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Contaminants of Emerging Concern under the Clean Water Act

Recent decades have seen increased national attention to the presence of “emerging contaminants” or “contaminants of emerging concern” (CECs) in surface water and groundwater. Although there is no federal statutory or regulatory definition of CECs, generally, the term refers to unregulated substances detected in the environment that may present a risk to human health, aquatic life, or the environment and for which the scientific understanding of potential risks is evolving. CECs can include many different types of manufactured chemicals and substances—such as those in pharmaceuticals,...

National Flood Insurance Program: The Current Rating Structure and Risk Rating 2.0

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is the primary source of flood insurance coverage for residential properties in the United States, with more than five million policies in over 22,000 communities in 56 states and jurisdictions. FEMA is planning to introduce the biggest change to the way the NFIP calculates flood insurance premiums, known as Risk Rating 2.0, since the inception of the NFIP in 1968. The new premium rates are scheduled to go into effect on October 1, 2021, for all NFIP policies across the country.

Risk Rating 2.0 will continue the overall policy of phasing out NFIP...

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 the GSP program in Division M, Title V of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018 (P.L. 115-141). This act extended the GSP program until December 31, 2020, as well as...

FY2020 Refugee Ceiling and Allocations

On November 1, 2019, President Donald Trump issued a Presidential Determination setting the FY2020 refugee ceiling at 18,000. The refugee ceiling is the maximum number of refugees that can be admitted to the United States in a fiscal year. From the start of FY2020 until the signing of the Presidential Determination, no refugees could be admitted to the United States.

The FY2020 refugee ceiling of 18,000 is the lowest in the history of the U.S. refugee admissions program. The Trump Administration has reduced the refugee ceiling each year, setting it at 45,000 for FY2018 and 30,000 for...

Harbor Dredging: Issues and Historical Funding

Congress is debating whether to support increased funding for dredging to better maintain harbor channel depths and widths. A bill passed by the House (H.R. 2440) seeks to boost dredging activity by utilizing more of the collections from a port tax levied to fund harbor maintenance. However, it is not clear whether the additional funding would increase the volume of material dredged from U.S. harbors, as a variety of factors affect the cost and performance of harbor dredging. In contrast to the House bill, in S. 2470 the Senate Committee on Appropriations recommends a Gulf Coast...

Precision-Guided Munitions: Background and Issues for Congress

Over the years, the U.S. military has become reliant on precision-guided munitions (PGMs) to execute military operations. PGMs are used in ground, air, and naval operations. Defined by the Department of Defense (DOD) as “[a] guided weapon intended to destroy a point target and minimize collateral damage,” PGMs can include air- and ship-launched missiles, multiple launched rockets, and guided bombs. These munitions typically use radio signals from the global positioning system (GPS), laser guidance, and inertial navigation systems (INS)—using gyroscopes—to improve a weapon’s accuracy to...

Unauthorized Childhood Arrivals, DACA, and Related Legislation

On June 4, 2019, the House passed the American Dream and Promise Act of 2019 (H.R. 6) on a vote of 237 to 187. Title I of the bill, the Dream Act of 2019, would establish a process for certain unauthorized immigrants who entered the United States as children (known as unauthorized childhood arrivals) to obtain lawful permanent immigration status. This vote on H.R. 6 was the latest in a line of House and Senate floor votes on legislation to grant some type of immigration relief to unauthorized childhood arrivals.

As commonly used, the term “unauthorized childhood arrivals” encompasses both...

Federal Regional Commissions and Authorities: Structural Features and Function

This report describes the structure, activities, legislative history, and funding history of seven federal regional commissions and authorities: the Appalachian Regional Commission; the Delta Regional Authority; the Denali Commission; the Northern Border Regional Commission; the Northern Great Plains Regional Authority; the Southeast Crescent Regional Commission; and the Southwest Border Regional Commission.

All seven regional commissions and authorities are broadly modeled after the Appalachian Regional Commission structure, which is composed of a federal co-chair appointed by the...

Canada’s October 2019 Elections

On October 21, 2019, Canadians went to the polls to elect 338 Members of Parliament. Although Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Liberal Party secured the most seats in the House of Commons, they lost the majority they had won in 2015. Trudeau’s new minority government will have to seek support from other parties to pass its agenda. This altered balance of power could have implications for U.S.-Canadian relations, including commercial, defense, and energy ties.

2019 Campaign

Prime Minister Trudeau and the Liberals won power in 2015 on a platform pledging to improve economic security for...

Intelligence Community Spending: Trends and Issues

Total intelligence spending is usually understood as the combination of the National Intelligence Program (NIP), which supports strategic planning and policymaking, and the Military Intelligence Program (MIP), which supports military operational and tactical levels of planning and operations. There are 4 defense NIP programs, 8 nondefense NIP programs, and 10 MIP programs. Six U.S. intelligence community (IC) components have both MIP and NIP funding sources.

The Director of National Intelligence (DNI) and Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence (USD(I)), respectively, manage the NIP...

Iraq: Protests and the Future of U.S. Partnership

Mass protests and state violence against some protestors have shaken Iraq since October 2019, with more than 260 Iraqis reported dead and thousands more injured in demonstrations and isolated clashes in Baghdad and southern Iraq. Protestors and some prominent political figures have demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Adel Abd Al Mahdi and his cabinet, channeling nationalist, nonsectarian sentiment and a range of frustrations into potent rejections of the post-2003 political order. Current protests are reiterating past demonstrators’ concerns (with louder critiques of Iranian...

The Emoluments Clauses and the Presidency: Background and Recent Developments

Recent litigation involving the President has raised legal issues concerning formerly obscure constitutional provisions that prohibit the acceptance or receipt of “emoluments” in certain circumstances. First, the Foreign Emoluments Clause (Article I, Section 9, Clause 8 of the Constitution) prohibits any person “holding any Office of Profit or Trust under” the United States from accepting “any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever” from a foreign government unless Congress consents. Second, the Domestic Emoluments Clause (Article II, Section 1, Clause 7) prohibits the...

Federal Land Management Agencies’ Mandatory Appropriations Accounts

Management of lands and resources is a principal mission for four federal agencies—the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), Forest Service (FS), and National Park Service (NPS). Most of the appropriations for these agencies come from discretionary appropriations enacted by Congress through annual appropriations laws. However, each of the agencies also receives mandatory appropriations under provisions of authorizing statutes enacted by Congress. Under these laws, the agencies spend money without further action by Congress.

A number of issues arise for Congress...

Legalization Framework Under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA)

The population of unlawfully present aliens in the United States numbers between ten million and twelve million, according to recent estimates. The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) takes three primary approaches to regulating this population: removal, deterrence, and—to a lesser extent—legalization. Legalization, as used here, means the granting of a lawful immigration status to an unlawfully present alien so that he or she is no longer subject to removal under the INA. Put differently, an unlawfully present alien “legalizes” by obtaining lawful permanent resident status (LPR or...

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

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

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

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.

Funding U.S.-Mexico Border Barrier Construction: Current Issues

The construction of barriers on the U.S-Mexico borders to control unauthorized crossings has been a matter of significant debate since President Donald Trump made construction of a border wall a key element of his campaign for the presidency. This Insight provides a brief overview of the funding history for these barriers, and how the current administration is redirecting federal funds to support construction of additional mileage.

Border Barriers Under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama

In the decade prior to President Trump’s election, Congress had appropriated almost $2.5...

Social Security: Demographic Trends and the Funding Shortfall

The Social Security program pays monthly benefits to retired or disabled workers and their families and to the family members of deceased workers. Social Security, or Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI), is intended to operate primarily as a pay-as-you-go system, where program revenues cover program costs. The OASDI program’s revenues and costs are largely determined by economic and demographic factors. The Social Security program is experiencing rising costs and relatively stable income, a trend that is projected to continue for several decades. Although economic and...

Unemployment Compensation (UC): Issues Related to Drug Testing

Recent interest in Unemployment Compensation (UC) drug testing has grown at both the federal and state levels. The policy interest in mandatory drug testing of individuals who are applying for or receiving UC benefits parallels two larger policy trends. First, some state legislatures have considered drug testing individuals receiving public assistance benefits. While UC is generally considered social insurance (rather than public assistance), the concept of drug testing UC recipients (who are receiving state-financed benefits from a program authorized under state laws) could be interpreted...

Membership of the 116th Congress: A Profile

This report presents a profile of the membership of the 116th Congress (2019-2020) as of November 4 2019. Statistical information is included on selected characteristics of Members, including data on party affiliation, average age, occupation, education, length of congressional service, religious affiliation, gender, ethnicity, foreign birth, and military service.

In the House of Representatives, there are 237 Democrats (including 4 Delegates), 199 Republicans (including 1 Delegate and the Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico), 1 Independent, and 4 vacant seats. The Senate has 53...

Community Bank Leverage Ratio (CBLR): Background and Analysis of Bank Data

Capital allows banks to withstand losses (to a point) without failing, and regulators require banks to hold certain minimum amounts. These requirements are generally expressed as ratios between balance sheet items, and banks (particularly small banks) indicate that reporting those ratios can be difficult. Capital ratios fall into one of two main types—simpler leverage ratios and more complex risk-weighted ratios. A leverage ratio treats all assets the same, whereas a risk-weighted ratio assigns assets a risk weight to account for the likelihood of losses.

In response to concerns that small...

Social Security: Taxation of Benefits

Social Security provides monthly cash benefits to retired or disabled workers and their family members and to the family members of deceased workers. Those benefits were initially exempt from federal income tax, but in 1983, Congress approved recommendations from the National Commission on Social Security Reform (also known as the Greenspan Commission) as part of the Social Security Amendments of 1983 to tax the benefits of some higher-income Social Security beneficiaries. In the congressional debate leading to the Social Security Amendments of 1983 and the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation...

Quantum Information Science: Applications, Global Research and Development, and Policy Considerations

Quantum information science (QIS) combines elements of mathematics, computer science, engineering, and physical sciences, and has the potential to provide capabilities far beyond what is possible with the most advanced technologies available today. Although much of the press coverage of QIS has been devoted to quantum computing, there is more to QIS. Many experts divide QIS technologies into three application areas: Sensing and metrology, Communications, and Computing and simulation. The government’s interest in QIS dates back at least to the mid-1990s, when the National Institute of...

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

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

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

$7.569 Billion Highway Rescission Approaches

Current funding for the Federal-Aid Highway Program is authorized through September 30, 2020, by the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act; P.L. 114-94). However, Section 1438 of the act directs that on July 1, 2020, $7.569 billion of the unobligated balances of highway formula funds apportioned to the states under the law be permanently rescinded.

Rescissions are provisions in law that cancel the availability of previously enacted budget authority before the budget authority would otherwise expire.

Why the Rescission Was Included in the FAST Act

The Highway Trust Fund...

Lebanon: Protests and Government Resignation

On October 29, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced his resignation, automatically triggering the resignation of his government. The move followed nearly two weeks of nationwide mass protests, described as potentially the largest in Lebanese history. Protestors represent a broad economic, political, and sectarian cross-section of Lebanese society, and have continued to call for a comprehensive change in political leadership even after the resignation of the Hariri government. The protests, and uncertainty over the formation of a new government, represent a significant challenge...

State Minimum Wages: An Overview

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), enacted in 1938, is the federal law that establishes the general minimum wage that must be paid to all covered workers. While the FLSA mandates broad minimum wage coverage, states have the option of establishing minimum wage rates that are different from those set in it. Under the provisions of the FLSA, an individual is generally covered by the higher of the state or federal minimum wage.

As of 2020, minimum wage rates are above the federal rate of $7.25 per hour in 29 states and the District of Columbia, ranging from $1.31 to $7.75 above the federal...

Tunisia: In Brief

Tunisia remains the sole country to have made a durable transition to democracy as a result of the 2011 “Arab Spring.” Tunisians adopted a new constitution in 2014 and have since held two competitive national elections resulting in peaceful transfers of power. At the same time, living standards have worsened for many Tunisians, increasing pressure on political leaders. High unemployment and inflation, unpopular fiscal austerity measures, and concerns about corruption have spurred protests, labor unrest, and a backlash against political elites in recent years.

In September-October 2019...

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, helping to address multiple regional threats by hosting U.S. military personnel at UAE military facilities and buying sophisticated U.S. military equipment, including missile defenses and combat aircraft. The alliance with the United States is expected to continue after UAE President Shaykh Khalifa bin Zayid Al Nuhayyan, who suffered an incapacitating stroke in January 2014, is succeeded by his younger brother and de-facto UAE leader Shaykh Muhammad bin Zayid Al Nuhayyan.

With ample financial resources...

Afghanistan: Background and U.S. Policy In Brief

Afghanistan was elevated as a significant U.S. foreign policy concern in 2001, when the United States, in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, led a military campaign against Al Qaeda and the Taliban government that harbored and supported it. In the intervening 18 years, the United States has suffered around 2,400 military fatalities in Afghanistan (including 17 in combat in 2019 to date) and Congress has appropriated approximately $133 billion for reconstruction there. In that time, an elected Afghan government has replaced the Taliban, and most measures of human...

Charitable Conservation Contributions: Potential for Abuse?

Taxpayers may be able to claim a charitable deduction for the value of qualified conservation contributions, which include conservation easements. In recent years, deductions for conservation contributions have increased. There are concerns that some of this increase has been driven by syndicated conservation easements, where a pass-through business entity acquires real property on behalf of investors, makes a conservation contribution to a qualified organization, and then allocates the tax benefits among the investors. Conservation contributions made through syndicated conservation...

2019 California Wildfires: Brief Overview of FEMA Programs and Resources

Introduction

This Insight provides a brief overview of current Fire Management Assistance Grant (FMAG) declarations and federal assistance programs that may be available.

The National Weather Service (NWS) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) provides fire weather outlooks intended to delineate areas of the continental United States where “pre-existing fuel conditions, combined with forecast weather conditions during the next eight days, will result in a significant threat for the ignitions and/or spread of wildfires.” These conditions involve combinations of...

Argentina’s 2019 Elections

Argentina’s Peronist party (officially known as the Partido Justicialista) returned to power in October 27, 2019, presidential elections. Alberto Fernández of the center-left Peronist Frente de Todos (Front for All) coalition defeated current President Mauricio Macri of the center-right Juntos por el Cambio (Together for Change) coalition by a vote of 48.1% to 40.4% in a six-candidate race. Argentina’s economic crisis—marked by recession, high inflation, and increasing poverty—appeared to be the most important factor in the race. Although Macri’s defeat was not unexpected, most polls had...

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....

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).

The number of countries covered by the TIP Report has grown over time. In the 2019 TIP Report, released on June 20, 2019, the State Department...

Brexit: Status and Outlook

After the 2016 referendum in which 52% of voters in the United Kingdom (UK) favored leaving the European Union (EU), Brexit was originally scheduled to occur on March 29, 2019. In early 2019, however, Parliament repeatedly rejected the withdrawal agreement negotiated between Prime Minister Theresa May’s government and the EU without supporting any alternative. Given continued political deadlock over Brexit in the UK, the EU has granted the UK three deadline extensions. The most recent extension lasts until January 31, 2020.

Recent Developments and Possible Scenarios

On October 17, 2019,...

U.S. Natural Gas: Becoming Dominant

In the beginning of the 21st century, natural gas prices were increasing and the United States was viewed as a growing natural gas importer. Multiple liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminals were built while existing ones were recommissioned and expanded. However, the market conditions also drove domestic producers to innovate. As average U.S. prices peaked in 2008, domestic shale gas production was brought to market. Improvements in technologies such as hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling made the development of unconventional natural gas resources such as shale and other...

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 a worker dies, his or her spouse, former spouse(s), and/or 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.

California Wildfires and Bulk Electric System Reliability

Introduction

Many regions of the United States are susceptible to wildfires during droughts, with lightning being a frequent cause. California has been particularly affected in recent years. Since 2000, California has experienced 15 of the 20 most destructive wildfires in the state’s history. However, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, electric utilities in California were responsible for several of these wildfires. In 2007, San Diego Gas and Electric was blamed for several wildfires in San Diego County, and in 2017, Southern California Edison was...

MHS Genesis: Background and Issues for Congress

Since 1968, the Department of Defense (DOD) has developed, procured, and sustained a variety of electronic systems to document the health care services delivered to servicemembers, military retirees, and their family members. DOD currently operates a number of legacy electronic health record (EHR) systems. Each system has separate capabilities and functions as a result of new or changing requirements over the past five decades. The primary legacy systems include the Composite Health Care System (CHCS), Armed Forces Health Longitudinal Technology Application (AHLTA), Essentris, and the...

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

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

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

Kuwait has been pivotal to the decades-long U.S. effort to secure the Persian Gulf region because of its consistent cooperation with U.S. military operations in the region and its key location in the northern Gulf. Kuwait and the United States have a formal Defense Cooperation Agreement (DCA), under which the United States maintains over 13,000 military personnel in country and prepositions military equipment to be able to project power in the region.

Kuwait is a partner not only of the United States but also of the other hereditary monarchies of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC: Saudi...

Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs: FY2020 Budget and Appropriations

Each year, Congress considers 12 distinct appropriations measures, including one for the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs (SFOPS), which includes funding for U.S. diplomatic activities, cultural exchanges, development and security assistance, and U.S. participation in multilateral organizations, among other international activities. On March 11, 2019, the Trump Administration submitted to Congress its SFOPS budget proposal for FY2020, which totaled $42.72 billion in discretionary funds ($42.88 billion when $158.9 million in mandatory retirement funds are...

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...

Video Broadcasting from the Federal Courts: Issues for Congress

Members of Congress, along with the legal community, journalists, and the public, have long considered the potential merits and drawbacks of using video cameras to record and/or broadcast courtroom proceedings. The first bill to propose video camera use in the federal courts was introduced in the House of Representatives in 1937, and since the mid-1990s, Members of Congress in both chambers have regularly introduced bills to expand the use of cameras in the federal courts and have sometimes held hearings on the subject.

Video cameras are commonly used in state and local courtrooms...

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.

2018 Farm Bill (P.L. 115-334) Primer Series: A Guide to Omnibus Farm and Food Legislation

This report summarizes a series of In Focus products prepared by CRS on the enacted Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (2018 farm bill; P.L. 115-334). The President signed the 2018 farm bill into law in December 2018. To a large extent, the 2018 farm bill continues the general thrust of prior farm and food policy by reauthorizing many of the existing programs through 2023. In some cases, Congress modified existing programs, while also creating new programs and allowing certain other programs to expire.

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 those Americans who have access to telecommunications and information technologies and those who do not. One important subset of the digital divide debate concerns access to high-speed internet, also known as broadband. Broadband is provided by a series of technologies (e.g., cable, telephone wire, fiber, satellite, and mobile and fixed wireless) that give users the ability to send and receive data at volumes and speeds that support a number of applications including voice communications, entertainment,...

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): Categorical Eligibility

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides benefits to low-income, eligible households on an electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card; benefits can then be exchanged for foods at authorized retailers. SNAP reaches a large share of low-income households. In FY2018, a monthly average of 40.3 million persons in 20.1 million households participated in SNAP.

Federal SNAP law provides two basic pathways for financial eligibility to the program: (1) meeting program-specific federal eligibility requirements; or (2) being automatically or “categorically” eligible for SNAP based on...

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...

Congressional Access to Information in an Impeachment Investigation

Committee investigations in the House of Representatives can serve several objectives. Most often, an investigation seeks to gather information either to review past legislation or develop future legislation, or to enable a committee to conduct oversight of another branch of government. These inquiries may be called legislative investigations because their legal authority derives implicitly from the House’s general legislative power. Much more rarely, a House committee may carry out an investigation to determine whether there are grounds to impeach a federal official—a form of inquiry...

Issues in Autonomous Vehicle Testing and Deployment

Autonomous vehicles have the potential to bring major improvements in highway safety. Motor vehicle crashes caused an estimated 37,133 fatalities in 2017; a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has shown that 94% of crashes are due to human errors. For this reason, federal oversight of the testing and deployment of autonomous vehicles has been of considerable interest to Congress. In the 115th Congress, autonomous vehicle legislation passed the House as H.R. 3388, the SELF DRIVE Act, and a separate bill, S. 1885, the AV START Act, was reported from a Senate...

Dam Safety Overview and the Federal Role

Dams provide various services, including flood control, hydroelectric power, recreation, navigation, and water supply, but they require maintenance, and sometimes rehabilitation and repair, to ensure public and economic safety. Dam failure or incidents can endanger lives and property, as well as result in loss of services provided by the dam. Federal government agencies reported owning 3% of the more than 90,000 dams listed in the National Inventory of Dams (NID), including some of the largest dams in the United States. The majority of NID-listed dams are owned by private entities,...

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 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act of 1996 (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...

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Hazard Mitigation Assistance

Introduction

The majority of funding in the United States for both pre- and post-disaster mitigation comes from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which defines mitigation as “any sustained action to reduce or eliminate long-term risk to people and property from natural hazards and their effects.” Mitigation actions have a long-term impact, as opposed to actions that are associated with immediate preparedness, response, and recovery activities. Mitigation has been shown to save money. A recent study by the Multihazard Mitigation Council found that society saves $6 for every...

Overview of Continuing Appropriations for FY2020 (P.L. 116-59)

This report provides an analysis of the continuing appropriations provisions for FY2020 included in Division A (Continuing Appropriations Act, 2020) of H.R. 4378. The legislation also included a separate Division B (Health and Human Services Extenders and Other Matters), which extended multiple federal health care programs that were otherwise set to expire September 30, 2019, and provided for some adjustments to additional health programs. This report examines only Division A, the continuing resolution (CR) portion of the legislation. On September 27, 2019, the President signed H.R. 4378...

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...

Financial Inclusion and Credit Access Policy Issues

Access to basic financial products and services is generally considered foundational for households to manage their financial affairs, improve their financial well-being, and graduate to wealth building activities in the future. Financial inclusion in three domains can be particularly important for households: access to bank and other payment accounts; access to the credit reporting system; and access to affordable short-term small-dollar credit. In the United States, robust consumer credit markets allow most consumers to access financial services and credit products to meet their needs...

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...

Escalating U.S. Tariffs: Timeline

The trade practices of U.S. trading partners and the U.S. trade deficit are a focus of the Trump Administration. Citing these and other concerns, the President has imposed tariff increases under three U.S. laws:

(1) Section 201 of the Trade Act of 1974 (Table 1) on U.S. imports of washing machines and solar products;

(2) Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 (Table 2) on U.S. imports of steel and aluminum, and potentially motor vehicles/parts and titanium sponge (the President decided not to impose tariffs on uranium imports, after an investigation); and

(3) Section 301 of the...

PHMSA’s Pipeline Safety Reauthorization: Funding Issues

Introduction

The federal pipeline safety program is administered by the Department of Transportation’s (DOT’s) Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), working with state pipeline safety regulators. Together, the federal and state agencies administer comprehensive regulations to ensure the safety of the nation’s hazardous liquid (e.g., crude oil) and natural gas pipelines. Under the Protecting Our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety Act of 2016 (P.L. 114-183), funding authorization for PHMSA’s pipeline safety program expired on October 1, 2019. Congress...

Escalating U.S. Tariffs: Affected Trade

The trade practices of U.S. trading partners and the U.S. trade deficit are a focus of the Trump Administration. Citing these and other concerns, the President has imposed unilateral tariff increases under three U.S. laws:

(1) Section 201 of the Trade Act of 1974 on U.S. imports of washing machines and solar products;

(2) Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 on U.S. imports of steel and aluminum, and potentially motor vehicles/parts and titanium sponge (the President decided not to impose tariffs on uranium imports, after an investigation); and

(3) Section 301 of the Trade Act...

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...

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

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

Turkey Sanctions in Pending Legislation: Issues for Congress

Congress is actively considering a variety of bills that could impose sanctions on Turkey. The pending legislation is largely in response to a Turkish-led incursion into Syria (which Turkey calls Operation Peace Spring, or OPS) that began in early October after the Trump Administration announced that the United States was relocating some U.S. Special Forces away from the Syria-Turkey border area. Sanctions imposed via legislation would add to sanctions that the Administration imposed on Turkey in response to OPS, and many would stand until Turkey withdraws from areas it has already...

Unemployment Insurance: Consequences of Changes in State Unemployment Compensation Laws

This report analyzes recent changes to state Unemployment Compensation (UC) programs. Two categories of UC state law issues are considered: (1) changes in the duration of state UC unemployment benefits, and (2) changes in the UC weekly benefit amount.

In recent years, some states have enacted legislation to decrease the maximum number of weeks of regular state UC benefits. Until 2011, all states paid at least up to 26 weeks of UC benefits to eligible, unemployed individuals. In 2011, however, six states passed legislation to decrease their maximum UC benefit durations: Arkansas, Florida,...

Federal Role in Responding to Potential Risks of Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of fluorinated compounds that have been used for various purposes, including numerous commercial, industrial, and U.S. military applications. Some common uses include food packaging, nonstick coatings, and stain-resistance fabrics, and as an ingredient in fire suppressants in Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) used at U.S. military installations, at civilian airports, and by state and local fire departments, and elsewhere. PFAS persist in the environment and in humans, and studies on several PFAS indicate that exposures above certain...

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

The U.S. role in the world refers to the overall character, purpose, or direction of U.S. participation in international affairs and the country’s overall relationship to the rest of the world. The U.S. role in the world can be viewed as establishing the overall context or framework for U.S. policymakers for developing, implementing, and measuring the success of U.S. policies and actions on specific international issues, and for foreign countries or other observers for interpreting and understanding U.S. actions on the world stage.

While descriptions of the U.S. role in the world since the...

U.S. Women’s Soccer Team and Equal Pay

U.S. Women’s National Team’s (USWNT) efforts to obtain pay equal to the pay provided to the U.S. Men’s National Team (USMNT) by the U.S. Soccer Federation rose to prominence during the team’s successful quest for the Women’s World Cup 2019, the team’s fourth such title since 1991. The members of the USWNT and USMNT share the same employer, U.S. Soccer, with whom each team has a collective bargaining agreement (CBA). The USWNT efforts have led to discussions over whether U.S. Soccer has complied with key anti-discrimination laws regarding pay equity.

Recent Developments

On March 30, 2016,...

Small Business Administration 504/CDC Loan Guaranty Program

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

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

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

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

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

Abortion and Family Planning-Related Provisions in U.S. Foreign Assistance Law and Policy

This report details legislation and policies that restrict or place requirements on U.S. funding of abortion or family planning activities abroad. The level and extent of federal funding for these activities is an ongoing and controversial issue in U.S. foreign assistance and has continued to be a point of contention during the 116th Congress.

These issues have been debated for over four decades in the context of a broader domestic abortion controversy that began with the Supreme Court’s 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade, which holds that the Constitution protects a woman’s decision to terminate...

The Outdoor Recreation Economy

Congress plays an overarching role in shaping outdoor recreation throughout the nation through legislation and oversight. As Congress continues to debate outdoor recreation issues—including provision of federal resources, planning efforts, and funding—data on the size, distribution, and relative importance of the outdoor recreation economy may inform these debates. Both historical and recent legislative and executive efforts centered on outdoor recreation have identified the economic importance of outdoor recreation. In 2016, Congress passed the Outdoor Recreation Jobs and Economic Impact...

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

U.S.-Iran relations have been adversarial—to varying degrees of intensity—since the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran. U.S. officials have consistently identified Iran’s support for militant Middle East groups as a significant threat to U.S. interests and allies, and Iran’s nuclear program took precedence in U.S. policy after 2002 as that program advanced.

In 2010, the Obama Administration led a campaign of broad international economic pressure on Iran to persuade it to agree to strict limits on the program—an effort that contributed to Iran’s acceptance of the July 2015 multilateral...

Social Security: The Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP)

Social Security is a work-based, federal insurance program that provides income support to workers and their eligible family members in the event of the worker’s retirement, disability, or death. A worker’s employment or self-employment is considered covered by Social Security if the services performed in that job result in earnings that are taxable and creditable for program purposes. Although participation in Social Security is compulsory for most workers, about 6% of all workers in paid employment or self-employment are not covered by Social Security.

The windfall elimination provision...

NASA Appropriations and Authorizations: A Fact Sheet

National Aeronautics and Space Administration NASA budget appropriations authorization reauthorization funding FY2018 2018 FY2019 2019 FY2020 2020 NASA congressional budget justification NASA budget request NASA operating plan Commerce-Justice-Science CJS appropriations P.L. 115-141 H.R. 5952 S. 3072 H.R. 21 H.R. 648 NASA Authorization Act of 2018 (H.R. 5503) National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2018 (S. 3799) Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2019 (P.L. 116-6) H.R. 3055 H.Rept. 116-101 S. 2584 S.Rept. 116-127

Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) Appropriations for FY2020: In Brief

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Deficit Financing, the Debt, and “Modern Monetary Theory”

Explaining persistently low interest rates despite large deficits and rising debt has been one of the central challenges of macroeconomists since the end of the Great Recession. This dynamic has led to increasing attention to Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), presented as an alternative to the mainstream macroeconomic way of thinking, in some fiscal policy discussions. Such discussions are at times restricted by a difficulty, expressed by policymakers and economists alike, in understanding MMT’s core principles and how they inform MMT’s views on fiscal policy. MMT suggests that deficit...

The District of Columbia Tuition Assistance Grant (DCTAG) Program

To address concerns about the public postsecondary education offerings available to District of Columbia residents, the District of Columbia College Access Act of 1999 (P.L. 106-98) established the District of Columbia Tuition Assistance Grant (DCTAG) program. The program is meant to provide college-bound DC residents with a greater array of choices among institutions of higher education by providing grants for undergraduate education. Grants for study at public institutions of higher education (IHEs) nationwide offset the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition and fees, up...

House and Senate Restaurants: Current Operations and Issues for Congress

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

Libra: A Facebook-led Cryptocurrency Initiative

On June 18, 2019, Facebook announced that, with 28 other members, it had founded the Libra Association, which planned to launch a new cryptocurrency, called Libra. The association released a white paper that outlined the characteristics of Libra and described its goal of creating a cryptocurrency that would overcome some of the challenges faced by other cryptocurrencies and deliver the possible benefits of the technology on a large scale.

President Trump and Treasury Secretary Mnuchin raised concerns about the Libra project, as did several Members of Congress during Senate Banking...

Coast Guard Cutter Procurement: Background and Issues for Congress

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

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

Small Business Mentor-Protégé Programs

Mentor-protégé programs typically seek to pair new businesses with more experienced businesses in mutually beneficial relationships. Protégés may receive financial, technical, or management assistance from mentors in obtaining and performing federal contracts or subcontracts, or serving as suppliers under such contracts or subcontracts. Mentors may receive credit toward subcontracting goals, reimbursement of certain expenses, or other incentives.

The federal government currently has several mentor-protégé programs to assist small businesses in various ways. For example, the 8(a)...

Turkey: Background, U.S. Relations, and Sanctions In Brief

Some specific Turkish actions have raised questions about Turkey’s commitment to NATO and overall strategic orientation. In 2019, Turkey’s incursion into northeastern Syria and acceptance of components for a Russian S-400 surface-to-air defense system have brought bilateral tensions to crisis levels, and contributed to Trump Administration sanctions on Turkey and the possibility of additional sanctions or other actions from Congress. Events in Syria and a 2016 coup attempt in Turkey appear to have led Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to act more independently from the United States...

Unemployment Insurance: Programs and Benefits

Certain benefits may be available to unemployed workers to provide them with income support during a spell of unemployment. The cornerstone of this income support is the joint federal-state Unemployment Compensation (UC) program, which may provide income support through the payment of UC benefits for up to a maximum of 26 weeks in most states. Other programs that may provide workers with income support are more specialized. They may target special groups of workers, be automatically triggered by certain economic conditions, be temporarily created by Congress with a set expiration date, or...

Agriculture and Related Agencies: FY2020 Appropriations

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

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

Global Vaccination: Trends and U.S. Role

For more than 50 years, the United States has taken an interest in the eradication of vaccine-preventable diseases (VPDs) in children worldwide, as well as vaccine research and development, particularly since playing a vital role in the global campaign to eradicate smallpox in the 1960s. Since then, vaccinating children against VPDs has been a major U.S. foreign policy effort.

Vaccinations are one of the most cost-effective ways to prevent infectious disease and associated morbidity and mortality. According to UNICEF, immunizations save around 3 million lives per year. As of 2019, VPDs...

Air Force KC-46A Pegasus Tanker Aircraft Program

On February 24, 2011, the Department of Defense (DOD) announced the Boeing Company as the winner of a competition to build 179 new KC-46A aerial refueling tankers for the Air Force, a contract valued at roughly $35 billion. Prior to the announcement, the program had been known as KC-X. The first four KC-46s were delivered in January 2019.

The KC-46A acquisition program is a subject of congressional interest because of the dollar value of the contract, the number of jobs it would create, the importance of tanker aircraft to U.S. military operations, and because previous attempts to acquire...

The Impact of the Federal Income Tax on Poverty: Before and After the 2017 Tax Revision (“TCJA”; P.L. 115-97)

The federal individual income tax is structured so that the poor owe little or no income tax. In addition, the federal individual income tax (hereinafter referred to simply as the income tax) increases the disposable income of many poor families via refundable tax credits—primarily the earned income tax credit (EITC) and the refundable portion of the child tax credit, referred to as the additional child tax credit, or ACTC. These credits are explicitly designed to benefit low-income families with workers and children and can significantly boost families’ disposable income, lifting many of...

The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF)

The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) provides cash benefits to certain persons whose health may have been affected by exposure to debris or toxic substances in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the Pentagon, the World Trade Center, and the terrorist-related aircraft crash at Shanksville, PA. Congress created the original VCF shortly after the 2001 terrorist attacks to provide compensation to persons injured and the families of persons killed in the attacks and their immediate aftermath. The original VCF closed in 2003.

In 2011, Congress reopened the...

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

Several U.N. Security Council resolutions adopted between 2006 and 2010 required Iran to cooperate fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA’s) investigation of its nuclear activities, suspend its uranium enrichment program, suspend its construction of a heavy-water reactor and related projects, and ratify the Additional Protocol to its IAEA safeguards agreement. Iran did not comply with most of the resolutions’ provisions. However, Tehran has implemented various restrictions on, and provided the IAEA with additional information about, its nuclear program pursuant to the...

Limits on TRICARE for Reservists: Frequently Asked Questions

Between 2001 and 2007, more than 575,000 members of the reserve components were ordered to active duty in support of ongoing military operations, including major combat operations in Afghanistan (Operation Enduring Freedom), Iraq (Operation Iraqi Freedom). While on active duty, reservists and their family members have access to a wide range of health care services administered by the Department of Defense’s (DOD) Military Health System (MHS). However, prior to 2005, chapter 55 of Title 10, U.S. Code, authorized little to no DOD health care services to nonactivated reservists or their...

Georgia: Background and U.S. Policy

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

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

Federal Civil Aviation Programs: In Brief

This report discusses Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) programs that are funded primarily through a special trust fund, the Airport and Airway Trust Fund (AATF), and organized under four broad budget accounts: operations and maintenance (such as air traffic control and aviation safety functions); facilities and equipment (such as control towers and navigation beacons); grants for airports under the Airport Improvement Program (AIP); and civil aviation research conducted or sponsored by FAA.

Federal Aviation Administration; FAA; Airport and Airway Trust Fund; AATF; aviation trust fund;...

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), as Amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA): A Primer

The primary source of federal aid for elementary and secondary education is the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)—particularly its Title I-A program, which authorizes federal aid for the education of disadvantaged students. The ESEA was initially enacted in 1965 (P.L. 89-10), and was most recently comprehensively amended and reauthorized by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA; P.L. 114-95).

Under Title I-A, the ESEA as amended by the ESSA continues to require states and public schools systems to focus on educational accountability as a condition for the receipt of grant...

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

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

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 to accomplish public purposes through projects benefiting states and communities. Individuals may be eligible for other kinds of benefits or assistance, and small businesses or students may be eligible for loans.

Free information is readily available to grantseekers, who generally best know the details of their projects. The Assistance Listings database at beta.SAM.gov describes more than 2,200 federal programs, more than half of them...

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...

Gun Control: National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) Operations and Related Legislation

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) administers a computer system of systems that is used to query federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial criminal history record information (CHRI) and other records to determine an individual’s firearms transfer/receipt and possession eligibility. This FBI-administered system is the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). NICS, or parallel state systems, must be checked and the pending transfer approved by the FBI or state point of contact before a federally licensed gun dealer may transfer a firearm to any customer who is...

DNS over HTTPS—What Is It and Why Do People Care?

Internet pioneer David Clark said: “It’s not that we didn’t think about security. We knew that there were untrustworthy people out there, and we thought we could exclude them.” Those who created the internet were focused on enabling the utility of the network, and a repercussion of their design decisions is that internet security is not inherent but must be retrofitted. Efforts to change one of the internet’s hardwired insecurities—the Domain Name System (DNS)—are ongoing but will be disruptive.

How We Get to Websites Today

When someone wants to visit a website, they type the web address...

Judiciary Appropriations, FY2020

Funds for the judicial branch are included annually in the Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) appropriations bill. The bill provides funding for the U.S. Supreme Court; the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit; the U.S. Court of International Trade; U.S. courts of appeals and district courts; the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts; the Federal Judicial Center; the U.S. Sentencing Commission; federal defender organizations that provide legal representation to defendants financially unable to retain counsel in federal criminal proceedings; security and protective...

Expired and Expiring Tax Provisions (“Tax Extenders”): CRS Resources

Some Members of Congress have expressed interest in extending temporary tax provisions that expired at the end of 2017 and 2018, and possibly extending provisions scheduled to expire at the end of 2019. Collectively, temporary tax provisions that are regularly extended as a group by Congress, rather than being allowed to expire as scheduled, are often referred to as “tax extenders.”

Temporary tax provisions were most recently extended in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (BBA18; P.L. 115-123). BBA18 extended nearly all of the provisions that had expired at the end of 2016, with most...

Parliamentary Rights of the Delegates and Resident Commissioner from Puerto Rico

As officers who represent territories and properties possessed or administered by the United States but not admitted to statehood, the five House delegates and the resident commissioner from Puerto Rico do not enjoy all the same parliamentary rights as Members of the House. They may vote and otherwise act similarly to Members in legislative committee. They may not vote on the House floor but may participate in debate and make most motions there. Under the rules of the 116th Congress (2017-2018), the delegates and resident commissioner may preside over the Committee of the Whole and may...

Broadband Data and Mapping: Background and Issues for the 116th Congress

Access to high-speed internet, also known as broadband, is increasingly important in the 21st century, as more and more aspects of everyday life, such as job applications and homework assignments, become digital. Some areas of the United States—particularly rural areas—have limited or no access to broadband due to market, geographic, or demographic factors. The gap between those who have access to broadband and those who do not is referred to as the digital divide.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), and Rural...

Public Transit Ridership Continues to Decline

Despite suggestions that ridership on the nation’s public transportation systems is beginning to grow again, available evidence suggests this optimism is premature. According to data from the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), 2018 marked the fourth straight year of declining ridership, falling by about 2.5% from the year before. Total ridership on transit buses and rail systems, including commuter rail services, and ferries in 2018 was below 10 billion for the first time since 2005. More recent quarterly data from APTA show that second-quarter ridership in 2019 was higher...

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...

“Sense of” Resolutions and Provisions

One or both houses of Congress may formally express opinions about subjects of current national interest through freestanding simple or concurrent resolutions (called generically “sense of the House,” “sense of the Senate,” or “sense of the Congress” resolutions). These opinions expressing the views of one or both chambers may be included in other legislation upon introduction or subsequently added by amendment. This report identifies the various forms these expressions may take and the procedures governing such actions.

Kosovo’s Election: Early Results May Signal Major Changes

On October 6, 2019, Kosovo held its fourth parliamentary election since declaring independence from Serbia in 2008 (Serbia does not recognize Kosovo’s independence). Opposition parties’ strong performance may result in the most consequential government turnover since independence, with implications for the future direction of the European Union (EU)-facilitated dialogue to normalize relations between Kosovo and Serbia. The United States has long supported Kosovo’s political and economic development, and U.S. officials and many Members of Congress support and have closely followed the...

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 to...

