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Capital Gains Tax Options: Behavioral Responses and Revenues

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

Central Valley Project: Issues and Legislation

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

Single-Employer Defined Benefit Pension Plans: Funding Relief and Modifications to Funding Rules

To protect the interests of participants and beneficiaries in pension plans, Congress enacted the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA; P.L. 93-406). ERISA specified funding rules for single-employer defined benefit (DB) pension plans, among other provisions. Single-employer DB pension plans are sponsored by one employer for the benefit of its employees. In DB pension plans, participants typically receive regular monthly benefit payments in retirement (which some refer to as a “traditional” pension). ERISA also authorized the creation of the Pension Benefit Guaranty...

Individual Tax Provisions (“Tax Extenders”) Expiring in 2020: In Brief

Six temporary individual income tax provisions were extended or reinstated by the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020 (P.L. 116-94). In the past, Congress has regularly acted to extend expired or expiring temporary tax provisions. These provisions are often referred to as “tax extenders.” Of the six provisions that were extended through 2020, three had expired in 2017 and were extended retroactively. They are the tax exclusion for canceled mortgage debt, the mortgage insurance premium deduction, and the above-the-line deduction for qualified tuition and related expenses. Two of...

U.S. Assistance to Sub-Saharan Africa: An Overview

Overview. Congress authorizes, appropriates, and oversees U.S. assistance to sub-Saharan Africa (“Africa”), which received over a quarter of U.S. aid obligated in FY2018. Annual State Department- and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)-administered assistance to Africa increased more than five-fold over the past two decades, primarily due to sizable increases in global health spending and more incremental growth in economic and security assistance. State Department and USAID-administered assistance allocated to African countries from FY2019 appropriations totaled roughly $7.1...

Membership of the 116th Congress: A Profile

This report presents a profile of the membership of the 116th Congress (2019-2020) as of May 20, 2020. Statistical information is included on selected characteristics of Members, including data on party affiliation, average age, occupation, education, length of congressional service, religious affiliation, gender, ethnicity, foreign birth, and military service.

In the House of Representatives, there are 237 Democrats (including 4 Delegates), 200 Republicans (including 1 Delegate and the Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico), 1 Independent/Libertarian, and 3 vacant seats. The Senate has 53...

COVID-19 Relief Assistance to Small Businesses: Issues and Policy Options

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

Congressional interest in these programs has always been high,...

Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs: FY2021 Budget and Appropriations

Each year, Congress considers 12 distinct appropriations measures to fund federal programs and activities. One of these is the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs (SFOPS) bill, which includes funding for U.S. diplomatic activities, cultural exchanges, development and security assistance, and participation in multilateral organizations, among other international activities. On February 10, 2020, the Trump Administration submitted to Congress its SFOPS budget proposal for FY2021, totaling $44.12 billion (including $158.90 million in mandatory State Department...

COVID-19: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Enforcement Discretion Policy

On March 26, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a temporary policy, “COVID-19 Implications for EPA’s Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Program,” on how EPA will exercise its enforcement discretion if a facility owner or operator cannot comply with certain requirements of federal environmental laws because of impacts related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The temporary policy for COVID-19 is tailored to circumstances of the pandemic that may affect staffing, physical access for monitoring and sampling, laboratory analysis, and other resources needed to fulfill routine...

Suspension of the Rules: House Practice in the 115th Congress (2017-2018)

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

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

COVID-19: Summary of the Direct Payments Proposed in the HEROES Act (H.R. 6800)

The Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act (HEROES Act; H.R. 6800), as passed by the House on May 15, 2020, proposes new direct payments to individuals, which the bill text refers to as “additional recovery rebates to individuals.” Direct payments were included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act; P.L. 116-136), which was signed into law on March 27, 2020. This Insight provides a brief overview of the additional direct payments included in the HEROES Act. (The HEROES Act would also modify the direct payments in the CARES Act. These...

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA): Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) and COVID-19

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does not currently have a specific standard that protects healthcare or other workers from airborne or aerosol transmission of disease or diseases transmitted by airborne droplets. Some in Congress, and some groups representing healthcare, meat and poultry processing, and other workers, are calling on OSHA to promulgate an emergency temporary standard (ETS) to protect workers from exposure to SARS-Cov-2, the virus that causes Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act) gives OSHA the...

How Would the HEROES Act (H.R. 6800) Modify the Direct Payments Enacted in the CARES Act (P.L. 116-136)?

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act; P.L. 116-136), signed into law on March 27, 2020, included direct payments to individuals—referred to in the law as “2020 recovery rebates.” The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) refers to the payments issued in 2020 as economic impact payments (EIPs), whereas some media reports call them “stimulus payments.” The recovery rebates are tax credits administered by the IRS. For more information on these payments, see CRS Insight IN11282, COVID-19 and Direct Payments to Individuals: Summary of the 2020 Recovery Rebates/Economic...

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Pandemic: CRS Experts

On December 31, 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) was informed of a cluster of pneumonia cases in Wuhan, China. Illnesses have since been linked to a new strain of coronavirus, designated Coronavirus disease 2019, or COVID-19. The disease has spread to many other countries, including the United States. The situation is rapidly changing, and both WHO and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) post frequent updates. CRS products on the outbreak are available under the “Coronavirus Resources” banner at https://www.crs.gov/.

Condition of Highway Bridges Continues to Improve

A construction-industry group recently estimated that more than one-third of all U.S. highway bridges need major repairs or replacement, construction work that could cost federal, state, and local governments about $164 billion. When compared to total bridge capital spending of about $17 billion per year, of which roughly $7 billion is federal support, some might consider this bridge investment “backlog” to be a significant budgetary challenge. Others say the situation is probably not as dire as this analysis suggests. The data used in that estimate, published every year by the Federal...

Delivery of Economic Impact Payments (EIPs)

To mitigate the financial hardship many Americans are experiencing during the coronavirus pandemic, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (P.L. 116-136). A critical element of the aid package is direct payments to certain individuals in 2020. The payments are referred to as “recovery rebates” in Section 2201 of the act, but the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) calls them “economic impact payments” (EIPs) in the notices it shares with the general public. To qualify for a full EIP, an individual’s adjusted gross income (AGI) in 2019 cannot exceed...

State and Local Fiscal Conditions and COVID-19: Lessons from the Great Recession and Current Projections

Federal assistance to state and local governments has been a central part of the fiscal policy discussion surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. Economic downturns tend to depress the tax bases of federal, state, and local governments, and may also increase demands for certain spending programs. Unlike at the federal level, however, most states and localities have statutory requirements to balance their budgets every one or two years. Absent other measures, these balanced budget requirements can necessitate tax rate increases or spending cuts that could exacerbate economic distress.

Evidence...

Foreign Officials Publicly Designated by the U.S. Department of State on Corruption or Human Rights Grounds: A Chronology

Congress includes measures in annual appropriations legislation requiring the Secretary of State to bar certain foreign corrupt officials (kleptocrats) and human rights violators and their immediate family members from entry into the United States. Following a brief introduction, this CRS report provides a chronological list of such publicly designated individuals under Section 7031(c) of annual appropriations for the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs (SFOPS). A complete list of public designations pursuant to Section 7031(c) may be relevant as Congress...

Judiciary Appropriations, FY2020

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

Child Support Enforcement-Led Employment Services for Noncustodial Parents: In Brief

The Child Support Enforcement (CSE) program is a federal-state partnership that seeks to ensure child support is a regular source of income for families. The program transfers financial support from a noncustodial parent (NCP) to a child’s primary caretaker (usually a custodial parent). Nearly two-thirds of participating custodial families report having incomes below 200% of the federal poverty threshold. The CSE program collects about two-thirds of the current support that is due each year, with the remainder that is unpaid becoming arrears (i.e., past-due support).

Many NCPs who do not...

The 2020 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS): COVID-19 Impacts

Ongoing COVID-19 mitigation measures may impact the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS)—a mandate requiring U.S. transportation fuel to contain renewable fuel. Since the beginning of the pandemic, transportation fuel demand has dropped significantly, compared to January through early March 2020 and to projections made when the 2020 volume requirements were finalized. Significant changes in fuel demand and other effects of the pandemic could affect both the implementation of the RFS and the impacts of compliance with the 2020 standard, particularly given the present-day uncertainties with...

Israel: Background and U.S. Relations in Brief

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

Israeli unity government, possible West Bank annexation, and COVID-19. In May 2020, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his main political rival Benny Gantz formed a unity government, bringing an end to a long political stalemate in Israel that had continued through three elections in April 2019, September 2019, and March 2020. Netanyahu and Gantz cited the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to address its public health, economic, and other implications for Israel as a major reason for their agreement. By...

Bribery, Kickbacks, and Self-Dealing: An Overview of Honest Services Fraud and Issues for Congress

As the trials of state legislators Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos illustrate, corruption among high-profile public officials continues to be a concern in the United States. Likewise, recent examples abound of powerful executives and others in roles of authority abusing positions of trust for personal gain. Faced with this reality, Congress has shown consistent interest in policing public- and private-sector corruption, enacting a number of criminal provisions aimed at holding corrupt officials accountable for their actions under federal law. However, one of federal prosecutors’ most potent...

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...

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

The respective 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), the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and certain related agencies. This report describes action on FY2020 annual appropriations for THUD, including detailed tables for each major agency, and including the effect of the CARES supplemental appropriations act, signed into law on March 27, 2020, on DOT and HUD budget authority.

Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act: Division B—Revenue Provisions

Congress continues to consider proposals intended to alleviate the economic effects associated with the Coronavirus Disease 2019, or COVID-19, pandemic. One such proposal, the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act (H.R. 6800), was introduced in the House on May 12, 2020.

Division B of the HEROES Act, or the COVID–19 Tax Relief Act of 2020, contains a number of individual and business tax provisions, including

A one-time direct payment for eligible individuals, and an expansion of eligibility for the direct payments provided in the CARES Act;

Enhanced...

FY2020 Defense Appropriations Act: P.L. 116-93 (H.R. 2968, S. 2474, H.R. 1158)

The FY2020 Defense Appropriations Act, enacted as Division A of H.R. 1158, the Consolidated Appropriations Act for FY2020, provides a total of $687.8 billion in discretionary budget authority, all to fund activities of the Department of Defense (DOD), except for $1.1 billion for certain activities of the intelligence community. As enacted, the bill provides 99.6% of the funding requested by President Trump requested for programs falling within the scope of this bill.

FY2020 RequestHouse-passed H.R. 2968Senate Committee-Reported S. 2474Enacted P.L. 116-93 Division A Base Budget$526.6...

Global Economic Effects of COVID-19

Since the COVID-19 outbreak was first diagnosed, it has spread to over 190 countries and all U.S. states. The pandemic is having a noticeable impact on global economic growth. Estimates so far indicate the virus could trim global economic growth by as much as 2.0% per month if current conditions persist and raise the risks of a global economic recession similar in magnitude to that experienced during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Global trade could also fall by 13% to 32%, depending on the depth and extent of the global economic downturn. The full impact will not be known until the...

COVID-19 and Private Health Insurance Coverage: Frequently Asked Questions

The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic is affecting communities around the world and throughout the United States, with case counts growing daily. As private health insurance is the predominant source of health coverage in the United States, there is considerable congressional interest in understanding private health insurance coverage of health benefits related to COVID-19. This report addresses frequently asked questions about private health insurance covered benefits and consumer cost sharing related to COVID-19 testing, treatment, and a potential vaccine. It discusses recent...

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 the OASI fund remaining solvent until 2034, whereas the DI fund is projected to remain solvent until 2065, meaning that each trust fund is projected to be able to pay benefits...

COVID-19 Alternate Care Sites (ACSs): Role and Activities of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) provides engineering services and capabilities in support of national interests. As part of its overall mission, USACE prepares for and responds to national emergencies in support of the Department of Defense and other federal agencies and efforts. In response to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic emergency, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) had assigned USACE missions totaling $1.8 billion as of mid-May 2020, which have led to USACE

assessing over 1,000 sites for potential use as alternate care sites (ACSs, also called...

COVID-19: Defense Production Act (DPA) Developments and Issues for Congress

The White House is employing the Defense Production Act of 1950 (DPA) in response to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic to facilitate the production and availability of essential goods, supplies, and services. This Insight considers recent DPA actions and associated policy considerations for Congress. It is a companion to CRS Insights IN11337, IN11280, and IN11231. See CRS Report R43767 for a more in-depth discussion of DPA history and authorities.

New DPA Actions in Response to COVID-19

Since April 15, eight DPA actions have been made public:

According to Federal...

The Credit Union System: Developments in Lending and Prudential Risk Management

Credit unions make loans to their members, other credit unions, and corporate credit unions that provide financial services to individual credit unions. Historically, credit unions have faced statutory restrictions on their lending activities, including restricting lending activities to their members. Other lending restrictions include a 15% statutory loan interest rate ceiling, with some authority to operate above the cap under certain circumstances; a 15-year maturity limit on most loans (with some exceptions, such as residential mortgages); and an aggregate limit on an individual credit...

USDA Rural Development and COVID-19: Supplemental Funding and Agency Actions

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development agency (RD) administers loan, grant, and technical assistance programs that support infrastructure, housing, and business development in rural areas. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress provided supplemental funding to certain RD programs. In addition, RD has taken a number of actions to provide relief for current program participants and assist potential applicants in applying for program funding.

CARES Act Provisions Related to USDA RD Programs

Congress included supplemental funding for, and provisions related to, RD...

Social Security Primer

Social Security provides monthly cash benefits to retired or disabled workers and their family members, and to the family members of deceased workers. Among the beneficiary population, 83.5% are retired or disabled workers; family members of retired, disabled, or deceased workers make up the remainder. In March 2020, approximately 64.5 million beneficiaries received a total of $89.5 billion in benefit payments for the month; the average monthly benefit was $1,387.

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

Strategic Petroleum Reserve: Recent Developments

Established through enacted legislation in 1975 (P.L. 94-163), the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR, 42 U.S.C. §6231 et seq.) was created to reduce the impact of petroleum supply disruptions and to carry out obligations under the International Energy Program (IEP, a multilateral treaty—25 UST 1685—that requires signatories to maintain emergency petroleum reserves). The SPR is authorized to hold up to 1 billion barrels of petroleum products. Physical storage capacity is currently 714 million barrels of crude oil and SPR inventories were 635 million barrels as of April 17, 2020. As U.S....

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

Political and economic developments in Cuba, a one-party authoritarian state with a poor human rights record, frequently have been the subject of intense congressional concern since the 1959 Cuban revolution. Current Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel succeeded Raúl Castro in April 2018, but Castro continues to head Cuba’s Communist Party. A new constitution took effect in 2019 that introduced some political and economic reforms but maintained the state sector’s dominance over the economy and the Communist Party’s predominant role. Over the past decade, Cuba has implemented gradual...

COVID 19: Consumer Loan Forbearance and Other Relief Options

A growing number of reported Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases have been identified in the United States, significantly impacting many communities. This situation is evolving rapidly, and the economic impact has been large due to illnesses, quarantines, social distancing, local stay-at-home orders, and other business disruptions. Consequently, many Americans will lose income and face financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many consumers may have trouble paying their loan obligations, such as mortgages, student loans, auto loans, and credit cards. Due to increasing...

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 2017,...

Community Development Block Grants and the CARES Act

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD’s) Community Development Block Grant program (CDBG) can be employed by states and local units of government to support economic and community development efforts in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (P.L. 116-136) includes $5 billion for the Community Development Fund, enabling additional HUD support for CDBG grantees. This Insight provides an overview of the conventional CDBG program, considers how CDBG funds may be used to support community and economic development...

Novel Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19): Q&A on Global Implications and Responses

In December 2019, hospitals in the city of Wuhan in China’s Hubei Province began seeing cases of pneumonia of unknown origin. Chinese health authorities ultimately connected the condition, later named coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), to a previously unidentified strain of coronavirus. The disease has spread to almost every country in the world, including the United States. WHO declared the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on January 30, 2020; raised its global risk assessment to “Very High” on February 28; and labeled the outbreak a “pandemic” on March 11....

Tax Treatment of Net Operating Losses (NOLs) in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act

Increased benefits from net operating losses (NOLs) had been discussed as part of the response to the economic effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19). The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (P.L. 116-136) included a provision increasing tax benefits for NOLs. This revision temporarily suspends current rules that were last revised in the 2017 tax revision, popularly known as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) (P.L. 115-97).

Temporary Revisions in the CARES Act

Under current permanent law, when a firm has a loss (a net operating loss, or NOL), taxes are not reduced...

Congressionally Mandated Reports: Overview and Considerations for Congress

Congress frequently requires the President, departments, agencies, and other entities of the federal government to transmit reports, notifications, studies, and other information on a specified timeline. Reporting requirements may direct agency officials to notify Congress or its committees of forthcoming actions or decisions, describe actions taken on a particular matter, establish a plan to accomplish a specified goal, or study a certain problem or concern.

Reporting requirements may be designed to serve a range of purposes that facilitate congressional oversight of the executive branch...

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

The Columbia (SSBN-826) class program is a program to design and build a class of 12 new ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) to replace the Navy’s current force of 14 aging Ohio-class SSBNs. The Navy has identified the Columbia-class program as the Navy’s top priority program. The Navy wants to procure the first Columbia-class boat in FY2021. Research and development work on the program has been underway for several years, and advance procurement (AP) funding for the first boat began in FY2017. The Navy’s proposed FY2021 budget requests $2,891.5 million (i.e., about $2.9 billion) in...

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

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

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

Office of the Attending Physician, U.S. Congress: Background Information and Response to Public Health Emergencies

Establishment and History

The Office of the Attending Physician (OAP) was established in 1928, after the House agreed to a resolution on December 5, 1928, requesting the Secretary of the Navy detail a medical officer to the House (H.Res. 253, 70th Congress).

On April 7, 1930, the Senate agreed to a concurrent resolution (S.Con.Res. 14, 71st Congress) extending the services of the Attending Physician to both chambers. Although the House never considered the concurrent resolution, the OAP began serving both the House and the Senate at that time.

Since the initial appointment in 1928, the...

Tax Cuts and Economic Stimulus: How Effective Are the Alternatives?

The economic effects of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has led Congress to enact general fiscal stimulus in the form of tax cuts and spending increases. Further stimulus may be considered. This report discusses tax cuts enacted during the Great Recession, as well as those recently enacted and those under consideration.

In response to the Great Recession several types of tax cuts were debated as possible fiscal stimulus—with fiscal stimulus legislation enacted in February 2008 (P.L. 110-185) and a much larger one in February 2009 (P.L. 111-5). Both bills included...

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 2019, benefit outlays were approximately $1,048 billion, with roughly 64 million beneficiaries and 178 million workers in Social Security-covered employment. Under current law, Social Security’s revenues are projected to be insufficient to pay full scheduled benefits after 2035.

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

Teen Birth Trends: In Brief

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the federal government’s lead public health agency, has identified teen pregnancy as a major public health issue because of its high cost for families of teenage parents and society more broadly. The CDC highlights that the teen pregnancy rate has decreased steadily, dropping below CDC’s target goal of 30.3 per 1,000 females aged 15 to 17 by 2015; however, the CDC also raises the concern that the United States has one of the highest rates of teen births of all industrialized countries.

This report discusses trends in teen birth...

National Park Service Deferred Maintenance: 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 FY2018 (the most recent year available) at $11.920 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...

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 assists Congress in tracking developments in four teen pregnancy prevention programs that are currently funded.

Multiple HHS offices worked together to establish the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Evidence Review process following enactment of the FY2010...

Domestic Public Health Response to COVID-19: Current Status

The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic is affecting communities throughout the United States, with total case counts growing daily. More than 1.3 million cases, including more than 82,000 deaths, have been reported in the United States. Containment and mitigation efforts by federal, state, and local governments have been undertaken to “flatten the curve”—that is, to slow widespread transmission that could overwhelm the nation’s health care system. Currently, “social distancing” restrictions that have been in place for almost two months are being eased in some jurisdictions as...

Hazard Pay and the COVID-19 Pandemic: Issues and Options

A number of policymakers have expressed interest in providing essential workers at risk of exposure to COVID-19 with additional compensation, or hazard pay. The Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act (H.R. 6800), introduced on May 12, 2020, would create a fund for “pandemic premium pay” for essential workers. This Insight highlights some of the policy considerations should a hazard pay policy be pursued, as well as federal government options for supporting hazard pay.

What is Hazard Pay?

Hazard pay is a type of premium pay for individuals performing work...

COVID-19 and China: A Chronology of Events (December 2019-January 2020)

In Congress, multiple bills and resolutions have been introduced related to China’s handling of a novel coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China, that expanded to become the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) global pandemic. This report provides a timeline of key developments in the early weeks of the pandemic, based on available public reporting. It also considers issues raised by the timeline, including the timeliness of China’s information sharing with the World Health Organization (WHO), gaps in early information China shared with the world, and episodes in which Chinese authorities...

The Impact of COVID-19-Related Forbearances on the Federal Mortgage Finance System

One of the major economic impacts of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has been loss of income, which has left many Americans unable to repay their financial obligations—including their mortgage payments. In response, regulators have encouraged financial institutions to work with customers to allow them to defer payments on mortgages through a process known as forbearance. Provisions in the CARES Act (P.L. 116-136) require mortgage servicers to provide several months of forbearance to borrowers (at the borrowers’ requests, after they demonstrate a COVID-19-related financial...

Attempt: An Abbreviated Overview of Federal Criminal Law

Attempt is the incomplete form of some other underlying offense. Unlike state law, federal law does not feature a general attempt statute. Instead, federal law outlaws the attempt to commit a number of federal underlying offenses on an individual basis. Occasionally, federal law treats attempt-like conduct as an underlying offense; outlawing possession of drugs with intent to traffic, for instance. One way or another, it is a federal crime to attempt to commit nearly all of the most frequently occurring federal offenses.

Attempt consists of two elements. One is the intent to commit the...

The Strategic Petroleum Reserve: Background, Authorities, and Considerations

Crude oil price volatility has consequences for the U.S. and global economy. The Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR), the U.S. stockpile of petroleum, has played a role in U.S. energy policy for over 40 years. The need for a stockpile of petroleum to help protect against supply disruptions became apparent after the 1973-1974 Arab oil embargo, during which time the average price of imported crude oil tripled.

The oil embargo also fostered the establishment of the International Energy Agency (IEA), an intergovernmental organization, and the development of coordinated plans and measures among...

COVID-19: U.S. Economic Effects

This Insight discusses the current and projected effects of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic on the U.S. economy. For effects on the world economy, see CRS Report R46270, Global Economic Effects of COVID-19, coordinated by James K. Jackson.

The economic impacts of COVID-19 since March 2020 have been large and dramatic, with impact disparities between various sectors and regions. In the United States, fear of infection, social distancing, and various states’ stay-at-home orders prompted business closures and severe declines in U.S. demand for travel, accommodations,...

CDBG-DR Funding and Oversight: Puerto Rico

In March 2020, the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD’s) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released a report of findings from its audit of the Puerto Rico Department of Housing’s (PRDOH; also known as Departamento de la Vivienda, or Vivienda) capacity to administer funds under the Community Development Block Grant program for disaster recovery (CDBG-DR). The audit assessed (1) PRDOH’s compliance with HUD regulations and requirements in administering CDBG-DR funds, and (2) the existence of financial and procurement policies and procedures consistent with federal...

COVID-19 and Public Water Service Continuity

The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has increased attention to several issues regarding the provision of public water services. These include long-standing water-rate affordability concerns, the importance of clean water to public health, and the financial sustainability of some public water systems (whether publicly or privately owned). The spread of COVID-19 has raised specific concerns regarding the continuity of residential water services needed to support hand-washing and other public health measures—particularly as more customers may become unable to pay water bills...

Attempt: An Overview of Federal Criminal Law

Attempt is the incomplete form of some other underlying offense. Unlike state law, federal law does not feature a general attempt statute. Instead, federal law outlaws the attempt to commit a number of federal underlying offenses on an individual basis. Occasionally, federal law treats attempt-like conduct as an underlying offense; outlawing possession of drugs with intent to traffic, for instance. One way or another, it is a federal crime to attempt to commit nearly all of the most frequently occurring federal offenses.

Attempt consists of two elements. One is the intent to commit the...

Offshore Royalty Relief: Status During the COVID-19 Pandemic

U.S. oil and gas producers face financial challenges stemming from demand reduction, oversupply, and commodity price drops during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some Members of Congress have asked the Department of the Interior (DOI) to offer royalty relief on federal oil and gas leases—a temporary reduction or waiver of the royalties that companies pay the federal government on production from these leases. Some other Members have opposed a comprehensive royalty relief program for federal oil and gas producers. DOI has stated that affected producers may apply for royalty relief individually using...

IRS Guidance Says No Deduction is Allowed for Business Expenses Paid with Forgiven PPP Loans

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act; P.L. 116-136) created Small Business Administration (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans to provide short-term, economic relief to certain small businesses and nonprofits.

PPP loans can be used to cover payroll expenses and other enumerated operating costs (e.g., rent, utilities) and can be forgiven if the borrower meets certain payroll and employment retention criteria. The loans are capped at $10 million per borrower.

The initial authorization of $349 billion for PPP loans was exhausted by April 16, 2020....

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 significant bilateral issue. Between fiscal years (FY) 2007 and 2020, Congress appropriated nearly $333 million to address these two issues. This includes $45 million in Department of Defense funds transferred to the Secretary of State, for use by the U.S. Agency for International Development, for the dioxin clean-up at the Bien Hoa airbase.

Most of the appropriated...

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...

Mexico: Background and U.S. Relations

Mexico, the 10th most populous country globally, has the 15th largest economy in the world. It is currently the top U.S. trade partner and a major source of energy for the United States, with which it shares a nearly 2,000-mile border and strong economic, cultural, and historical ties.

Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the populist leader of the National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) party, which he created in 2014, took office for a six-year term in December 2018. López Obrador is the first Mexican president in over two decades to enjoy majorities in both chambers of Congress. In addition to...

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 restore 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...

U.S. Postal Service Financial Condition and Title VI of the CARES Act

In its latest response to concerns about the financial condition of the United States Postal Service (USPS), Congress added a provision to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act; P.L. 116-136, Section 6001) expanding USPS’s authority to borrow from the Treasury. This comes at a time when USPS is delivering important information and products in connection with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, including economic impact payments, census mailings, mail-in election ballots, and vital medicines.

The CARES Act borrowing authority raises new questions about USPS’s fiscal...

Intellectual Property Rights and International Trade

This report provides background on intellectual property rights (IPR) and discusses the role of U.S. international trade policy in enhancing IPR protection and enforcement abroad. IPR are legal rights granted by governments to encourage innovation and creative output by ensuring that creators reap the benefits of their inventions or works. They may take forms such as patents, trade secrets, copyrights, trademarks, or geographical indications (GIs). Congress has constitutional responsibility for legislating and overseeing IPR and international trade policy. Responsibility for developing IPR...

COVID-19: The Employee Retention Tax Credit

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (P.L. 116-136) includes an employee retention payroll tax credit intended to help businesses retain employees during the Coronavirus disease 2019, or COVID-19, public health emergency. Employee retention remains a policy concern, as a number of economic sectors have announced layoffs resulting from the COVID-19 induced economic fallout. Unemployment insurance claims have surged following these widespread layoffs. This Insight summarizes the employee retention tax credit in the CARES Act, makes comparisons to previous employee...

National Institutes of Health (NIH) Funding: FY1995-FY2021

This report details the National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget and appropriations process with a focus on FY2020 and FY2021, and on coronavirus supplemental funding for NIH. The report also provides an overview of funding trends in regular appropriations to the agency from FY1995 to FY2021. Appendix A includes funding tables by account and program-specific funding levels for FY2020 and FY2021.

The NIH is the primary federal agency charged with conducting and supporting medical, health, and behavioral research, and it is made up of 27 Institutes and Centers and the Office of the...

New U.S. Marine Corps Force Design Initiatives

Background

On March 23, 2020, the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) announced a major force design initiative planned to occur over the next 10 years. The Marine Corps aims to redesign the force for naval expeditionary warfare and to better align itself with the National Defense Strategy, in particular, its focus on strategically competing with China and Russia. The Marines intend to eliminate or reduce certain types of units and eliminate some military occupational specialties (MOS). The Marines also plan to reorganize higher echelon Marine formations and get smaller—reducing forces by 12,000...

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....

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 (officially the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or DPRK) has become a grave security threat to the United States and its allies. U.S.-DPRK relations became particularly tense in 2016 and 2017, when North Korea conducted scores of missile tests and three nuclear weapons tests, prompting the United States to expand unilateral sanctions and to lead the United Nations to expand...

Business Interruption Insurance and COVID-19: Federal Legislative Initiatives

Many businesses across all sectors are experiencing disruption and incurring losses from the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. The pandemic has stirred a debate among insurers, policyholders, and other stakeholders about who will be responsible for the losses that companies face from widespread shutdowns. This Insight will focus on efforts at the federal level to address business interruption (BI) insurance coverage for COVID-related shutdown losses. Insurance is primarily regulated at the state level, and there are efforts in a number of states providing for coverage of BI...

COVID-19: Overview of FY2020 LHHS Supplemental Appropriations

The legislative response to the global pandemic of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) has included the enactment of laws to provide authorities and supplemental funding to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the pandemic. This report focuses on supplemental FY2020 discretionary appropriations provided to programs and activities traditionally funded by the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS) appropriations bill.

As of the date of this report, LHHS supplemental appropriations for COVID-19 response have been provided in four separate...

Funding and Financing Highways and Public Transportation

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

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, city, 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 within the categories of budget function, agency, and object class.

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

Business Interruption Insurance and COVID-19: State Legislative Initiatives

One of the most significant challenges currently facing businesses is the loss of revenue as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and subsequent stay-at-home orders. Businesses across all sectors are incurring losses, and those with business interruption insurance (BI) are submitting claims to their insurers. However, both individual insurance carriers and the industry as a whole have asserted that BI claims related to COVID-19 are not covered, either because there has been no physical damage to the property or because the policy expressly excludes coverage for viruses, or both....

Low Oil Prices May Trigger Certain Tax Benefits, but Not Others

Benchmark crude oil prices—such as U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI)—have steeply declined since January 2020. Oil market oversupply, the result of COVID-19 travel restrictions and increased global supply levels in March and April, has exerted downward pressure on prices. Although the duration of low oil prices is uncertain, price levels for the remainder of 2020 may largely be a function of demand recovery, supply adjustments, and return to a balanced market. Energy Information Administration (EIA) price forecasts, as of April 2020, indicate that WTI spot prices may average just over $29...

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

The Minority Small Business and Capital Ownership Development Program—commonly known as the “8(a) Program”—provides participating small businesses with training, technical assistance, and contracting opportunities in the form of set-aside and sole-source awards. A set-aside award is a contract in which only certain contractors may compete, whereas a sole-source award is a contract awarded, or proposed for award, without competition. In FY2018, 8(a) firms were awarded $29.5 billion in federal contracts, including $9.2 billion in 8(a) set-aside awards and $8.6 billion in 8(a) sole-source...

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

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

In response to concerns that small...

SBA Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contracting Program

The Small Business Administration’s (SBA’s) Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Federal Contracting Program is designed to provide greater access to federal contracting opportunities for WOSBs and economically disadvantaged women-owned small businesses (EDWOSBs). By doing so, the program aims to help federal agencies achieve their statutory goal of awarding 5% of their federal contracting dollars to WOSBs.

Under this program, federal contracting officers may set aside federal contracts (or orders) for WOSBs (including EDWOSBs) in industries in which the SBA determines WOSBs are substantially...

COVID-19: Potential Implications for International Security Environment—Overview of Issues and Further Reading for Congress

Some observers argue the COVID-19 pandemic could be a world-changing event with potentially profound and long-lasting implications for the international security environment and the U.S. role in the world. Other observers are more skeptical that the COVID-19 pandemic will have such effects.

Observers who argue the COVID-19 pandemic could be world-changing for the international security environment and the U.S. role in the world have focused on several areas of potential change, including the following, which are listed here separately but overlap in some cases and can interact with one...

COVID-19: Supply Chain Disruptions in the U.S. Fruit and Vegetable Industry: In Brief

In mid-March 2020, the foodservice industry, which accounts for a substantial share of the produce industry’s sales, was largely shut down as most states closed all but essential businesses in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) public health emergency. This situation resulted in major supply chain disruptions for the U.S. produce industry.

COVID-19, U.S. Agriculture, and USDA’s Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP)

As COVID-19 has spread throughout the United States, it has reduced domestic economic activity and disrupted domestic and international supply chains for goods and services, including food and agricultural products. These disruptions have produced an immediate and very strong demand shock on the U.S. food supply chain that has sent many commodity prices sharply lower.

The food supply chain refers to the path that raw agricultural commodities take from the farm where they are produced, through the food processing and distribution network to the consumer where they are used. Supply chain...

Military Funding for Border Barriers: Catalogue of Interagency Decisionmaking

The Department of Defense (DOD, or the Department) has contributed $6.1 billion to the construction of new and replacement barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border in support of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) by invoking a mixture of statutory and nonstatutory authorities. Congressional concerns surrounding the use of these authorities and the further possibility that DOD’s actions may jeopardize legislative control of appropriations has generated interest about the decisionmaking process that drove the Department’s funding decisions.

DOD has not generally made internal and...

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

Since May 2019, U.S.-Iran tensions have heightened significantly, and evolved into conflict after U.S. military forces killed Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force (IRGC-QF) and one of Iran’s most important military commanders, in a U.S. airstrike in Baghdad on January 3, 2020. The United States and Iran have appeared to be on the brink of additional hostilities since, as attacks by Iran-backed groups on bases in Iraq inhabited by U.S. forces have continued.

The background to the U.S.-Iran tensions are the 2018 Trump Administration...

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.

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

Medicaid Recession-Related FMAP Increases

Medicaid is jointly financed by the federal government and the states. States incur Medicaid costs by making payments to service providers (e.g., for doctor visits) and performing administrative activities (e.g., making eligibility determinations), and the federal government reimburses states for a share of these costs. The federal government’s share of a state’s expenditures for most Medicaid services is called the federal medical assistance percentage (FMAP). The FMAP varies by state and is inversely related to each state’s per capita income. For FY2020, FMAP rates range from 50% (13...

The Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA): Workers’ Compensation for Federal Employees

The Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA) is the workers’ compensation program for federal employees. Like all workers’ compensation programs, FECA pays disability, survivors, and medical benefits, without regard to who was at fault, to employees who are injured or become ill in the course of their federal employment and to the survivors of employees killed on the job. The FECA program is administered by the Department of Labor (DOL) and the costs of benefits are paid by each employee’s host agency. U.S. Postal Service (USPS) employees currently comprise the largest group of FECA...

Unauthorized Immigrants’ Eligibility for COVID-19 Relief Benefits: In Brief

This report discusses unauthorized immigrants’ (aliens’) eligibility for federal benefits generally and for COVID-19-related relief programs specifically. After a brief discussion of Title IV of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA, P.L. 104-193), this report explores unauthorized immigrants’ access to selected programs in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA; P.L. 116-127) and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act; P.L. 116-136), both passed in March 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This...

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

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

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

Small Businesses and COVID-19: Relief and Assistance Resources

This CRS Insight presents selected websites and CRS products potentially relevant to small businesses that are directly affected by the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic and seeking economic relief and assistance.

For an analysis of the small business provisions in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, enacted on March 27, 2020, see CRS Report R46284, COVID-19 Relief Assistance to Small Businesses: Issues and Policy Options, by Robert Jay Dilger, Bruce R. Lindsay, and Sean Lowry. For a list of all CRS products related to COVID-19, see the CRS COVID-19...

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

The aircraft carriers 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). The Navy’s proposed FY2021 budget requests $2,714.1 million (i.e., about $2.7 billion) in procurement funding for CVN-78 class ships, including $71.0 million for CVN-78, $997.5 million for CVN-80, and $1,645.6 million for CVN-81.

CVN-78 (Gerald R. Ford) was procured in FY2008. The Navy’s proposed FY2021 budget estimates the ship’s procurement cost at $13,316.5 million (i.e., about $13.3 billion) in then-year dollars....

Mortgage Servicing Rights and Selected Market Developments

After a single-family mortgage has been originated, a mortgage servicer receives a fee to perform various administrative tasks—collecting and remitting the principal and interest payments to the mortgage lender; managing the borrower’s escrow account; processing the loan title once paid in full; and administering loss mitigation (e.g., forbearance plans) or foreclosure resolution on behalf of the lender if the borrower falls behind or fails to make full payment. Just as a mortgage is an asset for a lender, the right to earn income for servicing a mortgage is an asset for the mortgage...

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

This report discusses two types of amphibious ships being procured for the Navy: LPD-17 Flight II class amphibious ships and LHA-type amphibious assault ships. Both types are built by Huntington Ingalls Industries/Ingalls Shipbuilding (HII/Ingalls) of Pascagoula, MS. The first LPD-17 Flight II class ship, LPD-30, was procured in FY2018; the Navy’s FY2021 budget submission estimates its cost at $1,819.6 million (i.e., about $1.8 billion). LHA-type amphibious assault ships are procured once every few years. LHA-8 was procured in FY2017; the Navy’s FY2021 budget submission estimates its cost...

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

In December 2016, the Navy released a force-structure goal that calls for achieving and maintaining a fleet of 355 ships of certain types and numbers. The 355-ship goal was made U.S. policy by Section 1025 of the FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 2810/P.L. 115-91 of December 12, 2017). The Trump Administration has identified the achievement of a Navy of 355 or more ships within 10 years as a high priority. The Navy states that it is working as well as it can, within a Navy budget top line that is essentially flat in real (i.e., inflation-adjusted terms), toward achieving that...

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

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

Medicare Part B: Enrollment and 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 2020, the program is expected to cover about 63 million persons (54 million aged and 9 million disabled) at a total cost of $862 billion. Most individuals (or their spouses) aged 65 and older who have worked in covered employment and paid Medicare payroll taxes for 40 quarters receive premium-free Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance). Those entitled to Medicare Part A (regardless of whether they are eligible for premium-free...

