Foreign Affairs

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Private Bills: Procedure in the House

A private bill is one that provides benefits to specified individuals (including corporate bodies). Individuals sometimes request relief through private law when administrative or legal remedies are exhausted, but Congress seems more often to view private legislation as appropriate when no other remedy is available and when enactment would, in a broad sense, afford equity. From 1817 through 1971, most Congresses enacted hundreds of private laws, but since then, the number has declined significantly as Congress has expanded administrative discretion to deal with many of the situations that...

Department of State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs: FY2019 Budget and Appropriations

The Trump Administration submitted to Congress its FY2019 budget request on February 12, 2018. The proposal includes $41.86 billion for the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs (SFOPS). Of that amount, $13.26 billion would be for State Department operations, international broadcasting, and related agencies, and $28.60 billion for foreign operations. With the enactment of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (BBA; P.L. 115-123, February 9, 2018), which raised discretionary spending limits set by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA; P.L. 112-25), the Administration’s...

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

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

Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI)

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

Iran Sanctions

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

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

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

The Navy as...

Coast Guard Polar Icebreaker Program: Background and Issues for Congress

The Coast Guard polar icebreaker program is a program to acquire three new heavy polar icebreakers, to be followed years from now by the acquisition of up to three new medium polar icebreakers. The Coast Guard wants to begin construction of the first new heavy polar icebreaker in FY2019 and have it enter service in 2023. The polar icebreaker program has received about $359.6 million in acquisition funding through FY2018, including $300 million provided through the Navy’s shipbuilding account and $59.6 million provided through the Coast Guard’s acquisition account. The Coast Guard’s...

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

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

Ebola: Democratic Republic of Congo

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

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

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

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

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

Changes in the Arctic: Background and Issues for Congress

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

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

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

The Aegis ballistic missile defense (BMD) program, which is carried out by the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and the Navy, gives Navy Aegis cruisers and destroyers a capability for conducting BMD operations. Under the FY2019 budget submission, the number of BMD-capable Aegis ships is scheduled to be 41 at the end of FY2019 and 57 at the end of FY2023.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Escalating Tariffs: Timeline and Potential Impact

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

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

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

CVN-78 (named for Gerald R. Ford) was procured in FY2008. The Navy’s proposed FY2019 budget estimates the ship’s procurement cost at $12,964.0 million (i.e., about $13.0 billion) in then-year dollars. The ship received advance procurement (AP) funding in FY2001-FY2007 and was fully funded in FY2008-FY2011 using congressionally authorized four-year incremental funding. To help cover cost growth on the ship, the ship received an additional...

Israel: Background and U.S. Relations

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

Israel: Background and U.S. Relations in Brief

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

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

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

Israeli domestic political issues, including...

China-U.S. Trade Issues

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

Honduras: Background and U.S. Relations

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

Section 232 Investigations: Overview and Issues for Congress

Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 (19 U.S.C. §1862) provides the President with the ability to impose restrictions on certain imports based on an affirmative determination by the Department of Commerce (Commerce) that the product under investigation “is being imported into the United States in such quantities or under such circumstances as to threaten to impair the national security.” Section 232 actions are of interest to Congress because they are a delegation of Congress’ constitutional authority “to regulate Commerce with foreign Nations.” They also have important potential...

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

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

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

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

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

NAFTA Renegotiation and Modernization

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

OPIC, USAID, and Proposed Development Finance Reorganization

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

Judicial Opinions of Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh

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

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

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

The Trump Administration’s “Zero Tolerance” Immigration Enforcement Policy

For the last several years, Central American migrant families have arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border in relatively large numbers, many seeking asylum. While some request asylum at U.S. ports of entry, others do so after entering the United States “without inspection” (i.e., illegally) between U.S. ports of entry. On May 7, 2018, the Department of Justice (DOJ) implemented a zero tolerance policy toward illegal border crossing both to discourage illegal migration into the United States and to reduce the burden of processing asylum claims that Administration officials contend are often...

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: An Overview

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

The current structure...

Iran Nuclear Agreement and U.S. Exit

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

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

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

Iran’s Foreign and Defense Policies

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

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

Has sought to take advantage of opportunities of regional conflicts to overturn a power structure in the Middle East that Iran’s leaders...

Tribal Broadband: Status of Deployment and Federal Funding Programs

Tribal areas and communities continue to lag behind other areas and segments of American society with respect to broadband and telecommunications services. High poverty rates and low income levels in tribal lands—along with the fact that many tribal communities are located in remote rural areas (often with rugged terrain)—are major factors that may explain why tribal areas have comparatively poor levels of broadband access, and why providers may lack an economic incentive to serve those areas.

Until recently, data on tribal broadband deployment had been scarce. However, the Federal...

Indian Water Rights Settlements

In the second half of the 19th century, the federal government pursued a policy of confining Indian tribes to reservations. These reservations were either a portion of a tribe’s aboriginal land or an area of land taken out of the public domain and set aside for a tribe. The federal statutes and treaties reserving such land for Indian reservations typically did not address the water needs of these reservations, a fact that has given rise to questions and disputes regarding Indian reserved water rights. Dating to a 1908 Supreme Court ruling, courts generally have held that many tribes have a...

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...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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....

Multilateral Development Banks: Overview and Issues for Congress

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

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

The Congressional Review Act: Determining Which “Rules” Must Be Submitted to Congress

The Congressional Review Act (CRA) allows Congress to review certain types of federal agency actions that fall under the statutory category of “rules.” The CRA requires that agencies report their rules to Congress and provides special procedures under which Congress can consider legislation to overturn those rules. A joint resolution of disapproval will become effective once both houses of Congress pass a joint resolution and it is signed by the President, or if Congress overrides the President’s veto.

The CRA generally adopts a broad definition of the word “rule” from the Administrative...

Tunisia: In Brief

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

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

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

Mexico: Organized Crime and Drug Trafficking Organizations

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

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...

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

Cuba remains a one-party authoritarian state with a poor record on human rights. Current President Miguel Díaz-Canel succeeded Raúl Castro on April 19, 2018, although Castro is continuing in his position as first secretary of Cuba’s Communist Party. Over the past decade, Cuba has implemented gradual market-oriented economic policy changes, but critics maintain that it has not taken enough action to foster sustainable economic growth. Most observers do not anticipate significant policy changes under Díaz-Canel, at least in the short term, but the president faces the enormous challenges of...

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

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

On June 21,...

Trade Deficits and U.S. Trade Policy

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

As part of efforts to...

Venezuela: Background and U.S. Relations

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

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...

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...

Debates over Exchange Rates: Overview and Issues for Congress

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

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

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

As the UAE has gained capability to...

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

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

Overview of FY2019 Appropriations for Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS)

This report describes actions taken by the Trump Administration and Congress to provide FY2019 funding for Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) accounts. It also provides an overview of enacted FY2018 funding for agencies and bureaus funded as part of annual CJS appropriations acts.

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

Lebanon

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

As...

Canada-U.S. Relations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Egypt: Background and U.S. Relations

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

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

Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations In Brief

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

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

Significant challenges to bilateral...

Education Policy: Resources for Congressional Staff

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

Small Business: Access to Capital and Job Creation

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

Columbia River Treaty Review

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

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

The Alien Tort Statute (ATS): A Primer

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

U.S. Agent Orange/Dioxin Assistance to Vietnam

U.S. assistance to Vietnam for the environmental and health damage attributed to a dioxin contained in Agent Orange and other herbicides sprayed over much of the southern portion of the country during the Vietnam War remains a major bilateral issue. Between fiscal years (FY) 2007 and 2018, Congress appropriated over $222 million to address these two issues.

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

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

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

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

Trade Promotion Authority (TPA): Frequently Asked Questions

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

The International Monetary Fund

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

Cybersecurity: Legislation, Hearings, and Executive Branch Documents

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

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

Difficulty with striking an appropriate balance between national security and export competitiveness has made the subject of export controls controversial for decades. Through the Arms Export Control Act (AECA), the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), and other authorities, the United States restricts the export of defense articles; dual-use goods and technology; certain nuclear materials and technology; and items that would assist in the proliferation of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons or the missile technology used to deliver them. U.S. export controls are also...

The Federal Budget: Overview and Issues for FY2019 and Beyond

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

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

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

Current Context and Recent Developments

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

U.S. Foreign Aid to the Palestinians

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

Reductions and delays in aid...

Cuba: U.S. Restrictions on Travel and Remittances

Restrictions on travel and remittances to Cuba have constituted a key and often contentious component in U.S. efforts to isolate Cuba’s communist government since the early 1960s. Such restrictions are part of the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR), the overall embargo regulations administered by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). Various Administrations have eased and tightened the restrictions over the years as U.S. policy toward Cuba has changed.

The Obama Administration lifted all restrictions on family travel and remittances in 2009. In 2011, the...

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

In total, 329 women have been elected or appointed to Congress, 212 Democrats and 117 Republicans. These figures include six nonvoting Delegates, one each from Guam, Hawaii, the District of Columbia, and American Samoa, and two from the U.S. Virgin Islands, as well as one Resident Commissioner from Puerto Rico. Of these 329 women there have been 277 (178 Democrats, 99 Republicans) women elected only to the House of Representatives; 40 (25 Democrats, 15 Republicans) women elected or appointed only to the Senate; 12 (9 Democrats, 3 Republicans) women who have served in both houses. A...

Bilateral and Regional Trade Agreements: Issues for Congress

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

Nuclear Cooperation with Other Countries: A Primer

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

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

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

Liberia: Political Transition and U.S. Relations

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

Weah’s policy agenda focuses on four...

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

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

Digital Trade and U.S. Trade Policy

As the global Internet develops and evolves, digital trade has become more prominent on the global trade and economic policy agenda. The economic impact of the Internet was estimated to be $4.2 trillion in 2016, making it the equivalent of the fifth-largest national economy. Growing faster than international trade or financial flows, the volume of global data flows grew 45-fold from 2005 to 2014.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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...

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

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

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

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

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

FY2018...

Arms Control and Nonproliferation: A Catalog of Treaties and Agreements

Arms control and nonproliferation efforts are two of the tools that have occasionally been used to implement U.S. national security strategy. Although some believe these tools do little to restrain the behavior of U.S. adversaries, while doing too much to restrain U.S. military forces and operations, many other analysts see them as an effective means to promote transparency, ease military planning, limit forces, and protect against uncertainty and surprise. Arms control and nonproliferation efforts have produced formal treaties and agreements, informal arrangements, and cooperative threat...

Cuba Sanctions: Legislative Restrictions Limiting the Normalization of Relations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Libya: Transition and U.S. Policy

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

Elections for legislative...

Federal Disaster Assistance After Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Wilma, Gustav, and Ike

This report provides information on federal financial assistance provided to the Gulf States after major disasters were declared in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas in response to the widespread destruction that resulted from Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma in 2005 and Hurricanes Gustav and Ike in 2008.

Though the storms happened over a decade ago, Congress has remained interested in the types and amounts of federal assistance that were provided to the Gulf Coast for several reasons. This includes how the money has been spent, what resources have been provided to...

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

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

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

The Peace Corps: Current Issues

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

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

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

Artificial Intelligence and National Security

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

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

In total, 153 African Americans have served in Congress. This total includes 143 African Americans (137 Representatives and 6 Delegates) elected only to the House of Representatives; 9 African Americans elected or appointed only to the Senate; and 1 African American who has served in both chambers. The first African American Members, Senator Hiram Revels of Mississippi and Representative Joseph Rainey of South Carolina, both took the oath of office in 1870. These first two Members were among the 22 African American Members (2 in the Senate, 20 in the House) that began their service in the...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Transatlantic Perspectives on Defense Innovation: Issues for Congress

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

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

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...

Cambodia: Background and U.S. Relations

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

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

Cross-Border Data Sharing Under the CLOUD Act

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

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

The size of the U.S. bilateral trade deficit with China has been and continues to be an important issue in bilateral trade relations. President Trump and some Members of Congress view the deficit as a sign of unfair economic policies in China. The Trump Administration has reportedly asked China to develop a plan to reduce the bilateral trade deficit by $100 billion. Legislation has been introduced in the 115th Congress, including the Balanced Trade Act of 2017 (H.R. 2766) and the Trade Enforcement and Trade Deficit Reduction Act (H.R. 2734), that would require the Trump Administration to...

Australia, China, and the Indo-Pacific

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Economic Effects of Trade: Overview and Policy Challenges

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

A Peace Treaty with North Korea?

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

Insurance Regulation: Legislation in the 115th Congress

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

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

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

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

Millennium Challenge Corporation

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

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

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

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

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

Over the...

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

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

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

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

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

Yemen: Civil War and Regional Intervention

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

Softwood Lumber Imports from Canada: Current Issues

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

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

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

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

The Smart Grid: Status and Outlook

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

U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel

This report provides an overview of U.S. foreign assistance to Israel. It includes a review of past aid programs, data on annual assistance, and analysis of current issues. For general information on Israel, see CRS Report RL33476, Israel: Background and U.S. Relations, by Jim Zanotti.

Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. foreign assistance since World War II. To date, the United States has provided Israel $134.7 billion (current, or noninflation-adjusted, dollars) in bilateral assistance and missile defense funding. Almost all U.S. bilateral aid to Israel is in the form of...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Immigration Consequences of Criminal Activity

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

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

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

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

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

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

U.S. Trade Policy Primer: Frequently Asked Questions

Congress plays a major role in U.S. trade policy through its legislative and oversight authority. Since the end of World War II, U.S. trade policy has focused on fostering an open, rules-based global trading system, liberalizing markets by reducing trade and investment barriers through negotiations and agreements, and enforcing trade commitments and related laws. International trade and investment issues can affect the overall health of the U.S. economy and specific sectors, the success of U.S. businesses, U.S. employment opportunities, and the overall standard of living of Americans. The...

Small Business Management and Technical Assistance Training Programs

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

Congressional interest in the SBA’s management and technical assistance training programs has increased in recent years, primarily because these programs are viewed as a means to assist small businesses in creating and retaining jobs. The SBA anticipates...

The U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement: Background and Issues

The U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement entered into force on May 15, 2012. It is a comprehensive free trade agreement (FTA) between the United States and Colombia, which will eventually eliminate tariffs and other barriers in bilateral trade in goods and services. On October 3, 2011, during the 112th Congress, President Barack Obama submitted draft legislation (H.R. 3078/S. 1641) that was introduced by request in both houses of Congress to implement the agreement. On October 12, 2011, the House passed H.R. 3078 (262-167) and sent it to the Senate. The Senate passed the implementing...

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

This report is intended to serve as a finding aid for congressional documents, executive branch documents and information, news articles, policy analysis, contacts, and training, for use in policy and legislative research. It does not define or describe the purpose of various government documents; that information can be found in companion CRS Report RL33895, Researching Current Federal Legislation and Regulations: A Guide to Resources for Congressional Staff. This report is not intended to be a definitive list of all resources, but rather a guide to pertinent subscriptions available in...

Guatemala: Political and Socioeconomic Conditions and U.S. Relations

Guatemala, the most populous Central American country, with a population of 16.3 million, has been consolidating its transition to democracy since the 1980s. Guatemala has a long history of internal conflict, including a 36-year civil war (1960-1996) during which the Guatemalan military held power and over 200,000 people were killed or disappeared. A democratic constitution was adopted in 1985, and a democratically elected government was inaugurated in 1986.

President Jimmy Morales, a political newcomer, took office in January 2016, having campaigned on an anti-corruption platform. The...

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

The economic and trade relationship with Mexico is of interest to U.S. policymakers because of Mexico’s proximity to the United States, the extensive trade and investment relationship under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and the strong cultural and economic ties that connect the two countries. Also, it is of national interest for the United States to have a prosperous and democratic Mexico as a neighboring country. Mexico is the United States’ third-largest trading partner, while the United States is, by far, Mexico’s largest trading partner. Mexico ranks third as a...

Bankruptcy Basics: A Primer

U.S. bankruptcy law has two central aims. First, bankruptcy law seeks to relieve debtors of certain obligations they are unable to repay by providing them with a “fresh start” from financial difficulties. At the same time, bankruptcy law attempts to preserve the countervailing interests of creditors and other stakeholders by maximizing total creditor return in an orderly and efficient fashion. Congress and the courts have established a complex system of statutes, procedural rules, and judicial precedents intended to balance these competing interests.

Various types of debtors—from...

Organization of American States: Background and Issues for Congress

The Organization of American States (OAS) is a regional multilateral organization that includes all 35 independent countries of the Western Hemisphere (though Cuba currently does not participate). It was established in 1948 as a forum in which the nations of the hemisphere could engage one another and address issues of mutual concern. Today, the OAS concentrates on four broad objectives: democracy promotion, human rights protection, economic and social development, and regional security cooperation. It carries out a variety of activities to advance these goals, often providing policy...

Nuclear Negotiations with North Korea

This report summarizes past nuclear and missile negotiations between the United States and North Korea, also known by its formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), and highlights some of the lessons and implications from these efforts. Some analysts have suggested that, in response to the accelerated pace of North Korea’s nuclear and missile testing programs and its continued threats against the United States and U.S. allies, the United States might engage in an aggressive negotiation strategy with Pyongyang. In March 2018, President Trump agreed to hold a summit with...

The United Kingdom: Background, Brexit, and Relations with the United States

Many U.S. officials and Members of Congress view the United Kingdom (UK) as the United States’ closest and most reliable ally. This perception stems from a combination of factors, including a sense of shared history, values, and culture; a large and mutually beneficial economic relationship; and extensive cooperation on foreign policy and security issues.

Conservative-Led Minority Government Following 2017 Election

The government of the UK is led by Prime Minister Theresa May of the Conservative Party. Her leadership position was weakened after she triggered an early election in June 2017,...

Northern Ireland: Current Issues and Ongoing Challenges in the Peace Process

Between 1969 and 1999, almost 3,500 people died as a result of political violence in Northern Ireland, which is one of four component “nations” of the United Kingdom (UK). The conflict, often referred to as “the Troubles,” has its origins in the 1921 division of Ireland and has reflected a struggle between different national, cultural, and religious identities. Protestants in Northern Ireland (48%) largely define themselves as British and support remaining part of the UK (unionists). Most Catholics in Northern Ireland (45%) consider themselves Irish, and many desire a united Ireland...

Latin America and the Caribbean: Issues in the 115th Congress

Geographic proximity has ensured strong linkages between the United States and Latin America and the Caribbean, based on diverse U.S. interests, including economic, political, and security concerns. The United States is a major trading partner and the largest source of foreign investment for many countries in the region, with free-trade agreements enhancing economic linkages with 11 countries. The region is a large source of U.S. immigration, both legal and illegal; geographic proximity and economic and security conditions are major factors driving migration trends. Curbing the flow of...

Cybersecurity: Selected Issues for the 115th Congress

Cybersecurity has been gaining attention as a national issue for the past decade. During this time, the country has witnessed cyber incidents affecting both public and private sector systems and data. These incidents have included attacks in which data was stolen, altered, or access to it was disrupted or denied. The frequency of these attacks, and their effects on the U.S. economy, national security, and people’s lives have driven cybersecurity issues to the forefront of congressional policy conversations. This report provides an overview of selected cybersecurity concepts and a...

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

Even though the United States has reduced the number of warheads deployed on its long-range missiles and bombers, consistent with the terms of the 2010 New START Treaty, it also plans to develop new delivery systems for deployment over the next 10-30 years. The 115th Congress will continue to review these programs, and the funding requested for them, during the annual authorization and appropriations process.

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

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

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

Information Warfare: Issues for Congress

Information warfare is hardly a new endeavor. In the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC, Persian ruler Xerxes used intimidation tactics to break the will of Greek city-states. Alexander the Great used cultural assimilation to subdue dissent and maintain conquered lands. Military scholars trace the modern use of information as a tool in guerilla warfare to fifth-century BC Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu’s book The Art of War and its emphasis on accurate intelligence for decision superiority over a mightier foe. These ancient strategists helped to lay the foundation for information warfare...

Tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean Focus on the Politics of Energy

Cypriot (Greek and Turkish) interest in energy exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean began in 1998 after Noble Energy, a Texas-based energy company, discovered a large natural gas deposit in the Levant Basin. The location is in waters considered part of Israel’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) but bordering parts of the Republic of Cyprus’s (RoC’s) EEZ. In 2007, the RoC granted Noble Energy a license to explore for gas in an area identified as block 12, or the “Aphrodite” field within its EEZ. In 2011, Noble Energy announced the discovery of natural gas in block 12. Subsequently, the RoC...

Blockchain: Background and Policy Issues

The rise of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and the use of Initial Coin Offerings to raise capital has drawn increased attention from both the public and private sector concerning the use of digital ledgers to conduct business (called blockchain technology) and its potential. Yet many remain unclear on what the technology actually is, what it does, and the tradeoffs for its use.

A blockchain is a digital ledger that allows parties to transact without the use of a central authority as a trusted intermediary. In this ledger, transactions are grouped together in blocks, which are...

Congressional Membership and Appointment Authority to Advisory Commissions, Boards, and Groups

Over the past several decades, Congress, by statute, has established a wide array of commissions, boards, and advisory bodies to provide it with assistance in meeting various legislative, investigative, and administrative responsibilities. Some of these entities are temporary and created to serve specific functions, such as studying a discrete policy area or performing one-time tasks. Others are permanent, serving an ongoing purpose, such as overseeing an institution or performing a regular administrative function.

The majority of these congressional bodies provide that Members of...

The European Union: Questions and Answers

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

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

Appropriations: CRS Experts

Agriculture appropriations; Commerce, Justice, Science appropriations; Department of Defense appropriations, Energy and Water appropriations; Financial Services and General Provisions Government-wide appropriations; Departments of Homeland Security appropriations; Department of Interior, Environment appropriations; Labor, Health and Human Services, Education appropriations, Legislative Branch appropriations; Military Construction and Veterans Affairs appropriations, Department of State, Foreign Operations appropriations, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development appropriations.

Jordan: Background and U.S. Relations

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

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

Puerto Rico: CRS Experts

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

The Puerto Rican Governor was charged with...

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ecuador: In Brief

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

Former President Rafael Correa...

Nonstrategic Nuclear Weapons

Recent debates about U.S. nuclear weapons have questioned what role weapons with shorter ranges and lower yields can play in addressing emerging threats in Europe and Asia. These weapons, often referred to as nonstrategic nuclear weapons, have not been limited by past U.S.-Russian arms control agreements, although some analysts argue such limits would be of value, particularly in addressing Russia’s greater numbers of these types of weapons. Others have argued that the United States should expand its deployments of these weapons, in both Europe and Asia, to address new risks of war...

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

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

Congressional Gold Medals: Background, Legislative Process, and Issues for Congress

Senators and Representatives are frequently asked to support or sponsor proposals recognizing historic events and outstanding achievements by individuals or institutions. Among the various forms of recognition that Congress bestows, the Congressional Gold Medal is often considered the most distinguished. Through this venerable tradition—the occasional commissioning of individually struck gold medals in its name—Congress has expressed public gratitude on behalf of the nation for distinguished contributions for more than two centuries. Since 1776, this award, which initially was bestowed on...

Section 201 Safeguards on Solar Products and Washing Machines

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

Rwanda: In Brief

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

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

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

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

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

The New START Treaty: Central Limits and Key Provisions

The United States and Russia signed the New START Treaty on April 8, 2010. After more than 20 hearings, the U.S. Senate gave its advice and consent to ratification on December 22, 2010, by a vote of 71-26. Both houses of the Russian parliament—the Duma and Federation Council—approved the treaty in late January 2011, and it entered into force on February 5, 2011, after Secretary of State Clinton and Foreign Minister Lavrov exchanged the instruments of ratification. Reductions were to be implemented by February 5, 2018, a goal met by both parties.

New START provides the parties with 7 years...

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

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

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

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

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

Resolutions to Censure the President: Procedure and History

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

Resolutions that attempt to censure the President for...

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

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

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

Mexico: Background and U.S. Relations

Congress has maintained significant interest in Mexico, an ally and top trade partner. In recent decades, U.S.-Mexican relations have been strengthened through cooperative management of the 2,000-mile border, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and security cooperation under the Mérida Initiative. Relations have recently been tested, however, by President Donald J. Trump’s shifts in U.S. immigration and trade policies.

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

A Survey of House and Senate Committee Rules on Subpoenas

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

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

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...

Security of Air Cargo Shipments, Operations, and Facilities

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

The October 2010 discovery...

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...

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...

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...

Venezuela’s Economic Crisis: Issues for Congress

Venezuela’s Economic Crisis: Overview

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

Kosovo: Background and U.S. Relations

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

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

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

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

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

Iraqi and Afghan Special Immigrant Visa Programs

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

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

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

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

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...

Haiti’s Political and Economic Conditions: In Brief

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

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...

Colombia’s Changing Approach to Drug Policy

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

Iran’s Expanding Economic Relations with Asia

Overview

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

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...

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

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

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

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

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

Nuclear Energy: Overview of Congressional Issues

The policy debate over the role of nuclear power in the nation’s energy mix is rooted in the technology’s fundamental characteristics. Nuclear reactors can produce potentially vast amounts of useful energy with relatively low consumption of natural resources and emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants. However, facilities that produce nuclear fuel for civilian power reactors can also produce materials for nuclear weapons. In addition, the process of nuclear fission (splitting of atomic nuclei) to generate power produces radioactive material that can remain hazardous for...

Saudi Arabia: Background and U.S. Relations

The kingdom of Saudi Arabia, ruled by the Al Saud family since its founding in 1932, wields significant global influence through its administration of the birthplace of the Islamic faith and by virtue of its large oil reserves. Close U.S.-Saudi official relations have survived a series of challenges since the 1940s. In recent years, shared concerns over Sunni Islamist extremist terrorism and Iranian government policies have provided some renewed logic for continued strategic cooperation. Political upheaval and conflict in the Middle East and North Africa have created new challenges, and...

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...

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

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

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

Table 1—cybersecurity...

Cybersecurity: Critical Infrastructure Authoritative Reports and Resources

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

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

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...

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...

Statute of Limitation in Federal Criminal Cases: An Overview

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

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

Colombia: Background and U.S. Relations

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

Cybersecurity: Cybercrime and National Security Authoritative Reports and Resources

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

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

Cybersecurity: Federal Government Authoritative Reports and Resources

This report serves as a starting point for congressional staff assigned to cover cybersecurity issues related to federal and military government activities. Much is written by and about the federal government’s efforts to address cybersecurity policy challenges, and this CRS report directs the reader to authoritative sources that address many of the most prominent issues. The annotated descriptions of these sources are listed in reverse chronological order with an emphasis on material published in the past several years. This report includes resources and studies from government agencies...

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...

The Rohingya Crises in Bangladesh and Burma

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

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

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

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

El Salvador: Background and U.S. Relations

Congress has significant interest in El Salvador, a small Central American country that has had a large percentage of its population living in the United States since the country’s civil conflict (1980-1992). During the 1980s, the U.S. government spent billions of dollars supporting the Salvadoran government’s efforts against an insurgency led by the leftist Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN). Three decades later, the United States is working with the country’s second democratically elected FMLN Administration.

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

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...

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

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

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

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...

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

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

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...

Bangladesh and Bangladesh-U.S. Relations

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

USDA Export Market Development and Export Credit Programs: Selected Issues

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

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

The Palestinians: Background and U.S. Relations

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tanzania: Current Issues and U.S. Policy

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

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...

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...

The United Nations Human Rights Council: Issues for Congress

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

Background

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

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...

Patent Law: A Primer and Overview of Emerging Issues

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

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

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

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

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

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

Administration Action on Special Positions

It...

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

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

Military Sexual Assault: A Framework for Congressional Oversight

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

Prevention and...

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...

Recess Appointments Made by President Barack Obama

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

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...

Paraguay: In Brief

Paraguay is a South American country wedged between Bolivia, Argentina, and Brazil. It is about the size of California but has a population of less than 7 million. The country is known for its rather homogenous culture—a mix of Latin and Guarani influences, with 90% of the population speaking Guarani, a pre-Columbian language, in addition to Spanish. The Paraguayan economy is one of the most agriculturally dependent in the hemisphere and is largely shaped by the country’s production of cattle, soybeans, and other crops. In 2016, Paraguay grew by 4.1%; it is projected to sustain about 4.3%...

Judiciary Appropriations, FY2018

Funds for the judicial branch are included annually in the Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) appropriations bill. The bill provides funding for the Supreme Court; the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit; the U.S. Court of International Trade; the U.S. Courts of Appeals and District Courts; Defender Services; Court Security; Fees of Jurors and Commissioners; the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts; the Federal Judicial Center; the U.S. Sentencing Commission; and Judicial Retirement Funds.

The judiciary’s FY2018 budget request of $7.86 billion, including $7.23...

Trade Adjustment Assistance for Firms

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

Natural Disasters and Hazards: CRS Experts

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

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,...

Arab League Boycott of Israel

The Arab League, an umbrella organization comprising 22 Middle Eastern and African countries and entities, has maintained an official boycott of Israeli companies and Israeli-made goods since the founding of Israel in 1948. The boycott is administered by the Damascus-based Central Boycott Office, a specialized bureau of the Arab League.

The boycott has three tiers. The primary boycott prohibits citizens of an Arab League member from buying from, selling to, or entering into a business contract with either the Israeli government or an Israeli citizen. The secondary boycott extends the...

Russia: Background and U.S. Policy

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

Domestic Terrorism: An Overview

The emphasis of counterterrorism policy in the United States since Al Qaeda’s attacks of September 11, 2001 (9/11) has been on jihadist terrorism. However, in the last decade, domestic terrorists—people who commit crimes within the homeland and draw inspiration from U.S.-based extremist ideologies and movements—have killed American citizens and damaged property across the country. Not all of these criminals have been prosecuted under federal terrorism statutes, which does not imply that domestic terrorists are taken any less seriously than other terrorists.

The Department of Justice (DOJ)...

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...

Public Health Service Agencies: Overview and Funding (FY2016-FY2018)

Within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), eight agencies are designated components of the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS). The PHS agencies are funded primarily with annual discretionary appropriations. They also receive significant amounts of funding from other sources, including mandatory funds from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA; P.L. 111-148, as amended), user fees, and third-party reimbursements (collections).

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) funds research on improving the quality and delivery of health care. For more than a...

Public Health and Emergency Management: CRS Experts

The following table provides names and contact information for CRS experts on policy concerns relating to public health and emergency management. Policy areas identified include public health and medical system preparedness and response; mental and behavioral health; food safety and food defense; health care financing in disaster response; Stafford Act assistance and the role of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA); Department of Defense (DOD) incident response and civil support; global health and international preparedness; selected legal issues in preparedness and response;...

Inspector General Community Launches Oversight.gov to Increase Accessibility to Reports

On August 2, 2017, the Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE) launched Oversight.gov, a central repository for Office of Inspector General (OIG) reports that is intended to “improve the public’s access to independent and authoritative information about the Federal Government.” The website is currently being beta tested. As of August 2, 2017, 36 of 73 OIGs were participating in the beta test (Table 1). The establishment of, and participation in, the website is not statutorily required.

Oversight.gov is intended to be the first one-stop shop for OIG reports....

Burundi’s Political Crisis: In Brief

This report provides context on the political crisis in Burundi, which is rooted in President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to run for a third term in 2015, in violation of a landmark peace accord. The crisis has spurred a low-intensity conflict and serious human rights violations, sparking a refugee influx into neighboring states and undermining Burundi’s hard-won stability following a civil war in the 1990s. Coinciding with a parallel stand-off over term limits in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the situation in Burundi has implications for longstanding U.S. efforts to...

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’...

North Korean Cyber Capabilities: In Brief

As North Korea has accelerated its missile and nuclear programs in spite of international sanctions, Congress and the Trump Administration have elevated North Korea to a top U.S. foreign policy priority. Legislation such as the North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act of 2016 (P.L. 114-122), and international sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council have focused on North Korea’s WMD and ballistic missile programs and human rights abuses. According to some experts, another threat is emerging from North Korea: an ambitious and well-resourced cyber program. North...

Executive Branch Reorganization

The federal bureaucracy of the present day is the product of more than two centuries of legislative and administrative actions by successive generations of elected and appointed officials. As such, the diverse organizations and processes of the federal government are a consequence of the influence and decisions of thousands of officials with differing viewpoints about the role of government and diverse policy preferences. The federal bureaucracy’s organizational arrangements are also reflective of ongoing competition between Congress and the President to influence the behavior of agencies....

The G-20 and International Economic Cooperation: Background and Implications for Congress

The Group of Twenty (G-20) is a forum for advancing international cooperation and coordination among 20 major advanced and emerging-market economies. The G-20 includes Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States, as well as the European Union (EU). G-20 countries account for about 85% of global economic output, 75% of global exports, and two-thirds of the world’s population.

Originally established in 1999, the G-20 rose to prominence...

NAFTA and Motor Vehicle Trade

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

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

Ongoing Section 232 Steel and Aluminum Investigations

The Department of Commerce is currently conducting two investigations to determine the national security implications of U.S. imports of steel and aluminum under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 (19 U.S.C. § 1862, as amended). Section 232, sometimes called the "national security clause," provides the President with the ability to impose restrictions on imports, such as tariffs or quotas, if the Secretary of Commerce, in consultation with the Department of Defense and other government officials, determines such imports threaten to impair the national security of the United...

U.S. Petroleum Trade with Venezuela: Financial and Economic Considerations Associated with Possible Sanctions

The political crisis in Venezuela is at a pivotal point (See CRS Report R44841, Venezuela: Background and U.S. Policy). President Nicolas Maduro is convening elections on July 30 for delegates to a constituent assembly to rewrite the country’s constitution and possibly dismantle the legislative branch. On July 17, 2017, President Donald Trump issued a statement that declared that “the United States will take strong and swift economic actions” if the assembly elections occur. Those actions reportedly could include sanctions on Venezuela’s energy sector, which generates 95% of its export...

Inter Partes Review of Patents: Innovation Issues

The Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (AIA) of 2011 introduced inter partes review proceedings (IPRs) into the patent system. IPRs allow the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to revisit—and possibly cancel—a patent the agency had previously allowed. Under these proceedings, any individual may petition the USPTO to assert that a granted patent is invalid in view of earlier patents or printed publications. A petitioner must demonstrate that there is a “reasonable likelihood” that he would prevail for the IPR to begin. Should the USPTO’s Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) grant the...

Arms Sales: Congressional Review Process

This report reviews the process and procedures that currently apply to congressional consideration of foreign arms sales proposed by the President. This includes consideration of proposals to sell major defense equipment, defense articles and services, or the retransfer to third-party states of such military items. Under Section 36(b) of the Arms Export Control Act (AECA), Congress must be formally notified 30 calendar days before the Administration can take the final steps to conclude a government-to-government foreign military sale of major defense equipment valued at $14 million or...

The Paris Club and International Debt Relief

The Paris Club is a voluntary, informal group of creditor nations who meet approximately 10 times per year to provide debt relief to developing countries. Members of the Paris Club agree to renegotiate and/or reduce official debt owed to them on a case-by-case basis.

The United States is a key Paris Club Member and Congress has an active role in both Paris Club operations and U.S. policy regarding debt relief overall. The Federal Credit Reform Act of 1990 stipulates that Congress must be involved in any official foreign country debt relief and notified of any debt reduction and debt renegotiation.

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...

International Species Conservation Funds

International species conservation is addressed by several funds, including those under the Multinational Species Conservation Fund and the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Fund. These funds are implemented by relatively small programs within the Fish and Wildlife Service, yet generate enormous constituent interest, chiefly concerning their funding levels. This report describes the funds briefly, and summarizes recent and proposed appropriations levels.

The 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...

U.S.-Mexican Security Cooperation: The Mérida Initiative and Beyond

Ten years after the Mexican government launched an aggressive, military-led campaign against drug trafficking and organized crime, violent crime continues to threaten citizen security and governance in parts of Mexico, including in cities along the U.S. southwest border. Organized crime-related violence in Mexico declined from 2011 to 2014 but rose in 2015 and again in 2016. Analysts estimate that the violence may have claimed more than 109,000 lives since December 2006. High-profile cases—particularly the enforced disappearance and murder of 43 students in Guerrero in September 2014—have...

U.S. Direct Investment Abroad: Trends and Current Issues

The United States is the largest direct investor abroad and the largest recipient of foreign direct investment in the world. For some Americans, the national gains attributed to investing overseas are offset by such perceived losses as offshoring facilities, displacing U.S. workers, and lowering wages. Some observers believe U.S. firms invest abroad to avoid U.S. labor unions or high U.S. wages, but 74% of the accumulated U.S. foreign direct investment is concentrated in high-income developed countries. In recent years, the share of investment going to developing countries has fallen. Most...

Foreign Direct Investment in the United States: An Economic Analysis

Foreign direct investment in the United States in 2015 increased by 83% over that recorded in 2014. (Note: The United States defines foreign direct investment as the ownership or control, directly or indirectly, by one foreign person [individual, branch, partnership, association, government, etc.] of 10% or more of the voting securities of an incorporated U.S. business enterprise or an equivalent interest in an unincorporated U.S. business enterprise [15 CFR §806.15 (a)(1)].) In 2015, according to U.S. Department of Commerce data, foreigners invested $379 billion in U.S. businesses and...

A Retrospective of House Rules Changes Since the 110th Congress

One of the majority party’s prerogatives is writing House rules and using its numbers to effect the chamber’s rules on the day a new House convenes. Because all Members of the House stand for election every two years, the Members-elect constitute a new House that must adopt rules at the convening of each Congress. Although a new House largely adopts the chamber rules that existed in the previous Congress, it also adopts changes to those rules. Institutional and political developments during the preceding Congress inform rules changes that a party continuing in the majority might make....

Climate Change: Frequently Asked Questions About the 2015 Paris Agreement

The Paris Agreement (PA) to address climate change internationally entered into force on November 4, 2016. The United States is one of 149 Parties to the treaty; President Barack Obama accepted the agreement rather than ratifying it with the advice and consent of the Senate. On June 1, 2017, President Donald J. Trump announced his intent to withdraw the United States from the agreement and that his Administration would seek to reopen negotiations on the PA or on a new “transaction.” Following the provisions of the PA, U.S. withdrawal could take effect as early as November 2020.

Experts...

Defense: FY2017 Budget Request, Authorization, and Appropriations

This report discusses the Obama Administration’s FY2017 defense budget request and provides a summary of congressional action on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY2017 (S. 2943/P.L. 114-328), and the FY2017 Defense Appropriations Act (H.R. 244/P.L. 115-31).

In February 2016, the Obama Administration requested $523.9 billion to cover the FY2017 discretionary base budget of the Department of Defense (DOD) and $58.8 billion in discretionary funding for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO). The OCO budget category generally includes funding related to the incremental cost...

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...

Paris Agreement: U.S. Climate Finance Commitments

The United States and other industrialized countries have committed to providing financial assistance for global environmental initiatives, including climate change, through a variety of multilateral agreements. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC, 1992, U.S. Treaty Number: 102-38) was the first international treaty to acknowledge and address human-driven climate change. Among other obligations, the Convention commits higher-income parties (i.e., those listed in Annex II of the convention, which were members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and...

Argentina: Background and U.S. Relations

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

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...

Israel and the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement

This report provides information and analysis on a boycott, divestment, and sanctions (“BDS”) movement against Israel. The BDS movement is generally seen as a loose grouping of actors from various countries who advocate or engage in economic measures against Israel or Israel-related individuals or organizations, though defining precisely what may or may not constitute BDS activity is subject to debate.

The report also analyzes economic measures that “differentiate” or might be seen as differentiating between (1) Israel in general and (2) entities linked with Israeli-developed areas and...