Senate Rule XIV Procedure for Placing Measures Directly on the Senate Calendar

When a Senator introduces a bill or joint resolution, or a House-passed bill or joint resolution is received in the Senate from the House, the measure is often referred to committee pursuant to provisions of Senate Rules XIV, XVII, and XXV. The Senate may, however, use provisions of Senate Rule XIV to bypass referral of a bill or joint resolution to a Senate committee and have the measure placed directly on the Senate Calendar of Business.

Although placing a bill or joint resolution directly on the calendar does not guarantee that the full Senate will ever consider it, the measure is...

Congressional Budget Office: Appointment and Tenure of the Director and Deputy Director

The requirements regarding the appointment and tenure of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) director are set forth in Section 201(a) of the 1974 Congressional Budget Act, as amended, and codified at 2 U.S.C. 601(a). The Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President pro tempore of the Senate jointly appoint the director after considering recommendations received from the House and Senate Budget Committees. The Budget Committee chairs inform the congressional leaders of their recommendations by letter. The appointment is usually announced in the Congressional Record.

Section...

Restitution in Federal Criminal Cases: A Sketch

Restitution endeavors to restore victims to the place where they stood when they became victims of crime. It seeks to make them whole and no more. In the case of a corporate or affluent defendant, victim restitution can be substantial; in some cases its value may be largely symbolic; in yet other cases it is irrelevant. Federal prosecutors collect roughly $1 billion a year for the victims of federal crimes. Yet prosecutors will likely never secure more than $1 out every $10 owed, and federal courts rarely, if ever, order restitution from the defendants convicted of the most commonly...

Reissued Labor Department Rule Tests Congressional Review Act Ban on Promulgating “Substantially the Same” Rules

On October 4, 2019, the Department of Labor (DOL) published a final rule in the Federal Register on the states’ ability to drug test certain unemployment compensation (UC) applicants. The UC drug testing rule is a reissued version of an Obama Administration rule that was disapproved in the 115th Congress under the Congressional Review Act (CRA; P.L. 115-17). DOL had previously published a proposed version of the rule on November 5, 2018. The rule is set to take effect on November 4, 2019.

Notably, this is the first time an agency has reissued a rule after the original version was...

Restitution in Federal Criminal Cases

Restitution endeavors to restore victims to the place where they stood when they became victims of crime. It seeks to make them whole and no more. In the case of a corporate or affluent defendant, victim restitution can be substantial; in some cases its value may be largely symbolic; in yet other cases it is irrelevant. Federal prosecutors collect roughly $1 billion a year for the victims of federal crimes. Yet prosecutors will likely never secure more than $1 out every $10 owed, and federal courts rarely, if ever, order restitution from the defendants convicted of the most commonly...

The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program

The purpose of the diversity immigrant visa program (DV program, sometimes called “the green card lottery” or “the visa lottery”) is, as the name suggests, to foster legal immigration from countries other than the major sending countries of current immigrants to the United States. Current law weights the allocation of immigrant visas primarily toward individuals with close family in the United States and, to a lesser extent, toward those who meet particular employment needs. The diversity immigrant category was added to the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) by the Immigration Act of...

Comparing DHS Component Funding, FY2020: In Brief

(TO BE SUPPRESSED) Generally, the homeland security appropriations bill includes all annual appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), providing resources to every departmental component. The Tables and Figure show DHS’s new discretionary budget authority enacted for FY2019 and requested by the Administration for FY2020, as well as the House and Senate committee-reported response broken down by component.

Department of Homeland Security DHS budget Appropriations FY2019, FY2020 funding analysis baseline comparison components

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 FY2019, the SBA approved...

CRS Seminars on Disruptive Technologies: Videos

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

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

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...

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

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

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

Capital Markets: Asset Management and Related Policy Issues

The asset management industry is large and complex. Asset management companies—also known as investment management companies, or asset managers—are companies that manage money for a fee with the goal of growing it for those who invest with them. The most well-known product these companies create are investment funds. Many types of investment funds exist, including mutual funds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), hedge funds, private equity, and venture capital. Their business practices and the types of regulatory requirements to which they are subject are far from standardized. Investment funds...

Turkish Incursion into Syria: U.S. Policy Implications

On October 9, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the start of “Operation Peace Spring,” which he stated would target both Kurdish and Islamic State (IS, aka ISIL/ISIS) fighters in northern Syria. Turkey then launched an air and ground assault against Kurdish forces. Turkey’s foreign minister has stated that Turkish forces plan to go 18 miles into Syrian territory, and eventually to occupy a corridor along the border. The commander of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) had stated that the SDF would resist, and fighting has escalated.

The launch of the operation...

CFPB Proposes New Debt Collection Regulation

On May 21, 2019, the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (CFPB) issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to implement the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA; 15 U.S.C. §1692). Congress passed the FDCPA in 1977 to “eliminate abusive debt collection practices by debt collectors.” The CFPB’s proposal would clarify how certain debt collectors may communicate with consumers and what information they must disclose.

This Insight begins with an overview of the debt collection market and its regulation. It then analyzes major parts of the CFPB’s proposed rule and reactions to the proposal...

CFPB Proposes New Payday Lending Rule, Reversing Recently Finalized Regulation

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

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

The Open Skies Treaty: Background and Issues

The United States, Canada, and 22 European nations signed the Treaty on Open Skies on March 24, 1992. It 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, and encourage cooperation among European nations.

The parties to the Open Skies Treaty have conducted 1,500 flights through early October 2019. Some parties provide their own aircraft, but the parties can also join on...

U.S. Offshore Aquaculture Regulation and Development

Regulatory uncertainty has been identified as one of the main barriers to offshore aquaculture development in the United States. Many industry observers have emphasized that congressional action may be necessary to provide statutory authority to develop aquaculture in offshore areas. Offshore aquaculture is generally defined as the rearing of marine organisms in ocean waters beyond significant coastal influence, primarily in the federal waters of the exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Establishing an offshore aquaculture operation is contingent on obtaining several federal permits and...

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

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

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

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

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

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

Health Care for Veterans: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

The Veterans Health Administration (VHA), within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), operates one of the nation’s largest integrated health care delivery systems. The VHA estimates that, in FY2020, it would provide care to about 6.29 million unique veteran patients, employing a staff of about 343,000 full-time equivalent employees, with an appropriation request of approximately $80.93 billion. VA health care is a discretionary program; therefore, the provision of health care is dependent on available appropriations.

Eligibility and Enrollment

Not every veteran is automatically...

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

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

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...

Small Business Management and Technical Assistance Training Programs

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

Congressional interest in the SBA’s management and technical assistance training programs ($226.7 million in FY2020 under P.L. 116-59, the Continuing Appropriations Act, 2020) has increased in recent years, primarily because these programs are viewed as a...

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

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

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

The Impeachment Process in the House of Representatives

Under the U.S. Constitution, the House of Representatives has the power to formally charge a federal officer with wrongdoing, a process known as impeachment. The House impeaches an individual when a majority agrees to a House resolution containing explanations of the charges. The explanations in the resolution are referred to as “articles of impeachment.” After the House agrees to impeach an officer, the role of the Senate is to conduct a trial to determine whether the charged individual should be removed from office. Removal requires a two-thirds vote in the Senate.

The House impeachment...

Apportionment and Redistricting Process for the U.S. House of Representatives

The census, apportionment, and redistricting are interrelated activities that affect representation in the U.S. House of Representatives. Congressional apportionment (or reapportionment) is the process of dividing seats for the House among the 50 states following the decennial census. Redistricting refers to the process that follows, in which states create new congressional districts or redraw existing district boundaries to adjust for population changes and/or changes in the number of House seats for the state. At times, Congress has passed or considered legislation addressing...

National Flood Insurance Program Borrowing Authority

This Insight evaluates the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) borrowing authority to receive loans from the Treasury and the current financial situation of the NFIP.

NFIP Funding

Funding for the NFIP is primarily maintained in an authorized account called the National Flood Insurance Fund (NFIF). The NFIP is funded from receipts from the premiums of flood insurance policies, including fees and surcharges; direct annual appropriations for specific costs of the NFIP (only for flood mapping); and borrowing from the Treasury when the NFIF’s balance has been insufficient to pay the NFIP’s...

U.S.-China Tariff Actions by the Numbers

Since early 2018, the United States and China have imposed a series of tariffs against one another’s products. These tariffs now affect the majority of trade between the two countries. U.S. tariffs imposed under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 (which followed an investigation on China’s intellectual property rights practices) and China’s retaliatory tariffs affect the largest share of U.S.-China trade. Earlier U.S. tariffs (and Chinese retaliation) on steel and aluminum (Section 232) and solar panels and washing machines (Section 201) also affect U.S.-China trade. The Trump...

Electricity Storage: Applications, Issues, and Technologies

Electricity, as it is currently produced, is largely a commodity resource that is interchangeable with electricity from any other source. Since opportunities for the large-scale storage of electricity are few, it is essentially a just-in-time resource, produced as needed to meet the demand of electricity-consuming customers. Climate change mitigation has increased the focus on the use of renewable electricity. While energy storage is seen as an enabling technology with the potential to reduce the intermittency and variability of wind and solar resources, energy storage resources would have...

“Technical Corrections” to Tax Reform

For some in Congress, “technical corrections” to the 2017 tax revision (commonly known as the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,” or TCJA; P.L. 115-97) are a legislative priority. It is not always clear, however, what is strictly a “technical correction.” This Insight highlights provisions that have been widely discussed as “technical corrections” to the 2017 tax revision, starting with provisions in former Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady’s 2019 “technical corrections” discussion draft. It then highlights other “fixes” to the 2017 tax revision that might be considered, even if those...

The Controlled Substances Act (CSA): A Legal Overview for the 116th Congress

The Controlled Substances Act (CSA) imposes a unified legal framework to regulate certain drugs—whether medical or recreational, legally or illicitly distributed—that are deemed to pose a risk of abuse and dependence. The CSA does not apply to all drugs. Rather, it applies to specific substances and categories of substances that have been designated for control by Congress or through administrative proceedings. The statute also applies to controlled substance analogues that are intended to mimic the effects of controlled substances and certain precursor chemicals commonly used in the...

The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Block Grant: Legislative Issues in the 116th Congress

The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant was created by the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA; P.L. 104-193). That law culminated four decades of debate about how to revise or replace the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program. Most AFDC assistance was provided to families headed by single mothers who reported no work in the labor market, and the debates focused on whether such aid led to dependency on assistance by discouraging work and the formation and maintenance of two-parent families.

TANF provides a...

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

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

Federal Reserve: Recent Repo Market Intervention

This Insight examines the Federal Reserve’s (Fed’s) recent intervention in the repo (repurchase agreement) market in response to a sudden and brief spike in repo rates to almost 10% (see Figure 1). Figure 1. Repo Rates 2018-2019 / Source: St. Louis Fed, FRED. Note: As measured by the Secured Overnight Financing Rate. After a short blip, the Fed stabilized financial conditions by offering up to $250 billion in repo markets. This was the first time it has lent in repo markets—although it has regularly borrowed in repo markets—since the financial crisis (see Figure 2). Background In a repo,...

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 October 9, 2019, the SBA’s Dynamic Small Business Search database included 7,107 firms with active HUBZone...

Iran’s Nuclear Program: Status

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

Is Iran Capable of Building Nuclear Weapons?

The United States has assessed that Tehran...

Executive Privilege and Individuals outside the Executive Branch

White House assertions of executive privilege for presidential communications have historically been confined to individuals who were executive branch employees when those communications occurred. While the idea that executive privilege could extend to individuals outside the executive branch predates the Trump Administration, it appears that recent testimony by Kris Kobach, former Kansas Secretary of State, and Corey Lewandowski, former manager of Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, are likely the first times the executive branch has actually made such an assertion to Congress.

Use...

Unaccompanied Alien Children: An Overview

The number of unaccompanied alien children (UAC, unaccompanied children) apprehended at the Southwest border between U.S. ports of entry while attempting to enter the United States without authorization has increased substantially in recent years: from 16,067 in FY2011 to 24,481 in FY2012 to 38,759 in FY2013. In FY2014, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Customs and Border Protection (CBP) apprehended 68,541 UAC, a record at that time. Since FY2014, UAC apprehensions have fluctuated considerably, declining to 39,970 in FY2015, increasing to 59,692 in FY2016, declining to 41,435 in...

Human Rights in China and U.S. Policy: Issues for the 116th Congress

This report examines selected human rights issues in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and policy options for Congress. U.S. concern over human rights in China has been a central issue in U.S.-China relations, particularly since the Tiananmen crackdown in 1989. In recent years, human rights conditions in China have deteriorated, while bilateral tensions related to trade and security have increased, possibly creating both constraints and opportunities for U.S. policy on human rights.

After consolidating power in 2013, Chinese Communist Party (CCP) General Secretary and State President Xi...

Selected Homeland Security Issues in the 116th Congress

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

Initially, homeland security was largely seen as...

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

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

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

This Insight provides a short overview of what would happen if the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) were not to be reauthorized by November 21, 2019, and allowed to lapse.

Expiration of Certain NFIP Authorities

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is authorized by the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968 (Title XIII of P.L. 90-448, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§4001 et seq.). The NFIP does not contain a single comprehensive expiration, termination, or sunset provision for the whole of the program. Rather, the NFIP has multiple different legal provisions that tie to the expiration...

Iran’s Foreign and Defense Policies

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

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

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

Expedited Removal of Aliens: Legal Framework

The federal government has broad authority over the admission of non-U.S. nationals (aliens) seeking to enter the United States. The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that the government may exclude such aliens without affording them the due process protections that traditionally apply to persons physically present in the United States. Instead, aliens seeking entry are entitled only to those procedural protections that Congress has expressly authorized. Consistent with this broad authority, Congress established an expedited removal process for certain aliens who have arrived in the United...

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,...

Closing the Flood Insurance Gap

There is a large flood insurance gap in the United States, where many people that are exposed to flood risk are not covered by flood insurance. The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is the primary source of residential flood insurance. More than 22,000 communities participate in the NFIP, with more than five million policies providing more than $1.3 trillion in coverage.

The NFIP identifies areas at high risk of flooding as Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHAs). Property owners are required to purchase flood insurance only if (1) their properties are in SFHAs, (2) their communities...

Introduction to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) was established by the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968 (NFIA, 42 U.S.C. §4001 et seq.), and was most recently reauthorized to November 21, 2019, through a series of short-term reauthorizations. The general purpose of the NFIP is both to offer primary flood insurance to properties with significant flood risk, and to reduce flood risk through the adoption of floodplain management standards. Communities volunteer to participate in the NFIP in order to have access to federal flood insurance, and in return are required to adopt minimum...

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

The National Flood Insurance Program

The NFIP was first authorized by the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968 (42 U.S.C. §4001 et seq.) and was reauthorized until the end of FY2017 by the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 (BW-12; Title II of P.L. 112-141). After a series of short-term reauthorizations, the NFIP was reauthorized until November 21, 2019 (P.L. 116-59). 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...

Executive Branch Service and the “Revolving Door” in Cabinet Departments: Background and Issues for Congress

Individuals may be subject to certain restrictions when leaving the government for private employment or joining the government from the private sector. These restrictions were enacted in response to what is often referred to as the revolving door. Generally, the revolving door is described as the movement of individuals between the public and private sector. Individuals may move because they possess policy and procedural knowledge and have relationships with former colleagues that are useful to prospective employers.

Laws attempting to restrict the movement of individuals between the...

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...

Frequently Asked Questions About Flag Law

The “flag code” is the federal law that sets forth guidelines for the appearance and display of the U.S. flag (“flag”) by private citizens. These guidelines specify times and conditions for display of the flag, manners and methods of display, and buildings where such display should occur. The guidelines for flag display vary based on the context and occasion, and there are detailed specifications for displaying flags at “half-staff.” The flag code also specifies how to deliver the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag and appropriate conduct while watching a performance of the National Anthem....

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 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 introduced....

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

The Coast Guard Polar Security Cutter (PSC) program is a program to acquire three new heavy polar icebreakers, to be followed years from now by the acquisition of up to three new medium polar icebreakers. The Coast Guard estimates the total procurement costs of the three heavy polar icebreakers as $1,039 million (i.e., about $1.0 billion) for the first ship, $792 million for the second ship, and $788 million for the third ship, for a combined estimated cost of $2,619 million (i.e., about $2.6 billion). Within those figures, the shipbuilder’s portion of the total procurement cost is $746...

The Annual Sequester of Mandatory Spending through FY2029

The Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA; P.L. 112-25) included two parts: discretionary spending caps, plus a “Joint Committee process” to achieve an additional $1.2 trillion in budgetary savings over FY2013-FY2021.

For the initial tranche of savings, the BCA placed statutory limits on discretionary spending for each fiscal year from FY2012 through FY2021. At the time of enactment, the BCA discretionary spending caps were projected to save $917 billion.

For the second, and larger, tranche of savings, the BCA established a bipartisan, bicameral Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction...

U.S. Farm Support: Compliance with WTO Commitments

As a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) agreements, the United States has committed to abide by WTO rules and disciplines, including those that govern domestic farm policy as spelled out in the Agreement on Agriculture (AoA). Since establishment of the WTO on January 1, 1995, the United States has complied with its WTO spending limits on market-distorting types of farm program outlays (referred to as amber box spending). However, the addition of large, new trade assistance payments to producers in 2018 and 2019, on top of existing farm program support, has raised concerns by some...

Issues in the Reauthorization of Amtrak

Amtrak—officially the National Railroad Passenger Corporation—has been the national intercity passenger railroad since 1971, and currently serves over 500 stations on a network approximately 22,000 miles long. In some markets, such as the busy Northeast Corridor (NEC) connecting Washington, New York, and Boston, it has captured a greater share of intercity passengers than domestic airlines. In other, more rural markets, some see it as a vital link to the national transportation system despite low levels of ridership. Though Amtrak is legally a private for-profit corporation, the federal...

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...

Attacks Against Saudi Arabia: Ramifications for Natural Gas

The attacks against Saudi Arabia’s oil infrastructure on Saturday, September 14, 2019, poses consequences for natural gas in the region and globally. Qatar, which borders Saudi Arabia and is one of the top two liquefied natural gas (LNG) exporters along with Australia, exported about 25% of the world’s LNG in 2018. All of Qatar’s exports must transit the Strait of Hormuz (see Figure 1), which is a well-known transit chokepoint. Additionally, LNG exports from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which were less than 2% of global exports, also transit the Strait of Hormuz; Oman’s LNG exports, 3%...

Appropriations: CRS Experts

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

EPA Repeals the Clean Power Plan and Finalizes Affordable Clean Energy Rule

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized its repeal of the Clean Power Plan (CPP) and promulgated new emissions guidelines in the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule. EPA based these actions on its conclusion that the CPP exceeded Clean Air Act (CAA) authority by using measures that applied to the power sector as a whole rather than measures carried out within an individual facility. Among other things, the final ACE rule establishes efficiency improvements as the “best system of emission reduction” (BSER) for existing coal-fired power plant greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions....

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

On September 11, 2019, the United States and 11 other Western Hemisphere countries invoked the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (Rio Treaty) to facilitate a regional response to the crisis in Venezuela. As a first step, on September 23, the countries that have ratified the treaty (“states parties”) agreed to impose targeted sanctions on individuals and entities associated with the government of Nicolás Maduro. They also pledged to meet again within two months to discuss additional measures. Congress may closely track the deliberations, given their potential implications for...

Millennium Challenge Corporation: Overview and Issues

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. From the outset, Congress has been integrally involved with MCC’s creation, mandate, operations, and budgets.

Established in 2004, MCC provides foreign assistance that differs in several respects from U.S. aid through other agencies, including

a competitive process that rewards countries for past actions measured by objective performance...

Parliamentary Reference Sources: Senate

The Senate’s procedures are determined not only by its standing rules but also by standing orders, published precedents, committee rules, party conference rules, and informal practices. The Constitution and rulemaking statutes also impose procedural requirements on the Senate.

Official parliamentary reference documents and other publications set forth the text of the various authorities or provide information about how and when they govern different procedural situations. Together, these sources establish the parameters by which the Senate conducts its business. They provide insight into...

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...

Cockpit Automation, Flight Systems Complexity, and Aircraft Certification: Background and Issues for Congress

The increasing complexity and automation of flight control systems pose a challenge to federal policy regarding aircraft certification and pilot training. Despite significant commercial aviation safety improvements over the past two decades, flight control automation and aircraft complexity have been cited as contributing factors in a number of major airline accidents, including two high-profile crashes overseas involving the recently introduced Boeing 737 Max variant in 2018 and 2019. These crashes have directed attention to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) oversight of aircraft type...

Unemployment Insurance: Legislative Issues in the 116th Congress

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

Energy and Water Development: FY2020 Appropriations

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

President Trump submitted his FY2020 detailed budget proposal to Congress on March 18, 2019 (after submitting a...

Legal Authority to Repurpose Funds for Border Barrier Construction

President Trump has prioritized the construction of border barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border. Over the course of negotiations for FY2019 appropriations, the Administration asked Congress to appropriate $5.7 billion to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for that purpose. When Congress appropriated $1.375 billion to DHS for border fencing, the President announced that his Administration would fund the construction of border barriers by repurposing funds appropriated to the Department of Defense (DOD) and transferring funds from the Department of the Treasury. The Administration...

The Farm Bill Energy Title: An Overview and Funding History

Title IX, the energy title, of the 2018 farm bill (Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018; P.L. 115-334) contains authority for the energy programs administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). USDA energy programs incentivize 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 biofuels, and...

China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities—Background and Issues for Congress

In an international security environment characterized as one of renewed great power competition, China’s military modernization effort, including its naval modernization effort, has become the top focus of U.S. defense planning and budgeting. China’s navy, which China has been steadily modernizing for roughly 25 years, since the early to mid-1990s, 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....

World Trade Organization: Overview and Future Direction

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

H.R. 2486, the Fostering Undergraduate Talent by Unlocking Resources for Education Act (the “FUTURE Act”)

On September 17, 2019, under suspension of the rules, the House passed H.R. 2486, the FUTURE Act. H.R. 2486 was subsequently placed on the Senate Legislative Calendar under General Orders. If enacted, H.R. 2486 would amend Title III-F of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA; P.L. 89-329, as amended) to sustain mandatory appropriations for certain programs for Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority-Serving Institutions (hereinafter, collectively referred to as MSIs) that would otherwise expire at the end of FY2019. To offset MSI funding, H.R. 2486 would eliminate the...

Strategic Petroleum Reserve: Mandated Sales and Reform

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

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...

The National Directory of New Hires: In Brief

The National Directory of New Hires (NDNH) is a database (part of the Federal Parent Locator Service [FPLS]) that contains personal and financial data on nearly every working American, as well as those receiving unemployment insurance benefits. It was originally established as part of the 1996 welfare reform law (P.L. 104-193, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996; PRWORA). It is maintained by the Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE). The NDNH is a database that includes information on (1) all newly hired and rehired employees, compiled from...

Nonimmigrant and Immigrant Visa Categories: Data Brief

Congress has expressed interest in the visa categories under which foreign nationals may enter or be present in the United States. This brief report provides the following information: a list of nonimmigrant (i.e., temporary) visa categories and lawful permanent resident (LPR) categories, a description of each category, the allowed duration of stay in the United States for each nonimmigrant visa category, the annual numeric limit (or “cap”) for each nonimmigrant and LPR category, and the number of visas issued under each nonimmigrant category/number of individuals obtaining LPR status...

The Net Neutrality Debate: Access to Broadband Networks

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

Bahamas: Response to Hurricane Dorian

On September 1-2, 2019, Hurricane Dorian, a Category 5 storm with winds of 180 miles per hour and storm surges of up to 23 feet, caused widespread damage to the islands of Grand Bahama and Abaco in the northwestern Bahamas, a country of some 700 islands off the southeast coast of the United States (see Figure 1). The official death toll is 53 as of September 25 (with the majority on Abaco) but is expected to rise. The number of missing is estimated at around 600 (down from an original estimate of 2,500), according to the Bahamian government’s National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA)....

Attacks on Saudi Oil Facilities: Effects and Responses

September 14, 2019, saw an attack on Saudi Aramco’s, Saudi Arabia’s national oil company, Abqaiq oil processing facility and Khurais oil field and processing plant. The attack, which used both missiles and drones, temporarily disrupted 5.7 million barrels per day (mb/d) of oil production, over half of Saudi Arabia’s oil production and about 5% of global supply. For context, U.S. crude oil production is approximately 12 mb/d.

Abqaiq Facility

Abqaiq is a key processing facility for Saudi Arabia crude. Two important functions provided by Abqaiq include (1) crude oil stabilization, a process...

Japan-U.S. Relations: Issues for Congress

Japan is a significant partner of the United States in a number of foreign policy areas, particularly in security concerns, which range from hedging against Chinese military modernization to countering threats from North Korea. The U.S.-Japan military alliance, formed in 1952, grants the U.S. military the right to base U.S. troops—currently around 54,000 strong—and other military assets on Japanese territory, undergirding the “forward deployment” of U.S. troops in East Asia. In return, the United States pledges to protect Japan’s security.

Although candidate Donald Trump made statements...

The Defense Budget and the Budget Control Act: Frequently Asked Questions

Enacted on August 2, 2011, the Budget Control Act of 2011 as amended (P.L. 112-25, P.L. 112-240, P.L. 113-67, P.L. 114-74, P.L. 115-123, and P.L. 116-37) sets limits on defense and nondefense discretionary spending. As part of an agreement to increase the statutory limit on public debt, the BCA aimed to reduce annual federal budget deficits by a total of at least $2.1 trillion from FY2012 through FY2021, with approximately half of the savings to come from defense.

The spending limits (or caps) apply separately to defense and nondefense discretionary budget authority. Budget authority is...

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

South Africa is a majority black, multiracial country of nearly 58 million people. It has cordial relations with the United States, notwithstanding some occasional strains, and is the largest U.S. trade partner in Africa. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa is spearheading efforts to address years of weak economic growth and multiple corruption scandals under his predecessor, Jacob Zuma. These issues helped spur Zuma’s resignation in early 2018 and led to the election of Ramaphosa, who succeeded Zuma as African National Congress (ANC) party leader in late 2017. The ANC is the dominant...

FY2020 LHHS Appropriations: Status

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

Most recently, a continuing resolution (CR) providing temporary FY2020 LHHS funding through November 21, 2019, was enacted (Division A of P.L. 116-59) on September 27, 2019. In general, the CR funds discretionary programs at the same rate and under the same...

Military Funding for Southwest Border Barriers

The Department of Defense (DOD, or the Department) has played a prominent role in the Trump Administration’s border security strategy because of controversies related to $13.3 billion in defense funding it has sought to use for border barrier construction projects not otherwise authorized by Congress. These defense funds would comprise a complex mix of DOD program savings and unobligated military construction funds from past years ($6.1 billion), as well as a request for new appropriations in FY2020 ($7.2 billion). An additional $2 billion in non-DOD appropriations are often cited as part...

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 2019, this maximum—formally called the contribution and benefit base, and commonly referred to as the taxable earnings base or the taxable maximum—is $132,900. 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...

Ebola Virus Disease Outbreak: Democratic Republic of Congo

The Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) that began in August 2018 has eluded international containment efforts and posed significant challenges to local and international policymakers. The current outbreak is the 10th and largest on record in DRC, and the world’s second largest ever (after the 2014-2016 West Africa outbreak). On July 17, 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the current DRC outbreak to be a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) and called for increased donor funding. To date, the U.S. Agency for International Development...

What Is the Farm Bill?

The farm bill is an omnibus, multiyear law that governs an array of agricultural and food programs. Titles in the most recent farm bill encompassed farm commodity revenue supports, agricultural conservation, trade and foreign food assistance, farm credit, research, rural development, forestry, bioenergy, horticulture, and domestic nutrition assistance. Typically renewed about every five or six 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 Agriculture...

Attacks Against Saudi Oil Rattle Markets

September 14, 2019, saw a successful attack against major oil infrastructure in Saudi Arabia (the largest oil exporter), which temporarily disrupted 5.7 million barrels of daily production (mb/d), over half of Saudi oil production and about 5% of global supply. For context, U.S. crude oil production is approximately 12 mb/d. Global oil markets have responded with an initial price increase and subsequent pullback. The magnitude and duration of the price rise will depend on many factors, such as repair time, additional supplies, the potential confirmation of the perpetrator, and any related...

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

The State of Qatar has employed its ample financial resources to exert regional influence separate from and independent of Saudi Arabia, the de facto leader of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Oman), an alliance of six Gulf monarchies. While fostering a close defense and security alliance with the United States, Qatar has intervened in several regional conflicts and has, at times, engaged Sunni Islamists, Iran and Iran-backed groups, and Israeli officials. Qatar has maintained consistent dialogue with Iran while also...

Registered Apprenticeship: Federal Role and Recent Federal Efforts

Apprenticeship is a workforce development strategy that trains a worker for a specific occupation using a structured combination of paid on-the-job training and related instruction. Increased costs for higher education and possible mismatches between worker skills and employer needs have led to interest in alternative workforce development strategies such as apprenticeship.

The primary federal role in supporting apprenticeships is the administration of the registered apprenticeship system. In this system, the federal Department of Labor (DOL) or a DOL-recognized state apprenticeship agency...

Federal Student Loans Made Through the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program: Terms and Conditions for Borrowers

The William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) program is the single largest source of federal financial assistance to support students’ postsecondary educational pursuits. The U.S. Department of Education estimates that in FY2020, $100.2 billion in new loans will be made through the program. As of the end of the second quarter of FY2019, $1.2 trillion in principal and interest on Direct Loan program loans, borrowed by or on behalf of 34.5 million individuals, remained outstanding.

For many individuals, borrowing a federal student loan through the Direct Loan program may be among...

Renewed Great Power Competition: 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...

U.S.-China Strategic Competition in South and East China Seas: Background and Issues for Congress

In an international security environment described as one of renewed great power competition, the South China Sea (SCS) has emerged as an arena of U.S.-China strategic competition. U.S.-China strategic competition in the SCS forms an element of the Trump Administration’s more confrontational overall approach toward China, and of the Administration’s efforts for promoting its construct for the Indo-Pacific region, called the Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP).

China’s actions in the SCS in recent years—including extensive island-building and base-construction activities at sites that it...

China’s Retaliatory Tariffs on U.S. Agriculture: In Brief

From 2010 through 2016, China was the top destination for U.S. agricultural exports based on value. In 2017, Canada became the top destination for U.S. agricultural products, and China and Mexico tied for second. However, starting in early 2018 the United States undertook several trade actions against China (and other countries) that precipitated retaliatory trade actions between the two countries. The result of this trade war was a decline in trade between the United States and China. In 2018, U.S. agricultural exports to China declined 53% in value to $9 billion from $19 billion in...

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. Payment System Policy Issues: Faster Payments and Innovation

Technological advances in digitization and data processing and storage have greatly increased the availability and convenience of electronic payments. New products and services offer faster, more convenient payment for individuals and businesses, and the numerous options on offer foster competition and innovation among end-user service providers. Currently, many new payment services are layered on top of existing electronic payment systems, which may limit their speed.

Most payments flow through both retail and wholesale payment systems before they are completed. Consumers access retail...

U.N. Peacekeeping Operations in Africa

Many Members of Congress have demonstrated an interest in the mandates, effectiveness, and funding status of United Nations (U.N.) peacekeeping operations in Africa as an integral component of U.S. policy toward Africa and a key tool for fostering greater stability and security on the continent. As of September 2019, there are seven U.N. peacekeeping operations in Africa:

the U.N. Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA);

the U.N. Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA);

the U.N. Interim Security Force for...

Changes in the Arctic: Background and Issues for Congress

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

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

Homeland Security Research and Development: Homeland Security Issues in the 116th Congress

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Overview

In the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Directorate of Science and Technology (S&T) has primary responsibility for establishing, administering, and coordinating research and development (R&D) activities. The Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office (CWMDO) is responsible for R&D relating to detection of nuclear and radiological threats. Several other DHS components, such as the Coast Guard, also fund R&D and R&D-related activities associated with their missions. The Common Appropriations Structure that DHS introduced in its FY2017 budget includes an account...

The Contraceptive Coverage Requirement and Legal Challenges Five Years After Hobby Lobby

When Congress enacted the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010, it required employment-based health plans and health insurance issuers to cover certain preventive health services without cost sharing. Those services, because of agency guidelines and rules, would soon include contraception for women. The “contraceptive coverage requirement,” or “contraceptive mandate” as it came to be known, was heavily litigated in the years to follow. These challenges primarily concerned (1) what types of employers and institutions should be exempt from the requirement based on their...

Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protections

Whistleblowing can be defined as “the act of reporting waste, fraud, abuse and corruption in a lawful manner to those who can correct the wrongdoing.” Intelligence community (IC) whistleblowers are those employees or contractors working in any of the 17 elements of the IC who reasonably believe there has been a violation of law, rule, or regulation; gross mismanagement; waste of resources; abuse of authority; or a substantial danger to public health and safety. The IC has publicly recognized the importance of whistleblowing, and supports protections for whistleblowers who conform to...

U.S.-Iran Tensions and Implications for U.S. Policy

Since May 2019, U.S.-Iran tensions have escalated significantly, but have stopped short of erupting into armed conflict. The Trump Administration, following its 2018 withdrawal from the 2015 multilateral nuclear agreement with Iran (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, JCPOA), has taken several steps in its campaign of applying “maximum pressure” on Iran. Iran and Iran-linked forces have attacked and seized commercial ships, caused destruction of some critical infrastructure in the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, and posed threats to U.S. forces and interests, including downing a U.S....

Health Benefits for Retired United Mine Workers of America Members

Eligible United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) members receive post-retirement health and pension benefits from one of three multiemployer health benefit plans and one multiemployer pension plan. A multiemployer plan is sponsored by employers in the same industry and is maintained as part of a collective bargaining agreement. The three UMWA health plans are the (1) Combined Benefit Fund (CBF), (2) UMWA 1992 Health Benefit Plan (1992 Plan), and (3) UMWA 1993 Health Benefit Plan (1993 Plan). The UMWA 1974 Pension Plan pays pension benefits.

Funding for the UMWA Retiree Health Plans

The...

The Endangered Species Act and Climate Change: Selected Legal Issues

For more than a decade, federal agencies have grappled with how to address climate change effects when implementing the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA). The ESA aims to protect threatened and endangered fish, wildlife, and plants from extinction. As set forth by Congress, one of the main purposes of the ESA is to “provide a means whereby the ecosystems upon which endangered species and threatened species depend may be conserved.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) (collectively, the Services) have acknowledged that the changing...

Israel: Background and U.S. Relations in Brief

The following matters are of particular significance to U.S.-Israel relations:

Israel’s ability to address threats. Israel relies on a number of strengths—including regional conventional military superiority—to manage potential threats to its security, including evolving asymmetric threats such as rockets and missiles, cross-border tunneling, drones, and cyberattacks. Additionally, Israel has an undeclared but presumed nuclear weapons capability. Against a backdrop of strong bilateral cooperation, Israel’s leaders and supporters routinely make the case that Israel’s security and the...

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 FY2018, 8(a) firms were awarded $29.5 billion in federal contracts, including $9.2 billion in 8(a) set-aside awards and $8.6 billion in 8(a) sole-source...

Ukraine: Background, Conflict with Russia, and U.S. Policy

After Ukraine’s transition to a new government under President Volodymyr Zelensky and his Servant of the People party, the country continues to grapple with serious challenges. President Zelensky has expressed a commitment to implementing difficult economic and governance reforms, promoting Ukraine’s Western integration, rebuilding ties with residents of Russian-controlled areas of eastern Ukraine, and revitalizing talks with Russia on conflict resolution. The U.S. government has congratulated President Zelensky and all Ukrainians on their “vibrant democracy” and expressed “steadfast...

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....

U.S. Farm Income Outlook: August 2019 Forecast

This report uses the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) farm income projections (as of August 30, 2019) and agricultural trade outlook update (as of August 29, 2019) to describe the U.S. farm economic outlook. According to USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS), national net farm income—a key indicator of U.S. farm well-being—is forecast at $88 billion in 2019, up $4 billion (+4.8%) from last year. However, the forecast rise in 2019 net farm income is largely the result of a 42.5% increase in government payments to the agricultural sector valued at $19.5 billion (highest since 2005)....

Tax Issues Relating to Charitable Contributions and Organizations

The federal government supports the charitable sector by providing charitable organizations and donors with favorable tax treatment. Individuals itemizing deductions may claim a tax deduction for charitable contributions. Estates can make charitable bequests. Corporations can deduct charitable contributions before computing income taxes. Further, earnings on funds held by charitable organizations and used for a related charitable purpose are exempt from tax. In FY2019, projected tax subsidies for charities, not including the value of the tax exemption on earnings of charities or the estate...

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

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

Global Research and Development Expenditures: Fact Sheet

Global, research, development, expenditures, global research and development expenditures, R&D, science, technology, innovation, competitiveness, United States, China, Japan, Germany, United Kingdom, France, Italy, South Korea, Russia, Taiwan, Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, OECD. Global, research, development, expenditures, global research and development expenditures, R&D, science, technology, innovation, competitiveness. Global, research, development, expenditures, global research and development expenditures, R&D, science, technology, innovation, competitiveness....

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

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

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

The Coast Guard’s Need for Experienced Marine Safety Personnel

For at least four decades, Congress has been concerned about the Coast Guard’s ability to maintain an adequate staff of experienced marine safety personnel to ensure that vessels meet federal safety standards. The 2015 sinking of the U.S.-flag cargo ship El Faro during a hurricane near the Bahamas with the loss of 33 lives renewed attention to the Coast Guard’s persistent difficulty with hiring and training a marine safety workforce with technical knowledge of vessel construction and accident investigation, as the safety inspections of the vessel were found to have been inadequate. In the...

Navy Large Unmanned Surface and Undersea Vehicles: Background and Issues for Congress

The Navy wants to develop and procure three new types of unmanned vehicles (UVs) in FY2020 and beyond—Large Unmanned Surface Vehicles (LUSVs), Medium Unmanned Surface Vehicles (MUSVs), and Extra-Large Unmanned Undersea Vehicles (XLUUVs). The Navy is requesting $628.8 million in FY2020 research and development funding for these three UV programs and their enabling technologies.

The Navy wants to acquire these three types of UVs (which this report refers to collectively as large UVs) as part of an effort to shift the Navy to a new fleet architecture (i.e., a new combination of ships and...

Discharge Procedure in the House

The House “discharge rule” (Rule XV, clause 2) provides a means for Members to bring to the floor for consideration a public bill or resolution that has been referred to committee but not reported. Discharge is generally the only procedure by which Members can secure consideration of a measure without cooperation from the committee of referral, or the majority-party leadership and the Committee on Rules. For this reason, discharge is designed to be difficult to accomplish and has infrequently been used with success.

Parliamentary Reference Sources: House of Representatives

House procedures are based not only on the rules the chamber adopts at the start of each Congress but also on constitutional mandates, published precedents, procedural principles detailed in a manual written by Thomas Jefferson, rulemaking statutes, and informal practices. In addition, House committee and conference rules may influence House procedures.

Various reference sources contain the text of the different parliamentary authorities that establish the parameters by which the House conducts its business. These resources provide insight into the daily proceedings of the House, and it...

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

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

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

Air Force T-7A Red Hawk Trainer

NOTE: This report was originally written by Ceir Coral while he was an Air Force Fellow at the Congressional Research Service. Since his departure, it has been maintained by Jeremiah Gertler of CRS.

On September 27, 2018, the United States Air Force (USAF) awarded The Boeing Company a contract, worth up to $9.2 billion, to procure 351 Advanced Pilot Training (APT T-X) aircraft and 46 Ground-Based Training Systems (GBTS) to replace the existing fleet of T-38C jet trainers. The Air Force had originally valued the contract at roughly $19.7 billion. Information on the value of other...

Ground Electronic Warfare: Background and Issues for Congress

Ground electronic warfare (EW) is a group of programs directed by the Army and Marine Corp which are designed to effect ground forces use of the electromagnetic spectrum. The U.S. military has several ground EW programs that are used for different missions. These programs can broadly be categorized into counter-improvised explosive device (C-IED) systems, counter-unmanned aerial systems (C-UAS), and communications and radar jammers. Over the past several years, senior leaders in the Army and Marine Corps have testified about the need to improve EW capabilities.

Role of EW in Ground...

