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Campus-Based Student Financial Aid Programs Under the Higher Education Act

Three Higher Education Act (HEA) student financial aid programs—the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) program, the Federal Work-Study (FWS) program, and the Federal Perkins Loan program—collectively are referred to as the campus-based programs. The campus-based programs were reauthorized under the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA; P.L. 110-315), which amended and extended authorization for programs funded under the HEA. The campus-based programs’ authorizations of appropriations, along with many other provisions under the HEA, were set to expire at the end of...

Joint Select Committee on Solvency of Multiemployer Pension Plans: Structure, Procedures, and CRS Experts

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (P.L. 115-123), signed into law on February 9, 2018, creates a new joint select committee of the House and Senate. The Joint Select Committee on Solvency of Multiemployer Pension Plans, made up of 16 members of the House and Senate—four chosen by each of the chambers’ party leaders—is intended to formulate recommendations and legislative language that will “significantly improve the solvency of multiemployer pension plans and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.” The law directs the joint select committee to, no later than November 30, 2018, vote on a...

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...

The Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education (THCGME) Program: Increased Funding and Policy Changes in BBA2018

Teaching health centers (THCs) are outpatient facilities that receive federal funds directly to train medical and dental residents. These facilities are operated by federal health centers, rural health clinics, and tribal health programs, among others. THCs typically provide care to low-income and otherwise underserved populations and are generally located in federally designated health professional shortage areas (HPSAs). The federal government created the teaching health center graduate medical education program (THCGME) in 2010 to pay THCs for the expenses they incur when training...

Medicare and Budget Sequestration

Sequestration is the automatic reduction (i.e., cancellation) of certain federal spending, generally by a uniform percentage. The sequester is a budget enforcement tool that was established by Congress in the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985 (BBEDCA; also known as the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act; P.L. 99-177) and was intended to encourage compromise and action, rather than actually being implemented (also known as “triggered”). Generally, this budget enforcement tool has been incorporated into laws to either discourage Congress from violating specific budget...

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

The Syria conflict, now in its seventh year, remains a significant policy challenge for the United States. U.S. policy toward Syria in the past several years has given highest priority to counterterrorism operations against the Islamic State (IS, also known as ISIL/ISIS), but also included assistance to opposition-held communities, support for diplomatic efforts to reach a political settlement to the civil war, and the provision of humanitarian assistance in Syria and surrounding countries. The counter-IS campaign works primarily “by, with, and through” local partners, per a broader U.S....

Jordan: Background and U.S. Relations

This report provides an overview of Jordanian politics and current issues in U.S.-Jordanian relations. It provides a brief discussion of Jordan’s government and economy and of its cooperation with U.S. policies in the Middle East.

Several issues are likely to figure in decisions by Congress and the Administration on future aid to and cooperation with Jordan. These include Jordan’s continued involvement in attempting to promote Israeli-Palestinian peace and the stability of the Jordanian regime, particularly in light of ongoing conflicts in neighboring Syria and Iraq. U.S. officials may...

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...

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,...

Tax-Exempt Bonds: A Description of State and Local Government Debt

This report provides information about state and local government debt. State and local governments issue debt instruments in exchange for the use of individuals’ and businesses’ savings. This debt obligates state and local governments to make interest payments for the use of these savings and to repay, at some time in the future, the amount borrowed. State and local governments may finance capital facilities with debt rather than out of current tax revenue to more closely align benefits and tax payments. There was just over $3 trillion in state and local debt outstanding in the third...

Discretionary Spending Levels Under the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018

On February 9, 2018, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (BBA 2018) was signed into law as P.L. 115-123. Among other things, it raised the discretionary spending caps for fiscal years 2018 and 2019 originally implemented by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA; P.L. 112-25). BBA 2018 reverses $80 billion of the $97 billion of discretionary spending cuts enacted by the BCA as amended for FY2018.

The BCA and Discretionary Spending

The BCA affected discretionary spending in two ways: (1) caps on discretionary budget authority, divided between defense and nondefense programs, which went into...

Commemorative Commissions: Overview, Structure, and Funding

Commemorative commissions are entities established to oversee the commemoration of a person or event. These commissions typically coordinate celebrations, scholarly events, public gatherings, and other activities, often to coincide with a milestone anniversary. For example, the Christopher Columbus Quincentenary Jubilee Commission was created “to prepare a comprehensive program for commemorating the quincentennial of the voyages of discovery of Christopher Columbus, and to plan, encourage, coordinate, and conduct observances and activities commemorating the historic events associated with...

Has the Economy Reached Full Employment? If So, Will It Stay There?

The unemployment rate has fallen from 10% in 2009 to 4.1% today, its lowest since 2000. Several other labor market indicators also point to an economy at or near full employment. If unemployment gets too low, it could plant the seeds for a future recession. An overheating economy can temporarily surge past full employment, but a recession typically follows to restore labor market equilibrium. Fiscal and monetary policy can help avoid—or exacerbate—overheating.

What Is Full Employment?

The economy has achieved full employment when it reaches the lowest sustainable unemployment rate...

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,...

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...

Puerto Rico: CRS Experts

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), which was 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...

Guide to Committee Activity Reports: Purpose, Rules, and Contents

All House committees and most Senate committees are required to prepare reports each Congress detailing their activities.

These committee activity reports provide a historical record of a committee’s legislative and oversight actions. They may serve as an introduction to the work of the individual committees, and, in many cases, they also provide information that is otherwise either not aggregated in one place or not available elsewhere.

The committee activity reports are required by the rules of the House (House Rule XI, clause 1(d)) and Senate (Senate Rule XXVI, clause 8(b)). The...

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

An uprising against Bahrain’s Al Khalifa ruling family that began on February 14, 2011, has diminished in intensity, but incarceration of dissident leaders, opposition boycotts of elections, and periodic small demonstrations continue. The mostly Shiite 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 modest reforms. The mainstream opposition uses peaceful forms of dissent, but small factions, possibly backed by Iran, reportedly are stockpiling increasingly...

Child Support Enforcement Annual User Fee: In Brief

Section 454(6)(B)(ii) of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 654) requires that states impose an annual user fee for Child Support Enforcement (CSE) services provided to families with no connection to the welfare system. (The act also requires that an application fee be collected and provides the authority to recover costs.)

When the annual user fee was first established by the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 (P.L. 109-171), the amount of the fee was $25 and it was to be assessed if the state CSE agency collected at least $500 in child support payments on behalf of the family in a given...

Administration’s Infrastructure Program Emphasizes New Nonfederal Revenue

The Trump Administration’s legislative outline for infrastructure, released on February 12, 2018, proposes a new “Infrastructure Incentives Program” to make grants to state and local governments. This would be the largest single piece of the Administration plan in terms of dedicated federal funding, with an allotment of half of the $200 billion the Administration proposes to spend on infrastructure over 10 years. The grants could be used for transportation, water resources, drinking water, and wastewater, as well as for cleanup of Superfund sites. This Insight focuses on the potential of...

Two-Year Extension of the Community Health Center Fund

The Affordable Care Act (ACA, P.L. 111-148, as amended), enacted in 2010, appropriated billions of dollars of mandatory funds to support two programs that focus on expanding access to primary care services for populations that are typically underserved: the Health Centers program and the National Health Service Corps (NHSC).

The Health Centers and NHSC programs are cornerstones of the federal government’s efforts to expand access to primary care. The Health Centers program helps support more than 1,400 community-based health centers operating more than 10,400 delivery sites across the...

Hunting and Fishing on Federal Lands and Waters: Overview and Issues for Congress

This report provides an overview of issues related to hunting and fishing on federal lands. Each year millions of individuals participate in hunting and fishing activities, bringing in billions of dollars for regional and national economies. Due to their popularity, economic value, constituent appeal, and nexus to federal land management issues, hunting and fishing issues are perennially addressed by Congress. Congress addresses these issues through oversight, legislation, and appropriations, which target issues such as access to federal lands and waters for sportsperson activities, and...

Potential Options for Electric Power Resiliency in the U.S. Virgin Islands

In September 2017, Hurricanes Irma and Maria, both Category 5 storms, caused catastrophic damage to the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI), which include the main islands of Saint Croix, Saint John, and Saint Thomas among other smaller islands and cays. Hurricane Irma hit the USVI on September 6, with the eye passing over St. Thomas and St. John. Fourteen days later, on September 20, the eye of Hurricane Maria swept near St. Croix with maximum winds of 175 mph. The USVI government estimates that total uninsured damage from the hurricanes will exceed $7.5 billion. Although the electric power plants...

Cyprus: Reunification Proving Elusive

Two months into 2018, the negotiations to end the division of Cyprus, after 54 years as a politically separated nation and 44 years as a physically divided country, remain suspended. After a promising 2017 ended without a negotiated solution, the long-sought bizonal, bicommunal, federal outcome for the island remains elusive. The circumstances under which negotiations might resume appear uncertain.

National elections in the Republic of Cyprus in early 2018 resulted in the reelection of President Nicos Anastasiades after a second-round victory over Stavros Malas. Both candidates were...

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, particularly in the context of major floods, and discusses the current financial situation of the NFIP as it pays claims from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.

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...

Ecuador: In Brief

Ecuador is a small, oil-producing country of 16 million inhabitants located on the west coast of South America between Colombia and Peru. In 2017, Ecuador was considered to have the third-largest proven reserves of crude oil in South America, with 8.3 billion barrels. It is the smallest member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Petroleum is Ecuador’s largest export to the United States, the country’s top trade partner. With the reduction in crude oil price since 2014, Ecuador’s earnings have fallen after years of strong growth.

Former President Rafael Correa...

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 would change the Fed’s institutional structure. H.R. 10 as passed and H.R. 4757 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 Fed. H.R. 10 would...

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 March 23, 2018 (P.L. 115-123). 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: it...

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...

Diversity Immigrants’ Regions and Countries of Origin: Fact Sheet

Keywords: diversity visa, visa lottery, diversity lottery, DV immigrants, DV lottery, DV program, immigration, diversity immigrants, country of birth, region of birth, place of birth, origin, immigrant admissions, Immigration and Nationality Act, INA, legal admissions.

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...

Introduction to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)

The 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 March 23, 2018, 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.

FEMA manages a process, called Risk...

The Veterans Health Administration and Medical Education: In Brief

In the wake of World War II, an influx of veterans requiring medical care threatened to overwhelm the capacity of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide such care. In 1946, the VA began entering into affiliations with medical schools as one strategy to increase capacity—both in the short term and in the long term. In the short term, some trainees—in particular, those in the later years of training—may provide direct care to patients, thereby increasing provider capacity and patient access. In the long term, training physicians at the VA creates a pipeline for recruiting...

Emergency Assistance for Agricultural Land Rehabilitation

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) administers several permanently authorized programs to help producers recover from natural disasters. Most of these programs offer financial assistance to producers for a loss in the production of crops or livestock. In addition to the production assistance programs, USDA also has several permanent disaster assistance programs that help producers repair damaged crop and forest land following natural disasters. These programs offer financial and technical assistance to producers to repair, restore, and mitigate damage on private land. These...

Defense Science and Technology Funding

Defense science and technology (Defense S&T) is a term that describes a subset of Department of Defense (DOD) research, development, testing, and evaluation (RDT&E) activities. The Defense S&T budget is the aggregate of funding provided for the three earliest stages of DOD RDT&E: basic research, applied research, and advanced technology development. Defense S&T is of particular interest to Congress due to its perceived value in supporting technological advantage and its importance to key private sector and academic stakeholders.

Advocates of strong and sustained Defense S&T funding assert...

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...

Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs: FY2018 Budget and Appropriations

The 115th Congress is considering FY2018 funding levels for the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs (SFOPS). President Donald J. Trump submitted his FY2018 budget request to Congress on May 23, 2017. The request seeks $40.25 billion (-30% compared with FY2017 enacted) for SFOPS, including Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funds. Of this total, $13.20 billion (-27% compared with FY2017 enacted) would be for the Department of State Operations and related programs. For Foreign Operations, the FY2018 request includes $27.05 billion (-31% compared with FY2017...

Individual Income Tax Rates and Other Key Elements of the Federal Individual Income Tax: 1988 to 2017

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 reflect the net effect of special tax provisions on statutory rates. They differ from average effective rates, which measure someone’s overall tax burden.

Current statutory and effective individual tax rates are the result of the Tax Reform...

Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC): Structure and Activities

The Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) and its Office of Financial Research (OFR) were established by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (P.L. 111-203) to address several potential sources of systemic risk. Some observers argue that communication and coordination of financial regulators was insufficient to prevent the financial crisis of 2008. To foster coordination and communication, the FSOC assembles the heads of federal financial regulators, representatives from state regulatory bodies, and an independent insurance expert in a single venue. The OFR...

U.S. Army Weapons-Related Directed Energy (DE) Programs: Background and Potential Issues for Congress

The U.S. military has a long and complicated history in developing directed energy (DE) weapons. Many past efforts have failed for a variety of reasons and not all failures were attributed to scientific or technological challenges associated with weaponizing DE. At present, a number of U.S. military DE weapons-related programs are beginning to show promise, such as the Navy’s Laser Weapon System (LaWs), the first ever Department of Defense (DOD) laser weapon to be deployed and approved for operational use, according to the Navy. With a number of U.S. Army weapons-related DE programs...

Israel: Background and U.S. Relations in Brief

Since the Cold War, strong bilateral relations have fueled and reinforced significant U.S.-Israel cooperation in many areas, including regional security. Nonetheless, at various points throughout the relationship, U.S. and Israeli policies have diverged on some important issues.

A number of issues have significant implications for U.S.-Israel relations. They include

Israeli-Palestinian issues and controversies surrounding them, including President Trump’s December 2017 recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and announced plan to relocate the U.S. embassy in Israel there.

Regional...

U.S. Family-Based Immigration Policy

Family reunification has historically been a key principle underlying U.S. immigration policy. It is embodied in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), which specifies numerical limits for five family-based immigration categories, as well as a per-country limit on total family-based immigration. The five categories include immediate relatives (spouses, minor unmarried children, and parents) of U.S. citizens and four other family-based categories that vary according to individual characteristics such as the legal status of the petitioning U.S.-based relative, and the age, family...

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 very different characteristics and risks. Life insurance typically is a longer-term proposition with contracts...

Enforcement of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act: Select Legal Issues

In an increasingly interconnected world, public health concerns and crises have domestic and international implications. In the United States, the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938 (FD&C Act or the Act) promotes public health by preventing fraudulent activity with respect to food, drugs, and an array of other public health products that enter interstate commerce. Indeed, the Act’s primary purpose is to “safeguard” and “protect” consumers from exposure to dangerous products affecting public health and safety. The FD&C Act does this by regulating covered articles from their...

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...

Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA)

The Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) was enacted as part of Division E of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (H.R. 1892). Among other changes, FFPSA expands federal support for services to prevent the need for children to enter foster care, while adding new restrictions on federal room and board support for some foster children placed in group care settings. With limited exceptions, the enacted provisions match the standalone FFPSA provisions approved by the House in June 2016 (H.R. 5456, 114th Congress).

New Support for Prevention of Foster Care

FFPSA responds to longstanding...

The 10-20-30 Plan and Persistent Poverty Counties

Anti-poverty 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 plan,” 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, and...

Iran: Politics, Human Rights, and U.S. Policy

Since the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979, the United States and Iran have been broadly at odds. During the 1980s and 1990s, U.S. officials identified Iran’s support for militant Middle East groups as the primary threat posed by Iran to U.S. interests and allies. Iran’s nuclear program took precedence in U.S. policy after 2002 as the potential for Iran to develop a nuclear weapon increased. Beginning in 2010, the United States orchestrated broad international economic pressure on Iran to persuade it to agree to strict limits on the program—pressure that contributed to the June 2013...

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 (§801 of the MMA). Specifically, 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 funding is made. If the determination is issued for two consecutive years, a funding warning is issued which...

Egypt: Background and U.S. Relations

This report provides an overview of the key issues for Congress related to Egypt and U.S. foreign aid to Egypt.

Historically, Egypt has been an important country for U.S. national security interests based on its geography, demography, and diplomatic posture. The United States has provided significant military and economic assistance to Egypt since the late 1970s. Successive U.S. Administrations have justified aid to Egypt as an investment in regional stability, built primarily on long-running cooperation with the Egyptian military and on sustaining the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty....

The Missing and Exploited Children’s (MEC) Program: Background and Policies

Beginning in the late 1970s, highly publicized cases of children who were abducted, sexually abused, and sometimes murdered prompted policymakers and child advocates to declare a missing children problem. At that time, about 1.8 million children annually were reported to the police as missing. More recent data indicate that the number and rate at which children go missing has declined. A survey from 2013 provides the most recent and comprehensive information on missing children. The data show that about 238,000 children (3.1 per 1,000 children) were reported to law enforcement by their...

Federal Reserved Water Rights and Groundwater: Quantity, Quality, and Pore Space

Tribal rights to groundwater have not been legally established to the same extent as rights to other natural resources (e.g., surface water, timber, minerals). A March 2017 decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld the rights of a California Indian tribe (the Agua Caliente band of Cahuilla Indians) to groundwater beneath the tribe’s reservation in the Coachella Valley. In November 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the decision; the case now proceeds to other phases that may partially shape this ruling’s significance.

This is the first case in which...

Section 201 Safeguards on Solar Products and Washing Machines

On January 23, 2018, President Trump announced that he would impose additional tariffs on imports of large residential washing machines and solar photovoltaic (PV) cells and modules, effective February 7, 2018. The President acted based on findings by the International Trade Commission (ITC) that increased U.S. imports of these products were a “substantial cause of serious injury” to U.S. manufacturers, as a result of investigations under Section 201 of the Trade Act of 1974 (19 U.S.C. §2251, as amended). When initiating the actions on January 23, the President said, “My administration is...

Yemen: Civil War and Regional Intervention

This report provides information on the ongoing crisis in Yemen. Since March 2015, Saudi Arabia and members of a coalition it established have been engaged in military operations against an alliance composed of the Houthi movement and loyalists of the previous President, Ali Abdullah Saleh. In early December 2017, the Houthi-Saleh alliance unraveled, culminating in the killing of former President Saleh on December 4, 2017.

Health facilities in Yemen reported 9,245 conflict-related deaths and over 52,000 injuries from the start of hostilities in March 2015 through December 2017. However,...

Rwanda: In Brief

Rwanda, a small landlocked country in central Africa’s Great Lakes region, has become known for its rapid development gains in the wake of the 1994 genocide, in which some 800,000 people were killed. Since then, efforts by the Rwandan Patriotic Front-led government to improve health outcomes, boost agricultural output, promote investment, and increase women’s participation in politics have been lauded internationally. Yet, analysts debate whether Rwanda’s authoritarian political system—and its government’s periodic support for rebel movements in neighboring countries—could jeopardize this...

Women in Congress, 1917-2018: Service Dates and Committee Assignments by Member, and Lists by State and Congress

In total, 327 women have been elected or appointed to Congress, 212 Democrats and 115 Republicans. These figures include six non-voting 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 327 women there have been: 276 (178 Democrats, 98 Republicans) women elected only to the House of Representatives; 39 (25 Democrats, 14 Republicans) women elected or appointed only to the Senate; 12 (9 Democrats, 3 Republicans) women who have served in both houses; A...

Iraq: In Brief

Iraq’s government declared military victory against the terrorist insurgents of the Islamic State group (IS, aka ISIS/ISIL) in December 2017, and Iraqis are shifting their attention toward recovery and the country’s political future. Security conditions have improved (Figure 1) but remain fluid, and daunting resettlement, reconstruction, and reform needs occupy citizens and decision makers. National legislative elections are scheduled for May 2018, and campaigning reflects issues stemming from the 2014-2017 conflict with the Islamic State as well a range of preexisting internal disputes...

Federal Spending on Benefits and Services for People with Low Income: In Brief

Need-Tested Programs; Means-Tested Programs; Poverty; Low-Income; Cash Assistance; Medical Assistance; Housing Assistance; Educational Assistance; Social Services; Employment and Training.

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

Kuwait remains pivotal to U.S. efforts to secure the Persian Gulf region because of its consistent cooperation with U.S. strategy and operations in the region, and its strategic 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.

Kuwait usually acts in concert not only with the United States but...

The 2017 Tax Revision (P.L. 115-97): Comparison to 2017 Tax Law

A tax revision enacted late in 2017 substantively changed the federal income tax system (P.L. 115-97). Broadly, for individuals, the act temporarily modifies income tax rates. Some deductions, credits, and exemptions for individuals are eliminated, while others are substantively modified. These changes are mostly temporary. For businesses, pass-through entities experience a reduction in effective tax rates via a new deduction, which is also temporary. The statutory corporate tax rate is permanently reduced. Many deductions, credits, and other provisions for businesses are also modified....

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...

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...

Suspension of the Rules in the House: Principal Features

“Suspension of the rules” is a procedure that the House of Representatives often uses on the floor to act expeditiously on legislation. This procedure is governed primarily by clause 1 of House Rule XV. When a bill or some other matter is considered “under suspension,” floor debate is limited to 40 minutes, all floor amendments are prohibited, and a two-thirds vote is required for final passage.

Al Qaeda and U.S. Policy: Middle East and Africa

After a more than a decade and a half of combating Al Qaeda (AQ) in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the United States faces a diverse array of threats from Al Qaeda affiliates in the Middle East and Africa. While senior Al Qaeda figures reportedly remain based in Pakistan, the network includes a number of affiliates across the Middle East and Africa including Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and Al Shabaab. Al Qaeda also retains a small but possibly growing presence in Afghanistan. U.S. officials have stated that Al Qaeda still maintains a...

Instructing House Conferees

The two houses must agree on the same final version of a bill before it can be presented to the President. The House and Senate often reach final agreement on major legislation through negotiations among conferees that the two houses appoint. Because a conference committee is a negotiating forum, the two houses impose few rules governing its work, leaving it to the conferees themselves to decide how they can conduct their negotiations most productively. Also, the House and Senate give their conferees considerable latitude regarding the content of the agreements they can reach. Nonetheless,...

Nutrition Labeling of Restaurant Menu and Vending Machine Items

High rates of obesity and chronic diseases have prompted various federal, state, and local nutrition labeling initiatives. The 1990 Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (P.L. 101-535) required nutrition labeling of most foods and dietary supplements, but it did not require labeling of food sold in restaurants. However, consumption data indicate that Americans consume more than one-third of their calories outside the home, and frequent eating out is associated with increased caloric intake.

In 2010, President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA, P.L. 111-148)...

The 2018 National Defense Strategy

On January 19, 2018, Secretary of Defense Mattis released the unclassified summary of the Department of Defense’s (DOD) first congressionally mandated National Defense Strategy (NDS). In addition to stating DOD’s approach to contending with current and emerging national security challenges, the NDS is also intended to articulate the overall strategic rationale for programs and priorities contained within the FY2019-FY2023 budget requests. Overall, the document maintains that the strategic environment in which the United States must operate is one characterized by the erosion of the...

New Nuclear Warheads: Legislative Provisions

The 2018 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) identifies a plan to “modify a small number of [submarine-launched ballistic missile] warheads to provide a low-yield option” so that the United States could respond promptly and penetrate an adversary’s defenses after a nuclear attack. The NPR contends that this capability would strengthen nuclear deterrence, while critics argue it would lower the nuclear threshold and increase the risk of nuclear war.

This Insight reviews legislation addressing research and development on new or low-yield nuclear weapons and notes that under current law, an...

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...

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, after Secretary of State Clinton and Foreign Minister Lavrov exchanged the instruments of ratification. Reductions were to be implemented by February 5, 2018, a goal met by both parties.

New START provides the parties with 7 years...

China’s Economic Rise: History, Trends, Challenges, and Implications for the United States

Prior to the initiation of economic reforms and trade liberalization nearly 40 years ago, China maintained policies that kept the economy very poor, stagnant, centrally controlled, vastly inefficient, and relatively isolated from the global economy. Since opening up to foreign trade and investment and implementing free-market reforms in 1979, China has been among the world’s fastest-growing economies, with real annual gross domestic product (GDP) growth averaging 9.5% through 2017, a pace described by the World Bank as “the fastest sustained expansion by a major economy in history.” Such...

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 United States 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...

House Committee Chairs: Considerations, Decisions, and Actions as One Congress Ends and a New Congress Begins

A committee chair serves as the leader of a committee, with responsibility for setting the course and direction of the panel for committee members and the House and for managing a large professional and paraprofessional staff. The senior committee staff should ensure the chair’s goals are carried out effectively.

Once a committee chair is selected during the postelection transition period, he or she, often in consultation with others, makes a series of decisions and takes a series of actions. Some actions complete a committee’s duties in the Congress just ending. Other actions are taken in...

Federal Employees’ Retirement System: Summary of Recent Trends

This report describes recent trends in the characteristics of annuitants and current employees covered by the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) and the Federal Employees’ Retirement System (FERS) as well as the financial status of the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund (CSRDF).

In FY2016, 94% of current civilian federal employees were enrolled in FERS, which covers employees hired since 1984. Six percent were enrolled in CSRS, which covers only employees hired before 1984.

In FY2016, more than 2.6 million people received civil service annuity payments, including 2,077,804...

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...

What Causes a Recession?

At 104 months, the current economic expansion is already the third longest on record, and it will equal the second longest if it persists until April. This expansion, like all previous ones, will eventually end and be followed by a recession. Few economists are forecasting a recession in 2018, but recessions are notoriously hard to predict even a few months beforehand. For background, see CRS In Focus IF10411, Introduction to U.S. Economy: The Business Cycle and Growth, by Jeffrey M. Stupak.

As can be seen in Figure 1, previous expansions vary greatly in length but have recently been...

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 recent years. The accumulation of federal debt accelerated in the wake of the 2007-2008 financial crisis and subsequent recession. Rising debt levels, along with continued differences in views of fiscal policy, led to...

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.

“Extraordinary Measures” and the Debt Limit

The statutory debt limit was reinstated on December 9, 2017, at a level that precisely accommodated the federal borrowing undertaken to that date. On December 11 and 12, 2017, Secretary Mnuchin announced that the Treasury would implement “extraordinary measures” that delay when the debt limit will bind. Additionally, on December 8, 2017, the Bureau of the Fiscal Service suspended sales of certain Treasury securities to extend the Treasury’s ability to meet statutory spending requirements without defaulting on its debt obligations. This Insight briefly examines the debt limit and the use...

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...

Trespassing: The Leading Cause of Rail-Related Fatalities

Train derailments or collisions are often well-publicized events and receive significant attention from policymakers seeking to reduce their reoccurrence. Less attention has been devoted to trespassing, although it is a much greater cause of rail-related fatalities than derailments and collisions combined. Since 2005, over three-fifths of deaths in rail incidents have been pedestrian trespassers, and vehicle-train accidents at railroad grade crossings account for nearly one-third (see Figure 1; note that the trespassing deaths in the figure do not include suicides).

Figure 1. Rail-Related...

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...

Resolutions to Censure the President: Procedure and History

Censure is a reprimand adopted by one or both chambers of Congress against a Member of Congress, President, federal judge, or other government official. While Member censure is a disciplinary measure that is sanctioned by the Constitution (Article 1, Section 5), non-Member censure is not. Rather, it is a formal expression or “sense of” one or both houses of Congress. As such, censure resolutions targeting non-Members use a variety of statements to highlight conduct deemed by the resolutions’ sponsors to be inappropriate or unauthorized.

Resolutions that attempt to censure the President for...

U.S. Security Assistance and Security Cooperation Programs: Overview of Funding Trends

Since FY2006, the United States government has provided more than $200 billion for programs providing security assistance and security cooperation to foreign countries. The Departments of State (DOS) and Defense (DOD) are the primary U.S. government agencies involved in providing security sector assistance and related support to foreign governments, militaries, and international organizations and groups.

Congress has authorized security assistance programs through the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (FAA, P.L. 87-195) and the Arms Export Control Act of 1976 (AECA, P.L. 90-629), as amended....

Evolving Assessments of Human and Natural Contributions to Climate Change

Words for search: climate change, greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide, weather, global warming, science policy, federal research, energy research, attribution, human contribution, solar influence, natural climate, climate variability, earth sciences, Global Change, climate science, warmist, carbon pollution, methane

Cybersecurity: Legislation, Hearings, and Executive Branch Documents

Cybersecurity vulnerabilities challenge governments, businesses, and individuals worldwide. Attacks have been initiated against individuals, corporations, and countries. Targets have included government networks, companies, and political organizations, depending upon whether the attacker was seeking military intelligence, conducting diplomatic or industrial espionage, engaging in cybercrime, or intimidating political activists. In addition, national borders mean little or nothing to cyberattackers, and attributing an attack to a specific location can be difficult, which may make responding...

The Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) Program

Congress created the Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) program to offer long-term, low-cost loans to railroad operators, with particular attention to small freight railroads, to help them finance improvements to infrastructure and investments in equipment. The program is intended to operate at no cost to the government, and it does not receive an annual appropriation. Since 2000, the RRIF program has made 37 loans totaling $5.4 billion (valued at $5.9 billion in 2018 dollars). The program, which is administered by the Build America Bureau within the Office of the...

The National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP): Issues in Brief

Under the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP), four federal agencies have responsibility for long-term earthquake risk reduction: the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). These agencies assess U.S. earthquake hazards, deliver notifications of seismic events, develop measures to reduce earthquake hazards, and conduct research to help reduce overall U.S. vulnerability to earthquakes. Congressional oversight of the NEHRP program...

The Balkans and Russia

Following the end of the Balkan wars in the 1990s, periods of stability allowed several of the nations of Southeast Europe to pursue reforms, incorporate Western values, and join the European Union (EU) and NATO. Recently, however, the Western Balkans have experienced various degrees of political instability involving elements of nationalist politics, stagnating economies, public frustration over corruption, ethnic tensions, and violence. Although some of the tension has receded, many observers remain concerned that the region’s stability could unravel again. For some, at the core of this...

FEMA Individual Assistance Programs: In Brief

When the President declares a major disaster pursuant to the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (P.L. 93-288), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) advises the President about types of federal assistance administered by FEMA available to disaster victims, states, localities, and tribes. The primary types of assistance provided under a major disaster declaration include funding through the Public Assistance program, Mitigation Assistance programs, and the Individual Assistance program.

The Public Assistance program provides federal financial...

Vulnerable Youth: Background and Policies

The majority of young people in the United States grow up healthy and safe in their communities. Most of those of school age live with parents who provide for their well-being, and they attend schools that prepare them for advanced education or vocational training and, ultimately, self-sufficiency. Many youth also receive assistance from their families during the transition to adulthood. During this period, young adults cycle between attending school, living independently, and staying with their families. A study from 2009 found that over 60% of young people ages 19 to 22 receive financial...

Gun Control: Concealed Carry Legislation in the 115th Congress

On December 6, 2017, the House of Representatives passed the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017 (H.R. 38). The term “concealed carry” is commonly used to refer to state laws that allow an individual to carry a weapon—generally a handgun—on one’s person in a concealed manner for the purposes of self-defense in public (outside one’s home or fixed place of business). Federal law allows certain active-duty and retired law enforcement officers to carry concealed firearms interstate, irrespective of some state laws, but they must first be qualified and credentialed by their agencies of...

Real Wage Trends, 1979 to 2016

Wage earnings are the largest source of income for many workers, and wage gains are a primary lever for raising living standards. Reports of stagnant median wages have therefore raised concerns among some that economic growth over the last several decades has not translated into gains for all worker groups. To shed light on recent patterns, this report estimates real (inflation-adjusted) wage trends at the 10th, 50th (median), and 90th percentiles of the wage distributions for the workforce as a whole and for several demographic groups, and it explores changes in educational attainment and...

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), and other authorities, the United States restricts the export of defense items or munitions; 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 deliver them. U.S. export...

Wildfire Management Funding: Background, Issues, and FY2018 Appropriations

The federal government’s wildfire (or wildland fire) management responsibilities are fulfilled primarily by the Forest Service (FS, in the U.S. Department of Agriculture) and the Department of the Interior (DOI). These responsibilities include prevention, detection, response, and recovery related to fires that begin on federal lands. These responsibilities are accomplished through activities such as preparedness, suppression, fuel reduction, and site rehabilitation, among others. There are several ongoing concerns regarding federal wildfire management. These concerns include the total...

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 been strengthened through cooperative management of the 2,000-mile border, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and security cooperation under the Mérida Initiative. Relations have recently been tested, however, by President Donald J. Trump’s shifts in U.S. immigration and trade policies.

President Enrique Peña Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) is in the final year of his six-year term. During 2013, Peña Nieto shepherded...

A Survey of House and Senate Committee Rules on Subpoenas

House Rule XI, clause 2(m)(1) and (3) authorizes House committees and subcommittees to issue subpoenas for the attendance of witnesses and the production of documents. Senate Rule XXVI, paragraph 1 authorizes Senate committees and subcommittees to subpoena witnesses and documents. In turn, most House and Senate committees have adopted in their own rules subpoena provisions containing procedures for exercising this grant of power from their parent chamber.

Committee rules may cover authorization, issuance, and service of subpoenas; may cover just one or two of these actions; or may be...

TPP Countries Conclude Agreement Without U.S. Participation

On November 11, 2017, the 11 remaining signatories of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, excluding the United States, announced the outlines of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). On January 23, 2018, the parties announced they had concluded negotiations on the CPTPP and plan to sign the pact in early March. The CPTPP would be a vehicle to enact much of the TPP, signed by these countries and the United States in February 2016 from which President Trump withdrew in January 2017. The withdrawal was the first action under the...

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...

Appropriations for the Bureau of Prisons (BOP): In Brief

The Bureau of Prisons (BOP) is the largest correctional agency in the country in terms of the number of prisoners under its jurisdiction. BOP must confine any offender convicted and sentenced to a term of imprisonment in a federal court.

Changes in federal criminal justice policy since the early 1980s spurred growth in the federal prison population. The total number of inmates under BOP’s jurisdiction increased from approximately 25,000 in FY1980 to over 192,000 in FY2016. While the federal prison population in FY2016 is nearly 7 times larger than what it was in FY1980, the number of...

Vessel Incidental Discharge Legislation in the 115th Congress: Background and Issues

Stakeholders broadly agree on the need to control vessel discharges—particularly ballast water discharges, which can introduce numerous contaminants into U.S. and international waters. Ballast water discharge from ships is one significant pathway for introduction of aquatic nuisance species (ANS)—that is, invasive species—that can harm aquatic ecosystems. Federal requirements for ballast water and other incidental discharges from vessels in the United States flow from two laws—the Nonindigenous Aquatic Nuisance Prevention and Control Act of 1990, as amended by the National Invasive Species...

U.S. Trade in Services: Trends and Policy Issues

Trade in “services” refers to a wide and growing range of economic activities. These activities include transport, tourism, financial services, use of intellectual property, telecommunications and information services, government services, maintenance, and other professional services from accounting to legal services. Compared to goods, the types and volume of services that can be traded are limited by factors such as the requirement for direct buyer-provider contact, and other unique characteristics such as the reusability of services (e.g., professional consulting) for which traditional...

Use of the Capitol Rotunda, Capitol Grounds, and Emancipation Hall: Concurrent Resolutions, 101st to 115th Congress

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...

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 January 26, 2017, the SBA’s Dynamic Small Business Search database included 6,026 firms with active HUBZone...

Administration’s Syria Policy Envisions Continued U.S. Presence

On January 17, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson laid out the Trump Administration’s policy for U.S. involvement in Syria. The Secretary’s remarks built upon previous testimony by Acting Assistant Secretary David Satterfield and were further elaborated in a briefing by a senior State Department official.

U.S. Goals for Syria

According to Secretary Tillerson, “the United States desires five key end states for Syria”:

The enduring defeat of the Islamic State (IS, aka ISIS/ISIL) and Al Qaeda. This includes ensuring that the groups do not present a threat to the United States, and do not...

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 Doe v. Bolton, a companion decision, 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 means of effectuating the decision to have an abortion. 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...

2017 Disaster Supplemental Appropriations: Overview

According to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 2017 was “a historic year of weather and climate disasters” for the United States. A combination of deadly hurricanes and wildfires were among the 57 major disasters declared under the Stafford Act in 2017. The series of supplemental appropriations requested and provided in the wake of 2017’s hurricanes and wildfires are the latest exercise of one congressional role in disaster situations—to exercise “the power of the purse” to provide relief to state and local governments overwhelmed by disaster response and...

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

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has been a significant U.S. partner in Gulf security for more than two decades, helping to address multiple regional threats, and benefitting from long-standing and extensive defense cooperation with the United States. About 5,000 U.S. military personnel are stationed at UAE military facilities, hosted there under a 1994 U.S.-UAE defense cooperation agreement (DCA) that remains in effect by mutual agreement. The UAE was the first Gulf state to order the most sophisticated missile defense system sold by the United States (the THAAD), demonstrating support for...

Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies: Overview of FY2018 Appropriations

The Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies appropriations bill includes funding for approximately 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 entities. At issue for Congress is determining the length, amount, terms, and conditions of funding...

Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund: Programs and Policy Issues

As communities face a variety of economic challenges, some are looking to local banks and financial institutions for solutions that address the specific development needs of low-income and distressed communities. Community development financial institutions (CDFIs) provide financial products and services, such as mortgage financing for homebuyers and not-for-profit developers; underwriting and risk capital for community facilities; technical assistance; and commercial loans and investments to small, start-up, or expanding businesses. CDFIs include regulated institutions, such as community...

Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act (S. 2155) 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...

Federal Research and Development Funding: FY2018

President Trump’s budget request for FY2018 includes $117.697 billion for research and development (R&D). This represents a $30.605 billion (20.6%) decrease from the FY2016 actual level of $148.302 billion (FY2017 enacted levels were not available at the time of publication). Adjusted for inflation, the President’s FY2018 R&D request represents a constant dollar decrease of 23.6% from the FY2016 actual level.

However, in 2016 the Office of Management and Budget changed the definition used for “development” to “experimental development.” This new definition was used in calculating R&D in...

EPA’s Methane Regulations: Legal Overview

On March 28, 2017, President Trump signed Executive Order 13783, directing federal agencies to review existing regulations and policies that potentially burden the development or use of domestically produced energy resources. Acting pursuant to the order, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is reviewing and reconsidering several regulations issued during the Obama Administration that address methane emissions from various industrial sectors. Methane is a short-lived greenhouse gas (GHG) with a Global Warming Potential of more than 25 times carbon dioxide that is emitted from...

Security of Air Cargo Shipments, Operations, and Facilities

U.S. policies and strategies for protecting air cargo have focused on two main perceived threats: the in-flight detonation of explosives concealed in an air cargo shipment and the hijacking of a large all-cargo aircraft for use as a weapon to attack a ground target such as a major population center, critical infrastructure, or a critical national security asset. Additionally, there is concern that chemical, biological, or radiological agents or devices that could be used in a mass-casualty attack in the United States might be smuggled as international air cargo.

The October 2010 discovery...

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. Selling the tax credits reduces the debt developers would otherwise have to incur and the equity they would otherwise have to...

DNA Testing in Criminal Justice: Background, Current Law, and Grants

Deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, is the fundamental building block for an individual’s entire genetic makeup. DNA is a powerful tool for law enforcement investigations because each person’s DNA is different from that of every other individual (except for identical twins). DNA can be extracted from a number of sources, such as hair, bone, teeth, saliva, and blood. As early as the 1980s, states began enacting laws that required the collection of DNA samples from offenders convicted of certain sexual and other violent crimes. The samples are analyzed and their profiles entered into state...

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 4.0 billion gallons of renewable fuel in 2006 and aims to ascend to 36.0 billion gallons in 2022. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) determines the volume amounts after 2022.

The total renewable fuel statutory target consists of both conventional biofuel and advanced biofuel. Since 2014, the total...

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...

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 15th, 19th, and 26th Amendments. Beginning with the Voting Rights Act (VRA) in 1965,...

Economic Impact of Infrastructure Investment

Infrastructure investment has received renewed interest as of late, with both President Trump and some Members of Congress discussing the benefits of such spending. Infrastructure can be defined in a number of ways depending on the policy discussion; in general, however, the term refers to longer-lived, capital-intensive systems and facilities, such as roads, bridges, and water treatment facilities.

Over the past several decades, government investment in infrastructure as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) has declined. Annual infrastructure investment by federal, state, and...

Community Services Block Grants (CSBG): Background and Funding

Community Services Block Grants (CSBG) provide federal funds to states, territories, and tribes for distribution to local agencies to support a wide range of community-based activities to reduce poverty. These include activities to help families and individuals achieve self-sufficiency, find and retain meaningful employment, attain an adequate education, make better use of available income, obtain adequate housing, and achieve greater participation in community affairs. In addition, many local agencies receive federal funds from other sources and may administer other federal...

What Happens If the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) Lapses?

This Insight provides a short overview of what would happen if the NFIP were not to be reauthorized by February 8, 2018, and allowed to lapse. See CRS Report R45019, 21st Century Flood Reform Act (H.R. 2874): Reforming the National Flood Insurance Program, for more information on 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 1986 (Title XIII of P.L. 90-448, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§4001 et seq.). The NFIP does not contain a single comprehensive...

Banking Law: An Overview of Federal Preemption in the Dual Banking System

Banks play a critical role in the United States economy, channeling funds from savers to borrowers and thereby facilitating economic activity. To address the risks of bank failures and excessive risk-taking, and the problem that consumers at times lack the information or expertise to make sound choices concerning financial products and services, both federal and state lawmakers have imposed a host of regulations on commercial banks.

The United States has what is referred to as a “dual banking system,” in which banks can choose to apply for a charter from a state banking authority or a...

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 an estimated $633 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...

21st Century Flood Reform Act (H.R. 2874): Reforming the National Flood Insurance Program

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 reauthorized until February 8, 2018 (H.R. 195). Unless reauthorized or amended by Congress, the following will occur after February 8, 2018: (1) the authority to provide new flood insurance contracts will expire; and (2) the authority for the NFIP to borrow funds from the Treasury will be reduced from $30.425 billion to $1 billion.

The House passed H.R. 2874, the 21st Century Flood Reform Act, on November 14, 2017, with a vote of 237-189. H.R....

Prevalence of Mental Illness in the United States: Data Sources and Estimates

Determining how many people have a mental illness can be difficult, and prevalence estimates vary. While numerous surveys include questions related to mental illness, few provide prevalence estimates of diagnosable mental illness (e.g., major depressive disorder as opposed to feeling depressed, or generalized anxiety disorder as opposed to feeling anxious), and fewer still provide national prevalence estimates of diagnosable mental illness. This report briefly describes the methodology and results of three large surveys (funded in whole or in part by the U.S. Department of Health and Human...

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,...

Acquisition Reform in the FY2016-FY2018 National Defense Authorization Acts (NDAAs)

Congress has long been interested in defense acquisition and generally exercises its legislative powers to affect defense acquisitions through Title VIII of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), entitled Acquisition Policy, Acquisition Management, and Related Matters. Congress has been particularly active in legislating acquisition reform over the last three years. For FY2016-FY2018, NDAA titles specifically related to acquisition contained an average of 82 provisions (247 in total), compared to an average of 47 such provisions (466 in total) in the NDAAs for the preceding 10...

Iran’s Foreign and Defense Policies

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

Iran seeks to ensure that U.S. or other efforts to invade or intimidate it or to change its regime cannot succeed.

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

Government Contract Bid Protests In Brief: Analysis of Legal Processes and Recent Developments

Suppressed Summary –Terms for CRS Search Engine Procurement Government contract Bid protest Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Competition in Contracting Act of 1984 (CICA) U.S. Court of Federal Claims (COFC) Government Accountability Office (GAO) Automatic stay Procuring agency

The Marshall Plan: Design, Accomplishments, and Significance

The European Recovery Program (ERP), more commonly known as the Marshall Plan (the Plan), was a program of U.S. assistance to Europe during the period 1948-1951. The Marshall Plan—launched in a speech delivered by Secretary of State George Marshall on June 5, 1947—is considered by many to have been the most effective ever of U.S. foreign aid programs. An effort to prevent the economic deterioration of postwar Europe, expansion of communism, and stagnation of world trade, the Plan sought to stimulate European production, promote adoption of policies leading to stable economies, and take...

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 Sanctions

The multilateral nuclear accord (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA) provides Iran broad relief from U.S., U.N., and multilateral sanctions on Iran’s civilian economic sectors, including U.S. secondary sanctions (sanctions on foreign firms that do business with Iran). On January 16, 2016, upon the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) certification that Iran had complied with the stipulated nuclear dismantlement commitments, U.S. Administration waivers of relevant sanctions laws took effect, relevant executive orders (E.O.s) were revoked, and corresponding U.N. and EU...

Comparison of the Bills to Extend State Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) Funding

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.

In statute, FY2017 was the last year a federal CHIP appropriation was provided. Federal CHIP funding was not extended before the beginning of FY2018. As a result, states do not currently have full-year FY2018 CHIP...

Highway Bridge Conditions: Issues for Congress

Of the 614,000 public road bridges in the United States, about 56,000 (9%) were classified as structurally deficient in 2016. These figures—along with events such as the July 20, 2015, washout of the Interstate 10 Bridge near Desert Center, CA, and the partial closure of the Arlington Memorial Bridge, which connects Washington, DC, to Northern Virginia—have led to claims that the United States is experiencing a crisis with respect to deficient bridges. Federal data do not substantiate this assertion. The number of bridges classified as structurally deficient has fallen consistently since...

Wilderness: Issues and Legislation

The Wilderness Act of 1964 established the National Wilderness Preservation System and, in it, Congress reserved for itself the authority to designate federal lands as part of the system. The act initially designated 54 wilderness areas containing 9.1 million acres of national forest lands. Since then, more than 100 laws designating wilderness areas have been enacted. As of September 2017, the system consisted of 110 million acres over 765 units, owned by four land management agencies: the Forest Service (FS), in the Department of Agriculture; the National Park Service (NPS); Fish and...

Membership of the 115th Congress: A Profile

This report presents a profile of the membership of the 115th Congress (2017-2018) as of January 3, 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 240 Republicans (including 1 Delegate and the Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico), 197 Democrats (including 4 Delegates), and 4 vacant seats. The Senate has 51 Republicans, 47...

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. Statutorily, the E-FMAP can range...

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 issue TPS for periods of 6 to 18 months and can extend these periods if conditions leading to TPS designation do not change. Congress has also provided TPS...

What Share of Taxpayers Would See a Tax Decrease or a Tax Increase Under the 2017 Tax Revision, P.L. 115-97?

An analysis of the major provisions of the 2017 tax revision, P.L. 115-97, by the Tax Policy Center (TPC) indicates that the legislation would result in some taxpayers paying more in taxes, some paying less in taxes, and some seeing little or no change in their tax liability. Similar analysis done by the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) examined the impact of the Senate bill before conference, finding generally similar trends. However, an updated JCT analysis has not been done for the final law. In addition, the definitions of income and tax increase and decrease used by JCT differ from...

Respirable Crystalline Silica in the Workplace: New Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Standards

On March 25, 2016, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) of the Department of Labor (DOL) published new standards regulating exposure to crystalline silica in the workplace. Under the new standards, the Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) for crystalline silica is to be reduced to 50 µg/m3 (micrograms per cubic meter of air). Employers are to be required to monitor crystalline silica exposure if workplace levels may exceed 25 µg/m3 for at least 30 days in a year and provide medical monitoring to employees in those workplaces. In the case of construction workers, medical...

Expired Tax Provisions and “Tax Extenders”

A number of temporary tax provisions expired at the end of 2016. Although some temporary or expired provisions were addressed in the 2017 tax revision (P.L. 115-97), most of the provisions that expired in 2016 have not been extended beyond their 2016 expiration date. Some have suggested that a tax extenders bill enacted early in 2018 could retroactively extend expired tax provisions. Alternatively, another policy option is to allow expired tax provisions to remain expired.

Table 1 provides information on expired tax provisions and “tax extenders.” Specifically, the table includes (1) all...

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 overseeing 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...

Animal Drug User Fee Programs

The Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) review of brand-name and generic animal drug applications is funded through a combination of annual discretionary appropriations from Congress and user fees collected from the regulated industry.

The Animal Drug User Fee Act of 2003 (ADUFA I, P.L. 108-130) gave FDA initial authority to collect user fees from sponsors to improve the timeliness of review of animal drug applications. ADUFA I did not cover generic animal drugs. In 2008, in response to concerns regarding generic drug application review times and a backlog of applications, Congress...

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

The Columbia (SSBN-826) class program, previously known as the Ohio replacement program (ORP) or SSBN(X) program, is a program to design and build a new class of 12 ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) to replace the Navy’s current force of 14 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. The Navy’s proposed FY2018 budget requests $842.9 million in advance procurement (AP) funding and $1,041.7 million in research and development funding for the program.

The Navy as...

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...

Public Safety Officers’ Benefits (PSOB) Program: In Brief

The Public Safety Officers’ Benefits (PSOB) program provides three different types of benefits to public safety officers and their survivors: death, disability, and education benefits. The PSOB program is administered by the Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance’s (BJA’s) PSOB Office.

The PSOB death benefit is a mandatory program, and the disability and education benefits are discretionary programs. As such, Congress appropriates “such sums as are necessary” each fiscal year to fund the PSOB death benefit program while appropriating separate amounts for both the disability...

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...

Trends in Bank Secrecy Act/Anti-Money Laundering Enforcement

This report provides an overview of recent trends in the enforcement of the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA), the principal U.S. anti-money laundering law regulating financial institutions.

The report begins by providing general background information on BSA penalties and enforcement. The report concludes by discussing three recent trends that commentators have observed in BSA enforcement: (1) an increase in the frequency with which BSA enforcement actions involve an assessment of money penalties, and an increase in the size of those penalties, (2) an increased emphasis by regulators on the...

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...

U.S. Senate Vacancies: Contemporary Developments and Perspectives

United States Senators serve a term of six years. Vacancies occur when an incumbent Senator leaves office prematurely for any reason; they may be caused by death or resignation of the incumbent, by expulsion or declination (refusal to serve), or by refusal of the Senate to seat a Senator-elect or -designate.

Aside from the death or resignation of individual Senators, Senate vacancies often occur in connection with a change in presidential administrations, if an incumbent Senator is elected to executive office, or if a newly elected or reelected President nominates an incumbent Senator or...

U.S. Postal Service Governors: And Then There Were None

Background: U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors

The Board of Governors of the U.S. Postal Service (hereinafter, the Board) was created by a provision of 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.” Guided by statute and its bylaws, the Board “directs the exercise of the powers of the Postal Service, reviews the practices and policies of the Postal Service, and directs and controls the expenditures of the Postal Service.”

The Board is composed of 11...

Mandatory Minimum Sentencing of Federal Drug Offenses in Short

As a general rule, federal judges must impose a minimum term of imprisonment upon defendants convicted of various controlled substance (drug) offenses and drug-related offenses. The severity of those sentences depends primarily upon the nature and amount of the drugs involved, the defendant’s prior criminal record, any resulting injuries or death, and in the case of the related firearms offenses, the manner in which the firearm was used.

