as stated in its authorizing resolution is “to investigate, study, make findings, hold public hearings, and develop recommendations on modernizing Congress.”

Twelve Members, six from each party, have been selected by their leadership to serve on the select committee during its year-long investigation. The committee’s authorizing resolution requires...

Military Sexual Assault: Chronology of Activity in the 113th-114th Congresses and Related Resources

This report focuses on previous activity in Congress regarding high profile incidents of sexual assault in the military during the summer 2013 through 2016. Included are separate sections on the official responses related to these incidents by the Department of Defense (DOD), the Obama Administration, and Congress including legislation during the 113th (2013-2014) Congress and 114th Congress (2015-2016). The last section is a resource guide for sources in this report and related materials on sexual assault and prevention during this period. This report will not be updated and supersedes...

Fiscal Policy: Economic Effects

Fiscal policy is the means by which the government adjusts its spending and revenue to influence the broader economy. By adjusting its level of spending and tax revenue, the government can affect the economy by either increasing or decreasing economic activity in the short term. For example, when the government runs a budget deficit, it is said to be engaging in fiscal stimulus, spurring economic activity, and when the government runs a budget surplus, it is said to be engaging in a fiscal contraction, slowing economic activity.

The government can use fiscal stimulus to spur economic...

Army Corps of Engineers: Section 7001 Annual Report on Future Studies and Projects

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), through its civil works mission, undertakes water resource development studies and projects and other assistance activities that are specifically authorized by Congress. In Section 7001 of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) of 2014 (P.L. 113-121; 33 U.S.C. §2282d), Congress established an annual process for identifying proposals for site-specific studies and projects within USACE’s water resource mission and authorities. The process includes a call for nonfederal proposals and concludes with a report by the Assistant Secretary...

Military Personnel and Extremism: Law, Policy, and Considerations for Congress

While concern about the confluence of Islamist extremist movements and U.S. military personnel rose following the 2009 attack by an Army officer at Fort Hood, Texas, recent events have raised concerns about the potential for violence from other domestic extremist groups. In February 2019, a Coast Guard lieutenant stationed in Washington, DC, was detained on evidence that he was stockpiling weapons and planning attacks on several high-profile individuals and organizations. Court documents indicated that this individual had sought and espoused white supremacist ideologies. Studies by the...

FY2020 LHHS Appropriations: Status

Congress recently began consideration of the FY2020 appropriations bill for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS). The LHHS bill is the largest ($1.06 trillion in FY2019) of the 12 annual appropriations bills, when accounting for both mandatory and discretionary funding.

On May 15, 2019, the FY2020 LHHS appropriations bill was reported to the House (H.R. 2740, H.Rept. 116-62). The report contains a detailed table summarizing the House Appropriations Committee’s recommended funding levels for agencies, accounts, and programs across...

The Antiquities Act: History, Current Litigation, and Considerations for the 116th Congress

Summary

The Antiquities Act authorizes the President to declare, by public proclamation, historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest situated on federal lands as national monuments. The act also authorizes the President to reserve parcels of land surrounding the objects of historic or scientific interest, but requires that the amount of land reserved be confined to the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected. Since its enactment in 1906, Presidents have used the Antiquities...

Muslim Holidays: Fact Sheet

Islam is one of the three major Abrahamic faiths, alongside Judaism and Christianity. Islam, considered by the Pew Research Center to be the world’s fastest growing religion, has approximately 1.8 billion followers worldwide, of whom some 3.35 million live in the United States. Muslims annually observe two major holidays: Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. This fact sheet describes the two holidays’ significance and American Muslims’ observance of them, and addresses the ways the holidays have been recognized by elected officials. The fact sheet also briefly describes two other widely celebrated...

Overtime Exemptions in the Fair Labor Standards Act for White-Collar Employees: Frequently Asked Questions

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), enacted in 1938, is the main federal law that establishes general wage and hour standards for most, but not all, private and public sector employees. Among other protections, the FLSA establishes that covered nonexempt employees must be compensated at one-and-a-half times their regular rate of pay for each hour worked over 40 hours in a workweek.

The FLSA also establishes certain exemptions from its general labor market standards. One of the major exemptions to the overtime provisions in the FLSA is for bona fide “executive, administrative, and...

Calendars of the House of Representatives

In the House of Representatives, the term calendar has two related meanings. This report, one of series of reports on legislative process, explains calendars and their use in the House of Representatives.

First, calendar refers to five lists of measures and motions that are (or will soon become) eligible for consideration on the House floor. When a House committee reports a measure, it is placed on the Union, House, or Private Calendars. Unreported measures may be placed on the Consensus Calendar if they are cosponsored by at least 290 Members. The signature of 218 Members on a discharge...

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS)

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) is an interagency body comprised of nine Cabinet members, two ex officio members, and other members as appointed by the President, that assists the President in reviewing the national security aspects of foreign direct investment in the U.S. economy. While the group often operated in relative obscurity, the perceived change in the nation’s national security and economic concerns following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the proposed acquisition of commercial operations at six U.S. ports by Dubai Ports World in...

United States Foreign Intelligence Relationships: Background, Policy and Legal Authorities, Risks, Benefits

From its inception, the United States Intelligence Community (IC) has relied on close relations with foreign partners. These relationships often reflect mutual security interests and the trust each side has of the other’s credibility and professionalism. They are generally strategic and cover a range of national security priorities involving national defense, emerging threats, counterterrorism, counter-proliferation, treaty compliance, cybersecurity, economic and financial security, counter-narcotics, and piracy.

U.S. intelligence relations with foreign counterparts offer a number of...

Private Bills: Procedure in the House

A private bill is one that provides benefits to specified individuals (including corporate bodies). Individuals sometimes request relief through private law when administrative or legal remedies are exhausted, but Congress seems more often to view private legislation as appropriate when no other remedy is available and when enactment would, in a broad sense, afford equity. From 1817 through 1971, most Congresses enacted hundreds of private laws, but since then, the number has declined significantly as Congress has expanded administrative discretion to deal with many of the situations that...

Land and Water Conservation Fund: Appropriations for “Other Purposes”

The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) Act of 1965 (P.L. 88-578) created the LWCF in the Treasury as a funding source to implement the outdoor recreation goals set out by the act. The LWCF Act authorizes the fund to receive $900 million annually, with the monies available only if appropriated by Congress (i.e., discretionary appropriations). The fund also receives mandatory appropriations under the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act of 2006 (GOMESA). The level of annual appropriations for the LWCF has varied since the origin of the fund in FY1965.

The LWCF Act outlines uses of the...

Marijuana Use and Highway Safety

A growing number of Americans report that they use marijuana. Most states now allow the use of marijuana for treatment of medical conditions. Ten states and the District of Columbia, representing a quarter of the U.S. population, have decriminalized the recreational use of marijuana, and other states are considering following suit.

As the opportunity for legal use of marijuana grows, there is concern about the impact of marijuana usage on highway safety. In a 2018 survey, the majority of state highway safety officers considered drugged driving an issue at least as important as driving...

U.S. Airborne Electronic Attack Programs: Background and Issues for Congress

U.S. airborne electronic warfare (EW) programs involve developing and procuring EW aircraft and EW systems that are mounted on U.S. aircraft. The President’s FY2020 budget request for the Department of Defense (DOD) proposes funding for a number of airborne EW programs.

The Role of Airborne EW in Modern Warfare

EW is a component of modern warfare, particularly in response to threats posed by potential adversaries such as Russia or China. EW refers to operations that use the electromagnetic spectrum (i.e., the “airwaves”) to detect, listen to, jam, and deceive (or “spoof”) enemy radars,...

The Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance and the Crisis in Venezuela

Recent press reports suggest that the Trump Administration and some Latin American governments have discussed invoking the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (Rio Treaty) to facilitate a collective response to the crisis in Venezuela. Doing so could provide a basis for multilateral intervention, but it is unclear if parties to the treaty (“states parties”) would support such an effort. Congress may assess the implications of invoking the treaty as it considers legislative initiatives to require, authorize, or constrain certain Administration actions regarding Venezuela (such as...

Rwanda: In Brief

Rwanda, a small landlocked country in central Africa’s Great Lakes region, has seen rapid development and security gains since about 800,000 people—mostly members of the ethnic Tutsi minority—were killed in the 1994 genocide. The ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) ended the genocide by seizing power in mid-1994 and has been the dominant force in Rwandan politics ever since. The Rwandan government has won donor plaudits for its efforts to improve health, boost agricultural output, encourage foreign investment, and promote women’s empowerment. Yet, analysts debate whether Rwanda’s...

Social Security: The Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP)

The windfall elimination provision (WEP) is a modified benefit formula that reduces the Social Security benefits of certain retired or disabled workers who are also entitled to pension benefits based on earnings from jobs that were not covered by Social Security and thus not subject to the Social Security payroll tax. Its purpose is to remove an unintended advantage or “windfall” that these workers would otherwise receive as a result of the interaction between the regular Social Security benefit formula and the workers’ relatively short careers in Social Security-covered employment. In...

Federal Public Transportation Program: In Brief

Federal assistance to public transportation is provided primarily through the public transportation program administered by the Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA). The federal public transportation program was authorized from FY2016 through FY2020 as part of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act (P.L. 114-94). This report provides an introduction to the program as authorized by the FAST Act.

Major federal involvement in public transportation dates to the Urban Mass Transportation Act of 1964 (P.L. 88-365). Prior to the mid-1960s there was...

Latin America and the Caribbean: Fact Sheet on Leaders and Elections

This fact sheet tracks current heads of government in Central and South America, Mexico, and the Caribbean. It provides dates of the last and next elections for the head of government and the national independence date for each country.

Addressing the Long-Run Deficit: A Comparison of Approaches

The growth of the national debt, which is considered unsustainable under current policies, continues to be one of the central issues of domestic federal policymaking.

Addressing a federal budget deficit that is unsustainable over the long run involves choices. Fundamentally, the issues require deciding what government goods, services, and transfers are worth paying taxes for. Most people would agree that the country benefits from a wide range of government services—air traffic controllers, border security, courts and corrections, and so forth—provided by the federal government. Yet...

The H-2B Visa and the Statutory Cap: In Brief

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) of 1952, as amended, enumerates categories of foreign nationals, known as nonimmigrants, who are admitted to the United States for a temporary period of time and a specific purpose. One of these nonimmigrant visa categories—known as the H-2B visa—is for temporary nonagricultural workers.

The H-2B visa allows for the temporary admission of foreign workers to the United States to perform nonagricultural labor or services of a temporary nature if unemployed U.S. workers are not available. Common H-2B occupations include landscape laborer, housekeeper,...

U.S.-Iran Tensions Escalate

Overview

U.S.-Iran tensions have escalated in recent weeks as the Trump Administration has taken several additional steps to implement its “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran’s economy and government, and Iranian leaders have announced responses. U.S. steps have included designating Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization, ending exceptions for Iran’s oil customers to buy Iranian oil without U.S. penalty, ending sanctions waivers for some assistance to Iran’s nuclear program, and imposing new sanctions on transactions in some Iranian commodities. Iran’s...

The Community Health Center Fund: In Brief

The Health Center Program, which is administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration within the Department of Health and Human Services, awards grants to outpatient health care facilities that provide care to medically underserved populations. The program’s annual funding has more than tripled, from $1.3 billion to $5.5 billion between FY2002 and FY2019, which has, in turn, increased the number of centers operating, the number of patients they see, and the volume and type of services available.

The program’s funding increase occurred partially because of the Community...

The Potential Decline of Cash Usage and Related Implications

Electronic forms of payment have become increasingly available, convenient, and cost efficient due to technological advances in digitization and data processing. Anecdotal reporting and certain analyses suggest that businesses and consumers are increasingly eschewing cash payments in favor of electronic payment methods. Such trends have led analysts and policymakers to examine the possibility that the use and acceptance of cash will significantly decline in coming years and to consider the effects of such an evolution.

Cash is still a common and widely accepted payment system in the United...

Cyclones Idai and Kenneth in Southeastern Africa: Humanitarian and Recovery Response in Brief

Cyclone Idai, a large and powerful Category 2 tropical storm, came ashore on March 14, 2019, at Beira, a low-lying port city in central Mozambique, causing widespread devastation in southeastern Africa. On April 25, a second strong storm, Cyclone Kenneth, came ashore just north of the coastal town of Pemba in northern Mozambique. A Category 4 storm, Cyclone Kenneth featured even stronger winds than Cyclone Idai, as well as torrential rains, although it affected an area with a smaller population.

The Cyclone Idai system dumped torrents of rain over large parts of Mozambique, Malawi,...

DOD’s Proposal to Reduce Military Medical End Strength

In accordance with 10 U.S.C. §115, Congress annually authorizes the end strength for active duty and reserve component personnel. End strength is the maximum number of personnel permitted in each military service (e.g., Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force) as of September 30, the last day of the fiscal year. For fiscal year (FY) 2019, Congress authorized a total end strength of 1,338,100 active duty personnel and 824,700 reserve component personnel, including subtotals by force. Each military service then decides how to organize, train, and equip the people who compose its authorized end...

Iran’s Nuclear Program: Status

Iran’s nuclear program began during the 1950s. The United States has expressed concern since the mid-1970s that Tehran might develop nuclear weapons. Iran’s construction of gas centrifuge uranium enrichment facilities is currently the main source of proliferation concern. Gas centrifuges can produce both low-enriched uranium (LEU), which can be used in nuclear power reactors, and weapons-grade highly enriched uranium (HEU), which is one of the two types of fissile material used in nuclear weapons.

Is Iran Capable of Building Nuclear Weapons?

The United States has assessed that Tehran...

FY2018 and FY2019 Appropriations for Agricultural Conservation

The Agriculture appropriations bill funds the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) except for the Forest Service. The FY2018 Consolidated Appropriations Act (P.L. 115-141, Division A), and the FY2019 Consolidated Appropriations Act (P.L. 116-6, Division B) include funding for conservation programs and activities at USDA.

Congress passed the FY2018 Consolidated Appropriations Act on March 23, 2018. FY2019 began with seven appropriations bills, including USDA, unfinished. The House and Senate Appropriations Committees reported Agriculture appropriations bills for FY2019 (H.R. 5961, S....

Department of Defense Contractor and Troop Levels in Afghanistan and Iraq: 2007-2018

Throughout its history, the Department of Defense (DOD) has relied on contractors to support a wide range of military operations. Operations over the last thirty years have highlighted the critical role that contractors play in supporting U.S. troops—both in terms of the number of contractors and the type of work being performed. During recent U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, contractors often accounted for 50% or more of the total DOD presence in-country.

For the fourth quarter of fiscal year (FY) 2018, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) reported 49,451 contractor personnel...

Coast Guard Polar Security Cutter (Polar Icebreaker) Program: Background and Issues for Congress

The Coast Guard Polar Security Cutter (PSC) program is a program to acquire three new heavy polar icebreakers, to be followed years from now by the acquisition of up to three new medium polar icebreakers. On April 23, 2019, the Coast Guard-Navy Integrated Program Office for the PSC program awarded a $745.9 million fixed-price, incentive-firm contract for the detail design and construction (DD&C) of the first PSC to VT Halter Marine of Pascagoula, MS, a shipyard owned by Singapore Technologies (ST) Engineering. VT Halter was the leader of one of three industry teams that competed for the...

The National Popular Vote (NPV) Initiative: Direct Election of the President by Interstate Compact

The National Popular Vote (NPV) initiative proposes an agreement among the states, an interstate compact that would effectively achieve direct popular election of the President and Vice President without a constitutional amendment. It relies on the Constitution’s grant of authority to the states in Article II, Section 1 to appoint presidential electors “in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct.... ” Any state that joins the NPV compact pledges that if the compact comes into effect, its legislature will award all the state’s electoral votes to the presidential ticket that wins...

Federal Research and Development (R&D) Funding: FY2020

President Trump’s budget request for FY2020 includes approximately $134.1 billion for research and development (R&D). Several FY2019 appropriations bills had not been enacted at the time the President’s FY2020 budget was prepared; therefore, the President’s budget included the FY2018 actual funding levels, 2019 annualized continuing resolution (CR) levels, and the FY2020 request levels. On February 15, 2019, Congress enacted the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2019 (P.L. 116-6). This act included each of the remaining appropriations acts, completing the FY2019 appropriations process. The...

Kazakhstan’s Snap Presidential Election

Overview

Kazakhstan, an important U.S. partner in areas such as nuclear nonproliferation and counterterrorism, has embarked on an unprecedented process of political transition. On March 19, 2019, Nursultan Nazarbayev announced his resignation as president after almost 30 years in office. The former First Secretary of Soviet Kazakhstan’s Communist Party, Nazarbayev became Kazakhstan’s first elected president in 1991. He was subsequently reelected four times, most recently in 2015, although none of these elections were deemed free and fair by international observers. His authoritarian...

Congressional Membership and Appointment Authority to Advisory Commissions, Boards, and Groups

Over the past several decades, Congress, by statute, has established a wide array of commissions, boards, and advisory bodies to provide it with assistance in meeting various legislative, investigative, and administrative responsibilities. Some of these entities are temporary and created to serve specific functions, such as studying a discrete policy area or performing one-time tasks. Others are permanent, serving an ongoing purpose, such as overseeing an institution or performing a regular administrative function.

The majority of these congressional bodies provide that Members of...

Iran’s Foreign and Defense Policies

Iran’s national security policy is the product of many overlapping and sometimes competing factors such as the ideology of Iran’s Islamic revolution, perception of threats to the regime and to the country, long-standing national interests, and the interaction of the Iranian regime’s factions and constituencies. Iran’s leadership:

Seeks to deter or thwart U.S. or other efforts to invade or intimidate Iran or to bring about a change of regime.

Has sought to take advantage of opportunities of regional conflicts to overturn a power structure in the Middle East that it asserts favors the...

FY2018 and FY2019 Agriculture Appropriations: International Food Aid

The Agriculture appropriations bill—formally known as the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act—funds the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) except for the Forest Service. This includes funding for certain U.S. international food aid programs.

In March 2018, President Trump signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018 (P.L. 115-141), an omnibus appropriations act for FY2018, into law. In February 2019, President Trump signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2019 (P.L. 116-6), an omnibus appropriations act for...

Agriculture and Related Agencies: FY2019 Appropriations

The Agriculture appropriations bill funds the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) except for the Forest Service. It also funds the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and—in even-numbered fiscal years—the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).

Agriculture appropriations include both mandatory and discretionary spending. Discretionary amounts, though, are the primary focus during the bill’s development. The largest discretionary spending items are the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC); agricultural research; rural development; FDA; foreign...

Social Security: The Trust Funds

The Social Security program pays monthly cash benefits to retired or disabled workers and their family members and to the family members of deceased workers. Program income and outgo are accounted for in two separate trust funds authorized under Title II of the Social Security Act: the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) Trust Fund and the Federal Disability Insurance (DI) Trust Fund. Projections show that the OASI fund will remain solvent until 2034, whereas the DI fund will remain solvent until 2052, meaning that each trust fund is projected to be able to pay benefits...

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Budget: Fact Sheet

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates the safety of foods (including dietary supplements), cosmetics, and radiation-emitting products; the safety and effectiveness of drugs, biologics (e.g., vaccines), and medical devices; and public health aspects of tobacco products. FDA is organized into various offices and centers that carry out the agency’s regulatory responsibilities. The Office of the Commissioner and four other program area offices oversee the core functions of the agency: the Office of Medical Products and Tobacco, the Office of Foods and Veterinary Medicine, the Office...

Market-Based Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction Legislation: 108th Through 116th Congresses

Congressional interest in market-based greenhouse gas (GHG) emission control legislation has fluctuated over the past 15 years. During that time, legislation has often involved market-based approaches, such as a cap-and-trade system or a carbon tax or fee program. Both approaches would place a price—directly or indirectly—on GHG emissions or their inputs (e.g., fossil fuels), both would increase the price of fossil fuels, and both would reduce GHG emissions to some degree. Both would allow emission sources to choose the best way to meet their emission requirements or reduce costs,...

Navy Force Structure and Shipbuilding Plans: Background and Issues for Congress

The current and planned size and composition of the Navy, the rate of Navy ship procurement, and the prospective affordability of the Navy’s shipbuilding plans have been oversight matters for the congressional defense committees for many years.

On December 15, 2016, the Navy released a force-structure goal that calls for achieving and maintaining a fleet of 355 ships of certain types and numbers. The 355-ship force-level goal is the result of a Force Structure Assessment (FSA) conducted by the Navy in 2016. The Navy states that a new FSA is now underway as the successor to the 2016 FSA....

Private Flood Insurance and the National Flood Insurance Program

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is the main source of primary flood insurance coverage in the United States, collecting approximately $4.75 billion in premiums, fees, and surcharges for over five million flood insurance policies. This is in contrast to the majority of other property and casualty risks, such as damage from fire or accidents, which are covered by a broad array of private insurance companies. One of the primary reasons behind the creation of the NFIP in 1968 was the withdrawal by private insurers from providing flood insurance coverage, leaving flood victims...

Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) FY2019 Appropriations: Overview

The Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) appropriations bill includes funding for the Department of the Treasury, the Executive Office of the President (EOP), the judiciary, the District of Columbia, and more than two dozen independent agencies. The House and Senate FSGG bills fund the same agencies, with one exception. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) is usually funded through the Agriculture appropriations bill in the House and the FSGG bill in the Senate.

President Trump submitted his FY2019 budget request on February 12, 2018. The request included a total of...

Availability of Legislative Measures in the House of Representatives (The “72-Hour Rule”)

House rules govern the length of time legislative measures must be available to Members before being considered on the floor. For measures reported from committee, a draft of the committee report must have been available for 72 hours. Conference reports must also have been available for 72 hours and special rules for considering measures for one legislative day. Bills and joint resolutions that have not been reported by committee, and therefore are not accompanied by a written report, may also not be considered on the House floor unless the measure has been available for 72 hours. Proposed...

Social Security Primer

Social Security provides monthly cash benefits to retired or disabled workers and their family members, and to the family members of deceased workers. Among the beneficiary population, 83% are retired or disabled workers; family members of retired, disabled, or deceased workers make up the remainder. In March 2019, approximately 63.3 million beneficiaries received a total of $85.3 billion in benefit payments for the month; the average monthly benefit was $1,347.

Workers become eligible for Social Security benefits for themselves and their family members by working in Social...

Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month Speech Resources: Fact Sheet

May is Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month. It is designed to be a time to recognize the contributions and achievements of Americans of Asian, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Island descent.

This guide is designed to assist congressional offices with work related to Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month celebrations. It contains links to census and demographic information, CRS reports, and presidential proclamations, as well as additional web resources commemorating Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month. The guide also provides a list of educational, cultural, and advocacy organizations...

Terrorism, Violent Extremism, and the Internet: Free Speech Considerations

Recent acts of terrorism and hate crimes have prompted a renewed focus on the possible links between internet content and offline violence. While some have focused on the role that social media companies play in moderating user-generated content, others have called for Congress to pass laws regulating online content promoting terrorism or violence. Proposals related to government action of this nature raise significant free speech questions, including (1) the reach of the First Amendment’s protections when it comes to foreign nationals posting online content from abroad; (2) the scope of...

Enhanced Prudential Regulation of Large Banks

The 2007-2009 financial crisis highlighted the problem of “too big to fail” financial institutions—the concept that the failure of large financial firms could trigger financial instability, which in several cases prompted extraordinary federal assistance to prevent their failure. One pillar of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act’s (P.L. 111-203) response to addressing financial stability and ending too big to fail is a new enhanced prudential regulatory (EPR) regime that applies to large banks and to nonbank financial institutions designated by the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) as...

Military Pay: Key Questions and Answers

From the earliest days of the republic, the federal government has compensated members of the Armed Forces for their services. While the original pay structure was fairly simple, over time a more complex system of compensation has evolved. The current military compensation system includes cash payments such as basic pay, special and incentive pays, and various allowances. Servicemembers also receive noncash benefits such as health care and access to commissaries and recreational facilities, and may qualify for deferred compensation in the form of retired pay and other retirement benefits....

Navy Ship Names: Background for Congress

Names for Navy ships traditionally have been chosen and announced by the Secretary of the Navy, under the direction of the President and in accordance with rules prescribed by Congress. Rules for giving certain types of names to certain types of Navy ships have evolved over time. There have been exceptions to the Navy’s ship-naming rules, particularly for the purpose of naming a ship for a person when the rule for that type of ship would have called for it to be named for something else. Some observers have perceived a breakdown in, or corruption of, the rules for naming Navy ships. On...

How Social Security Benefits Are Computed: In Brief

Social Security, the largest program in the federal budget (in terms of outlays), provides monthly cash benefits to retired or disabled workers and their family members as well as to the family members of deceased workers. In 2018, benefit outlays were approximately $989 billion, with roughly 63 million beneficiaries and 176 million workers in Social Security-covered employment. Under current law, Social Security’s revenues are projected to be insufficient to pay full scheduled benefits after 2035.

Monthly benefit amounts are determined by federal law. Social Security is of ongoing...

Housing Issues in the 116th Congress

The 116th Congress may consider a variety of housing-related issues. These could include topics related to housing finance, federal housing assistance programs, and housing-related tax provisions, among other things. Particular issues that may be of interest during the Congress include the following:

The status of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, two government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) that have been in conservatorship since 2008. Congress might consider comprehensive housing finance reform legislation to resolve the status of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Furthermore, a new director for the...

“Sanctuary” Jurisdictions: Federal, State, and Local Policies and Related Litigation

There is no official or agreed-upon definition of what constitutes a “sanctuary” jurisdiction, and there has been debate as to whether the term applies to particular states and localities. Moreover, state and local jurisdictions have varied reasons for opting not to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement efforts, including reasons not necessarily motivated by disagreement with federal policies, such as concern about potential civil liability or the costs associated with assisting federal efforts. But traditional sanctuary policies are often described as falling under one of three...

Federally Supported Water Supply and Wastewater Treatment Programs

For more than four decades, Congress has authorized and refined several programs to help communities address water supply and wastewater problems. The agencies that administer these programs differ in multiple ways. In terms of funding mechanisms, projects developed by the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) typically require direct, individual project authorizations from Congress.

In contrast, standing program authorizations provide project funding for other agencies, including

the Department of Agriculture (USDA),

the U.S. Environmental...

The United Arab Emirates (UAE): Issues for U.S. Policy

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a significant U.S. partner in Gulf security, helping to address multiple regional threats by hosting about 5,000 U.S. military personnel at UAE military facilities under a bilateral defense cooperation agreement (DCA). The UAE is a significant buyer of U.S. military equipment, including sophisticated missile defenses, and it reportedly wants to buy the F-35 combat aircraft. The alliance is expected to continue after UAE President Shaykh Khalifa bin Zayid Al Nuhayyan, who suffered an incapacitating stroke in January 2014, is succeeded by his younger brother...

Unemployment Insurance: Legislative Issues in the 116th Congress

The 116th Congress has begun to consider several issues related to two programs in the unemployment insurance (UI) system: Unemployment Compensation (UC) and Unemployment Compensation for Federal Employees (UCFE). The lapse in federal appropriations that occurred from December 22, 2018, to January 25, 2019, created a partial government shutdown. As a result, agencies without funding furloughed many federal employees, and many federal employees excepted from furlough were working without pay during the lapse in appropriations. Furloughed federal employees may be eligible for UCFE benefits....

Mexico: Background and U.S. Relations

Congress has maintained significant interest in Mexico, an ally and top trade partner. In recent decades, U.S.-Mexican relations have grown closer through cooperative management of the 2,000-mile border, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and security and rule of law cooperation under the Mérida Initiative. Relations have been tested, however, by President Donald J. Trump’s shifts in U.S. immigration and trade policies.

On December 1, 2018, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the leftist populist leader of the National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) party, which he created in 2014,...

The Purple Heart: Background and Issues for Congress

The Purple Heart is one of the oldest and most recognized American military medals, awarded to servicemembers who were killed or wounded by enemy action. The conflicts 2001 to the present have greatly increased the number of Purple Hearts awarded to servicemembers.

Events over the past few years have spurred debate on the eligibility criteria for the Purple Heart. Shootings on U.S. soil and medical conditions such as traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have prompted changes to the eligibility requirements for the Purple Heart. Some critics believe that...

Social Security: The Trust Funds and Alternative Investments

The Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) program provides monthly benefits to retired or disabled workers and their family members and to the family members of deceased workers. These monthly benefits constitute a substantial portion of income for a large segment of recipients.

The OASDI program is financed primarily by payroll taxes on covered earnings up to an annual limit, as well as federal income taxes paid by some beneficiaries on a portion of their OASDI benefits. OASDI program revenues are invested in federal government securities held by the Federal Old-Age...

Spain’s 2019 Election

Many U.S. officials and Members of Congress consider Spain to be an important U.S. ally and one of the closest U.S. partners in Europe. Spain’s April 2019 election returned a fragmented result, but most seated parties favor the continuation of close U.S.-Spain relations.

Socialist Party Wins, But No Majority

The center-left Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE), led by incumbent Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, came in first place in Spain’s general election held on April 28, 2019. The PSOE won 123 out of the 350 seats in Spain’s Congress of Deputies (lower house of parliament), with nearly 29% of...

The LIHEAP Formula

The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) provides funds to states, the District of Columbia, U.S. territories and commonwealths, and Indian tribal organizations (collectively referred to as grantees) primarily to help low-income households pay home energy expenses. The LIHEAP statute provides for two types of funding: regular funds (sometimes referred to as block grant funds) and emergency contingency funds. Regular funds are allocated to grantees based on a formula, while emergency contingency funds may be released to one or more grantees at the discretion of the Secretary...

Cybersecurity: Legislation and Hearings, 115th-116th Congresses

Most major cybersecurity legislative provisions were enacted prior to 2002, despite many recommendations having been made over the past decade. More recently, in the 115th and 116th Congresses, cybersecurity legislation has received either committee or floor action or final passage, and both chambers have held multiple hearings.

In the 116th Congress, a number of House and Senate bills have received consideration, and hearings have been held by committees in each chamber.

In the 115th Congress, 31 bills received some type of action (committee consideration or passage by one or both...

Water Infrastructure Financing: The Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) Program

The Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program provides financial assistance for water infrastructure projects, including projects to build and upgrade wastewater and drinking water treatment systems. Congress established the WIFIA program in the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 (WRRDA 2014, P.L. 113-121).

The WIFIA concept is modeled after a similar program that finances transportation projects, the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program. Proponents of the WIFIA approach, including water utility organizations, cite...

Administration Proposal to Reorganize the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM)

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the federal government’s central personnel agency, is an independent establishment in the executive branch. Created by the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978, the agency’s statutory authority is codified in 5 U.S.C. Chapter 11. In June 2018, President Donald Trump issued reorganization recommendations that included a proposal to transfer several OPM functions to the Executive Office of the President (EOP) and the General Services Administration (GSA). The President’s FY2020 budget restated the reorganization proposal, including that the entire...

Afghanistan: Background and U.S. Policy In Brief

Afghanistan has been a central U.S. foreign policy concern since 2001, when the United States, in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, led a military campaign against Al Qaeda and the Taliban government that harbored and supported it. In the intervening 17 years, the United States has suffered around 2,400 fatalities in Afghanistan (including seven in 2019 to date) and Congress has appropriated approximately $133 billion for reconstruction there. In that time, an elected Afghan government has replaced the Taliban, and nearly every measure of human development has...

Capital Gains Tax Options: Behavioral Responses and Revenues

Compared with most other tax provisions, the potential revenue gain scored for an increase in capital gains taxes is strongly affected by behavioral responses assumed by the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) and the Treasury Department. As an illustration, the Obama Administration estimated in February 2010 that allowing the Bush tax cuts for capital gains to expire would have raised $16 billion of revenue in FY2019. Yet, based on Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projections in January 2010, the current effective capital gains tax was 13.3% in 2008 and would have increased to 17.9% in...

Iran: Internal Politics and U.S. Policy and Options

The United States and Iran have been at odds, with varying degrees of intensity, since the 1979 Islamic Revolution there. U.S. officials have identified Iran’s support for militant Middle East groups as a significant threat to U.S. interests and allies, but Iran’s nuclear program took precedence in U.S. policy after 2002 as that program advanced. In 2010, the Obama Administration led a campaign of broad international economic pressure on Iran to persuade it to agree to strict limits on the program—an effort that contributed to the June 2013 election of the relatively moderate Hassan...

Multiyear Procurement (MYP) and Block Buy Contracting in Defense Acquisition: Background and Issues for Congress

Multiyear procurement (MYP) and block buy contracting (BBC) are special contracting mechanisms that Congress permits the Department of Defense (DOD) to use for a limited number of defense acquisition programs. Compared to the standard or default approach of annual contracting, MYP and BBC have the potential for reducing weapon procurement costs by a few or several percent.

Under annual contracting, DOD uses one or more contracts for each year’s worth of procurement of a given kind of item. Under MYP, DOD instead uses a single contract for two to five years’ worth of procurement of a given...

Deferred Maintenance of Federal Land Management Agencies: FY2009-FY2018 Estimates and Issues

Each of the four major federal land management agencies maintains tens of thousands of diverse assets, including roads, bridges, buildings, and water management structures. These agencies are the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), National Park Service (NPS), and Forest Service (FS). Congress and the Administration continue to focus on the agencies’ deferred maintenance and repair of these assets—in essence, the cost of any maintenance or repair that was not done when it should have been or was scheduled to be done. Deferred maintenance and repair is often...

Democratic Republic of Congo: Background and U.S. Relations

The United States and other donors have focused substantial resources on stabilizing the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) since the early 2000s, when “Africa’s World War”—a conflict that drew in multiple neighboring countries and reportedly caused millions of deaths—drew to a close. DRC hosts the world’s largest U.N. peacekeeping operation and is a major recipient of donor aid. Conflict has nonetheless persisted in eastern DRC, prolonging instability and an enduring humanitarian crisis in Africa’s Great Lakes region. New unrest erupted as elections were repeatedly delayed past 2016,...

Energy and Water Development: FY2020 Appropriations

The Energy and Water Development appropriations bill provides funding for civil works projects of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE); the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) and Central Utah Project (CUP); the Department of Energy (DOE); the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC); and several other independent agencies. DOE typically accounts for about 80% of the bill’s funding.

President Trump submitted his FY2020 detailed budget proposal to Congress on March 18, 2019 (after submitting a general budget overview on March 11). The budget requests for agencies...

Worker Participation in Employer-Sponsored Pensions: A Fact Sheet

Employers in the United States offering a pension may offer their workers a defined benefit (DB) pension, a defined contribution (DC) pension (such as 401(k) plans), or both. This fact sheet summarizes Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data from March 2018 on access to and participation rates in retirement plans among U.S. workers classified by various attributes.

About 70% of all U.S. workers have access to an employer-sponsored pension, and about 54% of U.S. workers participate in an employer-sponsored pension. Access and participation rates vary with various worker attributes. These...

Deeming Resolutions: Budget Enforcement in the Absence of a Budget Resolution

The budget resolution reflects an agreement between the House and Senate on a budgetary plan for the upcoming fiscal year. Once agreed to by both chambers in the exact same form, the budget resolution creates parameters that may be enforced by (1) points of order and (2) using the budget reconciliation process.

When the House and Senate do not reach final agreement on this plan, it may be more difficult for Congress to reach agreement on subsequent budgetary legislation, both within each chamber and between the chambers.

In the absence of agreement on a budget resolution, Congress may...

Japan’s New Emperor and Era

Introduction

On April 30th, the 85-year-old Japanese Emperor, Akihito, is to abdicate after 30 years on the Chrysanthemum throne, becoming the first to do so in over 200 years. The following day his eldest son, Naruhito, is to become the 126th Emperor of Japan. Japanese imperial successions are regarded as times of societal transition and therefore an important political moment. Japan will look to mark the occasion with friends and allies, including at an enthronement ceremony in October to which foreign delegations may be invited. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe invited President...

Selected Homeland Security Issues in the 116th Congress

In 2001, in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, “homeland security” went from being a concept discussed among a relatively small cadre of policymakers and strategic thinkers to one broadly discussed among policymakers, including a broad swath of those in Congress. Debates over how to implement coordinated homeland security policy led to the passage of the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (P.L. 107-296), the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and extensive legislative activity in the ensuing years.

Initially, homeland security was largely seen as...

Terrorism Risk Insurance: Overview and Issue Analysis for the 116th Congress

Prior to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, coverage for losses from such attacks was normally included in general insurance policies without additional cost to the policyholders. Following the attacks, such coverage became expensive, if offered at all. Moreover, some observers feared that the absence of insurance against terrorism loss would have a wider economic impact, because insurance is required to consummate a variety of transactions (e.g., real estate). For example, if real estate deals were not completed due to lack of insurance, this could have ripple effects—such as job...

Memorial Day Speech Resources: Fact Sheet

Memorial Day is a day of reflection and remembrance of those who died while serving in the U.S. military. Many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials and placing flags or wreaths. They may also participate in a Memorial Day parade or hold a family gathering, such as a barbeque. Memorial Day also unofficially marks the beginning of summer.

This guide is designed to assist congressional offices with work related to celebrating Memorial Day.

Tracking Federal Awards: USAspending.gov and Other Data Sources

USAspending.gov, available at http://www.USAspending.gov, is a government source for data on federal awards by state, congressional district (CD), county, and zip code. The awards data in USAspending.gov are provided by federal agencies and represent contracts, grants, loans, and other forms of financial assistance. USAspending.gov also provides tools for examining the broader picture of federal spending obligations by categories, such as budget function, agency, and object class.

Using USAspending.gov to locate and compile accurate data on federal awards can be challenging due, in part,...

Federal Lands and Related Resources: Overview and Selected Issues for the 116th Congress

The Property Clause in the U.S. Constitution (Article IV, §3, clause 2) grants Congress the authority to acquire, dispose of, and manage federal property. The 116th Congress faces multiple policy issues related to federal lands and natural resources. These issues include how much and which land the government should own and how lands and resources should be used and managed. These issues affect local communities, industries, ecosystems, and the nation.

There are approximately 640 million surface acres of federally owned land in the United States. Four agencies (referred to in this report...

Base Closure and Realignment (BRAC): Background and Issues for Congress

Since 1977, statutory thresholds have effectively constrained the President’s ability to close or realign major military installations in the United States. Congress has instead periodically granted temporary authorities—known as a Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC)—that have established independent commissions for the review and approval of basing changes submitted by the Secretary of Defense. These unique and transient authorities last expired on April 16, 2006. There have been five rounds of base closures: 1988, 1991, 1993, 1995, and 2005.

Though Congress has periodically adjusted the...

Selected Homeland Security Issues in the 116th Congress: CRS Experts

In 2001, in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, “homeland security” went from being a concept discussed among a relatively small cadre of policymakers and strategic thinkers to one broadly discussed among policymakers, including a broad swath of those in Congress. Debates over how to implement coordinated homeland security policy led to the passage of the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (P.L. 107-296), the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and extensive legislative activity in the ensuing years.

Initially, homeland security was largely seen as...

Assistance to Firefighters Program: Distribution of Fire Grant Funding

The Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) Program, also known as fire grants or the FIRE Act grant program, was established by Title XVII of the FY2001 National Defense Authorization Act (P.L. 106-398). Currently administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the program provides federal grants directly to local fire departments and unaffiliated Emergency Medical Services (EMS) organizations to help address a variety of equipment, training, and other firefighter-related and EMS needs. AFG also supports fire prevention projects and...

United States Fire Administration: An Overview

The United States Fire Administration (USFA)—which includes the National Fire Academy (NFA)—is currently housed within the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The objective of the USFA is to significantly reduce the nation’s loss of life from fire, while also achieving a reduction in property loss and nonfatal injury due to fire.

The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2019 (P.L. 116-6) provided $45.679 million for USFA, including $1.5 million in the FEMA Procurement, Construction, and Improvements account for the National Emergency...

Navy Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) Program: Background and Issues for Congress

The Aegis ballistic missile defense (BMD) program, which is carried out by the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and the Navy, gives Navy Aegis cruisers and destroyers a capability for conducting BMD operations. Under the FY2020 budget submission, the number of BMD-capable Navy Aegis ships is projected to increase from 38 at the end of FY2018 to 59 at the end of FY2024. BMD-capable Aegis ships operate in European waters to defend Europe from potential ballistic missile attacks from countries such as Iran, and in in the Western Pacific and the Persian Gulf to provide regional defense against...

Federal Disaster Assistance Response and Recovery Programs: Brief Summaries

This report is designed to assist Members of Congress and their staff as they address the needs of their states, communities, and constituents after a disaster. It includes a summary of federal programs that provide federal disaster assistance to individual survivors, states, territories, local governments, and nongovernmental entities following a natural or man-made disaster. A number of federal agencies provide financial assistance through grants, loans, and loan guarantees to assist in the provision of critical services, such as temporary housing, counseling, and infrastructure...

Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response: The SAFER Grant Program

In response to concerns over the adequacy of firefighter staffing, the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Act, known as the SAFER Act, was enacted by the 108th Congress as Section 1057 of the FY2004 National Defense Authorization Act (P.L. 108-136). The SAFER Act authorizes grants to career, volunteer, and combination local fire departments for the purpose of increasing the number of firefighters to help communities meet industry-minimum standards and attain 24-hour staffing to provide adequate protection from fire and fire-related hazards. Also authorized are grants to...

Navy Irregular Warfare and Counterterrorism Operations: Background and Issues for Congress

In the years following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the Navy has carried out a variety of irregular warfare (IW) and counterterrorism (CT) activities. Among the most readily visible of these were operations carried out by Navy sailors serving ashore in the Middle East and Afghanistan, as well as the May 1-2, 2011, U.S. military operation in Abbottabad, Pakistan, that killed Osama bin Laden.

During these years, the Navy took certain actions intended to improve its IW capabilities. For example, the Navy established the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC) informally in...

Ukraine Elects a New President

On April 21, 2019, Ukraine held the second round of its first presidential election since 2014, the year Russia occupied Ukraine’s Crimea region and fostered a separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine. Popular actor-comedian and political novice Volodymyr Zelensky won an overwhelming victory. He defeated incumbent President Petro Poroshenko 73% to 24%. Observers considered the election to be largely free and fair.

The election outcome suggests that Ukraine’s population is highly dissatisfied with politics as usual. Zelensky, 41, ran as an outsider ostensibly untainted by politics or...

Iran Oil Sanctions Exceptions Ended

Overview

On April 22, 2019, the State Department announced that exceptions granted to eight countries enabling them to buy Iranian oil without U.S. penalty would not be renewed when they expire on May 2, 2019. The announcement stated that the global oil market is sufficiently well supplied to permit the move, which “aims to bring Iran’s oil exports to zero, denying the regime its principal source of revenue.” The decision has raised speculation over how effective it will be in reducing Iran’s oil exports, how Iran will react, and potential effects on the global oil market—issues that might...

Child Nutrition Programs: Current Issues

The term child nutrition programs refers to several U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service (USDA-FNS) programs that provide food for children in institutional settings. These include the school meals programs—the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program—as well as the Child and Adult Care Food Program, Summer Food Service Program, Special Milk Program, and Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program.

The most recent child nutrition reauthorization, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (HHFKA; P.L. 111-296), made a number of changes to the child nutrition...

Community Disaster Loans: Homeland Security Issues in the 116th Congress

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The Community Disaster Loan (CDL) program was developed to help local governments manage tax and other revenue shortages following a disaster. Administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), CDLs provide financial liquidity to local governments through a structured loan that may be converted to grants when certain financial conditions are met. CDLs are codified in Section 417 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. §5184, as amended). Modified “non-traditional” CDL programs were developed in response to Hurricanes Rita and...

Sri Lanka’s 2019 Easter Bombings

The Attack

A series of Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka claimed over 350 lives and left over 500 injured. At least 38 of the dead are foreigners, including four Americans. The bombings targeted churches in the capital Colombo, as well as Negombo, and Batticaloa. The Shangri-la, Cinnamon Grand, and Kingsbury Hotels in Colombo were also targeted. A planned attack on a fourth hotel failed and reportedly helped police identify the perpetrators of the attacks. The attacks were carried out by nine Sri Lankan suicide bombers and are the worst violence to strike Sri Lanka since the 2009 end of...

Assessing Commercial Disclosure Requirements under the First Amendment

Federal law contains a wide variety of disclosure requirements, including food labels, securities registrations, and disclosures about prescription drugs in direct-to-consumer advertising. These disclosure provisions require commercial actors to make statements that they otherwise might not, compelling speech and implicating the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment. Nonetheless, while commercial disclosure requirements may regulate protected speech, that fact in and of itself does not render such provisions unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court has historically allowed greater...

The World Oil Market and U.S. Policy: Background and Select Issues for Congress

The United States, as the largest consumer and producer of oil, plays a major role in the world market. Policy decisions can affect the price of oil and petroleum products (e.g., gasoline) for U.S. consumers and companies operating in U.S. oil production, transportation, and refining sectors. Congress considers policies that can affect the world oil market, including trade, sanctions, protection of trade routes, the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR), and alternative fuel standards.

Technological advancements, supportive policies, and other aspects of the U.S. oil industry have reversed a...

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA): Historical Overview, Funding, and Reauthorization

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA; Title IV of P.L. 103-322) was originally enacted in 1994. It addressed congressional concerns about violent crime, and violence against women in particular, in several ways. It allowed for enhanced sentencing of repeat federal sex offenders; mandated restitution to victims of specified federal sex offenses; and authorized grants to state, local, and tribal law enforcement entities to investigate and prosecute violent crimes against women, among other things. VAWA has been reauthorized three times since its original enactment. Most recently, Congress...

Overview of FY2020 Appropriations for Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS)

This report describes actions taken by the Trump Administration and Congress to provide FY2020 appropriations for Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) accounts. The annual CJS appropriations act provides funding for the Department of Commerce, which includes agencies such as the Census Bureau, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST); the Department of Justice (DOJ), which includes agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the...

Army Corps of Engineers: Water Resource Authorization and Project Delivery Processes

At the direction of Congress, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) in the Department of Defense (DOD) undertakes water resource development activities. USACE develops civil works projects principally to improve navigable channels, reduce flood and storm damage, and restore aquatic ecosystems. Congress directs USACE through authorizations and appropriations legislation. Congress often considers USACE authorization legislation biennially and appropriations annually. USACE attracts congressional attention because its projects can have significant local and regional economic benefits and...

Global Measles Vaccination Trends

Congress has long taken an interest in infectious disease prevention and control. Measles is a highly contagious virus that is transmitted through droplets emitted from an infected person when coughing and sneezing. The virus can live for up to two hours in the airspace or on a surface where an infected person coughed or sneezed. Other people can contract the disease if they breathe contaminated air or touch their eyes, nose, or mouth after touching a contaminated surface. Up to 90% of those in the proximity of an infected person who are not immune to the disease will be infected. Symptoms...

Graduation: Fact Sheet

Graduation and commencement ceremonies at U.S. academic institutions are often held in the months of May and June. This guide is designed to assist congressional offices with work related to graduation celebrations. It contains a brief history of the ceremonial tradition and the attire worn, sample speeches by government officials, presidential commencement addresses, and statistical resources on educational attainment and graduation rates from authoritative government sources.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH): Background and Congressional Issues

The National Institutes of Health (NIH), under the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), is the primary federal agency charged with performing and supporting biomedical and behavioral research. In FY2018, NIH used its over $34 billion budget to support more than 300,000 scientists and research personnel working at over 2,500 institutions across the United States and abroad, as well as to conduct biomedical and behavioral research and research training at its own facilities. The agency consists of the Office of the Director, in charge of overall policy and program coordination, and...

Continuing Resolutions: Overview of Components and Practices

The program activities of most federal agencies are generally funded on an annual basis through the enactment of regular appropriations acts. When those annual appropriations acts are not enacted by the beginning of the fiscal year (i.e., by October 1), one or more continuing appropriations acts (commonly known as continuing resolutions or CRs) may be enacted to provide temporary funding to continue certain programs and activities until action on the regular appropriations acts is completed.

Congress has included six main components in CRs. First, CRs have provided funding for certain...

Small Business Administration 504/CDC Loan Guaranty Program

The Small Business Administration (SBA) administers programs to support small businesses, including several loan guaranty programs designed to encourage lenders to provide loans to small businesses “that might not otherwise obtain financing on reasonable terms and conditions.” The SBA’s 504 Certified Development Company (504/CDC) loan guaranty program is administered through nonprofit Certified Development Companies (CDCs). It provides long-term fixed rate financing for major fixed assets, such as land, buildings, equipment, and machinery. Of the total project costs, a third-party lender...

Clean Air Act Issues in the 116th Congress

Review and rollback of Clean Air Act rules to regulate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from power plants, cars and trucks, and the oil and gas sector has been a major focus of the Trump Administration since it took office in 2017. On March 28, 2017, President Trump signed Executive Order 13783, to require the review of regulations and policies that “burden the development or use of domestically produced energy resources.” The E.O. directed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to review the Clean Power Plan (CPP), which set limits on GHG emissions from existing power plants, and...

Brexit Extended

New Deadline Is End of October 2019

The departure of the United Kingdom (UK) from the European Union (EU), known as “Brexit,” was originally scheduled for March 29, 2019. The UK House of Commons has repeatedly rejected the withdrawal agreement that the UK government negotiated with the EU, however, while also opposing the “no-deal” option of leaving the EU without a withdrawal agreement.

On March 22, EU leaders agreed to extend the UK’s departure date to May 22, 2019, provided the UK could approve the agreement by April 12, 2019. As that deadline drew near, EU leaders at an emergency...

Advanced Nuclear Reactors: Technology Overview and Current Issues

All nuclear power in the United States is generated by light water reactors (LWRs), which were commercialized in the 1950s and early 1960s and are now used throughout most of the world. LWRs are cooled by ordinary (“light”) water, which also slows (“moderates”) the neutrons that maintain the nuclear fission chain reaction. High construction costs of large conventional LWRs, concerns about safety raised by the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, and other issues have led to increased interest in unconventional, or “advanced,” nuclear technologies that could be less expensive and safer...

The Federal Communications Commission: Current Structure and Its Role in the Changing Telecommunications Landscape

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is an independent federal agency established by the Communications Act of 1934 (1934 Act, or “Communications Act”). The agency is charged with regulating interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable. The mission of the FCC is to make available for all people of the United States, “without discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, or sex, a rapid, efficient, Nationwide, and worldwide wire and radio communication service with adequate facilities at reasonable charges.”

The...

The Federal Communications Commission: Current Structure and Its Role in the Changing Telecommunications Landscape

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is an independent federal agency established by the Communications Act of 1934 (1934 Act, or “Communications Act”). The agency is charged with regulating interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable. The mission of the FCC is to make available for all people of the United States, “without discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, or sex, a rapid, efficient, Nationwide, and worldwide wire and radio communication service with adequate facilities at reasonable charges.”

The...

Agricultural Conservation in the 2018 Farm Bill

The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (2018 farm bill, P.L. 115-334, Title II) included a number of changes to agricultural conservation programs, including reauthorizing and amending existing programs, directing existing program activities to specific resource concerns, shifting funds within the title, and authorizing a budget-neutral level of funding.

Debate over the conservation title in the 2018 farm bill focused on a number of issues in the different versions in the House- and Senate-passed bills (H.R. 2). These differences were resolved in a House-Senate conference to create the...

Netanyahu’s April 2019 Election Victory: Implications for Israel’s Leadership and U.S. Policy

In elections held on April 9, 2019, the Likud party of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu tied for the most Knesset (parliament) seats. Most observers assess that, in the context of Israel’s political system, Netanyahu will begin a fifth term as prime minister (1996-1999, 2009-present) after assembling a coalition government with his traditional right-leaning and ultra-Orthodox partners (see Figure 1). Netanyahu’s victory came despite a significant challenge from the new Blue and White party—led by former top general Benny Gantz and prominent politician Yair Lapid (a former finance...

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Streamgaging Network: Overview and Issues for Congress

Streamgages are fixed structures at streams, rivers, lakes, and reservoirs that measure water level and related streamflow—the amount of water flowing through a water body over time. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in the Department of the Interior operates streamgages in every state, the District of Columbia, and the territories of Puerto Rico and Guam. The USGS Streamgaging Network encompasses 10,300 streamgages, which record water levels or streamflow for at least a portion of the year. Approximately 8,200 of these streamgages measure streamflow year round as part of the National...

Tax Equity Financing: An Introduction and Policy Considerations

This report provides an introduction to the general tax equity financing mechanism. The term tax equity investment describes transactions that pair the tax credits or other tax benefits generated by a qualifying physical investment with the capital financing associated with that investment. These transactions involve one party agreeing to assign the rights to claim the tax credits to another party in exchange for an equity investment (i.e., cash financing). The exchange is sometimes referred to as “monetizing,” “selling,” or “trading” the tax credits. Importantly, however, the “sale” of...

Forest Management Provisions Enacted in the 115th Congress

The 115th Congress enacted several provisions affecting management of the National Forest System (NFS), administered by the Forest Service (in the Department of Agriculture), and the lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM, in the Department of the Interior). The provisions were enacted through two laws: the Stephen Sepp Wildfire Suppression Funding and Forest Management Activities Act, enacted as Division O of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018 (P.L. 115-141, commonly referred to as the FY2018 omnibus), and the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 (P.L. 115-334, Title...

DHS Budget v. DHS Appropriations: Fact Sheet

(TO BE SUPPRESSED) Department of Homeland Security DHS budget Appropriations FY2004, FY2005, FY2006, FY2007, FY2008, FY2009, FY2010, FY2010, FY2011, FY2012, FY2013, FY2014, FY2015, FY2016, FY2017, FY2018, FY2019, FY2020 funding analysis non-appropriated funding adjustments under the Budget Control Act supplemental mandatory user fee trust fund

SBA’s “8(a) Program”: Overview, History, and Current Issues

The Minority Small Business and Capital Ownership Development Program—commonly known as the “8(a) Program”—provides participating small businesses with training, technical assistance, and contracting opportunities in the form of set-aside and sole-source awards. A set-aside award is a contract in which only certain contractors may compete, whereas a sole-source award is a contract awarded, or proposed for award, without competition. In FY2017, 3,421 8(a) firms were awarded more than $27.1 billion in federal contracts, including $8.0 billion in 8(a) set-aside awards and $8.4 billion in 8(a)...

Strategic Petroleum Reserve: Mandated Sales and Reform

The Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR), administered by the Department of Energy (DOE), has played a role in U.S. energy policy for over 40 years. Over that time, its primary focus has changed from its original intent as world oil market conditions have changed. Originally intended to offset the market power of cartels and prevent economic damage from oil supply disruption, it has become primarily a tool for combatting the fuel market effects of domestic natural disasters like hurricanes. Most recently, U.S. net imports of oil and petroleum products have decreased as a result of the...

International Criminal Court: U.S. Response to Examination of Atrocity Crimes in Afghanistan

On April 5, 2019, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo revoked the U.S. travel visa permitting International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to enter the United States, unless visiting U.N. headquarters in New York, citing legal authority (8 U.S.C. §1182(a)(3)(C)(i)) to restrict entry of persons “whose ... proposed activities in the United States would have potentially serious adverse foreign policy consequences.” Secretary Pompeo explained the reason for the decision was Ms. Bensouda’s possible investigation of allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity in and related...

U.S. Farm Income Outlook for 2019

This report uses the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) farm income projections (as of March 6, 2019) and agricultural trade outlook update (as of February 21, 2019) to describe the U.S. farm economic outlook. According to USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS), national net farm income—a key indicator of U.S. farm well-being—is forecast at $69.4 billion in 2019, up $6.3 billion (+10%) from last year. The forecast rise in 2019 net farm income is the result of an increase in gross returns (up $8.5 billion or +2%)—including continued payments under the trade aid package announced by...

Indian Water Rights Settlements

In the second half of the 19th century, the federal government pursued a policy of confining Indian tribes to reservations. These reservations were either a portion of a tribe’s aboriginal land or an area of land taken out of the public domain and set aside for a tribe. The federal statutes and treaties reserving such land for Indian reservations typically did not address the water needs of these reservations, a fact that has given rise to questions and disputes regarding Indian reserved water rights. Dating to a 1908 Supreme Court ruling, courts generally have held that many tribes have a...

Foreign Aid: An Introduction to U.S. Programs and Policy

Foreign assistance is the largest component of the international affairs budget and is viewed by many as an essential instrument of U.S. foreign policy. On the basis of national security, commercial, and humanitarian rationales, U.S. assistance flows through many federal agencies and supports myriad objectives. These include promoting economic growth, reducing poverty, improving governance, expanding access to health care and education, promoting stability in conflict regions, countering terrorism, promoting human rights, strengthening allies, and curbing illicit drug production and...

U.S. Military Electronic Warfare Research and Development: Recent Funding Projections

The National Defense Strategy Commission identified Electronic Warfare (EW) as a critical capability to ensure the U.S. military remains competitive. In its FY2019 and FY2020 Defense Budget overview documents, the Department of Defense (DOD) identified EW as a priority to improve platform and network survivability; provide advanced jamming techniques to disrupt radars, communications, and command and control systems; and provide measures to defend the space domain and maintain power projection forces.

Even before the release of the Commission report, Congress showed an interest in EW...

Deficits, Debt, and the Economy: An Introduction

The federal government incurs a budget deficit when its total outgoing payments (outlays) exceed the total money it collects (revenues). If instead federal revenues are greater than outlays, then the federal government generates a surplus. Deficits are measured over the course of a defined period of time—in the case of the federal government, a fiscal year.

Debt measurements may be taken at any point in time, and represent the accumulation of all previous government borrowing activity from private citizens, institutions, foreign governments, and other parts of the federal government....

Nuclear Cooperation with Other Countries: A Primer

In order for the United States to engage in significant civilian nuclear cooperation with other states, it must conclude a framework agreement that meets specific requirements under Section 123 of the Atomic Energy Act (AEA). Significant nuclear cooperation includes the export of reactors, critical parts of reactors, and reactor fuel. The AEA also provides for export control licensing procedures and criteria for terminating cooperation. Congressional review is required for Section 123 agreements; the AEA establishes special parliamentary procedures by which Congress may act on a proposed agreement.

The Net Neutrality Debate: Access to Broadband Networks

As congressional policymakers continue to debate telecommunications reform, a major discussion point revolves around what approach should be taken to ensure unfettered access to the internet. The move to place restrictions on the owners of the networks that compose and provide access to the internet, to ensure equal access and nondiscriminatory treatment, is referred to as “net neutrality.” There is no single accepted definition of “net neutrality,” but most agree that any such definition should include the general principles that owners of the networks that compose and provide access to...

Bosnia and Herzegovina: Background and U.S. Policy

Bosnia and Herzegovina (hereafter, “Bosnia”) drew heavily on U.S. support after gaining independence from Yugoslavia in 1992. The United States helped end the Bosnian war (1992-1995), one of the most lethal conflicts in Europe since the Second World War, by leading NATO airstrikes against Bosnian Serb forces, brokering the Dayton Peace Agreement in 1995, and deploying 20,000 U.S. troops. Some Members of Congress became involved in policy debates over these measures, and Congress monitored and at times challenged the Bush and Clinton Administrations’ response through numerous hearings,...

Presidential Terms and Tenure: Perspectives and Proposals for Change

The President and Vice President’s terms of office are prescribed by the Constitution and four of its amendments.

Article II, Section 1, of the Constitution, which came into effect with the convening of the First Congress and inauguration of the first President and Vice President in 1789, sets the terms of these two officers at four years, and does not prohibit their reelection. Four amendments to the Constitution, ratified between 1804 and 1967, have added further conditions to presidential terms and tenure.

The Twelfth Amendment, ratified in 1804, extended the qualifications for...

Cyprus: Reunification Proving Elusive

Four months into 2019, unification talks intended to end the division of Cyprus after 55 years as a politically separated nation and 45 years as a physically divided country have remained suspended since July 2017. Attempts by the United Nations to find common ground between the two Cypriot communities to resume the negotiations have not been successful. The talks have fallen victim to the realities of five decades of separation and both sides’ inability to make the necessary concessions to reach a final settlement. As a result, the long-sought bizonal, bicommunal, federal solution for the...

Title IX and Sexual Harassment: Private Rights of Action, Administrative Enforcement, and Proposed Regulations

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX) provides an avenue of legal relief for victims of sexual abuse and harassment at educational institutions. It bars discrimination “on the basis of sex” in an educational program or activity receiving federal funding. Although Title IX makes no explicit reference to sexual harassment or abuse, the Supreme Court and federal agencies have determined that such conduct can sometimes constitute discrimination in violation of the statute; educational institutions in some circumstances can be held responsible when a teacher sexually harasses...

The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Block Grant: Responses to Frequently Asked Questions

The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant funds a wide range of benefits and services for low-income families with children. TANF was created in the 1996 welfare reform law (P.L. 104-193). This report responds to some frequently asked questions about TANF; it does not describe TANF rules (see, instead, CRS Report RL32748, The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Block Grant: A Primer on TANF Financing and Federal Requirements, by Gene Falk).

TANF Funding and Expenditures. TANF provides fixed funding for the 50 states, the District of Columbia, the...

Timber Harvesting on Federal Lands

Congress has granted some federal land management agencies the authority to sell timber from federal lands. Two agencies, the Forest Service (FS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), conduct timber sales as an authorized use. Together, the FS and the BLM manage 76% of federal forest area. FS manages 144.9 million acres, while BLM manages 37.6 million acres. The other major federal land management agencies, the National Park Service (NPS) and the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), rarely conduct timber sales.

Lands managed by the FS, the National Forest System (NFS), are managed under a...

The Small Business Lending Fund

Congressional interest in small business access to capital has increased in recent years because of concerns that small businesses might be prevented from accessing sufficient capital to enable them to start, continue, or expand operations and create jobs. Some have argued that the federal government should provide additional resources to assist small businesses. Others worry about the long-term adverse economic effects of spending programs that increase the federal deficit. They advocate business tax reduction, reform of financial credit market regulation, and federal fiscal restraint as...

FY2019 Defense Appropriations Act (P.L. 115-245)

The FY2019 Department of Defense Appropriations Act, enacted as Division A of P.L. 115-245, provides $667.3 billion in new budget authority to fund all activities of the Department of Defense (DOD) except for the construction of military facilities and the operation of military family housing complexes.

While the total amount appropriated for DOD for FY2019 was nearly equal to the Administration’s request, the act provides more funding than requested for dozens of weapons acquisition programs, with the gross increase exceeding $10 billion. Those additions are offset by hundreds of...

South Africa: Current Issues, Economy, and U.S. Relations

South Africa is a majority black, multiracial country of nearly 58 million people. It has cordial relations with the United States, notwithstanding some occasional strains, and is the largest U.S. trade partner in Africa. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa is spearheading efforts to address years of weak economic growth and multiple corruption scandals under his predecessor, Jacob Zuma. These issues helped spur Zuma’s resignation in early 2018—prior to a likely vote of no confidence by parliament—and led to the election of Ramaphosa, who was selected to lead the African National...

The Postsecondary Undergraduate Population: Student Income and Demographics

Since the 1950s and the creation of the first federal student aid programs, one aim of federal higher education policy has been to promote access to postsecondary education, particularly for students with financial need. In recent years, the federal government has annually made available more than $100 billion in federal grants, loans, and work-study funds to millions of students to help cover the cost of higher education. As Congress continues to focus on expanding access to postsecondary education through federal student aid policies, understanding various characteristics of the...

“Extraordinary Measures” and the Debt Limit

Following a period of suspension, the statutory debt limit was reinstated on March 2, 2019, at $21.988 trillion, precisely accommodating the federal borrowing undertaken up to that date. Following the debt limit’s reinstatement Treasury Secretary Mnuchin began implementing “extraordinary measures” to delay a binding debt limit. Secretary Mnuchin had informed Congress of his intention to implement these measures in a February 21, 2019, letter to Congress. Extraordinary measures were last implemented from March 2017 through September 2017 and from December 2017 through February 2018, until...

