Economic Policy

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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...

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

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

Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy: CRS Experts

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

Puerto Rico: CRS Experts

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

The Puerto Rican Governor was charged with...

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

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

Federal Reserve: Legislation in the 115th Congress

The Federal Reserve (Fed) is the subject of legislation being considered in the 115th Congress. This report analyzes Fed bills that have seen committee or floor action and the policy debate surrounding them. The bills contain wide-ranging changes that can be grouped into five broad categories:

Fed governance. Some proposals would change the Fed’s institutional structure. H.R. 10 as passed and H.R. 4757 would increase the voting weight of regional Fed presidents on the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) at the expense of the Fed’s Board of Governors and the New York Fed. H.R. 10 would...

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

Statutory individual income tax rates are the tax rates that apply by law to various amounts of taxable income. Statutory rates form the basis of marginal effective and average effective tax rates, which most economists believe have a greater impact on the economic behavior of companies and individuals than do statutory rates. Marginal effective rates reflect the net effect of special tax provisions on statutory rates. They differ from average effective rates, which measure someone’s overall tax burden.

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

Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC): Structure and Activities

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

Insurance Regulation: Legislation in the 115th Congress

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

The 10-20-30 Plan and Persistent Poverty Counties

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

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

In total, 327 women have been elected or appointed to Congress, 212 Democrats and 115 Republicans. These figures include six non-voting Delegates, one each from Guam, Hawaii, the District of Columbia, and American Samoa, and two from the U.S. Virgin Islands, as well as one Resident Commissioner from Puerto Rico. Of these 327 women there have been: 276 (178 Democrats, 98 Republicans) women elected only to the House of Representatives; 39 (25 Democrats, 14 Republicans) women elected or appointed only to the Senate; 12 (9 Democrats, 3 Republicans) women who have served in both houses; A...

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

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

The Debt Limit Since 2011

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

Cybersecurity: Legislation, Hearings, and Executive Branch Documents

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

Vulnerable Youth: Background and Policies

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

Real Wage Trends, 1979 to 2016

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

The 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...

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...

Small Business Administration HUBZone Program

The Historically Underutilized Business Zone Empowerment Contracting (HUBZone) program provides participating small businesses located in areas with low income, high poverty, or high unemployment with contracting opportunities in the form of set-asides, sole-source awards, and price-evaluation preferences. Its primary objectives are job creation and increased capital investment in distressed communities. Firms must be certified by the SBA to participate in the program. As of January 26, 2017, the SBA’s Dynamic Small Business Search database included 6,026 firms with active HUBZone...

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Economic Growth, Regulatory...

Federal Research and Development Funding: FY2018

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

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

An Introduction to the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit

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

Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education: FY2018 Appropriations

This report offers an overview of actions taken by Congress and the President to provide FY2018 appropriations for accounts funded by the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS) appropriations bill. This bill includes all accounts funded through the annual appropriations process at the Departments of Labor (DOL) and Education (ED). It also provides annual appropriations for most agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), with certain exceptions (e.g., the Food and Drug Administration is funded via the Agriculture...

Federal Role in Voter Registration: The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 and Subsequent Developments

Historically, most aspects of election administration have been left to state and local governments, resulting in a variety of practices across jurisdictions with respect to voter registration. States can vary on a number of elements of the voter registration process, including whether or not to require voter registration; where or when voter registration occurs; and how voters may be removed from registration lists. The right of citizens to vote, however, is presented in the U.S. Constitution in the 15th, 19th, and 26th Amendments. Beginning with the Voting Rights Act (VRA) in 1965,...

Economic Impact of Infrastructure Investment

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

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

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

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

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

China-U.S. Trade Issues

U.S.-China economic ties have expanded substantially since China began reforming its economy and liberalizing its trade regime in the late 1970s. Total U.S.-China merchandise trade rose from $2 billion in 1979 (when China’s economic reforms began) to an estimated $633 billion in 2017. China is currently the United States’ largest merchandise trading partner, its third-largest export market, and its biggest source of imports. In 2015, sales by U.S. foreign affiliates in China totaled $482 billion. Many U.S. firms view participation in China’s market as critical to their global...

The Marshall Plan: Design, Accomplishments, and Significance

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

Iran Sanctions

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

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

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

Trends in Bank Secrecy Act/Anti-Money Laundering Enforcement

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

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

Funding and Financing Highways and Public Transportation

For many years, federal surface transportation programs were funded almost entirely from taxes on motor fuels deposited in the Highway Trust Fund (HTF). Although there has been some modification to the tax system, the tax rates, which are fixed in terms of cents per gallon, have not been increased at the federal level since 1993. Prior to the recession that began in 2007, annual increases in driving, with a concomitant increase in fuel use, were sufficient in most years to keep revenue rising steadily. This is no longer the case. Although vehicle miles traveled have recently surpassed...

Recent Changes in the Estate and Gift Tax Provisions

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

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

Small Business Administration 7(a) Loan Guaranty Program

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

In FY2017, the SBA approved...

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...

Monetary Policy and the Federal Reserve: Current Policy and Conditions

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

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

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR): An Overview

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

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...

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

The U.S. Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program provides nonreciprocal, duty-free tariff treatment to certain products imported from designated beneficiary developing countries (BDCs). The United States, the European Union, and other developed countries have implemented similar programs since the 1970s. Congress first authorized the U.S. program in Title V of the Trade Act of 1974, and most recently extended it until December 31, 2017, in Title II of P.L. 114-27. Since the program expires at the end of this year, its renewal may be an issue for the 115th Congress.

At the time of...

The Federal Tax System for the 2017 Tax Year

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

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

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

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

Softwood Lumber Imports from Canada: Current Issues

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

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

Venezuela: Background and U.S. Policy

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

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

Efforts to Address Seasonal Agricultural Import Competition in the NAFTA Renegotiation

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

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

Background

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

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

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

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

Winter Fuels Outlook 2017-2018

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

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

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

Nuclear Negotiations with North Korea: In Brief

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

The United States has engaged in four...

Shutdown of the Federal Government: Causes, Processes, and Effects

When federal agencies and programs lack funding after the expiration of full-year or interim appropriations, the agencies and programs experience a funding gap. If funding does not resume in time to continue government operations, then, under the Antideficiency Act, an agency must cease operations, except in certain situations when law authorizes continued activity. The criteria that flow from the Antideficiency Act for determining which activities are affected are complex.

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

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

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

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

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

Funding Gaps and Government Shutdowns: CRS Experts

Contacting CRS Subject Matter Experts

In the event of a funding gap, the potential impacts of a government shutdown would depend on a program’s or agency’s specific circumstances and, furthermore, how relevant law is interpreted. Table 1 provides names and contact information for CRS subject matter experts on policy concerns and legal issues relating to funding gaps and the processes and effects that may be associated with a government shutdown. Policy areas that are identified in Table 1 include

agencies and programs funded by specific regular appropriations bills;

cross-cutting shutdown...

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

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

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

Federally Supported Water Supply and Wastewater Treatment Programs

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

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

the Department of Agriculture (USDA),

the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency...

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

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

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

Deficits and Debt: Economic Effects and Other Issues

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

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

Cybersecurity: Critical Infrastructure Authoritative Reports and Resources

Critical infrastructure is defined in the USA PATRIOT Act (P.L. 107-56, §1016(e)) as “systems and assets, physical or virtual, so vital to the United States that the incapacity or destruction of such systems and assets would have a debilitating impact on security, national economic security, national public health and safety, or any combination of those matters.”

Presidential Decision Directive 63, or PDD-63, identified activities whose critical infrastructures should be protected: information and communications; banking and finance; water supply; aviation, highways, mass transit,...

State Sponsors of Acts of International Terrorism—Legislative Parameters: In Brief

Iran, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria are identified by the U.S. government as countries with governments that support acts of international terrorism. While it is the President’s authority to designate, and remove from designation, terrorist states, Congress has some legislative authority to weigh in as the reviews proceed. In recent years, other foreign policy and national security decisions have butted up against the designation: to delist Cuba in the course of normalizing other aspects of the bilateral relationship; to enter into a multilateral agreement involving Iran’s nuclear weapons...

Australia: Background and U.S. Relations

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

Repair or Rebuild: Options for Electric Power in Puerto Rico

On September 20, 2017, Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico as a Category 4 storm with sustained wind speeds of over 155 miles per hour. The hurricane also brought torrential rainfall with a range of 15 to 40 inches or more in some places, resulting in widespread flooding across the island. Puerto Rico’s office of emergency management reported that the storm had incapacitated the central electric power system, leaving the entire island without power as the island’s grid was essentially destroyed.

Even before the 2017 hurricane season, Puerto Rico’s electric power infrastructure...

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

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

Cybersecurity: Cybercrime and National Security Authoritative Reports and Resources

As online attacks grow in volume and sophistication, the United States is expanding its cybersecurity efforts. Cybercriminals continue to develop new ways to ensnare victims, whereas nation-state hackers compromise companies, government agencies, and businesses to create espionage networks and steal information. Threats come from both criminals and hostile countries, especially China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea.

Much is written on this topic, and this CRS report directs the reader to authoritative sources that address many of the most prominent issues. The annotated descriptions of...

Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) in the United States

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

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

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

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

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

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

Consumer and Credit Reporting, Scoring, and Related Policy Issues

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

Public-Private Partnerships (P3s) in Transportation

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

P3s...

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

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

Clearing the Air on the Debt Limit

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

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

Ukraine: Background and U.S. Policy

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

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

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

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

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

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

Taiwan: Issues for Congress

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

Renegotiating NAFTA and U.S. Textile Manufacturing

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

The United...

Biologics and Biosimilars: Background and Key Issues

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This report...

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

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

This...

Civilian Nuclear Waste Disposal

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

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

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

State Small Business Credit Initiative: Implementation and Funding Issues

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

Asian Carp and the Great Lakes Region

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

Workers’ Compensation: Overview and Issues

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

USDA Export Market Development and Export Credit Programs: Selected Issues

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

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

Government Assistance for AIG: Summary and Cost

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

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

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

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

NAFTA Renegotiation and Modernization

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

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

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

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

What Is the Farm Bill?

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

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

Selected International Insurance Issues in the 115th Congress

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

The Tax Treatment of Net Operating Losses: In Brief

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

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

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

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

Department of Homeland Security Appropriations: FY2017

This report discusses the FY2017 appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Its primary focus is on funding approved by Congress through the appropriations process. It includes an Appendix with definitions of key budget terms used throughout the suite of Congressional Research Service reports on homeland security appropriations. It also directs the reader to other reports providing context for and additional details regarding specific component appropriations and issues engaged through the FY2016 appropriations process.

The Obama Administration requested $40.62 billion...

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

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

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

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

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

FY2017 Appropriations for the Census Bureau and Bureau of Economic Analysis

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

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

Japan-U.S. Relations: Issues for Congress

Japan is a significant partner of the United States in a number of foreign policy areas, particularly in security concerns, which range from hedging against Chinese military modernization to countering threats from North Korea. The alliance facilitates the forward deployment of about 50,000 U.S. troops and other U.S. military assets based in Japan. While core elements of the alliance may endure, the overall relationship under President Donald Trump will likely differ somewhat from relations under the Obama Administration. On January 30, 2017, the United States formally withdrew as a...

Corporate Tax Reform: Issues for Congress

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

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

Itemized Tax Deductions for Individuals: Data Analysis

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

This report analyzes data to inform the policy...

Financial Transactions Taxes: In Brief

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

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

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

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

The OCS Royalty Rate: Statutory Requirements and General Guidance

Background

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

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

This report provides an overview of actions taken by Congress and the President to provide FY2017 appropriations for accounts funded by the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS) appropriations bill. This bill provides funding for all accounts funded through the annual appropriations process at the Departments of Labor (DOL) and Education (ED). It provides annual appropriations for most agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), with certain exceptions (e.g., the Food and Drug Administration is funded via the...

Retirement Benefits for Federal Law Enforcement Personnel

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

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

U.S.-UK Free Trade Agreement: Prospects and Issues for Congress

Prospects for a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) between the United States and the United Kingdom (UK) are of increasing interest for both sides. In a national referendum held on June 23, 2016, a majority of British voters supported the UK exiting the European Union (EU), a process known as “Brexit.” The Brexit referendum has prompted calls from some Members of Congress and the Trump Administration to launch U.S.-UK FTA negotiations, though other Members have moderated their support with calls to ensure that such negotiations do not constrain the promotion of broader transatlantic...

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

The Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) appropriations bill includes funding for the Department of the Treasury, the Executive Office of the President (EOP), the judiciary, the District of Columbia, and more than two dozen independent agencies. The House and Senate FSGG bills fund the same agencies, with one exception. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) is funded through the Agriculture appropriations bill in the House and the FSGG bill in the Senate. This structure has existed since the 2007 reorganization of the House and Senate Committees on...

The Budget Control Act: Frequently Asked Questions

When there is concern with deficit or debt levels, Congress will sometimes implement budget enforcement mechanisms to mandate specific budgetary policies or fiscal outcomes. The Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA; P.L. 112-25), which was signed into law on August 2, 2011, includes several such mechanisms.

The BCA as amended has three main components that currently affect the annual budget. One component imposes annual statutory discretionary spending limits for defense and nondefense spending. A second component requires annual reductions to the initial discretionary spending limits...

Trade Adjustment Assistance for Firms

As Congress considers potential legislation related to trade agreements, the potential impact on U.S. workers and firms is part of the debate. The Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) programs were first authorized by Congress in the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 to help workers and firms adapt to import competition and dislocation caused by trade liberalization. While trade liberalization may increase the overall economic welfare of all the affected trade partners, it can also cause adjustment problems for firms and workers facing import competition, and adjustment assistance has long been...

Fire Management Assistance Grants: Frequently Asked Questions

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

Business Tax Provisions that Expired in 2016 (“Tax Extenders”)

Temporary tax provisions were last extended in the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act of 2015, signed into law as Division Q of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016 (P.L. 114-113). Under this law, all tax provisions that had expired at the end of 2014 were retroactively extended. Among the business-related tax provisions, some were extended through 2016, some were extended through 2019, while others were made permanent.

This report briefly summarizes and discusses the economic impact of selected business-related tax provisions that expired at the end of 2016, including the...

Hurricane Events: CRS Experts

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

Stafford Act Declarations 1953-2016: Trends, Analyses, and Implications for Congress

The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act authorizes the President to issue declarations that provide states, tribes, and localities with a range of federal assistance in response to natural and man-made incidents. Since 1953 the frequency of declarations has increased. For example, the average number of major disaster declarations issued from 1960 to 1969 was roughly 18.6 per year. In contrast, the average number of major disaster declarations issued from 2000 to 2009 was 57.1 per year. The highest number was declared in 2011, with 97 major disaster...

Infrastructure: Green Building Overview and Issues

Buildings, whether residential, commercial, government, or special-use, are core components of the nation’s infrastructure. Their construction, operation, and demolition are increasingly recognized as major sources of environmental impact. Without significant transformation of building construction and operations, that impact is expected to increase with population growth and changes in other demographic and economic factors. One strategy for achieving that transformation is most widely known by the term green building. However, the term is used differently by various proponents and...

DHS Appropriations FY2017: Departmental Management and Operations

This report is part of a suite of reports that discuss appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for FY2017. It specifically discusses appropriations for the components of DHS included in the first title of the homeland security appropriations bill—the Office of the Secretary and Executive Management, the Office of the Under Secretary for Management, the DHS headquarters consolidation project, the Office of the Chief Financial Officer, the Office of the Chief Information Officer, Analysis and Operations, and the Office of Inspector General for the department....

Budget Actions in 2017

The Constitution grants Congress the power of the purse, but does not dictate how Congress must fulfill this constitutional duty. Congress has, therefore, developed certain types of budgetary legislation, along with rules and practices that govern its content and consideration. This set of budgetary legislation, rules, and practices is often referred to as the congressional budget process.

There is no prescribed congressional budget process that must be strictly followed each year, and Congress does not always consider budgetary measures in a linear or predictable pattern. Such...

Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) FY2017 Appropriations: Independent Agencies and General Provisions

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

Recently Expired Individual Tax Provisions (“Tax Extenders”): In Brief

Thirty-four temporary tax provisions expired at the end of 2016. Four of these provisions are individual income tax provisions. In the past, Congress has regularly acted to extend expired or expiring temporary tax provisions. Collectively, these temporary tax provisions are often referred to as “tax extenders.” Most recently, in December 2015, Congress addressed tax extenders in the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 (PATH Act), enacted as Division Q of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016 (P.L. 114-113). Three of the four individual income tax provisions that expired at...

State, Foreign Operations Appropriations: A Guide to Component Accounts

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

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

International Trade and Finance: Overview and Issues for the 115th Congress

The U.S. Constitution grants authority to Congress to regulate commerce with foreign nations. Congress exercises this authority in numerous ways, including through oversight of trade policy and consideration of legislation to implement trade agreements and authorize trade programs. Policy issues cover areas such as U.S. trade negotiations; U.S. trade and economic relations with specific regions and countries; international institutions focused on trade; tariff and nontariff barriers; worker dislocation due to trade liberalization; enforcement of trade laws; import and export policies;...

Russia: Background and U.S. Policy

Over the last five years, Congress and the executive branch have closely monitored and responded to new developments in Russian policy. These developments include the following: increasingly authoritarian governance since Vladimir Putin’s return to the presidential post in 2012; Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region and support of separatists in eastern Ukraine; violations of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty; Moscow’s intervention in Syria in support of Bashar al Asad’s government; increased military activity in Europe; and cyber-related influence...

The U.S. Coal Industry: Historical Trends and Recent Developments

The Trump Administration has taken several actions intended to help revive the U.S. coal industry. Within its first two months, the Administration rolled back or began reversing several coal-related regulations finalized under the Obama Administration. This effort was undertaken as three of the largest coal producers continued recovery from Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and occurred in the context of higher coal prices (making coal production possibly more profitable), lower inventories, and higher natural gas prices—factors that could lead to coal being more competitive as a fuel source for...

Cuba Sanctions: Legislative Restrictions Limiting the Normalization of Relations

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

Corporate Expatriation, Inversions, and Mergers: Tax Issues

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

These types of...

Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP): History and Overview

Congress established the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) through the National Science and Technology Policy, Organization, and Priorities Act of 1976 (P.L. 94-282). The act states, “The primary function of the OSTP Director is to provide, within the Executive Office of the President [EOP], advice on the scientific, engineering, and technological aspects of issues that require attention at the highest level of Government.” Further, “The Office shall serve as a source of scientific and technological analysis and judgment for the President with respect to major policies, plans,...

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...

Insurance and the Financial CHOICE Act (H.R.10)

The Financial CHOICE Act of 2017 (H.R. 10) was passed by the House on June 8, 2017. Among many other provisions, H.R. 10 would revamp many of the insurance provisions in the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank; P.L. 111-203).

Background on Insurance Regulation

The federal role in regulating insurance is relatively limited compared with the role in banking and securities. Insurance companies, unlike banks and securities firms, have been chartered and regulated solely by the states for the past 150 years. The current state-centric system was confirmed...

Farm Safety-Net Payments Under the 2014 Farm Bill: Comparison by Program Crop

The 2014 farm bill (Agricultural Act of 2014, P.L. 113-79) authorizes farm safety-net programs for the five crop years of 2014 through 2018. This includes revenue support for 20 “covered commodities” under either the Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC) program or the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) program and interim financing and floor price support for an expanded list of 24 “loan commodities” under the Marketing Assistance Loan (MAL) program. Outlays under the MAL, ARC, and PLC programs are funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC).

In addition,...

Status of FY2017 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations

This report provides a brief summary of the general scope of the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS) appropriations bill. The report also provides a high-level overview of congressional action with regard to the FY2017 LHHS bill (S. 3040 and H.R. 5926), FY2017 continuing resolutions (CRs; P.L. 114-223, P.L. 114-254, and P.L. 115-30), and LHHS components of the FY2017 omnibus (P.L. 115-31). The report concludes with a list of additional resources.

A Brief Overview of Business Types and Their Tax Treatment

In the United States, how a business is taxed at the federal level is partly dependent on how it is organized. The income of subchapter C corporations, also known as “regular” corporations, is taxed once at the corporate level according to the corporate tax system, and then a second time at the individual-shareholder level according to the individual tax rates when corporate dividend payments are made or capital gains are recognized. This leads to the so-called “double taxation” of corporate income. Businesses that choose any other form of organization are, in general, not subject to the...

U.S.-South Korea Relations

Overview

South Korea (officially the Republic of Korea or ROK) is one of the United States’ most important strategic and economic partners in Asia. Since the early 1950s, the U.S.-ROK Mutual Defense Treaty commits the United States to help South Korea defend itself. Approximately 28,500 U.S. troops are based in the ROK, which is included under the U.S. “nuclear umbrella.” Washington and Seoul cooperate in addressing the challenges posed by North Korea. The two countries’ economies are joined by the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA). South Korea is the United States’...

The “Better Way” House Tax Plan: An Economic Analysis

On June 24, 2016, House Speaker Paul Ryan released the Better Way Tax Reform Task Force Blueprint, which provides a revision of federal income taxes. For the individual income tax, the plan would broaden the base, lower the rates (with a top rate of 33%), and alter some of the elements related to family size and structure by eliminating personal exemptions, allowing a larger standard deduction, and adding a dependent credit. For business income, the current income tax would be replaced by a cash-flow tax rebated on exports and imposed on imports, with a top rate of 20% for corporations and...

Reform of U.S. International Taxation: Alternatives

A striking feature of the modern U.S. economy is its growing openness—its increased integration with the rest of the world. The attention of tax policymakers has recently been focused on the growing participation of U.S. firms in the international economy and the increased pressure that engagement places on the U.S. system for taxing overseas business. Is the current U.S. system for taxing U.S. international business the appropriate one for the modern era of globalized business operations, or should its basic structure be reformed?

The current U.S. system for taxing international business...

Tax Provisions that Expired in 2016 (“Tax Extenders”)

In the past, Congress has regularly acted to extend expired or expiring temporary tax provisions. Collectively, these temporary tax provisions are often referred to as “tax extenders.” Most recently, in December 2015, Congress addressed tax extenders in the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 (PATH Act), enacted as Division Q of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016 (P.L. 114-113). This legislation extended all of the 52 provisions that had expired at the end of 2014. Unlike past tax extenders legislation, however, a number of provisions that had expired at the end of 2014...

NAFTA and Motor Vehicle Trade

Motor vehicles and vehicle parts accounted for more than 20% of the total value of U.S. merchandise trade with Canada and Mexico in 2016, making them the largest category of manufactured products traded among the United States, Mexico, and Canada. Since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) took effect in January 1994, the vehicle supply chain has become fully integrated, with parts manufacturing and assembly in all three countries.

On May 18, 2017, the Trump Administration notified Congress of its intent to renegotiate NAFTA. In consequence, the 115th Congress will likely...

The Renewable Electricity Production Tax Credit: In Brief

The renewable electricity production tax credit (PTC) is a per-kilowatt-hour tax (kWh) credit for electricity generated using qualified energy resources. For nonwind technologies, the credit expired at the end of 2016, so that only projects that began construction before the end of 2016 qualify for tax credits. After 2016, the PTC for wind remains available, at reduced rates, for wind facilities that begin construction before the end of 2019. Since the PTC is available for the first 10 years of production at a qualified facility, PTCs will continue to be claimed after the PTC’s stated...

Broadband Internet Access and the Digital Divide: Federal Assistance Programs

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

Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS): OECD Tax Proposals

Taxes collected by countries around the world can be reduced through various avoidance mechanisms that shift corporate profits out of higher-tax-rate jurisdictions into lower-tax-rate jurisdictions and through other mechanisms that reduce taxes on interest, dividends, and royalties. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has been engaged in a project to reduce such base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS) in which firms use tax-avoidance strategies that exploit gaps and mismatches in tax rules to artificially shift profits to low- or no-tax locations. In October...

Accounting and Auditing Regulatory Structure: U.S. and International

Accounting and auditing standards in the United States are promulgated and regulated by various federal, state, and self-regulatory organizations (SROs). Accounting and auditing standards are also influenced by practitioners from businesses, nonprofits, and government entities. Congress has allowed financial accounting and auditing practitioners to remain largely self-regulated while retaining oversight responsibility. At certain times, Congress has sought to achieve specific accounting- and auditing-based policy objectives by enacting legislation such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002...

An Analysis of the Geographic Distribution of the Mortgage Interest Deduction

This report analyzes variation in the mortgage interest deduction tax expenditure across states. Tax expenditures, such as the mortgage interest deduction, can generally be viewed as government spending administered via the tax code, or as tax incentives that are intended to achieve particular policy objectives. Regardless of the interpretation, tax expenditures provide a benefit to qualifying taxpayers by lowering their federal tax liabilities. Recent proposals to change the mortgage interest deduction could affect how its benefits are distributed. Understanding how the deduction’s...

Programs Available to Unemployed Workers Through the American Job Center Network

Many federally funded programs that assist unemployed workers are co-located and coordinated through state and locally run American Job Centers (AJCs; also known as One-Stop Career Centers). The specific set of benefits and services available to a worker through the AJC network varies by the worker’s characteristics and reason for unemployment.

Unemployment insurance (UI) is a federal-state system and mandatory AJC partner. UI benefits are available to workers who have involuntarily lost their jobs and have demonstrated a required level of labor force attachment. UI provides weekly cash...

Human Rights in China and U.S. Policy: Issues for the 115th Congress

This report examines human rights conditions in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and policy options for Congress. The PRC government under the leadership of Chinese Communist Party General Secretary and State President Xi Jinping has implemented a clampdown on political dissent, civil society, human rights activists and lawyers, and the religious, cultural, and linguistic practices of Tibetans and Uyghurs. Other major human rights violations in China include the practice of incommunicado detention, torture of persons in custody, censorship of the Internet, and restrictions on the...

Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS): In Brief

The Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program was created by Title I of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (P.L. 103-322). The mission of the COPS program is to advance community policing in jurisdictions across the United States. The Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act of 2005 (P.L. 109-162) reauthorized the COPS program for FY2006-FY2009 and changed it from a multi-grant program to a single-grant program. Even though the COPS grant program is not currently authorized, Congress has continued to appropriate funding for...

Students with Disabilities Graduating from High School and Entering Postsecondary Education: In Brief

In recent decades, many federal policies have attempted to help prepare students with disabilities to complete high school and to continue into postsecondary education. Corollary interest has arisen in being able to track the progress being made toward achieving these aims.

This report offers a brief overview of what is currently known about the U.S. population of students with disabilities as they advance through secondary education and into postsecondary education. It devotes particular attention to high school graduation trends and data on postsecondary enrollment. Within the...

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

In recent years, policymakers have considered several legislative options to help finance water infrastructure projects, including projects to build and upgrade wastewater and drinking water treatment systems. This report examines one particular option, a “Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act” (WIFIA) program, which Congress included in the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 (WRRDA, P.L. 113-121).

The WIFIA concept is modeled after a similar program that assists transportation projects, the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program....

The Section 199 Production Activities Deduction: Background and Analysis

In 2004, Congress added the Section 199 domestic production activities deduction to the Internal Revenue Code (IRC). The deduction was intended to achieve a number of policy goals, including compensating for repeal of the extraterritorial income (ETI) export-subsidy provisions, supporting the domestic manufacturing sector, and reducing effective corporate tax rates.

Under current law, qualified activities are eligible for a deduction equal to 9% of the lesser of taxable income derived from qualified production activities, or taxable income. Eligible income includes that derived from the...

Department of Labor’s 2016 Fiduciary Rule: Background and Issues

Regulations issued in 1975 (called the 1975 rule in this report) defined investment advice using a five-part test. To be held to ERISA’s fiduciary standard with respect to his or her advice, an individual had to (1) make recommendations on investing in, purchasing, or selling securities or other property, or give advice as to the value (2) on a regular basis (3) pursuant to a mutual understanding that the advice (4) will serve as a primary basis for investment decisions, and (5) will be individualized to the particular needs of the plan regarding such matters as, among other things,...

The Federal Budget: Overview and Issues for FY2018 and Beyond

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

In recent years, policies enacted to decrease spending along with a stronger economy have led to reduced budget deficits. The Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA; P.L. 112-25) implemented several measures intended to reduce the deficit from FY2012...

Agriculture and Related Agencies: FY2017 Appropriations

The Agriculture appropriations bill funds the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) except for the Forest Service. It also funds the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and—in even-numbered fiscal years—the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). (For CFTC, the Agriculture appropriations subcommittee has jurisdiction in the House but not in the Senate.)

Agriculture appropriations include both mandatory and discretionary spending. Discretionary amounts, though, are the primary focus during the bill’s development, since mandatory amounts are generally set by authorizing laws such as the...

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and U.S. Agriculture

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) entered into force on January 1, 1994, establishing a free trade area as part of a comprehensive economic and trade agreement among the United States, Canada, and Mexico. President Trump has repeatedly stated that he intends to either renegotiate or withdraw from NAFTA. In May 2017, the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) formally notified Congress of the Administration’s intent to renegotiate NAFTA. Reactions to the announcement have been mixed, with some industries supporting NAFTA “modernization” as a way to address a range of trade concerns,...

India-U.S. Relations: Issues for Congress

India will soon be the world’s most populous country, home to about one of every six people. Many factors combine to infuse India’s government and people with “great power” aspirations: the Asian giant’s rich civilization and history, expanding strategic horizons, energetic global and international engagement, critical geography (with more than 9,000 total miles of land borders, many of them disputed) astride vital sea and energy lanes, major economy (at times the world’s fastest growing) with a rising middle class and an attendant boost in defense and power projection capabilities...

Argentina: Background and U.S. Relations

Argentina, a South American country with a population of almost 44 million, has had a vibrant democratic tradition since its military relinquished power in 1983. Current President Mauricio Macri—the leader of the center-right Republican Proposal and the candidate of the Let’s Change coalition representing center-right and center-left parties—won the 2015 presidential race. He succeeded two-term President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, from the center-left faction of the Peronist party known as the Front for Victory, who in turn had succeeded her husband, Néstor Kirchner, in 2007. Macri’s...

The Closure of Institutions of Higher Education: Student Options, Borrower Relief, and Implications

The recent closures of multiple large, private for-profit institutions of higher education (IHEs), such as those owned by Corinthian Colleges, Inc. (e.g., Heald College) and ITT Educational Services (e.g., ITT Technical Institutes) have brought into focus the extent to which a student’s postsecondary education may be disrupted by a school closure. The closures of these IHEs also highlighted the numerous issues students may face when their institutions close and the difficult decisions they may be required to make in the wake of a closure. Two key issues students may face when their IHE...

Short-Term, Small-Dollar Lending: Policy Issues and Implications

Short-term, small-dollar loans are consumer loans with relatively low initial principal amounts (often less than $1,000) with relatively short repayment periods (generally for a small number of weeks or months). Short-term, small-dollar loan products are frequently used to cover cash-flow shortages that may occur due to unexpected expenses or periods of inadequate income. Small-dollar loans can be offered in various forms and by various types of lenders. Banks and credit unions (depositories) can make small-dollar loans through financial products such as credit cards, credit card cash...

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

With the aim of protecting American manufacturing and manufacturing jobs, Congress over the years has passed several domestic content laws. Statements and actions by the Trump Administration about reinvigorating domestic manufacturing and reinvesting in infrastructure have stimulated renewed interest in these laws, including Buy America. The President’s “Buy American and Hire American” initiative includes an executive memorandum requiring the Secretary of Commerce to develop a plan for new pipelines in the United States to be made from domestically produced iron and steel, and a separate...

Maternal and Infant Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) Program: Background and Funding

The federal Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program supports home visiting services for families with young children who reside in communities that have concentrations of poor child health and other risk indicators. Home visits are conducted by nurses, mental health clinicians, social workers, or paraprofessionals with specialized training. Generally, they visit the homes of eligible families on a regular basis (e.g., weekly or monthly) over an extended period (e.g., six months or longer) to provide support to caregivers and children, such as guidance on...

Financial Regulatory Relief: Approaches for Congress, Regulators, and the Administration

The 2007-2009 financial crisis led to significant changes in financial regulation, but critics argue that the burden these changes have imposed now exceeds their benefits. Congress and the Administration are considering financial regulatory relief from various postcrisis regulatory changes, including the Dodd-Frank Act (P.L. 111-203). This report provides an overview of the options available to pursue that goal.

Approaches for Congress

Congress can mandate that regulators provide relief through legislation. Most relief legislation likely would follow the normal legislative process. For...

The Financial CHOICE Act (H.R. 10) and the Dodd-Frank Act

Representative Jeb Hensarling, chairman of the House Committee on Financial Services, introduced the Financial CHOICE Act of 2017 (H.R. 10) on April 26, 2017. H.R. 10 was passed by the House on June 8, 2017. The bill as passed is a wide-ranging proposal with 12 titles that would alter many parts of the financial regulatory system. H.R. 10 is similar to, but has several major differences from, H.R. 5983 from the 114th Congress (called the Financial CHOICE Act of 2016).

The next section highlights major proposals included in the bill, as passed. It is not a comprehensive summary. For a more...

Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) FY2017 Appropriations: Overview

The Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) appropriations bill includes funding for the Department of the Treasury, the Executive Office of the President (EOP), the judiciary, the District of Columbia, and more than two dozen independent agencies. The House and Senate FSGG bills fund the same agencies, with one exception. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) is funded through the Agriculture appropriations bill in the House and the FSGG bill in the Senate. This structure has existed since the 2007 reorganization of the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations.

On...

Discretionary Budget Authority by Subfunction: An Overview

This report provides a graphical overview of historical trends in discretionary budget authority (BA) from FY1977 through FY2016, preliminary estimates for FY2017 spending, and the levels reflecting the President’s proposals for FY2018 through FY2022 using data from the FY2018 budget submission released on May 23, 2017. This report, by illustrating trends in broad budgetary categories, provides a starting point for discussions about fiscal priorities. Other CRS products analyze spending trends in specific functional areas. Functional categories (e.g., national defense, agriculture, etc.)...

Treasury Department Appropriations, FY2017

At its most basic level of organization, the Treasury Department is a collection of departmental offices and operating bureaus. The bureaus as a whole typically account for 95% of Treasury’s budget and workforce. Most bureaus and offices are funded through annual appropriations.

Treasury appropriations are distributed among 12 accounts in FY2017: (1) Departmental Offices (DO), (2) Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence (TFI), (3) Cybersecurity Enhancement Account (CEA), (4) Department-wide Systems and Capital Investments Program (DSCIP), (5) Office of Inspector General (OIG), (6)...

Federal Research and Development Funding: FY2017

President Obama’s budget request for FY2017 included $152.333 billion for research and development (R&D), an increase of $6.195 billion (4.2%) over the estimated FY2016 enacted R&D funding level of $146.138 billion.

Funding for R&D is concentrated in a few departments and agencies. Under President Obama’s FY2017 budget request, seven federal agencies would have received 95.6% of total federal R&D funding, with the Department of Defense (47.8%) and the Department of Health and Human Services (21.5%) accounting for nearly 70% of all federal R&D funding.

In dollars, the largest increases in...

Digital Trade and U.S. Trade Policy

As the rules of global Internet develop and evolve, digital trade has risen in prominence on the global trade and economic agenda, but multilateral trade agreements have not kept pace with the complexities of the digital economy. The economic impact of the Internet was estimated to be $4.2 trillion in 2016, making it the equivalent of the fifth-largest national economy. According to one source, the volume of global data flows grew 45-fold from 2005 to 2014, faster than international trade or financial flows. Congress has an important role to play in shaping global digital trade policy,...

Stafford Act Assistance and Acts of Terrorism

The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (the Stafford Act) authorizes the President to issue two types of declarations that could potentially provide federal assistance to states and localities in response to a terrorist attack: a “major disaster declaration” or an “emergency declaration.” Major disaster declarations authorize a wide range of federal assistance to states, local governments, tribal nations, individuals and households, and certain nonprofit organizations to recover from a catastrophic event. Major disaster declarations also make Small Business...

Malawi: Key Developments and U.S. Relations

Malawi is a poor, landlocked country in southeastern Africa. A former British colony, Malawi transitioned from one-party rule to a democratic system in the early 1990s. It has since held a series of multi-party elections—though the most recent polls, held in 2014, featured some logistical shortcomings, limited violence, and a number of controversies, including a failed attempt by then-incumbent President Joyce Banda to annul the election. The race was ultimately won by Peter Mutharika, whose brother, Bingu wa Mutharika, served as president from 2004 until his death in 2012, when he was...

The Federal Minimum Wage: In Brief

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), enacted in 1938, is the federal legislation that establishes the minimum hourly wage that must be paid to all covered workers. The minimum wage provisions of the FLSA have been amended numerous times since 1938, typically for the purpose of expanding coverage or raising the wage rate. Since its establishment, the minimum wage rate has been raised 22 separate times. The most recent change was enacted in 2007 (P.L. 110-28), which increased the minimum wage to its current level of $7.25 per hour.

In addition to setting the federal minimum wage rate, the...

The Crime Victims Fund: Federal Support for Victims of Crime

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

Federal Individual Income Tax Terms: An Explanation

Described in this report are the terms most commonly used when discussing the federal individual income tax. Most of these tax terms are explained in the order that they occur in the process of determining one’s income tax on the Form 1040. Total income is the sum total of all income required to be reported for tax purposes before adjustments to income are made for special types of expenses which Congress has determined should be considered in calculating gross income. These adjustments function like deductions, except that unlike deductions, adjustments are calculated in arriving at...

East Asia’s Foreign Exchange Rate Policies

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), monetary authorities in East Asia (including Southeast Asia) have adopted a variety of foreign exchange rate policies, varying from Hong Kong’s currency board system which links the Hong Kong dollar to the U.S. dollar, to the “independently floating” exchange rates of Japan, the Philippines, and South Korea. Most Asian monetary authorities have adopted “managed floats” that allow their currency to fluctuate within a limited range over time as part of a larger economic policy. Regardless of their exchange rate policies, monetary...

Banking Policy Issues in the 115th Congress

The financial crisis and the ensuing legislative and regulatory responses greatly affected the banking industry. Many new regulations—mandated or authorized by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (P.L. 111-203) or promulgated under the authority of bank regulators—have been implemented in recent years. In addition, economic and technological trends continue to affect banks. As a result, Congress is faced with many issues related to the bank industry, including issues concerning prudential regulation, consumer protection, “too big to fail” (TBTF) banks, community...

Systemically Important or “Too Big to Fail” Financial Institutions

Although “too big to fail” (TBTF) has been a long-standing policy issue, it was highlighted by the financial crisis, when the government intervened to prevent the near-collapse of several large financial firms in 2008. Financial firms are said to be TBTF when policymakers judge that their failure would cause unacceptable disruptions to the overall financial system. They can be TBTF because of their size or interconnectedness. In addition to fairness issues, economic theory suggests that expectations that a firm will not be allowed to fail create moral hazard—if the creditors and...

Overview of FY2017 Appropriations for Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS)

This report describes actions taken by the Administration and Congress to provide FY2017 appropriations for the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) accounts. It also provides an overview of FY2016 appropriations for agencies and bureaus funded as part of annual CJS appropriations.

Division B of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016 (P.L. 114-113), provided $66.000 billion for CJS, which included $9.246 billion for the Department of Commerce, $29.090 billion for the Department of Justice (DOJ), $26.754 billion for the science agencies, and $910 million for the related...

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) entered into force on January 1, 1994. The agreement was signed by President George H. W. Bush on December 17, 1992, and approved by Congress on November 20, 1993. The NAFTA Implementation Act was signed into law by President William J. Clinton on December 8, 1993 (P.L. 103-182). The overall economic impact of NAFTA is difficult to measure since trade and investment trends are influenced by numerous other economic variables, such as economic growth, inflation, and currency fluctuations. The agreement likely accelerated and also locked in...

Selected Federal Water Activities: Agencies, Authorities, and Congressional Committees

Congress addresses numerous issues related to the nation’s water resources annually, and over time it has enacted hundreds of water-related federal laws. These laws—many of which are independent statutes—have been enacted at different points in the nation’s history and during various economic climates. They were developed by multiple congressional committees with varying jurisdictions. Such committees are involved in legislating, funding, and overseeing the water-related activities of numerous federal agencies. These activities include responding to natural disasters such as droughts and...

Science and Technology Issues in the 115th Congress

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

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

U.S. Restrictions on Relations with Burma

Major changes in Burma’s political situation since 2008 have raised issues for Congress concerning the appropriateness of U.S. restrictions on relations with Burma (Myanmar). These issues include whether Congress should reexamine U.S. policy toward Burma in general, what criteria are appropriate for analyzing the current situation in Burma, and whether it should make adjustments to current U.S. restrictions on relations with Burma.

On October 7, 2016, former President Obama revoked several executive orders pertaining to sanctions on Burma, and waived restrictions required by Section 5(b)...

21st Century U.S. Energy Sources: A Primer

Since the start of the 21st century, the U.S. energy system has seen tremendous changes. Technological advances in energy production have driven changes in energy consumption, and the United States has moved from being a growing net importer of most forms of energy to a declining importer—and possibly a net exporter in the near future. The United States remains the second largest consumer of energy in the world, behind China.

The U.S. oil and natural gas industry has gone through a “renaissance” of production. Technological improvements in hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling have...

The Value of Energy Tax Incentives for Different Types of Energy Resources: In Brief

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

In 2016, the value of...

Malaysia: Background and U.S. Relations

Malaysia, an ethnically diverse majority Muslim nation in Southeast Asia, has long been a partner in U.S. security and economic initiatives in the region, although political sensitivities in Malaysia have constrained both sides from forging deeper ties. Bilateral relations have improved over the past decade. Prime Minister Najib Razak, who came to power in 2009, made relations with the United States a priority early in his administration. More recently he has moved to deepen trade and economic ties with China. Congress has shown interest in a variety of issues in U.S.-Malaysia relations...

Buying American: Protecting U.S. Manufacturing Through the Berry and Kissell Amendments

The Berry and Kissell Amendments are two separate but closely related laws requiring that certain goods purchased by national security agencies be produced in the United States.

The Berry Amendment (10 U.S.C. §2533a) is the popular name for a law requiring textiles, clothing, food, and hand or measuring tools purchased by the Department of Defense (DOD) to be grown, reprocessed, reused, or produced wholly in the United States. Congress over the decades has varied the list of products covered by the law. Under the Kissell Amendment (6 U.S.C. §453b), textile, apparel, and footwear products...

Presidential Transitions: Issues Involving Outgoing and Incoming Administrations

The crux of a presidential transition is the transfer of executive power from the incumbent to the President-elect. Yet the transition process encompasses a host of activities, beginning with pre-election planning and continuing through inauguration day. The process ensures that the federal government provides resources to presidential candidates’ transition teams, and, eventually, the President-elect’s team; and includes close coordination between the outgoing and incoming Administrations. The Presidential Transition Act (PTA) of 1963, as amended, established formal mechanisms to...

Background and Federal Efforts on Summer Youth Employment

Labor force activity for youth ages 16 to 24 has been in decline since the late 1990s. This trend has been consistent even during the summer months, when youth are most likely to be engaged in work. Labor force data from the month of July highlight changes in summer employment over time. For example, the employment rate—known as the employment to population (E/P) ratio—for youth was 64.1% in July 1996 and 53.2% in July 2016. Congress has long been concerned about ensuring that young people have productive pathways to adulthood, particularly for those youth who are low-income and have...

Regulation of Debit Interchange Fees

The United States has seen continued growth of electronic card payments (and a simultaneous decrease in check payments). From 2009 through 2012, debit card transactions have outpaced other payment forms. When a consumer uses a debit card in a transaction, the merchant pays a “swipe” fee, which is also known as the interchange fee. The interchange fee is paid to the card-issuing bank (i.e., the consumer’s bank that issued the debit card) as compensation for facilitating the transaction. Section 1075 of the Consumer Financial Protection Act of 2010 (or Title X of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street...

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative: Lessons Learned and Issues for Congress

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) was the nation’s first mandatory cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. RGGI involves nine states—Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The RGGI cap-and-trade system applies only to carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from electric power plants with capacities to generate 25 megawatts or more—approximately 168 facilities. The RGGI emissions cap took effect January 1, 2009, based on an agreement signed by RGGI governors in 2005.

The results of the RGGI program...

The Growing Gap in Life Expectancy by Income: Recent Evidence and Implications for the Social Security Retirement Age

Life expectancy is a population-level measure that refers to the average number of years an individual will live. Although life expectancy has generally been increasing over time in the United States, researchers have long documented that it is lower for individuals with lower socioeconomic status (SES) compared with individuals with higher SES. Recent studies provide evidence that this gap has widened in recent decades. For example, a 2015 study by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) found that for men born in 1930, individuals in the highest income quintile (top 20%) could expect to...

Congress’s Contempt Power and the Enforcement of Congressional Subpoenas: Law, History, Practice, and Procedure

Congress’s contempt power is the means by which Congress responds to certain acts that in its view obstruct the legislative process. Contempt may be used either to coerce compliance, to punish the contemnor, and/or to remove the obstruction. Although arguably any action that directly obstructs the effort of Congress to exercise its constitutional powers may constitute a contempt, in recent times the contempt power has most often been employed in response to non-compliance with a duly issued congressional subpoena—whether in the form of a refusal to appear before a committee for purposes of...

FY2017 Agriculture and Related Agencies Appropriations: In Brief

The Agriculture appropriations bill funds the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), except for the Forest Service. It also funds the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and—in even-numbered fiscal years—the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). (For CFTC, the Agriculture appropriations subcommittee has jurisdiction in the House but not in the Senate.)

Agriculture appropriations include both mandatory and discretionary spending. Discretionary amounts, though, are the primary focus during the bill’s development, since mandatory amounts are generally set by authorizing laws such as the...

Cost-Benefit Analysis and Financial Regulator Rulemaking

Cost-benefit analysis (CBA) in the federal rulemaking process is the systematic examination, estimation, and comparison of the potential economic costs and benefits resulting from the promulgation of a new rule. Agencies with rulemaking authority implement regulations that carry the force of law. While this system allows technical rules to be designed by experts that are to some degree insulated from political considerations, it also results in rules being implemented by executive branch staff that arguably are not directly accountable to the electorate.

One method for Congress to...

Selected Homeland Security Issues in the 115th Congress

In 2001, in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11th, “homeland security” went from being a concept discussed among a relatively small cadre of policymakers and strategic thinkers to a broadly discussed issue among policymakers, including those in Congress. Debates over how to implement coordinated homeland security policy led to the passage of the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (P.L. 107-296) and the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Evolution of America’s response to terrorist threats has continued under the leadership of different Administrations,...

Federal Deductibility of State and Local Taxes

Under current law, taxpayers who itemize can deduct state and local real estate taxes, personal property taxes, and income taxes from federal income when calculating taxable income. A deduction for sales taxes in lieu of income taxes is also available. The federal deduction for state and local taxes results in the federal government paying part of these state and local taxes through lower federal tax collections. Theory would suggest that taxpayers are willing to accept higher state and local tax rates and greater state and local public spending because of lower federal income taxes...

H-2A and H-2B Temporary Worker Visas: Policy and Related Issues

Under current law, certain foreign workers, sometimes referred to as guest workers, may be admitted to the United States to perform temporary service or labor under two temporary worker visas: the H-2A visa for agricultural workers and the H-2B visa for nonagricultural workers. Both programs are administered by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Labor (DOL).

The H-2A and H-2B programs—and guest worker programs broadly—strive both to be responsive to legitimate employer needs for temporary labor and to provide adequate protections for U.S. and foreign temporary...

Job Creation in the Manufacturing Revival

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

U.S. manufacturing output has risen approximately 22% since the most recent low point in 2009, but almost all of that expansion occurred prior to the end of 2014. The upswing in manufacturing...

Cost and Benefit Considerations in Clean Air Act Regulations

The Clean Air Act (CAA) gives the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) broad authority to set ambient air quality standards to protect public health and welfare. It authorizes emission standards for both mobile and stationary air pollution sources, including cars, trucks, factories, power plants, fuels, consumer products, and dozens of other source categories. Since 1970, EPA has used this authority to require emission controls for these sources. Emissions of the most widespread (“criteria”) pollutants have been reduced by 72% during that period.

As directed by Congress and by executive...

Terrorism in Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia is home to more than 625 million people and around 15% of the world’s Muslim population. The region has faced the threat of terrorism for decades, but threats in Southeast Asia have never been considered as great as threats in some other regions. However, the rise of the Islamic State poses new, heightened challenges for Southeast Asian governments and for U.S. policy towards the region.

Southeast Asia has numerous dynamic economies and three Muslim-majority states, including the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation, Indonesia, which also is the world’s third largest...

Presidential Appointee Positions Requiring Senate Confirmation and Committees Handling Nominations

As part of the process of making an appointment to an advice and consent position, the President submits a nomination to the Senate. Most nominations are referred to the appropriate Senate committee or committees on the day they are received. Such referrals are guided by Senate Rule XXV, which establishes the subject matter under the purview of each committee and directs that “all proposed legislation, messages, petitions, memorials, and other matters relating primarily to [those] subjects” be referred to that committee. Precedents set by prior referrals, standing orders, and unanimous...

Frequently Asked Questions About Prescription Drug Pricing and Policy

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

Congress has attempted to ensure that Americans have access to pharmaceuticals by enacting the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit as part of the Medicare Modernization and Prescription Drug Act of 2003 (MMA;...

The Strategic Petroleum Reserve: Authorization, Operation, and Drawdown Policy

Congress authorized the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) in the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA) of 1975 to help prevent a repetition of the economic disruption caused by the 1973-1974 Arab oil embargo. EPCA specifically authorizes the President to draw down the SPR upon a finding that there is a “severe energy supply interruption.” The meaning of a “severe energy supply interruption” has, over time, been controversial. The authors of EPCA intended the SPR only to ameliorate discernible physical shortages of crude oil. Historically, increasing crude oil prices typically signal...

Patent Boxes: A Primer

Economists generally agree that government support for private investment in research and development (R&D) is useful in correcting a market failure that predisposes most companies to invest less for that purpose than the overall economic benefits from R&D investments would warrant. The market failure stems from a company’s inability to capture all the returns to its R&D investments as a result of the spillover effects of successful R&D investments.

Most governments offer some kind of support for R&D, including tax incentives for business R&D investments. The U.S. government provides a tax...

What Does the Gig Economy Mean for Workers?

The gig economy is the collection of markets that match providers to consumers on a gig (or job) basis in support of on-demand commerce. In the basic model, gig workers enter into formal agreements with on-demand companies (e.g., Uber, TaskRabbit) to provide services to the company’s clients. Prospective clients request services through an Internet-based technological platform or smartphone application that allows them to search for providers or to specify jobs. Providers (i.e., gig workers) engaged by the on-demand company provide the requested service and are compensated for the jobs....

Advanced Gene Editing: CRISPR-Cas9

Scientists have long sought the ability to control and modify DNA—the code of life. A new gene editing technology known as CRISPR-Cas9 offers the potential for substantial improvement over previous technologies in that it is simple to use and inexpensive and has a relatively high degree of precision and efficiency. These characteristics have led many in the scientific and business communities to assert that CRISPR-Cas9 will lead to groundbreaking advances in many fields, including agriculture, energy, ecosystem conservation, and the investigation, prevention, and treatment of...

The National Security Council: Background and Issues for Congress

On April 4, 2017, the Trump Administration issued National Security Presidential Memorandum (NSPM)-4: Organization of the National Security Council, the Homeland Security Council, and Subcommittees. NSPM-4 details how the executive branch intends to manage and coordinate national and homeland security issues among relevant departments and agencies. This NSPM augments an earlier articulation from the Trump Administration regarding the management of national security matters, as expressed in NSPM-2, which was issued on January 28, 2017.

This report offers a brief historical overview of the...

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

The economic and trade relationship with Mexico is of interest to U.S. policymakers because of Mexico’s proximity to the United States, the high level of bilateral trade, and the strong cultural and economic ties that connect the two countries. Also, it is of national interest for the United States to have a prosperous and democratic Mexico as a neighboring country. Mexico is the United States’ third-largest trading partner, while the United States is, by far, Mexico’s largest trading partner. Mexico ranks third as a source of U.S. imports, after China and Canada, and second, after Canada,...

Iran’s Nuclear Program: Status

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

The United States has assessed that Tehran has technological and industrial capacity to...

The Loan Limits for Government-Backed Mortgages

The federal government supports homeownership in different ways. One of the main ways is through programs or quasi-government entities that promise lenders or investors that if a homeowner defaults on a covered mortgage, the lender or investor will still receive some—or all—of the amount it was owed. In some cases, the guarantees support homeownership by making private lenders more willing to offer certain types of mortgages. In other cases, the guarantees provided by these entities may increase the number of private investors who are willing to invest in mortgages, thereby increasing the...

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC): A Brief Legislative History

The earned income tax credit (EITC), when first enacted on a temporary basis in 1975, was a modest tax credit that provided financial assistance to low-income, working families with children. After various legislative changes over the past 40 years, the credit is now one of the federal government’s largest antipoverty programs. Since the EITC’s enactment, Congress has shown increasing interest in using refundable tax credits for a variety of purposes, from reducing the tax burdens of families with children (the child tax credit), to helping families afford higher education (the American...

Resources for Key Economic Indicators

An understanding of economic indicators and their significance is seen as essential to the formulation of economic policies. These indicators, or statistics, provide snapshots of an economy’s health as well as starting points for economic analysis. This report contains a list of selected authoritative U.S. government sources of economic indicators, such as gross domestic product (GDP), income, inflation, and labor force (including employment and unemployment) statistics.

Additional content includes related resources, frequently asked questions (FAQs), and links to external glossaries.

U.S. Physical Infrastructure: CRS Experts

A nation’s physical infrastructure (for example, its transportation, water, energy, and communications systems and structures) serves as arteries for its economic and societal activity. The infrastructure of the United States was considered to be among the finest in the world, as post-World War II growth saw large amounts of investment in much of that infrastructure. Since all infrastructure structures and equipment have a finite useful life, some would say that functionality of U.S. infrastructure has declined over time.

Estimates of cost to meet the needs of the infrastructure sectors...

Mexico’s Free Trade Agreements

Mexico has had a growing commitment to trade integration and liberalization through the formation of free trade agreements (FTAs) since the 1990s, and its trade policy is among the most open in the world. Mexico’s pursuit of FTAs with other countries not only provides economic benefits, but could also potentially reduce its economic dependence on the United States. The United States is, by far, Mexico’s most significant trading partner. Approximately 80% of Mexico’s exports go to the United States, and about 47% of Mexico’s imports are supplied by the United States. In an effort to...

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act: Background and Summary

Beginning in 2007, U.S. financial conditions deteriorated, leading to the near-collapse of the U.S. financial system in September 2008. Major commercial banks, insurers, government-sponsored enterprises, and investment banks either failed or required hundreds of billions in federal support to continue functioning. Households were hit hard by drops in the prices of real estate and financial assets, and by a sharp rise in unemployment. Congress responded to the crisis by enacting the most comprehensive financial reform legislation since the 1930s.

Then-Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner...

Border-Adjusted Consumption Taxes and Exchange Rate Movements: Theory and Evidence

In June 2016, House Speaker Paul Ryan proposed a destination-based cash flow tax (DBCFT) as part of the “A Better Way” tax reform blueprint. One component of the DBCFT proposal is the implementation of a border adjustment, which is a common feature of national consumption-based taxes. Were the United States to adopt a DBCFT and the accompanying border adjustment, it would only tax production that is consumed in the United States—domestically produced goods and services sold abroad would not be taxed.

Although there are many important issues surrounding a DBCFT that would require careful...

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

The size of the U.S. bilateral trade deficit with China has been and continues to be an important issue in bilateral trade relations. President Trump and some Members of Congress view the deficit as a sign of unfair economic policies in China. In previous Congresses, legislation was introduced seeking to redress the perceived competitive disadvantage China’s policies have created for U.S. exporters and import-sensitive firms.

There is a large and growing difference between the official trade statistics released by the United States and the People’s Republic of China. According to the...

NASS and U.S. Crop Production Forecasts: Methods and Issues

The National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates agricultural production (including area and yield) and stocks for more than 120 crops and 45 livestock items. Traditionally NASS estimates have focused on state and national data, but in recent years county-level estimates have gained in importance. NASS crop production estimates are crucial to people in the U.S. agricultural sector involved in making marketing and investment decisions, policymakers who design farm support programs, USDA agents who implement those programs, and...

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC): An Overview

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

Keystone XL: Greenhouse Gas Emissions Assessments in the Final Environmental Impact Statement

On March 23, 2017, the State Department issued a Presidential Permit for the border facilities of the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline, having determined that issuing the permit “would serve the national interest.” The Department announced that the Record of Decision and National Interest Determination for the Presidential Permit “is informed by” the 2014 Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS). It cites no new documentation aside from fresh communications with the Canadian pipeline company.

State Department Assessment

The State Department released the FEIS on January 31, 2014, to inform...

Preserving Homeownership: Foreclosure Prevention Initiatives

The home mortgage foreclosure rate began to rise rapidly in the United States beginning around the middle of 2006 and remained elevated for several years thereafter. Losing a home to foreclosure can harm households in many ways; for example, those who have been through a foreclosure may have difficulty finding a new place to live or obtaining a loan in the future. Furthermore, concentrated foreclosures can negatively impact nearby home prices, and large numbers of abandoned properties can negatively affect communities. Finally, elevated levels of foreclosures can destabilize housing...

Federal Reserve: Oversight and Disclosure Issues

Critics of the Federal Reserve (Fed) have long argued for more oversight, transparency, and disclosure. Criticism intensified following the extensive assistance the Fed provided to financial firms during the financial crisis. Some critics downplay the degree of Fed oversight and disclosure that already takes place.

For oversight, the Fed is required to provide a written report to and testify before the committees of jurisdiction semiannually. In addition, these committees periodically hold more focused hearings on Fed topics. Critics have sought a Government Accountability Office (GAO)...

Tax Deductions for Individuals: A Summary

Every tax filer has the option to claim deductions when filing their income tax return. Deductions serve four main purposes in the tax code: (1) to account for large, unusual, and necessary personal expenditures, such as extraordinary medical expenses; (2) to encourage certain types of activities, such as homeownership and charitable contributions; (3) to ease the burden of taxes paid to state and local governments; and (4) to adjust for the expenses of earning income, such as unreimbursed employee expenses.

