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Implementing EPA’s 2015 Ozone Air Quality Standards

Implementation of revised ozone standards by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is now moving forward, after the agency designated 52 areas with just over 200 counties or partial counties and two tribal areas as “nonattainment” for the standards. The standards—formally known as National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ground-level ozone—are standards for outdoor (ambient) air. In 2015, EPA tightened both the primary (health-based) and secondary (welfare-based) standards from 75 parts per billion (ppb) to 70 ppb after concluding that protecting public health and...

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...

Strange Occurrences Highlight Insider Threat to Aviation Security

On the evening of August 10, 2018, an airline ramp worker stole a 76-seat turboprop from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, crashing it on a remote wooded island in an apparent suicide. Days later, on August 13, 2018, a corporate pilot released on bail following a domestic violence arrest hours earlier stole a business jet and crashed it into his Utah home. In another incident in Utah in July 2012, a SkyWest Airlines pilot sought by authorities regarding the stabbing death of his girlfriend stole a regional jet from the St. George Municipal Airport and crashed it through an airport...

Supreme Court Appointment Process: Consideration by the Senate Judiciary Committee

The appointment of a Supreme Court Justice is an event of major significance in American politics. Each appointment is of consequence because of the enormous judicial power the Supreme Court exercises as the highest appellate court in the federal judiciary. To receive appointment to the Court, a candidate must first be nominated by the President and then confirmed by the Senate. Although not mentioned in the Constitution, an important role is played midway in the process (after the President selects, but before the Senate considers) by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Specifically, the...

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

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

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

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

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

Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Benefit

The Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003 (MMA; P.L. 108-173) established a voluntary, outpatient prescription drug benefit under Medicare Part D, effective January 1, 2006. Medicare Part D provides coverage through private prescription drug plans (PDPs) that offer only drug coverage, or through Medicare Advantage (MA) prescription drug plans (MA-PDs) that offer coverage as part of broader, managed care plans. Private drug plans participating in Part D bear some financial risk, although federal subsidies cover most program costs in an effort to encourage...

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

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

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC): An Economic Analysis

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a refundable tax credit available to eligible workers earning relatively low wages. The EITC, enacted more than 40 years ago, has evolved from a relatively modest tax benefit to a significant antipoverty program. This report reviews economic research on the EITC. Understanding the economic impact of the credit, as well as its limitations and potential drawbacks, may inform future legislative discussions of the EITC and other refundable tax credits.

When initially enacted in the 1970s, there were two major purposes of the EITC. First, the credit was...

Kosovo: Background and U.S. Relations

Following the conflicts in the late 1990s in the countries of the former Yugoslavia (Serbia, Kosovo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro, Croatia, and Slovenia), the prospect of membership in the Euro-Atlantic community, and the active presence of the United States in the region referred to as the Western Balkans, provided a level of stability that allowed most of the countries of the region to pursue reform and adopt Western values. During this time, Slovenia (2004) and Croatia (2013) joined the European Union (EU). These countries, along with Albania (2009), also joined the North...

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...

Glider Kit, Engine, and Vehicle Regulations

On October 25, 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration jointly published the second phase of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and fuel efficiency standards for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles and engines. The Phase 2 rule affects commercial long-haul tractor-trailers, vocational vehicles, and heavy-duty pickup trucks and vans. It phases in between model years 2018 and 2027.

Under the rulemaking, EPA proposed a number of changes and clarifications for standards respecting “glider kits” and “glider vehicles.” A glider kit is...

Military Child Development Program: Background and Issues

The Department of Defense (DOD) operates the largest employer-sponsored childcare program in the United States, serving approximately 200,000 children of uniformed servicemembers and DOD civilians, and employing over 23,000 childcare workers, at an annual cost of over $800 million. DOD’s child development program (CDP) includes a combination of accredited, installation-based, government-run, full-time pre-school and school-aged care in Child Development Centers (CDCs) and subsidized care in Family Care Centers (FCCs) or through private providers under the Fee Assistance program.

Childcare...

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...

The Manufacturing Extension Partnership Program

The Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) program is a national network of centers established by the Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act (P.L. 100-418). MEP centers provide custom services to small and medium-sized manufacturers (SMMs) to improve production processes, upgrade technological capabilities, and facilitate product innovation. Operating under the auspices of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the MEP system includes centers in all 50 states and Puerto Rico.

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

Data on Multiemployer Defined Benefit (DB) Pension Plans

Multiemployer defined benefit (DB) pension plans are pensions sponsored by more than one employer and maintained as part of a collective bargaining agreement. With DB pensions, participants receive a monthly benefit in retirement that is based on a formula. With multiemployer DB pensions, the formula typically multiplies a dollar amount by the number of years of service the employee has worked for employers that participate in the DB plan.

Some DB pension plans have sufficient resources from which to pay their promised benefits. But, as a result of a variety of factors—such as changes in...

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...

Congress’s Power over Courts: Jurisdiction Stripping and the Rule of Klein

Article III of the Constitution establishes the judicial branch of the federal government. Notably, it empowers federal courts to hear “cases” and “controversies.” The Constitution further creates a federal judiciary with significant independence, providing federal judges with life tenure and prohibiting diminutions of judges’ salaries. But the Framers also granted Congress the power to regulate the federal courts in numerous ways. For instance, Article III authorizes Congress to determine what classes of “cases” and “controversies” inferior courts have jurisdiction to review....

Proposed U.S.-EU Trade Negotiations: Hitting Pause on a Trade War?

On July 25, 2018, the United States and European Union (EU) announced a “new phase” in their relationship for “freer, fairer, and more reciprocal trade.” They agreed to launch negotiations to eliminate tariffs, nontariff barriers, and subsidies on “non-auto industrial goods,” as well as to boost trade specifically in services, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, medical products, and U.S. soybeans. Amid a potential tit-for-tat escalation of tariffs, the two sides agreed not to impose further tariffs on each other’s traded products while negotiations are active and to examine current U.S. steel and...

Comparing DHS Component Funding, FY2019: In Brief

Generally, the homeland security appropriations bill includes all annual appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), providing resources to every departmental component. The Table 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, broken down by component—from largest to smallest FY2018 appropriation.

(TO BE SUPPRESSED) Department of Homeland Security DHS budget Appropriations FY2018, FY2019 funding analysis components

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

Difficulty with striking an appropriate balance between national security and export competitiveness has made the subject of export controls controversial for decades. Through the Arms Export Control Act (AECA), the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), and other authorities, the United States restricts the export of defense 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 deliver them. U.S. export controls are also...

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...

Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) in the United States

Carbon capture and sequestration (or storage)—known as CCS—is a process that involves capturing man-made carbon dioxide (CO2) at its source and storing it permanently underground. (CCS is sometimes referred to as CCUS—carbon capture, utilization, and storage.) CCS could reduce the amount of CO2—an important greenhouse gas—emitted to the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels at power plants and other large industrial facilities. The concept of carbon utilization has gained interest within Congress and in the private sector as a means for capturing CO2 and converting it into...

Iran’s Nuclear Program: Status

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

The United States has assessed that Tehran possesses the technological and industrial...

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 includes $41.86 billion for the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs (SFOPS). Of that amount, $13.26 billion would be 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...

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

An uprising against Bahrain’s Al Khalifa ruling family that began on February 14, 2011, has diminished in intensity, but punishments of oppositionists and periodic demonstrations continue. The mostly Shiite opposition to the Sunni-minority-led regime has not achieved its goal of establishing a constitutional monarchy, but the unrest has compelled the ruling family to undertake at least some modest reforms. The mainstream opposition uses peaceful forms of dissent, but small factions, reportedly backed by Iran, have stockpiled increasingly sophisticated weaponry and have claimed...

Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI)

The Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) was formed to increase international cooperation in interdicting shipments of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), their delivery systems, and related materials. The Initiative was announced by President Bush on May 31, 2003. PSI does not create a new legal framework but aims to use existing national authorities and international law to achieve its goals. Initially, 11 nations signed on to the “Statement of Interdiction Principles” that guides PSI cooperation. As of June 2018, 105 countries (plus the Holy See) have committed formally to the PSI...

Title X Family Planning: Proposed Rule on Statutory Compliance Requirements

The Title X Family Planning Program (Title X), enacted in 1970, is the only domestic federal program devoted solely to family planning and related preventive health services. All 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories and Freely Associated States (collectively referred to as states) are eligible to apply for Title X grants, as are other public agencies and nonprofit organizations. Title X grants enable grantees to establish and operate family planning projects. A family planning project refers to a set of activities that a Title X grantee undertakes under its grant...

Overview of U.S.-South Korea Agricultural Trade

South Korea is an important export market for U.S. agricultural products. In 2017, U.S. farmers and ranchers sold about $7 billion of goods to South Korea, making it the sixth-largest export market by value for U.S. agricultural products. Leading U.S. agricultural exports to South Korea include beef, corn, soybeans, pork, wheat, oranges, nuts, and cheese. Further, the United States had a trade surplus of more than $6.3 billion in food and agricultural products with South Korea in 2017.

The trading relationship between the two countries has been governed by the U.S.-South Korea Free Trade...

Iran Sanctions

The multilateral nuclear accord (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA) provided Iran broad relief from U.N. and multilateral sanctions, as well as U.S. secondary sanctions (sanctions on foreign firms that do business with Iran) on Iran’s civilian economic sectors. Upon the January 16, 2016, implementation of the JCPOA, U.S. Administration waivers of relevant sanctions laws took effect, relevant executive orders (E.O.s) were revoked, and corresponding U.N. and EU sanctions were lifted. Remaining in place were a general ban on U.S. trade with Iran and U.S. secondary sanctions imposed...

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.

Although financial services are a focus of the FSGG bill, the bill does not include funding for most of the financial service regulators. Instead, this funding comes through a variety of sources, including fees or assessments on regulated institutions. (See CRS...

Fourth Treasury Report on Regulatory Relief: Nonbanks and Financial Technology

On July 31, 2018, the Department of the Treasury issued a report, “A Financial System That Creates Economic Opportunities: Nonbank Financials, Fintech, and Innovation,” that examines financial institutions and activities for which the application of traditional regulation may present challenges due to advances in financial technology (“fintech”). It is the last in a series of four reports written in accordance with Executive Order (E.O.) 13772 issued by President Donald Trump on February 3, 2017, which directed the Secretary of the Treasury to report on the financial regulatory system....

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

(TO BE SUPPRESSED) Department of Homeland Security DHS budget Appropriations FY2019, FY2018 funding analysis

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

The Columbia (SSBN-826) class program, previously known as the Ohio replacement program (ORP) or SSBN(X) program, is a program to design and build a new class of 12 ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) to replace the Navy’s current force of 14 Ohio-class SSBNs. The Navy has identified the Columbia-class program as the Navy’s top priority program. The Navy wants to procure the first Columbia-class boat in FY2021. The Navy’s proposed FY2019 budget requests $3,005.3 million in advance procurement (AP) funding and $704.9 million in research and development funding for the program.

The Navy as...

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.

Serbia: Background and U.S. Relations

Following the conflicts in the late 1990s in the countries of the former Yugoslavia, the prospect of membership in the Euro-Atlantic community and the active presence of the United States in the Western Balkan region provided a level of stability that allowed most of the countries of the region to pursue reform and adopt Western values. During this time, Slovenia and Croatia joined the European Union (EU). These countries, along with Albania, also joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Montenegro became NATO’s 29th member on June 3, 2017. Other nations of the Balkans are at...

Gun Control: 3D-Printed Firearms

In May 2013, Defense Distributed, a federally licensed firearms manufacturer, posted on its website computer assisted design (CAD) files for three dimensional-printing (3D-printing) of a single-shot, smoothbore, .380 caliber pistol that could be made almost entirely with non-metallic material. The design of this firearm, the “Liberator,” does not appear to violate the Undetectable Firearms Act of 1988 (18 U.S.C. §922(p)), because it includes the requisite amount of steel. This statute prohibits the manufacture, importation, transfer, or possession of any firearm that

is [not] detectable to...

The Electronic Logging Device (ELD) Controversy

In December 2017, after years of preparation, most commercial trucks were required to be equipped with an electronic logging device (ELD) that would automatically record how long the driver had been driving. There had been little controversy about this requirement during its two-year phase-in period, but after it took effect, portions of the commercial trucking industry began to complain about its impact. Pending legislation would exempt certain drivers from the mandate through FY2019.

Most commercial drivers are paid by the mile, and so have an incentive to drive as much as possible....

Categorical Exclusions, Metroplexes, and Aircraft Noise Complaints

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has initiated changes to airspace and flight procedures to take advantage of new technologies deployed under NextGen, a comprehensive air traffic modernization initiative that relies on satellite-based navigation and tracking to improve efficiency and airspace capacity. In some neighborhoods, however, FAA’s changes have increased overflights triggering complaints about aircraft noise. Some affected residents are seeking remedies from the agency, the courts, and Congress.

Categorical Exclusions

One of NextGen’s key objectives is to allow commercial...

Fees for Maintenance and Evaluation of Pesticide Registrations: Current Law and Legislation in the 115th Congress

Division G of Title II of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018 (P.L. 115-141) extended U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) authority to collect fees from the pesticide industry for the maintenance and evaluation of pesticide registrations under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA; 7 U.S.C. 136 et seq.) until the end of FY2018. Two types of industry-paid fees supplement annual appropriations from the General Fund to support EPA’s pesticide regulatory program.

Without the extension, the authority to collect maintenance fees would have expired at the end...

U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors: Background, Pending Nominees, and Issues for Congress

Unlike other executive agencies, the United States Postal Service is governed not by a single presidentially appointed, Senate-confirmed agency head, but rather by an entity known as the Board of Governors. The Board of Governors of the U.S. Postal Service (hereinafter, the Board) was created by the Postal Reorganization Act in 1970 (PRA, 39 U.S.C. §202). The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) describes the Board as “comparable to a board of directors of a private corporation.”

As currently constructed under the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006 (PAEA, P.L. 109-435), the Board...

Proposals to Impose Sanctions on Russian Sovereign Debt

The United States imposes sanctions on hundreds of Russian individuals and entities for aggression against Ukraine, election interference, malicious cyber activity, human rights violations, weapons proliferation, and other activities. Some Members of Congress are proposing additional sanctions in response to continuing objectionable behavior by the Russian government. One proposal is to sanction new debt issued by the Russian government. If enacted, U.S. investors would be prohibited from buying or trading new Russian sovereign debt.

Targeting Russian sovereign debt would escalate U.S....

Iran’s Threats, the Strait of Hormuz, and Oil Markets: In Brief

The exchanges of threats between members of the governments of Iran and the United States, including the presidents of both countries, have again raised the specter of an interruption of shipping through the Strait of Hormuz (the Strait), a key waterway for the transit of oil and natural gas to world markets. In the first half of 2018, approximately 22 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil, condensate, and petroleum products, and over 300 million cubic meters per day in liquefied natural gas (LNG) exited the Strait, representing approximately 24% and 3% of global production,...

Coast Guard Polar Icebreaker Program: Background and Issues for Congress

The Coast Guard polar icebreaker 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 wants to begin construction of the first new heavy polar icebreaker in FY2019 and have it enter service in 2023. The polar icebreaker program has received about $359.6 million in acquisition funding through FY2018, including $300 million provided through the Navy’s shipbuilding account and $59.6 million provided through the Coast Guard’s acquisition account. The Coast Guard’s...

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...

A Shift in the International Security Environment: Potential Implications for Defense—Issues for Congress

World events in recent years have led observers, particularly since late 2013, to conclude that the international security environment in recent years has undergone a shift from the post-Cold War era that began in the late 1980s and early 1990s, also sometimes known as the unipolar moment (with the United States as the unipolar power), to a new and different situation that features, among other things, renewed great power competition with China and Russia and challenges by these two countries and others to elements of the U.S.-led international order that has operated since World War...

Chesapeake Bay Restoration: Background and Issues for Congress

The Chesapeake Bay (the Bay) is the largest estuary in the United States. It is recognized as a “Wetlands of International Importance” by the Ramsar Convention, a 1971 treaty about the increasing loss and degradation of wetland habitat for migratory waterbirds. The Chesapeake Bay estuary resides in a more than 64,000-square-mile watershed that extends across parts of Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia. The Bay’s watershed is home to more than 18 million people and thousands of species of plants and animals.

A combination of...

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, since mandatory amounts are generally set by authorizing laws such as the farm bill.

The largest discretionary spending items are the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women,...

Ebola: Democratic Republic of Congo

On August 1, 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that a new Ebola outbreak was detected in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), about one week after having declared that a separate outbreak had ended in the western part of the country. This new outbreak is occurring in North Kivu, a province experiencing its own humanitarian crisis with over 1 million displaced people. WHO will shift staff that had just completed working to contain the previous outbreak in the Equateur province to North Kivu. Health experts have reportedly determined that the strain in...

SBA Surety Bond Guarantee Program

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

Federal Research and Development (R&D) Funding: FY2019

President Trump’s budget request for FY2019 includes approximately $131.0 billion for research and development (R&D), of which $118.056 billion is included in the President’s budget and an estimated additional $12.9 billion in nondefense discretionary R&D is requested as part of an addendum to the President’s budget. The additional funding requested in the addendum followed enactment of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (P.L. 115-123), which raised defense and nondefense discretionary spending caps for FY2018 and FY2019. In April 2018, the Administration issued amendments to the...

Afghanistan: Background and U.S. Policy In Brief

Afghanistan has been a central U.S. foreign policy concern since 2001, when the United States, in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, led a military campaign against Al Qaeda and the Taliban government that harbored and supported Al Qaeda. In the intervening 16 years, the United States has suffered more than 2,000 casualties in Afghanistan (including 4 in 2018) and has spent more than $120 billion for reconstruction there. In that time, an elected Afghan government has replaced the Taliban, and nearly every measure of human development has improved, although future...

Coast Guard Cutter Procurement: Background and Issues for Congress

The Coast Guard’s acquisition program of record (POR) calls for procuring 8 National Security Cutters (NSCs), 25 Offshore Patrol Cutters (OPCs), and 58 Fast Response Cutters (FRCs) as replacements for 90 aging Coast Guard high-endurance cutters, medium-endurance cutters, and patrol craft. The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2019 budget requests a total of $705 million in acquisition funding for the NSC, OPC, and FRC programs.

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

Assistance to Firefighters Program: Distribution of Fire Grant Funding

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

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, 2018 (P.L. 115-141) provided $44.4 million for USFA. This total included $1.5 million for the National Emergency Training Center. For FY2019, the Administration requested...

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...

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...

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...

Cambodian Election

The Cambodian National Assembly election, held on July 29, 2018, resulted in a victory for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP). Critics viewed the election, in which the CPP likely won all 125 parliamentary seats, as neither free nor fair and the victory as “hollow” given that the CPP banned the largest opposition party in 2017. The Trump Administration stated that the poll “failed to represent the will of the Cambodian people” and represented “the most significant setback yet to the democratic system enshrined in Cambodia’s constitution...” Nearly 600,000 ballots, or roughly 9% of...

The Post-9/11 GI Bill: A Primer

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) administers several educational assistance programs (GI Bills®) that provide funds to or on behalf of veterans and servicemembers and their family members to facilitate their enrollment in and pursuit of approved programs of education. Participation and spending for the Post-9/11 GI Bill has represented approximately 80% or more of total GI Bill participation and spending in each year since FY2013. In FY2018, the program is estimated to benefit almost 800,000 individuals and expend over $12 billion. For a description of the other GI Bills, see CRS...

Navy LPD-17 Flight II (LX[R]) Amphibious Ship Program: Background and Issues for Congress

The LPD-17 Flight II program, previously known as the LX(R) program, is a program to build 13 new amphibious ships for the Navy. The Navy had planned to procure the first LPD-17 Flight II ship in FY2020. Congress, as part of its action on the Navy’s proposed FY2018 budget, accelerated the procurement of the first LPD17 Flight II ship to FY2018.

Within a Navy shipbuilding program, the term flight refers to a group of ships built to a particular design version. The LPD-17 Flight II ships are to constitute the second version of the Navy’s San Antonio (LPD-17) class amphibious ship design....

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...

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

The John Lewis (TAO-205) class oiler shipbuilding program, previously known as the TAO(X) program, is a program to build a new class of 20 fleet oilers for the Navy. The primary role of Navy fleet oilers is to transfer fuel to Navy surface ships that are operating at sea, so as to extend the operating endurance of these surface ships and their embarked aircraft. The first ship in the TAO-205 program was funded in FY2016. The second was funded in FY2018.

The Navy’s proposed FY2019 budget requests the procurement of the third and fourth ships in the program. The Navy estimates the combined...

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

The question of how the United States should respond to China’s military modernization effort, including its naval modernization effort, is a key issue in U.S. defense planning and budgeting.

China has been steadily building a modern and powerful navy since the early to mid-1990s. China’s navy has become a formidable military force within China’s near-seas region, and it is conducting a growing number of operations in more-distant waters, including the broader waters of the Western Pacific, the Indian Ocean, and waters around Europe.

Observers view China’s improving naval capabilities as...

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

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

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 $97 billion.

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

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...

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 FY2019 budget submission, the number of BMD-capable Aegis ships is scheduled to be 41 at the end of FY2019 and 57 at the end of FY2023.

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

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

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

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

China’s Actions in South and East China Seas: Implications for U.S. Interests—Background and Issues for Congress

China’s actions in recent years in the South China Sea (SCS)—particularly its island-building and base-construction activities at sites that it occupies in the Spratly Islands—have heightened concerns among U.S. observers that China is rapidly gaining effective control of the SCS. U.S. Navy Admiral Philip Davidson, in responses to advance policy questions from the Senate Armed Services Committee for an April 17, 2018, hearing to consider his nomination to become Commander, U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM), stated that “China is now capable of controlling the South China Sea in all scenarios...

Seed Cotton as a Farm Program Crop: In Brief

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (P.L. 115-123; BBA), signed into law on February 9, 2018, included a provision—Section 60101(a)—which amended the 2014 farm bill (P.L. 113-79) to add seed cotton as a “covered commodity,” thus making cotton eligible for the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) and Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC) farm revenue support programs.

The 2014 farm bill provides authority for farm programs for the 2014 through 2018 crop years. Under the 2014 farm bill as signed into law in February 2014, neither cotton nor its co-product, cottonseed, were eligible to participate in the newly...

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

The Navy is developing three new ship-based weapons that could improve the ability of Navy surface ships to defend themselves against missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and surface craft: the Surface Navy Laser Weapon System (SNLWS), the electromagnetic railgun (EMRG), and the gun-launched guided projectile (GLGP), previously known as the hypervelocity projectile (HVP).

The Navy refers to the initial (i.e., Increment 1) version of SNLWS as HELIOS, an acronym meaning high-energy laser with integrated optical dazzler and surveillance. EMRG could additionally provide the Navy with a...

National Flood Insurance Program Borrowing Authority

This Insight evaluates the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) borrowing authority to receive loans from the U.S. Department of the Treasury, particularly in the context of major floods, and discusses the current financial situation of the NFIP.

NFIP Funding

Funding for the NFIP is primarily maintained in an authorized account called the National Flood Insurance Fund (NFIF). Generally, the NFIP has been funded from receipts from the premiums of flood insurance policies, including fees and surcharges; direct annual appropriations for specific costs of the NFIP (currently only flood...

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

This report presents background information and potential oversight issues for Congress on the Navy’s Arleigh Burke (DDG-51) and Zumwalt (DDG-1000) class destroyer programs. The Navy procured DDG-51s from FY1985 through FY2005, and resumed procuring them in FY2010. The three DDG-51s requested for procurement in FY2019 are to be the 80th, 81st, and 82nd ships in the class. The Navy procured three DDG-1000s in FY2007-FY2009 and plans no further procurement of DDG-1000s.

The 13 DDG-51s planned for procurement in FY2018-FY2022 are to be procured under a multiyear procurement (MYP) contract...

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

The Navy in 2017 initiated a new program, called the FFG(X) program, to build a class of 20 guided-missile frigates (FFGs). The Navy wants to procure the first FFG(X) in FY2020, the second in FY2021, and the remaining 18 at a rate of two per year in FY2022-FY2030. The Navy’s proposed FY2019 budget requests $134.8 million in research and development funding for the program.

Although the Navy has not yet determined the design of the FFG(X), given the capabilities that the Navy’s wants the FFG(X) to have, the ship will likely be larger in terms of displacement, more heavily armed, and more...

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 two Virginia-class boats that the Navy has requested for procurement in FY2019 would be the 29th and 30th boats in the class, and the first two to be covered under a multiyear procurement (MYP) contract for at least 10 Virginia-class submarines to be procured in FY2019-FY2023.

The Navy estimates the combined procurement cost of the two Virginia-class boats requested for procurement in FY2019 at $6,502.3 million (i.e., about $6.5 billion). The second of these two boats is to be...

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

The current and planned size and composition of the Navy, the rate of Navy ship procurement, and the prospective affordability of the Navy’s shipbuilding plans have been oversight matters for the congressional defense committees for many years. The Navy’s FY2019 budget submission includes proposed increases in shipbuilding rates that are intended as initial steps for increasing the size of the Navy toward a goal of a fleet with 355 ships of certain types and numbers.

The Navy’s proposed FY2019 budget requests funding for the procurement of 10 new ships, including two Virginia-class attack...

The World Trade Organization (WTO): U.S. Participation at Risk?

Trump Administration Approach to the WTO

In a break from past administrations, the Trump Administration has expressed doubt over the value of the World Trade Organization (WTO) to the U.S. economy. The United States was a key architect of the WTO—the 164-member international organization established in 1995 that oversees global trade rules and trade liberalization negotiations, and resolves trade disputes. In late June, media reports suggested that President Trump was considering withdrawing the United States from the WTO; U.S. officials have since said talks of withdrawal are “premature”...

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

This Insight provides a short overview of what would happen if the NFIP were not to be reauthorized by November 30, 2018, and allowed to lapse. See CRS Report R45099, National Flood Insurance Program: Selected Issues and Legislation in the 115th Congress for the current status of NFIP reauthorization legislation.

Expiration of Certain NFIP Authorities

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is authorized by the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968 (Title XIII of P.L. 90-448, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§4001 et seq.). The NFIP does not contain a single comprehensive expiration,...

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

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

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

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

The Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) is a relatively inexpensive surface combatant equipped with modular mission packages. Navy plans call for procuring a total of 32 LCSs. The first LCS was procured in FY2005, and the Navy’s proposed FY2018 budget requested the procurement of the 30th and 31st LCSs. As part of its action on the Navy’s proposed FY2018 budget, Congress procured three LCSs—one more than the two that were requested. Thus, a total of 32 LCSs have been procured through FY2018.

The Navy’s proposed FY2019 budget, which was submitted to Congress before Congress finalized action on the...

National Flood Insurance Program: Selected Issues and Legislation in the 115th Congress

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) was established by the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968 (NFIA, 42 U.S.C. §4001 et seq.), and was most recently reauthorized until November 30, 2018 (P.L. 115-225). The general purpose of the NFIP is both to offer primary flood insurance to properties with significant flood risk, and to reduce flood risk through the adoption of floodplain management standards. A longer-term objective of the NFIP is to reduce federal expenditure on disaster assistance after floods. The NFIP also engages in many “non-insurance” activities in the public interest:...

Escalating Tariffs: Timeline and Potential Impact

Concerns over the U.S. trade deficit and trading partner trade practices have been a focus of the Trump Administration. Citing these concerns, the President has imposed tariffs under three U.S. laws that allow the Administration to impose trade restrictions based on certain criteria unilaterally: (1) Section 201 (Table 1) on U.S. imports of washing machines and solar products; (2) Section 232 () on U.S. imports of steel and aluminum, and potentially autos and uranium, and (3) Section 301 (Table 3) on U.S. imports from China. In 2017, U.S. imports of goods subject to the additional tariffs,...

Federal Disaster Assistance: The National Flood Insurance Program and Other Federal Disaster Assistance Programs Available to Individuals and Households After a Flood

After a flood, people are often uncertain if their eligibility for federal disaster assistance is linked in any way to whether or not they have flood insurance. Because much of the other disaster assistance that is available to individuals comes from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), there may be confusion between possible claims provided through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP, which is also managed by FEMA), and other disaster assistance programs. This report provides an overview of the assistance available to individuals and households following a flood and...

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 $3.5 billion in premiums 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 largely reliant on federal disaster...

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 (named for Gerald R. Ford) was procured in FY2008. The Navy’s proposed FY2019 budget estimates the ship’s procurement cost at $12,964.0 million (i.e., about $13.0 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...

Status of FY2019 LHHS Appropriations

Congress has begun consideration of the FY2019 appropriations bill for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS). This is the largest ($1.0 trillion in FY2018) of the 12 annual appropriations bills, when accounting for both mandatory and discretionary funding. The House and Senate appropriations committees have each reported their respective versions of the FY2019 LHHS bill (H.R. 6470 and S. 3158), but neither bill has received floor consideration as of the date of this report.

Scope of the Bill

The LHHS bill provides annually...

Introduction to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)

The NFIP was established by the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968 (NFIA, 42 U.S.C. §4001 et seq.), and was most recently reauthorized to November 30, 2018, through a series of short-term reauthorizations. The general purpose of the NFIP is both to offer primary flood insurance to properties with significant flood risk, and to reduce flood risk through the adoption of floodplain management standards. Communities volunteer to participate in the NFIP in order to have access to federal flood insurance, and in return are required to adopt minimum standards.

FEMA manages a process, called...

The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS): An Overview

The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) requires U.S. transportation fuel to contain a minimum volume of renewable fuel. The RFS—established by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (P.L. 109-58; EPAct05) and expanded in 2007 by the Energy Independence and Security Act (P.L. 110-140; EISA)—began with 4.0 billion gallons of renewable fuel in 2006 and aims to ascend to 36.0 billion gallons in 2022. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) determines the volume amounts after 2022.

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

Israel: Background and U.S. Relations

Since Israel’s founding in 1948, successive U.S. Presidents and many Members of Congress have demonstrated a commitment to Israel’s security and to close U.S.-Israel cooperation. Strong bilateral ties influence U.S. policy in the Middle East, and Congress provides active oversight of the executive branch’s actions. Israel is a leading recipient of U.S. foreign aid and a frequent purchaser of major U.S. weapons systems. By law, U.S. arms sales cannot adversely affect Israel’s “qualitative military edge” over other countries in its region. The two countries signed a free trade agreement in...

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

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)

The NFIP was first authorized by the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968 (42 U.S.C. §§4001 et seq.), and was reauthorized until the end of FY2017 by the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 (BW-12, Title II of P.L. 112-141). After a series of short-term reauthorizations, P.L. 115-225 reauthorized the NFIP until November 30, 2018. In statute, Congress has found that

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

Israel: Background and U.S. Relations in Brief

Strong relations between the United States and Israel have reinforced bilateral cooperation in many areas. Matters of particular significance include the following:

Concerns about Iran and Iranian allies, including the 2015 international nuclear agreement and growing tension and conflict involving Iran and its allies (including Hezbollah) at Israel’s northern border with Syria and Lebanon.

Israeli-Palestinian issues, including President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and relocation of the U.S. embassy in Israel there.

Israeli domestic political issues, including...

Health Savings Accounts (HSAs)

A health savings account (HSA) is a tax-advantaged account that individuals can use to pay for unreimbursed medical expenses (e.g., deductibles, co-payments, coinsurance, and services not covered by insurance).

Individuals may establish and contribute to an HSA for each month that they are covered under an HSA-qualified high-deductible health plan (HDHP), do not have disqualifying coverage, and cannot be claimed as a dependent on another person’s tax return. The account can be established with an insurer, bank, or other Internal Revenue Service (IRS)-approved trustee and is tied to the...

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Part C: Early Intervention for Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a statute that authorizes grant programs that support special education services. Under the IDEA, a series of conditions are attached to the receipt of grant funds. These conditions aim to provide certain educational and procedural guarantees for students with disabilities and their families.

The grant programs authorized under the IDEA provide federal funding for special education and early intervention services for children with disabilities (birth to 21 years old) and require, as a condition for the receipt of such funds, the...

Child Welfare Funding in FY2018

Child welfare services are intended to prevent the abuse or neglect of children; ensure that children have safe, permanent homes; and promote the well-being of children and their families. For FY2018, an estimated $9.5 billion in federal support was made available for child welfare purposes. Comparable funding for FY2017 is estimated at $9.3 billion.

At least $100 million of the FY2018 increase was provided as discretionary appropriations intended to address the impact of parental substance abuse on children and the child welfare system and to help implement the Family First Prevention...

China-U.S. Trade Issues

U.S.-China economic ties have expanded substantially since China began reforming its economy and liberalizing its trade regime in the late 1970s. Total U.S.-China merchandise trade rose from $2 billion in 1979 (when China’s economic reforms began) to $636 billion in 2017. China is currently the United States’ largest merchandise trading partner, its third-largest export market, and its biggest source of imports. In 2015, sales by U.S. foreign affiliates in China totaled $482 billion. Many U.S. firms view participation in China’s market as critical to their global competitiveness. U.S....

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Part B: Key Statutory and Regulatory Provisions

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a statute that authorizes grant programs that support special education services. Under the IDEA, a series of conditions are attached to the receipt of grant funds. These conditions aim to provide certain educational and procedural guarantees for students with disabilities and their families.

The grant programs authorized under the IDEA provide federal funding for special education and early intervention services for children with disabilities (birth to 21 years old) and require, as a condition for the receipt of such funds, the...

Honduras: Background and U.S. Relations

Honduras, a Central American nation of 9 million people, has had close ties with the United States for many years. The country served as a base for U.S. operations designed to counter Soviet influence in Central America during the 1980s, and it continues to host a U.S. military presence and cooperate on antidrug efforts today. Trade and investment linkages are also long-standing and have grown stronger since the implementation of the Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) in 2006. In recent years, instability in Honduras—including a 2009 coup and...

Ethiopia’s New Prime Minister Visits the United States to “Build Bridges”

Ethiopia’s new prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, arrived in the United States on July 26 for a three-city tour, with stops in Washington, Los Angeles, and Minneapolis. It is his first U.S. trip since being elected by parliament on April 2, and the visit is focused on engaging the Ethiopian diaspora, who represent the second largest African diaspora population in the United States. Prime Minister Abiy’s early outreach to Ethiopian-Americans is noteworthy, given outspoken criticism from some regarding governance under the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), which has...

Section 232 Investigations: Overview and Issues for Congress

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 under investigation “is being imported into the United States in such quantities or under such circumstances as to threaten to impair the national security.” Section 232 actions are of interest to Congress because they are a delegation of Congress’ constitutional authority “to regulate Commerce with foreign Nations.” They also have important potential...

The House and Senate 2018 Farm Bills (H.R. 2): A Side-by-Side Comparison with Current Law

Congress sets national food and agriculture policy through periodic omnibus farm bills that address a broad range of farm and food programs and policies. The 115th Congress has the opportunity to establish the future direction of farm and food policy, because many of the provisions in the current farm bill (the Agricultural Act of 2014, P.L. 113-79) expire in 2018.

On June 21, 2018, the House voted 213-211 to approve H.R. 2, the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018, an omnibus farm bill that would authorize farm and food policy for FY2019-FY2023. The Senate passed its version of H.R. 2,...

Commodity Credit Corporation: Q&A

On July 24, 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the use of up to $12 billion in funding authorized under the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) to compensate agricultural producers for losses in response to retaliatory tariffs on certain U.S. agricultural commodities. This has raised general questions related to the CCC, its use, and authorities. In brief, CCC makes payments to producers and conducts other operations to support U.S. agriculture. Typically, Congress passes laws, such as omnibus farm bills, that specifically direct USDA on how to administer these...

North Korea: U.S. Relations, Nuclear Diplomacy, and Internal Situation

North Korea has posed one of the most persistent U.S. foreign policy challenges of the post-Cold War period due to its pursuit of proscribed weapons technology and belligerence toward the United States and its allies. With North Korea’s advances in 2016 and 2017 in its nuclear and missile capabilities under 34-year-old leader Kim Jong-un, Pyongyang has evolved from a threat to U.S. interests in East Asia to a potentially direct threat to the U.S. homeland. Efforts to halt North Korea’s nuclear weapons program have occupied the past four U.S. Administrations, and North Korea is the target...

Potential WTO Implications of USDA’s Proposed Response to Trade-Retaliation

On July 24, 2018, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) would be taking several actions to assist farmers in response to trade damage from what the Administration has characterized as “unjustified retaliation.” Specifically, the Secretary said that USDA would authorize up to $12 billion in programs under the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) Charter Act (See CRS Report R44606, The Commodity Credit Corporation: In Brief) to help agricultural producers meet the costs of disrupted markets. (See CRS Insight IN10880, China’s Retaliatory...

Pipeline Safety: Overdue Statutory Mandates

The safety of natural gas and hazardous liquid pipelines in the United States is regulated by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) within the Department of Transportation (DOT). For decades, Congress has reauthorized DOT’s pipeline safety program in stand-alone legislation. In addition, Congress has used reauthorizations to impose on PHMSA various mandates regarding standards, studies, and other elements of pipeline safety regulation—usually in response to major pipeline accidents. The Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011 (P.L....