Small Business Research Programs: SBIR and STTR

The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program was established in 1982 by the Small Business Innovation Development Act (P.L. 97-219) to increase the participation of small innovative companies in federally funded research and development (R&D). The act requires federal agencies with extramural R&D budgets of $100 million or more to set aside a portion of these funds to finance an agency-run SBIR program. As of 2020, 11 federal agencies operate SBIR programs. A complementary program, the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program, was created by the Small Business Research...

Transportation Infrastructure Investment as Economic Stimulus: Lessons from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009

Congress is considering federal funding for infrastructure to revive an economy damaged by Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). Congress previously provided infrastructure funding for economic stimulus in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA; P.L. 111-5). Enacted on February 17, 2009, ARRA was a response to the “Great Recession” that officially ran from December 2007 through June 2009. This report discusses the economic impact of the transportation infrastructure funding in ARRA.

ARRA provided $48.1 billion for programs administered by the U.S. Department of...

U.S. Forest Carbon Data: In Brief

Forests are a significant part of the global carbon cycle, because they contain the largest store of terrestrial (land-based) carbon and continuously transfer carbon between the terrestrial biosphere and the atmosphere. Consequently, forest carbon optimization and management strategies are often included in climate mitigation policy proposals.

The forest carbon cycle starts with the sequestration and accumulation of atmospheric carbon due to tree growth. The accumulated carbon is stored in five different pools in the forest ecosystem: aboveground biomass (e.g., leaves, trunks, limbs),...

North Korea: A Chronology of Events from 2016 to 2020

This report provides a detailed chronology of events relevant to U.S. relations with North Korea from January 2016, when North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test, through the end of March 2020. (For background, the chronology includes a number of milestone events before 2016.) That nuclear test launched a new period of concentrated attention on North Korea (officially the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or DPRK). The Obama and Trump Administrations made denuclearization of North Korea one of their top foreign policy priorities, and Congress has devoted considerable attention to...

SBA EIDL and Emergency EIDL Grants: Data by State

Congress made COVID-19-related economy injury an eligible expense for the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) in the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020 (P.L. 116-123). It also expanded EIDL eligibility for certain businesses and organizations, and it established an Emergency EIDL Grant program as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act; P.L. 116-136).

COVID-19-related EIDL and Emergency EIDL grants are available to all 50 states, U.S. territories, and Washington DC.

This...

Forest Carbon Primer

The global carbon cycle is the process by which the element carbon moves between the air, land, ocean, and Earth’s crust. The movement of increasing amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, particularly as greenhouse gases, is the dominant contributor to the observed warming trend in global temperatures. Forests are a significant part of the global carbon cycle, because they contain the largest store of terrestrial (land-based) carbon and continuously transfer carbon between the terrestrial biosphere and the atmosphere. Consequently, forest carbon optimization and management strategies are...

Kosovo: Background and U.S. Policy

Kosovo, a country in the Western Balkans with a predominantly Albanian-speaking population, declared independence from Serbia in 2008, less than a decade after a brief but lethal war. It has since been recognized by about 100 countries. The United States and most European Union (EU) member states recognize Kosovo. Serbia, Russia, China, and various other countries (including some EU member states) do not.

Key issues for Kosovo include the following:

Resuming talks with Serbia. An EU-facilitated dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia, aimed at normalization of relations, stalled in 2018 when...

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

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

The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has raised questions among...

Transportation Spending Under an Earmark Ban

In the 112th Congress (2011-2012), the House and Senate began observing a moratorium on earmarks. Earmarks—formally known as congressionally directed spending—directed a significant amount of federal transportation spending prior to the ban. This report discusses how federal highway, transit, rail, and aviation funding were distributed before and after the earmark ban, and how Members of Congress might influence the distribution with a ban in place.

House Rule XXI uses the term “congressional earmark” while Senate Rule XLIV uses the term “congressionally directed spending,” but they...

U.S. Foreign Assistance to the Middle East: Historical Background, Recent Trends, and the FY2021 Request

Since 1946, the United States has provided an estimated total of $346 billion (obligations in current dollars) in foreign assistance to the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. For FY2021, overall bilateral aid requested for MENA countries amounts to $6.6 billion, or about 15% of the State Department’s International Affairs budget request. The State Department estimates that the Middle East stands to receive 42% of the geographically specific assistance in the budget request, more than any other region. As in previous years, more than 90% would support assistance for Israel, Egypt,...

COVID-19-Related Loan Assistance for Agricultural Enterprises

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act; P.L. 116-136) created the Small Business Administration’s (SBA’s) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Emergency Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) grants to provide short-term, economic relief to certain small businesses and nonprofits. For more information on SBA-related emergency relief provisions, see CRS Report R46284, COVID-19 Relief Assistance to Small Businesses: Issues and Policy Options, by Robert Jay Dilger, Bruce R. Lindsay, and Sean Lowry.

Important note: The SBA started accepting PPP and Emergency EIDL...

Coast Guard Cutter Procurement: Background and Issues for Congress

The Coast Guard’s program of record (POR) calls for procuring 8 National Security Cutters (NSCs), 25 Offshore Patrol Cutters (OPCs), and 58 Fast Response Cutters (FRCs) as replacements for 90 aging Coast Guard high-endurance cutters, medium-endurance cutters, and patrol craft. The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2021 budget requests a total of $597 million in procurement funding for the NSC, OPC, and FRC programs. It also proposes a rescission of $70 million in FY2020 procurement funding that Congress provided for the NSC program.

NSCs are the Coast Guard’s largest and most capable...

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

The FFG(X) program is a Navy program to build a class of 20 guided-missile frigates (FFGs). Congress funded the procurement of the first FFG(X) in FY2020 at a cost of $1,281.2 million (i.e., about $1.3 billion). The Navy’s proposed FY2021 budget requests $1,053.1 million (i.e., about $1.1 billion) for the procurement of the second FFG(X). The Navy estimates that subsequent ships in the class will cost roughly $940 million each in then-year dollars.

Four industry teams were competing for the FFG(X) program. On April 30, 2020, the Navy announced that it had awarded the FFG(X) contract to the...

Larger Businesses and COVID-19: Financial Relief and Assistance Resources

This CRS Insight presents selected resources and CRS products potentially relevant to medium and large businesses directly affected by the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic seeking economic relief and assistance.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, enacted on March 27, 2020, contains provisions to assist businesses. This Insight focuses on potential sources of assistance designated for medium and large businesses that do not qualify for Small Business Administration programs or other assistance programs for small businesses. For small business...

COVID-19: Role of the International Financial Institutions

The international financial institutions (IFIs), including the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, and regional and specialized multilateral development banks, are mobilizing unprecedented levels of financial resources to support countries responding to the health and economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.

More than half of the IMF’s membership has requested IMF support, and the IMF has announced it is ready to tap its total lending capacity, about $1 trillion, to support governments responding to COVID-19.

The World Bank has committed to mobilizing $160 billion...

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. 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 conducted under...

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...

The Prior Practice of Proxy Voting in House Committee

In order to increase physical distancing in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the House scheduled consideration of a resolution during the week of April 20, 2020, that would have temporarily authorized the use of “proxy” voting on the chamber floor. Speaker Nancy Pelosi subsequently indicated that consideration of the resolution was postponed pending an examination by a bipartisan task force of options to facilitate remote participation by Representatives in committee and floor business.

The recent focus on proxy voting has led to interest in the history of the practice in the House....

COVID-19 and the Indian Health Service

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. In FY2019, IHS provided health care to approximately 2.6 million eligible American Indians/Alaska Natives. Its total FY2020 annual appropriation was $6.2 billion. As of April 30, IHS has seen more than 3,000 positive tests for coronavirus among its service population. In particular, the Navajo Nation has experienced one of the largest outbreaks nationally.

IHS Is a Three-Tiered System with Resource...

Federal Response to COVID-19: Department of Veterans Affairs

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides a range of benefits to eligible veterans and their dependents. The department carries out its programs nationwide through three administrations and the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA).

The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) is responsible for health care services and medical and prosthetic research programs.

The Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) is responsible for, among other things, providing disability compensation, pensions, and education assistance.

The National Cemetery Administration (NCA) is responsible for maintaining...

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...

Memorial Day Speech Resources: Fact Sheet

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

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

Renewed Great Power Competition: Implications for Defense—Issues for Congress

Many observers have concluded that the post-Cold War era of international relations—which began in the early 1990s and is sometimes referred to as the unipolar moment (with the United States as the unipolar power)—began to fade in 2006-2008, and that by 2014, the international environment had shifted to a fundamentally different situation of renewed great power competition with China and Russia and challenges by these two countries and others to elements of the U.S.-led international order that has operated since World War II.

The shift to renewed great power competition was acknowledged...

Noncitizens and Eligibility for the 2020 Recovery Rebates

Some policymakers have expressed concern that certain individuals, including some immigrants (referred to as noncitizens, foreign nationals, or aliens in law and throughout this Insight), are ineligible for direct payments under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act; P.L. 116-136). The statute refers to these payments as 2020 recovery rebates. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) refers to these payments issued in 2020 as Economic Impact Payments. For more detailed information on these payments, see CRS Insight IN11282, COVID-19 and Direct Payments to Individuals:...

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Larger Borrowers: Oversight Efforts and Options for Congress

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act; P.L. 116-136) created PPP loans to provide short-term, economic relief to

businesses eligible to participate in the SBA’s 7(a) loan guarantee program, and

any business (including self-employed individuals or independent contractors), 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, 501(c)(19) veteran’s organization, or tribal business not currently eligible that has not more than 500 employees or, if applicable, the SBA’s size standard for the industry in which it operates.

PPP loans can be used to cover payroll expenses and other...

SBA Disaster Loan Program: Frequently Asked Questions

This report responds to frequently asked questions about the Small Business Administration (SBA) Disaster Loan Program. The SBA Disaster Loan Program provides direct loans to help businesses, nonprofit organizations, homeowners, and renters repair or replace property damaged or destroyed in a federally declared disaster. The program is also designed to help small agricultural cooperatives recover from economic injury resulting from a disaster. SBA disaster loans include (1) Home and Personal Property Disaster Loans, (2) Business Physical Disaster Loans, and (3) Economic Injury Disaster...

The Selective Service System and Draft Registration: Issues for Congress

The Military Selective Service Act (MSSA), first enacted as the Selective Service Act of 1948, provides the statutory authority for the federal government to maintain a Selective Service System (SSS) as an independent federal agency responsible for delivering appropriately qualified civilian men for induction into the Armed Forces of the United States as authorized by Congress. The annual budget for the agency is about $26 million. One of the SSS’s main functions is to maintain a database of registrants in case of a draft. The agency stores approximately 78 million records in order to...

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

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

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

Afghanistan: Background and U.S. Policy: In Brief

Afghanistan was elevated as a significant U.S. foreign policy concern in 2001, when the United States, in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, led a military campaign against Al Qaeda and the Taliban government that harbored and supported it. In the intervening 18 years, the United States has suffered around 2,400 military fatalities in Afghanistan (including four in combat in 2020 to date) and Congress has appropriated approximately $137 billion for reconstruction there. In that time, an elected Afghan government has replaced the Taliban, and most measures of human...

CARES Act Economic Impact Payments for Veterans Not Required to File Tax Returns

Overview

The Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), offers two cash benefit programs for disabled or low-income veterans and their dependents: disability compensation and pension. The monetary benefits provided by both of these programs are not counted as income for tax purposes and hence are not subject to the federal income tax. As a result, some VA beneficiaries are not required to file federal income tax returns because their income for tax purposes is below the minimum filing threshold. These veterans and their beneficiaries generally...

Transfer of Defense Articles: Sale and Export of U.S.-Made Arms to Foreign Entities

The sale and export of U.S.-origin weapons to foreign countries (“defense articles and defense services,” officially) are governed by an extensive set of laws, regulations, policies, and procedures. Congress has authorized such sales under two laws:

The Foreign Assistance Act (FAA) of 1961, 22 U.S.C. §2151, et seq.

The Arms Export Control Act (AECA) of 1976, 22 U.S.C. §2751, et seq.

The FAA and AECA govern all transfers of U.S.-origin defense articles and services, whether they are commercial sales, government-to-government sales, or security assistance/security cooperation grants (or...

SBA EIDL and Emergency EIDL Grants for COVID-19

Congress increased eligibility for certain businesses and organizations for Small Business Administration (SBA) economic injury disaster loans (EIDL) and established an Emergency EIDL Grant program under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act; P.L. 116-136) to provide short-term, economic relief to certain small businesses and nonprofits affected by COVID-19. This Insight provides a brief overview of EIDL, including eligibility and loan terms. It also provides an overview of Emergency EIDL Grants, and describes how EIDL can be used in conjunction with Paycheck...

Veto Threats and Vetoes in the George W. Bush and Obama Administrations

The Framers checked congressional legislative power by providing the President the power to veto legislation and, in turn, checked the President’s veto power by providing Congress a means to override that veto. Over time, it has become clear that the presidential veto power, even if not formally exercised, provides the President some degree of influence over the legislative process. Most Presidents have exercised their veto power as a means to influence legislative outcomes. Of 45 Presidents, 37 have exercised their veto power.

This report begins with a brief discussion of the ways...

Federal Health Centers and COVID-19

Federal health centers are outpatient health facilities that are required to be located in Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs) and are required to provide care to all residents of their service area regardless of their ability to pay. The health center program is administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), within the Department of Health and Human Services, and is authorized in Section 330 of the Public Health Service Act. The program helps to support more than 1,400 community-based health centers operating over 12,000 delivery sites across the country....

Federal Research and Development (R&D) Funding: FY2021

President Trump’s budget request for FY2021 includes approximately $142.2 billion for research and development (R&D) for FY2021, $13.8 billion (8.8%) below the FY2020 enacted level of $156.0 billion. In constant FY2020 dollars, the President’s FY2021 R&D request would result in a decrease of $16.6 billion (10.6%) from the FY2020 level. Federal Research and Development Funding, FY2019-FY2021 In billions of dollars / Source: CRS analysis of data from OMB, Analytical Perspectives, Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2021, Research and Development, February 10, 2020. In 2017,...

U.S. Funding to the World Health Organization (WHO)

On April 14, 2020, President Donald Trump announced that the United States would suspend funding to the World Health Organization (WHO), pending a 60- to 90-day review, because of WHO’s “role in severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus.” The United States, the largest government contributor to WHO, is currently assessed 22% of the organization’s core budget (an estimated $122.6 million for FY2020). The United States also provides voluntary funding to WHO, with amounts varying per year depending on U.S. priorities and global health needs. U.S. voluntary...

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 the agency’s flagship loan program. It derives its name from Section 7(a) of the Small Business Act of 1953 (P.L. 83-163, as amended), which authorizes the SBA to provide business loans and loan guaranties to American small businesses.

In FY2019, the SBA approved 51,907 7(a)...

Temporary Deferment of Import Duty Payments

On April 18, 2020, President Donald J. Trump issued Executive Order 13916 to provide the Secretary of the Treasury temporary emergency authority under Section 318(a) of the Tariff Act of 1930 (19 U.S.C. 1318(a), as amended) to extend deadlines for certain estimated payments of taxes, duties, and fees “for importers suffering significant financial hardship because of COVID-19.” Section 318(a) allows the President to authorize the Secretary of the Treasury to extend payment deadlines during a period of national emergency proclaimed pursuant to the National Emergencies Act.

Following the...

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

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

Saltonstall-Kennedy Act: Background and Issues

The Saltonstall-Kennedy (S-K) Act of 1954 (15 U.S.C. §713c-3) established a program to provide financial support for research and development of commercial fisheries. The S-K Act created a fund (known as the S-K fund) that is financed by a permanent appropriation of a portion of import duties on marine products. S-K funds are distributed by the Secretary of Commerce as grants and cooperative agreements to address needs of the U.S. fishing industry, including but not limited to harvesting, processing, marketing, and associated infrastructure. However, Congress allocates most funding to the...

The Office of Technology Assessment: History, Authorities, Issues, and Options

Congress established the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) as a legislative branch agency by the Office of Technology Assessment Act of 1972 (P.L. 92-484). OTA was created to provide Congress with early indications of the probable beneficial and adverse impacts of technology applications. OTA’s work was to be used as a factor in Congress’ consideration of legislation, particularly with regard to activities for which the federal government might provide support for, or management or regulation of, technological applications.

The agency operated for more than two decades, producing...

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

In 2019, Ukraine transitioned to a new government under President Volodymyr Zelensky and his Servant of the People party. During Zelensky’s presidency, Ukraine has enacted difficult economic and governance reforms and renewed talks with Russia on conflict resolution. In March 2020, a reshuffling of a six-month-old cabinet that had gained international confidence but lost domestic popularity raised concerns for some. The emergence in Ukraine of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) created further difficulties but also led the government to advance key reforms necessary to unlock...

Iran’s Foreign and Defense Policies

Iran’s national security policy is arguably 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, and long-standing national interests. 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.

Takes advantage of regional conflicts to advance a broader goal of overturning a power structure in the Middle East that it asserts favors the United States, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and other Sunni Muslim Arab...

Small Business Administration Microloan Program

The Small Business Administration’s (SBA’s) Microloan program provides direct loans to nonprofit intermediary lenders to provide “microloans” of up to $50,000 to small businesses and nonprofit child care centers. They also provide 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 and small business...

COVID-19 Disrupts U.S. Meat Supply; Producer Prices Tumble

U.S. livestock and poultry producers entered 2020 with an optimistic outlook for prices and income. Then in mid-March the food service sector, which accounts for a substantial share of meat consumption, was largely shut down as most states closed all but essential businesses. A temporary surge in retail meat purchases offset some of the reduction in food service demand. However, in early April, the situation worsened for producers as COVID-19 outbreaks began spreading in meatpacking plants around the United States, disrupting meat processing and leading to some shortages of meat products...

Global Research and Development Expenditures: Fact Sheet

Research and development (R&D) plays a central role in advanced economies in areas such as economic growth and job creation, industrial competitiveness, national security, energy, agriculture, transportation, public health and well-being, environmental protection, and expanding the frontiers of human knowledge understanding.

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...

COVID-19 and Direct Payments to Individuals: Economic Impact Payments (EIPs) for Social Security and Supplemental Security Income Beneficiaries

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (P.L. 116-136) provides emergency relief measures in response to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Section 2201 of the CARES Act provides recovery rebates for most individuals, structured as automatically advanced tax credits disbursed by the Treasury Department. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) refers to the payments made in 2020 as Economic Impact Payments (EIPs). (These payments are also known as “stimulus checks” or “stimulus payments.”) This Insight addresses EIPs from the perspective of Social Security...

Selected Health Provisions in Title III of the CARES Act (P.L. 116-136)

The global pandemic of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) is affecting communities around the world and throughout the United States, with the number of confirmed cases and fatalities growing daily. Containment and mitigation efforts by U.S. federal, state, and local governments have been undertaken to “flatten the curve”—that is, to slow the widespread transmission that could overwhelm the nation’s health care system.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act, P.L. 116-136) was enacted on March 27, 2020. It is the third comprehensive law enacted in 2020 to address...

The Renewable Electricity Production Tax Credit: In Brief

The renewable electricity production tax credit (PTC) is a per-kilowatt-hour (kWh) tax credit for electricity generated using qualified energy resources. The credit expires at the end of 2020, so that only projects that began construction before the end of 2020 qualify for tax credits. Since the PTC is available for the first 10 years of production at a qualified facility, PTCs will continue to be claimed after the PTC’s stated expiration date. Whether the PTC should be extended, modified, or allowed to expire as scheduled is an issue Congress may choose to consider.

Most recently, the...

President Trump Criticizes VOA Coverage of China’s COVID-19 Response

The President’s Criticism of VOA’s Coverage of China

On April 10, 2020, the White House included in its online “1600 Daily” summary of key news and events a statement entitled “Voice of America Spends Your Money to Speak for Authoritarian Regimes.” The statement referred to a Voice of America (VOA) story and two posts that, it asserted, “amplified Beijing’s propaganda” about Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). The statement criticized VOA for running an Associated Press article on its website on April 7, 2020, which referred to Wuhan’s lockdown as a “model” for other countries battling...

Fintech: Overview of Innovative Financial Technology and Selected Policy Issues

Advances in technology allow for innovation in the ways businesses and individuals perform financial activities. The development of financial technology—commonly referred to as fintech—is the subject of great interest for the public and policymakers. Fintech innovations could potentially improve the efficiency of the financial system and financial outcomes for businesses and consumers. However, the new technology could pose certain risks, potentially leading to unanticipated financial losses or other harmful outcomes. Policymakers designed many of the financial laws and regulations...

Proposals for a COVID-19 Congressional Advisory Commission: A Comparative Analysis

Throughout U.S. history, Congress has created advisory commissions to assist in the development of public policy. Among other contexts, commissions have been used following crisis situations, including the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the 2008 financial crisis. In such situations, advisory commissions may potentially provide Congress with a high-visibility forum to assemble expertise that might not exist within the legislative environment; allow for the in-depth examination of complex, cross-cutting policy issues; and lend bipartisan credibility to a set of findings and...

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

This report describes selected health care-related provisions that are scheduled to expire during the second session of the 116th Congress (i.e., during calendar year [CY] 2020). For purposes of this report, expiring provisions are defined as portions of law that are time-limited and will lapse once a statutory deadline is reached, absent further legislative action. The expiring provisions included in this report are those related to Medicare, Medicaid, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and private health insurance programs and activities. The report also includes...

Treasury and Federal Reserve Financial Assistance in Title IV of the CARES Act (P.L. 116-136)

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act; H.R. 748) was signed into law as P.L. 116-136 on March 27, 2020, to assist those affected by the economic impact of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). This assistance is targeted to consumers, businesses, and the financial services sector. A key part of this assistance is provided to eligible businesses, states, and municipalities in Division A, Title IV of the CARES Act.

Title IV allocates $500 billion to the Treasury Department (through the Exchange Stabilization Fund) to make loans and guarantees for three specified...

Changes in the Arctic: Background and Issues for Congress

The diminishment of Arctic sea ice has led to increased human activities in the Arctic, and has heightened interest in, and concerns about, the region’s future. The United States, by virtue of Alaska, is an Arctic country and has substantial interests in the region. The seven other Arctic states are Canada, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark (by virtue of Greenland), and Russia.

The Arctic Research and Policy Act (ARPA) of 1984 (Title I of P.L. 98-373 of July 31, 1984) “provide[s] for a comprehensive national policy dealing with national research needs and objectives in the Arctic.”...

The Pandemic Response Accountability Committee: Organization and Duties

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (P.L. 116-136) created a new federal entity, the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee (PRAC), to “conduct and support oversight” of the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and promote transparency.

This Insight provides an introduction to the organization and duties of the PRAC.

Organization

Section 15010(b) of the CARES Act establishes the PRAC within the Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE), the oversight and coordination body for the inspector general community. The...

Fintech: Overview of Financial Regulators and Recent Policy Approaches

New technologies in the financial services sector can create challenges for the various federal agencies responsible for financial regulation in the United States. As these regulators address the potential benefits and risks of innovation, policymakers have demonstrated significant interest in understanding the types of technologies that may benefit consumers and financial markets while identifying the risks that new financial services may present. As Congress considers the potential tradeoffs of financial technology or fintech, it can be useful to understand how the financial system...

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act—Tax Relief for Individuals and Businesses

Congress is considering a number of proposals that seek to mitigate the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. One such proposal, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (S. 3548), was introduced in the Senate on March 19, 2020. On March 22, 2020, an updated version of the CARES Act was circulated, as a proposed amendment to H.R. 748. A cloture vote on a motion to proceed, which was designed to allow consideration of the CARES Act, was rejected on March 22. A third version of the CARES Act was released on March 25, 2020. On March 25, the Senate voted 96-0 to pass...

The Federal Contraceptive Coverage Requirement: Past and Pending Legal Challenges

When Congress enacted the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010, it required employment-based health plans and health insurance issuers to cover certain preventive health services without cost sharing. Those services, because of agency guidelines and rules, would soon include contraception for women. The “contraceptive coverage requirement,” or “contraceptive mandate” as it came to be known, was heavily litigated in the years to follow, and exemptions from the requirement are currently the subject of a pending Supreme Court case.

The various legal challenges to the...

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...

Transatlantic Relations: U.S. Interests and Key Issues

For the past 70 years, the United States has been instrumental in leading and promoting a strong U.S.-European partnership. Often termed the transatlantic relationship, this partnership has been grounded in the U.S.-led post-World War II order based on alliances with like-minded democratic countries and a shared U.S.-European commitment to free markets and an open international trading system. Transatlantic relations encompass the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the European Union (EU), close U.S. bilateral ties with most countries in Western and Central Europe, and a massive,...

Social Security Retirement Earnings Test (RET): Earnings Exemption for COVID-19-Related Work Response

In response to the coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak, some state and local officials (e.g., New York State) have called on retired health care workers to return to work and help treat the influx of patients. In addition to health care professionals, other retired workers—including certain public safety officers, emergency management personnel, scientists, researchers, and individuals—who had claimed Social Security benefits, may also go back to work to meet the essential needs of the American public during the COVID-19 outbreak.

If those retired workers are receiving Social Security...

Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Lending Set Asides for Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs)

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act; P.L. 116-136) created the Small Business Administration’s (SBA’s) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). On April 16, 2020, the SBA reported that it had exhausted all funding provided by the CARES Act for the PPP.

On April 24, 2020, President Trump signed the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act (P.L. 116-139), which contains lending set asides for smaller lenders. These set asides appear to be motivated by media coverage claiming that some big banks benefited from issuing large volumes of PPP loans and...

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 is also developing new delivery systems for deployment over the next 10-30 years. The 116th Congress will continue to review these programs, and the funding requested for them, during the annual authorization and appropriations process.

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

Congressional Oversight Provisions in the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act

President Donald Trump signed the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act (P.L. 116-139) on April 24, 2020. The act provides supplemental appropriations for the Paycheck Protection Program, the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund to support health care providers and expand testing for COVID-19, and Small Business Administration disaster loans and grants.

This legislation is the fourth relief act addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. As was the case for the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act (P.L. 116-123), the Families First...

Forest Service Announces Timber Sale Contract Relief

On April 15, 2020, the Forest Service (FS) announced options for timber purchasers to extend the terms of their contract to harvest timber from the National Forest System (NFS). (Read the announcement here.) The FS, within the Department of Agriculture (USDA), sells timber to willing buyers in the private sector (timber purchasers) pursuant to specified contract terms. Although timber sales generally must be completed in a set amount of time, the FS may extend that time if it finds a “substantial overriding public interest” (referred to as a SOPI finding) in doing so. The SOPI finding...

Overview of Recent Responses to COVID-19 by the Judicial Conference of the United States, Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, and Select Courts Within the Federal Judiciary

This CRS Insight provides information related to recent responses to Coronavirus disease 2019, or COVID-19, by the Judicial Conference of the United States, the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (AO) and select courts within the federal judiciary. It is not intended to provide a comprehensive overview of the policies and practices adopted by each federal court or judicial entity. Additionally, given the rapidly changing situation surrounding COVID-19, the information provided in this Insight may be superseded by new information from that which is described in the text below. If...

Flood Risk Reduction from Natural and Nature-Based Features: Army Corps of Engineers Authorities

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is the primary federal agency involved in federal construction to help reduce community flood risk. Congressional direction on USACE flood risk reduction activities has evolved from primarily supporting levees, dams, and engineered dunes and beaches. Since 1974, Congress has required that USACE evaluate nonstructural alternatives, such as elevation of structures and acquisition of floodplain lands, during its planning of projects. Since the mid-2010s, Congress also has directed the consideration of natural and nature-based features (NNBFs). Examples...

Honduras: Background and U.S. Relations

Honduras, a Central American nation of 9.3 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 various security concerns 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. Instability in Honduras—including a 2009 coup and...

Coronavirus-Related Suspension of Immigrant Entry

On April 22, President Trump issued a proclamation suspending entry into the United States of certain aliens (foreign nationals) who are seeking lawful permanent resident (LPR) status (i.e., immigrants). The President justified the suspension as needed to protect American workers from foreign labor force competition during a time of “high domestic unemployment and reduced demand for labor” caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The President cited two immigration-related legal authorities. Under Section 212(f) (8 U.S.C. §1182(f)) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), the President may...

Fourth COVID-19 Relief Package (P.L. 116-139): In Brief

On April 23, 2020, Congress passed its fourth measure including supplemental appropriations to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act (the act; P.L. 116-139) includes enhancements for the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL), and Emergency EIDL grants, and emergency supplemental appropriations for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Small Business Administration (SBA). The President signed the bill into law on April 24, 2020.

The Congressional...

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

In an era of renewed great power competition, China’s military modernization effort, including its naval modernization effort, has become the top focus of U.S. defense planning and budgeting. China’s navy, which China has been steadily modernizing for more than 25 years, since the early to mid-1990s, has become a formidable military force within China’s near-seas region, and it is conducting a growing number of operations in more-distant waters, including the broader waters of the Western Pacific, the Indian Ocean, and waters around Europe. China’s navy is viewed as posing a major...

The Internet of Things: CRS Experts

“Internet of Things” (IoT) refers to networks of objects that communicate with other objects and with computers through the Internet. “Things” may include virtually any object for which remote communication, data collection, or control might be useful, such as meters, vehicles, appliances, medical devices, electric grids, transportation infrastructure, manufacturing equipment, or building systems. Although the full extent and nature of the IoT’s impacts remain uncertain, economic analyses predict that it will contribute trillions of dollars to economic growth over the next decade. Sectors...

Apportionment and Redistricting Following the 2020 Census

The census, apportionment, and congressional redistricting are interrelated processes that occur every decade. The U.S. Constitution provides that a decennial census determines the distribution of U.S. House seats across states, though the federal government today also uses census data for other purposes, such as distributing funding to states and localities. The process of dividing House seats to states is known as apportionment (or reapportionment). Each state must receive at least one House seat, and additional seats are distributed proportionally based on state population size. States...

COVID-19: Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) Supplemental Appropriations in the CARES Act

On March 27, 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was signed into law (P.L. 116-136). The CARES Act includes $3.5 billion in supplemental appropriations for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG). These funds are to be used to “prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus.”

The CCDBG Act (42 U.S.C. §§9858 et seq.) is the main federal law supporting child care programs for low-income working families. The CCDBG is administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). HHS allocates CCDBG funds to states, territories, and...

COVID-19: U.S. Public Health Data and Reporting

The daily updated counts of cases, deaths, and recoveries during the COVID-19 pandemic have served as important indicators throughout the crisis—informing policy decisions, research, and public awareness. Ongoing data collection, or surveillance, is a key component of public health practice. As the nation’s lead public health agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has sought to conduct surveillance within the U.S. system of federalism where many public health authorities are based in state law. Some observers have called for improved public health surveillance during...

The Child Support Federal Tax Offset of CARES Act Economic Impact Payments

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act; P.L. 116-136, enacted March 27, 2020) includes direct payments to individuals in 2020—referred to by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as “economic impact payments” ($1,200 per adult/$2,400 per couple filing a joint return; $500 for dependent children). These payments are structured as tax credits automatically advanced to households that meet certain criteria. Receiving a recovery rebate in 2020 will not affect a taxpayer’s 2020 income tax liability or tax refund, and taxpayers will generally not need to repay the rebate....

Yemen: Civil War and Regional Intervention

This report provides information on the ongoing crisis in Yemen. In 2014, the northern Yemeni-based Ansar Allah/Houthi movement (referred to in this report as “the Houthis”) took over the capital, Sanaa (also commonly spelled Sana’a), and in early 2015, advanced southward from the capital to Aden on the Arabian Sea. In March 2015, after Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who had fled to Saudi Arabia, appealed for international intervention, Saudi Arabia and a hastily assembled international coalition (referred to in this report as “the Saudi-led coalition”) launched a military...

COVID-19: Restrictions on Travelers at U.S. Land Borders

New actions by the federal government in response to the COVID-19 pandemic restrict the entry of certain foreign nationals into the United States. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), have recently issued orders regarding travelers arriving at land ports of entry (POEs) at both the northern and southern borders of the United States.

DHS: Non-essential Travel Restrictions

DHS has issued two orders to temporarily restrict...

Older Children, Adult Dependents, and Eligibility for the 2020 Recovery Rebates

Some policymakers have expressed concern that certain individuals including older children and adult dependents are not eligible for direct payments enacted as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act; P.L. 116-136). The statute refers to these payments as 2020 recovery rebates. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) refers to these payments issued in 2020 as economic impact payments. Receiving a recovery rebate in 2020 will not affect a taxpayer’s 2020 income tax liability or tax refund, and taxpayers will generally not need to repay the rebate.

There are...

Federal Prisoners and COVID-19: Background and Authorities to Grant Release

There is concern that coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) could quickly spread among federal prisoners and prison staff because of the nature of the prison environment. Prisons are places where hundreds of prisoners and staff are living and working in close proximity to each other and where they are forced to have regular contact. Prisons are generally not conducive to social distancing. Also, prison infirmaries typically do not have the resources available to most hospitals, such as isolation beds, that would help prevent the spread of the disease. There are also concerns that if prison...

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...

COVID-19: Financial Relief and Assistance Resources for Consumers

This CRS Insight presents links to websites of selected federal agencies and other organizations potentially relevant to consumers affected by the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. These links provide information on mortgage and other consumer payment relief, credit score protection, and consumer-targeted frauds and scams.

For analysis of consumer-related financial concerns about COVID-19, see CRS Insight IN11244, COVID-19: The Financial Industry and Consumers Struggling to Pay Bills, by Cheryl R. Cooper. For a list of all CRS products related to COVID-19, see the CRS COVID-19...

Mail Voting and COVID-19: Developments and Potential Challenges

Most voters reported voting in person in 2018, but the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has complicated in-person voting for certain subsequent elections in 2020. Health risks associated with close contact have prompted concerns about some of the standard interactions involved in preparing for and conducting in-person voting.

States have taken various steps to address such concerns for some of their 2020 elections, including postponing election dates, offering curbside voting, and relocating polling places. One common response has been to expand mail voting, in which voters receive ballots...

Agricultural Disaster Assistance

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

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

Interaction of International Tax Provisions with Business Provisions in the CARES Act

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (P.L. 116-136) included two general tax benefits for business: net operating losses (NOLs) and interest deductions, which reduce taxable income and tax liability. These provisions may interact with existing international tax provisions enacted in the 2017 tax revision, popularly known as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, or TCJA (P.L. 115-97). The TCJA also decreased tax rates, including reducing the corporate rate from 35% to 21%.

International Provisions in the TCJA

In transitioning from the prior international tax regime that...

COVID-19 and State and Local Fiscal Conditions: Select Resources on Current Status, Impacts, and Federal Relief

The coronavirus (COVID-19) has caused a sudden decline in economic output and surge in unemployment, and it has significantly altered the fiscal outlook for state and local governments. State and local governments use taxes and receipts, debt issuances, and intergovernmental transfers to support spending programs. And, unlike the federal government, states and local governments are generally required to balance their operating budgets every one or two years. Even before the pandemic, a 2019 Government Accountability Office report on state and local governments’ fiscal outlook suggested...

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.

Stafford Act Declarations for COVID-19 FAQ

On March 13, 2020, President Donald J. Trump declared an emergency under Section 501(b) of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (Stafford Act; 42 U.S.C. §§5121 et seq.) in response to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The declaration authorized assistance to all U.S. states, territories, tribes, and the District of Columbia. Specifically, the Stafford Act emergency declaration authorized one form of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assistance: Public Assistance emergency protective measures (as authorized under Stafford Act Section 502)....

Crude Oil Futures Prices Turn Negative

What Happened?

On April 20, 2020, the futures contract price for the immediate month (May) of West Texas Intermediate (WTI), the U.S. benchmark crude, went negative (see Figure 1). The May futures contract price fell $55.90 during the day, to close at negative $37.62 per barrel. The futures price is a contract, usually monthly, for delivery of a certain amount of crude oil, on a specified date in the future, and at a particular location (Cushing, OK for WTI). WTI crude oil futures contracts are traded on the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX). According to data from the U.S. Energy...

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...

Reauthorization of Federal Highway Programs

Federal highway construction and safety programs are currently authorized through September 30, 2020, under the five-year Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act; P.L. 114-94). For the 1,027,849-mile system of federal-aid highways, the FAST Act provided an average of $45 billion annually. Although there are exceptions, federally funded projects are generally limited to this system that includes roughly 25% of all U.S. public road mileage. Of these funds, nearly 93% are distributed to the states via formula. The states have nearly complete control over the use of these funds,...

Air Force KC-46A Pegasus Tanker Aircraft Program

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

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

The CARES Act and Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs): Options for Certain Individuals

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act; P.L. 116-136) includes a provision that suspends Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) from certain retirement accounts for 2020. Some individuals may have already taken this distribution prior to the enactment of the CARES Act; this Insight discusses an option that might be available to them.

Required Minimum Distributions

RMDs are annual withdrawals that individuals with certain retirement accounts may be required to make under specified conditions, such as after (1) reaching a certain age or (2) inheriting a retirement...

The Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act: Background and Issues

Under federal law, state and local governments receive payments through various programs due to the presence of federally owned land within their jurisdictions. Some of these payment programs are based on the revenue generated from specific land uses and activities. For example, Congress has authorized payments to the counties containing national forests—managed by the Forest Service—based on the revenue generated from those lands. In addition, Congress has authorized the 18 counties in western Oregon containing the Oregon and California (O&C) lands and Coos Bay Wagon Road (CBWR)...