U.S. Strategy for Engagement in Central America: Policy Issues for Congress

Central America has received renewed attention from U.S. policymakers over the past few years as the region has become a major transit corridor for illicit drugs and a significant source of irregular migration to the United States. These narcotics and migrant flows are the latest symptoms of deep-rooted challenges in several countries in the region, including widespread insecurity, fragile political and judicial systems, and high levels of poverty and unemployment. Although the Obama Administration and governments in the region launched new initiatives designed to improve conditions in...

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.)...

Burma’s Political Prisoners and U.S. Policy: In Brief

With Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy (NLD) in control of Burma’s Union Parliament and the government’s executive branch, prospects may have improved for ending the arrest, detention, prosecution, and imprisonment of political prisoners in Burma, a reality which has overshadowed U.S. policy toward Burma for more than 25 years. Burma’s military, or Tatmadaw, however, may not support the unconditional release of all political prisoners in Burma, and potentially has the power to block such an effort.

The 115th Congress may have an opportunity to influence Burma’s future...

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...

Democracy Promotion: An Objective of U.S. Foreign Assistance

Promoting democratic institutions, processes, and values has long been a U.S. foreign policy objective, though the priority given to this objective has been inconsistent. World events, competing priorities, and political change within the United States all shape the attention and resources provided to democracy promotion efforts and influence whether such efforts focus on supporting fair elections abroad, strengthening civil society, promoting rule of law and human rights, or other aspects of democracy promotion.

Proponents of democracy promotion often assert that such efforts are...

State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs: FY2017 Budget and Appropriations

On May 5, 2017, President Trump signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017, into law (P.L. 115-31). The law sets funding for the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs (SFOPS) at $57.53 billion for the FY2017 full-year. This level represents an increase of 8.8% above the estimated FY2016 funding level, all due to a 40% increase in Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funds.

More than a year ago, on February 9, 2016, the Obama Administration submitted to Congress its original FY2017 budget request for SFOPS totaling $52.78 billion (-0.1% compared with the...

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...

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA): An Overview of Programs and Funding

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), an agency of the Department of Commerce, is the executive branch’s principal advisory office on domestic and international telecommunications and information policies. Its statutory mission includes providing greater access for all Americans to telecommunications services; supporting U.S. efforts to open foreign markets; advising the President on international telecommunications negotiations; and funding research for new technologies and their applications. It is also responsible for managing spectrum use by federal...

Malaysia: Background and U.S. Relations

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

The Protection of Classified Information: The Legal Framework

This report provides an overview of the relationship between executive and legislative authority over national security information. It summarizes the current laws that form the legal framework protecting classified information, including current executive orders and some agency regulations pertaining to the handling of unauthorized disclosures of classified information by government officers and employees. The report also summarizes criminal laws that pertain specifically to the unauthorized disclosure of classified information, as well as civil and administrative penalties. Finally, the...

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

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

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

The 2006 U.S.-Canada Softwood Lumber Trade Agreement (SLA): In Brief

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

Tension between the United...

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...

Judiciary Appropriations, FY2017

Funds for the judicial branch are included annually in the Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) Appropriations bill. The bill provides funding for the Supreme Court; the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit; the U.S. Court of International Trade; the U.S. Courts of Appeals and District Courts; Defender Services; Court Security; Fees of Jurors and Commissioners; the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts; the Federal Judicial Center; the U.S. Sentencing Commission; and Judicial Retirement Funds.

The judiciary’s FY2017 budget request of $7.58 billion was submitted on...

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...

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,...

Zika Virus: CRS Experts

In late 2015, health officials in Brazil recognized a marked increase in the number of infants born with microcephaly (from Greek, meaning “small head”), a birth defect that may accompany significant, permanent brain damage. Although not conclusive, the increase in microcephaly is suspected to be related to the emergence of Zika virus infections in Brazil early in 2015.

Zika virus is related to the viruses that cause yellow fever, dengue, West Nile, and Japanese encephalitis viruses. Historically Zika virus was found in Africa. Since 2007, Zika transmission has also occurred in Southeast...

Terrorism in Southeast Asia

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

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

The Meaning of “Made in U.S.A.”

Numerous provisions in federal law are intended to support manufacturing in the United States. Almost without exception, these provisions define manufacturing as the process of physically transforming goods. Physical transformation involves what might be thought of as traditional manufacturing activities such as molding, cutting, and assembly. These laws establish a variety of potential benefits, preferences, or penalties based on the country in which physical transformation occurs. On April 18, 2017, President Trump issued an executive order directing federal agencies to ensure that...

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...

Committee Types and Roles

Congress divides its legislative, oversight, and internal administrative tasks among more than 200 committees and subcommittees. Within assigned areas, these functional subunits gather information; compare and evaluate legislative alternatives; identify policy problems and propose solutions; select, determine, and report measures for full chamber consideration; monitor executive branch performance (oversight); and investigate allegations of wrongdoing.

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...

Mexico’s Free Trade Agreements

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

The Greek Debt Crisis: Overview and Implications for the United States

Crisis Overview

Since 2009, Greece has grappled with a serious debt crisis. Most economists believe that Greece’s public debt, 180% of Greek gross domestic product (GDP), is unsustainable. The ramifications of the debt have been felt throughout the Greek economy, which contracted by 25% from its pre-crisis level. A fifth of Greeks are unemployed, with youth unemployment at nearly 50%, and the Greek banking system is unstable. Although other Eurozone governments, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the European Central Bank coordinated a substantial crisis response, Greece continues...

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...

Video Broadcasting of Congressional Proceedings

Video broadcasts of congressional proceedings enable constituents, policy professionals, and other interested individuals to see Congress at work, learn about specific Members, and follow the legislative process. Members of Congress have always considered communication with constituents an essential part of their representational duties. Members also often utilize new tools and technologies to reach and engage their constituents and colleagues.

Background

The Legislative Reorganization Act of 1970 first enabled congressional committees to broadcast their proceedings, if desired. Separate...

Congressional News Media and the House and Senate Press Galleries

The House and Senate press galleries provide services both for journalists and for Members of Congress. The news media helps Members communicate with the public, and enables the public to learn about policy initiatives, understand the legislative process, and observe elected officials representing their constituents. In the earliest Congresses, news reports commonly provided the most comprehensive record of congressional proceedings, even for Members themselves, because few official documents were kept. To accommodate the press, and in response to its growth through the mid-19th century,...

Multinational Species Conservation Fund Semipostal Stamp

The Multinational Species Conservation Fund (MSCF) supports international conservation efforts benefitting several species of animals, often in conjunction with efforts under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). MSCF receives annual appropriations under the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to fund five grant programs for conserving tigers, rhinoceroses, Asian and African elephants, marine turtles, and great apes (gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos, orangutans, and various species of gibbons). To provide a convenient way for the public to contribute to these...

House Committee Funding Requests and Authorizations, 104th-115th Congresses

Pursuant to House Rule X, clause 6, the Committee on House Administration reports an omnibus, biennial “primary expense resolution” to cover the expenses of each standing and select committee, except the Appropriations Committee. The resolution is based, in part, on committee requests for funds to cover their necessary expenses for the two years of a Congress.

This report provides committee funding requests and authorizations as adopted pursuant to primary expense authorizations for House committees in the 104th through 115th Congresses. For further information on the committee funding...

The War Powers Resolution: Concepts and Practice

This report discusses and assesses the War Powers Resolution and its application since enactment in 1973, providing detailed background on various cases in which it was used, as well as cases in which issues of its applicability were raised. It will be revised biannually.

In the post-Cold War world, Presidents have continued to commit U.S. Armed Forces into potential hostilities, sometimes without a specific authorization from Congress. Thus the War Powers Resolution and its purposes continue to be a potential subject of controversy. On June 7, 1995, the House defeated, by a vote of...

The Financial Action Task Force: An Overview

The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, or the 9/11 Commission, recommended that tracking terrorist financing “must remain front and center in U.S. counterterrorism efforts” (see The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, U.S. Government Printing Office, July, 2004. p. 382). As part of these efforts, the United States plays a leading role in the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering (FATF). The independent, intergovernmental policymaking body was established by the 1989 G-7 Summit...

Sub-Saharan Africa: Key Issues, Challenges, and U.S. Responses

The 115th Congress and the Trump Administration are reviewing existing U.S. policies and programs in sub-Saharan Africa (henceforth, “Africa”) as they establish their budgetary and policy priorities toward the region while also responding to emerging crises. Africa-specific policy questions did not feature prominently in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, and the views of the Trump Administration on many U.S.-Africa policy issues remain unspecified. The Obama Administration’s Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa identified its policy priorities as strengthening democratic institutions;...

Geographical Indications (GIs) in U.S. Food and Agricultural Trade

Geographical indications (GIs) are place names used to identify products that come from these places and to protect the quality and reputation of a distinctive product originating in a certain region. The term is most often applied to wines, spirits, and agricultural products. Some food producers benefit from the use of GIs by giving certain foods recognition for their distinctiveness, differentiating them from other foods in the marketplace. In this manner, GIs can be commercially valuable. GIs may be eligible for relief from acts of infringement or unfair competition. GIs may also...

Moving On: TPP Signatories Meet in Chile

On March 14-15, representatives from the 12 original signatories to the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement (FTA) met in Chile to discuss the future direction of regional integration efforts in the Asia-Pacific (see CRS In Focus IF10000, TPP: Overview and Current Status). China, Colombia, and South Korea were also represented. The meeting follows the Trump Administration’s January announcement of U.S. withdrawal from the TPP, which effectively ended the possibility of TPP’s entry into force in its current form (see CRS Insight IN10646, The United States Withdraws...

Previewing a 2018 Farm Bill

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

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

Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB)

In October 2013, at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Bali, Indonesia, China proposed creating a new multilateral development bank (MDB), the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). As its name suggests, the Bank's stated purpose is to provide financing for infrastructure needs throughout Asia, as well as in neighboring regions. As of January 2017, the AIIB has approved nine projects, investing a total of $1.7 billion.

The AIIB commenced operations on January 16, 2016. Membership in the AIIB is open to all members of the World Bank or the Asian Development Bank (ADB)....

Judge Neil M. Gorsuch: His Jurisprudence and Potential Impact on the Supreme Court

On January 31, 2017, President Donald J. Trump announced the nomination of Judge Neil M. Gorsuch of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit (Tenth Circuit) to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court of the United States created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016. Judge Gorsuch was appointed to the Tenth Circuit by President George W. Bush in 2006. The Tenth Circuit’s territorial jurisdiction covers Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah, Wyoming, and parts of Yellowstone National Park that extend into Idaho and Montana.

Immediately prior to his appointment to the...

WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement

The Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), finalized in December 2013, is the newest international trade agreement in the World Trade Organization (WTO), having entered into force on February 22, 2017, when two-thirds of WTO members, including the United States, ratified the multilateral agreement. Congress has an interest in the TFA since it may affect U.S. trade flows, the U.S. economy, and international capacity building efforts.

Trade facilitation measures aim to simplify and streamline international trade procedures to allow the easier flow of trade across borders and thereby reduce 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...

The European Union: Current Challenges and Future Prospects

The European Union (EU) is a unique partnership in which member states have pooled sovereignty in certain policy areas and harmonized laws on a wide range of economic and political issues. The EU is the latest stage in a process of European integration begun after World War II, initially by six Western European countries, to promote peace, security, and economic development. The EU currently consists of 28 member states, including the formerly communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe.

EU members share a customs union; a single market in which goods, services, people, and capital...

Filling Advice and Consent Positions at the Outset of Recent Administrations, 1981-2009

The length of the appointment processes during presidential transitions has been of concern to observers for more than 30 years. The process is likely to develop a bottleneck during this time due to the large number of candidates who must be selected, vetted, and, in the case of positions filled through appointment by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate (PAS positions), considered by that body.

The appointment process has three stages: selection and vetting, nomination and Senate consideration, and presidential appointment. Congress has taken steps to accelerate...

“Dear Colleague” Letters in the House of Representatives: Past Practices and Issues for Congress

The practice of one Member, committee, or office broadly corresponding to other Members, committee, or officers dates back to at least the 1800s. At least as early as 1913, this correspondence was labeled as “Dear Colleague” letters. Since 2003, it has been possible to track the volume of House “Dear Colleague” letters sent through an email-based distribution system (from 2003 to 2008) and a web-based distribution system (since 2008). The creation of the web-based e-“Dear Colleague” distribution system in 2008 has made it possible to systematically examine “Dear Colleague” letters, thereby...

A New Authorization for Use of Military Force Against the Islamic State: Issues and Current Proposals

Since the United States embarked on a strategy to counter the Islamic State (also known as ISIL or ISIS) in 2014, some Members of Congress have raised concerns about the President’s underlying authority to engage in anti-IS military operations. In the 114th Congress, both houses of Congress took steps to revisit the possibility of considering legislation to provide authority for the use of military force (AUMF) against the Islamic State. Interest has continued into the first session of the 115th Congress and with the start of the Trump Administration.

In 2014, the armed offensive of the...

The Senkakus (Diaoyu/Diaoyutai) Dispute: U.S. Treaty Obligations

Since the mid-1990s, and particularly since 2012, tensions have spiked between Japan and China over the disputed Senkaku (Diaoyu/Diaoyutai) islands in the East China Sea. These flare-ups run the risk of involving the United States in an armed conflict in the region. Japan administers the eight small, uninhabited features, the largest of which is roughly 1.5 square miles. Some geologists believe the features sit near significant oil and natural gas deposits. China, as well as Taiwan, contests Japanese claims of sovereignty over the islands, which Japan calls the Senkaku-shoto, China calls...

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...

India’s Natural Gas: A Small Part of the Energy Mix

India’s population is expected to surpass China as the world’s largest by 2022, reaching approximately 1.4 billion people, creating greater demand for energy. India has the potential to be a much larger producer and consumer of natural gas. Competing political and economic factors have limited the government’s effectiveness in changing the country’s energy mix, which is heavily weighted toward coal and oil. Continually beset by high-profile environmental issues such as major air pollution and contaminated water supplies due to their reliance on coal and oil, the Indian government is now...

Congressional Gold Medals, 1776-2016

Senators and Representatives are frequently asked to support or sponsor proposals recognizing historic events and outstanding achievements by individuals or institutions. Among the various forms of recognition that Congress bestows, the Congressional Gold Medal is often considered the most distinguished. Through this venerable tradition, the occasional commissioning of individually struck gold medals in its name, Congress has expressed public gratitude on behalf of the nation for distinguished contributions for more than two centuries. Since 1776, this award, which initially was bestowed...

Financing the U.S. Trade Deficit

The U.S. merchandise trade deficit is a part of the overall U.S. balance of payments, a summary statement of all economic transactions between the residents of the United States and the rest of the world, during a given period of time. Some Members of Congress and other observers have grown concerned over the magnitude of the U.S. merchandise trade deficit and the associated increase in U.S. dollar-denominated assets owned by foreigners. International trade recovered from the global financial crisis of 2008-2009 and the subsequent slowdown in global economic activity that reduced global...

U.S. Foreign Assistance to Latin America and the Caribbean: Trends and FY2017 Appropriations

Geographic proximity has forged strong linkages between the United States and the nations of Latin America and the Caribbean, with U.S. interests encompassing economic, political, and security concerns. U.S. policymakers have emphasized different strategic interests in the region at different times, from combating Soviet influence during the Cold War to advancing democracy and open markets since the 1990s. During the Obama Administration, U.S. policy toward the region chiefly sought to strengthen democratic governance, defend human rights, improve citizen security, enhance social inclusion...

Overseas Contingency Operations Funding: Background and Status

The Department of Defense (DOD) estimates that through FY2016 Congress has appropriated $1.6 trillion for DOD war-related activities since the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. When combined with an estimated $123.2 billion in related State Department and Foreign Operations appropriations, the DOD, Department of State (DOS), and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) have received an estimated $1.7 trillion for activities and operations in support of the broad U.S. government response to the 9/11 attacks.

Funding for these activities has been largely provided through...

Public Charge Grounds of Inadmissibility and Deportability: Legal Overview

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) has long provided for aliens’ exclusion and deportation from the United States on “public charge” grounds. Under current law, aliens outside the United States who seek to obtain visas at U.S. consulates overseas, or admission at U.S. ports of entry, are generally denied entry if they are deemed “likely at any time to become a public charge.” Aliens within the United States who seek to adjust their status to that of lawful permanent resident (LPR), or who entered the United States without inspection, are also generally subject to this ground of...

Cabo Verde: Background and U.S. Relations

Cabo Verde, a small island nation of just over half a million people located off the west coast of Africa, is of strategic significance to the United States because its geographic location has made the country a transshipment point for Latin American cocaine bound for Europe and a key refueling stopover for trans-Atlantic air traffic between Africa and the United States.

The country is also a long-standing U.S. ally in Africa that the State Department has cited as a model of democratic governance in the region since its transition from single party rule to a multi-party political system...

The Pacific Islands: Policy Issues

The Pacific Islands region, also known as the South Pacific or Southwest Pacific, presents

Congress with a diverse array of policy issues. It is a strategically important region with which the United States shares many interests with Australia and New Zealand. The region has attracted growing diplomatic and economic engagement from China, a potential competitor to the influence of the United States, Australia, and New Zealand. Congress plays key roles in approving and overseeing the administration of the Compacts of Free Association that govern U.S. relations with the Marshall Islands,...

Mexican-U.S. Relations: Increased Tensions

On January 26, 2017, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto canceled an upcoming meeting with President Donald J. Trump after exchanges between the two leaders over social media concerning U.S. policies toward Mexico. In an address on January 25, President Peña Nieto vowed to protect Mexican migrants in the United States who are vulnerable to deportation and reiterated Mexico’s refusal to pay for a border wall but also stated his “willingness to reach agreements” if they are in Mexico’s interest. Mexicans have strongly supported Peña Nieto’s actions with respect to President Trump. After a...

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 2015 National Security Strategy: Authorities, Changes, Issues for Congress

The Obama Administration released a new National Security Strategy (NSS) on February 6, 2015. It was the second NSS document to be published by the Administration; the first was published in May 2010. The 2015 document states that its purpose is to “set out the principles and priorities to guide the use of American power and influence in the world.” The NSS is a congressionally mandated document, originating in the Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1986 (P.L. 99-433, §603/50 U.S.C §3043).

The 2015 NSS emphasizes the role of U.S. leadership; the words “lead,”...

Major Agricultural Trade Issues in the 115th Congress

Trade, particularly exports, is critical to the vitality of American agriculture. On average, foreign markets absorb about one-fifth of U.S. agricultural production, thus contributing significantly to the health of the farm economy. The positive economic effects of trade in farm products are felt well beyond the farm gate. Farm product exports make up about 10% of total U.S. exports and contribute positively to the U.S. balance of trade. The economic benefits of agricultural exports also extend across rural communities, while overseas farm sales help to buoy a wide array of industries...

Executive Authority to Exclude Aliens: In Brief

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) provides that individual aliens outside the United States are “inadmissible”—or barred from admission to the country—on health, criminal, security, and other grounds set forth in the INA. However, the INA also grants the Executive several broader authorities that could be used to exclude certain individual aliens or classes of aliens for reasons that are not specifically prescribed in the INA.

Section 212(f) of the INA is arguably the broadest and best known of these authorities. It provides, in relevant part, that

Whenever the President finds...

Venezuela: Issues for Congress, 2013-2016

Although historically the United States had close relations with Venezuela, a major oil supplier, friction in bilateral relations increased under the leftist, populist government of President Hugo Chávez (1999-2013), who died in 2013 after battling cancer. After Chávez’s death, Venezuela held presidential elections in which acting President Nicolás Maduro narrowly defeated Henrique Capriles of the opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), with the opposition alleging significant irregularities. In 2014, the Maduro government violently suppressed protests and imprisoned a major...

The Selective Service System and Draft Registration: Issues for Congress

The Military Selective Service Act (MSSA), first enacted as the Selective Service Act of 1948, provides the statutory authority for the federal government to maintain a Selective Service System (SSS) as an independent federal agency responsible for delivering appropriately qualified civilian men for induction into the Armed Forces of the United States as authorized by Congress. The annual budget for the agency is just under $23 million and the budget has remained stable at about $25 million in current dollars since the 1980s. One of the SSS’s main functions is to maintain a database of...

Selected Foreign Counterparts of U.S. Army Ground Combat Systems and Implications for Combat Operations and Modernization

Many nations maintain armies whose ultimate responsibility is to defeat other nations’ combat formations on the battlefield. In order to accomplish this, nations indigenously develop, maintain, and improve a variety of ground combat systems or purchase them from other nations. Ground combat system development and improvement is informed by existing and emerging technologies and budgetary factors as well as observations from current land conflicts. As this process is also intended to address potential future battlefield threats, beliefs as to what the future combat operational environment...

Cuba: Issues and Actions in the 114th 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. In 2013, Raúl began his second and final five-year term, which is scheduled to end in February 2018, when he would be 86 years of age. Castro has implemented a number of market-oriented economic policy changes over the past several years. An April 2016 Cuban Communist Party congress endorsed the current gradual pace of Cuban economic reform. Few observers expect...

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...

Defining “Specialty Crops”: A Fact Sheet

“Specialty crops” refer to “fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, and nursery crops (including floriculture)” as defined in statute by the Specialty Crops Competitiveness Act of 2004, as amended (P.L. 108-465, 7 U.S.C. 1621 note). The statutory definition of specialty crops ties to program eligibility and funding allocations for a number of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs providing marketing and research assistance to eligible producer groups. USDA’s list of eligible and ineligible products under the statutory definition is not intended to be all...

The U.S.-EU Beef Hormone Dispute

The United States and the European Union (EU) have engaged in a long-standing and acrimonious trade dispute over the EU’s decision to ban hormone-treated meat. Despite an ongoing series of dispute settlement proceedings and decisions by the World Trade Organization (WTO), there is continued disagreement between the United States and the EU on a range of legal and procedural issues, as well as the scientific evidence and consensus concerning the safety of hormone-treated beef. To date, the EU continues to ban imports of hormone-treated meat and restricts most meat exports to the European...

Statutory Restrictions on the Position of Secretary of Defense: Issues for Congress

The proposed nomination of General (Ret.) James Mattis, United States Marine Corps (hereinafter referred to as “General Mattis”), who retired from the military in 2013, to be Secretary of Defense requires both houses of Congress to consider whether and how to suspend—or remove—a provision contained in Title 10 U.S.C. §113 that states,

A person may not be appointed as Secretary of Defense within seven years after relief from active duty as a commissioned officer of a regular component of an armed force.

This provision was originally contained in the 1947 National Security Act (P.L. 80-253),...

Sri Lanka: Background, Reform, Reconciliation, and Geopolitical Context

Sri Lanka is a nation of geopolitical importance despite its relatively small size. Strategically positioned near key maritime sea lanes that transit the Indian Ocean and link Asia with Europe and Africa, Sri Lanka’s external orientation, in particular its ties to China, are of great interest to nearby India. Some observers view China’s involvement in the Sri Lankan port at Hanbantota to be part of Beijing’s strategy to secure sea lanes through the Indian Ocean.

United States-Sri Lanka relations are expanding significantly, creating new opportunities for Congress to play a role in shaping...

Major Foreign Aid Initiatives Under the Obama Administration: A Wrap-Up

Over the past few Administrations, Congress has maintained strong interest in and support for the broad global development areas of global health, food security, and climate-related aid and investment. The Obama Administration built its foreign assistance programming around the priorities and practices it identified in the 2010 Presidential Policy Directive (PPD) on Global Development, which identified broad-based economic growth and democratic governance as overarching U.S. development priorities. In particular, the Obama Administration focused on three key initiatives: the Global Health...

Latin America and the Caribbean: Key Issues and Actions in the 114th Congress

U.S. Interests and Policy

Geographic proximity has ensured strong linkages between the United States and the Latin American and Caribbean region, based on diverse U.S. interests, including economic, political, and security concerns. U.S. policy toward the region under the Obama Administration focused on four priorities: promoting economic and social opportunity; ensuring citizen security; strengthening effective democratic institutions; and securing a clean energy future. There was substantial continuity in U.S. policy toward the region during the first six years of the Obama...

Ukraine: Current Issues and U.S. Policy

November 2016 marked the third anniversary of the popular uprising that erupted in Kyiv’s Maidan Square in late 2013 over the government’s decision to reject closer relations with the European Union (EU). February 2017 will mark the third anniversary of the collapse of the Kremlin-favored government of Viktor Yanukovych. The regime’s demise was brought about by bitter protests and by civil society’s reaction to a brutal government response to the Maidan protestors. In the aftermath of the turmoil of the Maidan and the collapse of the government, Ukraine saw the emergence of a pro-Western...

Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) Negotiations: Overview and Issues for Congress

Congress has broad interest in trade in services, which are a large and growing component of the U.S. economy. It also has a direct interest in establishing trade negotiating objectives and potential consideration of a future Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA). Services account for 78% of U.S. private sector gross domestic product (GDP), 82% of private sector employees in 2015, and an increasing portion of U.S. international trade. “Services” refer to a growing range of economic activities, such as audiovisual, construction, and computer and related services; energy; express delivery;...

Colombia’s Peace Process Through 2016

In August 2012, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced that the government was engaged in exploratory peace talks with the violent leftist insurgent group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), in a bid to resolve a nearly 50-year internal armed conflict. The secret, initial dialogue between the Santos government and the FARC’s leadership led to the opening of formal peace talks with the FARC—the oldest, largest, and best-financed guerrilla organization in Latin America. Formal talks began in Oslo, Norway, in October 2012 and then, as planned, moved to Havana, Cuba,...

Kurds in Iraq and Syria: U.S. Partners Against the Islamic State

Since 2014, the United States and members of a coalition it leads have partnered with a politically diverse set of Kurdish groups to combat the Islamic State organization (IS, also known as ISIS/ISIL or by the Arabic acronym Da’esh). For background information on these groups and their relationships in the region, see CRS In Focus IF10350, The Kurds in Iraq, Turkey, Syria, and Iran, by Jim Zanotti and Bolko J. Skorupski.

The capabilities of various Kurdish ground forces have advanced some U.S. objectives in connection with ongoing anti-IS operations. At the same time, as these operations...

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...

The African Union (AU): Key Issues and U.S.-AU Relations

U.S. relations with the African Union (AU), an intergovernmental organization to which all African countries except Morocco belong, have strengthened over the past decade. U.S.-AU cooperation has traditionally focused on peace operations and conflict prevention and mitigation. U.S. aid for AU democracy-strengthening initiatives is another key focus of engagement. Other areas of cooperation include economic development, health, governance, peace and security capacity building, and criminal justice. Direct U.S. aid to the AU Commission (AUC, the organization’s secretariat), which oversees AU...

U.S. International Broadcasting: Background and Issues for Reform

Since the beginning of modern U.S. international broadcasting during World War II, debates over the effectiveness, strategic direction, and necessity of broadcasting activities have persisted. Longstanding arguments over the structure and operation of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) have only added to these debates, prompting recurring efforts to reform the organization and its programs. Many Members of Congress have consistently shown concerted interest in U.S. international broadcasting, conducting oversight over the BBG and its individual broadcasters, and calling for...

Latin America: Terrorism Issues

Compared to other parts of the world, the potential threat emanating from terrorism is low in most countries in Latin America. Most terrorist acts occur in the Andean region of South America, committed by two Colombian guerrilla groups—the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN)—and one Peruvian guerrilla group, the Shining Path (SL). All three of these groups have been designated by the U.S. State Department as Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs). The FARC, however, has been engaged in peace negotiations with the Colombian government since...

Presidential Authority over Trade: Imposing Tariffs and Duties

The United States Constitution gives Congress the power to impose and collect taxes, tariffs, duties, and the like, and to regulate international commerce. While the Constitution gives the President authority to negotiate international agreements, it assigns him no specific power over international commerce and trade. Through legislation, however, Congress may delegate some of its power to the President, such as the power to modify tariffs under certain circumstances. Thus, because the President does not possess express constitutional authority to modify tariffs, he must find authority for...

Generalized System of Preferences: Agricultural Imports

The Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) provides duty-free tariff treatment for certain products from designated developing countries. Agricultural imports under GSP totaled $2.6 billion in 2015, nearly 15% of the value of all U.S. GSP imports. Leading agricultural imports (based on value) include processed foods and food processing inputs; beverages and drinking waters; processed and fresh fruits and vegetables; sugar and sugar confectionery; olive oil; and miscellaneous food preparations and inputs for further processing. The majority of these imports are from Thailand, Brazil,...

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...

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...

Internet Governance and the Domain Name System: Issues for Congress

The Internet is often described as a “network of networks” because it is not a single physical entity, but hundreds of thousands of interconnected networks linking hundreds of millions of computers around the world. As such, the Internet is international, decentralized, and comprised of networks and infrastructure largely owned and operated by private sector entities. As the Internet grows and becomes more pervasive in all aspects of modern society, the question of how it should be governed becomes more pressing.

Currently, an important aspect of the Internet is governed by a private...

Naval Station Guantanamo Bay: History and Legal Issues Regarding Its Lease Agreements

This report briefly outlines the history of the establishment of the U.S. naval station at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, during the first decade of the twentieth century, its changing relationship to the community around it, and its heightened importance with military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. It also explains in detail the legal status of the lease of the land on which the naval station stands, the statutory and treaty authorities granted to the President with regard to any potential closure of the naval station, and the second-order effects on such a closure that Cuba sanctions laws...

Navy Force Structure: A Bigger Fleet? Background and Issues for Congress

Current Navy plans call for achieving and maintaining a fleet of 308 ships of certain types and numbers. Some observers have advocated increasing the Navy’s force-level goal to about 350 ships. The Navy is currently conducting a force structure assessment (FSA), and some observers anticipate that this FSA will lead to a new Navy force-level goal of more than 308 ships, although not necessarily 350 ships. The Navy’s actual size in recent years has generally been in the range of 270 to 290 ships.

Those who advocate increasing the planned size of the Navy to something more than 308 ships...

Staff Pay Levels for Selected Positions in House Committees, 2001-2015

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

This report provides pay data for 11 staff position titles that are used in House committees, and include the following: Chief Counsel; Communications...

Intelligence Community Programs, Management, and Enduring Issues

Congress’s and the American public’s ability to oversee and understand how intelligence dollars are spent is limited by the secrecy that surrounds the intelligence budget process. Yet, total spending on the Intelligence Community (IC) programs discussed in this report equates to approximately $70 billion dollars—roughly 10% of national defense spending. This report is designed to shed light on the IC budget—in terms of its programs, management, and enduring issues—using unclassified materials available in the public domain.

This report focuses those IC programs, grouped, for the most part,...

Foreign Aid and the Education Sector: Programs and Priorities

Education has long been considered an important part of the U.S. foreign assistance strategy. There is general agreement that education is crucial to bettering livelihoods and improving economic stability in developing countries. According to the World Bank, an increase of one standard deviation in student reading and math scores is associated with an increase of two percentage points in annual gross domestic product (GDP) per capita growth.

Access to and quality of education continues to pose a challenge to foreign aid donors. Approximately 263 million children and youth worldwide do not...

Security Cooperation: Comparison of Proposed Provisions for the FY2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)

During the lame duck session, the 114th Congress is expected to consider various provisions in the annual defense authorization bill that address U.S. security sector cooperation. If enacted, the FY2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) could significantly alter the way in which the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) engages and partners with foreign security forces.

Policy Debate in Context

Successive U.S. Administrations have emphasized the importance of strengthening foreign military partnerships to achieve shared security goals. Over time, the legal authorities underpinning some...

Extraterritorial Application of American Criminal Law

Criminal law is usually territorial. It is a matter of the law of the place where it occurs. Nevertheless, a number of American criminal laws apply extraterritorially outside of the United States. Application is generally a question of legislative intent, express or implied. There are two exceptions. First, the statute must come within Congress’s constitutional authority to enact. Second, neither the statute nor its application may violate due process or any other constitutional prohibition.

Claims of implied extraterritoriality must overcome additional obstacles. Federal laws are presumed...

Uruguay: In Brief

Uruguay is a small nation of 3.4 million people located on the Atlantic coast of South America between Brazil and Argentina. The country stands out in Latin America for its strong democratic institutions; high per capita income; and low levels of corruption, poverty, and inequality. As a result of its domestic success and commitment to international engagement, Uruguay plays a more influential role in regional and international affairs than its size might suggest.

Uruguay has drawn increased congressional attention in recent years as a result of several high-profile and controversial...

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...

House Standing Committees’ Rules on Legislative Activities: Analysis of Rules in Effect in the 114th Congress

Rule XI, clause 2(a)(1) directs each standing committee to adopt “written rules governing its procedure.” This paragraph continues: “Such rules ... (B) may not be inconsistent with the Rules of the House or with those provisions of law having the force and effect of Rules of the House....” Rule XI, clause 1(a)(1)(A) in addition states: “The Rules of the House are the rules of its committees and subcommittees so far as applicable.” Finally, Rule XI, clause 1(a)(1)(B) subordinates subcommittees to the committee of which they are a part: “Each subcommittee is a part of its committee and is...

The United States as a Net Debtor Nation: Overview of the International Investment Position

The international investment position of the United States is an annual measure of the assets Americans own abroad and the assets foreigners own in the United States. The net position, or the difference between the two, sometimes is referred to as a measure of U.S. international indebtedness. This designation is not strictly correct, because the net international investment position reveals the difference between the total assets Americans own abroad and the total amount of assets foreigners own in the United States. These assets generate flows of capital into and out of the economy that...

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...

An Abridged Sketch of Extradition To and From the United States

“Extradition” is the formal surrender of a person by a State to another State for prosecution or punishment. Extradition to or from the United States is a creature of treaty. The United States has extradition treaties with over a hundred nations, although there are many countries with which it has no extradition treaty. International terrorism and drug trafficking have made extradition an increasingly important law enforcement tool.

Extradition treaties are in the nature of a contract and generate the most controversy with respect to those matters for which extradition may not be had. In...

Extradition To and From the United States: Overview of the Law and Contemporary Treaties

“Extradition” is the formal surrender of a person by a State to another State for prosecution or punishment. Extradition to or from the United States is a creature of treaty. The United States has extradition treaties with over a hundred nations, although there are many countries with which it has no extradition treaty. International terrorism and drug trafficking have made extradition an increasingly important law enforcement tool. This is a brief overview of the adjustments made in recent treaties to accommodate American law enforcement interests, and then a nutshell overview of 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...

Internships, Fellowships, and Other Work Experience Opportunities in the Federal Government

While there are many opportunities in the federal government for internships, fellowships, and other work experience, there is no comprehensive source to assist in locating these opportunities. This report describes Internet resources for prominent and popular opportunities for internship, fellowship, and work experience programs within the federal government. The report is intended as a selective guide for students of all levels: high school, undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate. It provides information on legislative, executive, and judicial branch opportunities and links to several...

Zika Response Funding: Request and Congressional Action

The second session of the 114th Congress has considered whether and how to provide funds to control the spread of the Zika virus throughout the Americas. Zika infection, which is primarily spread by Aedes mosquitoes and sexual contact, has been linked to birth defects and other health concerns. Local transmission of the virus has occurred in Puerto Rico, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Florida.

On February 22, 2016, the Obama Administration requested more than $1.89 billion in supplemental funding for the Zika response, all of which it asked to be designated as an emergency...

Encryption: Frequently Asked Questions

Encryption is a process to secure information from unwanted access or use. Encryption uses the art of cryptography to change information which can be read (plaintext) and make it so that it cannot be read (ciphertext). Decryption uses the same art of cryptography to change that ciphertext back to plaintext. Encryption takes five elements to work: plaintexts, keys, encryption methods, decryption methods, and ciphertexts. Data that are in a state of being stored or in a state of being sent are eligible for encryption. However, data that are in a state of being processed—that is being...

Child Support Enforcement and the Hague Convention on Recovery of International Child Support

The Hague Convention on the International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance (the Convention) was adopted at the Hague Conference on Private International Law on November 23, 2007. The Convention contains procedures for processing international child support cases that are intended to be uniform, simple, efficient, accessible, and cost-free to U.S. citizens seeking child support in other countries. The United States was the first country to sign the Convention. For many international cases, U.S. courts and state Child Support Enforcement (CSE) agencies already...

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...

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) has been ratified by 183 nations, including the United States. It regulates the international trade in animals and plants that may be threatened by trade. CITES entered into force in 1975 and currently regulates the trade of approximately 30,000 species of plants and 5,600 species of animals. Many believe that CITES has been a success, noting that no species listed under CITES has gone extinct in the last 30 years. Others believe that CITES, although successful, has had implementation difficulties,...

U.S. Agricultural Trade with Cuba: Current Limitations and Future Prospects

After more than half a century during which trade relations between the United States and Cuba have evolved from a tight economic embargo to a narrow window of trade in U.S. agricultural and medical products, the diplomatic initiative that President Obama announced in December 2014 to restore more normal relations with Cuba has raised the possibility that bilateral relations could move toward an expansion in commercial opportunities.

Many U.S. agricultural and food industry interests believe the Cuban market could offer meaningful export expansion potential for their products—but only if...

Department of State and Foreign Operations Appropriations: History of Legislation and Funding in Brief

Congress currently appropriates foreign affairs funding through annual Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs (SFOPs) appropriations. This was not always the case, however. Prior to FY2008, Congress provided funding for the Department of State, international broadcasting, and related programs within the Commerce, Justice, State, the Judiciary, and Related Agencies appropriations. In those years, Congress separately appropriated funding for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and foreign aid within the Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and...

Nanotechnology: A Policy Primer

Nanoscale science, engineering, and technology—commonly referred to collectively as “nanotechnology”—is believed by many to offer extraordinary economic and societal benefits. Congress has demonstrated continuing support for nanotechnology and has directed its attention particularly to three topics that may affect the realization of this hoped for potential: federal research and development (R&D) in nanotechnology; U.S. competitiveness in the field; and environmental, health, and safety (EHS) concerns. This report provides an overview of these topics and two others: nanomanufacturing and...

Zimbabwe: Current Issues and U.S. Policy

Zimbabwe, a southern African country of about 14 million people, gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1980 after a lengthy armed struggle against white minority rule. The armed struggle, and the enduring effects of land allocations that favored whites, have profoundly shaped post-independence politics, as have the nationalist economic policies of the ruling Zimbabwe National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), led by long-time president Robert Mugabe. Land seizures, state-centric economic policies, and persistent political turmoil under Mugabe led to a severe economic contraction...

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...

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

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

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

House of Representatives Staff Levels in Member, Committee, Leadership, and Other Offices, 1977-2016

The manner in which staff are deployed within an organization may reflect the mission and priorities of that organization. This report provides staffing levels in House Member, committee, leadership, and other offices since 1977. Between 1977 and 2016, the number of House staff grew from 8,831 to 9,420, or 6.67%. Since 2008, however, the number of staff working for the House of Representatives has decreased 5.84%. These changes were characterized in part by increases in the number of staff working in chamber leadership offices, and larger increases in the staffing of chamber officers and...

Domestic Content Restrictions: The Buy American Act and Complementary Provisions of Federal Law

Broadly understood, domestic content restrictions are provisions which require that items purchased using specific funds appropriated or otherwise made available by Congress be produced or manufactured in the United States. Federal law contains a number of such restrictions, each of which applies to different entities and supplies, and imposes somewhat different requirements. Some of these restrictions have, however, been waived pursuant to the Trade Agreements Act (TAA).

The Buy American Act of 1933 is the earliest and arguably the best known of the major domestic content restrictions. It...

Immigration Legislation and Issues in the 114th Congress

The House and the Senate have considered immigration measures on a variety of issues in the 114th Congress. The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016 (P.L. 114-113) extends four immigration programs through September 30, 2016: the EB-5 immigrant investor Regional Center Pilot Program, the E-Verify employment eligibility verification system, the Conrad State program for foreign medical graduates, and the special immigrant religious worker program. P.L. 114-113 also contains provisions on the Visa Waiver Program and certain nonimmigrant visa categories.

Other enacted immigration-related...