History of Use of U.S. Military Bases to House Immigrants and Refugees

Background

On June 20, 2018, President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order that states “It is also the policy of this Administration to maintain family unity, including by detaining alien families together where appropriate and consistent with law and available resources” and that directs the Secretary of Defense to “take all legally available measures to provide to the Secretary [of Homeland Security], upon request, any existing facilities available for the housing and care of alien families, and shall construct such facilities if necessary and consistent with law.” On June 24,...

Capital Markets, Securities Offerings, and Related Policy Issues

U.S. capital markets are the largest and considered to be the most efficient in the world. Companies rely heavily on capital access to fund growth and create jobs. As the principal regulator of U.S. capital markets, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) requires that offers and sales of securities either be registered with the SEC or be undertaken with an exemption from registration. Registered securities offerings, often called public offerings, are available to all types of investors and have more rigorous disclosure requirements. By contrast, securities offerings that are exempt...

Australia and New Zealand React to China’s Growing Influence in the South Pacific

Overview

The July 24, 2018, Australia-United States Ministerial (AUSMIN) Joint Statement points to “deepening engagement [between the United States and Australia] in the Indo-Pacific.” Canberra and Wellington are increasingly responding to Chinese influence operations in the Pacific region, as demonstrated by a number of recent actions, including Australia’s passage of new foreign interference legislation; announcement of an possible new Australia-Vanuatu security agreement; New Zealand’s adoption of a new Strategic Defence Policy Statement; steps toward a new Pacific Islands Forum...

Agricultural Disaster Assistance

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

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

NAFTA Renegotiation and Modernization

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

OPIC, USAID, and Proposed Development Finance Reorganization

Members of Congress and Administrations have periodically considered reorganizing the federal government’s trade and development functions to advance various policy objectives. In its 2019 budget request, the Trump Administration included a proposal to consolidate the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and other agency development finance functions, specifically noting the Development Credit Authority (DCA) of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), into a new U.S. development finance agency. The policy objectives that the new agency would aim to support include...

Flood Resilience and Risk Reduction: Federal Assistance and Programs

Recent flood disasters have raised congressional and public interest in not only reducing flood risks, but also improving flood resilience, which is the ability to adapt to, withstand, and rapidly recover from floods. In the United States, flood-related responsibilities are shared. States and local governments have significant discretion in land use and development decisions, which can be major factors in determining the vulnerability to and consequence of hurricanes, storms, extreme rainfall, and other flood events. Congress has established various federal programs that may be available...

Federal Prize Competitions

Prize competitions are a tool for incentivizing the achievement of scientific and technological innovation by offering monetary and nonmonetary benefits (e.g., recognition) to competition participants. Prize competitions have a long history of use in both the public and private sectors, but have gained popularity in recent years. Experts view federal prize competitions as an alternative policy instrument for spurring innovation, not a substitute for more traditional methods of federal support for research and innovation such as competitive research grants and procurement contracts.

The use...

House Voting Procedures: Forms and Requirements

Voting is among the most public acts of Representatives. Generally, Members try not to miss a vote, because it demonstrates to their constituents that they are always on the job. Procedural considerations are an important aspect of voting. Therefore, it is necessary to understand the methods of voting in both the House and the Committee of the Whole, where much of the chamber’s business is conducted.

Resurgence of Chemical Weapons Use: Issues for Congress

With increasing numbers of incidents, the use of chemical weapons (CW) has become a growing international concern two decades after the international community decided to ban them under the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). The nerve agent sarin and chlorine bombs continue to be used by the Syrian regime on the battlefield in that country’s civil war; the Islamic State used mustard gas in that conflict in 2015 and 2016. The nerve agent VX was used to assassinate the brother of the North Korean leader in a Malaysian airport in 2017. Also, an attempted assassination of a former Russian...

Momentum Toward Peace Talks in Afghanistan?

Developments in Afghanistan since February 2018, including a potential change in the U.S. stance toward direct talks with the Taliban, have increased the prospects for a negotiated end to the conflict there. In August 2017, President Trump said, “Someday, after an effective military effort, perhaps it will be possible to have a political settlement that includes elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan, but nobody knows if or when that will ever happen.” In the following months, American military operations intensified, with the number of U.S. troops in the country rising to about 15,000.

A...

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency: Overview and Issues for Congress

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), established in 1958, is an agency within the Department of Defense (DOD) responsible for catalyzing the development of technologies that maintain and advance the capabilities and technical superiority of the United States military.

DARPA-funded research has made important science and technology contributions that have led to the development of both military and commercial technologies, such as precision guided missiles, stealth, the internet, and personal electronics. DARPA has a culture of risk-taking and tolerance for failure that...

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...

Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA): Resources for Frequently Asked Questions

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA; P.L. 111-148, as amended) has numerous provisions affecting private health insurance and public health coverage programs. This report provides resources to help congressional staff respond to constituents’ frequently asked questions (FAQs) about the law. The report lists selected resources regarding consumers, employers, and other stakeholders, with a focus on federal sources. It also lists Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports that summarize the ACA’s provisions.

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

Debt-for-Nature Initiatives and the Tropical Forest Conservation Act (TFCA): Status and Implementation

In the late 1980s, extensive foreign debt and degraded natural resources in developing nations led to the creation of debt-for-nature initiatives that reduced debt obligations, allowed for debt repayments in local currency as opposed to hard currency, and generated funds for the environment. These initiatives, called debt-for-nature swaps typically involved restructuring, reducing, or buying a portion of a developing country’s outstanding debt, with a percentage of proceeds (in local currency) being used to support conservation programs within the debtor country. Most early transactions...

Indexing Capital Gains Taxes for Inflation

Recently, proposals to index capital gains for inflation have reentered the public debate. The proposed change would eliminate the part of capital gains that reflects inflation by increasing the basis (i.e., the amount subtracted from sales price to determine capital gains) by inflation occurring since acquisition of the asset. President Trump’s head of the White House National Economic Council, Larry Kudlow, has long proposed the indexation of capital gains for inflation through regulation, and Americans for Tax Reform has urged Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to index capital gains....

Cyprus: Reunification Proving Elusive

Almost eight months into 2018, unification talks that were intended to end the division of Cyprus after 54 years as a politically separated nation and 44 years as a physically divided country remain suspended until sometime in fall 2018. The long-sought bizonal, bicommunal, federal solution for the island remains elusive and, for some, looks to be in doubt.

The negotiations were suspended in July 2017, when talks held at Crans Montana, Switzerland, between Republic of Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci collapsed over the sensitive issues of...

Flying Cars and Drones Pose Policy Challenges for Managing and Regulating Low-Altitude Airspace

For more than half a century, “flying car” concepts have graced the covers of Popular Science magazine, have been featured in futuristic Hollywood sci-fi movies, and, of course, have hauled that famous space-age cartoon family, the Jetsons. Until recently, though, small hovercraft and drone-like air taxis existed only as prototype concepts and amateur-built curios. Recent advances in aerospace design and propulsion, as well as in computer control and autonomous systems, are raising the prospect that flying cars may soon become a reality. Development and marketing efforts are bringing to...

Judicial Opinions of Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh

On July 9, 2018, President Trump announced the nomination of Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (D.C. Circuit) to succeed Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who is scheduled to retire from active status on July 31, 2018. Judge Kavanaugh has served as a judge on the D.C. Circuit since May 30, 2006. He has also sat, by designation, on judicial panels of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and also served on three-judge panels of the U.S. District Court for the...

Animal and Plant Export Health Certificates in U.S. Agricultural Trade

An agricultural export health certificate verifies that agricultural products are prepared or raised in accordance with requirements of the importing country. In the United States, export health certificates are issued primarily by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) for live animals, raw fruits and vegetables, and some grain products. APHIS ensures that U.S. exporters have met animal and plant health requirements for export. Other federal agencies, not discussed here, have authority over agricultural products outside of APHIS’s...

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

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

The Trump-Putin Summit

On July 16, 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin held a summit in Helsinki, Finland. This was the first U.S.-Russia summit since 2010, when President Barack Obama met with Putin’s predecessor Dmitry Medvedev in Prague to sign the New START strategic arms reduction treaty.

The Presidents characterized the July 2018 summit as a first step to improving relations. President Trump stated his view that the United States and Russia need “to find ways to cooperate in pursuit of shared interests” and resolve global challenges. President Putin said his goal is to...

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...

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 budget that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB)...

“Duck Boat” Accident Highlights Gap in Regulation

On July 19, 2018, an amphibious vehicle capsized during a sudden storm on a lake in Branson, MO, killing at least 17 passengers. The accident highlights gaps and discrepancies in federal safety regulations affecting amphibious passenger vehicles (APVs), more widely known as “duck boats.”

Duck boats are tourist vehicles designed both to drive on roads and operate as boats in the water. These vehicles host thousands of tours for more than 1 million passengers annually. The original vehicles were built during World War II to deliver cargo from ships at sea directly to the shore, and often to...

The Vacancies Act: A Legal Overview

The Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998 (Vacancies Act) generally provides the exclusive means by which a government employee may temporarily perform the nondelegable functions and duties of a vacant advice and consent position in an executive agency. Unless an acting officer is serving in compliance with the Vacancies Act, any attempt to perform the functions and duties of that office will have no force or effect.

The Vacancies Act limits a government employee’s ability to serve as an acting officer in two primary ways. First, the Vacancies Act provides that only three classes of people...

Social Security: Minimum Benefits

Social Security’s special minimum benefit provision, also known as the Special Minimum Primary Insurance Amount (PIA), is an alternative benefit formula that increases benefits paid to workers who had low earnings for many years, and to their dependents and survivors. The Special Minimum PIA is based on the number of years a person has worked, whereas the standard benefit formula is based on a worker’s average lifetime earnings. The worker receives the higher of the two benefits.

However, the Special Minimum PIA has virtually no effect on the benefits paid to today’s new retirees. Under...

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: An Overview

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), an agency within the Department of the Interior (DOI), is the principal federal agency tasked with the conservation, protection, and restoration of fish and wildlife resources across the United States and insular areas. This report summarizes the history, organizational structure, and selected functions of FWS and provides an overview of the agency’s appropriations structure. The report describes the actions Congress has taken to shape FWS’s structure and functions over time and notes selected issues of interest to Congress.

The current structure...

Iran Nuclear Agreement and U.S. Exit

On July 14, 2015, Iran and the six powers that had negotiated with Tehran about its nuclear program since 2006 (the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, China, and Germany—collectively known as the P5+1) finalized a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The JCPOA required constraints that seek to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program can be used for purely peaceful purposes in exchange for a broad lifting of U.S., European Union (EU), and United Nations (U.N.) sanctions on Iran. The agreement replaced the Joint Plan of Action (JPA), an interim nuclear accord in effect from...

The National Hurricane Center and Forecasting Hurricanes: 2017 Overview and 2018 Outlook

The National Hurricane Center (NHC), part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) National Weather Service (NWS), is responsible for forecasting hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean and the eastern Pacific Ocean. The NHC provides estimates of the path of a storm (i.e., hurricane track), the intensity, and the size and structure of the storm, as well as predictions of storm surge, rainfall, and even tornadoes. Depending on the storm’s status, this information may be used to create a hurricane watch or a hurricane warning and public advisories, which are issued on an...

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...

U.S. Army’s Initial Maneuver, Short-Range Air Defense (IM-SHORAD) System

The Current State of Army SHORAD The Army defines SHORAD as: Dedicated air defense artillery (ADA) and non-dedicated air defense capabilities that enable movement and maneuver by destroying, neutralizing or deterring low altitude air threats to defend critical fixed and semi-fixed assets and maneuver forces. The Army summarizes the recent history and current state of Army SHORAD in the following section: Short-range air defense artillery units were historically embedded in Army divisions, providing them with an organic capability to protect their critical assets against fixed-wing and...

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

Ghana, a country of 27.5 million people on West Africa’s Atlantic coast, faces diverse development challenges, but has built a robust democracy notable for consistent peaceful turnovers of executive power since a transition to multiparty rule in the early 1990s. The country also has made progress toward many of the socioeconomic outcomes that successive U.S. administrations have sought to foster in Africa, and U.S. policymakers have tended to view Ghana as a stable U.S. partner in an often volatile region. Substantial U.S. bilateral aid has both been premised on and arguably contributed to...

Water Resources Development Act of 2018 and America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018: An Overview

The 115th Congress is deliberating two omnibus water authorization bills—H.R. 8, the Water Resources Development Act of 2018 (WRDA 2018), and the Senate’s amendment in the nature of a substitute to H.R. 8, titled America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 (AWIA 2018). The House passed H.R. 8 by a 408-2 recorded vote on June 6, 2018. The original vehicle for AWIA 2018 was S. 2800, which the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works reported on May 22, 2018. The Senate’s amendment in the nature of a substitute to H.R. 8 reflects various changes from S. 2800 as reported.

For the 115th...

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 2018, 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...

The Federal Role in Groundwater Supply: Overview and Legislation in the 115th Congress

Groundwater, the water in aquifers accessible by wells, is a critical component of the U.S. water supply. It is important for both domestic and agricultural water needs, among other uses. Nearly half of the nation’s population uses groundwater to meet daily needs; in 2015, about 149 million people (46% of the nation’s population) relied on groundwater for their domestic indoor and outdoor water supply. The greatest volume of groundwater used every day is for agriculture, specifically for irrigation. In 2015, irrigation accounted for 69% of the total fresh groundwater withdrawals in the...

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 Iranian 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 Iran’s leaders...

The Proposed Equal Rights Amendment: Contemporary Ratification Issues

The proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (ERA), which declares that “equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State on account of sex,” was approved by Congress for ratification by the states in 1972. The proposal included a seven-year deadline for ratification. Between 1972 and 1977, 35 state legislatures, of the 38 required by the Constitution, voted to ratify the ERA. Despite a congressional extension of the deadline from 1979 to 1982, no additional states approved the amendment during the extended period, at which...

Attaching a Price to Greenhouse Gas Emissions with a Carbon Tax or Emissions Fee

Significant debate continues about what, if any, policy initiatives may be appropriate or feasible to address greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Major scientific assessments in the United States and internationally conclude that “it is extremely likely that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, are the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.” Human-related GHG emissions, if continued, would tend to drive further warming, sea level rise, ocean acidification, and other impacts. Small future climate changes may bring benefits for some and adverse...

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...

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...

Energy and Water Development: FY2019 Appropriations

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

President Trump submitted his FY2019 budget proposal to Congress on February 12, 2018. The President’s budget requests for agencies included in the Energy and Water Development...

Public Disclosure of Corporate Tax Returns

Federal corporate tax returns are confidential and protected from public disclosure under section 6103 of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC), as enacted by the Tax Reform Act of 1976 (P.L. 94-455). Before 1976, corporate tax returns where classified as part of the “public record” to varying degrees. Since 1976, there have been occasional calls for the privacy veil to be lifted in response to aggressive tax planning and evasion. This Insight examines several issues surrounding public disclosure of corporate tax returns; however, the discussion below does not address important legal and...

Improper Payments in High-Priority Programs: In Brief

The Improper Payments Information Act (IPIA) of 2002 defines improper payments as payments that should not have been made or that were made in an incorrect amount, including both overpayments and underpayments. This definition includes payments made to ineligible recipients, duplicate payments, payments for a good or service not received, and payments that do not account for applicable discounts. Since FY2004, federal agencies have been required to report on the amount of improper payments they issue each year and take steps to address the root causes of the problem. The data show a...

Army Futures Command(AFC)

The Issue

The Army’s post-Cold War development of major combat systems has been characterized by a number of high-profile program cancellations, such as Crusader, an artillery system cancelled in 2002 after having spent $2.2 billion; Comanche, a helicopter program cancelled in 2004 after having spent $7.9 billion; and the Future Combat System (FCS), cancelled in 2009 after having spent $18.1 billion. In addition to the expenditure of resources, these cancellations have impeded the development of newer, more capable systems, permitting potential adversaries to achieve battlefield parity...

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...

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...

Private Activity Bonds: An Introduction

The federal tax code classifies state and local bonds as either governmental bonds or private activity bonds. Governmental bonds are intended for governmental projects, and private activity bonds are for projects that primarily benefit private entities. Typically, the interest earned by holders of governmental bonds is exempt from federal income taxes.

The federal tax code allows state and local governments to use tax-exempt bonds to finance certain projects that would be considered private activities. The private activities that can be financed with tax-exempt bonds are called “qualified...

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

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

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

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...

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...

Social Security Primer

Social Security provides monthly cash benefits to retired or disabled workers and their family members, and to the family members of deceased workers. Among the beneficiary population, almost 83% are retired or disabled workers; family members of retired, disabled, or deceased workers make up the remainder. In May 2018, about 62.5 million beneficiaries received a total of $80.9 billion in benefit payments for the month; the average monthly benefit was $1,295.

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

Senate Judiciary Committee Hearings for a Supreme Court Nominee: Overview

On July 9, 2018, President Trump announced his selection of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to fill the impending vacancy that will be created on the U.S. Supreme Court by the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy on July 31, 2018.

Supreme Court nominations since 1949 have routinely received public confirmation hearings before either the Senate Judiciary Committee or a Judiciary subcommittee. In 1955, hearings on the Supreme Court nomination of John M. Harlan marked the beginning of a practice, continuing to the present, of Court nominees testifying in-person before the Senate Judiciary Committee....

Energy Provisions in the 2014 Farm Bill (P.L. 113-79): Status and Funding

Title IX, the energy title of the 2014 farm bill (Agricultural Act of 2014; P.L. 113-79), contains authority for the energy programs administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). USDA energy programs have incentivized research, development, and adoption of renewable energy projects, including solar, wind, and anaerobic digesters. However, the primary focus of USDA energy programs has been to promote U.S. biofuels production and use—including corn starch-based ethanol (the predominant biofuel produced and consumed in the United States), cellulosic ethanol, and soybean-based...

Social Security: The Lump-Sum Death Benefit

When a Social Security-insured worker dies, the surviving spouse who was living with the deceased is entitled to a one-time lump-sum death benefit of $255. If they were living apart, the surviving spouse can still receive the lump sum under certain conditions. If there is no such spouse, the payment can be made to a child who meets certain requirements. In the majority of deaths, however, no payment is made.

The lump-sum death benefit was once an important part of Social Security benefits to survivors. Between 1937 and 1939, the lump-sum was the only benefit available to survivors of...

Tit-for-Tat Tariff Measures and U.S. Trade Policy

U.S. trade policy under President Trump has involved greater use of trade laws to address imports that threaten to impair U.S. national security (Section 232), and trade practices that may violate trade agreements or are “unjustifiable” or “unreasonable” (Section 301). Congress has held several hearings on controversial presidential actions under these laws, raising questions about their economic and broader policy implications.

As a result of Section 232 investigations launched by the Administration, the United States has unilaterally applied new tariffs on steel (25%), aluminum (10%),...

Justice Anthony Kennedy: His Jurisprudence and the Future of the Court

On June 27, 2018, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy announced that, effective July 31, 2018, he would retire from active service as an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States. His decisive role on the Court, particularly since the Roberts Court era began in 2005, cannot be overstated. The Roberts Court era has witnessed the Court issue a number of landmark rulings, many of which have involved matters where the sitting Justices were closely divided. Justice Kennedy typically voted with the majority of the Court in such cases. Since the October 2005 term that marked the...

Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Incentives: A Summary of Federal Programs

Energy is crucial to the operation of a modern industrial and services economy. Concerns about the availability and cost of energy and about environmental impacts of fossil energy use have led to the establishment of a wide variety of federal incentives for renewable energy and energy efficiency. These incentives are aimed at the implementation of renewable energy and energy efficiency measures and the development and commercialization of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies.

Many of the existing energy efficiency and renewable energy programs have authorizations tracing...

Federal Government Employment: Veterans’ Preference in Competitive Examination

Veterans’ preference is a system that provides special consideration to certain former members of the Armed Forces who pursue civilian employment with the federal government. This report describes how veterans’ preference is established and applied in the assessment and selection of candidates for federal positions that use competitive examination procedures.

The specific type of preference for which a veteran qualifies (if any) depends on the timing of the veteran’s service and whether or not the veteran has a service-connected disability. The strongest preference is for veterans who have...

Membership of the 115th Congress: A Profile

This report presents a profile of the membership of the 115th Congress (2017-2018) as of July 11, 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), 197 Democrats (including 4 Delegates), and 6 vacant seats. The Senate has 51 Republicans, 47...

National Park Service Appropriations: Ten-Year Trends

The National Park Service (NPS) generally receives appropriations in the annual Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies appropriations bill. This report examines trends in NPS appropriations over the past decade (FY2009-FY2018), as well as changes during the decade in the size of the National Park System, numbers of recreational visits to the parks, and NPS staffing levels.

NPS’s appropriations fluctuated during the decade, mainly declining in the first part of the decade and then increasing during the second part. In the first and last years of the decade (FY2009 and FY2018), as well...

Puerto Rico—Status of Electric Power Recovery

On September 20, 2017, Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico as a Category 4 storm with sustained wind speeds of over 155 miles per hour. At that time, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico was already in recovery mode following the glancing blow struck by Hurricane Irma on September 6, 2017, which left 70% of electricity customers without power. Puerto Rico’s office of emergency management reported that Hurricane Maria had incapacitated the central electric power system, leaving the entire island without power as the island’s grid was essentially destroyed. Even before the 2017 hurricane...

Risk and Needs Assessment in the Federal Prison System

The number of people incarcerated in federal prisons increased dramatically over the past three decades. While the number of inmates in the federal prison system has decreased since FY2013, the federal prison population remains substantially larger than it was three decades ago.

Concerns about both the economic and social consequences of the country’s reliance on incarceration have led to calls for reforms to the nation’s criminal justice system, including improving the federal prison system’s ability to rehabilitate incarcerated offenders by better assessing their risk for recidivism and...

Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) FY2018 Appropriations: Independent Agencies and General Provisions

The Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) appropriations bills include funding for more than two dozen independent agencies in addition to the larger entities in the bill (Department of the Treasury, the Executive Office of the President, the District of Columbia, and the judiciary). Among these are Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), Election Assistance Commission (EAC), Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Federal Election Commission (FEC), Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA), Federal Trade Commission (FTC), General Services Administration (GSA), National...

President’s Selection of a Nominee for a Supreme Court Vacancy: Overview

On June 27, 2018, Justice Anthony Kennedy, after serving on the Supreme Court as an Associate Justice since 1988, announced his intention to retire from the U.S. Supreme Court. Justice Kennedy indicated that his retirement would be effective July 31, 2018. Subsequently, on July 9, 2018, President Donald Trump announced his intention to nominate Judge Brett Kavanaugh to fill the impending Kennedy vacancy.

This Insight provides an overview of several issues related to the selection of a nominee by a President for a vacancy on the Court. For additional information and analyses on these and...

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 2032, meaning that each trust fund is projected to be able topay benefits scheduled...

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

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

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

U.S. Global Health Assistance: FY2001-FY2019 Request

Congressional interest in and support for global health programs has remained strong for several years. In FY2018, Congress provided $8.7 billion for global health programs through State, Foreign Operations appropriations and $488.6 million through Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (Labor-HHS) appropriations. These funds are managed by several U.S. agencies and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (Global Fund)—a multilateral organization aimed at combating the three diseases worldwide. Concern about infectious diseases, especially HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis,...

Next Generation 911 Technologies: Select Issues for Congress

In 2018, Congress and 911 advocates celebrated the 50th anniversary of the first 911 call. Over the past 50 years, states and localities have adopted 911 as the number to call during emergencies, established 911 centers (also known as Public Safety Answering Points or PSAPs) to receive and manage 911 calls, managed and funded their local PSAPs, and educated the public on 911 use. Today, 911 services are available in most jurisdictions in the United States, people know 911 is the number to call in emergencies, and 911 systems have helped to save lives.

However, there are challenges. In...

Hemp as an Agricultural Commodity

Industrial hemp is an agricultural commodity that is cultivated for use in the production of a wide range of products, including foods and beverages, cosmetics and personal care products, nutritional supplements, fabrics and textiles, yarns and spun fibers, paper, construction and insulation materials, and other manufactured goods. Hemp can be grown as a fiber, seed, or other dual-purpose crop. However, hemp is also from the same species of plant, Cannabis sativa, as marijuana. As a result, production in the United States is restricted due to hemp’s association with marijuana, and the U.S....

United States Special Operations Command Acquisition Authorities

United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM) is the Unified Combatant Command responsible for training, doctrine, and equipping all special operations forces of the Army, Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy. SOCOM has been granted acquisition authority by Congress to procure special operations forces-peculiar equipment and services.

There is a perception among some observers and officials that SOCOM possesses unique acquisition authorities that allow it to operate faster and more efficiently than the military departments.

SOCOM possesses unique acquisition authorities when compared with...

Multilateral Development Banks: Overview and Issues for Congress

Multilateral development banks (MDBs) provide financial assistance to developing countries in order to promote economic and social development. The United States is a member, and donor, to five major MDBs: the World Bank and four regional development banks, including the African Development Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and the Inter-American Development Bank.

The MDBs primarily fund large infrastructure and other development projects and provide loans tied to policy reforms by the government. The MDBs provide non-concessional...

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 FCC’s 2018 Broadband Deployment Report, 30.7% of Americans in rural areas and 35.4% of Americans in...

Supreme Court Nominations, 1789 to 2017: Actions by the Senate, the Judiciary Committee, and the President

The process of appointing Supreme Court Justices has undergone changes over two centuries, but its most basic feature, the sharing of power between the President and Senate, has remained unchanged. To receive a lifetime appointment to the Court, a candidate must, under the “Appointments Clause” of the Constitution, first be nominated by the President and then confirmed by the Senate. A key role also has come to be played midway in the process by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Table 1 of this report lists and describes actions taken by the Senate, the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the...

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 between FY2002 and FY2018, 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 Health Center Fund (CHCF), a mandatory...

NATO’s 2018 Brussels Summit

Leaders from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO’s) 29 member states are scheduled to hold a summit at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on July 11-12, 2018. The summit comes at a time of heightened U.S.-European tensions. Despite stated Trump Administration commitments to NATO and European security, some European allies are increasingly expressing concerns about President Trump’s criticisms of NATO and individual allies. Various European leaders appear to be growing doubtful about whether the United States will remain a reliable security partner, especially amid recent...

Rural Highways

Of the nation’s 4.1 million miles of public access roads, 2.9 million, or 71%, are in rural areas. Rural roads account for about 30% of national vehicle miles traveled. However, with many rural areas experiencing population decline, states increasingly are struggling to maintain roads with diminishing traffic while at the same time meeting the needs of growing rural and metropolitan areas.

Federal highway programs do not generally specify how much federal funding is used on roads in rural areas. This is determined by the states. Most federal highway money, however, may be used only for a...

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...

School Resource Officers: Issues for Congress

The school shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, Great Mills High School in Great Mills, MD, and Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, TX, have generated renewed interest in what Congress might consider to enhance security at the nation’s schools. School resource officer (SRO) programs have been discussed as a possible strategy for increasing school safety. SROs are sworn law enforcement officers who are assigned to work at a school on a long-term basis. While there are no current figures on the number of SROs in the United States, data indicate that 42% of U.S....

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 2018, the program is expected to cover about 60 million persons (51 million aged and 9 million disabled) at a total cost of $745 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...

Tunisia: In Brief

Tunisia has taken key steps toward democracy since its 2011 “Jasmine Revolution,” and has so far avoided the violent chaos and/or authoritarian resurrection seen elsewhere in the Middle East and North Africa region. Tunisians adopted a new constitution in 2014 and held national elections the same year, marking the completion of a four-year transitional period. In May 2018, Tunisia held elections for newly created local government posts, a move toward political decentralization that activists and donors have long advocated. The government has also pursued gender equality reforms and enacted...

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

Since the 2003 conclusion of “Africa’s World War”—a conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) that drew in neighboring countries and reportedly caused millions of deaths—the United States and other donors have focused substantial resources on stabilizing the country. Smaller-scale insurgencies have nonetheless persisted in DRC’s densely-inhabited, mineral-rich eastern provinces, causing regional instability and a long-running humanitarian crisis. In recent years, political uncertainty at the national level has sparked new unrest. Elections due in 2016 have been repeatedly delayed,...

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...

Small Business Tax Benefits: Current Law and Arguments For and Against Them

The federal tax burden on small firms and its effects on their formation and growth have long been matters of legislative concern for Congress. This abiding interest has helped pave the way for the enactment a series of tax laws in recent years that included targeted tax relief for a number of small businesses.

This report describes the main federal tax preferences that benefit small firms and examines the main arguments for and against government support for small firms in general and for tax benefits targeted at such firms in particular. It addresses the tax preferences that can be...

Mexico: Organized Crime and Drug Trafficking Organizations

Mexican drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) pose the greatest crime threat to the United States, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA’s) National Drug Threat Assessment published in October 2017. These organizations have for years been identified for their strong links to drug trafficking, money laundering, and other violent crimes. These criminal groups have trafficked heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, marijuana, and, increasingly, the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl. U.S. overdoses due to opioid consumption sharply increased to a record level in 2016,...

Broadband Data and Mapping

Improving the quality of broadband deployment data has become an issue of congressional interest, as policymakers recognize that more accurate broadband availability maps could help ensure that federal broadband programs target unserved areas of the country that are most in need of assistance.

Since the initial deployment of broadband in the late 1990s, two federal agencies have implemented broadband availability data collection and mapping initiatives: the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) at the Department of Commerce (DOC) and the Federal Communications...

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

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

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

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) of 1952, as amended, enumerates categories of aliens, 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, amusement park worker,...

Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act (FIRRMA)

Some Members of Congress, the Trump Administration, and some U.S. businesses have raised concerns over continued U.S. technological leadership to support national defense and economic security due to growing foreign, primarily Chinese, investments in U.S. high-tech companies. These and other concerns motivated the House and the Senate to adopt measures, both known as the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act of 2018 (FIRRMA). The bills would amend the current process for the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) (under P.L. 110-49) to review, on behalf of...

Defense Acquisitions: How and Where DOD Spends Its Contracting Dollars

The Department of Defense (DOD) has long relied on contractors to provide the U.S. military with a wide range of goods and services, including weapons, vehicles, food, uniforms, and operational support. Without contractor support, the United States would be currently unable to arm and field an effective fighting force. Costs and trends associated with contractor support provides Congress more information upon which to make budget decisions and weigh the relative costs and benefits of different military operations—including contingency operations and maintaining bases around the...

Medicare Financial Status: In Brief

This report provides a brief overview of the financial status of the two Medicare trust funds (Hospital Insurance and Supplementary Medical Insurance) based on the findings of the 2018 Medicare Trustees Report. It includes an overview of Medicare and its financing, summary data on the program’s 2017 operations, current estimates of the insolvency date of the Hospital Insurance Trust Fund, and estimates of spending growth. These estimates include measures of Medicare spending as a portion of GDP, unfunded obligations, and alternative projections.

Social Security: The Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP)

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

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 March...

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

Cuba remains a one-party authoritarian state with a poor record on human rights. Current President Miguel Díaz-Canel succeeded Raúl Castro on April 19, 2018, although Castro is continuing in his position 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 significant policy changes under Díaz-Canel, at least in the short term, but the president faces the enormous challenges of...

U.S. Research and Development Funding and Performance: Fact Sheet

Research and development. Expenditures. Basic research. Applied research. Development. United States. Federal government. State governments. Business. Industry. College. Universities. Nonprofit organizations. Research and development. Basic research. Applied research. Development. United States. Federal government. State governments. Business. College. Universities. Nonprofit organizations. Research and development. Basic research. Applied research. Development. United States. Federal government. State governments. Business. Industry. College. Universities. Nonprofit organizations....

The House Agriculture Committee’s 2018 Farm Bill (H.R. 2): A Side-by-Side Comparison with Current Law

Congress sets national food and agriculture policy through periodic omnibus farm bills. The 115th Congress has the opportunity to establish the future direction of farm and food policy because many of the provisions in the current farm bill (the Agricultural Act of 2014, P.L. 113-79) expire in 2018. The 2014 farm bill addresses a broad range of farm and food programs and policies, including commodity support, crop insurance, conservation, domestic food assistance, trade and food aid, credit, rural development, research, horticulture, forestry, and bioenergy, among others.

On June 21,...

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, and in general recent farm bills have taken longer to enact than in previous decades. Recent farm bills, beginning with the 2008 farm bill (P.L. 110-246), have been subject to various developments that have delayed enactment, such as insufficient votes to pass the House floor, presidential vetoes, and...

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 2017, benefit outlays were approximately $952 billion, with roughly 62 million beneficiaries and 174 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 2034.

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

Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) FY2019 Budget Request and Funding History: Fact Sheet

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) provides health care to individuals who are geographically isolated and/or economically or medically vulnerable. The agency’s programs target specific populations including pregnant women and their children and individuals with HIV/AIDs.

HRSA is organized into five bureaus: (1) Primary Care; (2) Health Workforce; (3) Maternal and Child Health; (4) HIV/AIDS; and (5) Healthcare Systems. In addition to these bureaus, HRSA has 11 offices. Some offices focus on specific populations...

Trade Deficits and U.S. Trade Policy

The economic effects of the U.S. trade deficit have been a topic of long-standing congressional interest. The U.S. Constitution grants authority to Congress to regulate commerce with foreign nations and to lay and collect duties, and Congress exercises this authority in numerous ways. These include oversight of trade policy and consideration of legislation to implement trade agreements and to authorize trade programs. In some cases, Congress has delegated certain authorities over trade policy to the Executive Branch: for example, to facilitate trade negotiations.

As part of efforts to...

Small Business Size Standards: A Historical Analysis of Contemporary Issues

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

Social Security Survivors Benefits

Social Security is formally known as the Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) program. This report focuses on the Survivors Insurance component of Social Security. When workers die, their spouses, former spouses, and dependents may qualify for Social Security survivors benefits. This report describes how a worker becomes covered by Survivors Insurance and outlines the types and amounts of benefits available to survivors and eligibility for those benefits. This report also provides current data on survivor beneficiaries and benefits.

Independence Day Speech Resources: Fact Sheet

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

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

TRICARE Modernization: Eligibility for the Federal Employee Dental and Vision Insurance Program

In an effort to improve TRICARE dental and vision coverage through “enhanced benefits,” in 2016 Congress expanded (P.L. 114-328) eligibility for the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP) to certain TRICARE beneficiaries. FEDVIP is a dental and vision benefit program for federal employees and annuitants. Uniformed services retirees and their family members are to be eligible to enroll in FEDVIP in November 2018, with coverage beginning on January 1, 2019. Non-active duty TRICARE beneficiaries (i.e., family members of uniformed service members, reserve component...

Legislative Actions to Modify the Affordable Care Act in the 111th-115th Congresses

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA; P.L. 111-148) was signed into law on March 23, 2010. The law comprises numerous provisions in 10 titles. The provisions in Titles I-VIII largely relate to how health care in the United States is financed, organized, and delivered. Title IX contains revenue provisions. Title X reauthorizes the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, establishes some new programs and requirements, and amends provisions included in the other nine titles of the ACA. On March 30, 2010, the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act (HCERA; P.L. 111-152) was...

Supreme Court Appointment Process: President’s Selection of a Nominee

The appointment of a Supreme Court Justice is an event of major significance in American politics. Each appointment is of consequence because of the enormous judicial power the Supreme Court exercises as the highest appellate court in the federal judiciary. Appointments are usually infrequent, as a vacancy on the nine-member Court may occur only once or twice, or never at all, during a particular President’s years in office. Under the Constitution, Justices on the Supreme Court receive what can amount to lifetime appointments which, by constitutional design, helps ensure the Court’s...

Venezuela: Background and U.S. Relations

Venezuela remains in a deep political crisis under the authoritarian rule of President Nicolás Maduro of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV). On May 20, 2018, Maduro defeated Henri Falcón, a former governor, in a presidential election boycotted by the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) of opposition parties and dismissed by the United States, the European Union, and 18 Western Hemisphere countries as illegitimate. Maduro, who was narrowly elected in 2013 after the death of President Hugo Chávez (1999-2013), is unpopular. Nevertheless, he has used the courts, security forces, and...

The Rule XIX Call to Order for Disorderly Language in Senate Debate

The Senate has, from the 1st Congress (1789-1790), valued the importance of decorum in debate and included a “call to order” mechanism in its rules to sanction Senators who use “disorderly” language. The rules adopted in 1789 contained such a call-to-order provision, and its language has been amended multiple times over the years. Table 1 of this report details the historical evolution of the rule. The present form of the Senate’s call-to-order provision was adopted on June 14, 1962.

Senate Rule XIX identifies specific language that is considered disorderly. This includes language directly...

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...

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....

Small Business Administration 7(a) Loan Guaranty Program

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

In FY2017, the SBA approved...