CARES Act Assistance for Employers and Employees—The Paycheck Protection Program, Employee Retention Tax Credit, and Unemployment Insurance Benefits: Assessment of Alternatives (Part 2)

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (P.L. 116-136) includes numerous provisions to assist employers and employees during the COVID-19 economic downturn. This Insight compares (1) the Small Business Administration’s (SBA’s) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP); (2) the Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC); and (3) Unemployment Insurance (UI). Firms that receive a PPP loan cannot also claim the ERTC. Additionally, when employees are retained due to a firm’s receiving a PPP loan or claiming an ERTC, employees are generally ineligible for UI during the period of...

Status of Latin America’s Anti-corruption Fight amid Health and Political Challenges

Background

After sweeping across the region, anti-corruption activism in Latin America appears to have stalled. Populist leaders in Brazil and Mexico campaigned on fighting public corruption during their 2018 elections. However, after more than a year in office, both presidents have demonstrated little progress on significant corruption prosecutions or substantial governmental reform. Elsewhere, in 2019 and early 2020, governments in Central America shut down notable anti-corruption institutions that were approved by wide majorities of their citizens and long supported by U.S. policy and...

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: Annual Appropriations Process and Issues for Congress

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is an agency within the Department of Defense with both military and civil works responsibilities. The agency’s civil works activities consist largely of the planning, construction, and operation of water resource projects to maintain navigable channels, reduce the risk of flood and storm damage, and restore aquatic ecosystems. Congress directs USACE’s civil works activities through authorization legislation, annual and supplemental appropriations, and oversight.

Unlike federal funding for highways and municipal water infrastructure, the majority...

CARES Act Assistance for Employers and Employees—The Paycheck Protection Program, Employee Retention Tax Credit, and Unemployment Insurance Benefits: Overview (Part 1)

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (P.L. 116-136) includes numerous provisions to assist employers and employees during the COVID-19 economic downturn. This Insight compares (1) SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program; (2) the employee retention tax credit; and (3) Unemployment Insurance. A companion Insight, CRS Insight IN11329, CARES Act Assistance for Employers and Employees—The Paycheck Protection Program, Employee Retention Tax Credit, and Unemployment Insurance Benefits: Assessment of Alternatives (Part 2), coordinated by Molly F. Sherlock, highlights factors...

Presidential Appointments to Full-Time Positions on Regulatory and Other Collegial Boards and Commissions, 115th 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 115th Congress.

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

The United Nations Human Rights Council: Background and Policy Issues

Over the years, many Members of Congress have demonstrated an ongoing interest in the role and effectiveness of the United Nations (U.N.) Human Rights Council (the Council). The Council is the primary intergovernmental body mandated with addressing human rights on a global level. The United States was a member of the Council for two three-year terms during the Obama Administration, and a third term during the first part of the Trump Administration. In June 2018, the Trump Administration withdrew from the Council, noting concerns with the Council’s focus on Israel, overall ineffectiveness...

Considering Legislation on the House Floor: Common Practices in Brief

This brief overview explains the most common ways legislation is considered on the House floor, and it describes the types of questions most likely to be voted on and the opportunities for legislative debate that are most frequently used by Members.

The most common method used to consider bills and resolutions in the House is suspension of the rules. This method has evolved as a way for measures that enjoy widespread support to be quickly processed by the House. A motion to suspend the rules and pass a bill is debatable for 40 minutes. The Member making the motion controls 20 minutes of...

Bank and Credit Union Regulators’ Response to COVID-19

Once it became clear that the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak would have serious financial ramifications, the federal agencies that regulate banks and credit unions—the Federal Reserve, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) (collectively referred to as the bank regulators), and the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA)—responded using existing authorities in two broad ways:

taking measures to encourage banks to work with customers affected by COVID-19; and

making...

Treatment of COVID-19: Hydroxychloroquine and Chloroquine

To date, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved any therapeutics—drugs or biologics—for the treatment of COVID-19. However, FDA has authorized the emergency use of two drugs: hydroxychloroquine sulfate (“hydroxychloroquine”) and chloroquine phosphate (“chloroquine”). The agency has determined that based on the totality of scientific evidence, “it is reasonable to believe that [chloroquine] and [hydroxychloroquine] may be effective in treating COVID-19,” and that when used in accord with the conditions of the emergency use authorization (EUA), the known and potential...

Federal Jury Trials and COVID-19

This Insight provides information and analysis related to federal jury trials and how such trials have been impacted by Coronavirus disease 2019, or COVID-19. Given the rapidly changing situation surrounding COVID-19, the information provided in this Insight may be superseded by new information that differs from what is described in the text below. If there are any questions regarding whether such changes have occurred, congressional staff may contact the author of this Insight.

Background

The Jury Selection and Service Act of 1968 specifies the qualifications a person must meet in order...

Public Safety Officers’ Benefits (PSOB) and Public Safety Officers’ Educational Assistance (PSOEA) Programs

The Public Safety Officers’ Benefits (PSOB) program provides cash benefits to federal, state, and local law enforcement officers; firefighters; employees of emergency management agencies; and members of emergency medical services agencies who are killed or permanently and totally disabled as the result of personal injuries sustained in the line of duty. The Public Safety Officers’ Educational Assistance (PSOEA) program, a component of the PSOB program, provides higher-education assistance to the children and spouses of public safety officers killed or permanently disabled in the line of...

Private Flood Insurance and the National Flood Insurance Program

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is the main source of primary flood insurance coverage in the United States, collecting approximately $4.6 billion in premiums, fees, and surcharges for over five million flood insurance policies. This is in contrast to the majority of other property and casualty risks, such as damage from fire or accidents, which are covered by a broad array of private insurance companies. One of the primary reasons behind the creation of the NFIP in 1968 was the withdrawal by private insurers from providing flood insurance coverage, leaving flood victims...

COVID-19: Effect on Organ Donation and Transplantation

The U.S. domestic response to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) poses both short- and long-term concerns for the U.S. organ transplant system. Organs are a limited resource, and their allocation is strictly regulated to try to ensure that no donated organs go unused. A number of transplant centers have suspended their transplant programs due to COVID-19. In addition, individuals are inactivating from organ waitlists in large numbers due to COVID-19 precautions. Disruptions in the system may create long-term effects for both the allocation of organs and the viability of organizations...

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.

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...

Bank Exposure to COVID-19 Risks: Business Loans

The COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic has caused financial hardship across the country. If COVID-19 causes borrowers to miss loan payments, it could have negative consequences for banks. This Insight examines the exposure banks have to business loan repayments, such as commercial and industrial (C&I) loans and commercial real estate (CRE) loans. For exposure to household debt, such as mortgages and consumer loans, see CRS Insight IN11336, Bank Exposure to COVID-19 Risks: Mortgages and Consumer Loans, by David W. Perkins and Raj Gnanarajah.

The main business of a bank is to make loans and buy...

The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS): Waiver Authority and Modification of Volumes

The Clean Air Act requires that transportation fuels contain a minimum volume of renewable fuel. This Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) was established by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct05; P.L. 109-58) and amended by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA; P.L. 110-140). The RFS includes scheduled volume mandates that grow each year (starting with 9 billion gallons in 2008 and ascending to 36 billion gallons in 2022). The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which is responsible for administering the RFS, determines the annual volume after 2022. Within the overall...

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

Insurance transfers 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, is often only the first transfer of that risk. The initial (or primary) insurer may then transfer (or cede) some or all of this risk to another company or investor, such as a reinsurer. Reinsurers may also further transfer (or retrocede) risks to other reinsurers. Such transfers are, on the whole, a net cost for primary insurers, just as purchasing insurance is a net cost for homeowners....

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

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

COVID-19 and Direct Payments to Individuals: Summary of the 2020 Recovery Rebates/Economic Impact Payments in the CARES Act (P.L. 116-136)

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act; P.L. 116-136), which was signed into law by President Trump on March 27, 2020, includes direct payments to individuals—referred to in the law as “2020 recovery rebates.” The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) refers to the payments issued in 2020 as economic impact payments, whereas some media reports call them “stimulus payments.” This Insight provides a brief overview of these direct payments.

The 2020 recovery rebates equal $1,200 per eligible individual ($2,400 for married taxpayers filing a joint tax return) and $500 per...

FCC Draft Rule Seeks to Limit Space Debris

On April 2, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) published notice of a proposed rule intended to reduce the risk that active satellites will be damaged by space debris. The proposed rule, which is scheduled for an FCC vote on April 23, has been sharply criticized by some aerospace and telecommunications groups, and leaders of a House committee have asked that it be delayed.

The FCC licenses U.S. commercial communications satellites and the radio frequencies needed to control them. In 2004, it issued an order directing satellite operators applying for FCC licenses to submit plans...

The Federal Judiciary and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”)

On March 27, 2020, the President signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act or “the Act”) to address the nationwide impact of Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The portions of the CARES Act directed at the federal courts seek to support the federal judiciary in two key ways. First, the Act expands courts’ ability to conduct criminal proceedings by video or audio conference. Second, the Act provides funding for the federal judiciary to respond to the pandemic.

Video and Audio Conferencing

Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 53 (“Rule 53”) constrains federal...

Low Oil Prices: Prospects for Global Oil Market Balance

Reduced travel, slowing economic activity, and petroleum-product demand suppression related to the COVID-19 outbreak, combined with announced plans to increase crude oil supplies, created expectations of an imbalanced and significantly oversupplied near-term petroleum market. Oversupply expectations have contributed to oil prices declining nearly 60% since January. Some regional oil prices have been less than $10 per barrel. While low oil prices are generally positive for consumers, current price levels are causing financial stress for the U.S. oil sector and several policy options could...

Federal Reserve: Emergency Lending in Response to COVID-19

The coronavirus (COVID-19) has created significant economic and financial disruption. In response, the Federal Reserve (Fed) has taken a number of actions to promote economic and financial stability. This Insight covers actions taken by the Fed in its “lender of last resort” role—actions intended to provide liquidity directly to firms to ensure they have continued access to needed funding. The Fed finances this assistance by expanding its balance sheet. For information on the Fed’s monetary policy actions, see CRS Insight IN11330, Federal Reserve: Monetary Policy Actions in Response to...

COVID-19 and Short-Run Federal Deficits

The COVID-19 outbreak and ensuing economic shock may have major effects on future federal budget deficits (the amounts by which annual outlays exceed annual revenues). The latest federal budget baselines from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) use economic forecasts produced before the COVID-19 outbreak; baselines with updated forecasts would typically not be expected for several months, though agencies could decide to provide updates sooner. This Insight briefly discusses the effects that recent economic and legislative developments may have on...

Health Care Provisions in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, P.L. 116-127

The global pandemic of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) is affecting communities around the world and throughout the United States, with case counts growing daily. Containment and mitigation efforts by federal, state, and local governments have been undertaken to “flatten the curve”—that is, to slow widespread transmission that could overwhelm the nation’s health care system.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA, P.L. 116-127) was enacted on March 18, 2020. It is the second of three comprehensive laws enacted in March specifically to support the response to the pandemic....

Department of Health and Human Services: FY2021 Budget Request

This report provides information about the FY2021 budget request for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Historically, HHS has been one of the larger federal departments in terms of budgetary resources. Estimates by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) indicate that HHS has accounted for at least 20% of all federal outlays in each year since FY1995. Most recently, HHS is estimated to have accounted for 27% of all federal outlays in FY2019. (FY2019 funding levels are generally considered final, whereas some FY2020 funding levels remain estimates.)

The FY2021...

Congressional Oversight Provisions in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (P.L. 116-136)

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (P.L. 116-136) includes a variety of oversight provisions designed to increase the information available to Congress regarding the federal government’s implementation of the CARES Act and response to the COVID-19 pandemic more generally. Specifically, the CARES Act: establishes a Congressional Oversight Commission, establishes a Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery, establishes a Pandemic Response Accountability Committee made up of certain agencies’ inspectors general, provides additional financial resources for...

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

Defense primer defense primer Defense primer defense primer defense primer defense primer Defense primer defense primer Defense primer defense primer defense primer defense primer Defense primer defense primer Defense primer defense primer defense primer defense primer Defense primer defense primer Defense primer defense...

Federal Data on Hate Crimes in the United States

A relatively recent series of high-profile crimes where the offenders’ actions appeared to be motivated by their bias or animosity towards a particular race, ethnicity, or religion might contribute to a perception that hate crimes are on the rise in the United States. These incidents might also generate interest among policymakers about how the federal government collects data on hate crimes committed in the United States.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) started its Hate Crime Statistics program pursuant to the requirement in the Hate Crime Statistics Act (HSCA, P.L. 101-275)...

COVID-19: Selected Capital Markets Segments Supported by Federal Government Liquidity Interventions

The spread of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) induced heavy capital markets selloffs in March 2020. In response, the Federal Reserve (Fed)—sometimes with support from the Treasury Department—has established several emergency lending facilities to provide liquidity to key capital markets segments. As of the publication of this Insight, some markets that have announced Fed liquidity support appear to have begun to stabilize. This Insight discusses the changing capital markets conditions (Figure 1) using as examples, corporate bonds, money market mutual funds (MMFs), and municipal bonds....

The Disaster Relief Fund: Overview and Issues

The Disaster Relief Fund (DRF) is one of the most-tracked single accounts funded by Congress each year. Managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), it is the primary source of funding for the federal government’s domestic general disaster relief programs. These programs, authorized under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, as amended (42 U.S.C. 5121 et seq.), outline the federal role in supporting state, local, tribal, and territorial governments as they respond to and recover from a variety of incidents. They take effect in the event that...

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

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

Federal Student Loan Debt Relief in the Context of COVID-19

The Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA; P.L. 89-329, as amended) authorizes the operation of three federal student loan programs: the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) program, the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) program, and the Federal Perkins Loan program. As of December 31, 2019, $1.5 trillion in such loans, borrowed by or on behalf of 42.8 million individuals, remained outstanding. In response to the current coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, numerous questions have arisen regarding student loan repayment flexibilities and debt relief that may be...

SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Loans and Self-Employed Individuals

To provide short-term, economic relief to certain small businesses and nonprofits, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act; P.L. 116-136) created the Small Business Administration’s (SBA’s) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

On April 14, 2020, SBA issued an Interim Final Rule (IFR) detailing how the PPP will be applied in the case of self-employed individuals (e.g., sole proprietors and partnerships, with and without employees, and independent contractors). The IFR supplements SBA’s previously issued PPP rules and guidance that have been coordinated with the...

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

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

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

The 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...

Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Actions to Mitigate the Impact of COVID-19

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has broad regulatory authority over significant parts of the securities industry, including stock exchanges, mutual funds, investment advisers, bonds, publicly traded companies, and brokerage firms. The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has affected various areas within the SEC’s regulatory ambit. This Insight highlights selected tools that the agency has used to help mitigate those impacts.

Disclosure Relief

A foundational goal of federal securities laws is protecting investors, an objective significantly addressed through required periodic...

Precision-Guided Munitions: Background and Issues for Congress

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

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

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

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

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...

The Defense Production Act (DPA) and the COVID-19 Pandemic: Recent Developments and Policy Considerations

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Administration invoked the Defense Production Act of 1950 (DPA) on multiple occasions to facilitate the manufacture and distribution of medical equipment and supplies. The full extent of DPA implementation is unclear—to date, there have been six public announcements describing official DPA implementation actions.

This Insight describes recent DPA actions and reported implementation with regard to the COVID-19 pandemic, and discusses policy considerations for Congress. It is intended as a companion to CRS Insights IN11280 and IN11231. See CRS Report...

The National Cemetery Administration and Department of Defense Response to COVID-19 Regarding Funerals and Military Honors

Overview

The National Cemetery Administration (NCA), part of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), is responsible for providing interment benefits to eligible veterans and dependents and for administering America’s national veterans’ cemeteries. Veteran benefits for interment in a national cemetery include the gravesite and grave liner, opening and closing of the grave, government headstone or marker, U.S. burial flag, Presidential Memorial Certificate, and the perpetual care of the gravesite. These benefits are provided at no cost to the family.

NCA operates 142 national cemeteries...

Iran Sanctions

Successive Administrations have used economic sanctions to try to change Iran’s behavior. U.S. sanctions on Iran, which are primarily “secondary sanctions” on firms that conduct certain transactions with Iran, have adversely affected Iran’s economy. The sanctions arguably have not, to date, altered Iran’s pursuit of core strategic objectives including its support for regional armed factions and its development of missiles. Arguably, sanctions did contribute to Iran’s decision to enter into a 2015 agreement that put limits on its nuclear program.

During 2011-2015, the global community...

The Coronavirus Relief Fund (CARES Act, Title V): Background and State and Local Allocations

The sudden decline in economic output following the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak has significantly altered the fiscal outlook for state and local governments. A sizable share of economic output derives from state and local government activity. These governments are generally required to balance their operating budgets every one or two years. Early evidence suggests that the COVID-19 economic shock will have a notable impact on state and local budgets.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act; P.L. 116-136), signed into law on March 27, 2020, created...

COVID-19’s Effect on Interior Immigration Enforcement and Detention

In response to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, immigration authorities have altered interior immigration enforcement activities including arrests, detention, and immigration court proceedings. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) claims these efforts “have facilitated a speedy, whole-of-government response in confronting COVID-19, keeping Americans safe, and helping detect and slow the spread of the virus.” This Insight considers how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted interior immigration enforcement.

Background

DHS’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and...

Mortgage Provisions in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act

The COVID-19 pandemic has had wide-ranging impacts. With many households experiencing income disruptions, some may have difficulty making their mortgage or rent payments on their homes. An inability of tenants to pay rent can, in turn, impact the ability of landlords to remain current on any mortgage on the rental property.

On March 27, 2020, the President signed the CARES Act (P.L. 116-136) into law. Among many other provisions, it includes some intended to provide temporary relief for certain affected mortgage borrowers:

Section 4022 provides for forbearance and a foreclosure moratorium...

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...

Bank Exposure to COVID-19 Risks: Mortgages and Consumer Loans

The COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic has caused financial hardship across the country. If COVID-19 causes borrowers to miss payments, it could have negative consequences for banks. This Insight examines the exposure banks have to household repayments, such as mortgages, credit cards, auto loans, and other consumer debt.

The main business of a bank is to make loans and buy securities using funding it raises by taking deposits. A bank earns money largely through borrowers making payment on those loans and securities issuers making payment on securities, along with charging fees for certain...

The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS): An Overview

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

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

Limits on Business Interest Deductions Under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act

Thin capitalization rules, broadly, limit the amount of debt that can generate deductible interest for the purpose of calculating taxable income. Limits on the tax deduction for business interest restrictions have been relaxed by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (H.R. 748, as amended) providing economic stimulus and relief for taxpayers due to the expected slowdown of the economy because of the coronavirus pandemic. These restrictions, also referred to by their Internal Revenue Code Section 163(j), were expanded by the 2017 tax revision, P.L. 115-97.

Changes...

COVID-19: Commercial Paper Market Strains and Federal Government Support

What Is Commercial Paper and Why Is It Important?

As COVID-19 spread rapidly in the United States, fears of its economic effects led to strains in the commercial paper (CP) market, one of the main funding sources for many firms and for providers of credit to individuals. Commercial paper is short-term debt issued primarily by corporations and generally is unsecured. The CP market is an important source of short-term credit for a range of financial and nonfinancial businesses, who may rely on it as an alternative to bank loans—for example, in making payroll or for other short-term funding...

Federal Reserve: Monetary Policy Actions in Response to COVID-19

The Federal Reserve (Fed) has taken a number of steps to promote economic and financial stability in response to the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19). This Insight covers actions related to monetary policy—actions intended to lower interest rates or increase overall liquidity. Due to the severity of economic disruption, actions that increase overall liquidity have not been sufficient to maintain financial stability, and the Fed has also directly lent to firms and purchased private securities. Direct Fed lending and other financial assistance in response to COVID-19 is covered in CRS Insight...

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.

The SBA received $239 million in regular appropriations for its management and training programs in FY2020. In addition, P.L. 116-136, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), among other provisions, appropriated $265 million for...

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Funding in the CARES Act (P.L. 116-136)

Enacted March 27, 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (P.L. 116-136) provides supplemental appropriations for the Department of the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, which includes the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Title VII in Division B provides a total of $7.23 million within four of EPA’s 10 appropriations accounts to “prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus, domestically or internationally.” The appropriation supplements EPA’s total FY2020 enacted appropriations of $9.36 billion included in the Further Consolidated...

Libya: Conflict, 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 a uprising ended the 40-plus-year rule of Muammar al Qadhafi in 2011, interim authorities proved unable to form a stable government, address security issues, reshape the country’s finances, or create a viable framework for post-conflict justice and reconciliation. Insecurity spread as local armed groups competed for influence and resources. Qadhafi compounded stabilization challenges by depriving Libyans of experience in self-government,...

Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery: Responsibilities, Authority, and Appointment

The Coronavirus Aid, Recovery, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was enacted on March 27, 2020 (P.L. 116-136). The CARES Act provides over $2 trillion in relief to individuals; businesses; state, local, and tribal government; federal agencies; and industry sectors impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to these relief programs, Congress included a variety of provisions to facilitate transparency and oversight in the implementation of the CARES Act. Among these actions was the creation of a Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery (SIGPR). The SIGPR is similar in purpose and...

COVID-19 and U.S. Iran Policy

Overview

The spread in Iran of COVID-19 (the disease caused by the virus SARS-CoV-2) has raised questions about the possible effects of U.S. policy on the capacity of Iran to cope with the outbreak. Since May 2018, when the Trump Administration withdrew the United States from the 2015 multilateral Iran nuclear agreement (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, JCPOA), the Administration has reimposed all U.S. sanctions that were in place prior to that agreement and added further sanctions. The U.S. sanctions target virtually every economic sector in Iran, but at least technically exempt...

Domestic Violence in the Context of COVID-19

Domestic violence (DV), also referred to as intimate partner violence, affects approximately one-third of women and men over their lifetimes in the United States. Empirical research and anecdotal information from organizations that serve DV victims indicate that disasters and emergencies can heighten the frequency and severity of abuse. This Insight provides background about DV in the context of COVID-19 and the current federal response to supporting victims, primarily through the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA), Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), and Victims of Crime...

Pandemic Weakening Milk Prices; Industry Calls for Policy Action

Milk price prospects for U.S. dairy producers in 2020 have weakened as the U.S. economy deteriorates under the expanding Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. The year began with a positive outlook for the dairy industry that included higher milk prices and increased income for dairy producers in 2020, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The dairy industry has gone through several years of relatively low milk prices, leading some dairy farms to exit the industry and two large dairy processors to file for bankruptcy. In 2019, according to USDA, the number of licensed...

Effects of COVID-19 on the Federal Research and Development Enterprise

The federal research and development (R&D) enterprise is a large and complex system that includes government facilities and employees as well as federally funded work in industry, academia, and the nonprofit sector. The nation’s response to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic is affecting the federal R&D enterprise, and the federal government and others are trying to address those effects. A number of congressional and other policy issues may arise as the situation develops.

Implementation of social distancing guidelines had led many laboratories and R&D projects to close....

Federal Telework During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Cybersecurity Issues in Brief

The novel coronavirus outbreak and subsequent pandemic has led government and industry to take significant actions in order to protect their workers and the population. One of those actions is encouraging the use of social distancing to stymie infections (e.g., being six feet apart from another person). One way individuals are accomplishing that order is through working outside the office. [To Suppress] Search Terms: Telework Remote work Cybersecurity Federal Information Security Modernization Act FISMA Virtual Private Network VPN SPAM Phishing Malware Cybersecurity and Infrastructure...

Timber Harvesting on Federal Lands

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

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

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...

U.S. Travel and Tourism and COVID-19

With the spread of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, many flights have been canceled, widespread travel bans have been put in place, and more quarantine and stay-at-home orders are in effect. This has sharply reduced domestic and international travel, prompting businesses across the U.S. travel sectors to ask the U.S. government for financial assistance. For Congress, this raises questions about the likely economic effects of COVID-19 on travel and tourism and the level of support warranted for some industry segments that may quickly recover once the pandemic subsides and...

Federal Communications Commission: Progress Protecting Consumers from Illegal Robocalls

The number of robocalls continues to grow in the United States, and the figures tend to fluctuate based on the introduction of new government and industry attempts to stop them and robocallers’ changing tactics to thwart those attempts (see Figure). In 2019, U.S. consumers received 58.5 billion robocalls, an increase of 22% from the 47.8 billion received in 2018, according to the YouMail Robocall Index. In 2016, the full first year the Robocall Index was tabulated, that figure was 29.1 billion calls—half the number of calls in 2019. Further, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)...

Unemployment Insurance: Legislative Issues in the 116th Congress

The 116th Congress recently enacted benefits related to two unemployment insurance (UI) programs: Unemployment Compensation (UC) and Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA). Congress has continued to consider modifications to these two programs within the federal-state UI system to provide weekly income replacement for individuals unavailable to work or unemployed as a result of COVID-19.

On March 18, 2020, President Trump signed P.L. 116-127 (H.R. 6201), the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, into law. The UI provisions in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act provide various...

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

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

Border Barriers Under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama

In the decade prior to President Trump’s election, Congress had appropriated almost $2.5 billion to U.S. Customs and Border Protection...

COVID-19: The Drug Enforcement Administration’s Regulatory Role

The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has caused strain on many health care and medical facilities around the country, and some doctors and pharmacists have altered conventional practice to accommodate the needs of patients during this public health emergency. Changed practices include maintaining increased supplies of Schedule II controlled substances needed for intubation at hospitals and increasing the use of telemedicine as an alternative to in-person patient visits with a provider. Such changes require the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to make exceptions to...

Cryptocurrency: The Economics of Money and Selected Policy Issues

Cryptocurrencies are digital money in electronic payment systems that generally do not require government backing or the involvement of an intermediary, such as a bank. Instead, users of the system validate payments using certain protocols. Since the 2008 invention of the first cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, cryptocurrencies have proliferated. In recent years, they experienced a rapid increase and subsequent decrease in value. One estimate found that, as of March 2020, there were more than 5,100 different cryptocurrencies worth about $231 billion. Given this rapid growth and volatility,...

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

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

CARES Act Eviction Moratorium

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted business operations nationwide, leading to dramatic job losses that threaten the ability of many to meet their financial obligations, including housing rental payments. To aid individuals and businesses harmed by the pandemic, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (P.L. 116-136).

Section 4024 of the CARES Act provides a temporary moratorium on eviction filings as well as other protections for tenants in certain rental properties with federal assistance or federally related financing. These protections are designed...

Fishery Disaster Assistance

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

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

Bureau of Reclamation Rural Water Projects

Congress has authorized projects and programs through various federal agencies to address water supply needs. Since 1980, Congress has authorized the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation), among other agencies, to develop municipal and industrial (M&I) water supply projects in rural areas and on tribal lands. Congress has authorized these projects, known as rural water supply projects, for several locations throughout the West.

From 1980 through 2009, Congress authorized Reclamation to undertake the design and construction, and sometimes the operations and maintenance (O&M), of specific...

Section 232 Investigations: Overview and Issues for Congress

President Trump has used Section 232 authority to apply new tariffs to steel and aluminum imports and potentially to imports of automobiles and automobile parts. 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 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.” Congress has interest in Section 232...

Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations In Brief

U.S.-Turkey tensions have raised questions about the future of bilateral relations and have led to congressional action against Turkey, including the specter of possible sanctions. Nevertheless, both countries’ officials emphasize the importance of continued U.S.-Turkey cooperation and Turkey’s membership in NATO. Observers voice concerns about the largely authoritarian rule of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. They also question how he can govern a polarized electorate and deal with the foreign actors who can affect Turkey’s regional security and financial solvency. The global...

COVID-19: Support for Mortgage Lenders and Servicers

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has affected the economy in numerous ways. Many states have issued some variation of a lockdown, restricting when citizens can leave their home and limiting business operations to critical services, such as groceries or pharmacies. Many businesses have closed operations, while others have reduced their workforce considerably. As a result, jobless claims have increased since the outbreak, leaving many consumers struggling to meet their financial obligations. One of the most significant financial obligations consumers are struggling to meet is their...

The CARES Act (P.L. 116-136): Provisions Designed to Help Banks and Credit Unions

Individuals and businesses have significantly reduced economic activity in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, potentially inflicting unanticipated losses on banks and credit unions and possibly putting them in financial distress. Because these institutions are vital to the functioning of the economy, the government has created “safety nets” to prevent them from failing and to protect depositors. To reduce the likelihood that these safety nets need to be used, the depository regulators have implemented “safety and soundness” regulations, which include rules related to banks’...

Funding for HUD in the CARES Act

Division B of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act; P.L. 116-136) provided $12.4 billion in additional FY2020 funding for several Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) programs and activities. The funds are generally for one of three broad purposes: to provide additional resources to meet emerging needs, to support existing rental assistance programs, or to provide additional administrative capacity and oversight. Three-quarters of the funding can be considered new resources to meet emerging needs, with most of the remaining funding supporting...

The Federal Role in Historic Preservation: An Overview

During the 20th century, Congress passed several laws that established a framework for federal historic preservation activities. The most comprehensive of these statutes is the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (NHPA; P.L. 89-665). NHPA created a grant program for state historic preservation, established the federal National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) and the procedures by which historic properties are placed on the Register, funded the National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP), established the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP), and designated a...

Business Deductions for Entertainment and Meals

Congress has passed several laws in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including, most recently, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (P.L. 116-136), which—among its many purposes—provides tax relief to individuals and businesses. Several of the CARES Act’s business tax relief provisions were accomplished by temporarily rolling back restrictions on net operating losses and interest deductions that were enacted as part of P.L. 115-97 (sometimes referred to as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act or TCJA). As Congress continues to assess the need for further responses, it may...

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 funds the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a semiautonomous agency within DOE. NNSA operates three programs: Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation, Naval Reactors, and Weapons Activities. The last is the subject of this report.

The Weapons Activities account supports programs that maintain U.S. nuclear missile warheads and...

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...

Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) Increase Available for Title IV-E Foster Care and Permanency Payments

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (P.L. 116-127) authorizes increased federal funding to states through a 6.2 percentage point increase in the federal medical assistance percentage (FMAP), also known as the Medicaid matching rate. This expanded federal support is available to states that meet specific Medicaid program requirements and is made effective retroactive to January 1, 2020, the first day of the calendar year quarter in which the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services declared a public health emergency. The increase is to remain in place until the last day of the...

State Broadband Initiatives: Selected State and Local Approaches as Potential Models for Federal Initiatives to Address the Digital Divide

Access to high-speed internet, known as broadband, is becoming increasingly essential to daily life as more applications and activities move online. This has become particularly apparent during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, as employers in some sectors transitioned their workers from on-site work to telework and schools migrated their students from classrooms to distance learning. These shifts may seem clear-cut, but many areas of the United States—particularly rural areas—have either limited or no access to broadband infrastructure. Additionally there are citizens in areas with...

COVID-19: China Medical Supply Chains and Broader Trade Issues

The outbreak of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), first in China, and then globally, including in the United States, is drawing attention to the ways in which the U.S. economy depends on manufacturing and supply chains based in China. This report aims to assess current developments and identify immediate and longer range China trade issues for Congress.

An area of particular concern to Congress is U.S. shortages in medical supplies—including personal protective equipment (PPE) and pharmaceuticals—as the United States steps up efforts to contain COVID-19 with limited domestic stockpiles...

Are Start-ups Eligible for the SBA’s New Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Loans?

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act; P.L. 116-136), among other provisions, created the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Under the PPP, a lender may provide “covered loans” to assist small businesses (defined as either businesses that have 500 or fewer employees or that meet the general size standards under the Small Business Act), small 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations, and small 501(c)(19) veterans organizations that have been adversely affected by COVID-19. These covered loans—also known as PPP loans—have

a 100% Small Business Administration (SBA) loan...

GSA’s Federal Supply Schedule: Programs for State and Local Governments

Under certain circumstances, state and local governments may use the Federal Supply Schedule (FSS), established and maintained by the General Services Administration (GSA), to purchase goods or services. One such circumstance is the declaration of a public health emergency by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, which occurred on January 31, 2020, regarding COVID-19. The four supply-schedule-related purchasing programs available to state and local governments are the Cooperative Purchasing Program, the Disaster Purchasing Program, the Public Health Emergencies Program, and the 1122...

Federal Traffic Safety Programs: In Brief

In 2018 over 36,000 people died in motor vehicle crashes, and over 3 million were injured. The estimated cost of motor vehicle crashes is over $800 billion annually. The number of deaths and the fatality rate declined from 2007-2014, but have risen since then. The federal government promotes highway safety in several ways. Opportunities exist for federal initiatives that would improve highway safety.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, FMCSA, NHTSA, motorcoach, highway safety, traffic safety, seat belts, motorcycles, helmets, vehicle...

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

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

Bureau of Reclamation: History, Authorities, and Issues for Congress

The Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation), an agency within the Department of the Interior (DOI), is responsible for the management and development of many of the large federal dams and water diversion structures in the 17 conterminous states west of the Mississippi River. Reclamation is the country’s largest wholesaler of water and the country’s second-largest producer of hydropower (behind the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers). Reclamation facilities store up to 140 million acre-feet of water, which serves more than 10 million acres of farmland and 31 million municipal and industrial...

COVID-19 and Stock Market Stress

Induced by the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, the longest U.S. stock market bull run of 11 years ended in mid-March, the quickest drawdown on record (Figure 1). The market subsequently rebounded, responding to the $2 trillion coronavirus relief package (P.L. 116-136). The swing of stock prices has created unprecedented volatility, a risk metric that measures the degree of price dispersion. This Insight explains the function of the U.S. stock market, the different ways to view stock pricing, and how certain pandemic-induced conditions could affect policymaking. The Securities...

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. The UK’s January 2020 withdrawal from the European Union (EU) is likely to change its international role and outlook in ways that affect U.S.-UK relations.

Conservative Party Wins December 2019 Election

The government of the UK is led by...

Multiemployer Defined Benefit (DB) Pension Plans: A Primer

Multiemployer defined benefit (DB) pension plans are private-sector pensions sponsored by more than one employer and maintained as part of a collective bargaining agreement. In 2017, about 3% of all DB pension plans, covering 29% of all DB pension plan participants, were multiemployer plans. Nearly all of the remaining DB pension plans were maintained by a single employer. A few DB pension plans were maintained by more than one employer but were not maintained under a collective bargaining agreement. In DB pension plans, participants receive a monthly benefit in retirement that is based on...

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...

Direct Federal Support of Individuals Pursuing Training and Education in Non-degree Programs

Recent Administrations and Congress have demonstrated bipartisan support for increasing federal assistance to individuals pursuing training and education in postsecondary non-degree programs, sometimes referred to as short-term programs. Non-degree programs are postsecondary training and education programs that are most often shorter in duration than a bachelor’s or associate’s degree program. They generally provide work-based learning or educational instruction to individuals who are beyond the typical age for secondary education to prepare them for a particular occupation. Examples of...

COVID-19: The Basics of Domestic Defense Response

As the COVID-19 pandemic has unfolded, Congress has considered how the Department of Defense (DOD) might support the U.S. government’s domestic response. Below are the funding, authorities, and descriptions of potential ways DOD might further contribute. Links in this product connect to more detailed information on the highlighted subjects.

President Donald J. Trump declared a U.S. national emergency on March 13, 2020. On Friday, March 20, the Federal Emergency Management Agency assumed the lead agency role in the Coronavirus Task Force under the National Response Framework (NRF) for...

The National Consortium of Telehealth Resource Centers: COVID-19 Assistance

On January 31, 2020, the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) declared Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) a Public Health Emergency (PHE). During this public health emergency, the Secretary of HHS has taken action to encourage the use of telehealth. Telehealth generally refers to a health care provider’s use of information and communication technology in the delivery of clinical and nonclinical health care services. The use of telehealth during public health emergencies can assist health care professionals with, for example, reserving in-person care for patients...

Federal Conspiracy Law: A Brief Overview

Zacarias Moussaoui, members of the Colombian drug cartels, members of organized crime, and some of the former Enron executives have at least one thing in common: they all have federal conspiracy convictions. The essence of conspiracy is an agreement of two or more persons to engage in some form of prohibited conduct. The crime is complete upon agreement, although some statutes require prosecutors to show that at least one of the conspirators has taken some concrete step or committed some overt act in furtherance of the scheme. There are dozens of federal conspiracy statutes. One, 18 U.S.C....

Federal Conspiracy Law: An Abbreviated Overview

Zacarias Moussaoui, members of the Colombian drug cartels, members of organized crime, and some of the former Enron executives have at least one thing in common: they all have federal conspiracy convictions. The essence of conspiracy is an agreement of two or more persons to engage in some form of prohibited conduct. The crime is complete upon agreement, although some statutes require prosecutors to show that at least one of the conspirators has taken some concrete step or committed some overt act in furtherance of the scheme. There are dozens of federal conspiracy statutes. One, 18 U.S.C....

U.S. Gasoline Prices: No Driving, No Benefits to Consumers

Prices Plummet

The collapse of crude oil prices is having consequences throughout the U.S. and global economies. For consumers, the effects of the price decline are felt nowhere more than in the price of gasoline. Gasoline is made from crude oil through the refining process, and the current decline in crude oil prices are a significant factor to the decrease in gasoline prices (Figure 1). There are four main components to retail gasoline prices according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA): 51% comes from crude oil prices, 20% from taxes, 18% from marketing and distribution...

COVID-19: Defense Support of Civil Authorities

The U.S. military has a long history of providing support to civil authorities, particularly in response to disasters or emergencies (examples include responding to yellow fever epidemics in 1873 and 1878). The Department of Defense (DOD) defines defense support of civil authorities as “Support provided by U.S. Federal military forces, DOD civilians, DOD contract personnel, DOD Component assets, and National Guard forces (when the Secretary of Defense, in coordination with the Governors of the affected States, elects and requests to use those forces in Title 32, U.S.C., status) in response...

Title IV Provisions of the CARES Act (P.L. 116-136)

Economic conditions have deteriorated rapidly in the past few weeks, as the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has caused many businesses and public institutions to limit or close their operations, increasing financial hardship for many Americans due to layoffs or time off of work due to illness. COVID-19’s effect on the airline industry has been one of many areas of interest for Congress.