The Global Economy: Is Slower Growth Ahead?

Recent economic forecasts project a mild slowing in global economic growth in 2019, centered mostly in developed economies and Asia, according the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), as indicated in Table 1. The IMF April 2019 forecast of global economic growth in 2019 and 2020 projects a growth rate of 3.3% and 3.6%, respectively, down about 0.2 percentage points (pp) from previous forecasts. It also forecasts global trade growth of about 3.4%, and a fall in energy prices of about 13%. IMF April 2019 forecast for global...

FY2020 Funding for Transit Could Be Decreased Due to Highway Trust Fund Law

Unless legislative action is taken, formula funding for the federal transit program could be decreased by approximately $1 billion in FY2020, roughly 12% from the amount authorized in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act (P.L. 114-94). This could lead to reductions in federal grants to local transit agencies for purchases of new buses, railcars, and other facilities, the upkeep of existing facilities, and, in the case of many smaller systems, for operating expenses. In a typical year, almost 80% of federal transit funding is distributed by formula.

The potential funding...

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), Reinsurance, and Catastrophe Bonds

Insurance generally serves to transfer risk from one entity who does not want to bear that risk to another entity that does. An initial insurance purchase, such as homeowners buying a policy to cover damage to their home, however, is often only the first transfer of that risk. The initial (or primary) insurer may then transfer (or cede) some or all of this risk to another company or investor, such as a reinsurer. Reinsurers may also further transfer (or retrocede) risks to other reinsurers. Such risk transfers are, on the whole, a net cost for primary insurers, just as purchasing insurance...

Qatar: Governance, Security, and U.S. Policy

The State of Qatar has employed its ample financial resources to exert regional influence separate from and independent of Saudi Arabia, the de facto leader of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Oman), an alliance of six Gulf monarchies. Qatar has intervened in several regional conflicts, including in Syria and Libya, and has engaged both Sunni Islamist and Iran-backed Shiite groups in Lebanon, Sudan, the Gaza Strip, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Qatar has maintained consistent dialogue with Iran while also supporting U.S. and GCC...

Marine Corps Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV): Background and Issues for Congress

On January 6, 2011, after spending approximately $3 billion in developmental funding, the Marine Corps cancelled the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) program due to poor reliability demonstrated during operational testing and excessive cost growth. Because the EFV was intended to replace the 40-year-old Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAV), the Pentagon pledged to move quickly to develop a “more affordable and sustainable” vehicle to replace the EFV. The Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV) is intended to replace the AAV, incorporating some EFV capabilities but in a more practical and...

The Yield Curve and Predicting Recessions

Economists and financial markets closely monitor interest rates in hopes of gleaning information about the path of the economy. One measure of particular interest is the “yield curve.” Recently, the yield curve associated with U.S. Treasuries inverted. This Insight discusses possible explanations for the inversion, including whether the inversion is signaling that the economy will enter a recession.

What Is the Yield Curve?

A yield curve plots the interest rates on various short-term, medium-term, and long-term bonds by the same issuer. Normally, short-term interest rates are lower than...

Selected Agency Budget Justifications for FY2020

This report provides a convenient listing of online FY2020 agency budget justification submissions for all 15 executive branch departments and 9 selected independent agencies. In most cases, budget justifications contain more detailed descriptions of the proposals and programs that are provided in the President’s budget submissions.

This report will be updated to reflect the current budget justifications submissions for the forthcoming fiscal year.

FY2020 Budget Documents: Internet and GPO Availability

Every year the President submits a series of volumes to Congress containing the President’s proposed budget for the coming fiscal year. The President’s submission is required on or after the first Monday in January, but no later than the first Monday in February (31 U.S.C. §1105(a)). This year the President released the budget submission, in two installments, on March 11, and March 18, 2019.

This report provides brief descriptions of the FY2020 budget volumes and related documents, together with internet addresses, Government Publishing Office (GPO) stock numbers, and prices for obtaining...

Water Infrastructure Financing: History of EPA Appropriations

The principal federal program to aid municipal wastewater treatment plant construction is authorized in the Clean Water Act (CWA). Established as a grant program in 1972, it now capitalizes state loan programs through the clean water state revolving loan fund (CWSRF) program. Since FY1972, appropriations have totaled $98 billion.

In 1996, Congress amended the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA, P.L. 104-182) to authorize a similar state loan program for drinking water to help systems finance projects needed to comply with drinking water regulations and to protect public health. Since FY1997,...

Department of State, Foreign Operations Appropriations: A Guide to Component Accounts

The annual Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs (SFOPS) appropriations legislation funds many of the nondefense international affairs activities of the United States. The State Department portion makes up about one-third of the funding, and the Foreign Operations accounts comprise the remainder. SFOPS is one of 12 annual appropriations acts that fund the federal government each fiscal year.

Congress appropriated SFOPS in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2019 (P.L. 116-6), under Division F, “Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs...

SBA Office of Advocacy: Overview, History, and Current Issues

The Office of Advocacy (Advocacy) is an “independent” office within the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) that advances “the views and concerns of small businesses before Congress, the White House, federal agencies, the federal courts, and state and local policymakers as appropriate.” The Chief Counsel for Advocacy (Chief Counsel) directs the office and is appointed by the President from civilian life with the advice and consent of the Senate.

Advocacy is a relatively small office with a relatively large mandate—to represent the interests of small business in the regulatory...

CRS Products and Experts on North Korea

North Korea has posed one of the most persistent U.S. foreign policy challenges of the post-Cold War period. With recent advances in its nuclear and missile capabilities under leader Kim Jong-un, North Korea has become a grave security threat to the United States and its allies. Beginning in January 2018, North Korea launched a diplomatic campaign of engagement with South Korea, the United States, and China. Over the first 10 months of 2018, Kim held three summits with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, three with Chinese President Xi Jinping, and one with President Donald Trump, in...

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Named a Terrorist Organization

Overview

On April 8, 2019, President Trump announced his intent to name Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). Administration officials attributed the designation to the IRGC’s being an “active and enthusiastic participant in acts of terror,” including the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut and the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers complex in Saudi Arabia.

The designation, which is subject to congressional review, represents the first time the United States has designated an official military organization of a foreign...

Women in Congress, 1917-2019: Service Dates and Committee Assignments by Member, and Lists by State and Congress

In total 365 women have been elected or appointed to Congress, 247 Democrats and 118 Republicans. These figures include six nonvoting Delegates, one each from Guam, Hawaii, the District of Columbia, and American Samoa, and two from the U.S. Virgin Islands, as well as one Resident Commissioner from Puerto Rico. Of these 365 women, there have been 309 (211 Democrats, 98 Republicans) women elected only to the House of Representatives; 40 (25 Democrats, 15 Republicans) women elected or appointed only to the Senate; and 16 (11 Democrats, 5 Republicans) women who have served in both houses. A...

The Evolving Use of Disaster Housing Assistance and the Roles of the Disaster Housing Assistance Program (DHAP) and the Individuals and Households Program (IHP)

For nearly one year following Hurricane Maria in 2017, some disaster survivors from Puerto Rico were housed in hotels/motels through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA’s) Transitional Sheltering Assistance (TSA) program. This was due to multiple program extensions (including by court order), although TSA was intended to provide short-term (i.e., 5-14 days, extendable for up to 6 months) accommodations. As TSA was ending, some disaster survivors still lacked longer-term housing, causing housing advocacy organizations and Members of Congress (also here and here) to call upon...

Jordan: Background and U.S. Relations

The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is considered a key U.S. partner in the Middle East. Although the United States and Jordan have never been linked by a formal treaty, they have cooperated on a number of regional and international issues over the years. Jordan’s strategic importance to the United States is evident given ongoing instability in neighboring Syria and Iraq, Jordan’s 1994 peace treaty with Israel, and uncertainty over the trajectory of Palestinian politics. Jordan also is a longtime U.S. partner in global counterterrorism operations. U.S.-Jordanian military, intelligence, and...

Women in Congress: Statistics and Brief Overview

A record 131 women currently serve in the 116th Congress. There are 106 women serving in the House (including Delegates and the Resident Commissioner), 91 Democrats and 15 Republicans. There are 25 women in the Senate, 17 Democrats and 8 Republicans.

These 131 women surpass the previous record of 115 women at the close of the 115th Congress. The numbers of women serving fluctuated during the 115th Congress; there were 109 women initially sworn in, 5 women subsequently elected to the House, 2 appointed to the Senate, and 1 woman in the House who died in office.

The very first woman...

Agricultural Provisions of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement

On September 30, 2018, the Trump Administration announced the conclusion of the renegotiations of the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the proposed United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). If approved by Congress and ratified by Canada and Mexico, USMCA would modify and possibly replace NAFTA, which entered into force January 1, 1994. NAFTA provisions are structured as three separate bilateral agreements: one between Canada and the United States, a second between Mexico and the United States, and a third between Canada and Mexico.

Under NAFTA, bilateral agricultural...

National Museums: In Brief

Of the more than 35,000 museums in the United States, some are termed “national” museums. Some national museums are authorized by Congress and operated by the federal government. However, most national museums are private museums, funded and operated without government involvement. At times, Congress has acted to designate certain private museums as national museums. Such congressional designation of private museums is honorific and recognizes a museum as being of national importance. Recently, the 115th Congress passed P.L. 115-91 to designate the National Museum of World War II Aviation...

Libya: Military Moves Challenge U.S.-Backed Transition Plan

On April 4, 2019, Khalifa Haftar, the commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA) coalition that has controlled eastern Libya with foreign military and financial support since 2014, ordered forces loyal to him to begin a unilateral military operation to secure the capital, Tripoli. Tripoli is the seat of the Government of National Accord (GNA), an interim body recognized by the United States and United Nations (U.N.) Security Council as Libya’s legitimate governing entity. In response to LNA movements, GNA Prime Minister-designate Fayez al Serraj mobilized pro-GNA forces. Fighting is...

Israel: Background and U.S. Relations in Brief

Strong relations between the United States and Israel have led to bilateral cooperation in many areas. Matters of particular significance to U.S.-Israel relations include Israel’s ability to address the threats it faces in its region. Shared U.S.-Israel concerns about Iran and its allies on the nuclear issue and in Syria and Lebanon. Israeli-Palestinian issues. Israeli domestic political issues, including elections scheduled for 2019. Israel relies on a number of strengths to manage potential threats to its security and existence. It maintains conventional military superiority relative...

Multinational Species Conservation Fund: FY2020 Appropriations

International species conservation is addressed by several funds, including those under the Multinational Species Conservation Fund (MSCF) and the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Fund (NMBCF). These funds are implemented by relatively small programs within the Fish and Wildlife Service, yet generate significant constituent interest, chiefly concerning their funding levels. This report describes the funds and summarizes recent and proposed appropriations levels. The MSCF is sub-divided into several smaller funds that address certain species. In particular, the MSCF provides funding...

The U.S. Export Control System and the Export Control Reform Initiative

Difficulty with striking an appropriate balance between national security and export competitiveness has made the subject of export controls controversial for decades. Through the Arms Export Control Act (AECA), the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), the Export Controls Act of 2018 (ECA), and other authorities, the United States restricts the export of defense articles; dual-use goods and technology; certain nuclear materials and technology; and items that would assist in the proliferation of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons or the missile technology used to...

The New START Treaty: Central Limits and Key Provisions

The United States and Russia signed the New START Treaty on April 8, 2010. After more than 20 hearings, the U.S. Senate gave its advice and consent to ratification on December 22, 2010, by a vote of 71-26. Both houses of the Russian parliament—the Duma and Federation Council—approved the treaty in late January 2011 and it entered into force on February 5, 2011. Both parties met the treaty’s requirement to complete the reductions by February 5, 2018. The treaty is due to expire in February 2021, unless both parties agree to extend it for no more than five years.

New START provides the...

Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act: Understanding Apportionments for States and Territories

The Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act (16 U.S.C. §§669 et seq.), enacted in 1937 and now known as the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act, provides funding for states and territories to support wildlife restoration, conservation, and hunter education and safety programs. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), within the Department of the Interior, administers Pittman-Robertson. All 50 states (but not the District of Columbia) as well as the 5 inhabited U.S. territories receive Pittman-Robertson funds.

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Funding for FWS to carry out Pittman-Robertson programs comes from...

SBA Small Business Investment Company Program

The Small Business Administration’s (SBA’s) Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) program is designed to enhance small business access to venture capital by stimulating and supplementing “the flow of private equity capital and long-term loan funds which small-business concerns need for the sound financing of their business operations and for their growth, expansion, and modernization, and which are not available in adequate supply.” Facilitating the flow of capital to small businesses to stimulate the national economy was, and remains, the SBIC program’s primary objective.

As of...

SBA Office of the National Ombudsman: Overview, History, and Current Issues

The Office of the National Ombudsman was created in 1996 as part of P.L. 104-121, the Contract with America Advancement Act of 1996 (Title II, the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996 [SBREFA]). Housed within the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), the office’s primary purpose is to provide small businesses, small government entities (those serving populations of less than 50,000), and small nonprofit organizations that believe they have experienced unfair or excessive regulatory compliance or enforcement actions (such as repetitive audits or investigations,...

Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA): Background and Funding

Family violence broadly refers to acts of physical and sexual violence perpetrated by individuals against family members. The federal government has responded to various forms of family violence, including violence involving spouses and other intimate partners, children, and the elderly. The focus of this report is on the federal response to domestic violence under the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA). “Domestic violence” is used in the report to describe violence among intimate partners, including those involved in dating relationships. Generally speaking, victims tend...

Trends in the Timing and Size of DHS Appropriations: In Brief

(TO BE SUPPRESSED) Department of Homeland Security DHS budget Appropriations FY2020, FY2019, FY2018, FY2017. FY2016, FY2015, FY2014, FY2013 funding analysis

National Institutes of Health (NIH) Funding: FY1994-FY2020

[The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is the primary federal agency charged with conducting and supporting biomedical and behavioral research. About 80% of the NIH budget funds extramural research through grants, contracts, and other awards. Almost all of NIH’s funding is provided in the annual Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies appropriations act.]

[Key terms: National Institutes of Health, NIH, NIH budget, NIH funding,]

Senate Consideration of Presidential Nominations: Committee and Floor Procedure

Article II, Section 2, of the Constitution provides that the President shall appoint officers of the United States “by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate.” This report describes the process by which the Senate provides advice and consent on presidential nominations, including receipt and referral of nominations, committee practices, and floor procedure.

Committees play the central role in the process through investigations and hearings. Senate Rule XXXI provides that nominations shall be referred to appropriate committees “unless otherwise ordered.” Most nominations are...

Civil Rights at School: Agency Enforcement of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits federally funded programs, activities, and institutions from discriminating based on race, color, or national origin. In its current form, largely unchanged since its adoption, Title VI incorporates a number of unique features. Besides barring federally funded programs from discriminating based on race, Title VI also authorizes and directs all federal funding agencies to promulgate rules effectuating that nondiscrimination mandate. Those rules were also made subject to presidential approval, an authority since delegated to the Attorney...

Medicare: Part B Premiums

Medicare is a federal insurance program that pays for covered health care services of most individuals aged 65 and older and certain disabled persons. In calendar year 2019, the program is expected to cover about 61 million persons (52 million aged and 9 million disabled) at a total cost of $798 billion. Most individuals (or their spouses) aged 65 and older who have worked in covered employment and paid Medicare payroll taxes for 40 quarters receive premium-free Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance). Those entitled to Medicare Part A (regardless of whether they are eligible for premium-free...

Small Business Management and Technical Assistance Training Programs

The Small Business Administration (SBA) has provided technical and managerial assistance to small businesses since it began operations in 1953. Initially, the SBA provided its own small business management and technical assistance training programs. Over time, the SBA has relied increasingly on third parties to provide that training.

Congressional interest in the SBA’s management and technical assistance training programs ($226.7 million in FY2019) has increased in recent years, primarily because these programs are viewed as a means to assist small businesses create and retain jobs. These...

Drug Pricing and Intellectual Property Law: A Legal Overview for the 116th Congress

Intellectual property (IP) rights play an important role in the development and pricing of pharmaceutical products such as prescription drugs and biologics. In order to encourage innovation, IP law grants the rights holder a temporary monopoly on a particular invention or product, potentially enabling him to charge higher-than-competitive prices. IP rights, if sufficiently limited, are typically justified as necessary to allow pharmaceutical manufacturers the ability to recoup substantial costs in research and development, including clinical trials and other tests necessary to obtain...

Small Business Administration (SBA) Funding: Overview and Recent Trends

This report examines the Small Business Administration’s (SBA’s) appropriations (new budget authority, minus rescissions and sequestration) over time, focusing on developments and trends since FY2000. It also provides total available funding (which includes carryover from the prior fiscal year, carryover into the next fiscal year, account transfers, rescissions, and sequestration) and, for entrepreneurial development noncredit programs, actual and anticipated expenditures for comparative purposes.

SBA appropriations, as a whole, have varied significantly from year to year since FY2000 and...

Increasing the BCA Spending Limits: Characteristics of Previously Enacted Legislation

The Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA; P.L. 112-25), enacted on August 2, 2011, generated annual statutory discretionary spending limits for defense and nondefense spending that are in effect through FY2021. If appropriations are enacted that exceed a limit for a fiscal year, across-the-board reductions (i.e., sequestration) are triggered to eliminate the excess spending within that category. The BCA further stipulates that certain discretionary spending—such as appropriations designated as emergency requirements or for overseas contingency operations—are effectively exempt from the limits....

Small Business Administration HUBZone Program

The Historically Underutilized Business Zone Empowerment Contracting (HUBZone) program provides participating small businesses located in areas with low income, high poverty, or high unemployment with contracting opportunities in the form of set-asides, sole-source awards, and price-evaluation preferences. Its primary objectives are job creation and increased capital investment in distressed communities. Firms must be certified by the SBA to participate in the program. As of April 3, 2019, the SBA’s Dynamic Small Business Search database included 6,769 firms with active HUBZone...

Virtual Currencies and Money Laundering: Legal Background, Enforcement Actions, and Legislative Proposals

Law enforcement officials have described money laundering—the process of making illegally obtained proceeds appear legitimate—as the “lifeblood” of organized crime. Recently, money launderers have increasingly turned to a new technology to conceal the origins of illegally obtained proceeds: virtual currency. Virtual currencies like Bitcoin, Ether, and Ripple are digital representations of value that, like ordinary currency, function as media of exchange, units of account, and stores of value. However, unlike ordinary currencies, virtual currencies are not legal tender, meaning they cannot...

Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD): FY2020 Budget Request Fact Sheet

Overview of FY2020 President’s Budget request for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Block Grant: A Legislative History

The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant was created in the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (P.L. 104-193). It was born out of the welfare reform debates that spanned four decades, from the 1960s through the 1990s. These debates focused on the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program, which provided federal funding for state-run programs delivering assistance to needy families with children, with most families receiving assistance historically being headed by single mothers who were not working. The welfare reform...

Section 232 Investigations: Overview and Issues for Congress

President Trump has used Section 232 authority to apply new tariffs to steel and aluminum imports and potentially on automobile and automobile parts and other sectors currently under investigation. These actions have raised a number of policy issues and some Members of Congress have introduced legislation to revise various Section 232 authorities. Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 (19 U.S.C. §1862) provides the President with the ability to impose restrictions on certain imports based on an affirmative determination by the Department of Commerce (Commerce) that the product...

U.S. Farm Program Eligibility and Payment Limits Under the 2018 Farm Bill (P.L. 115-334)

Under the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 (P.L. 115-334; 2018 farm bill), U.S. farm program participants—whether individuals or multiperson legal entities—must meet specific eligibility requirements to receive benefits under certain farm programs. Some requirements are common across most programs, while others are specific to individual programs. In addition, program participants are subject to annual payment limits that vary across different combinations of farm programs. Federal farm support programs and risk management programs, along with their current eligibility requirements and...

House and Senate Restaurants: Current Operations and Issues for Congress

Dining facilities in the Capitol and in House and Senate office buildings provide an essential convenience for Members of Congress and congressional staff, enabling them to easily obtain meals, beverages, and snacks, and quickly return to work. By providing an efficient way to meet congressional dining needs during unpredictable workdays, the restaurant systems help facilitate the legislative and representational work of Congress. These restaurants also provide spaces for constituents and other visitors to meet with staff and Members of Congress, or to purchase refreshments. House and...

HUD FY2019 Appropriations: In Brief

The programs and activities of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) are designed primarily to address housing problems faced by households with very low incomes or other special housing needs and to expand access to homeownership. Nearly all of the department’s budget comes from discretionary appropriations provided each year in the annual appropriations acts, typically as a part of the Transportation, HUD, and Related Agencies appropriations bill (THUD).

On February 12, 2018, the Trump Administration submitted its FY2019 budget request to Congress, including $41.4 billion...

FY2018 State Grants Under Title I-A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), most recently comprehensively amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA; P.L. 114-95), is the primary source of federal aid to K-12 education. The Title I-A program is the largest grant program authorized under the ESEA and was funded at $15.8 billion for FY2018. It is designed to provide supplementary educational and related services to low-achieving and other students attending elementary and secondary schools with relatively high concentrations of students from low-income families.

Under current law, the U.S. Department of...

Iran’s Nuclear Program: Tehran’s Compliance with International Obligations

Several U.N. Security Council resolutions adopted between 2006 and 2010 required Iran to cooperate fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA’s) investigation of its nuclear activities, suspend its uranium enrichment program, suspend its construction of a heavy-water reactor and related projects, and ratify the Additional Protocol to its IAEA safeguards agreement. However, Tehran has implemented various restrictions on, and provided the IAEA with additional information about, its nuclear program pursuant to the July 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which...

House Committee on Ethics: A Brief History of Its Evolution and Jurisdiction

The United States Constitution (Article 1, Section 5, clause 1) provides each House of Congress with the sole authority to establish rules, judge membership requirements, and punish and expel Members. From 1789 to 1967, the House of Representatives dealt with disciplinary action against Members on a case-by-case basis, often forming ad-hoc committees to investigate and make recommendations when acts of wrongdoing were brought to the chamber’s attention. Events of the 1960s, including the investigation of Representative Adam Clayton Powell for alleged misuse of Education and Labor Committee...

Georgia: Background and U.S. Policy

Georgia is one of the United States’ closest partners among the states that gained their independence after the USSR collapsed in 1991. With a history of strong economic aid and security cooperation, the United States has deepened its strategic partnership with Georgia since Russia’s 2008 invasion of Georgia and 2014 invasion of Ukraine. U.S. policy expressly supports Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, and Georgia is a leading recipient of U.S. aid to Europe and Eurasia.

Many observers consider Georgia to be one of the most...

Introduction to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) was established by the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968 (NFIA, 42 U.S.C. §4001 et seq.), and was most recently reauthorized to May 31, 2019, through a series of short-term reauthorizations. The general purpose of the NFIP is both to offer primary flood insurance to properties with significant flood risk, and to reduce flood risk through the adoption of floodplain management standards. Communities volunteer to participate in the NFIP in order to have access to federal flood insurance, and in return are required to adopt minimum standards.

The...

Arms Sales: Congressional Review Process

This report reviews the process and procedures that currently apply to congressional consideration of foreign arms sales proposed by the President. This includes consideration of proposals to sell major defense equipment, defense articles and services, or the retransfer to third-party states of such military items. Under Section 36(b) of the Arms Export Control Act (AECA), Congress must be formally notified 30 calendar days before the Administration can take the final steps to conclude a government-to-government foreign military sale of major defense equipment valued at $14 million or...

Cuba: U.S. Policy in the 116th Congress

Political and economic developments in Cuba, a one-party authoritarian state with a poor human rights record, frequently have been the subject of intense congressional concern since the Cuban revolution in 1959. Current Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel succeeded Raúl Castro in April 2018, but Castro continues to head Cuba’s Communist Party. Over the past decade, Cuba has implemented gradual market-oriented economic policy changes, although it has not taken enough action to foster sustainable economic growth. Most observers do not anticipate major policy changes under Díaz-Canel, at least...

Cybersecurity: Homeland Security Issues for the 116th Congress

Introduction

For policymaking purposes, cybersecurity can be considered the security of cyberspace. Taking this broad view allows policymakers to examine discrete elements of cybersecurity and determine which parts to address through the legislative process. Cyberspace, itself, includes the infrastructure necessary for the internet to work (e.g., wires, modems, and servers), the services used via the Internet (e.g., web applications and websites), the devices on the network (e.g., computers and Internet-of-Things devices), and the users of those devices. Cybersecurity involves many...

Low Interest Rates, Part 1: Economic and Fiscal Implications

Since the 2007-2009 financial crisis, U.S. interest rates have been unusually low by historical standards. This Insight discusses the implications of low interest rates for households and fiscal policy. It is the first of three parts. Low Interest Rates, Part 2 discusses implications for monetary policy. Low Interest Rates, Part 3 discusses potential causes.

Low Interest Rates

When describing interest rate trends, each debt instrument is different. The interest rate on every debt instrument is determined by market supply and demand for that instrument, and each instrument has different...

DOT’s Federal Pipeline Safety Program: Background and Key Issues for Congress

The U.S. energy pipeline network is composed of approximately 3 million miles of pipeline transporting natural gas, oil, and other hazardous liquids. Recent incidents in California, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and other states have drawn criticism from stakeholders and have raised concerns in Congress about pipeline safety. The Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) 2015 Quadrennial Energy Review also highlighted pipeline safety as an issue for the nation’s energy infrastructure. Recent incident statistics suggest there is opportunity for safety improvement.

The federal pipeline safety program is...

Iraqi and Afghan Special Immigrant Visa Programs

Congress has enacted a series of legislative provisions since 2006 to enable certain Iraqi and Afghan nationals to become U.S. lawful permanent residents (LPRs). These provisions make certain Iraqis and Afghans who worked as translators or interpreters, or who were employed by, or on behalf of, the U.S. government in Iraq or Afghanistan, eligible for special immigrant visas (SIVs). Special immigrants comprise a category of permanent employment-based admissions under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). While the special immigrant category is unique, it does bear some similarities to...

Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies: Overview of FY2019 Appropriations

The Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies appropriations bill contains funding for more than 30 agencies and entities. They include most of the Department of the Interior (DOI) as well as agencies within other departments, such as the Forest Service within the Department of Agriculture and the Indian Health Service within the Department of Health and Human Services. The bill also provides funding for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), arts and cultural agencies, and other organizations and entities. Issues for Congress included determining the amount, terms, and conditions of...

Temporary Protected Status: Overview and Current Issues

When civil unrest, violence, or natural disasters erupt in countries around the world, concerns arise over the ability of foreign nationals in the United States from those countries to safely return. Provisions exist in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) to offer temporary protected status (TPS) and other forms of relief from removal under specified circumstances. The Secretary of Homeland Security has the discretion to designate a country for TPS for periods of 6 to 18 months and can extend these periods if the country continues to meet the conditions for designation. Congress has...

America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 (P.L. 115-270): Drinking Water Provisions

Congress has long deliberated on the condition of drinking water infrastructure and drinking water quality as well as the financial and technical challenges some public water systems face in ensuring the delivery of safe and adequate water supplies. Several events and circumstances—including source water contamination incidents; water infrastructure damage from natural disasters, such as hurricanes; detection of elevated lead levels in tap water in various cities and schools; and the nationwide need to repair or replace aging drinking water infrastructure—have increased national attention...

Congressional Participation in Litigation: Article III and Legislative Standing

Houses, committees, and Members of Congress periodically seek to initiate or participate in litigation to, among other purposes, advance their legislative objectives, argue that the Executive is violating their legislative prerogatives, or defend core institutional interests. However, the constitutionally based doctrine of “standing”—which requires a litigant seeking federal judicial relief to demonstrate (1) a concrete and particularized and actual or imminent injury-in-fact (2) that is traceable to the allegedly unlawful actions of the opposing party and (3) that is redressable by a...

Consumer Credit Reporting, Credit Bureaus, Credit Scoring, and Related Policy Issues

The consumer data industry—generally referred to as credit reporting agencies or credit bureaus—collects and subsequently provides information to firms about the behavior of consumers when they participate in various financial transactions. Firms use consumer information to screen for the risk that consumers will engage in behaviors that are costly for businesses. For example, lenders rely upon credit reports and scores to determine the likelihood that prospective borrowers will repay their loans. Insured depository institutions (i.e., banks and credit unions) rely on consumer data service...

Oman: Politics, Security, and U.S. Policy

The Sultanate of Oman has been a strategic ally of the United States since 1980, when it became the first Persian Gulf state to sign a formal accord permitting the U.S. military to use its facilities. Oman has hosted U.S. forces during every U.S. military operation in the region since then, and it is a partner in U.S. efforts to counter regional terrorism and related threats. Oman’s ties to the United States are unlikely to loosen even after its ailing leader, Sultan Qaboos bin Sa’id Al Said, leaves the scene. Qaboos underwent cancer treatment abroad during 2014-2015, and his frail...

Social Security: Major Decisions in the House and Senate Since 1935

The Social Security program, enacted in 1935, has been amended numerous times. Lists and summaries of individual major Social Security amendments may illuminate the tone and context of the debate of the program in the House and Senate. Major statutory decisions made by Congress on the Social Security program, vote information, summaries of major legislative actions, and descriptions of floor amendments and congressional debate may be informative to current discussions of the Social Security program.

During the 115th Congress, lawmakers enacted several pieces of Social Security legislation...

Trade Related Agencies: FY2019 Appropriations, Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (CJS)

The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2019 (P.L. 116-6), was signed into law on February 15, 2019. The act included a total of $647.0 million in funding for three trade-related agencies under the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (CJS) account—the International Trade Administration (ITA), the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC), and the office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR). This represents a 0.2% decrease from FY2018 appropriations. For FY2019, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2019, included $484.0 million in direct appropriations for ITA (a 0.4%...

Assessing NATO’s Value

On April 4, 2019, foreign ministers from the 29 member states of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) are to gather in Washington, DC, to mark the 70th anniversary of the North Atlantic Treaty (also known as the Washington Treaty). NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg is to address a joint session of Congress on April 3, 2019, the first ever to do so. Congress was instrumental in creating NATO in 1949 and has played a critical role in shaping U.S. policy toward the alliance ever since.

A key goal of the 70th anniversary meeting will be to highlight NATO’s past successes and...

House Office of Congressional Ethics: History, Authority, and Procedures

The House Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) was established on March 11, 2008, with the passage of H.Res. 895. It was most recently reauthorized by the House as part of the rules package (H.Res. 6) adopted by the 116th Congress on January 3, 2019.

The office’s establishment followed years of efforts by groups within and outside Congress to create an independent entity to investigate allegations of misconduct by Members, officers, and employees of Congress. During the 110th Congress (2007-2008), Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader John Boehner created the bipartisan...

Agricultural Disaster Assistance

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) offers several programs to help farmers recover financially from natural disasters, including drought and floods. All the programs have permanent authorization, and one requires a federal disaster designation (the emergency loan program). Most programs receive mandatory funding amounts that are “such sums as necessary” and are not subject to annual discretionary appropriations.

The federal crop insurance program offers subsidized policies designed to protect crop producers from risks associated with adverse weather, as well as weather-related plant...

U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF): Background and Issues for Congress

Special Operations Forces (SOF) play a significant role in U.S. military operations and, in recent years, have been given greater responsibility for planning and conducting worldwide counterterrorism operations. U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) has about 70,000 Active Duty, National Guard, and reserve personnel from all four services and Department of Defense (DOD) civilians assigned to its headquarters, its four service component commands, and eight sub-unified commands.

In 2013, based on a request from USSOCOM (with the concurrence of Geographic and Functional Combatant...

India’s 2019 National Elections: A Preview

Overview

India, a populous South Asian federal republic, is about to undertake the largest democratic exercise in human history in seating a new lower house of Parliament, the 545-seat Lok Sabha. The numbers involved can inspire awe: there are 880 million eligible voters in the country’s 29 states and 7 union territories. Five phases of voting will begin on April 11; results are due May 23. The last polls in 2014 saw about 540 million voters choose from among more than 8,250 candidates representing 464 parties. Incumbent Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP or...

The 10-20-30 Provision: Defining Persistent Poverty Counties

Antipoverty interventions that provide resources to local communities, based on the characteristics of those communities, have been of interest to Congress. One such policy, dubbed the “10-20-30 provision,” was implemented in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA, P.L. 111-5). Title I, Section 105 of ARRA required the Secretary of Agriculture to allocate at least 10% of funds from three rural development program accounts to persistent poverty counties; that is, to counties that have had poverty rates of 20% or more for the past 30 years, as measured by the 1980, 1990,...

Overview of Federal Housing Assistance Programs and Policy

The federal government has been involved in providing housing assistance to lower-income households since the 1930s. In the beginning, the federal government played a role in supporting the mortgage market (through establishment of the Federal Housing Administration [FHA] and the government-sponsored enterprises) and in promoting construction of low-rent public housing for lower-income families through local public housing authorities (PHAs). Over time, the federal government has shifted away from providing construction-based subsidies toward providing rental subsidies, and private...

Firefighter Assistance Grants: Homeland Security Issues in the 116th Congress

Background

Structural firefighting—which typically refers to fighting fires in residential, commercial, and other types of buildings—is primarily the responsibility of local governments. During the 1990s, shortfalls in state and local budgets, coupled with increased responsibilities of local fire departments, led many in the fire service community to call for additional financial support from the federal government.

In response, Congress established firefighter assistance grant programs within the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide additional support for local fire...

Congressional Subpoenas: Enforcing Executive Branch Compliance

Congress gathers much of the information necessary to oversee the implementation of existing laws or to evaluate whether new laws are necessary from the executive branch. While executive branch officials comply with most congressional requests for information, there are times when the executive branch chooses to resist disclosure.

When Congress finds an inquiry blocked by the withholding of information by the executive branch, or where the traditional process of negotiation and accommodation is inappropriate or unavailing, a subpoena—either for testimony or documents—may be used to compel...

Free Speech and the Regulation of Social Media Content

As the Supreme Court has recognized, social media sites like Facebook and Twitter have become important venues for users to exercise free speech rights protected under the First Amendment. Commentators and legislators, however, have questioned whether these social media platforms are living up to their reputation as digital public forums. Some have expressed concern that these sites are not doing enough to counter violent or false speech. At the same time, many argue that the platforms are unfairly banning and restricting access to potentially valuable speech.

Currently, federal law does...

Defining Domestic Violence

In 2018, the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) changed the expansive domestic violence (DV) definition that appeared on its website to the more narrow statutory definition used for grant programs. There is some confusion as to the meaning and implication of OVW’s change. In the 116th Congress, legislation has been introduced that would amend the definition used in the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) grant programs—the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2019 (H.R. 1585), if enacted, would amend and expand the definition of DV.

Federal Definitions of DV

The federal...

Financial Transactions Taxes: In Brief

Since the financial crisis and the ensuing 2008-2009 Great Recession, the idea of imposing a tax on financial transactions has appeared somewhat frequently in policy debates. At its most basic level, a financial transaction tax (FTT) is a tax imposed on the buyer or seller of a security at the time a financial transaction occurs. An FTT can be applied across the board to all financial transactions, or only those involving specific types of securities (for example, stocks, options, and futures, but not bonds). Similarly, an FTT can be applied to the transactions of all traders, or...

Infantry Brigade Combat Team (IBCT) Mobility, Reconnaissance, and Firepower Programs

Infantry Brigade Combat Teams (IBCTs) constitute the Army’s “light” ground forces and are an important part of the nation’s ability to project forces overseas. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as current thinking by Army leadership as to where and how future conflicts would be fought, suggest IBCTs are limited operationally by their lack of assigned transport and reconnaissance vehicles as well as firepower against hardened targets and armored vehicles.

There are three types of IBCTs: Light, Airborne, and Air Assault. Light IBCTs are primarily foot-mobile forces. Light IBCTs can...

How Would the American Family Act Change the Child Tax Credit?

The American Family Act (AFA; S. 690/H.R. 1560) would significantly expand the child tax credit for low- and moderate-income taxpayers, especially those with young children. It also would eliminate the expanded child tax credit for higher-income families in effect from 2018 to 2025 as a result of P.L. 115-97. This Insight describes some of the major changes that would be made to the child tax credit by this legislation.

Current Law

Under current law, eligible taxpayers can subtract up to $2,000 per qualifying child from their federal income tax liability. (See CRS Report R41873, The Child...

Categories of Federal Civil Service Employment: A Snapshot

According to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the federal workforce consists of an estimated two million civilian employees. Federal law categorizes these employees into three types of service—the competitive service, the excepted service, and the Senior Executive Service (SES)—that may be distinguished by different selection, compensation, and other standards. Title 5 of the U.S. Code (Title 5) contains most of the standards governing federal employment, and OPM is generally responsible for implementing these requirements.

The competitive service largely consists of all civil...

FY2020 Defense Budget Request: An Overview

The President’s FY2020 budget request includes $761.8 billion in budget authority for national defense, a major function of the federal budget that includes funding primarily for Department of Defense (DOD) programs but also for defense-related activities administered by other federal agencies, including the Department of Energy.

National defense is one of 20 major functions used by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to organize budget dataand the largest in terms of discretionary spending. The national defense budget function (identified by the numerical notation 050) comprises...

Iraq: Issues in the 116th Congress

Iraq’s government declared military victory against the Islamic State organization (IS, also ISIS/ISIL) in December 2017, but insurgent attacks by remaining IS fighters continue to threaten Iraqis as they shift their attention toward recovery and the country’s political future. Approximately 5,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq at the invitation of the Iraqi government and provide advisory and training support to Iraqi security forces. However, some Iraqi political groups are calling for U.S. and other foreign troops to depart, and they may seek to force Iraqi government action on this...

2019 Midwest Flooding: FEMA and Other Federal Programs and Resources

Introduction

This Insight provides a brief overview of the major disaster declaration process and federal assistance programs potentially available to those affected by the current flooding in the Midwest.

As authorized under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (P.L. 93-288, as amended; 42 U.S.C. §§5121 et seq.), the President may issue a major disaster declaration due to catastrophic flooding. This allows for a broad range of federal assistance programs to be made available to state and local governments, private nonprofit organizations, and individuals...

U.S.-Mexico Economic Relations: Trends, Issues, and Implications

The economic and trade relationship with Mexico is of interest to U.S. policymakers because of Mexico’s proximity to the United States, the extensive trade and investment relationship under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the conclusion of the NAFTA renegotiations and the proposed U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), and the strong cultural and economic ties that connect the two countries. Also, it is of national interest for the United States to have a prosperous and democratic Mexico as a neighboring country. Mexico is the United States’ third-largest trading partner,...

Small Business Administration: A Primer on Programs and Funding

The Small Business Administration (SBA) administers several types of programs to support small businesses, including loan guaranty and venture capital programs to enhance small business access to capital; contracting programs to increase small business opportunities in federal contracting; direct loan programs for businesses, homeowners, and renters to assist their recovery from natural disasters; and small business management and technical assistance training programs to assist business formation and expansion.

Congressional interest in the SBA’s loan, venture capital, training, and...

Drought Contingency Plans for the Colorado River Basin

The Colorado River Basin is a critical source of water and power supplies for seven western states and Mexico. The basin is in the midst of a long-term drought. Water levels at the basin’s two largest reservoirs, Lake Mead and Lake Powell, could reach critically low levels. Building on prior agreements, recently the basin states and the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) transmitted to Congress drought contingency plans (DCPs) that aim to decrease the likelihood of major water and power supply disruptions for users.

Colorado River Basin in Context

The Colorado River Basin (Figure 1)...

The Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations Process Reform

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (P.L. 115-123), signed into law on February 9, 2018, created a joint select committee of the House and Senate. The Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations Process Reform was to be made up of 16 Members from the House and Senate—4 chosen by each of the chambers’ party leaders. The act charged the joint select committee with formulating recommendations and legislative language to “significantly reform the budget and appropriations process.” The law directed the committee to make a report no later than November 30, 2018, to be submitted, along...

Runaway and Homeless Youth: Demographics and Programs

This report discusses runaway and homeless youth, and the federal response to support this population. There is no single definition of the terms “runaway youth” or “homeless youth.” However, both groups of youth share the risk of not having adequate shelter and other provisions, and may engage in harmful behaviors while away from a permanent home.

Youth most often cite family conflict as the major reason for their homelessness or episodes of running away. A youth’s sexual orientation, sexual activity, school problems, and substance abuse are associated with family discord. The precise...

Veto Override Procedure in the House and Senate

A bill or joint resolution that has been vetoed by the President can become law if two-thirds of the Members voting in the House and the Senate each agree to pass it over the President’s objection. The chambers act sequentially on vetoed measures: The House acts first on House-originated measures (H.R. and H.J. Res.), and the Senate acts first on Senate-originated measures (S. and S.J. Res.). If the first-acting chamber fails to override the veto, the other chamber cannot consider it. The House typically considers the question of overriding a presidential veto under the hour rule, with...

Israel and Syria in the Golan Heights: U.S. Recognition of Israel’s Sovereignty Claim

On March 25, 2019, President Trump signed a proclamation stating that the United States recognizes the Golan Heights (hereinafter, the Golan) to be part of the State of Israel, based on the rationale that any future peace agreement should address threats Israel encounters from Syria—including from Iran and the Iran-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah. The President did not specify the territorial bounds of Israeli sovereignty that the United States recognizes in the Golan. Israel gained control of the Golan from Syria during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, and effectively annexed it unilaterally by...

Federal Land Ownership: Acquisition and Disposal Authorities

The federal government owns roughly 640 million acres, heavily concentrated in 12 western states. Four agencies—the National Park Service (NPS), Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in the Department of the Interior, and the U.S. Forest Service (FS) in the Department of Agriculture—administer about 95% of those lands.

The extent to which each of these four federal agencies have authority to acquire and dispose of land varies considerably. The BLM has relatively broad authority for both acquisitions and disposals under the Federal Land Policy and Management...

Year-Round Sale of E15

Interest continues in the year-round sale of E15—generally described as an ethanol-gasoline fuel blend of 15% ethanol and 85% gasoline—among some Members of Congress. At present, E15 generally cannot be sold during summer months because it does not meet the Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) requirements, which limit fuel volatility, under the Clean Air Act (CAA) for the summer ozone season (generally June 1-September 15). Recently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a proposed rule that would allow higher-volatility summertime E15 (in line with an existing exemption for 10%...

Post-Heller Second Amendment Jurisprudence

The Second Amendment states that “[a] well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” Before the Supreme Court’s 2008 opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller, the Second Amendment had received little Supreme Court attention and had been largely interpreted, at least by the lower federal courts, to be intertwined with military or militia use. Still, there had been ample debate in the lower federal courts and political discussion over whether the Second Amendment provides an individual right to...

Internships in Congressional Offices: Frequently Asked Questions

Many interns serve Congress, assisting individual Members, committees, and other offices or support services. Interns serve the House or Senate in a temporary capacity, primarily for an educational benefit, although some interns may receive pay for their service. Like many aspects of congressional operations, individual House or Senate offices can make many of their own rules and guidelines for interns, if they choose to operate an internship program. Additional institutional rules, however, may also apply. In the House, policies set by the Committee on Ethics or the Committee on House...

Data Protection Law: An Overview

Recent high-profile data breaches and other concerns about how third parties protect the privacy of individuals in the digital age have raised national concerns over legal protections of Americans’ electronic data. Intentional intrusions into government and private computer networks and inadequate corporate privacy and cybersecurity practices have exposed the personal information of millions of Americans to unwanted recipients. At the same time, internet connectivity has increased and varied in form in recent years. Americans now transmit their personal data on the internet at an...

Federal Firearms Laws: Overview and Selected Legal Issues for the 116th Congress

Firearms regulation is an area of shared authority among federal, state, and local governments. Individual states have enacted a diverse range of laws relating to the possession, registration, and carrying of firearms, among other things. Federal law establishes a regulatory framework for the lawful manufacture, sale, and possession of firearms at the national level. The federal framework generally serves as a floor for permissible firearm use and transactions, leaving states free to supplement with additional restrictions so long as they do not conflict with federal law.

Federal laws...

Armed Conflict in Syria: Overview and U.S. Response

Since 2011, the Syria conflict has presented significant policy challenges for the United States. (For a brief conflict summary, see Figure 2). U.S. policy toward Syria since 2014 has prioritized counterterrorism operations against the Islamic State (IS, also known as ISIL/ISIS), but also has included nonlethal assistance to Syrian opposition groups, diplomatic efforts to reach a political settlement to the civil war, and humanitarian aid to Syria and regional countries affected by refugee outflows. U.S. forces deployed to Syria have trained, equipped, and advised local partners under...

Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB): A Legal Overview

The Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB or Board) is a quasi-judicial independent agency in the executive branch charged with protecting federal employees against improper employment-related actions. The Board works to ensure, for example, that federal agencies avoid taking arbitrary action against employees, exhibiting favoritism, or engaging in reprisals against whistleblowers. The MSPB also aims to promote an effective federal workforce free of certain types of discrimination and other prohibited personnel practices. While the Board mainly carries out its mission through adjudication...

Federal Workforce Statistics Sources: OPM and OMB

This report describes online tools, reports, and data compilations created by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) that contain statistics about federal employees and the federal workforce.

The report also describes key characteristics of each resource and briefly discusses selected methodological differences, with the intention of facilitating the selection of appropriate data for specific purposes. This report is not intended to be a definitive list of all information on the federal workforce. It describes significant and recurring...

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA): Section-by-Section Summary

Congress enacted the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) in 2003 in response to the increased deployment of Reserve and National Guard military and as a modernization and restatement of the protections and rights previously available to servicemembers under the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act of 1940 (SSCRA). The SCRA has been amended since its initial passage, and Congress continues to consider amendments from time to time.

Congress has long recognized the need for protective legislation for servicemembers whose service to the nation compromises their ability to meet...

Department of State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs: FY2019 Budget and Appropriations

The Trump Administration submitted to Congress its FY2019 budget request on February 12, 2018. The proposal included $41.86 billion for the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs (SFOPS). Of that amount, $13.26 billion was for State Department operations, international broadcasting, and related agencies, and $28.60 billion for foreign operations. With the enactment of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (BBA; P.L. 115-123, February 9, 2018), which raised discretionary spending limits set by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA; P.L. 112-25), the Administration’s FY2019...

Department of State and Foreign Operations Appropriations: History of Legislation and Funding in Brief

Congress currently appropriates most foreign affairs funding through annual Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs (SFOPS) appropriations. Prior to FY2008, however, Congress provided funding for the Department of State, international broadcasting, and related programs within the Commerce, Justice, State, the Judiciary, and Related Agencies appropriations. In those years, Congress separately appropriated funding for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and foreign aid within the Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Programs...

Defining Hemp: A Fact Sheet

Botanically, hemp and marijuana are from the same species of plant, Cannabis sativa. However, hemp and marijuana are genetically distinct forms of cannabis that are distinguished by their use and chemical composition as well as by differing cultivation practices in their production. The two are from distinct strains of Cannabis sativa called varieties or cultivars.

While marijuana generally refers to the psychotropic drug (whether used for medicinal or recreational purposes), hemp is cultivated for use in the production of a wide range of products, including foods and beverages, personal...

Broadband Loan and Grant Programs in the USDA’s Rural Utilities Service

Given the large potential impact broadband access may have on the economic development of rural America, concern has been raised over a “digital divide” between rural and urban or suburban areas with respect to broadband deployment. While there are many examples of rural communities with state-of-the-art telecommunications facilities, recent surveys and studies have indicated that, in general, rural areas tend to lag behind urban and suburban areas in broadband deployment.

According to the Federal Communications Commission’s Communications Marketplace Report, as of 2017, 24% of Americans...

Cyclone Disaster in Mozambique and Surrounding Region

On March 14, a large and powerful tropical storm dubbed Cyclone Idai came ashore at Beira, a low-lying port city in central Mozambique, in southeastern Africa. It featured sustained winds as high as 120 miles per hour prior to making landfall and dumped torrents of rain over large parts of Mozambique, Malawi, Zimbabwe, and Madagascar. Its effects have been expansive and catastrophic—covering at least 1,200 square miles—and it is among the worst natural disasters ever to hit the region. Flooding has limited humanitarian response organizations’ access to much of the affected region.

Cyclone...

Attaching a Price to Greenhouse Gas Emissions with a Carbon Tax or Emissions Fee: Considerations and Potential Impacts

The U.S. Fourth National Climate Assessment, released in 2018, concluded that “the impacts of global climate change are already being felt in the United States and are projected to intensify in the future—but the severity of future impacts will depend largely on actions taken to reduce greenhouse gas [GHG] emissions and to adapt to the changes that will occur.” Members of Congress and stakeholders articulate a wide range of perspectives over what to do, if anything, about GHG emissions, future climate change, and related impacts. If Congress were to consider establishing a program to...

FY2020 Budget Request for the Department of Energy

The President’s FY2020 budget request includes $31.7 billion for the Department of Energy (DOE), approximately $4 billion (11%) less than the FY2019 enacted level of $35.7 billion (see Division A of P.L. 115-244). While this request would reduce the total budget for DOE, it would increase overall funding for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the Office of Electricity (OE), and the Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response (CESER). The request would reduce funding for the Offices of Environmental Management, Science, Energy Efficiency and Renewable...

Yemen: Civil War and Regional Intervention

This report provides information on the ongoing crisis in Yemen. Now in its fifth year, the war in Yemen shows no signs of abating. The war has killed thousands of Yemenis, including combatants as well as civilians, and has significantly damaged the country’s infrastructure. The difficulty of accessing certain areas of Yemen has made it problematic for governments and aid agencies to count the war’s casualties. One U.S. and European-funded organization, the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), estimates that 60,000 Yemenis have been killed since January 2016.

Though...

Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC): A Primer

The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) is a federal agency established by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA; P.L. 93-406). It was created to protect the pensions of participants and beneficiaries covered by private sector defined benefit (DB) plans. These pension plans provide a specified monthly benefit at retirement, usually either a percentage of salary or a flat dollar amount multiplied by years of service. Defined contribution (DC) plans, such as 401(k) plans, are not insured. PBGC is chaired by the Secretary of Labor, with the Secretaries of the...

Federal Land Management Agencies and Programs: CRS Experts

Congress faces multiple issues regarding the ownership and management of federal lands and related resources. The following table provides access to names and contact information of CRS experts on general policy issues related to federal land management, as well as the CRS experts on the specific agencies charged with management of those lands. These agencies include the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Park Service in the Department of the Interior, and the U.S. Forest Service in the Department of Agriculture. For an overview of these issues, see...

Flooding Events: CRS Experts

The following table provides access to names and contact information for CRS experts on policy concerns relating to flooding events in the United States. Policy areas identified include disaster assistance and recovery matters, and impacts such as displaced residents and business, losses in agricultural production, disruptions in transportation (river, rail, and highway), problems with water treatment and supply; responses and recovery operations such as disaster declarations and federal assistance, public health provisions, federal flood insurance, agricultural disaster relief and...

The Army’s Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle (OMFV) Program: Background and Issues for Congress

In June 2018, in part due to congressional concerns, the Army announced a new modernization strategy and designated the Next Generation Combat Vehicle (NGCV) as the program to replace the M-2 Bradley. In October 2018, Army leadership decided to redesignate the NGCV as the Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle (OMFV) and to add additional vehicle programs to what would be called the NGCV Program.

The M-2 Bradley, which has been in service since 1981, is an Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV) used to transport infantry on the battlefield and provide fire support to dismounted troops and suppress...

Older Americans Act: Senior Community Service Employment Program

The Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) authorizes the Department of Labor (DOL) to make grants to support part-time community service employment opportunities for eligible individuals age 55 or over. In FY2019, appropriations for SCSEP programs were $400 million and supported approximately 41,000 positions. DOL may also refer to the SCSEP program as Community Service Employment for Older Americans (CSEOA)

SCSEP is authorized by Title V of the Older Americans Act (OAA). The Older Americans Act Reauthorization Act of 2016 (P.L. 114-144) authorized appropriations for OAA...

Judicial Nomination Statistics and Analysis: U.S. District and Circuit Courts, 1977-2018

In recent decades, the process for appointing judges to the U.S. circuit courts of appeals and the U.S. district courts has been of continuing Senate interest. The President and the Senate share responsibility for making these appointments. Pursuant to the Constitution’s Appointments Clause, the President nominates persons to fill federal judgeships, with the appointment of each nominee also requiring Senate confirmation. Although not mentioned in the Constitution, an important role is also played midway in the appointment process by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The statistics presented...

Locate an Agency or Program Within Appropriations Bills

This report provides an alphabetical listing of federal agencies and programs, and it is an aid to identify the major source of their appropriated funding. A listing of House and Senate Appropriations subcommittees is provided. Finding an agency.

The International Emergency Economic Powers Act: Origins, Evolution, and Use

The International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) provides the President broad authority to regulate a variety of economic transactions following a declaration of national emergency. IEEPA, like the Trading with the Enemy Act (TWEA) from which it branched, sits at the center of the modern U.S. sanctions regime. Changes in the use of IEEPA powers since the act’s enactment in 1977 have caused some to question whether the statute’s oversight provisions are robust enough given the sweeping economic powers it confers upon the President upon declaration of a state of emergency.

Over the...

Guatemala: Political and Socioeconomic Conditions and U.S. Relations

Guatemala, the most populous Central American country, with a population of 16.3 million, has been consolidating its transition to democracy since the 1980s. Guatemala has a long history of internal conflict, including a 36-year civil war (1960-1996) during which the Guatemalan military held power and over 200,000 people were killed or disappeared. A democratic constitution was adopted in 1985, and a democratically elected government was inaugurated in 1986.

President Jimmy Morales is being investigated for corruption and has survived three efforts to remove his immunity from prosecution....

NASA Appropriations and Authorizations: A Fact Sheet

National Aeronautics and Space Administration NASA budget appropriations authorization reauthorization funding FY2018 2018 FY2019 2019 FY2020 2020 NASA congressional budget justification NASA budget request NASA operating plan Commerce-Justice-Science CJS appropriations P.L. 115-141 H.R. 5952 S. 3072 H.R. 21 H.R. 648 NASA Authorization Act of 2018 (H.R. 5503) National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2018 (S. 3799) Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2019 (P.L. 116-6)

What’s the Difference?—Comparing U.S. and Chinese Trade Data

The size of the U.S. bilateral trade deficit with China has been and continues to be an important issue in bilateral trade relations. President Trump and some Members of Congress view the deficit as a sign of unfair economic policies in China. The Trump Administration has reportedly asked China to develop a plan to reduce the bilateral trade deficit by $100 billion. In the 116th Congress, the Fair Trade with China Enforcement Act (H.R. 704 and S. 2) and the United States Reciprocal Trade Act (H.R. 764) mention U.S. trade deficits as a reason for the proposed legislation.

There is a large...

Overview of FY2019 Appropriations for Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS)

This report describes actions taken by the Trump Administration and Congress to provide FY2019 funding for Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) accounts. It also provides an overview of enacted FY2018 funding for agencies and bureaus funded as part of annual CJS appropriations acts.

The Administration requested $66.555 billion for CJS for FY2019. The request included $9.797 billion for the Department of Commerce, $28.835 billion for the Department of Justice (DOJ), $27.372 billion for the science agencies, and $551 million for the related agencies. The Administration’s...

International Trophy Hunting

International trophy hunting is a multinational, multimillion-dollar industry practiced throughout the world. Trophy hunting is broadly defined as the killing of animals for recreation with the purpose of collecting trophies such as horns, antlers, skulls, skins, tusks, or teeth for display. The United States imports the most trophies of any country in the world. Congressional interest in trophy hunting is related to the recreational and ethical considerations of hunting and the potential consequences of hunting for conservation. For some, interest in trophy hunting centers on particular...

Advance Refunding Bonds and P.L. 115-97

This Insight briefly describes advance refunding bonds, summarizes changes made in the 2017 tax revision (P.L. 115-97; sometimes referred to as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, or TCJA), and discusses policy issues relevant for the 116th Congress.

What Are Advance Refunding Bonds?

Refunding bonds are bonds that are issued to replace existing (outstanding) bonds previously issued for a given purpose. Refunding bonds are used by the issuer (borrower) to take advantage of borrowing terms that are more favorable than those present at the time the existing bonds were issued, which may be realized...

The Value of Energy Tax Incentives for Different Types of Energy Resources

The U.S. tax code supports the energy sector by providing a number of targeted tax incentives, or tax incentives available only for the energy industry. Some policymakers have expressed interest in understanding how energy tax benefits are distributed across different domestic energy resources. For example, what percentage of energy-related tax benefits support fossil fuels (or support renewables)? How much domestic energy is produced using fossil fuels (or produced using renewables)? And how do these figures compare?

In 2017, the value of federal tax-related support for the energy sector...

Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV): Background and Issues for Congress

The Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) is being developed by the Army and the Marine Corps as a successor to the High Mobility, Multi-Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV), which has been in service since 1985. On October 28, 2008, awards were made for the JLTV Technology Development (TD) Phase to three industry teams: (1) BAE Systems, (2) the team of Lockheed Martin and General Tactical Vehicle, and (3) AM General and General Dynamics Land Systems.

On January 26, 2012, the Army issued the Request for Proposal (RFP) for the JLTV’s Engineering Manufacturing Development (EMD) phase. Up to three EMD...

Proposed Air Force Acquisition of New F-15EXs

The Trump Administration’s FY2020 budget proposal includes a request for $1.1 billion to buy 8 F-15EX aircraft, the first procurement toward a planned initial buy of 144. This proposal represents a change from previous Air Force plans to procure only stealthy “fifth-generation” fighter aircraft. What is an F-15EX, and why might the Air Force have changed plans?

What Is an F-15EX?

The Air Force received its first F-15 Eagle air superiority fighter in 1974. Subsequently, the F-15 evolved to encompass more roles, most notably with the deployment of the F-15E Strike Eagle in 1989. The F-15E...

Legislative Support Resources: Offices and Websites for Congressional Staff

This report provides a brief list of key House, Senate, legislative support agencies, and executive branch offices, as well as links to online resources of use to new congressional staff who work with legislative procedures and conduct legislative research. Some of the websites listed are available only to congressional offices; other sites are restricted by chamber and are only available to those staff working in either House or Senate offices. This report is intended for congressional use only and will be updated annually.

Indonesia Prepares for Election Rematch

Voters in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation, are scheduled to go to the polls on April 17 to elect a President and the 560 members of the People’s Representative Council, Indonesia’s national Parliament. This will be Indonesia’s fourth direct presidential election and the first time presidential and parliamentary polls are to be simultaneous. It is also expected to be one of the largest democratic exercises in the world: among democracies, Indonesia trails only India and the United States in the size of its electorate.

The presidential polls pit the same two...

Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) Formula Grant Reauthorization

Although juvenile justice is administered by the states, the federal government plays a role in this area through the administration of grant programs. Congress has influenced juvenile justice policy and practice by authorizing and funding grant programs administered by the Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP). The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974 (JJDPA; P.L. 93-415) was the first comprehensive juvenile justice legislation passed by Congress. The JJDPA, among other things, authorized a series of grant programs...

Comparing DHS Component Funding, FY2019: In Brief

(TO BE SUPPRESSED) Generally, the homeland security appropriations bill includes all annual appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), providing resources to every departmental component. The Tables and Figure show DHS’s new discretionary budget authority enacted for FY2018 and requested by the Administration for FY2019, as well as the House and Senate committee-reported response and ultimately enacted FY2019 annual appropriation, broken down by component.

Department of Homeland Security DHS budget Appropriations FY2018, FY2019 funding analysis baseline comparison components

Arms Control and Nonproliferation: A Catalog of Treaties and Agreements

Arms control and nonproliferation efforts are two of the tools that have occasionally been used to implement U.S. national security strategy. Although some believe these tools do little to restrain the behavior of U.S. adversaries, while doing too much to restrain U.S. military forces and operations, many other analysts see them as an effective means to promote transparency, ease military planning, limit forces, and protect against uncertainty and surprise. Arms control and nonproliferation efforts have produced formal treaties and agreements, informal arrangements, and cooperative threat...

Older Americans Act: Funding Formulas

The Older Americans Act (OAA) is the major vehicle for the delivery of social and nutrition services for older persons. The act’s statutory funding formulas determine allotments to states and other entities under the following OAA Titles: Title III, Grants for State and Community Programs; Title V, the Community Service Senior Opportunities Act; Title VI, Grants for Older Native Americans; and Title VII, Vulnerable Elder Rights Protection Activities. This report describes the OAA statutory provisions that allocate funds to states and other entities under various titles of the act.

Title...

Congressional Gold Medals: Background, Legislative Process, and Issues for Congress

Senators and Representatives are frequently asked to support or sponsor proposals recognizing historic events and outstanding achievements by individuals or institutions. Among the various forms of recognition that Congress bestows, the Congressional Gold Medal is often considered the most distinguished. Through this venerable tradition—the occasional commissioning of individually struck gold medals in its name—Congress has expressed public gratitude on behalf of the nation for distinguished contributions for more than two centuries. Since 1776, this award, which initially was bestowed on...

Department of Homeland Security Appropriations: FY2019

This report provides an overview and analysis of FY2019 appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The primary focus of this report is on congressional direction and funding provided to DHS through the appropriations process. It includes an Appendix with definitions of key budget terms used throughout the suite of Congressional Research Service reports on homeland security appropriations. It also directs the reader to other reports providing context for specific component appropriations.

As part of an overall DHS budget that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB)...

Low Interest Rates, Part 3: Potential Causes

Interest rates have been unusually low by historical standards since the 2007-2009 financial crisis, as discussed in CRS Insight IN11044, Low Interest Rates, Part 1: Economic and Fiscal Implications, by Marc Labonte. This Insight discusses various theories of why rates have been low.

Nominal Versus Real Rates

Part of the reason why nominal interest rates (the stated rate familiar to most people) have been low is because inflation has been low since the crisis. Because inflation erodes the value of the return to an investment, it is common to adjust interest rates for inflation. Even when...

Trump Administration’s Proposed Removal of Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) Benefits for India and Turkey

On March 4, 2019, President Trump notified Congress of his intent to terminate India’s and Turkey’s eligibility for the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), a U.S. trade program that provides nonreciprocal, duty-free tariff treatment to certain products imported from designated beneficiary developing countries (BDCs), in order to grow and develop their economies. Potential eligibility changes are subject to annual review and public notice and comment. The President’s determination on India arose from a review of the country’s market access practices; for Turkey, it was due to the...

Financing Airport Improvements

There are five major sources of airport capital development funding: the federal Airport Improvement Program (AIP); local passenger facility charges (PFCs) imposed pursuant to federal law; tax-exempt bonds; state and local grants; and airport operating revenue from tenant lease and other revenue-generating activities such as landing fees. Federal involvement is most consequential in AIP, PFCs, and tax-exempt financing.

The AIP has been providing federal grants for airport development and planning since the passage of the Airport and Airway Improvement Act of 1982 (P.L. 97-248). AIP funding...

Farm Debt and Chapter 12 Bankruptcy Eligibility

As farm income has declined over multiple years since 2013, the number of reported farm bankruptcies has begun to increase. The Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis observed that Chapter 12 farm bankruptcies increased in 2018 across the Midwest and appear to be higher among dairy farms. The American Farm Bureau Federation has compiled farm bankruptcy data from the U.S. Courts at the national level. According to this data, in 2018, 498 U.S. farms filed for Chapter 12 bankruptcy, nearly constant with 501 farm bankruptcies in 2017 (a rate of about 2.5 per 10,000 farms). The continuing steady...

The Army’s Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle (AMPV): Background and Issues for Congress

The Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle (AMPV) is the Army’s proposed replacement for the Vietnam-era M-113 personnel carriers, which are still in service in a variety of support capacities in Armored Brigade Combat Teams (ABCTs). While M-113s no longer serve as infantry fighting vehicles, five variants of the M-113 are used as command and control vehicles, general purpose vehicles, mortar carriers, and medical treatment and evacuation vehicles.

The AMPV is intended to be a nondevelopmental program (candidate vehicles will be either existing vehicles or modified existing vehicles—not vehicles...