The Trump Administration’s Reform Plan and Reorganization Recommendations

On June 21, 2018, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued Delivering Government Solutions in the 21st Century: Reform Plan and Reorganization Recommendations (the Reform Plan). The Reform Plan followed from Executive Order 13781, “Comprehensive Plan for Reorganizing the Executive Branch,” issued by President Donald J. Trump on March 13, 2017, and an OMB memorandum, M-17-22, “Comprehensive Plan for Reforming the Federal Government and Reducing the Federal Civilian Workforce,” issued on April 12, 2017. Federal agencies were required to submit initial agency reform plans to OMB in...

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...

Proposed American Innovation $1 Coins

On June 20, 2018, the Senate passed an amended version of H.R. 770, the “American Innovation $1 Coin Act.” This bill would require the Secretary of the Treasury to mint new $1 coins “in recognition of American innovation and significant innovation and pioneering efforts of individuals or groups from each of the 50 States, the District of Columbia, and the United States territories.” The proposed Innovation $1 coins would be minted beginning in 2019. The Senate’s action follows House passage of its version of H.R. 770 on January 16, 2018.

Congressional Involvement in Coin Design

The...

The G-7 Summit in Charlevoix, Canada: Changing U.S. Leadership in Global Forums

Canada hosted the 44th annual Group of 7 (G-7) summit on June 8-9 in Charlevoix, Quebec. The G-7 is an informal group of seven of the world’s largest advanced economies: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. With roots back to the 1970s, the G-7 leaders meet annually to discuss and coordinate economic and foreign policies. The agenda for the 2018 summit, set by Canada as the rotating chair, intended to focus on economic growth, gender equality, jobs, and the environment.

Discussions were marked by deep divisions between President Trump and other...

Department of Defense Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation (RDT&E): Appropriations Structure

The Department of Defense (DOD) conducts research, development, testing, and evaluation (RDT&E) in support of its mission requirements. The work funded by these appropriations plays a central role in the nation’s security and an important role in U.S. global leadership in science and technology. DOD alone accounts for nearly 40% of all federal R&D appropriations ($49.2 billion of $125.3 billion, or 39.3%, in FY2017).

In its annual congressional budget requests, DOD presents its RDT&E requests by organization and by its own unique taxonomy aligned to the character of the work to be...

A Primer on U.S. Immigration Policy

U.S. immigration policy is governed largely by the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), which was first codified in 1952 and has been amended significantly several times since. At a fundamental level, U.S. immigration policy can be viewed as two sides of a coin. One side emphasizes the faciliation of migration flows into the United States according to principles of admission that are based upon national interest. These broad principles currently include family reunification, labor market contribution, humanitarian assistance, and origin-country diversity.

The United States has long...

LIHEAP: Program and Funding

The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), established in 1981 as part of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (P.L. 97-35), is a program through which the federal government makes annual grants to states, tribes, and territories to operate home energy assistance programs for low-income households. The LIHEAP statute authorizes two types of funds: regular funds (sometimes referred to as formula or block grant funds), which are allocated to all states using a statutory formula, and emergency contingency funds, which are allocated to one or more states at the discretion of the...

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 FY2017, a monthly average of 42.2 million persons in 20.9 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...

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

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

Though FEMA IA and the SBA...

Debates over Exchange Rates: Overview and Issues for Congress

Exchange rates are among the most important prices in the global economy. They affect the price of every country’s imports and exports, as well as the value of every overseas investment. Over the past decade, some Members of Congress have been concerned that foreign countries are using exchange rate policies to gain an unfair trade advantage against other countries, or “manipulating” their currencies. Congressional concerns have focused on China’s foreign exchange interventions over the past decade to weaken its currency against the U.S. dollar, although concerns have also been raised...

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

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has been a significant U.S. partner in Gulf security for more than two decades, helping to address multiple regional threats. About 5,000 U.S. military personnel are stationed at UAE military facilities, hosted there under a bilateral defense cooperation agreement (DCA) that remains in effect. The UAE is a significant buyer of U.S. military equipment, including the most sophisticated missile defense system sold by the United States, demonstrating support for U.S. efforts to forge a coordinated missile defense network.

As the UAE has gained capability to...

The Purple Heart: Background and Issues for Congress

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

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

Interstate Natural Gas Pipeline Siting: FERC Policy and Issues for Congress

Growth in U.S. shale gas production is driving the expansion of natural gas pipeline infrastructure to transport natural gas from producing regions to consuming markets, typically in other states. If the growth in U.S. shale gas continues as projected, the need for new pipelines could be substantial. One recent industry analysis projected the need for approximately 26,000 miles of new natural gas pipeline between 2018 and 2035; total capital expenditure for these projects could range from $154 billion to $190 billion.

Under the Natural Gas Act, companies seeking to build interstate natural...

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, China, and other countries that produced an inter-Korean summit in late April. As of early May 2018, plans were underway for a summit between President Donald J. Trump and North Korean leader...

Recent Violent Crime Trends in the United States

Media accounts of increasing violent crime rates, especially homicides, in some cities raise broad concerns about decreasing levels of public safety.

This report provides an analysis of changes in violent crime since 1960, with a focus on changes from 2014 to 2016 in violent crime and homicide rates in the 48 largest cities in the United States for which violent crime and homicide data were submitted to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program. The results of the analysis suggest the following:

At the national level, violent crime and homicide rates increased...

Overview of Health Insurance Exchanges

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA; P.L. 111-148, as amended) requires health insurance exchanges to be established in every state. Exchanges are marketplaces in which consumers and small businesses can shop for and purchase private health insurance coverage. In general, states must have two types of exchanges: an individual exchange and a small business health options program (SHOP) exchange.

Exchanges may be established either by the state itself as a state-based exchange (SBE) or by the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) as a federally facilitated exchange...

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

The Sultanate of Oman has been a strategic ally of the United States since 1980, when it became the first of the Persian Gulf states to sign a formal accord permitting the U.S. military to use its facilities. Oman has hosted U.S. forces during every U.S. military operation in and around the Gulf since then, and it is a partner in U.S. efforts to counter regional terrorism and related threats. Oman’s ties to the United States are unlikely to loosen if its ailing leader, Sultan Qaboos bin Sa’id Al Said, leaves the scene in the near term. He underwent cancer treatment abroad for nearly a year...

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...

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.

For FY2018, Congress and the President provided a total of $72.119 billion in funding for CJS. This included $70.921 billion in regular funding provided in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018 (P.L. 115-141) and $1.198 billion in emergency-designated funding provided in the Further...

Economic and Fiscal Conditions in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Fiscal and economic challenges facing the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) government raise several issues for Congress. Congress may choose to maintain oversight of federal policies that could affect the USVI’s long-term fiscal stability. Congress also may consider further legislation that would extend or restructure long-range disaster assistance programs to mitigate those challenges and promote greater resiliency of infrastructure and public programs. Federal responses to the USVI’s fiscal distress could conceivably affect municipal debt markets more broadly.

The USVI, like many other...

Lebanon

Since having its boundaries drawn by France after the First World War, Lebanon has struggled to define its national identity. Unlike other countries in the region, its population included Christian, Sunni Muslim, and Shia Muslim communities of roughly comparable size, and with competing visions for the country. Seeking to avoid sectarian conflict, Lebanese leaders created a confessional system that allocated power among the country’s religious sects according to their percentage of the population. The system was based on Lebanon’s last official census, which was conducted in 1932.

As...

Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA)

Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) benefits are available only to those individuals who have become unemployed as a direct result of a declared major disaster. First created in 1970 through P.L. 91-606, DUA benefits are authorized by the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Relief Act (the Stafford Act), which authorizes the President to issue a major disaster declaration after state and local government resources have been overwhelmed by a natural catastrophe or, “regardless of cause, any fire, flood, or explosion in any part of the United States” (42 U.S.C. 5122(2)).

The...

Privacy Protections for Individuals with Substance Use Disorders: The Part 2 Final Rule in Brief

On January 18, 2017, the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) published a final rule to amend the federal regulations known as “Part 2” that protect the privacy of patient records maintained by alcohol and drug treatment programs across the country. Part 2 was developed in the 1970s to allay the concerns of individuals with substance use disorders who were afraid to get treatment for fear that their medical information would be released, leading to discrimination and even prosecution.

Health care providers participating in new health care delivery models such as accountable care...

Intelligence Community Spending: Trends and Issues

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

Funding associated with the 17 components of the IC is significant. In fiscal year (FY) 2017 alone, the aggregate amount...

Medicare: Insolvency Projections

Medicare is the nation’s health insurance program for persons aged 65 and older and certain disabled persons. Medicare consists of four distinct parts: Part A (Hospital Insurance, or HI); Part B (Supplementary Medical Insurance, or SMI); Part C (Medicare Advantage, or MA); and Part D (the outpatient prescription drug benefit).

The Part A program is financed primarily through payroll taxes levied on current workers and their employers; these taxes are credited to the HI Trust Fund. The Part B program is financed through a combination of monthly premiums paid by current enrollees and...

HUD FY2018 Appropriations: In Brief

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

Three rental assistance programs—Public Housing, Section 8 tenant-based rental assistance (which funds Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers), and Section 8 project-based...

Renewable Energy R&D Funding History: A Comparison with Funding for Nuclear Energy, Fossil Energy, Energy Efficiency, and Electric Systems R&D

Energy-related research and development (R&D)—on coal-based synthetic petroleum and on atomic bombs—played an important role in the successful outcome of World War II. In the postwar era, the federal government conducted R&D on fossil and nuclear energy sources to support peacetime economic growth. The energy crises of the 1970s spurred the government to broaden the focus to include renewable energy and energy efficiency. Over the 41-year period from the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) inception at the beginning of FY1978 through FY2018, federal funding for renewable energy R&D amounted to...

The Fair Housing Act: HUD Oversight, Programs, and Activities

The federal Fair Housing Act, enacted in 1968 as Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act (P.L. 90-284), prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental, or financing of housing based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, familial status, and handicap. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), through its Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO), receives and investigates complaints under the Fair Housing Act and determines if there is reasonable cause to believe that discrimination has occurred or is about to occur.

State and local fair housing agencies and...

Canada-U.S. Relations

Relations between the United States and Canada traditionally have been close, bound together by a common 5,500-mile border—“the longest undefended border in the world”—as well as by shared history and values. The countries have long-standing mutual security commitments under the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), and continue to work together to address international security challenges, such as the Islamic State insurgency in Iraq and Syria. Canada and the United States also maintain close intelligence and law enforcement ties...

Social Security: The Government Pension Offset (GPO)

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

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

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,...

Resources for Grantseekers

This report describes key sources of information on government and private funding, and outlines eligibility for federal grants. Federal grants are intended for projects benefiting states and communities. Individuals may be eligible for other kinds of benefits or assistance, or small businesses and students may be eligible for loans. Free information is readily available to grantseekers, who generally know best the details of their projects. The Assistance Listings database at beta.SAM.gov describes more than 2,200 federal programs, more than half of them grants, and can be searched by...

U.S. Crude Oil Exports and Retail Gasoline Prices

Since the beginning of 2018, average U.S. retail gasoline prices have risen approximately 18% and were nearly $3.00 per gallon at the end of May (see Figure 1). Over the same period, U.S. crude oil exports—for which restrictions were repealed in December 2015—have reached record levels. Average weekly export volumes from January to May 2018 have nearly doubled from average exports in all of 2017, to 1.7 million barrels per day (bpd). As a result, there has been congressional interest in understanding this tandem upward movement and the degree to which increasing crude oil exports might...

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.

The June 12 Trump-Kim Jong-un Summit

On June 12, 2018, President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un met in Singapore to discuss North Korea’s nuclear program, building a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula, and the future of U.S. relations with North Korea (known officially as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or DPRK). During their summit, the first-ever meeting between leaders of the two countries, Trump and Kim issued a brief joint statement in which Trump “committed to provide security guarantees to the DPRK,” and Kim “reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of...

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education: An Overview

The term STEM education refers to teaching and learning in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. It typically includes educational activities across all grade levels—from pre-school to post-doctorate—in both formal (e.g., classrooms) and informal (e.g., afterschool programs) settings. Federal policymakers have an active and enduring interest in STEM education, and the topic is frequently raised in federal science, education, workforce, national security, and immigration policy debates.

Various attempts to assess the federal STEM education effort have produced...

Financial Aid for Students: Online Resources

Congressional offices are frequently contacted by constituents who are researching how to pay for postsecondary education. This report identifies various online sources targeted to students and parents that provide information on planning and acquiring funds for postsecondary education. Some resources also contain information on repaying, forgiving, or discharging educational debt.

Students are often in the best position to determine which aid programs they may qualify for and which best meet their needs. Many of the websites listed in this report enable a student to conduct and save...

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...

Higher Education Tax Benefits: Brief Overview and Budgetary Effects

The federal government provides financial assistance to individuals for higher education expenses in two major ways: tax benefits and traditional student aid (loans, grants, and work-study assistance). Since 1997, education tax benefits have become an increasingly important component of federal higher education policy. In 2017, 14 tax benefits are available for college students and their parents to help pay for higher education. The available tax benefits are a mixture of credits, deductions, exclusions, and other incentives. The Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) estimates the cost to the...

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...

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

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

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

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

Social Security’s receipts and expenditures are accounted for through two federal trust funds: the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) Trust Fund and the Federal Disability Insurance (DI) Trust Fund. Under their intermediate assumptions and under current law, the Social Security trustees project that the DI trust fund will become depleted in 2032 and the OASI trust fund will become depleted in 2034. Although the two funds are legally separate, they are often considered in combination. The trustees project that the combined Social Security trust funds will become depleted in...

The Federal “Crime of Violence” Definition: Overview and Judicial Developments

In an effort to deter violent crime, and to limit the broad discretion accorded to federal judges with respect to prison sentencing, Congress in 1984 passed legislation that revised the federal criminal code. The Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984 (CCCA) aimed to substantially reform and improve federal criminal laws, and “to restore a proper balance between the forces of law and the forces of lawlessness.” To that end, the CCCA adopted new bail procedures, imposed mandatory minimum sentences for certain criminal offenses, increased the penalties for drug offenses and violent crimes,...

The Current State of Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform and Management

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has reported that the federal government budgets more than $80 billion each year on information technology (IT) investments and in FY2017, GAO estimates that this investment will increase to more than $89 billion. Historically, the projects supported by these investments have often incurred “multi-million dollar cost overruns and years-long schedule delays.” In addition, GAO has reported that these projects may contribute little to mission-related outcomes and, in some cases, may fail altogether. These undesirable results, according to GAO, “can...

Money for Something: Music Licensing in the 21st Century

Songwriters and recording artists are legally entitled to get paid for (1) reproductions and public performances of the notes and lyrics they create (the musical works), as well as (2) reproductions, distributions, and certain digital performances of the recorded sound of their voices combined with instruments (the sound recordings). The amount they get paid, as well as their control over their music, depends on market forces, contracts among a variety of private-sector entities, and laws governing copyright and competition policy.

Congress first enacted laws governing music licensing in...

How to Develop and Write a Grant Proposal

This report is intended for Members and staff assisting grant seekers in districts and states and covers writing proposals for both government and private foundation grants. In preparation for writing a proposal, the report first discusses preliminary information gathering and preparation, developing ideas for the proposal, gathering community support, identifying funding resources, and seeking preliminary review of the proposal and support of relevant administrative officials.

The second section of the report covers the actual writing of the proposal, from outlining of project goals,...

Iraq’s 2018 Elections

Iraqis are voting in national, regional, and provincial elections in 2018 as they seek to consolidate the country’s military victory over the Islamic State, rebuild shattered communities, and improve government performance. On May 12, Iraqi voters went to the polls to choose national legislators for four-year terms in the 329-seat Council of Representatives (COR), Iraq’s unicameral legislature. Turnout was lower in the 2018 COR election than in past national elections, but the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) has stated that it was “largely peaceful and orderly” and has...

Amendments Between the Houses: Procedural Options and Effects

The House and Senate must agree to the same measure with the same legislative language before a bill can be presented to the President. To resolve differences between House and Senate versions of legislation, Congress might appoint a conference committee to negotiate a compromise that is then reported to each chamber for consideration. Alternatively, Congress might use the process of amendment exchange. In this process, each chamber acts on the legislation in turn, shuttling the measure back and forth, sometimes proposing alternatives in the form of amendments, until both chambers have...

Egypt: Background and U.S. Relations

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

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

Forest Service Assistance Programs

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has numerous programs to support the management of state and private forests. These programs are under the jurisdiction of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees and are often examined in the periodic legislation to reauthorize agricultural programs, commonly known as farm bills. For example, the 2014 farm bill repealed, reauthorized, or modified many of these programs. The House version of the 2018 farm bill, the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 (H.R. 2), contains a forestry title (Title VIII) that would reauthorize, modify, and...

FY2018 Military Construction Authorizations and Appropriations

On May 23, 2017, the Trump Administration delivered its first full budget proposal to the 115th Congress, a request that included $10.4 billion for military construction activities. Of this amount, the Administration requested $9.8 billion for military construction and family housing in the base budget, and $0.6 billion in Overseas Contingency Operations funds.

House and Senate negotiations on the annual National Defense Authorization Act, which authorizes funding for military construction projects for the Department of Defense, concluded early in November 2017. The final bill, H.R. 2810,...

Electronic Employment Eligibility Verification

Unauthorized immigration and unauthorized employment continue to be key issues in the ongoing debate over immigration policy. Today’s discussions about these issues build on the work of prior Congresses. In 1986, following many years of debate about unauthorized immigration to the United States, Congress passed the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA). This law sought to address unauthorized immigration, in part, by requiring all employers to examine documents presented by new hires to verify identity and work authorization and to complete and retain employment eligibility...

Increase in Illicit Fentanyl Overdose Deaths

Fentanyl, heroin, and some prescription painkillers (such as morphine and oxycodone) belong to the class of drugs known as opioids, which act on receptors in the brain important in regulating pain and emotion. Opioids have susceptibility for abuse and potential for overdose. In 2016, more than 42,000 of the nearly 64,000 drug overdose deaths in the United States involved opioids. Led by fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 50-100 times more potent than morphine, synthetic opioids emerged as the leading cause of opioid-related overdose deaths in 2016. The steep increase in deaths involving fentanyl...

Background Information on Health Coverage Options Addressed in Executive Order 13813

On October 12, 2017, President Trump issued Executive Order (E.O.) 13813, entitled “Promoting Healthcare Choice and Competition Across the United States.” E.O. 13813 directs specified agencies to consider regulatory or sub-regulatory approaches to expand access to three unrelated, private-sector health coverage options: association health plans (AHPs); short-term, limited-duration insurance (STLDI); and health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs). This report answers frequently asked questions (FAQs) about E.O. 13813 and subsequent rulemaking and provides background information about AHPs,...

Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations In Brief

Turkey, a NATO ally since 1952, is significant for U.S. interests. It is a constitutional republic with a large, diversified economy and a Muslim-majority population that straddles Europe and the Middle East.

The history of the U.S.-Turkey relationship is complicated. Although the United States and Turkey support each other’s interests in some vital ways, harmonizing priorities can be difficult. These priorities sometimes diverge irrespective of who leads each of the two countries, based on contrasting geography, threat perceptions, and regional roles.

Significant challenges to bilateral...

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. 5) adopted by the 115th Congress on January 3, 2017.

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...

Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act (P.L. 115-174) and Selected Policy Issues

Some observers assert the financial crisis of 2007-2009 revealed that excessive risk had built up in the financial system, and that weaknesses in regulation contributed to that buildup and the resultant instability. In response, Congress passed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (P.L. 111-203; the Dodd-Frank Act), and regulators strengthened rules under existing authority. Following this broad overhaul of financial regulation, some observers argue certain changes are an overcorrection, resulting in unduly burdensome regulation.

The Economic Growth, Regulatory...

State Innovation Waivers: Frequently Asked Questions

Section 1332 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA; P.L. 111-148, as amended) provides states with the option to waive specified requirements of the ACA. In the absence of these requirements, the state is to implement its own plan to provide health insurance coverage to state residents that meets the ACA’s terms.

Under a state innovation waiver, a state can apply to waive ACA requirements related to qualified health plans, health insurance exchanges, premium tax credits, cost-sharing subsidies, the individual mandate, and the employer mandate. The state can apply to waive...

Tax Expenditures: Before and After the 2017 Tax Revision (P.L. 115-97)

Tax reform debates, including the debate surrounding the 2017 tax revision (P.L. 115-97), often consider the option of broadening the tax base in exchange for a reduction in statutory tax rates. One means of base-broadening is reducing or eliminating “tax expenditures,” or revenue losses attributable to special provisions in the tax code. Policymakers also evaluate tax expenditures from a federal budgeting perspective, as tax expenditures may be viewed as “spending through the tax code.” Though P.L. 115-97 makes major changes to the U.S. federal tax system, in aggregate, the change in the...

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 more than 42,000 of these deaths involved prescription or illicit opioids. A report issued in November 2017 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...

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 June 5, 2018, the SBA’s Dynamic Small Business Search database included 6,243 firms with active HUBZone...

Former Speakers of the House: Office Allowances, Franking Privileges, and Staff Assistance

Since 1970, former Speakers of the House of Representatives have been provided with an allowance after their departure from the House. The allowance was established to assist retiring Speakers in concluding any official business arising from their tenure in the House. Currently, the statutorily authorized allowance is available to former Speakers for office space and furnishings, office operations, franked mail, and staff assistance. Use of the allowance is limited to five years, beginning the day of expiration of a Speaker’s tenure as a Representative. Allowances are to be used solely for...

FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act

The Trump Administration’s initial FY2018 budget request, released on May 23, 2017, included a total of $677.1 billion for the national defense budget function (Budget Function 050), which encompasses all defense-related activities of the federal government. Of that amount, $659.8 billion was for appropriation accounts for which authorization is provided in the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The remainder of the request was either for mandatory funds not requiring annual authorization or for discretionary funds outside the scope of the NDAA.

That initial Administration...

The American Opportunity Tax Credit: Overview, Analysis, and Policy Options

The American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC)—originally enacted on a temporary basis by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA; P.L. 111-5) and made permanent by the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act (PATH; Division Q of P.L. 114-113)—is a partially refundable tax credit that provides financial assistance to taxpayers (or their children) who are pursuing a higher education. The credit, worth up to $2,500 per student, can be claimed for a student’s qualifying expenses incurred during the first four years of post-secondary education. In addition, 40% of the credit (up to...

Education Policy: Resources for Congressional Staff

Education; elementary education; elementary and secondary education; higher education; postsecondary education; Department of Education; education budget; education appropriations; education resources; education statistics; federal education policy; Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions; House Committee on Education and the Workforce; education spending; early childhood education; Head Start; IDEA; Individuals with Disabilities Education; Preschool Development Grants; student financial assistance; higher education tax benefits; GI Bill; federal support for institutions...

Grants Work in a Congressional Office

Members of Congress receive frequent requests from grant seekers needing funds for projects in districts and states. The congressional office should first determine its priorities regarding the appropriate assistance to give constituents, from providing information on grants programs to active advocacy of projects. Congressional grants staff can best help grant seekers by first themselves gaining some understanding of the grants process.

Each office handles grants requests in its own way, depending upon the Member’s legislative agenda and overall organization and workload. There may be a...

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

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) in the Department of Defense undertakes water resources development activities. Its projects primarily are to maintain navigable channels, reduce flood and storm damage, and restore aquatic ecosystems. Congress directs USACE through authorizations and appropriations legislation. This report summarizes authorization legislation, the standard project delivery process, authorities for alternative water resource project delivery, and other USACE authorities.

Authorization Legislation. Congress generally authorizes USACE water resource activities in...

The Role of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP)

ONDCP Mission and Responsibilities

The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) is responsible for creating, implementing, and evaluating U.S. drug control policies to reduce the use, manufacturing, and trafficking of illicit drugs as well as drug-related health consequences, crime, and violence. ONDCP is located in the Executive Office of the President. It was created by the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988 and most recently reauthorized by the Office of National Drug Control Policy Reauthorization Act of 2006. Authorization of appropriations for ONDCP expired at the end of FY2010, but...

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...

Prioritizing Waterway Lock Projects: Barge Traffic Changes

Congress faces decisions about prioritizing new lock construction projects on the inland waterway system. As both houses debate differing versions of water resources and development bills (S. 2800, H.R. 8) and the FY2019 Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill (S. 2975, H.R. 5895), the decision about which of these projects could be undertaken first will likely be among the most controversial issues.

The inland waterway system supports barge transportation of heavy raw materials such as grain, coal, petroleum, and construction aggregates. The new locks are needed, according to the...

Federal Grants and Loans for State and Local Emergency Communications Projects: Frequently Asked Questions

Improving emergency communications has been an area of congressional interest for many years. Before September 11, 2001, Congress provided funding through grants, which could be used to improve state and local emergency communications through purchases of police and fire radios, construction of communication towers, and disaster planning, training, and exercises. After September 11, 2001, Congress increased funding to improve interoperability between public safety agencies at all levels of government to enhance communication and coordination during response.

Congress has also supported...

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...

The Alien Tort Statute (ATS): A Primer

Passed by the First Congress as part of the Judiciary Act of 1789, the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) has been described as a provision “unlike any other in American law” and “unknown to any other legal system in the world.” In its current form, the complete text of the statute provides the following: “The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of any civil action by an alien for a tort only, committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States.” While just one sentence, the ATS has been the subject of intense interest in recent decades, as it evolved from a...

The House Journal: Origin, Purpose, and Approval

The Journal of the House of Representatives is the official record of the chamber’s legislative actions. The Journal’s contents include the titles of introduced legislation, the results of votes, presidential veto messages, and any other matters the House deems to be official proceedings. Unlike the Congressional Record, it is not a transcript of debate. Rather, the Journal is a listing of House actions without the debate accompanying those actions.

The Constitution mandates that each House keep a journal of its proceedings (Art. 1, §5). The Constitution, House rules and practices, and, to...

Juneteenth: Fact Sheet

Juneteenth celebrates the end of slavery in the United States. It is also known as Emancipation Day, Juneteenth Independence Day, and Black Independence Day. On June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, TX, and announced the end of the civil war and the end of slavery. Although the Emancipation Proclamation came 2½ years earlier on January 1, 1863, and many slave owners continued to hold their slaves captive after the announcement, Juneteenth became a symbolic date representing African American freedom.

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

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.

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 2018, Congress appropriated over $222 million to address these two issues.

Most of the appropriated funds have been used by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) for the environmental cleanup of Danang airport, one of the major airbases used for storing and spraying the herbicides between 1961...

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

The Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs appropriations legislation provides annual funding for almost all of the international affairs programs generally considered as part of the 150 International Affairs Budget Function (the major exception being food assistance). The legislation has also served as a vehicle for Congress to place conditions on the expenditure of those funds, and express its views regarding certain foreign policy issues.

This report briefly discusses the legislation generally and then provides a short description of the various funding accounts...

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Issues and Debate in the 115th Congress

On April 27, 2018, the House of Representatives passed the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 (H.R. 4), a six-year Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization measure that does not include a controversial proposal to privatize air traffic control laid (ATC) out in an earlier bill, H.R. 2997. On May 9, 2018, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation reported a four-year FAA reauthorization bill (S. 1405, S.Rept. 115-243) that does not address ATC privatization. The enactment of either bill would be the first long-term FAA reauthorization act since the FAA...

FBI Director Nominations, 1973-2017

The Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is appointed by the President by and with the advice and consent of the Senate. The statutory basis for the present nomination and confirmation process was developed in 1968 and 1976, and has been used since the death of J. Edgar Hoover in 1972. From 1973 through 2017, eight nominations for FBI Director were confirmed, and two other nominations were withdrawn by the President before confirmation. The position of FBI Director has a fixed 10-year term, and the officeholder cannot be reappointed, unless Congress acts to allow a second...

Daylight Saving Time

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

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

Trade Promotion Authority (TPA): Frequently Asked Questions

Legislation to reauthorize Trade Promotion Authority (TPA)—sometimes called “fast track”—the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 (TPA-2015), was signed into law by President Obama on June 29, 2015 (P.L. 114-26). If the President negotiates an international trade agreement that would reduce tariff or 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 allows...

Vehicle Fuel Economy and Greenhouse Gas Standards: Frequently Asked Questions

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

Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs

In the midst of national concern over the opioid epidemic, federal and state officials are paying greater attention to the manner in which opioids are prescribed. Nearly all prescription drugs involved in overdoses are originally prescribed by a physician (rather than, for example, being stolen from pharmacies). Thus, attention has been directed toward better understanding how opioids are being prescribed and preventing the diversion of prescription drugs after the prescriptions are dispensed.

Prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) maintain statewide electronic databases of...

The International Monetary Fund

The International Monetary Fund (IMF), conceived at the Bretton Woods conference in July 1944, is the multilateral organization focused on the international monetary system. Created in 1946 with 46 members, it has grown to include 189 countries. The IMF has six purposes that are outlined in Article I of the IMF Articles of Agreement: promoting international monetary cooperation; expanding the balanced growth of international trade; facilitating exchange rate stability; eliminating restrictions on the international flow of capital; ensuring confidence by making the general resources of the...

Discharge Petitions and the House Discharge Rule

Recent media reports have discussed an effort by some Representatives to use a discharge petition to schedule a floor vote on a resolution (a “special rule”) providing for House consideration of immigration legislation under a "Queen-of-the-Hill" amendment structure. This Insight discusses the principal features of the House discharge rule and links to additional reading material on the subject.

The House discharge rule, clause 2 of Rule XV, establishes a parliamentary mechanism whereby 218 Members of the House of Representatives—a majority of the chamber—can bring a bill or resolution to...

Cybersecurity: Legislation, Hearings, and Executive Branch Documents

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

Venezuela’s 2018 Presidential Elections

On May 20, 2018, Venezuela held presidential elections that were boycotted by the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) coalition of opposition parties and dismissed as illegitimate by the United States, the European Union (EU), and 14 Western Hemisphere nations (the Lima Group). According to the official results, President Nicolás Maduro of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) won reelection for a second six-year term with 67.7% of the vote amidst relatively high abstention (46% of voters participated). Maduro’s main opponent, Henri Falcón, former governor of Lara state, rejected...

Federal Financing for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)

The State Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is a means-tested program that provides health coverage to targeted low-income children and pregnant women in families that have annual income above Medicaid eligibility levels but have no health insurance. CHIP is jointly financed by the federal government and the states, and the states are responsible for administering CHIP.

The federal government’s share of CHIP expenditures (including both services and administration) is determined by the enhanced federal medical assistance percentage (E-FMAP) rate. The E-FMAP varies by state;...

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...

Science and Technology Issues in the 115th Congress

Science and technology (S&T) have a pervasive influence over a wide range of issues confronting the nation. Public and private research and development spur scientific and technological advancement. Such advances can drive economic growth, help address national priorities, and improve health and quality of life. The constantly changing nature and ubiquity of science and technology frequently create public policy issues of congressional interest.

The federal government supports scientific and technological advancement directly by funding and performing research and development and...

Department of Homeland Security Appropriations: FY2018

This report provides an overview and analysis of FY2018 appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The primary focus of this report is on congressional direction and funding provided to DHS through the appropriations process. It includes an Appendix with definitions of key budget terms used throughout the suite of Congressional Research Service reports on homeland security appropriations. It also directs the reader to other reports providing context for specific component appropriations.

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

Wastewater Infrastructure: Overview, Funding, and Legislative Developments

The collection and treatment of wastewater remains among the most important public health interventions in human history and has contributed to a significant decrease in waterborne diseases during the past century. Nevertheless, waste discharges from municipal sewage treatment plants into rivers and streams, lakes, and estuaries and coastal waters remain a significant source of water quality problems throughout the country.

The Clean Water Act (CWA) establishes performance levels to be attained by municipal sewage treatment plants in order to prevent the discharge of harmful wastes into...

FY2019 Appropriations for the Department of Energy

Overview

The Department of Energy (DOE) is funded through the Energy and Water Development appropriations bill. The President’s fiscal year (FY) 2019 budget request and the addendum include $30.7 billion for the DOE, approximately $3.8 billion (11%) less than the FY2018 enacted level of $34.6 billion (see P.L. 115-141 and Title III of Division D, Explanatory Statement on page H2481). The House Appropriations Committee approved its version of the FY2019 bill on May 16, 2018. According to the draft committee report, the bill would fund DOE at $35.5 billion. Proposed changes to the DOE...

Malaysia’s First Democratic Change of Government

In a nationwide parliamentary election on May 9, Malaysia underwent its first democratic change of government since it gained independence in 1959. Voters elected a coalition, Pakatan Harapan (PH), led by former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. The coalition defeated the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition led by the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), a Malay-nationalist party that has dominated Malaysia’s politics since independence. Prime Minister Najib Razak, who had served since 2007, conceded the elections on May 10.

The election was a peaceful and democratic change of...

Credit Growth in the Current Expansion

Credit (debt) plays a crucial role in economic performance by funneling the funds of savers to borrowers. Up to a point, credit growth is necessary for healthy economic growth. But if credit grows too quickly, it can exacerbate economic instability by amplifying a financial boom and bust cycle. For example, the credit boom associated with the last decade’s housing bubble was followed by the 2007-2009 financial crisis, which featured a sharp contraction in credit that was both a cause and symptom of the Great Recession and the sluggish economic recovery that followed. As the economy has...

The Federal Budget: Overview and Issues for FY2019 and Beyond

The federal budget is a central component of the congressional “power of the purse.” Each fiscal year, Congress and the President engage in a number of activities that influence short- and long-run revenue and expenditure trends. This report offers context for the current budget debate and tracks legislative events related to the federal budget.

After a decline in budget deficits over the past several years, the deficit is projected to increase significantly in FY2019. Enactment of the 2017 tax revision (P.L. 115-97) and the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (BBA 2018; P.L. 115-123) are...

Advanced Pilot Training (T-X) Program: Background and Issues for Congress

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

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

Commemorations in Congress: Options for Honoring Individuals, Groups, and Events

Since its inception, Congress has used commemorative legislation to express public gratitude for distinguished contributions; dramatize the virtues of individuals, groups, and causes; and perpetuate the remembrance of significant events. During the past two centuries, commemoratives have become an integral part of the American political tradition. They have been used to authorize the minting of commemorative coins and Congressional Gold Medals; fund monuments and memorials; create federal holidays; establish commissions to celebrate important anniversaries; and name public works,...

Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month Speech Resources: Fact Sheet

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

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

U.S. Department of State Personnel: Background and Selected Issues for Congress

Current Context and Recent Developments

Shortly after his confirmation as Secretary of State in April 2018, Secretary Mike Pompeo lifted the hiring freeze that former Secretary Rex Tillerson left in place for over a year. Guidance issued after Secretary Pompeo’s action indicates that the department intends to increase Foreign and Civil Service personnel levels in a manner consistent with the language and funding Congress included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018 (P.L. 115-141). The Trump Administration has taken additional actions affecting Department of State personnel,...

Indian Health Service (IHS) FY2019 Budget Request and Funding History: A Fact Sheet

The Indian Health Service (IHS) within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is the lead federal agency charged with improving the health of American Indians and Alaska Natives. IHS provides health care for approximately 2.2 million eligible American Indians/Alaska Natives through a system of programs and facilities located on or near Indian reservations, and through contractors in certain urban areas. IHS provides services to members of 573 federally recognized tribes. It provides services either directly or through facilities and programs operated by Indian tribes or tribal...

Internet Freedom in China: U.S. Government Activity, Private Sector Initiatives, and Issues of Congressional Interest

By the end of 2017, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) had the world’s largest number of internet users, estimated at over 750 million people. At the same time, the country has one of the most sophisticated and aggressive internet censorship and control regimes in the world. PRC officials have argued that internet controls are necessary for social stability, and intended to protect and strengthen Chinese culture. However, in its 2017 Annual Report, Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontières, RSF) called China the “world’s biggest prison for journalists” and warned that the...

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...

Regulating School Bus Safety

An estimated 25% of students ride school buses to school and school-related events annually. Nationwide, an average of six school bus passengers die each year in traffic crashes. School buses have the lowest death rate of any mode of transporting children to school in the United States. Yet incidents such as the fatal May 17 crash of a school bus and a dump truck in New Jersey may revive a debate about whether federal regulations could make school buses even safer. The National Transportation Safety Board is meeting on May 22 to consider a Special Investigation Report based on...

U.S. Foreign Aid to the Palestinians

Under the Obama and Trump Administrations, the executive branch and Congress have taken significant measures to reduce and delay U.S. aid to the Palestinians. Questions surround the future of this aid as policymakers try to evaluate whether it is effective in accomplishing its specific programmatic purposes, as well as in improving regional stability and U.S. political influence. Some observers, including Israelis, express concern about various aspects of the aid while also voicing caution that more major changes could affect stability and Israeli security.

Reductions and delays in aid...

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...

Violence Against Journalists in Mexico: In Brief

Over the past decade, at least 74 journalists have been killed in Mexico and many more have been threatened or attacked. Although violence against journalists is occurring within the context of a broader security crisis, the United Nations (U.N.) and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) Rapporteurs for Freedom of Expression have asserted that such crimes “attack the roots of democratic life in Mexico.” Perhaps partially as a result of international pressure, the Mexican government recently has reported some progress in resolving emblematic cases of journalists who were...