Yemen: Civil War and Regional Intervention

This report provides information on the ongoing crisis in Yemen. Now in its fifth year, the war in Yemen shows no signs of abating. The war has killed thousands of Yemenis, including civilians as well as combatants, and has significantly damaged the country’s infrastructure. One U.S.- and European-funded organization, the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), estimated in June 2019 that more than 90,000 Yemenis have been killed since 2015, including more than 30,000 in 2018 and nearly 12,000 in 2019.

Despite multiple attempts by the United Nations (U.N.) to broker a...

Availability of Unemployment Benefits for Affected Federal Employees During a Government Shutdown

During the last decade (FY2014, FY2018, and FY2019), there have been several periods when appropriations for significant portions of federal agencies and programs lapsed without immediate new budgetary authority. As a result, some federal employees were temporarily furloughed. These “shutdown furloughs” happen when a federal government agency or program lacks budget authority and experiences a “funding gap” under the Antideficiency Act (31 U.S.C. §§1341 et seq.). In general, a funding gap requires that these agencies and programs cease operations, except in certain circumstances when...

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

The Navy has been procuring Virginia (SSN-774) class nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSNs) since FY1998. The three Virginia-class boats that the Navy has requested for procurement in FY2020 (which are to have the hull numbers SSN-804, SSN-805, and SSN-812) would be the 31st, 32nd, and 33rd boats in the class. Virginia-class submarines are being procured under a multiyear procurement (MYP) contract covering at least 10 boats to be procured in FY2019-FY2023.

Navy plans previously called for procuring two Virginia-class boats in FY2020. SSN-812 was added to the budget request as part of...

The CCC Anomaly in an FY2020 Continuing Resolution

In late August 2019, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) requested a special provision for the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) among its list of appropriations issues for Congress to consider under a continuing resolution (CR). In addition to the general provisions that extend the previous year’s appropriation for a specific term, CRs often include provisions that are specific to certain agencies, accounts, or programs. These “anomalies” are departures from a CR that modify the timing, amount, or purpose for which any referenced funding is extended. OMB cites the need for...

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hypersonic Weapons: Background and Issues for Congress

The United States has actively pursued the development of hypersonic weapons—maneuvering weapons that fly at speeds of at least Mach 5—as a part of its conventional prompt global strike program since the early 2000s. In recent years, the United States has focused such efforts on developing hypersonic glide vehicles, which are launched from a rocket before gliding to a target, and hypersonic cruise missiles, which are powered by high-speed, air-breathing engines during flight. As current Commander of U.S. Strategic Command General John Hyten has stated, these weapons could enable...

Patent-Eligible Subject Matter Reform in the 116th Congress

The statutory definition of patent-eligible subject matter under Section 101 of the Patent Act has remained essentially unchanged for over two centuries. As a result, the scope of patentable subject matter—that is, the types of inventions that may be patented—has largely been left to the federal courts to develop through “common law”-like adjudication. In the 20th century, the U.S. Supreme Court established that three main types of discoveries are categorically patent-ineligible: laws of nature, natural phenomena, and abstract ideas.

Recent Supreme Court decisions have broadened the scope...

Federal and State Regulation of Student Loan Servicers: A Legal Overview

As the federal government’s role in the student loan industry has expanded over time, the United States has contracted with student loan servicers to help it administer its growing student loan portfolio. These servicers perform a variety of functions, including (1) communicating with borrowers regarding repayment; (2) disclosing information about student loan terms to borrowers; (3) applying payments to outstanding loan balances; (4) processing applications for enrollment in repayment plans; and (5) processing requests for loan forbearance and deferment. Several federal statutes and...

National Special Security Events: Fact Sheet

Major federal government or public events that are considered to be nationally significant may be designated by the President—or his representative, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security—as National Special Security Events (NSSEs). These events include presidential inaugurations, presidential nominating conventions, major sporting events, and major international meetings. The U.S. Secret Service was designated as the lead federal agency responsible for coordinating, planning, exercising, and implementing security for National Special Security Events by P.L. 106-544, December...

Immigration Relief Options for Bahamians After Hurricane Dorian

Hurricane Dorian made landfall as a Category 5 storm over the northern Bahamas on September 1, 2019, causing extensive damage to Abaco and Grand Bahama Islands, with a combined population of almost 70,000 people (the entire country has an estimated population of almost 390,000). The U.S. government, along with international humanitarian entities, is coordinating with the Government of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas in the relief effort. As of September 12, the United States had contributed almost $10.2 million in humanitarian assistance to the Bahamas in response to the hurricane.

As a...

The TIGER/BUILD Program at 10 Years: An Overview

The Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program is a discretionary program providing grants to surface transportation projects on a competitive basis, with recipients selected by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). It originated in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA; P.L. 111-5), where it was called “national infrastructure investment” (as it has been in subsequent appropriations acts); in FY2018 the program was renamed the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) program.

Although the program’s stated...

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

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

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

Immigration Detention: A Legal Overview

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) authorizes—and in some cases requires—the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to detain non-U.S. nationals (aliens) arrested for immigration violations that render them removable from the United States. An alien may be subject to detention pending an administrative determination as to whether the alien should be removed, and, if subject to a final order of removal, pending efforts to secure the alien’s removal from the United States. The immigration detention scheme is multifaceted, with different rules that turn on several factors, such as...

Civilian Nuclear Waste Disposal

Management of civilian radioactive waste has posed difficult issues for Congress since the beginning of the nuclear power industry in the 1950s. Federal policy is based on the premise that nuclear waste can be disposed of safely, but proposed storage and disposal facilities have frequently been challenged on safety, health, and environmental grounds. Although civilian radioactive waste encompasses a wide range of materials, most of the current debate focuses on highly radioactive spent fuel from nuclear power plants. The United States currently has no permanent disposal facility for spent...

Retaliatory Tariffs and U.S. Agriculture

Certain foreign nations have targeted U.S. food and agricultural products with retaliatory tariffs since early 2018 in response to U.S. Section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminum imports and Section 301 tariffs levied on U.S. imports from China. Retaliatory tariffs have made imports of U.S. agricultural products relatively more expensive compared to similar products from competitor nations. In the short run, U.S. shipments of products to countries with retaliatory tariffs have declined, reducing overall global demand for affected U.S. agricultural products and driving down the prices of...

The Social Security Retirement Age

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

Holocaust-Era Insurance Claims: Background and Issues for Congress

In November 1998, U.S. insurance regulators, six European insurers, international Jewish organizations, and the State of Israel agreed to establish the International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims (ICHEIC). ICHEIC was tasked with identifying policyholders and administering payment of hundreds of thousands of Holocaust-era insurance policies that had never been honored by European insurance companies. It ended its claims process in March 2007, having offered payments totaling about $306 million to 48,263 claimants. An additional $169 million was allocated to a “humanitarian...

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.

Mozambique: Politics, Economy, and U.S. Relations

Mozambique, a significant recipient of U.S. development assistance, is a southeastern African country nearly twice the size of California, with a population of 27.9 million people. It achieved rapid growth following a postindependence civil war (1977-1992), but faces a range of political, economic, and security challenges. These include a political scandal over state-guaranteed, allegedly corrupt bank loans received by state-owned firms, which created public debt that the government did not disclose to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). This placed the country’s relations with the IMF...

Iran Sanctions

Successive Administrations have used sanctions extensively against Iran to try to change Iran’s behavior. Sanctions have had a substantial effect on Iran’s economy but little observable effect on Iran’s pursuit of core strategic objectives. Iran has provided support for regional armed factions, developed ballistic missiles, and expanded its conventional weapons development programs during periods when international sanctions were in force, when they were suspended, and after U.S. sanctions were reimposed in late 2018.

During 2012-2015, when the global community was relatively united in...

Fishery Disaster Assistance

The Secretary of Commerce is authorized to provide disaster assistance to the fishing industry when fish populations decline or other disruptions cause economic losses. The criteria for determining whether a commercial fishery failure or fishery resource disaster has occurred are provided in Section 308(b) and Section 308(d) of the Interjurisdictional Fisheries Act (IFA; 16 U.S.C. §4107), and in Sections 312(a) and 315 of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA; 16 U.S.C §1861(a) and §1864).

The governor of a state, the Secretary of Commerce, or a representative...

Antitrust and “Big Tech”

Over the past decade, Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple (“Big Tech” or the “Big Four”) have revolutionized the internet economy and affected the daily lives of billions of people worldwide. While these companies are responsible for momentous technological breakthroughs and massive wealth creation, they have also received scrutiny related to their privacy practices, dissemination of harmful content and misinformation, alleged political bias, and—as relevant here—potentially anticompetitive conduct. In June 2019, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Department of Justice (DOJ) and...

Household Debt Among Older Americans, 1989-2016

In the past three decades, debt has grown substantially among older Americans. The increase in debt among older Americans has raised concerns about financial security for people near or during retirement, not only because Americans aged 65 and older represent a large and growing proportion of the U.S. population, but also because increases in household debt might require retirees to devote a larger share of their fixed income from Social Security, pensions, or government subsidies toward paying debt. Older people also tend to have limited ability to adjust their labor supply to offset...

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...

Immigration: Nonimmigrant (Temporary) Admissions to the United States

U.S. law provides for the temporary admission of foreign nationals. Nonimmigrants are foreign nationals who 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) consular...

Electricity Portfolio Standards: Background, Design Elements, and Policy Considerations

Electricity portfolio standards, such as renewable portfolio standards and clean energy standards, are policies aimed at changing the energy sources used to generate electricity. Supporters identify multiple policy goals, including greenhouse gas reduction, technology innovation, and job creation. Twenty-nine states, three U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia are currently implementing mandatory portfolio standards. Congress, to date, has not established a national portfolio standard, though bills that would do so have been introduced in every Congress since the 105th....

Hong Kong Chief Executive Lam to Withdraw Extradition Bill; Protests Continue

Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor announced on September 4, 2019, that she will formally withdraw the controversial extradition bill that touched off three months of large-scale protests across the city. While acknowledging Lam’s concession, various groups that support the ongoing protests have stated they intend to continue to organize demonstrations until Lam and the Hong Kong government comply with the protesters’ “five demands” in full (see text box). On September 8, 2019, tens of thousands of people gathered outside the U.S. Consulate General in Hong Kong urging...

Congressional Action on FY2019 Appropriations Measures: 115th and 116th Congresses

Congress annually considers 12 regular appropriations measures to provide discretionary funding for federal government activities and operations. For FY2019, appropriations actions spanned two Congresses, between which there was a change in the majority party in the House.

The process of drafting, considering, and enacting FY2019 appropriations began in early 2018 and included the House and Senate Appropriations Committees each marking up and reporting all 12 annual appropriations bills by the end of July. Five appropriations bills in the 115th Congress were enacted into law by the start...

Systemic Risk And The Long-Term Capital Management Rescue

In September 1998, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York coordinated a rescue of Long-Term Capital Management (LTCM), a hedge fund that was on the brink of failure. The survival of a hedge fund, a private investment partnership available only to wealthy individuals and institutions, is normally not a matter of public concern. This case was different: LTCM had used such extensive leverage —it had augmented the size of its investments by borrowing and through use of derivative financial instruments — that its failure seemed to carry a “systemic” risk to financial markets in general and to 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.

NIST provides funding to support MEP center operations, with matching funds...

The European Union: Questions and Answers

The European Union (EU) is a political and economic partnership that represents a unique form of cooperation among sovereign countries. The EU is the latest stage in a process of integration begun after World War II, initially by six Western European countries, to foster interdependence and make another war in Europe unthinkable. The EU currently consists of 28 member states, including most of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, and has helped to promote peace, stability, and economic prosperity throughout the European continent.

The EU has been built through a series of binding...

Abortion: Judicial History and Legislative Response

In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court concluded in Roe v. Wade that the U.S. Constitution protects a woman’s decision to terminate her pregnancy. In a companion decision, Doe v. Bolton, the Court found that a state may not unduly burden the exercise of that fundamental right with regulations that prohibit or substantially limit access to the procedure. Rather than settle the issue, the Court’s rulings since Roe and Doe have continued to generate debate and have precipitated a variety of governmental actions at the national, state, and local levels designed either to nullify the rulings or limit...

Suicide Rates and Risk Factors for the National Guard

In the past decade, federal and state governments have made a sustained effort to improve suicide prevention and response for the Armed Forces through funding, oversight, and legislation to enhance mental health and resiliency programs. The Department of Defense’s Suicide Prevention Office (DSPO) has reported that overall military suicide rates for the Active and Reserve Components are generally comparable with those of the general U.S. population when adjusting for demographics (i.e., the military is younger and has a greater percentage of men than the general U.S. population). However,...

Congress and the War in Yemen: Oversight and Legislation 2015-2019

This CRS report provides an overview of the role Congress has played in shaping U.S. policy toward the conflict in Yemen, with summary tables providing information on various legislative proposals considered in the 114th, 115th, and 116th Congresses. These proposals have reflected a range of congressional perspectives and priorities, including

the authorization of the activities of the U.S. Armed Forces related to the conflict;

the extent of U.S. logistical, material, advisory, and intelligence support for the coalition led by Saudi Arabia;

the approval, disapproval, or conditioning of...

Hurricane Dorian: FEMA and Additional Storm-Related Resources

Introduction

On September 6, Hurricane Dorian made landfall as a category 1 storm at Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. This Insight provides a brief overview of emergency and major declarations and federal assistance programs potentially available to those affected by Hurricane Dorian. It also lists resources for forecast information, hurricane and flooding information, and selected CRS reports on federal emergency management policy.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has issued watches and warnings for Hurricane Dorian, a storm slightly northeast of Cape Hatteras,...

Overseas Contingency Operations Funding: Background and Status

Congressional interest in Overseas Contingency Operation (OCO) funding has continued as Members debate ways of funding priorities without breaching discretionary spending limits set in law.

Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Congress has appropriated $2 trillion in discretionary budget authority designated as emergency requirements or for Overseas Contingency Operations/Global War on Terrorism (OCO/GWOT) in support of the broad U.S. government response to the 9/11 attacks and for other related international affairs activities. This figure amounts to 9.5% of total...

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...

DHS Border Barrier Funding

Congress and the Administration are debating enhancing and expanding border barriers on the southwest border in the context of border security.

The purpose of barriers on the U.S.-Mexico border has evolved over time. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, fencing at the border was more for demarcation, or discouraging livestock from wandering over the border, rather than deterring smugglers or illegal migration.

Physical barriers to deter migrants are a relatively new part of the border landscape, first being built in the 1990s in conjunction with counterdrug efforts. This phase of...

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 cash 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,...

Legislative Branch Agency Appointments: History, Processes, and Recent Actions

The leaders of the legislative branch agencies and entities—the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the Library of Congress (LOC), the Congressional Research Service (CRS), the Government Publishing Office (GPO, formerly Government Printing Office), the Office of the Architect of the Capitol (AOC), the U.S. Capitol Police (USCP), the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), and the Office of Congressional Workplace Rights (OCWR)—are appointed in a variety of manners.

Four agencies are led by a person appointed by the President, with the advice and consent of the Senate; two are appointed by...

Federal Election Commission: Membership and Policymaking Quorum, In Brief

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) is the nation’s civil campaign finance regulator. The agency ensures that campaign fundraising and spending is publicly reported; that those regulated by the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) and by commission regulations comply and have access to guidance; and that publicly financed presidential campaigns receive funding.

As of August 31, 2019, the Federal Election Commission is operating without a policymaking quorum. FECA requires that at least four of six commissioners agree to undertake many of the agency’s key policymaking duties. As of...

House Committee Party Ratios: 98th-116th Congresses

The party ratio in a House of Representatives standing committee refers to the proportional number of members of each party caucus assigned to each committee. Determining sizes, ratios, and committee assignments are among the first actions taken following a general election and at the beginning of a Congress.

The Standing Rules of the House of Representatives are silent regarding committee sizes and party ratios; the apportionment of committee seats is a decision of the majority leadership that may include discussions between majority and minority party leaderships. Historically, the...

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. Since 1992, the Administration on Aging has selected an annual theme for Older Americans Month. The May 2019 theme is Connect, Create, Contribute. 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...

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...

Senate Committee Party Ratios: 98th-116th Congresses

The party ratio in the Senate standing committees is the proportional number of members of each party caucus assigned to each committee. Determining committee sizes, ratios, and assignments are among the first actions taken after a general election and at the beginning of a Congress.

The standing rules of the Senate are silent on the subject of committee party ratios. The apportionment of committee seats results from discussions between majority and minority party leadership. In general, it has been the practice of the Senate to apportion committee seats to the majority and minority...

National Forest System Management: Overview, Appropriations, and Issues for Congress

The 193 million acres of the National Forest System (NFS) comprise 154 national forests, 20 national grasslands, and several other federal land designations. Management of the NFS is one of the three principal responsibilities of the Forest Service (FS), an agency within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Most NFS lands are concentrated in the western United States, although FS administers more federal land in the East than all other federal agencies combined. The Secretary of Agriculture has various authorities to acquire or dispose of NFS lands, although these are often...

New U.S. Sanctions on Venezuela

In August 2019, the Trump Administration expanded Venezuela-related sanctions by blocking all assets and interests of the Nicolás Maduro government in the United States. It also authorized sanctions against those who materially support the Maduro government or others already designated for sanctions, with exemptions for humanitarian aid.

Since recognizing Juan Guaidó, head of the National Assembly, as interim president of Venezuela in January 2019, the Administration has increased sanctions on the Maduro government in an effort to compel Maduro to leave office so a Guaidó-led transition...

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 June...

Grants Work in a Congressional Office

Members of Congress frequently receive 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...

Monetary Policy and the Federal Reserve: Current Policy and Conditions

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

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

K-12 Teacher Recruitment and Retention Policies in the Higher Education Act: In Brief

The K-12 teacher workforce is relatively large—each year, about 4 million teachers are employed in U.S. elementary and secondary schools. Turnover in these schools is high relative to earlier periods—about 1 in 10 teachers left his or her job in 2018. This figure follows federal statistical trends that show a sizable growth in teacher attrition since the 1980s. Teacher shortages and high turnover raise a number of recruitment and retention issues that may be of interest to policymakers.

One of the more difficult issues involves a debate between observers who are concerned about an overall...

Farm Policy: USDA’s 2019 Trade Aid Package

On May 23, 2019, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) would undertake a second trade aid package in 2019 valued at up to $16 billion—similar to a trade aid package initiated in 2018 valued at $12 billion—to assist farmers in response to trade damage from continued tariff retaliation and trade disruptions.

Under the 2019 trade aid package, USDA will use its authority under the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) Charter Act to fund three separate programs to assist agricultural producers in 2019 while the Administration works to...

Party Leaders in the United States Congress, 1789-2019

This report briefly describes current responsibilities and selection mechanisms for 15 House and Senate party leadership posts and provides tables with historical data, including service dates, party affiliation, and other information for each. Tables have been updated as of the report’s issuance date to reflect leadership changes.

Although party divisions appeared almost from the First Congress, the formally structured party leadership organizations now taken for granted are a relatively modern development. Constitutionally specified leaders, namely the Speaker of the House and the...

The Commodity Credit Corporation: In Brief

The Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) has served as a mandatory funding mechanism for agricultural programs since 1933. The CCC Charter Act enables the CCC to broadly support the U.S. agriculture industry through authorized programs including commodity and income support, natural resources conservation, export promotion, international food aid, disaster assistance, agricultural research, and bioenergy development.

While CCC is authorized to carry out a number of activities, it has no staff of its own. Rather, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) employees and facilities carry out all of...

The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS): An Overview

The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) requires U.S. transportation fuel to contain a minimum volume of renewable fuel. The RFS—established by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (P.L. 109-58; EPAct05) and expanded in 2007 by the Energy Independence and Security Act (P.L. 110-140; EISA)—began with 4 billion gallons of renewable fuel in 2006 and aims to ascend to 36 billion gallons in 2022. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has statutory authority to determine the volume amounts after 2022.

The total renewable fuel statutory target consists of both conventional biofuel and advanced biofuel....

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.

Over the last decade, the appropriation for the MRA

reached a...

Afghanistan: Issues for Congress and Legislation 2017-2019

For nearly two decades, Congress has helped shape the U.S. approach to Afghanistan and the ongoing conflict there. This product provides a summary of legislative proposals considered in the 115th and 116th Congresses that relate to U.S. policy in Afghanistan. These address a number of issues, including the following: The size of, and legal authorization for, the U.S. military presence in the country. Executive branch transparency and regular reporting requirements. The purposes for U.S. aid, and conditions under which it can be obligated. The role of women in Afghan society, government,...

Counting Regulations: An Overview of Rulemaking, Types of Federal Regulations, and Pages in the Federal Register

Federal rulemaking is an important mechanism through which the federal government implements policy. Federal agencies issue regulations pursuant to statutory authority granted by Congress. Therefore, Congress may have an interest in performing oversight of those regulations, and measuring federal regulatory activity can be one way for Congress to conduct that oversight. The number of federal rules issued annually and the total number of pages in the Federal Register are often referred to as measures of the total federal regulatory burden.

Certain methods of quantifying regulatory...

Recent Recommendations by the Judicial Conference for New U.S. Circuit and District Court Judgeships: Overview and Analysis

Congress determines through legislative action both the size and structure of the federal judiciary. Consequently, the creation of any new permanent or temporary U.S. circuit and district court judgeships must be authorized by Congress. A permanent judgeship, as the term suggests, permanently increases the number of judgeships in a district or circuit, while a temporary judgeship increases the number of judgeships for a limited period of time.

Congress last enacted comprehensive judgeship legislation in 1990. Since then, there have been a relatively smaller number of district court...

U.S. Strategic Nuclear Forces: Background, Developments, and Issues

Even though the United States has reduced the number of warheads deployed on its long-range missiles and bombers, consistent with the terms of the 2010 New START Treaty, it also plans to develop new delivery systems for deployment over the next 10-30 years. The 116th Congress will continue to review these programs, and the funding requested for them, during the annual authorization and appropriations process.

During the Cold War, the U.S. nuclear arsenal contained many types of delivery vehicles for nuclear weapons. The longer-range systems, which included long-range missiles based on...

U.S.-China Relations

The United States and the People’s Republic of China (PRC or China) are involved in a prolonged stand-off over trade and in competition that is spilling from political and military areas into a growing number of other spheres, including technology, finance, and education, severely straining ties on the 40th anniversary of the two countries’ establishment of diplomatic relations. The two lead the world in the size of their economies, their defense budgets, and their global greenhouse gas emissions. Both countries are permanent members of the United Nations (U.N.) Security Council. In 2018,...

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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Greenland, Denmark, and U.S. Relations

In August 2019, President Trump expressed interest in purchasing Greenland—a self-governing part of the Kingdom of Denmark—due to the island’s strategic location in the Arctic and its increasingly accessible natural resources. After Greenlandic and Danish officials asserted that Greenland is “open for business, not for sale,” President Trump canceled a previously scheduled state visit to Denmark in early September and subsequently objected to Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen’s description of his proposal as “absurd.” The incident sparked tensions with Denmark—a close U.S. ally in...

State Department and Related Agencies FY2000 Appropriations

On February 1, 1999 the President submitted his FY2000 budget request which, after being amended in June, included $6.3 billion for the Department of State and the Broadcasting Board of Governors. This represents a decline of $683 million (or 9.8%) from the FY1999 enacted level which consists of regular appropriations and an emergency supplemental appropriation for embassy security, among other measures. Congress approved the conference report (H.Rept.106-398) on October 20, 1999. The President vetoed the CJS legislation on October 25th, citing the need for hate crime legislation, the...

The U.S. Land-Grant University System: An Overview

With the passage of the first Morrill Act in 1862, the United States began a then-novel policy of providing federal support for post-secondary education, focused on agriculture and the mechanical arts. The national system of land-grant colleges and universities that has developed since then is recognized for its breadth, reach, and excellence in teaching, research, and extension. Land-grant institutions are located in every U.S. state and many territories. These institutions educate the next generation of farmers, ranchers, and citizens, and form the backbone of a national network of...

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Funding: A Primer

Since the enactment of P.L. 94-142, the predecessor legislation to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), in 1975, the federal government has played a prominent role in encouraging the principle of educational equality for children with disabilities through a permanent, broad-scale federal assistance program. The IDEA is a grants statute that provides federal funding for the education of children with disabilities and requires, as a condition for the receipt of such funds, that states agree to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE; i.e., specially designed...

Flooding Events: CRS Experts

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

The 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 and early intervention services for children with disabilities. 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 children with disabilities and their families.

Part B of the IDEA contains two sections—Part B, Section 611 contains provisions relating to special education for school-aged children with disabilities (ages 3 through 21) and Part B,...

The Debt Limit Since 2011

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

Wild and Scenic Rivers: Designation, Management, and Funding

Congress established the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System (NWSRS) in 1968 through the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act (WSRA; P.L. 90-542) to preserve free-flowing rivers for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations and to complement the then-current national policy of constructing dams and other river structures that altered flow. Designated rivers usually are referred to as wild and scenic rivers (WSRs). The WSRA established three classes of WSRs—wild, scenic, and recreational—reflecting the characteristics of the rivers at the time of designation and affecting the...

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,...

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...

Domestic Food Assistance: Summary of Programs

Over the years, Congress has authorized and the federal government has administered programs to provide food to the hungry and to other vulnerable populations in this country. This report offers a brief overview of hunger and food insecurity along with the related network of programs. The report is structured around three main tables that contain information about each program, including its authorizing language, administering agency, eligibility criteria, services provided, participation data, and funding information. In between the tables, contextual information about this policy area...

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...

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...

Labor Day Speech Resources: Fact Sheet

Labor Day is a federal holiday celebrating the achievements of American workers. Labor Day also symbolically marks the end of summer and the beginning of the school year.

This guide is designed to assist congressional offices with work-related Labor Day celebrations. It contains a brief history and selected resources for additional historical and legislative information, CRS reports, sample speeches and recognitions from the legislative branch, presidential proclamations, statistical information on the U.S. labor force, and cultural resources on celebrating the holiday.

Vehicle Fuel Economy and Greenhouse Gas Standards: Frequently Asked Questions

The Trump Administration announced on April 2, 2018, its intent to revise through rulemaking the federal standards that regulate fuel economy and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from new passenger cars and light trucks. These standards include the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards promulgated by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Light-Duty Vehicle GHG emissions standards promulgated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). They are known collectively—along with California’s Advanced Clean Car...

State and Local Financing of Public Schools

The funding of public elementary and secondary schools in the United States involves a combination of local, state, and federal government revenues, in proportions that vary substantially both across and within states. According to the most recent data, state governments provide 47.0% of these revenues, local governments provide 44.8%, and the federal government provides 8.3%. Over the last several decades, the share of public elementary and secondary education revenues provided by state governments has increased, the share provided by local governments has decreased, and the federal share...

Administration of the Emergency Food and Shelter Program (EFSP) Funding Authorized Under the FY2019 Border Supplemental

This Insight provides a brief overview of the Emergency Food and Shelter Program (EFSP), and funding provided for it through the FY2019 Border Supplemental.

General EFSP Administration

The EFSP provides grants to private nonprofit organizations and local governments to supplement and expand ongoing efforts and local programs to provide shelter, food, and supportive services for individuals and families who are homeless or experiencing economic emergencies. It was first authorized under the Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act of 1987 (P.L. 100-77), later renamed the McKinney-Vento...

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. No accurate estimates exist of the number of missing adults; however, approximately 56,000 cases of missing adults (age 18 and older) were pending in the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) National Crime Information Center (NCIC) system, a computerized index with data on crimes and locator files for missing and unidentified persons. Certain adults are particularly vulnerable to missing episodes; for example, those with dementia are at...

Payroll Tax Cuts as Economic Stimulus: Past Experience and Economic Considerations

A range of fiscal and monetary policy tools have been used in the past to respond to weak economic conditions and recessions. One of those policy tools, enacted as economic stimulus in December 2010, was a temporary employee payroll tax cut. On August 20, 2019, President Trump expressed interest in proposing a payroll tax cut, although subsequent reports indicate this may not be a policy the Administration intends to actively pursue at this time.

2011-2012 Payroll Tax Cut

Payroll taxes are collected to finance certain entitlement programs, including Social Security, parts of Medicare, and...

Issues in International Corporate Taxation: The 2017 Revision (P.L. 115-97)

One of the major motivations for the 2017 tax revision (P.L. 115-97) was concern about the international tax system. Issues associated with these rules involved the allocation of investment between the United States and other countries, the loss of revenue due to the artificial shifting of profit out of the United States by multinational firms (both U.S. and foreign), the penalties for repatriating income earned by foreign subsidiaries that led to the accumulation of deferred earnings abroad, and inversions (U.S. firms shifting their headquarters to other countries for tax reasons). In...

Five-Year Program for Offshore Oil and Gas Leasing: History and Program for 2017-2022

Under Section 18 of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, as amended (OCSLA; 43 U.S.C. §§1331-1356b), the Secretary of the Interior must prepare and maintain forward-looking plans—typically referred to as five-year programs—that indicate proposed public oil and gas lease sales in U.S. waters. In doing so, the Secretary must balance national interests in energy supply and environmental protection. The lead agency within DOI responsible for the program is the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM).

BOEM’s development of a five-year program typically takes place over two or three years,...

Supreme Court October Term 2018: A Review of Selected Major Rulings

The Supreme Court term that began on October 1, 2018, was a term of transition, with the Court issuing a number of rulings that, at times, suggested but did not fully adopt broader transformations in its jurisprudence. The term followed the retirement of Justice Kennedy, who was a critical vote on the Court for much of his 30-year tenure and who had been widely viewed as the Court’s median or “swing” Justice. As a result, the question looming over the October 2018 Term was how the replacement of Justice Kennedy with Justice Kavanaugh would alter the Court’s jurisprudence going...

Long-Term Federal Management of Uranium Mill Tailings: Background and Issues for Congress

In the wake of increasing concerns in the 1970s about human health and environmental risks posed by inactive uranium mill tailings, Congress enacted the Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act of 1978 (UMTRCA). Uranium milling operations generate uranium concentrate, also known as “yellowcake” uranium, and waste material, called tailings, which can harbor and liberate radioactive and non-radioactive constituents.

Title I of UMTRCA authorized a remedial action program for uranium mill tailings sites that were inactive prior to 1978, which produced uranium concentrate under federal...

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 annual budget deficits and the associated growth of public debt 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...

Norwegian Air International and Low-Cost Long-Haul Flights

Legislation introduced in the House of Representatives in July 2019 would prohibit the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) from allowing a foreign airline to serve the United States if it “is established in a country other than the home country of its majority owner or owners in order to avoid regulations of the home country.” The bill, H.R. 3632, is the latest salvo in a prolonged battle over issuance of a foreign air carrier permit that allows Norwegian Air Shuttle, which owns a group of discount carriers, to operate transatlantic flights to U.S. destinations.

Norwegian Air Shuttle...

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 for federal contracts if a federal contracting officer certifies that such a guarantee is necessary. The SBA’s guarantee currently ranges from 80% to...

International Food Assistance: Food for Peace Nonemergency Programs

The U.S. government provides international food assistance to promote global food security, alleviate hunger, and address food crises among the world’s most vulnerable populations. Congress authorizes this assistance through regular agriculture and international affairs legislation, and provides funding through annual appropriations legislation. The primary channel for this assistance is the Food for Peace program (FFP), administered by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Established in 1954, FFP has historically focused primarily on meeting the emergency food needs of...

Small Business Size Standards: A Historical Analysis of Contemporary Issues

Small business size standards are of congressional interest because they have a pivotal role in determining eligibility for Small Business Administration (SBA) assistance as well as federal contracting and, in some instances, tax preferences. Although there is bipartisan agreement that the nation’s small businesses play an important role in the American economy, there are differences of opinion concerning how to define them. The Small Business Act of 1953 (P.L. 83-163, as amended) authorized the SBA to establish size standards to ensure that only small businesses receive SBA assistance....

Global Trade Imbalances: Overview and Issues

On July 17, 2019, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) published its annual report on global trade that identifies countries with “excessive” current account balances—both surpluses and deficits—and exchange rates that are “misaligned.” The current account is a broad measure of a country’s global economic engagement and is comprised of trade in goods, services, and official flows. By definition, surpluses or deficits in one country are offset by deficits or surpluses in other countries such that the global current account balance nets to zero (including statistical discrepancy), as...

The Yield Curve and Predicting Recessions

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

What Is the Yield Curve?

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

PFAS and Drinking Water: Selected EPA and Congressional Actions

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are fluorinated chemicals that have been used in an array of commercial, industrial, and U.S. military applications for decades. Some of the more common applications include nonstick coatings, food wrappers, waterproof materials, and fire suppressants. Detections of some PFAS in drinking water supplies and uncertainty about potential health effects associated with exposure to particular PFAS above certain concentrations have increased calls for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to address these substances in public water supplies. For...

Small Business Credit Markets and Selected Policy Issues

Small businesses are owned by and employ a wide variety of entrepreneurs—skilled trade technicians, medical professionals, financial consultants, technology innovators, and restaurateurs, among many others. As do large corporations, small businesses rely on credit to purchase inventory, to cover cash flow shortages that may arise from unexpected expenses or periods of inadequate income, or to expand operations. During the Great Recession of 2007-2009, lending to small businesses declined. A decade after the recession, it appears that while many small businesses enjoy increased access to...

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

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

Federal Personal Property Disposal: Procedures and Reforms

Federal personal property is generally defined as anything the government owns that is not real property. Common examples of personal property include furniture, cars, laptops, scientific equipment, and machinery. Sound management of the government’s personal property inventory—which is valued at more than $1 trillion—is necessary to mitigate the risk of waste, fraud, and loss. Federal statutes and regulations require agencies to regularly survey their personal property inventories and dispose of items they no longer need (excess personal property). When an agency identifies excess...

Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies: Overview of FY2020 Appropriations

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

Social Security Retirement Earnings Test: How Earnings Affect Benefits

Under the Social Security Retirement Earnings Test (RET), the monthly benefits of most Social Security beneficiaries who are below full retirement age (FRA)—between 65 and 67, depending on year of birth—are reduced if they have earnings that exceed an annual threshold. In 2019, a beneficiary who is below FRA and will not attain FRA during the year is subject to a $1 reduction in benefits for every $2 of earnings above $17,640. A beneficiary who will attain FRA in 2019 is subject to a $1 reduction in benefits for every $3 of earnings above $46,920. The annual thresholds ($17,640 and $46,920...

Kashmir: Background, Recent Developments, and U.S. Policy

In early August 2019, the Indian government announced that it would make major changes to the legal status of its Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) state, specifically by repealing Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, which provided the state “special” autonomous status, and by bifurcating the state into two successor “Union Territories” with more limited indigenous administrative powers. The former princely region’s sovereignty has been unsettled since 1947 and its territory is divided by a military “Line of Control,” with Pakistan controlling about one-third and disputing...

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 over 20 programs and subprograms that are directly or indirectly available to assist producers and landowners who wish to practice conservation on agricultural lands. The number of these programs and the differences among them have created some confusion about the purpose, participation, and policies of the programs. While some effort has been made to remove duplication, a large number of programs remain. The programs discussed in this report...

Mexico: Organized Crime and Drug Trafficking Organizations

Mexican drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) pose the greatest crime threat to the United States and have “the greatest drug trafficking influence,” according to the annual U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA’s) National Drug Threat Assessment. These organizations work across the Western Hemisphere and globally. They are involved in extensive money laundering, bribery, gun trafficking, and corruption, while causing Mexico’s homicide rates to spike. They produce and traffic illicit drugs into the United States, including heroin, methamphetamine, marijuana, and powerful synthetic...

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.

DOD has started the fiscal year under a CR for 13 of the past 18 years (FY2002-FY2019) and every year since FY2010 excluding FY2019. The amount of time DOD has operated under CR authorities during the fiscal year has tended to increase in the past 10 years and equates to a total of more than 39 months since 2010.

As with regular appropriations bills, Congress can draft a CR to provide funding in many ways....

El Salvador: Background and U.S. Relations

Congress has had significant interest in El Salvador, a small Central American nation that has had a large percentage of its population living in the United States since the country’s civil conflict (1980-1992). During the 1980s, the U.S. government spent billions of dollars supporting the Salvadoran government’s counterinsurgency efforts against the leftist Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN). The United States later supported a 1992 peace accord that ended the conflict and transformed the FMLN into a political party. Despite periodic tensions, the United States worked with...

Conventional Prompt Global Strike and Long-Range Ballistic Missiles: Background and Issues

Conventional prompt global strike (CPGS) weapons would allow the United States to strike targets anywhere on Earth in as little as an hour. This capability may bolster U.S. efforts to deter and defeat adversaries by allowing the United States to attack high-value targets or “fleeting targets” at the start of or during a conflict. Congress has generally supported the PGS mission, but restricted funding for several years. Recently, efforts to develop a long-range prompt strike capability, along with other efforts to develop extremely fast hypersonic weapons, have garnered increased...

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...

Words Taken Down: Calling Members to Order for Disorderly Language in the House

Rule XVII, clause 4, of the standing rules of the House of Representatives describes a parliamentary mechanism whereby a Member may call another Member to order for the use of disorderly language. Disorderly, or unparliamentary, remarks are a violation of House rules of decorum. This mechanism, which is referred to as “words taken down,” may be invoked during debate on the House floor, in the Committee of the Whole, or in the standing and select committees of the House.

To call a Member to order for allegedly disorderly remarks, a Member would state the following: “I demand that the...

Housing Issues in the 116th Congress

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

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

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

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

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...

Libya: Conflict Disrupts U.S.-Backed Transition Plan

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

FDA Regulation of Tobacco Products

Cigarette use remains the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, claiming an estimated 480,000 lives or more each year. Although cigarette use in the United States continues to decline, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 34.3 million American adults smoked cigarettes every day or some days in 2017, and nearly 1.4 million American middle and high school students smoked cigarettes in the past 30 days in 2018.

In recent years, electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) have become increasingly popular. ENDS is an umbrella term for various...

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

The House pay-as-you-go (PAYGO) rule is generally intended to discourage or prevent Congress from taking certain legislative action that would increase the deficit. The rule requires that legislation affecting direct spending or revenues not increase the projected deficit over either a 6-year or an 11-year period. In effect, the rule requires that any legislation projected to increase direct spending or reduce revenues must be offset by equivalent amounts of direct spending cuts, revenue increases, or a combination of the two, over the two specified periods.

The House PAYGO rule applies to...

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 through 21 years old) and require, as a condition for the receipt of such funds,...

Bitcoin, Blockchain, and the Energy Sector

The popularity of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and the underlying blockchain technology presents both challenges and opportunities to the energy sector. As interest in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies has increased, the energy demand to support cryptocurrency “mining” activities has also increased. The increased energy demand—when localized—can exceed the available power capacity and increase customers’ electricity rates. On the other hand, not all cryptocurrencies require energy-intensive mining operations. Some cryptocurrencies can operate under algorithms that require less energy....

Covert Action and Clandestine Activities of the Intelligence Community: Framework for Congressional Oversight In Brief

Since the mid-1970s, Congress’s oversight of the Intelligence Community (IC) has been a fundamental component of ensuring that the IC’s seventeen diverse elements are held accountable for the effectiveness of their programs supporting United States national security. This has been especially true for covert action and clandestine intelligence activities because of their significant risk of compromise and potential long-term impact on U.S. foreign relations. Yet, by their very nature, these and other intelligence programs and activities are classified and shielded from the public....

A New Director for the International Monetary Fund

On July 16, Christine Lagarde announced that she was resigning as International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director following her nomination to succeed Mario Draghi as president of the European Central Bank. She is expected to take up the new post in November. Until a new permanent director is chosen, David Lipton, the IMF’s First Deputy Managing Director, will serve as Acting Managing Director.

Ms. Lagarde’s tenure at the IMF coincided with arguably the most challenging global economic landscape in recent decades. Assuming office in the middle of the global financial crisis and amidst...

Tax Policy and Disaster Recovery

The Internal Revenue Code (IRC) contains a number of provisions intended to provide disaster relief. Following certain disasters, Congress has passed legislation with temporary and targeted tax relief policies. At other times, Congress has passed legislation providing tax relief to those affected by all federally declared major disasters (disasters with Stafford Act declarations) occurring during a set time period. In addition, several disaster tax relief provisions are permanent features of the IRC.

This report discusses the following permanent provisions:

disaster casualty loss...