On March 27, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was signed into law as P.L. 116-136. The act contains a number of provisions aimed broadly at stabilizing the economy...

The Crime Victims Fund: Federal Support for Victims of Crime

In 1984, the Crime Victims Fund (CVF, or the Fund) was established by the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA, P.L. 98-473) to provide funding for state victim compensation and assistance programs. Since 1984, VOCA has been amended several times to support additional victim-related activities including (1) discretionary grants for private organizations, (2) the Federal Victim Notification System, (3) funding for victim assistance staff within the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys, (4) funding for the Children’s Justice Act Program, (5) assistance and...

U.S. Indictment of Top Venezuelan Officials

On March 26, 2020, Attorney General William Barr announced the indictment of Venezuela’s leader, Nicolás Maduro (whom the United States does not recognize as Venezuela’s legitimate president), and other current and former high-ranking Venezuelan officials. As charged, Maduro allegedly participated in the Cartel of the Suns drug trafficking organization in conspiracy with the Colombian terrorist organization, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), to produce and traffic illicit drugs to the United States.

Maduro’s indictment marks an escalation in U.S. efforts since January...

Tracking China’s Global Economic Activities: Data Challenges and Issues for Congress

The People’s Republic of China (PRC or China) has significantly increased its overseas investments since launching its “Go Global Strategy” in 1999 in an effort to support the overseas expansion of Chinese firms and make them more globally competitive. Since then, these firms—many of which are closely tied to the Chinese government—have acquired foreign assets and capabilities and pledged billions of dollars to develop infrastructure abroad. As a result, many in Congress and the Trump Administration are focusing on the critical implications of China’s growing global economic reach for U.S....

COVID-19 Congressional Oversight Commission (COC)

On March 27, 2020, President Donald Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) into law (P.L. 116-136). Section 4020 of Title IV, Subtitle A, the Coronavirus Economic Stabilization Act of 2020, established a five-member Congressional Oversight Commission (COC) as one of several oversight mechanisms. The COC is to “conduct oversight of the implementation of this subtitle by the Department of the Treasury and the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System,” report to Congress on the Treasury Secretary’s and the Federal Reserve Board of Governors’...

The CARES Act (P.L. 116-136) Section 4008: FDIC Bank Debt Guarantee Authority

Section 4008 of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES; P.L. 116-136) authorizes the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) to guarantee certain deposits that are not eligible for regular FDIC deposit insurance due to the existing $250,000 per account insurance limit. This broadens FDIC authority from Section 1105 of P.L. 111-203 (Dodd-Frank Act) to establish a program that would guarantee bank debt in the event of a financial liquidity crisis. Section 4008 also preemptively grants the requisite congressional approval for any such program needed to respond to...

The New START Treaty: Central Limits and Key Provisions

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

New START provides the...

Iraqi and Afghan Special Immigrant Visa Programs

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

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

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

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

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

The Navy has been developing SSLs for several years, and in 2014 installed on a Navy ship its first prototype SSL capable of countering surface craft and UAVs. The Navy since then has been...

The Economic Development Administration and the CARES Act (P.L. 116-136)

States and communities will be able to apply for funding from the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration (EDA) to plan and implement economic recovery strategies in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act; P.L. 116-136) includes $1.5 billion for EDA to administer grants through its established Economic Adjustment Assistance (EAA) program. For years the EAA has been used to address ongoing economic restructuring needs. In FY2018 and FY2019, Congress used the EAA to fund economic recovery and resiliency...

COVID-19: The Potential Role of TANF in Addressing the Economic Effects

The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant provides grants to the 50 states, District of Columbia, American Indian tribes, and certain territories with the broad purpose of ameliorating and addressing root causes of childhood economic disadvantage. Some of the flexibility the block grant affords to states has been used, and augmented by federal legislation, to address the fallout from Hurricane Katrina and the deep economic recession of 2007-2009.

Overview of TANF

TANF was created by the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA,...

Support for Homeless Youth in the Context of COVID-19: A Brief Overview

The federal government provides targeted support for homeless teens and young adults primarily through the Runaway and Homeless Youth (RHY) program, administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). As part of the federal response to COVID-19, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act, P.L. 116-136) includes provisions relevant to the RHY program. The CARES Act also includes provisions for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD’s) Youth Homelessness Demonstration Grant and for Department of Education (ED) supports for...

“Technical Corrections” to Tax Reform

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

Adding Countries to the Visa Waiver Program: Effects on National Security and Tourism

The Visa Waiver Program (VWP), which allows citizens of certain countries to visit the United States for up to three months without a visa, has two explicit missions: to enhance national security and to boost the U.S. travel and tourism sectors. On November 8, 2019, the United States designated Poland into the VWP, bringing the number of participating countries to 39. A concern for Congress is whether the VWP exposes the United States to security threats, despite implementation of strict security requirements over recent years. At the same time, because of longstanding congressional...

DHS Budget Request Analysis: FY2021

On February 10, 2020, the Donald J. Trump Administration released their budget request for FY2021, including a $75.84 billion budget request for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

DHS is the third largest agency in the federal government in terms of personnel. The appropriations bill that funds it—providing $70 billion in FY2020—is the seventh largest of the twelve annual funding measures developed by the appropriations committees, and is the only appropriations bill that funds a single agency in its entirety and nothing else.

This report provides an overview of the FY2021 budget...

Low Oil Prices and U.S. Oil Producers: Policy Considerations

Global oil prices have declined nearly 60% since January 2020 (see Figure 1). Following a brief period of geopolitically-driven upward price pressure resulting from events in Iraq and Libya, world oil supply/demand balances were projected to be oversupplied by the second quarter of 2020. Reduced travel and other economic impacts related to the evolving COVID-19 outbreak are suppressing near-term oil demand. Oversupply expectations were amplified when the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and a group of non-OPEC countries (OPEC+), including Russia, failed to agree on...

COVID-19: Potential Impacts on the Electric Power Sector

The COVID-19 pandemic could impact the electric power sector directly (e.g., illness in the workforce) or indirectly (e.g., reduced economic activity caused by responses by governments, businesses, and the public at large). In the near-term (i.e., the next few weeks), most impacts will likely be caused by reduced economic activity. Long-term impacts are highly uncertain and likely depend on the pandemic’s ultimate toll on U.S. public health and the economy.

Potential impacts include reduced electricity demand, electric reliability risks, reduced utility bill payments, and delayed or...

Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act: CRS Experts

The following two tables provide points of contact for CRS’s congressional clients with specific questions regarding the particular authorities and appropriations in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act; P.L. 116-136). This report is intended as a companion to other CRS products on the COVID-19 response efforts, many of which can be found on the CRS Coronavirus Disease 2019 resource page.

Separate tables are provided for each division of the CARES Act: Division A, which includes significant expansions in small business lending, unemployment insurance, tax...

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

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

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

NATO: Key Issues Following the 2019 Leaders’ Meeting

Heads of state and government from NATO’s 30 member states met in London, United Kingdom (UK), on December 3-4, 2019. Two key goals for the meeting were to commemorate the alliance’s past achievements—2019 marks NATO’s 70th anniversary—and to advance efforts to address new and emerging security challenges, including Russian aggression, terrorism and instability in the Middle East and North Africa, and cyber and hybrid threats. The meeting also exposed heightened political tension within the alliance and divergent views on a range of issues, including U.S. policy toward NATO and Europe,...

Senior Nutrition Programs’ Response to COVID-19

Many older adults rely on federally funded programs that provide nutrition and other supportive services in order to live independently in their communities. Amidst the ongoing Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, older adults as well as those with certain chronic conditions are at higher risk for severe illness if infected with the virus. Guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that older adults stay home, among other precautions. Some state and local officials have issued more stringent guidance that older adults self-isolate at home or...

Temporary Protected Status: Overview and Current Issues

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

USDA Domestic Food Assistance Programs’ Response to COVID-19: P.L. 116-127, P.L. 116-136, and Related Efforts

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) programs are often part of emergency response efforts, providing program flexibilities, foods for distribution, and benefits for redemption. Emergencies generate different FNS responses, which can vary with states’ requests. During the COVID-19 pandemic, access to food—particularly in light of school closures—has been a concern for many. Some also view the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) as a force for economic stimulus. This Insight discusses related provisions of the second and third COVID-19...

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. BMD-capable Aegis ships operate in European waters to defend Europe from potential ballistic missile attacks from countries such as Iran, and in in the Western Pacific and the Persian Gulf to provide regional defense against potential ballistic missile attacks from countries such as North Korea and Iran. Under the FY2021 budget submission, the number of BMD-capable Navy Aegis ships is...

COVID-19: The Financial Industry and Consumers Struggling to Pay Bills

A growing number of cases of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) have been identified in the United States, significantly impacting many communities. For background on the coronavirus, see CRS In Focus IF11421, COVID-19: Global Implications and Responses, by Sara M. Tharakan et al. While this situation is evolving rapidly, the economic impact may be large due to illnesses, quarantines, and other business disruptions.

Consequently, many Americans may lose income and face financial hardship due to the coronavirus outbreak. This Insight focuses on regulatory and policy responses relating to...

Business Interruption Insurance and COVID-19

The economic disruption from the COVID-19 pandemic has led businesses and policymakers to ask whether insurance should cover associated losses. The loss of income from mandatory or voluntary closures, supply chain disruptions, and reduced demand due to social distancing measures may induce businesses of all sizes to seek compensation from insurers.

Commercial Property Insurance

Most businesses carry commercial property insurance, including coverage for damage to their building and contents due to a covered cause, such as a fire or windstorm. Such insurance may also cover loss of income...

Federal Reserve: Recent Actions in Response to COVID-19

Coronavirus (COVID-19) has created significant economic disruption. In response, the Federal Reserve (Fed) has taken a number of steps to promote economic and financial stability involving the Fed’s monetary policy and “lender of last resort” roles. Some of these actions are intended to stimulate economic activity by reducing interest rates and others are intended to provide liquidity to financial markets so that firms have access to needed funding.

Actions to Lower Interest Rates

Federal Funds Rate

Traditionally, the Fed conducts monetary policy by changing the federal funds rate, the...

Trade Remedies: Antidumping

The U.S. Constitution grants to Congress the power to regulate trade with foreign nations and levy tariffs. Since 1922, U.S. law and foreign policy have favored applying tariffs and duties equally to all trading partners. This principle, known as most-favored-nation (MFN) treatment, has been central to the rules-based global trading system since 1947.

One of the most frequently invoked exceptions to MFN treatment are three “trade remedy” laws. These laws are enforced primarily through administrative investigations of two U.S. government agencies: the International Trade Administration of...

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

The Navy in FY2021 and beyond wants to develop and procure three types of large unmanned vehicles (UVs). These large UVs are called Large Unmanned Surface Vehicles (LUSVs), Medium Unmanned Surface Vehicles (MUSVs), and Extra-Large Unmanned Undersea Vehicles (XLUUVs). The Navy is requesting $579.9 million in FY2021 research and development funding for these large UVs and their enabling technologies.

The Navy wants to acquire these large UVs as part of an effort to shift the Navy to a more distributed fleet architecture. Compared to the current fleet architecture, this more distributed...

Major Votes on Free Trade Agreements and Trade Promotion Authority

Through Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), Congress has delegated authority to the President to negotiate free trade agreements (FTAs). This authority requires congressional approval (through implementation legislation) of comprehensive FTAs. Since 1979, Congress has passed 17 implementation measures for FTAs and multilateral trade agreements. The majority of these trade agreements—including the recent United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) — were considered in Congress under TPA, which provides for expedited consideration of FTAs in Congress. Since 1979, Congress has passed six...

COVID-19 and the Defense Industrial Base: DOD Response and Legislative Considerations

The Department of Defense (DOD) relies on a defense industrial base (DIB) for the products and services that enable DOD’s warfighting capabilities. The DIB includes private-sector commercial companies ranging in size from small businesses to some of the world’s largest enterprises—all of which have been impacted by the economic pressures associated with the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. For additional related resources, see the CRS COVID-19 homepage.

Critical Infrastructure and the DIB

The DIB is considered essential to U.S. national security, and to be part of U.S....

Public Transportation and Amtrak Funding in the CARES Act (P.L. 116-136)

On March 27, 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) Act (P.L. 116-136) was signed into law. Included in the act is a $25 billion appropriation from the general fund of the U.S. Treasury for public transportation agencies and another $1 billion for Amtrak. This emergency funding would support agencies in the midst of an unprecedented decline in ridership due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, the Washington Area Metropolitan Transit Authority has reported that in late March 2020 its rail ridership is down about 90% on a daily basis compared with equivalent...

Federal Reserve: Emergency Lending

The 2007-2009 financial crisis led the Federal Reserve (Fed) to revive an obscure provision found in Section 13(3) of the Federal Reserve Act (12 U.S.C. 344) to extend credit to nonbank financial firms for the first time since the 1930s. Section 13(3) provides the Fed with greater flexibility than its normal lending authority. Using this authority, the Fed created six broadly based facilities (of which only five were used) to provide liquidity to “primary dealers” (certain large investment firms) and to revive demand for commercial paper and asset-backed securities. More controversially,...

NASA Appropriations and Authorizations: A Fact Sheet

Congressional deliberations about the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) often focus on the availability of funding. This fact sheet provides data on past and current NASA appropriations, as well as the President’s budget request for FY2021. It will be updated as warranted to reflect congressional action on FY2021 appropriations and authorizations of appropriations.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration NASA budget NASA appropriations NASA authorization NASA reauthorization NASA funding NASA congressional budget justification NASA budget request NASA operating...

Earth Day: Fact Sheet

Earth Day is an annual event to raise awareness about environmental issues. It was first held on April 22, 1970, and marks its 50th anniversary in 2020. This fact sheet assists congressional offices with work related to Earth Day. It contains historical information, links to legislation, sample speeches and remarks from the Congressional Record, presidential proclamations and statements, and web resources.

Fostering Behavior Change During Disease Outbreaks: Insights from Ebola Response in Africa

The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted governments worldwide to seek to change behaviors on a mass scale to stem new infections. (Click here for CRS resources on COVID-19.) The challenges and successes of analogous efforts during the two largest Ebola outbreaks to date—in West Africa (2014-2016), and in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), starting in 2018 and now seemingly waning—may offer lessons for current efforts to contain COVID-19, even though the two viruses differ in significant ways.

Dubbed by some a “disease of social intimacy,” Ebola is transmitted through direct contact...

Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Processing Changes Due to COVID-19: In Brief

As federal agencies adjust their operations in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, activities related to the processing and release of government information are also changing. Agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation within the Department of Justice, the U.S. Postal Service, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention within the Department of Health and Human Services, among others, have announced changes to their processing of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests due to the pandemic.

Government information requests through FOIA may be impacted by COVID-19 in two...

Demographic and Social Characteristics of Persons in Poverty: 2018

This report provides a snapshot of the characteristics of the poor in the United States in 2018. It shows that people from families whose income falls below the federal poverty thresholds represent a diverse subset of the overall population.

There were 38.1 million people living below the federal poverty level in 2018, representing 11.8% of the total population.

Nearly half (45.3%) of all people in poverty lived in deep poverty (with income below 50% of the poverty threshold).

The largest share of people in poverty were non-Hispanic white (41.2%) but the majority were not. Almost all...

COVID-19 and Regulation of Public Drinking Water

During infectious disease outbreaks, questions regarding public water supplies may emerge, as a safe and adequate water supply is a key component to protecting public health. As the United States and other countries respond to the outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), questions may arise regarding the potential for the COVID-19 virus to be present in public water supplies.

The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the COVID-19 virus has not been detected in drinking water. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced that “Americans can...

Voting and Quorum Procedures in the House of Representatives

The Constitution requires that a quorum, defined as a majority of the House, be present on the floor when the House transacts business. The House, however, always presumes that a quorum is present unless and until its absence is demonstrated conclusively. The rules of the House strictly limit the occasions on which a Representative may make a point of order that a quorum is not present. In current practice, Members usually make such a point of order only when a vote is taking place. If a majority of the Members fails to respond to a quorum call or participate in an electronically recorded...

COVID-19: State and Local Shut-Down Orders and Exemptions for Critical Infrastructure

Since the onset of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic in the United States, public officials have issued numerous emergency directives closing non-essential businesses and facilities and instructing non-essential workers to stay home. However, these directives have generally included exemptions for essential businesses and other facilities if they are part of a critical infrastructure sector or provide essential services.

Some business leaders have invoked federal authorities and guidelines when contesting state or local orders that would affect their operations....

Voting and Quorum Procedures in the Senate

The Constitution states that “a Majority of each [House] shall constitute a quorum to do business.” The Senate presumes that it is complying with this requirement and that a quorum is always present unless and until the absence of a quorum is suggested or demonstrated. This presumption allows the Senate to conduct its business on the floor with fewer than 51 Senators present until a Senator “suggests the absence of a quorum.”

Except when the Senate has invoked cloture, the presiding officer may not count to determine if a quorum is present. When the absence of a quorum is suggested,...

Forest Service Assistance Programs

Congress has established several forestry assistance programs within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to support the management of state and private forests. These programs are under the jurisdiction of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees, which often examine them in the periodic legislation to reauthorize agricultural programs, commonly known as farm bills. For example, in the 2018 farm bill (Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018; P.L. 115-334), Congress reauthorized and modified existing programs and established some new forestry assistance programs.

Forestry assistance...

COVID-19 and Direct Payments to Individuals: Estimated Impact of Recovery Rebates in H.R. 748 on Family Incomes

H.R. 748 (CARES Act), as passed by the Senate on March 25, 2020, includes many provisions designed to provide emergency relief to the economy in response to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. One such provision of H.R. 748 is the “2020 recovery rebate,” a direct payment made to individuals. Similar “recovery rebates” were sent to individuals in response to the 2001 and 2008 recessions. Several Members of Congress have recently proposed varying forms of direct payment, and two earlier versions of the CARES Act (S. 3548 and a draft circulated on March 22, 2020) also included a direct...

Arms Control and Nonproliferation: A Catalog of Treaties and Agreements

Arms control and nonproliferation efforts are two of the tools that the United States has occasionally used to implement its 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 others 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...

The Employment-Based Immigration Backlog

Currently in the United States, almost 1 million lawfully present foreign workers and their family members have been approved for, and are waiting to receive, lawful permanent resident (LPR) status (a green card). This employment-based backlog is projected to double by FY2030. It exists because the number of foreign workers whom U.S. employers sponsor for green cards each year exceeds the annual statutory green card allocation. In addition to this numerical limit, a statutory 7% per-country ceiling prevents the monopolization of employment-based green cards by a few countries.

For...

Agriculture and Related Agencies: FY2020 Appropriations

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

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

Data Flows, Online Privacy, and Trade Policy

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

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

COVID-19: Industrial Mobilization and Defense Production Act (DPA) Implementation

On March 18, President Trump issued Executive Order 13909, Prioritizing and Allocating Health and Medical Resources to Respond to the Spread of COVID–19, which announced the President’s invocation of the Defense Production Act of 1950 (DPA) in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The administration has yet to publicly provide direction to the private sector under this authority.

This Insight considers possible future DPA implementation processes, industrial mobilization, and congressional considerations concerning the COVID-19 pandemic, and is a companion to CRS Insight IN11231. See CRS...

Concurrent Receipt of Military Retired Pay and Veteran Disability: Background and Issues for Congress

Concurrent receipt in the military context typically means simultaneously receiving two types of federal monetary benefits: military retired pay from the Department of Defense (DOD) and disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Prior to 2004, existing laws and regulations dictated that a military retiree could not receive two payments from federal agencies for the same purpose; military retired pay and VA disability compensation were considered to fall under that restriction. As a result, military retirees with physical disabilities recognized by the VA had...

Cloud Computing: Background, Status of Adoption by Federal Agencies, and Congressional Action

Cloud computing is a new name for an old concept: the delivery of computing services from a remote location, analogous to the way electricity, water, and other utilities are provided to most customers. Cloud computing services are delivered through a network, usually the internet. Utilities are also delivered through networks, whether the electric grid, water delivery systems, or other distribution infrastructure. In some ways, cloud computing is reminiscent of computing before the advent of the personal computer, where users shared the power of a central mainframe computer through video...

Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020 (P.L. 116-123): First Coronavirus Supplemental

In the early months of 2020, the federal government began to express concern over the global outbreak of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). COVID-19 is a viral respiratory illness caused by a novel coronavirus. By late January, the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) had invoked certain authorities to direct existing funds to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak. The HHS Secretary declared COVID-19 to be a Public Health Emergency, effective January 27, 2020.

On February 24, 2020, the Trump Administration submitted an initial emergency supplemental...

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...

COVID-19 and Corporate Debt Market Stress

U.S. companies are carrying record levels of debt to finance their operations and growth (Figure 1). Corporate debt largely consists of bonds and, to a lesser extent, leveraged loans, bank loans, and other liabilities. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is the primary regulator overseeing the debt capital markets. In recent years, financial authorities have become increasingly vocal about the buildup of the higher-risk portions of the corporate debt market. This Insight explains the market’s composition and risks in the context of the current coronavirus (COVID-19)-induced...

Comparison of the FY2020 and FY2021 Precision-Guided Munitions Procurement Requests

Precision-guided munitions (PGMs) have become an important capability for the Department of Defense (DOD). Recent operations, including counter-insurgency and counterterrorism missions, have demonstrated a high demand for all types of PGMs, which DOD defines as a “guided weapon intended to destroy a point target and minimize collateral damage.” Some analysts argue a high-intensity conflict would require large stockpiles of such weapons, in addition to the demand from operations in the Middle East. Then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis stated that PGMs are required to help rebuild...

The Take Responsibility for Workers and Families Act: Division T—Revenue Provisions

A number of recently introduced legislative proposals seek to alleviate the adverse economic effects of the COVID-19 outbreak. One such proposal, the Take Responsibility for Workers and Families Act (H.R. 6379), was introduced in the House on March 23, 2020. The proposal includes a number of provisions that would make changes to the tax system, including modifications that would

provide a one-time payment to households;

temporarily expand the earned income tax credit, child tax credit, and dependent care tax credit;

provide employer payroll tax credits for certain hospital expenses and...

Department of Veterans Affairs: Caregiver Support

The conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have presented a new challenge for the United States as servicemembers returned from combat with serious injuries that may have been fatal in previous conflicts. These servicemembers require ongoing personal care services, which are often provided by family members and loved ones. In recognition of this significant challenge, Congress enacted the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010 (P.L. 111-163), which required the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to establish specific supports for caregivers of veterans.

The Veterans...

Congressional Oversight Provisions in P.L. 116-127, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act

President Donald Trump signed P.L. 116-127 (H.R. 6201), the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, on March 18, 2020. The act provides supplemental appropriations for nutrition assistance programs and public health services and authorizes the Internal Revenue Service to implement tax credits for paid emergency sick leave and expanded family medical leave that the act requires certain employers to provide. In addition, the law adjusts the unemployment insurance program to waive temporarily certain eligibility requirements and provide more federal financial support to the states.

P.L....

Required Minimum Distributions from Retirement Accounts Under the Economic Stimulus Proposals Related to the Coronavirus (COVID-19)

On March 22, 2020, the Senate released an updated version of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act containing a provision for suspending the penalty for failure to make the required minimum distribution (RMD) from retirement accounts for 2020. A similar provision was included in a proposal in the House released on March 23, the Take Responsibility for Workers and Families Act.

What Are Required Minimum Distributions?

Under current law, required minimum distributions must be withdrawn from individual retirement plans to avoid a 50% penalty on the required minimum...

FY2020 Defense Reprogrammings for Wall Funding: Backgrounder

On February 13, 2020, the Department of Defense (DOD) transferred $3.8 billion from defense procurement programs to the Army Operation and Maintenance account for use by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) for the construction of 31 additional barrier projects along the southern border of the United States. Table 1. Summary of FY2020 DOD Reprogramming Action to Support the Border Wall ($ in thousands) Base or OCO / Appropriation Amount Percentage

Base $2,202,000 57.48%

 Aircraft Procurement, Air Force
 $532,000
 24.16%

 Aircraft Procurement, Navy
 $558,000
...

Overview of FY2021 Appropriations for Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS)

This report describes actions taken to provide FY2021 appropriations for Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) accounts. The annual CJS appropriations act provides funding for the Department of Commerce, which includes bureaus and offices such as the Census Bureau, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology; the Department of Justice (DOJ), which includes agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Prisons, the U.S. Marshals, the Drug Enforcement...

Responding to the COVID-19 Outbreak with Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Authorities

In response to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, some in Congress have suggested using the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program as a vehicle for providing financial relief to states and communities. Congress has regularly instituted a special variant of CDBG for long-term disaster recovery, known as CDBG-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR). This Insight considers the potential role of CDBG and CDBG-DR as economic development countermeasures to the coronavirus outbreak. For more information on the health and epidemiological aspects of COVID-19, see CRS products R46219 and...

Bolivia Postpones May Elections Amidst COVID-19 Outbreak

On March 22, 2020, Bolivia’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) suspended preparations for national elections scheduled for May 3 following Interim President Jeanette Añez’s declaration of a two-week national quarantine to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Bolivia remains extremely polarized following annulled October 2019 elections alleged to be marred by fraud and the November resignation of President Evo Morales of the Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) party. Morales’s former finance minister Luis Arce had been leading the polls. According to the TSE, the MAS-led Congress may need to enact...

COVID-19 and Direct Payments to Individuals: Summary of the 2020 Economic Assistance Payments in H.R. 6379, the Take Responsibility for Workers and Families Act

The Take Responsibility for Workers and Families Act (H.R. 6379), introduced in the House on Monday, March 23, 2020, proposes direct payments to individuals and families—referred to as “2020 economic assistance payments to individuals.” This Insight provides a brief overview of these proposed payments.

Generally, for individuals and families that filed an income tax return, the economic assistance payment would be an advanced refundable tax credit that they would automatically receive in 2020 as a direct deposit or check by mail. Most recipients of Social Security or Supplemental Security...

Emergency Funding for Public Transportation Agencies Due to COVID-19

Public Transportation Agency Budgets

The COVID-19 pandemic has reportedly resulted in a swift and large loss of public transportation ridership and fare revenue. Examples in the early days of the crisis include an 88% loss of ridership for New Jersey Transit, a 60% loss of subway ridership for New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority, a 60% loss for Denver’s Regional Transportation District, and a 90% loss for Bay Area Rapid Transit in San Francisco. Many transit agencies, including the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, have responded by cutting service, encouraging...

COVID-19 and Funding for Civil Aviation

The COVID-19 pandemic has created headwinds for the airline industry. Out of health concerns, customers were canceling international air travel to China and other affected countries in Asia as early as January 2020. Since then, travel restrictions imposed by governments around the world as well as suspension of nonessential travel by businesses and organizations have led to a sharp drop in air travel. These developments could also have significant implications for civil aviation programs.

The International Air Transport Association, an airline industry group, projected on March 17 that the...

National Emergency Powers

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

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

COVID-19 and Direct Payments to Individuals: Summary of the 2020 Recovery Rebates in the CARES Act, as Circulated March 22

Legislative text of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, circulated on Sunday, March 22, 2020, proposes direct payments to individuals and families—“2020 recovery rebates.” This Insight provides a brief overview of the proposed 2020 recovery rebates included in the text circulated on March 22, which differ from those included in the legislation introduced on March 19.

The proposed 2020 recovery rebates equal $1,200 per person ($2,400 for married taxpayers filing a joint tax return) and $500 per child. These amounts would phase down for higher-income taxpayers....

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

The Coast Guard Polar Security Cutter (PSC) program is a program to acquire three new PSCs (i.e., heavy polar icebreakers), to be followed years from now by the acquisition of up to three new medium polar icebreakers. The PSC program has received a total of $1,169.6 million (i.e., about $1.2 billion) in procurement funding through FY2020, including $135 million in FY2020, which was $100 million more than the $35 million that the Coast Guard had requested for FY2020. With the funding it has received through FY2020, the first PSC is now fully funded and the second PSC has received initial...

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

The Navy began procuring Arleigh Burke (DDG-51) class destroyers, also known as Aegis destroyers, in FY1985, and a total of 85 have been procured through FY2020, including three in FY2020. The Navy’s proposed FY2021 budget requests funding for the procurement of two more DDG-51s, which would be the 86th and 87th ships in the class.

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

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 one Virginia-class boat that the Navy is requesting for procurement in FY2021 would be the 33rd boat in the class. The Navy’s FY2020 budget submission had projected that the Navy would request two Virginia-class boats in FY2021.

Virginia-class boats scheduled for procurement in FY2019-FY2023 are being procured under a multiyear procurement (MYP) contract. Most Virginia-class boats procured in FY2019 and subsequent years are to be built with the Virginia Payload Module (VPM), an...

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

The Navy began procuring John Lewis (TAO-205) class oilers in FY2016, and a total of six have been procured through FY2020, including two in FY2020. The first six TAO-205s are being procured under a block buy contract that was authorized by Section 127 of the FY2016 National Defense Authorization Act (S. 1356/P.L. 114-92 of November 25, 2015). The Navy’s FY2021 budget submission estimates that TAO-205s cost about $530 million each when they are procured at a rate of two per year. The Navy wants to procure a total of 20 TAO-205s. The ships are being built by General Dynamics/National Steel...

Targeted Tax Relief for Industries Impacted by the Coronavirus: Selected Policy Issues

One of the policy options being considered to minimize the damage to the U.S. economy from the domestic spread of the coronavirus is tax relief targeted at industries that have experienced substantial drops in revenue. To date, growing numbers of cruise lines, airlines, hotels, restaurants, retailers, and energy producers seem to have been hit the hardest by the economic impact of the virus. Depending on what happens to the spread of the coronavirus within the United States in coming weeks, other industries could be similarly affected. The prospect of a prolonged domestic coronavirus...

COVID-19 and Stimulus Payments to Individuals: Potential Impacts of Direct Payments on Family Incomes

Several Members of Congress and the Trump Administration have proposed direct cash payments as part of a fiscal response to the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Direct cash payments have previously been part of the federal government’s response to economic downturns, most recently in 2001 and 2008. In general, the purpose of direct payments is twofold: (1) they allow families to spend more, and through a multiplier effect help to stimulate the economy; and (2) they provide resources to help meet basic needs for those whose income has decreased due to COVID-19 infection or...

State and Local Fiscal Conditions and Economic Shocks

Policymaker attention to the COVID-19 economic shock has included its potential effect on state and local governments. This Insight summarizes the underlying forces affecting state and local finances following a negative economic shock, examines tools available to them in response to such forces, and briefly discusses federal assistance offered in recent recessions.

State and Local Finances and Economic Shocks

State and local governments are an integral part of U.S. economic activity, with $3.7 trillion in 2017 spending (19% of GDP). Federal, state, and local government revenues tend to...

Department of Veterans Affairs’ Potential Role in Addressing the COVID-19 Outbreak

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides a range of benefits to eligible veterans and their dependents. The department carries out its programs nationwide through three administrations and the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA). The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) is responsible for health care services and medical and prosthetic research programs. The Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) is responsible for, among other things, providing disability compensation, pensions, and education assistance. The National Cemetery Administration (NCA) is responsible for maintaining...

COVID-19 and Stimulus Payments to Individuals: Summary of the 2020 Recovery Rebates in the CARES Act (S. 3548)

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (S. 3548) proposes direct payments of up to $1,200 per person ($2,400 for married taxpayers filing a joint tax return) and $500 per child—“2020 recovery rebates.” Similar to the 2008 recovery rebates, these payments are structured as tax credits advanced to households that file an income tax return. Taxpayers that filed a 2018 income tax return would have this credit advanced to them in 2020, generally in the form of a direct deposit or check by mail. Thus, these taxpayers do not need to wait until 2020 tax returns are filed in...

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

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

H.R. 6201: Paid Leave and Unemployment Insurance Responses to COVID-19

This Insight provides summary information on the paid leave and unemployment insurance (UI) provisions in the House-passed version of H.R. 6201, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, including the technical corrections made by H.Res. 904. For a general discussion of current workplace leave policies and UI programs and benefits, including considerations related to COVID-19, see CRS Insight IN11233, Workplace Leave and Unemployment Insurance for Individuals Affected by COVID-19. For additional legislation introduced related to UI and COVID-19, see CRS Report R45478, Unemployment...

COVID-19 and Passenger Airline Travel

The COVID-19 global pandemic presents particular risks and challenges to commercial passenger airline travel. Taking a passenger flight involves numerous interpersonal interactions, transiting through often crowded airport terminals, and sitting in close proximity to others for extended periods, both onboard aircraft and at airport gates. These activities may increase the probability of exposure to infectious disease.

Curtailing infectious disease spread through airline travel is challenging, in part because the passenger airline system in the United States is highly concentrated around 30...

COVID-19 Economic Stimulus: Business Payroll Tax Cuts

The economic fallout from coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has accelerated rapidly. Policymakers continue to evaluate tax policy economic relief options. Payroll tax cuts for businesses are one option that would provide economic assistance to business activities.

Business Payroll Taxes

Payroll taxes are collected to finance certain entitlement programs, including Social Security, parts of Medicare, and Unemployment Compensation (UC). Social Security’s old age, survivors, and disability insurance (OASDI) payroll tax is paid by both employers and employees, and it finances the Social Security...

Policy Topics and Background Related to Mining on Federal Lands

The 116th Congress is considering multiple proposed changes to U.S. mineral policy. Currently certain types of mineral production on federal lands provide the federal government and some states and industries with sources of revenue, while other production does not generate similar revenue. Proposed changes to federal mineral policy could impact these revenue streams, industries, and states in a variety of ways.

The processes and requirements to mine on federal lands vary by mineral category, surface/subsurface management agencies, and estate ownership. Three main statutes create the three...

Federal Assistance to Troubled Industries: Selected Examples

Serious disruptions for certain industries caused by the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic have led to calls for federal government assistance to affected industries. Direct federal financial assistance to the private sector on a large scale is unusual, except for geographically narrow assistance following natural disasters. Nonetheless, assistance to business sectors affected by COVID-19 would not be the first occasion on which the federal government has aided troubled or financially distressed industries. Historically, aid—sometimes popularly referred to as “government bailouts”—has taken...

Presidential Declarations of Emergency for COVID-19: NEA and Stafford Act

This Insight provides an overview of the presidential declarations of emergency made under the National Emergencies Act (NEA; 50 U.S.C. §§1601 et seq.) and the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (Stafford Act; 42 U.S.C. §§5121 et seq.) in response to the novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19). Table 1 describes select differences between these types of declarations and their authorities. This Insight does not discuss other actions mentioned by the President, or federal agencies (other than the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)) that have been, or may be,...

COVID-19: Cybercrime Opportunities and Law Enforcement Response

Opportunistic criminals and other malicious actors exploit the internet and rapidly evolving technology to their advantage. Criminals can compromise financial assets; hacktivists can flood websites with traffic, effectively shutting them down; and spies can steal intellectual property and government secrets. And, they capitalize on ever changing world events. Federal officials have cautioned about scams relating to the outbreak of disease caused by a previously unidentified strain of coronavirus, designated Coronavirus Disease 2019, or COVID-19. They have noted that “[c]yber actors may...

Military Child Development Program: Background and Issues

The Department of Defense (DOD) operates the largest employer-sponsored child care program in the United States, serving approximately 200,000 children of uniformed servicemembers and DOD civilians, and employing over 23,000 child care workers, at an annual cost of over $1 billion. DOD’s child development program (CDP) includes accredited, installation-based, government-run, full-time pre-school and school-aged care in its Child Development Centers (CDCs), and subsidized care in Family Care Centers (FCCs). DOD also subsidizes care in private child care centers outside of military...

COVID-19 and Direct Payments to Individuals: Historical Precedents

Members of Congress and the Trump Administration have signaled their support for making direct payments to individuals to address the economic fallout from the COVID-19 outbreak. In current discussions, these payments are sometimes framed in terms of “universal basic income” or UBI proposals. In the past when these proposals were made—and sometimes enacted—they were framed in terms of providing economic stimulus.

Historical Precedents

There are historical precedents for such payments; most of these were done through the federal income tax code. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) sent...

COVID-19 and Direct Payments to Individuals: How Did the 2008 Recovery Rebates Work?

In response to concerns about an economic slowdown stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, policymakers have been considering a broad array of policy options. Some are targeted directly toward individuals and industries that may be most affected. Others would more broadly seek to stimulate the economy. Among this latter category of policies, some have proposed direct cash payments sent to virtually all U.S. households.

In 2008 Congress enacted direct cash payments—the 2008 recovery rebates—that were tax credits advanced to households that had filed an income tax return. A portion of these...

COVID-19 and Stimulus Payments to Individuals: How the 2009 Economic Recovery Payment Worked

In response to concerns about an economic slowdown due to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak, some lawmakers have expressed interest in providing direct cash payments to Americans. One option to provide such payments would be to establish a new advanced refundable tax credit, as was done in 2008 with “recovery rebates.” Although this option would disburse payments to the vast majority of Americans relatively quickly, it would not directly help those who do not file a federal income tax return. A 2017 study found that “nonfilers” were more likely to be seniors or recipients of...

U.S. Restrictions on Relations with Burma

Major changes in Burma’s political situation since 2016 have raised questions among some Members of Congress concerning the appropriateness of U.S. policy toward Burma (Myanmar) in general, and the current restrictions on relations with Burma in particular. During the time Burma was under military rule (1962–2011), restrictions were placed on bilateral relations in an attempt to encourage the Burmese military, or Tatmadaw, to permit the restoration of democracy.

In November 2015, Burma held nationwide parliamentary elections from which Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy...