The drug offenses reside principally in the Controlled Substances Act or the Controlled Substances Import and Export Act. The drug-related firearms...

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 (HTF). Although there has been some modification to the tax system, the tax rates, which are fixed in terms of cents per gallon, have not been increased at the federal level since 1993. Prior to the recession that began in 2007, annual increases in driving, with a concomitant increase in fuel use, were sufficient in most years to keep revenue rising steadily. This is no longer the case. Although vehicle miles traveled have recently surpassed...

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.

Mandatory Minimum Sentencing of Federal Drug Offenses

As a general rule, federal judges must impose a minimum term of imprisonment upon defendants convicted of various controlled substance (drug) offenses and drug-related offenses. The severity of those sentences depends primarily upon the nature and amount of the drugs involved, the defendant’s prior criminal record, any resulting injuries or death, and in the case of the related firearms offenses, the manner in which the firearm was used.

The drug offenses reside principally in the Controlled Substances Act or the Controlled Substances Import and Export Act. The drug-related firearms...

Expulsion of Members of Congress: Legal Authority and Historical Practice

The U.S. Constitution expressly grants each house of Congress the power to discipline its own Members for misconduct, including through expulsion, stating that:

[e]ach House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings, punish its Members for disorderly Behaviour, and, with the Concurrence of two thirds, expel a Member.

Expulsion is the process by which a house of Congress may remove one of its Members after the Member has been duly elected and seated. The Supreme Court has considered expulsion to be distinct from exclusion, the process by which the House and Senate refuse to seat...

Recent Changes in the Estate and Gift Tax Provisions

The American Taxpayer Relief Act (ATRA; P.L. 112-240) established permanent rules for the estate and gift tax for 2013 going forward. The tax revision of 2017 (P.L. 115-97) doubled the exemption levels. This increase expires after 2025.

The estate tax is imposed on bequests at death as well as inter-vivos (during life) gifts. A certain amount of each estate, $5 million in 2011, indexed for inflation, is exempted from taxation by the federal government. With indexation, the value was $5.49 million in 2017 and with the temporary doubling of the exemption and inflation adjustments, is $11.2...

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 FY2017, the SBA approved...

Cambodia: Background and U.S. Relations

Following a gradual improvement of bilateral ties since the mid-2000s, U.S. relations with the Kingdom of Cambodia have become strained in recent years in light of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s suppression of political opponents and growing embrace of China. The Trump Administration and Congress have imposed and considered further sanctions in order to pressure Hun Sen into restoring democracy and conducting free and fair national elections in 2018.

While the U.S. government has criticized Hun Sen’s backtracking on democracy, it also has sought to remain engaged with Cambodia. During the past...

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...

Transatlantic Relations in 2018

As the second year of the Trump Administration begins, a degree of uncertainty lingers over transatlantic relations. The U.S.-European partnership could face challenges in 2018. Following the election of President Trump, numerous European officials and analysts expressed concern about the future trajectory of U.S.-European relations, particularly the U.S. commitment to NATO, the European Union (EU), and the multilateral trading system. Although the Trump Administration has not altered or withdrawn from the fundamental aspects of the transatlantic relationship, many European leaders appear...

Venezuela’s Economic Crisis: Issues for Congress

Venezuela’s Economic Crisis: Overview

Venezuela is facing a political crisis under the authoritarian rule of President Nicolás Maduro, who appears to have continued to consolidate power over the political opposition in recent months. Underpinning Venezuela’s political crisis is an economic crisis. Venezuela is a major oil producer and exporter, and the 2014 crash in oil prices, combined with years of economic mismanagement, hit Venezuela’s economy hard. Venezuela’s economy has contracted by 35% since 2013, a larger contraction than the United States experienced during the Great Depression....

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...

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 the birthday 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 2018, this holiday is celebrated on January 15.

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...

Budget Enforcement Procedures: The Senate Pay-As-You-Go (PAYGO) Rule

The Senate pay-as-you-go, or PAYGO, rule generally requires that any legislation projected to increase direct spending or reduce revenues must also include equivalent amounts of direct spending cuts, revenue increases, or a combination of the two so that the legislation does not increase the on-budget deficit in the current fiscal year, the budget year, a six-year period, or an 11-year period (the latter two periods beginning with the current fiscal year). Without such offsetting provisions, the legislation would require the support of at least 60 Senators to waive the rule and be...

Monetary Policy and the Federal Reserve: Current Policy and Conditions

Congress has delegated responsibility for monetary policy to the nation’s central bank, the Federal Reserve (the Fed), 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...

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...

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR): An Overview

In the ongoing energy debate in Congress, one recurring issue has been whether to allow oil and gas development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR, or the Refuge) in northeastern Alaska. ANWR is rich in fauna and flora and also has significant oil and natural gas potential. Energy development in the Refuge has been debated for more than 50 years. On December 20, 2017, President Trump signed into law P.L. 115-97, which provides for an oil and gas program on ANWR’s Coastal Plain. The Congressional Budget Office estimated federal revenue from the program’s first two lease sales at...

P.L. 115-97: Net Operating Losses

The 2017 tax revision (P.L. 115-97) enacted on December 22, 2017, made significant changes to the federal tax system, including changes to the tax treatment of business net operating losses (NOLs). This Insight provides an overview of the tax treatment of NOLs that existed before the enactment of P.L. 115-97 and the treatment of losses going forward as a result of the 2017 revision.

What Is an NOL?

A business incurs an NOL when its deductions exceed its gross income, or, put differently, when a business’s taxable income is negative. The year in which the NOL is realized is referred to as...

A Balanced Budget Constitutional Amendment: Background and Congressional Options

One of the most persistent political issues facing Congress in recent decades is whether to require that the budget of the United States be in balance. Although a balanced federal budget has long been held as a political ideal, the accumulation of large deficits in recent years has heightened concern that some action to require a balance between revenues and expenditures may be necessary.

The debate over a balanced budget measure actually consists of several interrelated debates. Most prominently, the arguments of proponents have focused on the economy and the possible harm resulting from...

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 late 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.

Elections for legislative bodies and a constitutional drafting assembly were held and transparently administered in 2012 and 2014, but were marred by...

Sponsorship and Cosponsorship of House Bills

A Representative who introduces a bill or resolution in the House is called its sponsor. Several Members together may submit a bill, but only the Member whose name appears first on the bill is considered its sponsor; the others are cosponsors. A bill can have only one sponsor, but there is no limit on the number of cosponsors it may have.

Representatives introduce bills in the House by placing them in the wooden box, or “hopper,” located at the bill clerk’s desk on the chamber floor when the House is in session. The original signature of the sponsor must appear on the measure when it is...

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...

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...

Five-Year Program for Federal Offshore Oil and Gas Leasing: Status and Issues in Brief

Under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, as amended (OCSLA; 43 U.S.C. §1331 ff.), the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) must prepare and maintain forward-looking five-year plans—referred to by BOEM as five-year programs—for proposed public oil and gas lease sales on the U.S. outer continental shelf (OCS). On January 4, 2018, BOEM released a draft proposed program (DPP) for the period from 2019 through 2024. The DPP proposes 47 lease sales during the five-year period: 12 sales in the Gulf of Mexico region, 19 in the Alaska region, 9 in the Atlantic region, and 7 in the Pacific...

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...

Drug Compounding: FDA Authority and Possible Issues for Congress

Drug compounding is a process by which a pharmacist or physician combines, mixes, or alters various drug ingredients to create a drug to meet the unique needs of an individual patient for whom an approved drug may not be appropriate (e.g., due to an allergy to a dye in the product).

The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) authorizes the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate the manufacturing and sale of drugs in the United States, including compounded drugs. Generally, a drug may not be sold unless the FDA, through its drug approval process, has determined that the drug...

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 2015,...

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 pre-recorded 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...

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. A related program is the Staffing for Adequate...

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 simply to purchase refreshments. House...

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, 2017 (P.L. 115-31) funded USFA at a total level of $44 million in FY2017. For FY2018, the Administration requested $43.41 million for USFA, slightly below the FY2017 level...

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...

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. The United States held the two-year, rotating chairmanship of the Arctic Council from April 24, 2015, to May 11, 2017.

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...

Serbia: Background and U.S. Relations

Following the conflicts in the late 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 in the Western Balkan region 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 and Croatia joined the European Union (EU). These countries, along with Albania, also joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Montenegro became NATO’s 29th member on June 3, 2017. Other nations of the Balkans are at...

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 new, temporary program that enables eligible veterans to receive medical care in the community. (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 was expended. The VA Choice and Quality Employment Act of 2017, P.L. 115-46, authorized and appropriated an additional $2.1 billion to continue the VCP until funds were expended, and...

Clean Air Act Issues in the 115th Congress: In Brief

In the 115th Congress, and in the executive and judicial branches, review of regulations issued under the Obama Administration, with the possibility of their modification or repeal, was the main focus of interest on Clean Air Act issues in 2017. 2018 may see more of the same. Of particular interest are the ambient air quality standards for ozone promulgated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in October 2015 and various EPA rules to regulate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from power plants, cars and trucks, and the oil and gas sector.

Reducing GHG emissions to address climate...

Children’s Hospital Graduate Medical Education (CHGME)

The Children’s Hospital 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 received $299.3 million in FY2017. The program is currently funded under the FY2018 continuing resolution (P.L. 115-96) until January 19, 2018. The program’s...

Army Corps Supplemental Appropriations: History, Trends, and Policy Issues

Congress directs the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to plan and build water resource facilities through the agency’s civil works program. The Corps also has a prominent role in responding to natural disasters, especially floods, in U.S. states and territories. In recent years through supplemental appropriations, Congress also has funded the agency to study and construct projects that reduce flood risks in areas recently affected by some hurricanes and floods. The 115th Congress is considering possible responses to various natural disasters in 2017. H.R. 4667—Further Additional...

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

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)

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). P.L. 115-96 reauthorized it until January 19, 2018. 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 terms and conditions; but

(2) a program of flood insurance...

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...

Child Welfare: An Overview of Federal Programs and Their Current Funding

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. As the U.S. Constitution has been interpreted, states bear the primary authority for ensuring the welfare of children and their families. The federal government has shown long-standing interest in helping states improve their services to children and families and, through the provision of federal support, requires states to meet certain child welfare requirements. For FY2017, an estimated $8.9 billion in...

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.

This report will be updated as needed.

P.L. 115-97: The Mortgage Interest Deduction

P.L. 115-97, the 2017 tax revision, was enacted on December 22, 2017. The law makes significant changes to the federal tax system, including to the mortgage interest deduction. This Insight briefly explains the 2017 law governing the mortgage interest deduction and the modifications made to the deduction by P.L. 115-97.

2017 Law

For the 2017 tax year, a homeowner may deduct the interest paid on a mortgage that finances the acquisition of a primary or secondary residence as long as the homeowner itemizes their tax deductions. The amount of interest that may be deducted is limited to the...

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

The State of Qatar has employed its ample financial resources to exert significant regional influence and avoid domination by Saudi Arabia, the de-facto leader of the six Gulf monarchy alliance called the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Oman). Qatar has intervened in several regional conflicts, including in Syria and Libya, and has sought to mediate disputes in or involving Lebanon, Sudan, the Palestinian Islamist organization Hamas, and Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan. Qatar has maintained consistent dialogue with that...

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, 2017, in Title II of P.L. 114-27. Since the program expires at the end of this year, its renewal may be an issue for the 115th Congress.

At the time of...

The Federal Tax System for the 2017 Tax Year

The 115th Congress has passed legislation that substantially changes the U.S. federal tax system (H.R. 1). This report describes the federal tax structure, provides some statistics on the tax system as a whole, as of 2017.

Historically, the largest component of the federal tax system, in terms of revenue generated, has been the individual income tax. In fiscal year (FY) 2016, $1.5 trillion, or 47% of the federal government’s revenue, was collected from the individual income tax. The corporate income tax generated another $300 billion in revenue in FY2016, or 9% of total revenue. Social...

Defense Spending Under an Interim Continuing Resolution: In Brief

This report provides a basic overview of interim continuing resolutions (CRs) and highlights some specific issues pertaining to operations of the Department of Defense (DOD) under a CR.

As with regular appropriations bills, Congress can draft a CR to provide funding in many different ways. Under current practice, a CR is an appropriation that provides either interim or full-year funding by referencing a set of established funding levels for the projects and activities that it funds (or covers). Such funding may be provided for a period of days, weeks, or months and may be extended through...

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. The Navy’s proposed FY2018 budget, as amended on May 24, 2017, requests the procurement of nine new ships, including one Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) class aircraft carrier, two Virginia-class attack submarines, two DDG-51 class destroyers, two Littoral Combat Ships (LCSs), one TAO-205 class oiler, and one towing, salvage, and rescue ship.

On December...

Policy Options to Increase Physician Training Education in Proper Opioid Prescribing

Among the recommendations of the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis (President’s Commission) is to mandate “medical education and prescriber education initiatives in proper opioid prescribing and risks of developing an SUD [Substance Use Disorder].”

This Insight focuses on physician efforts because physicians can prescribe in every state but not all states permit advanced practice nurses or physician assistants to prescribe opioids. Many of the policy options discussed in this Insight could also be applied to other provider types (e.g., nonphysicians)...

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 was procured in FY2008. The Navy’s proposed FY2018 budget estimates the ship’s procurement cost at $12,907.0 million (i.e., about $12.9 billion) in then-year dollars. The ship received advance procurement 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 $1,374.9 million in...

NASA Appropriations and Authorizations: A Fact Sheet

National Aeronautics and Space Administration NASA budget appropriations authorization reauthorization funding FY2017 FY2018 NASA congressional budget justification NASA budget request NASA operating plan Commerce-Justice-Science CJS appropriations H.R. 3267 S. 1662 P.L. 115-31 National Aeronautics and Space Administration Transition Authorization Act of 2017 P.L. 115-10 P.L. 114-113

Floodplain Management and Flood Resilience: Current Policy and Considerations for Congress

An issue for Congress is how federal floodplain policy shapes implementation of federal projects and programs. Floodplain policy has particular relevance for federal disaster recovery assistance and infrastructure support. President Trump and, earlier, Presidents Obama and Carter have provided direction on federal floodplain policy. This Insight describes this presidential direction and presents considerations for Congress.

Presidential Direction and Current Policy

Three executive orders (E.O.s) are directly relevant to current federal floodplain policy:

E.O. 13807 (Trump, 2017),...

Tailoring Bank Regulations: Differences in Bank Size, Activities, and Capital Levels

Banking organizations differ across a multitude of characteristics. The amount of assets they hold, the services they provide, and how they secure funding are just a few examples. These differences affect an individual organization’s risk of failure and the risk its failure or distress could pose to the overall financial system. Policymakers generally agree that certain banking regulations should be tailored to account for such differences, and as a result, banks are currently subject to or exempt from various regulations if they meet certain criteria. To what degree existing bank...

Federal Freight Policy: In Brief

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, longshore, marine highways, Title XI, shipyard, shipbuilding, ship construction, intermodal, Jones Act, FAST Act, P.L. 114-94

The War in Yemen: A Compilation of Legislation in the 115th Congress

The 115th Congress continues to debate the extent and terms of the United States involvement in the ongoing conflict in Yemen, where fighting has continued unabated since March 2015. Lawmakers have questioned the extent to which successive Administrations have adhered to existing law relating to providing security assistance, including sales or transfers of defense goods and defense services, while upholding international human rights standards (e.g., 22 U.S.C. §2754 or 22 U.S.C. §2304). They also have proposed new legislation that would extend legislative oversight over the executive...

Department of Veterans Affairs FY2018 Appropriations

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides a range of benefits and services to veterans and eligible dependents who meet certain criteria as authorized by law. These benefits include medical care, disability compensation and pensions, education, vocational rehabilitation and employment services, assistance to homeless veterans, home loan guarantees, administration of life insurance and traumatic injury protection insurance for servicemembers, and death benefits that cover burial expenses. The VA is funded through the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies...

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.” While there is no single accepted definition of “net neutrality,” most agree that any such definition should include the general principles that owners of the networks that compose and provide access to...

Basic Concepts and Technical Considerations in Educational Assessment: A Primer

Federal education legislation continues to emphasize the role of assessment in elementary and secondary schools. Perhaps most prominently, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA; P.L. 114-95), requires the use of test-based educational accountability systems in states and specifies the requirements for the assessments that states must incorporate into state-designed educational accountability systems. These requirements are applicable to states that receive funding under Title I-A of the ESEA. More specifically, to receive...

Supplemental Appropriations Proposed for Agriculture

Crop and livestock losses from the 2017 hurricane season and wildfires in the West have created a demand for agricultural disaster assistance. To date, Congress has enacted two supplemental appropriations, but neither included funding for agricultural-related losses.

On November 17, 2017, the Administration made a third supplemental appropriations request. Overall, it included $44 billion of additional appropriations, offset by $59 billion of reductions. For analysis of the request see CRS Insight IN10832, Proposed Offsets Exceed Spending for Agriculture in the Administration’s Disaster...

EPA’s Clean Power Plan for Existing Power Plants: Frequently Asked Questions

On October 10, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed to repeal the Clean Power Plan (CPP), the Obama Administration rule that would limit carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from existing fossil-fuel-fired power plants. The action came in response to Executive Order 13783, in which President Trump directed federal agencies to review existing regulations and policies that potentially burden the development or use of domestically produced energy resources. Among the E.O.’s specific directives was that EPA review the CPP, which was one of the Obama Administration’s most...

Educational Assessment and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA; P.L. 114-95), specifies the requirements for assessments that states must incorporate into their state accountability systems to receive funding under Title I-A. While many of the assessment requirements of the ESEA have not changed from the requirements put into place by the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB; P.L. 107-110), the ESSA provides states some new flexibility in meeting them. This report has been prepared in response to congressional inquiries about the revised educational...

The 2017 National Security Strategy: Issues for Congress

On December 18, 2017, the Trump Administration released its first National Security Strategy (NSS). The document maintains that, in addition to the threats posed to the United States by rogue regimes and violent extremist organizations that have been a central focus of national security policy since the end of the Cold War, great power rivalry and competition have once again become a central feature of the international security landscape. To advance U.S. interests effectively within this strategic context, the Administration argues, the United States must improve domestic American...

The Deduction for Out-of-Pocket Teacher Expenses

While both the House and Senate tax reform proposals proposed changing the above-the-line deduction for out-of-pocket teacher expenses, the Conference Report to accompany H.R. 1 ultimately retains the current law deduction. The House proposal, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (H.R. 1), would have repealed the deduction. In contrast, the Senate proposal would have temporarily increased the deduction to $500, through 2025. The Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) estimated that repealing the deduction (the House proposal) would have increased revenues by $2.1 billion between 2018 and 2027, while...

Division A of H.R. 3922: The CHAMPIONING HEALTHY KIDS Act

On October 30, 2017, the House Rules Committee posted an amendment in the nature of a substitute for the Community Health And Medical Professionals Improve Our Nation Act of 2017 (CHAMPION Act, H.R. 3922). The amendment considered by the House struck the text of the CHAMPION Act and replaced it with the text of the amendment in the nature of the substitute.

The amendment in the nature of a substitute is entitled the Continuing Community Health And Medical Professional Programs to Improve Our Nation, Increase National Gains, and Help Ensure Access for Little Ones, Toddlers, and Hopeful...

Contested Elections in Honduras

Honduras has descended into political crisis in the aftermath of disputed elections held on November 26, 2017. On election night, with 57% of the vote counted, Salvador Nasralla, a television personality and sports commentator backed by the left-leaning Opposition Alliance Against the Dictatorship, held a five-point lead over incumbent President Juan Orlando Hernández of the conservative National Party (PN). Hernández edged ahead of Nasralla several days later, however, after the country’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) belatedly processed the outstanding votes. The Opposition Alliance...

Short-Term FAA Extension in Place, but Legislative Debate Continues

Both the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation acted favorably on bills to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and other aviation programs in June 2017. The two bills, H.R. 2997 and S. 1405, have significant differences, many of them related to provisions in the House bill that would create a not-for-profit private corporation to take over responsibility for running the national air traffic control system. The Senate bill contains no similar provisions, and the passage of long-term...

The National Science Foundation: FY2018 Appropriations and Funding History

The National Science Foundation (NSF) supports basic research and education in the non-medical sciences and engineering. NSF is a major source of federal support for U.S. university research, especially in certain fields such as computer science. It is also responsible for significant shares of the federal science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education program portfolio and federal STEM student aid and support.

Overall, the Trump Administration is seeking $6.653 billion for NSF in FY2018, an $819 million decrease (-11%) from the FY2017 enacted level of $7.472 billion....

What Share of Taxpayers Would See a Tax Increase or a Tax Decrease Under a Senate Version of the Tax Reform Bill?

An analysis of the Senate Finance Committee-approved tax reform bill by the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) indicates that the legislation would result in some taxpayers paying more in taxes, some paying less in taxes, and some seeing little or no change in their tax liability. JCT’s analysis, dated November 27, 2017, was conducted before the Senate passed H.R. 1 with an amendment on December 2, 2017. While the analysis was provided to the Washington Post and others, it has not been posted on JCT’s website.

As illustrated in Figure 1, JCT estimates that in 2019,

the majority of the...

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 of the last decade 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...

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

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is an independent federal agency with its five members appointed by the President, subject to confirmation by the Senate. It was established by the Communications Act of 1934 (1934 Act) and is charged with regulating interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable. The mission of the FCC is to ensure that the American people have available—at reasonable cost and without discrimination—rapid, efficient, nation- and world-wide communication services, whether by radio, television, wire, satellite, or...

Mixed-Oxide Fuel Fabrication Plant and Plutonium Disposition: Management and Policy Issues

The Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility (MFFF) in South Carolina has been a key component of the current U.S. strategy for disposing of surplus weapons plutonium from the Cold War. Disposition of surplus plutonium is required by a 1998 agreement, amended in 2010, between the United States and the Russian Federation. Each country agreed to convert 34 metric tons of surplus weapons-grade plutonium to a form that could not be returned to nuclear weapons, to begin in 2018. Russia suspended its participation in the agreement in October 2016 due to what it called “hostile actions” by the...

The $50 Billion Threshold in the Dodd-Frank Act: Key Findings

This Insight presents the key findings from the newly issued CRS Report R45036, Bank Systemic Risk Regulation: The $50 Billion Threshold in the Dodd-Frank Act.

Background

The 2007-2009 financial crisis highlighted the problem of “too big to fail” (TBTF) financial institutions—the concept that the failure of a large financial firm could trigger financial instability, which in several cases prompted extraordinary federal assistance to prevent their failure. One pillar of the Dodd-Frank Act’s (P.L. 111-203’s) response to addressing financial stability and ending TBTF was a new enhanced...

The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Block Grant: A Primer on TANF Financing and Federal Requirements

The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant provides federal grants to the 50 states, the District of Columbia, the territories, and American Indian tribes for a wide range of benefits, services, and activities. It is best known for helping states pay for cash welfare for needy families with children, but it funds a wide array of additional activities. TANF was created in the 1996 welfare reform law (P.L. 104-193). At the federal level, TANF is administered by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

TANF provides a basic block grant that totals $16.5 billion....

Softwood Lumber Imports from Canada: Current Issues

Softwood lumber imports from Canada have been a persistent concern for Congress for decades. Canada is an important trading partner for the United States, but lumber production is a significant industry in many states. U.S. lumber producers claim they are at an unfair competitive disadvantage in the domestic market against Canadian lumber producers because of Canada’s timber pricing policies. This has resulted in five major disputes (so-called lumber wars) between the United States and Canada since the 1980s.

The current dispute (Lumber V) started when the 2006 Softwood Lumber Agreement...

FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act: Selected Military Personnel Issues

Military personnel issues typically generate significant interest from many Members of Congress and their staffs. This report provides a brief synopsis of selected sections in the National Defense Authorization Act for FY2018 (H.R. 2810), as passed by the House on July 14, 2017, and the Senate on September 18, 2017. The FY2018 NDAA conference report was passed by the House on November 14, 2017, and the Senate on November 16, 2017. On December 12, President Donald J. Trump signed the bill into law (P.L. 115-91). Issues include military end-strengths, pay and benefits, and other personnel...

Afghanistan: Post-Taliban Governance, Security, and U.S. Policy

The United States, partner countries, and the Afghan government are attempting to reverse recent gains made by the resilient Taliban-led insurgency since the December 2014 transition to a smaller international mission consisting primarily of training and advising the Afghanistan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF). The Afghan government has come under increasing domestic criticism not only for failing to prevent insurgent gains but also for its internal divisions that have spurred the establishment of new political opposition coalitions. In September 2014, the United States...

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...

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...

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...

Federal Milk Marketing Orders: An Overview

Federal Milk Marketing Orders (FMMOs) are geographically defined fluid-milk demand areas. Under FMMO law and regulations, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) establishes a minimum milk price, and those who buy milk from producers, known as handlers, are required to pay milk producers no less than this established price. Handlers are responsible for reporting milk receipts by end use to FMMO milk market administrators and maintain adequate records so that administrators may audit and verify the accuracy of the reported uses.

The two main features of the FMMO system are classified...

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 II.

A...

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 have 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...

Taylor Force Act: Palestinian Terrorism-Related Payments and U.S. Aid

Some Members of Congress have increased their scrutiny of the Palestinian practice of providing payments to some Palestinians (and/or their families) who have been imprisoned for or accused of terrorism by Israel. Critics have asserted that because money is fungible, any aid that directly benefits the Palestinian Authority (PA) could indirectly support such payments. Congress may consider legislation—most of the bills are known as the Taylor Force Act—that could supersede existing provisions on the subject in annual appropriations legislation. The impact that the legislation could have on...

Maritime Territorial and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) Disputes Involving China: Issues for Congress

China’s actions for asserting and defending its maritime territorial and exclusive economic zone (EEZ) claims in the East China (ECS) and South China Sea (SCS) have heightened concerns among observers that China may be seeking to dominate or gain control of its near-seas region, meaning the ECS, the SCS, and the Yellow Sea. Chinese domination over or control of this region could substantially affect U.S. strategic, political, and economic interests in the Asia-Pacific region and elsewhere.

China is a party to multiple territorial disputes in the SCS and ECS, including, in particular,...

Venezuela: Background and U.S. Policy

Venezuela is in a deep political crisis under the authoritarian rule of President Nicolás Maduro of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV). Narrowly elected to a six-year term in 2013 following the death of populist President Hugo Chávez (1999-2013), Maduro is unpopular. Nevertheless, he has used the courts, security forces, and electoral council to repress and divide the opposition, grouped in the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) coalition.

From March through July 2017, protesters called for President Maduro to release political prisoners, respect the MUD-led National Assembly,...

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

The Navy has been procuring Arleigh Burke (DDG-51) class Aegis destroyers since FY1985. The two DDG-51s requested for procurement in FY2018 are to be the 78th and 79th ships in the class.

DDG-51s procured in FY2013-FY2017 were procured under a multiyear procurement (MYP) contract. As part of its FY2018 budget submission, the Navy is requesting authority to use another MYP contract to procure DDG-51s in FY2018-FY2022. The Navy plans to shift in FY2016 or FY2017 to a new variant of the DDG-51, called the Flight III DDG-51, that is to incorporate a new and more capable radar called the Air...

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

As part of its FY2018 budget submission, the Navy has initiated a new program, called the FFG(X) program, to build a new class of 20 guided-missile frigates (FFGs). The Navy wants to procure the first FFG(X) in FY2020, the second in FY2021, and the remaining 18 at a rate of two per year in FY2022-FY2030. Given current Navy force-structure goals, the Navy wants to procure a notional total of 20 FFG(X)s. The Navy’s proposed FY2018 budget requests $143.5 million in research and development funding for the program.

U.S. Navy frigates are smaller, less capable, and less expensive to procure and...

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 since FY1998. The two Virginia-class boats requested for procurement in FY2018 are to be the 27th and 28th boats in the class. The 10 Virginia-class boats programmed for procurement in FY2014-FY2018 (two per year for five years) are being procured under a multiyear-procurement (MYP) contract.

The Navy estimates the combined procurement cost of the two Virginia-class boats requested for procurement in FY2018 at $5,532.7 million, or an average of $2,766.4 million each. The boats have received a total of...

Nonimmigrant (Temporary) Admissions to the United States: Policy and Trends

U.S. law provides for the temporary admission of foreign nationals, who are known as nonimmigrants. Nonimmigrants are admitted for a designated period of time and a specific purpose. There are 24 major nonimmigrant visa categories, which are commonly referred to by the letter and numeral that denote their subsection in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA); for example, B-2 tourists, E-2 treaty investors, F-1 foreign students, H-1B temporary professional workers, J-1 cultural exchange participants, or S-5 law enforcement witnesses and informants.

A U.S. Department of State (DOS)...

Navy LX(R) Amphibious Ship Program: Background and Issues for Congress

The LX(R) program is a program to build a new class of amphibious ships for the Navy. LX(R)s are to replace 12 aging Whidbey Island/Harpers Ferry (LSD-41/49) class amphibious ships, the first of which will reach age 40 in 2025.

Under the Navy’s previous force-level goal to achieve and maintain a fleet of 308 ships, including 34 amphibious ships, the Navy had planned to procure a total of 11 LX(R)s. In December 2016, the Navy released a new force-level goal to achieve and maintain a fleet of 355 ships, including 38 amphibious ships. Under this new force level goal, the total planned number...

Medicare Temporary Payment Adjustments for Ground Ambulance Scheduled to Expire

Medicare Part B pays ambulance suppliers and providers for services and mileage under the Ambulance Fee Schedule (AFS). Congress established, through the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003 (P.L. 108-173), three temporary payment adjustments for ground ambulance transports. These temporary adjustments, among other AFS adjustments, are determined by the zip code where the patient is picked up; every zip code in the United States is eligible for at least one of the three temporary payment adjustments. Since enactment, Congress has modified and extended...

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

The John Lewis (TAO-205) class oiler shipbuilding program, previously known as the TAO(X) program, is a program to build a new class of 20 fleet oilers for the Navy. The primary role of Navy fleet oilers is to transfer fuel to Navy surface ships that are operating at sea, so as to extend the operating endurance of these surface ships and their embarked aircraft. The first ship in the TAO-205 program was funded in FY2016 at a cost of $674.2 million and is scheduled to be delivered to the Navy in November 2020.

As part of its proposed FY2018 budget, the Navy is requesting the procurement of...

Jerusalem: U.S. Recognition as Israel’s Capital and Planned Embassy Move

Via a presidential document that he signed after a speech on December 6, 2017, President Trump proclaimed “that the United States recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel and that the United States Embassy to Israel will be relocated [from Tel Aviv] to Jerusalem as soon as practicable.” A December deadline for a presidential decision under the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 (P.L. 104-45) and plans for Vice President Pence to travel to the region apparently precipitated the timing of the President’s decision.

Despite his proclamation on the planned embassy relocation, the...

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

The Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program is a program to procure a total of about 32 relatively inexpensive surface combatants equipped with modular mission packages. The first LCS was procured in FY2005, and a total of 29 have been procured through FY2017.

For FY2018, the Navy is requesting the procurement of the 30th and 31st LCSs. The Navy’s FY2018 five-year shipbuilding plan includes a 32nd LCS in FY2019. Starting in FY2020, the Navy wants to shift from procuring LCSs to procuring a new guided-missile frigate called the FFG(X). The design of the FFG(X) is to be based on either the...

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 FY2018 budget submission, the number of BMD-capable Aegis ships is scheduled to be 36 at the end of FY2018 and 51 at the end of FY2022.

Two Japan-homeported Navy BMD-capable Aegis destroyers included in the above figures—the Fitzgerald (DDG-62) and the John S McCain (DDG-56)—were seriously damaged in collisions with merchant ships in waters off the coasts of Japan and...

Researching Current Federal Legislation and Regulations: A Guide to Resources for Congressional Staff

This report is designed to introduce congressional staff to selected governmental and nongovernmental sources that are useful in tracking and obtaining information on federal legislation and regulations. It includes governmental sources, such as Congress.gov, the Government Publishing Office’s Federal Digital System (FDsys), and U.S. Senate and House websites. Nongovernmental or commercial sources include resources such as HeinOnline and the Congressional Quarterly (CQ) websites. The report also highlights classes offered by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) and the Law Library of...

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, and 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 October...

Navy Lasers, Railgun, and Hypervelocity Projectile: Background and Issues for Congress

The Navy is currently developing three potential new weapons that could improve the ability of its surface ships to defend themselves against enemy missiles—solid state lasers (SSLs), the electromagnetic railgun (EMRG), and the hypervelocity projectile (HVP).

Any one of these new weapon technologies, if successfully developed and deployed, might be regarded as a “game changer” for defending Navy surface ships against enemy missiles. If two or three of them are successfully developed and deployed, the result might be considered not just a game changer, but a revolution. Rarely has the Navy...

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. Using USAspending.gov to locate and compile accurate data on federal awards can be challenging due to continued data quality problems identified by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). Users of USAspending.gov need to be aware that while search results may be useful...

Efforts to Address Seasonal Agricultural Import Competition in the NAFTA Renegotiation

The United States has initiated renegotiations of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Canada and Mexico. Among the Administration’s agriculture-related objectives in the renegotiation is a proposal to establish new rules for seasonal and perishable products, such as fruits and vegetables, which would establish a separate domestic industry provision for perishable and seasonal products in anti-dumping and countervailing duties (AD/CVD) proceedings. This could protect certain U.S. seasonal fruit and vegetable products by making it easier to initiate trade remedy cases...

Lebanon

Since having its boundaries drawn by France after the First World War, Lebanon has struggled to define its national identity. Unlike other countries in the region, 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 was based on Lebanon’s last official census, which was conducted in 1932.

As...

Financial Regulation: FY2018 Appropriations and the Financial CHOICE Act (H.R. 10)

Background

On September 14, 2017, the House passed H.R. 3354, which included the FY2018 Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) Appropriations bill in Division D. The Senate Appropriations Committee released an FY2018 FSGG chairmen’s mark on November 20, 2017, but further action has yet to occur on the bill. Much of the federal government, including agencies covered by FSGG appropriations, has been operating for the first part of FY2018 under a continuing resolution effective through December 8, 2017.

Although financial services are a focus of the FSGG bill, the bill does not...

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 December 30, 2016, the United States Air Force (USAF) issued a final solicitation and request for proposal (RFP) to industry to replace the USAF trainer fleet of T-38C Talon aircraft and associated ground-based training systems. The USAF intends to buy 350 Advanced Pilot Training (APT T-X) aircraft and 46 Ground-Based Training Systems (GBTS), a contract valued at roughly $1.5 billion for the...

Senate Consideration of Treaties

The consideration of treaties and nominations constitutes the executive business of the Senate. The Senate conducts executive business only after it has resolved into executive session. Senate Rule XXIX is concerned with executive sessions; Rule XXX discusses proceedings on treaties. This report is one of a series of CRS reports on aspects of the legislative process, and it will be updated to reflect any change in the rules and practices of the Senate regarding consideration of treaties.

Senate Committee Hearings: Arranging Witnesses

Selecting witnesses is one of the most important aspects of planning a Senate hearing. Committees and subcommittees pay careful attention to which viewpoints will be represented, who should testify, and the order and format for presenting witnesses. A witness must be invited by a committee in order to testify. Standing committees and their subcommittees may also subpoena reluctant witnesses.

Natural Disasters of 2017: Congressional Considerations Related to FEMA Assistance

This Insight provides a short overview of issues Congress may consider in its oversight of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA’s) federal assistance during the 2017 hurricane season (e.g., Harvey, Irma, and Maria) and other disasters (e.g., fires in California). For the current status of response efforts, see official government sources and news media. For additional support, please contact CRS experts.

Stafford Act Declarations and Response

Under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (the Stafford Act), the President may declare an emergency or...

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...

Senate Committee Hearings: Scheduling and Notification

Senate standing committees have authority to hold hearings whether the Senate is in session, has recessed, or has adjourned (Rule XXVI, paragraph 1). Regardless of the type of hearing or whether a hearing is held in or outside of Washington, hearings share common aspects of planning and preparation.

Senate Committee Hearings: Witness Testimony

Generally, witnesses before Senate committees (except Appropriations) must provide a committee with a copy of their written testimony at least one day prior to their oral testimony (Rule XXVI, paragraph 4(b)). It is common practice to ask a witness to limit his or her oral remarks to a brief summary of the written testimony. A question-and-answer period usually follows a witness’s oral testimony. Senate rules require committees to make publicly available a transcript or recording of any public meeting.

Senate Committee Rules in the 115th Congress: Key Provisions

Senate Rule XXVI establishes specific requirements for certain Senate committee procedures. In addition, each Senate committee is required to adopt rules to govern its own proceedings. These rules may “not be inconsistent with the Rules of the Senate.” Senate committees may also operate according to additional established practices that are not necessarily reflected in their adopted rules but are not specifically addressed by Senate rules. In sum, Senate committees are allowed some latitude to establish tailored procedures to govern certain activities, which can result in significant...

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. At that time, 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...

Bank Systemic Risk Regulation: The $50 Billion Threshold in the Dodd-Frank Act

The 2007-2009 financial crisis highlighted the problem of “too big to fail” financial institutions—the concept that the failure of a large financial firm could trigger financial instability, which in several cases prompted extraordinary federal assistance to prevent their failure. This report focuses on one pillar of the Dodd-Frank Act’s (P.L. 111-203) response to addressing financial stability and ending too big to fail: a new enhanced prudential regulatory regime that applies to all banks with more than $50 billion in assets and to certain other financial institutions. Under this regime,...

Winter Fuels Outlook 2017-2018

The Energy Information Administration (EIA), in its Short-Term Energy and Winter Fuels Outlook (STEWFO) for the 2017-2018 winter heating season, projects that American consumers should expect to see heating expenditures that will be higher than last winter. However, the winter of 2016-2017 was relatively warm. Average expenditures for those heating with natural gas are projected to increase by 12%, while those heating with electricity are projected to see an increase of about 8%. These two fuels serve as the heating source for about 87% of all U.S. household heating. Propane and home...

FEMA’s Firefighter Assistance Grants: Reauthorization or Sunset?

Under current law (15 U.S.C. 2229(r) and 15 U.S.C. 2229a(k)), sunset provisions for the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) and the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) programs will go into effect on January 2, 2018, unless the 115th Congress enacts AFG and SAFER reauthorization legislation. On August 2, 2017, the Senate passed the AFG and SAFER Program Reauthorization Act of 2017 (S. 829) by unanimous consent. S. 829 would repeal the sunset provisions for AFG and SAFER, as well as reauthorize appropriations for both programs through FY2023. The House has not...

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 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 kind of...

The Child and Dependent Care Credit: Impact of Selected Policy Options

Some policymakers have shown interest in having the federal government offset some of the costs families incur for child care. The child and dependent care tax credit (CDCTC or “child care credit”) reimburses some taxpayers for a portion of their out-of-pocket child care expenses. The CDCTC is a nonrefundable tax credit, meaning taxpayers with little or no income tax liability—including many low-income taxpayers—receive little if any credit. Using the TRIM3 model, this report provides estimates of key characteristics of the CDCTC under current law and estimates the distributional effect of...

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 (CDC). 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...

Retirement Benefits for Members of Congress

Prior to 1984, neither federal civil service employees nor Members of Congress paid Social Security taxes, nor were they eligible for Social Security benefits. Members of Congress and other federal employees were instead covered by a separate pension plan called the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS). The 1983 amendments to the Social Security Act (P.L. 98-21) required federal employees first hired after 1983 to participate in Social Security. These amendments also required all Members of Congress to participate in Social Security as of January 1, 1984, regardless of when they first...

Senate Committee Hearings: Preparation

Committee hearings allow Senators an opportunity to gather information on—and draw attention to—legislation and issues within a committee’s purview, conduct oversight of programs or agencies, and investigate allegations of wrongdoing.

This checklist identifies, primarily for staff, many of the tasks that need to be performed by a full committee and, in most cases, subcommittees in advance of a hearing. Some of the tasks are required by Senate or committee rules; others are common committee practice. Some tasks are usually the responsibility of the committee’s majority staff, some are...

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...

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...

Nuclear Negotiations with North Korea: In Brief

Some analysts have suggested that, in response to the accelerated pace of North Korea’s nuclear and missile testing programs and its continued threats against the United States and U.S. allies, the United States might engage in an aggressive negotiation strategy. Since the early 1990s, successive U.S. Presidents have faced the question of whether to negotiate with the North Korean government to halt Pyongyang’s nuclear program and ambitions. Questions for policymakers include the utility, timing, scope, and goals of diplomatic talks with Pyongyang.

The United States has engaged in four...

Oman: Reform, 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 of the Persian Gulf states 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 and around the Gulf 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 if its ailing leader, Sultan Qaboos bin Sa’id Al Said, leaves the scene in the near term. He underwent cancer treatment abroad for nearly a year...

The Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA): A Legal Overview

In the wake of the 2016 election, concerns have been raised with respect to the legal regime governing foreign influence in domestic politics. The central law concerning the activities of the agents of foreign entities acting in the United States is the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA or Act). Enacted in 1938 to promote transparency with respect to foreign influence in the political process, FARA generally requires “agents of foreign principals” undertaking certain activities on behalf of foreign interests to register with and file regular reports with the U.S. Department of Justice...

Supplemental Appropriations and the 2017 Hurricane Season

The 2017 hurricane season was the fifth-most active on record in the Atlantic Basin, in terms of accumulated storm strength. Four named storms made landfall on U.S. soil from mid-August to mid-October, causing extensive damage. Concurrently, a series of deadly wildfires struck California.

Enacted 2017 Hurricane Season Supplemental Appropriations

Congress has passed two supplemental appropriations bills in response to Administration requests made in September and October 2017 in the wake of these incidents. Table 1 outlines the two requests and enacted appropriations.

Table 1. Enacted...

Proposed Offsets Exceed Spending for Agriculture in the Administration’s Disaster Assistance Request

On November 17, 2017, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released the Administration’s request for a third round of supplemental funding in response to natural disasters in 2017. The total request includes $44 billion of additional appropriations for disasters during 2017, offset by $59 billion of reductions to budget authority for previous appropriations ($15 billion) and a two-year extension of sequestration on mandatory spending ($44 billion) from FY2025 to FY2027.

Accounts in the jurisdiction of Agriculture appropriations would receive an additional of $992 million for...

Farm Bill Primer Series: A Guide to Omnibus Legislation on Agriculture and Food Programs

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 farm bill.” The current farm bill (P.L. 113-79) was signed into law in February 2014. Many of the programs authorized by the 2014 farm bill are scheduled to expire in 2018 unless Congress provides for an extension, or reauthorizes them. Without congressional action, key commodity support programs would revert to permanently authorized legislation from the 1930s and 1940s.

Farm bill Farm bill...

Financial Regulation: The Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act (S. 2155)

The Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs has scheduled an executive session to consider the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act (S. 2155) on December 5, 2017. In general, the bill aims to provide regulatory relief to banks, relax mortgage lending rules, and provide additional consumer protections related to credit reporting and other areas.

Some observers assert the financial crisis of 2007-2009 revealed excessive risk had built up in the financial system, and that weaknesses in regulation contributed to that build up and the resultant...

Haiti’s Political and Economic Conditions: In Brief

Haiti shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic; Haiti occupies the western third of the island. Since the fall of the Duvalier dictatorship in 1986, Haiti has struggled to overcome its centuries-long legacy of authoritarianism, extreme poverty, and underdevelopment. Although significant progress has been made in improving governance, democratic institutions remain weak. Poverty remains massive and deep, and economic disparity is wide. In proximity to the United States, and with a chronically unstable political environment and fragile economy, Haiti has been an ongoing...

Understanding the Speech or Debate Clause

The Speech or Debate Clause (Clause) of the U.S. Constitution states that “[F]or any Speech or Debate in either House,” Members of Congress (Members) “shall not be questioned in any other Place.” The Clause serves various purposes: principally to protect the independence and integrity of the legislative branch by protecting against executive or judicial intrusions into the protected legislative sphere, but also to bar judicial or executive processes that may constitute a “distraction” or “disruption” to a Member’s representative or legislative role. Despite the literal text, protected acts...

Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDCs): Background and Issues for Congress

The federal government supports research and development (R&D) that is conducted by a wide variety of performers, including federally owned and operated laboratories, universities, private companies, and other research institutions. A special class of research institutions referred to as federally funded research and development centers, or FFRDCs, are owned by the federal government, but operated by contractors, including universities, other non-profit organizations, and industrial firms. FFRDCs are intended to provide federal agencies with R&D capabilities that cannot be effectively met...

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) has 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 law. The report 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.

The report begins with links to contacts for constituents’ specific...

Coast Guard Polar Icebreaker Modernization: Background and Issues for Congress

The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2018 budget requests $19 million in acquisition funding for a new polar icebreaker that the Coast Guard wants to begin building in FY2019. The project to acquire a new polar icebreaker was initiated in the Coast Guard’s FY2013 budget submission and has received about $190.6 million in acquisition funding through FY2017. The total acquisition cost of a new polar icebreaker had been estimated informally at roughly $1 billion, but the Coast Guard and Navy now believe the ship could cost less than $1 billion.

The operational U.S. polar icebreaking fleet currently...

Concurrent Receipt: Background and Issues for Congress

“Concurrent receipt” refers to the simultaneous receipt of two types of 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 retired pay “offset” or reduced dollar-for-dollar by the amount of their VA compensation.

Proponents for the concurrent receipt of both military retired pay and VA...

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. The criteria that flow from the Antideficiency Act for determining which activities are affected are complex.

Failure of the President and Congress to reach agreement on full-year or interim funding measures occasionally has...

Missing Adults: Background, Federal Programs, and Issues for Congress

Adults may go missing due to personal choice, an abduction, foul play, a mental or physical disability, or a natural catastrophe, among other reasons. Although no accurate estimates exist of the number of missing adults, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reported that as of December 31, 2016, approximately 54,000 cases of missing adults (age 18 and older) were pending in the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) system, a federal computerized index with data on crimes and locator files for missing and unidentified persons. Certain adults are particularly vulnerable to missing...

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, 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 division should...

Reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the 115th Congress

Funding authorization for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), included in the FAA Extension, Safety, and Security Act of 2016 (P.L. 114-190), expired at the end of FY2017. A subsequent six-month extension (P.L. 115-63) is set to expire at the end of March 2018. Long-term FAA reauthorization measures (H.R. 2997 and S. 1405) are currently under consideration. In addition to setting spending levels, FAA authorization acts typically set policy on a wide range of issues related to civil aviation. This report considers prominent topics in the 115th Congress reauthorization debate.

Most...

Money Laundering: An Overview of 18 U.S.C. § 1956 and Related Federal Criminal Law

This report provides an overview of the elements of federal criminal money laundering statutes and the sanctions imposed for their violation. The most prominent is 18 U.S.C. § 1956. Section 1956 outlaws four kinds of money laundering—promotional, concealment, structuring, and tax evasion laundering of the proceeds generated by designated federal, state, and foreign underlying crimes (predicate offenses)—committed or attempted under one or more of three jurisdictional conditions (i.e., laundering involving certain financial transactions, laundering involving international transfers, and...

Third Treasury Report on Regulatory Relief: Asset Management and Insurance

On October 26, 2017, the Department of the Treasury issued a report, “A Financial System That Creates Economic Opportunities: Asset Management and Insurance,” which examines the regulation of those industries. It is the third in a series of reports written in accordance with Executive Order 13772 issued by President Donald Trump on February 3, 2017, which directs the Secretary of the Treasury to report on how the financial system is regulated and how regulation could be improved.

The report examines asset management and insurance and makes recommendations for changes to how they are...

Colombia’s Changing Approach to Drug Policy

Colombia is one of the largest producers of cocaine globally, and it also produces heroin bound for the United States. Counternarcotics policy has long been a key component of the U.S.-Colombian relationship, which some analysts have described as “driven by drugs.” In recent years, Colombia revised its approach to counternarcotics policy, which may have implications for the U.S.-Colombian relationship going forward. On September 13, 2017, President Trump cited the recent spike in Colombia’s cocaine production as the reason he was reserving the option to decertify Colombia as a cooperating...

Money Laundering: An Abridged Overview of 18 U.S.C. § 1956 and Related Federal Criminal Law

This report provides an overview of the elements of federal criminal money laundering statutes and the sanctions imposed for their violation. The most prominent is 18 U.S.C. § 1956. Section 1956 outlaws four kinds of money laundering—promotional, concealment, structuring, and tax evasion laundering of the proceeds generated by designated federal, state, and foreign underlying crimes (predicate offenses)—committed or attempted under one or more of three jurisdictional conditions (i.e., laundering involving certain financial transactions, laundering involving international transfers, and...

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, almost 83% are retired or disabled workers; family members of retired, disabled, or deceased workers make up the remainder. In August 2017, nearly 62 million beneficiaries received a total of $77 billion in benefit payments for the month; the average monthly benefit was $1,258.

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

Coast Guard Cutter Procurement: Background and Issues for Congress

The Coast Guard’s acquisition 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 cutters and patrol craft. The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2018 budget requests a total of $794 million in acquisition funding for the NSC, OPC, and FRC programs.

NSCs are the Coast Guard’s largest and most capable general-purpose cutters. They have an estimated average procurement cost of about $695 million per ship. The first six are now in service (the sixth was...

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...

Iran’s Expanding Economic Relations with Asia

Overview

Since multilateral sanctions on Iran were lifted in January 2016 under the Iran nuclear agreement (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, JCPOA), foreign firms have begun to resume business with Iran. Iranian leaders seem to be counting on expanded economic ties with the major East Asian economies to help Iran emerge from the years of international sanctions, diversify its economy away from reliance on hydrocarbon products, and become a regional trading hub. Expanding ties with Asia is politically easy for Iran because the major Asian countries remained engaged in Iran’s economy even...

The Trump Administration and the Unified Agenda of Federal Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions

Donald J. Trump promised that if he were elected President, he would instruct federal agencies to reduce their regulations significantly. As of late 2017, this deregulation was underway in agencies across the federal government.

One way for Congress and the public to be informed about this deregulatory activity is to consult the “Unified Agenda of Federal Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions.” The Unified Agenda is a government-wide publication of rulemaking actions agencies expect to take in the coming months, and it contains both regulatory actions (i.e., new regulations) and deregulatory...

Zimbabwe’s Political Transition: Issues for Congress

In mid-November 2017, spurred by an intraparty rivalry within the ruling Zimbabwe National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party to succeed then-President Robert Mugabe (age 93), the Zimbabwe Defense Forces (ZDF) seized control of key national political and military facilities. The ZDF then reportedly pressed Mugabe—head of state since independence in 1980—to resign, reverse his recent dismissal of Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa in favor of Mugabe’s wife, Grace Mugabe, and halt a ZANU-PF purge of Mnangagwa’s supporters. (See CRS Insight IN10819, Zimbabwe: A Military-Compelled...

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 concerns and legal 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...