Export-Import Bank: Overview and Reauthorization Issues

The Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank or the Bank)—commonly referred to as the official export credit agency (ECA) of the United States—provides financing and insurance to facilitate the export of U.S. goods and services to support U.S. jobs. Ex-Im Bank, a wholly owned U.S. government corporation, operates pursuant to a renewable statutory charter (Export-Import Bank Act of 1945, as amended; 12 U.S.C. §635 et seq.), and also abides by international rules on ECA financing under the Organization for Economic Cooperation for Development (OECD). The Bank aims to provide...

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, 59 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...

The Administration’s Designation of China as a Currency Manipulator

On August 4, China’s central bank allowed its currency, the yuan, to depreciate to an 11-year low, breaking the politically sensitive threshold of seven yuan to one U.S. dollar (Figure 1). A depreciation of the yuan against the U.S. dollar makes Chinese exports less expensive in global markets. Some analysts speculate the depreciation is designed to offset and retaliate against U.S. tariffs on Chinese imports, coming four days after President Trump announced his intent to impose an additional 10% tariff on $300 billion of Chinese imports on September 1. There are differing views on the...

Real Time Payments Initiatives

Technological advances have made it feasible to create a real time payments (RTP) network between financial institutions in which the recipient of an electronic payment would receive funds in seconds, compared to the current practice of later in the day or the next day. The Federal Reserve’s (Fed’s) recent announcement that it would create a RTP system has been controversial, as it will be directly competing with a privately owned system.

Background

This Insight discusses payment and settlement systems that allow individuals and businesses to complete payments across different financial...

Human Fetal Tissue Research: Frequently Asked Questions

This report provides answers to frequently asked questions concerning the regulation and use of fetal tissue in research, including a description of what constitutes fetal tissue research, uses of fetal tissue for medical purposes, how such tissue is acquired, along with rules and regulations governing the use and acquisition of fetal tissue.

fetal tissue, Planned Parenthood, fetal tissue transplantation research, Common Rule,

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...

CRS Products and Experts on North Korea

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

Department of Homeland Security Appropriations: FY2019

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

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

U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel

This report provides an overview of U.S. foreign assistance to Israel. It includes a review of past aid programs, data on annual assistance, and analysis of current issues. For general information on Israel, see Israel: Background and U.S. Relations in Brief, by Jim Zanotti.

Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. foreign assistance since World War II. To date, the United States has provided Israel $142.3 billion (current, or noninflation-adjusted, dollars) in bilateral assistance and missile defense funding. Almost all U.S. bilateral aid to Israel is in the form of military...

FEMA and SBA Disaster Assistance for Individuals and Households: Application Processes, Determinations, and Appeals

The Small Business Administration’s (SBA’s) Disaster Loan Program and the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA’s) Individual Assistance (IA) program are the federal government’s primary sources of financial assistance to help individuals and households recover and rebuild following an incident. In many cases, disaster survivors need assistance from both programs in addition to other sources of assistance, including private insurance, state and local government assistance, and assistance from voluntary organizations.

Although the SBA Disaster Loan Program and FEMA IA are separate...

Flexibility for Equitable Per-Pupil Spending Under Title I, Part E of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA; P.L. 114-95) amended the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to add the “Flexibility for Equitable Per-Pupil Spending” authority as Title I, Part E. Under Title I-E, the Secretary of Education (the Secretary) has authority to provide local educational agencies (LEAs) with flexibility to consolidate eligible federal funds with state and local funding to create a “single school funding system based on weighted per-pupil allocations for low-income and otherwise disadvantaged students.” The Title I-E authority is applicable to LEAs that are...

Five-Year Offshore Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2019-2024: 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 late 2019 through mid-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...

Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education: FY2019 Appropriations

This report offers an overview of actions taken by Congress and the President to provide FY2019 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 Department of Labor (DOL) and Department of 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...

Russia’s Nuclear Weapons: Doctrine, Forces, and Modernization

Russia’s nuclear forces consist of both long-range, strategic systems – including intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and heavy bombers – and shorter- and medium-range delivery systems. Russia is modernizing its nuclear forces, replacing Soviet-era systems with new missiles, submarines and aircraft while developing new types of delivery systems. Although Russia’s number of nuclear weapons has declined sharply since the end of Cold War, it retains a stockpile of thousands of warheads, with more than 1,500 warheads deployed on missiles...

North Korea: What 18 Months of Diplomacy Has and Has Not Achieved

Overview

Since President Trump agreed in March 2018 to hold a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to discuss North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, the Trump Administration’s strategy has appeared to be based on the presumption that developing a leader-to-leader relationship will produce more results than the working-group approaches taken by previous administrations. Trump and Kim have held three meetings: in Singapore (June 2018); Hanoi (February 2019); and Panmunjom (June 2019). Since March 2018, Kim also has met on five occasions with Chinese President Xi Jinping, three...

National Emergency Powers

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

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

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019: Changes to the BCA and Debt Limit

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019 (BBA 2019; P.L. 116-37) was enacted on August 2, 2019. BBA 2019 raised the discretionary spending limits (caps) implemented by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA; P.L. 112-25) for FY2020 and FY2021; made other BCA-related changes, including an extension of the mandatory sequester through FY2029; and suspended the statutory debt limit until August 1, 2021.

Changes to FY2020 and FY2021 Discretionary Spending Caps

The BCA created annual statutory discretionary spending caps for defense and nondefense spending that are in effect through FY2021. If...

The Department of Defense’s JEDI Cloud Program

In September 2017, the Deputy Secretary of Defense issued a memorandum calling for the accelerated adoption of a Department of Defense (DOD) enterprise-wide cloud services solution as a fundamental component of ongoing DOD modernization efforts. As a component of this effort, DOD is seeking to acquire a cloud services solution accessible to the entirety of the Department that can support Unclassified, Secret, and Top Secret requirements, focusing on commercially available cloud service solutions, through the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) Cloud acquisition program.

DOD...

Russian Compliance with the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty: Background and Issues for Congress

The United States and Soviet Union signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in December 1987. Negotiations on this treaty were the result of a “dual-track” decision taken by NATO in 1979 in response to concerns about the Soviet Union’s deployment of new intermediate-range nuclear missiles. NATO agreed both to accept deployment of new U.S. intermediate-range ballistic and cruise missiles and to support U.S. efforts to negotiate with the Soviet Union to limit these missiles. In the INF Treaty, the United States and Soviet Union agreed that they would ban all land-based...

3D Printing: Overview, Impacts, and the Federal Role

Three-dimensional (3D) printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is a highly flexible manufacturing process that has been used in product development and production for the past 30 years. Greater capabilities, lower prices, and an expanded range of manufacturing materials have vastly expanded adoption of 3D printers over the last decade and a half. The economic and scientific potential of this technology, as well as certain regulatory concerns (such as 3D printing of firearms), have recently increased congressional interest.

3D printers are used in a variety of industries—such as...

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

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

Over the...

Trends in the U.S. Poverty Rate after Recessions

poverty, poverty rate, recession, expansion, recovery, business cycle

Behavioral Economics, IRS Letter Campaigns, and Tax Compliance

Research from the fields of behavioral economics and behavioral science suggests there may be cost-effective ways for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to increase tax compliance and collections. This Insight discusses one relatively simple approach to potentially increase compliance: carefully crafted letters to taxpayers. The discussion below is also intended to introduce the reader to a small portion of the vocabulary used by behavioral economists.

Classical and Behavioral Theories

According to the most recent estimates, the IRS collects about 84% of the taxes it should be collecting....

Why Is the Federal Reserve Reducing Interest Rates?

On July 31, the Federal Reserve (Fed) reduced the federal funds rate by a quarter of a percentage point. The Fed targets this rate to meet its statutory mandate of maximum employment and stable prices (defined as 2% inflation). Lower interest rates would tend to raise employment and inflation, all else equal.

Fed Rate Cuts Across the Business Cycle

The Fed typically cuts rates during recessions and raises rates during expansions. Since the Fed began using the federal funds rate as its primary instrument to carry out monetary policy (possibly as early as 1982), it has had four periods of...

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.

Censure resolutions targeting non-Members have utilized a range of statements to highlight conduct deemed by the resolutions’ sponsors to be inappropriate or unauthorized. Before the Nixon Administration, such resolutions...

Major Votes on Free Trade Agreements and Trade Promotion Authority

On November 30, 2018, the Trump Administration signed a revised free trade agreement (FTA) with Canada and Mexico, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). In order for USMCA to go into effect and replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Congress will have to pass implementing legislation. (For more information, see CRS In Focus IF10997, Proposed U.S.-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) Trade Agreement, by Ian F. Fergusson and M. Angeles Villarreal.)

Since 1979, Congress has passed 16 implementation measures for FTAs and multilateral trade agreements. The majority of these...

New UK Leadership: Implications for Brexit

On July 24, 2019, Boris Johnson became prime minister of the United Kingdom (UK) after winning the Conservative Party leadership contest that was triggered by the resignation of Theresa May as party leader on June 7. A colorful and polarizing figure who was one of the leading voices in the campaign for the UK to leave the European Union (EU), Johnson previously served as UK foreign secretary from 2016 to 2018 and mayor of London from 2008 to 2016. He inherits a government in which the Conservative Party controls a slim parliamentary majority by virtue of support from the Democratic...

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...

Carbon Monoxide Detection Requirements for Military Housing

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas that can cause sudden illness or death if a person is exposed to certain quantities. Often referred to as the “silent killer,” CO poisoning kills over 430 people annually in the United States (U.S.), and approximately 50,000 people seek emergency medical treatment. Most states have enacted statutes or adopted regulations that require CO detectors or alarms in private dwellings. In these states, owners are required to install at least one battery-operated or hard wired CO detector or alarm in a housing unit.

Likewise, the...

Social Security: Beneficiaries Affected by Both the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and the Government Pension Offset (GPO)

The Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and the Government Pension Offset (GPO) are two separate provisions that reduce Social Security benefits for workers and/or and their eligible family members if the worker receives (or is entitled to) a pension based on employment not covered by Social Security. Certain beneficiaries may be subject to both the WEP and the GPO if they are dually entitled to Social Security retirement and spousal (or survivors’) benefits and also receive a noncovered government pension. As of December 2018, 263,775 Social Security beneficiaries were affected by both...

FY2019 Disaster Supplemental Appropriations: Overview

This report provides a legislative history of the Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Act, 2019 (P.L. 116-20), and provides an overview of some of the issues that often arise with consideration of supplemental disaster assistance appropriations.

In total, 59 major disasters were declared in calendar year 2018, and 27 major disasters were declared in 2019 up to the date the compromise on the disaster supplemental was announced. In addition to these specifically declared incidents, other situations arose that caused disruption to lives, economic resources, and...

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...

The Front End of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle: Current Issues

Nuclear power contributes roughly 20% of the electrical generation in the United States. Uranium is the fundamental element in fuel used for nuclear power production. The nuclear fuel cycle is the cradle-to-grave life cycle from extracting uranium ore from the earth through power production in a nuclear reactor to permanent disposal of the resulting spent nuclear fuel.

The front-end of the nuclear fuel cycle considers the portion of the nuclear fuel cycle leading up to electrical power production in a nuclear reactor. The front-end of the nuclear fuel cycle has four stages: mining and...

Federal Indian Law: Judicial Developments in the October 2018 Supreme Court Term

Each term, the Supreme Court typically hears arguments in one or more cases concerning the rights and status of Indian tribes and their members. Prominent issues addressed by the Supreme Court in recent terms have included (1) tribes’ civil jurisdiction over nonmembers, (2) the scope of tribal sovereign immunity, and (3) termination of Indian parents’ rights in adoption cases.

The October 2018 term likewise featured several Indian law issues: the Court heard arguments in three significant cases, each of which implicated the complex relationships among tribal, state, and federal laws. In...

HUD’s Proposal to End Assistance to Mixed Status Families

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

Foreign Holdings of Federal Debt

This report presents current data on ownership of U.S. Treasury securities and major holders of federal debt by country. Federal debt represents the accumulated balance of borrowing by the federal government. To finance federal borrowing, U.S. Treasury securities are sold to investors. Treasury securities may be purchased directly from the Treasury or on the secondary market by individual private investors, financial institutions in the United States or overseas, and foreign, state, or local governments.

From December 2014 to December 2018, foreign holdings of debt increased by $0.1...

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

The consumer data industry—generally referred to as credit reporting agencies or credit bureaus—collects and subsequently provides information to firms about the behavior of consumers when they participate in various financial transactions. Firms use consumer information to screen for consumer risks. 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...

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA): A Primer on Telehealth

The Veterans Health Administration (VHA), of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), is leveraging the use of telehealth with the goal of expanding veterans’ access to VA care. Telehealth generally refers to the use of information and communication technology to deliver a health care service. It is a mode of health care delivery that extends beyond the “brick-and-mortar” health care facilities of the VHA. VA telehealth services are generally provided on an outpatient basis and supplement in-person care. Such services do not replace VA in-person care. The VA copay requirements for...

Ghana: Current Issues and U.S. Relations in Brief

Ghana, a country of 28 million people on West Africa’s Atlantic coast, faces diverse development challenges, but has built a robust democracy notable for consistent peaceful turnovers of executive power since a transition to multiparty rule in the early 1990s. The country also has made progress toward many of the socioeconomic outcomes that successive U.S. administrations have sought to foster in Africa, and U.S. policymakers have tended to view Ghana as a stable U.S. partner in an often volatile region. Substantial U.S. bilateral aid has both been premised on and arguably contributed to...

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 recipients of cash assistance by obtaining ongoing support from noncustodial parents that could be used to reimburse the state and federal governments for part of that assistance. (This purpose often is referred to as “welfare cost-recovery.”) Relatedly, the program also sought to strengthen families by securing financial support for children from their noncustodial parents on a...

Overview of Recent Administrative Reforms of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac

Congress chartered Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, also known collectively as the government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs), to promote homeownership for underserved groups and locations by providing liquidity to the secondary mortgage market. The GSEs specifically facilitate financing for single-family residential mortgages and multifamily (apartment and condominium) construction. After purchasing pools of single-family 30-year fixed rate mortgages, the GSEs retain the credit (default) risks from the whole mortgages and subsequently issue mortgage-backed securities (MBSs), which are bond-like...

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...

Department of Defense Energy Management: Background and Issues for Congress

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) consumes more energy than any other federal agency—77% of the entire federal government’s energy consumption. Energy management is integral to DOD operations. From running bases and training facilities to powering jets and ships, DOD relies on energy to maintain readiness and resiliency for mission operations. Energy efficiency—providing the same or an improved level of service with less energy—over time can reduce agency expenses, particularly at an agency like DOD, where energy represents roughly 2% of the department’s annual budget.

Since the 1970s,...

Congressional Commissions: Funding and Expenditures

Congressional commissions have been established for a variety of purposes, and can help serve a critical role by informing Congress, providing expert advice on complex or controversial issues, and generating policy recommendations. In general, commissions hold hearings, conduct research, analyze data, and/or make field visits as they carry out their duties. Most complete their work by delivering their findings, recommendations, or advice in the form of a written report to Congress. For example, the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (the 9/11 Commission) was...

Wilderness: Overview, Management, and Statistics

Congress enacted the Wilderness Act in 1964. This act created the National Wilderness Preservation System, reserved to Congress the authority to designate wilderness areas, and directed the Secretaries of Agriculture and of the Interior to review certain lands for their wilderness potential. The act also designated 54 wilderness areas with 9 million acres of federal land. Congress began expanding the Wilderness System in 1968, and as of July 15, 2019, there are 803 wilderness areas, totaling over 111 million acres, in 44 states and Puerto Rico. Numerous bills to designate additional areas...

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 remained a major transit corridor for illicit drugs and has surpassed Mexico as the largest source of irregular migration to the United States. These narcotics and migrant flows are the latest symptoms of deep-rooted challenges in several countries in the region, including widespread insecurity, fragile political and judicial systems, and high levels of poverty and unemployment. The U.S. government and partners in the region have begun to implement new initiatives intended to...

Real Wage Trends, 1979 to 2018

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...

Federal Preemption: A Legal Primer

The Constitution’s Supremacy Clause provides that federal law is “the supreme Law of the Land” notwithstanding any state law to the contrary. This language is the foundation for the doctrine of federal preemption, according to which federal law supersedes conflicting state laws. The Supreme Court has identified two general ways in which federal law can preempt state law. First, federal law can expressly preempt state law when a federal statute or regulation contains explicit preemptive language. Second, federal law can impliedly preempt state law when Congress’s preemptive intent is...

Heritage Areas: Background, Proposals, and Current Issues

Over more than 30 years, Congress has established 55 national heritage areas (NHAs) to commemorate, conserve, and promote important natural, scenic, historic, cultural, and recreational resources. NHAs are partnerships among the National Park Service (NPS), states, and local communities, in which the NPS supports state and local conservation through federal recognition, seed money, and technical assistance. Unlike lands within the National Park System, which are federally owned and managed, lands within heritage areas typically remain in state, local, or private ownership or a combination...

Vulnerable Youth: Federal Mentoring Programs and Issues

Youth mentoring refers to a relationship between youth—particularly those most at risk of experiencing negative outcomes in adolescence and adulthood—and the adults who support and guide them. The origin of the modern youth mentoring concept is credited to the efforts of charity groups that formed during the Progressive era of the early 1900s to provide practical assistance to poor and juvenile justice-involved youth, including help with finding employment.

Approximately 4.5 million youth today are involved in formal mentoring relationships through mentoring organizations (e.g., Big...

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 of children who go missing has declined. A survey from 2013 provides the most recent and comprehensive information on missing children. About 238,000 children (3.1 per 1,000 children) were reported to law enforcement by their caretakers that year as missing...

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...

Honduras: Background and U.S. Relations

Honduras, a Central American nation of 9.1 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...

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.

Definitional issues have made it more challenging to assess the state of the manufacturing sector. Lines between manufacturing and other economic sectors are increasingly blurred. Many workers in...

BB&T and SunTrust: Merger Approval Process and Trends

BB&T and SunTrust have proposed a merger that could form the eighth-largest bank holding company (BHC) by assets in the United States (see CRS Insight IN11062, BB&T and SunTrust: The Latest Proposed Merger in a Long-Term Trend of Banking Industry Consolidation). This has focused congressional attention on bank mergers. This Insight examines the bank merger regulatory approval process.

Merger Approval Process

BB&T and Suntrust are both BHCs with state-chartered subsidiary banks. The Suntrust bank is not a member of the Federal Reserve System. As such, the merger must be approved by the...

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

On February 9, 2019, BB&T and SunTrust—the 16th- and 17th-largest U.S. bank holding companies (BHCs) by asset size, respectively—announced they intend to merge, which would create the 8th-largest BHC. The House Financial Services Committee has scheduled a hearing on July 24, 2019, that will examine this merger.

Over the past 35 years, banks are becoming fewer, and industry assets are increasingly concentrated in large banks. Observers have warned that this trend could leave certain markets traditionally served by small banks underserved or unserved. In addition, large, complex banks—or too...

Regular Vetoes and Pocket Vetoes: In Brief

The veto power vested in the President by Article I, Section 7 of the Constitution has proven to be an effective tool in the executive branch’s dealings with Congress. In order for a bill to become law, the President either signs the bill into law, or the President allows the bill to become law without signature after a 10-day period.

Regular vetoes occur when the President refuses to sign a bill and returns the bill complete with objections to Congress within 10 days. Upon receipt of the rejected bill, Congress is able to begin the veto override process, which requires a two-thirds...

Bankruptcy and Student Loans

As overall student loan indebtedness in the United States has increased over the years, many borrowers have found themselves unable to repay their student loans. Ordinarily, declaring bankruptcy is a means by which a debtor may discharge—that is, obtain relief from—debts he is unable to repay. However, Congress, based upon its determination that allowing debtors to freely discharge student loans in bankruptcy could threaten the student loan program, has limited the circumstances in which a debtor may discharge a student loan. Under current law, a debtor may not discharge a student loan...

Afghanistan: Background and U.S. Policy

Afghanistan has been a significant U.S. foreign policy concern since 2001, when the United States, in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, led a military campaign against Al Qaeda and the Taliban government that harbored and supported it. In the intervening 18 years, the United States has suffered approximately 2,400 military fatalities in Afghanistan, with the cost of military operations reaching nearly $750 billion. Congress has appropriated approximately $133 billion for reconstruction. In that time, an elected Afghan government has replaced the Taliban, and most...

Daylight Saving Time

Daylight Saving Time (DST) is a period of the year between spring and fall when clocks in most parts of the United States are set one hour ahead of standard time. The time period for DST begins on the second Sunday in March and ends on the first Sunday in November. The beginning and ending dates are set in statute. Congressional interest in the potential benefits and costs of DST has resulted in changes to DST observance since it was first adopted in the United States in 1918.

The United States established standard time zones and DST through the Calder Act, also known as the Standard Time...

FY2019 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 5515)

For FY2019, the Trump Administration requested $708.1 billion to fund programs falling under the jurisdiction of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees and subject to authorization by the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

The annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) authorizes appropriations for the Department of Defense (DOD) and defense-related atomic energy programs of the Department of Energy. In addition to authorizing appropriations, the NDAA establishes defense policies and restrictions, and addresses organizational administrative matters related to...

Instances of Use of United States Armed Forces Abroad, 1798-2019

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...

Sudan’s Uncertain Transition

Sudan’s future is uncertain in the aftermath of President Omar al Bashir’s ouster as elements of his regime have sought to retain power in the face of a popular uprising and international pressure. The Sudanese military has a history of intervention in politics: the 1989 coup in which Bashir came to power was the country’s fourth. Sudan also has a long history of rebellion and resistance. While the armed uprisings are more widely known, mass protests against military regimes in 1964 and 1985 spurred coups that led to brief periods of civilian rule. The current protest movement is...

Department of Health and Human Services: FY2020 Budget Request

Historically, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has been one of the larger federal departments in terms of budgetary resources. Estimates by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) indicate that HHS has accounted for at least 20% of all federal outlays in each year since FY1995. Most recently, HHS is estimated to have accounted for 27% of all federal outlays in FY2018.

Final FY2019 appropriations had not been enacted for a few HHS operating divisions and accounts prior to the development of the FY2020 President’s budget request. As a result, the FY2019 estimates...

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...

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 FY2016, FY2017, FY2018, and FY2019.

The NCSA is designed to meet unmet human,...

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative: Background, Impacts, and Selected Issues

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) was the nation’s first mandatory cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. RGGI currently involves nine states—Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont. New Jersey is to rejoin the program in 2020. 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—165 facilities in the region. The RGGI emissions cap took effect January 1, 2009, based on an agreement signed by RGGI...

Section 232 Investigation: Uranium Imports

On July, 12, 2019, President Trump declined to impose quotas or other trade measures on imports of uranium materials under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 (19 U.S.C. §1862). The President did not concur with the U.S. Department of Commerce’s (Commerce’s) findings that “uranium imports threaten to impair the national security of the United States as defined under section 232.” As part of his decision, the President established a Nuclear Fuel Working Group to “examine the current state of domestic nuclear fuel production to reinvigorate the entire nuclear fuel supply chain,”...

The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF): Background and Potential Reauthorization

The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) provides cash benefits to certain persons whose health may have been affected by exposure to debris or toxic substances in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, and the terrorist-related aircraft crash at Shanksville, PA. Congress created the original VCF shortly after the 2001 terrorist attacks to provide compensation to persons injured and to the families of persons killed in the attacks and their immediate aftermath. In 2011, Congress reopened the VCF to provide benefits to...

Tropical Storm Barry: FEMA and Additional Storm-Related Resources

Introduction

This Insight provides a brief overview of emergency and major declarations and federal assistance programs potentially available to those affected by Tropical Storm Barry. It also lists resources for forecast information, hurricane and flooding information, and selected Congressional Research Service reports on federal emergency management policy.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has issued watches and warnings for Tropical Storm Barry, a slow-moving storm in the Northern Gulf of Mexico. Current forecasts predict the storm’s landfall to occur along...

Military Retirement: Background and Recent Developments

The military retirement system is a government-funded, noncontributory, defined benefit system that has historically been viewed as a significant incentive in retaining a career military force. The system currently includes monthly compensation for qualified active and reserve retirees, disability benefits for those deemed medically unfit to serve, and a survivor annuity program for the eligible survivors of deceased retirees. The amount of compensation is dependent on time served, basic pay at retirement, and annual Cost-of-Living-Adjustments (COLAs). Military retirees are also entitled...

An Overview of Consumer Finance and Policy Issues

Consumer finance refers to the saving, borrowing, and investment choices that households make over time. These financial decisions can be complex and can affect households’ financial well-being both now and in the future. Safe and affordable financial services are an important tool for most American households to avoid financial hardship, build assets, and achieve financial security over the course of their lives. Understanding why and how consumers make financial decisions is important when considering policy issues in consumer financial markets.

Households borrow money for the following...

Video Relay Service: Program Funding and Reform

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulates a number of disability-related telecommunications services, including video relay service (VRS). VRS allows persons with hearing disabilities, using American Sign Language (ASL), to communicate with voice telephone users through video equipment rather than through typed text. VRS has quickly become a very popular service, as it offers several features not available with the text-based telecommunications relay service (TRS).

The FCC has adopted various rules to maintain the quality of VRS service. Now VRS providers must answer 80% of all...

Federal Highway Traffic Safety Policies: Impacts and Opportunities

In 2017, 37,133 Americans were killed in crashes involving motor vehicles. Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death for Americans overall, and the number one cause of death for teenagers. Millions of people are injured in crashes annually, and motor vehicle crashes are estimated to have cost some $242 billion in 2010 in lost productivity, medical costs, legal costs, property damage, and time lost in congestion caused by crashes. As measured by the number of deaths per mile people are driving, the rate at which people are killed in traffic crashes declined significantly from 1929,...

Exposed Data Highlights Law Enforcement Use of Selected Technologies

Official use of image capturing and facial recognition technology—particularly by law enforcement—has been the subject of recent congressional attention. Specifically, there is interest in facial recognition’s accuracy, the databases against which faces are compared, which individual data are subject to collection and retention, how agencies ensure data security, and public notification regarding the use of facial recognition and other image capturing technology. Many of these issues were highlighted following a recently acknowledged breach of certain data held by a U.S. Customs and Border...

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...

FY2019 Disaster Supplemental Appropriations: CRS Experts

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

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

Comparing DHS Component Funding, FY2019: In Brief

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Generally, the homeland security appropriations bill includes all annual appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), providing resources to every departmental component. The Tables and Figure show DHS’s new discretionary budget authority enacted for FY2018 and requested by the Administration for FY2019, as well as the House and Senate committee-reported response and ultimately enacted FY2019 annual appropriation, broken down by component. They also show information on DHS funding from two enacted supplemental appropriations measures: P.L. 116-20, a...

Spending and Tax Expenditures: Distinctions and Major Programs

Spending programs and tax expenditures are the two primary ways that the federal government provides benefits to the public. Each type of intervention represents a transfer from the government to individuals and firms, though differences in the budget process, saliency, and targeting may have ramifications for usage across different types of services.

Federal expenditures (spending) are transfers from the federal government to individuals, firms, or institutions that do not draw directly from individual or corporate tax liability. Federal spending programs fall into three broad...

The Disaster Recovery Reform Act of 2018 (DRRA): A Summary of Selected Statutory Provisions

The Disaster Recovery Reform Act of 2018 (DRRA, Division D of P.L. 115-254) was enacted on October 5, 2018. DRRA is the most comprehensive reform of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA’s) disaster assistance programs since the passage of the Sandy Recovery Improvement Act of 2013 (SRIA, Division B of P.L. 113-2) and the Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act of 2006 (PKEMRA, P.L. 109-295). DRRA focuses on improving pre-disaster planning and mitigation, response, and recovery, and increasing FEMA accountability. As such, it amends many sections of the Robert T. Stafford...

Women’s Suffrage: Fact Sheet

The United States is preparing to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the passage and ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which granted women the right to vote: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”

This fact sheet is designed to assist congressional offices with work related to the centennial. It contains a brief history of the women’s movement; a legislative timeline; current Nineteenth Amendment legislation; and links to historical documents, selected...

Critical Infrastructure: Emerging Trends and Policy Considerations for Congress

Protection of the nation’s critical infrastructure (CI) against asymmetric physical or cyber threats emerged in the late 1990s as a policy concern, which was then further amplified by the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Congress created the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in the wake of the attacks, and directed the new Department to identify, prioritize, and protect systems and assets critical to national security, the economy, and public health or safety. Identification of CI assets was, and remains, a complex and resource-intensive task.

Many governmental and non-governmental...

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.

Beneficial Ownership Transparency in Corporate Formation, Shell Companies, Real Estate, and Financial Transactions

Beneficial ownership refers to the natural person or persons who invest in, control, or otherwise reap gains from an asset, such as a bank account, real estate property, company, or trust. In some cases, an asset’s beneficial owner may not be listed in public records or disclosed to federal authorities as the legal owner. For some years, the United States has been criticized by international bodies for gaps in the U.S. anti-money laundering system related to a lack of systematic beneficial ownership disclosure. While beneficial ownership information is relevant to several types of assets,...

The Federal Role in Historic Preservation: An Overview

A variety of federal government, state government, and private programs support historic preservation in the United States. This report provides an overview of the federal role in historic preservation, including background and funding information for some of the major preservation grants, programs, and entities authorized by Congress.

Starting in the early 20th century, Congress has passed several laws that have established a framework for federal historic preservation activities. The most comprehensive of these statutes is the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (NHPA; P.L....

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...

Immigration: Alternatives to Detention (ATD) Programs

Since FY2004, Congress has appropriated funding to the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS’s) Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for an Alternatives to Detention (ATD) program to provide supervised release and enhanced monitoring for a subset of foreign nationals subject to removal whom ICE has released into the United States. These aliens are not statutorily mandated to be in DHS custody, are not considered threats to public safety or national security, and have been released either on bond, their own recognizance, or parole pending a decision on whether they should be removed...

An Overview of Small Business Contracting

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

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

Illicit Drug Flows and Seizures in the United States: What Do We [Not] Know?

Policy discussions around issues such as border security, drug trafficking, and the opioid epidemic include questions about illicit drug flows into the United States. While there are numerous data points involved in understanding the trafficking of illicit drugs into the United States, these data are often estimated, incomplete, imperfect, or lack nuance. For example, debates about drug flows and how best to counter drug trafficking into the country often rely on selected drug seizure data from border officials, which do not reflect all drug flows into the United States.

One way of...

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...

National Park Service Appropriations: Ten-Year Trends

The National Park Service (NPS) generally receives appropriations in the annual Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies appropriations bill. Over the past decade (FY2010-FY2019), NPS received both regular (annual) appropriations and, in some years, supplemental appropriations to address damage from natural disasters. The agency also has some mandatory sources of funding. NPS’s regular appropriations mainly declined in the first part of the decade and increased in the second part, resulting in near parity at the beginning and end of the period when amounts are adjusted for inflation....

Effects of Buy America on Transportation Infrastructure and U.S. Manufacturing

In 1978, Congress began placing domestic content restrictions on federally funded transportation projects that are carried out by nonfederal government agencies such as state and local governments. These restrictions, which have changed over the years, are commonly referred to as the Buy America Act, or more simply, Buy America. Although there has been ongoing congressional interest in domestic preference policy over the years, statements and actions by the Trump Administration about reinvigorating domestic manufacturing and investing in infrastructure have stimulated renewed interest in...

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 2019 Medicare Trustees Report. It includes an overview of Medicare and its financing, summary data on the program’s 2018 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.

Covert Action and Clandestine Activities of the Intelligence Community: Selected Congressional Notification Requirements in Brief

Section 3091 of Title 50, U. S. Code requires the President of the United States to ensure that the congressional intelligence committees are “kept fully and currently informed of the intelligence activities of the United States, including any significant anticipated intelligence activity,” significant intelligence failures, illegal intelligence activities, and financial intelligence activities.

In fulfilling this statutory requirement, the President must notify Congress of all covert actions and significant clandestine activities of the Intelligence Community (IC). Congress’s interest in...

Haiti’s Political and Economic Conditions

Since the fall of the Duvalier dictatorship in 1986, Haiti has struggled to overcome its centuries-long legacy of authoritarianism, disrespect for human rights, extreme poverty, and underdevelopment. Widespread corruption remains an impediment to changing that legacy. Despite significant progress in improving governance, democratic institutions remain weak and stability fragile. Poverty remains massive and deep, and economic disparity wide. In proximity to the United States, and with a chronically unstable political environment and fragile economy, Haiti has been an ongoing policy issue...

Poverty Among Americans Aged 65 and Older

The poverty rate among Americans aged 65 and older has declined by almost 70% in the past five decades. In 2017, approximately 9.2% of Americans aged 65 and older had income below the poverty thresholds. However, the number of aged poor has increased since the mid-1970s as the total number of elderly has grown. In 2017, 4.7 million people aged 65 and older lived in poverty.

The poverty rate for Americans aged 65 and older historically was higher than the rates for younger groups, but the aged have experienced lower poverty rates than children under age 18 since 1974 and lower rates than...

Off-Label Use of Prescription Drugs

When the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves a drug for sale in the United States, the approval includes a section entitled “Indications for Use.” This section lists the one or more diseases, conditions, or symptoms for which the drug’s sponsor (usually the manufacturer) has provided, to FDA’s satisfaction, evidence in support of the drug’s safety and effectiveness. FDA approval is also based on its review of the drug’s dosage, packaging, manufacturing plan, and labeling. Before changing any of those elements, the sponsor must inform, and usually receive permission from, FDA.

In...

Critical Minerals and U.S. Public Policy

President Trump and various U.S. lawmakers have expressed concerns about U.S. reliance on critical mineral imports and potential disruption of supply chains that use critical minerals for various end uses, including defense and electronics applications. Chinese export quotas on a subset of critical minerals referred to as rare earth elements (REEs) and China’s 2010 curtailment of REE shipments to Japan heightened U.S. vulnerability concern.

In December 2017, Presidential Executive Order 13817, “A Federal Strategy to Ensure Secure and Reliable Supplies of Critical Minerals,” tasked the...

India’s 2019 National Election and Implications for U.S. Interests

India, a federal republic and the world’s most populous democracy, held elections to seat a new lower house of parliament in April and May of 2019. Estimates suggest that more than two-thirds of the country’s nearly 900 million eligible voters participated. The 545-seat Lok Sabha (People’s House) is seated every five years, and the results saw a return to power of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was chief minister of the west Indian state of Gujarat from 2001 to 2014. Modi’s party won decisively—it now holds 56% of Lok Sabha seats and Modi became...

Long-Term Budgeting within the Congressional Budget Process: In Brief

Members of Congress, the Administration, and outside groups have expressed concern over long-term projections of deficits and debt levels. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has stated that federal deficits and debt held by the public, which are higher than average, are projected to increase sharply over the next 30 years.

Some have argued that the current congressional budget process has created, or at least exacerbated, the projected long-term deficit and debt challenges. It has been said that the current process does not encourage or require the consideration of long-term budgetary...

Policy and Legislative Research for Congressional Staff: Finding Documents, Analysis, News, and Training

This report is intended to serve as a finding aid for congressional documents, executive branch documents and information, news articles, policy analysis, contacts, and training, for use in policy and legislative research. It is not intended to be a definitive list of all resources, but rather a guide to pertinent subscriptions available in the House and Senate in addition to selected resources freely available to the public. This report is intended for use by congressional staff and will be updated as needed.

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

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

The Opioid Epidemic: Supply Control and Criminal Justice Policy—Frequently Asked Questions

Over the last several years, lawmakers in the United States have responded to rising drug overdose deaths, which increased four-fold from 1999 to 2017, with a variety of legislation, hearings, and oversight activities. In 2017, more than 70,000 people died from drug overdoses, and approximately 68% of those deaths involved an opioid.

Many federal agencies are involved in domestic and foreign efforts to combat opioid abuse and the continuing increase in opioid related overdose deaths. A subset of those agencies confront the supply side (some may also confront the demand side) of the opioid...

Tax Incentives for Opportunity Zones: In Brief

Opportunity zones, OZs, QOZs, opportunity funds, qualified opportunity funds, QOFs, CDFI Fund, New Markets Tax Credit, NMTC, community development, economic development, P.L. 115-97, tax reform, tcja, tax cuts and jobs act, 2017 tax revision, tax incentives, capital gains, investment

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,...

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

The Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle (AMPV) is the Army’s 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 a nondevelopmental program (candidate vehicles would be either existing vehicles or modified existing vehicles—not vehicles that are specially...

House Rules Changes Affecting Floor Proceedings in the 116th Congress (2019-2020)

As agreed to in the House, H.Res. 6, a resolution adopting the rules of the House of Representatives, provided amendments to the rules, as well as separate orders, that affect floor procedure in the 116th Congress (2019-2010). These amendments changed procedures in the full House and in the Committee of the Whole.

The rules changes altered when a resolution that would cause a vacancy in the Office of Speaker would qualify as a question of privilege. Under a new provision to clause 2 of Rule IX, resolutions declaring a vacancy of the chair are not privileged unless they are offered by...

Executive Order to Reduce the Number of Federal Advisory Committees

On June 14, 2019, President Donald Trump issued Executive Order (E.O.) 13875, “Evaluating and Improving the Utility of Federal Advisory Committees.” The E.O. intends to evaluate, reduce, and limit the number of federal advisory committees (FACs) subject to the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA; 5 U.S.C. Appendix—Federal Advisory Committee Act; as amended), including statutory committees established by Congress. E.O. 13875 is similar to a previous E.O. issued by President William Clinton. Questions remain, however, about whether President Clinton’s E.O. was effective in reducing the...

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)...

New Markets Tax Credit: An Introduction

The New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) is a nonrefundable tax credit intended to encourage private capital investment in eligible, impoverished, low-income communities. NMTCs are allocated by the Community Development Financial Institutions Fund (CDFI), a bureau within the U.S. Department of the Treasury, under a competitive application process. Investors who make qualified equity investments reduce their federal income tax liability by claiming the credit. The NMTC program, enacted in 2000, is currently authorized to allocate $61 billion through the end of 2019. As of May 23, 2019, the CDFI...

Biomass: Comparison of Definitions in Legislation

The use of biomass as an energy feedstock has regularly been presented as a potentially viable alternative to address U.S. energy security concerns, foreign oil dependence, and rural economic development, and as a tool to possibly help improve the environment (e.g., through greenhouse gas emission reduction). Biomass (organic matter that can be converted into energy) includes food crops, crops grown specifically to produce energy (e.g., switchgrass or prairie perennials), crop residues, wood waste and byproducts, and animal manure. Biomass may be used to produce heat, electricity, or...

The Peace Corps: Overview and Issues

Founded in 1961, the Peace Corps pursues a legislative mandate of promoting world peace and friendship by sending American volunteers to serve at the grassroots level in all corners of the world. In September 2018, there were 7,367 volunteers serving in 61 nations.

More than 95% of volunteers serve through its traditional program, which includes three months of technical and language training followed by two years of service. The much smaller Peace Corps Response program sends experienced volunteers on short-term, high-impact assignments overseas. Volunteers support host communities in...

Poland: Background and U.S. Relations

Over the past 30 years, the relationship between the United States and Poland has been close and cooperative. The United States strongly supported Poland’s accession to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1999 and backed its entry into the European Union (EU) in 2004. Poland has made significant contributions to U.S.- and NATO-led military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Poland and the United States continue to work together closely on a range of foreign policy and international security issues.

Domestic Political and Economic Issues

The 2015 Polish parliamentary...

Independence Day Speech Resources: Fact Sheet

Independence Day, often called the Fourth of July, is a federal holiday celebrating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.

This guide is designed to assist congressional offices with work related to Independence Day celebrations. It contains links to census and demographic information, CRS reports, sample speeches and remarks from the Congressional Record, and presidential proclamations and remarks. It also contains links to selected historical and cultural resources.

Improving Intercity Passenger Rail Service in the United States

The federal government has been involved in preserving and improving passenger rail service since 1970, when the bankruptcies of several major railroads threatened the continuance of passenger trains. Congress responded by creating Amtrak—officially, the National Railroad Passenger Corporation—to preserve a basic level of intercity passenger rail service, while relieving private railroad companies of the obligation to maintain a business that had lost money for decades. In the years since, the federal government has funded Amtrak and, in recent years, has funded passenger-rail efforts of...

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 2018, a pace described by the World Bank as “the fastest sustained expansion by a major economy in history.” Such...