Overview of Initial Responses to COVID-19 by the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts and by Select Courts Within the Federal Judiciary

This CRS Insight provides information related to initial responses to Coronavirus disease 2019, or COVID-19, by the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts and select courts within the federal judiciary. Consequently, this Insight is not intended to provide a comprehensive overview of the policies and practices adopted by each federal court or judicial entity. Additionally, given the rapidly changing situation surrounding COVID-19, the information provided in this Insight may be superseded by new information from that which is described in the text below. If there are any questions regarding...

The Defense Production Act (DPA) and COVID-19: Key Authorities and Policy Considerations

As the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic evolves, the United States faces drug and medical supply scarcities due to disrupted supply chains and increased demand. In response, the President may exercise emergency authorities under the Defense Production Act of 1950 (DPA; 50 U.S.C. §§4501 et seq.) to address supply shortages and economic development impacts. During a press conference on March 18, 2020, the President indicated that he would invoke the DPA to address domestic essential goods and materials shortages caused by the pandemic. This Insight considers the various DPA authorities that...

The Palestinians and Amendments to the Anti-Terrorism Act: U.S. Aid and Personal Jurisdiction

Two recent amendments to the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA, 18 U.S.C. §§ 2331 et seq.) have significant implications for U.S. aid to the Palestinians and U.S. courts’ ability to exercise jurisdiction over Palestinian entities. They are the Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act of 2018 (ATCA, P.L. 115-253) and the Promoting Security and Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act of 2019 (PSJVTA, § 903 of the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020, P.L. 116-94).

Congress passed ATCA after a U.S. federal lawsuit (known in various incarnations as Waldman v. PLO and Sokolow v. PLO) against the...

The Hours of Service (HOS) Rule for Commercial Truck Drivers and the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) Mandate

In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, on March 13, 2020, the Department of Transportation (DOT) issued a national emergency declaration to exempt from the Hours of Service (HOS) rule through April 12, 2020, commercial drivers providing direct assistance in support of relief efforts related to the virus. This includes transport of certain supplies and equipment, as well as personnel. Drivers are still required to have at least 10 consecutive hours off duty (eight hours if transporting passengers) before returning to duty.

It has been estimated that up to 20% of bus and large truck crashes...

SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans for COVID-19

The current COVID-19 pandemic may have significant economic implications for businesses and nonprofit organizations, including negative impacts on imports, global supply chains, and tourism. Furthermore, if COVID-19 becomes increasingly widespread or prolonged it may slow global growth, and some businesses may be forced to furlough or lay off workers. One potential form of assistance to small businesses is Small Business Administration (SBA) economic injury disaster loans (EIDLs).

EIDL Overview

EIDLs provide eligible small businesses and nonprofit organizations up to $2 million to help...

What If the Philippines Ends the Visiting Forces Agreement?

On February 10, 2020, the Government of the Philippines submitted to the U.S. Embassy in Manila a “notice of termination” of the Philippines-U.S. Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). The VFA governs the legal status of U.S. military forces operating in the Philippines and establishes rules by which U.S. troops, vessels and aircraft may enter the country. The notification started a 180-day review period; the agreement itself will expire at the end of that time. The VFA has been in effect since 1999, eight years after the Philippines rejected a treaty that would have extended the U.S. lease of...

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency: Overview and Issues for Congress

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

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

Tax Credit for Paid Sick and Family Leave in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201) (Updated)

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201) includes an employer tax credit for the paid sick and family leave required as part of this legislation. This tax credit is intended to cover the cost to businesses of providing paid leave to address the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. This Insight provides an overview of the tax credits, including the corrections included in H.Res. 904, as passed by the House on March 16, 2020.

Tax Credits for Paid Leave

The employer payroll tax credit is for wages paid to fulfill the new leave requirements. The Emergency Paid Sick Leave...

COVID-19 and Direct Payments to Individuals: Considerations on Using Advanced Refundable Credits as Economic Stimulus

In response to concerns about an economic slowdown stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, policymakers have been considering a broad array of policy options. Some are targeted directly toward the individuals and industries that may be most affected. Others would more broadly seek to stimulate the economy. Among this latter category of policies, some have suggested a payroll tax cut, while others have proposed direct cash payments—“recovery rebates”—to virtually all households. One mechanism to provide cash payments relatively quickly is to create a new refundable tax credit and then advance...

The Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) Program: An Overview

The Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT; 31 U.S.C. §§6901-6907) program provides compensation for certain tax-exempt federal lands, known as entitlement lands. PILT payments are made annually to units of general local government—typically counties—that contain entitlement lands. PILT was first enacted in 1976 () and later recodified in 1982 (P.L. 97-258). PILT is administered by the Office of the Secretary in the Department of the Interior (DOI), which is responsible for the calculation and disbursement of payments. PILT has most commonly been funded through annual discretionary...

Hypersonic Weapons: Background and Issues for Congress

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

COVID-19: Potential Role of Net Operating Loss (NOL) Carrybacks in Addressing the Economic Effects

A number of industries may suffer losses in 2020 as a result of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak. The travel and tourism industry, and restaurant industry, appear particularly susceptible at the moment due to an uptick in canceled reservations and a reduction in bookings. Other industries are likely to be impacted as well by a drop-off in consumer spending and a resulting reduction in profits, with the impacts likely increasing if COVID-19 continues to spread.

Before 2018, businesses with losses could “carry back” net operating losses (NOL) and use them to receive a refund...

Workplace Leave and Unemployment Insurance for Individuals Affected by COVID-19

This Insight provides a brief overview of the current availability of job-connected assistance to individuals, which may be relevant to the outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Specifically, this product discusses workplace leave, paid and unpaid, that may be available to workers affected by the virus, as well as unemployment insurance (UI) benefits. It also discusses policy options to amend or expand existing UI programs to be more responsive to the effects of COVID-19.

Workplace Leave

Workers affected by COVID-19 may seek to use paid or unpaid workplace leave for their own...

Consideration of Privileged Nominations in the Senate

Privileged nominations are a subset of presidentially appointed and Senate-confirmed positions that are eligible for consideration under procedures established by S.Res. 116 (112th Congress, 2011-2012). The vast majority of the 285 nominations designated as privileged are part-time positions to various boards and commissions, though some full-time positions are privileged as well (e.g., chief financial officers and certain assistant secretaries in Cabinet-level agencies). The procedures for privileged nominations may reduce the workload of committees of jurisdiction in processing these...

COVID-19 and the Cruise Ship Industry

The cruise ship industry has been heavily impacted by coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Major cruise lines have canceled trips from U.S. ports over the next month. In recent weeks, several cruise ships have been quarantined offshore and U.S government health officials have advised against cruise ship travel for the time being. These events have raised questions about government oversight over the cruise industry, the potential economic harm the coronavirus could have on the industry, and whether the industry is largely America- or foreign-based.

Employment in the Cruise Ship...

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

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

The...

Tunisia: In Brief

As of March 15, 2020, Tunisia had initiated travel restrictions and other emergency measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, having reported at least 20 confirmed domestic cases.

Tunisia remains the sole country to have made a durable transition to democracy as a result of the 2011 “Arab Spring.” An elected assembly adopted a new constitution in 2014 and Tunisians have since held two competitive national elections—most recently in late 2019—resulting in peaceful transfers of power. Tunisia has also taken steps toward empowering local-level government, with landmark local elections...

Power Generation and Electric Reliability in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Two and a half years after Hurricanes Irma and Maria damaged 80% to 90% of the power transmission and distribution systems across the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI), financial and infrastructure issues continue to challenge the U.S. Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority (WAPA). A combination of infrastructure needs and cash flow challenges has impacted electricity rates. As of February 1, 2020, electricity rates were approximately $0.40 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) for residential customers (for the first 250 kWh) and approximately $0.47/kWh for commercial customers. In 2017, prior to the...

Sunshine Week: Selected Issues for Congress

Coinciding with former President James Madison’s birthday, Sunshine Week recognizes the importance of transparency in government operations, and the work of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA; 5 U.S.C. §552) professionals across the federal government. Considered a defender of open government, Madison wrote, “A popular Government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; And the people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power, which knowledge...

COVID-19 and Broadband: Potential Implications for the Digital Divide

According to the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) 2019 Broadband Deployment Report, approximately 21.3 million Americans lack a broadband connection speed of at least 25 megabits per second (Mbps) download/3 Mbps upload, which is the FCC’s benchmark for high-speed broadband. In the midst of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, federal, local, and state governments, in addition to large and small businesses, are considering remote working or distance learning options to help abate the spread of the virus. As these decisions are made, some portion of the population will likely have...

Business Tax Provisions Expiring in 2020, 2021, and 2022 (“Tax Extenders”)

Thirteen temporary business tax provisions are scheduled to expire at the end of 2020. Four other temporary business tax provisions are scheduled to expire in 2021 or 2022. 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.”

This report briefly summarizes and discusses the economic impact of the 17 business-related tax provisions that are scheduled to expire in 2020, 2021, or 2022. The provisions discussed in this report are listed below, grouped by type and...

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Poses Challenges for the U.S. Blood Supply

The current Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak may pose significant challenges for the United States’ blood supply. Mitigation strategies to prevent the spread of COVID-19, such as closures of schools and workplaces, have led to blood drive cancellations, resulting in a critical blood supply shortage in the Pacific Northwest (specifically, western Washington and Oregon). School closures, event cancellations, and other mitigation strategies in other areas of the country may provide challenges for maintaining a sufficient blood supply. The management and distribution of the U.S....

The Stafford Act Emergency Declaration for COVID-19

This Insight provides an overview of emergency declarations under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (hereinafter the Stafford Act, P.L. 93-288, as amended; 42 U.S.C. §§5121 et seq.). It describes the forms of assistance authorized pursuant to President Donald J. Trump’s March 13, 2020 emergency declaration under the Stafford Act in all U.S. states and territories in response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

Stafford Act Emergency Declaration for COVID-19

The President’s emergency declaration, pursuant to Stafford Act Section 501(b),...

Trade-Related Agencies: FY2020 Appropriations, Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS)

This report provides an overview of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 budget request and 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. This report also provides a review of these trade agencies' programs.

The Administration's FY2020 Budget Request

The President submitted his budget request to Congress on March 11, 2019. For FY2020,...

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

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

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

Venezuela: Background and U.S. Relations

Venezuela remains in a deep crisis under the authoritarian rule of Nicolás Maduro of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela. Maduro, narrowly elected in 2013 after the death of Hugo Chávez (president, 1999-2013), began a second term on January 10, 2019, that is widely considered illegitimate. Since January 2019, Juan Guaidó, president of Venezuela’s democratically elected, opposition-controlled National Assembly, has sought to form a transition government to serve until internationally observed elections can be held. The United States and 57 other countries recognize Guaidó as interim...

The Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund: Reauthorization Issues in the 116th Congress

Coal mining and production in the United States during the 20th century contributed to the nation meeting its energy requirements and left a legacy of unreclaimed lands. Title IV of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA, P.L. 95-87) established the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund. The Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) administers grants from the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund to eligible states and tribes to reclaim affected lands and waters resulting from coal mining sites abandoned or otherwise left unreclaimed prior to the enactment of...

Oversight Provisions in H.R. 6074, the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act

President Donald Trump signed H.R. 6074, the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, on March 6, 2020. It provides a total of $8.3 billion in supplemental funding to support the response of the United States to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Prior to the passage of H.R. 6074, Congress had already begun to oversee the federal government’s response to COVID-19 with committee hearings in both the House and the Senate. Other committees are planning additional hearings in the coming weeks, and the Trump Administration has also been providing regular...

Telehealth and Telemedicine: Frequently Asked Questions

The use of information and communication technology (ICT) in the health care industry is an emergent issue for Congress. The health care industry is using telehealth and telemedicine in two major ways: (1) to supplement in-person care for underserved populations who experience barriers to in-person care and (2) to supplant in-person care for patients who like the convenience of using technology to access their health care services.

This report provides responses to frequently asked questions about telehealth and telemedicine. This report serves as a quick reference to provide easy access...

Congressional Staff: CRS Products on Size, Pay, Job Tenure, and Duties

The manner in which staff are integrated and utilized within an organization may reflect the missions and priorities of that organization. In Congress, staff work for Members of Congress in personal, committee, and leadership offices, and are involved with every facet of congressional activity. Activities might include supporting a Member’s representational, legislative, leadership, or administrative responsibilities as they arise in those settings.

House and Senate staff activities may be of particular interest as one Congress comes to a close, and another Congress integrates new Members...

Tax Cuts as Fiscal Stimulus: Comparing a Payroll Tax Cut to a One-Time Tax Rebate

The Trump Administration and certain Members of Congress have expressed interest in a temporary payroll tax reduction as a fiscal stimulus response to economic concerns resulting from the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Other lawmakers have emphasized that, with respect to tax-relief proposals, “everything’s on the table.” This sentiment reflects potential uncertainty in both the current economic outlook and what tax policy options might be most effective as the coronavirus outbreak evolves. An alternative to a temporary payroll tax reduction that might be considered, and has been...

Advance Appropriations for the Indian Health Service: Issues and Options for Congress

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. In FY2019, IHS provided health care to approximately 2.6 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.

Current IHS Funding: Continuing Resolutions and Shutdowns

IHS is the only major federal provider of health care that is solely funded through regular appropriations on...

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

The State of Qatar has employed its ample financial resources to exert regional influence often independent of the other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, and Oman), an alliance of six Gulf monarchies. While fostering a close defense and security alliance with the United States, Qatar has intervened in several regional conflicts and has maintained ties to a wide range of actors who are often at odds with each other, including Sunni Islamists, Iran and Iran-backed groups, and Israeli officials. Qatar has...

Energy and Water Development Appropriations for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation: In Brief

The Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) nonproliferation and national security programs provide technical capabilities to support U.S. efforts to “prevent, counter, respond” to the proliferation of nuclear weapons worldwide, including by both states and non-state actors. These programs are administered by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a semi-autonomous agency established within DOE in 2000. NNSA is responsible for maintaining the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile, providing nuclear fuel to the Navy, nuclear and radiological emergency response, and nonproliferation. NNSA...

COVID-19: Potential Economic Effects

This Insight discusses the potential economic effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19) on the U.S. economy. For background on the coronavirus, see CRS In Focus IF11421, COVID-19: Global Implications and Responses, by Sara M. Tharakan et al.

Channels Through Which the Virus Could Affect the Economy

Although the COVID-19 outbreak presently is most widespread abroad, it will directly affect foreign demand for U.S. exports of goods and services. As discussed in this CRS In Focus, the coronavirus could also disrupt U.S. companies’ international supply chains. If COVID-19 becomes widespread in the...

FY2019 State Grants Under Title I-A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), most recently comprehensively amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA; P.L. 114-95), is the primary source of federal aid to K-12 education. The Title I-A program is the largest grant program authorized under the ESEA and was funded at $15.9 billion for FY2019. It is designed to provide supplementary educational and related services to low-achieving and other students attending elementary and secondary schools with relatively high concentrations of students from low-income families.

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

Foreign Trade Remedy Investigations of U.S. Agricultural Products

Foreign countries appear to be making greater use of punitive measures affecting U.S. agricultural exports. These measures, corresponding to duties the United States has long imposed on imports found to be traded unfairly and injuring U.S. industries, have the potential to reduce the competitiveness of U.S. agricultural exports in some foreign markets. Recent changes in U.S. agricultural policy, including over $23 billion in “trade aid” payments in 2018 and 2019 to farmers affected by higher Chinese tariffs on certain U.S. products, may increase the likelihood of foreign measures that...

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

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

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

Congressional Staff: Duties, Qualifications, and Skills Identified by Members of Congress for Selected Positions

The roles, duties, and activities of congressional staff are matters of ongoing interest to Members of Congress, congressional staff, and observers of Congress. Members of the House and Senate establish their own employment policies and practices for their personal offices. It is arguably the case that within Member offices, a common group of activities is executed for which staff are necessary. Accordingly, a group of job advertisements for those positions from a number of different offices can shed light on the expectations Members have for position duties, as well as staff skills,...

FY2021 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 10, 2020.

This report provides brief descriptions of the FY2021 budget volumes and related documents, together with internet addresses, Government Publishing Office (GPO) stock numbers, and prices for obtaining print copies of these...

Latin America and the Caribbean: U.S. Policy and Issues in the 116th Congress

The United States maintains strong linkages with neighboring Latin America and the Caribbean based on geographic proximity and diverse U.S. interests, including economic, political, and security concerns. The United States is a major trading partner and source of foreign investment for many countries in the region, with free-trade agreements enhancing economic linkages with 11 countries. The region is a large source of U.S. immigration, both legal and illegal; proximity and economic and security conditions are major factors driving migration. Curbing the flow of illicit drugs has been a...

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...

House Committee Funding Requests and Authorizations, 104th-116th Congresses

Pursuant to House Rule X, clause 6, the Committee on House Administration reports an omnibus, biennial “primary expense resolution” to cover the expenses of each standing and select committee, except the Appropriations Committee. The resolution is based, in part, on committee requests for funds to cover their necessary expenses for the two years of a Congress.

This report provides committee funding requests and authorizations as adopted pursuant to primary expense authorizations for House committees in the 104th through 116th Congresses. For further information on the committee funding...

Senate Committee Funding Requests and Authorizations, 106th-116th Congresses

In the Senate a biennial funding process applies to all Senate committees except Appropriations and Ethics, which have permanent authorizations for their staff and operating expenses. The Senate Committee on Rules and Administration has jurisdiction over committee funding resolutions and issues regulations governing committee funding and staff.

On February 27, 2019, the Senate adopted by unanimous consent S.Res. 70, authorizing expenditures by Senate committees for the period March 1, 2019, through September 30, 2019, the period October 1, 2019, through September 30, 2020, and for the...

Development and Regulation of Domestic Diagnostic Testing for Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19): Frequently Asked Questions

On December 31, 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) was informed of a cluster of pneumonia cases in Wuhan City, Hubei Province of China. Illnesses have since been linked to a disease caused by a previously unidentified strain of coronavirus, designated Coronavirus Disease 2019, or COVID-19. Despite containment efforts in China, the United States, and elsewhere, by late February there were indications that the COVID-19 outbreak may have entered a new phase, with community spread occurring or suspected in several countries other than China, including in the United States.

Diagnostic...

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...

Northern Ireland: The Peace Process, Ongoing Challenges, and U.S. Interests

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% of the population) largely define themselves as British and support remaining part of the UK (unionists). Most Catholics in Northern Ireland (45% of the population) consider themselves Irish, and...

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...

The SALT Cap: Overview and Analysis

Taxpayers who elect to itemize their deductions may reduce their federal income tax liability by claiming a deduction for certain state and local taxes paid, often called the “SALT deduction.” The 2017 tax revision (commonly referred to as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, TCJA; P.L. 115-97) made a number of changes to the SALT deduction. Most notably, the TCJA established a limit, or “SALT cap,” on the amounts claimed as SALT deductions for tax years 2018 through 2025. The SALT cap is $10,000 for single taxpayers and married couples filing jointly and $5,000 for married taxpayers filing...

Payroll Tax Cuts as an Economic Stimulus Response to Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)

The current coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak has increased concerns that the U.S. economy could be affected as part of a global economic downturn. A range of fiscal and monetary policy tools have been used to address prior times of economic weakness. One option for fiscal stimulus is a temporary payroll tax cut for employees. This option was used to address economic weakness in 2011 and 2012. On March 2, 2020, President Trump and others expressed interest in a one-year payroll tax cut to help bolster the economy.

What Are Payroll Taxes?

Payroll taxes are collected to finance certain...

Haiti’s Political and Economic Conditions

Since the fall of the Duvalier dictatorship in 1986, Haiti has struggled to overcome its centuries-long legacy of authoritarianism, disrespect for human rights, underdevelopment, and extreme poverty. Widespread corruption remains an impediment to changing that legacy. Haiti made significant progress in improving governance prior to the 2010 earthquake, but recovery since then has been slow. Democratic institutions remain weak and stability fragile. Poverty remains massive and deep, and economic disparity is wide. Due to its proximity to the United States and its chronically unstable...

Senate Floor Privileges: History and Current Practice

Senate Standing Rule XXIII, Privilege of the Floor, designates those afforded access to the Senate floor while the Senate is in session. In addition to sitting Senators, the rule lists several eligible positions, including certain current and former congressional, executive, and judicial officials; state and territorial governors; the mayor of the District of Columbia; members of foreign national legislatures; the nation’s highest ranking military leaders; and, under specified circumstances, congressional staff members assisting Senators on the floor.

Over its history, the Senate has...

Health Care for Veterans: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), operates one of the nation’s largest integrated health care delivery systems. The VHA estimates that in FY2020 it would provide care to about 6.33 million unique veteran patients. In the same year, VHA estimates that it would employ a staff of about 347,000 full-time equivalent employees at approximately, 1,456 VA sites of care, with an appropriation of approximately $80.6 billion. VA health care is a discretionary program; therefore, the provision of health care is dependent on available appropriations....

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, all floor amendments are prohibited, and a two-thirds vote is required for final passage.

Committee Jurisdiction and Referral in the House

When legislation is introduced in the House or received from the Senate, it is referred to one or more committees primarily on the basis of the jurisdictional statements contained in clause 1 of House Rule X. These statements define the policy subjects on which each standing committee may exercise jurisdiction on behalf of the chamber. The statements themselves tend to address broad policy areas rather than specific departments, agencies, or programs of the federal government. Because committee jurisdiction often is expressed in general policy terms, it is possible for more than one...

Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA): Maternal Health Programs

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is one of the federal agencies charged with addressing U.S. maternal health outcomes. HRSA’s Improving Maternal Health in America initiative aims to address U.S. maternal health issues by, among other approaches, improving maternal health data, increasing maternal health research, and prioritizing quality improvement in maternal health care services.

The FY2019 appropriations report language for the Department of Defense and Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education...

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.

International Food Assistance: FY2020 Appropriations

U.S. international food assistance programs provide food, or the means to purchase food, to people around the world at risk of hunger. Congress funds these programs through two appropriations bills: the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act—also known as the Agriculture appropriations bill—and the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs (SFOPS) Appropriations Act. The Agriculture appropriations bill funds the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) except for the Forest Service. The SFOPS appropriations...

Defense Authorization and Appropriations Bills: FY1961-FY2020

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) and consolidated appropriations bills containing the DOD and other appropriations 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...

U.S. Farm Programs: Eligibility and Payment Limits

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

Since 1970, Congress has used various policies to address the issue of who should be eligible for farm payments...

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,...

International Trade: Rules of Origin

Rules of origin (ROO) are laws, regulations, and procedures used to determine the country of origin of an imported product. They are a significant part of international trade policy because ROO are needed to properly assess tariffs, enforce trade remedies (such as antidumping and countervailing duties) or quantitative restrictions (tariff quotas), and statistical purposes. Other commercial trade policies are also linked with country of origin determinations, such as labeling and government procurement regulations. Given Congress’ authority to regulate foreign commerce, it may consider how...

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

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a significant U.S. security partner, helping to address multiple regional threats by hosting U.S. military personnel at UAE military facilities, buying sophisticated U.S. military equipment, including missile defenses and combat aircraft, and supporting U.S. policy toward Iran. Most expect this to continue after UAE President Shaykh Khalifa bin Zayid Al Nuhayyan, who has been incapacitated since January 2014, is succeeded by his younger brother and de-facto UAE leader Shaykh Muhammad bin Zayid Al Nuhayyan.

With ample financial resources and a U.S.-armed...

U.S. Farm Income Outlook: February 2020 Forecast

This report uses the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) farm income projections (as of February 5, 2020) to describe the U.S. farm economic outlook for 2020. Two major indicators of U.S. farm well-being are net farm income and net cash income. Net farm income represents an accrual of the value of all goods and serviced produced on the farm during the year—similar in concept to gross domestic product. In contrast, net cash income uses a cash flow concept to measure farm well-being: Only cash transactions for the year are included. Thus, crop production is recorded as net farm income...

Appropriations: CRS Experts

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

Arms Sales: Congressional Review Process

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

The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS): Frequently Asked Questions About Small Refinery Exemptions (SREs)

In the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (P.L. 109-58; EPAct05), Congress required the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to implement the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS)—a mandate that requires U.S. transportation fuel to contain a minimum volume of renewable fuel. Since expansion of the RFS in 2007 under the Energy Independence and Security Act (P.L. 110-140; EISA), Congress has had interest in the RFS for various reasons (e.g., limited cellulosic biofuel production, EPA’s use of programmatic waiver authority, and RFS compliance costs). Over the last several months, Congress has expressed...

The Defense Production Act of 1950: History, Authorities, and Considerations for Congress

The Defense Production Act (DPA) of 1950 (P.L. 81-774, 50 U.S.C. §§4501 et seq.), as amended, confers upon the President a broad set of authorities to influence domestic industry in the interest of national defense. The authorities can be used across the federal government to shape the domestic industrial base so that, when called upon, it is capable of providing essential materials and goods needed for the national defense.

Though initially passed in response to the Korean War, the DPA is historically based on the War Powers Acts of World War II. Gradually, Congress has expanded the term...

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 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 certain individuals—traditional and Roth IRAs. Although the accounts have many features in common, they differ in some important aspects....

Overview of U.S. Domestic Response to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

This report discusses selected actions taken by the federal government to quell the introduction and spread of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the United States. COVID-19 is causing the third serious outbreak of novel coronavirus in modern times, following severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2002 and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in 2012. The global health community is closely monitoring COVID-19 because of the severity of symptoms (including death) among those infected, and the speed of its spread worldwide. At this time, U.S health officials say the general...

Federal Land Management Agencies and Programs: CRS Experts

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

Stafford Act Assistance for Public Health Incidents

This Insight provides a brief overview of presidential declarations under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (hereinafter the Stafford Act—42 U.S.C. §5121 et seq.) that could be authorized in response to public health incidents. It also provides examples of Stafford Act declarations that have been previously issued to address public health hazards, including infectious disease incidents, which may be relevant to the current outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Overview

The Stafford Act authorizes the President to issue two types of...

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

The 116th Congress, in both its legislative and oversight capacities, has been active in numerous trade policy issues related to renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and its replacement, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). In May 2017, the Trump Administration sent a 90-day notification to Congress of its intent to begin talks with Canada and Mexico to renegotiate and modernize NAFTA, as required by the 2015 Trade Promotion Authority (TPA). Negotiations officially began on August 16, 2017, and were concluded on September 30, 2018. The USMCA was...

COVID-19: Federal Economic Development Tools and Potential Responses

The current coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak has led to tens of thousands of cases and thousands of deaths worldwide. In addition to the disease’s mortality and public health effects, it may have potentially significant economic implications, including productivity losses, supply chain disruptions, labor dislocation, and potential financial pressure on businesses and households. Relatively few federal programs are available to provide timely economic relief to affected businesses. This Insight considers the outbreak’s economic development implications and policy considerations for...

U.S.-EU Trade Agreement Negotiations: Trade in Food and Agricultural Products

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) officially notified the Congress of the Trump Administration’s plans to enter into formal trade negotiations with the European Union (EU) in October 2018. In January 2019, USTR announced its negotiating objectives for a U.S.-EU trade agreement, which included agricultural policies—both market access and non-tariff measures. However, the EU’s negotiating mandate, released in April 2019, stated that the trade talks would exclude agricultural products.

U.S.-EU27 Agricultural Trade, 1990-2019/

Source: CRS from USDA data for “Total...

Major Agricultural Trade Issues in 2020

Sales of U.S. agricultural products to foreign markets absorb about one-fifth of U.S. agricultural production, thus contributing significantly to the health of the farm economy. Farm product exports, which totaled $136 billion in FY2019 (see chart), make up about 8% of total U.S. exports and contribute positively to the U.S. balance of trade. The economic benefits of agricultural exports also extend across rural communities, while overseas farm sales help to buoy a wide array of industries linked to agriculture, including transportation, processing, and farm input suppliers.

U.S....

ESEA: Title I-A Standards, Assessments, Accountability, Report Cards, and Frequently Asked Questions

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA; P.L. 114-95), provides federal aid for elementary and secondary education. The largest ESEA program is Title I-A, Improving the Academic Achievement of the Disadvantaged. As a condition of receiving Title I-A funds, states and local educational agencies (LEAs) must meet requirements related to academic standards, assessments, accountability, and reporting.

Academic Standards

Each state must adopt (1) challenging academic content standards in reading/language arts (RLA), mathematics, and...

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, 155 commemorative coins have been authorized since 1892. Since 1982, when Congress reinstituted the commemorative program, 94 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...

Introduction to the Federal Budget Process

Under the U.S. Constitution, Congress exercises the “power of the purse.” This power is expressed through the application of several provisions. The power to lay and collect taxes and the power to borrow are among the enumerated powers of Congress under Article I, Section 8. Furthermore, Section 9 of Article I states that funds may be drawn from the Treasury only pursuant to appropriations made by law. The Constitution, however, does not prescribe how these legislative powers are to be exercised, nor does it expressly provide a specific role for the President with regard to budgetary...

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

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

European Energy Security: Options for EU Natural Gas Diversification

As a major energy consuming region, Europe faces a number of challenges in addressing its future energy needs. For member states of the European Union (EU), challenges include rapidly rising global demand and competition for energy resources from countries such as China and India, tensions with Russia, efforts to integrate the EU’s internal energy market, and a growing need to shift fuels in keeping with the EU’s climate change policy goals. As a result, energy supply security has become a key concern for the EU. European energy security is also of significant interest to the United...

Federal Freight Policy: In Brief

This report provides an overview of federal planning and funding for freight transportation infrastructure, namely for trucks, railroads, and vessels. The report also discusses the relative performance of these modes in carrying the freight burden and examines the decline in the waterborne share. Congestion is a concern to different degrees for the three modes. freight, cargo, truck, rail, maritime, barge, shipping, port, congestion, infrastructure, RRIF, train, locks, inland waterways, army corps, dredging, harbor, surface transportation board, STB, jones act, cabotage, railroad, highway,...

The H-2B Visa and the Statutory Cap

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

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

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,...

Clean Air Act: A Summary of the Act and Its Major Requirements

This report summarizes the Clean Air Act and its major regulatory requirements. The principal statute addressing air quality concerns, the Clean Air Act was first enacted in 1955, with major revisions in 1970, 1977, and 1990. The act: requires EPA to set health-based standards for ambient air quality; sets deadlines for the achievement of those standards by state and local governments; requires EPA to set national emission standards for large or ubiquitous sources of air pollution, including motor vehicles, power plants, and other industrial sources; mandates emission controls for...

FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act: Selected Military Personnel Issues

Each year, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) provides authorization of appropriations for a range of Department of Defense (DOD) and national security programs and related activities. New or clarified defense policies, organizational reform, and directed reports to Congress are often included. For FY2020, the NDAA (P.L. 116-92) addresses or attempts to resolve high-profile military personnel issues. Some are required annual authorizations (e.g., end-strengths); some are updates or modifications to existing programs; and some are issues identified in certain military personnel...

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 2019 and 2020, 12 tax benefits are available to help college students and their parents 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 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA): A Legal Overview

Originally enacted in 1966, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) establishes a three-part system that requires federal agencies to disclose a large swath of government information to the public. First, FOIA directs agencies to publish substantive and procedural rules, along with certain other important government materials, in the Federal Register. Second, on a proactive basis, agencies must electronically disclose a separate set of information that consists of, among other things, final adjudicative opinions and certain “frequently requested” records. And lastly, FOIA requires agencies...

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.

Brazil: Background and U.S. Relations

Occupying almost half of South America, Brazil is the fifth-largest and fifth-most-populous country in the world. Given its size and tremendous natural resources, Brazil has long had the potential to become a world power and periodically has been the focal point of U.S. policy in Latin America. Brazil’s rise to prominence has been hindered, however, by uneven economic performance and political instability. After a period of strong economic growth and increased international influence during the first decade of the 21st century, Brazil has struggled with a series of domestic crises in...

FY2020 LHHS Appropriations: Status

On December 20, 2019, the President signed into law the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020 (P.L. 116-94). This law contains full-year FY2020 appropriations for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS) in Division A. The FY2020 LHHS annual appropriations total more than $1 trillion, when accounting for both mandatory and discretionary funding. Previously, FY2020 LHHS funding had been provided on a temporary basis by two continuing resolutions (P.L. 116-59, P.L. 116-69).

Scope of the Bill

The LHHS bill provides the annually...

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

Exports and imports of petroleum products and changes in their prices have long had a large impact on the U.S. balance of payments, often serving as a major component in the U.S. trade deficit. Over the past decade, however, this has changed. Currently, petroleum prices are having less of an impact on the U.S. balance of payments primarily due to the growth in U.S. exports of petroleum products; in the last four months of 2019, U.S. exports of petroleum products exceeded imports. While this represents a major step in achieving energy independence, the United States remains a major net...

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

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

Federal Land Ownership: Overview and Data

The federal government owns roughly 640 million acres, about 28% of the 2.27 billion acres of land in the United States. Four major federal land management agencies administer 606.5 million acres of this land (as of September 30, 2018). They are the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and National Park Service (NPS) in the Department of the Interior (DOI) and the Forest Service (FS) in the Department of Agriculture. A fifth agency, the Department of Defense (excluding the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers), administers 8.8 million acres in the United States (as of...

Selected Agency Budget Justifications for FY2021

This report provides a convenient listing of online FY2021 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 is updated each year after the agencies release their budget justifications to accompany the President’s budget submission.

Block Grants: Perspectives and Controversies

Block grants provide state and local governments funding to assist them in addressing broad purposes, such as community development, social services, public health, or law enforcement, and generally provide them more control over the use of the funds than categorical grants.

Block grant advocates argue that block grants increase government efficiency and program effectiveness by redistributing power and accountability through decentralization and partial devolution of decisionmaking authority from the federal government to state and local governments. Advocates also view them as a means...

The 2020 Census: Frequently Asked Questions

April 1, 2020, will mark the official date of the 24th U.S. decennial census. Mandated by the Constitution and federal law, the census is considered a cornerstone of the nation’s representative democracy. Nevertheless, an enumeration that is complete and accurate is difficult to achieve. Among other challenges, the census is often misunderstood, mischaracterized, feared, or avoided. This report addresses common questions concerning the 2020 census. The report is intended to provide information about the census, including clarifying various aspects of the census process. Among the topics...

Foreign Assistance for International Conservation

The United States provides foreign assistance to support myriad global objectives, including the conservation of wildlife and ecosystems. The United States provides foreign assistance in the form of financial, programmatic, and technical support to address international conservation activities. International conservation activities include those relating to species protection, habitat restoration, and forest recovery, among other priorities. Several federal agencies administer these programs, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Department...

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

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Development agency (RD) administers programs to support rural infrastructure and economic development. This includes programs focused on rural housing, rural business development, rural water and energy infrastructure, and, more recently, rural broadband deployment. Congress considers reauthorizing these programs in periodic omnibus farm bills. In December 2018, President Trump signed the 2018 farm bill (Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, P.L. 115-334) into law. This legislation reauthorizes and amends RD programs, establishes new rural...

The National Trails System: A Brief Overview

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

FY2021 Defense Budget Request: An Overview

The FY2021 President’s budget request includes $753.5 billion in budget authority for national defense. National defense is one of 20 major functions used by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to aggregate budget dataand the largest in terms of discretionary spending. The national defense budget function (identified by the numerical notation 050) comprises three subfunctions: Department of Defense (DOD)–Military (051); atomic energy defense activities primarily of the Department of Energy (053); and other defense-related activities (054), such as FBI counterintelligence...

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

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

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

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

Presidents may invoke IEEPA in response to an...

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

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

The AMPV is a nondevelopmental program (candidate vehicles would be either existing vehicles or modified existing vehicles—not vehicles that are specially...

Paid Family and Medical Leave in the United States

Paid family and medical leave (PFML) 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, or an employee’s own serious medical needs. In general, day-to-day needs for leave to attend to family matters (e.g., a school conference or lapse in child care coverage), a minor illness, and preventive care are not included among family and medical leave categories.

Although the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA; P.L. 103-3) provides...

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

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

On January 26, 2012, the Army issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) for the JLTV’s Engineering Manufacturing Development (EMD) phase. The period of...

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...

FERC Directs PJM to Expand Minimum Offer Price Rule

On December 18, 2019, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued an order directing the PJM regional transmission organization (RTO) to expand its Minimum Offer Price Rule (MOPR) as a move to address subsidies to electric power generation resources by states, with certain exemptions. FERC stated that it acted “to protect the competitive capacity market administered by PJM” by requiring PJM to expand its MOPR to apply to any new or existing power generation resource that receives, or is entitled to receive, a state subsidy, unless a FERC-determined exemption applies. FERC...

Dynamic Scoring in the Congressional Budget Process

When Congress considers legislation, it takes into account the proposal’s potential budgetary effects. Although this information may come from numerous sources, Congress generally relies on estimates provided by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) when determining whether legislation complies with congressional budgetary rules.

Generally, CBO and JCT estimates include projections of the budgetary effects that would result from proposed policy changes, and incorporate anticipated individual behavioral responses to the policy. The estimates,...

Workers’ Compensation: Overview and Issues

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

Social Security: The Government Pension Offset (GPO)

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

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

Liberia: Background and U.S. Relations

Introduction. Congress has shown enduring interest in Liberia, a small coastal West African country of about 4.8 million people. The United States played a key role in the country’s founding, and bilateral ties generally have remained close despite significant strains during Liberia’s two civil wars (1989-1997 and 1999-2003). Congress has appropriated considerable foreign assistance for Liberia, and has held hearings on the country’s postwar trajectory and development. In recent years, congressional interest partly has centered on the immigration status of over 80,000 Liberian nationals...

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

Members of Congress and Pentagon officials have placed a growing emphasis on U.S. programs to develop hypersonic weapons as a part of an effort to acquire the capability for the United States to launch attacks against targets around the world in under an hour. Conventional prompt global strike (CPGS) weapons may bolster U.S. efforts to deter and defeat adversaries by allowing the United States to attack high-value targets or “fleeting targets” at the start of or during a conflict. Congress has generally supported the PGS mission, but restricted funding for several years. Recently, efforts...