The Supplemental Poverty Measure: Its Core Concepts, Development, and Use

The Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) is a measure of economic deprivation—having insufficient financial resources to achieve a specified standard of living. The SPM addresses some of the limitations of the official poverty measure, without supplanting it outright.

Both the SPM and the official measure determine the poverty status of people and families by comparing their financial resources against poverty thresholds that are valued in dollars. For both measures, poverty thresholds vary by family size and composition, and families whose resources are lower than the thresholds are...

Presidential Appointments to Full-Time Positions on Regulatory and Other Collegial Boards and Commissions, 114th Congress

The President makes appointments to certain positions within the federal government, either using authorities granted to the President alone or with the advice and consent of the Senate. There are some 151 full-time leadership positions on 34 federal regulatory and other collegial boards and commissions for which the Senate provides advice and consent. This report identifies all nominations submitted to the Senate for full-time positions on these 34 boards and commissions during the 114th Congress.

Information for each board and commission is presented in profiles and tables. The profiles...

Presidential Appointments to Full-Time Positions in Independent and Other Agencies During the 114th Congress

The President makes appointments to positions within the federal government, either using the authorities granted by law to the President alone or with the advice and consent of the Senate. This report identifies all nominations during the 114th Congress that were submitted to the Senate for full-time positions in 40 organizations in the executive branch (27 independent agencies, 6 agencies in the Executive Office of the President [EOP], and 7 multilateral organizations) and 4 agencies in the legislative branch. It excludes appointments to executive departments and to regulatory and other...

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 and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers 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 Protection Agency...

The Opioid Epidemic and the Labor Force

Some Members have expressed strong concerns about the societal costs of the opioid epidemic, including its potential to adversely affect the U.S. economy. Efforts to quantify the annual economic costs of opioid abuse and dependence return estimates in the tens of billions, of which workforce losses—decreased productivity, missed days of work, and premature death—account for a substantial share. Opioid abuse could further generate labor force costs—directly or indirectly—if it affects labor force participation decisions and unemployment. A small body of research has explored and identified...

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...

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...

Egypt: Terrorist Attack in the Sinai Peninsula

Background

Terrorists based in the Sinai Peninsula have been waging an insurgency against the Egyptian government for more than six years. While the terrorist landscape in Egypt is evolving and encompasses several groups, Sinai Province (SP) is known as the most lethal. Since its affiliation with the Islamic State in 2014, SP has attacked the Egyptian military continually, targeted Coptic Christian individuals and places of worship, and occasionally fired rockets into Israel. In October 2015, SP targeted Russian tourists departing the Sinai by allegedly planting a bomb aboard Metrojet...

Senate Rules Restricting the Content of Conference Reports

Two Senate rules affect the authority of conferees to include in their report matter that was not passed by the House or Senate before the conference committee was appointed. Colloquially, such provisions are sometimes said to have been “airdropped” into the conference report. First, Rule XXVIII precludes conference agreements from including policy provisions that were not sufficiently related to either the House or the Senate version of the legislation sent to conference. Such provisions are considered to be “out of scope” under long-standing Senate rules and precedents. Second, Paragraph...

Cuba: U.S. Policy in the 115th Congress

Cuba remains a one-party authoritarian state with a poor record on human rights. Current President Raúl Castro succeeded his long-ruling brother Fidel Castro in 2006, and he is expected to step down in February 2018. Most observers see First Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel as the “heir apparent” as president, although Raúl likely will continue in his position as first secretary of Cuba’s Communist Party. Under Raúl, Cuba has implemented gradual market-oriented economic policy changes over the past decade, but critics maintain that the government has not taken enough action to foster...

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...

Post-Heller Second Amendment Jurisprudence

This report examines the scope of the Second Amendment, as interpreted by the federal circuit courts of appeals, after the watershed Supreme Court decisions in District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. City of Chicago. 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 Heller, the Second Amendment had received little Supreme Court attention and had been largely interpreted, at least by the lower federal courts,...

The Campus-Based Financial Aid Programs: Background and Issues

Three need-based student financial aid programs authorized under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA)—Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) program, the Federal Work-Study (FWS) program, and the Federal Perkins Loan program—are collectively referred to as the “campus-based” programs. These programs are considered campus-based because federal funds are awarded directly to institutions of higher education (IHEs) that administer the programs and provide institutional funds to match the federal funds they receive for them.

The campus-based programs are among...

FDA Human Medical Product User Fee Programs: In Brief

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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates human medical products to ensure they are safe and effective for their intended use in patients. Medical products include prescription and nonprescription (over-the-counter) drugs, biologics or biological products, and medical devices. FDA regulation of these products involves both premarket and postmarket regulatory requirements. The four user fee programs discussed in this report are prescription drugs, medical devices, generic drugs, and biosimilars....

Cybersecurity: Education, Training, and R&D Authoritative Reports and Resources

Much is written on the topics of current gaps in the education and training of a cybersecurity workforce and the need for technology research and development (R&D) to solve cybersecurity technical issues. This CRS report directs the reader to authoritative sources that address these issues. The annotated descriptions of these sources are listed in reverse chronological order, with an emphasis on material published in the past several years. This report also includes resources and studies from government agencies (federal, state, local, and international), think tanks, academic...

Cybersecurity: State, Local, and International Authoritative Reports and Resources

Much is written by and about state, local, and international government efforts to address cybersecurity policy issues. This report and the CRS reports listed below link to authoritative sources that address many of the most prominent issues. It includes resources and studies from government agencies (federal, state, local, and international), think tanks, academic institutions, news organizations, and other sources. These sources are listed in reverse chronological order, with an emphasis on materials published in the past several years.

This report is intended to serve as a starting...

Volcano and Landslide Provisions in Title X of S. 1460, the Energy and Natural Resources Act of 2017

Title X of S. 1460 would authorize a national volcano early warning and monitoring system (Subtitle A) and a National Landslide Hazards Reduction Program (Subtitle B) within the Department of the Interior (DOI). These activities would be led by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), a bureau within DOI.

Volcanoes

The USGS has indicated that progressively implementing a national volcano early warning system (NVEWS) to address a monitoring gap within its Volcano Hazards Program (funding level of $26 million in FY2017) has been a priority since 2005. In its FY2018 budget justification, however,...

Deficits and Debt: Economic Effects and Other Issues

The federal government incurs a budget deficit (also known as a net 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...

Keystone XL Pipeline: Recent Developments

Introduction

TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL Pipeline would transport oil sands crude from Canada and shale oil produced in the Bakken region of North Dakota and Montana to a market hub in Nebraska (Figure 1). On November 20, 2017, the Nebraska Public Service Commission (PSC) approved the “alternative mainline” route for the Nebraska segment of Keystone XL which would co-locate some of the new pipeline with the company’s existing Keystone (Mainline) Pipeline. This route differs from the siting that TransCanada originally proposed (Figure 2, “preferred route”). Due to the PSC’s decision,...

The Distribution of the Tax Policy Changes in H.R. 1 and the Senate’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

Distributional analysis can be used to illustrate how changes in tax policy would affect the economic well-being of taxpayers. The Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) regularly prepares distributional analyses of major tax proposals. On November 14, 2017, the JCT released a distributional analysis of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (H.R. 1). H.R. 1 passed a vote in the House on November 16, 2017. The JCT has also released a distributional analysis of the Senate’s version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

When the goal of distributional analysis is to look at taxpayers’ economic well-being, one useful...

Cybersecurity: Overview Reports and Links to Government, News, and Related Resources

Much is written on the topic of cybersecurity. This CRS report and those listed below direct the reader to authoritative sources that address many of the most prominent issues. Included in the reports are resources and studies from government agencies (federal, state, local, and international), think tanks, academic institutions, news organizations, and other sources.

This report is intended to serve as a starting point for congressional staff assigned to cover cybersecurity issues. It includes annotated descriptions of reports, websites, or external resources:

Table 1—cybersecurity...

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,...

Iraq: Background and U.S. Policy

The 115th Congress and the Trump Administration are considering options for U.S. engagement with Iraq as Iraqis look beyond the immediate security challenges posed by their intense three-year battle with the insurgent terrorists of the Islamic State organization (IS, aka ISIL/ISIS). While Iraq’s military victory over Islamic State forces is now virtually complete, Iraq’s underlying political and economic challenges are daunting and cooperation among the forces arrayed to defeat IS extremists has already begun to fray. The future of volunteer Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) and the terms...

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...

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...

Australia: Background and U.S. Relations

The Commonwealth of Australia and the United States enjoy a close alliance relationship. Australia shares many cultural traditions and values with the United States and has been a treaty ally since the signing of the Australia-New Zealand-United States (ANZUS) Treaty in 1951. Australia made major contributions to the allied cause in the First and Second World Wars, and the conflicts in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Australia is also a close intelligence partner through the “Five Eyes” group of nations. U.S. Marines are conducting rotational deployments in northern Australia. This...

Monuments and Memorials Authorized and Completed Under the Commemorative Works Act in the District of Columbia

Since the enactment of the Commemorative Works Act (CWA) in 1986, Congress has authorized 35 commemorative works to be placed in the District of Columbia or its environs. Nineteen of these works have been completed and dedicated.

This report contains a catalog of the 19 authorized works that have been completed and dedicated since 1986. For each memorial, the report provides a rationale for each authorized work, as expressed by a Member of Congress, as well as the statutory authority for its creation; and identifies the group or groups which sponsored the commemoration, the memorial’s...

Tax Incentives for Charitable Giving in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (H.R. 1)

Provisions in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (H.R. 1) would decrease the tax incentive for charitable giving. Under current law, taxpayers itemizing deductions can deduct contributions made to charitable organizations. Generally, the deduction is limited to 50% of adjusted gross income (AGI), although there are lower AGI limits for certain types of non-cash gifts and for gifts to certain types of recipient organizations.

H.R. 1 would decrease the tax incentive for charitable giving by substantially reducing the number of taxpayers itemizing deductions. Specifically, the standard deduction...

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 4 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...

Congressional Commissions: Overview, Structure, and Legislative Considerations

Congressional advisory commissions are formal groups established to provide independent advice; make recommendations for changes in public policy; study or investigate a particular problem, issue, or event; or perform a duty. While no legal definition exists for what constitutes a “congressional commission,” in this report a congressional commission is defined as a multi-member independent entity that (1) is established by Congress, (2) exists temporarily, (3) serves in an advisory capacity, (4) is appointed in part or whole by Members of Congress, and (5) reports to Congress. These five...

The Individual Mandate for Health Insurance Coverage: In Brief

Since 2014, most individuals have been required to maintain health insurance coverage. Some individuals are exempt from this individual mandate. Those who are not exempt and who do not maintain coverage are subject to a penalty for noncompliance implemented through the Internal Revenue Code. The requirement was established under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA; P.L. 111-148, as amended).

There are a number of different exemptions for which individuals may qualify. For example, individuals with certain religious beliefs and those whose household income is below the...

OPEC and Non-OPEC Crude Oil Production Agreement: Compliance Status

On November 30, 2016—in an effort to stabilize declining oil prices—the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) announced an agreement whereby 11 of the then-active 13 members would reduce crude oil production by approximately 1.2 million barrels per day (bpd) for 6 months starting January 1, 2017. On December 10, 2016, OPEC announced that 11 non-OPEC countries, led by Russia, had joined the agreement by pledging to further reduce oil production by 558,000 bpd. This “Declaration of Cooperation” to collectively reduce oil production by approximately 1.8 million bpd was...

Contracting the Adversary

With the military services looking to alleviate shortages of pilots and publicly admitting shortages in readiness, the Navy and Air Force have begun to look to contracting out some kinds of pilot training—specifically the live simulation of enemy aircraft.

Before the Vietnam War, American air forces trained internally, with pilots flying against others in similar aircraft using the same tactics. During that war, however, the United States learned a great deal about modern adversary tactics and the capabilities of the (mainly Soviet) aircraft employed in that war, which often differed...

Repair or Rebuild: Options for Electric Power in Puerto Rico

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. The hurricane also brought torrential rainfall with a range of 15 to 40 inches or more in some places, resulting in widespread flooding across the island. Puerto Rico’s office of emergency management reported that the storm 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 season, Puerto Rico’s electric power infrastructure...

Potential Effects of a U.S. NAFTA Withdrawal: Agricultural Markets

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) entered into force on January 1, 1994, establishing a free trade area as part of a comprehensive economic and trade agreement among the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Currently, the United States is renegotiating the agreement. However, repeated threats by President Trump to abandon NAFTA and other actions by the Administration as part of ongoing efforts to “modernize” NAFTA have raised concerns that the United States could withdraw from NAFTA. Although some U.S. agricultural sectors support NAFTA renegotiation and efforts to address...

Zimbabwe: A Military-Compelled Transition?

Between November 14 and 15, members of the Zimbabwe Defense Forces (ZDF) seized control of the state-owned Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation and secured other key political and military facilities, in an action seen by some observers as a coup d’état. The ultimate objective and possible trajectory of their intervention remain unclear, but the move appears to have been sparked by a succession struggle within the ruling Zimbabwe National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF).

Specific triggers were President Robert Mugabe’s November 6 dismissal of one of Zimbabwe’s two vice presidents, Emmerson...

The Article V Convention to Propose Constitutional Amendments: Current Developments

Article V of the U.S. Constitution provides two procedures for amending the nation’s fundamental charter: proposal of amendments by Congress, by a vote of two-thirds of the Members of both houses, and proposal by a convention, generally referred to as an “Article V Convention,” called on the application of the legislatures of two-thirds (34) of the states. Amendments proposed by either method must be ratified by three-fourths (38) of the states in order to become part of the Constitution. This report provides information for Members of Congress and congressional staff on current...

Telehealth Services Proposed for Medicare Part B Reimbursements, 2018: Fact Sheet

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During the 115th Congress, several bipartisan bills have been introduced that aim to expand the number of telehealth services that are covered under Medicare. Telehealth is the electronic delivery of a health care service via a technological method. Health care providers use telehealth to improve patients’ access to and quality of care. Under Medicare, these patients are likely to live in rural areas, be under the age of 65, and be disabled.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) administers the Medicare program and makes decisions on telehealth coverage and...

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...

Impact of the Budget Control Act Discretionary Spending Caps on a Continuing Resolution

What are the requirements of the BCA for FY2018 appropriations?

Appropriations enacted for FY2018 are subject to two statutory discretionary spending limits established by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA): One applies to defense discretionary spending, and the other applies to nondefense discretionary spending. The defense spending limit for FY2018 is $549 billion and applies to discretionary spending in budget function 050 (national defense) only. The nondefense spending limit for FY2018 is $516 billion and applies to discretionary spending in all other budget functions. The BCA...

Statute of Limitation in Federal Criminal Cases: A Sketch

A statute of limitations dictates the time period within which a legal proceeding must begin. The purpose of a statute of limitations in a criminal case is to ensure the prompt prosecution of criminal charges and thereby spare the accused of the burden of having to defend against stale charges after memories may have faded or evidence is lost.

There is no statute of limitations for federal crimes punishable by death, nor for certain federal crimes of terrorism, nor for certain federal sex offenses. Prosecution for most other federal crimes must begin within five years of the commitment of...

Statute of Limitation in Federal Criminal Cases: An Overview

A statute of limitations dictates the time period within which a legal proceeding must begin. The purpose of a statute of limitations in a criminal case is to ensure the prompt prosecution of criminal charges and thereby spare the accused of the burden of having to defend against stale charges after memories may have faded or evidence is lost.

There is no statute of limitations for federal crimes punishable by death, nor for certain federal crimes of terrorism, nor for certain federal sex offenses. Prosecution for most other federal crimes must begin within five years of the commitment of...

Colombia: Background and U.S. Relations

Colombia is the third most populous country in Latin America, with roughly 49 million inhabitants. A key U.S. ally in the region, Colombia endured an internal armed conflict for half a century. Drug trafficking has fueled the violence by funding both left-wing and right-wing armed groups. In the late 1990s, some analysts feared Colombia—threatened by a multisided, violent conflict—would become a failed state. The Colombian government defied those predictions, however, through an evolving security strategy known as Plan Colombia. Originally designed as a six-year program, Plan Colombia...

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 President Obama on June 29, 2015 (P.L. 114-26). If the President negotiates an international trade agreement that would reduce tariff or non-tariff 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 allows...

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...

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.

Globally, two fossil-fueled power plants currently generate electricity and capture CO2 in large quantities: the Boundary Dam plant in Canada and the Petra...

Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD): FY2018 Appropriations

The House and Senate Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) Appropriations Subcommittees are charged with providing annual appropriations for the Department of Transportation (DOT), Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and related agencies. THUD programs receive both discretionary and mandatory budget authority; HUD’s budget generally accounts for the largest share of discretionary appropriations in the THUD bill, but when mandatory funding is taken into account, DOT’s budget is larger than HUD’s budget. Mandatory funding typically accounts...

U.S. Circuit and District Court Nominees Who Received a Rating of “Not Qualified” from the American Bar Association: Background and Historical Analysis

The process used by the American Bar Association (ABA) to evaluate judicial nominees has, over the years, remained a topic of ongoing interest among Senators during the judicial confirmation process. This CRS Insight provides background information and historical analysis of U.S. circuit and district court nominees who received, from 1953 to the present, a rating of “not qualified” from the Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary of the ABA. Since 1953, every presidential Administration, except those of George W. Bush and Donald Trump, has sought ABA prenomination evaluations of its...

Flood-Risk Reduction and Resilience: 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...

Tax Reform: The Child Credit and the Child Care Credit

The current tax code has two credits that offset the costs of raising children: the child tax credit (sometimes referred to as the “child credit,” or CTC) and the child and dependent care credit (sometimes referred to as the “child care credit,” or CDCTC). These are two distinct tax credits. H.R. 1, as introduced, would, among other things, increase the child tax credit to $1,600 per child; set the maximum amount of the refundable portion at $1,000 per child, allowing this amount to increase over time with inflation to $1,600 per child; and increase the income level at which the credit...

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...

New Zealand: Background and Bilateral Relations with the United States

New Zealand is a close partner of the United States and welcomes a U.S. presence in the Asia-Pacific region. New Zealand and the United States engage each other across a broad spectrum of policy areas, including Islamist extremism, South Pacific regional issues, intelligence cooperation, and Antarctica. Issues for Congress related to New Zealand include oversight and appropriations related to international security cooperation, counterterrorism (CT) and countering violent extremism (CVE), and intelligence cooperation among the so-called “Five Eyes” nations, which include New Zealand. U.S.-...

Cybersecurity: Federal Government Authoritative Reports and Resources

This report serves as a starting point for congressional staff assigned to cover cybersecurity issues related to federal and military government activities. Much is written by and about the federal government’s efforts to address cybersecurity policy challenges, 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 an emphasis on material published in the past several years. This report includes resources and studies from government agencies...

Diversity Immigrant Visa Program

On October 31, 2017, a resident of Patterson, NJ, reportedly drove a truck onto a bicycle path in New York City, killing 8 and injuring 11. Authorities have described the incident as a terrorist attack, and the suspect has been identified as an immigrant from Uzbekistan. Given that the suspect reportedly entered the country on an immigrant visa obtained through the Diversity Visa program (DV program), this incident has renewed interest in the DV program and its associated “lottery.”

What is the DV program?

The DV program was established to increase U.S. immigrant diversity by admitting...

Drought in the United States: Causes and Current Understanding

Drought is a natural hazard with potentially significant economic, social, and ecological consequences. History suggests that severe and extended droughts are inevitable and part of natural climate cycles. Drought has for centuries shaped the societies of North America and will continue to do so into the future. The likelihood of extended periods of severe drought and its effects on 21st-century society in the United States raise several issues for Congress. These issues include how to respond to recurrent drought incidents, how to prepare for future drought, and how to coordinate federal...

Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations In Brief

Turkey, a longtime NATO ally, is significant to U.S. interests. It is a constitutional republic with a large, diversified economy and a Muslim-majority population that straddles Europe and the Middle East. The history of the U.S.-Turkey relationship is complicated. Bilateral ties have been particularly strained over the past five years in connection with conflict in Syria and Iraq, increasing domestic contention in Turkey, and the continuing consolidation of power by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (Turkish acronym AKP).

In late 2017,...

Veterans Day Speech Resources: Fact Sheet

This fact sheet is designed to assist congressional offices with work related to celebrating Veterans Day. It contains a brief history, CRS reports, sample speeches and recognitions, presidential proclamations, and statistics. It also contains links to additional web resources from authoritative sources.

Minority Business Development Agency: An Overview of its History and Current Issues

The Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) is the lead federal agency dedicated to supporting the development and expansion of the minority business community. President Richard Nixon originally established this agency as the Office of Minority Business Enterprises (OMBE), with the signing of Executive Order 11458. The MBDA’s mission is to assist medium and large-scale minority businesses, specifically, but not exclusively, in overcoming social and economic disadvantages that have limited their participation in the nation’s free enterprise system. Through a...

Resolutions of Inquiry: An Analysis of Their Use in the House, 1947-2017

A resolution of inquiry is a simple resolution making a direct request or demand of the President or the head of an executive department to furnish the House with specific factual information in the Administration’s possession. Under the rules and precedents of the House of Representatives, such resolutions, if properly drafted, are given a privileged parliamentary status. This means that, under certain circumstances, a resolution of inquiry can be brought to the House floor for consideration even if the committee to which it was referred has not reported it and the majority party...

FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act

This report discusses the FY2018 defense budget request and provides a summary of congressional action on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year (FY) 2018. The annual NDAA authorizes appropriations for the Department of Defense (DOD) and defense-related nuclear energy programs of the Department of Energy and typically includes provisions affecting DOD policies or organization. Unlike an appropriations bill, the NDAA does not provide budget authority for government activities.

The Trump Administration’s FY2018 budget request, released on May 23, 2017, included a total...

Energy Tax Provisions in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (H.R. 1)

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (H.R. 1) proposes a number of changes to energy-related tax provisions. These changes are summarized in Table 1. H.R. 1 includes a broad restructuring of the federal income tax system. A full analysis of the consequences of this proposal for the energy sector, or various subsets of the energy sector, is beyond the scope of this Insight. Table 1. Energy Tax Provisions in H.R. 1

Current Law H.R. 1 10-Year Change in Revenues ($ billions)

Credit for new qualified plug-in electric vehicles Credit up to $7,500 for plug-in electric vehicles. Credit phases out at...

Wildfire Suppression Spending: Background, Issues, and Legislation in the 115th Congress

Congress has directed that the federal government is responsible for managing wildfires that begin on federal lands, such as national forests or national parks. States are responsible for managing wildfires that originate on all other lands. Although a greater number of wildfires occur annually on nonfederal lands, wildfires on federal lands tend to be much larger, particularly in the western United States. The federal government’s wildfire management responsibilities—fulfilled primarily by the Forest Service (FS) and the Department of the Interior (DOI)—include preparedness, prevention,...

Government Printing, Publications, and Digital Information Management: Issues and Challenges

In the past half-century, in government and beyond, information creation, distribution, retention, and preservation activities have transitioned from a tangible, paper-based process to digital processes managed through computerized information technologies. Information is created as a digital object which then may be rendered as a text, image, or video file. Those files are then distributed through a myriad of outlets ranging from particular software applications and websites to social media platforms. The material may be produced in tangible, printed form, but typically remains in digital...

Why is Violence Rebounding in Mexico?

Mexico’s transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) have for years been identified as the greatest organized crime threat to the United States given their strong links to drug trafficking, money laundering, and other crimes. These organizations also generate extreme violence within Mexico, where they exercise territorial influence in large swaths of the country near illicit drug production hubs and trafficking routes and particularly where the TCOs clash to assert or maintain dominance.

Between 2008 and 2016, Mexico’s homicide rate increased from 8 per 100,000 residents to 16.2 per...

The Rohingya Crises in Bangladesh and Burma

A series of interrelated humanitarian crises, stemming from more than 600,000 ethnic Rohingya who have fled Burma into neighboring Bangladesh in less than 10 weeks, pose challenges for the Trump Administration and Congress on how best to respond.

The flight of refugees came following attacks on security outposts in Burma’s Rakhine State, reportedly by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), an armed organization claiming it is defending the rights of the region’s predominately Muslim Rohingya minority, and an allegedly excessive military response by Burma’s military. Some of the...

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 FY2018, the worldwide refugee ceiling is 45,000. The FY2018 regional allocations are, as follows: Africa (19,000), East...

Comprehensive Energy Planning for Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands

Background

Hurricanes Irma and Maria caused extensive damage in the Caribbean and destroyed much of the electric power systems of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI). Congress has recognized that electric power systems in insular areas are vulnerable to hurricanes and typhoons and dependent on imported fuel (P.L. 109-58, title II, §251; P.L. 96-597, title VI, §604). Under 48 U.S.C. §1492, Congress authorized comprehensive energy planning, demonstration of cost-effective renewable energy technologies, and financial assistance for projects in insular areas related to energy...

The North Korean Nuclear Challenge: Military Options and Issues for Congress

North Korea’s apparently successful July 2017 tests of its intercontinental ballistic missile capabilities, along with the possibility that North Korea (DPRK) may have successfully miniaturized a nuclear warhead, have led analysts and policymakers to conclude that the window for preventing the DPRK from acquiring a nuclear missile capable of reaching the United States is closing. These events appear to have fundamentally altered U.S. perceptions of the threat the Kim Jong-un regime poses to the continental United States and the international community, and escalated the standoff on the...

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, 57 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...

Consumer and Credit Reporting, Scoring, and Related Policy Issues

The consumer data industry 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 providers to determine whether to make available checking accounts...

El Salvador: Background and U.S. Relations

Congress has significant interest in El Salvador, a small Central American country 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 efforts against an insurgency led by the leftist Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN). Three decades later, the United States is working with the country’s second democratically elected FMLN Administration.

President Salvador Sánchez Cerén, a former guerrilla commander...

The Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB): Frequently Asked Questions

This report responds to frequently asked questions about the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), including the board’s background, current status, controversial issues including legal challenges, and recent legislative efforts to repeal the IPAB.

For additional information, see CRS Report R41511, The Independent Payment Advisory Board, by Jim Hahn and Christopher M. Davis.

Speechwriting Resources: Fact Sheet

As elected officials and leaders, Senators and Representatives are frequently called upon to deliver speeches and other public remarks to a range of audiences. Congressional staff often prepare draft speeches for Members of Congress.

Effective delivery can greatly improve the reception of a speech. In general, congressional speechwriters should make every effort to become familiar with the speaking style of the Member for whom they are writing, adjusting drafts accordingly. Contemporary American public address emphasizes a style that is natural, direct, low key, casual, and conversational....

Public-Private Partnerships (P3s) in Transportation

Public-private partnerships (P3s) in transportation are contractual relationships typically between a state or local government, who are the owners of most transportation infrastructure, and a private company. P3s provide a mechanism for greater private-sector participation in all phases of the development, operation, and financing of transportation projects. Although there are many different forms P3s can take, this report focuses on the two types of agreements that generate the most interest and discussion: (1) design-build-finance-operate-maintain (DBFOM); and (2) long-term lease.

P3s...

The U.S. Science and Engineering Workforce: Recent, Current, and Projected Employment, Wages, and Unemployment

The adequacy of the U.S. science and engineering workforce has been an ongoing concern of Congress for more than 60 years. Scientists and engineers are widely believed to be essential to U.S. technological leadership, innovation, manufacturing, and services, and thus vital to U.S. economic strength, national defense, and other societal needs. Congress has enacted many programs to support the education and development of scientists and engineers. Congress has also undertaken broad efforts to improve science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills to prepare a greater number of...

Clearing the Air on the Debt Limit

The statutory debt limit, currently suspended through December 8, 2017, provides Congress a means of controlling federal borrowing. As the date when that suspension will lapse approaches, discussions about the role of the debt limit among the media, researchers, and Members of Congress promise to become more frequent. In recent discussions, misleading or less than fully accurate claims have, at times, surfaced. This report provides clarifications on five common debt limit contentions.

Some of those points in need of clarification relate to the congressional power of the purse, which stems...

Ukraine: Background and U.S. Policy

In February 2014, protests over the Ukrainian government’s decision to postpone concluding an association agreement that would lead to closer relations with the European Union (EU) culminated in violence and the collapse of then-President Viktor Yanukovych’s government. The government that followed pledged to embrace pro-Western reforms, and an energized civil society supported its efforts. Within weeks, the new government was forced to confront Russian armed interventions in southern and eastern Ukraine. These culminated in Russia’s occupation of Ukraine’s Crimea region in March 2014 and...

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...

U.S. Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Exports: Prospects for the Caribbean

With the advent of shale gas, the United States has transformed from a growing importer of natural gas to a burgeoning exporter. Exports by pipeline and ship have grown in the last couple of years. Liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports in 2013 were about 13 billion cubic feet (bcf), while in 2016 that figure jumped to almost 184 bcf. This increase can mostly be attributed to the opening of the Sabine Pass Liquefaction facility in Louisiana in February 2016.

Despite the large volumes associated with the large-scale U.S. LNG export terminals, like Sabine Pass Liquefaction, there has also been...

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...

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...

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,...

Options to Cease Implementing the Iran Nuclear Agreement

In an October 13, 2017, announcement of a new U.S. strategy on Iran, President Donald Trump asserted that the 2015 multilateral nuclear agreement with Iran, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), does not address the full range of potential threats posed by Iran, or permanently ensure that Iran cannot develop a nuclear weapon. Trump asserted that, by supporting terrorist groups in the Middle East region and furthering its ballistic missile program, “Iran is not living up to the spirit of the deal.” The President also announced that he would not certify to Congress under the Iran...

Hindu Holidays: Fact Sheet

Hinduism (or Sanatana Dharma) is the third largest religion in the world behind Christianity and Islam, with nearly one billion adherents. According to the Pew Research Center, about 0.7% of Americans self-identify themselves as Hindu. Originating on the Indian subcontinent, it is often described as a combination of many religious beliefs and philosophical schools.

This fact sheet is designed to assist congressional offices with work related to Hindu holidays. It contains sample speeches and remarks from the Congressional Record, presidential proclamations and remarks, and selected...

Overtime Exemptions in the Fair Labor Standards Act for Executive, Administrative, and Professional Employees

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is the primary federal statute providing labor standards for most, but not all, private and public sector employees. The FLSA standards require that “non-exempt” employees working excess hours in a workweek receive pay at the rate of one-and-a-half times their regular rate for hours worked over 40 hours. The requirements in the FLSA for overtime pay beyond this threshold refer to the “maximum hours,” but the FLSA does not actually limit the number of hours that may be worked. Instead, it establishes standards for the pay required for hours beyond 40...

Presidential Appointments to Full-Time Positions in Executive Departments During the 114th Congress

The President makes appointments to positions within the federal government, either using the authorities granted by law to the President alone, or with the advice and consent of the Senate. There are some 350 full-time leadership positions in the 15 executive departments for which the Senate provides advice and consent. This report identifies all nominations submitted to the Senate during the 114th Congress for full-time positions in these 15 executive departments.

Information for each department is presented in tables. The tables include full-time positions confirmed by the Senate, pay...

The Federal Assets Sale and Transfer Act of 2016: Background and Key Provisions

Real property disposal is the process by which federal agencies identify and then transfer, donate, or sell real property they no longer need. Disposition is an important asset management function because the costs of maintaining unneeded properties can be substantial. Moreover, properties the government no longer needs may be used by state or local governments, nonprofits, or businesses to provide benefits to the public. Finally, the government loses potential revenue when it holds onto certain unneeded properties that might be sold for a profit.

Despite these drawbacks, federal agencies...

Taiwan: Issues for Congress

Taiwan, which officially calls itself the Republic of China (ROC), is an island democracy of 23 million people located across the Taiwan Strait from mainland China. It is the United States’ tenth-largest trading partner. Since January 1, 1979, the U.S. relationship with Taiwan has been unofficial, a consequence of the Carter Administration’s decision to establish diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and break formal diplomatic ties with self-ruled Taiwan, over which the PRC claims sovereignty. The Taiwan Relations Act (TRA, P.L. 96-8; 22 U.S.C. 3301 et seq.),...

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 requirements of 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...

Renegotiating NAFTA and U.S. Textile Manufacturing

When the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was negotiated more than two decades ago, textiles and apparel were among the industrial sectors most sensitive to the agreement’s terms. NAFTA, which was implemented on January 1, 1994, has encouraged the integration of textile and apparel production in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. For example, under NAFTA’s “yarn-forward” rule of origin, textiles and apparel benefit from tariff-free treatment in all three countries if the production of yarn, fabric, and apparel, with some exceptions, is done within North America.

The United...

Biologics and Biosimilars: Background and Key Issues

A biological product, or biologic, is a preparation, such as a drug or a vaccine, that is made from living organisms. Compared with conventional chemical drugs, biologics are relatively large and complex molecules. They may be composed of proteins (and/or their constituent amino acids), carbohydrates (such as sugars), nucleic acids (such as DNA), or combinations of these substances. Biologics may also be cells or tissues used in transplantation.

A biosimilar, sometimes referred to as a follow-on biologic, is a therapeutic drug that is similar but not structurally identical to the...

Niger: Frequently Asked Questions About the October 2017 Attack on U.S. Soldiers

A deadly attack on U.S. soldiers in Niger and their local counterparts on October 4, 2017, has prompted many questions from Members of Congress about the incident. It has also highlighted a range of broader issues for Congress pertaining to oversight and authorization of U.S. military deployments, evolving U.S. global counterterrorism activities and strategy, interagency security assistance and cooperation efforts, and U.S. engagement with countries historically considered peripheral to core U.S. national security interests. This report provides background information in response to the...

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 2.0% COLA is payable in January 2018. For a retired worker receiving the average benefit amount of $1,377, the COLA will result in a $27 increase in Social Security benefits (for a total of $1,404).

Social Security COLAs are based on changes in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W), updated monthly by the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor...

Child and Dependent Care Tax Benefits: How They Work and Who Receives Them

Two tax provisions subsidize the child and dependent care expenses of working parents: the child and dependent care tax credit (CDCTC) and the exclusion for employer-sponsored child and dependent care.

The child and dependent care tax credit is a nonrefundable tax credit that reduces a taxpayer’s federal income tax liability based on child and dependent care expenses incurred. The policy objective is to assist taxpayers who work or who are looking for work. A taxpayer must meet a variety of eligibility criteria including incurring qualifying child and dependent care expenses for a...

Poverty in the United States in 2016: In Brief

In 2016, approximately 40.6 million people, or 12.7% of the population, had incomes that fell below the official definition of poverty in the United States. These statistics represented a noticeable drop from the previous year, both in the number of poor, which had been 43.1 million in 2015, and the poverty rate (the percentage that were in poverty), which fell from 13.5%. This was also the first year that the poverty rate was not statistically different from the rate in 2007, the last year before the most recent recession.

The poverty rate for female-householder families (26.6%) was...

Payments for Affordable Care Act (ACA) Cost-Sharing Reductions

Funding for the cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments established under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been the subject of hearings about the individual insurance market, numerous press articles, and analyses from actuaries to consultants. Insurers have warned that they may leave the market or raise premiums without a commitment to sustained funding.

On October 13, the Trump Administration filed a notice announcing it would terminate payments for CSRs beginning with the payment that was scheduled for October 18, potentially affecting 2017 and 2018 plan options...

GAO Issues Opinions on Applicability of Congressional Review Act to Two Guidance Documents

On October 19, 2017, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released an opinion on the applicability of the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to a 2013 interagency guidance document on leveraged lending issued by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. The opinion was issued in response to a letter written to GAO by Senator Pat Toomey. In the letter, Senator Toomey requested GAO’s opinion as to whether the interagency guidance falls within the definition of “rule” under the CRA. GAO’s opinion...

Doing Business with Iran: EU-Iran Trade and Investment Relations

With the easing of nuclear-related sanctions on Iran by the United States, European Union and United Nations under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), signed on July 14, 2015, many foreign firms have begun to resume business with Iran. However, on October 13, 2017, President Trump announced he would not issue the certification that sanctions relief is “proportionate” to the measures taken by Iran to terminate its nuclear program. This decision has raised questions over the possible reimposition of U.S. economic sanctions. The EU, which views the JCPOA as a binding international...

Reconsidering the Clean Power Plan

On October 10, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed to repeal the Clean Power Plan (CPP), an Obama Administration rule that would limit carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from existing fossil-fuel-fired power plants. Because power plant CO2 emissions account for about 30% of total U.S. anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs), the CPP has been seen as the most important U.S. regulation addressing climate change.

The CPP has not gone into effect: In February 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court stayed its implementation pending the completion of judicial review. Even...

Iran Nuclear Agreement

On July 14, 2015, Iran and the six powers that negotiated with Iran 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 a Joint Plan of Action (JPA) interim nuclear accord in effect from 2014 to...

Diversity, Inclusion, and Equal Opportunity in the Armed Services: Background and Issues for Congress

Under Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, Congress has the authority to raise and support armies; provide and maintain a navy; and provide for organizing, disciplining, and regulating them. Congress has used this authority to establish criteria and standards that must be met for individuals to be recruited into the military, to advance through promotion, and to be separated or retired from military service. Throughout the history of the armed services, Congress has established some of these criteria based on demographic characteristics such as race, sex, and sexual orientation....

Who Earns Pass-Through Business Income? An Analysis of Individual Tax Return Data

Pass-through businesses—sole proprietorships, partnerships, and S corporations—generate more than half of all business income in the United States. Pass-through income is, in general, taxed only once at the individual income tax rates when it is distributed to its owners. In contrast, the income of C corporations is taxed twice; once at the corporate level according to corporate tax rates, and then a second time at the individual tax rates when shareholders receive dividend payments or realize capital gains. This leads to the so-called “double taxation” of corporate profits.

This report...

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 offered by an employer. In addition, workers...

Energy Tax Provisions That Expired in 2016 (“Tax Extenders”)

Sixteen temporary energy tax provisions expired at the end of 2016. Most of the expired provisions were last extended in 2015 as part of the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act of 2015, signed into law as Division Q of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016 (P.L. 114-113). Under this law, all tax provisions that had expired at the end of 2014 were retroactively extended. Most expired energy tax provisions were extended for two years, through 2016. Division P of P.L. 114-113 also included longer-term extensions with scheduled phaseouts for wind and solar tax credits.

This...

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 disposal facility for spent nuclear...

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

The overall U.S. role in the world since the end of World War II in 1945 (i.e., over the past 70 years) is generally described as one of global leadership and significant engagement in international affairs. A key aim of that role has been to promote and defend the open international order that the United States, with the support of its allies, created in the years after World War II. In addition to promoting and defending the open international order, the overall U.S. role is generally described as having been one of promoting freedom, democracy, and human rights, while criticizing and...

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....

Federal Lifeline Program: Frequently Asked Questions

The Federal Lifeline Program, established by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 1985, is one of four programs supported under the Universal Service Fund. The Program was originally designed to assist eligible low-income households to subsidize the monthly service charges incurred for voice telephone usage and was limited to one fixed line per household. In 2005 the Program was modified to cover the choice between either a fixed line or a mobile/wireless option. Concern over the division between those who use and have access to broadband versus those who do not, known as the...

State Small Business Credit Initiative: Implementation and Funding Issues

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...

Asian Carp and the Great Lakes Region

Four species of nonindigenous Asian carp are expanding their range in U.S. waterways, resulting in a variety of concerns and problems. Three species—bighead, silver, and black carp—are of particular note, based on the perceived degree of environmental concern. Current controversy relates to what measures might be necessary and sufficient to prevent movement of Asian carp from the Mississippi River drainage into the Great Lakes through the Chicago Area Waterway System. Recent federal response and coordination measures direct actions to avoid the possibility of carp becoming established in...

Second Treasury Report on Regulatory Relief: Capital Markets

On October 6, 2017, the Department of the Treasury issued a report, A Financial System That Creates Economic Opportunities: Capital Markets, that primarily examines the regulation of debt, equity, commodities, and derivatives markets. The report is the second of a series written in accordance with Executive Order (E.O.) 13772, which was issued by the President on February 3, 2017.

The capital markets report provides 91 policy recommendations, the majority of which could be implemented by the primary regulators of U.S. capital markets: the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC),...

Human Trafficking: New Global Estimates of Forced Labor and Modern Slavery

Introduction

As part of long-standing congressional interest in global human trafficking, some Members have consistently sought greater fidelity in quantifying human trafficking’s prevalence. In September, the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the advocacy organization Walk Free Foundation, in partnership with the International Organization of Migration (IOM), released a new report on the global prevalence of modern slavery (including forced marriage) and forced labor (including sex trafficking and government-imposed forced labor). The report estimated that 40.3 million people...

The Opioid Epidemic and Federal Efforts to Address It: Frequently Asked Questions

Over the last several years, there has been growing concern among the public and lawmakers in the United States about rising drug overdose deaths, which more than tripled from 1999 to 2014. In 2015, more than 52,000 people died from drug overdoses, and approximately 63% of those deaths involved an opioid.

Many federal agencies are involved in efforts to combat opioid abuse. The primary federal agency involved in drug enforcement, including diversion control efforts for prescription opioids, is the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The primary agency supporting drug treatment and...

Subtitle J of the 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 (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. Most of the...

Department of Homeland Security Appropriations, FY2018: Current Action

The Senate Appropriations Committee is expected to mark up its version of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Appropriations Act, 2018 the week of October 23, 2017.

The House of Representatives passed its version of the act as Division E and Division M of H.R. 3354, a consolidated appropriations act that now contains all 12 annual appropriations bills. H.R. 3354 passed the House by a vote of 211-198 (Roll No. 528) on September 14, 2017. The appropriations usually included in the annual appropriations bill for DHS were split between the two divisions because of how those bills were...

Iran Policy and the European Union

Policy Context

On October 13, 2017, President Trump announced a new U.S. strategy on Iran. He stated that, under the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INARA; P.L. 114-17), he would not be certifying that continued Iran sanctions relief is proportionate to the measures taken by Iran to terminate its illicit nuclear program. That and other INARA certification requirements are related to, but separate from, Iran’s nuclear obligations under the July 14, 2015, multilateral nuclear agreement (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA). The withholding of INARA certification does not...

Executive Order for Review of National Monuments: Background and Data

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, and other objects of historic or scientific interest.” Monument proclamations typically seek to provide protections to federal lands and resources. The President is to reserve “the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected.” The act does not further specify the process to be used by Presidents in proclaiming monuments.

From 1906 to date,...

Workers’ Compensation: Overview and Issues

Workers’ compensation provides cash and medical benefits to workers who are injured or become ill in the course of their employment and provides benefits to the survivors of workers killed on the job. Benefits are provided without regard to fault and are the exclusive remedy for workplace injuries, illnesses, and deaths. Nearly all workers in the United States are covered by workers’ compensation. With the exception of federal employees and some small groups of private-sector employees covered by federal law, workers compensation is provided by a network of state programs. In general,...

Bangladesh and Bangladesh-U.S. Relations

Bangladesh (the former East Pakistan) is a Muslim-majority nation in South Asia, bordering India, Burma, and the Bay of Bengal. It is the world’s eighth most populous country with nearly 160 million people living in a land area about the size of Iowa. It is an economically poor nation, and it suffers from high levels of corruption. In recent years, its democratic system has faced an array of challenges, including political violence, weak governance, poverty, demographic and environmental strains, and Islamist militancy. The United States has a long-standing and supportive relationship with...

USDA Export Market Development and Export Credit Programs: Selected Issues

Agricultural exports are important to both farmers and the U.S. economy. With the productivity of U.S. agriculture growing faster than domestic demand, farmers and agriculturally oriented firms rely heavily on export markets to sustain prices and revenue. The 2014 farm bill (Agricultural Act of 2014, P.L. 113-79) authorizes a number of programs to promote farm exports that are administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). There are two main types of agricultural trade and export promotion programs:

Export market development programs assist efforts to build, maintain, and...

Army Corps of Engineers: Water Resource Authorizations, Appropriations, and Activities

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) undertakes activities to maintain navigable channels, reduce flood and storm damage, and restore aquatic ecosystems. The agency’s water resource projects can have significant local and regional economic benefits and environmental effects. Congress directs the Corps through authorizations; appropriations; and oversight of its studies, construction projects, and the ongoing operations of Corps infrastructure. This report summarizes congressional project authorization and annual appropriations processes for the Corps.

Authorizations. Congress...

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.

In 2015, Jimmy Morales, a political newcomer, won the presidential election with 67% of the vote on an anticorruption platform; he...

U.S. Withdrawal from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)

On October 12, 2017, the State Department announced that the United States will withdraw from the U.N. Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The department stated that the decision “reflects U.S. concerns with mounting arrears ... the need for fundamental reform in the organization, and continuing anti-Israel bias of UNESCO.” The United States seeks to “remain engaged” as a nonmember observer. Generally, observers have participated in selected UNESCO meetings and activities but are not able to vote in some UNESCO bodies or hold leadership positions. Under the terms...

The Palestinians: Background and U.S. Relations

This report covers current issues in U.S.-Palestinian relations. It also contains an overview of Palestinian society and politics, along with descriptions of key Palestinian individuals and groups —chiefly the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the Palestinian Authority (PA), Fatah, Hamas (a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization), and the Palestinian refugee population. The “Palestinian question” is important not only to Palestinians, Israelis, and their Arab state neighbors, but to many countries and nonstate actors in the region and around the world—including the United...

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...

Issues in Autonomous Vehicle Deployment

Autonomous motor vehicles have been a topic of congressional hearings in recent years. Congress is considering legislation that would, for the first time, provide new regulatory tools to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to oversee autonomous vehicles.

As the capacity of compact computers has gone up and their cost has dropped, the prospect of converting many driver-controlled functions to technology-control has increased significantly. Consumers are demanding that their vehicles have more telecommunications applications, while ride-sharing has prompted new...

Gun Control: Silencers under the Hearing Protection Act (H.R. 3668)

Firearm silencers are currently regulated under the 1934 National Firearms Act (NFA) and the Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA). Both statutes use the definition of a silencer/muffler included in the GCA. The Department of Justice’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) is the lead federal agency that administers those statutes.

The Hearing Protection Act (HPA) would remove firearm silencers from regulation under the NFA. Silencers would continue to be regulated under the GCA in a manner similar to the way long guns (rifles and shotguns) are regulated under this law. On...

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...

Government Assistance for AIG: Summary and Cost

American International Group (AIG), one of the world’s major insurers, was the largest recipient of government financial assistance during the 2007-2009 financial crisis. At the maximum, the Federal Reserve (Fed) and the Treasury committed approximately $182.3 billion in specific extraordinary assistance for AIG and another $15.2 billion through a more widely available lending facility. The amount actually disbursed to assist AIG reached a maximum of $141.8 billion in April 2009. In return, AIG paid interest and dividends on the funding and the U.S. Treasury ultimately received a 92%...

DOE’s Grid Resiliency Pricing Rule

In U.S. regions with competitive electricity markets, the market price of wholesale electricity has fallen in recent years due to decreased demand, and the increased availability of relatively low-priced natural gas as a fuel. The relatively higher cost of operating and maintaining older, less efficient coal and nuclear plants in particular make it difficult for them to compete with lower cost, more efficient natural gas-fired power plants, or with renewable electricity generation with lower operating costs (and in some cases, tax credits and state mandates). These coal and nuclear power...

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, 150 commemorative coins have been minted since 1892. Since 1982, when Congress reinstituted the commemorative program, 90 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 2019.

The...

FY2018 Appropriations for Department of Justice Grant Programs

Each year, Congress provides 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. Congress funds these programs through five accounts in the annual Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies...

Instances of Use of United States Armed Forces Abroad, 1798-2017

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...

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, 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 also CRS...

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 funding) for CJS. Under the act, the Department of Commerce received $9.237 billion, the Department of Justice received $28.962 billion, 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...

NAFTA Renegotiation and Modernization

The 115th Congress faces policy issues related to the Trump Administration’s renegotiation and modernization of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). NAFTA negotiations were first launched in 1992 under President H. W. Bush, who signed the agreement in December 1992, and continued under President Bill Clinton, who negotiated additional side agreements on labor and the environment. President Clinton signed the agreement into law on December 8 1993, (P.L. 103-182) and NAFTA entered into force on January 1, 1994. It is particularly significant because it was the most comprehensive...

Arms Sales in the Middle East: Trends and Analytical Perspectives for U.S. Policy

This report analyzes state-to-state arms sales in the Middle East with a particular focus on U.S. transfers, as authorized and reviewed by Congress. The information in this report, including sales data, is drawn from a number of official and unofficial open sources.

Arms sales are an important tool that states can use to exercise their influence. The Middle East has long been a key driver of the global trade in weapons, disproportionately so when accounting for population. Some states in this heavily-militarized and contested region are major arms purchasers, empowered by partnerships with...

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...

Syria’s Chemical Weapons: Continuing Challenges

Since 2014, when the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) announced completion of the destruction of Syria’s declared chemical weapons (CW), questions have persisted on the extent of Damascus’s undeclared CW and production capacity. International investigators have confirmed repeated chemical weapons attacks in Syria, including chlorine gas attacks attributed to the Asad regime, as well as an April 4, 2017, attack using sarin nerve agent.

In 2017, two air strikes were carried out against chemical weapons-related facilities in Syria: one by the United States on April...

Status of Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations at the Start of FY2018

Congress has begun to consider the FY2018 Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS) appropriations bill. This is the largest ($934 billion in FY2017) of the 12 annual appropriations bills when accounting for both mandatory and discretionary funding. Full-year FY2018 LHHS appropriations were not enacted before the start of the fiscal year (October 1), but a continuing resolution (P.L. 115-56; CR) has provided temporary LHHS funding through December 8.

Scope of the Bill

The LHHS bill provides annually appropriated budget authority for the...

School Meals Programs and Other USDA Child Nutrition Programs: A Primer

“Child nutrition programs” is an overarching term used to describe 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...

Gun Control: “Bump-Fire” Stocks

Following the October 1, 2017, Las Vegas, NV, attack, there has been significant congressional interest in “bump-fire” stocks that can assist a person in firing a semiautomatic rifle repeatedly, sometimes at rates usually associated with fully automatic machineguns. It has been reported that the assailant in this attack had 12 semiautomatic rifles outfitted with “bump-fire” stocks. The terms “bump-fire” and “slide-fire” are often used interchangeably.

Under the Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA), a semiautomatic rifle is defined as:

Any repeating rifle which utilizes a portion of the energy of...

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...

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, the 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...

The Army’s Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T) Program

What Is WIN-T? The WIN-T program is the Army’s high-speed, high-capacity tactical communications network to distribute classified and unclassified information through all echelons of Army command by means of voice, data, and real-time video. WIN-T was being developed and fielded in three increments. WIN-T Increment 1 WIN-T Increment 1 is a stationary network for command posts and units at battalion-level and above. It provides a full range of at-the-halt data, voice, and video communications. The Army began fielding WIN-T Increment 1 in 2004 and completed fielding in 2012. WIN-T Increment...