The Endangered Species Act: A Primer

The Endangered Species Act (ESA; P.L. 93-205, 87 Stat. 884. 16 U.S.C. §§1531-1544) has a stated purpose of conserving species identified as endangered or threatened with extinction and conserving ecosystems on which these species depend. The ESA is perennially controversial because the protections provided can make it the visible policy focal point for underlying situations involving the allocation of scarce or diminishing lands or resources, especially in instances where societal values may be changing or traditional land use patterns are affected. As a result, the act often becomes...

U.S. Withdrawal from Free Trade Agreements: Frequently Asked Legal Questions

The United States is party to 14 international free trade agreements (FTAs) with 20 countries. These agreements impose a wide variety of international obligations on the United States and its trading partners. Such obligations address import tariffs, as well as potential nontariff trade barriers. A country that is party to an FTA and that maintains laws, regulations, or practices that violate one of these obligations may be subject to trade retaliation (e.g., other FTA parties may increase tariffs on the country’s exports) or may have to pay a fine or monetary compensation to an FTA...

How Big Should the Army Be? Considerations for Congress

Article I, Section 8, of the U.S. Constitution vests Congress with broad powers over the Armed Forces, including the power "To raise and support Armies" and “To provide and maintain a Navy.” As such, the size of the Armed Forces is a topic of perennial congressional interest and debate. Congress annually sets minimum and maximum strength levels for the active components and maximum strength levels for the reserve components.

The House and Senate versions of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY2017 authorized differing levels for active duty personnel in each of the...

Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty: Background and Current Developments

A ban on all nuclear tests is the oldest item on the nuclear arms control agenda. Three treaties that entered into force between 1963 and 1990 limit, but do not ban, such tests. In 1996, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), which would ban all nuclear explosions. In 1997, President Clinton sent the CTBT to the Senate, which rejected it in October 1999. In a speech in Prague in April 2009, President Obama said, “My administration will immediately and aggressively pursue U.S. ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.” However,...

U.S. Textile Manufacturing and the Proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement

Textiles are a sensitive sector in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), an agreement that would establish a free-trade zone across the Pacific if it is approved by Congress and foreign governments. Because the TPP includes Vietnam, a major apparel producer that now mainly sources yarns and fabrics from China and other Asian nations, the agreement could shift global trading patterns for textiles and demand for U.S. textile exports. Canada and Mexico, both significant regional textile markets for the United States, and Japan, a major manufacturer of high-end textiles and industrial fabrics,...

Northeast Asia and Russia’s “Turn to the East”: Implications for U.S. Interests

Since Russia’s aggression in Ukraine and its annexation of the Crimea in March 2014, Moscow’s already tense relationship with the United States and Europe has grown more fraught. After the imposition of sanctions on Russia by much of the West, Russian President Vladimir Putin has turned to East Asia, seeking new partnerships to counter diplomatic isolation and secure new markets to help Russia’s struggling economy. His outreach to Beijing, Tokyo, Seoul, and Pyongyang has met varying degrees of success. The most high-profile outreach was a summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping in May...

TPP: American Agriculture and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a regional free trade agreement (FTA), which the United States concluded with 11 other Pacific-facing nations in October 2015: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. Approval by Congress (through implementing legislation) is required before TPP can enter into force. If the 12 TPP countries ratify the deal, TPP would materially increase the overseas markets to which U.S. agricultural products would have preferential access. Exports account for around one-fifth of U.S. farm production,...

Gangs in Central America

The Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and its main rival, the “18th Street” gang, continue to undermine citizen security and subvert government authority in parts of Central America. Gang-related violence has been particularly acute in El Salvador, Honduras, and urban areas in Guatemala, contributing to some of the highest homicide rates in the world. Congress has maintained an interest in the effects of gang-related crime and violence on governance, citizen security, and investment in Central America. Congress has examined the role that gang-related violence has played in fueling mixed migration...

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....

DOD Security Cooperation: An Overview of Authorities and Issues

Over the past decade, Congress has authorized the Department of Defense (DOD) to conduct a wide range of security cooperation programs. As the scope, pace, and cost of activities to train, equip, and otherwise support foreign security forces have increased, however, some policymakers believe that the DOD’s growing authority may undermine the State Department’s lead role in foreign assistance. To others, DOD’s expanded role is a necessary response to the perceived inadequacies of the existing legal regime through which Congress has authorized the State Department and DOD to provide security...

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...

Zika Virus in the Western Hemisphere: CRS Products

In late 2015, health officials in Brazil saw a spike in the number of infants born with microcephaly, a birth defect that may be associated with significant, permanent brain damage. The increase in microcephaly was later linked to prenatal infection with the Zika virus (ZIKV), which appears to have emerged in Brazil early in 2015. ZIKV has spread from South America into Central America and the Caribbean. Puerto Rico has been hard hit, with more than 6,500 locally transmitted (i.e., mosquito-borne) infections reported to date. In late July 2016, local transmission of ZIKV was reported for...

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...

The 2016 Olympic Games: Health, Security, Environmental, and Doping Issues

The 2016 Olympic Games will be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, August 5-21, 2016, and will be followed by the Paralympic Games, September 7-18, 2016. Notably, these are the first games to be hosted by a South American city. Reportedly, 10,500 athletes from 206 countries will participate in the Olympics, including 555 athletes from the United States. Most Olympic events will take place in and around Rio de Janeiro. In addition to Rio de Janeiro, soccer matches will be held in the cities of Belo Horizonte, Brasília, Manaus, São Paulo, and Salvador.

Host countries and cities often have to...

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,...

Trade Adjustment Assistance for Farmers

The Trade Adjustment Assistance for Farmers (TAAF) program provides technical assistance and cash benefits to producers of farm commodities and fishermen who experience adverse economic effects from increased imports. Congress first authorized this program in 2002, and made significant changes to it in the 2009 economic stimulus package (P.L. 111-5). The 2009 revisions were aimed at making it easier for farmers and fishermen to qualify for program benefits, and provided over $200 million in funding through December 2010. Subsequently, P.L. 112-40 (enacted in October 2011) authorized $202.5...

Pakistan’s Nuclear Weapons

Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal probably consists of approximately 110-130 nuclear warheads, although it could have more. Islamabad is producing fissile material, adding to related production facilities, and deploying additional nuclear weapons and new types of delivery vehicles. Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is widely regarded as designed to dissuade India from taking military action against Pakistan, but Islamabad’s expansion of its nuclear arsenal, development of new types of nuclear weapons, and adoption of a doctrine called “full spectrum deterrence” have led some observers to express concern...

The U.S.-Japan Alliance

The U.S.-Japan alliance has long been an anchor of the U.S. security role in Asia. Forged in the U.S. occupation of Japan after its defeat in World War II, the alliance provides a platform for U.S. military readiness in the Pacific. About 50,000 U.S. troops are stationed in Japan and have the exclusive use of 85 facilities. In exchange for the use of these bases, the United States guarantees Japan’s security. Security challenges in the region, particularly nuclear and missile tests by North Korea and increased Chinese maritime activities, have reinforced U.S.-Japan cooperation in recent...

The Obama Administration’s Feed the Future Initiative

The Obama Administration’s Feed the Future (FTF) Initiative is a U.S. international development program launched in 2010 that invests in food security and agricultural development activities in a select group of developing countries in an effort to reduce hunger, malnutrition, poverty, and food insecurity. The bulk of FTF funding supports 19 “focus countries” selected based on country ownership potential, needs, and opportunities to achieve success. FTF supports additional countries under aligned and regional programs and through assistance to three “strategic partners”—Brazil, India, and...

The U.S. Wine Industry and Selected Trade Issues with the European Union

Global wine production totaled roughly 28 billion liters in 2014. The European Union (EU) dominates world production, accounting for nearly 60% of all wine produced each year. France, Italy, and Spain are among the principal EU wine-producing countries. The United States is the world’s second-largest wine-producing region, accounting for about 10% of global production. The value of world trade in wine totaled more than $21 billion in 2013. The EU accounted for nearly 60% of the world’s export market for wine, valued at $12 billion in 2013. Other exporting nations include Australia, Chile,...

Does Foreign Aid Work? Efforts to Evaluate U.S. Foreign Assistance

In most cases, the success or failure of U.S. foreign aid programs is not entirely clear, in part because historically, most aid programs have not been evaluated for the purpose of determining their actual impact. Many programs are not even evaluated on basic performance. The purpose and methodologies of foreign aid evaluation have varied over the decades, responding to political and fiscal circumstances. Aid evaluation practices and policies have variously focused on meeting program management needs, building institutional learning, accounting for resources, informing policymakers, and...

Burma’s Political Prisoners and U.S. Sanctions

The release of all Burma’s political prisoners is one of the fundamental goals of U.S. policy towards the nation. Several of the laws imposing sanctions on Burma—including the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act of 2003 (BFDA, P.L. 108-61) and the Tom Lantos Block Burmese JADE (Junta’s Anti-Democratic Efforts) Act of 2008 (JADE Act, P.L. 110-286)—require the release of all political prisoners before the sanctions contained in those laws can be terminated.

Although the outgoing President Thein Sein provided pardons or amnesty for more than 1,000 alleged political prisoners, security forces...

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...

Turkey: Failed Coup and Implications for U.S. Policy

On July 15-16, 2016, elements within the Turkish military tried, but failed, to seize political power from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Binali Yildirim. The perpetrators detained the military’s top commanders, and declared (via Turkey’s government broadcaster) that they had taken power, but failed in their efforts to seize Erdogan or other key leaders. Government officials used various traditional and social media platforms and alerts from mosque loudspeakers to rally Turkey’s citizens in opposition to the plot.

Figure 1. President Erdogan on CNN Turk – July 16,...

Supplemental Appropriations for Zika Response: The FY2016 Conference Agreement in Brief

This report presents funding proposals for response to the Zika outbreak, including proposals in Division B of the conference report, and, where applicable, associated proposed rescissions, including those in Division D of the conference report.

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...

Japan’s Upper House Elections: Ruling Coalition Strengthens Majority

Will Japan Amend Its Constitution?

In elections on July 10, 2016, for the Upper House of Japan’s Parliament, known as the Diet, the ruling coalition enlarged its majority from 135 to 146 seats out of 242. The conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, now holds two-thirds of the Lower House and a solid majority in the Upper House (see Figure 1) with its junior coalition partner Komeito. This fourth straight victory in parliamentary elections by Abe’s coalition reinforced his political power. Although the ruling coalition by itself fell short of the...

Arbitration Case Between the Philippines and China Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)

On July 12, 2016, an arbitral tribunal constituted under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) is expected to issue a ruling in a case between the Philippines and the People’s Republic of China (PRC or China). The Philippines, a U.S. ally, initiated the case in January 2013 under the convention’s compulsory dispute settlement provisions, seeking primarily to clarify the two countries’ potential maritime rights in the South China Sea. The Philippines and China are both parties to UNCLOS. The United States has a policy of operating consistent with the convention, but...

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,...

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...

Zika Virus in Latin America and the Caribbean: U.S. Policy Considerations

Congress is debating how to respond to an ongoing outbreak of Zika virus, a mosquito-borne illness that has no treatment or vaccine and can cause microcephaly—a severe birth defect—and other neurological complications. As of June 16, 2016, 60 countries and territories had reported mosquito-borne transmission of the virus, 39 of which are in Latin America and the Caribbean and are reporting cases of Zika for the first time. Brazil, which has registered the most confirmed cases of Zika in Latin America, will host the summer Olympics in August 2016. Scientists expect that travel destinations...

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...

Financing U.S. Agricultural Exports to Cuba

In December 2014, President Obama announced a new policy approach toward Cuba that in part seeks to reduce the role of long-standing U.S. sanctions on commercial relations with Cuba while also promoting greater engagement and normal relations with the island nation. For U.S. agriculture, the most significant change to emerge from the altered U.S. policy stance toward Cuba has been a revised interpretation of the definition of “payment of cash in advance” that conditions sales of agricultural commodities to Cuba under the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000 (TSRA,...

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...

The Appointment Process for U.S. Circuit and District Court Nominations: An Overview

In recent decades, the process for appointing judges to the U.S. circuit courts of appeals and the U.S. district courts has been of continuing Senate interest. The responsibility for making these appointments is shared by the President and the Senate. Pursuant to the Constitution’s Appointments Clause, the President nominates persons to fill federal judgeships, with the appointment of each nominee also requiring Senate confirmation. Although not mentioned in the Constitution, an important role is also played midway in the appointment process by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Presidential...

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...

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...

The Islamic State’s Acolytes and the Challenges They Pose to U.S. Law Enforcement

Analysis of publicly available information on homegrown violent jihadist activity in the United States since September 11, 2001, suggests that the Islamic State (IS) and its acolytes may pose broad challenges to domestic law enforcement and homeland security efforts. Homegrown IS-inspired plots can be broken into three rough categories based on the goals of the individuals involved. The first two focus on foreign fighters, the last on people willing to do harm in the United States:

The Departed—Americans, often described as foreign fighters, who plan to leave or have left the United...

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...

Goldwater-Nichols at 30: Defense Reform and Issues for Congress

Thirty years after its enactment, Congress has undertaken a review of the Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act (GNA) as well as the broader organization and structure of the contemporary Department of Defense (DOD) more broadly. Most observers agree that in principle a comprehensive review of the Goldwater-Nichols legislation is warranted at this juncture. Further, a broad consensus appears to exist among observers that DOD must become considerably more agile while retaining its strength in order to enable the United States to meet a variety of critical emerging...

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 Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016 (S. 524): Comparison of Senate- and House-Passed Versions

The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016 (CARA; S. 524) aims to address the problem of opioid addiction in the United States. It passed the Senate (S. 524 ES) on March 10, 2016, and it passed the House with an amendment in the nature of a substitute (S. 524 EAH) on May 13, 2016. The two versions of the bill differ substantially. The scope of the differences may be illustrated by their structures: The Senate bill has 28 sections organized in 8 titles, whereas the House bill has 69 sections organized in 18 titles. This report discusses selected differences and similarities...

Offsets, Supplemental Appropriations, and the Disaster Relief Fund: FY1990-FY2013

This report discusses the history of the use of offsetting rescissions to pay for supplemental appropriations to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Disaster Relief Fund (DRF) from FY1990 through FY2013.

As Congress debated the growing size of the budget deficit and national debt, efforts intensified to control spending and offset the costs of legislation. Several times between FY1990 and FY2013, the question of offsetting disaster relief spending became a focus of congressional debate.

Usually, in the time reviewed, supplemental disaster relief funding was treated as emergency...

Intellectual Property Rights Violations: Federal Civil Remedies and Criminal Penalties Related to Copyrights, Trademarks, Patents, and Trade Secrets

This report provides information describing the federal civil remedies and criminal penalties that may be available as a consequence of violations of the federal intellectual property laws: the Copyright Act of 1976, the Patent Act of 1952, the Trademark Act of 1946 (conventionally known as the Lanham Act), and the Economic Espionage Act of 1996. The report explains the remedies and penalties for the following intellectual property offenses:

17 U.S.C. §501 (copyright infringement);

17 U.S.C. §506(a)(1)(A) and 18 U.S.C. §2319(b) (criminal copyright infringement for profit);

17 U.S.C....

Security Assistance and Cooperation: Shared Responsibility of the Departments of State and Defense

The Department of State and the Department of Defense (DOD) have long shared responsibility for U.S. assistance to train, equip, and otherwise engage with foreign military and other security forces. The legal framework for such assistance emerged soon after World War II, when Congress charged the Secretary of State with responsibility for overseeing and providing general direction for military and other security assistance programs and the Secretary of Defense with responsibility for administering such programs. Over the years, congressional directives and executive actions have modified,...

Status of the Ebola Outbreak in West Africa: Overview and Issues for Congress

The 2014-2015 outbreak and spread of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD, or Ebola) in West Africa became an international public health emergency that, in no small part due to international intervention, abated significantly by the end of 2015 and early 2016. The issue remains of interest toward the end of the 114th Congress for a number of reasons, including ongoing concerns about the status of disease and risks of future outbreaks, and interest in the disposition of funds appropriated by Congress in response to Ebola, especially in view of the more recent health challenge posed by the Zika virus....

Unaccompanied Alien Children: CRS Experts

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United States Lifts Remaining Restrictions on Arms Sales to Vietnam

Overview

From May 22 to 25, President Obama is visiting Vietnam, his first trip to that country as President. During his tenure, U.S.-Vietnam relations have expanded, fueled partially by shared concerns about China’s increased assertiveness in the South China Sea, where Hanoi and Beijing have competing territorial and exclusive economic zone (EEZ) claims. (See CRS In Focus IF10209, U.S.-Vietnam Relations.) While in Hanoi, the President announced the removal of remaining U.S. restrictions on sales of lethal weapons and related services to Vietnam. U.S. officials and some observers have...

U.S.-Vietnam Economic and Trade Relations: Issues for the 114th Congress

The year 2015 was a memorable year in U.S.-Vietnam relations, marking the 40th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War, the 20th anniversary of the reestablishment of diplomatic relations, the first U.S. visit by a Chairman of the Vietnamese Communist Party (VCP) (in July), and the conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade negotiations (in October). This year also will be marked with historical events, including the 15th anniversary of the United States granting Vietnam permanent normal trade relations (PNTR), the February signing of the TPP, and President Obama’s first...

Public Health Service Agencies: Overview and Funding (FY2015-FY2017)

Within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), eight agencies are designated components of the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS). The PHS agencies are funded primarily with annual discretionary appropriations. They also receive significant amounts of funding from other sources including mandatory funds from the Affordable Care Act (ACA), user fees, and third-party reimbursements (collections).

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) funds research on improving the quality and delivery of health care. For several years prior to FY2015, AHRQ did not receive its own...

U.S.-EU Data Privacy: From Safe Harbor to Privacy Shield

Both the United States and the European Union (EU) maintain that they are committed to upholding individual privacy rights and ensuring the protection of personal data. Nevertheless, data privacy and protection issues have long been sticking points in U.S.-EU economic and security relations, in part because of differences in U.S. and EU data privacy approaches and legal regimes. In the late 1990s, the United States and the EU negotiated the Safe Harbor Agreement of 2000 to allow U.S. companies and organizations to meet EU data protection requirements and permit the legal transfer of...

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...

DHS Appropriations FY2016: Security, Enforcement and Investigations

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 second title of the homeland security appropriations bill—Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), and the U.S. Secret Service (USSS). Collectively, Congress has labeled these components in recent years as “Security, Enforcement, and Investigations.”

The report provides...

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...

Judge Merrick Garland: His Jurisprudence and Potential Impact on the Supreme Court

On March 16, 2016, President Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (D.C. Circuit) to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court created by the unexpected death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February. Judge Garland was appointed to the D.C. Circuit by President Clinton in 1997, and is currently its chief judge, an administrative position that rotates among the active judges on the circuit. Prior to his appointment to the bench, Judge Garland served in the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, where he notably oversaw...

Protection of Trade Secrets: Overview of Current Law and Legislation

A trade secret is confidential, commercially valuable information that provides a company with a competitive advantage, such as customer lists, methods of production, marketing strategies, pricing information, and chemical formulae. (Well-known examples of trade secrets include the formula for Coca-Cola, the recipe for Kentucky Fried Chicken, and the algorithm used by Google’s search engine.) To succeed in the global marketplace, U.S. firms depend upon their trade secrets, which increasingly are becoming their most valuable intangible assets.

However, U.S. companies annually suffer...

Miscellaneous Tariff Bills: Overview and Issues for Congress

U.S. importers often request that Members of Congress introduce bills seeking to temporarily suspend or reduce tariffs on certain imports. The rationale for these requests is that they cut costs for U.S manufacturers, thus enabling them to hire more workers, invest in research and development, and reduce costs for consumers.

In recent congressional practice, the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committees, the committees of jurisdiction over tariffs, have combined individual duty suspension bills and other technical trade provisions into larger pieces of legislation known as...

The Islamic State’s Acolytes and the Challenges They Pose to U.S. Law Enforcement

Analysis of publicly available information on homegrown violent jihadist activity in the United States since September 11, 2001, suggests that the Islamic State (IS) and its acolytes may pose broad challenges to domestic law enforcement and homeland security efforts. Homegrown IS-inspired plots can be broken into three rough categories based on the goals of the individuals involved. The first two focus on foreign fighters, the last on people willing to do harm in the United States:

The Departed—Americans, often described as foreign fighters, who plan to leave or have left the United...

Zika Virus: Global Health Considerations

Background

Zika is a virus that is primarily spread by Aedes mosquitoes—the same mosquitoes that transmit dengue, chikungunya, and yellow fever. Zika transmission has also been documented from mother to child during pregnancy, as well as through sexual intercourse, blood transfusions, and laboratory exposure. Scientists first identified the virus in 1947 among monkeys living in the Ugandan Zika forest. Five years later, human cases were detected in Uganda and Tanzania. The first human cases outside of Africa were diagnosed in the Pacific in 2007 and in Latin America in 2015. From January...

Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems: Issues for Congress

The current research and future deployment of lethal autonomous weapon systems (LAWS) is actively under discussion throughout the military, nongovernmental, and international communities. This discussion is focused, to various degrees, on the military advantage to be gained from current and future systems, the risks and potential benefits inherent in the research and deployment of autonomous weapon systems, and the ethics of their use. Restrictions, if any, in treaty and domestic law, as well as the specific rules governing procurement and use of LAWS by the military, will all rely to...

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...

U.S. Sugar Program Fundamentals

The U.S. sugar program provides a price support guarantee to producers of sugar beets and sugarcane and to the processors of both crops. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), as program administrator, is directed to administer the program at no budgetary cost to the federal government by limiting the amount of sugar supplied for food use in the U.S. market. To achieve both objectives, USDA uses four tools—as reauthorized without change by the 2014 farm bill (P.L. 113-79) and found in chapter 17 of the Harmonized Tariff Schedules of the United States—to keep domestic market prices...

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...

The U.S. Intelligence Community: Selected Cross-Cutting Issues

This report focuses on cross-cutting management issues that affect the Intelligence Community’s (IC’s) ability to counter “pervasive and emerging threats” to the United States and balance resources both appropriately and wisely. As the IC’s senior manager, these issues ultimately fall within the Director of National Intelligence’s (DNI’s) area of responsibility. The DNI is charged with integrating the community of intelligence agencies so that they operate effectively as one team.

There are no easy solutions to the challenges examined in this report. The IC’s efforts to demonstrate...

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...

Closing Space: Restrictions on Civil Society Around the World and U.S. Responses

Civil society organizations (CSOs) around the world are confronting ever stricter limitations on their ability to operate, a phenomenon often referred to “closing space” for civil society work. From restrictions on the types of funding they are allowed to receive to draconian registration requirements, the measures targeting CSOs are increasingly putting pressure on the entire civil society sector in certain countries. These restrictions are most commonly imposed by governments seeking to limit the influence of nongovernmental actors, though restrictions are also being imposed by a broad...

Telehealth and Telemedicine: Description and Issues

Telehealth is the use of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support remote clinical health care, patient and professional health-related education, public health, and other health care delivery functions. A narrower concept, telemedicine, refers to clinical services that are provided remotely via telecommunications technologies. Some sources use the two terms interchangeably, and there is no consensus among federal programs and among health care providers on the definition of either term.

Federal involvement in telehealth is varied. As of 2014, more than 20...

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...

Burma’s 2015 Parliamentary Elections: Issues for Congress

The landslide victory of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) in Burma’s November 2015 parliamentary elections may prove to be a major step in the nation’s potential transition to a more democratic government. Having won nearly 80% of the contested seats in the election, the NLD has a majority in both chambers of the Union Parliament, which gave it the ability to select the President-elect, as well as control of most of the nation’s Regional and State Parliaments.

Burma’s 2008 constitution, however, grants the Burmese military, or Tatmadaw, widespread powers in the...

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),...

Congressional Liaison Offices of Selected Federal Agencies

This report is a list of about 200 congressional liaison offices, intended to help congressional offices in placing telephone calls and addressing correspondence to government agencies. In each case, the information was supplied by the agency itself and is current as of the date of publication. Entries are arranged alphabetically in four sections: legislative branch; judicial branch; executive branch; and agencies, boards, and commissions.

Wartime Detention Provisions in Recent Defense Authorization Legislation

In recent years, Congress has included provisions in annual defense authorization bills addressing issues related to detainees at the U.S. Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and, more broadly, the disposition of persons captured in the course of hostilities against Al Qaeda and associated forces. The National Defense Authorization Act for FY2012 (2012 NDAA; P.L. 112-81) arguably constituted the most significant legislation informing wartime detention policy since the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF; P.L. 107-40), which serves as the primary legal authority for...

Nigeria: Current Issues and U.S. Policy

The U.S. government considers its relationship with Nigeria, Africa’s largest producer of oil and its largest economy, to be among the most important on the continent. The country is Africa’s most populous, with more than 180 million people, roughly evenly divided between Muslims and Christians. Nigeria, which transitioned from military to civilian rule in 1999, ranked until recently among the top suppliers of U.S. oil imports, and is a major recipient of U.S. foreign aid. It is an influential actor in African politics and a major troop contributor to U.N. peacekeeping missions.

Nigeria is...

Poland and Its Relations with the United States

Over the past 25 years, the relationship between the United States and Poland has been close and cooperative. The United States strongly supported Poland’s accession to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1999 and backed its entry into the European Union (EU) in 2004. In recent years, Poland has made significant contributions to U.S.- and NATO-led military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Poland and the United States continue working together on issues such as democracy promotion, counterterrorism, and improving NATO capabilities.

Given its role as a close U.S. ally...

The Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program: Overview and Impact of the Affordable Care Act

The Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program makes federal funds available to eligible metropolitan areas, states, and local community-based organizations to assist with health care costs and support services for individuals and families affected by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). The Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program reports that in 2014 it served 512,214 low-income people with HIV/AIDS in the United States, 25.4% of whom were uninsured and 64.2% of whom were living at or below 100% of the federal poverty level.

The Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program is...

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...

Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau's State Visit, March 2016

This report briefly discusses Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's scheduled visit to the United States on March,10 2016. It will be the first state visit by a Canadian leader since 1997, when then-President Clinton hosted then-Prime Minister Jean Chrétien.

Heroin Production in Mexico and U.S. Policy

This report discusses Mexico's role as an illicit drug suppler to the U.S, specifically focusing on Heroin production and trafficking.

U.S.-EU Cooperation Against Terrorism

The September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States and the subsequent revelation of Al Qaeda cells in Europe gave new momentum to European Union (EU) initiatives to combat terrorism and improve police, judicial, and intelligence cooperation among its member states. Other deadly incidents in Europe, such as the Madrid and London bombings in 2004 and 2005, respectively, injected further urgency into strengthening EU counterterrorism capabilities. Among other steps, the EU has established a common definition of terrorism and a common list of terrorist groups, an EU arrest warrant,...

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...

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,...

Overview of Labor Enforcement Issues in Free Trade Agreements

Since 1993, the Administration has negotiated and Congress has approved 13 free trade agreements (FTAs) with labor provisions, and is considering additional FTAs. Based on similarity of language, these FTAs can be sorted into four groups, or “models,” which have evolved to contain successively greater levels of enforceability. This report first identifies the enforceable labor provisions in each model. Second, it identifies two types of labor enforcement issues: (1) those that relate to the FTA provisions themselves, including their definitions and their enforceability, and (2) those that...

Crude Oil Exports and Related Provisions in P.L. 114-113: In Brief

On December 18, 2015, Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016 (H.R. 2029), which was signed by the President and became P.L. 114-113. Included in P.L. 114-113 is a provision that repeals Section 103 of the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975 (EPCA; P.L. 94-163), which directs the President to promulgate a rule prohibiting crude oil exports. For nearly four decades, repeal of EPCA was generally not a policy issue since oil production was declining and imports were rising. However, increasing U.S. light oil production starting in the 2010/2011 timeframe, projected...

IAEA Budget and U.S. Contributions: In Brief

The United States, along with European Union and the P5+1 partners and Iran, agreed on July 14, 2015 to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) that is intended to end decades of economic sanctions against Iran in exchange for restrictions on its nuclear program. The accord designates the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to monitor and verify Iranian compliance with the JCPOA and report on these activities regularly. With this in mind, the second session of the 114th Congress may be interested in the funding of the IAEA.

The IAEA is an autonomous intergovernmental...

Biopower: Background and Federal Support

Biopower—a form of renewable energy—is the generation of electric power from biomass feedstocks. In 2014, Biopower comprised about 1.6% of total U.S. electricity generation and accounted for close to 12% of U.S. renewable electricity generation. Its advantages include a potential for baseload power production, greenhouse gas emission reduction, and use of renewable biomass feedstock, among other things. Its disadvantages include uncertain sustainable feedstock supply and infrastructure concerns, among other things.

Recent developments have prompted renewed interest in biopower. For...

Brazil: Background and U.S. Relations

The United States traditionally has enjoyed robust economic and political relations with Brazil, which is the fifth most populous country and ninth-largest economy in the world. Brazil is recognized by the Obama Administration as a “major global player” and an “indispensable partner” on issues ranging from international development to climate change. Administration officials have often highlighted Brazil’s status as a multicultural democracy, referring to the country as a natural partner that shares values and goals with the United States. Bilateral ties have been strained from time to...

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 President’s Budget: Overview of Structure and Timing of Submission to Congress

The Budget and Accounting Act of 1921, as amended and later codified in the U.S. Code, requires the President to submit a consolidated federal budget to Congress toward the beginning of each regular session of Congress. Under 31 U.S.C. §1105(a), the President must submit the budget—which contains budgetary proposals, projections, and other required reports—to Congress on or after the first Monday in January, but no later than the first Monday in February.

The President’s budget, or the Budget of the United States Government as it is referred to in statute, is required to include in part...

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...

Patent Litigation Reform Legislation in the 114th Congress

This report describes how current patent litigation reform legislation would change existing patent law to address the perceived problems caused by entities that engage in patent litigation tactics that have been criticized as abusive or deceptive. The bills introduced in the 114th Congress include the Innovation Act (H.R. 9), Protecting American Talent and Entrepreneurship Act (PATENT) Act (S. 1137), Demand Letter Transparency Act of 2015 (H.R. 1896), Targeting Rogue and Opaque Letters (TROL) Act (H.R. 2045), and the Support Technology and Research for Our Nation’s Growth (STRONG) Patents...

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...

Zika Virus: Basics About the Disease

In late 2015, health officials in Brazil recognized a marked increase in the number of infants born with microcephaly (from Greek, meaning “small head”), a birth defect that may accompany significant, permanent brain damage. Although not conclusive, the increase in microcephaly is suspected to be related to the emergence of Zika virus infections in Brazil early in 2015.

Zika virus is related to the viruses that cause yellow fever, dengue, West Nile, and Japanese encephalitis viruses. Historically Zika virus was found in Africa. Since 2007, Zika transmission has also occurred in Southeast...

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...

Unaccompanied Alien Children—Legal Issues: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

The beginning of FY2016 has seen an uptick in the number of alien minors apprehended at the U.S. border without a parent or legal guardian in comparison to the same time period in the prior year. This increase has prompted renewed questions regarding so-called unaccompanied alien children (UACs), many of which were previously raised in FY2013-FY2014, when a significant number of UACs were apprehended along the southern U.S. border.

Some of these questions pertain to the numbers of children involved, their reasons for coming to the United States, and current and potential responses of the...

Energy and Water Development: FY2016 Appropriations

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

President Obama’s FY2016 budget request was released February 2, 2015. Including adjustments, the request for Energy and Water Development agencies totaled $36.04 billion, compared with a total of $34.78...

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...

Iran-U.S. Air Service Not Imminent

This report discusses the prospect of air travel between Iran and the U.S., which last operated during 1979, when the U.S. government imposed an embargo on flights following the Iran hostage crisis. Since then, travel and air cargo shipments between the two countries have been routed through third countries, and their extent has been limited by U.S. sanctions.

Budget Reconciliation Process: Timing of Committee Responses to Reconciliation Directives

When reconciliation directives (also referred to as reconciliation instructions) are included in an annual budget resolution, their purpose is to require committees to develop and report reconciliation legislation that will achieve the budgetary goals set forth in the annual budget resolution. The reconciliation directives included in the budget resolution specify several things, including the committee instructed to report reconciliation legislation, the level of budgetary changes the committee should report, and the date by which the committee should report.

Although reconciliation...

North Korea: A Comparison of S. 1747, S. 2144, and H.R. 757

This report compares S. 1747, the North Korea Sanctions Enforcement Act of 2015, as introduced in the Senate by Senator Menendez on July 9, 2015; S. 2144, the North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act of 2015, introduced in the Senate by Senator Gardner on October 6, 2015; and H.R. 757, the North Korea Sanctions Enforcement Act of 2015, introduced in the House by Representative Royce on February 5, 2015, and passed, as amended by the Committee on Foreign Affairs, by the House on January 12, 2016, by a vote of 418-2.

Intelligence Authorization Legislation for FY2014 and FY2015: Provisions, Status, Intelligence Community Framework

Two Intelligence Authorization Acts (IAAs) were passed in 2014. The IAA for Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 (P.L. 113-126) was passed in July and an IAA for FY2015 (P.L. 113-293) was passed in December. This report examines selected provisions in the legislation and provides an intelligence community framework in the Appendix. Summary of Selected Legislative Provisions

Title IAA FY2014 (P.L. 113-126)IAA FY2015 (P.L. 113-293) I. Intelligence ActivitiesSection104 supports the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity.

III. General Matters Section 305 codifies provisions already in E.O....

U.S. International Family Planning Programs: Issues for Congress

For the past several decades, U.S. policymakers have debated the most appropriate and effective funding levels for U.S. international family planning programs. In the mid-1980s, controversy arose over U.S. family planning assistance when the Ronald Reagan Administration introduced restrictions that became known as the “Mexico City policy.” The Mexico City policy required foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to certify that they would not perform or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning—even if the activities were undertaken with non-U.S. funds. Presidents Reagan...

U.S. Assistance Programs in China

This report examines U.S. foreign assistance activities in the People’s Republic of China (PRC), undertaken by the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The report also discusses related foreign operations appropriations, policy history, and legislative background. International programs supported by U.S. departments and agencies other than the Department of State and USAID, as well as Department of State public diplomacy programs, are not covered in this report.

U.S. foreign assistance efforts in the PRC aim to promote democracy, human rights, and...

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...

Judiciary Appropriations FY2016

Funds for the judicial branch are included annually in the Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) Appropriations bill. The bill provides funding for the Supreme Court; the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit; the U.S. Court of International Trade; the U.S. Courts of Appeals and District Courts; Defender Services; Court Security; Fees of Jurors and Commissioners; the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts; the Federal Judicial Center; the U.S. Sentencing Commission; and Judicial Retirement Funds.

The judiciary’s FY2016 budget request of $7.533 billion was submitted on...

U.S. Foreign Assistance to Latin America and the Caribbean: Recent Trends and FY2016 Appropriations

Geographic proximity has forged strong linkages between the United States and the nations of Latin America and the Caribbean, with critical U.S. interests encompassing economic, political, and security concerns. U.S. policymakers have emphasized different strategic interests in the region at different times, from combating Soviet influence during the Cold War to advancing democracy and open markets since the 1990s. Current U.S. policy is designed to promote economic and social opportunity, ensure the safety of the region’s citizens, strengthen effective democratic institutions, and secure...

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

This report tracks and describes actions taken by the Administration and Congress to provide FY2016 appropriations for the International Trade Administration (ITA) of the U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC), and the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR). These three trade-related agencies are part of the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) appropriations process. The report also provides an overview of three trade-related programs that are administered by ITA, USITC, and USTR.

The Consolidated and Further...

Customer Choice and the Power Industry of the Future

In the United States, the modern electric utility industry began to emerge about 100 years ago, guided by a philosophy which came to be called the “regulatory compact.” Under the compact, state and local governments generally granted the right to provide electric power in a designated service territory, in exchange for an obligation to serve all electric power customers. Much of the nation’s power generation and delivery infrastructure was built under this arrangement, with customers ultimately paying for the costs of electricity services. However, the electric utility model nowadays is...

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...

State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs: FY2016 Budget and Appropriations

On February 2, 2015, the Obama Administration submitted to Congress its budget request for FY2016. The request for State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs (SFOPS) totals $54.08 billion, or a 4% increase from FY2015-estimated levels. Within that amount

$47.04 billion is requested for enduring or core funding and $7.05 billion is designated as Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding, excluding add-ons and rescissions;

$17.55 billion of the total request is for State Department Operations and related agencies (10.6% increase over FY2015 estimates);

$36.53 billion is for Foreign...

President Obama's $1 Billion Foreign Aid Request for Central America

This report discusses the Obama Administration's recent request for over $1 billion in foreign assistance during FY2016 to support a whole-of-government "U.S. Strategy for Engagement in Central America."

The WTO Nairobi Ministerial

This report briefly discusses a limited set of deliverables agreed upon by trade ministers and their senior representatives in Nairobi at the 10th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

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...

Air Quality: EPA’s 2013 Changes to the Particulate Matter (PM) Standard

On January 15, 2013, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a final rule revising the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for particulate matter (PM). The revised air quality standards were completed pursuant to the Clean Air Act (CAA) and, in part, in response to a court order and consent agreement. Based on its review of scientific studies available since the agency’s previous review in 2006, EPA determined that evidence continued to show associations between particulates in ambient air and numerous significant health problems, including aggravated asthma, chronic...

Haiti Under President Martelly: Current Conditions and Congressional Concerns

Haiti shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic. Since the fall of the Duvalier dictatorship in 1986, Haiti has struggled to overcome its centuries-long legacy of authoritarianism, extreme poverty, and underdevelopment. Economic and social stability improved considerably, and many analysts believed Haiti was turning a corner toward sustainable development when it was set back by a massive earthquake in January 2010 that devastated much of the capital of Port-au-Prince. Although it is recovering, poverty remains massive and deep, and economic disparity is wide: Haiti...

What Is “Building Partner Capacity?” Issues for Congress

Since 2001, successive U.S. administrations have increasingly prioritized efforts to build foreign security forces—particularly in weak and failing states—arguing that doing so advances U.S. national security objectives. In turn, the Department of Defense (DOD) has invested billions of dollars in “Building Partner Capacity,” a term that refers to a broad set of missions, programs, activities, and authorities intended to improve the ability of other nations to achieve those security-oriented goals they share with the United States. As a consequence, these efforts and programs have been a...

Central America Regional Security Initiative: Background and Policy Issues for Congress

Central America faces significant security challenges. Criminal threats, fragile political and judicial systems, and social hardships such as poverty and unemployment contribute to widespread insecurity in the region. Consequently, improving security conditions in these countries is a difficult, multifaceted endeavor. Since U.S. drug demand contributes to regional security challenges and the consequences of citizen insecurity in Central America are potentially far-reaching—as demonstrated by the increasing number of migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees arriving at the U.S. border—the...

House Committee Party Ratios: 98th-114th Congresses

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

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

Nepal: Political Developments and U.S. Relations

Nepal is a poor country of an estimated 31 million people that has undergone a radical political transformation since 2006, when a 10-year armed struggle by Maoist insurgents, which claimed at least 13,000 lives, officially came to an end. The country’s king stepped down in 2006, and two years later Nepal declared itself a republic, electing a Constituent Assembly (CA) in 2008 to write a new constitution. A second CA elected in 2013 reached agreement on a new constitution in September 2015. Though the process of democratization begun in 2006 has had setbacks and has been marked by...

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...

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...

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,...

Congressional Action on FY2016 Appropriations Measures

This report provides information on the congressional consideration of the FY2016 regular appropriations bills and the FY2016 continuing resolution (CR). It also discusses the statutory and procedural budget enforcement framework for FY2016 appropriations. It will address the congressional consideration of FY2016 supplemental appropriations if any such consideration occurs.