Boeing 737 MAX Crashes Shake Confidence in International Air Safety

Recent foreign air disasters involving Boeing 737 Max airplanes have raised international concern about the safety of that aircraft and passenger airline safety in general. On October 29, 2018, Lion Air flight 610 crashed shortly after departure from Jakarta, Indonesia, killing all 189 on board. While the investigation of the crash is still ongoing, it has been disclosed that pilots flying the same aircraft the previous day experienced some sort of navigation system failure and that maintenance records revealed ongoing problems with the aircraft’s airspeed and angle-of-attack (AOA) sensors...

Appropriations: CRS Experts

Because the Constitution gives Congress the power over spending of federal tax dollars, nearly every federal agency is influenced by the House and Senate appropriations committees. The congressional budget process is a complex series of legislative activities that includes budget resolutions, reconciliation to set tax levels and mandatory spending, and the annual approval of the 12 appropriations bills. In addition to these annual bills, appropriations committees regularly consider supplemental and emergency spending packages, as well as continuing resolutions (CRs) when final approval of...

Laws Affecting Students with Disabilities: Preschool Through Postsecondary Education

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504), and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) each play a significant part in federal efforts to support the education of individuals with disabilities. These statutory frameworks, while overlapping, differ in scope and in their application to students with disabilities. As a result, when students with disabilities transition between levels of schooling, the accommodations and services they must be provided under federal law may change. For example, while the IDEA, the ADA, and...

Special Counsel Investigations: History, Authority, Appointment and Removal

The Constitution vests Congress with the legislative power, which includes authority to establish federal agencies and conduct oversight of those entities. Criminal investigations and prosecutions, however, are generally regarded as core executive functions assigned to the executive branch. Because of the potential conflicts of interest that may arise when the executive branch investigates itself, there have often been calls for criminal investigations by prosecutors with independence from the executive branch. In response, Congress and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) have used both...

Juvenile Justice Funding Trends

Although juvenile justice has always been administered by the states, the federal government has played a role in this area through the administration of grant programs. Congress has influenced juvenile justice by authorizing and funding grant programs administered by the Department of Justice’s (DOJ’s) Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP).

The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA; P.L. 93-415), enacted in 1974, was the first comprehensive juvenile justice legislation passed by Congress. The JJDPA authorized a series of grant programs designed to...

Corporate Expatriation, Inversions, and Mergers: Tax Issues

News reports in the late 1990s and early 2000s drew attention to a phenomenon sometimes called corporate “inversions” or “expatriations”: instances where U.S. firms reorganize their structure so that the “parent” element of the group is a foreign corporation rather than a corporation chartered in the United States. The main objective of these transactions was tax savings, and they involved little to no shift in actual economic activity. Bermuda and the Cayman Islands (countries with no corporate income tax) were the locations of many of the newly created parent corporations.

These types of...

Egypt: Background and U.S. Relations

Historically, Egypt has been an important country for U.S. national security interests based on its geography, demography, and diplomatic posture. Egypt controls the Suez Canal, which is one of the world’s most well-known maritime chokepoints, linking the Mediterranean and Red Seas. Egypt, with its population of more than 100 million people, is by far the most populous Arabic-speaking country. Although it may not play the same type of leading political or military role in the Arab world as it has in the past, Egypt may retain some “soft power” by virtue of its history, media, and culture....

Landslide Hazards Legislation in the 116th Congress

Authorizing a Landslide Hazards Program

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) estimates that landslides kill an average of 25-50 people each year in the United States and account for $1-$2 billion annually in damages. Two nearly identical bills, S. 529 and H.R. 1261, titled the National Landslide Preparedness Act, would authorize a national landslide hazards reduction program within USGS. USGS currently operates, under its Organic Act of 1879 and other authorities, such as the Disaster Relief Act of 1974 (P.L. 93-288), a Landslide Hazards Program (funding level of $3.5 million in FY2018)...

Thailand Set to Hold Long-Awaited Election

Nearly five years after the Royal Thai Army seized power in a coup d'état in 2014, the Kingdom of Thailand is officially set to hold nationwide parliamentary elections on March 24, 2019 (see Figure 1).

While the announcement comes as welcome news to many Thais, new elections may reignite political tensions and uncertainties that have been suppressed for the last four years under military rule. Thailand, a U.S. treaty ally, had emerged from the upheaval of the 1998 Asian Financial Crisis with a strongly democratic constitution and newly independent national institutions. However, political...

Constitutional Authority Statements and the Powers of Congress: An Overview

On January 5, 2011, the House of Representatives adopted an amendment to House Rule XII to require that Members state the constitutional basis for Congress’s power to enact the proposed legislation when introducing a bill or joint resolution. (The amendment does not pertain to concurrent or simple resolutions). This Constitutional Authority Statement (CAS) rule, found at House Rule XII, clause 7(c), was subsequently adopted by every subsequent Congress.

Understanding the CAS rule first requires an understanding of both the powers provided to the Congress under the Constitution and...

New Crisis Brewing in Burma’s Rakhine State?

Approximately 250 Chin and Rakhine refugees entered into Bangladesh’s Bandarban district in the first week of February, trying to escape the fighting between Burma’s military, or Tatmadaw, and one of Burma’s newest ethnic armed organizations (EAOs), the Arakan Army (AA). Bangladesh’s Foreign Minister Abdul Momen summoned Burma’s ambassador Lwin Oo to protest the arrival of the Rakhine refugees and the military clampdown in Rakhine State. Bangladesh has reportedly closed its border to Rakhine State.

U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar Yanghee Lee released a...

Data Flows, Online Privacy, and Trade Policy

“Cross-border data flows” refers to the movement or transfer of information between computer servers across national borders. Such data flows enable people to transmit information for online communication, track global supply chains, share research, provide cross-border services, and support technological innovation.

Ensuring open cross-border data flows has been an objective of Congress in recent trade agreements and in broader U.S. international trade policy. The free flow of personal data, however, has raised security and privacy concerns. U.S. trade policy has traditionally sought to...

Activities-Based Regulation and Systemic Risk

Past financial crises have shown that systemic risk can emanate from financial firms or activities. It can be caused by the failure of a large firm (hence, the moniker “too big to fail”) or it can be caused by correlated losses among many small market participants. Although historical financial crises have centered on banks, nonbank financial firms were also a source of instability in the 2007-2009 crisis.

The 2010 Dodd-Frank Act (P.L. 111-203) was enacted in response to the crisis. It enhanced the regulation of certain financial firms and activities to reduce systemic risk, particularly...

An Overview of Small Business Contracting

Congress has broad authority to impose requirements upon the federal procurement process, that is, the process whereby agencies obtain goods and services from the private sector. One way in which Congress has exercised this authority is by adopting measures to promote contracting and subcontracting between “small businesses” and federal agencies.

These measures, among other things, declare a congressional policy of ensuring that a “fair proportion” of federal contract and subcontract dollars is awarded to small businesses; establish government-wide and agency-specific goals for the...

Northern Ireland: Current Issues and Ongoing Challenges in the Peace Process

Between 1969 and 1999, almost 3,500 people died as a result of political violence in Northern Ireland, which is one of four component “nations” of the United Kingdom (UK). The conflict, often referred to as “the Troubles,” has its origins in the 1921 division of Ireland and has reflected a struggle between different national, cultural, and religious identities. Protestants in Northern Ireland (48%) largely define themselves as British and support remaining part of the UK (unionists). Most Catholics in Northern Ireland (45%) consider themselves Irish, and many desire a united Ireland...

DHS Unity of Effort: Homeland Security Issues in the 116th Congress

An unresolved debate dating from the origin of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is the extent of department management involvement in the functioning of departmental components. Some policy experts supported a strong management function, which would replace the leadership of the components, while others supported a limited management function that allowed DHS components to function freely in their areas of expertise, much as they had before.

Once the department was established in 2003, it became clear that a small management cadre could not provide adequate coordination of policy...

Small Business Administration Microloan Program

The Small Business Administration’s (SBA’s) Microloan program provides direct loans to qualified nonprofit intermediary lenders who, in turn, provide “microloans” of up to $50,000 to small businesses and nonprofit child care centers. It also provides marketing, management, and technical assistance to microloan borrowers and potential borrowers. Authorized in 1991 as a five-year demonstration project, it became operational in 1992, and was made permanent, subject to reauthorization, in 1997.

The Microloan program is designed to assist women, low-income, veteran, and minority entrepreneurs...

Amazon’s HQ2 and Economic Development: Perspectives and Policy Options

In February 2019, facing political and public opposition, Amazon canceled the New York portion of its planned second headquarters (HQ2). Originally announced in November 2018, HQ2 was going to be split between the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC, and Long Island City, NY, which Amazon claimed would each gain as many as 25,000 direct jobs as a result. According to its cancelation announcement, Amazon plans to proceed with its Virginia site, along with a smaller third site in Nashville also announced last November that Amazon suggested would generate 5,000 additional jobs....

The War Powers Resolution: Concepts and Practice

This report discusses and assesses the War Powers Resolution and its application since enactment in 1973, providing detailed background on various cases in which it was used, as well as cases in which issues of its applicability were raised.

In the post-Cold War world, Presidents have continued to commit U.S. Armed Forces into potential hostilities, sometimes without a specific authorization from Congress. Thus the War Powers Resolution and its purposes continue to be a potential subject of controversy. On June 7, 1995, the House defeated, by a vote of 217-201, an amendment to repeal the...

Defense Primer: A Guide for New Members

CRS has developed a series of short primers to give Members of Congress an overview of key aspects of the Department of Defense and how Congress exercises authority over it. A consolidated list of these primers is contained in this report, along with links to each document

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Use of National Statuary Hall: Assignment and Historic Events

Statuary Hall has been used as the setting for a variety of events, including memorial ceremonies and receptions for new Members of Congress, award presentations, and as media space after presidential addresses. This report identifies and categorizes uses of Statuary Hall since 2005.

Use of Statuary Hall is at the discretion of the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Under House Rule I, clause 3, the Speaker has the authority to assign unappropriated rooms on the House of Representatives side of the Capitol, including Statuary Hall. Use of Statuary Hall could also be authorized by...

District of Columbia Opportunity Scholarship Program (DC OSP): Overview, Implementation, and Issues

The District of Columbia Opportunity Scholarship Program (DC OSP) is the only federally funded voucher program for elementary and secondary education. It operates exclusively in the District of Columbia. The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2004 (P.L. 108-199), which included the FY2004 District of Columbia Appropriations Act, also included the now-repealed DC School Choice Incentive Act of 2003. The DC School Choice Incentive Act initially authorized the DC OSP. Appropriations were authorized for FY2004 through FY2008. The DC OSP provides scholarships to eligible students to attend...

The Social Security Retirement Age

The Social Security full retirement age (FRA) is the age at which workers can first claim full Social Security retired-worker benefits. Among other factors, a worker’s monthly benefit amount is affected by the age at which he or she claims benefits relative to the FRA. Benefit adjustments are made based on the number of months before or after the FRA the worker claims benefits. The adjustments are intended to provide the worker with roughly the same total lifetime benefits, regardless of when he or she claims benefits, based on average life expectancy. Claiming benefits before the FRA...

USDA’s Actively Engaged in Farming (AEF) Requirement

In 1987, Congress enacted what is commonly known as the Farm Program Payments Integrity Act (Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1987, P.L. 100-203, §§1301-1307), which requires that an individual or legal entity be “actively engaged in farming” (AEF) to be eligible for federal commodity revenue support programs. AEF requirements apply equally to U.S. citizens, resident aliens, and foreign entities. Designing a transparent and comprehensive AEF definition has proven difficult and has evolved over the years. The current set of laws and rules governing farm program eligibility—for both...

Membership of the 116th Congress: A Profile

This report presents a profile of the membership of the 116th Congress (2019-2020) as of March 7, 2019. Statistical information is included on selected characteristics of Members, including data on party affiliation, average age, occupation, education, length of congressional service, religious affiliation, gender, ethnicity, foreign birth, and military service.

In the House of Representatives, there are 239 Democrats (including 4 Delegates), 199 Republicans (including 1 Delegate and the Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico), and 3 vacant seats. The Senate has 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats,...

The Congressional Review Act: Determining Which “Rules” Must Be Submitted to Congress

The Congressional Review Act (CRA) allows Congress to review certain types of federal agency actions that fall under the statutory category of “rules.” The CRA requires that agencies report their rules to Congress and provides special procedures under which Congress can consider legislation to overturn those rules. A joint resolution of disapproval will become effective once both houses of Congress pass a joint resolution and it is signed by the President, or if Congress overrides the President’s veto.

The CRA generally adopts a broad definition of the word “rule” from the Administrative...

An Electric Grid Based on 100% Renewable Energy?

A recent assessment by the U.S. Global Change Research Program found that if greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions continue at current rates and adaptation actions are not undertaken, climate change impacts will damage U.S. infrastructure, communities, and the economy. This finding combined with significant GHG emissions from the electric power industry has led to an increased focus on U.S. energy policy. With growing amounts of today’s electricity coming from renewable sources, some stakeholders advocate a shift of U.S. national electric power generation to come from sources that do not emit...

U.S. Secret Service Protection of Persons and Facilities: Homeland Security Issues in the 116th Congress

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Congress has historically legislated and conducted oversight on the U.S. Secret Service (USSS) because of USSS’ public mission of protecting individuals such as the President and his family, and the USSS mission of investigating financial crimes. Most recently, the 115th Congress conducted oversight on challenges facing the Service and held hearings on legislation that addressed costs associated with USSS protective detail operations and special agents’ pay. These two issues remain pertinent in the 116th Congress due to recent, but failed, attacks on USSS protectees, and the media’s...

Funding for EPA Water Infrastructure: A Fact Sheet

Federal funding to assist communities with capital projects to meet the water-related goals and requirements of federal laws has been provided through programs in the Clean Water Act (CWA) and the Safe Drinking Water Act. This report provides a table showing budget requests and appropriations for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) water infrastructure assistance programs under these two laws since 1973.

Guatemalan President’s Dispute with the U.N. Commission Against Impunity (CICIG)

Congress has supported successive Guatemalan governments’ efforts to strengthen democratic institutions; address crime, drugs, and rule of law; and root out corruption and impunity. The current situation in Guatemala involves a January 2019 decision by President Jimmy Morales to terminate unilaterally the mandate of the U.N.-sponsored International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), which has been investigating crime and corruption since 2007. Morales accused CICIG of violating Guatemala’s sovereignty, a claim U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres rejected. Guatemala’s...

The February 2019 Trump-Kim Hanoi Summit

Overview

On February 27 and 28, President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un met in Hanoi to discuss North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, as well as the establishment of a new relationship between the two countries. The two leaders had held one prior summit, in Singapore, in June 2018. The Hanoi summit ended earlier than scheduled, with the cancelation of both a lunch and a ceremony to sign a joint statement. President Trump and U.S. officials said that the two leaders parted amicably, and that they expected dialogue would resume at a later date. An article in North...

Israel: April 2019 Elections and Probable Indictments Against Prime Minister Netanyahu

The closely contested Israeli national elections scheduled for April 9, 2019, will have significant implications for the country’s leadership and future policies. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called for elections to take place seven months earlier than required by law, partly in hopes of winning a popular mandate to counteract legal allegations threatening his tenure. These allegations led to Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit expressing his intent, on February 28, 2019, to indict Netanyahu for bribery, fraud, and breach of trust.

If Netanyahu maintains political support from voters...

EU Finalizes FDI Screening Framework

On February 14, 2019, the European Parliament approved a regulation (an EU law) that establishes a cooperation mechanism for screening foreign direct investment (FDI) in EU members that focuses on foreign investment in “critical technologies.” This action follows those of other jurisdictions, including the United States through enactment of the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act of 2018 (FIRRMA) that enhanced the role of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), to increase scrutiny of FDI as a component of national security. The legislation was...

Congress Faces Calls to Extend Funding for Special Diabetes Programs

Under the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 (P.L. 105-33), Congress amended the Public Health Service Act (PHSA) to create two special diabetes programs. The first—the Special Diabetes Program for Type I Diabetes (PHSA §330B; U.S.C. 42 §254c-2) provides funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to award grants to study type I diabetes. The second—the Special Diabetes Program for Indians (PHSA §330C; U.S.C. 42 §254c-3)—provides funding to the Indian Health Service (IHS) to award grants for activities related to preventing and treating diabetes for American Indians and Alaska Natives who...

The President’s Authority to Withdraw the United States from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Without Further Congressional Action

NAFTA is an international trade agreement among the United States, Canada, and Mexico that became effective on January 1, 1994. The agreement includes market-opening provisions that remove tariff and nontariff barriers to trade, as well as other rules affecting trade in areas such as agriculture, customs procedures, foreign investment, government procurement, intellectual property protection, and trade in services. Congress approved and implemented NAFTA in domestic law in the NAFTA Implementation Act (P.L. 103-182, 107 Stat. 2057). On May 18, 2017, U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador...

Evolution of the Meaning of “Waters of the United States” in the Clean Water Act

For more than forty-five years, all three branches of government have struggled with how to interpret the meaning of “waters of the United States” in the Clean Water Act. In a shift from early water pollution legislation, the 1972 amendments to the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, which came to be known as the Clean Water Act, eliminated the requirement that federally regulated waters must be capable of being used by vessels in interstate commerce. Rather than use traditional navigability tests, the 1972 amendments redefined “navigable waters” for purposes of the Clean Water Act’s...

Burmese Security Forces and Personnel Implicated in Serious Human Rights Abuses and Accountability Options

At least 17 different reports by United Nations (U.N.) entities and independent human rights organizations have been released containing allegations that certain Burmese security force officers and units committed serious human rights violations dating back to 2011. These reports name nearly 40 individuals and over 100 security units as responsible for such gross human rights violations as murder, torture, rape and other forms of sexual violence, and forced labor. Some of these individuals, including Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, were identified in four or more of the...

P.L. 115-97 and the 2019 Federal Income Tax Filing Season for Individuals

In late 2017, a bill (H.R. 1) was enacted (P.L. 115-97) that made numerous changes to the federal income tax for individuals and businesses. For a summary of those changes, see CRS Report R45092, The 2017 Tax Revision (P.L. 115-97): Comparison to 2017 Tax Law, coordinated by Molly F. Sherlock and Donald J. Marples. (The title of the bill as passed by the House was the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, but it was stricken before final passage under the reconciliation process used to consider the bill.)

The changes in the taxation of individual income have implications for many of the key tax elements...

The Debt Limit Since 2011

The Constitution grants Congress the power to borrow money on the credit of the United States—one part of its power of the purse—and thus mandates that Congress exercise control over federal debt. Control of debt policy has at times provided Congress with a means of raising concerns regarding fiscal policies. Debates over federal fiscal policy have been especially animated in the past decade, in part because of the accumulation of federal debt in the wake of the 2007-2008 financial crisis and subsequent recession. Rising debt levels, along with continued differences in views of fiscal...

The First Step Act of 2018: An Overview

On December 21, 2018, President Trump signed into law the First Step Act of 2018 (P.L. 115-391). The act was the culmination of several years of congressional debate about what Congress might do to reduce the size of the federal prison population while also creating mechanisms to maintain public safety. This report provides an overview of the provisions of the act.

The act has three major components: (1) correctional reform via the establishment of a risk and needs assessment system at the Bureau of Prisons (BOP), (2) sentencing reform via changes to penalties for some federal offenses,...

The State and Local Role in Election Administration: Duties and Structures

The administration of elections in the United States is highly decentralized. Elections are primarily administered by thousands of state and local systems rather than a single, unified national system.

States and localities share responsibility for most election administration duties. Exactly how responsibilities are assigned at the state and local levels varies both between and within states, but there are some general patterns in the distribution of duties. States typically have primary responsibility for making decisions about the rules of elections (policymaking). Localities typically...

Changes to House Rules Affecting the Congressional Budget Process Included in H.Res. 6 (116th Congress)

On January 3, 2019, the House adopted Title I of H.Res. 6, the standing rules for the House of Representatives for the 116th Congress. In addition to the standing rules, H.Res. 6 included a separate order related to the consideration of appropriations bills. This report provides information on changes to both the standing rules and separate orders that might affect the consideration of budgetary legislation in the House of Representatives. These include the following:

Deleting language in Rule X added in the 115th Congress providing for committees to include a review of authorizations for...

Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) Appropriations for FY2019: In Brief

Final FY2019 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) appropriations were enacted on February 15, 2019 as a part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2019 (P.L. 116-6). Prior to that, the Department of Transportation (DOT), the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and certain related agencies that are funded in the THUD appropriations bill were funded under a series of continuing resolutions, with the exception of the period from December 22, 2019-January 25, 2019, when funding for these agencies, as well as those generally funded in six...

Kuwait: Governance, Security, and U.S. Policy

Kuwait has been pivotal to the decades-long U.S. effort to secure the Persian Gulf region because of its consistent cooperation with U.S. military operations in the region and its key location in the northern Gulf. Kuwait and the United States have a formal Defense Cooperation Agreement (DCA), under which the United States maintains over 13,000 military personnel in country and prepositioned military equipment in Kuwait to project power in the region. Only Germany, Japan, and South Korea host more U.S. troops than does Kuwait, which hosts the operational command center for U.S.-led...

Changes in the Arctic: Background and Issues for Congress

The diminishment of Arctic sea ice has led to increased human activities in the Arctic, and has heightened interest in, and concerns about, the region’s future. The United States, by virtue of Alaska, is an Arctic country and has substantial interests in the region.

Record low extents of Arctic sea ice over the past decade have focused scientific and policy attention on links to global climate change and projected ice-free seasons in the Arctic within decades. These changes have potential consequences for weather in the United States, access to mineral and biological resources in the...

FHA Single-Family Mortgage Insurance: Financial Status of the Mutual Mortgage Insurance Fund (MMI Fund)

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) insures private lenders against losses on home mortgages that meet certain eligibility criteria. If the mortgage borrower defaults (that is, does not repay the mortgage as promised) and the home goes to foreclosure, FHA pays the lender the remaining principal amount owed. By insuring lenders against the possibility of borrower default, FHA is intended to expand access to mortgage credit to some households who might not otherwise be able to obtain affordable mortgages, such as those with small down payments.

When an FHA-insured mortgage goes to...

BB&T and SunTrust: The Latest Proposed Merger in a Long-Term Trend of Banking Industry Consolidation

On February 9, 2019, BB&T and SunTrust—the 16th- and 17th-largest U.S. banks by asset size, respectively—announced they intend to merge, which would create the 8th-largest U.S. bank. This proposed merger illustrates a transformative 35-year trend of banking industry consolidation. Banks are becoming fewer, and industry assets are increasingly concentrated in large banks. Observers have warned that this trend could leave certain markets traditionally served by small banks underserved or unserved. In addition, large, complex banks—or “too big to fail” (TBTF) banks—potentially create market...

Small Business Administration 7(a) Loan Guaranty Program

The Small Business Administration (SBA) administers several programs to support small businesses, including loan guaranty programs designed to encourage lenders to provide loans to small businesses “that might not otherwise obtain financing on reasonable terms and conditions.” The SBA’s 7(a) loan guaranty program is considered the agency’s flagship loan program. Its name is derived from Section 7(a) of the Small Business Act of 1953 (P.L. 83-163, as amended), which authorizes the SBA to provide business loans and loan guaranties to American small businesses.

In FY2018, the SBA approved...

Grazing Fees: Overview and Issues

Charging fees for grazing private livestock on federal lands is a long-standing but contentious practice. Generally, livestock producers who use federal lands want to keep fees low, whereas conservation groups believe fees should be increased. The current formula for determining the grazing fee for lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Forest Service (FS) was established in the Public Rangelands Improvement Act of 1978 (PRIA) and continued by a 1986 executive order issued by President Reagan. The fee is based on grazing of a specified number of animals for one month,...

Pipeline Security: Homeland Security Issues in the 116th Congress

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Ongoing threats against the nation’s natural gas, oil, and refined product pipelines have heightened concerns about the security risks to these pipelines, their linkage to the electric power sector, and federal programs to protect them. In a December 2018 study, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) stated that, since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, “new threats to the nation’s pipeline systems have evolved to include sabotage by environmental activists and cyber attack or intrusion by nations.” In a 2018 Federal Register notice, the Transportation Security...

SBA Veterans Assistance Programs: An Analysis of Contemporary Issues

Several federal agencies, including the Small Business Administration (SBA), provide training and other assistance to veterans seeking civilian employment. For example, the Department of Defense (DOD), in cooperation with the SBA, Department of Labor, Department of Veterans Affairs, and several other federal agencies, operates the Transition Goals Plans Success program (Transition GPS), which provides employment information and entrepreneurship training to exiting military servicemembers to assist them in transitioning from the military to the civilian labor force.

In recent years, the...

U.S. Foreign Assistance to Latin America and the Caribbean: FY2019 Appropriations

The United States provides foreign assistance to Latin American and Caribbean nations to support development and other U.S. objectives. U.S. policymakers have emphasized different strategic interests in the region at different times, from combating Soviet influence during the Cold War to promoting democracy and open markets since the 1990s. The Trump Administration has sought to reduce foreign aid significantly and refocus U.S. assistance efforts in the region to address U.S. domestic concerns, such as irregular migration and transnational crime.

FY2019 Budget Request

For FY2019, the Trump...

U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policy: Considering “No First Use”

On January 30, 2019, Senator Elizabeth Warren and Representative Adam Smith introduced legislation (S. 272/H.R. 921) that declared, “It is the policy of the United States to not use nuclear weapons first.” Other Members of Congress are divided on this issue. Senator Dianne Feinstein has argued that the only moral use for U.S. nuclear weapons is as a deterrent to their use. Senator Deb Fischer, on the other hand, has said that the proposal “betrays a naïve and disturbed world view.”

A “no first use” policy would represent a change from current policy, where the United States has pledged to...

CFPB Proposes New Payday Lending Rule, Reversing Recently Finalized Regulation

On February 6, 2019, the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (CFPB) released a new Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for Payday, Vehicle Title, and Certain High-Cost Installment Loans. The proposal would rescind a significant part of a 2017 final rule that requires small-dollar, short-term lenders to determine a consumer’s ability to repay before issuing a new loan. This new, controversial proposal has received congressional support and opposition.

This Insight begins with an overview of payday loans and then briefly summarizes the 2017 final rule and major changes proposed by the CFPB...

The Power Marketing Administrations: Background and Current Issues

The federal government, through the Department of Energy, operates four regional power marketing administrations (PMAs), created by statute: the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), the Southeastern Power Administration (SEPA), the Southwestern Power Administration (SWPA), and the Western Area Power Administration (WAPA). Each PMA operates in a distinct geographic area. Congressional interest in the PMAs has included diverse issues such as rate setting, cost and compliance associated with the Endangered Species Act (ESA; P.L. 93-205; 16 U.S.C. §§1531 et seq.), and questions of...

Sudan: Pressure Mounts on the Government

Sudan’s President Omar al Bashir, who took power in a 1989 coup, arguably faces the greatest challenge to his rule in three decades, as public pressure for a political transition mounts. Bashir’s government has been the target of near-daily protests across the country since December 19. A common refrain among the protesters is “Tasgut bas” (“Just fall, that’s all”).

Spurred by frustrations with deteriorating economic conditions, corruption, poor governance, and repression, the protests have been further fueled by the government’s response, in which more than 2,600 people reportedly have...

Railroad Retirement Board: Retirement, Survivor, Disability, Unemployment, and Sickness Benefits

The Railroad Retirement Board (RRB), an independent federal agency, administers retirement, survivor, disability, unemployment, and sickness insurance for railroad workers and their families. During FY2017, the RRB paid nearly $12.5 billion in retirement, disability, and survivor benefits to approximately 548,000 beneficiaries and paid $105.4 million in unemployment and sickness benefits to approximately 28,000 claimants. Of the total $12.5 billion benefit payments in the same fiscal year, 60.0% was paid to retired workers, 8.0% to disabled workers, 14.4% to spouses, and 16.8% to...

The Effectiveness of the Community Reinvestment Act

The Community Reinvestment Act (CRA; P.L. 95-128, 12 U.S.C. §§2901-2908) addresses how banking institutions meet the credit needs of the areas they serve, particularly in low- and moderate-income (LMI) neighborhoods. The federal banking regulatory agencies—the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC)—currently implement the CRA. The regulators issue CRA credits, or points, where banks engage in qualifying activities—such as mortgage, consumer, and business lending; community...

The Budget and Homeland Security: Homeland Security Issues in the 116th Congress

Congress at times has sought to ascertain how much the government spends on securing the homeland, either in current terms or historically. Several factors compromise the authoritativeness of any answer to this question. One such complication is the lack of a consensus definition of what constitutes homeland security, and another is that homeland security activities are carried out across the federal government, in partnership with other public and private sector entities. This insight examines those two complicating factors, and presents what information is available on historical...

Budget Issues That Shaped the 2018 Farm Bill

The farm bill is an omnibus, multiyear law that governs an array of agricultural and food programs. The farm bill has typically undergone reauthorization about every five years. The current farm bill—the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (P.L. 115-334), often called the “2018 farm bill”—was enacted in December 2018 and expires in 2023. Budget for the 2018 Farm Bill (dollars in millions, FY2019-FY2023, mandatory outlays) Farm bill titlesApril 2018 baselineScore of P.L. 115-334Projected outlays at enactment

Commodities 31,340 +101 31,440

Conservation...

Commemorative Coins: Background, Legislative Process, and Issues for Congress

Commemorative coins are produced by the U.S. Mint pursuant to an act of Congress and are often proposed by Members of Congress as part of their representational duties. These coins are legal tender that celebrate and honor American people, places, events, and institutions. Overall, 152 commemorative coins have been authorized since 1892. Since 1982, when Congress reinstituted the commemorative program, 91 commemorative coins have been authorized. Since 1998, only two coins may be authorized for any given year. To date, Congress has authorized commemorative coins to be issued through...

Private Flood Insurance and the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)

The National Flood Insurance Program

The NFIP was first authorized by the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968 (42 U.S.C. §4001 et seq.), and was reauthorized until the end of FY2017 by the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 (BW-12, Title II of P.L. 112-141). After a series of short-term reauthorizations, S. 3628 in the 115th Congress reauthorized the NFIP until May 31, 2019. In statute, Congress has found that

(1) many factors have made it uneconomic for the private insurance industry alone to make flood insurance available to those in need of such protection on reasonable...

Suspension of the Rules: House Practice in the 114th Congress (2015-2016)

Suspension of the rules is the most commonly used procedure to call up measures on the floor of the House of Representatives. As the name suggests, the procedure allows the House to suspend its standing and statutory rules in order to consider broadly supported legislation in an expedited manner. More specifically, the House temporarily sets aside its rules that govern the raising and consideration of measures and assumes a new set of constraints particular to the suspension procedure.

The suspension of the rules procedure has several parliamentary advantages: (1) it allows nonprivileged...

An Introduction to the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit

The low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) program is one of the federal government’s primary policy tools for encouraging the development and rehabilitation of affordable rental housing. These nonrefundable federal housing tax credits are awarded to developers of qualified rental projects via a competitive application process administered by state housing finance authorities. Developers typically sell their tax credits to outside investors in exchange for equity in the project. Selling the tax credits reduces the debt developers would otherwise have to incur and the equity they would...

The Selective Service System and Draft Registration: Issues for Congress

The Military Selective Service Act (MSSA), first enacted as the Selective Service Act of 1948, provides the statutory authority for the federal government to maintain a Selective Service System (SSS) as an independent federal agency responsible for delivering appropriately qualified civilian men for induction into the Armed Forces of the United States as authorized by Congress. The annual budget for the agency is just under $23 million. One of the SSS’s main functions is to maintain a database of registrants in case of a draft. The agency stores approximately 78 million records in order to...

National Emergency Powers

The President of the United States has available certain powers that may be exercised in the event that the nation is threatened by crisis, exigency, or emergency circumstances (other than natural disasters, war, or near-war situations). Such powers may be stated explicitly or implied by the Constitution, assumed by the Chief Executive to be permissible constitutionally, or inferred from or specified by statute. Through legislation, Congress has made a great many delegations of authority in this regard over the past 230 years.

There are, however, limits and restraints upon the President in...

The Trump Administration’s “Zero Tolerance” Immigration Enforcement Policy

For the last several years, Central American migrant families have arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border in relatively large numbers, many seeking asylum. While some request asylum at U.S. ports of entry, others do so after entering the United States “without inspection” (i.e., illegally) between U.S. ports of entry. On May 7, 2018, the Department of Justice (DOJ) implemented a “zero tolerance” policy toward illegal border crossing both to discourage illegal migration into the United States and to reduce the burden of processing asylum claims that Administration officials contend are often...

The United Nations Human Rights Council: Background and Policy Issues

Over the years, many Members of Congress have demonstrated an ongoing interest in the role and effectiveness of the United Nations (U.N.) Human Rights Council (the Council). The Council is the primary intergovernmental body mandated with addressing human rights on a global level. During the Obama Administration and the first part of the Trump Administration, the United States served three terms as a Council member. In June 2018, Trump Administration officials announced U.S. withdrawal from the Council, noting concerns with the Council’s focus on Israel, overall ineffectiveness in...

Federal Disaster Assistance After Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Wilma, Gustav, and Ike

This report provides information on federal financial assistance provided to the Gulf States after major disasters were declared in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas in response to the widespread destruction that resulted from Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma in 2005 and Hurricanes Gustav and Ike in 2008.

Though the storms happened over a decade ago, Congress has remained interested in the types and amounts of federal assistance that were provided to the Gulf Coast for several reasons. This includes how the money has been spent, what resources have been provided to...

Disaster Housing Assistance: Homeland Security Issues in the 116th Congress

After the President issues an emergency or major disaster declaration under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (Stafford Act, 42 U.S.C. §§5121 et seq.), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) may provide various temporary housing assistance programs to meet disaster survivors’ needs. However, limitations on these programs may make it difficult to transition disaster survivors into permanent housing. This Insight provides an overview of the primary housing assistance programs available under the Stafford Act, and potential considerations for...

The Disaster Recovery Reform Act: Homeland Security Issues in the 116th Congress

The Disaster Recovery Reform Act of 2018 (DRRA, Division D of P.L. 115-254), which became law on October 5, 2018, is the most comprehensive legislation on the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA’s) disaster assistance programs since the passage of the Sandy Recovery Improvement Act of 2013 (SRIA, Division B of P.L. 113-2) and, previous to that, the Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act of 2006 (PKEMRA, P.L. 109-295). The legislation focuses on improving predisaster planning and mitigation, response, and recovery, and increasing FEMA accountability. As such, it amends many...

U.S. Constitutional Limits on State Money-Bail Practices for Criminal Defendants

Money-bail systems allow criminal defendants to avoid prison while awaiting trial by posting a bond set by a fee schedule. The impact of money-bail systems on indigent criminal defendants, however, has prompted legislative interest in and legal challenges to such systems, particularly when the bail does not reflect an individual’s specific circumstances, such as potential flight risk or public safety. Critics of money-bail systems assert that fee schedules unduly burden indigent defendants, while supporters argue that fee schedules provide uniformity and ensure that defendants appear at...

Alternative Fuel and Advanced Vehicle Technology Incentives: A Summary of Federal Programs

A wide array of federal incentives supports the development and deployment of alternatives to conventional fuels and engines in transportation. These incentives include tax deductions and credits for vehicle purchases and the installation of refueling systems, federal grants for conversion of older vehicles to newer technologies, mandates for the use of biofuels, and incentives for manufacturers to produce alternative fuel vehicles. The current array of incentives for alternative fuels and related technologies does not reflect a single, comprehensive strategy, but rather an aggregative...

Considerations for Implementing a Small Business Disaster Grant Program

Throughout the years, Congress has expressed interest and concern for businesses recovering from disasters. For nearly a century, the federal government’s policy for providing disaster assistance to businesses has been limited primarily to low interest loans rather than grant assistance. More recently, Congress has contemplated whether grants should be made available to small businesses after a major disaster. During this debate, some have questioned why small businesses are not eligible for disaster grants when residences, nonprofit groups, and state and local governments are eligible. In...

Puerto Rico: CRS Experts and Products

SUPPRESS Puerto Rico is in the midst of a fiscal crisis resulting from economic contraction, public sector debt, outmigration, and other factors. To address the crisis, Congress passed the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA; P.L. 114-187), enacted on June 30, 2016. PROMESA established the Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico (Oversight Board), created processes for adjusting the island’s public debts, among other provisions. PROMESA allocated no federal funds to Puerto Rico.

The Puerto Rican Governor was charged with developing fiscal...

India, Pakistan, and the Pulwama Crisis

Overview

On February 14, 2019, an explosives-laden SUV rammed into a convoy carrying paramilitary police in India’s Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) state. At least 40 personnel were killed in the explosion. The suicide attacker was a member of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), a Pakistan-based terrorist group that claimed responsibility for the bombing. The attack took place in Pulwama in the heart of the Kashmir Valley, site of a 30-year-old separatist conflict that pits the Indian government against Kashmiri militants who seek independence for India’s only Muslim-majority state or its merger with...

NAFTA Renegotiation and the Proposed United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA)

The 116th Congress faces policy issues related to the Trump Administration’s renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the proposed United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). On May 18, 2017, the Trump Administration sent a 90-day notification to Congress of its intent to begin talks with Canada and Mexico to renegotiate and modernize NAFTA, as required by the 2015 Trade Promotion Authority (TPA). Talks officially began on August 16, 2017. Negotiations were concluded on September 30, 2018. The proposed USMCA was signed on November 30, 2018. The agreement must...

Redistricting Commissions for Congressional Districts

Historically, state legislatures have determined congressional district boundaries, and this remains true in most states today. The role of political actors in redistricting sometimes leads to concerns, by some, about conflicting incentives, if the process is used by incumbents to help boost their parties’ electoral gains. In recent Congresses, several bills have been introduced that could require states to use independent redistricting commissions for congressional redistricting; to date, no such legislation has been passed in either chamber.

Some states have adopted independent...

Housing Issues in the 115th Congress

A variety of housing-related issues were active during the 115th Congress. These issues included topics related to housing finance, tax provisions related to housing, housing assistance and grant programs administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and regulatory review efforts underway at HUD. In some cases, the 115th Congress considered or passed legislation related to certain housing issues, such as mortgage-related provisions enacted as part of broader financial “regulatory relief” legislation and particular housing-related tax provisions. In other cases,...

Low Interest Rates, Part 2: Implications for the Federal Reserve

Interest rates have been unusually low by historical standards since the 2007-2009 financial crisis. This Insight discusses the implications for monetary policy, and it frames this discussion in terms of the neutral interest rate. It is the sequel to a previous Insight, Low Interest Rates, Part 1. For background on monetary policy, see CRS Report RL30354, Monetary Policy and the Federal Reserve: Current Policy and Conditions, by Marc Labonte.

The Neutral Interest Rate

The neutral interest rate (sometimes called r*) is conceptual and not directly observed—it is the idea that at any given...

Digital Services Taxes (DSTs): Policy and Economic Analysis

Several countries, primarily in Europe, and the European Commission have proposed or adopted taxes on revenue earned by multinational corporations (MNCs) in certain “digital economy” sectors from activities linked to the user-based activity of their residents. These proposals have generally been labeled as “digital services taxes” (DSTs). For example, beginning in 2019, Spain is imposing a DST of 3% on online advertising, online marketplaces, and data transfer service (i.e., revenue from sales of user activities) within Spain. Only firms with 750 million in worldwide revenue and 3 million...

Monetary Policy and the Federal Reserve: Current Policy and Conditions

Congress has delegated responsibility for monetary policy to the Federal Reserve (the Fed), the nation’s central bank, but retains oversight responsibilities for ensuring that the Fed is adhering to its statutory mandate of “maximum employment, stable prices, and moderate long-term interest rates.” To meet its price stability mandate, the Fed has set a longer-run goal of 2% inflation.

The Fed’s control over monetary policy stems from its exclusive ability to alter the money supply and credit conditions more broadly. Normally, the Fed conducts monetary policy by setting a target for the...

Cluster Munitions: Background and Issues for Congress

Cluster munitions are air-dropped or ground-launched weapons that release a number of smaller submunitions intended to kill enemy personnel or destroy vehicles. Cluster munitions were developed in World War II and are part of many nations’ weapons stockpiles. Cluster munitions have been used frequently in combat, including the early phases of the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Cluster munitions have been highly criticized internationally for causing a significant number of civilian deaths, and efforts have been undertaken to ban and regulate their use. The Department of Defense...

Federal Mandatory Minimum Sentences: The Safety Valve and Substantial Assistance Exceptions

Federal law requires a sentencing judge to impose a minimum sentence of imprisonment following conviction for any of a number of federal offenses. Congress has created three exceptions. Two are available in any case where the prosecutor asserts that the defendant has provided substantial assistance in the criminal investigation or prosecution of another. The other, commonly referred to as the safety valve, is available, without the government’s approval, for a handful of the more commonly prosecuted drug trafficking and unlawful possession offenses that carry minimum...

Department of Defense Use of Other Transaction Authority: Background, Analysis, and Issues for Congress

The Department of Defense (DOD) obligates more than $300 billion annually to buy goods and services, and to support research and development. Most of these acquisitions are governed by procurement statutes and regulations found in Title 10 (and parts of other select titles) of the United States Code, the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), and the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement.

Under certain circumstances, DOD can enter into an other transaction (OT) agreement instead of a traditional contract. OT agreements are generally exempt from federal procurement laws and...

Trump Administration Tariff Actions (Sections 201, 232, and 301): Frequently Asked Questions

The Constitution grants Congress the sole authority over the regulation of foreign commerce. Over the past several decades, Congress has authorized the President to adjust tariffs and other trade restrictions in certain circumstances through specific trade laws. Using these delegated authorities under three trade laws, President Trump has imposed increased tariffs, largely in the range of 10% - 25%, on a variety of U.S. imports to address concerns related to national security, injury to competing industries, and China’s trade practices on forced technology transfer and intellectual...

SBA Surety Bond Guarantee Program

The Small Business Administration’s (SBA’s) Surety Bond Guarantee Program is designed to increase small businesses’ access to federal, state, and local government contracting, as well as private-sector contracts, by guaranteeing bid, performance, and payment bonds for small businesses that cannot obtain surety bonds through regular commercial channels. The program guarantees individual contracts of up to $6.5 million, and up to $10 million if a federal contracting officer certifies that such a guarantee is necessary. The SBA’s guarantee currently ranges from 80% to 90% of the surety’s loss...

Women’s History Month Speech Resources: Fact Sheet

Women’s History Month commemorates the contributions of American women. March was first designated as Women’s History Month on March 12, 1987, by P.L. 100-9. Since then, Presidents have issued annual proclamations promoting this observance.

This guide is designed to assist congressional offices with work related to Women’s History Month. It provides links to sample congressional speeches and recognitions, presidential proclamations, statistical data, and selected historical resources.

The 2018 Farm Bill (P.L. 115-334): Summary and Side-by-Side Comparison

Congress sets national food and agriculture policy through periodic omnibus farm bills that address a broad range of farm and food programs and policies. The 115th Congress established the direction of farm and food policy for five years through 2023 by enacting the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018, which the President signed into law on December 20, 2018, as P.L. 115-334.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has scored the cost of programs with mandatory spending—such as nutrition programs, commodity support programs, major conservation programs, and crop insurance—in the enacted...

SBA’s Office of Inspector General: Overview, Impact, and Relationship with Congress

Congress created offices of inspector general (OIGs) to assist in its oversight of the executive branch. OIGs provide independent, nonpartisan analysis, conducted in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards, to identify and recommend ways to limit waste, fraud, and abuse in federal programs and enhance program and operational efficiency and effectiveness. OIGs’ activities supplement and complement those of the Government Accountability Office (GAO), which serves a similar, though not identical, role in assisting congressional oversight of the executive branch....

Banking Policy Issues in the 116th Congress

Regulation of the banking industry has undergone substantial changes over the past decade. In response to the 2007-2009 financial crisis, many new bank regulations were implemented pursuant to the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 (Dodd-Frank Act; P.L. 111-203) or under the existing authorities of bank regulators to address apparent weaknesses in the regulatory regime. While some observers view those changes as necessary and effective, others argued that certain regulations were unjustifiably burdensome. To address those concerns, the Economic Growth,...

U.S. Agent Orange/Dioxin Assistance to Vietnam

U.S. assistance to Vietnam for the environmental and health damage attributed to a dioxin contained in Agent Orange and other herbicides sprayed over much of the southern portion of the country during the Vietnam War remains a major bilateral issue. Between fiscal years (FY) 2007 and 2019, Congress appropriated nearly $255 million to address these two issues. In addition, the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 (P.L. 115-232) authorized the transfer of up to $15 million to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) for the dioxin cleanup of the...

The Defense Department and 10 U.S.C. 284: Legislative Origins and Funding Questions

Introduction

On February 15, President Donald J. Trump confirmed recent reports that described the Administration’s consideration of Department of Defense (DOD) authorities and funds to emplace physical barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border. A White House fact sheet detailed the potential availability of up to $8.1 billion “to build the border wall”—including, among other authorities and funding sources, “up to $2.5 billion under the Department of Defense funds transferred for Support for Counterdrug Activities (Title 10 United States Code, section 284).”

The full title of the referenced...

National Volcano Early Warning and Monitoring System Legislation in the 116th Congress

Priority Volcanoes in the United States

In 2018, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS, a bureau within the Department of the Interior) published a volcanic threat assessment that assigned five threat levels (very high, high, moderate, low, and very low) to 161 volcanoes in 14 states and U.S. territories (Figure 1). The assessment ranked 18 volcanoes as very high and 39 as high. Eleven of the 18 very high-threat volcanoes are in Washington, Oregon, or California; five are in Alaska; and two are in Hawaii. The study notes that the high- and moderate-threat volcanoes are mostly in Alaska and that...

CRS Seminars on Disruptive Technologies: Videos

The rapid pace of technology innovation and application is affecting both the global economy and human behavior. It has led to the emergence of disruptive technologies with the potential to create large-scale economic and social disruptions. Smartphones and other forms of mobile computing, for example, have had large economic effects on the telecommunications sector, as well as large social impacts.

disruptive technology, disruptive technology, disruptive technology, disruptive technology, disruptive technology, disruptive technology, disruptive technology, disruptive technology,...

Selected Issues for National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) Reauthorization and Reform: Homeland Security Issues in the 116th Congress

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NFIP Reauthorization

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is the primary source of flood insurance for residential properties in the United States, with more than 5.1 million policies providing over $1.3 trillion in coverage in over 22,000 communities. Since the end of FY2017, 10 short-term NFIP reauthorizations have been enacted, and the NFIP is currently authorized until May 31, 2019. Unless reauthorized or amended by Congress, on May 31, 2019, (1) the authority to provide new flood insurance contracts will expire and (2) the authority for the NFIP to borrow funds from the...

Immigration: U.S. Asylum Policy

Asylum is a complex area of immigration law and policy. While much of the recent debate surrounding asylum has focused on efforts by the Trump Administration to address asylum seekers arriving at the U.S. southern border, U.S. asylum policies have long been a subject of discussion.

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) of 1952, as originally enacted, did not contain any language on asylum. Asylum provisions were added and then revised by a series of subsequent laws. Currently, the INA provides for the granting of asylum to an alien who applies for such relief in accordance with...

A Brief Introduction to the National Flood Insurance Program: Homeland Security Issues in the 116th Congress

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is authorized by the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968 (Title XIII of P.L. 90-448, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§4001 et seq.) and is the primary source of flood insurance coverage for residential properties in the United States. The NFIP has two main policy goals: (1) to provide access to primary flood insurance, thereby allowing for the transfer of some of the financial risk from property owners to the federal government, and (2) to mitigate and reduce the nation’s comprehensive flood risk through the development and implementation of floodplain...

Macedonia Changes Name, Moves Closer to NATO Membership

On February 12, 2019, Macedonia formally changed its name to become the Republic of North Macedonia. The name change resolves a long-standing dispute with Greece and is expected to clear the path for North Macedonia to become NATO’s 30th member. U.S. and European Union (EU) officials believe NATO enlargement to the Western Balkans could help stabilize the region and counter Russian influence. Many Members of Congress have long supported Macedonia’s Euro-Atlantic integration.

Prespa Agreement with Greece

North Macedonia’s NATO membership bid was delayed due to a nearly three-decade...

Protection of Executive Branch Officials: Homeland Security Issues in the 116th Congress

Due to the October 2018 attempted bombing attacks on current and former government officials (and others), there may be congressional interest in policy issues surrounding protective details for government officials. Attacks against political leaders and other public figures have been a consistent security issue in the United States. According to a 1998 U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) report, data on assassinations and assassination attempts against federal officials suggest that elected officials are more likely to be targeted than those holding senior appointed positions. Congress also may...

National Preparedness Policy: Homeland Security Issues in the 116th Congress

The United States is threatened by a wide array of hazards, including natural disasters, acts of terrorism, viral pandemics, and man-made disasters, such as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The way the nation strategically prioritizes and allocates resources to prepare for all hazards can significantly influence the ultimate cost to society, both in the number of human casualties and the scope and magnitude of economic damage. As authorized in part by the Post-Katrina Emergency Reform Act of 2006 (PKEMRA; P.L. 109-295), the President, acting through the Federal Emergency Management Agency...

Department of Education Funding: Key Concepts and FAQ

Like most federal agencies, the Department of Education (ED) receives funds in support of its mission through various federal budget and appropriations processes. While not unique, the mechanisms by which ED receives, obligates, and expends funds can be complex. For example, ED receives both mandatory and discretionary appropriations; ED is annually provided forward funds and advance appropriations for some—but not all—discretionary programs; ED awards both formula and competitive grants; and a portion of ED’s budget subsidizes student loan costs (direct loans and loan guarantees). As...

World Trade Organization: Overview and Future Direction

Historically, the United States’ leadership of the global trading system has ensured the United States a seat at the table to shape the international trade agenda in ways that both advance and defend U.S. interests. The evolution of U.S. leadership and the global trade agenda remain of interest to Congress, which holds constitutional authority over foreign commerce and establishes trade negotiating objectives and principles through legislation. Congress has recognized the World Trade Organization (WTO) as the “foundation of the global trading system” within trade promotion authority (TPA)...

The Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) Program

The Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program, administered by the Department of Transportation’s Build America Bureau, provides long-term, low-interest loans and other types of credit assistance for the construction of surface transportation projects (23 U.S.C. §601 et seq.). The TIFIA program was reauthorized from FY2016 through FY2020 in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act (P.L. 114-94). Direct funding for the TIFIA program is authorized at $300 million for each of FY2019 and FY2020. Additionally, state departments of transportation can...

Heroin Trafficking in the United States

Over the past several years, the nation has seen an uptick in the use and abuse of opioids—both prescription opioids and non-prescription opioids such as heroin. In 2016, there were an estimated 948,000 individuals (0.4% of the 12 and older population) who reported using heroin within the past year—up from 0.2% to 0.3% of this population reporting use in the previous decade. In addition to an increase in heroin use over the past several years, there has been a simultaneous increase in its availability in the United States. The increase in availability has been fueled by a number of...

Selected International Insurance Issues in the 116th Congress

The growth of the international insurance market and trade in insurance products and services has created opportunities and new policy issues for U.S. insurers, Congress, and the U.S. financial system. Insurance regulation is centered on the states, with the federal government having a limited role. Although the risks of loss and the regulation may be local, the business of insurance, as with many financial services, has an increasingly substantial international component as companies and investors look to grow and diversify.

The 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection...

U.S. Role in the World: Background and Issues for Congress

Some observers perceive that after remaining generally stable for a period of about 70 years, the U.S. role in the world—meaning the overall character, purpose, or direction of U.S. participation in international affairs and the country’s overall relationship to the rest of the world—is undergoing a potentially historic change. A change in the U.S. role in the world could have significant and even profound effects on U.S. security, freedom, and prosperity. It could significantly affect U.S. policy in areas such as relations with allies and other countries, defense plans and programs, trade...

Latin America: Challenges for U.S. Policymakers in 2019

The 116th Congress faces a host of policy challenges in Latin America in 2019. Democratic practices have eroded in several countries, especially Venezuela and Nicaragua, and the region has experienced an economic slowdown and increased poverty in recent years. The flow of illicit drugs, including heroin, methamphetamine, and fentanyl from Mexico and cocaine from Colombia, continues to pose risks to U.S. public health and safety, according to the U.S. intelligence community’s 2019 Worldwide Threat Assessment.

Under the Trump Administration, the tenor of relations with Latin America has...

Institutional Eligibility for Participation in Title IV Student Financial Aid Programs

Title IV of the Higher Education Act (HEA) authorizes programs that provide financial assistance to students to assist them in obtaining a postsecondary education at certain institutions of higher education (IHEs). These IHEs include public, private nonprofit, and proprietary institutions. For students attending such institutions to be able to receive Title IV assistance, an institution must meet basic criteria, including offering at least one eligible program of education (e.g., programs leading to a degree or preparing a student for gainful employment in a recognized occupation).

In...

Fire Management Assistance Grants: Frequently Asked Questions

Section 420 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (P.L. 93-288, hereinafter the Stafford Act) authorizes the President to “declare” a Fire Management Assistance Grant (FMAG). In the interest of saving time, the authority to make the declaration has been delegated to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA’s) Regional Administrators. Once issued, the FMAG declaration authorizes various forms of federal fire suppression assistance such as the provision of equipment, personnel, and grants to state, local, and tribal governments for the control,...

2019 Tax Filing Season and a Partial Government Shutdown

The possibility of a partial shutdown of the federal government beginning on February 16 is raising renewed concern about how it would affect Internal Revenue Service (IRS) operations during the 2019 tax filing season, which lasts from January 28 through April 15, for most taxpayers. Funding for the agency would lapse if Congress and the President cannot agree on a plan to fund the Treasury Department (and certain other federal agencies) beyond February 15, when a continuing resolution is due to expire. A central concern is the ability of the IRS to assist taxpayers and tax practitioners...

Trade Promotion Authority (TPA): Frequently Asked Questions

Legislation to reauthorize Trade Promotion Authority (TPA)—sometimes called “fast track”—the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 (TPA-2015), was signed into law by former President Obama on June 29, 2015 (P.L. 114-26). If the President negotiates an international trade agreement that would reduce tariff or nontariff barriers to trade in ways that require changes in U.S. law, the United States can implement the agreement only through the enactment of legislation. If the trade agreement and the process of negotiating it meet certain requirements, TPA...

Where’s My Refund? A Look at Tax Refund Trends over Time and Across Income Levels

The issue of tax refunds has received robust media attention as 2018 tax returns are filed in early 2019. For individual income tax filers, 2018 was the first year in which the major changes signed into law by President Trump at the end of 2017 (P.L. 115-97) became effective.
What Determines Tax Refunds? A taxpayer’s tax refund (or payment) in a given year is determined by
income tax liability: what a taxpayer owes in federal income tax; and income tax withholding: the amount that the taxpayer has paid toward that tax bill during the year, often through their employer withholding...

The End of Intra-EU Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS): Implications for the United States

On January 15, 2019, the 28 European Union (EU) member states declared that they will terminate all intra-European bilateral investment treaties (BITs) (i.e., those between member states) no later than December 6, 2019 (see the Declaration). The action by the EU member states is the latest in a series of actions that has altered the status of traditional investor-state-dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanisms within the European Union. ISDS mechanisms, which enable foreign investors to bring disputes with host states before independent international arbitral tribunals, have been a common...

Debt Limit Legislation: The House “Gephardt Rule”

Essentially all of the outstanding debt of the federal government is subject to a statutory limit, which is set forth as a dollar limitation in 31 U.S.C. 3101(b). From time to time, Congress considers and passes legislation to adjust or suspend this limit.

At the beginning of the 116th Congress, the House adopted a standing rule that would provide for legislation suspending the statutory debt limit to be considered as passed by the House, without a separate vote, when the House adopts the budget resolution for a fiscal year. This House rule is similar to a previous one related to the debt...

Senate Select Committee on Ethics: A Brief History of Its Evolution and Jurisdiction

The U.S. Constitution provides each House of Congress with the sole authority to establish rules and punish and expel Members. From 1789 to 1964, the Senate dealt individually with cases of disciplinary action against Members, often forming ad hoc committees to investigate and make recommendations when acts of wrongdoing were brought to the chamber’s attention. Events of the 1960s, including the investigation of Secretary to the Majority Robert G. “Bobby” Baker, for alleged corruption and influence peddling, prompted the creation of a permanent ethics committee and the writing of a Code of...

The Federal Income Tax: How Did P.L. 115-97 Change Marginal Income Tax Rates?

At the end of 2017, President Trump signed into law P.L. 115-97, which is commonly referred to as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, or TCJA. (The title of the bill as passed by the House was the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, but it was eliminated before final passage under the reconciliation process used to consider the bill in the Senate.) This law made numerous changes to the federal income tax for individuals and businesses. Of the many changes made to individual income tax provisions, the law temporarily changed marginal tax rates. These changes are currently in effect from 2018 through the end of...

Mail and Wire Fraud: A Brief Overview of Federal Criminal Law

The mail and wire fraud statutes are exceptionally broad. Their scope has occasionally given the courts pause. Nevertheless, prosecutions in their name have brought to an end schemes that have bilked victims out of millions, and sometimes billions, of dollars. The statutes proscribe (1) causing the use of the mail or wire communications, including email; (2) in conjunction with a scheme to intentionally defraud another of money or property; (3) by means of a material deception. The offenses, along with attempts or conspiracies to commit them, carry a term of imprisonment of up to 30 years...

Border Security Between Ports of Entry: Homeland Security Issues in the 116th Congress

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The United States’ southern border with Mexico runs for approximately 2,000 miles over diverse terrain, varied population densities, and discontinuous sections of public, private, and tribal land ownership. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is primarily responsible for border security, including the construction and maintenance of tactical infrastructure, installation and monitoring of surveillance technology, and the deployment of border patrol agents to prevent unlawful entries of people and contraband into the United States (including...

Mail and Wire Fraud: An Abbreviated Overview of Federal Criminal Law

The mail and wire fraud statutes are exceptionally broad. Their scope has occasionally given the courts pause. Nevertheless, prosecutions in their name have brought to an end schemes that have bilked victims out of millions, and sometimes billions, of dollars. The statutes proscribe (1) causing the use of the mail or wire communications, including email; (2) in conjunction with a scheme to intentionally defraud another of money or property; (3) by means of a material deception. The offenses, along with attempts or conspiracies to commit them, carry a term of imprisonment of up to 30 years...

Transportation Security: Issues for the 116th Congress

The nation’s air, land, and marine transportation systems are designed for accessibility and efficiency, two characteristics that make them vulnerable to terrorist attack. While hardening the transportation sector is difficult, measures can be taken to deter terrorists. The enduring challenge facing Congress is how best to implement and finance a system of deterrence, protection, and response that effectively reduces the possibility and consequences of terrorist attacks without unduly interfering with travel, commerce, and civil liberties.

Transportation security has been a major policy...

U.S. National Health Security: Homeland Security Issues in the 116th Congress

In its quadrennial National Health Security Strategy, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) states:

U.S. National Health Security actions protect the nation’s physical and psychological health, limit economic losses, and preserve confidence in government and the national will to pursue its interests when threatened by incidents that result in serious health consequences whether natural, accidental, or deliberate.

The strategy aims to ensure the resilience of the nation’s public health and health care systems against potential threats, including natural disasters and...

School Meals Programs and Other USDA Child Nutrition Programs: A Primer

The “child nutrition programs” refer to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (USDA-FNS) programs that provide food for children in school or institutional settings. The best known programs, which serve the largest number of children, are the school meals programs: the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and the School Breakfast Program (SBP). The child nutrition programs also include the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), which provides meals and snacks in day care and after school settings; the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), which provides food...

Venezuela Oil Sector Sanctions: Market and Trade Impacts

On January 28, 2019, the Trump Administration imposed sanctions on Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PdVSA), adding to existing Venezuela sanctions. The Department of the Treasury determined that persons (e.g., individuals and companies) operating in Venezuela’s oil sector are subject to sanctions in order to apply economic pressure on the government of Nicolas Maduro and facilitate a transition to democracy. Subsequently, Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) added PdVSA—including all entities in which PdVSA has a 50% or more ownership...

Selecting the World Bank President

On January 7, 2018, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim announced that he would resign by February 1, three years before the expiration of his second five-year term in 2022. Following his resignation, Dr. Kim is to join Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP), a private equity fund that invests in projects in advanced and developing countries. Prior to his nomination to the World Bank by President Barack Obama in 2012, Dr. Kim served as the president of Dartmouth College.

The nomination period for the next president ends on March 14, after which the Executive Board is to select three...

Individual Income Tax Rates and Other Key Elements of the Federal Individual Income Tax: 1988 to 2019 Tax Years

Statutory individual income tax rates are the tax rates that apply by law to various amounts of taxable income. Statutory rates form the basis of marginal effective and average effective tax rates, which most economists believe have a greater impact on the economic behavior of companies and individuals than do statutory rates. Marginal effective rates capture the net effect of special tax provisions on statutory rates. They differ from average effective rates, which measure someone’s overall income tax burden.

Current statutory and effective individual tax rates are the result of the Tax...

Colombia: Background and U.S. Relations

A key U.S. ally in the Latin American region, Colombia endured an internal armed conflict for half a century. Drug trafficking fueled the violence by funding both left-wing and right-wing armed groups. Some analysts feared Colombia would become a failed state in the late 1990s, but the Colombian government devised a new security strategy, known as Plan Colombia, to counter the insurgencies. Originally designed as a 6-year program, Plan Colombia ultimately became a 17-year U.S.-Colombian bilateral effort. The partnership focused initially on counternarcotics and later on counterterrorism;...

Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations In Brief

The United States and Turkey have been NATO allies since 1952 and share some vital interests, but harmonizing their priorities can be difficult. These priorities sometimes diverge irrespective of who leads the two countries, based on contrasting geography, threat perceptions, and regional roles.

Turkey’s core security and economic relationships and institutional links remain with Western nations, as reflected by some key U.S. military assets based in Turkey and Turkey’s strong trade ties with the European Union. However, various factors complicate U.S.-Turkey relations. For example,...

Farm Policy: USDA’s Trade Aid Package

In early 2018, the Trump Administration—citing concerns over national security and unfair trade practices—imposed increased tariffs on certain imported products in general and on U.S. imports from China in particular. Several of the affected foreign trading partners (including China) responded to the U.S. tariffs with their own retaliatory tariffs targeting various U.S. products, especially agricultural commodities.

On July 24, 2018, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) would be taking several temporary actions to assist farmers in...

Congressional Member Organizations (CMOs) and Informal Member Groups

In addition to party organizations and committees, Members of the House and Senate often participate in informal Member organizations. In the 115th Congress, 854 informal Member organizations—which are commonly referred to as caucuses, working groups, or task forces—existed. In this Insight, however, they are collectively described as informal Member organizations to avoid confusion with official party caucuses. Additional information can be found in CRS Report R40683, Congressional Member Organizations (CMOs) and Informal Member Groups: Their Purpose and Activities, History, and...

Russian Compliance with the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty: Background and Issues for Congress

The United States and Soviet Union signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in December 1987. Negotiations on this treaty were the result of a “dual-track” decision taken by NATO in 1979 in response to concerns about the Soviet Union’s deployment of new intermediate-range nuclear missiles. NATO agreed both to accept deployment of new U.S. intermediate-range ballistic and cruise missiles and to support U.S. efforts to negotiate with the Soviet Union to limit these missiles. In the INF Treaty, the United States and Soviet Union agreed that they would ban all land-based...

Department of Homeland Security Human Resources Management: Homeland Security Issues in the 116th Congress

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Human resources management (HRM) underlies the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) mission and performance. DHS’s Chief Human Capital Officer (CHCO) “is responsible for the Department’s human capital program,” which is described as including such elements as “human resources policy, systems, and programs for strategic workforce planning, recruitment and hiring, pay and leave, performance management, employee development, executive resources, labor relations, work/life and safety and health.”