Some tax deductions can be taken by individuals even if they do not itemize. These...

Statutory, Average, and Effective Marginal Tax Rates in the Federal Individual Income Tax: Background and Analysis

Tax reform is a stated priority of the 115th Congress. In June 2016, Ways and Means Committee Republicans released the “Better Way” tax reform blueprint. The proposal seeks to make the individual income tax system “simpler, flatter, and fairer” by consolidating the number of individual income tax brackets. Looking at statutory tax rates alone, however, provides limited information regarding the simplicity or fairness of the tax system. Average tax rates and effective marginal tax rates are frequently used by economists and policy analysts to evaluate the fairness of the tax system, as well...

Previewing a 2018 Farm Bill

Congress periodically establishes agricultural and food policy in an omnibus farm bill. The 115th Congress faces reauthorization of the 2014 farm bill—the Agricultural Act of 2014 (P.L. 113-79, H.Rept. 113-333)—because many of its provisions expire in 2018.

The 2014 farm bill is the most recent omnibus farm bill. It was enacted in February 2014 and succeeded the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-246, “2008 farm bill”). In recent decades, the breadth of farm bills has steadily grown to include new and expanding food and agricultural interests. The 2014 farm bill contains...

German Chancellor Angela Merkel Visits President Trump

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is scheduled to meet with President Donald Trump at the White House on March 17, 2017. The meeting—the first between the two leaders—comes amid uncertainty and unease in Europe about the direction of U.S.-German and U.S.-European relations during the Trump Administration. Merkel has led Europe’s largest and most prosperous country for almost 12 years and is widely viewed as the most influential political leader in Europe. Most analysts agree that the U.S.-German relationship could play a pivotal role in guiding U.S. policy toward Europe and vice...

The Marijuana Policy Gap and the Path Forward

Under federal law, the cultivation, possession, and distribution of marijuana are illegal, except for the purposes of sanctioned research. States, however, have established a range of laws and policies regarding marijuana’s medical and recreational use. Most states have deviated from an across-the-board prohibition of marijuana, and it is now more so the rule than the exception that states have laws and policies allowing for some cultivation, sale, distribution, and possession of marijuana—all of which are contrary to the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA). As of March 2017, nearly...

Hemp as an Agricultural Commodity

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

An Introduction to Poverty Measurement

Poverty measures convey the number or percentage of people falling below given income amounts, which are intended to represent a level of economic privation and are computed using some factually based measurement of basic needs. The poverty measures discussed in this report—the official U.S. poverty measure and the research Supplemental Poverty Measure—focus on financial resources. A family’s income is compared against a dollar amount representing some measure of need, called a threshold, which typically varies by family size and composition. Those with family income less than the...

Anti-Money Laundering: An Overview for Congress

Anti-money laundering (AML) refers to efforts to prevent criminal exploitation of financial systems to conceal the location, ownership, source, nature, or control of illicit proceeds. Despite the existence of long-standing domestic regulatory and enforcement mechanisms, as well as international commitments and guidance on best practices, policymakers remain challenged to identify and address policy gaps and new laundering methods that criminals exploit. According to United Nations estimates recognized by the U.S. Department of the Treasury, criminals in the United States generate some $300...

Independence of Federal Financial Regulators: Structure, Funding, and Other Issues

Conventional wisdom regarding regulators is that the structure and design of the organization matters for policy outcomes. Financial regulators conduct rulemaking and enforcement to implement law and supervise financial institutions. These agencies have been given certain characteristics that enhance their day-to-day independence from the President and Congress, which may make policymaking more technical and less “political” or “partisan,” for better or worse. Independence may also make regulators less accountable to elected officials and can reduce congressional influence, at least in the...

An Overview of Recent Tax Reform Proposals

Many agree that the U.S. tax system is in need of reform. Congress continues to explore ways to make the U.S. tax system simpler, fairer, and more efficient. In doing so, lawmakers confront challenges in identifying and enacting policies, including consideration of competing proposals and differing priorities. To assist Congress as it continues to debate the intricacies of tax reform, this report provides a review of legislative tax reform proposals introduced since the 113th Congress.

Although no comprehensive tax reforms have been introduced into legislation yet in the 115th Congress,...

Worker Participation in Employer-Sponsored Pensions: A Fact Sheet

Employers in the United States offering a pension may offer their workers a defined benefit (DB) pension, a defined contribution (DC) pension (such as 401(k) plans), or both. This fact sheet summarizes Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data from March 2016 on access to and participation rates in retirement plans among U.S. workers classified by various attributes.

About 69% of all U.S. workers have access to an employer-sponsored pension, and about 54% of U.S. workers participate in an employer-sponsored pension. Access and participation rates vary with various worker attributes. These...

Housing Issues in the 114th Congress

Housing and residential mortgage markets in the United States are continuing to recover from several years of turmoil that began in 2007-2008, though the recovery has been uneven across the country. Nationally, home prices have been consistently increasing since 2012. Negative equity and mortgage foreclosure rates have been steadily decreasing, though both remain elevated. Home sales have begun to increase, with sales of existing homes approaching levels that were common in the early 2000s, though sales of new homes and housing starts remain relatively low.

Mortgage originations have also...

U.S. Sanctions and Russia’s Economy

In response to Russia’s annexation of the Crimean region of neighboring Ukraine and its support of separatist militants in Ukraine’s east, the United States imposed a number of targeted economic sanctions on Russian individuals, entities, and sectors. The United States coordinated its sanctions with other countries, particularly the European Union (EU). Russia retaliated against sanctions by banning imports of certain agricultural products from countries imposing sanctions, including the United States.

U.S. policymakers are debating the use of economic sanctions in U.S. foreign policy...

Wildfire Suppression Spending: Background, Issues, and Legislation

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

Capital Gains Taxes: An Overview

Current tax rates on capital gains are imposed at a 0% rate for those whose income places them in the regular 15% bracket, and 15% for taxpayers in higher brackets, except for those in the 39.6% bracket. In 2017, the 39.6% bracket begins with taxable income of $470,700 for joint returns and $418,400 for single returns. There is also an exclusion of $500,000 ($250,000 for single returns) for gains on home sales.

Tax legislation in 1997 reduced capital gains taxes on several types of assets, imposing a 20% maximum tax rate on long-term gains, a rate temporarily reduced to 15% for 2003-2008,...

Present Trends and the Evolution of Mandatory Spending

Federal spending is divided into three broad categories: discretionary spending, mandatory spending, and net interest. Mandatory spending is composed of budget outlays controlled by laws other than appropriation acts, including federal spending on entitlement programs. Entitlement programs such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid make up the bulk of mandatory spending. Other mandatory spending funds various income support programs, including Supplemental Security Income (SSI), unemployment insurance, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), as well as federal...

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 credit needs 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 conduct examinations to evaluate how banks are fulfilling the objectives of the CRA and issue performance ratings. Having a satisfactory or better CRA rating is desirable when...

National Monuments and the Antiquities Act

The Antiquities Act of 1906 (54 U.S.C. §§320301-320303) authorizes the President to proclaim national monuments on federal lands that contain historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, or other objects of historic or scientific interest. The President is to reserve “the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected.” The act was designed to protect federal lands and resources quickly. Presidents have proclaimed a total of 157 monuments. Congress has modified many of these proclamations and has abolished some monuments. Congress...

Cross-Border Energy Trade in North America: Present and Potential

The United States, Canada, and Mexico in many ways comprise one large, integrated market for energy commodities. Canada, for example, is the single largest foreign supplier of crude oil to the United States, and the United States is Canada’s sole crude oil customer. Both Mexico and Canada are major buyers of petroleum products refined in the United States. A growing trade in natural gas produced in the United States is also increasingly important to the energy relationship among the three countries. Trade in the other energy commodities—electricity, natural gas liquids, and coal—is...

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...

An Overview of the Housing Finance System in the United States

When making a decision about housing, a household must choose between renting and owning. Multiple factors, such as a household’s financial status and expectations about the future, influence the decision. Few people who decide to purchase a home have the necessary savings or available financial resources to make the purchase on their own. Most need to take out a loan. A loan that uses real estate as collateral is typically referred to as a mortgage.

A potential borrower applies for a loan from a lender in what is called the primary market. The lender underwrites, or evaluates, the...

U.S. Farm Program Eligibility and Payment Limits

Current U.S. farm program participants—whether individuals or multi-person 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, along with their current eligibility requirements and payment limits, are listed in Table 1.

Since 1970, Congress has used varying policies to address...

Invasive Species: Major Laws and the Role of Selected Federal Agencies

An “invasive” species (alternatively known as an alien, exotic, injurious, introduced or naturalized, non-native, nonindigenous, nuisance, or noxious species) refers to an animal or plant that is introduced into an environment where it is not native. The introduction of invasive species to the United States—whether deliberate or unintentional—from around the globe can pose a significant threat to native animal and plant communities, and may result in extinctions of native animals and plants, species disruptions as native and non-native species compete for limited resources, reduced...

The Excise Tax on High-Cost Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance: Estimated Economic and Market Effects

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA; P.L. 111-148, as amended) included a provision to impose an excise tax on high-cost employer-sponsored insurance (ESI) coverage beginning in 2018 (recently delayed until 2020). This provision, popularly termed the Cadillac tax, imposes an excise tax on ESI coverage in excess of a predetermined threshold. The tax is imposed on the coverage provider, typically the health insurance provider or the entity that administers the plan benefits.

Currently, employers’ spending on ESI coverage and most employees’ contributions to ESI plans are...

The Office of Surface Mining’s Stream Protection Rule: An Overview

On July 16, 2015, the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM) of the Department of the Interior proposed a Stream Protection Rule that would revise regulations implementing Title V of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA). Revised rules are intended to avoid or minimize adverse impacts of coal mining on surface water, groundwater, fish, wildlife, and other natural resources by limiting the mining of coal in or through streams, placement of waste in streams and limiting the generation of mining waste. Some of the existing regulations that would be...

Overview of Further Continuing Appropriations for FY2017 (H.R. 2028)

This report is an analysis of the provisions in H.R. 2028, which provides further continuing appropriations for FY2017 through April 28, 2017. The measure also included appropriations for the remainder of the fiscal year for Overseas Contingency Operations in the Security Assistance Appropriations Act (Division B). On December 10, 2016, the President signed H.R. 2028 into law (P.L. 114-254).

Division A of H.R. 2028 was termed a “continuing resolution” (CR) because it provided temporary authority for federal agencies and programs to continue spending in FY2017 in the same manner as a...

Insurance Regulation: Background, Overview, and Legislation in the 114th Congress

The individual states have been the primary regulators of insurance since 1868. Following the 1945 McCarran-Ferguson Act, this system has operated with the explicit blessing of Congress, but has also been subject to periodic scrutiny and suggestions that the time may have come for Congress to reclaim the regulatory authority it granted to the states. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, congressional scrutiny was largely driven by the increasing complexities of the insurance business and concern over whether the states were up to the task of ensuring consumer protections, particularly...

Legislative Options in the 114th Congress for Financing Water Infrastructure

This report addresses several options considered by Congress to address the financing needs of local communities for wastewater and drinking water infrastructure projects and to decrease or close the gap between available funds and projected needs. Some of the options exist and are well established, but they have been under discussion for expansion or modification. Other innovative policy options for water infrastructure have been proposed, especially to supplement or complement existing financing tools. Some are intended to provide robust, long-term revenue to support existing financing...

The 21st Century Cures Act (Division A of P.L. 114-255)

The 21st Century Cures Act (P.L. 114-255) was signed into law on December 13, 2016, by President Barack Obama. On November 30, 2016, the House passed the House amendment to the Senate amendment to H.R. 34, the 21st Century Cures Act, on a vote of 392 to 26. The bill was then sent to the Senate where it was considered and passed, with only minor technical modification, on December 7, 2016, on a vote of 94 to 5. The law consists of three divisions: Division A—21st Century Cures Act; Division B—Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis; and Division C—Increasing Choice, Access, and Quality...

The Overseas Private Investment Corporation: Background and Legislative Issues

The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), a wholly owned U.S. government corporation, is referred to as the U.S. development finance institution (DFI). It provides political risk insurance, project and investment funds financing, and other services to promote U.S. direct investment in developing countries and emerging economies that will have a development impact. It operates under the foreign policy guidance of the Secretary of State. OPIC’s governing legislation is the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as amended (22 U.S.C. §2191 et seq.).

Congress periodically has extended...

U.S. International Corporate Taxation: Basic Concepts and Policy Issues

Recent deficit reduction and tax reform plans have included broad proposals to reform the U.S. international corporate tax system. These proposals have raised concerns over how changing the way American multi-national corporations are taxed could impact the deficit and debt, domestic job markets, competitiveness, and the use of corporate tax havens, among other things. An informed debate about how to reform the system governing the taxation of U.S. multi-national corporations requires careful consideration of these issues, as well as a basic understanding of several features of the current...

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 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 funding and operational...

DHS Appropriations FY2017: Security, Enforcement, and Investigations

This report is part of a suite of reports that discuss appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for FY2017. It specifically discusses appropriations for the components of DHS included in the second title of the homeland security appropriations bill—Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Transportation Security Administration, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the U.S. Secret Service. Collectively, Congress has labeled these components in recent years as “Security, Enforcement, and Investigations.”

The report provides an overview of the...

DHS Appropriations FY2017: Research and Development, Training, and Services

This report is part of a suite of reports that discuss appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for FY2017. It specifically discusses appropriations for the components of DHS included in the fourth title of the homeland security appropriations bill—in past years, this has comprised U.S. Citizenship and Naturalization Services, the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, the Science and Technology Directorate, and the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO). In FY2017, the Administration proposed moving the Domestic Nuclear Detection office into a new Chemical,...

The Federal Food Safety System: A Primer

Numerous federal, state, and local agencies share responsibilities for regulating the safety of the U.S. food supply. Federal responsibility for food safety rests primarily with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). FDA, an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services, is responsible for ensuring the safety of all domestic and imported food products (except for most meats and poultry). FDA also has oversight of all seafood, fish, and shellfish products. USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) regulates most meat and poultry...

Financial Challenges of Operating Nuclear Power Plants in the United States

Some of the 60 operating nuclear power plants (comprising 99 nuclear reactors) in the United States have experienced financial stress in recent years due to a combination of low wholesale electricity prices and escalating costs. Six nuclear reactors have permanently shut down during the past five years, and 19 others have announced their intention to close or have been identified as “at-risk” of closure by financial consultants and ratings agencies.

Generally, U.S. nuclear plants are located in one of two market areas: (1) competitive—where the value of electricity fluctuates based on...

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR): Votes and Legislative Actions Since the 95th Congress

Current law forbids the federal government from offering energy leases or from allowing activities leading to energy development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR, or the Refuge) in northeastern Alaska. For several decades, a major energy debate has been whether to approve energy development in ANWR, and if so, under what conditions, or to continue to prohibit development to protect the area’s biological resources. ANWR is rich in fauna, flora, and commercial oil potential. Its development has been debated for more than 50 years, and the level of debate fluctuates with gasoline...

The National Space Council

According to press reports, the Trump Administration may reestablish the National Space Council, a coordinating body in the Executive Office of the President that was last active in 1993. The National Space Council was established in 1989 “to provide a coordinated process for developing a national space policy and strategy and for monitoring its implementation.” It was chaired by the Vice President and included the Secretaries of State, Treasury, Defense, Commerce, and Transportation, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, the President’s Chief of Staff, the Assistant to the...

Creating a Federal Advisory Committee in the Executive Branch

Federal advisory committees provide a formal forum for members of the public to provide advice and recommendations to the federal government on issues ranging from how to support trade goals of small and minority-owned businesses to which drugs best treat arthritis pain. Many of the roughly 1,000 federal advisory committees that operate at any given time are required to operate pursuant to the open meetings, records access, and reporting requirements of the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA).

Advisory committees are established for a number of reasons. These reasons often include...

Has the U.S. Government Ever “Defaulted”?

During recent debt limit episodes, federal officials have contended that if the debt limit were to constrain the government’s ability to meet its obligations, that would be an unprecedented blemish on the nation’s credit. For example, the U.S. Treasury has asserted that “(f)ailing to increase the debt limit would have catastrophic economic consequences. It would cause the government to default on its legal obligations” or that it “would represent an irresponsible retreat from a core American value: we are a nation that honors all of its commitments. It would cause the government to default...

State Minimum Wage Ballot Measures: In Brief

On November 8, 2016, five states introduced ballot measures related to state minimum wages. These and previous ballot measures provide states one way of establishing minimum wage provisions different from those required by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA; P.L. 75-718).

The U.S. Income Distribution: Trends and Issues

Income inequality—that is, the extent to which individuals’ or households’ incomes differ—has increased in the United States since the 1970s. Rising income inequality over this time period is driven largely by relatively rapid income growth at the top of the income distribution. For example, in 1975, the average income of households in the top fifth of income distribution was 10.3 times as large as average household income in the bottom fifth of the distribution; in 2015, average top incomes were 16.3 times as large as those at the bottom.

The pace and pattern of distributional change,...

The U.S. Trade Situation for Fruit and Vegetable Products

Over the last decade, there has been a growing U.S. trade deficit in fresh and processed fruits and vegetables. Although U.S. fruit and vegetable exports totaled $6.3 billion in 2015, U.S. imports of fruits and vegetables were $17.6 billion, resulting in a gap between imports and exports of $11.4 billion (excludes nuts and processed nut products). This trade deficit has generally widened over time as growth in imports has outpaced export growth. As a result, the United States has gone from being a net exporter of fresh and processed fruits and vegetables in the early 1970s to being a net...

Demographic and Social Characteristics of Persons in Poverty: 2015

This report provides a snapshot of the characteristics of the poor in the United States in 2015. It shows that people from families whose income falls below the federal poverty thresholds represent a diverse subset of the overall population.

There were 43 million people living below the federal poverty level in 2015, representing 13.5% of the total population.

Nearly half (45.1%) 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 other...

Small Business Administration Trade and Export Promotion Programs

According to Census Bureau data, approximately 1% of small businesses in the United States currently export. With roughly three-quarters of world purchasing power and almost 95% of world consumers living outside U.S. borders, more attention is being paid to the potential of small business export promotion programs to grow small businesses and contribute to national economic output. In addition, some Members of Congress believe the contributions of small businesses to commercial innovation and economic opportunities for firms and workers could be enhanced through greater access to growing...

Federal Income Tax Treatment of the Family

Individual income tax provisions have shifted over time, first in increasing the burden on larger families, and then in decreasing it. These shifts were caused by changing tax code features: personal exemptions, standard and itemized deductions, rates, the earned income credit (EIC), the child credit, and other standard structural aspects of the tax. Some of these features reflect changes made by the 2001 Bush tax cuts, which were extended for an additional two years by P.L. 111-312 and largely made permanent by the American Taxpayer Relief Act (P.L. 112-240). The most recent legislative...

“Regulatory Relief” for Banking: Selected Legislation in the 114th Congress

The 114th Congress is considering legislation to provide “regulatory relief” for banks. The need for this relief, some argue, results from new regulations introduced in response to vulnerabilities that were identified during the financial crisis that began in 2007. Some have contended that the increased regulatory burden—the cost associated with government regulation and its implementation—is resulting in significant costs that restrain economic growth and consumers’ access to credit. Others, however, believe the current regulatory structure strengthens financial stability and increases...

Infrastructure Finance and Debt to Support Surface Transportation Investment

Investment in surface transportation infrastructure is funded mainly with current receipts from taxes, tolls, and fares, but it is financed by public-sector borrowing and, in some cases, private borrowing and private equity investment. Financing is normally not arranged at the federal level, as the federal government builds few transportation projects directly. This report discusses current federal programs that support the use of debt finance and private investment to build and rebuild highways and public transportation. It also considers legislative options intended to encourage greater...

The Congressional Review Act: Frequently Asked Questions

The Congressional Review Act (CRA) is an oversight tool that Congress may use to overturn a rule issued by a federal agency. 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...

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

The United States is considering two mega-regional free trade agreements that its participants argue are comprehensive and high-standard: the recently concluded Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) among the United States and 11 other countries, and the U.S.-European Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP), still under negotiation. The 12 TPP countries signed the agreement in February 2016, but the agreement must be ratified by each country before it can enter into force. In the United States, this requires implementing legislation by Congress. Discussions of these and other FTAs...

Internet Gambling: Policy Issues for Congress

Gambling, once widely outlawed, is now a regulated, taxed activity that is legal in some form—bingo, card games, slot machines, state-run lotteries, casinos, and even online—in all states except Hawaii and Utah. Like so many other industries, the gambling industry is being transformed by technology that has begun to shift patronage from casinos, bingo halls, or stores selling lottery tickets to desktop computers and tablets connected to the Internet and to mobile devices that may communicate by telephone or direct satellite links. According to one private estimate, annual revenue in the...

Contingent Election of the President and Vice President by Congress: Perspectives and Contemporary Analysis

The 12th Amendment to the Constitution requires that presidential and vice presidential candidates gain “a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed” in order to win election. With a total of 538 electors representing the 50 states and the District of Columbia, 270 electoral votes is the “magic number,” the arithmetic majority necessary to win the presidency.

What would happen if no candidate won a majority of electoral votes? In these circumstances, the 12th Amendment also provides that the House of Representatives would elect the President, and the Senate would elect the Vice...

Multiemployer Defined Benefit (DB) Pension Plans: A Primer and Analysis of Policy Options

Multiemployer defined benefit (DB) pension plans are pensions sponsored by more than one employer and maintained as part of a collective bargaining agreement. About 3.2% of all DB pension plans, covering 25% of all DB pension plan participants, are multiemployer plans. Nearly all of the remaining DB pension plans are maintained by a single employer. A few DB pension plans are maintained by more than one employer but are not maintained under a collective bargaining agreement. In DB pension plans, participants receive a monthly benefit in retirement that is based on a formula. In...

Compensated Work Sharing Arrangements (Short-Time Compensation) as an Alternative to Layoffs

Short-time compensation (STC) is a program within the federal-state unemployment insurance system. In states that have STC programs, workers whose hours are reduced under a formal work sharing plan may be compensated with STC, which is a regular unemployment benefit that has been pro-rated for the partial work reduction.

Although the terms work sharing and short-time compensation are sometimes used interchangeably, work sharing refers to any arrangement under which workers’ hours are reduced in lieu of a layoff. Under a work sharing arrangement, a firm faced with the need to downsize...

Corporate Tax Integration: In Brief

In January 2016, Senator Orrin Hatch, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, announced plans for a tax reform that would explore corporate integration. Corporate integration involves the elimination or reduction of additional taxes on corporate equity investment that arise because corporate income is taxed twice, once at the corporate level and once at the individual level. Traditional concerns are that this system of taxation is inefficient because it (1) favors noncorporate equity investment over corporate investment, (2) favors debt finance over equity finance, (3) favors retained...

Israel: Background and U.S. Relations

Since Israel’s founding in 1948, successive U.S. Presidents and many Members of Congress have demonstrated a commitment to Israel’s security and to close U.S.-Israel cooperation. Perceptions of shared democratic values and religious affinities have contributed to strong bilateral ties. The question of Israel’s security regularly influences U.S. policy considerations regarding the Middle East, and Congress provides active oversight of executive branch dealings with Israel and other actors in the region. Israel is a leading recipient of U.S. foreign aid and a frequent purchaser of major U.S....

Selected Recently Expired Individual Tax Provisions (“Tax Extenders”): In Brief

The Protecting Americans From Tax Hikes (PATH) Act, considered as an amendment to the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2016 (P.L. 114-113), was signed into law on December 18, 2015. That legislation made some tax provisions that had expired at the end of 2014 permanent, and extended others through the 2016 tax year. This report briefly summarizes and discusses selected items categorized as individual tax provisions. These and other temporary tax provisions that have been regularly extended for one or two years are often referred to as “tax...

The Federal Minimum Wage: Indexation

In 1938, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) established a federal minimum wage of $0.25 per hour. The minimum wage provisions of the FLSA have been amended numerous times since then, typically for the purpose of expanding coverage or raising the wage rate. Since its establishment, the minimum wage rate has been raised 22 separate times, most recently in 2007-2009 when it was increased from $5.15 per hour to its current rate of $7.25 per hour in three steps.

The federal minimum wage changes only when Congress amends the FLSA. Since 1938, Congress has amended the FLSA to raise the minimum...

Federal Reserve: Legislation in the 114th Congress

The Federal Reserve (Fed) is the subject of legislation being considered in the 114th Congress. These bills contain wide-ranging provisions that can be grouped into four broad categories:

Changes to Fed governance. Some proposals would change the Fed’s institutional structure. H.R. 22 (P.L. 114-94) reduced the dividend paid by the Fed to large commercial banks that hold stock in the Fed and permanently capped the Fed’s surplus at $10 billion. H.R. 3189 would permanently eliminate the Fed’s surplus. H.R. 26 (P.L. 114-1) required at least one nominee for the Fed’s board of governors to have...

Unemployment and Inflation: Implications for Policymaking

The unemployment rate is a vital measure of economic performance. A falling unemployment rate generally occurs alongside rising gross domestic product (GDP), higher wages, and higher industrial production. The government can generally achieve a lower unemployment rate using expansionary fiscal or monetary policy, so it might be assumed that policymakers would consistently target a lower unemployment rate using these policies. Part of the reason policymakers do not revolves around the relationship between the unemployment rate and the inflation rate.

In general, economists have found that...

State Voter Identification Requirements: Analysis, Legal Issues, and Policy Considerations

About 60% of U.S. voters live in the 32 states that require a voter at a polling place to produce an identification document (ID) before casting a ballot. Among those states, 19 permit voters without ID to cast a ballot through alternative means, such as signing an affidavit; 13 strictly enforce the ID requirement. The other 18 states and the District of Columbia have a range of nondocument requirements instead.

Over the last two decades, the number of states requiring voter IDs has tripled. The stringency of those requirements is controversial. States vary substantially in the range of...

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

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

Congress and the Budget: 2016 Actions and Events

The Constitution grants Congress the power of the purse, but does not dictate how Congress must fulfill this constitutional duty. Congress has, therefore, developed certain types of budgetary legislation, along with rules and practices that govern its content and consideration. This set of budgetary legislation, rules, and practices is often referred to as the congressional budget process.

There is no prescribed congressional budget process that must be strictly followed each year, and Congress does not always consider budgetary measures in a linear or predictable pattern. Such...

Irrigation in U.S. Agriculture: On-Farm Technologies and Best Management Practices

Recent threats to water availability as a result of moderate to exceptional drought in several states have raised questions about agricultural water use and efficiencies across the United States. An understanding of common irrigation technologies and the impacts of best management practices in irrigation may be useful to Congress concerning potential policy responses to this issue. As a major user of water, the agricultural industry’s use of water resources continues to be a focal point of agriculture policy. Additional demands on water supplies, extreme weather events (e.g., prolonged...

Overview of Continuing Appropriations for FY2017 (H.R. 5325)

The purpose of this report is to provide an analysis of the continuing appropriations provisions for FY2017 in H.R. 5325. The measure also included provisions covering appropriations in the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill for all of FY2017 (Division A), as well as emergency funds to combat the Zika virus and provide relief for flood victims in Louisiana and other affected states (Division B). On September 29, 2016, the President signed H.R. 5325 into law (P.L. 114-223).

Division C of H.R. 5325 was termed a “continuing resolution” (CR) because measures to...

Trafficking in Persons in Latin America and the Caribbean

Countries in Latin America serve as source, transit, and destination countries for trafficking in persons (TIP). Victims are exploited within their own countries and trafficked to other countries in the region. Latin America is also a primary source region for people trafficked to the United States, including by transnational organized crime groups. In FY2015, Mexico was the primary country of origin for foreign trafficking victims certified as eligible to receive U.S. assistance. Recent victims identified in the United States also have originated in Brazil and Central America. Smaller...

Receipt of Unemployment Insurance by Higher-Income Unemployed Workers (“Millionaires”)

Under the federal-state Unemployment Insurance (UI) system, there is currently no prohibition on the receipt of UI benefits by high-income unemployed workers. States, which determine many of the eligibility requirements for UI benefits, may not restrict eligibility based on individual or household income.

Recent Congresses, however, have considered proposals to restrict the payment of unemployment benefits to high-income individuals. These proposals define high income in a variety of ways—often prohibiting UI benefits for “millionaires.” For instance, in the 112th Congress, the...

Tax Credit Bonds: Overview and Analysis

Nearly all state and local governments sell bonds to finance public projects and certain qualified private activities. The federal government subsidizes state and local bond issuances through a number of policies. One such policy is the Tax Credit Bond (TCB), which provides a tax credit or direct payment to the issuer or investor that is proportional to the bond’s face value. TCBs represent an alternative to tax-exempt bonds, which exclude interest earnings from the investor’s federal taxable income. This report explains the tax credit mechanism and describes the market for TCBs.

The...

Tax Policy and U.S. Territories: Overview and Issues for Congress

There are 14 U.S. territories, or possessions, five of which are inhabited: Puerto Rico (PR), Guam, U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI), American Samoa (AS), and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). Each of these inhabited territories has a local tax system with features that help determine each territory’s local public finances.

The U.S. Internal Revenue Code (IRC) has two important roles in establishing the tax policy relationship between the United States and the territories. First, native residents of U.S. territories are U.S. citizens or nationals but are taxed more...

Agricultural Research: Background and Issues

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Research, Education, and Economics (REE) mission area has the primary federal responsibility of advancing scientific knowledge for agriculture through research, education, and extension. USDA REE responsibilities are carried out by four agencies: the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), the Economic Research Service (ERS), and the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). USDA conducts its own research and administers extramural federal funding to states and local partners primarily...

Patents and Prescription Drug Importation

Prescription drugs often cost far more in the United States than in other countries. Some consumers have attempted to import medications from abroad in order to realize cost savings. The practice of importing prescription drugs outside the distribution channels established by the brand-name drug company is commonly termed “parallel importation” or “re-importation.” Parallel imports are authentic products that are legitimately distributed abroad and then sold to consumers in the United States, without the permission of the authorized U.S. dealer.

Numerous bills have been introduced in the...

Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education: FY2016 Appropriations

This report provides an overview of actions taken by Congress and the President to provide FY2016 appropriations for accounts funded by the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS) appropriations bill. This bill provides funding for all accounts funded through the annual appropriations process at the Departments of Labor (DOL) and Education (ED). It provides annual appropriations for most agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), with certain exceptions (e.g., the Food and Drug Administration is funded via the...

Statutorily Required Federal Advisory Committees that Began Operations in FY2015

Congress regularly establishes federal advisory committees—sometimes called task forces, panels, commissions, working groups, boards, councils, or conferences. Many of these committees are required to operate pursuant to the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA; 5 U.S.C. Appendix), which seeks to make advisory committee operations more accessible and transparent. Federal advisory committees are one of only a few formalized mechanisms for private-sector citizens to participate in the executive branch’s policymaking process. FACA committees are prohibited from creating policy or issuing...

Trends in Mandatory Spending: In Brief

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Conflict in South Sudan and the Challenges Ahead

South Sudan, which separated from Sudan in 2011 after almost 40 years of civil war, was drawn into a devastating new conflict in late 2013, when a political dispute that overlapped with preexisting ethnic and political fault lines turned violent. Civilians have been routinely targeted in the conflict, often along ethnic lines, and the warring parties have been accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The war and resulting humanitarian crisis have displaced more than 2.7 million people, including roughly 200,000 who are sheltering at U.N. peacekeeping bases in the country. Over 1...

Corporate Tax Integration and Tax Reform

In January 2016, Senator Orrin Hatch, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, announced plans for a tax reform that would explore corporate integration. Corporate integration involves the elimination or reduction of additional taxes on corporate equity investment that arise because corporate income is taxed twice, once at the corporate level and once at the individual level. Traditional concerns are that this system of taxation is inefficient because it (1) favors noncorporate equity investment over corporate investment, (2) favors debt finance over equity finance, (3) favors retained...

The Financial CHOICE Act in the 114th Congress: Policy Issues

The Financial CHOICE Act (FCA; H.R. 5983), sponsored by Chairman Jeb Hensarling, was ordered to be reported by the House Committee on Financial Services on September 13, 2016. The bill is a wide-ranging proposal with 11 titles that would alter many parts of the financial regulatory system. Much of the FCA is in response to the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 (Dodd-Frank Act; P.L. 111-203), a broad package of regulatory reform legislation that initiated the largest change to the financial regulatory system since at least 1999. Many of the provisions of the...

U.S. International Food Aid Programs: Background and Issues

For almost six decades, the United States has played a leading role in global efforts to alleviate hunger and malnutrition and to enhance world food security through international food assistance—traditionally through either the donation or sale on concessional terms of U.S. agricultural commodities but in recent years also by direct cash transfers targeting emergency situations and by investing in host-country nutrition and agricultural development activities.

Historically, U.S. international food assistance has been distributed through four main program authorities: (1) the Food for...

The Dodd-Frank Act: An Overview of the 2016 Incentive-Based Compensation Proposal

Incentive compensation or incentive-based compensation refers to the portion of an employee’s pay that is not fixed in contrast to an annual or monthly salary. Incentive compensation takes the form of variable contingent compensation, particularly cash bonuses, that are based on the attainment of certain firm or employee performance metrics. Such pay has been a significant component of compensation for executives and other key personnel at many firms in the financial sector. Many argue that such compensation contributed to the 2007-2009 financial crisis by incentivizing pivotal financial...

Sea-Level Rise and U.S. Coasts: Science and Policy Considerations

Policymakers are interested in sea-level rise because of the risk to coastal populations and infrastructure and the consequences for coastal species and ecosystems. From 1901 to 2010, global sea levels rose an estimated 187 millimeters (mm; 7.4 inches), averaging a 1.7 mm (0.07 inch) rise annually. Estimates are that the annual rate rose to 3.2 mm (0.13 inches) from 1992 to 2010. Although the extent of future sea-level rise remains uncertain, sea-level rise is anticipated to have a range of effects on U.S. coasts. It is anticipated to contribute to flood and erosion hazards, permanent or...

Selected Securities Legislation in the 114th Congress

In the aftermath of the 2008-2009 financial crisis, Congress passed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 (Dodd-Frank Act; P.L. 111-203), a wide-ranging package of regulatory reform legislation. Some provisions mandated new securities regulations that expanded required corporate disclosures to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the investing public. Some Members of Congress have characterized provisions of the act, including several requiring additional corporate disclosures, as excessive regulation.

Enacted in the 112th Congress, the...

Marketplace Lending: Fintech in Consumer and Small-Business Lending

Marketplace lending—also called peer-to-peer lending or online platform lending—is a nonbank lending industry that uses innovative financial technology (Fintech) to make loans to consumers and small businesses. Although marketplace lending is small compared with traditional lending, it has grown quickly in recent years. In general, marketplace lenders accept applications for small, unsecured loans online and determine applicants’ creditworthiness using an automated algorithm. Often, the loans are then sold—whole or in pieces—to investors. More traditional lenders are more apt to use...

New Markets Tax Credit: An Introduction

The New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) is a non-refundable 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 United States 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. To date, the CDFI has...

Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations

Several Turkish domestic and foreign policy issues have significant relevance for U.S. interests, and Congress plays an active role in shaping and overseeing U.S. relations with Turkey. Members of Congress regularly engage in oversight or legislative activities on the following subjects with respect to Turkey, among others: U.S.-Turkey military cooperation, including arms sales and aid; Turkey’s interactions with countries such as Armenia, Cyprus, and Israel; general Turkish domestic issues; concerns regarding Christians, Jews, and other religious minorities in Turkey; and bilateral trade....

Reforming the U.S. Postal Service: Background and Issues for Congress

This report provides background information on the responsibilities, financial challenges, and workforce issues facing the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). Additionally, it covers the current strategies and initiatives under development by the USPS and discusses further options for postal reforms.

In FY2015, the USPS marked its ninth consecutive year of financial losses with a net loss of $5.1 billion. In addition, the USPS has reached its statutory debt limit of $15 billion. In recent years, the USPS has experienced growth in the package and shipping part of its business (known as Competitive...

China: Economic Sanctions

United States-China relations, since 1969, when the process of normalization began under President Richard M. Nixon, have advanced to a point that relatively few restrictions affecting trade remain. This report summarizes the United States’ economic sanctions on China. The United States, in its relationship with China, limits U.S. foreign assistance and State Department programs; limits U.S. support for China’s requests for funding in the international banks; prohibits the exportation of defense articles and defense services to China; prohibits the importation of munitions and ammunition...

How Treasury Issues Debt

The U.S. Department of the Treasury (Treasury), among other roles, manages the country’s debt. The primary objective of Treasury’s debt management strategy is to finance the government’s borrowing needs at the lowest cost over time. To accomplish this Treasury adheres to three principles: (1) to issue debt in a regular and predictable pattern, (2) to provide transparency in the decisionmaking process, and (3) to seek continuous improvements in the auction process.

Within the Treasury, the Office of Debt Management (ODM) makes all decisions related to debt issuance and the management of the...

Implementing Bills for Trade Agreements: Statutory Procedures under Trade Promotion Authority

The Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 (BCTPAA, title II of P.L. 114-26) renewed the “trade promotion authority” (TPA) under which implementing bills for trade agreements that address non-tariff barriers to trade (and certain levels of tariff reduction) are eligible for expedited (or “fast track”) consideration by Congress under the “trade authorities procedures” established by the Trade Act of 1974 (P.L. 93-618). These expedited procedures provide for automatic introduction of the implementing bill submitted by the President, attempt to ensure that...

Shale Gas, Tight Oil, and Hydraulic Fracturing: CRS Experts

The following tables provide names and contact information for CRS experts on policy areas relating to the use of hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas development. The first table covers topics generally related to unconventional oil and gas resources, including Resource Assessment and Development, Technical Issues, and Markets and Utilization. The second table addresses topics related to environmental regulation and management of hydraulic fracturing activities. Broad topics include the following: Air Quality, Chemical Disclosure, Regulation of Hydraulic Fracturing on Federal Lands, Water...

Trafficking in Persons and U.S. Foreign Policy Responses in the 114th Congress

Trafficking in persons, or human trafficking, refers to the subjection of men, women, and children to exploitative conditions that may be tantamount to slavery. Reports suggest that human trafficking is a global phenomenon, victimizing millions of people each year and contributing to a multi-billion dollar criminal industry. Common forms of human trafficking include trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation, forced labor, and debt bondage. Other forms of human trafficking include trafficking for domestic servitude and the use of children in armed conflict (e.g., child soldiers).

Human...

Commodity Futures Trading Commission: Proposed Reauthorization in the 114th Congress

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), created in 1974, regulates futures, most options, and swaps markets. The CFTC administers the Commodity Exchange Act (CEA; P.L. 74-765, 7 U.S.C. §1 et seq) enacted in 1936 to monitor trading in certain derivatives markets. The CEA contains a sunset provision, meaning Congress periodically reauthorizes appropriations to carry out the CEA. If an explicit authorization of appropriations for a program or activity is present—as in the CEA—and it expires, the underlying authority in the statute to administer such a program does not, however. Thus,...

Federal Student Loan Forgiveness and Loan Repayment Programs

Student loan forgiveness and loan repayment programs provide borrowers a means of having all or part of their student loan debt forgiven or repaid in exchange for work or service in specific fields or professions or following a prolonged period during which their student loan debt burden is high relative to their income. In both loan forgiveness and loan repayment programs, borrowers typically qualify for benefits by working or serving in certain capacities for a specified period of time or by satisfying other program requirements over an extended term. Upon qualifying for benefits, some...

Overview of the Prudential Regulatory Framework for U.S. Banks: Basel III and the Dodd-Frank Act

The Basel III international regulatory framework, which was produced in 2010 by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (BCBS) at the Bank for International Settlements, is the latest in a series of evolving agreements among central banks and bank supervisory authorities to promote standardized bank prudential regulation (e.g., capital and liquidity requirements, transparency, risk management) to improve resiliency during episodes of financial distress. Because prudential regulators are concerned that banks might domicile in countries with the most relaxed safety and soundness...

Natural Gas: A Key Part of the Global Energy Mix

The role of natural gas in the U.S. economy has been a major part of the energy policy debate in the 114th Congress. This report briefly explains key aspects of global natural gas markets, including supply and demand, and major U.S. developments.

Natural gas is considered by some as a potential bridge fuel to a lower-carbon economy, because it is cleaner burning than its hydrocarbon alternatives coal and oil. Natural gas combustion emits about one-half less carbon dioxide than coal and one-quarter less than oil when consumed in a typical electric power plant, although fugitive gas...

Energy Legislation: Comparison of Selected Provisions in S. 2012 as Passed by the House and Senate

Congress most recently enacted major energy legislation in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (P.L. 110-140). The 114th Congress is currently considering new legislation to address broad energy issues. On April 20, 2016, the Senate passed an amended version of S. 2012, the Energy Policy and Modernization Act. On December 3, 2015, the House passed an amended version of H.R. 8, the North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act of 2015. On May 25, 2016, the House passed an amended version of S. 2012 which contains the text of H.R. 8, as well as the text of several other...

Federal Inspectors General: History, Characteristics, and Recent Congressional Actions

Federal inspectors general (IGs) are authorized to combat waste, fraud, and abuse within their affiliated federal entities. To execute their missions, offices of inspector general (OIGs) conduct and publish audits and investigations—among other duties. Two major enactments—the Inspector General Act of 1978 and its amendments of 1988 (codified at 5 U.S.C. Appendix)—established federal IGs as permanent, nonpartisan, and independent offices in more than 70 federal agencies.

OIGs serve to assist Congress in overseeing executive branch—and a few legislative branch—agencies. They provide...

Sessions, Adjournments, and Recesses of Congress

The House and Senate use the terms session, adjournment, and recess in both informal and more formal ways, but the concepts apply in parallel ways to both the daily and the annual activities of Congress. A session begins when the chamber convenes and ends when it adjourns. A recess, by contrast, does not terminate a session, but only suspends it temporarily.

In context of the daily activities of Congress, any calendar day on which a chamber is in session may be called a (calendar) “day of session.” A legislative day, by contrast, continues until the chamber adjourns. A session that...

Terrorism and Violent Extremism in Africa

The pace of high-profile terrorist attacks in Sub-Saharan Africa has intensified in recent years, and the death toll now rivals that of other regions where violent Islamist extremist groups are active. This report provides context for these trends, including a summary of sub-regional dynamics, factors affecting radicalization, and U.S. responses. It focuses primarily on Sunni Islamist terrorism, given the ideological underpinnings of the African groups currently designated by the U.S. State Department as Foreign Terrorist Organizations. Select issues for Congress are also explored....

Economic Implications of a United Kingdom Exit from the European Union

This report provides an analysis of the possible economic implications for the United States and the global economy of an exit from the European Union (EU) by the United Kingdom (UK), commonly referred to as Brexit. It offers background information on possible implications of the vote to leave the EU, an overview of U.S.-UK trade and investment relations, and various estimates of Brexit’s financial implications for the U.S. and global economies. For Members of Congress, economic fallout from Brexit could increase the risks of a slower rate of economic growth and potentially complicate...

Agriculture and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) Negotiations

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) is a potential reciprocal free trade agreement being negotiated between the United States and the European Union (EU). Formal negotiations began in July 2013. Through the negotiations, both sides are seeking to liberalize transatlantic trade and investment, set globally relevant rules and disciplines that could boost economic growth, support multilateral trade liberalization through the World Trade Organization (WTO), and address third-country trade policy challenges. Agricultural issues have been an active topic of debate in the...

Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) and the Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act (FIRPTA): Overview and Recent Tax Revisions

The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 (P.L. 114-13) made several changes to the tax treatment of Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) and the Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act (FIRPTA, enacted in the Omnibus Reconciliation Act of 1980, P.L. 96-499) as it relates to REITs. REITs are corporations that issue shares of stock, are largely invested in real property, and do not generally pay corporate tax. REITs distribute and deduct most income as dividends to shareholders. U.S. individual shareholders pay tax at ordinary individual income tax rates on those dividends (rather...

Consumer Operated and Oriented Plan (CO-OP) Program: Frequently Asked Questions

The Consumer Operated and Oriented Plan (CO-OP) program was included in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA; P.L. 111-148) in an effort to increase the competitiveness of state health insurance markets and improve choice. Under the program, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) uses appropriated funds to award low-interest loans to organizations applying to become CO-OPs—nonprofit, member-run health insurance issuers that sell health insurance in the state(s) in which they are licensed.

CMS awarded loans to 24 CO-OPs. One of the 24 CO-OPs was dropped from the...

FHFA’s Administrative Reform of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Housing Finance System

Housing finance reform remains one of the major unresolved issues stemming from the financial crisis. Congress has held hearings and marked up bills related to reform, but so far only modest structural changes have been enacted. The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) has used its regulatory authority to enact certain policy changes.

FHFA is the regulator and conservator of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, two government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) that play a significant role in the housing finance system. FHFA has leveraged the authority that it has over the GSEs and their market...

The Economic Effects of Trade: Overview and Policy Challenges

The United States is considering two comprehensive and high-standard mega-regional free trade agreements: the recently concluded Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) among the United States and 11 other countries, and the U.S.-European Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP), still under negotiation. The 12 TPP countries signed the agreement in February 2016, but the agreement must be ratified by each country before it can enter into force. In the United States this requires implementing legislation by Congress. For Members of Congress and others, international trade and trade...

Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) FY2016 Appropriations: Independent Agencies and General Provisions

The Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) appropriations bill funds more than two dozen independent agencies performing a wide range of functions, such as managing federal real property, regulating financial institutions, and delivering mail. These agencies include Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), Election Assistance Commission (EAC), Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Federal Election Commission (FEC), Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA), Federal Trade Commission (FTC), General Services Administration...

Derivatives: Introduction and Legislation in the 114th Congress

Derivatives are financial instruments that come in several different forms, including futures, options, and swaps. A derivative is a contract that derives its value from some underlying asset at a designated point in time. The derivative may be tied to a physical commodity, a stock index, an interest rate, or some other asset.

Derivatives played a role in the 2008 financial crisis in a variety of ways. The unmonitored buildup of derivatives positions in the largely unregulated “over-the-counter” (OTC) market led many major financial institutions into large financial losses. Possibly the...

The Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA; H.R. 5278, S. 2328)

Representative Duffy introduced H.R. 5278, the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA), on May 18, 2016. This bill is a revised version of H.R. 4900, introduced by Representative Duffy on April 12, 2016. The House Committee on Natural Resources marked up H.R. 5278 on May 25, 2016. Amendments include technical corrections and extensions of certain studies on the Puerto Rico government and economy. The major provisions of the bill were unaffected. The House passed an amended version of H.R. 5278, which is organized into seven titles, on June 9, 2016,...

SBA and CDBG-DR Duplication of Benefits in the Administration of Disaster Assistance: Background, Policy Issues, and Options for Congress

Numerous nonprofit, private, and governmental organizations provide a wide range of assistance after a disaster strikes. Section 312 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (P.L. 93-288) requires federal agencies providing disaster assistance to ensure that individuals and businesses do not receive disaster assistance for losses for which they have already been compensated. Duplication of benefits occurs when compensation from multiple sources exceeds the need for a particular recovery purpose. Recipients are liable to the United States when the assistance...

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP): Analysis of Economic Studies

Congress plays a major role in formulating and implementing U.S. trade policy through its legislative and oversight responsibilities. Under the U.S. Constitution, Congress has the authority to regulate foreign commerce, while the President has the authority to conduct foreign relations. In 2015, Congress reauthorized Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) that( 1) sets trade policy objectives for the President to negotiate in trade agreements; (2) requires the President to engage with and keep Congress informed of negotiations; and (3) provides for Congressional consideration of legislation to...

Puerto Rico and Health Care Finance: Frequently Asked Questions

Puerto Rico’s financial circumstances, including uncertainty about its ability to service its large public debt, have drawn attention in recent months. As Congress examines Puerto Rico’s finances, questions have arisen about how federal health care programs (Medicare, Medicaid, and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program [CHIP]) and private health insurance requirements apply to Puerto Rico. Is Puerto Rico treated like a state, or is it treated differently?

This report provides answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) about Puerto Rico’s health care system. The FAQs are divided...

U.S. Semiconductor Manufacturing: Industry Trends, Global Competition, Federal Policy

Invented and pioneered in the United States shortly after World War II, semiconductors are the enabling technology of the information age. Because of semiconductors new industries have emerged and existing ones, such as aerospace and automotive, have been transformed. Semiconductors have contributed in powerful and unique ways to nearly all fields of science and engineering, and semiconductors’ economic and military importance has made the industry’s health a focus of congressional interest for nearly 70 years. In July 2015, Congress formed the Semiconductor Caucus, a group that seeks to...

Slow Growth in the Current U.S. Economic Expansion

Between 2008 and 2015, economic growth has been, depending on the indicator, one-quarter to one-half the long-term average since World War II. Economic performance has been variable throughout the post-war period, but recent growth is markedly weaker than previous low growth periods, such as 1974 to 1995. Initially, slow growth was attributed to the financial crisis and its aftermath. But even after the recession ended and financial conditions normalized, growth has remained below average in the current economic expansion. The current expansion has already lasted longer than average, but...

Trade-Based Money Laundering: Overview and Policy Issues

Trade-based money laundering (TBML) involves the exploitation of the international trade system for the purpose of transferring value and obscuring the true origins of illicit wealth. TBML schemes vary in complexity but typically involve misrepresentation of the price, quantity, or quality of imports or exports. Financial institutions may wittingly or unwittingly be implicated in TBML schemes when such institutions are used to settle, facilitate, or finance international trade transactions (e.g., through the processing of wire transfers, provision of trade finance, and issuance of letters...

Research Tax Credit: Current Law and Policy Issues for the 114th Congress

Technological innovation is a primary engine of long-term economic growth, and research and development (R&D) serves as the lifeblood of innovation. The federal government encourages private investment in R&D in several ways, including a tax credit for increases in spending on qualified research above a base amount.

This report describes the current status of the credit, summarizes its legislative history, and discusses policy issues it raises.

The research tax credit (also known as the research and experimentation (or R&E) tax credit) was permanently extended in 2015. Since its enactment...

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. Though each type of intervention represents a transfer from the government to individuals and firms, differences in the budget process, saliency, and targeting may have ramifications for usage across different types of services. This report briefly describes spending programs and tax expenditures, observes a few ways that they differ, and discusses how those distinctions may inform the relative use of each policy across the government portfolio.

Federal expenditures...

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 to promote homeownership for underserved groups and locations. They purchase mortgages, guarantee them, and package them in mortgage-backed securities (MBSs), which they either keep as investments or sell to institutional investors. In addition to the GSEs’ explicit guarantees, investors widely believe that MBSs are implicitly guaranteed by the federal government.

In 2008, the GSEs’ financial condition had weakened and there were concerns over...

Energy Tax Policy: Issues in the 114th Congress

Current U.S. energy tax policy is a combination of long-standing provisions and relatively new incentives. Provisions supporting the oil and gas sector reflect desires for domestic energy production and energy security, long-standing cornerstones of U.S. energy policy. Incentives for renewable energy reflect the desire to have a diverse energy supply, also consistent with a desire for domestic energy security. Incentives for energy efficiency are designed to reduce use of energy from all energy sources. Incentives for renewable energy, energy efficiency, and alternative technology vehicles...

Social Media for Emergencies and Disasters: Overview and Policy Considerations

Since the mid1990s, new technologies have emerged that allow people to interact and share information through the Internet. Often called “social media,” these platforms enable people to connect in ways that were non-existent, or widely unavailable 15 years ago. Examples of social media include blogs, chat rooms, discussion forums, wikis, YouTube channels, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. Social media can be accessed by computers, tablets, smart and cellular telephones, and mobile telephone text messaging (SMS).

In recent years social media has played an increasing role in emergencies and...

Peru: Politics, Economy, and Elections

This report provides an overview of Peru’s political, economic, and security conditions and of U.S.-Peruvian relations.

As President Ollanta Humala is nearing the end of his five-year term, Peru held national elections for the presidency and the 130-seat unicameral legislature on April 10, 2016. Because none of the presidential candidates won an absolute majority, a runoff was held June 5 between two center-right candidates. Economist Pedro Pablo Kuczynski defeated former congresswoman Keiko Fujimori by less than 1% of the vote, 50.12% to 49.88%.

For months, Fujimori had maintained a...

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP): Key Provisions and Issues for Congress

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a proposed free trade agreement (FTA) among 12 Asia-Pacific countries, with both economic and strategic significance for the United States. The proposed agreement is perhaps the most ambitious FTA undertaken by the United States in terms of its size, the breadth and depth of its commitments, its potential evolution, and its geo-political significance. Signed on February 4, 2016, after several years of negotiations, if implemented, TPP would be the largest FTA in which the United States participates, and would eliminate trade barriers and establish new...

A Patent/Innovation Box as a Tax Incentive for Domestic Research and Development

A patent box provides a lower tax rate on income from patents, and in some cases, from other intellectual property. A number of countries, including the U.K., France, the Netherlands, and China, have adopted a patent box. Rates generally range from 5% to 15%. Patent boxes are in some cases referred to as innovation boxes because they cover income from non-patented as well as patented intellectual property. Patent boxes can have narrow coverage (providing a lower tax rate on royalties and licenses from patents) or broadly cover income attributable to intellectual property, including that...

Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) FY2016 Appropriations: Overview

The Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) appropriations bill includes funding for the Department of the Treasury, the Executive Office of the President (EOP), the judiciary, the District of Columbia, and more than two dozen independent agencies. The House and Senate FSGG bills fund the same agencies, with one exception. The Commodities and Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) is funded through the Agriculture appropriations bill in the House and the FSGG bill in the Senate. This structure has existed since the 2007 reorganization of the House and Senate Committees on...

Canada-U.S. Relations

Relations between the United States and Canada have generally been cordial. Bound together by a common 5,500 mile border—“the longest undefended border in the world”—as well as shared democratic traditions, the two countries are also increasingly integrated economically through the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

The two North American countries continue to cooperate widely on international security and political issues, both bilaterally and through numerous international organizations. Canada’s foreign and defense policies are usually in harmony with those of the United...

PROMESA (H.R. 5278) and Puerto Rico

Overview

Representative Sean Duffy introduced Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA—which means promise in Spanish; H.R. 5278) on May 18, 2016, which is a revised version of H.R. 4900, which Representative Duffy had introduced on April 12, 2016. The House Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on the bill’s provisions and Puerto Rico’s fiscal condition on May 19, 2016. The committee marked up H.R. 5278 on May 25, 2016, and agreed to amendments including those making technical corrections and extending the focus of certain studies on the Puerto Rico...

The EMV Chip Card Transition: Background, Status, and Issues for Congress

Consumer financial card fraud due to data breaches of card information is an ongoing problem in the United States. The majority of breaches are carried out against point-of-sale (POS) systems, and are facilitated by what many consider to be the weak link in the U.S. retail sales payment process: the continued use of magnetic stripe cards (also referred to as stripe-and-signature cards). These cards are still what most U.S. consumers think of when referring to financial cards.

In much of the rest of the world, cards that provide a much higher level of security for conducting sales...

Puerto Rico’s Current Fiscal Challenges

The government of Puerto Rico faces severe fiscal challenges. A federal district court judge in late March 2016 held that the island’s government was insolvent and unable to pay its obligations on time. Emergency legislation (Act 21 of 2016) enacted on April 6, 2016, stated that the Puerto Rican government’s fiscal condition “is more dire than at any other point in its history” and that “depleted resources and strained liquidity threaten to bind the Commonwealth to a choice between honoring its commitments to bondholders or continuing to provide the residents of Puerto Rico with essential...

Overtime Provisions in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA): Frequently Asked Questions

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), enacted in 1938, is the main federal legislation 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...

Social Security: The Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP)

The windfall elimination provision (WEP) reduces the Social Security benefits of workers who also have pension benefits from employment not covered by Social Security. Its purpose is to remove an advantage or “windfall” these workers would otherwise receive as a result of the interaction between the Social Security benefit formula and the workers’ relatively small portion of their careers in Social Security-covered employment. Opponents contend the provision is imprecise and can be unfair.

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...

The Housing Trust Fund: Background and Issues

The Housing Trust Fund (HTF) was established by the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 (HERA, P.L. 110-289) to provide funds to states to use for affordable housing activities, with a focus on producing rental housing for extremely low-income households. It is administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and funded through contributions from two government-sponsored enterprises, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, rather than through appropriations. Due to concerns about Fannie Mae’s and Freddie Mac’s financial position, their contributions to the HTF were suspended...

Treasury Issues White Paper on Fintech and Marketplace Lending

Marketplace lenders exemplify some of the ways that shadow banks have sought to access securities markets to fund commercial loans for consumers and businesses. Although there are several marketplace lending arrangements, it is typical for these firms to use data and modeling techniques to evaluate risks and finance loans, which are then typically destined for securities markets instead of depository banks’ portfolios. In some cases, online platforms partner with depository banks to originate the initial platform notes to fund the loans even though the loans are then sold. On May 10, 2016,...

Federal Prison Industries: Background, Debate, Legislative History, and Policy Options

The Federal Prison Industries, Inc. (FPI), is a government-owned corporation that employs offenders incarcerated in correctional facilities under the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP). The FPI manufactures products and provides services that are sold to executive agencies in the federal government. The FPI was created to serve as a means for managing, training, and rehabilitating inmates in the federal prison system through employment in one of its industries.

The FPI is intended to be economically self-sustaining and it does not receive funding through congressional appropriations. In...

The Alternative Minimum Tax for Individuals: In Brief

Suppress for publication

In addition to raising revenue, the individual income tax has been used as a vehicle to promote various social and economic goals. This has been accomplished by according preferential tax treatment to certain items of income and expense. The net result, however, has been an erosion of the individual income tax base. By utilizing the preferences and incentives in the tax code, some individuals can substantially reduce their income taxes.

To make sure that everyone paid at least some taxes and still preserve the economic and social incentives in the tax code,...