For all types of appropriations measures, discretionary spending budget enforcement under the congressional budget process has two primary sources. The first is the discretionary spending limits that are derived from...

The Evolution of Cooperative Threat Reduction: Issues for Congress

The United States uses a number of policy tools to address the threat of attack using chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) weapons. These include a set of financial and technical programs known, variously, as cooperative threat reduction (CTR) programs, nonproliferation assistance, or, global security engagement. Congress has supported these programs over the years, but has raised a number of questions about their implementation and their future direction.

Over the years, the CTR effort shifted from an emergency response to impending chaos in the Soviet Union to a broader...

Immigration: Visa Security Policies

The November 13, 2015, terrorist attacks in Paris have refocused attention on U.S. visa issuance and national security screening procedures that undergird the admission of foreign nationals to the United States. The visa issuance process is widely recognized as an integral part of immigration control and border security. Foreign nationals (i.e., aliens) not already legally residing in the United States who wish to come to the United States generally must obtain a visa to be admitted. The foreign national must establish that he/she is qualified for the visa under one of the various...

Cybersecurity and Information Sharing: Comparison of H.R. 1560 (PCNA and NCPAA) and S. 754 (CISA)

Effective sharing of information in cybersecurity is generally considered an important tool for protecting information systems from unauthorized access. Five bills on such sharing have been introduced in the 114th Congress—H.R. 234, H.R. 1560, H.R. 1731, S. 456, and S. 754, and relevant provisions have appeared in other bills. The White House has also submitted a legislative proposal and issued an executive order on the topic.

H.R. 1560, the Protecting Cyber Networks Act (PCNA), and H.R. 1731, the National Cybersecurity Protection Advancement Act of 2015 (NCPAA), passed the House the week...

Europe’s Energy Security: Options and Challenges to Natural Gas Supply Diversification

As a major energy consumer, Europe faces a number of challenges in addressing future energy needs. Among these challenges are rapidly rising global demand and competition for energy resources from countries such as China and India, tensions with Russia, persistent instability in the Middle East, a fragmented internal European energy market, and a growing need to shift fuels in keeping with European climate change policy. As a result, energy supply security has become a key concern for European governments and the European Union (EU).

A key element of the EU’s energy supply strategy has...

The Iran Hostages: Efforts to Obtain Compensation

Even today, after the passage of some three decades, the 1979-1981 Iran Hostage Crisis remains an event familiar to most Americans. Many might be unaware that the 52 American mostly military and diplomatic personnel held hostage in Tehran for 444 days continue to strive for significant compensation for their ordeal. The former hostages and their families did receive a number of benefits under various civil service laws, and each hostage received from the U.S. government a cash payment of $50 for each day held hostage. The hostages have never received any compensation from Iran through...

U.S. Foreign Assistance to the Middle East: Historical Background, Recent Trends, and the FY2016 Request

This report is an overview of U.S. foreign assistance to the Middle East and North Africa. It includes a review of the President’s FY2016 request for the region, a description of selected country programs, and an analysis of current foreign aid issues. We anticipate updating it annually.

Since 1946, the United States has provided an estimated total of between $282 billion to $292 billion (obligations in current dollars) in foreign assistance to the region. For FY2016, overall non-humanitarian bilateral aid requested for Middle East and North Africa countries amounts to $7.14 billion, or...

U.S.-China Cyber Agreement

During the state visit on September 24-25, 2015, President Xi Jinping of China and President Barack Obama reached a Cyber Agreement. This report briefly discusses that agreement.

International Crises and Disasters: U.S. Humanitarian Assistance Response Mechanisms

The majority of humanitarian emergencies worldwide stem from natural disasters or from conflicts. Congress has consistently supported humanitarian efforts as a means of saving lives, promoting stability, and furthering U.S. foreign policy objectives. Intervention results in varying amounts of relief and recovery assistance and can have an important impact not only on the relief operation itself but on broader foreign policy issues. In the 114th Congress, international humanitarian and refugee assistance is expected to continue to have a strong measure of bipartisan interest, with key...

Public Health Service Agencies: Overview and Funding (FY2010-FY2016)

Within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), eight agencies are designated components of the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS). The PHS agencies are funded primarily with annual discretionary appropriations. They also receive significant amounts of funding from other sources including mandatory funds from the Affordable Care Act (ACA), user fees, and third-party reimbursements (collections).

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) funds research on improving the quality and delivery of health care. For several years prior to FY2015, AHRQ did not receive a direct...

2015 Leaders' Summit on U.N. Peacekeeping

This report discusses the outcome of the 2015 Leaders' Summit on U.N. Peacekeeping, which might elevate ongoing congressional interest in several policy issues related to U.N. peacekeeping.

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...

Emerging Markets: Is Slower Growth Temporary?

This report discusses the growing vulnerabilities Emerging market (EM) countries are facing due to declining global trade, depreciating currencies, sharply lower commodity prices, volatile equity markets, and deeper economic reforms.

The Lord’s Resistance Army: The U.S. Response

The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), led by Joseph Kony, is a small, dispersed armed group active in remote areas of Central Africa. The LRA’s infliction of widespread human suffering and its potential threat to regional stability have drawn significant attention in recent years, including in Congress. Campaigns by U.S.-based advocacy groups have contributed to policymakers’ interest.

Since 2008, the United States has provided support to Ugandan-led military operations to capture or kill LRA commanders, which since 2012 have been integrated into an African Union (AU) “Regional Task Force”...

Mexico's Oil and Gas Sector: Background, Reform Efforts, and Implications for the United States

The future of oil and natural gas production in Mexico is of importance for both Mexico’s economic growth, as well as for U.S. energy security, a key congressional interest. Mexico is a top trade partner and the third-largest crude oil supplier to the United States. Mexico’s state oil company, Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex) remains an important source of government revenue even as it is struggling to counter declining oil production and reserves. Due to an inability to meet rising demand, Mexico has also significantly increased natural gas imports from the United States. Still, gas shortages...

Zivotofsky v. Kerry: The Jerusalem Passport Case and Its Potential Implications for Congress’s Foreign Affairs Powers

The Supreme Court in its last term by a vote of 6-3 invalidated a statute passed by Congress touching on the status of Jerusalem, affirming the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit decision in Zivotofsky v. Secretary of State that the President’s power to recognize foreign sovereigns is exclusive and trumps Congress’s authority to regulate passports. The Court’s decision in Zivotofsky v. Kerry (Zivotofsky II) represents the first time the Court has struck down a congressionally enacted law on the basis of a separation-of-powers infringement involving a matter of foreign affairs. At...

International Law and Agreements: Their Effect upon U.S. Law

This report provides an introduction to the roles that international law and agreements play in the United States. International law is derived from two primary sources—international agreements and customary practice. Under the U.S. legal system, international agreements can be entered into by means of a treaty or an executive agreement. The Constitution allocates primary responsibility for entering into such agreements to the executive branch, but Congress also plays an essential role. First, in order for a treaty (but not an executive agreement) to become binding upon the United States,...

Canada's October 2015 Elections

This report discusses the political climate in Canada, leading up to Canada's next election, scheduled for October 19, 2015. The outcome of the election may have implications for the United States, which is Canada's largest trading partner, largest energy consumer, and NATO ally.

Restrictions on Trade in Elephant Ivory

For decades, illegal trade in elephant ivory has threatened the viability of wild populations of the Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) and the African elephant (Loxodonta africana). To reduce the United States’ contribution to the demand for illegal elephant ivory, President Obama announced in February 2014 that his Administration would “strengthen enforcement” of U.S. laws governing the trade as part of his National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking. Shortly thereafter, the Department of the Interior’s (DOI’s) Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS or Service) took administrative actions...

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...

Expedited Procedures in the House: Variations Enacted into Law

Congressional Research Service 7-5700 www.crs.gov RL30599 Summary Congress enacts expedited, or fast-track, procedures into law when it wants to increase the likelihood that one or both houses of Congress will vote in a timely way on a certain measure or kind of measure. These procedures are enacted as rule-making provisions of law pursuant to the constitutional power of each house to adopt its own rules. The house to which a set of expedited procedures applies may act unilaterally to waive, suspend, amend, or repeal them. Sets of expedited procedures, as they affect the House of...

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...

Procedures for Congressional Action in Relation to a Nuclear Agreement with Iran: In Brief

An April 2015 framework for negotiations on a comprehensive nuclear agreement with Iran suggests that a final agreement that would ease many existing sanctions on Iran might be reached. Amid concerns among some in Congress about the terms of the potential agreement with Iran, Congress passed, and the President signed, the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 (P.L. 114-17). The act establishes a period for Congress to review any comprehensive agreement with Iran, during which certain presidential actions to provide relief from sanctions on Iran are barred. It also provides for...

Pope Francis and Selected Global Issues: Background for Papal Address to Congress

Pope Francis (born Jorge Mario Bergoglio) assumed the papacy on March 13, 2013, following the surprise resignation of Pope Benedict XVI (Joseph Ratzinger), who had served as pope since the death of St. Pope John Paul II (Karol Józef Wojtya) in 2005. The pope, respectfully referred to as “Your Holiness,” serves as head of the Holy See (diocese) of Rome and as the leader of the world’s roughly 1.2 billion Catholics. He is the first pope elected from Latin America, the first Jesuit pope (an order of priests founded by Ignatius Loyola), and the first pope in recent times who spent much of his...

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

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...

Is Global Growth Slowing?

This report discusses concerns about a slowdown in the global economy, particularly in China and other emerging markets. Some projections indicate that global economic growth in 2016 could be slightly weaker for emerging markets, primarily Latin America, and developed economies, except the United States and the United Kingdom.

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...

The International Labor Organization (ILO): Background in Brief

Congressional Research Service 7-5700 www.crs.gov R44165 Summary This report is intended as a primer on the International Labor Organization (ILO). The ILO was founded in 1919 under the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I, and became the first independent agency of the United Nations in 1946. It is a tripartite organization composed of member governments, labor, and employer representatives. The United States helped found the ILO and contributes more to the ILO regular budget (22%) than any other country. The ILO and its activities are of ongoing interest to Congress, particularly...

U.S.-China Nuclear Cooperation Agreement

Negotiated by the Reagan Administration nearly 30 years ago, the current U.S. peaceful nuclear cooperation agreement with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is set to expire on December 30, 2015. President Obama submitted a new 30-year U.S.-China nuclear cooperation agreement for congressional review on April 21, 2015. Among other provisions, the agreement would allow for uranium enrichment up to a level less than 20% U-235 and Chinese reprocessing of U.S.-obligated material at safeguarded facilities. The required congressional review period ended on July 31.

Such agreements are often...

China's Currency Devaluation

This report discusses China's recent changes to its method for determining the value of its currency (the renminbi). On Tuesday, August 11, 2015, the People's Bank of China (PBC), China's central bank, surprised global financial markets by lowering the reference rate of the renminbi, effectively depreciating the currency.

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,...

Foreign Investment in U.S. Securities

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...

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...

Guinea: In Brief

Guinea is one of three countries most affected by the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, which has affected the country’s economy, social relations, food security, and politics. A former French colony on West Africa’s Atlantic coast with a population of about 11 million, Guinea is rich in natural resources, but poverty is widespread. President Alpha Condé, a former opposition leader, was voted into office in 2010 in Guinea’s first ever presidential election organized by an independent electoral commission and without an incumbent candidate. His inauguration brought an end to a turbulent period...

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...

Thailand: Background and U.S. Relations

Thailand is a long-time military ally and a significant trade and economic partner for the United States. For many years, Thailand was seen as a model democracy in Southeast Asia, although this image, along with U.S.-Thai relations, has been complicated by deep political and economic instability in the wake of two military coups in the past nine years. The first, in 2006, displaced Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a popular but polarizing figure who is currently living in exile. The second, in 2014, deposed an acting prime minister after Thaksin’s sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, was ousted...

U.S. Efforts to Address Global Violence Against Women

This report briefly examines legislative issues regarding Violence against women, which includes random acts of violence as well as sustained abuse over time, can be physical, psychological, or sexual in nature.

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...

Expansion of WTO Information Technology Agreement Targets December Conclusion

This report discusses the World Trade Organization (WTO) expansion and agreement to expand the Information Technology Agreement (ITA) and eliminate tariffs on 201 goods not included in the original 1996 ITA.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child

U.S. ratification of the United Nations (U.N.) Convention on the Rights of the Child (hereinafter referred to as CRC or the Convention) may be a key area of focus during the 114th Congress, particularly if President Barack Obama seeks the advice and consent of the Senate.

Background and Current Status

CRC is an international treaty that aims to protect the rights of children worldwide. It defines a child as any human being under the age of 18, and calls on States Parties to take all appropriate measures to ensure that children’s rights are protected—including the right to a name and...

The U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW): Issues in the U.S. Ratification Debate

The Senate may consider providing its advice and consent to U.S. ratification of the United Nations (U.N.) Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW, or the Convention) during the 114th Congress. CEDAW is the only international human rights treaty that specifically addresses the rights of women. It calls on States Parties to take measures to eliminate discrimination against women in all areas of life, including political participation, employment, education, healthcare, and family structure. CEDAW has been ratified or acceded to by 189 States...

U.S.-Kenya Relations: Current Political and Security Issues

The U.S. government views Kenya as a strategic partner and a key regional actor in East Africa, and as critical to regional counterterrorism efforts. Kenya has repeatedly been a target of terrorist attacks, and, as the deadly September 2013 assault on a Nairobi shopping mall and subsequent attacks have underscored, terrorist threats in Kenya remain a serious concern. Heightened threats have led the U.S. government to reevaluate the size of its presence in the country, which hosts the largest U.S. diplomatic mission in Africa and one of four major U.N. offices worldwide.

Kenya’s military...

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...

Cyber Intrusion into U.S. Office of Personnel Management: In Brief

On June 4, 2015, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) revealed that a cyber intrusion had impacted its information technology systems and data, potentially compromising the personal information of about 4.2 million former and current federal employees. Later that month, OPM reported a separate cyber incident targeting OPM’s databases housing background investigation records. This breach is estimated to have compromised sensitive information of 21.5 million individuals.

Amid criticisms of how the agency managed its response to the intrusions and secured its information systems,...

Presidential Appointments to Full-Time Positions in Independent and Other Agencies 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. This report identifies all nominations that were submitted to the Senate for full-time positions in 40 organizations in the executive branch (27 independent agencies, 6 agencies in the Executive Office of the President [EOP], and 7 multilateral organizations) and 4 agencies in the legislative branch. It excludes appointments to executive departments and to regulatory and other boards and commissions,...

The Dominican Republic: Tensions with Haiti over Citizenship and Migration Issues

This report discusses the dispute between the Dominican Republic and Haiti regarding the citizenship status of some 200,000 Dominicans of Haitian descent, as well as undocumented migrants in the Dominican Republic, which threatens to exacerbate tensions between the two neighbors.

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...

U.S.-Taiwan Trade Relations

This report discusses the U.S. - Taiwan relations. U.S. trade data indicate that in 2014, Taiwan was the United States’ 10th largest merchandise trading partner (at $67.4 billion), 14th largest export market ($26.8 billion), and 12th largest source of imports ($40.6 billion).

Reestablishment of Diplomatic Relations with Cuba

This report discusses the decision to reestablish diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba and to reopen embassies in their respective capitals (announced July 1, 2015). It briefly describes the U.S.'s new policy approach towards Cuba and the congressional response to the changes.

The Tibetan Policy Act of 2002: Background and Implementation

The Tibetan Policy Act of 2002 (TPA) is a core legislative measure guiding U.S. policy toward Tibet. Its stated purpose is “to support the aspirations of the Tibetan people to safeguard their distinct identity.” Among other provisions, the TPA establishes in statute the State Department position of Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues and defines the Special Coordinator’s “central objective” as being “to promote substantive dialogue” between the government of the People’s Republic of China and Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, or his representatives. The Special...

Kazakhstan

Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Countries: Comparative Trade and Economic Analysis

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a proposed regional free trade agreement (FTA) among 12 countries: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam. The negotiating parties describe the TPP as a proposed “living agreement,” which seeks to cover new trade topics and to include new members that are willing to adopt its high standards. The ongoing negotiations, which TPP country trade ministers have repeatedly announced are in the final stages, may progress more quickly with the recent congressional grant of 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...

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV): World Health Organization Responses

This report discusses responses to the recent outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), which has spread to more than a dozen countries.

Ex-Im Bank's General Statutory Authority Expires

This report discusses the Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im Bank), a wholly owned federal government corporation which seeks to provide direct loans, loan guarantees, and export credit insurance to: (1) support exports that the private sector is unwilling or unable to finance alone at commercially viable terms; and/or (2) counter government-backed financing offered by foreign countries through their export credit agency (ECA).

Prospects for Democracy in Hong Kong: The 2017 Election Reforms (Update)

The United States-Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992 (P.L. 102-383) declares that, “Support for democratization is a fundamental principle of U.S. foreign policy. As such, it naturally applies to United States policy toward Hong Kong.” China’s law establishing the Hong Kong Special Administration Region (HKSAR), commonly referred to as the “Basic Law,” declares that “the ultimate aim” is the selection of Hong Kong’s Chief Executive (CE) and Legislative Council (Legco) by universal suffrage. The year 2015 may be a pivotal year for making progress toward the objectives of both of these laws. It...

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...

Economic Crisis in Greece

This report briefly discusses the current economic situation in Greece. Questions about whether Greece will stay in the Eurozone have resurfaced, as the government's stalemate with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Eurozone creditors has reached a critical point.

U.S. Air Force Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Sustainment, Modernization, and Recapitalization: Background and Issues for Congress

Determining the future role of U.S. nuclear weapons within the U.S. national security strategy is currently a topic of much debate. Many senior leaders are determined to design a strategy that defines a new role for U.S. nuclear weapons and makes those weapons responsive and relevant in today’s global threat environment. The current U.S. nuclear enterprise consists of a triad of options: Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs), Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBMs), and long-range bombers. All three legs of the nuclear triad are aging, since they were largely built to counter...

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...

Hong Kong's Legislative Council Votes Down Chief Executive Election Reform

This report briefly discusses Hong Kong's Legislative Council (Legco), and the recent defeat of a proposal to reform the city's Chief Executive (CE) selection method.

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...

Chinese Land Reclamation in the South China Sea: Implications and Policy Options

Since September 2013, China has undertaken extensive reclamation and construction on several reefs in the Spratly Island chain in the South China Sea, raising a variety of concerns in the United States and Asia. The reclamation has created over 2,000 acres (809 hectares) of artificial landmasses on Chinese-occupied reefs that are disputed between several countries and are located in some of the world’s most heavily trafficked waters. China announced on June 16, 2015, that its reclamation work would be completed “in the upcoming days,” and that when reclamation was finished, it would turn...

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...

The European Union and Latin America

The Addition of Trainers to Iraq: Background for Congress

Responding to recent setbacks in Iraq and Syria in the fight against the Islamic State organization (IS, aka ISIL/ISIS/Daesh), on June 10, 2015, President Obama authorized the deployment of an additional 450 troops to train, advise and assist the Iraqi Security Forces. These U.S. forces are to join the 3,100 already in theater, which would bring the total number of U.S. forces in Iraq up to approximately 3,550. Approximately half of those additional forces would advise the 8th Iraqi Division on the use of its ground forces and help build connections between the government in Baghdad and...

Turkey After June 2015 Elections: Erdogan and the AKP Fall Short

This report discusses the parliamentary politics of Turkey in the wake of elections held on June 7, 2015. Although Turkey's Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) won the most seats in parliamentary elections, it lost the governing majority it had enjoyed since 2002--probably ending President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's (air-doe-wan) hopes for constitutional change to increase his formal powers.

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...

Critical Infrastructures: Background, Policy, and Implementation

The nation’s health, wealth, and security rely on the production and distribution of certain goods and services. The array of physical assets, functions, and systems across which these goods and services move are called critical infrastructures (e.g., electricity, the power plants that generate it, and the electric grid upon which it is distributed).

The national security community has been concerned for some time about the vulnerability of critical infrastructure to both physical and cyberattack. In May 1998, President Clinton released Presidential Decision Directive No. 63. The Directive...

Cybersecurity: Authoritative Reports and Resources, by Topic

Train and Equip Program for Syria: Authorities, Funding, and Issues for Congress

In 2014, Congress for the first time provided the President with authority and funds to overtly train and lethally equip vetted members of the Syrian opposition for select purposes. These purposes include supporting U.S. efforts to combat the Islamic State and other terrorist organizations in Syria and setting the conditions for a negotiated settlement to Syria’s civil war. The FY2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA, P.L. 113-291) and the FY2015 Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2015 (P.L. 113-235) provided that up to $500 million could be transferred from...

Ending Cash Flow Financing to Egypt: Issues for Congress

On March 31, 2015, after a phone call between President Obama and Egyptian President Abdelfattah al Sisi, the White House announced that beginning in FY2018, the United States would stop providing cash flow financing (CFF) to Egypt. Cash flow financing is the financial mechanism that enables foreign governments to pay for U.S. defense equipment in partial installments over time rather than all at once; successive Administrations have authorized CFF for Egypt since 1979.

In recent years, as public scrutiny of U.S. military aid to Egypt has increased, some observers have criticized the...

Congressional Power to Create Federal Courts: A Legal Overview

The U.S. Constitution established only one federal court—the U.S. Supreme Court. Beyond this, Article III of the Constitution left it to the discretion of Congress to “ordain and establish” lower federal courts to conduct the judicial business of the federal government. From the very first, Congress established a host of different federal tribunals to adjudicate a variety of legal disputes. The two central types of federal “courts”—courts established under Article III and those tribunals that are not—differ in many respects, including with regard to their personnel, purposes, and...

A Parliamentary-Style Question Period: Proposals and Issues for Congress

In May 2008, Senator and presidential candidate John McCain stated that, as President, he would “ask Congress to grant me the privilege of coming before both Houses to take questions and address criticism, much the same as the Prime Minister of Great Britain appears regularly before the House of Commons.”

Such a “question period,” in which the chief executive official appears before the legislature to answer questions, is a feature of most parliamentary systems. Prime Minister’s Questions is a major component of British politics, receiving substantial press, radio, and television...

Sudan

Congress has played an active role in U.S. policy toward Sudan for more than three decades. Efforts to support an end to the country’s myriad conflicts and human rights abuses have dominated the agenda, as have counterterrorism concerns. When unified (1956-2011), Sudan was Africa’s largest nation by area, bordering nine countries and stretching from the northern borders of Kenya and Uganda to the southern borders of Egypt and Libya. Strategically located along the Nile River and the Red Sea, Sudan was historically described as a crossroads between the Arab world and Africa. Domestic and...

Invasive Species: Issues in Brief

For the first few centuries after the arrival of Europeans in North America, plants and animals of many species were sent between the two continents. The transfer of non-natives consisted not only of intentional westbound species ranging from pigs to dandelions but also of intentional eastbound species, such as gray squirrels and tomatoes. And for those centuries, the remaining non-native species crossing the Atlantic, uninvited and often unwelcome, were ignored if they were noticed at all. They were joined by various species arriving deliberately or accidentally from Asia and Africa. The...

Presidential Appointments to Full-Time Positions on Regulatory and Other Collegial Boards and Commissions, 113th Congress

The President makes appointments to certain positions within the federal government, either using authorities granted to the President alone or with the advice and consent of the Senate. There are some 149 full-time leadership positions on 34 federal regulatory and other collegial boards and commissions for which the Senate provides advice and consent. This report identifies all nominations submitted to the Senate for full-time positions on these 34 boards and commissions during the 113th Congress.

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

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

United Nations Reform: Background and Issues for Congress

Since its establishment in 1945, the United Nations (U.N.) has undergone numerous reforms as international stakeholders seek ways to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the U.N. system. During the past two decades, controversies such as corruption in the Iraq Oil-For-Food Program, allegations of sexual abuse by U.N. peacekeepers, and instances of waste, fraud, and abuse by U.N. staff have focused attention on the need for change and improvement of the United Nations. Many in the international community, including the United States, continue to promote substantive reforms. The 114th...

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Functions and Funding

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), an agency within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), performs multiple functions including the adjudication of immigration and naturalization petitions, consideration of refugee and asylum claims and related humanitarian and international concerns, and a range of immigration-related services, such as issuing employment authorizations and processing nonimmigrant change-of-status petitions. Processing immigrant petitions remains USCIS’s leading function. In FY2014, it handled roughly 6 million petitions for immigration-related...

International Investment Agreements (IIAs): Frequently Asked Questions

In recent decades, the United States has entered into binding investment agreements with foreign countries to facilitate investment flows, reduce restrictions on foreign investment and expand market access, and enhance investor protections, while balancing other policy interests. Some World Trade Organization (WTO) agreements address investment issues in a limited manner. In the absence of a comprehensive multilateral agreement, bilateral investment treaties (BITs) and investment chapters in free trade agreements (FTAs), known as international investment agreements (IIAs), have been the...

Pakistan-U.S. Relations: Issues for the 114th Congress

Congress has taken keen interest in U.S. relations with Pakistan, especially as related to counterterrorism and U.S. foreign assistance. The terrorist attacks of September 2001 transformed U.S.-Pakistan relations virtually overnight. After more than a decade under broad U.S. sanctions for its nuclear proliferation activities, and later for a military coup, Pakistan became a key ally in U.S.-led efforts to combat Islamist militancy and extremism. Pakistan has been a leading recipient of U.S. assistance for nearly 15 years, having received more than $20 billion in economic, security, and...

In-Country Refugee Processing: In Brief

The Obama Administration has established a new refugee program for certain minors in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras with a parent who is lawfully present in the United States. Created in response to the FY2012-FY2014 surge in unaccompanied child arrivals to the United States from these countries, the Administration has described the new Central American Minors (CAM) program as providing an alternative to a dangerous journey to the United States.

The CAM program is an in-country refugee processing program, which means that eligible minors will be processed by the U.S. government from...

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy: Issues for the 114th Congress

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

International Air Service Controversies: Frequently Asked Questions

“Open skies” agreements are a form of international civil air service agreement that facilitates international aviation in a deregulated environment. They eliminate government involvement in airline decisionmaking about international routes, capacity, and prices. Since 1992, the United States has reached 114 open skies agreements governing international air passenger and air freight services.

There are two ongoing controversies that are related to open skies agreements. One controversy involves some U.S. network airlines’ and labor unions’ opposition to the expansion of three fast-growing...

Nepal

Invasive Species: Control Options and Issues for Congress

For the first few centuries after the arrival of Europeans in North America, plants and animals of many species were sent between the two land masses. The transfer of non-natives consisted not only of intentional westbound species ranging from pigs to dandelions but also of intentional eastbound species such as grey squirrels and tomatoes. And for those centuries, the remaining non-native species crossing the Atlantic, uninvited and often unwelcome, were ignored if they were noticed at all. They were joined by various species arriving deliberately or accidentally from Asia and Africa. The...

European Fighters in Syria and Iraq: Assessments, Responses, and Issues for the United States

The rising number of U.S. and European citizens traveling to fight with rebel and terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq has emerged as a growing concern for U.S. and European leaders, including Members of Congress. Several deadly terrorist attacks in Europe over the past year—including the killing of 17 people in Paris in January 2015—have heightened the perception that these individuals could pose a serious security threat. Increasingly, terrorist suspects in Europe appear to have spent time with groups fighting in the Middle East, especially with the Islamic State organization (also known...

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...

Domestic Human Trafficking Legislation in the 114th Congress

Legislation aimed at combating trafficking in persons (TIP) is a top item on the legislative agenda for the 114th Congress. TIP is of significant interest to the United States as a serious human rights concern, and it is believed to be one of the most prolific areas of contemporary criminal activity. TIP is both an international and domestic crime that involves violations of labor, public health, and human rights standards, as well as criminal law. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA)—most recently reauthorized in March 2013 (Title XII of P.L. 113-4)—is the primary law that...

Issues in International Trade: A Legal Overview of Investor-State Dispute Settlement

Ongoing trade negotiations among the United States and several Pacific Rim countries regarding the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement and between the United States and the European Union with respect to the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) agreement have rekindled debate over the value of including investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions in bilateral investment treaties (BIT) and trade agreements. Congress plays an important role in the approval and implementation of U.S. international investment agreements (IIA), and, therefore,...

Locate an Agency or Program Within Appropriations Bills

This report provides an alphabetical listing of federal agencies and programs, and it is an aid to identify the major source of their appropriated funding. A listing of House and Senate Appropriations subcommittees is provided. Finding an agency.

2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force: Issues Concerning Its Continued Application

In response to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against the United States, Congress enacted the Authorization for Use of Military Force (2001 AUMF; P.L. 107-40; 50 U.S.C. §1541 note) to authorize the use of military force against those who perpetrated or provided support for the attacks. Under the authority of the 2001 AUMF, U.S. Armed Forces have conducted military operations in Afghanistan since October 2001. As armed conflict against Al Qaeda and the Taliban progressed, and U.S. counterterrorism strategy evolved, U.S. use of military force has expanded outside Afghanistan to...

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...

IMF Reforms: Issues for Congress

In December 2010, the Board of Governors of the International Monetary Fund (IMF, the Fund), the institution’s highest governing body, agreed to a reform package that addresses two major concerns about the institution: (1) that the size of the IMF’s resources has not kept pace with increased economic activity in the global economy; and (2) that the representation of emerging and developing economies at the IMF does not reflect their growing importance in the global economy. Key parts of the reform package cannot go into effect until a number of IMF countries formally approve the reforms....

Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank

This report discusses a new development bank, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), launched by China that is posing a challenge to U.S. policymakers.

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...

Kenya

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...

Domestic Drones and Privacy: A Primer

It has been three years since Congress enacted the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (FMRA), calling for the integration of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), or “drones,” into the national airspace by September 2015. During that time, the substantive legal privacy framework relating to UAS on the federal level has remained relatively static: Congress has enacted no law explicitly regulating the potential privacy impacts of drone flights, the courts have had no occasion to rule on the constitutionality of drone surveillance, and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) did not...

Cyberwarfare and Cyberterrorism: In Brief

Recent incidents have highlighted the lack of consensus internationally on what defines a cyberattack, an act of war in cyberspace, or cyberterrorism. Cyberwar is typically conceptualized as state-on-state action equivalent to an armed attack or use of force in cyberspace that may trigger a military response with a proportional kinetic use of force. Cyberterrorism can be considered “the premeditated use of disruptive activities, or the threat thereof, against computers and/or networks, with the intention to cause harm or further social, ideological, religious, political or similar...

Department of State and Foreign Operations Appropriations: A Fact Sheet on Legislation, FY1995-FY2015

Congress currently appropriates foreign affairs funding through annual Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs appropriations. Prior to FY2008, however, Congress provided funds for the Department of State and international broadcasting within the Commerce, Justice, and State, the Judiciary, and Related Agencies appropriations (CJS) and separately provided foreign aid funds within Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Programs appropriations. The transition between the different alignments occurred in the 109th Congress with a change in appropriations...

Seventh Summit of the Americas: In Brief

On April 10-11, 2015, President Obama is scheduled to attend the seventh Summit of the Americas in Panama City, Panama. The Summits of the Americas, which have been held roughly every three years since 1994, serve as opportunities for the Western Hemisphere’s leaders to engage directly with one another and discuss issues of collective concern. With Cuba expected to attend for the first time in 2015, the Summit of the Americas will be the only forum in the hemisphere that includes all 35 independent nations. The theme of the 2015 summit is “Prosperity with Equity: The Challenge of...

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...

International Drug Control Policy: Background and U.S. Responses

The global illegal drug trade represents a multi-dimensional challenge that has implications for U.S. national interests as well as the international community. Common illegal drugs trafficked internationally include cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine. According to the U.S. intelligence community, international drug trafficking can undermine political and regional stability and bolster the role and capabilities of transnational criminal organizations in the drug trade. Key regions of concern include Latin America and Afghanistan, which are focal points in U.S. efforts to combat the...

FY2015 Funding to Counter Ebola and the Islamic State (IS)

In 2014, two major global threats—the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and the Islamic State (IS) in the Middle East—caused serious concern within the Obama Administration and among Members of Congress. In November 2014, the President requested a total of $11.7 billion for responding to the Ebola crisis and combatting the Islamic State.

On November 5, 2014, the President requested $6.18 billion in FY2015 emergency appropriations for Health and Human Services (HHS), the Department of State and international assistance programs, and DOD to address the Ebola crisis domestically and overseas. The...

Dominican Republic: Background and U.S. Relations

The Dominican Republic, a country of roughly 10.3 million people that shares the Caribbean island of Hispaniola with Haiti, is a close U.S. trade partner and political ally in Latin America. The United States is the Dominican Republic’s main trading partner, with two-way trade totaling more than $12.5 billion in 2014. In addition to trade, U.S. interest in the Dominican Republic has recently focused on anti-drug cooperation and governance/human rights issues, particularly as they relate to Haiti. U.S.-Dominican cooperation on bilateral and regional issues intensified during Leonel...

The European Capital Markets Union

This report briefly discusses the implications of the European Commission's recently drafted proposal for a Capital Markets Union (CMU) to complement its current efforts to create a Banking Union. The CMU is intended to strengthen capital markets in the 28-member European Union (EU) in order to provide a viable alternative to the current bank-centered funding model commonly used by European firms.

Conducting Foreign Relations Without Authority: The Logan Act

The Logan Act, codified at 18 U.S.C. § 953, states:

Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.

This section shall not abridge the right of a citizen to apply, himself or his agent, to any foreign...

The Attack Against the U.S. Ambassador to South Korea

This report briefly discusses the March 5 knife attack on U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Mark Lippert.

U.S. Circuit and District Court Nominations During President Obama’s First Six Years (2009-2014): Comparative Analysis with Recent Presidents

The selection and confirmation process for U.S. circuit and district court judges is of continuing interest to Congress. Recent Senate debates over judicial nominations have focused on issues such as the relative degree of success of President Barack Obama’s nominees in gaining Senate confirmation compared with other recent Presidents, as well as the time from nomination to confirmation for nominees, and the relative prevalence of vacant judgeships compared to years past. This report addresses these issues, and others, by providing a statistical analysis of nominations to U.S. circuit and...

The Climate Investment Funds (CIFs)

Nigeria’s 2015 Elections and the Boko Haram Crisis

In early February, the Nigerian government controversially delayed its scheduled elections by six weeks, to March 28, based on security concerns, drawing criticism from the political opposition and the Obama Administration, among others. The delay has heightened concerns about tensions around the polls and raised questions about alleged political interference in the electoral process. Two weeks prior to the delay, in late January, Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to Nigeria to stress U.S. views about the importance of the elections, and to extend condolences to the families of...

The Federal Budget: Overview and Issues for FY2016 and Beyond

Congressional Research Service 7-5700 www.crs.gov R43933 Summary The federal budget is central to Congress’s ability to exercise its “power of the purse.” Each fiscal year Congress and the President undertake a variety of steps intended to set levels of spending and revenue and to make policy decisions. The purpose of this report is to provide an overview and background on the current budget debate. This report will track legislative events related to the federal budget and will be updated as budgetary legislation moves through Congress. In recent years, policies enacted to restrain...

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...

U.S. Citizens Kidnapped by the Islamic State

This report briefly examines the kidnapping and killing of U.S. citizens by the terrorist group known as the Islamic State (IS).

Yemen: Background and U.S. Relations

This report provides an overview and analysis of U.S.-Yemeni relations amidst evolving political change in Yemeni leadership, ongoing U.S. counterterrorism operations against Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) operatives in Yemen’s hinterlands, and international efforts to bolster the country’s stability despite an array of daunting socio-economic problems. Along with determining how best to counter terrorist threats emanating from Yemen, Congress and U.S. policy makers also may consider the priority level and resources that should be accorded to attempts to stabilize Yemen and to...

The Swiss National Bank's Recent Currency Actions

This report presents the foreign exchange value of the Swiss franc relative to the euro and dollar.

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...

Judiciary Budget Request, FY2016

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...

The United States and Europe: Current Issues

Due to extensive cooperation on a wide range of issues, the relationship between the United States and Europe is often called the transatlantic partnership. The two sides have many common values and concerns, and have grown increasingly interdependent in terms of security and prosperity. The transatlantic relationship and the main areas of U.S.-European cooperation and shared interest are likely to have continuing implications for U.S. policy during the 114th Congress. Members of Congress may have an interest in considering the dimensions and dynamics of current issues in U.S.-European...

Alien Removals and Returns: Overview and Trends

The ability to remove foreign nationals (aliens) who violate U.S. immigration law is central to the immigration enforcement system. Some lawful migrants violate the terms of their admittance, and some aliens enter the United States illegally, despite U.S. immigration laws and enforcement. In 2012, there were an estimated 11.4 million resident unauthorized aliens; estimates of other removable aliens, such as lawful permanent residents who commit crimes, are elusive. With total repatriations of over 600,000 people in FY2013—including about 440,000 formal removals—the removal and return of...

Presidential Appointments to Full-Time Positions on Regulatory and Other Collegial Boards and Commissions, 112th Congress

The President makes appointments to positions within the federal government, either using authorities granted to the President alone or with the advice and consent of the Senate. There are some 149 full-time leadership positions on 34 federal regulatory and other collegial boards and commissions for which the Senate provides advice and consent. This report identifies all nominations submitted to the Senate for full-time positions on these 34 boards and commissions during the 112th Congress.

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

International Climate Change Financing: The Green Climate Fund (GCF)

Over the past several decades, the United States has delivered financial and technical assistance for climate change activities in the developing world through a variety of bilateral and multilateral programs. The United States and other industrialized countries committed to such assistance through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC, Treaty Number: 102-38, 1992), the Copenhagen Accord (2009), and the UNFCCC Cancun Agreements (2010), wherein the higher-income countries pledged jointly up to $30 billion in “fast start” climate financing for lower-income...

China's Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ)

In November 2013, the People’s Republic of China (PRC, or China) announced that it would establish an “East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ),” covering a large swath of airspace over the East China Sea, including over small islands that are the subject of a territorial dispute among Japan, the PRC, and Taiwan. Beijing did not formally consult with other countries prior to the announcement, and its initial statement seemed to warn that China might use force against aircraft that did not follow its ADIZ guidelines. Senior officials from the United States and East Asian...

Issues in the Reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)

The funding authorization for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), included in the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (P.L. 112-95), expires on September 30, 2015. In addition to setting spending levels, FAA authorization acts typically set policy on a wide range of issues related to civil aviation. This report considers topics that are likely to arise as the 114th Congress debates reauthorization.

Most FAA programs are financed through the Airport and Airway Trust Fund (AATF), sometimes referred to as the Aviation Trust Fund. The financial health of the AATF, which is funded...

Sex Trafficking of Children in the United States: Overview and Issues for Congress

The trafficking of individuals within U.S borders is commonly referred to as domestic human trafficking, and it occurs in every state of the nation. One form of domestic human trafficking is sex trafficking. Research indicates that most victims of sex trafficking into and within the United States are women and children, and the victims include U.S. citizens and noncitizens alike. Recently, Congress has focused attention on domestic sex trafficking, including the prostitution of children, which is the focus of this report.

Federal law does not define sex trafficking per se. However, the...

U.S. Natural Gas Exports: New Opportunities, Uncertain Outcomes

As estimates for the amount of U.S. natural gas resources have grown, so have the prospects of rising U.S. natural gas exports. The United States is expected to go from a net importer of natural gas to a net exporter by 2016. With recent natural gas prices relatively low compared to global prices and historically low for the United States, producers are looking for new markets for their natural gas. Projects to export liquefied natural gas (LNG) by tanker ship have been proposed—cumulatively accounting for over 60% of current gross U.S. natural gas production. Pipeline exports, which...

U.S. Solar Photovoltaic Manufacturing: Industry Trends, Global Competition, Federal Support

Every President since Richard Nixon has sought to increase U.S. energy supply diversity. Job creation and the development of a domestic renewable energy manufacturing base have joined national security and environmental concerns as reasons for promoting the manufacturing of solar power equipment in the United States. The federal government maintains a variety of tax credits and targeted research and development programs to encourage the solar manufacturing sector, and state-level mandates that utilities obtain specified percentages of their electricity from renewable sources have bolstered...