Under Title 5, Section 1402, of the United States Code, a CHCO’s functions include...

Water Resource Issues in the 116th Congress

The 116th Congress may conduct oversight and deliberate on authorization and funding of water resource development, management, and protection. Congress engages in authorization and appropriations for water resource projects and activities of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation). USACE constructs projects nationwide, primarily to improve navigation, reduce flood damage, and restore aquatic ecosystems. Reclamation constructs projects in the 17 arid states west of the Mississippi River; these projects primarily provide water supply benefits,...

Past Government Shutdowns: Key Resources

When federal government agencies and programs lack budget authority after the expiration of either full-year or interim appropriations, they experience a “funding gap.” Under the Antideficiency Act (31 U.S.C. §§1341 et seq.), they must cease operations, except in certain circumstances when continued activities are authorized by law. When there is a funding gap that affects many federal entities, the situation is often referred to as a government shutdown. In the past, there have occasionally been funding gaps that led to government shutdowns, one of which lasted 21 days, from December 16,...

Medicare Advantage (MA)–Proposed Benchmark Update and Other Adjustments for CY2020: In Brief

Medicare Advantage (Part C, or MA) is an alternative way for Medicare beneficiaries to receive covered benefits. Under MA, private health plans are paid a per person monthly amount to provide all Medicare-covered benefits (except hospice) to beneficiaries who enroll in their plan. Unlike under original Medicare, where providers are paid for each item or service provided to a beneficiary, the same capitated monthly payment is made to an MA plan regardless of how many or how few services a beneficiary actually uses. The plan is at risk if costs for all of its enrollees exceed program...

House Voting Procedures: Forms and Requirements

In the House, there are four forms of votes: voice vote, division vote, yea and nay vote, and recorded vote. In the Committee of the Whole, where much of the chamber’s business is conducted, the forms are voice vote, division vote, and recorded vote. Members may vote in the House. Members, Delegates, and the Resident Commissioner may vote in the Committee of the Whole.

The Holman Rule (House Rule XXI, Clause 2(b))

Although congressional rules establish a general division of responsibility under which questions of policy are kept separate from questions of funding, House rules provide for exceptions in certain circumstances. One such circumstance allows for the inclusion of legislative language in general appropriations bills or amendments thereto for “germane provisions that retrench expenditures by the reduction of amounts of money covered by the bill.” This exception appears in clause 2(b) of House Rule XXI and is known as the Holman rule, after Representative William Holman of Indiana, who first...

House Offset Amendments to Appropriations Bills: Procedural Considerations

One of the most common methods for changing spending priorities in appropriations bills on the House floor is through offset amendments. House offset amendments may generally change spending priorities in a pending appropriations measure by increasing spending for certain activities (or creating spending for new activities not previously included in the bill) and offsetting the increase with funding decreases in other activities in the bill. Offset amendments are needed to avoid points of order under Sections 302(f) and 311(a) of the Congressional Budget Act, enforcing certain spending...

Appropriations Subcommittee Structure: History of Changes from 1920 to 2019

This report details the evolution of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees’ subcommittee structure from the 1920s to the present. In 1920, the House adopted a change in its rules to consolidate jurisdiction over all appropriations in the Appropriations Committee. After the enactment of the Budget and Accounting Act of 1921, the House reorganized its Appropriations Committee by establishing for the first time a set of subcommittees to consider appropriations bills based on the administrative organization of the executive branch. The Senate followed suit in 1922, and the two...

Supermajority Votes in the House

The principle of majority rule dominates the work of the House of Representatives. This means, in brief, that most questions are decided by vote of a simple majority: one-half plus one of the Members voting, assuming the presence of a quorum. For instance, if all 435 lawmakers vote, the winning margin is at least 218—one more than half the membership of the House. In cases of a tie vote, House Rule XX, clause 1(c), states that “a question shall be lost.”

Some supermajority votes, however, are explicitly specified in the Constitution. The House may also define supermajority votes. This...

El Salvador’s 2019 Elections

On February 3, 2019, Nayib Bukele, a 37-year-old former mayor of San Salvador and candidate of the Grand Alliance of National Unity (GANA) party, won El Salvador’s presidential election. Bukele garnered 53% of the vote, well ahead of Carlos Calleja, a business executive running for a conservative National Republican Alliance (ARENA)-led coalition, with 31.8%, and Hugo Mártinez, a former foreign minister of the leftist Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), with 14.4%. Bukele’s first-round victory occurred amid relatively low voter turnout (44.7%) during a peaceful electoral...

Venezuela: U.S. Recognizes Interim Government

Many in Congress are closely following events in Venezuela, given recent political developments that have led the United States and other governments to recognize an interim government. On January 23, 2019, amid widespread protests against the authoritarian government of President Nicolás Maduro, the president of Venezuela’s democratically elected, opposition-controlled National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, declared himself interim president of Venezuela until new presidential elections are convened. The United States, Canada, and more than 35 other countries have recognized Guaidó as the...

Science and Technology Issues in the 116th Congress

Science and technology (S&T) have a pervasive influence over a wide range of issues confronting the nation. Public and private research and development spur scientific and technological advancement. Such advances can drive economic growth, help address national priorities, and improve health and quality of life. The ubiquity and constantly changing nature of science and technology frequently create public policy issues of congressional interest.

The federal government supports scientific and technological advancement directly by funding and performing research and development and...

Social Security: Revisiting Benefits for Spouses and Survivors

Social Security auxiliary benefits are paid to the spouse, former spouse, survivor, child, or parent of a Social Security-covered worker and are equal to a specified percentage of the worker’s basic monthly benefit amount (subject to a maximum family benefit amount). For example, the spouse of a retired worker may receive up to 50% of the retired worker’s basic benefit and the widow(er) of a retired worker may receive up to 100% of the retired worker’s basic benefit.

When auxiliary benefits were first established, most households consisted of a single earner—usually the husband—and a wife...

Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act of 2018 (P.L. 115-253) and U.S. Aid for the Palestinians

The Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act (ATCA, P.L. 115-253) became law on October 3, 2018. Congress passed the law in the wake of a U.S. federal court case dealing with past acts of terrorism by Palestinians (discussed below, “U.S. Policy Implications and Options”). The law amended the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) (at 18 U.S.C. 2334) by stating that a defendant consents to personal jurisdiction in U.S. federal court for lawsuits related to international terrorism if the defendant accepts certain types of U.S. foreign aid after the law has been in effect for 120 days.

In December, Palestinian...

History, Evolution, and Practices of the President’s State of the Union Address: Frequently Asked Questions

The State of the Union address is a communication from the President to Congress in which the chief executive reports on the current condition of the United States and provides policy proposals for the upcoming legislative year. The address originates in the Constitution (Article II, Section 3, clause 1), which requires that the President “shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.”

Over time, the State of the Union address has evolved considerably. The...

The Closure of Institutions of Higher Education: Student Options, Borrower Relief, and Other Implications

When an institution of higher education (IHE) closes, a student’s postsecondary education may be disrupted. Students enrolled at closing IHEs may face numerous issues and may be required to make difficult decisions in the wake of a closure. Two key issues students may face when their IHEs close relate to their academic plans and their personal finances.

The academic issues faced by students when their schools close include whether they will continue to pursue their postsecondary education, and if so, where and how they might do so. Students deciding to continue their postsecondary...

LNG as a Maritime Fuel: Prospects and Policy

The combination of growing liquefied natural gas (LNG) supplies and new requirements for less polluting fuels in the maritime shipping industry has heightened interest in LNG as a maritime fuel. The use of LNG as an engine (“bunker”) fuel in shipping is also drawing attention from federal agencies and is beginning to emerge as an issue of interest in Congress.

In 2008, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) announced a timeline to reduce the maximum sulfur content in vessel fuels to 0.5% by January 1, 2020. Annex VI of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution...

Federal Funding Gaps: A Brief Overview

The Antideficiency Act (31 U.S.C. 1341-1342, 1511-1519) generally bars the obligation of funds in the absence of appropriations. Exceptions are made under the act, including for activities involving “the safety of human life or the protection of property.” The interval during the fiscal year when appropriations for a particular project or activity are not enacted into law, either in the form of a regular appropriations act or a continuing resolution (CR), is referred to as a funding gap or funding lapse. Although funding gaps may occur at the start of the fiscal year, they may also occur...

U.S. Withdrawal from the INF Treaty

U.S. Withdrawal

The United States will suspend its obligations under the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and submit its formal notice of withdrawal to Russia on February 2, 2019. President Donald Trump first announced the U.S. withdrawal on October 20, 2018, and stated on February 1, 2019, that the United States was taking this step because Russia was violating the treaty by “developing and fielding a prohibited missile system that poses a direct threat to our allies and troops abroad.”

Under the INF Treaty, the United States and Soviet Union agreed to ban all land-based...

Congress and the War in Yemen: Oversight and Legislation 2015-2019

This product provides an overview of the role Congress has played in shaping U.S. policy toward the conflict in Yemen. Summary tables provide information on legislative proposals considered in the 115th and 116th Congresses. Various legislative proposals have reflected a range of congressional perspectives and priorities, including with regard to

the authorization of the activities of the U.S. Armed Forces related to the conflict;

the extent of U.S. logistical, material, advisory, and intelligence support for the coalition led by Saudi Arabia;

the approval, disapproval, or conditioning of...

Small Business: Access to Capital and Job Creation

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) administers several programs to support small businesses, including loan guaranty and venture capital programs to enhance small business access to capital; contracting programs to increase small business opportunities in federal contracting; direct loan programs for businesses, homeowners, and renters to assist their recovery from natural disasters; and small business management and technical assistance training programs to assist business formation and expansion. Congressional interest in these programs has increased in recent years, primarily...

Nigeria: Current Issues and U.S. Policy

Successive Administrations have described the U.S. relationship with Nigeria, Africa’s largest producer of oil and its largest economy, to be among the most important on the continent. The country is Africa’s most populous, with more than 200 million people, roughly evenly divided between Muslims and Christians. Nigeria, which transitioned from military to civilian rule in 1999, ranked for years among the top suppliers of U.S. oil imports, and it is a major recipient of U.S. foreign aid. The country is the United States’ second-largest trading partner in Africa and the third-largest...

Birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington: Fact Sheet

Washington’s Birthday, often informally called Presidents’ Day, is a federal holiday celebrating the birth of President George Washington on the third Monday in February. In some regions of the United States, the birth of President Abraham Lincoln is also unofficially celebrated on this holiday. The official designation for this holiday is “Washington’s Birthday.” Although other institutions such as state and local governments and private businesses may use other names, it is federal policy to always refer to holidays by the names designated in the law.

This guide assists congressional...

The Disaster Relief Fund: Overview and Issues

The Disaster Relief Fund (DRF) is one of the most-tracked single accounts funded by Congress each year. Managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), it is the primary source of funding for the federal government’s domestic general disaster relief programs. These programs, authorized under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, as amended (42 U.S.C. 5121 et seq.), outline the federal role in supporting state, local, tribal, and territorial governments as they respond to and recover from a variety of incidents. They take effect in the event that...

Small Business Size Standards: A Historical Analysis of Contemporary Issues

Small business size standards are of congressional interest because they have a pivotal role in determining eligibility for Small Business Administration (SBA) assistance as well as federal contracting and, in some instances, tax preferences. Although there is bipartisan agreement that the nation’s small businesses play an important role in the American economy, there are differences of opinion concerning how to define them. The Small Business Act of 1953 (P.L. 83-163, as amended) authorized the SBA to establish size standards to ensure that only small businesses receive SBA assistance....

Evaluating Possible U.S. Troop Withdrawals from Hostile Areas

On December 19, 2018, President Trump announced his intention to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria within 30 days, although Administration officials subsequently suggested that the process could take several months. Subsequent press articles indicated that the White House is also considering withdrawing “up to half” of U.S. forces in Afghanistan in the coming months, although at the time of writing the Trump Administration has stated it has not yet ordered any such withdrawal. More recently, the United States has been negotiating with Afghan Taliban representatives regarding the conditions...

Public Safety Officers’ Benefits (PSOB) and Public Safety Officers’ Educational Assistance (PSOEA) Programs

The Public Safety Officers’ Benefits (PSOB) program provides cash benefits to federal, state, and local law enforcement officers; firefighters; employees of emergency management agencies; and members of emergency medical services agencies who are killed or permanently and totally disabled as the result of personal injuries sustained in the line of duty. The Public Safety Officers’ Educational Assistance (PSOEA) program, a component of the PSOB program, provides higher-education assistance to the children and spouses of public safety officers killed or permanently disabled in the line of...

General and Flag Officers in the U.S. Armed Forces: Background and Considerations for Congress

In the exercise of its constitutional authority over the Armed Forces, Congress has enacted an array of laws which govern important aspects of military officer personnel management, including appointments, assignments, grade structure, promotions, and separations. Some of these laws are directed specifically at the most senior military officers, known as general and flag officers (GFOs). Congress periodically reviews these laws and considers changes as it deems appropriate. Areas of congressional interest have included the number of GFOs authorized, the proportion of GFOs to the total...

The U.S. Intelligence Community: Homeland Security Issues in the 116th Congress

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Intelligence support of homeland security is a primary mission of the entire Intelligence Community (IC). In fulfilling this mission, changes to IC organization and process, since 9/11, have enabled more integrated and effective support than witnessed or envisioned since its inception. The terrorist attacks of 9/11 revealed how barriers between intelligence and law enforcement, which originally had been created to protect civil liberties, had become too rigid, thus preventing efficient, effective coordination against threats. In its final report, the Commission on Terrorist Attacks...

Background Ozone: Challenges in Science and Policy

Exposure to ozone, a common air pollutant, has been linked to early death, plant and crop damage, and damage to property. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ground-level ozone to protect human health and welfare with, by law, a “margin of safety.” States that contain areas with ozone concentrations above these standards must develop plans to reduce emissions and improve air quality. However, states have direct control only over emission sources located within their borders.

The Clean Air Act (CAA) requires EPA to...

U.S. Department of the Interior: An Overview

The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) is a federal executive department responsible for the conservation and administration of the public lands and mineral estate of the United States. DOI describes its mission as protecting and managing the nation’s natural resources and cultural heritage for the benefit of the American people; providing scientific and scholarly information about those resources and natural hazards; and exercising the nation’s trust responsibilities and special commitments to American Indians, Alaska Natives, and island territories under U.S. administration.

As part...

Introducing a House Bill or Resolution

Authoring and introducing legislation is fundamental to the task of representing voters as a Member of Congress. In fact, part of what makes the American political process unique is that it affords all Members an ability to propose their own ideas for chamber consideration. By comparison, most other democratic governments around the world rely on an executive official, often called a premier, chancellor, or prime minister, to originate and submit policy proposals for discussion and enactment by the legislature. Legislators serving in other countries generally lack the power to initiate...

Women in National Governments Around the Globe: Fact Sheet

Summary to be suppressed Women Elections Legislatures Legislative representation Executive representation Voting rights Gender quotas

China’s Actions in South and East China Seas: Implications for U.S. Interests—Background and Issues for Congress

China’s actions in recent years in the South China Sea (SCS)—particularly its island-building and base-construction activities at sites that it occupies in the Spratly Islands—have heightened concerns among U.S. observers that China is rapidly gaining effective control of the SCS, an area of strategic, political, and economic importance to the United States and its allies and partners, particularly those in the Indo-Pacific region. U.S. Navy Admiral Philip Davidson, in his responses to advance policy questions from the Senate Armed Services Committee for an April 17, 2018, hearing to...

“Affirmative Action” and Equal Protection in Higher Education

When federal courts have analyzed and addressed “affirmative action” in higher education, they have done so in two distinct but related senses, both under the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of “equal protection.”

The first has its roots in the original sense of “affirmative action:” the mandatory use of race by public education systems to eliminate the remnants of state-imposed racial segregation. Because state-sanctioned race segregation in public education violates the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, in certain cases involving a state’s formerly de jure segregated...

Drug Trafficking at the Southwest Border: Homeland Security Issues in the 116th Congress

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The United States sustains a multi-billion dollar illegal drug market. An estimated 28.6 million Americans, or 10.6% of the population age 12 or older, had used illicit drugs at least once in the past month in 2016. The 2018 National Drug Threat Assessment indicates that Mexican transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) continue to dominate the U.S. drug market. They “remain the greatest criminal drug threat to the United States; no other group is currently positioned to challenge them.” The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) indicates that these TCOs maintain and expand their...

Artificial Intelligence and National Security

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a rapidly growing field of technology with potentially significant implications for national security. As such, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) and other nations are developing AI applications for a range of military functions. AI research is underway in the fields of intelligence collection and analysis, logistics, cyber operations, information operations, command and control, and in a variety of semiautonomous and autonomous vehicles. Already, AI has been incorporated into military operations in Iraq and Syria. Congressional action has the potential...

The Unemployment Trust Fund (UTF): State Insolvency and Federal Loans to States

Although states have a great deal of autonomy in how they establish and run their unemployment insurance programs, federal law requires states to pay Unemployment Compensation (UC) benefits promptly as provided under state law. During some recessions, current taxes and reserve balances may be insufficient to cover state obligations for UC benefits. States may borrow funds from the federal loan account within the Unemployment Trust Fund (UTF) to meet UC benefit obligations.

This report summarizes how insolvent states may borrow funds from the UTF loan account to meet their UC benefit...

Bribery, Kickbacks, and Self-Dealing: An Overview of Honest Services Fraud and Issues for Congress

As the trials of Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos illustrate, corruption among high-profile public officials continues to be a concern in the United States. Likewise, recent examples abound of powerful executives in the private sector abusing positions of trust for personal gain. Faced with this reality, Congress has shown consistent interest in policing public- and private-sector corruption, enacting a number of criminal provisions aimed at holding corrupt officials accountable for their actions under federal law. However, one of federal prosecutors’ most potent existing tools for combating...

Fifth-Generation (5G) Telecommunications Technologies: Issues for Congress

Since the first mobile phones were made available in the 1980s, telecommunication providers have been investing in mobile networks to expand coverage, improve services, and attract more users. First-generation networks supported mobile voice calls but were limited in coverage and capacity. To address those limitations, providers developed and deployed second-generation (2G) mobile networks, then third-generation (3G), and fourth-generation (4G) networks. Each generation offered improved speeds, greater capacity, and new features and services.

In 2018, telecommunication providers began...

U.S. Trade Policy Primer: Frequently Asked Questions

Congress plays a major role in U.S. trade policy through its legislative and oversight authority. Since the end of World War II, U.S. trade policy has focused on fostering an open, rules-based global trading system, liberalizing markets by reducing trade and investment barriers through negotiations and agreements, and enforcing trade commitments and related laws. International trade and investment issues can affect the overall health of the U.S. economy and specific sectors, the success of U.S. businesses, U.S. employment opportunities, and the overall standard of living of Americans. The...

The Trump Administration’s National Strategy for Counterterrorism: Homeland Security Issues in the 116th Congress

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On October 4, 2018, President Trump released his Administration’s first National Strategy for Counterterrorism. The overarching goal of the strategy is to “defeat the terrorists who threaten America’s safety, prevent future attacks, and protect our national interests.” In describing the need for this strategy, National Security Advisor John Bolton stated that the terrorist “landscape is more fluid and complex than ever” and that the strategy will not “focus on a single organization but will counter all terrorists with the ability and intent to harm the United States, its citizens and...

Emergency Communications: Homeland Security Issues in the 116th Congress

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Overview First responders and other emergency personnel use emergency communications systems to communicate with each other during day-to-day operations and large-scale disasters. Emergency communication systems are also used to enable communications between the public and response agencies. Emergency communication systems include 911 systems that receive calls from the public, requesting assistance or reporting an emergency, and that relay those calls to response agencies (e.g., local police and fire departments); land mobile radio (LMR) systems that allow police, firefighters, and...

Recent Migration to the United States from Central America: Frequently Asked Questions

Over the last decade, migration to the United States from Central America—in particular from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras (known collectively as the Northern Triangle)—has increased considerably. Families migrating from this region, many seeking asylum, have made up an increasing share of the migrants seeking admission to the United States at the U.S.-Mexico border. In the past year, news reports of migrant “caravans” from the Northern Triangle traveling toward the United States have sparked intense interest and questions from Congress.

Many factors, both in their countries of...

Legislative Branch Agency Appointments: History, Processes, and Recent Actions

The leaders of the legislative branch agencies and entities—the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the Library of Congress (LOC), the Congressional Research Service (CRS), the Government Publishing Office (GPO, formerly Government Printing Office), the Office of the Architect of the Capitol (AOC), the U.S. Capitol Police (USCP), the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), and the Office of Compliance—are appointed in a variety of manners.

Four agencies are led by a person appointed by the President, with the advice and consent of the Senate; two are appointed by Congress; one is appointed...

International Trade and Finance: Overview and Issues for the 116th Congress

The U.S. Constitution grants authority to Congress to lay and collect duties and regulate foreign commerce. Congress exercises this authority in numerous ways, including through oversight of trade policy and consideration of legislation to implement trade agreements and authorize trade programs. Policy issues cover areas such as U.S. trade negotiations, U.S. trade and economic relations with specific regions and countries, international institutions focused on trade, tariff and nontariff barriers, worker dislocation due to trade liberalization, enforcement of trade laws and trade agreement...

Use of the Capitol Rotunda, Capitol Grounds, and Emancipation Hall: Concurrent Resolutions, 101st to 115th Congresses

The Capitol Rotunda and the Capitol Grounds have been used as the setting for a variety of events, ranging from memorial ceremonies and the reception of foreign dignitaries to the presentation of awards and the hosting of public competitions. This report identifies and categorizes uses of the Capitol Rotunda and Capitol Grounds authorized by concurrent resolutions since the 101st Congress.

In most cases, use of the Capitol Rotunda requires a concurrent resolution agreed to by both the House and Senate. A concurrent resolution for the use of the Rotunda typically identifies the event and...

National African American History Month Speech Resources: Fact Sheet

This fact sheet links to authoritative information resources related to National African American History Month, which is also referred to as African American History Month and Black History Month. It is designed to assist congressional offices with work related to National African American History Month by providing links to legislation, CRS reports, sample speeches and remarks from the Congressional Record, and presidential proclamations and remarks. It also links to additional government web resources and selected advocacy, educational, cultural, and military, organizations.

New Law Requires Agencies to Report on Outstanding IG Recommendations

On January 3, 2019, President Donald Trump signed into law the Good Accounting Obligation in Government Act (GAO-IG Act), which requires agency reporting on outstanding inspector general (IG) recommendations, among other things. The act requires covered agencies to include in their annual budget justifications information on outstanding recommendations made by their respective IGs, including

a list of each public IG recommendation that was published at least one year before submission of the annual budget justification and for which no final action was taken;

the status of each...

Cambodia: Background and U.S. Relations

U.S. relations with the Kingdom of Cambodia have become increasingly strained in recent years in light of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s suppression of the political opposition and his growing embrace of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). During the previous decade, U.S. engagement with the Kingdom slowly strengthened as Western countries continued to pressure Hun Sen to abide by democratic norms and institutions and as the U.S. government attempted to prevent Cambodia from falling too heavily under China’s influence. Following strong performances by the opposition in the 2013 and 2017...

The Role of the House Minority Leader: An Overview

The House minority leader, the head of the “loyal opposition,” is elected every two years by secret ballot of his or her party caucus or conference. The minority leader occupies a number of important institutional and party roles and responsibilities, and his or her fundamental goal is to recapture majority control of the House.

From a party perspective, the minority leader has a wide range of assignments, all geared toward retaking majority control of the House. Five principal party activities direct the work of the minority leader. First, he or she provides campaign assistance to party...

State Minimum Wages: An Overview

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), enacted in 1938, is the federal legislation that establishes the general minimum wage that must be paid to all covered workers. While the FLSA mandates broad minimum wage coverage, states have the option of establishing minimum wage rates that are different from those set in it. Under the provisions of the FLSA, an individual is generally covered by the higher of the state or federal minimum wage.

As of 2019, minimum wage rates are above the federal rate of $7.25 per hour in 29 states and the District of Columbia, ranging from $0.25 to $6.75 above the...

The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS): Waiver Authority and Modification of Volumes

The Clean Air Act requires that transportation fuels contain a minimum volume of renewable fuel. This renewable fuel standard (RFS) was established by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct05; P.L. 109-58) and amended by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA; P.L. 110-140). The RFS includes scheduled volume mandates that grow each year (starting with 9 billion gallons in 2008 and ascending to 36 billion gallons in 2022). The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which is responsible for administering the RFS, determines the annual volume after 2022. Within the overall...

The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA): Overview of Workers’ Compensation for Certain Private-Sector Maritime Workers

The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) is a federal workers’ compensation program that covers certain private-sector maritime workers. Firms that employ these workers are required to purchase workers’ compensation or self-insure and are responsible for providing medical and disability benefits to covered workers who are injured or become ill on the job and survivors benefits to the families of covered workers who die on the job. The LHWCA is administered by the Department of Labor (DOL), and all benefit costs are paid by employers and their insurance carriers. In 2016,...

U.S. Armed Forces Abroad: Selected Congressional Votes Since 1982

This report summarizes selected congressional roll call votes related to instances in which U.S. Armed Forces have been sent abroad in potentially hostile situations. These votes reflect the type of congressional actions that observers maintain bear directly on issues affecting policy and the funding of troops abroad, often in the context of the War Powers Resolution, continued presence or withdrawal of troops, and the “use of force.” The cases of Lebanon (1982-1983), Grenada (1983), Panama (1989), the Persian Gulf War (1990-1991), Somalia (1992-1995), Haiti (1993-1996), Bosnia...

The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS): An Overview

The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) requires U.S. transportation fuel to contain a minimum volume of renewable fuel. The RFS—established by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (P.L. 109-58; EPAct05) and expanded in 2007 by the Energy Independence and Security Act (P.L. 110-140; EISA)—began with 4 billion gallons of renewable fuel in 2006 and aims to ascend to 36 billion gallons in 2022. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has statutory authority to determine the volume amounts after 2022.

The total renewable fuel statutory target consists of both conventional biofuel and advanced biofuel....

A Possible Second U.S.-North Korea Summit: What Diplomacy Has and Hasn’t Achieved

Summary of January 2018-January 2019 Developments

In late January 2019, President Donald Trump said he would meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un “probably at the end of February.” The summit would be the second between the two leaders, following their summit in Singapore in June 2018. As of January 22, the White House has not detailed the substance of the planned meeting. Washington and Pyongyang appeared to reach few substantive agreements ahead of the last summit, which Trump described as a “getting to know you” occasion.

If the Trump-Kim summit occurs, it would continue the...

Congressional Member Organizations (CMOs) and Informal Member Groups: Their Purpose and Activities, History, and Formation

This report examines the historical development and contemporary role of Congressional Member Organizations (CMOs) in the House, as well as informal Member groups in the House, Senate, and across the chambers. Commonly, these groups are referred to as caucuses, but they will be referred to collectively as informal Member organizations in this report to avoid confusion with official party caucuses. Some examples of groups that modern observers would consider informal Member organizations date back as far as the early 1800s, but the number of groups has grown substantially since the 1990s....

Federal Role in Voter Registration: The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 and Subsequent Developments

Historically, most aspects of election administration have been left to state and local governments, resulting in a variety of practices across jurisdictions with respect to voter registration. States can vary on a number of elements of the voter registration process, including whether or not to require voter registration; where or when voter registration occurs; and how voters may be removed from registration lists. The right of citizens to vote, however, is presented in the U.S. Constitution in the Fifteenth, Nineteenth, and Twenty-sixth Amendments. Beginning with the Voting Rights Act...

Homeland Security Research and Development: Homeland Security Issues in the 116th Congress

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Overview

In the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Directorate of Science and Technology (S&T) has primary responsibility for establishing, administering, and coordinating research and development (R&D) activities. The Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) is responsible for R&D relating to nuclear and radiological threats. Several other DHS components, such as the Coast Guard, also fund R&D and R&D-related activities associated with their missions. The Common Appropriations Structure that DHS introduced in its FY2017 budget includes an account titled Research and...

Economics of Federal User Fees

The federal government collects various fees from businesses and households. Choosing to raise public funds via user fees, as opposed to other means such as taxes, has important administrative and economic consequences. Many fees stem from “business-like activities,” in which the government provides a service or benefit in return for payment. For example, many national parks charge entry fees, which then help fund maintenance projects. Such fees and charges that result from voluntary choices, such as entering a national park, are distinguished from taxes—which stem from the government’s...

Latin America and the Caribbean: Issues in the 115th Congress

Geographic proximity has ensured strong linkages between the United States and Latin America and the Caribbean, based on diverse U.S. interests, including economic, political, and security concerns. The United States is a major trading partner and the largest source of foreign investment for many countries in the region, with free-trade agreements enhancing economic linkages with 11 countries. The region is a large source of U.S. immigration, both legal and illegal; proximity and economic and security conditions are major factors driving migration. Curbing the flow of illicit drugs has...

Venezuela: Background and U.S. Relations

Venezuela remains in a deep political crisis under the authoritarian rule of President Nicolás Maduro of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV). Maduro, narrowly elected in 2013 after the death of Hugo Chávez (1999-2013), is unpopular. Nevertheless, he has used the courts, security forces, and electoral council to repress the opposition.

On January 10, 2019, Maduro began a second term after winning reelection on May 20, 2018, in an unfair contest deemed illegitimate by the opposition-controlled National Assembly and most of the international community. The United States, the...

The Black Lung Program, the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund, and the Excise Tax on Coal: Background and Policy Options

The federal government pays benefits to coal miners affected by coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (CWP, commonly referred to as black lung disease) and other lung diseases linked to coal mining in cases where responsible mine operators are not able to pay. In 2019, the monthly benefit for a miner with no dependents is $660.10. Benefits can be as much as $1,320.10 per month for miners with three or more dependents. Medical benefits are provided separately from disability benefits. Benefit payments and related administrative expenses in cases in which the responsible operators do not pay are paid...

Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protections: In Brief

Whistleblowing is “the act of reporting waste, fraud, abuse and corruption in a lawful manner to those who can correct the wrongdoing.” Intelligence community (IC) whistleblowers are those employees or contractors working in any of the 17 elements of the IC who reasonably believe there has been a violation of law, rule, or regulation; gross mismanagement; waste of resources; abuse of authority; or a substantial danger to public health and safety. The IC has publicly recognized the importance of whistleblowing, and supports protections for whistleblowers who conform to guidelines to protect...

Concurrent Receipt: Background and Issues for Congress

Concurrent receipt refers to the simultaneous receipt of two types of federal monetary benefits: military retired pay and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) disability compensation. Prior to 2004, existing laws and regulations dictated that a military retiree could not receive two payments from federal agencies for the same purpose. As a result, military retirees with physical disabilities recognized by the VA would have their military retired pay offset or reduced dollar-for-dollar by the amount of their nontaxable VA compensation. Legislative activity on the issue of concurrent receipt...

The U.S. Army and Multi-Domain Operations

What Are Multi-Domain Operations (MDO)?

According to the Army:

Multi-Domain Operations (MDO) describes how the U.S. Army, as part of the joint force [Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines] can counter and defeat a near-peer adversary capable of contesting the U.S. in all domains [air, land, maritime, space, and cyberspace] in both competition and armed conflict. The concept describes how U.S. ground forces, as part of the joint and multinational team, deters adversaries and defeats highly capable near-peer enemies in the 2025-2050 timeframe.

MDO provides commanders numerous options for...

Brexit Deal Rejected: What Now?

Draft Agreement Fails to Gain Support

On January 15, 2019, the United Kingdom’s (UK’s) House of Commons rejected a draft agreement on the terms of the country’s withdrawal from the European Union (EU) by a vote of 432-202. Prime Minister Theresa May is to return to Parliament by January 21, 2019, to present her “plan B” for how to move forward with exiting the EU (“Brexit”) on March 29, 2019.

Brexit supporters, including the 118 members of Parliament (MPs) from May’s Conservative Party who voted against the government’s proposal, objected that the deal’s “backstop” provision, which would...

Nonstrategic Nuclear Weapons

Recent debates about U.S. nuclear weapons have questioned what role weapons with shorter ranges and lower yields can play in addressing emerging threats in Europe and Asia. These weapons, often referred to as nonstrategic nuclear weapons, have not been limited by past U.S.-Russian arms control agreements, although some analysts argue such limits would be of value, particularly in addressing Russia’s greater numbers of these types of weapons. Others have argued that the United States should expand its deployments of these weapons, in both Europe and Asia, to address new risks of war...

Stafford Act Assistance and Acts of Terrorism

The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (the Stafford Act) authorizes the President to issue two types of declarations that could potentially provide federal assistance to states and localities in response to a terrorist attack: a “major disaster declaration” or an “emergency declaration.” Major disaster declarations authorize a wide range of federal assistance to states, local governments, tribal nations, individuals and households, and certain nonprofit organizations to recover from a catastrophic event. Major disaster declarations also make Small Business...

Freight Issues in Surface Transportation Reauthorization

Economic growth and expanded global trade have led to substantial increases in goods movement over the past few decades. The growth in freight transportation demand, along with growing passenger demand, has caused congestion in many parts of the transportation system, making freight movements slower and less reliable. Because the condition and performance of freight infrastructure play a considerable role in the efficiency of the freight system, federal support of freight infrastructure investment is likely to be of significant congressional concern in the reauthorization of the surface...

FHA-Insured Home Loans: An Overview

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA), an agency of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), was created by the National Housing Act of 1934. FHA insures private lenders against the possibility of borrowers defaulting on mortgages that meet certain criteria, thereby expanding the availability of mortgage credit beyond what may be available otherwise. If the borrower defaults on the mortgage, FHA is to repay the lender the remaining amount owed.

A household that obtains an FHA-insured mortgage must meet FHA’s eligibility and underwriting standards, including showing that...

Sub-Saharan Africa: Key Issues and U.S. Engagement

Congress may review existing U.S. policies and programs in sub-Saharan Africa (henceforth, “Africa”) as it establishes its budgetary and policy priorities and responds to developments in the region. Key enduring issues for Congress include the authorization and appropriation of funding for U.S. foreign aid programs and U.S. military activities in the region, and oversight of U.S. programs and policies.

Economic and Development Issues. Much of Africa experienced rapid economic growth starting in the early 2000s, reducing poverty and expanding the middle class in some countries. Since 2014,...

Farm Bill Primer Series: A Guide to Agriculture and Food Programs in the 2014 Farm Bill

This report constitutes a guide to a series of two-page reports that examine the various programs and policies that comprise periodic omnibus legislation on farm and food policy, commonly known as “the 2014 farm bill.” The Agriculture Act of 2014 (P.L. 113-79), or 2014 farm bill, was signed into law in February 2014. Many of the programs authorized by the 2014 farm bill expired in 2018, but most were subsequently reauthorized for five years and in many cases revised or otherwise amended by the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 (P.L. 115-334), the 2018 farm bill, which was signed into...

Cuba: U.S. Policy in the 115th Congress

Cuba remains a one-party authoritarian state with a poor human rights record. Current President Miguel Díaz-Canel succeeded Raúl Castro in April 2018, although Castro is continuing as first secretary of Cuba’s Communist Party. Over the past decade, Cuba has implemented gradual market-oriented economic policy changes, but critics maintain that it has not taken enough action to foster sustainable economic growth. Most observers do not anticipate major policy changes under Díaz-Canel, at least in the short term; the president faces the enormous challenges of reforming the economy and...

Overseas Contingency Operations Funding: Background and Status

Congressional interest in Overseas Contingency Operation (OCO) funding has continued as Members debate ways of funding priorities without breaching discretionary spending limits set in law.

Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Congress has appropriated approximately $2 trillion in discretionary budget authority designated as emergency requirements or for Overseas Contingency Operations/Global War on Terrorism (OCO/GWOT) in support of the broad U.S. government response to the 9/11 attacks and for other related international affairs activities. This figure amounts to...

Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA): Overview and Issues for Congress

Congress enacted the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA; P.L. 92-583, 16 U.S.C. §§1451-1466) in 1972 and has amended the act 11 times, most recently in 2009. CZMA sets up a national framework for states and territories to consider and manage coastal resources. If a state or territory chooses to develop a coastal zone management program and the program is approved, the state or territory (1) becomes eligible for several federal grants and (2) can perform reviews of federal agency actions in coastal areas (known as federal consistency determination reviews).

Each level of government plays a...

BUILD Act: Frequently Asked Questions About the New U.S. International Development Finance Corporation

Members of Congress and Administrations have periodically considered reorganizing the federal government’s trade and development functions to advance various U.S. policy objectives. The Better Utilization of Investments Leading to Development Act of 2018 (BUILD Act), which was signed into law on October 5, 2018 (P.L. 115-254), represents a potentially major overhaul of U.S. development finance efforts. It establishes a new agency—the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (IDFC)—by consolidating and expanding existing U.S. government development finance functions, which are...

Federal Grants to State and Local Governments: Issues Raised by the Partial Government Shutdown

At the end of the day on December 21, 2018, the continuing appropriations measure, Making Further Continuing Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2019 (P.L. 115-298), which encompasses 7 of the 12 regular annual appropriations acts, expired. The resulting lapse in appropriations resulted in the partial shutdown of unfunded agencies beginning on December 22, 2018. Federal agencies that received their FY2019 appropriations under the Energy and Water, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act, 2019 (P.L. 115-244), and the Department of Defense and Labor,...

National Flood Insurance Program Borrowing Authority

This Insight evaluates the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) borrowing authority to receive loans from the U.S. Department of the Treasury and discusses the current financial situation of the NFIP.

NFIP Funding

Funding for the NFIP is primarily maintained in an authorized account called the National Flood Insurance Fund (NFIF). Generally, the NFIP has been funded from receipts from the premiums of flood insurance policies, including fees and surcharges; direct annual appropriations for specific costs of the NFIP (currently only flood mapping); and borrowing from the Treasury when...

Federal Crop Insurance: Specialty Crops

The federal crop insurance program offers subsidized crop insurance policies to farmers. Farmers can purchase policies that pay indemnities when their yields or revenues fall below guaranteed levels. While the majority of federal crop insurance policies cover yield or revenue losses, the program also offers policies with other types of guarantees, such as index policies that trigger an indemnity payment based on weather conditions. The Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC), a government corporation within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), pays part of the premium—about 63%, on...

What Happens If the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) Lapses?

This Insight provides a short overview of what would happen if the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) were not to be reauthorized by May 31, 2019, and allowed to lapse. See CRS Report R45099, National Flood Insurance Program: Selected Issues and Legislation in the 115th Congress for the current status of NFIP reauthorization legislation.

Expiration of Certain NFIP Authorities

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is authorized by the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968 (Title XIII of P.L. 90-448, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§4001 et seq.). The NFIP does not contain a single...

Military Construction Funding in the Event of a National Emergency

The President’s reported consideration of whether to invoke various statutory authorities (including some triggered by a declaration of a national emergency) to direct the Department of Defense (DOD) to construct “a physical barrier” along the U.S.-Mexico border has raised questions about potentially available appropriated funds. This Insight identifies previous military construction projects funded through emergency authorities and unobligated military construction funding balances.

Title 10 U.S.C. Section 2808 is entitled Construction authority in the event of a declaration of war or...

CRS Series: Introduction to Financial Services

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) has created a series providing an introduction to various financial services issues in the 116th Congress. Click on any of the titles below to access an In Focus, a two-page briefing product on issues of active and ongoing interest to Congress.

The CRS authors are also available to answer questions from congressional clients, research policy issues, prepare confidential memoranda, and provide in-person briefings. Their contact information may be found in each In Focus.

The Regulatory Framework

As shown in Figure 1, financial activity can generally...

Animal and Plant Health Import Permits in U.S. Agricultural Trade

The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is the U.S. government authority tasked with regulating the import, transit, and release of regulated animals, animal products, veterinary biologics, plants, plant products, pests, organisms, soil, and genetically engineered organisms. APHIS provides scientific authorities in trade partner countries and U.S. importers with animal and plant health import regulations.

APHIS requires U.S. importers to obtain animal or plant health import permits, which verify that the items being imported meet...

Federal Civil Aviation Programs: In Brief

This report discusses Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) programs that are funded primarily through a special trust fund, the Airport and Airway Trust Fund (AATF), and organized under four broad budget accounts: operations and maintenance (such as air traffic control and aviation safety functions); facilities and equipment (such as control towers and navigation beacons); grants for airports under the Airport Improvement Program (AIP); and civil aviation research conducted or sponsored by FAA.

Federal Aviation Administration; FAA; Airport and Airway Trust Fund; AATF; aviation trust fund;...

U.S. Sanctions on Russia

Many observers consider sanctions to be a central element of U.S. policy to counter Russian malign behavior. Most Russia-related sanctions implemented by the United States have been levied in response to Russia’s 2014 invasion of Ukraine. In addition, the United States has imposed sanctions on Russia in response to human rights abuses, election interference and cyberattacks, weapons proliferation, illicit trade with North Korea, support to Syria, and use of a chemical weapon. The United States also employs sanctions to deter further objectionable activities. Most Members of Congress...

Cybersecurity: Cybercrime and National Security Authoritative Reports and Resources

As online attacks grow in volume and sophistication, the United States is expanding its cybersecurity efforts. Cybercriminals continue to develop new ways to ensnare victims, whereas nation-state hackers compromise companies, government agencies, and businesses to create espionage networks and steal information. Threats come from both criminals and hostile countries, especially China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea.

Much is written on this topic, and this CRS report directs the reader to authoritative sources that address many of the most prominent issues. The annotated descriptions of...

Foreign Aid in the 115th Congress: A Legislative Wrap-Up in Brief

The 115th Congress enacted a range of foreign aid funding and authorizing legislation. Congress passed two State Department, Foreign Operations and Related Programs (SFOPS) appropriations bills, extended authorizations for several aid programs, enacted a number of reforms to aid programs, and created a new international development finance institution. This report summarizes legislative action related to foreign assistance in the 115th Congress. P.L. 115-31, P.L. 115-141, P.L. 115-44, P.L. 115-167, P.L. 115-198, P.L. 115-254, P.L. 115-256, P.L. 115-266, P.L. 115-305, P.L. 115-334.

SBA New Markets Venture Capital Program

Authorized by P.L. 106-554, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2001 (Appendix H: the New Markets Venture Capital Program Act of 2000), the New Markets Venture Capital (NMVC) program, which is no longer active, is designed to promote economic development and the creation of wealth and job opportunities in low-income geographic areas by addressing the unmet equity investments needs of small businesses located in those areas. Modeled on the Small Business Association’s (SBA’s) Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) program, SBA-selected, privately owned and managed NMVC companies provide...

Federal Grand Jury Secrecy: Legal Principles and Implications for Congressional Oversight

The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that “[n]o person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury.” This provision requires that a federal prosecutor, in order to charge a suspect with a serious federal crime, secure the assent of an independent investigative and deliberative body comprising citizens drawn from the jurisdiction in which the crime would be tried. Federal grand juries serve two primary functions: (1) they aid federal prosecutors in investigating possible crimes by issuing subpoenas...

The Federal Income Tax: How Do Marginal Income Tax Rates Work?

Calculating Income Tax Liability For many taxpayers, calculating their federal income tax liability can be broken down into three main steps. Taxpayers calculate the amount of their income subject to taxation (i.e., their taxable income). Taxpayers apply marginal income tax rates to their taxable income to determine their “pre-tax credit” income tax liability. Taxpayers subtract any tax credits from their pre-tax credit income tax liability to determine their final income tax liability. Some taxpayers with more complex tax situations, including those who are subject to the alternative...

Railroad Retirement Board: Trust Fund Investment Practices

The Railroad Retirement Board (RRB), an independent federal agency, administers retirement, survivor, disability, unemployment, and sickness insurance for railroad workers and their families. Railroad retirement payroll taxes include two tiers—Tier I and Tier II taxes. The Tier I tax finances the Tier I railroad retirement benefit that is equivalent to Social Security benefits and the Tier II tax finances the Tier II benefit, Tier I benefits in excess of Social Security benefits, and supplemental annuities.

Since 2002, Tier II tax revenues in excess of obligatory RRB benefits and...

Legislative Procedure and Process Resources for Congressional Staff

Written for congressional staff, this report identifies and provides details on how to obtain information on legislative procedures and process in the House and Senate. It provides references to selected CRS products and offers information on the CRS legislative institutes. A listing of selected supplementary materials is also provided.

This report will be updated as new information is available.

Failed Coup Attempt in Gabon

On January 7, a small group of Gabonese soldiers seized the state broadcasting building in Gabon’s capital, Libreville, and declared their intention to overthrow the government of President Ali Bongo Ondimba. Within hours, security forces retook the building and put down the coup attempt. The attempt followed months of political uncertainty after the president (aged 59) suffered a stroke in Saudi Arabia in October 2018; he has since remained outside the country and is currently convalescing in Morocco.

Separately, the coup attempt came days after President Trump announced the deployment,...

The Affordable Care Act’s (ACA’s) Employer Shared Responsibility Provisions (ESRP)

The employer shared responsibility provisions (ESRP), which often are referred to as the employer mandate, generally incentivize large employers to offer adequate and affordable health insurance coverage to their full-time employees and full-time employees’ dependents. If an applicable large employer fails to offer health insurance or offers substandard coverage to its employees, the employer may be subject to a penalty (i.e., assessment payment).

All common-law employers, including government entities (such as federal, state, local, or Indian tribal government entities), are responsible...

Strengthening America's Security in the Middle East Act of 2019 (S.1): An Overview

Overview

On January 3, 2019, Senator Marco Rubio and three cosponsors introduced S. 1, the Strengthening America's Security in the Middle East Act of 2019 (or SASME). The bill combines four legislative proposals, three of which were passed in some form by at least one chamber during the 115th Congress. While significant portions of SASME received broad bipartisan support during the 115th Congress, Members differ over whether S. 1 should be considered amidst a partial government shutdown. On January 8, cloture on the motion to proceed to Senate floor consideration of S. 1 was rejected by a...

Tribal Broadband: Status of Deployment and Federal Funding Programs

Tribal areas and communities continue to lag behind other areas and segments of American society with respect to broadband and telecommunications services. High poverty rates and low income levels in tribal lands—along with the fact that many tribal communities are located in remote rural areas (often with rugged terrain)—are major factors that may explain why tribal areas have comparatively poor levels of broadband access, and why providers may lack an economic incentive to serve those areas.

Until recently, data on tribal broadband deployment had been scarce. However, the Federal...

Legislative Branch Appropriations: Frequently Asked Questions

This report responds to frequently asked questions about legislative branch appropriations. Frequently asked questions include the items that are funded within this bill; development, presentation, and consideration of the legislative branch budget requests; the legislative branch budget in historical perspective; and recent actions.

The House and Senate considered FY2019 legislative branch funding during 2018:

The FY2019 legislative branch budget request of $4.960 billion was submitted on February 12, 2018. The budget request levels were developed prior to the enactment of full-year...

Broadband Internet Access and the Digital Divide: Federal Assistance Programs

The “digital divide” is a term that has been used to characterize a gap between “information haves and have-nots,” or in other words, between those Americans who use or have access to telecommunications and information technologies and those who do not. One important subset of the digital divide debate concerns high-speed internet access and advanced telecommunications services, also known as broadband. Broadband is provided by a series of technologies (e.g., cable, telephone wire, fiber, satellite, mobile and fixed wireless) that give users the ability to send and receive data at volumes...

State Innovation Waivers: Frequently Asked Questions

Section 1332 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA; P.L. 111-148, as amended) provides states with the option to waive specified requirements of the ACA. In the absence of these requirements, a state is to implement its own plan to provide health insurance coverage to state residents that meets the ACA’s terms.

Under a state innovation waiver, a state can apply to waive ACA requirements related to qualified health plans, health insurance exchanges, premium tax credits, cost-sharing subsidies, the individual mandate, and the employer mandate. The state can apply to waive...

Members’ Representational Allowance: History and Usage

Members of the House of Representatives have one consolidated allowance, the Members’ Representational Allowance (MRA), with which to operate their offices. The MRA was first authorized in 1996 and was made subject to regulations and adjustments of the Committee on House Administration. Representatives have a high degree of flexibility to use the MRA to operate their offices in a way that supports their congressional duties and responsibilities, and individual office spending may be as varied as the districts Members represent.

The appropriation for the MRA decreased from a high in FY2010...

Generalized System of Preferences (GSP): Overview and Issues for Congress

The U.S. Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program provides nonreciprocal, duty-free tariff treatment to certain products imported from designated beneficiary developing countries (BDCs). The United States, the European Union, and other developed countries have implemented similar programs since the 1970s. Congress first authorized the U.S. program in Title V of the Trade Act of 1974, and most recently extended it until December 31, 2020 in Division M, Title V of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018 (P.L. 115-141).The GSP program was also retroactively renewed for all...

Conventional Prompt Global Strike and Long-Range Ballistic Missiles: Background and Issues

Conventional prompt global strike (CPGS) weapons would allow the United States to strike targets anywhere on Earth in as little as an hour. This capability may bolster U.S. efforts to deter and defeat adversaries by allowing the United States to attack high-value targets or “fleeting targets” at the start of or during a conflict. Congress has generally supported the PGS mission, but restricted funding for several years. Recently, efforts to develop a long-range prompt strike capability, along with other efforts to develop extremely fast hypersonic weapons, have garnered increased...

U.S. Strategy for Engagement in Central America: Policy Issues for Congress

Central America has received renewed attention from U.S. policymakers over the past few years as the region has become a major transit corridor for illicit drugs and has surpassed Mexico as the largest source of irregular migration to the United States. These narcotics and migrant flows are the latest symptoms of deep-rooted challenges in several countries in the region, including widespread insecurity, fragile political and judicial systems, and high levels of poverty and unemployment. The U.S. government and partners in the region have begun to implement new initiatives intended to...

Romania Assumes the EU Presidency amid Domestic Turmoil

On January 1, 2019, Romania assumed the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union (hereinafter, the EU presidency) for the first time since joining the European Union (EU) in 2007. The six-month position provides an opportunity for Romania to raise its standing within the EU. However, Romania’s EU presidency could be overshadowed by domestic political turmoil and external criticism of its recent justice reforms, which some EU and U.S. officials view as a threat to the rule of law.

EU Presidency

The Council of the EU is considered a key institution that represents EU...

The National Institute of Standards and Technology: An Appropriations Overview

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), a laboratory of the Department of Commerce, is mandated to provide technical services to facilitate the competitiveness of U.S. industry. NIST is directed to offer support to the private sector for the development of precompetitive generic technologies and the diffusion of government-developed innovation to users in all segments of the American economy. Laboratory research is to provide measurement, calibration, and quality assurance techniques that underpin U.S. commerce, technological progress, improved product reliability,...

Small Business Mentor-Protégé Programs

Mentor-protégé programs typically seek to pair new businesses with more experienced businesses in mutually beneficial relationships. Protégés may receive financial, technical, or management assistance from mentors in obtaining and performing federal contracts or subcontracts, or serving as suppliers under such contracts or subcontracts. Mentors may receive credit toward subcontracting goals, reimbursement of certain expenses, or other incentives.

The federal government currently has several mentor-protégé programs to assist small businesses in various ways. For example, the 8(a)...

Economic Effects of the FY2019 Government Shutdown

On December 22, 2018, funding lapsed for certain federal agencies, initiating a shutdown of those agencies. This Insight discusses how the shutdown could affect the overall economy. Official economic data will not be available for some time, and the data needed to answer some questions about the shutdown will never be available. Instead, the Insight reviews private forecasts, relevant data concepts, and evidence of the economic effects of the 16-day FY2014 shutdown (which occurred in October 2013).

For more information on government shutdowns, see CRS Report RL34680, Shutdown of the...

U.S. Carbon Dioxide Emissions in the Electricity Sector: Factors, Trends, and Projections

International negotiations and domestic policy developments continue to generate congressional interest in current and projected U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emission levels. In December 2015, delegations from 195 nations, including the United States, adopted an agreement in Paris that creates an international structure for nations to pledge to abate their GHG emissions, adapt to climate change, and cooperate to achieve these ends, including financial and other support. Pursuant to that agreement, the United States pledged (in 2015) to reduce GHG emissions by 26-28% by 2025 compared to 2005...

House Committee Funding Requests and Authorizations, 104th-115th Congresses

Pursuant to House Rule X, clause 6, the Committee on House Administration reports an omnibus, biennial “primary expense resolution” to cover the expenses of each standing and select committee, except the Appropriations Committee. The resolution is based, in part, on committee requests for funds to cover their necessary expenses for the two years of a Congress.

This report provides committee funding requests and authorizations as adopted pursuant to primary expense authorizations for House committees in the 104th through 115th Congresses. For further information on the committee funding...

Senate Committee Expenditures Resolutions, 115th Congress, and Funding Authorizations Since 1999

In the Senate a biennial funding process applies to all Senate committees except Appropriations and Ethics, which have permanent authorizations for their staff and operating expenses. The Senate Committee on Rules and Administration has jurisdiction over committee funding resolutions and issues regulations governing committee funding and staff.

On February 28, 2017, the Senate adopted by unanimous consent S.Res. 62, authorizing expenditures by Senate committees for the period March 1, 2017, through September 30, 2017, the period October 1, 2017, through September 30, 2018, and for the...

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Speech Resources: Fact Sheet

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is a federal holiday observed annually on the third Monday in January. It celebrates the life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. in honor of his birthday and achievements. The day is also referred to as the Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Holiday; MLK Day; Martin Luther King Day; the King Holiday; and the King Day of Service. In 2019, this holiday is celebrated on January 21.

This guide assists congressional offices with work related to Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. It contains links to legislation, CRS reports, sample speeches and remarks from the...

Democracy Promotion: An Objective of U.S. Foreign Assistance

Promoting democratic institutions, processes, and values has long been a U.S. foreign policy objective, though the priority given to this objective has been inconsistent. World events, competing priorities, and political change within the United States all shape the attention and resources provided to democracy promotion efforts and influence whether such efforts focus on supporting fair elections abroad, strengthening civil society, promoting rule of law and human rights, or other aspects of democracy promotion.

Proponents of democracy promotion often assert that such efforts are...

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): Categorical Eligibility

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides benefits to low-income, eligible households on an electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card; benefits can then be exchanged for foods at authorized retailers. SNAP reaches a large share of low-income households. In FY2018, a monthly average of 40.3 million persons in 20.1 million households participated in SNAP.

Federal SNAP law provides two basic pathways for financial eligibility to the program: (1) meeting program-specific federal eligibility requirements; or (2) being automatically or “categorically” eligible for SNAP based on...

Speakers of the House: Elections, 1913-2019

Each new House elects a Speaker by roll call vote when it first convenes. Customarily, the conference of each major party nominates a candidate whose name is placed in nomination. A Member normally votes for the candidate of his or her own party conference but may vote for any individual, whether nominated or not. To be elected, a candidate must receive an absolute majority of all the votes cast for individuals. This number may be less than a majority (now 218) of the full membership of the House because of vacancies, absentees, or Members answering “present.”

This report provides data on...

Congressional Careers: Service Tenure and Patterns of Member Service, 1789-2019

The average service tenure of Members of the Senate and House of Representatives has varied substantially since 1789. This report presents data on Member tenure over time, analyzes factors that affect average tenure in any given Congress, and examines historical patterns of congressional service, including the distribution of years served in each Congress, and the cross-chamber experience of Representatives and Senators.

During much of the 19th century, the average tenure of Representatives and Senators remained relatively steady, with incoming Representatives generally averaging between...

Statutory Inspectors General in the Federal Government: A Primer

This report provides an overview of statutory inspectors general (IGs) in the federal government, including their structure, functions, and related issues for Congress. Report Roadmap Establishment of Statutory IGs. History and evolution of the Inspector General Act of 1978. Structure of the IG Community. Different types of IGs and their distribution across the government. Types of IG Reviews. Differences among an IG audit, inspection or evaluation, and investigation. IG Statutory Authorities and Requirements. Comparison of selected authorities and requirements across different IG...

Closing the Flood Insurance Gap

There is a large flood insurance gap in the United States, where many people that are exposed to flood risk are not covered by flood insurance. The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is the primary source of residential flood insurance. More than 22,000 communities participate in the NFIP, with over 5.1 million policies providing more than $1.3 trillion in coverage.

The NFIP identifies areas at high risk of flooding as Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHAs). Property owners are required to purchase flood insurance only if (1) their properties are in SFHAs, (2) their communities...

The SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act (P.L.115-271): Medicare Provisions

On October 24, 2018, President Trump signed into law the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention That Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment for Patients and Communities Act (SUPPORT Act; P.L. 115-271). The conference report on the bill was approved by the House 393-8 on September 28, 2018, and it cleared the Senate 98-1 on October 3, 2018.

The law was enacted in response to growing concerns among the U.S. public and lawmakers about increasing numbers of drug overdose deaths. Opioid overdose deaths, in particular, have increased significantly since 2002. In 2015, an estimated 33,091 Americans...

Profiles and Effects of Retaliatory Tariffs on U.S. Agricultural Exports

Countries have imposed tariffs on U.S. agricultural products to retaliate against actions the Trump Administration took in spring 2018 to protect U.S. steel and aluminum producers and in response to Chinese intellectual property rights and technology policies. Since then, more than 800 U.S. food and agricultural products have been subject to retaliatory tariffs from China, the European Union (EU), Turkey, Canada, and Mexico. U.S. exports of those products to the retaliating countries totaled $26.9 billion in 2017, according to USDA export data. The choice of agricultural and food products...

Instances of Use of United States Armed Forces Abroad, 1798-2018

This report lists hundreds of instances in which the United States has used its Armed Forces abroad in situations of military conflict or potential conflict or for other than normal peacetime purposes. It was compiled in part from various older lists and is intended primarily to provide a rough survey of past U.S. military ventures abroad, without reference to the magnitude of the given instance noted. The listing often contains references, especially from 1980 forward, to continuing military deployments, especially U.S. military participation in multinational operations associated with...

African American Members of the United States Congress: 1870-2018

In total, 154 African Americans have served in Congress. This total includes 144 African Americans (138 Representatives and 6 Delegates) elected only to the House of Representatives; 9 African Americans elected or appointed only to the Senate; and 1 African American who has served in both chambers. The first African American Members, Senator Hiram Revels of Mississippi and Representative Joseph Rainey of South Carolina, both took the oath of office in 1870. These first two Members were among the 22 African American Members (2 in the Senate, 20 in the House) that began their service in the...

Federal Support for Graduate Medical Education: An Overview

Access to health care is, in part, determined by the availability of physicians, a function of the physician supply. Policymakers have demonstrated a long-standing interest in access to care, both in general and for specific populations. Moreover, federal support for medical residency training (a.k.a., graduate medical education [GME]) is the largest source of federal support for the health care workforce. Although the health workforce includes a number of professions, the size of the federal investment in GME—estimated at $16 billion in 2015—makes it a policy lever often considered to...

SBA Assistance to Small Business Startups: Client Experiences and Program Impact

The Small Business Administration (SBA) administers several programs to support small businesses, including loan guaranty and venture capital programs to enhance small business access to capital; contracting programs to increase small business opportunities in federal contracting; direct loan programs for businesses, homeowners, and renters to assist their recovery from natural disasters; and small business management and technical assistance training programs to assist business formation and expansion.

Congressional interest in these programs, and the SBA’s assistance provided to small...

The Opioid Epidemic and the Food and Drug Administration: Legal Authorities and Recent Agency Action

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the annual number of drug overdose deaths in the United States involving opioids has more than quadrupled since 1999. CDC estimates that in 2016, more than 63,000 people died from a drug overdose, and approximately 42,000 of these deaths involved an opioid. In combating the opioid epidemic, one central challenge for state and federal regulators is striking a balance between taking aggressive action to fight opioid misuse and addiction, while simultaneously protecting access to medication for patients who experience severe...

Reauthorization of the Perkins Act in the 115th Congress: The Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act

The Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins Act) is the primary federal law aimed at developing and supporting career and technical education (CTE) programs at the secondary and postsecondary educational levels. Prior to the 115th Congress, the Perkins Act had most recently been reauthorized in 2006 by the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 (Perkins IV; P.L. 109-270). In the 115th Congress, the Perkins Act was comprehensively reauthorized again, through the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V; P.L....

Protecting Consumers and Businesses from Fraudulent Robocalls

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA) regulates robocalls. A robocall, also known as “voice broadcasting,” is any telephone call that delivers a prerecorded message using an automatic (computerized) telephone dialing system, more commonly referred to as an automatic dialer or “autodialer.” Robocalls are popular with many industry groups, such as real estate, telemarketing, and direct sales companies. The majority of companies who use robocalling are legitimate businesses, but some are not. Those illegitimate businesses may not just be annoying consumers—they may also be...

Funding Gaps and Government Shutdowns: CRS Experts

Contacting CRS Subject Matter Experts In the event of a funding gap, the potential impacts of a government shutdown would depend on a program’s or agency’s specific circumstances and, furthermore, how relevant law is interpreted. Table 1 provides names and contact information for CRS subject matter experts on policy issues relating to funding gaps and the processes and effects that may be associated with a government shutdown. Policy areas that are identified in Table 1 include agencies and programs funded by specific regular appropriations bills; cross-cutting shutdown issues; domestic...

Farm Bills: Major Legislative Actions, 1965-2018

The farm bill provides an opportunity for Congress to address agricultural and food issues comprehensively about every five years. Over time, farm bills have tended to become more complicated and politically sensitive. As a result, the timeline for reauthorization has become less certain. With the exception of the 2018 farm bill, recent farm bills have taken longer to enact than in previous decades. Beginning in 2008, farm bills have been subject to various developments that have delayed enactment, such as insufficient votes to pass the House floor, presidential vetoes, or short-term...

Permanent Employment-Based Immigration and the Per-country Ceiling

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) specifies a complex set of categories and numerical limits for admitting lawful permanent residents (LPRs) to the United States that includes economic priorities among the admission criteria. These priorities are addressed primarily through the employment-based immigration system, which consists of five preference categories. Each preference category has specific eligibility criteria; numerical limits; and, in some cases, distinct application processes. The INA allocates 140,000 visas annually for all five employment-based LPR categories, roughly...

Funding for ACA-Established Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Trust Fund (PCORTF) Expires in FY2019

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA, P.L. 111-148, as amended) authorized the establishment of a private, nonprofit, tax-exempt corporation called the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI, or the Institute). This built on provisions in prior law that expanded the federal government’s role in the oversight and funding of comparative effectiveness research. The American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009 (ARRA, P.L. 111-5) provided a total of $1.1 billion for comparative effectiveness research; required an Institute of Medicine (IOM, now the National...

USDA’s Final Rule on Milk, Whole Grains, and Sodium in School Meals

On December 12, 2018, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced a final rule on “flexibilities” for milk, whole grains, and sodium in child nutrition programs. The rule alters certain aspects of the nutrition standards for school meals that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (USDA-FNS) updated in 2012 based on a timeline set by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (HHFKA, P.L. 111-296). The release of the final rule follows years of debate over the updated standards and previous actions by Congress and USDA to loosen the milk, whole grain, and sodium...

Military Medical Care: Frequently Asked Questions

Military medical care is a congressionally authorized entitlement that has expanded in size and scope since the late 19th century. Chapter 55 of Title 10 U.S. Code, entitles certain health benefits to military personnel, retirees, and their families. These health benefits are administered by a Military Health System (MHS). The primary objectives of the MHS, which includes the Defense Department’s hospitals, clinics, and medical personnel, are (1) to maintain the health of military personnel so they can carry out their military missions and (2) to be prepared to deliver health care during...

Membership of the 115th Congress: A Profile

This report presents a profile of the membership of the 115th Congress (2017-2018) as of December 20, 2018. Statistical information is included on selected characteristics of Members, including data on party affiliation, average age, occupation, education, length of congressional service, religious affiliation, gender, ethnicity, foreign births, and military service.