Agricultural Exports and 2014 Farm Bill Programs: Background and Current Issues

U.S. agricultural exports have long been a bright spot in the U.S. balance of trade, with exports exceeding imports in every year since 1960. But the trend of recent years—increasing export sales and a wider agricultural trade surplus—was reversed in FY2015, and the reversal is expected to be more pronounced in FY2016. After climbing to a record $152.3 billion in FY2014, U.S. farm exports declined to $139.7 billion in FY2015, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) projects a further reduction to $125 billion in FY2016. Meanwhile, the value of U.S. agricultural imports has continued...

Remittances: Background and Issues for Congress

This report focuses on remittances, transfers of money and capital sent by migrants and foreign immigrant communities to their home country. At over $432 billion in 2015, 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 largest destination for international migrants and by far the largest source of global remittances. The World Bank estimates $56.3 billion in official remittance outflows from the United States in 2014. As the...

Overview of Commercial (Depository) Banking and Industry Conditions

A commercial bank is an institution that obtains either a federal or state charter that allows it to accept federally insured deposits and pay interest to depositors. In addition, the charter allows banks to make residential and commercial mortgage loans; to provide check cashing and clearing services; to underwrite securities that include U.S. Treasuries, municipal bonds, commercial paper, and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac issuances; and to conduct other activities as defined by statute, namely the National Banking Act. Commercial banks are limited in what they can do. For example, the...

Patents and Prescription Drug Importation

Prescription drugs often cost far more in the United States than in other countries. Some consumers have attempted to import medications from abroad in order to realize cost savings. The practice of importing prescription drugs outside the distribution channels established by the brand-name drug company is commonly termed “parallel importation” or “re-importation.” Parallel imports are authentic products that are legitimately distributed abroad and then sold to consumers in the United States, without the permission of the authorized U.S. dealer.

Numerous bills have been introduced in the...

China’s Natural Gas: Uncertainty for Markets

China could potentially be a much larger producer and consumer of natural gas than it is now. Despite China’s pollution problems and international environmental commitments, the role of natural gas in China’s energy mix remains relatively low, particularly compared to the United States. China has announced big plans for its natural gas development and use, but the changes will require significant investment in exploration, production, infrastructure, and consumption. With a slowing economy, China may not be in a position in the short-term to undertake these investments.

China’s natural gas...

What’s on Television? The Intersection of Communications and Copyright Policies

In the 1940s and 1950s, watching television meant tuning into one of a few broadcast television stations, with the help of an antenna, to watch a program at a prescheduled time. Over subsequent decades, cable and satellite operators emerged to enable households unable to receive over-the-air signals to watch the retransmitted signals of broadcast television stations. More recently, some viewers have taken to watching TV programming on their computers, tablets, mobile phones, and other Internet-connected devices at times of their own choosing, dispensing with television stations and cable...

DHS Appropriations FY2016: Protection, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery

This report is part of a suite of reports that discuss appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for FY2016. It specifically discusses appropriations for the components of DHS included in the third title of the homeland security appropriations bill—the National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD), the Office of Health Affairs (OHA), and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Collectively, Congress has labeled these components in the appropriations act in recent years as “Protection, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery.”

The report provides an overview of...

Export-Import Bank: Frequently Asked Questions

The Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank or the Bank), a wholly owned federal government corporation, is the official export credit agency (ECA) of the U.S. government. Its mission is to assist in financing and facilitating U.S. exports of goods and services to support U.S. employment. Ex-Im Bank operates under a renewable general statutory charter (Export-Import Bank Act of 1945, as amended). In the 114th Congress, Ex-Im Bank’s charter was extended through September 30, 2019, by the Export-Import Bank Reform and Reauthorization Act of 2015 (Division E of P.L. 114-94, a...

The Internet Tax Freedom Act: In Brief

The Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA; P.L. 105-277), enacted in 1998, implemented a three-year moratorium preventing state and local governments from taxing Internet access, or imposing multiple or discriminatory taxes on electronic commerce. Under the moratorium, state and local governments cannot impose their sales tax on the monthly payments that consumers make to their Internet service provider in exchange for access to the Internet. In addition to the moratorium, a grandfather clause was included in ITFA that allowed states which had already imposed and collected a tax on Internet...

Nigeria’s Boko Haram: Frequently Asked Questions

Boko Haram, a violent Nigerian Islamist movement, has grown increasingly active and deadly in its attacks against state and civilian targets in recent years, drawing on narratives of religious exclusivism, victimization, and vengeance for state abuses to elicit sympathizers and recruits. The group’s April 2014 abduction of almost 300 schoolgirls drew particular international attention, including from the Obama Administration and Members of Congress. Boko Haram’s high death toll and its pledge of allegiance to the Islamic State (IS, aka ISIL or ISIS) in March 2015 have further raised the...

Unaccompanied Children from Central America: Foreign Policy Considerations

Since FY2011, the number of unaccompanied alien children (UAC) traveling to the United States from the “northern triangle” nations of Central America—El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras—has increased sharply. U.S. authorities encountered more than 52,000 unaccompanied minors from the region at the U.S. border in FY2014, a more than 1,200% increase compared to FY2011. This unexpected surge of children strained U.S. government resources and created a complex crisis with humanitarian implications. U.S. apprehensions of unaccompanied minors from the northern triangle declined by 45% in...

High Frequency Trading: Overview of Recent Developments

High-frequency trading (HFT) generally refers to trading in financial instruments, such as securities and derivatives, transacted through supercomputers executing trades within microseconds or milliseconds (or, in the technical jargon, with extremely low latency). There is no universal or legal definition of HFT, however. Neither the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which oversees securities markets, nor the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), which regulates most derivatives trading, have specifically defined the term. By most accounts, high frequency trading has grown...

Department of Labor’s 2015 Proposed Fiduciary Rule: Background and Issues

On April 20, 2015, the Department of Labor (DOL) proposed redefining the term investment advice within pension and retirement plans. Under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA; P.L. 93-406), a person who provides investment advice has a fiduciary obligation, which means that the person must provide the advice in the sole interest of plan participants. Thus, redefining the term investment advice could affect who is subject to this fiduciary standard.

Regulations issued in 1975 define investment advice using a five-part test. To be held to ERISA’s fiduciary standard...

Offender Reentry: Correctional Statistics, Reintegration into the Community, and Recidivism

The number of people incarcerated in the United States grew steadily for nearly 30 years. That number has been slowly decreasing since 2008, but as of 2014 there were still over 2 million people incarcerated in prisons and jails across the country. The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) reports that between 1990 and 2014 an average of 594,600 inmates have been released annually from state and federal prisons and almost 5 million ex-offenders are under some form of community-based supervision.

Nearly all prisoners will return to their communities as some point. Offender reentry can include...

Taxation of Credit Unions: In Brief

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Credit unions are financial cooperatives organized by people with a common bond; they are the only depository institutions exempt from the federal corporate income tax. As financial cooperatives, credit unions only accept deposits of members and make loans only to members, other credit unions, or credit union organizations. At the inception of the federal income tax, credit unions along with thrifts and other mutual financial institutions were exempt from federal tax. Subsequent developments have seen thrifts and other mutual financial institutions lose their exemption....

Private Activity Bonds: An Introduction

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

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

The Pacific Alliance: A Trade Integration Initiative in Latin America

The Pacific Alliance is a regional integration initiative formed by Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru on April 28, 2011. Its main purpose is for members to form a regional trading bloc and forge stronger economic ties with the Asia-Pacific region. Costa Rica and Panama are candidates to become full members once they meet certain requirements. The United States joined the Alliance as an observer on July 18, 2013. The United States has free trade agreements with all four countries and has significant trade and foreign policy ties with the region. The Pacific Alliance is of interest to...

Foreign Holdings of Federal Debt

This report presents current data on estimated 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. Foreign investors have held slightly less than half of the publicly held...

DHS Appropriations FY2016: Research and Development, Training, and Services

This report is part of a suite of reports that discuss appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for FY2016. It specifically discusses appropriations for the components of DHS included in the fourth title of the homeland security appropriations bill—U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC), the Science and Technology Directorate (S&T), and the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO). Collectively, Congress has labeled these components in appropriations acts in recent years as “Research and Development,...

U.S. Trade Concepts, Performance, and Policy: Frequently Asked Questions

Congress plays a major role in U.S. trade policy through its legislative and oversight authority. There are a number of major trade issues that are currently the focus of Congress. For example, bills were introduced in the 113th Congress to reauthorize Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), the U.S. Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), and the U.S. Export-Import Bank, and legislative action on these issues could be forthcoming in the 114th Congress. Additionally, Congress has been involved with proposed free trade agreements (FTAs), including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) involving the...

The Federal Budget: Overview and Issues for FY2017 and Beyond

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

In recent years, policies enacted to decrease spending, along with a stronger economy, have led to reduced budget deficits. The Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA; P.L. 112-25) implemented several measures intended to reduce the deficit...

The Chinese Military: Overview and Issues for Congress

China is building a modern and regionally powerful military with a limited but growing capability for conducting operations away from China’s immediate periphery. The question of how the United States should respond to China’s military modernization effort is a central issue in U.S. defense planning and foreign policy. Congress’s decisions on this issue could affect U.S. defense strategy, budgets, plans, and programs, and the U.S. defense industrial base.

China has engaged in a sustained and broad effort over more than 25 years to transform its military, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA),...

Financial Services and Cybersecurity: The Federal Role

Multiple federal and state regulators oversee companies in the financial services industry. Regulatory authority is often directed at particular functions or financial services activities rather than at particular entities or companies. It is, therefore, likely that a financial services company with multiple product lines—deposits, securities, insurance—will find that it must answer to different regulators with respect to particular aspects of its operations. Five federal agencies oversee depository institutions, two regulate securities, several agencies have discrete authority over...

Current Debates over Exchange Rates: Overview and Issues for Congress

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

Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) Filers and the Child Tax Credit: Overview and Legislation

The child tax credit is intended to help ease the financial burden on families when they have children. The credit offsets a taxpayer’s federal income tax liability and also includes a refundable portion that may be claimed by taxpayers with little or no tax liability. The refundable portion is known as the additional child tax credit (ACTC).

To claim the child tax credit (including the ACTC), the taxpayer must provide a taxpayer identification number for the taxpayer, his or her spouse if married filing jointly, and any children. These identification numbers can be Social Security...

Tax Reform in the 114th Congress: An Overview of Proposals

Many agree that the U.S. tax system is in need of reform. Congress continues to explore ways to make the U.S. tax system simpler, fairer, and more efficient. Identifying and enacting policies that will result in a simpler, fairer, and more efficient tax system remains a challenge.

On December 10, 2014, the chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means introduced a comprehensive tax reform proposal, the Tax Reform Act of 2014 (H.R. 1). The bill proposed substantial changes to both the individual and corporate income tax systems, reducing statutory tax rates for many taxpayers, while...

DHS Appropriations FY2016: Departmental Management and Operations

This report is part of a suite of reports that discuss appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for FY2016. It specifically discusses appropriations for the components of DHS included in the first title of the homeland security appropriations bill—the Office of the Secretary and Executive Management, the Office of the Under Secretary for Management, the DHS headquarters consolidation project, the Office of the Chief Financial Officer, the Office of the Chief Information Officer, Analysis and Operations, and the Office of Inspector General for the department....

Daylight Saving Time

Daylight Saving Time (DST) is a period of the year between spring and fall when clocks in the United States are set one hour ahead of standard time. DST is currently observed in the United States from 2:00 a.m. on the second Sunday in March until 2:00 a.m. on the first Sunday in November. The following states and territories do not observe DST: Arizona (except the Navajo Nation, which does observe DST), Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.

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...

Country-of-Origin Labeling for Foods and the WTO Trade Dispute on Meat Labeling

Since the final rule to implement country-of-origin labeling (COOL) took effect in March 2009, most retail food stores have been required to inform consumers about the country of origin of fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, shellfish, peanuts, pecans, macadamia nuts, ginseng, and ground and muscle cuts of beef, pork, lamb, chicken, and goat. The rules were required by the 2002 farm bill (P.L. 107-171) as amended by the 2008 farm bill (P.L. 110-246). COOL for beef and pork resulted in a World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute settlement case with Canada and Mexico that started in 2009 and...

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...

International Trade and Finance: Key Policy Issues for the 114th Congress, 2nd Session

The U.S. Constitution grants authority to Congress to regulate commerce with foreign nations. Congress exercises this authority in numerous ways, including through oversight of trade policy and consideration of legislation to approve trade agreements and authorize trade programs. Policy issues cover such areas 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, trade remedy laws, import and export policies, international...

Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) Negotiations

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) is a potential reciprocal free trade agreement (FTA) that the United States and the European Union (EU) are negotiating with each other. Formal negotiations commenced in July 2013. Both sides initially aimed to conclude the negotiations in two years, but more recently have updated their timeline and aim to conclude the T-TIP by the end of 2016. Twelve rounds of T-TIP negotiations have occurred to date.

The United States and EU seek to enhance market access and trade disciplines by addressing remaining transatlantic barriers to...

The Section 179 and Bonus Depreciation Expensing Allowances: Current Law and Issues for the 114th Congress

Expensing is the most accelerated form of depreciation. Section 179 of the Internal Revenue Code allows a taxpayer to expense (or deduct as a current rather than a capital expense) up to $500,000 of the total cost of new and used qualified depreciable assets it buys and places in service in 2016, within certain limits. Firms unable to claim this allowance may recover the cost of qualified assets over longer periods, using the depreciation schedules from Sections 167 or 168. While the Section 179 expensing allowance is not targeted at smaller firms, the limits on its use effectively confine...

Daily Fantasy Sports: Industry Trends, Legal and Regulatory Issues, and Policy Options

Daily fantasy sports (DFS) companies, which operate online gaming platforms that allow players to assemble imaginary sports teams and compete in daily or weekly contests, function in a gray area of the law. The federal government does not license or regulate them. State governments have the main responsibility for regulating gaming activities that offer the prospect of monetary rewards, but a series of federal laws, most recently the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA; P.L. 109-347), may limit states’ ability to oversee DFS. The 2006 law, however, was enacted at a...

Local Food Systems: Selected Farm Bill and Other Federal Programs

Sales of locally produced foods comprise a small but growing part of U.S. agricultural sales. Estimates vary but indicate that local food sales total between $4 billion to $12 billion annually. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that local food sales totaled $6.1 billion in 2012, reflecting sales from nearly 164,000 farmers selling locally marketed foods. This represents 8% of U.S. farms, and an estimated 1.5% of the value of total U.S. agricultural production. Most (85%) of all local-food farms are smaller in size, with gross revenues under $75,000.

Local and regional...

FY2016 Agriculture and Related Agencies Appropriations: In Brief

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

Agriculture appropriations include both mandatory and discretionary spending. Discretionary amounts, though, are the primary focus during the bill’s development since mandatory amounts generally are set by authorizing laws such as the farm bill.

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

Agriculture and Related Agencies: FY2016 Appropriations

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

Agriculture appropriations include both mandatory and discretionary spending. Discretionary amounts, though, are the primary focus during the bill’s development since mandatory amounts generally are set by authorizing laws such as the farm bill.

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

The Federal Excise Tax on Motor Fuels and the Highway Trust Fund: Current Law and Legislative History

The federal government levies an excise tax on various motor fuels. Under current law, the tax rate is 18.3 cents per gallon on gasoline and 24.3 cents per gallon on diesel fuel. A 0.1 cents per gallon tax is also levied on top of these fuel tax rates to help fund expenses associated with fuel regulation. These rates are not automatically adjusted for inflation. Specific tax rates also apply to special motor fuels. Under current law, federal motor fuels excise tax collections are credited to two federal spending accounts: the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) and the Leaking Underground Storage...

Federal Highway Traffic Safety Policies: Impacts and Opportunities

In 2013, 32,000 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.

The number of people killed in crashes has declined significantly over the past decade. The reasons for this sharp decline are not entirely clear. While...

The Role of Local and Regional Food Systems in U.S. Farm Policy

Sales of locally produced foods comprise a small but growing part of U.S. agricultural sales. Estimates vary but indicate that local food sales total between $4 billion and $12 billion annually. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that local food sales totaled $6.1 billion in 2012, reflecting sales from nearly 164,000 farmers selling locally marketed foods. This represents 8% of U.S. farms and an estimated 1.5% of the value of total U.S. agricultural production. Most (85%) of all local-food farms are smaller in size, with gross revenues under $75,000.

A wide range of farm...

Federal Research and Development Funding: FY2016

President Obama’s budget request for FY2016 included $145.694 billion for research and development (R&D), an increase of $7.625 billion (5.5%) over the estimated FY2015 R&D funding level of $138.069 billion. The request represented the President’s R&D priorities.

Funding for R&D is concentrated in a few departments and agencies. Under President Obama’s FY2016 budget request, seven federal agencies would have received 95.6% of total federal R&D funding, with the Department of Defense (DOD, 49.5%) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS, 21.3%) accounting for more than 70% of...

FY2016 Appropriations for the Census Bureau and Bureau of Economic Analysis

This report discusses FY2016 appropriations (discretionary budget authority) for the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) and Bureau of the Census (Census Bureau), which make up the Economics and Statistics Administration (ESA) in the U.S. Department of Commerce. The report will not be updated.

The FY2016 budget request for ESA (except the Census Bureau) was $113.8 million, $13.8 million (13.8%) over the $100.0 million FY2015-enacted funding level. Of the $113.8 million, the $110.0 million requested for BEA was $13.7 million (14.2%) above the $96.3 million FY2015-enacted amount; the $3.9...

An Overview of USDA Rural Development Programs

More than 88 programs administered by 16 different federal agencies target rural economic development. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) administers the greatest number of rural development programs and has the highest average of program funds going directly to rural counties (approximately 50%). The Rural Development Policy Act of 1980 also designated USDA as the lead federal agency for rural development. The Federal Crop Insurance Reform and Department of Agricultural Reorganization Act of 1994 created the Office of the Under Secretary for Rural Development and...

Cybersecurity: CRS Experts

Concerns about information-system security and other aspects of cybersecurity are long-standing. The frequency, impact, and sophistication of cyberattacks and the growth of cybercrime and cyberespionage have added urgency to the concerns. Consensus has been growing that the policy framework for cybersecurity take into account the diversity and continuing evolution of the technology and threats—from spam to botnets to hacktivism, cyberterrorism, and cyberwar—and the increasing role of the Internet in the U.S. economy and the lives of citizens. Among the issues the 114th Congress is expected...

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP): In Brief

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a proposed free trade agreement (FTA) among 12 Asia-Pacific countries, with both economic and strategic significance for the United States. If approved, it would be the largest FTA in which the United States participates. The 12 countries announced the conclusion of the TPP negotiations and released the text of the agreement in late 2015, after several years of ongoing talks. Trade ministers from the TPP countries signed the final agreement on February 4, 2016, but Congress would need to pass implementing legislation for the agreement to enter into...

The Child Tax Credit: Economic Analysis and Policy Options

The child tax credit is currently structured as a $1,000-per-child credit that is partially refundable for lower-income families with more than $3,000 in earnings. Prior to 2001, the child tax credit was a $500-per-child nonrefundable tax credit which generally benefited middle- and upper-middle-income taxpayers.

Since 2001, legislative changes, particularly those made by the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 (EGTRRA; P.L. 107-16) and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA; P.L. 111-5), have altered the structure of this tax benefit. Specifically,...

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP): Strategic Implications

On February 4, 2016, Ministers of the 12 countries participating in the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations signed the proposed free trade agreement (FTA). TPP is one of the Obama Administration’s signature trade policy initiatives, an effort to reduce and eliminate trade and investment barriers and establish new rules and disciplines to govern trade and investment among the 12 countries. TPP proponents, including Administration officials, argue that the proposed TPP would have substantial strategic benefits for the United States in addition to its direct economic impact. They...

State Minimum Wages: An Overview

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

As of 2016, 29 states and the District of Columbia have minimum wage rates above the federal rate of $7.25 per hour, with rates ranging from $0.25 to $4.25...

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. Fourteen tax benefits are currently available for college students and their parents to help pay for higher education. The available tax benefits are a mixture of credits, deductions, exclusions, and other incentives. The Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) estimates the cost...

Overview of FY2016 Appropriations for Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS)

This report tracks and describes actions taken by the Administration and Congress to provide FY2016 appropriations for the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) accounts. It also provides an overview of FY2015 appropriations for agencies and bureaus funded as part of the annual appropriation for CJS.

The Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2015 (P.L. 113-235) provided a total of $61.753 billion for the agencies and bureaus funded by the annual CJS appropriations act, including $8.467 billion for the Department of Commerce, $27.030 billion for the...

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

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a refundable tax credit available to eligible workers earning relatively low wages. The EITC, enacted nearly 40 years ago, has evolved from a relatively modest tax benefit to a significant antipoverty program. In light of potential congressional interest in modifying the credit, this report reviews the economic research on the EITC. An understanding of the economic impact of the credit, as well as its limitations and potential drawbacks, may inform future legislative modifications of the credit.

When initially enacted in the 1970s, there were two...

Money for Something: Music Licensing in the 21st Century

Taylor Swift made headlines around the world when she pulled her entire catalog of recorded music from the digital steaming service Spotify in November 2014. She reportedly felt that Spotify devalued her music by making her entire albums available on its free service. As a songwriter, a composer, and a singer, Ms. Swift is entitled to get paid for (1) reproductions and public performances of the notes and lyrics she creates (the musical works), as well as (2) reproductions, distributions, and certain digital performances of the recorded sound of her voice combined with the instruments (the...

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

The United States has led the international community in imposing economic sanctions on Iran, in an effort to change the government of that country’s support of acts of international terrorism, poor human rights record, weapons and missile development and acquisition, role in regional instability, and development of a nuclear program.

This report identifies the legislative bases for sanctions imposed on Iran, and the nature of the authority to waive or lift those restrictions. It comprises two tables that present legislation and executive orders that are specific to Iran and its...

Residential Energy Tax Credits: Overview and Analysis

Currently, on their 2015 federal income tax return, taxpayers may be able to claim two tax credits for residential energy efficiency. Both of them—the nonbusiness energy property or “25C” credit and the residential energy efficient property or “25D” credit—are currently scheduled to expire at the end of 2016 (the 25D credit for solar energy properties is scheduled to expire at the end of 2021).

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

Methods of Estimating the Total Cost of Federal Regulations

Federal agencies issue thousands of regulations each year under delegated authority from Congress. Over the past 70 years, Congress and various Presidents have created a set of procedures agencies must follow to issue these regulations, some of which contain requirements for the calculation and consideration of costs, benefits, and other economic effects of regulations. In recent years, many Members of Congress have expressed an interest in various regulatory reform efforts that would change the current set of rulemaking requirements, including requirements to estimate costs and benefits...

An Analysis of Portfolio Lending and Qualified Mortgages

Title XIV of the Dodd-Frank Act established the ability-to-repay (ATR) requirement. Under the ATR requirement, a lender must determine based on documented and verified information that, at the time a mortgage is made, the borrower has the ability to repay the loan. Lenders that fail to comply with the ATR rule could be subject to legal liability, such as the payment of certain statutory damages.

A lender can comply with the ATR requirement in different ways, one of which is by originating a Qualified Mortgage (QM). When a lender originates a QM, it is presumed to have complied with the ATR...

Recently Expired Community Assistance-Related Tax Provisions (“Tax Extenders”): In Brief

The Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act Of 2015 (PATH Act; P.L. 114-113), signed by President Obama on December 18, 2015, permanently authorized many tax extenders and temporarily extended others. Four community assistance tax extenders were among the provisions temporarily extended by the law.

This report briefly summarizes and discusses the economic impact of the four community assistance-related tax provisions, which are (1) the New Markets Tax Credit, (2) Empowerment Zone Tax Incentives, (3) allocation of bond limitations for Qualified Zone Academy Bonds, and (4) the American...

The Child Tax Credit: Current Law and Legislative History

This report provides an overview of the child tax credit under current law, as well as a legislative history of this tax benefit, which helps explain its purpose and current structure.

When calculating the total amount of federal income taxes owed, eligible taxpayers can reduce their federal income tax liability by the amount of the child tax credit. Currently, eligible families that claim the child tax credit can subtract up to $1,000 per qualifying child from their federal income tax liability. The maximum amount of credit a family can receive is equal to the number of qualifying...

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

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

The Glass-Steagall Act: A Legal and Policy Analysis

The phrase “Glass-Steagall” generally refers to the separation of commercial banking from investment banking. Congress effected a separation of commercial and investment banking through four sections of the Banking Act of 1933—Sections 16, 20, 21, and 32. These four statutory provisions are commonly referred to as the Glass-Steagall Act.

Key Takeaways of This Report

The Glass-Steagall debate is not centered on prohibiting risky financial services; rather, the debate is about whether to permit inherently risky commercial and investment banking activities to be conducted within a single...

Treasury Department Appropriations, FY2016

At its most basic level of organization, the Treasury Department is a collection of departmental offices and operating bureaus. The bureaus as a whole account for 95% of Treasury’s budget and workforce. Most bureaus and offices are funded through annual appropriations.

Treasury appropriations were distributed among 10 accounts in FY2015: (1) Departmental Offices (DO), (2) Departmentwide Systems and Capital Investments Program (DSCIP), (3) Office of Inspector General (OIG), (4) Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), (5) Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset...

The Social Security Disability Insurance (DI) Trust Fund: Background and Current Status

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) provides benefits to nonelderly workers and their eligible dependents if the worker paid Social Security taxes for a certain number of years and is unable to perform substantial work due to a qualifying impairment. As in Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI)—the retirement component of Social Security—benefits are based on a worker’s past earnings in covered employment. In December 2014, SSDI provided disability insurance coverage to more than 151 million people and paid benefits to about 9 million disabled workers and 2 million of their spouses...

Recently Expired Charitable Tax Provisions (“Tax Extenders”): In Brief

The Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015, enacted as Division Q in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016 (P.L. 114-113), made permanent several temporary charitable tax provisions. Previously, these charitable tax provisions had been a part of the “tax extenders.” Most recently before P.L. 114-113, “tax extenders” were extended in The Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014 (P.L. 113-295). Under P.L. 113-295, provisions that had expired at the end of 2013 were extended, for one year, through 2014. This report briefly summarizes the temporary charitable tax provisions that were...

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

North Korea has presented one of the most vexing and persistent problems in U.S. foreign policy in the post-Cold War period. The United States has never had formal diplomatic relations with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (the official name for North Korea), although since 2000 contact at a lower level has ebbed and flowed. Negotiations over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program have occupied the past three U.S. administrations, even as some analysts anticipated a collapse of the isolated authoritarian regime. North Korea has been the recipient of over $1 billion in U.S. aid...

Consumption Taxes: An Overview

Commentary abounds suggesting the current U.S. income tax code is overly complicated, unfair, a drag on the economy, and in need of reform. One option for tax reform would fundamentally change how taxes are collected in the United States, and tax consumption instead of income. Multiple proposals have been introduced in the 114th Congress to shift revenue collection away from income and toward consumption. H.R. 25 and its companion legislation in the Senate, S. 155, would replace the income tax with a national retail sales tax, often referred to as a “fair tax.” H.R. 1040 would offer...

Department of Homeland Security Appropriations: FY2016

This report discusses the FY2016 appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and provides an overview of the Administration’s FY2016 request. The report makes note of many budgetary resources provided to DHS, but its primary focus is on funding approved by Congress through the appropriations process. It also includes an Appendix with definitions of key budget terms used throughout the suite of Congressional Research Service reports on homeland security appropriations. It also directs the reader to other reports providing context for and additional details regarding...

The Indian Health Service (IHS): An Overview

The IHS provides an array of medical services, including inpatient, ambulatory, emergency, dental, public health nursing, and preventive health care. The IHS does not have a defined medical benefit package that includes or excludes specific health services or health conditions. The majority of IHS facilities provide outpatient care, focusing on primary and preventive care including preventive screenings and health education. IHS provides services directly when possible; when needed services are not available, IHS beneficiaries may be referred to private providers for care. This is called...

The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016: Effects on Budgetary Trends

This report discusses recent changes to the federal budget outlook and the effects of these amendments on recent budgetary trends using the CBO and JCT cost estimates for the legislation, the CBO budget forecast released in August 2015, and OMB historical data.

Separation of Powers: An Overview

Congress’s role and operation in national politics is fundamentally shaped by the design and structure of the governing institution in the Constitution. One of the key principles of the Constitution is separation of powers. The doctrine is rooted in a political philosophy that aims to keep power from consolidating in any single person or entity, and a key goal of the framers of the Constitution was to establish a governing system that diffused and divided power. These objectives were achieved institutionally through the design of the Constitution. The legislative, executive, and judicial...

Health-Related Tax Expenditures: Overview and Analysis

Public and private health care spending is growing due to increased enrollment in health insurance, demographic changes of an aging society, and the expansion of government programs, among other reasons. While much attention is being paid to the budgetary cost of outlays from the largest federally funded health programs (Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program), the implicit subsidies in the Internal Revenue Code for the provision of private- and publicly-provided health insurance are sometimes less prominent in public debates. These subsidies are tax expenditures,...

Selected Recently Expired Business Tax Provisions (“Tax Extenders”)

The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 (P.L. 114-113), signed into law on December 18, 2015, made permanent, extended through 2019, or extended through 2016 some tax provisions that had expired at the end of 2014. Previous legislation had extended these provisions for a year (or in some cases two years) at a time. Several bills had been considered in the 114th Congress to make some provisions permanent, including the R&E tax credit (H.R. 880), expensing of investments (H.R. 636, S. 1399), and treatment of built-in gains for Subchapter S corporations (H.R. 636). The Senate Finance...

USDA’s “GIPSA Rule” on Livestock and Poultry Marketing Practices

The 2008 farm bill (P.L. 110-246) included new provisions that amended the Packers and Stockyards Act (P&S Act) to give poultry and swine growers the right to cancel contracts, to require that poultry processors clearly disclose to growers additional required capital investments, to set the choice of law and venue in contract disputes, and to give poultry and swine growers the right to decline an arbitration clause that requires arbitration to resolve contract disputes. The farm bill required USDA to propose rules to implement these provisions.

On June 22, 2010, the U.S. Department of...

Big Data in U.S. Agriculture

Recent media and industry reports have employed the term big data as a key to the future of increased food production and sustainable agriculture. A recent hearing on the private elements of big data in agriculture suggests that Congress too is interested in potential opportunities and challenges big data may hold. While there appears to be great interest, the subject of big data is complex and often misunderstood, especially within the context of agriculture.

There is no commonly accepted definition of the term big data. It is often used to describe a modern trend in which the combination...

Federal Reserve Issues Final Rule on Emergency Lending

This report briefly discusses major provisions of the Federal Reserve's (Fed's) Final Rule, governing emergency lending under Section 13(3) of the Federal Reserve Act and implementing Section 1101 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 (Dodd-Frank).

Federal Reserve: Emergency Lending

The deepening of the financial crisis in 2008 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...

Gun Control: CRS Experts

The following table provides names and contact information for CRS experts on policy and legal issues related to gun control. In the wake of mass shootings and other firearms-related violence, several gun control issues are often raised. They include improving and expanding background checks, further regulating certain semiautomatic firearms (“assault weapons” or “military-style” firearms) that accept detachable ammunition feeding devices (“magazines”), combating illegal gun trafficking, interstate concealed carry of handguns, and enacting or repealing appropriations limitations related...

Oil, Natural Gas, and Coal: CRS Experts

Fossil fuels play a dominant role in U.S. energy. The United States is a major producer and consumer of oil (and petroleum products), natural gas, and coal. U.S. fossil fuel reserves, production, processing and refining, distribution, markets, and use are of perennial interest among policymakers and the public. Ongoing concerns include retail gasoline prices, oil and other commodity markets, potential for expanded domestic supply, environmental effects of continued fossil combustion, and the benefits and drawbacks of trade in these commodities. The following tables provide access to names...

Analysis of the Tax Exclusion for Canceled Mortgage Debt Income

A home foreclosure, mortgage default, or mortgage modification can have important tax consequences. As lenders and borrowers work to resolve indebtedness issues, some transactions are resulting in cancellation of debt. Mortgage debt cancellation can occur when lenders restructure loans, reducing principal balances, or sell properties, either in advance, or as a result, of foreclosure proceedings. Historically, if a lender forgives or cancels such debt, tax law has treated it as cancellation of debt (COD) income subject to tax. Exceptions have been available for taxpayers who are insolvent...

Need-Tested Benefits: Estimated Eligibility and Benefit Receipt by Families and Individuals

Need-tested benefits have received increased attention from policymakers in recent years, as spending levels for these programs remain elevated well into the economic expansion that followed the 2007-2009 recession. While information is available on the number of people who receive benefits from individual programs, it is more challenging to examine how these programs interact and the cumulative benefits families receive from them. Case studies based on hypothetical families often show how much in benefits a family may potentially receive from multiple programs under federal and state...

The Budget Control Act of 2011 as Amended: Budgetary Effects

Following a lengthy debate over raising the debt limit, the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA; P.L. 112-25) was signed into law by President Obama on August 2, 2011. In addition to including a mechanism to increase the debt limit, the BCA contained a variety of measures intended to reduce the budget deficit through spending restrictions. There are two main components to the spending reductions in the BCA: (1) discretionary spending caps that came into effect in FY2012 and (2) a $1.2 trillion automatic spending reduction process that was initially scheduled to come into effect on January 2,...

Recently Expired Housing Related Tax Provisions (“Tax Extenders”): In Brief

SUPRESS SUMMARY

On December 18, 2015, a set of temporary tax provisions that are regularly extended and that are commonly known as “tax extenders” was retroactively extended by Division Q of P.L. 114-113—the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act (or “PATH” Act). Some of the extensions are permanent; others are temporary. This report briefly summarizes and discusses the economic impact of the four housing related tax provisions included in P.L. 114-113. These provisions include (1) the tax exclusion for canceled mortgage debt; (2) the deduction for qualified mortgage insurance premiums;...

Alcohol Excise Taxes: Current Law and Economic Analysis

The federal excise tax on alcoholic beverages is imposed at the manufacturer and importer level, based on the per unit production or importation of alcoholic beverages (e.g., distilled spirits, wine, and beer) for sale in the U.S. market. When converted to standard drink measures liquor drinks are generally subjected to a federal excise tax of approximately 13 cents per 1.5 ounce shot, wine is taxed at 4 cents per 5 ounce glass, and beer is taxed at 5 cents per 12 ounce can or bottle. Alcohol excise tax collections totaled $10.4 billion in FY2015, with collections from distilled spirits...

Legislative Branch Revolving Funds

Legislative branch revolving funds support the “business-type activities” of the House, Senate, and legislative branch agencies. The revolving funds are generally established as a means of accounting either for services provided by one agency to other governmental entities or for services provided to the general public. They comprise a small portion of the total legislative branch operating budget.

Revolving funds must be established statutorily. Authority for some legislative branch revolving funds dates back many decades, while others have been established more recently.

The legislative...

Potential Policy Implications of the House Reconciliation Bill (H.R. 3762)

On December 3, 2015, the Senate passed an amendment to H.R. 3762. For information about the Senate amendment to H.R. 3762 and how it compares to the House-passed version of H.R. 3762, see CRS Report R44300, Provisions of the Senate Amendment to H.R. 3762, coordinated by Annie L. Mach. This report will not be updated to reflect the Senate’s actions or subsequent actions taken by the House.

The FY2016 budget resolution (S.Con.Res. 11) established the congressional budget for the federal government for FY2016 and set forth budgetary levels for FY2017-FY2025. It also included reconciliation...

Bitcoin: Questions, Answers, and Analysis of Legal Issues

Bitcoin first appeared in January 2009, the creation of a computer programmer using the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto. His invention is an open-source (its controlling computer code is open to public view), peer-to-peer (transactions do not require a third-party intermediary such as PayPal or Visa) digital currency (being electronic with no physical manifestation). The Bitcoin system is private, with no traditional financial institutions involved in transactions. Unlike earlier digital currencies that had some central controlling person or entity, the Bitcoin network is completely...

The National Nanotechnology Initiative: Overview, Reauthorization, and Appropriations Issues

Nanotechnology—a term encompassing the science, engineering, and applications of submicron materials—involves the harnessing of unique physical, chemical, and biological properties of nanoscale substances in fundamentally new and useful ways. The economic and societal promise of nanotechnology has led to investments by governments and companies around the world. In 2000, the United States launched the world’s first national nanotechnology program. From FY2001 through FY2015, the federal government invested approximately $20.9 billion in nanoscale science, engineering, and technology...

College and University Endowments: Overview and Tax Policy Options

Colleges and universities maintain endowments to directly support their activities as institutions of higher education. Endowments are typically investment funds, but may also consist of cash or property. Current tax law benefits endowments and the accumulation of endowment assets. Specifically, endowment fund earnings are exempt from federal income tax. Additionally, taxpayers making contributions to college and university endowment funds may be able to deduct the value of their contribution from income subject to tax. The purpose of this report is to provide background information on...

Multilateral Development Banks: How the United States Makes and Implements Policy

This report analyzes how the United States makes policy towards the multilateral development banks (MDBs) and identifies ways by which Congress can shape U.S. policy and influence the activities of the banks themselves.

The executive branch and Congress share responsibility for U.S. policy towards the MDBs and each has primary control over a different part of the policy process. The Administration is responsible for negotiating with other countries and for managing day-to-day U.S. participation in the MDBs. Congress has ultimate authority over the level of U.S. financial commitments and...

Sequestration as a Budget Enforcement Process: Frequently Asked Questions

A sequester provides for the automatic cancellation of previously enacted spending, making largely across-the-board reductions to non-exempt programs, activities, and accounts. Sequestration is currently employed as the enforcement mechanism for three budgetary policies:

It is used to enforce the statutory limits on defense and non-defense discretionary spending as created by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA; P.L. 112-25).

It is used to enforce the budgetary goal established for the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction established by the BCA. This automatic process was created...

International Climate Change Negotiations: What to Expect in Paris, December 2015

The Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) convenes for the 21st time (COP21) in Paris, France, from November 29 to December 11, 2015. The United States ratified the UNFCCC in 1992. Accordingly, the United States and the other 195 UNFCCC Parties already have legally binding but qualitative obligations under the treaty. COP21 intends to finalize an agreement under the UNFCCC to address climate change from 2020 on. A major focus is to lay out a path toward stabilizing greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations in the atmosphere to avoid...

The Islamic State—Frequently Asked Questions: Threats, Global Implications, and U.S. Policy Responses

In the wake of the deadly November 13, 2015, terrorist attacks in Paris, U.S. policymakers are faced with a wide range of strategy and operational considerations related to the activities of and threats emanating from the Islamic State (IS). A terrorist attack such as this prompts an examination of U.S. domestic security precautions; the role of allies and coalition partners; the appropriate military and diplomatic reactions; the safety and security of infrastructure and that of travelers; and numerous additional discrete issues that require the active involvement of dozens of federal,...

Legislation Eliminating the Federal Reserve's Surplus

The Fed retains some of its profits in a surplus account, which currently has a balance of $29.3 billion. This report discusses H.Amdt. 824 to the highway bill (H.R. 22) and H.R. 3189, which would permanently eliminate the surplus.

Policy Issues Related to Credit Union Lending

Credit unions make loans to their members, to other credit unions, and to corporate credit unions that provide financial services to individual credit unions. There are statutory restrictions on their business lending activities, which the credit union industry has long advocated should be lifted. Specific restrictions on business lending include an aggregate limit on an individual credit union’s member business loan balances and on the amount that can be loaned to one member. Industry spokespersons have argued that easing the restrictions on member business lending could increase the...

The Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act of 1996 (NAHASDA): Background and Funding

Native Americans living in tribal areas experience some of the poorest housing conditions in the United States. Native Americans in tribal areas are several times more likely to live in housing that is physically substandard or overcrowded than the U.S. population as a whole. They are also more likely to live in poverty than the general population, further contributing to housing problems. In addition, a number of issues, such as the legal status of tribal land, pose unique barriers to housing for many people living in tribal areas.

In light of these conditions, and the federal...

The Debt Limit: History and Recent Increases

Congress has always restricted federal debt. The Second Liberty Bond Act of 1917 included an aggregate limit on federal debt as well as limits on specific debt issues. Through the 1920s and 1930s, Congress altered the form of those restrictions to give the U.S. Treasury more flexibility in debt management and to allow modernization of federal financing. In 1939, a general limit was placed on federal debt.

Federal debt accumulates when the government sells debt to the public to finance budget deficits and to meet federal obligations or when it issues debt to government accounts, such as the...

State and Local Government Series (SLGS) Treasury Debt: A Description

On February 4, 2014, in anticipation of no increase in the statutory debt limit, the U.S. Treasury announced in a press release that it would suspend “sales of State and Local Government Series (SLGS) nonmarketable Treasury securities until further notice” on February 7, 2014. The debt limit was extended on February 15, 2014, and the Treasury resumed sales of SLGS on February 18, 2014. As of September 30, 2014, SLGS represented 0.6% ($105.7 billion) of total debt outstanding. Suspending SLGS does not change the debt limit but rather just delays the date when it is reached. Some have...

Federal Reserve: Dividends Paid to Commercial Banks

This report briefly provides background on dividends paid to banks by the Federal Reserve (Fed), which would be reduced in the Senate-passed highway trust fund bill (H.R. 22) as a budgetary offset.

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act and the One-Stop Delivery System

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA; P.L. 113-128), which succeeded the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (P.L. 105-220) as the primary federal workforce development legislation, was enacted in July 2014 to bring about increased coordination among federal workforce development and related programs. Most of WIOA’s provisions went into effect July 1, 2015. WIOA authorizes appropriations for each of FY2015 through FY2020 to carry out the programs and activities authorized in the legislation.

Workforce development programs provide a combination of education and training services...

The SBA Disaster Loan Program: Overview and Possible Issues for Congress

Through its Office of Disaster Assistance (ODA), the Small Business Administration (SBA) has been a major source of assistance for the restoration of commerce and households in areas stricken by natural and human-caused disasters since the agency’s creation in 1953. Through its disaster loan program, SBA offers low-interest, long-term loans for physical and economic damages to businesses to help repair, rebuild, and recover from economic losses after a declared disaster. The majority of the agency’s disaster loans, however (over 80%) are made to individuals and households (renters and...

The Effect of Base-Broadening Measures on Labor Supply and Investment: Considerations for Tax Reform

One source of interest in a tax reform that broadens the base and lowers the rate is the potential increase in growth, as labor supply and investment respond to lower marginal tax rates. Yet, studies of a signature reform in the past, the Tax Reform Act of 1986, found little effect on growth. The act was revenue and distributionally neutral, which is a goal of some recent tax reform proposals. One reason advanced for the limited effects on growth is that the effects of provisions that broaden the base to finance lower statutory rates increase effective marginal tax rates for some...

Alternative Inflation Measures for the Social Security Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA)

Monthly Social Security payments for retired workers, disabled workers, and all other beneficiaries are generally increased annually by a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA), which is based on growth in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W), a measure of inflation calculated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Several proposals would base the COLA on other measures of inflation produced by the BLS. Some would set the Social Security COLA equal to growth in the Chained CPI for All Urban Consumers (C-CPI-U), which is projected to reduce Social...

Meat Animal Research Center: The Animal Welfare Act and Farm Animal Research

On January 19, 2015, the New York Times (NYT) published an exposé of research activities at the Roman L. Hruska U.S. Meat Animal Research Center located near Clay Center, Nebraska. The Center is a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) facility overseen by USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS). A veterinarian, who had worked at the Center for 24 years, approached the newspaper after his concerns about animal welfare conditions apparently went unanswered by the Center. The news article described “unsanitary housing and brutal treatment of pigs; violent forced mating between bulls and...

Issues in a Tax Reform Limited to Corporations and Businesses

Some tax proposals have focused on broadening the tax base and lowering the rates of both individual and corporate income taxes. In some cases, these proposals have advanced a revenue-neutral tax reform. In other instances, they have proposed revenue increases. An example of a broad-based revenue-neutral income tax reform is H.R. 1 introduced in the 113th Congress by then Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp. The bill proposed lowering both individual and corporate rates, while increasing the tax base through revising both business-related tax benefits (such as accelerated depreciation) and...

Integrated Mortgage Disclosure Forms and H.R. 3192 and S. 1484/S. 1910: In Brief

On November 20, 2013, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) issued the TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure (TRID) Final Rule that would require mortgage lenders to use more easily understood and streamlined mortgage disclosure forms. The Truth in Lending Act (TILA) and the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) have long required lenders to provide consumers disclosures about the estimated and actual real estate settlement costs and financial terms of the mortgages they offer. These disclosures are intended to help consumers compare the terms and make informed decisions...

Overview of the FY2016 Continuing Resolution (H.R. 719)

The purpose of this report is to provide an analysis of the FY2016 continuing appropriations in H.R. 719. None of the FY2016 regular appropriations bills were enacted by the start of the fiscal year (October 1, 2015). On September 30, 2015, H.R. 719, a continuing resolution (CR) for FY2016, was signed into law by the President (P.L. 114-53).

The CR for FY2016 covers all 12 regular appropriations bills by providing continuing budget authority for projects and activities funded in FY2015 by that fiscal year’s regular appropriations acts, with some exceptions. It includes both budget...

Klamath Basin Settlement Agreements

The Klamath River Basin on the California-Oregon border is a focal point for local and national discussions on water allocation and species protection. Previously, water and species management issues have exacerbated competition and generated conflict among several interests—farmers; Indian tribes; commercial and sport fishermen; federal water project and wildlife refuge managers; environmental groups; hydropower facility operators; and state, local, and tribal governments. Drought conditions and a call for water by senior water rights holders in 2013 have again brought these issues to the...

Economic Effects of the FY2014 Shutdown

This report provides an info-graphic discussing the economic effects of the FY2014 shutdown.

Funding and Financing Highways and Public Transportation

Federal surface transportation programs are currently funded primarily through taxes on motor fuels that are deposited in the Highway Trust Fund (HTF). Although there has been some modification to the tax system, the tax rates, which are fixed in terms of cents per gallon, have not been increased at the federal level since 1993. Prior to the recession that began in 2007, annual increases in driving, with a concomitant increase in fuel use, were sufficient to keep revenues rising steadily. This may no longer be the case. Although vehicle miles traveled have recently returned to...

Human Rights in China and U.S. Policy: Issues for the 114th Congress

This report examines human rights issues in the People’s Republic of China (PRC), including ongoing rights abuses, and legal developments. Major events of the past two years include a clampdown on political dissent and civil society and an escalation of violence in Xinjiang, which many experts attribute at least in part to repressive government policies. Some observers view the closing of the “Re-education Through Labor” penal system as a potentially positive development, although many PRC citizens still are subject to various forms of extra-legal detention. Other, ongoing human rights...

Federal Credit Programs: Comparing Fair Value and the Federal Credit Reform Act (FCRA)

The U.S. government uses direct loans and loan guarantees in a range of policy areas. More than 100 direct federal loans and private financial institution loans guaranteed by the government, known as federal credit programs, are available to individuals and firms. The credit programs support a wide range of economic activities, including home ownership, education, small business, farming, energy, infrastructure investment, and exports. At the end of fiscal year (FY) 2014, outstanding federal credit totaled $3.3 trillion, with direct loans at $1.0 trillion and loan guarantees at $2.3...

Powering Africa: Challenges of and U.S. Aid for Electrification in Africa

The largest infrastructure deficit in sub-Saharan Africa, a region mostly made up of low income developing countries, is in the power sector, according to the World Bank. Rates of access to electricity in Africa are very low by global standards, notably in rural areas. About 57% of Africans, or about 621 million people, lack access to electricity (also referred to as “power” in this report). Whether measured in terms of generation and distribution capacity, electricity consumption, or security of supply, Africa’s power sector delivers a fraction of the service needed or found elsewhere in...

The FY2014 Government Shutdown: Economic Effects

The federal government experienced a funding gap beginning on October 1, 2013, which ended when the Continuing Appropriations Act, 2014 (P.L. 113-46) was signed into law on October 17, 2013. This funding gap resulted in a “government shutdown” and the furlough of federal employees who were not excepted. The Continuing Appropriations Act, 2014 also temporarily suspended the statutory debt limit through February 7, 2014. This report discusses the effects of the FY2014 government shutdown on the economy.

The government shutdown had both direct and indirect effects on economic growth. It...

Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS): Commercial Outlook for a New Industry

Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS)—commonly referred to as drones—have become a staple of U.S. military reconnaissance and weapons delivery in overseas war zones such as Afghanistan. Now some new technologies and pending federal regulations are enabling the manufacture and use of UAS in domestic commerce, giving rise to a growing commercial UAS industry.

Flying small, unmanned aircraft has been a hobbyists’ pastime for decades. However, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) currently prohibits the use of UAS for commercial purposes, except where it has granted an exemption permitting...

U.S. Catfish Industry and Foreign Trade: A Fact Sheet

Catfish Industry Channel catfish Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas Fillets frozen Aquaculture Seafood Catch Fisheries Farming Freshwater, Marine Vietnam, Asia Farm Bill, 2008, 2014 Trade Basa, Tra Antidumping duties Labeling USDA, U.S. Department of Agriculture FDA, Food and Drug Administration USITC, U.S. International Trade Commission

VA Accountability Act of 2015 (H.R. 1994) as Passed by the House

This report describes H.R. 1994, 114th Congress, 1st Session, the VA Accountability Act of 2015, as passed by the House on July 29, 2015, and compares its sections to current law where appropriate. Sections 1 through 10 were reported by the Committee on Veterans Affairs. Section 11 was added as a floor amendment.

Section 1 is the short title, “VA Accountability Act of 2015.” Section 2 would authorize the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to expedite removing or demoting most employees for misconduct. Section 3 would require an individual appointed to a permanent position in the competitive...

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. Congress has constitutional responsibility for legislating and overseeing IPR and international trade policy. Responsibility for developing IPR...

The Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Program: The Fixed Subsidy and Variable Rate

The Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program was originally designed to provide financing for rehabilitated and newly constructed rental housing with a subsidy equal to 30% and 70% of construction costs, respectively. To ensure that the 30% or 70% subsidies were achieved, the U.S. Department of the Treasury designed a formula for determining the LIHTC rate. The LIHTC rate is a percentage of the initial qualified investment in a low-income housing project. A higher LIHTC rate generates a larger tax credit. The formula used to determine the rate depends in part on current market...

The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS): Cellulosic Biofuels

Congressional Research Service 7-5700 www.crs.gov R41106 Summary The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) was established under the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct05, P.L. 109-58), and was later expanded under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA; P.L. 110-140), in accordance with efforts at that time to reduce dependence on foreign oil, promote biofuel use, and stabilize transportation fuel prices, among other goals. Over 15 years, the RFS requires that increasing amounts of biofuels—36 billion gallons by 2022—be used in transportation fuel. The mandate is to be accomplished...

Seafood Fraud

Fraudulent seafood sales and marketing—the act of defrauding buyers of seafood for economic gain—has been widely reported and has gained greater public attention in recent years. The extent of seafood fraud is difficult to determine because of its clandestine nature; fraud depends on not being detected, which often depends on not attracting attention or causing immediate harm to customers. Seafood fraud can include a variety of illegal activities, such as transshipping products to avoid antidumping and countervailing duties; mislabeling products or substituting one species for another;...

Financial Services and General Government (FSGG): FY2015 Appropriations

Congressional Research Service 7-5700 www.crs.gov R44172 Summary The Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) appropriations bill includes funding for the Department of the Treasury, the Executive Office of the President (EOP), the judiciary, the District of Columbia, and more than two dozen independent agencies. In its current form, it has existed since the 2007 reorganization of the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations. The House and Senate FSGG bills fund nearly the same agencies, with the exception of the Commodities and Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), which is...

Financial Regulatory Improvement Act Included in Senate Appropriations Bill

This report highlights some of the major policy proposals included in S. 1484, as reported by the Senate Banking Committee on June 2, 2015. The text of the bill was among the financial regulatory changes included in the FY2016 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act (S. 1910). S. 1484 encompasses a broad package of reforms to the financial regulatory system, including some changes to the Dodd-Frank Act (P.L. 111-203).

The Excise Tax on High-Cost Employer-Sponsored Health Coverage: Background and Economic Analysis

Congressional Research Service 7-5700 www.crs.gov R44160 Summary Beginning in 2018, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA; P.L. 111-148, as amended) imposes a 40%, nondeductible excise tax on the value of applicable employer-sponsored health coverage above specific dollar thresholds. In 2018, these thresholds are $10,200 for single health coverage and $27,500 for non-single (e.g., family) coverage. The thresholds are adjusted for eligible retirees, workers in certain high-risk professions, and plans whose demographics differ from the national workforce. This excise tax on...

Iran Nuclear Agreement: CRS Experts

Congressional Research Service 7-5700 www.crs.gov R44139 Summary Congress is currently in a period of formal review, being conducted on the basis of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (P.L. 114-17), of the “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” (JCPOA) nuclear agreement concluded between Iran and six negotiating powers (“P5+1”) on July 14. The period for initial congressional review under the Act is to conclude on September 17. The agreement has raised a wide variety of questions in Congress. Issues include the specific terms of the deal; the implications for inspections, proliferation,...

The Demand for Municipal Bonds: Issues for Congress

Congressional Research Service 7-5700 www.crs.gov R44146 Summary Municipal bonds are debt securities issued by states, cities, counties, and other government-created agencies to finance capital projects, such as highways, airports, sewers, bridges, schools, hospitals, and other public goods for residents. The municipal bond market is large and varied, consisting of more than an estimated 1.5 million bond types and more than an estimated 55,000 issuers borrowing to finance a variety of civic projects. The U.S. municipal bond market had a total of $3.7 trillion outstanding issuances by year...

Federal Crop Insurance: Background

Congressional Research Service 7-5700 www.crs.gov R40532 Summary The federal crop insurance program began in 1938 when Congress authorized the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation. The current program, which is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Risk Management Agency (RMA), provides producers with risk management tools to address crop yield and/or revenue losses for about 130 crops. The federal farm safety net also includes the farm commodity support programs, which provide price and income support for a much narrower list of “covered and loan commodities” such as corn,...

Trafficking in Persons: International Dimensions and Foreign Policy Issues for Congress

Congressional Research Service 7-5700 www.crs.gov R42497 Summary Trafficking in persons, or human trafficking, refers to the subjection of men, women, and children to exploitative conditions that can be tantamount to slavery. Reports suggest that human trafficking is a global phenomenon, victimizing millions of people each year and contributing to a multi-billion dollar criminal industry. It is a centuries-old problem that, despite international and U.S. efforts to eliminate it, continues to occur in virtually every country in the world. Human trafficking is also an international and...

Political Transition in Tunisia

Tunisia has taken key steps toward democracy since the “Jasmine Revolution” in 2011, and has so far avoided the violent chaos and/or authoritarian resurrection seen in other “Arab Spring” countries. Tunisians adopted a new constitution in January 2014 and held national elections between October and December 2014, marking the completion of a four-year transitional period. A secularist party, Nidaa Tounes (“Tunisia’s Call”), won a plurality of seats in parliament, and its leader Béji Caïd Essebsi was elected president. The results reflect a decline in influence for the country’s main...

H.R. 6: The 21st Century Cures Act

On July 10, 2015, the House passed H.R. 6, the 21st Century Cures Act, on a vote of 344 to 77. Eight amendments were offered; five were approved by voice vote, two failed by recorded vote, and one was withdrawn. The House Energy and Commerce Committee, on May 21, 2015, unanimously ordered to be reported H.R. 6 and the House Committee on Rules published a committee print of the bill on July 2, 2015. On July 7, 2015, H.R. 6 was reported by the Committee on Energy and Commerce (H.Rept. 114-190), and the House Committee on Ways and Means was discharged from further consideration of the bill....

Iran Nuclear Agreement: Selected Issues for Congress

The nuclear agreement between Iran and six negotiating powers (“P5+1:” United States, France, Britain, Germany, Russia, and China), finalized on July 14, 2015, raises a wide variety of issues as Congress undertakes a formal review under the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (P.L. 114-17). The Administration submitted the 150+ page text (including annexes) of the “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” (JCPOA) to Congress on July 19, 2015, and the period for congressional review under the act is to conclude on September 17. Should the agreement stand after review processes in Congress and in...

Specialty Drugs: Background and Policy Concerns

Congressional Research Service 7-5700 www.crs.gov R44132 Summary Specialty drugs are one of the fastest-growing areas of health care spending. There is no one set definition of specialty drugs, although insurers and other health care payers often characterize them as prescription products requiring extra handling or administration that are used to treat complex diseases including hepatitis C, multiple sclerosis, and cancer. High cost can trigger a specialty drug designation. Biologics, or drugs derived from living cells, are often but not always deemed to be specialty drugs. Over the past...

Federal Tax Benefits for Manufacturing: Current Law and Arguments For and Against

Fueled in part by certain policy initiatives advocated by President Obama, a lively debate over whether additional federal assistance should be provided for manufacturing is taking place among some analysts and lawmakers. Several issues are central to the debate: (1) the contributions of manufacturing to the performance and growth of the U.S. economy, (2) whether the federal government should do more to promote the growth of the sector, and (3) if so, what measures would be likely to have the intended effect?

The federal government supports manufacturing in a variety of ways. This report...

Appropriations Report Language: Overview of Development, Components, and Issues for Congress

Congressional Research Service 7-5700 www.crs.gov R44124 Summary In general, congressional reports may accompany appropriations measures as part of either the committee stage or the resolving differences stage of the legislative process. Although this language is not considered binding in the same manner as language in the statute, the congressional understanding of an appropriations measure is closely related to its development. There are appropriations-specific components and practices related to report language that have been developed by the House and Senate Appropriations Committees...

The America COMPETES Acts: An Overview

Scientific and technological advancement played a central role in ensuring U.S. prosperity and power in the 20th century. From the first flight of the Wright brothers in 1903 to the creation of Google in the 1990s, U.S. scientific and technological innovations have reshaped the global economy and provided both economic mobility and national security for generations of Americans.

Whether the United States will maintain its preeminence over the course of the 21st century is an open question. Some observers assert that U.S. leadership is at risk. They argue that the United States...

U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID): Background, Operations, and Issues

This report provides background information on the institutional makeup and operations of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the leading international humanitarian and development arm of the U.S. government. The report then discusses in greater depth several aspects of the agency that might be of particular congressional interest.

In FY2015, USAID is responsible for more than $20 billion in appropriations, representing more than one-third of the International Affairs 150 budget function and more than half of total foreign assistance encompassed by the State, Foreign...