Border Security: Immigration Inspections at Ports of Entry

About 362 million travelers (citizens and non-citizens) entered the United States in FY2013, including about 102 million air passengers and crew, 18 million sea passengers and crew, and 242 million land travelers. At the same time about 205,000 aliens were denied admission at ports of entry (POEs); and about 24,000 persons were arrested at POEs on criminal warrants.

Within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Office of Field Operations (OFO) is responsible for conducting immigration inspections at America’s 329 POEs. CBP’s primary...

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,...

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: Issues in the U.S. Ratification Debate

During the 114th Congress, the Senate might consider providing its advice and consent to ratification of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD, or the Convention). CRPD, which has been ratified or acceded to by 151 countries, is a multilateral agreement that addresses the rights of disabled persons. Its purpose is to promote, protect, and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by persons with disabilities.

Administration and Senate Actions

Many U.S. policy makers, including President Obama and some Members of...

State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs: FY2015 Budget and Appropriations

On December 16, 2014, Congress presented the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2015 (H.R. 83), to the President, who signed it into law (P.L. 113-235) that same day. In Division J of that act, Congress appropriated $51.98 billion for the Department of State and Foreign Operations, including $9.26 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) and $2.53 billion to address the Ebola crisis.

The annual State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs appropriations bill (also referred to here as “foreign affairs appropriations” or “foreign affairs funding”) is the...

Changes in the Purposes and Frequency of Authorizations of Appropriations

The congressional budget process distinguishes between “authorizations,” which establish or define the activities of the federal government, and “appropriations,” which finance those activities. The purpose of this report is to discuss the changes in the form and frequency of authorization laws that have occurred over the past century.

As the congressional approach to authorizations and appropriations developed over the nineteenth century, distinct roles for these types of laws were established. However, that approach began to shift in the early twentieth century as the size and scope of...

Morocco: Current Issues

Successive U.S. Administrations have viewed Morocco as an important regional ally, a partner in counterterrorism, and a free trade counterpart. Morocco receives substantial U.S. development aid, and bilateral trade and investment have increased following a 2006 Free Trade Agreement. Morocco also benefits from U.S. security assistance and military cooperation, and is a purchaser of U.S. defense articles, including F-16 jets. Some observers have placed greater emphasis on the U.S.-Morocco relationship amid regional turmoil and terrorist threats emanating from neighboring states in North...

Presidential Appointments to Full-Time Positions in Independent and Other Agencies 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. This report identifies all nominations that were submitted to the Senate for full-time positions in 40 organizations in the executive branch (27 independent agencies, 6 agencies in the Executive Office of the President [EOP], and 7 multilateral organizations) and 4 agencies in the legislative branch. It excludes appointments to executive departments and to regulatory and other boards and commissions, which are...

Afghanistan: Politics, Elections, and Government Performance

The capacity, transparency, legitimacy, and cohesiveness of Afghan governance are crucial to Afghan stability as nearly all international forces exit Afghanistan by the end of 2016. The size and capability of the Afghan governing structure has increased significantly since the Taliban regime fell in late 2001, but the government remains rife with corruption and ethnic and political tensions among its major factions are ever present. Its recent elections have been marred by allegations of vast fraud and resulting post-election political crises.

Hamid Karzai, who served as president since...

Trade Adjustment Assistance for Workers

Trade Adjustment Assistance for Workers (TAA) provides federal assistance to workers who have been adversely affected by foreign trade. It was most recently authorized by the Trade Adjustment Assistance Extension Act of 2011 (TAAEA; Title II of P.L. 112-40). Under TAAEA, the program operated under one set of eligibility and benefit provisions through December 31, 2013, and then reverted to a more restrictive set of provisions on January 1, 2014. The TAA program was scheduled to be phased out beginning January 1, 2015, but the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2015...

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.-Taiwan Relationship: Overview of Policy Issues

This CRS Report, updated through the 113th Congress, provides an overview with analysis of the major issues in U.S. policy on Taiwan. Taiwan formally calls itself the Republic of China (ROC), tracing its political lineage to the ROC set up after the revolution in 1911 in China. The ROC government retreated to Taipei in 1949. The United States recognized the ROC until the end of 1978 and has maintained a non-diplomatic relationship with Taiwan after recognition of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1979. The Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) of 1979, P.L. 96-8, has governed policy in...

China/Taiwan: Evolution of the “One China” Policy—Key Statements from Washington, Beijing, and Taipei

Despite broadly consistent statements, the U.S. “one China” policy concerning Taiwan remains somewhat ambiguous and subject to different interpretations. Apart from questions about what the policy entails, issues have arisen about whether U.S. Presidents have stated clear positions and have changed or should change policy, affecting U.S. interests in security and democracy. This CRS Report, updated through the 113th Congress, analyzes the “one China” policy since U.S. Presidents began in 1971 to reach understandings with the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Taiwan calls itself the...

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...

Guam: U.S. Defense Deployments

Since 2000, the U.S. military has been building up forward-deployed forces on the westernmost U.S. territory of Guam (west of Hawaii) to increase U.S. operational presence, deterrence, and power projection for potential responses to crises, disasters, or other contingencies to support Japan, Republic of Korea (ROK), the Philippines, Taiwan, or others in Asia. Since 2006, Valiant Shield exercises based at Guam have boosted U.S. military readiness for joint operations in the Pacific. The defense buildup on Guam has been moderate. China has concerns, suspecting Guam’s buildup to be directed...

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...

Cyber Operations in DOD Policy and Plans: Issues for Congress

Cyberspace is defined by the Department of Defense as a global domain consisting of the interdependent networks of information technology infrastructures and resident data, including the Internet, telecommunications networks, computer systems, and embedded processors and controllers. Attacks in cyberspace have seemingly been on the rise in recent years with a variety of participating actors and methods. As the United States has grown more reliant on information technology and networked critical infrastructure components, many questions arise about whether the nation is properly organized...

Taiwan: Major U.S. Arms Sales Since 1990

This report, updated through the 113th Congress, discusses U.S. security assistance to Taiwan (calling itself Republic of China (ROC)), including policy issues for Congress and legislation. Congress has oversight of the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA), P.L. 96-8, which has governed arms sales to Taiwan since 1979, when the United States recognized the People’s Republic of China (PRC) instead of the ROC. The U.S.-ROC Mutual Defense Treaty terminated in 1979. Two other relevant parts of the “one China” policy are the August 17, 1982, U.S.-PRC Joint Communique and the “Six Assurances” to Taiwan....

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...

U.S. Crude Oil Export Policy: Background and Considerations

During an era of oil price controls and following the 1973 Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries oil embargo, Congress passed the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975 (EPCA), which directs the President “to promulgate a rule prohibiting the export of crude oil” produced in the United States. Crude oil export restrictions are codified in the Export Administration Regulations administered by the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS)—a Commerce Department agency. Generally, U.S. crude oil exports are prohibited, although there are a number of exemptions and circumstances...

New Era Dawns in U.S.-Mexico Sugar Trade

Cuba: U.S. Policy and Issues for the 113th 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. In February 2013, Castro was reappointed to a second five-year term as President (until 2018, when he would be 86 years old), and selected 52-year old former Education Minister Miguel Díaz-Canel as his First Vice President, making him the official successor in the event that Castro cannot serve out his term. Raúl Castro has implemented a number of gradual economic...

U.S. Foreign Assistance to Latin America and the Caribbean: Recent Trends and FY2015 Appropriations

Geographic proximity has forged strong linkages between the United States and the nations of Latin America and the Caribbean, with critical U.S. interests encompassing economic, political, and security concerns. U.S. policy makers have emphasized different strategic interests in the region at different times, from combating Soviet influence during the Cold War to advancing democracy and open markets since the 1990s. Current U.S. policy is designed to promote economic and social opportunity, ensure citizen security, strengthen effective democratic institutions, and secure a clean energy...

Securing U.S. Diplomatic Facilities and Personnel Abroad: Legislative and Executive Branch Initiatives

The September 11, 2012, attack on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya, prompted sustained congressional attention on the specific circumstances of the events in question, as well as broader questions regarding how U.S. diplomatic personnel and facilities abroad are secured. Ensuring that the Department of State is better prepared for the possibility of similar attacks in the future has been a central congressional concern.

The Department of State undertook a number of measures in response to the attack, including immediate steps to bolster security at posts around the world; an...

The Political Question Doctrine: Justiciability and the Separation of Powers

Article III of the Constitution restricts the jurisdiction of federal courts to deciding actual “Cases” and “Controversies.” The Supreme Court has articulated several “justiciability” doctrines emanating from Article III that restrict when federal courts will adjudicate disputes. One justiciability concept is the political question doctrine, according to which federal courts will not adjudicate certain controversies because their resolution is more proper within the political branches. Because of the potential implications for the separation of powers when courts decline to adjudicate...

Latin America and the Caribbean: Key Issues for the 113th Congress

Geographic proximity has ensured strong linkages between the United States and the Latin American and Caribbean region, with diverse U.S. interests, including economic, political, and security concerns. U.S. policy toward the region under the Obama Administration has focused on four priorities: promoting economic and social opportunity; ensuring citizen security; strengthening effective democratic institutions; and securing a clean energy future. There was substantial continuity in U.S. policy toward the region during the first six years of the Obama Administration, which pursued some of...

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...

Economic Crisis in Russia

This report briefly examines the economic climate in Russia, providing background information and examining key trends. The report also briefly discusses possible next steps for the Kremlin and potential spillover effects for the United States.

The 2013 Cybersecurity Executive Order: Overview and Considerations for Congress

The federal role in cybersecurity has been a topic of discussion and debate for over a decade. Despite significant legislative efforts in the 112th Congress on bills designed to improve the cybersecurity of U.S. critical infrastructure (CI), no legislation on that issue was enacted in that Congress. In an effort to address the issue in the absence of enacted legislation, the White House issued an executive order in February 2013. Citing repeated cyber-intrusions into critical infrastructure and growing cyberthreats, Executive Order 13636, Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity,...

Presidential Claims of Executive Privilege: History, Law, Practice, and Recent Developments

Presidential claims of a right to preserve the confidentiality of information and documents in the face of legislative demands have figured prominently, though intermittently, in executive-congressional relations since at least 1792. Few such interbranch disputes over access to information have reached the courts for substantive resolution. The vast majority of these disputes are resolved through political negotiation and accommodation. In fact, it was not until the Watergate-related lawsuits in the 1970s seeking access to President Nixon’s tapes that the existence of a presidential...

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...

The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terror Operations Since 9/11

With enactment of the FY2014 Consolidated Appropriations Act on January 1, 2014 (H.R. 3547/P.L. 113-73), Congress has approved appropriations for the past 13 years of war that total $1.6 trillion for military operations, base support, weapons maintenance, training of Afghan and Iraq security forces, reconstruction, foreign aid, embassy costs, and veterans’ health care for the war operations initiated since the 9/11 attacks.

Of this $1.6 trillion total, CRS estimates that the total is distributed as follows:

$686 billion (43%) for Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) for Afghanistan and other...

Security Assistance Reform: “Section 1206” Background and Issues for Congress

Section 1206 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2006, as amended and regularly extended, provides the Secretary of Defense with authority to train and equip foreign military forces for two specified purposes—counterterrorism and stability operations—and foreign security forces for counterterrorism operations. Section 1206 authority now extends through FY2017.

The conference version of the FY2015 NDAA somewhat modifies a Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) proposal it its version of the FY2015 NDAA to codify this authority as permanent law under Title 10....

Nuclear Energy Cooperation with Foreign Countries: Issues for Congress

U.S. civil nuclear cooperation agreements (“123” agreements), which are bilateral agreements with other governments or multilateral organizations, have several important goals, including promoting the U.S. nuclear industry, which is increasingly dependent on foreign customers and suppliers, and preventing nuclear proliferation. Increased international interest in nuclear power has generated concern that additional countries may obtain fuel-making technology that could also be used to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons. Ensuring the peaceful use of transferred nuclear technology...

Preventing the Introduction and Spread of Ebola in the United States: Frequently Asked Questions

Throughout 2014, an outbreak of Ebola virus disease (EVD) has outpaced the efforts of health workers trying to contain it in three West African countries: Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. (These are often referred to as “affected countries” or “countries with widespread transmission.” In mid-November, 2014, Ebola transmission also occurred for the second time in neighboring Mali. The extent of spread in Mali remains to be seen.) EVD cases have been imported to other countries, including the United States, where two nurses were infected while caring for a patient who had traveled from...

Medal of Honor Recipients: 1979-2014

The Medal of Honor (MOH) is the nation’s highest award for military valor. It is presented by the President in the name of Congress and is often called the Congressional Medal of Honor. Since its first presentation in 1863, nearly 3,500 MOHs have been awarded. In 1973, the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs issued a committee print, Vietnam Era Medal of Honor Recipients 1964-72, followed by the committee print, Medal of Honor Recipients: 1863-1978, in 1979. Both committee prints list recipients and provide the full text of the citation, which describes the actions that resulted in the...

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...

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...

The G-20 Summit: Brisbane, November 15-16, 2014

This report discusses the G-20 Summit held in Brisbane, Australia. In February 2014, the G-20 finance ministers and central bank governors pledged to develop policies that would boost the G-20's collective GDP by more than two percentage points over the coming five years.

The Federal Budget: Overview and Issues for FY2015 and Beyond

The federal budget is central to Congress’s ability to exercise its “power of the purse.” Each fiscal year Congress and the President undertake a variety of steps intended to set levels of spending and revenue and to make policy decisions. The purpose of this report is to provide an overview and background on the current budget debate. This report will track legislative events related to the federal budget and will be updated as budgetary legislation moves through Congress.

In recent years, policies enacted to restrain spending, along with a stronger economy, have led to reductions in the...

Qatar: Background and U.S. Relations

Qatar, a small peninsular country in the Persian Gulf, emerged as a partner of the United States in the mid-1990s and currently serves as host to major U.S. military facilities. Qatar holds the third-largest proven natural gas reserves in the world, and is the largest exporter of liquefied natural gas. Its small citizenry enjoys the world’s highest per capita income. Since the mid-1990s, Qatari leaders have overseen a course of major economic growth, increased diplomatic engagement, and limited political liberalization. The Qatari monarchy founded Al Jazeera, the first all-news Arabic...

Immigration Legislation and Issues in the 113th Congress

Immigration reform was an active legislative issue in the first session of the 113th Congress. The Senate passed the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act (S. 744), a comprehensive immigration reform bill that includes provisions on border security, interior enforcement, employment eligibility verification and worksite enforcement, legalization of unauthorized aliens, immigrant visas, nonimmigrant visas, and humanitarian admissions. For its part, the House took a different approach to immigration reform. Rather than considering a single comprehensive...

U.S. and International Health Responses to the Ebola Outbreak in West Africa

In March 2014, an Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak was reported in Guinea, West Africa. The outbreak is the first in West Africa and has caused an unprecedented number of cases and deaths. The outbreak is continuing to spread in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia (the “affected countries”); it has been contained in Nigeria and Senegal, and has been detected in Mali. As of October 22, 2014, more than 10,000 people have contracted EVD, more than half of whom have died.

Until October 2014, no secondary EVD cases had occurred outside of Africa. That month, health workers in Spain and the...

The Defense Production Act of 1950: History, Authorities, and Considerations for Congress

The Defense Production Act (DPA) of 1950 (P.L. 81-774, 50 U.S.C. Appx §2061 et seq.), as amended, confers upon the President a broad set of authorities to influence domestic industry in the interest of national defense. The authorities can be used across the federal government to shape the domestic industrial base so that, when called upon, it is capable of providing essential materials and goods needed for the national defense.

Though initially passed in response to the Korean War, the DPA is historically based on the War Powers Acts of World War II. Gradually, Congress has expanded the...

U.S. Foreign Assistance

House Committees: Categories and Rules for Committee Assignments

Both House and party rules detail procedures for committee assignments. House rules address the election and membership of committees, especially limitations on membership. The Democratic Caucus and Republican Conference rules designate categories of committees (shown in Table 1) and specify service limitations in addition to those in the House rules.

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...

Nuclear Energy Policy

Nuclear energy issues facing Congress include reactor safety and regulation, radioactive waste management, research and development priorities, federal incentives for new commercial reactors, nuclear weapons proliferation, and security against terrorist attacks.

The earthquake and resulting tsunami that severely damaged Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on March 11, 2011, raised questions in Congress about the disaster’s possible implications for nuclear safety regulation, U.S. nuclear energy expansion, and radioactive waste policy. The tsunami knocked out electric power at the...

Increased Department of Defense Role in U.S. Ebola Response

On September 16, 2014, President Obama announced a major increase in the United States response to the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa. The Department of Defense (DOD) submitted requests to Congress to make excess Overseas Contingency Operations funds appropriated for FY2014 available to support this effort. This report briefly outlines these requests.

Western Sahara

Since the 1970s, Morocco and the independence-seeking Popular Front for the Liberation of Saqiat al Hamra and Rio de Oro (Polisario) have vied, at times violently, for control of the Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony. In 1991, the United Nations (U.N.) arranged a cease-fire and proposed a settlement plan calling for a referendum to allow the people of the Western Sahara to choose between independence and integration into Morocco. A long deadlock on determining the electorate for a referendum ensued. (The number of Sahrawis, as the indigenous people of Western Sahara are known, is...

Syria's Chemical Weapons: Progress and Continuing Challenges

This report briefly covers the formal declaration and subsequent destruction of Syria's chemical weapons program. The report also mentions newer allegations of further use of chemical weapons that did not fall under the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) ban.

U.S. Exports of Crude Oil and Natural Gas: The Case of Alaska

Recent growth in U.S. natural gas and crude oil production has fundamentally shifted the energy supply and demand balance in key U.S. energy markets. Many analysts and energy producers argue that there is currently an oversupply of natural gas in U.S. gas-producing regions, and that supplies of certain light sweet Western crudes (notably from the Bakken region) exceed the demand of Gulf Coast refineries. The result has been a spate of applications by the U.S. natural gas industry for federal permits to export natural gas to overseas buyers. Such exports are permitted by statute, subject to...

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...

U.S. Military Action Against the Islamic State: Answers to Frequently Asked Legal Questions

Ongoing U.S. military operations against the Islamic State (which formerly referred to itself as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and is also commonly referred to as IS, ISIS, or ISIL) raise issues concerning the allocation of war powers between Congress and the President, including whether such operations have been (or are required to be) authorized by an act of Congress. In August 2014, President Obama ordered U.S. forces to commence airstrikes against IS targets in Iraq to assist the Iraqi government in combating the insurgent force, protect U.S. military and nonmilitary...

Presidential Appointments to Full-Time Positions in Independent and Other Agencies During the 111th Congress

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 41 organizations in the executive branch (28 independent agencies, 6 agencies in the Executive Office of the President (EOP), and 7 multilateral organizations) and 4 agencies in the legislative branch. It excludes appointments to executive departments and to regulatory and other boards and commissions,...

Ebola Virus Disease (Ebola or EVD): Experts List

Ebola virus disease (Ebola or EVD) is a severe, often fatal disease that was first detected near the Ebola River in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in 1976. Originating in animals, EVD is spread to and among humans through contact with the blood, other bodily fluids, organs, and corpses of those infected. It is not transmitted through the air. In March 2014, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that an EVD outbreak had begun in Guinea. The outbreak has since spread to Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, and Senegal.

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...

U.S.-Vietnam Nuclear Cooperation Agreement: Issues for Congress

U.S.-Vietnamese cooperation on nuclear energy and nonproliferation has grown in recent years along with closer bilateral economic, military, and diplomatic ties. In 2010, the two countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding that Obama Administration officials said would be a “stepping stone” to a bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement. This agreement was signed by the two countries on May 6, 2014, and transmitted to Congress for review on May 8. The required congressional review period for this agreement was completed in early September, and the agreement will enter into force after an...

Diplomatic and Embassy Security Funding Before and After the Benghazi Attacks

Congressional investigations into the September 11, 2012, attacks on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya, have focused on a number of issues, including the extent to which overall funding levels may have played a role in the security measures in place at that U.S. facility. While several factors may have been involved in the Benghazi situation, this report focuses only on funding for security of U.S. diplomatic personnel and facilities abroad, hereinafter referred to in this report as diplomatic/embassy security. (For other CRS reports on the Benghazi attacks and a list of CRS experts, go...

Considerations for Possible Authorization for Use of Military Force Against the Islamic State

This report briefly discusses different options available for confronting the Islamic State (IS, formerly known as ISIS or ISIL) with the use of military force. The examines the legal considerations relevant to each approach.

Unlawfully Present Aliens, Driver’s Licenses, and Other State-Issued ID: Select Legal Issues

One aspect of the broader debate over aliens who are present in the United States in violation of federal immigration law has been their eligibility for driver’s licenses and other forms of state-issued identification documents (IDs). The issuance of driver’s licenses has historically been considered a state matter, and states have taken a variety of approaches. Some have barred the issuance of driver’s licenses and other state-issued ID to unlawfully present aliens; others permit their issuance; and yet others instead grant unlawfully present aliens Certificates for Driving (CFDs) or...

Mongolia: Issues for Congress

Mongolia is a sparsely populated young democracy in a remote part of Asia, sandwiched between two powerful large neighbors, China and Russia. It made its transition to democracy and free market reforms peacefully in 1990, after nearly 70 years as a Soviet satellite state. A quarter of a century later, the predominantly Tibetan Buddhist nation remains the only formerly Communist Asian nation to have embraced democracy. Congress has shown a strong interest in Mongolia since 1990, funding assistance programs, approving the transfer of excess defense articles, ratifying a bilateral investment...

Pakistan Political Unrest: In Brief

Beginning on August 15, 2014, Pakistan’s struggle to establish a sustainable democratic system has met with a new reversal in the form of major anti-government street protests in the capital. Crowds led by opposition figures have demanded the resignation of democratically elected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The prime minister regards such demands to be inconsistent with the Pakistani Constitution, and the consensus view in Islamabad appears to support parliamentary processes. The strident and rigid nature of the protestors’ demands, and their unwillingness to disperse from areas...

Recess Appointments: A Legal Overview

The U.S. Constitution explicitly provides the President with two methods of appointing officers of the United States. First, the Appointments Clause provides the President with the authority to make appointments with the advice and consent of the Senate. Specifically, Article II, Section 2, clause 2 states that the President “shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and...

Summary Report: FY2014 Supplemental Appropriations

On July 8, 2014, the Administration requested $4,346 million in FY2014 supplemental appropriations to address two issues: the surge in both unaccompanied and escorted children illegally crossing the southwest border, and a shortfall in federal funding to pay the costs of wildfires. The appropriations were requested to be designated as emergency funding, meaning the requested funds would not count against the discretionary budget caps for FY2014.

On July 23, 2014, the Senate introduced S. 2648, which includes $3,571 million in supplemental appropriations for the Administration’s requested...

U.S. Textile Manufacturing and the Trans-Pacific Partnership Negotiations

Textiles are a contentious and unresolved issue in the ongoing Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations to establish a free-trade zone across the Pacific. Because the negotiating parties include Vietnam, a major apparel producer that now mainly sources yarns and fabrics from China and other Asian nations, the agreement has the potential to shift global trading patterns for textiles and demand for U.S. textile exports. Canada and Mexico, both significant regional textile markets for the United States, and Japan, a major manufacturer of high-end textiles and industrial fabrics, are also...

The Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR)

This report briefly discusses the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) that provides short-, medium-, and long-term blueprints for how to advance U.S. foreign policy objectives and values through the operations of both the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

Lighting Industry Trends

More than 4 billion incandescent light bulbs (sometimes referred to as “lamps”) are in use in the United States. The basic technology in these bulbs has not changed substantially in the past 125 years, despite the fact that they convert less than 10% of their energy input into light. Improving light bulb performance can reduce overall U.S. energy use. About 20% of electricity consumed in the United States is used for lighting homes, offices, stores, factories, and outdoor spaces. Lighting represents about 14% of residential electricity use.

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007...

Export-Import Bank Reauthorization Debate

This report discusses the ongoing debate regarding the Export-Import Bank of the United States, a federal government corporation which is the the official export credit agency (ECA) of the U.S. Government. The bank's statutory charter expires on September 30, 2014, meaning that its authority to obligations generally would cease and a wind-down of operations would be required. The report gives four possible scenarios for approaches Congress could take in regards to approaching the bank's future authorization status.

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...

Fish and Wildlife Service: FY2015 Appropriations and Policy

The annual appropriation for Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies provides funds for agencies and programs in three federal departments, as well as numerous related agencies and bureaus. Among the agencies represented is the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), in the Department of the Interior. Many of its programs are among the more controversial of those funded in the bill. On July 23, 2014, the House Committee on Appropriations reported H.R. 5171. The bill provided $1.40 billion for FWS, down 2.0% from the FY2014 level of $1.43 billion contained in P.L. 113-76. The President...

Federal Permitting and Oversight of Export of Fossil Fuels

Recent technological developments have led to an increase in domestic production of natural gas and crude oil. As a result, there is interest among some parties in exporting liquefied natural gas (LNG) and crude oil to take advantage of international markets. This has placed new attention on the laws and regulations governing, and in many cases restricting, the export of fossil fuels.

In most cases, export of fossil fuels requires federal authorization of both the act of exporting the fuel and the facility that will be employed to export the fuel. For example, the export of natural gas is...

U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit: Frequently Asked Questions and Background

This report provides information about the early August 2014 U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, DC, and policy issues likely to be addressed by participants in the summit and other events being held in conjunction with it. In providing background on key U.S.-Africa policy issues, the report addresses: Africa’s development and economic challenges; U.S.-Africa trade, investment, and economic cooperation; U.S. aid to Africa; Governance, democracy, and human rights issues; and Peace and security issues, including selected U.S. responses. The summit is organized around the theme...

NATO: Response to the Crisis in Ukraine and Security Concerns in Central and Eastern Europe

Russia’s actions in Ukraine and its alleged role in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 have caused observers and policy makers on both sides of the Atlantic, including Members of Congress, to reassess the role of the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in upholding European security. The security concerns of NATO’s Central and Eastern European member states and non-NATO member states such as Moldova and Ukraine are of particular concern.

NATO has strongly condemned Russian actions in Ukraine and has taken steps aimed both at reassuring allies and...

Securing U.S. Diplomatic Facilities and Personnel Abroad: Background and Policy Issues

The United States maintains about 285 diplomatic facilities worldwide. Attacks on such facilities, and on U.S. diplomatic personnel, are not infrequent. The deaths of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other U.S. personnel in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11, 2012, along with attacks that week on U.S. embassies in Egypt, Sudan, Tunisia, and Yemen, drew renewed attention to the challenges facing U.S. diplomats abroad, as well as to the difficulty in balancing concerns for their security against the outreach required of their mission. Congress plays a key role in shaping the response...

Algeria: Current Issues

U.S.-Algeria ties are highly focused on counterterrorism cooperation and U.S. interest in Algeria’s oil and gas production. The Obama Administration has indicated a desire to deepen and broaden bilateral relations, including security assistance, while periodically urging greater political and economic openness. While both governments express appreciation for bilateral cooperation, U.S. officials may lack well-developed levers of influence in Algiers due to Algeria’s economic self-reliance and ties to non-Western strategic players such as Russia, along with Algerian leaders’ storied...

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...

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...

Specialty Crop Provisions in the 2014 Farm Bill (P.L. 113-79)

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 crops, defined in statute as “fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, and horticulture and nursery crops (including floriculture)” (P.L. 108-465; 7 U.S.C. §1621 note) comprise a major part of U.S. agriculture. In 2012, the value of farm-level specialty crop production totaled nearly $60 billion, representing about one-fourth of the value of U.S. crop production. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports...

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...

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. Circuit and District Court Nominations During the Obama Presidency: Midyear Analysis and Comparison with Recent Presidents

The nomination and confirmation process for U.S. circuit and district court judges is of ongoing interest to Congress. Recent Senate debates over judicial nominations have focused on issues such as the relative degree of success of President Barack Obama’s nominees in gaining Senate confirmation compared with other recent Presidents, as well as the pace of confirmation of his nominees compared to the nominees of other recent Presidents, and the relative prevalence of vacant judgeships compared to years past.

This report addresses these issues by providing a statistical analysis of...

Panama: Background and U.S. Relations

The Central American nation of Panama has had five successive elected civilian governments since its return to democratic rule in 1989, and a sixth is scheduled to assume power on July 1, 2014 with the inauguration of current Vice President Juan Carlos Varela as President. Hailing from the center-right Panameñista Party, Varela won the May 4, 2014 presidential election with 39% of the vote in a three-candidate race. Significantly, Varela defeated the candidate of the ruling Democratic Change party of current President Ricardo Martinelli, who was constitutionally prohibited from running for...

U.S.-Vietnam Relations in 2014: Current Issues and Implications for U.S. Policy

After communist North Vietnam’s victory over U.S.-backed South Vietnam in 1975, the United States and Vietnam had minimal relations until the mid-1990s. Since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1995, overlapping security and economic interests have led the two sides to expand relations across a wide range of sectors. In 2013, President Obama and his Vietnamese counterpart announced a “comprehensive partnership” that is to provide a framework for moving the relationship to a “new phase.” A key factor driving the two countries together is a shared concern about China’s increased...

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).

Membership in the United Nations and Its Specialized Agencies

Since the United Nations (U.N.) was established in 1945, the U.S. government, including many Members of Congress, has maintained an ongoing interest in the criteria and process for membership in the United Nations and its specialized agencies. The United Nations currently has 193 member states and two observer non-member states—the Holy See (Vatican) and “Palestine.”

Criteria and Process

The decision to admit a state into the United Nations is made by the U.N. General Assembly on the recommendation of the U.N. Security Council, including all five permanent members (P-5): the United...

The Project BioShield Act: Issues for the 113th Congress

In 2004, Congress passed the Project BioShield Act (P.L. 108-276) to provide the federal government with new authorities related to the development, procurement, and use of medical countermeasures against chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) terrorism agents. However, the government still lacks countermeasures against many of the CBRN terrorism agents determined by the government to pose the greatest threat. Congress is likely to consider whether modifications of these authorities or new authorities would help address remaining gaps.

The authority generally referred to...

Iraq Crisis: CRS Experts

The table below provides names and contact information for CRS experts on various policy concerns of interest to Congress relating to the ongoing crisis in Iraq. Policy areas identified include the conflict in Iraq, al Qaeda affiliates, embassy security, military operations, war powers, sanctions, energy security, humanitarian issues and displaced persons, issues in the Middle East region, the United Nations, and other international actors.

Climate Change: CRS Experts

Proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP): In Brief

This report provides a brief overview of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP), and discusses the congressional interest, market access, regulatory issues, and trade-related rules.

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS): Is It a Health Emergency?

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is a serious viral respiratory illness first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012. The global count of MERS cases increased sharply this spring. As of May 28, 2014, 636 MERS cases (including 193 deaths) have been reported to the World Health Organization (WHO). To date, cases have originated from countries in or near the Arabian Peninsula: Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Oman, Jordan, Kuwait, Yemen, and Lebanon. Cases have spread to additional countries—the United Kingdom, France, Tunisia, Italy, Malaysia, the Philippines, Greece, Egypt,...

U.S. Air Force Bomber Sustainment and Modernization: Background and Issues for Congress

The United States’ existing long-range bomber fleet of B-52s, B-1s, and B-2s are at a critical point in their operational life span. With the average age of each airframe being 50, 28, and 20 years old, respectively, military analysts are beginning to question just how long these aircraft can physically last and continue to be credible weapon systems. As potential adversaries acquire 21st century defense systems designed to prevent U.S. access to the global commons (sea, air, space, and cyberspace) and to limit U.S. forces’ freedom of action within an operational area, the ability of these...

Progress in Combating Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs): U.S. and Global Efforts from FY2006 to FY2015

The term “neglected tropical diseases” (NTDs) was coined by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2003 to describe a set of diseases that are ancient, worsen poverty, and typically impair health and productivity while carrying low death rates. While the use of the term “NTDs” has helped to raise awareness about these long-standing health challenges, its use risks simplifying a complicated health challenge. Some of the diseases are treatable with drugs that can be administered by lay health workers irrespective of disease status, while others require diagnosis and can be treated only by...

The Republic of the Philippines and U.S. Interests—2014

The United States and the Republic of the Philippines maintain close ties stemming from the U.S. colonial period (1898-1946), the bilateral security alliance bound by the Mutual Defense Treaty of 1951, and common strategic and economic interests. In the past decade, the Philippines has been one of the largest recipients of U.S. foreign assistance in Southeast Asia, including both military and development aid. Many observers say that U.S. public and private support to the Philippines following Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), which struck the central part of the country on November 8, 2013,...

Maritime Territorial Disputes in East Asia: Issues for Congress

Rising tensions stemming from maritime territorial disputes in East Asia have become a pressing challenge for U.S. policy makers, and pose one of the most complicated issues for the Obama Administration’s policy of strategic “rebalancing” towards the Asia-Pacific.

Since around 2005-2006, long-disputed waters and land features in the South China Sea and, more recently, the East China Sea have seen increasingly aggressive behavior from nations trying to strengthen claims to disputed areas. Although China is not the only nation that has sought to press its maritime territorial claims, actions...

Afghanistan: Drug Trafficking and the 2014 Transition

Afghanistan is the world’s primary source of opium poppy cultivation and opium and heroin production, as well as a major global source of cannabis (marijuana) and cannabis resin (hashish). Drug trafficking, a long-standing feature of Afghanistan’s post-Taliban political economy, is linked to corruption and insecurity, and provides a source of illicit finance for non-state armed groups. Based on recent production and trafficking trends, the drug problem in Afghanistan appears to be worsening—just as the U.S. government finalizes plans for its future relationship with the government of...

Select Committee on Benghazi: CRS Experts

The following table provides names and contact information for CRS experts on policy concerns relating to the Select Committee on Benghazi (H.Res. 567). In addition to the policy expertise identified below, related CRS products include CRS Insight IN10055, House Select Committee Precedents and Procedures and H. Res. 567, Establishing a Select Committee on the 2012 Benghazi Attack, by Christopher M. Davis; CRS Insight IN10022, Diplomatic Security After Benghazi, by Alex Tiersky; CRS Report R43195, Securing U.S. Diplomatic Facilities and Personnel Abroad: Legislative and Executive Branch...

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...

Trafficking in Persons: U.S. Policy and Issues for Congress

Trafficking in persons (TIP) for the purposes of exploitation is believed to be one of the most prolific areas of contemporary international criminal activity and is of significant interest to the United States and the international community as a serious human rights concern. TIP is both an international and a domestic crime that involves violations of labor, public health, and human rights standards, and criminal law.

In general, the trafficking business feeds on conditions of vulnerability, such as youth, gender, poverty, ignorance, social exclusion, political instability, and ongoing...

China and the United States—A Comparison of Green Energy Programs and Policies

China is the world’s most populous country with approximately 1.4 billion people. It has experienced tremendous economic growth over the last three decades with an average annual increase in gross domestic product (GDP) of 9.8% during that period. This has led to an increasing demand for energy, spurring China to more than double its electric power generating capacity in each of the last three decades, growing from 66 GigaWatts (GW) installed in 1980 to 1,100 GW installed as of 2011. Coal currently fuels about 66% of China’s electricity generation. However, the reduction of air pollution...

Moldova: Background and U.S. Policy

Although a small country, Moldova has been of interest to U.S. policy makers due to its position between NATO and EU member Romania and strategic Ukraine. In addition, some experts have expressed concern about Russian efforts to extend its hegemony over Moldova through various methods, including a troop presence, manipulation of Moldovas relationship with its breakaway Transnistria region, and energy supplies and other economic links. Moldovas political and economic weakness has made it a source of organized criminal activity of concern to U.S. policy makers, including trafficking in...

Judiciary Budget Request, FY2015

Achievements of and Outlook for Sanctions on Iran

Most experts agree that the multilateral sanctions imposed on Iran since 2010 have contributed significantly to producing flexibility in Irans position on the scope of its nuclear program. There is similar agreement that the effect of sanctions on Irans foreign policyparticularly on its core interests in the Middle East regionand on its human rights practices, appear to have been minimal to date. In assessing effectiveness, however, it is difficult to separate the effect of sanctions from other variables such as Irans purported economic mismanagement, attitudes of the Iranian public, and...

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...

Declarations of War and Authorizations for the Use of Military Force: Historical Background and Legal Implications

From the Washington Administration to the present, Congress and the President have enacted 11 separate formal declarations of war against foreign nations in five different wars. Each declaration has been preceded by a presidential request either in writing or in person before a joint session of Congress. The reasons cited in justification for the requests have included armed attacks on United States territory or its citizens and threats to United States rights or interests as a sovereign nation.

Congress and the President have also enacted authorizations for the use of force rather than...

Bolivia: In Brief

In the last decade, Bolivia has transformed from a country plagued by political volatility and economic instability that was closely aligned with the United States to a relatively stable country with a growing economy that now has strained relations with the U.S. government. Located in the Andean region of South America, Bolivia, like Peru and Colombia, has been a major producer of coca leaf, the main ingredient in the production of cocaine. Since 2006, Bolivia has enjoyed a period of relative political stability and steady economic growth during the two presidential terms of populist...

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...

Lebanon: Background and U.S. Policy

Lebanons small geographic size and population belie the important role it has long played in the security, stability, and economy of the Levant and the broader Middle East. Congress and the executive branch have recognized Lebanons status as a venue for regional strategic competition and have engaged diplomatically, financially, and at times, militarily to influence events there. For most of its independent existence, Lebanon has been torn by periodic civil conflict and political battles between rival religious sects and ideological groups. External military intervention, occupation, and...

Global Security Contingency Fund: Summary and Issue Overview

The FY2012 National Defense Authorization Act (P.L. 112-81), Section 1207, created a new Global Security Contingency Fund (GSCF) as a four-year pilot project to be jointly administered and funded by the Department of Defense (DOD) and the State Department. The purpose of the fund is to carry out security and counterterrorism training, and rule of law programs. (There also are three one-year transitional authorities for assistance to Africa and Yemen.) The GSCF is placed under the State Department budget. Although decisions are to be jointly made by the Secretaries of State and Defense, the...

Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia: Political Developments and Implications for U.S. Interests

The United States recognized the independence of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia when the former Soviet Union broke up at the end of 1991. The United States has fostered these states ties with the West in part to end their dependence on Russia for trade, security, and other relations. The United States has pursued close ties with Armenia to encourage its democratization and because of concerns by Armenian Americans and others over its fate. Close ties with Georgia have evolved from U.S. contacts with its pro-Western leadership. Successive Administrations have supported U.S. private...

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...

Russian Political, Economic, and Security Issues and U.S. Interests

Russia made uneven progress in democratization during the 1990s, but this limited progress was reversed after Vladimir Putin rose to power in 1999-2000, according to many observers. During this period, the State Duma (lower legislative chamber) became dominated by government-approved parties, gubernatorial elections were abolished, and the government consolidated ownership or control over major media and industries, including the energy sector. The Putin government showed low regard for the rule of law and human rights in suppressing insurgency in the North Caucasus, according to critics....

Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) and Related Non-Tariff Barriers to Agricultural Trade

Sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures are the laws, rules, standards, and procedures that governments employ to protect humans, animals, and plants from diseases, pests, toxins, and other contaminants. Examples include meat and poultry processing standards to reduce pathogens, residue limits for pesticides in foods, and regulation of agricultural biotechnology. Technical barriers to trade (TBT) cover technical regulations, product standards, environmental regulations, and voluntary procedures relating to human health and animal welfare. Examples include trademarks and patents, labeling...