In the House of Representatives, there are 238 Republicans (including 1 Delegate and the Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico), 201 Democrats (including 4 Delegates), and 5 vacant seats. The Senate has 51 Republicans, 47...

Small Business Administration and Job Creation

The Small Business Administration (SBA) administers several programs to support small businesses, including loan guaranty programs, disaster loan programs, management and technical assistance training programs, and federal contracting programs. Congressional interest in these programs has increased in recent years, primarily because they are viewed as a means to stimulate economic activity and create jobs.

This report examines the economic research on net job creation to identify the types of businesses that appear to create the most jobs. That research suggests that business startups play...

Selected International Insurance Issues in the 115th Congress

The growth of the international insurance market and trade in insurance products and services has created opportunities and new policy issues for U.S. insurers, Congress, and the U.S. financial system. Insurance regulation is centered on the states, with the federal government having a limited role. While the risks of loss and the regulation may be local, the business of insurance, as with many financial services, has an increasingly substantial international component as companies and investors look to grow and diversify.

The 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection...

Congress’s Authority to Influence and Control Executive Branch Agencies

The Constitution neither establishes administrative agencies nor explicitly prescribes the manner by which they may be created. Even so, the Supreme Court has generally recognized that Congress has broad constitutional authority to establish and shape the federal bureaucracy. Congress may use its Article I lawmaking powers to create federal agencies and individual offices within those agencies, design agencies’ basic structures and operations, and prescribe, subject to certain constitutional limitations, how those holding agency offices are appointed and removed. Congress also may...

The First Day of a New Congress: A Guide to Proceedings on the Senate Floor

The Constitution mandates that Congress convene at noon on January 3, unless the preceding Congress by law designated a different day. P.L. 113-201 set January 6, 2015, as the convening date of the 114th Congress. The 115th Congress convened on January 3, 2017. Congressional leaders announced the 116th Congress would convene January 3, 2019.

The Senate follows a well-established routine on the opening day of a new Congress. The proceedings include

swearing in Senators elected or reelected in the most recent general election (approximately one-third of the Senate) or newly appointed to the...

Essential Air Service (EAS)

The Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 gave airlines almost total freedom to determine which domestic markets to serve and what airfares to charge. This raised the concern that communities with relatively low passenger levels would lose service as carriers shifted their operations to serve larger and often more profitable markets. To address this concern, Congress established the Essential Air Service (EAS) program to ensure that small communities that were served by certificated air carriers before deregulation would continue to receive scheduled passenger service, with subsidies if...

International Approaches to Digital Currencies

Since Bitcoin was introduced a decade ago, about 2,100 cryptocurrencies have been developed. Cryptocurrencies are digital representations of value that have no status as legal tender and are administered using distributed ledger technology, running on a network of independent, peer-to-peer computers. Cryptocurrencies are controversial. Some think they will revolutionize the international payments system for the better; others are skeptical of the business model, calling it a scam. The interest and debate surrounding cryptocurrencies has led some central banks to examine whether the...

The First Day of a New Congress: A Guide to Proceedings on the House Floor

Article 1, Section 2 of the Constitution sets a term of office of two years for all Members of the House. One House ends at the conclusion of each two-year Congress, and the newly elected Representatives must constitute a new House at the beginning of the next Congress. Consequently, the House must choose its Speaker and officers and adopt the chamber’s rules of procedure every two years.

The Constitution mandates that Congress convene at noon on January 3, unless the preceding Congress by law designated a different day. P.L. 113-201 set January 6, 2015, as the convening date of the 114th...

Government Expenditures on Defense Research and Development by the United States and Other OECD Countries: Fact Sheet

research, development, RDT&E, R&D, GBARD, government budget allocations for research and development, GDP, Defense, United States, OECD,

U.S. Trade with Major Trading Partners

U.S. world trade has grown steadily over the past decade. In 2017, the United States exported $2.4 trillion in goods and services and imported $2.9 trillion. Since 2009, when trade flows declined sharply in the midst of the financial crisis, U.S. exports have grown—in nominal terms—48.5%, while U.S. imports have grown 47.6%. More broadly, since 1960, trade relative to gross domestic product (GDP) has risen markedly. U.S. exports as a percentage of GDP expanded from 5% in 1960 to over 12% of GDP in 2017, while U.S. imports expanded from 4% to over 15% of GDP. China was the top U.S. trading...

Refugee Admissions and Resettlement Policy

A refugee is a person fleeing his or her country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Typically, the annual number of refugees that can be admitted into the United States, known as the refugee ceiling, and the allocation of these numbers by region are set by the President after consultation with Congress at the start of each fiscal year.

For FY2019, the worldwide refugee ceiling is 30,000. The FY2019 regional allocations are, as follows: Africa (11,000), East...

Legal Authorities Under the Controlled Substances Act to Combat the Opioid Crisis

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the annual number of drug overdose deaths involving prescription opioids (such as hydrocodone, oxycodone, and methadone) and illicit opioids (such as heroin and nonpharmaceutical fentanyl) has more than quadrupled since 1999. A November 2017 report issued by the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis also observed that “[t]he crisis in opioid overdose deaths has reached epidemic proportions in the United States ... and currently exceeds all other drug-related deaths or traffic fatalities.” How...

EPA’s Wood Stove / Wood Heater Regulations: Frequently Asked Questions

On March 7, 2018, the House passed H.R. 1917, a bill that would delay for three years the implementation of more stringent emission standards for new residential wood heaters. The emission standards were promulgated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2015, and are becoming effective through a two-step process. Step 1 standards took effect on May 15, 2015; unless delayed, more stringent Step 2 standards will become effective on May 15, 2020. EPA’s 2015 rule revises standards for wood stoves and pellet stoves that were set in 1988, and establishes standards for other types...

Medicaid Supplemental Payments

Medicaid is a means-tested entitlement program that finances the delivery of primary and acute medical services, as well as long-term services and supports. Medicaid is a federal and state partnership that is jointly financed by the federal government and the states. States must follow broad federal rules to receive federal matching funds, but they have flexibility to design their own versions of Medicaid within the federal statute’s basic framework. This flexibility results in variability across state Medicaid programs.

In general, benefits are made available to Medicaid enrollees via two...

Quantum Information Science: Applications, Global Research and Development, and Policy Considerations

Quantum information science (QIS) combines elements of mathematics, computer science, engineering, and physical sciences, and has the potential to provide capabilities far beyond what is possible with the most advanced technologies available today. Although much of the press coverage of QIS has been devoted to quantum computing, there is more to QIS. Many experts divide QIS technologies into three application areas: Sensing and metrology, Communications, and Computing and simulation. The government’s interest in QIS dates back at least to the mid-1990s, when the National Institute of...

U.S. Periods of War and Dates of Recent Conflicts

Many wars or conflicts in U.S. history have federally designated “periods of war,” dates marking their beginning and ending. These dates are important for qualification for certain veterans’ pension or disability benefits. Confusion can occur because beginning and ending dates for “periods of war” in many nonofficial sources are often different from those given in treaties and other official sources of information, and armistice dates can be confused with termination dates. This report lists the beginning and ending dates for “periods of war” found in Title 38 of the Code of Federal...

Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act: Bureau of Reclamation and California Water Provisions

Most of the provisions in the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act (WIIN Act; P.L. 114-322), enacted on December 16, 2016, relate to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. However, the WIIN Act also includes a subtitle (Title II, Subtitle J, §§4001-4013) with the potential to affect western water infrastructure owned by the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation; part of the Department of the Interior). Three sections in Subtitle J (§4007, §4009, and §4011) made alterations that would apply throughout Reclamation’s service area, the 17 states to the west of the Mississippi River....

Federal Freight Policy: In Brief

This report provides an overview of federal planning and funding for freight transportation infrastructure, namely for trucks, railroads, and vessels. The report also discusses the relative performance of these modes in carrying the freight burden and examines the decline in the waterborne share. Congestion is a concern to different degrees for the three modes. freight, cargo, truck, rail, maritime, barge, shipping, port, congestion, infrastructure, RRIF, train, locks, inland waterways, army corps, dredging, harbor, surface transportation board, STB, jones act, cabotage, railroad, highway,...

Federal-Aid Highway Program (FAHP): In Brief

The Federal-Aid Highway Program (FAHP) is an umbrella term for the separate highway programs administered by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). These programs are almost entirely focused on highway construction, and generally do not support operations (such as state DOT salaries or fuel costs) or routine maintenance (such as mowing roadway fringes or filling potholes). Federal-aid highways Highway construction Highway finance Alternative finance Highway Trust Fund Highway use tax Gasoline tax User charges Surface transportation reauthorization FAST Act Highway...

Public Trust and Law Enforcement— A Discussion for Policymakers

Several high-profile incidents where the police have apparently used excessive force against citizens have generated interest in what role Congress could play in facilitating efforts to build trust between the police and the people they serve. This report provides a brief overview of the federal government’s role in police-community relations.

Public confidence in the police declined in 2014 and 2015 after several high-profile incidents in which men of color were killed during confrontations with the police. Confidence in the police has rebounded in recent years and is now back to the...

The National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP): Issues in Brief

Portions of all 50 states and the District of Columbia are vulnerable to earthquake hazards, although risks vary greatly across the country and within individual states. Alaska is the most earthquake-prone state, experiencing a magnitude 7 earthquake almost every year and a magnitude 8 earthquake every 13 years, on average, since 1900. On November 30, 2018, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck north of Anchorage at 8:29 AM local time, causing extensive damage.

Under the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP), four federal agencies have responsibility for long-term earthquake...

The State of Campaign Finance Policy: Recent Developments and Issues for Congress

Major changes have occurred in campaign finance policy since 2002, when Congress substantially amended campaign finance law via the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA). The Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in Citizens United and a related lower-court decision, SpeechNow.org v. FEC, arguably represent the most fundamental changes to campaign finance law in decades. Citizens United lifted a previous ban on corporate (and union) independent expenditures advocating election or defeat of candidates. SpeechNow permitted unlimited contributions supporting such expenditures and facilitated the advent...

Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protections In Brief

Whistleblowing is “the act of reporting waste, fraud, abuse and corruption in a lawful manner to those who can correct the wrongdoing.” Intelligence Community (IC) whistleblowers are those employees or contractors working in any of the seventeen elements of the IC who reasonably believe there has been a violation of law, rule, or regulation, gross mismanagement, waste of resources, abuse of authority, or a substantial danger to public health and safety. The IC has publicly recognized the importance of whistleblowing, and supports protections for whistleblowers who conform to guidelines to...

Points of Order, Rulings, and Appeals in the House of Representatives

The Speaker usually does not take the initiative to prevent the House from considering proposals or taking actions that would violate the House’s rules. Instead, whenever a Member believes that the House’s legislative procedures are being violated in some way, or are about to be violated, that Member may insist that the House’s procedures be enforced by making a point of order against the alleged violation.

Sharing the Colorado River and the Rio Grande: Cooperation and Conflict with Mexico

The United States and Mexico share the waters of the Colorado River and the Rio Grande. A bilateral water treaty from 1944 (the 1944 Water Treaty) and other binational agreements guide how the two governments share the flows of these rivers. The binational International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) administers these agreements. Since 1944, the IBWC has been the principal venue for addressing river-related disputes between the United States and Mexico. The 1944 Water Treaty authorizes the IBWC to develop rules and to issue proposed decisions, called minutes, regarding matters...

Amazon HQ2 and Federal Opportunity Zone Tax Incentives

On November 13, 2018, Amazon announced that it would be splitting its second headquarters (HQ2) between Northern Virginia and Long Island City, NY. According to the company, each HQ2 site is expected to add 25,000 jobs over 12 years. Additionally, Amazon announced that it would build an “Operations Center of Excellence” that is expected to add more than 5,000 jobs in Nashville, TN. State and local governments offered Amazon a range of tax incentives, grants, and other benefits (e.g., a nearby state university “innovation campus”). Some of these incentives are performance-based and would...

The DOD’s JEDI Cloud Program

In September 2017, Deputy Secretary of Defense (DSD) Patrick Shanahan issued a memorandum calling for the accelerated adoption of a Department of Defense (DOD)-wide cloud computing system. Under the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) Cloud program, DOD seeks to “acquire a...cloud services solution that can support Unclassified, Secret, and Top Secret requirements,” with a focus on commercially available services. Significant industry and congressional attention has been focused on the JEDI Cloud contract.

What is Cloud Computing?

Broadly speaking, cloud computing refers to the...

U.S. Foreign Aid to the Palestinians

In calendar year 2018, the Trump Administration has significantly cut funding for the Palestinians during a time of tension in U.S.-Palestinian relations. Statements by President Trump suggest that the Administration may seek via these cuts to persuade the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to participate in U.S.-led diplomacy on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Despite the funding cuts, PLO Chairman and Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas and other PLO/PA officials have not reversed their decision to break off diplomatic contacts with the United States, which...

“Waters of the United States” (WOTUS): Current Status of the 2015 Clean Water Rule

The Clean Water Act (CWA) is the principal federal law governing pollution of the nation’s surface waters. The statute protects “navigable waters,” which it defines as “the waters of the United States, including the territorial seas.” The scope of the term waters of the United States, or WOTUS, is not defined in the CWA. Thus, the Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have defined the term in regulations several times as part of their implementation of the act.

Two Supreme Court rulings (Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County v. U.S. Army Corps of...

State Minimum Wage Ballot Measures: In Brief

On November 6, 2018, two states included ballot measures related to state minimum wages. These and previous ballot measures provide states one way of establishing minimum wage provisions different from those required by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA; P.L. 75-718).

U.S. Farm Income Outlook for 2018

According to USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS), national net farm income—a key indicator of U.S. farm well-being—is forecast at $66.3 billion in 2018, down over $9 billion (-12%) from last year. The forecast decline in 2018 net farm income is the result of a small increase in gross returns (up $5.8 billion or +1.3%)—including the initial tranche of payments under the trade aid package announced by USDA in July 2018—offset by higher production expenses (up $14.9 billion or +4.2%). Net farm income is calculated on an accrual basis. Net cash income (calculated on a cash-flow basis) is...

USDA Domestic Food Assistance Programs: FY2018 Appropriations

The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018 (P.L. 115-141) was enacted on March 23, 2018. This omnibus bill included appropriations for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), of which USDA’s domestic food assistance programs are a part. Prior to its enactment, the federal government had continued to operate for the first six months of the fiscal year under continuing resolutions (CRs). This report focuses on the enacted appropriations for USDA’s domestic food assistance programs and, in some instances, policy changes provided by the omnibus law. CRS Report R45128, Agriculture and Related...

The Committee Markup Process in the House of Representatives

At the beginning of a markup, committee members often make opening statements, usually not exceeding five minutes apiece. The first reading of the text of the bill to be marked up can be waived, either by unanimous consent or by adopting a non-debatable motion. The bill then is read for amendment, one section at a time, with committee members offering their amendments to each section after it is read but before the next section is read. By unanimous consent only, the committee may agree to dispense with the reading of each section, or to consider a bill for amendment by titles or chapters...

Shutdown of the Federal Government: Causes, Processes, and Effects

When federal agencies and programs lack funding after the expiration of full-year or interim appropriations, the agencies and programs experience a funding gap. If funding does not resume in time to continue government operations, then, under the Antideficiency Act, an agency must cease operations, except in certain situations when law authorizes continued activity. Funding gaps are distinct from shutdowns, and the criteria that flow from the Antideficiency Act for determining which activities are affected by a shutdown are complex.

Failure of the President and Congress to reach agreement...

Military Benefits for Former Spouses: Legislation and Policy Issues

In 1981, the Supreme Court ruled that the former spouse of a military member or retiree could not be awarded any share of that member’s/retiree’s retired pay as a part of a divorce property settlement in a community property state. In response, Congress enacted the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA) in 1982. Under the USFSPA, as amended, state courts can treat disposable military retired pay as divisible property in divorce cases. However, state laws may vary on these concepts. The USFSPA makes no assumption of such a division nor does it presume how much of a...

Lifting the Earmark Moratorium: Frequently Asked Questions

While the term earmark has been used historically to describe various types of congressional spending actions, since the 110th Congress (2007-2008) House and Senate rules have defined an earmark as any congressionally directed spending, tax benefit, or tariff benefit that would benefit an entity or a specific state, locality, or congressional district. In the 112th Congress (2011-2012), the House and Senate began observing what has been referred to as an earmark moratorium or earmark ban. The moratorium does not exist in House or Senate chamber rules, however, and therefore is not enforced...

Yemen: Peace Talks and Current Congressional Action

Overview

On December 6, 2018, the warring parties to the conflict in Yemen convened in Sweden under the auspices of the United Nations to discuss various de-escalation proposals and a possible road map to a comprehensive peace settlement. The 10-day talks are the first formal negotiations since 2016, and they coincide with Senate consideration of several pieces of legislation that would, among other things, endorse United Nations-led efforts for a comprehensive political settlement to the conflict in Yemen and censure Saudi Arabia for the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

These...

Speaking on the House Floor: Gaining Time and Parliamentary Phraseology

House rules and precedents structure Members’ opportunities to speak on the floor about pending legislation. Under some circumstances, Members arrange to speak on legislation by communicating with the leaders of the committee that reported the bill. Sometimes the arrangements can be made on the floor during the debate, and at other times they are made prior to floor consideration. The committee leaders from both sides of the aisle manage the consideration of a bill on the floor, under what is known as controlled time, by allocating the debate time among several Members.

In certain other...

Buprenorphine and the Opioid Crisis: A Primer for Congress

Buprenorphine is a medication used to treat adults addicted to opioids (it is also used in the treatment of pain). Buprenorphine’s effectiveness, safety, and availability in the treatment of opioid addiction are of considerable interest to policymakers seeking to address the ongoing opioid epidemic in the United States. Congressional actions taken in recent years to address the opioid crisis have included attempts to increase access to buprenorphine. This report addresses questions policymakers may have about the effectiveness of buprenorphine, the demand for buprenorphine, and access to...

Advanced Gene Editing: CRISPR-Cas9

Scientists have long sought the ability to control and modify DNA—the code of life. A gene editing technology known as CRISPR-Cas9 offers the potential for substantial improvement over other gene editing technologies in that it is simple to use and inexpensive and has a relatively high degree of precision and efficiency. These characteristics have led many in the scientific and business communities to assert that CRISPR-Cas9 will lead to groundbreaking advances in many fields, including agriculture, energy, ecosystem conservation, and the investigation, prevention, and treatment of...

Cryptocurrency: The Economics of Money and Selected Policy Issues

Cryptocurrencies are digital money in electronic payment systems that generally do not require government backing or the involvement of an intermediary, such as a bank. Instead, users of the system validate payments using certain protocols. Since the 2008 invention of the first cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, cryptocurrencies have proliferated. In recent years, they experienced a rapid increase and subsequent decrease in value. One estimate found that, as of August 2018, there were nearly 1,900 different cryptocurrencies worth about $220 billion. Given this rapid growth and volatility,...

The Special Registration for Telemedicine: In Brief

Suppress:

In response to the concerns about the opioid epidemic, the Trump Administration proposed expanding access to telemedicine services such as for the prescribing of medicine used for substance abuse or mental health treatment. Telemedicine is the electronic delivery of a clinical health care service via a technological method. Section 311(h)(1) of the Controlled Substance Act (CSA), which was added by Section 3 of the Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act of 2008 (Ryan Haight Act; P.L. 110-425), authorized the special registration for telemedicine with the goal of...

Abortion: Judicial History and Legislative Response

In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court concluded in Roe v. Wade that the U.S. Constitution protects a woman’s decision to terminate her pregnancy. In a companion decision, Doe v. Bolton, the Court found that a state may not unduly burden the exercise of that fundamental right with regulations that prohibit or substantially limit access to the procedure. Rather than settle the issue, the Court’s rulings since Roe and Doe have continued to generate debate and have precipitated a variety of governmental actions at the national, state, and local levels designed either to nullify the rulings or limit...

The Pregnancy Assistance Fund: An Overview

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA, P.L. 111-148, as amended) established the Pregnancy Assistance Fund (PAF) to assist vulnerable individuals and their families during the transition to parenthood. Specifically, the program serves expectant and parenting teens, women, fathers, and their families. This includes women of any age who are survivors of domestic violence, sexual violence, sexual assault, and stalking. The PAF program focuses on meeting the educational, social service, and health needs of eligible individuals and their children during pregnancy and the postnatal...

The Use of Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI) in Federal Health Programs

Certain portions of federal health programs rely on means testing for eligibility and other purposes. Medicare premiums, the individual mandate exemptions and penalties, eligibility and amounts for tax credits for health insurance exchange coverage, and Medicaid eligibility are determined, in part, using modified adjusted gross income (MAGI). MAGI is a concept that is used throughout federal tax law and certain federal programs. There is no uniform definition of MAGI; rather, the term has different definitions depending on the purpose for which it is being calculated.

For each of these...

Venue: An Abridged Legal Analysis of Where a Federal Crime May Be Tried

The United States Constitution assures those charged with a serious federal crime that they will be prosecuted in the state and district in which the crime occurred. A crime occurs in any district in which any of its “conduct” elements are committed. Some offenses are committed entirely within a single district; there they may be tried. Other crimes have elements that have occurred in more than one district. Still other crimes have been committed overseas and so have occurred outside any district. Statutory provisions, court rules, and judicial interpretations implement the Constitution’s...

U.S. International Food Assistance: An Overview

The United States has played a leading role in global efforts to alleviate hunger and improve food security. U.S. international food assistance programs provide support through two distinct methods: (1) in-kind aid, which ships U.S. commodities to regions in need, and (2) cash-based assistance, which provides recipients with vouchers, direct cash transfers, or locally procured foods.

The current suite of international food assistance programs began with the Food for Peace Act (P.L. 83-480), commonly referred to as “P.L. 480,” which established the Food for Peace program (FFP). Congress...

Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA): Resources for Frequently Asked Questions

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA; P.L. 111-148, as amended) had numerous provisions affecting private health insurance and public health coverage programs. This report provides resources to help congressional staff respond to constituents’ frequently asked questions (FAQs) about the ACA. It lists selected resources regarding consumers, employers, and other stakeholders, with a focus on federal sources. It also lists Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports that summarize the ACA’s provisions.

This report begins with links to contacts for constituents’ specific...

Venue: A Legal Analysis of Where a Federal Crime May Be Tried

The United States Constitution assures those charged with a serious federal crime that they will be prosecuted in the state and district in which the crime occurred. A crime occurs in any district in which any of its “conduct” elements are committed. Some offenses are committed entirely within a single district; there they may be tried. Other crimes have elements that have occurred in more than one district. Still other crimes have been committed overseas and so have occurred outside any district. Statutory provisions, court rules, and judicial interpretations implement the Constitution’s...

Jewish Holidays: Fact Sheet

Judaism is one of the three major Abrahamic faiths, alongside Islam and Christianity. Many traditions and variations of Judaism are practiced in the United States, including cultural and religious variations. According to the Pew Research Center, about 2.2% of Americans (6.7 million people) self-identify as religiously or culturally Jewish. Roughly 22% of American Jews describe themselves as culturally, but not religiously, Jewish.

This fact sheet highlights four major cultural and religious holidays observed by a significant portion of Jewish American populations (Passover, Rosh Hashanah,...

The G-20 Summit and Trump-Xi Meeting in Buenos Aires: Key Outcomes

Argentina hosted the annual Group of 20 (G-20) summit on November 30 and December 1 in Buenos Aires. The G-20 is a forum for advancing international economic cooperation and coordination among 20 major economies, including the United States, that together account for about 85% of global economic output. In recent years, the G-20 has also increasingly become a forum for discussing pressing foreign policy issues. Although Argentina set the agenda for 2018, proposing a focus on the future of work, infrastructure development, and food security, most attention in the lead-up to the summit...

Congressional Oversight of Intelligence: Background and Selected Options for Further Reform

Prior to the establishment of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) in 1976 and 1977, respectively, Congress did not take much interest in conducting oversight of the Intelligence Community (IC). The Subcommittees on the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the congressional Armed Services Committees had nominal oversight responsibility, though Congress generally trusted that IC could more or less regulate itself, conduct activities that complied with the law, were ethical, and shared a common understanding of...

Public Health and Other Related Provisions in P.L 115-271, the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act

On October 24, 2018, President Donald J. Trump signed into law H.R. 6, the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment for Patients and Communities Act (P.L. 115-271; the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, or the SUPPORT Act).

The SUPPORT Act is a sweeping measure designed to address widespread overprescribing and abuse of opioids in the United States. The act includes provisions involving law enforcement, public health, and health care financing and coverage. Broadly, the legislation imposes tighter oversight of opioid production and...

The European Union: Ongoing Challenges and Future Prospects

The European Union (EU) is a unique partnership in which member states have pooled sovereignty in certain policy areas and harmonized laws on a wide range of economic and political issues. The EU is the latest stage in a process of European integration begun after World War II, initially by six Western European countries, to promote peace, security, and economic development. The EU currently consists of 28 member states, including most of the formerly communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe.

The EU is largely viewed as a cornerstone of European stability and prosperity. For much...

Presidential State Funerals: Past Practices and Security Considerations

On November 30, 2018, former President George H.W. Bush died. In the tradition of past presidential deaths, President Bush will receive a state funeral (designated as a National Special Security Event), which includes several ceremonial events in Washington, DC, prior to his burial at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library Center at Texas A&M University in College Station, TX. The state funeral process is carried out by the Joint Task Force-National Capital Region, a division of the Military District of Washington (MDW). The official schedule for President Bush’s state funeral is...

Transportation Spending Under an Earmark Ban

In the 112th Congress, which convened in January 2011, the House and Senate began observing an earmark ban. Earmarks—formally known as congressionally directed spending—directed a significant amount of federal transportation spending prior to the ban. This report discusses how federal highway, transit, rail, and aviation funding were distributed before and after the earmark ban, and how Members of Congress might influence the distribution with a ban in place.

The rules in both houses of Congress include identical definitions of “congressionally directed spending.” The rules define an...

Presidential Funerals and Burials: Selected Resources

This fact sheet is a brief resource guide for congressional staff on funerals and burials for Presidents of the United States. It contains an overview of past practices for presidential funerals and selected online information resources related to official and ceremonial protocols, past presidential funerals, congressional documents, and other documents and books.

U.S. Trade Trends and Developments

Summary

The United States is the world’s biggest economy (in nominal dollars), leading trading nation (goods and services), and largest source of and destination for foreign direct investment. The U.S. output of goods and services, or gross domestic product (GDP), totaled $19.5 trillion in 2017. That is almost the combined GDP in nominal dollars of the next three largest economies. All told, the United States, with close to 5% of the world’s population, accounted for almost 25% of the world’s output and more than 16% of its growth in 2017. While the United States is the world’s largest...

Russia’s Use of Force Against the Ukrainian Navy

Naval Incident Escalates Tensions

On November 25, 2018, Russian coast guard vessels in the Black Sea forcibly prevented two small Ukrainian armored artillery boats and a tugboat from transiting the Kerch Strait en route to the Ukrainian port of Berdyansk, on the Sea of Azov, according to official Ukrainian and Russian reports (see Figure 1). After ramming the tugboat and blockading all three boats for hours, the Russian vessels reportedly fired on them as they sought to leave the area, injuring six sailors. The Ukrainian boats and their 24 crew members were detained and taken to Kerch, in...

National Monuments and the Antiquities Act

The Antiquities Act of 1906 (54 U.S.C. §§320301-320303) authorizes the President to proclaim national monuments on federal lands that contain historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, or other objects of historic or scientific interest. The President is to reserve “the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected.” The act was designed to protect federal lands and resources quickly. Presidents have proclaimed a total of 158 monuments, and also have enlarged, diminished, and changed the terms of monuments previously proclaimed by...

Trends in Social Security Disability Insurance Enrollment

The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program pays cash benefits to non-elderly workers and their dependents provided that the workers have paid into the Social Security system for a sufficient number of years and are determined to be unable to continue performing substantial work because of a qualifying disability. The total number of disabled-worker beneficiaries was approximately 2.7 million in 1985, peaked at approximately 9.0 million in 2014, and then declined over the last three years by nearly 0.3 million. In December 2017, 8.7 million disabled workers received SSDI...

Cybersecurity: Critical Infrastructure Authoritative Reports and Resources

Critical infrastructure is defined in the USA PATRIOT Act (P.L. 107-56, §1016(e)) as “systems and assets, physical or virtual, so vital to the United States that the incapacity or destruction of such systems and assets would have a debilitating impact on security, national economic security, national public health and safety, or any combination of those matters.”

Presidential Decision Directive 63, or PDD-63, identified activities whose critical infrastructures should be protected: information and communications; banking and finance; water supply; aviation, highways, mass transit,...

State Sponsors of Acts of International Terrorism—Legislative Parameters: In Brief

Iran, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria are identified by the U.S. government as countries with governments that support acts of international terrorism. While it is the President’s authority to designate, and remove from designation, terrorist states, Congress has some legislative authority to weigh in as the reviews proceed. In recent years, other foreign policy and national security decisions have butted up against the designation: to delist Cuba in the course of normalizing other aspects of the bilateral relationship; to enter into a multilateral agreement involving Iran’s nuclear weapons...

After Prudential, Are There Any Systemically Important Nonbanks?

During the 2008 financial crisis, problems at AIG, Bear Stearns, and Lehman Brothers led to broader financial instability or government “bailouts” in order to prevent instability. At the time, these firms were nonbank financial institutions and not generally subject to effective safety and soundness regulation on a consolidated basis.

The Dodd Frank Act (P.L. 111-203) provided the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) with the authority to designate nonbanks for enhanced prudential oversight by the Federal Reserve as systemically important financial institutions (SIFIs). Since...

Commercial Space: Federal Regulation, Oversight, and Utilization

U.S. companies have always been involved in spaceflight as contractors to government agencies. Increasingly, though, space is becoming commercial. A majority of U.S. satellites are now commercially owned, providing commercial services, and launched by commercial launch providers. Congressional and public interest in space is also becoming more focused on commercial activities, such as companies developing reusable rockets or collecting business data with fleets of small Earth-imaging satellites. This report addresses two distinct but closely related topics: how the federal government...

Architect of the Capitol: Evolution and Implementation of the Appointment Procedure

According to its website, the Architect of the Capitol (AOC) is responsible “for the operations and care of more than 18.4 million square feet of facilities, 570 acres of grounds and thousands of works of art.”

Pursuant to the Legislative Branch Appropriations Act, 1990, the Architect is appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate. Prior to the enactment of this law, the President appointed the Architect for an unlimited term with no formal role for Congress.

The act also established a 10-year term for the Architect as well as a bicameral, bipartisan congressional...

Federal Pell Grant Program of the Higher Education Act: Primer

The federal Pell Grant program, authorized by Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended (HEA; P.L. 89-329), is the single largest source of federal grant aid supporting postsecondary education students. Pell Grants, and their predecessor, Basic Education Opportunity Grants, have been awarded since 1973. The program provided approximately $29 billion in aid to approximately 7.2 million undergraduate students in FY2017. Pell Grants are need-based aid that is intended to be the foundation for all need-based federal student aid awarded to undergraduates.

To be eligible for a...

Government Contract Bid Protests: Analysis of Legal Processes and Recent Developments

In FY2017, the federal government obligated approximately $500 billion to procure goods and services. Federal procurement statutes and regulations—notably the Competition in Contracting Act of 1984 (CICA) and the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), the government-wide regulation that generally applies to acquisitions by executive branch agencies—establish largely uniform policies and procedures for how federal executive agencies acquire goods and services. The purpose of these standards is to guide the acquisition system “to deliver on a timely basis the best value product or service to...

The Office of the Parliamentarian in the House and Senate

The House and the Senate each has an Office of the Parliamentarian to provide expert advice and assistance on questions relating to the meaning and application of that chamber’s legislative rules, precedents, and practices. The Speaker began naming a parliamentarian in 1927; the Senate first formally recognized its parliamentarian in 1935.

The responsibilities of the two offices are similar. These derive from the need of Representatives and Senators, and their staff, for access to confidential and nonpartisan expertise regarding the intricacies of the legislative process. The...

Brexit at a Pivotal Moment

UK Parliament to Vote on Withdrawal Agreement

Four months away from the United Kingdom’s (UK’s) expected withdrawal from the European Union (EU), discord and uncertainty remain central themes in the analysis of “Brexit.” The efforts of UK and EU negotiators to reconcile a complex set of competing interests and preferences have produced a 585-page draft withdrawal agreement and a 26-page political declaration on the future UK-EU relationship. EU leaders signed off on the deal in late November 2018, leaving a vote by the European Parliament as the final step for approval by the EU before the...

Defense Authorization and Appropriations Bills: FY1961-FY2019

The passage of the Department of Defense (DOD) authorization and appropriations bills through Congress often does not follow the course laid out in textbooks on legislative procedure. Tracking DOD authorization or appropriation bills can be confusing and time-consuming. This has been particularly true in recent years, when continuing resolutions (CRs) containing the DOD and other appropriation bills have been enacted in lieu of the 12 regular appropriations bills for the entire U.S. government.

This report is a research aid that lists the DOD authorization bills (Table 1 and Table 2) and...

Constituent Services: Overview and Resources

Constituent service encompasses a wide array of non-legislative activities undertaken by Members of Congress or congressional staff, and it is commonly considered a representational responsibility. Member offices vary in their priorities, activities, and scope of constituent service, but most offices try to assist with certain requests when possible. Member offices have engaged in constituent service activities since the earliest Congresses. Depending on what the constituent is seeking, requests may be addressed by a Member’s Washington, DC, office, or by a Member’s district or state...

Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) FY2019 Appropriations and Financial Regulatory Reform

Background

On July 19, 2018, the House passed H.R. 6147, which included an FY2019 Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) appropriations bill (originally H.R. 6258) as Division B. The Senate passed a substitute version of H.R. 6147 on August 1, 2018, with the Senate FY2019 FSGG bill (originally S. 3107) as Division B. No full-year FY2019 FSGG bill was enacted prior to the end of FY2018. The FSGG agencies were provided continuing appropriations until December 7, 2018, in Division C of P.L. 115-245.

Although financial services are a focus of the FSGG bill, the bill does not include...

FY2018 and FY2019 Agriculture Appropriations: Federal Food Safety Activities

The Agriculture appropriations bill—formally known as the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act—funds the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), excluding the U.S. Forest Service. Congress enacted the FY2018 agriculture appropriation in March 2018 as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018 (P.L. 115-141, Division A). Both the House and the Senate Appropriations Committees have reported Agriculture appropriations bills for FY2019 (H.R. 5961, S. 2976). The Senate amended and...

Right to Try: Access to Investigational Drugs

The Trickett Wendler, Frank Mongiello, Jordan McLinn, and Matthew Bellina Right to Try (RTT) Act of 2017 became federal law on May 30, 2018. Over the preceding five years, 40 states had enacted related legislation. The goal was to allow individuals with imminently life-threatening diseases or conditions to seek access to investigational drugs without the step of procuring permission from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Another goal—held by the Goldwater Institute, which led the initiative toward state bills, and some of the legislative proponents—was focused more on the process: to...

Revisiting the Doubling Effort: Trends in Federal Funding for Basic Research in the Physical Sciences and Engineering

The adequacy of federal investment in physical sciences and engineering (PS&E) basic research is a long-standing concern of many in industry and academia. This topic received much attention in the early 2000s due to perceived underinvestment in these disciplines. Many Members of Congress, industry leaders, and science and technology policy analysts asserted that the long-term competitive position and national security of the United States depended in large measure on the rapid increases in federal funding for PS&E. PS&E research provides the foundation for materials, products, and...

The Renewable Electricity Production Tax Credit: In Brief

The renewable electricity production tax credit (PTC) is a per-kilowatt-hour (kWh) tax credit for electricity generated using qualified energy resources. For nonwind technologies, the credit expired at the end of 2017, so that only projects that began construction before the end of 2017 qualify for tax credits. After 2016, the PTC for wind remains available, at reduced rates, for wind facilities that begin construction before the end of 2019. Since the PTC is available for the first 10 years of production at a qualified facility, PTCs will continue to be claimed after the PTC’s stated...

Salaries of Members of Congress: Congressional Votes, 1990-2018

Article I, Section 6, of the U.S. Constitution requires that compensation for Members of Congress be “ascertained by law, and paid out of the Treasury of the United States.”

Congress has relied on three different methods in adjusting salaries for Members. Specific legislation was last used to provide increases in 1990 and 1991. It was the only method used by Congress for many years.

The second method, under which annual adjustments took effect automatically unless disapproved by Congress, was established in 1975. From 1975 to 1989, these annual adjustments were based on the rate of annual...

Medicaid Alternative Benefit Plan Coverage: Frequently Asked Questions

Medicaid is a federal-state program that finances the delivery of primary and acute medical services, as well as long-term services and supports, to a diverse low-income population, including children, pregnant women, adults, individuals with disabilities, and people aged 65 and older. Medicaid is financed jointly by the federal government and the states. Federal Medicaid spending is an entitlement, with total expenditures dependent on state policy decisions and use of services by enrollees.

State participation in Medicaid is voluntary, although all states, the District of Columbia, and...

Electing the Speaker of the House of Representatives: Frequently Asked Questions

This report briefly poses and answers several “frequently asked questions” in relation to the floor proceedings used to elect a Speaker of the House. Current practice for electing a Speaker, either at the start of a Congress or in the event of a vacancy (e.g., death or resignation), is by roll-call vote, during which Members state aloud the name of their preferred candidate. Members may vote for any individual. If no candidate receives a majority of votes cast, balloting continues; in subsequent ballots, Members may still vote for any individual.

For a more detailed treatment of these...

Energy Savings Performance Contracts (ESPCs) and Utility Energy Service Contracts (UESCs)

Many in Congress have expressed a continuing interest in improving energy efficiency and increasing the use of renewable energy. To facilitate investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy at federal facilities, Congress established alternative financing methods that utilize private sector resources and capabilities. Two such alternative financing methods are energy savings performance contracts (ESPCs) and utility energy service contracts (UESCs).

ESPCs and UESCs are contracts between a federal agency and another party—an energy service company or a utility, depending upon the...

Election Policy on the November 2018 Ballot

On November 6, voters in some states did not just vote on the policymakers who will represent them. They also made policy themselves, by approving or rejecting ballot measures.

Some of the measures on state ballots included provisions that would affect the conduct of federal elections. Most of those measures succeeded. Thirteen state measures with implications for federal elections were on the ballot in 10 states, and 12 were approved.

What Are Ballot Measures?

Ballot measures are policy questions that are decided by popular vote. Local measures are voted on by residents of a locality,...

Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) Program: Background and Funding

The federal Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program supports home visiting services for families with young children who reside in communities that have concentrations of poor child health and other indicators of risk. Home visits are conducted by nurses, mental health clinicians, social workers, or paraprofessionals with specialized training. Generally, they visit the homes of eligible families on a regular basis (e.g., weekly or monthly) over an extended period (e.g., six months or longer) to provide support to caregivers and children, such as guidance on...

U.S. Strategic Nuclear Forces: Background, Developments, and Issues

Even though the United States has reduced the number of warheads deployed on its long-range missiles and bombers, consistent with the terms of the 2010 New START Treaty, it also plans to develop new delivery systems for deployment over the next 10-30 years. The 116th Congress will continue to review these programs, and the funding requested for them, during the annual authorization and appropriations process.

During the Cold War, the U.S. nuclear arsenal contained many types of delivery vehicles for nuclear weapons. The longer-range systems, which included long-range missiles based on...

Thanksgiving: Fact Sheet

Thanksgiving is a federal holiday observed on the fourth Thursday in November. It began in 1621 as a harvest celebration between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians and has become a time for families and friends to gather to reflect and express gratitude.

In 1789, President George Washington declared November 26 a national day of Thanksgiving. Subsequent Presidents issued Thanksgiving proclamations, but the dates of the commemoration changed. In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation establishing the last Thursday of November as Thanksgiving.

In October 1941, Congress...

The Palestinians: Background and U.S. Relations

The Palestinians are an Arab people whose origins are in present-day Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. Congress pays close attention—through legislation and oversight—to the Palestinians’ ongoing conflict with Israel.

The current structure of Palestinian governing entities dates to 1994. In that year, Israel agreed with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to permit a Palestinian Authority (PA) to exercise limited rule over Gaza and specified areas of the West Bank, subject to overarching Israeli military administration that dates back to the 1967 Arab-Israeli War.

After...

Military Medical Care: Mitigating Impacts From Medical Unit Deployments

Contingency and peacetime missions consistently require temporary reassignment of military medical personnel from military treatment facilities (MTF) to a deployable medical unit. In certain instances, MTF services may be limited in times of war, operations other than war, natural disasters, or other contingencies. This restriction is not uncommon. Notwithstanding these circumstances, the Department of Defense (DOD) is required to provide statutory health benefits to its eligible beneficiaries by mitigating fluctuations in MTF services. Chapter 55 of Title 10, U.S. Code, specifies health...

The Defense Production Act of 1950: History, Authorities, and Considerations for Congress

The Defense Production Act (DPA) of 1950 (P.L. 81-774, 50 U.S.C. §§4501 et seq.), as amended, confers upon the President a broad set of authorities to influence domestic industry in the interest of national defense. The authorities can be used across the federal government to shape the domestic industrial base so that, when called upon, it is capable of providing essential materials and goods needed for the national defense.

Though initially passed in response to the Korean War, the DPA is historically based on the War Powers Acts of World War II. Gradually, Congress has expanded the term...

El Salvador: Background and U.S. Relations

Congress has had significant interest in El Salvador, a small Central American nation that has had a large percentage of its population living in the United States since the country’s civil conflict (1980-1992). During the 1980s, the U.S. government spent billions of dollars supporting the Salvadoran government’s counterinsurgency efforts against the leftist Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN). Three decades later, the United States has worked relatively well with two consecutive, democratically elected FMLN administrations.

President Salvador Sánchez Cerén, a former...

U.S. Ground Forces Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS) and Artificial Intelligence (AI): Considerations for Congress

The nexus of robotics and autonomous systems (RAS) and artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to change the nature of warfare. RAS offers the possibility of a wide range of platforms—not just weapon systems—that can perform “dull, dangerous, and dirty” tasks—potentially reducing the risks to soldiers and Marines and possibly resulting in a generation of less expensive ground systems. Other nations, notably peer competitors Russia and China, are aggressively pursuing RAS and AI for a variety of military uses, raising considerations about the U.S. military’s response—to include...

Federal Student Loan Forgiveness and Loan Repayment Programs

Student loan forgiveness and loan repayment programs provide borrowers a means of having all or part of their student loan debt forgiven or repaid in exchange for work or service in specific fields or professions or following a prolonged period during which their student loan debt burden is high relative to their income. In both loan forgiveness and loan repayment programs, borrowers typically qualify for benefits by working or serving in certain capacities for a specified period or by satisfying other program requirements over an extended term. Upon qualifying for benefits, some or all of...

Tax Incentives for Opportunity Zones: In Brief

Opportunity zones, OZs, QOZs, opportunity funds, qualified opportunity funds, QOFs, CDFI Fund, New Markets Tax Credit, NMTC, community development, economic development, P.L. 115-97, tax reform, tcja, tax cuts and jobs act, 2017 tax revision, tax incentives, capital gains, investment

Cybersecurity: Data, Statistics, and Glossaries

This report describes data and statistics from government, industry, and information technology (IT) security firms regarding the current state of cybersecurity threats in the United States and internationally. These include incident estimates, costs, and annual reports on data security breaches, identity thefts, cybercrimes, malware, and network securities.

Much is written on this topic, and this CRS report directs the reader to authoritative sources that address many of the most prominent issues. The annotated descriptions of these sources are listed in reverse chronological order, with...

California Wildfires: Brief Overview of FEMA Programs and Resources

Introduction

This Insight provides a brief overview of the major disaster declaration issued for the ongoing wildfires in California. It also provides links to selected CRS products related to the disaster.

As authorized under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, President Trump issued a major disaster declaration on November 12, 2018. The major disaster declaration allows for the broadest range of assistance to be made available to state and local governments; private, nonprofit organizations; and individuals. The major disaster declaration also...

FY2017 State Grants Under Title I-A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA; P.L. 114-95), is the primary source of federal aid to K-12 education. The Title I-A program is the largest grant program authorized under the ESEA. It is designed to provide supplementary educational and related services to low-achieving and other students attending elementary and secondary schools with relatively high concentrations of students from low-income families. Title I-A was funded at $15.5 billion for FY2017.

Under current law, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) determines...

Reissued Labor Department Rule Tests Congressional Review Act Ban on Promulgating “Substantially the Same” Rules

On November 5, 2018, the Department of Labor published a proposed rule in the Federal Register on the states’ ability to drug test certain unemployment compensation (UC) applicants. The proposed UC drug testing rule is a reissued version of a rule that the 115th Congress disapproved in 2017 under the Congressional Review Act (CRA). That rule had been issued by the Obama Administration on August 1, 2016, but was disapproved by P.L. 115-17, which President Donald Trump signed into law on March 31, 2017.

Notably, this is the first time an agency reissued a rule after the original version was...

Social Security: Cost-of-Living Adjustments

To compensate for the effects of inflation, Social Security recipients usually receive an annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA). According to parameters outlined in the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 415(i)), a 2.8% COLA is payable in January 2019. For a retired worker receiving the average monthly benefit amount of $1,422, the COLA will result in a $39 increase in Social Security benefits (after final rounding down to the nearest dollar for a total of $1,461).

Social Security COLAs are based on changes in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W),...

Unemployment Insurance: Legislative Issues in the 115th Congress

The 115th Congress continues to consider many issues related to the two major components of the unemployment insurance (UI) system: Unemployment Compensation (UC) and Extended Benefits (EB). This report begins with a brief overview of the UI programs that may provide benefits to eligible unemployed workers. It provides information on legislation enacted in the 115th Congress related to UI programs. In addition, this report includes short summaries of legislative proposals introduced in the 115th Congress as a well as UI proposals included in the President’s budget for FY2019.

President...

Recent Legislative and Regulatory Developments in States’ Ability to Drug Test Unemployment Compensation Applicants and Beneficiaries

Federal law permits states to restrict an individual’s Unemployment Compensation (UC) benefit eligibility for certain circumstances related to the “fact or cause” of unemployment; this includes situations in which an individual was fired for drug use or refusing to take a drug test. Most states have specific disqualifications for drug-related job loss (see Table 5-8 in the hyperlink), including reporting to work under the influence of drugs/alcohol; violating the employer’s drug policy, including refusing to undergo drug or alcohol testing; or having tested positive for drugs or alcohol...

The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP): Background and Funding

The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) is a federal food distribution program that supports food banks, food pantries, soup kitchens, and other emergency feeding organizations serving low-income Americans. Federal assistance takes the form of federally purchased commodities—including fruits, vegetables, meats, and grains—and funding for administrative costs. Food aid and funds are distributed to states using a statutory formula that takes into account poverty and unemployment rates. TEFAP is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service...

Cuba: U.S. Restrictions on Travel and Remittances

Restrictions on travel and remittances to Cuba have constituted a key and often contentious component in U.S. efforts to isolate Cuba’s communist government since the early 1960s. Such restrictions are part of the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR), the overall embargo regulations administered by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). Various Administrations have eased and tightened the restrictions over the years as U.S. policy toward Cuba has changed.

The Obama Administration lifted all restrictions on family travel and remittances in 2009. In 2011, the...

Brazil’s Presidential Election

Brazil—the fifth most populous country and ninth-largest economy in the world—held presidential, legislative, and state elections in October 2018. Antiestablishment sentiment carried the day, as voters elected Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right populist, to the presidency and replaced nearly half of congress. The results could have significant implications for Brazil’s domestic policies as well as its relationship with the United States.

Domestic Context

The 2018 election took place as Brazil was struggling to emerge from a series of domestic crises. The country fell into a deep recession in...

Teacher Preparation Policies and Issues in the Higher Education Act

Approximately 26,000 state-approved teacher preparation programs are in operation across the United States. Among these, about 70% are traditional teacher preparation programs—that is, they are contained within schools of education at institutions of higher education (IHEs). Of the remaining, alternative routes to teacher preparation, about two-thirds are based at an IHE and about one-third are operated independent of an IHE.

The Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA, P.L. 89-329, as amended), includes financial support and accountability provisions intended to improve the quality of teacher...

Serbia: Background and U.S. Relations

Following the conflicts in the 1990s in the countries of the former Yugoslavia, the prospect of membership in the Euro-Atlantic community and the active presence of the United States and European Union (EU) in the Western Balkans provided a level of stability that allowed most of the countries of the region to adopt economic and political reforms. During this time, Slovenia and Croatia joined the EU. These countries, along with Albania and Montenegro, also joined NATO. Other countries of the Balkans are pursuing EU and NATO membership.

However, many observers in Europe and the United...

Nuclear Energy: Overview of Congressional Issues

The policy debate over the role of nuclear power in the nation’s energy mix is rooted in the technology’s fundamental characteristics. Nuclear reactors can produce potentially vast amounts of useful energy with relatively low consumption of natural resources and emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants. However, facilities that produce nuclear fuel for civilian power reactors can also produce materials for nuclear weapons. In addition, the process of nuclear fission (splitting of atomic nuclei) to generate power produces radioactive material that can remain hazardous for...

Introduction to the Legislative Process in the U.S. Congress

This report introduces the main steps through which a bill (or other item of business) may travel in the legislative process—from introduction to committee and floor consideration to possible presidential consideration. However, the process by which a bill can become law is rarely predictable and can vary significantly from bill to bill. In fact, for many bills, the process will not follow the sequence of congressional stages that are often understood to make up the legislative process. This report presents a look at each of the common stages through which a bill may move, but...

Senate Rules Affecting Committees

The Senate imposes some general procedural requirements and prohibitions on its committees, but, in general, the Senate’s rules allow each of its standing committees to decide how to conduct business. Most of the chamber’s requirements for committees are found in Senate Rule XXVI. Because the committees are agents of the Senate, they are obligated to comply with all Senate directives that apply to them.

This report identifies and summarizes the provisions of the Senate’s standing rules, standing orders, precedents, and other directives that relate to legislative activity in the Senate’s...

The SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act (P.L. 115-271): Food and Drug Administration and Controlled Substance Provisions

On October 24, 2018, President Trump signed into law H.R. 6, the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment for Patients and Communities Act (P.L. 115-271; the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, or the SUPPORT Act).

The SUPPORT Act is a sweeping measure designed to address widespread overprescribing and abuse of opioids in the United States. The act includes provisions involving law enforcement, public health, and health care financing and coverage. Broadly, the legislation imposes tighter oversight of opioid production and distribution; imposes...

Types of Committee Hearings

Congressional committee hearings may be broadly classified into four types: legislative, oversight, investigative, and confirmation. Hearings may be held on Capitol Hill or elsewhere (e.g., a committee member’s district or state, or a site related to the subject of the hearing). These latter hearings are often referred to as field hearings.

Points of Order, Rulings, and Appeals in the Senate

The Senate’s presiding officer typically does not have responsibility for proactively ensuring that matters under consideration comply with the rules. Instead, Senators may enforce the Senate’s legislative rules and precedents by making points of order whenever they believe that one of those rules or precedents is, or is about to be, violated. Under some circumstances, a ruling by the presiding officer determines whether or not the point of order is well taken. Under others, the Senate itself decides the point of order, usually by majority vote.

Senate Rule XX states in part that “[a]...

Supersonic Passenger Flights

It has been over 40 years since British Airways’ first Concorde passenger flight took off in 1976. So far the Concorde is the only commercial supersonic passenger aircraft to travel at more than twice the speed of sound. It was a technological accomplishment but not a commercial success. In 2003, all Concorde aircraft were taken out of service.

Recent years have seen a revival of interest in supersonic aircraft. Several startup companies are developing new supersonic commercial and business jets, hoping technological advances in materials, design, and engine efficiency will make it...

Older Americans Act: Overview and Funding

The Older Americans Act (OAA) is the major federal vehicle for the delivery of social and nutrition services for older persons. These include supportive services, congregate nutrition services (meals served at group sites such as senior centers, schools, churches, or senior housing complexes), home-delivered nutrition services, family caregiver support, community service employment, the long-term care ombudsman program, and services to prevent the abuse, neglect, and exploitation of older persons. The OAA also supports grants to older Native Americans as well as research, training, and...

Acute Flaccid Myelitis: How CDC Assists States in Investigating Emerging Diseases

Concern has grown over the recent increase in Acute Flaccid Myelitis (AFM) cases around the country. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), AFM is a rare condition with no specific treatment that mostly impacts children. AFM affects a person’s nervous system, particularly the gray matter of the spinal cord, causing weakness in the arms and legs along with other symptoms. Media reports often refer to AFM as a “polio-like condition” because its symptoms mirror those associated with poliovirus infection. To date, all AFM cases have tested negative for poliovirus,...

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency: Overview and Issues for Congress

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), established in 1958, is an agency within the Department of Defense (DOD) responsible for catalyzing the development of technologies that maintain and advance the capabilities and technical superiority of the U.S. military.

DARPA-funded research has made important science and technology contributions that have led to the development of both military and commercial technologies, such as precision guided missiles, stealth, the internet, and personal electronics. DARPA has a culture of risk-taking and tolerance for failure that has led...

U.S. Restrictions on Relations with Burma

Major changes in Burma’s political situation since 2016 have raised questions among some Members of Congress concerning the appropriateness of U.S. policy in Burma in general, and the current restrictions on relations with Burma (Myanmar) in particular. During the 115th Congress, two bills were introduced—the Burma Unified through Rigorous Military Accountability Act of 2018 (H.R. 5819; the BURMA Act of 2018) and the Burma Human Rights and Freedom Act of 2018 (S. 2060)—that would reformulate U.S. policy and the restrictions on bilateral relations.

In November 2015, Burma held nationwide...

Eight Mechanisms to Enact Procedural Change in the U.S. Senate

In the past year, individuals both inside and outside of Congress have called for an examination of the U.S. Senate’s procedural rules with an eye toward changing them. This Insight highlights eight parliamentary mechanisms that might be used to implement procedural change in the Senate and links to additional reading material on the subject.

The work of the U.S. Senate is regulated not just by its 44 standing rules but by multiple, sometimes overlapping, procedural authorities. At any given time, unanimous consent agreements, standing orders, statute, precedent, and provisions of the U.S....

Legislative Branch: FY2019 Appropriations

The legislative branch appropriations bill provides funding for the Senate; House of Representatives; Joint Items; Capitol Police; Office of Compliance; Congressional Budget Office (CBO); Architect of the Capitol (AOC); Library of Congress (LOC), including the Congressional Research Service (CRS); Government Publishing Office (GPO); Government Accountability Office (GAO); Open World Leadership Center; and the John C. Stennis Center.

The FY2019 legislative branch budget request of $4.960 billion was submitted on February 12, 2018. The budget request levels were developed prior to the...

National Hispanic Heritage Month: Fact Sheet

This fact sheet is designed to assist congressional offices with work related to National Hispanic Heritage Month, which is observed from September 15 to October 15. It contains links to census and demographic information, a CRS report, sample speeches and remarks from the Congressional Record, and presidential proclamations. It also contains links to additional cultural and historical resources and selected educational, cultural, and advocacy organizations.

Lame Duck Sessions of Congress Following a Majority-Changing Election: In Brief

“Lame duck” sessions of Congress take place whenever one Congress meets after its successor is elected but before the term of the current Congress ends. Their primary purpose is to complete action on legislation. They have also been used to prevent recess appointments and pocket vetoes, to consider motions of censure or impeachment, to keep Congress assembled on a standby basis, or to approve nominations (Senate only). In recent years, most lame duck sessions have focused on program authorizations, trade-related measures, appropriations, and the budget.

From 1940 to 2016, there were 21...

Presidential Proclamation on Unlawful Border Crossers and Asylum

On November 9, 2018, President Donald Trump issued a presidential proclamation to immediately suspend the entry of foreign nationals (aliens) who cross into the United States at the U.S.-Mexico border without inspection. The pronouncement further references that those who enter in contravention of the suspension will be ineligible for asylum under an interim final rule issued jointly by the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice on that same date. The proclamation and the rule are being challenged in federal court.

In the words of the proclamation, its issuance was prompted by the...

The Trump Administration Directives on Western Water

On October 19, 2018, the Trump Administration released a Presidential Memorandum directing federal agencies to address regulations that burden federal water projects in California and complete biological opinions under the Endangered Species Act (ESA; 16 U.S.C. §§1531 et seq.) for specific federal water projects in the western United States. Affected projects include the California Central Valley Project (CVP), the Klamath Irrigation Project in Oregon, and the Columbia River Basin water system in the Pacific Northwest. The White House memorandum does not carry the force of law nor is it a...

Energy and Water Development Appropriations: Nuclear Weapons Activities

The annual Energy and Water Development appropriations bill funds civil works projects of the Army Corps of Engineers, the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation, the Department of Energy (DOE), and several independent agencies.

The DOE budget includes funding for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a separately organized agency within DOE. NNSA operates three programs: Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation, which secures nuclear materials worldwide, conducts research and development (R&D) into nonproliferation and verification, and operates the Nuclear...

Resources for Key Economic Indicators

An understanding of economic indicators and their significance is seen as essential to the formulation of economic policies. These indicators, or statistics, provide snapshots of an economy’s health as well as starting points for economic analysis. This report contains a list of selected authoritative U.S. government sources of economic indicators, such as gross domestic product (GDP), income, inflation, and labor force (including employment and unemployment) statistics.

Additional content includes related resources, frequently asked questions (FAQs), and links to external glossaries.

Senate Committee Funding: Description of Process and Analysis of Disbursements

Funding for Senate committees (except for the Committee on Appropriations and the Select Committee on Ethics) follows a two-step process of authorization and appropriation. Operating budgets for all standing and select committees of the Senate (except for the Committee on Appropriations and the Select Committee on Ethics) are authorized pursuant to a simple resolution, and funding is typically provided in the annual Legislative Branch Appropriations Act and other appropriations bills.

On February 28, 2017, the Senate agreed by unanimous consent to S.Res. 62, which authorized a total of...

House Committee Party Ratios: 98th-115th Congresses

The party ratio in a House of Representatives standing committee refers to the proportional number of members of each party caucus assigned to each committee. Determining sizes, ratios, and committee assignments are among the first actions taken following a general election and at the beginning of a Congress.

The Standing Rules of the House of Representatives are silent regarding committee sizes and party ratios; the apportionment of committee seats is a decision of the majority leadership that may include discussions between majority and minority party leaderships. Historically, the...

Senate Committee Party Ratios: 98th-115th Congresses

The party ratio in the Senate standing committees is the proportional number of members of each party caucus assigned to each committee. Determining committee sizes, ratios, and assignments are among the first actions taken after a general election and at the beginning of a Congress.

The standing rules of the Senate are silent on the subject of committee party ratios. The apportionment of committee seats results from discussions between majority and minority party leadership. In general, it has been the practice of the Senate to apportion committee seats to the majority and minority...

House Committee Funding: Description of Process and Analysis of Disbursements

Funding for House committees (except for the Committee on Appropriations) follows a two-step process of authorization and appropriation. Operating budgets for all standing and select committees of the House (except for the Committee on Appropriations) are authorized pursuant to a simple resolution, and funding is provided in the Legislative Branch Appropriations bill and other appropriations acts. Subsequent resolutions may change committee authorizations.

On March 17, 2017, the House adopted H.Res. 173, providing for the expenses of certain committees of the House of Representatives in...

The Global Research and Development Landscape and Implications for the Department of Defense

For more than 70 years, the technological superiority of the United States military has offset the size and geographic advantages of potential adversaries. The Department of Defense (DOD), due in large part to the magnitude of its investments in research and development (R&D), has driven the global R&D and technology landscape. However, DOD and the federal government more broadly are no longer overriding funders of R&D, and this shift in support for R&D has substantial implications for how DOD obtains advanced technology and maintains the battlefield overmatch that technology has...

Impact Aid, Title VII of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act: A Primer

The Impact Aid program, administered by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and authorized by Title VII of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), was originally established in 1950 by P.L. 81-815 and P.L. 81-874, 15 years prior to the enactment of the ESEA. Impact Aid compensates local educational agencies (LEAs) for a “substantial and continuing financial burden” resulting from federal activities. These activities include federal ownership of certain lands, as well as the enrollments in LEAs of children whose parents work or live on federal property and children living on...

Marijuana Legalization in Canada: Implications for U.S. Policy and International Drug Control

On October 17, 2018, Canada became the second country—after Uruguay in 2013—to legalize and regulate the production, distribution, and possession of marijuana for recreational purposes. The measure comes at a time when other countries are questioning their drug policies and U.S. states are forging policy paths that diverge from federal law. These developments have spurred questions from Congress regarding their potential implications for U.S. domestic and international drug policy.

Canada’s Cannabis Act

Canada’s Cannabis Act allows individuals 18 years of age or older to purchase...

Poverty in the United States in 2017: In Brief

In 2017, approximately 39.7 million people, or 12.3% of the population, had incomes below the official definition of poverty in the United States. Poverty statistics provide a measure of economic hardship. The official definition of poverty for the United States uses dollar amounts called poverty thresholds that vary by family size and the members’ ages. Families with incomes below their respective thresholds are considered to be in poverty. The poverty rate (the percentage that was in poverty) fell from 12.7% in 2016. This was the third consecutive year since the most recent recession...

Juvenile Delinquents and Federal Criminal Law: The Federal Juvenile Delinquency Act and Related Matters

Federal authorities have three options when a juvenile violates federal criminal law. First, they can refer the juvenile to state authorities. Second, they can initiate federal delinquency proceedings. Third, they can petition the federal court to transfer the juvenile for trial as an adult. The Federal Juvenile Delinquency Act generally favors referring juveniles to state authorities, but it permits federal delinquency proceedings where state courts cannot or will not accept jurisdiction. Because a majority of the federal juvenile delinquency cases have historically arisen in areas beyond...

The Posse Comitatus Act and Related Matters: A Sketch

The Posse Comitatus Act states that “Whoever, except in cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress, willfully uses any part of the Army or the Air Force as a posse comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.” 18 U.S.C. § 1385. It reflects an American tradition that bridles at military involvement in civilian affairs. Congress, however, has approved a number of instances where extraordinary circumstances warrant a departure from the general rule, particularly in...

Video Relay Service: Program Funding and Reform

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulates a number of disability-related telecommunications services, including video relay service (VRS). VRS allows persons with hearing disabilities, using American Sign Language (ASL), to communicate with voice telephone users through video equipment rather than through typed text. VRS has quickly become a very popular service, as it offers several features not available with the text-based telecommunications relay service (TRS).

The FCC has adopted various rules to maintain the quality of VRS service. Now VRS providers must answer 80% of all...

Robbery, Extortion, and Bribery in One Place: A Legal Overview of the Hobbs Act

The Hobbs Act proscribes obstructing commerce by means of robbery or extortion or attempting or conspiring to do so. The Act applies to individuals and legal entities alike. It permits prosecutions, although the impact on commerce may be minimal. It condemns the robbery—knowingly taking the property of another by force or threat—of drug dealers, mom-and-pop markets, and multinational corporations.

Attempted Hobbs Act robbery consists of an intent to rob, coupled with a substantial step toward that objective; conspiracy, a scheme of two or more to rob or extort; and accomplice liability,...

The Posse Comitatus Act and Related Matters: The Use of the Military to Execute Civilian Law

The Constitution permits Congress to authorize the use of the militia “to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions.” And it guarantees the states protection against invasion or usurpation of their “republican form of government,” and, upon the request of the state legislature, against “domestic violence.” These constitutional provisions are reflected in the Insurrection Acts, which have been invoked numerous times both before and after passage of the Posse Comitatus Act, 18 U.S.C. Section 1385, in 1878. Congress has also enacted a number of statutes that...