Update on the Highly-Pathogenic Avian Influenza Outbreak of 2014-2015

The U.S. poultry industry is experiencing a severe outbreak of highly-pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI). The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has reported 223 cases of HPAI in domestic flocks in 15 states. With the start of summer, the finding of new cases slowed. The last reported new case was in Iowa on June 17, 2015. More than 48 million chickens, turkeys, and other poultry have been euthanized to stem the spread of the disease. Cases have been caused by several highly pathogenic H5 avian influenza (AI) strains that result in...

Presidential Appointments to Full-Time Positions in Executive Departments During the 113th Congress

The President makes appointments to positions within the federal government, either using the authorities granted by law to the President alone, or with the advice and consent of the Senate. There are some 351 full-time leadership positions in the 15 executive departments for which the Senate provides advice and consent. This report identifies all nominations submitted to the Senate during the 113th Congress for full-time positions in these 15 executive departments.

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

Considerations for a Catastrophic Declaration: Issues and Analysis

The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (the Stafford Act) is the principal authority governing federal emergency and disaster response in the United States. The act authorizes the President to issue three categories of declaration: (1) major disaster, (2) emergency, or (3) fire management assistance grants in response to incidents that overwhelm the resources of state and local governments. Once a major disaster declaration is issued, a wide range of federal disaster assistance becomes available to eligible individuals and households, public entities, and...

The Philippines

This report discusses the relations between U.S. and Philippines, the political situation, economics and trade.

Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) and the Role of Congress in Trade Policy

Legislation to reauthorize Trade Promotion Authority (“TPA”), sometimes called “fast track,” was signed by President Obama on June 29, 2015 (P.L. 114-26). It was introduced as the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 (TPA-2015; H.R. 1890/S. 995) on April 16, 2015. The legislation was reported by the Senate Finance Committee on April 22, 2015, and by the House Ways and Means Committee the next day. TPA, as incorporated into H.R. 1314 by substitute amendment, passed the Senate on May 22 by a vote of 62-37. In the House of Representatives, the measure was...

California Agricultural Production and Irrigated Water Use

California ranks as the leading agricultural state in the United States in terms of farm-level sales. In 2012, California’s farm-level sales totaled nearly $45 billion and accounted for 11% of total U.S. agricultural sales. Five counties—Tulare, Kern, Fresno, Monterey, and Merced—rank among the leading agricultural counties in the nation.

Given current drought conditions in California, however, there has been much attention on the use of water to grow agricultural crops in the state. Depending on the data source, irrigated agriculture accounts for roughly 40% to 80% of total water...

U.S. Capital Markets and International Accounting Standards: GAAP Versus IFRS

Capital markets function most efficiently when investors and creditors have a high degree of trust in the quality of information communicated by firms. Financial reports and disclosures are the primary means by which firms communicate about their performance with investors, creditors, regulators, and the public. Since the creation of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in 1930s, domestic companies in the United States have used U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (U.S. GAAP) to issue financial reports.

In 2002, the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) was...

International Trade: Rules of Origin

Determining the country of origin of an imported product is important for properly assessing tariffs, enforcing 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.

Rules of origin (ROO), the methodology used to prove country of origin, can be very straightforward—as long as the parts of a product are manufactured and assembled in one country. However, when a finished...

U.S. Customs and Border Protection: Trade Facilitation, Enforcement, and Security

International trade is a critical component of the U.S. economy, with U.S. merchandise imports amounting to $2.4 trillion and exports to $1.6 trillion in 2014. The efficient flow of legally traded goods in and out of the United States is thus a vital element of the country’s economic security.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), is the primary agency charged with monitoring, regulating, and facilitating the flow of goods through U.S. ports of entry (POEs). CBP’s policies are designed to (1) ensure the smooth flow of imported cargo...

The Medical Device Excise Tax: Economic Analysis

The 2.3% medical device tax imposed by the Affordable Care Act (ACA; P.L. 111-148) in 2010 was one of a number of additional revenue-raising provisions to finance health reform. This tax, which took effect in January 2013, is projected to collect approximately $30.6 billion over the next 10 fiscal years (FY2016-FY2025), resulting in $24.4 billion of net revenue raised, after accounting for offsets from other taxes.

Some have called for a repeal of the medical device tax since enactment in 2010. Repeal of the tax has become such a high priority for some Members of Congress that it was one...

African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA): Background and Reauthorization

The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) is a nonreciprocal trade preference program that provides duty-free treatment to U.S. imports of certain products from eligible sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries. There are 49 candidate SSA countries with 39 currently eligible for the preference benefits. Congress first authorized AGOA in 2000 to encourage export-led growth and economic development in SSA and improve U.S. economic relations with the region. Its current authorization expires on September 30, 2015.

Bills to renew the preference program (H.R. 1891/S. 1009) were introduced in...

The U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement: Background and Issues

The U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement entered into force on May 15, 2012. It is a comprehensive free trade agreement (FTA) between the United States and Colombia, which will eventually eliminate tariffs and other barriers in bilateral trade in goods and services. On October 3, 2011, President Barack Obama submitted draft legislation (H.R. 3078/S. 1641) to both houses of Congress to implement the agreement. On October 12, 2011, the House passed H.R. 3078 (262-167) and sent it to the Senate. The Senate passed the implementing legislation (66-33) on the same day. The agreement was...

Cybersecurity: Authoritative Reports and Resources, by Topic

Cybersecurity Issues for the Bulk Power System

In the United States, it is generally taken for granted that the electricity needed to power the U.S. economy is available on demand and will always be available to power our machines and devices. However, in recent years, new threats have materialized as new vulnerabilities have come to light, and a number of major concerns have emerged about the resilience and security of the nation’s electric power system. In particular, the cybersecurity of the electricity grid has been a focus of recent efforts to protect the integrity of the electric power system.

The increasing frequency of cyber...

Legislation to Facilitate Cybersecurity Information Sharing: Economic Analysis

Data breaches, such as those at Target, Home Depot, Neiman Marcus, JPMorgan Chase, and Anthem, have affected financial records of tens of millions of households and seem to occur regularly. Companies typically respond by trying to increase their cybersecurity, hiring consultants, and purchasing new hardware and software. Policy analysts have suggested that sharing information about these breaches could be an effective and inexpensive part of improving cybersecurity. Firms share information directly on an ad hoc basis and through private-sector, nonprofit organizations, such as Information...

Department of Homeland Security: FY2015 Appropriations

This report analyzes the FY2015 appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). While this report makes note of many budgetary resources provided to DHS, its primary focus is on funding approved by Congress through the appropriations process.

The Administration requested $38.332 billion in adjusted net discretionary budget authority for DHS for FY2015, as part of an overall budget of $60.919 billion (including fees, trust funds, and other funding that is not appropriated or does not score against the budget caps). The request amounted to a $0.938 billion, or 2.4%, decrease...

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

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

An Overview of the Employment-Population Ratio

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) defines the employment-population ratio as the ratio of total civilian employment to the civilian noninstitutional population. Simply put, it is the portion of the population that is employed. The ratio is used primarily as a measure of job holders and to track the pace of job creation, relative to the adult population, over time.

The employment-population ratio has several properties that make it an attractive indicator for labor market analysis. It is easy to interpret and can be used to make meaningful comparisons across time and groups with...

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

The requirements regarding the appointment and tenure of the CBO director, which are simple and straightforward, 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...

Selected Issues in Homeland Security Policy for the 114th Congress

In 2001, in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11th, “homeland security” went from being a concept discussed among a relatively small cadre of policymakers and strategic thinkers to a broadly discussed issue in Congress. Debates over how to implement coordinated homeland security policy led to the passage of the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (P.L. 107-296) and the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Evolution of America’s response to terrorist threats has continued under the leadership of different Administrations, Congresses, and in a shifting...

China’s Currency Policy

How Have Small Banks Been Affected by Financial Reform?

This report briefly summarizes a CRS analysis of major rules issued since 2010 by banking regulators pursuant to the Dodd-Frank Act.

Employment for Veterans: Trends and Programs

Veterans’ employment outcomes in the civilian labor market are an issue of ongoing congressional interest. This report offers introductory data on veterans’ performance in the civilian labor market as well as a discussion of veteran-targeted federal programs that provide employment-related benefits and services.

According to federal data, the unemployment rate for veterans who served after September 2001 is higher than the unemployment rate for nonveterans. Conversely, the unemployment rate for veterans from prior service periods (a much larger population than post-9/11 veterans) is lower...

Youth and the Labor Force: Background and Trends

Congress has indicated a strong interest in ensuring that today’s young people—those ages 16 through 24—attain the education and employment experience necessary to make the transition to adulthood as skilled workers and taxpayers. In the wake of the December 2007-June 2009 recession, questions remain about the employment prospects of youth today and the possible effects on their future earnings and participation in the labor market.

Over the past several years, teens and young adults have experienced a precipitous decline in employment and a corresponding increase in unemployment. In...

Corporate Tax Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS): An Examination of the Data

Congress and the Obama Administration have expressed interest in addressing multinational corporations’ ability to shift profits into low- and no-tax countries with little corresponding change in business operations. Several factors appear to be driving this interest. Economists have estimated that profit shifting results in significant tax revenue losses annually, implying that reducing the practice could help address deficit and debt concerns. Profit shifting and base erosion are also believed to distort the allocation of capital as investment decisions are overly influenced by taxes....

Cash Versus Accrual Accounting: Tax Policy Considerations

Two methods of accounting are generally available to businesses: cash basis and accrual basis accounting. Under cash basis accounting, revenue and expenses are recognized and recorded when cash is actually paid or received. Under accrual basis accounting, revenue is recorded when it is earned and expenses are reported when they are incurred, regardless of when payment is actually made or received. On the one hand, the cash basis method is simpler and arguably less administratively burdensome on businesses. On the other hand, cash accounting may result in a less accurate measure of economic...

An Analysis of the Regulatory Burden on Small Banks

Since the financial crisis, policymakers have focused on addressing the failures that led to turmoil and ensuring that the financial system and the economy are better positioned to withstand future market disruptions. Some believe that the actions taken to realize these goals have been beneficial; others argue that the pendulum of regulation has swung too far and that the additional regulation has stymied economic growth and reduced consumers’ access to credit. Much of the debate has centered on how new regulation has affected small banks.

A central question about the regulation of small...

2014 Farm Bill Provisions and WTO Compliance

The enacted 2014 farm bill (Agricultural Act of 2014; P.L. 113-79) could result in potential compliance issues for U.S. farm policy with the rules and spending limits for domestic support programs that the United States agreed to as part of the World Trade Organization’s (WTO’s) Uruguay Round Agreement on Agriculture (AoA). In general, the act’s new farm safety net shifts support away from classification under the WTO’s green/amber boxes and toward the blue/amber boxes, indicating a potentially more market-distorting U.S. farm policy regime.

The 2014 farm bill eliminates many of the...

Housing Issues in the 113th Congress

The 113th Congress was active in considering a number of housing-related issues. In general, these issues can be divided into two broad categories: (1) issues related to homeownership and financing home purchases, and (2) issues related to housing assistance programs for low-income households. Housing assistance for low-income households tends to be primarily, but not exclusively, related to rental housing.

During the 113th Congress, housing and mortgage markets showed some signs of recovering after several years of distress. Nevertheless, several issues that Congress considered were...

Islamic State Financing and U.S. Policy Approaches

Countering the financial resources of the Islamic State, which has seized significant territory in Iraq and Syria and threatened to conduct attacks against the United States and its citizens, has become a significant national security priority for policymakers, including Members of Congress. By undermining the financial strength of the group, also known as ISIL or ISIS, policymakers seek to reduce its capability to conduct terrorist attacks, as well as to ultimately “degrade and ultimately destroy” the group. This effort includes a comprehensive look at how the group generates...

Food Safety Issues for the 114th Congress

Congress passed comprehensive food safety legislation in December 2010 (FDA Food Safety Modernization Act [FSMA], P.L. 111-353), representing the largest expansion and overhaul of U.S. food safety authorities since the 1930s. FSMA greatly expanded food safety oversight authority at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), but did not alter oversight authorities within other federal agencies responsible for food safety, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Given challenges facing FDA in implementing this law and...

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

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

Studies indicate that a relatively high proportion of EITC payments are issued incorrectly. The IRS estimates that in FY2013, 22% to 26% of EITC payments—between $13.3 billion and $15.6 billion—were issued improperly. These improper payments can...

Science and Technology Issues in the 114th Congress

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

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

Ballistic Missile Defense in the Asia-Pacific Region: Cooperation and Opposition

The growing number and modernization of ballistic missiles in the Asia-Pacific region poses a security challenge for the United States and its allies and is thus a concern for many in Congress. The United States has made ballistic missile defense (BMD) a central component of protection for forward-deployed U.S. forces and extended deterrence for allied security. The configuration of sensors, command-and-control centers, and BMD assets in the region has slowly evolved with contributions from treaty allies, primarily Japan, Australia, and South Korea.

Observers believe that North Korea has...

Keystone XL Pipeline: Overview and Recent Developments

TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL Pipeline would transport oil sands crude from Canada and shale oil produced in North Dakota and Montana to a market hub in Nebraska for further delivery to Gulf Coast refineries. The pipeline would consist of 875 miles of 36-inch pipe with the capacity to transport 830,000 barrels per day. Because it would cross the Canadian-U.S. border, Keystone XL requires a Presidential Permit from the State Department based on a determination that the pipeline would “serve the national interest.” To make its national interest determination (NID), the department...

Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education: FY2015 Appropriations

This report provides an overview of actions taken by Congress and the President to provide FY2015 appropriations for accounts funded by the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies (L-HHS-ED) appropriations bill. This bill provides funding for all accounts subject to the annual appropriations process at the Departments of Labor (DOL) and Education (ED). It provides annual appropriations for most agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), with certain exceptions (e.g., the Food and Drug Administration is funded via the...

Reaching the Debt Limit: Background and Potential Effects on Government Operations

The gross federal debt, which represents the federal government’s total outstanding debt, consists of (1) debt held by the public and (2) debt held in government accounts, also known as intragovernmental debt. Federal government borrowing increases for two primary reasons: (1) budget deficits and (2) investments of any federal government account surpluses in Treasury securities, as required by law. Nearly all of this debt is subject to the statutory limit.

Treasury has yet to face a situation in which it was unable to pay its obligations as a result of reaching the debt limit. In the...

Export-Import Bank: Overview and Reauthorization Issues

The Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank or the Bank), a wholly owned U.S. government corporation, is the official export credit agency (ECA) of the United States. Its mission is to assist in the financing of U.S. exports of goods and services to support U.S. employment. The FY2015 continuing resolution (§147 of P.L. 113-164) extends its general statutory charter (Export-Import Bank Act of 1945, as amended, 12 U.S.C. §635 et seq.) through June 30, 2015. The 114th Congress may debate whether to renew Ex-Im Bank’s authority; if so, for how long and under what terms; and if...

Designating Systemically Important Financial Institutions (SIFIs)

This report briefly discusses congressional concerns regarding the Financial Stability Oversight Council's (FSOC) authorization to designate certain non-bank entities as Systemically Important Financial Institutions (SIFI).

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Negotiations and Issues for Congress

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a proposed regional free trade agreement (FTA) being negotiated among the United States, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. U.S. negotiators and others describe and envision the TPP as a “comprehensive and high-standard” FTA that aims to liberalize trade in nearly all goods and services and include rules-based commitments beyond those currently established in the World Trade Organization (WTO). The broad outline of an agreement was announced on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific...

China's Mineral Industry and U.S. Access to Strategic and Critical Minerals: Issues for Congress

China is the world’s leading producer and consumer of many minerals and metals that are in high demand in the United States and on which the United States is highly import dependent. In the near future, China anticipates rapid urbanization, a rising middle class, and increased product manufacturing of high-value, high-quality goods and increased consumption. As China pursues this development path, will adequate supplies of critical and strategic raw materials and metals be available to the U.S. economy from reliable suppliers? Is there a possibility of material shortfalls? If China uses...

Mandatory Spending Since 1962

Federal spending is divided into three broad categories: discretionary spending, mandatory spending, and net interest. Mandatory spending is composed of budget outlays controlled by laws other than appropriation acts, including federal spending on entitlement programs. Entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare make up the bulk of mandatory spending. Other mandatory spending programs include Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), unemployment insurance, some veterans’ benefits, federal employee retirement and disability, and...

Cybersecurity and Information Sharing: Legal Challenges and Solutions

Over the course of the last year, a host of cyberattacks has been perpetrated on a number of high profile American companies. The high profile cyberattacks of 2014 and early 2015 appear to be indicative of a broader trend: the frequency and ferocity of cyberattacks are increasing, posing grave threats to the national interests of the United States. While considerable debate exists with regard to the best strategies for protecting America’s various cyber-systems and promoting cybersecurity, one point of general agreement amongst cyber-analysts is the perceived need for enhanced and timely...

Teacher Quality Issues in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act

One of the major goals of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB, P.L. 107-110), is to raise the achievement of students who currently fail to meet grade-level proficiency standards. Because student achievement is widely believed to depend largely on the quality of instruction, the law also contains provisions designed to improve teacher quality. These provisions establish professional credentials for teachers and charge states and school districts with developing plans to improve teacher quality. According to the...

Climate Change Adaptation by Federal Agencies: An Analysis of Plans and Issues for Congress

Though Congress has debated the significance of global climate change and what federal policies, if any, should address them, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) since 2013 has identified the changing climate as one of the 30 most significant risks facing the federal government. President Obama established adaptation as a prominent part of his Climate Action Plan in June 2013. The November 2013 Executive Order 13653, Preparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change, directed agencies to undertake vulnerability assessments and planning for adaptation. The Administration...

Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies: FY2015 Appropriations

This report tracks and describes actions taken by the Administration and Congress to provide FY2015 appropriations for the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) accounts. It also provides an overview of FY2014 appropriations for agencies and bureaus funded as a part of the annual appropriation for CJS.

The annual CJS appropriations act provides funding for the Departments of Commerce and Justice, the science agencies, and several related agencies. Appropriations for the Department of Commerce include funding for agencies such as the Census Bureau; the U.S. Patent and...

Tailoring the Patent System for Specific Industries

Congressional interest in the patent system has been demonstrated by the enactment of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (AIA) in the 112th Congress. Most of the provisions of the AIA apply to any type of patented invention, whether it consists of a chemical compound, mechanical device, electrical circuit, or other technology. However, other AIA provisions are specific to particular types of inventions, including business methods, tax strategies, and human organisms. The AIA reflects the principle that, for the most part, patentable inventions are generally subject to the same statutory...

The Global Climate Change Initiative (GCCI): Budget Authority and Request, FY2010-FY2016

The United States supports international financial assistance for global climate change initiatives in developing countries. Under the Obama Administration, this assistance has been articulated primarily as the Global Climate Change Initiative (GCCI), a platform within the President’s 2010 Policy Directive on Global Development. The GCCI aims to integrate climate change considerations into U.S. foreign assistance through a range of bilateral, multilateral, and private sector mechanisms to promote sustainable and climate-resilient societies, foster low-carbon economic growth, and reduce...

Agriculture and Related Agencies: FY2015 Appropriations

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

The FY2015 Agriculture and Related Agencies appropriation was enacted as Division A of the FY2015 Consolidated Appropriations Act, P.L. 113-235 (December 16, 2014), an omnibus appropriation that included 11 of the 12 appropriations subcommittee bills. Although the fiscal year began under a continuing resolution, the...

The Target and Other Financial Data Breaches: Frequently Asked Questions

In November and December of 2013, cybercriminals breached the data security of Target, one of the largest U.S. retail chains, stealing the personal and financial information of millions of customers. On December 19, 2013, Target confirmed that some 40 million credit and debit card account numbers had been stolen. On January 10, 2014, Target announced that personal information, including the names, addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses of up to 70 million customers, was also stolen during the data breach. A report by the Senate Committee on Commerce in March 2014 concluded that...

U.S. Travel and Tourism: Industry Trends and Policy Issues for Congress

The U.S. travel and tourism industry accounted for 2.6% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2012 and directly employed nearly 5.4 million people in 2013. Tourism exports reached a record $215 billion in 2013, representing almost a third of total U.S. services exports. The sector has posted an annual trade surplus with the world for more than two decades. The Department of Commerce forecasts foreign visitor volume in the United States will reach nearly 90 million in 2019.

In 1996, Congress stopped funding the United States Travel and Tourism Administration (USTTA), which for 35 years...

Federal Research and Development Funding: FY2015

President Obama’s budget request for FY2015 included $135.352 billion for research and development (R&D), a $1.670 billion (1.2%) increase from the FY2014 level of $133.682 billion.

Funding for R&D is concentrated in a few departments and agencies. Under President Obama’s FY2015 budget request, seven federal agencies would have received 95.4% of total federal R&D funding, with the Department of Defense (DOD, 47.6%) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS, 23.0%) accounting for more than two-thirds of all federal R&D funding.

In addition to the FY2015 base budget request, the...

Who Regulates Whom and How? An Overview of U.S. Financial Regulatory Policy for Banking and Securities Markets

Financial regulatory policies are of interest to Congress because firms, consumers, and governments fund many of their activities through banks and securities markets. Furthermore, financial instability can damage the broader economy. Financial regulation is intended to protect borrowers and investors that participate in financial markets and mitigate financial instability. This report provides an overview of the regulatory policies of the agencies that oversee banking and securities markets and explains which agencies are responsible for which institutions, activities, and markets. Some...

Poverty in the United States: 2013

In 2013, 45.3 million people were counted as poor in the United States under the official poverty measure—a number statistically unchanged from the 46.5 million people estimated as poor in 2012. The poverty rate, or percent of the population considered poor under the official definition, was reported at 14.5% in 2013, a statistically significant drop from the estimated 15.0% in 2012. Poverty in the United States increased markedly over the 2007-2010 period, in tandem with the economic recession (officially marked as running from December 2007 to June 2009), and remained unchanged at a...

Government Assistance for GMAC/Ally Financial: Unwinding the Government Stake

Ally Financial, formerly known as General Motors Acceptance Corporation or GMAC, provides auto financing, insurance, online banking, and mortgage and commercial financing. For most of its history, it was a subsidiary of General Motors Corporation. Like some of the automakers, it faced serious financial difficulties due to a downturn in the market for automobiles during the 2008-2009 financial crisis and recession, while also suffering from large losses in the mortgage markets. With more than 90% of all U.S. passenger vehicles financed or leased, GMAC’s inability to lend was particularly...

North Korea: Back on the State Sponsors of Terrorism List?

From 1988 until 2008, the United States designated the government of North Korea, officially known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), as a state sponsor of terrorism. The Reagan Administration designated the DPRK after it was implicated in the 1987 bombing of a South Korean airliner, in which more than 100 people died. The George W. Bush Administration removed the designation from the DPRK in 2008, one of the measures the United States took in exchange for North Korea’s agreement to take steps to disable its nuclear program. As of early 2015, only the governments of Cuba,...

Dynamic Scoring

This report explains dynamic scoring, including the types of effects incorporated and the types of models used, as well as what groups conduct or have conducted macroeconomic analysis of tax changes.

Bee Health: Background and Issues for Congress

Bees, both commercially managed honey bees and wild bees, play an important role in global food production. In the United States alone, the value of insect pollination to U.S. agricultural production is estimated at $16 billion annually, of which about three-fourths is attributable to honey bees. Worldwide, the contribution of bees and other insects to global crop production for human food is valued at about $190 billion. Given the importance of honey bees and other bee species to food production, many have expressed concern about whether a “pollinator crisis” has been occurring in recent...

Tax Havens: International Tax Avoidance and Evasion

Addressing tax evasion and avoidance through use of tax havens has been the subject of a number of proposals in Congress and by the President. Actions by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the G-20 industrialized nations also have addressed this issue. In the 111th Congress, the HIRE Act (P.L. 111-147) included several anti-evasion provisions, and P.L. 111-226 included foreign tax credit provisions directed at perceived abuses by U.S. multinationals. Numerous legislative proposals to address both individual tax evasion and corporate tax avoidance have been...

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) Reform: An Overview of Proposals to Manage the Growth in the SSDI Rolls

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) provides benefits to nonelderly workers with certain disabilities and their eligible dependents. As in Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI)—Social Security’s retirement program—SSDI benefits are based on a worker’s past earnings. To qualify, individuals must have worked and paid Social Security taxes for a certain number of years and be unable to engage in substantial gainful activity (SGA) due to a severe mental or physical impairment that is expected to last for at least one year or result in death. In 2015, the monthly SGA earnings limit for...

Presidential Appointments to Full-Time Positions in Executive Departments During the 112th Congress

The President makes appointments to positions within the federal government, either using the authorities granted to the President alone or with the advice and consent of the Senate. There are some 349 full-time leadership positions in the 15 executive departments for which the Senate provides advice and consent. This report identifies all nominations submitted to the Senate during the 112th Congress for full-time positions in these 15 executive departments.

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

U.S. Postal Service Retiree Health Benefits and Pension Funding Issues

Congress designed the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) to be a self-supporting government agency. Since 1971, the agency has not relied upon annual appropriations to cover its operating costs. Rather, USPS has funded its operations mostly through the sales of postage and postal products and services.

Since FY2007, however, the agency has run more than $40 billion in deficits and has reached its statutory borrowing limit ($15 billion). The agency does receive an annual appropriation of approximately $90 million per year, which amounts to about 0.1% of USPS’s $65 billion operating budget.

USPS’s...

U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress

This CRS Report, updated through the 113th Congress, discusses policy issues regarding military-to-military (mil-to-mil) contacts with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and records major contacts and crises since 1993. The United States suspended military contacts with China and imposed sanctions on arms sales in response to the Tiananmen Crackdown in 1989. In 1993, President Clinton reengaged with the top PRC leadership, including China’s military, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Renewed military exchanges with the PLA have not regained the closeness reached in the 1980s, when...

China and Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction and Missiles: Policy Issues

Congress has long been concerned about whether policy advances the U.S. interest in reducing the role of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and missiles that could deliver them. Recipients of PRC technology included Pakistan, North Korea, and Iran. This CRS Report, updated through the 113th Congress, discusses the security problem of China’s role in weapons proliferation and issues related to the U.S. policy response since the mid-1990s. China has taken some steps to mollify U.S. and other foreign concerns about its role in...

FY2015 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies’ Appropriations: Fact Sheet

The annual Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) appropriations act provides funding for the Departments of Commerce and Justice, the science agencies, and several related agencies. Appropriations for the Department of Commerce include funding for agencies 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. Appropriations for the Department of Justice provide funding for agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Bureau of Prisons; the...

The ACA Medicaid Expansion

Historically, Medicaid eligibility has generally been limited to certain low-income children, pregnant women, parents of dependent children, the elderly, and individuals with disabilities; however, as of January 1, 2014, states have the option to extend Medicaid coverage to most non-elderly, low-income individuals.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA; P.L. 111-148 as amended) established 133% of the federal poverty level (FPL) (effectively 138% of FPL with an income disregard of 5% of FPL) as the new mandatory minimum Medicaid income eligibility level for most non-elderly...

An Overview of Selected Legislation in the 113th Congress Related to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has been a controversial product of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (P.L. 111-203; the Dodd-Frank Act). Some in Congress view the CFPB as an important protector of consumers and families against predatory financial actors. Others believe the CFPB is an institution not subject to sufficient accountability that imposes undue regulatory burdens on providers of financial services and limits credit available to households. This policy disagreement among Members of Congress has been on display during the controversy...

Congressional Oversight Manual

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) developed the Congressional Oversight Manual over 30 years ago, following a three-day December 1978 Workshop on Congressional Oversight and Investigations. The workshop was organized by a group of House and Senate committee aides from both parties and CRS at the request of the bipartisan House leadership. The Manual was produced by CRS with the assistance of a number of House committee staffers. In subsequent years, CRS has sponsored and conducted various oversight seminars for House and Senate staff and updated the Manual as circumstances...

Presidential Advisers’ Testimony Before Congressional Committees: An Overview

Since the beginning of the federal government, Presidents have called upon executive branch officials to provide them with advice regarding matters of policy and administration. While Cabinet members were among the first to play such a role, the creation of the Executive Office of the President (EOP) in 1939 and the various agencies located within that structure resulted in a large increase in the number and variety of presidential advisers. All senior staff members of the White House Office and the leaders of the various EOP agencies and instrumentalities could be said to serve as...

Federal Laws Relating to Cybersecurity: Overview of Major Issues, Current Laws, and Proposed Legislation

For more than a decade, various experts have expressed increasing concerns about cybersecurity, in light of the growing frequency, impact, and sophistication of attacks on information systems in the United States and abroad. Consensus has also been building that the current legislative framework for cybersecurity might need to be revised.

The complex federal role in cybersecurity involves both securing federal systems and assisting in protecting nonfederal systems. Under current law, all federal agencies have cybersecurity responsibilities relating to their own systems, and many have...

State Marijuana Legalization Initiatives: Implications for Federal Law Enforcement

Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States. In 2013, an estimated 19.8 million individuals in the United States aged 12 or older (7.5% of this population) had used marijuana in the past month. While reported marijuana use is similar to that in 2012, it has generally increased since 2007 when 5.8% of individuals aged 12 or older were current users of marijuana. Mirroring this increase in use, marijuana availability in the United States has also increased. This growth has been linked to factors such as rising marijuana production in Mexico, and increasing marijuana...

“Living Wills”: The Legal Regime for Constructing Resolution Plans for Certain Financial Institutions

One of the chief objectives of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (DFA) is to promote financial stability within the United States, without the need for emergency governmental assistance to troubled firms. To achieve this goal, the DFA establishes a heightened regulatory regime for certain, generally large “covered financial institutions.” A pillar of this heightened regulatory regime is that each covered financial institution must submit “credible” plans to the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (FRB) and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation...

U.S. Rail Transportation of Crude Oil: Background and Issues for Congress

North America is experiencing a boom in crude oil supply, primarily due to growing production in the Canadian oil sands and the recent expansion of shale oil production from the Bakken fields in North Dakota and Montana as well as the Eagle Ford and Permian Basins in Texas. Taken together, these new supplies are fundamentally changing the U.S. oil supply-demand balance. The United States now meets 66% of its crude oil demand from production in North America, displacing imports from overseas and positioning the United States to have excess oil and refined products supplies in some...

The Corporate Income Tax System: Overview and Options for Reform

Many economists and policy makers believe that the U.S. corporate tax system is in need of reform. There is, however, disagreement over why the corporate tax system needs to be reformed, and what specific policy measures should be included in a reform. To assist policy makers in designing and evaluating corporate tax proposals, this report (1) briefly reviews the current U.S. corporate tax system; (2) discusses economic factors that may be considered in the corporate tax reform debate; and (3) presents corporate tax reform policy options, including a brief discussion of current corporate...

What Is the Current State of the Economic Recovery?

This report discusses the U.S. economy's recovery from the 2007-2009 recession.

Employment Growth and Progress Toward Full Employment

This report provides figures on job growth since October 2010 to the second half of 2012.

The Budget Control Act and Trends in Discretionary Spending

Discretionary spending is provided and controlled through appropriations acts, which fund many of the activities commonly associated with such federal government functions as running executive branch agencies, congressional offices and agencies, and international operations of the government. Essentially all spending on federal wages and salaries is discretionary. Spending can be measured by budget authority (BA; what agencies can legally obligate the government to pay) or outlays (disbursements from the U.S. Treasury). This report mostly discusses trends in outlays.

Federal spending in...

Welfare, Work, and Poverty Status of Female-Headed Families with Children: 1987-2013

Eighteen years have passed since repeal of what was the nation’s major cash welfare program assisting low-income families with children, the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program, and its replacement with a block grant of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). This report focuses on trends in the economic well-being of female-headed families with children, the principal group affected by the replacement of AFDC with TANF. Female-headed families and their children are especially at risk of poverty, and children in such families account for well over half of all...

Overview of the Federal Tax System

The major sources of federal tax revenue are individual income taxes, Social Security and other payroll taxes, corporate income taxes, excise taxes, and estate and gift taxes. This report describes the federal tax structure, provides some statistics on the tax system as a whole, and presents analysis of selected tax concepts.

The federal income tax is levied on an individual’s taxable income, which is adjusted gross income (AGI) less deductions and exemptions. Tax rates, based on filing status (e.g., married filing jointly or single individual) determine the level of tax liability. Tax...

U.S. Family Wealth from 1989 to 2013: Evidence and Analysis

U.S. family wealth has been an underlying consideration in congressional deliberations on various issues, including education, taxation, social welfare, and recovery from the 2007-2009 recession. This report analyzes the change over time in the level and concentration of family wealth as measured by net worth (i.e., assets minus liabilities) to help inform those policy deliberations.

According to the Federal Reserve’s latest Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF), in 2013, mean family net worth was $534,600 and median family net worth was $81,200. The median is the value at which one-half of...

Federal Proposals to Tax Marijuana: An Economic Analysis

The combination of state policy and general public opinion favoring the legalizing of marijuana has led some in Congress to advocate for legalization and taxation of marijuana at the federal level. The Marijuana Tax Equity Act of 2013 (H.R. 501) would impose a federal excise tax of 50% on the producer and importer price of marijuana. The National Commission on Federal Marijuana Policy Act of 2013 (H.R. 1635) proposes establishing a National Commission on Federal Marijuana Policy that would review the potential revenue generated by taxing marijuana, among other things.

This report focuses...

Bonus Depreciation: Economic and Budgetary Issues

The Expiring Provisions Improvement Reform and Efficiency (EXPIRE) Act (S. 2260) would extend expiring provisions, including bonus depreciation. The Jobs for America Act (H.R. 4) would make bonus depreciation permanent. The temporary provisions enacted in the past for only a year or two and extended many times are generally referred to collectively as the “extenders.” One reason advanced for these extenders is that time is needed to evaluate them. Most provisions have been extended multiple times, and some suggest they are actually permanent but are extended a year or two at a time because...

Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education: FY2014 Appropriations

This report provides an overview of actions taken by Congress to provide FY2014 appropriations for accounts funded by the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies (L-HHS-ED) appropriations bill. The L-HHS-ED bill provides funding for all accounts subject to the annual appropriations process at the Departments of Labor (DOL) and Education (ED). It provides annual appropriations for most agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), with certain exceptions (e.g., the Food and Drug Administration is funded via the Agriculture...

Federal Pollution Control Laws: How Are They Enforced?

As a result of enforcement actions and settlements for noncompliance with federal pollution control requirements, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported that, during FY2013, regulated entities committed to invest an estimated $7.0 billion for judicially mandated actions and equipment to control pollution (injunctive relief), and $22.0 million for implementing mutually agreed-upon (supplemental) environmentally beneficial projects. EPA estimated that these compliance/enforcement efforts achieved commitments to reduce or eliminate 1.3 billion pounds of pollutants in the...

Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Assistance: Summary Data and Analysis

The federal government has provided a significant amount of money through supplemental appropriations to state, local, and tribal governments to help them repair, rebuild, and recover from catastrophic incidents. For example, Congress provided roughly $120 billion for the 2005 and 2008 Gulf Coast hurricane seasons and $50 billion for Hurricane Sandy recovery. Congressional interest in disaster assistance has always been high given the associated costs.

Additional issues associated with disaster assistance have been contentious. These issues include

increasing disagreements over the...

Temporary Professional, Managerial, and Skilled Foreign Workers: Legislation in the 113th Congress

The admission of professional, managerial, and skilled foreign workers raises a complex set of policy issues as the United States competes internationally for the most talented workers in the world, without adversely effecting U.S. workers and U.S. students entering the labor market. Legislative proposals that Congress has considered include streamlining procedures that govern the admission of professional, managerial, and skilled foreign workers; increasing the number of temporary professional, managerial, and skilled foreign workers admitted each year; requiring employers of...

India-U.S. Economic Relations: In Brief

Congressional Research Service 7-5700 www.crs.gov R43741 Summary As the world’s 3rd largest economy, India is an important trade and economic partner for the United States. The upcoming September 29-30 visit by recently elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his first to Washington, DC, has heightened congressional interest in the current status of the relationship. Modi’s visit provides the Obama Administration with an opportunity to advance the U.S.-India strategic partnership, including by discussing ways to foster greater trade and investment between the two nations. May 2014...

The U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA): Provisions and Implementation

President Obama signed the legislation implementing the U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA) on October 21, 2011 (P.L. 112-41), and the Korean National Assembly passed the agreement on November 22, 2011. The KORUS FTA entered into force on March 15, 2012.

With the KORUS FTA now in force for over two years, focus has shifted from the debate over its passage to its implementation, economic impact, and effect on future U.S. FTAs. Some U.S. companies have argued that certain aspects of the KORUS agreement are not being implemented appropriately, citing issues related to rules of...

Conservation Reserve Program (CRP): Status and Issues

The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) provides payments to agricultural producers to take highly erodible and environmentally sensitive land out of production and install resource conserving practices for 10 or more years. CRP was first authorized in the Food Security Act of 1985 (P.L. 99-198, 1985 farm bill) and is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Farm Service Agency (FSA) with technical support from other USDA agencies. Participants offer land for enrollment through two types of sign-up: general and continuous. General sign-ups are competitive and only open...

"Dark Pools" In Equity Trading: Significance and Recent Developments

This report discusses "Dark Pools", relatively recent and controversial electronic stock trading alternatives to traditional exchanges, such as the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), and now account for about 15% of overall trading volume. The report discusses the pros and cons of "dark trading", civil suits in reaction to Dark Pools and recent Securities and Exchange Commission actions.

Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer Programs

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 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 2014, 11 federal agencies operate SBIR programs. A complementary program, the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program, was created by the Small Business Research and Development Enhancement...

Overview of the Relationship between Federal Student Aid and Increases in College Prices

College affordability is an issue that has received considerable attention from federal policy makers in recent years as concerns have arisen that a college education may be out of reach for an increasing number of students and families. While there is little disagreement that escalating college prices pose a problem, there is not a consensus about the precise causes for these increases.

Among the possible explanations for price increases, one that has surfaced with some frequency in recent years is the notion that the availability of or increases in federal student aid may help to fuel...

Small Refineries and Oil Field Processors: Opportunities and Challenges

The last refinery constructed in the United States opened in 1977. Since the mid-1980s, some 150 have closed as part of an industry-wide consolidation. Over the same time, the remaining refineries expanded their operational capacity by 23% to keep up with increasing demand. Current U.S. refining capacity appears to satisfy if not exceed demand as the increasing export of refined petroleum products would seem to suggest. Notwithstanding the current surplus capacity, opportunities for new refineries appear to have emerged as the result of the rise in production of U.S. light-sweet crude oil...

India’s New Government and Implications for U.S. Interests

The United States and India have been pursuing a “strategic partnership” since 2004, and a 5th Strategic Dialogue session was held in New Delhi in late July 2014. A May 2014 national election seated a new Indian government led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and new Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Top U.S. officials express eagerness to engage India’s new leadership and re-energize what some see as a relationship flagging in recent years. High hopes for the engagement have become moderated as expectations held in both capitals remain unmet, in part due to a global...

Nonmarital Births: An Overview

Although nonmarital births (i.e., births to unmarried women) are not a new phenomenon, their impact on families has not diminished and there is much agreement that the complexity of modern family relationships and living arrangements may further complicate the well-being of children born to unwed mothers.

For the past six years (2008-2013), the percentage of all U.S. births that were nonmarital births remained unchanged at about 41% (1.6 million births per year), compared with 28% of all births in 1990 and about 11% of all births in 1970. Many of these children grow up in mother-only...

Shipping U.S. Crude Oil by Water: Vessel Flag Requirements and Safety Issues

New sources of crude oil from North Dakota, Texas, and western Canada have induced new routes for shipping crude oil to U.S. and Canadian refineries. While pipelines have traditionally been the preferred method of moving crude overland, they either are not available or have insufficient capacity to move all the crude from these locations. While rail has picked up some of this cargo, barges, and to a lesser extent tankers, also are moving increasing amounts of crude in domestic trade.

The rather sudden shift in transportation patterns raises concerns about the safety and efficiency of oil...

International Monetary Fund: Background and Issues for Congress

The International Monetary Fund (IMF), conceived at the Bretton Woods conference in July 1944, is the multilateral organization focused on the international monetary system. Created in 1946 with 46 members, it has grown to include 188 countries. The IMF has six purposes that are outlined in Article I of the IMF Articles of Agreement: promoting international monetary cooperation; expanding the balanced growth of international trade; facilitating exchange rate stability; eliminating restrictions on the international flow of capital; ensuring confidence by making the general resources of the...

The Role of Local Food Systems in U.S. Farm Policy

Presidential Appointments to Full-Time Positions in Executive Departments During the 111th Congress, 2009-2010

This report explains the process for filling positions to which the President makes appointments with the advice and consent of the Senate (also referred to as PAS positions). It also identifies, for the 111th Congress, all nominations to full-time positions requiring Senate confirmation in the 15 executive departments. It excludes appointments to regulatory boards and commissions and independent and other agencies, which are covered in other CRS reports.

The appointment process for advice and consent positions consists of three main stages. The first stage is selection, clearance, and...

Block Grants: Perspectives and Controversies

Block grants are a form of grant-in-aid that the federal government uses to provide state and local governments a specified amount of funding to assist them in addressing broad purposes, such as community development, social services, public health, or law enforcement.

Block grant advocates argue that block grants increase government efficiency and program effectiveness by redistributing power and accountability through decentralization and partial devolution of decision-making authority from the federal government to state and local governments. Advocates also view them as a means to...

Fruits, Vegetables, and Other Specialty Crops: Selected Farm Bill and Federal Programs

U.S. farmers grow more than 350 types of fruit, vegetable, tree nut, flower, nursery, and other horticultural crops in addition to the major bulk commodity crops. Specialty crop producers are ineligible for the federal commodity price and income support programs that benefit commodity crop producers (e.g., grains and cotton); however, they are eligible for other types of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) support. Unlike federal support for commodity crops, support for specialty crops spans a wide range of existing USDA programs, many of which also provide support to other agricultural...

Dynamic Scoring for Tax Legislation: A Review of Models

Dynamic scoring for tax legislation has been discussed for some time. House Rule 13 has required, since 2003, that the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) provide a macroeconomic impact analysis of legislation to amend the Internal Revenue Code, or a statement explaining why it is not calculable. The current Senate Budget Resolution (S.Con.Res. 8) includes a similar provision for the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and JCT. These estimates are not part of the official revenue estimate, but could affect views on legislative proposals.

Official revenue estimates include many behavioral...

Unaccompanied Alien Children: Potential Factors Contributing to Recent Immigration

Since FY2008, the growth in the number of unaccompanied alien children (UAC) from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras seeking to enter the United States has increased substantially. Total unaccompanied child apprehensions increased from about 8,000 in FY2008 to 52,000 in the first 8 ½ months of FY2014. Since 2012, children from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras (Central America’s “northern triangle”) account for almost all of this increase. Apprehension trends for these three countries are similar and diverge sharply from those for Mexican children. Unaccompanied child...

Remote Gambling: Industry Trends and Federal Policy

Gambling, once widely outlawed, is now a regulated, taxed activity that is legal in some form—bingo, card games, slot machines, state-run lotteries, casinos, and even online—in all but two states. Like so many other industries, the gambling industry is being transformed by technology that has begun to shift patronage from casinos, bingo halls, or stores selling lottery tickets to desktop computers and tablets connected to the Internet and to mobile devices that may communicate by telephone or direct satellite links. This report discusses remote gambling and the likely implications for the...

Financial Services and General Government (FSGG): FY2014 Appropriations

The Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) appropriations bill provides funding for the Department of the Treasury, the Executive Office of the President (EOP), the judiciary, the District of Columbia, and more than two dozen independent agencies. Among those independent agencies are the General Services Administration (GSA), the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the Small Business Administration (SBA), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and the United States Postal Service (USPS). The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) is funded in the House through the...

U.S. Energy: Overview and Key Statistics

Energy policy has been a recurring issue for Congress since the first major crises in the 1970s. As an aid in policymaking, this report presents a current and historical view of the supply and consumption of various forms of energy.

The historical trends show petroleum as the major source of primary energy, rising from about 38% in 1950 to 45% in 1975, and then declining to about 40% in response to the energy crises of the 1970s. Significantly, the transportation sector continues to be almost completely dependent on petroleum, mostly gasoline. Oil prices, which had been low and stable...

Budgetary Treatment of Federal Credit (Direct Loans and Loan Guarantees): Concepts, History, and Issues for Congress

The U.S. government uses federal credit (direct loans and loan guarantees) to allocate financial capital to a range of areas, including home ownership, higher education, small business, agriculture, and energy. At the end of FY2013, outstanding federal credit totaled $3.2 trillion. This report explains the budgetary treatment of federal credit, examines proposed reforms, and describes recent legislation.

Title V of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1990 (P.L. 101-508), the Federal Credit Reform Act of 1990 or FCRA, changed how the unified budget reports the cost of federal credit...

Legislation to Approve the U.S.-Mexico Transboundary Hydrocarbons Agreement

This report discusses the U.S.-Mexico Transboundary Hydrocarbons Agreement and analyzes relevant legislative initiatives (S. 812 and H.R. 1613) and other legislative action surrounding Congress's approval of the Agreement (P.L. 113-67).

Climate Change: CRS Experts

Selected Legislative Proposals to Reform the Housing Finance System

The 113th Congress has seen several developments in the effort to reform the housing finance system. In the House, the Protecting American Taxpayers and Homeowners Act of 2013 (PATH Act; H.R. 2767) was ordered to be reported out of the House Financial Services Committee on July 24, 2013. The PATH Act proposes to wind down Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the government-sponsored enterprises, or GSEs) over several years. In this context, wind down refers to dissolving Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac by removing their charters and placing certain assets and liabilities into a receivership entity. It...

Year-Round Schools: In Brief

In general, year-round schools are schools that reorganize a traditional school year without allowing for any extended breaks in instruction (e.g., 10-week summer vacation). Rather, the days usually included in summer break are redistributed to create regular breaks throughout the year. While year-round schools have existed to some extent since the early 1900s, there was substantial growth in the number of year-round schools from the mid-1980s to 2000. In 1985, there were 410 year-round public schools, serving about 350,000 students. By 2000, the number of year-round public schools had...

Reauthorization Issues for the Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act

The 113th Congress is actively considering reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSFCMA). The MSFCMA governs the management and conservation of commercial and recreational fisheries in U.S. federal waters (3-200 nautical miles from shore). The MSFCMA was last reauthorized and extensively amended in 2006 (P.L. 109-479). Although the authorization of appropriations under the MSFCMA expired at the end of FY2013, the act’s requirements continue in effect and Congress has continued to appropriate funds to administer the act. Historically,...

FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund: Overview and Selected Issues

The Robert T. Stafford Emergency Relief and Disaster Assistance Act (P.L. 93-288, as amended) authorizes the President to issue declarations for incidents ranging from destructive, large-scale disasters to more routine, less damaging events. Declarations trigger federal assistance in the forms of various response and recovery programs under the Stafford Act to state, local, and tribal governments. The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA’s) Disaster Relief Fund (DRF) is the primary funding source for disaster response and recovery.

Funds from the DRF are used to pay for ongoing...

South Africa: Politics, Economy, and U.S. Relations

South Africa is a multi-racial, majority black southern African country of nearly 52 million. It held its first universal suffrage elections in 1994, after a transition from white minority rule under apartheid, a system of state-enforced racial segregation and socioeconomic discrimination. South Africa entered a period of mourning in late 2013, upon the death of its first post-apartheid president, Nelson Mandela. He is viewed as the founding father of the countrys nonracial democratic system, the 20th anniversary of which was recently celebrated prior to national elections on May 7. South...

Tier 3 Motor Vehicle Emission and Fuel Standards

On March 3, 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency finalized new (Tier 3) emission standards for light duty (and some larger) motor vehicles. Light duty vehicles include cars, SUVs, vans, and most pickup trucks. Phase-in of the standards will begin with Model Year 2017. By the time Tier 3 is fully implemented in Model Year 2025, the standards for light duty vehicles will require reductions of about 80% in tailpipe emissions of non-methane organic gases and nitrogen oxides (both of which contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone) and of about 70% in tailpipe emissions of...

Affordable Housing Provisions in Selected Housing Finance Reform Proposals

Congress is considering different approaches to reforming the housing finance system. One of the major policy issues to emerge concerns the role of the federal government in supporting affordable housing for low- and moderate-income households. Much of this debate centers on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, two government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs). As GSEs, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are hybrid entities, private companies with congressional charters that contain special privileges and certain responsibilities to support affordable housing. Some argue that the hybrid nature of the GSEsprivate...

Analysis of S. 2198: Emergency Drought Relief Act of 2014

Over the past five years, portions of the country have been gripped with extensive drought, including the state of California. Drought conditions in California are exceptional and extreme in much of the state, including in prime agricultural areas of the Central Valley, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Such conditions pose significant challenges to water managers who before this dry winter were already grappling with below-normal surface water storage in the states largest reservoirs. Groundwater levels in many areas of the state also have declined due to increased pumping over the...

Federal Deposit Insurance for Banks and Credit Unions

The federal deposit insurance system in the United States protects depositors from losses that would occur in the event that a financial institution becomes insolvent, meaning that the institutions lending activities did not generate enough revenue to repay depositors their principal and interest. By guaranteeing depositor accounts up to a set limit, deposit insurance may also help prevent runs, which occur when bank customers lose confidence in the ability of a financial institution to repay its depositors and rush to withdraw deposits. A bank run, or panic, can spread and threaten the...

Department of Homeland Security: FY2014 Appropriations

This report analyzes the FY2014 appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The Administration requested $39.0 billion in adjusted net discretionary budget authority for DHS for FY2014, as part of an overall budget of $60.0 billion (including fees, trust funds, and other funding that is not appropriated or does not score against the budget caps). Net requested appropriations for major agencies within DHS were as follows: Customs and Border Protection (CBP), $10,833 million; Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), $4,997 million; Transportation Security...

Returning to Full Employment: What Do the Indicators Tell Us?

Until recently, the economy and labor market were experiencing an unusually slow recovery from the longest and deepest recession since the Great Depression compared to other expansions since World War II. The rapid decline in the unemployment rate from 7.9% in January to 6.7% in December 2013 (where it remained in the first quarter of 2014) would seem to indicate that the labor market is returning to normal. The current unemployment rate is only 0.5 to 1.5 percentage points higher than the consensus range of full employment.

Unusually, the unemployment rate may not currently be a good...

Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies: FY2014 Appropriations

On March 26, 2013, President Obama signed into law the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013 (P.L. 113-6). The act provides a total of $60.638 billion for Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS). After rescissions and sequestration, the act provided a total of $57.936 billion for CJS, of which $7.510 billion was for the Department of Commerce, $25.830 billion was for the Department of Justice, $23.769 billion was for the science agencies, and $827.9 million was for the related agencies.

On April 10, 2013, President Obama submitted his FY2014 budget to...

Oil Sands and the Keystone XL Pipeline: Background and Selected Environmental Issues

If constructed, the Keystone XL pipeline would transport crude oil derived from oil sands sites in Alberta, Canada, to U.S. refineries and other destinations. Because the pipeline would cross an international border, it requires a Presidential Permit.

Although some groups have opposed previous oil pipelines, opposition to the Keystone XL proposal has generated substantially more interest. Stakeholder concerns vary from local impacts, such as oil spills or extraction impacts in Canada, to potential climate change consequences.

Arguments supporting the pipelines construction cover an...

U.S. Implementation of the Basel Capital Regulatory Framework

The Basel III international regulatory framework, which was produced in 2010 by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision at the Bank for International Settlements, is the latest in a series of evolving agreements among central banks and bank supervisory authorities to standardize bank capital requirements, among other measures. Capital serves as a cushion against unanticipated financial shocks (such as a sudden, unusually high occurrence of loan defaults), which can otherwise lead to insolvency. The Basel III regulatory reform package revises the definition of regulatory capital and...

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Subsidized Employment and the President’s FY2015 Budget Proposal: In Brief

President Obama’s FY2015 budget proposal would establish within the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant a “Pathways to Jobs” fund. The fund would help states pay for subsidized employment programs targeted toward needy parents, guardians, and youth. Subsidized employment programs use government funds to pay all or part of the wages, benefits, and other costs of employing a participant. Under the President’s proposal, the subsidized job could be in either the public or the private sector. Funding for “Pathways to Jobs” would be $602 million per year beginning in...

Foreign Assistance to North Korea

Between 1995 and 2008, the United States provided North Korea with over $1.3 billion in assistance: slightly more than 50% for food aid and about 40% for energy assistance. Since early 2009, the United States has provided virtually no aid to North Korea, though episodically there have been discussions about resuming large-scale food aid. Additionally, the Obama Administration officials have said that they would be willing to consider other types of aid if North Korea takes steps indicating that it will dismantle its nuclear program, a prospect that most analysts view as increasingly...

Federal Minimum Wage, Tax-Transfer Earnings Supplements, and Poverty

Pending before Congress is legislation (S. 1737 and H.R. 1010) that would raise the federal minimum wage from its current $7.25 per hour to, ultimately, $10.10 per hour. The minimum wage would be adjusted for inflation thereafter. Whether the minimum wage or alternative policies, namely government-funded earnings supplements such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), are more effective in addressing poverty has been long debated.

The minimum wage affects workers regardless of their family status. A full-time, year-round worker at the current minimum wage would gross $15,080 in the year....

The Debate Over Selected Presidential Assistants and Advisors: Appointment, Accountability, and Congressional Oversight

A number of the appointments made by President Barack H. Obama to his Administration or by Cabinet secretaries to their departments have been referred to, especially by the news media, as “czars.” For some, the term is used to convey an appointee’s title (e.g., climate “czar”) in shorthand. For others, it is being used to convey a sense that power is being centralized in the White House or certain entities. When used in political science literature, the term generally refers to White House policy coordination or an intense focus by the appointee on an issue of great magnitude. Congress has...

Reporting Foreign Financial Assets Under Titles 26 and 31: FATCA and FBAR

All citizens of the United States as well as U.S. resident aliens are required to report their world-wide income for U.S. federal income tax purposes. However, where foreign assets are involved, this is an area in which taxpayers, knowingly or unknowingly, may fail to comply with the law. There are numerous information reporting requirements involving foreign assets that may assist the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in recognizing a failure to report foreign income; however, both taxpayers and tax preparers may not be fully compliant with filing these forms. Again, this may be more a...

Financial Condition of Depository Banks

A bank is an institution that obtains either a federal or state charter that allows it to accept federally insured deposits and pay interest to depositors. In addition, the charter allows banks to make residential and commercial mortgage loans; provide check cashing and clearing services; underwrite securities that include U.S. Treasuries, municipal bonds, commercial paper, and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac issuances; and other activities as defined by statute.

Congressional interest in the financial conditions of depository banks or the commercial banking industry has increased in the wake...

Selected Characteristics of Private and Public Sector Workers

An issue for Congress and state and local governments is whether the pay and benefits of public workers are comparable to those of workers in the private sector. In addition, among the ways to reduce budget deficits, policy makers are considering the pay and benefits of public sector employees.

The number of people employed in both the private and public sectors has increased steadily as the U.S. economy has grown. However, after increasing to 19.2% of total employment in 1975, the percentage of all jobs that are in the public sector fell to 15.7% in 1999. In 2013, public sector jobs...

Forestry Provisions in the 2014 Farm Bill (P.L. 113-79)

The Agricultural Act of 2014 (P.L. 113-79, the 2014 farm bill) was signed into law by President Obama on February 7, 2014, after both the House and Senate voted to approve a conference agreement. The 2014 farm bill establishes agricultural and food policy for the next several years, and also addresses several aspects of federal forestry policy.

Forestry provisions were included in the Forestry title (Title VIII) of the 2014 farm bill as well as in some of the other titles. The 2014 farm bill generally repeals, reauthorizes, and modifies existing forestry assistance programs and provisions...

Central Asia: Regional Developments and Implications for U.S. Interests

This report discusses the current status of Central Asian states and U.S. policy, which has been aimed at facilitating their cooperation with U.S. and NATO stabilization efforts in Afghanistan and their efforts to combat terrorism, proliferation, and trafficking in arms, drugs, and persons.

The Mortgage Interest and Property Tax Deductions: Analysis and Options

Concern has increased over the size and sustainability of the United States’ recent budget deficits and the country’s long-run budget outlook. This concern has brought the issues of the government’s revenue needs and fundamental tax reform to the forefront of congressional debates. Congress may choose to address these issues by reforming the set of tax benefits for homeowners. According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, federally provided tax benefits for homeowners will cost approximately $136.3 billion annually between 2014 and 2017. Reducing, modifying, or eliminating all or some of...

Climate Change Legislation in the 113th Congress

In the 113th Congress, Members have introduced multiple bills that include provisions that would directly or indirectly address climate change-related issues. In some cases, it is difficult to distinguish between direct and indirect climate change bills, because a specific bill or action may seek to achieve multiple objectives. The bills listed in this report include provisions that directly address climate change, as opposed to those that primarily address other issues (e.g., energy efficiency) but could have ancillary impacts on climate.

Observations about the climate change-related...

The Ability-to-Repay Rule: Possible Effects of the Qualified Mortgage Definition on Credit Availability and Other Selected Issues

On January 10, 2013, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) released a final rule implementing the Ability-to-Repay (ATR) requirement of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank Act). The rule is effective January 10, 2014. The ATR rule will require a lender to determine based on documented and verified information that at the time a mortgage loan is made, the borrower has the ability to repay the loan. Failure to make such a determination could result in a lender having to pay damages to a borrower who brings a lawsuit claiming that the lender did...

Keystone XL: Greenhouse Gas Emissions Assessments in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement

On June 25, 2013, President Obama announced a national “Climate Action Plan” to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases (GHG), as well as to encourage adaptation to expected climate change. During his speech, the President made reference to the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline and stated that an evaluation of the project’s impacts on climate change would factor into the U.S. State Department’s national interest determination. The State Department, in the March 2013 Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the Keystone XL Pipeline, reports estimates for both...

Agriculture and Related Agencies: FY2014 and FY2013 (Post-Sequestration) Appropriations

The annual Agriculture appropriations bill provides funding for all of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) except the Forest Service, plus the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and, in even-numbered fiscal years, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).