GI Bills Enacted Prior to 2008 and Related Veterans’ Educational Assistance Programs: A Primer

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), previously named the Veterans Administration, has been providing veterans educational assistance (GI Bill®) benefits since 1944. The benefits have been intended, at various times, to compensate for compulsory service, encourage voluntary service, avoid unemployment, provide equitable benefits to all who served, and promote military retention. In general, the benefits provide grant aid to eligible individuals enrolled in approved educational and training programs. Since three of the GI Bills have overlapping eligibility requirements and the...

Electoral College Reform: Contemporary Issues for Congress

The electoral college method of electing the President and Vice President was established in Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution and revised by the Twelfth Amendment. It provides for election of the President and Vice President by electors, commonly referred to as the electoral college. A majority of 270 of the 538 electoral votes is necessary to win. For further information on the modern-day operation of the college system, see CRS Report RL32611, The Electoral College: How It Works in Contemporary Presidential Elections, by Thomas H. Neale.

The electoral college has been the...

Comparing DHS Component Funding, FY2017: Fact Sheet

Generally, the homeland security appropriations bill includes all annual appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), providing resources to every departmental component. Table 1 and Figure 1 show DHS’s new discretionary budget authority enacted for FY2016 and requested by the Administration for FY2017, as well as the House and Senate committee-reported responses, broken down by component—from largest to smallest appropriations request.

(TO BE SUPPRESSED) Department of Homeland Security DHS budget Appropriations FY2017, FY2016 funding analysis

U.S. Response to Injuries of U.S. Embassy Personnel in Havana, Cuba

On September 29, the U.S. Department of State ordered the departure of nonemergency personnel assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba, as well as their families, in order to minimize the risk of their exposure to harm because of a series of unexplained injuries suffered by embassy personnel since November 2016. According to the State Department, 22 persons suffered from “attacks of unknown nature,” most recently in late August 2017, at U.S. diplomatic residences and hotels where temporary duty staff were staying, with symptoms including “ear complaints, hearing loss, dizziness,...

Overview of Continuing Appropriations for FY2018 (P.L. 115-56)

This report provides an analysis of the continuing appropriations provisions for FY2018 in Division D of H.R. 601. The measure also included separate divisions that establish a program to provide foreign assistance concerning basic education (Division A—Reinforcing Education Accountability in Development Act), supplemental appropriations for disaster relief requirements for FY2017 (Division B), and a temporary suspension of the public debt limit (Division C). On September 8, 2017, the President signed H.R. 601 into law (P.L. 115-56).

Division D of H.R. 601 was termed a “continuing...

Tanzania: Current Issues and U.S. Policy

Tanzania is an East African country comprising a union of Tanganyika, the mainland territory, and the semiautonomous Zanzibar archipelago. The United States has long considered Tanzania a partner in economic development and, increasingly, in regional security efforts. With nearly 54 million people, Tanzania is one of the largest countries in Africa by population and is endowed with substantial natural resource wealth and agricultural potential. Over the past decade, it has experienced robust economic growth based largely on favorably high gold prices and tourism; growth has averaged nearly...

Education-Related Regulatory Flexibilities, Waivers, and Federal Assistance in Response to Disasters and National Emergencies

The 21st century has seen the operation of elementary, secondary, and postsecondary educational institutions and the education of the students they enroll disrupted by natural disasters, such as hurricanes and floods, and by national emergencies, such as the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. This report is intended to inform Congress of existing statutory and regulatory provisions that may aid in responding to future disasters and national emergencies that may affect the provision of or access to education and highlight the actions of previous Congresses to provide additional...

Everglades Restoration: Federal Funding and Implementation Progress

The Everglades is a unique network of subtropical wetlands in South Florida that is approximately half of its historical size, due in part to degradation from federal water projects built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (the Corps). In 2000, Congress authorized a plan, termed the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), as a comprehensive framework for the restoration of the Everglades ecosystem in southern Florida. When originally authorized, it was estimated that CERP would cost a total of $8.2 billion and take approximately 30 years to complete. More recent estimates...

DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE): Appropriations Status

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) administers renewable energy and end-use energy efficiency technology programs in research, development, and implementation. EERE works with industry, academia, national laboratories, and others to support research and development (R&D). EERE also works with state and local governments to assist in technology implementation and deployment. EERE supports nearly a dozen offices and programs including vehicle technologies, solar energy, advanced manufacturing, and weatherization and...

U.S. Global Health Assistance: FY2001-FY2018 Request

Congressional interest in and support for global health programs has remained strong for several years. In FY2017, U.S. global health funding reached an estimated $9.6 billion. 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, and malaria (HTAM), continues to drive budget growth. In FY2001, roughly 47% of the U.S. global health budget was aimed at these three diseases. By...

What Is the Farm Bill?

The farm bill is an omnibus, multi-year law that governs an array of agricultural and food programs. Titles in the most recent farm bill encompassed farm commodity price and income supports, agricultural conservation, farm credit, trade, research, rural development, bioenergy, foreign food aid, and domestic nutrition assistance. Because it is renewed about every five years, the farm bill provides a predictable opportunity for policymakers to comprehensively and periodically address agricultural and food issues.

The most recent farm bill—the Agricultural Act of 2014 (P.L. 113-79; 2014 farm...

Attack on U.S. Soldiers in Niger: Context and Issues for Congress

On October 4, four members of U.S. Special Operations Forces were killed and two wounded in an attack in western Niger, an emerging hot spot of Islamist extremist activity. The Defense Department (DOD) stated in a briefing on October 5 that the U.S. servicemembers were “conducting an advise and assist mission” with local counterparts, several of whom were also killed. The identity of perpetrators has not been confirmed. The incident has highlighted evolving security threats in West Africa’s Sahel region, as well as the growing presence of U.S. military forces engaged in counterterrorism...

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

(TO BE SUPPRESSED) Department of Homeland Security DHS budget Appropriations FY2017, FY2016 funding analysis

PILT (Payments in Lieu of Taxes): Somewhat Simplified

Under federal law, local governments (usually counties) are compensated through various programs for reductions to their property tax bases due to the presence of most federally owned land. Federal lands cannot be taxed but may create a demand for services such as fire protection, police cooperation, or longer roads to skirt the federal property. Some compensation programs are run by a specific agency and apply only to that agency’s land. This report addresses only the most widely applicable program, which is called Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT; 31 U.S.C. §§6901-6907) and is...

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. International insurance trade is covered in the World Trade...

U.S. Farm Income Outlook for 2017

According to USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS), national net farm income—a key indicator of U.S. farm well-being—is forecast at $63.4 billion in 2017, up 3% from last year. The forecast rise in 2017 net farm income comes after three consecutive years of decline from 2013’s record high of $123.8 billion. Net farm income is calculated on an accrual basis. Net cash income (calculated on a cash-flow basis) is also projected to be up in 2017 but by a larger share (12.6%), driven largely by sales from previous years’ inventory, to $100.4 billion.

The 2017 net farm income forecast is...

The Tax Treatment of Net Operating Losses: In Brief

Tax reform could result in any number of changes to current tax policy. One modification that could occur is the tax treatment of net operating losses (NOLs). An NOL is incurred when a business taxpayer has negative taxable income. A business has no tax liability in the year they incur a loss. Additionally, a loss can be “carried back” for a refund on taxes paid in the past two years or “carried forward” for up to 20 years to reduce future taxes. The intent of the NOL carryback and carryforward regime is to give taxpayers the ability to smooth out changes in business income, and therefore...

Preliminary Damage Assessments for Major Disasters: Overview, Analysis, and Policy Observations

When a major disaster overwhelms a state or tribal nation’s response capacity, the state’s governor or tribal nation’s chief executive may request a major disaster declaration from the federal government. The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act authorizes the President to issue major disaster declarations in response to such requests.

To evaluate a state or tribal nation’s need for federal assistance, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) uses a Preliminary Damage Assessment (PDA) as a mechanism to determine the impact and magnitude of damage caused by...

Department of the Interior Secretarial Order 3356

On September 15, 2017, Department of the Interior (DOI) Secretary Ryan Zinke issued Secretarial Order (S.O.) 3356, “Hunting, Fishing, Recreational Shooting, and Wildlife Conservation Opportunities and Coordination with States, Tribes, and Territories.” S.O. 3356 directs bureaus and offices within DOI, in collaboration with states, tribes, and territorial partners, to implement programs to enhance hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting (HFRS) opportunities on DOI-managed lands and waters, while also promoting conservation activities. Reactions to S.O. 3356 have been mixed, with some...

Federal Reserve: Background and Reappointment of Previous Chairs

Janet Yellen’s term as Federal Reserve (Fed) Chair expires February 3, 2018. Subject to Senate confirmation, President Trump may reappoint her or nominate another individual to replace her. This Insight reviews the reappointment and background of previous Fed Chairs.

The qualification requirements to serve in Fed leadership are general—statute requires the President to “have due regard to a fair representation of the financial, agricultural, industrial, and commercial interests, and geographical divisions of the country.” Yellen and her immediate predecessor, Ben Bernanke, had similar...

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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Department of Homeland Security Appropriations: FY2017

This report discusses the FY2017 appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Its primary focus is on funding approved by Congress 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 and additional details regarding specific component appropriations and issues engaged through the FY2016 appropriations process.

The Obama Administration requested $40.62 billion...

Puerto Rico and Electric Power Restoration from Hurricane Maria

Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico as a Category 4 storm with sustained wind speeds of 155 miles per hour on September 20, 2017. The hurricane also brought torrential rainfall with over 20 inches of rain resulting in widespread flooding across the island. Puerto Rico’s office of emergency management reported that the storm had incapacitated the central electric power system, leaving the entire island without power. Many wooden electric distribution poles have been knocked down, while some steel transmission system towers stand stripped of power lines. Recovery efforts from...

Kurds in Iraq Hold Controversial Referendum on Independence

The question of self-determination for the Kurds of Iraq and neighboring Syria, Turkey, and Iran has remained unresolved since the delineation of national borders in the Middle East in the wake of World War I. U.S. intervention in Iraq since the 1990s has contributed to the emergence and protection of autonomous political institutions in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) and the development of the region’s economy and security forces. Today, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is recognized in Iraq’s constitution and exercises devolved and shared powers. Kurds and other Iraqis differ...

The Blue Slip Process for U.S. Circuit and District Court Nominations: Frequently Asked Questions

The blue slip process used by the Senate Judiciary Committee (the committee) for U.S. circuit and district court nominations has received renewed interest from Senators. The committee’s use of the blue slip has been, since at least 1917, a feature of its consideration of U.S. circuit and district court nominations. After a President selects a nominee for a U.S. circuit or district court judgeship, the chairman sends a blue-colored form to the Senators representing the home state of the nominee. The form seeks the home state Senators’ assessment of the nominee. If a home state Senator has...

Economic Impact of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma

In recent weeks, multiple southern states and U.S. territories have experienced significant property damage and loss of life as a result of severe hurricanes, including Harvey, Irma, and Maria. This Insight will focus on the economic impact of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, as the impact of Hurricane Maria is still unfolding in Puerto Rico. Hurricane Harvey first made landfall in Texas on August 25 as a category 4 storm, before stalling for a number of days above south and southeast Texas delivering torrential downpours. Hurricane Irma made landfall in the Florida Keys as a category 4 storm...

Transport Agencies Withdraw Proposed Sleep Apnea Rules

On August 8, 2017, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) withdrew a rulemaking effort that would have required some truck drivers and rail engineers to be screened for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). The agencies stated that, while OSA remains a safety concern, “current safety programs and FRA’s rulemaking addressing fatigue risk management are the appropriate avenues to address OSA.” Safety advocates question whether current efforts are adequate.

OSA is a safety concern for the federal Department of Transportation (DOT) because...

Recent Developments in U.S. Aid to Egypt

Overview

In recent months, the Trump Administration and Congress have taken various steps toward reducing U.S. foreign military and economic assistance to Egypt. Although lawmakers have debated the merits of U.S. foreign aid to Egypt for years, executive and legislative branch action may be tied to specific U.S. concern over Egypt’s new legal restrictions on non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and its reported ties to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, or North Korea). For more, see CRS Report RL33003, Egypt: Background and U.S. Relations.

Congressional Concern over...

DHS Appropriations FY2017: Protection, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery

This report is part of a suite of reports that address appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for FY2017. It specifically discusses appropriations for the components of DHS included in the third title of the homeland security appropriations bill—the National Protection and Programs Directorate, the Office of Health Affairs, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Collectively, Congress has labeled these components in recent years as “Protection, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery.”

The report provides an overview of the Obama Administration’s FY2017 request for...

Commodity Futures Trading Commission: Proposed Reauthorization in the 115th Congress

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), created in 1974, regulates futures, most options, and swaps markets. The CFTC administers the Commodity Exchange Act (CEA; P.L. 74-765, 7 U.S.C. §§1 et seq.), enacted in 1936, to monitor trading in certain derivatives markets. The CFTC was last reauthorized in 2008 as part of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act (P.L. 110-246), which included authorization of appropriations through FY2013. Although the underlying authority in the statute to administer programs does not have an explicit expiration, the authorization of appropriations only...

FY2017 Appropriations for the Census Bureau and Bureau of Economic Analysis

This report discusses FY2017 appropriations (discretionary budget authority) for the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) and Bureau of the Census (Census Bureau), which make up the Economics and Statistics Administration (ESA) in the U.S. Department of Commerce. The report will not be updated.

The Administration’s FY2017 budget request for ESA (except the Census Bureau, whose budget justification is published separately from ESA’s) was $114.6 million, $5.6 million (5.2%) above the $109.0 million FY2016-enacted funding level. Of the $114.6 million, the $110.7 million requested for BEA...

The Equifax Data Breach: An Overview and Issues for Congress

According to Equifax, cybercriminals exploited a vulnerability in one of its online applications between mid-May and July 2017, potentially revealing information for 143 million U.S. consumers. Equifax stated that “the information accessed primarily includes names, Social Security numbers, birth date, addresses, and, in some cases, driver’s license numbers. In addition, credit card numbers for approximately 209,000 U.S. consumers, and certain dispute documents with personal identifying information for approximately 182,000 U.S. consumers, were accessed.” Much of the information that...

President Trump’s Proclamation on Enhanced Vetting of Foreign Nationals from Designated Countries

On September 24, 2017, President Donald Trump issued a presidential proclamation entitled “Enhancing Vetting Capabilities and Processes for Detecting Attempted Entry Into the United States by Terrorists or Other Public-Safety Threats” (the proclamation) that suspends and/or restricts U.S. entry of foreign nationals from eight countries. The proclamation replaces aspects of Executive Order (E.O.) 13780 issued on March 6, 2017, and entitled “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States,” portions of which federal courts had blocked. E.O. 13780 revoked and...

Waivers of Jones Act Shipping Requirements

On September 28, the Trump Administration issued a temporary waiver of the Jones Act (§27 of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920) to facilitate response to the severe damage caused by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. In recent weeks, the Administration issued similar waivers affecting Texas and Louisiana, following Hurricane Harvey, and affecting Florida, following Hurricane Irma. This CRS Insight is intended to clarify the process and requirements for obtaining waivers of this law.

The Jones Act requires that vessels transporting goods or passengers between U.S. points be built in the United...

Ethics Pledges and Other Executive Branch Appointee Restrictions Since 1993: Historical Perspective, Current Practices, and Options for Change

On January 28, 2017, President Donald Trump issued Executive Order (E.O.) 13770 on ethics and lobbying. E.O. 13770 created an ethics pledge for executive branch appointees, provided for the administration and enforcement of the pledge, and revoked President Barack Obama’s executive order ethics pledge that covered his Administration (E.O. 13490). President Trump’s executive order shares some features with President Obama’s executive order and a previous executive order issued by President Bill Clinton.

Executive order ethics pledges are one of several tools, along with laws and...

Hurricanes Irma and Maria: Impact on Caribbean Countries and Foreign Territories

In addition to causing massive destruction to the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in the Caribbean, Hurricanes Irma and Maria severely affected several Caribbean countries and foreign territories. Between September 5 and 9, 2017, Hurricane Irma caused widespread damage to Barbuda, part of the independent country of Antigua and Barbuda; the island of St. Martin/St. Maarten, split between French and Dutch rule (St. Martin is a French overseas collectivity while St. Maarten is an autonomous country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands); several southeastern and...

Small Business Size Standards: A Historical Analysis of Contemporary Issues

Small business size standards are of congressional interest because the standards determine eligibility for receiving Small Business Administration (SBA) assistance as well as federal contracting and 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 for determining eligibility for federal small business assistance. The SBA currently uses...

Amtrak: Overview

Amtrak is the nation’s primary provider of intercity passenger rail service. It was created by Congress in 1970 to preserve some level of intercity passenger rail service while enabling private rail companies to exit the money-losing passenger rail business. It is a quasi-governmental entity, a corporation whose stock is almost entirely owned by the federal government. It runs a deficit each year, and relies on congressional appropriations to continue operations. Amtrak was last authorized in the Passenger Rail Reform and Investment Act of 2015 (Title XI of the Fixing America’s Surface...

The National Health Service Corps

The National Health Service Corps (NHSC) provides scholarships and loan repayments to health care providers in exchange for a period of service in a health professional shortage area (HPSA). The program places clinicians at facilities—generally not-for-profit or government-operated—that might otherwise have difficulties recruiting and retaining providers.

The NHSC is administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Congress created the NHSC in the Emergency Health Personnel Act of 1970 (P.L. 91-623), and its...

2017 Hurricanes and Army Corps of Engineers: Background for Flood Response and Recovery

In addition to damage from high winds, hurricanes can produce damaging storm surge and flooding from rainfall. This Insight summarizes flood-management activities of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE, or Corps) related to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. USACE has three roles relevant to hurricanes: emergency responder with flood-fighting and post-disaster recovery, owner and operator of flood-risk-reduction projects, and provider of assistance to repair certain nonfederal flood-control infrastructure. Congress may have interest in these roles as it responds to...

The United Nations Human Rights Council: Issues for Congress

The United Nations (U.N.) Human Rights Council (the Council) is the primary intergovernmental body mandated with addressing human rights on a global level. Some Members of Congress have demonstrated an ongoing interest in the role and effectiveness of the Council. The United States is currently a Council member; its term will expire in January 2019.

Background

The U.N. General Assembly established the Human Rights Council in 2006 to replace the Commission on Human Rights, which was criticized for its apparent ineffectiveness in addressing human rights abuses and for the number of widely...

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...

Pesticide Registration Fees: Reauthorization and Proposed Amendments

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) capacity to evaluate pesticide registrations within statutory time frames is generally dependent on sufficient resources and requisite scientific information to inform evaluations. Pursuant to the Pesticide Registration Improvement Extension Act of 2012 (PRIA 3, P.L. 112-177), Congress reauthorized EPA to collect two categories of fees to support the agency’s pesticide regulatory program and related activities through September 30, 2017. The Continuing Appropriations Act, 2018, and Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief...

Pre-Merger Review and Challenges Under the Clayton Act and the Federal Trade Commission Act

Preserving competition is an overarching purpose of federal laws governing business mergers. Though other federal laws, including the Sherman Act, seek to address anticompetitive behavior relating to monopolization, two federal statutes, in particular, address harms that may result from proposed mergers. Section 7 of the Clayton Act prohibits mergers “in any line of commerce or in any activity affecting commerce” that may substantially lessen competition or tend to create a monopoly. Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act (FTC Act) prohibits unfair methods of competition, which...

Overview of the Federal Government’s Power to Exclude Aliens

The Supreme Court has determined that inherent principles of sovereignty give Congress “plenary power” to regulate immigration. The core of this power—the part that has proven most impervious to judicial review—is the authority to determine which aliens may enter the country and under what conditions. The Court has determined that the executive branch, by extension, has broad authority to enforce laws concerning alien entry mostly free from judicial oversight. Two principles frame the scope of the political branches’ power to exclude aliens. First, nonresident aliens abroad cannot...

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 alliance facilitates the forward deployment of about 50,000 U.S. troops and other U.S. military assets based in Japan. While core elements of the alliance may endure, the overall relationship under President Donald Trump will likely differ somewhat from relations under the Obama Administration. On January 30, 2017, the United States formally withdrew as a...

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....

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...

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 has increased in recent years, primarily because these programs are viewed as a means to assist small businesses in creating and retaining jobs. The SBA spent about...

Privatization and the Constitution: Selected Legal Issues

Privatization is a broad term that encompasses various types of public-private arrangements, including contractual relationships with private entities for goods or services and government-funded voucher programs that allow individuals to purchase private goods or services. In other contexts, Congress has empowered private entities or chartered corporations to deliver services previously provided by governmental entities or to advance legislative objectives. Congress has created various corporations, including Amtrak and the Communications Satellite Corporation. More recently, in the 114th...

Corporate Tax Reform: Issues for Congress

Interest in corporate tax reform that lowers the rate and broadens the base has developed in the past several years. Some discussions by economists in opinion pieces have suggested there is an urgent need to lower the corporate tax rate, but not necessarily to broaden the tax base, an approach that presents some difficulties given current budget pressures. Others see the corporate tax as a potential source of revenue.

Arguments for lowering the corporate tax rate include the traditional concerns about economic distortions arising from the corporate tax and newer concerns arising from the...

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.

The MEP program received $130.0 million in appropriations for FY2017, equal to its...

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...

FDA Reauthorization Act of 2017 (FDARA, P.L. 115-52)

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) review of medical products (human drugs and devices) is funded through a combination of annual discretionary appropriations from Congress (budget authority) and user fees collected from industry. The human medical product user fee programs require reauthorization every five years to continue uninterrupted. Prior to the passage of the Food and Drug Administration Reauthorization Act of 2017 (FDARA, P.L. 115-52), these programs were set to expire on September 30, 2017. The reauthorization legislation typically includes additional provisions related to FDA,...

Itemized Tax Deductions for Individuals: Data Analysis

Reforming or limiting itemized tax deductions for individuals has gained the interest of policymakers as one way to increase federal tax revenue, increase the share of taxes paid by higher-income tax filers, simplify the tax code, or reduce incentives that might lead to inefficient economic behavior. However, limits on deductions could cause adverse economic effects or changes in the distributional burden of the federal income tax code. This report is intended to identify who claims itemized deductions, for how much, and for which provisions.

This report analyzes data to inform the policy...

Patent Law: A Primer and Overview of Emerging Issues

In an increase over prior terms, the Supreme Court of the United States issued six opinions involving patent law during its October 2016 Term. These decisions addressed issues ranging from patent exhaustion, multicomponent products, and biosimilar patents to procedural issues like venue and the statute of limitations for infringement claims. The growing number of Supreme Court opinions involving patent law over the past decade may also speak to the rising importance of intellectual property more broadly; a reported 84% of the S&P 500 Market Value in 2015 is ascribed to intangible assets....

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...

Mandatory Arbitration and the Federal Arbitration Act

Arbitration is a method of legal dispute resolution in which a neutral, private third party, rather than a judge or jury, renders a decision on a particular matter. Under a growing number of consumer and employment agreements, companies have come to require arbitration to resolve disputes. While arbitration is often viewed as an expeditious and economical alternative to litigation, consumer advocates and others contend that mandatory arbitration agreements create one-sided arrangements that deny consumers and employees advantages afforded by a judicial proceeding.

The Federal Arbitration...

Confederate Symbols: Relation to Federal Lands and Programs

In the wake of violent incidents in which symbols of the Civil War Confederacy have played a role, Congress is considering the relationship of Confederate symbols to federal lands and programs. A number of federal agencies administer assets or fund activities in which Confederate memorials and references to Confederate history are present. This report focuses on three federal entities—the National Park Service (NPS), the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and the Department of Defense (DOD)—that manage multiple sites or programs involving Confederate symbols. The report discusses the...

Normalization of the Federal Reserve’s Balance Sheet

This Insight answers questions about the Federal Reserve’s (Fed’s) September 20 announcement that it would begin to normalize its balance sheet in October by gradually reducing its asset holdings.

How Did the Balance Sheet Get So Large?

During the 2008 financial crisis, the Fed increased its balance sheet. Initially, the increase mainly took the form of emergency assistance to provide liquidity to financial firms. As that assistance was repaid, balance sheet growth shifted to large-scale purchases of Treasury securities and mortgage-backed securities (MBS), popularly known as “quantitative...

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...

Hurricanes and Electricity Infrastructure Hardening

This Insight discusses the measures undertaken by electric utilities to prevent or mitigate power outages resulting from severe weather events. Power lines and transformers used to provide electricity to customers are particularly susceptible to damage due to their exposure to the elements. (See CRS Report R42696, Weather-Related Power Outages and Electric System Resiliency.) The loss of life and extensive damage seen so far in the 2017 hurricane season has refocused the attention of Congress on the destructive potential of such storms. High winds, rain, and coastal surges can combine to...

Supreme Court October Term 2017: A Preview of Select Cases

On October 2, 2017, the Supreme Court is to begin its new term. While the Court issued a number of notable decisions during its last full term, Court watchers have largely agreed that, at least compared to recent terms, the Court’s October 2016 term was diminished both with regard to volume and content. With the Court already accepting over 30 cases for its next term, many of which raise deep and difficult questions in various areas of law, the October 2017 Supreme Court term could be considerably different. The next Court term has the potential to be one of the most consequential in...

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

Several U.N. Security Council resolutions 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 uranium enrichment program and heavy-water reactor program pursuant to the July 2015 Joint Cooperative Plan of Action (JCPOA),...

The State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report: Scope, Aid Restrictions, and Methodology

The State Department’s annual release of the Trafficking in Persons report (commonly referred to as the TIP Report) has been closely monitored by Congress, foreign governments, the media, advocacy groups, and other foreign policy observers. The 109th Congress first mandated the report’s publication in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA; Div. A of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000, P.L. 106-386).

Over time, the number of countries covered by the TIP Report has grown, peaking at 188 countries, including the United States. In the 2017 TIP Report,...

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.

Chevron Deference: A Primer

When Congress delegates regulatory functions to an administrative agency, that agency’s ability to act is governed by the statutes that authorize it to carry out these delegated tasks. Accordingly, in the course of its work, an agency must interpret these statutory authorizations to determine what it is required to do and to ascertain the limits of its authority. The scope of agencies’ statutory authority is sometimes tested through litigation. When courts review challenges to agency actions, they give special consideration to agencies’ interpretations of the statutes they administer....

Financial Transactions Taxes: In Brief

Financial transactions tax (FTT), Securities transactions tax (STT), Tobin tax, speculation, speculators, volatility, stocks, options, futures, swaps, derivatives, high-frequency traders, day traders, H.R. 2306 , H.R. 5745, S. 1371, S. 1373, and H.R. 1464, H.R. 880, S. 277, S. 410, H.R. 3313, H.R. 3638, H.R. 5727, S. 1787, S. 2252 wall street, flash crash

Department of Veterans Affairs FY2017 Appropriations

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides a range of benefits and services to veterans and eligible dependents who meet certain criteria as authorized by law. These benefits include medical care, disability compensation and pensions, education, vocational rehabilitation and employment services, assistance to homeless veterans, home loan guarantees, administration of life insurance as well as traumatic injury protection insurance for servicemembers, and death benefits that cover burial expenses.

The President’s FY2017 budget request for the VA was submitted to Congress on February 9,...

EPA’s Role in Emergency Planning and Notification at Chemical Facilities

Chemicals and the facilities that manufacture, store, distribute, and use them are essential to the U.S. economy. However, incidents occasioned by natural disasters, unintentional events, or security threats show that the handling and storage of chemicals are not without risk. Federal agencies implement a number of programs to help prevent chemical facility accidents, reduce risks of terrorist attacks on chemical facilities, protect chemical facility workers, collect and share relevant information with the public and decisionmakers, and prepare communities and local, tribal, and state...

Election in Germany

Chancellor Angela Merkel is seeking a fourth term in Germany’s parliamentary election scheduled for September 24, 2017. Merkel has led Europe’s largest and most prosperous country for 12 years and is widely viewed as the most influential political leader in Europe. Opinion polls suggest she will be reelected comfortably.

Merkel’s campaign has stressed the value of continuity and predictability during a time of flux in Europe and beyond. While presiding over a period of economic prosperity in Germany, Merkel has been confronted with crises such as significant migration and refugee flows,...

The Financial CHOICE Act in the 115th Congress: Selected Policy Issues

The Financial CHOICE Act (FCA; H.R. 10) was introduced on April 26, 2017, by Representative Jeb Hensarling, chairman of the House Committee on Financial Services. It passed the House on June 8, 2017. Selected provisions of H.R. 10 were then added to the appropriations bill passed by the House (H.R. 3354).

H.R. 10, as passed, is a wide-ranging proposal with 12 titles that would alter many parts of the financial regulatory system. Much of the FCA is in response to the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank Act; P.L. 111-203), a broad package of regulatory...

Field Hearings: Fact Sheet on Purposes, Rules, Regulations, and Guidelines

Field hearings are congressional hearings held outside Washington, DC. They date at least to the Civil War, when committees sometimes traveled to the front lines to observe conditions and war preparedness.

Social Security: Revisiting Benefits for Spouses and Survivors

Social Security auxiliary benefits were established in 1939 when Congress extended benefits to the dependents and survivors of workers covered by Social Security. Since then, Social Security auxiliary benefits have been modified by Congress numerous times to change eligibility requirements for spouses, widows, children, and others and to expand eligibility for auxiliary benefits to new groups of beneficiaries, such as former spouses, husbands, and widowers.

Auxiliary benefits are paid to the spouse, former spouse, survivor, child, or parent of a Social Security-covered worker and are equal...

Oil Spills: Background and Governance

Oil is a primary source of energy in the United States. Domestic oil production has increased in recent years, and vast quantities of oil continually enter the country via vessel or pipeline, moving throughout the country to various destinations. With such widespread use and nonstop movement, it is inevitable that some number of spills will occur.

Oil spills have raised environmental concerns for decades. Several major U.S. oil spills have had lasting repercussions that transcended local environmental and economic effects: the1969 well blowout off the coast of Santa Barbara, California;...

State Department Special Envoy, Representative, and Coordinator Positions: Background and Congressional Actions

The 115th Congress has expressed interest in monitoring the use of special envoys, representatives, and coordinator positions by the Department of State, as well as any changes to their status. Special, temporary diplomatic appointments originated during the presidency of George Washington, and the number of special representatives has expanded and contracted since then. Tabulating the precise number of these positions is difficult, however, because some special positions have fallen into disuse over time and were never officially eliminated.

Administration Action on Special Positions

It...

Implementation Date Nears for HHS Emergency Preparedness (EP) Rule

On November 16, 2017, many U.S. health care entities will be expected to fully comply with new federal emergency preparedness requirements. Emergency Preparedness Requirements for Medicare and Medicaid Participating Providers and Suppliers (the “EP Rule”), issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), became effective November 16, 2016.

In the 2013 proposed rule, CMS said it had concluded that “the current regulatory patchwork of federal, state, and local laws and guidelines, combined with the various accrediting organization emergency preparedness standards, falls far...

Regulatory Exclusivity Reform in the 115th Congress

Regulatory exclusivities provide incentives for pharmaceutical innovation in the United States. Overseen by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), regulatory exclusivities are alternatively known as marketing exclusivities, data exclusivities, or data protection. Each of the distinct regulatory exclusivities establishes a period of time during which the FDA affords an approved drug protection from competing applications for marketing approval.

Between them, the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, P.L. 75-717 (as amended), and the Public Health Service Act, P. L. 78-410 (as amended),...

Supreme Court October Term 2016: A Review of Select Major Rulings

The Supreme Court term that began on October 3, 2016, was notably different from recent terms at the High Court. It was the first term (1) in thirty years to begin without Justice Antonin Scalia on the Court; (2) since 1987 to commence with a Court made up of fewer than nine active Justices; and (3) since 2010 in which a new member (Justice Neil Gorsuch) joined the High Court. Court observers have suggested that the lack of a fully staffed Supreme Court for the bulk of the last term likely had an impact on the Court’s work both with regard to the volume of cases that the Court heard and...

The OCS Royalty Rate: Statutory Requirements and General Guidance

Background

The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) (43 U.S.C. 1337; P.L. 83-212) authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to establish a royalty rate as part of the process for leasing acreage for oil and gas developments in federal waters. “The Secretary of the Interior shall establish royalties, fees, rentals, bonuses, and other payments to ensure a fair return to the United States for any lease....” Further, OCSLA requires a cash bonus bid with a royalty set at not less than 12.5% in amount or value of production (43 U.S.C. 1337 (a)(1)(A)) (For details on product valuation, see 30...

Congressional Considerations Related to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma

This Insight provides a short overview of issues Congress may consider in relation to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. It is not intended to provide up-to-date information on unfolding events. For storm-related updates and the current status of response efforts, see official government sources (e.g., Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and National Weather Service), congressional advisories from government sources, and/or news media. For additional support, please contact available CRS experts in disaster-related issue areas.

Federal Declarations and Response

As of September 14, in...

Nuclear Talks with North Korea?

The accelerated pace of North Korea’s nuclear and missile testing, and continued threats against the United States and its allies have raised questions over the usefulness, timing, scope, and goals of any diplomatic talks with Pyongyang. An aggressive negotiation strategy is one of many options available to the United States. The Trump Administration has stated that its approach of “maximum pressure”—through strengthened United Nations sanctions, increased economic pressure, and ramped up military cooperation with allies—is aimed at convincing Pyongyang “to de-escalate and return to the...

Federal Employees: Human Resources Management Flexibilities for Emergency Situations

Federal executive branch departments and agencies have available to them various human resources management flexibilities for emergency situations involving severe weather, natural disaster, and other circumstances. At various times, the Office of Personnel Management issued guidance on these flexibilities, which supplements the basic policies governing staffing, compensation, leave sharing, and telework in Title 5 of the United States Code and Title 5 of the Code of Federal Regulations. Some examples of when issuances have occurred include following the September 11, 2001, terrorist...

Resolutions Censuring the President: History and Context, 1st-114th Congresses

Censure is a reprimand adopted by one or both chambers of Congress against a Member of Congress, President, federal judge, or government official. Censure against a sitting Member involves a formal process that is sanctioned by the Constitution (Article 1, Section 5). Non-Member censure, however, is not an enforceable action and has no uniform language. Instead, non-Member censure resolutions may use a variety of terms to highlight conduct deemed by the House or Senate to be inappropriate or unauthorized.

Since 1800, the House and Senate have introduced numerous resolutions to censure or...

Congressional Consideration of Resolutions to “Censure” Executive Branch Officials

Over the history of the federal Congress, Members have proposed resolutions to formally express the House or Senate’s censure, disapproval, loss of confidence, or condemnation of the President or other executive branch official or their actions. This Insight summarizes the parliamentary procedures the House and Senate might use to consider a resolution to censure or condemn an executive branch official and provides links to additional reading material on the subject.

Two Types of “Censure” Resolutions

An important distinction should be made between two types of “censure” resolutions: (1)...

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI): An Overview

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 social insurance program established under Title II of the act that provides monthly cash benefits to nonelderly workers with disabilities and to their eligible dependents, provided the worker paid Social Security taxes for a sufficient number of years in jobs covered by...

Redeploying U.S. Nuclear Weapons to South Korea: Background and Implications in Brief

Recent advances in North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs have led to discussions, both within South Korea and, reportedly, between the United States and South Korean officials, about the possible redeployment of U.S. nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula. The United States deployed nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula between 1958 and 1991. Although it removed the weapons as a part of a post-Cold War change in its nuclear posture, the United States remains committed to defending South Korea under the 1953 Mutual Defense Treaty and to employing nuclear weapons, if necessary, in...

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 (CY) 2017, the program is expected to cover about 58 million persons (49 million aged and 9 million disabled) at a total cost of $707 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...

Unauthorized Childhood Arrivals: Legislative Options

In 2012, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) began granting deferred action through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to certain individuals without lawful immigration status who had arrived in the United States as children and met other requirements. The requirements included initial entry into the United States before age 16, continuous U.S. residence since June 15, 2007, and being under age 31 as of June 15, 2012. Deferred action provides protection against removal from the United States. Individuals granted deferred action also may receive work...

Chemical, Hazardous Substances, and Petroleum Spills: CRS Experts

Hurricane Harvey Irma Jose Katia Katrina flooding storm surge water tropical storms weather climate change sewage treatment overflow tropical storm cyclone A recent spill from a storage tank of 4-methyl cyclohexane methanol from Freedom Industries into the Elk River near Charleston, West Virginia in early January 2014 has raised questions about the adequacy of spill response and chemical safety. Thousands of oil and chemical spills of varying size occur in the United States each year. State and local officials located in proximity to these incidents generally are the first responders and...

Due Process Limits on the Jurisdiction of Courts: Issues for Congress

Businesses that are incorporated in foreign countries and conduct a large portion of their operations outside of the territorial jurisdiction of the United States may nevertheless cause injury to U.S. persons. For example, a foreign company might manufacture in its home country a machine that another company later distributes in the United States, ultimately resulting in an injury to a U.S. consumer. Although foreign companies may engage in actions or omissions that injure U.S. persons, such injured persons may face various procedural challenges in obtaining judicial relief from a foreign...

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

Family violence broadly refers to acts of physical and sexual violence and emotional abuse 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...

The Post-9/11 Veterans’ Educational Assistance Act of 2008 (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...

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 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 has evolved from a little-known...

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. Although funding gaps may occur at the start of the fiscal year, they may also occur any time a CR...

Legislative Branch: FY2018 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 FY2018 legislative branch budget request of $4.865 billion was submitted on May 23, 2017. In general, FY2018 legislative branch budget requests were...

CRISPR Gene Editing Research in Embryos Generates Scientific and Ethics Debate

A recent experiment in the United States using the gene modification tool CRISPR to target a disease gene in human embryos has raised optimism about promising medical advances, generated scientific debate, and renewed debate about long-standing ethical issues.

Since 1996, Congress has prohibited the use of funds appropriated in the Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill for “the creation of a human embryo or embryos for research purposes” or for “research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed, discarded, or knowingly subjected to risk of injury or death greater than that...

Programs for Minority-Serving Institutions Under the Higher Education Act

Minority-serving institutions (MSIs) are institutions of higher education that serve high concentrations of minority students who, historically, have been underrepresented in higher education. Many MSIs have faced challenges in securing adequate financial support, thus affecting their ability to develop and enhance their academic offerings and ultimately serve their students. Federal higher education policy recognizes the importance of such institutions and targets financial resources to them. Funding for MSIs is channeled through numerous federal agencies, and several of these funding...

Military Sexual Assault: A Framework for Congressional Oversight

Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution gives Congress the power to raise and support armies; provide and maintain a navy and make rules for the governance of those forces. Under this authority, Congress determines military criminal law applicable to members of the Armed Forces. Congress has determined that sexual assault is a criminal act under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). As such, Congress has an interest in overseeing the implementation and enforcement of these laws in order to provide for the health, welfare, and good order of the Armed Forces.

Prevention and...

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 2035, whereas the DI fund will remain solvent until 2028, meaning that each trust fund can pay benefits scheduled under current law in...

Wildfires: CRS Experts

The following table provides access to names and contact information for CRS experts on policy concerns relating to wildfires. Policy areas identified include federal wildfire policy; federal forest management; federal firefighting assistance; federal emergency management policy; federal preparedness system and response plan; hazard mitigation; armed forces and national guard assistance; supplemental disaster funding; and disaster insurance.

The following table provides access to names and contact information for CRS experts on policy concerns relating to wildfires. Policy areas identified...

Social Security: What Would Happen If the Trust Funds Ran Out?

Social Security’s income and outlays 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 2028 and the OASI Trust Fund will become depleted in 2035. 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 2034. At...

Section 471 of H.R. 10, H.R. 1219, S. 444, and Section 914 of H.R. 3280: Supporting America’s Innovators

Introduction

To help restore confidence in the securities markets after the stock market crash of 1929, Congress passed the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, which authorized the creation of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The SEC is an independent, nonpartisan regulatory agency responsible for administering federal securities laws. It has broad regulatory authority over significant parts of the securities industry, including stock exchanges, mutual funds, investment advisers, and brokerage firms.

Among the major federal securities statutes that the SEC enforces is the...

Executive Branch Legislative Proposals Affecting Veterans Benefits in the FY2018 Budget

The FY2018 Budget for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) contains two legislative proposals which, if enacted, would affect disability and other types of cash benefits payable by the VA to certain veterans. These proposals would affect both current and future beneficiaries. The proposal to restrict eligibility for Individual Unemployability (IU) would reduce the monthly benefits of affected veterans and the proposed changed to the calculation of the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) would reduce the annual growth in benefits. Savings from both proposals would be used to partially...

U.S. Air Force Pilot Shortage

In his opening comments to the 2017 U.S. Air Force Posture Hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Chairman John McCain stated, “The force is short 1,500 pilots.... This is a full-blown crisis, and if left unresolved, it will call into question the Air Force’s ability to accomplish its mission.” According to current Air Force statistics, the service is 1,947 pilots short of its authorized strength. The shortage is most acute among fighter pilots: the Air Force predicts it will be 1,055 fighter pilots short of 3,781 authorized by the end of FY2017, following a deficiency of 873...

Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education: FY2017 Appropriations

This report provides an overview of actions taken by Congress and the President to provide FY2017 appropriations for accounts funded by the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS) appropriations bill. This bill provides funding for all accounts funded through the annual appropriations process at the Departments of Labor (DOL) and Education (ED). It 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...

Federal Agricultural Recovery Resources for Hurricane-Related Losses

Following the destruction of Hurricane Harvey, which hit the Texas coast on August 25, 2017, many in the agriculture industry are facing large-scale production losses as well as extensive damage to land and facilities. Hurricane Irma now poses a similar threat to Florida, other southeastern states, and several U.S. territories. Crops such as rice, cotton, soybeans, and cattle appear to be among the hardest hit areas of agricultural production from Hurricane Harvey. However, to date no official loss estimates have been released. Sugar, citrus, cotton, specialty crops, and livestock are just...

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...

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...

Patentable Subject Matter Reform

The term “patentable subject matter” refers to the requirement of Section 101 of the Patent Act of 1952 that an invention must consist of a “process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter” in order to be patented. The Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (AIA) of 2011, P.L. 112-29, additionally stipulated that “no patent may issue on a claim directed to or encompassing a human organism.” The AIA also limited the availability of patents claiming tax avoidance strategies.

The courts and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) have generally construed the language of Section 101...

Youth Transitioning from Foster Care: Background and Federal Programs

While many young people have access to emotional and financial support systems throughout their early adult years, older youth in foster care and those who are emancipated from care often face obstacles to developing independent living skills and building supports that ease the transition to adulthood. Older foster youth who return to their parents or guardians may continue to experience poor family dynamics or lack supports, and studies have shown that recently emancipated foster youth fare poorly relative to their counterparts in the general population on several outcome measures.

The...

Recess Appointments Made by President Barack Obama

Under the Constitution, the President and the Senate share the power to make appointments to high-level politically appointed positions in the federal government. The Constitution also empowers the President unilaterally to make a temporary appointment to such a position if it is vacant and the Senate is in recess. Such an appointment, termed a recess appointment, expires at the end of the following session of the Senate. This report identifies recess appointments by President Barack Obama. The report discusses these appointments in the context of recess appointment authorities and...

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...

Disaster Debris Management: Requirements, Challenges, and Federal Agency Roles

Every year, communities in the United States are affected by disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, volcanoes, floods, wildfires, and winter storms. After a disaster, when a region turns its attention to rebuilding, one of the greatest challenges often involves properly managing disaster-related debris.

Disaster debris typically includes soils and sediments, vegetation (trees, limbs, shrubs), municipal solid waste (common household garbage, personal belongings), construction and demolition debris (in some instances, entire residential structures and all their contents),...

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA): Frequently Asked Questions

On September 5, 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, an Obama Administration initiative, was being rescinded. A related memorandum released by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that same day rescinded the 2012 memorandum that established DACA and described how DHS would “execute a wind-down of the program.” According to the September 2017 memorandum, DHS will continue to adjudicate certain DACA requests and will not terminate previously issued grants of deferred action or employment authorization “solely based...

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 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 relief and...

Retirement Benefits for Federal Law Enforcement Personnel

Federal employees who perform specific duties, as defined in statute, are classified as law enforcement officers (LEOs) for the purpose of federal retirement benefits. LEOs and a few legislatively designated groups, including federal firefighters and air traffic controllers, are eligible for enhanced retirement benefits under the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS), for individuals hired before 1984, or the Federal Employees’ Retirement System (FERS), for individuals hired in 1984 or later.

The availability of enhanced retirement benefits for LEOs and similar groups is linked to an...

U.S.-UK Free Trade Agreement: Prospects and Issues for Congress

Prospects for a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) between the United States and the United Kingdom (UK) are of increasing interest for both sides. In a national referendum held on June 23, 2016, a majority of British voters supported the UK exiting the European Union (EU), a process known as “Brexit.” The Brexit referendum has prompted calls from some Members of Congress and the Trump Administration to launch U.S.-UK FTA negotiations, though other Members have moderated their support with calls to ensure that such negotiations do not constrain the promotion of broader transatlantic...

Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) FY2018 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 funded through the Agriculture appropriations bill in the House and the FSGG bill in the Senate. This structure has existed since the 2007 reorganization of the House and Senate Committees on...

The Budget Control Act: Frequently Asked Questions

When there is concern with deficit or debt levels, Congress will sometimes implement budget enforcement mechanisms to mandate specific budgetary policies or fiscal outcomes. The Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA; P.L. 112-25), which was signed into law on August 2, 2011, includes several such mechanisms.

The BCA as amended has three main components that currently affect the annual budget. One component imposes annual statutory discretionary spending limits for defense and nondefense spending. A second component requires annual reductions to the initial discretionary spending limits...

New Financial Sanctions on Venezuela: Key Issues

Venezuela continues to be in the throes of a deep political crisis under the authoritarian rule of President Nicolás Maduro. While the United States has employed various sanctions as a policy tool in response to concerns about the activities of the Venezuelan government and Venezuelan individuals for more than a decade, sanctions have been ratcheted up in recent months as the political situation has deteriorated.

After a controversial election of a National Constituent Assembly on July 30, 2017, the Trump Administration weighed a range of possible new sanctions to increase pressure on the...

Defense Authorization and Appropriations Bills: FY1961-FY2017

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...

Implementing the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for Disaster Response, Recovery, and Mitigation Projects

In the aftermath of a major disaster, communities may need to rebuild, replace, or possibly even relocate a multitude of structures. When recovery activities take place on such a potentially large scale, compliance with any of a number of local, state, and federal laws or regulations may apply. For example, when federal funding is provided for disaster-related activities, the agency providing those funds is generally required to identify and consider the environmental impacts of the proposed activities in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA, 42 U.S.C. §4321...

Hurricane Harvey and the Oil Industry

Hurricane Harvey has had a significant impact on oil industry infrastructure, and, therefore, the ability of the industry to supply petroleum products to the national and world markets at stable prices. All stages of the oil/petroleum product distribution chain, including production fields, refineries, pipelines, and harbors and ship terminals, have been affected. Over the next several days, damage assessments will continue and estimates of when normal operations will commence will become available. Hurricane Harvey has demonstrated the interconnectedness of the industry and how the...

FEMA Disaster Housing: The Individuals and Households Program—Implementation and Potential Issues for Congress

Following a major disaster declaration, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) may provide three principal forms of assistance. These include Public Assistance, which addresses repairs to a community and states’ or tribe’s infrastructure; Mitigation Assistance which provides funding for projects a state or tribe submits to reduce the threat of future damage; and Individual Assistance (IA) which provides help to individuals and families.

IA can include several programs, depending on whether the governor of the affected state or the tribal leader has requested that specific help....

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...

House Standing Committee Chairs and Ranking Minority Members: Rules Governing Selection Procedures

House rules, Republican Conference rules, and Democratic Caucus rules each detail aspects of the procedures followed in selecting standing committee chairs and ranking minority members. The Republican Steering Committee and the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee are constituted during the early organization meetings traditionally held in November and December to determine most committee chairs and ranking minority members and to make committee assignments for most committees. Their recommendations are then forwarded to the full Republican Conference and Democratic Caucus for...

Title X (Public Health Service Act) Family Planning Program

The federal government provides grants for family planning services through the Family Planning Program, Title X of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. §§300 to 300a-6). Enacted in 1970, it is the only domestic federal program devoted solely to family planning and related preventive health services. In 2015, Title X-funded clinics served 4.0 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 with FY1985, funding for the program has...

House Rules Manual: Summary of Contents

The House Rules and Manual, officially titled Constitution, Jefferson’s Manual and Rules of the House of Representatives, contains the fundamental source material describing procedures in the House of Representatives. The Manual includes the Constitution of the United States, selected provisions of Jefferson’s Manual, rules of the House, provisions of law and resolutions enacted or adopted under the rule-making authority of the House, and pertinent decisions of the Speaker and chairmen of the Committee of the Whole interpreting the rules and procedural authority used in the House, often...

Congressional Action on the FY2013 Disaster Supplemental

On January 29, 2013, the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act, 2013, a $50.5 billion package of disaster assistance largely focused on responding to Hurricane Sandy, was enacted as P.L. 113-2.

In late October 2012, Hurricane Sandy impacted a wide swath of the East Coast of the United States, resulting in more than 120 deaths and major disaster declarations for 12 states plus the District of Columbia. The Obama Administration submitted a request to Congress on December 7, 2012, for $60.4 billion in supplemental funding and legislative provisions to address both the immediate losses and...

Paraguay: In Brief

Paraguay is a South American country wedged between Bolivia, Argentina, and Brazil. It is about the size of California but has a population of less than 7 million. The country is known for its rather homogenous culture—a mix of Latin and Guarani influences, with 90% of the population speaking Guarani, a pre-Columbian language, in addition to Spanish. The Paraguayan economy is one of the most agriculturally dependent in the hemisphere and is largely shaped by the country’s production of cattle, soybeans, and other crops. In 2016, Paraguay grew by 4.1%; it is projected to sustain about 4.3%...

Judiciary Appropriations, FY2018

Funds for the judicial branch are included annually in the Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) appropriations bill. The bill provides funding for the Supreme Court; the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit; the U.S. Court of International Trade; the U.S. Courts of Appeals and District Courts; Defender Services; Court Security; Fees of Jurors and Commissioners; the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts; the Federal Judicial Center; the U.S. Sentencing Commission; and Judicial Retirement Funds.

The judiciary’s FY2018 budget request of $7.86 billion, including $7.23...

The HUD Homeless Assistance Grants: Programs Authorized by the HEARTH Act

The Homeless Assistance Grants, administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), were first authorized by Congress in 1987 as part of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (P.L. 100-77). Since their creation, the grants have been composed of three or four separate programs, though for the majority of their existence, between 1992 and 2012, the grant programs were unchanged. During this time period, there were four programs authorized and funded by Congress: the Emergency Shelter Grants (ESG), the Supportive Housing Program (SHP), the Shelter Plus Care (S+C)...