Cuba: Trump Administration Expands Sanctions

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

Medicaid: An Overview

Medicaid is a means-tested entitlement program that finances the delivery of primary and acute medical services as well as long-term services and supports (LTSS) to an estimated 75 million people at a cost to states and the federal government of $616 billion in FY2018. Medicaid is one of the largest payers in the U.S. health care system, representing 17% of national health care spending in CY2017; in that year, private health insurance and Medicare accounted for 34% and 20% of national health care spending, respectively.

Participation in Medicaid is voluntary for states, though all states,...

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 a Request for Proposal (RFP) for the JLTV’s Engineering Manufacturing Development (EMD) phase. Up to three EMD...

Currency Manipulation and Countervailing Duties

The Trump Administration has proposed new actions to counter what it regards as currency manipulation, with one analyst calling currency conflicts the “next front in the trade war.” In May 2019, the Commerce Department issued a notice of proposed rulemaking to provide regulatory authority to potentially impose countervailing duties on imports from countries determined by the U.S. government to be acting to undervalue their currency relative to the U.S. dollar. Public comments on the proposed changes are being accepted through June 27. Various Members of Congress have debated such a policy...

The International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) and Tariffs: Historical Background and Key Issues

On May 30, 2019, President Donald J. Trump announced his intention to use the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) (50 U.S.C. §§1701 et seq.) to impose a 5% tariff on all goods imported from Mexico effective June 10, 2019. The tariff, he said, would gradually increase until “the illegal migration crisis is alleviated through effective actions taken by Mexico.” On June 7, 2019, the President stated that the tariffs were “indefinitely suspended” because Mexico had “agreed to take strong measures to ... stem the tide of migration.”

Presidents may invoke IEEPA in response to an...

Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA)

Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) benefits are available only to those individuals who have become unemployed as a direct result of a declared major disaster and are not eligible for regular Unemployment Compensation (UC). First created in 1970 through P.L. 91-606, DUA benefits are authorized by the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Relief Act (the Stafford Act), which authorizes the President to issue a major disaster declaration after state and local government resources have been overwhelmed by a natural catastrophe or, “regardless of cause, any fire, flood, or...

Location of Medication-Assisted Treatment for Opioid Addiction: In Brief

The substantial burden of opioid abuse related to the current opioid epidemic in the United States has resulted in a disparity between the need for substance abuse treatment and the current capacity. Methadone and buprenorphine are two medications used in medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid use disorder (OUD). Methadone and buprenorphine are both opioids; their use to treat opioid use disorders is often called opioid agonist treatment or therapy (OAT) or opioid agonist MAT. As controlled substances, methadone and buprenorphine are subject to additional regulations. Methadone may...

Health Care-Related Expiring Provisions of the 116th Congress, First Session

This report describes selected health care-related provisions that are scheduled to expire during the first session of the116th Congress (i.e., during calendar year [CY] 2019). For purposes of this report, expiring provisions are defined as portions of law that are time-limited and will lapse once a statutory deadline is reached absent further legislative action. The expiring provisions included in this report are those related to Medicare, Medicaid, State Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and private health insurance programs and activities. The report also includes health...

Central Valley Project: Issues and Legislation

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

Social Security: The Government Pension Offset (GPO)

Social Security spousal benefits were established in the 1930s to help support wives who are financially dependent on their husbands. It has since become more common for both spouses in a couple to work, leading to more cases in which both members of a couple are entitled to Social Security or other government pensions based on their own work records. Social Security does not provide both a full retired-worker and a full spousal benefit to the same individual.

Two provisions are designed to reduce the Social Security spousal benefits of individuals who are not financially dependent on...

Trade Promotion Authority (TPA): Frequently Asked Questions

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

Columbia River Treaty Review

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

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

Year-Round Sale of E15

Within Congress, interest and concern continues in the year-round sale of E15—a fuel blend of 15% ethanol and 85% gasoline. Until this year E15 generally could not be sold during summer months because it did not meet the Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) requirements, which limit fuel volatility under the Clean Air Act (CAA), for the summer ozone season (June 1-September 15). On May 30th, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) promulgated a final rule allowing year-round E15 sales. A potential issue for Congress is if EPA should have the authority to interpret the CAA as it did to make...

Moldova’s Political Crisis Abates

On June 14, 2019, a political crisis in Moldova ended when leaders of the formerly ruling Democratic Party of Moldova (PDM) agreed to dissolve the outgoing government in favor of a new coalition. The coalition includes a reform-oriented, Western-leaning alliance, ACUM (or “Now”), and the socially conservative, Russian-leaning Party of Socialists, which placed first in Moldova’s February 2019 elections.

Moldova is one of three post-Soviet states that, together with Ukraine and Georgia, have sought greater integration with the West while coping with separatist territories occupied by...

Fiscal Policy Considerations for the Next Recession

Although the United States is currently experiencing its longest economic expansion, history has shown that economic expansions inevitably give way to economic slowdowns. If the next slowdown is significant, the economy could enter a recession, which is typically characterized by falling output and rising unemployment. Short-term forecasts are predicting continued economic expansion, but predicting when the economy may transition from expansion to recession is notoriously difficult, as the ebb and flow of the economy is determined by many different factors, including a number that lie...

Transformation at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has initiated a series of major internal reforms, branded as Transformation at USAID. The reforms are largely in response to Trump Administration directives aimed at making federal agencies more efficient, effective, and accountable. Most of the reforms proposed under this initiative do not involve statutory reorganization, but USAID Administrator Mark Green has sought congressional input as the reform process is developed and launched, especially in the area of changes to USAID organizational structure. Congress has the power to shape...

U.S. Trade Friction with China Intensifies

Commercial relations between the United States and China are experiencing an increasing level of tension and uncertainty. In August 2017, the Trump Administration launched a Section 301 investigation of Chinese policies relating to technology transfer, intellectual property, and innovation policies deemed harmful to U.S. economic interests. In March 2018, the Administration announced it would take specified action against China in response to such policies, including increased tariffs. The Administration subsequently raised tariffs on three tranches of import products from China, (with...

Livestock Mandatory Reporting Act: Overview for Reauthorization in the 116th Congress

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) collects livestock and meat price data and related market information from meat packers under the authority of the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 (7 U.S.C. §1621 et seq.). This information was collected on a voluntary basis until 2001, when most of it became mandatory. As the livestock industry became increasingly concentrated in the 1990s, fewer animals were sold through negotiated (cash or “spot”) purchases and with increasing frequency were sold under alternative marketing arrangements that were not...

Farm Policy: USDA’s 2018 Trade Aid Package

In early 2018, the Trump Administration—citing concerns over national security and unfair trade practices—imposed increased tariffs on certain imported products in general and on U.S. imports from China in particular. Several of the affected foreign trading partners (including China) responded to the U.S. tariffs with their own retaliatory tariffs targeting various U.S. products, especially agricultural commodities.

On July 24, 2018, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) would be taking several temporary actions to assist farmers in...

Land and Water Conservation Fund: Overview, Funding History, and Issues

The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) Act of 1965 was enacted to help preserve, develop, and ensure access to outdoor recreation facilities to strengthen the health of U.S. citizens. The law created the Land and Water Conservation Fund in the U.S. Treasury as a funding source to implement its outdoor recreation goals.

The LWCF has been used for three general purposes. First, it has been the principal source of monies for land acquisition for outdoor recreation by four federal agencies—the Forest Service, National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, and Bureau of Land Management....

New Limitations on Federal Research Using Human Fetal Tissue

On June 5, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced—following an audit and review of all HHS research involving the use of human fetal tissue from elective abortions—that the Administration has decided to discontinue intramural research (i.e., internal) projects involving fetal tissue from elective abortions at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and will add additional ethics review for new extramural research (i.e., external) involving such tissue. In general, about 10% of NIH funding goes to intramural researchers at NIH-operated facilities and over 80% of NIH...

Exceptions to the Budget Control Act’s Discretionary Spending Limits

The Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA; P.L. 112-25) established statutory limits on discretionary spending for FY2012-FY2021. There are currently separate annual limits for defense discretionary and nondefense discretionary spending.

The law specifies that spending for certain activities, such as responding to a national emergency or fighting terrorism, will receive special budgetary treatment. This spending is most easily thought of as being exempt from the spending limits. Formally, however, the BCA states that the enactment of such spending allows for a subsequent upward adjustment of...

Trade Adjustment Assistance for Workers and the TAA Reauthorization Act of 2015

Trade Adjustment Assistance for Workers (TAA) provides federal assistance to workers who have involuntarily lost their jobs due to foreign competition. It was last reauthorized by the Trade Adjustment Assistance Reauthorization Act of 2015 (TAARA; Title IV of P.L. 114-27). This report discusses the TAA program as enacted by TAARA.

To be eligible for TAA, a group of workers must establish that they were separated from their employment either because their jobs moved outside the United States or because of an increase in directly competitive imports. Workers at firms that are suppliers to or...

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, many slave owners continued to hold their slaves captive after the announcement, so Juneteenth became a symbolic date representing African American freedom.

Juneteenth is not a federal holiday. Forty-five states and the...

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for Childless Workers

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a refundable tax credit available to eligible workers. Because the credit is refundable, a worker need not owe federal income taxes to benefit from it. The EITC is the nation’s largest cash anti-poverty program, with a tax year 2016 (returns filed in 2017) total of $66.7 billion claimed on 27.4 million tax returns. Most of the claimed EITC dollars—$64.7 billion, or 97% of total EITC dollars—were for taxpayers with children compared to $2.1 billion in claimed EITC for taxpayers with no qualifying children.

EITC Rules for Childless Workers Compared...

The U.S. Election Assistance Commission: Overview and Selected Issues for Congress

The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) is an independent federal agency charged with helping improve the administration of federal elections. It was established by the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA; P.L. 107-252; 116 Stat. 1666; 52 U.S.C. §§20901-21145) and includes a four-member commission, a professional staff, an inspector general, and three advisory bodies.

The EAC—and the legislation that created it—marked a shift in the federal approach to election administration. Congress had set requirements for the conduct of elections before HAVA, but HAVA was the first federal...

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

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

Covert Action and Clandestine Activities of the Intelligence Community: Selected Definitions in Brief

This report provides background and definitions for covert action and clandestine activities carried out by the Intelligence Community (IC) and military. Congress has defined several of these terms in statute; others appear only in committee reports. Still others are military terms. These definitions describe activities that support U.S. national security policy, and are, therefore, important to Congress’s intelligence and defense oversight responsibilities.

Confusion over the proper jurisdiction for congressional oversight can occur when covert action or clandestine intelligence...

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,...

FY2020 Agriculture Appropriations: H.R. 3164

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). (In the House, but not the Senate, appropriations jurisdiction for CFTC rests with the Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture.)

Agriculture appropriations include both mandatory and discretionary spending. Discretionary amounts, though, are the primary focus during the bill’s development. The largest discretionary spending items are the...

The U.S.-Japan Alliance

The U.S.-Japan alliance has long been an anchor of the U.S. security role in Asia and arguably a contributor to peace and prosperity in the region. Forged during the U.S. occupation of Japan after its defeat in World War II, the alliance provides a platform for U.S. military readiness in the Pacific. About 54,000 U.S. troops are stationed in Japan and have the exclusive use of 85 facilities. In exchange for the use of these bases, the United States guarantees Japan’s security.

Since the early 2000s, the United States and Japan have improved the alliance’s operational capability as a...

Kazakhstan’s Snap Presidential Election Met with Protests

Overview

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

The Rebuild America’s Schools Act of 2019 (H.R. 865/S. 266): In Brief

A 2014 study conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics within the U.S. Department of Education (ED) found that 53% of public elementary and secondary schools need to spend money on repairs, renovations, and modernizations to put their onsite buildings in good overall condition. The study estimated that the nationwide spending necessary to reach this standard would be approximately $197 billion, or about $4.5 million per school that needs improvements. This report provides a description of and background for selected provisions in the Rebuild America’s Schools Act of 2019...

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

Social Security’s receipts and expenditures are accounted for through two federal trust funds: the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) Trust Fund and the Federal Disability Insurance (DI) Trust Fund. Under their intermediate assumptions and under current law, the Social Security trustees project that the DI trust fund will become depleted in 2052 and the OASI trust fund will become depleted in 2034. Although the two funds are legally separate, they are often considered in combination. The trustees project that the combined Social Security trust funds will become depleted in...

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...

Keystone XL Pipeline: The Saga Continues

On March 29, 2019, President Trump issued a new Presidential Permit for the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline, superseding the prior Presidential Permit issued by the U.S. State Department in 2017. By issuing the new permit personally, rather than delegating his permit authority as before, the President pursued a new approach to advance the pipeline project in the face of ongoing legal challenges. The pipeline’s developer, TC Energy (previously named TransCanada), has not yet made major capital commitments to the project as it evaluates changing oil market conditions and seeks “a clear path to...

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 over $2.3 billion in benefits to more than 35,000 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...

Staff Pay Levels for Selected Positions in Senators’ Offices, FY2001-FY2018

Levels of pay for congressional staff are a source of recurring questions among Members of Congress, congressional staff, and the public. There may be interest in congressional pay data from multiple perspectives, including assessment of the costs of congressional operations, guidance in setting pay levels for staff in Member offices, or comparison of congressional staff pay levels with those of other federal government pay systems.

This report provides pay data for 16 staff position titles that are typically found in Senators’ offices. The positions include the following: Administrative...

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,...

Staff Pay Levels for Selected Positions in House Member Offices, 2001-2018

Levels of pay for congressional staff are a source of recurring questions among Members of Congress, congressional staff, and the public. There may be interest in congressional pay data from multiple perspectives, including assessment of the costs of congressional operations, guidance in setting pay levels for staff in Member offices, or comparison of congressional staff pay levels with those of other federal government pay systems.

This report provides pay data for 15 staff position titles that are typically used in House Members’ offices. The positions include the following: Caseworker,...

Agricultural Disaster Assistance

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

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

The National Trails System: A Brief Overview

The National Trails System was created in 1968 by the National Trails System Act (16 U.S.C. §§1241-1251). The system includes four types of trails: (1) national scenic trails (NSTs), which display significant physical characteristics of U.S. regions; (2) national historic trails (NHTs), which follow travel routes of national historical significance; (3) national recreation trails (NRTs), which provide outdoor recreation accessible to urban areas; and (4) connecting or side trails, which provide access to the other types of trails. As defined in the act, NSTs and NHTs are long-distance...

Advance Appropriations, Forward Funding, and Advance Funding: Concepts, Practice, and Budget Process Considerations

Funding in annual appropriations acts is for a designated fiscal year unless otherwise specified. Federal agencies that receive funds in those acts may obligate the funds during a period that starts at the beginning of that fiscal year, except where funds are made available for obligation over a different time period (such as one that begins after the start of the fiscal year). Three types of alternate periods are discussed in this report: “advance appropriations,” “forward funding,” and “advance funding.”

Advance appropriations become available for obligation one or more fiscal years...

Landslide Hazards Legislation in the 116th Congress

Authorizing a Landslide Hazards Program

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

Maintaining Electric Reliability with Wind and Solar Sources: Background and Issues for Congress

The share of wind and solar power in the U.S. electricity mix grew from 1% in 2008 to 8% in 2018. Wind and solar are variable renewable energy (VRE) sources. Unlike conventional sources, weather variability creates uncertainty about the availability of VRE sources. This uncertainty could potentially result in a lack of reliability.

Some Members of Congress have expressed concerns about the reliability of the electric power system given recent growth in generation from wind and solar sources and projections that growth will continue. According to official metrics, electric reliability was...

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 880 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...

Funding and Financing Highways and Public Transportation

For many years, federal surface transportation programs were funded almost entirely from taxes on motor fuels deposited in the Highway Trust Fund. The tax rates, which are fixed in terms of cents per gallon, have not been increased at the federal level since 1993. Meanwhile, motor fuel consumption is projected to decline due to improved fuel efficiency, increased use of electric vehicles, and slow growth in vehicle miles traveled. In consequence, revenue flowing into the Highway Trust Fund has been insufficient to support the surface transportation program authorized by Congress since...

The Economic Effects of the 2017 Tax Revision: Preliminary Observations

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

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 highly similar but not structurally identical, to a...

President Trump’s Possible Tariffs on Mexican Goods: Potential Economic Effects

On May 30, 2019, President Trump issued a statement that he would be invoking authorities granted to him by the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) “to address the emergency” involving illegal immigration at the U.S.-Mexico border by imposing tariffs on all goods from Mexico beginning on June 10, 2019. The President stated that the tariffs would be removed as soon as “the illegal migration crisis is alleviated” through Mexican action. Mexican officials and numerous Members of Congress are reportedly meeting with the Trump Administration to resolve the issue. Mexico’s...

U.S. Military Electronic Warfare Program Funding: Background and Issues for Congress

Congress, in the FY2019 National Defense Authorization Act, and the Department of Defense (DOD) has identified electronic warfare (EW) as a critical capability supporting military operations to fulfil the current National Defense Strategy. Collectively, DOD considers procurement appropriations and research, development, test and evaluation (RDT&E) appropriations as part of its investment accounts. Using programs identified by the EW Executive Commission (EW EXCOM), this report traces funding for three of the military services (Air Force, Army, and Navy) along with several defense agencies...

Legislative Branch: FY2020 Appropriations

The legislative branch appropriations bill provides funding for the Senate; House of Representatives; Joint Items; Capitol Police; Office of Congressional Workplace Rights (formerly 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 legislative branch budget request was submitted on March 11, 2019. Following hearings in the House and...

North Korea: Legislative Basis for U.S. Economic Sanctions

U.S. economic sanctions imposed on North Korea are instigated by that country’s activities related to weapons proliferation, especially its tests since 2006 of nuclear weapons and missile technology; regional disruptions; terrorism; narcotics trafficking; undemocratic governance; and illicit activities in international markets, including money laundering, counterfeiting of goods and currency, and bulk cash smuggling. The sanctions have the following consequences for U.S.-North Korea relations:

Trade is limited to food, medicine, and other humanitarian-related goods, all of which require a...

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 for individuals to be recruited, 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. In the past few decades there have...

Federal-Aid Highway Program (FAHP): In Brief

The Federal-Aid Highway Program (FAHP) is an umbrella term for the separate highway programs administered by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). These programs are almost entirely focused on highway construction, and generally do not support operations (such as state DOT salaries or fuel costs) or routine maintenance (such as mowing roadway fringes or filling potholes). Federal-aid highways Highway construction Highway finance Alternative finance Highway Trust Fund Highway use tax Gasoline tax User charges Surface transportation reauthorization FAST Act Highway...

SBA Assistance to Small Business Startups: Client Experiences and Program Impact

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

Congressional interest in these programs, and the SBA’s assistance provided to small...

The 2019 European Parliament Elections

Between May 23 and 26, 2019, the 28 member states of the European Union (EU) held elections for the 751 members of the next European Parliament (EP). The only directly elected EU institution, the EP represents the bloc’s roughly 513 million citizens. The EP has accumulated more power over time within the EU, and through such entities as the Transatlantic Legislators’ Dialogue, Congress is likely to engage the EP, including on certain aspects of U.S.-EU relations. Some analysts suggest that gains for parties considered “euroskeptic”—that is, critical of the EU or anti-EU to varying...

Venezuela: Background and U.S. Relations

Venezuela remains in a deep political and economic crisis under the authoritarian rule of Nicolás Maduro of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela. Maduro, narrowly elected in 2013 after the death of Hugo Chávez (president, 1999-2013), began a second term on January 10, 2019, that most Venezuelans and much of the international community consider illegitimate. Since January, Juan Guaidó, president of Venezuela’s democratically elected, opposition-controlled National Assembly, has sought to form an interim government to serve until internationally observed elections can be held. Although...

Agriculture in the WTO: Rules and Limits on U.S. Domestic Support

Omnibus U.S. farm legislation—referred to as the farm bill—has typically been renewed every five or six years. Farm revenue support programs have been a part of U.S. farm bills since the 1930s. Each successive farm bill usually involves some modification or replacement of existing farm programs. A key question likely to be asked of every new farm proposal or program is how it will affect U.S. commitments under the World Trade Organization’s (WTO’s) Agreement on Agriculture (AoA) and its Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures (SCM).

The United States is currently committed,...

What Causes a Recession?

At 120 months in June, the current economic expansion is now tied with the longest in U.S. history. As can be seen in Figure 1, previous expansions vary greatly in length but have recently been longer. Dating back to the 1850s, only five have lasted over five years, including the last three.

This expansion, like all previous ones, will eventually end and be followed by a recession. Few economists are forecasting a recession in 2019, 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...

Vehicle Electrification: Federal and State Issues Affecting Deployment

Most of the 270 million cars, trucks, and buses on U.S. highways are powered by internal combustion engines using gasoline or diesel fuel. However, improvements in technology have led to the emergence of vehicle electrification as a potentially viable alternative to internal combustion engines. Several bills pending in the 116th Congress address issues and incentives related to electric vehicles and charging infrastructure.

Experience with fully electric vehicles is relatively recent: While a few experimental vehicles were marketed in the United States in the 1990s, the first contemporary...

Measles Outbreaks, Vaccine Hesitancy, and Federal Policy Options

As of May 31, 2019, 981 cases of measles across 26 U.S. states have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—the highest annual number of measles cases since 1992 (with no deaths reported). Figure 1 shows annual measles cases in the past 10 years.

Measles is a highly contagious viral illness that can lead to pneumonia, encephalitis (infection of the brain), and, rarely, death. Certain groups are at greater risk for complications (e.g., children under 5 and adults over 20 years of age). No specific treatment exists, but it can be prevented with a...

War Legacy Issues in Southeast Asia: Unexploded Ordnance (UXO)

More than 40 years after the end of the Vietnam War, unexploded ordnance (UXO) from numerous conflicts, but primarily dropped by U.S. forces over Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam during the Vietnam War, continues to cause casualties in those countries. Over the past 25 years, the United States has provided a total of over $400 million in assistance for UXO clearance and related activities in those three countries through the Department of Defense (DOD), Department of State (DOS), and United States Agency for International Development (USAID), as well as funding for treatment of victims through...

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in Conservatorship: Frequently Asked Questions

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are chartered by Congress as government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) to provide liquidity in the mortgage market and promote homeownership for underserved groups and locations. The GSEs purchase mortgages, retain the credit risk (for a fee), and package them into mortgage-backed securities (MBSs) that they either keep as investments or sell to institutional investors. In the years following the housing and mortgage market turmoil that began around 2007, the GSEs experienced financial difficulty. By 2008, the GSEs’ financial condition had weakened, generating...

New Round of Farm Trade Aid Proposed by Administration for 2019

On May 23, 2019, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that it will take several actions in 2019 to assist farmers in response to continued economic damage from trade retaliation and trade disruption in international agricultural markets. These actions are to include a new trade aid package for the U.S. farm sector valued at up to $16 billion.

Building on the 2018 Trade Aid Package

USDA implemented a similar trade aid package in 2018, also in response to trade retaliation against U.S. agricultural products. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue used authority under the...

Transatlantic Relations: U.S. Interests and Key Issues

For the past 70 years, the United States has been instrumental in leading and promoting a strong U.S.-European partnership. Often termed the transatlantic relationship, this partnership has been grounded in the U.S.-led post-World War II order based on alliances with like-minded democratic countries and a shared U.S.-European commitment to free markets and an open international trading system. Transatlantic relations encompass the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the European Union (EU), close U.S. bilateral ties with most countries in Western and Central Europe, and a massive,...

U.S. Arms Sales to the Middle East: Trump Administration Uses Emergency Exception in the Arms Export Control Act

Overview

On May 24, 2019, the Trump Administration formally notified Congress of immediate foreign military sales and direct commercial sales of training, equipment, and weapons with a possible value of more than $8 billion, including sales of precision guided munitions (PGMs) to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and the gift transfer of PGMs by the UAE to Jordan. Other notified sales include, among others: F-15 Engines and Support for Saudi Arabia and AH-64 equipment, Javelin Anti-Tank Missiles, and Patriot Guidance Enhanced Missiles for the UAE.

In making the...

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...

Technological Convergence: Regulatory, Digital Privacy, and Data Security Issues

Technological convergence, in general, refers to the trend or phenomenon where two or more independent technologies integrate and form a new outcome. One example is the smartphone. A smartphone integrated several independent technologies—such as telephone, computer, camera, music player, television (TV), and geolocating and navigation tool—into a single device. The smartphone has become its own, identifiable category of technology, establishing a $350 billion industry.

Of the three closely associated convergences—technological convergence, media convergence, and network...

The New START Treaty: Central Limits and Key Provisions

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

New START provides the...

Memorials and Commemorative Works Outside Washington, DC: Background, Federal Role, and Options for Congress

Congress frequently faces questions about whether and how to commemorate people and events that have influenced the nation’s history. Congress often has chosen to do so by establishing national memorials or by conferring a national designation on existing state, local, or private memorials. The National Park Service (NPS) defines national memorials within the National Park System as “primarily commemorative” works that need not be at sites historically associated with their subjects. The Commemorative Works Act (CWA; 40 U.S.C. §§8901-8910) was enacted to govern the establishment process...

Paid Family Leave in the United States

Paid family leave (PFL) refers to partially or fully compensated time away from work for specific and generally significant family caregiving needs, such as the arrival of a new child or serious illness of a close family member. Although the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA; P.L. 103-3) provides eligible workers with a federal entitlement to unpaid leave for a limited set of family caregiving needs, no federal law requires private-sector employers to provide paid leave of any kind. Currently, employees may access paid family leave if it is offered by an employer. In addition,...

North Macedonia: In Brief

The United States has supported North Macedonia since its independence from Yugoslavia in 1991 and strongly backs its European Union (EU) and NATO ambitions. (The country’s constitutional name was the Republic of Macedonia until February 2019, when it was renamed the Republic of North Macedonia.) On multiple occasions, the United States played a key role in defusing political crises and interethnic tensions in North Macedonia. For more than two decades, a U.S. diplomat led United Nations–brokered negotiations between Greece and then-Macedonia to resolve their bilateral dispute over the...

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 lack such security. This can be an obstacle for them in developing independent living skills and building supports that might ease their 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...

Disentangling the Jobs Report

The Jobs Report

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS’s) monthly Employment Situation Summary—more commonly known as the jobs report—can from time to time report seemingly contradictory figures. For example, the jobs report for April 2019 reports that the unemployment rate decreased from 3.8% to 3.6%, while the employment level fell by 103,000 people. The April jobs report also includes an alternative measure of employment in which employment rose by 263,000 individuals. How can these seemingly contradictory figures be reported side by side? The explanation lies in two quirks in the jobs...

Advance Refunding Bonds and P.L. 115-97

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

What Are Advance Refunding Bonds?

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

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

Priority Volcanoes in the United States

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

Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) FY2019 Appropriations: Independent Agencies and General Provisions

The Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) appropriations bill includes funding for more than two dozen independent agencies. Among them are the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), Election Assistance Commission (EAC), Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Federal Election Commission (FEC), Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA), Federal Trade Commission (FTC), General Services Administration (GSA), National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), Office of Personnel Management (OPM), Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB), Securities and Exchange...

The Kiddie Tax and Military Survivors’ Benefits

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

Military Survivor Benefits to Children

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

USDA Domestic Food Assistance Programs: FY2019 Appropriations

The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2019 (P.L. 116-6) was enacted on February 15, 2019. This omnibus bill included appropriations for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), of which USDA’s domestic food assistance programs are a part. Prior to its enactment, the federal government had continued to operate for the first six months of the fiscal year under continuing resolutions (CRs). This report focuses on the enacted appropriations for USDA’s domestic food assistance programs and, in some instances, policy changes provided by the omnibus law. CRS Report R45230, Agriculture and...

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

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

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

Education Policy: Resources for Congressional Staff

Education; elementary education; elementary and secondary education; higher education; postsecondary education; Department of Education; education budget; education appropriations; education resources; education statistics; federal education policy; Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions; House Committee on Education and Labor; education spending; early childhood education; Head Start; IDEA; Individuals with Disabilities Education; Preschool Development Grants; student financial assistance; higher education tax benefits; GI Bill; federal support for institutions of...

Conference Committee and Related Procedures: An Introduction

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

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

USMCA and Mexico’s New Labor Law

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Digital Trade and U.S. Trade Policy

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

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

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

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

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

Combating Corruption in Latin America: Congressional Considerations

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

The Highway Funding Formula: History and Current Status

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

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

Prisoners’ Eligibility for Pell Grants: Issues for Congress

In 1994, Congress passed and President Clinton signed the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (P.L. 103-322), which, among other things, made prisoners ineligible for Pell Grants. However, concerns about the financial and social costs of the growing prison population combined with concerns about the recidivism rate of released prisoners have led some policymakers to reconsider whether prisoners should be allowed to use Pell Grants to help cover the cost of postsecondary coursework. Pell Grants are intended to assist in making the benefits of postsecondary education...

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

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

The Legislative Process on the House Floor: An Introduction

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

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

Major Agricultural Trade Issues in the 116th Congress

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

U.S....

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.

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

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

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...

Burma’s Political Prisoners and U.S. Policy

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

Shipping Under the Jones Act: Legislative and Regulatory Background

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fiscal Policy: Economic Effects

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summary

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

Muslim Holidays: Fact Sheet

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

Calendars of the House of Representatives

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

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

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

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

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

Private Bills: Procedure in the House

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

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

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

The LWCF Act outlines uses of the...

Marijuana Use and Highway Safety

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

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

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

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

The Role of Airborne EW in Modern Warfare

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

Rwanda: In Brief

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

Federal Public Transportation Program: In Brief

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

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

Addressing the Long-Run Deficit: A Comparison of Approaches

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

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

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

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

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

U.S.-Iran Tensions Escalate

Overview

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

The Community Health Center Fund: In Brief

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

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

The Potential Decline of Cash Usage and Related Implications

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

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

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

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

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

DOD’s Proposal to Reduce Military Medical End Strength

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

FY2018 and FY2019 Appropriations for Agricultural Conservation

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

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

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

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

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

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...

FY2018 and FY2019 Agriculture Appropriations: International Food Aid

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

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

Agriculture and Related Agencies: FY2019 Appropriations

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

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

Social Security: The Trust Funds

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

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

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

Private Flood Insurance and the National Flood Insurance Program

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

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

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

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

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

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

Social Security Primer

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

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

Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month Speech Resources: Fact Sheet

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

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

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

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

Enhanced Prudential Regulation of Large Banks

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

Military Pay: Key Questions and Answers

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

How Social Security Benefits Are Computed: In Brief

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

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

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

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

Federally Supported Water Supply and Wastewater Treatment Programs

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

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

the Department of Agriculture (USDA),

the U.S. Environmental...

Mexico: Background and U.S. Relations

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

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

The Purple Heart: Background and Issues for Congress

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

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

Social Security: The Trust Funds and Alternative Investments

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

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

Spain’s 2019 Election

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

Socialist Party Wins, But No Majority

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

The LIHEAP Formula

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Capital Gains Tax Options: Behavioral Responses and Revenues

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

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

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

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

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

Worker Participation in Employer-Sponsored Pensions: A Fact Sheet

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

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

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

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

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

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

Japan’s New Emperor and Era

Introduction

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

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

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

Memorial Day Speech Resources: Fact Sheet

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

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

Tracking Federal Awards: USAspending.gov and Other Data Sources

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Though Congress has periodically adjusted the...

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

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

Initially, homeland security was largely seen as...

Assistance to Firefighters Program: Distribution of Fire Grant Funding

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

United States Fire Administration: An Overview

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

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

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...

Ukraine Elects a New President

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

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

Iran Oil Sanctions Exceptions Ended

Overview

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

Child Nutrition Programs: Current Issues

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

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

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

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

Sri Lanka’s 2019 Easter Bombings

The Attack

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

Assessing Commercial Disclosure Requirements under the First Amendment

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

The Supreme Court has historically allowed greater...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Global Measles Vaccination Trends

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

Graduation: Fact Sheet

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

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

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

Continuing Resolutions: Overview of Components and Practices

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

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

Clean Air Act Issues in the 116th Congress

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

Brexit Extended

New Deadline Is End of October 2019

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

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

Advanced Nuclear Reactors: Technology Overview and Current Issues

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

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

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

The...

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

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

The...

Agricultural Conservation in the 2018 Farm Bill

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tax Equity Financing: An Introduction and Policy Considerations

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

Forest Management Provisions Enacted in the 115th Congress

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

DHS Budget v. DHS Appropriations: Fact Sheet

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

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

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

U.S. Farm Income Outlook for 2019

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

Indian Water Rights Settlements

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deficits, Debt, and the Economy: An Introduction

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

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

Nuclear Cooperation with Other Countries: A Primer

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

Bosnia and Herzegovina: Background and U.S. Policy

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

Presidential Terms and Tenure: Perspectives and Proposals for Change

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

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

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

Cyprus: Reunification Proving Elusive

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

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

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

Timber Harvesting on Federal Lands

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

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

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

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

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

The Postsecondary Undergraduate Population: Student Income and Demographics

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

“Extraordinary Measures” and the Debt Limit

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

The Global Economy: Is Slower Growth Ahead?

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

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

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

The potential funding...

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

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

Selected Agency Budget Justifications for FY2020

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

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

FY2020 Budget Documents: Internet and GPO Availability

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

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

Water Infrastructure Financing: History of EPA Appropriations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Named a Terrorist Organization

Overview

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jordan: Background and U.S. Relations

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

Women in Congress: Statistics and Brief Overview

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

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

The very first woman...

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

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

Under NAFTA, bilateral agricultural...

National Museums: In Brief

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

Multinational Species Conservation Fund: FY2020 Appropriations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Senate Consideration of Presidential Nominations: Committee and Floor Procedure

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

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

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

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

Medicare: Part B Premiums

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

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

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

Increasing the BCA Spending Limits: Characteristics of Previously Enacted Legislation

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

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

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

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

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

Section 232 Investigations: Overview and Issues for Congress

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

HUD FY2019 Appropriations: In Brief

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cybersecurity: Homeland Security Issues for the 116th Congress

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Introduction

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

Low Interest Rates, Part 1: Economic and Fiscal Implications

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

Low Interest Rates

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

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

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

The federal pipeline safety program is...

Iraqi and Afghan Special Immigrant Visa Programs

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

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

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

Temporary Protected Status: Overview and Current Issues

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

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

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

Congressional Participation in Litigation: Article III and Legislative Standing

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assessing NATO’s Value

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

India’s 2019 National Elections: A Preview

Overview

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

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

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

Overview of Federal Housing Assistance Programs and Policy

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

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

Background

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

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

Congressional Subpoenas: Enforcing Executive Branch Compliance

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

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

Free Speech and the Regulation of Social Media Content

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

Currently, federal law does...

Defining Domestic Violence

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

Federal Definitions of DV

The federal...

Financial Transactions Taxes: In Brief

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

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

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

Current Law

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

Categories of Federal Civil Service Employment: A Snapshot

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

The competitive service largely consists of all civil...

FY2020 Defense Budget Request: An Overview

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

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

Iraq: Issues in the 116th Congress

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

2019 Midwest Flooding: FEMA and Other Federal Programs and Resources

Introduction

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

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

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

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

Drought Contingency Plans for the Colorado River Basin

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

Colorado River Basin in Context

The Colorado River Basin (Figure 1)...

The Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations Process Reform

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

Runaway and Homeless Youth: Demographics and Programs

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

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

Veto Override Procedure in the House and Senate

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

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

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

Federal Land Ownership: Acquisition and Disposal Authorities

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

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

Post-Heller Second Amendment Jurisprudence

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

Internships in Congressional Offices: Frequently Asked Questions

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

Data Protection Law: An Overview

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

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

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

Federal laws...

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

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

Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB): A Legal Overview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Defining Hemp: A Fact Sheet

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

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

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

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

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

Cyclone Disaster in Mozambique and Surrounding Region

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

Cyclone...

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

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

FY2020 Budget Request for the Department of Energy

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

Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC): A Primer

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

Federal Land Management Agencies and Programs: CRS Experts

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

Older Americans Act: Senior Community Service Employment Program

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

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

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

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

The statistics presented...

Locate an Agency or Program Within Appropriations Bills

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is a large...

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

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

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

International Trophy Hunting

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

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

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

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

Proposed Air Force Acquisition of New F-15EXs

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

What Is an F-15EX?

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

Legislative Support Resources: Offices and Websites for Congressional Staff

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

Indonesia Prepares for Election Rematch

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

The presidential polls pit the same two...

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

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

Arms Control and Nonproliferation: A Catalog of Treaties and Agreements

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

Older Americans Act: Funding Formulas

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

Title...

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

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

Low Interest Rates, Part 3: Potential Causes

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

Nominal Versus Real Rates

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

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

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

Financing Airport Improvements

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

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

Farm Debt and Chapter 12 Bankruptcy Eligibility

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

Boeing 737 MAX Crashes Shake Confidence in International Air Safety

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

Laws Affecting Students with Disabilities: Preschool Through Postsecondary Education

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

Special Counsel Investigations: History, Authority, Appointment and Removal

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

Juvenile Justice Funding Trends

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

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

Corporate Expatriation, Inversions, and Mergers: Tax Issues

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

These types of...

Egypt: Background and U.S. Relations

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

Thailand Set to Hold Long-Awaited Election

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

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

Constitutional Authority Statements and the Powers of Congress: An Overview

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

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

New Crisis Brewing in Burma’s Rakhine State?

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

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

Data Flows, Online Privacy, and Trade Policy

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

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

Activities-Based Regulation and Systemic Risk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The War Powers Resolution: Concepts and Practice

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

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

Use of National Statuary Hall: Assignment and Historic Events

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

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

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

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

USDA’s Actively Engaged in Farming (AEF) Requirement

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

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

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

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

An Electric Grid Based on 100% Renewable Energy?

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

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

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

Funding for EPA Water Infrastructure: A Fact Sheet

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

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

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

The February 2019 Trump-Kim Hanoi Summit

Overview

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

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

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

If Netanyahu maintains political support from voters...

EU Finalizes FDI Screening Framework

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

Congress Faces Calls to Extend Funding for Special Diabetes Programs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The First Step Act of 2018: An Overview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When an FHA-insured mortgage goes to...

Grazing Fees: Overview and Issues

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

Pipeline Security: Homeland Security Issues in the 116th Congress

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

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

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

FY2019 Budget Request

For FY2019, the Trump...

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

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

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

The Power Marketing Administrations: Background and Current Issues

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

Sudan: Pressure Mounts on the Government

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

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

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

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

The Effectiveness of the Community Reinvestment Act

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

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

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

Budget Issues That Shaped the 2018 Farm Bill

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

Commodities 31,340 +101 31,440

Conservation...

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

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

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

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

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

An Introduction to the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit

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

The Selective Service System and Draft Registration: Issues for Congress

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

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

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

The United Nations Human Rights Council: Background and Policy Issues

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Considerations for Implementing a Small Business Disaster Grant Program

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

Puerto Rico: CRS Experts and Products

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

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

India, Pakistan, and the Pulwama Crisis

Overview

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

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

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

Redistricting Commissions for Congressional Districts

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

Some states have adopted independent...

Housing Issues in the 115th Congress

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

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

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

The Neutral Interest Rate

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

Digital Services Taxes (DSTs): Policy and Economic Analysis

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

Cluster Munitions: Background and Issues for Congress

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Women’s History Month Speech Resources: Fact Sheet

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

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

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

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

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

Banking Policy Issues in the 116th Congress

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

U.S. Agent Orange/Dioxin Assistance to Vietnam

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

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

Introduction

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

The full title of the referenced...

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

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NFIP Reauthorization

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

Immigration: U.S. Asylum Policy

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

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

Macedonia Changes Name, Moves Closer to NATO Membership

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

Prespa Agreement with Greece

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

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

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

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

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

Department of Education Funding: Key Concepts and FAQ

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

The Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) Program

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

Heroin Trafficking in the United States

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

Selected International Insurance Issues in the 116th Congress

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

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

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

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

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

Institutional Eligibility for Participation in Title IV Student Financial Aid Programs

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

In...

Fire Management Assistance Grants: Frequently Asked Questions

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

2019 Tax Filing Season and a Partial Government Shutdown

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

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

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

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

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

Debt Limit Legislation: The House “Gephardt Rule”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Transportation Security: Issues for the 116th Congress

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

Transportation security has been a major policy...

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

In its quadrennial National Health Security Strategy, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) states:

U.S. National Health Security actions protect the nation’s physical and psychological health, limit economic losses, and preserve confidence in government and the national will to pursue its interests when threatened by incidents that result in serious health consequences whether natural, accidental, or deliberate.