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

In total, 329 women have been elected or appointed to Congress, 212 Democrats and 117 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 329 women there have been 277 (178 Democrats, 99 Republicans) women elected only to the House of Representatives; 40 (25 Democrats, 15 Republicans) women elected or appointed only to the Senate; 12 (9 Democrats, 3 Republicans) women who have served in both houses. A...

Issues in Autonomous Vehicle Deployment

Legislation recently passed by the House of Representatives—H.R. 3388—and pending in the Senate—S. 1885—would provide new regulatory tools to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to oversee autonomous vehicles. Autonomous vehicles are seen as a way to reduce motor vehicle crashes; for example, there were 37,461 deaths from motor vehicle crashes in 2016 and nearly all of them were caused by driver error. However, despite unanimous approval in House and Senate committees and on the House floor, the legislation has proven controversial in the wake of several high-profile...

Bilateral and Regional Trade Agreements: Issues for Congress

Congress plays a prominent role in shaping, debating, and approving legislation to implement trade agreements, and over the past three decades, bilateral and regional trade agreements (RTAs, or free trade agreements (FTAs) in the U.S. context) have become a primary source of new international trade liberalization commitments. The United States has historically pursued FTAs to open markets for U.S. goods, services, and agriculture, and establish trade rules and disciplines to enhance overall domestic and global economic growth. They are actively debated and can be contentious due to...

Women in Congress: Statistics and Brief Overview

A record 112 women currently serve in the 115th Congress: 89 in the House (including Delegates and the Resident Commissioner from Puerto Rico; 64 Democrats and 25 Republicans) and 23 in the Senate (17 Democrats and 6 Republicans). This surpasses the previous record from the 114th Congress (108 women initially sworn in, and 1 House Member subsequently elected).

The first woman elected to Congress was Representative Jeannette Rankin (R-MT, 1917-1919, 1941-1943). The first woman to serve in the Senate was Rebecca Latimer Felton (D-GA). She was appointed in 1922 and served for only one day....

Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act (S. 2155) and House Legislation: Common Issue Areas

The Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act (S. 2155) passed the Senate on March 14, 2018. The bill generally aims to provide regulatory relief to banks, relax mortgage lending and capital formation rules, and provide additional consumer financial protections. The bill addresses a number of policy issues that are also addressed by the Financial CHOICE Act (H.R. 10), which was passed by the House on June 8, 2017, and other House bills that have been passed by the House or otherwise seen legislative action in the 115th Congress. The table below matches the policy...

Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017 (P.L. 115-48)

Since the enactment of the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008 (Post-9/11 GI Bill; P.L. 110-252), Congress has enacted several bills aimed to improve it. Congress’s most recent effort to refine the Post-9/11 GI Bill and respond to stakeholder feedback is the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017 (Colmery Act; P.L. 115-48), enacted on August 16, 2017. The Colmery Act enacted over 30 amendments to the Post-9/11 GI Bill and other programs administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Most provisions become effective on enactment or on August...

Military Construction: Process, Outcomes, and Frequently Asked Questions

Congress appropriates several billion dollars annually to support and sustain a broad footprint of military bases, reflecting both a federal investment in local communities and a local investment in national defense. Specific military construction project authorizationsprovided through the annual National Defense Authorization Actenable the Secretary of Defense and the Secretaries of the Army, Air Force, and Navy to plan, program, design, and build the runways, piers, warehouses, barracks, schools, hospitals, child development centers, and other facilities needed to support U.S. military...

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI): Eligibility, Benefits, and Financing

The Social Security Administration (SSA) is responsible for administering two federal entitlement programs established under the Social Security Act that provide income support to individuals with severe, long-term disabilities: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSDI is a work-related social insurance program authorized under Title II of the act that provides monthly cash benefits to nonelderly disabled workers and their eligible dependents, provided the workers accrued a sufficient number of earnings credits during their careers in jobs...

Nuclear Cooperation with Other Countries: A Primer

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

The Affordable Care Act (ACA): Notifying an Employer of a Potential Shared Responsibility Payment (ESRP)

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA; P.L. 111-148, as amended) requires that large employers either provide health coverage to full-time employees or face a potential assessment of an Employer Shared Responsibility Payment (ESRP). As explained in CRS Report R43981, The Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) Employer Shared Responsibility Determination and the Potential Employer Penalty, this “employer penalty” may be assessed by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) if at least one of employer’s full-time employees obtains a premium tax credit or cost-sharing reduction through a health...

NASA Appropriations and Authorizations: A Fact Sheet

National Aeronautics and Space Administration NASA budget appropriations authorization reauthorization funding FY2018 FY2019 NASA congressional budget justification NASA budget request NASA operating plan Commerce-Justice-Science CJS appropriations P.L. 115-31 P.L. 115-141 NASA Authorization Act of 2018 (H.R. 5503)

Job Creation in the Manufacturing Revival

The health of the U.S. manufacturing sector is of ongoing interest to Congress. Numerous bills aimed at promoting manufacturing are introduced in each Congress, often with the stated goal of creating jobs. Implicit in many of these bills is the assumption that the manufacturing sector is uniquely able to provide well-paid employment for workers who have not pursued education beyond high school.

Lines between manufacturing and other economic sectors are increasingly blurred. Many workers in fields such as industrial design and information technology perform work closely related to...

The Child Tax Credit: Current Law

This report provides an overview of the child tax credit under current law, including temporary changes made by the 2017 tax revision (P.L. 115-97).

When calculating the total amount of federal income taxes owed, eligible taxpayers can reduce their federal income tax liability by the amount of the child tax credit. Currently, eligible families that claim the child tax credit can subtract up to $2,000 per qualifying child from their federal income tax liability. The maximum amount of credit a family can receive is equal to the number of qualifying children in a family multiplied by $2,000....

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

Since 9/11, a number of factors have complicated Congress’s efforts to improve oversight of covert and clandestine activities of the intelligence community. Greater integration of military operations and intelligence activities has resulted in a blurring of authorities associated with Title 10 and Title 50 of the United States Code. In addition, Congress has expressed concern that DOD’s overuse of terms that are not defined in statute, such as traditional military activities and operational preparation of the environment (OPE), has allowed DOD to circumvent the more stringent oversight...

Liberia: Political Transition and U.S. Relations

Liberia, a small coastal West African country on the Gulf of Guinea, has made substantial development gains since the end of the second of two civil wars (1989-1997 and 1999-2003). In late 2017, Liberia held its third post-war general election. George Weah, a former soccer star, won the presidential election in a runoff and was inaugurated on January 22, 2018. Weah succeeded two-term president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who was constitutionally prohibited from seeking a third term, in Liberia’s first electoral transfer of state executive power since 1944.

Weah’s policy agenda focuses on four...

CRS Products on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is a free trade agreement among the United States, Canada, and Mexico that entered into force on January 1, 1994. NAFTA includes 8 parts consisting of 22 chapters and 2 side agreements. The main text of the agreement contains provisions on tariff and nontariff barrier elimination, customs procedures, energy, agriculture, technical barriers to trade, government procurement, foreign investments, services trade, temporary entry for business persons, intellectual property rights protection (IPR), and dispute resolution procedures. Two side...

Temporary Protected Status: Overview and Current Issues

When civil unrest, violence, or natural disasters erupt in countries around the world, concerns arise over the ability of foreign nationals in the United States from those countries to safely return. Provisions exist in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) to offer temporary protected status (TPS) and other forms of relief from removal under specified circumstances. The Secretary of Homeland Security has the discretion to issue TPS for periods of 6 to 18 months and can extend these periods if conditions leading to TPS designation do not change. Congress has also provided TPS...

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

The Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act (S. 2155) was passed by the Senate on March 14, 2018. The bill generally aims to provide regulatory relief to banks, relax mortgage lending rules, relax capital formation regulations, and provide additional consumer protections related to credit reporting and other areas. This Insight briefly highlights major policy proposals. For a more detailed examination, see CRS Report R45073, Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act (S. 2155) and Selected Policy Issues, coordinated by David W. Perkins.

Some...

FDA to Consider Whether and How to Lower Permissible Nicotine Levels in Cigarettes

On March 15, 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) entitled Tobacco Product Standard for Nicotine Level of Combusted Cigarettes. FDA states that it is considering setting a maximum nicotine level for traditional (a.k.a. “combusted”) cigarettes in order to make them minimally addictive or nonaddictive. This notice begins what could be a complex, contentious, and multi-year process during which FDA will solicit public comments (the public comment period for the initial ANPRM will expire on June 14, 2018) and marry that...

Traditional and Roth Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs): A Primer

In response to concerns over the adequacy of retirement savings, Congress has created incentives to encourage individuals to save more for retirement through a variety of retirement plans. Some retirement plans are employer-sponsored, such as 401(k) plans, and others are established by individual employees, such as Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs).

This report describes the primary features of two common retirement savings accounts that are available to individuals. Although the accounts have many features in common, they differ in some important aspects. Both traditional and Roth...

Permanent Legal Immigration to the United States: Policy Overview

Four major principles currently underlie U.S. policy on legal permanent immigration: the reunification of families, the admission of immigrants with needed skills, the protection of refugees and asylees, and the diversity of immigrants by country of origin. These principles are embodied in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and are reflected in different components of permanent immigration. Family reunification occurs primarily through family-sponsored immigration. U.S. labor market contribution occurs through employment-based immigration. Humanitarian assistance occurs primarily...

Unemployment Insurance: Legislative Issues in the 115th Congress

The 115th Congress continues to consider many issues related to the two major components of the unemployment insurance (UI) system: Unemployment Compensation (UC) and Extended Benefits (EB). This report provides short summaries of legislative proposals with respect to UI programs. It also gives a brief overview of the UI programs that may provide benefits to eligible unemployed workers. In addition, it briefly summarizes UI proposals included in the President’s budget for FY2019.

President Trump signed H.J.Res. 42 on March 30, 2017 (P.L. 115-17). This Congressional Review Act (CRA)...

False Statements and Perjury: An Overview of Federal Criminal Law

Federal courts, Congress, and federal agencies rely upon truthful information in order to make informed decisions. Federal law therefore proscribes providing the federal courts, Congress, or federal agencies with false information. The prohibition takes four forms: false statements; perjury in judicial proceedings; perjury in other contexts; and subornation of perjury.

Section 1001 of Title 18 of the United States Code, the general false statement statute, outlaws material false statements in matters within the jurisdiction of a federal agency or department. It reaches false statements in...

Energy and Water Development: FY2018 Appropriations

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

President Trump submitted his FY2018 budget proposal to Congress on May 23, 2017. The budget requests for agencies included in the Energy and Water Development appropriations bill...

Lebanon’s 2018 Elections

On May 6, 2018, Lebanon held its first legislative elections in nine years. The results showed that parties allied with Hezbollah increased their share of seats from roughly 44% to 53%. However, as in past Lebanese governments, rival parliamentary blocs will likely need to reach consensus in order to secure the passage of major policy initiatives.

The 128 seats in Lebanon’s parliament, known formally as the Chamber of Deputies, are divided evenly between Christians and Muslims. This reflects Lebanon’s broader political system in which power is divided among the country’s various religious...

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. Growing faster than international trade or financial flows, the volume of global data flows grew 45-fold from 2005 to 2014.

Congress has an important role to play in shaping global digital trade policy, from oversight of agencies charged with regulating cross-border data flows to shaping and considering legislation...

False Statements and Perjury: A Sketch of Federal Criminal Law

Federal courts, Congress, and federal agencies rely upon truthful information in order to make informed decisions. Federal law therefore proscribes providing the federal courts, Congress, or federal agencies with false information. The prohibition takes four forms: false statements; perjury in judicial proceedings; perjury in other contexts; and subornation of perjury.

Section 1001 of Title 18 of the United States Code, the general false statement statute, outlaws material false statements in matters within the jurisdiction of a federal agency or department. It reaches false statements in...

Iran: U.S. Economic Sanctions and the Authority to Lift Restrictions

On May 8, 2018, President Donald Trump signed National Security Presidential Memorandum 11, “ceasing U.S. participation in the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] and taking additional action to counter Iran’s malign influence and deny Iran all paths to a nuclear weapon.” The action sets in motion a reestablishment of U.S. unilateral economic sanctions that will affect U.S. businesses and include secondary sanctions that target the commerce originating in other countries that engage in trade with and investment in Iran.

Prior to this juncture, the United States had led the...

Federal Crop Insurance: Program Overview for the 115th Congress

Since its inception in 1938, the federal crop insurance program has evolved from an ancillary program with low participation to a central pillar of federal support for agriculture. From 2007 to 2016, the federal crop insurance title had the second-largest outlays in the farm bill after nutrition. The total net cost of the program for crop years 2007-2016 was about $72 billion, of which $43 billion (60%) was of direct benefit to producers, $28 billion (39%) went to private insurers, and $754 million (1%) went to the Risk Management Agency (RMA) within the U.S. Department of Agriculture...

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

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

Defining Broadband: Minimum Threshold Speeds and Broadband Policy

Broadband—whether delivered via fiber, cable modem, copper wire, satellite, or mobile wireless—is increasingly the technology underlying telecommunications services such as voice, video, and data. Since the initial deployment of high-speed internet in the late 1990s, broadband technologies have been deployed throughout the United States primarily by the private sector. These providers include telephone, cable, wireless, and satellite companies as well as other entities that provide commercial telecommunications services to residential, business, and institutional customers.

How broadband...

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...

Proposed CHIP Rescissions in the Trump Administration’s Rescission Request

On Tuesday, May 8, 2018, the Trump Administration submitted to Congress a proposal for 38 rescissions of budget authority, totaling $15.4 billion. In their transmission, the Office of Management and Budget stated that these rescissions were transmitted pursuant to Section 1012 of the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974 (2 U.S.C. 683). The proposal includes $7.0 billion in rescissions from the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which is a means-tested program that provides health coverage to targeted low-income children and pregnant women in families that...

The Enactment of Appropriations Measures During Lame Duck Sessions

Eleven of the past 12 Congresses, covering the 103rd Congress through the 114th Congress, have concluded with a lame duck session. (No such session occurred in 1996, during the 104th Congress.) Under contemporary conditions, any meeting of Congress that occurs between a congressional election in November and the following January 3 is a lame duck session. The significant characteristic of a lame duck session is that its participants are the sitting Members of the existing Congress, not those who will be entitled to sit in the new Congress.

The enactment of appropriations measures has been...

Votes on Measures to Adjust the Statutory Debt Limit, 1978 to Present

Almost all borrowing by the federal government is conducted by the Treasury Department, within the restrictions established by a single, statutory limit (ceiling) on the total amount of debt that may be outstanding at any time. By law, the Treasury cannot exceed federal debt limits, so the Treasury periodically has had to ask Congress to enact new debt limits so it can fulfill its financial commitments. Since 1978, 58 measures adjusting or suspending the statutory debt limit either as stand-alone legislation or as part of legislation dealing with other matters have been enacted into...

Civic Upheaval in Armenia

After two weeks of political upheaval, Armenia has a new prime minister, Nikol Pashinian, a former opposition leader, parliamentary deputy, and journalist. Many observers believe this development has the potential to transform politics in Armenia, a small, landlocked Russian ally in the South Caucasus that also has enjoyed a history of U.S. and European support.

A Changing Political Landscape

On April 23, 2018, Serzh Sargsyan, Armenia’s president from 2008 to early April 2018, unexpectedly resigned from his new post as prime minister amid growing protests. The next week, the ruling...

Oil and Gas Activities Within the National Wildlife Refuge System

Oil- and gas-related wells are documented in 110 (approximately 18%) of the 605 units of the National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS). The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), in the Department of the Interior (DOI), administers the NWRS, which includes primarily national wildlife refuges, along with wetland management districts and waterfowl production areas. The wells in the NWRS most commonly involve nonfederal oil and gas resources but sometimes encompass federal resources. Oil and gas development in the NWRS has the potential to adversely impact wildlife and/or the environment, and...

U.S. Decision to Cease Implementing the Iran Nuclear Agreement

On May 8, 2018, President Donald Trump announced that his Administration would cease implementing U.S. commitments under the 2015 multilateral Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran and reimpose all U.S. sanctions that were in place prior to the JCPOA. His announcement made reference to his previous statements on the issue, including an October 13, 2017, announcement of U.S. strategy on Iran and a January 12, 2018, statement pledging to leave the agreement unless Congress and U.S. allies acted to address the full range of U.S. concerns on Iran. In his May 8 and earlier...

Civilian Nuclear Waste Disposal

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

Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy: CRS Experts

S

cience, technology, and innovation (STI) play important roles in the nation’s economic and military strength, public health and safety, and the quality of our lives. Individuals, companies, governments, universities, and other organizations fund, conduct, disseminate, and acquire science and technology for a myriad of purposes. Among the purposes: providing for the national defense and homeland security; improving manufacturing processes and enabling the manufacture of new products; developing new materials; advancing computing and communications tools; preventing and treating disease,...

Generalized System of Preferences (GSP): Overview and Issues for Congress

The U.S. Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program provides nonreciprocal, duty-free tariff treatment to certain products imported from designated beneficiary developing countries (BDCs). The United States, the European Union, and other developed countries have implemented similar programs since the 1970s. Congress first authorized the U.S. program in Title V of the Trade Act of 1974, and most recently extended it until December 31, 2020 in Division M, Title V of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018 (P.L. 115-141).

The GSP program was also retroactively renewed for all...

U.S. Foreign Assistance to Latin America and the Caribbean: FY2018 Appropriations

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

FY2018...

National Volcano Early Warning and Monitoring System Legislation in the 115th Congress

In the 115th Congress, two bills authorizing a National Volcano Early Warning and Monitoring System (NVEWS) have been reported out of committee (H.R. 4475, reported out of the House Natural Resources Committee and S. 346, reported out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee). Legislation nearly identical to S. 346 is included as Title X, Subtitle A, of S. 1460, the Energy and Natural Resources Act of 2017. (A hearing has been held on this bill.) The activities authorized in these bills include directing the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to establish a nationwide volcano early...

FY2018 Appropriations for Department of Justice Grant Programs

Each year, Congress and the Administration provide funding for a variety of grant programs through the Department of Justice (DOJ). These programs are used to fund state, local, and tribal governments and nonprofit organizations for a variety of criminal justice-related purposes, such as efforts to combat violence against women, reduce backlogs of DNA evidence, support community policing, assist crime victims, promote prisoner reentry, and improve the functioning of the juvenile justice system. These programs are funded through five accounts in the annual Commerce, Justice, Science, and...

How FDA Approves Drugs and Regulates Their Safety and Effectiveness

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a regulatory agency within the Department of Health and Human Services, regulates the safety and effectiveness of drugs sold in the United States. FDA divides that responsibility into two phases. In the preapproval (premarket) phase, FDA reviews manufacturers’ applications to market drugs in the United States; a drug may not be sold unless it has FDA approval. Once a drug is on the market, FDA continues its oversight of drug safety and effectiveness. That postapproval (postmarket) phase lasts as long as the drug is on the market. Beginning with the...

Is the U.S. Economy Growing Faster? Can It Grow Faster?

The current economic expansion has been characterized by slower economic growth than the preceding 10 expansions. At 2.2%, average annual growth in this expansion has been slower than in the preceding 10 expansions (see Figure 1). President Trump has pledged to increase growth to 3%, an increase of 0.8 percentage points. This Insight examines recent economic growth and factors that could foster or hinder a higher rate in the future.

Recent Economic Growth

Economic growth is the predominant measure of the change in material living standards. It is the increase in the production of goods and...

Military Pay: Key Questions and Answers

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

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...

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

Covert action and clandestine activities of the intelligence community and activities of the military may appear similar, but they involve different notification requirements and usually are conducted under different authorities of the U. S. Code.

The requirements for notifying Congress of activities of the intelligence community originated from instances in the 1970s when media disclosure of past intelligence abuses underscored reasons for Congress taking a more active role in oversight. Over time, these requirements were written into statute or became custom.

Section 3091 of Title 50,...

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 $728 billion in federal grants in FY2018, funding a wide range of public policies, such as health care, transportation, income security, education, job training, social services, community development, and environmental protection. Federal grants account for about one-third of total state government funding, and more than half of state government funding for health care and public assistance.

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

Trump-Abe Meeting and Prospects for U.S.-Japan Trade Talks

Overview

Since coming into office, the Trump Administration has expressed concerns about the U.S. trade deficit with Japan and an interest in talks on a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA), a move Japan has resisted. On April 17-18, 2018, President Trump and Prime Minister Abe held a summit to discuss U.S.-Japan relations and regional security issues. Trade was a highly anticipated subject of the meeting.

Several recent trade developments posed an important backdrop to the meeting. In early March, Japan with 10 other countries, not including the United States, signed the Comprehensive...

Cuba Sanctions: Legislative Restrictions Limiting the Normalization of Relations

U.S. economic sanctions on Cuba date back to the early 1960s when the Cuban government under Fidel Castro began to build a repressive communist dictatorship and aligned with the Soviet Union. The trade embargo was first imposed in 1962 under the authority of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 and the Trading with the Enemy Act and soon broadened to include a prohibition on most financial transactions with Cuba. In 1963, the Department of the Treasury issued the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR); they remain the main body of embargo regulations today, and have been amended many times...

Withdrawal from International Agreements: Legal Framework, the Paris Agreement, and the Iran Nuclear Agreement

The legal procedure through which the United States withdraws from treaties and other international agreements has been the subject of long-standing debate between the legislative and executive branches. Recently, questions concerning the role of Congress in the withdrawal process have arisen in response to President Donald J. Trump’s actions related to certain high-profile international commitments. This report outlines the legal framework for withdrawal from international agreements under domestic and international law, and it applies that framework to two pacts that may be of...

College and University Endowments: Overview and Tax Policy Options

Colleges and universities maintain endowments to directly support their activities as institutions of higher education. Endowments are typically investment funds, but may also consist of cash or property. Current tax law benefits endowments and the accumulation of endowment assets. Generally, endowment fund earnings are exempt from federal income tax. The 2017 tax revision (P.L. 115-97), however, imposes a new 1.4% excise tax on the net investment earnings of certain college and university endowments. Taxpayers making contributions to college and university endowment funds may be able to...

Christian Holidays: Fact Sheet

Christianity is one of the three major Abrahamic faiths, alongside Islam and Judaism. According to the Pew Research Center, approximately 70% of Americans self-identify as Christian. There are a large number of Christian traditions, with great variation in which holidays are celebrated and how.

This fact sheet highlights two holidays—Easter and Christmas—observed by a significant portion of Christian American denominations and addresses the ways these holidays are currently recognized in the United States.

This fact sheet is designed to assist congressional offices with work related to...

Congressional Debate on FAA Reauthorization Charts New Legislative Path

On April 27, 2018, the House passed the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 (H.R. 4), a six-year reauthorization measure that does not include a controversial proposal laid out in an earlier bill, H.R. 2997, to privatize air traffic control. The measure now proceeds to the Senate, where the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee ordered to be reported a four-year Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization (S. 1405) that does not address air traffic control privatization. Despite similarities, there are also differences in the two bills, including the length of...

Memorial Day Speech Resources: Fact Sheet

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

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

Section 232 Steel and Aluminum Tariffs: Potential Economic Implications

On March 23, the United States began applying 25% and 10% tariffs, respectively, on certain steel and aluminum imports. The Administration has stated it is open to discussing terms for permanent exemptions from the tariffs for U.S. trading partners, based on addressing the perceived threat to national security. Pending such negotiations, U.S. imports of steel and aluminum from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, South Korea, and the European Union were initially exempt from the tariffs until May 1. On April 30, the President extended for 30 days the temporary exemption from the...

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.

Older Americans Month Speech Resources: Fact Sheet

May is Older Americans Month—a time to celebrate and pay tribute to older people across the country. Every year since 1992, the Administration on Aging has selected a theme for Older Americans Month. The theme for May 2018 is Engage at Every Age. The Administration for Community Living website contains a list of past themes.

This guide is designed to assist congressional offices with work-related Older Americans Month celebrations. It contains a brief history with resources for additional historical, legislative and budget information, CRS reports, examples of speeches and recognitions...

High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) Program

Drug trafficking is a significant public health and safety threat facing the United States. The federal government has taken a variety of actions aimed at countering this threat. These have ranged from giving law enforcement more tools for combatting traffickers to establishing programs and initiatives to reduce the supply of and demand for illegal drugs. Within the larger framework of the federal government’s efforts to counter drug trafficking is the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program. The program supports multiagency activities ranging from enforcement initiatives...

Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (CJS) FY2018 Appropriations: Trade-Related Agencies

This report tracks and provides an overview of actions taken by the Administration and Congress to provide FY2018 appropriations for the International Trade Administration (ITA), the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC), and the office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR). These three trade-related agencies are funded through the annual Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) appropriations act. This report also provides an overview of three trade-related programs administered by ITA, USITC, and USTR.

The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017 (P.L....

U.S. Circuit and District Court Nominations During President Trump’s First Year in Office: Comparative Analysis with Recent Presidents

This report, in light of continued Senate interest in the judicial confirmation process during a President’s first year in office, provides statistics related to the nomination and confirmation of U.S. circuit and district court nominees during the first year of the Trump presidency (as well as during the first year of each of his three immediate predecessors—Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton).

Some of the report’s findings regarding circuit court nominations include the following:

The number of U.S. circuit court vacancies decreased by 1, from 17 to 16, during the...

NIH Funding: FY1994-FY2019

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is the primary federal agency charged with conducting and supporting biomedical and behavioral research. About 81% of the NIH budget funds extramural research through grants, contracts, and other awards. Almost all of NIH’s funding is provided in the annual Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies appropriations act.

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

From Slip Law to United States Code: A Guide to Federal Statutes for Congressional Staff

This report provides an overview of federal statutes in their various forms, as well as basic guidance for congressional staff interested in researching statutes. When a bill becomes a law, the newly enacted statute may amend or repeal earlier statutes or it may create a new or “freestanding” law. Either way, these new statutes are first printed individually as “slip laws” and numbered by order of passage as either public laws, or less frequently, private laws. Slip laws are later aggregated and published chronologically in volumes known as the United States Statutes at Large (Statutes at...

Cuba After the Castros

As expected, Cuban President Raúl Castro stepped down from power on April 19, 2018, and the communist government’s 605-member National Assembly of People’s Power selected First Vice President Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez as president of the Council of State. Pursuant to Cuba’s Constitution (Article 74), the president of the Council of State is also Cuba’s head of state and government. Castro, currently 86 years old, just finished his second five-year term as president. He will remain in his position as first secretary of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC), which could give him continued...

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 to...

Libya: Transition and U.S. Policy

Libya’s political transition has been disrupted by armed non-state groups and threatened by the indecision and infighting of interim leaders. After an armed uprising ended the 40-plus-year rule of Muammar al Qadhafi in 2011, interim authorities proved unable to form a stable government, address pressing security issues, reshape the country’s public finances, or create a viable framework for post-conflict justice and reconciliation. Qadhafi left state institutions weak and deprived Libyans of experience in self-government, compounding stabilization challenges.

Elections for legislative...

Farm Bill Programs Without a Budget Baseline Beyond FY2018

The 2014 farm bill (the Agricultural Act of 2014, P.L. 113-79) provided mandatory funding for many programs. Some of these programs have a budget baseline beyond the end of the farm bill in FY2018, while others do not. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) baseline is a projection at a particular point in time of what future federal spending on mandatory programs would be under current law. This baseline is the benchmark against which proposed changes in law are measured. This report identifies mandatory programs in the 2014 farm bill that lack a budget baseline and explains the...

FY2018 Appropriations for the Department of Justice

The Department of Justice (DOJ) was established in 1870 with the Attorney General as its leader. Since its creation, DOJ has added additional agencies, offices, boards, and divisions to its organizational structure. DOJ, along with the judicial branch, operates the federal criminal justice system. The department enforces federal criminal and civil laws, including antitrust, civil rights, environmental, and tax laws. Through agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives...

Electric Reliability and Power System Resilience

Electricity is vital to the commerce and daily functioning of the United States. Nowhere has this been demonstrated more significantly than in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands where the effects of the widespread loss of electricity after Hurricane Maria are still being felt. Subsequently, there has been much discussion about electric system reliability, and how electric systems can improve resiliency. And while the effects were not as catastrophic, the impacts of the Bomb Cyclone in January 2018 caused some to question whether the increasing retirements of coal and nuclear power...

Selected Agency Budget Justifications for FY2019

This report provides a convenient listing of online FY2019 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.

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...

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

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

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

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

Review of regulations issued under the Obama Administration, with the possibility of their modification or repeal, has been the main focus of interest on Clean Air Act issues in the 115th Congress and in the executive and judicial branches in 2017 and 2018. Of particular interest are the ambient air quality standards for ozone promulgated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in October 2015; EPA rules to regulate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from power plants, cars and trucks, and the oil and gas sector; and emission standards for three groups of sources: brick kilns, wood stoves...

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

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

Overview of FY2018 Appropriations for Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS)

This report describes actions taken by the Administration and Congress to provide FY2018 appropriations for the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) accounts. It also provides an overview of FY2017 appropriations for agencies and bureaus funded as part of annual CJS appropriations.

Division B of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017 (P.L. 115-31) provided a total of $66.360 billion (which includes $109 million in emergency-designated funding) for CJS. Under the act, the Department of Commerce received $9.237 billion, the Department of Justice received $28.962 billion,...

The Section 179 and Section 168(k) Expensing Allowances: Current Law and Economic Effects

Expensing is the most accelerated form of depreciation. Section 179 of the Internal Revenue Code allows a taxpayer to expense (or deduct as a current rather than a capital expense) up to $1 million of the total cost of new and used qualified depreciable assets it buys and places in service in 2018, within certain limits. Firms unable to claim this allowance may recover the cost of qualified assets over longer periods, using the depreciation schedules from Sections 167 or 168. While the Section 179 expensing allowance is not expressly targeted at smaller firms, the limits on its use...

Juvenile Justice Funding Trends

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

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

Fatherhood Initiatives: Connecting Fathers to Their Children

Long-standing research indicates that children raised in one-parent homes are more likely than children raised in homes with both biological parents to do poorly in school, have emotional and behavioral problems, become teenage parents, and have poverty-level incomes as adults. In an effort to improve the long-term outlook for children in one-parent homes, federal, state, and local governments, along with public and private organizations, have supported programs and activities that promote the financial and personal responsibility of noncustodial parents to their children and reduce the...

Federal Requirements on Private Health Insurance Plans

A majority of Americans have health insurance from the private health insurance (PHI) market. Health plans sold in the PHI market must comply with requirements at both the state and federal levels; such requirements often are referred to as market reforms.

The first part of this report provides background information about health plans sold in the PHI market and briefly describes state and federal regulation of private plans. The second part summarizes selected federal requirements and indicates each requirement’s applicability to one or more of the following types of private health...

Teen Birth Trends: In Brief

teen pregnancy, teenage pregnancy, adolescent pregnancy, teen childbearing, teen birth rate, teen birth, teen mother, teen mothers, teen parent, teen parents.

Teen Pregnancy: Federal Prevention Programs

Congress has an interest in preventing pregnancy among teenagers because of the long-term consequences for the families of teen parents and society more generally. Since the 1980s, Congress has authorized—and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has administered—programs with a focus on teen pregnancy prevention. This report intends to assist Congress with tracking developments in four teen pregnancy prevention programs that are currently funded. The report provides detailed information about each program and includes a table that can illustrate the ways in which the...

Establishment of Task Force on the U.S. Postal Service

On April 12, 2018, President Donald Trump established a task force on the U.S. Postal Service via Executive Order (EO) 13829. Under the EO, the task force must evaluate and provide a report on the following: the expansion and pricing of package delivery services; letter mail volume decline; the definition of the universal service obligation” (USO); the role of USPS in rural areas; and USPS’s business model and operations. This CRS Insight discusses the task force and the topics the task force is directed to address. It concludes with potential issues for congressional consideration....

Abortion At or Over 20 Weeks’ Gestation: Frequently Asked Questions

Legislation at the federal and state levels seeking to limit or ban abortions in midpregnancy has focused attention on the procedure and the relatively small number of women who choose to undergo such an abortion. According to the Guttmacher Institute, about 926,200 abortions were performed in 2014; 1.3% of abortions were performed at or over 21 weeks’ gestation in 2013. A 2018 National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine study found that most women who have abortions are unmarried (86%), are poor or low-income (75%), are under age 30 (72%), and are women of color...

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...

Unemployment and Employment Programs Available to Workers Affected by Disasters

The federal government supports several programs that can provide assistance to workers who lose their jobs as a result of a natural or other disaster. In many cases, disaster-affected workers will be served by permanent programs and systems that generally provide assistance to workers who involuntarily lose their jobs. In some cases, disaster-triggered federal supports may be made available to provide additional assistance or aid to workers who do not qualify for assistance under the permanent programs.

This report discusses two income support programs and two workforce service programs....

The First Responder Network (FirstNet) and Next-Generation Communications for Public Safety: Issues for Congress

During the events of September 11, 2001 (9/11), first responders could not communicate with each other. Some radios did not work in the high-rise World Trade Center; radio channels were overloaded by the large number of responders trying to communicate; and public safety radio systems operated on various frequencies and were not interoperable. There were also non-technical issues. Officials struggled to coordinate the multi-agency response, and to maintain command and control of the numerous agencies and responders.

The 9/11 Commission called for the “expedited and increased assignment of...

Family Planning Program Under Title X of the Public Health Service Act

The federal government provides grants for family planning services through the Family Planning Program, Title X of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. §§300 to 300a-6). Title X, enacted in 1970, is the only domestic federal program devoted solely to family planning and related preventive health services. In 2016, Title X-funded clinics served 4 million clients.

Title X is administered through the Office of Population Affairs (OPA) in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Although the authorization of appropriations for Title X ended in FY1985, funding for the program has...

The Peace Corps: Current Issues

Founded in 1961, the Peace Corps has sought to meet its legislative mandate of promoting world peace and friendship by sending American volunteers to serve at the grassroots level in villages and towns in all corners of the globe. As of the end of September 2017, about 7,376 volunteers were serving in 65 nations.

In 2018, the 115th Congress may consider the President’s annual funding request for the Peace Corps, changes to the Peace Corps authorization legislation, and related issues.

On March 23, 2018, the Consolidated Appropriations, 2018 (P.L. 115-141), was signed into law, providing...

The National Health Service Corps

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

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

What Is the Farm Bill?

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

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

Artificial Intelligence and National Security

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a rapidly growing field of technological development with potentially significant implications for national security. As such, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) is developing AI applications for a range of military functions. AI research is underway in the fields of intelligence collection and analysis, logistics, cyberspace operations, command and control, and a variety of military autonomous vehicles. AI applications are already playing a role in operations in Iraq and Syria, with algorithms designed to speed up the target identification process....

White House Directs EPA to Review Air Quality Standards and Permitting Process

A new White House memorandum directs the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to review and streamline Clean Air Act implementation. Its stated aims are to protect air quality “while reducing unnecessary impediments to new manufacturing and business expansion.”

Since 2011, congressional actions on air quality issues have centered on EPA’s regulatory authority, including EPA’s 2015 revision to ozone air quality standards. Two recent bills—H.R. 806 and S. 263—would, among other things, delay designation of areas not meeting the ozone standards and extend EPA’s review period for air...

African American Members of the United States Congress: 1870-2018

In total, 153 African Americans have served in Congress. This total includes 143 African Americans (137 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...

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

On November 30, 2016—in an effort to stabilize declining oil prices—the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) announced an agreement whereby 11 of the then-active 13 members would reduce crude oil production by approximately 1.2 million barrels per day (bpd) for 6 months starting January 1, 2017. On December 10, 2016, OPEC announced that 11 non-OPEC countries, led by Russia, had joined the agreement by pledging to further reduce oil production by 558,000 bpd. This “Declaration of Cooperation” to collectively reduce oil production by approximately 1.7 million bpd has been...

Federally Supported Water Supply and Wastewater Treatment Programs

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

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

the Department of Agriculture (USDA),

the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency...

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. These two groups also include “thrownaway” youth who are asked to leave their homes, and may include other vulnerable youth populations, such as current and former foster youth and youth with mental health or other issues. The term...

Medicaid’s Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP)

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 jointly funded by the federal government and the states. The federal government’s share of most Medicaid expenditures is called the federal medical assistance percentage (FMAP). The remainder is referred to as the state share.

Generally determined annually, the FMAP formula is designed so that the federal government pays a larger portion of Medicaid costs in states with lower per capita incomes relative to the national...

U.S. Funding to the United Nations System: Overview and Selected Policy Issues

Members of Congress are responsible for authorizing and appropriating U.S. funding to the United Nations (U.N.) system. Over the years, congressional interest in U.N. funding has largely focused on three key questions: What are appropriate levels of U.S. funding to U.N. entities? Are U.S. contributions used as efficiently and effectively as possible? How, if at all, should the United States leverage U.S. contributions to achieve its policy priorities in U.N. bodies? U.N. System Funding The U.N. system is made up of interconnected entities including specialized agencies, funds and...