Transgender Servicemembers: Policy Shifts and Considerations for Congress

A series of Twitter posts on July 26, 2017, by President Donald J. Trump indicated a planned shift in Department of Defense (DOD) policy on service in the Armed Forces by transgender individuals. A Presidential Memorandum to the Secretaries of Defense and the Homeland Security (as parent agency to the U.S. Coast Guard) followed on August 25, 2017, outlining the new policy parameters with respect to uniformed DOD and Coast Guard personnel.

Background: Policy Evolution

Prior to 2016, DOD policy treated the physical and psychological aspects of transgender conditions as (1) grounds for the...

Trade Adjustment Assistance for Firms

As Congress considers potential legislation related to trade agreements, the potential impact on U.S. workers and firms is part of the debate. The Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) programs were first authorized by Congress in the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 to help workers and firms adapt to import competition and dislocation caused by trade liberalization. While trade liberalization may increase the overall economic welfare of all the affected trade partners, it can also cause adjustment problems for firms and workers facing import competition, and adjustment assistance has long been...

Natural Disasters and Hazards: CRS Experts

The following table provides access to 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...

Oil and Chemical Spills: Federal Emergency Response Framework

Thousands of oil and chemical spills of varying size and magnitude occur in the United States each year. When a spill occurs, state and local officials located in proximity to the incident generally are the first responders and may elevate an incident for federal attention if greater resources are desired.

The National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan, often referred to as the National Contingency Plan (NCP), establishes the procedures for the federal response to oil and chemical spills. The scope of the NCP encompasses discharges of oil into or upon U.S. waters and...

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) 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,...

Business Tax Provisions that Expired in 2016 (“Tax Extenders”)

Temporary tax provisions were last extended in the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act of 2015, signed into law as Division Q of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016 (P.L. 114-113). Under this law, all tax provisions that had expired at the end of 2014 were retroactively extended. Among the business-related tax provisions, some were extended through 2016, some were extended through 2019, while others were made permanent.

This report briefly summarizes and discusses the economic impact of selected business-related tax provisions that expired at the end of 2016, including the...

Statistics on Livestock Grazing on Federal Lands: FY2002 to FY2016

Livestock grazing on federal lands primarily occurs on lands of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM, in the Department of the Interior) and the Forest Service (FS, in the Department of Agriculture). Both agencies manage lands under sustained-yield and multiple-use principles, with livestock grazing among generally authorized uses. Congress continues to be interested in the extent to which BLM and FS lands are protected and used for a variety of activities, including livestock grazing. This report provides data on the extent of livestock grazing in recent years to assist with congressional...

Hurricane Events: CRS Experts

The following table provides access to names and contact information for CRS experts on policy concerns relating 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,...

Allowances and Office Staff for Former Presidents, FY2016-FY2018 Appropriations

Introduction

The Former Presidents Act (FPA), enacted on August 25, 1958 (3 U.S.C. §102 note), “was designed to maintain the dignity’ of the office of the President by providing former Presidents—and their spouses—a pension and other benefits to help them respond to post-presidency mail and speaking requests, among other informal public duties often required.” (See CRS Report RL34631, Former Presidents: Pensions, Office Allowances, and Other Federal Benefits.) The General Services Administration (GSA) administers the law. Five former Presidents receive pensions and benefits under the FPA:...

Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grant: Background and Funding

The Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Services Block Grant is a federal-state partnership program that aims to improve the health of low-income pregnant women, mothers, and children. In addition, the program aims to connect low-income families with other services and programs, such as Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). This federal-state partnership is composed of three programs. First, formula-based block grants are provided to states and territories (collectively referred to as states in this report). Second, competitive grants are available through the...

Cybersecurity for Energy Delivery Systems: DOE Programs

While physical threats to the U.S. power grid and pipelines have long worried policymakers, cyber threats to the computer systems that operate this critical infrastructure are an increasing concern. Cybersecurity risks against the power and pipeline sectors are similar, as both use similar control systems, and there appears to be a broad consensus that cyber threats to this infrastructure are on the rise. Furthermore, with ever-greater physical interdependency between electricity generators and the natural gas pipelines that supply their fuel, many in Congress recognize that grid and...

Stafford Act Declarations 1953-2016: Trends, Analyses, and Implications for Congress

The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act authorizes the President to issue declarations that provide states, tribes, and localities with a range of federal assistance in response to natural and man-made incidents. Since 1953 the frequency of declarations has increased. For example, the average number of major disaster declarations issued from 1960 to 1969 was roughly 18.6 per year. In contrast, the average number of major disaster declarations issued from 2000 to 2009 was 57.1 per year. The highest number was declared in 2011, with 97 major disaster...

Hurricanes and Gasoline Prices

The Gulf of Mexico, especially the coastlines of Texas and Louisiana, have borne the brunt of many of the most severe hurricanes to hit the United States in recent years. The high winds, heavy rains, and storm surges that constitute a hurricane have resulted in loss of life, flooding, property damage, and economic disruption. In addition, this area includes important oil industry resources including offshore production facilities, refineries, and transportation infrastructure including import and export shipping facilities and pipelines.

Hurricanes Ike, which made landfall in Texas on...

Arab League Boycott of Israel

The Arab League, an umbrella organization comprising 22 Middle Eastern and African countries and entities, has maintained an official boycott of Israeli companies and Israeli-made goods since the founding of Israel in 1948. The boycott is administered by the Damascus-based Central Boycott Office, a specialized bureau of the Arab League.

The boycott has three tiers. The primary boycott prohibits citizens of an Arab League member from buying from, selling to, or entering into a business contract with either the Israeli government or an Israeli citizen. The secondary boycott extends the...

Infrastructure: Green Building Overview and Issues

Buildings, whether residential, commercial, government, or special-use, are core components of the nation’s infrastructure. Their construction, operation, and demolition are increasingly recognized as major sources of environmental impact. Without significant transformation of building construction and operations, that impact is expected to increase with population growth and changes in other demographic and economic factors. One strategy for achieving that transformation is most widely known by the term green building. However, the term is used differently by various proponents and...

Railroad Retirement Board: Trust Fund Investment Practices

Beginning in 2002, a significant portion of the assets of the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) has been invested in private stocks, bonds, and other investments. Prior to the Railroad Retirement and Survivors’ Improvement Act of 2001, P.L. 107-90, surplus railroad retirement assets could only be invested in U.S. government securities—just as the Social Security trust funds must be invested. The 2001 act established the National Railroad Retirement Investment Trust (NRRIT; hereinafter, the Trust) to manage and invest part of the RRB’s assets in the same way that the assets of private-sector...

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 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), students...

DHS Appropriations FY2017: Departmental Management and Operations

This report is part of a suite of reports that discuss appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for FY2017. It specifically discusses appropriations for the components of DHS included in the first title of the homeland security appropriations bill—the Office of the Secretary and Executive Management, the Office of the Under Secretary for Management, the DHS headquarters consolidation project, the Office of the Chief Financial Officer, the Office of the Chief Information Officer, Analysis and Operations, and the Office of Inspector General for the department....

Small Modular Nuclear Reactors: Status and Issues

Small modular reactors (SMRs) are nuclear reactors that are sized to be suitable for modular construction. SMRs are generally defined as having electric generating capacity of 300 megawatts (MWe) or less, in contrast to existing nuclear power reactors, which typically exceed 1,000 MWe. A wide variety of nuclear technologies could be used in SMRs, in addition to the conventional light water reactor (LWR) technology in existing U.S. commercial nuclear plants. Many SMR designs are still in development stages, and the projected timelines for initial deployment of SMRs generally range from the...

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, the longest of which lasted 21 full days, from...

The Electoral College: Reform Proposals in the 114th and 115th Congress

American voters elect the President and Vice President of the United States indirectly, through presidential electors chosen by voters in the states—the electoral college. For further information see CRS Report RL32611, The Electoral College: How It Works in Contemporary Presidential Elections. Article II, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution, as revised by the 12th Amendment in 1804, requires winning candidates for President and Vice President to gain a majority of electoral votes. Since 1804, Presidents who won a majority of electoral votes and at least a plurality of popular votes were...

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.

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. 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 explosion in any part of the United States” (42 U.S.C. 5122(2)).

The...

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...

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s (ACA’s) Transitional Reinsurance Program

Section 1341 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA; P.L. 111-148, as amended) establishes a transitional reinsurance program that is designed to provide payment to non-grandfathered, non-group market health plans (also known as individual market health plans) that enroll high-risk enrollees for 2014 through 2016. Under the program, the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) collects reinsurance contributions from health insurers and from third-party administrators on behalf of group health plans. The Secretary then uses those contributions to make...

The National Park Service’s Maintenance Backlog: Frequently Asked Questions

This report addresses frequently asked questions about the National Park Service’s (NPS’s) backlog of deferred maintenance—maintenance that was not performed as scheduled or as needed and was put off to a future time. NPS’s deferred maintenance, also known as the maintenance backlog, was estimated for FY2016 at $11.332 billion. More than half of the NPS backlog is in transportation-related assets. Other federal land management agencies also have maintenance backlogs, but NPS’s is the largest and has drawn the most congressional attention.

During the past decade (FY2007-FY2016), NPS’s...

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 desigcned 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.

Budget Actions in 2017

The Constitution grants Congress the power of the purse, but does not dictate how Congress must fulfill this constitutional duty. Congress has, therefore, developed certain types of budgetary legislation, along with rules and practices that govern its content and consideration. This set of budgetary legislation, rules, and practices is often referred to as the congressional budget process.

There is no prescribed congressional budget process that must be strictly followed each year, and Congress does not always consider budgetary measures in a linear or predictable pattern. Such...

Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) FY2017 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...

Recently Expired Individual Tax Provisions (“Tax Extenders”): In Brief

Thirty-four temporary tax provisions expired at the end of 2016. Four of these provisions are individual income tax provisions. In the past, Congress has regularly acted to extend expired or expiring temporary tax provisions. Collectively, these temporary tax provisions are often referred to as “tax extenders.” Most recently, in December 2015, Congress addressed tax extenders in the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 (PATH Act), enacted as Division Q of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016 (P.L. 114-113). Three of the four individual income tax provisions that expired at...

Justice Department’s Role in Cyber Incident Response

Criminals and other malicious actors increasingly rely on the Internet and rapidly evolving technology to further their operations. In cyberspace, criminals can compromise financial assets, hacktivists can flood websites with traffic—effectively shutting them down, and spies can steal intellectual property and government secrets. When such cyber incidents occur, a number of questions arise, including how the federal government will react and which agencies will respond.

The Obama Administration, through Presidential Policy Directive/PPD-41, outlined how the government responds to...

State, Foreign Operations Appropriations: A Guide to Component Accounts

The State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs appropriations legislation provides annual funding for almost all of the international affairs programs generally considered as part of the 150 International Affairs Budget Function (the major exception being food assistance). The legislation has also served as a vehicle for Congress to place conditions on the expenditure of those funds, and express its views regarding certain foreign policy issues.

This report briefly discusses the legislation generally and then provides a short description of the various funding accounts as they appear...

H.R. 79, Section 452 of H.R. 10, and Section 913 of H.R. 3280: Helping Angels Lead Our Startups

The Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act of 2012 (JOBS Act; P.L. 112-106) was broadly aimed at stimulating corporate capital formation, particularly for emerging and smaller firms, largely through regulatory relief from various disclosure-based requirements in federal securities laws administered by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

In recent years, Congress has considered legislation extending the JOBS Act’s focus on corporate regulatory relief. In the 115th Congress, such legislation includes H.R. 79, Helping Angels Lead Our Startups, which passed the House on January 10,...

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, though note is also made of funding made available to DHS outside this process (e.g., user fees and trust funds). 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 and...

Confederate Names and Military Installations

After the recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 12, 2017, surrounding the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue, some Members of Congress have expressed interest in military installations named after Confederate leaders, and the process for renaming these bases. Currently, the Department of Defense (DOD) does not have a review process to reevaluate the naming of specific installations. Instead, each military department has its own naming convention that is summarized below. A list of Navy ships named after Confederate commanders and a battle is also included.

According to...

S. 488, H.R. 1343, and Section 406 of H.R. 10: Encouraging Employee Ownership

This Insight provides background and a policy discussion of similar legislation, S. 488, H.R. 1343 (which passed the House on April 4, 2017), and Section 406 in H.R. 10, the Financial CHOICE Act, which passed the House on June 8, 2017. According to H.R. 1343’s sponsor, Representative Randy Hultgren, the legislation is aimed at “eas[ing] the ability of companies to offer ownership to their ... employees.”

Introduction

To help restore confidence in the securities markets after the stock market crash of 1929, Congress passed the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, which authorized the creation...

Comparing DHS Component Funding, FY2018: In Brief

Generally, the homeland security appropriations bill includes all annual appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), providing resources to every departmental component. Table 1 and Figure 1 show DHS’s new discretionary budget authority enacted for FY2017 and requested by the Administration for FY2018, as well as the House committee-reported response, broken down by component—from largest to smallest appropriations request.

(TO BE SUPPRESSED) Department of Homeland Security DHS budget Appropriations FY2017, FY2018 funding analysis H.R. 3355 H.Rept. 115-239 components

Select Acquisition Reform Provisions in the House and Senate Versions of the FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act

Congress continues to focus on reforming defense acquisition. Both chambers’ versions of the FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act include a large number of provisions dealing with defense acquisition, particularly in each bill’s Title VIII, Acquisition Policy, Acquisition Management, and Related Matters. These provisions build on the large number of acquisition provisions enacted in the last two years.

The House bill—passed by the House on July 14, 2017—includes 48 provisions, 15 of which were first introduced in a stand-alone acquisition reform bill by Chairman of the House Armed...

International Trade and Finance: Overview and Issues for the 115th Congress

The U.S. Constitution grants authority to Congress to regulate commerce with foreign nations. 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; import and export policies;...

Russia: Background and U.S. Policy

Over the last five years, Congress and the executive branch have closely monitored and responded to new developments in Russian policy. These developments include the following: increasingly authoritarian governance since Vladimir Putin’s return to the presidential post in 2012; Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region and support of separatists in eastern Ukraine; violations of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty; Moscow’s intervention in Syria in support of Bashar al Asad’s government; increased military activity in Europe; and cyber-related influence...

Domestic Terrorism: An Overview

The emphasis of counterterrorism policy in the United States since Al Qaeda’s attacks of September 11, 2001 (9/11) has been on jihadist terrorism. However, in the last decade, domestic terrorists—people who commit crimes within the homeland and draw inspiration from U.S.-based extremist ideologies and movements—have killed American citizens and damaged property across the country. Not all of these criminals have been prosecuted under federal terrorism statutes, which does not imply that domestic terrorists are taken any less seriously than other terrorists.

The Department of Justice (DOJ)...

Health Insurance Premium Tax Credits and Cost-Sharing Subsidies

Certain individuals without access to subsidized health insurance coverage may be eligible for premium tax credits, as established under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA; P.L. 111-148, as amended). The dollar amount of the premium credit varies from individual to individual, based on a formula specified in statute. Individuals who are eligible for the premium credit, however, generally are still required to contribute some amount toward the purchase of health insurance.

In order to be eligible to receive premium tax credits, individuals must have annual household income...

DOD Plan to Split Acquisition Duties

On August 2, 2017, DOD provided Congress its plan for breaking the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s acquisition office—the Under Secretary of Defense (USD) for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics (AT&L)—into two separate organizations, as required by the FY2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), Section 901. The NDAA conference report laid out the concerns that drove the split:

“Three broad priorities framed the conference discussions: (1) elevate the mission of advancing technology and innovation within the Department; (2) foster distinct technology and acquisition cultures...

The U.S. Coal Industry: Historical Trends and Recent Developments

The Trump Administration has taken several actions intended to help revive the U.S. coal industry. Within its first two months, the Administration rolled back or began reversing several coal-related regulations finalized under the Obama Administration. This effort was undertaken as three of the largest coal producers continued recovery from Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and occurred in the context of higher coal prices (making coal production possibly more profitable), lower inventories, and higher natural gas prices—factors that could lead to coal being more competitive as a fuel source for...

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...

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 location of many of the newly created parent corporations.

These types of...

Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP): History and Overview

Congress established the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) through the National Science and Technology Policy, Organization, and Priorities Act of 1976 (P.L. 94-282). The act states, “The primary function of the OSTP Director is to provide, within the Executive Office of the President [EOP], advice on the scientific, engineering, and technological aspects of issues that require attention at the highest level of Government.” Further, “The Office shall serve as a source of scientific and technological analysis and judgment for the President with respect to major policies, plans,...

Violence Against Members of Congress and Their Staff: Selected Examples and Congressional Responses

Questions about the personal security and safety of Members of Congress and their staffs are of enduring concern for the House, Senate, and the United States Capitol Police (USCP). Broader interest in the media and among the public arises in the aftermath of incidents such as the June 14, 2017, attack on at least 17 Members of Congress, several staff, USCP officers, and members of the public in Alexandria, Virginia. In that incident, a Member was critically wounded, and others were injured during a shooting that occurred as Members were practicing for an annual congressional baseball...

Select Demographic and Other Characteristics of Recent U.S. Circuit and District Court Nominees

This Insight provides information related to select demographic and other characteristics of U.S. circuit and district court nominees whose nominations were submitted to the Senate by President Trump prior to August 1, 2017. President Trump submitted a total of 26 nominations prior to this date. The select demographic and other characteristics of these 26 individuals are compared to the same demographic and other characteristics of the first 26 individuals nominated to U.S. circuit and district court judgeships during the Obama, George W. Bush, and Clinton presidencies. The information is...

Who Regulates Whom? An Overview of the U.S. Financial Regulatory Framework

The financial regulatory system has been described as fragmented, with multiple overlapping regulators and a dual state-federal regulatory system. The system evolved piecemeal, punctuated by major changes in response to various historical financial crises. The most recent financial crisis also resulted in changes to the regulatory system through the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act in 2010 (Dodd-Frank Act; P.L. 111-203) and the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 (HERA; P.L. 110-289). To address the fragmented nature of the system, the Dodd-Frank Act created...

Airport Privatization: Issues and Options for Congress

In 1996, Congress established the Airport Privatization Pilot Program (APPP; 49 U.S.C. §47134; Section 149 of the Federal Aviation Reauthorization Act of 1996, P.L. 104-264) to increase access to sources of private capital for airport development and to make airports more efficient, competitive, and financially viable. Participation in the program has been very limited, in good part because major stakeholders have different, if not contradictory, objectives and interests.

Only two U.S. commercial service airports have completed the privatization process established under the APPP. One of...

Public Health Service Agencies: Overview and Funding (FY2016-FY2018)

Within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), eight agencies are designated components of the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS). The PHS agencies are funded primarily with annual discretionary appropriations. They also receive significant amounts of funding from other sources, including mandatory funds from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA; P.L. 111-148, as amended), user fees, and third-party reimbursements (collections).

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) funds research on improving the quality and delivery of health care. For more than a...

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;...

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...

Inspector General Community Launches Oversight.gov to Increase Accessibility to Reports

On August 2, 2017, the Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE) launched Oversight.gov, a central repository for Office of Inspector General (OIG) reports that is intended to “improve the public’s access to independent and authoritative information about the Federal Government.” The website is currently being beta tested. As of August 2, 2017, 36 of 73 OIGs were participating in the beta test (Table 1). The establishment of, and participation in, the website is not statutorily required.

Oversight.gov is intended to be the first one-stop shop for OIG reports....

In Brief: Highlights of the FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act

{To be suppressed for publishing}

The President’s FY2018 budget request, submitted to Congress on May 23, 2017, seeks $677.1 billion in budget authority for national defense-related activities (budget function 050). Of the national defense total, $667.6 billion is discretionary spending. The remaining $9.6 billion is mandatory spending that not provided by annual appropriations acts .

H.R. 2810, the version of the FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) passed by the House on July 14, 2017, would authorize $689.0 billion in discretionary funding for defense activities within the...

EPA’s 2015 Ozone Air Quality Standards

On October 1, 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized revisions to the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ground-level ozone. The rule sets more stringent standards, lowering both the primary (health-based) and secondary (welfare-based) standards from 75 parts per billion (ppb) to 70 ppb. This report discusses the standard-setting process, the specifics of the most recent reviews, and issues raised by the rulemaking and its implementation.

NAAQS are standards for outdoor (ambient) air that are intended to protect public health and welfare from harmful...

FY2018 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations: Status and Issues

Congress has begun consideration of the 12 annual appropriations bills for FY2018, including the bill for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS), which is one of the largest and most controversial of the bills. When taking into account both mandatory and discretionary funding, the bill typically receives about $900 billion annually. Most recently, the House Appropriations Committee reported the FY2018 LHHS bill to the House on July 24, 2017 (H.R. 3358; H.Rept. 115-244). The report accompanying the House bill includes a detailed table...

Department of Transportation (DOT): FY2018 Appropriations

In 2017, the Trump Administration proposed a $75 billion budget for the Department of Transportation (DOT) for FY2018: $16.4 billion in discretionary funding and $58.7 billion in mandatory funding. That is approximately $2 billion less than was provided for FY2017. 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...

Sifting Domestic Terrorism from Hate Crime and Homegrown Violent Extremism

In light of the violence related to protests in Charlottesville, VA, on August 12, 2017, policymakers may be interested in how the concepts of domestic terrorism, hate crime, and homegrown violent extremism compare with one another. They are fairly distinct ideas that federal law enforcement agencies use to categorize key types of criminals whose illegal activities are at least partly ideologically motivated. Specifically, these terms may be part of public discussion regarding a widely reported incident involving James Alex Fields, who according to witnesses drove his car into a group of...

Insurance and the Financial CHOICE Act (H.R.10)

The Financial CHOICE Act of 2017 (H.R. 10) was passed by the House on June 8, 2017. Among many other provisions, H.R. 10 would revamp many of the insurance provisions in the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank; P.L. 111-203).

Background on Insurance Regulation

The federal role in regulating insurance is relatively limited compared with the role in banking and securities. Insurance companies, unlike banks and securities firms, have been chartered and regulated solely by the states for the past 150 years. The current state-centric system was confirmed...

Farm Safety-Net Payments Under the 2014 Farm Bill: Comparison by Program Crop

The 2014 farm bill (Agricultural Act of 2014, P.L. 113-79) authorizes farm safety-net programs for the five crop years of 2014 through 2018. This includes revenue support for 20 “covered commodities” under either the Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC) program or the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) program and interim financing and floor price support for an expanded list of 24 “loan commodities” under the Marketing Assistance Loan (MAL) program. Outlays under the MAL, ARC, and PLC programs are funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC).

In addition,...

Status of FY2017 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations

This report provides a brief summary of the general scope of the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS) appropriations bill. The report also provides a high-level overview of congressional action with regard to the FY2017 LHHS bill (S. 3040 and H.R. 5926), FY2017 continuing resolutions (CRs; P.L. 114-223, P.L. 114-254, and P.L. 115-30), and LHHS components of the FY2017 omnibus (P.L. 115-31). The report concludes with a list of additional resources.

The Open Skies Treaty: Issues in the Current Debate

The United States, Canada, and 22 European nations signed the Treaty on Open Skies on March 24, 1992. The treaty entered into force on January 1, 2002, and now has 34 members. Each participant must permit unarmed observation aircraft to fly over its entire territory to observe military forces and activities. The treaty is designed to increase transparency, build confidence, reduce the chances of military confrontation, and encourage cooperation among European nations.

According to the U.S. State Department, the parties have conducted more than 1,200 observation flights since 2002. While...

Rising Costs and Delays Doom New Nuclear Reactors in South Carolina

A utility consortium that had been building two new nuclear power reactors in South Carolina announced July 31, 2017, it is abandoning the project because of growing cost overruns and schedule delays. Completion of the two additional reactors at the existing V.C. Summer Nuclear Station near Jenkinsville, SC, had been in doubt since Westinghouse Electric Corporation, the lead contractor for the project, filed for bankruptcy reorganization on March 29, 2017. Westinghouse also had been building two new reactors at the Vogtle nuclear plant in Georgia. The lead owner of that project, Southern...

A Brief Overview of Business Types and Their Tax Treatment

In the United States, how a business is taxed at the federal level is partly dependent on how it is organized. The income of subchapter C corporations, also known as “regular” corporations, is taxed once at the corporate level according to the corporate tax system, and then a second time at the individual-shareholder level according to the individual tax rates when corporate dividend payments are made or capital gains are recognized. This leads to the so-called “double taxation” of corporate income. Businesses that choose any other form of organization are, in general, not subject to 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 2017 Medicare Trustees Report. It includes an overview of Medicare and its financing, summary data on the program’s 2016 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.

China-India Border Tensions at Doka La

Recent border tensions between India and China may be indicative of a new phase of heightened Sino-Indian rivalry. This rivalry is manifesting itself not only along the two nations’ 2,167-mile-long disputed Himalayan border, but also throughout South Asia and the broader Indian Ocean littoral region. Intensified frictions raise the potential for open conflict and could serve as an impetus for further U.S.-India strategic cooperation that could have implications for China. An issue for Congress is whether to call on the Administration to put forth a strategy and report on this strategic...

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,...

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 FY2018 legislative branch budget request of $4.865 billion was submitted on May 23, 2017.

On June 29, 2017, the House Appropriations Committee ordered reported by voice vote the FY2018 legislative branch appropriations bill (H.R. 3162). It would provide...

Paris Agreement on Climate Change: U.S. Letter to United Nations

The Department of State communicated to the United Nations on August 4, 2017, a U.S. intention to withdraw from the 2016 Paris Agreement (PA). The PA is an international agreement to address climate change over the coming century existing under the 1992 U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). On June 1, 2017, President Donald Trump publicly announced this intent. The letter to the U.N. stated that “unless the United States finds suitable terms for reengagement,” it would provide formal written notification of the U.S. intent to withdraw “as soon as it is eligible to do so.”...

Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority and Debt Restructuring Under PROMESA, P.L. 114-187

In recent years, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico (CPR) has faced a fiscal crisis resulting from economic contraction, high public sector debt levels, outmigration, and other factors. In recent weeks, the finances of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA)—or in Spanish, the Autoridad de Energía Eléctrica (AEE)—have attracted specific attention. PREPA’s debt—about $9 billion—is larger than that of any other operational U.S. public corporation. Planned actions to address the debt, and high electricity prices due to the deteriorating state of the island’s generating and transmission...

U.S. Strategic Nuclear Forces: Background, Developments, and Issues

Even though the United States is in the process of reducing the number of warheads deployed on its long-range missiles and bombers, consistent with the terms of the New START Treaty, it also plans to develop new delivery systems for deployment over the next 20-30 years. The 115th 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...

Productivity Growth Across the Economy

Long-term economic growth is generally dependent on three factors: growth in the size of the labor force, growth in the amount of physical capital (e.g., tools, machines, computers) available to workers, and growth in productivity. Productivity is a measure of how well an economy produces goods and services with a given number of workers and amount of physical capital. Productivity growth is often of particular concern to policymakers because it is a vital determinant of long-term economic growth and drives increases in income for businesses and individuals. This Insight examines recent...

Gun Control: FY2017 Appropriations for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and Other Initiatives

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is the lead federal agency charged with administering and enforcing federal laws related to firearms and explosives commerce. ATF is also responsible for investigating arson cases with a federal nexus, and criminal cases involving the diversion of alcohol and tobacco from legal channels of commerce. As an agency within the Department of Justice (DOJ), ATF is funded through an annual appropriation in the Departments of Commerce and Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) Appropriations Act. For FY2017, Congress has...

Trump Administration Releases First Unified Agenda of Federal Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions

On July 20, 2017, the Trump Administration released its first Unified Agenda of Federal Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions (hereinafter Unified Agenda). The Unified Agenda—which is usually published twice a year—is a government-wide publication of rulemaking actions agencies expect to take in the coming months and, as the name suggests, contains both regulatory actions (i.e., new regulations) and deregulatory actions (i.e., reductions in or elimination of current regulations). At present, the Unified Agenda does not contain a way to separate deregulatory actions from regulatory actions....

Burundi’s Political Crisis: In Brief

This report provides context on the political crisis in Burundi, which is rooted in President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to run for a third term in 2015, in violation of a landmark peace accord. The crisis has spurred a low-intensity conflict and serious human rights violations, sparking a refugee influx into neighboring states and undermining Burundi’s hard-won stability following a civil war in the 1990s. Coinciding with a parallel stand-off over term limits in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the situation in Burundi has implications for longstanding U.S. efforts to...

Tolling U.S. Highways and Bridges

The Federal-Aid Road Act of 1916 (39 Stat. 355), which provided federal funds to states for highway construction, included the requirement that all roads funded under the act be “free from tolls of all kinds.” Following the funding of the Interstate System in 1956, the “freedom from tolls” policy was reaffirmed (23 U.S.C. §301). Although the provision still exists, exceptions to the general ban on tolls now cover the vast majority of federal-aid roads and bridges. New roads, bridges, and tunnels may be tolled, and most existing roads, bridges, and tunnels may be tolled if they are...

The Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act: S. 385 and H.R. 1443

Energy efficiency—providing the same or an improved level of service with less energy—has been of interest to some Members of Congress. Proponents of increased energy efficiency see an untapped “resource” that can mitigate the demand for additional energy supplies. Perceived benefits of energy efficiency include lowered energy bills, reduced demand for energy, improved energy security and independence, and reduced air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Challenges to energy efficiency include market barriers that do not incentivize builders or developers to invest in energy efficiency,...

Global Engagement Center: Background and Issues

The State Department’s Global Engagement Center (GEC) is tasked with countering foreign state and non-state propaganda and disinformation targeting the United States and U.S. interests. A number of recent reports have stated that the GEC has not been given access to authorized funds for FY2017, leading to speculation and concern in some quarters about its continued role and operations.

Counterterrorism Communications in the State Department

The GEC is the latest iteration of State Department efforts to coordinate interagency communications countering the messaging and influence of...

U.S.-South Korea Relations

Overview

South Korea (officially the Republic of Korea or ROK) is one of the United States’ most important strategic and economic partners in Asia. Since the early 1950s, the U.S.-ROK Mutual Defense Treaty commits the United States to help South Korea defend itself. Approximately 28,500 U.S. troops are based in the ROK, which is included under the U.S. “nuclear umbrella.” Washington and Seoul cooperate in addressing the challenges posed by North Korea. The two countries’ economies are joined by the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA). South Korea is the United States’...

Updated Standards for SNAP-Authorized Retailers

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the largest of the U.S Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) domestic food assistance programs, provides benefits to eligible participants; these benefits are redeemable for SNAP-eligible foods at SNAP-authorized retailers. SNAP-authorized retailers are stores and other food sellers that are allowed to accept SNAP benefits. In FY2015, the vast majority of benefits were redeemed at “super stores” and supermarkets.

On December 15, 2016, USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) published in the Federal Register a final rule, “Enhancing...

North Korean Cyber Capabilities: In Brief

As North Korea has accelerated its missile and nuclear programs in spite of international sanctions, Congress and the Trump Administration have elevated North Korea to a top U.S. foreign policy priority. Legislation such as the North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act of 2016 (P.L. 114-122), and international sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council have focused on North Korea’s WMD and ballistic missile programs and human rights abuses. According to some experts, another threat is emerging from North Korea: an ambitious and well-resourced cyber program. North...

The “Better Way” House Tax Plan: An Economic Analysis

On June 24, 2016, House Speaker Paul Ryan released the Better Way Tax Reform Task Force Blueprint, which provides a revision of federal income taxes. For the individual income tax, the plan would broaden the base, lower the rates (with a top rate of 33%), and alter some of the elements related to family size and structure by eliminating personal exemptions, allowing a larger standard deduction, and adding a dependent credit. For business income, the current income tax would be replaced by a cash-flow tax rebated on exports and imposed on imports, with a top rate of 20% for corporations and...

Executive Branch Reorganization

The federal bureaucracy of the present day is the product of more than two centuries of legislative and administrative actions by successive generations of elected and appointed officials. As such, the diverse organizations and processes of the federal government are a consequence of the influence and decisions of thousands of officials with differing viewpoints about the role of government and diverse policy preferences. The federal bureaucracy’s organizational arrangements are also reflective of ongoing competition between Congress and the President to influence the behavior of agencies....

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. 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 convening Senate; establishing the presence of a quorum; adopting administrative...

Yemen: Cholera Outbreak

Overview

Yemen is facing an unprecedented humanitarian crisis due to an ongoing international conflict that began in March 2015 and has killed over 10,000 people. More than half of Yemen’s estimated 25 million population lack access to basic health care, and roughly 15 million people are without access to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) services. Only 45% of health facilities in the country are functional, and many have limited access to medicines, medical equipment, and clean water and sanitation, further complicating efforts to control the outbreak.

Yemen is experiencing the...

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...

In Brief: Highlights of FY2018 Defense Appropriations Actions

On July 27, 2017, by a vote of 235-192, the House passed H.R. 3219, “The Defense, Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, Legislative Branch, and Energy and Water Development National Security Appropriations Act, 2018,” also referred to as the “Make America Secure Appropriations Act, 2018.” Division A of that bill would appropriate $650.4 billion in discretionary funding for national defense activities within the jurisdiction of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense. This would amount to a 4.5% increase over the Administration’s $622.1 billion request.

As reported by the House...

Presidential Permits for Border Crossing Energy Facilities

Controversy over the proposed Keystone XL pipeline project has focused attention on U.S. requirements for authorization to construct and operate pipelines and other energy infrastructure at international borders. For the most part, developers are required to obtain a Presidential Permit for border crossing facilities. The agency responsible for reviewing applications and issuing Presidential Permits varies depending on the type of facility. Oil and other hazardous liquids pipelines that cross borders are authorized by the U.S. Department of State. Natural gas pipeline border crossings are...

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.

Citing the lagging deployment of broadband in many rural areas, Congress and the Administration acted in 2001 and 2002...

U.S. Circuit and District Court Judges: Profile of Select Characteristics

This report addresses ongoing congressional interest in the demographic characteristics and professional experiences of those individuals nominated and appointed to fill lower federal court judgeships. It focuses on demographic and other background characteristics of active U.S. circuit and district court judges who are currently serving on the federal bench.

Unless otherwise noted, the statistics provided in the report do not reflect all of a particular President’s circuit or district court appointments during his time in office—but only active judges appointed by that President. A judge...

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...

Reform of U.S. International Taxation: Alternatives

A striking feature of the modern U.S. economy is its growing openness—its increased integration with the rest of the world. The attention of tax policymakers has recently been focused on the growing participation of U.S. firms in the international economy and the increased pressure that engagement places on the U.S. system for taxing overseas business. Is the current U.S. system for taxing U.S. international business the appropriate one for the modern era of globalized business operations, or should its basic structure be reformed?

The current U.S. system for taxing international business...

Rwanda’s August 4 Presidential Election

Politics and the 2017 Presidential Election

The circumstances of Rwanda’s August 4 presidential election highlight some of the policy challenges in approaching a country that arguably combines effective governance with political repression. President Paul Kagame, in office since 2000, is campaigning for a third term. A constitutional referendum in 2015 changed the presidential term from seven to five years but exempted the sitting President from the shortened term and from a two-term limit until 2024 (Article 101, Article 172).

The referendum was scheduled following “national...

Bail: An Overview of Federal Criminal Law

This is an overview of the federal law of bail. Bail is the release of an individual following his arrest upon his promise—secured or unsecured; conditioned or unconditioned—to appear at subsequent judicial criminal proceedings. An accused may be denied bail if he is unable to satisfy the conditions set for his release. He may also be denied bail if the committing judge or magistrate concludes that no amount of security or any set of conditions will suffice to ensure public safety or the individual’s later appearance in court.

The federal bail statute layers the committing judge’s or...

Tax Provisions that Expired in 2016 (“Tax Extenders”)

In the past, Congress has regularly acted to extend expired or expiring temporary tax provisions. Collectively, these temporary tax provisions are often referred to as “tax extenders.” Most recently, in December 2015, Congress addressed tax extenders in the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 (PATH Act), enacted as Division Q of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016 (P.L. 114-113). This legislation extended all of the 52 provisions that had expired at the end of 2014. Unlike past tax extenders legislation, however, a number of provisions that had expired at the end of 2014...

Bail: An Abridged Overview of Federal Criminal Law

This is an overview of the federal law of bail. Bail is the release of an individual following his arrest upon his promise—secured or unsecured; conditioned or unconditioned—to appear at subsequent judicial criminal proceedings. An accused may be denied bail if he is unable to satisfy the conditions set for his release. He may also be denied bail if the committing judge or magistrate concludes that no amount of security or any set of conditions will suffice to ensure public safety or the individual’s later appearance in court.

The federal bail statute layers the committing judge’s or...

NAFTA and Motor Vehicle Trade

Motor vehicles and vehicle parts accounted for more than 20% of the total value of U.S. merchandise trade with Canada and Mexico in 2016, making them the largest category of manufactured products traded among the United States, Mexico, and Canada. Since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) took effect in January 1994, the vehicle supply chain has become fully integrated, with parts manufacturing and assembly in all three countries.

On May 18, 2017, the Trump Administration notified Congress of its intent to renegotiate NAFTA. In consequence, the 115th Congress will likely...

Ongoing Section 232 Steel and Aluminum Investigations

The Department of Commerce is currently conducting two investigations to determine the national security implications of U.S. imports of steel and aluminum under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 (19 U.S.C. § 1862, as amended). Section 232, sometimes called the "national security clause," provides the President with the ability to impose restrictions on imports, such as tariffs or quotas, if the Secretary of Commerce, in consultation with the Department of Defense and other government officials, determines such imports threaten to impair the national security of the United...

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...

Honduras: Background and U.S. Relations

Honduras, a Central American nation of 8.7 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...

Federal Assistance for Wildfire Response and Recovery: In Brief

Wildfires can destroy homes and force thousands of people to evacuate. Over the last 10 years, wildfires in the United States have burned nearly 7.0 million acres annually on average. In 2015, 68,200 wildfires burned 10.1 million acres, making 2015 the largest fire year on record. In 2016, more than 67,700 wildfires burned 5.5 million acres. Through July 26, 2017, approximately 37,200 wildfires have burned 5.2 million acres, surpassing the 3.1 million acres burned through July 26 last year.

The federal government has programs to assist state and local efforts to control wildfires and...

U.S. Petroleum Trade with Venezuela: Financial and Economic Considerations Associated with Possible Sanctions

The political crisis in Venezuela is at a pivotal point (See CRS Report R44841, Venezuela: Background and U.S. Policy). President Nicolas Maduro is convening elections on July 30 for delegates to a constituent assembly to rewrite the country’s constitution and possibly dismantle the legislative branch. On July 17, 2017, President Donald Trump issued a statement that declared that “the United States will take strong and swift economic actions” if the assembly elections occur. Those actions reportedly could include sanctions on Venezuela’s energy sector, which generates 95% of its export...

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 only 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 unavoidable risks associated with adverse weather and...

The Rural Education Achievement Program: Title V-B of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act

The Rural Education Achievement Program (REAP) is authorized by Part B of Title V of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA, P.L. 114-95) in 2015. To compensate for the challenges facing rural schools, REAP awards two types of formula grants. The Small, Rural School Achievement (SRSA) program provides funds to rural local educational agencies (LEAs) that serve small numbers of students. The Rural and Low-Income School (RLIS) program provides funds to rural LEAs that serve high concentrations of low-income students, regardless...

Inter Partes Review of Patents: Innovation Issues

The Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (AIA) of 2011 introduced inter partes review proceedings (IPRs) into the patent system. IPRs allow the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to revisit—and possibly cancel—a patent the agency had previously allowed. Under these proceedings, any individual may petition the USPTO to assert that a granted patent is invalid in view of earlier patents or printed publications. A petitioner must demonstrate that there is a “reasonable likelihood” that he would prevail for the IPR to begin. Should the USPTO’s Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) grant the...

The Renewable Electricity Production Tax Credit: In Brief

The renewable electricity production tax credit (PTC) is a per-kilowatt-hour tax (kWh) credit for electricity generated using qualified energy resources. For nonwind technologies, the credit expired at the end of 2016, so that only projects that began construction before the end of 2016 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...

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...

Aviation Bills Take Flight, but Legislative Path Remains Unclear

Both the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation acted favorably on bills to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and other aviation programs during the last week of June. The two bills, H.R. 2997 and S. 1405, have significant differences, many of them related to provisions in the House bill that would create a not-for-profit private corporation to take over responsibility for running the national air traffic control system. The Senate bill contains no similar provisions, and the path forward for...

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...

Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS): OECD Tax Proposals

Taxes collected by countries around the world can be reduced through various avoidance mechanisms that shift corporate profits out of higher-tax-rate jurisdictions into lower-tax-rate jurisdictions and through other mechanisms that reduce taxes on interest, dividends, and royalties. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has been engaged in a project to reduce such base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS) in which firms use tax-avoidance strategies that exploit gaps and mismatches in tax rules to artificially shift profits to low- or no-tax locations. In October...

Provisions of Obamacare Repeal Reconciliation Act of 2017 (ORRA)

Per the reconciliation instructions in the budget resolution for FY2017 (S.Con.Res. 3), the House passed its reconciliation bill, H.R. 1628—the American Health Care Act (AHCA)—with amendments on May 4, 2017. The House bill was received in the Senate on June 7, 2017, and the next day the Senate majority leader had it placed on the calendar, making it available for floor consideration. The Senate Budget Committee published on its website a “discussion draft” titled, “The Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017” (BCRA) on June 22, 2017, and subsequently updated the discussion draft on June 26,...

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...

Gulf Coast Restoration: RESTORE Act and Related Efforts

The Gulf of Mexico coastal environment (Gulf Coast) stretches over approximately 600,000 square miles across five U.S. states: Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. It is home to more than 22 million people and more than 15,000 species of sea life. Efforts are ongoing to restore this environment, which has been damaged by specific events such as the Deepwater Horizon spill and hurricanes as well as by disturbances to wetlands and water quality from human alterations and other impacts. The issue for Congress is the implementation, funding, and performance of congressionally...

Comparison of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) and the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA)

Per the reconciliation instructions in the budget resolution for FY2017 (S.Con.Res. 3), the House passed its reconciliation bill, H.R. 1628—the American Health Care Act (AHCA)—with amendments on May 4, 2017. The House bill was received in the Senate on June 7, 2017, and the next day the Senate majority leader had it placed on the calendar, making it available for floor consideration. The Senate Budget Committee published on its website a “discussion draft” titled, “The Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017” (BCRA) on June 22, subsequently updated the discussion draft on June 26, again on...

Hong Kong’s High Court Disqualifies Four More Legislators

On July 15, 2017, Hong Kong’s High Court decided that the oaths of office taken by four members of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council (Legco) on October 12, 2016, were invalid, and as a consequence, determined they were “disqualified from assuming or entering the Office of a Legco Member.” The ruling raises the number of disqualified Legco members to six, as two other members previously had been disqualified by the High Court on November 15, 2016 (see CRS Insight IN10605, China and the Hong Kong High Court Issue Decisions on Legislative Council Controversy (Update)). The four Members...

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...

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 2016, about 7,213 volunteers were serving in 65 nations.

In 2017, the 115th Congress may consider the President’s annual funding request for the Peace Corps, changes to the Peace Corps authorization legislation, and related issues.

On May 23, 2017, the Trump Administration issued its FY2018 budget request, including $398.2 million for...

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.

Accounting and Auditing Regulatory Structure: U.S. and International

Accounting and auditing standards in the United States are promulgated and regulated by various federal, state, and self-regulatory organizations (SROs). Accounting and auditing standards are also influenced by practitioners from businesses, nonprofits, and government entities. Congress has allowed financial accounting and auditing practitioners to remain largely self-regulated while retaining oversight responsibility. At certain times, Congress has sought to achieve specific accounting- and auditing-based policy objectives by enacting legislation such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002...

An Analysis of the Geographic Distribution of the Mortgage Interest Deduction

This report analyzes variation in the mortgage interest deduction tax expenditure across states. Tax expenditures, such as the mortgage interest deduction, can generally be viewed as government spending administered via the tax code, or as tax incentives that are intended to achieve particular policy objectives. Regardless of the interpretation, tax expenditures provide a benefit to qualifying taxpayers by lowering their federal tax liabilities. Recent proposals to change the mortgage interest deduction could affect how its benefits are distributed. Understanding how the deduction’s...

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 nonconcessional...

The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Block Grant Subsidized Employment Demonstration Proposal: In Brief

H.R. 2842. Subsidized employment. Career Pathways. Apprenticeship. Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

Sinclair Broadcast Group Acquisition of Tribune Media: Competitive and Regulatory Issues

On May 8, 2017, Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. announced that it agreed to acquire the Tribune Media Company for $6.6 billion, including $3.9 billion for Tribune’s stock, and the assumption of $2.7 billion of Tribune’s debt. The transaction, if approved by shareholders and the U.S. government, would make Sinclair the nation’s largest television broadcast company, giving it access to a far larger share of U.S. households than any other television broadcaster.

Both the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) must approve Sinclair’s transactions before...

Remedies for Patent Infringement

For more than a decade, some Members of Congress have considered bills that have proposed reforms to the law of patent remedies. Under current law, courts may award damages to compensate patent proprietors for an act of infringement. Damages consist of the patent owner’s lost profits due to the infringement, if they can be proven. Otherwise the adjudicated infringer must pay a reasonable royalty. Courts may also award enhanced damages of up to three times the actual damages in exceptional cases. In addition, courts may issue an injunction that prevents the adjudicated infringer from...

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...

Multilateral Development Banks: U.S. Contributions FY2000-FY2018

This report shows in tabular form how much the Administration requested and how much Congress appropriated for U.S. payments to the multilateral development banks (MDBs) since 2000. It also provides a brief description of the MDBs and the ways they fund their operations. It will be updated periodically as annual appropriation figures are known. The title of this report will also change annually, as new yearly appropriation figures are added.

For FY2017, Congress appropriated funds for several of the nonconcessional lending facilities at the MDBs. Several of the MDBs were in the process of...

The Paris Club and International Debt Relief

The Paris Club is a voluntary, informal group of creditor nations who meet approximately 10 times per year to provide debt relief to developing countries. Members of the Paris Club agree to renegotiate and/or reduce official debt owed to them on a case-by-case basis.

The United States is a key Paris Club Member and Congress has an active role in both Paris Club operations and U.S. policy regarding debt relief overall. The Federal Credit Reform Act of 1990 stipulates that Congress must be involved in any official foreign country debt relief and notified of any debt reduction and debt renegotiation.

Programs Available to Unemployed Workers Through the American Job Center Network

Many federally funded programs that assist unemployed workers are co-located and coordinated through state and locally run American Job Centers (AJCs; also known as One-Stop Career Centers). The specific set of benefits and services available to a worker through the AJC network varies by the worker’s characteristics and reason for unemployment.

Unemployment insurance (UI) is a federal-state system and mandatory AJC partner. UI benefits are available to workers who have involuntarily lost their jobs and have demonstrated a required level of labor force attachment. UI provides weekly cash...

Human Rights in China and U.S. Policy: Issues for the 115th Congress

This report examines human rights conditions in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and policy options for Congress. The PRC government under the leadership of Chinese Communist Party General Secretary and State President Xi Jinping has implemented a clampdown on political dissent, civil society, human rights activists and lawyers, and the religious, cultural, and linguistic practices of Tibetans and Uyghurs. Other major human rights violations in China include the practice of incommunicado detention, torture of persons in custody, censorship of the Internet, and restrictions on the...

Indian Health Service (IHS) Funding: 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 566 federally recognized tribes. It provides services either directly or through facilities and programs operated by Indian Tribes or Tribal...

History of the ESEA Title I-A Formulas

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) is the primary source of federal aid to K-12 education. The ESEA was last reauthorized by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA; P.L. 114-95) in 2015. The Title I-A program has always been the largest grant program authorized under the ESEA. Title I-A grants 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.

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) determines Title I-A grants to local...

The Proposed EU-Japan FTA and Implications for U.S. Trade Policy

On July 6, 2017, ahead of the G-20 annual summit, the European Union (EU) and Japan announced reaching an agreement “in principle” on a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA), following 18 rounds of negotiations over four years. The EU and Japan aim for entry-into-force (EIF) of the agreement in early 2019. Considerable uncertainty surrounds the agreement, however, as some commitments remain under negotiation and current United Kingdom (UK) negotiations over withdrawal from the EU (“Brexit”) further complicate the path forward. (The European Commission negotiates FTAs on behalf of the EU and...

Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Funding: Fact Sheet

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is the federal agency charged with improving the health safety net by providing access to health care for those who are uninsured, isolated, or medically vulnerable. The agency currently awards funding to more than 3,000 grantees, including community-based organizations; colleges and universities; hospitals; state, local, and tribal governments; and private entities to support health services projects, such as training health care workers or providing specific health services....

The G-20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany: Key Debates and Outcomes

Germany hosted the annual Group of 20 (G-20) summit on July 7-8 in Hamburg. 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. The agenda for the 2017 summit included a broad mix of economic and foreign policy issues: international trade, global economic growth, the global financial system, climate policy, development, health,...

Agricultural Conservation: A Guide to Programs

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Farm Service Agency (FSA) in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) currently administer close to 20 programs and subprograms that are directly or indirectly available to assist producers and landowners who wish to practice conservation on agricultural lands. The differences and number of these programs have created general confusion about the purpose, participation, and policies of the programs. While recent consolidation efforts removed some duplication, a large number of programs remain. The programs discussed in this report...

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...

Salaries of Members of Congress: Congressional Votes, 1990-2017

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...

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...

Funding for EPA Water Infrastructure: A Fact Sheet

not part of factsheet

Women in Congress: Summary Statistics and Brief Overview

A record 110 women currently serve in the 115th Congress: 89 in the House (including Delegates and the Resident Commissioner from Puerto Rico; 65 Democrats and 24 Republicans) and 21 in the Senate (16 Democrats and 5 Republicans). This passed the previous record from the 114th Congress (108 women initially sworn in, and 1 House Member subsequently elected).

The first woman elected to Congress was Representative Jeannette Rankin (R-MT, 1917-1919, 1941-1943). The first woman to serve in the Senate was Rebecca Latimer Felton (D-GA). She was appointed in 1922 and served for only one day....

Millennium Challenge Corporation

The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) provides economic assistance through a competitive selection process to developing nations that demonstrate positive performance in three areas: ruling justly, investing in people, and fostering economic freedom. Established in 2004, the MCC differs in several respects from past and current U.S. aid practices: the competitive process that rewards countries for past actions measured by objective performance indicators; its mandate to seek poverty reduction through economic growth, not encumbered with multiple sector objectives; the requirement to...

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 (SRF) program. Since FY1972, appropriations have totaled more than $94 billion.

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

Monument Proclamations Under Executive Order Review: Comparison of Selected Provisions

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, and 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.” From 1906 to date, Presidents have established 157 monuments and have enlarged, diminished, or otherwise modified previously proclaimed monuments. Presidential establishment of monuments has sometimes been...