Accomplices, Aiding and Abetting, and the Like: An Abbreviated Overview of 18 U.S.C. § 2

Virtually every federal criminal statute has a hidden feature; primary offenders and even their most casual accomplices face equal punishment. This is the work of 18 U.S.C. § 2, which visits the same consequences on anyone who orders or intentionally assists in the commission of a federal crime.

Aiding and abetting means assisting in the commission of someone else’s crime. Section 2(a) demands that the defendant embrace the crime of another and consciously do something to contribute to its success. An accomplice must know the offense is afoot if he is to intentionally contribute to its...

Electric Vehicles: A Primer on Technology and Selected Policy Issues

The market for electrified light-duty vehicles (also called passenger vehicles; including passenger cars, pickup trucks, SUVs, and minivans) has grown since the 1990s. During this decade, the first contemporary hybrid-electric vehicle debuted on the global market, followed by the introduction of other types of electric vehicles (EVs). By 2018, electric vehicles made up 4.2% of the 16.9 million new light-duty vehicles sold in the United States that year. Meanwhile, charging infrastructure grew in response to rising electric vehicle ownership, increasing from 3,394 charging stations in 2011...

Accomplices, Aiding and Abetting, and the Like: An Overview of 18 U.S.C. § 2

Virtually every federal criminal statute has a hidden feature; primary offenders and even their most casual accomplices face equal punishment. This is the work of 18 U.S.C. § 2, which visits the same consequences on anyone who orders or intentionally assists in the commission of a federal crime.

Aiding and abetting means assisting in the commission of someone else’s crime. Section 2(a) demands that the defendant embrace the crime of another and consciously do something to contribute to its success. An accomplice must know the offense is afoot if he is to intentionally contribute to its...

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

The Railroad Retirement Board (RRB), an independent federal agency, administers retirement, survivor, disability, unemployment, and sickness insurance for railroad workers and their families. During FY2018, the RRB paid nearly $12.7 billion in retirement, disability, and survivor benefits to approximately 540,000 beneficiaries and paid $92.6 million in unemployment and sickness benefits to approximately 25,000 claimants. Of the total $12.7 billion benefit payments in the same fiscal year, 61.0% was paid to retired workers, 7.4% to disabled workers, 14.4% to spouses, and 16.7% to...

Management of Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI) in the Military

On January 7, 2020, the Department of Defense (DOD) reported that the Islamic Republic of Iran launched a number of ballistic missiles at certain Iraqi military bases hosting U.S. and coalition military forces. These forces utilize Iraqi military bases to support counter-terrorism operations within the region, including military actions against the Islamic State under Operation Inherent Resolve. DOD initially reported no U.S. or coalition casualties, then later stated that 34 U.S. servicemembers assigned to these locations were subsequently diagnosed with mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI)...

Currency Manipulation and Countervailing Duties

On February 4, 2020, the Commerce Department issued a final rule that paves the way for imposing tariffs on imports from countries determined by the U.S. government to be undervaluing their currency relative to the U.S. dollar. Various Members of Congress have debated such a policy for years, including in 2013 and 2015, but Congress has refrained from legislating it due to a variety of concerns.

Currency Manipulation

For more than a decade, some policymakers and analysts have expressed concerns that U.S. exports and jobs have been harmed by unfair exchange rate policies of other countries...

School Meals and Other Child Nutrition Programs: Background and Funding

The federal government has a long history of investing in programs for feeding children, starting with federal aid for school lunch programs in the 1930s. Today, federal child nutrition programs support food served to children in schools and a variety of other institutional settings. Administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), child nutrition programs include the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), School Breakfast Program (SBP), Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), Fresh Fruit and Vegetable...

Indigenous Peoples in Latin America: Statistical Information

This report provides statistical information on indigenous peoples in Latin America, including populations and languages, socioeconomic data, land and natural resources, human rights and international legal conventions. Resource lists for each section (languages; socioeconomics; land and resources; international organizations; and human rights) are available in the appendix as well as a lists of national agencies that oversee indigenous affairs in each Central American or South American country.

Recent Developments in the Russia-Ukraine Conflict

On January 31, 2020, U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv. The meeting occurred during the Senate’s presidential impeachment trial and almost two months after the relaunch of international talks on resolving the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Pompeo expressed the United States’ commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and stated that the United States would continue to provide security assistance to Ukraine.

Pompeo also acknowledged Zelensky’s efforts to invigorate a relatively dormant conflict-resolution process...

Brexit: Status and Outlook

The United Kingdom (UK) formally withdrew from membership in the European Union (EU) on January 31, 2020. Under the withdrawal agreement negotiated by the two sides, the UK is to continue applying EU rules during a transition period scheduled to run through the end of 2020. During the transition period, the UK and the EU are expected to begin negotiating the terms of their future relationship, including trade and economic relations as well as cooperation on foreign policy, security, and a range of other issues.

Overview of Developments

After the 2016 referendum in which 52% of voters in...

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. Greater certainty in federal...

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

Since its start in 2011, the Syria conflict has presented significant policy challenges for the United States. U.S. policy toward Syria since 2014 has prioritized counterterrorism operations against the Islamic State (IS, also known as ISIL/ISIS), which sought to direct external attacks from areas under the group’s control in northeast Syria. Since 2015, U.S. forces deployed to Syria have trained, equipped, and advised local partners under special authorization from Congress and have worked primarily “by, with, and through” those local partners to retake nearly all areas formerly held by...

Legislative Branch: FY2020 Appropriations

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

The legislative branch budget request was submitted on March 11, 2019. Following hearings in the House and...

PHMSA’s Pipeline Safety Reauthorization: Funding Issues

Introduction

The federal pipeline safety program is administered by the Department of Transportation’s (DOT’s) Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), working with state pipeline safety regulators. Together, the federal and state agencies regulate the safety of the nation’s hazardous liquid (e.g., crude oil) and natural gas pipelines. Under the PIPES Act of 2016 (P.L. 114-183), funding authorization for PHMSA’s pipeline safety program expired on October 1, 2019. Although the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020 (P.L. 116-94) includes pipeline safety...

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...

Drug Pricing and Pharmaceutical Patenting Practices

Intellectual property (IP) rights in pharmaceuticals are typically justified as necessary to allow manufacturers to recoup their substantial investments in research, development, and regulatory approval. IP law provides exclusive rights in a particular invention or product for a certain time period, potentially enabling the rights holder (e.g., a brand-name drug manufacturer) to charge higher-than-competitive prices. If rights holders are able to charge such prices, they have an incentive to lengthen the period of exclusive rights as much as possible. Indeed, some commentators allege that...

Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD): FY2021 Budget Request Fact Sheet

Overview of FY2021 President’s Budget request for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Tax Policy and Disaster Recovery

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

This report discusses the following permanent provisions:

disaster casualty loss...

Issues in Autonomous Vehicle Testing and Deployment

Autonomous vehicles have the potential to bring major improvements in highway safety. Motor vehicle crashes caused an estimated 36,560 fatalities in 2018; a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has shown that 94% of crashes are due to human errors. For this and other reasons, federal oversight of the testing and deployment of autonomous vehicles has been of considerable interest to Congress. In the 115th Congress, autonomous vehicle legislation passed the House as H.R. 3388, the SELF DRIVE Act, and a separate bill, S. 1885, the AV START Act, was reported from...

Federal-Aid Highway Program (FAHP): In Brief

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

Legislative Branch Appropriations: Frequently Asked Questions

This report responds to frequently asked questions about legislative branch appropriations. Frequently asked questions include the items that are funded within this bill; development, presentation, and consideration of the legislative branch budget requests; the legislative branch budget in historical perspective; and recent actions.

The House and Senate considered FY2020 legislative branch funding during 2019:

The FY2020 legislative branch budget request of $5.288 billion (+9.3%) was submitted on March 11, 2019.

The House Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee held hearings in...

Congress May Consider Options to Extend Expiring Funds for Primary Care

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), enacted in March 2010, appropriated mandatory funds to support three programs focused on expanding access to primary care services for populations that are typically underserved. These three programs are the Health Centers program, the National Health Service Corps (NHSC), and payments to support medical residents training at teaching health centers—outpatient health facilities that primarily provide care to underserved populations.

The mandatory ACA funds for these programs were initially provided for five years. Funding for each of these three programs had...

Social Security: The Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP)

Social Security is a work-based, federal insurance program that provides income support to workers and their eligible family members in the event of the worker’s retirement, disability, or death. A worker’s employment or self-employment is considered covered by Social Security if the services performed in that job result in earnings that are taxable and creditable for program purposes. Although participation in Social Security is compulsory for most workers, about 6% of all workers in paid employment or self-employment are not covered by Social Security in 2019.

The windfall elimination...

FDA Regulation of Tobacco Products

Cigarette use remains the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, claiming an estimated 480,000 lives or more each year. Although cigarette use in the United States continues to decline, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 34.2 million American adults smoked cigarettes every day or some days in 2018, and nearly 1.2 million American middle and high school students smoked cigarettes in the past 30 days in 2019.

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

Illicit Drug Smuggling Between Ports of Entry and Border Barriers

Policy discussions around border security often involve questions about how illicit drugs flow into the United States. These include questions about the smugglers, types and quantities of illicit drugs crossing U.S. borders, primary entry points, and methods by which drugs are smuggled. Further, these discussions often center on the shared U.S.-Mexico border, as it is a major conduit through which illicit drugs flow.

There are no comprehensive data on the total quantity of foreign-produced illicit drugs smuggled into the United States at or between official ports of entry (POEs) because...

The National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard: Overview and Select Considerations

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In July 2016, Congress enacted P.L. 114-216 (2016 Act), comprehensive legislation to govern the labeling of bioengineered foods. The 2016 Act required the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to establish the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard (the Standard). The Standard regulates labeling of bioengineered foods, a term defined in the 2016 Act. The act does not address or define other terms that some members of the public might associate with bioengineered foods, such as genetically engineered (GE), genetically modified, and genetically modified organism (GMO). The...

Railroad Retirement Board: Trust Fund Investment Practices

The Railroad Retirement Board (RRB), an independent federal agency, administers retirement, survivor, disability, unemployment, and sickness insurance for railroad workers and their families. Railroad retirement payroll taxes include two tiers—Tier I and Tier II taxes. The Tier I tax finances the Tier I railroad retirement benefit that is equivalent to Social Security benefits and the Tier II tax finances the Tier II benefit, Tier I benefits in excess of Social Security benefits, and supplemental annuities.

Since 2002, Tier II tax revenues in excess of obligatory RRB benefits and...

The Army’s Modernization Strategy: Congressional Oversight Considerations

In October 2019, the Army published a new modernization strategy aimed at transforming the Army in order to conduct Multi-Domain Operations (MDO) which are intended to address the current and future actions of near-peer competitors Russia and China. The Army’s Modernization Strategy is part of a hierarchy of strategies designed, among other things, to inform the Service’s respective modernization plans. These strategies include the National Security Strategy (NSS), the National Defense Strategy (NDS), the National Military Strategy (NMS), and the Army Strategy.

The Army’s Modernization...

Monetary Policy and the Federal Reserve: Current Policy and Conditions

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

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

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

U.S.-Iran relations have been mostly adversarial since the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, occasionally flaring into direct conflict while at other times witnessing negotiations or tacit cooperation on selected issues. U.S. officials have consistently identified Iran’s support for militant Middle East groups as a significant threat to U.S. interests and allies, and Iran’s nuclear program took precedence in U.S. policy after 2002 as that program advanced.

During 2010-2016, the Obama Administration led a campaign of broad international economic pressure on Iran to persuade it to agree to...

Funding for ACA-Established Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Trust Fund (PCORTF) Extended Through FY2029

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA, P.L. 111-148, as amended) authorized the establishment of a private, nonprofit, tax-exempt corporation called the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) at Social Security Act (SSA) Section 1181. This built on provisions in prior law that expanded the federal government’s role in comparative effectiveness research (CER). The American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009 (ARRA, P.L. 111-5) provided a total of $1.1 billion for CER and required an Institute of Medicine report with recommendations on national CER...

U.S. Bilateral International Family Planning and Reproductive Health Programs: Background and Selected Issues

U.S. international family planning activities stem from a provision of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (Section 104, P.L. 87-195; as amended), which authorized research on family planning issues, among many other things. In 1965, Congress authorized the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to create contraceptive distribution programs. Originally, international family planning programs focused on distributing contraceptives and related commodities. Over time, such programs evolved to also address reproductive health issues, such as female genital mutilation (FGM) and...

Oil Market Effects from U.S. Economic Sanctions: Iran, Russia, Venezuela

Economic sanctions imposed by the United States—through enacted legislation and executive action—on Iran, Russia, and Venezuela aim to pressure the ruling governments to change their behavior and policies. Currently, these sanctions aim to either eliminate (Iran) or restrict (Venezuela) crude oil trade of as much as 3.3 million to 4.0 million barrels per day (bpd), roughly 3%-4% of global petroleum supply. Estimated oil production volumes affected to date have been approximately 1.7 million bpd from Iran. Venezuela oil production has also likely been affected, although accurately...

Wage Inequality and the Stagnation of Earnings of Low-Wage Workers: Contributing Factors and Policy Options

Over the 1979-2018 period, real wages at the 10th percentile of the hourly wage distribution grew by 1.6%, whereas wages at the 50th percentile grew by 6.1% and wages at the 90th percentile grew by 37.6%. These patterns varied by sex, race, and ethnicity. Most of the increase in wage inequality at the bottom of the distribution occurred by 1990 and leveled off by 2000, whereas inequality continued to grow at the top of the distribution after 2000. Lower wages are associated with less education, and the college wage premium (the ratio of earnings of those with a college degree over those...

Federal Spending on Benefits and Services for People with Low Income: FY2008-FY2018 Update

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) regularly receives requests about federal benefits and services targeted to low-income populations. This report is the latest update in a series of CRS reports that attempt to identify and provide information about federal spending targeted to this population. The report series does not discuss social insurance programs such as Social Security, Medicare, or Unemployment Insurance, but includes only programs with an explicit focus on low-income people or communities. Tax provisions, other than the refundable portion of two tax credits, are excluded....

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, starting with the 2005 report, an expanded analysis of Medicare expenditures and revenues (MMA §801). If the Medicare trustees determine that general revenue funding for Medicare is expected to exceed 45% of Medicare outlays for the current fiscal year or any of the next six fiscal years, a determination of excess general revenue Medicare funding is made. If the determination is issued for two consecutive years, a funding...

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...

Egypt: Death of American Citizen and Congressional Response

Overview

On January 13, 2020, Mustafa Kassem, a dual U.S.-Egyptian citizen who had been detained in Egypt since 2013, died of heart failure in an Egyptian prison after a two-year hunger strike. The Egyptian government has defended its treatment of Kassem, claiming that he received adequate medical care and legal rights. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo called Kassem’s death “pointless and tragic.”

Some Members of Congress had long been concerned for Kassem, arguing that Egyptian authorities unlawfully detained and wrongfully convicted him. Kassem’s death has upset some in Congress,...

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

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

The U.S. Nuclear Weapons Complex: Overview of Department of Energy Sites

Responsibility for U.S. nuclear weapons resides in both the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of Energy (DOE). DOD develops, deploys, and operates the missiles and aircraft that deliver nuclear warheads. It also generates the military requirements for the warheads carried on those platforms. DOE, and its semiautonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), oversee the research, development, testing, and acquisition programs that produce, maintain, and sustain the nuclear warheads.

To achieve these objectives, the facilities that constitute the nuclear weapons...

IAEA Budget and U.S. Contributions: In Brief

The United States, along with European Union and the P5+1 partners and Iran, agreed on July 14, 2015 to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) that is intended to end decades of economic sanctions against Iran in exchange for restrictions on its nuclear program. The accord designates the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to monitor and verify Iranian compliance with the JCPOA and report on these activities regularly. With this in mind, the second session of the 116h Congress may be interested in the funding of the IAEA.

The IAEA is an autonomous intergovernmental...

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 $90 billion each year on information technology (IT) investments. 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 be traced to a lack of disciplined and effective management and inadequate executive-level...

National Security Space Launch

The United States is making significant efforts to pursue a strategy that ensures continued access to space for national security missions. The current strategy is embodied in the National Security Space Launch (NSSL) program. The NSSL supersedes the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program, which started in 1995 to ensure that National Security Space (NSS) launches were affordable and reliable. For the same reasons, policymakers provide oversight for the current NSSL program and encourage competition, as there was only one provider for launch services from 2006 to 2013. Moreover,...

Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA): Background, Status, and Issues

Almost all U.S. offshore oil and gas production occurs in the Gulf of Mexico. Federal oil and gas leasing in the Gulf is governed primarily by two laws—the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA; 43 U.S.C. §§1331-1356b), which broadly controls oil and gas leasing throughout the U.S. outer continental shelf (OCS); and the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act of 2006 (GOMESA; 43 U.S.C. §1331 note), whose provisions relate specifically to leasing in the Gulf region. GOMESA imposes an oil and gas leasing moratorium through June 30, 2022, in most of the Eastern Gulf (off the Florida coast) and...

The Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA): Compensation Related to Exposure to Radiation from Atomic Weapons Testing and Uranium Mining

The Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) provides one-time benefit payments to persons who may have developed cancer or other specified diseases after being exposed to radiation from atomic weapons testing or uranium mining, milling, or transporting. Administered by the Department of Justice (DOJ), RECA has awarded over $2.3 billion in benefits to more than 36,000 claimants since its inception in 1990. The RECA program is scheduled to sunset in 2022.

RECA benefits are available to the following groups:

onsite participants—$75,000 to persons who participated onsite in the atmospheric...

Lebanon Forms New Government Amid Economic Crisis, Ongoing Protests

On January 21, Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab announced the formation of a new Lebanese government, 85 days after nationwide protests triggered the resignation of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri. The new cabinet is comprised entirely of parties allied with the March 8 political bloc—headed by the Christian Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), Hezbollah, and the Amal Movement—leading some to describe it as one-sided. The new government faces significant challenges, including ongoing protests and an escalating economic crisis. However, the political composition of the new government—and the...

FY2020 Disaster Supplemental and Tax Legislation: CRS Experts

The House Appropriations Committee has introduced H.R. 5687, legislation that includes supplemental appropriations and tax provisions responding to a series of natural disasters. Table 1 lists CRS materials and points of contact for congressional clients seeking background on the contents of the legislation.

For those seeking context for this measure by comparing it to previous disaster supplemental appropriations measures, please see CRS Report R45844, FY2019 Disaster Supplemental Appropriations: Overview; and CRS Report R45084, 2017 Disaster Supplemental Appropriations: Overview.

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.

Advance Refunding Bonds and P.L. 115-97

On January 29, 2020, the chairs of the House Transportation and Infrastructure, Energy and Commerce, and Ways and Means Committees released the Moving Forward Framework, which would invest roughly $760 billion in infrastructure projects over a five-year period. Among other things, the draft would reinstate the ability to issue federally tax-exempt advance refunding bonds, whose issuance authority was repealed by the 2017 tax revision (P.L. 115-97; sometimes referred to as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, or TCJA). This Insight briefly describes advance refunding bonds, summarizes recently...

Competition on the Edge of the Internet

Edge providers are individuals and entities that provide content, applications, services, and devices accessed over the internet. An edge provider can be a personal blog created by an individual or a website created by a billion-dollar company. Some edge providers sell products or subscriptions, while others sell consumer data or use it for digital advertising. Edge provider activities, conducted on the “edge” of the internet—hence the name—are not regulated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Edge providers rely on internet service providers (ISPs) and mobile carriers to...

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...

Digital Assets and SEC Regulation

In recent years, financial innovation in capital markets has fostered a new asset class—digital assets—and introduced new forms of fundraising and trading. Digital assets, which include crypto-assets, cryptocurrencies, or digital tokens, among others, are digital representations of value made possible by cryptography and distributed ledger technology. Regardless of the terms used to describe these assets, depending on their characteristics, some digital assets are subject to securities laws and regulations.

Securities regulation generally applies to all securities, whether they are...

Regulation Best Interest (Reg BI): The SEC’s Rule for Broker-Dealers

On June 5, 2019, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) voted to adopt Regulation Best Interest (Reg BI) under the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934 (P.L. 73-291). Reg BI reforms requirements for broker-dealers when they make investment recommendations to retail customers. According to the SEC, Reg BI is meant to “enhance the broker-dealer standard of conduct beyond existing ... obligations [by] requiring broker-dealers ... to: (1) act in the best interest of the retail customer at the time the recommendation is made, without placing the financial or other interest of the...

Indo-Pacific Strategies of U.S. Allies and Partners: Issues for Congress

China’s growing confidence in asserting itself regionally and internationally, combined with longstanding concerns about whether the United States has the capacity or commitment to remain the region’s dominant actor, is leading U.S. allies and partners to adjust their strategic posture. This report seeks to outline some of these changes and to outline the perspectives of Indo-Pacific nations seeking to navigate a changing geopolitical environment, including by recasting their conception of the region to draw in new potential counterweights to China such as India, prioritizing new defense...

Israel and the Palestinians: U.S. Peace Plan and Possible Israeli Annexation

President Trump released a long-promised “Peace to Prosperity” plan for Israel and the Palestinians on January 28, 2020, after obtaining support from Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Netanyahu’s main political rival Benny Gantz. The release and Netanyahu’s announced intention to annex parts of the Israeli military-controlled West Bank might affect a closely-contested Israeli election scheduled for March 2—the third in the past year pitting Netanyahu (who has been indicted on corruption charges) and Gantz against one another. Members of Congress have had mixed reactions to the...

Another Coronavirus Emerges: U.S. Domestic Response to 2019-nCoV

The Emergence of 2019-nCoV

On December 31, 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) was informed of a cluster of pneumonia cases in Wuhan, China. Illnesses have since been linked to a previously unidentified strain of coronavirus, designated 2019 novel Coronavirus, or 2019-nCoV. To date, thousands have been infected, mostly in China, and over 100 have died. The disease has spread to several other countries, including the United States. As the scope of the epidemic widened in China, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated on January 27, 2020, that “the immediate...

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

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

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Kyoto Protocol, and the Paris Agreement: A Summary

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has been the principle forum for cooperation among nations on greenhouse gas (GHG)-induced climate change since its adoption in 1992. Its objective is “to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that will prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system, in a time frame which allows ecosystems to adapt naturally and enables sustainable development.”

Stabilizing GHG concentrations in the atmosphere requires that the balance of “gross” emissions of GHG minus the removals of GHG from...

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...

Escalating U.S. Tariffs: Timeline

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

(1) Section 201 of the Trade Act of 1974 (Table 1) on U.S. imports of washing machines and solar products due to concerns over their injurious effects on domestic U.S. industry;

(2) Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 (Table 2) on U.S. imports of steel and aluminum, and potentially motor vehicles/parts and titanium sponge due to concerns that imports threaten to impair...

DHS Border Barrier Funding

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

Physical barriers to deter migrants are a relatively new part of the border landscape, first being built in the 1990s in conjunction with counterdrug efforts. This phase of construction, extending into the 2000s, was largely driven by legislative initiatives. Specific authorization for border barriers was provided in...

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

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

Energy and Water Development: FY2020 Appropriations

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

Overall Funding Totals

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

Escalating U.S. Tariffs: Affected Trade

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

(1) Section 201 of the Trade Act of 1974 on U.S. imports of washing machines and solar products, due to concerns over their injurious effects on domestic U.S. industry;

(2) Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 on U.S. imports of steel and aluminum, and potentially motor vehicles and titanium sponge, due to concerns that imports threaten to impair the national security;...

Immigration: DHS Final Rule on Public Charge

On January 27, 2020, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) lifted two nationwide preliminary injunctions that blocked the implementation of the public charge final rule. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published this rule on August 14, 2019, and it was set to take effect on October 15, 2019. Multiple lawsuits and preliminary injunctions had halted the rule; the SCOTUS’ ruling now permits its implementation while litigation on the merits continues. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced that it will begin enforcing the new regulations on February 24, 2020,...

The Washington Post’s “Afghanistan Papers” and U.S. Policy: Main Points and Possible Questions for Congress

On December 9, 2019, the Washington Post published a series of documents termed “the Afghanistan Papers.” The Papers comprise two sets of documents: about 1,900 pages of notes and transcripts of interviews with more than 400 U.S. and other policymakers that were carried out between 2014 and 2018 by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), and approximately 190 short memos (referred to as “snowflakes”) from former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, dating from 2001 to 2004. The documents, and the Washington Post stories that accompany them, suggest that U.S....

The Health Coverage Tax Credit (HCTC): In Brief

The Health Coverage Tax Credit (HCTC) subsidizes most of the cost of qualified health insurance for eligible taxpayers and their family members. Potential eligibility for the HCTC is limited to two groups of taxpayers. One group is comprised of individuals eligible for Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) allowances because they experienced qualifying job losses. The other group consists of individuals whose defined-benefit pension plans were taken over by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) because of financial difficulties. HCTC-eligible individuals are allowed to receive the...

Recent Slower Economic Growth in the United States: Policy Implications

The current economic expansion is the longest in recorded U.S. history, but it has not been characterized by rapid economic growth. From the beginning of the current economic expansion in the third quarter of 2009 to the second quarter of 2017, this expansion had the lowest economic growth rate of any expansion since World War II, averaging 2.2%. For the next five quarters, growth accelerated to 3.1%. However, growth has slowed since, averaging 2.1% over the next four quarters beginning in the fourth quarter of 2018. The slower growth rate has been widespread, but has been particularly...

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

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

Internet Regimes and WTO E-Commerce Negotiations

From retail to agriculture or healthcare, digitization has affected all sectors and allowed more industries to engage with customers and partners around the globe. Many U.S. companies thrived in the initial online environment, which lacked clear rules and guidelines, quickly expanding their offerings and entering foreign markets. As the internet has evolved, however, governments have begun to impose national laws and regulations to pursue data protection, data security, privacy, and other policy objectives. The lack of global rules and norms for data and digital trade is leading to...

Government Expenditures on Defense Research and Development by the United States and Other OECD Countries: Fact Sheet

Research and development (R&D) has played a central role in the national security of the United States and its allies. R&D creates the foundation for new and improved technologies that underpin a wide range of applications.

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Solar Energy: Frequently Asked Questions

Use of solar energy for electricity generation is growing in the United States and globally. In the United States, solar energy overall accounted for 2.2% of total electricity generation in 2018, up from 0.7% in 2014.

This report addresses a dozen frequently asked questions that may be of interest to lawmakers as the growing use of solar energy potentially affects a variety of areas of congressional interest. The first set of questions looks at different technologies that use solar energy to generate electricity and their costs and prevalence over time. Costs for all components of solar...

Burma Ordered to Prevent Genocide Against Rohingya

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) on January 23, 2020, ordered Burma to undertake four “provisional measures” to prevent genocidal acts against the Rohingya and “prevent the destruction and ensure the preservation of evidence related to allegations of [genocidal] acts.”

The ICJ order comes two days after Burma’s Independent Commission of Enquiry (ICOE) submitted its final report to Burma’s President Win Myint, indicating that while it had obtained evidence that “war crimes and serious human rights violations” may have occurred during the 2017 “clearance operations” in Rakhine...

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

The Sultanate of Oman has been a strategic partner of the United States since 1980, when it became the first Persian Gulf state to sign a formal accord permitting the U.S. military to use its facilities. Oman has hosted U.S. forces during every U.S. military operation in the region since then, and it is a partner in U.S. efforts to counter terrorist groups and related regional threats. The January 2020 death of Oman’s longtime leader, Sultan Qaboos bin Sa’id Al Said, is unlikely to alter U.S.-Oman ties or Oman’s regional policies. His successor, Haythim bin Tariq Al Said, a cousin selected...

The Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) in Social Security: Comparing Current Law with Proposed Proportional Formulas

Social Security is a work-based federal insurance program that provides income support to workers and their eligible family members in the event of a worker’s retirement, disability, or death. About 6% of workers in paid employment or self-employment in 2019 were not covered by Social Security. A quarter of state and local government employees and most permanent civilian federal employees hired before January 1, 1984, were not covered, and these groups constituted the majority of noncovered workers.

For workers whose entire careers are covered by Social Security, the Social Security...

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,...

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

Research and development (R&D) in the United States is funded and performed by a number of sectors—including the federal government, state governments, businesses, academia, and nonprofit organizations—for a variety of purposes.

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....

Federal Income Tax Treatment of the Family Under the 2017 Tax Revisions

The federal income tax treatment of the family is affected by several major structural elements applicable to all taxpayers: amounts deductible from taxable income through standard deductions, personal exemptions, and itemized deductions; the rate structure (which varies across taxpayer types); the earned income credit and the child credit; and the alternative minimum tax. Some of these provisions only affect high-income families and some only low-income families, but they are the tax code’s fundamental structural features. They lead to varying tax burdens on families depending on whether...

Injection and Geologic Sequestration of Carbon Dioxide: Federal Role and Issues for Congress

For several decades the federal government has funded efforts to explore the feasibility of mitigating the release of greenhouse gases (GHGs) while burning fossil fuels as a source of energy. Carbon capture and storage (CCS)—the process of capturing manmade carbon dioxide (CO2) at its source, such as a coal-fired power plant, and storing it before its release into the atmosphere—has been proposed as a technological solution for mitigating emissions into the atmosphere while continuing to use fossil energy. Underground carbon storage, known as geologic sequestration, is the long-term...

Corruption in Honduras: End of the Mission to Support the Fight Against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (MACCIH)

On January 19, 2020, Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández allowed the mandate of the Organization of American States (OAS)-backed Mission to Support the Fight Against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (MACCIH) to expire. The U.S. Congress had provided significant financial and political support for the MACCIH throughout its four-year mandate as the mission helped Honduran institutions deter and investigate high-level corruption. A bipartisan group of Members had also repeatedly called on President Hernández to extend the mission’s mandate. The MACCIH’s closure could negatively...

Petitions for Rulemaking: An Overview

The Administrative Procedure Act (APA), enacted in 1946, is known primarily for its procedural requirements for notice-and-comment rulemaking. Those requirements state that when issuing regulations, agencies must generally give public notice (i.e., issue a proposed rule), hold a public comment period, and publish a final rule.

A lesser known provision in the APA is a petition mechanism through which any interested party can request an agency to issue, amend, or repeal a rule (Section 553(e)). Such petitions are sometimes referred to as 553(e) petitions, petitions for rulemaking, petitions...

PFAS and Drinking Water: Selected EPA and Congressional Actions

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

Multilateral Development Banks: U.S. Contributions FY2000-FY2020

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 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...

Reauthorization of the Federal Public Transportation Program

The federal public transportation program is currently authorized through FY2020 as part of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act (P.L. 114-94). This report highlights several major issues that may arise as Congress considers program reauthorization.

Public transportation includes local buses, subways, commuter rail, light rail, paratransit (often service for the elderly and disabled using small buses and vans), and ferryboat, but excludes Amtrak, intercity buses, and school buses. The FAST Act authorized $61.1 billion for five fiscal years beginning in FY2016, an average...

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...

African American Members of the U.S. Congress: 1870-2019

In total, 162 African Americans have served in Congress. This total includes 152 African Americans (146 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) who began their service in the...

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...

Benefits for Service-Disabled Veterans

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) administers programs and provides benefits to qualified former U.S. servicemembers with service-connected disabilities (i.e., service-disabled veterans). These benefits can compensate a veteran for an injury or provide assistance to enable a veteran to have a higher quality of life.

To qualify for benefits discussed in this report, a veteran must have a physical or mental condition that was “incurred or aggravated” in the line of military duty that resulted in a disability. Service-connected disabilities are rated on a scale from 0% to 100%, in 10%...

Juvenile Justice Funding Trends

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

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

Department of Homeland Security Appropriations: FY2020

This report provides an overview and analysis of FY2020 appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The primary focus of this report is on the 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 DHS appropriations. It also directs the reader to other reports providing context for specific component appropriations.

As part of an overall DHS budget that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) estimated to be $92.08 billion, the Trump...

FY2020 Appropriations for Agricultural Conservation

The Agriculture appropriations bill funds the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) except for the Forest Service. The FY2020 Further Consolidated Appropriations Act (P.L. 116-94, Division B) includes funding for conservation programs and activities at USDA, among other departments.

Agricultural conservation programs include both mandatory and discretionary spending. Most conservation program funding is mandatory and is authorized in omnibus farm bills. Other conservation programs—mostly technical assistance—are discretionary spending funded through annual appropriations. The FY2020...

The Impeachment Process in the Senate

After the House impeaches a federal officer, the Senate conducts a trial to determine if the individual should be removed from office. The Senate has a set of rules specific to the conduct of an impeachment trial, most of which originated in the early 19th century.

The impeachment rules lay out specific steps that the Senate takes to organize for a trial. House managers (Members of the House who present the case against the impeached officer in the Senate) read the articles of impeachment on the Senate floor. The Presiding Officer and Senators take an oath to do impartial justice, and the...

FDA Regulation of Cannabidiol (CBD) Consumer Products: Overview and Considerations for Congress

Cannabidiol (CBD), a compound in the Cannabis sativa plant, has been promoted as a treatment for a range of conditions, including epileptic seizures, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, inflammation, and sleeplessness. However, limited scientific evidence is available to substantiate or disprove the efficacy of CBD in treating these conditions. In the United States, CBD is marketed in food and beverages, dietary supplements, cosmetics, and tobacco products such as electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS)—products that are primarily regulated by the Food and Drug Administration...

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...

The Gray Wolf Under the Endangered Species Act (ESA): A Case Study in Listing and Delisting Challenges

Under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA or the Act; 16 U.S.C. §§ 1531-1544), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) (together, the Services) determine which species to “list” as “endangered species” or “threatened species,” terms defined in the Act. Species, subspecies, and distinct population segments (DPSs) may all be listed as “species” under the Act. Listing a species invokes certain protections under the Act and a requirement that the Services develop a recovery plan to conserve the species. Listed species may be reclassified by...

U.S. Signs Phase One Trade Deal with China

President Trump on January 15, 2020, signed a phase one trade agreement with the Chinese government that is intended to resolve some of the trade and investment issues the Administration raised in March 2018, pursuant to Section 301 of the U.S. Trade Act of 1974. Including appendices, the agreement is 96 pages and covers some aspects of intellectual property (IP) (Chapter 1), technology transfer (Chapter 2), agriculture (Chapter 3), financial services (Chapter 4), macroeconomic policies and exchange rates (Chapter 5), trade purchases (Chapter 6), and dispute resolution (Chapter 7)....

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...

U.S. Sanctions on Russia

Sanctions are a central element of U.S. policy to counter and deter malign Russian behavior. The United States has imposed sanctions on Russia mainly in response to Russia’s 2014 invasion of Ukraine, to reverse and deter further Russian aggression in Ukraine, and to deter Russian aggression against other countries. The United States also has imposed sanctions on Russia in response to (and to deter) election interference and other malicious cyber-enabled activities, human rights abuses, the use of a chemical weapon, weapons proliferation, illicit trade with North Korea, and support to Syria...

International Trade and Finance: Overview and Issues for the 116th Congress

The U.S. Constitution grants authority to Congress to lay and collect duties and regulate foreign commerce. Congress exercises this authority in numerous ways, including through oversight of trade policy and consideration of legislation to implement trade agreements and authorize trade programs. Policy issues cover areas such as U.S. trade negotiations, U.S. trade and economic relations with specific regions and countries, international institutions focused on trade, tariff and nontariff barriers, worker dislocation due to trade liberalization, enforcement of trade laws and trade agreement...

Possible Use of FY2020 Defense Funds for Border Barrier Construction: Context and Questions

On January 13, 2020, the Washington Post reported that the Trump Administration plans to reallocate $7.2 billion in Department of Defense (DOD) appropriations to construct barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border. Of this amount, $3.7 billion would reportedly come from deferring congressionally approved military construction (MILCON) projects. An additional $3.5 billion would be redirected through DOD’s Drug Interdiction and Counter-Drug Activities account (hereinafter counter-drug transfer account). If the Administration were to carry out the actions as described by the Washington Post, DOD...

Special Diabetes Programs Expire in FY2020: Policy Considerations and Extension Proposals

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

The Effectiveness of the Community Reinvestment Act

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

Social Security and Vulnerable Groups—Policy Options to Aid Widows

As Congress actively considers Social Security reform options, one area of interest is Social Security policy levers to aid vulnerable groups—widows, low earners, caregivers, older beneficiaries, spouses, and never-married individuals. In the context of widows, researchers and policymakers have raised concerns about both benefit adequacy and benefit equity. In 2017, about 18% of all individuals aged 60 or older were widows; however, nearly 26% of individuals aged 60 or older living in poverty were widows.

Benefit adequacy concerns stem from the facts that the widow has outlived the spouse,...

Medicaid Disproportionate Share Hospital Payments

The Medicaid statute requires states to make disproportionate share hospital (DSH) payments to hospitals treating large numbers of low-income patients. This provision is intended to recognize the disadvantaged financial situation of those hospitals because low-income patients are more likely to be uninsured or Medicaid enrollees. Hospitals often do not receive payment for services rendered to uninsured patients, and Medicaid provider payment rates are generally lower than the rates paid by Medicare and private insurance.

As with most Medicaid expenditures, the federal government reimburses...

Congressional Oversight Manual

Today’s lawmakers and congressional aides, as well as commentators and scholars, recognize that Congress’s lawmaking role does not end when it passes legislation. Oversight is considered fundamental to making sure that laws work and are being administered in an effective, efficient, and economical manner. This function is seen as one of Congress’s principal roles as it grapples with the complexities of American government.

A fundamental objective of the Congressional Oversight Manual is to assist Members, committees, and legislative staff in carrying out this vital legislative function. It...

Military Survivor Benefit Plan: Background and Issues for Congress

The Department of Defense’s Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP), enacted in 1972, provides cash benefits in the form of a lifetime annuity to a surviving spouse or other eligible recipient(s) of a retiree or deceased member of the uniformed services. The original intent of the SBP (and its antecedents) was to “ensure that the surviving dependents of military personnel who die in retirement or after becoming eligible for retirement will continue to have a reasonable level of income.” Coverage was later expanded to those who die while on active service. Under the SBP, a military retiree can elect to...