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

While not defined by statute, DOD doctrine describes clandestine activities as “operations sponsored or conducted by governmental departments in such a way as to assure secrecy or concealment” that may include relatively passive intelligence collection information gathering operations. Unlike covert action, clandestine activities do not require a presidential finding but may require notification of Congress. This definition differentiates clandestine from covert, using clandestine to signify the tactical concealment of the activity. By comparison, covert operations are “planned and...

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

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

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, including promoting economic growth, reducing poverty, improving governance, expanding access to health care and education, promoting stability in conflictive regions, countering terrorism, promoting human rights, strengthening allies, and curbing illicit drug production and...

U.S. Trade with Free Trade Agreement (FTA) Partners

During the Obama Administration, the United States negotiated two mega-regional free trade agreements that its participants argued were comprehensive and high-standard: the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) among the United States and 11 other countries, and the U.S.-European Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP). The 12 TPP countries signed the agreement in February 2016, but the agreement required ratification by each country before it could enter into force. In the United States, this required implementing legislation by Congress. Upon taking office, President Trump...

Transatlantic Perspectives on Defense Innovation: Issues for Congress

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has a renewed focus on defense and deterrence in Europe. In the past, NATO relied at least in part on its military technological superiority over potential adversaries for defense and deterrence in Europe, but some policymakers are increasingly concerned that NATO’s technological superiority is eroding.

Russia, China, and others are modernizing their militaries, investing in new and emerging technologies, and exploring their applications for defense. In addition, NATO faces rising operating costs, and both conventional and hybrid challenges in...

Work Authorization for H-4 Spouses of H-1B Temporary Workers: Frequently Asked Questions

H-4 nonimmigrant visas allow spouses and unmarried children (under 21 years of age) of H-1B temporary workers to join them in the United States. Eligibility for employment authorization for H-4 nonimmigrants was instituted by regulation in 2015 and is limited to those whose spouses are H-1B nonimmigrants who are in the process of obtaining employment-based lawful permanent resident (LPR) status.

The Trump Administration is proposing to rescind this regulation, thus removing eligibility for work authorization for H-4 nonimmigrants. Congress has expressed interest in the background and...

Frequently Asked Questions About Prescription Drug Pricing and Policy

Prescription drugs play an important role in the U.S. health care system. Innovative, breakthrough drugs are providing cures for diseases such as hepatitis C and helping individuals with chronic conditions lead fuller lives. Studies show that prescription drug therapy can produce health care savings by reducing the number of hospitalizations and other costly medical procedures.

Congress and presidential administrations have attempted to ensure that Americans have access to pharmaceuticals by enacting the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit as part of the Medicare Modernization and...

Broadband Internet Access and the Digital Divide: Federal Assistance Programs

The “digital divide” is a term that has been used to characterize a gap between “information haves and have-nots,” or in other words, between those Americans who use or have access to telecommunications and information technologies and those who do not. One important subset of the digital divide debate concerns high-speed internet access and advanced telecommunications services, also known as broadband. Broadband is provided by a series of technologies (e.g., cable, telephone wire, fiber, satellite, mobile and fixed wireless) that give users the ability to send and receive data at volumes...

The Consumer Product Safety Act: A Legal Analysis

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC or Commission) was established in 1972 by the Consumer Product Safety Act (CPSA) “to protect the public against unreasonable risks of injury associated with consumer products.” The CPSC is empowered to meet this objective through a blend of consumer monitoring, research, investigations, safety standard-setting, and enforcement powers. The Commission’s jurisdiction under the CPSA is largely governed by the definition of “consumer product,” which is broad in scope, although a number of products that generally are regulated by other federal...

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 13 in-progress memorials and 4 memorials with lapsed authorizations. For each monument or memorial, the report provides a rationale for the work as expressed in the Congressional Record or a House or Senate committee report; its statutory authority; the group or...

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 in the United States. Over 22,000 communities participate in the NFIP, with over 5 million policies providing $1.28 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...

Children’s Hospital Graduate Medical Education (CHGME)

The Children’s Hospital Graduate Medical Education (CHGME) program provides direct financial support to children’s hospitals to train medical residents and fellows. The program is administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and is authorized in Section 340E of the Public Health Service Act (PHSA). CHGME receives annual discretionary appropriations and received $299.3 million in FY2017. The program is currently funded under the FY2018 continuing resolution (P.L. 115-96) until January 19, 2018.

Hospitals...

Health Insurance Premium Tax Credits and Cost-Sharing Subsidies

Certain individuals without access to subsidized health insurance coverage may be eligible for premium tax credits, as established under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA; P.L. 111-148, as amended). The dollar amount of the premium credit varies from individual to individual, based on a formula specified in statute. Individuals who are eligible for the premium credit, however, generally are still required to contribute some amount toward the purchase of health insurance.

In order to be eligible to receive premium tax credits, individuals must have annual household income...

Cambodia: Background and U.S. Relations

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

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

Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) FY2018 Appropriations: Overview

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

President Trump submitted his FY2018 budget request on May 23, 2017. The request included a total of $45.2...

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC): Administrative and Compliance Challenges

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a refundable tax credit available to eligible workers earning relatively low wages. Since the credit is refundable, an EITC recipient need not owe taxes to receive the benefit. Hence, many low-income workers, especially those with children, can receive significant financial assistance from this tax provision.

Studies indicate that a relatively high proportion of EITC payments are issued incorrectly. The Treasury Department estimates that in FY2017 between 21.9% and 25.8% of EITC payments—between $14.9 billion and $17.6 billion—were issued improperly....

Cross-Border Data Sharing Under the CLOUD Act

Law enforcement officials in the United States and abroad increasingly seek access to electronic communications, such as emails and social media posts, stored on servers and in data centers in foreign countries. Because the architecture of the internet allows technology companies to store data at a great distance from the physical location of their customers, electronic communications that could serve as evidence of a crime often are not housed in the same country where the crime occurred. This disconnect has caused governments around the world, including the United States, to seek data...

State Small Business Credit Initiative: Implementation and Funding Issues

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

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. Legislation has been introduced in the 115th Congress, including the Balanced Trade Act of 2017 (H.R. 2766) and the Trade Enforcement and Trade Deficit Reduction Act (H.R. 2734), that would require the Trump Administration to...

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

Australia, China, and the Indo-Pacific

Recent debate in Australia on regional strategic challenges has focused on China’s rising influence, the durability of the U.S.-Australian alliance, and how Australia should respond and position itself relative to related changes in Indo-Pacific power dynamics. This debate is framed by increasing concern in Australia about the influence of China and those who promote its interests, despite the fact that China remains a key economic and trade partner. Australia’s outlook is also affected by uncertainty about the Trump Administration’s transactional approach to the alliance with Australia...

F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Program

The largest procurement program in the Department of Defense (DOD), the F-35 Lightning II is a strike fighter aircraft being procured in different versions for the United States Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy. Current DOD plans call for acquiring a total of 2,456 F-35s. Allies are expected to purchase hundreds of additional F-35s, and eight nations are cost-sharing partners in the program with the United States.

The F-35 promises significant advances in military capability. Like many high-technology programs before it, reaching that capability has put the program above its original...

The Mental Health Workforce: A Primer

Congress has held hearings and some Members have introduced legislation addressing the interrelated topics of the quality of mental health care, access to mental health care, and the cost of mental health care. The mental health workforce is a key component of each of these topics. The quality of mental health care depends partially on the skills of the people providing the care. Access to mental health care relies on, among other things, the number of appropriately skilled providers available to provide care. The cost of mental health care depends in part on the wages of the people...

The Senate “Two-Hour Rule” Governing Committee Meeting Times

Paragraph 5(a) of Senate Rule XXVI, sometimes referred to as the “two-hour rule,” restricts the times that most Senate committees and subcommittees can meet when the full Senate is in session. The rule is intended to help balance the Senate’s committee and floor work and to minimize the logistical conflicts that Senators face between participating in committee hearings and markups and attending to their duties on the chamber floor.

Under the terms of the rule, no Senate committee or subcommittee (except the Committees on Appropriations and Budget and their subcommittees) can meet after...

China-India Great Power Competition in the Indian Ocean Region: Issues for Congress

The Indian Ocean Region (IOR), a key geostrategic space linking the energy-rich nations of the Middle East with economically vibrant Asia, is the site of intensifying rivalry between China and India. This rivalry has significant strategic implications for the United States. Successive U.S. administrations have enunciated the growing importance of the Indo-Pacific region to U.S. security and economic strategy. The Trump Administration’s National Security Strategy of December 2017 states that “A geopolitical competition between free and repressive visions of world order is taking place in...

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...

The Economic Effects of Trade: Overview and Policy Challenges

During the Obama Administration, the United States negotiated two comprehensive and high-standard mega-regional free trade agreements: the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) among the United States and 11 other countries, and the U.S.-European Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP). The 12 TPP countries signed the agreement in February 2016, but the agreement required ratification by each country before it could enter into force. In the United States this requires implementing legislation by Congress. Upon taking office, President Trump withdrew the United States from the TPP...

The Veterans Choice Program (VCP): Program Implementation

Authorized under Section 101 of the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 (VACAA), the Veterans Choice Program (VCP) is a new, temporary program that enables eligible veterans to receive medical care in the community. (P.L. 115-26 eliminated the August 7, 2017, expiration date for the VCP and allowed the program to continue until the initial $10 billion deposited in the Veterans Choice Fund was expended. The VA Choice and Quality Employment Act of 2017, P.L. 115-46, authorized and appropriated an additional $2.1 billion to continue the VCP until funds were expended, and...

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 subunified commands.

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

Defense Authorization and Appropriations Bills: FY1961-FY2018

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...

A Peace Treaty with North Korea?

This report explores the possiblity of concluding a peace treaty with North Korea. Also known as a peace settlement or peace mechanism. North Korea always wants bilateral negotiations with the United States, but a peace treaty would require China, the other signator of the armistice that ended the Korean War. The United Nations Command, or UNC, would also be involved in negotiations. In the Six-Party talks, this idea was explored but fell apart, as it was in Four-Party Talks. Japan and Russia would also be concerned with any peace settlement. South Korean president Moon Jae-in has...

Spain and Its Relations with the United States: In Brief

The United States and Spain have extensive cultural ties and a mutually beneficial economic relationship, and the two countries cooperate closely on numerous diplomatic and security issues. Spain has been a member of NATO since 1982 and a member of the European Union (EU) since 1986. Given its role as a close U.S. ally and partner, developments in Spain and its relations with the United States are of continuing interest to the U.S. Congress.

Domestic Political and Economic Issues

The government of Spain is led by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of the center-right Popular Party (PP). Rajoy...

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. CCC is overseen by the Secretary of Agriculture and a board of directors, which are...

Insurance Regulation: Legislation in the 115th Congress

Insurance companies constitute a major segment of the U.S. financial services industry. The insurance industry is often separated into two parts: (1) life and health insurance companies, which also often offer annuity products, and (2) property and casualty insurance companies, which include most other lines of insurance, such as homeowners insurance, automobile insurance, and various commercial lines of insurance purchased by businesses. Different lines of insurance present very different characteristics and risks. Life insurance typically is a longer-term proposition with contracts...

France and U.S.-French Relations: In Brief

French President Emmanuel Macron took office in May 2017 promising to shake up a political system he characterized as out of touch, revive the stagnant French economy, and revitalize French leadership of the 28-member European Union (EU). Since that time, he has sought to advance a centrist, reform-oriented domestic agenda while pursuing a “traditional” French foreign and defense policy that emphasizes European integration and a strong French presence in global affairs.

Although Macron has the support of a solid majority in the French parliament, he faces challenges in advancing his...

Legislative Branch: FY2018 Appropriations

The legislative branch appropriations bill provides funding for the Senate; House of Representatives; Joint Items; Capitol Police; Office of Compliance; Congressional Budget Office (CBO); Architect of the Capitol (AOC); Library of Congress (LOC), including the Congressional Research Service (CRS); Government Publishing Office (GPO); Government Accountability Office (GAO); Open World Leadership Center; and the John C. Stennis Center.

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

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 Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC): An Overview

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a refundable tax credit available to eligible workers earning relatively low wages. Because the credit is refundable, an EITC recipient need not owe taxes to receive the benefit. Eligibility for and the amount of the EITC are based on a variety of factors, including residence and taxpayer ID requirements, the presence of qualifying children, age requirements for childless recipients, and the recipient’s investment income and earned income. Tax filers with income above certain thresholds—these thresholds are based on marital status and number of...

Millennium Challenge Corporation

The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) provides economic assistance through a competitive selection process to developing nations that demonstrate positive performance in three areas: ruling justly, investing in people, and fostering economic freedom. Established in 2004, the MCC differs in several respects from past and current U.S. aid practices: the competitive process that rewards countries for past actions measured by objective performance indicators; its mandate to seek poverty reduction through economic growth, not encumbered with multiple sector objectives; the requirement to...

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

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

U.S. Farm Commodity Support: An Overview of Selected Programs

Federal efforts to bolster farm household incomes and the rural economy by providing support to producers of key crops has been a central pillar of U.S. farm policy since such programs were first introduced in the 1930s. Current farm support programs are counter-cyclical in design—that is payments are triggered when the annual market price for an eligible crop drops below a statutory minimum or when revenue is below a guaranteed level. The farm commodity program provisions in Title I of the Agricultural Act of 2014 (P.L. 113-79, the 2014 farm bill) consists of three types of support for...

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 20 programs and subprograms that are directly or indirectly available to assist producers and landowners who wish to practice conservation on agricultural lands. The differences and number of these programs have created general confusion about the purpose, participation, and policies of the programs. While recent consolidation efforts removed some duplication, a large number of programs remain. The programs discussed in this report are as...

Comparing DHS Component Funding, FY2018: In Brief

Generally, the homeland security appropriations bill includes all annual appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), providing resources to every departmental component. Table 1 and Figure 1 show DHS’s new discretionary budget authority enacted for FY2017 and requested by the Administration for FY2018, as well as the House committee-reported response, broken down by component—from largest to smallest appropriations request.

(TO BE SUPPRESSED) Department of Homeland Security DHS budget Appropriations FY2017, FY2018 funding analysis H.R. 3355 H.Rept. 115-239 H.R. 3354 P.L....

The Orderly Liquidation Authority: Reform Proposals

The Orderly Liquidation Authority (OLA) was created by Title II of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (P.L. 111-203; Dodd-Frank) to allow the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) to resolve certain failing financial institutions whose collapse could threaten the stability of the financial system. Although OLA has never been used, it has become the subject of a number of reform proposals. This Insight briefly describes the OLA and two prominent examples of such proposals.

Overview

A failed company (banks and insurance companies are notable exceptions) will...

Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD): FY2019 Budget Request Fact Sheet

Overview of FY2019 President’s Budget request for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

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. Such risk transfers are, on the whole, a net cost for primary insurers, just as purchasing insurance is a net cost for homeowners.

The Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act...

U.S-Vietnam Economic and Trade Relations: Key Issues in 2018

President Trump’s decision in January 2017 to withdraw the United States from the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement removed a major focus of trade relations with the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (Vietnam) since 2008. As a result, trade relations are likely to refocus onto various bilateral trade issues such as the rising U.S. bilateral merchandise trade deficit with Vietnam, Vietnam’s desire to be recognized as a market economy, and various elements of each nation’s trade policies and regulations. Congress may play a role in each of these trade issues.

Over the...

OMB and Treasury Agree on Process for Issuing New Tax Rules

UPDATE: On April 12, 2018, the Department of the Treasury and the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) announced that they reached an agreement on the issue of OIRA review of Internal Revenue Service (IRS) rules. The two agencies signed a new memorandum of agreement (MOA), under which OIRA will review certain significant tax regulations under a specified time limit—generally, not longer than 45 days, but with the potential for an expedited review of up to 10 business days. In addition, within one year after the date of the...

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 non-pharmaceutical 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...

Federal Lands and Related Resources: Overview and Selected Issues for the 115th 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 115th Congress faces multiple federal land and natural resources policy and management issues. 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...

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

Nearly six months after the start of FY2018, the 115th Congress enacted the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018 (H.R. 1625; P.L. 115-141, signed March 23, 2018), which provided FY2018 funding for the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs (SFOPS). Division K of the actState, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs (SFOPS) provided a total of $54.18 billion, including Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funds and rescissions. This represented a decrease of 6.1% from the FY2017 actual funding level. Of the total, $16.22 billion (not including rescissions) was for...

Offshore Oil and Gas Development: Legal Framework

The development of offshore oil, gas, and other mineral resources in the United States is impacted by a number of interrelated legal regimes, including international, federal, and state laws. International law provides a framework for establishing national ownership or control of offshore areas, and domestic federal law mirrors and supplements these standards.

Governance of offshore minerals and regulation of development activities are bifurcated between state and federal law. Generally, states have primary authority in the area extending three geographical miles from their coasts. The...

Special Counsels, Independent Counsels, and Special Prosecutors: Legal Authority and Limitations on Independent Executive Investigations

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...

Multilateral Development Banks: U.S. Contributions FY2000-FY2019

This report shows in tabular form how much the Administration requested and how much Congress appropriated for U.S. payments to the multilateral development banks (MDBs) since 2000.

Multilateral development banks provide financial assistance to developing countries in order to promote economic and social development. The United States belongs to several multilateral development banks, including the World Bank and four regional development banks (the African Development Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and...

Regulatory Reform 10 Years After the Financial Crisis: Dodd-Frank and Securities Law

From 2007-2009, the United States experienced what many commentators believe was the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. In the wake of the crisis, Congress passed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank) in 2010. Title IX of Dodd-Frank, entitled “Investor Protections and Improvements to the Regulation of Securities,” focuses on the powers and authorities of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and authorizes the SEC to promulgate certain rules intended to enhance corporate accountability and corporate governance. This report...

Yemen: Civil War and Regional Intervention

This report provides information on the ongoing crisis in Yemen. Now in its fourth year, the war in Yemen shows no signs of abating and may be escalating. In recent weeks, the northern Yemeni armed militia and political movement known as the Houthis have launched several missile attacks into Saudi Arabia, while the Saudi-led coalition, a multinational grouping of armed forces primarily led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), has continued to conduct air strikes inside Yemen. Including combatants, the war in Yemen may have killed more than 10,000 Yemenis and has...

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.

FECA requires that at least four of six commissioners agree to undertake many of the agency’s key policymaking duties. As of this writing, the FEC is operating with four commissioners instead of six. Others reportedly are...

U.S. Senate Vacancies: Contemporary Developments and Perspectives

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

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

Softwood Lumber Imports from Canada: Current Issues

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

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

Regulatory Reform 10 Years After the Financial Crisis: Systemic Risk Regulation of Non-Bank Financial Institutions

When large, interconnected financial institutions become distressed, policymakers have historically faced a choice between (1) a taxpayer-funded bailout, and (2) the destabilization of the financial system—a dilemma that commentators have labeled the “too-big-to-fail” (TBTF) problem. The 2007-2009 financial crisis highlighted the significance of the TBTF problem. During the crisis, a number of large financial institutions experienced severe distress, and the federal government committed hundreds of billions of dollars in an effort to rescue the financial system. According to some...

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...

Class Action Lawsuits: A Legal Overview for the 115th Congress

A class action is a procedure by which a large group of entities (known as a “class”) may challenge a defendant’s allegedly unlawful conduct in a single lawsuit, rather than through numerous, separate suits initiated by individual plaintiffs. In a class action, a plaintiff (known as the “class representative,” the “named representative,” or the “named plaintiff”) may sue the defendant not only on his own behalf, but also on behalf of other entities (the “class members”) who are similarly situated to the class representative in order to resolve any legal or factual questions that are common...

Congressional Salaries and Allowances: In Brief

This report provides basic information on congressional salaries and allowances.

First, the report briefly summarizes the current salary of Members of Congress; limits or prohibitions on their outside earned income, honoraria, and tax deductions; options for life and health insurance; and retirement benefits.

Second, the report provides information on allowances available to Representatives and Senators to support them in their official and representational duties. These allowances cover official office expenses, including staff, mail, travel between a Member’s district or state and...

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...

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): A Primer on Eligibility and Benefits

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly called the Food Stamp Program, is designed primarily to increase the food purchasing power of eligible low-income households to help them buy a nutritionally adequate low-cost diet. This report describes the rules related to eligibility for SNAP benefits as well as the rules for benefits and their redemption. SNAP is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (USDA-FNS). SNAP is authorized by the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008. This law, formerly the Food Stamp Act of 1977, has since 1973...

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.

The Smart Grid: Status and Outlook

The electrical grid in the United States comprises all of the power plants generating electricity, together with the transmission and distribution lines and systems that bring power to end-use customers. The “grid” also connects the many publicly and privately owned electric utility and power companies in different states and regions of the United States. However, with changes in federal law, regulatory changes, and the aging of the electric power infrastructure as drivers, the grid is changing from a largely patchwork system built to serve the needs of individual electric utility...

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 CRS Report RL33476, Israel: Background and U.S. Relations, 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 $134.7 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...

An Overview of Discretionary Reprieves from Removal: Deferred Action, DACA, TPS, and Others

Since at least the 1970s, immigration authorities in the United States have sometimes exercised their discretion to grant temporary reprieves from removal to non-U.S. nationals (aliens) present in the United States in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). Well-known types of reprieves include deferred action, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and Temporary Protected Status (TPS). The authority to grant some types of discretionary reprieves from removal, including TPS, comes directly from the INA. The authority to grant other types of reprieves generally...

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 and an FY2019 Budget Resolution

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (BBA 2018, P.L. 115-123), enacted February 9, 2018, amended the statutory discretionary spending limits for FY2018 and FY2019. BBA 2018 comprised several other components as well, one of which was related to a congressional budget resolution for FY2019. These BBA 2018 “budget resolution” provisions (which may be referred to as a “deemer” or a budget resolution substitute) provide the House and Senate with enforceable levels of spending and revenue for FY2019 in ways that a “traditional” budget resolution would. While it is not unusual for Congress to...

Balanced Budget Amendments

A balanced budget amendment (BBA) proposes to amend the U.S. Constitution to require that “outlays shall not exceed revenues.” Constitutional amendments require a two-thirds vote of approval in both houses of Congress as well as ratification by three-fourths of the states.

Common Components of BBAs

Proposed BBAs have historically included additional provisions that may be as contentious as the requirement that outlays not exceed revenues. Such provisions are summarized below.

Supermajority vote threshold for permitting outlays to exceed receipts. These provisions typically require a...

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...

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....

Sexual Harassment and Title VII: Selected Legal Issues

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) generally prohibits discrimination in the workplace, but does not contain an express prohibition against harassment. The Supreme Court, however, has interpreted the statute to prohibit certain forms of harassment, including sexual harassment. Since first recognizing the viability of a Title VII harassment claim in a unanimous 1986 decision, the Court has also established legal standards for determining when offensive conduct amounts to a Title VII violation and when employers may be held liable for such actionable harassment, and...

Residential Energy Tax Credits: Overview and Analysis

Currently, on their 2017 federal income tax return, taxpayers may be able to claim two tax credits for residential energy efficiency. The nonbusiness energy property or “Section 25C” credit expired at the end of 2017. The residential energy efficient property or “Section 25D” credit is scheduled to expire at the end of 2021.

The nonbusiness energy property tax credit (Internal Revenue Code [IRC] §25C) provides homeowners with a tax credit for investments in certain high-efficiency heating, cooling, and water-heating appliances, as well as tax credits for energy-efficient windows and doors....

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)...

Business Investment Spending Slowdown

Business capital investment spending is composed of private spending on nonresidential structures (e.g., factories), equipment (e.g., machinery), and intellectual property products (e.g., software). Business investment is a key determinant of economic growth. When businesses add to the capital stock, the value of goods and services (i.e., gross domestic product [GDP]) the economy can produce increases. One reason that economic growth has been lower in the last decade is because business investment spending has grown more slowly. Boosting investment spending was one of the key goals of the...

Lame Duck Sessions of Congress, 1935-2016 (74th-114th Congresses)

A “lame duck” session of Congress occurs whenever one Congress meets after its successor is elected but before the end of its own constitutional term. Under present conditions, any meeting of Congress between election day in November and the following January 3 is a lame duck session. Prior to 1933, when the Twentieth Amendment changed the dates of the congressional term, the last regular session of Congress was always a lame duck session. Today, however, the expression is primarily used for any portion of a regular session that falls after an election.

Congress has held 21 lame duck...

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

Conventional prompt global strike (CPGS) weapons would allow the United States to strike targets anywhere on Earth in as little as an hour. This capability may bolster U.S. efforts to deter and defeat adversaries by allowing the United States to attack high-value targets or “fleeting targets” at the start of or during a conflict. Congress has generally supported the PGS mission, but it has restricted funding and suggested some changes in funding for specific programs.

CPGS weapons would not substitute for nuclear weapons, but would supplement U.S. conventional capabilities. They would...

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...

Cameroon’s Anglophone Crisis: Recent Developments and Issues for Congress

Tensions have grown in western Cameroon since the government’s suppression of a protest movement led by members of the country’s minority Anglophone community in late 2016. In 2017, the situation escalated as one Anglophone faction symbolically declared the secession of the region and some Anglophone groups took up arms. While granting minor concessions, the government has arrested dozens of activists and deployed the military to put down unrest. The crisis has heightened historic fissures in Cameroon’s diverse society and adds to the country’s political and security challenges. (See CRS...

Immigration Consequences of Criminal Activity

Congress’s power to create rules governing the admission of non-U.S. nationals (aliens) has long been viewed as plenary. In the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), as amended, Congress has specified grounds for the exclusion or removal of aliens, including on account of criminal activity. Some criminal offenses, when committed by an alien who is present in the United States, may render that alien subject to removal from the country. And certain criminal offenses may preclude an alien outside the United States from being either admitted into the country or permitted to reenter following...

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

This report details legislation and policies that restrict or place requirements on U.S. funding of abortion or family planning activities abroad. The level and extent of federal funding for these activities is an ongoing and controversial issue in U.S. foreign assistance and has continued to be a point of contention during the 115th Congress.

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

Statutory Interpretation: Theories, Tools, and Trends

In the tripartite structure of the U.S. federal government, it is the job of courts to say what the law is, as Chief Justice John Marshall announced in 1803. When courts render decisions on the meaning of statutes, the prevailing view is that a judge’s task is not to make the law, but rather to interpret the law made by Congress. The two main theories of statutory interpretation—purposivism and textualism—disagree about how judges can best adhere to this ideal of legislative supremacy. The problem is especially acute in instances where it is unlikely that Congress anticipated and...

Data, Social Media, and Users: Can We All Get Along?

Introduction

In March 2018, media reported that voter-profiling company Cambridge Analytica had exceeded Facebook’s data use policies by collecting data on millions of Facebook users. Cambridge Analytica did this by working with a researcher to gain access to the data, so the company itself was not the entity seeking access to the information. This allowed Cambridge Analytica to “scrape” or download data from users who had granted access to their profiles, as well as those users’ Facebook friends (whose profiles the first user had access to, but for which the friends did not authorize...

China’s Retaliatory Tariffs on Selected U.S. Agricultural Products

On April 2, 2018, the Chinese government implemented retaliatory tariffs on 128 product lines, including 93 U.S. agricultural products, in response to recent U.S. Section 232 tariff actions on certain imports of steel and aluminum products. China is the second largest market for U.S. agricultural exports by value, worth about $19.6 billion in 2017, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). China estimates the targeted U.S. imports are worth roughly $3 billion across all product categories, of which about two-thirds of the value is agricultural products.

China imposed an...

FDIC’s Deposit Insurance Assessments and Reserve Ratio

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (P.L. 111-203; Dodd-Frank Act) changed the minimum deposit insurance reserve ratio to 1.35% from 1.15% and required the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) to meet the increased reserve ratio by 2020. The Dodd-Frank Act also required the FDIC to offset the effects of the higher reserve ratio of 1.35% on banks with assets of less than $10 billion. The FDIC Board of Directors approved a final rule in March 2016 to meet this requirement by 2018. The approved plan changes how the assessments are apportioned between large...

U.S. Trade Deficit and the Impact of Changing Oil Prices

Imported petroleum prices fell from an average price of $91.23 per barrel of crude oil in 2014 to an average price of $32.60 per barrel in 2016, or a drop of more than 60%. This represents the lowest price per barrel of crude oil since early 2005. During 2017, the average monthly price per barrel of oil rose nearly 20% to reach an average of $52 per barrel by December 2017 and continued rising in 2018 to reach nearly $70 per barrel in early April 2018. Reflecting rising prices, the volume of crude oil imports for 2017 was nearly flat for the year compared with volume changes in 2016. The...

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). This report describes programs authorized by these laws and compares CNCS funding for FY2015, FY2016, FY2017, and FY2018.

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

Title I of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA): A Summary of the Statute

In 1976, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA; P.L. 94-469) was enacted to direct the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to obtain information relevant to evaluating the lifecycle (i.e., manufacture, importation, processing, distribution, use, and disposal) of industrial and commercial chemicals for “unreasonable risks” and, if warranted, to regulate such chemicals. Concerns that EPA lacked sufficient authority to take such actions, among other concerns, led to the enactment of the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (P.L. 114-182), which amended TSCA, in...

FY2019 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 on February 12, 2018.

This report provides brief descriptions of the FY2019 budget volumes and related documents, together with internet addresses, Government Publishing Office (GPO) stock numbers, and prices for obtaining print copies of these...

Employee Ownership of Registration-Exempt Company Securities: Proposals to Reform Required Corporate Disclosures (Section 507 of S. 2155, S. 488, H.R. 1343, and Section 406 of H.R. 10)

Introduction

A major statutory mission of the SEC is investor protection, which involves requiring companies that offer securities to the public to disclose meaningful financial and other information about themselves to both existing and potential investors. To that end, under the Securities Act of 1933 (the Securities Act), a company that offers or sells its securities to the public is required to register them with the SEC. This securities registration process requires that the company that is issuing the securities disclose key facts, including a description of the company’s assets and...

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...

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...

Regulating the U.S. Campaign Environment: Politics and Policy

Introduction

Members of Congress run campaigns as candidates and regulate them as policymakers. Recent coverage of Cambridge Analytica voter-targeting using Facebook data is one of the latest examples of the connection between campaign conduct and public policy. Reports suggest that this case involves consumer-privacy questions that are normally beyond campaign regulation, and questions about whether foreign nationals were impermissibly involved in campaign decisionmaking—a topic well within campaign finance regulation. In other recent examples, reports of foreign interference in the 2016...

DHS Budget v. DHS Appropriations: Fact Sheet

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

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...

Federal Student Aid: Need Analysis Formulas and Expected Family Contribution

This report describes the need analysis formulas used to calculate the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) for federal student aid applicants. The formulas are codified in Title IV of the Higher Education Act (HEA), as amended. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the data collection instrument through which students submit the information that is used to calculate the EFC.

The HEA has three EFC formulas: one for dependent students and one each for independent students with and without dependents. A student’s dependency status is determined by the student’s age and other...

Errors and Fraud in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the nation’s largest domestic food assistance program, serving about 42.2 million recipients in an average month at a federal cost of over $68 billion in FY2017. SNAP is jointly administered by state agencies, which handle most recipient functions, and the federal government—specifically, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (USDA-FNS)—which supports and oversees the states and handles most retailer functions. In a program with so many diverse stakeholders, detecting, preventing, and addressing errors and...

Recently Expired Individual Tax Provisions (“Tax Extenders”): In Brief

Three individual temporary tax provisions expired in 2017. In the past, Congress has regularly acted to extend expired or expiring temporary tax provisions. Collectively, these temporary tax provisions are often referred to as “tax extenders.” Most recently, Congress addressed tax extenders in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (BBA18; P.L. 115-123). Three of the four individual income tax provisions that had expired at the end of 2016 were extended in the BBA18, retroactive to 2017. These include the

Tax Exclusion for Canceled Mortgage Debt,

Mortgage Insurance Premium Deductibility,...

Venture Capital Funds: Proposals to Expand Investor Thresholds Required for Registration (Section 504 of S. 2155, Section 471 of H.R. 10, H.R. 1219, S. 444, and Section 914 of H.R. 3280)

Introduction

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

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

Business Tax Provisions that Expired in 2017 (“Tax Extenders”)

Twelve temporary business tax provisions expired at the end of 2017. All of these provisions had expired at the end of 2016 but were retroactively extended by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (BBA; P.L. 115-123) and made available for the 2017 tax year, although one provision was extended through 2021.

This report briefly summarizes and discusses the economic impact of selected business-related tax provisions that expired at the end of 2017, including the following.

Special business investment (cost recovery) provisions:

Special Expensing Rules for Certain Film, Television, and Live...

S. 2155 and Enhanced Regulation for Large Banks

Title I of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act (12 U.S.C. Ch. 53.) imposed a number of enhanced prudential regulatory requirements for bank holding companies and foreign banks operating in the United States with more than $10 billion or $50 billion in assets, depending on the requirements. These requirements were primarily intended to reduce the systemic risk posed by large financial institutions, which was a major feature of the 2007-2009 financial crisis. Section 401 of S. 2155, which the Senate passed on March 14, 2018, would raise the asset threshold at which these requirements are applied to...

Multiemployer Defined Benefit (DB) Pension Plans: A Primer and Analysis of Policy Options

Multiemployer defined benefit (DB) pension plans are pensions sponsored by more than one employer and maintained as part of a collective bargaining agreement. About 3.2% of all DB pension plans, covering 25% of all DB pension plan participants, are multiemployer plans. Nearly all of the remaining DB pension plans are maintained by a single employer. A few DB pension plans are maintained by more than one employer but are not maintained under a collective bargaining agreement. In DB pension plans, participants receive a monthly benefit in retirement that is based on a formula. In...

Overview of the Federal Tax System in 2018

At the end of 2017, President Trump signed into law P.L. 115-97, which substantially changed the U.S. federal tax system. This report describes the federal tax structure and system in effect for 2018, incorporating these recent changes. The report also provides selected statistics on the tax system as a whole.

Historically, the largest component of the federal tax system, in terms of revenue generated, has been the individual income tax. For fiscal year (FY) 2018, an estimated $1.7 trillion, or 50% of the federal government’s revenue, will be collected from the individual income tax. The...

Small Business Management and Technical Assistance Training Programs

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

Congressional interest in the SBA’s management and technical assistance training programs has increased in recent years, primarily because these programs are viewed as a means to assist small businesses in creating and retaining jobs. The SBA anticipates...

The Debt Limit Since 2011

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

The U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement: Background and Issues

The U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement entered into force on May 15, 2012. It is a comprehensive free trade agreement (FTA) between the United States and Colombia, which will eventually eliminate tariffs and other barriers in bilateral trade in goods and services. On October 3, 2011, during the 112th Congress, President Barack Obama submitted draft legislation (H.R. 3078/S. 1641) that was introduced by request in both houses of Congress to implement the agreement. On October 12, 2011, the House passed H.R. 3078 (262-167) and sent it to the Senate. The Senate passed the implementing...

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

This report constitutes a guide to a series of two-page reports that examine the various programs and policies that comprise periodic omnibus legislation on farm and food policy, commonly known as “the farm bill.” The current farm bill (P.L. 113-79) was signed into law in February 2014. Many of the programs authorized by the 2014 farm bill are scheduled to expire in 2018 unless Congress provides for an extension, or reauthorizes them. Without congressional action, key commodity support programs would revert to permanently authorized legislation from the 1930s and 1940s.

Farm bill Farm bill...

An Introduction to the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit

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

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 does not define or describe the purpose of various government documents; that information can be found in companion CRS Report RL33895, Researching Current Federal Legislation and Regulations: A Guide to Resources for Congressional Staff. This report is not intended to be a definitive list of all resources, but rather a guide to pertinent subscriptions available in...

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...

Sponsorship and Cosponsorship of Senate Bills

A Senator who introduces a bill or resolution in the Senate is called its sponsor. Several Senators together may introduce a measure, but only the Senator whose name appears first on the bill is considered its sponsor; the others are cosponsors. A bill can have only one sponsor, but there is no limit on the number of cosponsors it may have.

When a Senator has determined that a bill is ready for introduction, it can be delivered to the bill clerk’s desk on the chamber floor when the Senate is in session. The sponsor must sign the bill and may attach the names of any cosponsors on a separate...

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, a political newcomer, took office in January 2016, having campaigned on an anti-corruption platform. The...

House Committee Markups: Manual of Procedures and Procedural Strategies

A principal responsibility of House committees is to conduct markups—to select legislation to consider, to debate it and vote on amendments to it (to mark up), and to report recommendations on passage to the House. This manual examines procedures and strategy related to committee markups and provides sample procedural scripts.

A committee faces many decisions when it considers a policy matter in a markup. It must select what legislation to mark up; decide whether to mark up in committee only or in both subcommittee and committee; consider the effect of referral on the markup; choose how to...