The strategy aims to ensure the resilience of the nation’s public health and health care systems against potential threats, including natural disasters and...

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

The “child nutrition programs” refer to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (USDA-FNS) programs that provide food for children in school or institutional settings. The best known programs, which serve the largest number of children, are the school meals programs: the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and the School Breakfast Program (SBP). The child nutrition programs also include the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), which provides meals and snacks in day care and after school settings; the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), which provides food...

Venezuela Oil Sector Sanctions: Market and Trade Impacts

On January 28, 2019, the Trump Administration imposed sanctions on Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PdVSA), adding to existing Venezuela sanctions. The Department of the Treasury determined that persons (e.g., individuals and companies) operating in Venezuela’s oil sector are subject to sanctions in order to apply economic pressure on the government of Nicolas Maduro and facilitate a transition to democracy. Subsequently, Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) added PdVSA—including all entities in which PdVSA has a 50% or more ownership...

Selecting the World Bank President

On January 7, 2018, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim announced that he would resign by February 1, three years before the expiration of his second five-year term in 2022. Following his resignation, Dr. Kim is to join Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP), a private equity fund that invests in projects in advanced and developing countries. Prior to his nomination to the World Bank by President Barack Obama in 2012, Dr. Kim served as the president of Dartmouth College.

The nomination period for the next president ends on March 14, after which the Executive Board is to select three...

Individual Income Tax Rates and Other Key Elements of the Federal Individual Income Tax: 1988 to 2019 Tax Years

Statutory individual income tax rates are the tax rates that apply by law to various amounts of taxable income. Statutory rates form the basis of marginal effective and average effective tax rates, which most economists believe have a greater impact on the economic behavior of companies and individuals than do statutory rates. Marginal effective rates capture the net effect of special tax provisions on statutory rates. They differ from average effective rates, which measure someone’s overall income tax burden.

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

Colombia: Background and U.S. Relations

A key U.S. ally in the Latin American region, Colombia endured an internal armed conflict for half a century. Drug trafficking fueled the violence by funding both left-wing and right-wing armed groups. Some analysts feared Colombia would become a failed state in the late 1990s, but the Colombian government devised a new security strategy, known as Plan Colombia, to counter the insurgencies. Originally designed as a 6-year program, Plan Colombia ultimately became a 17-year U.S.-Colombian bilateral effort. The partnership focused initially on counternarcotics and later on counterterrorism;...

Congressional Member Organizations (CMOs) and Informal Member Groups

In addition to party organizations and committees, Members of the House and Senate often participate in informal Member organizations. In the 115th Congress, 854 informal Member organizations—which are commonly referred to as caucuses, working groups, or task forces—existed. In this Insight, however, they are collectively described as informal Member organizations to avoid confusion with official party caucuses. Additional information can be found in CRS Report R40683, Congressional Member Organizations (CMOs) and Informal Member Groups: Their Purpose and Activities, History, and...

Department of Homeland Security Human Resources Management: Homeland Security Issues in the 116th Congress

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Human resources management (HRM) underlies the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) mission and performance. DHS’s Chief Human Capital Officer (CHCO) “is responsible for the Department’s human capital program,” which is described as including such elements as “human resources policy, systems, and programs for strategic workforce planning, recruitment and hiring, pay and leave, performance management, employee development, executive resources, labor relations, work/life and safety and health.”

Under Title 5, Section 1402, of the United States Code, a CHCO’s functions include...

Water Resource Issues in the 116th Congress

The 116th Congress may conduct oversight and deliberate on authorization and funding of water resource development, management, and protection. Congress engages in authorization and appropriations for water resource projects and activities of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation). USACE constructs projects nationwide, primarily to improve navigation, reduce flood damage, and restore aquatic ecosystems. Reclamation constructs projects in the 17 arid states west of the Mississippi River; these projects primarily provide water supply benefits,...

Past Government Shutdowns: Key Resources

When federal government agencies and programs lack budget authority after the expiration of either full-year or interim appropriations, they experience a “funding gap.” Under the Antideficiency Act (31 U.S.C. §§1341 et seq.), they must cease operations, except in certain circumstances when continued activities are authorized by law. When there is a funding gap that affects many federal entities, the situation is often referred to as a government shutdown. In the past, there have occasionally been funding gaps that led to government shutdowns, one of which lasted 21 days, from December 16,...

Medicare Advantage (MA)–Proposed Benchmark Update and Other Adjustments for CY2020: In Brief

Medicare Advantage (Part C, or MA) is an alternative way for Medicare beneficiaries to receive covered benefits. Under MA, private health plans are paid a per person monthly amount to provide all Medicare-covered benefits (except hospice) to beneficiaries who enroll in their plan. Unlike under original Medicare, where providers are paid for each item or service provided to a beneficiary, the same capitated monthly payment is made to an MA plan regardless of how many or how few services a beneficiary actually uses. The plan is at risk if costs for all of its enrollees exceed program...

House Voting Procedures: Forms and Requirements

In the House, there are four forms of votes: voice vote, division vote, yea and nay vote, and recorded vote. In the Committee of the Whole, where much of the chamber’s business is conducted, the forms are voice vote, division vote, and recorded vote. Members may vote in the House. Members, Delegates, and the Resident Commissioner may vote in the Committee of the Whole.

The Holman Rule (House Rule XXI, Clause 2(b))

Although congressional rules establish a general division of responsibility under which questions of policy are kept separate from questions of funding, House rules provide for exceptions in certain circumstances. One such circumstance allows for the inclusion of legislative language in general appropriations bills or amendments thereto for “germane provisions that retrench expenditures by the reduction of amounts of money covered by the bill.” This exception appears in clause 2(b) of House Rule XXI and is known as the Holman rule, after Representative William Holman of Indiana, who first...

House Offset Amendments to Appropriations Bills: Procedural Considerations

One of the most common methods for changing spending priorities in appropriations bills on the House floor is through offset amendments. House offset amendments may generally change spending priorities in a pending appropriations measure by increasing spending for certain activities (or creating spending for new activities not previously included in the bill) and offsetting the increase with funding decreases in other activities in the bill. Offset amendments are needed to avoid points of order under Sections 302(f) and 311(a) of the Congressional Budget Act, enforcing certain spending...

Appropriations Subcommittee Structure: History of Changes from 1920 to 2019

This report details the evolution of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees’ subcommittee structure from the 1920s to the present. In 1920, the House adopted a change in its rules to consolidate jurisdiction over all appropriations in the Appropriations Committee. After the enactment of the Budget and Accounting Act of 1921, the House reorganized its Appropriations Committee by establishing for the first time a set of subcommittees to consider appropriations bills based on the administrative organization of the executive branch. The Senate followed suit in 1922, and the two...

Supermajority Votes in the House

The principle of majority rule dominates the work of the House of Representatives. This means, in brief, that most questions are decided by vote of a simple majority: one-half plus one of the Members voting, assuming the presence of a quorum. For instance, if all 435 lawmakers vote, the winning margin is at least 218—one more than half the membership of the House. In cases of a tie vote, House Rule XX, clause 1(c), states that “a question shall be lost.”

Some supermajority votes, however, are explicitly specified in the Constitution. The House may also define supermajority votes. This...

El Salvador’s 2019 Elections

On February 3, 2019, Nayib Bukele, a 37-year-old former mayor of San Salvador and candidate of the Grand Alliance of National Unity (GANA) party, won El Salvador’s presidential election. Bukele garnered 53% of the vote, well ahead of Carlos Calleja, a business executive running for a conservative National Republican Alliance (ARENA)-led coalition, with 31.8%, and Hugo Mártinez, a former foreign minister of the leftist Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), with 14.4%. Bukele’s first-round victory occurred amid relatively low voter turnout (44.7%) during a peaceful electoral...

Venezuela: U.S. Recognizes Interim Government

Many in Congress are closely following events in Venezuela, given recent political developments that have led the United States and other governments to recognize an interim government. On January 23, 2019, amid widespread protests against the authoritarian government of President Nicolás Maduro, the president of Venezuela’s democratically elected, opposition-controlled National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, declared himself interim president of Venezuela until new presidential elections are convened. The United States, Canada, and more than 35 other countries have recognized Guaidó as the...

Science and Technology Issues in the 116th Congress

Science and technology (S&T) have a pervasive influence over a wide range of issues confronting the nation. Public and private research and development spur scientific and technological advancement. Such advances can drive economic growth, help address national priorities, and improve health and quality of life. The ubiquity and constantly changing nature of science and technology frequently create public policy issues of congressional interest.

The federal government supports scientific and technological advancement directly by funding and performing research and development and...

Social Security: Revisiting Benefits for Spouses and Survivors

Social Security auxiliary benefits are paid to the spouse, former spouse, survivor, child, or parent of a Social Security-covered worker and are equal to a specified percentage of the worker’s basic monthly benefit amount (subject to a maximum family benefit amount). For example, the spouse of a retired worker may receive up to 50% of the retired worker’s basic benefit and the widow(er) of a retired worker may receive up to 100% of the retired worker’s basic benefit.

When auxiliary benefits were first established, most households consisted of a single earner—usually the husband—and a wife...

Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act of 2018 (P.L. 115-253) and U.S. Aid for the Palestinians

The Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act (ATCA, P.L. 115-253) became law on October 3, 2018. Congress passed the law in the wake of a U.S. federal court case dealing with past acts of terrorism by Palestinians (discussed below, “U.S. Policy Implications and Options”). The law amended the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) (at 18 U.S.C. 2334) by stating that a defendant consents to personal jurisdiction in U.S. federal court for lawsuits related to international terrorism if the defendant accepts certain types of U.S. foreign aid after the law has been in effect for 120 days.

In December, Palestinian...

History, Evolution, and Practices of the President’s State of the Union Address: Frequently Asked Questions

The State of the Union address is a communication from the President to Congress in which the chief executive reports on the current condition of the United States and provides policy proposals for the upcoming legislative year. The address originates in the Constitution (Article II, Section 3, clause 1), which requires that the President “shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.”

Over time, the State of the Union address has evolved considerably. The...

The Closure of Institutions of Higher Education: Student Options, Borrower Relief, and Other Implications

When an institution of higher education (IHE) closes, a student’s postsecondary education may be disrupted. Students enrolled at closing IHEs may face numerous issues and may be required to make difficult decisions in the wake of a closure. Two key issues students may face when their IHEs close relate to their academic plans and their personal finances.

The academic issues faced by students when their schools close include whether they will continue to pursue their postsecondary education, and if so, where and how they might do so. Students deciding to continue their postsecondary...

LNG as a Maritime Fuel: Prospects and Policy

The combination of growing liquefied natural gas (LNG) supplies and new requirements for less polluting fuels in the maritime shipping industry has heightened interest in LNG as a maritime fuel. The use of LNG as an engine (“bunker”) fuel in shipping is also drawing attention from federal agencies and is beginning to emerge as an issue of interest in Congress.

In 2008, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) announced a timeline to reduce the maximum sulfur content in vessel fuels to 0.5% by January 1, 2020. Annex VI of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution...

Federal Funding Gaps: A Brief Overview

The Antideficiency Act (31 U.S.C. 1341-1342, 1511-1519) generally bars the obligation of funds in the absence of appropriations. Exceptions are made under the act, including for activities involving “the safety of human life or the protection of property.” The interval during the fiscal year when appropriations for a particular project or activity are not enacted into law, either in the form of a regular appropriations act or a continuing resolution (CR), is referred to as a funding gap or funding lapse. Although funding gaps may occur at the start of the fiscal year, they may also occur...

U.S. Withdrawal from the INF Treaty

U.S. Withdrawal

The United States will suspend its obligations under the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and submit its formal notice of withdrawal to Russia on February 2, 2019. President Donald Trump first announced the U.S. withdrawal on October 20, 2018, and stated on February 1, 2019, that the United States was taking this step because Russia was violating the treaty by “developing and fielding a prohibited missile system that poses a direct threat to our allies and troops abroad.”

Under the INF Treaty, the United States and Soviet Union agreed to ban all land-based...

Nigeria: Current Issues and U.S. Policy

Successive Administrations have described the U.S. relationship with Nigeria, Africa’s largest producer of oil and its largest economy, to be among the most important on the continent. The country is Africa’s most populous, with more than 200 million people, roughly evenly divided between Muslims and Christians. Nigeria, which transitioned from military to civilian rule in 1999, ranked for years among the top suppliers of U.S. oil imports, and it is a major recipient of U.S. foreign aid. The country is the United States’ second-largest trading partner in Africa and the third-largest...

Birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington: Fact Sheet

Washington’s Birthday, often informally called Presidents’ Day, is a federal holiday celebrating the birth of President George Washington on the third Monday in February. In some regions of the United States, the birth of President Abraham Lincoln is also unofficially celebrated on this holiday. The official designation for this holiday is “Washington’s Birthday.” Although other institutions such as state and local governments and private businesses may use other names, it is federal policy to always refer to holidays by the names designated in the law.

This guide assists congressional...

The Disaster Relief Fund: Overview and Issues

The Disaster Relief Fund (DRF) is one of the most-tracked single accounts funded by Congress each year. Managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), it is the primary source of funding for the federal government’s domestic general disaster relief programs. These programs, authorized under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, as amended (42 U.S.C. 5121 et seq.), outline the federal role in supporting state, local, tribal, and territorial governments as they respond to and recover from a variety of incidents. They take effect in the event that...

Evaluating Possible U.S. Troop Withdrawals from Hostile Areas

On December 19, 2018, President Trump announced his intention to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria within 30 days, although Administration officials subsequently suggested that the process could take several months. Subsequent press articles indicated that the White House is also considering withdrawing “up to half” of U.S. forces in Afghanistan in the coming months, although at the time of writing the Trump Administration has stated it has not yet ordered any such withdrawal. More recently, the United States has been negotiating with Afghan Taliban representatives regarding the conditions...

Public Safety Officers’ Benefits (PSOB) and Public Safety Officers’ Educational Assistance (PSOEA) Programs

The Public Safety Officers’ Benefits (PSOB) program provides cash benefits to federal, state, and local law enforcement officers; firefighters; employees of emergency management agencies; and members of emergency medical services agencies who are killed or permanently and totally disabled as the result of personal injuries sustained in the line of duty. The Public Safety Officers’ Educational Assistance (PSOEA) program, a component of the PSOB program, provides higher-education assistance to the children and spouses of public safety officers killed or permanently disabled in the line of...

General and Flag Officers in the U.S. Armed Forces: Background and Considerations for Congress

In the exercise of its constitutional authority over the Armed Forces, Congress has enacted an array of laws which govern important aspects of military officer personnel management, including appointments, assignments, grade structure, promotions, and separations. Some of these laws are directed specifically at the most senior military officers, known as general and flag officers (GFOs). Congress periodically reviews these laws and considers changes as it deems appropriate. Areas of congressional interest have included the number of GFOs authorized, the proportion of GFOs to the total...

The U.S. Intelligence Community: Homeland Security Issues in the 116th Congress

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Intelligence support of homeland security is a primary mission of the entire Intelligence Community (IC). In fulfilling this mission, changes to IC organization and process, since 9/11, have enabled more integrated and effective support than witnessed or envisioned since its inception. The terrorist attacks of 9/11 revealed how barriers between intelligence and law enforcement, which originally had been created to protect civil liberties, had become too rigid, thus preventing efficient, effective coordination against threats. In its final report, the Commission on Terrorist Attacks...

Background Ozone: Challenges in Science and Policy

Exposure to ozone, a common air pollutant, has been linked to early death, plant and crop damage, and damage to property. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ground-level ozone to protect human health and welfare with, by law, a “margin of safety.” States that contain areas with ozone concentrations above these standards must develop plans to reduce emissions and improve air quality. However, states have direct control only over emission sources located within their borders.

The Clean Air Act (CAA) requires EPA to...

U.S. Department of the Interior: An Overview

The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) is a federal executive department responsible for the conservation and administration of the public lands and mineral estate of the United States. DOI describes its mission as protecting and managing the nation’s natural resources and cultural heritage for the benefit of the American people; providing scientific and scholarly information about those resources and natural hazards; and exercising the nation’s trust responsibilities and special commitments to American Indians, Alaska Natives, and island territories under U.S. administration.

As part...

Introducing a House Bill or Resolution

Authoring and introducing legislation is fundamental to the task of representing voters as a Member of Congress. In fact, part of what makes the American political process unique is that it affords all Members an ability to propose their own ideas for chamber consideration. By comparison, most other democratic governments around the world rely on an executive official, often called a premier, chancellor, or prime minister, to originate and submit policy proposals for discussion and enactment by the legislature. Legislators serving in other countries generally lack the power to initiate...

Women in National Governments Around the Globe: Fact Sheet

Summary to be suppressed Women Elections Legislatures Legislative representation Executive representation Voting rights Gender quotas

“Affirmative Action” and Equal Protection in Higher Education

When federal courts have analyzed and addressed “affirmative action” in higher education, they have done so in two distinct but related senses, both under the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of “equal protection.”

The first has its roots in the original sense of “affirmative action:” the mandatory use of race by public education systems to eliminate the remnants of state-imposed racial segregation. Because state-sanctioned race segregation in public education violates the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, in certain cases involving a state’s formerly de jure segregated...

Drug Trafficking at the Southwest Border: Homeland Security Issues in the 116th Congress

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The United States sustains a multi-billion dollar illegal drug market. An estimated 28.6 million Americans, or 10.6% of the population age 12 or older, had used illicit drugs at least once in the past month in 2016. The 2018 National Drug Threat Assessment indicates that Mexican transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) continue to dominate the U.S. drug market. They “remain the greatest criminal drug threat to the United States; no other group is currently positioned to challenge them.” The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) indicates that these TCOs maintain and expand their...

Artificial Intelligence and National Security

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a rapidly growing field of technology with potentially significant implications for national security. As such, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) and other nations are developing AI applications for a range of military functions. AI research is underway in the fields of intelligence collection and analysis, logistics, cyber operations, information operations, command and control, and in a variety of semiautonomous and autonomous vehicles. Already, AI has been incorporated into military operations in Iraq and Syria. Congressional action has the potential...

The Unemployment Trust Fund (UTF): State Insolvency and Federal Loans to States

Although states have a great deal of autonomy in how they establish and run their unemployment insurance programs, federal law requires states to pay Unemployment Compensation (UC) benefits promptly as provided under state law. During some recessions, current taxes and reserve balances may be insufficient to cover state obligations for UC benefits. States may borrow funds from the federal loan account within the Unemployment Trust Fund (UTF) to meet UC benefit obligations.

This report summarizes how insolvent states may borrow funds from the UTF loan account to meet their UC benefit...

Bribery, Kickbacks, and Self-Dealing: An Overview of Honest Services Fraud and Issues for Congress

As the trials of Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos illustrate, corruption among high-profile public officials continues to be a concern in the United States. Likewise, recent examples abound of powerful executives in the private sector abusing positions of trust for personal gain. Faced with this reality, Congress has shown consistent interest in policing public- and private-sector corruption, enacting a number of criminal provisions aimed at holding corrupt officials accountable for their actions under federal law. However, one of federal prosecutors’ most potent existing tools for combating...

Fifth-Generation (5G) Telecommunications Technologies: Issues for Congress

Since the first mobile phones were made available in the 1980s, telecommunication providers have been investing in mobile networks to expand coverage, improve services, and attract more users. First-generation networks supported mobile voice calls but were limited in coverage and capacity. To address those limitations, providers developed and deployed second-generation (2G) mobile networks, then third-generation (3G), and fourth-generation (4G) networks. Each generation offered improved speeds, greater capacity, and new features and services.

In 2018, telecommunication providers began...

U.S. Trade Policy Primer: Frequently Asked Questions

Congress plays a major role in U.S. trade policy through its legislative and oversight authority. Since the end of World War II, U.S. trade policy has focused on fostering an open, rules-based global trading system, liberalizing markets by reducing trade and investment barriers through negotiations and agreements, and enforcing trade commitments and related laws. International trade and investment issues can affect the overall health of the U.S. economy and specific sectors, the success of U.S. businesses, U.S. employment opportunities, and the overall standard of living of Americans. The...

The Trump Administration’s National Strategy for Counterterrorism: Homeland Security Issues in the 116th Congress

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On October 4, 2018, President Trump released his Administration’s first National Strategy for Counterterrorism. The overarching goal of the strategy is to “defeat the terrorists who threaten America’s safety, prevent future attacks, and protect our national interests.” In describing the need for this strategy, National Security Advisor John Bolton stated that the terrorist “landscape is more fluid and complex than ever” and that the strategy will not “focus on a single organization but will counter all terrorists with the ability and intent to harm the United States, its citizens and...

Emergency Communications: Homeland Security Issues in the 116th Congress

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Overview First responders and other emergency personnel use emergency communications systems to communicate with each other during day-to-day operations and large-scale disasters. Emergency communication systems are also used to enable communications between the public and response agencies. Emergency communication systems include 911 systems that receive calls from the public, requesting assistance or reporting an emergency, and that relay those calls to response agencies (e.g., local police and fire departments); land mobile radio (LMR) systems that allow police, firefighters, and...

Recent Migration to the United States from Central America: Frequently Asked Questions

Over the last decade, migration to the United States from Central America—in particular from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras (known collectively as the Northern Triangle)—has increased considerably. Families migrating from this region, many seeking asylum, have made up an increasing share of the migrants seeking admission to the United States at the U.S.-Mexico border. In the past year, news reports of migrant “caravans” from the Northern Triangle traveling toward the United States have sparked intense interest and questions from Congress.

Many factors, both in their countries of...

International Trade and Finance: Overview and Issues for the 116th Congress

The U.S. Constitution grants authority to Congress to lay and collect duties and regulate foreign commerce. Congress exercises this authority in numerous ways, including through oversight of trade policy and consideration of legislation to implement trade agreements and authorize trade programs. Policy issues cover areas such as U.S. trade negotiations, U.S. trade and economic relations with specific regions and countries, international institutions focused on trade, tariff and nontariff barriers, worker dislocation due to trade liberalization, enforcement of trade laws and trade agreement...

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

The Capitol Rotunda and the Capitol Grounds have been used as the setting for a variety of events, ranging from memorial ceremonies and the reception of foreign dignitaries to the presentation of awards and the hosting of public competitions. This report identifies and categorizes uses of the Capitol Rotunda and Capitol Grounds authorized by concurrent resolutions since the 101st Congress.

In most cases, use of the Capitol Rotunda requires a concurrent resolution agreed to by both the House and Senate. A concurrent resolution for the use of the Rotunda typically identifies the event and...

National African American History Month Speech Resources: Fact Sheet

This fact sheet links to authoritative information resources related to National African American History Month, which is also referred to as African American History Month and Black History Month. It is designed to assist congressional offices with work related to National African American History Month by providing links to legislation, CRS reports, sample speeches and remarks from the Congressional Record, and presidential proclamations and remarks. It also links to additional government web resources and selected advocacy, educational, cultural, and military, organizations.

New Law Requires Agencies to Report on Outstanding IG Recommendations

On January 3, 2019, President Donald Trump signed into law the Good Accounting Obligation in Government Act (GAO-IG Act), which requires agency reporting on outstanding inspector general (IG) recommendations, among other things. The act requires covered agencies to include in their annual budget justifications information on outstanding recommendations made by their respective IGs, including

a list of each public IG recommendation that was published at least one year before submission of the annual budget justification and for which no final action was taken;

the status of each...

Cambodia: Background and U.S. Relations

U.S. relations with the Kingdom of Cambodia have become increasingly strained in recent years in light of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s suppression of the political opposition and his growing embrace of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). During the previous decade, U.S. engagement with the Kingdom slowly strengthened as Western countries continued to pressure Hun Sen to abide by democratic norms and institutions and as the U.S. government attempted to prevent Cambodia from falling too heavily under China’s influence. Following strong performances by the opposition in the 2013 and 2017...

The Role of the House Minority Leader: An Overview

The House minority leader, the head of the “loyal opposition,” is elected every two years by secret ballot of his or her party caucus or conference. The minority leader occupies a number of important institutional and party roles and responsibilities, and his or her fundamental goal is to recapture majority control of the House.

From a party perspective, the minority leader has a wide range of assignments, all geared toward retaking majority control of the House. Five principal party activities direct the work of the minority leader. First, he or she provides campaign assistance to party...

The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS): Waiver Authority and Modification of Volumes

The Clean Air Act requires that transportation fuels contain a minimum volume of renewable fuel. This renewable fuel standard (RFS) was established by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct05; P.L. 109-58) and amended by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA; P.L. 110-140). The RFS includes scheduled volume mandates that grow each year (starting with 9 billion gallons in 2008 and ascending to 36 billion gallons in 2022). The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which is responsible for administering the RFS, determines the annual volume after 2022. Within the overall...

The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA): Overview of Workers’ Compensation for Certain Private-Sector Maritime Workers

The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) is a federal workers’ compensation program that covers certain private-sector maritime workers. Firms that employ these workers are required to purchase workers’ compensation or self-insure and are responsible for providing medical and disability benefits to covered workers who are injured or become ill on the job and survivors benefits to the families of covered workers who die on the job. The LHWCA is administered by the Department of Labor (DOL), and all benefit costs are paid by employers and their insurance carriers. In 2016,...

U.S. Armed Forces Abroad: Selected Congressional Votes Since 1982

This report summarizes selected congressional roll call votes related to instances in which U.S. Armed Forces have been sent abroad in potentially hostile situations. These votes reflect the type of congressional actions that observers maintain bear directly on issues affecting policy and the funding of troops abroad, often in the context of the War Powers Resolution, continued presence or withdrawal of troops, and the “use of force.” The cases of Lebanon (1982-1983), Grenada (1983), Panama (1989), the Persian Gulf War (1990-1991), Somalia (1992-1995), Haiti (1993-1996), Bosnia...

A Possible Second U.S.-North Korea Summit: What Diplomacy Has and Hasn’t Achieved

Summary of January 2018-January 2019 Developments

In late January 2019, President Donald Trump said he would meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un “probably at the end of February.” The summit would be the second between the two leaders, following their summit in Singapore in June 2018. As of January 22, the White House has not detailed the substance of the planned meeting. Washington and Pyongyang appeared to reach few substantive agreements ahead of the last summit, which Trump described as a “getting to know you” occasion.

If the Trump-Kim summit occurs, it would continue the...

Congressional Member Organizations (CMOs) and Informal Member Groups: Their Purpose and Activities, History, and Formation

This report examines the historical development and contemporary role of Congressional Member Organizations (CMOs) in the House, as well as informal Member groups in the House, Senate, and across the chambers. Commonly, these groups are referred to as caucuses, but they will be referred to collectively as informal Member organizations in this report to avoid confusion with official party caucuses. Some examples of groups that modern observers would consider informal Member organizations date back as far as the early 1800s, but the number of groups has grown substantially since the 1990s....

Federal Role in Voter Registration: The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 and Subsequent Developments

Historically, most aspects of election administration have been left to state and local governments, resulting in a variety of practices across jurisdictions with respect to voter registration. States can vary on a number of elements of the voter registration process, including whether or not to require voter registration; where or when voter registration occurs; and how voters may be removed from registration lists. The right of citizens to vote, however, is presented in the U.S. Constitution in the Fifteenth, Nineteenth, and Twenty-sixth Amendments. Beginning with the Voting Rights Act...

Economics of Federal User Fees

The federal government collects various fees from businesses and households. Choosing to raise public funds via user fees, as opposed to other means such as taxes, has important administrative and economic consequences. Many fees stem from “business-like activities,” in which the government provides a service or benefit in return for payment. For example, many national parks charge entry fees, which then help fund maintenance projects. Such fees and charges that result from voluntary choices, such as entering a national park, are distinguished from taxes—which stem from the government’s...

Latin America and the Caribbean: Issues in the 115th Congress

Geographic proximity has ensured strong linkages between the United States and Latin America and the Caribbean, based on diverse U.S. interests, including economic, political, and security concerns. The United States is a major trading partner and the largest source of foreign investment for many countries in the region, with free-trade agreements enhancing economic linkages with 11 countries. The region is a large source of U.S. immigration, both legal and illegal; proximity and economic and security conditions are major factors driving migration. Curbing the flow of illicit drugs has...

The Black Lung Program, the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund, and the Excise Tax on Coal: Background and Policy Options

The federal government pays benefits to coal miners affected by coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (CWP, commonly referred to as black lung disease) and other lung diseases linked to coal mining in cases where responsible mine operators are not able to pay. In 2019, the monthly benefit for a miner with no dependents is $660.10. Benefits can be as much as $1,320.10 per month for miners with three or more dependents. Medical benefits are provided separately from disability benefits. Benefit payments and related administrative expenses in cases in which the responsible operators do not pay are paid...

Concurrent Receipt: Background and Issues for Congress

Concurrent receipt refers to the simultaneous receipt of two types of federal monetary benefits: military retired pay and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) disability compensation. Prior to 2004, existing laws and regulations dictated that a military retiree could not receive two payments from federal agencies for the same purpose. As a result, military retirees with physical disabilities recognized by the VA would have their military retired pay offset or reduced dollar-for-dollar by the amount of their nontaxable VA compensation. Legislative activity on the issue of concurrent receipt...

The U.S. Army and Multi-Domain Operations

What Are Multi-Domain Operations (MDO)?

According to the Army:

Multi-Domain Operations (MDO) describes how the U.S. Army, as part of the joint force [Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines] can counter and defeat a near-peer adversary capable of contesting the U.S. in all domains [air, land, maritime, space, and cyberspace] in both competition and armed conflict. The concept describes how U.S. ground forces, as part of the joint and multinational team, deters adversaries and defeats highly capable near-peer enemies in the 2025-2050 timeframe.

MDO provides commanders numerous options for...

Brexit Deal Rejected: What Now?

Draft Agreement Fails to Gain Support

On January 15, 2019, the United Kingdom’s (UK’s) House of Commons rejected a draft agreement on the terms of the country’s withdrawal from the European Union (EU) by a vote of 432-202. Prime Minister Theresa May is to return to Parliament by January 21, 2019, to present her “plan B” for how to move forward with exiting the EU (“Brexit”) on March 29, 2019.

Brexit supporters, including the 118 members of Parliament (MPs) from May’s Conservative Party who voted against the government’s proposal, objected that the deal’s “backstop” provision, which would...

Stafford Act Assistance and Acts of Terrorism

The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (the Stafford Act) authorizes the President to issue two types of declarations that could potentially provide federal assistance to states and localities in response to a terrorist attack: a “major disaster declaration” or an “emergency declaration.” Major disaster declarations authorize a wide range of federal assistance to states, local governments, tribal nations, individuals and households, and certain nonprofit organizations to recover from a catastrophic event. Major disaster declarations also make Small Business...

Freight Issues in Surface Transportation Reauthorization

Economic growth and expanded global trade have led to substantial increases in goods movement over the past few decades. The growth in freight transportation demand, along with growing passenger demand, has caused congestion in many parts of the transportation system, making freight movements slower and less reliable. Because the condition and performance of freight infrastructure play a considerable role in the efficiency of the freight system, federal support of freight infrastructure investment is likely to be of significant congressional concern in the reauthorization of the surface...

FHA-Insured Home Loans: An Overview

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA), an agency of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), was created by the National Housing Act of 1934. FHA insures private lenders against the possibility of borrowers defaulting on mortgages that meet certain criteria, thereby expanding the availability of mortgage credit beyond what may be available otherwise. If the borrower defaults on the mortgage, FHA is to repay the lender the remaining amount owed.

A household that obtains an FHA-insured mortgage must meet FHA’s eligibility and underwriting standards, including showing that...

Sub-Saharan Africa: Key Issues and U.S. Engagement

Congress may review existing U.S. policies and programs in sub-Saharan Africa (henceforth, “Africa”) as it establishes its budgetary and policy priorities and responds to developments in the region. Key enduring issues for Congress include the authorization and appropriation of funding for U.S. foreign aid programs and U.S. military activities in the region, and oversight of U.S. programs and policies.

Economic and Development Issues. Much of Africa experienced rapid economic growth starting in the early 2000s, reducing poverty and expanding the middle class in some countries. Since 2014,...

Farm Bill Primer Series: A Guide to Agriculture and Food Programs in the 2014 Farm Bill

This report constitutes a guide to a series of two-page reports that examine the various programs and policies that comprise periodic omnibus legislation on farm and food policy, commonly known as “the 2014 farm bill.” The Agriculture Act of 2014 (P.L. 113-79), or 2014 farm bill, was signed into law in February 2014. Many of the programs authorized by the 2014 farm bill expired in 2018, but most were subsequently reauthorized for five years and in many cases revised or otherwise amended by the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 (P.L. 115-334), the 2018 farm bill, which was signed into...

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

Cuba remains a one-party authoritarian state with a poor human rights record. Current President Miguel Díaz-Canel succeeded Raúl Castro in April 2018, although Castro is continuing as first secretary of Cuba’s Communist Party. Over the past decade, Cuba has implemented gradual market-oriented economic policy changes, but critics maintain that it has not taken enough action to foster sustainable economic growth. Most observers do not anticipate major policy changes under Díaz-Canel, at least in the short term; the president faces the enormous challenges of reforming the economy and...

Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA): Overview and Issues for Congress

Congress enacted the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA; P.L. 92-583, 16 U.S.C. §§1451-1466) in 1972 and has amended the act 11 times, most recently in 2009. CZMA sets up a national framework for states and territories to consider and manage coastal resources. If a state or territory chooses to develop a coastal zone management program and the program is approved, the state or territory (1) becomes eligible for several federal grants and (2) can perform reviews of federal agency actions in coastal areas (known as federal consistency determination reviews).

Each level of government plays a...

BUILD Act: Frequently Asked Questions About the New U.S. International Development Finance Corporation

Members of Congress and Administrations have periodically considered reorganizing the federal government’s trade and development functions to advance various U.S. policy objectives. The Better Utilization of Investments Leading to Development Act of 2018 (BUILD Act), which was signed into law on October 5, 2018 (P.L. 115-254), represents a potentially major overhaul of U.S. development finance efforts. It establishes a new agency—the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (IDFC)—by consolidating and expanding existing U.S. government development finance functions, which are...

Federal Grants to State and Local Governments: Issues Raised by the Partial Government Shutdown

At the end of the day on December 21, 2018, the continuing appropriations measure, Making Further Continuing Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2019 (P.L. 115-298), which encompasses 7 of the 12 regular annual appropriations acts, expired. The resulting lapse in appropriations resulted in the partial shutdown of unfunded agencies beginning on December 22, 2018. Federal agencies that received their FY2019 appropriations under the Energy and Water, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act, 2019 (P.L. 115-244), and the Department of Defense and Labor,...

Federal Crop Insurance: Specialty Crops

The federal crop insurance program offers subsidized crop insurance policies to farmers. Farmers can purchase policies that pay indemnities when their yields or revenues fall below guaranteed levels. While the majority of federal crop insurance policies cover yield or revenue losses, the program also offers policies with other types of guarantees, such as index policies that trigger an indemnity payment based on weather conditions. The Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC), a government corporation within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), pays part of the premium—about 63%, on...

Military Construction Funding in the Event of a National Emergency

The President’s reported consideration of whether to invoke various statutory authorities (including some triggered by a declaration of a national emergency) to direct the Department of Defense (DOD) to construct “a physical barrier” along the U.S.-Mexico border has raised questions about potentially available appropriated funds. This Insight identifies previous military construction projects funded through emergency authorities and unobligated military construction funding balances.

Title 10 U.S.C. Section 2808 is entitled Construction authority in the event of a declaration of war or...

CRS Series: Introduction to Financial Services

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) has created a series providing an introduction to various financial services issues in the 116th Congress. Click on any of the titles below to access an In Focus, a two-page briefing product on issues of active and ongoing interest to Congress.

The CRS authors are also available to answer questions from congressional clients, research policy issues, prepare confidential memoranda, and provide in-person briefings. Their contact information may be found in each In Focus.

The Regulatory Framework

As shown in Figure 1, financial activity can generally...

Animal and Plant Health Import Permits in U.S. Agricultural Trade

The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is the U.S. government authority tasked with regulating the import, transit, and release of regulated animals, animal products, veterinary biologics, plants, plant products, pests, organisms, soil, and genetically engineered organisms. APHIS provides scientific authorities in trade partner countries and U.S. importers with animal and plant health import regulations.

APHIS requires U.S. importers to obtain animal or plant health import permits, which verify that the items being imported meet...

U.S. Sanctions on Russia

Many observers consider sanctions to be a central element of U.S. policy to counter Russian malign behavior. Most Russia-related sanctions implemented by the United States have been levied in response to Russia’s 2014 invasion of Ukraine. In addition, the United States has imposed sanctions on Russia in response to human rights abuses, election interference and cyberattacks, weapons proliferation, illicit trade with North Korea, support to Syria, and use of a chemical weapon. The United States also employs sanctions to deter further objectionable activities. Most Members of Congress...

Cybersecurity: Cybercrime and National Security Authoritative Reports and Resources

As online attacks grow in volume and sophistication, the United States is expanding its cybersecurity efforts. Cybercriminals continue to develop new ways to ensnare victims, whereas nation-state hackers compromise companies, government agencies, and businesses to create espionage networks and steal information. Threats come from both criminals and hostile countries, especially China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea.

Much is written on this topic, and this CRS report directs the reader to authoritative sources that address many of the most prominent issues. The annotated descriptions of...

Foreign Aid in the 115th Congress: A Legislative Wrap-Up in Brief

The 115th Congress enacted a range of foreign aid funding and authorizing legislation. Congress passed two State Department, Foreign Operations and Related Programs (SFOPS) appropriations bills, extended authorizations for several aid programs, enacted a number of reforms to aid programs, and created a new international development finance institution. This report summarizes legislative action related to foreign assistance in the 115th Congress. P.L. 115-31, P.L. 115-141, P.L. 115-44, P.L. 115-167, P.L. 115-198, P.L. 115-254, P.L. 115-256, P.L. 115-266, P.L. 115-305, P.L. 115-334.

SBA New Markets Venture Capital Program

Authorized by P.L. 106-554, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2001 (Appendix H: the New Markets Venture Capital Program Act of 2000), the New Markets Venture Capital (NMVC) program, which is no longer active, is designed to promote economic development and the creation of wealth and job opportunities in low-income geographic areas by addressing the unmet equity investments needs of small businesses located in those areas. Modeled on the Small Business Association’s (SBA’s) Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) program, SBA-selected, privately owned and managed NMVC companies provide...

Federal Grand Jury Secrecy: Legal Principles and Implications for Congressional Oversight

The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that “[n]o person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury.” This provision requires that a federal prosecutor, in order to charge a suspect with a serious federal crime, secure the assent of an independent investigative and deliberative body comprising citizens drawn from the jurisdiction in which the crime would be tried. Federal grand juries serve two primary functions: (1) they aid federal prosecutors in investigating possible crimes by issuing subpoenas...

The Federal Income Tax: How Do Marginal Income Tax Rates Work?

Calculating Income Tax Liability For many taxpayers, calculating their federal income tax liability can be broken down into three main steps. Taxpayers calculate the amount of their income subject to taxation (i.e., their taxable income). Taxpayers apply marginal income tax rates to their taxable income to determine their “pre-tax credit” income tax liability. Taxpayers subtract any tax credits from their pre-tax credit income tax liability to determine their final income tax liability. Some taxpayers with more complex tax situations, including those who are subject to the alternative...

Railroad Retirement Board: Trust Fund Investment Practices

The Railroad Retirement Board (RRB), an independent federal agency, administers retirement, survivor, disability, unemployment, and sickness insurance for railroad workers and their families. Railroad retirement payroll taxes include two tiers—Tier I and Tier II taxes. The Tier I tax finances the Tier I railroad retirement benefit that is equivalent to Social Security benefits and the Tier II tax finances the Tier II benefit, Tier I benefits in excess of Social Security benefits, and supplemental annuities.

Since 2002, Tier II tax revenues in excess of obligatory RRB benefits and...

Legislative Procedure and Process Resources for Congressional Staff

Written for congressional staff, this report identifies and provides details on how to obtain information on legislative procedures and process in the House and Senate. It provides references to selected CRS products and offers information on the CRS legislative institutes. A listing of selected supplementary materials is also provided.

This report will be updated as new information is available.