Methane and Other Air Pollution Issues in Natural Gas Systems

Natural Gas Systems and Air Pollution

Congressional interest in U.S. energy policy has often focused on ways through which the United States could secure more economical, reliable, and cleaner fossil fuel resources both domestically and internationally. Recent expansion in natural gas production, primarily as a result of new or improved technologies (e.g., hydraulic fracturing, directional drilling) used on unconventional resources (e.g., shale, tight sands, and coalbed methane) has made natural gas an increasingly significant component in the U.S. energy supply. This expansion, however,...

Patriot Day: Fact Sheet

In 2001, P.L. 107-89 designated September 11 as Patriot Day to honor the individuals who lost their lives as a result of the terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001. The law asks the President to issue a Proclamation for Patriot Day each year that directs the U.S. flag be flown at half-staff and a moment of silence be observed.

The terrorist attacks, which claimed nearly 3,000 lives, involved four civilian airplanes hijacked by 19 members of the Al Qaeda terrorist network. The first two airplanes were crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New...

Presidential Disability Under the Twenty-Fifth Amendment: Constitutional Provisions and Perspectives for Congress

Sections 3 and 4 of the Twenty-Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provide for presidential disability or inability.

Section 3 of the amendment sets the procedure whereby a President may declare himself or herself “unable to discharge the powers and duties” of the office by transmitting a written declaration to this effect to the President pro tempore of the Senate (President pro tem) and the Speaker of the House of Representatives (Speaker). For the duration of the disability, the Vice President discharges the President’s powers and duties as Acting President. When the President...

Guide to Individuals Seated on the Senate Dais

The Senate meets in the Senate chamber of the Capitol. Seated at the head of the chamber on the top of a two-tiered dais is the presiding officer. Members are assigned to the 100 desks that are arranged in a semicircle facing the presiding officer. The center aisle in the Senate chamber divides the political parties. Facing the presiding officer, Republicans sit to the right of the center aisle, Democrats to the left. Senior Members usually sit the closest to the dais and along the center aisle, although some choose other desks. The party floor leaders occupy the front aisle desks, which...

Party Leaders in the House: Election, Duties, and Responsibilities

Each major party in the House has a leadership hierarchy. This report summarizes the election, duties, and responsibilities of the Speaker of the House, the majority and minority leaders, and the whips and whip system. For a listing of all past occupants of congressional party leadership positions, see CRS Report RL30567, Party Leaders in the United States Congress, 1789-2017, by Valerie Heitshusen.

21st Century U.S. Energy Sources: A Primer

Since the start of the 21st century, the U.S. energy system has seen tremendous changes. Technological advances in energy production have driven changes in energy consumption, and the United States has moved from being a growing net importer of most forms of energy to a declining importer—and possibly a net exporter in the near future. The United States remains the second largest producer and consumer of energy in the world, behind China.

The U.S. oil and natural gas industry has gone through a “renaissance” of production. Technological improvements in hydraulic fracturing and horizontal...

Guide to Individuals Seated on the House Dais

The House of Representatives meets in the House chamber of the Capitol. In the front of the chamber is a three-tiered, elevated dais. Seated or standing at a sizable lectern (the height of which is adjustable) on the top level of the dais is the presiding officer. Members of the House sit in bench-style unassigned seats arranged in a semicircle facing the presiding officer. Facing the dais, Republicans traditionally sit to the right of the center aisle, Democrats to the left.

Hurricane Michael: Brief Overview of FEMA Programs and Resources

Introduction

This Insight provides a brief overview of emergency and major disaster declarations relevant to Hurricane Michael, and selected federal resources and links to CRS products related to Stafford Act declarations, disaster response, and recovery.

Hurricane Michael made landfall on the panhandle of Florida as a category 4 on October 10, 2018 and affected parts of Georgia. In anticipation of the landfall, President Trump issued an emergency declaration to Florida on October 7, 2018. On October 11, 2018, the President issued an emergency declaration to Georgia, and issued a major...

National and International Educational Assessments: Overview, Results, and Issues

U.S. students participate in many assessments to track their educational achievement. Perhaps the most widely discussed of these are statewide assessments required by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which was most recently comprehensively amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA; P.L. 114-95). However, U.S. students also participate in large-scale national assessments, authorized by the National Assessment of Educational Progress Assessment Act (NAEPAA; Title III, Section 303 of P.L. 107-279), and international assessments, authorized by the Education Sciences...

EPA’s Affordable Clean Energy Proposal

In August 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed three actions in the “Affordable Clean Energy Rule” (ACE). First, EPA proposed to replace the Obama Administration’s 2015 Clean Power Plan (CPP) with revised emission guidelines for existing fossil fuel steam electric generating units (EGUs), which are largely coal-fired units. Second, EPA proposed revised regulations to implement emission guidelines under Clean Air Act (CAA) Section 111(d). Third, EPA proposed to modify an applicability determination for New Source Review (NSR), a CAA preconstruction permitting...

Juvenile Delinquents and Federal Criminal Law: The Federal Juvenile Delinquency Act and Related Matters in Short

Federal authorities have three options when a juvenile violates federal criminal law. First, they can refer the juvenile to state authorities. Second, they can initiate federal delinquency proceedings. Third, they can petition the federal court to transfer the juvenile for trial as an adult. The Federal Juvenile Delinquency Act general favors referring juveniles to state authorities, but it permits federal delinquency proceedings where state courts cannot or will not accept jurisdiction. Because a majority of the federal juvenile delinquency cases have historically arisen in areas...

Internships, Fellowships, and Other Work Experience Opportunities in the Federal Government

While there are many opportunities in the federal government for internships, fellowships, and other work experience, there is no comprehensive source to assist in locating these opportunities. This report describes internet resources for prominent and popular opportunities for internship, fellowship, and work experience programs within the federal government. The report is intended as a selective guide for students of all levels: high school, undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate. It provides information on legislative, executive, and judicial branch opportunities and links to several...

Native American Heritage Month: Fact Sheet

Native American Heritage Month (also known as National American Indian Heritage Month) celebrates the contributions and achievements of Native Americans.

November was first designated as National American Indian Heritage Month on August 3, 1990, by P.L. 101-343, To authorize and request the President to proclaim the month of November 1990, and thereafter as “Native American Indian Heritage Month.” Since then, Presidents have issued annual proclamations promoting this observance.

On June 26, 2009, P.L. 111-33, Native American Heritage Day Act of 2009, designated the Friday after...

VA Maintaining Internal Systems and Strengthening Integrated Outside Networks Act of 2018 (VA MISSION Act; P.L.115-182)

On June 6, 2018, the John S. McCain III, Daniel K. Akaka, and Samuel R. Johnson VA Maintaining Internal Systems and Strengthening Integrated Outside Networks Act of 2018, or the VA MISSION Act of 2018 (S. 2372; P.L. 115-182; H.Rept. 115-671), was signed into law. The Department of Veterans Affairs Expiring Authorities Act of 2018 (S. 3479; P.L. 115-251), enacted on September 29, 2018, made some changes and technical amendments to the VA MISSION Act. This act, as amended, broadly addresses four major areas.

First, it establishes a new permanent Veterans Community Care Program (VCCP),...

Military Lending Act: Rules, Enforcement, and Servicemember Financial Stability

The Military Lending Act (MLA, 10 U.S.C. §987) regulates commercial lending practices and products offered to military servicemembers and their dependents. The Department of Defense (DOD) implements the provisions of this act and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) oversees and enforces consumer protection laws and regulations. Some have argued that Military Lending Act rules place undue regulatory burdens on businesses that provide credit products. Others have argued that these rules provide important servicemember protections from abusive financial practices and, in turn,...

What Is the Effect of Enacting a Congressional Review Act Resolution of Disapproval?

The Congressional Review Act (CRA) provides Congress with a set of special parliamentary procedures to consider legislation to overturn federal regulations. Thus far, the 115th Congress has disapproved a total of 16 regulations that had been issued by the Obama Administration, leading to questions about the effects of enactment of a CRA disapproval resolution.

Enactment of a CRA joint resolution of disapproval has two primary effects—one immediate and one more long-term. The immediate effect is that a rule subject to a disapproval resolution may not go into effect, or, if the rule has...

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program: Selected Issues

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program provides Direct Loan borrowers who, on or after October 1, 2007, are employed full-time in certain public service jobs for 10 years while making 120 separate qualifying monthly payments on their Direct Loans with the opportunity to have any remaining balance of principal and interest on their loans forgiven. The program was enacted under the College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007 (P.L. 110-84) to encourage individuals to enter into and remain employed in public service and to alleviate the potential financial burdens associated with...

Natural Gas Liquids: The Unknown Hydrocarbons

The U.S. oil and natural gas industries have gone through a “renaissance” of production. Technological improvements in hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling have unlocked enormous oil and natural gas resources from tight formations, such as shale. In conjunction with the rise in oil and natural gas production, U.S. production of natural gas liquids has also increased.

Natural gas liquids (NGLs) are a group of hydrocarbons that includes ethane, propane, butane, isobutane, and natural gasoline. NGLs are differentiated from one another by the number of carbon atoms in their molecular...

Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) FY2019 Appropriations: Independent Agencies and General Provisions

The Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) appropriations bill includes funding for more than two dozen independent agencies. Among them are the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), Election Assistance Commission (EAC), Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Federal Election Commission (FEC), Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA), Federal Trade Commission (FTC), General Services Administration (GSA), National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), Office of Personnel Management (OPM), Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB), Securities and Exchange...

Social Security: Raising or Eliminating the Taxable Earnings Base

Social Security taxes are levied on covered earnings up to a maximum level set each year. In 2018, this maximum—formally called the contribution and benefit base, and commonly referred to as the taxable earnings base or the taxable maximum—is $128,400. The taxable earnings base serves as both a cap on contributions and on benefits. As a contribution base, it establishes the maximum amount of a worker’s earnings that is subject to the payroll tax. As a benefit base, it establishes the maximum amount of earnings used to calculate benefits.

Since 1982, the Social Security taxable earnings...

Morocco: Background and U.S. Relations

Morocco is a constitutional monarchy with an elected parliament and local government entities. King Mohammed VI, who inherited the throne in 1999, maintains overarching political authority but has taken some liberalizing steps. In 2011, amid domestic and regional protests, the king introduced a new constitution providing more power to elected officials and expanding individual rights. The monarch nonetheless remains the arbiter of national political decision-making, the head of the military, and—as “Commander of the Faithful”—the country’s highest religious authority. The king’s seizure of...

Federal Traffic Safety Programs: In Brief

In 2017 over 37,000 people died in motor vehicle crashes, and over 3 million were injured. The estimated cost of motor vehicle crashes is over $800 billion annually. The number of deaths and the fatality rate declined from 2007-2014, but have risen since then. The federal government promotes highway safety in several ways. Opportunities exist for federal initiatives that would improve highway safety.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, FMCSA, NHTSA, motorcoach, highway safety, traffic safety, seat belts, motorcycles, helmets, vehicle...

North Korea Diplomacy: October 2018 Status Report

Summary of Developments During 2018

Since North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in early 2018 dropped the belligerent posture that Pyongyang had displayed the past several years and embarked on a “charm offensive,” he has held three summits with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, three with Chinese President Xi Jinping, and one with President Donald Trump, in Singapore in June 2018. The United States and North Korea are considering a second Trump-Kim summit in the coming months.

To date, these summits and other events have produced the following results:

North Korea’s Nuclear and Missile...

Tax Provisions That Expired in 2017 (“Tax Extenders”)

Twenty-eight temporary tax provisions expired at the end of 2017. Collectively, temporary tax provisions that are regularly extended as a group by Congress, rather than being allowed to expire as scheduled, are often referred to as “tax extenders.”

Temporary tax provisions were most recently extended in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (BBA18; P.L. 115-123). BBA18 extended nearly all of the provisions that had expired at the end of 2016, with most provisions extended through the end of 2017. For most provisions, this extension was purely retroactive. Since the BBA18 was enacted in...

Funding and Financing Highways and Public Transportation

For many years, federal surface transportation programs were funded almost entirely from taxes on motor fuels deposited in the Highway Trust Fund. The tax rates, which are fixed in terms of cents per gallon, have not been increased at the federal level since 1993. Meanwhile, motor fuel consumption is projected to decline due to improved fuel efficiency, increased use of electric vehicles, and slow growth in vehicle miles traveled. In consequence, revenue flowing into the Highway Trust Fund has been insufficient to support the surface transportation program authorized by Congress since...

A Shift in the International Security Environment: Potential Implications for Defense—Issues for Congress

World events in recent years have led observers, particularly since late 2013, to conclude that the international security environment in recent years has undergone a shift from the post-Cold War era that began in the late 1980s and early 1990s, also sometimes known as the unipolar moment (with the United States as the unipolar power), to a new and different situation that features, among other things, renewed great power competition with China and Russia and challenges by these two countries and others to elements of the U.S.-led international order that has operated since World War...

The Higher Education Act (HEA): A Primer

The Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA; P.L. 89-329) authorizes numerous federal aid programs that provide support to both individuals pursuing a postsecondary education and institutions of higher education (IHEs). Title IV of the HEA authorizes the federal government’s major student financial aid programs, which are the primary source of direct federal support to students pursuing postsecondary education. Titles II, III, and V of the HEA provide institutional aid and support. Additionally, the HEA authorizes services and support for less-advantaged students (select Title IV programs),...

Honduras: Background and U.S. Relations

Honduras, a Central American nation of 9 million people, has had close ties with the United States for many years. The country served as a base for U.S. operations designed to counter Soviet influence in Central America during the 1980s, and it continues to host a U.S. military presence and cooperate on antidrug efforts today. Trade and investment linkages are also long-standing and have grown stronger since the implementation of the Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) in 2006. In recent years, instability in Honduras—including a 2009 coup and...

FDA Warns of Youth Epidemic of E-Cigarette Use, Faces Regulatory Challenges

Background

An electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) is a battery-operated device typically containing nicotine, flavorings, and other chemicals that create inhalable vapor. According to the 2018 National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report, Public Health Consequences of E-Cigarettes, e-cigarette vapor contains fewer toxicants than combusted cigarette smoke.

In a recent announcement, Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Scott Gottlieb wrote:

The FDA now believes that youth use of e-cigarettes is reaching epidemic proportions. This belief is based on not just the results of the...

U.S. Crude Oil and Natural Gas Production in Federal and Nonfederal Areas

A number of legislative proposals and executive branch initiatives designed to increase domestic energy supply, enhance energy security, or amend the requirements of environmental statutes that apply to energy development are before the 115th Congress. There are legislative proposals that include new revenue-sharing provisions for coastal states that would allow states the authority to manage federal energy leases within their state. The Trump Administration’s theme of “energy dominance” has translated into several administration initiatives and executive orders, including the opening of...

Australia’s Hung Parliament and Elections

Introduction

A surprise defeat in an October 20 parliamentary by-election in the Australian electorate of Wentworth left the conservative Liberal Party-led government of Prime Minister Scott Morrison without a majority in parliament. Independent politician Kerryn Phelps’ victory in the Wentworth district ended extended conservative control of the seat, which was long held by former Liberal Party Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. One interpretation of the swing in voter sentiment away from the Liberal candidate is that voters sought to punish the party for ousting Turnbull as Prime Minister...

Congress Considers Possible Responses to the Killing of a Saudi Journalist

Congress is considering potential responses to the killing of prominent Saudi Arabian journalist and former diplomatic advisor Jamal Khashoggi. Some Members of Congress have requested additional information from the executive branch, raised the prospect of targeted U.S. sanctions, or introduced legislation to limit security cooperation with Saudi Arabia until the executive branch makes a determination concerning Saudi government involvement.

Khashoggi, an outspoken, self-exiled critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abd al Aziz Al Saud, was killed by Saudi government...

The Geospatial Data Act of 2018

In the 114th and 115th Congresses, several bills entitled the Geospatial Data Act were introduced in the Senate and House of Representatives. Congress did not act on legislation introduced in the 114th Congress; however, in September 2018, a version of the bill, the Geospatial Data Act of 2018 (GDA), was included in H.R. 302, the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018, as Subtitle F of Title VII. Congress passed H.R. 302 on October 3, 2018, and President Trump signed it into law on October 5 as P.L. 115-254.

The federal government has recognized the need to organize and coordinate the collection...

Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA)

Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) benefits are available only to those individuals who have become unemployed as a direct result of a declared major disaster and are not eligible for regular Unemployment Compensation (UC). First created in 1970 through P.L. 91-606, DUA benefits are authorized by the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Relief Act (the Stafford Act), which authorizes the President to issue a major disaster declaration after state and local government resources have been overwhelmed by a natural catastrophe or, “regardless of cause, any fire, flood, or...

Insurance Regulation: Legislation in the 115th Congress

Insurance companies constitute a major segment of the U.S. financial services industry. The insurance industry is often separated into two parts: (1) life and health insurance companies, which also often offer annuity products, and (2) property and casualty insurance companies, which include most other lines of insurance, such as homeowners insurance, automobile insurance, and various commercial lines of insurance purchased by businesses. Different lines of insurance present different characteristics and risks. Life insurance typically is a longer-term proposition with contracts stretching...

Japan-U.S. Relations: Issues for Congress

Japan is a significant partner of the United States in a number of foreign policy areas, particularly in security concerns, which range from hedging against Chinese military modernization to countering threats from North Korea. The U.S.-Japan military alliance, formed in 1952, grants the U.S. military the right to base U.S. troops—currently around 50,000 strong—and other military assets on Japanese territory, undergirding the “forward deployment” of U.S. troops in East Asia. In return, the United States pledges to protect Japan’s security.

Although candidate Donald Trump made statements...

Homelessness: Targeted Federal Programs

The federal government administers a number of programs, through multiple federal agencies, that are targeted to assisting people who are experiencing homelessness by providing housing, services, and supports. Some programs target specific populations, such as veterans and youth, while others serve all people who are homeless. Available assistance may also depend on how programs define “homelessness.”

There is no single federal definition of homelessness. A number of programs, including those overseen by the Departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Veterans Affairs (VA),...

U.S.-Japan Announce New Limited Trade Negotiations

On September 26, 2018, President Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Abe announced plans to enter into formal bilateral negotiations for a “United-States Japan Trade Agreement on goods, as well as on other key areas including services, that can produce early achievements.” The announcement appeared to end a nearly two-year stalemate, in which Japan was resisting U.S. pressure to enter into bilateral trade talks, and at least temporarily suspended the threat of new U.S. tariffs against Japanese motor vehicles and auto parts.

While the joint statement offers few details on overall negotiating...

Global Trends in Democracy: Background, U.S. Policy, and Issues for Congress

Widespread concerns exist among analysts and policymakers over the current trajectory of democracy around the world. Congress has often played an important role in supporting and institutionalizing U.S. democracy promotion, and current developments may have implications for U.S. policy, which for decades has broadly reflected the view that the spread of democracy around the world is favorable to U.S. interests.

The aggregate level of democracy around the world has not advanced for more than a decade. Analysis of data trend-lines from two major global democracy indexes indicates that, as of...

Momentum Toward Peace Talks in Afghanistan?

Developments in Afghanistan since February 2018, including a potential change in the U.S. stance toward direct talks with the Taliban, have increased the prospects for a negotiated end to the conflict there. In August 2017, President Trump said, “Someday, after an effective military effort, perhaps it will be possible to have a political settlement that includes elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan, but nobody knows if or when that will ever happen.” In the following months, American military operations intensified, with the number of U.S. troops in the country rising to about 15,000.

A...

Children’s Hospitals Graduate Medical Education (CHGME)

The Children’s Hospitals Graduate Medical Education (CHGME) program provides direct financial support to children’s hospitals to train medical residents and fellows. The program is administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and is authorized in Section 340E of the Public Health Service Act (PHSA). CHGME receives annual discretionary appropriations, and its funding has increased in recent years. The program was funded at $315 million in FY2018 and will receive $325 million in FY2019.

Hospitals typically...

FY2019 National Defense Authorization Act: Selected Military Personnel Issues

Each year, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) provides authorization of appropriations for a range of Department of Defense (DOD) and national security programs and related activities. New or clarified defense policies, organizational reform, and directed reports to Congress are often included. For FY2019, the John S. McCain NDAA (H.R. 5515) contains several high-profile military personnel issues. Some are required annual authorizations, such as end-strengths; some are updates or modifications to existing programs; and some changes in response to problems identified in certain...

Medicare Trigger

The Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003 (MMA; P.L. 108-173) requires the Medicare Board of Trustees to provide in its annual reports an expanded analysis of Medicare expenditures and revenues (Section 801 of the MMA). If the Medicare trustees determine that general revenue funding for Medicare is expected to exceed 45% of Medicare outlays for the current fiscal year or any of the next six fiscal years, a determination of excess general revenue Medicare funding is made. If the determination is issued for two consecutive years, a funding warning is issued...

VA Housing: Guaranteed Loans, Direct Loans, and Specially Adapted Housing Grants

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has assisted veterans with homeownership since 1944, when Congress enacted the loan guaranty program to help veterans returning from World War II purchase homes. The loan guaranty program assists veterans by insuring mortgages made by private lenders, and is available for the purchase or construction of homes as well as to refinance existing loans.

The loan guaranty has expanded over the years so that it is available to (1) all veterans who fulfill specific duration of service requirements or who were released from active duty due to...

Family Planning Program Under Title X of the Public Health Service Act

The federal government provides grants for family planning services through the Family Planning Program, Title X of the Public Health Service Act (PHSA; 42 U.S.C. §§300 to 300a-6). Title X, enacted in 1970, is the only domestic federal program devoted solely to family planning and related preventive health services. In 2017, Title X-funded clinics served 4 million clients.

Title X is administered through the Office of Population Affairs (OPA) in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Although the authorization of appropriations for Title X ended in FY1985, funding for the...

The Peace Corps: Current Issues

Founded in 1961, the Peace Corps has sought to meet its legislative mandate of promoting world peace and friendship by sending American volunteers to serve at the grassroots level in villages and towns in all corners of the globe. As of the end of September 2017, about 7,376 volunteers were serving in 65 nations.

In 2018, the 115th Congress has considered and may again consider several issues related to the Peace Corps, including the President’s annual funding request for the Peace Corps and changes to the Peace Corps authorization legislation. The Sam Farr and Nick Castle Peace Corps...

Air Force B-21 Raider Long-Range Strike Bomber

The Department of Defense is developing a new long-range bomber aircraft, the B-21 Raider (previously known as LRS-B), and proposes to acquire at least 100 of them. B-21s would initially replace the fleets of B-1 and B-2 bombers, and could possibly replace B-52s in the future.

B-21 development was highly classified until the summer of 2015, when the Air Force revealed initial details of the aircraft and the program. Although technical specifications and other data remain out of public view, many details of the budget, acquisition strategy, procurement quantities, and other aspects of the...

Federal Land Designations: A Brief Guide

This report provides a brief guide to selected titles—such as national park, national wildlife refuge, national monument, national conservation area, national recreation area, and others—that Congress and the executive branch have used to designate certain U.S. lands. These designations primarily apply to federal lands administered by land management agencies, including the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and National Park Service (NPS) in the Department of the Interior and the U.S. Forest Service (FS) in the Department of Agriculture. The report also...

Expiration of the 2014 Farm Bill

The farm bill is an omnibus, multi-year law that governs an array of agricultural and food programs. It provides an opportunity for policymakers to periodically address a broad range of agricultural and food issues. The farm bill is typically reauthorized about every five years.

Recent farm bills have been subject to various developments, such as insufficient votes to pass the House floor, presidential vetoes, or—as in the case of 2008 and 2014 farm bills—short-term extensions.

The current farm bill (the Agricultural Act of 2014, P.L. 113-79) has many provisions that expire in 2018. The...

Cost-of-Living Adjustments for Federal Civil Service Annuities

Cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) for the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) and the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) are based on the rate of inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W). COLAs for both CSRS and FERS are determined by the average monthly CPI-W during the third quarter (July to September) of the current calendar year and the third quarter of the base year, which is the last previous year in which a COLA was applied. The “effective date” for COLAs is December, but they first appear in the benefits...

Postelection Issues in Bosnia and Herzegovina

During the wars of Yugoslav succession, many Members of Congress were active in the debate over U.S. policies toward Bosnia and Herzegovina (hereinafter, Bosnia). The United States played a key role in brokering the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords, which ended the war in Bosnia.

On October 7, 2018, Bosnia held its eighth general election since Dayton. At the central, statewide level, voters cast their ballots for the three-member presidency and the lower house of parliament. In Bosnia’s two semiautonomous units (the entities), elections were held for subnational legislatures and leaders....

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Media Ownership Rules

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) aims, with its broadcast media ownership rules, to promote localism and competition by restricting the number of media outlets that a single entity may own or control within a geographic market and, in the case of broadcast television stations, nationwide. In addition, the FCC seeks to encourage diversity, including (1) the diversity of viewpoints, as reflected in the availability of media content reflecting a variety of perspectives; (2) diversity of programming, as indicated by a variety of formats and content; (3) outlet diversity, to ensure...

Columbus Day: Fact Sheet

Columbus Day is a federal holiday commemorating Christopher Columbus’s historic voyage landing in the Americas on October 12, 1492. It has also become a time to honor Italian American heritage.

This guide is designed to assist congressional offices with work related to Columbus Day celebrations. It contains biographical information on Christopher Columbus and background on the holiday. It provides links to sample speeches marking the observance of Columbus Day from the Congressional Record and to official proclamations issued by the White House. It also contains links to selected...

Social Media Adoption by Members of Congress: Trends and Congressional Considerations

Communication between Members of Congress and their constituents has changed with the development of online social networking services. Many Members now use email, official websites, blogs, YouTube channels, Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms to communicate—technologies that were nonexistent or not widely available just a few decades ago.

Social networking services have arguably enhanced the ability of Members of Congress to fulfill their representational duties by providing them with greater opportunities to share information and potentially to gauge constituent...

Banking: Current Expected Credit Loss (CECL)

Some observers asserted that leading up to the financial crisis of 2007-2009 banks did not have sufficient credit loss reserves or capital to absorb the resulting losses and as a consequence supported additional government intervention to stabilize the financial system. In its legislative oversight capacity, Congress has devoted attention to strengthening the financial system in an effort to prevent another financial crisis and avoid putting taxpayers at risk. However, some Members of Congress have expressed concern that financial reforms have been unduly burdensome, reducing the...

Agency Delay: Congressional and Judicial Means to Expedite Agency Rulemaking

Agencies are sometimes criticized for taking too long to promulgate regulations and issue decisions. Some amount of time, of course, is necessary for reasoned decisionmaking. However, unjustified delays have significant costs for regulated entities and the public at large. At the extreme, agency delays can undermine public trust in agencies and frustrate the implementation of the regulatory regime created by Congress.

Congress has a number of means at its disposal to reduce the likelihood of agency delays in rulemaking. Even if Congress does not impose any specific timing requirements for...

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s (ACA’s) Risk Adjustment Program: Frequently Asked Questions

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA; P.L. 111-148, as amended) created a permanent risk adjustment program that aims to reduce incentives that insurers may have to avoid enrolling individuals at risk of high health care costs in the private health insurance market. Section 1343 of the ACA established the program, which is designed to assess charges to health plans that have relatively healthier enrollees compared with other health plans in a given state. The program uses collected charges to make payments to other plans in the same state that have relatively sicker...

Spain and Its Relations with the United States: In Brief

The United States and Spain have extensive cultural ties and a mutually beneficial economic relationship, and the two countries cooperate closely on numerous diplomatic and security issues. Spain has been a member of NATO since 1982 and a member of the European Union (EU) since 1986. Given its role as a close U.S. ally and partner, developments in Spain and its relations with the United States are of continuing interest to the U.S. Congress.

Domestic Political and Economic Issues

The government of Spain is led by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez of the center-left Socialist Workers’ Party...

Lebanon

Since having its boundaries drawn by France after the First World War, Lebanon has struggled to define its national identity. Its population included Christian, Sunni Muslim, and Shia Muslim communities of roughly comparable size, and with competing visions for the country. Seeking to avoid sectarian conflict, Lebanese leaders created a confessional system that allocated power among the country’s religious sects according to their percentage of the population. The system continues to be based on Lebanon’s last official census, which was conducted in 1932.

As Lebanon’s demographics have...

Energy and Water Development: FY2019 Appropriations

The Energy and Water Development appropriations bill provides funding for civil works projects of the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps); the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) and Central Utah Project (CUP); the Department of Energy (DOE); the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC); and several other independent agencies. DOE typically accounts for about 80% of the bill’s total funding.

President Trump submitted his FY2019 budget proposal to Congress on February 12, 2018. The President’s budget requests for agencies included in the Energy and Water Development...

Reserve Component Personnel Issues: Questions and Answers

The Constitution provides Congress with broad powers over the Armed Forces, including the power to "to raise and support Armies," "to provide and maintain a Navy," "to make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces" and "to provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States.... " In the exercise of this constitutional authority, Congress has historically shown great interest in various issues that bear on the vitality of the reserve components, such as funding,...

Iraq: Issues in the 115th Congress

Iraq’s government declared military victory against the Islamic State organization (IS, aka ISIS/ISIL) in December 2017, but insurgent attacks by remaining IS fighters threaten Iraqis as they shift their attention toward recovery and the country’s political future. Security conditions have improved since the Islamic State’s control of territory was disrupted, but IS fighters are active in some areas and security conditions are fluid.

Meanwhile, daunting resettlement, reconstruction, and reform needs occupy citizens and leaders. Internally displaced Iraqis are returning home in greater...

Ebola: Democratic Republic of Congo

On August 1, 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that a new Ebola outbreak was detected in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), about one week after having declared that a separate outbreak had ended in the western part of the country. This new outbreak is occurring in North Kivu and Ituri provinces, the most populated provinces in DRC, where a humanitarian crisis affecting over 1 million displaced people is ongoing. Health workers have begun vaccinating people in the districts to control the spread of the disease, though armed conflict in the areas is...

Federal Research and Development (R&D) Funding: FY2019

President Trump’s budget request for FY2019 includes approximately $131.0 billion for research and development (R&D), of which $118.056 billion is included in the President’s budget and an estimated additional $12.9 billion in nondefense discretionary R&D is requested as part of an addendum to the President’s budget. The additional funding requested in the addendum followed enactment of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (P.L. 115-123), which raised defense and nondefense discretionary spending caps for FY2018 and FY2019. In April 2018, the Administration issued amendments to the...

Afghanistan: Legislation in the 115th Congress

For nearly two decades, Congress has shaped the U.S. approach to Afghanistan and the ongoing conflict there. This product provides a summary of legislative proposals considered in the 115th Congress that relate to U.S. policy in Afghanistan. These address a number of issues, including the following. The size, mission, and other aspects of the U.S. troop presence in the country. Types of information that the executive branch provides to Congress, largely as part of regular reporting requirements. The role of women in Afghan society, government, and the military. The purposes for U.S. aid,...

The Trump Administration’s “Free and Open Indo-Pacific”: Issues for Congress

The Trump Administration has outlined a goal of promoting a Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP), seeking to articulate U.S. strategy towards an expanded Indo-Asia-Pacific region at a time when China’s presence across the region is growing. The FOIP initiative is identified through a number of statements by the President and senior Administration officials. Insight into the initiative’s context and perspective is also offered by the Administration’s National Security Strategy and the National Defense Strategy. The FOIP concept represents a significant change in U.S. strategic thinking towards...

Labor Market Patterns Since 2007

The period since 2007 has been a time of significant change for labor markets. The Great Recession of 2007-2009, the longest and deepest recession since the Great Depression, caused the unemployment rate to briefly reach 10%, and labor markets have subsequently experienced a long and gradual recovery. Most labor force metrics, including the unemployment rate and various other measures of labor force underutilization, have returned to levels that have historically been consistent with full employment.

Labor Force Participation

One exception is the labor force participation rate (the ratio...

Water Resources Development Act of 2018 (H.R. 8) and America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 (Amendment to H.R. 8): An Overview

Omnibus Water Authorization Legislation in the 115th Congress. The 115th Congress initiated deliberations on an omnibus water authorization bill with H.R. 8, the Water Resources Development Act of 2018 (WRDA 2018), and S. 2800, America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 (AWIA 2018). The House passed H.R. 8 on June 11, 2018. On July 9, 2018, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (Senate EPW) posted on its website an amendment in the nature of a substitute to H.R. 8, also titled America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018.

The Senate did not take up S. 2800 or the Senate...

Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF): Overview, Issues, and Legislation

The state of the nation’s water infrastructure and the challenges many communities face in addressing infrastructure needs continue to receive congressional attention. In 1996, Congress authorized the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) program under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) to help public water systems finance infrastructure projects needed to comply with federal drinking water regulations and to meet the act’s health protection objectives. Under this program, states receive annual capitalization grants from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to provide...

Status of FY2019 LHHS Appropriations

On Friday, September 28, the President signed into law H.R. 6157 (P.L. 115-245), which contains full-year FY2019 appropriations for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS) in Division B. This is the first occasion since the FY1997 appropriations cycle that full-year LHHS appropriations have been enacted on or before the start of the fiscal year (October 1). In addition to providing full-year appropriations for LHHS, P.L. 115-245 also provides full-year appropriations for the Department of Defense (Division A) and continuing...

Designing Congressional Commissions: Background and Considerations for Congress

Congressional advisory commissions are temporary entities established by Congress to provide advice, make recommendations for changes in public policy, study or investigate a particular problem or event, or perform a specific duty. Generally, commissions may hold hearings, conduct research, analyze data, investigate policy areas, and/or make field visits as they perform their duties. Most complete their work by delivering their findings, recommendations, or advice in the form of a written report to Congress. For example, the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States...

Military Survivor Benefit Plan: Background and Issues for Congress

The Department of Defense’s Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP), enacted in 1972, provides cash benefits in the form of a lifetime annuity to a surviving spouse or other eligible recipient(s) of a retiree or deceased member of the uniformed services. The original intent of the SBP (and its antecedents) was to “ensure that the surviving dependents of military personnel who die in retirement or after becoming eligible for retirement will continue to have a reasonable level of income.” Coverage was later expanded to those who die while on active service. Under the SBP, a military retiree can elect to...

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Funding: A Primer

Since the enactment of P.L. 94-142, the predecessor legislation to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), in 1975, the federal government has played a prominent role in encouraging the principle of educational equality for children with disabilities through a permanent, broad-scale federal assistance program. The IDEA is a grants statute that provides federal funding for the education of children with disabilities and requires, as a condition for the receipt of such funds, that states agree to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE; i.e., specially designed...

Army Corps of Engineers Annual and Supplemental Appropriations: Issues for Congress

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is an agency within the Department of Defense with both military and civil works responsibilities. The agency’s civil works activities consist largely of the planning, construction, and operation of water resource projects to maintain navigable channels, reduce flood and storm damage, and restore aquatic ecosystems. Congress directs USACE’s civil works activities through authorization legislation, annual and supplemental appropriations, and oversight. For Congress, the issue is not only the level of USACE appropriations but also how efficiently the...

Advanced Pilot Training (T-X) Program

NOTE: This report was originally written by Ceir Coral while he was an Air Force Fellow at the Congressional Research Service. Since his departure, it has been maintained by Jeremiah Gertler of CRS.

On September 27, 2018, the United States Air Force (USAF) awarded The Boeing Company a contract, worth up to $9.2 billion, to procure 351 Advanced Pilot Training (APT T-X) aircraft and 46 Ground-Based Training Systems (GBTS) to replace the existing fleet of T-38C jet trainers. The Air Force had originally valued the contract at roughly $19.7 billion. Information on the value of other...

South Sudan’s Civil War: Nearly 400,000 Estimated Dead

South Sudan, which became the world’s newest country when it split from Sudan in 2011, has been mired in civil war since December 2013. The war has had a devastating impact, displacing some 4.5 million people and fueling near-famine conditions. With over 7.1 million people severely food insecure in 2018, it is among the world’s worst humanitarian crises, and the U.N. humanitarian appeal for $1.4 billion in assistance is among the largest. South Sudan is one of the most dangerous environments for aid workers, with over 100 killed since the war began. The death toll from the conflict,...

Global Trade Imbalances

In July 2018, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) released its latest report on global trade imbalances that identifies countries with “excessive” current account balances and exchange rates that are “misaligned.” The current account is a broad measure of a country’s global economic engagement and is comprised of trade in goods, services, and official flows. The report indicates that 40% to 50% of countries had imbalances that were “excessive,” and that imbalances of about 3.25% of world GDP—both surpluses and deficits—remained constant in 2017, as indicated in Figure 1. In other words,...

The Interaction Between Medicare Premiums and Social Security COLAs

Social Security and Medicare assist in providing financial security to most elderly and disabled individuals in the United States. Certain interactions between Social Security and Medicare may have important financial implications for individuals who are enrolled in both programs.

Social Security provides monthly cash benefits to retired or disabled workers and their family members. The Social Security benefits that are paid to retired workers are based on workers’ past earnings. Medicare is a federal insurance program that pays for covered health care services for most individuals aged...

Errors and Fraud in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the nation’s largest domestic food assistance program, serving over 42.1 million recipients in an average month at a federal cost of over $68 billion in FY2017. SNAP is jointly administered by state agencies, which handle most recipient functions, and the federal government—specifically, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (USDA-FNS)—which supports and oversees the states and handles most retailer functions. In a program with diverse stakeholders, detecting, preventing, and addressing errors and fraud is...

Cloture Attempts on Nominations: Data and Historical Development Through November 20, 2013

The motion for cloture is available in the Senate to limit debate on nominations, as on other matters. Table 6 lists all nominations against which cloture was moved from 1949, when the Senate changed the cloture rule to allow it to be moved on nominations, until November 21, 2013, when the Senate reinterpreted the rule to lower the threshold for invoking cloture on most nominations from three-fifths of the Senate to a majority of Senators voting. The reinterpretation of the rule significantly altered the use of cloture in the Senate, such that conclusions drawn from the data in this report...

Former Speakers of the House: Office Allowances, Franking Privileges, and Staff Assistance

Beginning in 1970 and until the passage of P.L. 115-244, former Speakers of the House of Representatives were provided with an allowance upon their departure from the House. The allowance was established to assist retiring Speakers in concluding any official business arising from their tenure in the House. The statutorily authorized allowance has been available to former Speakers for office space and furnishings, office operations, franked mail, and staff assistance. Use of the allowance was limited to five years, beginning the day of expiration of a Speaker’s tenure as a Representative,...

Canada’s Dairy Supply Management System

On August 31, 2018, President Donald Trump notified Congress that he intended to sign a new trade agreement with Mexico in 90 days, and with Canada “if it is willing.” Since then, United States and Canada have been negotiating to bring Canada into the agreement. Both sides have signaled that dairy, and, in particular, Canada’s Class 7 milk category, remains one of the toughest obstacles to overcome. As both sides continue negotiations, this product provides a brief overview of how the Canadian government manages its dairy industry supply chains—as well as of the controversy surrounding the...

Federalism-Based Limitations on Congressional Power: An Overview

The U.S. Constitution establishes a system of dual sovereignty between the states and the federal government, with each state having its own government, endowed with all the functions essential to separate and independent existence. Although the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution designates “the Laws of the United States” as “the supreme Law of the Land,” other provisions of the Constitution—as well as legal principles undergirding those provisions—nonetheless prohibit the national government from enacting certain types of laws that impinge upon state sovereignty. The various principles...

Selected Legal Tools for Maintaining Government Contractor Accountability

Federal procurement statutes and the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) establish largely uniform policies and procedures applicable to government contracts “to deliver on a timely basis the best value product or service to the [government], while maintaining the public’s trust and fulfilling public policy objectives.” To meet these ends, federal agencies have a number of legal tools at their disposal to help ensure a contractor adequately performs a contract or, if warranted, to hold a contractor accountable for performance failures or misconduct:

Corrective Actions. In many instances,...

The Islamic State and U.S. Policy

The Islamic State (IS, aka the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL/ISIS, or the Arabic acronym Da’esh) is a transnational Sunni Islamist insurgent and terrorist group that controlled large areas of Iraq and Syria from 2014 through 2017. The group attracted a network of global supporters and its leader, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, received pledges of affiliation from groups in several other countries. A series of terrorist attacks attributed to the group or to individuals it has inspired have claimed hundreds of lives on four continents since November 2015, including in the United States....

Federal Reserve: Legislation in the 115th Congress

The Federal Reserve (Fed) is the subject of legislation being considered in the 115th Congress. This report analyzes Fed bills that have seen committee or floor action and the policy debate surrounding them. The bills contain wide-ranging changes that can be grouped into five broad categories:

Fed governance. Some proposals, such as H.R. 4753, would change the Fed’s institutional structure. H.R. 10, H.R. 4759, and H.R. 6741 would increase the voting weight of regional Fed presidents on the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) at the expense of the Fed’s Board of Governors and the New York...

Department of Transportation (DOT) Appropriations: FY2019

The Trump Administration proposed a $76.2 billion budget for the Department of Transportation (DOT) for FY2019: $16 billion in discretionary funding and $60 billion in mandatory funding. That is approximately $11 billion less than was provided for FY2018. The budget request reflected the Administration’s call for significant cuts in funding for transit and rail programs.

The DOT appropriations bill funds federal programs covering aviation, highways and highway safety, public transit, intercity rail, maritime safety, pipelines, and related activities. Federal highway, transit, and rail...

The Work Opportunity Tax Credit

The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) is a provision of the Internal Revenue Code that allows employers that hire individuals with certain personal characteristics to claim a tax credit equal to a portion of the wages paid to those individuals. WOTC-eligible populations include recipients of certain public benefits (such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or Temporary Assistance to Needy Families), qualified veterans, ex-felons, and other specified populations. In 2015, the WOTC was extended through 2019 as part of the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015...

The September 2018 Inter-Korean Summit

From September 18 to 20, South Korean President Moon Jae-in visited North Korea and held approximately five hours of meetings with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. During the summit, their third since April 2018, the two leaders issued a Pyongyang Joint Declaration pledging denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, improvements in inter-Korean relations, and confidence-building measures to ease military tension. Kim promised to visit Seoul “at an early date.”

The Moon-Kim summit has created potential opportunities and obstacles for the United States. The summit appears to have injected...

Campaign Finance Law: An Analysis of Key Issues, Recent Developments, and Constitutional Considerations for Legislation

Federal campaign finance law is composed of a complex set of limits, restrictions, and requirements on money and other things of value that are spent or contributed in the context of federal elections. While the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA, or Act) sets forth the statutory provisions governing this area of law, several Supreme Court and lower court rulings have had a significant impact on the Act’s regulatory scope. Most notably, since 2003, a series of Supreme Court decisions has invalidated several FECA provisions that were enacted as part of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of...

The Supreme Court’s Overruling of Constitutional Precedent

By exercising its power to determine the constitutionality of federal and state government actions, the Supreme Court has developed a large body of judicial decisions, or “precedents,” interpreting the Constitution. How the Court uses precedent to decide controversial issues has prompted debate over whether the Court should follow rules identified in prior decisions or overrule them. The Court’s treatment of precedent implicates longstanding questions about how the Court can maintain stability in the law by adhering to precedent under the doctrine of stare decisis while correcting...

Multiemployer Defined Benefit (DB) Pension Plans: A Primer

Multiemployer defined benefit (DB) pension plans are pensions sponsored by more than one employer and maintained as part of a collective bargaining agreement. About 3.1% of all DB pension plans, covering 28% of all DB pension plan participants, are multiemployer plans. Nearly all of the remaining DB pension plans are maintained by a single employer. A few DB pension plans are maintained by more than one employer but are not maintained under a collective bargaining agreement. In DB pension plans, participants receive a monthly benefit in retirement that is based on a formula. In...

Escalating Tariffs: Timeline

Concerns over trading partner trade practices and the U.S. trade deficit have been a focus of the Trump Administration. Citing these concerns and others, the President has imposed tariffs under three U.S. laws and authorities that allow the Administration to unilaterally impose trade restrictions: (1) Section 201 (Table 1) on U.S. imports of washing machines and solar products; (2) Section 232 (Table 2) on U.S. imports of steel and aluminum, and potentially autos and uranium, and (3) Section 301 (Table 3) on U.S. imports from China. Congress delegated aspects of its constitutional...

Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs): Issues for Congress

Exchange-traded funds (ETFs) are common ways for Americans to invest. An ETF is an investment vehicle that, similar to a mutual fund, offers public investors shares of a pool of assets; unlike a mutual fund, however, an ETF can be traded on exchanges like a stock. The catchall category of exchange-traded products (ETPs) includes all portfolio products that trade on exchanges.

U.S. ETF domestic listings stand at more than $3.4 trillion, making ETFs among the most important investment methods and critical components of the financial system. The first U.S. ETF was introduced in 1993 to track...

Systemically Important or “Too Big to Fail” Financial Institutions

Although “too big to fail” (TBTF) has been a long-standing policy issue, it was highlighted by the financial crisis, when the government intervened to prevent the near-collapse of several large financial firms in 2008. Financial firms are said to be TBTF when policymakers judge that their failure would cause unacceptable disruptions to the overall financial system. They can be TBTF because of their size or interconnectedness. In addition to fairness issues, economic theory suggests that expectations that a firm will not be allowed to fail create moral hazard—if the creditors and...

Escalating Tariffs: Potential Impacts

Concerns over trading partner trade practices and the U.S. trade deficit have been a focus of the Trump Administration. For a timeline of recent actions, see CRS Insight IN10943, Escalating Tariffs: Timeline. Citing these concerns and others, the President has imposed tariffs under three U.S. laws and authorities (Figure 1) that allow the Administration to unilaterally impose trade restrictions: (1) Section 201 on U.S. imports of washing machines and solar products; (2) Section 232 on U.S. imports of steel and aluminum, and potentially autos and uranium, and (3) Section 301 on U.S. imports...

Electronic Filing of Senate Campaign Finance Reports

A FY2019 appropriations measure significantly changes campaign finance reporting requirements for Senate candidates. Report contents will not change, but the method of filing will. The provision appears in H.R. 5895, a minibus package that includes three FY2019 appropriations bills: Energy and Water Development, the Legislative Branch, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs. The Senate and House adopted the conference report accompanying the bill on September 12 and 13, respectively. The President signed the measure on September 21, 2018. In the 115th Congress, the electronic...

Saudi Arabia: Background and U.S. Relations

The kingdom of Saudi Arabia, ruled by the Al Saud family since its founding in 1932, wields significant global influence through its administration of the birthplace of the Islamic faith and by virtue of its large oil reserves. Close U.S.-Saudi official relations have survived a series of challenges since the 1940s. In recent years, shared concerns over Sunni Islamist extremist terrorism and Iranian government policies have provided some renewed logic for continued strategic cooperation. Political upheaval and conflict in the Middle East and North Africa have created new challenges, and...

Research Evidence on the Impact of Work Requirements in Need-Tested Programs

Congress is debating work requirements for recipients in programs providing need-tested assistance to low-income families and individuals. Legislation before the 115th Congress—the House-passed version of H.R. 2—would expand work requirements in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). H.R. 5861, reported to the House from the Ways and Means Committee, would alter some of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program’s rules regarding work. In addition, the Trump Administration is currently granting demonstration waivers for states to implement work requirements...

Federal Grants and Loans for State and Local Emergency Communications Projects: Frequently Asked Questions

Improving emergency communications has been an area of congressional interest for many years. Before September 11, 2001, Congress provided funding through grants, which could be used to improve state and local emergency communications through purchases of police and fire radios, construction of communication towers, and disaster planning, training, and exercises. After September 11, 2001, Congress increased funding to improve interoperability between public safety agencies at all levels of government to enhance communication and coordination during response.

Congress has also supported...

Consumer Protections in Private Health Insurance for Individuals with Preexisting Health Conditions

Individuals with preexisting health conditions may have concerns about practices in the private health insurance market in which insurers use medical underwriting to assess their risk of offering health insurance to applicants. Before full implementation of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA’s; P.L. 111-148, as amended) insurance reforms, subject to certain exceptions, insurers generally were permitted to consider health factors in determining the offer of insurance, its price, and covered health services. Although references to individuals with preexisting conditions commonly focus on the...

Immigration: Frequently Asked Questions about “Public Charge”

Immigration law in the United States has long contained exclusion and removal provisions designed to limit government spending on indigent non-U.S. nationals (aliens). Under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), an alien may be denied admission into the United States or adjustment to lawful permanent resident (LPR) status if he or she is “likely at any time to become a public charge.” An admitted alien may also be subject to removal from the United States based on a separate public charge ground of deportability, but this ground is rarely employed. Certain categories of aliens, such...

Expedited Removal of Aliens: Legal Framework

The federal government has broad authority over the admission of non-U.S. nationals (aliens) seeking to enter the United States. The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that the government may exclude such aliens without affording them the due process protections that traditionally apply to persons physically present in the United States. Instead, aliens seeking entry are entitled only to those procedural protections that Congress has expressly authorized. Consistent with this broad authority, Congress established an expedited removal process for certain aliens who have arrived in the United...

NAFTA and the Preliminary U.S.-Mexico Agreement

Overview

On August 31, 2018, President Trump notified Congress of his intention to “enter into a trade agreement with Mexico – and with Canada if it is willing.” This notification and an announcement on August 27, 2018, that the United States and Mexico had reached a preliminary agreement in principle—subject to finalization and implementation—served as the culmination of a year of talks among the NAFTA partners. Talks with Canada have not concluded, and it is unclear whether Congress would support an agreement that does not include Canada. The United States and Mexico stated that they...

International Law and Agreements: Their Effect upon U.S. Law

International law is derived from two primary sources—international agreements and customary practice. Under the U.S. legal system, international agreements can be entered into by means of a treaty or an executive agreement. The Constitution allocates primary responsibility for entering into such agreements to the executive branch, but Congress also plays an essential role. First, in order for a treaty (but not an executive agreement) to become binding upon the United States, the Senate must provide its advice and consent to treaty ratification by a two-thirds majority. Secondly, Congress...

The Veterans Choice Program (VCP): Program Implementation

Authorized under Section 101 of the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 (VACAA), the Veterans Choice Program (VCP) is a temporary program that enables eligible veterans to receive medical care in the community. Since the program was first established by VACAA, it has been amended and funded several times. More recently, P.L. 115-26 eliminated the August 7, 2017, expiration date for the VCP and allowed the program to continue until the initial $10 billion deposited in the Veterans Choice Fund (VCF) was expended. P.L. 115-46 authorized and appropriated an additional $2.1...

Supreme Court October Term 2017: A Review of Selected Major Rulings

On October 2, 2017, the Supreme Court began one of the most notable terms in recent memory. The latest term of the Court was the first full term for Justice Neil Gorsuch, who succeeded Justice Antonin Scalia following his death in February 2016. The October Term 2017 was also the last term for Justice Anthony Kennedy, who retired in July 2018. With nine Justices on the Court for the first time at the beginning of a term since October 2015, this past term witnessed the High Court issuing fewer unanimous opinions and more rulings that were closely divided relative to previous terms.

The...

Sources for Frequently Requested Immigration Statistics

Multiple federal agencies play a role in administering immigration policies and enforcing immigration laws. These agencies make available various statistics related to their immigration work. This report provides guidance in identifying frequently requested immigration data from federal government sources, most of which are publicly available. This report is not a comprehensive listing of all federal immigration statistics.

The statistical sources included in this report are organized into five major categories: (1) the foreign-born population in the United States, (2) lawful admissions,...

Allocation of Funds Under Title I-A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was comprehensively reauthorized by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA; P.L. 114-95) on December 10, 2015. The Title I-A program is the largest grant program authorized under the ESEA and is funded at $15.8 billion for FY2018. It is designed to provide supplementary educational and related services to low-achieving and other students attending pre-kindergarten through grade 12 schools with relatively high concentrations of students from low-income families. Under current law, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) determines Title I-A...

The “Flores Settlement” and Alien Families Apprehended at the U.S. Border: Frequently Asked Questions

Reports of alien minors being separated from their parents at the U.S. border have raised questions about the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS’s) authority to detain alien families together pending the aliens’ removal proceedings, which may include consideration of claims for asylum and other forms of relief from removal.

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) authorizes—and in some case requires—DHS to detain aliens pending removal proceedings. However, neither the INA nor other federal laws specifically address when or whether alien family members must be detained together....

Trends in Mandatory Spending: In Brief

Federal spending is divided into three broad categories: discretionary spending, mandatory spending, and net interest. Those categories are procedural—that is, how Congress provides or has provided spending authority differs among those categories. The Budget Enforcement Act of 1990 (BEA; P.L. 101-508) provides a statutory definition for those terms, which are therefore referred to as BEA categories. To a large extent, however, the type of spending differs across those categories.

Discretionary spending, by and large, funds operations of federal agencies. Net interest spending is the...

Public Health and Emergency Management: CRS Experts

The following table provides names and contact information for CRS experts on policy concerns relating to public health and emergency management. Policy areas identified include public health and medical system preparedness and response; mental and behavioral health; food safety and food defense; health care financing in disaster response; Stafford Act assistance and the role of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA); Department of Defense (DOD) incident response and civil support; global health and international preparedness; selected legal issues in preparedness and response;...

American War and Military Operations Casualties: Lists and Statistics

This report provides U.S. war casualty statistics. It includes data tables containing the number of casualties among American military personnel who served in principal wars and combat operations from 1775 to the present. It also includes data on those wounded in action and information such as race and ethnicity, gender, branch of service, and cause of death. The tables are compiled from various Department of Defense (DOD) sources.

Wars covered include the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, the Korean...

Hurricane Florence: Brief Overview of FEMA Programs and Resources

Introduction

This Insight provides a brief overview of emergency and major disaster declarations relevant to Hurricane Florence, and selected federal resources and links to CRS products related to emergency and disaster declarations, disaster response, and recovery.

Hurricane Florence made landfall at Wrightsville Beach, NC, as a category 1 hurricane on September 14, 2018. In anticipation of the landfall, President Trump has issued emergency declarations to Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

Authorized under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act...

Military Retirement: Background and Recent Developments

The military retirement system is a government-funded, noncontributory, defined benefit system that has historically been viewed as a significant incentive in retaining a career military force. The system currently includes monthly compensation for qualified active and reserve retirees, disability benefits for those deemed medically unfit to serve, and a survivor annuity program for the eligible survivors of deceased retirees. The amount of compensation is dependent on time served, basic pay at retirement, and annual Cost-of-Living-Adjustments (COLAs). Military retirees are also entitled...

Congressional Primer on Responding to Major Disasters and Emergencies

The principles of disaster management assume a leadership role by the local, state, and tribal governments affected by the incident. The federal government provides coordinated supplemental resources and assistance, only if requested and approved. The immediate response to a disaster is guided by the National Response Framework (NRF), which details roles and responsibilities at various levels of government, along with cooperation from the private and nonprofit sectors, for differing incidents and support functions. A possible declaration of a major disaster or emergency under the authority...

Senate Confirmation Votes on U.S. Supreme Court Nominations: Overview

After the Senate Judiciary Committee reports a Supreme Court nomination, it is placed on the Senate Executive Calendar (to be considered in executive session). Senate consideration of a Supreme Court nomination includes floor debate on the nomination, as well as a final vote by the Senate on whether to approve it. When floor debate on a nomination ends, the presiding officer puts the question of confirmation to a vote. A roll call vote to confirm requires a simple majority of Senators present and voting, a quorum being present. Since 1967, beginning with the confirmation of Thurgood...

Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education: FY2018 Appropriations

This report offers an overview of actions taken by Congress and the President to provide FY2018 appropriations for accounts funded by the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS) appropriations bill. This bill includes all accounts funded through the annual appropriations process at the Departments of Labor (DOL) and Education (ED). It also provides annual appropriations for most agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), with certain exceptions (e.g., the Food and Drug Administration is funded via the Agriculture...

FY2019 Appropriations for the Department of Energy

Overview

The Department of Energy (DOE) is funded through the Energy and Water Development appropriations bill. The President’s FY2019 budget request is $30.4 billion for the DOE, approximately $4.2 billion (12%) less than the FY2018 enacted level of $34.6 billion (see P.L. 115-141 and Title III of Division D, Explanatory Statement on page H2481). Conference report H.Rept. 115-929 to accompany H.R. 5895, which includes the FY2019 Energy and Water appropriations bill in a three-bill “minibus” funding bill, was filed on September 10, 2018. According to the joint explanatory statement, the...

Hurricane Events: CRS Experts

The following table provides access to names and contact information for CRS experts on policy concerns related to hurricane events in the United States. Policy areas identified include disaster assistance and recovery matters extending to impacts such as displaced residents and business, disruptions in the energy sector and transportation, problems with water treatment and supply; responses and recovery operations such as disaster declarations and federal assistance, public health provisions, federal flood insurance, agricultural disaster relief and assistance, tax relief, environmental...

Policy Options for Multiemployer Defined Benefit Pension Plans

Multiemployer defined benefit (DB) pension plans are pensions sponsored by more than one employer and maintained as part of a collective bargaining agreement. In DB pensions, participants receive a monthly benefit in retirement that is based on a formula. In multiemployer DB pensions, the formula typically multiplies a dollar amount by the number of years of service the employee has worked for employers that participate in the DB plan.

The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) is a federally-chartered corporation that insures participant benefits in private-sector DB pension plans....

Natural Disasters and Hazards: CRS Experts

The following table provides the names and contact information for CRS experts on policy concerns relating to natural disasters and hazards in the United States. Policy areas identified include disaster assistance and recovery matters extending to impacts such as displaced residents and business, losses in agricultural production, disruptions in transportation (river, rail, and highway), problems with water treatment and supply; responses and recovery operations such as disaster declarations and federal assistance, public health provisions, federal flood insurance, agricultural disaster...

Paid Family Leave in the United States

Paid family leave (PFL) refers to partially or fully compensated time away from work for specific and generally significant family caregiving needs, such as the arrival of a new child or serious illness of a close family member. Although the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA; P.L. 103-3) provides eligible workers with a federal entitlement to unpaid leave for a limited set of family caregiving needs, no federal law requires private-sector employers to provide paid leave of any kind. Currently, employees may access paid family leave if it is offered by an employer. In addition,...

Costs of Government Interventions in Response to the Financial Crisis: A Retrospective

In August 2007, asset-backed securities (ABS), particularly those backed by subprime mortgages, suddenly became illiquid and fell sharply in value as an unprecedented housing boom turned into a housing bust. Losses on the many ABS held by financial firms depleted their capital. Uncertainty about future losses on illiquid and complex assets led to firms having reduced access to private liquidity, sometimes catastrophically. In September 2008, the financial crisis reached panic proportions, with some large financial firms failing or needing government assistance to prevent their...

Abortion and Family Planning-Related Provisions in U.S. Foreign Assistance Law and Policy

This report details legislation and policies that restrict or place requirements on U.S. funding of abortion or family planning activities abroad. The level and extent of federal funding for these activities is an ongoing and controversial issue in U.S. foreign assistance and has continued to be a point of contention during the 115th Congress.

These issues have been debated for over four decades in the context of a broader domestic abortion controversy that began with the Supreme Court’s 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade, which holds that the Constitution protects a woman’s decision to terminate...

Glider Kit, Engine, and Vehicle Regulations

On October 25, 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration jointly published the second phase of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and fuel efficiency standards for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles and engines. The rule affects commercial long-haul tractor-trailers, vocational vehicles, and heavy-duty pickup trucks and vans. It phases in between model years 2018 and 2027.

Under the rulemaking, EPA proposed a number of changes and clarifications for standards respecting “glider kits” and “glider vehicles.” A glider kit is a...

The G-20 and International Economic Cooperation: Background and Implications for Congress

The Group of Twenty (G-20) is a forum for advancing international cooperation and coordination among 20 major advanced and emerging-market economies. The G-20 includes Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States, as well as the European Union (EU). G-20 countries account for about 85% of global economic output, 75% of global exports, and two-thirds of the world’s population.

Originally established in 1999, the G-20 rose to prominence...

Army Futures Command (AFC)

The Issue

The Army’s post-Cold War development of major combat systems has been characterized by a number of high-profile program cancellations, such as Crusader, an artillery system cancelled in 2002 after having spent $2.2 billion; Comanche, a helicopter program cancelled in 2004 after having spent $7.9 billion; and the Future Combat System (FCS), cancelled in 2009 after having spent $18.1 billion. In addition to the expenditure of resources, these cancellations have impeded the development of newer, more capable systems, permitting potential adversaries to achieve battlefield parity...

The European Union: Questions and Answers

The European Union (EU) is a political and economic partnership that represents a unique form of cooperation among sovereign countries. The EU is the latest stage in a process of integration begun after World War II, initially by six Western European countries, to foster interdependence and make another war in Europe unthinkable. The EU currently consists of 28 member states, including most of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, and has helped to promote peace, stability, and economic prosperity throughout the European continent.

The EU has been built through a series of binding...

JOBS and Investor Confidence Act (House-Amended S. 488): Capital Markets Provisions

Capital markets provide financing for businesses to fund their growth that would facilitate innovation and jobs creation, and enhance the society’s overall standard of living. They are segments of the financial system in which funding is raised through issuing and trading equity or debt securities, which are forms of financial assets representing ownership or indebtedness of a firm. They are considered the largest source of financing for U.S. nonfinancial companies, significantly larger than bank loans and other forms of financing.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is the...

Supreme Court Appointment Process: Senate Debate and Confirmation Vote

The procedure for appointing a Justice to the Supreme Court is provided for in the U.S. Constitution in only a few words. The “Appointments Clause” in the Constitution (Article II, Section 2, clause 2) states that the President “shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint ... Judges of the supreme Court.” While the process of appointing Justices has undergone some changes over two centuries, its most essential feature—the sharing of power between the President and the Senate—has remained unchanged: to receive lifetime appointment to the Court, one...

Decision to Stop U.S. Funding of UNRWA (for Palestinian Refugees)

On August 31, 2018, the State Department announced that the United States will not make further contributions to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), but will seek to help “innocent Palestinians” through other models and approaches. The U.S. decision to end contributions could greatly affect UNRWA, which provides services for around 5.4 million Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. The decision also has other important humanitarian and political implications. The United States has been a major contributor...

The U.S. Nuclear Weapons Complex: Overview of Department of Energy Sites

Responsibility for U.S. nuclear weapons resides in both the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of Energy (DOE). DOD develops, deploys, and operates the missiles and aircraft that deliver nuclear warheads. It also generates the military requirements for the warheads carried on those platforms. DOE, and its semi-autonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), oversee the research, development, testing, and acquisition programs that produce, maintain, and sustain the nuclear warheads.

To achieve these objectives, the facilities that constitute the nuclear weapons...

Civilian Nuclear Waste Disposal

Management of civilian radioactive waste has posed difficult issues for Congress since the beginning of the nuclear power industry in the 1950s. Federal policy is based on the premise that nuclear waste can be disposed of safely, but proposed storage and disposal facilities have frequently been challenged on safety, health, and environmental grounds. Although civilian radioactive waste encompasses a wide range of materials, most of the current debate focuses on highly radioactive spent fuel from nuclear power plants. The United States currently has no permanent disposal facility for spent...

Immigration: CRS Points of Contact

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Agriculture in the WTO: Rules and Limits on U.S. Domestic Support

Omnibus U.S. farm legislation—referred to as the farm bill—has typically been renewed every five or six years. Farm income and commodity price support programs have been a part of U.S. farm bills since the 1930s. Each successive farm bill usually involves some modification or replacement of existing farm programs. A key question likely to be asked of every new farm proposal or program is how it will affect U.S. commitments under the World Trade Organization’s (WTO’s) Agreement on Agriculture (AoA) and its Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures (SCM).

The United States is...

Department of Transportation Considering Changes to Trucking Hours of Service Rule

On August 23, 2018, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) published an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) seeking information and public comment about several changes in the Hours of Service limits for commercial drivers that it was considering. The comment period is scheduled to end on September 24, 2018. FMCSA is also holding public listening sessions.

In order to promote safety by reducing the incidence of fatigue among commercial drivers, in 1935 Congress authorized the Department of Transportation (DOT) to limit the number of hours a driver could drive....