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), and the strong cultural and economic ties that connect the two countries. Also, it is of national interest for the United States to have a prosperous and democratic Mexico as a neighboring country. Mexico is the United States’ third-largest trading partner, while the United States is, by far, Mexico’s largest trading partner. Mexico ranks third as a...

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,...

Trends in Public Transportation Ridership: Implications for Federal Policy

Despite significant investments in public transportation at the federal, state, and local levels, transit ridership has fallen in many of the top 50 transit markets. If strong gains in the New York area are excluded, ridership nationally declined by 7% over the past decade. This report examines the implications for federal transit policy of the current weakness and possible future changes in transit ridership.

Although there has been a lot of research into the factors that explain transit ridership, there seems to be no comprehensive explanation for the recent decline. One complication is...

Federal Funding Gaps: A Brief Overview

The Antideficiency Act (31 U.S.C. 1341-1342, 1511-1519) generally bars the obligation of funds in the absence of appropriations. Exceptions are made under the act, including for activities involving “the safety of human life or the protection of property.” The interval during the fiscal year when appropriations for a particular project or activity are not enacted into law, either in the form of a regular appropriations act or a continuing resolution (CR), is referred to as a funding gap. Although funding gaps may occur at the start of the fiscal year, they may also occur any time a CR...

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

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

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

Agricultural Credit: Institutions and Issues

The federal government provides credit assistance to farmers to help assure adequate and reliable lending in rural areas, particularly for farmers who cannot obtain loans elsewhere. Federal farm loan programs also target credit to beginning farmers and socially disadvantaged groups.

The primary federal lender to farmers, though with a small share of the market, is the Farm Service Agency (FSA) in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Congress funds FSA loans with annual discretionary appropriations—about $90 million of budget authority and $317 million for salaries—to support $8...

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...

FY2018 Appropriations Overview: Census Bureau and Bureau of Economic Analysis

This report discusses FY2018 appropriations (discretionary budget authority) for the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) and Bureau of the Census (Census Bureau), historic components of the Economics and Statistics Administration (ESA) in the U.S. Department of Commerce. This report will be updated as legislative developments warrant.

The Administration’s FY2018 budget request assumes the termination of ESA and proposes $97.0 million for BEA, $6.8 million (6.6%) less than the $103.8 million enacted for FY2017.

The FY2018 request for the Census Bureau is $1,497.0 million, $27.0 million...

Agriculture and Related Agencies: FY2018 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, since mandatory amounts are generally set by authorizing laws such as the farm bill.

The largest discretionary spending items are the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women,...

Department of Health and Human Services: FY2019 Budget Request

This report provides information about the FY2019 budget request for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The report begins by reviewing the department’s mission and structure. Next, the report offers a brief explanation of the conventions used for the FY2018 estimates and FY2019 request levels in the budget documents released by the HHS and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The report also discusses the concept of the HHS budget as a whole, in comparison to how funding is provided to HHS through the annual appropriations process. The report concludes with a...

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...

Unauthorized Childhood Arrivals: Legislative Activity in the 115th Congress

Legislative activity in the 115th Congress on unauthorized childhood arrivals (foreign nationals who as children were brought to live in the United States by their parents or other adults) comes in response to a decision announced by the Trump Administration on September 5, 2017, to terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy. The DACA policy was established by the Obama Administration in 2012 to provide eligible individuals with temporary protection against removal from the United States and work authorization. Initial DACA grants were for two years and could be...

Federal Reserve: Legislation in the 115th Congress

The Federal Reserve (Fed) is the subject of legislation being considered in the 115th Congress. This report analyzes Fed bills that have seen committee or floor action and the policy debate surrounding them. The bills contain wide-ranging changes that can be grouped into five broad categories

Fed governance. Some proposals would change the Fed’s institutional structure. H.R. 10 as passed and H.R. 4757 would increase the voting weight of regional Fed presidents on the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) at the expense of the Fed’s Board of Governors and the New York Fed. H.R. 10 would also...

Bankruptcy Basics: A Primer

U.S. bankruptcy law has two central aims. First, bankruptcy law seeks to relieve debtors of certain obligations they are unable to repay by providing them with a “fresh start” from financial difficulties. At the same time, bankruptcy law attempts to preserve the countervailing interests of creditors and other stakeholders by maximizing total creditor return in an orderly and efficient fashion. Congress and the courts have established a complex system of statutes, procedural rules, and judicial precedents intended to balance these competing interests.

Various types of debtors—from...

Analysis of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act Title I-A Allocation Formulas: Factors, Design Elements, and Allocation Patterns

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) is the primary source of federal aid to elementary and secondary education. The ESEA was last reauthorized by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA; P.L. 114-95) in 2015. The Title I-A program has always been the largest grant program authorized under the ESEA. Title I-A grants provide supplementary educational and related services to low-achieving and other students attending elementary and secondary schools with relatively high concentrations of students from low-income families.

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) determines Title I-A...

2017 Disaster Supplemental Appropriations: Overview

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

Joint Resolution Seeks to End U.S. Support for Saudi-led Coalition Military Operations in Yemen

In February 2018, Senators Sanders, Lee, and Murphy introduced S.J.Res. 54, a joint resolution that would direct the President to remove U.S. forces from “hostilities in or affecting” Yemen (except for those U.S. forces engaged in counterterrorism operations directed at al Qaeda or associated forces). Since March 2015, the U.S. military has supported military operations in Yemen by a coalition of countries led by the kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). The coalition operations, including airstrikes, have supported a broader campaign to reinstate the internationally recognized government of...

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...

Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (P.L. 115-123): CHIP, Public Health, Home Visiting, and Medicaid Provisions in Division E

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (BBA 2018, P.L. 115-123), which was enacted on February 9, 2018, addresses a number of issues that were before Congress. For example, appropriations for most federal agencies and programs were to expire on February 8, 2018, and BBA 2018 extends continuing appropriations for these agencies and programs through March 23, 2018. In addition, BBA 2018 includes FY2018 supplemental appropriations, an increase to the debt limit, increases to the statutory spending limits for FY2018 and FY2019, tax provisions, and numerous provisions extending or making changes to...

Eight Mechanisms to Enact Procedural Change in the U.S. Senate

Recently, 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....

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC): A Brief Legislative History

The earned income tax credit (EITC), when first enacted on a temporary basis in 1975, was a modest tax credit that provided financial assistance to low-income, working families with children. After various legislative changes over the past 40 years, the credit is now one of the federal government’s largest antipoverty programs. Since the EITC’s enactment, Congress has shown increasing interest in using refundable tax credits for a variety of purposes, from reducing the tax burdens of families with children (the child tax credit), to helping families afford higher education (the American...

Paid Family Leave in the United States

Paid family leave (PFL) refers to partially or fully compensated time away from work for specific and generally significant family caregiving needs, such as the arrival of a new child or serious illness of a close family member. Although the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA; P.L. 103-3) provides eligible workers with a federal entitlement to unpaid leave for a limited set of family caregiving needs, no federal law requires private-sector employers to provide paid leave of any kind. Currently, employees may access paid family leave if offered by an employer. In addition, workers...

Germaneness of Debate in the Senate: The Pastore Rule

Paragraph 1(b) of Senate Rule XIX—commonly known as the Pastore rule, after its author, former Rhode Island Senator John Pastore—requires Senate floor debate to be germane during specific periods of a Senate work day. The rule has been enforced sporadically since its adoption in 1964. In current practice, the germaneness requirements of the Pastore rule are rarely formally invoked on the Senate floor.

Pursuant to the rule, all floor debate must be germane and confined to the specific question then pending before the Senate for the first three hours after (1) the conclusion of the Morning...

Federal Support for Drug Courts: In Brief

The United States has gradually shifted its formal drug policy from a punishment-focused model toward a more comprehensive approach—one that focuses on prevention, treatment, and enforcement. The proliferation of drug courts in American criminal justice fits this more comprehensive model. These specialized court programs are designed to divert certain defendants and offenders away from traditional criminal justice sanctions such as incarceration while reducing overall costs and helping these defendants and offenders with substance abuse issues.

Drug courts present an alternative to the...

The Individual Mandate for Health Insurance Coverage: In Brief

The individual mandate, as established under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA; P.L. 111-148, as amended), has been in effect since 2014. The mandate requires most individuals to maintain health insurance coverage, but some individuals are exempt from the mandate. Those who are not exempt and who do not maintain coverage are subject to a penalty for noncompliance implemented through the Internal Revenue Code.

The penalty for noncompliance is assessed for each month in which an individual does not have coverage or is not exempt from the mandate. The annual penalty is the...

NERC Standards for Bulk Power Physical Security: Is the Grid More Secure?

A 2013 rifle attack on a critical electric power substation in Metcalf, CA, marked a turning point for the U.S. electric power sector. The attack prompted utilities across the country to reevaluate and restructure their physical security programs. It also set in motion proceedings in Congress and at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) which resulted in a new mandatory Physical Security Reliability Standard (CIP-014) for bulk power asset owners promulgated by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) in 2015. In the three years since FERC approved this new...

FDA Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies (REMS): Description and Effect on Generic Drug Development

The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) authorizes the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate the safety and effectiveness of drug products sold in the United States. The statutory standard for FDA approval is that a drug is safe and effective for its intended use. FDA’s determination that a drug is safe does not signify an absence of risk but rather that the drug’s clinical benefits outweigh its known and potential risks.

For most drugs, FDA has generally considered routine risk minimization measures to be sufficient; for example, updated labeling based on new information...

Prescription Drug User Fee Act (PDUFA): 2017 Reauthorization as PDUFA VI

The Prescription Drug User Fee Act (PDUFA, now called PDUFA I) was reauthorized as PDUFA VI by the Food and Drug Administration Reauthorization Act of 2017 (FDARA, P.L. 115-52). First passed by Congress in 1992, PDUFA gave the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to collect fees from the pharmaceutical industry and to use the revenue to support “the process for the review of human drug applications.” FDA regulates the safety and effectiveness of drug and biological products sold in the United States. Prior to marketing a drug, a manufacturer must submit to FDA a new drug...

The TRIO Programs: A Primer

The TRIO programs are the primary federal programs providing support services to disadvantaged students to promote achievement in postsecondary education. The Higher Education Amendments of 1968 (P.L. 90-575) consolidated a “trio” of programs under one overall program. This report provides a description of the TRIO programs, authorized in Title IV-A-2-1 of the HEA.

In FY2017, the TRIO programs were funded at $950 million, and they served more than 800,000 secondary, postsecondary, and adult students. The TRIO programs have been designed to encourage and prepare qualified individuals from...

Capital Gains Taxes: An Overview

Taxes on long-term capital gains (on assets held for at least a year) are imposed at rates that correspond to pre-2018 brackets: a 0% rate for those whose income placed them in the regular 15% bracket or less (now in regular bracket of 12%), and 15% for taxpayers in higher brackets, except for those in the 39.6% bracket. The tax revision adopted in December 2018 (P.L. 115-97) maintained the links to the income level corresponding to the rate brackets in prior law. Therefore, the tax rates on capital gains are affected only by changes in the deductions to arrive at taxable income 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 FY2017, 3,421 8(a) firms were awarded more than $27.1 billion in federal contracts, including $8.0 billion in 8(a) set-aside awards and $8.4 billion in 8(a)...

Real Wage Trends, 1979 to 2017

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...

Pass-Throughs, Corporations, and Small Businesses: A Look at Firm Size

In tax policy discussions it is not uncommon for the terms pass-through and small business to be interchanged, or, similarly, for the terms corporation and large business to be interchanged. This report uses 2015 U.S. Census data to investigate how the size of businesses varies by legal form (corporate versus pass-through). For this report, firm size is based on employment. The analysis finds that the majority of both corporations and pass-throughs in 2015 had fewer than five employees (55% of C corporations and 64% of pass-throughs). Nearly 99% of both corporations and pass-throughs had...

Modes of Constitutional Interpretation

When exercising its power to review the constitutionality of governmental action, the Supreme Court has relied on certain “methods” or “modes” of interpretation—that is, ways of figuring out a particular meaning of a provision within the Constitution. This report broadly describes the most common modes of constitutional interpretation; discusses examples of Supreme Court decisions that demonstrate the application of these methods; and provides a general overview of the various arguments in support of, and in opposition to, the use of such methods of constitutional...

Organization of American States: Background and Issues for Congress

The Organization of American States (OAS) is a regional multilateral organization that includes all 35 independent countries of the Western Hemisphere (though Cuba currently does not participate). It was established in 1948 as a forum in which the nations of the hemisphere could engage one another and address issues of mutual concern. Today, the OAS concentrates on four broad objectives: democracy promotion, human rights protection, economic and social development, and regional security cooperation. It carries out a variety of activities to advance these goals, often providing policy...

The Every Student Succeeds Act: Accountability for Schools with Low Graduation Rates

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) comprehensively reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA). Among other changes, the ESSA amended federal K-12 educational accountability requirements for states and local educational agencies (LEAs) receiving ESEA funds, including those regarding the identification, support, and improvement of high schools with low graduation rates.

In addition to new accountability rules, the ESSA provided the first definition of the high school graduation rate in federal education law. States and LEAs have been reporting their rates...

Nuclear Negotiations with North Korea

This report summarizes past nuclear and missile negotiations between the United States and North Korea, also known by its formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), and highlights some of the lessons and implications from these efforts. Some analysts have suggested that, in response to the accelerated pace of North Korea’s nuclear and missile testing programs and its continued threats against the United States and U.S. allies, the United States might engage in an aggressive negotiation strategy with Pyongyang. In March 2018, President Trump agreed to hold a summit with...

Tax-Preferred College Savings Plans: An Introduction to Coverdells

A Coverdell ESA—often referred to simply as a Coverdell—is a tax-advantaged investment account that can be used to pay for both higher-education expenses and elementary and secondary school expenses. The specific tax advantage of a Coverdell is that distributions (i.e., withdrawals) from this account are tax-free, if they are used to pay for qualified education expenses. If the distribution is used to pay for nonqualified expenses, a portion of the distribution is taxable and may also be subject to a 10% penalty.

Several parameters of Coverdells were temporarily modified by the Economic...

Changing FERC Policies for Gas Pipelines?

Introduction

On December 21, 2017, the newly appointed chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) announced that the commission would undertake a review of its permitting policies and procedures for interstate natural gas pipelines. The U.S. natural gas pipeline network has expanded rapidly to accommodate new supplies of domestic shale gas. That expansion has prompted numerous congressional hearings and legislative proposals related to pipeline development. The review of FERC’s permitting policies may provide stakeholders a new opportunity to influence how the commission...

Arming Teachers as a Response to School Shootings

In the wake of the February 14, 2018, shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, President Trump endorsed a proposal to arm teachers as a way to potentially thwart school shootings. The President’s endorsement has generated debate about whether this policy option would make schools safer.

Proponents argue that arming educators provides a deterrent effect and that armed teachers could respond to an active shooter quicker than police. Opponents argue that teachers do not want the responsibility of countering active shooters; they raise questions about whether teachers can...

Russia’s 2018 Presidential Election

Russia’s next presidential election is scheduled for March 18, 2018, the fourth anniversary of Russia’s illegal annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region. Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has served as president or prime minister of Russia for over 18 years, is widely expected to secure reelection easily against seven other candidates, especially given the government’s tight control over the country’s political process. With presidential terms in Russia lasting six years, victory could keep Putin in office until at least 2024.

Promoting Putin

Russia’s presidential election is only...

The President Acts to Impose Tariffs on Steel and Aluminum Imports

On March 8, 2018, President Trump issued proclamations imposing duties on U.S. imports of steel and aluminum, based on the Secretary of Commerce’s finding that these articles are being imported into the United States in such quantities and under such circumstances as to threaten to impair the national security of the United States. The President acted under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 (19 U.S.C. §1862, as amended). The proclamations outline the President’s decisions to impose tariffs of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminum imports effective March 23, 2018. The President...

Adoption Tax Benefits: An Overview

The federal government supports adoption in two primary ways: federal grants to state governments and tax benefits for individual taxpayers that help offset the costs of adopting a child. This report focuses on federal adoption tax benefits, which consist of an adoption tax credit and an income tax exclusion for employer-provided adoption assistance.

The adoption tax credit helps qualifying taxpayers offset some of the costs of adopting a child. Although the credit may be claimed for nearly all types of adoptions (excluding the adoption of a spouse’s child), there are some special rules...

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,...

The United Kingdom: Background, Brexit, and Relations with the United States

Many U.S. officials and Members of Congress view the United Kingdom (UK) as the United States’ closest and most reliable ally. This perception stems from a combination of factors, including a sense of shared history, values, and culture; a large and mutually beneficial economic relationship; and extensive cooperation on foreign policy and security issues.

Conservative-Led Minority Government Following 2017 Election

The government of the UK is led by Prime Minister Theresa May of the Conservative Party. Her leadership position was weakened after she triggered an early election in June 2017,...

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...

Northern Ireland, Brexit, and the Irish Border

As the 20th anniversary of the April 1998 peace accord for Northern Ireland (known as the Good Friday Agreement or the Belfast Agreement) approaches, concerns are increasing about how the expected exit of the United Kingdom (UK) from the European Union (EU)—or “Brexit”—might affect Northern Ireland. The future of the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland has become a central issue in the UK’s withdrawal negotiations with the EU. Once the UK ceases to be a member of the EU—likely in March 2019—Northern Ireland will be the only part of the UK to share a land border with...

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; geographic proximity and economic and security conditions are major factors driving migration trends. Curbing the flow of...

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 action revises standards for wood stoves and pellet stoves that were set in 1988, and establishes standards for other types of...

Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (P.L. 115-123): Brief Summary of Division E—The Advancing Chronic Care, Extenders, and Social Services (ACCESS) Act

On February 9, 2018, President Donald Trump signed into law the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (BBA 2018; P.L. 115-123). Division E of that law is titled the Advancing Chronic Care, Extenders, and Social Services (ACCESS) Act. This report provides a brief summary of each of the provisions included in the ACCESS Act, along with the contact information for the CRS expert who can answer questions about each provision. Division E consists of 12 titles. Each title is addressed in a separate table, and the provisions are discussed in the order they appear in the law. Topics discussed in this...

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

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

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

TPP Countries Sign New CPTPP Agreement without U.S. Participation

On March 8, 2018, the 11 remaining signatories of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, excluding the United States, signed the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). The CPTPP parties announced the outlines of the agreement in November 2017 and concluded the negotiations in January 2018. The CPTPP, which requires ratification by 6 of the 11 signatories to become effective, would be a vehicle to enact much of the TPP, signed by these countries and the United States in February 2016 and from which President Trump withdrew in January 2017. The...

Cybersecurity: Selected Issues for the 115th Congress

Cybersecurity has been gaining attention as a national issue for the past decade. During this time, the country has witnessed cyber incidents affecting both public and private sector systems and data. These incidents have included attacks in which data was stolen, altered, or access to it was disrupted or denied. The frequency of these attacks, and their effects on the U.S. economy, national security, and people’s lives have driven cybersecurity issues to the forefront of congressional policy conversations. This report provides an overview of selected cybersecurity concepts and a...

Department of Veterans Affairs FY2018 Appropriations

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

Energy Tax Provisions That Expired in 2017 (“Tax Extenders”)

Thirteen temporary energy tax provisions expired at the end of 2017. All of these provisions had expired at the end of 2016, and were retroactively extended by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (BBA; P.L. 115-123) and made available for the 2017 tax year. This report briefly summarizes and discusses the economic impact of energy-related tax provisions that expired at the end of 2017, including the following: Renewable energy property provisions Production Tax Credit (PTC) for Nonwind Facilities Alternative and renewable fuels provisions Incentives for Biodiesel and Renewable...

Election in Italy

More than half of voters in Italy’s March 4, 2018, parliamentary election supported political parties considered antiestablishment or outside the mainstream. Since no party or political group won a majority of seats in parliament, the top vote-getters will now negotiate to form a governing coalition. This is expected to be a drawn-out process that could end in stalemate and possibly new elections. Furthermore, the empowerment of so-called populist parties could have significant implications for the European Union (EU), NATO, and the United States.

Election Results

A center-right alliance...

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,...

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...

Banking Policy Issues in the 115th Congress

The financial crisis and the ensuing legislative and regulatory responses greatly affected the banking industry. Many new regulations—mandated or authorized by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (P.L. 111-203) or promulgated under the authority of bank regulators—have been implemented in recent years. In addition, economic and technological trends continue to affect banks. As a result, Congress is faced with many issues related to the bank industry, including issues concerning prudential regulation, consumer protection, “too big to fail” (TBTF) banks, community...

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

Background

On September 14, 2017, the House passed H.R. 3354, which included the FY2018 Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) Appropriations bill in Division D. The Senate Appropriations Committee released an FY2018 FSGG chairmen’s mark on November 20, 2017, but further action has yet to occur on the bill. Much of the federal government, including agencies covered by FSGG appropriations, has been operating for the first part of FY2018 under successive continuing resolutions (P.L. 115-56, P.L. 115-90, P.L. 115-96, P.L. 115-120, and P.L. 115-123), now effective through March 23,...

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 115th Congress will continue to review these programs, and the funding requested for them, during the annual authorization and appropriations process.

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

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.

Iraq: In Brief

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

International Trade and Finance: Overview and Issues for the 115th Congress

The U.S. Constitution grants authority to Congress to regulate commerce with foreign nations. Congress exercises this authority in numerous ways, including through oversight of trade policy and consideration of legislation to implement trade agreements and authorize trade programs. Policy issues cover areas such as U.S. trade negotiations, U.S. trade and economic relations with specific regions and countries, international institutions focused on trade, tariff and nontariff barriers, worker dislocation due to trade liberalization, enforcement of trade laws and trade agreement commitments,...

Information Warfare: Issues for Congress

Information warfare is hardly a new endeavor. In the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC, Persian ruler Xerxes used intimidation tactics to break the will of Greek city-states. Alexander the Great used cultural assimilation to subdue dissent and maintain conquered lands. Military scholars trace the modern use of information as a tool in guerilla warfare to fifth-century BC Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu’s book The Art of War and its emphasis on accurate intelligence for decision superiority over a mightier foe. These ancient strategists helped to lay the foundation for information warfare...

Tax-Preferred College Savings Plans: An Introduction to 529 Plans

Among the options families may choose to save for education (elementary and secondary as well as higher education), they may consider using tax-advantaged qualified tuition programs (QTPs), also known as 529 plans.

529 plans, named for the section of the tax code which dictates their tax treatment, are tax-advantaged investment trusts used to pay for education expenses. The specific tax advantage of a 529 plan is that distributions (i.e., withdrawals) from this savings plan are tax-free if they are used to pay for qualified higher-education expenses. In addition, up to $10,000 per...

Guns, Excise Taxes, Wildlife Restoration, and the National Firearms Act

Federal taxes on firearms and ammunition are collected through different methods and used for different purposes, depending on the nature of the firearms. Some tax receipts are used for wildlife restoration and for hunter education and safety, for example, whereas others are deposited into the General Fund of the U.S. Treasury. The assessment of these taxes and the uses of generated revenues are routinely of interest to many in Congress.

In general, taxes on the manufacture of firearms (including pistols and revolvers as well as rifles and other long guns) and ammunition are collected as...

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.

Commerce Determines Steel and Aluminum Imports Threaten to Impair National Security

The U.S. Department of Commerce (Commerce) recently completed two investigations into the national security threats posed by imports of steel and aluminum in accordance with Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 (19 U.S.C. §1862, as amended). In April 2017, two presidential memoranda instructed Commerce to prioritize the steel and aluminum investigations. The final reports, submitted to the President on January 11 and January 22, 2018, respectively, concluded imports of steel mill products and of wrought and unwrought aluminum “threaten to impair the national security” of the...

The Child Tax Credit: Legislative History

The child tax credit was initially structured in the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997 (P.L. 105-34) as a $500-per-child nonrefundable credit to provide tax relief to middle- and upper-middle-income families. Since 1997, various laws have modified key parameters of the credit, expanding the availability of the benefit to more low-income families while also increasing the value of the tax credit. The first significant change to the child tax credit occurred with the enactment of the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 (EGTRRA; P.L. 107-16). EGTRRA increased the amount of the...

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

Two tax provisions subsidize the child and dependent care expenses of working parents: the child and dependent care tax credit (CDCTC) and the exclusion for employer-sponsored child and dependent care. (Note these provisions were not changed by P.L. 115-97.)

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

Tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean Focus on the Politics of Energy

Cypriot (Greek and Turkish) interest in energy exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean began in 1998 after Noble Energy, a Texas-based energy company, discovered a large natural gas deposit in the Levant Basin. The location is in waters considered part of Israel’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) but bordering parts of the Republic of Cyprus’s (RoC’s) EEZ. In 2007, the RoC granted Noble Energy a license to explore for gas in an area identified as block 12, or the “Aphrodite” field within its EEZ. In 2011, Noble Energy announced the discovery of natural gas in block 12. Subsequently, the RoC...

Blockchain: Background and Policy Issues

The rise of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and the use of Initial Coin Offerings to raise capital has drawn increased attention from both the public and private sector concerning the use of digital ledgers to conduct business (called blockchain technology) and its potential. Yet many remain unclear on what the technology actually is, what it does, and the tradeoffs for its use.

A blockchain is a digital ledger that allows parties to transact without the use of a central authority as a trusted intermediary. In this ledger, transactions are grouped together in blocks, which are...

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...

EPA’s Proposal to Repeal the Clean Power Plan: Benefits and Costs

In 2015, when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) promulgated the Clean Power Plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from fossil-fueled electric power plants, it concluded that the benefits of reducing emissions would outweigh the costs by a substantial margin under the scenarios analyzed. EPA estimated benefits ranging from $31 billion to $54 billion in 2030 and costs ranging from $5.1 billion to $8.4 billion in 2030, when the rule would be fully implemented.

In proposing to repeal the rule in October 2017, EPA revised the estimates of both its benefits and costs, finding in...

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...

State Minimum Wages: An Overview

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

As of 2018, 29 states and the District of Columbia have minimum wage rates above the federal rate of $7.25 per hour, with rates ranging from $0.25 to $6.00...

Expired Tax Provisions and “Tax Extenders”

Revenue measures enacted as part of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (BBA2018, P.L. 115-123) extended a number of temporary tax provisions that had expired in 2016 or 2017. In the wake of the 2017 tax revision (P.L. 115-97), Congress has indicated an interest in evaluating expired temporary tax provisions or “tax extenders.”

Table 1 provides information on temporary tax provisions and “tax extenders.” Specifically, the table includes (1) all provisions that expired in 2016 and 2017 and were not addressed in the 2017 tax revision (P.L. 115-97); (2) information on provisions that were...

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, creates a new joint select committee of the House and Senate. The Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations Process Reform, made up of 16 Members from the House and Senate—four chosen by each of the chambers’ party leaders—is intended to formulate recommendations and legislative language that will “significantly reform the budget and appropriations process.” The law directs the committee to make a report no later than November 30, 2018, which will be submitted along with legislative language to...

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...

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

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

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

Federal Civil Aviation Programs: In Brief

Federal Aviation Administration; FAA; Airport and Airways Trust Fund; AATF; aviation trust fund; Airport Improvement Program; AIP; air traffic control; Next Generation Air Transportation System; NextGen; aviation safety

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...

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 $59.5 billion in 2018, down nearly 7% from last year. The forecast decline in 2018 net farm income is the result of lower cash returns—from both production activities (-0.5%) and government payments (-18.6%)—and higher production expenses (projected up 1%). Net farm income is calculated on an accrual basis. Net cash income (calculated on a cash-flow basis) is also projected lower in 2018 (-5.1%) to $91.9 billion.

The 2018 net farm income forecast is...

Health Care for Dependents and Survivors of Veterans

The Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA) was established by the Veterans Health Care Expansion Act of 1973 (P.L. 93-82). CHAMPVA is primarily a health insurance program where certain eligible dependents and survivors of veterans receive care from private sector health care providers. The program is administered by the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), Office of Community Care, located in Denver, CO.

Eligibility

To be eligible for CHAMPVA benefits, the beneficiary must be the spouse or child of a veteran who has a total and permanent...

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...

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...

Defense Spending Under an Interim Continuing Resolution: In Brief

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

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

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 organizations such as Big Brothers Big...

Analysis of the Tax Exclusion for Canceled Mortgage Debt Income

A home foreclosure, mortgage default, or mortgage modification can have important tax consequences. As lenders and borrowers work to resolve indebtedness issues, some transactions are resulting in cancellation of debt. Mortgage debt cancellation can occur when lenders restructure loans, reducing principal balances, or sell properties, either in advance, or as a result, of foreclosure proceedings. Historically, if a lender forgives or cancels such debt, tax law has treated it as cancellation of debt (COD) income subject to tax. Exceptions have been available for taxpayers who are insolvent...

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...

H.R. 4508, the PROSPER Act: Proposed Reauthorization of the Higher Education Act

During the 115th Congress, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce marked up and ordered reported with amendments the Promoting Real Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity through Education Reform Act (PROSPER Act; H.R. 4508), which would provide for the comprehensive reauthorization of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA).

H.R. 4508 would make numerous amendments to the HEA, many of which address six themes: (1) redesigning the federal approach to providing student aid; (2) modifying federal student aid rules; (3) eliminating or winding down programs; (4) revising the...

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...

Budget Reconciliation Measures Enacted Into Law: 1980-2017

The budget reconciliation process is an optional procedure that operates as an adjunct to the budget resolution process established by the Congressional Budget Act of 1974. The chief purpose of the reconciliation process is to enhance Congress’s ability to change current law in order to bring revenue, spending, and debt-limit levels into conformity with the policies of the annual budget resolution.

This report identifies and briefly summarizes the 21 budget reconciliation measures enacted into law during the period covering 1980, when reconciliation procedures were first used by both...

The Closure of Institutions of Higher Education: Student Options, Borrower Relief, and Implications

The recent closures of multiple large, private for-profit institutions of higher education (IHEs), such as those owned by Corinthian Colleges, Inc. (e.g., Heald College) and ITT Educational Services (e.g., ITT Technical Institutes) have brought into focus the extent to which a student’s postsecondary education may be disrupted by a school closure. The closures of these IHEs also highlighted the numerous issues students may face when their institutions close and the difficult decisions they may be required to make in the wake of a closure. Two key issues students may face when their IHE...

FY2019 Budget: Government Reorganization and Federal Workforce Reform

The Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2019 stated, in a largely general way, planned initiatives related to government reorganization and federal workforce reform. The initiatives follow from Executive Order 13781, “Comprehensive Plan for Reorganizing the Executive Branch,” issued by President Donald Trump on March 13, 2017, and two Office of Management and Budget (OMB) memorandums. The memorandums, M-17-22, “Comprehensive Plan for Reforming the Federal Government and Reducing the Federal Civilian Workforce,” issued on April 12, 2017, and M-17-28, “Fiscal Year (FY) 2019...

Welfare Reform: Work Status of Single Mothers, In Brief

Welfare reform; Single Mothers; Employment trends; Poverty

Defense Science and Technology Funding

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

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

“Extraordinary Measures” and the Debt Limit

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

Appropriations: CRS Experts

Agriculture appropriations; Commerce, Justice, Science appropriations; Department of Defense appropriations, Energy and Water appropriations; Financial Services and General Provisions Government-wide appropriations; Departments of Homeland Security appropriations; Department of Interior, Environment appropriations; Labor, Health and Human Services, Education appropriations, Legislative Branch appropriations; Military Construction and Veterans Affairs appropriations, Department of State, Foreign Operations appropriations, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development appropriations.

Veterans’ Benefits: The Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program

Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment for veterans (VR&E) is an entitlement program that provides job training and other employment-related services to veterans with service-connected disabilities. In cases where a disabled veteran is not able to work, the VR&E program provides independent living (IL) services to help the veteran achieve the highest possible quality of life. The VR&E program is administered by the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), part of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

To be entitled to VR&E services, a veteran must have been discharged under conditions...

U.S. Manufacturing in International Perspective

The health of the U.S. manufacturing sector has long been of great concern to Congress. The decline in manufacturing employment since the start of the 21st century has stimulated particular congressional interest, leading Members to introduce hundreds of bills over many sessions of Congress intended to support domestic manufacturing activity in various ways. The proponents of such measures frequently contend that the United States is by various measures falling behind other countries in manufacturing, and they argue that this relative decline can be mitigated or reversed by government...

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

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

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

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

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

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

Medicare and Budget Sequestration

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

Jordan: Background and U.S. Relations

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

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

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

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

Discretionary Spending Levels Under the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018

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

The BCA and Discretionary Spending

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

Commemorative Commissions: Overview, Structure, and Funding

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

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

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

What Is Full Employment?

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

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

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

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

Puerto Rico: CRS Experts

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

The Puerto Rican Governor was charged with...

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

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

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

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

Child Support Enforcement Annual User Fee: In Brief

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

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

Administration’s Infrastructure Program Emphasizes New Nonfederal Revenue

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

Two-Year Extension of the Community Health Center Fund

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ecuador: In Brief

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

Former President Rafael Correa...

Nonstrategic Nuclear Weapons

Recent debates about U.S. nuclear weapons have questioned what role weapons with shorter ranges and lower yields can play in addressing emerging threats in Europe and Asia. These weapons, often referred to as nonstrategic nuclear weapons, have not been limited by past U.S.-Russian arms control agreements, although some analysts argue such limits would be of value, particularly in addressing Russia’s greater numbers of these types of weapons. Others have argued that the United States should expand its deployments of these weapons, in both Europe and Asia, to address new risks of war...

Diversity Immigrants’ Regions and Countries of Origin: Fact Sheet

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

The Veterans Health Administration and Medical Education: In Brief

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

Emergency Assistance for Agricultural Land Rehabilitation

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

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...

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

Statutory individual income tax rates are the tax rates that apply by law to various amounts of taxable income. Statutory rates form the basis of marginal effective and average effective tax rates, which most economists believe have a greater impact on the economic behavior of companies and individuals than do statutory rates. Marginal effective rates reflect the net effect of special tax provisions on statutory rates. They differ from average effective rates, which measure someone’s overall tax burden.

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

Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC): Structure and Activities

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

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

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

U.S. Family-Based Immigration Policy

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

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

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

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

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

Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA)

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

New Support for Prevention of Foster Care

FFPSA responds to longstanding...

The 10-20-30 Plan and Persistent Poverty Counties

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

Medicare Trigger

The Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003 (MMA; P.L. 108-173) requires the Medicare Board of Trustees to provide in its annual reports an expanded analysis of Medicare expenditures and revenues (§801 of the MMA). Specifically, if the Medicare trustees determine that general revenue funding for Medicare is expected to exceed 45% of Medicare outlays for the current fiscal year or any of the next six fiscal years, a determination of excess general funding is made. If the determination is issued for two consecutive years, a funding warning is issued which...

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

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

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

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

This is the first case in which...

Section 201 Safeguards on Solar Products and Washing Machines

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

Rwanda: In Brief

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

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

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

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

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

Positive Train Control (PTC): Overview and Policy Issues

The Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (RSIA08) requires implementation of positive train control (PTC) on railroads which carry passengers or have high-volume freight traffic with toxic- or poisonous-by-inhalation hazardous materials. PTC is a communications and signaling system that has been identified by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) as a technology capable of preventing incidents caused by train operator or dispatcher error. PTC is expected to reduce the number of incidents due to excessive speed, conflicting train movements, and engineer failure to obey wayside...

The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS): Waiver Authority and Modification of Volumes

The Clean Air Act requires that transportation fuels contain a minimum volume of renewable fuel. This renewable fuel standard (RFS) was established by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct05; P.L. 109-58) and amended by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA; P.L. 110-140). The RFS includes scheduled volume mandates that grow each year (starting with 9 billion gallons in 2008 and ascending to 36 billion gallons in 2022). The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which is responsible for administering the RFS, determines the annual volume after 2022. Within the overall...

Suspension of the Rules in the House: Principal Features

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

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

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

Instructing House Conferees

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

Nutrition Labeling of Restaurant Menu and Vending Machine Items

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

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

The 2018 National Defense Strategy

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

New Nuclear Warheads: Legislative Provisions

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

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

The New START Treaty: Central Limits and Key Provisions

The United States and Russia signed the New START Treaty on April 8, 2010. After more than 20 hearings, the U.S. Senate gave its advice and consent to ratification on December 22, 2010, by a vote of 71-26. Both houses of the Russian parliament—the Duma and Federation Council—approved the treaty in late January 2011, and it entered into force on February 5, 2011, after Secretary of State Clinton and Foreign Minister Lavrov exchanged the instruments of ratification. Reductions were to be implemented by February 5, 2018, a goal met by both parties.

New START provides the parties with 7 years...

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

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

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

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

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

Federal Employees’ Retirement System: Summary of Recent Trends

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

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

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

What Causes a Recession?

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

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

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.

Small Business Administration and Job Creation

The Small Business Administration (SBA) administers several programs to support small businesses, including loan guaranty programs, disaster loan programs, management and technical assistance training programs, and federal contracting programs. Congressional interest in these programs has increased in recent years, primarily because they are viewed as a means to stimulate economic activity and create jobs.