The FY2014 Agriculture and Related Agencies appropriations bill was included as Division A of the FY2014 Consolidated Appropriations Act, an omnibus appropriation that was enacted on January 17, 2014 (P.L. 113-76). It provides $20.880 billion of discretionary funding for agricultural and related programs. This is $1.165...

Restrictions on Itemized Tax Deductions: Policy Options and Analysis

The President and leading Members of Congress have indicated that income tax reform is a major policy objective. Some itemized deductions are visible candidates for “broadening the base” of the individual income tax and cutting back on tax expenditures and primarily consist of deductions for mortgage interest, state and local taxes, and charitable contributions. The benefits of itemized deductions are concentrated among higher-income individuals, and that is particularly the case for state and local income tax deductions and charitable deductions.

Proposals for addressing these provisions...

The Distribution of Household Income and the Middle Class

Although not itself a subject of legislation, the shape of the income distribution enters Congress’s decision-making process concerning such policy issues as taxes, means-tested benefits, and social insurance programs. Congress also considers legislation specifically in the name of those in the middle class, which is variously defined as some income level or income range within the distribution of U.S. households with income. After briefly analyzing the distribution of household money income in 2012, this report attempts to put the term middle class into greater perspective.

The first key...

The Taxation of Dividends: Background and Overview

The tax treatment of dividends has changed numerous times over the past century. Most recently, the American Taxpayer Relief Act (ATRA; P.L. 112-240) increased the tax rate on dividends, from 15% to 20%, for taxpayers in the top income tax bracket. The change was effective for 2013. Also effective in 2013 is the 3.8% tax on net investment income for taxpayers with modified adjusted gross income above certain thresholds ($200,000 for single, $250,000 for married filing jointly).

Further increases in the tax rate on dividends may be considered as part of a base-broadening, rate-reducing tax...

Taxation of Hedge Fund and Private Equity Managers

Private equity and hedge funds are investment pools generally available only to institutions and individuals able to make investments in excess of $200,000. Private equity funds acquire ownership stakes in other companies and seek to profit by improving operating results or through financial restructuring. Hedge funds follow many strategies, investing in any market where managers see profit opportunities. The two kinds of funds are generally structured as partnerships: the fund managers act as general partners, while the outside investors are limited partners. Fund managers are compensated...

Highway and Public Transportation Infrastructure Provision Using Public-Private Partnerships (P3s)

Growing demands on the transportation system and constraints on public resources have led to calls for more private sector involvement in the provision of highway and transit infrastructure through what are known as “public-private partnerships” or “P3s.” A P3, broadly defined, is any arrangement whereby the private sector assumes more responsibility than is traditional for infrastructure planning, financing, design, construction, operation, and maintenance. Some P3s involve the leasing by the public sector to the private sector of existing infrastructure, while others provide for a...

Efforts to Delay the Gradual Elimination of Flood Insurance Premium Subsidies

On July 6, 2012, President Barack Obama signed into law the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 (Division F, Title II, P.L. 112-141; 126 Stat. 918) to reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) through September 30, 2017, and make significant program changes designed to make the program more financially stable. To achieve long-term financial sustainability and ensure that flood insurance rates more accurately reflect the actuarial risk of flooding, the new law gradually phases out subsidized premiums and grandfathered policies for approximately 19% (or about 1.1...

Federal Trust Funds and the Budget

The federal budget consists of four basic fund groups—the general fund, special funds, revolving funds, and trust funds. The first three are often referred to as the federal funds group. Trust funds are an accounting mechanism that records revenues, offsetting receipts, or collections earmarked for the purpose of the specific fund. Trust funds generally share three common features: (1) they are established for programs serving long-term purposes, (2) monies are used for a single purpose, and (3) users are charged to finance the trust fund. About 40% of all federal outlays were through...

Costs of Government Interventions in Response to the Financial Crisis: A Retrospective

In August 2007, asset-backed securities (ABS), particularly those backed by subprime mortgages, suddenly became illiquid and fell sharply in value as an unprecedented housing boom turned into a housing bust. Losses on the many ABS held by financial firms depleted their capital. Uncertainty about future losses on illiquid and complex assets led to firms having reduced access to private liquidity, sometimes catastrophically. In September 2008, the financial crisis reached panic proportions, with some large financial firms failing or having the government step in to prevent their...

Free Trade Agreements: Impact on U.S. Trade and Implications for U.S. Trade Policy

Free trade areas (FTAs) are arrangements among two or more countries under which they agree to eliminate tariffs and nontariff barriers on trade in goods among themselves. However, each country maintains its own policies, including tariffs, on trade outside the region.

In the last few years, the United States has engaged or has proposed to engage in negotiations to establish bilateral and regional free trade arrangements with a number of trading partners. Such arrangements are not new in U.S. trade policy. The United States has had a free trade arrangement with Israel since 1985 and with...

Federal Research and Development Funding: FY2014

Congress completed action on the FY2014 regular appropriations bills with enactment of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2014 (P.L. 113-76), in January 2014. The act contains the 12 regular appropriations bills that fund federal departments and agencies and provide funding for most research and development (R&D) supported by the federal government. Prior to enactment of P.L. 113-76, FY2014 funding was provided by two continuing resolutions (P.L. 113-46 and P.L. 113-73). Where possible, CRS has identified and included in this report R&D funding in P.L. 113-76 for agencies and programs....

Motorized Recreation on National Park Service Lands

In managing its lands, the National Park Service (NPS) seeks to balance a dual statutory mission of preserving natural resources while providing for their enjoyment by the public. Motorized recreation on NPS lands sometimes brings the two parts of this mission into conflict. Off-highway vehicles (OHVs) have been particularly controversial, with calls for greater recreational access intersecting with concerns about environmental impacts and disturbance of quieter pursuits. NPS’s laws, regulations, and policies generally emphasize the conservation of park resources in conservation/use...

The 2014 Farm Bill (P.L. 113-79): Summary and Side-by-Side

Congress periodically establishes agricultural and food policy in a multi-year, omnibus farm bill. The 2008 farm bill governed policy for farm commodity support, horticulture, livestock, conservation, nutrition assistance, trade and international food aid, agricultural research, farm credit, rural development, bioenergy, and forestry. It originally expired in 2012, but the 112th Congress did not complete action and instead extended the law for one year (P.L. 112-240), leaving consideration of a new farm bill to the 113th Congress.

After nearly three years of deliberations, Congress...

Career and Technical Education (CTE): A Primer

Career and Technical Education (CTE), often referred to as vocational education, provides occupational and non-occupational preparation at the secondary, postsecondary, and adult education levels. CTE is an element of the nation’s workforce development system. As such, CTE plays a role in reducing unemployment and the associated economic and social ills. This report provides a primer on CTE to support congressional discussion of initiatives designed to rationalize the workforce development system.

CTE prepares students for roles outside the paid labor market, teaches general employment...

The FutureGen Carbon Capture and Sequestration Project: A Brief History and Issues for Congress

More than a decade after the George W. Bush Administration announced its signature clean coal power initiative—FutureGen—the program is still in early development. Since its inception in 2003, FutureGen has undergone changes in scope and design. As initially conceived, FutureGen would have been the world’s first coal-fired power plant to integrate carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) with integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) technologies. FutureGen would have captured and stored carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from coal combustion in deep underground saline formations and...

Federal Reserve: Unconventional Monetary Policy Options

The Great Recession and the ensuing weak recovery have led the Federal Reserve (Fed) to expand its monetary policy tools. Since December 2008, overnight interest rates have been near zero; at this zero bound, they cannot be lowered further to stimulate the economy. As a result, the Fed has taken unprecedented policy steps to try to fulfill its statutory mandate of maximum employment and price stability. Congress has oversight responsibilities for ensuring that the Feds actions are consistent with its mandate.

The Fed has made large-scale asset purchases, popularly referred to as...

Data Security and Credit Card Thefts: CRS Experts

Thefts of credit-card and other customer information from major retailers in the fall of 2013 have renewed concerns about the security of credit cards and the information systems that hold, process, and transmit data from them, as well as other financial and personal information of consumers. The impacts and growing sophistication of such data breaches, along with the broader growth of cybercrime, has added urgency to long-standing concerns about the security of electronic data. The table below provides names and contact information for CRS experts on data security, cybercrime, privacy,...

An Analysis of STEM Education Funding at the NSF: Trends and Policy Discussion

Federal policy makers have a long-standing interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education that dates to at least the 1st Congress. This interest is largely driven by concerns about the national science and engineering workforce, which is widely believed to play a central role in U.S. global economic competitiveness and national security.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is a key component of the federal STEM education effort. Several inventories of the federal STEM education portfolio have highlighted NSF’s important role—both in terms of funding and in...

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI): The Five-Month Waiting Period for Benefits

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is authorized by Title II of the Social Security Act and provides income replacement for eligible individuals who are unable to work due to a long-term injury or illness that is expected to last at least one year or result in death. Current eligibility requirements include (1) verification of an applicant’s disability, (2) filing a claim, (3) a “recent work” and “duration of work” test, (4) verification that an individual has not reached normal retirement age, and (5) a five-month waiting period from disability-onset.

In implementing the...

Executive Order 13438: Blocking Property of Certain Persons Who Threaten Stabilization Efforts in Iraq

On July 17, 2007, President Bush issued Executive Order 13438, Blocking Property of Certain Persons Who Threaten Stabilization Efforts in Iraq. It is the latest in a series of executive orders based on the national emergency declared by President Bush with respect to “the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by obstacles to the orderly reconstruction of Iraq, the restoration and maintenance of peace and security in that country, and the development of political, administrative and economic institutions in Iraq.” Regulations...

International Trade and Finance: Key Policy Issues for the 113th Congress, Second Session

The U.S. Constitution grants authority over the regulation of foreign commerce to Congress, which it exercises through oversight of trade policy, including the consideration of legislation to approve trade agreements and authorize trade programs. Policy issues cover such areas as: U.S. trade negotiations; tariff and nontariff barriers; worker dislocation from trade liberalization, trade remedy laws; import and export policies; international investment, economic sanctions; and trade policy functions of the federal government. Congress also has an important role in international finance. It...

Multifamily and Commercial Mortgages: An Overview of Issues

As the recovery from the recession of December 2007-June 2009 continues, congressional interest in multifamily and commercial mortgages has shifted from worries about the immediate impact of foreclosures to consideration of the future of mortgage finance. During the recession, losses on mortgages raised concerns about the risk to tax payers through Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) insurance, which is backed by the full faith and credit of the federal government. Significant parts of these losses occurred due to commercial loans at smaller insured depositories. The federal...

Elementary and Secondary School Teachers: Policy Context, Federal Programs, and ESEA Reauthorization Issues

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) is the primary legislative vehicle for federal policymaking regarding teachers and instructional quality in the nation’s elementary and secondary schools. Authorization for ESEA programs and policies, enacted through the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), expired at the end of FY2008 and the 113th Congress is likely to consider whether to amend and extend the ESEA. Notable ESEA provisions concerning K-12 teaching include requirements for minimum teacher qualifications and authority for a teacher training and class size...

Identity Theft: Trends and Issues

In the current fiscal environment, policymakers are increasingly concerned with securing the economic health of the United States—including combating those crimes that threaten to undermine the nation’s financial stability. Identity theft is one such crime. In 2012, about 12.6 million Americans were reportedly victims of identity fraud, and the average identity fraud victim incurred a mean of $365 in costs as a result of the fraud. Identity theft is often committed to facilitate other crimes such as credit card fraud, document fraud, or employment fraud, which in turn can affect not only...

Recent Trends in Consumer Retail Payment Services Delivered by Depository Institutions

Congressional interest in the performance of the credit and debit card (checking account services) markets and how recent developments are affecting customers is growing. This report discusses these developments and examines the costs and availability of consumer retail payments services, particularly those provided by depository institutions, since the recent recession and subsequent legislative actions.

Consumer retail payment services include products such as credit cards, cash advances, checking accounts, debit cards, and prepayment cards. Some depository institutions have increased...

U.S. Naturalization Policy

Naturalization is the process that grants U.S. citizenship to lawful permanent residents (LPRs) who fulfill requirements established by Congress in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). In general, U.S. immigration policy gives all LPRs the opportunity to naturalize, and doing so is a voluntary act. LPRs in most cases must have resided continuously in the United States for five years, show they possess good moral character, demonstrate English competency, and pass a U.S. government and history examination as part of their naturalization interview. The INA waives some of these...

The Role of Trade Secrets in Innovation Policy

Many businesses have developed proprietary information that provides a competitive advantage because it is not known to others. As the United States continues its shift to a knowledge- and service-based economy, the strength and competitiveness of domestic firms increasingly depends upon their know-how and intangible assets. Trade secrets are the form of intellectual property that protects this sort of confidential information.

Trade secret law protects secret, valuable business information from misappropriation by others. Subject matter ranging from marketing data to manufacturing...

Follow-On Biologics: The Law and Intellectual Property Issues

The term “biologics” refers to a category of medical preparations derived from a living organism. These medicines have added notable therapeutic options for many diseases and impacted fields such as oncology and rheumatology. The biologics industry invests extensively in R&D and contributes to a rapidly expanding market for these treatments. Biologics are often costly, however, in part due to the sophistication of the technologies and the manufacturing techniques needed to make them.

Some commentators have also observed that, in contrast to the generic drugs available in traditional...

The Leahy-Smith America Invents Act: Innovation Issues

Following several years of legislative discussion concerning patent reform, the Congress enacted P.L. 112-29, signed into law on September 16, 2011. The Leahy-Smith America Invents Act, or “AIA,” made significant changes to the patent system, including:

First-Inventor-to-File Priority System. The AIA shifted the U.S. patent priority rule from a “first-to-invent” system to the “first-inventor-to-file principle” while allowing for a one-year grace period.

Prior User Rights. The legislation established an infringement defense based upon an accused infringer’s prior commercial use of an...

Gene Patents: A Brief Overview of Intellectual Property Issues

In the past, the U.S. courts upheld gene patents that met the criteria of patentability defined by the Patent Act. However, the practice of awarding patents on genes came under scrutiny by some scientists, legal scholars, politicians, and other experts. In June 2013, the Supreme Court ruled in Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc. that genomic DNA was ineligible for patenting under 35 U.S.C. §101 due to the “product of nature” doctrine. However, the Court adopted the view that cDNA could be patented. The Myriad holding attempts to provide inventors and firms with...

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB): A Legal Analysis

In the wake of the worst U.S. financial crisis since the Great Depression, Congress passed and the President signed into law sweeping reforms of the financial services regulatory system through the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank Act), P.L. 111-203. Title X of the Dodd-Frank Act is entitled the Consumer Financial Protection Act of 2010 (CFP Act). The CFP Act establishes the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (CFPB or Bureau) within the Federal Reserve System (FRS) with rulemaking, enforcement, and supervisory powers over many consumer financial...

Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS): Current Legislative Issues

The Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program was created by Title I of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (P.L. 103-322). The mission of the COPS program is to advance community policing in all jurisdictions across the United States. The Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act of 2005 (P.L. 109-162) reauthorized the COPS program through FY2009 and changed the COPS program from a multi-grant program to a single-grant program.

The COPS program awards grants to state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies throughout the...

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education: A Primer

The term “STEM education” refers to teaching and learning in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. It typically includes educational activities across all grade levels—from pre-school to post-doctorate—in both formal (e.g., classrooms) and informal (e.g., afterschool programs) settings. Federal policy makers have an active and enduring interest in STEM education, and the topic is frequently raised in federal science, education, workforce, national security, and immigration policy debates. For example, more than 225 bills containing the term “science education”...

International Corporate Tax Rate Comparisons and Policy Implications

Advocates of cutting corporate tax rates frequently make their argument based on the higher statutory rate in the United States as compared with the rest of the world; they argue that cutting corporate taxes would induce large investment flows into the United States, which would create jobs or expand the taxable income base enough to raise revenue. President Barack Obama has supported a rate cut if the revenue loss can be offset with corporate base broadening. Others have urged on one hand, a revenue raising reform, and, on the other, setting deficit concerns aside.

Is the U.S. tax rate...

Right to Work Laws: Legislative Background and Empirical Research

The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) establishes most private-sector workers’ rights to unionize and collectively bargain over wages, benefits, and working conditions. Enacted in 1935, the NLRA also permits collective bargaining contracts between employers and labor organizations that require every individual covered by the collective bargaining contract to pay dues to the negotiating labor organization. These contract provisions are known as union security agreements. Since the NLRA was amended by the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947, individual states have been permitted to supersede the...

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2011, a time when the global economy was struggling to recover from the financial crisis and slow economic growth. The OECD is an intergovernmental economic organization in which the 34 member countries discuss and develop key policy recommendations that often serve as the basis for international standards and practices. In addition, the OECD members analyze economic and social policy and share expertise and exchanges with more than 70 developing and emerging economies. The 34 member...

War in Afghanistan: Campaign Progress, Political Strategy, and Issues for Congress

This is a critical time for U.S. efforts in the war in Afghanistan. U.S. military engagement beyond December 2014, when the current NATO mission ends, depends on the achievement of a U.S.-Afghan Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA), specifying the status of U.S. forces. Afghan President Hamid Karzai threw the BSA process into confusion by introducing new terms and conditions after a deal had been reached by negotiators. Even if a BSA is reached, U.S. decisions are still pending regarding the scope, scale, and timeline for any post-2014 U.S. force presence in Afghanistan. President Obama has...

Unemployment: Issues in the 113th Congress

The longest and deepest recession since the Great Depression ended as expansion began in June 2009. Although output started growing in the third quarter of 2009, the labor market was weak in 2010, with the unemployment rate averaging 9.6% for the year. Despite showing improvement in 2011, the unemployment rate averaged a still high 8.9% for the year. The labor market continued to improve slowly, reaching 8% for the first time since January 2009. The rate fell slowly in 2013, reaching 7% by November, but still above the pre-recession rate of 5%.

Several policy steps were taken after the...

Shadow Banking: Background and Policy Issues

Shadow banking refers to financial firms and activities that perform similar functions to those of depository banks. Although the term is used to describe dissimilar firms and activities, a general policy concern is that a component of shadow banking could be a source of financial instability, even though that component might not be subject to regulations designed to prevent a crisis, or be eligible for emergency facilities designed to mitigate financial turmoil once it has begun. This concern is magnified by the experience of 2007-2009, during which financial problems among nonbank...

Science and Technology Issues in the 113th Congress

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

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

The Development of High Speed Rail in the United States: Issues and Recent Events

The provision of $8 billion for intercity passenger rail projects in the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA; P.L. 111-5) reinvigorated efforts to expand intercity passenger rail transportation in the United States. The Obama Administration subsequently announced that it would ask Congress to provide $1 billion annually for high speed rail (HSR) projects. This initiative was reflected in the President’s budgets for FY2010 through FY2014. Congress approved $2.5 billion for high speed and intercity passenger rail in FY2010 (P.L. 111-117), but has provided no funding for the...

Increasing the Efficiency of Existing Coal-Fired Power Plants

Coal has long been the major fossil fuel used to produce electricity. However, coal-fired electric power plants are one of the largest sources of air pollution in the United States, with greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from burning of fossil fuels believed to be the major contributor to global climate change. Regulations under development at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would impose new requirements on fossil-fueled (mostly coal-fired) power plants (CFPPs) to control GHG emissions. The first of these requirements was issued in September 2013 with proposed standards for the...

Rare Earth Elements: The Global Supply Chain

The concentration of production of rare earth elements (REEs) outside the United States raises the important issue of supply vulnerability. REEs are used for new energy technologies and national security applications. Two key questions of interest to Congress are: (1) Is the United States vulnerable to supply disruptions of REEs? (2) Are these elements essential to U.S. national security and economic well-being?

There are 17 rare earth elements (REEs), 15 within the chemical group called lanthanides, plus yttrium and scandium. The lanthanides consist of the following: lanthanum, cerium,...

The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA): Union Representation Procedures and Dispute Resolution

The National Labor Relations Act of 1935 (NLRA) gives private sector workers the right to join or form a labor union and to bargain collectively over wages, hours, and other working conditions. An issue before Congress is whether to change the procedures under which a union is certified as the bargaining representative of a union chosen by a majority of workers.

Under current law, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) conducts a secret ballot election when a petition is filed requesting one. A petition can be filed by a union, worker, or employer. Workers or a union may request an...

Federal Research and Development Funding: FY2013

President Obama’s budget request for FY2013 included $140.820 billion for research and development (R&D), a $1.951 billion (1.4%) increase from the FY2012 estimated funding level of $138.869 billion. The FY2013 Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act (P.L. 113-6), signed into law on March 26, 2013, provided year-long appropriations to all agencies for FY2013. The law included divisions incorporating five of the regular appropriations bills—Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies; Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies;...

Legislation to Repeal the Private Equity Fund Adviser Registration Requirement in the Dodd-Frank Act: In Brief

The summary will be suppressed. Key searchable terms are:

H.R. 1105 Capital Formation Investor Protection Private Funds Investment Funds Private investment fund Investment company Private adviser exemption

Keystone XL Pipeline Project: Key Issues

This report describes the Keystone XL pipeline proposal and the process required for federal approval. It summarizes key arguments for and against the pipeline put forth by the pipeline's developers, federal agencies, environmental groups, and other stakeholders. The report discusses potential consistency challenges faced by the State Department in reviewing the pipeline application given its recent prior approvals of similar pipeline projects. Finally, the report reviews the constitutional basis for the State Department's authority to issue a Presidential Permit, and opponents' possible...

European Union Enlargement: A Status Report on Turkey’s Accession Negotiations

October 2013 marked the eighth anniversary of the European Union’s decision to launch formal negotiations with Turkey toward full membership in the Union. Throughout all of 2012 and the first half of 2013, little or no progress was made on any open chapters of the EU’s rules and regulations known as the acquis communautaire, as formal accession talks between Turkey and the EU seemed to have reached a political and technical stalemate.

In February 2013, France, which has been part of a group in the EU that has expressed doubts about Turkey’s EU membership, signaled that it was prepared to...

Geoengineering: Governance and Technology Policy

Climate change policies at both the national and international levels have traditionally focused on measures to mitigate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and to adapt to the actual or anticipated impacts of changes in the climate. As a participant in several international agreements on climate change, the United States has joined with other nations to express concern about climate change. Some recent technological advances and hypotheses, generally referred to as “geoengineering” technologies, have created alternatives to traditional approaches to mitigating climate change. If deployed,...

Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS): Overview and Issues

Federal policy has played a key role in the emergence of the U.S. biofuels industry. Policy measures have included minimum renewable fuel usage requirements, blending and production tax credits, an import tariff, loans and loan guarantees, and research grants. One of the more prominent forms of federal policy support is the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS)—whereby a minimum volume of biofuels is to be used in the national transportation fuel supply each year. This report describes the general nature of the RFS mandate and its implementation, and outlines some emerging issues related to the...

International Food Aid: U.S. and Other Donor Contributions

Postsecondary Education Issues in the 113th Congress

The 113th Congress may face an array of policy issues affecting postsecondary education. Many of these postsecondary education issues may be considered as part of efforts to reauthorize the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended (HEA). However, postsecondary education issues also may emerge as part of other legislative efforts such as comprehensive immigration reform (CIR), reform of the federal tax code, or the annual appropriations process.

This report identifies and briefly examines several postsecondary education policy issue areas that may be of general interest. For each of these...

The “Pay Ratio Provision” in the Dodd-Frank Act: Legislation to Repeal It in the 113th Congress

Section 953(b) of the Dodd-Frank Consumer Protection and Wall Street Reform Act (Dodd-Frank Act; P.L. 111-203), known as the “pay ratio provision,” requires the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to write rules to implement a requirement that public companies disclose the ratio between the total compensation of a company’s chief executive officer (CEO) and the median compensation of all other employees. On September 18, 2013, the agency released proposals to implement the pay ratio provision. A firm will be able to choose its own methodology to calculate worker median pay, including...

Sovereign Debt in Advanced Economies: Overview and Issues for Congress

Sovereign debt, also called public debt or government debt, refers to debt incurred by governments. Since the global financial crisis of 2008-2009, public debt in advanced economies has increased substantially. A number of factors related to the financial crisis have fueled the increase, including fiscal stimulus packages, the nationalization of private-sector debt, and lower tax revenue. Even if economic growth reverses some of these trends, such as by boosting tax receipts and reducing spending on government programs, aging populations in advanced economies are expected to strain...

Federal Financial Reporting: An Overview

Federal financial reporting—defined here as the process of recording retrospective executive department-level financial and performance information—can provide both a snapshot of the government’s financial health at a given moment in time, as well as an accounting of its financial performance over a particular time frame. Federal financial reports may help the federal government demonstrate accountability, provide information for policy formulation and planning, and be used to evaluate governmental performance. Multiple reports are required by law, and all are intended to permit...

Dairy Policy Proposals in the Next Farm Bill

The 113th Congress has been considering an omnibus farm bill that would establish the direction of U.S. agricultural policy for the next five years. Among the many provisions being considered, both the Senate-passed (S. 954) and House-passed (H.R. 2642) versions of the 2013 farm bill would reshape the structure of U.S. dairy support.

Current U.S. federal dairy policy is based on five major programs—the Dairy Product Price Support Program (DPPSP), the Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) Program, Federal Milk Marketing Orders (FMMOs), Dairy Import Tariff Rate Quotas (TRQs), and the Dairy...

Updating the Statutory Framework for Communications for the Digital Age: Issues for Congress

The statutory framework for the communications sector largely was enacted prior to the commercial development and deployment of digital technology, Internet Protocol (IP), broadband networks, and online voice, data, and video services. These new technologies have driven changes in market structure throughout the communications sector. Technological spillovers have allowed for the convergence of previously service-specific networks, creating new competitive entry opportunities. But they also have created certain incentives for market consolidation. Firms also have used new technologies to...

Issues in Homeland Security Policy for the 113th Congress

With the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), many observers have made a fresh assessment of where America’s homeland security enterprise stands today. DHS is currently the third-largest department in the federal government, although it does not incorporate all of the homeland security functions at the federal level. The definition of homeland security remains unsettled, and questions about the effectiveness and efficiency of the department have been raised since it was first proposed. Evolution of America’s response to terrorist threats has...

U.S. Sanctions on Burma: Issues for the 113th Congress

In March 2011, Burma’s ruling military junta, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) formally dissolved itself and transferred power to a semi-military/semi-civilian government known as the Union Government, headed by President Thein Sein, ex-general and former prime minister for the SPDC. President Thein Sein, with the support of Burma’s Union Parliament, has implemented a number of political and economic reforms, to which the Obama Administration has responded by waiving or easing sanctions.

Although the presidential waivers effectively lift the sanctions, they do not revoke or...

GSEs and the Government’s Role in Housing Finance: Issues for the 113th Congress

The federal government’s role in the mortgage market dates to the Depression and is considered by many to be substantial: Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Ginnie Mae (officially the Government National Mortgage Association, which is part of the Department of Housing and Urban Development) together guarantee virtually all new mortgage-backed securities (MBS). With slightly less than $10 trillion in mortgages outstanding, the residential mortgage market is of central importance both to households and to lenders.

As government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs), Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have special...

Rebuilding Household Wealth: Implications for Economic Recovery

The pace of economic recovery from the 2007-2009 recession has been historically slow. Over four years of recovery, the annual rate of growth of real gross domestic product (GDP) has averaged 2%, well below the 3% to 5% typical of other post-WWII recoveries. As a result, the output gap—the difference between what the economy could produce and what it actually produced—has only declined from a high of 8.1% in mid-2009 to a still large 5.8% in mid- 2013. Slow growth of output has translated into a slow reduction of unemployment.

The recovery has persisted, in part, due to support to...

Federal Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Statutes

Federal mandatory minimum sentencing statutes limit the discretion of a sentencing court to impose a sentence that does not include a term of imprisonment or the death penalty. They have a long history and come in several varieties: the not-less-than, the flat sentence, and piggyback versions. Federal courts may refrain from imposing an otherwise required statutory mandatory minimum sentence when requested by the prosecution on the basis of substantial assistance toward the prosecution of others. First-time, low-level, non-violent offenders may be able to avoid the mandatory minimums under...

Teacher Evaluation: Policy Issues in Brief

Teacher evaluation has historically been largely the responsibility of local school administrators working within broad rules set by state law and collective bargaining agreements. These rules generally identify the procedures and circumstances under which a teacher may be dismissed for poor performance and have little to do with conducting teacher evaluation. Until recently, only a handful of states had implemented statewide teacher evaluation policies and federal policy had been silent on the issue of evaluating teacher effectiveness.

In 2006, Congress authorized the Teacher Incentive...

Sri Lanka: Background and U.S. Relations

The Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, an island nation in the Indian Ocean, is a constitutional democracy with a relatively high level of development. For two and a half decades, political, social, and economic development was seriously constrained by years of ethnic conflict and war between the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), also known as the Tamil Tigers. After a violent end to the civil war in May 2009, in which authorities crushed LTTE forces and precipitated a humanitarian emergency in Sri Lanka’s Tamil-dominated north, attention has turned to...

Proposed U.S.-Mexico Transboundary Hydrocarbons Agreement: Background and Issues for Congress

This report discusses the offshore areas of the Gulf of Mexico that provide a setting for domestic and international energy production, U.S. military training and border operations, trade and commerce, fishing, tourist attractions, and recreation.

Federal Excise Taxes: An Introduction and General Analysis

There are four common types of excise taxes: (1) sumptuary (or “sin”) taxes, (2) regulatory or environmental taxes, (3) benefit-based taxes (or user charges), and (4) luxury taxes. Sumptuary taxes were traditionally imposed for moral reasons, but are currently rationalized, in part, to discourage a specific activity that is thought to have negative spillover effects (or “externalities”) on society. Regulatory or environmental taxes are imposed to offset external costs associated with regulating public safety or to discourage consumption of a specific commodity that is thought to have...

China’s Holdings of U.S. Securities: Implications for the U.S. Economy

Given its relatively low savings rate, the U.S. economy depends heavily on foreign capital inflows from countries with high savings rates (such as China) to meet its domestic investment needs and to fund the federal budget deficit. The willingness of foreigners to invest in the U.S. economy and purchase U.S. public debt has helped keep U.S. real interest rates low. However, many economists contend that U.S. dependency on foreign savings exposes the U.S. economy to certain risks, and some argue that such low-cost capital inflows were a contributing factor to the U.S. housing bubble and...

U.S.-Chinese Motor Vehicle Trade: Overview and Issues

The U.S. auto industry employs nearly 800,000 workers and is a major employer in certain parts of the country. International competition is fierce, with many automakers and thousands of parts makers vying for market share. Because of the industry’s importance to the U.S. economy, the rapid rise of China’s auto assembly and auto parts industries in recent years has raised concerns among some Members of Congress.

In 2009, China overtook the United States to become both the world’s largest producer of and market for motor vehicles. In 2012, assemblers in China sold 19 million vehicles, and...

Financing Natural Catastrophe Exposure: Issues and Options for Improving Risk Transfer Markets

This report opens with an examination of the current role of private insurers in managing disaster risk and their capacity and willingness to deal with the rising cost of financing recovery and reconstruction following natural disasters. The report then examines the current role of federal, state, and local governments in managing disaster risk.

Fannie Mae’s and Freddie Mac’s Financial Status: 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 to promote homeownership for underserved groups and locations. They purchase mortgages, guarantee them, and package them in mortgage-backed securities (MBSs), which they either keep as investments or sell to institutional investors. In addition to the GSEs’ guarantees, investors widely believe that MBSs are implicitly guaranteed by the federal government. In 2008, the GSEs’ financial condition had weakened and there were concerns over their ability...

Changing the Federal Reserve’s Mandate: An Economic Analysis

The Federal Reserve’s (Fed’s) current statutory mandate calls for it to “promote effectively the goals of maximum employment, stable prices, and moderate long-term interest rates.” Some economists have argued that this mandate should be replaced with a single mandate of price stability. Often the proposal for a single mandate is paired with a more specific proposal that the Fed should adopt an inflation target. Under an inflation target, the goal of monetary policy would be to achieve an explicit, numerical target or range for some measure of price inflation. Inflation targets could be...

European Union Wind and Solar Electricity Policies: Overview and Considerations

European Union (EU) countries have provided support for the development and deployment of renewable energy technologies, dating back to as early as the 1980s. Today, the European Union has established binding renewable energy targets with the goal of having the entire EU derive 20% of total energy consumption (electricity, heating/cooling, and transportation) from renewable sources by 2020. EU member countries have discretion to decide how best to achieve EU-level targets. Each country uses a unique set of policies and financial incentives to stimulate renewable energy production. While EU...

Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) and Its Role in U.S. Trade Policy

Congress created Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) in the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 to help workers and firms adjust to dislocation that may be caused by increased trade liberalization. It is justified now, as it was then, on grounds that the government has an obligation to help the “losers” of policy-driven trade opening. TAA is also presented as an alternative to policies that would restrict imports, and so provides assistance while bolstering freer trade and diminishing prospects for potentially costly tension (retaliation) among trade partners. As in the past, critics strongly debate...

The Conforming Loan Limit

Congress is concerned with the pace of the recovery in the housing and mortgage markets. A series of laws starting with the Economic Stimulus Act of 2008 (ESA; P.L. 110-185) were designed to increase the availability and affordability of mortgages in “high-cost” areas. This concern about housing and mortgage markets is balanced by attention being paid to possible taxpayer financial risks and the desire to minimize government intervention in economic markets.

Two congressionally chartered government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs), Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, provide liquidity to the mortgage...

The U.S. Congress and the European Parliament: Evolving Transatlantic Legislative Cooperation

The United States and the European Union (EU) share an extensive, dynamic, and mutually beneficial political and economic partnership. A growing element of that relationship is the role that the U.S. Congress and the European Parliament (EP)—a key EU institution—have begun to play, including in areas ranging from foreign and economic policy to regulatory reform. Proponents of establishing closer relations between the U.S. Congress and the EP point to the Parliament’s growing influence as a result of the EU’s 2009 Lisbon Treaty which increased the relative power of the EP within the EU, and...

International Illegal Trade in Wildlife: Threats and U.S. Policy

Global trade in illegal wildlife is a potentially vast illicit economy, estimated to be worth billions of dollars each year. Some of the most lucrative illicit wildlife commodities include elephant ivory, rhino horn, sturgeon caviar, and so-called “bushmeat.” Wildlife smuggling may pose a transnational security threat as well as an environmental one. Numerous sources indicate that some organized criminal syndicates, insurgent groups, and foreign military units may be involved in various aspects of international wildlife trafficking. Limited anecdotal evidence also indicates that some...

Medicare Durable Medical Equipment: The Competitive Bidding Program

The Medicare Supplementary Medical Insurance Program (Part B) currently covers a wide variety of durable medical equipment, prosthetics, orthotics, and other medical supplies (DMEPOS) if they are medically necessary and are prescribed by a physician.

Durable medical equipment (DME) is equipment that (1) can withstand repeated use, (2) has an expected life of at least three years (effective for items classified as DME after January 1, 2012), (3) is used to serve a medical purpose, (4) generally is not useful in the absence of an illness or injury, and (5) is appropriate for use in the...

China's Currency Policy: An Analysis of the Economic Issues

China’s policy of intervening in currency markets to limit or halt the appreciation of its currency, the renminbi (RMB), against the U.S. dollar and other currencies has been an issue of concern for many in Congress over the past decade who view it as one of several distortive economic and trade policies that are used to convey an unfair competitive advantage to Chinese producers and exporters. They charge that China’s currency policy is intended to make its exports significantly less expensive, and its imports more expensive, than would occur if the RMB were a freely-traded currency. They...

Health Care Reform and Small Business

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

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

Congressional interest in Gulf Coast assistance has increased in recent years because of the significant amount of assistance provided to the region. Congress has also been interested in how the money has been spent, what resources have been provided to the region,...

Financial Services and General Government: FY2013 Appropriations

The Financial Services and General Government appropriations bill provides funding for the Department of the Treasury, the Executive Office of the President (EOP), the judiciary, the District of Columbia, and more than two dozen independent agencies. Among those independent agencies are the General Services Administration (GSA), the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the Small Business Administration (SBA), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and the United States Postal Service (USPS). The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) is funded in the House through the...

Cloture Attempts on Nominations: Data and Historical Development

The motion for cloture is available in the Senate to limit debate on nominations, as on other matters. Cloture can, accordingly, be used to overcome a filibuster against a nomination. Table 6 lists all nominations against which cloture has been moved, showing the outcome of the cloture attempt and the final disposition of the nomination. It would be erroneous, however, to treat this table as a list of filibusters on nominations. Filibusters can occur without cloture being attempted, and cloture can be attempted when no filibuster is evident. Often today, moreover, it appears that Senate...

Outsourcing and Insourcing Jobs in the U.S. Economy: Evidence Based on Foreign Investment Data

The impact of foreign direct investment on U.S. employment continues to attract national attention. While local communities compete with one another for investment projects, many of the residents of those communities fear losing their jobs as U.S. companies seek out foreign locations and foreign workers to perform work that traditionally has been done in the United States, generally referred to as outsourcing. Some observers suggest that current U.S. experiences with outsourcing are different from those that have preceded them and that this merits legislative actions by Congress to blunt...

Department of Homeland Security: FY2013 Appropriations

This report describes the FY2013 appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The Administration requested $39.510 billion in adjusted net discretionary budget authority for DHS for FY2013, as part of an overall budget of $59.501 billion (including fees, trust funds, and other funding that is not appropriated or does not score against the budget caps). The request amounted to a $90 million, or 0.2%, decrease from the $39.600 billion enacted for FY2012 through the consolidated appropriations act (P.L. 112-74).

Congress did not enact final FY2013 appropriations legislation...

Human Rights in China and U.S. Policy: Issues for the 113th Congress

This report examines human rights issues in the People’s Republic of China (PRC), including ongoing rights abuses, legal reforms, and the development of civil society. Major events of the past year include the PRC leadership transition, the Wukan protests over land expropriation, the negotiations that allowed legal advocate Chen Guangcheng to leave China, and the Tibetan self-immolations. Ongoing human rights problems include excessive use of force by public security forces, unlawful detention, torture of detainees, arbitrary use of state security laws against political dissidents and...

Agricultural Export Programs: Background and Issues

Report that discusses the agricultural export programs that aim to develop overseas markets for U.S. agricultural products.

The United States and Europe: Responding to Change in the Middle East and North Africa

U.S. and European Responses to Changes in the Middle East and North Africa

Over the last two years, many U.S. policymakers, Members of Congress, and their European counterparts have struggled with how best to respond to the wide range of challenges posed by the popular uprisings and political upheaval in many countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Almost immediately after the onset of the so-called “Arab Spring” in early 2011, U.S. and European leaders alike declared their intention to put greater emphasis than in the past on democratic reform and economic development in...

Trade Reorganization: Overview and Issues for Congress

On January 13, 2012, President Obama asked Congress for authority to reorganize and consolidate, into one department, the business- and trade-related functions of six federal entities: Department of Commerce; Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im Bank); Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC); Small Business Administration (SBA); Trade and Development Agency (TDA); and Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR). Bills based on the proposal were introduced in the 112th Congress. The President reiterated the proposal in his FY2014 budget request, and he may resubmit his request for...

International Climate Change Financing: The Climate Investment Funds (CIFs)

The United States contributes funding to various international financial institutions to assist developing countries to address global climate change and other environmental concerns. Congress is responsible for several activities in this regard, including (1) authorizing periodic appropriations for U.S. financial contributions to the institutions, and (2) overseeing U.S. involvement in the programs. Issues of congressional interest include the overall development assistance strategy of the United States, U.S. leadership in global environmental and economic affairs, and U.S. commercial...

International Environmental Financing: The Global Environment Facility (GEF)

The United States contributes funding to various international financial institutions to assist developing countries to address global climate change and other environmental concerns. Congress is responsible for several activities in this regard, including (1) authorizing periodic appropriations for U.S. financial contributions to the institutions, and (2) overseeing U.S. involvement in the programs. Issues of congressional interest include the overall development assistance strategy of the United States, U.S. leadership in global environmental and economic affairs, and U.S. commercial...

Wildfire Damages to Homes and Resources: Understanding Causes and Reducing Losses

Wildfires are getting more severe, with more acres and houses burned and more people at risk. This results from excess biomass in the forests, due to past logging and grazing and a century of fire suppression, combined with an expanding wildland-urban interface—more people and houses in and near the forests—and climate change, exacerbating drought and insect and disease problems. Some assert that current efforts to protect houses and to reduce biomass (through fuel treatments, such as thinning) are inadequate, and that public objections to some of these activities on federal lands raise...

Forest Fire/Wildfire Protection

Congress continues to face questions about forestry practices, funding levels, and the federal role in wildfire protection. Recent fire seasons have been, by most standards, among the worst in the past half century. National attention began to focus on wildfires when a prescribed burn in May 2000 escaped control and burned 239 homes in Los Alamos, NM. President Clinton responded by requesting a doubling of wildfire management funds, and Congress enacted much of this proposal in the FY2001 Interior appropriations act (P.L. 106-291). President Bush responded to the severe 2002 fires by...

Financial Stability Oversight Council: A Framework to Mitigate Systemic Risk

The Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) was created by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (DFA; P.L. 111-203) in 2010 as part of a comprehensive reform of banking and securities market regulators. The council is charged with monitoring systemic risk in the financial system and coordinating several federal financial regulators. The 113th Congress may wish to monitor the performance, rulemaking, and policy recommendations of the council.

This report describes the mission, membership, and scope of the FSOC. It provides an analysis of several major policy...

Public Health, Workforce, Quality, and Related Provisions in ACA: Summary and Timeline

In March 2010, President Obama signed into law a comprehensive health reform bill, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA; P.L. 111-148), and a package of amendments to ACA, the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 (HCERA; P.L. 111-152). Health reform was one of President Obama’s top domestic policy priorities during his first term, driven by concerns about the growing ranks of the uninsured and the unsustainable growth in spending on health care and health insurance. Improving access to care and controlling rising costs were seen to require changes to both the...

The Federal Budget: Issues for FY2014 and Beyond

This report provides an overview of federal budget issues, focusing on recent fiscal policy changes. It also discusses the major policy proposals contained in the President's FY2014 budget and the House and Senate budget resolutions.

Expediting the Return to Work: Approaches in the Unemployment Compensation Program

The most recent recession led to an unprecedented increase in the number of those unemployed for more than 26 weeks (the long-term unemployed). As a result, congressional interest in policy initiatives to expedite the return to work grew. This report examines a variety of initiatives and measures within the Unemployment Compensation (UC) program that might reduce long-term unemployment for beneficiaries.

Even before the recent recession began, large numbers of UC recipients exhausted their entitlement to regular state benefits before returning to work. In 2007, one in three recipients...

Agriculture-Based Biofuels: Overview and Emerging Issues

Since the late 1970s, U.S. policymakers at both the federal and state levels have authorized a variety of incentives, regulations, and programs to encourage the production and use of agriculture-based biofuels—i.e., any fuel produced from biological materials. Initially, federal biofuels policies were developed to help kick-start the biofuels industry during its early development, when neither production capacity nor a market for the finished product was widely available. Federal policy (e.g., tax credits, import tariffs, grants, loans, and loan guarantees) has played a key role in helping...

U.S. International Investment Agreements: Issues for Congress

Foreign direct investment (FDI) is an increasingly important driver of the global economy. In the absence of an overarching multilateral framework on investment, bilateral investment treaties (BITs) and investment chapters in free trade agreements (FTAs), collectively referred to as “international investment agreements,” have emerged as the primary mechanism for promoting a rules-based system for international investment. These agreements contain provisions on nondiscriminatory treatment of investments by the host country, limits on expropriation of investments, and access to impartial...

Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education: FY2013 Appropriations Overview

This report provides an overview of actions taken by Congress to provide FY2013 appropriations for the accounts funded by the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies (L-HHS-ED) appropriations bill. The L-HHS-ED bill provides funding for all accounts subject to the annual appropriations process at the Departments of Labor (DOL) and Education (ED). It provides annual appropriations for most agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), with certain exceptions (e.g., the Food and Drug Administration is funded via the...

Argentina’s Defaulted Sovereign Debt: Dealing with the “Holdouts”

In December 2001, Argentina suffered a severe financial crisis, leading to the largest sovereign debt default in history, until Greece. In 2005, after prolonged, contentious, and unsuccessful attempts to restructure the debt, Argentina abandoned the negotiation process and made a unilateral offer. The terms were highly unfavorable to creditors, but $62.3 billion of the $81.8 billion in principal owed was exchanged. A diverse group of “holdouts” representing $18.6 billion did not exchange their bonds, and some have opted to litigate instead. These actions resulted in attachment orders...

Changes to the Residential Mortgage Market: Legislation, Demographics, and Other Drivers

This report provides an overview of the changing residential mortgage market, focusing on trends in housing prices, homeownership, mortgage characteristics, and financing. It also examines legislation and regulations designed to promote the efficient functioning of the mortgage market.

Congressional Concern About Mortgages

Congressional interest in residential mortgage markets has increased following the collapse of the housing bubble, government financial support to the mortgage market, and housing’s perceived importance to the broader economic recovery. Since 2008, the residential...

Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies: FY2013 Appropriations

On February 13, 2012, President Obama submitted his FY2013 budget to Congress. The Administration requests a total of $62.076 billion for the agencies and bureaus funded as a part of the annual Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) appropriations bill. The Administration’s request includes $7.978 billion for the Department of Commerce, $28.079 billion for the Department of Justice, $25.090 billion for the science agencies, and $929.2 million for the related agencies. The FY2013 request for CJS is 1.9% greater than the FY2012 appropriation of $60.910 billion.

On April 19,...

Department of Defense Implementation of the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative: Implications for Federal Information Technology Reform Management

The Department of Defense (DOD) is the single largest energy consumer in the nation. As the largest owner of federal data centers, with 772, the DOD has more than twice as many centers as any other agency. By consolidating some of its data centers, DOD could have a significant positive impact on energy savings for the federal government. DOD has instituted a number of policy directives, as have all federal agencies, that influence energy use in its data centers.

Data centers are facilities—buildings or parts of buildings—used to store, manage, and disseminate electronic information for a...

Economic Recovery: Sustaining U.S. Economic Growth in a Post-Crisis Economy

The 2007-2009 recession was long and deep, and according to several indicators was the most severe economic contraction since the 1930s (but still much less severe than the Great Depression). The slowdown of economic activity was moderate through the first half of 2008, but at that point the weakening economy was overtaken by a major financial crisis that would exacerbate the economic weakness and accelerate the decline.

Economic recovery began in mid-2009. Real gross domestic product (GDP) has been on a positive track since then, although the pace has been uneven and slowed significantly...

An Overview of the “Patent Trolls” Debate

Congress has recently demonstrated significant ongoing interest in litigation by “patent assertion entities” (PAEs), which are colloquially known as “patent trolls” and sometimes referred to as “non-practicing entities” (NPEs). The PAE business model focuses not on developing or commercializing patented inventions but on buying and asserting patents, often against firms that have already begun using the claimed technology after developing it independently, unaware of the PAE patent. PAEs include not only freestanding businesses but patent holding subsidiaries, affiliates, and shells of...

The World Bank Group Energy Sector Strategy

One in five people worldwide lack access to electricity. This is among the many challenges that financial institutions face when providing assistance to lower-income countries in order to promote economic and social development. Access to modern energy sources has the potential to substantially increase worldwide economic growth, creating markets in the developing world for products from the developed world, and vice versa. Filling this need may also result in environmental problems that could threaten development, including an increase in pollution that damages fisheries, reduces farm...

Argentina’s Post-Crisis Economic Reform: Challenges for U.S. Policy

U.S.-Argentine economic relations have long history of mutually beneficial engagement. In recent years, however, they have been strained at times, in part because of Argentina’s struggle to maintain macroeconomic stability, and also because of specific policy choices that have made the business environment difficult to navigate since the country’s 2001 financial crisis. Following a steep currency devaluation and the largest sovereign default in history, Argentina entered a deep recession with high unemployment and social upheaval. It brought to power a new government, and with it a shift...

International Trade and Finance: Key Policy Issues for the 113th Congress

This report discusses a variety of issues faced by the 113th Congress. Topics include trade negotiations with China, export controls and sanctions, import policies, intellectual property rights, international investments and international financial institutions.

DOD Alternative Fuels: Policy, Initiatives and Legislative Activity

This report provides background information and identifies issues for Congress regarding Department of Defense (DOD) alternative fuel initiatives, a subject of debate at congressional hearings on DOD’s proposed FY2013 budget. The services (the Army, Navy, and Air Force) have spent approximately $48 million to purchase alternative fuels, and the Navy has proposed a $170 million investment in biofuel production capacity. The services have also spent funds on testing, certification and demonstrations of alternative fuels. By comparison, DOD purchases of petroleum fuels totaled approximately...

Trade Agreements: Impact on the U.S. Economy

The United States is considering a number of trade agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Agreement (TPP) and the U.S.-European Union Trade and Investment Partnership. The Congress also may address the issue of trade promotion authority (TPA), which expired on July 1, 2007. In contrast with trade agreements with smaller economies, these two recently proposed agreements could have a significant impact on some aspects of U.S. trade and investment activities that could affect numerous U.S. workers and businesses. During this process, Congress likely will be presented with...

Fair Credit Reporting Act: Rights and Responsibilities

The purpose of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is “to require that consumer reporting agencies adopt reasonable procedures for meeting the needs of commerce for consumer credit, personnel, insurance, and other information in a manner which is fair and equitable to the consumer, with regard to the confidentiality, accuracy, relevancy, and proper utilization of such information.” The FCRA establishes consumers’ rights in relation to their credit reports, as well as permissible uses of credit reports. It also imposes certain responsibilities on those who collect, furnish, and use the...

Foreign Investment and National Security: Economic Considerations

The United States is the largest foreign direct investor in the world and also the largest recipient of foreign direct investment. This dual role means that globalization, or the spread of economic activity by firms across national borders, has become a prominent feature of the U.S. economy and that through direct investment the U.S. economy has become highly enmeshed with the broader global economy. This also means that the United States has important economic, political, and social interests at stake in the development of international policies regarding direct investment. With some...

Financial Market Supervision: Canada's Perspective

This report presents an overview of Canada's financial system and its supervisory framework and draws some distinctions between that system and the current U.S. framework.

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

The federal tax burden on small firms and its effects on their formation and growth have long been issues of legislative concern for Congress. This interest helped pave the way for the enactment during the 111th and 112th Congresses of several laws intended, in part, to reduce this burden or keep it in check. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (P.L. 111-5), the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010, the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 (P.L. 111-240), and the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (P.L. 112-240) each contained...

Carbon Tax: Deficit Reduction and Other Considerations

In the context of budget deficit and fiscal policy debates, policymakers have considered a number of options for raising additional federal revenues, including a carbon tax. A carbon tax could apply directly to carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, or to the inputs (e.g., fossil fuels) that lead to the emissions. Unlike a tax on the energy content of each fuel (e.g., Btu tax), a carbon tax would vary with a fuel’s carbon content, as there is a direct correlation between a fuel’s carbon content and its CO2 emissions.

Carbon taxes have been proposed for many years...

The Exon-Florio National Security Test for Foreign Investment

This report covers the recent background of the Exon-Florio provision with special regards to issues faced in the 112th Congress. The Exon-Florio provision grants the President the authority to block proposed or pending foreign acquisitions of "persons engaged in interstate commerce in the United States" that threaten to impair the national security.

Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs): Issues and Proposed Expansion

Current law provides many incentives to promote saving. The goal of these provisions is to increase saving for special purposes such as education or retirement, and to increase national saving. Increased national saving can lead to faster wealth and capital accumulation, which can boost future national income.

An increasingly important retirement saving vehicle is the individual retirement account (IRA). IRA savings is encouraged by two mechanisms—a carrot approach and a stick approach. First, tax provisions allow individuals to defer taxes on IRA contributions and investment earnings or...

Inflation: Causes, Costs, and Current Status

Since the end of World War II, the United States has experienced almost continuous inflation—the general rise in the price of goods and services. It would be difficult to find a similar period in American history before that war. Indeed, prior to World War II, the United States often experienced long periods of deflation. Note that the Consumer Price Index (CPI) in 1941 was virtually at the same level as in 1807.

For more than two decades, the inflation rate has remained low, in contrast to the 1970s and early 1980s. This is true regardless of which of the many available official price...

The Eurozone Crisis: Overview and Issues for Congress

Crisis Overview

What started as a debt crisis in Greece in late 2009 evolved into a broader economic and political crisis in the Eurozone and European Union (EU). The Eurozone faces four major, and related, economic challenges: (1) high debt levels and public deficits in some Eurozone countries; (2) weaknesses in the European banking system; (3) economic recession and high unemployment in some Eurozone countries; and (4) persistent trade imbalances within the Eurozone.

The economic crisis also turned into a political crisis. A combination of deep cuts in public spending, rising...

Malawi: Recent Developments and U.S. Relations

President Barack Obama’s Administration and a number of Members of Congress welcomed Malawian President Joyce Banda’s accession to power, largely because she reversed a number of controversial decisions taken by her predecessor, Bingu wa Mutharika. Banda succeeded him after he died in early April 2012 while serving a contentious second term. Banda’s status as Africa’s second female president, an internationally recognized women’s rights advocate, and a leader with socioeconomic development expertise has also attracted U.S. and other international support for her. There are some indications...

Hedge Fund Speculation and Oil Prices

Dramatic swings in crude oil prices have led Congress to examine the functioning of the markets where prices are set. A particular concern is that financial speculators may at times drive prices above the level justified by supply and demand. Most oil speculators produce no commercial quantities of oil and take no deliveries; rather, they trade financial contracts whose value is linked to the price of oil. These derivative contracts—futures, options, and swaps—allow speculators to profit if they can forecast price trends or exploit new arbitrage opportunities. Derivatives also permit oil...

Understanding China’s Political System

This report is designed to provide Congress with a perspective on the contemporary political system of China, the only Communist Party-led state in the G-20 grouping of major economies. China’s Communist Party dominates state and society in China, is committed to maintaining a permanent monopoly on power, and is intolerant of those who question its right to rule. Nonetheless, analysts consider China’s political system to be neither monolithic nor rigidly hierarchical. Jockeying among leaders and institutions representing different sets of interests is common at every level of the system....

Analysis of Recent Proposals to Amend the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) to Create a Coal Combustion Residuals Permit Program

In the 112th Congress, the House passed two bills to address the long-standing regulatory impasse over coal combustion residuals (CCRs). The impasse originated in 1980, when an amendment to the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) excluded CCRs from regulation as a hazardous waste, pending further study by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). That study was required to identify adverse effects on human health and the environment, if any, of CCR disposal and use before determining whether the materials should be subject to hazardous waste requirements.

For over 30 years, EPA...

U.S. and World Coal Production, Federal Taxes, and Incentives

Even though U.S. coal production remained strong over the past decade, reaching record levels of production, coal is losing its share of overall U.S. energy production primarily to natural gas. One of the big questions for the industry is how to penetrate the overseas market, particularly in steam coal, to compensate for declining domestic demand. As U.S. energy policy and environmental regulations are constantly debated, there is ongoing congressional interest in the role of coal in meeting U.S. and global energy needs. The question may not be whether the domestic production of coal is...

U.S. Policy Towards Burma: Issues for the 113th Congress

U.S. policy towards Burma has undergone a discernible shift in its approach since a quasi-civilian government was established in March 2011. While the overall objectives of U.S. policy towards the country remain in place—the establishment of civilian democratic government based on the rule of law and the protection of basic human rights—the Obama Administration has moved from a more reactive, “action-for-action” strategy and a skeptical and cautious attitude towards the newly created Union Government and Union Parliament to a more proactive mode. The new approach is designed to foster...

U.S. Trade and Investment in the Middle East and North Africa: Overview and Issues for Congress

U.S. interest in deepening economic ties with certain countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) has increased in light of the political unrest and transitions that have swept the region since early 2011. Policymakers in Congress and the Obama Administration are discussing ways that U.S. trade and investment can bolster long-term economic growth in the region. In May 2011, President Obama announced the MENA “Trade and Investment Partnership Initiative” (MENA-TIP), through which various federal government agencies are engaged in efforts to enhance trade and investment with the...

Federal Benefits and the Same-Sex Partners of Federal Employees (Prior to the 2013 United States v. Windsor Decision)

The information provided in this report reflects law and policies prior to the 2013 Supreme Court decision in United States v. Windsor.

The federal government provides a variety of benefits to its 4.4 million civilian and military employees and 4.7 million civilian and military retirees. Among these benefits are health insurance; enhanced dental and vision benefits; survivor benefits; retirement and disability benefits; family, medical, and emergency leave; and reimbursement of relocation costs. Pursuant to Title 5 U.S.C. Chapters 89, 89A, 89B, and other statutes, federal employees may...

Border Security: Understanding Threats at U.S. Borders

The United States confronts a wide array of threats at U.S. borders, ranging from terrorists who may have weapons of mass destruction, to transnational criminals smuggling drugs or counterfeit goods, to unauthorized migrants intending to live and work in the United States. Given this diversity of threats, how may Congress and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) set border security priorities and allocate scarce enforcement resources?

In general, DHS’s answer to this question is organized around risk management, a process that involves risk assessment and the allocation of resources...

FY2013 Supplemental Funding for Disaster Relief

On January 29, 2013, the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act, 2013, a $50.5 billion package of disaster assistance largely focused on responding to Hurricane Sandy, was enacted as P.L. 113-2.

In late October 2012, Hurricane Sandy impacted a wide swath of the East Coast of the United States, resulting in more than 120 deaths and the major disaster declarations for 12 states plus the District of Columbia. The Administration submitted a request to Congress on December 7, 2012, for $60.4 billion in supplemental funding and legislative provisions to address both the immediate losses and damages...

The National Flood Insurance Program: Status and Remaining Issues for Congress

This report provides an analysis of flood risk management, summarizes major challenges facing the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), and outlines key reforms enacted in the Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012. The report identifies and presents some key remaining flood management issues for congressional consideration, and concludes with a discussion of policy options for the future financial management of flood hazards in the United States.