Reform of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Courts: Introducing a Public Advocate

Recent revelations about the size and scope of government foreign surveillance efforts have prompted some to criticize the level of scrutiny that the courts—established under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA)—currently provide with respect to the government’s applications to engage in such surveillance. In response to concerns that the ex parte nature of many of the proceedings before the FISA courts prevents an adequate review of the government’s legal positions, some have proposed establishing an office led by an attorney or “public advocate” who would represent...

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.

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...

U.S. Diplomatic Missions: Background and Issues on Chief of Mission (COM) Authority

“Chief of Mission,” or COM, is the title conferred on the principal officer in charge of each U.S. diplomatic mission to a foreign country, foreign territory, or international organization. Usually the term refers to the U.S. ambassadors who lead U.S. embassies abroad, but the term also is used for ambassadors who head other official U.S. missions and to other diplomatic personnel who may step in when no ambassador is present. Appointed by the President, each COM serves as the President’s personal representative, leading diplomatic efforts for a particular mission or in the country of...

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...

Direct Overt U.S. Aid Appropriations for and Military Reimbursements to Pakistan, FY2002-FY2015

This report provides data regarding the direct overt U.S. aid appropriations and military reimbursements to Pakistan.

The Lacey Act: Compliance Issues Related to Importing Plants and Plant Products

The Lacey Act regulates the trade of wildlife and plants and creates penalties for a broad spectrum of violations. In 2008, the Lacey Act was amended to include protections for foreign plants and to require adherence to foreign laws as they pertain to certain conservation and other activities involving plants. Further, the 2008 amendments make it unlawful to submit falsified documents related to any plant or plant product covered by the act, and to import certain plants and plant products without an import declaration.

The primary drivers behind the Lacey Act amendments of 2008 (2008...

Reform of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Courts: Disclosure of FISA Opinions

In response to the disclosure of various National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance and data collection programs, a number of legislative changes to the government’s intelligence operations authority have been suggested. Under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA), the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) reviews government applications to conduct surveillance and engage in data collection for foreign intelligence purposes, and the FISA Court of Review reviews rulings of the FISC. Most FISA opinions are classified by the executive branch. Some have raised...

The Berry Amendment: Requiring Defense Procurement to Come from Domestic Sources

This report examines the original intent and purpose of the Berry Amendment and legislative proposals to amend the application of domestic source restrictions, as well as potential options for Congress. In order to protect the U.S. industrial base during periods of adversity and war, Congress passed domestic source restrictions as part of the 1941 Fifth Supplemental Department of Defense (DOD) Appropriations Act. These provisions later became known as the Berry Amendment. The Berry Amendment (Title 10 United States Code [U.S.C.] §2533a, Requirement to Buy Certain Articles from American...

EU-U.S. Economic Ties: Framework, Scope, and Magnitude

The United States and the European Union (EU) economic relationship is the largest in the world—and it is growing. The modern U.S.-European economic relationship has evolved since World War II, broadening as the 6-member European Community expanded into the present 28-member European Union. The ties have also become more complex and interdependent, covering a growing number and type of trade and financial activities. The United States and the EU have embarked on negotiations to establish a free trade agreement—the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

In 2012 (latest data...

American Jihadist Terrorism: Combating a Complex Threat

This report describes homegrown violent jihadists and the plots and attacks that have occurred since 9/11. For this report, “homegrown” describes terrorist activity or plots perpetrated within the United States or abroad by American citizens, lawful permanent residents, or visitors radicalized largely within the United States. The term “jihadist” describes radicalized individuals using Islam as an ideological and/or religious justification for their belief in the establishment of a global caliphate, or jurisdiction governed by a Muslim civil and religious leader known as a caliph. The term...

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and Terrorism Investigations

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI, the Bureau) is the lead federal law enforcement agency charged with counterterrorism investigations. Since the September 11, 2001 (9/11) attacks, the FBI has implemented a series of reforms intended to transform itself from a largely reactive law enforcement agency focused on investigations of criminal activity into a more proactive, agile, flexible, and intelligence-driven agency that can prevent acts of terrorism.

This report provides background information on key elements of the FBI terrorism investigative process based on publicly available...

U.S.-Japan Economic Relations: Significance, Prospects, and Policy Options

Japan and the United States are two major economic powers. Together they account for over 30% of world domestic product, for a significant portion of international trade in goods and services, and for a major portion of international investment. This economic clout makes the United States and Japan potentially powerful actors in the world economy. Economic conditions in the United States and Japan have a significant impact on the rest of the world. Furthermore, the U.S.-Japan bilateral economic relationship can influence economic conditions in other countries.

The U.S.-Japan economic...

U.S. and EU Motor Vehicle Standards: Issues for Transatlantic Trade Negotiations

In March 2013, President Obama notified Congress that his Administration would seek a comprehensive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with the European Union (EU). In addition to addressing tariffs and other trade restrictions, the negotiations seek to reduce regulatory barriers to transatlantic commerce. Among the barriers under discussion are those affecting motor vehicles. Although many automakers build and sell cars in both regions, they must comply with very different safety, fuel economy, and emissions standards, as well as different regulatory processes. TTIP...

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA): Issues for the 113th Congress

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), a bureau of the Department of Commerce, is the executive branch’s principal advisory office on domestic and international telecommunications and information policies. Its mandate is to provide greater access for all Americans to telecommunications services, support U.S. efforts to open foreign markets, advise on international telecommunications negotiations, and fund research for new technologies and their applications. NTIA also manages the distribution of funds for several key grant programs. Its role in managing...

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...

U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea: Living Resources Provisions

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea established a comprehensive international legal framework for governing activities related to the world’s oceans. UNCLOS was agreed to in 1982, but the United States never became a signatory nation. This report describes provisions of UNCLOS relating to living marine resources and discusses how these provisions comport with current U.S. marine policy. As presently understood and interpreted, these provisions generally appear to reflect current U.S. policy with respect to living marine resource management, conservation, and exploitation....

Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda): U.S. and International Response to Philippines Disaster

This report examines the impact of Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda), which struck the central Philippines on November 8, 2013, and the U.S. and international response. Haiyan was one of the strongest typhoons to strike land on record. Over a 16 hour period, the “super typhoon,” with a force equivalent to a Category 5 hurricane and sustained winds of up to 195 mph, directly swept through six provinces in the central Philippines. The disaster quickly created a humanitarian crisis. In some of the hardest hit areas, particularly in coastal communities in Leyte province and the southern tip of Eastern...

The President’s Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP): Issues for Congress

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 that “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,...

State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs: FY2014 Budget and Appropriations

On April 10, 2013, the Obama Administration submitted to Congress its budget request for FY2014. The request for State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs totaled $51.84 billion, which was about 2% below the FY2013 post-sequester estimated funding level of $52.88 billion. Within the request, $3.81 billion was designated as Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding, which was 68% below FY2013-estimated OCO funding of $11.92 billion. Of the total request, $16.88 billion was for State Department Operations and related agencies, a 5.8% decline from the FY2013 funding estimate of...

Bangladesh Apparel Factory Collapse: Background in Brief

The April 24, 2013, collapse of an eight-story garment factory, called Rana Plaza, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, resulted in the deaths of more than 1,100 workers. It is reportedly now considered the deadliest accident in the history of the apparel industry. Congress has had a long-standing interest in supporting internationally recognized worker rights in developing countries, and the building collapse has raised concerns about worker conditions in Bangladesh.

Rana Plaza was allegedly structurally unsound and poorly maintained for apparel production. Apparel production is generally known as an...

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,...

“Leahy Law” Human Rights Provisions and Security Assistance: Issue Overview

Congressional interest in the laws and processes involved in conditioning U.S. assistance to foreign security forces on human rights grounds has grown in recent years, especially as U.S. Administrations have increased emphasis on expanding U.S. partnerships and building partnership capacity with foreign military and other security forces. Congress has played an especially prominent role in initiating, amending, supporting with resources, and overseeing implementation of long-standing laws on human rights provisions affecting U.S. security assistance.

First sponsored in the late 1990s by...

CRS Issue Statement on Europe: Regional Policy, Bilateral Relations, and Key Issues

This report provides a statement on the United States' relationship with Europe.

The 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics: Security and Human Rights Issues

The President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced on July 4, 2007, that Sochi, Russia, had been selected as the host city for the Olympic Winter Games and Paralympics. The Olympic Games, which will be held February 7-23, 2014, are the first to be hosted by Russia as a successor state to the former Soviet Union. Reportedly, some 230 U.S. athletes out of approximately 2,900 from some 88 countries, and about 10,000 U.S. visitors, are expected in Sochi. Olympic events will take place at two main locations: a coastal cluster along the Black Sea and a mountain cluster in the...

U.S. Circuit and District Court Nominations During President Obama’s First Five Years: Comparative Analysis With Recent Presidents

The selection and confirmation process for U.S. circuit and district court judges is of continuing interest to Congress. Recent Senate debates over judicial nominations have focused on issues such as the relative degree of success of President Barack Obama’s nominees in gaining Senate confirmation compared with other recent Presidents, as well as the relative prevalence of vacant judgeships compared to years past, and the effect of delayed judicial appointments on judicial vacancy levels. This report addresses these issues, and others, by providing a statistical analysis of nominations to...

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...

The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)

Recent international events have renewed congressional interest in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). UNESCO is a specialized agency of the U.N. system that promotes collaboration among its member countries in the fields of education, natural sciences, social and human sciences, culture, and communications and information. With an annual budget of approximately $326 million, it supports nearly 2,000 staff members working at its headquarters in Paris and 65 field offices and institutes worldwide. UNESCO activities are funded through a combination...

The Lacey Act: Protecting the Environment by Restricting Trade

This report looks at the history and applications of the Lacey Act, which allows the U.S. to enforce the laws of other countries.

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) in the 113th Congress: New and Recurring Issues

The Endangered Species Act (ESA; P.L. 93-205, 16 U.S.C. §§1531-1543) was enacted to increase protection for, and to provide for the recovery of, vanishing wildlife and vegetation. Under ESA, species of plants and animals (both vertebrate and invertebrate) can be listed as endangered or threatened according to assessments of their risk of extinction. Habitat loss is the primary cause for listing species. Once a species is listed, powerful legal tools are available to aid its recovery and protect its habitat. Accordingly, when certain resources are associated with listed species—such as...

Food Fraud and “Economically Motivated Adulteration” of Food and Food Ingredients

Food fraud, or the act of defrauding buyers of food or ingredients for economic gain—whether they be consumers or food manufacturers, retailers, and importers—has vexed the food industry throughout history. Some of the earliest reported cases of food fraud, dating back thousands of years, involved olive oil, tea, wine, and spices. These products continue to be associated with fraud, along with some other foods. Although the vast majority of fraud incidents do not pose a public health risk, some cases have resulted in actual or potential public health risks. Perhaps the most high-profile...

Next Steps in Nuclear Arms Control with Russia: Issues for Congress

In his 2013 State of the Union Address, President Obama stated that the United States would “engage Russia to seek further reductions in our nuclear arsenals.” These reductions could include limits on strategic, nonstrategic and nondeployed nuclear weapons. Yet, arms control negotiations between the United States and Russia have stalled, leading many observers to suggest that the United States reduce its nuclear forces unilaterally, or in parallel with Russia, without negotiating a new treaty. Many in Congress have expressed concerns about this possibility, both because they question the...

Nuclear Power Plant Security and Vulnerabilities

The physical security of nuclear power plants and their vulnerability to deliberate acts of terrorism was elevated to a national security issue following the attacks of September 11, 2001. Congress subsequently enacted new nuclear plant security requirements and has repeatedly focused attention on regulation and enforcement by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). More than a decade after the 9/11 attacks, security at nuclear plants remains an important concern.

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPACT05, P.L. 109-58) imposed specific criteria for NRC to consider in revising the “Design...

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...

The Budget Control Act, Sequestration, and the Foreign Affairs Budget: Background and Possible Impacts

Congress has an interest in the cost and effectiveness of foreign affairs activities that promote U.S. interests overseas. The Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA, P.L. 112-25), as amended by the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (P.L. 112-240/H.R. 8, signed into law on January 2, 2013) required across-the-board reductions (sequestration) in most federal defense and nondefense discretionary programs, projects, and activities including those in foreign affairs for FY2013, and additional spending reductions each year through FY2021. These automatic cuts for FY2013 were ordered on March 1,...

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...

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,...

Turkmenistan: Recent Developments and U.S. Interests

When Turkmenistan gained independence with the dissolution of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991, the former republic’s president and head of the Turkmen Communist Party, Saparamurad Niyazov, retained power. He was reelected president in another uncontested race in 1992, and a referendum in 1994 extended his term until 2002. Before facing reelection, however, constitutional amendments approved in 1999 proclaimed him president for life. The country’s May 1992 constitution granted Niyazov overwhelming powers to rule by decree as head of state and government. According to several...

Majority Cloture for Nominations: Implications and the “Nuclear” Proceedings

On November 21, 2013, by overturning a ruling of the chair on appeal, the Senate set a precedent that lowered the vote threshold required by Senate Standing Rule XXII for invoking cloture on most presidential nominations. The precedent did not change the text of Rule XXII of the Standing Rules; rather, the Senate established a precedent reinterpreting the provisions of Rule XXII to require only a simple majority of those voting, rather than three-fifths of the full Senate, to invoke cloture on all presidential nominations except those to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The precedent does not...

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...

Length of Time from Nomination to Confirmation for U.S. Circuit and District Court Nominees: Overview and Policy Options to Shorten the Process

The process by which lower federal court judges are nominated by the President and considered by the Senate is of continuing interest to Congress. Recent Senate debate over judicial nominations has frequently concerned whether a particular President’s judicial nominees, relative to the nominees of other recent Presidents, waited longer for their nominations to be considered by the Senate. This report addresses this issue by (1) providing a statistical analysis of the time from nomination to confirmation for U.S. circuit and district court nominees from Presidents Reagan to Obama; (2)...

The September 2013 Terrorist Attack in Kenya: In Brief

On September 21, 2013, masked gunmen attacked the upscale Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya taking hostages and killing at least 67 people. Almost 200 people, including at least five U.S. citizens, were wounded in the siege, which lasted four days. The attack is the most deadly terrorist incident in Kenya since the 1998 Al Qaeda bombing of the U.S. embassy in Nairobi. A Somali Islamist insurgent group, Al Shabaab, which has ties to Al Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the Westgate attack. Al Qaeda and affiliated groups like Al Shabaab have had a presence in East Africa for almost 20...

U.S. Foreign-Trade Zones: Background and Issues for Congress

U.S. foreign-trade zones (FTZs) are geographic areas declared to be outside the normal customs territory of the United States. This means that, for foreign merchandise entering FTZs and re-exported as different products, customs procedures are streamlined and tariffs do not apply. For products intended for U.S. consumption, full customs procedures are applied and duties are payable when they exit the FTZ.

In 1934, in the midst of the Great Depression, Congress passed the U.S. Foreign-Trade Zones Act. It was designed to expedite and encourage international trade while promoting domestic...

China’s Political Institutions and Leaders in Charts

This report provides a snapshot of China’s leading political institutions and current leaders in the form of nine organization charts and three tables. The report is a companion to CRS Report R41007, Understanding China’s Political System, by Susan V. Lawrence and Michael F. Martin, which provides a detailed explanation of China’s political system. This chart-based report is intended to assist Members and their staffs seeking to understand where political institutions and individuals fit within the broader Chinese political system and to identify which Chinese officials are responsible for...

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and International Trade: Legal Issues

Most consumer products within the jurisdiction of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) are imported into the United States. The CPSC is the central, federal authority for the promotion and enforcement of consumer product safety. In 2008, following several well-publicized national recalls of toys and children’s products, many of which contained lead, Congress passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), which included provisions addressing the CPSC’s role in ensuring the safety of imported and exported consumer products.

With regard to import safety, the CPSC...

Foreign Assistance: Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs)

The flow of private sector resources to developing countries has increased significantly in recent decades. Seeking opportunity in this changing environment, government development assistance agencies such as the U.S. Agency for International Development and the State Department are working with private sector entities in unprecedented ways to determine when and if such partnerships can lead to improved development results. As explained in the Obama Administration’s 2010 Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), “private sector partners can add value to our missions through...

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...

Introducing a Public Advocate into the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act's Courts: Select Legal Issues

This report explores government surveillance act and other difficult constitutional issues prompted by the idea of including a new adversary in established under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA) FISA court proceedings.

Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs): Fact Sheet on Three International Agreements

Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are chemicals that do not break down easily in the environment, tend to accumulate as they move up the food chain, and may be harmful to people and wildlife. Between 1998 and 2001, the United States signed two international treaties and one executive agreement to reduce the production and use of POPs and to regulate the trade and disposal of them. President Bush signed and submitted the two treaties to the Senate for advice and consent. If the Senate consents by a two-thirds majority, and if Congress passes legislation that would be needed to implement...

Proposed Reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) in the 113th Congress: S. 1009 Compared with S. 696 and Current Statute

Thirty-seven years of experience implementing and enforcing the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) since its enactment have demonstrated the strengths and weaknesses of the law and led many to propose legislative changes to TSCA’s core provisions. The Safe Chemicals Act (S. 696) and the Chemical Safety Improvement Act (S. 1009) introduced in the 113th Congress would amend TSCA Title I. This CRS report compares key provisions of S. 696 and S. 1009 with the language of the current statute (15 U.S.C. 2601 et seq.).

Existing Law

TSCA as enacted authorizes the Environmental Protection Agency...

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...

Government Shutdown: Operations of the Department of Defense During a Lapse in Appropriations

Because Congress did not provide any FY2014 funding for the Department of Defense (DOD) by October 1, 2013, the beginning of the new fiscal year, DOD, like other agencies, is now subject to a lapse in appropriations during which agencies are generally required to shut down. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB), however, has identified a number of exceptions to the requirement that agencies cease operations, including a blanket exception for activities that “provide for the national security.”

With the approach of the Treasury Department’s estimate of an October 17, 2013, deadline for...

Syria’s Chemical Weapons: Issues for Congress

Syria has produced, stored, and weaponized chemical agents, but it remains dependent on foreign suppliers for chemical precursors. The regime of President Bashar al Asad possesses stocks of nerve (sarin, VX) and blister (mustard gas) agents, possibly weaponized into bombs, shells, and missiles. The government also has associated production facilities. Chemical weapons and their agents can deteriorate depending on age and quality; little is known from open sources about the current condition of the stockpile. Syria continues to attempt to procure new supplies of chemical weapons precursors,...

The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), U.S. Global HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Programs: A Description of Permanent and Expiring Authorities

Fighting HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis (TB), and malaria globally is a priority for Congress. The 108th and 110th Congresses enacted two pieces of legislation that have shaped U.S. responses to these diseases: P.L. 108-25, the United States Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Act of 2003 (Leadership Act), and P.L. 110-293, the Tom Lantos and Henry J. Hyde United States Global Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Reauthorization Act of 2008 (Lantos-Hyde Act). The Leadership Act authorized $15 billion to be spent from FY2004 through FY2008 on fighting HIV/AIDS,...

Tajikistan: Recent Developments and U.S. Interests

Tajikistan is a significant country in Central Asia by virtue of its geographic location bordering China and Afghanistan and its ample water and other resources, but it faces ethnic and clan schisms, deep poverty, poor governance, and other severe challenges. Tajikistan was one of the poorest of the new states that gained independence at the end of 1991 after the break-up of the former Soviet Union. The new country was soon plunged into a devastating civil conflict between competing regional and other interests that lasted until a peace settlement in 1997. Former state farm chairman...

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...

Egypt in Crisis: Issues for Congress

This report provides a brief overview of the key issues for the 113th Congress related to Egypt.

Harbor Maintenance Finance and Funding

The federal government has assumed principal responsibility for maintenance of the nation’s harbors and shipping channels. Harbor maintenance activities are overseen by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (the Corps or USACE) and largely funded through the harbor maintenance trust fund (HMTF), which receives revenue from taxes on waterborne cargo and on cruise ship passengers. The future of the HMTF is a major issue in consideration of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), which is now pending in Congress. Legislation passed in the Senate (S. 601) and under consideration in the House...

Possible U.S. Intervention in Syria: Issues for Congress

Reports of a mass casualty chemical weapons attack in the suburbs of Damascus are reshaping the long-running and contentious debate over possible U.S. intervention in Syria’s bloody civil war. Obama Administration officials and some foreign governments report that on August 21, 2013, forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al Asad attacked opposition-controlled areas in the suburbs of the capital with chemical weapons, killing hundreds of civilians, including women and children. The Syrian government has denied the accusations categorically and blames the opposition for the attack. United...

Pakistan: U.S. Foreign Aid Conditions, Restrictions, and Reporting Requirements

The 113th Congress continues to debate levels of U.S. assistance to Pakistan in light of signs that Pakistan may not be a fully willing and effective U.S. partner, and that official Pakistani elements continue to support Islamist militant forces. During a period of economic and budget crises in the United States, Obama Administration officials and some senior Members of Congress have voiced concerns about the efficacy of continuing the flow of billions of U.S. aid dollars into Pakistan, with some in Congress urging more stringent conditions on, or even curtailment of, such aid. At issue is...

An Overview of Judicial Review of Immigration Matters

Congress has plenary or sovereign power over the conditions for admitting aliens into the United States and permitting them to remain. This power is so completely entrusted to the political branch to legislate and implement as to be largely free from judicial review. However, this power is still subject to constitutional limitations, including substantive and procedural due process protections. In immigration cases, due process may be a flexible concept and the particular procedures that may be constitutionally required depend on the relative interests involved.

Historically, immigration...

NSA Surveillance Leaks: Background and Issues for Congress

Recent attention concerning National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance pertains to unauthorized disclosures of two different intelligence collection programs. Since these programs were publicly disclosed over the course of two days in June, there has been confusion about what information is being collected and under which authorities the NSA is acting. This report clarifies the differences between the two programs and identifies potential issues that may help Members of Congress assess legislative proposals pertaining to NSA surveillance authorities.

The first program collects in bulk the...

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...

Presidential Appointments to Full-Time Positions on Regulatory and Other Collegial Boards and Commissions, 111th Congress

The President makes appointments, with the advice and consent of the Senate, to some 148 full-time leadership positions on 33 federal regulatory and other collegial boards and commissions. This appointment process consists of three distinct stages: selection, clearance, and nomination by the President; consideration by the Senate; and appointment by the President. These advice and consent positions can also temporarily be filled by the President alone through a recess appointment. Membership positions on this set of collegial bodies often have fixed terms, and incumbents are often...

Kyrgyzstan: Recent Developments and U.S. Interests

Kyrgyzstan is a small and poor Central Asian country that gained independence in 1991 with the breakup of the Soviet Union. The United States has been interested in helping Kyrgyzstan to enhance its sovereignty and territorial integrity, bolster economic reform and development, strengthen human rights, prevent weapons proliferation, and more effectively combat transnational terrorism and trafficking in persons and narcotics. Special attention long has been placed on bolstering civil society and democratization in what has appeared to be the most receptive—but still challenging—political...

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.

Possible Intervention in Syria: CRS Experts

The table below provides names and contact information for CRS experts on various policy concerns of interest to Congress relating to the prospect of international military responses to the suspected use of chemical weapons in Syria. Policy areas identified include the conflict in Syria, chemical weapons, military operations, intelligence issues, war powers, the humanitarian response, issues in the Middle East region, the United Nations, other international actors, and other foreign policy instruments.

Uzbekistan: Recent Developments and U.S. Interests

Uzbekistan gained independence at the end of 1991 with the breakup of the Soviet Union. The landlocked country is a potential Central Asian regional power by virtue of its population, the largest in the region, its substantial energy and other resources, and its location at the heart of regional trade and transport networks. The existing president, Islam Karimov, retained his post following the country’s independence, and was reelected in 2000 and 2007. He has pursued a policy of caution in economic and political reforms, and many observers have criticized Uzbekistan’s human rights...

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...

Bangladesh: Political and Strategic Developments and U.S. Interests

Bangladesh (the former East Pakistan) is an Islamic-majority nation in South Asia, bordering the Bay of Bengal, dominated by low-lying riparian zones. It is the world’s eighth-largest country in terms of population, with 164 million people housed in a land mass the size of Iowa. Roughly 80% of Bangladesh’s population lives on less than $2 per day. It suffers from high levels of corruption and, at times, a faltering democratic system that has been subject to pressure from the military, though the nation has an established reputation as a largely moderate and democratic majority Muslim...

Assessing the January 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance (DSG): In Brief

On January 5, 2012, President Obama announced a new defense strategy entitled Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense, and commonly referred to as the defense strategic guidance or DSG. The DSG was significant at the time because it was explicitly intended to reshape future Department of Defense (DOD) priorities, activities, and budget requests for the following decade. That reshaping meant, in part, reducing defense spending by about $487 billion over 10 years, to meet the initial budget caps set in the Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011. And it meant in part...

Japan Joins the Trans-Pacific Partnership: What Are the Implications?

On July 23, 2013, Japan formally joined negotiations to establish a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) becoming the 12 participant, including the United States. Japan’s membership in the TPP with the United States would constitute a de facto U.S.-Japan FTA. On April 12, 2013, the United States announced its support for Japan’s participation in the TPP. The announcement came after a series of discussions on conditions for U.S. support and outstanding bilateral issues. As a result of the discussions the two sides agreed on measures to address these issues as part of, and in parallel with, the...

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...

U.S.-China Relations: An Overview of Policy Issues

The United States relationship with China touches on an exceptionally broad range of issues, from security, trade, and broader economic issues, to the environment and human rights. Congress faces important questions about what sort of relationship the United States should have with China and how the United States should respond to China’s “rise.” After more than 30 years of fast-paced economic growth, China’s economy is now the second-largest in the world after that of the United States. With economic success, China has developed significant global strategic clout. It is also engaged in an...

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...

U.S.-Cambodia Relations: Issues for the 113th Congress

The United States and the Kingdom of Cambodia have been expanding their once-limited ties for a number of years, although U.S. concerns about Cambodia’s human rights record still limit the scope of the bilateral relationship. The Obama Administration has taken steps to broaden engagement with Cambodia, partly in response to China’s growing diplomatic and economic influence in Cambodia and the Lower Mekong Delta region. U.S. interests in Cambodia include promoting development, trade and investment, regional security, civil society, democracy, and human rights. U.S. military engagement with...

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...

Kazakhstan: Recent Developments and U.S. Interests

Kazakhstan is an important power in Central Asia by virtue of its geographic location, large territory, ample natural resources, and economic growth, but it faces ethnic, political, and other challenges to stability. Kazakhstan gained independence at the end of 1991 after the break-up of the former Soviet Union. Kazakhstan’s president at the time, Nursultan Nazarbayev, was one of the top leaders of the former Soviet Union and was instrumental in forming the successor Commonwealth of Independent States. He has been reelected president of Kazakhstan several times and in June 2010 was...

The International Whaling Convention (IWC) and Legal Issues Related to Aboriginal Rights

This report discusses the recent legislation regarding whaling in general, and aboriginal whaling in particular. Legislative measures, primarily in the form of concurrent resolutions, have been proposed in four categories: protesting commercial, scientific, or community (nonaboriginal) whaling; ensuring aboriginal whaling rights; providing a tax break for aboriginal whaling captains; and addressing the United States' policy at the annual meetings of the IWC.

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...

Human Rights, Civil Unrest, and Political Reform in Burma in 2013

Report that examines the current situation in Burma from the implicit perspective shaped by U.S. policy decisions.

ATPA Renewal: Background and Issues

The Andean Trade Preference Act (ATPA) extends duty-free treatment to certain U.S. imports that meet domestic content and other requirements from Ecuador. There were four countries originally designated to qualify for trade preferences under ATPA, including Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. Colombia and Peru are no longer designated beneficiary countries because both countries have free trade agreements with the United States that have entered into force. In the case of Bolivia, trade preferences were suspended in December 2008 because Bolivia failed to meet ATPA eligibility criteria...

Hague Convention Treaty on Recovery of International Child Support and H.R. 1896

It is often difficult, if not impossible, to enforce child support obligations in cases where the custodial parent and child live in one country and the noncustodial parent lives in another. The United States has not ratified a multilateral child support enforcement treaty dealing with this issue. P.L. 104-193 (enacted in 1996) established procedures for international enforcement of child support. Currently, the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE, within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)) has reciprocal agreements regarding child support enforcement with 15...

Foreign Surveillance and the Future of Standing to Sue Post-Clapper

Recent news accounts (and government responses to those news accounts) have indicated that the government is reportedly engaged in a surveillance program that gathers vast amounts of data, including records regarding the phone calls, emails, and Internet usage of millions of individuals. The disclosures to the media reportedly suggest that specific telecommunication companies have been required to disclose certain data to the government as part of the intelligence community’s surveillance efforts.

The recent controversy over the reports of government targeting efforts comes months after...

Ecuador: Political and Economic Conditions and U.S. Relations

T

he United States has traditionally had close relations with Ecuador, yet tensions in the U.S.-Ecuador relationship have surfaced in recent years as the left leaning government of President Rafael Correa (2007-present) has objected to U.S. influence in the region which it has labeled “imperialist.” Nevertheless, the United States is Ecuador’s largest trade partner and has extended trade preferences to Ecuador under the Andean Trade Preferences Act (ATPA) since the legislation’s enactment in 1991. The ATPA provides unilateral preferential access to the U.S. market for certain products in...

Pakistan: U.S. Foreign Assistance

In the post-2001 era, the United States has viewed Pakistan as a key ally, especially in the context of counterterrorism and Afghan and regional stability. Pakistan has been among the leading recipients of U.S. foreign assistance both historically and in recent years, although assistance levels have fluctuated considerably over the decades of Pakistani independence. In the wake of 9/11, however, aid to Pakistan increased steadily. Since 1948, the United States has pledged more than $30 billion in direct aid, about half for military assistance, and more than two-thirds appropriated in the...

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...

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...

Georgia [Republic]: Recent Developments and U.S. Interests

The small Black Sea-bordering country of Georgia gained its independence at the end of 1991 with the dissolution of the former Soviet Union. The United States had an early interest in its fate, since the well-known former Soviet foreign minister, Eduard Shevardnadze, soon became its leader. Democratic and economic reforms faltered during his rule, however. New prospects for the country emerged after Shevardnadze was ousted in 2003 and the U.S.-educated Mikheil Saakashvili was elected president. Then-U.S. President George W. Bush visited Georgia in 2005, and praised the democratic and...

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...

Senegal: Background and U.S. Relations

Successive U.S. Administrations have viewed Senegal as a democratic leader in Africa, an anchor of regional stability, and a partner in addressing development challenges and combating transnational security threats. Senegalese President Macky Sall met with President Barack Obama at the White House in March 2013, and President Obama is expected to visit Senegal in late June. A small, arid nation on West Africa’s Atlantic coast, Senegal has struggled with widespread poverty and a long-running, low-level separatist insurgency in its southern Casamance region. Still, the country’s democratic...

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.

Budget “Sequestration” and Selected Program Exemptions and Special Rules

“Sequestration” is a process of automatic, largely across-the-board spending reductions under which budgetary resources are permanently canceled to enforce certain budget policy goals. It was first authorized by the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985 (BBEDCA, Title II of P.L. 99-177, commonly known as the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act).

Sequestration is of current interest because it has been triggered as an enforcement tool under the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA, P.L. 112-25). Sequestration can also occur under the Statutory Pay-As-You-Go Act of 2010 (Statutory...

Asian Pacific Americans in the United States Congress

This report presents information on Senators, Representatives, and Delegates, including previous occupations and leadership positions (such as committee and subcommittee chairmanships), and the bipartisan and bicameral Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. It also provides a list of Members' and Delegates' party affiliations, length and dates of service, and committee assignments. Also included in the report is a map showing the total number of Asian Pacific Americans and the states or territories they represent in the 113th Congress.

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...

Terrorism and Transnational Crime: Foreign Policy Issues for Congress

This report provides an overview of transnational security issues related to patterns of interaction among international terrorist and crime groups. In addition, the report discusses the U.S. government’s perception of and response to the threat. It concludes with an analysis of foreign policy options.

In recent years, the U.S. government has asserted that terrorism, insurgency, and crime interact in varied and significant ways, to the detriment of U.S. national security interests. Although unclassified anecdotal evidence largely serves as the basis for the current understanding of...

Peru: Overview of Political and Economic Conditions and Relations with the United States

This report provides an overview of Peru’s government and economy and a discussion of issues in relations between the United States and Peru.

Peru and the United States have a strong and cooperative relationship. Several issues in U.S.-Peru relations are likely to be considered in decisions by Congress and the Administration on future aid to and cooperation with Peru. The United States supports the strengthening of Peru’s democratic institutions, its respect for human rights, environmental protection, and counternarcotics efforts. A dominant theme in bilateral relations is the effort to...

Transfer and Reprogramming of Appropriations: An Overview of Authorities, Limitations, and Procedures

Enacted appropriations and other budgetary legislation may vary in the level of detail they provide regarding how agencies should spend the funds that have been provided. Even when the purpose of appropriations is specified in great detail, agencies may be provided with some flexibility to make budgetary adjustments throughout the fiscal year. These adjustments may be necessary due to changing or unforeseen circumstances. In some instances, agencies are provided with transfer authority (i.e., authority to shift funds from one appropriations or fund account to another). In addition,...

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...

Closing the Guantanamo Detention Center: Legal Issues

Following the terrorist attacks of 9/11, Congress passed the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), which granted the President the authority “to use all necessary and appropriate force against those ... [who] planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks” against the United States. Many persons subsequently captured during military operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere were transferred to the U.S. Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for detention and possible prosecution. Although nearly 800 persons have been held at Guantanamo since early 2002, the...

Reexamination of Agency Reporting Requirements: Annual Process Under the GPRA Modernization Act of 2010 (GPRAMA)

On January 4, 2011, the GPRA Modernization Act of 2010 (GPRAMA) became law. The acronym “GPRA” in the act’s short title refers to the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993 (GPRA 1993), a law that GPRAMA substantially modified. Some of GPRAMA’s provisions require agencies to produce plans and reports for a variety of audiences that focus on goal-setting and performance measurement. Other provisions, by contrast, establish an annual process to reexamine the usefulness of certain reporting requirements.

Specifically, Section 11 of GPRAMA enacts into law a multi-step process in which...

Department of Defense’s Use of Contractors to Support Military Operations: Background, Analysis, and Issues for Congress

Throughout its history, the Department of Defense (DOD) has relied on contractors to support a wide range of military operations. Operations over the last thirty years have highlighted the critical role that contractors play in supporting U.S. troops—both in terms of the number of contractors and the type of work being performed. Over the last decade in Iraq and Afghanistan, and before that, in the Balkans, contractors accounted for 50% or more of the total military force.

Regardless of whether future operations are similar to-or significantly different from- those of the past decade most...

Defense: FY2013 Authorization and Appropriations

President Obama requested $613.9 billion in discretionary budget authority for the Department of Defense in Fiscal Year 2013, which is $31.8 billion less than had been appropriated for the agency in FY2012. The end of U.S. combat in Iraq and the declining tempo of operations in Afghanistan accounted for the bulk of the overall reduction: The budget request for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO)—DOD activities in those two countries—was $88.5 billion, which is $26.6 billion less than was provided for those operations in FY2012.

However, the Administration’s $525.4 billion request for...

Serbia: Current Issues and U.S. Policy

Serbia faces an important crossroads in its development. It is seeking to integrate into the European Union (EU), but its progress has been hindered by tensions with the United States and many EU countries over the independence of Serbia’s former Kosovo province. The global economic crisis poses serious challenges for Serbia. Painful austerity measures have been required for Serbia by the International Monetary Fund and other international financial institutions.

Serbia held parliamentary and presidential elections in May 2012. One party in the former government, the Socialist Party, did...

Kosovo: Current Issues and U.S. Policy

On February 17, 2008, Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia. The United States and 22 of the 27 European Union countries have recognized Kosovo’s independence. The Kosovo government claims that 98 countries in all have extended diplomatic recognition to it. EULEX, a European Union-led law-and-order mission, is tasked with improving the rule of law in Kosovo. KFOR, a NATO-led peacekeeping force that includes more than 700 U.S. soldiers, has the mission of providing a secure environment.

Serbia strongly objects to Kosovo’s declaration of independence. It has used diplomatic means to...

No-Fly Zones: Strategic, Operational, and Legal Considerations for Congress

In conflicts in Kosovo, Iraq, and Libya, the United States has taken part in establishing and maintaining no-fly zones. As no-fly zones represent a significant commitment of U.S. forces, and may prove a precursor to other military actions, Congress may wish to consider issues surrounding the strategy, international authorization, congressional authorization, operations, and costs of establishing and maintaining no-fly zones.

The military strategy designed to support U.S. grand strategy, it has been suggested, might be based on these considerations: the operational-level military objectives...

President Obama’s First-Term U.S. Circuit and District Court Nominations: An Analysis and Comparison with Presidents Since Reagan

The process by which lower federal court judges are nominated by the President and considered by the Senate is of continuing interest to Congress. Recent Senate debates in Congress over judicial nominations have focused on issues such as the relative degree of success of President Barack Obama’s nominees in gaining Senate confirmation (compared with other recent Presidents) as well as the number and percentage of vacant judgeships in the federal judiciary and the effect of delayed judicial appointments on judicial vacancy levels. This report addresses these issues, and others, by providing...

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...

Nuclear Weapons R&D Organizations in Nine Nations

Seven nations—China, France, India, Pakistan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—possess nuclear weapons. North Korea tested a nuclear explosive device in 2006, and announced that it had conducted a test in 2009 and another in 2013. Israel is widely thought to have nuclear weapons. As an aid to Congress in understanding nuclear weapons, nuclear proliferation, and arms control matters, this report describes which agency is responsible for research and development (R&D) of nuclear weapons (i.e., nuclear explosive devices, as distinct from the bombers and missiles that deliver...

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...

Egypt and the IMF: Overview and Issues for Congress

Congress, which annually oversees and appropriates $1.55 billion in bilateral foreign aid to Egypt, is following the political and economic situation in Egypt closely. Economic conditions in Egypt have deteriorated rapidly since the 2011 “revolution.” Political uncertainty abruptly reduced foreign capital flows into Egypt; growth, while still positive, has slowed substantially; the central bank is at risk of running out of foreign exchange reserves; and unemployment has increased from 9.2% before the revolution to 12.3% in 2012. Many policymakers and analysts fear that the fragile economic...

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...

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,...

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...

Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) Acquisition: Issues for Congress

Increasing calls for intelligence support and continuing innovations in intelligence technologies combine to create significant challenges for both the executive and legislative branches. Intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) systems are integral components of both national policymaking and military operations, including counterterrorism operations, but they are costly and complicated and they must be linked in order to provide users with a comprehensive understanding of issues based on information from all sources. Relationships among organizations responsible for...

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...

Why Certain Trade Agreements Are Approved as Congressional-Executive Agreements Rather Than Treaties

U.S. trade agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), World Trade Organization agreements, and bilateral free trade agreements (FTAs) have been approved by majority vote of each house rather than by two-thirds vote of the Senate—that is, they have been treated as congressional-executive agreements rather than as treaties. The congressional-executive agreement has been the vehicle for implementing Congress’s long-standing policy of seeking trade benefits for the United States through reciprocal trade negotiations. In a succession of statutes, Congress has authorized...

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.

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...

Covert Action: Legislative Background and Possible Policy Questions

Published reports have suggested that in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Pentagon has expanded its counterterrorism intelligence activities as part of what the Bush Administration termed the global war on terror. Some observers have asserted that the Department of Defense (DOD) may have been conducting certain kinds of counterterrorism intelligence activities that would statutorily qualify as “covert actions,” and thus require a presidential finding and the notification of the congressional intelligence committees.

Defense officials have asserted that none of DOD’s current...