This report examines the economic research on net job creation to identify the types of businesses that appear to create the most jobs. That research suggests that business startups play...

Trespassing: The Leading Cause of Rail-Related Fatalities

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

Figure 1. Rail-Related...

Resolutions to Censure the President: Procedure and History

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

Resolutions that attempt to censure the President for...

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

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

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

Evolving Assessments of Human and Natural Contributions to Climate Change

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

The Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) Program

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

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

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

The Balkans and Russia

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

FEMA Individual Assistance Programs: In Brief

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

The Public Assistance program provides federal financial...

Vulnerable Youth: Background and Policies

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

Gun Control: Concealed Carry Legislation in the 115th Congress

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

Wildfire Management Funding: Background, Issues, and FY2018 Appropriations

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

Mexico: Background and U.S. Relations

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

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

A Survey of House and Senate Committee Rules on Subpoenas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Capitol Rotunda and the Capitol Grounds have been used as the setting for a variety of events, ranging from memorial ceremonies and the reception of foreign dignitaries to the presentation of awards and the hosting of public competitions. This report identifies and categorizes uses of the Capitol Rotunda and Capitol Grounds authorized by concurrent resolutions since the 101st Congress.

In most cases, use of the Capitol Rotunda requires a concurrent resolution agreed to by both the House and Senate. A concurrent resolution for the use of the Rotunda typically identifies the event and...

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

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

U.S. Goals for Syria

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

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

Abortion: Judicial History and Legislative Response

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

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

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

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

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

Federal Research and Development Funding: FY2018

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

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

EPA’s Methane Regulations: Legal Overview

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

Security of Air Cargo Shipments, Operations, and Facilities

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

The October 2010 discovery...

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

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

Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education: FY2018 Appropriations

This report offers an overview of actions taken by Congress and the President to provide FY2018 appropriations for accounts funded by the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS) appropriations bill. This bill includes all accounts funded through the annual appropriations process at the Departments of Labor (DOL) and Education (ED). It also provides annual appropriations for most agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), with certain exceptions (e.g., the Food and Drug Administration is funded via the Agriculture...

Federal Role in Voter Registration: The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 and Subsequent Developments

Historically, most aspects of election administration have been left to state and local governments, resulting in a variety of practices across jurisdictions with respect to voter registration. States can vary on a number of elements of the voter registration process, including whether or not to require voter registration; where or when voter registration occurs; and how voters may be removed from registration lists. The right of citizens to vote, however, is presented in the U.S. Constitution in the 15th, 19th, and 26th Amendments. Beginning with the Voting Rights Act (VRA) in 1965,...

Economic Impact of Infrastructure Investment

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

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

Community Services Block Grants (CSBG): Background and Funding

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

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

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

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

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

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) was established by the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968 (NFIA, 42 U.S.C. §4001 et seq.), and was reauthorized until February 8, 2018 (H.R. 195). Unless reauthorized or amended by Congress, the following will occur after February 8, 2018: (1) the authority to provide new flood insurance contracts will expire; and (2) the authority for the NFIP to borrow funds from the Treasury will be reduced from $30.425 billion to $1 billion.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Marshall Plan: Design, Accomplishments, and Significance

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

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

The State Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is a means-tested program that provides health coverage to targeted low-income children and pregnant women in families that have annual income above Medicaid eligibility levels but have no health insurance. CHIP is jointly financed by the federal government and the states, and the states are responsible for administering CHIP.

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

Highway Bridge Conditions: Issues for Congress

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

Wilderness: Issues and Legislation

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

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

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

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

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

Animal Drug User Fee Programs

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

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

History, Evolution, and Practices of the President’s State of the Union Address: Frequently Asked Questions

The State of the Union address is a communication from the President to Congress in which the chief executive reports on the current condition of the United States and provides policy proposals for the upcoming legislative year. The address originates in the Constitution (Article II, Section 3, clause 1), which requires that the President “shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.”

Over time, the State of the Union address has evolved considerably. The...

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

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

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

Federal Workforce Statistics Sources: OPM and OMB

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

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

Trends in Bank Secrecy Act/Anti-Money Laundering Enforcement

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

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

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

Background: U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors

The Board of Governors of the U.S. Postal Service (hereinafter, the Board) was created by a provision of the Postal Reorganization Act in 1970 (PRA, 39 U.S.C. §202). The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) describes the Board as “comparable to a board of directors of a private corporation.” Guided by statute and its bylaws, the Board “directs the exercise of the powers of the Postal Service, reviews the practices and policies of the Postal Service, and directs and controls the expenditures of the Postal Service.”

The Board is composed of 11...

Mandatory Minimum Sentencing of Federal Drug Offenses in Short

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

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

Funding and Financing Highways and Public Transportation

For many years, federal surface transportation programs were funded almost entirely from taxes on motor fuels deposited in the Highway Trust Fund (HTF). Although there has been some modification to the tax system, the tax rates, which are fixed in terms of cents per gallon, have not been increased at the federal level since 1993. Prior to the recession that began in 2007, annual increases in driving, with a concomitant increase in fuel use, were sufficient in most years to keep revenue rising steadily. This is no longer the case. Although vehicle miles traveled have recently surpassed...

Mandatory Minimum Sentencing of Federal Drug Offenses

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

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

Expulsion of Members of Congress: Legal Authority and Historical Practice

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

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

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

Recent Changes in the Estate and Gift Tax Provisions

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

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

Introduction to the Legislative Process in the U.S. Congress

This report introduces the main steps through which a bill (or other item of business) may travel in the legislative process—from introduction to committee and floor consideration to possible presidential consideration. However, the process by which a bill can become law is rarely predictable and can vary significantly from bill to bill. In fact, for many bills, the process will not follow the sequence of congressional stages that are often understood to make up the legislative process. This report presents a look at each of the common stages through which a bill may move, but...

Transatlantic Relations in 2018

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

Venezuela’s Economic Crisis: Issues for Congress

Venezuela’s Economic Crisis: Overview

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

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Speech Resources: Fact Sheet

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is a federal holiday observed annually on the third Monday in January. It celebrates the life and legacy of the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. in honor of his birthday and achievements. The day is also referred to as the Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Holiday; MLK Day; Martin Luther King Day; the King Holiday; and the King Day of Service. In 2018, this holiday is celebrated on January 15.

This guide assists congressional offices with work related to Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. It contains links to legislation, CRS reports, sample speeches and remarks from...

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

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

Monetary Policy and the Federal Reserve: Current Policy and Conditions

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

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

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR): An Overview

In the ongoing energy debate in Congress, one recurring issue has been whether to allow oil and gas development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR, or the Refuge) in northeastern Alaska. ANWR is rich in fauna and flora and also has significant oil and natural gas potential. Energy development in the Refuge has been debated for more than 50 years. On December 22, 2017, President Trump signed into law P.L. 115-97, which provides for an oil and gas program on ANWR’s Coastal Plain. The Congressional Budget Office estimated federal revenue from the program’s first two lease sales at...

P.L. 115-97: Net Operating Losses

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

What Is an NOL?

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

A Balanced Budget Constitutional Amendment: Background and Congressional Options

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

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

Sponsorship and Cosponsorship of House Bills

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

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

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

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

Drug Compounding: FDA Authority and Possible Issues for Congress

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

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

The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA): Overview of Workers’ Compensation for Certain Private-Sector Maritime Workers

The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) is a federal workers’ compensation program that covers certain private-sector maritime workers. Firms that employ these workers are required to purchase workers’ compensation or self-insure and are responsible for providing medical and disability benefits to covered workers who are injured or become ill on the job and survivors benefits to the families of covered workers who die on the job. The LHWCA is administered by the Department of Labor (DOL), and all benefit costs are paid by employers and their insurance carriers. In 2015,...

House and Senate Restaurants: Current Operations and Issues for Congress

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

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

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

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

Child welfare services are intended to prevent the abuse or neglect of children; ensure that children have safe, permanent homes; and promote the well-being of children and their families. As the U.S. Constitution has been interpreted, states bear the primary authority for ensuring the welfare of children and their families. The federal government has shown long-standing interest in helping states improve their services to children and families and, through the provision of federal support, requires states to meet certain child welfare requirements. For FY2017, an estimated $8.9 billion in...

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

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

2017 Law

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

The Federal Tax System for the 2017 Tax Year

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

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

Policy Options to Increase Physician Training Education in Proper Opioid Prescribing

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

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

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

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

Presidential Direction and Current Policy

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

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

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

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

Federal Freight Policy: In Brief

freight, cargo, truck, rail, maritime, barge, shipping, port, congestion, infrastructure, RRIF, train, locks, inland waterways, army corps, dredging, harbor, surface transportation board, STB, jones act, cabotage, railroad, highway, longshore, marine highways, Title XI, shipyard, shipbuilding, ship construction, intermodal, Jones Act, FAST Act, P.L. 114-94

Basic Concepts and Technical Considerations in Educational Assessment: A Primer

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

Supplemental Appropriations Proposed for Agriculture

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

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

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

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

Educational Assessment and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act

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

The 2017 National Security Strategy: Issues for Congress

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

The Deduction for Out-of-Pocket Teacher Expenses

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

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

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

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

Contested Elections in Honduras

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

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

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

The National Science Foundation: FY2018 Appropriations and Funding History

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

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

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

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

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

the majority of the...

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

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

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

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

Background

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

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

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

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

FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act: Selected Military Personnel Issues

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

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

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

Cluster Munitions: Background and Issues for Congress

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

Federal Milk Marketing Orders: An Overview

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

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

Iraqi and Afghan Special Immigrant Visa Programs

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

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

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

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

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

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

Medicare Temporary Payment Adjustments for Ground Ambulance Scheduled to Expire

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

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

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

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

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

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

Efforts to Address Seasonal Agricultural Import Competition in the NAFTA Renegotiation

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

Senate Consideration of Treaties

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

Senate Committee Hearings: Arranging Witnesses

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

Natural Disasters of 2017: Congressional Considerations Related to FEMA Assistance

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

Stafford Act Declarations and Response

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

Senate Rules Affecting Committees

The Senate imposes some general procedural requirements and prohibitions on its committees, but, in general, the Senate’s rules allow each of its standing committees to decide how to conduct business. Most of the chamber’s requirements for committees are found in Senate Rule XXVI. Because the committees are agents of the Senate, they are obligated to comply with all Senate directives that apply to them.

This report identifies and summarizes the provisions of the Senate’s standing rules, standing orders, precedents, and other directives that relate to legislative activity in the Senate’s...

Senate Committee Hearings: Scheduling and Notification

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

Senate Committee Hearings: Witness Testimony

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

Senate Committee Rules in the 115th Congress: Key Provisions

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

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

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

Winter Fuels Outlook 2017-2018

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

FEMA’s Firefighter Assistance Grants: Reauthorization or Sunset?

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

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

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

Retirement Benefits for Members of Congress

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

Senate Committee Hearings: Preparation

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

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

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

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

Supplemental Appropriations and the 2017 Hurricane Season

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

Enacted 2017 Hurricane Season Supplemental Appropriations

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

Table 1. Enacted...

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

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

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

Haiti’s Political and Economic Conditions: In Brief

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

Understanding the Speech or Debate Clause

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

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

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

Concurrent Receipt: Background and Issues for Congress

“Concurrent receipt” refers to the simultaneous receipt of two types of monetary benefits: military retired pay and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) disability compensation. Prior to 2004, existing laws and regulations dictated that a military retiree could not receive two payments from federal agencies for the same purpose. As a result, military retirees with physical disabilities recognized by the VA would have their retired pay “offset” or reduced dollar-for-dollar by the amount of their VA compensation.

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

Shutdown of the Federal Government: Causes, Processes, and Effects

When federal agencies and programs lack funding after the expiration of full-year or interim appropriations, the agencies and programs experience a funding gap. If funding does not resume in time to continue government operations, then, under the Antideficiency Act, an agency must cease operations, except in certain situations when law authorizes continued activity. The criteria that flow from the Antideficiency Act for determining which activities are affected are complex.

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

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

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

Military Benefits for Former Spouses: Legislation and Policy Issues

In 1981, the Supreme Court ruled that the former spouse of a military member or retiree could not be awarded any share of that member’s/retiree’s retired pay as a part of a divorce property settlement in a community property state. In response, Congress enacted the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA) in 1982. Under the USFSPA, state courts can treat disposable military retired pay as divisible property in divorce cases. However, state laws may vary on these concepts. The USFSPA makes no assumption of such a division nor does it presume how much of a division should...

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

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

Most...

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

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

Third Treasury Report on Regulatory Relief: Asset Management and Insurance

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

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

Colombia’s Changing Approach to Drug Policy

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

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

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

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

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

Iran’s Expanding Economic Relations with Asia

Overview

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

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

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

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

Zimbabwe’s Political Transition: Issues for Congress

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

Funding Gaps and Government Shutdowns: CRS Experts

Contacting CRS Subject Matter Experts

In the event of a funding gap, the potential impacts of a government shutdown would depend on a program’s or agency’s specific circumstances and, furthermore, how relevant law is interpreted. Table 1 provides names and contact information for CRS subject matter experts on policy concerns and legal issues relating to funding gaps and the processes and effects that may be associated with a government shutdown. Policy areas that are identified in Table 1 include

agencies and programs funded by specific regular appropriations bills;

cross-cutting shutdown...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Opioid Epidemic and the Labor Force

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

Egypt: Terrorist Attack in the Sinai Peninsula

Background

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

Senate Rules Restricting the Content of Conference Reports

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

Saudi Arabia: Background and U.S. Relations

The kingdom of Saudi Arabia, ruled by the Al Saud family since its founding in 1932, wields significant global influence through its administration of the birthplace of the Islamic faith and by virtue of its large oil reserves. Close U.S.-Saudi official relations have survived a series of challenges since the 1940s. In recent years, shared concerns over Sunni Islamist extremist terrorism and Iranian government policies have provided some renewed logic for continued strategic cooperation. Political upheaval and conflict in the Middle East and North Africa have created new challenges, and...

Post-Heller Second Amendment Jurisprudence

This report examines the scope of the Second Amendment, as interpreted by the federal circuit courts of appeals, after the watershed Supreme Court decisions in District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. City of Chicago. The Second Amendment states that “[a] well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” Before the Supreme Court’s 2008 opinion in Heller, the Second Amendment had received little Supreme Court attention and had been largely interpreted, at least by the lower federal courts,...

The Campus-Based Financial Aid Programs: Background and Issues

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

The campus-based programs are among...

FDA Human Medical Product User Fee Programs: In Brief

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Volcanoes

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

Deficits and Debt: Economic Effects and Other Issues

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

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

Keystone XL Pipeline: Recent Developments

Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Table 1—cybersecurity...

Cybersecurity: Critical Infrastructure Authoritative Reports and Resources

Critical infrastructure is defined in the USA PATRIOT Act (P.L. 107-56, §1016(e)) as “systems and assets, physical or virtual, so vital to the United States that the incapacity or destruction of such systems and assets would have a debilitating impact on security, national economic security, national public health and safety, or any combination of those matters.”

Presidential Decision Directive 63, or PDD-63, identified activities whose critical infrastructures should be protected: information and communications; banking and finance; water supply; aviation, highways, mass transit,...

Iraq: Background and U.S. Policy

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

State Sponsors of Acts of International Terrorism—Legislative Parameters: In Brief

Iran, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria are identified by the U.S. government as countries with governments that support acts of international terrorism. While it is the President’s authority to designate, and remove from designation, terrorist states, Congress has some legislative authority to weigh in as the reviews proceed. In recent years, other foreign policy and national security decisions have butted up against the designation: to delist Cuba in the course of normalizing other aspects of the bilateral relationship; to enter into a multilateral agreement involving Iran’s nuclear weapons...

Australia: Background and U.S. Relations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Congressional Commissions: Overview, Structure, and Legislative Considerations

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

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

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

Contracting the Adversary

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

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

Repair or Rebuild: Options for Electric Power in Puerto Rico

On September 20, 2017, Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico as a Category 4 storm with sustained wind speeds of over 155 miles per hour. The hurricane also brought torrential rainfall with a range of 15 to 40 inches or more in some places, resulting in widespread flooding across the island. Puerto Rico’s office of emergency management reported that the storm had incapacitated the central electric power system, leaving the entire island without power as the island’s grid was essentially destroyed.

Even before the 2017 hurricane season, Puerto Rico’s electric power infrastructure...

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

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

Zimbabwe: A Military-Compelled Transition?

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

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

The Article V Convention to Propose Constitutional Amendments: Current Developments

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

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

Suppress:

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

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

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

What are the requirements of the BCA for FY2018 appropriations?

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

Statute of Limitation in Federal Criminal Cases: A Sketch

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

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

Statute of Limitation in Federal Criminal Cases: An Overview

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

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

Colombia: Background and U.S. Relations

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

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...

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

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

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

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

Tax Reform: The Child Credit and the Child Care Credit

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

Thanksgiving: Fact Sheet

Thanksgiving is a federal holiday observed on the fourth Thursday in November. It began in 1621 as a harvest celebration between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians and has become a time for families and friends to gather to reflect and express gratitude.

In 1789, President George Washington declared November 26 a national day of Thanksgiving. Subsequent Presidents issued Thanksgiving proclamations, but the dates of the commemoration changed. In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation establishing the last Thursday of November as Thanksgiving.

In October 1941, Congress...

New Zealand: Background and Bilateral Relations with the United States

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

Cybersecurity: Federal Government Authoritative Reports and Resources

This report serves as a starting point for congressional staff assigned to cover cybersecurity issues related to federal and military government activities. Much is written by and about the federal government’s efforts to address cybersecurity policy challenges, and this CRS report directs the reader to authoritative sources that address many of the most prominent issues. The annotated descriptions of these sources are listed in reverse chronological order with an emphasis on material published in the past several years. This report includes resources and studies from government agencies...

Diversity Immigrant Visa Program

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

What is the DV program?

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

Drought in the United States: Causes and Current Understanding

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

Veterans Day Speech Resources: Fact Sheet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why is Violence Rebounding in Mexico?

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

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

The Rohingya Crises in Bangladesh and Burma

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

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

Refugee Admissions and Resettlement Policy

A refugee is a person fleeing his or her country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Typically, the annual number of refugees that can be admitted into the United States, known as the refugee ceiling, and the allocation of these numbers by region are set by the President after consultation with Congress at the start of each fiscal year.

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

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

Background

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

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

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

Consumer and Credit Reporting, Scoring, and Related Policy Issues

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

El Salvador: Background and U.S. Relations

Congress has significant interest in El Salvador, a small Central American country that has had a large percentage of its population living in the United States since the country’s civil conflict (1980-1992). During the 1980s, the U.S. government spent billions of dollars supporting the Salvadoran government’s efforts against an insurgency led by the leftist Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN). Three decades later, the United States is working with the country’s second democratically elected FMLN Administration.

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

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

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

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

Speechwriting Resources: Fact Sheet

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

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

Public-Private Partnerships (P3s) in Transportation

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

P3s...

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

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

Clearing the Air on the Debt Limit

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

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

Ukraine: Background and U.S. Policy

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

Native American Heritage Month: Fact Sheet

Native American Heritage Month (also known as National American Indian Heritage Month) celebrates the contributions and achievements of Native Americans.

November was first designated as National American Indian Heritage Month on August 3, 1990, by P.L. 101-343, To authorize and request the President to proclaim the month of November 1990, and thereafter as “Native American Indian Heritage Month.” Since then, Presidents have issued annual proclamations promoting this observance.

On June 26, 2009, P.L. 111-33, Native American Heritage Day Act of 2009, designated the Friday after...

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

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

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

Muslim Holidays: Fact Sheet

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

Jewish Holidays: Fact Sheet

Judaism is one of the three major Abrahamic faiths, alongside Islam and Christianity. Many traditions and variations of Judaism are practiced in the United States, including cultural and religious variations. According to the Pew Research Center, about 2.2% of Americans (6.7 million people) self-identify as religiously or culturally Jewish. Roughly 22% of American Jews describe themselves as culturally, but not religiously, Jewish.

This fact sheet highlights four major cultural and religious holidays observed by a significant portion of Jewish American populations (Passover, Rosh Hashanah,...

Hindu Holidays: Fact Sheet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Despite these drawbacks, federal agencies...

Taiwan: Issues for Congress

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

Renegotiating NAFTA and U.S. Textile Manufacturing

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

The United...

Biologics and Biosimilars: Background and Key Issues

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

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

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

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

Social Security: Cost-of-Living Adjustments

To compensate for the effects of inflation, Social Security recipients usually receive an annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA). According to parameters outlined in the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 415(i)), a 2.0% COLA is payable in January 2018. For a retired worker receiving the average benefit amount of $1,377, the COLA will result in a $27 increase in Social Security benefits (for a total of $1,404).

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

Poverty in the United States in 2016: In Brief

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reconsidering the Clean Power Plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

This report...

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

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

Federal Lifeline Program: Frequently Asked Questions

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

Asian Carp and the Great Lakes Region

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

Second Treasury Report on Regulatory Relief: Capital Markets

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

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

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

Introduction

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

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

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

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

Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act: Bureau of Reclamation and California Water Provisions

Most of the provisions in the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act (WIIN Act; P.L. 114-322), enacted on December 16, 2016, relate to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. However, the WIIN Act also includes a subtitle (Subtitle J, §§4001-4013) with the potential to affect western water infrastructure owned by the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation; part of the Department of the Interior). Three sections in Subtitle J (§4007, §4009, and §4011) made alterations that would apply throughout Reclamation’s service area, the 17 states to the west of the Mississippi River. Most of the...

Department of Homeland Security Appropriations, FY2018: Current Action

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

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

Iran Policy and the European Union

Policy Context

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

Executive Order for Review of National Monuments: Background and Data

The Antiquities Act of 1906 (54 U.S.C. §§320301-320303) authorizes the President to proclaim national monuments on federal lands that contain “historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest.” Monument proclamations typically seek to provide protections to federal lands and resources. The President is to reserve “the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected.” The act does not further specify the process to be used by Presidents in proclaiming monuments.

From 1906 to date,...

Workers’ Compensation: Overview and Issues

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

Bangladesh and Bangladesh-U.S. Relations

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

USDA Export Market Development and Export Credit Programs: Selected Issues

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

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

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

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

Authorizations. Congress...

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

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

The Palestinians: Background and U.S. Relations

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

Cost-of-Living Adjustments for Federal Civil Service Annuities

Cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) for the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) and the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) are based on the rate of inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W). COLAs for both CSRS and FERS are determined by the average monthly CPI-W during the third quarter (July to September) of the current calendar year and the third quarter of the base year, which is the last previous year in which a COLA was applied. The “effective date” for COLAs is December, but they first appear in the benefits...

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

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

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

Use of National Statuary Hall: Assignment and Historic Events

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

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

Government Assistance for AIG: Summary and Cost

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

DOE’s Grid Resiliency Pricing Rule

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

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

Commemorative coins are produced by the U.S. Mint pursuant to an act of Congress and are often proposed by Members of Congress as part of their representational duties. These coins are legal tender that celebrate and honor American people, places, events, and institutions. Overall, 150 commemorative coins have been minted since 1892. Since 1982, when Congress reinstituted the commemorative program, 90 commemorative coins have been authorized. Since 1998, only two coins may be authorized for any given year. To date, Congress has authorized commemorative coins to be issued through 2019.

The...

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

This report lists hundreds of instances in which the United States has used its Armed Forces abroad in situations of military conflict or potential conflict or for other than normal peacetime purposes. It was compiled in part from various older lists and is intended primarily to provide a rough survey of past U.S. military ventures abroad, without reference to the magnitude of the given instance noted. The listing often contains references, especially from 1980 forward, to continuing military deployments, especially U.S. military participation in multinational operations associated with...

Federal Land Management Agencies and Programs: CRS Experts

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

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

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

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

U.S. Periods of War and Dates of Recent Conflicts

Many wars or conflicts in U.S. history have federally designated “periods of war,” dates marking their beginning and ending. These dates are important for qualification for certain veterans’ pension or disability benefits. Confusion can occur because beginning and ending dates for “periods of war” in many nonofficial sources are often different from those given in treaties and other official sources of information, and armistice dates can be confused with termination dates. This report lists the beginning and ending dates for “periods of war” found in Title 38 of the Code of Federal...

Syria’s Chemical Weapons: Continuing Challenges

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

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

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

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

Scope of the Bill

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

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

“Child nutrition programs” is an overarching term used to describe the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (USDA-FNS) programs that provide food for children in school or institutional settings. The best known programs, which serve the largest number of children, are the school meals programs: the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and the School Breakfast Program (SBP). The child nutrition programs also include the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), which provides meals and snacks in day care and after school settings; the Summer Food Service Program...

Gun Control: “Bump-Fire” Stocks

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

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

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

Columbus Day: Fact Sheet

Columbus Day is a federal holiday commemorating Christopher Columbus’s historic voyage landing in the Americas on October 12, 1492. It has also become a time to honor Italian American heritage.

This guide is designed to assist congressional offices with work related to Columbus Day celebrations. It contains biographical information on Christopher Columbus and background on the holiday. It provides links to sample speeches marking the observance of Columbus Day from the Congressional Record and to official proclamations issued by the White House. It also contains links to selected...

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

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

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

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

Electoral College Reform: Contemporary Issues for Congress

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

The electoral college has been the...

Comparing DHS Component Funding, FY2017: Fact Sheet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tanzania: Current Issues and U.S. Policy

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

Everglades Restoration: Federal Funding and Implementation Progress

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

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

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

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

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

PILT (Payments in Lieu of Taxes): Somewhat Simplified

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

Selected International Insurance Issues in the 115th Congress

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

U.S. Farm Income Outlook for 2017

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

The 2017 net farm income forecast is...

The Tax Treatment of Net Operating Losses: In Brief

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

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

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

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

Department of the Interior Secretarial Order 3356

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

Federal Reserve: Background and Reappointment of Previous Chairs

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

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

Department of Homeland Security Appropriations: FY2017

This report discusses the FY2017 appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Its primary focus is on funding approved by Congress through the appropriations process. It includes an Appendix with definitions of key budget terms used throughout the suite of Congressional Research Service reports on homeland security appropriations. It also directs the reader to other reports providing context for and additional details regarding specific component appropriations and issues engaged through the FY2016 appropriations process.

The Obama Administration requested $40.62 billion...

Puerto Rico and Electric Power Restoration from Hurricane Maria

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

Kurds in Iraq Hold Controversial Referendum on Independence

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

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

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

Economic Impact of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma

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

Transport Agencies Withdraw Proposed Sleep Apnea Rules

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

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

Recent Developments in U.S. Aid to Egypt

Overview

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

Congressional Concern over...

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

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

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

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

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

FY2017 Appropriations for the Census Bureau and Bureau of Economic Analysis

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

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

The Equifax Data Breach: An Overview and Issues for Congress

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

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

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

Waivers of Jones Act Shipping Requirements

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amtrak: Overview

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

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

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

The United Nations Human Rights Council: Issues for Congress

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

Background

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

Members’ Representational Allowance: History and Usage

Members of the House of Representatives have one consolidated allowance, the Members’ Representational Allowance (MRA), with which to operate their offices. The MRA was first authorized in 1996 and was made subject to regulations and adjustments of the Committee on House Administration. Representatives have a high degree of flexibility to use the MRA to operate their offices in a way that supports their congressional duties and responsibilities, and individual office spending may be as varied as the districts Members represent.

The appropriation for the MRA decreased from a high in FY2010...

Pesticide Registration Fees: Reauthorization and Proposed Amendments

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

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

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

Overview of the Federal Government’s Power to Exclude Aliens

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

Japan-U.S. Relations: Issues for Congress

Japan is a significant partner of the United States in a number of foreign policy areas, particularly in security concerns, which range from hedging against Chinese military modernization to countering threats from North Korea. The alliance facilitates the forward deployment of about 50,000 U.S. troops and other U.S. military assets based in Japan. While core elements of the alliance may endure, the overall relationship under President Donald Trump will likely differ somewhat from relations under the Obama Administration. On January 30, 2017, the United States formally withdrew as a...

Privatization and the Constitution: Selected Legal Issues

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

Corporate Tax Reform: Issues for Congress

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

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

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

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

Itemized Tax Deductions for Individuals: Data Analysis

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

This report analyzes data to inform the policy...

Patent Law: A Primer and Overview of Emerging Issues

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

Mandatory Arbitration and the Federal Arbitration Act

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

The Federal Arbitration...

Confederate Symbols: Relation to Federal Lands and Programs

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

Normalization of the Federal Reserve’s Balance Sheet

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

How Did the Balance Sheet Get So Large?

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

Hurricanes and Electricity Infrastructure Hardening

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

Supreme Court October Term 2017: A Preview of Select Cases

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

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

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

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

National Hispanic Heritage Month: Fact Sheet

This fact sheet is designed to assist congressional offices with work related to National Hispanic Heritage Month, which is observed from September 15 to October 15. It contains links to census and demographic information, a CRS report, sample speeches and remarks from the Congressional Record, and presidential proclamations. It also contains links to additional cultural and historical resources and selected educational, cultural, and advocacy organizations.

Chevron Deference: A Primer

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

Financial Transactions Taxes: In Brief

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

Department of Veterans Affairs FY2017 Appropriations

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

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

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

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

Election in Germany

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Social Security: Revisiting Benefits for Spouses and Survivors

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

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

Oil Spills: Background and Governance

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

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

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

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

Administration Action on Special Positions

It...

Implementation Date Nears for HHS Emergency Preparedness (EP) Rule

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

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

Regulatory Exclusivity Reform in the 115th Congress

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

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

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

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

The OCS Royalty Rate: Statutory Requirements and General Guidance

Background

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

Congressional Considerations Related to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma

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

Federal Declarations and Response

As of September 14, in...

Nuclear Talks with North Korea?

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

Federal Employees: Human Resources Management Flexibilities for Emergency Situations

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

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

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

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

Congressional Consideration of Resolutions to “Censure” Executive Branch Officials

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

Two Types of “Censure” Resolutions

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

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

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

Unauthorized Childhood Arrivals: Legislative Options

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

Chemical, Hazardous Substances, and Petroleum Spills: CRS Experts

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

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

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

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

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

CRISPR Gene Editing Research in Embryos Generates Scientific and Ethics Debate

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

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

Programs for Minority-Serving Institutions Under the Higher Education Act

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

Military Sexual Assault: A Framework for Congressional Oversight

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

Prevention and...

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...

Executive Branch Legislative Proposals Affecting Veterans Benefits in the FY2018 Budget

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

U.S. Air Force Pilot Shortage

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

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

This report provides an overview of actions taken by Congress and the President to provide FY2017 appropriations for accounts funded by the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS) appropriations bill. This bill provides funding for all accounts funded through the annual appropriations process at the Departments of Labor (DOL) and Education (ED). It provides annual appropriations for most agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), with certain exceptions (e.g., the Food and Drug Administration is funded via the...

Federal Agricultural Recovery Resources for Hurricane-Related Losses

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

Congressional Primer on Responding to Major Disasters and Emergencies

The principles of disaster management assume a leadership role by the local, state, and tribal governments affected by the incident. The federal government provides coordinated supplemental resources and assistance, only if requested and approved. The immediate response to a disaster is guided by the National Response Framework (NRF), which details roles and responsibilities at various levels of government, along with cooperation from the private and nonprofit sectors, for differing incidents and support functions. A possible declaration of a major disaster or emergency under the authority...

Patentable Subject Matter Reform

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

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

Youth Transitioning from Foster Care: Background and Federal Programs

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

The...

Recess Appointments Made by President Barack Obama

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flooding Events: CRS Experts

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

Retirement Benefits for Federal Law Enforcement Personnel

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

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

U.S.-UK Free Trade Agreement: Prospects and Issues for Congress

Prospects for a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) between the United States and the United Kingdom (UK) are of increasing interest for both sides. In a national referendum held on June 23, 2016, a majority of British voters supported the UK exiting the European Union (EU), a process known as “Brexit.” The Brexit referendum has prompted calls from some Members of Congress and the Trump Administration to launch U.S.-UK FTA negotiations, though other Members have moderated their support with calls to ensure that such negotiations do not constrain the promotion of broader transatlantic...

New Financial Sanctions on Venezuela: Key Issues

Venezuela continues to be in the throes of a deep political crisis under the authoritarian rule of President Nicolás Maduro. While the United States has employed various sanctions as a policy tool in response to concerns about the activities of the Venezuelan government and Venezuelan individuals for more than a decade, sanctions have been ratcheted up in recent months as the political situation has deteriorated.

After a controversial election of a National Constituent Assembly on July 30, 2017, the Trump Administration weighed a range of possible new sanctions to increase pressure on the...

Implementing the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for Disaster Response, Recovery, and Mitigation Projects

In the aftermath of a major disaster, communities may need to rebuild, replace, or possibly even relocate a multitude of structures. When recovery activities take place on such a potentially large scale, compliance with any of a number of local, state, and federal laws or regulations may apply. For example, when federal funding is provided for disaster-related activities, the agency providing those funds is generally required to identify and consider the environmental impacts of the proposed activities in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA, 42 U.S.C. §4321...

Hurricane Harvey and the Oil Industry

Hurricane Harvey has had a significant impact on oil industry infrastructure, and, therefore, the ability of the industry to supply petroleum products to the national and world markets at stable prices. All stages of the oil/petroleum product distribution chain, including production fields, refineries, pipelines, and harbors and ship terminals, have been affected. Over the next several days, damage assessments will continue and estimates of when normal operations will commence will become available. Hurricane Harvey has demonstrated the interconnectedness of the industry and how the...

FEMA Disaster Housing: The Individuals and Households Program—Implementation and Potential Issues for Congress

Following a major disaster declaration, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) may provide three principal forms of assistance. These include Public Assistance, which addresses repairs to a community and states’ or tribe’s infrastructure; Mitigation Assistance which provides funding for projects a state or tribe submits to reduce the threat of future damage; and Individual Assistance (IA) which provides help to individuals and families.

IA can include several programs, depending on whether the governor of the affected state or the tribal leader has requested that specific help....

House Standing Committee Chairs and Ranking Minority Members: Rules Governing Selection Procedures

House rules, Republican Conference rules, and Democratic Caucus rules each detail aspects of the procedures followed in selecting standing committee chairs and ranking minority members. The Republican Steering Committee and the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee are constituted during the early organization meetings traditionally held in November and December to determine most committee chairs and ranking minority members and to make committee assignments for most committees. Their recommendations are then forwarded to the full Republican Conference and Democratic Caucus for...

Title X (Public Health Service Act) Family Planning Program

The federal government provides grants for family planning services through the Family Planning Program, Title X of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. §§300 to 300a-6). Enacted in 1970, it is the only domestic federal program devoted solely to family planning and related preventive health services. In 2015, Title X-funded clinics served 4.0 million clients.

Title X is administered through the Office of Population Affairs (OPA) in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Although the authorization of appropriations for Title X ended with FY1985, funding for the program has...

House Rules Manual: Summary of Contents

The House Rules and Manual, officially titled Constitution, Jefferson’s Manual and Rules of the House of Representatives, contains the fundamental source material describing procedures in the House of Representatives. The Manual includes the Constitution of the United States, selected provisions of Jefferson’s Manual, rules of the House, provisions of law and resolutions enacted or adopted under the rule-making authority of the House, and pertinent decisions of the Speaker and chairmen of the Committee of the Whole interpreting the rules and procedural authority used in the House, often...

Congressional Action on the FY2013 Disaster Supplemental

On January 29, 2013, the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act, 2013, a $50.5 billion package of disaster assistance largely focused on responding to Hurricane Sandy, was enacted as P.L. 113-2.

In late October 2012, Hurricane Sandy impacted a wide swath of the East Coast of the United States, resulting in more than 120 deaths and major disaster declarations for 12 states plus the District of Columbia. The Obama Administration submitted a request to Congress on December 7, 2012, for $60.4 billion in supplemental funding and legislative provisions to address both the immediate losses and...

Paraguay: In Brief

Paraguay is a South American country wedged between Bolivia, Argentina, and Brazil. It is about the size of California but has a population of less than 7 million. The country is known for its rather homogenous culture—a mix of Latin and Guarani influences, with 90% of the population speaking Guarani, a pre-Columbian language, in addition to Spanish. The Paraguayan economy is one of the most agriculturally dependent in the hemisphere and is largely shaped by the country’s production of cattle, soybeans, and other crops. In 2016, Paraguay grew by 4.1%; it is projected to sustain about 4.3%...

Judiciary Appropriations, FY2018

Funds for the judicial branch are included annually in the Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) appropriations bill. The bill provides funding for the Supreme Court; the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit; the U.S. Court of International Trade; the U.S. Courts of Appeals and District Courts; Defender Services; Court Security; Fees of Jurors and Commissioners; the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts; the Federal Judicial Center; the U.S. Sentencing Commission; and Judicial Retirement Funds.

The judiciary’s FY2018 budget request of $7.86 billion, including $7.23...