The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC)

Prospects for Coal in Electric Power and Industry

For most of the twentieth century, the primary use of coal in the United States was for electric power generation, and for most of the history of power generation in the United States, coal has been the dominant fuel used to produce electricity. Even as recently as 2011, coal was the fuel used for almost 42% of power generation in the United States accounting for 93% of coal use. Industrial uses represented the remaining 7%. However, in April 2012, coal’s share of the power generation market dropped to about 32% (according to Energy Information Administration statistics), equal to that of...

U.S. Government Agencies Involved in Export Promotion: Overview and Issues for Congress

This report provides an overview of the federal government agencies that participate in U.S. export promotion efforts and the issues that they raise for Congress. The recent global economic downturn has renewed congressional debate over the role of the federal government in promoting exports. This debate has been heightened with the Obama Administration’s efforts to double U.S. exports under the National Export Initiative (NEI) and policy debates about possible reorganization of federal trade-related agencies. Some Members of Congress have placed greater priority on understanding the...

Business Investment and Employment Tax Incentives to Stimulate the Economy

According to the Business Cycle Dating Committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), the U.S. economy was in recession from December 2007 to June 2009. Congress passed and the President signed an economic stimulus package, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (P.L. 111-5), in February 2009. The $787 billion package included $286 billion in tax cuts to help stimulate the economy. Among the tax reductions, many were tax incentives directed to business. The preliminary estimate of fourth quarter real gross domestic product (GDP) growth is 5.9%; the unemployment...

Domestic Food Assistance in 112th Congress 2012 Farm Bill Proposals: S. 3240 and H.R. 6083

Many provisions of the 2008 farm bill (P.L. 110-246) expired on September 30, 2012. On January 2, 2013, President Obama signed the American Taxpayer Relief Act (P.L. 112-240), which included an extension of the 2008 farm bill through September 30, 2013.

This report focuses on the Nutrition title (Title IV) of the 2012 farm bill proposals included in the 112th Congress’s Senate-passed bill (Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2012; S. 3240) and House Committee-reported bill (Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2012; H.R. 6083). These were five-year reauthorization...

The Increase in Unemployment Since 2007: Is It Cyclical or Structural?

The unemployment rate greatly increased after the onset of the latest recession in December 2007, when it measured 5.0%. The rate peaked at 10.0% in October 2009, four months after the recession’s official end in June 2009. More than three years into the recovery, the unemployment rate averaged 8.1% in 2012. Given its still elevated level, policymakers may continue to be concerned about how to spur economic growth and create jobs.

Over the past few years, Congress has used fiscal policy and the Federal Reserve (Fed) has used monetary policy to put the economy on a path toward the level of...

Procedures for Considering Changes in Senate Rules

This report discusses procedures and related issues involved in considering changes to Senate rules. The Constitution empowers each house of Congress to determine its own rules. The Senate normally considers changes to its Standing Rules in the form of a simple resolution, which (like any ordinary measure) can be adopted by a majority of Senators voting, a quorum being present (“simple majority”). Like most measures, however, such a resolution is debatable. Senate rules place no general limits on how long consideration of a measure may last, and allow such limits to be imposed only by a...

Tax Cuts for Short-Run Economic Stimulus: Recent Experiences with Rebates and Bonus Depreciation

Although the economy is recovering from the 2007-2009 recession, unemployment continues to be high and further stimulus may be considered in the 113th Congress. Recent legislation in the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (P.L. 112-240) averted part of the so-called “fiscal cliff,” a set of tax increases and spending cuts that were scheduled to occur at the beginning of 2012. Shortly a decision must be made about continuing with sequestration, a set of automatic spending cuts that were delayed by two months by P.L. 112-240. In addition, while most changes were permanent, bonus...

Using Business Tax Cuts to Stimulate the Economy

Business tax cuts were part of the economic stimulus, included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (P.L. 111-5), provisions that were subsequently extended (in P.L. 111-240 and P.L. 111-315) by the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, P.L. 112-240. The most important provision is bonus depreciation, which extends to the end of 2013.

Bonus depreciations provisions were enacted in 2002, as increased interest in providing business tax cuts to stimulate the economy followed the terrorist attacks of 2001, which heightened concerns about an economic slowdown. Among the tax...

An Analysis of Where American Companies Report Profits: Indications of Profit Shifting

This report uses data on the operations of U.S. multinational companies (MNCs) to examine the extent to which, if any, MNCs are moving profits out of high-tax countries (or out of the U.S.) and into low-tax countries with little corresponding change in business operations, a practice known as “profit shifting.” To do this, the profits reported by American firms in two groups of countries are compared with measures of real economic activity in those locations. The first group consists of the five countries commonly identified as being “tax preferred” or “tax haven” countries, and includes...

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

Several types of tax cuts have been debated for fiscal stimulus bills in recent years, and a fiscal stimulus was adopted in February, 2008 (P.L. 110-185) and a much larger one in February 2009 (P.L. 111-5). Both included individual tax cuts aimed at lower- and middle-income individuals, along with business tax cuts. In December 2010, along with an extension of expiring tax cuts, a temporary payroll tax cut was adopted. Many, but not all, tax cuts that were expiring after 2012 were extended permanently. Further stimulus might be considered in the 113th Congress, if employment rates remain...

Agriculture and Related Agencies: FY2013 Appropriations

Note: Due to the late enactment of the FY2013 appropriation, this report summarizes action only through the end of the 112th Congress. Final amounts for FY2013 are presented in CRS Report R43110, Agriculture and Related Agencies: FY2014 and FY2013 (Post-Sequestration) Appropriations.

The Agriculture appropriations bill provides funding for all of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) except the Forest Service, plus the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and, in alternating years, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).

FY2013 has begun under a continuing resolution (CR; P.L....

Circular A-76 and the Moratorium on DOD Competitions: Background and Issues for Congress

This report discusses the status of the ongoing moratorium on the conduct of Department of Defense (DOD) public-private competitions under Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-76, and potential issues for Congress.

OMB Circular A-76 is a federal executive branch policy for managing public-private competitions to perform functions for the federal government. A-76 states that, whenever possible, and to achieve greater efficiency and productivity, the federal government should conduct competitions between public agencies and the private sector to determine who should perform the...

U.S. Wind Turbine Manufacturing: Federal Support for an Emerging Industry

Increasing U.S. energy supply diversity has been the goal of many Presidents and Congresses. This commitment has been prompted by concerns about national security, the environment, and the U.S. balance of payments. Investments in new energy sources also have been seen as a way to expand domestic manufacturing. For all of these reasons, the federal government has a variety of policies to promote wind power.

Expanding the use of wind energy requires installation of wind turbines. These are complex machines composed of some 8,000 components, created from basic industrial materials such as...

Cuba: Issues for the 112th Congress

Cuba remains a one-party communist state with a poor record on human rights. The country’s political succession in 2006 from the long-ruling Fidel Castro to his brother Raúl was characterized by a remarkable degree of stability. The government of Raúl Castro has implemented limited economic policy changes, including an expansion of self-employment. A party congress held in April 2011 laid out numerous economic goals that, if implemented, could significantly alter Cuba’s state-dominated economic model. Few observers expect the government to ease its tight control over the political system....

Can Contractionary Fiscal Policy Be Expansionary?

As Congress considers policies to foster economic growth, arguments have been made that the traditional expectations of fiscal policy, namely that cutting spending will contract the economy in the short run, should be reversed. Proponents of this view also argue that cutting spending rather than raising taxes would be a more effective means of increasing economic growth (or at least avoiding contractions). These arguments often refer to recent empirical studies of deficit reductions across countries.

This view contrasts with that held by most economists and found in conventional models....

The Challenge of Individual Income Tax Reform: An Economic Analysis of Tax Base Broadening

Congressional interest in a major reform of the individual income tax that would broaden the base and use the additional tax revenues to lower rates and/or reduce the deficit has increased. The President’s Fiscal Commission, for example, proposed an individual income tax reform with three objectives: to broaden the base and lower the tax rate, to contribute to deficit reduction, and to maintain or increase the progressivity of the tax system. The Fiscal Commission proposed to broaden the tax base by eliminating or modifying most tax expenditures. One legislative proposal in the 112th...

Availability of Injunctive Relief for Standard-Essential Patent Holders

An “industry standard” is a set of technical specifications that provides a common design for a product or process. Standardization is crucial to the functioning of the modern innovation-based economy and in particular to the efficient interoperability of technologically complex consumer electronic devices. Standards allow several firms to supply services and products that incorporate the standard, which may help to lower prices and provide greater consumer choices. Standard-setting organizations (SSOs) are voluntary membership organizations in which industry participants collaboratively...

The “Fiscal Cliff”: Macroeconomic Consequences of Tax Increases and Spending Cuts

A major policy concern for Congress has been when and whether to address the “fiscal cliff,” a set of tax increases and spending cuts that would have substantially reduced the deficit in 2013. In projections made in March 2012 by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), this fiscal restraint, constituting 5.1% of output in 2013, would have reduced growth to 0.5% from 4.4%. Unemployment would increase by 2 million. In August, updated estimates projected growth at a negative 0.5%. The American Taxpayer Relief Act (H.R. 8) eliminated part of the fiscal cliff.

Policy choices with respect to the...

Federal Programs Available to Unemployed Workers

Four groups of federal programs target unemployed workers: unemployment insurance, health care assistance, job search assistance, and training. This report presents information on federal programs targeted to unemployed workers specifically, but does not attempt to discuss means-tested programs (such as Medicaid or SSI) that are available regardless of employment status.

When eligible workers lose their jobs, the Unemployment Compensation (UC) program may provide up to 26 weeks of income support through the payment of regular UC benefits. Unemployment benefits may be extended by the...

Economic Growth and the Unemployment Rate

A persistently high unemployment rate is of concern to Congress for a variety of reasons, including its negative consequences for the economic well-being of individuals and its impact on the federal budget. The unemployment rate was 9.5% when the economy emerged from the 11th postwar recession in June 2009. It climbed further to peak at 10.0% in October 2009. The rate has slowly declined since then. Although it dropped below 8% in the fourth quarter of 2012, the unemployment rate remains high by historical standards.

After most postwar recessions, it took at least eight months for the...

The “Fiscal Cliff” and the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012

The federal budget deficit has exceeded $1 trillion in each of the last four fiscal years (FY2009-FY2012). Concern over these large deficits, as well as the long-term trajectory of the federal budget, resulted in significant debate during the 112th Congress over how to achieve meaningful deficit reduction and how to implement a plan to stabilize the federal debt. Numerous expiring provisions, across-the-board spending cuts, and other short-term considerations having a major budgetary impact, were scheduled to take effect at the very end of 2012 or in early 2013. This combination of...

Russia’s Accession to the WTO and Its Implications for the United States

In 1993, Russia formally applied for accession to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). In 1995, its application was taken up by the World Trade Organization (WTO), the successor organization of the GATT. Russia is the largest economy not in the WTO; after a number of fits and starts during the 18-year process, the then-153 members of the WTO, on December 16, 2011, invited Russia to join the WTO during the Ministerial Conference in Geneva. On July 10 and July 18, 2012, respectively, the lower house of the Russian parliament—the State Duma—and the upper house—the Federal...

Ghana: Recent Developments and U.S. Relations

Ghana: Bilateral Cooperation and Leadership Engagement

Ghana is considered a model for many of the outcomes that many Members of Congress have long sought to achieve in sub-Saharan Africa in the areas of authorizations; appropriations and program guidance; and oversight. Ghana has received a large U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Compact and may soon receive a second. It is also a recipient of substantial U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and State Department bilateral aid, much of which is channeled through three presidential development initiatives:

the Global...

The Definition of “Supervisor” Under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA)

The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) establishes certain protections for private sector employees who want to form or join a labor union. These protections do not extend to supervisors. Historically, Congress has debated where to draw the line between employees who have different levels of management responsibility. It is generally agreed that employees who have significant supervisory duties, such as hiring and firing, are supervisors. However, disagreement occurs with respect to employees who have minor supervisory duties.

In 2001, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the test...

Physician Practices: Background, Organization, and Market Consolidation

A growing number of U.S. physicians are combining their practices; affiliating with hospitals, insurance companies, and specialty management firms; or going to work directly for such organizations. The moves are part of a broader trend toward consolidation in health care, with the overall number of mergers and acquisitions in the sector at the highest level in a decade.

Alterations in physician practice appear to be a response to a number of factors. Younger doctors are more eager than their predecessors to work for an outside institution, such as a hospital, to secure a set schedule and...

The U.S. Oil Refining Industry: Background in Changing Markets and Fuel Policies

A decade ago, 158 refineries operated in the United States and its territories and sporadic refinery outages led many policy makers to advocate new refinery construction. Fears that crude oil production was in decline also led to policies promoting alternative fuels and increased vehicle fuel efficiency. Since the summer 2008 peak in crude oil prices, however, the U.S. demand for refined petroleum products has declined, largely due to the economic recession, and the outlook for the petroleum refining industry in the United States has changed.

In response to weak demand for gasoline and...

Distributional Effects of Taxes on Corporate Profits, Investment Income, and Estates

Tax reductions enacted in 2001-2004 reduce the effective tax rate on capital income in several different ways. Taxes on capital arise from individual taxes on dividends, interest, capital gains, and income from non-corporate businesses (proprietorships and partnerships). Reductions in marginal tax rates, as well as some tax benefits for business, reduce these taxes. Taxes on capital income also arise from corporate profits taxes, which are affected not only by rate reductions but also by changes to provisions affecting depreciation, interest deductions, other deductions and credits....

Structure and Functions of the Federal Reserve System

In 1913, Congress created the Federal Reserve System to serve as the central bank for the United States. The Federal Reserve formulates the nation’s monetary policy, supervises and regulates banks, and provides a variety of financial services to depository financial institutions and the federal government. The system comprises three major components: the Board of Governors, a network of 12 Federal Reserve Banks, and member banks.

Congress created the Federal Reserve as an independent agency to enable the central bank to carry out its responsibilities protected from excessive political and...

Tax Cuts on Repatriation Earnings as Economic Stimulus: An Economic Analysis

From the start of the 112th Congress, reform of the current U.S. corporate tax system has been widely debated as an option to stimulate the economy. Most of the debate has focused on lowering the corporate tax rate and moving toward a territorial system. An exception to this approach is a plan to reduce the tax rate on repatriated dividends that has received some consideration. Under such a plan, the U.S. tax that U.S. firms pay when their overseas operations remit (“repatriate”) their foreign earnings as dividends to their U.S. parent corporations would be reduced. Variations of this type...

Immigration of Foreign Nationals with Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Degrees

Although the United States remains the leading host country for international students in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) fields, the global competition for talent has intensified. A record number of STEM graduates—both U.S. residents and foreign nationals—are entering the U.S. labor market, and there is a renewed focus on creating additional immigration pathways for foreign professional workers in STEM fields. Current law sets an annual worldwide level of 140,000 employment-based admissions, which includes the spouses and children in addition to the principal...

Offshoring (or Offshore Outsourcing) and Job Loss Among U.S. Workers

Offshoring, also known as offshore outsourcing, is the term that came into use more than a decade ago to describe a practice among companies located in the United States of contracting with businesses beyond U.S. borders to perform services that would otherwise have been provided by in-house employees in white-collar occupations (e.g., computer programmers and systems designers, accounting clerks and accountants). The term is equally applicable to U.S. firms’ offshoring the jobs of blue-collar workers on textile and auto assembly lines, for example, which has been taking place for many...

Taxes and the Economy: An Economic Analysis of the Top Tax Rates Since 1945 (Updated)

Income tax rates are at the center of many recent policy debates over taxes. Some policymakers argue that raising tax rates, especially on higher income taxpayers, to increase tax revenues is part of the solution for long-term debt reduction. This report examines the top tax rates since 1945 and analyzes the ways in which tax rates affect economic growth.

Economic Downturns and Crime

The United States is currently recovering from a broad recession that is considered the longest-lasting economic downturn since World War II. Various indicators of economic strength, such as the unemployment rate and foreclosures, reached their worst showings in decades during the recession and the following months. The state of the economy has generated debate concerning whether economic factors can affect crime. This report examines research on how selected economic variables may or may not be related to crime rates.

There are multiple macroeconomic indicators, such as the consumer price...

Value-Added Modeling for Teacher Effectiveness

Two of the major goals of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (P.L. 107-110; NCLB), are to improve the quality of K-12 teaching and raise the academic achievement of students who fail to meet grade-level proficiency standards. In setting these goals, Congress recognized that reaching the second goal depends greatly on meeting the first; that is, quality teaching is critical to student success. Thus, NCLB established new standards for teacher qualifications and required that all courses in “core academic subjects” be taught...

The Hatch-Waxman Act: Over a Quarter Century Later

Congressional interest in health-related issues has refocused attention on legislative efforts to provide both new as well as lower-cost pharmaceuticals for the marketplace. P.L. 98-417, the Drug Price Competition and Patent Term Restoration Act of 1984 (commonly known as the Hatch-Waxman Act), made significant changes to the patent laws as they apply to pharmaceutical products in an attempt to balance the need for innovative new drugs and the availability of less expensive generic products. The act created several practices intended to facilitate the marketing of generic drugs while...

Alternative Minimum Taxpayers by State: 2009, 2010, and Projections for 2012

Report that breaks down, state-by-state, the percentage of taxpayers subject to Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT), and also maps out these projections for the year 2012.

The Bayh-Dole Act: Selected Issues in Patent Policy and the Commercialization of Technology

Congressional interest in facilitating U.S. technological innovation led to the passage of P.L. 96-517, Amendments to the Patent and Trademark Act (commonly referred to as the Bayh-Dole Act after its two main sponsors). The act provides patent rights to certain inventions arising out of government-sponsored research and development (R&D) to non-profit institutions and small businesses with the expressed purpose of encouraging the commercialization of new technologies through cooperative ventures between and among the research community, small firms, and industry.

Patents provide an...

Rising Economic Powers and U.S. Trade Policy

A handful of developing countries are becoming major players in the global economy due, in part, to their large populations, rising trade flows, and rapidly growing economies. These evolving economies are likely to be of increasing interest to the 113th Congress. Led by China, these rising economic powers (REPs) include Brazil, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Russia, and Turkey. Based on purchasing power parity estimates, China, India, Brazil, and Russia are now among the 10 largest economies in the world and Mexico (#11), Indonesia (#15), and Turkey (#16) are not far behind. With large...

Industrial Competitiveness and Technological Advancement: Debate Over Government Policy

There is ongoing interest in the pace of U.S. technological advancement due to its influence on U.S. economic growth, productivity, and international competitiveness. Because technology can contribute to economic growth and productivity increases, congressional attention has focused on how to augment private-sector technological development. Legislative activity over the past 30 or more years has created a policy for technology development, albeit an ad hoc one. Because of the lack of consensus on the scope and direction of a national policy, Congress has taken an incremental approach...

Federal R&D, Drug Discovery, and Pricing: Insights from the NIH-University-Industry Relationship

Public interest in approaches that might provide prescription drugs at lower cost, particularly for the elderly, has rekindled discussion over the role the federal government plays in facilitating the creation of new pharmaceuticals for the marketplace. In the current debate, some argue that the government’s financial, scientific, and/or clinical support of health-related research and development (R&D) entitles the public to commensurate considerations in the prices charged for any resulting drugs. Others view government intervention in price decisions based upon initial federal funding as...

The U.S. Income Distribution and Mobility: Trends and International Comparisons

The historically slow rebound in the labor market from the 2007-2009 recession appears to be partly responsible for the current focus of some within the public policy community on the unequal distribution of the benefits of economic growth (e.g., higher national income) across U.S. households. This report examines changes over time and across countries in the shape of the income distribution to afford Members of Congress a broader perspective when deliberating such policy issues as the progressivity of income tax rates, the generosity of social insurance programs, and the level of the...

Drug Patent Expirations: Potential Effects on Pharmaceutical Innovation

Congress has exhibited a strong and ongoing interest in facilitating the development of new, innovative pharmaceuticals for the marketplace while reducing the cost of drugs to consumers. Policies pertaining to funding for research and development (R&D), intellectual property protection, and cooperative ventures have played an important role in the economic success of the pharmaceutical sector. Industry-specific legislation, including the Drug Price Competition and Patent Term Restoration Act of 1984, commonly known as the “Hatch-Waxman Act,” also work to encourage innovation in the...

Colombia: Background, U.S. Relations, and Congressional Interest

Colombia, a key U.S. ally, has made measurable progress in providing security despite having endured the longest internal armed conflict in the Western Hemisphere. It has long been a source for both cocaine and heroin. Drug trafficking has helped to perpetuate civil conflict by funding both left-wing and right-wing armed groups. Over the years, Colombia and the United States forged a close partnership focused initially on counternarcotics and later counterterrorism. Building on that cooperation, the U.S.-Colombia partnership has broadened to include development, human rights, and trade....

An Overview of the Transaction Account Guarantee (TAG) Program and the Potential Impact of Its Expiration or Extension

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation’s (FDIC’s) initial Transaction Account Guarantee (TAG) program provided unlimited deposit insurance for noninterest-bearing transaction accounts (NIBTAs). A NIBTA is an account in which interest is neither accrued nor paid and the depositor is permitted to make withdrawals at will. NIBTAs are frequently used by businesses, local governments, and other entities as a cash management tool, often for payroll transactions. In spite of a loss of confidence in other parts of the financial system, the insured banking sector saw few bank runs during the...

Government Transparency and Secrecy: An Examination of Meaning and Its Use in the Executive Branch

From the beginnings of the American federal government, Congress has required executive branch agencies to release or otherwise make available government information and records. Some scholars and statesmen, including James Madison, thought access to information—commonly referred to in contemporary vernacular as “transparency”—was an essential cornerstone of democratic governance. Today, the federal government attempts to balance access to information with the need to protect certain information (including national security information and trade secrets) in order to achieve transparency....

The U.S.-Panama Free Trade Agreement

On June 28, 2007, the United States and Panama signed a free trade agreement (FTA) after two and a half years and 10 rounds of negotiations. Negotiations formally concluded on December 16, 2006, with an understanding that changes to labor, environment, and intellectual property rights chapters would be made pursuant to future congressional input. These changes were agreed to and the FTA was signed in time to be considered under Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) legislation, which expired on July 1, 2007. TPA allows Congress to consider certain trade agreement implementing bills under...

U.S. Renewable Electricity: How Does Wind Generation Impact Competitive Power Markets?

U.S. wind power generation has experienced rapid growth in the last 20 years as total installed capacity has increased from 1,500 megawatts (MW) in 1992 to more than 50,000 MW in August of 2012. According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), wind power provided approximately 3% of total U.S. electricity generation in 2011. Two primary policies provide market and financial incentives that support the wind industry and have contributed to U.S. wind power growth: (1) production tax credit (PTC)—a federal tax incentive of 2.2 cents for each kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity...

Natural Gas in the U.S. Economy: Opportunities for Growth

Due to the growth in natural gas production, primarily from shale gas, the United States is benefitting from some of the lowest prices for natural gas in the world and faces the question of how to best use this resource.

Different segments of the U.S. economy have different perspectives on the role natural gas can play. Suppliers, which have become the victims of their own production success, are facing low prices that are forecast to remain low. Some companies that have traditionally produced only natural gas have even turned their attention to oil in order to improve their financial...

Federal Personnel: Conversion of Employees from Appointed (Noncareer) Positions to Career Positions in the Executive Branch

The term “burrowing in” is sometimes used to describe an employment status conversion whereby an individual transfers from a federal appointed (noncareer) position to a career position in the executive branch. Critics of such conversions note that they often occur during the transitional period in which the outgoing Administration prepares to leave office and the incoming Administration prepares to assume office. Conversions are permissible when laws and regulations governing career appointments are followed, but they can invite scrutiny because of the differences in the appointment and...

Tax Reform: An Overview of Proposals in the 112th Congress

This report gives an overview of tax reform issues. The President and leading members of Congress have stated that fundamental tax reform is a major policy objective for the 112th Congress. Some Members have said that fundamental tax reform is needed in order to raise a large amount of additional revenue, which is necessary to reduce high forecast budget deficits and the sharply rising national debt. Congressional interest has been expressed in both a major overhaul of the U.S. tax system and the feasibility of levying a consumption tax.

Australia and the U.S. Rebalancing to Asia Strategy

Australia, a traditionally staunch U.S. ally, is exploring ways to support the U.S. strategy of increasing its involvement in Asia—often called the rebalancing to Asia strategy—at a time when Australia has embarked on significant cuts to its defense budget. Australia is seeking to strengthen its long-standing defense alliance with the United States without jeopardizing its important trade relationship with China. Australia’s strategic geography is increasingly focused on its north and west at a time when the United States is also increasingly focused on the same areas, namely Southeast...

The Impact of the Federal Estate Tax on State Estate Taxes

An estate tax is a tax levied on the assets left behind by a decedent. The federal government and many state governments levy estate taxes or some type of tax on the transfer of assets at death. In 2012, the federal estate tax allows for a $5.12 million exclusion and a top rate of 35%. The federal estate tax is scheduled to revert to the pre-2001 structure on January 1, 2013, with a $1 million exclusion and top rate of 55%. The Administration’s FY2013 budget proposes a federal estate tax with a $3.5 million exemption and top rate of 45% for 2013. Many states also levy estate or inheritance...

The 2012 Farm Bill: A Comparison of Senate-Passed S. 3240 and the House Agriculture Committee’s H.R. 6083 with Current Law

Congress periodically establishes agricultural and food policy in an omnibus farm bill. The 112th Congress faces reauthorization of the current five-year farm bill (the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, P.L. 110-246) because many of its provisions expire in 2012. The 2008 farm bill contained 15 titles covering farm commodity support, horticulture, livestock, conservation, nutrition assistance, international trade and food aid, agricultural research, farm credit, rural development, bioenergy, and forestry, among others.

The Senate approved its version of the 2012 omnibus farm...

The Article V Convention for Proposing Constitutional Amendments: Historical Perspectives for Congress

The Philadelphia Convention of 1787 provided two methods of proposing amendments to the U.S. Constitution. In the first, Congress, by two-thirds vote in both houses, proposes amendments to the states. If three-fourths of the states (38 at present) vote to ratify the amendment, it becomes part of the Constitution. Since 1789, Congress has proposed 33 amendments by this method, 27 of which have been adopted. In the second method, if the legislatures of two-thirds of the states (34 at present) apply, Congress must call a convention to consider and propose amendments, which must meet the same...

U.S. Sanctions on Burma

Existing U.S. sanctions on Burma are based on various U.S. laws and presidential executive orders. This report provides a brief history of U.S. policy towards Burma and the development of U.S. sanctions, a topical summary of those sanctions, and an examination of additional sanctions that have been considered, but not enacted, by Congress, or that could be imposed under existing law or executive orders. It also discusses recent easing of some of those sanctions and provisions under which additional sanctions could be waived or removed. The report concludes with a discussion of options for...

Managing the Nuclear Fuel Cycle: Policy Implications of Expanding Global Access to Nuclear Power

After several decades of widespread stagnation, nuclear power has attracted renewed interest in recent years. New license applications for 30 reactors have been announced in the United States, and another 548 are under construction, planned, or proposed around the world. In the United States, interest appears driven, in part, by tax credits, loan guarantees, and other incentives in the 2005 Energy Policy Act, as well as by concerns about carbon emissions from competing fossil fuel technologies.

A major concern about the global expansion of nuclear power is the potential spread of nuclear...

U.S. International Trade: Trends and Forecasts

The global financial crisis and the U.S. recession, during the 19 months from December 2007 through June 2009, caused the U.S. trade deficit to decrease, or lessen, from August 2008 through May 2009. Since then it has begun to increase again as recovery has commenced. The financial crisis caused U.S. imports to drop faster than U.S. exports, but that trend has reversed as U.S. demand for imports recovers.

Exports of goods of $1,497 billion in 2011 increased from 2010 by $209 billion or 16%, while imports of goods of $2,236 billion in 2011 increased by $302 billion, also 16%, over 2010....

Federal Support for Academic Research

From the time of Vannevar Bush and his 1945 report on U.S. science policy, academic research has played a role in the nation’s economy. Vannevar Bush’s report, Science the Endless Frontier, maintained that major investments in research should be made to the nation’s universities. He stated that the research capacity of the colleges and universities was significantly important to long-term national interests. Currently, some Members of Congress have expressed concern about the health and competitiveness of the nation’s colleges and universities. There are those who continue to maintain that...

Job Growth During the Recovery

Congress in recent years passed a number of bills intended in part to jump-start a recovery in the labor market from the recession that began in December 2007. Members are interested in the labor market’s response to these measures to help them decide how well the legislation has worked and whether additional job-creation legislation may be warranted in light of the pace and composition of job growth since the recession’s end in June 2009. Accordingly, employment data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is analyzed in this report from December 2007 to September 2012 (the latest month...

Sequestration: A Review of Estimates of Potential Job Losses

Policymakers and economists have expressed concern that spending cuts and tax increases (commonly referred to as the “fiscal cliff”) may push a slowly growing economy into recession in 2013. In summer 2012, policymakers particularly focused on how sequestration as delineated in the Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011 (P.L. 112-25) might affect employment in the near term. (Sequestration refers to an automatic cancellation of a portion of federal agencies’ budgetary resources.) Effective on January 2, 2013, the BCA imposes across-the-board spending cuts split about equally (in dollar terms)...

U.S. Initial Public Stock Offerings and the JOBS Act

Over the past decade, many sources have reported a precipitous decline in the number of initial public offerings (IPOs) in the United States. These statistics raise several questions: what has caused such a decline? What are the implications for the U.S. economy, and particularly for job creation? At the same time as IPOs appear to have fallen, the amount of private stock offerings has increased, suggesting growth in an alternative source of equity financing.

This report analyzes factors contributing to the decline in IPOs, differences between an IPO involving the sale of shares to the...

Energy Tax Policy: Issues in the 112th Congress

The economic rationale for interventions in energy markets helps inform the debate surrounding energy tax policy. This report begins by providing background on the economic rationale for energy market interventions, highlighting various market failures. After identifying possible market failures in the production and consumption of energy, possible interventions are discussed. The report concludes with an analysis of energy tax policy as it stands at the start of the 112th Congress.

An Overview of Tax Provisions Expiring in 2012

A number of tax provisions have either expired at the end of 2011 or are scheduled to expire at the end of this year. This report provides an overview of these expiring provisions.

The Rum Excise Tax Cover-Over: Legislative History and Current Issues

Under current law, the excise tax on rum is $13.50 per proof gallon and is collected on rum produced in or imported into the United States. Through 2011, $13.25 per proof gallon of imported rum is transferred or “covered over” to the Treasuries of Puerto Rico (PR) and the United States Virgin Islands (USVI). In FY2011, PR received over $449.0 million in revenue and the USVI received over $133.5 million. The law does not impose any restrictions on how PR and USVI can use the transferred revenues. Both territories use some portion of the revenue to promote and assist the rum industry.

The...

Housing Issues in the 112th Congress

As the 112th Congress began, the economy was no longer officially in recession. However, housing markets remain fragile, many economic indicators remain weak, and home foreclosure rates remain high. Against this backdrop, the 112th Congress has considered a number of housing-related issues. Broadly speaking, these issues include long-term questions related to reforms to the housing finance system, short-term concerns related to ongoing turmoil in housing markets, perennial issues related to housing assistance programs, and possible reductions in funding for housing programs administered by...

Supervision of U.S. Payment, Clearing, and Settlement Systems: Designation of Financial Market Utilities (FMUs)

The U.S. financial system processes millions of transactions each day representing daily transfers of trillions of dollars, securities, and other assets to facilitate purchases and payments. Concerns had been raised, even prior to the recent financial crisis, about the vulnerability of the U.S. financial system to infrastructure failure. These concerns about the “plumbing” of the financial system were heightened following the market disruptions of the recent crisis.

The financial market infrastructure consists of the various systems, networks, and technological processes that are necessary...

National Mortgage Servicing Standards: Legislation in the 112th Congress

This report analyzes the potential misaligned incentives in the servicer-mortgage holder relationship and the servicing standards that attempt to address each concern, the servicer-borrower relationship and the relevant servicing provisions, as well as the possible implications of reforming the servicing industry.

Reduce, Refinance, and Rent? The Economic Incentives, Risks, and Ramifications of Housing Market Policy Options

The bursting of the housing bubble in 2006 precipitated the December 2007-June 2009 recession and a financial panic in September 2008. With the housing market seen as a locus for many of the economic problems that emerged, some Members of Congress propose intervening in the housing market as a means of improving not only the housing market itself but also the financial sector and the broader economy. Critics are concerned that further intervention could prolong the housing slump, delay recovery, and affect outcomes based on the government’s preferences. Three frequently discussed proposals...

The Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006

President George W. Bush signed the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA; P.L. 109-435; 120 Stat. 3198) on December 20, 2006. The PAEA was the first broad revision of the 1970 statute that replaced the U.S. Post Office with the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), a self-supporting, independent agency of the executive branch.

This report describes Congress’s pursuit of postal reform and summarizes the major provisions of the new postal reform law. The report also suggests possible PAEA-related oversight issues for Congress.

Legislatively, the pursuit of reform of the U.S. Postal Service...

Afghanistan: U.S. Foreign Assistance

The U.S. program of assistance to Afghanistan is intended to stabilize and strengthen the Afghan economic, social, political, and security environment so as to blunt popular support for extremist forces in the region. Since 2001, nearly $83 billion has been appropriated toward this effort.

Since FY2002, nearly two-thirds of U.S. assistance—roughly 62%—has gone to the training and equipping of Afghan forces. The remainder has gone to development and humanitarian-related activities from infrastructure to private sector support, governance and democratization efforts, and counter-narcotics...

When Congressional Legislation Interferes with Existing Contracts: Legal Issues

Laws enacted by Congress on occasion interfere with contracts entered into before enactment, prompting suits against the United States by disappointed contract parties. In a few of them, courts have awarded billions of dollars to the United States’ contracting partners. This report surveys the legal theories invoked in such suits. Note that litigation on the grounds covered herein can be avoided entirely if the congressional enactment is construed to apply only to future contracts.

Two competing interests underlie this report’s topic. On the one hand, protection of settled expectations, at...

Effects of Tohoku Tsunami and Fukushima Radiation on the U.S. Marine Environment

The massive Tohoku earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011, caused extensive damage in northeastern Japan, including damage to the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power installation, which resulted in the release of radiation. Some have called this incident the biggest manmade release ever of radioactive material into the oceans. Concerns arose about the potential effects of this released radiation on the U.S. marine environment and resources.

Both ocean currents and atmospheric winds have the potential to transport radiation over and into marine waters under U.S. jurisdiction. It is unknown...

JP Morgan Trading Losses: Implications for the Volcker Rule and Other Regulation

On May 10, 2012, JP Morgan disclosed that it had lost more than $2 billion by trading financial derivatives. Jamie Dimon, CEO and chairman of JP Morgan, reported that the bank’s Chief Investment Office (CIO) executed the trades to hedge the firm’s overall credit exposure as part of the bank’s asset liability management program (ALM). The CIO operated within the depository subsidiary of JP Morgan, although its offices were in London. The funding for the trades came from what JP Morgan characterized as excess deposits, which are the difference between deposits held by the bank and its...

Potential Trade Effects of Adding Vietnam to the Generalized System of Preferences Program

Report that looks at the effects of adding Vietnam to the U.S. Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) as a "developing country."

Fannie Mae’s and Freddie Mac’s Financial Problems

This report presents, in analytical question and answer form, the issues surrounding the financial conditions of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which are stockholder-owned government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs). Their federal charters give the GSEs special public policy goals aimed at providing liquidity in the mortgage market and to provide access to homeownership for underserved groups and locations. In return, their charters give the GSEs a special relationship with the government.

The U.S. Postal Service’s Financial Condition: Overview and Issues for Congress

This report provides an overview of the U.S. Postal Service’s (USPS’s) financial condition, legislation enacted to alleviate the USPS’s financial challenges, and possible issues for the 112th Congress.

Since 1971, the USPS has been a self-supporting government agency that covers its operating costs with revenues generated through the sales of postage and related products and services.

In recent years, the USPS has experienced significant financial challenges. After running modest profits from FY2004 through FY2006, the USPS lost $25.4 billion between FY2007 and FY2011. Were it not for...

Major Fiscal Issues Before Congress in FY2013

This report provides a brief overview of the major tax and spending policy changes set to take effect under current law at the end of 2012 or early in 2013. Collectively, these policies have been referred to by some as the “fiscal cliff.” Extending current revenue policies (e.g., extending the Bush tax cuts) and changing current spending policies (e.g., not allowing the BCA sequester to take effect) would increase the projected budget deficit relative to current law. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that if current law remains in place, the budget deficit will fall by $502...

Aviation and the European Union’s Emission Trading Scheme

Small Business and the Expiration of the 2001 Tax Rate Reductions: Economic Issues

At the end of 2010, the lower income tax rates provided in 2001 were to expire. The President had proposed to extend most tax cuts, but to continue higher rates for couples with income over $250,000 and singles with income over $200,000. The most important element of this proposal, as measured by revenue effect, is allowing the top rates of 33% and 35% to expire, when they would have risen to 36% and 36.9%. P.L. 111-312, enacted in December 2010, extended all tax cuts for two years, through 2012, delaying the consideration of which tax cuts to retain.

Some critics of allowing the tax rates...

Comparing Compensation for Federal and Private-Sector Workers: An Overview

Recently there has been significant congressional interest in compensation of the federal civilian workforce. The increased interest has been driven at least in part by budgetary pressure and in part by the state of the economy since the recession began in 2007. Issues related to the compensation of federal employees often center on the pay differential between federal workers and their private sector counterparts. For several years, the annual President’s Pay Agent (PPA) study has shown a large wage penalty for federal workers compared to private sector workers in similar occupations. A...

Moving to a Territorial Income Tax: Options and Challenges

Among potential tax reforms under discussion by Congress is revising the tax treatment of foreign source income of U.S. multinational corporations. Some business leaders have been urging a movement toward a territorial tax, which would eliminate some U.S. income taxes on active foreign source income. Under a territorial tax, only the country where the income is earned imposes a tax. Territorial proposals include the Grubert-Mutti proposal (included in President Bush’s Advisory Panel on Tax Reform proposal in 2005) and, more recently, a draft Ways and Means Committee proposal and a Senate...

The 2001 and 2003 Bush Tax Cuts and Deficit Reduction

Auction-Rate Securities

Many municipalities, student loan providers, and other debt issuers borrowed funds using auction-rate securities (ARSs), whose interest rates are set periodically by auctions. ARSs combine features of short- and long-term securities. ARSs are typically long-maturity bonds with interest rates linked to short-term money markets. ARS issuance volumes grew rapidly since they were introduced in the mid-1980s. By 2007, ARSs comprised a $330 billion market. The credit crunch of 2007-2008, however, exposed major vulnerabilities in the design of ARSs.

Turmoil in global financial markets that...

Confirmation of U.S. Circuit and District Court Nominations in Presidential Election Years

In 2012, a presidential election year, an ongoing subject of debate in the Senate has been how many U.S. circuit and district court nominations should be confirmed by year’s end, and how late in the year the Senate should continue to confirm them. Senators have disagreed as to what guidance, if any, previous presidential election years provide to the Senate regarding these questions. They have differed specifically on whether slowing down, or stopping, the processing of judicial nominations at a certain point during this session of Congress, or after a certain number of nominees have been...

Community Development Block Grants: Funding Issues in the 112th Congress and Recent Funding History

The FY2013 budget debate will take place within the context of growing concerns about the need to address federal budget deficits, the national debt, and a sluggish economic recovery following the longest and deepest recession since the Great Depression. The 112th Congress will continue to consider and debate a number of approaches to spur economic activity and job growth, including federal public works and community and economic development programs.

On February 13, 2012, the President released the Administration’s proposed federal budget for FY2013. The Administration’s budget proposal...

Project Labor Agreements

The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) gives most private sector workers the right to join or form a labor union and to bargain collectively over wages, hours, and working conditions. The act allows workers in the construction industry to enter into a collective bargaining agreement before a project begins. A project labor agreement (PLA) is a collective bargaining agreement that applies to a specific construction project and lasts only for the duration of the project.

In February 2009, President Barack Obama signed an Executive Order (EO) that encourages federal agencies “to consider...

Regulation of Real Estate Appraisers

Real estate appraisers attempt to measure the value of a property that is being purchased or refinanced. In mortgage contracts, the property serves as collateral for the loan. Banks and their regulators may rely on the appraisal to reduce the potential losses if the borrower fails to repay the loan. Property purchasers may also rely on an appraisal if they wish to reassure themselves that the price they offered was reasonable given market conditions. This report discusses the regulation of appraisers and provides information on related statutes and rules.

The fallout from the housing...

FDA’s Authority to Ensure That Drugs Prescribed to Children Are Safe and Effective

Update: On June 20, 2012, the House of Representatives passed, by voice vote and under suspension of the rules, S. 3187 (EAH), the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act, as amended. This bill would reauthorize the FDA prescription drug and medical device user fee programs (which would otherwise expire on September 30, 2012), create new user fee programs for generic and biosimilar drug approvals, and make other revisions to other FDA drug and device approval processes. It reflects bicameral compromise on earlier versions of the bill (S. 3187 [ES], which passed the Senate on...

China’s Auto Sector Development and Policies: Issues and Implications

The automobile industry, a key sector in China’s industrialization and modernization efforts, has been developing rapidly since the 1990s. In recent years, China has become the world’s largest automotive producer, with annual vehicle output of over 18 million units in 2011. China is now also the world’s biggest market for automobile sales. Meanwhile, China’s auto sector development and policies have caused concerns in the United States, from automotive trade, China’s failure to effectively enforce trade agreements and laws, to market barriers and government policies that increasingly favor...

Credit Union Commercial Business Lending: Key Issues for Legislation in the 112th Congress

Credit unions currently can make loans only to their members, to other credit unions, and to credit union organizations. In addition, there are restrictions in law on their business lending activities from which the credit union industry has long advocated for relief. Specific restrictions on business lending include an aggregate limit on an individual credit union’s member business loan balances and on the amount that can be loaned to one member. Industry spokesmen have argued that easing the restrictions on member business lending could increase the available pool of credit for small...

Double-Dip Recession: Previous Experience and Current Prospect

Concerns have been expressed that growth in the United States may falter to the point where the U.S. economy again experiences recession. A double-dip or W-shaped recession occurs when the economy emerges from a recession, has a short period of growth, but then, still well short of a full recovery, falls back into recession. This prospect raises policy questions about the current level of economic stimulus and whether added stimulus may be needed. The pace of the recovery has been relatively slow and growth has recently decelerated. For the first year of the recovery, real GDP grew at an...

Medical Malpractice: Overview and Legislation in the 112th Congress

As a policy area, medical malpractice involves issues related to its prevalence in the health care system; the market for provider liability insurance; and the resolution of malpractice complaints through the tort system.

Medical malpractice has attracted congressional attention numerous times over the past decades, particularly in the midst of three “crisis” periods for the liability insurance market in the mid-1970s, the mid-1980s, and the early 2000s. These periods were marked by sharp increases in medical liability insurance premiums, difficulties in finding any medical liability...

Employee Stock Options: Tax Treatment and Tax Issues

National Flood Insurance Program: Background, Challenges, and Financial Status

In 1968, Congress created the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) to address the increasing costs of taxpayer-funded disaster relief for flood victims and the increasing amount of damage caused by floods. This report provides an analysis of the NFIP and its financial status; summarizes the major challenges facing the program, including issues affecting its long-term financial solvency; presents some alternative approaches for managing and financing the flood losses; and describes pending legislation on this issue.

The Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative

In June 2005, G8 finance ministers proposed the new Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative (MDRI). The MDRI proposes to cancel debts of some of the world’s poorest countries owed to the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and African Development Bank. This report discusses MDRI’s implementation and raises some issues regarding debt relief’s effectiveness as a form of foreign assistance for possible congressional consideration.

Klamath River Basin: Background and Issues

The Klamath River Basin on the California-Oregon border is a focal point for local and national discussions on water allocation and species protection. Previously, water and species management issues have exacerbated competition and generated conflict among several interests—farmers, Indian tribes, commercial and sport fishermen, federal wildlife refuge managers, environmental groups, and state, local, and tribal governments. As is true in many regions in the West, the federal government plays a prominent role in the Klamath Basin’s waters. This role stems primarily from (1) operation and...

Ending Overfishing and Rebuilding Fish Stocks in U.S. Federal Waters

Provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSFCMA, P.L. 94-265, as amended; 16 U.S.C. §§1801 et seq.) enacted during the 1996 reauthorization and amended during the 2006 reauthorization, added specific requirements to end overfishing and to rebuild overfished fish stocks. To implement these requirements, the MSFCMA directed the National Marine Fisheries Service of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to develop regulations by 2008 to provide guidance for establishing annual catch limits (ACLs) and related biological benchmarks. By the end of...

Revisiting Mortgage Loan Disclosures Under the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

High default and foreclosure rates in the housing market have resulted in questions as to whether borrowers were fully informed about the terms of their mortgage loans. A lack of transparency with respect to loan terms and settlement costs can make it difficult for consumers to make well-informed decisions when choosing mortgage products. In addition, inadequate disclosures can make some borrowers more vulnerable to predatory lending or discriminatory practices.

The adequate disclosure of mortgage terms is a longstanding issue that has prompted several congressional actions. For example,...

Ability to Repay, Risk-Retention Standards, and Mortgage Credit Access

Prior to the recent financial crisis, mortgage underwriting standards were relaxed to the point where many borrowers could only repay their loans if favorable financial conditions that existed at the time of origination remained intact. In other words, borrowers obtained mortgage loans that relied upon interest rates not rising or the value of the underlying collateral (house prices) not declining. When market conditions changed, however, many mortgage loans became delinquent and went into default. The mortgage defaults often translated into large losses for both the borrowers and the...

What Is Systemic Risk? Does It Apply to Recent JP Morgan Losses?

Systemic risk refers to the possibility that the financial system as a whole might become unstable, rather than the health of individual market participants. Stable financial systems do not transmit

or magnify shocks to the broader economy. A firm, person, government, financial utility, or policy might create systemic risk if (1) its failure causes other failures in a domino effect; (2) news about its assets signals that others with similar assets may also be distressed, called contagion; (3) it contributes to fire sales during price declines; or (4) its absence prevents other firms from...

U.S. Spent Nuclear Fuel Storage

Regardless of the outcome of the ongoing debate about the proposed Yucca Mountain geologic waste repository in Nevada, the storage of spent nuclear fuel (SNF)—also referred to as “high-level nuclear waste”—will continue to be needed and the issue will continue to be debated. The need for SNF storage, even after the first repository is opened, will continue for a few reasons.

The Obama Administration terminated work on the only planned permanent geologic repository at Yucca Mountain, which was intended to provide a destination for most of the stored SNF. Also, the Yucca Mountain project was...

Social Security: Temporary Payroll Tax Reduction

In December 2010, Congress approved a temporary 2 percentage point reduction in the Social Security payroll tax rate for employees and the self-employed in 2011 as part of the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 (P.L. 111-312). The Social Security payroll tax rate in 2011 was 4.2% for employees and 10.4% for self-employed workers. P.L. 111-312 made no changes to the Social Security payroll tax rate for employers (6.2%) or to the amount of wages and net self-employment income subject to the Social Security payroll tax ($106,800 in 2011). It...

An Overview of Major Tax Proposals in the President's FY2012 Budget

This report provides a broad overview of the provisions included in the President's budget request. The budget groups proposed tax provisions into several general categories. According to the Administration's estimates, the tax proposals in the budget would increase revenues $280 billion over the next 10 years

Housing Counseling: Background and Federal Role

The term “housing counseling” refers to a wide variety of educational activities geared toward homebuyers, homeowners, renters, senior citizens, or other populations with particular housing goals. Some potential topics of housing counseling include pre-purchase counseling for potential homebuyers; post-purchase counseling on subjects such as budgeting or home maintenance; foreclosure prevention counseling; counseling on helping renters find or maintain rental housing; and counseling on fair housing, predatory lending, or other topics, among other things. The federal government does not...

The Federal Budget: Issues for FY2013 and Beyond

The federal budget is central to Congress's ability to exercise its "power of the purse." Over the last several fiscal years the imbalance between spending and revenues has grown as a result of the economic downturn and policies enacted in response to financial turmoil. This report discusses how a growing budget deficit will affect the FY2013 budget and government spending.

China’s Rare Earth Industry and Export Regime: Economic and Trade Implications for the United States

Over the past few years, the Chinese government has implemented a number of policies to tighten its control over the production and export of “rare earths”—a unique group of 17 metal elements on the periodic table that exhibit a range of special properties, such as magnetism, luminescence, and strength. Rare earths are important to a number of high technology industries, including renewable energy and various defense systems.

China’s position as the world’s dominant producer and supplier of rare earths (97% of total output) and its policies to limit exports have raised concerns among many...

The Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA DR): Developments in Trade and Investment

On August 5, 2004, the United States entered into the Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR). Congress passed the implementing bill on July 28, 2005 (P.L. 109-53) and CAFTA-DR entered into force with El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Guatemala by July 1, 2006, the Dominican Republic on March 1, 2007, and Costa Rica on January 1, 2009. This permanent, comprehensive, and reciprocal trade agreement eliminates tariff and non-tariff barriers to two-way trade, building on unilateral trade preferences begun under the 1983 Caribbean Basin Initiative...

Foreign Assistance Act of 1961: Authorizations and Corresponding Appropriations

The Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (P.L. 87-195; 22 U.S.C. 2151 et seq.) serves as the cornerstone for the United States’ foreign assistance policies and programs. Written, passed, and signed into law at what some consider the height of the Cold War, the act is seen by some today as anachronistic. Ironically, when President Kennedy urged the 87th Congress to enact foreign aid legislation that would exemplify and advance the national interests and security strategies of the United States post-World War II, he described the existing foreign aid mechanisms as bureaucratic, fragmented,...

Unemployment and the Availability of Health Insurance: Issues for Congress

When workers lose their jobs, they can also lose their health insurance. If that health insurance is family coverage, then a worker’s family members can also become uninsured. For individuals who do not typically use many health care services, loss of insurance might have little impact. However, for individuals who have health problems or who are injured, loss of coverage can be serious. Without insurance, individuals often have difficulty obtaining needed care and problems paying for the care they receive. Unemployed individuals and their family members who cannot postpone care may incur...

Financial Services and General Government: A Summary of the President’s FY2013 Budget Request

The Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) appropriations bill includes funding for the Department of the Treasury, the Executive Office of the President (EOP), the judiciary, the District of Columbia, and more than two dozen independent agencies. Among those independent agencies are the General Services Administration (GSA), the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the Small Business Administration (SBA), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and the United States Postal Service (USPS). The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) is funded in the House through the...

Federal Research and Development Funding: FY2012

Federal research and development (R&D) funding for FY2012 is estimated to total $138.869 billion, $3.845 billion (-2.7%) below the FY2011 funding level of $142.714 billion, and $9.042 billion (-6.1%) below the President’s request of $147.911 billion. Among the overarching issues that Congress contended with in the FY2012 appropriations process were the extent to which the federal R&D investment could grow in the context of increased pressure on discretionary spending and how available funding would be prioritized and allocated. The appropriations legislation was incorporated into two...

Executive Compensation: SEC Regulations and Congressional Proposals

Concern about shareholder value, corporate governance, and the economic and social impact of escalating pay for corporate executives has led to a controversy regarding the practices of paying these executives. Proposals have been made in the current and recent Congresses to limit executive compensation and the amount of deferred compensation for tax purposes. In the 110th Congress, two laws containing executive compensation provisions were enacted: P.L. 110-289, the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, and P.L. 110-343, the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008. Bills have...

U.S. Oil Imports and Exports

Over the last six years, net oil imports have fallen by 33% to average 8.4 million barrels per day (Mb/d) in 2011. This represents 45% of domestic consumption, down from 60% in 2005. Oil is a critical resource for the U.S. economy, but despite policy makers’ long-standing concern, U.S. oil imports had generally increased for decades until peaking in 2005. Since then, the economic downturn and higher oil prices were a drag on oil consumption, while price-driven private investment and policy helped increase domestic supply of oil and oil alternatives. Net imports are gross imports minus...

Selecting the World Bank President

On March 23, 2012, President Obama nominated Dartmouth College President Jim Yong Kim as the U.S. nominee to succeed Robert Zoellick as World Bank president. Since its founding after World War II, the presidency of the World Bank has been held by a citizen of the United States, the Bank’s largest shareholder. The current Bank President, Robert Zoellick, nominated by President George W. Bush in May 2007, will step down at the conclusion of his five-year term in June 2012. Dr. Kim is competing against two other candidates for the position: Jose Antonio Ocampo, a Colombian national and...

Pivot to the Pacific? The Obama Administration’s “Rebalancing” Toward Asia

In the fall of 2011, the Obama Administration issued a series of announcements indicating that the United States would be expanding and intensifying its already significant role in the Asia-Pacific, particularly in the southern part of the region. The fundamental goal underpinning the shift is to devote more effort to influencing the development of the Asia-Pacific’s norms and rules, particularly as China emerges as an ever-more influential regional power. Given that one purpose of the “pivot” or “rebalancing” toward the Asia-Pacific is to deepen U.S. credibility in the region at a time of...

An Analysis of the “Buffett Rule”

Energy Storage for Power Grids and Electric Transportation: A Technology Assessment

Energy storage technology has great potential to improve electric power grids, to enable growth in renewable electricity generation, and to provide alternatives to oil-derived fuels in the nation’s transportation sector. In the electric power system, the promise of this technology lies in its potential to increase grid efficiency and reliability—optimizing power flows and supporting variable power supplies from wind and solar generation. In transportation, vehicles powered by batteries or other electric technologies have the potential to displace vehicles burning gasoline and diesel fuel,...

Compensating State and Local Governments for the Tax-Exempt Status of Federal Lands: What Is Fair and Consistent?

The federal government owns significant amounts of land and resources that are exempt from state and local taxation. State and local governments provide a wide variety of services—education, social services, public safety, transportation facilities, utilities, and much more. These services are funded through intergovernmental transfers (federal grants to state governments and federal and state grants to local governments), user fees, and state and local levied taxation—property taxes, income taxes, sales and use taxes, excise taxes, severance taxes, and more.

Congress has established...

Congressional Oversight of Agency Public Communications: Implications of Agency New Media Use

This report intends to assist Congress in its oversight of executive branch agencies’ public communications. Here, “public communications” refers to agency communications that are directed to the public.

Many, and perhaps most, federal agencies routinely communicate with the public. Agencies do so for many purposes, including informing the public of its rights and entitlements, and informing the public of the agency’s activities. Agencies spent more than $900 million on contracts for advertising services in FY2010, a figure that does not include all agency communications...

U.S. Immigration Policy on Permanent Admissions

Four major principles underlie current U.S. policy on permanent immigration: the reunification of families, the admission of immigrants with needed skills, the protection of refugees, and the diversity of admissions by country of origin. These principles are embodied in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). The INA specifies a complex set of numerical limits and preference categories that give priorities for permanent immigration reflecting these principles. Legal permanent residents (LPRs) refer to foreign nationals who live permanently in the United States.

During FY2010, a total...

Executive Branch Reorganization Initiatives During the 112th Congress: A Brief Overview

On January 13, 2012, President Barack Obama announced a proposal for a federal government reorganization. This reorganization initially would involve two legislative stages. First, the President would ask Congress to reinstate the so-called “President’s reorganization authority,” an expedited process that was available to Presidents periodically between 1932 and 1984. A legislative proposal that would renew this authority was conveyed to Congress on February 16, 2012. A bill that is substantively similar to the Administration’s request, S. 2129, was subsequently introduced in the Senate....

Financial Services and General Government: FY2012 Appropriations

The Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) appropriations bill includes funding for the Department of the Treasury, the Executive Office of the President (EOP), the judiciary, the District of Columbia, and more than two dozen independent agencies. Among those independent agencies are the General Services Administration (GSA), the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the Small Business Administration (SBA), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and the United States Postal Service (USPS). The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) is funded in the House through the...

Budget Process Reform: Proposals and Legislative Actions in 2012

An array of budget process reform proposals are put forth each year seeking to refine or modify the existing constitutional requirements, laws, and rules that make up the federal budget process. This report identifies, tracks, and explains current budget process reform proposals reported from committee or considered on the floor during 2012. The proposals are organized into categories related to the existing budget process. When appropriate, a brief description of the current process is provided.

Measures included in this report are H.R. 3575, the Legally Binding Budget Act of 2011; H.R....

Rising Gasoline Prices 2012

Globalization, Worker Insecurity, and Policy Approaches

Today’s global economy, or what many call globalization, has a growing impact on the economic futures of American companies, workers, and families. Increasing integration with the world economy makes the U.S. and other economies more productive. For most Americans, this has translated into absolute increases in living standards and real disposable incomes. However, while the U.S. economy as a whole benefits from globalization, it is not always a win-win situation for all Americans. Rising trade with low-wage developing countries not only increases concerns of job loss, but it also leads...

The Depreciating Dollar: Economic Effects and Policy Response

Depreciation of the dollar since 2002 raises concern among some in Congress and the public that the dollar’s decline is a symptom of broader economic problems, such as a weak economic recovery, rising public debt, and a diminished standing in the global economy. However, a falling currency is not always a problem, but possibly an element of economic adjustments that are, on balance, beneficial to the economy.

A depreciating currency could affect several aspects of U.S. economic performance. Possible effects include increased net exports, decreased international purchasing power, rising...

Homeland Security Department: FY2012 Appropriations

This report describes the FY2012 appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The Administration requested a total appropriation (mandatory and discretionary) of $45,015 million in budget authority for FY2012. This amounts to a $1,610 million, or a 3.7%, increase from the $43,405 million enacted for FY2011 through the continuing resolution (P.L. 112-10). Total budget authority, including appropriations, fee revenues, and trust funds in the Administration’s budget request for DHS for FY2012 amounts to $57,079 million as compared to $55,783 million enacted for FY2011.

Net...

China’s Banking System: Issues for Congress

China’s banking system has been gradually transformed from a centralized, government-owned and government-controlled provider of loans into an increasingly competitive market in which different types of banks, including several U.S. banks, strive to provide a variety of financial services. Only three banks in China remain fully government-owned; most banks have been transformed into mixed ownership entities in which the central or local government may or may not be a major equity holder in the bank.