Electric Grid Cybersecurity

Electricity generation is vital to the commerce and daily functioning of the United States. The U.S. electric power grid comprises all of the power plants generating electricity, together with the transmission and distribution lines and systems that bring power to end-use customers. The U.S. electric grid has operated historically with a high level of reliability; however, the various parts of the electric power system are all vulnerable to failure due to natural, operational, or manmade events.

The bulk power system faces new and evolving cybersecurity threats. Cyber threats can come from...

Department of Transportation (DOT): FY2018 Appropriations

Congress appropriated $86.2 billion for the Department of Transportation (DOT) for FY2018. This represented a $9.1 billion (11.8%) increase over the amount provided in FY2017. The principal reason for the higher spending level was increases in funding from the general fund for highways, public transportation capital investments, and passenger rail projects. The appropriation was included in an omnibus spending bill, P.L. 115-141, Title I of Division L, the DOT Appropriations Act.

The DOT appropriations bill funds federal programs covering aviation, highways and highway safety, public...

Marketplace Lending: Fintech in Consumer and Small-Business Lending

Marketplace lending—also called peer-to-peer lending or online platform lending—is a nonbank lending industry that uses innovative financial technology (fintech) to make loans to consumers and small businesses. Although marketplace lending is small compared to traditional lending, it has grown quickly in recent years. In general, marketplace lenders accept applications for small, unsecured loans online and determine applicants’ creditworthiness using an automated algorithm. Often, the loans are then sold—individually or in pieces—directly to investors (although holding the loans on their...

Federal Role in U.S. Campaigns and Elections: An Overview

Conventional wisdom holds that the federal government plays relatively little role in U.S. campaigns and elections. Although states retain authority for most aspects of election administration, a closer look reveals that the federal government also has steadily increased its presence in campaigns and elections in the past 50 years. Altogether, dozens of congressional committees and federal agencies could be involved in federal elections under current law.

Congress faces a complex mix of traditional oversight areas with developing ones throughout the elections field. Reports of foreign...

Positive Train Control (PTC): Overview and Policy Issues

The Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (RSIA08) requires implementation of positive train control (PTC) on railroads which carry passengers or have high-volume freight traffic with toxic- or poisonous-by-inhalation hazardous materials. PTC is a communications and signaling system that has been identified by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) as a technology capable of preventing incidents caused by train operator or dispatcher error. PTC is expected to reduce the number of incidents due to excessive speed, conflicting train movements, and engineer failure to obey wayside...

Securities Regulation and Initial Coin Offerings: A Legal Primer

Initial coin offerings (ICOs)—a method of raising capital in exchange for digital coins or tokens that entitle their holders to certain rights—are a hot topic among legislators, regulators, and financial market professionals. In response to a surge in the popularity of ICOs over the past 18 months, regulators in a number of countries have banned ICOs. Other foreign regulators have cautioned that unregistered ICOs may violate their securities laws, issued guidance clarifying the application of their securities laws to ICOs, or proposed new rules or legislation directed at regulating ICOs....

Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations

Turkey, a NATO ally since 1952, significantly affects a number of key U.S. national security issues in the Middle East and Europe. U.S.-Turkey relations have worsened throughout this decade over several matters, including Syria’s civil war, Turkey-Israel tensions, Turkey-Russia cooperation, and various Turkish domestic developments. The United States and NATO have military personnel and key equipment deployed to various sites in Turkey, including at Incirlik air base in the southern part of the country.

Bilateral ties have reached historic lows in the summer of 2018. The major flashpoint...

Senators Lying in State in the U.S. Capitol

On August 31, 2018, Senator John McCain, who died on August 25, will lie in state in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol. Traditionally an honor bestowed upon American statesmen and military leaders, 30 individuals (not including Senator McCain) have lain in state or honor in the Capitol Rotunda. Additionally, unknown soldiers from World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and from the Vietnam era have also lain in state.

Individuals who served as a government official (e.g., Member of Congress, President, Vice President) and as military leaders have traditionally lain in state, while private...

The Clean Air Act’s Good Neighbor Provision: Overview of Interstate Air Pollution Control

Notwithstanding air quality progress since 1970, challenges remain to reduce pollution in areas exceeding federal standards and to ensure continued compliance elsewhere. The movement of air pollutants across state lines, known as interstate transport, has made it difficult for some downwind states to attain federal ozone and fine particulate matter (PM2.5) standards, partly because states lack authority to limit emissions from other states.

The Clean Air Act’s “Good Neighbor” provision (Section 110(a)(2)(D)) seeks to address this issue and requires states to prohibit emissions that...

Questioning Judicial Nominees: Legal Limitations and Practice

The U.S. Constitution vests the Senate with the role of providing “advice” and affording or withholding “consent” when a President nominates a candidate to be an Article III judge—that is, a federal judge entitled to life tenure, such as a Supreme Court Justice. To carry out this “advice and consent” role, the Senate typically holds a hearing at which Members question the nominee. After conducting this hearing, the Senate generally either “consents” to the nomination by voting to confirm the nominee or instead rejects the nominee.

Notably, many prior judicial nominees have refrained from...

India: Religious Freedom Issues

India is the world’s second-most populous country with more than 1.3 billion people and is the birthplace of four major world religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and Jainism. It is also home to about 180 million Muslims—only Indonesia and Pakistan have more. A small Christian minority includes about 30 million people. An officially secular nation with thousands of ethnic groups and 22 official languages, independent India has a long tradition of religious tolerance (with periodic and sometimes serious lapses). Religious freedom is explicitly protected under its constitution. Hindus...

Emergency Relief for Disaster-Damaged Roads and Public Transportation Systems

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) provides federal assistance for disaster-damaged roads and public transportation systems through two programs: the Emergency Relief Program (ER) administered by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Public Transportation Emergency Relief Program administered by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). These programs are funded mainly by appropriations that have varied considerably from year to year. Over time the amounts are substantial. Since 2012, the Highway ER Program has received $5.4 billion; FTA’s ER program has received $10.7...

Universal Postal Union to Convene an Extraordinary Congress

The Universal Postal Union (UPU)

Established in 1874, the Universal Postal Union (UPU) is the primary forum for multilateral cooperation and negotiation of international postal issues among nations worldwide. According to its website, the UPU “helps to ensure a truly universal network of up-to-date products and services.”

The primary decisionmaking body of the UPU is the UPU Congress. Normally, the Congress convenes every four years and was next scheduled to meet in 2020. On September 3, 2018, however, the UPU is scheduled to hold an “Extraordinary Congress” for the first time since 1900....

Agricultural Trade with Mexico and the Preliminary U.S.-Mexico Agreement in NAFTA Negotiations

On August 27, 2018, the Trump Administration announced that it had reached a preliminary agreement with Mexico in the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The announcement followed more than a year of negotiations among the United States, Canada, and Mexico on NAFTA at the request of the Trump Administration. Canada is currently in talks for a possible trilateral agreement. Mexico is the third leading export market for U.S. agricultural goods; therefore, any agreement could affect U.S. farmers, ranchers, and food manufacturers.

Overview of U.S.-Mexico...

Federal Requirements on Private Health Insurance Plans

A majority of Americans have health insurance from the private health insurance (PHI) market. Health plans sold in the PHI market must comply with requirements at both the state and federal levels; such requirements often are referred to as market reforms.

The first part of this report provides background information about health plans sold in the PHI market and briefly describes state and federal regulation of private plans. The second part summarizes selected federal requirements and indicates each requirement’s applicability to one or more of the following types of private health...

Records, Papers, Decisions: Kavanaugh Records and the Presidential Records Act

Since Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court was received on July 10, papers detailing his activities in the George W. Bush Administration and the Office of Independent Counsel Kenneth W. Starr have been the subject of ongoing congressional interest. Specifically, many Members of Congress have discussed the public release of Judge Kavanaugh’s records and whether the scope and volume of records released is similar to the records of previous Supreme Court nominees.

The release and maintenance of records pertaining to Judge Kavanaugh’s tenure in...

Higher Education Tax Benefits: Brief Overview and Budgetary Effects

The federal government provides financial assistance to individuals for higher education expenses in two major ways: tax benefits and traditional student aid (loans, grants, and work-study assistance). Since 1997, education tax benefits have become an increasingly important component of federal higher education policy. In 2017, 14 tax benefits are available for college students and their parents to help pay for higher education. The available tax benefits are a mixture of credits, deductions, exclusions, and other incentives. The Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) estimates the cost to the...

GSA Releases Sources Sought Notice and Sets Goal to Assume Certain OPM Functions by March 2019

On June 21, 2018, the Trump Administration released a government reorganization and reform plan that included 32 proposals to restructure and reform executive branch agencies, programs, or operations. One proposal sought to reorganize the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), particularly by transferring five program offices to other agencies (Figure 1). Under the proposal, functions of three program offices would be transferred to a “Government Services Administration” (currently the General Services Administration, or GSA)

Human Resources Solutions (HRS),

Healthcare and Insurance...

Labor Day Speech Resources: Fact Sheet

Labor Day is a federal holiday celebrating the achievements of American workers. Labor Day also symbolically marks the end of summer and the beginning of the school year.

This guide is designed to assist congressional offices with work-related Labor Day celebrations. It contains a brief history and selected resources for additional historical and legislative information, CRS reports, sample speeches and recognitions from the legislative branch, presidential proclamations, statistical information on the U.S. labor force, and cultural resources on celebrating the holiday.

FDIC’s Deposit Insurance Assessments and Reserve Ratio

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (P.L. 111-203; Dodd-Frank Act) changed the minimum deposit insurance reserve ratio to 1.35% from 1.15% and required the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) to meet the increased reserve ratio by 2020. The Dodd-Frank Act also required the FDIC to offset the effects of the higher reserve ratio of 1.35% on banks with assets of less than $10 billion. The FDIC Board of Directors approved a final rule in March 2016 to meet this requirement by 2018. The approved plan changes how the assessments are apportioned between large...

The Congressional Arts Caucus and the Congressional Art Competition: History and Current Practice

Sponsored by the Congressional Arts Caucus, and known in recent years as “An Artistic Discovery,” the Congressional Art Competition is open to high school students nationwide. Begun in 1982, the competition, based in congressional districts, provides the opportunity for Members of Congress to encourage and recognize the artistic talents of their young constituents. Since its inception, more than 650,000 high school students nationwide have been involved in the program.

Each year, the art of one student per participating congressional district is selected to represent the district. The...

The National Hurricane Center and Forecasting Hurricanes: 2017 Overview and 2018 Outlook

The National Hurricane Center (NHC), part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) National Weather Service (NWS), is responsible for forecasting hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean and the eastern Pacific Ocean. The NHC provides estimates of the path of a storm (i.e., hurricane track), the intensity, and the size and structure of the storm, as well as predictions of storm surge, rainfall, and even tornadoes. Depending on the storm’s status, this information may be used to create a hurricane watch or a hurricane warning and public advisories, which are issued on an...

Gun Control: 3D-Printed AR-15 Lower Receivers

The possibility that criminals could use three dimensional-printing (3D-printing) technology to produce “untraceable” firearms, including AR-15s, is an issue of growing concern for some lawmakers. It overlaps in part with the issue of 3D-printed “undetectable” firearms discussed in a previous Insight (CRS Insight IN10953, Gun Control: 3D-Printed Firearms).

Defense Distributed, a federally licensed firearms manufacturer, recently uploaded 3D-printable computer assisted design (CAD) files on its website for an AR-15 type rifle, including its lower receiver. The lower receiver is the...

Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh: His Jurisprudence and Potential Impact on the Supreme Court

On July 9, 2018, President Donald J. Trump announced the nomination of Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (D.C. Circuit) to fill retiring Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s seat on the Supreme Court of the United States. Nominated to the D.C. Circuit by President George W. Bush, Judge Kavanaugh has served on that court for more than twelve years. In his role as a Circuit Judge, the nominee has authored roughly three hundred opinions (including majority opinions, concurrences, and dissents) and adjudicated numerous high-profile cases...

Youth and the Labor Force: Background and Trends

Congress has indicated a strong interest in ensuring that today’s young people (ages 16 to 24) attain the education and employment experience necessary to make the transition to adulthood as skilled workers and taxpayers. This report provides context for Congress on trends in the labor force for youth. It discusses youth labor force data since 1948, with a focus on the period from 2000 to the present.

The labor market experiences of youth ages 16 to 24 have varied based on their age and other factors. Over the post-World War II period, teens ages 16 to 19 generally have had a lower labor...

Federal Crop Insurance: Delivery Subsidies in Brief

In the federal crop insurance program, “delivery” generally refers to marketing policies, processing applications, collecting premiums, and adjusting claims. Delivery subsidies accounted for $14.8 billion (20%) of federal spending on crop insurance during crop years 2007 through 2016. The amount of delivery subsidies is not based on actual expenses incurred by Approved Insurance Providers (AIPs) but is instead based on percentages of premium that are established in the Standard Reinsurance Agreement (SRA). The percentages vary by policy type and coverage level. Delivery subsidies are not...

Treasury Completes Series of Reports on Financial Regulatory Relief

President Donald Trump issued Executive Order (E.O.) 13772 on February 3, 2017. The E.O. identified “Core Principles” to be adhered to in financial regulation and directed the Secretary of the Treasury to report on “the extent to which ... Government policies promote the Core Principles and what actions have been taken, and are currently being taken, to promote and support the Core Principles.” The principles are as follows:

empower Americans to make independent financial decisions and informed choices in the marketplace, save for retirement, and build individual wealth;

prevent...

Freshwater Harmful Algal Blooms: Causes, Challenges, and Policy Considerations

Scientific research indicates that in recent years, the frequency and geographic distribution of harmful algal blooms (HABs) have been increasing nationally and globally. Because the impacts of HABs can be severe and widespread—often with interstate implications—these issues have been a perennial interest for Congress. While algal communities are natural components of healthy aquatic ecosystems, under certain conditions (e.g., increased temperatures and nutrient concentrations), algae may grow excessively, or “bloom,” and produce toxins that can harm human health, animals, aquatic...

MS-13 in the United States and Federal Law Enforcement Efforts

The Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) is a violent criminal gang operating both in the United States and abroad—namely Central America. MS-13 was formed on the streets of Los Angeles, CA, in the 1980s by refugees who were fleeing civil conflict in El Salvador. It became a transnational gang as MS-13 members who were deported from the United States to Central America helped establish gang ties and spread U.S. gang culture abroad.

In the United States, MS-13’s structure largely consists of loosely organized cells, or “cliques,” that each control specific territory. While some have suggested that the...

Land and Water Conservation Fund: Overview, Funding History, and Issues

The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) Act of 1965 was enacted to help preserve, develop, and ensure access to outdoor recreation facilities to strengthen the health of U.S. citizens. The law created the Land and Water Conservation Fund in the U.S. Treasury as a funding source to implement its outdoor recreation goals.

The LWCF has been used for three general purposes. First, it has been the principal source of monies for land acquisition for outdoor recreation by four federal agencies—the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, and Forest Service....

Medicare Coverage of End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD)

End-stage renal disease (ESRD) is the last stage of chronic kidney disease (CKD), which is the gradual decrease of kidney function over time. Individuals with ESRD have substantial and permanent loss of kidney function and require either a regular course of dialysis (a process that removes harmful waste products from an individual’s bloodstream) or a kidney transplant to survive.

In 1972, Congress enacted legislation allowing qualified individuals with ESRD under the age of 65 to enroll in the federal Medicare health care program (Social Security Amendments of 1972; P.L. 92-603). The...

Election Security: Issues in the 2018 Midterm Elections

In the wake of assessments about foreign interference in the 2016 presidential election, concerns have been mounting about the security of the 2018 midterm elections. Security efforts are complicated by the complex, multidimensional election life cycle, with each dimension involving a broad array of components. The main dimensions can be thought of as election administration, campaign activities, and media coverage.

Traditionally, concerns about election security have focused largely on election administration. In the wake of the 2016 election, the Department of Homeland Security...

Implementing EPA’s 2015 Ozone Air Quality Standards

Implementation of revised ozone standards by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is now moving forward, after the agency designated 52 areas with just over 200 counties or partial counties and two tribal areas as “nonattainment” for the standards. The standards—formally known as National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ground-level ozone—are standards for outdoor (ambient) air. In 2015, EPA tightened both the primary (health-based) and secondary (welfare-based) standards from 75 parts per billion (ppb) to 70 ppb after concluding that protecting public health and...

Strange Occurrences Highlight Insider Threat to Aviation Security

On the evening of August 10, 2018, an airline ramp worker stole a 76-seat turboprop from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, crashing it on a remote wooded island in an apparent suicide. Days later, on August 13, 2018, a corporate pilot released on bail following a domestic violence arrest hours earlier stole a business jet and crashed it into his Utah home. In another incident in Utah in July 2012, a SkyWest Airlines pilot sought by authorities regarding the stabbing death of his girlfriend stole a regional jet from the St. George Municipal Airport and crashed it through an airport...

Supreme Court Appointment Process: Consideration by the Senate Judiciary Committee

The appointment of a Supreme Court Justice is an event of major significance in American politics. Each appointment is of consequence because of the enormous judicial power the Supreme Court exercises as the highest appellate court in the federal judiciary. To receive appointment to the Court, a candidate must first be nominated by the President and then confirmed by the Senate. Although not mentioned in the Constitution, an important role is played midway in the process (after the President selects, but before the Senate considers) by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Specifically, the...

Trade Adjustment Assistance for Workers and the TAA Reauthorization Act of 2015

Trade Adjustment Assistance for Workers (TAA) provides federal assistance to workers who have involuntarily lost their jobs due to foreign competition. It was last reauthorized by the Trade Adjustment Assistance Reauthorization Act of 2015 (TAARA; Title IV of P.L. 114-27). This report discusses the TAA program as enacted by TAARA.

To be eligible for TAA, a group of workers must establish that they were separated from their employment either because their jobs moved outside the United States or because of an increase in directly competitive imports. Workers at firms that are suppliers to or...

Clean Air Act Issues in the 115th Congress: In Brief

Review of regulations issued under the Obama Administration, with the possibility of their modification or repeal, has been the main focus of interest on Clean Air Act issues in the 115th Congress and in the executive and judicial branches in 2017 and 2018. Of particular interest are the ambient air quality standards for ozone promulgated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in October 2015; EPA rules to regulate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from power plants, cars and trucks, and the oil and gas sector; and emission standards for three groups of sources: brick kilns, wood stoves...

Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Benefit

The Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003 (MMA; P.L. 108-173) established a voluntary, outpatient prescription drug benefit under Medicare Part D, effective January 1, 2006. Medicare Part D provides coverage through private prescription drug plans (PDPs) that offer only drug coverage, or through Medicare Advantage (MA) prescription drug plans (MA-PDs) that offer coverage as part of broader, managed care plans. Private drug plans participating in Part D bear some financial risk, although federal subsidies cover most program costs in an effort to encourage...

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC): An Economic Analysis

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a refundable tax credit available to eligible workers earning relatively low wages. The EITC, enacted more than 40 years ago, has evolved from a relatively modest tax benefit to a significant antipoverty program. This report reviews economic research on the EITC. Understanding the economic impact of the credit, as well as its limitations and potential drawbacks, may inform future legislative discussions of the EITC and other refundable tax credits.

When initially enacted in the 1970s, there were two major purposes of the EITC. First, the credit was...

Kosovo: Background and U.S. Relations

Following the conflicts in the late 1990s in the countries of the former Yugoslavia (Serbia, Kosovo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro, Croatia, and Slovenia), the prospect of membership in the Euro-Atlantic community, and the active presence of the United States in the region referred to as the Western Balkans, provided a level of stability that allowed most of the countries of the region to pursue reform and adopt Western values. During this time, Slovenia (2004) and Croatia (2013) joined the European Union (EU). These countries, along with Albania (2009), also joined the North...

Military Child Development Program: Background and Issues

The Department of Defense (DOD) operates the largest employer-sponsored childcare program in the United States, serving approximately 200,000 children of uniformed servicemembers and DOD civilians, and employing over 23,000 childcare workers, at an annual cost of over $800 million. DOD’s child development program (CDP) includes a combination of accredited, installation-based, government-run, full-time pre-school and school-aged care in Child Development Centers (CDCs) and subsidized care in Family Care Centers (FCCs) or through private providers under the Fee Assistance program.

Childcare...

The Manufacturing Extension Partnership Program

The Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) program is a national network of centers established by the Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act (P.L. 100-418). MEP centers provide custom services to small and medium-sized manufacturers (SMMs) to improve production processes, upgrade technological capabilities, and facilitate product innovation. Operating under the auspices of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the MEP system includes centers in all 50 states and Puerto Rico.

NIST provides funding to support MEP center operations, with matching funds...

Data on Multiemployer Defined Benefit (DB) Pension Plans

Multiemployer defined benefit (DB) pension plans are pensions sponsored by more than one employer and maintained as part of a collective bargaining agreement. With DB pensions, participants receive a monthly benefit in retirement that is based on a formula. With multiemployer DB pensions, the formula typically multiplies a dollar amount by the number of years of service the employee has worked for employers that participate in the DB plan.

Some DB pension plans have sufficient resources from which to pay their promised benefits. But, as a result of a variety of factors—such as changes in...

Congress’s Power over Courts: Jurisdiction Stripping and the Rule of Klein

Article III of the Constitution establishes the judicial branch of the federal government. Notably, it empowers federal courts to hear “cases” and “controversies.” The Constitution further creates a federal judiciary with significant independence, providing federal judges with life tenure and prohibiting diminutions of judges’ salaries. But the Framers also granted Congress the power to regulate the federal courts in numerous ways. For instance, Article III authorizes Congress to determine what classes of “cases” and “controversies” inferior courts have jurisdiction to review....

Proposed U.S.-EU Trade Negotiations: Hitting Pause on a Trade War?

On July 25, 2018, the United States and European Union (EU) announced a “new phase” in their relationship for “freer, fairer, and more reciprocal trade.” They agreed to launch negotiations to eliminate tariffs, nontariff barriers, and subsidies on “non-auto industrial goods,” as well as to boost trade specifically in services, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, medical products, and U.S. soybeans. Amid a potential tit-for-tat escalation of tariffs, the two sides agreed not to impose further tariffs on each other’s traded products while negotiations are active and to examine current U.S. steel and...

Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) in the United States

Carbon capture and sequestration (or storage)—known as CCS—is a process that involves capturing man-made carbon dioxide (CO2) at its source and storing it permanently underground. (CCS is sometimes referred to as CCUS—carbon capture, utilization, and storage.) CCS could reduce the amount of CO2—an important greenhouse gas—emitted to the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels at power plants and other large industrial facilities. The concept of carbon utilization has gained interest within Congress and in the private sector as a means for capturing CO2 and converting it into...

Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI)

The Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) was formed to increase international cooperation in interdicting shipments of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), their delivery systems, and related materials. The Initiative was announced by President Bush on May 31, 2003. PSI does not create a new legal framework but aims to use existing national authorities and international law to achieve its goals. Initially, 11 nations signed on to the “Statement of Interdiction Principles” that guides PSI cooperation. As of June 2018, 105 countries (plus the Holy See) have committed formally to the PSI...

Title X Family Planning: Proposed Rule on Statutory Compliance Requirements

The Title X Family Planning Program (Title X), enacted in 1970, is the only domestic federal program devoted solely to family planning and related preventive health services. All 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories and Freely Associated States (collectively referred to as states) are eligible to apply for Title X grants, as are other public agencies and nonprofit organizations. Title X grants enable grantees to establish and operate family planning projects. A family planning project refers to a set of activities that a Title X grantee undertakes under its grant...

Overview of U.S.-South Korea Agricultural Trade

South Korea is an important export market for U.S. agricultural products. In 2017, U.S. farmers and ranchers sold about $7 billion of goods to South Korea, making it the sixth-largest export market by value for U.S. agricultural products. Leading U.S. agricultural exports to South Korea include beef, corn, soybeans, pork, wheat, oranges, nuts, and cheese. Further, the United States had a trade surplus of more than $6.3 billion in food and agricultural products with South Korea in 2017.

The trading relationship between the two countries has been governed by the U.S.-South Korea Free Trade...

Fourth Treasury Report on Regulatory Relief: Nonbanks and Financial Technology

On July 31, 2018, the Department of the Treasury issued a report, “A Financial System That Creates Economic Opportunities: Nonbank Financials, Fintech, and Innovation,” that examines financial institutions and activities for which the application of traditional regulation may present challenges due to advances in financial technology (“fintech”). It is the last in a series of four reports written in accordance with Executive Order (E.O.) 13772 issued by President Donald Trump on February 3, 2017, which directed the Secretary of the Treasury to report on the financial regulatory system....

Gun Control: 3D-Printed Firearms

In May 2013, Defense Distributed, a federally licensed firearms manufacturer, posted on its website computer assisted design (CAD) files for three dimensional-printing (3D-printing) of a single-shot, smoothbore, .380 caliber pistol that could be made almost entirely with non-metallic material. The design of this firearm, the “Liberator,” does not appear to violate the Undetectable Firearms Act of 1988 (18 U.S.C. §922(p)), because it includes the requisite amount of steel. This statute prohibits the manufacture, importation, transfer, or possession of any firearm that

is [not] detectable to...

The Electronic Logging Device (ELD) Controversy

In December 2017, after years of preparation, most commercial trucks were required to be equipped with an electronic logging device (ELD) that would automatically record how long the driver had been driving. There had been little controversy about this requirement during its two-year phase-in period, but after it took effect, portions of the commercial trucking industry began to complain about its impact. Pending legislation would exempt certain drivers from the mandate through FY2019.

Most commercial drivers are paid by the mile, and so have an incentive to drive as much as possible....

Categorical Exclusions, Metroplexes, and Aircraft Noise Complaints

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has initiated changes to airspace and flight procedures to take advantage of new technologies deployed under NextGen, a comprehensive air traffic modernization initiative that relies on satellite-based navigation and tracking to improve efficiency and airspace capacity. In some neighborhoods, however, FAA’s changes have increased overflights triggering complaints about aircraft noise. Some affected residents are seeking remedies from the agency, the courts, and Congress.

Categorical Exclusions

One of NextGen’s key objectives is to allow commercial...

Fees for Maintenance and Evaluation of Pesticide Registrations: Current Law and Legislation in the 115th Congress

Division G of Title II of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018 (P.L. 115-141) extended U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) authority to collect fees from the pesticide industry for the maintenance and evaluation of pesticide registrations under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA; 7 U.S.C. 136 et seq.) until the end of FY2018. Two types of industry-paid fees supplement annual appropriations from the General Fund to support EPA’s pesticide regulatory program.

Without the extension, the authority to collect maintenance fees would have expired at the end...

U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors: Background, Pending Nominees, and Issues for Congress

Unlike other executive agencies, the United States Postal Service is governed not by a single presidentially appointed, Senate-confirmed agency head, but rather by an entity known as the Board of Governors. The Board of Governors of the U.S. Postal Service (hereinafter, the Board) was created by the Postal Reorganization Act in 1970 (PRA, 39 U.S.C. §202). The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) describes the Board as “comparable to a board of directors of a private corporation.”

As currently constructed under the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006 (PAEA, P.L. 109-435), the Board...

Proposals to Impose Sanctions on Russian Sovereign Debt

The United States imposes sanctions on hundreds of Russian individuals and entities for aggression against Ukraine, election interference, malicious cyber activity, human rights violations, weapons proliferation, and other activities. Some Members of Congress are proposing additional sanctions in response to continuing objectionable behavior by the Russian government. One proposal is to sanction new debt issued by the Russian government. If enacted, U.S. investors would be prohibited from buying or trading new Russian sovereign debt.

Targeting Russian sovereign debt would escalate U.S....

Iran’s Threats, the Strait of Hormuz, and Oil Markets: In Brief

The exchanges of threats between members of the governments of Iran and the United States, including the presidents of both countries, have again raised the specter of an interruption of shipping through the Strait of Hormuz (the Strait), a key waterway for the transit of oil and natural gas to world markets. In the first half of 2018, approximately 22 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil, condensate, and petroleum products, and over 300 million cubic meters per day in liquefied natural gas (LNG) exited the Strait, representing approximately 24% and 3% of global production,...

Chesapeake Bay Restoration: Background and Issues for Congress

The Chesapeake Bay (the Bay) is the largest estuary in the United States. It is recognized as a “Wetlands of International Importance” by the Ramsar Convention, a 1971 treaty about the increasing loss and degradation of wetland habitat for migratory waterbirds. The Chesapeake Bay estuary resides in a more than 64,000-square-mile watershed that extends across parts of Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia. The Bay’s watershed is home to more than 18 million people and thousands of species of plants and animals.

A combination of...

Cambodian Election

The Cambodian National Assembly election, held on July 29, 2018, resulted in a victory for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP). Critics viewed the election, in which the CPP likely won all 125 parliamentary seats, as neither free nor fair and the victory as “hollow” given that the CPP banned the largest opposition party in 2017. The Trump Administration stated that the poll “failed to represent the will of the Cambodian people” and represented “the most significant setback yet to the democratic system enshrined in Cambodia’s constitution...” Nearly 600,000 ballots, or roughly 9% of...

The Post-9/11 GI Bill: A Primer

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) administers several educational assistance programs (GI Bills®) that provide funds to or on behalf of veterans and servicemembers and their family members to facilitate their enrollment in and pursuit of approved programs of education. Participation and spending for the Post-9/11 GI Bill has represented approximately 80% or more of total GI Bill participation and spending in each year since FY2013. In FY2018, the program is estimated to benefit almost 800,000 individuals and expend over $12 billion. For a description of the other GI Bills, see CRS...

China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities—Background and Issues for Congress

The question of how the United States should respond to China’s military modernization effort, including its naval modernization effort, is a key issue in U.S. defense planning and budgeting.

China has been steadily building a modern and powerful navy since the early to mid-1990s. China’s navy has become a formidable military force within China’s near-seas region, and it is conducting a growing number of operations in more-distant waters, including the broader waters of the Western Pacific, the Indian Ocean, and waters around Europe.

Observers view China’s improving naval capabilities as...

Seed Cotton as a Farm Program Crop: In Brief

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (P.L. 115-123; BBA), signed into law on February 9, 2018, included a provision—Section 60101(a)—which amended the 2014 farm bill (P.L. 113-79) to add seed cotton as a “covered commodity,” thus making cotton eligible for the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) and Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC) farm revenue support programs.

The 2014 farm bill provides authority for farm programs for the 2014 through 2018 crop years. Under the 2014 farm bill as signed into law in February 2014, neither cotton nor its co-product, cottonseed, were eligible to participate in the newly...

The World Trade Organization (WTO): U.S. Participation at Risk?

Trump Administration Approach to the WTO

In a break from past administrations, the Trump Administration has expressed doubt over the value of the World Trade Organization (WTO) to the U.S. economy. The United States was a key architect of the WTO—the 164-member international organization established in 1995 that oversees global trade rules and trade liberalization negotiations, and resolves trade disputes. In late June, media reports suggested that President Trump was considering withdrawing the United States from the WTO; U.S. officials have since said talks of withdrawal are “premature”...

National Flood Insurance Program: Selected Issues and Legislation in the 115th Congress

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) was established by the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968 (NFIA, 42 U.S.C. §4001 et seq.), and was most recently reauthorized until November 30, 2018 (P.L. 115-225). The general purpose of the NFIP is both to offer primary flood insurance to properties with significant flood risk, and to reduce flood risk through the adoption of floodplain management standards. A longer-term objective of the NFIP is to reduce federal expenditure on disaster assistance after floods. The NFIP also engages in many “non-insurance” activities in the public interest:...

Federal Disaster Assistance: The National Flood Insurance Program and Other Federal Disaster Assistance Programs Available to Individuals and Households After a Flood

After a flood, people are often uncertain if their eligibility for federal disaster assistance is linked in any way to whether or not they have flood insurance. Because much of the other disaster assistance that is available to individuals comes from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), there may be confusion between possible claims provided through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP, which is also managed by FEMA), and other disaster assistance programs. This report provides an overview of the assistance available to individuals and households following a flood and...

Israel: Background and U.S. Relations

Since Israel’s founding in 1948, successive U.S. Presidents and many Members of Congress have demonstrated a commitment to Israel’s security and to close U.S.-Israel cooperation. Strong bilateral ties influence U.S. policy in the Middle East, and Congress provides active oversight of the executive branch’s actions. Israel is a leading recipient of U.S. foreign aid and a frequent purchaser of major U.S. weapons systems. By law, U.S. arms sales cannot adversely affect Israel’s “qualitative military edge” over other countries in its region. The two countries signed a free trade agreement in...

Health Savings Accounts (HSAs)

A health savings account (HSA) is a tax-advantaged account that individuals can use to pay for unreimbursed medical expenses (e.g., deductibles, co-payments, coinsurance, and services not covered by insurance).

Individuals may establish and contribute to an HSA for each month that they are covered under an HSA-qualified high-deductible health plan (HDHP), do not have disqualifying coverage, and cannot be claimed as a dependent on another person’s tax return. The account can be established with an insurer, bank, or other Internal Revenue Service (IRS)-approved trustee and is tied to the...

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Part C: Early Intervention for Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a statute that authorizes grant programs that support special education services. Under the IDEA, a series of conditions are attached to the receipt of grant funds. These conditions aim to provide certain educational and procedural guarantees for students with disabilities and their families.

The grant programs authorized under the IDEA provide federal funding for special education and early intervention services for children with disabilities (birth to 21 years old) and require, as a condition for the receipt of such funds, the...

Child Welfare Funding in FY2018

Child welfare services are intended to prevent the abuse or neglect of children; ensure that children have safe, permanent homes; and promote the well-being of children and their families. For FY2018, an estimated $9.5 billion in federal support was made available for child welfare purposes. Comparable funding for FY2017 is estimated at $9.3 billion.

At least $100 million of the FY2018 increase was provided as discretionary appropriations intended to address the impact of parental substance abuse on children and the child welfare system and to help implement the Family First Prevention...

China-U.S. Trade Issues

U.S.-China economic ties have expanded substantially since China began reforming its economy and liberalizing its trade regime in the late 1970s. Total U.S.-China merchandise trade rose from $2 billion in 1979 (when China’s economic reforms began) to $636 billion in 2017. China is currently the United States’ largest merchandise trading partner, its third-largest export market, and its biggest source of imports. In 2015, sales by U.S. foreign affiliates in China totaled $482 billion. Many U.S. firms view participation in China’s market as critical to their global competitiveness. U.S....

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Part B: Key Statutory and Regulatory Provisions

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a statute that authorizes grant programs that support special education services. Under the IDEA, a series of conditions are attached to the receipt of grant funds. These conditions aim to provide certain educational and procedural guarantees for students with disabilities and their families.

The grant programs authorized under the IDEA provide federal funding for special education and early intervention services for children with disabilities (birth to 21 years old) and require, as a condition for the receipt of such funds, the...

Ethiopia’s New Prime Minister Visits the United States to “Build Bridges”

Ethiopia’s new prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, arrived in the United States on July 26 for a three-city tour, with stops in Washington, Los Angeles, and Minneapolis. It is his first U.S. trip since being elected by parliament on April 2, and the visit is focused on engaging the Ethiopian diaspora, who represent the second largest African diaspora population in the United States. Prime Minister Abiy’s early outreach to Ethiopian-Americans is noteworthy, given outspoken criticism from some regarding governance under the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), which has...

The House and Senate 2018 Farm Bills (H.R. 2): A Side-by-Side Comparison with Current Law

Congress sets national food and agriculture policy through periodic omnibus farm bills that address a broad range of farm and food programs and policies. The 115th Congress has the opportunity to establish the future direction of farm and food policy, because many of the provisions in the current farm bill (the Agricultural Act of 2014, P.L. 113-79) expire in 2018.

On June 21, 2018, the House voted 213-211 to approve H.R. 2, the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018, an omnibus farm bill that would authorize farm and food policy for FY2019-FY2023. The Senate passed its version of H.R. 2,...

Commodity Credit Corporation: Q&A

On July 24, 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the use of up to $12 billion in funding authorized under the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) to compensate agricultural producers for losses in response to retaliatory tariffs on certain U.S. agricultural commodities. This has raised general questions related to the CCC, its use, and authorities. In brief, CCC makes payments to producers and conducts other operations to support U.S. agriculture. Typically, Congress passes laws, such as omnibus farm bills, that specifically direct USDA on how to administer these...

North Korea: U.S. Relations, Nuclear Diplomacy, and Internal Situation

North Korea has posed one of the most persistent U.S. foreign policy challenges of the post-Cold War period due to its pursuit of proscribed weapons technology and belligerence toward the United States and its allies. With North Korea’s advances in 2016 and 2017 in its nuclear and missile capabilities under 34-year-old leader Kim Jong-un, Pyongyang has evolved from a threat to U.S. interests in East Asia to a potentially direct threat to the U.S. homeland. Efforts to halt North Korea’s nuclear weapons program have occupied the past four U.S. Administrations, and North Korea is the target...

Potential WTO Implications of USDA’s Proposed Response to Trade-Retaliation

On July 24, 2018, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) would be taking several actions to assist farmers in response to trade damage from what the Administration has characterized as “unjustified retaliation.” Specifically, the Secretary said that USDA would authorize up to $12 billion in programs under the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) Charter Act (See CRS Report R44606, The Commodity Credit Corporation: In Brief) to help agricultural producers meet the costs of disrupted markets. (See CRS Insight IN10880, China’s Retaliatory...

Pipeline Safety: Overdue Statutory Mandates

The safety of natural gas and hazardous liquid pipelines in the United States is regulated by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) within the Department of Transportation (DOT). For decades, Congress has reauthorized DOT’s pipeline safety program in stand-alone legislation. In addition, Congress has used reauthorizations to impose on PHMSA various mandates regarding standards, studies, and other elements of pipeline safety regulation—usually in response to major pipeline accidents. The Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011 (P.L....

History of Use of U.S. Military Bases to House Immigrants and Refugees

Background

On June 20, 2018, President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order that states “It is also the policy of this Administration to maintain family unity, including by detaining alien families together where appropriate and consistent with law and available resources” and that directs the Secretary of Defense to “take all legally available measures to provide to the Secretary [of Homeland Security], upon request, any existing facilities available for the housing and care of alien families, and shall construct such facilities if necessary and consistent with law.” On June 24,...

Capital Markets, Securities Offerings, and Related Policy Issues

U.S. capital markets are the largest and considered to be the most efficient in the world. Companies rely heavily on capital access to fund growth and create jobs. As the principal regulator of U.S. capital markets, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) requires that offers and sales of securities either be registered with the SEC or be undertaken with an exemption from registration. Registered securities offerings, often called public offerings, are available to all types of investors and have more rigorous disclosure requirements. By contrast, securities offerings that are exempt...

Australia and New Zealand React to China’s Growing Influence in the South Pacific

Overview

The July 24, 2018, Australia-United States Ministerial (AUSMIN) Joint Statement points to “deepening engagement [between the United States and Australia] in the Indo-Pacific.” Canberra and Wellington are increasingly responding to Chinese influence operations in the Pacific region, as demonstrated by a number of recent actions, including Australia’s passage of new foreign interference legislation; announcement of an possible new Australia-Vanuatu security agreement; New Zealand’s adoption of a new Strategic Defence Policy Statement; steps toward a new Pacific Islands Forum...

OPIC, USAID, and Proposed Development Finance Reorganization

Members of Congress and Administrations have periodically considered reorganizing the federal government’s trade and development functions to advance various policy objectives. In its 2019 budget request, the Trump Administration included a proposal to consolidate the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and other agency development finance functions, specifically noting the Development Credit Authority (DCA) of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), into a new U.S. development finance agency. The policy objectives that the new agency would aim to support include...

Flood Resilience and Risk Reduction: Federal Assistance and Programs

Recent flood disasters have raised congressional and public interest in not only reducing flood risks, but also improving flood resilience, which is the ability to adapt to, withstand, and rapidly recover from floods. In the United States, flood-related responsibilities are shared. States and local governments have significant discretion in land use and development decisions, which can be major factors in determining the vulnerability to and consequence of hurricanes, storms, extreme rainfall, and other flood events. Congress has established various federal programs that may be available...

Federal Prize Competitions

Prize competitions are a tool for incentivizing the achievement of scientific and technological innovation by offering monetary and nonmonetary benefits (e.g., recognition) to competition participants. Prize competitions have a long history of use in both the public and private sectors, but have gained popularity in recent years. Experts view federal prize competitions as an alternative policy instrument for spurring innovation, not a substitute for more traditional methods of federal support for research and innovation such as competitive research grants and procurement contracts.

The use...

Resurgence of Chemical Weapons Use: Issues for Congress

With increasing numbers of incidents, the use of chemical weapons (CW) has become a growing international concern two decades after the international community decided to ban them under the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). The nerve agent sarin and chlorine bombs continue to be used by the Syrian regime on the battlefield in that country’s civil war; the Islamic State used mustard gas in that conflict in 2015 and 2016. The nerve agent VX was used to assassinate the brother of the North Korean leader in a Malaysian airport in 2017. Also, an attempted assassination of a former Russian...

Debt-for-Nature Initiatives and the Tropical Forest Conservation Act (TFCA): Status and Implementation

In the late 1980s, extensive foreign debt and degraded natural resources in developing nations led to the creation of debt-for-nature initiatives that reduced debt obligations, allowed for debt repayments in local currency as opposed to hard currency, and generated funds for the environment. These initiatives, called debt-for-nature swaps typically involved restructuring, reducing, or buying a portion of a developing country’s outstanding debt, with a percentage of proceeds (in local currency) being used to support conservation programs within the debtor country. Most early transactions...

Indexing Capital Gains Taxes for Inflation

Recently, proposals to index capital gains for inflation have reentered the public debate. The proposed change would eliminate the part of capital gains that reflects inflation by increasing the basis (i.e., the amount subtracted from sales price to determine capital gains) by inflation occurring since acquisition of the asset. President Trump’s head of the White House National Economic Council, Larry Kudlow, has long proposed the indexation of capital gains for inflation through regulation, and Americans for Tax Reform has urged Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to index capital gains....

Flying Cars and Drones Pose Policy Challenges for Managing and Regulating Low-Altitude Airspace

For more than half a century, “flying car” concepts have graced the covers of Popular Science magazine, have been featured in futuristic Hollywood sci-fi movies, and, of course, have hauled that famous space-age cartoon family, the Jetsons. Until recently, though, small hovercraft and drone-like air taxis existed only as prototype concepts and amateur-built curios. Recent advances in aerospace design and propulsion, as well as in computer control and autonomous systems, are raising the prospect that flying cars may soon become a reality. Development and marketing efforts are bringing to...

Judicial Opinions of Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh

On July 9, 2018, President Trump announced the nomination of Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (D.C. Circuit) to succeed Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who is scheduled to retire from active status on July 31, 2018. Judge Kavanaugh has served as a judge on the D.C. Circuit since May 30, 2006. He has also sat, by designation, on judicial panels of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and also served on three-judge panels of the U.S. District Court for the...

Animal and Plant Export Health Certificates in U.S. Agricultural Trade

An agricultural export health certificate verifies that agricultural products are prepared or raised in accordance with requirements of the importing country. In the United States, export health certificates are issued primarily by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) for live animals, raw fruits and vegetables, and some grain products. APHIS ensures that U.S. exporters have met animal and plant health requirements for export. Other federal agencies, not discussed here, have authority over agricultural products outside of APHIS’s...

The Trump-Putin Summit

On July 16, 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin held a summit in Helsinki, Finland. This was the first U.S.-Russia summit since 2010, when President Barack Obama met with Putin’s predecessor Dmitry Medvedev in Prague to sign the New START strategic arms reduction treaty.

The Presidents characterized the July 2018 summit as a first step to improving relations. President Trump stated his view that the United States and Russia need “to find ways to cooperate in pursuit of shared interests” and resolve global challenges. President Putin said his goal is to...

“Duck Boat” Accident Highlights Gap in Regulation

On July 19, 2018, an amphibious vehicle capsized during a sudden storm on a lake in Branson, MO, killing at least 17 passengers. The accident highlights gaps and discrepancies in federal safety regulations affecting amphibious passenger vehicles (APVs), more widely known as “duck boats.”

Duck boats are tourist vehicles designed both to drive on roads and operate as boats in the water. These vehicles host thousands of tours for more than 1 million passengers annually. The original vehicles were built during World War II to deliver cargo from ships at sea directly to the shore, and often to...

The Vacancies Act: A Legal Overview

The Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998 (Vacancies Act) generally provides the exclusive means by which a government employee may temporarily perform the nondelegable functions and duties of a vacant advice and consent position in an executive agency. Unless an acting officer is serving in compliance with the Vacancies Act, any attempt to perform the functions and duties of that office will have no force or effect.

The Vacancies Act limits a government employee’s ability to serve as an acting officer in two primary ways. First, the Vacancies Act provides that only three classes of people...

Social Security: Minimum Benefits

Social Security’s special minimum benefit provision, also known as the Special Minimum Primary Insurance Amount (PIA), is an alternative benefit formula that increases benefits paid to workers who had low earnings for many years, and to their dependents and survivors. The Special Minimum PIA is based on the number of years a person has worked, whereas the standard benefit formula is based on a worker’s average lifetime earnings. The worker receives the higher of the two benefits.

However, the Special Minimum PIA has virtually no effect on the benefits paid to today’s new retirees. Under...

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: An Overview

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), an agency within the Department of the Interior (DOI), is the principal federal agency tasked with the conservation, protection, and restoration of fish and wildlife resources across the United States and insular areas. This report summarizes the history, organizational structure, and selected functions of FWS and provides an overview of the agency’s appropriations structure. The report describes the actions Congress has taken to shape FWS’s structure and functions over time and notes selected issues of interest to Congress.

The current structure...

Iran Nuclear Agreement and U.S. Exit

On July 14, 2015, Iran and the six powers that had negotiated with Tehran about its nuclear program since 2006 (the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, China, and Germany—collectively known as the P5+1) finalized a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The JCPOA required constraints that seek to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program can be used for purely peaceful purposes in exchange for a broad lifting of U.S., European Union (EU), and United Nations (U.N.) sanctions on Iran. The agreement replaced the Joint Plan of Action (JPA), an interim nuclear accord in effect from...

U.S. Army’s Initial Maneuver, Short-Range Air Defense (IM-SHORAD) System

The Current State of Army SHORAD The Army defines SHORAD as: Dedicated air defense artillery (ADA) and non-dedicated air defense capabilities that enable movement and maneuver by destroying, neutralizing or deterring low altitude air threats to defend critical fixed and semi-fixed assets and maneuver forces. The Army summarizes the recent history and current state of Army SHORAD in the following section: Short-range air defense artillery units were historically embedded in Army divisions, providing them with an organic capability to protect their critical assets against fixed-wing and...

Ghana: Current Issues and U.S. Relations in Brief

Ghana, a country of 27.5 million people on West Africa’s Atlantic coast, faces diverse development challenges, but has built a robust democracy notable for consistent peaceful turnovers of executive power since a transition to multiparty rule in the early 1990s. The country also has made progress toward many of the socioeconomic outcomes that successive U.S. administrations have sought to foster in Africa, and U.S. policymakers have tended to view Ghana as a stable U.S. partner in an often volatile region. Substantial U.S. bilateral aid has both been premised on and arguably contributed to...

The Federal Role in Groundwater Supply: Overview and Legislation in the 115th Congress

Groundwater, the water in aquifers accessible by wells, is a critical component of the U.S. water supply. It is important for both domestic and agricultural water needs, among other uses. Nearly half of the nation’s population uses groundwater to meet daily needs; in 2015, about 149 million people (46% of the nation’s population) relied on groundwater for their domestic indoor and outdoor water supply. The greatest volume of groundwater used every day is for agriculture, specifically for irrigation. In 2015, irrigation accounted for 69% of the total fresh groundwater withdrawals in the...

The Proposed Equal Rights Amendment: Contemporary Ratification Issues

The proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (ERA), which declares that “equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State on account of sex,” was approved by Congress for ratification by the states in 1972. The proposal included a seven-year deadline for ratification. Between 1972 and 1977, 35 state legislatures, of the 38 required by the Constitution, voted to ratify the ERA. Despite a congressional extension of the deadline from 1979 to 1982, no additional states approved the amendment during the extended period, at which...

Attaching a Price to Greenhouse Gas Emissions with a Carbon Tax or Emissions Fee

Significant debate continues about what, if any, policy initiatives may be appropriate or feasible to address greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Major scientific assessments in the United States and internationally conclude that “it is extremely likely that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, are the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.” Human-related GHG emissions, if continued, would tend to drive further warming, sea level rise, ocean acidification, and other impacts. Small future climate changes may bring benefits for some and adverse...

Public Disclosure of Corporate Tax Returns

Federal corporate tax returns are confidential and protected from public disclosure under section 6103 of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC), as enacted by the Tax Reform Act of 1976 (P.L. 94-455). Before 1976, corporate tax returns where classified as part of the “public record” to varying degrees. Since 1976, there have been occasional calls for the privacy veil to be lifted in response to aggressive tax planning and evasion. This Insight examines several issues surrounding public disclosure of corporate tax returns; however, the discussion below does not address important legal and...

Improper Payments in High-Priority Programs: In Brief

The Improper Payments Information Act (IPIA) of 2002 defines improper payments as payments that should not have been made or that were made in an incorrect amount, including both overpayments and underpayments. This definition includes payments made to ineligible recipients, duplicate payments, payments for a good or service not received, and payments that do not account for applicable discounts. Since FY2004, federal agencies have been required to report on the amount of improper payments they issue each year and take steps to address the root causes of the problem. The data show a...

Private Activity Bonds: An Introduction

The federal tax code classifies state and local bonds as either governmental bonds or private activity bonds. Governmental bonds are intended for governmental projects, and private activity bonds are for projects that primarily benefit private entities. Typically, the interest earned by holders of governmental bonds is exempt from federal income taxes.

The federal tax code allows state and local governments to use tax-exempt bonds to finance certain projects that would be considered private activities. The private activities that can be financed with tax-exempt bonds are called “qualified...

The Defense Budget and the Budget Control Act: Frequently Asked Questions

Enacted on August 2, 2011, the Budget Control Act of 2011 as amended (P.L. 112-25, P.L. 112-240, P.L. 113-67, P.L. 114-74, and P.L. 115-123) sets limits on defense and nondefense spending. As part of an agreement to increase the statutory limit on public debt, the BCA aimed to reduce annual federal budget deficits by a total of at least $2.1 trillion from FY2012 through FY2021, with approximately half of the savings to come from defense.

The spending limits (or caps) apply separately to defense and nondefense discretionary budget authority. Budget authority is authority provided by law to...

Senate Judiciary Committee Hearings for a Supreme Court Nominee: Overview

On July 9, 2018, President Trump announced his selection of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to fill the impending vacancy that will be created on the U.S. Supreme Court by the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy on July 31, 2018.

Supreme Court nominations since 1949 have routinely received public confirmation hearings before either the Senate Judiciary Committee or a Judiciary subcommittee. In 1955, hearings on the Supreme Court nomination of John M. Harlan marked the beginning of a practice, continuing to the present, of Court nominees testifying in-person before the Senate Judiciary Committee....

Energy Provisions in the 2014 Farm Bill (P.L. 113-79): Status and Funding

Title IX, the energy title of the 2014 farm bill (Agricultural Act of 2014; P.L. 113-79), contains authority for the energy programs administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). USDA energy programs have incentivized research, development, and adoption of renewable energy projects, including solar, wind, and anaerobic digesters. However, the primary focus of USDA energy programs has been to promote U.S. biofuels production and use—including corn starch-based ethanol (the predominant biofuel produced and consumed in the United States), cellulosic ethanol, and soybean-based...

Social Security: The Lump-Sum Death Benefit

When a Social Security-insured worker dies, the surviving spouse who was living with the deceased is entitled to a one-time lump-sum death benefit of $255. If they were living apart, the surviving spouse can still receive the lump sum under certain conditions. If there is no such spouse, the payment can be made to a child who meets certain requirements. In the majority of deaths, however, no payment is made.

The lump-sum death benefit was once an important part of Social Security benefits to survivors. Between 1937 and 1939, the lump-sum was the only benefit available to survivors of...

Tit-for-Tat Tariff Measures and U.S. Trade Policy

U.S. trade policy under President Trump has involved greater use of trade laws to address imports that threaten to impair U.S. national security (Section 232), and trade practices that may violate trade agreements or are “unjustifiable” or “unreasonable” (Section 301). Congress has held several hearings on controversial presidential actions under these laws, raising questions about their economic and broader policy implications.

As a result of Section 232 investigations launched by the Administration, the United States has unilaterally applied new tariffs on steel (25%), aluminum (10%),...

Justice Anthony Kennedy: His Jurisprudence and the Future of the Court

On June 27, 2018, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy announced that, effective July 31, 2018, he would retire from active service as an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States. His decisive role on the Court, particularly since the Roberts Court era began in 2005, cannot be overstated. The Roberts Court era has witnessed the Court issue a number of landmark rulings, many of which have involved matters where the sitting Justices were closely divided. Justice Kennedy typically voted with the majority of the Court in such cases. Since the October 2005 term that marked the...

Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Incentives: A Summary of Federal Programs

Energy is crucial to the operation of a modern industrial and services economy. Concerns about the availability and cost of energy and about environmental impacts of fossil energy use have led to the establishment of a wide variety of federal incentives for renewable energy and energy efficiency. These incentives are aimed at the implementation of renewable energy and energy efficiency measures and the development and commercialization of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies.

Many of the existing energy efficiency and renewable energy programs have authorizations tracing...

Federal Government Employment: Veterans’ Preference in Competitive Examination

Veterans’ preference is a system that provides special consideration to certain former members of the Armed Forces who pursue civilian employment with the federal government. This report describes how veterans’ preference is established and applied in the assessment and selection of candidates for federal positions that use competitive examination procedures.

The specific type of preference for which a veteran qualifies (if any) depends on the timing of the veteran’s service and whether or not the veteran has a service-connected disability. The strongest preference is for veterans who have...

National Park Service Appropriations: Ten-Year Trends

The National Park Service (NPS) generally receives appropriations in the annual Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies appropriations bill. This report examines trends in NPS appropriations over the past decade (FY2009-FY2018), as well as changes during the decade in the size of the National Park System, numbers of recreational visits to the parks, and NPS staffing levels.

NPS’s appropriations fluctuated during the decade, mainly declining in the first part of the decade and then increasing during the second part. In the first and last years of the decade (FY2009 and FY2018), as well...

Puerto Rico—Status of Electric Power Recovery

On September 20, 2017, Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico as a Category 4 storm with sustained wind speeds of over 155 miles per hour. At that time, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico was already in recovery mode following the glancing blow struck by Hurricane Irma on September 6, 2017, which left 70% of electricity customers without power. Puerto Rico’s office of emergency management reported that Hurricane Maria had incapacitated the central electric power system, leaving the entire island without power as the island’s grid was essentially destroyed. Even before the 2017 hurricane...

Risk and Needs Assessment in the Federal Prison System

The number of people incarcerated in federal prisons increased dramatically over the past three decades. While the number of inmates in the federal prison system has decreased since FY2013, the federal prison population remains substantially larger than it was three decades ago.

Concerns about both the economic and social consequences of the country’s reliance on incarceration have led to calls for reforms to the nation’s criminal justice system, including improving the federal prison system’s ability to rehabilitate incarcerated offenders by better assessing their risk for recidivism and...

Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) FY2018 Appropriations: Independent Agencies and General Provisions

The Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) appropriations bills include funding for more than two dozen independent agencies in addition to the larger entities in the bill (Department of the Treasury, the Executive Office of the President, the District of Columbia, and the judiciary). Among these are Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), Election Assistance Commission (EAC), Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Federal Election Commission (FEC), Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA), Federal Trade Commission (FTC), General Services Administration (GSA), National...

President’s Selection of a Nominee for a Supreme Court Vacancy: Overview

On June 27, 2018, Justice Anthony Kennedy, after serving on the Supreme Court as an Associate Justice since 1988, announced his intention to retire from the U.S. Supreme Court. Justice Kennedy indicated that his retirement would be effective July 31, 2018. Subsequently, on July 9, 2018, President Donald Trump announced his intention to nominate Judge Brett Kavanaugh to fill the impending Kennedy vacancy.

This Insight provides an overview of several issues related to the selection of a nominee by a President for a vacancy on the Court. For additional information and analyses on these and...

U.S. Global Health Assistance: FY2001-FY2019 Request

Congressional interest in and support for global health programs has remained strong for several years. In FY2018, Congress provided $8.7 billion for global health programs through State, Foreign Operations appropriations and $488.6 million through Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (Labor-HHS) appropriations. These funds are managed by several U.S. agencies and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (Global Fund)—a multilateral organization aimed at combating the three diseases worldwide. Concern about infectious diseases, especially HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis,...

Next Generation 911 Technologies: Select Issues for Congress

In 2018, Congress and 911 advocates celebrated the 50th anniversary of the first 911 call. Over the past 50 years, states and localities have adopted 911 as the number to call during emergencies, established 911 centers (also known as Public Safety Answering Points or PSAPs) to receive and manage 911 calls, managed and funded their local PSAPs, and educated the public on 911 use. Today, 911 services are available in most jurisdictions in the United States, people know 911 is the number to call in emergencies, and 911 systems have helped to save lives.

However, there are challenges. In...

Hemp as an Agricultural Commodity

Industrial hemp is an agricultural commodity that is cultivated for use in the production of a wide range of products, including foods and beverages, cosmetics and personal care products, nutritional supplements, fabrics and textiles, yarns and spun fibers, paper, construction and insulation materials, and other manufactured goods. Hemp can be grown as a fiber, seed, or other dual-purpose crop. However, hemp is also from the same species of plant, Cannabis sativa, as marijuana. As a result, production in the United States is restricted due to hemp’s association with marijuana, and the U.S....

United States Special Operations Command Acquisition Authorities

United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM) is the Unified Combatant Command responsible for training, doctrine, and equipping all special operations forces of the Army, Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy. SOCOM has been granted acquisition authority by Congress to procure special operations forces-peculiar equipment and services.

There is a perception among some observers and officials that SOCOM possesses unique acquisition authorities that allow it to operate faster and more efficiently than the military departments.

SOCOM possesses unique acquisition authorities when compared with...

Multilateral Development Banks: Overview and Issues for Congress

Multilateral development banks (MDBs) provide financial assistance to developing countries in order to promote economic and social development. The United States is a member, and donor, to five major MDBs: the World Bank and four regional development banks, including the African Development Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and the Inter-American Development Bank.

The MDBs primarily fund large infrastructure and other development projects and provide loans tied to policy reforms by the government. The MDBs provide non-concessional...

Supreme Court Nominations, 1789 to 2017: Actions by the Senate, the Judiciary Committee, and the President

The process of appointing Supreme Court Justices has undergone changes over two centuries, but its most basic feature, the sharing of power between the President and Senate, has remained unchanged. To receive a lifetime appointment to the Court, a candidate must, under the “Appointments Clause” of the Constitution, first be nominated by the President and then confirmed by the Senate. A key role also has come to be played midway in the process by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Table 1 of this report lists and describes actions taken by the Senate, the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the...

NATO’s 2018 Brussels Summit

Leaders from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO’s) 29 member states are scheduled to hold a summit at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on July 11-12, 2018. The summit comes at a time of heightened U.S.-European tensions. Despite stated Trump Administration commitments to NATO and European security, some European allies are increasingly expressing concerns about President Trump’s criticisms of NATO and individual allies. Various European leaders appear to be growing doubtful about whether the United States will remain a reliable security partner, especially amid recent...

Rural Highways

Of the nation’s 4.1 million miles of public access roads, 2.9 million, or 71%, are in rural areas. Rural roads account for about 30% of national vehicle miles traveled. However, with many rural areas experiencing population decline, states increasingly are struggling to maintain roads with diminishing traffic while at the same time meeting the needs of growing rural and metropolitan areas.

Federal highway programs do not generally specify how much federal funding is used on roads in rural areas. This is determined by the states. Most federal highway money, however, may be used only for a...

School Resource Officers: Issues for Congress

The school shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, Great Mills High School in Great Mills, MD, and Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, TX, have generated renewed interest in what Congress might consider to enhance security at the nation’s schools. School resource officer (SRO) programs have been discussed as a possible strategy for increasing school safety. SROs are sworn law enforcement officers who are assigned to work at a school on a long-term basis. While there are no current figures on the number of SROs in the United States, data indicate that 42% of U.S....

Tunisia: In Brief

Tunisia has taken key steps toward democracy since its 2011 “Jasmine Revolution,” and has so far avoided the violent chaos and/or authoritarian resurrection seen elsewhere in the Middle East and North Africa region. Tunisians adopted a new constitution in 2014 and held national elections the same year, marking the completion of a four-year transitional period. In May 2018, Tunisia held elections for newly created local government posts, a move toward political decentralization that activists and donors have long advocated. The government has also pursued gender equality reforms and enacted...

Small Business Tax Benefits: Current Law and Arguments For and Against Them

The federal tax burden on small firms and its effects on their formation and growth have long been matters of legislative concern for Congress. This abiding interest has helped pave the way for the enactment of a series of tax laws in recent years that included targeted tax relief for a number of small businesses.

This report describes the main federal tax preferences that benefit small firms and examines the main arguments for and against government support for small firms in general and for tax benefits targeted at such firms in particular. It addresses the tax preferences that can be...

Mexico: Organized Crime and Drug Trafficking Organizations

Mexican drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) pose the greatest crime threat to the United States, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA’s) National Drug Threat Assessment published in October 2017. These organizations have for years been identified for their strong links to drug trafficking, money laundering, and other violent crimes. These criminal groups have trafficked heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, marijuana, and, increasingly, the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl. U.S. overdoses due to opioid consumption sharply increased to a record level in 2016,...

Broadband Data and Mapping

Improving the quality of broadband deployment data has become an issue of congressional interest, as policymakers recognize that more accurate broadband availability maps could help ensure that federal broadband programs target unserved areas of the country that are most in need of assistance.

Since the initial deployment of broadband in the late 1990s, two federal agencies have implemented broadband availability data collection and mapping initiatives: the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) at the Department of Commerce (DOC) and the Federal Communications...

Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act (FIRRMA)

Some Members of Congress, the Trump Administration, and some U.S. businesses have raised concerns over continued U.S. technological leadership to support national defense and economic security due to growing foreign, primarily Chinese, investments in U.S. high-tech companies. These and other concerns motivated the House and the Senate to adopt measures, both known as the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act of 2018 (FIRRMA). The bills would amend the current process for the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) (under P.L. 110-49) to review, on behalf of...

Defense Acquisitions: How and Where DOD Spends Its Contracting Dollars

The Department of Defense (DOD) has long relied on contractors to provide the U.S. military with a wide range of goods and services, including weapons, vehicles, food, uniforms, and operational support. Without contractor support, the United States would be currently unable to arm and field an effective fighting force. Costs and trends associated with contractor support provides Congress more information upon which to make budget decisions and weigh the relative costs and benefits of different military operations—including contingency operations and maintaining bases around the...

Medicare Financial Status: In Brief

This report provides a brief overview of the financial status of the two Medicare trust funds (Hospital Insurance and Supplementary Medical Insurance) based on the findings of the 2018 Medicare Trustees Report. It includes an overview of Medicare and its financing, summary data on the program’s 2017 operations, current estimates of the insolvency date of the Hospital Insurance Trust Fund, and estimates of spending growth. These estimates include measures of Medicare spending as a portion of GDP, unfunded obligations, and alternative projections.

U.S. Research and Development Funding and Performance: Fact Sheet

Research and development. Expenditures. Basic research. Applied research. Development. United States. Federal government. State governments. Business. Industry. College. Universities. Nonprofit organizations. Research and development. Basic research. Applied research. Development. United States. Federal government. State governments. Business. College. Universities. Nonprofit organizations. Research and development. Basic research. Applied research. Development. United States. Federal government. State governments. Business. Industry. College. Universities. Nonprofit organizations....