Overview of U.S. Sanctions Regimes on Russia

Background

On December 29, 2016, President Barack Obama imposed sanctions on Russia for malicious cyber activity. These were the latest in a series of U.S. sanctions regimes that have been imposed on Russia over the last several years in response to activities that are state-sponsored or allegedly conducted by government officials. In addition, a number of Russian individuals and entities are subject to sanctions for terrorism, transnational crime, and weapons proliferation.

The United States’ use of economic sanctions in furtherance of national security or foreign policy is implemented,...

H.R. 23, the Gaining Responsibility on Water Act of 2017 (GROW Act)

In recent years, parts of the American West (i.e., the 17 states west of the Mississippi River) have been subject to prolonged drought conditions, including a severe drought in California that lasted from 2012 to 2016. Dating to the 112th Congress, several bills were proposed to address these conditions. The 114th Congress saw significant drought-related legislation enacted in the form of Subtitle J of the Water Resources Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act (WIIN Act; P.L. 114-322). The WIIN Act included a number of provisions generally related to the Bureau of Reclamation (or...

The Nuclear Ban Treaty: An Overview

Since the founding of the United Nations in 1945, the First Committee of the UN General Assembly (UN GA) has called for nuclear disarmament. UNGA Resolution A/71/258 (2016) called on UN member states to negotiate in 2017 a legally binding Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, also known as the nuclear “ban treaty.” Negotiations were held in New York, February 27-March 31, and June 15-July 7. At the end of the conference, 122 countries voted to approve the treaty. Singapore abstained, and the Netherlands voted against it, citing conflicts between the treaty and the Netherland’s...

S. 1460: A New Energy and Resources Bill for the 115th Congress

On June 28, Senators Murkowski and Cantwell (Chair and Ranking Member, respectively, of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee) introduced S. 1460, the Energy and Natural Resources Act of 2017. The next day, the bill was read a second time and placed on the Senate calendar. S. 1460 has many similarities, but also significant differences, with the Senate-passed version of S. 2012, the comprehensive energy and natural resources bill in the 114th Congress (see CRS Report R44291, Energy Legislation: Comparison of Selected Provisions in S. 2012 as Passed by the House and Senate, by Brent D....

Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS): In Brief

The Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program was created by Title I of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (P.L. 103-322). The mission of the COPS program is to advance community policing in jurisdictions across the United States. The Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act of 2005 (P.L. 109-162) reauthorized the COPS program for FY2006-FY2009 and changed it from a multi-grant program to a single-grant program. Even though the COPS grant program is not currently authorized, Congress has continued to appropriate funding for...

Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF): Program Overview and Issues

The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) is the federal authority for regulating contaminants in public water supplies. It includes the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) program, established in 1996 to help public water systems finance infrastructure projects needed to comply with federal drinking water regulations and to meet the SDWA’s health objectives. Under this program, states receive annual capitalization grants to provide financial assistance (primarily subsidized loans) to public water systems for drinking water projects and other specified activities. Between FY1997 and...

Students with Disabilities Graduating from High School and Entering Postsecondary Education: In Brief

In recent decades, many federal policies have attempted to help prepare students with disabilities to complete high school and to continue into postsecondary education. Corollary interest has arisen in being able to track the progress being made toward achieving these aims.

This report offers a brief overview of what is currently known about the U.S. population of students with disabilities as they advance through secondary education and into postsecondary education. It devotes particular attention to high school graduation trends and data on postsecondary enrollment. Within the...

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. Seven centers within FDA represent the broad program areas for which the agency has responsibility: the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research (CBER), the Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH), the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER), the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition...

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

In recent years, policymakers have considered several legislative options to help finance water infrastructure projects, including projects to build and upgrade wastewater and drinking water treatment systems. This report examines one particular option, a “Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act” (WIFIA) program, which Congress included in the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 (WRRDA, P.L. 113-121).

The WIFIA concept is modeled after a similar program that assists transportation projects, the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program....

Judicial Review of Medicaid Work Requirements Under Section 1115 Demonstrations

Proposals have been introduced in the 115th Congress to reform the Medicaid program, which provides medical assistance to low-income and needy individuals. One such approach, taken by House-passed H.R. 1628, the American Health Care Act of 2017, would allow states to impose work requirements on certain categories of individuals as a condition of coverage under the Medicaid program. A similar approach is also taken in the discussion draft of the Better Care Reconciliation Act, a proposed amendment in the nature of a substitute to H.R. 1628, which was published by the Senate Budget Committee...

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 it has restricted funding and suggested some changes in funding for specific programs.

CPGS weapons would not substitute for nuclear weapons, but would supplement U.S. conventional capabilities. They would...

Department of Health and Human Services: FY2018 Budget Request

This report provides information about the FY2018 budget request for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). It begins by reviewing the department’s mission and structure. This is followed by an overview of the total FY2018 request for the department. Next, the report discusses the concept of the HHS budget as a whole, compared to funding provided to HHS through the annual appropriations process. This distinction is important because certain amounts shown in FY2018 HHS budget materials (including amounts for prior years) will not match amounts provided to HHS by annual...

The Section 199 Production Activities Deduction: Background and Analysis

In 2004, Congress added the Section 199 domestic production activities deduction to the Internal Revenue Code (IRC). The deduction was intended to achieve a number of policy goals, including compensating for repeal of the extraterritorial income (ETI) export-subsidy provisions, supporting the domestic manufacturing sector, and reducing effective corporate tax rates.

Under current law, qualified activities are eligible for a deduction equal to 9% of the lesser of taxable income derived from qualified production activities, or taxable income. Eligible income includes that derived from the...

Appropriations: CRS Experts

Agriculture appropriations; Commerce, Justice, Science appropriations; Department of Defense appropriations, Energy and Water appropriations; Financial Services and General Provisions Government-wide appropriations; Departments of Homeland Security appropriations; Department of Interior, Environment appropriations; Labor, Health and Human Services, Education appropriations, Legislative Branch appropriations; Military Construction and Veterans Affairs appropriations, Department of State, Foreign Operations appropriations, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development appropriations.

North Korea’s Long-Range Missile Test

On July 4, 2017, North Korea tested a long-range ballistic missile that some observers characterized as having intercontinental range. If so, it represents reaching a milestone years earlier than many analysts predicted. The two-stage missile reportedly flew in a high trajectory for 37 minutes, demonstrating a theoretical range that could include Alaska. It is not known what payload was used, but the actual range using a nuclear warhead would likely be significantly shorter. Although North Korea has not proven the capability to miniaturize a nuclear warhead or develop a reentry vehicle...

The Education Sciences Reform Act

The Education Sciences Reform Act (ESRA, Title I of P.L. 107-279) established the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) as an independent research arm of the Department of Education (ED). The IES Director, appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate, serves a six-year term and is advised by a technical panel composed primarily of educational researchers, the National Board of Educational Sciences (NBES).

The IES consists of four research centers, the National Center for Education Research (NCER), the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the National...

U.S. Sanctions Relief for Sudan

The Trump Administration is expected to decide by July 12 whether to lift most of a 20-year-old sanctions regime against Sudan, continuing an Obama Administration strategy of conditional engagement with the country. By that date, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson must present an interagency report on Sudan’s compliance with benchmarks negotiated between the Obama Administration and the government of President Omar al Bashir. Bashir came to power in a 1989 coup and is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.

Successive...

The Federal Networking and Information Technology Research and Development Program: Background, Funding, and Activities

In the early 1990s, Congress recognized that several federal agencies had ongoing high-performance computing programs, but no central coordinating body existed to ensure long-term coordination and planning. To provide such a framework, Congress passed the High-Performance Computing and Communications Program Act of 1991 (P.L. 102-194) to enhance the effectiveness of the various programs. In conjunction with the passage of the act, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) released Grand Challenges: High-Performance Computing and Communications. That document outlined a...

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 improve VRS service. Now VRS providers must answer 80% of all VRS calls...

Generic Drugs and GDUFA Reauthorization: In Brief

A generic drug is a lower-cost copy of a brand-name chemical drug. Marketing of the generic drug becomes possible only when the brand-name—also called innovator—drug is no longer protected from market competition by patent and other protections, called regulatory exclusivity.

Prior to marketing, the sponsor of a brand-name drug must submit to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) clinical data in a new drug application (NDA) to support the claim that the drug is safe and effective for its intended use. The FDA uses the information in the NDA as a basis for approving or denying the...

Executive Order to Expand Apprenticeships

On June 15, 2017, President Trump issued Executive Order 13801 (EO) with the stated goal of expanding apprenticeship programs as a workforce development strategy. The EO emphasized apprenticeship programs as a workforce-driven strategy that may come at a lower cost to students than traditional higher education. The EO also directed federal agencies to review existing workforce development programs.

Role of the Federal Government in Apprenticeship

Apprenticeship is a workforce development strategy for a specific occupation that combines on-the-job training and related instruction (often...

International Species Conservation Funds

International species conservation is addressed by several funds, including those under the Multinational Species Conservation Fund and the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Fund. These funds are implemented by relatively small programs within the Fish and Wildlife Service, yet generate enormous constituent interest, chiefly concerning their funding levels. This report describes the funds briefly, and summarizes recent and proposed appropriations levels.

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting: Federal Funding and Issues

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) receives its funding through federal appropriations; overall, about 15% of public television and 10% of radio broadcasting funding comes from the federal appropriations that CPB distributes. CPB’s appropriation is allocated through a distribution formula established in its authorizing legislation and has historically received two-year advanced appropriations. Congressional policymakers are increasingly interested in the federal role in supporting CPB due to concerns over the federal debt, the role of the federal government funding for public...

Department of Labor’s 2016 Fiduciary Rule: Background and Issues

Regulations issued in 1975 (called the 1975 rule in this report) defined investment advice using a five-part test. To be held to ERISA’s fiduciary standard with respect to his or her advice, an individual had to (1) make recommendations on investing in, purchasing, or selling securities or other property, or give advice as to the value (2) on a regular basis (3) pursuant to a mutual understanding that the advice (4) will serve as a primary basis for investment decisions, and (5) will be individualized to the particular needs of the plan regarding such matters as, among other things,...

Hong Kong Marks 20th Anniversary of Handover to Chinese Sovereignty

On July 1, 1997, Hong Kong returned to Chinese sovereignty in accordance with the “Joint Declaration of the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) on the Question of Hong Kong” (Joint Declaration) and the “Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR)” (Basic Law). Twenty years later, some observers, including some Members of Congress, question the PRC government’s commitment to the Joint Declaration and the Basic Law, and have proposed changing U.S. relations with China and Hong...

The Federal Budget: Overview and Issues for FY2018 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 practices 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.

In recent years, policies enacted to decrease spending along with a stronger economy have led to reduced budget deficits. The Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA; P.L. 112-25) implemented several measures intended to reduce the deficit from FY2012...

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 Trump Administration requests a total of $62.3...

U.S.-Mexican Security Cooperation: The Mérida Initiative and Beyond

Ten years after the Mexican government launched an aggressive, military-led campaign against drug trafficking and organized crime, violent crime continues to threaten citizen security and governance in parts of Mexico, including in cities along the U.S. southwest border. Organized crime-related violence in Mexico declined from 2011 to 2014 but rose in 2015 and again in 2016. Analysts estimate that the violence may have claimed more than 109,000 lives since December 2006. High-profile cases—particularly the enforced disappearance and murder of 43 students in Guerrero in September 2014—have...

U.S. Direct Investment Abroad: Trends and Current Issues

The United States is the largest direct investor abroad and the largest recipient of foreign direct investment in the world. For some Americans, the national gains attributed to investing overseas are offset by such perceived losses as offshoring facilities, displacing U.S. workers, and lowering wages. Some observers believe U.S. firms invest abroad to avoid U.S. labor unions or high U.S. wages, but 74% of the accumulated U.S. foreign direct investment is concentrated in high-income developed countries. In recent years, the share of investment going to developing countries has fallen. Most...

Emergency Relief for Disaster-Damaged Roads and Transit Systems: In Brief

Major roads and bridges are part of the federal-aid highway system and are therefore eligible for assistance under the Emergency Relief Program (ER) of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). Following a natural disaster (such as Hurricane Matthew in 2016, which damaged highways in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina), or catastrophic failure (such as the 2013 collapse of the Skagit River Bridge in Washington State) ER funds are made available for both emergency repairs and restoration of federal-aid highway facilities to conditions comparable to those before the...

Foreign Direct Investment in the United States: An Economic Analysis

Foreign direct investment in the United States in 2015 increased by 83% over that recorded in 2014. (Note: The United States defines foreign direct investment as the ownership or control, directly or indirectly, by one foreign person [individual, branch, partnership, association, government, etc.] of 10% or more of the voting securities of an incorporated U.S. business enterprise or an equivalent interest in an unincorporated U.S. business enterprise [15 CFR §806.15 (a)(1)].) In 2015, according to U.S. Department of Commerce data, foreigners invested $379 billion in U.S. businesses and...

A Retrospective of House Rules Changes Since the 110th Congress

One of the majority party’s prerogatives is writing House rules and using its numbers to effect the chamber’s rules on the day a new House convenes. Because all Members of the House stand for election every two years, the Members-elect constitute a new House that must adopt rules at the convening of each Congress. Although a new House largely adopts the chamber rules that existed in the previous Congress, it also adopts changes to those rules. Institutional and political developments during the preceding Congress inform rules changes that a party continuing in the majority might make....

Reauthorization of the Perkins Act in the 115th Congress: Comparison of Current Law and H.R. 2353

Since 1984, a number of acts named after former Congressman Carl D. Perkins have been the main federal laws authorized to support the development of career and technical education (CTE) programs aimed at students in secondary and postsecondary education. The Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 (Perkins Act; P.L. 109-270), the most recent reauthorization of the federal CTE law, was passed in 2006 and authorized appropriations through FY2012. The authorization of appropriations was extended through FY2013 under the General Education Provisions Act, and the Perkins Act...

Climate Change: Frequently Asked Questions About the 2015 Paris Agreement

The Paris Agreement (PA) to address climate change internationally entered into force on November 4, 2016. The United States is one of 149 Parties to the treaty; President Barack Obama accepted the agreement rather than ratifying it with the advice and consent of the Senate. On June 1, 2017, President Donald J. Trump announced his intent to withdraw the United States from the agreement and that his Administration would seek to reopen negotiations on the PA or on a new “transaction.” Following the provisions of the PA, U.S. withdrawal could take effect as early as November 2020.

Experts...

Commemorative Days, Weeks, and Months: Background and Current Practice

Typically, each Congress, hundreds of legislative measures are introduced to recognize, support, honor, or acknowledge certain days, weeks, and months. Some scholars have observed that commemorative legislation has universal and patriotic appeal and also provides an opportunity to connect directly with constituents, which can help fulfill representational responsibilities to Members’ districts or states.

Often used to commemorate an individual, group, or event, these measures can be divided into three categories: (1) federal holidays; (2) patriotic and national observances; and (3)...

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.

The Coast Guard’s Role in Safeguarding Maritime Transportation: Selected Issues

Congress has made the U.S. Coast Guard responsible for safeguarding vessel traffic on the nation’s coastal and inland waterways. Congress typically passes Coast Guard authorization bills every one to two years and appropriates funds to the agency annually under the Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill. H.R. 2518, reported by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and S. 1129, reported by the Senate Commerce Committee, authorize appropriations for the Coast Guard for FY2018 and FY2019 and have provisions related to the agency’s safety mission.

The fleet of...

Oil and Natural Gas Pipelines: Role of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Growth in North American crude oil and natural gas production has led to efforts to expand the domestic oil and natural gas pipeline network. Pipeline developers are required to obtain authorizations from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) before constructing certain pipeline segments. Under the agency’s regulatory program, the Corps is responsible for authorizing activities that may affect federally regulated waters and wetlands. Under its civil works program, the agency is responsible for approving activities that cross or may affect Corps-managed lands and Corps water resource...

Defense: FY2017 Budget Request, Authorization, and Appropriations

This report discusses the Obama Administration’s FY2017 defense budget request and provides a summary of congressional action on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY2017 (S. 2943/P.L. 114-328), and the FY2017 Defense Appropriations Act (H.R. 244/P.L. 115-31).

In February 2016, the Obama Administration requested $523.9 billion to cover the FY2017 discretionary base budget of the Department of Defense (DOD) and $58.8 billion in discretionary funding for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO). The OCO budget category generally includes funding related to the incremental cost...

The Advanced Nuclear Production Tax Credit

The advanced nuclear production tax credit (PTC) (Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Section 45J) provides a 1.8 cent per kilowatt hour (kWh) tax credit for electricity sold that was produced at qualifying facilities. Criteria for qualifying facilities include that they must use nuclear reactor designs approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission after 1993, and must be placed in service by the end of 2020. Qualifying facilities can claim tax credits during the first eight years of production.

There are additional limitations associated with the provision. First, the credit is restricted to...

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

The Office of 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 (hereinafter Chief Counsel) directs the office and is appointed by the President from civilian life with the advice and consent of the Senate.

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

Selected Agency Budget Justifications for FY2018

This report provides a convenient listing of online FY2018 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.

Qatar and its Neighbors: Disputes and Possible Implications

Qatar’s Neighbors Break Relations, Impose Sanctions

On June 5, the governments of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, and Egypt severed diplomatic relations with Qatar, moved to expel Qatari diplomats, recalled their ambassadors from the Qatari capital, Doha, and imposed limits on the entry and transit of Qatari nationals and vessels in their territories, waters, and airspace. Qataris currently in these countries were given 14 days to leave.

Qatar’s Foreign Ministry expressed “deep regret” at these steps, calling them “unjustified” and an attempt to impose...

Agriculture and Related Agencies: FY2017 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). (For CFTC, the Agriculture appropriations subcommittee has jurisdiction in the House but not in the Senate.)

Agriculture appropriations include both mandatory and discretionary spending. Discretionary amounts, though, are the primary focus during the bill’s development, since mandatory amounts are generally set by authorizing laws such as the...

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. 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 employ alternative legislative tools to serve as a substitute for a budget resolution. These substitutes are typically referred to as “deeming resolutions,” because they are deemed to serve in...

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 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 support state...

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...

Energy and Water Development: FY2017 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), and the Department of Energy (DOE), as well as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and several other independent agencies. DOE typically accounts for about 80% of the bill’s total funding.

FY2017 funding for energy and water development programs was provided by Division D of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017 (P.L. 115-31), an omnibus funding...

DOD Security Cooperation: Assessment, Monitoring, and Evaluation

Introduction

As part of recent efforts to modify existing security cooperation authorities, the FY2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) (P.L. 114-328) enacted several new provisions that modify the budgeting, execution, administration, and evaluation of Department of Defense (DOD) security cooperation programs and activities.

To date, the Department of Defense (DOD) has spent billions of dollars on efforts to train, equip, and otherwise support foreign military and security forces. In the 114th Congress, both the House and Senate Armed Services Committees examined various aspects...

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 funding analysis non-appropriated funding adjustments under the Budget Control Act supplemental mandatory user fee trust fund

Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD): FY2017 Appropriations

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 primarily designed to address housing problems faced by households with very low incomes or other special housing needs. This report tracks FY2017 appropriations for the department.

Full-Year Appropriations: On May 5, 2017, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017 was signed into law...

Independence Day: 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.

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and U.S. Agriculture

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) entered into force on January 1, 1994, establishing a free trade area as part of a comprehensive economic and trade agreement among the United States, Canada, and Mexico. President Trump has repeatedly stated that he intends to either renegotiate or withdraw from NAFTA. In May 2017, the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) formally notified Congress of the Administration’s intent to renegotiate NAFTA. Reactions to the announcement have been mixed, with some industries supporting NAFTA “modernization” as a way to address a range of trade concerns,...

U.S. Beef: It’s What’s for China

In June 2017 the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that the United States and China had reached an agreement resolving technical issues that would allow U.S. beef exports to China to resume, thus resolving a long-standing dispute between the two countries. China had banned imports of U.S. beef immediately after bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) was discovered in the United States in December 2003. In 2006, China unilaterally announced that it would lift its ban on some U.S. beef products contingent on certain age requirements and the removal of specified risk material...

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

The federal government is expected to provide state and local governments more than $703 billion in federal grants in FY2018, 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...

Reception and Placement of Refugees in the United States

The U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP), which is managed by the Department of State (DOS), resettles refugees from around the world in the United States. Once a refugee case is approved for U.S. resettlement, the USRAP determines where in the country the refugee(s) will be resettled. This determination is made through DOS’s Reception and Placement Program (R&P), which provides initial resettlement services to arriving refugees. R&P initial resettlement assistance is separate from longer-term resettlement assistance provided through the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS)...

FY2016 State Grants Under Title I-A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)

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 was funded at $14.9 billion for FY2016. 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 Education (ED) determines Title I-A grants to...

Out of Breath: Military Aircraft Oxygen Issues

The Air Force recently grounded some of its newest aircraft, F-35A strike fighters, due to incidents in which pilots became physiologically impaired with symptoms of oxygen deficiency while flying. Although the root cause of the F-35 incidents has not yet been established, the grounding has renewed attention on hypoxia, a physical condition caused by oxygen deficiency that may result in temporary cognitive and physiological impairment and possible loss of consciousness. Hypoxia has affected pilots of F-22, F/A-18, and T-45 aircraft in recent years.

Military aircraft (and jet aircraft...

Cuba: President Trump Partially Rolls Back Obama Engagement Policy

On June 16, 2017, President Trump unveiled his Administration’s policy on Cuba, which partially rolls back some of the Obama Administration’s efforts to normalize relations with Cuba. President Trump set forth his Administration’s policy in a speech in Miami, FL, where he signed a national security presidential memorandum on Cuba replacing President Obama’s October 2016 presidential policy directive, which had laid out objectives for the normalization process. The new policy leaves most of the Obama-era policy changes in place, including the reestablishment of diplomatic relations and a...

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 and is funded at $15.5 billion for FY2017. 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 Education (ED) determines Title...

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...

Office of Government Ethics: Role in Collecting and Making Ethics Waivers Public

On April 28, 2017, the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) issued a program advisory (PA-17-02) to request data on the issuance of certain waivers and authorizations from executive branch agencies, including the Executive Office of the President (EOP). OGE requested documentation for all waivers given to executive branch appointees between May 1, 2016, and April 30, 2017, under five authorities: Executive Order (E.O.) 13770, E.O. 13490, 18 U.S.C. §208(b)(1), 5 C.F.R. §2635.502(d), and 5 C.F.R. §2635.503(c). The data were due to OGE by June 1, 2017. One hundred thirty five of 136 executive...

India-U.S. Relations: Issues for Congress

India will soon be the world’s most populous country, home to about one of every six people. Many factors combine to infuse India’s government and people with “great power” aspirations: the Asian giant’s rich civilization and history, expanding strategic horizons, energetic global and international engagement, critical geography (with more than 9,000 total miles of land borders, many of them disputed) astride vital sea and energy lanes, major economy (at times the world’s fastest growing) with a rising middle class and an attendant boost in defense and power projection capabilities...

Older Americans Act: Background and Overview

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...

Paris Agreement: U.S. Climate Finance Commitments

The United States and other industrialized countries have committed to providing financial assistance for global environmental initiatives, including climate change, through a variety of multilateral agreements. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC, 1992, U.S. Treaty Number: 102-38) was the first international treaty to acknowledge and address human-driven climate change. Among other obligations, the Convention commits higher-income parties (i.e., those listed in Annex II of the convention, which were members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and...

Argentina: Background and U.S. Relations

Argentina, a South American country with a population of almost 44 million, has had a vibrant democratic tradition since its military relinquished power in 1983. Current President Mauricio Macri—the leader of the center-right Republican Proposal and the candidate of the Let’s Change coalition representing center-right and center-left parties—won the 2015 presidential race. He succeeded two-term President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, from the center-left faction of the Peronist party known as the Front for Victory, who in turn had succeeded her husband, Néstor Kirchner, in 2007. Macri’s...

The Closure of Institutions of Higher Education: Student Options, Borrower Relief, and Implications

The recent closures of multiple large, private for-profit institutions of higher education (IHEs), such as those owned by Corinthian Colleges, Inc. (e.g., Heald College) and ITT Educational Services (e.g., ITT Technical Institutes) have brought into focus the extent to which a student’s postsecondary education may be disrupted by a school closure. The closures of these IHEs also highlighted the numerous issues students may face when their institutions close and the difficult decisions they may be required to make in the wake of a closure. Two key issues students may face when their IHE...

First Treasury Report on Regulatory Relief: Depository Institutions

On June 12, 2017, the Department of the Treasury issued a report, A Financial System That Creates Economic Opportunities: Banks and Credit Unions, which examines the regulation of banks and credit unions. The Treasury stated it would be the first in a series of reports written in accordance with Executive Order (E.O.) 13772 issued by President Donald Trump on February 3, 2017. E.O. 13772 identified “Core Principles” that should 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...

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, Organization 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....

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 be

licensed or otherwise legally authorized to operate in the state in which it is physically located,

accredited or preaccredited by an agency recognized for that purpose by the Department of...

Indian Elementary-Secondary Education: Programs, Background, and Issues

The federal government provides elementary and secondary education and educational assistance to Indian children, either directly through federally funded schools or indirectly through educational assistance to public schools. Direct education is provided by the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) in the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI), through elementary and secondary schools funded by the BIE. Educational assistance to public schools is provided chiefly through programs of the U.S. Department of Education (ED). The student population served by federal Indian education programs...

Finding Medicare Enrollment Statistics

There is no single source for Medicare enrollment statistics. Various sources described in this report present different breakdowns of enrollment data, including coverage type (Parts A, B, C, and D), beneficiary type (aged, disabled), and geographic area. This report provides guidance in determining the most current sources for different categories of enrollment data.

The report presents basic categories and definitions for terms related to Medicare enrollment data, a quick reference table that summarizes key data available in selected resources, and a more detailed overview of core resources.

NIH Funding: FY1994-FY2018

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is the primary federal agency charged with conducting and supporting biomedical and behavioral research. About 81% 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,]

Violence Against Members of Congress and Their Staff: A Brief Overview

Questions about the personal security and safety of Members of Congress and their staffs are of enduring concern for the House, Senate, and the United States Capitol Police (USCP). Broader interest in the media and among the public arises in the aftermath of an incident such as the June 14, 2017, attack on at least 17 Members of Congress, several staff, USCP officers, and members of the public in Alexandria, Virginia. In that incident, a Member was critically wounded, and others, including another Member, a congressional staffer, USCP officers, and a member of the public were injured...

Prescription Drug Discount Coupons and Patient Assistance Programs (PAPs)

U.S. pharmaceutical manufacturers fund a variety of programs to help consumers defray the cost of prescription drugs. Industry assistance includes drug discount coupons, as well as free drugs and cost-sharing payments for individuals with lower incomes or high medical expenses. According to one analysis, drug manufacturers tendered discount coupons for more than 600 brands in 2016. Nonprofit patient assistance programs (PAPs) offered by drug manufacturers and independent charities dispense billions of dollars in assistance annually, placing them among the nation’s largest charitable...

Dakota Access Pipeline: Siting Controversy

Background Recent growth of domestic crude oil production has resulted in an unprecedented expansion of the United States’ oil pipeline network. One major oil pipeline recently constructed is the Dakota Access Pipeline, a 30-inch diameter, 1,172-mile project that carries crude oil produced in northwest North Dakota to southern Illinois (Figure 1). The Dakota Access Pipeline’s maximum capacity is 570,000 barrels per day. Figure 1. Dakota Access Pipeline Route / Source: CRS using data from Platts PowerMap 2016, and Esri Data and Maps 2014. Siting Approval The federal government does not have...

Finding Quotes for Speeches: Fact Sheet

A well-chosen quote can strengthen a speech by emphasizing and reinforcing a point, tapping into the audience’s memories and associations, and bolstering the speaker’s credibility. The right quote can capture the listener’s attention, add poignancy, and infuse drama or poetic flair.

The following resources will help the user find quotes for speeches and other communications. The resources are divided into three categories: General Quotations, Americana, and Religion. There is some overlap among the categories.

Congressional staffers who need assistance finding or verifying a quote, or who...

United Kingdom Election Result

The United Kingdom (UK) election of June 8, 2017, resulted in a hung parliament, an outcome in which no single party won a majority of seats in the 650-seat House of Commons. With 318 seats, the Conservative Party came in first place but lost the majority it had held after winning 331 seats in the 2015 election. The Labour Party came in second place, outperforming most expectations by winning 262 seats, a gain of 30.

Conservative-Led Minority Government Expected to Carry On

The Conservative Party currently is expected to continue leading the UK government, with Prime Minister Theresa May...

Short-Term, Small-Dollar Lending: Policy Issues and Implications

Short-term, small-dollar loans are consumer loans with relatively low initial principal amounts (often less than $1,000) with relatively short repayment periods (generally for a small number of weeks or months). Short-term, small-dollar loan products are frequently used to cover cash-flow shortages that may occur due to unexpected expenses or periods of inadequate income. Small-dollar loans can be offered in various forms and by various types of lenders. Banks and credit unions (depositories) can make small-dollar loans through financial products such as credit cards, credit card cash...

Effects of Buy America on Transportation Infrastructure and U.S. Manufacturing: Policy Options

With the aim of protecting American manufacturing and manufacturing jobs, Congress over the years has passed several domestic content laws. Statements and actions by the Trump Administration about reinvigorating domestic manufacturing and reinvesting in infrastructure have stimulated renewed interest in these laws, including Buy America. The President’s “Buy American and Hire American” initiative includes an executive memorandum requiring the Secretary of Commerce to develop a plan for new pipelines in the United States to be made from domestically produced iron and steel, and a separate...

Maternal and Infant 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 risk indicators. 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...

Social Security Administration (SSA): FY2017 Appropriations and Recent Trends

The Social Security Administration (SSA) is responsible for administering a number of federal entitlement programs that provide income support (cash benefits) to qualified individuals. These programs are Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI), commonly known as Social Security; Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for the Aged, Blind, and Disabled; and Special Benefits for Certain World War II Veterans. In FY2017, SSA’s programs are projected to pay a combined $1 trillion in federal benefits to an estimated 68.4 million individuals. The cost to administer these programs is...

The President’s FY2018 Budget Request for the National Science Foundation

The Trump Administration released the FY2018 Budget Request to Congress for the National Science Foundation (NSF) on May 23, 2017, proposing significant funding reductions across the agency’s major research, education, and construction accounts. Overall, the request includes $6.653 billion for NSF, $819 million (11%) below the FY2017 enacted amount of $7.472 billion (P.L. 115-31). If funded at the requested level, NSF appropriations would be the lowest since FY2002 in inflation-adjusted (constant) dollars (Figure 1). Ultimately, Congress will determine FY2018 appropriations levels and may...

Financial Regulatory Relief: Approaches for Congress, Regulators, and the Administration

The 2007-2009 financial crisis led to significant changes in financial regulation, but critics argue that the burden these changes have imposed now exceeds their benefits. Congress and the Administration are considering financial regulatory relief from various postcrisis regulatory changes, including the Dodd-Frank Act (P.L. 111-203). This report provides an overview of the options available to pursue that goal.

Approaches for Congress

Congress can mandate that regulators provide relief through legislation. Most relief legislation likely would follow the normal legislative process. For...

Defining Readiness: Background and Issues for Congress

Many defense observers and government officials, including some Members of Congress, are concerned that the U.S. military faces a readiness crisis. The Department of Defense has used readiness as a central justification for its FY2017 and FY2018 funding requests. Yet what makes the U.S. military ready is debated.

This report explains how differing uses of the term readiness cloud the debate on whether a readiness crisis exists and, if so, what funding effort would best address it.

CRS has identified two principal uses of the term readiness. One, readiness is used in a broad sense to...

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...

Legislative Branch: FY2017 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 FY2017 legislative branch budget request of $4.659 billion was submitted on February 9, 2016. By law, the President includes the legislative branch...

Congress Faces Calls to Address Expiring Funds for Primary Care

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), enacted in March 2010, appropriated billions of dollars of mandatory funds to support grant programs and other activities. Specifically, it provided support for three programs focused on expanding access to primary care services for populations that are typically underserved. These three programs are the Health Centers program, the National Health Service Corps (NHSC), and payments to support medical residents training at teaching health centers—outpatient health facilities that primarily provide care to underserved populations.

The ACA funds were initially...

The Financial CHOICE Act (H.R. 10) and the Dodd-Frank Act

Representative Jeb Hensarling, chairman of the House Committee on Financial Services, introduced the Financial CHOICE Act of 2017 (H.R. 10) on April 26, 2017. H.R. 10 was passed by the House on June 8, 2017. The bill as passed is a wide-ranging proposal with 12 titles that would alter many parts of the financial regulatory system. H.R. 10 is similar to, but has several major differences from, H.R. 5983 from the 114th Congress (called the Financial CHOICE Act of 2016).

The next section highlights major proposals included in the bill, as passed. It is not a comprehensive summary. For a more...

Energy and Water Development Appropriations for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation: In Brief

The Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) nonproliferation and national security programs provide technical capabilities to support U.S. efforts to “prevent, counter, respond” to the proliferation of nuclear weapons worldwide, including by both states and non-state actors. These programs are administered by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a semi-autonomous agency established within DOE in 2000. NNSA is responsible for maintaining the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile, providing nuclear fuel to the Navy, nuclear and radiological emergency response, and nonproliferation. NNSA...

Political Status of Puerto Rico: Brief Background and Recent Developments for Congress

Puerto Rico lies approximately 1,000 miles southeast of Miami and 1,500 miles from Washington, DC. Despite being far outside the continental United States, the island has played a significant role in American politics and policy since the United States acquired Puerto Rico from Spain in 1898.

Puerto Rico’s political status—referring to the relationship between the federal government and a territorial one—is an undercurrent in virtually every policy matter on the island. In a June 11, 2017, plebiscite (popular vote), 97.2% of voters chose statehood when presented with three options on the...

Availability of Legislative Measures in the House of Representatives (The “Three-Day 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, the committee report must have been available for three calendar days, excluding weekends and legal holidays unless the House is in session on such days. Conference reports must also have been available for three calendar days, 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, also may...

FY2018 Defense Budget Request: The Basics

The President’s FY2018 budget request includes $677.1 billion for national defense (budget function 050), of which $646.9 billon is allocated for the DOD (budget subfunction 051). The funding request for national defense discretionary spending ($602.9 billion) is $54 billion—or 9%—above the FY2018 limit imposed on discretionary defense spending by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA/P.L. 112-25).

Of the DOD total, $574.5 billion covers the base, discretionary spending. An additional $64.6 billion of the DOD total is to support Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO). These operations include...

What is the Proposed U.S.-EU Insurance Covered Agreement?

On January 13, 2017, the United States and European Union (EU) concluded negotiations on the first insurance covered agreement. A covered agreement is a relatively new form of international agreement, established along with the Federal Insurance Office (FIO) in Title V of the Dodd-Frank Act (P.L. 111-203). The statute defines a covered agreement as a type of international insurance or reinsurance agreement for recognition of prudential measures that FIO and the United States Trade Representative (USTR) negotiate on a bilateral or multilateral basis. After such an agreement, FIO has...

Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) FY2017 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 funded through the Agriculture appropriations bill in the House and the FSGG bill in the Senate. This structure has existed since the 2007 reorganization of the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations.

On...

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...

The ACA Prevention and Public Health Fund: In Brief

SUPPRESS: Section 4002 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA, P.L. 111-148, as amended), Prevention and Public Health Fund (PPHF) a permanent annual appropriation to be administered by the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). PPHF was intended to support an “expanded and sustained national investment in prevention and public health programs.” (42 U.S.C. 300u-11)

PPHF amounts for each fiscal year are available to the Secretary of HHS beginning October 1, the start of the respective fiscal year. Congress may explicitly direct the distribution of PPHF funds, and did so for FY2014 through...

Israel and the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement

This report provides information and analysis on a boycott, divestment, and sanctions (“BDS”) movement against Israel. The BDS movement is generally seen as a loose grouping of actors from various countries who advocate or engage in economic measures against Israel or Israel-related individuals or organizations, though defining precisely what may or may not constitute BDS activity is subject to debate.

The report also analyzes economic measures that “differentiate” or might be seen as differentiating between (1) Israel in general and (2) entities linked with Israeli-developed areas and...

U.S. Foreign Aid to the Middle East and North Africa: The President’s FY2018 Request

As the largest regional recipient of U.S. economic and security assistance, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is perennially a major focus for Congress. Figure 1. FY2018 Foreign Operations Request, by Region / Source: Data for this figure is from FY2018 budget roll-out documents provided by the State Department. It does not include administrative funds, MCC, humanitarian assistance, or food aid. Note: WH = Western Hemisphere; SCA = South Central Asia; EE = Europe and Eurasia; EAP = East Asia and Pacific. For FY2018, the Trump Administration proposes to cut 12% of overall...

Quorum Requirements in the Senate: Committee and Chamber

Quorum Requirements in Committee. Senate Rule XXVI establishes minimum quorum requirements for four areas of committee activity. These are listed in the following table.

European Security and Islamist Terrorism

The June 3, 2017, attack in London—in which 8 people were killed and nearly 50 injured—was the third terrorist incident in the United Kingdom in the past few months. Five people were killed outside the UK parliament in March in a similar car and knife attack, and in May, a suicide bomber killed 22 people and wounded 116 at a music concert in Manchester. These incidents are among a string of terrorist attacks in Europe connected to or inspired by violent Islamist extremism, with many since 2014 linked to the Islamic State group (also known as ISIS or ISIL). (For more information, see CRS In...

Prescription Drug User Fee Act (PDUFA): 2017 Reauthorization as PDUFA VI

The Prescription Drug User Fee Act (PDUFA) is being considered by Congress for reauthorization. First passed by Congress in 1992, it gave the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to collect fees from the pharmaceutical industry and to use the revenue to support “the process for the review of human drug applications.” FDA regulates the safety and effectiveness of drug products sold in the United States. Prior to marketing a drug, a manufacturer must submit to FDA a new drug application (NDA) demonstrating that the drug is safe and effective for its intended use.

FDA’s review of...

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 a significant 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. Although the Obama Administration and governments in the region launched new initiatives designed to improve conditions in...

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 aging B-1 and B-52 bombers, and would possibly replace B-2s 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 B-21...

Discretionary Budget Authority by Subfunction: An Overview

This report provides a graphical overview of historical trends in discretionary budget authority (BA) from FY1977 through FY2016, preliminary estimates for FY2017 spending, and the levels reflecting the President’s proposals for FY2018 through FY2022 using data from the FY2018 budget submission released on May 23, 2017. This report, by illustrating trends in broad budgetary categories, provides a starting point for discussions about fiscal priorities. Other CRS products analyze spending trends in specific functional areas. Functional categories (e.g., national defense, agriculture, etc.)...

Implementation of Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Amendments (P.L. 114-182)

Since President Obama signed the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (P.L. 114-182) on June 22, 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been implementing the act’s amendments to Title I of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA; 15 U.S.C. 2601-2629). TSCA as amended establishes a framework to identify commercial chemicals that present unreasonable risks and to regulate the product life cycle of a chemical (i.e., manufacture or importation, processing, distribution, use, and disposal) so that it no longer presents unreasonable risk. Nearly one year...

When an Agency’s Budget Request Does Not Match the President’s Request: The FY2018 CFTC Request and “Budget Bypass”

Two Different Budget Requests for CFTC?

The Trump Administration released its first full budget request on May 23, 2017, for FY2018. Like other recent presidential budget requests, it includes an Appendix chapter for independent agencies such as the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). Notably, the Trump Administration’s budget request for CFTC does not equal the amount requested directly by the agency in its budget justification submitted to Congress. Specifically:

The Trump Administration’s FY2018 request for CFTC is $250 million.

CFTC’s Budget Justification submitted to Congress...

Child Welfare Funding in Brief: FY2017 Final Funding and the President’s FY2018 Request

Child welfare; President’s FY2018 budget; final FY2017 appropriations; H.R. 244, P.L. 115-31; Title IV-E, foster care, kinship guardianship assistance, adoption assistance; Title IV-B, Child Welfare Services, Promoting Safe and Stable Families (PSSF), Court Improvement Program (CIP), Regional Partnership Grants (RPG); Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA); Adoption Opportunities; Adoption and Legal Guardianship Incentive Payments; Chafee Foster Care Independence Program (CFCIP), Educational and Training Vouchers (ETVs), Victims of Child Abuse Act, Court Appointed Special...

Treasury Department Appropriations, FY2017

At its most basic level of organization, the Treasury Department is a collection of departmental offices and operating bureaus. The bureaus as a whole typically account for 95% of Treasury’s budget and workforce. Most bureaus and offices are funded through annual appropriations.

Treasury appropriations are distributed among 12 accounts in FY2017: (1) Departmental Offices (DO), (2) Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence (TFI), (3) Cybersecurity Enhancement Account (CEA), (4) Department-wide Systems and Capital Investments Program (DSCIP), (5) Office of Inspector General (OIG), (6)...

Reauthorizing the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000

Counties containing federal lands often receive payments from the federal government based on the presence of such lands. Counties containing National Forest System lands and certain Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands historically have received payments based on the revenue generated from those lands. Revenue-generating activities include recreation, grazing permits, and land use rentals, among other activities. Starting in the 1990s, federal timber sales began to decline substantially—by more than 90% in some areas—which led to substantially reduced payments to the counties. Thus,...

Burma’s Political Prisoners and U.S. Policy: In Brief

With Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy (NLD) in control of Burma’s Union Parliament and the government’s executive branch, prospects may have improved for ending the arrest, detention, prosecution, and imprisonment of political prisoners in Burma, a reality which has overshadowed U.S. policy toward Burma for more than 25 years. Burma’s military, or Tatmadaw, however, may not support the unconditional release of all political prisoners in Burma, and potentially has the power to block such an effort.

The 115th Congress may have an opportunity to influence Burma’s future...

Federal Research and Development Funding: FY2017

President Obama’s budget request for FY2017 included $152.333 billion for research and development (R&D), an increase of $6.195 billion (4.2%) over the estimated FY2016 enacted R&D funding level of $146.138 billion.

Funding for R&D is concentrated in a few departments and agencies. Under President Obama’s FY2017 budget request, seven federal agencies would have received 95.6% of total federal R&D funding, with the Department of Defense (47.8%) and the Department of Health and Human Services (21.5%) accounting for nearly 70% of all federal R&D funding.

In dollars, the largest increases in...

Digital Trade and U.S. Trade Policy

As the rules of global Internet develop and evolve, digital trade has risen in prominence on the global trade and economic agenda, but multilateral trade agreements have not kept pace with the complexities of the digital economy. 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. According to one source, the volume of global data flows grew 45-fold from 2005 to 2014, faster than international trade or financial flows. Congress has an important role to play in shaping global digital trade policy,...

Ransomware Attacks Renew Focus on HIPAA Security Standards

Health care facilities increasingly are coming under cyberattack. This trend has raised concerns about the vulnerability of electronic health information, which often includes multiple personal identifiers. These can be used by hackers to create false identities for illegal purposes such as creating fraudulent insurance claims.

But health care cybersecurity involves more than just safeguarding patient data from identity theft. Hackers are now using ransomware to attack hospitals and other health care facilities in an effort to extort money by disrupting their operations.

Ransomware is a...

Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD): FY2018 Budget Request Fact Sheet

Overview of FY2018 President’s Budget request for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

The President’s FY2018 Budget Request for the Department of Energy

Overview

The President’s fiscal year (FY) 2018 budget request, Budget of the U.S. Government: A New Foundation for American Greatness, includes $28.0 billion for the Department of Energy (DOE), $2.7 billion (8.8%) less than the FY2017 enacted appropriations of $30.7 billion (see P.L. 115-31 and Division D Explanatory Statement). While this request would reduce the total budget for DOE, it would increase overall funding for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and increase funding for cleanup programs within the Office of Environmental Management. The request would reduce...

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...

Malawi: Key Developments and U.S. Relations

Malawi is a poor, landlocked country in southeastern Africa. A former British colony, Malawi transitioned from one-party rule to a democratic system in the early 1990s. It has since held a series of multi-party elections—though the most recent polls, held in 2014, featured some logistical shortcomings, limited violence, and a number of controversies, including a failed attempt by then-incumbent President Joyce Banda to annul the election. The race was ultimately won by Peter Mutharika, whose brother, Bingu wa Mutharika, served as president from 2004 until his death in 2012, when he was...

The Federal Minimum Wage: In Brief

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), enacted in 1938, is the federal legislation that establishes the minimum hourly wage that must be paid to all covered workers. The minimum wage provisions of the FLSA have been amended numerous times since 1938, typically for the purpose of expanding coverage or raising the wage rate. Since its establishment, the minimum wage rate has been raised 22 separate times. The most recent change was enacted in 2007 (P.L. 110-28), which increased the minimum wage to its current level of $7.25 per hour.

In addition to setting the federal minimum wage rate, the...

SAMHSA FY2018 Budget Request and Funding History: A Fact Sheet

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), is the lead federal agency for increasing access to behavioral health services. SAMHSA supports community-based mental health and substance abuse treatment and prevention services through formula grants to the states and U.S. territories and through competitive grant programs to states, territories, tribal organizations, local communities, and private entities. SAMHSA also engages in a range of other activities, such as technical assistance, data collection,...

The President’s FY2018 Budget Request for Agriculture Appropriations and the Farm Bill

Background

The Trump Administration released its first full budget request on May 23, 2017. It proposes specific amounts for the FY2018 Agriculture appropriation as well as legislative changes to various mandatory spending programs, including those in the farm bill.

The Administration’s budget outline, released on March 16, 2017, proposed an overall 21% reduction for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and it mentioned seven specific discretionary programs for elimination or reduction. It did not address any mandatory spending proposals. (See CRS Insight IN10675, The President’s FY2018...

The Corporation for National and Community Service: Overview of Programs and Funding

The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) is an independent federal agency that administers the programs authorized by two statutes: the National and Community Service Act of 1990 (NCSA; P.L. 101-610), as amended, and the Domestic Volunteer Service Act of 1973 (DVSA; P.L. 93-113), as amended. NCSA and DVSA programs were most recently reauthorized by the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act (P.L. 111-13). The report describes programs authorized by these laws and compares CNCS funding for FY2014, FY2015, FY2016, and FY2017.

The NCSA is designed to meet unmet human,...

FY2018 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)). However, incoming presidential Administrations do not generally release multivolume budget sets in February. This year the President released a Budget Blueprint on March 16, 2017, and a full budget submission on May 23, 2017.

This report provides brief descriptions of the budget volumes and related documents,...

The Crime Victims Fund: Federal Support for Victims of Crime

In 1984, the Crime Victims Fund (CVF, or the Fund) was established by the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA, P.L. 98-473) to provide funding for state victim compensation and assistance programs. Since 1984, VOCA has been amended several times to support additional victim-related activities. These amendments established within the CVF (1) discretionary grants for private organizations, (2) the Federal Victim Notification System, (3) funding for victim assistance staff within the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys, (4) funding for the Children’s Justice Act...

Marine Corps Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV) and Marine Personnel Carrier (MPC): 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...

Special Counsels, Independent Counsels, and Special Prosecutors: Options for Independent Executive Investigations

Under the Constitution, Congress has no direct role in federal law enforcement and its ability to initiate appointments of any prosecutors to address alleged wrongdoings by executive officials is limited. While Congress retains broad oversight and investigatory powers under Article I of the Constitution, criminal investigations and prosecutions have generally been viewed as a core executive function and a responsibility of the executive branch. Historically, however, because of the potential conflicts of interest that may arise when the executive branch investigates itself (e.g., the...

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...

Burma’s Second 21st Century Panglong Peace Conference

Burma’s second “21st Century Panglong Peace Conference,” held in Burma’s capital, Naypiytaw, on May 24-29, 2017, adjourned with mixed results. Some observers had hoped the conference could make significant progress toward ending Burma’s six-decade long, low-grade civil war. While it succeeded in bringing new ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) into the discussions, some EAOs who had attended the first conference (held last autumn) did not participate. The NLD-led government, the Burmese military (or Tatmadaw), and the eight EAOs that signed the so-called “nationwide ceasefire agreement”...

Federal Individual Income Tax Terms: An Explanation

Described in this report are the terms most commonly used when discussing the federal individual income tax. Most of these tax terms are explained in the order that they occur in the process of determining one’s income tax on the Form 1040. Total income is the sum total of all income required to be reported for tax purposes before adjustments to income are made for special types of expenses which Congress has determined should be considered in calculating gross income. These adjustments function like deductions, except that unlike deductions, adjustments are calculated in arriving at...

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 non-developmental program (candidate vehicles will be either existing vehicles or modified existing vehicles—not vehicles...

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...

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...

Unique Identification Codes for Federal Contractors: DUNS Numbers and CAGE Codes

An essential element of the federal government’s acquisition system is the capability to identify the businesses, and other types of entities, that do work for the government. Accurate identification of potential contractors and incumbent contractors facilitates a host of procurement processes while contributing to the transparency of federal government procurement.

The federal government uses a proprietary system, Dun & Bradstreet’s (D&B’s) Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS), to uniquely identify the entities with which it does business. At no cost to the applicant, D&B assigns a DUNS...

U.S. Carbon Dioxide Emissions Trends and Projections: Role of the Clean Power Plan and Other Factors

Recent international negotiations and domestic policy developments have generated interest in current and projected U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emission levels. GHG emissions are generated throughout the United States from millions of discrete sources. Of the GHG source categories, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from fossil fuel combustion account for the largest percentage (77%) of total U.S. GHG emissions. The electric power sector contributes the second-largest percentage (35%) of CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion (1 percentage point behind the transportation sector).

In December...

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 provides short summaries of legislative proposals with respect to UI programs. It also gives a brief overview of the UI programs that may provide benefits to eligible unemployed workers. In addition, it briefly summarizes UI proposals included in the President’s budget for FY2018.

President Trump signed H.J.Res. 42 on March 30, 2017 (P.L. 115-17). This Congressional Review Act (CRA)...

FY2017 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 grown to add additional agencies, components, offices, boards, and divisions. DOJ, along with the judicial branch, operates the federal criminal justice system. Today, the department enforces federal criminal and civil laws, including antitrust, civil rights, environmental, and tax laws. DOJ, through agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives...

FY2017 Appropriations for the Department of Justice Grant Programs

Each year Congress provides 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. Congress funds these programs through five accounts in the annual Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies...

State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs: FY2017 Budget and Appropriations

On May 5, 2017, President Trump signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017, into law (P.L. 115-31). The law sets funding for the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs (SFOPS) at $57.53 billion for the FY2017 full-year. This level represents an increase of 8.8% above the estimated FY2016 funding level, all due to a 40% increase in Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funds.

More than a year ago, on February 9, 2016, the Obama Administration submitted to Congress its original FY2017 budget request for SFOPS totaling $52.78 billion (-0.1% compared with the...

President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection: Toward Final Disclosure of Withheld Records in October 2017

Congress enacted the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992 (JFK Records Act), as amended, to bring together all materials related to the November 22, 1963, assassination of the 35th President that were created or held by a government office, and to house those records in a single collection in the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). Today, NARA reports that there are 268,116 records comprising more than 5 million pages of paper documents in the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection. Of those, NARA states that...