The European Union: Foreign and Security Policy

The United States often looks to Europe as its partner of choice in addressing important global challenges. Given the extent of the transatlantic relationship, congressional foreign policy activities and interests frequently involve Europe. The relationship between the United States and the European Union (EU) has become increasingly significant in recent years, and it is likely to grow even more important. In this context, Members of Congress often have an interest in understanding the complexities of EU policy making, assessing the compatibility and effectiveness of U.S. and EU policy...

U.S. Foreign Assistance to Latin America and the Caribbean: Recent Trends and FY2013 Appropriations

Geographic proximity has forged strong linkages between the United States and the nations of Latin America and the Caribbean, with critical U.S. interests in the region encompassing economic, political, and security concerns. U.S. policymakers have emphasized different strategic interests in the region at different times, from combating Soviet influence during the Cold War to advancing democracy and open markets since the 1990s. Current U.S. policy toward the region is designed to promote economic and social opportunity, ensure citizen security, strengthen effective democratic...

El Salvador: Political and Economic Conditions and U.S. Relations

Congress has maintained a strong interest in developments in El Salvador, a small Central American country with a population of 6 million. During the 1980s, El Salvador was the largest recipient of U.S. aid in Latin America as its government struggled against the leftist Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) insurgency during a 12-year civil war. A peace accord negotiated in 1992 brought the war to an end and formally assimilated the FMLN into the political process as a political party. After the peace accords were signed, U.S. involvement shifted toward helping successive...

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.

North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons: Technical Issues

This report summarizes what is known from open sources about the North Korean nuclear weapons program—including weapons-usable fissile material and warhead estimates—and assesses current developments in achieving denuclearization. Little detailed open-source information is available about the DPRK’s nuclear weapons production capabilities, warhead sophistication, the scope and success of its uranium enrichment program, or extent of its proliferation activities. In total, it is estimated that North Korea has between 30 and 50 kilograms of separated plutonium, enough for at least half a...

State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs: FY2013 Budget and Appropriations

International affairs expenditures typically amount to about 1.5% of the total federal budget. While some foreign policy and defense experts view that share as a small price to pay for a robust foreign affairs budget that they believe is essential to meeting national security and foreign policy objectives, others see international affairs spending, particularly foreign aid, as an attractive target for significant spending cuts in order to reduce deficit spending.

On February 13, 2012, the Obama Administration submitted its FY2013 budget proposal. The FY2013 request totaled $54.87 billion...

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.

Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) Status for Russia and U.S.-Russian Economic Ties

U.S.-Russian trade is governed by Title IV of the Trade Act of 1974, which sets conditions on Russia’s normal trade relations (NTR), or nondiscriminatory, status, including the “freedom-of-emigration” requirements of the Jackson-Vanik amendment (Section 402). Changing Russia’s trade status to unconditional NTR or “permanent normal trade relations status (PNTR)” requires legislation to lift the restrictions of Title IV as they apply to Russia and authorize the President to grant Russia PNTR by proclamation. On November 16, 2012, the House passed (365-43), and on December 6, 2012, the Senate...

Crisis in Mali

For the past 18 months, Mali has been mired in overlapping security, political, and humanitarian crises. A separatist rebellion launched in 2011 aggravated intra-military and political tensions in the country. In March 2012, junior military officers—led by a former participant in U.S. training programs—carried out a coup that overthrew a democratically elected government. Islamist extremist groups, including Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization, took advantage of the ensuing chaos to expand their presence in Mali’s vast, Saharan north. In the...

Department of Defense Energy Initiatives: Background and Issues for Congress

The Department of Defense (DOD) spends billions of dollars per year on fuel, and is pursuing numerous initiatives for reducing its fuel needs and changing the mix of energy sources that it uses. DOD’s energy initiatives pose several potential oversight issues for Congress, and have been topics of discussion and debate at hearings on DOD’s proposed FY2013 budget.

By some accounts, DOD is the largest organizational user of petroleum in the world. Even so, DOD’s share of total U.S. energy consumption is fairly small. DOD is by far the largest U.S. government user of energy. The amount of...

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...

Proposed Keystone XL Pipeline: Legal Issues

In 2008, TransCanada Corp. applied for a presidential permit from the State Department to construct and operate an oil pipeline across the U.S.-Canada border in a project known as Keystone XL. The Keystone XL pipeline would transport oil produced from oil sands in Alberta, Canada, to Gulf Coast refineries. The permit application was subjected to review by the State Department pursuant to executive branch authority over cross-border pipeline facilities as articulated in Executive Order 13337, and subsequently denied by the State Department. Pursuant to the requirements of legislation passed...

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....

Changes to Senate Procedures at the Start of the 113th Congress Affecting the Operation of Cloture (S.Res. 15 and S.Res. 16)

On January 25, 2013, the Senate approved two resolutions affecting the process for considering legislation and nominations. S.Res. 15 established two standing orders of the Senate that will apply only in the 113th Congress; S.Res. 16 made two changes to the standing rules of the Senate.

Section 1 of S.Res. 15 creates a special motion to proceed that could be approved by majority vote after four hours of debate. (Most motions to proceed are not subject to any limit on debate, and therefore a cloture process and three-fifths support may be required to reach a vote.) A bill brought before...

A Unified National Security Budget? Issues for Congress

In recent years a number of observers and practitioners have identified various facets of U.S. government national security practice—decision-making, strategy-making, budgeting, planning and execution, and congressional oversight—as inherently “cross-cutting.” They have in mind arenas—such as counterterrorism, and stabilization and reconstruction—that by definition involve multiple agencies, or for which responsibilities could be divided up in any number of ways among various agencies. For such facets of national security, they argue, the U.S. government is seldom able to conduct genuinely...

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...

New Zealand: U.S. Security Cooperation and the U.S. Rebalancing to Asia Strategy

As part of its strategy to rebalance toward Asia the Obama Administration has greatly expanded cooperation and reestablished close ties with New Zealand. Changes in the security realm have been particularly notable as the two sides have restored close defense cooperation, which was suspended in the mid-1980s due to differences over nuclear policy. The two nations are now working together increasingly closely in the area of defense and security cooperation while also seeking to coordinate efforts in the South Pacific. The United States and New Zealand are also working together to help shape...

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...

Azerbaijan: Recent Developments and U.S. Interests

Azerbaijan is an important power in the South Caucasus by reason of its geographic location and ample energy resources, but it faces challenges to its stability, including the unresolved separatist conflict involving Nagorno Karabakh (NK). Azerbaijan enjoyed a brief period of independence in 1918-1920, after the collapse of the Tsarist Russian Empire. However, it was re-conquered by Red Army forces and thereafter incorporated into the Soviet Union. It re-gained independence when the Soviet Union collapsed at the end of 1991. Upon independence, Azerbaijan continued to be ruled for a while...

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...

State and Local Economic Sanctions: Constitutional Issues

States and localities have occasionally enacted measures restricting their agencies from conducting economic transactions with entities that do business with or in foreign countries whose conduct these jurisdictions find objectionable. While some maintain that sub-federal entities may enact such laws under sovereign proprietary powers and other constitutional prerogatives, others argue that these measures impermissibly invade federal commerce and foreign affairs authorities and may, in some cases, be preempted by federal statute. In 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously held in Crosby...

Congressional Authority to Limit Military Operations

Controversy continues over the appropriate role that Congress should play in regulating U.S. military operations against foreign entities. U.S. action against Libya reignited consideration of long-standing questions concerning the President’s constitutional authority to use military force without congressional authorization, as well as congressional authority to regulate or limit the use of such force. There may be a renewed focus in the 113th Congress on whether or to what extent Congress has the constitutional authority to legislate limits on the President’s authority to conduct military...

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...

Role of Home State Senators in the Selection of Lower Federal Court Judges

This report examines the role that home state Senators, historically and in the contemporary era, have played in the selection of nominees to U.S. district court and circuit court of appeals judgeships. It also identifies issues that have arisen in recent years over the role of home state Senators in the selection process for federal judges. Report findings include the following:

Supported by the custom of “senatorial courtesy,” Senators of the President’s party have long played, as a general rule, the primary role in selecting candidates for the President to nominate to district court...

Foreign Aid: International Donor Coordination of Development Assistance

Many experts believe that improved coordination among donor governments and multilateral aid organizations could make global development assistance more efficient and effective. Proliferation of donors in recent decades, and fragmentation of aid among an increasing number of countries and projects, has increased calls for coordination. More than 45 countries and 21 multilateral organizations reported providing official development assistance (ODA) in 2010. An estimated 150 countries received this assistance in 2010, with the United States alone providing aid to 139 countries. Many...

U.S. Trade Remedy Laws and Nonmarket Economies: A Legal Overview

Two major U.S. trade remedies are antidumping (AD) law, which combats the sale of imported products at less than their fair market value, and countervailing duty (CVD) law, which aims to offset foreign government subsidization of imported goods. If dumped or subsidized imports are found to cause or threaten material injury to a domestic industry, antidumping or countervailing duties will be imposed. Both remedies are available when goods are imported from competitor countries with free market policies. As of 1984, however, only AD law had been applied to goods from nonmarket or...

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...

Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS): Manufacturing Trends

Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) represent a bright spot for the technology-intensive aerospace manufacturing sector, but military and civil government agencies will likely be the predominant customers for an extended period while such systems are integrated into the U.S. National Airspace System ("national airspace"). This report discusses the market for UAS in 2013 and briefly discusses UAS manufacturers.

Mexico and the 112th Congress

The United States and Mexico have a close and complex bilateral relationship as neighbors and partners under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Although security issues have recently dominated the U.S. relationship with Mexico, analysts predict that bilateral relations may shift toward economic matters now that President Enrique Peña Nieto has taken office. Peña Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) defeated leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Josefina Vázquez Mota of the conservative National Action Party...

U.S.-India Security Relations: Strategic Issues

In today’s fluid geopolitical environment, the relationship between the United States, the world’s oldest democracy and an established global power, and India, its most populous democracy and an aspiring global power, is seen as a key variable in the unfolding international dynamics of the 21st century. As U.S. foreign policy attention shifts toward the Asia-Pacific (or Indo-Pacific) region, and as India’s economic and military capabilities grow, Washington’s pursuit of a strategic partnership with New Delhi demonstrates that the mutual wariness of the Cold War era has rapidly faded. A...

Fishery, Aquaculture, and Marine Mammal Issues in the 112th Congress

Fish and marine mammals are important resources in open ocean and nearshore coastal areas; many federal laws and regulations guide their management as well as the management of their habitat. Aquaculture or fish farming enterprises seek to supplement food traditionally provided by wild harvests.

Commercial and sport fishing are jointly managed by the federal government and individual states. States generally have jurisdiction within 3 miles of the coast. Beyond state jurisdiction and out to 200 miles in the federal exclusive economic zone (EEZ), the federal government (National Marine...

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) in the 112th Congress: Conflicting Values and Difficult Choices

The Endangered Species Act (ESA; P.L. 93-205, 16 U.S.C. §§1531-1543) was enacted to increase protection for, and provide for the recovery of, vanishing wildlife and vegetation. Under ESA, species of plants and animals (both vertebrate and invertebrate) can be listed as endangered or threatened according to assessments of their risk of extinction. Habitat loss is the primary cause for listing species. Once a species is listed, powerful legal tools are available to aid its recovery and protect its habitat. Accordingly, when certain resources are associated with listed species—such as water...

Enacted and Proposed Oil Spill Legislation in the 112th Congress

Recent oil spills, including the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, generated an increased level of interest in oil spill legislation during the 112th Congress. This report identifies enacted and proposed legislation from the 112th Congress that pertains to oil spill-related issues. For this report, oil spill-related issues include oil spill policy matters that concern prevention, preparedness, response, liability and compensation, and Gulf of Mexico restoration. In the context of this report, oil spill issues do not generally include matters pertaining to offshore...

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...

United Nations System Funding: Congressional Issues

The congressional debate over United Nations funding focuses on several questions, including (1) What is the appropriate level of U.S. funding for U.N. system operations and programs? (2) What U.S. funding actions are most likely to produce a positive continuation of U.N. system reform efforts?

The U.N. system includes the United Nations, a number of specialized or affiliated agencies, voluntary and special funds and programs, and U.N. peacekeeping operations. Participating states finance the system with assessed contributions to the budgets of the United Nations and its specialized...

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....

Venezuela: Issues for Congress, 2009-2012

Under the rule of populist President Hugo Chávez, first elected in 1998, Venezuela has undergone enormous political changes, with a new constitution and unicameral legislature, and even a new name for the country, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Human rights organizations have expressed concerns about the deterioration of democratic institutions and threats to freedom of expression under the Chávez government. President Chávez won reelection to another six-year term on October 7, 2012, by a margin of 11%, capturing about 55% of the vote compared to 44% for opposition candidate...

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...

Trade Preferences: Economic Issues and Policy Options

Since 1974, Congress has created multiple trade preference programs designed to foster economic growth, reform, and development in less developed countries. These programs give temporary, non-reciprocal, duty-free U.S. market access to select exports of eligible countries. Congress has repeatedly revised and extended these programs. The112th Congress passed extensions to three trade preference programs: (1) the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) which expired on December 31, 2010 and was renewed retroactively from that date to July 31, 2013 (P.L. 112-40); (2) the Andean Trade...

Israel: 2013 Elections Preview

Close U.S.-Israel relations drive congressional interest in upcoming elections for Israel’s 120-seat Knesset (parliament), scheduled for January 22, 2013. Israeli leadership decisions may have profound implications for matters of high U.S. priority, including potential threats from Iran and its non-state allies (such as Hezbollah and Hamas), issues of ongoing Israeli-Palestinian dispute, and political change in neighboring Arab states. The composition of a probable new coalition and government led by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu could significantly influence Israeli decisionmaking,...

Defining Homeland Security: Analysis and Congressional Considerations

Ten years after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the U.S. government does not have a single definition for “homeland security.” Currently, different strategic documents and mission statements offer varying missions that are derived from different homeland security definitions. Historically, the strategic documents framing national homeland security policy have included national strategies produced by the White House and documents developed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Prior to the 2010 National Security Strategy, the 2002 and 2007 National Strategies for Homeland...

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...

Trade Preferences for Developing Countries and the World Trade Organization (WTO)

Article I:1 of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) requires World Trade Organization (WTO) Members to grant most-favored-nation (MFN) treatment “immediately and unconditionally” to like products of other Members with respect to tariffs and other trade-related measures. Programs such as the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), under which developed countries grant preferential tariff rates to developing country goods, are facially inconsistent with this obligation because these programs accord goods of some countries more favorable tariff treatment than that accorded to...

The Unified Command Plan and Combatant Commands: Background and Issues for Congress

The Unified Command Plan (UCP) and associated Combatant Commands (COCOMs) provide operational instructions and command and control to the Armed Forces and have a significant impact on how they are organized, trained, and resourced—areas over which Congress has constitutional authority. The UCP is a classified executive branch document prepared by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS) and reviewed and updated every two years that assigns missions; planning, training, and operational responsibilities; and geographic areas of responsibilities to COCOMs. Functional COCOMs operate...

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 Project BioShield Act: Issues for the 112th Congress

In 2004, Congress passed the Project BioShield Act (P.L. 108-276) to provide the federal government with new authorities related to the development, procurement, and use of medical countermeasures against chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) terrorism agents. As the expiration of some of these authorities approaches, Congress is considering whether these authorities have sufficiently contributed to national preparedness to merit extension.

The Project BioShield Act provides three main authorities: (1) guaranteeing a federal market for new CBRN medical countermeasures,...

The Budget Control Act of 2011: Budgetary Effects of Proposals to Replace the FY2013 Sequester

The Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA; P.L. 112-25) provided for an increase in the statutory limit on the public debt in conjunction with a variety of measures to reduce the budget deficit. Included in these measures was the creation of a Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, which was tasked to develop and submit a plan to Congress containing deficit reduction to total at least $1.2 trillion over the FY2012-FY2021 period. However, because the committee did not report out recommendations, the BCA’s automatic spending reduction process was triggered. This process is set to begin on...

Latin America and the Caribbean: U.S. Policy and Key Issues for Congress in 2012

Geographic proximity has ensured strong linkages between the United States and the Latin American and Caribbean region, with diverse U.S. interests, including economic, political and security concerns. U.S. policy toward the region under the Obama Administration has focused on four priorities: promoting economic and social opportunity; ensuring citizen security; strengthening effective democratic institutions; and securing a clean energy future. There has been substantial continuity in U.S. policy toward the region under the Obama Administration, which has pursued some of the same basic...

Immigration Legislation and Issues in the 112th Congress

Immigration has not been a front-burner issue for the 112th Congress. During the past two years, however, Congress has taken legislative action on some measures containing provisions on a range of immigration-related topics. The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2012 (P.L. 112-74) contains provisions on border security, visa security, tourist visas, and refugees. It also includes limited language on other issues, such as employment eligibility verification and the H-2B temporary worker visa. P.L. 112-176 extends the authorization for four immigration programs (EB-5 visa program, E-Verify,...

Peacekeeping and Stabilization Missions Abroad: The Development of Civilian Capabilities, 2004-2011

In November 2011, the Obama Administration announced the creation of a new State Department Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations (CSO) to provide the institutional focus for policy and “operational solutions” to prevent, respond to, and stabilize crises in priority states. This bureau represents a “second generation” effort to develop civilian capacity to deal with conflict, integrating the “first generation” Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization (S/CRS).

Congress established S/CRS by law in the Reconstruction and Stabilization Civilian Management Act,...

Administrative Subpoenas in Criminal Investigations: A Brief Legal Analysis

Administrative subpoena authority is the power vested in various administrative agencies to compel testimony or the production of documents or both in aid of the agencies’ performance of their duties. Administrative subpoenas are not a traditional tool of criminal law investigation, but neither are they unknown. Several statutes authorize the use of administrative subpoenas primarily or exclusively for use in a criminal investigation in cases involving health care fraud, child abuse, Secret Service protection, controlled substance cases, inspector general investigations, and tracking...

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...

Iran’s Ballistic Missile and Space Launch Programs

Iran has long been a source of concern for the United States and other countries because its goals are at odds with core U.S. objectives in the Middle East. Although it is not certain that Iran has made the decision to develop a nuclear weapon, it is taking steps to drastically reduce the time needed to obtain nuclear weapons should a decision be made to do so. It is the prospect of an Iranian nuclear weapon mated to an effective missile delivery capability that is especially worrisome to most.

Congress has long been interested in these matters. Congress has held numerous hearings on Iran,...

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...

Federal Emergency Management: A Brief Introduction

The federal government plays a significant role in emergency management, which generally refers to activities associated with avoiding and responding to natural and human-caused hazards. Emergency management in the United States is highly decentralized and contextual in nature: activities often involve multiple jurisdictions as well as a vast number of agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and private sector entities. In addition, the number and type of actors involved in an incident will vary tremendously depending on the context and severity of the event. Similarly, the legal...

Vietnamese Victims of Agent Orange and U.S.-Vietnam Relations

Since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, there has been a gradual warming of bilateral relations between the United States and Vietnam, culminating in the appointment of the first U.S. ambassador to Vietnam in 1996 and the granting of permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) to Vietnam in 2007. Over the last three decades, many—but not all—of the major issues causing tension between the two nations have been resolved.

One major legacy of the Vietnam War that remains unresolved is the damage that Agent Orange, and its accompanying dioxin, have done to the people and the environment of...

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...

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....

Presidential Review of Independent Regulatory Commission Rulemaking: Legal Issues

Federal agencies regularly adopt rules, which have the force of law, to implement the statutes and programs authorized by Congress. Unless a statute directs otherwise, agencies generally must follow the requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act to promulgate rules. However, beginning with President Reagan, Presidents have maintained a centralized review process for “significant regulatory actions.” Currently, Executive Order (E.O.) 12866, issued by President Clinton, imposes additional procedures agencies must follow before a rule can be finalized. This includes requiring agencies...

Panama: Political and Economic Conditions and U.S. Relations Through 2012

With five successive elected civilian governments, the Central American nation of Panama has made notable political and economic progress since the 1989 U.S. military intervention that ousted the regime of General Manuel Antonio Noriega from power. Current President Ricardo Martinelli of the center-right Democratic Change (CD) party was elected in May 2009, defeating the ruling center-left Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) in a landslide. Martinelli was inaugurated to a five-year term on July 1, 2009. Martinellis Alliance for Change coalition with the Panameñista Party (PP) also...

Dispute Settlement in the World Trade Organization (WTO): An Overview

The World Trade Organization (WTO) Understanding on Rules and Procedures Governing the Settlement of Disputes (DSU) provides a means for WTO Members to resolve disputes arising under WTO agreements. WTO Members must first attempt to settle their dispute through consultations, but if these fail the Member initiating the dispute may request that a panel examine and report on its complaint. The DSU provides for Appellate Body (AB) review of panel reports, panels to determine if a defending Member has complied with an adverse WTO decision by the established deadline in a case, and possible...

World Trade Organization (WTO) Decisions and Their Effect in U.S. Law

Congress has comprehensively dealt with the legal effect of World Trade Organization (WTO) agreements and dispute settlement results in the United States in the Uruguay Round Agreements Act (URAA), P.L. 103-465. The act provides that domestic law prevails over conflicting provisions of WTO agreements and prohibits private remedies based on alleged violations of these agreements. As a result, provisions of WTO agreements and WTO panel and Appellate Body reports adopted by the WTO Members that are in conflict with federal law do not have domestic legal effect unless and until Congress or the...

Independent Regulatory Agencies, Cost-Benefit Analysis, and Presidential Review of Regulations

When issuing regulations that have the full force and effect of law, agencies are required to follow certain procedures. The Administrative Procedure Act (APA) of 1946 set up the basic framework for rulemaking: agencies are required to publish a notice of rulemaking in the Federal Register, take comments on the proposed rule, and publish a final rule in the Federal Register. Since the passage of the APA, additional procedures have been established in various statutes, executive orders, and guidance documents.

One potential change to the rulemaking process that has been discussed over the...

World Trade Organization Negotiations: The Doha Development Agenda

The WTO Doha Round of multilateral trade negotiations, begun in November 2001, has entered its 12th year. The negotiations have been characterized by persistent differences among the United States, the European Union, and developing countries on major issues, such as agriculture, industrial tariffs and non-tariff barriers, services, and trade remedies. Partly as a result of being labeled a development round to entice developing countries to participate in the first place, developing countries (including emerging economic powerhouses such as China, Brazil, and India) have sought the...

U.S. Trade and Investment Relations with sub-Saharan Africa and the African Growth and Opportunity Act

Following the end of the apartheid era in South Africa in the early 1990s, the United States sought to increase economic relations with sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). President Clinton instituted several measures that dealt with investment, debt relief, and trade. Congress passed legislation that required the President to develop a trade and development policy for Africa.

Between 1960 and 1973, Africa’s economic growth was relatively strong, followed by a period of stagnation and decline for the subsequent two decades in many SSA countries. Current perspectives, however, indicate that many of...

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....

India-U.S. Security Relations: Current Engagement

U.S.-India engagement on shared security interests is a topic of interest to the U.S. Congress, where there is considerable support for a deepened U.S. partnership with the world’s largest democracy. Congressional advocacy of closer relations with India is generally bipartisan and widespread; House and Senate caucuses on India and Indian-Americans are the largest of their kind. Caucus leaders have encouraged the Obama Administration to work toward improving the compatibility of the U.S. and Indian defense acquisitions systems, as well as to seek potential opportunities for co-development...

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...

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 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 National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA): Policies, Programs, and Funding

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), an agency of the Department of Commerce, is the executive branch’s principal advisory office on domestic and international telecommunications and information policies. Its mandate is to provide greater access for all Americans to telecommunications services, support U.S. attempts to open foreign markets, advise on international telecommunications negotiations, and fund research for new technologies and their applications. NTIA also manages the distribution of funds for several key grant programs. Its role in federal...

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....

A Guide to China’s Upcoming Leadership Transitions

China, the only Communist Party-led nation in the G-20 grouping of major economies, is in the midst of a sweeping set of political transitions that began in 2011 and could conclude as late as 2014. The most important of the transitions is to take place at the next of the Party’s quinquennial national congresses, the 18th Congress, scheduled to open on November 8, 2012, and at a Central Committee meeting immediately afterwards, at which the Party is to appoint a new General Secretary and a new collective leadership. Four months later, at the 12th National People’s Congress in March 2013,...

Georgia’s October 2012 Legislative Election: Outcome and Implications

Georgia’s continued sovereignty and independence and its development as a free market democracy have been significant concerns to successive Congresses and Administrations. The United States and Georgia signed a Charter on Strategic Partnership in early 2009 pledging U.S. support for these objectives, and the United States has been Georgia’s largest provider of foreign and security assistance. Most recently, elections for the 150-member Parliament of Georgia on October 1, 2012, have been viewed as substantially free and fair by most observers. Several Members of Congress and the...

In Brief: State Department Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations (CSO)

[Suppress Summary and Table of Contents] Key Words: State Department, stabilization, reconstruction, conflict, conflict management, conflict prevention, conflict transitions, peacebuilding, post-conflict, stability operations, interagency, foreign assistance.

The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR): Funding Issues After a Decade of Implementation, FY2004-FY2013

The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is the largest bilateral health initiative in the world. The 2003 pledge of President George W. Bush to spend $15 billion over five years on fighting HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis (TB), and malaria was considered groundbreaking. The initiative challenged the international community to reject claims that large-scale HIV/AIDS treatment plans could not be carried out in low-resource settings. In December 2002, one month before PEPFAR was announced, only 50,000 people of the estimated 4 million requiring anti-retroviral (ARV) medicines in...

2012-2013 Presidential Election Period: National Security Considerations and Options

A presidential election period is a unique time in America and holds the promise of opportunity, as well as a possible risk to the nation’s security interests. While possible changes in Administration during U.S. involvement in national security-related activities are not unique to the 2012-2013 election period, many observers suggest that the current security environment may portend a time of increased risk to the current presidential election period. Whether the enemies of the United States choose to undertake action that may harm the nation’s security interests during the 2012-2013...

Sudan and South Sudan: Current Issues for Congress and U.S. Policy

Congress has played an active role in U.S. policy toward Sudan for more than three decades. Efforts to support an end to the country’s myriad conflicts and human rights abuses have dominated the agenda, as have counterterrorism concerns. When unified (1956-2011), Sudan was Africa’s largest nation, bordering nine countries and stretching from the northern borders of Kenya and Uganda to the southern borders of Egypt and Libya. Strategically located along the Nile River and the Red Sea, Sudan was historically described as a crossroads between the Arab world and Africa. Domestic and...

Israel: Possible Military Strike Against Iran’s Nuclear Facilities

Several published reports indicate that top Israeli decisionmakers are seriously considering whether to order a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, and if so, when. Twice in Israel’s history, it has conducted air strikes aimed at halting or delaying what Israeli policymakers believed to be efforts to acquire nuclear weapons by a Middle Eastern state—destroying Iraq’s Osirak reactor in 1981 and a facility the Israelis identified as a reactor under construction in Syria in 2007. Today, Israeli officials generally view the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran as an unacceptable threat...

War Powers Resolution: Presidential Compliance

Two separate but closely related issues confront Congress each time the President introduces Armed Forces into a situation abroad that conceivably could lead to their involvement in hostilities. One issue concerns the division of war powers between the President and Congress, whether the use of Armed Forces falls within the purview of the congressional power to declare war and the War Powers Resolution (WPR). The other issue is whether or not Congress concurs in the wisdom of the action. This report does not deal with the substantive merits of using Armed Forces in specific cases, but...

U.S. Public Diplomacy: Legislative Proposals to Amend Prohibitions on Disseminating Materials to Domestic Audiences

Public diplomacy involves U.S. government activities to conduct U.S. foreign policy and promote U.S. national interests through direct outreach and communication with the population of foreign countries. Public diplomacy and international broadcasting activities, conducted by the Department of State, U.S. diplomatic personnel abroad, and U.S. international broadcasters such as the Voice of America, include providing information to foreign publics through broadcast and Internet media and at libraries and other outreach facilities in foreign countries; conducting cultural diplomacy, such as...

Recent Protests in Muslim Countries: Background and Issues for Congress

Muslims in a number of countries have responded in recent days with anger at the United States that many observers describe as a response to a privately produced film circulating on the Internet that denigrates Islam and the prophet Mohammed. In some cases, this outrage has taken the form of public expressions by relatively small groups of demonstrators, and in other countries the demonstrations have been larger. In the most extreme cases, such demonstrations have been accompanied by violent attacks against U.S. diplomatic personnel and diplomatic facilities. Pre-existing anti-U.S....

Mexico’s 2012 Elections

U.S. policy makers have closely followed the 2012 elections in Mexico, a key ally with whom the United States shares a nearly 2,000-mile border and some $460 billion in annual bilateral trade. On July 1, 2012, Mexico held federal (presidential and legislative) elections. Turnout reached record levels as 63% of eligible voters cast their ballots. Mexico’s Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) conducted the elections with the oversight of the Federal Electoral Tribunal (TEPFJ). Some election observers asserted that vote-buying and other irregularities marred the electoral process, while...

Global Access to Clean Drinking Water and Sanitation: U.S. and International Programs

According to a 2012 report released by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), roughly 780 million people around the world lack access to clean drinking water and an estimated 2.5 billion people (roughly 40% of the world’s population) are without access to safe sanitation facilities. The United States has long supported efforts to improve global access to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH). In 2000, for example, the United States signed on to the Millennium Development Goals, one of which includes a target to halve the proportion of...

Legal Analysis of Religious Exemptions for Photo Identification Requirements

Recent controversies over state laws requiring voters to present identification when casting their ballots have raised questions about the burdens imposed on individuals who do not have photo identification, including those who object to photographs based on religious beliefs. The 112th Congress has introduced a number of bills directed at so-called voter ID requirements. Congress also has previously considered federal photo identification requirements, most recently in the REAL ID Act of 2005. A number of religious beliefs may conflict with requirements for photo identification, leading...

Chinese Tire Imports: Section 421 Safeguards and the World Trade Organization (WTO)

On April 20, 2009, the United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union filed a petition with the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) requesting an investigation under Section 421 of the Trade Act of 1974, 19 U.S.C. §2451, a trade remedy statute addressing import surges from China, to examine whether Chinese passenger vehicle and light truck tires were causing market disruption to U.S. tire producers. Market disruption will be found to occur under Section 421 whenever imports of a Chinese product that is “like...

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...

Federal Programs Related to Indoor Pollution by Chemicals

“Toxic” drywall, formaldehyde emissions, mold, asbestos, lead-based paint, radon, PCBs in caulk, and many other indoor pollution problems have concerned federal policy makers and regulators during the last 30 years. Some problems have been resolved, others remain of concern, and new indoor pollution problems continually emerge. This report describes common indoor pollutants and health effects that have been linked to indoor pollution, federal statutes that have been used to address indoor pollution, key issues, and some general policy options for Congress.

Indoor pollutants are chemicals...

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Meetings in Vladivostok, Russia: A Preview

Russia will host the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation’s (APEC) week-long series of senior-level meetings in Vladivostok on September 2-9, 2012. The main event for the week will be the 20th APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting to be held September 8-9, 2012. President Barack Obama will not attend the event; Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will lead the U.S. delegation.

As host for the 20th APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting, Russia has set the main agenda items as: advancing trade and investment liberalization and regional economic integration; strengthening food security; establishing reliable...

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."

The Executive Budget Process: An Overview

The U.S. Constitution vests Congress with the power to raise revenue and borrow money. Those funds may only be drawn from the Treasury in consequence of appropriations made by law. The Constitution, however, is largely silent with respect to the President’s role in the budget process. Instead, the current executive budget process is largely the result of statutes enacted by Congress.

The executive budget process consists of three main phases: development of the President’s budget proposal, submission and justification of the President’s budget proposal, and execution of enacted...

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...

Conflict Minerals in Central Africa: U.S. and International Responses

“Conflict minerals” are ores that, when sold or traded, have played key roles in helping to fuel conflict and extensive human rights abuses, since the late 1990s, in far eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The main conflict minerals are the so-called the “3TGs”: ores of tantalum and niobium, tin, tungsten, and gold, and their derivatives. Diverse international efforts to break the link between mineral commerce and conflict in central Africa have been proposed or are under way. Key initiatives include government and industry-led mineral tracking and certification schemes. These...

The Proposed Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement: Background and Key Issues

The proposed Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) is a new agreement for combating intellectual property rights (IPR) infringement. The ACTA negotiation concluded in October 2010, nearly three years after it began, and negotiating parties released a final text of the agreement in May 2011. Negotiated by the United States, Australia, Canada, the European Union and its 27 member states, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, and Switzerland, the ACTA is intended to build on the IPR protection and enforcement obligations set forth in the 1995 World Trade...

China, Internet Freedom, and U.S. Policy

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has the world’s largest number of Internet users, estimated at 500 million people. Despite government efforts to limit the flow of online news, Chinese Internet users are able to access unprecedented amounts of information, and political activists have utilized the web as a vital communications tool. In recent years, Twitter-like microblogging has surged, resulting in dramatic cases of dissident communication and public comment on sensitive political issues. However, the web has proven to be less of a democratic catalyst in China than many observers had...

Fish and Wildlife Service: FY2013 Appropriations and Policy

The annual Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies appropriation funds agencies and programs in three federal departments, as well as numerous related agencies and bureaus. Among the agencies represented is the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), in the Department of the Interior. Many of its programs are among the more controversial of those funded in the bill. For FY2013, the House Committee on Appropriations approved H.R. 6091, a bill containing $1.16 billion for FWS, down 21.5% from the FY2012 level of $1.48 billion contained the Consolidated Appropriations Act (P.L. 112-74, Division...

Timor-Leste: Political Dynamics, Development, and International Involvement

The Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste gained independence on May 20, 2002, after a long history of Portuguese colonialism and, more recently, Indonesian rule. The young nation, with a population of 1.1 million, has been aided by the United Nations under several different mandates under which the U.N. has provided peacekeeping, humanitarian, reconstruction and capacity building assistance to establish a functioning government. The current United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) is slated to withdraw from the nation at the end of 2012.

The independence of Timor-Leste (also...

FDA User Fees and the Regulation of Drugs, Biologics, and Devices: Comparative Analysis of S. 3187 and H.R. 5651

UPDATE: On June 18, 2012, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions and the House Committee on Energy and Commerce distributed the text of an agreement that combined provisions of S. 3187 [ES], as passed by the Senate on May 24, 2012, and H.R. 5651 [EH], as passed by the House on May 30, 2012. The full House passed the new version by voice vote under suspension of the rules on June 20, 2012. On June 25, 2012, the Senate voted for cloture to limit debate on that bill, S. 3187 [EAH], the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act of 2012 [hereinafter referred...

U.S. Nuclear Cooperation with India: Issues for Congress

India, which has not signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and does not have International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards on all of its nuclear material, exploded a “peaceful” nuclear device in 1974, convincing the world of the need for greater restrictions on nuclear trade. The United States created the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) as a direct response to India’s test, halted nuclear exports to India a few years later, and worked to convince other states to do the same. India tested nuclear weapons again in 1998. However, President Bush announced July 18, 2005, he would “work to...

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...

U.S. Response to the Global Threat of Tuberculosis: Basic Facts

Tuberculosis (TB) is one of the most widespread infectious diseases in the world, infecting an average of 9 million people annually. Although TB is curable, more than 1 million TB-related deaths occur each year. Due in part to a growing global response to TB, progress has been made in combating the disease. Globally, new TB infection rates have begun to slowly decline and TB mortality rates have decreased significantly since 1990. At the same time, absolute numbers of people infected with TB, particularly in Asia and Africa, continue to rise. Congress has recognized TB as an important...

U.S. Response to the Global Threat of Malaria: Basic Facts

In 2010, malaria infected an estimated 216 million people and killed 655,000 people, most of whom were children under the age of five in sub-Saharan Africa. Despite the current burden of disease, malaria is preventable and treatable. Congress has increasingly recognized malaria as an important foreign policy issue, and the United States has become a major player in the global response to the disease. In its second session, the 112th Congress will likely debate the appropriate funding levels and optimum strategy for addressing the continued challenge of global malaria.

Congress has enacted...

U.S. Response to the Global Threat of HIV/AIDS: Basic Facts

The human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immune deficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) is one of the world’s most pressing global health challenges. Since the beginning of the epidemic, more than 60 million people have been infected with HIV, approximately 30 million of whom have died of HIV-related causes. At the end of 2010, an estimated 34 million people were living with the virus, the vast majority of whom live in sub-Saharan Africa. Expanded access to antiretroviral therapy (ART) over the past decade, due in large part to U.S. support, has contributed to declines in deaths among people...

Holocaust-Era Insurance Claims: Background and Proposed Legislation

In November 1998, U.S. insurance regulators, six European insurers, international Jewish organizations, and the State of Israel agreed to establish the International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims (ICHEIC). ICHEIC was tasked with identifying policyholders and administering payment of hundreds of thousands of Holocaust-era insurance policies alleged never to have been honored by European insurance companies. It ended its claims process in March 2007, having facilitated the payment of just over $300 million to 47,353 claimants. An additional $190 million was allocated to a...

Mexican Migration to the United States: Policy and Trends

History and geography have given Mexico a unique status in the U.S. immigration system, and have made the Mexico-U.S. migration flow the largest in the world. Mexicans are the largest group of U.S. migrants across most types of immigration statuses—a fact that may have important implications for how Congress makes U.S. immigration policy. This report reviews the history of immigration policy and migration flows between the countries and the demographics of Mexicans within the United States. It also analyzes contemporary issues in U.S. immigration policy and the impact Mexico may have on...

Congressional Oversight and Related Issues Concerning International Security Agreements Concluded by the United States

The United States is a party to numerous security agreements with other nations. The topics covered, along with the significance of the obligations imposed upon agreement parties, may vary. Some international security agreements entered by the United States, such as those obliging parties to come to the defense of another in the event of an attack, involve substantial commitments and have traditionally been entered as treaties, ratified with the advice and consent of the Senate. Other agreements dealing with more technical matters, such as military basing rights or the application of a...

Nominations to U.S. Circuit and District Courts by President Obama During the 111th and 112th Congresses

Recent Senate debates in the 112th Congress over judicial nominations have focused on issues such as the relative degree of success of President Barack Obama’s nominees in gaining Senate confirmation (compared with other recent Presidents) as well as the effect of delayed judicial appointments on judicial vacancy levels. The following report addresses these issues, and others, by providing a statistical overview of President Obama’s nominees to U.S. circuit court of appeals and U.S. district court judgeships, current through May 31, 2012. Findings include the following:

President Obama...

U.S.-China Diplomacy Over Chinese Legal Advocate Chen Guangcheng

The case of blind Chinese legal advocate Chen Guangcheng, who escaped from illegal house arrest in China’s Shandong Province on April 20, 2012, and made his way to Beijing, the United States Embassy, and, ultimately, the United States, has generated strong congressional interest. While Chen was still in China, some Members questioned whether the U.S. State Department had done enough to ensure Chen’s safety, with criticism focused on the State Department’s decision to escort Chen from the Embassy to a Beijing hospital on May 2, 2012, and its willingness to accept verbal assurances from the...

The Global Challenge of HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria

The spread of human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immune deficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS), tuberculosis (TB), and malaria across the world poses a major global health challenge. The international community has progressively recognized the humanitarian impact of these diseases, along with the threat they represent to economic development and international security. The United States has historically been a leader in the fight against HIV/AIDS, TB, and malaria; it is currently the largest single donor for global HIV/AIDS and has been central to the global response to TB and malaria. In its...

Reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank: Issues and Policy Options for Congress

The Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank, EXIM Bank, or the Bank), a self-sustaining agency, is the official U.S. export credit agency (ECA). It operates under a renewable charter, the Export-Import Bank Act of 1945 (P.L. 79-173), as amended.