An Introduction to the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit

The low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) program is the federal government’s primary policy tool for encouraging the development and rehabilitation of affordable rental housing. The program awards developers federal tax credits to offset construction costs in exchange for agreeing to reserve a certain fraction of units that are rent-restricted and for lower-income households. The credits are claimed over a 10-year period. Developers need upfront financing to complete construction so they will usually sell their tax credits to outside investors (e.g., corporations, financial institutions)...

Federal Crop Insurance: Record Prevent Plant (PPL) Acres and Payments in 2019

U.S. agricultural production got off to a late start in 2019 due to prolonged cool, wet springtime conditions throughout the major growing regions, particularly in states across the northern plains and eastern Corn Belt. Saturated soils prevented many farmers from planting their intended crops—such acres are referred to as “prevent plant (PPL)” acres. As of November 1, 2019, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported that farmers were unable to plant a record 19.6 million acres in 2019—including 11.4 million acres of corn and 4.5 million acres of soybeans. The previous record for...

Women in Congress, 1917-2020: Service Dates and Committee Assignments by Member, and Lists by State and Congress

In total 366 women have been elected or appointed to Congress, 247 Democrats and 119 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 366 women, there have been 309 (211 Democrats, 98 Republicans) women elected only to the House of Representatives; 41 (25 Democrats, 16 Republicans) women elected or appointed only to the Senate; and 16 (11 Democrats, 5 Republicans) women who have served in both houses. A...

The Kiddie Tax and Military Survivors’ Benefits

Some military families discovered that they owed higher taxes for 2018 and 2019 on distributions from their military survivors’ benefits than they had in previous years. This change in tax treatment was related to temporary changes to the “kiddie tax” in the 2017 tax revision (P.L. 115-97). However, Congress enacted language in the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020 (P.L. 116-94) that repealed those temporary changes to the kiddie tax beginning in 2020. In addition, P.L. 116-94 enables taxpayers to retroactively elect to be taxed as if the kiddie tax changes in P.L. 115-97 did...

Women in Congress: Statistics and Brief Overview

A record 131 women currently serve in the 116th Congress. There are 105 women serving in the House (including Delegates and the Resident Commissioner), 90 Democrats and 15 Republicans. There are 26 women in the Senate, 17 Democrats and 9 Republicans.

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

The very first woman...

SBA Surety Bond Guarantee Program

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

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 set in motion a reestablishment of U.S. unilateral economic sanctions that 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.

U.S.-Iran bilateral relations continued to deteriorate from this...

Presidential Pardons: Overview and Selected Legal Issues

Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution authorizes the President “to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.” The power has its roots in the king’s prerogative to grant mercy under early English law, which later traveled across the Atlantic Ocean to the American colonies. The Supreme Court has recognized that the authority vested by the Constitution in the President is quite broad, describing it as “plenary,” discretionary, and largely not subject to legislative modification. Nonetheless, there are two textual limitations...

The Charitable Deduction for Individuals: A Brief Legislative History

This report provides a brief history of the major legislative changes to the charitable deduction that have occurred over the past 100 years, focusing on changes to the amount that taxpayers could deduct. Over the past 100 years, Congress has generally increased the amount that eligible taxpayers can deduct for their charitable donations. These changes are summarized in the below table.

As Congress has expanded the amount that can be deducted by those who claim the deduction, policymakers have debated the deduction’s effectiveness at increasing charitable giving and the broader role of...

The Congressional Review Act (CRA): Frequently Asked Questions

The Congressional Review Act (CRA) is an oversight tool that Congress may use to overturn rules issued by federal agencies. The CRA was included as part of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA), which was signed into law on March 29, 1996. The CRA requires agencies to report on their rulemaking activities to Congress and provides Congress with a special set of procedures under which to consider legislation to overturn those rules.

Under the CRA, before a rule can take effect, an agency must submit a report to each house of Congress and the comptroller general...

Instances of Use of United States Armed Forces Abroad, 1798-2020

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...

Salaries of Members of Congress: Congressional Votes, 1990-2019

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...

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...

U.S. Killing of Qasem Soleimani: Frequently Asked Questions

The January 2, 2020, U.S. killing in Iraq of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) Commander Qasem Soleimani, generally regarded as one of the most powerful and important officials in Iran, has potentially dramatic implications for the United States. For Congress, it raises possible questions about U.S. policy in the Middle East, broader U.S. global strategy, U.S. relations with partners and allies, the authorization and legality of U.S. military action abroad, U.S. measures to protect its servicemembers and diplomatic personnel, and congressional oversight of these and...

Copyright Act and Communications Act Changes in 2019 Related to Television

On December 20, 2019, President Donald J. Trump signed the Satellite Television Community Protection and Promotion Act of 2019, and the Television Viewer Protection Act of 2019 (Titles XI and X of Division P, respectively, of the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020, P.L. 116-94). The act permanently extends some legal provisions governing the retransmission of distant network broadcast signals, while repealing others. In addition, the act permanently extends and changes rules for retransmission consent negotiations between television station owners and operators of satellite and...

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

In early August 2019, the Indian government announced that it would make major changes to the legal status of its Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) state, specifically by repealing Article 370 of the Indian Constitution and Section 35A of its Annex, which provided the state “special” autonomous status, and by bifurcating the state into two successor “Union Territories” with more limited indigenous administrative powers. The changes were implemented on November 1, 2019. The former princely region’s sovereignty has been unsettled since 1947 and its territory is divided by a military...

An Overview of Small Business Contracting

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

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

Iraq: Issues in the 116th Congress

Some Iraqis are demanding an end to the U.S. military presence in Iraq, in the context of intensified confrontation between the United States and Iran. Tensions increased for months during 2019 as Iran-backed Iraqi militia targeted U.S. and Iraqi military and civilian personnel in a series of rocket attacks, and as unclaimed airstrikes in Iraq targeted Iranian officials and Iraqi militia facilities and personnel. After a rocket attack killed and wounded U.S. contractors in December 2019, President Donald Trump cited U.S. concerns about the imminent threat of new attacks in ordering the...

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 FY2018, 96% of current civilian federal employees were enrolled in FERS, which covers employees hired since 1984. Four percent were enrolled in CSRS, which covers only employees hired before 1984.

In FY2018, more than 2.6 million people received civil service annuity payments, including 2,132,713...

U.S. Armed Forces Abroad: Selected Congressional Votes Since 1982

This report summarizes selected congressional roll call votes related to instances in which U.S. Armed Forces have been sent abroad in potentially hostile situations. These votes reflect the type of congressional actions that observers maintain bear directly on issues affecting policy and the funding of troops abroad, often in the context of the War Powers Resolution, continued presence or withdrawal of troops, and the “use of force.” The cases of Lebanon (1982-1983), Grenada (1983), Panama (1989), the Persian Gulf War (1990-1991), Somalia (1992-1995), Haiti (1993-1996), Bosnia...

Potential Effect of FCC Rules on State and Local Video Franchising Authorities

Local and state governments have traditionally played an important role in regulating cable television operators, within limits established by federal law. In a series of rulings since 2007, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has further limited the ability of local governments (known as local franchise authorities) to regulate and collect fees from cable television companies and traditional telephone companies (known as telcos) offering video services.

In August 2019, in response to a ruling by a federal court of appeals, the FCC tightened restrictions on municipalities’ and—for...

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)...

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Speech Resources: Fact Sheet

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is a federal holiday observed annually on the third Monday in January. It celebrates the life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. in honor of his birthday and achievements. The day is also referred to as the Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Holiday; MLK Day; Martin Luther King Day; the King Holiday; and the King Day of Service. In 2020, this holiday is celebrated on January 20.

This guide assists congressional offices with work related to Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. It contains links to legislation, CRS reports, sample speeches and remarks from the...

The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP): Background and Funding

The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) is a federal food distribution program that supports food banks, food pantries, soup kitchens, and other emergency feeding organizations serving low-income Americans. Federal assistance takes the form of federally purchased commodities—including fruits, vegetables, meats, and grains—and funding for administrative costs. Food aid and funds are distributed to states using a statutory formula that takes into account poverty and unemployment rates. TEFAP is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service...

H.R. 4674, the College Affordability Act: Proposed Reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, Summary of Major Provisions

The Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA; P.L. 89-329, as amended) authorizes programs and activities to provide support to individuals who are pursuing a postsecondary education and to institutions of higher education (IHEs). During the 116th Congress, the House Committee on Education and Labor marked up and ordered to be reported the College Affordability Act (H.R. 4674), which would provide for the comprehensive reauthorization of most HEA programs.

This report organizes the changes proposed by H.R. 4674 into seven themes:

Expanding the availability of financial aid to postsecondary...

Space Weather: An Overview of Policy and Select U.S. Government Roles and Responsibilities

Space weather refers to conditions on the sun, in the solar wind, and within the extreme reaches of Earth’s upper atmosphere. In certain circumstances, space weather may pose hazards to space-borne and ground-based critical infrastructure systems and assets that are vulnerable to geomagnetically induced current, electromagnetic interference, or radiation exposure. Hazardous space weather events are rare, but may affect broad areas of the globe. Effects may include physical damage to satellites or orbital degradation, accelerated corrosion of gas pipelines, disruption of radio...

FDIC Proposes Changes to Brokered Deposit Regulation

On December 12, 2019, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) proposed changes to current rules that restrict banks that are not well capitalized from accepting brokered deposits, a perennial point of contention between banks and regulators. Recently, banks and financial technology companies have developed or begun using new arrangements that may qualify as brokered deposits. This development has refocused attention on the issue.

Background

Core deposits are the funds individuals or companies directly place in checking and savings accounts, primarily to utilize the safekeeping,...

The Cable Franchising Authority of State and Local Governments and the Communications Act

Companies that provide cable television service (cable operators) are subject to regulation at the federal, state, and local levels. Under the Communications Act of 1934, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC or Commission) exercises regulatory authority over various operational aspects of cable service. At the same time, a cable operator must obtain a franchise from the state or local franchising authority for the area in which it wishes to provide cable service. The franchising authority often negotiates various obligations as a condition of granting the franchise.

Under the Cable...

Comparing DHS Component Funding, FY2020: In Brief

(TO BE SUPPRESSED)

Generally, the homeland security appropriations bill includes all annual appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), providing resources to every departmental component. The Tables and Figure show DHS’s new discretionary budget authority enacted for FY2019 and requested by the Administration for FY2020, as well as proposed by the House and Senate Appropriations Committees in their reported legislation for FY2020, and ultimately enacted in P.L. 116-93, Division D. Analysis is of various funding streams at the component level.

Department of Homeland...

Campaign and Election Security Policy: Overview and Recent Developments for Congress

In the United States, state, territorial, and local governments are responsible for most aspects of selecting and securing election systems and equipment. Foreign interference during the 2016 election cycle—and widely reported to be an ongoing threat—has renewed congressional attention to campaign and election security and raised new questions about the nature and extent of the federal government’s role in this policy area.

This report provides congressional readers with a resource for understanding campaign and election security policy. This includes discussion of the federal...

Nature-Based Infrastructure: NOAA’s Role

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) currently supports natural, nature-based, or green infrastructure and other related types of features (hereinafter referred to as nature-based infrastructure) as part of its statutory mandates to support, research, restore, and conserve natural resources. NOAA’s nature-based activities primarily fall under three line offices: the National Marine Fisheries Service, National Ocean Service, and Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research.

NOAA uses the term nature-based infrastructure and other related terms interchangeably to describe...

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...

Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania: Background and U.S.-Baltic Relations

Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, often referred to as the Baltic states, are close U.S. allies and considered among the most pro-U.S. countries in Europe. Strong U.S. relations with these three states are rooted in history. The United States never recognized the Soviet Union’s forcible incorporation of the Baltic states in 1940, and it applauded the restoration of their independence in 1991. These policies were backed by Congress on a bipartisan basis. The United States supported the Baltic states’ accession to NATO and the European Union (EU) in 2004.

Especially since Russia’s 2014...

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

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

FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act: P.L. 116-92 (H.R. 2500, S. 1790)

The Administration’s FY2020 NDAA request would have authorized $568.1 billion designated as base budget funds to cover the routine, recurring costs to man, train, and operate U.S. forces. The request would have authorized an additional $173.8 billion designated as Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funds, of which $97.9 billion was requested for base programs. As enacted, the FY2020 NDAA authorizes a total of $729.9 billion for national defense-related activities, which is $12.0 billion (1.6%) less than the Administration requested.

Administration’s FY2020 National Defense Authorization...

Legal Authority to Repurpose Funds for Border Barrier Construction

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

National Flood Insurance Program Borrowing Authority

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

NFIP Funding

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

The Office of Federal Student Aid as a Performance-Based Organization

The Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA), within the U.S. Department of Education (ED), is established as a performance-based organization (PBO) pursuant to Section 141 of the Higher Education Act (HEA). FSA is a discrete management unit “responsible for managing the administrative and oversight functions supporting” the HEA Title IV federal student aid programs, including the Pell Grant and the Direct Loan programs. As such, it is the largest provider of postsecondary student financial aid in the nation. In FY2019, FSA oversaw the provision of approximately $130.4 billion in Title IV aid...

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

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

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

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

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

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

This Insight provides a short overview of what would happen if the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) were not to be reauthorized by September 30, 2020, and allowed to lapse.

Expiration of Certain NFIP Authorities

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

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...

The Power of Congress and the Executive to Exclude Aliens: Constitutional Principles

Supreme Court precedent establishes 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 non-U.S. nationals (aliens) may enter the United States and under what conditions. The Court has also established that the executive branch, when enforcing the laws concerning alien entry, has broad authority to do so mostly free from judicial oversight.

Two principles frame the scope of the political branches’ power to exclude aliens. First,...

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

The National Flood Insurance Program

The NFIP was first authorized by the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968 (42 U.S.C. §4001 et seq.) and was reauthorized until the end of FY2017 by the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 (BW-12; Title II of P.L. 112-141). After a series of short-term reauthorizations, the NFIP was reauthorized until September 30, 2020, (P.L. 116-93). In statute, Congress has found that

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

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

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

Housing Issues in the 116th Congress

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

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

Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD): Funding Trends Since FY2002

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

HUD’s annual budget, as considered by congressional appropriators, is generally comprised of several components, including regular annual appropriations, which fund HUD’s...

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...

The National Flood Insurance Program: Selected Issues and Legislation in the 116th 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 September 30, 2020 (P.L. 116-93). 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:...

Introduction to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) was established by the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968 (NFIA; 42 U.S.C. §4001 et seq.) and was most recently reauthorized to September 30, 2020, 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...

The Proposed Equal Rights Amendment: Contemporary Ratification Issues

The proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (ERA) 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....” The ERA was approved by Congress for ratification by the states in 1972; the amendment included a customary, but not constitutionally mandated, 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...

Mexico: Organized Crime and Drug Trafficking Organizations

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

“Stage One” U.S.-Japan Trade Agreements

On October 7, 2019, after six months of formal negotiations, the United States and Japan signed two agreements intended to liberalize bilateral trade. One, the U.S.-Japan Trade Agreement (USJTA), provides for limited tariff reductions and quota expansions to improve market access. The other, the U.S.-Japan Digital Trade Agreement, includes commitments pertaining to digital aspects of international commerce, such as cross-border data flows. These agreements constitute what the Trump and Abe Administrations envision as “stage one” of a broader trade liberalization negotiation, which the two...

Iran’s Nuclear Program: Status

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

Is Iran Capable of Building Nuclear Weapons?

The United States has assessed that Tehran...

Presidential Funerals and Burials: Selected Resources

This fact sheet is a brief resource guide for congressional staff on funerals and burials for Presidents of the United States. It contains an overview of past practices for presidential funerals and selected online information resources related to official and ceremonial protocols, past presidential funerals, congressional documents, and other documents and books.

U.S. Foreign-Trade Zones: Background and Issues for Congress

U.S. foreign-trade zones (FTZs) are geographic areas declared to be outside the normal customs territory of the United States. This means that, for foreign merchandise entering FTZs and re-exported as different products, customs procedures are streamlined and tariffs do not apply. For products intended for U.S. consumption, full customs procedures are applied and duties are payable when they exit the FTZ.

In 1934, in the midst of the Great Depression, Congress passed the U.S. Foreign Trade Zones Act. It was designed to expedite and encourage international trade while promoting domestic...

Foreign Interference in NIH Research: Policy Implications

Recent congressional hearings and media reports have raised the issue of foreign interference in research funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the primary federal agency for biomedical research and development (R&D). An NIH investigation, conducted in partnership with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), uncovered numerous potential violations of laws and policies (some confirmed, others subject to ongoing investigation), including

scientists involved in the NIH peer review process sharing details of research proposals with foreign entities;

failure of scientists to...

Congressional Nominations to U.S. Service Academies: An Overview and Resources for Outreach and Management

Members of Congress are authorized by law to nominate candidates for appointment to four U.S. service academies. These schools are the U.S. Military Academy, the U.S. Naval Academy, the U.S. Air Force Academy, and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. The fifth service academy, the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, does not require a congressional nomination for appointment. These institutions prepare college-age Americans to be officers of the U.S. uniformed services. Upon graduation, service academy graduates are commissioned as officers in the active or reserve components of the military or...

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, as amended) 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 or encourage certain budget objectives...

U.S. Farm Income Outlook: November 2019 Forecast

This report uses the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) farm income projections (as of November 27, 2019) and agricultural trade outlook update (as of November 25, 2019) to describe the U.S. farm economic outlook for 2019. According to USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS), national net farm income—a key indicator of U.S. farm well-being—is forecast at $92.5 billion in 2019, up $8.5 billion (+10.2%) from last year. The forecast rise in 2019 net farm income is largely the result of a 64.0% increase in government payments to the agricultural sector, with a projected total value of...

Flood Resilience and Risk Reduction: Federal Assistance and Programs

Recent flood disasters have raised congressional and public interest in reducing flood risks and improving flood resilience, which is the ability to adapt to, withstand, and rapidly recover from floods. Federal programs that assist communities in reducing their flood risk and improving their flood resilience include programs funding infrastructure projects (e.g., levees, shore protection) and other flood mitigation activities (e.g., nature-based flood risk reduction) and mitigation incentives for communities that participate in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

Assistance...

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

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

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

The SBA Pre-Disaster Loan Pilot Program: Considerations for Congress and Policy Options

For nearly a century, Congress has contemplated how to help businesses repair and rebuild after a disaster. Congress has also expressed interest in helping businesses use mitigation measures to protect their investments from future incidents. Mitigation activities entail identifying risks and hazards and taking measures to either substantially reduce or eliminate the impact of an incident. As described in this report, mitigation measures primarily take place during the recovery phase of a disaster. Currently, only damaged businesses in declared disaster areas are eligible for disaster...

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

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

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

The Presidential Records Act: An Overview

Presidential records provide Congress, members of the public, and researchers with documentation, context, and explanations for presidential actions. The Presidential Records Act (PRA; 44 U.S.C. §§2201-2207) set forth requirements regarding the maintenance, access, and preservation of presidential and vice presidential information during and after a presidency.

This report describes the institutions involved in presidential recordkeeping, explains what is and is not considered a presidential record, and identifies recordkeeping responsibilities and access policies during and after a...

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...

Federal Employees’ Retirement System: Budget and Trust Fund Issues

Most of the civilian federal workforce is covered by one of two retirement systems: (1) the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) for individuals hired before 1984 or (2) the Federal Employees’ Retirement System (FERS) for individuals hired in 1984 or later. FERS annuities are fully funded by the sum of employee and employer contributions and interest earned by the Treasury bonds held by the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund (CSRDF). The federal government makes supplemental payments into the CSRDF on behalf of employees covered by the CSRS because employee and agency...

Surprise Billing in Private Health Insurance: Overview and Federal Policy Considerations

In response to individuals receiving large, unexpected medical bills for out-of-network care, Congress has recently been considering legislation to address surprise billing. As the term is currently being discussed, surprise billing typically refers to situations where consumers are unknowingly, and potentially unavoidably, treated by providers outside of the consumers’ health insurance plan networks and, as a result, unexpectedly receive larger bills than they would have received if the providers had been in the plan networks. In the 116th Congress, federal proposals have sought to...

TEACH Grants: A Primer

The Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant program is intended to encourage individuals to enter the teaching profession by providing recipients with grants of up to $4,000 annually to pursue coursework that leads to a certification in teaching. Congress authorized the TEACH Grant program in the College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007 (P.L. 110-84) to address concerns about growing demand for high-quality teachers, especially in low-income schools.

To be eligible for a TEACH Grant, among other requirements, a postsecondary student has to meet...

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

On September 11, 2019, the United States and 11 other Western Hemisphere countries invoked the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (Rio Treaty) to facilitate a regional response to the crisis in Venezuela. As a first step, on September 23, 2019, the countries that have ratified the treaty (states parties) agreed to identify, prosecute, and freeze the assets of certain individuals and entities associated with the government of Nicolás Maduro. On December 3, 2019, the states parties approved an initial list of 29 individuals alleged to have engaged in corruption and/or human...

Defining Active Ingredient: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Legal Interpretation of Regulatory Exclusivities

Whether many provisions of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) apply to a particular drug product turns in part on the novelty of the “active ingredient” of the drug in question. In particular, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) must assess the novelty of the active ingredient in a new drug, comparing it to a previously approved drug’s active ingredient to determine whether the new drug qualifies for the five-year “new chemical entity” (NCE) exclusivity. FDA generally cannot accept new drug applications that refer to a drug with NCE exclusivity (i.e., rely on its...

Medicaid Eligibility: Older Adults and Individuals with Disabilities

Medicaid is a joint federal-state program that finances the delivery of primary and acute medical services, as well as long-term services and supports (LTSS), to a diverse low-income population. In general, individuals qualify for Medicaid coverage by meeting the requirements of a specific eligibility pathway. An eligibility pathway is the federal statutory reference that extends Medicaid coverage to certain groups of individuals.

Each eligibility pathway specifies the group of individuals covered by the pathway (i.e., the categorical criteria). It also specifies the financial...

Demand for Broadband in Rural Areas: Implications for Universal Access

As of 2019, over 20 million Americans—predominantly those living in rural areas—lacked access to high speed broadband service according to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Federal subsidies underwritten by taxpayer funds and long-distance telephone subscriber fees have injected billions of dollars into rural broadband markets over the past decade—mostly on the supply side in the form of grants, loans, and direct support to broadband providers.

Yet, adoption rates have leveled off after more than a decade of rapid growth, even as broadband providers have extended service to...

Agency-Related Nonprofit Research Foundations and Corporations

Federal research and development (R&D) has played a significant role in strengthening the innovative capacity of the United States to achieve goals such as economic competitiveness, national security, improved healthcare, and protection of the environment. The results of federal R&D have led to scientific breakthroughs and new technologies with broad social and economic impacts, including artificial intelligence, the internet, and magnetic resonance imaging. The global landscape for innovation is rapidly evolving—the pace of innovation has increased and the composition of R&D funding has...

Uruguay’s 2019 Elections

On November 24, 2019, Uruguayans narrowly elected Luis Lacalle Pou of the center-right National Party in a presidential runoff election. Lacalle Pou’s inauguration, scheduled for March 1, 2020, will end the center-left Broad Front coalition’s 15-year hold on power and could usher in several changes to Uruguay’s economic and security policies. The new government is also likely to align more closely with the United States on some foreign policy issues, such as efforts, supported by Congress, to facilitate the restoration of democracy in Venezuela.

Domestic Context

As much of the Latin...

Activities-Based Regulation and Systemic Risk

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

The 2010 Dodd-Frank Act (P.L. 111-203) enhanced the regulation of certain financial firms and activities to reduce systemic risk, particularly prudential regulation administered by the...

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,...

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

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

Small Business Size Standards: A Historical Analysis of Contemporary Issues

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

Misuse of Government Purchase Cards: Background, Legislation, and Analysis

Following their introduction in the mid-1990s, the usage of government purchase cards expanded at a rapid rate. Spurred by legislative and regulatory reforms designed to increase the use of purchase cards for small acquisitions, the dollar volume of government purchase card transactions grew from $527 million in FY1993 to $19.5 billion in FY2011. While the use of purchase cards was credited with reducing administrative costs during that time, audits of agency purchase card programs found varying degrees of waste, fraud, and abuse. One of the most common risk factors cited by auditors was a...

World Trade Organization: Overview and Future Direction

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

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 120 laws designating wilderness areas have been enacted. As of July 15, 2019, the system consisted of over 111 million acres in 803 units, managed by four land management agencies: the Forest Service (FS), in the Department of Agriculture; the National Park Service (NPS); Fish and...

Designating Mexican Drug Cartels as Foreign Terrorists: Policy Implications

In a November 26 interview, President Donald Trump revealed his intention to designate Mexico’s drug trafficking organizations (DTOs, commonly referred to as “cartels”) as foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs). His comments follow recent incidents that exemplify how Mexican DTOs use violence to control their criminal domains. Earlier in November, after members of an extended family of U.S.-Mexican citizens were killed in Sonora, President Trump tweeted: “This is the time for Mexico, with the help of the United States, to wage WAR on the drug cartels....” In October, Mexican security...

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...

Supreme Court Criminal Law Decisions: 2019

In 2019, the Supreme Court issued a sizeable number of criminal law decisions, which addressed several topics, including sentencing, pretrial, statutory construction, and ineffective assistance of counsel. This report discusses the following Supreme Court holdings in greater detail:

Racially Discriminatory Jury Selection: “[T]he trial court at Flowers’ sixth trial committed clear error in concluding that the State’s peremptory strike of [a] black prospective juror ... was not motivated in substantial part by discriminatory intent.” Flowers v. Mississippi, 139 S. Ct. 2228 (2019).

Execution...

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.

FEMA Individual Assistance Programs: An Overview

Following a presidential declaration of emergency or major disaster, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) may provide three primary forms of assistance: Individual Assistance (IA), Public Assistance (PA), and Hazard Mitigation Assistance (HMA). IA, which is the focus of this report, provides aid to affected individuals and households. PA provides grants to local, state, territorial, and Indian tribal governments, as well as certain private nonprofit organizations for emergency protective measures, debris removal operations, and repair or replacement of damaged public...

Farm Policy: USDA’s 2018 Trade Aid Package

In early 2018, the Trump Administration—citing concerns over national security and unfair trade practices—imposed increased tariffs on certain imported products in general and on U.S. imports from China in particular. Several of the affected foreign trading partners (including China) responded to the U.S. tariffs with their own retaliatory tariffs targeting various U.S. products, especially agricultural commodities. On July 24, 2018, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) would be taking several temporary actions to assist farmers in...

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

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

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

Jordan: Background and U.S. Relations

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

Women in National Governments Around the Globe: Fact Sheet

Summary to be suppressed Women Elections Legislatures Legislative representation Executive representation Voting rights Gender quotas

Military Families and Intimate Partner Violence: Background and Issues for Congress

Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a national public health issue. IPV is also a crime characterized by recidivism and escalation, meaning offenders are likely to be repeat abusers, and the intensity of the abuse or violence is likely to grow over time. Like the broader phenomenon of domestic violence and abuse, a subset of which includes IPV, associated physical and mental trauma for those who are victims of abuse, as well as for those minor children who witness the abuse, can have both immediate and long-term health effects and significant costs to society. When military servicemembers...

Leveraged Lending and Collateralized Loan Obligations: Frequently Asked Questions

Leveraged lending generally refers to loans made to businesses that are highly indebted or have a low credit rating. Most leveraged loans are syndicated, meaning a group of bank or nonbank lenders collectively funds a leveraged loan made to a single borrower, in contrast to a traditional loan held by a single bank. In some cases, investors hold leveraged loans directly. However, more than 60% of leveraged loans are securitized into collateralized loan obligations (CLOs)—securities backed by cash flow from pools of leveraged loans. These securities are then sold to investors. The largest...

National Statuary Hall Collection: Background and Legislative Options

The National Statuary Hall Collection, located in the U.S. Capitol, comprises 100 statues provided by individual states to honor persons notable for their historic renown or for distinguished services. The collection was authorized in 1864, at the same time that Congress redesignated the hall where the House of Representatives formerly met as National Statuary Hall. The first statue, depicting Nathanael Greene, was provided in 1870 by Rhode Island. The collection has consisted of 100 statues—two statues per state—since 2005, when New Mexico sent a statue of Po’pay. At various times,...

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

Mass protests and state violence against some protestors have shaken Iraq since October 2019, with at least 400 Iraqis reported dead and thousands more injured in Baghdad and several southern Iraqi cities. After security forces and unidentified gunmen killed 45 protestors on November 27 and 28, Prime Minister Adel Abd Al Mahdi publicly stated his intent to resign, which protestors and some prominent political figures had been demanding for months. Iraqi legislators in the Council of Representatives (COR) acknowledged the prime minister’s offer, but he remains in office until a replacement...

Israel and the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement

Israeli officials seek to prevent a boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel from gaining strength. The BDS movement is a loose grouping of actors from various countries that advocate or engage in economic measures against Israel or Israel-related individuals or organizations. Defining precisely who may or may not constitute the BDS movement, or what may or may not constitute BDS activity, is subject to debate.

Congress and the executive branch have taken actions to counter BDS measures, and Members of Congress debate how best to do so in light of various...

Amazon Protest of the Department of Defense's JEDI Cloud Contract Award to Microsoft

In September 2017, the Deputy Secretary of Defense issued a memorandum calling for the adoption of a Department of Defense (DOD) enterprise-wide cloud services solution. As part of its ongoing technology modernization efforts, DOD sought to acquire a commercial cloud services solution known as the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) Cloud.

In April 2019, DOD selected Microsoft and Amazon Web Services (henceforth Amazon) to contend for the contract award from qualified proposals submitted by IBM, Amazon, Microsoft, and Oracle. In October 2019, DOD announced it had awarded the...

State Innovation Waivers: Frequently Asked Questions

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

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

Remittances: Background and Issues for Congress

This report focuses on remittances, the transfers of money and capital sent by migrants and foreign immigrant communities to their home countries. At over $700 billion, remittances sent home by international migrants to developing countries are larger than official development assistance (ODA) and more stable than private capital flows to these countries.

The United States is the destination for the most international migrants and is by far the largest source of global remittances. The World Bank estimates there were $56.3 billion in official remittance outflows from the United States in...

Colombia: Background and U.S. Relations

Colombia, a key Latin American ally, endured half a century of internal armed conflict. Drug trafficking fueled the violence, funding left- and right-wing armed groups. Some analysts feared in the 1990s that Colombia would become a failed state, but the Colombian government devised a novel security strategy, known as Plan Colombia, to counter the insurgencies. Plan Colombia and follow-on programs ultimately became a 17-year U.S.-Colombian bilateral effort. The partnership initially focused on counternarcotics and later included counterterrorism. When fully implemented, it also included...

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...

Voluntary Testimony by Executive Branch Officials: An Introduction

Executive branch officials testify regularly before congressional committees on both legislative and oversight matters. Most committee requests for testimony are accepted, and the officials appear voluntarily without the need to issue subpoenas or use the other tools available to Congress to compel appearance.

Congress’s authority under the Constitution to legislate and investigate, along with its practices in exercising these powers, provide strong incentives for the executive branch to work voluntarily with Congress. Congress’s control over appropriations and the organization and...

Small Business Administration HUBZone Program

The Historically Underutilized Business Zone Empowerment Contracting (HUBZone) program provides participating small businesses located in areas with low income, high poverty, or high unemployment with contracting opportunities in the form of set-asides, sole-source awards, and price-evaluation preferences. Its primary objectives are job creation and increased capital investment in distressed communities. Firms must be certified by the SBA to participate in the program. As of November 27, 2019, the SBA’s Dynamic Small Business Search database included 7,183 firms with active HUBZone...

Department of Defense First Agency-wide Financial Audit (FY2018): Background and Issues for Congress

The Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990 (CFO Act, P.L. 101-576) requires annual financial audits of federal agencies’ financial statements to “assure the issuance of reliable financial information ... deter fraud, waste and abuse of Government resources ... [and assist] the executive branch ... and Congress in the financing, management, and evaluation of Federal programs.” Agency inspectors general (IGs) are responsible for the audits and may contract with one or more external auditors. Congressional interest in the Department of Defense’s (DOD’s) audits is especially acute because DOD’s...

Selected Homeland Security Issues in the 116th Congress

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

Initially, homeland security was largely seen as...

Military Construction: Authorities, Process, and Frequently Asked Questions

Congress appropriates several billion dollars annually to support the Department of Defense’s (DOD’s) worldwide military installations portfolio. Authorization for specific military construction (MILCON) projects provided through the annual National Defense Authorization Actenables 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 forces at home and abroad. The end-to-end MILCON process...

Hindu Holidays: Fact Sheet

Hinduism (or Sanatana Dharma) is the third-largest religion in the world behind Christianity and Islam, with nearly 1 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...

Farm Policy: USDA’s 2019 Trade Aid Package

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

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

Closing the Flood Insurance Gap

There is a large flood insurance gap in the United States, where many people that are exposed to flood risk are not covered by flood insurance. The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is the primary source of residential flood insurance. More than 22,000 communities participate in the NFIP, with more than 5 million policies providing more than $1.3 trillion in coverage.

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

The Schedule I Status of Marijuana

The Controlled Substances Act (CSA) places various substances in one of five schedules based on their medical use, potential for abuse, and safety or risk for dependence. The five schedules are progressively ordered, with substances regarded as the least dangerous and addictive classified as Schedule V and those considered the most dangerous and addictive classified as Schedule I. By law, Schedule I substances have a “high potential for abuse” with “no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States” and cannot safely be dispensed under a prescription. The CSA prohibits...

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...

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

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

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

Congressional Commissions: Overview and Considerations for Congress

Congressional advisory commissions are formal groups established to provide independent advice; to make recommendations for changes in public policy; to study or investigate a particular problem, issue, or event; or to commemorate an individual, group, or event. While no legal definition exists for what constitutes a congressional commission, in this report a congressional commission is defined as a multimember 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)...

Artificial Intelligence and National Security

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a rapidly growing field of technology with potentially significant implications for national security. As such, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) and other nations are developing AI applications for a range of military functions. AI research is underway in the fields of intelligence collection and analysis, logistics, cyber operations, information operations, command and control, and in a variety of semiautonomous and autonomous vehicles. Already, AI has been incorporated into military operations in Iraq and Syria. Congressional action has the potential...

Egypt: Background and U.S. Relations

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

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

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

Shipping Under the Jones Act: Legislative and Regulatory Background

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

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,...

Impeachment and the Constitution

The Constitution grants Congress authority to impeach and remove the President, Vice President, and other federal “civil officers” for “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” Impeachment is one of the various checks and balances created by the Constitution, a crucial tool for holding government officers accountable for violations of the law and abuse of power.

Responsibility and authority to determine whether to impeach an individual rests in the hands of the House of Representatives. Should a simple majority of the House approve articles of impeachment, the matter is...

Resolutions to Censure the President: Procedure and History

Censure is a reprimand adopted by one or both chambers of Congress against a Member of Congress, President, federal judge, or other government official. While Member censure is a disciplinary measure that is sanctioned by the Constitution (Article 1, Section 5), non-Member censure is not. Rather, it is a formal expression or “sense of” one or both houses of Congress.

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

Democracy in Latin America and the Caribbean: A Compilation of Selected Indices

This report provides a regional snapshot of the political climate in Latin America and the Caribbean, based on the U.S. Department of State’s description of each country’s political system and selected nongovernmental indices that measure democracy trends worldwide. Using tables and graphs to illustrate regional trends, this report provides a snapshot of democracy indicators from the following sources: (1) the U.S. Department of State’s 2018 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices; (2) Bertelsmann Stiftung’s 2018 Bertelsmann Transformation Index (BTI); (3) the Economist Intelligence...

Overview of the Federal Tax System in 2019

This report describes the federal tax structure and system in effect for 2019. 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) 2019, an estimated $1.7 trillion, or 50% of the federal government’s revenue, will be collected from the individual income tax. The corporate income tax is estimated to generate another $216 billion in revenue in FY2019, or just over 6% of total revenue. Social insurance or payroll taxes...

The POWER Initiative: Energy Transition as Economic Development

With the decline of the U.S. coal industry, managing the economic effects of energy transition has become a priority for the federal government. The Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) Initiative, and the broader POWER Plus Plan of which it was a part, represent the U.S. government’s efforts to ease the economic effects of energy transition in coal industry-dependent communities in the United States, and especially in Appalachia. Launched in 2015 by the Obama Administration as a multi-agency effort utilizing various existing programs, the POWER...

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

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

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

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership: Status and Recent Developments

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is a prospective trade agreement between the ten members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and five of their major FTA partners—Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea. On November 4, 2019, a Joint Leaders Statement was issued following the conclusion of the 3rd RCEP Summit, held on the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit in Thailand. According to the statement, 15 of the original 16 Asian countries participating in RCEP have concluded “text-based negotiations for all 20 chapters” and “essentially all”...

Immigration: Recent Apprehension Trends at the U.S. Southwest Border

Unauthorized migration across the U.S. Southwest border poses considerable challenges to federal agencies that apprehend and process unauthorized migrants (aliens) due to changing characteristics and motivations of migrants in the past few years. Unauthorized migration flows are reflected by the number of migrants apprehended by the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS’s) Customs and Border Protection (CBP). In FY2000, total annual apprehensions at the border were at an all-time high of 1.64 million, before gradually declining to 303,916 in FY2017, a 45-year low. Apprehensions then...

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

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Overview

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

Liquefied Natural Gas by Rail: Policy Issues

On October 24, 2019, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), in coordination with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), published a proposed rule to authorize the transportation of liquefied natural gas (LNG) in rail tank cars. This publication was the latest federal action intended to provide “greater flexibility in the modes of transportation” of LNG to serve domestic and export markets. The proposed rule could conflict with legislation approved by the House of Representatives earlier this year.