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...

East Asia’s Foreign Exchange Rate Policies

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), monetary authorities in East Asia (including Southeast Asia) have adopted a variety of foreign exchange rate policies, varying from Hong Kong’s currency board system which links the Hong Kong dollar to the U.S. dollar, to the “independently floating” exchange rates of Japan, the Philippines, and South Korea. Most Asian monetary authorities have adopted “managed floats” that allow their currency to fluctuate within a limited range over time as part of a larger economic policy. Regardless of their exchange rate policies, monetary...

Banking Policy Issues in the 115th Congress

The financial crisis and the ensuing legislative and regulatory responses greatly affected the banking industry. Many new regulations—mandated or authorized by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (P.L. 111-203) or promulgated under the authority of bank regulators—have been implemented in recent years. In addition, economic and technological trends continue to affect banks. As a result, Congress is faced with many issues related to the bank industry, including issues concerning prudential regulation, consumer protection, “too big to fail” (TBTF) banks, community...

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...

H.R. 1628: The American Health Care Act (AHCA)

In January 2017, the House and Senate adopted a budget resolution for FY2017 (S.Con.Res. 3), which reflects an agreement between the chambers on the budget for FY2017 and sets forth budgetary levels for FY2018-FY2026. S.Con.Res. 3 also includes reconciliation instructions directing specific committees to develop and report legislation that would change laws within their respective jurisdictions to reduce the deficit. These instructions trigger the budget reconciliation process, which may allow certain legislation to be considered under expedited procedures. The reconciliation instructions...

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 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.

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 seized large areas of Iraq and Syria, has affiliates in several other countries, has attracted a network of global supporters, and disrupts international security with its campaigns of violence and terrorism. A U.S.-led coalition military campaign against the Islamic State organization in Iraq and Syria has evolved since 2014, reducing the area controlled by the group considerably and eliminating thousands of its...

Overview of FY2017 Appropriations for Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS)

This report describes actions taken by the Administration and Congress to provide FY2017 appropriations for the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) accounts. It also provides an overview of FY2016 appropriations for agencies and bureaus funded as part of annual CJS appropriations.

Division B of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016 (P.L. 114-113), provided $66.000 billion for CJS, which included $9.246 billion for the Department of Commerce, $29.090 billion for the Department of Justice (DOJ), $26.754 billion for the science agencies, and $910 million for the related...

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) entered into force on January 1, 1994. The agreement was signed by President George H. W. Bush on December 17, 1992, and approved by Congress on November 20, 1993. The NAFTA Implementation Act was signed into law by President William J. Clinton on December 8, 1993 (P.L. 103-182). The overall economic impact of NAFTA is difficult to measure since trade and investment trends are influenced by numerous other economic variables, such as economic growth, inflation, and currency fluctuations. The agreement likely accelerated and also locked in...

President’s FY2018 Budget Proposes Cuts in Public Health Service (PHS) Agency Funding

The President’s FY2018 budget proposes significant reductions in funding for the Public Health Service (PHS) agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services. The budget reflects the PHS agency funding priorities outlined in the budget blueprint released in March. Among other things, the President’s budget would cut funding for medical research, public health prevention programs, and mental health services.

The proposed cuts are to discretionary funding, which is controlled through the annual appropriations process. PHS agencies also receive funding from various mandatory...

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.

Selected Federal Water Activities: Agencies, Authorities, and Congressional Committees

Congress addresses numerous issues related to the nation’s water resources annually, and over time it has enacted hundreds of water-related federal laws. These laws—many of which are independent statutes—have been enacted at different points in the nation’s history and during various economic climates. They were developed by multiple congressional committees with varying jurisdictions. Such committees are involved in legislating, funding, and overseeing the water-related activities of numerous federal agencies. These activities include responding to natural disasters such as droughts and...

Tracking the Next Child Nutrition Reauthorization: An Overview

The “child nutrition programs” (National School Lunch Program [NSLP] and certain other institutional food service programs) and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) were last reauthorized by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (HHFKA, P.L. 111-296). Some of the authorities created or extended in the last reauthorization law expired on September 30, 2015, but the vast majority of operations and activities continue because appropriations laws continued funding.

In the 114th Congress, both committees of jurisdiction—the Senate Committee on...

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...

The United States Withdraws from the TPP

On January 23, President Trump directed the United States Trade Representative (USTR) to withdraw the United States as a signatory to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement; the acting USTR gave notification to that effect on January 30. The TPP is a proposed free trade agreement (FTA), signed by the United States and 11 Asia-Pacific countries on February 4, 2016. The agreement requires ratification by the member countries before it can become effective. Implementing legislation, the vehicle for U.S. ratification, was not submitted by the President or considered by Congress, in part...

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....

Iran’s Presidential Elections

Election and Implications

Iranians went to the polls on May 19, 2017, to vote for president and municipal officials countrywide amid tensions between Iran and the United States. With a 73% turnout of eligible voters, Iran’s Interior Ministry declared the incumbent President Hassan Rouhani the winner late on May 19, winning 57% of the vote to that of his strongest competitor, Ibrahim Raisi, who garnered 38% of the vote. Remaining candidates and invalid votes accounted for the remainder.

In 2013, Rouhani received 50.7% of the votes, narrowly avoiding a run-off in a divided field that...

U.S. Restrictions on Relations with Burma

Major changes in Burma’s political situation since 2008 have raised issues for Congress concerning the appropriateness of U.S. restrictions on relations with Burma (Myanmar). These issues include whether Congress should reexamine U.S. policy toward Burma in general, what criteria are appropriate for analyzing the current situation in Burma, and whether it should make adjustments to current U.S. restrictions on relations with Burma.

On October 7, 2016, former President Obama revoked several executive orders pertaining to sanctions on Burma, and waived restrictions required by Section 5(b)...

North American Free Trade Agreement: Notification for Renegotiation

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 the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) (see CRS In Focus IF10047, North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)). Under U.S. Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) (P.L. 114-26), the President must consult with Congress before giving the required 90-day notice of his intention to start negotiations (see CRS In Focus IF10297, TPP-Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) Timeline). Newly confirmed U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), Ambassador Robert...

Additional Troops for Afghanistan? Considerations for Congress

The Trump Administration is reportedly considering proposals to deploy additional ground forces to Afghanistan and somewhat broaden their mission. These forces would likely be part of the Resolute Support Mission (RSM), the ongoing NATO mission to train and support Afghan security forces. In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on February 9, 2017, General John Nicholson, Commander U.S. Forces–Afghanistan, noted based on a mission review that he had adequate forces for the U.S. counterterrorism mission but there was “a shortfall of a few thousand troops” for RSM if a...

Congressional Nominations to U.S. Service Academies: An Overview and Resources for Outreach and Management

Members of Congress are authorized by law to nominate candidates for appointment to four U.S. service academies. These schools are the U.S. Military Academy, the U.S. Naval Academy, the U.S. Air Force Academy, and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. The fifth service academy, the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, does not require a congressional nomination for appointment. These institutions prepare college-age Americans to be officers of the U.S. uniformed services. Upon graduation, service academy graduates are commissioned as officers in the active or reserve components of the military or...

Federal Health Centers: An Overview

The federal Health Center Program is authorized in Section 330 of the Public Health Service Act (PHSA) (42 U.S.C. §254b) and administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) within the Department of Health and Human Services. The program awards grants to support outpatient primary care facilities that provide care to primarily low-income individuals or individuals located in areas with few health care providers.

Federal health centers are required to provide health care to all individuals, regardless of their ability to pay, and to be located in geographic areas with...

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 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 drilling have...

NATO Funding and Burdensharing

President Donald Trump is scheduled to meet with NATO heads of state and government in Brussels on May 25, 2017. This will be the President’s first collective meeting with his counterparts from NATO’s other 27 member states. President Trump is expected to continue to strongly urge NATO members to increase defense spending and enhance military capabilities.

For numerous reasons—not least the United States’ status as the world’s preeminent military power—U.S. defense spending levels long have been significantly higher than those of any other NATO ally. Since NATO’s founding, successive U.S....

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA): An Overview of Programs and Funding

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), an agency of the Department of Commerce, is the executive branch’s principal advisory office on domestic and international telecommunications and information policies. Its statutory mission includes providing greater access for all Americans to telecommunications services; supporting U.S. efforts to open foreign markets; advising the President on international telecommunications negotiations; and funding research for new technologies and their applications. It is also responsible for managing spectrum use by federal...

The Value of Energy Tax Incentives for Different Types of Energy Resources: In Brief

The U.S. tax code supports the energy sector by providing a number of targeted tax incentives, or tax incentives only available for the energy industry. As Congress evaluates the tax code and contemplates tax reform, there has been 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 2016, the value of...

Malaysia: Background and U.S. Relations

Malaysia, an ethnically diverse majority Muslim nation in Southeast Asia, has long been a partner in U.S. security and economic initiatives in the region, although political sensitivities in Malaysia have constrained both sides from forging deeper ties. Bilateral relations have improved over the past decade. Prime Minister Najib Razak, who came to power in 2009, made relations with the United States a priority early in his administration. More recently he has moved to deepen trade and economic ties with China. Congress has shown interest in a variety of issues in U.S.-Malaysia relations...

The Protection of Classified Information: The Legal Framework

This report provides an overview of the relationship between executive and legislative authority over national security information. It summarizes the current laws that form the legal framework protecting classified information, including current executive orders and some agency regulations pertaining to the handling of unauthorized disclosures of classified information by government officers and employees. The report also summarizes criminal laws that pertain specifically to the unauthorized disclosure of classified information, as well as civil and administrative penalties. Finally, the...

The Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA): Compensation Related to Exposure to Radiation from Atomic Weapons Testing and Uranium Mining

The Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) provides one-time benefit payments to persons who may have developed cancer or other specified diseases after being exposed to radiation from atomic weapons testing or uranium mining, milling, or transporting. Administered by the Department of Justice (DOJ), RECA has awarded nearly $2 billion in benefits to more than 30,000 claimants since its inception in 1990. The RECA program is scheduled to sunset in 2022.

RECA benefits are available to the following groups:

onsite participants—$75,000 to persons who participated onsite in the atmospheric...

Factors Related to the Use of Planned Parenthood Affiliated Health Centers (PPAHCs) and Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs)

Recent debates about federal funding for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) and its affiliated health centers (PPAHCs) have raised questions about the services that PPAHCs provide and the availability of alternative facilities to provide similar services to disadvantaged populations. This report provides background information and data that may be useful for policymakers evaluating these recent debates. Although a number of other facility types could potentially provide similar services as PPAHCs, this report focuses on federally qualified health centers (FQHCs)—a term...

Enrollment of Legislation: Relevant Congressional Procedures

An enrolled bill or resolution is the form of a measure finally agreed to by both chambers of Congress. Enrollment occurs in the chamber where the measure originated and is carried out by enrolling clerks under the supervision of the Clerk of the House of Representatives and Secretary of the Senate. Enrolled bills and joint resolutions are signed by the presiding officers of each chamber (or their designees) and are presented to the President by the House Clerk or Secretary of the Senate, depending on the chamber of origination.

In instances in which Congress determines that the enrolled...

Reid Vapor Pressure Requirements for Ethanol

Legislation has been introduced in Congress (H.R. 1311, S. 517) that would give ethanol-gasoline fuel blends containing greater than 10% ethanol (e.g., E15, an ethanol-gasoline fuel blend of 15% ethanol and 85% gasoline) a waiver from the Clean Air Act (CAA) requirement that gasoline meet strict limits on volatility. At present, E15 cannot be sold during summer months because it does not meet the Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) requirements for the summer ozone season (generally June 1-September 15). This waiver could be a favorable development to some stakeholders that want increased market...

Buying American: Protecting U.S. Manufacturing Through the Berry and Kissell Amendments

The Berry and Kissell Amendments are two separate but closely related laws requiring that certain goods purchased by national security agencies be produced in the United States.

The Berry Amendment (10 U.S.C. §2533a) is the popular name for a law requiring textiles, clothing, food, and hand or measuring tools purchased by the Department of Defense (DOD) to be grown, reprocessed, reused, or produced wholly in the United States. Congress over the decades has varied the list of products covered by the law. Under the Kissell Amendment (6 U.S.C. §453b), textile, apparel, and footwear products...

The 2006 U.S.-Canada Softwood Lumber Trade Agreement (SLA): In Brief

Softwood lumber imports from Canada have been a persistent concern to Congress for decades. Canada is an important trading partner, but lumber production is a significant industry in many states, and the U.S. lumber producers are a powerful economic influence. U.S. lumber producers claim that they are at an unfair competitive disadvantage in the domestic market against Canadian lumber producers because of Canada’s timber pricing policies. This has resulted in five major disputes (so-called “lumber wars”) between the United States and Canada since the 1980s.

Tension between the United...

Fact Sheet: FY2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) DOD Reform Proposals

This fact sheet offers Members a side-by-side comparison of key Department of Defense (DOD) reform proposals that were considered during the FY2017 National Defense Authorization Act debates, along with proposals that were eventually enacted. As such, it includes key provisions incorporated in H.R. 4909, the FY2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) reported by the House Armed Services Committee on May 4, 2016 (H.Rept. 114-537); S. 2943, the FY2017 National Defense Authorization Act reported by the Senate Armed Services Committee on May 18, 2016 (S.Rept. 114-255); and S. 2943, the...

A Little Old, a Little New: The Cybersecurity Executive Order

The President signed Executive Order 13800 (EO) on May 11, 2017, titled “Strengthening the Cybersecurity of Federal Networks and Critical Infrastructure.” Combined with the President’s budget blueprint and recent EO establishing the American Technology Council, these documents lay out the Administration’s policy agenda concerning national cybersecurity—which to date focuses on improving federal information technology (IT) systems. The proposals contained in the EO echo proposals from the previous Administration and recent legislative activity.

Federal Network Cybersecurity

The new EO...

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 provided in the Legislative Branch Appropriations bill and other appropriation acts.

On February 28, 2017, the Senate agreed by unanimous consent to S.Res. 62, which authorized a total of $198.2 million for...

The National Science Foundation: FY2017 Appropriations and Funding History

The National Science Foundation (NSF) supports both basic research and education in the non-medical sciences and engineering. NSF is a major source of federal support for U.S. university research, especially in certain fields such as mathematics and computer science. It is also responsible for significant shares of the federal science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education program portfolio and federal STEM student aid and support.

Overall, the Obama Administration sought $7.964 billion for NSF in FY2017, a $501 million (6.7%) increase over the FY2016 estimate of $7.463...

OPEC and Non-OPEC Crude Oil Production Agreement: Compliance Status

Founded in 1960 by Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) currently has 13 member countries that represent approximately 40% of global oil (e.g., crude oil, condensate, natural gas liquids) production. OPEC can influence global oil prices through coordinated production decisions that can impact the global oil market supply and demand balance. Additionally, through statements and announcements, OPEC and member countries can affect oil market sentiment that can influence oil prices.

Oil supply decisions by OPEC and its...

Presidential Transitions: Issues Involving Outgoing and Incoming Administrations

The crux of a presidential transition is the transfer of executive power from the incumbent to the President-elect. Yet the transition process encompasses a host of activities, beginning with pre-election planning and continuing through inauguration day. The process ensures that the federal government provides resources to presidential candidates’ transition teams, and, eventually, the President-elect’s team; and includes close coordination between the outgoing and incoming Administrations. The Presidential Transition Act (PTA) of 1963, as amended, established formal mechanisms to...

Senate Unanimous Consent Agreements: Potential Effects on the Amendment Process

The Senate frequently enters into unanimous consent agreements (also called “UC agreements”) that establish procedure on a bill that the Senate is considering or will soon consider. There are few restrictions on what these agreements can provide, and once agreed to, they can be altered only by a further unanimous consent action. In recent practice, the Senate often begins by adopting a general UC agreement, then adds elements in piecemeal fashion as debate continues. UC agreements often contain provisions affecting the floor amending process, most often in one or more of the ways detailed below.

Air Traffic Inc.: Considerations Regarding the Corporatization of Air Traffic Control

Over the past 40 years, Congress has intermittently considered proposals to establish a government corporation or private entity to carry out air traffic functions currently provided by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). While the issue had been relatively dormant since a proposal offered by the Clinton Administration in the 1990s failed to gain the support of Congress, interest reemerged following budget sequester-related funding cuts to FAA in FY2013. In the 114th Congress, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee ordered H.R. 4441, an FAA reauthorization bill that...

The Speaker of the House: House Officer, Party Leader, and Representative

The Speaker of the House of Representatives is widely viewed as symbolizing the power and authority of the House. The Speaker’s most prominent role is that of presiding officer of the House. In this capacity, the Speaker is empowered by House rules to administer proceedings on the House floor, including recognition of Members to speak on the floor or make motions and appointment of Members to conference committees. The Speaker also oversees much of the nonlegislative business of the House, such as general control over the Hall of the House and the House side of the Capitol and service as...

Background and Federal Efforts on Summer Youth Employment

Labor force activity for youth ages 16 to 24 has been in decline since the late 1990s. This trend has been consistent even during the summer months, when youth are most likely to be engaged in work. Labor force data from the month of July highlight changes in summer employment over time. For example, the employment rate—known as the employment to population (E/P) ratio—for youth was 64.1% in July 1996 and 53.2% in July 2016. Congress has long been concerned about ensuring that young people have productive pathways to adulthood, particularly for those youth who are low-income and have...

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...

Regulation of Debit Interchange Fees

The United States has seen continued growth of electronic card payments (and a simultaneous decrease in check payments). From 2009 through 2012, debit card transactions have outpaced other payment forms. When a consumer uses a debit card in a transaction, the merchant pays a “swipe” fee, which is also known as the interchange fee. The interchange fee is paid to the card-issuing bank (i.e., the consumer’s bank that issued the debit card) as compensation for facilitating the transaction. Section 1075 of the Consumer Financial Protection Act of 2010 (or Title X of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street...

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative: Lessons Learned and Issues for Congress

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) was the nation’s first mandatory cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. RGGI involves nine states—Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The RGGI cap-and-trade system applies only to carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from electric power plants with capacities to generate 25 megawatts or more—approximately 168 facilities. The RGGI emissions cap took effect January 1, 2009, based on an agreement signed by RGGI governors in 2005.

The results of the RGGI program...

Judiciary Appropriations, FY2017

Funds for the judicial branch are included annually in the Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) Appropriations bill. The bill provides funding for the Supreme Court; the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit; the U.S. Court of International Trade; the U.S. Courts of Appeals and District Courts; Defender Services; Court Security; Fees of Jurors and Commissioners; the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts; the Federal Judicial Center; the U.S. Sentencing Commission; and Judicial Retirement Funds.

The judiciary’s FY2017 budget request of $7.58 billion was submitted on...

The Electoral College: How It Works in Contemporary Presidential Elections

When Americans vote for a President and Vice President, they are actually choosing presidential electors, known collectively as the electoral college. It is these officials who choose the President and Vice President of the United States. The complex elements comprising the electoral college system are responsible for election of the President and Vice President.

The 2016 presidential contest was noteworthy for the first simultaneous occurrence in presidential election history of four rarely occurring electoral college eventualities. These included (1) the election of a President and Vice...

The Growing Gap in Life Expectancy by Income: Recent Evidence and Implications for the Social Security Retirement Age

Life expectancy is a population-level measure that refers to the average number of years an individual will live. Although life expectancy has generally been increasing over time in the United States, researchers have long documented that it is lower for individuals with lower socioeconomic status (SES) compared with individuals with higher SES. Recent studies provide evidence that this gap has widened in recent decades. For example, a 2015 study by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) found that for men born in 1930, individuals in the highest income quintile (top 20%) could expect to...

Congress’s Contempt Power and the Enforcement of Congressional Subpoenas: Law, History, Practice, and Procedure

Congress’s contempt power is the means by which Congress responds to certain acts that in its view obstruct the legislative process. Contempt may be used either to coerce compliance, to punish the contemnor, and/or to remove the obstruction. Although arguably any action that directly obstructs the effort of Congress to exercise its constitutional powers may constitute a contempt, in recent times the contempt power has most often been employed in response to non-compliance with a duly issued congressional subpoena—whether in the form of a refusal to appear before a committee for purposes of...

Use of the Annual Appropriations Process to Block Implementation of the Affordable Care Act (FY2011-FY2017)

Congress is deeply divided over implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the health reform law enacted in March 2010. Since the ACA’s enactment, lawmakers opposed to specific provisions in the ACA or the entire law have repeatedly debated its implementation and considered bills to repeal, defund, delay, or otherwise amend the law.

In addition to considering ACA repeal or amendment in authorizing legislation, some lawmakers have used the annual appropriations process in an effort to eliminate funding for the ACA’s implementation and address other aspects of the law. ACA-related...

FY2017 Agriculture and Related Agencies Appropriations: In Brief

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). (For CFTC, the Agriculture appropriations subcommittee has jurisdiction in the House but not in the Senate.)

Agriculture appropriations include both mandatory and discretionary spending. Discretionary amounts, though, are the primary focus during the bill’s development, since mandatory amounts are generally set by authorizing laws such as the...

Cost-Benefit Analysis and Financial Regulator Rulemaking

Cost-benefit analysis (CBA) in the federal rulemaking process is the systematic examination, estimation, and comparison of the potential economic costs and benefits resulting from the promulgation of a new rule. Agencies with rulemaking authority implement regulations that carry the force of law. While this system allows technical rules to be designed by experts that are to some degree insulated from political considerations, it also results in rules being implemented by executive branch staff that arguably are not directly accountable to the electorate.

One method for Congress to...

Selected Homeland Security Issues in the 115th Congress

In 2001, in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11th, “homeland security” went from being a concept discussed among a relatively small cadre of policymakers and strategic thinkers to a broadly discussed issue among policymakers, including 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) and the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Evolution of America’s response to terrorist threats has continued under the leadership of different Administrations,...

EPA’s and BLM’s Methane Rules

In 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) promulgated separate regulations intended to control “methane emissions” at crude oil and natural gas production facilities. Some stakeholders have argued that the EPA and BLM rules are duplicative and outside of the agencies’ statutory authorities. The BLM rule was eligible for consideration under the Congressional Review Act, and on February 3, 2017, the House passed a joint resolution of disapproval (H.J.Res. 36) to repeal it. The Senate rejected the motion to proceed to H.J.Res. 36 on May...

Administration of the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program

The William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) program, authorized under Title IV, Part D of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA), is the primary federal student loan program. It makes available loans to undergraduate and graduate students and the parents of dependent undergraduate students to help them finance postsecondary education expenses. As of the end of FY2016, there was approximately $949.1 billion in outstanding Direct Loan program loans. Direct Loan program administrative expenses totaled approximately $771 million in FY2016.

Under the Direct Loan program, the federal...

The Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act of 2017: Congressional Direction to NOAA in P.L. 115-25

Congress provides direction on a broad range of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) weather-related activities in Titles I through IV of P.L. 115-25, the Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act of 2017, signed into law on April 18, 2017. The legislation aims to improve NOAA’s weather forecasts and warnings, both for the protection of lives and property and for the enhancement of the national economy. The act also covers topics such as future weather satellite data needs, gaps in the Next Generation Weather Radar (NEXRAD) coverage, and improvements in the...

Casework in a Congressional Office: Background, Rules, Laws, and Resources

In a congressional office, the term casework refers to the response or services that Members of Congress provide to constituents who request assistance. Each year, thousands of constituents turn to Members of Congress with a wide range of requests, from the simple to the complex. Members and their staffs help constituents deal with administrative agencies by acting as facilitators, ombudsmen, and, in some cases, advocates. In addition to serving individual constituents, some congressional offices also consider as casework liaison activities between the federal government and local...

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.

Federal Deductibility of State and Local Taxes

Under current law, taxpayers who itemize can deduct state and local real estate taxes, personal property taxes, and income taxes from federal income when calculating taxable income. A deduction for sales taxes in lieu of income taxes is also available. The federal deduction for state and local taxes results in the federal government paying part of these state and local taxes through lower federal tax collections. Theory would suggest that taxpayers are willing to accept higher state and local tax rates and greater state and local public spending because of lower federal income taxes...

H-2A and H-2B Temporary Worker Visas: Policy and Related Issues

Under current law, certain foreign workers, sometimes referred to as guest workers, may be admitted to the United States to perform temporary service or labor under two temporary worker visas: the H-2A visa for agricultural workers and the H-2B visa for nonagricultural workers. Both programs are administered by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Labor (DOL).

The H-2A and H-2B programs—and guest worker programs broadly—strive both to be responsive to legitimate employer needs for temporary labor and to provide adequate protections for U.S. and foreign temporary...

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...

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 FY2016, 8(a) firms were awarded more than $27 billion in federal contracts, including $8.5 billion in 8(a) set-aside awards and $8.7 billion in 8(a)...

USDA Announces Plans to Modify School Meal Nutrition Standards: Background and Context

On May 1, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) plans to make changes to nutrition standards for the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program; he also signed a proclamation to this effect. The proclamation describes plans to relax whole grain, sodium, and milk requirements but does not mention changes to other aspects of the meals’ nutrition standards. The current standards were largely finalized via regulation in 2012 in accordance with the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (P.L. 111-296) and were championed...

Zika Virus: CRS Experts

In late 2015, health officials in Brazil recognized a marked increase in the number of infants born with microcephaly (from Greek, meaning “small head”), a birth defect that may accompany significant, permanent brain damage. Although not conclusive, the increase in microcephaly is suspected to be related to the emergence of Zika virus infections in Brazil early in 2015.

Zika virus is related to the viruses that cause yellow fever, dengue, West Nile, and Japanese encephalitis viruses. Historically Zika virus was found in Africa. Since 2007, Zika transmission has also occurred in Southeast...

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 2017, Congress appropriated over $192 million to address these two issues.

Most of the appropriated funds have been used by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) for the environmental cleanup of Danang airport, one of the major airbases used for storing and spraying the herbicides between 1961...

FBI Director: Appointment and Tenure

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. Over this time, seven nominations have been confirmed and two have been 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 appointment of the incumbent....

Benefits for Service-Disabled Veterans

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) administers programs to qualified former U.S. servicemembers (veterans). This report describes programs that provide benefits to veterans with service-connected disabilities (service-disabled veterans). These benefits can compensate a veteran for an injury or provide assistance to enable a veteran to have a higher quality of life.

To qualify for the benefits discussed in this report, a veteran must have a physical or mental condition that was “incurred or aggravated” in the line of military duty and that results in a disability. Service-connected...

Review of Offshore Energy Leasing: President Trump’s Executive Order

On April 28, 2017, President Trump issued an executive order (E.O.) on U.S. offshore energy strategy. The E.O. declares a policy goal of fostering U.S. energy leadership and energy security by encouraging energy development, while ensuring that activities are safe and environmentally responsible. In support of this goal, the E.O.

directs the Secretary of the Interior to review and consider revising the federal offshore oil and gas leasing schedule and other policies established by the Obama Administration and

modifies earlier presidential withdrawals of offshore areas from leasing...

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.

U.S. manufacturing output has risen approximately 22% since the most recent low point in 2009, but almost all of that expansion occurred prior to the end of 2014. The upswing in manufacturing...

Emerging Infectious Disease: Yellow Fever in Brazil

Introduction

Yellow fever is a disease transmitted by mosquitoes endemic in 47 countries across sub-Saharan Africa and South America (see Figure 1). Roughly 90% of annual yellow fever cases typically occur in sub-Saharan Africa. An ongoing yellow fever outbreak in Brazil and the re-emergence of the disease across South America is the latest event highlighting the global threat of emerging infectious diseases (EID). All of the countries in South America that detected cases in 2016 (Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Suriname) have contained the outbreaks except Brazil. As of May...

Cost and Benefit Considerations in Clean Air Act Regulations

The Clean Air Act (CAA) gives the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) broad authority to set ambient air quality standards to protect public health and welfare. It authorizes emission standards for both mobile and stationary air pollution sources, including cars, trucks, factories, power plants, fuels, consumer products, and dozens of other source categories. Since 1970, EPA has used this authority to require emission controls for these sources. Emissions of the most widespread (“criteria”) pollutants have been reduced by 72% during that period.

As directed by Congress and by executive...

Terrorism in Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia is home to more than 625 million people and around 15% of the world’s Muslim population. The region has faced the threat of terrorism for decades, but threats in Southeast Asia have never been considered as great as threats in some other regions. However, the rise of the Islamic State poses new, heightened challenges for Southeast Asian governments and for U.S. policy towards the region.

Southeast Asia has numerous dynamic economies and three Muslim-majority states, including the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation, Indonesia, which also is the world’s third largest...

The Meaning of “Made in U.S.A.”

Numerous provisions in federal law are intended to support manufacturing in the United States. Almost without exception, these provisions define manufacturing as the process of physically transforming goods. Physical transformation involves what might be thought of as traditional manufacturing activities such as molding, cutting, and assembly. These laws establish a variety of potential benefits, preferences, or penalties based on the country in which physical transformation occurs. On April 18, 2017, President Trump issued an executive order directing federal agencies to ensure that...

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...

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...

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,...

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 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...

Presidential Appointee Positions Requiring Senate Confirmation and Committees Handling Nominations

As part of the process of making an appointment to an advice and consent position, the President submits a nomination to the Senate. Most nominations are referred to the appropriate Senate committee or committees on the day they are received. Such referrals are guided by Senate Rule XXV, which establishes the subject matter under the purview of each committee and directs that “all proposed legislation, messages, petitions, memorials, and other matters relating primarily to [those] subjects” be referred to that committee. Precedents set by prior referrals, standing orders, and unanimous...

The U.S. Tsunami Program Reauthorization in P.L. 115-25: Section-by-Section Comparison to P.L. 109-479, Title VIII

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) National Weather Service (NWS) manages two tsunami warning centers, which monitor, detect, and issue warnings for tsunamis. The NWS operates the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) at Ford Island, HI, and the National Tsunami Warning Center (NTWC) at Palmer, AK. The tsunami warning centers monitor and evaluate data from seismic networks and determine if a tsunami is likely based on the location, magnitude, and depth of an earthquake. The centers monitor relevant water-level data, typically with tide-level gauges, and data...

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.

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,...

Trade Implications of the President’s Buy American Executive Order

With the April 18, 2017, issuance of President Trump’s Executive Order on Buy American and Hire American, U.S. procurement obligations with 57 countries under the World Trade Organization (WTO) Government Procurement Agreement (GPA), the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and other U.S. free trade agreements (FTAs) are coming under scrutiny. Some may question whether the order, when implemented, could conflict with current U.S. obligations under these agreements. More specifically, could the EO run counter to U.S. policy on government procurement, which generally seeks to balance...

Frequently Asked Questions About Prescription Drug Pricing and Policy

Prescription drugs play an important role in the U.S. health care system. Innovative, breakthrough drugs are providing cures for diseases such as hepatitis C and helping individuals with chronic conditions lead fuller lives. Studies show that prescription drug therapy can produce health care savings by reducing the number of hospitalizations and other costly medical procedures.

Congress has attempted to ensure that Americans have access to pharmaceuticals by enacting the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit as part of the Medicare Modernization and Prescription Drug Act of 2003 (MMA;...

Revitalizing Coastal Shipping for Domestic Commerce

In recent years, domestic shipborne commerce has lost much of its market to other modes. Although potential shipping routes run parallel to congested truck, railroad, and pipeline routes along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and in the Great Lakes region, the volume of cargo carried by domestic ships has declined by 61% since 1960, while the volume carried by other modes, including river barges, has more than doubled. Use of domestic ships has retreated to routes where overland modes are not available, such as between Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Alaska and the U.S. mainland, and where oil...

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 2017 is Age Out Loud. 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 from the...

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 recognized its parliamentarian in 1935. At present, the House parliamentarian is assisted by a deputy parliamentarian, four assistant parliamentarians, and three clerks. The Senate office currently comprises the parliamentarian, a senior assistant parliamentarian, two assistant parliamentarians, and a...

Committee Types and Roles

Congress divides its legislative, oversight, and internal administrative tasks among more than 200 committees and subcommittees. Within assigned areas, these functional subunits gather information; compare and evaluate legislative alternatives; identify policy problems and propose solutions; select, determine, and report measures for full chamber consideration; monitor executive branch performance (oversight); and investigate allegations of wrongdoing.

The Strategic Petroleum Reserve: Authorization, Operation, and Drawdown Policy

Congress authorized the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) in the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA) of 1975 to help prevent a repetition of the economic disruption caused by the 1973-1974 Arab oil embargo. EPCA specifically authorizes the President to draw down the SPR upon a finding that there is a “severe energy supply interruption.” The meaning of a “severe energy supply interruption” has, over time, been controversial. The authors of EPCA intended the SPR only to ameliorate discernible physical shortages of crude oil. Historically, increasing crude oil prices typically signal...

Executive Order for Review of National Monuments

The Antiquities Act of 1906 authorizes the President to proclaim national monuments on federal lands that contain “historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and 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.” From 1906 to date, Presidents have established 157 monuments and have enlarged, diminished, or otherwise modified previously proclaimed monuments.

On April 26, 2017, President Trump issued an executive order requiring the Secretary of the...

Patent Boxes: A Primer

Economists generally agree that government support for private investment in research and development (R&D) is useful in correcting a market failure that predisposes most companies to invest less for that purpose than the overall economic benefits from R&D investments would warrant. The market failure stems from a company’s inability to capture all the returns to its R&D investments as a result of the spillover effects of successful R&D investments.

Most governments offer some kind of support for R&D, including tax incentives for business R&D investments. The U.S. government provides a tax...

What Does the Gig Economy Mean for Workers?

The gig economy is the collection of markets that match providers to consumers on a gig (or job) basis in support of on-demand commerce. In the basic model, gig workers enter into formal agreements with on-demand companies (e.g., Uber, TaskRabbit) to provide services to the company’s clients. Prospective clients request services through an Internet-based technological platform or smartphone application that allows them to search for providers or to specify jobs. Providers (i.e., gig workers) engaged by the on-demand company provide the requested service and are compensated for the jobs....

France’s 2017 Presidential Election: In Brief

French voters will elect France’s next president in a runoff election scheduled for May 7, 2017. They will choose between the top two finishers of the presidential election’s first round, held on April 23—Emmanuel Macron of the centrist En Marche! (Moving Forward) political movement and Marine Le Pen of the far-right, nationalist Front National (National Front).

The presidential campaign has exposed apparent wide-scale public dissatisfaction both with the presidency of outgoing President François Hollande and, more broadly, with a French political establishment perceived by many as...

Advanced Gene Editing: CRISPR-Cas9

Scientists have long sought the ability to control and modify DNA—the code of life. A new gene editing technology known as CRISPR-Cas9 offers the potential for substantial improvement over previous 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...

Vulnerable Youth: Employment and Job Training Programs

In an increasingly global economy, and with retirement underway for the Baby Boomer generation, Congress has indicated a strong interest in ensuring that today’s young people have the educational attainment and employment experience needed to become highly skilled workers, contributing taxpayers, and successful participants in civic life. Challenges in the economy and among certain youth populations, however, have heightened concern among policymakers that some young people may not be prepared to fill these roles. The employment levels for youth under age 25 have declined markedly in...

Unemployment Insurance: Legislative Issues in the 114th Congress

The 114th Congress considered many issues related to unemployment insurance (UI) programs: Unemployment Compensation (UC), the temporary, now-expired Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC08), and Extended Benefits (EB). This report gives a brief overview of the UI programs that may provide benefits to eligible unemployed workers. In addition, it briefly summarizes the President’s budget proposal for FY2017.

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016, P.L. 114-92, altered certain conditions for individuals to receive Unemployment Compensation for Former Servicemembers...

The National Security Council: Background and Issues for Congress

On April 4, 2017, the Trump Administration issued National Security Presidential Memorandum (NSPM)-4: Organization of the National Security Council, the Homeland Security Council, and Subcommittees. NSPM-4 details how the executive branch intends to manage and coordinate national and homeland security issues among relevant departments and agencies. This NSPM augments an earlier articulation from the Trump Administration regarding the management of national security matters, as expressed in NSPM-2, which was issued on January 28, 2017.

This report offers a brief historical overview of the...

Department of Defense Contractor and Troop Levels in Iraq and Afghanistan: 2007-2017

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.

Terms for metadata: Iraq, Afghanistan, contractors, troop levels, Overseas Contingency Operations, OCO, private...

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 high level of bilateral trade, 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, while the United States is, by far, Mexico’s largest trading partner. Mexico ranks third as a source of U.S. imports, after China and Canada, and second, after Canada,...

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.

The United States has assessed that Tehran has technological and industrial capacity to...

The Loan Limits for Government-Backed Mortgages

The federal government supports homeownership in different ways. One of the main ways is through programs or quasi-government entities that promise lenders or investors that if a homeowner defaults on a covered mortgage, the lender or investor will still receive some—or all—of the amount it was owed. In some cases, the guarantees support homeownership by making private lenders more willing to offer certain types of mortgages. In other cases, the guarantees provided by these entities may increase the number of private investors who are willing to invest in mortgages, thereby increasing the...

The Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA): Workers’ Compensation for Federal Employees

The Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA) is the workers’ compensation program for federal employees. Like all workers’ compensation programs, FECA pays disability, survivors, and medical benefits, without fault, to employees who are injured or become ill in the course of their federal employment and the survivors of employees killed on the job. The FECA program is administered by the Department of Labor (DOL) and the costs of benefits are paid by each employee’s host agency. U.S. Postal Service (USPS) employees currently comprise the largest group of FECA beneficiaries and are...

Law Enforcement Using and Disclosing Technology Vulnerabilities

There has been increased discussion about law enforcement legally “hacking” and accessing certain information about or on devices or servers. Law enforcement has explored various avenues to discover and exploit vulnerabilities in technology so it may attempt to uncover information relevant to a case that might otherwise be inaccessible. For instance, as people have adopted tools to conceal their physical locations and anonymize their online activities, law enforcement reports that it has become more difficult to locate bad actors and attribute certain malicious activity to specific...

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC): A Brief Legislative History

The earned income tax credit (EITC), when first enacted on a temporary basis in 1975, was a modest tax credit that provided financial assistance to low-income, working families with children. After various legislative changes over the past 40 years, the credit is now one of the federal government’s largest antipoverty programs. Since the EITC’s enactment, Congress has shown increasing interest in using refundable tax credits for a variety of purposes, from reducing the tax burdens of families with children (the child tax credit), to helping families afford higher education (the American...

Central Valley Project Operations: Background and Legislation

After five years of drought, rain and snowstorms in Northern and Central California in the winter of 2016-2017 significantly improved water supply conditions in the state in 2017. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, as of late April 2017, less than 1% of the state was in severe drought conditions. This represents an improvement from one year prior to that date, when 73% of the state was in severe drought conditions, and two years prior, when 92% fell under this designation.

Stress on water supplies due to drought resulted in cutbacks in water deliveries to districts receiving water...

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.

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...

U.S. Physical Infrastructure: CRS Experts

A nation’s physical infrastructure (for example, its transportation, water, energy, and communications systems and structures) serves as arteries for its economic and societal activity. The infrastructure of the United States was considered to be among the finest in the world, as post-World War II growth saw large amounts of investment in much of that infrastructure. Since all infrastructure structures and equipment have a finite useful life, some would say that functionality of U.S. infrastructure has declined over time.

Estimates of cost to meet the needs of the infrastructure sectors...

Mexico: Organized Crime and Drug Trafficking Organizations

The notorious drug trafficking kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán is now imprisoned in the United States awaiting trial, following the Mexican government’s decision to extradite him to the United States on January 19, 2017, the day before President Trump took office. Guzmán is charged with operating a continuing criminal enterprise and conducting drug-related crimes as the purported leader of the Mexican criminal syndicate commonly known as the Sinaloa cartel. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) maintains that the Sinaloa cartel has the widest reach into U.S. cities of any...

China’s February 2017 Suspension of North Korean Coal Imports

On February 18, 2017, China’s Ministry of Commerce and its General Administration of Customs jointly announced a suspension of China’s imports of coal from North Korea, also known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), for the remainder of 2017. The suspension appeared to signal China’s intention to keep its 2017 imports of North Korean coal in line with United Nations restrictions imposed in November 2016 in response to Pyongyang’s continued development of its nuclear and missile programs. China’s announcement came at a time when the Trump Administration was calling on China...

Deferred Maintenance of Federal Land Management Agencies: FY2007-FY2016 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. Deferred maintenance and repair is often called...

Mexico’s Free Trade Agreements

Mexico has had a growing commitment to trade integration and liberalization through the formation of free trade agreements (FTAs) since the 1990s, and its trade policy is among the most open in the world. Mexico’s pursuit of FTAs with other countries not only provides economic benefits, but could also potentially reduce its economic dependence on the United States. The United States is, by far, Mexico’s most significant trading partner. Approximately 80% of Mexico’s exports go to the United States, and about 47% of Mexico’s imports are supplied by the United States. In an effort to...

The Greek Debt Crisis: Overview and Implications for the United States

Crisis Overview

Since 2009, Greece has grappled with a serious debt crisis. Most economists believe that Greece’s public debt, 180% of Greek gross domestic product (GDP), is unsustainable. The ramifications of the debt have been felt throughout the Greek economy, which contracted by 25% from its pre-crisis level. A fifth of Greeks are unemployed, with youth unemployment at nearly 50%, and the Greek banking system is unstable. Although other Eurozone governments, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the European Central Bank coordinated a substantial crisis response, Greece continues...

Clean Air Act: A Summary of the Act and Its Major Requirements

This report summarizes the Clean Air Act and its major regulatory requirements. It excerpts, with minor modifications, the Clean Air Act chapter of CRS Report RL30798, Environmental Laws: Summaries of Major Statutes Administered by the Environmental Protection Agency, which summarizes a dozen environmental statutes that form the basis for the programs of the Environmental Protection Agency.

The principal statute addressing air quality concerns, the Clean Air Act was first enacted in 1955, with major revisions in 1970, 1977, and 1990. The act requires EPA to set health-based standards for...

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.

U.S. Circuit and District Court Nominations: Comparative Statistics of Two-Term Presidencies Since 1945

This Insight provides comparative statistics related to the nomination and confirmation of U.S. circuit and district court judges during the eighth year of two-term presidencies since 1945 (i.e., the Truman, Eisenhower, Reagan, Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama presidencies). It also provides cumulative comparative statistics for the entire terms of these same six presidencies. Previous CRS research has analyzed final Senate action on judicial nominations during the eighth year of the Reagan, Clinton, and George W. Bush presidencies.

Nominees Confirmed During a President’s Eighth Year

As...

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...

Constitutional Points of Order in the Senate

In general, the Senate’s presiding officer does not take the initiative in enforcing Senate rules and precedents. Instead, a Senator may raise a point of order if he or she believes the Senate is taking (or is about to take) an action that violates the rules. In most circumstances, the presiding officer rules on the point of order on advice of the Parliamentarian; that ruling is typically subject to an appeal on which the Senate votes (unless the appeal is tabled or withdrawn). Pursuant to Rule XX, however, in certain circumstances a point of order is not ruled on by the presiding officer...

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 Senate’s Executive Calendar

Treaties and nominations constitute the executive business of the Senate and are the subjects of the Senate’s Executive Calendar. When a Senate committee reports a treaty or nomination, it is said to be placed “on the calendar” and is available for floor consideration. In addition, there is a category of nominations that are not immediately referred to committee, but instead placed directly on the Executive Calendar under the heading, “Privileged Nominations.”

Most treaties and nominations must be reported from committee and placed on the calendar to be eligible for floor consideration,...

The Budget Control Act and the Defense Budget: Frequently Asked Questions

Following lengthy congressional deliberations on deficit reduction, the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA/P.L. 112-25) was enacted on August 2, 2011. The BCA contained several measures intended to reduce the budget deficit by $2.1 trillion over the period FY2012-FY2021. The BCA established limits on the level of discretionary spending in order to achieve projected savings of approximately $1.0 trillion over the period. In addition, the BCA required approximately $1.1 trillion in savings to be generated from a plan developed by the congressionally established, bipartisan, Joint Committee on...

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act: Background and Summary

Beginning in 2007, U.S. financial conditions deteriorated, leading to the near-collapse of the U.S. financial system in September 2008. Major commercial banks, insurers, government-sponsored enterprises, and investment banks either failed or required hundreds of billions in federal support to continue functioning. Households were hit hard by drops in the prices of real estate and financial assets, and by a sharp rise in unemployment. Congress responded to the crisis by enacting the most comprehensive financial reform legislation since the 1930s.

Then-Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner...

Airline Passenger Denied Boarding: Rules and Regulations

The removal of a seated passenger from a full United Airlines flight on April 9, 2017, has spurred discussions about federal regulation of airline overbooking. Overbooking is a carrier’s intentional acceptance of more reservations for a specific flight than the number of seats available on the aircraft. It is not illegal for airlines to overbook, and the practice occurs frequently. In many cases passengers are unaware that a flight is overbooked, because “no shows” or last-minute cancellations leave sufficient room for all ticketed passengers.

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT)...

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.

The Senate’s Calendar of Business

The Senate’s Calendar of Business lists bills, resolutions, and other items of legislative business that are eligible for floor consideration. When a Senate committee reports a bill, it is said to be placed “on the calendar.” It is not in order for the majority leader or any other Senator to move that the Senate proceed to the consideration of a measure that is not on the calendar, though the majority leader could ask unanimous consent to do so. A Senate measure that is not on the calendar either has been referred to a committee and is awaiting committee action, or it is being “held at the...

New Canadian Dairy Pricing Regime Proves Disruptive for U.S. Milk Producers

A new pricing regime—the National Ingredient Strategy—that was introduced in Canada in February 2017 for certain dairy product ingredients is creating negative spillover effects for some U.S. dairy product exports and for certain milk producers in border states whose milk deliveries to processors are dependent upon this trade.

Press reports indicate that some 75 dairy farms in Wisconsin have been advised that their milk delivery contracts with a local milk processor will not be renewed as of May 1, 2017, because of the new pricing regime in Canada. Some dairy farmers in Minnesota have...

Turkey: Erdogan’s Referendum Victory Delivers “Presidential System”

Based on unofficial results released by Turkish officials, constitutional changes to establish a “presidential system” in Turkey appear to have been adopted via a 51.4% favorable vote in an April 16, 2017, nationwide referendum. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) had campaigned vigorously in support of the changes after obtaining the requisite parliamentary approval with the support of the Nationalist Action Party (MHP) in January 2017. Assuming the outcome holds despite some allegations of irregularities, most of the changes—including the...

Lobbying Registration and Disclosure: The Role of the Clerk of the House and the Secretary of the Senate

On September 14, 2007, President George W. Bush signed S. 1, the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007 (P.L. 110-81), into law. The Honest Leadership and Open Government Act (HLOGA) amended the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA) of 1995 (P.L. 104-65, as amended) to provide, among other changes to federal law and House and Senate rules, additional and more frequent disclosures of lobbying contacts and activities. This report explains the role of the Clerk of the House of Representatives and the Secretary of the Senate in implementing lobbying registration and disclosure requirements...

Gun Control: Federal Law and Legislative Action in the 114th Congress

In the 114th Congress, the Senate debated several gun proposals following two high-fatality mass shootings in December 2015 and June 2016. After both shootings, Senate debate coalesced around the following issues:

Should the Attorney General be given the authority to deny firearms (and explosives) transfers to persons she determines to be “dangerous terrorists”?

Should federal background check requirements be expanded to include intrastate firearms transfers among private, unlicensed persons?

Should grants be provided or withheld to encourage state, local, municipal, tribal, and...

OMB Lifts Hiring Freeze and Issues Plan to Reduce and Reform the Federal Civilian Workforce

On April 12, 2017, Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Mick Mulvaney issued a memorandum titled, “Comprehensive Plan for Reforming the Federal Government and Reducing the Federal Civilian Workforce.” The memorandum lifts the hiring freeze instituted by President Donald Trump on January 23, 2017.

In addition, the memorandum sets forth steps that executive branch departments and agencies must take to fulfill other requirements of the hiring freeze memorandum and the March 13, 2017, Executive Order 13781 on reorganizing the executive branch. These directives, respectively,...

Westinghouse Bankruptcy Filing Could Put New U.S. Nuclear Projects at Risk

Westinghouse Electric Company, a major nuclear technology firm that supplied nearly half of the 99 currently operating U.S. commercial reactors, filed for bankruptcy reorganization on March 29, 2017. The bankruptcy filing raised fundamental questions about the future of the U.S. nuclear power industry, and particularly whether four new reactors that Westinghouse is constructing for electric utilities in Georgia and South Carolina will be completed. The four reactors are the first to begin construction in the United States since the mid-1970s, and the nuclear industry had hoped they would...

Presidential Permit Review for Cross-Border Pipelines and Electric Transmission

Executive permission in the form of a Presidential Permit has long been required for the construction, connection, operation, and maintenance of certain facilities that cross the United States borders with Canada and Mexico. The constitutional basis for the President’s cross-border permitting authority has been addressed by the courts, but questions remain about the manner in which this authority is exercised among the agencies to which it has been delegated. In particular, some Members of Congress and affected stakeholders seek greater clarity about how Presidential Permit applications...

Gun Control, Mental Incompetency, and Social Security Administration Final Rule

On February 2, 2017, the House of Representatives passed a Congressional Review Act disapproval resolution (H.J.Res. 40) to overturn a final rule promulgated by the Social Security Administration (SSA) regarding implementation of firearms restrictions for certain persons. On February 16, 2017, the Senate passed H.J.Res. 40 without any amendments. On February 28, 2017, President Donald Trump signed this resolution into law (P.L. 115-8). This enacted joint resolution vacates the SSA final rule. It also bars the SSA from promulgating any future rule that would be “substantially the same” as...

The Marshall Plan: 70th Anniversary

June 5, 2017, marks the 70th anniversary of the Marshall Plan—considered by many to be one of the most successful foreign policy initiatives and foreign aid programs ever undertaken by the United States.

In a speech at Harvard University on June 5, 1947, Secretary of State George Marshall suggested that, if European countries working together came up with a proposal, the United States would be willing to provide assistance in response to the dire political, social, and economic conditions in which Europe found itself at that time. The speech set in motion a diplomatic and legislative train...

Temporarily Filling Presidentially Appointed, Senate-Confirmed Positions

A vacant presidentially appointed, Senate-confirmed position (herein, “advice and consent position”) can be filled temporarily under one of several authorities that do not require going through the Senate confirmation process. Under specific circumstances, many executive branch vacancies can be filled temporarily under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998 or by recess appointment. In some cases, temporary filling of vacancies in a particular position is specifically provided for in statute. Generally, designation or appointment under one of these methods confers upon the official the...

National Health Service Corps: Background, Funding, and Programs

The National Health Service Corps (NHSC) is a pipeline for clinician recruitment and training. Its program objective is to increase the availability of primary care services to populations in Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs). It aims to increase clinician availability by making loan repayments and awarding scholarships to individuals in exchange for their agreement to serve as NHSC clinicians (or providers) at approved sites. NHSC providers are mainly physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and behavioral/mental health professionals who must serve for a minimum of...