Potential issues for Congress in examining the Ex-Im Bank’s authority include the following:

The economic rationale for the Bank, including the role of the federal government in export promotion and finance;

Specific Bank policies, such as those relating to content, shipping, economic and environmental impact analysis, and tied aid,...

U.S. Global Health Assistance: Background and Issues for the 112th Congress

U.S. funding for global health has grown significantly over the last decade, from approximately $1.7 billion in FY2001 to $8.8 billion in FY2012. During the George W. Bush Administration, Congress provided unprecedented increases in global health resources, especially in support of multi-agency initiatives targeting infectious diseases, such as the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI). As support for global health increased, the 110th and 111th Congresses began to emphasize better coordination of all global health programs and...

Pakistan-U.S. Relations

In a security alliance since 2004 and “strategic partners” since 2006, the United States and Pakistan for decades experienced major shifts in the nature and tone of their relations. In the post-9/11 period, assisting in the creation of a more stable, democratic, and prosperous Pakistan actively combating religious militancy has been among the most important U.S. foreign policy efforts. Vital U.S. interests are seen to be at stake in its engagement with Pakistan related to regional and global terrorism; efforts to stabilize neighboring Afghanistan; nuclear weapons proliferation; links...

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria: Issues for Congress and U.S. Contributions from FY2001 to FY2013

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria (Global Fund, or the Fund) was established in 2002 as a public-private partnership that could provide significant financial support for global responses to HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis (TB), and malaria. By the end of 2011, the Global Fund had approved roughly $22.6 billion to help 150 countries fight these three diseases. According to the Global Fund, from 2002 through 2011, it had supported AIDS treatment for 3.3 million HIV-positive people, anti-tuberculosis treatment for 8.6 million people, and 230 million insecticide-treated nets for...

Proliferation of Precision Strike: Issues for Congress

Iron emerged in the eighth century B.C., helping to usher in the use of cavalry instead of chariots. Today’s new technologies, including the development of precision-guided weaponry, have given rise to new methods of war fighting, thus bringing dramatic change to the operational battlefield. As will other decision makers, Members of Congress will confront significant challenges in making their choices about how to adapt to the continually evolving environment, particularly with respect to what are called “precision strike” capabilities.

The United States took the early lead in the...

Congressional Oversight of Intelligence: Current Structure and Alternatives

This report describes the current select committees on intelligence; characteristics and a model for a possible joint committee; recent actions by Congress; and obstacles affecting legislative oversight in the field.

NATO’s Chicago Summit

NATO’s 2012 summit of alliance heads of state and government is scheduled to take place in Chicago on May 20-21. U.S. and NATO officials have outlined what they expect to be the Summit’s three main agenda items:

Defining the next phase of formal transition in Afghanistan and shaping a longer term NATO commitment to the country after the planned end of combat operations by the end of 2014;

Securing commitments to maintain and develop the military capabilities necessary to meet NATO’s defense and security goals, including through a new “Smart Defense” initiative; and

Enhancing NATO’s...

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...

Fact Sheet: The FY2013 State and Foreign Operations Budget Request

On February 13, 2012, the Obama Administration submitted to Congress its FY2013 budget request for State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs totaling $54.7 billion, $8.2 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding. Of the total request, $18.6 billion is for State Department Operations and related agencies (a 4.6% increase over FY2012 funding) and $36.1 billion is for Foreign Operations (an increase of 0.1% over the FY2012 level). This fact sheet provides a brief overview of that request. A full report on FY2013 State and Foreign Operations budget and appropriations...

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...

WTO Dispute Settlement: Status of U.S. Compliance in Pending Cases

Although the United States has complied with adverse rulings in many past World Trade Organization (WTO) disputes, there are currently 14 cases in which rulings have not yet been implemented or the United States has acted and the dispute has not been fully resolved. Under WTO dispute settlement rules, a WTO Member will generally be given a reasonable period of time to comply. While the Member is expected to remove the offending measure by the end of this period, compensation and temporary retaliation are available if the Member has not acted or not taken adequate remedial action by this...

The Commercial Space Industry and Launch Market

The space industry refers to economic activities related to the manufacture and delivery of components that go into Earth’s orbit or beyond. The space industry is a subset of the U.S. aerospace industry and U.S. strength in aerospace has helped to provide U.S. strength in space. The space industry was originally developed by government entities, and government policies and spending continue to exercise a strong influence on commercial space activities in the United States and elsewhere. Space-oriented manufacturing, which includes launch vehicles, spacecraft, satellites, and parts and...

FY2013 Defense Budget Request: Overview and Context

This report analyzes President Obama’s FY2013 defense budget request and the long-term deficit reduction issues relevant to congressional discussion of that request. Congressional action on the FY2013 defense budget will be analyzed in a separate report.

The FY2013 Department of Defense (DOD) budget request includes a total of $613.9 billion in discretionary budget authority: $525.4 billion for the so-called “base budget” (excluding operations in Afghanistan and Iraq), and $88.5 billion for war costs or “Overseas Contingency Operations” (OCO). Overall, that request is $31.8 billion less...

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,...

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...

The Republic of the Philippines and U.S. Interests

The United States and the Republic of the Philippines maintain close ties stemming from the U.S. colonial period, the bilateral security alliance, extensive military cooperation, and common strategic and economic interests. Although the United States closed its military bases in the Philippines in 1992, the two treaty allies have continued joint military activities related to counterterrorism and maritime security. This report looks at the U.S. foreign policy towards the Philippines.

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...

Export-Import Bank: Background and Legislative Issues

The Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank, EXIM Bank, or the Bank), an independent federal government agency, is the official export credit agency (ECA) of the United States. It helps finance U.S. exports of manufactured goods and services, with the objective of contributing to the employment of U.S. workers, primarily in circumstances when alternative financing is not available. Members of the 112th Congress may examine issues related to the

Ex-Im Bank that center on the economic rationale for the Bank; the impact of the Bank on the federal budget and U.S. taxpayers; the...

Trade Law: An Introduction to Selected International Agreements and U.S. Laws

The United States has trade obligations under multilateral trade agreements, including the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and the other World Trade Organization (WTO) agreements, as well as bilateral and regional trade agreements. A variety of domestic laws implement these agreements, prescribe U.S. trade policy goals, or regulate international trade to achieve specific foreign policy objectives. This report provides an overview of both international and domestic trade law, focusing on a select group of international agreements and statutes that are most commonly implicated...

Chile’s Pension System: Background in Brief

In 1980, Chile was the first country to replace its pay-as-you-go public pension system with a system of individual accounts. The “Chilean model” has been widely studied as one possible model for public pension restructuring.

Chile’s public pension system consists of three tiers: a poverty prevention tier, an individual account tier, and a voluntary savings tier. The poverty prevention tier provides a minimum benefit to aged persons who did not participate in the public pension system and to retired workers whose monthly pensions financed by individual account assets (the second tier) do...

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 Overview and Analysis of H.R. 3010, the Regulatory Accountability Act of 2011

In the fall of 2011, a group of Members from the House and the Senate introduced the Regulatory Accountability Act of 2011 (RAA, H.R. 3010 and S. 1606). The RAA would make the most significant legislative changes to the rulemaking process since the enactment of the Administrative Procedure Act in 1946. The RAA would modify and enact into law numerous new general procedures for rulemaking that appear in narrower form in existing law, executive orders, and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) documents. The House of Representatives passed H.R. 3010 on December 2, 2011. The Obama...

Dispute Settlement in the U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA)

The U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA), which was approved by Congress in P.L. 112-41 and entered into force on March 15, 2012, follows current U.S. FTA practice in containing two types of formal dispute settlement: (1) State-State, applicable to disputes between the KORUS FTA Parties, and (2) investor-State, applicable to claims against one Party by an investor of the other Party for breach of an agreement investment obligation. An unsuccessful defendant in a State-State dispute would generally be expected to remove the complained-of measure; remedies for non-compliance...

Latin America and the Caribbean: Illicit Drug Trafficking and U.S. Counterdrug Programs

Drug trafficking is viewed as a primary threat to citizen security and U.S. interests in Latin America and the Caribbean despite decades of anti-drug efforts by the United States and partner governments. The production and trafficking of popular illicit drugs—cocaine, marijuana, opiates, and methamphetamine—generate a multi-billion dollar black market in which Latin American criminal and terrorist organizations thrive. These groups challenge state authority in source and transit countries where governments are often fragile and easily corrupted. According to the Department of Justice,...

Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA): What Is It, and How Has It Been Utilized?

The deadly attacks on Afghan civilians allegedly by a U.S. servicemember have raised questions regarding the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) in place between the United States and Afghanistan that would govern whether Afghan law would apply in this circumstance. SOFAs are multilateral or bilateral agreements that generally establish the framework under which U.S. military personnel operate in a foreign country and how domestic laws of the foreign jurisdiction apply toward U.S. personnel in that country.

Formal requirements concerning form, content, length, or title of a SOFA do not...

A Retrospective of House Rules Changes Since the 104th Congress through the 109th Congress

One of the majority party’s prerogatives is writing the House rules and using its majority status to effect the chamber’s rules on the day the new House convenes. It is a feature of the House that it must adopt rules at the convening of each Congress. While each new House largely adopts the chamber rules that existed in the previous Congress, each new House also adopts changes to those rules. Institutional and political developments during the Democratic majority, particularly during the 103rd Congress, were a prelude to the rules changes made by the Republicans when they took control of...

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....

Change in the Middle East: Implications for U.S. Policy

The political change and unrest that have swept through the Middle East and North Africa since early 2011 are likely to have profound consequences for the pursuit of long-standing U.S. policy goals in the region with regard to regional security, global energy supplies, U.S. military access, bilateral trade and investment, counter-proliferation, counterterrorism, and the promotion of human rights. The profound changes in the region may alter the framework in which these goals are pursued and challenge the basic assumptions that have long guided U.S. policy.

This report assesses some of the...

Securing Nuclear Materials: The 2012 Summit and Issues for Congress

In an April 2009 speech in Prague, President Obama pledged that his Administration would launch “a new international effort to secure all vulnerable nuclear material around the world within four years.” To motivate world leaders to achieve this goal, the President hosted a Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, DC, on April 12-13, 2010. Leaders of 47 countries attended the summit, including many heads of state. Attendees represented a wide geographic range of states and nuclear capabilities, and include China, India, Israel, and Pakistan. The summit resulted in a joint statement saying...

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...

U.S. Defense Articles and Services Supplied to Foreign Recipients: Restrictions on Their Use

In accordance with United States law, the U.S. Government places conditions on the use of defense articles and defense services transferred by it to foreign recipients. Violation of these conditions can lead to the suspension of deliveries or termination of the contracts for such defense items, among other things. On occasion, the President has indicated that such violations by foreign countries “may” have occurred, raising the prospect that termination of deliveries to or imposition of other penalties on such nations might take place. Section 3(a) of the Arms Export Control Act (AECA)...

Nonproliferation and Threat Reduction Assistance: U.S. Programs in the Former Soviet Union

Congress passed the Nunn-Lugar amendment, authorizing U.S. threat reduction assistance to the former Soviet Union, in November 1991, after a failed coup in Moscow and the disintegration of the Soviet Union raised concerns about the safety and security of Soviet nuclear weapons. The annual program has grown from $400 million in the DOD budget to over $1 billion per year across three agencies—DOD, DOE, and the State Department. It has also evolved from an emergency response to impending chaos in the Soviet Union, to a more comprehensive threat reduction and nonproliferation effort, to a...

Trade Remedies: A Primer

The United States and many of its trading partners use laws known as trade remedies to mitigate the adverse impact of various trade practices on domestic industries and workers.

U.S. antidumping (AD) laws (19 U.S.C. §1673 et seq.) authorize the imposition of duties if (1) the International Trade Administration of the Department of Commerce (ITA) determines that foreign merchandise is being, or likely to be, sold in the United States at less than fair value, and (2) the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) determines that an industry in the United States is materially injured or...

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...

Issues in International Trade Law: Restricting Exports of Electronic Waste

Electronic waste (e-waste) is a term that loosely refers to obsolete, broken, or irreparable electronic devices like televisions, computer central processing units (CPUs), computer monitors, laptops, printers, scanners, and associated wiring. Because e-waste is generated in high volumes in the United States and contains hazardous materials like lead, mercury, and chromium, it is a growing area of domestic concern. Currently, e-waste is essentially unregulated at the federal level and can be disposed of with common household garbage in municipal solid waste landfills or incinerators....

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...

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...

NATO Common Funds Burdensharing: Background and Current Issues

For decades, Congress has maintained an interest in burdensharing arrangements with allies, particularly with those of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The 28 NATO member states contribute to the activities of the alliance in several ways, the chief of which is through the deployment of their own armed forces, funded by their individual national budgets. Certain commonly conducted activities, however, are paid for out of three NATO-run budgets. These three accounts—the civil budget, the military budget, and the security investment program—are funded by individual...

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...

Building Civilian Interagency Capacity for Missions Abroad: Key Proposals and Issues for Congress

Within the past two decades, prominent foreign policy organizations and foreign policy experts have perceived serious deficiencies in the authorities, organizations, and personnel used to conduct interagency missions that prevent the United States from exercising its power to full advantage. For the 112th Congress, proposals to address these problems may be of interest for their perceived potential not only to enhance performance, but also to save money by streamlining processes, encouraging interagency cooperation, and reducing duplication. These proposals also provide context for current...

China’s Vice President Xi Jinping Visits the United States: What Is at Stake?

Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping (pronounced Shee Jin-ping) is scheduled to visit the United States in mid-February, 2012, returning Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr.’s August 2011 visit to China, which Xi hosted. The fact that Xi is the heir apparent to China’s current top leader, Hu Jintao, who is scheduled to retire in the coming year, makes this more than an ordinary vice-presidential visit. Xi’s trip is designed to help him build relationships with American policymakers and legislators and introduce himself to the American business community and the American people on the eve of...

Lebanon and the Uprising in Syria: Issues for Congress

As Congress exercises oversight and prepares to consider programs for Lebanon in the coming year, some observers have expressed fear that Syrian instability may negatively affect Lebanon. Syria exerts a strong political influence on Lebanon and Syrian business interests remain prominent in the Lebanese economy. Both Lebanon and Syria have diverse societies where ethnic and sectarian groups compete and cooperate as they seek power within the confines of a rigid political system. Primary concerns about the implications of Syrian unrest include:

Negative effects on the Lebanese economy;...

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%....

Online Copyright Infringement and Counterfeiting: Legislation in the 112th Congress

The global nature of the Internet offers expanded commercial opportunities for intellectual property (IP) rights holders but also increases the potential for copyright and trademark infringement. Piracy of the content created by movie, music, and software companies and sales of counterfeit pharmaceutical drugs and consumer products negatively impact the American economy and can pose risks to the health and safety of U.S. citizens. Although rights holders and law enforcement agencies currently have some legal tools to pursue domestic infringers, they face difficult challenges in enforcing...

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,...

Application of Religious Law in U.S. Courts: Selected Legal Issues

Controversy has surrounded attempts by several state legislatures to limit the consideration of Islamic religious law (commonly referred to as sharia) or religious law generally, in domestic courts. In one of the most publicized examples, Oklahoma voters definitively approved a state constitutional amendment that prohibited state courts from considering “sharia law,” but the amendment has not taken effect pending the outcome of a lawsuit challenging its constitutionality. Other states have introduced variations of this limitation, with some generally prohibiting the use of religious...

Horn of Africa Region: The Humanitarian Crisis and International Response

As a result of the worst drought in 60 years, regional conflicts, and conflict within states, a humanitarian emergency of massive proportion has unfolded over the past year in the Horn of Africa region. Current estimates suggest that more than 13.3 million people are currently affected, 250,000 of whom need food assistance in the near term to avoid death. Somalia has been hardest hit so far, creating population displacement within its borders and a refugee crisis of nearly 1 million people in the region, primarily in Kenya and Ethiopia.

The international community continues to respond...

State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs: FY2012 Budget and Appropriations

Some in the 112th Congress view the foreign affairs budget as a place to cut funds in order to reduce the budget deficit. Foreign affairs expenditures typically amount to about 1% of the annual budget. Others, including Members of Congress of both political parties, view a robust foreign affairs budget as essential for America’s national security and foreign policy interests.

The State Department, Foreign Operations, and Related Agencies appropriations bills, in addition to funding U.S. diplomatic and foreign aid activities, have been the primary legislative vehicle through which Congress...

Presidential Signing Statements: Constitutional and Institutional Implications

Presidential signing statements are official pronouncements issued by the President contemporaneously to the signing of a bill into law that, in addition to commenting on the law generally, have been used to forward the President’s interpretation of the statutory language; to assert constitutional objections to the provisions contained therein; and, concordantly, to announce that the provisions of the law will be administered in a manner that comports with the administration’s conception of the President’s constitutional prerogatives. While the history of presidential issuance of signing...

Fish and Wildlife Service: FY2012 Appropriations and Policy

The annual Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies appropriation funds agencies and programs in three federal departments, as well as numerous related agencies and bureaus. Among the agencies represented is the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), in the Department of the Interior. Many of its programs are among the more controversial of those funded in the bill. For FY2012, the Consolidated Appropriations Act (P.L. 112-74, Division E, H.Rept. 112-331) provided $1.48 billion for FWS, down 2% from the FY2011 level of $1.50 billion. (This measure also provided appropriations for most federal...

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...

U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement: Labor Issues

This report examines three labor issues and arguments related to the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (CFTA), signed on October 21, 2011 (P.L. 112-42): violence against trade unionists; impunity (accountability for or punishment of the perpetrators); and worker rights protections for Colombians. For general issues relating to the CFTA, see CRS Report RL34470, The U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement: Background and Issues, by M. Angeles Villarreal. For background on Colombia and its political situation and context for the agreement, see CRS Report RL32250, Colombia: Issues for Congress, by...

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...

Monitoring and Verification in Arms Control

The United States and Russia signed a new START Treaty on April 8, 2010, and the treaty entered into force on February 5, 2011. Many analysts, both in the United States and Russia, supported negotiations on a new treaty so that the two sides could continue to implement parts of the complex monitoring and verification regime in the 1991 START Treaty. This regime was designed to build confidence in compliance with the START and to provide transparency and cooperation during the treaty’s implementation. The verification regime in the new START Treaty differs in some respects from the regime...

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...

Intelligence Estimates: How Useful to Congress?

National Intelligence Estimates (NIEs) are often of considerable interest to many Members of Congress. They represent the most formal assessment of a given national security issue by the U.S. intelligence community. The intelligence process, however, is not an exact science and, on occasion, NIEs have proved unreliable because they were based on insufficient evidence or contained faulty analysis. This was demonstrated in the NIE produced in 2002 on Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction, parts of which were significantly inaccurate.

At best NIEs provide an in-depth understanding of a complex...

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...

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...

Detainee Provisions in the National Defense Authorization Bills

The House and Senate bills competing to become the National Defense Authorization Act for FY2012 contain a subtitle addressing issues related to detainees at the U.S. Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and more broadly, hostilities against Al Qaeda and other entities. At the heart of both bills’ detainee provisions appears to be an effort to confirm or, as some observers view it, expand the detention authority that Congress implicitly granted the President via the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF, P.L. 107-40) in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11,...

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...

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,...

Brazil’s WTO Case Against the U.S. Cotton Program

The so-called “Brazil cotton case” is a long-running World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute settlement case (DS267) initiated by Brazil—a major cotton export competitor—in 2002 against specific provisions of the U.S. cotton program. In September 2004, a WTO dispute settlement panel found that certain U.S. agricultural support payments and guarantees—including (1) payments to cotton producers under the marketing loan and counter-cyclical programs, and (2) export credit guarantees under the GSM-102 program—were inconsistent with WTO commitments. In 2005, the United States made several...

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...

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...

Lobbying the Executive Branch: Current Practices and Options for Change

Under the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA) of 1995, as amended, individuals are required to register with the Clerk of the House of Representatives and the Secretary of the Senate if they lobby either legislative or executive branch officials. In January 2009, Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner placed further restrictions on the ability of lobbyists to contact executive branch officials responsible for dispersing Emergency Economic Stabilization Act (EESA, P.L. 110-343) funds. Subsequently, President Barack Obama and Peter Orszag, Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB),...

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...

Palestinian Initiatives for 2011 at the United Nations

Many Members of Congress are actively interested in the question of possible U.N. action on Palestinian statehood. Congress could try to influence U.S. policy and the choices of other actors through the authorization and appropriation of foreign assistance to the Palestinians, the United Nations, and Israel and through oversight of the Obama Administration’s diplomatic efforts. Changes to aid levels may depend on congressional views of how maintaining or changing aid levels could affect U.S. leverage and credibility in future regional and global contexts.

Officials from the Palestine...

Agriculture in Pending U.S. Free Trade Agreements with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama

This report discusses pending U.S. free trade agreements (FTAs) with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama. The bills to implement these agreements will now be debated under trade promotion authority, or fast-track rules, designed to expedite congressional consideration. The report includes an overview of agricultural issues regarding FTAs and pending FTA partners, as well as a closer breakdown of the specific issues for each of the countries.

National Security Professionals and Interagency Reform: Proposals, Recent Experience, and Issues for Congress

There is a growing consensus among many practitioners and scholars, across the political spectrum, broadly in favor of reforming the U.S. government interagency system to encourage a more effective application of all elements of national power. The reform debates have included proposals and initiatives to establish and foster an interagency community of national security professionals (NSPs) from all relevant departments and agencies. According to proponents, NSPs, through participating in activities that might include shared educational and training opportunities, and rotational tours in...

“Dear Colleague” Letters in the House of Representatives: An Analysis of Volume, Use, Characteristics, and Purpose

The practice of writing “Dear Colleague” letters—official written correspondence from one Member, committee, or office to other Members, committees, or offices—dates back to at least the 1800s. Yet until recently, it was almost impossible to track the volume or purpose of “Dear Colleague” letters because a centralized, searchable system did not exist. The creation of the web-based e-“Dear Colleague” system has made it possible to systematically examine “Dear Colleague” letters, thereby offering a clearer understanding of what are largely, but not exclusively, intra-chamber...

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

Africa: U.S. Foreign Assistance Issues

This report discusses the issue of U.S. economic assistance to sub-Saharan Africa, highlighting the importance of continued assistance in light of U.S. national security and also various U.S.-led efforts to promote reform amongst African citizens themselves. U.S. assistance finds its way to Africa through a variety of channels, including the USAID-administered DA program, food aid programs, and indirect aid provided through international financial institutions and the United Nations.

United States-Canada Trade and Economic Relationship: Prospects and Challenges

The United States and Canada conduct the world’s largest bilateral trade relationship, with total merchandise trade (exports and imports) exceeding $429.7 billion in 2009. The U.S.-Canadian relationship revolves around the themes of integration and asymmetry: integration from successive trade liberalization from the U.S.-Canada Auto Pact of 1965 leading to North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and asymmetry resulting from Canadian dependence on the U.S. market and from the disparate size of the two economies.

The economies of the United States and Canada are highly integrated, a...

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....

Muslims in Europe: Promoting Integration and Countering Extremism

Many European countries have large and growing Muslim minorities. This is particularly true for the countries of Western Europe that have experienced influxes of Muslim immigrants over the last several decades from a variety of Middle Eastern, African, and Asian countries, as well as Turkey and the Balkans. Today, although some Muslims in Europe are recent immigrants, others are second- or third-generation Europeans. While expanding Muslim communities pose significant social and economic policy questions for European governments, the realization that some segments of Europe’s Muslim...

The Democratic Republic of Congo: Background and Current Developments

This report discusses in brief the current political state of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as the crisis situation in eastern Congo that has displaced more than 250,000 civilians. It also describes U.S., U.N., and other international efforts to aid in resolving the crisis.

India: Domestic Issues, Strategic Dynamics, and U.S. Relations

South Asia emerged in the 21st century as increasingly vital to core U.S. foreign policy interests. India, the region’s dominant actor with more than 1 billion citizens, is often characterized as a nascent great power and “indispensable partner” of the United States, one that many analysts view as a potential counterweight to China’s growing clout. Since 2004, Washington and New Delhi have been pursuing a “strategic partnership” based on shared values and apparently convergent geopolitical interests. Numerous economic, security, and global initiatives, including plans for civilian nuclear...

Somalia: Current Conditions and Prospects for a Lasting Peace

Tanzania: Background and Current Conditions

This report discusses the current political climate in Tanzania, an important U.S. ally in Africa. The report also provides some general background information.

Zimbabwe: Background

Zimbabwe’s prospects appeared promising in 1980, as it gained independence after a long liberation war. However, rising inflation and unemployment bred discontent in the 1990s and led in 1999 to the formation of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). The MDC surprised many with its initial success, campaigning against a 2000 referendum that would have legalized the president’s continued rule, made government officials immune from prosecution, and allowed the uncompensated seizure of white-owned land for redistribution to black farmers. The referendum failed, and the MDC won...

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...

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 National Guard State Partnership Program: Background, Issues, and Options for Congress

The State Partnership Program (SPP) is a Department of Defense (DOD) security cooperation program run by the National Guard. It also serves as a mechanism for training National Guard personnel. Since the program began in 1992, it has expanded to the point where nearly every state National Guard participates, as do the National Guard of Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia.

The SPP relates to several areas of potential interest to Congress, including improving the capabilities of partner nations to protect their citizens; strengthening relationships with...

Dispute Settlement Under the U.S.-Peru Trade Promotion Agreement: An Overview

The U.S.-Peru Trade Promotion Agreement (PTPA) follows current U.S. free trade agreement (FTA) practice in containing two types of formal dispute settlement: (1) State-State, applicable to disputes between PTPA Parties, and (2) investor-State, applicable to claims by an investor of one State Party against other State Party for breach of a PTPA investment obligation. A Party in a State-State dispute found to have violated a PTPA obligation is generally expected to remove the complained-of measure; remedies for non-compliance include compensation and the suspension of PTPA concessions or...

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...

U.S. Policy Towards Burma: Issues for the 112th Congress

A robust discussion has arisen around U.S. policy towards Burma. Some Members of Congress, senior officials in the Obama Administration, noted Burma scholars, and representatives of various interest groups have weighed in on this discussion, offering their views on the merits of current U.S. policy towards Burma and what policy changes ought to be made.

Among the commentators, there is general agreement that more than 20 years of political and economic sanctions, and nearly two years of “pragmatic engagement,” have not led to the achievement of the stated goals of U.S. policy towards...

U.S.-South Korea Beef Dispute: Issues and Status

The Obama Administration had been pressed to resolve the terms of U.S. beef access to South Korea before the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA) goes to Congress for debate. While Korea committed in the FTA to reduce its 40% tariff on imported U.S. beef over a 15-year period, its limits on such imports for human health reasons threatened to undercut this preferential benefit for U.S. exporters. In 2003, South Korea was the third-largest market for U.S. beef exports, prior to the ban its government imposed after the first U.S. cow infected with mad cow disease, or BSE (bovine...

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

P.L. 111-292, the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010: Summary of Provisions and Possible Issues for Oversight

The Telework Enhancement Act of 2010, enacted as P.L. 111-292 (December 9, 2010), requires the head of each executive agency to establish and implement a policy under which employees shall be authorized to telework.

The law amends Title 5 of the United States Code by adding a new chapter, Chapter 65, entitled “Telework,” and defines telework as a work flexibility arrangement under which an employee performs the duties and responsibilities of his or her position, and other authorized activities, from an approved worksite other than the location from which the employee would otherwise work....

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...

International Violence Against Women: U.S. Response and Policy Issues

In recent years, the international community has increasingly recognized international violence against women (VAW) as a significant human rights and global health issue. VAW, which can include both random acts of violence as well as sustained abuse over time, can be physical, psychological, or sexual in nature. Studies have found that VAW occurs in all geographic regions, countries, cultures, and economic classes, with some research showing that women in developing countries experience higher rates of violence than those in developed countries. Many experts view VAW as a symptom of the...

Proposed Reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) in the 112th Congress: S. 847 Compared with Current Law

Thirty-five years of experience implementing and enforcing the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) have demonstrated the strengths and weaknesses of the law and led many to propose legislative changes to TSCA’s core provisions. Stakeholders appear to agree that TSCA needs to be updated, although there is disagreement about the extent and nature of any proposed revisions. S. 847 in the 112th Congress legislation would amend core provisions of TSCA Title I. This report compares key provisions of S. 847, as introduced, with current law (15 U.S.C. 2601 et seq.).

Generally, S. 847 would...

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...

International Criminal Court Cases in Africa: Status and Policy Issues

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has, to date, opened cases exclusively in Africa. Cases concerning 25 individuals are open before the Court, pertaining to crimes allegedly committed in six African states: Libya, Kenya, Sudan (Darfur), Uganda (the Lord’s Resistance Army, LRA), the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Central African Republic. A 26th case, against a Darfur rebel commander, was dismissed. The ICC Prosecutor has yet to secure any convictions. In addition, the Prosecutor has initiated preliminary examinations—a potential precursor to a full investigation—in Côte...

Africa Command: U.S. Strategic Interests and the Role of the U.S. Military in Africa

In recent years, analysts and U.S. policymakers have noted Africa’s growing strategic importance to U.S. interests. Among those interests are the increasing importance of Africa’s natural resources, particularly energy resources, and mounting concern over violent extremist activities and other potential threats posed by under-governed spaces, such as maritime piracy and illicit trafficking. In addition, there is ongoing concern for Africa’s many humanitarian crises, armed conflicts, and more general challenges, such as the devastating effect of HIV/AIDS. In 2006, Congress authorized a...

China’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Mitigation Policies

The 112th Congress continues to debate whether and how the United States should address climate change. Most often, this debate includes concerns about the effects of U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions controls if China and other major countries were not to take comparable actions. China recently surpassed the United States to become the largest emitter of human-related GHG globally, and together, the two nations emit about 40% of the global total (with shares of 21% and 19%, respectively).

China’s GHG emissions are growing rapidly and, even with policies adopted by China, are expected to...

Haiti’s National Elections: Issues, Concerns, and Outcome

In proximity to the United States, and with such a chronically unstable political environment and fragile economy, Haiti has been a constant policy issue for the United States. Congress views the stability of the nation with great concern and commitment to improving conditions there. The Obama Administration considers Haiti its top priority in the Latin American and Caribbean region. Both Congress and the international community have invested significant resources in the political, economic, and social development of Haiti, and have closely monitored the election process as a prelude to...

Human Rights in China and U.S. Policy

This report examines human rights conditions in China, including the 2011 crackdown on rights activists and dissent; ongoing human rights abuses; recent PRC efforts to protect human rights; and the development of civil society. Ongoing human rights problems in China include the excessive use of violence by public security forces, unlawful detention, torture of detainees, arbitrary use of state security laws against political dissidents, coercive family planning policies, state control of information, and religious and ethnic persecution. Tibetans, Uighur Muslims, and Falun Gong adherents...

Public Health Service (PHS) Agencies: Overview and Funding, FY2010-FY2012

Within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), eight agencies are designated components of the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS): (1) the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), (2) the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), (3) the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), (4) the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), (5) the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), (6) the Indian Health Service (IHS), (7) the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and (8) the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). This...

United Nations System Efforts to Address Violence Against Women

The United Nations (U.N.) system supports a number of programs that address international violence against women (VAW). These activities, which are implemented by 36 U.N. entities, range from large-scale interagency initiatives to smaller grants and programs that are implemented by a range of partners, including non-governmental organizations (NGOs), national governments, and individual U.N. agencies. U.N. member states, including the United States, address VAW by ratifying multilateral treaties, adopting resolutions and decisions, and supporting U.N. mechanisms and bodies that focus on...

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...

USAID Global Health Programs: FY2001-FY2012 Request

A number of U.S. agencies and departments implement U.S. government global health interventions. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) plays a particularly central role. The agency is responsible for coordinating two important presidential health initiatives—the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) and the Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) Program. USAID serves as an implementing agency of the largest U.S. global health program—the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR)—and is set to assume leadership over the Global Health Initiative (GHI) in September 2012...

Visa Security Policy: Roles of the Departments of State and Homeland Security

Foreign nationals (i.e., aliens) not already legally residing in the United States who wish to come to the United States generally must obtain a visa to be admitted, with certain exceptions noted in law. The Departments of State (DOS) and Homeland Security (DHS) each play key roles in administering the law and policies on the admission of aliens. Although the DOS’s Consular Affairs is responsible for issuing visas, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigrant Services (USCIS) in DHS approves immigrant petitions, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in DHS operates the Visa Security Program...

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Global Health Programs: FY2001-FY2012 Request

A number of U.S. agencies and departments implement U.S. government global health efforts. Overall, U.S. global health assistance is not always coordinated. Exceptions to this include U.S. international responses to key infectious diseases; for example, U.S. programs to address HIV/AIDS through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), malaria through the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), and neglected tropical diseases through the Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) Program. Although several U.S. agencies and departments implement global health programs, this report...

”Dirty Bombs”: Background in Brief

Congress has long sought, through legislation and oversight, to protect the United States against terrorist threats, especially from chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) weapons. Radiological dispersal devices (RDDs) are one type of CBRN weapon. Explosive-driven “dirty bombs” are an often-discussed type of RDD, though radioactive material can also be dispersed in other ways. This report provides background for understanding the RDD threat and responses, and presents issues for Congress.

Radioactive material is the necessary ingredient for an RDD. This material is composed...

“Dirty Bombs”: Technical Background, Attack Prevention and Response, Issues for Congress

Congress has long sought, through legislation and oversight, to protect the United States against terrorist threats, especially from chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) weapons. Radiological dispersal devices (RDDs) are one type of CBRN weapon. Explosive-driven “dirty bombs” are an often-discussed type of RDD, though radioactive material can also be dispersed in other ways. This report provides background for understanding the RDD threat and responses, and presents issues for Congress.

Radioactive material is the necessary ingredient for an RDD. This material is composed...

Imports from North Korea: Existing Rules, Implications of the KORUS FTA, and the Kaesong Industrial Complex

In early 2011, many Members of Congress focused their attention on U.S. rules and practices governing the importation of products and components from North Korea. Their interest was stimulated by debate over the proposed South Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA) and the question of whether the agreement could lead to increased imports from North Korea. Some observers, particularly many opposed to the agreement, have argued that the KORUS FTA could increase imports from North Korea if South Korean firms re-export items made in the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC), a seven-year-old...

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...

Proposed U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement: Potential National Sector-Specific and State Export Effects

In February 2011, the United States and South Korea finalized negotiations on a bilateral free trade agreement. As a result, the Obama Administration is expected to submit implementing legislation to the 112th Congress on the proposed U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA). This report addresses congressional interest in the effects of this agreement on exports by state to South Korea by using two sets of data. Data developed by the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) are used to identify the possible direction of trade change for 40 industries at the national level....

The U.S.-Canada Energy Relationship: Joined at the Well

The United States and Canada, while independent countries, effectively comprise a single integrated market for petroleum and natural gas. Canada is the single largest foreign supplier of petroleum products and natural gas to the United States—and the United States is the dominant consumer of Canada’s energy exports. The value of the petroleum and natural gas trade between the two countries totaled nearly $100 billion in 2010, helping to promote general economic growth and directly support thousands of energy industry and related jobs on both sides of the border. Increased energy trade...

The Proposed U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA): Automobile Rules of Origin

The U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA) was signed on June 30, 2007. The provisions on the automotive sector were among the most difficult areas negotiated, and were among those in which the Obama Administration and South Korean officials reached further agreement on December 3, 2010.

The agreement’s effect on the automotive sector has drawn particular scrutiny as Congress considers implementation of the KORUS FTA. In particular, the specific rules of origin (ROO) for automobiles and auto parts have become a matter of debate. These rules determine whether the products...

Uganda: Current Conditions and the Crisis in North Uganda

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...

Kenya: Current Conditions and the Challenges Ahead

Political Status of Puerto Rico: Options for Congress

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF): Budget and Operations for FY2011

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is the lead federal law enforcement agency charged with administering and enforcing federal laws related to the manufacture, importation, and distribution of firearms and explosives. Congress transferred ATF’s enforcement and regulatory functions for firearms and explosives from the Department of the Treasury to the Department of Justice (DOJ) as part of the Homeland Security Act (P.L. 107-296). ATF is also responsible for investigating arson cases with a federal nexus, as well as criminal violations of federal laws governing...

Rwanda: Background and Current Developments

This report discusses the current political conditions of Rwanda, including a brief historical overview. The report also includes information about the poor human rights conditions in Rwanda and U.S. Rwanda relations.

Interagency Collaborative Arrangements and Activities: Types, Rationales, Considerations

Interagency collaboration among federal agencies with overlapping jurisdictions and shared responsibilities is not a new phenomenon. Attempts to foster cooperation among agencies, reduce their number in particular policy areas, or clarify the division of labor among them date to the early days of the republic. Such arrangements are increasing in the contemporary era in number, prominence, and proposals across virtually all policy areas. The reasons for the current upsurge are the growth in government responsibilities, cross-cutting programs, and their complexity; certain crises which...

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,...

U.S. Foreign Assistance to Sub-Saharan Africa: The FY2012 Request

Sub-Saharan Africa, the world’s poorest region, receives over a quarter of all U.S. bilateral foreign assistance. Aid to Africa more than quadrupled over the past decade, primarily due to sizable increases in global health spending during the Bush Administration and more measured increases in development, economic, and security assistance. The Obama Administration’s FY2012 bilateral Africa aid budget request, at $7.8 billion, represents an increase of roughly 10% compared to FY2010, albeit at a more restrained growth rate than in previous years (see “The FY2012 Request by the Numbers”)....

Japan’s 2011 Earthquake and Tsunami: Food and Agriculture Implications

The March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami in Japan caused widespread devastation that affected many of the country’s agricultural and fishery areas. The nuclear crisis that followed at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant, and the subsequent detection of radioactive contamination of food produced near the disabled facility, further raised fears about the safety of Japan’s food production systems and its future food exports. Most reports acknowledge that Japan’s current production and supply shortages, along with rising food safety concerns and possible longer-term radiation threats to its...

The European Union: Leadership Changes Resulting from the Lisbon Treaty

Changes introduced by the Lisbon Treaty, the European Union’s (EU’s) reform treaty that took effect on December 1, 2009, have a significant impact on EU governance. The EU is an important partner or interlocutor of the United States in a large number of issues, but the complicated institutional dynamics of the EU can be difficult to navigate.

The Lisbon Treaty makes substantial modifications in the leadership of the EU, especially with regard to the European Council, the Council of Ministers, and the EU’s rotating presidency. Every six months, the “EU Presidency” rotates among the 27...

The Department of Defense’s Use of Private Security Contractors in Afghanistan and Iraq: Background, Analysis, and Options for Congress

The United States relies on contractors to provide a wide variety of services in Afghanistan and Iraq, including armed security. While DOD has previously contracted for security in Bosnia and elsewhere, it appears that in Afghanistan and Iraq DOD is for the first time relying so heavily on armed contractors to provide security during combat or stability operations. Much of the attention given to private security contractors (PSCs) by Congress and the media is a result of numerous high-profile incidents in which security contractors have been accused of shooting civilians, using excessive...

Department of Defense Contractors in Afghanistan and Iraq: Background and Analysis

The critical role contractors play in supporting military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq necessitates that the Department of Defense (DOD) effectively manage contractors during contingency operations. Lack of sufficient contract management can delay or even prevent troops from receiving needed support and can also result in wasteful spending. Some analysts believe that poor contract management has played a role in permitting abuses and crimes committed by certain contractors against local nationals, which may have undermined U.S. counterinsurgency efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

DOD...

Reauthorization of the America COMPETES Act: Selected Policy Provisions, Funding, and Implementation Issues

This report reviews major policy arguments raised in the congressional debate about the 2007 America COMPETES Act and 2010 reauthorization, examines and analyzes selected policy and funding provisions in these laws, and identifies some potential implementation and oversight issues for Congress.