The House Agriculture Committee’s 2018 Farm Bill (H.R. 2): A Side-by-Side Comparison with Current Law

Congress sets national food and agriculture policy through periodic omnibus farm bills. The 115th Congress has the opportunity to establish the future direction of farm and food policy because many of the provisions in the current farm bill (the Agricultural Act of 2014, P.L. 113-79) expire in 2018. The 2014 farm bill addresses a broad range of farm and food programs and policies, including commodity support, crop insurance, conservation, domestic food assistance, trade and food aid, credit, rural development, research, horticulture, forestry, and bioenergy, among others.

On June 21,...

Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) FY2019 Budget Request and Funding History: Fact Sheet

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) provides health care to individuals who are geographically isolated and/or economically or medically vulnerable. The agency’s programs target specific populations including pregnant women and their children and individuals with HIV/AIDs.

HRSA is organized into five bureaus: (1) Primary Care; (2) Health Workforce; (3) Maternal and Child Health; (4) HIV/AIDS; and (5) Healthcare Systems. In addition to these bureaus, HRSA has 11 offices. Some offices focus on specific populations...

Trade Deficits and U.S. Trade Policy

The economic effects of the U.S. trade deficit have been a topic of long-standing congressional interest. The U.S. Constitution grants authority to Congress to regulate commerce with foreign nations and to lay and collect duties, and Congress exercises this authority in numerous ways. These include oversight of trade policy and consideration of legislation to implement trade agreements and to authorize trade programs. In some cases, Congress has delegated certain authorities over trade policy to the Executive Branch: for example, to facilitate trade negotiations.

As part of efforts to...

Social Security Survivors Benefits

Social Security is formally known as the Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) program. This report focuses on the Survivors Insurance component of Social Security. When workers die, their spouses, former spouses, and dependents may qualify for Social Security survivors benefits. This report describes how a worker becomes covered by Survivors Insurance and outlines the types and amounts of benefits available to survivors and eligibility for those benefits. This report also provides current data on survivor beneficiaries and benefits.

Independence Day Speech Resources: Fact Sheet

Independence Day, often called the Fourth of July, is a federal holiday celebrating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.

This guide is designed to assist congressional offices with work related to Independence Day celebrations. It contains links to census and demographic information, CRS reports, sample speeches and remarks from the Congressional Record, and presidential proclamations and remarks. It also contains links to selected historical and cultural resources.

TRICARE Modernization: Eligibility for the Federal Employee Dental and Vision Insurance Program

In an effort to improve TRICARE dental and vision coverage through “enhanced benefits,” in 2016 Congress expanded (P.L. 114-328) eligibility for the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP) to certain TRICARE beneficiaries. FEDVIP is a dental and vision benefit program for federal employees and annuitants. Uniformed services retirees and their family members are to be eligible to enroll in FEDVIP in November 2018, with coverage beginning on January 1, 2019. Non-active duty TRICARE beneficiaries (i.e., family members of uniformed service members, reserve component...

Legislative Actions to Modify the Affordable Care Act in the 111th-115th Congresses

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA; P.L. 111-148) was signed into law on March 23, 2010. The law comprises numerous provisions in 10 titles. The provisions in Titles I-VIII largely relate to how health care in the United States is financed, organized, and delivered. Title IX contains revenue provisions. Title X reauthorizes the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, establishes some new programs and requirements, and amends provisions included in the other nine titles of the ACA. On March 30, 2010, the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act (HCERA; P.L. 111-152) was...

Supreme Court Appointment Process: President’s Selection of a Nominee

The appointment of a Supreme Court Justice is an event of major significance in American politics. Each appointment is of consequence because of the enormous judicial power the Supreme Court exercises as the highest appellate court in the federal judiciary. Appointments are usually infrequent, as a vacancy on the nine-member Court may occur only once or twice, or never at all, during a particular President’s years in office. Under the Constitution, Justices on the Supreme Court receive what can amount to lifetime appointments which, by constitutional design, helps ensure the Court’s...

The Rule XIX Call to Order for Disorderly Language in Senate Debate

The Senate has, from the 1st Congress (1789-1790), valued the importance of decorum in debate and included a “call to order” mechanism in its rules to sanction Senators who use “disorderly” language. The rules adopted in 1789 contained such a call-to-order provision, and its language has been amended multiple times over the years. Table 1 of this report details the historical evolution of the rule. The present form of the Senate’s call-to-order provision was adopted on June 14, 1962.

Senate Rule XIX identifies specific language that is considered disorderly. This includes language directly...

Global Research and Development Expenditures: Fact Sheet

Global, research, development, expenditures, global research and development expenditures, R&D, science, technology, innovation, competitiveness, United States, China, Japan, Germany, United Kingdom, France, Italy, South Korea, Russia, Taiwan, Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, OECD. Global, research, development, expenditures, global research and development expenditures, R&D, science, technology, innovation, competitiveness. Global, research, development, expenditures, global research and development expenditures, R&D, science, technology, innovation, competitiveness....

The Trump Administration’s Reform Plan and Reorganization Recommendations

On June 21, 2018, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued Delivering Government Solutions in the 21st Century: Reform Plan and Reorganization Recommendations (the Reform Plan). The Reform Plan followed from Executive Order 13781, “Comprehensive Plan for Reorganizing the Executive Branch,” issued by President Donald J. Trump on March 13, 2017, and an OMB memorandum, M-17-22, “Comprehensive Plan for Reforming the Federal Government and Reducing the Federal Civilian Workforce,” issued on April 12, 2017. Federal agencies were required to submit initial agency reform plans to OMB in...

Proposed American Innovation $1 Coins

On June 20, 2018, the Senate passed an amended version of H.R. 770, the “American Innovation $1 Coin Act.” This bill would require the Secretary of the Treasury to mint new $1 coins “in recognition of American innovation and significant innovation and pioneering efforts of individuals or groups from each of the 50 States, the District of Columbia, and the United States territories.” The proposed Innovation $1 coins would be minted beginning in 2019. The Senate’s action follows House passage of its version of H.R. 770 on January 16, 2018.

Congressional Involvement in Coin Design

The...

The G-7 Summit in Charlevoix, Canada: Changing U.S. Leadership in Global Forums

Canada hosted the 44th annual Group of 7 (G-7) summit on June 8-9 in Charlevoix, Quebec. The G-7 is an informal group of seven of the world’s largest advanced economies: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. With roots back to the 1970s, the G-7 leaders meet annually to discuss and coordinate economic and foreign policies. The agenda for the 2018 summit, set by Canada as the rotating chair, intended to focus on economic growth, gender equality, jobs, and the environment.

Discussions were marked by deep divisions between President Trump and other...

Department of Defense Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation (RDT&E): Appropriations Structure

The Department of Defense (DOD) conducts research, development, testing, and evaluation (RDT&E) in support of its mission requirements. The work funded by these appropriations plays a central role in the nation’s security and an important role in U.S. global leadership in science and technology. DOD alone accounts for nearly 40% of all federal R&D appropriations ($49.2 billion of $125.3 billion, or 39.3%, in FY2017).

In its annual congressional budget requests, DOD presents its RDT&E requests by organization and by its own unique taxonomy aligned to the character of the work to be...

A Primer on U.S. Immigration Policy

U.S. immigration policy is governed largely by the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), which was first codified in 1952 and has been amended significantly several times since. At a fundamental level, U.S. immigration policy can be viewed as two sides of a coin. One side emphasizes the faciliation of migration flows into the United States according to principles of admission that are based upon national interest. These broad principles currently include family reunification, labor market contribution, humanitarian assistance, and origin-country diversity.

The United States has long...

LIHEAP: Program and Funding

The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), established in 1981 as part of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (P.L. 97-35), is a program through which the federal government makes annual grants to states, tribes, and territories to operate home energy assistance programs for low-income households. The LIHEAP statute authorizes two types of funds: regular funds (sometimes referred to as formula or block grant funds), which are allocated to all states using a statutory formula, and emergency contingency funds, which are allocated to one or more states at the discretion of the...

FEMA and SBA Disaster Assistance for Individuals and Households: Application Process, Determinations, and Appeals

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Individual Assistance (IA) program and the Small Business Administration’s (SBA’s) Disaster Loan Program are the federal government’s two primary sources of financial assistance to help individuals and households recover and rebuild from a major disaster. In many cases, disaster survivors find that they need assistance from both of these programs in addition to other sources of assistance including private insurance, state and local government assistance, and assistance from private voluntary organizations.

Though FEMA IA and the SBA...

Debates over Exchange Rates: Overview and Issues for Congress

Exchange rates are among the most important prices in the global economy. They affect the price of every country’s imports and exports, as well as the value of every overseas investment. Over the past decade, some Members of Congress have been concerned that foreign countries are using exchange rate policies to gain an unfair trade advantage against other countries, or “manipulating” their currencies. Congressional concerns have focused on China’s foreign exchange interventions over the past decade to weaken its currency against the U.S. dollar, although concerns have also been raised...

Interstate Natural Gas Pipeline Siting: FERC Policy and Issues for Congress

Growth in U.S. shale gas production is driving the expansion of natural gas pipeline infrastructure to transport natural gas from producing regions to consuming markets, typically in other states. If the growth in U.S. shale gas continues as projected, the need for new pipelines could be substantial. One recent industry analysis projected the need for approximately 26,000 miles of new natural gas pipeline between 2018 and 2035; total capital expenditure for these projects could range from $154 billion to $190 billion.

Under the Natural Gas Act, companies seeking to build interstate natural...

Recent Violent Crime Trends in the United States

Media accounts of increasing violent crime rates, especially homicides, in some cities raise broad concerns about decreasing levels of public safety.

This report provides an analysis of changes in violent crime since 1960, with a focus on changes from 2014 to 2016 in violent crime and homicide rates in the 48 largest cities in the United States for which violent crime and homicide data were submitted to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program. The results of the analysis suggest the following:

At the national level, violent crime and homicide rates increased...

Overview of Health Insurance Exchanges

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA; P.L. 111-148, as amended) requires health insurance exchanges to be established in every state. Exchanges are marketplaces in which consumers and small businesses can shop for and purchase private health insurance coverage. In general, states must have two types of exchanges: an individual exchange and a small business health options program (SHOP) exchange.

Exchanges may be established either by the state itself as a state-based exchange (SBE) or by the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) as a federally facilitated exchange...

Economic and Fiscal Conditions in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Fiscal and economic challenges facing the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) government raise several issues for Congress. Congress may choose to maintain oversight of federal policies that could affect the USVI’s long-term fiscal stability. Congress also may consider further legislation that would extend or restructure long-range disaster assistance programs to mitigate those challenges and promote greater resiliency of infrastructure and public programs. Federal responses to the USVI’s fiscal distress could conceivably affect municipal debt markets more broadly.

The USVI, like many other...

Privacy Protections for Individuals with Substance Use Disorders: The Part 2 Final Rule in Brief

On January 18, 2017, the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) published a final rule to amend the federal regulations known as “Part 2” that protect the privacy of patient records maintained by alcohol and drug treatment programs across the country. Part 2 was developed in the 1970s to allay the concerns of individuals with substance use disorders who were afraid to get treatment for fear that their medical information would be released, leading to discrimination and even prosecution.

Health care providers participating in new health care delivery models such as accountable care...

Intelligence Community Spending: Trends and Issues

Total intelligence spending is usually understood as the combination of the National Intelligence Program (NIP), which supports strategic planning and policymaking, and the Military Intelligence Program (MIP), which supports military operational and tactical levels of planning and operations. There are 4 defense NIP programs, 8 nondefense NIP programs, and 10 MIP programs. Six U.S. intelligence community (IC) components have both MIP and NIP funding sources.

Funding associated with the 17 components of the IC is significant. In fiscal year FY2017 alone, the aggregate amount (base and...

Medicare: Insolvency Projections

Medicare is the nation’s health insurance program for persons aged 65 and older and certain disabled persons. Medicare consists of four distinct parts: Part A (Hospital Insurance, or HI); Part B (Supplementary Medical Insurance, or SMI); Part C (Medicare Advantage, or MA); and Part D (the outpatient prescription drug benefit).

The Part A program is financed primarily through payroll taxes levied on current workers and their employers; these taxes are credited to the HI Trust Fund. The Part B program is financed through a combination of monthly premiums paid by current enrollees and...

HUD FY2018 Appropriations: In Brief

Most of the funding for the activities of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) comes from discretionary appropriations provided each year in the annual appropriations acts, typically as a part of the Transportation, HUD, and Related Agencies appropriations bill (THUD). HUD’s programs are designed primarily to address housing problems faced by households with very low incomes or other special housing needs.

Three rental assistance programs—Public Housing, Section 8 tenant-based rental assistance (which funds Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers), and Section 8 project-based...

Renewable Energy R&D Funding History: A Comparison with Funding for Nuclear Energy, Fossil Energy, Energy Efficiency, and Electric Systems R&D

Energy-related research and development (R&D)—on coal-based synthetic petroleum and on atomic bombs—played an important role in the successful outcome of World War II. In the postwar era, the federal government conducted R&D on fossil and nuclear energy sources to support peacetime economic growth. The energy crises of the 1970s spurred the government to broaden the focus to include renewable energy and energy efficiency. Over the 41-year period from the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) inception at the beginning of FY1978 through FY2018, federal funding for renewable energy R&D amounted to...

The Fair Housing Act: HUD Oversight, Programs, and Activities

The federal Fair Housing Act, enacted in 1968 as Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act (P.L. 90-284), prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental, or financing of housing based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, familial status, and handicap. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), through its Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO), receives and investigates complaints under the Fair Housing Act and determines if there is reasonable cause to believe that discrimination has occurred or is about to occur.

State and local fair housing agencies and...

Canada-U.S. Relations

Relations between the United States and Canada traditionally have been close, bound together by a common 5,500-mile border—“the longest undefended border in the world”—as well as by shared history and values. The countries have long-standing mutual security commitments under the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), and continue to work together to address international security challenges, such as the Islamic State insurgency in Iraq and Syria. Canada and the United States also maintain close intelligence and law enforcement ties...

Social Security: The Government Pension Offset (GPO)

Social Security spousal benefits were established in the 1930s to help support wives who are financially dependent on their husbands. It has since become more common for both spouses in a couple to work, with the result that, in more cases, both members of a couple are entitled to Social Security or other government pensions based on their own work records. Social Security does not provide both a full retired-worker and a full spousal benefit to the same individual.

Two provisions are designed to reduce the Social Security spousal benefits of individuals who are not financially dependent...

Resources for Grantseekers

This report describes key sources of information on government and private funding, and outlines eligibility for federal grants. Federal grants are intended for projects benefiting states and communities. Individuals may be eligible for other kinds of benefits or assistance, or small businesses and students may be eligible for loans. Free information is readily available to grantseekers, who generally know best the details of their projects. The Assistance Listings database at beta.SAM.gov describes more than 2,200 federal programs, more than half of them grants, and can be searched by...

U.S. Crude Oil Exports and Retail Gasoline Prices

Since the beginning of 2018, average U.S. retail gasoline prices have risen approximately 18% and were nearly $3.00 per gallon at the end of May (see Figure 1). Over the same period, U.S. crude oil exports—for which restrictions were repealed in December 2015—have reached record levels. Average weekly export volumes from January to May 2018 have nearly doubled from average exports in all of 2017, to 1.7 million barrels per day (bpd). As a result, there has been congressional interest in understanding this tandem upward movement and the degree to which increasing crude oil exports might...

The June 12 Trump-Kim Jong-un Summit

On June 12, 2018, President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un met in Singapore to discuss North Korea’s nuclear program, building a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula, and the future of U.S. relations with North Korea (known officially as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or DPRK). During their summit, the first-ever meeting between leaders of the two countries, Trump and Kim issued a brief joint statement in which Trump “committed to provide security guarantees to the DPRK,” and Kim “reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of...

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education: An Overview

The term STEM education refers to teaching and learning in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. It typically includes educational activities across all grade levels—from pre-school to post-doctorate—in both formal (e.g., classrooms) and informal (e.g., afterschool programs) settings. Federal policymakers have an active and enduring interest in STEM education, and the topic is frequently raised in federal science, education, workforce, national security, and immigration policy debates.

Various attempts to assess the federal STEM education effort have produced...

Financial Aid for Students: Online Resources

Congressional offices are frequently contacted by constituents who are researching how to pay for postsecondary education. This report identifies various online sources targeted to students and parents that provide information on planning and acquiring funds for postsecondary education. Some resources also contain information on repaying, forgiving, or discharging educational debt.

Students are often in the best position to determine which aid programs they may qualify for and which best meet their needs. Many of the websites listed in this report enable a student to conduct and save...

North Korea: Legislative Basis for U.S. Economic Sanctions

U.S. economic sanctions imposed on North Korea are instigated by that country’s activities related to weapons proliferation, especially its tests since 2006 of nuclear weapons and missile technology; regional disruptions; terrorism; narcotics trafficking; undemocratic governance; and illicit activities in international markets, including money laundering, counterfeiting of goods and currency, and bulk cash smuggling. The sanctions have the following consequences for U.S.-North Korea relations:

Trade is limited to food, medicine, and other humanitarian-related goods, all of which require a...

Social Security: What Would Happen If the Trust Funds Ran Out?

Social Security’s receipts and expenditures are accounted for through two federal trust funds: the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) Trust Fund and the Federal Disability Insurance (DI) Trust Fund. Under their intermediate assumptions and under current law, the Social Security trustees project that the DI trust fund will become depleted in 2032 and the OASI trust fund will become depleted in 2034. Although the two funds are legally separate, they are often considered in combination. The trustees project that the combined Social Security trust funds will become depleted in...

The Federal “Crime of Violence” Definition: Overview and Judicial Developments

In an effort to deter violent crime, and to limit the broad discretion accorded to federal judges with respect to prison sentencing, Congress in 1984 passed legislation that revised the federal criminal code. The Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984 (CCCA) aimed to substantially reform and improve federal criminal laws, and “to restore a proper balance between the forces of law and the forces of lawlessness.” To that end, the CCCA adopted new bail procedures, imposed mandatory minimum sentences for certain criminal offenses, increased the penalties for drug offenses and violent crimes,...

The Current State of Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform and Management

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has reported that the federal government budgets more than $80 billion each year on information technology (IT) investments and in FY2017, GAO estimates that this investment will increase to more than $89 billion. Historically, the projects supported by these investments have often incurred “multi-million dollar cost overruns and years-long schedule delays.” In addition, GAO has reported that these projects may contribute little to mission-related outcomes and, in some cases, may fail altogether. These undesirable results, according to GAO, “can...

Money for Something: Music Licensing in the 21st Century

Songwriters and recording artists are legally entitled to get paid for (1) reproductions and public performances of the notes and lyrics they create (the musical works), as well as (2) reproductions, distributions, and certain digital performances of the recorded sound of their voices combined with instruments (the sound recordings). The amount they get paid, as well as their control over their music, depends on market forces, contracts among a variety of private-sector entities, and laws governing copyright and competition policy.

Congress first enacted laws governing music licensing in...

How to Develop and Write a Grant Proposal

This report is intended for Members and staff assisting grant seekers in districts and states and covers writing proposals for both government and private foundation grants. In preparation for writing a proposal, the report first discusses preliminary information gathering and preparation, developing ideas for the proposal, gathering community support, identifying funding resources, and seeking preliminary review of the proposal and support of relevant administrative officials.

The second section of the report covers the actual writing of the proposal, from outlining of project goals,...

Iraq’s 2018 Elections

Iraqis are voting in national, regional, and provincial elections in 2018 as they seek to consolidate the country’s military victory over the Islamic State, rebuild shattered communities, and improve government performance. On May 12, Iraqi voters went to the polls to choose national legislators for four-year terms in the 329-seat Council of Representatives (COR), Iraq’s unicameral legislature. Turnout was lower in the 2018 COR election than in past national elections, but the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) has stated that it was “largely peaceful and orderly” and has...

Amendments Between the Houses: Procedural Options and Effects

The House and Senate must agree to the same measure with the same legislative language before a bill can be presented to the President. To resolve differences between House and Senate versions of legislation, Congress might appoint a conference committee to negotiate a compromise that is then reported to each chamber for consideration. Alternatively, Congress might use the process of amendment exchange. In this process, each chamber acts on the legislation in turn, shuttling the measure back and forth, sometimes proposing alternatives in the form of amendments, until both chambers have...

Forest Service Assistance Programs

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has numerous programs to support the management of state and private forests. These programs are under the jurisdiction of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees and are often examined in the periodic legislation to reauthorize agricultural programs, commonly known as farm bills. For example, the 2014 farm bill repealed, reauthorized, or modified many of these programs. The House version of the 2018 farm bill, the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 (H.R. 2), contains a forestry title (Title VIII) that would reauthorize, modify, and...

FY2018 Military Construction Authorizations and Appropriations

On May 23, 2017, the Trump Administration delivered its first full budget proposal to the 115th Congress, a request that included $10.4 billion for military construction activities. Of this amount, the Administration requested $9.8 billion for military construction and family housing in the base budget, and $0.6 billion in Overseas Contingency Operations funds.

House and Senate negotiations on the annual National Defense Authorization Act, which authorizes funding for military construction projects for the Department of Defense, concluded early in November 2017. The final bill, H.R. 2810,...

Electronic Employment Eligibility Verification

Unauthorized immigration and unauthorized employment continue to be key issues in the ongoing debate over immigration policy. Today’s discussions about these issues build on the work of prior Congresses. In 1986, following many years of debate about unauthorized immigration to the United States, Congress passed the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA). This law sought to address unauthorized immigration, in part, by requiring all employers to examine documents presented by new hires to verify identity and work authorization and to complete and retain employment eligibility...

Increase in Illicit Fentanyl Overdose Deaths

Fentanyl, heroin, and some prescription painkillers (such as morphine and oxycodone) belong to the class of drugs known as opioids, which act on receptors in the brain important in regulating pain and emotion. Opioids have susceptibility for abuse and potential for overdose. In 2016, more than 42,000 of the nearly 64,000 drug overdose deaths in the United States involved opioids. Led by fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 50-100 times more potent than morphine, synthetic opioids emerged as the leading cause of opioid-related overdose deaths in 2016. The steep increase in deaths involving fentanyl...

Background Information on Health Coverage Options Addressed in Executive Order 13813

On October 12, 2017, President Trump issued Executive Order (E.O.) 13813, entitled “Promoting Healthcare Choice and Competition Across the United States.” E.O. 13813 directs specified agencies to consider regulatory or sub-regulatory approaches to expand access to three unrelated, private-sector health coverage options: association health plans (AHPs); short-term, limited-duration insurance (STLDI); and health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs). This report answers frequently asked questions (FAQs) about E.O. 13813 and subsequent rulemaking and provides background information about AHPs,...

Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act (P.L. 115-174) and Selected Policy Issues

Some observers assert the financial crisis of 2007-2009 revealed that excessive risk had built up in the financial system, and that weaknesses in regulation contributed to that buildup and the resultant instability. In response, Congress passed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (P.L. 111-203; the Dodd-Frank Act), and regulators strengthened rules under existing authority. Following this broad overhaul of financial regulation, some observers argue certain changes are an overcorrection, resulting in unduly burdensome regulation.

The Economic Growth, Regulatory...

Tax Expenditures: Before and After the 2017 Tax Revision (P.L. 115-97)

Tax reform debates, including the debate surrounding the 2017 tax revision (P.L. 115-97), often consider the option of broadening the tax base in exchange for a reduction in statutory tax rates. One means of base-broadening is reducing or eliminating “tax expenditures,” or revenue losses attributable to special provisions in the tax code. Policymakers also evaluate tax expenditures from a federal budgeting perspective, as tax expenditures may be viewed as “spending through the tax code.” Though P.L. 115-97 makes major changes to the U.S. federal tax system, in aggregate, the change in the...

FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act

The Trump Administration’s initial FY2018 budget request, released on May 23, 2017, included a total of $677.1 billion for the national defense budget function (Budget Function 050), which encompasses all defense-related activities of the federal government. Of that amount, $659.8 billion was for appropriation accounts for which authorization is provided in the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The remainder of the request was either for mandatory funds not requiring annual authorization or for discretionary funds outside the scope of the NDAA.

That initial Administration...

The American Opportunity Tax Credit: Overview, Analysis, and Policy Options

The American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC)—originally enacted on a temporary basis by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA; P.L. 111-5) and made permanent by the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act (PATH; Division Q of P.L. 114-113)—is a partially refundable tax credit that provides financial assistance to taxpayers (or their children) who are pursuing a higher education. The credit, worth up to $2,500 per student, can be claimed for a student’s qualifying expenses incurred during the first four years of post-secondary education. In addition, 40% of the credit (up to...

Education Policy: Resources for Congressional Staff

Education; elementary education; elementary and secondary education; higher education; postsecondary education; Department of Education; education budget; education appropriations; education resources; education statistics; federal education policy; Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions; House Committee on Education and the Workforce; education spending; early childhood education; Head Start; IDEA; Individuals with Disabilities Education; Preschool Development Grants; student financial assistance; higher education tax benefits; GI Bill; federal support for institutions...

Grants Work in a Congressional Office

Members of Congress receive frequent requests from grant seekers needing funds for projects in districts and states. The congressional office should first determine its priorities regarding the appropriate assistance to give constituents, from providing information on grants programs to active advocacy of projects. Congressional grants staff can best help grant seekers by first themselves gaining some understanding of the grants process.

Each office handles grants requests in its own way, depending upon the Member’s legislative agenda and overall organization and workload. There may be a...

The Role of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP)

ONDCP Mission and Responsibilities

The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) is responsible for creating, implementing, and evaluating U.S. drug control policies to reduce the use, manufacturing, and trafficking of illicit drugs as well as drug-related health consequences, crime, and violence. ONDCP is located in the Executive Office of the President. It was created by the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988 and most recently reauthorized by the Office of National Drug Control Policy Reauthorization Act of 2006. Authorization of appropriations for ONDCP expired at the end of FY2010, but...

Prioritizing Waterway Lock Projects: Barge Traffic Changes

Congress faces decisions about prioritizing new lock construction projects on the inland waterway system. As both houses debate differing versions of water resources and development bills (S. 2800, H.R. 8) and the FY2019 Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill (S. 2975, H.R. 5895), the decision about which of these projects could be undertaken first will likely be among the most controversial issues.

The inland waterway system supports barge transportation of heavy raw materials such as grain, coal, petroleum, and construction aggregates. The new locks are needed, according to the...

The Alien Tort Statute (ATS): A Primer

Passed by the First Congress as part of the Judiciary Act of 1789, the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) has been described as a provision “unlike any other in American law” and “unknown to any other legal system in the world.” In its current form, the complete text of the statute provides the following: “The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of any civil action by an alien for a tort only, committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States.” While just one sentence, the ATS has been the subject of intense interest in recent decades, as it evolved from a...

The House Journal: Origin, Purpose, and Approval

The Journal of the House of Representatives is the official record of the chamber’s legislative actions. The Journal’s contents include the titles of introduced legislation, the results of votes, presidential veto messages, and any other matters the House deems to be official proceedings. Unlike the Congressional Record, it is not a transcript of debate. Rather, the Journal is a listing of House actions without the debate accompanying those actions.

The Constitution mandates that each House keep a journal of its proceedings (Art. 1, §5). The Constitution, House rules and practices, and, to...

Juneteenth: Fact Sheet

Juneteenth celebrates the end of slavery in the United States. It is also known as Emancipation Day, Juneteenth Independence Day, and Black Independence Day. On June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, TX, and announced the end of the civil war and the end of slavery. Although the Emancipation Proclamation came 2½ years earlier on January 1, 1863, and many slave owners continued to hold their slaves captive after the announcement, Juneteenth became a symbolic date representing African American freedom.

Juneteenth is not a federal holiday. Forty-five states and the...

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Issues and Debate in the 115th Congress

On April 27, 2018, the House of Representatives passed the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 (H.R. 4), a six-year Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization measure that does not include a controversial proposal to privatize air traffic control laid (ATC) out in an earlier bill, H.R. 2997. On May 9, 2018, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation reported a four-year FAA reauthorization bill (S. 1405, S.Rept. 115-243) that does not address ATC privatization. The enactment of either bill would be the first long-term FAA reauthorization act since the FAA...

FBI Director Nominations, 1973-2017

The Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is appointed by the President by and with the advice and consent of the Senate. The statutory basis for the present nomination and confirmation process was developed in 1968 and 1976, and has been used since the death of J. Edgar Hoover in 1972. From 1973 through 2017, eight nominations for FBI Director were confirmed, and two other nominations were withdrawn by the President before confirmation. The position of FBI Director has a fixed 10-year term, and the officeholder cannot be reappointed, unless Congress acts to allow a second...

Daylight Saving Time

Daylight Saving Time (DST) is a period of the year between spring and fall when clocks in most parts of the United States are set one hour ahead of standard time. The time period for DST begins on the second Sunday in March and ends on the first Sunday in November. The beginning and ending dates are set in statute. Congressional interest in the potential benefits and costs of DST has resulted in changes to DST observance since it was first adopted in the United States.

The United States established standard time zones and DST through the Calder Act, also known as the Standard Time Act of...

Vehicle Fuel Economy and Greenhouse Gas Standards: Frequently Asked Questions

The Trump Administration announced on April 2, 2018, its intent to revise through rulemaking the federal standards that regulate fuel economy and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from new passenger cars and light trucks. These standards include the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards promulgated by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Light-Duty Vehicle GHG emissions standards promulgated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). They are known collectively—along with California’s Advanced Clean Car...

Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs

In the midst of national concern over the opioid epidemic, federal and state officials are paying greater attention to the manner in which opioids are prescribed. Nearly all prescription drugs involved in overdoses are originally prescribed by a physician (rather than, for example, being stolen from pharmacies). Thus, attention has been directed toward better understanding how opioids are being prescribed and preventing the diversion of prescription drugs after the prescriptions are dispensed.

Prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) maintain statewide electronic databases of...

The International Monetary Fund

The International Monetary Fund (IMF), conceived at the Bretton Woods conference in July 1944, is the multilateral organization focused on the international monetary system. Created in 1946 with 46 members, it has grown to include 189 countries. The IMF has six purposes that are outlined in Article I of the IMF Articles of Agreement: promoting international monetary cooperation; expanding the balanced growth of international trade; facilitating exchange rate stability; eliminating restrictions on the international flow of capital; ensuring confidence by making the general resources of the...

Discharge Petitions and the House Discharge Rule

Recent media reports have discussed an effort by some Representatives to use a discharge petition to schedule a floor vote on a resolution (a “special rule”) providing for House consideration of immigration legislation under a "Queen-of-the-Hill" amendment structure. This Insight discusses the principal features of the House discharge rule and links to additional reading material on the subject.

The House discharge rule, clause 2 of Rule XV, establishes a parliamentary mechanism whereby 218 Members of the House of Representatives—a majority of the chamber—can bring a bill or resolution to...

Venezuela’s 2018 Presidential Elections

On May 20, 2018, Venezuela held presidential elections that were boycotted by the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) coalition of opposition parties and dismissed as illegitimate by the United States, the European Union (EU), and 14 Western Hemisphere nations (the Lima Group). According to the official results, President Nicolás Maduro of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) won reelection for a second six-year term with 67.7% of the vote amidst relatively high abstention (46% of voters participated). Maduro’s main opponent, Henri Falcón, former governor of Lara state, rejected...

Federal Financing for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)

The State Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is a means-tested program that provides health coverage to targeted low-income children and pregnant women in families that have annual income above Medicaid eligibility levels but have no health insurance. CHIP is jointly financed by the federal government and the states, and the states are responsible for administering CHIP.

The federal government’s share of CHIP expenditures (including both services and administration) is determined by the enhanced federal medical assistance percentage (E-FMAP) rate. The E-FMAP varies by state;...

Science and Technology Issues in the 115th Congress

Science and technology (S&T) have a pervasive influence over a wide range of issues confronting the nation. Public and private research and development spur scientific and technological advancement. Such advances can drive economic growth, help address national priorities, and improve health and quality of life. The constantly changing nature and ubiquity of science and technology frequently create public policy issues of congressional interest.

The federal government supports scientific and technological advancement directly by funding and performing research and development and...

Department of Homeland Security Appropriations: FY2018

This report provides an overview and analysis of FY2018 appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The primary focus of this report is on congressional direction and funding provided to DHS through the appropriations process. It includes an Appendix with definitions of key budget terms used throughout the suite of Congressional Research Service reports on homeland security appropriations. It also directs the reader to other reports providing context for specific component appropriations.

As part of an overall budget that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB)...

Wastewater Infrastructure: Overview, Funding, and Legislative Developments

The collection and treatment of wastewater remains among the most important public health interventions in human history and has contributed to a significant decrease in waterborne diseases during the past century. Nevertheless, waste discharges from municipal sewage treatment plants into rivers and streams, lakes, and estuaries and coastal waters remain a significant source of water quality problems throughout the country.

The Clean Water Act (CWA) establishes performance levels to be attained by municipal sewage treatment plants in order to prevent the discharge of harmful wastes into...

Malaysia’s First Democratic Change of Government

In a nationwide parliamentary election on May 9, Malaysia underwent its first democratic change of government since it gained independence in 1959. Voters elected a coalition, Pakatan Harapan (PH), led by former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. The coalition defeated the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition led by the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), a Malay-nationalist party that has dominated Malaysia’s politics since independence. Prime Minister Najib Razak, who had served since 2007, conceded the elections on May 10.

The election was a peaceful and democratic change of...

Credit Growth in the Current Expansion

Credit (debt) plays a crucial role in economic performance by funneling the funds of savers to borrowers. Up to a point, credit growth is necessary for healthy economic growth. But if credit grows too quickly, it can exacerbate economic instability by amplifying a financial boom and bust cycle. For example, the credit boom associated with the last decade’s housing bubble was followed by the 2007-2009 financial crisis, which featured a sharp contraction in credit that was both a cause and symptom of the Great Recession and the sluggish economic recovery that followed. As the economy has...

The Federal Budget: Overview and Issues for FY2019 and Beyond

The federal budget is a central component of the congressional “power of the purse.” Each fiscal year, Congress and the President engage in a number of activities that influence short- and long-run revenue and expenditure trends. This report offers context for the current budget debate and tracks legislative events related to the federal budget.

After a decline in budget deficits over the past several years, the deficit is projected to increase significantly in FY2019. Enactment of the 2017 tax revision (P.L. 115-97) and the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (BBA 2018; P.L. 115-123) are...

Commemorations in Congress: Options for Honoring Individuals, Groups, and Events

Since its inception, Congress has used commemorative legislation to express public gratitude for distinguished contributions; dramatize the virtues of individuals, groups, and causes; and perpetuate the remembrance of significant events. During the past two centuries, commemoratives have become an integral part of the American political tradition. They have been used to authorize the minting of commemorative coins and Congressional Gold Medals; fund monuments and memorials; create federal holidays; establish commissions to celebrate important anniversaries; and name public works,...

U.S. Department of State Personnel: Background and Selected Issues for Congress

Current Context and Recent Developments

Shortly after his confirmation as Secretary of State in April 2018, Secretary Mike Pompeo lifted the hiring freeze that former Secretary Rex Tillerson left in place for over a year. Guidance issued after Secretary Pompeo’s action indicates that the department intends to increase Foreign and Civil Service personnel levels in a manner consistent with the language and funding Congress included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018 (P.L. 115-141). The Trump Administration has taken additional actions affecting Department of State personnel,...

Indian Health Service (IHS) FY2019 Budget Request and Funding History: A Fact Sheet

The Indian Health Service (IHS) within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is the lead federal agency charged with improving the health of American Indians and Alaska Natives. IHS provides health care for approximately 2.2 million eligible American Indians/Alaska Natives through a system of programs and facilities located on or near Indian reservations, and through contractors in certain urban areas. IHS provides services to members of 573 federally recognized tribes. It provides services either directly or through facilities and programs operated by Indian tribes or tribal...

Internet Freedom in China: U.S. Government Activity, Private Sector Initiatives, and Issues of Congressional Interest

By the end of 2017, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) had the world’s largest number of internet users, estimated at over 750 million people. At the same time, the country has one of the most sophisticated and aggressive internet censorship and control regimes in the world. PRC officials have argued that internet controls are necessary for social stability, and intended to protect and strengthen Chinese culture. However, in its 2017 Annual Report, Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontières, RSF) called China the “world’s biggest prison for journalists” and warned that the...

Regulating School Bus Safety

An estimated 25% of students ride school buses to school and school-related events annually. Nationwide, an average of six school bus passengers die each year in traffic crashes. School buses have the lowest death rate of any mode of transporting children to school in the United States. Yet incidents such as the fatal May 17 crash of a school bus and a dump truck in New Jersey may revive a debate about whether federal regulations could make school buses even safer. The National Transportation Safety Board is meeting on May 22 to consider a Special Investigation Report based on...

Violence Against Journalists in Mexico: In Brief

Over the past decade, at least 74 journalists have been killed in Mexico and many more have been threatened or attacked. Although violence against journalists is occurring within the context of a broader security crisis, the United Nations (U.N.) and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) Rapporteurs for Freedom of Expression have asserted that such crimes “attack the roots of democratic life in Mexico.” Perhaps partially as a result of international pressure, the Mexican government recently has reported some progress in resolving emblematic cases of journalists who were...

Issues in Autonomous Vehicle Deployment

Legislation recently passed by the House of Representatives—H.R. 3388—and pending in the Senate—S. 1885—would provide new regulatory tools to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to oversee autonomous vehicles. Autonomous vehicles are seen as a way to reduce motor vehicle crashes; for example, there were 37,461 deaths from motor vehicle crashes in 2016 and nearly all of them were caused by driver error. However, despite unanimous approval in House and Senate committees and on the House floor, the legislation has proven controversial in the wake of several high-profile...

U.S. and Global Trade Agreements: Issues for Congress

Congress plays a prominent role in shaping, debating, and approving legislation to implement trade agreements, and over the past three decades, bilateral and regional trade agreements (RTAs, or free trade agreements (FTAs) in the U.S. context) have become a primary source of new international trade liberalization commitments. The United States has historically pursued FTAs to open markets for U.S. goods, services, and agriculture, and establish trade rules and disciplines to enhance overall domestic and global economic growth. They are actively debated and can be contentious due to...

Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act (S. 2155) and House Legislation: Common Issue Areas

The Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act (S. 2155) passed the Senate on March 14, 2018. The bill generally aims to provide regulatory relief to banks, relax mortgage lending and capital formation rules, and provide additional consumer financial protections. The bill addresses a number of policy issues that are also addressed by the Financial CHOICE Act (H.R. 10), which was passed by the House on June 8, 2017, and other House bills that have been passed by the House or otherwise seen legislative action in the 115th Congress. The table below matches the policy...

Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017 (P.L. 115-48)

Since the enactment of the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008 (Post-9/11 GI Bill; P.L. 110-252), Congress has enacted several bills aimed to improve it. Congress’s most recent effort to refine the Post-9/11 GI Bill and respond to stakeholder feedback is the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017 (Colmery Act; P.L. 115-48), enacted on August 16, 2017. The Colmery Act enacted over 30 amendments to the Post-9/11 GI Bill and other programs administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Most provisions become effective on enactment or on August...

Military Construction: Process, Outcomes, and Frequently Asked Questions

Congress appropriates several billion dollars annually to support and sustain a broad footprint of military bases, reflecting both a federal investment in local communities and a local investment in national defense. Specific military construction project authorizationsprovided through the annual National Defense Authorization Actenable the Secretary of Defense and the Secretaries of the Army, Air Force, and Navy to plan, program, design, and build the runways, piers, warehouses, barracks, schools, hospitals, child development centers, and other facilities needed to support U.S. military...

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI): Eligibility, Benefits, and Financing

The Social Security Administration (SSA) is responsible for administering two federal entitlement programs established under the Social Security Act that provide income support to individuals with severe, long-term disabilities: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSDI is a work-related social insurance program authorized under Title II of the act that provides monthly cash benefits to nonelderly disabled workers and their eligible dependents, provided the workers accrued a sufficient number of earnings credits during their careers in jobs...

The Affordable Care Act (ACA): Notifying an Employer of a Potential Shared Responsibility Payment (ESRP)

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA; P.L. 111-148, as amended) requires that large employers either provide health coverage to full-time employees or face a potential assessment of an Employer Shared Responsibility Payment (ESRP). As explained in CRS Report R43981, The Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) Employer Shared Responsibility Determination and the Potential Employer Penalty, this “employer penalty” may be assessed by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) if at least one of employer’s full-time employees obtains a premium tax credit or cost-sharing reduction through a health...

Job Creation in the Manufacturing Revival

The health of the U.S. manufacturing sector is of ongoing interest to Congress. Numerous bills aimed at promoting manufacturing are introduced in each Congress, often with the stated goal of creating jobs. Implicit in many of these bills is the assumption that the manufacturing sector is uniquely able to provide well-paid employment for workers who have not pursued education beyond high school.

Lines between manufacturing and other economic sectors are increasingly blurred. Many workers in fields such as industrial design and information technology perform work closely related to...

The Child Tax Credit: Current Law

This report provides an overview of the child tax credit under current law, including temporary changes made by the 2017 tax revision (P.L. 115-97).

When calculating the total amount of federal income taxes owed, eligible taxpayers can reduce their federal income tax liability by the amount of the child tax credit. Currently, eligible families that claim the child tax credit can subtract up to $2,000 per qualifying child from their federal income tax liability. The maximum amount of credit a family can receive is equal to the number of qualifying children in a family multiplied by $2,000....

Covert Action and Clandestine Activities of the Intelligence Community: Framework for Congressional Oversight In Brief

Since 9/11, a number of factors have complicated Congress’s efforts to improve oversight of covert and clandestine activities of the intelligence community. Greater integration of military operations and intelligence activities has resulted in a blurring of authorities associated with Title 10 and Title 50 of the United States Code. In addition, Congress has expressed concern that DOD’s overuse of terms that are not defined in statute, such as traditional military activities and operational preparation of the environment (OPE), has allowed DOD to circumvent the more stringent oversight...

Liberia: Political Transition and U.S. Relations

Liberia, a small coastal West African country on the Gulf of Guinea, has made substantial development gains since the end of the second of two civil wars (1989-1997 and 1999-2003). In late 2017, Liberia held its third post-war general election. George Weah, a former soccer star, won the presidential election in a runoff and was inaugurated on January 22, 2018. Weah succeeded two-term president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who was constitutionally prohibited from seeking a third term, in Liberia’s first electoral transfer of state executive power since 1944.

Weah’s policy agenda focuses on four...

CRS Products on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is a free trade agreement among the United States, Canada, and Mexico that entered into force on January 1, 1994. NAFTA includes 8 parts consisting of 22 chapters and 2 side agreements. The main text of the agreement contains provisions on tariff and nontariff barrier elimination, customs procedures, energy, agriculture, technical barriers to trade, government procurement, foreign investments, services trade, temporary entry for business persons, intellectual property rights protection (IPR), and dispute resolution procedures. Two side...

Financial Regulation: The Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act (S. 2155)

The Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act (S. 2155) was passed by the Senate on March 14, 2018. The bill generally aims to provide regulatory relief to banks, relax mortgage lending rules, relax capital formation regulations, and provide additional consumer protections related to credit reporting and other areas. This Insight briefly highlights major policy proposals. For a more detailed examination, see CRS Report R45073, Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act (S. 2155) and Selected Policy Issues, coordinated by David W. Perkins.

Some...

FDA to Consider Whether and How to Lower Permissible Nicotine Levels in Cigarettes

On March 15, 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) entitled Tobacco Product Standard for Nicotine Level of Combusted Cigarettes. FDA states that it is considering setting a maximum nicotine level for traditional (a.k.a. “combusted”) cigarettes in order to make them minimally addictive or nonaddictive. This notice begins what could be a complex, contentious, and multi-year process during which FDA will solicit public comments (the public comment period for the initial ANPRM will expire on June 14, 2018) and marry that...

Traditional and Roth Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs): A Primer

In response to concerns over the adequacy of retirement savings, Congress has created incentives to encourage individuals to save more for retirement through a variety of retirement plans. Some retirement plans are employer-sponsored, such as 401(k) plans, and others are established by individual employees, such as Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs).

This report describes the primary features of two common retirement savings accounts that are available to individuals. Although the accounts have many features in common, they differ in some important aspects. Both traditional and Roth...

Permanent Legal Immigration to the United States: Policy Overview

Four major principles currently underlie U.S. policy on legal permanent immigration: the reunification of families, the admission of immigrants with needed skills, the protection of refugees and asylees, and the diversity of immigrants by country of origin. These principles are embodied in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and are reflected in different components of permanent immigration. Family reunification occurs primarily through family-sponsored immigration. U.S. labor market contribution occurs through employment-based immigration. Humanitarian assistance occurs primarily...

False Statements and Perjury: An Overview of Federal Criminal Law

Federal courts, Congress, and federal agencies rely upon truthful information in order to make informed decisions. Federal law therefore proscribes providing the federal courts, Congress, or federal agencies with false information. The prohibition takes four forms: false statements; perjury in judicial proceedings; perjury in other contexts; and subornation of perjury.

Section 1001 of Title 18 of the United States Code, the general false statement statute, outlaws material false statements in matters within the jurisdiction of a federal agency or department. It reaches false statements in...

Energy and Water Development: FY2018 Appropriations

The Energy and Water Development appropriations bill provides funding for civil works projects of the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps); the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) and Central Utah Project (CUP); the Department of Energy (DOE); the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC); and several other independent agencies. DOE typically accounts for about 80% of the bill’s total funding.

President Trump submitted his FY2018 budget proposal to Congress on May 23, 2017. The budget requests for agencies included in the Energy and Water Development appropriations bill...

Lebanon’s 2018 Elections

On May 6, 2018, Lebanon held its first legislative elections in nine years. The results showed that parties allied with Hezbollah increased their share of seats from roughly 44% to 53%. However, as in past Lebanese governments, rival parliamentary blocs will likely need to reach consensus in order to secure the passage of major policy initiatives.

The 128 seats in Lebanon’s parliament, known formally as the Chamber of Deputies, are divided evenly between Christians and Muslims. This reflects Lebanon’s broader political system in which power is divided among the country’s various religious...

False Statements and Perjury: A Sketch of Federal Criminal Law

Federal courts, Congress, and federal agencies rely upon truthful information in order to make informed decisions. Federal law therefore proscribes providing the federal courts, Congress, or federal agencies with false information. The prohibition takes four forms: false statements; perjury in judicial proceedings; perjury in other contexts; and subornation of perjury.

Section 1001 of Title 18 of the United States Code, the general false statement statute, outlaws material false statements in matters within the jurisdiction of a federal agency or department. It reaches false statements in...

Iran: U.S. Economic Sanctions and the Authority to Lift Restrictions

On May 8, 2018, President Donald Trump signed National Security Presidential Memorandum 11, “ceasing U.S. participation in the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] and taking additional action to counter Iran’s malign influence and deny Iran all paths to a nuclear weapon.” The action sets in motion a reestablishment of U.S. unilateral economic sanctions that will affect U.S. businesses and include secondary sanctions that target the commerce originating in other countries that engage in trade with and investment in Iran.

Prior to this juncture, the United States had led the...

Federal Crop Insurance: Program Overview for the 115th Congress

Since its inception in 1938, the federal crop insurance program has evolved from an ancillary program with low participation to a central pillar of federal support for agriculture. From 2007 to 2016, the federal crop insurance title had the second-largest outlays in the farm bill after nutrition. The total net cost of the program for crop years 2007-2016 was about $72 billion, of which $43 billion (60%) was of direct benefit to producers, $28 billion (39%) went to private insurers, and $754 million (1%) went to the Risk Management Agency (RMA) within the U.S. Department of Agriculture...

Defining Broadband: Minimum Threshold Speeds and Broadband Policy

Broadband—whether delivered via fiber, cable modem, copper wire, satellite, or mobile wireless—is increasingly the technology underlying telecommunications services such as voice, video, and data. Since the initial deployment of high-speed internet in the late 1990s, broadband technologies have been deployed throughout the United States primarily by the private sector. These providers include telephone, cable, wireless, and satellite companies as well as other entities that provide commercial telecommunications services to residential, business, and institutional customers.

How broadband...

Proposed CHIP Rescissions in the Trump Administration’s Rescission Request

On Tuesday, May 8, 2018, the Trump Administration submitted to Congress a proposal for 38 rescissions of budget authority, totaling $15.4 billion. In their transmission, the Office of Management and Budget stated that these rescissions were transmitted pursuant to Section 1012 of the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974 (2 U.S.C. 683). The proposal includes $7.0 billion in rescissions from the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which is a means-tested program that provides health coverage to targeted low-income children and pregnant women in families that...

The Enactment of Appropriations Measures During Lame Duck Sessions

Eleven of the past 12 Congresses, covering the 103rd Congress through the 114th Congress, have concluded with a lame duck session. (No such session occurred in 1996, during the 104th Congress.) Under contemporary conditions, any meeting of Congress that occurs between a congressional election in November and the following January 3 is a lame duck session. The significant characteristic of a lame duck session is that its participants are the sitting Members of the existing Congress, not those who will be entitled to sit in the new Congress.

The enactment of appropriations measures has been...

Votes on Measures to Adjust the Statutory Debt Limit, 1978 to Present

Almost all borrowing by the federal government is conducted by the Treasury Department, within the restrictions established by a single, statutory limit (ceiling) on the total amount of debt that may be outstanding at any time. By law, the Treasury cannot exceed federal debt limits, so the Treasury periodically has had to ask Congress to enact new debt limits so it can fulfill its financial commitments. Since 1978, 58 measures adjusting or suspending the statutory debt limit either as stand-alone legislation or as part of legislation dealing with other matters have been enacted into...

Civic Upheaval in Armenia

After two weeks of political upheaval, Armenia has a new prime minister, Nikol Pashinian, a former opposition leader, parliamentary deputy, and journalist. Many observers believe this development has the potential to transform politics in Armenia, a small, landlocked Russian ally in the South Caucasus that also has enjoyed a history of U.S. and European support.

A Changing Political Landscape

On April 23, 2018, Serzh Sargsyan, Armenia’s president from 2008 to early April 2018, unexpectedly resigned from his new post as prime minister amid growing protests. The next week, the ruling...

Oil and Gas Activities Within the National Wildlife Refuge System

Oil- and gas-related wells are documented in 110 (approximately 18%) of the 605 units of the National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS). The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), in the Department of the Interior (DOI), administers the NWRS, which includes primarily national wildlife refuges, along with wetland management districts and waterfowl production areas. The wells in the NWRS most commonly involve nonfederal oil and gas resources but sometimes encompass federal resources. Oil and gas development in the NWRS has the potential to adversely impact wildlife and/or the environment, and...

U.S. Decision to Cease Implementing the Iran Nuclear Agreement

On May 8, 2018, President Donald Trump announced that his Administration would cease implementing U.S. commitments under the 2015 multilateral Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran and reimpose all U.S. sanctions that were in place prior to the JCPOA. His announcement made reference to his previous statements on the issue, including an October 13, 2017, announcement of U.S. strategy on Iran and a January 12, 2018, statement pledging to leave the agreement unless Congress and U.S. allies acted to address the full range of U.S. concerns on Iran. In his May 8 and earlier...

Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy: CRS Experts

S

cience, technology, and innovation (STI) play important roles in the nation’s economic and military strength, public health and safety, and the quality of our lives. Individuals, companies, governments, universities, and other organizations fund, conduct, disseminate, and acquire science and technology for a myriad of purposes. Among the purposes: providing for the national defense and homeland security; improving manufacturing processes and enabling the manufacture of new products; developing new materials; advancing computing and communications tools; preventing and treating disease,...

U.S. Foreign Assistance to Latin America and the Caribbean: FY2018 Appropriations

The United States provides foreign assistance to the nations of Latin America and the Caribbean to support development and other U.S. objectives. U.S. policymakers have emphasized different strategic interests in the region at different times, from combating Soviet influence during the Cold War to promoting democracy and open markets since the 1990s. Over the past year, the Trump Administration has sought to reduce foreign aid significantly and refocus U.S. assistance efforts in the region to address U.S. domestic concerns, such as irregular migration and transnational crime.

FY2018...

FY2018 Appropriations for Department of Justice Grant Programs

Each year, Congress and the Administration provide funding for a variety of grant programs through the Department of Justice (DOJ). These programs are used to fund state, local, and tribal governments and nonprofit organizations for a variety of criminal justice-related purposes, such as efforts to combat violence against women, reduce backlogs of DNA evidence, support community policing, assist crime victims, promote prisoner reentry, and improve the functioning of the juvenile justice system. These programs are funded through five accounts in the annual Commerce, Justice, Science, and...

How FDA Approves Drugs and Regulates Their Safety and Effectiveness

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a regulatory agency within the Department of Health and Human Services, regulates the safety and effectiveness of drugs sold in the United States. FDA divides that responsibility into two phases. In the preapproval (premarket) phase, FDA reviews manufacturers’ applications to market drugs in the United States; a drug may not be sold unless it has FDA approval. Once a drug is on the market, FDA continues its oversight of drug safety and effectiveness. That postapproval (postmarket) phase lasts as long as the drug is on the market. Beginning with the...

Is the U.S. Economy Growing Faster? Can It Grow Faster?

The current economic expansion has been characterized by slower economic growth than the preceding 10 expansions. At 2.2%, average annual growth in this expansion has been slower than in the preceding 10 expansions (see Figure 1). President Trump has pledged to increase growth to 3%, an increase of 0.8 percentage points. This Insight examines recent economic growth and factors that could foster or hinder a higher rate in the future.

Recent Economic Growth

Economic growth is the predominant measure of the change in material living standards. It is the increase in the production of goods and...

Covert Action and Clandestine Activities of the Intelligence Community: Selected Notification Requirements in Brief

Covert action and clandestine activities of the intelligence community and activities of the military may appear similar, but they involve different notification requirements and usually are conducted under different authorities of the U. S. Code.

The requirements for notifying Congress of activities of the intelligence community originated from instances in the 1970s when media disclosure of past intelligence abuses underscored reasons for Congress taking a more active role in oversight. Over time, these requirements were written into statute or became custom.

Section 3091 of Title 50,...

Trump-Abe Meeting and Prospects for U.S.-Japan Trade Talks

Overview

Since coming into office, the Trump Administration has expressed concerns about the U.S. trade deficit with Japan and an interest in talks on a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA), a move Japan has resisted. On April 17-18, 2018, President Trump and Prime Minister Abe held a summit to discuss U.S.-Japan relations and regional security issues. Trade was a highly anticipated subject of the meeting.

Several recent trade developments posed an important backdrop to the meeting. In early March, Japan with 10 other countries, not including the United States, signed the Comprehensive...

Cuba Sanctions: Legislative Restrictions Limiting the Normalization of Relations

U.S. economic sanctions on Cuba date back to the early 1960s when the Cuban government under Fidel Castro began to build a repressive communist dictatorship and aligned with the Soviet Union. The trade embargo was first imposed in 1962 under the authority of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 and the Trading with the Enemy Act and soon broadened to include a prohibition on most financial transactions with Cuba. In 1963, the Department of the Treasury issued the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR); they remain the main body of embargo regulations today, and have been amended many times...

Withdrawal from International Agreements: Legal Framework, the Paris Agreement, and the Iran Nuclear Agreement

The legal procedure through which the United States withdraws from treaties and other international agreements has been the subject of long-standing debate between the legislative and executive branches. Recently, questions concerning the role of Congress in the withdrawal process have arisen in response to President Donald J. Trump’s actions related to certain high-profile international commitments. This report outlines the legal framework for withdrawal from international agreements under domestic and international law, and it applies that framework to two pacts that may be of...

College and University Endowments: Overview and Tax Policy Options

Colleges and universities maintain endowments to directly support their activities as institutions of higher education. Endowments are typically investment funds, but may also consist of cash or property. Current tax law benefits endowments and the accumulation of endowment assets. Generally, endowment fund earnings are exempt from federal income tax. The 2017 tax revision (P.L. 115-97), however, imposes a new 1.4% excise tax on the net investment earnings of certain college and university endowments. Taxpayers making contributions to college and university endowment funds may be able to...

Christian Holidays: Fact Sheet

Christianity is one of the three major Abrahamic faiths, alongside Islam and Judaism. According to the Pew Research Center, approximately 70% of Americans self-identify as Christian. There are a large number of Christian traditions, with great variation in which holidays are celebrated and how.

This fact sheet highlights two holidays—Easter and Christmas—observed by a significant portion of Christian American denominations and addresses the ways these holidays are currently recognized in the United States.

This fact sheet is designed to assist congressional offices with work related to...

Congressional Debate on FAA Reauthorization Charts New Legislative Path

On April 27, 2018, the House passed the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 (H.R. 4), a six-year reauthorization measure that does not include a controversial proposal laid out in an earlier bill, H.R. 2997, to privatize air traffic control. The measure now proceeds to the Senate, where the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee ordered to be reported a four-year Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization (S. 1405) that does not address air traffic control privatization. Despite similarities, there are also differences in the two bills, including the length of...

Section 232 Steel and Aluminum Tariffs: Potential Economic Implications

On March 23, the United States began applying 25% and 10% tariffs, respectively, on certain steel and aluminum imports. The Administration has stated it is open to discussing terms for permanent exemptions from the tariffs for U.S. trading partners, based on addressing the perceived threat to national security. Pending such negotiations, U.S. imports of steel and aluminum from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, South Korea, and the European Union were initially exempt from the tariffs until May 1. On April 30, the President extended for 30 days the temporary exemption from the...

Older Americans Month Speech Resources: Fact Sheet

May is Older Americans Month—a time to celebrate and pay tribute to older people across the country. Every year since 1992, the Administration on Aging has selected a theme for Older Americans Month. The theme for May 2018 is Engage at Every Age. The Administration for Community Living website contains a list of past themes.

This guide is designed to assist congressional offices with work-related Older Americans Month celebrations. It contains a brief history with resources for additional historical, legislative and budget information, CRS reports, examples of speeches and recognitions...

High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) Program

Drug trafficking is a significant public health and safety threat facing the United States. The federal government has taken a variety of actions aimed at countering this threat. These have ranged from giving law enforcement more tools for combatting traffickers to establishing programs and initiatives to reduce the supply of and demand for illegal drugs. Within the larger framework of the federal government’s efforts to counter drug trafficking is the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program. The program supports multiagency activities ranging from enforcement initiatives...

Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (CJS) FY2018 Appropriations: Trade-Related Agencies

This report tracks and provides an overview of actions taken by the Administration and Congress to provide FY2018 appropriations for the International Trade Administration (ITA), the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC), and the office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR). These three trade-related agencies are funded through the annual Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) appropriations act. This report also provides an overview of three trade-related programs administered by ITA, USITC, and USTR.

The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017 (P.L....

U.S. Circuit and District Court Nominations During President Trump’s First Year in Office: Comparative Analysis with Recent Presidents

This report, in light of continued Senate interest in the judicial confirmation process during a President’s first year in office, provides statistics related to the nomination and confirmation of U.S. circuit and district court nominees during the first year of the Trump presidency (as well as during the first year of each of his three immediate predecessors—Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton).

Some of the report’s findings regarding circuit court nominations include the following:

The number of U.S. circuit court vacancies decreased by 1, from 17 to 16, during the...

From Slip Law to United States Code: A Guide to Federal Statutes for Congressional Staff

This report provides an overview of federal statutes in their various forms, as well as basic guidance for congressional staff interested in researching statutes. When a bill becomes a law, the newly enacted statute may amend or repeal earlier statutes or it may create a new or “freestanding” law. Either way, these new statutes are first printed individually as “slip laws” and numbered by order of passage as either public laws, or less frequently, private laws. Slip laws are later aggregated and published chronologically in volumes known as the United States Statutes at Large (Statutes at...

Cuba After the Castros

As expected, Cuban President Raúl Castro stepped down from power on April 19, 2018, and the communist government’s 605-member National Assembly of People’s Power selected First Vice President Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez as president of the Council of State. Pursuant to Cuba’s Constitution (Article 74), the president of the Council of State is also Cuba’s head of state and government. Castro, currently 86 years old, just finished his second five-year term as president. He will remain in his position as first secretary of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC), which could give him continued...

Libya: Transition and U.S. Policy

Libya’s political transition has been disrupted by armed non-state groups and threatened by the indecision and infighting of interim leaders. After an armed uprising ended the 40-plus-year rule of Muammar al Qadhafi in 2011, interim authorities proved unable to form a stable government, address pressing security issues, reshape the country’s public finances, or create a viable framework for post-conflict justice and reconciliation. Qadhafi left state institutions weak and deprived Libyans of experience in self-government, compounding stabilization challenges.

Elections for legislative...

Farm Bill Programs Without a Budget Baseline Beyond FY2018

The 2014 farm bill (the Agricultural Act of 2014, P.L. 113-79) provided mandatory funding for many programs. Some of these programs have a budget baseline beyond the end of the farm bill in FY2018, while others do not. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) baseline is a projection at a particular point in time of what future federal spending on mandatory programs would be under current law. This baseline is the benchmark against which proposed changes in law are measured. This report identifies mandatory programs in the 2014 farm bill that lack a budget baseline and explains the...

FY2018 Appropriations for the Department of Justice

The Department of Justice (DOJ) was established in 1870 with the Attorney General as its leader. Since its creation, DOJ has added additional agencies, offices, boards, and divisions to its organizational structure. DOJ, along with the judicial branch, operates the federal criminal justice system. The department enforces federal criminal and civil laws, including antitrust, civil rights, environmental, and tax laws. Through agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives...

Electric Reliability and Power System Resilience

Electricity is vital to the commerce and daily functioning of the United States. Nowhere has this been demonstrated more significantly than in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands where the effects of the widespread loss of electricity after Hurricane Maria are still being felt. Subsequently, there has been much discussion about electric system reliability, and how electric systems can improve resiliency. And while the effects were not as catastrophic, the impacts of the Bomb Cyclone in January 2018 caused some to question whether the increasing retirements of coal and nuclear power...

Issues in International Corporate Taxation: The 2017 Revision (P.L. 115-97)

One of the major motivations for the 2017 tax revision (P.L. 115-97) was concern about the international tax system. Issues associated with these rules involved the allocation of investment between the United States and other countries, the loss of revenue due to the artificial shifting of profit out of the United States by multinational firms (both U.S. and foreign), the penalties for repatriating income earned by foreign subsidiaries that led to the accumulation of deferred earnings abroad, and inversions (U.S. firms shifting their headquarters to other countries for tax reasons). In...

Overview of FY2018 Appropriations for Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS)

This report describes actions taken by the Administration and Congress to provide FY2018 appropriations for the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) accounts. It also provides an overview of FY2017 appropriations for agencies and bureaus funded as part of annual CJS appropriations.

Division B of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017 (P.L. 115-31) provided a total of $66.360 billion (which includes $109 million in emergency-designated funding) for CJS. Under the act, the Department of Commerce received $9.237 billion, the Department of Justice received $28.962 billion,...

The Section 179 and Section 168(k) Expensing Allowances: Current Law and Economic Effects

Expensing is the most accelerated form of depreciation. Section 179 of the Internal Revenue Code allows a taxpayer to expense (or deduct as a current rather than a capital expense) up to $1 million of the total cost of new and used qualified depreciable assets it buys and places in service in 2018, within certain limits. Firms unable to claim this allowance may recover the cost of qualified assets over longer periods, using the depreciation schedules from Sections 167 or 168. While the Section 179 expensing allowance is not expressly targeted at smaller firms, the limits on its use...

Fatherhood Initiatives: Connecting Fathers to Their Children

Long-standing research indicates that children raised in one-parent homes are more likely than children raised in homes with both biological parents to do poorly in school, have emotional and behavioral problems, become teenage parents, and have poverty-level incomes as adults. In an effort to improve the long-term outlook for children in one-parent homes, federal, state, and local governments, along with public and private organizations, have supported programs and activities that promote the financial and personal responsibility of noncustodial parents to their children and reduce the...