Failed Coup Attempt in Gabon

On January 7, a small group of Gabonese soldiers seized the state broadcasting building in Gabon’s capital, Libreville, and declared their intention to overthrow the government of President Ali Bongo Ondimba. Within hours, security forces retook the building and put down the coup attempt. The attempt followed months of political uncertainty after the president (aged 59) suffered a stroke in Saudi Arabia in October 2018; he has since remained outside the country and is currently convalescing in Morocco.

Separately, the coup attempt came days after President Trump announced the deployment,...

The Affordable Care Act’s (ACA’s) Employer Shared Responsibility Provisions (ESRP)

The employer shared responsibility provisions (ESRP), which often are referred to as the employer mandate, generally incentivize large employers to offer adequate and affordable health insurance coverage to their full-time employees and full-time employees’ dependents. If an applicable large employer fails to offer health insurance or offers substandard coverage to its employees, the employer may be subject to a penalty (i.e., assessment payment).

All common-law employers, including government entities (such as federal, state, local, or Indian tribal government entities), are responsible...

Strengthening America's Security in the Middle East Act of 2019 (S.1): An Overview

Overview

On January 3, 2019, Senator Marco Rubio and three cosponsors introduced S. 1, the Strengthening America's Security in the Middle East Act of 2019 (or SASME). The bill combines four legislative proposals, three of which were passed in some form by at least one chamber during the 115th Congress. While significant portions of SASME received broad bipartisan support during the 115th Congress, Members differ over whether S. 1 should be considered amidst a partial government shutdown. On January 8, cloture on the motion to proceed to Senate floor consideration of S. 1 was rejected by a...

Tribal Broadband: Status of Deployment and Federal Funding Programs

Tribal areas and communities continue to lag behind other areas and segments of American society with respect to broadband and telecommunications services. High poverty rates and low income levels in tribal lands—along with the fact that many tribal communities are located in remote rural areas (often with rugged terrain)—are major factors that may explain why tribal areas have comparatively poor levels of broadband access, and why providers may lack an economic incentive to serve those areas.

Until recently, data on tribal broadband deployment had been scarce. However, the Federal...

Legislative Branch Appropriations: Frequently Asked Questions

This report responds to frequently asked questions about legislative branch appropriations. Frequently asked questions include the items that are funded within this bill; development, presentation, and consideration of the legislative branch budget requests; the legislative branch budget in historical perspective; and recent actions.

The House and Senate considered FY2019 legislative branch funding during 2018:

The FY2019 legislative branch budget request of $4.960 billion was submitted on February 12, 2018. The budget request levels were developed prior to the enactment of full-year...

State Innovation Waivers: Frequently Asked Questions

Section 1332 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA; P.L. 111-148, as amended) provides states with the option to waive specified requirements of the ACA. In the absence of these requirements, a state is to implement its own plan to provide health insurance coverage to state residents that meets the ACA’s terms.

Under a state innovation waiver, a state can apply to waive ACA requirements related to qualified health plans, health insurance exchanges, premium tax credits, cost-sharing subsidies, the individual mandate, and the employer mandate. The state can apply to waive...

Romania Assumes the EU Presidency amid Domestic Turmoil

On January 1, 2019, Romania assumed the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union (hereinafter, the EU presidency) for the first time since joining the European Union (EU) in 2007. The six-month position provides an opportunity for Romania to raise its standing within the EU. However, Romania’s EU presidency could be overshadowed by domestic political turmoil and external criticism of its recent justice reforms, which some EU and U.S. officials view as a threat to the rule of law.

EU Presidency

The Council of the EU is considered a key institution that represents EU...

Economic Effects of the FY2019 Government Shutdown

On December 22, 2018, funding lapsed for certain federal agencies, initiating a shutdown of those agencies. This Insight discusses how the shutdown could affect the overall economy. Official economic data will not be available for some time, and the data needed to answer some questions about the shutdown will never be available. Instead, the Insight reviews private forecasts, relevant data concepts, and evidence of the economic effects of the 16-day FY2014 shutdown (which occurred in October 2013).

For more information on government shutdowns, see CRS Report RL34680, Shutdown of the...

U.S. Carbon Dioxide Emissions in the Electricity Sector: Factors, Trends, and Projections

International negotiations and domestic policy developments continue to generate congressional interest in current and projected U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emission levels. In December 2015, delegations from 195 nations, including the United States, adopted an agreement in Paris that creates an international structure for nations to pledge to abate their GHG emissions, adapt to climate change, and cooperate to achieve these ends, including financial and other support. Pursuant to that agreement, the United States pledged (in 2015) to reduce GHG emissions by 26-28% by 2025 compared to 2005...

House Committee Funding Requests and Authorizations, 104th-115th Congresses

Pursuant to House Rule X, clause 6, the Committee on House Administration reports an omnibus, biennial “primary expense resolution” to cover the expenses of each standing and select committee, except the Appropriations Committee. The resolution is based, in part, on committee requests for funds to cover their necessary expenses for the two years of a Congress.

This report provides committee funding requests and authorizations as adopted pursuant to primary expense authorizations for House committees in the 104th through 115th Congresses. For further information on the committee funding...

Senate Committee Expenditures Resolutions, 115th Congress, and Funding Authorizations Since 1999

In the Senate a biennial funding process applies to all Senate committees except Appropriations and Ethics, which have permanent authorizations for their staff and operating expenses. The Senate Committee on Rules and Administration has jurisdiction over committee funding resolutions and issues regulations governing committee funding and staff.

On February 28, 2017, the Senate adopted by unanimous consent S.Res. 62, authorizing expenditures by Senate committees for the period March 1, 2017, through September 30, 2017, the period October 1, 2017, through September 30, 2018, and for the...

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Speech Resources: Fact Sheet

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is a federal holiday observed annually on the third Monday in January. It celebrates the life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. in honor of his birthday and achievements. The day is also referred to as the Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Holiday; MLK Day; Martin Luther King Day; the King Holiday; and the King Day of Service. In 2019, this holiday is celebrated on January 21.

This guide assists congressional offices with work related to Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. It contains links to legislation, CRS reports, sample speeches and remarks from the...

Democracy Promotion: An Objective of U.S. Foreign Assistance

Promoting democratic institutions, processes, and values has long been a U.S. foreign policy objective, though the priority given to this objective has been inconsistent. World events, competing priorities, and political change within the United States all shape the attention and resources provided to democracy promotion efforts and influence whether such efforts focus on supporting fair elections abroad, strengthening civil society, promoting rule of law and human rights, or other aspects of democracy promotion.

Proponents of democracy promotion often assert that such efforts are...

Speakers of the House: Elections, 1913-2019

Each new House elects a Speaker by roll call vote when it first convenes. Customarily, the conference of each major party nominates a candidate whose name is placed in nomination. A Member normally votes for the candidate of his or her own party conference but may vote for any individual, whether nominated or not. To be elected, a candidate must receive an absolute majority of all the votes cast for individuals. This number may be less than a majority (now 218) of the full membership of the House because of vacancies, absentees, or Members answering “present.”

This report provides data on...

Congressional Careers: Service Tenure and Patterns of Member Service, 1789-2019

The average service tenure of Members of the Senate and House of Representatives has varied substantially since 1789. This report presents data on Member tenure over time, analyzes factors that affect average tenure in any given Congress, and examines historical patterns of congressional service, including the distribution of years served in each Congress, and the cross-chamber experience of Representatives and Senators.

During much of the 19th century, the average tenure of Representatives and Senators remained relatively steady, with incoming Representatives generally averaging between...

Statutory Inspectors General in the Federal Government: A Primer

This report provides an overview of statutory inspectors general (IGs) in the federal government, including their structure, functions, and related issues for Congress. Report Roadmap Establishment of Statutory IGs. History and evolution of the Inspector General Act of 1978. Structure of the IG Community. Different types of IGs and their distribution across the government. Types of IG Reviews. Differences among an IG audit, inspection or evaluation, and investigation. IG Statutory Authorities and Requirements. Comparison of selected authorities and requirements across different IG...

The SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act (P.L.115-271): Medicare Provisions

On October 24, 2018, President Trump signed into law the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention That Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment for Patients and Communities Act (SUPPORT Act; P.L. 115-271). The conference report on the bill was approved by the House 393-8 on September 28, 2018, and it cleared the Senate 98-1 on October 3, 2018.

The law was enacted in response to growing concerns among the U.S. public and lawmakers about increasing numbers of drug overdose deaths. Opioid overdose deaths, in particular, have increased significantly since 2002. In 2015, an estimated 33,091 Americans...

Profiles and Effects of Retaliatory Tariffs on U.S. Agricultural Exports

Countries have imposed tariffs on U.S. agricultural products to retaliate against actions the Trump Administration took in spring 2018 to protect U.S. steel and aluminum producers and in response to Chinese intellectual property rights and technology policies. Since then, more than 800 U.S. food and agricultural products have been subject to retaliatory tariffs from China, the European Union (EU), Turkey, Canada, and Mexico. U.S. exports of those products to the retaliating countries totaled $26.9 billion in 2017, according to USDA export data. The choice of agricultural and food products...

African American Members of the United States Congress: 1870-2018

In total, 154 African Americans have served in Congress. This total includes 144 African Americans (138 Representatives and 6 Delegates) elected only to the House of Representatives; 9 African Americans elected or appointed only to the Senate; and 1 African American who has served in both chambers. The first African American Members, Senator Hiram Revels of Mississippi and Representative Joseph Rainey of South Carolina, both took the oath of office in 1870. These first two Members were among the 22 African American Members (2 in the Senate, 20 in the House) that began their service in the...

Federal Support for Graduate Medical Education: An Overview

Access to health care is, in part, determined by the availability of physicians, a function of the physician supply. Policymakers have demonstrated a long-standing interest in access to care, both in general and for specific populations. Moreover, federal support for medical residency training (a.k.a., graduate medical education [GME]) is the largest source of federal support for the health care workforce. Although the health workforce includes a number of professions, the size of the federal investment in GME—estimated at $16 billion in 2015—makes it a policy lever often considered to...

The Opioid Epidemic and the Food and Drug Administration: Legal Authorities and Recent Agency Action

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the annual number of drug overdose deaths in the United States involving opioids has more than quadrupled since 1999. CDC estimates that in 2016, more than 63,000 people died from a drug overdose, and approximately 42,000 of these deaths involved an opioid. In combating the opioid epidemic, one central challenge for state and federal regulators is striking a balance between taking aggressive action to fight opioid misuse and addiction, while simultaneously protecting access to medication for patients who experience severe...

Reauthorization of the Perkins Act in the 115th Congress: The Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act

The Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins Act) is the primary federal law aimed at developing and supporting career and technical education (CTE) programs at the secondary and postsecondary educational levels. Prior to the 115th Congress, the Perkins Act had most recently been reauthorized in 2006 by the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 (Perkins IV; P.L. 109-270). In the 115th Congress, the Perkins Act was comprehensively reauthorized again, through the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V; P.L....

Protecting Consumers and Businesses from Fraudulent Robocalls

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA) regulates robocalls. A robocall, also known as “voice broadcasting,” is any telephone call that delivers a prerecorded message using an automatic (computerized) telephone dialing system, more commonly referred to as an automatic dialer or “autodialer.” Robocalls are popular with many industry groups, such as real estate, telemarketing, and direct sales companies. The majority of companies who use robocalling are legitimate businesses, but some are not. Those illegitimate businesses may not just be annoying consumers—they may also be...

Funding Gaps and Government Shutdowns: CRS Experts

Contacting CRS Subject Matter Experts In the event of a funding gap, the potential impacts of a government shutdown would depend on a program’s or agency’s specific circumstances and, furthermore, how relevant law is interpreted. Table 1 provides names and contact information for CRS subject matter experts on policy issues relating to funding gaps and the processes and effects that may be associated with a government shutdown. Policy areas that are identified in Table 1 include agencies and programs funded by specific regular appropriations bills; cross-cutting shutdown issues; domestic...

Farm Bills: Major Legislative Actions, 1965-2018

The farm bill provides an opportunity for Congress to address agricultural and food issues comprehensively about every five years. Over time, farm bills have tended to become more complicated and politically sensitive. As a result, the timeline for reauthorization has become less certain. With the exception of the 2018 farm bill, recent farm bills have taken longer to enact than in previous decades. Beginning in 2008, farm bills have been subject to various developments that have delayed enactment, such as insufficient votes to pass the House floor, presidential vetoes, or short-term...

Permanent Employment-Based Immigration and the Per-country Ceiling

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) specifies a complex set of categories and numerical limits for admitting lawful permanent residents (LPRs) to the United States that includes economic priorities among the admission criteria. These priorities are addressed primarily through the employment-based immigration system, which consists of five preference categories. Each preference category has specific eligibility criteria; numerical limits; and, in some cases, distinct application processes. The INA allocates 140,000 visas annually for all five employment-based LPR categories, roughly...

Funding for ACA-Established Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Trust Fund (PCORTF) Expires in FY2019

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA, P.L. 111-148, as amended) authorized the establishment of a private, nonprofit, tax-exempt corporation called the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI, or the Institute). This built on provisions in prior law that expanded the federal government’s role in the oversight and funding of comparative effectiveness research. The American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009 (ARRA, P.L. 111-5) provided a total of $1.1 billion for comparative effectiveness research; required an Institute of Medicine (IOM, now the National...

USDA’s Final Rule on Milk, Whole Grains, and Sodium in School Meals

On December 12, 2018, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced a final rule on “flexibilities” for milk, whole grains, and sodium in child nutrition programs. The rule alters certain aspects of the nutrition standards for school meals that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (USDA-FNS) updated in 2012 based on a timeline set by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (HHFKA, P.L. 111-296). The release of the final rule follows years of debate over the updated standards and previous actions by Congress and USDA to loosen the milk, whole grain, and sodium...

Military Medical Care: Frequently Asked Questions

Military medical care is a congressionally authorized entitlement that has expanded in size and scope since the late 19th century. Chapter 55 of Title 10 U.S. Code, entitles certain health benefits to military personnel, retirees, and their families. These health benefits are administered by a Military Health System (MHS). The primary objectives of the MHS, which includes the Defense Department’s hospitals, clinics, and medical personnel, are (1) to maintain the health of military personnel so they can carry out their military missions and (2) to be prepared to deliver health care during...

Membership of the 115th Congress: A Profile

This report presents a profile of the membership of the 115th Congress (2017-2018) as of December 20, 2018. Statistical information is included on selected characteristics of Members, including data on party affiliation, average age, occupation, education, length of congressional service, religious affiliation, gender, ethnicity, foreign births, and military service.

In the House of Representatives, there are 238 Republicans (including 1 Delegate and the Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico), 201 Democrats (including 4 Delegates), and 5 vacant seats. The Senate has 51 Republicans, 47...

Selected International Insurance Issues in the 115th Congress

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

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

Congress’s Authority to Influence and Control Executive Branch Agencies

The Constitution neither establishes administrative agencies nor explicitly prescribes the manner by which they may be created. Even so, the Supreme Court has generally recognized that Congress has broad constitutional authority to establish and shape the federal bureaucracy. Congress may use its Article I lawmaking powers to create federal agencies and individual offices within those agencies, design agencies’ basic structures and operations, and prescribe, subject to certain constitutional limitations, how those holding agency offices are appointed and removed. Congress also may...

The First Day of a New Congress: A Guide to Proceedings on the Senate Floor

The Constitution mandates that Congress convene at noon on January 3, unless the preceding Congress by law designated a different day. P.L. 113-201 set January 6, 2015, as the convening date of the 114th Congress. The 115th Congress convened on January 3, 2017. Congressional leaders announced the 116th Congress would convene January 3, 2019.

The Senate follows a well-established routine on the opening day of a new Congress. The proceedings include

swearing in Senators elected or reelected in the most recent general election (approximately one-third of the Senate) or newly appointed to the...

Essential Air Service (EAS)

The Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 gave airlines almost total freedom to determine which domestic markets to serve and what airfares to charge. This raised the concern that communities with relatively low passenger levels would lose service as carriers shifted their operations to serve larger and often more profitable markets. To address this concern, Congress established the Essential Air Service (EAS) program to ensure that small communities that were served by certificated air carriers before deregulation would continue to receive scheduled passenger service, with subsidies if...

International Approaches to Digital Currencies

Since Bitcoin was introduced a decade ago, about 2,100 cryptocurrencies have been developed. Cryptocurrencies are digital representations of value that have no status as legal tender and are administered using distributed ledger technology, running on a network of independent, peer-to-peer computers. Cryptocurrencies are controversial. Some think they will revolutionize the international payments system for the better; others are skeptical of the business model, calling it a scam. The interest and debate surrounding cryptocurrencies has led some central banks to examine whether the...

The First Day of a New Congress: A Guide to Proceedings on the House Floor

Article 1, Section 2 of the Constitution sets a term of office of two years for all Members of the House. One House ends at the conclusion of each two-year Congress, and the newly elected Representatives must constitute a new House at the beginning of the next Congress. Consequently, the House must choose its Speaker and officers and adopt the chamber’s rules of procedure every two years.

The Constitution mandates that Congress convene at noon on January 3, unless the preceding Congress by law designated a different day. P.L. 113-201 set January 6, 2015, as the convening date of the 114th...

Government Expenditures on Defense Research and Development by the United States and Other OECD Countries: Fact Sheet

research, development, RDT&E, R&D, GBARD, government budget allocations for research and development, GDP, Defense, United States, OECD,

U.S. Trade with Major Trading Partners

U.S. world trade has grown steadily over the past decade. In 2017, the United States exported $2.4 trillion in goods and services and imported $2.9 trillion. Since 2009, when trade flows declined sharply in the midst of the financial crisis, U.S. exports have grown—in nominal terms—48.5%, while U.S. imports have grown 47.6%. More broadly, since 1960, trade relative to gross domestic product (GDP) has risen markedly. U.S. exports as a percentage of GDP expanded from 5% in 1960 to over 12% of GDP in 2017, while U.S. imports expanded from 4% to over 15% of GDP. China was the top U.S. trading...

Refugee Admissions and Resettlement Policy

A refugee is a person fleeing his or her country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Typically, the annual number of refugees that can be admitted into the United States, known as the refugee ceiling, and the allocation of these numbers by region are set by the President after consultation with Congress at the start of each fiscal year.

For FY2019, the worldwide refugee ceiling is 30,000. The FY2019 regional allocations are, as follows: Africa (11,000), East...

Legal Authorities Under the Controlled Substances Act to Combat the Opioid Crisis

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the annual number of drug overdose deaths involving prescription opioids (such as hydrocodone, oxycodone, and methadone) and illicit opioids (such as heroin and nonpharmaceutical fentanyl) has more than quadrupled since 1999. A November 2017 report issued by the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis also observed that “[t]he crisis in opioid overdose deaths has reached epidemic proportions in the United States ... and currently exceeds all other drug-related deaths or traffic fatalities.” How...

EPA’s Wood Stove / Wood Heater Regulations: Frequently Asked Questions

On March 7, 2018, the House passed H.R. 1917, a bill that would delay for three years the implementation of more stringent emission standards for new residential wood heaters. The emission standards were promulgated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2015, and are becoming effective through a two-step process. Step 1 standards took effect on May 15, 2015; unless delayed, more stringent Step 2 standards will become effective on May 15, 2020. EPA’s 2015 rule revises standards for wood stoves and pellet stoves that were set in 1988, and establishes standards for other types...

Medicaid Supplemental Payments

Medicaid is a means-tested entitlement program that finances the delivery of primary and acute medical services, as well as long-term services and supports. Medicaid is a federal and state partnership that is jointly financed by the federal government and the states. States must follow broad federal rules to receive federal matching funds, but they have flexibility to design their own versions of Medicaid within the federal statute’s basic framework. This flexibility results in variability across state Medicaid programs.

In general, benefits are made available to Medicaid enrollees via two...

Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act: Bureau of Reclamation and California Water Provisions

Most of the provisions in the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act (WIIN Act; P.L. 114-322), enacted on December 16, 2016, relate to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. However, the WIIN Act also includes a subtitle (Title II, Subtitle J, §§4001-4013) with the potential to affect western water infrastructure owned by the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation; part of the Department of the Interior). Three sections in Subtitle J (§4007, §4009, and §4011) made alterations that would apply throughout Reclamation’s service area, the 17 states to the west of the Mississippi River....

Federal Freight Policy: In Brief

This report provides an overview of federal planning and funding for freight transportation infrastructure, namely for trucks, railroads, and vessels. The report also discusses the relative performance of these modes in carrying the freight burden and examines the decline in the waterborne share. Congestion is a concern to different degrees for the three modes. freight, cargo, truck, rail, maritime, barge, shipping, port, congestion, infrastructure, RRIF, train, locks, inland waterways, army corps, dredging, harbor, surface transportation board, STB, jones act, cabotage, railroad, highway,...

Public Trust and Law Enforcement— A Discussion for Policymakers

Several high-profile incidents where the police have apparently used excessive force against citizens have generated interest in what role Congress could play in facilitating efforts to build trust between the police and the people they serve. This report provides a brief overview of the federal government’s role in police-community relations.

Public confidence in the police declined in 2014 and 2015 after several high-profile incidents in which men of color were killed during confrontations with the police. Confidence in the police has rebounded in recent years and is now back to the...

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

Portions of all 50 states and the District of Columbia are vulnerable to earthquake hazards, although risks vary greatly across the country and within individual states. Alaska is the most earthquake-prone state, experiencing a magnitude 7 earthquake almost every year and a magnitude 8 earthquake every 13 years, on average, since 1900. On November 30, 2018, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck north of Anchorage at 8:29 AM local time, causing extensive damage.

Under the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP), four federal agencies have responsibility for long-term earthquake...

The State of Campaign Finance Policy: Recent Developments and Issues for Congress

Major changes have occurred in campaign finance policy since 2002, when Congress substantially amended campaign finance law via the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA). The Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in Citizens United and a related lower-court decision, SpeechNow.org v. FEC, arguably represent the most fundamental changes to campaign finance law in decades. Citizens United lifted a previous ban on corporate (and union) independent expenditures advocating election or defeat of candidates. SpeechNow permitted unlimited contributions supporting such expenditures and facilitated the advent...

Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protections In Brief

Whistleblowing is “the act of reporting waste, fraud, abuse and corruption in a lawful manner to those who can correct the wrongdoing.” Intelligence Community (IC) whistleblowers are those employees or contractors working in any of the seventeen elements of the IC who reasonably believe there has been a violation of law, rule, or regulation, gross mismanagement, waste of resources, abuse of authority, or a substantial danger to public health and safety. The IC has publicly recognized the importance of whistleblowing, and supports protections for whistleblowers who conform to guidelines to...

Points of Order, Rulings, and Appeals in the House of Representatives

The Speaker usually does not take the initiative to prevent the House from considering proposals or taking actions that would violate the House’s rules. Instead, whenever a Member believes that the House’s legislative procedures are being violated in some way, or are about to be violated, that Member may insist that the House’s procedures be enforced by making a point of order against the alleged violation.

Sharing the Colorado River and the Rio Grande: Cooperation and Conflict with Mexico

The United States and Mexico share the waters of the Colorado River and the Rio Grande. A bilateral water treaty from 1944 (the 1944 Water Treaty) and other binational agreements guide how the two governments share the flows of these rivers. The binational International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) administers these agreements. Since 1944, the IBWC has been the principal venue for addressing river-related disputes between the United States and Mexico. The 1944 Water Treaty authorizes the IBWC to develop rules and to issue proposed decisions, called minutes, regarding matters...

Amazon HQ2 and Federal Opportunity Zone Tax Incentives

On November 13, 2018, Amazon announced that it would be splitting its second headquarters (HQ2) between Northern Virginia and Long Island City, NY. According to the company, each HQ2 site is expected to add 25,000 jobs over 12 years. Additionally, Amazon announced that it would build an “Operations Center of Excellence” that is expected to add more than 5,000 jobs in Nashville, TN. State and local governments offered Amazon a range of tax incentives, grants, and other benefits (e.g., a nearby state university “innovation campus”). Some of these incentives are performance-based and would...

The DOD’s JEDI Cloud Program

In September 2017, Deputy Secretary of Defense (DSD) Patrick Shanahan issued a memorandum calling for the accelerated adoption of a Department of Defense (DOD)-wide cloud computing system. Under the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) Cloud program, DOD seeks to “acquire a...cloud services solution that can support Unclassified, Secret, and Top Secret requirements,” with a focus on commercially available services. Significant industry and congressional attention has been focused on the JEDI Cloud contract.

What is Cloud Computing?

Broadly speaking, cloud computing refers to the...

U.S. Foreign Aid to the Palestinians

In calendar year 2018, the Trump Administration has significantly cut funding for the Palestinians during a time of tension in U.S.-Palestinian relations. Statements by President Trump suggest that the Administration may seek via these cuts to persuade the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to participate in U.S.-led diplomacy on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Despite the funding cuts, PLO Chairman and Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas and other PLO/PA officials have not reversed their decision to break off diplomatic contacts with the United States, which...

“Waters of the United States” (WOTUS): Current Status of the 2015 Clean Water Rule

The Clean Water Act (CWA) is the principal federal law governing pollution of the nation’s surface waters. The statute protects “navigable waters,” which it defines as “the waters of the United States, including the territorial seas.” The scope of the term waters of the United States, or WOTUS, is not defined in the CWA. Thus, the Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have defined the term in regulations several times as part of their implementation of the act.

Two Supreme Court rulings (Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County v. U.S. Army Corps of...

State Minimum Wage Ballot Measures: In Brief

On November 6, 2018, two states included ballot measures related to state minimum wages. These and previous ballot measures provide states one way of establishing minimum wage provisions different from those required by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA; P.L. 75-718).

U.S. Farm Income Outlook for 2018

According to USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS), national net farm income—a key indicator of U.S. farm well-being—is forecast at $66.3 billion in 2018, down over $9 billion (-12%) from last year. The forecast decline in 2018 net farm income is the result of a small increase in gross returns (up $5.8 billion or +1.3%)—including the initial tranche of payments under the trade aid package announced by USDA in July 2018—offset by higher production expenses (up $14.9 billion or +4.2%). Net farm income is calculated on an accrual basis. Net cash income (calculated on a cash-flow basis) is...

USDA Domestic Food Assistance Programs: FY2018 Appropriations

The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018 (P.L. 115-141) was enacted on March 23, 2018. This omnibus bill included appropriations for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), of which USDA’s domestic food assistance programs are a part. Prior to its enactment, the federal government had continued to operate for the first six months of the fiscal year under continuing resolutions (CRs). This report focuses on the enacted appropriations for USDA’s domestic food assistance programs and, in some instances, policy changes provided by the omnibus law. CRS Report R45128, Agriculture and Related...

The Committee Markup Process in the House of Representatives

At the beginning of a markup, committee members often make opening statements, usually not exceeding five minutes apiece. The first reading of the text of the bill to be marked up can be waived, either by unanimous consent or by adopting a non-debatable motion. The bill then is read for amendment, one section at a time, with committee members offering their amendments to each section after it is read but before the next section is read. By unanimous consent only, the committee may agree to dispense with the reading of each section, or to consider a bill for amendment by titles or chapters...

Shutdown of the Federal Government: Causes, Processes, and Effects

When federal agencies and programs lack funding after the expiration of full-year or interim appropriations, the agencies and programs experience a funding gap. If funding does not resume in time to continue government operations, then, under the Antideficiency Act, an agency must cease operations, except in certain situations when law authorizes continued activity. Funding gaps are distinct from shutdowns, and the criteria that flow from the Antideficiency Act for determining which activities are affected by a shutdown are complex.

Failure of the President and Congress to reach agreement...

Military Benefits for Former Spouses: Legislation and Policy Issues

In 1981, the Supreme Court ruled that the former spouse of a military member or retiree could not be awarded any share of that member’s/retiree’s retired pay as a part of a divorce property settlement in a community property state. In response, Congress enacted the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA) in 1982. Under the USFSPA, as amended, state courts can treat disposable military retired pay as divisible property in divorce cases. However, state laws may vary on these concepts. The USFSPA makes no assumption of such a division nor does it presume how much of a...

Lifting the Earmark Moratorium: Frequently Asked Questions

While the term earmark has been used historically to describe various types of congressional spending actions, since the 110th Congress (2007-2008) House and Senate rules have defined an earmark as any congressionally directed spending, tax benefit, or tariff benefit that would benefit an entity or a specific state, locality, or congressional district. In the 112th Congress (2011-2012), the House and Senate began observing what has been referred to as an earmark moratorium or earmark ban. The moratorium does not exist in House or Senate chamber rules, however, and therefore is not enforced...

Yemen: Peace Talks and Current Congressional Action

Overview

On December 6, 2018, the warring parties to the conflict in Yemen convened in Sweden under the auspices of the United Nations to discuss various de-escalation proposals and a possible road map to a comprehensive peace settlement. The 10-day talks are the first formal negotiations since 2016, and they coincide with Senate consideration of several pieces of legislation that would, among other things, endorse United Nations-led efforts for a comprehensive political settlement to the conflict in Yemen and censure Saudi Arabia for the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

These...

Speaking on the House Floor: Gaining Time and Parliamentary Phraseology

House rules and precedents structure Members’ opportunities to speak on the floor about pending legislation. Under some circumstances, Members arrange to speak on legislation by communicating with the leaders of the committee that reported the bill. Sometimes the arrangements can be made on the floor during the debate, and at other times they are made prior to floor consideration. The committee leaders from both sides of the aisle manage the consideration of a bill on the floor, under what is known as controlled time, by allocating the debate time among several Members.

In certain other...

Buprenorphine and the Opioid Crisis: A Primer for Congress

Buprenorphine is a medication used to treat adults addicted to opioids (it is also used in the treatment of pain). Buprenorphine’s effectiveness, safety, and availability in the treatment of opioid addiction are of considerable interest to policymakers seeking to address the ongoing opioid epidemic in the United States. Congressional actions taken in recent years to address the opioid crisis have included attempts to increase access to buprenorphine. This report addresses questions policymakers may have about the effectiveness of buprenorphine, the demand for buprenorphine, and access to...

Advanced Gene Editing: CRISPR-Cas9

Scientists have long sought the ability to control and modify DNA—the code of life. A gene editing technology known as CRISPR-Cas9 offers the potential for substantial improvement over other gene editing technologies in that it is simple to use and inexpensive and has a relatively high degree of precision and efficiency. These characteristics have led many in the scientific and business communities to assert that CRISPR-Cas9 will lead to groundbreaking advances in many fields, including agriculture, energy, ecosystem conservation, and the investigation, prevention, and treatment of...

Cryptocurrency: The Economics of Money and Selected Policy Issues

Cryptocurrencies are digital money in electronic payment systems that generally do not require government backing or the involvement of an intermediary, such as a bank. Instead, users of the system validate payments using certain protocols. Since the 2008 invention of the first cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, cryptocurrencies have proliferated. In recent years, they experienced a rapid increase and subsequent decrease in value. One estimate found that, as of August 2018, there were nearly 1,900 different cryptocurrencies worth about $220 billion. Given this rapid growth and volatility,...

The Special Registration for Telemedicine: In Brief

Suppress:

In response to the concerns about the opioid epidemic, the Trump Administration proposed expanding access to telemedicine services such as for the prescribing of medicine used for substance abuse or mental health treatment. Telemedicine is the electronic delivery of a clinical health care service via a technological method. Section 311(h)(1) of the Controlled Substance Act (CSA), which was added by Section 3 of the Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act of 2008 (Ryan Haight Act; P.L. 110-425), authorized the special registration for telemedicine with the goal of...

The Pregnancy Assistance Fund: An Overview

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA, P.L. 111-148, as amended) established the Pregnancy Assistance Fund (PAF) to assist vulnerable individuals and their families during the transition to parenthood. Specifically, the program serves expectant and parenting teens, women, fathers, and their families. This includes women of any age who are survivors of domestic violence, sexual violence, sexual assault, and stalking. The PAF program focuses on meeting the educational, social service, and health needs of eligible individuals and their children during pregnancy and the postnatal...

The Use of Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI) in Federal Health Programs

Certain portions of federal health programs rely on means testing for eligibility and other purposes. Medicare premiums, the individual mandate exemptions and penalties, eligibility and amounts for tax credits for health insurance exchange coverage, and Medicaid eligibility are determined, in part, using modified adjusted gross income (MAGI). MAGI is a concept that is used throughout federal tax law and certain federal programs. There is no uniform definition of MAGI; rather, the term has different definitions depending on the purpose for which it is being calculated.

For each of these...

Venue: An Abridged Legal Analysis of Where a Federal Crime May Be Tried

The United States Constitution assures those charged with a serious federal crime that they will be prosecuted in the state and district in which the crime occurred. A crime occurs in any district in which any of its “conduct” elements are committed. Some offenses are committed entirely within a single district; there they may be tried. Other crimes have elements that have occurred in more than one district. Still other crimes have been committed overseas and so have occurred outside any district. Statutory provisions, court rules, and judicial interpretations implement the Constitution’s...

U.S. International Food Assistance: An Overview

The United States has played a leading role in global efforts to alleviate hunger and improve food security. U.S. international food assistance programs provide support through two distinct methods: (1) in-kind aid, which ships U.S. commodities to regions in need, and (2) cash-based assistance, which provides recipients with vouchers, direct cash transfers, or locally procured foods.

The current suite of international food assistance programs began with the Food for Peace Act (P.L. 83-480), commonly referred to as “P.L. 480,” which established the Food for Peace program (FFP). Congress...

Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA): Resources for Frequently Asked Questions

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA; P.L. 111-148, as amended) had numerous provisions affecting private health insurance and public health coverage programs. This report provides resources to help congressional staff respond to constituents’ frequently asked questions (FAQs) about the ACA. It lists selected resources regarding consumers, employers, and other stakeholders, with a focus on federal sources. It also lists Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports that summarize the ACA’s provisions.

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

Venue: A Legal Analysis of Where a Federal Crime May Be Tried

The United States Constitution assures those charged with a serious federal crime that they will be prosecuted in the state and district in which the crime occurred. A crime occurs in any district in which any of its “conduct” elements are committed. Some offenses are committed entirely within a single district; there they may be tried. Other crimes have elements that have occurred in more than one district. Still other crimes have been committed overseas and so have occurred outside any district. Statutory provisions, court rules, and judicial interpretations implement the Constitution’s...

Jewish Holidays: Fact Sheet

Judaism is one of the three major Abrahamic faiths, alongside Islam and Christianity. Many traditions and variations of Judaism are practiced in the United States, including cultural and religious variations. According to the Pew Research Center, about 2.2% of Americans (6.7 million people) self-identify as religiously or culturally Jewish. Roughly 22% of American Jews describe themselves as culturally, but not religiously, Jewish.

This fact sheet highlights four major cultural and religious holidays observed by a significant portion of Jewish American populations (Passover, Rosh Hashanah,...

The G-20 Summit and Trump-Xi Meeting in Buenos Aires: Key Outcomes

Argentina hosted the annual Group of 20 (G-20) summit on November 30 and December 1 in Buenos Aires. The G-20 is a forum for advancing international economic cooperation and coordination among 20 major economies, including the United States, that together account for about 85% of global economic output. In recent years, the G-20 has also increasingly become a forum for discussing pressing foreign policy issues. Although Argentina set the agenda for 2018, proposing a focus on the future of work, infrastructure development, and food security, most attention in the lead-up to the summit...

Congressional Oversight of Intelligence: Background and Selected Options for Further Reform

Prior to the establishment of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) in 1976 and 1977, respectively, Congress did not take much interest in conducting oversight of the Intelligence Community (IC). The Subcommittees on the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the congressional Armed Services Committees had nominal oversight responsibility, though Congress generally trusted that IC could more or less regulate itself, conduct activities that complied with the law, were ethical, and shared a common understanding of...

Public Health and Other Related Provisions in P.L 115-271, the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act

On October 24, 2018, President Donald J. Trump signed into law H.R. 6, the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment for Patients and Communities Act (P.L. 115-271; the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, or the SUPPORT Act).

The SUPPORT Act is a sweeping measure designed to address widespread overprescribing and abuse of opioids in the United States. The act includes provisions involving law enforcement, public health, and health care financing and coverage. Broadly, the legislation imposes tighter oversight of opioid production and...

The European Union: Ongoing Challenges and Future Prospects

The European Union (EU) is a unique partnership in which member states have pooled sovereignty in certain policy areas and harmonized laws on a wide range of economic and political issues. The EU is the latest stage in a process of European integration begun after World War II, initially by six Western European countries, to promote peace, security, and economic development. The EU currently consists of 28 member states, including most of the formerly communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe.

The EU is largely viewed as a cornerstone of European stability and prosperity. For much...

Presidential State Funerals: Past Practices and Security Considerations

On November 30, 2018, former President George H.W. Bush died. In the tradition of past presidential deaths, President Bush will receive a state funeral (designated as a National Special Security Event), which includes several ceremonial events in Washington, DC, prior to his burial at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library Center at Texas A&M University in College Station, TX. The state funeral process is carried out by the Joint Task Force-National Capital Region, a division of the Military District of Washington (MDW). The official schedule for President Bush’s state funeral is...

Transportation Spending Under an Earmark Ban

In the 112th Congress, which convened in January 2011, the House and Senate began observing an earmark ban. Earmarks—formally known as congressionally directed spending—directed a significant amount of federal transportation spending prior to the ban. This report discusses how federal highway, transit, rail, and aviation funding were distributed before and after the earmark ban, and how Members of Congress might influence the distribution with a ban in place.

The rules in both houses of Congress include identical definitions of “congressionally directed spending.” The rules define an...

Presidential Funerals and Burials: Selected Resources

This fact sheet is a brief resource guide for congressional staff on funerals and burials for Presidents of the United States. It contains an overview of past practices for presidential funerals and selected online information resources related to official and ceremonial protocols, past presidential funerals, congressional documents, and other documents and books.

U.S. Trade Trends and Developments

Summary

The United States is the world’s biggest economy (in nominal dollars), leading trading nation (goods and services), and largest source of and destination for foreign direct investment. The U.S. output of goods and services, or gross domestic product (GDP), totaled $19.5 trillion in 2017. That is almost the combined GDP in nominal dollars of the next three largest economies. All told, the United States, with close to 5% of the world’s population, accounted for almost 25% of the world’s output and more than 16% of its growth in 2017. While the United States is the world’s largest...

Russia’s Use of Force Against the Ukrainian Navy

Naval Incident Escalates Tensions

On November 25, 2018, Russian coast guard vessels in the Black Sea forcibly prevented two small Ukrainian armored artillery boats and a tugboat from transiting the Kerch Strait en route to the Ukrainian port of Berdyansk, on the Sea of Azov, according to official Ukrainian and Russian reports (see Figure 1). After ramming the tugboat and blockading all three boats for hours, the Russian vessels reportedly fired on them as they sought to leave the area, injuring six sailors. The Ukrainian boats and their 24 crew members were detained and taken to Kerch, in...

National Monuments and the Antiquities Act

The Antiquities Act of 1906 (54 U.S.C. §§320301-320303) authorizes the President to proclaim national monuments on federal lands that contain historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, or other objects of historic or scientific interest. The President is to reserve “the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected.” The act was designed to protect federal lands and resources quickly. Presidents have proclaimed a total of 158 monuments, and also have enlarged, diminished, and changed the terms of monuments previously proclaimed by...

Trends in Social Security Disability Insurance Enrollment

The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program pays cash benefits to non-elderly workers and their dependents provided that the workers have paid into the Social Security system for a sufficient number of years and are determined to be unable to continue performing substantial work because of a qualifying disability. The total number of disabled-worker beneficiaries was approximately 2.7 million in 1985, peaked at approximately 9.0 million in 2014, and then declined over the last three years by nearly 0.3 million. In December 2017, 8.7 million disabled workers received SSDI...

Cybersecurity: Critical Infrastructure Authoritative Reports and Resources

Critical infrastructure is defined in the USA PATRIOT Act (P.L. 107-56, §1016(e)) as “systems and assets, physical or virtual, so vital to the United States that the incapacity or destruction of such systems and assets would have a debilitating impact on security, national economic security, national public health and safety, or any combination of those matters.”

Presidential Decision Directive 63, or PDD-63, identified activities whose critical infrastructures should be protected: information and communications; banking and finance; water supply; aviation, highways, mass transit,...