OSHA State Plans: In Brief, with Examples from California and Arizona

The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act) authorizes states to establish their own occupational safety and health plans and preempt standards established and enforced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA must approve state plans if they are “at least as effective” as OSHA’s standards and enforcement. Currently, 21 states and Puerto Rico have state plans that cover all employers and 5 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands have state plans that cover only state and local government employers, who are not covered by the OSH Act. OSHA estimates that 40%...

Border-Adjusted Consumption Taxes and Exchange Rate Movements: Theory and Evidence

In June 2016, House Speaker Paul Ryan proposed a destination-based cash flow tax (DBCFT) as part of the “A Better Way” tax reform blueprint. One component of the DBCFT proposal is the implementation of a border adjustment, which is a common feature of national consumption-based taxes. Were the United States to adopt a DBCFT and the accompanying border adjustment, it would only tax production that is consumed in the United States—domestically produced goods and services sold abroad would not be taxed.

Although there are many important issues surrounding a DBCFT that would require careful...

Regulation of Pesticide Residues in Food and Recent Actions on Chlorpyrifos

The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA; 7 U.S.C. 136 et seq.) requires the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to promulgate, in accordance with Section 408 of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA; 21 U.S.C. 346a), maximum permissible levels (tolerances) for pesticide residues that raw agricultural commodities and processed food may legally contain. Under FFDCA, EPA has established tolerances that vary based on the commodity for more than 350 pesticide active ingredients (40 C.F.R. Part 180). Tolerances and the process for establishing them have...

Fees Assessed on Pesticide Registrants: Reauthorization and Proposed Amendments

Pursuant to the Pesticide Registration Improvement Extension Act of 2012 (PRIA 3; P.L. 112-177), Congress authorized the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to collect two categories of fees to support the agency’s pesticide regulatory program and related activities. EPA’s authority to collect one of these fees—pesticide maintenance fees—expires at the end of FY2017. The authority to collect the other fees—pesticide registration service fees—begins to phase out at the end of FY2017. The Pesticide Registration Enhancement Act of 2017 (H.R. 1029, H.Rept. 115-49), passed by the House...

Video Broadcasting of Congressional Proceedings

Video broadcasts of congressional proceedings enable constituents, policy professionals, and other interested individuals to see Congress at work, learn about specific Members, and follow the legislative process. Members of Congress have always considered communication with constituents an essential part of their representational duties. Members also often utilize new tools and technologies to reach and engage their constituents and colleagues.

Background

The Legislative Reorganization Act of 1970 first enabled congressional committees to broadcast their proceedings, if desired. Separate...

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. In previous Congresses, legislation was introduced seeking to redress the perceived competitive disadvantage China’s policies have created for U.S. exporters and import-sensitive firms.

There is a large and growing difference between the official trade statistics released by the United States and the People’s Republic of China. According to the...

Senate Proceedings Establishing Majority Cloture for Supreme Court Nominations: In Brief

On April 6, 2017, the Senate reinterpreted Rule XXII to allow a majority of Senators voting, a quorum being present, to invoke cloture on nominations to the U.S. Supreme Court. Before the Senate reinterpreted the rule, ending consideration of nominations to the Supreme Court required a vote of three-fifths of Senators duly chosen and sworn (60 Senators unless there is more than one vacancy). The practical effect of the Senate action on April 6 was to reduce the level of support necessary to confirm a Supreme Court nominee.

The method used to reinterpret Senate Rule XXII is, perhaps, of as...

The Revenue Baseline for Tax Reform

Tax reform remains an issue of interest in the 115th Congress. An open policy question is whether any proposed tax reform might increase the projected budget deficit, reduce the deficit, or leave the deficit unchanged (i.e., be revenue neutral). To inform this debate, this Insight provides information on the current revenue baseline as calculated by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). This Insight also discusses how the enactment of changes in tax policy can potentially change the baseline, and implications of these changes for subsequent legislation, such as tax reform. This Insight...

Congressional News Media and the House and Senate Press Galleries

The House and Senate press galleries provide services both for journalists and for Members of Congress. The news media helps Members communicate with the public, and enables the public to learn about policy initiatives, understand the legislative process, and observe elected officials representing their constituents. In the earliest Congresses, news reports commonly provided the most comprehensive record of congressional proceedings, even for Members themselves, because few official documents were kept. To accommodate the press, and in response to its growth through the mid-19th century,...

NASS and U.S. Crop Production Forecasts: Methods and Issues

The National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates agricultural production (including area and yield) and stocks for more than 120 crops and 45 livestock items. Traditionally NASS estimates have focused on state and national data, but in recent years county-level estimates have gained in importance. NASS crop production estimates are crucial to people in the U.S. agricultural sector involved in making marketing and investment decisions, policymakers who design farm support programs, USDA agents who implement those programs, and...

U.S. Climate Change Regulation and Litigation: Selected Legal Issues

On March 28, 2017, President Trump signed an executive order to encourage and promote energy development by modifying climate change policies. As the Trump Administration implements its environmental policies, various legal challenges to Obama Administration climate change regulations remain pending before courts. During the last term of the Obama Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration finalized a series of regulations to address emissions from cars, trucks, and their engines that may contribute to climate...

Surface Transportation Devolution

Surface transportation “devolution” refers to shifting most current federal responsibility for building and maintaining highways and public transportation systems from the federal government to the states. Devolution legislation has been introduced in each Congress since the mid-1990s, supported by Members who regard the federal government as being overinvolved in highways and public transportation. Under such proposals, the federal taxes that now support surface transportation programs, mostly fuels taxes, would be reduced in line with the shift of responsibility to the states. The states...

Child Support Enforcement: Program Basics

The Child Support Enforcement (CSE) program was enacted in 1975 as a federal-state program (Title IV-D of the Social Security Act). The primary purpose of this program was to reduce public expenditures for welfare recipients by obtaining ongoing support from noncustodial parents that could reimburse the state and federal governments for part of their expenses (i.e., welfare cost-recovery). Relatedly, the program also sought to strengthen families by securing financial support for children from their noncustodial parent on a consistent and continuing basis to enable some families to remain...

Federal Securities Law: Insider Trading

Insider trading in securities may occur when a person in possession of material nonpublic information about a company trades in the company’s securities and makes a profit or avoids a loss. Certain federal statutes have provisions that have been used to prosecute insider trading violations. For example, Section 16 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 requires the disgorgement of short-swing profits by named insiders—directors, officers, and 10% shareholders. The 1934 Act’s general antifraud provision, Section 10(b), is frequently used in the prosecution of insider traders. Although the...

FDA Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies (REMS): Description and Effect on Generic Drug Development

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates the safety and effectiveness of drug products sold in the United States. The statutory standard for FDA approval is that a drug is safe and effective for its intended use. FDA’s determination that a drug is safe does not signify an absence of risk but rather that the drug’s clinical benefits outweigh its known and potential risks.

For most drugs, FDA has generally considered routine risk minimization measures to be sufficient; for example, updated labeling based on new information from postmarket surveillance. In certain cases, however, the...

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...

Pipeline Security: Recent Attacks

Domestic Pipeline Sabotage

Recent acts of sabotage against U.S. pipelines have raised concern about the security of the nation’s energy pipeline system and the federal program to protect them. On March 20, 2017, the developer of the Dakota Access Pipeline alleged in a court filing that it had experienced “recent coordinated physical attacks along the pipeline.” On February 26, 2017, law officers fatally shot a man who reportedly had used an assault rifle to attack the Sabal Trail Pipeline, a natural gas pipeline under construction in Florida. On October 11, 2016, a coordinated group of...

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC): An Overview

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a refundable tax credit available to eligible workers earning relatively low wages. Because the credit is refundable, an EITC recipient need not owe taxes to receive the benefit. Eligibility for and the amount of the EITC are based on a variety of factors, including residence and taxpayer ID requirements, the presence of qualifying children, age requirements for childless recipients, and the recipient’s investment income and earned income. Tax filers with income above certain thresholds—these thresholds are based on marital status and number of...

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.

The vast majority of presidential appointees are confirmed routinely by the Senate. A regularized process facilitates quick action on thousands of government positions. The process also allows for lengthy scrutiny of candidates...

California Drought: Busted?

Surface water conditions in California have recovered dramatically in recent months, but some consequences of the 2012-2016 drought likely will linger for years. This Insight discusses the status of the drought and how it affected groundwater supplies: declines in groundwater levels, decreased storage capacity, and land subsidence. In response to the drought, the 114th Congress enacted legislation (P.L. 114-322) that altered the authorities regarding how federal water infrastructure in the state is managed and how new water storage may be developed. (See CRS In Focus IF10626, Reclamation...

Regulation of Clinical Tests: In Vitro Diagnostic (IVD) Devices, Laboratory Developed Tests (LDTs), and Genetic Tests

In vitro diagnostic (IVD) devices are used in the analysis of human samples, such as blood or tissue, to provide information in making health care decisions. Examples of IVDs include (1) pregnancy test kits or blood glucose tests for home use; (2) laboratory tests for infectious disease, such as HIV or hepatitis, and routine blood tests, such as cholesterol and anemia; and (3) tests for various genetic diseases or conditions. More recently, a specific type of diagnostic test—called a companion diagnostic—has been developed that may be used to select the best therapy, at the right dose, at...

The Legislative Process on the Senate Floor: An Introduction

The standing rules of the Senate promote deliberation by permitting Senators to debate at length and by precluding a simple majority from ending debate when they are prepared to vote to approve a bill. This right of extended debate permits filibusters that can be brought to an end if the Senate invokes cloture, usually by a vote of three-fifths of all Senators. Even then, consideration can typically continue under cloture for an additional 30 hours. The possibility of filibusters encourages the Senate to seek consensus whenever possible and to conduct business under the terms of unanimous...

A Primer on WIC: The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provides nutrition-rich foods, nutrition education (including breastfeeding promotion and support), and health care and social services referrals to eligible low-income women, infants, and children. In FY2016, approximately 7.7 million people participated in WIC each month. WIC is authorized by the Child Nutrition Act, as is the related WIC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (WIC FMNP). WIC, WIC FMNP, school meals, and the other child nutrition programs are typically reauthorized together; these programs were...

The Every Student Succeeds Act: Accountability for Schools with Low Graduation Rates

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) comprehensively reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA). Among other changes, the ESSA amended federal K-12 educational accountability requirements for states and local educational agencies (LEAs) receiving ESEA funds, including those regarding the identification, support, and improvement of high schools with low graduation rates.

In addition to new accountability rules, the ESSA provided the first definition of the high school graduation rate in federal education law. States and LEAs have been reporting their rates...

Filibusters and Cloture in the Senate

The filibuster is widely viewed as one of the Senate’s most characteristic procedural features. Filibustering includes any use of dilatory or obstructive tactics to block a measure by preventing it from coming to a vote. The possibility of filibusters exists because Senate rules place few limits on Senators’ rights and opportunities in the legislative process.

In particular, a Senator who seeks recognition usually has a right to the floor if no other Senator is speaking, and then that Senator may speak for as long as he or she wishes. Also, there is no motion by which a simple majority of...

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]...

Multinational Species Conservation Fund Semipostal Stamp

The Multinational Species Conservation Fund (MSCF) supports international conservation efforts benefitting several species of animals, often in conjunction with efforts under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). MSCF receives annual appropriations under the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to fund five grant programs for conserving tigers, rhinoceroses, Asian and African elephants, marine turtles, and great apes (gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos, orangutans, and various species of gibbons). To provide a convenient way for the public to contribute to these...

Invoking Cloture in the Senate

Cloture is the only procedure by which the Senate can vote to set an end to a debate without also rejecting the bill, amendment, conference report, motion, or other matter it has been debating. A Senator can make a nondebatable motion to table an amendment, and if a majority of the Senate votes for that motion, the effect is to reject the amendment. Thus, the motion to table cannot be used to conclude a debate when Senators still wish to speak and to enable the Senate to vote for the proposal it is considering. Only the cloture provisions of Rule XXII achieve this purpose. In the 113th...

The Value of Energy Tax Incentives Across Energy Resources: Trends over Time

Over time, the proportion of energy-specific tax incentives benefitting different energy resources has shifted. Figure 1 illustrates the value of energy-related tax incentives since 1978. Energy tax provisions are categorized as primarily benefitting fossil fuels, renewables, renewable fuels, efficiency, vehicles, or some other energy purpose. Earlier versions of Figure 1 have appeared in past Congressional Research Service reports (R41953 and R41227). Similar figures have also appeared in Congressional Budget Office (CBO) publications in 2012, 2015, and 2017. See these resources for...

How Measures Are Brought to the Senate Floor: A Brief Introduction

Two basic methods are used by the Senate to bring legislation to the floor for consideration: (1) The Senate, at the majority leader’s request, grants unanimous consent to take up a matter, or (2) it agrees to his motion to proceed to consider it. Because the motion to proceed is subject to debate in most circumstances, it is less frequently used. Both methods are derived from the basic premise that the Senate as a body may decide what matters it considers. The Senate may also use the same two methods to bring up executive business (nominations and treaties).

This report will be updated...

Keystone XL: Greenhouse Gas Emissions Assessments in the Final Environmental Impact Statement

On March 23, 2017, the State Department issued a Presidential Permit for the border facilities of the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline, having determined that issuing the permit “would serve the national interest.” The Department announced that the Record of Decision and National Interest Determination for the Presidential Permit “is informed by” the 2014 Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS). It cites no new documentation aside from fresh communications with the Canadian pipeline company.

State Department Assessment

The State Department released the FEIS on January 31, 2014, to inform...

Gun Control, Veterans Benefits, and Mental Incompetency Determinations

On March 16, 2017, the House of Representatives passed the Veterans 2nd Amendment Protection Act (H.R. 1181) by a roll call vote (240-175). Under H.R. 1181, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) would be prohibited from determining any beneficiary for whom a fiduciary is appointed, because he or she “lacks the capacity to contract or handle his or her own affairs,” as “adjudicated as a mental defective” for the purposes of gun control, unless a magistrate or judicial authority also rules that the beneficiary is a danger to himself or herself or others.

Pursuant to the Brady Handgun...

Implementing the Affordable Care Act: Delays, Extensions, and Other Administrative Actions Taken by the Obama Administration

During the Obama Administration, the two federal agencies primarily responsible for administering the private health insurance provisions in the Affordable Care Act (ACA)—the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) within the Treasury Department—took a series of actions to delay, extend, or otherwise modify the law’s implementation.

This report summarizes selected administrative actions taken by CMS and the IRS through February 2015 to address ACA implementation. The report is no longer...

Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD): FY2017 Appropriations

The House and Senate Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) Appropriations Subcommittees are charged with providing annual appropriations for the Department of Transportation (DOT), Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and related agencies. THUD programs receive both discretionary and mandatory budget authority; HUD’s budget generally accounts for the largest share of discretionary appropriations in the THUD bill, but when mandatory funding is taken into account, DOT’s budget is larger than HUD’s budget. Mandatory funding typically accounts...

FirstNet’s Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network Moves Forward

On March 30, 2017, FirstNet announced a public-private partnership with AT&T to build a dedicated interoperable wireless broadband network for use by public safety agencies nationwide. Under terms of the 25-year agreement, FirstNet will provide AT&T with up to $6.5 billion for initial network construction over the next five years. Additionally, AT&T will spend about $40 billion of its own funds to build, operate, and maintain the network over the life of the contract. To conduct the buildout, AT&T has assembled a team including Motorola Solutions, General Dynamics, Sapient Consulting,...

Employer Wellness Programs and Genetic Information: Frequently Asked Questions

Since the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA, P.L. 111-148, as amended), which encouraged use of wellness programs, employers have increasingly established employer wellness programs in an effort to support better health among their employees and reduce their own health care costs. Employer wellness programs often focus on improving wellness overall, but they may target a specific disease (e.g., diabetes) or behavior (e.g., smoking), and they may include the provision of health or other services. These programs often include incentives for participation,...

Scientific Basis of Environmental Protection Agency Actions: H.R. 1430 and H.R. 1431

The scientific basis of regulation is a long-standing issue. In the 115th Congress, H.R. 1430 and H.R. 1431 are intended to address the public disclosure and transparency of information used as the basis for environmental regulations and other actions of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). These bills would amend the Environmental Research, Development, and Demonstration Authorization Act of 1978 (ERDDAA), among other purposes, to require public disclosure of scientific and technical information that EPA uses as a basis for agency action. On March 29, 2017, the House passed...

Congressional Roll Call Votes on the Keystone XL Pipeline

TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL Pipeline would transport oil sands crude from Canada and shale oil produced in North Dakota and Montana to a market hub in Nebraska for further delivery to Gulf Coast refineries. The pipeline would consist of 875 miles of 36-inch pipe with the capacity to transport 830,000 barrels per day.

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) receives frequent requests for congressional votes taken on Keystone XL Pipeline legislation. This report provides roll call vote data on Keystone XL Pipeline legislation identified by CRS using CQ.com’s Roll Call Vote Report...

Department of Transportation (DOT): FY2017 Appropriations

In February 2016, the Obama Administration proposed a $96.9 billion budget for the Department of Transportation (DOT) for FY2017. That is approximately $22 billion more than was provided for FY2016. The budget request reflected the Administration’s call for significant increases in funding for highway, 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 programs were reauthorized in the fall of...

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 eventually qualify for deferred compensation in the form of retired pay and other retirement...

The Trump Administration’s March 2017 Defense Budget Proposals: Frequently Asked Questions

On March 16, 2017, the Trump Administration released two defense budget proposals—a proposal for national defense (budget function 050) discretionary spending for fiscal year (FY) 2018 as part of the Administration’s Budget Blueprint for federal spending, and a detailed request for additional FY0217 funding for Department of Defense (DOD) military activities.

For FY2017, the Administration is seeking $30 billion for DOD military activities (budget subfunction 051) in addition to the amounts requested by the Obama Administration. Of this amount, $24.9 billion is slated for base budget...

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...

HUD’s Reverse Mortgage Insurance Program: Home Equity Conversion Mortgages

Reverse mortgages allow older homeowners to borrow against the equity in their homes and repay the loans at a later time, after they sell the home or pass away. Reverse mortgages differ from traditional forward mortgages both in the way in which borrowers receive the loan proceeds and the way in which the loans are repaid. Like traditional forward mortgages and home equity lines of credit, borrowers may receive a lump sum payment from the loan or have an available line of credit. However, additional options include monthly payments over a period of time or monthly payments for the life of...

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...

The Army’s Sustainable Readiness Model (SRM)

The Army’s Definition of Readiness

The Army defines readiness as the capability of its forces to conduct the full range of military operations, including the defeat of all enemies regardless of the threats they pose. In this regard, readiness is a function of how well units are manned, equipped, trained, and led.

Past Army Readiness Models

Readiness models are the means by which the Army generates the forces that are then made available to Combatant Commanders for operations. From the 1980s until 2001, the Army employed a Tiered Readiness Model with units manned, equipped, and trained at...

The Hardest Hit Fund: Frequently Asked Questions

The Hardest Hit Fund (HHF), administered by the Department of the Treasury, is one of several temporary programs that were created to help prevent home foreclosures in the aftermath of housing and mortgage market turmoil that began around 2007-2008. It provided a total of $9.6 billion in Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) funds to 19 states (including the District of Columbia) that were deemed to be “hardest hit” by the housing market turmoil, as defined by factors such as house price declines or unemployment rates.

In 2010, a total of $7.6 billion was allocated to selected states...

Expiring Funds for Primary Care

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), enacted on March 23, 2010, appropriated billions of dollars of mandatory funds to support new and existing grant programs and other activities. Specifically, it provided support for three programs focused on expanding access to primary care services for populations that are typically underserved. The first two were existing programs—the Health Centers program and the National Health Service Corps (NHSC)—and they were funded through a new mandatory funding stream, the Community Health Center Fund (CHCF). The third program, created in the ACA, is the Teaching...

Overview of CEQ Guidance on Greenhouse Gases and Climate Change

In 1997, the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) informed federal agencies that, to ensure compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), they may need to consider whether their actions may affect or be affected by climate change. CEQ issued revised draft guidance in 2010 and again in 2014. On August 1, 2016—after receiving public comments and other feedback from Members of Congress, state agencies, tribes, corporations, trade associations, and other stakeholders—CEQ released final guidance (hereinafter, the Guidance) on consideration of greenhouse gas (GHG)...

President’s Budget Blueprint Seeks Changes for Public Health Service Agencies

The White House has released a “budget blueprint” that outlines President Trump’s priorities for funding the federal government in FY2018. The document covers only discretionary spending, which is controlled through the annual appropriations process. It does not address mandatory spending—including spending on entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security—or interest payments on the federal debt. The complete FY2018 budget is expected to be released in May.

Although the budget blueprint provides limited details on the agency, account, or program level, it indicates Trump...

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...

Keystone XL Pipeline: Development Issues

Keystone XL Presidential Permit

On March 23, 2017, the U.S. State Department issued a Presidential Permit for the border facilities of the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline, having determined that issuing the permit “would serve the national interest.” If constructed, the pipeline would transport oil sands crude from Canada as well as oil produced in North Dakota and Montana to a hub in Nebraska for further delivery to Gulf Coast refineries (Figure 1). The U.S. pipeline section would be 875 miles long with the capacity to deliver 830,000 barrels per day. Keystone XL requires a Presidential...

The Federal Coal Leasing Moratorium

The Federal Coal Leasing Moratorium

Recent Events

The Trump Administration issued an Executive Order on March 28, 2017, that would amend or withdraw Secretarial Order 3338 and lift “any and all” moratoria on federal coal leasing.

On January 11, 2017, the Obama Administration published its scoping report (Bureau of Land Management, Federal Coal Program: Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement—Scoping Report, Volumes I and II, January 2017) as a prelude to the comprehensive Draft and Final PEIS. After six public meetings and over 214,000 comments, the BLM concluded that modernizing the...

Major Disaster Assistance from the Disaster Relief Fund: State Profiles

The primary source of funding for federal assistance authorized by a major disaster declaration is the Disaster Relief Fund (DRF), which is managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Major disaster declarations have occurred in every U.S. state since FY2000, with obligations for each incident ranging from a few hundred thousand dollars to more than $31 billion.

This report summarizes DRF actual and projected obligations as a result of major disaster declarations at the national level for the period FY2000 through FY2015. CRS profiles for each state and the District of...

The President’s FY2018 Budget Request for the U.S. Department of Agriculture

Background

The Trump Administration released its first budget request on March 16, 2017. Titled “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again,” the request for FY2018 does not have the detail of a regular budget (see CRS Report RS20752, Submission of the President’s Budget in Transition Years).

The FY2018 Blueprint addresses discretionary spending only and primarily conveys information at the Cabinet level. While it highlights changes to some programs, the request remains vague about the effect on most agencies. A more detailed budget is expected in May 2017 and may...

The Civil Service Reform Act: Due Process and Misconduct-Related Adverse Actions

Federal employees receive statutory protections that differ from those of the private sector, including more robust limits on when they can be removed or demoted. Although a number of laws apply to various aspects of the federal civil service system, the primary governing framework is the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 (CSRA), as amended. The CSRA created a comprehensive system for reviewing actions taken by most federal agencies against their employees, and the act provides a variety of legal protections and remedies for federal employees. It also funnels review of agency decisions to...

EPA’s Mid-Term Evaluation of Vehicle Greenhouse Gas Emissions Standards

The One National Program

In 2009, the Obama Administration—through authorities provided to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—developed joint standards for fuel economy and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for new light-duty vehicles (defined generally as passenger cars and light trucks). The standards (referred to as the One National Program) were established in two phases: Phase 1 for vehicle model years (MY) 2012-2016, finalized on May 7, 2010; and Phase 2 for MY2017-2025, finalized on October 15, 2012. The agencies...

Phase 2 Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Fuel Efficiency Standards for Heavy-Duty Vehicles

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 engines and vehicles through their authorities under the Clean Air Act (CAA) and the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (P.L. 110-140).

The Phase 2 rule sets emission standards for tractor-trailers, vocational vehicles, and heavy-duty pickup trucks and vans. The rule expands on the Phase 1 standards (promulgated in 2011 for model...

Preserving Homeownership: Foreclosure Prevention Initiatives

The home mortgage foreclosure rate began to rise rapidly in the United States beginning around the middle of 2006 and remained elevated for several years thereafter. Losing a home to foreclosure can harm households in many ways; for example, those who have been through a foreclosure may have difficulty finding a new place to live or obtaining a loan in the future. Furthermore, concentrated foreclosures can negatively impact nearby home prices, and large numbers of abandoned properties can negatively affect communities. Finally, elevated levels of foreclosures can destabilize housing...

FY2017 Defense Appropriations Fact Sheet: Selected Highlights of H.R. 5293, S. 3000, and H.R. 1301

This Fact Sheet summarizes selected highlights of the FY2017 Defense Appropriations Act passed by the House, in the 114th Congress, on June 16, 2016 (H.R. 5293), the version reported by the Senate Appropriations Committee on May 26, 2016 (S. 3000), and a third version agreed to March 2, 2017 by House and Senate negotiators.

Although the March 2017 legislation was introduced in the 115th Congress as a new bill, it is -- for practical purposes – equivalent to the product of an informal conference committee on the two earlier versions. The Senate did not complete action on the Senate...

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 Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) describes more than 2,200 federal programs, more than half of them grants, and can be searched by...

Income Eligibility and Rent in HUD Rental Assistance Programs: Frequently Asked Questions

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) administers five main rental assistance programs that subsidize rents for low-income families: the Public Housing program, the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program, the Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance program, the Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly program, and the Section 811 Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities program. Together, these programs serve more than 4 million families and make up well over three-quarters of HUD’s budget. All five programs provide rental assistance in the form of...

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. It will be revised biannually.

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...

CRS Products on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a proposed free trade agreement (FTA) signed by the United States and 11 other Asia-Pacific countries on February 4, 2016, and would require ratification by the member countries before it can take effect. On January 30, 2017, the United States gave notice to the other signatories that it does not intend to ratify the agreement, effectively ending, at least for the time being, the ratification process in the United States and the agreement’s possible entry into force. The TPP as signed cannot enter into force without U.S. participation, due to a...

Proposed Multiemployer Composite Plans: Background and Analysis

Multiemployer pension plans are sponsored by more than one employer in the same industry and are maintained as part of a collective bargaining agreement. The challenges facing one type of multiemployer plans—defined benefit (DB) plans, in which participants receive regular monthly benefit payments in retirement—have led stakeholders to seek alternative pension plan designs that could alleviate some of the concerns but retain some of the beneficial features.

On September 9, 2016, Representative John Kline, chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce in the 114th Congress,...

A Brief Overview of Rulemaking and Judicial Review

The Administrative Procedure Act (APA), which applies to all agencies of the federal government, provides the general procedures for various types of rulemaking. The APA details the rarely used procedures for formal rules as well as the requirements for informal rulemaking, under which the vast majority of agency rules are issued. This report provides a brief legal overview of the methods by which agencies may promulgate rules, which include formal rulemaking, informal (notice-and-comment or § 553) rulemaking, hybrid rulemaking, direct final rulemaking, and negotiated rulemaking. In...

Federal Reserve: Oversight and Disclosure Issues

Critics of the Federal Reserve (Fed) have long argued for more oversight, transparency, and disclosure. Criticism intensified following the extensive assistance the Fed provided to financial firms during the financial crisis. Some critics downplay the degree of Fed oversight and disclosure that already takes place.

For oversight, the Fed is required to provide a written report to and testify before the committees of jurisdiction semiannually. In addition, these committees periodically hold more focused hearings on Fed topics. Critics have sought a Government Accountability Office (GAO)...

Issues with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards

Federal motor vehicle safety regulation was established more than 50 years ago by the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act (P.L. 89-563) to address the rising number of motor vehicle fatalities and injuries. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) administers vehicle safety laws and has issued dozens of safety standards, including regulations affecting windshield wipers, hood and door latches, tires, and airbags.

NHTSA has estimated that between 1960 and 2012, federal motor vehicle safety standards saved more than 600,000 lives, and the risk of a fatality...

Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies: FY2017 Appropriations

The Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies appropriations bill includes funding for approximately 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 entities. At issue for Congress is determining the amount, terms, and conditions of funding for...

The Federal Government’s Authority to Impose Conditions on Grant Funds

Commonly known as the Spending Clause, Article I, Section 8, Clause 1 of the U.S. Constitution has been widely recognized as providing the federal government with the legal authority to offer federal grant funds to states and localities that are contingent on the recipients engaging in, or refraining from, certain activities. However, the Supreme Court has articulated certain limitations on the exercise of this power. In its 1987 decision in South Dakota v. Dole, which arguably remains the leading case regarding the use of the federal government’s conditional spending power, the Court held...

Congressional Redistricting Law: Background and Recent Court Rulings

In addition to various state processes, the legal framework for congressional redistricting involves constitutional and federal statutory requirements. Interpreting these requirements, in a series of cases and evolving jurisprudence, the U.S. Supreme Court has issued rulings that have significantly shaped how congressional districts are drawn and the degree to which challenges to redistricting plans may succeed. As the 2020 round of redistricting approaches, foundational and recent rulings by the Court regarding redistricting are likely to be of particular interest to Congress. This report...

An Overview of Accreditation of Higher Education in the United States

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). IHEs wishing to participate in Title IV federal student aid (FSA) programs must meet several requirements, including being accredited by an agency recognized by the Department of Education (ED) as a reliable authority on the quality of the education being offered.

There are three general types of accrediting agencies, each of which serves a specific purpose. Regional accrediting...

State and Local “Sanctuary” Policies Limiting Participation in Immigration Enforcement

The federal government is vested with the exclusive power to create rules governing which aliens may enter the United States and which aliens may be removed. However, the impact of alien migration—whether lawful or unlawful—is arguably felt most directly in the communities where aliens reside. State and local responses to unlawfully present aliens within their jurisdictions have varied considerably, particularly as to the role that state and local police should play in enforcing federal immigration law. While some states and municipalities actively participate in or cooperate with federal...

The Financial Action Task Force: An Overview

The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, or the 9/11 Commission, recommended that tracking terrorist financing “must remain front and center in U.S. counterterrorism efforts” (see The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, U.S. Government Printing Office, July, 2004. p. 382). As part of these efforts, the United States plays a leading role in the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering (FATF). The independent, intergovernmental policymaking body was established by the 1989 G-7 Summit...

DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE): Appropriations Status

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) is the principal government agency responsible for renewable energy technologies and energy efficiency efforts. EERE works with industry, academia, national laboratories, and others to conduct research and development (R&D) and to issue grants to state governments. EERE oversees nearly a dozen technologies and programs—from vehicle technologies to solar energy to advanced manufacturing to weatherization and intergovernmental programs—each with its own respective mission and program goals.

EERE...

Collective Bargaining and the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute: Selected Legal Issues

Title VII of the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978, commonly referred to as the “Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute” (FSLMRS), recognizes the right of most federal employees to engage in collective bargaining with respect to their conditions of employment. In 2016, 27.4% of all federal employees were members of a union. While the union membership rate for federal workers has declined slightly over the past ten years, it continues to exceed the union membership rate of 6.4% for private-sector employees.

Under the FSLMRS, a labor organization becomes the exclusive...

Commercial Truck Safety: Overview

More than 11 million large trucks travel U.S. roads, and almost 4 million people hold commercial driver’s licenses. In 2015, large trucks were involved in more than 400,000 motor vehicle crashes serious enough to be registered by police, with nearly 100,000 of those crashes causing injuries and around 3,600 resulting in fatalities. To address this situation, Congress has assigned the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT)—primarily the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)—responsibility for regulating the safety practices of commercial motor carriers and drivers. In...

Sub-Saharan Africa: Key Issues, Challenges, and U.S. Responses

The 115th Congress and the Trump Administration are reviewing existing U.S. policies and programs in sub-Saharan Africa (henceforth, “Africa”) as they establish their budgetary and policy priorities toward the region while also responding to emerging crises. Africa-specific policy questions did not feature prominently in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, and the views of the Trump Administration on many U.S.-Africa policy issues remain unspecified. The Obama Administration’s Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa identified its policy priorities as strengthening democratic institutions;...

Federal Citations to the Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases

Executive Order 12866 requires that federal agencies assess the cost and the benefits of intended regulations as part of their regulatory impact analyses (RIAs). The 1993 executive order stated that “recognizing that some costs and benefits are difficult to quantify, [each agency shall] propose or adopt a regulation only upon a reasoned determination that the benefits of the intended regulation justify its costs.”

Social cost, carbon, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, greenhouse gases, regulatory impact analysis, cost-benefit analysis, benefit-cost analysis, Interagency Working...

Geographical Indications (GIs) in U.S. Food and Agricultural Trade

Geographical indications (GIs) are place names used to identify products that come from these places and to protect the quality and reputation of a distinctive product originating in a certain region. The term is most often applied to wines, spirits, and agricultural products. Some food producers benefit from the use of GIs by giving certain foods recognition for their distinctiveness, differentiating them from other foods in the marketplace. In this manner, GIs can be commercially valuable. GIs may be eligible for relief from acts of infringement or unfair competition. GIs may also...

DOD Issues Additional Guidance on Federal Hiring Freeze

On February 2, 2017, the Department of Defense (DOD) issued initial guidance on implementing the federal hiring freeze instituted by President Trump—an order that suspends the hiring of civilian employees in the executive branch. On March 7, 2017, the DOD issued additional guidance (available upon request) that supplements the initial guidance by

adding new exemptions from the freeze for (1) essential military and base operating services, (2) infrastructure sustainment, and (3) family readiness programs;

delegating exemption approval authority to lower-level officials for exemptions...

The Dutch Parliamentary Elections: Outcome and Implications

The March 15, 2017, parliamentary elections in the Netherlands garnered considerable attention as the first in a series of European contests this year in which populist, antiestablishment parties have been poised to do well, with possibly significant implications for the future of the European Union (EU). For many months, opinion polls projected an electoral surge for the far-right, anti-immigrant, anti-EU Freedom Party (PVV), led by Geert Wilders. Many in the EU were relieved when the PVV fell short and the center-right, pro-EU People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), led by...

Tax Deductions for Individuals: A Summary

Every tax filer has the option to claim deductions when filing their income tax return. Deductions serve four main purposes in the tax code: (1) to account for large, unusual, and necessary personal expenditures, such as extraordinary medical expenses; (2) to encourage certain types of activities, such as homeownership and charitable contributions; (3) to ease the burden of taxes paid to state and local governments; and (4) to adjust for the expenses of earning income, such as unreimbursed employee expenses.

Some tax deductions can be taken by individuals even if they do not itemize. These...

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...

Should the U.S. Trade Deficit be Redefined?

The U.S. merchandise trade deficit represents the difference between a country’s exports and imports of goods. For some, the trade deficit is a flashpoint for concerns about the overall condition of the economy. Most economists argue this characterization misrepresents the nature of the trade deficit and the role of trade in the economy. Some policymakers support redefining the trade deficit in ways that would effectively increase the size of the deficit by more narrowly defining an export. Others argue that U.S. trade data should be redefined in ways that capture value added through...

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 2017, this maximum—formally called the contribution and benefit base, and commonly referred to as the taxable earnings base or the taxable maximum—is $127,200. 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...

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...

Sanctuary Jurisdictions and Select Federal Grant Funding Issues: In Brief

On January 25, 2017, President Donald J. Trump issued Executive Order (EO) 13768, “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States.” Among other things, the EO raises questions regarding whether, and to what extent, federal agencies will withhold federal grant funds that would have otherwise been awarded to a designated “sanctuary jurisdiction.” Under the EO, the Secretary of Homeland Security (Secretary) is directed to designate a jurisdiction as a sanctuary jurisdiction at his discretion, and to the extent consistent with law, for those jurisdictions found to have willfully...

Statutory, Average, and Effective Marginal Tax Rates in the Federal Individual Income Tax: Background and Analysis

Tax reform is a stated priority of the 115th Congress. In June 2016, Ways and Means Committee Republicans released the “Better Way” tax reform blueprint. The proposal seeks to make the individual income tax system “simpler, flatter, and fairer” by consolidating the number of individual income tax brackets. Looking at statutory tax rates alone, however, provides limited information regarding the simplicity or fairness of the tax system. Average tax rates and effective marginal tax rates are frequently used by economists and policy analysts to evaluate the fairness of the tax system, as well...

SBA Transition Issues

Much of the federal government, including the Small Business Administration (SBA), is in transition as the Trump Administration assumes leadership of the executive branch. At the SBA, among the Trump Administration’s first tasks are to populate the SBA with its appointees, starting with new SBA Administrator Linda E. McMahon to succeed Maria Contreras-Sweet, and establish its policy agenda for small businesses. One of the first policy questions facing the Trump Administration is whether it will continue, modify, or end several Obama Administration initiatives, including 7(a) loan guaranty...

The Decennial Census: Issues for 2020

The U.S. Constitution—Article I, Section 2, clause 3, as modified by Section 2 of the 14th Amendment—requires a population census every 10 years for apportioning seats in the House of Representatives. Decennial census data are used, too, for within-state redistricting and in certain formulas for distributing more than $450 billion annually in federal funds to states and localities. Census counts also are the foundation for estimates of current population size between censuses and projections of future size. Businesses, nonprofit organizations, researchers, and all levels of government are...

Moving On: TPP Signatories Meet in Chile

On March 14-15, representatives from the 12 original signatories to the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement (FTA) met in Chile to discuss the future direction of regional integration efforts in the Asia-Pacific (see CRS In Focus IF10000, TPP: Overview and Current Status). China, Colombia, and South Korea were also represented. The meeting follows the Trump Administration’s January announcement of U.S. withdrawal from the TPP, which effectively ended the possibility of TPP’s entry into force in its current form (see CRS Insight IN10646, The United States Withdraws...

Previewing a 2018 Farm Bill

Congress periodically establishes agricultural and food policy in an omnibus farm bill. The 115th Congress faces reauthorization of the 2014 farm bill—the Agricultural Act of 2014 (P.L. 113-79, H.Rept. 113-333)—because many of its provisions expire in 2018.

The 2014 farm bill is the most recent omnibus farm bill. It was enacted in February 2014 and succeeded the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-246, “2008 farm bill”). In recent decades, the breadth of farm bills has steadily grown to include new and expanding food and agricultural interests. The 2014 farm bill contains...

National Park Service: FY2017 Appropriations and Ten-Year Trends

The National Park Service (NPS) receives annual appropriations in the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies appropriations bill. For FY2017, the Obama Administration requested $3.101 billion in discretionary appropriations for NPS, an increase of 8.8% over the enacted FY2016 amount. In addition to the discretionary funding, the Obama Administration proposed $1.238 billion in mandatory appropriations for NPS, a growth of 135.6% over NPS mandatory funding in FY2016. Parts of the mandatory request would require changes in authorizing law. The discretionary and mandatory requests brought...

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...

EPA Policies Concerning Integrated Planning and Affordability of Water Infrastructure

For several years, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been working with states and cities to develop and implement new approaches that will achieve water quality goals cost-effectively and in a manner that “addresses the most pressing public health and environmental protection issues first.” Two recent EPA initiatives are an integrated planning policy and a framework policy for assessing a community’s financial capability to meet objectives and requirements of the Clean Water Act (CWA).

Pressed by municipalities about the financial challenges that they face in addressing...

Major Disaster Declarations for Snow Assistance and Severe Winter Storms: An Overview

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides two types of assistance for winter incidents: (1) snow assistance, and (2) assistance for severe winter storms. The assistance is triggered by a presidential disaster declaration. The criteria used by FEMA to determine whether to recommend a declaration depend on the type of winter incident. Snow assistance is based on record, or near record snowfall according to official government reports on snow accumulations. Acceptable government reports are snowfall amounts measured and published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric...

Senate Judiciary Committee Hearings for Supreme Court Nominations: Historical Overview and Data

After a President submits a Supreme Court nomination to the Senate, the Judiciary Committee assumes the principal responsibility for investigating the background and qualifications of each Supreme Court nominee. Since the late 1960s, the Judiciary Committee’s consideration of a Supreme Court nomination typically has consisted of three distinct stages—(1) a pre-hearing investigative stage, followed by (2) public hearings, and concluding with (3) a committee decision as to whether to recommend approval of the nomination by the full Senate. This CRS Insight provides an historical overview of...

German Chancellor Angela Merkel Visits President Trump

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is scheduled to meet with President Donald Trump at the White House on March 17, 2017. The meeting—the first between the two leaders—comes amid uncertainty and unease in Europe about the direction of U.S.-German and U.S.-European relations during the Trump Administration. Merkel has led Europe’s largest and most prosperous country for almost 12 years and is widely viewed as the most influential political leader in Europe. Most analysts agree that the U.S.-German relationship could play a pivotal role in guiding U.S. policy toward Europe and vice...

Ocean Energy Agency Appropriations, FY2017

This report discusses FY2017 appropriations for the Department of the Interior’s (DOI’s) Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), and Office of Natural Resources Revenue (ONRR). The three agencies collectively administer federal ocean energy resources covering more than 1.7 billion acres on the U.S. outer continental shelf (OCS). BOEM administers offshore energy leasing, BSEE oversees offshore operational safety and environmental responsibility, and ONRR manages public revenues from federally regulated offshore and onshore energy...

U.S. World War I (1917-1918) Centennial

Background and Congressional Action

April 6, 2017, marks the 100th anniversary of the U.S. Declaration of War resolution against Germany and subsequent entry in “The Great War” (World War I). The United States remained neutral as war raged in Europe from summer 1914 to spring 1917. However, matters changed when Germany broke its pledge to limit submarine warfare in January 1917.

In response to the breaking of the Sussex pledge, the United States severed diplomatic relations with Germany. On January 16, 1917, British cryptographers deciphered a telegram from German Foreign Minister Arthur...

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 Federal Power Act (FPA) and Electricity Markets

The electric power industry is in the process of transformation. The electricity infrastructure of the United States is aging; uncertainty exists around how to modernize the grid, and what technologies and fuels will be used to produce electricity in the future. Unresolved questions are arising about market structure, potential cyber and physical security threats, and continuing interest in harnessing low carbon sources of electricity. Concerns about reliability and electricity prices are being affected by new environmental regulations, and the rising availability of natural gas for the...

Offshore Oil and Gas Development: Legal Framework

The development of offshore oil, gas, and other mineral resources in the United States is impacted by a number of interrelated legal regimes, including international, federal, and state laws. International law provides a framework for establishing national ownership or control of offshore areas, and domestic federal law mirrors and supplements these standards.

Governance of offshore minerals and regulation of development activities are bifurcated between state and federal law. Generally, states have primary authority in the three-geographical-mile area extending from their coasts. The...

Dark Web

The layers of the Internet go far beyond the surface content that many can easily access in their daily searches. The other content is that of the Deep Web, content that has not been indexed by traditional search engines such as Google. The furthest corners of the Deep Web, segments known as the Dark Web, contain content that has been intentionally concealed. The Dark Web may be used for legitimate purposes as well as to conceal criminal or otherwise malicious activities. It is the exploitation of the Dark Web for illegal practices that has garnered the interest of officials and policy...

Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB)

In October 2013, at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Bali, Indonesia, China proposed creating a new multilateral development bank (MDB), the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). As its name suggests, the Bank's stated purpose is to provide financing for infrastructure needs throughout Asia, as well as in neighboring regions. As of January 2017, the AIIB has approved nine projects, investing a total of $1.7 billion.

The AIIB commenced operations on January 16, 2016. Membership in the AIIB is open to all members of the World Bank or the Asian Development Bank (ADB)....

Taxpayers with Zero Income Tax Liability: Trends Over Time and Across Income Levels

An estimated 44% of U.S. households will pay no federal income tax in 2016. Some individuals or households do not pay federal income taxes because their income was below the filing threshold. Other individuals or households filing federal income tax returns pay no federal income tax due to either structural features or special provisions in the tax code. A 2011 analysis found that of nontaxable “tax units,” about half were made nontaxable by tax expenditures (special provisions in the tax code such as credits and deductions). The other half were made nontaxable by structural features of...

The Marijuana Policy Gap and the Path Forward

Under federal law, the cultivation, possession, and distribution of marijuana are illegal, except for the purposes of sanctioned research. States, however, have established a range of laws and policies regarding marijuana’s medical and recreational use. Most states have deviated from an across-the-board prohibition of marijuana, and it is now more so the rule than the exception that states have laws and policies allowing for some cultivation, sale, distribution, and possession of marijuana—all of which are contrary to the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA). As of March 2017, nearly...

A Change in Direction for Seoul? The Impeachment of South Korea’s President

On March 10, 2017, South Korea’s Constitutional Court unanimously voted to uphold the impeachment of former President Park Geun-hye, nearly 11 months before her term was due to end. The decision was the latest development in a corruption scandal that has engulfed South Korean politics and the business world since October 2016, and comes against the backdrop of North Korean missile tests, Chinese anger at the deployment of a U.S. missile defense system in South Korea, and uncertainties about the direction of U.S. foreign policy under the Trump Administration. By law, South Korea must hold...

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....

An Introduction to Poverty Measurement

Poverty measures convey the number or percentage of people falling below given income amounts, which are intended to represent a level of economic privation and are computed using some factually based measurement of basic needs. The poverty measures discussed in this report—the official U.S. poverty measure and the research Supplemental Poverty Measure—focus on financial resources. A family’s income is compared against a dollar amount representing some measure of need, called a threshold, which typically varies by family size and composition. Those with family income less than the...

Clean Power Plan: Legal Background and Pending Litigation in West Virginia v. EPA

On October 23, 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published its final Clean Power Plan rule (Rule) to regulate emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs), specifically carbon dioxide (CO2), from existing fossil fuel-fired power plants. The aim of the Rule, according to EPA, is to help protect human health and the environment from the impacts of climate change. The Clean Power Plan would require states to submit plans to achieve state-specific CO2 goals reflecting emission performance rates or emission levels for predominantly coal- and gas-fired power plants, with a series of...

Judge Neil M. Gorsuch: His Jurisprudence and Potential Impact on the Supreme Court

On January 31, 2017, President Donald J. Trump announced the nomination of Judge Neil M. Gorsuch of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit (Tenth Circuit) to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court of the United States created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016. Judge Gorsuch was appointed to the Tenth Circuit by President George W. Bush in 2006. The Tenth Circuit’s territorial jurisdiction covers Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah, Wyoming, and parts of Yellowstone National Park that extend into Idaho and Montana.

Immediately prior to his appointment to the...

Medicaid Financial Eligibility for Long-Term Services and Supports

Medicaid is a means-tested entitlement program that finances the delivery of health care and long-term services and supports (LTSS) to certain eligible low-income individuals. Established under Title XIX of the Social Security Act (SSA), the Medicaid program is state-operated within broad federal guidelines, and is jointly funded by the federal government and states. To qualify for Medicaid, individuals must meet certain categorical and financial requirements. To qualify for Medicaid LTSS, individuals must also meet state-based functional eligibility criteria that determine need for...

Protests in Cameroon: Context and Issues for Congress

Since late 2016, members of Cameroon’s minority Anglophone community have demonstrated against their perceived marginalization, exposing historic fissures in Cameroon’s diverse society and placing further strain on a government facing serious political and security challenges. The administration of long-serving President Paul Biya has responded forcefully, prompting international criticism. The unrest may be of interest to some Members of Congress, given possible implications for stability in Central Africa and U.S.-Cameroonian security cooperation to counter Boko Haram, the...

Northern Ireland’s Snap Assembly Elections: Outcome and Implications

On March 2, 2017, voters in Northern Ireland—which is one of four component “nations” of the United Kingdom (UK)—went to the polls in snap elections for Northern Ireland’s Assembly, its regional legislature. The Assembly is a key institution in Northern Ireland’s devolved government, in which specified powers have been transferred from London to Belfast, as set out in the 1998 peace agreement aimed at ending Northern Ireland’s 30-year sectarian conflict (in which almost 3,500 people died). The peace accord mandated that power in the devolved government would be shared between Northern...

Criminal Prohibitions on Leaks and Other Disclosures of Classified Defense Information

Recent unauthorized disclosures of information concerning activities in the White House, and the publication of large quantities of classified information by WikiLeaks and other organizations and news outlets, have prompted congressional interest in criminal prohibitions on disclosure of classified information. While some have described recent leaks of classified information as “illegal” and “criminal,” there is no single statute that criminalizes any unauthorized disclosure of classified information. Instead, the legal framework is based on a complex and often overlapping set of statutes...

U.S. Secret Service: Selected Issues and Executive and Congressional Responses

Since 1865, the U.S. Secret Service (USSS) has investigated counterfeiting, and since 1901, at the request of congressional leadership, the Service has provided full-time presidential protection.

The USSS has two primary purposes which are criminal investigations and protection. Criminal investigation activities include financial crimes, identity theft, counterfeiting, computer fraud, and computer-based attacks on the nation’s financial, banking, and telecommunications infrastructure, among other areas. The protection mission covers the President, Vice President, their families, and...

Federal Building and Facility Security: Frequently Asked Questions

The security of federal government buildings and facilities affects not only the daily operations of the federal government but also the health, well-being, and safety of federal employees and the public. Federal building and facility security is decentralized and disparate in approach, as numerous federal entities are involved and some buildings or facilities are occupied by multiple federal agencies. The federal government is tasked with securing over 446,000 buildings or facilities daily.

The September 2001 terrorist attacks, the September 2013 Washington Navy Yard shootings, and the...

Defining “Industrial Hemp”: A Fact Sheet

Botanically, industrial hemp and marijuana are from the same species of plant, Cannabis sativa, but from different varieties or cultivars. However, industrial hemp and marijuana are genetically distinct forms of cannabis that are distinguished by their use and chemical makeup as well as by differing cultivation practices in their production. While marijuana generally refers primarily to the psychotropic drug (whether used for medicinal or recreational purposes), industrial hemp is cultivated for use in the production of a wide range of products, including foods and beverages, personal care...

Resolutions of Inquiry in the House

A resolution of inquiry is a simple House resolution (H.Res.) making a direct request or demand of the President or the head of an executive department to furnish the House with specific factual information in the Administration’s possession.

Under clause 7 of House Rule XIII, such resolutions, if properly drafted, are given a special parliamentary status. If the committee to which such a resolution is referred has not reported the measure back to the House within 14 legislative days after its introduction, a privileged and non-debatable motion to discharge the committee of further...

Municipal Broadband: Background and Policy Debate

Since the late 1990s, broadband Internet service has been deployed in the United States, primarily by private sector providers. While broadband deployment has been rapid and robust overall, there remain communities that are dissatisfied with their broadband service. Some of these communities have turned to public entities as possible broadband providers, with the expectation that municipal broadband networks (also referred to as “community broadband”) can deliver superior levels of speed, performance, and/or affordability than what is currently offered by private providers. Public entities...

Federal Land Ownership: Overview and Data

The federal government owns roughly 640 million acres, about 28% of the 2.27 billion a