The HUD Homeless Assistance Grants: Programs Authorized by the HEARTH Act

The Homeless Assistance Grants, administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), were first authorized by Congress in 1987 as part of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (P.L. 100-77). Since their creation, the grants have been composed of three or four separate programs, though for the majority of their existence, between 1992 and 2012, the grant programs were unchanged. During this time period, there were four programs authorized and funded by Congress: the Emergency Shelter Grants (ESG), the Supportive Housing Program (SHP), the Shelter Plus Care (S+C)...

Transgender Servicemembers: Policy Shifts and Considerations for Congress

A series of Twitter posts on July 26, 2017, by President Donald J. Trump indicated a planned shift in Department of Defense (DOD) policy on service in the Armed Forces by transgender individuals. A Presidential Memorandum to the Secretaries of Defense and the Homeland Security (as parent agency to the U.S. Coast Guard) followed on August 25, 2017, outlining the new policy parameters with respect to uniformed DOD and Coast Guard personnel.

Background: Policy Evolution

Prior to 2016, DOD policy treated the physical and psychological aspects of transgender conditions as (1) grounds for the...

Trade Adjustment Assistance for Firms

As Congress considers potential legislation related to trade agreements, the potential impact on U.S. workers and firms is part of the debate. The Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) programs were first authorized by Congress in the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 to help workers and firms adapt to import competition and dislocation caused by trade liberalization. While trade liberalization may increase the overall economic welfare of all the affected trade partners, it can also cause adjustment problems for firms and workers facing import competition, and adjustment assistance has long been...

Natural Disasters and Hazards: CRS Experts

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

Oil and Chemical Spills: Federal Emergency Response Framework

Thousands of oil and chemical spills of varying size and magnitude occur in the United States each year. When a spill occurs, state and local officials located in proximity to the incident generally are the first responders and may elevate an incident for federal attention if greater resources are desired.

The National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan, often referred to as the National Contingency Plan (NCP), establishes the procedures for the federal response to oil and chemical spills. The scope of the NCP encompasses discharges of oil into or upon U.S. waters and...

Fire Management Assistance Grants: Frequently Asked Questions

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

Statistics on Livestock Grazing on Federal Lands: FY2002 to FY2016

Livestock grazing on federal lands primarily occurs on lands of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM, in the Department of the Interior) and the Forest Service (FS, in the Department of Agriculture). Both agencies manage lands under sustained-yield and multiple-use principles, with livestock grazing among generally authorized uses. Congress continues to be interested in the extent to which BLM and FS lands are protected and used for a variety of activities, including livestock grazing. This report provides data on the extent of livestock grazing in recent years to assist with congressional...

Hurricane Events: CRS Experts

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

Allowances and Office Staff for Former Presidents, FY2016-FY2018 Appropriations

Introduction

The Former Presidents Act (FPA), enacted on August 25, 1958 (3 U.S.C. §102 note), “was designed to maintain the dignity’ of the office of the President by providing former Presidents—and their spouses—a pension and other benefits to help them respond to post-presidency mail and speaking requests, among other informal public duties often required.” (See CRS Report RL34631, Former Presidents: Pensions, Office Allowances, and Other Federal Benefits.) The General Services Administration (GSA) administers the law. Five former Presidents receive pensions and benefits under the FPA:...

Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grant: Background and Funding

The Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Services Block Grant is a federal-state partnership program that aims to improve the health of low-income pregnant women, mothers, and children. In addition, the program aims to connect low-income families with other services and programs, such as Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). This federal-state partnership is composed of three programs. First, formula-based block grants are provided to states and territories (collectively referred to as states in this report). Second, competitive grants are available through the...

Cybersecurity for Energy Delivery Systems: DOE Programs

While physical threats to the U.S. power grid and pipelines have long worried policymakers, cyber threats to the computer systems that operate this critical infrastructure are an increasing concern. Cybersecurity risks against the power and pipeline sectors are similar, as both use similar control systems, and there appears to be a broad consensus that cyber threats to this infrastructure are on the rise. Furthermore, with ever-greater physical interdependency between electricity generators and the natural gas pipelines that supply their fuel, many in Congress recognize that grid and...

Stafford Act Declarations 1953-2016: Trends, Analyses, and Implications for Congress

The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act authorizes the President to issue declarations that provide states, tribes, and localities with a range of federal assistance in response to natural and man-made incidents. Since 1953 the frequency of declarations has increased. For example, the average number of major disaster declarations issued from 1960 to 1969 was roughly 18.6 per year. In contrast, the average number of major disaster declarations issued from 2000 to 2009 was 57.1 per year. The highest number was declared in 2011, with 97 major disaster...

Hurricanes and Gasoline Prices

The Gulf of Mexico, especially the coastlines of Texas and Louisiana, have borne the brunt of many of the most severe hurricanes to hit the United States in recent years. The high winds, heavy rains, and storm surges that constitute a hurricane have resulted in loss of life, flooding, property damage, and economic disruption. In addition, this area includes important oil industry resources including offshore production facilities, refineries, and transportation infrastructure including import and export shipping facilities and pipelines.

Hurricanes Ike, which made landfall in Texas on...

Arab League Boycott of Israel

The Arab League, an umbrella organization comprising 22 Middle Eastern and African countries and entities, has maintained an official boycott of Israeli companies and Israeli-made goods since the founding of Israel in 1948. The boycott is administered by the Damascus-based Central Boycott Office, a specialized bureau of the Arab League.

The boycott has three tiers. The primary boycott prohibits citizens of an Arab League member from buying from, selling to, or entering into a business contract with either the Israeli government or an Israeli citizen. The secondary boycott extends the...

Infrastructure: Green Building Overview and Issues

Buildings, whether residential, commercial, government, or special-use, are core components of the nation’s infrastructure. Their construction, operation, and demolition are increasingly recognized as major sources of environmental impact. Without significant transformation of building construction and operations, that impact is expected to increase with population growth and changes in other demographic and economic factors. One strategy for achieving that transformation is most widely known by the term green building. However, the term is used differently by various proponents and...

Railroad Retirement Board: Trust Fund Investment Practices

Beginning in 2002, a significant portion of the assets of the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) has been invested in private stocks, bonds, and other investments. Prior to the Railroad Retirement and Survivors’ Improvement Act of 2001, P.L. 107-90, surplus railroad retirement assets could only be invested in U.S. government securities—just as the Social Security trust funds must be invested. The 2001 act established the National Railroad Retirement Investment Trust (NRRIT; hereinafter, the Trust) to manage and invest part of the RRB’s assets in the same way that the assets of private-sector...

The Higher Education Act (HEA): A Primer

The Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA; P.L. 89-329) authorizes numerous federal aid programs that provide support to both individuals pursuing a postsecondary education and institutions of higher education (IHEs). Title IV of the HEA authorizes the federal government’s major student aid programs, which are the primary source of direct federal support to students pursuing postsecondary education. Titles II, III, and V of the HEA provide institutional aid and support. Additionally, the HEA authorizes services and support for less-advantaged students (select Title IV programs), students...

DHS Appropriations FY2017: Departmental Management and Operations

This report is part of a suite of reports that discuss appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for FY2017. It specifically discusses appropriations for the components of DHS included in the first title of the homeland security appropriations bill—the Office of the Secretary and Executive Management, the Office of the Under Secretary for Management, the DHS headquarters consolidation project, the Office of the Chief Financial Officer, the Office of the Chief Information Officer, Analysis and Operations, and the Office of Inspector General for the department....

Small Modular Nuclear Reactors: Status and Issues

Small modular reactors (SMRs) are nuclear reactors that are sized to be suitable for modular construction. SMRs are generally defined as having electric generating capacity of 300 megawatts (MWe) or less, in contrast to existing nuclear power reactors, which typically exceed 1,000 MWe. A wide variety of nuclear technologies could be used in SMRs, in addition to the conventional light water reactor (LWR) technology in existing U.S. commercial nuclear plants. Many SMR designs are still in development stages, and the projected timelines for initial deployment of SMRs generally range from the...

Past Government Shutdowns: Key Resources

When federal government agencies and programs lack budget authority after the expiration of either full-year or interim appropriations, they experience a “funding gap.” Under the Antideficiency Act (31 U.S.C. §§1341 et seq.), they must cease operations, except in certain circumstances when continued activities are authorized by law. When there is a funding gap that affects many federal entities, the situation is often referred to as a government shutdown. In the past, there have occasionally been funding gaps that led to government shutdowns, the longest of which lasted 21 full days, from...

The Electoral College: Reform Proposals in the 114th and 115th Congress

American voters elect the President and Vice President of the United States indirectly, through presidential electors chosen by voters in the states—the electoral college. For further information see CRS Report RL32611, The Electoral College: How It Works in Contemporary Presidential Elections. Article II, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution, as revised by the 12th Amendment in 1804, requires winning candidates for President and Vice President to gain a majority of electoral votes. Since 1804, Presidents who won a majority of electoral votes and at least a plurality of popular votes were...

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s (ACA’s) Transitional Reinsurance Program

Section 1341 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA; P.L. 111-148, as amended) establishes a transitional reinsurance program that is designed to provide payment to non-grandfathered, non-group market health plans (also known as individual market health plans) that enroll high-risk enrollees for 2014 through 2016. Under the program, the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) collects reinsurance contributions from health insurers and from third-party administrators on behalf of group health plans. The Secretary then uses those contributions to make...

The National Park Service’s Maintenance Backlog: Frequently Asked Questions

This report addresses frequently asked questions about the National Park Service’s (NPS’s) backlog of deferred maintenance—maintenance that was not performed as scheduled or as needed and was put off to a future time. NPS’s deferred maintenance, also known as the maintenance backlog, was estimated for FY2016 at $11.332 billion. More than half of the NPS backlog is in transportation-related assets. Other federal land management agencies also have maintenance backlogs, but NPS’s is the largest and has drawn the most congressional attention.

During the past decade (FY2007-FY2016), NPS’s...

Labor Day Speech Resources: Fact Sheet

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

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

Budget Actions in 2017

The Constitution grants Congress the power of the purse, but does not dictate how Congress must fulfill this constitutional duty. Congress has, therefore, developed certain types of budgetary legislation, along with rules and practices that govern its content and consideration. This set of budgetary legislation, rules, and practices is often referred to as the congressional budget process.

There is no prescribed congressional budget process that must be strictly followed each year, and Congress does not always consider budgetary measures in a linear or predictable pattern. Such...

Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) FY2017 Appropriations: Independent Agencies and General Provisions

The Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) appropriations bills include funding for more than two dozen independent agencies in addition to the larger entities in the bill (Department of the Treasury, the Executive Office of the President, the District of Columbia, and the judiciary). Among these are Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), Election Assistance Commission (EAC), Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Federal Election Commission (FEC), Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA), Federal Trade Commission (FTC), General Services Administration (GSA), National...

Justice Department’s Role in Cyber Incident Response

Criminals and other malicious actors increasingly rely on the Internet and rapidly evolving technology to further their operations. In cyberspace, criminals can compromise financial assets, hacktivists can flood websites with traffic—effectively shutting them down, and spies can steal intellectual property and government secrets. When such cyber incidents occur, a number of questions arise, including how the federal government will react and which agencies will respond.

The Obama Administration, through Presidential Policy Directive/PPD-41, outlined how the government responds to...

H.R. 79, Section 452 of H.R. 10, and Section 913 of H.R. 3280: Helping Angels Lead Our Startups

The Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act of 2012 (JOBS Act; P.L. 112-106) was broadly aimed at stimulating corporate capital formation, particularly for emerging and smaller firms, largely through regulatory relief from various disclosure-based requirements in federal securities laws administered by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

In recent years, Congress has considered legislation extending the JOBS Act’s focus on corporate regulatory relief. In the 115th Congress, such legislation includes H.R. 79, Helping Angels Lead Our Startups, which passed the House on January 10,...

Confederate Names and Military Installations

After the recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 12, 2017, surrounding the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue, some Members of Congress have expressed interest in military installations named after Confederate leaders, and the process for renaming these bases. Currently, the Department of Defense (DOD) does not have a review process to reevaluate the naming of specific installations. Instead, each military department has its own naming convention that is summarized below. A list of Navy ships named after Confederate commanders and a battle is also included.

According to...

Select Acquisition Reform Provisions in the House and Senate Versions of the FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act

Congress continues to focus on reforming defense acquisition. Both chambers’ versions of the FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act include a large number of provisions dealing with defense acquisition, particularly in each bill’s Title VIII, Acquisition Policy, Acquisition Management, and Related Matters. These provisions build on the large number of acquisition provisions enacted in the last two years.

The House bill—passed by the House on July 14, 2017—includes 48 provisions, 15 of which were first introduced in a stand-alone acquisition reform bill by Chairman of the House Armed...

Russia: Background and U.S. Policy

Over the last five years, Congress and the executive branch have closely monitored and responded to new developments in Russian policy. These developments include the following: increasingly authoritarian governance since Vladimir Putin’s return to the presidential post in 2012; Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region and support of separatists in eastern Ukraine; violations of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty; Moscow’s intervention in Syria in support of Bashar al Asad’s government; increased military activity in Europe; and cyber-related influence...

Domestic Terrorism: An Overview

The emphasis of counterterrorism policy in the United States since Al Qaeda’s attacks of September 11, 2001 (9/11) has been on jihadist terrorism. However, in the last decade, domestic terrorists—people who commit crimes within the homeland and draw inspiration from U.S.-based extremist ideologies and movements—have killed American citizens and damaged property across the country. Not all of these criminals have been prosecuted under federal terrorism statutes, which does not imply that domestic terrorists are taken any less seriously than other terrorists.

The Department of Justice (DOJ)...

DOD Plan to Split Acquisition Duties

On August 2, 2017, DOD provided Congress its plan for breaking the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s acquisition office—the Under Secretary of Defense (USD) for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics (AT&L)—into two separate organizations, as required by the FY2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), Section 901. The NDAA conference report laid out the concerns that drove the split:

“Three broad priorities framed the conference discussions: (1) elevate the mission of advancing technology and innovation within the Department; (2) foster distinct technology and acquisition cultures...

The U.S. Coal Industry: Historical Trends and Recent Developments

The Trump Administration has taken several actions intended to help revive the U.S. coal industry. Within its first two months, the Administration rolled back or began reversing several coal-related regulations finalized under the Obama Administration. This effort was undertaken as three of the largest coal producers continued recovery from Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and occurred in the context of higher coal prices (making coal production possibly more profitable), lower inventories, and higher natural gas prices—factors that could lead to coal being more competitive as a fuel source for...

Corporate Expatriation, Inversions, and Mergers: Tax Issues

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

These types of...

Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP): History and Overview

Congress established the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) through the National Science and Technology Policy, Organization, and Priorities Act of 1976 (P.L. 94-282). The act states, “The primary function of the OSTP Director is to provide, within the Executive Office of the President [EOP], advice on the scientific, engineering, and technological aspects of issues that require attention at the highest level of Government.” Further, “The Office shall serve as a source of scientific and technological analysis and judgment for the President with respect to major policies, plans,...

Violence Against Members of Congress and Their Staff: Selected Examples and Congressional Responses

Questions about the personal security and safety of Members of Congress and their staffs are of enduring concern for the House, Senate, and the United States Capitol Police (USCP). Broader interest in the media and among the public arises in the aftermath of incidents such as the June 14, 2017, attack on at least 17 Members of Congress, several staff, USCP officers, and members of the public in Alexandria, Virginia. In that incident, a Member was critically wounded, and others were injured during a shooting that occurred as Members were practicing for an annual congressional baseball...

Select Demographic and Other Characteristics of Recent U.S. Circuit and District Court Nominees

This Insight provides information related to select demographic and other characteristics of U.S. circuit and district court nominees whose nominations were submitted to the Senate by President Trump prior to August 1, 2017. President Trump submitted a total of 26 nominations prior to this date. The select demographic and other characteristics of these 26 individuals are compared to the same demographic and other characteristics of the first 26 individuals nominated to U.S. circuit and district court judgeships during the Obama, George W. Bush, and Clinton presidencies. The information is...

Who Regulates Whom? An Overview of the U.S. Financial Regulatory Framework

The financial regulatory system has been described as fragmented, with multiple overlapping regulators and a dual state-federal regulatory system. The system evolved piecemeal, punctuated by major changes in response to various historical financial crises. The most recent financial crisis also resulted in changes to the regulatory system through the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act in 2010 (Dodd-Frank Act; P.L. 111-203) and the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 (HERA; P.L. 110-289). To address the fragmented nature of the system, the Dodd-Frank Act created...

Airport Privatization: Issues and Options for Congress

In 1996, Congress established the Airport Privatization Pilot Program (APPP; 49 U.S.C. §47134; Section 149 of the Federal Aviation Reauthorization Act of 1996, P.L. 104-264) to increase access to sources of private capital for airport development and to make airports more efficient, competitive, and financially viable. Participation in the program has been very limited, in good part because major stakeholders have different, if not contradictory, objectives and interests.

Only two U.S. commercial service airports have completed the privatization process established under the APPP. One of...

Public Health Service Agencies: Overview and Funding (FY2016-FY2018)

Within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), eight agencies are designated components of the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS). The PHS agencies are funded primarily with annual discretionary appropriations. They also receive significant amounts of funding from other sources, including mandatory funds from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA; P.L. 111-148, as amended), user fees, and third-party reimbursements (collections).

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) funds research on improving the quality and delivery of health care. For more than a...

Public Health and Emergency Management: CRS Experts

The following table provides names and contact information for CRS experts on policy concerns relating to public health and emergency management. Policy areas identified include public health and medical system preparedness and response; mental and behavioral health; food safety and food defense; health care financing in disaster response; Stafford Act assistance and the role of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA); Department of Defense (DOD) incident response and civil support; global health and international preparedness; selected legal issues in preparedness and response;...

Inspector General Community Launches Oversight.gov to Increase Accessibility to Reports

On August 2, 2017, the Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE) launched Oversight.gov, a central repository for Office of Inspector General (OIG) reports that is intended to “improve the public’s access to independent and authoritative information about the Federal Government.” The website is currently being beta tested. As of August 2, 2017, 36 of 73 OIGs were participating in the beta test (Table 1). The establishment of, and participation in, the website is not statutorily required.

Oversight.gov is intended to be the first one-stop shop for OIG reports....

In Brief: Highlights of the FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act

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The President’s FY2018 budget request, submitted to Congress on May 23, 2017, seeks $677.1 billion in budget authority for national defense-related activities (budget function 050). Of the national defense total, $667.6 billion is discretionary spending. The remaining $9.6 billion is mandatory spending that not provided by annual appropriations acts .

H.R. 2810, the version of the FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) passed by the House on July 14, 2017, would authorize $689.0 billion in discretionary funding for defense activities within the...

FY2018 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations: Status and Issues

Congress has begun consideration of the 12 annual appropriations bills for FY2018, including the bill for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS), which is one of the largest and most controversial of the bills. When taking into account both mandatory and discretionary funding, the bill typically receives about $900 billion annually. Most recently, the House Appropriations Committee reported the FY2018 LHHS bill to the House on July 24, 2017 (H.R. 3358; H.Rept. 115-244). The report accompanying the House bill includes a detailed table...

Department of Transportation (DOT): FY2018 Appropriations

In 2017, the Trump Administration proposed a $75 billion budget for the Department of Transportation (DOT) for FY2018: $16.4 billion in discretionary funding and $58.7 billion in mandatory funding. That is approximately $2 billion less than was provided for FY2017. The budget request reflected the Administration’s call for significant cuts in funding for transit and rail programs.

The DOT appropriations bill funds federal programs covering aviation, highways and highway safety, public transit, intercity rail, maritime safety, pipelines, and related activities. Federal highway, transit, and...

Sifting Domestic Terrorism from Hate Crime and Homegrown Violent Extremism

In light of the violence related to protests in Charlottesville, VA, on August 12, 2017, policymakers may be interested in how the concepts of domestic terrorism, hate crime, and homegrown violent extremism compare with one another. They are fairly distinct ideas that federal law enforcement agencies use to categorize key types of criminals whose illegal activities are at least partly ideologically motivated. Specifically, these terms may be part of public discussion regarding a widely reported incident involving James Alex Fields, who according to witnesses drove his car into a group of...

Insurance and the Financial CHOICE Act (H.R.10)

The Financial CHOICE Act of 2017 (H.R. 10) was passed by the House on June 8, 2017. Among many other provisions, H.R. 10 would revamp many of the insurance provisions in the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank; P.L. 111-203).

Background on Insurance Regulation

The federal role in regulating insurance is relatively limited compared with the role in banking and securities. Insurance companies, unlike banks and securities firms, have been chartered and regulated solely by the states for the past 150 years. The current state-centric system was confirmed...

Farm Safety-Net Payments Under the 2014 Farm Bill: Comparison by Program Crop

The 2014 farm bill (Agricultural Act of 2014, P.L. 113-79) authorizes farm safety-net programs for the five crop years of 2014 through 2018. This includes revenue support for 20 “covered commodities” under either the Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC) program or the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) program and interim financing and floor price support for an expanded list of 24 “loan commodities” under the Marketing Assistance Loan (MAL) program. Outlays under the MAL, ARC, and PLC programs are funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC).

In addition,...

Status of FY2017 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations

This report provides a brief summary of the general scope of the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS) appropriations bill. The report also provides a high-level overview of congressional action with regard to the FY2017 LHHS bill (S. 3040 and H.R. 5926), FY2017 continuing resolutions (CRs; P.L. 114-223, P.L. 114-254, and P.L. 115-30), and LHHS components of the FY2017 omnibus (P.L. 115-31). The report concludes with a list of additional resources.

The Open Skies Treaty: Issues in the Current Debate

The United States, Canada, and 22 European nations signed the Treaty on Open Skies on March 24, 1992. The treaty entered into force on January 1, 2002, and now has 34 members. Each participant must permit unarmed observation aircraft to fly over its entire territory to observe military forces and activities. The treaty is designed to increase transparency, build confidence, reduce the chances of military confrontation, and encourage cooperation among European nations.

According to the U.S. State Department, the parties have conducted more than 1,200 observation flights since 2002. While...

Rising Costs and Delays Doom New Nuclear Reactors in South Carolina

A utility consortium that had been building two new nuclear power reactors in South Carolina announced July 31, 2017, it is abandoning the project because of growing cost overruns and schedule delays. Completion of the two additional reactors at the existing V.C. Summer Nuclear Station near Jenkinsville, SC, had been in doubt since Westinghouse Electric Corporation, the lead contractor for the project, filed for bankruptcy reorganization on March 29, 2017. Westinghouse also had been building two new reactors at the Vogtle nuclear plant in Georgia. The lead owner of that project, Southern...

A Brief Overview of Business Types and Their Tax Treatment

In the United States, how a business is taxed at the federal level is partly dependent on how it is organized. The income of subchapter C corporations, also known as “regular” corporations, is taxed once at the corporate level according to the corporate tax system, and then a second time at the individual-shareholder level according to the individual tax rates when corporate dividend payments are made or capital gains are recognized. This leads to the so-called “double taxation” of corporate income. Businesses that choose any other form of organization are, in general, not subject to the...

China-India Border Tensions at Doka La

Recent border tensions between India and China may be indicative of a new phase of heightened Sino-Indian rivalry. This rivalry is manifesting itself not only along the two nations’ 2,167-mile-long disputed Himalayan border, but also throughout South Asia and the broader Indian Ocean littoral region. Intensified frictions raise the potential for open conflict and could serve as an impetus for further U.S.-India strategic cooperation that could have implications for China. An issue for Congress is whether to call on the Administration to put forth a strategy and report on this strategic...

Legislative Branch Appropriations: Frequently Asked Questions

This report responds to frequently asked questions about legislative branch appropriations. Frequently asked questions include the items that are funded within this bill; development, presentation, and consideration of the legislative branch budget requests; the legislative branch budget in historical perspective; and recent actions.

The FY2018 legislative branch budget request of $4.865 billion was submitted on May 23, 2017.

On June 29, 2017, the House Appropriations Committee ordered reported by voice vote the FY2018 legislative branch appropriations bill (H.R. 3162). It would provide...

Paris Agreement on Climate Change: U.S. Letter to United Nations

The Department of State communicated to the United Nations on August 4, 2017, a U.S. intention to withdraw from the 2016 Paris Agreement (PA). The PA is an international agreement to address climate change over the coming century existing under the 1992 U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). On June 1, 2017, President Donald Trump publicly announced this intent. The letter to the U.N. stated that “unless the United States finds suitable terms for reengagement,” it would provide formal written notification of the U.S. intent to withdraw “as soon as it is eligible to do so.”...

Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority and Debt Restructuring Under PROMESA, P.L. 114-187

In recent years, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico (CPR) has faced a fiscal crisis resulting from economic contraction, high public sector debt levels, outmigration, and other factors. In recent weeks, the finances of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA)—or in Spanish, the Autoridad de Energía Eléctrica (AEE)—have attracted specific attention. PREPA’s debt—about $9 billion—is larger than that of any other operational U.S. public corporation. Planned actions to address the debt, and high electricity prices due to the deteriorating state of the island’s generating and transmission...

Productivity Growth Across the Economy

Long-term economic growth is generally dependent on three factors: growth in the size of the labor force, growth in the amount of physical capital (e.g., tools, machines, computers) available to workers, and growth in productivity. Productivity is a measure of how well an economy produces goods and services with a given number of workers and amount of physical capital. Productivity growth is often of particular concern to policymakers because it is a vital determinant of long-term economic growth and drives increases in income for businesses and individuals. This Insight examines recent...

Gun Control: FY2017 Appropriations for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and Other Initiatives

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is the lead federal agency charged with administering and enforcing federal laws related to firearms and explosives commerce. ATF is also responsible for investigating arson cases with a federal nexus, and criminal cases involving the diversion of alcohol and tobacco from legal channels of commerce. As an agency within the Department of Justice (DOJ), ATF is funded through an annual appropriation in the Departments of Commerce and Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) Appropriations Act. For FY2017, Congress has...

Trump Administration Releases First Unified Agenda of Federal Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions

On July 20, 2017, the Trump Administration released its first Unified Agenda of Federal Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions (hereinafter Unified Agenda). The Unified Agenda—which is usually published twice a year—is a government-wide publication of rulemaking actions agencies expect to take in the coming months and, as the name suggests, contains both regulatory actions (i.e., new regulations) and deregulatory actions (i.e., reductions in or elimination of current regulations). At present, the Unified Agenda does not contain a way to separate deregulatory actions from regulatory actions....

Burundi’s Political Crisis: In Brief

This report provides context on the political crisis in Burundi, which is rooted in President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to run for a third term in 2015, in violation of a landmark peace accord. The crisis has spurred a low-intensity conflict and serious human rights violations, sparking a refugee influx into neighboring states and undermining Burundi’s hard-won stability following a civil war in the 1990s. Coinciding with a parallel stand-off over term limits in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the situation in Burundi has implications for longstanding U.S. efforts to...

Tolling U.S. Highways and Bridges

The Federal-Aid Road Act of 1916 (39 Stat. 355), which provided federal funds to states for highway construction, included the requirement that all roads funded under the act be “free from tolls of all kinds.” Following the funding of the Interstate System in 1956, the “freedom from tolls” policy was reaffirmed (23 U.S.C. §301). Although the provision still exists, exceptions to the general ban on tolls now cover the vast majority of federal-aid roads and bridges. New roads, bridges, and tunnels may be tolled, and most existing roads, bridges, and tunnels may be tolled if they are...

The Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act: S. 385 and H.R. 1443

Energy efficiency—providing the same or an improved level of service with less energy—has been of interest to some Members of Congress. Proponents of increased energy efficiency see an untapped “resource” that can mitigate the demand for additional energy supplies. Perceived benefits of energy efficiency include lowered energy bills, reduced demand for energy, improved energy security and independence, and reduced air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Challenges to energy efficiency include market barriers that do not incentivize builders or developers to invest in energy efficiency,...

Global Engagement Center: Background and Issues

The State Department’s Global Engagement Center (GEC) is tasked with countering foreign state and non-state propaganda and disinformation targeting the United States and U.S. interests. A number of recent reports have stated that the GEC has not been given access to authorized funds for FY2017, leading to speculation and concern in some quarters about its continued role and operations.

Counterterrorism Communications in the State Department

The GEC is the latest iteration of State Department efforts to coordinate interagency communications countering the messaging and influence of...

U.S.-South Korea Relations

Overview

South Korea (officially the Republic of Korea or ROK) is one of the United States’ most important strategic and economic partners in Asia. Since the early 1950s, the U.S.-ROK Mutual Defense Treaty commits the United States to help South Korea defend itself. Approximately 28,500 U.S. troops are based in the ROK, which is included under the U.S. “nuclear umbrella.” Washington and Seoul cooperate in addressing the challenges posed by North Korea. The two countries’ economies are joined by the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA). South Korea is the United States’...

Updated Standards for SNAP-Authorized Retailers

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the largest of the U.S Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) domestic food assistance programs, provides benefits to eligible participants; these benefits are redeemable for SNAP-eligible foods at SNAP-authorized retailers. SNAP-authorized retailers are stores and other food sellers that are allowed to accept SNAP benefits. In FY2015, the vast majority of benefits were redeemed at “super stores” and supermarkets.

On December 15, 2016, USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) published in the Federal Register a final rule, “Enhancing...

North Korean Cyber Capabilities: In Brief

As North Korea has accelerated its missile and nuclear programs in spite of international sanctions, Congress and the Trump Administration have elevated North Korea to a top U.S. foreign policy priority. Legislation such as the North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act of 2016 (P.L. 114-122), and international sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council have focused on North Korea’s WMD and ballistic missile programs and human rights abuses. According to some experts, another threat is emerging from North Korea: an ambitious and well-resourced cyber program. North...

The “Better Way” House Tax Plan: An Economic Analysis

On June 24, 2016, House Speaker Paul Ryan released the Better Way Tax Reform Task Force Blueprint, which provides a revision of federal income taxes. For the individual income tax, the plan would broaden the base, lower the rates (with a top rate of 33%), and alter some of the elements related to family size and structure by eliminating personal exemptions, allowing a larger standard deduction, and adding a dependent credit. For business income, the current income tax would be replaced by a cash-flow tax rebated on exports and imposed on imports, with a top rate of 20% for corporations and...

Executive Branch Reorganization

The federal bureaucracy of the present day is the product of more than two centuries of legislative and administrative actions by successive generations of elected and appointed officials. As such, the diverse organizations and processes of the federal government are a consequence of the influence and decisions of thousands of officials with differing viewpoints about the role of government and diverse policy preferences. The federal bureaucracy’s organizational arrangements are also reflective of ongoing competition between Congress and the President to influence the behavior of agencies....

The First Day of a New Congress: A Guide to Proceedings on the Senate Floor

The Constitution mandates that Congress convene at noon on January 3, unless the preceding Congress by law designated a different day. P.L. 113-201 set January 6, 2015, as the convening date of the 114th Congress. The 115th Congress convened on January 3, 2017. The Senate follows a well-established routine on the opening day of a new Congress. The proceedings include swearing in Senators elected or reelected in the most recent general election (approximately one-third of the Senate) or newly appointed to the convening Senate; establishing the presence of a quorum; adopting administrative...

Yemen: Cholera Outbreak

Overview

Yemen is facing an unprecedented humanitarian crisis due to an ongoing international conflict that began in March 2015 and has killed over 10,000 people. More than half of Yemen’s estimated 25 million population lack access to basic health care, and roughly 15 million people are without access to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) services. Only 45% of health facilities in the country are functional, and many have limited access to medicines, medical equipment, and clean water and sanitation, further complicating efforts to control the outbreak.

Yemen is experiencing the...

In Brief: Highlights of FY2018 Defense Appropriations Actions

On July 27, 2017, by a vote of 235-192, the House passed H.R. 3219, “The Defense, Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, Legislative Branch, and Energy and Water Development National Security Appropriations Act, 2018,” also referred to as the “Make America Secure Appropriations Act, 2018.” Division A of that bill would appropriate $650.4 billion in discretionary funding for national defense activities within the jurisdiction of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense. This would amount to a 4.5% increase over the Administration’s $622.1 billion request.

As reported by the House...

Presidential Permits for Border Crossing Energy Facilities

Controversy over the proposed Keystone XL pipeline project has focused attention on U.S. requirements for authorization to construct and operate pipelines and other energy infrastructure at international borders. For the most part, developers are required to obtain a Presidential Permit for border crossing facilities. The agency responsible for reviewing applications and issuing Presidential Permits varies depending on the type of facility. Oil and other hazardous liquids pipelines that cross borders are authorized by the U.S. Department of State. Natural gas pipeline border crossings are...

U.S. Circuit and District Court Judges: Profile of Select Characteristics

This report addresses ongoing congressional interest in the demographic characteristics and professional experiences of those individuals nominated and appointed to fill lower federal court judgeships. It focuses on demographic and other background characteristics of active U.S. circuit and district court judges who are currently serving on the federal bench.

Unless otherwise noted, the statistics provided in the report do not reflect all of a particular President’s circuit or district court appointments during his time in office—but only active judges appointed by that President. A judge...

The G-20 and International Economic Cooperation: Background and Implications for Congress

The Group of Twenty (G-20) is a forum for advancing international cooperation and coordination among 20 major advanced and emerging-market economies. The G-20 includes Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States, as well as the European Union (EU). G-20 countries account for about 85% of global economic output, 75% of global exports, and two-thirds of the world’s population.

Originally established in 1999, the G-20 rose to prominence...

Reform of U.S. International Taxation: Alternatives

A striking feature of the modern U.S. economy is its growing openness—its increased integration with the rest of the world. The attention of tax policymakers has recently been focused on the growing participation of U.S. firms in the international economy and the increased pressure that engagement places on the U.S. system for taxing overseas business. Is the current U.S. system for taxing U.S. international business the appropriate one for the modern era of globalized business operations, or should its basic structure be reformed?

The current U.S. system for taxing international business...

Rwanda’s August 4 Presidential Election

Politics and the 2017 Presidential Election

The circumstances of Rwanda’s August 4 presidential election highlight some of the policy challenges in approaching a country that arguably combines effective governance with political repression. President Paul Kagame, in office since 2000, is campaigning for a third term. A constitutional referendum in 2015 changed the presidential term from seven to five years but exempted the sitting President from the shortened term and from a two-term limit until 2024 (Article 101, Article 172).

The referendum was scheduled following “national...

Bail: An Overview of Federal Criminal Law

This is an overview of the federal law of bail. Bail is the release of an individual following his arrest upon his promise—secured or unsecured; conditioned or unconditioned—to appear at subsequent judicial criminal proceedings. An accused may be denied bail if he is unable to satisfy the conditions set for his release. He may also be denied bail if the committing judge or magistrate concludes that no amount of security or any set of conditions will suffice to ensure public safety or the individual’s later appearance in court.

The federal bail statute layers the committing judge’s or...

Tax Provisions that Expired in 2016 (“Tax Extenders”)

In the past, Congress has regularly acted to extend expired or expiring temporary tax provisions. Collectively, these temporary tax provisions are often referred to as “tax extenders.” Most recently, in December 2015, Congress addressed tax extenders in the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 (PATH Act), enacted as Division Q of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016 (P.L. 114-113). This legislation extended all of the 52 provisions that had expired at the end of 2014. Unlike past tax extenders legislation, however, a number of provisions that had expired at the end of 2014...

Bail: An Abridged Overview of Federal Criminal Law

This is an overview of the federal law of bail. Bail is the release of an individual following his arrest upon his promise—secured or unsecured; conditioned or unconditioned—to appear at subsequent judicial criminal proceedings. An accused may be denied bail if he is unable to satisfy the conditions set for his release. He may also be denied bail if the committing judge or magistrate concludes that no amount of security or any set of conditions will suffice to ensure public safety or the individual’s later appearance in court.

The federal bail statute layers the committing judge’s or...

NAFTA and Motor Vehicle Trade

Motor vehicles and vehicle parts accounted for more than 20% of the total value of U.S. merchandise trade with Canada and Mexico in 2016, making them the largest category of manufactured products traded among the United States, Mexico, and Canada. Since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) took effect in January 1994, the vehicle supply chain has become fully integrated, with parts manufacturing and assembly in all three countries.

On May 18, 2017, the Trump Administration notified Congress of its intent to renegotiate NAFTA. In consequence, the 115th Congress will likely...

Ongoing Section 232 Steel and Aluminum Investigations

The Department of Commerce is currently conducting two investigations to determine the national security implications of U.S. imports of steel and aluminum under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 (19 U.S.C. § 1862, as amended). Section 232, sometimes called the "national security clause," provides the President with the ability to impose restrictions on imports, such as tariffs or quotas, if the Secretary of Commerce, in consultation with the Department of Defense and other government officials, determines such imports threaten to impair the national security of the United...

Federal Assistance for Wildfire Response and Recovery: In Brief

Wildfires can destroy homes and force thousands of people to evacuate. Over the last 10 years, wildfires in the United States have burned nearly 7.0 million acres annually on average. In 2015, 68,200 wildfires burned 10.1 million acres, making 2015 the largest fire year on record. In 2016, more than 67,700 wildfires bur