State Sponsors of Acts of International Terrorism—Legislative Parameters: In Brief

Iran, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria are identified by the U.S. government as countries with governments that support acts of international terrorism. While it is the President’s authority to designate, and remove from designation, terrorist states, Congress has some legislative authority to weigh in as the reviews proceed. In recent years, other foreign policy and national security decisions have butted up against the designation: to delist Cuba in the course of normalizing other aspects of the bilateral relationship; to enter into a multilateral agreement involving Iran’s nuclear weapons...

After Prudential, Are There Any Systemically Important Nonbanks?

During the 2008 financial crisis, problems at AIG, Bear Stearns, and Lehman Brothers led to broader financial instability or government “bailouts” in order to prevent instability. At the time, these firms were nonbank financial institutions and not generally subject to effective safety and soundness regulation on a consolidated basis.

The Dodd Frank Act (P.L. 111-203) provided the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) with the authority to designate nonbanks for enhanced prudential oversight by the Federal Reserve as systemically important financial institutions (SIFIs). Since...

Commercial Space: Federal Regulation, Oversight, and Utilization

U.S. companies have always been involved in spaceflight as contractors to government agencies. Increasingly, though, space is becoming commercial. A majority of U.S. satellites are now commercially owned, providing commercial services, and launched by commercial launch providers. Congressional and public interest in space is also becoming more focused on commercial activities, such as companies developing reusable rockets or collecting business data with fleets of small Earth-imaging satellites. This report addresses two distinct but closely related topics: how the federal government...

Architect of the Capitol: Evolution and Implementation of the Appointment Procedure

According to its website, the Architect of the Capitol (AOC) is responsible “for the operations and care of more than 18.4 million square feet of facilities, 570 acres of grounds and thousands of works of art.”

Pursuant to the Legislative Branch Appropriations Act, 1990, the Architect is appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate. Prior to the enactment of this law, the President appointed the Architect for an unlimited term with no formal role for Congress.

The act also established a 10-year term for the Architect as well as a bicameral, bipartisan congressional...

Federal Pell Grant Program of the Higher Education Act: Primer

The federal Pell Grant program, authorized by Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended (HEA; P.L. 89-329), is the single largest source of federal grant aid supporting postsecondary education students. Pell Grants, and their predecessor, Basic Education Opportunity Grants, have been awarded since 1973. The program provided approximately $29 billion in aid to approximately 7.2 million undergraduate students in FY2017. Pell Grants are need-based aid that is intended to be the foundation for all need-based federal student aid awarded to undergraduates.

To be eligible for a...

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

In FY2017, the federal government obligated approximately $500 billion to procure goods and services. Federal procurement statutes and regulations—notably the Competition in Contracting Act of 1984 (CICA) and the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), the government-wide regulation that generally applies to acquisitions by executive branch agencies—establish largely uniform policies and procedures for how federal executive agencies acquire goods and services. The purpose of these standards is to guide the acquisition system “to deliver on a timely basis the best value product or service to...

The Office of the Parliamentarian in the House and Senate

The House and the Senate each has an Office of the Parliamentarian to provide expert advice and assistance on questions relating to the meaning and application of that chamber’s legislative rules, precedents, and practices. The Speaker began naming a parliamentarian in 1927; the Senate first formally recognized its parliamentarian in 1935.

The responsibilities of the two offices are similar. These derive from the need of Representatives and Senators, and their staff, for access to confidential and nonpartisan expertise regarding the intricacies of the legislative process. The...

Brexit at a Pivotal Moment

UK Parliament to Vote on Withdrawal Agreement

Four months away from the United Kingdom’s (UK’s) expected withdrawal from the European Union (EU), discord and uncertainty remain central themes in the analysis of “Brexit.” The efforts of UK and EU negotiators to reconcile a complex set of competing interests and preferences have produced a 585-page draft withdrawal agreement and a 26-page political declaration on the future UK-EU relationship. EU leaders signed off on the deal in late November 2018, leaving a vote by the European Parliament as the final step for approval by the EU before the...

Defense Authorization and Appropriations Bills: FY1961-FY2019

The passage of the Department of Defense (DOD) authorization and appropriations bills through Congress often does not follow the course laid out in textbooks on legislative procedure. Tracking DOD authorization or appropriation bills can be confusing and time-consuming. This has been particularly true in recent years, when continuing resolutions (CRs) containing the DOD and other appropriation bills have been enacted in lieu of the 12 regular appropriations bills for the entire U.S. government.

This report is a research aid that lists the DOD authorization bills (Table 1 and Table 2) and...

Constituent Services: Overview and Resources

Constituent service encompasses a wide array of non-legislative activities undertaken by Members of Congress or congressional staff, and it is commonly considered a representational responsibility. Member offices vary in their priorities, activities, and scope of constituent service, but most offices try to assist with certain requests when possible. Member offices have engaged in constituent service activities since the earliest Congresses. Depending on what the constituent is seeking, requests may be addressed by a Member’s Washington, DC, office, or by a Member’s district or state...

Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) FY2019 Appropriations and Financial Regulatory Reform

Background

On July 19, 2018, the House passed H.R. 6147, which included an FY2019 Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) appropriations bill (originally H.R. 6258) as Division B. The Senate passed a substitute version of H.R. 6147 on August 1, 2018, with the Senate FY2019 FSGG bill (originally S. 3107) as Division B. No full-year FY2019 FSGG bill was enacted prior to the end of FY2018. The FSGG agencies were provided continuing appropriations until December 7, 2018, in Division C of P.L. 115-245.

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

FY2018 and FY2019 Agriculture Appropriations: Federal Food Safety Activities

The Agriculture appropriations bill—formally known as the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act—funds the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), excluding the U.S. Forest Service. Congress enacted the FY2018 agriculture appropriation in March 2018 as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018 (P.L. 115-141, Division A). Both the House and the Senate Appropriations Committees have reported Agriculture appropriations bills for FY2019 (H.R. 5961, S. 2976). The Senate amended and...

Right to Try: Access to Investigational Drugs

The Trickett Wendler, Frank Mongiello, Jordan McLinn, and Matthew Bellina Right to Try (RTT) Act of 2017 became federal law on May 30, 2018. Over the preceding five years, 40 states had enacted related legislation. The goal was to allow individuals with imminently life-threatening diseases or conditions to seek access to investigational drugs without the step of procuring permission from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Another goal—held by the Goldwater Institute, which led the initiative toward state bills, and some of the legislative proponents—was focused more on the process: to...

Revisiting the Doubling Effort: Trends in Federal Funding for Basic Research in the Physical Sciences and Engineering

The adequacy of federal investment in physical sciences and engineering (PS&E) basic research is a long-standing concern of many in industry and academia. This topic received much attention in the early 2000s due to perceived underinvestment in these disciplines. Many Members of Congress, industry leaders, and science and technology policy analysts asserted that the long-term competitive position and national security of the United States depended in large measure on the rapid increases in federal funding for PS&E. PS&E research provides the foundation for materials, products, and...

The Renewable Electricity Production Tax Credit: In Brief

The renewable electricity production tax credit (PTC) is a per-kilowatt-hour (kWh) tax credit for electricity generated using qualified energy resources. For nonwind technologies, the credit expired at the end of 2017, so that only projects that began construction before the end of 2017 qualify for tax credits. After 2016, the PTC for wind remains available, at reduced rates, for wind facilities that begin construction before the end of 2019. Since the PTC is available for the first 10 years of production at a qualified facility, PTCs will continue to be claimed after the PTC’s stated...

Salaries of Members of Congress: Congressional Votes, 1990-2018

Article I, Section 6, of the U.S. Constitution requires that compensation for Members of Congress be “ascertained by law, and paid out of the Treasury of the United States.”

Congress has relied on three different methods in adjusting salaries for Members. Specific legislation was last used to provide increases in 1990 and 1991. It was the only method used by Congress for many years.

The second method, under which annual adjustments took effect automatically unless disapproved by Congress, was established in 1975. From 1975 to 1989, these annual adjustments were based on the rate of annual...

Medicaid Alternative Benefit Plan Coverage: Frequently Asked Questions

Medicaid is a federal-state program that finances the delivery of primary and acute medical services, as well as long-term services and supports, to a diverse low-income population, including children, pregnant women, adults, individuals with disabilities, and people aged 65 and older. Medicaid is financed jointly by the federal government and the states. Federal Medicaid spending is an entitlement, with total expenditures dependent on state policy decisions and use of services by enrollees.

State participation in Medicaid is voluntary, although all states, the District of Columbia, and...

Electing the Speaker of the House of Representatives: Frequently Asked Questions

This report briefly poses and answers several “frequently asked questions” in relation to the floor proceedings used to elect a Speaker of the House. Current practice for electing a Speaker, either at the start of a Congress or in the event of a vacancy (e.g., death or resignation), is by roll-call vote, during which Members state aloud the name of their preferred candidate. Members may vote for any individual. If no candidate receives a majority of votes cast, balloting continues; in subsequent ballots, Members may still vote for any individual.

For a more detailed treatment of these...

Energy Savings Performance Contracts (ESPCs) and Utility Energy Service Contracts (UESCs)

Many in Congress have expressed a continuing interest in improving energy efficiency and increasing the use of renewable energy. To facilitate investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy at federal facilities, Congress established alternative financing methods that utilize private sector resources and capabilities. Two such alternative financing methods are energy savings performance contracts (ESPCs) and utility energy service contracts (UESCs).

ESPCs and UESCs are contracts between a federal agency and another party—an energy service company or a utility, depending upon the...

Election Policy on the November 2018 Ballot

On November 6, voters in some states did not just vote on the policymakers who will represent them. They also made policy themselves, by approving or rejecting ballot measures.

Some of the measures on state ballots included provisions that would affect the conduct of federal elections. Most of those measures succeeded. Thirteen state measures with implications for federal elections were on the ballot in 10 states, and 12 were approved.

What Are Ballot Measures?

Ballot measures are policy questions that are decided by popular vote. Local measures are voted on by residents of a locality,...

Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) Program: Background and Funding

The federal Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program supports home visiting services for families with young children who reside in communities that have concentrations of poor child health and other indicators of risk. Home visits are conducted by nurses, mental health clinicians, social workers, or paraprofessionals with specialized training. Generally, they visit the homes of eligible families on a regular basis (e.g., weekly or monthly) over an extended period (e.g., six months or longer) to provide support to caregivers and children, such as guidance on...

Thanksgiving: Fact Sheet

Thanksgiving is a federal holiday observed on the fourth Thursday in November. It began in 1621 as a harvest celebration between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians and has become a time for families and friends to gather to reflect and express gratitude.

In 1789, President George Washington declared November 26 a national day of Thanksgiving. Subsequent Presidents issued Thanksgiving proclamations, but the dates of the commemoration changed. In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation establishing the last Thursday of November as Thanksgiving.

In October 1941, Congress...

The Palestinians: Background and U.S. Relations

The Palestinians are an Arab people whose origins are in present-day Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. Congress pays close attention—through legislation and oversight—to the Palestinians’ ongoing conflict with Israel.

The current structure of Palestinian governing entities dates to 1994. In that year, Israel agreed with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to permit a Palestinian Authority (PA) to exercise limited rule over Gaza and specified areas of the West Bank, subject to overarching Israeli military administration that dates back to the 1967 Arab-Israeli War.

After...

Military Medical Care: Mitigating Impacts From Medical Unit Deployments

Contingency and peacetime missions consistently require temporary reassignment of military medical personnel from military treatment facilities (MTF) to a deployable medical unit. In certain instances, MTF services may be limited in times of war, operations other than war, natural disasters, or other contingencies. This restriction is not uncommon. Notwithstanding these circumstances, the Department of Defense (DOD) is required to provide statutory health benefits to its eligible beneficiaries by mitigating fluctuations in MTF services. Chapter 55 of Title 10, U.S. Code, specifies health...

The Defense Production Act of 1950: History, Authorities, and Considerations for Congress

The Defense Production Act (DPA) of 1950 (P.L. 81-774, 50 U.S.C. §§4501 et seq.), as amended, confers upon the President a broad set of authorities to influence domestic industry in the interest of national defense. The authorities can be used across the federal government to shape the domestic industrial base so that, when called upon, it is capable of providing essential materials and goods needed for the national defense.

Though initially passed in response to the Korean War, the DPA is historically based on the War Powers Acts of World War II. Gradually, Congress has expanded the term...

U.S. Ground Forces Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS) and Artificial Intelligence (AI): Considerations for Congress

The nexus of robotics and autonomous systems (RAS) and artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to change the nature of warfare. RAS offers the possibility of a wide range of platforms—not just weapon systems—that can perform “dull, dangerous, and dirty” tasks—potentially reducing the risks to soldiers and Marines and possibly resulting in a generation of less expensive ground systems. Other nations, notably peer competitors Russia and China, are aggressively pursuing RAS and AI for a variety of military uses, raising considerations about the U.S. military’s response—to include...

Federal Student Loan Forgiveness and Loan Repayment Programs

Student loan forgiveness and loan repayment programs provide borrowers a means of having all or part of their student loan debt forgiven or repaid in exchange for work or service in specific fields or professions or following a prolonged period during which their student loan debt burden is high relative to their income. In both loan forgiveness and loan repayment programs, borrowers typically qualify for benefits by working or serving in certain capacities for a specified period or by satisfying other program requirements over an extended term. Upon qualifying for benefits, some or all of...

Cybersecurity: Data, Statistics, and Glossaries

This report describes data and statistics from government, industry, and information technology (IT) security firms regarding the current state of cybersecurity threats in the United States and internationally. These include incident estimates, costs, and annual reports on data security breaches, identity thefts, cybercrimes, malware, and network securities.

Much is written on this topic, and this CRS report directs the reader to authoritative sources that address many of the most prominent issues. The annotated descriptions of these sources are listed in reverse chronological order, with...

California Wildfires: Brief Overview of FEMA Programs and Resources

Introduction

This Insight provides a brief overview of the major disaster declaration issued for the ongoing wildfires in California. It also provides links to selected CRS products related to the disaster.

As authorized under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, President Trump issued a major disaster declaration on November 12, 2018. The major disaster declaration allows for the broadest range of assistance to be made available to state and local governments; private, nonprofit organizations; and individuals. The major disaster declaration also...

FY2017 State Grants Under Title I-A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA; P.L. 114-95), is the primary source of federal aid to K-12 education. The Title I-A program is the largest grant program authorized under the ESEA. It is designed to provide supplementary educational and related services to low-achieving and other students attending elementary and secondary schools with relatively high concentrations of students from low-income families. Title I-A was funded at $15.5 billion for FY2017.

Under current law, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) determines...

Social Security: Cost-of-Living Adjustments

To compensate for the effects of inflation, Social Security recipients usually receive an annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA). According to parameters outlined in the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 415(i)), a 2.8% COLA is payable in January 2019. For a retired worker receiving the average monthly benefit amount of $1,422, the COLA will result in a $39 increase in Social Security benefits (after final rounding down to the nearest dollar for a total of $1,461).

Social Security COLAs are based on changes in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W),...

Unemployment Insurance: Legislative Issues in the 115th Congress

The 115th Congress continues to consider many issues related to the two major components of the unemployment insurance (UI) system: Unemployment Compensation (UC) and Extended Benefits (EB). This report begins with a brief overview of the UI programs that may provide benefits to eligible unemployed workers. It provides information on legislation enacted in the 115th Congress related to UI programs. In addition, this report includes short summaries of legislative proposals introduced in the 115th Congress as a well as UI proposals included in the President’s budget for FY2019.

President...

Recent Legislative and Regulatory Developments in States’ Ability to Drug Test Unemployment Compensation Applicants and Beneficiaries

Federal law permits states to restrict an individual’s Unemployment Compensation (UC) benefit eligibility for certain circumstances related to the “fact or cause” of unemployment; this includes situations in which an individual was fired for drug use or refusing to take a drug test. Most states have specific disqualifications for drug-related job loss (see Table 5-8 in the hyperlink), including reporting to work under the influence of drugs/alcohol; violating the employer’s drug policy, including refusing to undergo drug or alcohol testing; or having tested positive for drugs or alcohol...

The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP): Background and Funding

The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) is a federal food distribution program that supports food banks, food pantries, soup kitchens, and other emergency feeding organizations serving low-income Americans. Federal assistance takes the form of federally purchased commodities—including fruits, vegetables, meats, and grains—and funding for administrative costs. Food aid and funds are distributed to states using a statutory formula that takes into account poverty and unemployment rates. TEFAP is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service...

Cuba: U.S. Restrictions on Travel and Remittances

Restrictions on travel and remittances to Cuba have constituted a key and often contentious component in U.S. efforts to isolate Cuba’s communist government since the early 1960s. Such restrictions are part of the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR), the overall embargo regulations administered by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). Various Administrations have eased and tightened the restrictions over the years as U.S. policy toward Cuba has changed.

The Obama Administration lifted all restrictions on family travel and remittances in 2009. In 2011, the...

Brazil’s Presidential Election

Brazil—the fifth most populous country and ninth-largest economy in the world—held presidential, legislative, and state elections in October 2018. Antiestablishment sentiment carried the day, as voters elected Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right populist, to the presidency and replaced nearly half of congress. The results could have significant implications for Brazil’s domestic policies as well as its relationship with the United States.

Domestic Context

The 2018 election took place as Brazil was struggling to emerge from a series of domestic crises. The country fell into a deep recession in...

Teacher Preparation Policies and Issues in the Higher Education Act

Approximately 26,000 state-approved teacher preparation programs are in operation across the United States. Among these, about 70% are traditional teacher preparation programs—that is, they are contained within schools of education at institutions of higher education (IHEs). Of the remaining, alternative routes to teacher preparation, about two-thirds are based at an IHE and about one-third are operated independent of an IHE.

The Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA, P.L. 89-329, as amended), includes financial support and accountability provisions intended to improve the quality of teacher...

Serbia: Background and U.S. Relations

Following the conflicts in the 1990s in the countries of the former Yugoslavia, the prospect of membership in the Euro-Atlantic community and the active presence of the United States and European Union (EU) in the Western Balkans provided a level of stability that allowed most of the countries of the region to adopt economic and political reforms. During this time, Slovenia and Croatia joined the EU. These countries, along with Albania and Montenegro, also joined NATO. Other countries of the Balkans are pursuing EU and NATO membership.

However, many observers in Europe and the United...

Nuclear Energy: Overview of Congressional Issues

The policy debate over the role of nuclear power in the nation’s energy mix is rooted in the technology’s fundamental characteristics. Nuclear reactors can produce potentially vast amounts of useful energy with relatively low consumption of natural resources and emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants. However, facilities that produce nuclear fuel for civilian power reactors can also produce materials for nuclear weapons. In addition, the process of nuclear fission (splitting of atomic nuclei) to generate power produces radioactive material that can remain hazardous for...

Introduction to the Legislative Process in the U.S. Congress

This report introduces the main steps through which a bill (or other item of business) may travel in the legislative process—from introduction to committee and floor consideration to possible presidential consideration. However, the process by which a bill can become law is rarely predictable and can vary significantly from bill to bill. In fact, for many bills, the process will not follow the sequence of congressional stages that are often understood to make up the legislative process. This report presents a look at each of the common stages through which a bill may move, but...

Senate Rules Affecting Committees

The Senate imposes some general procedural requirements and prohibitions on its committees, but, in general, the Senate’s rules allow each of its standing committees to decide how to conduct business. Most of the chamber’s requirements for committees are found in Senate Rule XXVI. Because the committees are agents of the Senate, they are obligated to comply with all Senate directives that apply to them.

This report identifies and summarizes the provisions of the Senate’s standing rules, standing orders, precedents, and other directives that relate to legislative activity in the Senate’s...

The SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act (P.L. 115-271): Food and Drug Administration and Controlled Substance Provisions

On October 24, 2018, President Trump signed into law H.R. 6, the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment for Patients and Communities Act (P.L. 115-271; the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, or the SUPPORT Act).

The SUPPORT Act is a sweeping measure designed to address widespread overprescribing and abuse of opioids in the United States. The act includes provisions involving law enforcement, public health, and health care financing and coverage. Broadly, the legislation imposes tighter oversight of opioid production and distribution; imposes...

Types of Committee Hearings

Congressional committee hearings may be broadly classified into four types: legislative, oversight, investigative, and confirmation. Hearings may be held on Capitol Hill or elsewhere (e.g., a committee member’s district or state, or a site related to the subject of the hearing). These latter hearings are often referred to as field hearings.

Points of Order, Rulings, and Appeals in the Senate

The Senate’s presiding officer typically does not have responsibility for proactively ensuring that matters under consideration comply with the rules. Instead, Senators may enforce the Senate’s legislative rules and precedents by making points of order whenever they believe that one of those rules or precedents is, or is about to be, violated. Under some circumstances, a ruling by the presiding officer determines whether or not the point of order is well taken. Under others, the Senate itself decides the point of order, usually by majority vote.

Senate Rule XX states in part that “[a]...

Supersonic Passenger Flights

It has been over 40 years since British Airways’ first Concorde passenger flight took off in 1976. So far the Concorde is the only commercial supersonic passenger aircraft to travel at more than twice the speed of sound. It was a technological accomplishment but not a commercial success. In 2003, all Concorde aircraft were taken out of service.

Recent years have seen a revival of interest in supersonic aircraft. Several startup companies are developing new supersonic commercial and business jets, hoping technological advances in materials, design, and engine efficiency will make it...

Older Americans Act: Overview and Funding

The Older Americans Act (OAA) is the major federal vehicle for the delivery of social and nutrition services for older persons. These include supportive services, congregate nutrition services (meals served at group sites such as senior centers, schools, churches, or senior housing complexes), home-delivered nutrition services, family caregiver support, community service employment, the long-term care ombudsman program, and services to prevent the abuse, neglect, and exploitation of older persons. The OAA also supports grants to older Native Americans as well as research, training, and...

Acute Flaccid Myelitis: How CDC Assists States in Investigating Emerging Diseases

Concern has grown over the recent increase in Acute Flaccid Myelitis (AFM) cases around the country. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), AFM is a rare condition with no specific treatment that mostly impacts children. AFM affects a person’s nervous system, particularly the gray matter of the spinal cord, causing weakness in the arms and legs along with other symptoms. Media reports often refer to AFM as a “polio-like condition” because its symptoms mirror those associated with poliovirus infection. To date, all AFM cases have tested negative for poliovirus,...

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency: Overview and Issues for Congress

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), established in 1958, is an agency within the Department of Defense (DOD) responsible for catalyzing the development of technologies that maintain and advance the capabilities and technical superiority of the U.S. military.

DARPA-funded research has made important science and technology contributions that have led to the development of both military and commercial technologies, such as precision guided missiles, stealth, the internet, and personal electronics. DARPA has a culture of risk-taking and tolerance for failure that has led...

U.S. Restrictions on Relations with Burma

Major changes in Burma’s political situation since 2016 have raised questions among some Members of Congress concerning the appropriateness of U.S. policy in Burma in general, and the current restrictions on relations with Burma (Myanmar) in particular. During the 115th Congress, two bills were introduced—the Burma Unified through Rigorous Military Accountability Act of 2018 (H.R. 5819; the BURMA Act of 2018) and the Burma Human Rights and Freedom Act of 2018 (S. 2060)—that would reformulate U.S. policy and the restrictions on bilateral relations.

In November 2015, Burma held nationwide...

Eight Mechanisms to Enact Procedural Change in the U.S. Senate

In the past year, individuals both inside and outside of Congress have called for an examination of the U.S. Senate’s procedural rules with an eye toward changing them. This Insight highlights eight parliamentary mechanisms that might be used to implement procedural change in the Senate and links to additional reading material on the subject.

The work of the U.S. Senate is regulated not just by its 44 standing rules but by multiple, sometimes overlapping, procedural authorities. At any given time, unanimous consent agreements, standing orders, statute, precedent, and provisions of the U.S....

Legislative Branch: FY2019 Appropriations

The legislative branch appropriations bill provides funding for the Senate; House of Representatives; Joint Items; Capitol Police; Office of Compliance; Congressional Budget Office (CBO); Architect of the Capitol (AOC); Library of Congress (LOC), including the Congressional Research Service (CRS); Government Publishing Office (GPO); Government Accountability Office (GAO); Open World Leadership Center; and the John C. Stennis Center.

The FY2019 legislative branch budget request of $4.960 billion was submitted on February 12, 2018. The budget request levels were developed prior to the...

Lame Duck Sessions of Congress Following a Majority-Changing Election: In Brief

“Lame duck” sessions of Congress take place whenever one Congress meets after its successor is elected but before the term of the current Congress ends. Their primary purpose is to complete action on legislation. They have also been used to prevent recess appointments and pocket vetoes, to consider motions of censure or impeachment, to keep Congress assembled on a standby basis, or to approve nominations (Senate only). In recent years, most lame duck sessions have focused on program authorizations, trade-related measures, appropriations, and the budget.

From 1940 to 2016, there were 21...

Presidential Proclamation on Unlawful Border Crossers and Asylum

On November 9, 2018, President Donald Trump issued a presidential proclamation to immediately suspend the entry of foreign nationals (aliens) who cross into the United States at the U.S.-Mexico border without inspection. The pronouncement further references that those who enter in contravention of the suspension will be ineligible for asylum under an interim final rule issued jointly by the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice on that same date. The proclamation and the rule are being challenged in federal court.

In the words of the proclamation, its issuance was prompted by the...

The Trump Administration Directives on Western Water

On October 19, 2018, the Trump Administration released a Presidential Memorandum directing federal agencies to address regulations that burden federal water projects in California and complete biological opinions under the Endangered Species Act (ESA; 16 U.S.C. §§1531 et seq.) for specific federal water projects in the western United States. Affected projects include the California Central Valley Project (CVP), the Klamath Irrigation Project in Oregon, and the Columbia River Basin water system in the Pacific Northwest. The White House memorandum does not carry the force of law nor is it a...

Senate Committee Funding: Description of Process and Analysis of Disbursements

Funding for Senate committees (except for the Committee on Appropriations and the Select Committee on Ethics) follows a two-step process of authorization and appropriation. Operating budgets for all standing and select committees of the Senate (except for the Committee on Appropriations and the Select Committee on Ethics) are authorized pursuant to a simple resolution, and funding is typically provided in the annual Legislative Branch Appropriations Act and other appropriations bills.

On February 28, 2017, the Senate agreed by unanimous consent to S.Res. 62, which authorized a total of...

House Committee Funding: Description of Process and Analysis of Disbursements

Funding for House committees (except for the Committee on Appropriations) follows a two-step process of authorization and appropriation. Operating budgets for all standing and select committees of the House (except for the Committee on Appropriations) are authorized pursuant to a simple resolution, and funding is provided in the Legislative Branch Appropriations bill and other appropriations acts. Subsequent resolutions may change committee authorizations.

On March 17, 2017, the House adopted H.Res. 173, providing for the expenses of certain committees of the House of Representatives in...

The Global Research and Development Landscape and Implications for the Department of Defense

For more than 70 years, the technological superiority of the United States military has offset the size and geographic advantages of potential adversaries. The Department of Defense (DOD), due in large part to the magnitude of its investments in research and development (R&D), has driven the global R&D and technology landscape. However, DOD and the federal government more broadly are no longer overriding funders of R&D, and this shift in support for R&D has substantial implications for how DOD obtains advanced technology and maintains the battlefield overmatch that technology has...

Impact Aid, Title VII of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act: A Primer

The Impact Aid program, administered by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and authorized by Title VII of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), was originally established in 1950 by P.L. 81-815 and P.L. 81-874, 15 years prior to the enactment of the ESEA. Impact Aid compensates local educational agencies (LEAs) for a “substantial and continuing financial burden” resulting from federal activities. These activities include federal ownership of certain lands, as well as the enrollments in LEAs of children whose parents work or live on federal property and children living on...

Marijuana Legalization in Canada: Implications for U.S. Policy and International Drug Control

On October 17, 2018, Canada became the second country—after Uruguay in 2013—to legalize and regulate the production, distribution, and possession of marijuana for recreational purposes. The measure comes at a time when other countries are questioning their drug policies and U.S. states are forging policy paths that diverge from federal law. These developments have spurred questions from Congress regarding their potential implications for U.S. domestic and international drug policy.

Canada’s Cannabis Act

Canada’s Cannabis Act allows individuals 18 years of age or older to purchase...

Poverty in the United States in 2017: In Brief

In 2017, approximately 39.7 million people, or 12.3% of the population, had incomes below the official definition of poverty in the United States. Poverty statistics provide a measure of economic hardship. The official definition of poverty for the United States uses dollar amounts called poverty thresholds that vary by family size and the members’ ages. Families with incomes below their respective thresholds are considered to be in poverty. The poverty rate (the percentage that was in poverty) fell from 12.7% in 2016. This was the third consecutive year since the most recent recession...

Juvenile Delinquents and Federal Criminal Law: The Federal Juvenile Delinquency Act and Related Matters

Federal authorities have three options when a juvenile violates federal criminal law. First, they can refer the juvenile to state authorities. Second, they can initiate federal delinquency proceedings. Third, they can petition the federal court to transfer the juvenile for trial as an adult. The Federal Juvenile Delinquency Act generally favors referring juveniles to state authorities, but it permits federal delinquency proceedings where state courts cannot or will not accept jurisdiction. Because a majority of the federal juvenile delinquency cases have historically arisen in areas beyond...

The Posse Comitatus Act and Related Matters: A Sketch

The Posse Comitatus Act states that “Whoever, except in cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress, willfully uses any part of the Army or the Air Force as a posse comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.” 18 U.S.C. § 1385. It reflects an American tradition that bridles at military involvement in civilian affairs. Congress, however, has approved a number of instances where extraordinary circumstances warrant a departure from the general rule, particularly in...

Robbery, Extortion, and Bribery in One Place: A Legal Overview of the Hobbs Act

The Hobbs Act proscribes obstructing commerce by means of robbery or extortion or attempting or conspiring to do so. The Act applies to individuals and legal entities alike. It permits prosecutions, although the impact on commerce may be minimal. It condemns the robbery—knowingly taking the property of another by force or threat—of drug dealers, mom-and-pop markets, and multinational corporations.

Attempted Hobbs Act robbery consists of an intent to rob, coupled with a substantial step toward that objective; conspiracy, a scheme of two or more to rob or extort; and accomplice liability,...

The Posse Comitatus Act and Related Matters: The Use of the Military to Execute Civilian Law

The Constitution permits Congress to authorize the use of the militia “to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions.” And it guarantees the states protection against invasion or usurpation of their “republican form of government,” and, upon the request of the state legislature, against “domestic violence.” These constitutional provisions are reflected in the Insurrection Acts, which have been invoked numerous times both before and after passage of the Posse Comitatus Act, 18 U.S.C. Section 1385, in 1878. Congress has also enacted a number of statutes that...

Methane and Other Air Pollution Issues in Natural Gas Systems

Natural Gas Systems and Air Pollution

Congressional interest in U.S. energy policy has often focused on ways through which the United States could secure more economical, reliable, and cleaner fossil fuel resources both domestically and internationally. Recent expansion in natural gas production, primarily as a result of new or improved technologies (e.g., hydraulic fracturing, directional drilling) used on unconventional resources (e.g., shale, tight sands, and coalbed methane) has made natural gas an increasingly significant component in the U.S. energy supply. This expansion, however,...

Presidential Disability Under the Twenty-Fifth Amendment: Constitutional Provisions and Perspectives for Congress

Sections 3 and 4 of the Twenty-Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provide for presidential disability or inability.

Section 3 of the amendment sets the procedure whereby a President may declare himself or herself “unable to discharge the powers and duties” of the office by transmitting a written declaration to this effect to the President pro tempore of the Senate (President pro tem) and the Speaker of the House of Representatives (Speaker). For the duration of the disability, the Vice President discharges the President’s powers and duties as Acting President. When the President...

Guide to Individuals Seated on the Senate Dais

The Senate meets in the Senate chamber of the Capitol. Seated at the head of the chamber on the top of a two-tiered dais is the presiding officer. Members are assigned to the 100 desks that are arranged in a semicircle facing the presiding officer. The center aisle in the Senate chamber divides the political parties. Facing the presiding officer, Republicans sit to the right of the center aisle, Democrats to the left. Senior Members usually sit the closest to the dais and along the center aisle, although some choose other desks. The party floor leaders occupy the front aisle desks, which...

Party Leaders in the House: Election, Duties, and Responsibilities

Each major party in the House has a leadership hierarchy. This report summarizes the election, duties, and responsibilities of the Speaker of the House, the majority and minority leaders, and the whips and whip system. For a listing of all past occupants of congressional party leadership positions, see CRS Report RL30567, Party Leaders in the United States Congress, 1789-2017, by Valerie Heitshusen.

21st Century U.S. Energy Sources: A Primer

Since the start of the 21st century, the U.S. energy system has seen tremendous changes. Technological advances in energy production have driven changes in energy consumption, and the United States has moved from being a growing net importer of most forms of energy to a declining importer—and possibly a net exporter in the near future. The United States remains the second largest producer and consumer of energy in the world, behind China.

The U.S. oil and natural gas industry has gone through a “renaissance” of production. Technological improvements in hydraulic fracturing and horizontal...

Guide to Individuals Seated on the House Dais

The House of Representatives meets in the House chamber of the Capitol. In the front of the chamber is a three-tiered, elevated dais. Seated or standing at a sizable lectern (the height of which is adjustable) on the top level of the dais is the presiding officer. Members of the House sit in bench-style unassigned seats arranged in a semicircle facing the presiding officer. Facing the dais, Republicans traditionally sit to the right of the center aisle, Democrats to the left.

Hurricane Michael: Brief Overview of FEMA Programs and Resources

Introduction

This Insight provides a brief overview of emergency and major disaster declarations relevant to Hurricane Michael, and selected federal resources and links to CRS products related to Stafford Act declarations, disaster response, and recovery.

Hurricane Michael made landfall on the panhandle of Florida as a category 4 on October 10, 2018 and affected parts of Georgia. In anticipation of the landfall, President Trump issued an emergency declaration to Florida on October 7, 2018. On October 11, 2018, the President issued an emergency declaration to Georgia, and issued a major...

National and International Educational Assessments: Overview, Results, and Issues

U.S. students participate in many assessments to track their educational achievement. Perhaps the most widely discussed of these are statewide assessments required by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which was most recently comprehensively amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA; P.L. 114-95). However, U.S. students also participate in large-scale national assessments, authorized by the National Assessment of Educational Progress Assessment Act (NAEPAA; Title III, Section 303 of P.L. 107-279), and international assessments, authorized by the Education Sciences...

EPA’s Affordable Clean Energy Proposal

In August 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed three actions in the “Affordable Clean Energy Rule” (ACE). First, EPA proposed to replace the Obama Administration’s 2015 Clean Power Plan (CPP) with revised emission guidelines for existing fossil fuel steam electric generating units (EGUs), which are largely coal-fired units. Second, EPA proposed revised regulations to implement emission guidelines under Clean Air Act (CAA) Section 111(d). Third, EPA proposed to modify an applicability determination for New Source Review (NSR), a CAA preconstruction permitting...

Juvenile Delinquents and Federal Criminal Law: The Federal Juvenile Delinquency Act and Related Matters in Short

Federal authorities have three options when a juvenile violates federal criminal law. First, they can refer the juvenile to state authorities. Second, they can initiate federal delinquency proceedings. Third, they can petition the federal court to transfer the juvenile for trial as an adult. The Federal Juvenile Delinquency Act general favors referring juveniles to state authorities, but it permits federal delinquency proceedings where state courts cannot or will not accept jurisdiction. Because a majority of the federal juvenile delinquency cases have historically arisen in areas...

Internships, Fellowships, and Other Work Experience Opportunities in the Federal Government

While there are many opportunities in the federal government for internships, fellowships, and other work experience, there is no comprehensive source to assist in locating these opportunities. This report describes internet resources for prominent and popular opportunities for internship, fellowship, and work experience programs within the federal government. The report is intended as a selective guide for students of all levels: high school, undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate. It provides information on legislative, executive, and judicial branch opportunities and links to several...

VA Maintaining Internal Systems and Strengthening Integrated Outside Networks Act of 2018 (VA MISSION Act; P.L.115-182)

On June 6, 2018, the John S. McCain III, Daniel K. Akaka, and Samuel R. Johnson VA Maintaining Internal Systems and Strengthening Integrated Outside Networks Act of 2018, or the VA MISSION Act of 2018 (S. 2372; P.L. 115-182; H.Rept. 115-671), was signed into law. The Department of Veterans Affairs Expiring Authorities Act of 2018 (S. 3479; P.L. 115-251), enacted on September 29, 2018, made some changes and technical amendments to the VA MISSION Act. This act, as amended, broadly addresses four major areas.

First, it establishes a new permanent Veterans Community Care Program (VCCP),...

Military Lending Act: Rules, Enforcement, and Servicemember Financial Stability

The Military Lending Act (MLA, 10 U.S.C. §987) regulates commercial lending practices and products offered to military servicemembers and their dependents. The Department of Defense (DOD) implements the provisions of this act and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) oversees and enforces consumer protection laws and regulations. Some have argued that Military Lending Act rules place undue regulatory burdens on businesses that provide credit products. Others have argued that these rules provide important servicemember protections from abusive financial practices and, in turn,...

What Is the Effect of Enacting a Congressional Review Act Resolution of Disapproval?

The Congressional Review Act (CRA) provides Congress with a set of special parliamentary procedures to consider legislation to overturn federal regulations. Thus far, the 115th Congress has disapproved a total of 16 regulations that had been issued by the Obama Administration, leading to questions about the effects of enactment of a CRA disapproval resolution.

Enactment of a CRA joint resolution of disapproval has two primary effects—one immediate and one more long-term. The immediate effect is that a rule subject to a disapproval resolution may not go into effect, or, if the rule has...

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program: Selected Issues

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program provides Direct Loan borrowers who, on or after October 1, 2007, are employed full-time in certain public service jobs for 10 years while making 120 separate qualifying monthly payments on their Direct Loans with the opportunity to have any remaining balance of principal and interest on their loans forgiven. The program was enacted under the College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007 (P.L. 110-84) to encourage individuals to enter into and remain employed in public service and to alleviate the potential financial burdens associated with...

Natural Gas Liquids: The Unknown Hydrocarbons

The U.S. oil and natural gas industries have gone through a “renaissance” of production. Technological improvements in hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling have unlocked enormous oil and natural gas resources from tight formations, such as shale. In conjunction with the rise in oil and natural gas production, U.S. production of natural gas liquids has also increased.

Natural gas liquids (NGLs) are a group of hydrocarbons that includes ethane, propane, butane, isobutane, and natural gasoline. NGLs are differentiated from one another by the number of carbon atoms in their molecular...

Morocco: Background and U.S. Relations

Morocco is a constitutional monarchy with an elected parliament and local government entities. King Mohammed VI, who inherited the throne in 1999, maintains overarching political authority but has taken some liberalizing steps. In 2011, amid domestic and regional protests, the king introduced a new constitution providing more power to elected officials and expanding individual rights. The monarch nonetheless remains the arbiter of national political decision-making, the head of the military, and—as “Commander of the Faithful”—the country’s highest religious authority. The king’s seizure of...

Federal Traffic Safety Programs: In Brief

In 2017 over 37,000 people died in motor vehicle crashes, and over 3 million were injured. The estimated cost of motor vehicle crashes is over $800 billion annually. The number of deaths and the fatality rate declined from 2007-2014, but have risen since then. The federal government promotes highway safety in several ways. Opportunities exist for federal initiatives that would improve highway safety.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, FMCSA, NHTSA, motorcoach, highway safety, traffic safety, seat belts, motorcycles, helmets, vehicle...

North Korea Diplomacy: October 2018 Status Report

Summary of Developments During 2018

Since North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in early 2018 dropped the belligerent posture that Pyongyang had displayed the past several years and embarked on a “charm offensive,” he has held three summits with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, three with Chinese President Xi Jinping, and one with President Donald Trump, in Singapore in June 2018. The United States and North Korea are considering a second Trump-Kim summit in the coming months.

To date, these summits and other events have produced the following results:

North Korea’s Nuclear and Missile...

Tax Provisions That Expired in 2017 (“Tax Extenders”)

Twenty-eight temporary tax provisions expired at the end of 2017. Collectively, temporary tax provisions that are regularly extended as a group by Congress, rather than being allowed to expire as scheduled, are often referred to as “tax extenders.”

Temporary tax provisions were most recently extended in the Bipartisan Budget Act o