The main goal of China’s financial reforms has been to make its banks more commercially...

Reducing the Budget Deficit: Policy Issues

This report discusses why the federal government's fiscal path is unsustainable and provides an overview of proposals of selected groups that have published detailed recommendations on how to return the federal budget to a sustainable course.

Previewing the Next Farm Bill

Congress periodically establishes agricultural and food policy in an omnibus farm bill. The 112th Congress faces reauthorization of the current five-year farm bill (the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, P.L. 110-246) because many of its provisions expire in 2012. The 2008 law contained 15 titles covering farm commodity support, horticulture, livestock, conservation, nutrition assistance, international food aid, trade, agricultural research, farm credit, rural development, bioenergy, and forestry, among others. The breadth of farm bills has steadily grown in recent decades to...

The U.S. Foreign-Born Population: Trends and Selected Characteristics

This report offers context for consideration of immigration policy options by presenting data on key geographic, demographic, social, and economic characteristics of the foreign-born population residing in the United States. Interest in the U.S. foreign-born population stems in part from the changing demographic profile of the United States as well as the rapidity of such change, and how both of these trends correspond to U.S. immigration policy. Although the foreign born are relatively small in absolute terms—39.9 million people representing 12.9% of the total U.S. population of 309.3...

Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education: FY2012 Appropriations

This report provides an overview of actions taken by Congress to provide FY2012 appropriations for the accounts funded by the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (L-HHS-ED) appropriations bill. The L-HHS-ED bill provides funding for all accounts subject to the annual appropriations process at the Departments of Labor and Education. It provides annual appropriations for most agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services, with certain exceptions (e.g., the Food and Drug Administration is funded via the Agriculture appropriations...

U.S. Household Debt Reduction

Since the third quarter of 2008, U.S. household debt has steadily fallen. Household debt reduction is known as deleveraging, and such substantial and persistent deleveraging (reflected in Federal Reserve data) has been uncommon over the past several decades. Given that much household debt is used to finance consumption, which accounts for about 70% of gross domestic product, continued deleveraging implies slower consumption growth and economic recovery. Beginning in the third quarter of 2007, household net worth (i.e., the difference between the value of assets and liabilities) preceded...

Legislative Branch: FY2012 Appropriations

The legislative branch appropriations bill provides funding for the Senate; House of Representatives; Joint Items; Capitol Police; Office of Compliance; Congressional Budget Office; Architect of the Capitol; Library of Congress, including the Congressional Research Service; Government Printing Office; Government Accountability Office; and Open World.

The legislative branch budget request of $4.857 billion, which is included in the President’s budget, was submitted on February 14, 2011. This represents an approximately 7% increase over funds provided for FY2011, although the request was...

Evaluating the Current Stance of Monetary Policy Using a Taylor Rule

Oversight of the Federal Reserve's (Fed's) monetary policy decisions rests with Congress. But oversight is encumbered by the absence of a straightforward relationship between interest rates and economic performance. Further, the Fed's policy decisions are discretionary, meaning there is no objective, transparent “yardstick” for evaluating their decisions. A simple rule of thumb guide to monetary policy decisions called a “Taylor rule” is an intuitive way to judge actual policy against some objective, albeit simplistic, ideal. Taylor rules

prescribe a federal funds target based on...

Derivatives Regulation and Legislation Through the 111th Congress

In the wake of the financial crisis and unusual oil price volatility, new attention was drawn to the regulation of derivatives—and particularly toward the unregulated over-the-counter (OTC) derivatives market. What regulatory changes, if any, would reduce risks to the financial system from derivatives trading? A number of bills were introduced in the 111th Congress, and several congressional committees have held hearings. The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (P.L. 111-203) enacted a sweeping reform of derivatives trading and oversight and brought the unregulated...

The Early Agenda of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: The Nonbank Supervision Program

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) was established by Title X of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Financial Protection Act (P.L. 111-203, the Dodd-Frank Act). The creation of the CFPB consolidates many existing consumer financial protection responsibilities into one agency. The Dodd-Frank Act states that the purpose of the CFPB is to implement and enforce federal consumer financial law while ensuring that consumers can access financial products and services. The CFPB is also instructed to ensure that the markets for consumer financial services and products are...

Multilateral Development Banks: General Capital Increases

For the first time in the history of the institutions, each of the major Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) are simultaneously seeking increases in their capital bases to fund the continued expansion of their development lending programs. The requests come after several years of increased lending by the banks. If the increases are fully funded, the resources of the World Bank, African Development Bank (AfDB), European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), Asian Development Bank (AsDB), and Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) would increase by between 31% and 200%....

Pharmaceutical Patent Litigation Settlements: Implications for Competition and Innovation

Although brand-name pharmaceutical companies routinely procure patents on their innovative medications, such rights are not self-enforcing. Brand-name firms that wish to enforce their patents against generic competitors must commence litigation in the federal courts. Such litigation ordinarily terminates in either a judgment of infringement, which typically blocks generic competition until such time as the patent expires, or a judgment that the patent is invalid or not infringed, which typically opens the market to generic entry.

As with other sorts of commercial litigation, however, the...

State and Local Government Debt: An Analysis

The financial consequences of the recession that spanned from December 2007 through June 2009 have increased congressional interest in the fiscal health of state and local governments. State and local tax revenues declined, expenditures climbed, and debt increased. Even though tax revenue has begun to rebound, expenditures for unemployment benefits and other social programs remain elevated. Also, federal aid to states, which had increased as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, has receded. Federal outlays for grants in aid to state and local governments rose from $538...

U.S.-EU Trade and Economic Relations: Key Policy Issues for the 112th Congress

The 112th Congress, in both its legislative and oversight roles, confronts numerous issues that affect the trade and economic relationship between the United States and the European Union (EU). As U.S.-EU commercial interactions drive significant job creation on both sides of the Atlantic, Congress is monitoring ongoing efforts to deepen transatlantic ties that are already large, dynamic, and mutually beneficial.

U.S. and European private stakeholders, concerned about slow growth, job creation, and increased competition from emerging economies, have urged Brussels and Washington to...

The Future of the Eurozone and U.S. Interests

Seventeen of the European Union's 27 member states share an economic and monetary union (EMU) with the euro as a single currency. These countries are effectively referred to as the Eurozone. What has become known as the Eurozone crisis began in early 2010 when financial markets were shaken by heightened concerns that the fiscal positions of a number of Eurozone countries, beginning with Greece, were unsustainable. This report provides background information and analysis on the future of the Eurozone in six parts, including discussions on the origins and design challenges of the Eurozone,...

Deflation: Economic Significance, Current Risk, and Policy Responses

Despite the severity of the recent financial crisis and recession, the U.S. economy has so far avoided falling into a deflationary spiral. Since mid-2009, the economy has been on a path of economic recovery. However, the pace of economic growth during the recovery has been relatively slow, and major economic weaknesses persist. In this economic environment, the risk of deflation remains significant and its occurrence could derail sustained economic recovery.

Deflation is a persistent decline in the overall level of prices. It is not unusual for prices to fall in a particular sector because...

Housing Issues in the 111th Congress

Housing issues related to the recent turmoil in U.S. housing markets, as well as perennial issues related to the housing needs of low-income individuals and families, were prominent in the 111th Congress. The recent recession that was, in part, both a cause and a result of issues in the housing finance system put legislation designed to address current foreclosures and prevent a future crisis on the congressional agenda. At the same time, the 111th Congress faced questions about how best to meet the affordable housing needs of low-income and vulnerable populations, particularly as...

Preservation of HUD-Assisted Housing

The term “assisted housing preservation” refers to public policy efforts to maintain the affordability of rental properties financed or subsidized by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) but owned by private for-profit or nonprofit organizations. Beginning in the late 1950s, HUD extended mortgage and/or rental assistance to owners, in exchange for which the owners agreed to make their units affordable to low- and, in some cases, moderate-income tenants. The agreements to maintain affordability, sometimes called “affordability restrictions,” were to last between 20 years...

U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement and Potential Employment Effects: Analysis of Studies

The Obama Administration finalized negotiations with South Korea in early December 2010 on a bilateral free trade agreement. Congress passed the implementing legislation for the U.S.-South Korea free trade agreement on October 21, 2011 (P.L. 112-42). Congress not only plays a direct role in approving legislation that implements the provisions of free trade agreements, but also authorizes and appropriates funding for programs that are meant to provide special assistance to firms and workers that are dislocated as a result of lower barriers to trade. Since the agreement with South Korea...

The National Security Council: An Organizational Assessment

The National Security Council (NSC) was established by statute in 1947 to create an inter-departmental body to advise the President with respect to the integration of domestic, foreign, and military policies relating to the national security so as to enable the military services and the other departments and agencies of the government to cooperate more effectively in matters involving the national security. Currently, statutory members of the Council are the President, Vice President, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, and, since 2007, the Secretary of Energy; but, at the...

American Jobs Act: Provisions for Hiring Targeted Groups, Preventing Layoffs, and for Unemployed and Low-Income Workers

In response to continuing high rates of unemployment and a weak economy, President Obama announced his American Jobs Act on September 8, 2011. As stated by the President, the proposal aims to “put more people back to work and more money in the pockets of those who are working.” The proposal was introduced, by request, as S. 1549 and H.R. 12. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid subsequently introduced the proposal with a different spending offset, as S. 1660 on October 6. Since then, individual pieces of the American Jobs Act have been considered—and some provisions enacted—as freestanding...

Derivatives Legislation in the 112th Congress

In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, amid the perception that the unregulated over-the-counter (OTC) derivatives market contributed to systemic risk, the Dodd-Frank Act (P.L. 111-203) sought to remake the OTC market in the image of the regulated futures exchanges. Reforms included a requirement that swap contracts be cleared through a clearinghouse regulated by one or more federal agencies. Clearinghouses require traders to put down cash (called initial margin) at the time they open a contract to cover potential losses, and they require subsequent deposits (called maintenance margin)...

Transatlantic Regulatory Cooperation: Background and Analysis

Commercial ties between the United States and the 27-member European Union are substantial, growing, and mutually beneficial. However, differences in regulatory approaches limit an even more integrated marketplace from developing. To deal with this situation, a variety of government-to-government efforts have been created to dismantle existing regulatory barriers and to prevent new ones from emerging. These efforts fall under the rubric of transatlantic regulatory cooperation (TRC) and are at the heart of today’s U.S.-EU economic relationship.

This report is intended to serve as an...

Agriculture and Related Agencies: FY2012 Appropriations

The Agriculture appropriations bill provides funding for all of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) except the Forest Service, plus the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and, in alternating years, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).

The FY2012 Agriculture Appropriations Act (P.L. 112-55, H.R. 2112) was signed by the President on November 18, 2011, after passing both chambers by more than two-thirds majorities. It was the lead division of a three-bill “minibus” appropriation that also included Commerce-Justice-Science and Transportation-Housing and Urban Development...

A 2008 Farm Bill Program Option: Average Crop Revenue Election (ACRE)

Farm commodity programs over the decades have focused on protecting farmers against declines in farm prices and not declines in revenue (price times production). Traditional programs for field crops provide benefits to producers when farm prices drop below specified levels. To help farmers manage their revenue risks, Congress included the Average Crop Revenue Election (ACRE) program in the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-246 or 2008 farm bill) as a revenue-based program option for farmers who enroll in traditional farm commodity programs for crop years 2009-2012....

A Whole-Farm Crop Disaster Program: Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments (SURE)

In an effort to end the ad-hoc nature of emergency crop disaster assistance to farmers, Congress authorized a new Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments Program (SURE) in the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008. The program provides payments to producers for crop revenue losses due to natural disaster or adverse weather incurred on or before September 30, 2011. Although program authority has expired, SURE is still making payments for losses that occurred prior to that date.

SURE essentially compensates eligible producers for a portion of losses that are not eligible for an...

National Infrastructure Bank: Overview and Current Legislation

Several bills to establish a national infrastructure bank have been introduced in the 112th Congress. This report examines three such bills, the Building and Upgrading Infrastructure for Long-Term Development Act (S. 652), the American Infrastructure Investment Fund Act of 2011 (S. 936), and the National Infrastructure Development Bank Act of 2011 (H.R. 402). These proposals share three main goals:

increasing total investment in infrastructure by encouraging new investment from nonfederal sources;

improving project selection by insulating decisions from political influence;...

Consumer Bankruptcy and Household Debt

The Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 (BAPCPA; P.L. 109-8) included the most significant amendments to consumer bankruptcy procedures since the 1970s. Bankruptcy reform was enacted in response to the high number of consumer bankruptcy filings, which in 2004 and 2005 reached five times the level of the early 1980s. Why did filings increase so dramatically during a period that included two of the longest economic expansions in U.S. history? Because bankruptcy is by definition a condition of excessive debt, many would expect to see a corresponding increase in the...

The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement

At the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum (APEC) in November 2011, the leaders of the United States, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam announced the broad outlines of a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, which the parties hope to complete in 2012. If enacted the TPP would eliminate 11,000 tariff lines among the parties and, with 26 chapters under negotiation, potentially it could serve as a template for future trade pact among the APEC states. At the same venue the leaders of Japan, Canada, and Mexico announced that they would seek...

Patent Reform: Issues in the Biomedical and Software Industries

The Leahy-Smith America Invents Act, P.L. 112-29, passed Congress following several years of legislative debate over patent reform. This attention to patent policy reflects a recognition of the increasing importance of intellectual property to U.S. innovation. Patent ownership is perceived as an incentive to the technological advancement that leads to economic growth. As such, the number of patent applications and grants has grown significantly, as have the type and breadth of inventions that can be patented.

Along with the expansion in the number and range of patents, there were growing...

Anaerobic Digestion: Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction and Energy Generation

Anaerobic digestion technology may help to address two congressional concerns that have some measure of interdependence: development of clean energy sources and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Anaerobic digestion technology breaks down a feedstock—usually manure from livestock operations—to produce a variety of outputs including methane. An anaerobic digestion system may reduce greenhouse gas emissions because it captures the methane from manure that might otherwise be released into the atmosphere as a potent greenhouse gas. The technology may contribute to the development of clean...

Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies: FY2012 Appropriations

This report provides an overview of actions taken by Congress to provide FY2012 appropriations for Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) accounts.

On November 18, 2011, President Obama signed into law the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2012 (P.L. 112-55), which includes the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2012 (Division B). The act includes $60.91 billion for CJS, of which $7.808 billion is for the Department of Commerce, $27.408 billion is for the Department of Justice, $24.838 billion is for the science...

The EU-South Korea Free Trade Agreement and Its Implications for the United States

On October 6, 2010, the 27-member European Union (EU) and South Korea signed a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA). The South Korean National Assembly and the EU Parliament have ratified the agreement. The agreement went into effect on July 1, 2011. The South Korea-EU FTA (KOREU FTA) is the largest FTA in terms of market size that South Korea has entered into. The KOREU FTA reflects the EU and South Korean trade strategies to use FTAs to strengthen economic ties outside their home regions. It also builds upon the surge in trade and investment flows between South Korea and the EU over the...

The Budget Control Act of 2011: Effects on Spending Levels and the Budget Deficit

This report focuses on how the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA) will affect spending and the budget deficit through the "first round" effects, related to discretionary spending caps and student loan provisions, and the "second round" effects of additional deficit reduction, related to the work of the Joint Committee. The report also examines short and long run effects of deficit reduction on the economy.

Flat Tax: An Overview of the Hall-Rabushka Proposal

Boosting U.S. Exports: Selected Issues for Congress

For many years, the U.S. government has played an active role in promoting U.S. commercial exports of goods and services by administering various forms of export assistance through federal government agencies. Congress has had a long-standing interest in the effectiveness and efficiency of federal export promotion activities and may exercise export promotion authority in a number of ways, including through oversight, authorization, and funding roles.

The recent global economic downturn has renewed congressional interest in U.S. government efforts to expand U.S. exports levels. In addition,...

The Uninsured by State and Congressional District, 2010

The total U.S. civilian non-institutionalized population in 2010 was estimated to be slightly more than 304 million, of whom 15.5%, or 47.2 million, were estimated by the American Community Survey to be without health insurance or uninsured. The uninsured are far more likely than those with health insurance to report problems getting needed medical care, less likely to follow recommended treatments because of costs, have less access to care, receive less preventive care, and are more likely to be hospitalized for avoidable health problems. Moreover, it is widely believed that the...

Remote Gaming and the Gambling Industry

Fund for "Gifts to the United States for Reduction of the Public Debt": Current Law and Proposed Legislation

This report describes current law for the Public Debt Reduction Fund and discusses proposed legislation in order to evaluate four bills which have been introduced in the 112th Congress to add another method of making a contribution to reduce the national debt.

Europe’s Preferential Trade Agreements: Status, Content, and Implications

Preferential trade agreements (PTAs) comprise a variety of arrangements that favor member parties over nonmembers by extending tariff and other nontariff preferences. PTAs, particularly free trade agreements (FTAs), have proliferated in recent years. In the post-war period, the European Union (EU), which is a PTA itself, has developed the largest network of PTAs in the world. The main findings of this report are as follows.

Historically, Europe’s PTAs have differed among its partners in terms of provisions and commitments and they have been characterized by relatively modest ambition in...

Finance and the Economy: Occupy Wall Street in Historical Perspective

Wall Street and Main Street—the financial system and the real economy of goods and services—are bound together. If businesses large and small had to fund investment projects out of their own pockets, society would be significantly poorer. The financial system aggregates the savings of millions of households and allocates them to the most productive uses. The importance and value of this function are almost universally acknowledged and are axiomatic in market economics.

Nevertheless, the benefits of certain forms of financial intermediation to the real economy are not always apparent....

Wartime Contracting in Afghanistan: Analysis and Issues for Congress

Government contracting in Afghanistan and other wartime environments is different than contracting in peacetime. In peacetime, the goal of contracting is generally to obtain the good or service that is required. The measurements of success are generally getting the right good or service, on schedule, and at a fair price. In wartime, however—and particularly in a counterinsurgency environment—cost, schedule, and performance are often secondary to larger strategic goals of promoting security and denying popular support for the insurgency.

From FY2005 through 2011, the U.S. government...

Zimbabwe: The Transitional Government and Implications for U.S. Policy

The U.S. government, which has expressed concerns regarding the rule of law in Zimbabwe for over a decade and which has long been critical of President Robert Mugabe, has been cautious in its engagement with the country’s three-year-old power-sharing government. That government, which includes members of the former opposition, has improved economic and humanitarian conditions during its ongoing transitional rule. However, significant concerns about the country’s political future remain. Zimbabwe’s March 2008 elections resulted in the party of long-serving President Mugabe losing its...

Health Insurance Coverage by State and Congressional District, 2010

The total U.S. civilian non-institutionalized population in 2010 was estimated to be slightly more than 304 million. Roughly 84.5% of the U.S. civilian non-institutionalized population had one or more forms of health insurance, while 15.5%, or roughly 47.2 million, were uninsured. The most common form of insurance was employer provided.

This report employs the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2010 American Community Survey (ACS) to describe health insurance coverage and provide estimates of coverage by type of coverage at the national, state, and congressional district level. The ACS survey has a...

Fiscal Impacts of the Foreign-Born Population

This report reviews estimates of fiscal impacts to the federal, state, and local governments of the foreign born who reside in the United States. It examines the academic and policy literature on fiscal impacts of two populations: all U.S. foreign born and unauthorized aliens. Computing such fiscal impacts involves numerous methodological and conceptual challenges, and resulting estimates vary considerably according to the assumptions used, including those about the time frame considered, the treatment of U.S.-born children, the unit of analysis used, and which costs and revenues are...

The Federal Budget: Issues for FY2011, FY2012, and Beyond

Proxy Access Reform: The SEC Makes It Potentially Easier for Shareholders to Nominate Directors

In response to the financial crisis, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protections Act (P.L. 111-203) overhauled the nation’s financial sector regulation. The 112th Congress is actively involved in overseeing the act’s implementation, including provisions involving corporate governance such as expanding the role played by shareholders in the selection of public company corporate boards. While some regarded this as a change that would help make boards more sensitive to market developments and thus shareholder interests, others see it as a change that would place too much...

Issues in Homeland Security Policy for the 112th Congress

With the tenth anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks, many observers are making a fresh assessment of where America’s homeland security enterprise stands today. In the wake of those attacks, Congress made extensive changes to the structure and function of many agencies, establishing a consolidated Department of Homeland Security and dedicating significant additional resources expressly to the security of the homeland. After the initial surge of activity, evolution of America’s response has continued under the leadership of different Administrations, Congresses, and in a...

The Role of Public Works Infrastructure in Economic Recovery

During the recent recession, policymakers took a number of monetary and fiscal policy actions to stimulate the economy. Notably, Congress enacted the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) that provided increases in federal spending and reduction in taxes in order to increase demand for goods and services. However, as the economy is only slowly emerging from the recession, interest in using federal government spending to boost U.S. economic recovery has again intensified. There is widespread desire to accelerate job creation and economic recovery, although consensus on how to do so...

Limiting Central Government Budget Deficits: International Experiences

FY2011 Appropriations: A Side-by-Side Comparison of Key Proposals and Enacted Legislation

FY2011 funding levels were not enacted in the 111th Congress. Thus, the debate over FY2011 appropriations continued into the 112th Congress and FY2011 spending proposals became a key focal point in the budget debates between the now-Republican-controlled House of Representatives and the Obama Administration.

This report was originally intended to facilitate comparison of three key spending proposals for FY2011—the Administration’s budget request, H.R. 1, and S.Amdt. 149 to H.R. 1—to FY2010 enacted funding levels. It has been updated to include the enacted FY2011 appropriations in P.L....

Forest Certification Programs

The national forests have been the focus of controversy for many years. Reduced timber harvests, increased wildfire risks, degraded forest health, and disagreements among users and other stakeholders have led to congressional disputes over appropriate management. Some interests have suggested third-party certification of sustainable management of the national forests as a possible solution to many of these difficulties. There are two major certification programs in the United States: the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) program.

The FSC and...

Speculation, Fundamentals, and Oil Prices

High oil prices affect nearly every household and business in the United States. During the course of 2008, oil prices doubled to more than $145 per barrel and then fell by 80%. In early 2011, there was a run-up of about 20%, sending gasoline prices to near 2008 highs. Few would rule out the possibility of similar price swings in the months to come. What explains oil price volatility?

Some consider price movements such as those of 2008 and early 2011 to be more extreme than warranted by the fundamentals of supply and demand. Their explanation for unstable commodity prices focuses on...

Climate Change: Conceptual Approaches and Policy Tools

Congress has, over the past three decades, authorized and funded federal programs to improve understanding of climate changes and their implications. Climate changes have potentially large economic and ecological consequences, both positive and negative, which depend on the rapidity, size, and predictability of change. Some of the impacts of past change are evident in shifting agricultural productivity, forest insect infestations and fires, shifts in water supply, record-breaking summer high temperatures, and coastal erosion and inundation.

People and natural systems respond to climate...

Russian Military Reform and Defense Policy

Russia has undertaken several largely piecemeal and halting efforts to revamp the armed forces it inherited from the Soviet Union. In 2007, near the end of then-President Vladimir Putin’s second term in office, he appointed Anatoliy Serdyukov—the former head of the Federal Tax Service—as defense minister as part of an effort to combat corruption in the military and carry out reforms. After the August 2008 Russia-Georgia conflict revealed large-scale Russian military operational failures, the leadership became more determined to boost military capabilities. U.S. government and congressional...

Rising Economic Powers and the Global Economy: Trends and Issues for Congress

A small group of developing countries are transforming the global economic landscape. Led by China, India, and Brazil, these rising economic powers pose varied challenges and opportunities for U.S. economic interests and leadership of the global economy. They also raise significant policy issues for Congress, including the future direction of U.S. trade policy and negotiations, as well as for the multilateral economic institutions that have historically served as the foundation of an open and rules-based global economy.

This report addresses ongoing shifts in global trade and finance and...

Characteristics of Children With and Without Health Insurance, 2009

About 8.3 million children under age 19 in the United States, or 10.4% of children in this age group, had no health insurance for at least some of 2009. (Similarly, about 10.3% of children in this age group had no health insurance for at least some of 2008.) Children living in families below the poverty threshold, children not living with at least one parent, Hispanic children, and children whose parents did not have health insurance were especially likely to be uninsured. On the other hand, children whose parents had employer-sponsored coverage were themselves likely to have...

Greece’s Debt Crisis: Overview, Policy Responses, and Implications

The Eurozone is facing a serious sovereign debt crisis. Several Eurozone member countries have high, potentially unsustainable levels of public debt. Three—Greece, Ireland, and Portugal—have borrowed money from other European countries and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in order to avoid default. With the largest public debt and one of the largest budget deficits in the Eurozone, Greece is at the center of the crisis. The crisis is a continuing interest to Congress due to the strong economic and political ties between the United States and Europe.

Build-Up of Greece’s Debt Crisis

In...

The Economic Implications of the Long-Term Federal Budget Outlook

Following the financial crisis, the budget deficit reached 10% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2009 and 9% of GDP in 2010, a level that cannot be sustained in the long run. Concerns about long-term fiscal sustainability depend on the projected future path of the budget, absent future policy changes. While entitlement spending made little contribution to current budget deficits, the retirement of the baby boomers, rising life expectancy, and the rising cost of medical care result in projections of large and growing budget deficits over the next several decades. Social Security outlays...

Treasury Securities and the U.S. Sovereign Credit Default Swap Market

Paying the public debt is a central constitutional responsibility of Congress (Article I, Section 8). U.S. Treasury securities, which represent nearly all federal debt, have long been considered risk-free assets. The size of federal deficits and the projected imbalance between federal revenues and outlays, however, have raised concerns among some, including the rating agency Standard & Poor’s (S&P), which downgraded the U.S. sovereign credit rating from AAA to AA+ on August 5, 2011. S&P also cited “political brinksmanship” in debt ceiling negotiations as a factor, which raised the issue of...

Federal Research and Development Funding: FY2011

President Obama requested $147.696 billion for research and development (R&D) in FY2011, a $343 million (0.2%) increase from the estimated FY2010 R&D funding level of $147.353 billion. Congress plays a central role in defining the nation’s R&D priorities, especially with respect to two overarching issues: the extent to which the federal R&D investment can grow in the context of increased pressure on discretionary spending and how available funding will be prioritized and allocated. Low or negative growth in the overall R&D investment may require movement of resources across disciplines,...

Foreign Operations Appropriations: General Provisions

This report identifies the legislative origins of General Provisions that pertain to foreign aid in the current Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2010 (division F of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2010; P.L. 111-117; 123 Stat. 3034 at 3312), as continued for Fiscal Year 2011 by the Department of Defense and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011 (P.L. 112-10; 125 Stat. 38; of which sec. 1101(a)(6) continues appropriations enacted in P.L. 111-117, and division B, title XI, which provides further instruction for FY2011 foreign...

EPA’s Regulation of Coal-Fired Power: Is a “Train Wreck” Coming?

Given the central role of electric power in the nation’s economy, and the importance of coal in power production, concerns have been raised recently about the cost and potential impact of regulations under development at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that would impose new requirements on coal-fired power plants. Six of the rules, which have drawn much of the recent attention, are Clean Air Act regulations. Two others are Clean Water Act rules, and one is a Resource Conservation and Recovery Act rule. The majority are expected to be promulgated over the next 18 months. All...

Agriculture and Related Agencies: FY2011 Appropriations

The Agriculture appropriations bill provides funding for all of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) except the Forest Service, plus the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and, in some cases, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). Appropriations jurisdiction for the CFTC is split between two subcommittees—the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee and the Senate Financial Services Appropriations Subcommittee.

For the FY2011 Agriculture appropriations bill, no separate floor action and limited formal committee action occurred in the 111th Congress. The full Senate...

U.N. System Development Assistance: Issues for Congress

Members of Congress continue to demonstrate an ongoing interest in the efficiency and effectiveness of United Nations (U.N.) development activities, both in the context of U.N. reform and broader U.S. development and foreign assistance efforts. Thirty-two U.N. agencies, funds, programs, and offices play a role in development. These entities, collectively referred to as the U.N. development system (UNDS), are independent intergovernmental organizations with distinct mandates, rules, membership, and financial resources. They work to help countries achieve social and economic progress through...

The Debt Limit: CRS Experts

Financial Services and General Government: FY2012 Appropriations Overview

The Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) appropriations bill includes funding for the Department of the Treasury, the Executive Office of the President (EOP), the judiciary, the District of Columbia, and more than two dozen independent agencies. Among those independent agencies are the General Services Administration (GSA), the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the Small Business Administration (SBA), the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC), and the United States Postal Service (USPS). The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) is funded in the House through the...

Challenge to the Boeing-Airbus Duopoly in Civil Aircraft: Issues for Competitiveness

The importance of a successful aerospace industry to the United States economy has been repeatedly acknowledged by President Obama and members of his Cabinet, many Members of Congress, and by all concerned with the competitive fortunes of the U.S. aircraft manufacturing industry. The U.S. aerospace industry is highly competitive and global in scope. U.S. firms manufacture a wide range of products for civil and defense purposes and, in 2010, the value of aerospace industry shipments was estimated at $171 billion, of which civil aircraft and aircraft parts accounted for over half of all U.S....

Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies: FY2011 Appropriations

This report provides an overview of actions taken by Congress to provide FY2011 appropriations for Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS). It also provides an overview of FY2010 appropriations for agencies and bureaus funded as a part of the annual appropriation for CJS.

The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2010 (P.L. 111-117), included a total of $68.705 billion in new budget authority for CJS. Of the $68.705 billion appropriated for FY2010, $14.035 billion was for the Department of Commerce, $28.078 billion was for the Department of Justice, $25.658 billion was for the...

Homeland Security Department: FY2011 Appropriations

This report describes the FY2011 appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The Administration requested a net appropriation of $45.0 billion in budget authority for FY2011. This amounts to a $1.1 billion, or a 2.4% increase from the $43.9 billion enacted for FY2010. Total budget authority requested by the Administration for DHS for FY2011 amounts to $52.6 billion as compared to $51.7 billion enacted for FY2010.

Net requested appropriations for major agencies within DHS were as follows: Customs and Border Protection (CBP), $9,809 million; Immigration and Customs...

Oil Industry Financial Performance and the Windfall Profits Tax

Over the past 13 years, surging crude oil and petroleum product prices have increased oil and gas industry revenues and generated record profits, particularly for the top five major integrated companies, ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell, BP, Chevron, and ConocoPhillips. These companies, which reported a predominant share of those profits, generated more than $104 billion in profit on nearly $1.8 trillion of revenues in 2008, before declining as a result of the recession and other factors. From 2003 to 2008, revenues increased by 86%; net income (profits) increased by 66%. Oil output by the...

Potential Trade Implications of Restrictions on Antimicrobial Use in Animal Production

Exports of U.S. livestock and poultry products are important both to farmers and to the U.S. economy. In 2009, U.S. livestock and poultry exports were valued at more than $10 billion, accounting for about 12% of total global meat trade (estimated at nearly $87 billion in 2009).

Growing concerns about antimicrobial resistance have caused some U.S. trading partners and competitors to implement restrictions and prohibitions on the use of certain antimicrobials for subtherapeutic or nontherapeutic purposes in animal production. Although antibiotic use in animals has not been a significant...

Financial Services and General Government (FSGG): FY2011 Appropriations

The Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) appropriations bill includes funding for the Department of the Treasury, the Executive Office of the President, the judiciary, the District of Columbia, and 26 independent agencies. Among the independent agencies funded by the bill are the Small Business Administration, the Office of Personnel Management, and the United States Postal Service.

The FSGG FY2010 appropriations were provided through P.L. 111-117, Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2010. P.L. 111-117 provided $46.265 billion for FSGG agencies in FY2010. In addition, P.L. 111-80...

Patent Reform in the 112th Congress: Innovation Issues

Brief History of the Gold Standard in the United States

The U.S. monetary system is based on paper money backed by the full faith and credit of the federal government. The currency is neither valued in, backed by, nor officially convertible into gold or silver. Through much of its history, however, the United States was on a metallic standard of one sort or another.

On occasion, there are calls for Congress to return to such a system. Such calls are usually accompanied by claims that gold or silver backing has provided considerable economic benefits in the past. This report briefly reviews the history of the gold standard in the United States....

The Quasi Government: Hybrid Organizations with Both Government and Private Sector Legal Characteristics

To assist Congress in its oversight, this report provides an overview of federally related entities that possess legal characteristics of both the governmental and private sectors. These hybrid organizations (e.g., Fannie Mae, National Park Foundation, In-Q-Tel), collectively referred to in this report as the “quasi government,” have grown in number, size, and importance in recent decades.

A brief review of executive branch organizational history is followed by a description of entities with ties to the executive branch, although they are not “agencies” of the United States as defined in...

Waiving the Restriction of Annual Limits in Private Health Insurance

Considerable congressional attention has been placed on the dollar value of health insurance coverage in terms of out-of-pocket (OOP) costs placed on policyholders. One method that lowers the dollar value of coverage is the use of annual limits on the dollar amount of coverage. Private health insurers use annual limits to require the consumer to assume 100% of the cost of coverage after a certain amount of spending for the year has been reached. While annual limits may be a benefit design feature in any type of health insurance, they are used as the primary method of cost control for...

Japan’s 2011 Earthquake and Tsunami: Economic Effects and Implications for the United States

The March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami that occurred in Japan followed by the nuclear crisis are having a large negative impact on the economy of Japan but a lesser effect on world trade and financial markets. Japan has lost considerable physical and human capital. Physical damage has been estimated to be from $195 billion to as much as $305 billion. (Greece’s GDP is $330 billion.) In excess of 23,000 persons in Japan are killed or missing, and more than 400,000 homes and other buildings have been totally or partially damaged. The negative effects of the earthquake and tsunami have...

Reducing the Budget Deficit: The President’s Fiscal Commission and Other Initiatives

The federal budget is on an unsustainable path. Though deficit levels are currently elevated, they are expected to fall towards the middle part of the decade as the economic recovery continues. Looking beyond this decade, however, the country’s fiscal outlook becomes more bleak as spending on programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, and net interest are projected to consume a larger portion of the total federal budget.

Budget policy debates thus far in the 112th Congress have centered on how to achieve meaningful deficit reduction and implementation of a plan to stabilize the...

Political Status of Puerto Rico: Options for Congress

Legislative Branch: FY2011 Appropriations

The legislative branch operated on continuing resolutions from October 1, 2010 (P.L. 111-242, P.L. 111-290, P.L. 111-317, P.L. 111-322, P.L. 112-4, and P.L. 112-6) until the enactment of P.L. 112-10 on April 11, 2011. P.L. 112-10 provides $4.54 billion for legislative branch activities.

The legislative branch appropriations bill provides funding for the Senate; House of Representatives; Joint Items; Capitol Police; Office of Compliance; Congressional Budget Office; Architect of the Capitol, including the Capitol Visitor Center; Library of Congress, including the Congressional Research...

Tax Expenditures and the Federal Budget

New Zealand: Background and Bilateral Relations with the United States

New Zealand is increasingly viewed as a stalwart partner of the United States that welcomes U.S. presence in its region. New Zealand and the United States enjoy very close bilateral ties across the spectrum of relations between the two countries. These ties are based on shared cultural traditions and values as well as on common interests. New Zealand is a stable and active democracy with a focus on liberalizing trade in the Asia-Pacific region. New Zealand also has a history of fighting alongside the United States in most of its major conflicts including World War I, World War II, Korea,...

International Monetary Fund: Selecting a Managing Director

On May 14, 2011, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), was arrested at John F. Kennedy Airport and charged with the attempted rape, criminal sexual assault, and unlawful imprisonment of a maid at the New York City Sofitel hotel. He resigned on May 18, 2011. Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s arrest and resignation come at a challenging time for the IMF, which he had led since 2007. Under his leadership, the IMF reasserted its role as the premier international organization for international economic corporation. In the wake of the financial crisis, Mr....

Overview of the Federal Debt

The size of current and projected federal deficits and the accumulation of federal debt are central to current congressional deliberations regarding fiscal reforms. This report provides a broad overview of the federal debt, annual budget deficits, and debt service costs. Federal debt is the accumulated sum of unrepaid borrowing by the federal government over time. The total federal debt consists of debt held by the public and intragovernmental debt. Debt owed to the public represents borrowing from entities other than the federal government, and includes borrowing from state and local...

Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico: CRS Experts

Conservation Reserve Program: Status and Current Issues

The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), enacted in the 1985 farm bill, provides payments to farmers to take highly erodible or environmentally sensitive cropland out of production for 10 years or more. It is the federal government’s largest private land retirement program. The program is administered by the Farm Service Agency (FSA) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), with technical assistance provided by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. The CRP also has several subprograms, the best-known of which is the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP).

The 2008...

International Climate Change Financing: Needs, Sources, and Delivery Methods

Many voices, domestic and international, have called upon the United States to increase foreign assistance to address climate change. Proponents maintain that such assistance could help promote low-emissions and high-growth economic development in lower-income countries, while simultaneously protecting the more vulnerable countries from the effects of a changing climate. Recent studies estimate the needs for climate change financing in the developing world to range from US$4 billion to several hundred billion annually by the year 2030. The United States has pledged funds in such fora as...

Israel’s Offshore Natural Gas Discoveries Enhance Its Economic and Energy Outlook

Israel has been dependent on energy imports since it became a nation in 1948, but the recent offshore natural gas discoveries could change that and possibly make Israel an exporter of natural gas. Development of the recently discovered natural gas fields—Tamar, Dalit, and Leviathan—likely will decrease Israel’s needs for imported natural gas, imported coal, and possibly imported oil. A switch to natural gas would most likely affect electric generation, but could also improve Israel’s trade balance and lessen carbon dioxide emissions. Regionally, Israel’s success thus far has sparked...

Health Insurance Coverage by State and Congressional District, 2009

Roughly 85% of Americans were covered by health insurance in 2009. The insured were more likely to be white or Asian; more educated; higher income; elderly; and female. The uninsured, about 15% of the population, were more likely to be African American or Hispanic; less educated; lower income; non-elderly adult; and male. In general, the uninsured are more likely to report problems getting needed medical care and to be hospitalized for avoidable health problems.

This report employs the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2009 American Community Survey (ACS) to describe health insurance coverage and...

Public Financing of Congressional Campaigns: Overview and Analysis

To critics, public campaign financing, generally in conjunction with spending limits, is the ultimate solution to perceived problems arising from ever-growing costs of campaigns and the accompanying need for privately donated campaign funds. Public financing supporters maintain that replacing private funds with public money would most effectively reduce potentially corrupting influence from “interested” money. On the other hand, opponents of public financing question whether real or apparent corruption from private fundraising is as serious a problem as critics claim. They also argue that...

Analysis of an Estimate of the Total Costs of Federal Regulations

Some policy makers have expressed an interest in measuring total regulatory costs and benefits (e.g., the Congressional Office of Regulatory Analysis Creation and Sunset and Review Act of 2011, H.R. 214, 112th Congress), and estimates of total regulatory costs have been cited in support of regulatory reform legislation (e.g., H.R. 10, the Regulations from the Executive In Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act, H.R. 10, 112th Congress). However, measuring total costs and benefits is inherently difficult. This report examines one such study to illustrate the complexities of this type of analysis.

A...

Railroad Access and Competition Issues

Beginning in the late 1970s, Congress gave railroads flexibility to set rates and to enter into confidential contracts with their customers. Over the last decade, large railroads have consolidated and, particularly in recent years, have achieved higher profitability. These changes have left some bulk shippers, particularly those that claim to be “captive” to a single railroad, frustrated with what they perceive as poor rail service and exorbitant rates. “Captive shippers” claim that the railroad serving them acts like a monopoly—charging excessively high rates and providing less service...

District of Columbia Opportunity Scholarship Program: Implementation Status and Policy Issues

The Consolidated Appropriations Act for FY2004 (P.L. 108-199), which combined six appropriations bills—including the FY2004 District of Columbia Appropriations Act—authorized and appropriated funding for the Opportunity Scholarship program, a federally funded school voucher program, for the District of Columbia. It also provided funding for the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) for the improvement of public education and the State Education Office for public charter schools. The provision of federal funds for DCPS, public charter schools, and vouchers is commonly referred to as...

The Obama Administration’s Report on “Reforming America’s Housing Finance Market”: Implications for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac

In February 2011, the Obama Administration released a report, “Reforming America’s Housing Finance Market,” setting out several options for the future of housing finance. In the past, the government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have played a crucial role in government support for the mortgage market. In 2008, however, both firms were taken over by the government and have received government life support since then. Fannie and Freddie continue to provide funds for mortgage lending, at a time when private capital has largely exited the market and not yet returned,...

Value-Added Tax (VAT) as a Revenue Option: A Primer

This report summarizes issues, arguments, and concerns relevant to a value-added tax (VAT).

Impact on the Federal Budget of Freezing Non-Security Discretionary Spending

This report examines the impact on the federal budget of the President’s proposals, specifically the proposed freeze in non-security discretionary spending and how the freeze might change the fiscal outlook over the 10-year budget window.

Should the United States Levy a Value-Added Tax for Deficit Reduction?

This report discusses the levying of a value-added tax (VAT), a broad-based consumption tax, to potentially assist in resolving United States fiscal problems. It considers the experiences of the 29 nations with value-added taxes (VATs) in the 30-member Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) which are relevant to the feasibility and operation of a possible U.S. VAT.

U.S. and EU Agricultural Support: Overview and Comparison

The European Union (EU) is one of the United States’ chief agricultural trading partners but also a major competitor in world markets. Both the United States and the EU provide significant government support for their agricultural sectors. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), in 2009 the EU and the United States together accounted for 60% of all government support to agriculture among the major developed economies.

In the United States, federal farm policy has traditionally focused on price and/or income support programs concentrated on row crops...

Liability and Compensation Issues Raised by the 2010 Gulf Oil Spill

The 2010 Deepwater Horizon incident produced the largest oil spill that has occurred in U.S. waters, releasing more than 200 million gallons into the Gulf of Mexico. BP has estimated the combined oil spill costs—cleanup activities, natural resource and economic damages, potential Clean Water Act (CWA) penalties, and other obligations—will be approximately $41 billion.

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill raised many issues for policymakers, including the ability of the existing oil spill liability and compensation framework to respond to a catastrophic spill. This framework determines (1) who...

Middle East and North Africa Unrest: Implications for Oil and Natural Gas Markets

Political unrest in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) has contributed to higher oil prices and added instability to energy markets. Supply disruptions and fears about the possible spread of unrest to major exporters have pushed prices higher. Even if the crisis abates, some risk premium may persist to the degree that market participants fear such an event could occur again.

Higher oil prices can negatively impact the economies of oil importing countries. The cost of oil is the primary determinant of gasoline prices and prices of other petroleum products; increased costs can be a...

Previewing Dairy Policy Options for the Next Farm Bill

Financial stress encountered by dairy farmers in recent years has led Congress and the industry to reconsider how to deal with fluctuations in milk prices and financial prospects for dairy farmers. Some Members have voiced interest in alternatives to current federal programs (which expire in 2012). Alternative policies could either be incorporated into the next omnibus farm bill or enacted separately before expiration.

The dairy industry is currently developing or advocating a variety of policy changes. All of the proposals discussed in this report—loosely categorized as either supply...

Characteristics of Individuals With and Without Health Insurance, 2009

Almost 51 million people, or 16.7% of the U.S. population, had no health insurance for at least some of 2009. In fact, the aggregate uninsurance rate over the past decade was never less than 13.4%. Individuals living in poorer families, young adults between ages 19 and 25, and Hispanics were especially likely to be uninsured. On the other hand, individuals over 65, who are almost always eligible for Medicare, were the least likely to be uninsured. An extensive body of research suggests that those without health insurance are more likely to face worse health outcomes than those with...

U.S. Immigration Policy on Temporary Admissions

U.S. law provides for the temporary admission of various categories of foreign nationals, who are known as nonimmigrants. Nonimmigrants are admitted for a designated period of time and a specific purpose. They include a wide range of visitors, including tourists, foreign students, diplomats, and temporary workers. There are 24 major nonimmigrant visa categories. These visa categories are commonly referred to by the letter and numeral that denotes their subsection in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA); for example, B-2 tourists, E-2 treaty investors, F-1 foreign students, H-1B...

Medical Malpractice Insurance and Health Reform

As a policy area, concerns about medical malpractice typically involve issues related to the market for physician liability insurance, the prevalence of malpractice in the health care system, and the resolution of malpractice complaints through the tort system. This report focuses primarily on the private insurance market. Medical malpractice liability insurance has attracted congressional attention numerous times over the past decades, particularly in the midst of three “crisis” periods in the mid-1970s, the mid-1980s, and the early 2000s. These periods were marked by sharp increases in...

The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and the Gulf of Mexico Fishing Industry

On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig was destroyed by an explosion and fire, and the oil well began releasing oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The oil spill caused significant economic harm to the Gulf fishing industry because of fishery closures and consumer concerns related to the safety of Gulf seafood. Intermediate and long-term concerns are related to impacts on marine populations and degradation of fisheries habitat necessary for spawning, development of early life stages, and growth.

The closing and opening of fishing grounds has involved a tradeoff between...

Empowerment Zones, Enterprise Communities, and Renewal Communities: Comparative Overview and Analysis

Empowerment Zones (EZs), Enterprise Communities (ECs), and Renewal Communities (RCs) are federally designated geographic areas characterized by high levels of poverty and economic distress, where businesses and local governments may be eligible to receive federal grants and tax incentives. Congress remains interested in these programs to revitalize selected areas affected by unemployment and a decline in economic activity, despite increased concern over the size and sustainability of the long-term budget outlook.

The objective of this report is to provide a comparative overview of the...

The Market for Biomass-Based Diesel Fuel in the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS)

The market for biomass-based diesel (BBD) fuel, most notably biodiesel, has expanded rapidly since 2004, largely driven by federal policies, especially tax credits and a mandate for their use under the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Most expect that the majority of the BBD fuel quota in the RFS will be met using biodiesel produced from soybean oil. Biodiesel from other feedstocks, and other biomass-based substitutes (e.g., synthetic diesel from cellulosic feedstocks or algae) could play a larger role in the future, although currently these other alternatives are prohibitively...

Environmental, Health, and Safety Tradeoffs: A Discussion of Policymaking Opportunities and Constraints

A policymaker making a decision on approving a program may face the questions, What are the tradeoffs? What alternatives are foregone by committing resources to that program? This issue has been sharpened in environmental, health, and safety policy because studies indicate that some programs are more cost-effective than others, suggesting that redirecting resources from less efficient to more effective programs would increase overall national economic welfare.

Actually making implied tradeoffs has proved difficult, however. One reason is continuing controversy over methods for evaluating...

Legislative, Executive, and Judicial Officials: Process for Adjusting Pay and Current Salaries

Leaders and Members of the Senate and the House of Representatives, the Vice President, individuals in positions on the Executive Schedule (EX), and federal justices and judges—all hereafter referred to as federal officials—are to receive an annual pay adjustment under the Ethics Reform Act of 1989, P.L. 101-194 (103 Stat. 1716, at 1769, 5 U.S.C. §5318 note). The percentage change in the wages and salaries for the private industry workers element of the Employment Cost Index (ECI), minus 0.5% (December indicator), provides the basis for the pay adjustment. In January 2011, the Vice...

Salary Linkage: Members of Congress and Certain Federal Executive and Judicial Officials

The salaries of Members of Congress, certain high-level federal officials (those paid at Level II of the Executive Schedule (EX)), and certain federal Justices and judges have, until recently, generally been in parity for many years. The Ethics Reform Act of 1989 provides for annual pay adjustments to be established for the Members, the Vice President, federal officials paid under the EX Schedule, and federal Justices and judges. The act also requires a Citizens’ Commission on Public Service and Compensation and the President to recommend salaries in parity for these federal government...

Federal Benefits and Services for People with Low Income: Programs, Policy, and Spending, FY2008-FY2009

The federal government spent almost $708 billion in FY2009 on programs for low-income people, and nearly $578 billion the previous year. The increased spending between the two years was largely due to the recession, with almost two-thirds coming from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA, P.L. 111-5), the economic stimulus enacted in February 2009.

Low-income programs discussed in this report are distinct from social insurance programs, such as Social Security or Medicare, which aim to protect American workers universally against lost wages or benefits when they retire, become...

Currency Manipulation: The IMF and WTO

Congress has been concerned, for many years, with the possible impact that currency manipulation has on international trade. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has jurisdiction for exchange rate questions. The World Trade Organization (WTO) is responsible for the rules governing international trade. The two organizations approach the issue of “currency manipulation” differently. The IMF Articles of Agreement prohibit countries from manipulating their currency for the purpose of gaining unfair trade advantage, but the IMF cannot force a country to change its exchange rate policies. The...

Climate Change and the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS): Looking to 2020

The European Union’s (EU) Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) is a cornerstone of the EU’s efforts to meet its obligation under the Kyoto Protocol. It covers more than 10,000 energy intensive facilities across the 27 EU Member countries; covered entities emit about 45% of the EU’s carbon dioxide emissions. A “Phase 1” trading period began January 1, 2005. A second, Phase 2, trading period began in 2008, covering the period of the Kyoto Protocol. A Phase 3 will begin in 2013 designed to reduce emissions by 21% from 2005 levels.

Several positive results from the Phase 1 “learning by doing”...

The Uninsured by State and Congressional District

The total U.S. civilian non-institutionalized population in 2009 was estimated to be slightly more than 301 million of whom 15.1%, or 45.5 million, were estimated by the American Community Survey to be without health insurance or uninsured. The uninsured are far more likely than those with health insurance to report problems getting needed medical care, less likely to follow recommended treatments because of costs, have less access to care, receive less preventive care, and are more likely to be hospitalized for avoidable health problems. Moreover, it is widely believed that the uninsured,...

Patent Reform in the 111th Congress: Innovation Issues

Pending U.S. and EU Free Trade Agreements with South Korea: Possible Implications for Automobile and Other Manufacturing Industries

South Korea has negotiated free trade agreements (FTAs) with the United States and the European Union (EU), but neither agreement has yet been approved. The U.S. Congress must approve the United States and South Korea free trade agreement (KORUS FTA) and the European Parliament must vote on the European Union and South Korea free trade agreement (KOREU FTA) before the FTAs can take effect. If the FTAs are ratified, it is possible there could be a “first mover” advantage for either the United States or the European Union, depending on which FTA is approved first. Some argue that both...

Patents on Tax Strategies: Issues in Intellectual Property and Innovation

Several bills were introduced in previous sessions of Congress that would have addressed the recently recognized phenomenon of patented tax strategies. These legislative initiatives would have prevented the grant of exclusive intellectual property rights by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) on methods that individuals and enterprises might use in order to minimize their tax obligations. This issue may arise before the 112th Congress.

Many commentators trace the rise of tax strategy patents to the 1998 opinion of the Federal Circuit in State Street Bank v. Signature...

Cellulosic Biofuels: Analysis of Policy Issues for Congress

Cellulosic biofuels are produced from cellulose (fibrous material) derived from renewable biomass. They are thought by many to hold the key to increased benefits from renewable biofuels because they are made from potentially low-cost, diverse, non-food feedstocks. Cellulosic biofuels could also potentially decrease the fossil energy required to produce ethanol, resulting in lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Cellulosic biofuels are produced on a very small scale at this time—significant hurdles must be overcome before commercial-scale production can occur. The renewable fuels standard (RFS),...

The Proposed Comcast-NBC Universal Combination: How It Might Affect the Video Market

The proposed combination of Comcast, the largest distributor of video services in the United States, and NBC Universal (NBCU), a major producer and aggregator of video content, would create a huge, vertically integrated entity with potentially enormous negotiating power at a time when market forces already are altering traditional content provider/distributor relationships. Comcast would own or control media and entertainment properties of significant scope and scale.

Despite the size and reach that Comcast would be afforded, there is so much uncertainty in the video market that the...

The U.S. Newspaper Industry in Transition

Cuomo v. The Clearing House Association, L.L.C.: National Banks Are Subject to State Lawsuits to Enforce Non-Preempted State Laws

On June 29, 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the National Bank Act (NBA) does not preempt states from bringing judicial actions against national banks to enforce non-preempted state anti-discrimination laws, and by implication state consumer protection laws, as long as the state authorities do not encroach on the visitorial powers of the national bank regulator, the Office of Comptroller of the Currency (OCC). The Court ruled that administrative subpoenas or other forms of administrative oversight or examination are included in visitorial powers and, thus, are not available as state...

Critical Infrastructure Security: CRS Experts

The following table provides access to names and contact information for CRS experts on policy concerns relating to critical infrastructure security. Policy areas identified include: mission, magnitude, importance, relationship to departmental mission; policy, organization, and operations across all infrastructures; information disclosure, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA); security services, airport screeners, guards; specific sectors, assessing vulnerabilities, planning and implementation; agriculture; banking and finance; chemical; defense industry; emergency systems; energy;...

Tax-Favored Financing for Renewable Energy Resources and Energy Efficiency

Tax policy is one tool available to promote the use of domestic renewable energy resources. Tax-subsidized financing, specifically tax-favored bonds, reduce the cost associated with making oftentimes capital intensive investments in renewables and energy efficiency. This report provides an overview of the various federally tax-favored financing options available for renewable energy and energy-efficiency investments. This report also highlights the economic foundations for subsidizing renewable energy investment and comments on economic issues specific to tax-favored financing.

Various...

The Obama Administration’s Feed the Future Initiative

The global food price crisis of 2007-2008 and the global economic crisis resulted in an increase in the proportion and absolute number of hungry people worldwide to historic levels, over one billion in 2009. In 2010, the estimate of hungry people in the world declined to 925 million, a decrease of about 9.6%. The vast majority of the world’s undernourished live in developing countries; South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa account for 63% and 26% of the total, respectively.

In June 2009, at the G8 Summit in L’Aquila, Italy, President Obama pledged $3.5 billion over three years (FY2010 to...

Ownership of Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) and Policy Options for Congress

Preparing for financial security in retirement continues to be a concern of working Americans and policymakers. Although most Americans participate in the Social Security system, Social Security is likely to be only a part of income in retirement. A recent Gallup poll indicated that while 34% of working Americans expect Social Security to be a major source of retirement income, 45% of those polled expect private retirement savings accounts to be a major source of retirement income.

Since the 1920s, Congress has provided tax incentives to employers to sponsor pension plans for their...

Energy’s Water Demand: Trends, Vulnerabilities, and Management

The energy choices before Congress represent vastly different demands on domestic freshwater because water is used in varying amounts in most aspects of the energy sector. Transitions in the energy sector, such as the pursuit of greater energy independence and security, produce changes in how much and where the energy sector uses water. The energy sector is the fastest-growing water consumer in the United States, in part because of energy policies. Whether the federal government addresses the energy sector’s rising water demand, and if so how, is one of the many energy decisions that may...

Economic Recovery and Jobs: CRS Experts

Older Unemployed Workers Following the Recent Economic Recession

Although the economic recession that began in December of 2007 has officially ended, unemployment rates still remain close to 10%. Especially hard hit have been older workers, aged 55 and older, for whom unemployment rates have reached historical highs. A combination of an increase in the number of older individuals re-entering the workforce and a limited number of job openings (i.e., weak demand for labor) is responsible for their historically high unemployment rate.

Older unemployed workers face a unique set of challenges, distinct from those of their younger counterparts. The magnitude...

The Tax Exclusion for Employer-Provided Health Insurance: Issues for Congress

Employer-provided health insurance is excluded from the determination of employees’ federal income taxes, resulting in significant tax savings for many workers. Comparable exclusions apply to federal employment taxes and to state income and employment taxes. Because employment-based health insurance covers three-fifths of the population under the age of 65, the exclusions also result in considerable revenue loss to the government. Ending them could raise several hundred billion dollars a year, depending on exactly what is repealed and how workers and employers adjust. Some see this revenue...

Economics and National Security: Issues and Implications for U.S. Policy

As the world begins the second decade of the twenty-first century, the United States holds what should be a winning hand of a preeminent military, large economy, strong alliances, and democratic values. The nation’s security should be secure. Yet the debate over national security seems to be both intensifying and broadening. The problem appears not only in the difficulty of finding a winning strategy in the long war against acts of terrorism but having to face economic constraints that loom large in the public debate. In addition, the global financial crisis and recession have highlighted...

Compensation Reform and the Federal Teacher Incentive Fund

Congress has historically recognized the importance of teacher quality in improving the academic performance of elementary and secondary school students; however, federal policy has only recently begun to address the impact of teacher compensation systems on both quality and performance. Growing concern about the dominant feature of these systems—the single salary schedule—has led to a variety of compensation reform efforts around the country. These efforts include pay-for-performance incentives that attempt to align teacher compensation more closely with student achievement, as well as...

China-North Korea Relations

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) plays a key role in U.S. policy toward the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK or North Korea). The PRC is North Korea’s closest ally, largest provider of food, fuel, and industrial machinery, and arguably the country most able to wield influence in Pyongyang. China also is the host of the Six-Party Talks (involving the United States, China, North Korea, South Korea, Japan, and Russia) over North Korea’s nuclear program. The close PRC-DPRK relationship is of interest to U.S. policymakers because China plays a pivotal role in the success of U.S....

Estate Tax Options

The Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 (EGTRRA; P.L. 107-16), among other tax cuts, provided for a gradual reduction and elimination of the estate tax. Under EGTRRA, the estate tax exemption rose from $675,000 in 2001 to $3.5 million in 2009, and the rate fell from 55% to 45%. In 2010, the estate tax was eliminated. The estate tax changes, however, were scheduled to sunset in 2011, when the exemption would have become $1 million (as scheduled in pre-EGTRRA law) and the tax rate would return to 55%.

There was general agreement that some sort of estate tax would be...

International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture

Plant genetic resources for food and agriculture (PGRFA) serve as the raw material used by plant breeders and farmers to create new crop varieties. As such, they are viewed by many as the foundation for modern agriculture and as essential for achieving global food security. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that more than three-quarters of the increased crop productivity of the past 30 years is the result of plant breeding, and that future global food security depends to a large extent on the continued improvement of food crops—for example, developing new...