Natural gas cooled below -260° F at normal atmospheric...

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

Energy is crucial to operating 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 a wide variety of federal incentives for renewable energy and energy efficiency. These incentives aim to implement renewable energy and energy efficiency measures and to develop and commercialize renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies.

Many of the existing energy efficiency and renewable energy programs have authorizations tracing back to the 1970s. Many programs have been reauthorized and...

Big Data in Financial Services: Privacy and Security Regulation

Congress has shown interest in data privacy and security issues in the financial services industry, including an upcoming House Financial Services task force hearing. Recent data breaches at large financial institutions and credit reporting agencies have increased concern about the privacy and security of the large amounts of consumer financial information (known increasingly as big data) that companies gather, use, and store. Some of this information is public, whereas other information is considered personal and nonpublic. No single law provides a framework for regulating data privacy in...

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...

The Impeachment Process in the House of Representatives

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

The House impeachment...

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...

Net Metering: In Brief

Net metering is a policy that allows electricity customers with their own generation capacity to be financially compensated for the energy they produce. Net metering is widely regarded as having an important role in deployment of distributed generation (DG), especially solar energy. State and local governments have authority to establish net metering policies, and some have done so for many years. Congress took action to encourage net metering in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPACT05), and the policy now exists, in some form, in 45 states. Recent state net metering policy modifications,...

Air Force B-21 Raider Long-Range Strike Bomber

The Department of Defense is developing a new long-range bomber aircraft, the B-21 Raider (previously known as LRS-B), and proposes to acquire at least 100 of them. B-21s would initially replace the fleets of B-1 and B-2 bombers, and could possibly replace B-52s in the future.

B-21 development was highly classified until the summer of 2015, when the Air Force revealed initial details of the aircraft and the program. Although technical specifications and other data remain out of public view, many details of the budget, acquisition strategy, procurement quantities, and other aspects of the...

Federal Employees’ Retirement System: Benefits and Financing

Most civilian federal employees who were hired before 1984 are covered by the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS). Federal employees hired in 1984 or later are covered by the Federal Employees’ Retirement System (FERS). Both CSRS and FERS require participants to contribute toward the cost of their pensions through a payroll tax to the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund (CSRDF).

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) estimates CSRS to cost an amount equal to 36.6% of employee pay. Of this amount, the federal government pays 29.6% and employees pay 7.0%. CSRS employees do not...

Poland Designated into Visa Waiver Program

On November 6, 2019, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin K. McAleenan announced the designation of Poland into the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). The VWP allows citizens of designated countries to visit the United States without obtaining visas. Poland—one of five EU countries that until now had not been designated into the VWP—had been working with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for over a decade to meet the program’s criteria (see list of criteria below). In FY2019, Poland met the requirement of having a nonimmigrant visa refusal rate below 3%. On October 4, 2019,...

SBA New Markets Venture Capital Program

Authorized by P.L. 106-554, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2001 (Appendix H: the New Markets Venture Capital Program Act of 2000), the New Markets Venture Capital (NMVC) program, which is no longer active, is designed to promote economic development and the creation of wealth and job opportunities in low-income geographic areas by addressing the unmet equity investments needs of small businesses located in those areas. Modeled on the Small Business Association’s (SBA’s) Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) program, SBA-selected, privately owned and managed NMVC companies provide...

Applicability of Federal Requirements to Selected Health Coverage Arrangements

Federal health insurance requirements generally apply to health plans sold in the private health insurance market in the United States (i.e., individual coverage, small- and large-group coverage, and self-insured plans). However, not all private health coverage arrangements comply with these requirements. This includes exempted health coverage arrangements and noncompliant health coverage arrangements, as termed for purposes of this report. This report identifies and describes arrangements in these two categories. It is intended to help congressional policymakers better understand the...

Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) FY2020 President’s Budget Request and Agency Funding History: In Brief

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...

U.S. Strategy for Engagement in Central America: Policy Issues for Congress

Central America has received renewed attention from U.S. policymakers over the past few years as the region has remained a major transit corridor for illicit drugs and has surpassed Mexico as the largest source of irregular migration to the United States. These narcotics and migrant flows are the latest symptoms of deep-rooted challenges in several countries in the region, including widespread insecurity, fragile political and judicial systems, and high levels of poverty and unemployment. The U.S. government has worked more closely with partners in Central America to address those...

Congressional Participation in Litigation: Article III and Legislative Standing

Houses, committees, and Members of Congress periodically seek to initiate or participate in litigation for various purposes, such as advancing their legislative objectives, challenging alleged transgressions of their legislative prerogatives, or defending core institutional interests. However, the constitutionally based doctrine of “standing” may prevent legislators from pursuing litigation in federal court. The standing doctrine requires a litigant seeking federal judicial relief to demonstrate (1) a concrete and particularized and actual or imminent injury-in-fact (2) that is traceable...

Poverty in the United States in 2018: In Brief

In 2018, approximately 38.1 million people, or 11.8% of the population, had incomes below the official definition of poverty in the United States. Poverty statistics provide a measure of economic hardship. The official definition of poverty for the United States uses dollar amounts called poverty thresholds that vary by family size and the members’ ages. Families with incomes below their respective thresholds are considered to be in poverty. The poverty rate (the percentage that was in poverty) fell from 12.3% in 2017. This was the fourth consecutive year since the most recent recession...

Contaminants of Emerging Concern under the Clean Water Act

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

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

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

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

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

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

FY2020 Refugee Ceiling and Allocations

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

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

Harbor Dredging: Issues and Historical Funding

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

Unauthorized Childhood Arrivals, DACA, and Related Legislation

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

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

Federal Regional Commissions and Authorities: Structural Features and Function

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

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

Canada’s October 2019 Elections

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

2019 Campaign

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

Intelligence Community Spending: Trends and Issues

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

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

The Emoluments Clauses and the Presidency: Background and Recent Developments

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

Federal Land Management Agencies’ Mandatory Appropriations Accounts

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

A number of issues arise for Congress...

Legalization Framework Under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA)

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

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.

Social Security: Demographic Trends and the Funding Shortfall

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

Unemployment Compensation (UC): Issues Related to Drug Testing

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

Social Security: Taxation of Benefits

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

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

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

$7.569 Billion Highway Rescission Approaches

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

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

Why the Rescission Was Included in the FAST Act

The Highway Trust Fund...

State Minimum Wages: An Overview

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

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

Charitable Conservation Contributions: Potential for Abuse?

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

2019 California Wildfires: Brief Overview of FEMA Programs and Resources

Introduction

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

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

Argentina’s 2019 Elections

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

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

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

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

U.S. Natural Gas: Becoming Dominant

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

Social Security Survivors Benefits

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

California Wildfires and Bulk Electric System Reliability

Introduction

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

MHS Genesis: Background and Issues for Congress

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

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

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

Wildfires: CRS Experts

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

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

Video Broadcasting from the Federal Courts: Issues for Congress

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

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

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

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

Broadband Internet Access and the Digital Divide: Federal Assistance Programs

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

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): Categorical Eligibility

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

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

The Small Business Lending Fund

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

Congressional Access to Information in an Impeachment Investigation

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

Dam Safety Overview and the Federal Role

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

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Hazard Mitigation Assistance

Introduction

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

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

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

Financial Inclusion and Credit Access Policy Issues

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

Turkey Sanctions in Pending Legislation: Issues for Congress

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

Unemployment Insurance: Consequences of Changes in State Unemployment Compensation Laws

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recent Developments

On March 30, 2016,...

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

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

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

The Outdoor Recreation Economy

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

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

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

The District of Columbia Tuition Assistance Grant (DCTAG) Program

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

House and Senate Restaurants: Current Operations and Issues for Congress

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

Libra: A Facebook-led Cryptocurrency Initiative

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

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

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...

Global Vaccination: Trends and U.S. Role

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

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

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

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

The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF)

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

In 2011, Congress reopened the...

Limits on TRICARE for Reservists: Frequently Asked Questions

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

Georgia: Background and U.S. Policy

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

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

Federal Civil Aviation Programs: In Brief

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

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

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

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

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

Resources for Grantseekers

This report describes key sources of information on government and private funding, and outlines eligibility for federal grants. Federal grants are intended to accomplish public purposes through projects benefiting states and communities. Individuals may be eligible for other kinds of benefits or assistance, and small businesses or students may be eligible for loans.

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

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

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

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

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

How We Get to Websites Today

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

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

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

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

Parliamentary Rights of the Delegates and Resident Commissioner from Puerto Rico

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

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

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

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

Public Transit Ridership Continues to Decline

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

“Sense of” Resolutions and Provisions

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

Kosovo’s Election: Early Results May Signal Major Changes

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

How Measures Are Brought to the Senate Floor: A Brief Introduction

Two basic methods are used by the Senate to bring legislation to the floor for consideration: (1) The Senate, at the majority leader’s request, grants unanimous consent to take up a matter or (2) it agrees to his motion to proceed to consider it. Because the motion to proceed is subject to debate in most circumstances, it is less frequently used. Both methods are derived from the basic premise that the Senate as a body may decide what matters it considers. The Senate may also use the same two methods to bring up executive business (nominations and treaties).

This report will be updated to...

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

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

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

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

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

Section...

Restitution in Federal Criminal Cases: A Sketch

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

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

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

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

Restitution in Federal Criminal Cases

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

The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program

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

CRS Seminars on Disruptive Technologies: Videos

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

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

The Congressional Arts Caucus and the Congressional Art Competition: History and Current Practice

Sponsored by the Congressional Arts Caucus, and known in recent years as “An Artistic Discovery,” the Congressional Art Competition is open to high school students nationwide. Begun in 1982, the competition, based in congressional districts, provides the opportunity for Members of Congress to encourage and recognize the artistic talents of their young constituents. Since its inception, more than 650,000 high school students nationwide have been involved in the program.

Each year, the art of one student per participating congressional district is selected to represent the district. The...

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

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

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

Capital Markets: Asset Management and Related Policy Issues

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

Turkish Incursion into Syria: U.S. Policy Implications

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

The launch of the operation...

CFPB Proposes New Debt Collection Regulation

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

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

CFPB Proposes New Payday Lending Rule, Reversing Recently Finalized Regulation

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

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

The Open Skies Treaty: Background and Issues

The United States, Canada, and 22 European nations signed the Treaty on Open Skies on March 24, 1992. It entered into force on January 1, 2002, and now has 34 members. Each participant must permit unarmed observation aircraft to fly over its entire territory to observe military forces and activities. The treaty is designed to increase transparency, build confidence, and encourage cooperation among European nations.

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

U.S. Offshore Aquaculture Regulation and Development

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

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...

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

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

U.S.-China Tariff Actions by the Numbers

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

Electricity Storage: Applications, Issues, and Technologies

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

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

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

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

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

TANF provides a...

Federal Reserve: Recent Repo Market Intervention

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

Executive Privilege and Individuals outside the Executive Branch

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

Use...

Unaccompanied Alien Children: An Overview

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

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

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

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

Expedited Removal of Aliens: Legal Framework

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

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

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

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

Patriot Day: Fact Sheet

In 2001, P.L. 107-89 designated September 11 as Patriot Day to honor the individuals who lost their lives as a result of the terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001. The law asks the President to issue a Proclamation for Patriot Day each year that directs the U.S. flag be flown at half-staff and a moment of silence be observed.

The terrorist attacks, which claimed nearly 3,000 lives, involved four civilian airplanes hijacked by 19 members of the Al Qaeda terrorist network. The first two airplanes were crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New...

Frequently Asked Questions About Flag Law

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

Sponsorship and Cosponsorship of House Bills

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

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

The Annual Sequester of Mandatory Spending through FY2029

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

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

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

U.S. Farm Support: Compliance with WTO Commitments

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

Issues in the Reauthorization of Amtrak

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

The G-20 and International Economic Cooperation: Background and Implications for Congress

The Group of Twenty (G-20) is a forum for advancing international cooperation and coordination among 20 major advanced and emerging-market economies. The G-20 includes Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States, as well as the European Union (EU). G-20 countries account for about 85% of global economic output, 75% of global exports, and two-thirds of the world’s population.

Originally established in 1999, the G-20 rose to prominence...

Attacks Against Saudi Arabia: Ramifications for Natural Gas

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

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

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

Millennium Challenge Corporation: Overview and Issues

The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) provides economic assistance through a competitive selection process to developing nations that demonstrate positive performance in three areas: ruling justly, investing in people, and fostering economic freedom. From the outset, Congress has been integrally involved with MCC’s creation, mandate, operations, and budgets.

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

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

Parliamentary Reference Sources: Senate

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

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

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

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

The Farm Bill Energy Title: An Overview and Funding History

Title IX, the energy title, of the 2018 farm bill (Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018; P.L. 115-334) contains authority for the energy programs administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). USDA energy programs incentivize research, development, and adoption of renewable energy projects, including solar, wind, and anaerobic digesters. However, the primary focus of USDA energy programs has been to promote U.S. biofuels production and use—including corn starch-based ethanol (the predominant biofuel produced and consumed in the United States), cellulosic biofuels, and...

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

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

Strategic Petroleum Reserve: Mandated Sales and Reform

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

The Budget Control Act: Frequently Asked Questions

When there is concern with deficit or debt levels, Congress will sometimes implement budget enforcement mechanisms to mandate specific budgetary policies or fiscal outcomes. The Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA; P.L. 112-25), which was signed into law on August 2, 2011, includes several such mechanisms.

The BCA as amended has three main components that currently affect the annual budget. One component imposes annual statutory discretionary spending limits for defense and nondefense spending. A second component requires annual reductions to the initial discretionary spending limits...

The National Directory of New Hires: In Brief

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

Nonimmigrant and Immigrant Visa Categories: Data Brief

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

The Net Neutrality Debate: Access to Broadband Networks

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

Bahamas: Response to Hurricane Dorian

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

Attacks on Saudi Oil Facilities: Effects and Responses

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

Abqaiq Facility

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

Japan-U.S. Relations: Issues for Congress

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

Although candidate Donald Trump made statements...

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

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

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

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

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

Military Funding for Southwest Border Barriers

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

Social Security: Raising or Eliminating the Taxable Earnings Base

Social Security taxes are levied on covered earnings up to a maximum level set each year. In 2019, this maximum—formally called the contribution and benefit base, and commonly referred to as the taxable earnings base or the taxable maximum—is $132,900. The taxable earnings base serves as both a cap on contributions and on benefits. As a contribution base, it establishes the maximum amount of a worker’s earnings that is subject to the payroll tax. As a benefit base, it establishes the maximum amount of earnings used to calculate benefits.

Since 1982, the Social Security taxable earnings...

Ebola Virus Disease Outbreak: Democratic Republic of Congo

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

What Is the Farm Bill?

The farm bill is an omnibus, multiyear law that governs an array of agricultural and food programs. Titles in the most recent farm bill encompassed farm commodity revenue supports, agricultural conservation, trade and foreign food assistance, farm credit, research, rural development, forestry, bioenergy, horticulture, and domestic nutrition assistance. Typically renewed about every five or six years, the farm bill provides a predictable opportunity for policymakers to comprehensively and periodically address agricultural and food issues.

The most recent farm bill—the Agriculture...

Attacks Against Saudi Oil Rattle Markets

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

Registered Apprenticeship: Federal Role and Recent Federal Efforts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

American War and Military Operations Casualties: Lists and Statistics

This report provides U.S. war casualty statistics. It includes data tables containing the number of casualties among American military personnel who served in principal wars and combat operations from 1775 to the present. It also includes data on those wounded in action and information such as race and ethnicity, gender, branch of service, and cause of death. The tables are compiled from various Department of Defense (DOD) sources.

Wars covered include the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, the Korean...

U.S. Payment System Policy Issues: Faster Payments and Innovation

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

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

U.N. Peacekeeping Operations in Africa

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

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

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

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

Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protections

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

Health Benefits for Retired United Mine Workers of America Members

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

Funding for the UMWA Retiree Health Plans

The...

The Endangered Species Act and Climate Change: Selected Legal Issues

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

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

U.S. Farm Income Outlook: August 2019 Forecast

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

Tax Issues Relating to Charitable Contributions and Organizations

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

The Coast Guard’s Need for Experienced Marine Safety Personnel

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

Discharge Procedure in the House

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

Parliamentary Reference Sources: House of Representatives

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

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

Air Force T-7A Red Hawk Trainer

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

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

Ground Electronic Warfare: Background and Issues for Congress

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

Role of EW in Ground...

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

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

The CCC Anomaly in an FY2020 Continuing Resolution

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

Patent-Eligible Subject Matter Reform in the 116th Congress

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

Recent Supreme Court decisions have broadened the scope...

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

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

National Special Security Events: Fact Sheet

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

Immigration Relief Options for Bahamians After Hurricane Dorian

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

As a...

The TIGER/BUILD Program at 10 Years: An Overview

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

Although the program’s stated...

Immigration Detention: A Legal Overview

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

Civilian Nuclear Waste Disposal

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

Retaliatory Tariffs and U.S. Agriculture

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

The Social Security Retirement Age

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

Holocaust-Era Insurance Claims: Background and Issues for Congress

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

National Hispanic Heritage Month: Fact Sheet

This fact sheet is designed to assist congressional offices with work related to National Hispanic Heritage Month, which is observed from September 15 to October 15. It contains links to census and demographic information, a CRS report, sample speeches and remarks from the Congressional Record, and presidential proclamations. It also contains links to additional cultural and historical resources and selected educational, cultural, and advocacy organizations.

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

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

Antitrust and “Big Tech”

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

Household Debt Among Older Americans, 1989-2016

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

Small Business Administration and Job Creation

The Small Business Administration (SBA) administers several programs to support small businesses, including loan guaranty programs, disaster loan programs, management and technical assistance training programs, and federal contracting programs. Congressional interest in these programs has increased in recent years, primarily because they are viewed as a means to stimulate economic activity and create jobs.

This report examines the economic research on net job creation to identify the types of businesses that appear to create the most jobs. That research suggests that business startups play...

Immigration: Nonimmigrant (Temporary) Admissions to the United States

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Systemic Risk And The Long-Term Capital Management Rescue

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

The Manufacturing Extension Partnership Program

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

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

The European Union: Questions and Answers

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

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

Abortion: Judicial History and Legislative Response

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

Suicide Rates and Risk Factors for the National Guard

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

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

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

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

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

the approval, disapproval, or conditioning of...

Hurricane Dorian: FEMA and Additional Storm-Related Resources

Introduction

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

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

Overseas Contingency Operations Funding: Background and Status

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

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

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

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

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

House Committee Party Ratios: 98th-116th Congresses

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

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

Older Americans Month Speech Resources: Fact Sheet

May is Older Americans Month—a time to celebrate and pay tribute to older people across the country. Since 1992, the Administration on Aging has selected an annual theme for Older Americans Month. The May 2019 theme is Connect, Create, Contribute. The Administration for Community Living website contains a list of past themes.

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

Freshwater Harmful Algal Blooms: Causes, Challenges, and Policy Considerations

Scientific research indicates that in recent years, the frequency and geographic distribution of harmful algal blooms (HABs) have been increasing nationally and globally. Because the impacts of HABs can be severe and widespread—often with interstate implications—these issues have been a perennial interest for Congress. While algal communities are natural components of healthy aquatic ecosystems, under certain conditions (e.g., increased temperatures and nutrient concentrations), algae may grow excessively, or “bloom,” and produce toxins that can harm human health, animals, aquatic...

Senate Committee Party Ratios: 98th-116th Congresses

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

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

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

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

New U.S. Sanctions on Venezuela

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

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

Grants Work in a Congressional Office

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

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

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

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

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

Party Leaders in the United States Congress, 1789-2019

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

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

The Commodity Credit Corporation: In Brief

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

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

Members’ Representational Allowance: History and Usage

Members of the House of Representatives have one consolidated allowance, the Members’ Representational Allowance (MRA), with which to operate their offices. The MRA was first authorized in 1996 and was made subject to regulations and adjustments of the Committee on House Administration. Representatives have a high degree of flexibility to use the MRA to operate their offices in a way that supports their congressional duties and responsibilities, and individual office spending may be as varied as the districts Members represent.

Over the last decade, the appropriation for the MRA

reached a...

Afghanistan: Issues for Congress and Legislation 2017-2019

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

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

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

Certain methods of quantifying regulatory...

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

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

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

U.S.-China Relations

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

Greenland, Denmark, and U.S. Relations

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

State Department and Related Agencies FY2000 Appropriations

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

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

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

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

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

Flooding Events: CRS Experts

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

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

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

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

The Debt Limit Since 2011

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

Wild and Scenic Rivers: Designation, Management, and Funding

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

How to Develop and Write a Grant Proposal

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

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

Domestic Food Assistance: Summary of Programs

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

U.S. Periods of War and Dates of Recent Conflicts

Many wars or conflicts in U.S. history have federally designated “periods of war,” dates marking their beginning and ending. These dates are important for qualification for certain veterans’ pension or disability benefits. Confusion can occur because beginning and ending dates for “periods of war” in many nonofficial sources are often different from those given in treaties and other official sources of information, and armistice dates can be confused with termination dates. This report lists the beginning and ending dates for “periods of war” found in Title 38 of the Code of Federal...

Labor Day Speech Resources: Fact Sheet

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

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

Vehicle Fuel Economy and Greenhouse Gas Standards: Frequently Asked Questions

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

State and Local Financing of Public Schools

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

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

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

General EFSP Administration

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

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

Adults may go missing due to personal choice, an abduction, foul play, a mental or physical disability, or a natural catastrophe, among other reasons. No accurate estimates exist of the number of missing adults; however, approximately 56,000 cases of missing adults (age 18 and older) were pending in the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) National Crime Information Center (NCIC) system, a computerized index with data on crimes and locator files for missing and unidentified persons. Certain adults are particularly vulnerable to missing episodes; for example, those with dementia are at...

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

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

2011-2012 Payroll Tax Cut

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Balanced Budget Constitutional Amendment: Background and Congressional Options

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

The debate over a balanced budget measure actually consists of several interrelated debates. Most prominently, the arguments of proponents have...

Norwegian Air International and Low-Cost Long-Haul Flights

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

Norwegian Air Shuttle...

International Food Assistance: Food for Peace Nonemergency Programs

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

Global Trade Imbalances: Overview and Issues

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

The Yield Curve and Predicting Recessions

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

What Is the Yield Curve?

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

Small Business Credit Markets and Selected Policy Issues

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

Federal Personal Property Disposal: Procedures and Reforms

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

Social Security Retirement Earnings Test: How Earnings Affect Benefits

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

Agricultural Conservation: A Guide to Programs

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Farm Service Agency (FSA) in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) currently administer over 20 programs and subprograms that are directly or indirectly available to assist producers and landowners who wish to practice conservation on agricultural lands. The number of these programs and the differences among them have created some confusion about the purpose, participation, and policies of the programs. While some effort has been made to remove duplication, a large number of programs remain. The programs discussed in this report...

Defense Spending Under an Interim Continuing Resolution: In Brief

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

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

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

El Salvador: Background and U.S. Relations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The House PAYGO rule applies to...

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

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

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

Bitcoin, Blockchain, and the Energy Sector

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

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

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

A New Director for the International Monetary Fund

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

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

Export-Import Bank: Overview and Reauthorization Issues

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

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

Almost all borrowing by the federal government is conducted by the Treasury Department, within the restrictions established by a single, statutory limit (ceiling) on the total amount of debt that may be outstanding at any time. By law, the Treasury cannot exceed federal debt limits, so the Treasury periodically has had to ask Congress to enact new debt limits so it can fulfill its financial commitments. Since 1978, 59 measures adjusting or suspending the statutory debt limit either as stand-alone legislation or as part of legislation dealing with other matters have been enacted into...

The Administration’s Designation of China as a Currency Manipulator

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

Real Time Payments Initiatives

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

Background

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

Human Fetal Tissue Research: Frequently Asked Questions

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

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

Retirement Benefits for Members of Congress

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

Department of Homeland Security Appropriations: FY2019

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

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

U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Five-Year Offshore Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2019-2024: Status and Issues in Brief

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

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

This report offers an overview of actions taken by Congress and the President to provide FY2019 appropriations for accounts funded by the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS) appropriations bill. This bill includes all accounts funded through the annual appropriations process at the Department of Labor (DOL) and Department of Education (ED). It also provides annual appropriations for most agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), with certain exceptions (e.g., the Food and Drug Administration is funded via the...

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

Overview

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

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

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

Changes to FY2020 and FY2021 Discretionary Spending Caps

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

The Department of Defense’s JEDI Cloud Program

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

DOD...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Over the...

Trends in the U.S. Poverty Rate after Recessions

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

Behavioral Economics, IRS Letter Campaigns, and Tax Compliance

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

Classical and Behavioral Theories

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

Why Is the Federal Reserve Reducing Interest Rates?

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

Fed Rate Cuts Across the Business Cycle

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

New UK Leadership: Implications for Brexit

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

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

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

Carbon Monoxide Detection Requirements for Military Housing

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

Likewise, the...

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

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

FY2019 Disaster Supplemental Appropriations: Overview

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

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

The Front End of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle: Current Issues

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

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

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

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

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

HUD’s Proposal to End Assistance to Mixed Status Families

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

Foreign Holdings of Federal Debt

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

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

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

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

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

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

Child Support Enforcement: Program Basics

The Child Support Enforcement (CSE) program was enacted in 1975 as a federal-state program (Title IV-D of the Social Security Act). The primary purpose of this program was to reduce public expenditures for recipients of cash assistance by obtaining ongoing support from noncustodial parents that could be used to reimburse the state and federal governments for part of that assistance. (This purpose often is referred to as “welfare cost-recovery.”) Relatedly, the program also sought to strengthen families by securing financial support for children from their noncustodial parents on a...

Overview of Recent Administrative Reforms of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac

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

Federal Disaster Assistance Response and Recovery Programs: Brief Summaries

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

Department of Defense Energy Management: Background and Issues for Congress

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

Since the 1970s,...

Congressional Commissions: Funding and Expenditures

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

Wilderness: Overview, Management, and Statistics

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

Real Wage Trends, 1979 to 2018

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

Federal Preemption: A Legal Primer

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

Heritage Areas: Background, Proposals, and Current Issues

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

Vulnerable Youth: Federal Mentoring Programs and Issues

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

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

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

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

The Legislative Process on the Senate Floor: An Introduction

The standing rules of the Senate promote deliberation by permitting Senators to debate at length and by precluding a simple majority from ending debate when they are prepared to vote to approve a bill. This right of extended debate permits filibusters that can be brought to an end if the Senate invokes cloture, usually by a vote of three-fifths of all Senators. Even then, consideration can typically continue under cloture for an additional 30 hours. The possibility of filibusters encourages the Senate to seek consensus whenever possible and to conduct business under the terms of unanimous...

Job Creation in the Manufacturing Revival

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

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

BB&T and SunTrust: Merger Approval Process and Trends

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

Merger Approval Process

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

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

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

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

Regular Vetoes and Pocket Vetoes: In Brief

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

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

Bankruptcy and Student Loans

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

Afghanistan: Background and U.S. Policy

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

Daylight Saving Time

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

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

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

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

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

Sudan’s Uncertain Transition

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

Department of Health and Human Services: FY2020 Budget Request

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

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

The Corporation for National and Community Service: Overview of Programs and Funding

The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) is an independent federal agency that administers the programs authorized by two statutes: the National and Community Service Act of 1990 (NCSA; P.L. 101-610), as amended, and the Domestic Volunteer Service Act of 1973 (DVSA; P.L. 93-113), as amended. NCSA and DVSA programs were most recently reauthorized by the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act (P.L. 111-13). The report describes programs authorized by these laws and compares CNCS funding for FY2016, FY2017, FY2018, and FY2019.

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

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

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) was the nation’s first mandatory cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. RGGI currently involves nine states—Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont. New Jersey is to rejoin the program in 2020. The RGGI cap-and-trade system applies only to carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from electric power plants with capacities to generate 25 megawatts or more—165 facilities in the region. The RGGI emissions cap took effect January 1, 2009, based on an agreement signed by RGGI...

Section 232 Investigation: Uranium Imports

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

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

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

Tropical Storm Barry: FEMA and Additional Storm-Related Resources

Introduction

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

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

Military Retirement: Background and Recent Developments

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

An Overview of Consumer Finance and Policy Issues

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

Households borrow money for the following...

Video Relay Service: Program Funding and Reform

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

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

Federal Highway Traffic Safety Policies: Impacts and Opportunities

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

Exposed Data Highlights Law Enforcement Use of Selected Technologies

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

FY2019 Disaster Supplemental Appropriations: CRS Experts

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

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

Comparing DHS Component Funding, FY2019: In Brief

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

Spending and Tax Expenditures: Distinctions and Major Programs

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

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

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

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

Women’s Suffrage: Fact Sheet

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

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

Critical Infrastructure: Emerging Trends and Policy Considerations for Congress

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

Many governmental and non-governmental...

Resources for Key Economic Indicators

An understanding of economic indicators and their significance is seen as essential to the formulation of economic policies. These indicators, or statistics, provide snapshots of an economy’s health as well as starting points for economic analysis. This report contains a list of selected authoritative U.S. government sources of economic indicators, such as gross domestic product (GDP), income, inflation, and labor force (including employment and unemployment) statistics.

Additional content includes related resources, frequently asked questions (FAQs), and links to external glossaries.

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

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

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

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

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

Immigration: Alternatives to Detention (ATD) Programs

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

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

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

One way of...

Medicare: Insolvency Projections

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

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

National Park Service Appropriations: Ten-Year Trends

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

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

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

Medicare Financial Status: In Brief

This report provides a brief overview of the financial status of the two Medicare trust funds (Hospital Insurance and Supplementary Medical Insurance) based on the findings of the 2019 Medicare Trustees Report. It includes an overview of Medicare and its financing, summary data on the program’s 2018 operations, current estimates of the insolvency date of the Hospital Insurance Trust Fund, and estimates of spending growth. These estimates include measures of Medicare spending as a portion of GDP, unfunded obligations, and alternative projections.

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

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

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

Poverty Among Americans Aged 65 and Older

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

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

Off-Label Use of Prescription Drugs

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

In...

Critical Minerals and U.S. Public Policy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tax Incentives for Opportunity Zones: In Brief

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

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

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

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

Executive Order to Reduce the Number of Federal Advisory Committees

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

Commemorative Days, Weeks, and Months: Background and Current Practice

Typically, each Congress, hundreds of legislative measures are introduced to recognize, support, honor, or acknowledge certain days, weeks, and months. Some scholars have observed that commemorative legislation has universal and patriotic appeal and also provides an opportunity to connect directly with constituents, which can help fulfill representational responsibilities to Members’ districts or states.

Often used to commemorate an individual, group, or event, these measures can be divided into three categories: (1) federal holidays; (2) patriotic and national observances; and (3)...

New Markets Tax Credit: An Introduction

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

Biomass: Comparison of Definitions in Legislation

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

The Peace Corps: Overview and Issues

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

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

Poland: Background and U.S. Relations

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

Domestic Political and Economic Issues

The 2015 Polish parliamentary...

Independence Day Speech Resources: Fact Sheet

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

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

Improving Intercity Passenger Rail Service in the United States

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

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

Prior to the initiation of economic reforms and trade liberalization nearly 40 years ago, China maintained policies that kept the economy very poor, stagnant, centrally controlled, vastly inefficient, and relatively isolated from the global economy. Since opening up to foreign trade and investment and implementing free-market reforms in 1979, China has been among the world’s fastest-growing economies, with real annual gross domestic product (GDP) growth averaging 9.5% through 2018, a pace described by the World Bank as “the fastest sustained expansion by a major economy in history.” Such...

Cuba: Trump Administration Expands Sanctions

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

Medicaid: An Overview

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

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

Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA)

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

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

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

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

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

Trade Promotion Authority (TPA): Frequently Asked Questions

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

Columbia River Treaty Review

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

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

Year-Round Sale of E15

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

Moldova’s Political Crisis Abates

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

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

Fiscal Policy Considerations for the Next Recession

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

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

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

U.S. Trade Friction with China Intensifies

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Limitations on Federal Research Using Human Fetal Tissue

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

Exceptions to the Budget Control Act’s Discretionary Spending Limits

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

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

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

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

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

Juneteenth: Fact Sheet

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

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

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for Childless Workers

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

EITC Rules for Childless Workers Compared...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FY2020 Agriculture Appropriations: H.R. 3164

The Agriculture appropriations bill funds the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) except for the Forest Service. It also funds the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and in even-numbered fiscal years the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). (In the House, but not the Senate, appropriations jurisdiction for CFTC rests with the Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture.)

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

The U.S.-Japan Alliance

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

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

Kazakhstan’s Snap Presidential Election Met with Protests

Overview

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

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

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

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

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

Keystone XL Pipeline: The Saga Continues

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Landslide Hazards Legislation in the 116th Congress

Authorizing a Landslide Hazards Program

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

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

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

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

Congressional Roll Call Votes on the Keystone XL Pipeline

TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL Pipeline would transport oil sands crude from Canada and shale oil produced in North Dakota and Montana to a market hub in Nebraska for further delivery to Gulf Coast refineries. The pipeline would consist of 880 miles of 36-inch pipe with the capacity to transport 830,000 barrels per day.

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) receives frequent requests for congressional votes taken on Keystone XL Pipeline legislation. This report provides roll call vote data on Keystone XL Pipeline legislation identified by CRS using CQ.com’s Roll Call Vote Report...

The Economic Effects of the 2017 Tax Revision: Preliminary Observations

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

Biologics and Biosimilars: Background and Key Issues

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

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

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

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

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

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

The 2019 European Parliament Elections

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

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

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

The United States is currently committed,...

What Causes a Recession?

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

This expansion, like all previous ones, will eventually end and be followed by a recession. Few economists are forecasting a recession in 2019, but recessions are notoriously hard to predict even a few months beforehand. For background, see CRS In Focus IF10411, Introduction to U.S. Economy: The...

Vehicle Electrification: Federal and State Issues Affecting Deployment

Most of the 270 million cars, trucks, and buses on U.S. highways are powered by internal combustion engines using gasoline or diesel fuel. However, improvements in technology have led to the emergence of vehicle electrification as a potentially viable alternative to internal combustion engines. Several bills pending in the 116th Congress address issues and incentives related to electric vehicles and charging infrastructure.

Experience with fully electric vehicles is relatively recent: While a few experimental vehicles were marketed in the United States in the 1990s, the first contemporary...

Measles Outbreaks, Vaccine Hesitancy, and Federal Policy Options

As of May 31, 2019, 981 cases of measles across 26 U.S. states have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—the highest annual number of measles cases since 1992 (with no deaths reported). Figure 1 shows annual measles cases in the past 10 years.

Measles is a highly contagious viral illness that can lead to pneumonia, encephalitis (infection of the brain), and, rarely, death. Certain groups are at greater risk for complications (e.g., children under 5 and adults over 20 years of age). No specific treatment exists, but it can be prevented with a...

War Legacy Issues in Southeast Asia: Unexploded Ordnance (UXO)

More than 40 years after the end of the Vietnam War, unexploded ordnance (UXO) from numerous conflicts, but primarily dropped by U.S. forces over Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam during the Vietnam War, continues to cause casualties in those countries. Over the past 25 years, the United States has provided a total of over $400 million in assistance for UXO clearance and related activities in those three countries through the Department of Defense (DOD), Department of State (DOS), and United States Agency for International Development (USAID), as well as funding for treatment of victims through...

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in Conservatorship: Frequently Asked Questions

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are chartered by Congress as government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) to provide liquidity in the mortgage market and promote homeownership for underserved groups and locations. The GSEs purchase mortgages, retain the credit risk (for a fee), and package them into mortgage-backed securities (MBSs) that they either keep as investments or sell to institutional investors. In the years following the housing and mortgage market turmoil that began around 2007, the GSEs experienced financial difficulty. By 2008, the GSEs’ financial condition had weakened, generating...

New Round of Farm Trade Aid Proposed by Administration for 2019

On May 23, 2019, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that it will take several actions in 2019 to assist farmers in response to continued economic damage from trade retaliation and trade disruption in international agricultural markets. These actions are to include a new trade aid package for the U.S. farm sector valued at up to $16 billion.

Building on the 2018 Trade Aid Package

USDA implemented a similar trade aid package in 2018, also in response to trade retaliation against U.S. agricultural products. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue used authority under the...

U.S. Arms Sales to the Middle East: Trump Administration Uses Emergency Exception in the Arms Export Control Act

Overview

On May 24, 2019, the Trump Administration formally notified Congress of immediate foreign military sales and direct commercial sales of training, equipment, and weapons with a possible value of more than $8 billion, including sales of precision guided munitions (PGMs) to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and the gift transfer of PGMs by the UAE to Jordan. Other notified sales include, among others: F-15 Engines and Support for Saudi Arabia and AH-64 equipment, Javelin Anti-Tank Missiles, and Patriot Guidance Enhanced Missiles for the UAE.

In making the...

Programs Available to Unemployed Workers Through the American Job Center Network

Many federally funded programs that assist unemployed workers are co-located and coordinated through state and locally run American Job Centers (AJCs; also known as One-Stop Career Centers). The specific set of benefits and services available to a worker through the AJC network varies by the worker’s characteristics and reason for unemployment.

Unemployment insurance (UI) is a federal-state system and mandatory AJC partner. UI benefits are available to workers who have involuntarily lost their jobs and have demonstrated a required level of labor force attachment. UI provides weekly cash...

Technological Convergence: Regulatory, Digital Privacy, and Data Security Issues

Technological convergence, in general, refers to the trend or phenomenon where two or more independent technologies integrate and form a new outcome. One example is the smartphone. A smartphone integrated several independent technologies—such as telephone, computer, camera, music player, television (TV), and geolocating and navigation tool—into a single device. The smartphone has become its own, identifiable category of technology, establi