Unemployment Through Layoffs and Offshore Outsourcing

This report focuses on unemployment through layoffs. It sets forth the publicly available sources of information on layoffs and determines whether they provide data on the reasons that underlie those events (e.g., weak product demand, financial difficulty). The report next briefly provides a context for the offshore outsourcing phenomenon and its relationship to gross and net employment change. It then analyzes the trend in, severity of, and explanations of extended mass layoffs before concluding with an examination of those layoff events that involve movement-of work to foreign-based...

Quantitative Easing and the Growth in the Federal Reserve’s Balance Sheet

On November 3, 2010, the Federal Reserve (Fed) announced that it would purchase an additional $600 billion of Treasury securities, an action that has popularly been dubbed quantitative easing or “QE2.” This announcement followed purchases since March 2009 of $300 billion of Treasury securities, $175 billion of agency debt, and $1.25 trillion of agency mortgage-backed securities (MBS). (The agency debt and MBS were primarily issued by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.) This report defines quantitative easing as actions to further stimulate the economy through growth in the Fed’s balance sheet...

Distribution of the Tax Burden Across Individuals: An Overview

Distributional issues often lie at the center of tax policy debates. Distributional analysis may address several issues: How should the tax burden be distributed or, are progressive (increasing as a share of income as income rises) taxes justified? What is the estimated distribution of the current system? How does a particular proposal change that distribution?

Unlike many analyses that study optimal behavior related to allocative issues and economic efficiency, economic analysis cannot be used to answer the questions of how the tax burden should be distributed. Such an answer would depend...

The Market Structure of the Health Insurance Industry

In March 2010, Congress passed a pair of measures designed to reform the U.S. health care system and address the twin challenges of constraining rapid growth of health care costs and expanding access to high-quality health care. On March 21, the House passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (H.R. 3590), which the Senate had approved on Christmas Eve, as well as the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 (H.R. 4872). President Obama signed the first measure (P.L. 111-148) on March 23 and the second on March 30 (P.L. 111-152). On November 2, 2009, the House...

Cruise Ship Pollution: Background, Laws and Regulations, and Key Issues

The cruise industry is a significant and growing contributor to the U.S. economy, providing more than $32 billion in benefits annually and generating more than 330,000 U.S. jobs, but also making the environmental impacts of its activities an issue to many. Although cruise ships represent a small fraction of the entire shipping industry worldwide, public attention to their environmental impacts comes in part from the fact that cruise ships are highly visible and in part because of the industry’s desire to promote a positive image.

Cruise ships carrying several thousand passengers and crew...

Stability in Russia’s Chechnya and Other Regions of the North Caucasus: Recent Developments

Terrorist attacks in Russia’s North Caucasus—a border area between the Black and Caspian Seas that includes the formerly breakaway Chechnya and other ethnic-based regions—appeared to increase substantially in 2007-2009. Moreover, civilian and government casualties reached levels not seen in several years and terrorist attacks again took place outside the North Caucasus. Although the number of terrorist incidents may have leveled off or even declined slightly in 2010 from the high levels of 2009, the rate of civilian and government casualties continued to increase throughout the North...

The Bush Tax Cuts and the Economy

The George W. Bush Administration enacted a series of tax cuts through the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 and the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003. This report examines these tax cuts within the context of the current and long-term economic environment.

The Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act

Since 1995, legislation that would guarantee collective bargaining rights for state and local public safety officers has been introduced in Congress. The Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act (PSEECA)—introduced in the 111th Congress as H.R. 413 by Representative Dale E. Kildee, S. 1611 by Senator Judd Gregg, and S. 3194 and S. 3991 by Senator Harry Reid—would recognize such rights by requiring compliance with federal regulations and procedures if these rights are not provided under state law. Supporters of the measure maintain that strong partnerships between public safety...

Who Regulates Whom? An Overview of U.S. Financial Supervision

This report provides an overview of current U.S. financial regulation: which agencies are responsible for which institutions, activities, and markets, and what kinds of authority they have. Some agencies regulate particular types of institutions for risky behavior or conflicts of interest, some agencies promulgate rules for certain financial transactions no matter what kind of institution engages in it, and other agencies enforce existing rules for some institutions, but not for others. These regulatory activities are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

Ghana, an Emergent Oil Producer: Background and U.S. Relations

This report provides information on current developments in Ghana and Ghanaian-U.S. relations, which are close. Warm bilateral relations were signaled by President Barack Obama's July 2009 trip to Ghana. Ghana was chosen for his first travel as president to Africa because of its democratic and economic development successes. In Ghana, President Obama made the last of a four-part thematic series of major overseas speeches on key foreign policy issues. The speech in Ghana, to the national parliament, centered on the integral relationship between democracy, good governance, and development in...

Islamic Finance: Overview and Policy Concerns

Islamic finance is based on principles of shariah, or “Islamic law.” Major financial principles of shariah are a ban on interest, a ban on contractual uncertainty, adherence to risk-sharing and profit-sharing, promotion of ethical investments that enhance society, and asset-backing.

While the Islamic finance industry represents a fraction of the global finance market, it has grown at double-digit rates in recent years. By some estimates, total assets held globally under Islamic finance reached $1 trillion in 2010. Islamic banks have appeared to be more resilient than conventional banks to...

Nuclear, Biological, Chemical, and Missile Proliferation Sanctions: Selected Current Law

The proliferation of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons, and the means to deliver them, are front and center today for policy makers who guide and form U.S. foreign policy and national security policy, and economic sanctions are considered a valuable asset in the national security and foreign policy toolbox. The United States currently maintains robust sanctions regimes against foreign governments it has identified as proliferators (particularly Iran, North Korea, and Syria). If the 112th Congress takes up even a fraction of the proposals introduced by its predecessor involving...

Turkey: Selected Foreign Policy Issues and U.S. Views

This report focuses on the foreign policy of Turkey, a long-time valued U.S. NATO ally, and examines the ruling Justice and Development Party's (AKP) recalculation of the country's approach to foreign affairs and its possible effects on relations with the United States. This report surveys Turkish foreign policy issues that are of critical interest to U.S. officials and Members of Congress.

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act: Title IX, Investor Protection

Title IX of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (P.L. 111-203) contains 10 subtitles and 113 separate sections amending federal securities laws intended to improve investor protection. The range of Title IX’s provisions is very broad: some sections will bring significant changes to the securities business, while others are little more than technical clarifications of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC’s) authority. This report provides brief summaries of those provisions that create new SEC authority, that were controversial during the legislative...

Long-Term Unemployment and Recessions

The recession that began in the United States in December 2007 and officially ended in June 2009 was one of the deepest and the longest since the Great Depression. One feature that distinguishes the recent recession from its postwar predecessors is the historically high percentage of workers who have been unemployed for more than six months (the long-term unemployed). This report analyzes the trend in long-term unemployment over the postwar period and offers explanations for its unusually high incidence during the most recent postwar recession. It compares the individual, job, and...

Presidential Appointments to Full-Time Positions in Executive Departments During the 110th Congress, 2007-2008

The appointment process for advice and consent positions consists of three main stages. The first stage is selection, clearance, and nomination by the President. This step includes preliminary vetting, background checks, and ethics checks of potential nominees. At this stage, the president may also consult with Senators who are from the same party if the position is located in a state. The second stage of the process is consideration of the nomination in the Senate, most of which takes place in committee. Finally, if a nomination is approved by the full Senate, the nominee is given a...

“Robo-Signing” and Other Alleged Documentation Problems in Judicial and Nonjudicial Foreclosure Processes

During the summer of 2010, several employees and individuals with power-of-attorney signing authority for major servicers, including GMAC Mortgage, J.P. Morgan Chase, and Wells Fargo, were deposed as part of foreclosure contests. These depositions raised concerns about what has been characterized as “robo-signing”—the practice of having a small number of individuals sign a large number of affidavits and other legal documents submitted to courts and other public authorities by mortgage companies to execute foreclosures. As a result of these depositions, many have questioned whether...

General Motors' Initial Public Offering: Review of Issues and Implications for TARP

This report analyzes the progress General Motors Company has made since it was created from the sale of the bankrupt Old GM in July 2009 and the major issues related to its anticipated 2010 initial public offering (IPO).

Water Reuse and the Title XVI Program: Legislative Issues

Congress authorized the Department of the Interior (DOI) to undertake a program to provide federal financing for water reuse (i.e., planned beneficial use of treated wastewater and impaired surface and groundwater) with passage of the Reclamation Wastewater and Groundwater Studies Feasibility Act of 1992 (Title XVI of P.L. 102-575). The Department of the Interior’s implementation of the program by the Bureau of Reclamation at times has been contentious. Many Members of Congress, particularly from water-scarce western states, have supported the program and specific projects. However, with a...

Raising the Tax Rates on High-Income Taxpayers: Pros and Cons

This report focuses on the debate over whether the top two marginal tax rates should be permitted to rise back to their 2001 levels, once the temporary tax provisions known as the "Bush tax cuts" expire on December 31, 2010. The report discusses arguments for and against raising the tax rates.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): Agency Overview and Reauthorization Issues

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), provides federal funding to support community-based mental health and substance abuse prevention and treatment services. SAMHSA awards formula and competitive grants under its authorities in Title V of the Public Health Service Act (PHSA). The agency also administers the $1.8 billion Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment (SAPT) block grant and the $420 million Community Mental Health Services (CMHS) block grant, both of which are authorized in PHSA Title XIX....

Foreign Science and Engineering Presence in U.S. Institutions and the Labor Force

The increased presence of foreign students in graduate science and engineering programs and in the scientific workforce has been and continues to be of concern to some in the scientific community. Enrollment of U.S. citizens in graduate science and engineering programs has not kept pace with that of foreign students in those programs. In addition to the number of foreign students in graduate science and engineering programs, a significant number of university faculty in the scientific disciplines are foreign, and foreign doctorates are employed in large numbers by industry.

Few will...

The Status of the Basel III Capital Adequacy Accord

The new Basel Capital Adequacy Accord (Basel III) is an agreement among countries' central banks and bank supervisory authorities on the amount of capital banks must hold as a cushion against losses and insolvency. Basel III is of concern to Congress mainly because it could put U.S. financial institutions at a competitive disadvantage in world financial markets. This report follows the basic elements of the Basel III documents on the types of capital requirements and their phase-in schedule, which were approved by the Basel member central bank governors on September 12, 2010. The elements...

Cellulosic Ethanol: Feedstocks, Conversion Technologies, Economics, and Policy Options

In the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (P.L. 110-140), Congress mandated the use of a large and rapidly increasing volume of biofuels as part of the U.S. national transportation fuel base. In particular, the share of cellulosic biofuels is mandated to grow to 16 billion gallons by 2022—a daunting challenge considering that no commercial production existed as of mid-2010. Cellulosic biofuels can be produced from almost any sort of biomass. As a result, a variety of biomass types that can be produced or collected under a range of geographic settings are potential feedstock...

How Changes in the Economics of Broadcast Television Are Affecting News and Sports Programming and the Policy Goals of Localism, Diversity of Voices, and Competition

Market and technological changes are creating challenges to the long-standing business models employed by broadcast television networks and local television stations, but at the same time generating potential opportunities. The changes also may be affecting the three pillars of U.S. government media policy—localism, diversity of voices, and competition—and damping the effectiveness of existing regulations intended to foster them. These changes generally are strengthening the position of parties that own or control popular content in their negotiations with distributors of video...

The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: Coastal Wetland and Wildlife Impacts and Response

The explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010, and the resulting oil spill began a cascade of effects on the coastal areas of the Gulf and on the wealth of species that inhabit those areas. This report addresses the importance of wetlands in general, the ecology of the coastal wetlands in the Gulf, impacts of oil spills on wetland habitats, response options, the implications of hurricane season for the spill's impacts, and cleanup and recovery issues. The emphasis is on the

nearshore environment, although a few species found in deeper waters...

The 2007-2009 Recession: Similarities to and Differences from the Past

According to the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), the U.S. economy was in a recession for 18 months from December 2007 to June 2009. It was the longest and deepest recession of the post-World War II era. The recession can be separated into two distinct phases. During the first phase, which lasted for the first half of 2008, the recession was not deep as measured by the decline in gross domestic product (GDP) or the rise in unemployment. It then deepened from the third quarter of 2008 to the first quarter of 2009. The economy continued to contract slightly in the second quarter...

What Effects Would the Expiration of the 2001 and 2003 Tax Cuts Have on the Economy?

In 2001 and 2003, Congress enacted major tax cuts (popularly referred to as the "Bush tax cuts"), the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 and the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003. Congress is currently debating whether to extend some or all of these tax cuts that are scheduled to expire at the end of 2010. This report discusses the two main economic arguments against allowing the tax cuts to expire as scheduled, using historical evidence and by examining the current economic environment.

Mortgage Markets in Selected Developed Countries

The United States, Canada, Denmark, and Australia are advanced economies that share many features, but their approaches to financing homeownership have differed. As the U.S. Congress considers housing finance reform, the experiences of these other nations may suggest some potentially useful policy approaches.

In recent years, homeownership rates in the United States, Canada, and Australia have been similar: 66.9% in the United States, 68.4% in Canada, and 69.8% in Australia. Denmark’s homeownership rate of 54.0% is low for this group of nations and for countries with developed...

China’s Sovereign Wealth Fund: Developments and Policy Implications

China’s ruling executive body, the State Council, established the China Investment Corporation (CIC), a sovereign wealth fund, in September 2007 to invest $200 billion of China’s then $1.4 trillion in foreign exchange reserves. As with other sovereign wealth funds worldwide, the CIC’s existence allows China to invest its reserves in a wide range of assets, including stocks, bonds, and hedge funds. After a rocky start in which it incurred losses of 2.1% on its global investments in 2008 – caused in part by aftereffects of the global financial crisis of 2007 – the CIC’s rate of return in...

Securities Investor Protection Corporation

The Federal Debt: An Analysis of Movements from World War II to the Present

Financing the obligations of the United States has always been a central concern of Congress and the President. If policy decisions and economic conditions lead to levels of government spending which exceed revenue collection, the government will incur debt. Levels of federal debt are reported in terms of debt held by federal government accounts (intragovernmental), and gross (total) federal debt. Debt held by the public is the total amount the federal government has borrowed from the public and remains outstanding. Intragovernmental debt is the amount owed by the federal government to...

The Mexican Economy After the Global Financial Crisis

The state of Mexico’s economy is important for U.S. policymakers for many reasons, most significantly because a prosperous and democratic neighboring country is in the best interest of the United States. The two countries have strong economic, political, and social ties, which have direct policy implications related to bilateral trade, economic competitiveness, migration, and border security. In May 2010, President Barack Obama hosted Mexican President Felipe Calderón at a meeting in the White House in which the two leaders discussed key issues affecting the two countries. They agreed to...

Trade Remedy Legislation: Applying Countervailing Action to Nonmarket Economy Countries

Concern regarding the level of low-cost imports from China and other countries and its impact on U.S. firms and workers, combined with China’s limiting of the appreciation of its currency, have led some in Congress to introduce legislation proposing to make countervailing duty laws applicable to China and other nonmarket economy countries.

Countervailing duty laws provide for the assessment of additional duties on imports whose production and/or importation are found to be subsidized by a public entity in their country of origin and are injurious to a U.S. producer of similar merchandise....

Running Deficits: Positives and Pitfalls

Governments run deficits for several reasons. By running short-run deficits, governments can avoid raising taxes during economic downturns, which helps households smooth consumption over time. Running deficits can stimulate aggregate demand in the economy, thus giving policymakers a valuable fiscal policy tool to help support macroeconomic stability. In particular, short-run deficits may help boost economic activity when monetary policy loses its potency. When interest rates fall during an economic downturn, banks can become reluctant to lend when perceived lending risks outweigh...

Saving Rates in the United States: Calculation and Comparison

The amount of money saved has important economic consequences. Nationally, the amount of saving affects how much can be invested and ultimately the size of the capital stock. This report explains how national saving is measured, presents recent estimates of saving rates in the United States, and, for comparison, provides those of other major industrial countries.

Federal Business Taxation: The Current System, Its Effects, and Options for Reform

A foundation of the broad tax revisions implemented 24 years ago by the Tax Reform Act of 1986 was tax “neutrality”—the idea that economic efficiency and economic welfare are promoted if the distorting impact of taxes on business and other economic decisions is minimized. Based on this principle, the 1986 act broadened the tax base and reduced statutory tax rates set forth by the tax code. In time, however, the underlying thrust of tax policy has changed. Rather than neutrality and efficiency, recent business tax legislation has been guided more by a concern for promoting investment and...

Certain Temporary Tax Provisions Scheduled to Expire in 2009 (“Extenders”)

This report discusses numerous temporary tax provisions exist in the tax code. Often referred to as “extenders,” these provisions were originally enacted with an expiration date that has then been temporarily extended, in some cases numerous times.

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act: Systemic Risk and the Federal Reserve

The recent financial crisis contained a number of systemic risk episodes, or episodes that caused instability for large parts of the financial system. The lesson some policymakers have taken from this crisis is that a systemic risk or “macroprudential” regulator is needed to prevent similar episodes in the future. But what types of risk would this new regulator be tasked with preventing, and is it the case that those activities are currently unsupervised?

Some of the major financial market phenomena that have been identified as posing systemic risk include liquidity problems; “too big to...

Frequently Asked Questions about IMF Involvement in the Eurozone Debt Crisis

On May 2, 2010, the Eurozone member states and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced an unprecedented €110 billion (about $145 billion) financial assistance package for Greece. The following week, on May 9, 2010, EU leaders announced that they would make an additional €500 billion (about $636 billion) in financial assistance available to vulnerable European countries, and suggested that the IMF could contribute up to an additional €220 billion to €250 billion (about $280 billion to $318 billion). This report answers frequently asked questions about IMF involvement in the Eurozone...

Unemployment and Economic Recovery

This report examines the relationship between economic growth and the unemployment rate to anticipate possible future developments.

The European Union's Response to the 2007-2009 Financial Crisis

This report examines the EU responses to the financial crisis through changes to the financial regulatory structure at the EU level as well as the member country level. The countries examined are Germany and the United Kingdom, which have single financial regulators; the Netherlands, which has a twin peaks regulatory structure; and Spain, which has a functional structure.

Capital Gains Tax Options: Behavioral Responses and Revenues

Among the expiring Bush tax cut provisions is a lower 15% rate for long-term capital gains and dividends, with a 0% rate for taxpayers with ordinary tax rates of 15% or less. With no change, capital gains tax rates will revert to a top rate of 20% (10% for those with a 0% rate). Dividends will be taxed at ordinary rates. For FY2010 (for example), Treasury has projected revenue gains from these provisions to be $16 billion for capital gains and $30 billion for dividends.

President Obama has proposed to retain the 15% and 0% rates for lower- and middle-income taxpayers, but to tax both...

Speed of Presidential and Senate Actions on Supreme Court Nominations, 1900-2010

The speed with which appointments to the Supreme Court move through various stages in the nomination-and-confirmation process is often of great interest not only to all parties directly involved, but, as well, to the nation as a whole. This report provides information on the amount of time taken to act on all Supreme Court nominations occurring between 1900 and the present. It focuses on the actual amounts of time that Presidents and the Senate have taken to act (as opposed to the elapsed time between official points in the process). For example, rather than starting the nomination clock...

FY2010 Supplemental for Wars, Disaster Assistance, Haiti Relief, and Other Programs

The Administration requested $64.3 billion in FY2010 supplemental appropriations: $5.1 billion to replenish the U.S. Disaster Relief Fund administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA); $33 billion for the Department of Defense (DOD) primarily for deploying 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan; $4.5 billion in war-related foreign aid; and $2.8 billion for Haiti earthquake-related relief and reconstruction aid; $243 million for activities related to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill; $600 million for border security, and $129 million to reduce backlogs in patent requests;...

The FY2011 Federal Budget

This report provides an historical overview of the budget trends through the most recently completed fiscal year (2009). It discusses major budgetary challenges over the past several fiscal years given the current economic conditions and provides an in-depth discussion of the FY2011 budget process. Finally, it provides context for the issues facing the country's federal budget over the long term. This report will be updated as events warrant.

Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: Selected Issues for Congress

Insurance and Financial Regulatory Reform in the 111th Congress

This report discusses the broad financial regulatory reform legislation has been advanced by the Obama Administration and by various Members of Congress in the aftermath of the recent financial crisis.

Financial Turmoil: Federal Reserve Policy Responses

The Federal Reserve (Fed) has been central in the policy response to the financial turmoil that began in August 2007. It has sharply increased reserves to the banking system through open market operations and lowered the federal funds rate and discount rate on several occasions. Since December 2008, it has allowed the federal funds rate to fall close to zero. As the crisis deepened, the Fed’s focus shifted to providing liquidity directly to the financial system through new policy tools. Through new credit facilities, the Fed first expanded the scale of its lending to the banking system and...

Potential Stafford Act Declarations for the Gulf Coast Oil Spill: Issues for Congress

The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, P.L. 93-288, presents several options, and could provide a number of programs, to address the Gulf Coast oil spill. That spill is currently being addressed by a law fashioned for that purpose, the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, P.L. 101-380.

An emergency declaration under the Stafford Act would appear a potential approach to the current situation since it is intended to lessen the impact of an imminent disaster. A major disaster declaration would open up more Stafford Act programs that might be especially appropriate for the...

Measuring Equity in Farm Support Levels

Job Loss and Infrastructure Job Creation Spending During the Recession

After the long economic expansion that characterized much of the current decade, the nation entered its 11th postwar recession in December 2007. The size of job losses and the comparison to the Great Depression intensified congressional interest in passing legislation early in 2009 aimed at encouraging job creation and warding off further cuts in employment.

To mitigate all but one recession since the 1960s, Congress chose to increase federal spending on public works (i.e., infrastructure). Public works expenditures traditionally have gone to certain types of construction activities (e.g.,...

Coal Mine Safety and Health

The U.S. Trade Deficit: Causes, Consequences, and Policy Options

The current account balance is the nation’s most comprehensive measure of international transactions. It has three component balances: the goods and services balance, the investment income balance, and net unilateral transfers. These are all transactions thought to be closely related to current production, consumption, and income. For the United States, the size of the current account deficit is largely the refection of a similarly sized goods and services deficit (i.e., trade deficit).

The U.S. current account (trade) deficit grew steadily from 1992 through 2006. In 2007, however, the...

Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Disaster: Risk, Recovery, and Insurance Implications

This report begins with a review of the Deepwater Horizon incident and identifies the limits of liability facing the operators of offshore oil rigs. The next two sections of the report examine risk management in the offshore energy exploration and production business, the scope of the oil spill financial responsibility and insurance requirements, and the marine insurance industry that offers specialized coverage for offshore oil and gas firms. The fourth section outlines the various approaches to compensating oil pollution victims, including compensation funds, commercial insurance,...

An Economic Analysis of the Homebuyer Tax Credit

There have been three different versions of the homebuyer tax credit enacted since the summer of 2008. In July 2008, Congress enacted a first-time homebuyer tax credit as part of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 (HERA; P.L. 110-289). The tax credit was originally set to expire on July 1, 2009. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA; P.L. 111-5) increased the tax credit’s value and extended its expiration date to December 1, 2009. The Worker, Homeownership, and Business Assistance Act of 2009 (WHBAA; P.L. 111-92) extended the tax credit through the first half...

North Korea: Back on the Terrorism List?

Whether North Korea should be included on the U.S. list of terrorism-supporting countries has been a major issue in U.S.-North Korean diplomacy since 2000, particularly in connection with negotiations over North Korea’s nuclear program. North Korea demanded that the Clinton and Bush Administrations remove it from the terrorism support list. On October 11, 2008, the Bush Administration removed North Korea from the terrorism list.

This move was one of the measures the Bush Administration took to implement a nuclear agreement that it negotiated with North Korea in September 2007 and...

From Solicitor General to Supreme Court Nominee: Responsibilities, History, and the Nomination of Elena Kagan

On May 10, 2010, President Obama nominated Solicitor General Elena Kagan to replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens. If confirmed, Elena Kagan would be the first serving Solicitor General to be appointed to the Court since the elevation of Thurgood Marshall in 1967. She would also be only the fifth of 111 Justices to come to the bench with such experience.

Given that Solicitor General Kagan has made few public statements on important legal and policy issues, some have looked to her record as Solicitor General for some indication of her views. Others have looked to her time as Solicitor...

The Economic Effects of Capital Gains Taxation

One provision of the 1913 individual income tax that generated a great deal of confusion was the taxation of income from the sale of property (i.e., capital gains income). This initial confusion has led to almost 100 years of legislative debates over capital gains. Beginning in 1922 capital gains were first subject to lower tax rates than ordinary income. This preferential treatment has continued throughout most of the history of the income tax. Proposals dealing with the taxation of capital gains have ranged from the outright elimination of capital gains taxation to the reduction of...

World Trade Organization (WTO): Issues in the Debate on Continued U.S. Participation

Following World War II, the United States led efforts to establish an open and nondiscriminatory trading system with the expressed goal of raising the economic well-being of all countries and bolstering world peace. These efforts culminated in the creation of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) in 1948, a provisional agreement on tariffs and trade rules that governed world trade for 47 years. The World Trade Organization (WTO) succeeded the GATT in 1995 and today serves as a permanent body that administers the rules and agreements negotiated and signed by 153 participating...

The Size and Role of Government: Economic Issues

The size and role of the government is one of the most fundamental and enduring debates in American politics. Economics can be used to analyze the relative merits of government intervention in the economy in specific areas, but it cannot answer the question of whether there is “too much” or “too little” government activity overall. That is not to say that one cannot find many examples of government programs that economists would consider to be a highly inefficient, if not counterproductive, way to achieve policy goals. Reducing inefficient government spending would benefit the economy;...

Intellectual Property Rights and Access to Medicines: International Trade Issues

A patent, which is a form of intellectual property right (IPR), is a legal, exclusive right granted for the invention of a new product, process, organism, design, and plant. It allows the right holder to exclude others from making, using, or selling the protected invention for a period of 20 years. Patents constitute the most common method for governments to encourage research and development (R&D) in order to find pharmaceutical treatments and cures for diseases and other illnesses.

IPR protection and enforcement have evolved from an area primarily of national concern to an area of...

Payment Card Interchange Fees: An Economic Assessment

Interchange fees in the processing of credit and debit cards have become controversial. An interchange fee is paid by the merchant’s bank to a cardholder’s bank (that issued the card) after the cardholder purchases goods or services with a payment (credit or debit) card. Merchants and cardholders assert that they must accept excessive and increasing interchange fees set by the card associations such as Visa and MasterCard and member card-issuing banks. Interchange fees have been rising since the 1990s, despite diminishing fraud losses and technological advances in communications that lower...

NAFTA and the Mexican Economy

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), in effect since January 1994, plays a very strong role in the bilateral economic relationship between Mexico and the United States. The two countries are also closely tied in areas not directly related to trade and investment such as security, environmental, migration, and health issues. The effects of NAFTA on Mexico and the Mexican economic situation have impacts on U.S. economic and political interests. A number of policymakers have raised the issue of revisiting NAFTA and renegotiating parts of the agreement. Some important factors in...

Financial Regulatory Reform and the 111th Congress

This report reviews issues related to financial regulation. It provides brief descriptions of the two main comprehensive reform bills in the 111th Congress that address these issues.

Tax Options for Financing Health Care Reform

Several tax options were proposed to provide financing for health care reform. President Obama initially proposed restricting itemized deductions for high-income taxpayers, along with some narrower provisions. H.R. 3962 passed in the House on November 14, 2009; its largest source of increased revenues was from additional income taxes for higher-income taxpayers. On December 24, 2009, the Senate adopted H.R. 3590, whose revenue provisions are similar to those in the bill reported by the Senate Finance Committee (S. 1796). Taxing insurance companies on high-cost employer plans was the...

Financial Regulatory Reform: Systemic Risk and the Federal Reserve

This report defines the potential duties and responsibilities of a systemic risk regulator, relating those duties to events that potentially contributed to the recent crisis. It then identifies the powers that would need to be given to a regulator to perform those duties, and compares those powers and responsibilities to the Fed's existing powers and responsibilities. It discusses advantages and disadvantages of giving those responsibilities to the Fed or the executive branch. It also includes a brief overview of major elements of the Administration's proposal, H.R. 4173, which passed the...

Financial Regulatory Reform: Consumer Financial Protection Proposals

This report provides a brief summary of the Consumer Financial Protection Agency Act of 2009 (the CFPA Act or the Act) and delineates some of the substantive differences between it and H.R. 4173, Title IV, as it passed the House, and S. 3217, Title X, as it passed the Senate. It then analyzes some of the policy implications of the proposal, focusing on the separation of safety and soundness regulation from consumer protection, financial innovation, and the scope of regulation. The report then raises some questions regarding state law preemption, sources of funding, and rulemaking...

Forest Carbon Markets: Potential and Drawbacks

Forests are major carbon sinks (storehouses), and activities that alter forests can release or sequester carbon dioxide (CO2), the most common greenhouse gas (GHG). Some carbon markets have been formed under mandatory GHG reduction regimes, such as the Kyoto Protocol and various regional and state initiatives in the United States. Other markets have formed for voluntary efforts to reduce GHG emissions. Offsets, or credits for sequestering carbon or reducing emissions in unregulated sectors, are typically allowed in both mandatory and voluntary markets. Forestry activities are among the...

Loss Exposure and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) was established as an independent government corporation under the authority of the Banking Act of 1933, also known as the Glass- Steagall Act (P.L. 73-66, 48 Stat. 162, 12 U.S.C.), to insure bank deposits. The FDIC is funded through insurance assessments collected from its member depository institutions and held in what is now known as the Deposit Insurance Fund (DIF). This report begins with an overview of the FDIC, followed by an explanation of the loss exposure and total risk to the DIF. Next, the report discusses issues regarding the...

Proxy Access Reform Being Considered by the SEC: An Overview

This report discusses the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) role that oversees matters related to the content of proxy materials.

Haiti Earthquake: Crisis and Response

The largest earthquake ever recorded in Haiti devastated parts of the country, including the capital, on January 12, 2010. The quake, centered about 15 miles southwest of Port-au-Prince, had a magnitude of 7.0. A series of strong aftershocks have followed. Experts estimate the earthquake caused $8 to $14 billion in damage. Approximately 3 million people, roughly one-third of the overall population, have been affected by the earthquake with estimates ranging from 1.2 to 2 million people displaced. The government of Haiti is reporting an estimated 230,000 deaths and 300,600 injured. In the...

Russia’s Economic Performance and Policies and Their Implications for the United States

Until recently, the Russian economy was one of the fastest growing economies in the world. The growth brought an improvement in the standard of living of the average Russian citizen and also brought economic stability that Russia had not experienced in at least a decade. This strong economic performance had been a major factor in the popular support that the Russian leadership enjoyed and was also arguably a factor in the boldness with which that leadership reasserted Russia’s status as a world power, challenging the United States, Europe, the neighboring former Soviet states in economic...

Consolidation and Concentration in the U.S. Dairy Industry

The changing structure of U.S. agriculture has generated concerns about reduced competition in a wide variety of agricultural products markets, including dairy. Two primary areas of concern in the dairy industry are consolidation—the shift to fewer and larger firms—and industry concentration—the extent to which a small number of firms control most of the sales. On August 5, 2009, the Obama Administration announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Justice would hold several public workshops to consider competition issues affecting agriculture and the...

FDA Regulation of Follow-On Biologics

On March 23, 2010, President Obama signed into law a comprehensive health care reform bill, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA; P.L. 111-148). PPACA establishes a new regulatory authority within the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) by creating a licensure pathway for follow-on biologics, also called biosimilars, and authorizing the agency to collect associated fees.

A biologic is a preparation, such as a drug or a vaccine, that is made from living organisms. A follow-on biologic, or biosimilar, is similar to the brand-name (innovator) product made by the...

Iran’s Economic Conditions: U.S. Policy Issues

The Islamic Republic of Iran, a resource-rich and labor-rich country in the Middle East, is a central focus of U.S. national security policy. The United States asserts that Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism and that Iran’s uranium enrichment activities are for the development of nuclear weapons. To the extent that U.S. sanctions and other efforts to change Iranian state policy target aspects of Iran’s economy as a means of influence, it is important to evaluate Iran’s economic structure, strengths, and vulnerabilities.

Since 2000, Iran has enjoyed broad-based economic growth. However,...

Estimating Offset Supply in a Cap-and-Trade Program

If allowed as a compliance option in a greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction program (e.g., a cap-and-trade system), offsets have the potential to provide considerable cost savings and other benefits. However, offsets have generated considerable controversy, primarily over the concern that illegitimate offsets could undermine the ultimate objective of a cap-and-trade program: emission reduction.

An offset is a measurable reduction, avoidance, or sequestration of GHG emissions from a source not covered by an emission reduction program. An estimate of the quantity and type of offset...

Interest Payments on the Federal Debt: A Primer

This report provides a brief overview of the federal debt and net interest payments. Of the three broad categories of federal spending, the only category that cannot be reduced by legislative action is net interest payments. The report provides information about federal debt, interest payments on the federal dept, and determinants of net interest payments.

North Korea’s Second Nuclear Test: Implications of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1874

The United Nations Security Council unanimously passed Res. 1874 on June 12, 2009, in response to North Korea’s second nuclear test. The resolution puts in place a series of sanctions on North Korea’s arms sales, luxury goods, and financial transactions related to its weapons programs, and calls upon states to inspect North Korean vessels suspected of carrying such shipments. The resolution does allow for shipments of food and nonmilitary goods. As was the case with an earlier U.N. resolution, 1718, that was passed in October 2006 after North Korea’s first nuclear test, Resolution 1874...

Capturing CO2 from Coal-Fired Power Plants: Challenges for a Comprehensive Strategy

Any comprehensive approach to substantially reduce greenhouse gases must address the world’s dependency on coal for one-quarter of its energy demand, including almost half of its electricity demand. To maintain coal in the world’s energy mix in a carbon-constrained future would require development of a technology to capture and store its carbon dioxide emissions. This situation suggests to some that any greenhouse gas reduction program be delayed until such carbon capture technology has been demonstrated. However, technological innovation and the demands of a carbon control regime are...

East Asian Regional Architecture: New Economic and Security Arrangements and U.S. Policy

The global financial crisis, the end of the Cold War, the rise of China, globalization, free trade agreements, the war on terror, and an institutional approach to keeping the peace are causing dramatic shifts in relationships among countries in East Asia. A new regional architecture in the form of trade, financial, and political arrangements among countries of East Asia is developing that has significant implications for U.S. interests and policy. This report examines this regional architecture with a focus on China, South Korea, Japan, and Southeast Asia. The types of arrangements include...

Economic Impacts of Prison Growth

This report provides an economic overview of the correctional sector as background for the unfolding debate over spending and other policies. It begins with information on the growth in prison populations in public and in private prisons and also briefly explores the economic impacts of prison location. It is not intended a study of the effectiveness of sentencing and other laws, nor of evolving polices aimed at reducing recidivism and prison populations.

Immigration: The Effects on Low-Skilled and High-Skilled Native-Born Workers

The large influx of immigrants in recent decades has led to an equally long debate over their effect on the labor market outcomes of native-born workers. Economic theory posits that an increase in the supply of labor, such as from immigration, will reduce the wage employers are willing to pay all workers (native-born and foreign-born) in a given labor market. As a result, some of the workers who had been earning a higher wage before the increase in labor supply will be unwilling to accept a lower wage and they will leave that labor market. The economic model assumes, however, that labor is...

Federal Financial Services Regulatory Consolidation: Structural Response to the 2007-2009 Financial Crisis

This report provides a brief history and overview of the U.S. federal financial services regulatory structure and examines the regulatory structural changes the three major federal government proposals would make to remedy the causes of the financial crisis. It concludes with a discussion of some possible implications of reform.

Climate Change: EU and Proposed U.S. Approaches to Carbon Leakage and WTO Implications

The United States has proposed, and the European Union (EU) developed, policies to mitigate the potential economic and environmental (i.e., “carbon leakage”) impacts of carbon policies on energy- or greenhouse gas-intensive, trade-exposed industries. While studies have found little effect of carbon policies on EU competitiveness in the present, the EU decision to move toward auctioning of allowances in the future has spurred development of criteria to extend potential availability of free allowances to exposed industries to 2020. In a December 2009 decision, the European Commission (EC)...

Credit Rating Agencies and Their Regulation

Credit rating agencies (CRAs) are expected to provide investors with an informed and unbiased view on securities’ debt risk (also referred to as credit risk), the risk that issuers will fail to make promised interest or principal payments when they are due. The agencies provide judgments (“opinions”) on the creditworthiness of bonds issued by a wide spectrum of entities, including corporations, nonprofit firms, special purpose entities, sovereign nations, and state and municipal governments. They take the form of ratings that are usually displayed in a letter hierarchical format: AAA being...

Supreme Court Justices: Demographic Characteristics, Professional Experience, and Legal Education, 1789-2010

This report provides an introduction of Supreme Court appointments in historical context. The report discusses the Supreme Court Justices demographic characteristics, professional background, and educational background.

Key Issues in Derivatives Reform

This report provides background related to financial derivatives. It also analyzes market structure and regulation, derivatives reform, legislative proposals and exemptions for end users, safeguards for uncleared over-the-counter (OTC) swaps, and hypothetical examples.

Macroprudential Oversight: Monitoring Systemic Risk in the Financial System

Recent innovations in finance, while increasing the capacity to borrow and lend, resulted in a large volume of banking transactions occurring outside of traditional banking institutions. Also, even though existing regulators supervise individual banks for safety and soundness, there are risks that do not reside with those institutions but may still adversely affect the banking system as a whole. Macroprudential policy refers to a variety of tasks designed to defend the broad financial system against threats to its stability. Responsibilities include monitoring the system for systemic risk...

The Global Economic Crisis: Impact on Sub-Saharan Africa and Global Policy Responses

Sub-Saharan Africa has been strongly affected by the global recession, despite initial optimism that the global financial system would have few spillover effects on the continent. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimated in 2009 that average economic growth in Africa would slow to 1%, from an annual average of over 6% to 1% over the previous five years, before rebounding to 4% in 2010. As a region, Africa is not thought to have undergone a recession in 2009. However, most African countries are thought to require high rates of economic growth in order to outpace population growth and...

CRS Issue Statement on Health Care Reform

Is the U.S. Current Account Deficit Sustainable?

America’s current account (CA) deficit (the trade deficit plus net income payments and net unilateral transfers) rose as a share of gross domestic product (GDP) from 1991 to a record high of about 6% of GDP in 2006. It began falling in 2007, and reached 3% of GDP in 2009. The CA deficit is financed by foreign capital inflows. Many observers have questioned whether such large inflows are sustainable. Even at 3% of GDP, the deficit is probably still too large to be permanently sustained, and many economists fear that the decline is temporary and caused by the recession. Further, a large...

The U.S. Motor Vehicle Industry: Confronting a New Dynamic in the Global Economy

This report provides an in-depth analysis of the 2009 crisis in the U.S. auto industry and its prospects for regaining domestic and global competitiveness. It also analyzes business and policy issues arising from the unprecedented restructurings that occurred within the industry. The starting point for this analysis is June-July 2009, with General Motors Company (GM or new GM) and Chrysler Group LLC (or new Chrysler) incorporated as new companies, having selectively acquired many, but not all, assets from their predecessor companies.

Public Health, Workforce, Quality, and Related Provisions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (P.L. 111-148)

On March 23, 2010, President Obama signed into law a comprehensive health care reform bill, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA; P.L. 111-148). Health care reform has been the Obama Administration’s top domestic priority, driven by concerns about the growing ranks of the uninsured and the unsustainable growth in spending on health care and health insurance. Improving access to care and controlling rising costs are seen to require changes to both the financing and delivery of health care.

Both the House and the Senate passed comprehensive health care reform bills last...

How Agencies Monetize “Statistical Lives” Expected to Be Saved By Regulations

Federal health, safety, and environmental regulations are often designed to reduce the risk of death, illness, or injury from exposure to a particular hazard (e.g., arsenic in drinking water or rollover car crashes). As part of an economic analysis required by Executive Order 12866, the issuing agencies often place a monetary value on these expected health benefits by determining the number of “statistical lives” that the rules are expected to extend or save, and then multiplying that number by an estimated “value of a statistical life” (VSL). For example, if 100,000 people are each...

The Impact of Major Legislation on Budget Deficits: 2001 to 2009

This report examines to what extent major legislative changes from 2001 to 2009 caused the budget to move from surplus to deficit. Legislative actions taken in 2009 increased the FY2009 deficit by $509 billion, whereas legislative actions taken between 2001 and 2008 increased the FY2009 deficit by $903 billion. Furthermore, legislative changes have cumulatively increased federal budget deficits over FY2001 to FY2009 by $5.4 trillion.

Public Health, Workforce, Quality, and Related Provisions in H.R. 3962

Health care reform is at the top of the domestic policy agenda for the 111th Congress, driven by concerns about the growing ranks of the uninsured and the unsustainable growth in spending on health care and health insurance. Improving access to care and controlling rising costs are seen to require changes to both the financing and delivery of health care. Experts point to a growing body of evidence of the health care system’s failure to consistently provide high-quality care to all Americans.

The health reform debate has encompassed a number of proposals to address these challenges and...

Tax Reform: An Overview of Proposals in the 111th Congress

This report primarily covers fundamental tax reform by discussing background and proposals for review during the 111th Congress. It includes sections about fundamental tax reform, the relationship between income and consumption, what should be taxed, types of broad-based consumption taxes, international comparisons, other types of fundamental tax reform, legislative proposals and other legislation, and sections looking at other specific kinds of taxation.

Ongoing Government Assistance for American International Group (AIG)

This report discusses government assistance for American International Group (AIG), the future of AIG and the ultimate government cost of the intervention that are unclear. The Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) has been the primary vehicle for most of these actions.

Federal Complaint-Handling, Ombudsman, and Advocacy Offices

Federal complaint-handling, ombudsman, and advocacy offices have different forms, capacities, and designations. This report, which reviews the state of research in this field and the heritage of such offices, examines and compares them, along with recent legislative developments and past proposals to establish a government-wide ombudsman. In so doing, the report identifies the basic characteristics of these offices, recognizing differences among them with regard to their powers, duties, jurisdictions, locations, and resources, as well as control over them. This study covers only...

Charitable Contributions: The Itemized Deduction Cap and Other FY2011 Budget Options

The Administration’s 2010 and 2011 budget outlines contain a proposal to cap the value of itemized deductions at 28%, for high-income taxpayers. In the 2010 proposal, the expected revenue was dedicated to addressing health care issues; as other sources are expected to finance health care, the proposal is now part of the increased taxes on upper income taxpayers. This proposal has generated considerable concern about its potential negative effect on charitable contributions. This concern has been heightened because charities are having difficulties in the current economic climate. The...

The Magnitude of Changes That Would Be Required to Balance the FY2011 Budget

This report lays out generic scenarios for balancing the budget in the next fiscal year. Although these are not policy options that are likely to be enacted, they are meant to offer simple examples to gauge the scope of tradeoffs that would be required if policymakers eventually decide to bring the budget back to balance. If changes are postponed or stretched over a longer time period, they would need to be larger because of higher debt service.

Earthquake Risk, Insurance, and Recovery: Issues for Congress

This report examines earthquake catastrophe risk and insurance in the United States in light of recent developments, particularly the devastating earthquakes in Haiti and Chile. It examines both traditional and non-traditional approaches for financing recovery from earthquake losses as well as challenges in financing catastrophe losses with insurance.

The National Debt: Who Bears Its Burden?

The United States has been free of a national debt for only two years, 1834 and 1835. In its first year, 1790, the country faced a debt of $75 million. From FY1998 to FY2001, the federal government ran budget surpluses. Since then, the budget has returned to deficit, and the debt had risen to $7.5 trillion by 2009. It rose to a high of 108.6% of gross domestic product (GDP) at the end of World War II; declined to a post-World War II low of 23.8% of GDP in 1974; and, then, rose to another high of 49.5% of GDP in 1993.

The national debt results from borrowing to finance budget deficits....

Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia: Security Issues and Implications for U.S. Interests

The South Caucasus region has been the most unstable in the former Soviet Union in terms of the number, intensity, and length of ethnic and civil conflicts. Other emerging or full-blown security problems include crime, corruption, terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and narcotics trafficking. The regional governments have worked to bolster their security by combating terrorism, limiting political dissent they view as threatening, revamping their armed forces, and seeking outside assistance and allies.

The roles of neighbors Iran, Russia, and Turkey have been of...

Iceland's Financial Crisis

This report discusses the banking collapse in Iceland. Iceland's banking system had collapsed as a result of a culmination of a series of decisions the banks made that left them highly exposed to disruptions in financial markets. The collapse of the banks raised questions for U.S. leaders and others about supervising banks that operate across national borders, especially as it has become increasingly difficult to distinguish the limits of domestic financial markets.

Chile Earthquake: U.S. and International Response

On February 27, 2010, an earthquake of magnitude 8.8 struck off the coast of central Chile. Centered 70 miles northeast of Chile’s second-largest city, Concepción, at a depth of 22 miles, the earthquake was the second largest ever recorded in Chile and the fifth largest recorded worldwide since 1900. Over 100 aftershocks of magnitude 5.0 or greater were recorded following the initial earthquake. The earthquake and subsequent tsunami, which struck Chile’s coast roughly 20 minutes after the earthquake and moved 2,000 feet onto shore in some places, devastated parts of the country. Although...

Financial Services and General Government (FSGG): FY2010 Appropriations

The Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) appropriations bill includes funding for the Department of the Treasury, the Executive Office of the President (EOP), the judiciary, the District of Columbia, and 26 independent agencies. Among the independent agencies funded by the bill are the General Services Administration (GSA), the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the Small Business Administration (SBA), the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC), and the United States Postal Service (USPS).

On May 7, 2009, the Obama Administration delivered its FY2010 budget request to...

Prosecutorial Discretion in the Context of Corporate Attorney-Client Relations

The Justice Department enjoys prosecutorial discretion to bring criminal charges against a corporation, its culpable officers or employees, or both. For a corporation, indictment alone can be catastrophic, if not fatal, in some instances. The Thompson Memorandum, since replaced with guidelines in the U. S. Attorneys Manual, described the policy factors to be considered in the exercise of prosecutorial discretion. Two of the factors explicitly mentioned were whether a corporation had waived its privileges and whether it had cut off the payment of attorneys’ fees for its officers and...

Firms That Incorporate Abroad for Tax Purposes: Corporate “Inversions” and “Expatriation”

In the early 2000s, reports indicated that an increasing number of U.S. firms have altered their structure by substituting a foreign parent corporation for a domestic one. Such “inversions” typically involved the creation of a new foreign corporation in a country with low tax rates (a “tax haven”) that becomes the parent of the firm’s foreign and U.S. component corporations. A chief motive for inversions was apparently savings by firms on their U.S. corporate income tax. One source of savings was tax on a firm’s foreign income: the United States taxes corporations chartered in the United...

Greenhouse Gas Emission Drivers: Population, Economic Development and Growth, and Energy Use

In the context of climate change and possible responses to the risk associated with it, three variables strongly influence the levels and growth of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions: population, income (measured as per capita gross domestic product [GDP]), and intensity of emissions (measured as tons of greenhouse gas emissions per million dollars of GDP).

(Population) × (per capita GDP) × (Intensityghg) = Emissionsghg

This is the relationship for a given point in time; over time, any effort to change emissions alters the exponential rates of change of these variables. This means that the...

The Federal Home Loan Bank System and Resolution of a Failure

The Federal Home Loan Bank system is a cooperative, government-sponsored enterprise, created to provide liquidity to the nation’s lenders with a special focus on low and moderate-income housing and community development, all under the supervision of the recently created Federal Housing Finance Agency. Each Federal Home Loan Bank (FHLBank) essentially acts as a lender to lenders. The 12 regional banks engage in no direct lending to the public. Instead, member banks turn to the FHLBank for on-demand low interest loans, which the member bank can then use to issue mortgages or other loans to...

Accelerated Vehicle Retirement for Fuel Economy: "Cash for Clunkers"

This report outlines the key provisions of the Consumer Assistance to Recycle and Save (CARS) program established by P.L. 111-32, which provide rebates to prospective purchasers toward the purchase of new, fuel-efficient vehicles, provided the trade-in vehicles are scrapped. It discusses the impact of the program on the economy and also summarizes similar programs in other industrial countries.

Iraq: Oil and Gas Sector, Revenue Sharing, and U.S. Policy

Development in Iraq’s oil and natural gas sector is proceeding, amid ongoing debates. Iraqis differ strongly on a number of key issues, including the proper role and powers of federal and regional authorities in regulating oil and gas development; the terms and extent of potential foreign participation in the oil and gas sectors; and proposed formulas and mechanisms for equitably sharing oil and gas revenue. Concurrent, related discussions about the administrative status of the city of Kirkuk and proposed amendments to articles of Iraq’s constitution that outline federal and regional oil...

War Bonds in the Second World War: A Model for a New Iraq/Afghanistan War Bond?

This report discusses the high costs of fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that have rekindled congressional interest in the concept of the sale of a Treasury security to help finance these war costs.

Potential Implications of a Carbon Offset Program to Farmers and Landowners

Numerous studies have attempted to estimate the economic effects of potential climate legislation currently being considered by Congress. These studies have examined both the economy-wide effects, as well as the effects to specific sectors. Two principal reports on the economic effects to the U.S. agriculture and forestry sectors were conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). As described by USDA, these studies generally concluded that the overall economic costs to the agricultural community of the proposed legislation would...

Jobs for Main Street Act: Education, Training and Direct Assistance Provisions

The Obama Administration and Congress continue to grapple with high rates of unemployment despite some tentative signs of economic recovery. On December 8, 2009, President Obama outlined a series of proposals intended to accelerate job growth, focusing on incentives to small businesses, spending on infrastructure projects, and job creation through energy initiatives. The President also signaled support for the extension of some of the direct assistance provisions included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA, P.L. 111-5), including Unemployment Compensation (UC) benefits and...

Distribution of Small Business Ownership and Income by Individual Tax Rates and Selected Policy Issues

Some lawmakers have expressed concern over several proposals being considered in the current Congress to raise the tax burden on high-income individuals. Of particular concern are a proposal by the Obama Administration to allow the top two individual marginal tax rates (currently 33% and 35%) to return to their pre-2001 levels of 36% and 39.6%, starting in 2011, and a provision in the health care reform bill passed by the House (H.R. 3962) to impose a 5.4% surtax on the modified adjusted gross incomes (MAGIs) of single filers above $500,000 and the MAGIs of joint filers above $1 million,...

Health Reform and the 111th Congress

The health reform debate in the 111th Congress continued and expanded upon the work begun in the 110th Congress. On November 12, 2008, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Senator Baucus, released a white paper detailing his principles for health reform. This provided a framework for work within the committee for the 111th Congress. Several bills were introduced when the 111th Congress first convened, and these bills focused on a broad spectrum of approaches to health reform.

On November 7, 2009, the House passed H.R. 3962, the Affordable Health Care for America Act. H.R. 3962 is...

Reverse Mortgages: Background and Issues

Costa Rica: Background and U.S. Relations

Costa Rica is a politically stable Central American nation with a relatively well-developed economy. Former president (1986-1990) and Nobel-laureate Oscar Arias of the historically center-left National Liberation Party was elected President in 2006. Throughout his term, Arias has advanced so-called “third-way” policies, embracing his party’s traditional support for social welfare programs while rejecting state-led development in favor of market-oriented economic policies. Considerable economic growth and social protection programs have provided Costa Rica’s citizens with a relatively high...

Pipeline Safety and Security: Federal Programs

This report discusses congressional interest in securing the nation's pipelines. Nearly half a million miles of oil and natural gas transmission pipeline crisscross the United States. While an efficient and fundamentally safe means of transport, many pipelines carry hazardous materials with the potential to cause public injury and environmental damage.

Credit Union Member Business Loans

The Global Financial Crisis: Analysis and Policy Implications

The world appears to be recovering from the global recession that has caused widespread business contraction, increases in unemployment, and shrinking government revenues. Although the industrialized economies have stopped contracting, for many, unemployment is still rising. The United States likely hit bottom in June 2009, but numerous small banks and households still face huge problems in restoring their balance sheets, and unemployment has combined with sub-prime loans to keep home foreclosures at a high rate. Nearly all industrialized countries and many emerging and developing nations...

The Federal Government Debt: Its Size and Economic Significance

This report explains the different measures of the U.S. government debt, discusses the historical growth in the debt, identifies the current owners of the debt, presents comparisons with government debt in other countries, and examines the potential economic risks associated with a growing federal debt.

The Economics of the Federal Budget Deficit

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the federal budget deficit for FY2009 was $1,414 billion, triple the $459 billion deficit recorded in FY2008. The CBO expects the deficit for FY2010 to be $1,349 billion. The estimate for 2010 is based on current law. The budget deficit in FY2009 was, in dollar terms, unprecedented. Compared to the overall economy, the $1.4 trillion budget deficit equaled 9.9% of gross domestic product (GDP). In 1943, the budget deficit reached 30.3% of GDP. Since 1946 and before now, the largest the budget deficit had been, relative to the overall...

Mandatory Flood Insurance Purchase in Remapped Residual Risk Areas Behind Levees

This report examines the amount of flood insurance that must be purchased (and retained) on loans secured by real property located in federally designated special flood hazard areas (SFHAs).

Government Interventions in Response to Financial Turmoil

This report reviews new programs introduced and other actions taken by the Treasury, Federal Reserve, and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation in response to the recent financial crisis. It does not cover longstanding programs such as the Fed's discount window and FDIC receivership of failed banks.

U.S. Global Health Assistance: Background, Priorities, and Issues for the 111th Congress

U.S. funding for global health activities has grown significantly over the past decade, from $1.8 billion in FY2001 to $8.5 billion in FY2010. During this time period, Congress has significantly increased funding for responses against infectious disease outbreaks, including the 2009 influenza pandemic (H1N1), H5N1 avian influenza (avian flu), human immunodeficiency/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS), tuberculosis (TB), and malaria. U.S. agencies and departments also supplement funds that Congress appropriates for these purposes with funds from their discretionary...

The German Economy and U.S.-German Economic Relations

Germany is the world’s fifth largest economy and the largest in Europe, accounting for about one-fifth of the European Union’s (EU) GDP. Germany is also the largest European trade and investment partner of the United States. Mutually profitable and growing U.S.-German commercial ties historically have been facilitated by a strong German economy. The health and functioning of the German economy, as well as its approaches to international economic policy issues, thus, are of considerable importance to the United States as well as to the rest of Europe.

By most standards, post-war West...

Federal Domestic Illegal Drug Enforcement Efforts: Are They Working?

This report examines the federal drug enforcement data reported annually by key agencies charged with enforcing federal drug control laws. This report provides background and an overview of current federal drug control efforts and outcomes.

Federal Flood Policy Challenges: Lessons from the 2008 Midwest Flood

Floods remain a significant hazard in the United States. Developing and investing in flood-prone areas represents a tradeoff between the location’s economic and other benefits and the exposure to a flood hazard. In the United States, flood mitigation, protection, emergency response, and recovery roles and responsibilities are shared. Local governments are responsible for land use and zoning decisions that shape floodplain and coastal development. State and federal programs, policies, and investments influence community and individual decisions on managing flood risk. The federal government...

Comparing U.S. and EU Program Support for Farm Commodities and Conservation

The European Union (EU) is one of the United States’ chief agricultural trading partners and also a major competitor in world food markets. Both the United States and the EU provide significant government support for their agricultural sectors. In the United States, a large share of support is concentrated on wheat, feed grains, cotton, oilseeds, sugar, and dairy. The EU provides more extensive support to a broader range of farm and food products, including grains, cotton, rice, oilseeds, peanuts, dairy, and sugar, but also fresh and processed fruits and vegetables, and livestock products....

Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America: An Overview and Selected Issues

The Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPP) was a trilateral initiative that was launched in March 2005 by Canada, Mexico, and the United States to increase cooperation and information sharing for the purpose of increasing and enhancing security and prosperity in North America. President Obama met with Mexican President Calderón and Canadian Prime Minister Harper at the North American Leaders’ Summit in Guadalajara, Mexico in August 2009. The three leaders discussed key issues that affect the three countries and agreed to continue cooperation in these areas, but there...

The MS-13 and 18th Street Gangs: Emerging Transnational Gang Threats?

This report provides an overview of the MS-13 and M-18 gangs,5 examines how MS-13 and M-18 gangs are different from other gangs and organized crime groups, and discusses what constitutes a transnational gang. The report also explores whether MS-13 and M-18 gangs are transnational gangs, and discusses the various federal responses to these gangs.

North Korea: Economic Leverage and Policy Analysis

In early and mid-2009, the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK or North Korea) embarked on a course that included a series of extremely provocative military actions, a shift in power toward the military, emphasis on ideological purity, rising criticism of the United States, and going forward with its nuclear and missile program in spite of sanctions and objections from much of the rest of the world. As 2009 ended, the DPRK was in the midst of a “charm offensive” in which it took specific actions to ease tensions with the United States and South Korea and appears to have...

U.S. Foreign-Trade Zones: Trade Agreement Parity (TAP) Proposal

This report provides an introduction to U.S. Foreign Trade Zones (FTZ). The report discusses the details of the Trade Agreement Parity (TAP) proposal, the potential winners and losers under the TAP proposal, economic studies on the TAP proposal, and policy analysis on the TAP proposal.

Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies: FY2010 Appropriations

This report provides an overview of actions taken by Congress to provide FY2010 appropriations for Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS). This report uses the House report to accompany H.R. 2847 (H.Rept. 111-149) and the text of the Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2009 (P.L. 111-32), as the source for the FY2009-enacted and the FY2010-requested amounts, and it uses the Senate report to accompany H.R. 2847 (S.Rept. 111-34) as the source for the amounts in the House-passed bill. The Senate-passed version of H.R. 2847 is used as the source for the Senate-passed amounts. The...

The Farm Price-Cost Squeeze and U.S. Farm Policy

When farm commodity prices fall and costs of production rise, farmers can get caught in a “farm price-cost squeeze.” The potential for such a financial bind dates to the first half of the 20th century when farmers began purchasing more of their farm inputs such as fertilizers, improved seeds, and feed concentrates. Since the 1930s, U.S. agriculture has been supported through the ups and down